Soundtrack Review: The Rocketeer

Horner, James The Rocketeer 2020 remaster and 1991 original.

Way back when, Disney released a film that was pure 1930s pulp, with a fun soundtrack that included period pieces and period-sounding pieces. That movie was The Rocketeer. It was based on a comic-book series that was an homage to the pulps and adventure films of the 1920s-30s. The film is a romp, and the comics are very impressive (a full hardbound set is coming out this fall.) I’d sort of forgotten about the soundtrack until Sib-in-Law pinged me about it. It was released in 1991, re-released in 2016, and expanded and re-released last year.

James Horner (of Titanic fame, among other things), did the soundtrack. Like the film, it is great fun, and you will probably recognize the main theme, because it has been used here and there since the movie was released. The re-master includes the classic “Begin the Beguine,” well done by Melora Hardin (for the original instrumental version, see below).

The music is NOT, in general, 1930s sounding (as compared to soundtracks from actual movies of the era). It is very symphonic Hollywood, lots of soaring melodic lines and fast chase scenes, which fits the film. There are Big Band numbers as well, as befits the time and setting of a stunt pilot/barnstormer trying to romance a Hollywood starlet. (Howard Hughes appears as a character in the film, as does one of his actual aircraft designs. Those in the know laughed at that scene, or at least the pilots I know found it very entertaining.) The remastered soundtrack sounds good as either a CD or MP3.

The 2021 release includes both the later remastered version with additional songs and the two vocal numbers, and the original 1991 “theatrical soundtrack” which is shorter. The price for the MP3 file is reasonable. The prices for the CDs on Amazon started at $100.

I’d recommend this soundtrack recording for fans of the film, fans of pulp movies in general, adventure music buffs, and people looking for a fast, solid melodic recording for writing or work-outs.

FTC Notice: I purchased this soundtrack for my own use and received no remuneration from the composer or the studio.

I’m Not the Target Market

Every so often I glance through the glossy fashion magazines like Vogue or Elle. It gives me the same sense as when I read anthropology books: I’m looking into a very different culture and lifestyle. Recently, I read an article by a Korean-American woman grumbling about the twice-a-year beauty treatments she “has” to get, and about all the creams, lotions, cleansers, and other things that she “must” use.

My response was not sympathy, or agreeing that standards of beauty are terrible things and that the power of social norms must be broken. My response was “So stop doing that, stop using that stuff, and just go with the basics.” OK, she lives in NYC, so air quality and winter weather are more of a problem for her. On the other paw, she doesn’t have the “zero to natural mummy” dryness that everyone fights out here. And her job may require using all the cosmetics and having the beauty treatments, since she is a professional fashion and beauty writer. If that’s the case, then why fuss? It is part of her job. Like courtesans having to look beautiful and having to stay current on all sorts of political and economic matters, so they can entertain and discuss at the level that they are hired to do.

The clothing gives me the same reaction, although budget also comes into play. “Eight hundred dollars for a white cotton shirt?!? No lace, no beading, no fancy hand-worked trim? Ye doggies.” OK, paying a lot for a high quality leather skirt I can sort of see, because I know that high quality leather costs real money. But then I’m not the kind who can wear a leather skirt well. Form fitting and Alma do not play nicely together, and I don’t want to have to do all the upkeep required to keep a high-end leather skirt in good condition. Other women do, and good for them.

That’s a different world, where a person’s job depends on wearing the current styles, knowing the current trends, and conforming to certain standards of culture. I keep track of some of it, just to be up on culture. Sort of like I am aware of TV shows and what is popular in the gaming world, even though I don’t game and I avoid most TV. (I’m more cognisant of pop-culture than some teens and pre-teens I know. That’s . . . well, I don’t quite know what to make of it. They are in very snug niches, and seem to like it there. *shrugs tail*)

I’m not sure I’m in anyone’s market niche, unless “Victorian lady explorer academic” is a marketing category. And it doesn’t bother me. I can piece together what I like to wear, what I need to wear, the music I like (or need), and the books I want (or need). G-d bless the internet and technology for making it possible to find medieval and renaissance music, faux-Victorian clothing, good walking shoes, and more books than will fit in my house!

St. George and ANZACs

Before he was dismissed from the official list of saints, George was the patron of Greece and of soldiers. He was very popular in England. Officially his feast day is April 23, but it is observed this year on April 25, which is also ANZAC Day in Australia. It is a fitting pairing.

The “official” story about George is that he was the son of a Roman officer, and so became a soldier himself (as the law required. Martin of Tours [and of Pannonia] had to join the military even though he didn’t want to, because that was dad’s employment.) He became a Christian, refused to return to paganism, and was executed during the persecutions by Diocletian. The unofficial story involves slaying a dragon [devil] that preyed on the young woman of Silene in Libya. George did in the dragon, converted the town’s grateful residents to Christianity, and then the story either ends, or gets really off beat. I’ve only heard/seen the off-beat version once. Let’s just say that even the medieval Catholic Church expressed some qualms about George really being killed three times and coming back twice.

George is the patron saint of England and Catalonia. He is recognized and still venerated in the Orthodox Church, and is the patron of Ethiopia, Georgia, and the city of Moscow.

St. George by Raphael. https://www.raphaelpaintings.org/st-george.jsp

Then there’s a somewhat later and certainly more florid St. George.

Peter Paul Rubens. St. George. Public Domain, at the Museo del Prado, Spain.

ANZAC Day is the day set aside in Australia and New Zealand, and wherever Australian and New Zealander military forces are currently serving, to remember the dead of all the wars. The ANZACs tended to hit well above their weight class, and the mildest, most soft-spoken Kiwi can turn into a ferocious warrior when need arises.

Gurkhas honoring another group of warriors. The two often fought side-by-side. The image is from Gurhka Association website. https://www.gurkhabde.com/anzac-day-celebrations-in-australia/

April 25, 1915, marked the beginning of the Gallipoli Campaign for soldiers from Australia and New Zealand. They would also fight in South Africa, New Guinea, France, Burma, Korea, Vietnam, and wherever needed. The Australian Military History museum in Canberra was eye-opening, to put it mildly, for a Yank who had very little clue about the huge contributions Australians (and New Zealanders) made in the wars. Or the enormous price those countries paid for that effort.

When Money gets Expensive

Note: I am not an economic historian, and I am eliding a lot of monetary policy detail.

Right now, everyone is wincing at the inflation in progress in the US. Money is cheap compared to “stuff,” so the dollars per unit of stuff is going up. Most of us, I suspect, are far more familiar with inflation than deflation. Historically, inflation gets all the attention from historians. Roman emperors did it by diluting silver currency with lead or copper. Byzantine emperors did it by diluting silver currency. Spain under Charles V and Phillip II did it by accident when the treasures of the American poured into Seville and Madrid, thence into the economy of Europe to pay for the various Spanish wars. It hit again in the early 1600s when local nobles diluted silver with lead and copper.

What about deflation? If inflation’s bad for most people (like, oh, most of Europe in the 1500s-1600s), then deflation is good, yes? Prices go down, your coin buys more stuff per unit of coin, and everyone’s happy. Yes, if you are a consumer, or if you are collecting on a debt. If you are a producer of goods, or are paying off a debt, each dollar/schilling/mark you pay on that car loan is worth more and more flour/lattes/music CDs. And it takes more grain/chickens/butter/fabric to pay for each dollar in taxes. Instead of fifty bushels of wheat, now you have to pay one hundred bushels of wheat to get the same amount of coin/money.

That was the United States after the US Civil War. The country had become an industrial nation, although agriculture was still very, very important, and farmers had some political clout, if they could all get together and use it. However, it seemed to many rural people that the industrial east (steel, oil, railroads, consumer goods, the binder twine monopoly) ran both the economy and the country, to the detriment of the people actually growing and mining the stuff. Part of this lay in the US government’s insistence on a firm gold standard, with little or no coinage in silver. Money was very, very expensive. So expensive that it attracted British investors, who could make a fortune loaning money to American businesses at 10-15% interest, as compared to the 3-5% interest back in England.*

People, namely consumers and businessmen, in the urban areas did well and the standard of living was growing nicely. People who had to pay taxes in gold coin or gold-backed notes, and who produced food and fiber, felt trapped and squeezed. They paid taxes. City people didn’t. (The income tax didn’t exist. Taxes were land taxes, and import/export.) Farmers and ranchers and miners had to scrape up gold coin for taxes and other bills, even as prices they got for their grain, cattle, and fiber dropped compared to the value of that coin. With the discovery of the big silver loads in Nevada, Colorado, and California, westerners and farmers began pushing for “free silver.” They wanted a bimetallic standard, gold and silver, and cheaper (inflated) money so that they could pay their bills and prosper.

Toss in the international economic splat (Panic) in 1873, the first modern global recession, then a downturn in 1886 and the Panic of 1893, and you have three decades of lack-of-progress for some, along with growing labor unrest. On top of that, new immigrants were arriving from Central and Southern Europe. They spoke little or no English, dressed funny or seemed otherwise “Off” (Italians), tended to be Catholic or even Jewish, and worked for cheap compared to native-born Americans. Oh, and a few people in Europe were assassinating elected and hereditary rulers in the idea that if you eliminate the monarch, the government will go away and Paradise!** And Marx’s ideas were in the air, but they weren’t all that popular in the US just yet.

Out of this you get the Progressive Movement (efficiency, internationalism, experts know what is best for the rest of the people, central government over state governments) and the Populist Party, which was an outgrowth of the earlier Farmers Alliance and Farmers’ Union.*** The Populists wanted cheap money (Free Silver!), limited immigration (no Brits buying huge chunks of land that Americans needed), and more attention paid to the West and Midwest, especially to farmers’ demands. The Populists were in some cases, like the earlier Alliance, multi-racial, or tried to be. One of the reasons for Jim Crow in the South had been to keep poor whites and poor blacks from working together to oust the old elites from political power.

So inflation’s not good, deflation’s not good, and thus far, I’m not certain anyone has come up with a way to achieve “just right” for more than a few years at a time. You want a stable form of exchange that doesn’t get “watered down” with lead or copper, or that governments can’t produce through handwavium. You also need to keep that medium of exchange from becoming too expensive for people to use. Somewhere there’s a Goldilocks point of not too inflated, not too deflated, and prices for currency are just right compared to prices for stuff. Somewhere . . . Somewhere . . .

*Ever wonder why so many huge ranches were owned by English and Scottish companies? They had the cash to invest. The Swan, XIT, Rocking Chair Ranche, JA, ROW, and others all came from British money.

**The Anarchists tended to be hazy on the steps in-between, and often disagreed with each other.

***The Farmers’ Union is still around, and still somewhat active in Kansas and Nebraska and South Dakota.

Book Review: Breverton’s Phantasmagoria

Breverton, Terry. Breverton’s Phantasmagoria: A Compendium of Monsters, Myths, and Legends. (London: Quercus Publishing Plc. 2011)

Some days, or times of day, you just want something you can pick up, nibble for a page or two, then set aside. This is that sort of book. If you want to read about the Gordian Knot, the Ship of Fools, The Flying Dutchman, learn if snakes really do flee from naked men, or puzzled over the story of Prince Madoc, you can find all that and more in this book. It is great for trivia buffs, writers in search of plot seeds or McGuffins, or people who occasionally read while in the, ahem, Reading Room.

I get the feeling that Mr. Breverton collected odd bits and things, snippets and archaeology reports and mythologies and folk lore and archaeological reports a bit like a bower bird. It is a book you can read through by topic, or just open at a random page and nibble at random moments. The writing style is light and somewhat breezy. A few things I sort of shook my head at, because there’s a bit of “gee-whiz!” at times. Spaceflight in the Mahabarata? Um, I’d like to see other translations of the text. The book starts with people, then monsters and ghosts, then magical places (real and otherwise), flying monsters and odd things in the sky. Mysteries of the deep comes next, then strange artefacts and maps and stuff, treasure tales (Oak Island again), and wraps up with “is this legend true? Well, here’s what inspired it.)

All in all it is a fun book, and the two things that I back-tracked he was correct as far as sources went (did a boloid explosion do-in Soddom and Gamorrah? Quite possible, which led to my reading about something similar, at about the same time, in the Alps.)

The book is available on Kindle, but that takes some of the fun of “open to a random page” out of it. Breverton seems to be a trivia buff, because he has several more themed titles.

Two paws up.

FTC Note: I purchased this book with my own funds, and received no remuneration for this review.

Open Floor

What topics would you like to see me blog about? I was working on City, Priest, and Empire and Day Job things this weekend, and alas, my blogging brain took a day off.

I hope to push through during Spring Break and get the Merchant book done. It will be close to 100K words, making it the longest book I’ve written to date.

Filk Infliction

Sorry. Busy writing. Fresh Content Tomorrow.

Hi, my name is Alma and I like filk-music. I play it and sing it.

What’s filk-music? I’m glad you asked (although you might not be.) At best, it is folk music for worlds that never existed, fantasy realms, space battle stations, car-racing elves, marching songs for armies a thousand years in the future. At worst it makes Irish drinking songs sung ten minutes before closing time on pay-day-weekend sound like grand opera or great hymns. I grew up with folk music, both of the Childe Ballad type and the “modern folk” (Weavers, Limelighters, Ian and Sylvia, Kingston Trio, Odetta.) So of course it’s a short leap from “Over the Hills and Far Away” to “Stand to Your Glasses Steady” to “Falling Down on New Jersey,” and, well . . . Continue reading

On Odd Poem for (and from) an Odd Time

The poem, which I’m only excerpting is “Bryan, Bryan, Bryan, Bryan.”

“Oh the longhorns from Texas,
The jay hawks from Kansas,
The plop-eyed bungaroo and giant giassicus,
The varmint, chipmunk, bugaboo,
The horn-toad, prairie-dog and ballyhoo,
From all the newborn states arow,
Bidding the eagles of the west fly on,
Bidding the eagles of the west fly on.
The fawn, prodactyl, and thing-a-ma-jig,
The rackaboor, the hellangone,
The whangdoodle, batfowl and pig,
The coyote, wild-cat and grizzly in a glow,
In a miracle of health and speed, the whole breed abreast,
The leaped the Mississippi, blue border of the West,
From the Gulf to Canada, two thousand miles long:-
Against the towns of Tubal Cain,
Ah,– sharp was their song.
Against the ways of Tubal Cain, too cunning for the young,
The longhorn calf, the buffalo and wampus gave tongue.”

[SNIP]

“And these children and their sons
At last rode through the cactus,
A cliff of mighty cowboys
On the lope,
With gun and rope.
And all the way to frightened Maine the old East heard them call,
And saw our Bryan by a mile lead the wall
Of men and whirling flowers and beasts,
The bard and prophet of them all.
Prairie avenger, mountain lion,
Bryan, Bryan, Bryan, Bryan,
Gigantic troubadour, speaking like a siege gun,
Smashing Plymouth Rock with his boulders from the West,
And just a hundred miles behind, tornadoes piled across the sky,
Blotting out sun and moon,
A sign on high.”

Vachel Lindsay is probably better known, if anyone knows him these days, for “Abraham Lincoln Walks at Midnight.” He’s one of the Victorian ballad poets, along with Stephen Vincent Benet, Sam Walter Foss (“The Coming American” aka “Give me Men to Match my Mountains”) and Sidney Lanier. Lindsay has a dubious reputation because of his poem “The Congo.” He encouraged African-American poets and authors, but also condescended to non-Anglos in general, and to Africans in particular (like so many in his time), and is pretty much ignored these days. However, the second excerpt appeared as a comment on The Powerline Blog, which sent me tracking down the source. G-d bless PoemHunter and other sites!

I warned you, it’s a strange poem. I suspect any ballad about US politics is going to veer into the surreal.

Lindsay’s poem is about William Jennings Bryan, the Populist (and later Democrat) who became a symbol for the ordinary people of the rural areas and US West, those shut out of machine politics. There was a growing sense in the 1870s-1890s that the East had grown corrupt, and rotten, isolated from the real people of the country. The Populists wanted to reclaim their voice in government, to stop the long deflation that so hurt farmers and miners, to clean out the machines that seemed to control national and state (and local) politics. These were the days when men really did meet in dark, smoke-filled back rooms to decide who would be president. The Republicans were resting on the laurels of the Civil War, the Democrats didn’t seem much more responsive, and the Populists, Farmers’ Alliance, and others wanted their turn.

If you’ve read Kipling, or much Old Testament, you’ll recognize Jubal and Tubal Cain. Some of the creatures Lindsay lists are imaginary, some are folk-lore, some (jay hawk) have political connotations that he ignored. The young west, the wild west, the clean, honest wilderness and the people who settle there, they are going to reclaim the East, to smash the corruption, all led by William Jennings Bryan.

The idea of the west, the frontier, as a place of moral superiority and uplift was very popular in the late 1800s. You get a hint of that in Kipling, especially “The Explorer” (“Something Lost Beyond the Ranges”.) Without a frontier, the US would grow decadent, and corrupt, and stagnant, and start to rot – like Europe. In 1892 the head of the US Census had declared that the frontier was closed. The population had settled too much of the country, and no open frontier remained. This led to much philosophizing and bewailing the lack. This was also the age of the machine politics, the Gilded Age, Mark Hanna, Boss Tweed, the Chicago Machine and “Honest Graft.”

The comment on Powerline ended with something to the effect that “Who would have thought that Lindsay was talking about truck drivers?”

The Populists didn’t win, exactly, the Progressives and the machines did (temporarily. Then the Progressives became the machine.) The Populists didn’t disappear. The Farmers’ Alliance is still around, the Farmers’ Union still has members and supporters, and the sense that the ordinary people of the Midwest and South are less corrupt than the professional politicians of the coasts, that’s still with us.

That Was Almost Interesting

So there I was, standing in the shooting bay, minding my own business when Bang! The pistol went off!

Which could have been interesting except that I was following all four rules, so the only thing that happened was a hole appeared to the right of where I wanted the hole to be, and I startled, and said to myself, “Self, remember, the trigger on this one is a leeeeeeetle bit lighter than on” [movie announcer voice] “The Snubbie.” [end movie announcer voice]

Usually, I work from lighter trigger to heavier, but this time I wanted to get some things done with the snubbie and Big Pistol* first, including practicing using the speed loaders. So by the time I got to Lighter Trigger, I was hurting. This was partly due to muscle soreness from my heavy workout the day before, and partly because I wasn’t wearing a wrist brace, and partly due to inner perversity on the part of my joints in general. When I hurt, I try to move fast, and I get jerky with my movements, not smooth.

Slow is smooth, smooth is fast. And accurate.

So when I had Lighter Trigger loaded and pointed downrange at my target, I raised it, cocked it, had my finger on the trigger, and twitched before I was really ready. Bang. It did what it was supposed to do, just a little before I anticipated it to do that. Nothing aside from my ego was damaged. I know better. When I hurt, when I am tired, I must watch myself and focus on being smooth, no matter which tool, vehicle, or piece of equipment I am dealing with. Guns are tools. Knives are tools. Power drills are tools. All can hurt you if you are not careful, or do expensive damage.

The Four Rules. 1) The gun is always loaded. 2) Do not point the gun at anything you are not willing to destroy. 3) Do not put your finger on the trigger until you are ready to shoot. 4) Always know what is behind your target.

Rules two and three are often interchanged, but rule one is always rule one. Unless the firearm is in multiple pieces on the table, consider it loaded and treat it that way. If you don’t touch the bang switch, it won’t go bang.

You can apply the Four Rules to other things. I use them for power tools, especially tools that have pieces that might come loose (air hammer, rivet gun).

*Big Pistol is not that big, until you compare it to a snub-nosed pistol of a smaller caliber. Then it looks big. It’s not a .45 or a Desert Eagle. And revolvers always look broad in the beam.

Teddy Bears and Tableware: An Estate Sale

An older gent, perhaps late 60s to early 70s, approached the check out with an armload of teddy bears. The lady two customers behind him had two quilts, both embroidered with teddy bears. The gent set down the bears, gave a sheepish grin as he pulled out his wallet and said, “Grandkids.” I left the mail with a watching family member and got out of the way.

The dear old lady who lived a few houses up the block fell twice more. Her family decided that, despite the lady’s assurances, she needed more than just a five-days-a-week visiting nurse and family checking in on weekends with groceries and household supplies (they either live out of town, or have jobs with rotating shifts.) We her neighbors were both sad and relieved. Sad that she had to move out, but relieved, because we had nightmares about her getting badly hurt, or having a medical crisis and not being found in time despite her cell-phone and emergency button.

The family opted to have an estate sale, once the lady settled into her new home and had taken all the things from the house that would fit in her apartment. The family also took some things, and I heard one young lady saying that she was glad to get the heavy desk and office chair, because it would save her a lot of money trying to find a newer set that fit her (she’s smaller than I am. I feel her pain.) They hired professionals to clean, the arrange everything, and catalogue the estate. Then came the sale.

She collected teddy bears. Almost a hundred, according to MomRed, who had gone over earlier and returned with some bedding, pillows, and things for Little Bit. And two antique hat pins for me (I need to find caps for them. Those always disappear.) When I went later to deliver some mis-delivered mail, I saw teddy bears being carried out, a steady stream of bears. And bear-embroidered quilts and coverlets, bear-bearing plates, and similar. They went to appreciative homes. Books also went quickly, alas, and small items.

The furniture sold fast, per the woman’s grandson-in-law. So had valuable collectibles, and the lawn furniture and some other things.

I’m glad that people wanted the items, and that they will be used and loved. I hate to see good things going to the dump, although I know styles change and some places just don’t have room for, oh, a china cabinet or wardrobe. The house is quiet. Those of us who live around the lady’s house keep an eye on it, just in case, and the family comes by the take care of the lawn and do more things inside.

Times change, people age. The lady is doing OK in her new residence. Moving did not solve her medical problems, but she has full-time care and is much closer to the hospital and her doctors. That’s a blessing.