Tag Archives: entertainment

Wanna see jitterbug? Wanna hear rock & roll?

Check out this video:

The tune, “Slow Down”, is performed on piano and sung by its composer, Larry Williams. He was from New Orleans (of course). The tune, ringing with ninth chords, was released on disc in 1958. I think that the dancers are from a 1950s Hollywood rock & roll movie. Larry also composed Dizzy Miss Lizzy, Bad Boy, and Bony Moronie — classic rock tunes, all. He was born in 1935 and died on this date, January 7, in 1980.

In the mid-1950s, Williams inherited star billing from Little Richard (who’d forsaken rock and roll for religion) at New Orleans’ record label Specialty Records.

While Williams was alive, the Beatles paid their respects by admirably covering Larry’s Dizzy Miss Lizzy, Slow Down, and Bad Boy. I’m amazed that Larry Williams isn’t in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Extra credit assignment: Compare and contrast the Beatles’ cover of Slow Down with Larry Williams’ original. This clip includes the fab four wailing in Liverpool’s Cavern Club: (If YouTube has taken down this video clip, you can hear the same recording with groovy rock and roll clips (sorry — requires Flash) from 1950s America and early Beatles. Sorry for the Flash format.)

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© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695

Joni Mitchell, Jaco Pastorius, et al on YouTube

I’m delighted to discover that the video of Joni Mitchell’s classic Shadows and Light concert (1980) can be viewed in full (1h 13m) on YouTube. Supporting players are Jaco Pastorius on bass, Pat Metheny on guitar, Michael Brecker on sax, Don Alias on drums, Lyle Mays on keyboards, and The Persuasions. It’s among my favorite videos of a concert performance.

Jaco Pastorius 1987
Jaco Pastorius

Jaco was a Fort Lauderdale kid who began playing in rock bands around town in a variety of clubs: She, The 4 O’Clock CLub, The Village Zoo, The Flying Machine, The Button, Bachelors III, Ocean Mist . . . When I first heard Jaco in the early 1970s, he was playing bass for straight-ahead local rock bands. He graduated to more jazz- and fusion- related music and put his unique fretless Fender bass stamp on Weather Report. I’ve heard bass players tell me that they tried to imitate Jaco’s technique, but gave up trying; they claim that Jaco changed what it meant to play electric bass guitar. Jaco’s friend Pat Metheny, who plays a beautiful lead guitar in this concert, is a University of Miami music school graduate.

Jaco seemed to still have his act together when he played this concert. Wikipedia has a good Jaco biography. He had a rapid rise to the top followed by a quick ride back down again. I had musician friends c 1984-87 who were torn up watching their friend Jaco dismantle his life. This Warner Brothers recording artist and Down Beat Hall of Fame member was sleeping on park benches and shooting baskets in a local public park.

Michael Brecker and Don Alias died a few years ago.

This is a classic performance by master musicians who were at the top of their games. Too bad it couldn’t last forever.

FCC may fine NBC for Miley Cyrus “Bangerz” show

According to Rolling Stone magazine, the FCC is considering disciplining NBC for airing an indecent performance on July 6, Miley Cyrus’ “Bangerz Tour”. I watched it. It was provocative, but artful. Bertolt Brecht would have loved the production: live dancers against rear-projection oversized animation with creative costumes and lighting. I loved it. Some of the images, such as Miley riding a giant “Mr. Wiener”, were sexually suggestive.

Click to stream or download full 862 Megabyte video performance

The concert (recorded in Barcelona) reminded me of Madonna’s shows twenty-five years ago. Both performers have acceptable contralto voices, energetic dance skills, and assemble exciting Brechtian spectacles. I love the costuming and choreopgraphy. Shocking? “Bangerz” pushed the limits on prime-time American TV, I suppose. But that week on television, the atrocious performance by the Brazilian football team was truly shocking.

I’d prefer that the FCC take no action on this. They have enough serious issues on their plate already. Censoring art is, in my opinion, a slippery slope for any government agency . . . and I think that this production can be labeled “art”. Here’s the full show (862MB H264 1h 25m mp4 video file, 720 x 404 pixel) for download or streaming:

Miley Cyrus Bangerz show in Barcelona
Click to stream or download full 862 Megabyte video performance

You’ll need a fast Internet connection to smoothly stream this. You might be better to download the file and then play it locally with a good video player such as VLC.

Is it Miley’s performance or just modern low distortion recording technique that for the first time makes John Lennon’s “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” lyrics (at 44m 35s) sound so . . . so . . . clear, logical, and complete?

What do you think?

David Byrne’s Bicycle Diaries

David Byrne (once the Talking Heads guitarist/singer, now world music producer) is an avid bicyclist. While on concert tour, he uses his folding bike to explore the local color. A few years ago he assembled his worldwide bike travel notes into a book titled Bicycle Diaries.

ListenDavid Byrne on folding bikeYou can listen to him read a chapter from his book. David Byrne reads his Australia chapter from his 2009 book, Bicycle Diaries. I like his transportation philosophy: use a bicycle when it’s appropriate, such as in urban settings and for short to medium length rides. Use other transport modes when they make more sense.

WLW: 1930s AM broadcast superstation

As entertainment delivery progresses from the broadcast model that was pioneered by David Sarnoff toward a content on demand model, it’s fun to stop and examine the roadside litter.

An impressive relic of the old broadcast days is the WLW 500,000 Watt transmitter located outside the city of Cincinnati. From 1934 until 1939, WLW broadcast a whopping 500,000 Watt AM signal on 700 kHz that covered North America from coast to coast.

Front panels of 500,000 Watt transmitter Photography by Frederick Vobbe, Lima OH
Front panels of 500,000 Watt transmitter
Photography by Frederick Vobbe, Lima OH

For most of its life, WLW transmitted 50,000 Watts, but in the 1930s it pumped out 500,000 Watts under a special authorization that needed to be renewed every six months. In 1939 Congress and the FCC reconsidered the wisdom of allowing a single station to control one frequency nationwide and withdrew the 500 kilowatt authorization. No other US AM station has ever been authorized to transmit more than 50 kW.

The 500 kW hardware was massive. Its final amplifier consisted of twelve water-cooled vacuum tubes with a plate dissipation rating that totalled 1.2 Megawatts. It was plate modulated by eight more 100 kW plate dissipation water-cooled tubes. This video walkthrough shows the oversized components that are still in place.

This excellent article on WLW in the 1930s claimed,

WLW was the 1930s version of NASA, continually testing the limits of just what AM broadcasting could do under U.S. regulation.

Powel Crosley, Jr. owned WLW. His factories produced radios, appliances, eventually TVs, and even cars. WLW provided the perfect advertising platform for Crosley products.

Today the tiny microprocessor, hair-thin fiberoptic strands, packet switching, media streaming, and especially content on demand technologies threaten the future of the once mighty radio broadcasting giants. Their giant carcasses remain as monuments, like the shattered visage of Ozymandias.


I’ve found a new fave site with dozens of short, funny, yet educational video clips. It’s about mathematics and is called numberphile.com. It’s produced in the U.K..


The videos are less than ten minutes long. Most of the presenters are college professors. Wait! Wait! Don’t hold that against them! These guys are informal and Brady Haran masterfully edits and produces them with simple graphics so that they’re fun and easy to follow.

Have you wondered how modern public key cryptography works? Watch http://numberphile.com/videos/RSA.html.

Two entertaining videos discuss the WW2 German Enigma machine. Watch the inner workings of a real one in action:

  1. http://numberphile.com/videos/enigma.html
  2. http://numberphile.com/videos/enigma_flaw.html

I’m sure that somewhere in their table of contents you’ll find at least one video clip worth watching.

Visit my website: http://russbellew.com
© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695

The Bletchley Circle

Do you like a good murder mystery? Interested in code breaking? How about sociological changes and the critical role of women in WW2? The Bletchley Circle is just the ticket.

bletchleycircleProduced in England last year by ITV, The three-episode Bletchley Circle takes place in England in 1952. It revolves around four women who worked together at Bletchley Park during the war and have moved on to civilian life. When Susan reads that a serial killer is  killing young women in London, she suspects a method to the killer’s madness. She enlists the help of her three ex-Bletchley Park friends, and the four women put their heads together to discover the killer’s identity.

I watched only Episode 1, on my local PBS station. It was terrific. The sets and clothing evoked a sepia-toned early-fifties England that was still struggling with ration books. It lent an insight into the lives of women who’d helped win the war, but whose technology careers were cut short by peacetime. Eighty percent of the 12,000 people who’d worked at Bletchley Park were women. When the war ended, everyone at Bletchley Park was sworn by the Official Secrets Act to never tell anyone about their wartime activities at Bletchley Park. (I’ve heard that one couple were married for thirty years before they discovered that they’d both worked at Bletchley Park!)

I’m looking forward to watching episodes 2 and 3, and I read that a second series is being produced as well.

From en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bletchley_Park:

Not until F. W. Winterbotham’s book The Ultra Secret was published in 1974 did ex-Bletchley Park staff feel free to reveal something of their wartime work. Deaths before that time meant that many parents, spouses, and children were never told more than that it was secret work for the Foreign Office or one of the armed services. Even 70 years later, some people still regard themselves bound to remain silent.

Visit my website: http://russbellew.com
© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695

Flash Gordon

Last week I watched Flash Gordon on Youtube. It’s a gorgeous black and white print of all 13 episodes of the 1936 space opera set in the twenty-second century starring Buster Crabbe. The sets and costumes are ridiculous, and so is the plot, but it was great fun. I liked the snapping, crackling electrical gadgets in the laboratory of Ming (The Merciless), emperor of the planet Mongo.

Ming and the boys watch his big-screen Spaceograph
Ming and the boys watch his wide-screen Spaceograph

This movie is part of a tradition harking back to Wagner’s Siegfried, Sir Gawain, and Beowulf. Scenes from the radium furnace room are low-rent versions of Fritz Lang’s 1926 Metropolis, and the adventures of a hero and a princess from another planet were told again in 1977’s Star Wars. George Lucas borrowed the same imaginative wipes between scenes.

Even the comments are entertaining:

  • Funny how Ming dresses all his men in hotpants and tights!
  • Considering Mongo is such a technically advanced planet it’s surprising nobody thought to invent trousers.
  • Dale Arden must have some heavy pheromones . . . first Ming wants her as his bride, and now King Vulcan . . . it must be the blonde hair.
  • The controls on my car’s a/c are more complicated than those on Dr. Z’s lab equipment

As I said, it’s great fun. I give it two thumbs up.

Visit my website: http://russbellew.com
© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695

Let The Good Times Roll on YouTube

I saw the movie “Let The Good Times Roll” while working in west Africa, c 1976, in a movie theater in Apapa, Nigeria, that was run by a group of enterprising Lebanese. Eclectic would describe the theater’s offerings: in one month, they’d run Bengalese romance / adventures, Hong Kong kickfests, a Truffaut movie, Australian and British comedies, and scratchy prints of faded 5-year old American blockbusters. No attempt was made to translate or subtitle foreign language films. I had no TV, and after a while listening to shortwave broadcasts from the BBC, VOA, Radio France, and Deutsche Welle grew old, so I’d treat myself to a movie or two each month.

The show would open with an old Warner Brothers or Tom & Jerry cartoon or two, a few ads for local products such as Elephant Power detergent, followed by the feature film.

letgoodtimesroll-170wI still remember watching “Let The Good Times Roll”. I was knocked out by the concert footage of Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Bo Diddley, et al on one stage. I especially liked the close-up candid backstage footage: we witness the mixture of fear, anticipation, and bravado of these rock and roll legends. I’ve never seen this film available on VHS or DVD, and had given up ever seeing it again.

YouTube Rocks (& Rolls)

Yesterday, I found it on YouTube! If you’re a fan of early rock and roll, click on over to YouTube to watch this movie, post haste. YouTube has a habit of taking down videos that skate on thin copyright ice, so hurry before it disappears.

Visit my website: http://russbellew.com
© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695

Fort Lauderdale Air Show 2013 Surprise

Last weekend, Fort Lauderdale hosted its annual air show. I found this well-produced brief video clip which includes a surprise ending.

I guess that two videos were merged using a video editor such as Adobe Premier. I’ve never attempted this sort of editing. Have you? Any idea how this video clip was created?

The complainant known as Prince issues a take down order.

Last month, Prince took exception to eight 6-second video clips, apparently owned by him, that appeared on Twitter’s Vine platform. He issued a DMCA copyright complaint to Twitter, who apparently complied by removing the material. Here’s a good news story.

The copyright system is a house of cards. Now that anyone can make perfect copies of media, performers may need to stop relying upon royalties and instead be paid once for each performance, just like most people.

Visit my website: http://russbellew.com
© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695

See the demigods when they were young: Shockley, Noyce, Moore, Grove, et al.

I just watched the PBS American Experience documentary, Silicon Valley. I loved it! It begins at legendary Bell Labs in New Jersey where William Shockley, John Bardeen, and Walter Brattain invented the transistor in 1947. Eighty-two minutes later, the film concludes at Intel in California, with the introduction of the first microprocessor, the 4-bit 4004 CPU in 1971.

Here’s how PBS describes it:

An eye-opening look at the birthplace of the modern technological era told by the people who shaped it, Silicon Valley is a fascinating reminder of how Robert Noyce and his team of trailblazers led the way in transforming California’s Santa Clara Valley into a worldwide hub of industry and innovation, and laid the bedrock for modern technology.

The director deftly cut between historical film footage and still photographs, and recent interviews with remaining players and historians. You can stream the entire documentary from www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/films/silicon/player/. I give it two thumbs up.

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© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695

Dress for success, not ridicule.

What was the US Olympic Committee thinking?

U.S. Olympic uniforms

We’re the team representing the Gay Frat Boy Yachting Club, Che Guevara Chapter.
caption by roadkit

I love funny blog articles and their comments. Here are two recent ones:

  • London Olympics: You’re Doing it WrongThis comment by roadkit:Do I think they should burn these uniforms because they were made in China?

    No. I think they should be burned because they look like shit.

  • Worst Olympic Uniforms Ever
    In case you didn’t notice the tastefully subtle logo on the front, these are made by Ralph Lauren. Technically, though, they were made in China. What’s more American than large corporate logos and outsourcing jobs to China? Complaining about it . . .

Why not complete the ensemble with a big red nose and oversize flapping shoes?

I pity the US athletes who are forced to wear this get-up.

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© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695

Grace under pressure

Show host chef Gordon Ramsay
Christine Ha
photo: MasterChef
My money is on Christine.

Ever since reading the delightful Kitchen Confidential c 1997 by chef Anthony Bourdain (quipped one critic: “Julia Child meets Keith Richards”) I’ve had respect for the work that takes place behind kitchen doors.

The Simpsons’ Principal Seymour Skinner, in an attempt to impress a shapely female, once bragged, “I’m thinking of becoming a gourmet cook”. I’m not thinking of becoming a gourmet cook, but I do admire the talent needed to produce beautiful, delicious meals. Mr. Bourdain assures us that making meals is like making anything: it’s a production job, and to produce a good product every meal requires precise logistics, artistry, skill, and plain old hard work.

I’ve become a fan of Fox’s cooking-based “reality shows”, which are hosted by Englishman chef Gordon Ramsay. My fave is MasterChef, which pits amateur cooks against each other and against the clock. My favorite contestant is Christine Ha, who has prepared terrific dishes every week, and presents them with soft-spoken dignity. She has a well-written blog, complete with her own recipes that include lip-smacking photos of each dish.

I’m cheering for Christine.

Her blog’s URL is www.theblindcook.com. Yes, she is blind.

Visit my website: http://russbellew.com
© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695