Friday, May 29, 2009

Bob Dylan Tribute

So I heard an interview a couple days ago with this guy in India who loved Bob Dylan so much that he has staged a celebration of music and poetry on Dylan's birthday, even though sometimes no one came, and it sometimes poured rain. He says it's because he admired Dylan so much for his lyrics and poetry (I wonder if he was aware of the plagiarism allegations). Dylan turned 68 this year and in honor of his birthday, this guy erected a stage on a local -rather weed-strewn- basketball court. He's been doing this for 37 years now, and at 60 some years old, this guy has yet to miss a year. That's dedication. Apparently, the people in this area of India (Shillong, I think?) are mostly Christians and are well-acquainted with English and, in turn, American music. This year, about 300-ish people showed up for this guy's Dylan party... and they stood in the rain, too.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009


I had mentioned before that my dad is a bit of an aspiring mycologist -er, mushroom hunter, actually (I don't think he has any particular interesting fungi aside from identifying them and then eating them). I gave him a book on mushroom identification for his birthday, which he has since put to use only a few times, but from which has gained much pleasure (my $40 wasn't an entire waste). The other day he brought in some mushroom from the backyard and asked me to identify them using his book, but not tell him what I thought they were. He would then determine what he thought they were and if our guesses were the same, he would eat them in his omelet the next morning. I said they were fairy ring mushrooms, he said they were fairy ring mushrooms, and he ate them for breakfast the next morning -he didn't die. We own some land out east in Adams County, Ohio where people frequently trespass to collect mushrooms, and they come out with a substantial quantity of morels in particular. So, my dad's been trying to get some of them to take him along on such a mushroom hunt, so that he might become more comfortable and "learn the ropes, " so to speak (it would certainly legitimise these people being on our property). However, he has discovered that avid "shroomers," as they call themselves, are more than a tad reticent when it comes to disclosing information about their favorite spots -even if these locations particularly good for finding mushrooms do happen to be on a neighbor's land. We're still trying to find away to get around this "if I told you I'd have to kill you" clause, because the offer to enter and leave the area blindfolded has yet to work.

Anyway, I just started my summer class in field biology this week and got to thinking about mushroom identification, because we've been doing quite a bit of plant identification in the woods. John Cage, being the mushroom enthusiast we all know and love, wrote a little about taking a similar class in fungus identification in some of his "digression speeches." Here's one I found today:

"I enrolled in a class in mushroom identification. The teacher was a Ph.D. and the editor of a
publication on mycology. One day he picked up a mushroom, gave a good deal of information
about it, mainly historical, and finally named the plant as Pluteus cervinus, edible. I was certain that that plant was not Pluteus cervinus. Due to the attachment of its gills to the stem, it seemed to me to be an Entoloma, and therefore possibly seriously poisonous. I thought: What shall I do? Point out the teacher’s error? Or, following school etiquette, saying nothing, let other members of the class possibly poison themselves? I decided to speak. I said, “I doubt whether that mushroom is Pluteus cervinus. I think it’s an Entoloma.” The teacher said, “Well, we’ll key it out.” This was done, and it turned out I was right. The plant was Entoloma grayanum, a poisonous mushroom. The teacher came over to me and said, “If you know so much about mushrooms, why do you take this class?” I said, “I take this class because there’s so much about mushrooms I don’t know.” Then I said, “By the way, how is it that you didn’t recognize that plant?” He said, “Well, I specialize in the jelly fungi; I just give the fleshy fungi a whirl.”

Monday, May 18, 2009


So now that the summer's here I finally have time to catch up on the enormous reading list I've compiled over the year. I just finished Carmilla, which Dr Langguth suggested I read somewhere in our Vampire vs Werewolves dicussion. So I wrote it down and forgot about it until this summer. I actually liked it better than Dracula, which I wasn't expecting, but it moved a lot faster than the more famous book it inspired. Anyway, I really liked it and wanted to say thanks for the suggestion. Hope everybody's having a good summer!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Speaking of Plagiarism...

So I recently found out that Bob Dylan isn't the only big name with a few charges of plagiarism on his record. Coldplay, in spite of being one of the best-selling names in the world, has also been charged with plagiarism not one, not two, but three times with their recent hit "Viva La Vida." Coldplay's latest accuser is Yusuf Islam, who claims the band's "Viva La Vida" borrows from a section of his "Foreigner Suite," released in 1973. Meanwhile, Yusuf Islam needs to get in line behind guitarist Joe Satriani, who has already filed a legal claim against Coldplay for copying "If I Could Fly," released in 2004. But Yusuf Islam, and Joe Satriani, need to get in line behind the band Creaky Boards, which first claimed that Coldplay based its song "Viva La Vida" on a song released last year, called "The Songs I Didn't Write." And at the moment the only thing that is known is that Coldplay may or may not have stolen from any of them... but clearly someone is stealing from somebody.
But what I want to know, is why all three of these accusers are calling out Coldplay and not each other, if they each claim that the same hit is copied from each of their songs? Why isn't Yusuf Islam calling out Creaky Boards? Why aren't the members of Creaky Boards going after Satriani? Why isn't Satriani going after the whole lot of them? Personally, I think it's because Coldplay's the one with the one with the most money. I mean, who's ever heard of Creaky Boards? However this plagiarism issue plays out, this just might provide the boost that so many laid-off copyright attorneys have been looking for :)

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Tian Chu and Tibetan Rock

So, I heard a piece on the radio this morning about a Tibetan rock band called Tian Chu. This name roughly translates as "heavenly club," a reference to a musical instrument used in Buddhist ceremonies to defeat evil spirits. They combine heavy metal and blues-rock on traditional Tibetan instruments, electric guitars and drums. Tian Chu was influenced by U2, Nirvana and Metallica, but struggled to appeal to the local audiences, so they tried to find similarities between rock music and the local folk music. To this end, the band uses a traditional six-string instrument popular in the city of Linju. In this city there's a music called Linju folk song, and the rhythm of the music is quite similar in rhythm to blues. They use this common point to get from folk music to rock, and to tell you the truth, it sounds very... interesting. One song begins with what sounds like a Tibetan monk chant and suddenly turns into something more reminiscent of Elvis.
The members of Tian Chu also have a fondness for Tibetan opera -and heavy metal. Heavy metal has some similarities to Tibetan opera (apparently), but they are performed on different instruments. In the opera, heavy base lines are played on traditional stringed instruments. Tian Chu takes those sounds, along with guttural throat singing, and turns them into something... well, something I've never quite heard before. But turning opera into Twisted Sister is jarring for most Tibetans, who are farmers and herdsmen and especially the senior residents, who don't like this idea of incorporating traditional music into rock 'n' roll.
Living in Tibet, the band is somewhat restricted in the themes and subjects used in their music. Sex, drugs, and violence are out, and the musicians stay away from controversial political themes, but they say that they do compose songs critical of Tibet's problems, focusing on greed and materialism. They've even written a song about the concepts of oneness with nature and respect for animals. So far, Tibetan officials have let them get away with it.
Pretty interesting stuff, and let me tell you, hearing heavy metal/Tibetan opera/blues sung in Mandarin is quite an experience.