Tag Archives: Germany

Frank Zappa Conquers Europe

Zappa_VilniusBy PAT HARTMAN
News Editor

Eric Slick is a percussionist with the Adrian Belew Power Trio and Crescent Moon, among others. Most recently, he was part of Project Object, the brainchild of Ike Willis and Don Preston, bringing the music of Frank Zappa to European fans — specifically in the Czech Republic, the Netherlands, Spain, and Germany. Eric shares with us the sensations and adventures of a musician on tour:

We’re on the way to one of my favorite places in the whole world. a quaint village called Bad Doberan, the home of Zappanale, a week long festival dedicated to the genius of Frank Zappa: composer, filmmaker, guitarist, politician, iconoclast. It’s as close as I’ve come to some form of heaven.

Indeed this drummer compares Zappanale to such ideal locales as Mecca and Utopia and, having participated at 5 successive yearly recurrences, he ought to know. He admires the efficient organization behind the festival, and is especially enthusiastic over the addition this year of a second stage. He tells us — dare we believe it? — that the last band on the last night played “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” in the nude.

No doubt about it, Zappa is alive and well on the Continent. Only last month, at Spiegel Online, journalist Sebastian Knauer interviewed Napoleon Murphy Brock. Brock, who is a vocalist, saxophonist, flautist and comedian, is one of the Zappa friends who ensure that the great one’s work does not fall into oblivion. This apparently brings him into opposition with the widow and guardian of the estate, Gail Zappa. Brock points out here that “her husband collected inspiration from all styles of music and interpreters and was himself a great plagiarist, before making something entirely his own.” He talks about the “Zappa College,” the fresh generation of youth who are discovering and treasuring the music of Frank Zappa, represented by 19 bands at the Bad Doberan event. He especially likes an old-time railway there, called Molli, and says, “Frank would have done a song about that.”

Zappa-vilnius2Vilnius, Lithuania, is another outpost of Zappa-consciousness, as proven by the erection of a statue there in 1995 and visited by Kevin Dolgin, who assures us in The Third Tower Up From the Road that “Zappa never had anything to do with Vilnius, never set foot in Lithuania, and had not a smidgen of Lithuanian heritage.” But who cares? What matters is the power of music to foster international brotherhood, which it surely does in this case. Konstantinas Bogdanas is the sculptor, who must have felt some relief after spending, as Kevin tells us, “something like 50 years sculpting Soviet political leaders.” Earlier this year, a bronze replica of the Kalinausko Square statue in Vilnius was made and given to the American city of Baltimore, Zappa’s home town.

Please send us other evidence of Zappa infiltration into Europe!

In related news, Daniel Cook Johnson enthuses over the new 35MM film release of Zappa’s 1971 classic 200 Motels, which also features Ringo Starr as a dwarf and Keith Moon as a nun. Johnson characterizes the movie as “a mess by design” and reminds us of its historical significance as the first feature-length film shot on videotape.

And at Guba, someone has posted a 1986 episode of the TV talk show “Crossfire” where Zappa appears in short hair and a suit, discussing important matters.

photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Travel Writer Finds Treats for Anglophone Brainiacs

News Editor

At BBC News Online, Zoe Kleinman introduces John Graham-Cumming, author of a wonderful resource for a certain kind of traveler: the unabashed geek. While visiting Munich, Germany, casting about for something to absorb an afternoon’s worth of time, Graham-Cumming learned of the Deutches Museum, and the rest is history. (We’re going for the prize offered for the 30-millionth iteration of that particular overused phrase.) It became the first entry in his nascent Geek Atlas, which has now gone from being a gleam in its creator’s eye to an actual book. Kleinman says:

The main criteria for inclusion in the resulting atlas were that each attraction had to be open, interesting and accessible to English speakers… He admits the ones he chose are more a reflection of his own travels than a comprehensive global guide.

Graham-Cumming had thought that perhaps the Lonely Planet series might have a guidebook for the science-oriented traveler, but on learning that no such guide existed, he began composing his own. He ended up with a compendium of 46 institutions in the US, 45 in the United Kingdom, and 12 in France. He provides the addresses couched as geographical coordinates, so a global positioning device is an indispensable aid to the book.

A bonus on the page is a video clip where Kleinman chats with the author at the Hunterian Museum. Located in London, this is the repository of the Royal College of Surgeons’ collection of body parts preserved in jars, and its vast array of surgical instruments from past eras. A nice virtual tour of the Hunterian is available online. It also houses half of the brain of Charles Babbage, widely regarded as the father of the computer. (The other half is in a different institution, the Science Museum.) Babbage is a true hero to Graham-Cumming, who experienced an emotional moment when viewing the inventor’s Difference Engine No 2 at a museum.

Graham-Cumming is a big fan of Munich’s Deutsches Museum, which may or may not be the world’s largest museum of technology and science, but it does draw more than a million visitors a year. He is also very fond of the National Cryptologic Museum in Maryland, maintained by the U.S. National Security Agency. It is the American intelligence community’s first and only public museum.

Is there a science museum in The Third Tower Up From the Road? Sort of. It’s not hard-core, it’s fun, with 600 interactive experiences to be had , and it’s in Södertälje, Sweden. Kevin says:

Tom Tit’s Experiment is named after a fictional character, the alter ego of a French scientist who wrote books and articles very popular in Sweden… the kind of place your nice and somewhat ditzy aunt would put together if she had the money and the inclination.

Giant soap bubbles big enough to hold a person inside. Scale models of human fetuses that you can take out, unfold, refold, and put back in again. A rat circus in the Periodic Table Theatre (he tells where the best seats are). And best of all, a thing you can stick your head in and scream as loud as you want. Compared to that, what is Babbage’s brain?

photo courtesy of lorentey, used under this Creative Commons license

Europe + Beer = Energy + Fun


News Editor

A couple of weeks ago, Thomas H. Maugh II alerted the public to the discovery of the world’s oldest known musical instrument and no, it isn’t Willy Nelson’s guitar. (There is no real good segue into this, but you should know that Maugh has written way more than 1,000 articles for the Los Angeles Times.) The artifact we’re talking about here is a 35,000-year-old flute, which is not in cherry condition. In fact, it’s only a partial flute, found in 12 pieces, and they don’t all add up. Nevertheless, someone in the distant past drilled deliberate holes in a griffon vulture bone, in such a way as to make it into a wind instrument. Maugh says:

Excavated from a cave in Germany, the nearly complete flute suggests that the first humans to occupy Europe had a fairly sophisticated culture, complete with alcohol, adornments, art objects and music that they developed there or even brought with them from Africa when they moved to the new continent 40,000 years or so ago.

They found a couple of ivory instruments, too, left there eons ago by folks who “drank beer, played flute and drums and danced around…” Remind you of anyone? Only everyone you know! The difference between our great-great-greats and us is that we have a lot more varieties of beer to choose from. For instance, there’s one called St-Feuillien that people just rave about. It’s a $10 bottle of brew described as a “delicate, exquisite gourmet beer” by Paul Hightower in the Examiner, and there’s a legend behind it, too.

Beer-making is adaptable to environmental and ecological best practices, and it’s a darn good thing, because nobody’s going to quit making the stuff any time soon. At Inventorspot, Myra Per-Lee looks into the use of beer waste as an alternative energy source. A guy named Wolfgang Bengel of the BMP Biomasse Projekt says he’s figured out a way to make beer byproducts into fuel that will power the breweries. Each cycle would recapture 50% of the energy, or something. Apparently, he’s already done similar feats in Thailand and China. It sounds great. This isn’t a totally new concept, however. Anheuser-Busch has been doing a similar thing in its United States breweries, says Leslie Guevarra at Reuters.

We have it on good authority (Rick Steves of Tribune Media Services) that there are over 300 varieties of Belgian beer alone, and that’s not counting all the rest of Europe. In Brussels, there’s a bar called Delirium where they have more kinds of beer than anybody. Really, it’s certified by the Guinness World Record people. As of 2004, anyway. Who knows where the current record holder may be? That’s one of the things that beer pilgrims go to Europe to investigate!

photo courtesy of Experiencias de viagem de 1 Brasileiro
, used under this Creative Commons license