Wednesday, April 10, 2002

Ersel Hickey The Rockin' Bluebird (Collectables) - How many rockabillies were there? Hickey recorded for Epic so it seems like I should have heard of him before except that his mostly polished approach isn't to the taste of modern fans (though I'll take Ricky Nelson over Hasil Adkins any day). His best-known song is "Bluebirds Over the Mountain" which features a rhythm with emphasis on the offbeats that would today be called reggae-ish. For the rest you can hear Elvis, female back-up singers and lots of echo.


Salon has a sharp and funny piece by Steven Hart skewering George Lucas' grandiose claims. It's called "Galactic Gasbag" and you can find it at I would have thought all this obvious but perhaps not and a little reminder can't hurt. Artists stating they're tapping into grand themes, archetypes and that lot are mostly deluded or simpletons, at best simply giving profile writers little bones to gnaw while they go about the real work. The slip with Lucas came in Joseph Campbell's Power of Myth where Campbell praised Star Wars as an illustration of the hero myth (itself a dubious construct but that's another issue). The catch of course is that Campbell was fully aware that Lucas based--well claimed to have based--the film on Campbell's ideas so all it actually illustrated was those ideas. OK maybe this isn't an outright lie but merely a planned deception to increase his prestige.

Hart seems to know his SF and the only thing he leaves out, really, is that Star Wars isn't science fiction but science fantasy, a distinction that doesn't seem to be used much any more. At its most basic science fantasy is fantasy (princesses, noble warriors, magic, nasty monsters) dressed up in SF clothing (spaceships, ray guns, etc). The distinction is worth making at some level because SF has some connection with genuine science no matter now tenuous. Not that Star Wars should have stopped to explain how blasters work or how any society could have the economic and material ability to build a Death Star but the lack of any reasonable science removes it from the realm of SF. Take for instance the spaceships, which Lucas famously modelled after WW2 air combat movies, to those in Babylon 5. In Star Wars they perform like, well, aircraft banking on air resistance that doesn't exist in space while the ones in Babylon 5 move like genuine spaceships would.


You can hardly miss the news that Oprah is abandoning her book club saying, according to the Guardian, that ""It has become harder and harder to find books on a monthly basis that I feel absolutely compelled to share." Which can only raise a big "huh?" Admittedly I haven't read a single one of her 46 choices (hey I've been busy) but they seem to be reasonably respectable and at least not completely the middle-brow fluff most of us first expected. But to claim that there's little worthwhile out there is so ludicrous that she certainly can't expect anybody to believe it. Publishers Weekly has documented how her recommendations have declined in influence so perhaps it's a case of Oprah taking her toys and going home. Maybe there's some as-yet unrevealed behind-the-scenes activity. Or maybe Oprah's tastes really are so narrow that she can find little worth recommending.


The website of the sorely missed Lingua Franca is down if you go to the main page. However much of the site appears to be still active if you go directly to the correct location. For instance, to find the fascinating Breakthrough section of book recommendations try