Tag Archives: music

Wolfgang Mozart has a cold…

mozartThe popularity of the 1984 Milos Forman film Amadeus — which was based on the 1979 Peter Shaffer play Amadeus, which was based on the opera Amadeus and Salieri by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, which was based on the short play Amadeus and Salieri by Aleksandr Pushkin — has inspired decades of conspiracy theories and century-spanning amateur CSI work to determine how Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart died.

In the film, Mozart dies at 35 after Salieri — jealous of his extraordinary gifts — knowingly works him to exhaustion under the guise of “helping” the composer regain his financial standing. Because Mozart was known for his wild eccentricities even during his own time, some have speculated that he died of mercury poisoning or a chronic condition that would have explained his personality. Others have suspected rheumatic fever, because he suffered from periodic bouts with it, and even trichinosis, because why the fuck not?

Anyway, a group of Dutch researchers descended from their ivory windmill recently to investigate. Their conclusion is that Mozart died from strep throat:

Their new study, reported in the Annals of Internal Medicine, was based on information from official death registers for Vienna in the winter of 1791 that places Mozart’s death in a wider context. He died in Vienna.

“Our findings suggest that Mozart fell victim to an epidemic of strep throat infection that was contracted by many Viennese people in Mozart’s month of death, and that Mozart was one of several persons in that epidemic that developed a deadly kidney complication,” researcher Richard Zegers, of the University of Amsterdam in the Netherlands, told Reuters Health.

Of course the researchers’ findings is not conclusive, since examining Mozart’s body is impossible. Viennese authorities insist Mozart was buried in a common grave, as was the custom of the day.

You are free to believe anything you like about Mozart’s demise. Maybe it was strep throat. Maybe it was trichinosis. Maybe Salieri worked him to death.

Or maybe, just maybe, zombie Galileo took his final revenge.


I guess we’ll never know.

Strep throat may have killed Mozart: study [Reuters]


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Kind of Blue Goes Gray

Pax Arcana

kind_of_blueI’m back from yet another research trip to the New Jersey Shore, and while I’m still months from compiling all the data I collected, I think it’s fair to conclude that yes, I will have another Margarita.

My return coincides perfectly with the 50th anniversary of Kind of Blue, the seminal Miles Davis album that was released on August 17, 1959. According to Fred Kaplan at Slate, the reason Kind of Blue stands out among all the other great jazz albums of the 1950s is that Davis (and his collaborators) were breaking new ground by freeing the musicians from the chords that dominated bebop improvisation:

One night in 1958, Russell sat down with Davis at a piano and laid out his theory’s possibilities—how to link chords, scales, and melodies in almost unlimited combinations. Miles realized this was a way out of bebop’s cul-de-sac. “Man,” he told Russell, “if Bird was alive, this would kill him.”

In an interview that year with critic Nat Hentoff, Miles explained the new approach. “When you go this way,” he said, “you can go on forever. You don’t have to worry about changes, and you can do more with time. It becomes a challenge to see how melodically inventive you are. … I think a movement in jazz is beginning, away from the conventional string of chords and a return to emphasis on melodic rather than harmonic variations. There will be fewer chords but infinite possibilities as to what to do with them.”

Most of us are familiar with Kind of Blue because it’s the one jazz album every white person owns. This is because many of us believe that professing our love of jazz will either endear us to cool black people or get us laid (preferably both). I once gave a ride home to a blond waitress with fake boobs. I had left the radio tuned to NPR earlier in the day, but after midnight the station only played jazz. When I started the car, she said “Oh you like jazz? That’s soooo cool.”

“Yes I do,” I said. “Have you ever heard of Miles Davis?”

Kind of Blue: Why the best-selling jazz album of all time is so great [Slate]


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David Lee Roth had his reasons

Pax Arcana

david-lee-rothIn the early 1980s, while Malcolm Jamal Warner was busy making the children of the world cooler, Van Halen was making a reputation for itself as the world’s leader in jackass tour riders.

By now the sight of a superstar band demanding preposterous concessions while on tour is a familiar one. But it all began in 1981 when Van Halen insisted that they be served M&Ms with all the brown ones picked out. The penalty for discovering a single brown M&M was a complete cancellation of the show.

Van Halen’s demand earned them a reputation for petulance. But according to Snopes.com (via Boing Boing), David Lee Roth actually had a good reason for it. Because the Van Halen show required more equipment and technical infrastructure than most venues were used to, the band used the M&M clause to ensure that the venue had done its due diligence. From Roth’s autobiography:

The contract rider read like a version of the Chinese Yellow Pages because there was so much equipment, and so many human beings to make it function. So just as a little test, in the technical aspect of the rider, it would say “Article 148: There will be fifteen amperage voltage sockets at twenty foot spaces, evenly, providing nineteen amperes … ” And article 126, in the middle of nowhere, was: “There will be no brown M&Ms in the backstage area, upon pain of forfeiture of the show, with full compensation.”

So when I would walk backstage, if I saw a brown M&M in that bowl … well, line check the entire production. Guaranteed you’re going to find a technical error. They didn’t read the contract. Guaranteed you’d run into a problem. Sometimes it would threaten to destroy just the whole show. Something like, literally, life-threatening.

In a sad, ironic twist, David Lee Roth’s career was finally killed by a brown M&M. In Roth’s defense, I don’t know why the brown one had to hog the spotlight at Skylar’s 8th birthday party. The yellow one that does the jumping splits has all the talent.

Van Halen had good reason to ban brown M&Ms in their concert rider [Boing Boing]

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Friday Random 10: Excuses, excuses edition


Pax Arcana

Sorry for the extreme paucity of highbrow musings lately. There are several reasons for this. The first is that the radiant and scrupulous Mrs. Pax Arcana and I are in the process of painting our house — the only human activity that goes from “exciting” and “fun” to “suicidally excruciating” faster than being governor of California.

The second is that my laptop caught a case of the fizzles yesterday, so until my technical team can replace it I’m stuck with a loaner that I believe was crafted out of discarded braces, watch batteries and graham crackers. Shit is slow.

It’s not that I don’t want to provide you with a hot tub full of greasy, sexy blogging. Trust me — I want to slather your body parts in stories of racist Philadelphians, men in tiny boats, gas station exposés, grand optical illusions, the greatest baseball game ever played, anachronistic uniform components, impish impulses, and the New York Times’ hilarious warning against eating raw cookie dough.

It’s just that I can’t right now.

So let’s skip ahead to the songs:

Listening to Otis Redding During Christmas — Okkervil River
A-Punk — Vampire Weekend
The Funeral — Band of Horses
Another Man’s Done Gone — Wilco
In the Garage — Weezer
Pot Kettle Black — Wilco
That Time — Regina Spektor
Born to Run — Bruce Springsteen
Punch Drunk — Bush Tetras
Song #1 — Fugazi

Bonus Video:

Land of the Freak — King Khan and the Shrines (Live)

The Rules: The Friday Random 10 is exactly that — random. We open up our iTunes, set the thing on shuffle, and listen to 10 songs. We are not permitted to skip any out of embarrassment or fear of redundancy. Commenters are encouraged to post their own.


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Friday Random 10: Michael Jackson Edition

Pax Arcana

michael_jacksonAs is so often the case at times of great upheaval, the world now looks to me to make sense of the death of Michael Jackson.

Very well.

Michael Jackson was the capstone of a line of cultural touchstones who bridged the gap between “white” and “black” music. Like Elvis, Otis Redding, and Smokey Robinson before him, Michael Jackson had the uniqe gift of extreme cultural synthesis — fusing elements of many different musical styles into an art form that rose above description and categorization. For a 15 year period from the late 1970s through the early 1990s, Michael Jackson was the transcendent human of his age and likely the last megastar of the music world.

Also, he wanted to put his wiener in your children.

The songs:

Dig Your Grave — Modest Mouse
The Swell Season — Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova
Car Radio (Different) — Spoon
Suck My Kiss — Red Hot Chilipeppers
Chesley’s Little Wrists — Pavement
Boot on the Seat — The Donkeys
Golden Age — TV on the Radio
Do What You Gotta Do — Okkervil River
Saltwater — Beach House
Mango Pickle Down River — M.I.A.

Bonus video:

I’ve Been Loving You Too Long (Too Stop Now) (Otis Redding cover) — Cat Power

The Rules: The Friday Random 10 is exactly that — random. We open up our iTunes, set the thing on shuffle, and listen to 10 songs. We are not permitted to skip any out of embarrassment or fear of redundancy. Commenters are encouraged to post their own.


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Friday Random 10: Agency Edition

Pax Arcana

ghostsDuring a baseball game my senior year in high school, I made peanut butter on the bench by crushing up a bunch of peanuts under the head of my bat. Later in the game I hit a home run off a particularly renowned pitcher. Every game for the rest of the season I made bat head peanut butter during the first inning — convinced that the activity was somehow the cause of my success.

Turns out I was just good at baseball. [*flexes remnants of once-proud bicep]

At least according to an article in Scientific American, which says that basically all religious or supernatural beliefs are the product of two things working in concert:

1. Our brains evolved to spot patterns. This helped early man both catch food and avoid becoming food, but now confuses us because we’re more likely to spot patterns that aren’t there than the reverse.

2. We have a special gift for assigning agency to these patterns. Because we are uniquely aware of our own feelings and doings — and the feelings and doings of others — we assume that all patterns are caused by an agent of sorts that is enacting the patterns on purpose.

So we make bat head peanut butter to satisfy the gods. Or Obama, depending on what you’re hoping for:

Agenticity carries us far beyond the spirit world. The Intelligent Designer is said to be an invisible agent who created life from the top down. Aliens are often portrayed as powerful beings coming down from on high to warn us of our impending self-destruction. Conspiracy theories predictably include hidden agents at work behind the scenes, puppet masters pulling political and economic strings as we dance to the tune of the Bilderbergers, the Roth­schilds, the Rockefellers or the Illuminati. Even the belief that government can impose top-down measures to rescue the economy is a form of agenticity, with President Barack Obama being touted as “the one” with almost messianic powers who will save us.

Does this mean praying to Oprah won’t make my — I mean this friend of mine’s — back less hairy?

The songs:

Finally Found a Home — Oh No! Oh My!
Blossom — Ryan Adams and the Cardinals
Maybe Not — Cat Power
Girl You Have No Faith in Medicine — The White Stripes
Answering Bell — Ryan Adams
Signed, Sealed, Delivered, I’m Yours — Stevie Wonder
I Could Have Lied — The Red Hot Chilipeppers
The Ghost of You Lingers — Spoon
Sugar on my Tongue — Talking Heads
Single File — Elliott Smith

Bonus video:

Scenario — Tribe Called Quest (Live on Arsenio, 1992)

The Rules: The Friday Random 10 is exactly that — random. We open up our iTunes, set the thing on shuffle, and listen to 10 songs. We are not permitted to skip any out of embarrassment or fear of redundancy. Commenters are encouraged to post their own.


  • So are you a homeowner now or what? And when’s the moving date so I can make plans for that weekend?

    Hot Tamale Baby, Buckwheat Zydeco
    Bitch, The Rolling Stones
    Where I End And You Begin (The Sky Is Falling In), Radiohead
    Moonglow, Django Reinhardt
    Troy, Sinéad O’Connor
    I Feel It All, Feist
    Fun World, Mission of Burma
    Mutherfuker, Beck
    Good Advices, R.E.M.
    Go it Alone, Beck

  • You know what I don’t understand? How is it that Teixeira always looks so constipated?

  • Mortgage commitment is supposed to come through today. Then I will start relaxing. Except that mortgage rates are jumping like a bitch right now. We had a chance to lock at 5.15% two weeks ago and our guy told us not to, because they would probably go down in June. D’OH!

    Assuming the bank makes a horrible mistake and gives us the loan, we should take possession on June 25. We’re in California the week after that, then we’ll probably move throughout the month of July. We may be douchebags and request the help of able-bodied men for one morning of heavy-lifting, or we may just hire movers.

  • 1. Mark Olson & Gary Louris – Kick The Wood
    2. Jimi Hendrix – Machine Gun
    3. Rage Against the Machine – Roll Right
    4. Otis Webster – Boll Weevil Blues
    5. David Bowie – Life on Mars
    6. Paul McCartney – Bluebird
    7. Sparklehorse – Revenge (feat. Wayne Coyne)
    8. Band of Horses – Is There A Ghost
    9. Aretha Franklin – A Brand New Me
    10. Swan Silvertones – A Brighter Day Ahead

  • Or you could do what we did: Be douchebags and put out the call for able-bodied men.

  • Make that “Be douchebags and hire movers.” We did both.

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Friday Random 10: Couch Potato Edition

Pax Arcana

It’s well-documented that Americans are the corpulentest bastards on the planet, each of us requiring a small army of Malaysian porters to tote our belongings as we wheeze our way back to the buffet line at Sizzler.

Many blame our sedentary lifestyle. We drive everywhere, we hate the outdoors, and who has time for exercise when there’s so much intrigue on CSI: Miami tonight?

lampNot me. I blame my fucking couch. That thing is so comfortable there is practically no escape from its velvety embrace.

That’s why I’m buying all my furniture from Ferran Lajara from this point forward. According to his Web site, Lajara’s furniture designs are aimed at creating a unidirectional relationship between the object the objectionable indirect object subject predicate. Actually I got lost in the description. Here — you try:

Active furniture is a collection of three objects which try to keep users physically active by creating new relationships object-user-user-object. These new relationships are not unidirectional anymore – relationships in which users are the ones who demand from the object and the object obeys. The pieces of furniture in this collection do anything but facilitate what users want. They force users to perform a physical action in order to make them function. These actions keep users active.

The bottom line is that Lajara’s furniture makes you work. Like the lamp pictured above, which only lights up when standing up straight but doesn’t come with a base — so you have to hold it up yourself. Or a desk with drawers on the wrong side to make you stand up every time you need a paper clip.

Frankly I think it’s a good thing when your furniture challenges you. Like that time the ottoman wanted to arm wrestle me for my Red Sox tickets. “You don’t even have any arms, you fucking retarded ottoman!” I yelled at him. Then I realized I never had Red Sox tickets and I was high on Schnapps and Hydrocodone.

You win this round, ottoman.

The songs:

Naomi — Neutral Milk Hotel
Was it You? — Spoon
Reservations — Spoon
My Family’s Role in the World Revolution — Beirut
Your Big Hands — Jolie Holland
Lenin — Arcade Fire
No Christmas While I’m Talking — The Walkmen
No, Not Now — Hot Hot Heat
You Really Got a Hold on Me — She & Him
The Heartbreak Rides — AC Newman

Bonus Video:

Mexican Wine (Live) — Fountains of Wayne

The Rules: The Friday Random 10 is exactly that — random. We open up our iTunes, set the thing on shuffle, and listen to 10 songs. We are not permitted to skip any out of embarrassment or fear of redundancy. Commenters are encouraged to post their own.


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