Hail Cale

J.J. Cale passed away at the age of 74 at the start of this past weekend (26 July 2013), but I wanted to first find a fitting video to post before paying tribute to the songwriting legend.

And here it is, a set from 1979 recorded at Paradise Studios in Los Angeles:

Cale never sang a hit song himself, but wrote some of the most memorable songs which other great artists such as Eric Clapton, Jerry Garcia and Lynyrd Skynyrd covered successfully. Who can forget After Midnight and Cocaine? He was an accomplished instrumentalist, the guitar being his weapon of choice.

It’s said that Neil Young once remarked that the two best electric guitarists he’d ever heard were Jimi Hendrix and Cale. Absolutely!

Pluck in peace, Master Cale, we will miss you.

A story of love, risk, tragedy, ingenuity and… Carl Sagan

Carl Sagan is an absolute legend. I’m truly fascinated about his life, his work, his books…. Cosmos.

When I heard that Neil deGrasse Tyson was working on a project that will bring Sagan’s epic Cosmos television series back to life some time in 2014, I was over the moon. Just today I found this beautiful short film by video artist Penny Lane, which tells a simple story of risk, love, tragedy, man’s ingenuity and Carl Sagan off course.

It’s really humbling to imagine that two single gold discs which are due to exit our solar system, may possibly be the only record of our existence here on Earth that will be available to anyone or anything else out there in the infinity of space, should the sun eventually vaporise us, or we destroy ourselves first.

A Dance with Dragons by George R.R. Martin

A Dance with DragonsI’ve finally managed to finish reading the 5th book in the Song of Ice and Fire series, this being the lengthier by far. Fortunately, having started reading the series late, I was not placed in the same agonizing position as those Martin fans who had to wait around some 6 years for the next installment after A Feast for Crows.

Initially I found the read a bit disconcerting because you might remember that A Feast for Crows and A Dance with Dragons was originally planned as one book, which Martin decided to split in two, which resulted in events in the latter segment occurring on the same timeline as events in the former, but as seen through the eyes of different characters. However, after this initial bit of unsettlement, the story comes nicely together again.

Briefly, A Dance with Dragons features episodes around the lives of John Snow of the Night’s Watch who is in the North at the Wall, Tyrion Lannister who after killing his father Tywin, escapes to the Free Cities, Daenerys Targaryen in the East and her travails in Meereen, Arya Stark who shows up in Braavos at a temple of the Faceless Men for some sort of training in the occult arts and assassination, Victarion Greyjoy’s journey to Slaver’s Bay en route to find Daenerys, Stannis Baratheon and Melisandre who pitch camp at the Wall, Cersei Lannister the bitch psuedo-queen in the South and Jaime Lannister who after returning to Kings landing, marches with an army back into the Riverlands, Theon Greyjoy who makes an appearance as “Reek”, having been thought dead after the third book, and a host of others besides.

And lots of people die…

As usual, A Dance with Dragons ends with a cliffhanger, but if you have the Kindle version, there is a fairly lengthy pre-taste of what Book 6 The Winds of Winter, promises.


I still found the sub-plot around Bran Starks journey beyond the Wall, annoying and a little pointless. However I may be proved wrong, as this journey may yet prove significant in the planned final two books yet to be published. You never quite know what Martin has up his sleeve.

Overall, another breath-taking read and I’m eagerly anticipating Book 6, due some time in 2014. Let’s hope George Martin does not keep us waiting any longer than that.

More About Erik

Seems I have a lot of catching up to do on the blog. I’ve not attended to the many comments posted since I’ve been away on my mid-year break, and my sincere apologies for this. I’ll get to it all in the next day or so. I’ve all but shunned social media, including this blog for a little over two weeks.

But first, more about Erik…

We took the little Viking dude to The Barnyard in Umhlanga on the Kwa-Zulu Natal North Coast on Sunday, for a tribute to Elton John, Pink, Freddie Mercury, Tina Turner and Michael Jackson. An odd ensemble you might think, but they were awesome, especially the Jackson character who had MJ’s dance moves down to T. From past posts, you’ll know I’m a big fan of The Barnyard, but who would have guessed that Erik would dig it too.

My previous experience with two year-old’s (and older kids) at live shows have been torturous. They’re not known for sitting still and watching – running around, screaming, throwing tantrums and just making a mighty old fuss is more the norm. Not Erik!

He just sat there mesmerised for nigh on two hours, with barely a word out his mouth, sipping occasionally on his fruit juice. He was perfectly appreciative, eyes all lit up. The little Viking sure loves his music. I’ll bet he’s hooked on live performances now.

And when he gets older his Uncle Lenny is going to take him to rock concerts. So be prepared, mom and dad…

The Viking’s A Beatles Fan

Just got back from my mid-year break in Durban and one of the highlights was the opportunity to hang out with my cousin’s two year-old son, Erik.

Erik’s father hails from Denmark, and it’s something of a family jest to refer to him as a little Viking. Long before he’d turned two, he had an affinity for music. Initially he developed a liking for Pink Floyd as I remember, probably because his dad has a pretty decent collection of vinyl’s. Back then Erik had already started showing interest in The Beatles, and would demand that everyone played “The Beats” for him. He’s now able to choose the records he likes by identifying the album sleeves, and has picked up a line or two of some of the songs.

He’s currently fixated with Hey Jude, but is always talking about Lady Madonna, another Beatles hit. According to Erik, Lady Madonna is Hey Jude’s sister. But his taste for music is phenomenal for someone so young. He’s into Fleetwood Mac, Peter Frampton and Michael Jackson too.

I got him a half-sized guitar and was lucky to catch him playing on one of my visits.

I’m hoping his parents encourages him to learn to play the guitar as soon as possible. The prospect of an amusing and entertaining visit in the not too distant future is worth savouring.

Off to the coast

It’s time to take a mid-year break and so I’m off to the coast again. First stop this year is the Durban July Handicap at Greyville Racecourse. The Durban July is South Africa’s premier thoroughbred horseracing event and has been held in the first week of July since 1897.

I haven’t been to a racecourse in over ten years, so I’m really looking forward to this one. Off course horseflesh is not the only thing that will be on show. The Durban July is famous for its over the top apparel and other divine err… attractions.

Horseracing used to be a big thing at one point in my life, but that was a long time ago. Being a skeptic now, gambling doesn’t feature in my list of pastimes. I’ve placed the odd bet on horses over the years, and haven’t won a cent since I stopped gambling. I’m just keen to soak up the atmosphere at a great sporting event, and place an odd bet just for laughs.

Jet Explorer

Jet Explorer

My money’s (not much) on Jet Explorer, a snazzy 4-year gelding which is being ridden by champion jockey Anthony Delpech. Delpech has won four previous July’s and if he does it again, will the only jockey to have won five times.

Hopefully I’ll get my two-week break off to a winning start.

The music of Route 66, more or less

The musical production Route 66 at the Barnyard Theatre Boksburg on Sunday promised a nostalgic trip down memory lane. And it most certainly did not disappoint.

Stage banner

Stage banner

The cast of 10 instrumentalists, singers and dancers were pretty accomplished, and produced an electrifying reproduction of the songs I grew up with. It didn’t matter that they presented songs from more than the recognized Route 66 states of Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California – it was an added pleasure to see songs from Tennessee and Kentucky thrown into the mix.

The drummer

The drummer

What a pleasure listening to the music of Willie Nelson, Kenny Rogers, John Denver, Dolly Parton, Creedence Clearwater Revival, The Eagles, The Doobie Brothers, Shania Twain and The Dixie Chicks,  ZZ Top, Guns N’ Roses, Kid Rock and Bon Jovi, being performed right in front of you.

The violinist

The violinist

South African artists rock!

Curious beliefs

Black rhino

Black rhino

I dropped my car off for a service at the dealership today and got a ride back to work in one of their courtesy cars. Sitting upfront, I shared the ride with three ladies at the back who had also brought their cars in.

I listened silently, pondering my day ahead as two of the women got into a conversation. One began regaling the other about her recent holiday at a wildlife reserve, and the conversation somehow shifted to rhinos and the decimation of the species by poachers.

One quoted the death toll to be standing in the region of four hundred and something; I can’t remember the exact figure quoted. That’s more or less correct. The other mentioned that rhino horn tasted like fingernails – she knows because she got to taste it somewhere. That’s also true, more or less.

To my mild amusement the woman in the middle fumed that something’s got to be done about the Asians. Being an Indian I felt somehow complicit, but funnily did not feel insulted. In truth, the demand seems to stem mostly from Vietnam and China.

Then to my astonishment, the woman immediately behind me said that we have to protect the rhinos because God created the animals and humans and we were meant to share the earth equally – the other agreed that God put them here for a specific purpose. It was more than I could do to burst out laughing.

In case you’re wondering, I absolutely abhor the killing of rhinos to satisfy the sick beliefs of ignorant people, Asians or otherwise. But I’m appalled that anyone would think it’s wrong to kill an animal simply because God created them and that they were meant to share the earth with us equally.

I almost asked them if they would desist from squishing a mosquito or fly or cockroach when they become a nuisance, following their reasoning that they were also created by God. I sincerely think they would have no compunction trampling a bug, because it is all too easy to rationalize that bugs are purposeless, or worse, created by the Devil?

Surely we protect and preserve animals because it’s the right thing to do, rather than it being the judgement of some mythical being? This reasoning should apply to all things – we do it because it is good and decent, not because it is commanded.

In the end, I suppose I’m just being anal about the whole thing – these women are doing the right thing even if for the wrong reasons.