Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Bill Can't Sleep in Space by Jim Red Ryder

Bill can't sleep without the orange pill. He twists and turns on his sleeping mat. His sleeping compartment is no longer a comfortable, molded, padded little cocoon; instead the air is at once too dry and terribly clammy. He hates the idea of dragging through his work shift sick with fatigue. So Bill washes down the pill with a sip of ration-water, then settles back to watch his cartoons and reruns of ``77 Sunset Strip'', enjoying the rapid descent feeling while going to sleep in his snug little compartment aboard the drug tug CCVS, traversing the outer sline of the Rabicus System.

Bill is groggy in the morning so he takes a bright yellow ``sunny'' pill and another sip of ration-water before cleaning off with the slippery stone and pulling on a soft gray work suit and soft boots. His hair is stubble short, so there's no grooming there, and he only shaves his spare beard once a week. Bill's pale, strangely round, pale and drawn face stares at him like a disturbed person from the small mirror on the bulkhead.

He goes into the molded, padded passageway, a slightly darker tone of gray than his suit, and heads to the galley. The galley is several machines set into the bulkhead. Bill takes yum-yum wafers, veg pills, and erz coffee, which resembles Earth coffee in spirit and color, and has vitamins and minerals in it. The crew of three aboard CCVS drinks erz coffee and the ration water, and they are always thirsty by the time they come in for refit. Other than being constantly thirsty (even though they capture and recycle every drop of moisture with a body harness, it's really not enough), life aboard is comfortable compared to working in a mine on the surface of one of these dreadful, blowing planets they glide past. The captain, Margery, blew off the topic at a crew meeting. ``By the time your kidneys fail they'll replace us with robots, so learn to live with it or go live on one of the colonies. Ugh.'' The all shuddered. While Bill had his breakfast, he was joined by another crew member, ``Dino'' who should have been on his sleep shift. Dino had insomnia, but for some reason was up like he was working a second shift.

``Take your pill, Dino, and get some sleep,'' Bill said.

Margery's voice came over a speaker. She had been monitoring the ship from the flight deck.

``Dino, why are you awake? I hate it when we get off program.'' Margery's voice, when annoyed, sounded the same as all her moods. Tight, faintly hostile, monotone. She knew everything about running a drug tug, from raw materials to engineering to navigation to dealing with pirates.

``I'll just have a word with Bill, Margery, and then I'll turn in.''

There was no answer from the flight deck. Dino turned to Bill, and put his keen pale face close to Bill's blank, round, stubbly face.

``Bill, have you ever had real coffee?'' Dino asked, with great intensity that was almost suffocating. Bill made a mental note to write in his ``Dino'' diary after shift. Dino was ``funny'', and it had to be documented.

``What do you mean by real, Dino. And back up. Why are you so close?''

``Coffee made of real beans, from Earth. I was born on Earth.''

``You lived there a month'', Bill said.

``But at least I was born there.''

``Well, that's something to cling to, Dino.''

Bill didn't understand the point of this, nor did he care about Earth. Bill was born on Base Mobus, and Captain Margery was born on the India Star. They had never been to Earth. And frankly, Bill thought, who would want to? Insane, collapsed hell hole. And the emigrants who made it out, conned by the old emigrant bait of a new life on a new star, got a rude coming-to when they woke from their space slumber to find they were going to work in a Holdenite mine, or worse, on a planet that called 200 mph surface winds breezes.

``Dino, turn in! That's an order!'' Margery's voice shook them both back into real time. Bill went off to fill prescriptions and Dino moved off as if to go to his compartment.

Sometime later, Bill was returning from his break to his pill station where he place completed scripts on a go plate and they zoomed off to the customer. He was surprised to see Margery there when he returned. Her spiky hair was spikier than normal. It seemed to be twitching.

``Dino's hiding'', Margery said. ``He's gotten funny. I'm keeping a log on him.''

``Some am I,'' Bill said.

Actually, they all kept log on the other two. They all thought the other two was ``funny'', and needed to be dealt with.

They found him at the rear cargo bay, staring through a large guide window set in the bulkhead at an unidentified craft trailing their ship. The giant UFO looked like a glowing piece of crumpled metal that occasionally throbbed, like a human heart.

``What do you think it is?'' Bill asked.

``They want drugs,'' Margery said. `There's nothing we can do if they pull something, and we're too far away from any help. We'll wait and see,'' she said, resignedly. Then she turned on Dino.

`` Get in your compartment and sleep, Mister. Or I'll have you put under heavy sedation.''

This command got through to Dino, and he moved off in the direction of living quarters.

Bill went back to work, trying to assume Margery's nonchalance toward the alien craft trailing them. But she was right. What was to be done except to carry on? He was full of dread, just the same, and had a weird, vibration feeling as if a low grade electric shock was passing through him and every surface he touched. Bill took a purple pill with a swig of ration-water, and waited for the wave of relief. There was nothing he had ever experienced that delivered well-being and vitality like a purple, and as a testament to its power and versatility, it even work on other species. There was data on it, and Bill remembered it vividly from pharmacy college. In fact, he was remembering everything vividly. When he was done with the shift, he was weary but still elevated from the purple. He stopped and had an erz coffee. He even chatted with Dino, who was back now for his shift in the pill-hold. Dino was drawn, dark under his eyes, pale, stubbly.

Bill went back to his compartment and watched cartoons after taking an orange pill. Soon, he was asleep. He was awakened by a something, and when he saw it, he knew that it was the feeling of another presence in his compartment that had awakened him.

Something that looked like a bearded man with a shiny metallic plate in his head, a shock of silver hair and luminous white skin hovered above Bill, levitated several inches above the deck with toes pointed down. At first, Bill thought the thing was an angel, but the death mask face was not in the least angelic.

``Who are you,'' Bill asked, ``And what do you want?''

``My name is Abraham Lincoln, and I want drugs. Take me down to where the drugs are.''

They were heading to the hold, down the passageway, Bill padding along in sleep slippers and the apparition of Abraham Lincoln following, gliding along.

Margery, who was a awake on the flight deck, picked up the image of Bill leading Lincoln on her screen, and she hurried down to where they were heading.

``What do you want?'' Margery demanded. Dino stood behind her, his face paler than normal, speechless.

``As I told Bill, I am Abraham Lincoln and I want drugs.''

What kind of drugs?'' Margery asked.

``Purples'', Lincoln said. ``Prepare one Jovian ton and send it via you go plate to out vessel that waits abaft.''

``One Jovean ton will seriously deplete us, but we can manage,'' Margery said. ``Are you going to pay us?''

Lincoln seemed to consider this question, the silver beard working as the jaw chewed over the question.

``What is `pay'?'' Lincoln answered, finally.

``That's it, boys, we're getting robbed.''

``We better get busy,'' Bill said to Dino.

It took the three of them the rest of the shift to complete the order. When the last bin of pills was sent to the ship, Lincoln, who had hung over the work like a supervisor suspended on stage wires, asked for a purple pill.

``So, you probably assumed the image of Lincoln because you thought we'd recognize him immediately. You probably don't really look like Lincoln.

Lincoln swallowed the pill, closed his eyes, and opened them.

``Of course I don't look like that, `` he said. ``I look like THIS!!!''

Margery and Dino were screaming when something resembling a tentacle curled around Bill's leg and started dragging him away.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Laura Nyro - Eli's comin

Laura Nyro

Laura Nyro (October 18, 1947 – April 8, 1997) was an American composer, lyricist, singer, and pianist. Her style was a hybrid of Brill Building-style New York pop, jazz, gospel, rhythm and blues, show tunes and rock.

She was best known, and enjoyed her greatest commercial success, as a composer and lyricist rather than as a performer. Between 1968 and 1970 a number of other singers had significant hits with her songs: The 5th Dimension with "Blowing Away", "Wedding Bell Blues", "Stoned Soul Picnic", "Sweet Blindness", "Save The Country" and "Black Patch"; Blood, Sweat & Tears and Peter, Paul & Mary with "And When I Die"; Three Dog Night with "Eli's Coming"; and Barbra Streisand with "Stoney End", "Time and Love", and "Hands off the Man (Flim Flam Man)". Nyro's best-selling single was her recording of Carole King and Gerry Goffin's "Up on the Roof."
Nyro was born Laura Nigro in the Bronx, New York, the daughter of Gilda Mirsky Nigro, a bookkeeper, and Louis Nigro, a piano tuner and jazz trumpeter. Laura has a brother, Jan Nigro. As a child, she taught herself piano, read poetry, and listened to her mother's records by Leontyne Price, Billie Holiday and classical composers such as Ravel and Debussy. She composed her first songs at the age of eight. With her family, she spent summers in the Catskill Mountains where her father played the trumpet at resorts. She credited the Sunday school at the New York Society for Ethical Culture with providing the basis of her education; she also attended Manhattan's High School of Music and Art.[1]

While in high school, she sang with a group of friends in subway stations and on street corners. She said :- "I would go out singing, as a teenager, to a party or out on the street, because there were harmony groups there, and that was one of the joys of my youth".[2] Among her favorite musicians were John Coltrane, Nina Simone, Pete Seeger, Curtis Mayfield, Van Morrison, and girl groups such as The Supremes, Martha and the Vandellas and the Shirelles. She also commented : "I was always interested in the social consciousness of certain songs. My mother and grandfather were progressive thinkers, so I felt at home in the peace movement and the women's movement, and that has influenced my music".[2]

[edit] Early career
Her father’s work brought him into contact with record company executive Artie Mogull (1927–2004),[3] who auditioned Laura in 1966 and became her first manager. As a teenager she experimented with using different names, and Nyro (which she pronounced "NEER-oh") was the one she was using at the time. She sold her song, "And When I Die", to Peter, Paul and Mary for $5,000, and made her first extended professional appearance, at age 18, singing at the "hungry i" coffeehouse in San Francisco. Mogull negotiated her a recording contract, and she recorded her debut album, More Than a New Discovery, for the Verve Folkways label. The album provided material for other artists, notably the 5th Dimension.

In 1967, Nyro made only her second major live appearance, at the Monterey Pop Festival. Although some accounts described her performance as a fiasco that culminated in her being booed off the stage,[4] recordings later made public contradict this view.[1]

Soon afterwards, David Geffen approached Mogull about taking over as her agent. Nyro successfully sued to void her management and recording contracts on the grounds that she had entered into them while still a minor. Geffen became her manager, and the two established a publishing company, Tuna Fish Music, under which the proceeds from her future compositions would be divided equally between them. Geffen also arranged Nyro’s new recording contract with Clive Davis at Columbia Records, and purchased the publishing rights to her early compositions. Around this time Nyro considered becoming lead singer for Blood, Sweat & Tears, after the departure of founder Al Kooper, but was dissuaded by Geffen. However, BS&T would go on to have a hit with a cover of her song "And When I Die."

The new contract allowed Nyro more artistic freedom and control. In 1968 Columbia Records released her second album, Eli and the Thirteenth Confession. This received high critical praise for the depth and sophistication of the performance and arrangements, merging pop structure with inspired imagery, rich vocals and avant-garde jazz, and is widely considered to be one of her best works. It was followed in 1969 by New York Tendaberry, another highly acclaimed work which cemented Nyro’s artistic credibility. The record's "Time and Love" and "Save the Country" emerged as two of her most well-regarded and popular songs.

Her fourth album, Christmas and the Beads of Sweat, was issued at the end of 1970. The set contained such well-known Nyro diamonds as "Upstairs By a Chinese Lamp" and "When I Was a Freeport and You Were the Main Drag". It featured Muscle Shoals musicians including Duane Allman. The following year’s Gonna Take a Miracle was an album of her favourite "teenage heartbeat songs", recorded with vocal group Labelle (Patti Labelle, Nona Hendryx and Sarah Dash) and the production team of Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff. With the exception of her attribution of the song "Désiree" (originally "Deserie" by The Charts), this was Nyro's sole album of wholly non-original material, featuring such songs as "Jimmy Mack", "Nowhere to Run", and "Spanish Harlem".

By this time, Nyro was married, to carpenter David Bianchini in 1971. She was also reportedly uncomfortable with attempts to market her as a celebrity, and she announced her retirement from the music business at the age of 24.

In 1973, her Verve debut album was acquired and reissued by Columbia as The First Songs.

[edit] Later career
By 1976, her marriage had ended, and she returned with an album of new material, Smile. She then embarked on a four-month tour with a full band, which resulted in the 1977 live album Season of Lights. In the early 1980s, Laura began living with painter Maria Desiderio (1954–1999),[5] a relationship which lasted 17 years, the rest of Laura's life.

After the 1978 album Nested, recorded when she was pregnant with her only child, she again took a break from recording, this time until 1984's Mother's Spiritual. She began touring with a band in 1988, her first concert appearances in ten years. The tour was dedicated to the animal rights movement. The shows led to her 1989 release, Laura: Live at the Bottom Line, which included six new compositions.

Her final album of predominantly original material was Walk the Dog and Light the Light (1993), her last album for Columbia, which was co-produced by Gary Katz, best known for his work with Steely Dan. This sparked reappraisal of her place in popular music, and new commercial offers began to appear. She turned down some lucrative film-composing offers,[citation needed] although she contributed a rare protest song to the Academy Award winning documentary "Broken Rainbow", about the unjust relocation of the Navajo people.

Both The Tonight Show and The Late Show with David Letterman staff heavily pursued Nyro for a TV appearance during this period,[citation needed] yet she turned them down as well, citing her discomfort with appearing on television (she made only a handful of early TV appearances and one fleeting moment on VH-1 performing the title song from “Broken Rainbow” on Earth Day in 1990). She never released an official video, although there was talk of filming some Bottom Line appearances in the 1990s. On the Fourth of July, 1991, she opened for Bob Dylan at the Tanglewood Music Center in Lenox, Massachusetts.[6]

In 1996 she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. After the diagnosis, Columbia Records prepared a double-disc CD retrospective of material from her years at the label. The company involved Nyro herself, who selected the tracks and approved the final project. She lived to see the release of Stoned Soul Picnic: The Best of Laura Nyro (1997), and was reportedly pleased with the outcome.

Nyro died of ovarian cancer in Danbury, Connecticut on April 8, 1997, at the age of 49; the same disease had claimed the life of her mother at the same age.

[edit] Posthumous releases and legacy
Posthumous releases include Angel In The Dark (2001), which include her final studio recordings made in 1994 and 1995, and The Loom’s Desire, a set of live recordings with solo piano and harmony singers from The Bottom Line Christmas shows of 1993 and 1994.

A tribute album, Time and Love: The Music of Laura Nyro, on which Nyro's compositions were performed by fourteen women singers and groups, including Phoebe Snow, Suzanne Vega, Roseanne Cash, Sweet Honey in the Rock, Lisa Germano and Jane Siberry was issued in 1997 after her death. Siberry's contribution to the project was a medley of Nyro songs called "When I Think Of Laura Nyro", which would subsequently appear on her own compilation City.

Nyro's influence on popular musicians has also been acknowledged by such artists as Joni Mitchell, Melissa Manchester, Rickie Lee Jones, Steely Dan, Todd Rundgren, and Elton John. Rundgren stated that, once he heard her, he "stopped writing songs like The Who and started writing songs like Laura". His song about her, "Baby, Let's Swing" on his first solo album Runt, includes the lyrics "Laura...I saw you open in L. A." and "Now I love to shuffle / ever since I heard you sing".

Bruce Arnold of Orpheus was a huge fan, and vice-versa. One day at her home Laura showed drummer Bernard Purdie her collection of Orpheus albums that included an unopened copy of each for posterity.[citation needed]
Jenny Lewis of Rilo Kiley, when promoting her 2006 solo album Rabbit Fur Coat repeatedly cited Nyro's 1971 album Gonna Take a Miracle as a big influence on her music.
Elton John and Elvis Costello discussed Laura's significant influence on both of them during the premiere episode of Costello's interview show Spectacle on the Sundance channel. Elvis Costello with Elton John, episode 1
Bob Dylan reportedly startled a young Laura Nyro when he approached her at a party and declared "I love your chords!"
Diane Paulus and Bruce Buschel co-created Eli's Comin', a musical revue of the songs of Laura Nyro. Anika Noni Rose starred.
Alice Cooper has mentioned that Nyro is one of his favorite songwriters on his syndicated radio show.
Her songs were also recorded by artists as diverse as Frank Sinatra, Barbra Streisand, Bobby Darin, Carmen McRae, Junior Walker, Chet Atkins, The 5th Dimension and Swing Out Sister.
The musical theater composer Stephen Schwartz credits Nyro as a major influence on his work.[7]
The Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater and the Canadian Ballet have also included her music in their performances; notably, "Been On A Train" from Christmas and the Beads of Sweat comprises the second movement of Ailey's 1971 solo for Judith Jamison, Cry.
On her 2006 album Build a Bridge, the operatic/Broadway soprano Audra McDonald included covers of Laura Nyro's songs "To a Child" and "Tom Cat Goodbye".
Nyro's "Save the Country" was sampled on Kanye West's song "The Glory", on his 2007 album Graduation.
On October 2, 2007, three time Tony nominee Judy Kuhn released her new album Serious Playground: The Songs of Laura Nyro. The album, which debuted as a concert to a sold out house at Lincoln Center's American Songbook Series in January 2007, includes several of Nyro's biggest hits ("Stoned Soul Picnic", "Stoney End") as well as some of her lesser known gems.
Nyro's "Once It Was Alright" was sampled on J Dilla's song "All Right".
In his List of Music You Should Hear, Barry Manilow states, "When this album Eli & the 13th Confession came out in the '70s (sic), it rocked my world. Everything about it broke every rule I was taught. Tremendously original and edge-of-your-seat exciting." Manilow also mentions Nyro's influence in his book Sweet Life: Adventures on the Way to Paradise. In 2009, Manilow told BBC's 'Desert Island Discs' that hearing Nyro's first album was so impressive it made him stop writing for a year.
Nyro was very close to Alan Merrill. Her uncle Gary was married to Alan's aunt Dorothy.[citation needed]
[edit] Biographies and analysis
A biography of Nyro, Soul Picnic: The Music and Passion of Laura Nyro, written by Michele Kort, was published in 2002 by Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin's Press.

Laura Nyro's music was the subject of an in-depth 2003 study by music theorist Ari Lauren at the University of Chicago. By analyzing the rhythmic and chordal progressions of Nyro's early work, Lauren elucidated the similarities between Nyro's songs and the compositions of the Tin Pan Alley era, arguing that Laura Nyro deserves a place within the pantheon of the Great American Songbook.

Nyro's life and music were celebrated in a 2005 BBC Radio 2 documentary, Shooting Star – Laura Nyro Remembered, which was narrated by her friend Bette Midler and included contributions from her one-time manager David Geffen, co-producers Arif Mardin and Gary Katz, and performers Suzanne Vega and Janis Ian. It was rebroadcast on April 4, 2006.[8]

Janis Ian, who attended the High School of Music and Art in New York at the same time as Nyro, discussed her friendship with Nyro during the late 1960s in her autobiography, Society's Child. Ian described her as looking like a "Morticia Addams" caricature with her long, dark hair, and called her a "brilliant songwriter" but "oddly inarticulate" in terms of musical terminology. Ian was a fan of Nyro's work with producer Charlie Calello and chose him as the producer of her 1969 album Who Really Cares on the basis of his work with Nyro.

Comedian, writer, and singer Sandra Bernhard has spoken extensively of Laura Nyro as an ongoing inspiration. She dedicated a song to her on Excuses for Bad Behavior (Part One). She also sang Nyro's "I Never Meant to Hurt You" in her film Without You I'm Nothing. In some songs, Bernhard sounds very much like Nyro vocally.

Rickie Lee Jones' critically acclaimed album Pirates is in some ways a tribute to Nyro.[citation needed] Songs like "We Belong Together" and "Living It Up" are reminiscent of early Laura Nyro songs.

Nyro had a long-term relationship with singer/songwriter Jackson Browne. The song "That Girl Could Sing", found on Browne's number one album Hold Out, is about Laura Nyro.[citation needed]

[edit] Discography

1967 - More Than a New Discovery (later reissued as Laura Nyro, 1969, and as The First Songs, 1973)
1968 - Eli and the Thirteenth Confession (reissued and remastered with bonus tracks, 2002, Columbia)
1969 - New York Tendaberry (reissued and remastered with bonus tracks, 2002, Columbia)
1970 - Christmas and the Beads of Sweat March 2008-BMG Sony (US division)
1971 - Gonna Take a Miracle (with Labelle) (reissued and remastered with bonus tracks, 2002, Columbia)
1976 - Smile
1978 - Nested (reissued and remastered, 2008,
1984 - Mother's Spiritual
1993 - Walk the Dog and Light the Light
2001 - Angel in the Dark (posthumous album recorded 1994-1995)

1977 - Season of Lights (reissued and remastered, 2008,
1989 - Laura: Live at the Bottom Line
2000 - Live at Mountain Stage (recorded 1990)
2002 - Live: The Loom's Desire (recorded 1993-1994)
2003 - Live in Japan (recorded 1994)
2004 - Spread Your Wings and Fly: Live at the Fillmore East (May 30, 1971)

1972 - Laura Nyro sings her Greatest Hits [Japan only]
1980 - Impressions
1997 - Stoned Soul Picnic: The Best of Laura Nyro
1999 - Premium Best Collection-Laura Nyro [Japan only]
2000 - Time and Love: The Essential Masters
2006 - Laura Nyro-Collections [Sony Europe]

"Blowing Away", "Wedding Bell Blues", "Stoned Soul Picnic", "Sweet Blindness", "Save The Country" and "Black Patch", The 5th Dimension; Blood, Sweat & Tears with "And When I Die"; Three Dog Night with "Eli's Coming"; and Barbra Streisand with "Stoney End."
I can only say hearing her music for the first time in 1968 on the radio late at night changed my life. I loved it, and I loved her.

Thanks to Wikpedia

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Sharon, from Upstairs

The most frightening thing about Sharon's taking over was that she came onto the floor without an entourage. She swept in alone wearing a gray suit, carrying a thin attaché. She was tall, slender with medium cut ash blond hair. She went into her office and began talking on her tiny phone, tapping notes into her thin device as she spoke. We all watched her from the floor. Her office wall was glass, and looked out onto the sales floor. The other bosses had kept the curtain drawn, but not Sharon. She wanted to be seen, we thought. She didn’t sip from a cup or a water bottle.
“Go to work, you bastards,” Harding said to everyone. He was retiring, had seen it all before and knew that the best thing you can do is go about your business while the new boss settled in.
The next day, a large man in a gray suit came in and began work in the secretary station. He looked like a paratrooper who had wandered into Barney‘s for a makeover.
“Sharon’s secretary,” Lisa said. “A guy, that’s so great.”
The secretary was Jim. He was polite, but silent, and set about running Sharon’s office. Her phone rang continuously. Jim managed the calls and Sharon’s calendar. No one breezed in past Jim to talk with Sharon. She took her coat off, and worked in a white blouse. Her nails were the color of wedding ribbon.
The third part of Sharon’s team came in. Jack Busby, from Accounting. He smiled and looked shaved, showered, powdered and ready to downsize. Busby left a curl of cologne behind him as he swept by on his way to Sharon’s office. We watched him in with Sharon through the glass. She spoke and he listened. He was getting some orders, and he was paying attention, the bastard.
“That’s it. We’re dead,” Wolcott said. He stood there in his charcoal gray suit with sherbet tie. He suddenly looked like he needed a shave.
“Accounting. Christ, Jesus,” Tony said, getting ready to go out on the road. “Nice knowin’ you pricks.”
“Anybody going out make you're you’re back by three,” Harding said, affably, nodding at Tony. “Sharon has called a meeting in the big room. Goals. Get your ducks in nice rows for Sharon. Poor bastards.”
Everyone hated Harding. He was retiring, and he was enjoying this too much. Everybody hated him.