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Showing posts from January, 2014

The Southern Sierras of California by Charles Francis Saunders: A Second Look at a Forgotten, Outdoors Classic

The book's title is a misnomer:  The Southern Sierras of California, by regionally revered botanist, naturalist, and outdoorsman, Charles Francis Saunders, isn't referring to the majestic southern Sierra Nevadas encompassing Yosemite Valley and Kings Canyon National Park — rugged alpine terrain of gigantic granite domes, gargantuan Sequoias centuries old, and Tolkien-like, multi-tiered waterfalls, made famous by the writings of John Muir and photography of Ansel Adams — but to the less celebrated, less elevated, and lesser traveled trio of mountain ranges flanking the cities and suburbs of Los Angeles, San Bernardino, and Palm Springs.

These three ranges, the San Gabriels (or, "Sierra Madre," as they were called in Saunders' day at the dawn of the Twentieth Century), San Bernardinos, and San Jacintos, are instead the focus of TheSouthern Sierras of California.  What John Muir did for the Sierra Nevadas, promoting their conservation, Charles Francis Saunders did …

Ghost Rider: Travels On The Healing Road by Neil Peart

Imagine sending your nineteen-year-old daughter, Selena, your only child, off to college in the morning, and that evening the police show up at your front door with some "bad news".  Imagine the officer suggesting to you and your wife, Jackie, whose eyes have presently "gone wide" and "her face turned white" (because she already knew), that "maybe you'd better sit down."  Imagine the officer telling you and your spouse it was a "single car accident," she "apparently lost control," she was "dead at the scene."

Neil Peart, drummer and lyricist for RUSH, and one of the most literary and imaginative minds in the history of rock, didn't have to imagine it, having endured that agony the night of August 10th, 1997, when life as he'd known it abruptly and irrevocably ended.  His wife collapsed to the floor with the news.  Unfortunately, for her sake and for Neil Peart's, she never really got back up off the…

When Classic Literature Became Rock Opera: William Roscoe's The Butterfly's Ball, and the Grasshopper's Hat, Re-imagined by Roger Glover and Ronnie James Dio

In 1973, Alan Aldridge and William Plomer collaborated on a picture book inspired by William Roscoe's children's poem, and published their version of The Butterfly Ball and the Grasshopper's Feast.


The following year, 1974, bassist Roger Glover, who'd just quit (or been fired from; I forget) DeepPurple, produced a rock opera based on Aldridge's and Plomer's picture book of The Butterfly's Ball, and the Grasshopper's Feast, and recruited various rock singers for each track.  Ronnie James Dio, whom Glover knew very well from having produced Dio's then little known hard rock band, Elf's, first three records (1972-1974), sang vocals on "Love is All", a song that didn't do all that much in the UK or USA, but went to #1 in The Netherlands, and became a hit again in France once the opera was made into an animated film.

Completing the circle, Dio and Deep Purple (w/Roger Glover back in the band on bass), played w/ the London Symphony Orch…