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Book Review: FISH! TALES

by Lang Reid

FISH! TALES (ISBN 0-7868-8775-3) is a slim volume paperback printed last year, following the success (it is claimed) of the previous book called FISH! Written, or rather compiled, by four writer/filmmakers the cover claims that the book represents the number one way to boost morale. Not content with FISH!, they have also coined the terminology FISH! Philosophy.

The entire raison d’etre hinges on a fish market in Seattle, called Pike Place Fish. Apparently this is a wildly successful business where the fishmongers all kill their customers with kindness and shoppers stand many deep as the staff dispense dory and deep and meaningful advice in equal quantities. I must admit that a quick web search trawled up 33 mentions of the establishment, so it does appear to be a reality.

This book has examples of real-life experiences of how FISH! Philosophy transformed people’s lives. The crux of the matter appears to be the application of the four FISH! principles of Play, Make Their Day, Be There and Choose Your Attitude.

The book then gives examples of each of these as they were applied to such diverse businesses as a telephone connection company, a hospital, a car dealership and a company of roof tilers. It ends with a 12 week plan on how to apply the FISH! Philosophy to your own circumstances.

The advice is written in a very easy to be digested manner (pan fried lightly, rather than deep-fried and tough) but tends to be of the genre I call the “Oh Golly, Gosh” style of writing. There are a few attempts to be more specific and the hospital actually gave ‘before and after’ statistics, based on the subjective feelings of the staff. The results are open to interpretation, and although a quick perusal appears to back up the programme, a deeper look applying more strict parameters would show much more marginal improvements than those that are claimed.

The car dealership example was typical of the thinking prevalent in the auto industry. Go to any western world dealership and I will guarantee you will see the slogan “When the going gets tough, the tough get going” somewhere. Jingoism at its euphonic (and euphoric) best. Fortunately these little aphorisms do not translate well into Thai.

The review copy was made available by Bookazine who have an RRP of 395 baht for this item. Whether you think that your company/life/home (delete whichever not applicable) needs a three hundred and ninety five baht morale booster is up to you, but while I personally found the advice to be fine, the method of application seems somewhat childish. Perhaps this works well in the American model, but I cannot imagine many other western cultures accepting it with such enthusiasm, and Eastern cultures not at all. It requires a huge leap of faith to take this all in, hook, line and sinker. But I may be way off the beam. For me, FISH! (TALES, Philosophy or just plain FISH!) represents pop pseudo-psychology at its overenthusiastic best but by just being such will easily become the bible for the tree huggers. I am not one.


Music CD Reviews: Frank Zappa - Hot Rats

by Mott the Dog

***** 5 Sparkly Stars

Basically just dropping the name ‘Mothers of Invention’ and releasing this as his first solo album, Mr. Zappa showed who had been boss all the time and let the unsuspecting music world cop it in the teeth with this blast of basically instrumental work. Gone were the dropping off into the world of parody or spoken word humour that had often enlivened, but more often marred ‘The Mothers’ albums. A joke is only funny the first couple of times, but soon becomes annoying, especially after repeated playing in between bits of your favorite music.

But here on ‘Hot Rats’ Mr. Zappa surrounds himself with some of the finest musicians in the United States of America, who just happened to also be his best friends, and went from cult figure to international superstar. In the highbrow student world of 1970, if you didn’t have the Hot Rats poster in your bed-sit, you were considered very square. The album was an absolute ‘must have’. (Mind you it was also required to wear your hair down to your ankles, platform boots 2-foot tall, huge bell-bottom trousers that hid them anyway, say things like “cosmic” or “groovy” a lot, and end every sentence with “man”. Eat your heart out Austin Powers, looking back it all seems terribly complicated now.)

But that was one thing that Mr. Zappa had mastered, although all of the playing on this album is intricate in the extreme, with great lolloping extended solos and each song has a terribly gripping hum able tune that makes your fingers twitch and your feet tap.

The first piece of music presented here for your edification (it would almost be an insult to label them down as just plain old songs) is the wonderfully monickered “Peaches En Regalia”, where Mr. Zappa on guitar, and multi-instrumentalist Ian Underwood get to flex their musical muscles. These two musicians are the only two to appear on every track. “Peaches En Regalia” is certainly one of Mr. Zappa’s most commercial and popular tracks and, almost certainly, one of his best. In an amazing way the album starts, leading us into a treasure trove of sound. Yes, this was what started what is called ‘Jazz/Rock’, but at the time it was just a convenient label for journalists to put it under. Mr. Zappa should not take the responsibility for the drivelling of some who tried to follow in his footsteps.

Next up is the infamous “Willie The Pimp”, the only vocal track on the album sung by the esteemed Don Van Vliet, better known as ‘Captain Beefheart’, and what lyrics they were too!

“I’m a little pimp with my hair gassed back

Pair of khaki pants with my shoe shined black”

You can hear the gleam in the great Captain’s eye, the guitar solo that follows will take the roof off your head every time you hear it. And remember, Steve Vai was an apprentice of Mr. Zappa’s for many years and has never been able to step out of his shadow.

After “Son of Mr. Green Genes”, and for this album the short “Little Umbrellas”, you get the full version of “The Gumbo Variations”. This had to be severely edited for the vinyl release due to time constraints, but now with the wonders off compact discs, you get the whole thing re-mastered from the original tapes, all but seventeen minutes (what’s three seconds between friends), where the soloists, Mr. Zappa guitar, Ian Underwood everything, and Sugar Cane Harris on violin, all vie for the spotlight, holding your attention with every nuance of sound.

Then finally we get “It Must Be A Camel” (the title of which sounds like something J.K. would say out on the golf course after a bad night), where the legendry Jen Luc Ponty joins the fray to bring it all to a fitting climax.

A truly magnificent collection. If it’s not in yours, make it so.

You may notice the artist referred to as Mr. Zappa throughout this review commanded a fair amount of respect, did the Guvnor.

Musicians

Frank Zappa - Guitar, Octave Bass, Percussion

Ian Underwood - Piano, Organus Maximus, All Clarinets, All Saxes

Captain Beefheart - Vocal on Willie The Pimp

Sugar Cane Harris - Violin on Willie The Pimp & The Gumbo Variations

Jean Luc Ponty - Violin on It Must Be A Camel

John Guerin - Drums on Willie The Pimp, Little Umbrellas & It Must Be A Camel

Paul Humphrey - Drums on Son of Mr. Green Genes & The Gumbo Variations

Ron Selico - Drums on Peaches En Regalia

Max Bennett - Bass on Willie The Pimp, Son Of Mr. Green Genes, Little Umbrellas, The Gumbo Variations & It Must Be A Camel

Shuggy Otis - Bass on Peaches En Regalia

Track Listing

1. Peaches En Regalia

2. Willie The Pimp

3. Son Of Mr. Green Genes

4. Little Umbrellas

5. The Gumbo Variations

6. It Must Be A Camel

To contact Mott the Dog email: [email protected]