Author Archive | Roderick

Middelboe Chronicles, Part 39: How Tortoise Won Respect

In yesterday’s Podna and Podni, a garden paradise for animals was disrupted by a greedy rajah. In today’s How Tortoise Won Respect (“Animated Tales of the World,” 2002), from South Africa, a garden paradise for animals is disrupted by a greedy … rock?


SciFi SongFest, Songs 102-104

Three cheery visions of the future:

102. Joni Mitchell, “Big Yellow Taxi” (1970):

103. C. W. McCall, “There Won’t Be No Country Music” (1976):

104. Afrika Bambaataa and Time Zone (with John Lydon a.k.a. Johnny Rotten), “World Destruction” (1984):


SciFi SongFest, Songs 100-101

As an appropriate homage to Bowie’s Man Who Fell to Earth – two songs about an alien trapped on earth:

100. Pixies, “Motorway to Roswell” (1991):

101. GWAR, “Lust in Space” (2009):

“Lust in Space” is not about lust (except in the Augustinian sense of overweening desire for something other than God) and does not take place in space (except in the sense of spatial extension). Discuss.


SciFi SongFest, Songs 97-99

Kipling’s verses here employ stress in engineering and architecture as a metaphor for unendurable stress on the human mind and/or body, while Bowie’s exemplify that stress in his own howl of angry resentment at the illness that was killing him. (Thus the sci-fi hook – engineering and architecture for Kipling [plus Fish and Ecklar are best known for their sci-fi work], physiology and medicine for Bowie, psychology for both. A stretch, I know.) Both were written in the final years of their respective authors’ lives, both raging in pain and anguish at the dying of the light:

97. Rudyard Kipling (words 1935), Julia Ecklar & Leslie Fish (music 1983), “Hymn of Breaking Strain”:

Kipling’s lyrics remind me of Robert Heinlein’s lines, in Stranger in a Strange Land, about Rodin’s sculpture The Fallen Caryatid: “this symbol means every man and woman who ever sweated out life in uncomplaining fortitude until they crumpled under their loads…. she’s still trying to lift that stone after it has crushed her …. she’s all the unsung heroes who couldn’t make it but never quit.”

But while Kipling’s verses end on a note of hope, Bowie’s end with a snarling refusal and then a sudden silence:

98. David Bowie, “Killing a Little Time” (2016):

Fittingly, the final Bowie song in this SciFi SongFest. But not the final entry, by any means. I have enough material picked out to last through Hallowe’en, which seems like as good a time as any to stop.

On a less depressing note ….

99. Jemaine Clement (vocals) and Lin-Manuel Miranda (words & music), “Shiny”:

This song, from the film Moana, was intended as a tribute to David Bowie – both his vocal style and his (formerly) glam wardrobe:

There’s even a version online that purports to be recorded by Bowie himself. It’s a fake, but a very skillful and enjoyable fake – imitating the voice of later Bowie just as the movie version imitates the voice of earlier Bowie:


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