This post inspired by Frank Zappa and brought to you by Steve Jobs

by Raymond Parker on October 6, 2011

in Autobiography, Music, Video

“Mr. Zappa, I must say that I am always in favour of enlarging the horizons … of any field of human endeavour or interest and therefore I  congratulate you on your farsightedness ….” ~Steve Allen, 1963

A recent blog comment from an old cycling buddy and bike shop co-worker, has led—goodness knows how—to a discussion of the enfant terrible of modern music, Frank Zappa.

As I mentioned to my old colleague, I saw Zappa and his infamous band, The Mothers of Invention, perform in the late sixties. In typical Zappa form, he walked onto the stage dragging a large sack of vegetables, into which he poked the hose of the gas mask he was wearing. This peculiar leguminous inspection went on for some time.

When the crowd began to grow restless, hurling insults, debris, and demands for the band’s more accessible and popular tunes (“Play Plastic People!”) the maestro inserted a microphone into the hose and growled “Kinda brings out the animal in ya, don’t it?” launching into a long rendition of Call Any Vegetable (“They keep ya regular; they’re real good for ya”).

I was fond enough of this paean to the vegetable kingdom, that when I was digging the thick greenery from one of my Squamish climbing routes, at Octopus’s Garden, I named it after Zappa’s Opus Veggie.

At a time when the Beatles and psychedelia still ruled the airwaves, Zappa’s music readied me for the jazz-fusion era—the next logical step in my musical education. In fact, his work is not given nearly enough credit in a genre dominated by names like Miles Davis, John McLaughlin and Joe Zawinal.

But listen to the arrangements on classic recordings like Uncle Meat and Grand Wazoo. They are masterpieces.

Zappa succumbed to cancer in 1993, but his astounding music and irreverent wit live on.

‎”A computer is the most remarkable tool that we’ve ever come up with. It’s the equivalent of a bicycle for our minds.” ~Steve Jobs

As I was readying this little post, the Internet buzzed (in some cases blew a fuse) with another sad eulogy; this time for computer genius Steve Jobs, also taken too young by cancer.

I believe the seeds of Jobs’ success also lay in the fact that he rejected convention. He was a Beatles fan. He did not, to my knowledge, write any obscene code. But I think it was his refusal to follow in anyone’s footsteps that took him on the journey that has benefitted so many.

Frank Zappa could discover the inherent musicality in a bicycle. Steve Jobs took computing out of the world of geeks and made it into something people could use to develop their creativity.

Thanks to Jobs, and the pioneers at Apple, any aspiring musician can record and mix their original composition on GarageBand; amateur videographers use iMovie to edit their first forays into film; budding photographers can organize, edit and publish their images across the Web with iPhoto.

Today, I can call any vegetable, or at least a YouTube video of Zappa’s song, on my iPhone. With a swipe of the hand, the sleek iPad has taken the world by storm, and given us a new word: aps, the shortcut to productivity. With “cloud computing” on the horizon, these compact, minimalist machines will become for many people the only computer they need.

Both Zappa and Jobs were creative iconoclasts who wandered off the beaten path, following their own inquisitive minds. We’re all richer for their explorations.

Frank Zappa plays the bicycle on The Steve Allen Show, 1963
Part 2
Part 3

{ 8 comments… read them below or add your spin! }

Ryan October 6, 2011 at 3:08 am

When I first heard the news of Jobs’ passing, I wasn’t as surprised as I thought. Similar to when we last saw Layton on TV, Jobs was looking quite ill so you had a feeling it was a matter of time.

Although I despise ‘smart’ phones and tablets, there is little denying he changed the way computing is with the iPhone & iPad.


Ray Parker October 6, 2011 at 10:01 pm

I cannot understand why you would despise smart phones and iPads, or why others talk of Apple freaks.
I’m almost eighty-three and far from computer savvy, since switching to a Mac almost two years ago I have found it so much more user-friendly, simplifying everything to such a degree that I am attempting tasks I could never have achieved on a PC.
Since then I have also begun using an iPhone and an iPad.


Ryan October 7, 2011 at 6:13 am

It’s mainly because I have absolutely no need for them.
I don’t need (or want) to be connected 24/7 or away from home. I have a ‘regular’ flip cell phone, and I only have that because I dumped my land line years ago. I pay $10 every 30 days which IMO is far too much for how much I use it. I believe I am nearing $200 worth of unused air time.

As for a tablet I’ll admit there are times when I’m lying in bed and want to go on the internet, but too lazy to get up and go on the computer.
I do a fair amount of reading and I’ve tried using an e-reader, but my eyes tire much quicker with e-readers. Plus I think I have as many books as any library, so I don’t see re-paying for books I already own.
I also don’t see spending $500, plus a plan.
I can purchase a laptop (or netbook) and do more with them (minus the added portability tablets have, but again something I don’t need).

The biggest downfall with tablets (personally)(besides data plan prices) is storage. I’m not a fan of ‘cloud’ storage.


lee kenney October 6, 2011 at 8:36 am

Frankly speaking ,I appreciate the Velo blog ,but then I’m biased towards the bike.Keep up the good work!Another thread ,Luka Bloom [The accoustic motorbike] Pink Floyd and bicycles


lee kenney October 6, 2011 at 9:24 am

Trivia computers and bicycles, shades of 2001 .What was the first song by a computer? ‘Daisy Bell’ Time for a bike ride as Freddy Mercury would say.Good day Hal ,I’m outa here


Raymond Parker October 6, 2011 at 11:59 pm

I was very much a latecomer to computing, inheriting my first computer, a 460-or-something, that was of little more use than as a word-processor. (The first time the screen-saver came on, I thought it had died.)

In 1997 (the year Steve Jobs returned to Apple), I bought a $2500 IBM Aptiva. It came with a very nice suite of Lotus productivity software that was better than anything made by Microsoft. Only problem: hardly anyone used it so sharing files was a PITA. I learned how to build websites on that computer, researched and wrote many articles and columns and laid the foundation for today’s OWS movement 🙂

But I nonetheless sat at that computer often saying out loud, “If they ever want this to become a tool for the masses, they’re going to have to simplify this operating system.”

What I didn’t realize at the time, though I’d seen Macs at work, back in the ’80s, Steve Jobs had set out with that very intention, from the beginning. It’s just that a twist of fate and some bad decisions at Apple (namely the dumping of Jobs) had sent the whole personal computing industry in the direction of Windows.

Well, without belabouring the point, for me the needless frustration of Microsoft’s inferior system ended when I bought this iMac, in 2007. It cost $1500, and came with the amazing iLife software package. Although I also bought Office for Mac, I wish more people were hip to iWork. It’s awesome; particularly Keynote, which IMO crushes Powerpoint … and the whole suite costs $60!

Here’s the first part of a 2-part documentary on how Microsoft became the industry leader, despite it being the lesser of two products.

We know the history of how Jobs came back and reinvented Apple again, making it the industry leader it is today–based on turning complex technology into affordable, simple tools for the masses at the same time maximizing their quality and utility.

If I sound like an Apple acolyte, so be it. I am, for the record, not easily impressed. I think neither was Steve Jobs.

I do hope Apple can maintain the level of innovation and excellence that Jobs demanded. He was an extraordinary talent.

BTW, Jobs may have perfected the mouse, but that’s so yesterday, once you’ve embraced the Magic Trackpad.

OK, better shut up now before I write an Apple infommercial ….


lee kenney October 27, 2011 at 7:56 am

hey hay, randoray; good day! Another day above ground, rock n’ roll is here to stay. Off to the couve to see Jeff Beck. I shall be immersed in Les Paul and whammy bar and maybe a bit of food cart. Cheers


Raymond Parker October 29, 2011 at 12:07 am

Rock on brother. Hope you dance a Beck’s Bolero.


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