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Archive for the ‘Arthur Conan Doyle’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: PALBERTA-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #210 (May 18, 2021).

Palberta has a great name (even if they are not from Alberta).  They are an underground Philly band.  I saw them a few years ago, and this attitude of relaxed yet frenetic fun was evident then as well.

While many of us have gotten better at using technology to feel close to our friends and collaborators over the past year, there’s still no replacement for being in the same room as someone who you swear can read your mind. That’s what it feels like to watch punk band Palberta, whose music makes magic out of repeated phrases sung in tight harmony and charmingly zany pop hooks. For its Tiny Desk (home) concert, shot on a MiniDV and a Hi8, the band crams into Nina’s Philly basement for a set that’s a testament to the group’s tight-knit collaboration and playful exuberance.

The band plays six songs in fifteen minutes (including the time it takes to switch instruments).  Five songs are off of their new album Palberta5000.

The guitar-bass-drums trio is made up of Ani Ivry-Block, Nina Ryser and Lily Konigsberg, and each member sings and plays each instrument. Here, they trade places every couple of songs.  The songs aren’t over-complicated but still manage to surprise at every turn – a true Palberta specialty.

The “frenzied opener” “Eggs n’ Bac'” has a wild instrumental opening which jumps into a faster indie punk sound for most of the song.  All squeezed into less than 2 minutes.  For this song Nina is on bass, Lily on guitar and Ani on drums.  Their sound reminds me of early Dead Milkmen.  Is this a Philly thing?

For “No Way” Nina stays on bass, Lily switches to drums and Ani takes the guitar.  Nina sings lead with the other two giving great tight harmonies.  For these songs the bass lays down the main melody and the guitars play a lot of single note melodies that run counter to the bass.

For the “queasy-yet-sentimental” “The Cow” it’s the same lineup but Lily sings lead on the first verse and Ani sings leads on the second verse.  The staccato guitar style on this song is so unusual.

For the “anxious and melodic” “Big Bad Want” Lily stays on drums and sings lead, Ani switches to bass and Nina gets the guitar.  Ani plays some chords on the bass and you can really see how the guitar plays a repeated pattern while the bass takes more of a lead role.  The call and response for this chorus is really tight.  Nina even plays a guitar solo.

“Sound of the Beat” (from 2018’s Roach Goin’ Down) is “a sweet testament to grooving” and gets a full lineup switch.  Nina sits behind the kit, Ani is back on guitar and Lily is on bass.  This song is really catchy–surely the catchiest thing in this set.  It has a feeling like early Sleater-Kinney.  All three sing harmony lead.

They end with “Before I Got Here” with same line up.  It’s one of their longer songs at over three minutes.  Ani and Lily switch off lead vocals for the fast verses.  After a minute or so, the tempo shifts and the last two minutes are a slow instrumental jam with Ani playing a guitar solo while Lily keeps the melody on bass.

It’s tempting to try to see if one of them is “better” at one instrument or another, but they are all clearly very comfortable on each instrument.  This leads to endless possibilities for songs.

[READ: May 1, 2021] Weird Women

“Introduction” by Lisa Morton and Leslie S. Klinger

Why summarize when they say what this book is about so well

Any student of the literary history of the weird or horror story can hardly be faulted for expecting to find a genre bereft of female writers, at least in its first two centuries. …

Yet there were women writing early terror tales—in fact, there were a lot of them. During the second half of the nineteenth century, when printing technologies enabled the mass production of cheap newspapers and magazines that needed a steady supply of material, many of the writers supplying that work were women. The middle classes were demanding reading material, and the plethora of magazines, newspapers, and cheap books meant a robust marketplace for authors. Women had limited career opportunities, and writing was probably more appealing than some of the other avenues open to them. Though the publishing world was male-dominated, writing anonymously or using masculine-sounding names (such as “M.E. Braddon”) gave women a chance to break into the market. It was also still a time when writers were freer than today’s writers to write work in a variety of both styles and what we now call genres. A prolific writer might pen adventure stories, romantic tales, domestic stories, mystery or detective fiction, stories of the supernatural—there were really no limits.

Spiritualism—the belief that spirit communication could be conducted by a medium at a séance, and could be scientifically proven (despite continued evidence to the contrary)—was widely popular, and so one might expect to find that many writers of this period were producing ghost stories. But ghost stories were just one type of supernatural story produced by women writers at this time. Women were also writing stories of mummies, werewolves, mad scientists, ancient curses, and banshees. They were writing tales of cosmic horror half a century before Lovecraft ever put pen to paper, and crafting weird westerns, dark metaphorical fables, and those delicious, dread-inducing gems that are simply unclassifiable.

ELIZABETH GASKELL-“The Old Nurse’s Story” (1852)
Gaskell wrote primarily about social realism, but she also wrote this creepy story.  The set up of this story is fascinating. A nursemaid is telling a story to her new charges.  The story is about their mother–from when the nursemaid used to watch her.  The story seems like one of simple haunting–strange things are afoot at this mansion.  But there’s a lot more going on.  I love the way everyone is so calm about the broken pipe organ playing music day and night.  Way back then, the children’s mother saw a girl outside and went to play with her.  But it was winter and when they found the child, alone, under a tree, there was no evidence of anyone else being there with her.  That’s when we learn the history of this house and the way the owner treated his daughters.  The ending gets a little confusing, but when you unpack it, there’s some wonderful deviance at hand. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: GRACIE AND RACHEL-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #98 (October 19, 2020).

I only know Gracie and Rachel from a previous Tiny Desk Concert.  I was entranced by that performance and am similarly entranced by this one.

Gracie and Rachel are perfect musical mates. Their styles conjure contrast, with Gracie Coates’ more pop-leaning keyboard melodies alongside Rachel Ruggles’ classical background. They’ve been honing their orchestral pop sound since high school. These days they share space in a NYC apartment and are grateful to be able to “commute from their bedrooms” at a time when so many collaborators can’t be together.

They open with “Strangers.”  Gracie plays the keyboards and sings lead with a wonderfully breathy voice.  Rachel plays the violin and then starts adding in percussion and singing higher (sometime haunting) backing vocals.

They’ve just released their second album, Hello Weakness, You Make Me Strong. The title of the album reflects their positive attitude despite angst.  The duo made much of this music in the past year and a half, in the very room they’re performing this Tiny Desk (home) concert

On “Ideas,” they sing together a classical melody with a tinge of autotune.  Then the song shifts to the delicacy of Gracie’s keys and Rachel’s pizzicato violin.

The lyrics to “Ideas” highlights that attitude by encouraging us to dig inside ourselves and discover our creative spirit” “So take your little ideas / Make them a little bit stronger / Throw out the ones you can’t / You don’t need them any longer.”

When the drums come in they are deep and heavy and there’s a very cool bass slide (triggered by Rachel on the SPD-SX sampling pad).  I love the highs and lows of this song.

“Sidelines” features Rachel playing the drums live (on the sampling pad with mallets) while Gracie sings and plays the keyboard melody.  For the bridge, their voices intertwine in a lovely way, weaving in and out of each others melodies.  Then Rachel picks up the violin and adds some more lovely pizzicato to the song.  When she adds her soaring backing vocals its really quite angelic.

“Underneath” is a song about getting underneath ourselves. Rachel plays squeaky, haunting violin melodies to accompany the keys.  There are several parts to this song and I love the way they sound so different–from the strummed violin in the bridge to the rising vocal line of the chorus.

These songs are definitely poppy but they have an unusual sensibility that must come from Rachel’s classical ideas.  The songs are really wonderful and I’m curious what they sound like when fully fleshed out on record.

[READ: December 1, 2020] “Over the Plum-Pudding”

This year, S. ordered me The Short Story Advent Calendar.  This is my fifth time reading the Calendar.  I didn’t know about the first one until it was long out of print (sigh), but each year since has been very enjoyable.  Here’s what they say this year

You know the drill by now. The 2020 Short Story Advent Calendar is a deluxe box set of individually bound short stories from some of the best writers in North America.

This year’s slipcase is a thing of beauty, too, with electric-yellow lining and spot-glossed lettering. It also comes wrapped in two rubber bands to keep those booklets snug in their beds.

As always, each story is a surprise, so you won’t know what you’re getting until you crack the seal every morning starting December 1. Once you’ve read that day’s story, check back here to read an exclusive interview with the author.

It’s December 1. To officially kick off the 2020 Short Story Advent Calendar, here’s a story about truth, fiction, and characters who can’t tell the difference from the late author and humourist John Kendrick Bangs.  [Click the link to the H&O extras for the story].

This story contains some parodies of other writers and uses them as an excuse for why the editor’s own Christmas collection did not get published on time.

It opens with a note from Horace Wilkinson, the editor at Hawkins, Wilkes & Speedway Publishing.  He sets out to explain why the advertised Christmas book “Over the Plum-Pudding or, Tales Told Under the Mistletoe, by Sundry Tattlers” was never published.  He has been getting questions from the authors who were supposed to be paid for their work when the collection was published.  He wants to publicly set the record straight.

Right off the bat, he places the blame entirely on the shoulders of Rudyard Kipling.  This made me chuckle. (more…)

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2016-12-05-21-06-09SOUNDTRACK: BILL FRISELL-Tiny Desk Concert #191 (February 3, 2012).

I’d published these posts without Soundtracks while I was reading the calendars.  But I decided to add Tiny Desk Concerts to them when I realized that I’d love to post about all of the remaining 100 or shows and this was a good way to knock out 25 of them.

billI’ve been aware of Bill Frisell for decades.  He has played with just about everyone that I like, and I’m sure I have his guitar on about a dozen albums.  And yet I don’t really know all that much about him.  I certainly didn’t know what he looked like and, honestly, I wasn’t sure what to expect from this Tiny Desk Concert.  I feel like most of the places I know him from are noisy avant-garde music.  So I was pretty surprised to hear that this would be a concert of delicate reworkings of John Lennon songs.

From the blurb:

On this day, Frisell came to perform the music of John Lennon. Now 60, Frisell witnessed the birth of The Beatles and all that it meant to moving the world from cute, catchy songs to sonic adventures — a world of music we don’t think twice about anymore. After all these years of hearing The Beatles’ music, he’s still discovering it, finding small phrases in the songs we know so well — “Nowhere Man,” “In My Life” and “Strawberry Fields Forever.”

Frisell introduces a lot of songs by saying that the Beatles have been a huge part of his life.  And yet, he’s never really played them by himself in this exposed way.

Bob describes some of the gear that Frisell uses, like the

Electro-Harmonix 16-second delay, a pedal I used to use in live performance in the 1980s. I know how fragile and sometimes unpredictable it can be, but it’s the backbone of Frisell’s bag of many tricks. With that equipment enhancing Frisell’s nimble, deft fingerwork and uncanny sense of melody, it all adds up to a brilliant and disarmingly humble performer.

I didn’t recognize “Nowhere Man” for much of the song—he’s exploring areas and pockets of the song–but every once in a while the vocal line peeks through.

When he starts “In My Life,” he plays what sounds like the opening notes to “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds.” I was sure he was going to play it so it’s quite a shock when he doesn’t and then he takes a really long intro solo before getting to the familiar melody of “In My Life.”

For such a legendary figure he is amazingly soft-spoken and humble.  He’s even embarrassed that he’s reading the music rather than having it a part of him.

There’s a pretty lengthy intro before he gets into that very familiar melody of “Strawberry Fields Forever.”    This one is my favorite of the bunch because of all the effects that he plays on it—echoes and reverses and all kinds of cool sounds that emanate from his guitar.  And “Strawberry Fields” is always present in it.

This is 20 minutes of very pretty, sometimes familiar music

[READ: December 25, 2016] “The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle”

Near the end of November, I found out about The Short Story Advent Calendar.  Which is what exactly?  Well…

The Short Story Advent Calendar returns, not a moment too soon, to spice up your holidays with another collection of 24 stories that readers open one by one on the mornings leading up to Christmas.  This year’s stories once again come from some of your favourite writers across the continent—plus a couple of new crushes you haven’t met yet. Most of the stories have never appeared in a book before. Some have never been published, period.

I already had plans for what to post about in December, but since this arrived I’ve decided to post about every story on each day.

I have read this story before (and I’m pretty sure one of the Sherlock shows did an episode of this story).  It’s probably one of my favorite Holmes stories.

But first thing’s first: For this story, carbuncle is not the first definition: an abscess; but the second: a bright red gem (except this one is blue). (more…)

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may20014SOUNDTRACK: “Elementary, My Dear” (1973).

elemYou have to have a particularly cruel heart if you don’t love School House Rock.

All of the songs, well, most of the songs, are super catchy and by golly if you don’t learn a lot.

And they attack problems in an interesting way.  The premise of using Noah’s Ark to show how to multiply by 2 is genius.

You’ll get that “elementary, my dear” section stuck in your head.  But I’m also impressed at the way the song goes into unexpected chords for “you get an even number.” And I love the way Bob Dorough really gets into it (whooping it up at the end).

Few people would think that the 2 times table is hard, but man is it fun to sing along to.

This song is not as popular as some of the other ones, but it’s still great

[READ: April 14, 2014] “A Study in Sherlock”

A while back I wrote a post about Sherlock Holmes on TV (Sherlock and Elementary) and in the movies (Sherlock Holmes).  I had read a few stories and so I did a brief comparison of the shows.  Since then while I have continued to believe that Sherlock is the better show, I have really grown to appreciate Elementary a lot more.  They almost seem incomparable because they are so very different in structure and intent.  Elementary has actually been a little more satisfying lately because it has so many more episodes that it allows the characters to develop and fail in interesting ways–something that the three episodes of Sherlock simply won’t do.

Laura Miller has done a similar thing with this article.  Although in fairness she did a lot more research than I did and talks a lot more about the original books and stage and early film adaptations, and she talks a lot less about the TV shows.  And no she doesn’t cite my post.

This was an enjoyable piece because it goes beyond the commonly known elements of Conan Doyle–how he did not like Holmes and tried to kill him off twice, that he wanted to write more important fiction–and into what Holmes was like after Doyle was finished with him.  Holmes has entered the public domain in both England and America, and so he is basically free for everyone to use, much like a classic myth or a fairy tale.  The big difference is that we know his origins.

What I especially enjoyed was that so many things that we think of as quintessential Holmes are actually not from Doyle.  His deerstalker hat was added by a book illustrator but is never mentioned in the text.  The calabash pipe came a decade later when a stage actor used it so that the audience could still see his face.  Conan Doyle was still alive while these changes were being made.  Indeed, when a play of Sherlock Holmes was written, the playwrite called and asked if he could give the man a love interest and Conan Doyle replied, “Marry him, murder him or do what you like with him.” (more…)

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holmes 5SOUNDTRACK: THE FLAMING LIPS-“Silent Night/Lord Can You Hear Me” (2008).

FlamingLipsSilentNight-e688b9521eb5a5b691fc125bf0de77277e6fb7e9-s1The last Flaming Lips Christmas song I heard was their rendition of “White Christmas” which is creepy and just awful.  For this one, they picked a much prettier song (“Silent Night”) and they don’t mess with it at all.  They keep it very simple–echoed keyboards and some backing vocals with Wayne Coyne’s autotuned voice singing properly.  It is certainly not the best version of the song I’ve heard, but it is at least pretty.

The song segues into “Lord, Can You Hear Me” which follows the same simple instrumentation as “Silent Night” and nearly keeps the same melody.  It’s not so much a song as a coda to “Silent Night.”

This single came out around the time of Christmas on Mars and includes as the B-side “It’s Christmas Time Again.”

[READ: December 6, 2013] Sherlock Holmes and the Adventure of the Speckled Band

Since I’m going to write about a few of these, I’ll keep up this little intro bit so I don’t have to re-write the general ideas/criticisms.

These are indeed the actual Arthur Conan Doyle stories just severely edited and truncated.  In other words, a lot of the story is cut out and yet the original language is still in place (at least I hope it is, I hope contemporary writers didn’t write the dialogue), so for young kids I think the wording is a little confusing.  The drawings are a little too simple for my liking as well.  They do effectively convey the story, but I didn’t like the very basicness of them.  I feel they make the stories seems a little more childlike than they actually are.

Having said all that however, I found the graphic novels to be a compelling introduction to Sherlock Holmes’ shorter stories (although not for my 8-year-old apparently).

This is the last book of the series that I have read–there are apparently 14 as of this writing.  I don’t think I’ll be reading any more as I feel like I am getting such a small amount of the story that it would be more worthwhile to simply read the actual stories (which I had planned to do anyhow).  Reading these feels like I’m getting the answer to the puzzle ahead of time. (more…)

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holmes4SOUNDTRACK: BOB AND ROBIN’S EXCELLENT HOLIDAY ADVENTURE, NPR, December 19, 2013 (2013).

bobrobinEvery year NPR airs a holiday music special (I’ve been posting from them for the last few days).  Initially, they were like any of the episodes, with descriptions of the songs.  Then they became a music only playlist (which was kind of nice).  Then they added some guests.  Last year they did a very enjoyable story of Bob and Robin together having a party that no one came to.  This year, today, they have released the 2013 edition.

In this story, Bob and Robin are driving to Kansas in a huge snowstorm.  They listen to some carols on the radio.  And then when the snow gets too bad they pull over into a small hotel.  Then Bob falls asleep and is visited in his dream by Annie Clark (St. Vincent), John Vanderslice, Wayne Coyne (Flaming Lips), Josh Ritter and Jess Wolf (Lucius) who tell some great memories of Christmas.

The songs they play are wonderfully diverse as usual (although there’s no Hanukkah songs this year, as Hanukkah was last month).  They range from standard favorites (Burl Ives’ “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer,” “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch”) to very traditional songs (“Coventry Carol” an instrumental “sleigh Ride”) to funny songs (“Christmastime for the Jews”) to a brand new one: The Flaming Lips playing “Silent Night/Lord Can You Hear Me” (which completely makes up for their dreadful “White Christmas” from several years ago).

This is a wonderfully enjoyable story/holiday special.  Listen and enjoy.

[READ: December 7, 2013] Sherlock Holmes and the Adventure of the Dancing Men

Since I’m going to write about a few of these, I’ll keep up this little intro bit so I don’t have to re-write the general ideas/criticisms.

These are indeed the actual Arthur Conan Doyle stories just severely edited and truncated.  In other words, a lot of the story is cut out and yet the original language is still in place (at least I hope it is, I hope contemporary writers didn’t write the dialogue), so for young kids I think the wording is a little confusing.  The drawings are a little too simple for my liking as well.  They do effectively convey the story, but I didn’t like the very basicness of them.  I feel they make the stories seems a little more childlike than they actually are.

Having said all that however, I found the graphic novels to be a compelling introduction to Sherlock Holmes’ shorter stories (although not for my 8-year-old apparently).

This story features the fascinating name of Hilton Cubitt.  He comes to Holmes with a confounding problem. He has discovered a slip of paper with stick figured men drawn on it.  When he showed it to his wife, she absolutely freaked out.  But she won’t tell him why.  So he brings the paper to Holmes to figure out what the heck is going on.

Since I haven’t read the original of this story,  I feel like the graphic novel is a better medium for this story because of the titular dancing men.  Perhaps the original has drawings in it, but if not, the graphic novel’s version which contains the stick figures corresponding to letters is a very successful way of quickly showing the trick.  (Even if, again, I don’t love the illustrations).

Holmes can’t do much with one slip of paper–he can’t even decode the pattern because there’s so little to go on.  But then more dancing men appear, and Cubitt brings more evidence to Holmes.  Holmes is able to crack the code (I couldn’t, but I wonder if there was more information given in the real story?).  Anyhow, Holmes has cracked the code, but that still doesn’t really solve the problem, which is the message within the code.

This may have been another case where more information would have made the story a bit more compelling.  It seems a little too easy that the “bad guy” is spotted, giving Holmes a pretty easy capture. Nevertheless, I do love a good puzzle and I’m curious to read how well the dancing men are described in the original.

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holmes3SOUNDTRACK: BOOTSY COLLINS-“Sleigh Ride” (2006).

I4evern 2006, Stephen Thompson from NPR made a list of the Best, Worst and Weirdest Holiday Albums. One of the weirdest is Christmas is 4-Ever by Bootsy Collins.  Starting with the wonderfully weird cover art.

Bootsy starts out by thanking Mrs Claus and then calls himself Booty Claus.  He tells us also that he named his weird reindeer Chucky coz he’s funky.

Once the song itself starts, the verse is pretty straightforward, but it’s interspersed with Bootsy’s peculiar sultry talking.  About 2 minutes in (the song is 6 minutes long) a new singer introduces some new lyrics, although it quickly gets back on track.  The song also features a crazy fiddle solo from Charlie Daniels.

What I find so weird about this song is the presumed funk doesn’t really seem to be in the music.  Bootsy’s speaking is certainly funky, but the music itself doesn’t have a lot of funk.  And yet, by around 4 and a half minutes I was starting to feel it (perhaps it was the bow wow wows).

Experience it yourself

[READ: December 7, 2013] Sherlock Holmes and the Adventure of the Blue Gem

Since I’m going to write about a few of these, I’ll keep up this little intro bit so I don’t have to re-write the general ideas/criticisms.

These are indeed the actual Arthur Conan Doyle stories just severely edited and truncated.  In other words, a lot of the story is cut out and yet the original language is still in place (at least I hope it is, I hope contemporary writers didn’t write the dialogue), so for young kids I think the wording is a little confusing.  The drawings are a little too simple for my liking as well.  They do effectively convey the story, but I didn’t like the very basicness of them.  I feel they make the stories seems a little more childlike than they actually are.

Having said all that however, I found the graphic novels to be a compelling introduction to Sherlock Holmes’ shorter stories (although not for my 8-year-old apparently).

This was one of my favorite of the five stories I read because of the humorous (in my opinion) way that the titular blue gem was hidden–and ultimately found. (more…)

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holmes2SOUNDTRACK: JULIAN KOSTER-“Frosty the Snowman” (2008).

sawThe name of this track doesn’t prepare you for what lies inside.  For that, you need the album title: Singing Saw at Christmas.  Julian Koster (who is part of the Elephant 6 collective) and has a love it or hate it voice, also plays the singing saw (another love it or hate it sound).

And so, in 2008 he released an album of Singing Saw Christmas Carols.  And NPR played it on their Holiday Show.  The version is simultaneously beautiful and terribly unsettling.  It’s hard to even know what it is if you aren’t aware that it is a saw (I at first guessed theremin).

I enjoy hearing it (and it is very short), but I don’t think I could bring myself to listen to a whole album.

Koster released a short holiday video in which he plays a song and tells a story.  To watch him play the saw (with a fellow saw player, tune in around 3:50).

[READ: December 6, 2013] Sherlock Holmes and the Adventure at the Abbey Grange

Since I’m going to write about a few of these, I’ll keep up this little intro bit so I don’t have to re-write the general ideas/criticisms.

These are indeed the actual Arthur Conan Doyle stories just severely edited and truncated.  In other words, a lot of the story is cut out and yet the original language is still in place (at least I hope it is, I hope contemporary writers didn’t write the dialogue), so for young kids I think the wording is a little confusing.  The drawings are a little too simple for my liking as well.  They do effectively convey the story, but I didn’t like the very basicness of them.  I feel they make the stories seems a little more childlike than they actually are.

Having said all that however, I found the graphic novels to be a compelling introduction to Sherlock Holmes’ shorter stories (although not for my 8-year-old apparently).

This story also struck me as unusual (perhaps I just have certain expectations of Holmes’ that are not quite right).  Holmes usually comes across as cocky (and frankly, obnoxious) when he finds a clue.  In this case he seemed almost deferential to the police (maybe the modern interpretations of Holmes show him to be more obnoxious).  Even though he felt things were not right about the clues, he didn’t insist upon correcting them immediately.  He even took the police’s word for things (unheard of!).  Although perhaps that was all planned out because of what happens at the end. (more…)

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holmes1SOUNDTRACK: JAMES BROWN-“Soulful Christmas” (1968).

Ibrown enjoy the funk.  And I enjoy funking up The Christmas.  So this seemed like a song or album I should have been familiar with already.  And yet I wasn’t.  I fear I know too much of Brown’s less than stellar 80s work rather than his awesome 60s and 70s work.

So NPR played this song in the 2010 Holiday Show, and I was immediately grabbed by the funky bass of the song.  The song is all about how much Brown loves us and wants to wish us a Happy Christmas and New Year.

The song doesn’t really deviate from the funky bass line (and indeed why should it?) and it turns more or less into an improv.

The song gets a little weird around 2 and a half minutes when he starts telling us how much he loves his fans, well, because they buy his records and come to see his shows (that’s why he loves us so).  It’s a weirdly worded sentiment, but I’m sure it’s heartfelt.  Next year there may have to be more funk at Chritsmastime.

[READ: December 5, 2013] Sherlock Holmes and a Scandal in Bohemia

I’m always looking for interesting graphic novels for the kids, so I was pretty excited to see this Sherlock Holmes collection (although maybe more for myself than them).  In fact, C. didn’t seem that interested in them.  I was a little surprised as he enjoys detective stuff but when I read this first one I felt the language was a little stilted (for a comic book).  These are indeed the actual Arthur Conan Doyle stories just severely edited and truncated.  In other words, a lot of the story is cut out and yet the original language is still in place (at least I hope it is, I hope contemporary writers didn’t write the dialogue), so for young kids I think the wording is a little confusing.

The drawings are a little too simple for my liking as well.  They do effectively convey the story, but I didn’t like the very basicness of them.  I feel they make the stories seems a little more childlike than they actually are.

Having said all that however, I found the graphic novels to be a compelling introduction to Sherlock Holmes’ shorter stories (although not for my 8-year-old apparently).

This story introduces us to the infamous (in Holmes’ circle) Irene Adler, the woman who was able to best Holmes. It seems like a really odd place to start this series of books if you are new to Holmes, because Holmes more or less admits that Adler has outsmarted him, which seems to undermine his skills somewhat.  This story was the first short story to feature Holmes, but he had already appeared in two novels.  So readers were familiar with his skills, whereas contemporary readers might wonder what the fuss is about., which you don;t get to read here. (more…)

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[WATCHED: November-December 2012] Sherlock & Elementary

sherlockThis has been the year of Sherlock Holmes for us.  We loved the first Robert Downey Jr Sherlock Holmes movie.  Sarah loved the second one (I fell asleep, but I don’t blame the film).  And then U.S. TV began airing Elementary this year.  It’s a contemporary version of Sherlock Holmes in which Watson is played by Lucy Liu–she is his “sober companion” trying to keep him off drugs and alcohol.  I kind of like this conceit–it’s a fun twist on Watson, and yet it loses some of the interplay that is fabulous between Watson and Holmes, especially since Holmes (played by Johnny Lee Miller) seems to be trying to get away from Watson.  Nonetheless, the show is quite enjoyable and is quintessentially Holmesian.

elementryA back story note: Sarah and I do not like police procedurals.  We don’t watch anything with any of the initials: SVUL&ONCISCSIER5-o, none of it.  Even if t he show is supposed to be awesome, as soon as I hear “police” I refuse to watch it.  And yet here we are hooked on Holmes.  So what is it about these shows?  Well, they focus on little clues (impossible clues, frankly).  They rely on being really smart.  And, this may be the key, they don’t rely on guns, police, judges, or any other tropes of police shows.  They’re like puzzles…puzzles that you don’t mind not being able to figure out yourself because Holmes is so damned smart.  I guess these are technically mysteries rather than cop shows, and that’s pretty cool. (more…)

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