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Archive for the ‘Vacation’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: KING GIZZARD AND THE LIZARD WIZARD-Fishing for Fishies (2019).

The first of two albums released by KGATLW in 2019, Fishing for Fishies is a bluesy, boogie-filled record.

It opens with with two false starts.  There’s the briefest sound of a sound like they’d recorded over another track but left it, then there’s a drum beat that hits a few and stops only to resume a few seconds later and starts the title song.  “Fishing for Fishies” is a soft shuffling song with delicately whispered vocals and a bouncy melody.  It’s super catchy and is followed by “Boogieman Sam” with its bouncy staccato guitar and then Ambrose’s wailing harmonica.

“The Bird Song” is a favorite on the record.  Fun gently whispered lyrics and a remarkably catchy jazzy song.  “Plastic Boogie” is loose blues song with a lot of people talking throughout, giving the whole thing a party atmosphere.

“Cruel Millennial” is sung by Ambrose.  It’s a swinging boogie with a catchy chorus and some wailing harmonica soloing at the end.  “Real’s Not Real” starts as a potentially heavy rocker but as the song proper starts, it shifts abruptly to a kind of mellow Beatles-y piano-pop song.

“This Thing” is a harmonica-fueled blues song with great big bouncy bass line.  “Acarine” is an unusual song on the disc.  It’s slower and moodier slow moody with whispered vocals and piercing harmonica.  Although the last two and a half minutes are an instrumental jam with  looping synths that sound like a sci-fi soundtrack.

“Cyboogie” ends the disc.  It was the first singe off the album and it’s as catchy as anything.  Who knew it was so much fun singing “boogie, boogie, boogie, boogie, boogie, boogie, boogie.”  The buzzy bouncing synth is a great sound for this song and the cyber voice prompts a return of Han-Tyumi who pops in after murdering the universe.

[READ: April 29, 2021] Manopause

I have no idea who Bernard O’Shea is.  Well, he’s an Irish comedian, but I don’t know what kind.  He could be Ireland’s Jeff Foxworthy for all I know.  I doubt that he’s Ireland’s Dave Chapelle, anyway.

I read O’Shea’s first book when it came across my desk at work.  When this one appeared a few days ago I thought it was the same guy.  A little research confirmed it, and since I mostly enjoyed the first book, I thought I would read this one as well.

It’s tough playing the mid-life crisis card, especially for a successful male.  And, honestly, for a bunch of the book I did think “oh, moan moan moan.”  The key though is if you can make the moaning funny.  O’Shea manages to do that for a time but then, unexpectedly, the book gets serious.  O’Shea looks seriously into changing is life and he explores several ways to do so.

Manopause is a funny enough term, but I appreciate that O’Shea had the sensibility to include his mother’s comment about him using the word.

He told his mother he was going through “the manopause…the male menopause.”  To which she replied

If you had any idea what the menopause was like, Bernard, believe me, you wouldn’t go through it.  Sweating, hot flashes, no sleep–at times it feels like you are going mad….  You wouldn’t survive 30 seconds of it.  No man would survive it.  Jesus, if ye did go through it, we’d never hear the end of it.  And if you went through it, you’d hospitalise yourself.

That might be the funniest thing in the book.

We met Bernard’s long-suffering wife Lorna in the first book.  She is longer-suffering still.

In chapter one, Lorna gives him an amazing birthday present.  She takes herself and their three kids away to her mother’s for five days.  He has five days to himself, to do whatever he wants. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACKKIRK FRANKLIN-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #175 (February 25, 2021).

Religion is inextricably linked to gospel music, which I think is rather a shame became gospel music can be a lot of fun, regardless of the lyrics.

If I wanted religion in my music I would call on Kirk Franklin in a heartbeat.  His songs are super catchy and inspirational and he is a great band leader.

For nearly 30 years, Franklin has been widely regarded for revolutionizing gospel. He incorporated secular music, particularly hip-hop, while preserving the message and integrity of traditional gospel. Here, he and his powerhouse choir pace through a decades-long, sixteen Grammy award winning discography of faith, praise and encouragement while cracking plenty of jokes. I cannot recall a more moving Tiny Desk home performance.

The set begins with “Love Theory.”  Franklin doesn’t even sing on this one, leaving it up to the rest of his singers [from left to right Darian Elliot, Eboni Ellerson , Michael Bethany, Deon Yancey, Melodie Pace,  Tia Rudd] to croon the melodies.

He gets up and claps his hands.  He even does some dancing behind the keys.  His energy is undeniable.   And actually, this one could be secular: “I don’t love nobody but you.”  By the end of the song, he tells everyone to make it bounce y’all and the funky bass from Matthew Ramsey kicks in heavy.

Kirk Franklin, set up with his band and choir in a corner of Uncle Jessie’s Kitchen, makes a declaration. “I know you’re at home right now, in your draws, listening to some Jesus music. It’s ok. Jesus loves you in your draws!”  Those are your draws!  He blessed you with those draws.

“Silver and Gold” slows things down old school.  Franklin plays the piano but it’s all about the harmonies that the singers include.  They keep building on the word “gold” getting bigger and bigger to a huge, outstanding peak.

The Arlington, Texas studio, named after a long time close friend, features a large photo of the iconic “I AM A MAN” protest signs from the 1968 Memphis Sanitation Strike on the wall. The jubilant energy that Franklin and company emit, juxtaposed with a visual reminder of the strife that Black people have endured is illustrative of the importance of gospel music in the Black community.

He continues “If you still haven’t put any clothes on yet we gonna groove a little bit more. You in one sock, I see you with just one sock with a flip flop or a house shoe.  I see you.  You look crazy but Jesus loves you still.

“Melodies From Heaven” has a quieter intro, but it builds bigger and then Franklin gets up and dances around the room while Shaun Martin plays the keyboard and Terry Baker plays some crashing drums–But its all about that wild bass.

The song ends abruptly.  He says that’s all you gonna get now … but after the pandemic I’m coming to your house and I’m bringing everybody and we gonna do this in your living room, your living room–everybody gets a concert.

For the final song “I Smile” he gives this positive intro:

All you gotta do, no matter what you face, even if you don’t have all your teeth, even if you got one good tooth all you gotta do is smile.

It’s a fun, boppy song with some more terrific drums at the end.

If all church was like this, more people might go.

[READ: March 31, 2021] “Sixty-Nine Cents”

The September 3, 2007 issue of the New Yorker contained several essays by their writers about the subject “Family Dinner.”

Gary Shteyngart’s family moved to the United States when he was young and by the time he was fourteen, his accent was mostly gone.

He now had three goals: to go to Florida and Disneyworld, to have a girl say she liked him and to eat at McDonald’s.

His parents did not believe in spending money–they bought clothes “by weight on Orchard Street.”  Despite their frugality, their parents agreed on a trip to Disney.  The tickets were free after a timeshare presentation.
“You’re from Russia?
“Leningrad … please Disney tickets now.”

They drove to Florida and stayed in cheap motels along the way. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: THUMPER-Out of Body Auto-Message (2019).

THUMPER was mentioned in the Irish Drummers book.  They actually have TWO drummers, (Stephen D’arcy is in the book).

I hadn’t heard of them (They are reasonably new).  This EP collects their first few singles and adds a couple of other tracks.

The rest of the band is: oisin leahy furlong – vocals & guitar; alan dooley – guitar & backing vocals; brendan mcglynn – guitar & backing vocals; joey gavin – bass; stevie d’arcy – drums; shane holly – drums.

“(You’re Bringing Me) Down” opens the set with a rocking fast chords.  It’s a catchy melody with a simple but effective guitar riff on top.  Clean vocals lead to a catchy chorus with a rumbling bass and roaring guitars. I love that at 90 seconds the song changes sonically to as a glitchy guitar playing the chords before returning back to the fast rumbling joy of the verse.  The song more or less finishes after 3 and a half minutes, but the full version of the song tacks on a three minute jam to the end.

“AFL” pummels along in a similar vein–fast catchy fuzzy rock with lots of feedback.  Even though the song is pretty much nonstop, they do put in some interesting musical dynamics to mix it up.

“In My Room” is quieter and less fuzzy, although it opens with a squall of noise.  It does still have a fast and bouncy chorus.  “Half Light” is a woozy acoustic song with a woozy filter on the whole thing.  The guitar solo is feedbacky and almost out of tune. And it ends with a wall of noise.

The final song is ten minutes long. “3AM & Restless” takes off right from the get go. It’s relentless song with a lot of sounds going on (spoken conversations, screaming or feedback or something).  But after two and a half minutes the song slows down and stretches out.  Big chords ring out while a spoken conversation or something seems to be going on underneath them.  the end of the song stretches into a slow noisy jam of scratches and synth sounds, kinda like they had the tape rolling and just keep messing around with their gear until it ran out.

The ending is a little uninspired, but the rest o the EP is fantastic and I look forward to more from them.

[READ: February 15, 2021] Trespassers

This is the story of Gabby Woods and her family.  They are headed up to their vacation house on the lake.  It’s an annual trip that they all enjoy very much.

Gabby’s older sister, Morgan, is sort of out of the picture (she’d too old to hang with Gabby and their younger brother Simon), but she’s nice enough.  Gabby’s parents are kind and funny, but they have just learned that Gabby’s dad is going to have to take a new job in a different state.  This might be their last time visiting their lake house.

Gabby is a bookworm which Simon finds very boring.  He hates that Gabby wastes her time reading when there’s so much to do at the lake.  Gabby does put her book down from time to time, but really, a vacation is about resting.

When they arrive they see their neighbor Gene. Gene is an older man who has lived in his house for decades. He is a nice guy and he looks forward to the Woods’ family’s arrival.

As the Woods canoe around the lake, they approach Gabby’s favorite building–a beautiful architectural marvel with a gorgeous view of the lake.  It was built by Walter Goldworth, a Chicago architect who married a model, Angela.  He built this place for her. They were very happy until they both disappeared and have not been seen since.  The house has been vacant for decades. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACKJAN VOGLER AND ALESSIO BAX-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #128 (December 16, 2020).

This is the third of three Tiny Desk Home Concerts to honor Beethoven’s 250th birth anniversary. This was my favorite. The first was just piano the second was a quartet of strings.  But this one, a combination of the two, was the most exciting.  I love the way the cello (Vogler) played off of the piano (Bax).

For this Tiny Desk (home) concert, we pay a visit to the doctor’s office. Actually, the venue is called Rare Violins of New York and it’s something of a second home to cellist Jan Vogler, who pops in frequently to have the experts give his 1708 Stradivarius cello a thorough checkup. If your multi-million-dollar fiddle has a cough or the sniffles, or even needs a full-blown restoration, Rare Violins, which sits just a block away from Carnegie Hall, can help. The firm also has a lovely music room, kitted out with a fine piano – something Vogler lacks at his place.  With help from the fine pianist Alessio Bax, Vogler makes a convincing case for Beethoven as one of the great heroes of the cello. Beethoven, whose 250th birthday falls this week, wrote five cello sonatas, plus other works for the instrument, which, before his time, was primarily relegated to beefing up the bass line in various chamber music situations.

Beethoven, in essence, liberated the cello. Listen to how it dances and struts in the opening scherzo from the Sonata in A, Op. 69.

“Cello Sonata in A, Op. 69: II. Scherzo” starts with a piano and the cello quickly jumps back in.  The song builds and swells and then quiets down to a pretty piano and cello melody.

Like Jonathan Biss, these two are very chatty. They are mostly chatty with each other, but they do direct their answers to the camera sometimes too.

Up next is a short piece from the beginning of his career “12 Variations on a Theme from Handel’s Judas Maccabaeus: Variation XI: Adagio.”   In this piece the cello “sings sweetly.”  Vogler says that Beethoven was friendly with a fantastic cellist and he may have inspired the composer to write more pieces for the cello.

Although the piece starts with a lovely piano intro and has several moments of just piano, the cello adds so much to it.

Before the final song the two talk about how the pandemic has changed them and what they are looking forward to doing when it is over.

And finally there’s the opening to Beethoven’s last cello sonata, which Bax — whose role is far more than just an accompanist here — says is compact with emotion, yet “stretches the boundaries” for the instrument.

“Cello Sonata in D, Op. 102: I. Allegro con brio” feels like a call and response–two instruments in conversation.  And they had a lot to say.

[READ: December 20, 2020] The Disaster Tourist

In continuing with my around-the-world reading, I picked up this novel that was originally written in Korean (translated by Lizzie Buehler).

This story sounded really weird and interesting.

Yona works for a company called Jungle which specializes in offering vacations in areas that have suffered a disaster.

On a disaster trip, travellers reactions usually went through these stages

shock; sympathy and compassion, maybe discomfortable gratefulness at their own lives; a sense of responsibility that they’d learned a lesson and maybe a feeling of superiority for having survived where others didn’t.

For instance, a tsunami had hit Jinhae–in an instant everything was underwater.  Yona travelled there because Jungle currently didn’t offer any tours there.  But they would soon.  Yona would give donations and offer condolences to the community.  Then she would create a vacation package that involved viewing the aftermath along with volunteer work.

Yona had worked at Jungle for over ten years.  She was something of a star.  But apparently, her star was starting to fade because she had all of sudden been asked to handle some customer service phone calls–never a good sign.

Things got even worse when a supervisor named Kim got on the elevator with her.  He said:

Johnson is asking me to send my greetings to you.
Who?
Johnson.  My Johnson. Kim pointed to his crotch.

At this point I had to wonder.  Is this level of harassment something that happens in Korea?  Is this  shocking incident for any reader?  Is this a hyper real fiction in which everything is just a bit beyond reality?  I don’t know.

Then Kim grabs her bottom and put his hand in her blouse.  The gesture suggested that Kim didn’t care if he was caught.

Yona was upset, but not because of the sexual assault. Because Kim was known to only target has-beens. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACKCOPLAND HOUSE: Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #110 (November 13, 2020).

Every Tiny Desk (Home) Concert is unique.  But this one seems extra special.

the desk – and the home setup – for this performance beats them all. The location is the home, and not so tiny writing desk, of Aaron Copland, America’s beloved composer.

Copland, who would have turned 120 on Nov. 14, gave us Appalachian SpringFanfare for the Common Man and Rodeo, among many other works that helped define a singular American sound.

These pieces are familiar to anyone who has listened to any classical music anywhere (or Emerson, Lake & Palmer).  But these three pieces were ones I didn’t know at all.

The set begins with one of the composer’s earliest pieces in a jazzy vein.

The piece is called “Three Moods: III. Jazzy.”  It is an upbeat, yes, jazzy, bouncy piano piece.  That last all of 80 seconds.  It is indeed, as Michael Boriskin says, delectable.

Michael Boriskin plays Copland’s own piano. He’s the artistic and executive director of Copland House, located an hour north of New York City in the lower Hudson River Valley. What was once Copland’s home is now a creative center for American music.

Up next, Boriskin plays a duet with violinist Curtis Macomber.

The Violin Sonata that follows embodies America’s wide open spaces, filled with possibilities.

“Sonata for Violin and Piano: I. Andante semplice – Allegro” is the only major piece Copland wrote for violin. It is sombre and pretty, with a kind of back and forth violin and piano.  There’s lots of lengthy, slow, almost mournful violin parts.

Macomber departs and is replaced by flutist Carol Wincenc.  They play “Duo for flute and piano: II. Poetic, somewhat mournful; III. Lively, with bounce.”  Those descriptors are part of the title and also describe how the music is to be played.  This piece

 was actually written at the very desk seen in this video.

The first part is slow and sad, while the second one is much more fun and bouncy.  The middle of the second part has a a sow staccato dialogue between the flute and piano.  There’s a fun moment where the flute and piano play the exact same very high note and the sound is really unusual.

I found these pieces to be less engaging than his more famous pieces.  But maybe that’s just because I am much more familiar with them.

[READ: December 9, 2020] “Parade for the Dead and Dying”

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 9.  Kelly Luce, author of Pull Me Under, can always pull a quick U-turn if she misses the exit. [Click the link to the H&O extras for the story].

I love how this story started in a kind of surreal location and then did a U-Turn and wound up in an even more surreal place.

Palmsville, Florida, has decided to have a parade for the dead and dying.  The floats were from various hospitals.  County supplied four bodies from the morgue to ride on the back of one of the floats.  Mount Sinai putthree geriatrics (and their ventilators) in a convertible. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: KNEECAP-“C.E.A.R.T.A.” (2018).

Kneecap are the Northern Irish trio of Mo Chara, Móglaí Bap and DJ Provaí.

They rap.

In Irish.

This in itself opens up all kinds of interesting rhyme opportunities.

Because I have no idea what they are saying, when the song opens with what sounds like “Fuck me,” I don’t know if that’s what he’s saying or if he’s saying something in Irish.  It sounds like they say fuck a lot, so I’m assuming that’s what they are saying (especially since the video has them flipping the bird a lot).  But who knows.

The song is anti police (garda) I’m assuming, although I don’t know what the initials stand for.  It also seems to be pro drug (or at least pro party).  There is one line that I picked out (there are occasional English words)  So a line ends with “balaclava” and then goes on

coke, speed, E, agus [and] marijuana
[irish irish irish irish irish] Connamara.

The video is an interesting insight into, I assume, Belfast, with graffiti-strewn tunnels and a very very very depressing looking “party” at the end.

The music is not terribly interesting.  It’s a very simple bass line that runs through the whole song, with the only change in the chorus being the addition of a high synth line.  But their flow is really good (to someone who can’t tell what they are saying).  The rhymes work and it is good craic not knowing what they are talking about but hearing an occasional familiar word.

If they can get their musical part more interesting, they’d be on to something.

[READ: September 21, 2020] My Wife is Married to a Feckin’ Eejit

I have no idea who Bernard O’Shea is.  Well, he’s an Irish comedian, but I don’t know what kind.  He could be Ireland’s Jeff Foxworthy for all I know.  I doubt that he’s Ireland’s Dave Chapelle, anyway.

This book came across my desk at work and I liked the title so I thought I’d give it a read.

The premise of this book is that O’Shea found a list in his wife’s diary of all of the reasons why he is an eejit.  So he enumerates this list and then gives details about each incident.

Most of the things O’Shea he talks about are daily frustrations (often gone to crazy conclusions).  I probably wouldn’t have enjoyed this book if it were set in the States, but having it set in Ireland–where everyday things are a little different, (what in the heck is a crèche?) brought enough unfamiliarity to make these familiar stores seem more amusing. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: BENEVENTO/RUSSO DUO-Play Pause Stop (2006).

This is the final release (so far) by the Benevento/Russo Duo.  There were two earlier ones that have not be reissued yet.  This follows in a similar style to the previous one, with great drumming and a wonderfully full sound from Benevento’s keys.

This album featured 9 songs and this reissue includes five live bonus tracks.  There’s a few shorter songs (under three minutes), but most are longer.  Like the title track, “Play Pause Stop” which is almost 8 minutes long.  It starts as a slow pretty melody with a lots of distortion on the keys.  There’s vocals on this track, but it still counts as an instrumental because the only words are whoa whoa–a happy inclusion for the chorus.

“Echo Park” is one of the shorter songs. It starts with simple piano melody and distorted washes of sound.  It turns into a super catchy, bouncy song.  Similarly, “Soba” starts slow and moody and turns into a rocking rager.

“Best Reason To Buy The Sun” features a lot of wild drumming.  It’s bookeneded by a pretty keyboard.  “Powder” opens with a pretty, staccato guitar melody.  The credits online don’t say who is playing the guitar.  The melody is looped as backwards solos are added.  It’s one of the trippier songs on the record until “Hate Frame” later on.

“Something For Rockets” opens like a Flaming Lips song with soaring chords.  It shifts to a singsong melody on the keys and then returns to the soaring melody.   The best title on the record is clearly “Walking, Running, Viking.”  It’s only 3 minutes long–a simple melody with a catchy solo near the end.

“Hate Frame: is 8 minutes long. It’s centered around a pulsing that sounds like an alarm followed by a rumbling bass.  By the middle of the song the music has turns utterly trippy, shooting off in all directions until it comes crashing back down with some fast frenetic drums.  The disc ends with “Memphis,” a slow loping song that sounds like it would work for a Western.

The bonus tracks are live versions of “Echo Park,” “Soba,” Walking, Running, Viking,” and “Something for Rockets” which all sound like jamming versions of the original.  The biggest change comes in the live version of “Play Pause Stop.”  It runs to nearly eleven minutes and stars with several minutes of noise and nonsense.  It’s surprising how long the noise goes on–they must have been having a blast.

[READ: August 31. 2020] Sorry I’m Late, I Didn’t Want to Come

I bought this book for my son on a whim.  It was his birthday and the title made me laugh.  Now, he’s not much of a reader these days and it’s pretty unlikely that he would read a book like this, anyhow.  I knew when I bought it that if he didn’t read it I would certainly give it a go.

I thought that this book was going to be a funny look at an introvert going out and having a hilariously awkward time at various events.  I assumed it was comic essays.  Boy was I wrong.  This is, as the subtitle says, a book about Jessica Pan’s decision to start doing things.  This may not sound that compelling and when I first realized what the book was, I was a little disappointed–I wanted funny essays.  But then I read on about the things she actually said “yes” to and the book became inspiring (even if I’ll never do the things she did).

Pan starts out by saying that she doesn’t think anyone needs to be “cured” (introvert extrovert or otherwise).  But that she was unhappy and wanted to make a change.

Then she divides people in to two categories–those who would happily go to the Glastonbury festival and those who watch it on TV as if it was a horror show.  Obviously, as a painfully shy introvert she would not be going to Glastonbury.

Nearly one third of the population identify as introverts–people who gain their energy from being alone.  Meanwhile, extroverts get their energy from being around other people.   But there are two other parameters: shy and outgoing.  Some introverts can be confident in groups or when giving a presentation–they just can’t take the stimulation of large crwds for extended periods of time.  Then there are other like her who are shy as well–this is what she felt was making her miss out on things. (more…)

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download (98)SOUNDTRACK
: TAME IMPALA-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #69 (August 24, 2020).

download (97)With so many artists that I’ve never heard of doing really long Home Tiny Desk Concerts, why on earth did Tame Impala, one of the biggest bands around, only play for 16 minutes?

The studio version of Tame Impala is pretty simple on paper: All songs are written, produced and performed by Kevin Parker. For the live version, Parker is still front and center but surrounded by a host of musicians who interpret his recorded work almost to a tee.

For his Tiny Desk (Home) Concert or his “Tame Impala Soundsystem” Parker brought Jay Watson and Dom Simper together to

do this kind of electronic jam with heaps of equipment around us and we’ll recreate the songs with samplers and sequencers. I’ve wanted to do something like this for a while and thought Tiny Desk would be the opportunity to do it.

So the three of them are in a room with banks of keyboards and all kinds of buttons to push and knobs to twist.  There’s even a guitar (most notably on “Is It True”).

They play two songs from this year’s The Slow Rush.  They open with “Breathe Deeper.”  The most interesting part of the song comes at the end when Parker starts messing around with the mixer in front of him and he starts generating drum beats and manipulating the sound of the entire song.

“Is It True” is similarly dancey and Parker’s soaring falsetto rides over the top of the song nicely.

They end the set with “Patience” a fantastic 2019 single that for some reason, didn’t make it to The Slow Rush.  This is my favorite song of the three.  The melody is great and with the pace slowed a bit it makes the song a bit more memorable.

When I saw then live, their show felt massive.  This show sounds massive too, yet it’s all confined to a tiny room.

[READ: August 20, 2020] Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Getaway

I was looking forward to reading this book after really enjoying Book 12.  But I felt like this one wasn’t quote as laugh out loud funny as some of the others.  I find Greg’s family dynamic to be the funniest part of these books and his family doesn’t feature all that much in this one.

This book is all about snow.  And snow means snow days from school, sledding and snowball fights.

The book begins with some environmental concern about global warming (it is unseasonably hot that winter).  Despite the genuine concern for global warming, Greg’s take is always a little warped–he’s concerned that if the ice caps melt there could be a giant monster hiding in there.  (more…)

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download (92)SOUNDTRACK: VÍKINGUR ÓLAFSSON-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #63 (August 12, 2020).

download (91)Víkingur Ólafsson has a fantastic name.  But even better is his way of talking about the music he plays.  He adds so much detail and information about these songs that they really come to life.  I don’t often buy classical music anymore, but I absolutely want to get his new record of Rameau and Debussy pieces).

Ólafsson  has moved from strength to strength, releasing three terrific albums in a row (Philip Glass, J.S. Bach, Debussy-Rameau). And now that he has a young son, he wants to spend as much time with the family as possible these days.

So he tells us that he is leaving Berlin after living there for eight years, to return to Iceland with his wife and son.

He opens with a beautiful slow and stately piece from J.S. Bach (arr. Stradal): “Andante” (from Organ Sonata No. 4).  The piece runs about five minutes and after four slow lines, he throws in some amazing speed near the end.  he says that Bach is a good idea whether you are happy or sad–whatever it is, Bach makes things better.

Then Ólafsson offers a crash course in the fascinating music of Jean-Philippe Rameau and Claude Debussy, two French composers who lived nearly 200 years apart. Ólafsson connects the dots between the two seemingly strange bedfellows, illustrating his points with demonstrations on his Steinway.

Introducing Jean-Philippe Rameau, he says the music will go in a very different direction (than Bach).  Rameau was two years older than Bach and was dubbed the Newton of harmony.  He defined harmony and opened musical doors.

For Rameau: “Le rappel des oiseaux” (“The Recall of the Birds”) he says that he is playing two birds: one in his right hand and one in his left.  They are calling to each other–one imitating the other with perfect recall.  Then they take flight and we see the landscape under their wings.  When he plays it, it absolutely comes to life.

He says that was first piece of Rameau that he had ever heard.  The version he heard was by a Russian pianist who played it “more sad, more Russian.”  He plays it like that original version and you can hear the remarkable difference and how both versions work so well–although I like Ólafsson’s better.

Introducing Claude Debussy, he says it’a unusual pairing since they lived 200 years apart.  But Debussy’s idol was Rameau.  They were both musical outsiders, reinventing music, bringing life to a tired scene.

He plays a simple Debussy melody–harmony in space, a timeless beauty.  But Debussy did not like being considered an Impressionistic.  He was interested in the baroque, and there is a baroque structure to his music.

For Debussy’s: “The Snow is Dancing” (from Children’s Corner), he describes the driving rhythm that never stops as he explores harmonic inventions.  This song wa written for his four-year-old daughter as he was exploring the snow with her. You can absolutely hear the textures of the snow in the song.

Ólafsson has a penchant for making transcriptions, taking pieces written for other instruments and making them his own. He closes with “The Arts and the Hours,” his mesmerizing arrangement of a scene from Rameau’s final opera, which he plays as a farewell to his Berlin apartment.

Ólafsson says that he wrote his last masterpiece (an opera) a year before he died and he never heard it performed.  Indeed, it didn’t get a world premiere until 200 years after he died in 1960.  This is a transcription he made because he was jealous of all the conductors and orchestra players who got to play this music.   Rameau (arr. Ólafsson): “The Arts and the Hours” (from Les Boréades) is more loveliness from a composer who I feel may be quite under appreciated.

[READ: 2017 and August 15, 2020] Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Getaway

I read this book when it came out in 2017 but never posted about it.  Then I recently realized that Kinney had written two more Wimpy Kid books that I hadn’t read (and two books written by Rowley, that I don’t know at all).  So it was time to get Wimpy again.

This book is a Christmas book and yet it’s not a typical Christmas story–no annoying relatives, no bad gifts, not even snow.  For The Heffleys have decided to go on holiday for Christmas.    Their Christmas planning was going very badly (a funny picture of the tree on its side with Manny playing with tinsel), so when they saw an ad for Isla de Corales, where Greg’s parents went on their honeymoon, they decided to get out of town for Christmas and celebrate in the warmth of the holidays.

Now, unlike shows where the place is far worse than the advertisement shows, Isla de Corales proves to be a wonderful paradise.  However, the place has now been divided into the mild side for families and the wild side for couples.  Obviously, the wild side is better but the Heffleys have no way to get there.

But before they arrive, they have to get there.  Their entire trip to the airport is one terrible moment after another–bad traffic, lost luggage, late shuttle.  Not to mention terrible lines and a hilarious pile of confusion at the security line–I love that it’s not Greg’s fault that things went so badly but the Heffleys had to pay for it anyway.  And of course Manny is a nightmare. (more…)

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[LISTENED TO: August 2020] Furthermore

The pandemic pretty much nixed our summer plans.  But we decided to look for someplace close by, in a low-infection rate area, for a short getaway.  It only amounted to a two night trip, but it was well appreciated.  We traveled to the Lake George region and that meant we needed an audio book.

I absolutely love Bronson Pinchot as a narrator.  I will listen to literally anything he reads.  He tends to read darker materials, so the only trick is trying to find something family-friendly.  Fortunately, he reads a lot of those as well.  I’d never heard of this book before (although I was vaguely aware of Mafi’s other series “Shatter Me”).  But as soon as I saw that Pinchot was reading it, I checked it out.

The only bad thing about Pinchot’s narration in this story is that there aren’t all that many characters in it.  Pinchot has an astonishing range of voices at his disposal.  So, to only show off 8 or so means you can’t fully appreciate how great he is.  But the voices he chose were outstanding.

And the story was really interesting.  Mafi has taken a fairly common idea–travelling to another world–and has infused it with all kinds of novel ideas and conceits.

First off, the original world that the characters start in is not our own.  Alice Alexis Queensmeadow lives in Ferenwood, a land full of magic.  Magic is so integral to Ferenwood, that it is a part of everything–including the people who live there.  And that magic is displayed through color.  Color that is abundant and vibrant and breathtaking.

Except for Alice.  Alice was born without color.  She is pale as anything.  Her hair is white, her skin is white–she is unlike anyone else in Ferenwood and she hates that about herself. (more…)

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