Monday, December 31, 2018

Resolved for you: Everybody selfie!

I am going to suggest a New Year's resolution for everyone: Do your own #365feministselfie in 2019.

Technology problems derailed my second time around. Although I finally got many pictures uploaded, posting them all at once did not really seem helpful. However, for both my first completed attempt and my second attempt I never actually started on January 1st, tracking a calendar year. That's what I'm going to do now, and you can do it with me.

If the point before was to be visible - facing yourself and the world - that is needed now more than ever. There are many forces working to diminish individuals now. That is especially true for women. There is pressure on us to smile and look good. Seeing yourself at first is a reminder that you are not meeting those expectations.

Here is the way that it transforms: when you do start looking at yourself every day, it is easier to like yourself. The beauty standards are stupid and superficial, ignoring so much that is wonderful, and the double standard where attractiveness is more important for women is ridiculous, and you are a good person so it is good to see you.

(Maybe if you are not a good person it can inspire you to change.)

I have to admit that I think some pretty painful things are coming up for me in 2019. I hope there are good things too, but there are going to be things that hurt. There will be days I won't have a smile, and days I will want to hide from the world.

That's what makes this important. It is not just that I am a person, and one who is fat and aging, but also that I have pains and imperfections and heartaches along with the joys and abilities. None of those things diminish my worth; they are an integral part of my humanity. By committing to do this I am committing not to hide from any of it.

It's important to take the daily selfies, and it's important to post them. I post on Twitter and Facebook, but Instagram would be a perfectly logical place to post, as would Tumblr. I can totally see creating a blog for it (Blogger is easy to use), especially if you decide to post weekly instead of daily. I don't recommend posting less frequently than weekly, as it quickly becomes a pain and drags on momentum.

Do use the hash tag, because then it connects you to something bigger. You are an individual, and your selfies show you as that individual, but you are also a part of the human family, a part of the world. Remember and celebrate that.

Men among my readers, of course you should do it, and of course you should use the same hash tag. Perhaps this will help you to embrace feminism as well as yourself, and we should all be feminists.

I am including some of my old posts on the topic, and some posts that have influenced me.

Do it.

I'll be looking for your pictures.

Friday, December 28, 2018

Band Reviews: Null 'N' Void and Sly Antics

I'm getting in two fairly new bands with not many releases today.

Null 'N' Void is a three piece alternative band from Newcastle with a strong grunge vibe. They currently only have one self-titled song, but that song reminds me of Pearl Jam.

I prefer it when I have a little more to go on, but they will probably be fine.

Sly Antics

Head South and West for about two hours to get to Manchester for another alternative band, Sly Antics. With four tracks, it is easier to get a grasp on this band.

There is some pretty aggressive guitar, but that doesn't override the strong sense of funk, especially on "Motion". The intro to "Lights Go Down" encourages head pounding, but the body of the song is a sort of hard blues (which feels very Manchester-appropriate).

The band likes to say their sound is like "being slapped in the face with a box of stale cereal", but I think they sound pretty fresh.

Thursday, December 27, 2018

Band Review: Intaferon

Back at the end of 2014, I read Lori Majewski's Mad World: An Oral History of New Wave Artists and Songs that Defined the 1980s. The chapters were primarily done in interview form with band members who had done significant songs, ending with five related themes or types of bands. That could mean five songs about nuclear war or five bands with two men and one woman, with some connections being more tenuous than others.

The book was primarily a fun reminder of a good times and good music, but there were a few pauses. Some bands were much more active than I'd realized, or I remembered the names of bands but knew nothing about their catalogs. There were even a few bands that I'd never heard of, which seems wrong given the way I'd devoured Star Hits back in the day. Of these, the band with the lowest output was Intaferon.

You'd think with two men named Simon and high cheekbones that I would have heard someone exclaiming over them at some point. The only explanation I can come up with is that they were active in 1983 and 1984, and things really started kicking off in 1985.

Their music has had a life beyond that. "Get Out of London" (the song referenced in the book) may be from 1983, but it was used in The Wild Thornberrys Movie in 2002 and in a Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen movie the year before that. "Steamhammer Sam" was used in Max Headroom. It seems unlikely that the former band members were doing that much promotion to get into media; was it just the power of their electronic drum beats?

It is possible that the men's hearts weren't in it so much. Simon Fellowes became a novelist, and Simon Gillham became a philosophy lecturer after doing his doctoral work on Nietzsche (they sure sound like New Wave artists). At the same time, they have both released more music on their own.

I don't know how 80s-ish their later music sounds, but it does seem possible that I will eventually find out.

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Christmas break

I am taking a couple of days off from blogging. There will definitely be music reviews this week, and maybe a post Wednesday.

Friday, December 21, 2018

Band Review: Tony Cuic

The downside of reviewing Tony Cuic or TC Originals is that there will be broken links and suspended accounts, which can be very frustrating. I had to do some searching, but all of these links are good, at least for now.

Getting past that, though, you have rock in the vein of a dad having fun, and that's okay.

I think the beat on "Lying to Me" is really strong, though it may not be his best song overall. Listening can be done easily on Soundcloud, but I advise skipping the two screaming tracks, which bothered my dog. At the same time, I do not doubt that he had fun.

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Band Review: Hocket

I have been meaning to write about Hocket for a long time, possibly the entire five years that they have been around.

They originally ended up on my review list after being recommended by TV writer Aaron Fullerton. Over time they fell prey to my own disorganization about getting to bands from both the recommendations list and the following list, then to me being discouraged by the size of their output, and finally to my not liking them very much once I started to listen.

I understand what they are going for better now. "Hocket" is a music noun, referring to a spasm or interruption in the music, and the effect of that. Really it is more intellectual music, and music to think about, rather than to enjoy. I am sure some people do enjoy it.

To be clear, I think they are doing what they are doing well, even if I do not particularly value it. There are still no regrets about finally checking them out.

Another late night post

I have been posting very late recently.

I have also given my mother some really good days. Not good enough to help her know that she is at home, but where there is contented engagement. That takes enough time that I end up posting very late.

I have been wondering if that is worth the effort. There are always plenty of other things to do, and one thing about posting later is that fewer people read the posts. I have never really done this for the page hits, but there is still something satisfying about seeing bigger numbers there.

It wouldn't be unreasonable to give it up.

However, last night I helped a friend working on something, and it was helped by being able to refer back to previous posts I had written. I hadn't written them with her in mind, or anyone, really, but they were relevant, and having been put out there once they could be recalled.

I don't know if that is enough of a reason to keep going, but it's at least one reason why I will feel good about what I have done either way.

Of course, it is also really three blogs with daily posting between them, so I could always drop just a part, but all of the parts are important to me.

However, I do kind of have some ideas for Christmas week and New Year's week, and I certainly want to at least get to my 600th band review, because with a little effort it can be a live performance with some personal significance. Anyway, at least two more weeks.

Then we will see about the new year.

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Reading integration

I started observing Native American Heritage Month 2010. At the time I would include one book that focused more on Latin America, because there are indigenous people there too. Some of the reading selections did not seem to fit right. I dropped that practice a while ago, and then I discovered there was a month for Hispanic Heritage too.

I don't know if it is a coincidence that the two months come so close together (September and November). Given their proximity, though, and my issues with mission creep, it was almost inevitable that they would start overlapping each other.

There were other factors. The source that I was using to find relevant children's books for September ended up having a lot of books, including a lot of YA. There was a book with November content that was available online for free for two weeks in October. It was not one I was likely to find in the library, so I had to start that reading early. Obviously, all of the books and how they went for their specific months will be covered eventually in different posts. Today is more about how they went together.

There is overlap between reading about indigenous people with a legacy of Spanish colonization and English colonization. There are differences too, but there are a lot of things that end up correlating and giving added depth. It is good to have these particular reading lists running into each other.

It is also notable, though, how much Black history coincides with these other two.

That is probably more so because so much of my reading focused on Cuba this year. Many slaves were brought to the Caribbean, but it went beyond that. Jews at different times fled to Cuba, and were invited to the Dominican Republic. Many people from Asia settled in Cuba. The Castro sisters who formed the band Anacaona had Chinese as well as indigenous ancestry.

It works other ways too. Russia had an exchange program with Cuba. The Russians mostly left when the Soviet Union fell, but there were Cubans in Russia who stayed. My most amazing transplant story is still that Japanese Samurai guarded silver shipments in Mexico, but there is a lot of really cool mixing that was happening all the time.

I still strongly believe in the value of focusing on specific experiences, but together they inform a broader picture. That picture is more complex and more beautiful, but it is also one that many people refuse to see, believing hard in a world much more segregated and monochromatic.

Looking back, I think one reason I stopped looking at Latin American history in November is that I understood the point of the different heritage months as a means of remembering that the history of the United States goes far beyond the white men that tend to get mentioned in the history books. Therefore, Hispanic Heritage Month would be about the Braceros program and the histories of Texas and New Mexico, and Asian Pacific American Heritage Month would be about Hawaii and Chinese immigrants building the railroad; that basically those months were for me to better understand the role of people of color in the United States.

Without having given up on that, it feels much broader now, but also more integrated. And yes, that integration is a scheduling issue, but it is also an issue of seeing more now that I have been at this for a while. Ah yes, a similar thing happened there.

And I love that. One reason I never wanted to do any post-graduate work in history is that generally that involves more and more specialization. It was always the big picture of history that was most interesting to me. I wanted to know about people and their ways. They keep making the same mistakes, but then they do these really beautiful things too. That never gets old for me.

I have read arguments against "diversity" because often that word ends up meaning looking for one person of color who is the best fit to throw in with a bunch of white people (or one woman to throw in with a bunch of men), and pay lip service to representation. Then, when that person voices any difference of opinion they face recrimination and it can get really ugly. I have seen it happen. There were usually good intentions, but not a realistic examination of what actual inclusion would mean.

If we will really look at each other, and listen, we can do better than that. That definitely involves talking to people and paying attention to their experiences now, but also, there are much worse things to do than reading books.

Reading lists - current status

I mentioned that I am working on six reading lists now.

They include the post-election one, which I have been working on since January 2017. Technically I guess it was post-inauguration. It does keep expanding, but once I realized that it was going to become so unwieldy I started letting other lists in around it. I finished a couple of books on it in October, and I will get back to it soon. It might currently include 31 finished main books, plus another 19 supplemental books and papers, plus another 20 books or research topics.

(My being this way is well-established.)

The newest list is related to death and grief. It started with two books from a subset of books I have always meant to get to, and three more were added while I was reading the first one. I think if you are following along, it is pretty clear why that would be a topic where I would feel a need for some preparation. Honestly, the first one was very helpful, or I think it will turn out to be so, but maybe not in the way that you would expect. I will write more about that in time.

The most encouraging of those lists was my gardening list. You may recall that I had one last year:

As I was wrapping up my small gardening attempts for this year (just some pumpkins and tomatoes) I thought I should get some reading done to see if there was any fall prep I should do. Of course even after I read those twelve books last year, I had more to read.

The first pleasant surprise was that really there seemed to be only four gardening books left that I needed to read. I did add one in that I had thought of as more of a biology book than a gardening book, and I did gain two additional titles to read from this reading, but really, it was only two more. So much of the frustration of reading is that it keeps requiring more reading, but that may not be a permanent problem. There may be a point where I reach enough knowledge on a topic, at least for a while.Go me!

That went along well with another thing that was going on: a growing desire to get ahead of some of my other reading.

I get new books to read so often that it feels like I will never catch up. Possibly I think of that more as I approach a new awareness month and try to select out of many options.

I don't know if I have ever written about this before, but I will periodically scroll through all of my To-Read books on Goodreads (currently 1466). It's really more compelling than soothing, but it feels like a relief when I finish. I suspect doing this periodically is one reason that titles can easily come to mind when it is a good time for me to read them.

In addition, I love organizing via spreadsheet. Tangible organization may be kind of a pipe dream for me, but I find lists comforting.

I'd had a list of books for my education make-up reading - along with a few other things I needed to get to - back before the hard drive crash. That spreadsheet may be the data that I miss the most. There was more in there than books, but there were books there. When I say there was a subset of books I've always meant to get to, that subset existed in that sheet, and then I recreated it on a sheet of paper, along with some other stuff.

Anyway, I did not try to recreate the education make-up list (yet), but I did go through and create columns of books that would work for the different awareness months, as well as capturing lists that had kind of existed mentally for sports, autism, music theory, music history, and drawing. (The drawing one had been written out before.)

I have also spent some time going through those columns and seeing which items were available through the Washington County library system, which were available through Inter-Library Loan, and color-coded them accordingly. If certain adjectives are coming to mind to describe these practices and the person who does them, I will not say you are wrong. I am okay with my being this way, but I get that it can seem weird and sad.

I did this after May, so I didn't start pulling from the first four columns until September, with my first National Hispanic Heritage Month. That is not quite done yet even as I have started working on Native American Heritage Month. I am not going to finish either of those columns this year, I can tell you that. The way they blend together is interesting, and I will write more about that tomorrow.

I really do think that I can read all of the Asian Pacific Heritage Month ones this year. Black History Month is a bit harder. Having been at it longer, my list is much larger. In fact there were several that I did not add to the column because perhaps they could also fit under another topic, but they are still there on Goodreads. (And, realistically, there are other mental lists that have still not been captured, but I am sure they will be at some future date.) However, I still believe I can do a lot, and I can do it in a more organized matter, and I can make progress.

This is truly an area where it's about the journey, no matter how much I care about the milestones. I am sometimes impatient to have knowledge, but there are a lot of good books, and a lot of interesting things out there, and that can keep me entertained for a long time.

As long as we are on the subject, I shall make a confession: When setting my reading challenge for the year, I entered 220, but in my head, it was really 240. Then I hit 220 early (now at 247), so now I kind of really want it to be 260, though I am not setting higher and higher goals like last year, which ended up being 321 out of 300, even after I raised it a few times. It is only a mental 260! (FYI, lots of comic books last year. Still a fair amount of comics and children's books this year.)

And as always, hey, friend me on Goodreads!

Friday, December 14, 2018

Band Review: Dr. Zwig

Dr. Zwig (Adam Zwig on Spotify) is a musician and psychotherapist.

When listening to the music, it is not obvious that you are listening to a psychotherapist. That is probably a good thing; it would not be ideal for the first impression to be that this musician better be capable of doing something else. However, it is clear from posts that the psychological training and experience have influenced Dr. Zwig's feelings and beliefs about music, knowing that it can be more than entertainment.

Generally here it works better as entertainment. Listening feels fine, but not transcendent. It is adult contemporary that leans toward country, and pretty mellow overall. The one song that really feels different is "Who Killed Michael Vaughn", which clearly is about war and the shared responsibility that makes no one responsible. It is also painfully awkward, like Bob Dylan on "We Are the World". 

But Dr. Zwig is doubtless a better musician than most psychotherapists.

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Band Review: Thomas E. Rouch

Thomas E. Rouch is a film composer from Melbourne.

It can be harder to characterize composers given how their work needs to adapt to the needs of different films. You can still notice things.

I particularly admire some touches on the score for Alpha Gateway. It sounds like simple piano music, mostly, but there is an amplification - perhaps - something that makes it sound more significant and more ominous.

I have not seen any of the associated films for the music I have listened to, so I can't judge how they worked for that. I can only say that listening to the music standing alone, listening is all right. That is pretty good too.

Opening up

I want to start by saying that if you follow me on Goodreads, you might have figured out that I am doing my first National Hispanic Heritage month, but you probably couldn't.

For one thing, that is September and I am still working on it. Also (and not unrelated) I have simultaneously been working on five other reading lists. Clearly I remain me. Still, if you have noticed a lot of YA books related to Cuba, that's why.

It is probably worth remembering that when I started observing Black History month all those years ago, it was only four regular books. There were no comic books nor children's books, and no poetry. As I had not yet started doing music reviews and daily songs, there was none of that either.  So perhaps - even without having realized that this "month" was going to involve two documentaries and twenty-seven books (no comics but a lot of poetry) - I should not have felt bad that I did not really have any music reviews in mind for that month.

I did kind of have two set to review among my Twitter follows: Jose Aguilar has roots in Mexico, even if he is in California now, and The Alpacas have one member from Mexico, even if they are operating out of England. Still, it didn't feel like that much. I tried doing some searches and one band sounded like they would be great, but I tried listening to them and I hated them. I mean, if I hate a Twitter follow band, I will still review them, but searching for a band to celebrate the month and then give them a bad review? That doesn't sound right. So there were just those two.

That is part of the reason that I wanted to go see Chayag, though that would have been up my alley anyway. I thought of reviewing them, but they are less of a band and more of a workshop provider, so that didn't seem quite right. There were those two documentaries, though.

Along with the various reading lists, I have also been working through some watching lists, and one of those lists is music documentaries, which seem like good material for reasons gone into yesterday.

I knew Buena Vista Social Club would kind of relate. I was not positive that Searching for Sugar Man would, but it was relevant. Okay, not this year, but I could review a host of Cuban musicians, as well as Stephen Segarman, who is a lot like Bob Dylan but can actually sing.

Then I read The First Rule of Punk by Celia C. Perez. It is a fun book - and was considered for many awards which is how I came to it - but also there are eight bands and musicians in there with Latinx heritage. That's a full month of reviews.

For Black History and Native American Heritage months, I am at the point where bands find me. February and September are covered. I have also been doing them longer. May (Asian Pacific American Heritage month) and September are still developing. A lot of my leads now come from other musicians, so every one I review could lead to more. It's not so bad.

And, if all of that sounds a little excessive to you, well more on that next week.

For now, what I want to express most is my belief that if you open yourself up, it is out there. Music is out there, and people, and books. Once you start looking, the path will appear.

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Music and memory

I said yesterday that we are an opera family, but beyond that we are really a music family. We are not performers - just appreciators - but we are good at that.

One of the more precious documents from childhood is little book that one of my sisters made for Mother's Day where she thanks Mom for liking our music. She did. When her memory was more intact she could identify Simon Le Bon (Duran Duran), Morten Harket (a-ha) and James Hetfield (Metallica) by voice instantly. She still knows that she knows the others, but she can only name Simon.

I have found a new way of connecting with her through music, and it ties in with my longstanding love of libraries.

The Aloha Community Library has been able to expand their space, and therefore their offerings. In September I noticed that they were going to have a presentation of Andean music. I really wanted to go. I thought taking Mom would be fine; it ended up being wonderful.

She liked it a lot. She was engaged with it. She wanted to tell them how good they were. She wanted to make sure they were getting paid for this because they deserved it. I don't know how compensation works with library performances, but they did have CDs for sale, and I bought one.

Mom had a good time during that performance, and to have her pleasantly engaged is often I all ask for. Often it is the best that can be done. This ended up being better than that, because she remembered the CD.

It's not that she remembered exactly, but when I put the CD in, she knew it was familiar. She thought maybe it was from a movie we saw, but I reminded her of the performance, and that we went there. I don't know that I can say that she truly remembered then, because I had to tell her again, but it at least registered as something that sounded right. You have no idea how little there is that is recent and registers as familiar.

It also gave me more to work with. I have played that CD more, but also seeing that she enjoyed the Latin-flavored beats so much inspired me to dig out any possibly similar music. She has since also enjoyed tango, merengue, and Gipsy Kings.

It also means that sometimes playing music is enough. Morten (and Mags and Paul - who changed his spelling, I know how it used to be) and James (and Lars and Kurt and Cliff/Jason/Bobby) are still in there, even if she doesn't remember the names.

And the library has more performances coming.

Monday, December 10, 2018


While it was often difficult finding recordings that seemed as good as different opera memories, for many of the passages there was at least a lot to choose from. There were three pieces that were more difficult.

For those, it was usually that something that struck me was not the main attraction of the opera, or even that part of the opera.

For example, there is a bird leitmotif in Wagner's Ring Cycle. I am not a huge fan of Wagner, but those are some clear pure notes. They have specific significance in the opera that is important, but on their own I still find them very beautiful.

If I had picked any section of the music containing the bird song, it would probably have been lost, but by itself it is just 15 seconds:

And, it is probably the way in which it interacts with the rest of the music that gives that tiny bit its power, so perhaps having it stand alone doesn't work. At least that is something that people who study opera generally agree is important, though even then they may group it with all the other leitmotif and how it is used. I am just saying that it's pretty.

My other longstanding grievance has been with me since February 1998, in that there is just not enough respect for how beautiful “Ah Paraseusse Fille” is in Faust.

Again, it is being used for the contrast. While Faust is bitterly lamenting his old age and wasted life, the chorus is singing of a beautiful dawn. It is not just that they find the world beautiful instead of disappointing, but also that this day is just beginning. Effective, yes, but it stands so well on its own too, and you never hear it on its own. If you get an opera highlights CD, it is all about the arias. The chorus matters too. I would love to see “Ah Paraseusse Fille” get more attention, and some better recordings.

Similarly, in Aida when Radames is being tried, the focus of that scene is generally on the anguish of Amneris. I get that, but the deep condemnation of Radames by Ramfis - heightened by the silence of Radames - it is so powerful. And they often have it happening off stage or behind scenery, which doesn't really lessen the effect, but might be a little unfair (and makes finding a recording focusing on that bit hard).

A large part of this post is to laud this musical things that I like, but there is another aspect to this, in terms of family.

My family is an opera family, and even more a Verdi family. I believe my mother would love opera on her own, but there are passages that inevitably bring up memories of her father, who was always singing it.

My favorites are not my mother's favorites, which seemed wrong somehow, or like maybe I was a rebel or did not get it from her. I mean, I don't even like Aida that much, except for that scene. However, in talking about that scene with her (because I was featuring opera in my daily songs for almost a month and it was on my mind), she said it gave her chills. That is exactly what that scene does, and we are the same on it.

There are some other ways that my mother and I have connected over music recently, and I will get into that more tomorrow.

Friday, December 07, 2018

Band Review: Small Circle

Small Circle is a Philadelphia band making sweet and mellow music.

I stumbled across them accidentally when reviewing Cooler, and wanted to circle back.

(The pun wasn't intentional, but I noticed it and I'm okay with it.)

In a way, Small Circle's sound is small, but there is a courage and resoluteness behind it. Listening becomes uplifting because of that. I believe "Ritual" was the song that made the strongest impression on me, but "We Belong Here" gives a good overall feeling for the band.

I don't know of a lot of well-known bands that I can compare them too. Readers of this blog who enjoyed Faded Paper Figures might enjoy Small Circle, as well as fans of She and Him.

Thursday, December 06, 2018

Band Review: Nuovo Music

Wayne Carlsen has a wide and varied musical background. With Nuovo Music, he is experimenting.

The "music" part may seem like a misnomer. More often the tracks invoke noise: traffic, machinery, and background hum.

There may not be melody. The most traditional piece is "Evening in Southern India", because it is meant to convey a person singing. Others are much more abstract.

It is obviously not to everyone's taste, but I think fans of Philip Glass may enjoy Carlsen's work.


As long as we are spending time on the daily songs, let's give some time to Opera-ctober. There were some things that were different about it.

I started it a little late. One reviewed artist had a new release set for October 3rd that I wanted to get in, and other old friends had new releases, so that was one reason. In addition, I was not positive that I could come up with 31 songs.

It's not that there aren't at least 31 good opera songs out there. Between live performances, listening on CD, and in some cases watching on television, I might not even have needed to repeat operas. Still, finding the right recordings was difficult.

I ran into the same issue during Musical May (that was not this year). I may have seen or been in a live performance that had great meaning to me, but what you can find on-line is not always the same. When you have a song that got radio play, there can be different mixes, but the version that you liked is probably out there. You might remember a live performance that wasn't recorded, but in general it is the recording industry and they literally make records.

With opera, some pieces are strong enough that the presentation doesn't matter so much. In many cases those get referenced enough that you don't need to be a big opera fan to recognize them - "La Donna E Mobile", "La Habanera", "Largo Al Factotum - even if those titles don't sound familiar, the opening bars will.

For other, I know a lot of it had to do with the staging. When I listen to recordings it doesn't sound quite the same. Similar, but not the same.

There are also two pieces that I don't think get the attention that they deserve, but I will pick up with those Monday. For right now, I am just going to revel in some opera memories that were visual as well as auditory. They are more precious to me now, because even though I still end up there periodically, I hate the current director's taste. That makes it even more tragic that the reason Robert Bailey retired was more being exhausted with fundraising than with staging productions.

  • My first live opera, Rigoletto in 1998. The set was gorgeous, and looked very Italian, but I hadn't realized that they would be able to make the sun set and turn into night. I went for "La donna e mobile", but the show was beautiful for ears and eyes.
  • That same season's production of Faust was the best I have seen (three versions now). There were many wonderful things about it (and I can't believe the reviewer had to ask why Faust was left with the dream Marguerite instead of Marguerite herself). The most visually stunning moment was when Mephistopheles peeked out from behind a red satin curtain, and began walking forward, pulling the curtains forward and bathing the stage in red as he detailed his plans of seduction. The peril of live theater is that on a different night the curtain got caught on something (a friend of mine was there), marring the effect, but when I saw it, it was perfect.
  • Also that season (it was a really good season), they did a Julius Caesar with mostly modern dress. For "V'adoro pupille", Cleopatra was dressed in pink taffeta. It is usually staged as her performing for Caesar with some distance, and here too. However, at the start he got the end of her wrap, a very long piece of fabric that when gathered around her shoulders looked white, but when stretched out was practically transparent, except for the sequins, which you also could not see except when the light hit them. So it was like the lovers were connected by a band of twinkling stars. Probably a pretty simple costuming detail, but I thought it was magical.
  • La Belle Helene came later, but it had a similar mix of modern and classical dress. The costume for Paris was jeans, a leather arm band, and long blond hair. No shirt. Later on there was a tux, and then a cassock over the jeans for a disguise, filled with pink hearts when he opened the cassock. It was silly but also pretty sexy, which left me with a ridiculous crush on Tracey Welborn that made his return for The Pearl Fishers that much more appreciated.
  • I have seen I Pagliacci live at Portland Opera, and it was a good production and pairing it with Carmina Burana works, but there was another production of I Pagliacci that I saw on PBS that was fantastic. Nedda was on a swing for "Stridona Lassu" which I thought really heightened the longing and nostalgia of the aria. Then for the conclusion, the stage for the performance within the performance rotated. Instead of stabbing, Canio takes out Nedda and Silvio with single whacks of a cleaver and they fall just near each other but not touching and it is circling as Canio gives the final line. It's an abrupt ending anyway, but that was an incredibly impactful delivery.
  • This is not particularly visual, but I need to look up a name. For the 2003 production of Le Nozze di Figaro, Figaro was just the best baritone. It may have stood out more because usually the tenor is the lead anyway, so it feels different to have the deeper voice leading, but he was superb.
The full list:

10/8 “La Donna E Mobilie” from Rigoletto by Giuseppe Verdi, performed by Luciano Pavarotti
10/9 “So anch'io la virtu magica” from Donizetti's Don Pasquale, performed by Mirella Freni
10/10 “V'adoro pupille” from Handel's Julius Caesar, performed by Natalie Dessay
10/11 “O Fortuna” from Carmina Burana by Carl Orff, performed by the Atlanta Symphony
10/12 "Stridona Lassu" from Leoncavallo's I Pagliacci, performed by Anna Moffo
10/13 “La Habanera” from Bizet's Carmen, performed by Elina Garanca
10/14 “Sempre libera” from Verdi's La Traviata, performed by Roberta Peters
10/15 “Je crois entendre encore” from Bizet's The Pearl Fishers, performed by Lawrence Brownlee
10/16 “Non ti scordar di me” from Verdi's Il Trovatore, performed by Luciano Pavarotti
10/17 ”Barcarolle” from Offenbach's The Tales of Hoffman, performed by Anna Netrebko and Elina Garanca
10/18 “Nessun Dorma” from Puccini's Turandot, performed by Daiyu Qiang
10/19 “To America I Sailed on a Ship Called Hunger” from Bolcom's A View From the Bridge, performed by Adam Walton
10/20 “This is Prophetic” from John Adams' Nixon in China, performed by Carolann Page
10/21 “Va Pensiero” from Verdi's Nabucco, performed by K&K Philharmoniker and Opernchor
10/22 “Largo al Factotum” from Rossini's The Barber of Seville, performed by Dmitri Hvorostovsky
10/23 “Scena del Giudizio” from Verdi's Aida, performed by the Teatro Greco di Taormina
10/24 “Flower Duet” from Delibes' Lakme, performed by Anna Netrebko and Elina Garanca
10/25 “La galere de Cythere” from Offenbach's La Belle Helene, performed by the Paris Philharmonic Orchestra
10/26 “Quale occhio al mondo” from Puccini's Tosca, performed by Jose Carreras and Montserrat Caballe
10/27 “Ah Paraseusse Fille” from Gounod's Faust, performed by the London Philharmonic Orchestra
10/28 “Auto da fe” from Bernstein's Candide, performed by the Royal National Theater Company
10/29 “A cenar teco me invitasti” from Mozart's Don Giovanni, performed by Franz-Josef Selig and Carlos Alvarez
10/30 “Che faceste?” from Verdi's Macbeth, company at La Scala
10/31 “Wolf Glen Scene” from Von Weber's Der Freischutz

Tuesday, December 04, 2018

How I roll (and rock)

While I curate my daily songs with great care and consideration, it feels like my efforts are generally ignored. However, with the 90s list I got some feedback.

These complaints were mainly about there being better songs, specifically that Weezer has better songs than "Undone", the Lisa Lisa version of "All Cried Out" is better than the Allure version, and that "If I Had No Loot" is better than "Feels Good".

I'm not arguing. The truth is, I don't think "All Cried Out" is that great a song. Even for Lisa Lisa, I remember "Head To Toe" being much more popular - with some people having specific dance moves for it - and "Lost In Emotion" is my personal favorite, so "All Cried Out" is at best a weak third - but those are for the 80s. The 90s were not as good; we've been over that.

For the other complaints, I also agree, but I have already used many better Weezer songs and "If I Had No Loot" I remember specifically as being part of the Summer Dance Party, which was memorialized as a Spotify playlist.

This is where we get to the reason that there were many good songs from the 90s that - whether I knew them then or did not discover them until later - I did not include: I try not to do repeats.

"Basket Case" from 1994 is a very important song for me, but it and many other Green Day songs have been done. I came to The Get Up Kids late, but their songs from the 90s have all been featured. Every official Gin Blossoms release and a few songs that were never released, I have done.

I'm not saying that in six years of doing this that I have never repeated. I believe I have done a few deliberate repeats where there was a compelling (to me) reason why that specific song needed to be the song of the day, despite already having been used. I suspect that with imperfect memory I have done a few accidental repeats. I also am thinking about doing some reviewing where I do my top songs over the years of doing reviews and exploring different things. That would then be all repeats; sort of a "Greatest Hits". I am nearing 600 different bands reviewed, not counting different listening spells for things like greatest guitar songs or understanding emo. A lot of ground has been covered.

Here's the thing with that: there are so many good songs! Sure, some are better than others, but that doesn't mean the ones that aren't the best are bad. Sure, as long as I review bands that follow me on Twitter and play songs from them, there are always going to be new songs, but even with songs I just know because they got airplay, there are a lot of songs I have not yet used. Some of them are pretty great.

In retrospect, I have realized that to accurately reflect my 90s experience I should have included tracks from The Presidents of the United States of America and The Cherry Poppin' Daddies. Now that I remember that, it will probably come up eventually.

For now, I am in the middle of songs by reviewed artists, with more musicians to review, and that has its own challenges. One reviewed artist has some really harsh videos. I was tempted to not post one, but his music reflects his own trauma, and is a part of his healing. How do I leave him out?

Another artist is overdue for review, but he seems to be in the middle of a break from reality where he has removed all his music from online, possibly in response to government surveillance (which I am interpreting as a break, but maybe not; they really were spying on Hemingway). It doesn't feel right to just skip him, but there is nothing to review now.

I mention that, because the way this whole post should come together is that yes, I do love music, but I also respect music and musicians. I try to show that in the attention that I give. Many of the choices I make rely more on principle and ethics than taste.

And it suits me like that.

Found in the 90s

For my daily songs I had recently done 80s August and it was awesome! There were so many good songs. I could easily do an entire month on each individual year of the decade and I would still not run out of songs. (Therefore, that is a thing that is going to happen.) It led to me doing 90s November.

That was not as awesome. It wasn't bad either; just different. Let's spend some time on that.

For one thing, I knew going in that it was during the 90s that I started to disconnect from contemporary music. I wasn't even sure if I would know that many 90s songs. I looked at the top hits year by year, and came up with enough.

The first thing that was not surprising was that the bulk of the songs that I wanted to use came early in the decade. You could still hear some of the 80s New Wave influence. Also, I was still regularly watching MTV and VH1, because they were still playing music videos. The Real World  would start in 1992, and that would be the beginning of the end of television as a means of me finding new music.

Of course the other big divider was my mission. 1990 through 1992 was finishing high school and starting college. I entered the Missionary Training Center February 3rd, 1993, and I don't think any of my 1993 songs were heard by me that year. Until August 8th, 1994, I was not listening to any non-religious music.

Now, songs did sometimes still enter my consciousness. "Rumpshaker" was released by Wreckx-n-Effect in 1992, but I don't remember hearing it then. It was playing a lot in Fresno in the summer of 1993. It was the same deal with "Jump" by Kriss Kross. Also, there was a school meeting of some kind that we were at (I think it tied into some tutoring, but can't remember for sure), where for examples of consciousness and communication, they talked about the similarities between "Whoot There It Is" from 95 South and "Whoomp! (There It Is)" by Tag Team, and how it seemed to originate from an old cheer, but I never heard the actual songs until later.

I almost had nothing for 1994, but in 1995, back in school, yes, I remember hearing and really liking Real McCoy. I also remember seeing a dorm-mate with "eal McCoy" on the back of a T-shirt, and trying to build a conversation off of that, but it was a Neal McCoy shirt. Awkward!

(I broke year order to put "Run Away" on Thanksgiving, in commemoration of the Turkey Trot, even though it didn't go as planned. If not that, I would have gone up to 1999 for "Thank You".)

Still, the quantity of songs liked does peter out as the decade goes on. Some of that was the direction that music had gone in. Rap got much harder (more gangster) and I never got into grunge. There were other things that I could have put, but I didn't. I will write more about that tomorrow.

Overall the thing that really impresses me is that even for the years when it seemed like I was pretty much living in the past musically, there were songs that I knew for every year. Culture and art permeate. That is okay, though it is valuable to be aware of it.

So 90s November ended up feeling all right. It wasn't as exhilarating as 80s August, but there was no chance of that anyway. I mean, that's just science.

The full list:

11/1 “Feels Good” by Tony! Toni! Toné!
11/2 “Been Caught Stealing” by Jane's Addiction
11/3 “Because I Love You (The Postman Song)” by Stevie B
11/4 “Enjoy the Silence” by Depeche Mode
11/5 “If Wishes Came True” by Sweet Sensation
11/6 “Blaze of Glory” by Jon Bon Jovi
11/7 “All 4 Love” by Color Me Badd
11/8 “Rush Rush” by Paul Abdul
11/9 “You Could Be Mine” by Guns N' Roses
11/10 “The One and Only” by Chesney Hawkes
11/11 “Right Here Right Now” by Jesus Jones
11/12 “You Don't Have To Go Home Tonight” by The Triplets
11/13 “I'm Too Sexy” by Right Said Fred
11/14“Let's Get Rocked” by Def Leppard
11/15 “Tennessee Arrested” by Development
11/16 “Finally” by CeCe Peniston
11/17 “Come Undone” by Duran Duran
11/18 “The River of Dreams” by Billy Joel
11/19 “Boom! Shake the Room” by DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince
11/20 “(I Can't Help) Falling in Love With You” by UB40
11/21 “Regret” by New Order
11/22 “Run Away” by Real McCoy
11/23 “Undone (The Sweater Song)” by Weezer
11/24 “How Bizarre” by OMC
11/25 “It's All Coming Back To Me Now” by Celine Dion
11/26 “Where Do You Go” by No Mercy
11/27 “All Cried Out” by Allure
11/28 “This Kiss” by Faith Hill
11/29 “So High” by Tal Bachman
11/30 “Thank You” by Dido