Sunday, January 20, 2008

Playing Piano 'Til Your Knuckles Burst

The bookshop has become what the record store used to be when I was younger. Found some goodies last night. And I'm so stoked!

First, remember the idea about music being a device for remembering things more deeply? Well, I came across Love Is a Mix Tape by Rob Sheffield. In this memoir, Sheffield uses old mix tapes to guide his writing, re-telling stories from awkward adolescence to the courtship and relationship with his late wife. This excerpt is from the first few pages, in which he's listening to a mix tape from his wife's collection:

All these tunes remind me of her now. ... We've done this before. We get together sometimes, in the dark, share a few songs. It's the closest we'll get to hearing each other's voice tonight.

Whew... So far, it's not as emotionally wrought as the first chapter. It's actually quite funny a lot of times. It's also got a nice cover by Barbara M. Bachman:

Second, I picked up an easy classical piano book. The irony is that I got tons of this stuff at mom's house from lessons when I was a kid. But all I cared to play back then was the Star Wars theme song and other John Williams movie themes. (Man, remember when Vader dies in Return of the Jedi? That harp playing the "Emperor's March" would kill me.)

Anyhow. I have no shame in the beginner stuff. I like my sheet music free of sharps and flats. I figure I can learn a new song on weekends, using coffee time in the mornings.

And thank the Force for youtube (not only for this alternate Vader death scene), but outside the notation, I don't know what these classical songs are supposed to sound like. Thanks to youtube, though, I did find this performance of Bach's "Sheep May Safely Graze" to use for practice.

Lastly, I picked up The Lightening Thief to satisfy my recent kick for young reader sci-fi/fantasy. But unlike Harry Potter and His Dark Materials, author Rick Riordan's lead character is a troubled punk-ass and the writing is equally irreverent. And that's cool. The writing, often in bombastic single-sentence paragraphs, jumps off the page with Beat-like urgency.

So I'm set for the long commute for at least a few weeks.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Resolve, the Playlist

So I've registered for training to become an adult literacy tutor. It's something that I've been thinking about for a while. And this year is the year. Considering my current schedule, it's a steep time investment that runs for a whole year. But I think I'll find it more rewarding than other efforts such as trying to get better definition on my abs or finishing The Godfather on Nintendo Wii, so I'm willing to sacrifice.


Speaking of ab definition and time at the gym, I will start logging some of my gym playlist here. I will call it Resolve:

1) Dat's My Part, DJ Shadow
2) Fire, 50 Cent
3) Go Hard or Go Home, E-40
4) Jam the Box, Pretty Tony
5) Numbers, Kraftwerk
6) Beat Box, Art of Noise
7) Rock the Mic, Beanie Sigel & Freeway
8) Made You Look, Nas
9) Soul Clap, Strange Fruit Project
10) Work the Angles, Dilated Peoples


About the albums list, I'm now officially counting compilations and "best-of" collections.

Greatest Hits, Guns N' Roses
The Heart of Saturday Night, Tom Waits

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Guttural Response: The Film List

As it was with music and books the last year, the film viewing leaned a bit more pop than normal. I do, indeed, appreciate more subdued art flicks that shed light on The Human Condition, though I prefer to watch those by myself to minimize distraction. Thing is, I haven't had much time to do that lately.

So the viewing was mostly communal experience. Films, for example, that wouldn't be ruined by a cell phone ringing in the middle of important dialog (much less, said cell phone user having a conversation during the movie) or wisecracks coming from the peanut gallery. It's like watching the re-release of the original Star Wars films or a special showing of The Princess Bride. The audience is expected to go into Jackass mode. It's all good.

Not that the viewing didn't touch on The Human Condition at all. Maybe if I'd seen Once 10 years ago after a failed engagement it would've helped save a bit of despair. Once captures that elusive poetic quality last seen in Before Sunrise or in Lost in Translation. Those fleeting moments you realize nothing is more perfect than right now, right here. Man, I'd be on blast if a cell phone went off during this.

As with Once, there's a great piano scene in The Lives of Others that helped me decide to keep my piano and take up classical. Playing is cathartic and that scene nailed it. Lastly, the first two-thirds of I Am Legend and its use of CGI in a meditation on solitude and loneliness is modern film-making at its finest.

At the end of the day, though, I still have to set my alarm clock. And when it goes off in the early morning when it is still dark and I am groggy and the bed is warm, there is one bit of dialog that helps me face the day. And that is "THIS! IS! SPARTA!"

I Am Legend
Live Free or Die Hard
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
28 Weeks Later
A Scanner Darkly

Casino Royale
The Lives of Others

Curse of the Golden Flower
The Departed
Pan's Labyrinth