Revisionist History

March 11, 2008 at 7:38 pm (Comics, History, Humor, Movies, Music)

As I have only two readers, I’m trying to be more sensitive to your tastes in what I post. Unfortunately, your tastes differ dramatically. ;o) So, Shannon, I’m warning you in advance that this particular Youtube video will probably NOT be your cup of tea, and I’d suggest keeping the kids away from it, too. Mary, you’ll love this. It is a… somewhat novel take on our dear first president, George Washington, and is solidly one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen.


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Fiddle Sticks

March 5, 2008 at 8:07 pm (Arts, Family, Music)

When asked by people what my fondest dreams are, I list “learning to play the fiddle” right at the top. It’s a bit bizarre, I know, although my being bizarre shouldn’t surprise people anymore. As for why fiddle, as opposed to piano, or guitar, or whatnot, well, I come up with excuses about it being more portable, etc., but that really isn’t it. A number of years ago, while at St. Paul the Apostle over in Westwood, we sang a particular hymn called “The World Is About to Turn.” Now, I’m fairly confident I’d heard that hymn before, but for some reason, on that time, the rather unique tune really caught my attention. Glancing to the top of the page, I saw that the tune was based on an Irish Traditional called “Star of the County Down.” Once I got home, I googled that song until I found a recording of it, and by the second verse, was dead set on learning to play the fiddle, just so that I could play that song. Read the rest of this entry »

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Valentine’s Day, Old-School…

February 14, 2008 at 6:14 pm (Books, Humor, Languages, Music)

Well, the wackos at America’s most dearly beloved publisher of academic material about the Ancient Near East decided this year to create a Valentine’s Day contest.  The rules were, you had to submit a Valentine’s Day message in one or more Ancient Near Eastern languages (including Greek), and they would judge them and award prizes to the best.  Well, you can see the results here, and it’s funny enough that pretty much any nerd will appreciate the results, and the commentary!

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A Little Night Music…

January 16, 2008 at 1:40 pm (Horror, Movies, Music)

As most of you probably know, I have something of a fascination with horror movies, literature, etc. I don’t like slasher movies, but I do love the macabre, the creepy and the weird. One of the things that I’ve been thinking about a lot lately is how music relates to the story being told. What is it that makes a piece of music scary? Looking through my (admittedly limited) collection of classical music, for example, virtually all of the pieces named after evil spirits (and there are quite a few) are actually up-tempo, enjoyable pieces, and not particularly scary. This makes sense, inasmuch as the musicians at the time certainly weren’t trying to terrify their audience. Nonetheless, I’ve always felt a little disappointed by those pieces. Read the rest of this entry »

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A Dramatic (and Surprising) Week

March 19, 2007 at 8:37 pm (Arts, Comics, Family, Horror, Languages, Music)

In case you haven’t figured this out, I love being the center of attention. When I was a child, I was involved in musical theater; once I hit junior high school, I dropped out of that and got into Speech and Debate instead. And, one of my first acts upon arriving at UCSB to start my MA in Classics was to join the Middle Eastern Music Ensemble, which was a rocking good time if there ever was one. However, since coming back to LA, my opportunities to perform have been rather limited. So, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that, when given the opportunity to participate in a play with a budget that might possibly include negative numbers, and in German, no less, I leapt at the chance. Read the rest of this entry »

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Jane Is Definitely Raining

March 13, 2007 at 10:21 am (Music)

Last night, Elyse and I caught Raining Jane at the Hotel Cafe in Hollywood, and I would like to start off this post by declaring, in no uncertain terms, that they rocked the house, which is not a phrase that I use lightly. Elyse and I have followed Raining Jane for a while; I first saw them play a show here at UCLA (was it in 2003?) during lunch outside of the bookstore, and I dragged her and Gerrald (my former roommate) to their next concert at a Borders in Santa Monica, and we’ve been hooked pretty much ever since. I’ve always had trouble describing current music in terms of genres, perhaps because one of the features in a lot of current music that I like is that it actively blends styles, thereby defying categorization. Ergo, I will resort to a comparison, which I strongly advise you to take with a grain of salt if it doesn’t sound appealling to you: Raining Jane is, to my mind, like a mashup of the Indigo Girls (for their stunning lyrical and instrumental harmonies, and the thoughtfulness of their songs) and the Bangles (for their incredible girl-rock-energy, which will knock you off your feet). And last night’s show, as I may have intimated above, was no exception. Read the rest of this entry »

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Haunting Celtic Airs

March 11, 2007 at 8:53 pm (History, Horror, Languages, Music)

NPR today did a segment on Navan, an a capella Celtic group hailing from Madison, WI. The only word that I can find to adequately describe their music is ‘primal.’ It’s a bit like Dead Can Dance, but without the bizarre melodies and obscure instruments (in other words, it’s actually quite accessible). If you want, NPR has three of their songs linked from the article’s webpage.

The most intriguing part for me, however, is a song that was described and partially demoed in the article itself (starting at around the 4:30 mark). Called “Thig an t-Eathar” (if I’m understanding the Scotch from the interview correctly), it is formally a lullaby, but it is at the same time a story of jealousy, murder and justice. Read the rest of this entry »

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Some Educational Audio

February 5, 2007 at 9:39 pm (Education, Languages, Music)

While chatting with Angela at work today, somehow, this NPR article that I heard a while ago came up. It was about a team that creating rock-sounding songs using a lot of SAT vocabulary to help kids learn the words. The neat thing about it was that the songs that they demoed in the article were pretty catchy! Plus, it’s just fun listening to the words they stick in there. I like their idea of not explaining the words, per se, but of putting the new words in apposition to simple phrases of the same or similar meaning.

While thinking about that, I was reminded of this project that I came across years ago, Earworms. Their idea is that music gets stuck in the brain more easily than regular reading or speech (which is reasonably true), and so they created a musical background to go with basic vocab and grammar lessons in foreign languages. Although I wasn’t blow away by the free sample that you can listen to online, or the total quantity of lessons on each CD, it’s still a pretty interesting idea.

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