Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Day two - flashback?

There won't be a photo tomorrow because we'll be at a family funeral. Back on Thursday. But in the meantime here's a tricky one maybe...

Friday, 23 March 2012

Spring light

Shadows on trees, just up the road

So we are having a spring that's more like summer (it makes me dread to think what summer will be...) but our news is that in a few days we set off south for visits, a mini road trip and a few other things. I didn't want to leave that musicals post up as my end-of-term assignment however so instead here's a poem. It's an old one (an online Poetry Bus one) that first saw the light of PCs here but has since had a tweak or two to end up reading like this:

Different walks

There is walking,
And then there is this:

Giant steps stretched out around a tiny town,
Bright lights that hang just too low down,
Dry mouth, long night, somewhere to be,
Feet moving, moving, constantly.

And then again there is walking,
And then again there is this:

The pansy by the path with its soft, soft face,
The daffodils singing uninvited, as ever,
The blackbirds busy, everything just so,
So vibrant, so violent, so full, this life.

RF 2010.

I guess it's a kind of spring poem... certainly the daffodils are hard at work here right now.

We'll try to post a few photos from the road (maybe we'll even manage a mystery tour like the one we had back here) but in the meantime here's a song I heard on "Glee" recently (great show, I only half watch it for the small one...). The song was written by Burt Bacharach and Hal David (first released in 1964 by Dionne Warwick, I think) but here it's sung, not by April or young Kurt, but by one of my old favourites:


Monday, 19 March 2012

On with the show...

Recently we've been watching “The Story of Musicals” on BBC TV (strictly speaking it's the history of British musicals from the mid 20th Century until now). To be honest it wouldn't be first on my list of things to watch (left to myself) but our girl loves a show and she has, true to form, loved this show about shows. To be really honest it has been a fascinating series... even taking into account the lovey nature of a lot of the interviews (I mean, Lloyd Webber, John Barrowman and Michael Ball all in one show – ye gods!). Having said that Barrowman did quite a good musical/send-himself-up spoof with comedy duo Watson and Oliver recently – that's here.

I learned lots from the series though. Like, did you know that Stephen Fry wrote the revised script for “Me and My Girl” in the 1980s (and made heaps of money from it so he told)? I didn't. Also the series reminded me how much I had enjoyed some songs from musicals growing up.... how my Mum played the “Evita” double LP (Julie Covington version) as she cooked Sunday lunch every week for quite some while (so I know the songs from the show better than I might care to admit...). If you remember I even ended up playing a song from a musical at Mum's funeral (even though she might have said classical and opera were her favourite musical genres). I wrote about that here. And now we have a daughter who LOVES musicals, who loves the programs for musicals (collection in a box upstairs), who has only stuck to one after-school activity throughout primary school (musical theatre classes – 2 shows a year). So even if I sometimes want to agree with comedian Stewart Lee (who I wrote about back here) when he says:

“Music theatre...combines the worst aspects of music with the worst aspects of theatre to create a mutant hybrid that is the worst form of live art that exists”,

I just can't... because some of my very favourite people have loved, and continue to love, this artform. Since our girl has been around, for example, I have seen stage versions (professional or amateur) of: The Addams Family, Annie (twice), Crazy for You, Footloose, Hairspray, High School Musical, Joseph, Les Miserables, Mary Poppins, Oliver, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, Snoopy the Musical, Wicked, The Wiz (can't say I've loved them all but I've seen them... will be seeing another one in a couple of weeks too...). And then there's the whole load I've seen on DVD or video too (too many to list!). “Cabaret” I could watch every day if I had to (can't blame the daughter for that one – she's not seen it yet...). I have done everything I can, however, to avoid “Cats”.

So, thinking about all this, I was wondering which musicals you like... or which songs from musicals you like... or if you have any good stories connected to musicals? I know it's not very cool... and certainly not very poetry-world... but I find myself drifting further and further from all of that (I actually found myself relieved not to be at StAnza poetry festival this weekend just gone... I can't even quite describe why... I think I'd almost rather watch “Cats”...).

Anyway, here's a song from the show “Wicked” - a show we saw a couple of years ago because the girl loves anything to do with the “Wizard of Oz” (in fact I think she might actually be Dorothy sometimes). It's not particularly a favourite show of mine but I play this because the first Xmas after Mum died I was getting started on the cooking on Xmas Day and our girl was playing her CD of the “Wicked” soundtrack and suddenly this song had me weeping into the saucepans. Maybe you had to be there... see what it does for you:

The song was written by Stephen Schwartz, this version sung by Kristin Chenoweth in the Broadway production.

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

A couple of teds...

Much reading here... a little writing, much walking, much thinking... and then via the ever-thoughtful Tasting Rhubarb blog this week I came to a beautiful speech by Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. It's about stories and stereotypes:

And speaking of TEDs, I also liked a lot of the content in this next one by writer Susan Cain. As someone whose child asks "why do we have to do group work at school?" I found a lot to be interested in here (sure, Cain has a book to promote... but that's no crime). It's worth getting to the end ("Stop the madness for constant group work. Just stop it.").

Back to the reading now.

Friday, 9 March 2012

Music, novels and misunderstanding

Sometimes there's just so much a person could write about*... but today all I will offer you is a quote from the book “Everything is Illuminated” by Jonathan Safran Foer (2002). I read the book this week... which means I'm a bit late to it, I suppose, as it's ten years old already (and that means it's already been the hot new book... and the totally cold don't-be-seen-with-it book... as here... so it's probably due for a rebirth around now). I picked it up (from the library... and they only had it in large print... my first time...) mainly because after reading about his later book “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close” (the film of that one being up for Oscar this year) I thought “oh heck, I haven't even read the first one yet!”. But now I have. Cultural honour is preserved.

I'm not going to analyse “Everything is Illuminated” right now (visitors here are intelligent people – read it yourselves... see what you think) but basically, for those of you haven't got to it yet, it is one of those multi-perspectived, keep-you-on-your-toes numbers (we jump about from 1791 to 1941 to the present day on a regular basis... and then also round and round between these and other years... much of it in translated/awkward English). I could further enlighten you by telling you it is a fictional account of a young North American Jewish man's trip to Ukraine to find the woman who saved his grandfather from the Nazis... and that the project started life as a real trip of a similar nature (that Safran Foer made from the US to Ukraine in 1999). I should also tell you, I think, that it's not for people who like nice tidy endings to their books (may as well save some of you the time...). However, I certainly thought at least some of it was very good... but you can read other reader responses here and an interview with the author here. I would also point out that the author was in his early twenties when he wrote this first novel and that it's certainly a better piece of work than most of us could have managed at that age (well, me anyway...). How well it will last as the years flick past and the youtube wonders come and go... that's harder to say. It did make me want to try another of Safran Foer's books at least (thinking, for example, how I liked Zadie Smith's 2000 novel “White Teeth” but loved her 2005 best-so-far “On Beauty”).

But anyway... to the quote. “Everything is Illuminated” really has everything – comedy, magical realism, historical horror, a dog, tenderness, lots of shagging – but the passage (ahem) that caught my eye was this section from the novel's “The Book of Antecedents” (a record of everything to do with the fictional Ukrainian shtetl** Trachimbrod, where much of the action takes place, kept by its residents over the years). I suppose I do, in a quiet way, collect quotes about music so here is another one:

Music is beautiful. Since the beginning of time, we (the Jews) have been looking for a new way of speaking. We often blame our treatment throughout history on terrible misunderstandings. (Words never mean what we want them to mean.) If we communicated with something like music, we would never be misunderstood, because there is nothing in music to understand. This was the origin of Torah chanting and, in all likelihood, Yiddish – the most onomatopoeic of all languages. It is also the reason that the elderly among us, particularly those who survived a pogrom, hum so often, indeed seem unable to stop humming, seem dead set on preventing any silence or linguistic meaning in. But until we find this new way of speaking, until we can find a nonapproximate vocabulary, nonsense words are the best thing we've got. Ifactifice is one such word."

It's just a quotation... but there's a fair amount in it. If you want a poem about music instead... handily there's one in my last post.

* Things I could write about include: Gardening (well, someone's got to do it now Mum's gone... see photo above), Bill Hicks (I watched “The Bill Hicks Story” last week), Jane Austen (I also watched, for contrast, “Becoming Jane”... surprisingly enjoyable actually... even if it was hard to think of actress Anne Hathaway as anyone other than herself...), the whole Joseph Kony/ Invisible Children film and responses (here, here and here) issue, that “Make Bradford British” TV programme on recently (white English people... almost impossible to articulate my feelings about some of what they come out with sometimes), the continuing Donald Trump Scottish golf farce (new article here)... and that's before you even get started on Scottish independence matters... trouble-making clergy and about a million other things... good job I've been doing some yoga, that's all I can say...

**Yiddish for small town

Monday, 5 March 2012

New Orleans and music

Preservation Hall, New Orleans, 29th April 2011. Preservation Hall Jazz Band feat. Leroy Jones (seated, front left).

"You know, there's this mood about the music, a kind of need to be moving. You just can't set it down and hold it.”
Sidney Bechet "Treat it Gentle"

A little while ago I mentioned jazz musician Sidney Bechet (1897-1959) in a post back here. Last week I finished reading Bechet's memoir/autobiography “Treat it Gentle” (1960) and I would highly recommend it if you're interested in music, jazz music and/or New Orleans. Bechet started off in New Orleans and, whilst there are a lot of interesting sections in the book, for me the strongest ones are the ones set in that city. He details what the city was like in the early twentieth century (amazing!) and (with great aplomb) how he got involved in being what he calls a “musicianer” whilst still a young boy there.

We absolutely loved New Orleans when we visited it at the end of April 2011 (back here). Even full of tourists it is an irresistible place. After a life of travelling and touring Bechet says of it simply: “New Orleans, that was a place where the music was natural as the air. The people were ready for it like it was sun and rain.”

I've been listening to a fair bit of Bechet too... and so feeling a bit Philip Larkin (it was hearing his poem about the musician on the radio that started this thread). Funnily enough this week on her 6 Music radio show (here) Cerys Matthews read another Larkin poem (near the end of the show) about jazz called “Reference Back” (you can find the poem to read on this page).

Anyway, at one point whilst listening to some Bechet I had one of those 'flash of awareness/poem moments' and then wrote this:

poem temporarily removed

You see? Non-stop poems now...