scarlettina: (Happy Sun)
It's been busy days around chez [livejournal.com profile] scarlettina. Planning for this past weekend actually started months ago when [livejournal.com profile] garyomaha told me that he and [livejournal.com profile] elusivem were going to be in Seattle for a visit. We made some plans--and then suddenly [livejournal.com profile] davidlevine was available for a visit the self same weekend. And so began the social whirlwind that this weekend became.

David arrived on Friday night. Saturday we spent the afternoon at the Fremont Solstice Parade, which David hadn't attended since his Clarion West sojourn in Seattle. The parade has exploded since then both in terms of attendance and the scope of the event itself. The day was sunny and warm, and we arrived early to secure a good spot in the shade. It was, as always, raucous, political, joyful. I think my favorite entries in the pageant-cum-party were the stilt walkers, the giant preying mantis puppet, the portrayal of a spouting oil rig surrounded by kayaktivists, the giant bigfoot on the Cascadia Now float, the sharknado (a tornado festooned with blow-up sharks and air sleeve sharks) and, of course, the naked bicyclists. We had to leave before the parade's end, however, because we had plans for the evening with Gary and M.

I haven't seen Gary and M since JayWake, and this was a much better circumstance overall for a visit. We met them, along with their friends Don and Clark and (forgive me) a woman whose name I've forgotten, for dinner at the 5 Spot at the top of Queen Anne. It was lovely seeing them; I was so delighted. It was a nice chance to catch up before we headed down the hill for the evening's entertainment: a concert by the Seattle Men's Chorus, a program of music by Queen.

I've never seen SMC before. They're sort of a musical institution in Seattle and it seems ridiculous that I've waited this long to see them. A couple of the men who sang with SLGC sing with them now. Between the program and a chance to see those folks and, of course, the company, I was very much looking forward to the evening. Its also one of the last shows to be directed by the chorus' long-time, well-respected director Dennis Coleman. And they put on quite a show, with a guest actor/singer who strongly resembled Freddie Mercury singing lead on a couple of numbers, some excellent soloists (stronger, I thought, than their guest Freddie) and some terrific vocal arrangements. I've sung Queen in concert; I know how hard some of the music actually is on examination, so I had a great appreciation for what the chorus was doing, and they did it very well indeed. We had a marvelous time, and I think many people, like myself, left the hall bouncing and singing.

Sunday was a much quieter, more low-key day, and very much what the doctor ordered. In the morning, David and I met the usual suspects for writing at Ballard Coffee Works. We had lunch at The Market Arms and then spent the rest of the afternoon walking around Ballard, strolling around the locks and just soaking up the sun. A bagpipe band was performing on the green. A classic car show was being held with a parade of absolutely gorgeous classic cars. Down by the locks, two seals dipped in and out of the water trolling for salmon smolt; a heron looked on, dipping for smolt as they passed by. We saw salmon swimming through the fish ladder, and watched as the gates of the locks opened and closed for pleasure craft navigating the passage.

The evening was quiet, pleasant. We watched the second episode of "Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell," which I've been quite enjoying. David took off yesterday morning.

Lovely weekend. Pleasant. Full of good people, good things. The coming week promises more goodness. We shall see.
scarlettina: (Angel)
On a different but obscurely related topic to my last LJ post (made just minutes ago), I made the following post on Facebook last night and wanted to memorialize it here, with a couple more observations:

"Midnight Train to Georgia" really is one if the greatest pop songs ever recorded. [N.B.: It won the Grammy for Best R&B Song in its year.] Never gets old. Gladys Knight recorded one for the ages. And I just love those Pips.

What I love about the Pips' back-up is that not only is it just plain awesome, it's really affirming for the narrator of the story. She's made a decision and they're behind her all the way. I think we all need Pips. G-d knows I do.

A friend responded: I totally want Pips. I never really thought about it before, but you're so right - we all need someone to soulfully sing "I know you will" when necessary. :-)

If you want to know how awesome the Pips really were, you ought to see them doing their thing without Gladys Knight. And if you want to know how beloved they are, here's a kind of spoof/tribute, with Ben Stiller, Jack Black and the impossibly hot, impossibly cool Robert Downey, Jr. (Whoever directed this skit is an idiot, though. There's a gag at the end that he totally botched. It was a gag in bad taste, but his direction just made it lame, as well.)

My friend is right. There are days when we all need that back-up chorus validating our choices. (And, you know, if they all looked and moved a little more like RDJ, I would so totally not mind.) Today is one of those days.
scarlettina: (Spirit Steps)
I'm late in posting about this, but I wanted to be sure to chronicle it just the same. Every year, EB and I try to do something in the spirit of Halloween because we both love the holiday and the season. It's been suitably gloomy around here for at least part of each day the last couple of weeks, so we were in the perfect mood for a Halloween celebration. That being the case, on Sunday we attended a concert at Benaroya Hall presented by the Seattle Philharmonic Orchestra called "Music's Darkest Harvest". I got the tickets via one of the crowd-sourced discount programs--LivingSocial or AmazonLocal or something like that. Anyway, the program was full of seasonally appropriate music, including:

  • Rachmaninoff"s "The Isle of the Dead"

  • Herrmann's "Concerto Macabre" (from the film "Hangover Square")

  • Liszt's "Totentanz"

  • Chopin's "Funeral March"

  • Mussorgsky's "Night on Bald Mountain"

The encore turned out to be delightfully familiar: "Funeral March of the Marionettes" (also known as the theme from Alfred Hitchcock Hour).

The soloist was the marvelous Peter Mack on piano who gave a theatrical and energetic performance.

We stayed for the Q&A with the director and soloist after the concert. Both men answered questions with generosity and enthusiasm, the director with an almost manic, obsessive energy.

We had a delicious, decadent dinner afterwards at The Brooklyn, a steakhouse within a couple of blocks of the concert hall. It couldn't have been a nicer afternoon, with more than a touch of the haunting spirit about it.
scarlettina: (Portlandia)
Left for Portland at about 10:30 Friday morning and had excellent weather for the drive. By noon I was in Centralia, where I stopped to pick up a couple of things at the outlet mall (which, I have decided, does not actually offer much in the way of bargains but is still, somehow, fun) and lunch. I picked up pajamas of the correct size (all of mine are three sizes too big), tights of the proper size (so I can wear skirts this winter), a sweater, and a couple of other incidentals. I then proceeded on to Portland, arriving at [livejournal.com profile] davidlevine and [livejournal.com profile] kateyule's place exactly when I'd planned to.

We had a wonderful dinner at The Picnic House where I enjoyed a delicious cup of roasted tomato soup, a pear, cheese and walnut salad, and a roasted portabello mushroom-and-vegetable thing. It made me remember how much I like portabellos and that while it's awesome to stir fry them with garlic and chicken with a dash of balsamic over rice, I need to branch out and experiment a bit more. But I digress. We ate at the bar because the place was a little busy, and were watched by a bear wearing a bowler hat and steampunk monocle. We were entertained.

The core of the evening's entertainment was a concert: the Indigo Girls accompanied by the Portland Symphony Orchestra. I haven't seen them live in years; I think the last time I saw them was with [livejournal.com profile] oldmangrumpus at the pier in Seattle, which tells you how long ago it was (there haven't been concerts at the pier in years). This show was great; the symphony added a richness to the music that was delicious to my ears, and I got to hear Amy and Emily perform several favorites that made me want to go back and listen to discs I haven't played in ages. It occurred to me, as I sat there, that I've been listening to the Indigo Girls much of my adult life, and that it's part of my personal soundtrack, like the Beatles, Melissa Etheridge, Yes, and some particular others. It was a weirdly melancholy thought and I'm still parsing my emotional experience of it. I may write more about it another time.

Saturday we were up a little earlier than I think any of us preferred for a Saturday, but it just kind of worked out that way. We had breakfast and then headed out for a lecture at the Architectural Heritage Society about the architecture of retail, specifically about the Meier & Frank building here in Portland. While the talk had its deficits (the speaker was of the "read you every PowerPoint slide" variety--bleh--and though specifically stating he wasn't going to talk about the company's history, did so in some detail that actually diverted the discussion a bit), it was still an interesting talk about the early history of department store retail in America, thought provoking from the point of view of a consumer, and added some interesting perspective to my department store experiences in Nagoya and Paris. I may write more about that, too, at some point.

After a tasty and filling Lebanese lunch, we spent some time strolling the Saturday Market. My goal was to try to find some holiday gifts, but I rather failed. It wasn't that there weren't interesting items available--the Saturday Market always offers cool, interesting, artsy stuff. I just wasn't finding anything that resonated in particular for the people for whom I was shopping. The search will continue.

The day ended with a dinner out and seeing "Cloud Atlas," which we all thought was flawed but worth seeing nevertheless for the performances. In case you haven't heard, the film takes place in a series of eras throughout history, each era connected by music, story, and legend, and each group of characters played by the same ensemble of actors. My thoughts about the film follow in no particular order: Tom Hanks performs best when not hampered by substantial facial prosthetics; I suspect the sensation of the material on his face interferes with his ability to disconnect from the physical present to be emotionally present with his characters. Susan Sarandon is beautiful no matter how little or how much make up you put on her. Hugo Weaving was at his best in this film in his role as Old Georgie, a kind of devil figure for the Hanks character in the far future, compelling and creepy and marvelous. I think I liked the far future stories in this film best of the bunch, even with their familiar tropes; somehow all the performances in those portions of the film worked better for me than the others though I thought each had its virtues. It's an interesting film, an interesting approach, and I'm genuinely curious about the book now, to see how the film stands up to the original material.

Today, we've got museum-going on the docket, and then I'll be heading north again. The weekend has flown and I've enjoyed myself enormously so far. Wish I had Monday here, too.
scarlettina: (Angel)
For our last day in Paris, we did a little triage: so many things we haven't done and only a day left in the city. We debated: the Catacombs, the Jewish Museum, the Carnavalet (city of Paris history museum). Having spent yesterday with the dead and so much time in churches, we decided to spend a little time with the Jews and that history here.

The Museum of Jewish Art & History is a relatively small museum in the Marais district. We didn't get to see it all but we saw a nice chunk of it. It traces the history of the Jews in France from Medieval times and even earlier to today. It includes discussions of both Ashkenazic (Eastern European) and Sephardic (southern Europe, Middle Eastern and north African) origins, the latter of which I found very interesting (being Ashkenazic myself). The exhibits and artifacts were quite good, the English captions pretty extensive (but not with every exhibit) and I was thrilled to see paintings by Chagall and Modigliani up close and personal. In fact (and I feel a little too blase saying this), what really impressed me more than anything wasn't the beautiful artifacts and examples of Jewish religious articles, but all of the paintings in the collection that we saw. It's a small collection, but the works are just outstanding, with really fine examples of Orientalist portrayals of Jews in Africa and the Middle East, and beautiful portraits and portrayals of life in Eastern Europe, as well as Jewish personalities from French history. The museum was also running an exhibit on the Jews of Algeria which was fascinating. We'd arrived at the museum around 11, and by the time we were about two-thirds through the special exhibit I began to really need lunch. It was about 2:30 and, after a quick poke into the gift shop, where I bought a beautiful star of David, we went off in search of lunch.

Our plan for the rest of the afternoon was a light one. We planned to walk back to Place des Vosges so Elizabeth could take care of some VAT business, and then we walked over to Ile St Louis, mainly so we could say we'd done it. We got some ice cream, and then strolled across the bridge to Ile de la Cite to visit the Deportation Memorial.

The Deportation Memorial commemorates the 200,000 French who were deported to concentration camps, never to return. It's a beautiful, sobering place. You go down a narrow ramp into a concrete-walled enclosure where nothing is visible except for the sky, and then into a sort of small sanctuary where the names of all the camps (some of which I was unfamiliar with) are listed in triangle-shaped alcoves. The main feature is a long hallway behind bars, where 200,000 crystals are embedded in the wall on either side and illuminated from I couldn't tell where. At the opposite end of the long hall is a bright light intended to symbolize hope. It's a lovely tribute, a thoughtful place.

We proceeded back to our apartment from there to pull together our luggage and get down to packing. I wrote some postcards (but will be mailing them from Lithuania) and finalized all our details.

We ate so late that it didn't occur to either of us to go get dinner, even though we had discussed having one last fabulous meal. Our time, however, was constrained by the fact that we had tickets for a concert at Notre Dame at 8:30, a performance featuring Gregorian chant about which we were both excited, and we knew that once one sits down at a French restaurant, one is pretty much committed for the evening. So much for that last meal.

We headed over to the cathedral about a half an hour early, got our seats, and chatted up two ladies from Australia who sat behind us. They'd been touring Europe and had only arrived a couple of days before. They very kindly gave us 2 euro to purchase a program (we'd left all our money at the apartment) so that we could follow along, and then we all got comfortable. The performers were two quartets, one vocal and associated with Notre Dame, and one instrumental. (I'm writing this in the airport and can't find the program, otherwise I'd note the name of the group. It was something like Quartet Barbarienesque.) The concert was called "Ave Maris Stella" and consisted mostly of praise for the Virgin Mary in Latin along with a number of instrumental pieces. These eight people filled this enormous cathedral with ringing, ethereal sound for 90 minutes. There wasn't much to watch, so as I listened, I found myself gazing at the ceiling or looking at the architecture and the lighting, just getting lost in the music. There's something about Gregorian chant that's so compelling and this music, performed by what sounded like two sopranos, an alto, and a countertenor, was no exception. The instrumental quartet was also very good. It was a fitting finale for our trip.

When we went back to the apartment, we finished packing, shared some of the last of the bread, cheese, and butter in the house for a mini-meal, and then hit the sack. We had to be up at 4 AM to be ready for our shuttle at 5, and both wanted as much sleep as possible.
scarlettina: (GWTW: Pleased as punch)
[livejournal.com profile] davidlevine was up for the weekend and, being the writerly/artsy types we both are, we took in the pleasures that society and Seattle had to offer. Here are the highlights:

I've never been much for pork, but I've always been one for good company, so when Kuo-Yu Liang and his wife invited me to join them for their annual pig roast and birthday celebration* (Adrian's), I accepted. D & I went, spent some time with Greg and Astrid Bear, [livejournal.com profile] shellyinseattle, and others, and learned about roasting a whole pig in a wooden/metal crate surrounded by hot coals. The results of said roasting were spectacularly good and the party a pleasant way to pass the afternoon.

We spent the evening seeing "Chaps!" at Taproot Theater in Greenwood. I've never been to Taproot before, so I had no idea what to expect. What we got was an entertaining evening in an intimate theater setting. "Chaps!" is set in 1944 in London at studio B at the BBC. The production team awaits the arrival of an American troupe of cowboy performers for a special radio presentation with an in-studio audience. When only the group's manager shows up with costumes and scripts, the troupe having gotten lost in transit, the Brits decide to put on the cowboy duds and gamely make their way through the repertoire. The pretense of Brits trying to imitate cowboys quickly fell away in polished performances that became more of a revue of cowboy music of the era than the fish-out-of-water comedy it was supposed to be. In the end, though, it didn't really matter. The cast was talented and put on a great show. We left with smiles on our faces. I'll be watching Taproot for more performances in the future. They're pros and I want to see what else they can do.

On Sunday after D departed, I met [livejournal.com profile] ironymaiden and [livejournal.com profile] varina8 to see Melissa Etheridge at Woodland Park Zoo's ZooTunes. We spread the ground cover to the left of the stage and had a great time. Etheridge, a year older than me, looked terrific; mostly what I liked about her was her frank and direct comfort with herself, her age, her appearance. She looked like a stylish, rock 'n' roll mom who played kick-ass guitar and belted her guts out. I was surprised, though I shouldn't have been, at how much of her catalog I know given how long I've been a fan; it was an unexpected pleasure of the evening. And she rocked the park. I'd say she blew the roof off--except there was no roof, it being an outdoor show and the weather being picture-perfect for same. We had a great time, and I'm delighted we went.



* I originally typed "celeration" and found myself wondering fleetingly what such a thing might be: the state of being celery?
scarlettina: (Default)
This morning in his link salad, [livejournal.com profile] jaylake included a link to a National Geographic piece about language loss, a magnificent photo essay/slide show showing people who speak vanishing languages, including words from those languages. Most of the languages shown are Native American, though they are certainly not the only languages we are losing in the world. I'd encourage you to look at it because, really, the portraits are extraordinary and the effect of seeing these people and sampling their words is quite moving.

Looking at the words and images reminded me of my first, extraordinary Passover here in Seattle. I was working at Wizards of the Coast and was invited to seder at the home of a coworker. Her parents were Greek immigrants, and so I knew that I would be attending my first-ever seder in the Sephardic tradition. I figured that the foods would be different from what I'd grown up with as an Ashkenazic Jew. What I hadn't expected was to hear an entirely new language--and providing the same experience myself, though unaware that I would be doing so. My coworker's parents spoke Greek and Ladino, a mixture of Spanish and Hebrew, much as Yiddish is a mix of German and Hebrew, a language that has been designated in danger of extinction. It was beautiful and musical, and I was completely enthralled listening to it. It sounded a little like Portuguese, and a lot unfamiliar; I couldn't get enough of hearing it. What I didn't expect was how delighted her parents were that I could say prayers and read in Hebrew. They asked if I wanted to make one of the blessings that night or, well, pretty much anything I wanted to. They wanted to hear me read and speak Hebrew*, as they'd never heard it before, even in synagogue (where, apparently, Ladino was the primary language). I was surprised, delighted, and a little humbled, to do so; I felt like it was nothing compared to listening to their beautiful Ladino and was not nearly as important or impressive--but these experiences are in the ear of the listener, aren't they? We did the seder in four languages that night: Greek, Hebrew, Ladino, and English, and to this day it's one of my most precious holiday memories.

That memory brought on another: of seeing a documentary about the "homeland" that Stalin tried to establish for Russia's Jews in the southeastern portion of the country. The one thing I remember most clearly about seeing that film was a moment of pure, almost instinctive memory. One scene shows a group of seniors singing a Yiddish folksong, Tumbalalaika. I hadn't heard that song in . . . well, probably since I was too small to really remember it consciously, but as soon as they began to sing, I remembered it, and it was a revelation, uncovering something that had been buried for decades--and I could sing along! I didn't sing out loud, of course; in a crowded theater that would have been rude. But I sat there and quietly mouthed the words for as long as the scene lasted. And I still remember it today, a waltzing melody that is sweet and a little sad.

So here I am this morning, hopping through this chain of language and memory. I think that music is as powerful a memory trigger as scent is, at least for me, and for me, language and music have always been closely tied. Which all brings me back to the thing that provoked this post, because I can't help but mourn the loss of the music that's disappearing right in front of us as we lose a language once every fourteen days. On the one hand, with globalization and colonization and forced assimilation, it was bound to occur. On the other hand, hope springs eternal, with things like the Endangered Languages project, which works to preserve languages in danger of extinction. I hope that Yiddish and Ladino will both be preserved and survive. Like so many of the languages profiled in the National Geographic slide show, it's not just a language that will be lost, but a rich culture and heritage, traditions and practices, that we'll never see again.


* It should be noted that my Hebrew is the product of early training and that what comes out of me is either done from memory or read phonetically. Though I have basics, as any good Hebrew school student might, I can't translate or speak it in any meaningful way without significant brush-up.
scarlettina: (SIFF 2012)
For many of us who grew up in the 1970s, Paul Williams was a constant presence, whether he was on TV or on the radio. He wrote the themes for "Love Boat" and "The Muppet Show," among others. At the time, I think everyone identified with one or another of his songs. For my mom, it was "You and Me Against the World." For me, it was "Rainbow Connection," which I learned to play on my guitar and which I suspect I still can if I fiddle about with it first. He was one of the people in the media who defined the era for me. When I saw the trailer for the documentary about him, Paul Williams Still Alive, I went back and forth about seeing it, and then I decided that my awareness of his presence in that era had been too important for me to miss this film. I felt compelled by that experience, so I went. [livejournal.com profile] shelly_rae joined me for the movie.

Stephen Kessler, the director, approaches the story as a fan would: I thought Williams was dead; turns out he's very much alive and well; what's he up to? Williams is not an especially willing or cooperative subject for a documentary. He comes across as baffled by Kessler's interest and a little cantankerous about the project. But once he proposes that Kessler step in front of the camera with him, that they just talk about stuff, things begin to change as does the nature of the project. The film goes from being a documentary about Williams' rise, fall, and recovery to a sort of road movie/buddy flick about the filmmaker and the musician getting to know each other, with Kessler's almost Woody Allen-esque voice-over telling the story. The film, of course, is rich with archival footage of Williams in movies and on television, live performances, and contemporary footage of him, his wife, his longtime music director, and Kessler on the road traveling from gig to gig and talking about Williams' life and career. The movie doesn't dwell overmuch on Williams' addiction and recovery, though pretty revealing moments in the interviews show just how much that experience has colored and changed Williams as a person (he's now a certified recovery counselor and speaks on the subject). But he's also still very much active as a composer and performer, and is the current president of ASCAP about which he is quite passionate. Overall, the documentary isn't anything usual--it's funny and poignant and, in embracing the serendipity of Williams' proposal to step into the frame, Kessler has created a very personal story about two guys--who just happen to be idol and fan--getting to know each other in a unique way. I definitely recommend it.

Kessler and Williams were at the theater for Q&A after the movie, and I stayed to listen. Williams talked with conviction about his work as the president of ASCAP defending the rights of artists. He talked about how "Rainbow Connection," "Evergreeen," and "With One More Look at You" (from A Star is Born) were all written. He talked about working with Brian de Palma on Phantom of the Paradise. He was funny and generous with the audience. Kessler pretty much ceded the stage to Williams though he'd had his moment before the film began, and was very sweet about the whole project.

After they finished their Q&A, Williams and Kessler came down to the side of the theater and talked to audience members. And that's when I realized why I was really there. Sure, I'd been a fan of Williams' work, but I was also there for my mom, to whom "You and Me Against the World" had meant so much. So I went up to him, and I told him I didn't want an autograph or a picture, just to thank him for that song and told him why. He asked me my name, and told me that that's the sort of feedback that meant the most to him, that the song touched someone or made a difference to them. He said that, having been mostly a weekend dad, the song meant a lot to him too. He asked if my mom was still with us; I told him no, but that I was there for her. He was gracious and kind, and held my hand the whole time we talked. I thanked him for his time and then took off, since others were waiting to speak with him. I was really very impressed with him, and I'm glad we got to talk.
scarlettina: (GWTW: Pleased as punch)
Once again, I had the pleasure of hosting [livejournal.com profile] kateyule and [livejournal.com profile] davidlevine here at Chez Scarlettina this weekend. The precipitating event was an Uncle Bonsai concert at the Phinney Ridge Community Center that we attended on Saturday night with KA and TW WANOLJ, but it provided us with an excuse for a laid-back couple of days.

Friday evening was dinner here and video-watching.

Saturday started with brunch at the 5 Spot with [livejournal.com profile] markbourne and [livejournal.com profile] e_bourne, and then continued with a stroll around Queen Anne, popping in and out of shops as the mood struck us. At Queen Anne Books, I picked up a copy of The Passage by Justin Cronin, which was shelved in science fiction but about which I've heard nothing in SF circles even though it's marked as a NY Times bestseller. The first couple of paragraphs were beautifully written and the premise was intriguing, so I picked it up. We also stopped at Blue Highways Games, where [livejournal.com profile] kateyule picked up a copy of Dixit Odyssey and I bought a Gloom deck which, after playing it twice with my guests, I can't wait to share with other friends. (I may need to buy an expansion or two, however, to play with a larger group. It ain't cheap, but it's well worth it. Clever, clever mechanics for a card game.)

Saturday night we had dinner before the concert at The Olive and Grape in Greenwood, a Turkish place which I fully intended to return to again. The food was delicious, and there were enough items on the menu unfamiliar to me that it merits further investigation. Highly recommended. The concert itself featured a number of brand new songs, some so new that the band didn't know them entirely yet. The show was good, funny, fun. In a delightful turn of events, I ran into [livejournal.com profile] lisagold there, and we caught up in happy haste before the concert and at the break. I gave her a lift home when it was all over. So good to see her.

My company departed this afternoon after lunch at Blue C Sushi. I look forward to seeing them again at Potlatch 21 next month. I came home, read for about an hour (Alison Weir's excellent biography of Elizabeth I, which is nevertheless taking me far too long to finish) and then passed out for two.

And so it's Sunday night. Busy, busy week ahead, and ponderables being pondered. I intend to write about my ponderings within the next day or so as time allows. Pleasant dreams, friends.
scarlettina: (GWTW: Pleased as punch)
On Friday, [livejournal.com profile] davidlevine and [livejournal.com profile] kateyule came up from Portland for a weekend visit. The precipitating event was the Uncle Bonsai 30th Anniversary show at the Meydenbauer Center, but it became the justification for a whole weekend of goodness.

Until [livejournal.com profile] kateyule mentioned Uncle Bonsai to me, I'd never heard of the group--but many of my local friends have. Turns out that they're something of a Pacific Northwest institution, a folk trio with a clever, twisted sense of humor and tight, melodic harmonies to die for. I, of course, hadn't yet arrived in Seattle when the group was making its mark, so this was a delightful discovery for me. If you like good folk, clever and funny lyrics, and have never heard of them before, I strongly recommend checking out their audio page and giving them a listen. If you're a child of the 1970s, a fan of "The Love Boat," start with Isaac's Lament. They do have a more serious side as well, as the lovely Just One Angel (MP3) demonstrates (this was incredibly powerful live). Anyway, the concert was just wonderful. I laughed out loud, marveled at their harmonies and their lyrics, and just really enjoyed the hell out of the show. If you're local to Seattle, you might want to catch their upcoming show, Uncle Bonsai: New Jobs for America, at the Phinney Neighborhood Center on January 21 presented by the Seattle Folklore Society, at which they've promised 13 news songs (and limited seating, so go get your tickets now). Care of this weekend's house guests, I've already got a seat, for which I'm truly grateful.

Saturday, we took our time getting up and out, eating a simple breakfast and talking until past noon. At that point, we headed out to Kozue in Wallingford (where I'll definitely be going again) for a good Japanese lunch (the mushroom dish from which I'm going to try to duplicate myself), and the Best of the Northwest Arts and Crafts Show, an annual curated high-end craft show that showcases artists from all over the region. We saw some great stuff, [livejournal.com profile] kateyule purchased a nice pair of earrings, and then home we went to prepare for the evening.

We had dinner at Buenos Aires Grill, which is fast becoming a favorite of mine. And then we attended ACT's performance of Double Indemnity, a staging of the classic James M. Cain novel, upon which the movie of the same title is also based. The performances were all very good, very mannered in the way that performances in noir films tend to be. I don't think there was any one particular standout in the cast; the performances were uniformly good. The set, with its moving, overlapping, malachite-colored flats and its rotating carousel floors was beautifully designed and extremely versatile. The costumes, especially the women's clothes, were quite fine. Well worth seeing.

On Sunday, we met [livejournal.com profile] varina8 and [livejournal.com profile] snarke for breakfast at 611 Supreme, a creperie and lounge. I enjoyed the vegetarian breakfast crepe and shared a small plate of breakfast potatoes with [livejournal.com profile] davidlevine, but with five of us at the table, there were enough of us to determine that the food was all tasty and the place worth another visit at some point. We spent the rest of the day tromping around downtown at Pike Place Market and parts south of there, and then my guests headed back to Portland.

And so we're back into the week. I have a phone interview this afternoon and other items to occupy my time. I should get to them, but wanted to make sure I got all this down. I enjoyed the weekend hugely. It was precisely what I needed in the wake of last week's stress and bad dreams.
scarlettina: (Sleepy)
Music Recently, whilst downloading some music from iTunes, it occurred to me to download some music I remember with fondness from the '70s. (Yes, yes, I'm a child of the '70s and there was music I liked. So sue me.) One tune of which I had fond memories was Love's Theme by Barry White's Love Unlimited Orchestra (with wicka-wacka guitar and everything). (And let's be clear: This piece wasn't disco, it was symphonic soul.) I downloaded it and played it, and what was amazing to me is how powerful my memory of the song it. I remember every point and counterpoint, every turn of the melody, the French horns kicking in about halfway through, everything crystal clear and I haven't heard it in years. And I still like it as much as I did then. The human mind is an amazing thing.

Dance I've signed up for a beginning belly dance class to start mid-July. I've been wanting to do this for a while, and with the goad of a convenient Groupon, I've done it at last. I'm looking forward to it.

Sleepy The last couple of days I've been outrageously sleepy, which has made things especially hard to get done, especially in the evenings. I'm dealing with it again tonight and it's especially hard now because I still have to do my Write-a-Thon wordcount.

Spanky I have received some wonderful love and support from my community in the wake of Spanky's passing. I received a PAWS donation in his memory, care of [livejournal.com profile] garyomaha and [livejournal.com profile] elusive_m, bless them, and condolence cards yesterday from the vet who helped Spanky on his journey last Thursday night, and today from his regular vet, who remembered him both as a lover and a fighter--and he knew Spank in both ways. I couldn't help but smile.

Movie Went and saw Werner Herzog's Cave of Forgotten Dreams tonight with [livejournal.com profile] e_bourne and [livejournal.com profile] markbourne, a film about Chauvet Cave in France, where the world's very oldest cave paintings were discovered in 1994. The film is shown in 3D so viewers can see the play of light over the cave walls, and how the paintings flow over the curves and shapes of the natural rock. It's a remarkable film, documenting a cave that won't be accessible to anyone who isn't a scientist connected with the research so that the rest of the world can see this treasure of human history. The paintings are amazing. Herzog's narrative includes some of the curious mystical speculation he seems prone to (and which inspires in me a peculiar sort of affection for him), and the film ends with an odd epilogue not quite connected with the rest of the movie. Still, the glimpse into this otherworldly gallery of cave art as old as the human spirit is a wonderful experience and I'm glad we were able to go. Herzog has done the rest of the world a wonderful service by making this film.
scarlettina: (SIFF 2011)
There seemed to be quite a bit of chatter about SIFF's showing of The Thief of Bagdad as Re-imagined by Shadoe Stevens with the Music of E.L.O.. I wanted to see it because I've never seen this classic 1924 silent film starring Douglas Fairbanks Sr end to end. The ELO music was an added fillip as far as I was concerned.

I had no idea who Shadoe Stevens was until I Googled him yesterday afternoon. With a name like that, I figured he was some rap impresario I'd never heard of. Turns out, he's a longtime DJ and voice-over guy from the Midwest whom it's unsurprising I've never heard of. This project, laying down ELO tracks against The Thief of Bagdad, has been his personal obsession for something like 30 years. He's showing it at festivals partly to share his love for the film and partly as a kind of market test to see what people think about the film with this new music, as well as the permutations he's considering for release (to 3D or not to 3D, to colorize or not, and so on).

The movie itself is still as eye-popping and impressive as it was when first released. The effects still make the viewer wonder how they were achieved. Fairbanks is gorgeous and charismatic, and the story is full of the sort of fairy-tale intrigue that lights up the kid in me. The addition of the E.L.O. soundtrack was surprisingly effective in some spots and unfortunately repetitive in others. When you're working from a limited catalog of music, your choices dwindle as a project progresses, and toward the end of the film, the repetition became a little tiresome.

After the movie, Stevens talked about his working on the project, and talked a little bit about the history of the movie. While I was initially skeptical about him (a personal prejudice, I admit--I found the spelling of his first name a little off-putting, a little too deliberately contrived), he was nothing but genuine in his enthusiasm for the project and his love of the movie. I can't fault a fanboy his affections, and it made him a rather appealing character in the end.

Overall, the movie was terrific, the music pretty good, the combined effect--not bad but not what I'd call definitive or world-changing. I think that the aforementioned repetitiveness of the music is a little bit of a liability, at least for those of us who aren't die-hard ELO fans. But Stevens makes a good point with this project, in that if the music makes this nearly-90-year-old film accessible to a new generation of film-goers, then it's doing something worth doing. I enjoyed the combination of the two and support such an effort wholeheartedly.

Links and notes

Sun, Nov. 21st, 2010 10:49 am
scarlettina: (Autumn)
Tonight's moon is a blue moon. SPACE.com is running a really interesting story about this particular blue moon and the history of the blue moon in general.

Earlier this week, The New York Times ran an article about the origins of the song "Kumbaya," about which I've always wondered. Fascinating stuff, a study of a spiritual that underwent cultural appropriation. It's a shame, because the origins of the song suggest that, at its roots, it's a song from which people derived strength and courage.

Lastly, a list of things I want to write about here to help myself remember, in no particular order:

--Ripping my CD collection to my computer
--Sophie and Spanky--mainly some pictures because I haven't done that in a while
--The creation of art (words, pictures, or jewelry) (or lack thereof) in my life right now
--What comes next
scarlettina: (Radio Scarlettina)
I don't know who's at the helm today at KMTT-FM, but for the last hour, a lot the songs have been about awareness of mortality and using your time wisely and so on (Green Day's "Time of Your Life," Pearl Jam's "Just Breathe," Rod Stewart's "Maggie May," and now Talking Heads' "Once in a Lifetime").

I love all of these songs and never fail to enjoy them when I hear them. But when they're all programmed together this way? I can't decide if I want to drop everything I'm doing and go hike my way across the planet with nothing but a backpack and a camera, or just throw myself off a cliff. All this musical introspection is hard to take, especially on a gray Seattle day when I'm working at home and feeling the press of time.

Here comes the twister...
.
.
.
ETA: Oh wait: Now they're playing Joe Cocker's "You Can Leave Your Hat On." That makes up for a lot.
scarlettina: (Hot!)
Last May, I posted a kvetch when I discovered that Elton and Billy were touring together and would be appearing in Seattle. I kvetched mainly because I didn't have the money to buy tickets and I was afraid that this opportunity wouldn't come along again. [livejournal.com profile] tbclone47 picked up a gauntlet I hadn't meant to throw down, and made it possible for both of us, as it happened, to get tickets after all. The show was tonight. I will be forever grateful. It was one of the best shows I've ever seen--two masters in top form, clearly having a good time.

The lights went down, and two pianos--face to face--rose onto the stage from below. The crowd goes wild. Billy entered to the strains of "Yankee Doodle," Elton to "God Save the Queen." Billy wore his performance blacks--black pants, tee shirt, and jacket. Elton wore black pants, a red shirt, and a pair of tails on the back of which was a design topped by the words "Island Girl." They met in the center like boxers preparing for a fight--but very good-natured and obviously ready to play. Anyway, they launched the night with four songs together alternating verses, then Elton did a set of 11 songs, Billy did a set of 11ish, and then they came together and did another seven. I should note for the record that the sound at the Key was terrific--crystal clear and powerful.

Because I'm that kind of dork, I wrote down the set list which you can find beneath the cut, with notes. I just may be the lunatic you're looking for... )

I noticed things as the night went on that I promised I'd note for myself for later consideration:
  1. I noticed how differently some of Billy's lyrics impacted me tonight, decades after I first heard them, especially songs like "Allentown" and "Italian Restaurant." Age changes your perspective, and a song like "Allentown" with its themes of unemployment and disappointment resonates for me in a way it never has before. Facing my 30th high school reunion later this year makes "Italian Restaurant" a little...scary....
  2. I noticed that Elton's band was very guitar heavy and that Billy's was much more brass-oriented, with a much stronger jazz and big band influence.
  3. Billy made a point to introduce his band--which Elton didn't.
  4. And Billy could not sit still--which I knew he wouldn't. I've never seen him in concert but that he'd get up, run around, pull crazy stunts like jumping off his piano (didn't do that tonight and, frankly, I didn't expect him to). He was just much more in touch with the audience, I think, than Elton was.
  5. Both men's voices have aged well. Elton doesn't have his higher notes, though; Billy still does. When he modulated up an octave on "Piano Man" he may have fought for the higher register, but Elton fought harder for it.
  6. I really wanted a souvenir of the night--a tee shirt, a program book, something. The tees were $40, the program books $25. What you're reading right now? This is my souvenir.
  7. Under the heading of "In My Dreams," I really wanted to see Billy and Elton sing "Baby Grand" together, but that was too much to hope for. It's a beautiful song, which Billy wrote specifically to sing with Ray Charles, but not nearly as well known as Billy's other work. And "Piano Man" was clearly the right song for the two of them to close with. Here's a video of Billy and Elton singing it together several years ago (starts with them talking about the first time they ever met), to give you a taste.


I had a grand time tonight. Patrick clearly enjoyed himself as well. I'm so grateful and happy that I could go to this concert. I had a fabulous time. I'm still buzzing. Don't know how I'll ever get to sleep!

ETA: Here's the review for Wednesday night' show from the Seattle Times. Air piano. Heh. Guilty as charged.
scarlettina: (Sunflower)
[livejournal.com profile] jackwilliambell has been gently pushing encouraging me to start playing my guitar again. Said encouragement has included his purchasing new strings, a chromatic tuner and a string winder for said guitar, as well as gifting me with one of his three guitar stands so that the guitar is out in the living room where I can't forget it and where it stares at me, nourishing guilt and inspiration all at once.

I've been practicing here and there, trying to rebuild my callouses and to remember picking patterns and chord progressions for songs I used to play without even thinking about it. This morning, I downloaded charts for "Thunder Road," "Good Riddance," and the lyrics for Don McLean's "Starry, Starry Night," the last of which I used to play by heart.

"Thunder Road" has a tricky bridge for someone as rhythm-oriented as I am. "Good Riddance" is far easier than I could have hoped, though no two chord transcriptions can agree on some of the chords in one particular part of the song.

And then there's "Starry Starry Night," the chord and picking progression for which I remember. It's a beautiful song, well suited for my voice and range. I had to go looking for the lyrics because I couldn't remember them all. What I didn't remember was how sad it is. And I'm virtually certain that, as a teenager, I didn't fully understand the nuance and emotional depth of the words I was singing. I've fallen in love with this song all over again, but I sincerely doubt that I'll ever able be to sing it without getting a little teary.

My fingertips hurt. Time to stop practicing (it's been a hour) and go take care of other things....
scarlettina: (Autumn)
1) With thanks to [livejournal.com profile] terri_osborne for the tip, I offer a spoof of Extreme's "More than Words" video as done by the cast of "How I Met Your Mother," including Nuno himself playing guitar. This song figured large in a relationship I had many years ago that was very important to me, but I'd never seen the video. Now I've seen both it and the parody, and the combination lightens it all considerably, which I suspect that lost love would approve of.

2) I took an editing test yesterday as part of the interview process for a potential contract. I think I did well. I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

3) Saw "The Informant!" last night in the company of [livejournal.com profile] markbourne and [livejournal.com profile] e_bourne. I enjoyed it well enough; Matt Damon was terrific. Mark took issue with the Henry Mancini score, saying it gave the film a far more retro feel than it ought to have had. I've thought about that critique and it may be valid, though as music by itself I enjoyed it. I suspect I understand what the director's intention was, given the style of the movie poster as well: it's all satire, pretty dark and at the same time purely absurd once the scope of Damon's character's deception unfolds. That it's based on a true story is the most startling part of the whole.

4) On October 2, 1959, "The Twilight Zone" premiered. It left an indelible mark on me when I watched it in reruns growing up and is still one of my favorite TV series of all time. Time Magazine counts down what they consider its top 10 most memorable episodes, with links to complete episodes or at least excerpts. What do you think? They forget anything?

5) Today's another "Stay at home and don't spend money" day for me. Drop by if you feel like it as long as you're not shocked by my housekeeping.
scarlettina: (GWTW: Pleased as punch)
Today was full of serendipity; tonight was no different. Around 6ish I got a call from [livejournal.com profile] jackwilliambell asking if I had any plans for the evening. No, said I. It seems that [livejournal.com profile] whumpdotcom is in town and was looking for dinner company. Jack picked me up, and after a near miss at Pike Place Market, the three of us headed over to The New Orleans Creole Restaurant in Pioneer Square. I've passed the place a million times but have never eaten there.

I'm sorry I waited so long.

For dinner, I had the Crabmeat John Baptiste: Large mushrooms stuffed with crabmeat and seasonings served with rice and a rich Creole sauce. It came with a New Orleans salad, corn fritters and red beans and rice. Oh. My. God. The goodness! Subtle and rich all at once, the mushrooms were just firm enough to offer a mild resistance and then a lovely, chewy finish. The sauce was a sort of thickened, creamy, mushroomy concoction. With the rice, beans and corn fritters, it was all wonderful. It may sound heavy, but I don't feel it at all. It was a fine meal, light and yet comforting, accompanied by a mad Columbia Crest Merlot.

To our great delight, there was live music as well. On Monday nights a New Orleans Quintet takes the stage. They were just terrific. They were joined tonight by a big, bearded, baritone singer who occasionally sprinkled some gravel in his tones--very tasty. When it was finally time to go, I found it hard to leave, and made a point of complimenting the singer and the band. They just made the evening in the end.
scarlettina: (Spirits)
Dreams: I dreamed last night that I was clearing off a dining room table only to discover a kitten had been buried under the piles of stuff. It looked almost freshly born but somehow I knew it was from the same litter as my-now-six-months-old Sophie. Undernourished and sleepy, it was still alive. I gave it three saucers of lumpy soy milk (because apparently even in my dreams I'm still lactose intolerant). Then the kitten looked up at me through drowsy eyes and asked, "Have I had enough?" I told it yes. It then spoke for a while in very sophisticated English, though I don't remember what it talked about.

Sophie Watercat: Sophie likes water. The water bowl isn't just for drinking. It's for spilling over, splashing around, or for dropping toys in. Interestingly, it's mostly paper she puts into water; I never find catnip pillows or mousies in the water dish. The only water she doesn't like is the water that comes out of my water pistol. She's an odd puss.

Reclaiming the left-behind: In this, I refer to my guitar. I have a beautiful Ovation Balladeer that sits in its hard case in my bedroom closet. [livejournal.com profile] jackwilliambell, as some of you know, is a musician, often totes his guitar with him, and often improvises just for the joy of it. A couple of nights ago, I picked up the guitar he typical keeps in a stand in his living room and started picking at it a bit. He offered me one of his guitar stands if I promised to take out my guitar and start playing again. I came home last night with a guitar stand. Today, my guitar will come out of its hidey hole and I'll start working on my callouses and manual dexterity again. I have no idea what Sophie will make of this development. Spanky is long since used to my occasional return to musicianship. This should be interesting.

Autumn in the Northwest: When I left Jack's place last night, it was 39 degrees out and the sky was crystal clear. I had three blankets on my bed when I went to sleep. Either today or tomorrow, I'll be vacuuming out the baseboard heaters so I can turn on the heat, though with all the sunlight I get in my place, I may put off turning on the heat for a while. The windows--and the fact that I live in the attic--often keep the place warm. Everything feels crisp right now. The light is changing, the land is turning browny-gold, the sky is quieter, and I dream of apples. I've been looking for Macs and haven't seen any. [livejournal.com profile] oldmangrumpus reports a Mac sighting at a local grocery store. I must investigate. I must also look for a corn maze to wander and start working on my Halloween costume.

It's October and I wonder, why do Fridays in October feel more autumnal and haunted than other days of the week?

PS--I need an autumn icon. I'd better get on that....
scarlettina: (Spanky Dignified)
Shortly after I adopted my beloved Flatbush, I began crooning to him. Usually I'd sing to him when we were heading to the vet, but I then began to sing to him more often. Usually it was just random silliness. Eventually, however, I realized that the first lines of the Beatles song, "Blackbird" scanned really well for a typical Flatbush behavior. Before long, I'd composed a song for the cat based on that melody:

Flatbush meowing in the dead of night
Take these kitty wings and learn to fly
All your life
You were only waiting for your dinner to arrive
Flatbush meow
Flatbush meow
Into the light of the dark black night

I sang that song to him his entire life: when we went to the vet, when I brushed him, sometimes before I hit the sack. It was the Flatbush song.

I spent years trying to come up with something for Merlin. Years. I felt bad that he didn't have a theme song. It was only in the last two months of his life that I came up with something that stuck. It was sung to the tune of the theme from "I Dream of Jeannie":

Merlin
Merlin the handsome
Merlin
Merlin the handsome
Merlin
Merlin the handsome cat
(repeat)

He's orange
He's orange and he's stripey
He's orange and he's stripey
He does things I can't explain

That's because he's Merlin
Merlin the handsome
Merlin
Merlin the handsome
Merlin
Merlin the handsome cat

And so I'd found the perfect theme song for Merlin in his last days.

It never even occurred to me to come up with a song for Spanky (seen in the icon); I don't know why. But lately, probably prompted by Merlin's departure, I've been obsessing over a song for Spanky. I have two contenders, neither of which is yet fully formed. One would be sung to the tune of "Santa Baby" except that I can't get past the first line: "Spanky-doodle, I'll put some catnip under the tree for thee" (but that seems a little labored). The other could be sung to the Steve Perry song, "Oh Sherry." "Oh Spanky, our love holds on, holds on." Somehow, that seems weird.

I know that those who have encountered Spanky have seen his cranky side a little more than his sweet side. I excuse this by explaining that it's because he's old and he's spoiled. Could be he's just a natural curmudgeon. Or because no matter how hard I work at making his eyes comfortable, they never will be (he's got a chronic dry eye condition), and so he's grouchy. But he is a sweet cat and I want to have a song for him.

So, based on the above, any ideas for lyrics? Help me, LJ hivemind! You're my only hope!

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