Saturday, February 12, 2011

Goodnight Blog

Thanks to all the people who've ever read this blog. Thanks especially to the people who've ever read closely enough to leave even a single comment. I'm retiring this blog, not because of a new addition to my immediate family (or for lack of comments), but because I noticed I was starting to repeat myself. The risk of repetition always comes up when I'm making music playlists. It's not that I have so few favorite songs that I'm like a teeny bopper who wears out the grooves on a record, but my wife does think I'm ridiculous for never allowing the same song to be included on two different playlists. I've broken my own rule this time as half of the songs listed below have been mentioned before on this blog (I'll make notes for when and where). After realizing that certain songs I wanted to use for my daughter's "Sleepytime" mix had already been used on my son's a long time ago, I came up with a new rule - and sole criterion - her songs had to be girlier. Now that's not to say that the songs on my son's were more rough and tumble. All the songs on both playlists are peaceful, but as I went back through my son's mix I noticed for the first time that his songs are a little more mischievous (and so is he). So far my daughter has proved to be more mellow (she only cries when hungry and sleeps the rest of the time). She has also brought me to tears more than my son ever did (and so does her playlist). If you make it more than halfway through her mix without choking up, either you have no heart or maybe you just like your music a little more playful (so does my son).

Sleepytime Mix for My Newborn Daughter
1. "Lazy Calm" - Cocteau Twins (see also my 6/19/10 post)
2. "Pay Attention/In a World of My Own" (from the movie, Alice in Wonderland) - Kathryn Beaumont
3. "La vie en rose" - Édith Piaf (see also my 3/10/09 post)
4. "Somewhere My Love" - Jo Stafford & Paul Weston & His Orchestra
5. "Sumiregusa" - Enya
6. "Canção da America" - Milton Nascimento
7. "Granada" - Emilio de Benito (see also my 12/27/08 post)
8. "December" - Norah Jones (see also my 12/22/10 post)
9. "Brahms Lullaby" - Nat "King" Cole
10. "Good Night" - The Beatles
11. "Lullabye (Goodnight, My Angel)" - Billy Joel
12. "Give Me Your Tired, Your Poor" (from the movie, An American Tail) - James Horner
13. "In Pace" - Sarah Brightman
14. "Strauss II: Die Fledermaus Act 1 Duettino" - The APM Orchestra
15. "Delibes: Flower Duet" - Cerise (see also my 10/4/10 post)
16. "Debussy: Rêverie" - Zoltán Kocsis
17. "Saint-Saëns: The Swan" - Jascha Silberstein and Marie Goossens (see also my 5/2/09 post)
18. "Borodin: String Quartet No. 2 (Nocturne)" - Prague Quartet
19. "Bach: Suite for Solo Cello No. 1 in G Major" - Yo-Yo Ma (see also my 2/25/09 post)
20. "Doug Reflects" (from the movie, The Town) - Harry Gregson-Williams and David Buckley
21. "Made By Maid" - Laura Marling
22. "Mockingbird Hill" - Leo Kottke

Sleepytime Mix for My Son (from four years ago)
1. "Red Rabbits" - The Shins
2. "Soldier Jane" - Beck
3. "March of the Celts" - Enya
4. "Extraordinary Machine" - Fiona Apple
5. "The Medals" (from the movie, Flags of Our Fathers) - Clint Eastwood
6. "When You Wish Upon a Star" (from the movie, Pinocchio) - Disney Studio Chorus
7. "Exploring/Say Bird/Flower" (from the movie, Bambi) - Disney Studio Orchestra
8. "Intro Versailles" (from the movie, Marie Antoinette) - Brian Reitzell
9. "Couperin: Les barricades mystérieuses" – Brian Reitzell
10. "Fools Rush In (Kevin Shields Remix)" - Bow Wow Wow
11. "Avril 14th" - Aphex Twin
12. "Tommib Help Buss" - Squarepusher
13. "Rameau: Tristes Apprêts, Pâles Flambeaux" - W. Christie
14. "Opus 23" - Dustin O'Halloran
15. "Es ist ein ros entsprungen" - Baltimore Consort
16. "Mozart: The Marriage of Figaro Act 3 Duettino" - Deutsche Oper Berlin (see also my 3/2/10 post)
17. "Return to the Heart" - David Lanz
18. "Bach: Sleepers Wake (Cantata 140)" - Balázs Szokolay
19. "Vivaldi: "Concerto No. 4 in F minor, Largo" (Winter) - Anne-Sophie Mutter
20. "Puccini: O Mio Bambino Caro (Instrumental)" - Alexander Warenberg
21. "Prokofiev: Piano Concerto No. 1 in D-flat major" - London Philharmonic Orchestra
22. "All That Makes Us Human Continues" - BT (see also my 9/9/08 post)

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

January Books

These are some titles from last month's New York Times Book Review section and Entertainment Weekly that I might like to read at some point:


The Intimates - Ralph Sassone; "Apparently, people didn't look at pictures anymore and ask if they were lifelike. They looked at their lives and compared them to images they'd seen somewhere."

The Lost Books of the Odyssey - Zachary Mason; "Chapters are told from the point of view of Odysseus, Achilles, even Polyphemus the Cyclops; throughout, Mason envisions alternate fates for these characters."

The Lost Gate - Orson Scott Card; "There is a hidden library with only a few dozen books that are written in a secret language which Dan and his cousins are expected to learn. But they are never to speak a word of it with anyone else, or even where anyone else might hear. There are other secrets too, even secrets kept from Dan. And that will lead to disaster."

Marshall McLuhan: You Know Nothing of My Work! - Douglas Coupland; "Takes a pop-culture approach to the man known for the phrase 'the medium is the message,' a deep thinker who ended up popularized almost in spite of himself."

The Radleys - Matt Haig; "The parents know what they are, and have concealed this knowlege from their teenage kids, who, inadvertently abstaining from the blood they don't know they need to drink, suffer from nausea, insomnia, weakness, 'photodermatosis,' and mortifying high school unpopularity. Then one night, attacked by a large ogre of a boy, the daughter discovers her true nature the hard way, precipitating a vampire family crisis."


Brazil on the Rise: The Story of a Country Transformed - Larry Rohter; "A Times reporter's affectionate account."

The Function of Criticism Today - Alfred Kazin; "Any critic who is any good is going to write out of a profound inner struggle between what has been and what must be, the values he is used to and those which presently exist, between the past and the present out of which the future must be born. This struggle with oneself as well as with the age, out of which something must be written and which therefore can be read - this is my test for a critic."

A Good Talk: The Story and Skill of Conversation - Daniel Menaker; A former executive at Random House, Menaker draws on an array of sources - the dating scene, Socrates, studies on the hormone oxytocin, Barack Obama - in this exploration of how conversation has evolved and how it works."

How I Killed Pluto: And Why It Had It Coming - Mike Brown; "The astronomer behind the discovery that led to Pluto's demotion from planethood discusses his work and his family life."

Public Enemies: Dueling Writers Take On Each Other and the World - Bernard Henri Levy and Michel Houellebecq; "Scorned by the French public and media, the two provocateurs decided to examine all that hatred with this epistolary collection in which they assault each other, the public, and, most often, themselves with an arsenal of bitterly sarcastic bons mots."

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Happy New Year, Part III

I will remember 2010 as the first year I saw a movie trailer where the only release date was for iTunes (no attempt at a theatrical run or DVD pressing to boot), that the video game Guitar Hero got a functioning six-string guitar and people called it progress, and Wendy's burger chain changed their fries recipe to be more "natural."

My Favorite Non-New Release Movie I Saw for the First Time - My Geisha (1962); second place goes to Mr. Saturday Night (1992) and third place goes to Biloxi Blues (1988)

My Movie-Watching Resolution - to give up on new releases; as much as I love going to the theater, I gotta get used to the fact that they might not be around forever; I hate this trend toward 3D (especially as a last ditch effort to "save multiplexes") and as much as I enjoyed the remake of True Grit, it mostly just made me realize that all movies used to be that good; it's been bothering me for years when people say that the quality of Hollywood movies has been steadily decreasing because I don't think box office numbers are a true measure of anything, but then a movie like Avatar makes as much as it does and it makes me question the entire direction that Hollywood is heading

For the "Best and Worst Movies" I saw the first half of the year, see my 7/8/10 post (combine the lists there with the ones here for my top ten of 2010).

Best New Movies I've Seen Since July (in order of personal significance; although I enjoyed Black Swan, Inception and True Grit, I wouldn't call any of them favorites; I still look forward to watching 127 Hours, The Fighter and The King's Speech)

1. Burlesque (November 26) I keep telling everyone that if they liked Coyote Ugly they'll love Burlesque (and that's coming from someone who never liked Cher or Christina Aguilera). Then people keep telling me that they've never seen Coyote Ugly. But that doesn't exactly refute my point, does it?

2. The Social Network (October 1) read my 12/28/10 review

3. The Town (September 17) really got me thinking about the lack of choices left to ex-cons; this isn't nice guy Ben Affleck, and the scene where he throws the child (his own?) out of the room was almost more than I could bear, but so were a lot of scenes in Gone Baby Gone, which he directed years before this; forget about all the other characters besides the community itself, because that's the one the movie's named after

4. Going the Distance (September 3) not funnier than Burlesque or The Social Network, but certainly on par with Despicable Me (which is missing here because of all the lame disco dance numbers) and Easy A (which is absent from this list because of an unlikely Mark Twain claim)

5. Monsters (October 29) if you don't mind slowpaced indie movies that randomly scare you and simulaneously break your heart, here's a dreamy picture with minimal characters, minimal dialogue and best of all, minimal but believable cheap special effects (using the director's laptop); I may not have liked it better than The Eclipse, which is comparable, but I can't remember if I saw that movie before July or after (it's been available for instant viewing on Netflix for months now)

Worst New Movies I've Actually Seen Since July (in order of offensiveness; keep in mind that I kinda liked All About Evil, Predators and Shrek Forever After; call me a masochist, but I still look forward to watching Cop Out, The Last Airbender and The Switch)

1. Tyler Perry's Why Did I Get Married Too? (April 2) I keep telling everyone that if they ever make a Michael Jackson biopic, they should get his sister Janet to play him. Then people keep telling me that's an ignorant thing to say. But is it any worse than having Janet play a divorcée who drives her ex-husband to kill himself in front of his friends and coworkers?

2. Sex and the City 2 (May 28) Ignorant, ignorant, ignorant. The only reason this is here and not Date Night is because I couldn't make it all the way through Date Night.

3. Tiny Furniture (November 12) I liked the handpicked music, the smart dialogue, and the trendy sets on this movie and on Greenberg also, but why do the main characters on most indie movies have to be such horrible people? And not even antiheroes - just boring, spiteful, ugly people.

4. Grown Ups (June 25) There is no way that these guys would ever be friends in the first place, much less bring their families together decades later. When Adam Sandler slapped Rob Schneider with his own banana the first time, it was mean, but funny. After the fourth or fifth or sixtieth time...

5. The Kids Are All Right (July 9) Based on the hype, I thought I'd be exposed to a less shallow, less voyeuristic gay movie, but instead I got an is-she-gay-or-isn't-she soap opera love triangle, same as you'd see on Showtime's The L Word and a ripoff of that scene in Love Actually where Emma Thompson discovers her husband is definitely cheating

Songs I've Discovered (and Rediscovered) Since July (in alphabetical order):

1. "Acapella (Benny Benassi Remix)" - Kelis; at first I thought this was the same girl that performed "Let's Go Crazy" at the BET awards, but that was Janelle Monáe; I must have heard of Kelis from her work with Björk, Robyn or David Guetta, who did last year's "When Love Takes Over;" I like it when R&B artists go electro, as further evidenced at the bottom of this playlist

2. "Bang a Gong (Get It On)" - T. Rex; when I heard "Children of the Revolution" on Lords of Dogtown, I sat through the end credits to find out who wrote the original song; T. Rex turns out to be that rare '70s rock I always avoided for no good reason

3. "Ça Pourrait Changer" - Brigitte Bardot; from the Youth in Revolt soundtrack; name me one current singer who sounds like she's having this much fun

4. "The Clap" - Bostich + Fussible; minimal techno meets Tejano accordion; where has this been all my life?

5. "Derezzed" - Daft Punk; from the Tron: Legacy soundtrack, which I thought was an Inception ripoff until I read that Hans Zimmer (of Inception) helped out, but I guess that really doesn't stop it from being a ripoff, does it?

6. "Dog Days Are Over" - Florence + The Machine; I avoided this group for the longest time but eventually surrendered to the harp

7. "Everywhere" - Fleetwood Mac; I heard this in a restaurant with my parents and when I said this song was a forgotten gem, my dad said, "I have this one;" anyway, it may be from a bygone era, but we can be sure it hasn't been forgotten

8. "Fader" - The Temper Trap; it's like Jimmy Eat World but better; it's all about that "semi-charmed kinda" chorus

9. "In Motion" - Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross; who could've guessed that Nine Inch Nails and Sigur Rós would become the stuffy soundtrack music of Oscar-type movies?

10. "Keep Looking" - Sade; I didn't see any difference between the sound on her new album this year and her old stuff from the '80s, like this song

11. "Little Green Bag" - George Baker Selection; I recently caught up with the British TV series, Coupling, which did a Reservoir Dogs reference on one episode and it reminded me of this song

12. "Me and the Moon" - The Drums; for fans of New Order

13. "Only Solutions" - Journey; from the movie, Tron, which led to The Matrix, which in turn led to Tron: Legacy, so it takes one to know one

14. "Raise Your Weapon" - Deadmau5; hauntingly beautiful, especially after it goes dubstep in the second half

15. "The Reeling (Groove Police Remix)" - Passion Pit; from the movie, Going the Distance

16. "Scott Pilgrim" - Plumtree; from the movie of the same name (actually, it's the song that inspired the books which were then adapted into a movie)

17. "Sequins" - Abe Vigoda; for fans of The Cure

18. "Too Much" - Sufjan Stevens; for fans of indie rock falsettos and electronic music that's unpredictable

19. "What's My Name?" - Rihanna & Drake; I would include this on my top ten list below if not for Drake

20. "Your Love" - Nicki Minaj; one of many pop songs this year to use an '80s sample (it uses "No More I Love You's" by Annie Lennox), the most obvious being "I Like It" by Enrique Iglesias (which uses "All Night Long" by Lionel Richie)

Ten Best New Songs I Heard from 2010

1. "Running from the Cops" - Phantogram (February 9)
2. "Blessa" - Toro y Moi (February 16)
3. "Ghost in the Graveyard (Ulrich Schnauss Remix)" - A Sunny Day in Glasgow (March 16)
4. "White Flag" - Gorillaz (March 2)
5. "Rill Rill" - Sleigh Bells (May 11)
6. "Revival" - Deerhunter (August 2)
7. "Glass Printer" - The Besnard Lakes (March 9)
8. "Stick to My Side" - Pantha du Prince (February 9)
9. "Bang Bang Bang (feat. Q-Tip & MDNR)" - Mark Ronson & the Business Intl (August 17)
10. "As We Enter" - Nas & Damian "Jr. Gong" Marley (February 23)

Friday, December 31, 2010

December Books

"When you're a young writer, you subtract the birthdates of authors from their publication dates and feel panic or hope. When you're an old writer, you observe the death dates of your favorite writers and you reflect on their works and their lives." (Gail Godwin, The New York Times Book Review, December 12, 2010)

These are some titles from last month's New York Times Book Review section (and Stephen King's year-end list from Entertainment Weekly magazine) that I might like to read at some point:


Anathem - Neal Stephenson; "Delights in the language and etymology he has designed for his fictional world . . . and in the 7,000 years of detailed history he has given it."

The Finkler Question - "A mugging prompts a quest for self-discovery in this tale of anti-Semitism, friendship and wisdom; winner of this year's Man Booker prize."

The Imperfectionists - Tom Rachman; "Journalists, long taught to never make themselves the story, now have Tom Rachman do it for them. His alternately acute and poignant debut novel, about the dramatic follies at a Rome-based English-language newspaper, is divided into chapters dedicated to different characters, each as distinct as a newspaper section."

Major Pettigrew's Last Stand - Helen Simonson; "Set in an English village, Simonson's first novel wraps Old World sensibility around a story of multicultural conflict and romance. A retired major - the starchy widower Ernest Pettigrew - is mourning the recent death of his brother and frustrated by his materialistic son. Gradually he's drawn to Mrs. Ali, a shopkeeper of Pakistani descent who shares his love of Kipling but is regarded by village society as a permanent foreigner."

Rich Boy - Sharon Pomerantz; "The ambitious son of working-class Jewish immigrants gains entree into a world of pedigreed wealth and privilege through charm and smarts alone - but will he always be defined by where he came from? A gripping narrative that doubles as a sweeping rumination on the American class system."

Stephen King's Top Five Books of 2010

1. Infinite Jest - David Foster Wallace; "To my mind, there have been two great American novels in the past 50 years. Catch-22 is one; this is the other. For pop culture vultures like me, the central plot is fascinating: The late James O. Incandenza has created an 'entertainment' - Infinite Jest - so irresistible you can't stop watching it. Three dozen terrific characters spin out from this, my favorite being Joelle Van Dyne, a.k.a. the P.G.O.A.T.: Prettiest Girl of All Time. But it all comes back to that lethal film - because for guys like me, irresistible entertainment, lethal or not, is the holy grail."

2. Freedom - Jonathan Franzen; "If you haven't met Walter and Patty Berglund of St. Paul, it's time. Franzen chronicles their ups and down (mostly downs) with a cold mind and a warm heart. Two wedding rings go into the toilet over the course of this novel, but there's a measure of redemption for both of those who do the casting away. I finished uplifted and energized by Franzen's storytelling ability."

3. I'd Know You Anywhere - Laura Lippman; "The best suspense novel of the year. Eliza Benedict has got a nice house and a nice family, and has managed to put the trauma of her life behind her. At least until the serial killer who kidnapped and raped her - but let her live - when she was 15 gets in touch from death row and says he wants to see her."

4. Savages - Don Winslow; "Chon and Ben, the antiheroes at the center of this novel that's every bit as savage as its title, aspire to be kinder, gentler drug dealers, but when the smoke clears, one is tempted to quote Sarah Palin: 'How's that hopey-changey stuff workin' out for ya?' This is Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid on autoload. Winslow's stripped-down prose is a revelation."

5. Last Night in Twisted River - John Irving; "It starts with the accidental killing of a Native American woman (the youngster who brains her with a skillet mistakes her for a bear). Father and son take off, pursued by the relentless Constable Carl for nearly 50 years. There's a lot of Canada here, a lot of cookin', and a lot of gorgeous (and cynical) Americana. Irving's best since Garp.


Encyclopedia of the Exquisite: An Anecdotal History of Elegant Delights - Jessica Kerwin Jenkins; "This gilded, graceful book is nothing less than a miniature encyclopedia of style, exploring everything from the origins of badminton to the art of origami."

How to Understand Israel in 60 Days or Less - Sarah Glidden; "Vivid dialogue and deceptively simple line drawings that are shaded with delicate watercolors, resulting in a graphic memoir of subtlety and understated wit."

The Imperial Cruise: A Secret History of Empire and War - James Bradley, "whose Flags of Our Fathers recounted how his father helped plant the American flag on Iwo Jima, here contends that William Taft's covert 1905 diplomatic mission to Japan helped set the stage for World War II in the Pacific, the Chinese Communist Revolution and the Korean War. With each port of call, Bradley assesses the effects of American race-based foreign policy calculations in Asia; the brutal counterinsurgency in the Philippines, the forced annexation of Hawaii, the betrayal of promises to protect Korea from Japanese expansionism."

Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void - Mary Roach; "Much more interested in the small steps for man than in the giant leaps for mankind, chronicling all of the niches and pecularities of exploring the outer reaches . . . simultaneously informative and get-strange-looks-on-the-subway hilarious."

Yours Ever: People and Their Letters - Thomas Mallon; "Intended as 'a kind of companion volume to A Book of One's Own,' Mallon's 1984 study of people and their diaries, this exploration of the art of letter-writing embraces old friends - Flaubert, Freud, the Mitfords - and plenty of unknowns."

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

12 Albums in 10 Years, 1983-1992

Strangers sometimes tell me I look like Quentin Tarantino, and unfortunately that may be true, but I like to hope I also look at least a little like Steven Patrick Morrissey (you can judge for yourself with the album cover pictured here). I used to work with a punk rock girl who was possibly a cokehead but admittedly a swinger. You wouldn't think I'd share anything in common with her but one day I combed my bangs up high and she smiled when she asked me if I was going for the Morrissey look. Now the pompadour hairstyle dates back to French court of Louis XV and it reached its height (no pun intended) of popularity with Elvis Presley, so my coworker should've made those comparisons first, but she didn't. She could've called me a retro hipster or wannabe cholo and I wouldn't have been as surprised, so I said, "Yes! I mean, wow, how did you guess?" She told me that her amputee mechanic husband had been trying to perfect the Morrissey hair for years. Then she followed up with a concert story about someone throwing a water bottle at Morrissey after he complained about the smell of "burning flesh" (he's a vegetarian), and how he dropped the microphone right on the spot and walked off the stage, ending the show less than halfway through. She also mentioned that tickets for that show weren't cheap, but he didn't seem to care. From what I've read about Morrissey, that story sums up the singer/songwriter pretty well. If it doesn't mean anything to you, check out the funniest of his many funny, mean song titles: "Dial-a-Cliché" (Viva Hate), "Lucky Lisp" (Bona Drag) and "You're the One for Me, Fatty" (Your Arsenal). I don't know him personally so it's not really my place to comment on his demeanor or personality, but I do know that he was prolific. If you count official live recordings and singles compilations, he was involved with the releases for twelve albums in only ten years. This is the twelfth top twenty playlist I've posted for a band or individual music artists, yet I haven't even covered all of my top ten favorites. The reason for this is that some of my favorites, like Panda Bear, P.M. Dawn and Propaganda, released less than a handful of albums, so a top twenty list would just come off as a ranked list of ALL their songs. I'd love to do top twenty lists for other prolific favorites like The Rolling Stones, but I don't I'll ever be able to evenly weigh all their thirty-some albums and EPs. Similarly, what follows is not a career-spanning top twenty list for Morrissey, but know that if you like what's here, he's still performing and recording to this day.

Morrissey with The Smiths
1. "Accept Yourself" (1983) - from the compilation album, Hatful of Hollow
2. "Back to the Old House (acoustic version)" (1983) from the compilation album, Hatful of Hollow
3. "This Charming Man" (1983) from the single of the same name
4. "Heaven Knows I'm Miserable Now" (1984) from the single of the same name
5. "Please Please Please Let Me Get What I Want" (1984) B-side on the single, William, It Was Really Nothing; my absolute favorite Morrissey song
6. "How Soon Is Now?" (1984) from the single of the same name
7. "That Joke Isn't Funny Anymore" (1985) from the album, Meat Is Murder
8. "Asleep" (1985) B-side on the single, The Boy with the Thorn in His Side
9. "Unloveable" (1986) B-side on the single, Bigmouth Strikes Again
10. "London (Live)" (1986) from the album, Rank, released a year after the band broke up
11. "Is It Really So Strange? (BBC session)" (1986) from the compilation album, Louder Than Bombs
12. "Shoplifters of the World Unite" (1987) from the single of the same name

Morrissey on his own
13. "I Don't Mind If You Forget Me" (1988) from his debut solo album, Viva Hate
14. "Interesting Drug" (1988) from the compilation album, Bona Drag
15. "The Loop" (1990) B-side on the single, Sing Your Life
16. "King Leer" (1991) from the album, Kill Uncle
17. "We Hate It When Our Friends Become Successful" (1992) from the single of the same name
18. "Certain People I Know" (1992) from the album, Your Arsenal
19. "Seaside, Yet Still Docked" (1992) from the album, Your Arsenal
20. "Suedehead (Sparks Mix)" (2006) from the remix compilation, Future Retro; original version (1988) from the album, Viva Hate