Tagged: music

Review of This Is America, by Childish Gambino (Using One Scene from Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Black Arrow)

While I have your attention, do be sure to read Stevenson’s Kidnapped. Alan Breck may just be my favorite character ever.

Okay, here’s how this review works. I describe the opening of the video, then I use a few lines from The Black Arrow to express my critical thoughts.

The video opens with a shirtless man whose immediate sex appeal rivals young Jim Morrison, Mick Jagger, and Elvis Presley. Then we see him reach for his gun. And you know the rest.

****

The Good Hope was, at that moment, trembling on the summit of a swell. She subsided, with sickening velocity, upon the farther side. A wave, like a great black bulwark, hove immediately in front of her; and, with a staggering blow, she plunged headforemost through that liquid hill. The green water passed right over her from stem to stern, as high as a man’s knees; the sprays ran higher than the mast; and she rose again upon the other side, with an appalling, tremulous indecision, like a beast that has been deadly wounded… 

“Bootless, my master, bootless,” said the steersman, peering forward through the dark. “We come every moment somewhat clearer of these sandbanks; with every moment, then, the sea packeth upon us heavier, and for all these whimperers they will presently be on their backs. For, my master, ’tis a right mystery, but true, there never yet was a bad man that was a good shipman. None but the honest and the bold can endure me this tossing of a ship.”

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Why Not Soundproof the United States?

One of the joys of co-parenting involves driving on 470 twice a week. There has been road construction under way for some time now. One of the project’s features is the installation of rather large soundproofing walls between the residential areas and the presumably going-to-be-louder interstate.

As you know, benevolence often powers my wheels, and nowadays I cannot help but wish we could turn back the clock and help Trump achieve his goals, with the full support of, “We the people.”

The specific problem on my mind during these cross-town commutes is that while “walls” clearly divide people, whether they protect nation-states is apparently an eternal debate. But, but! Soundproofing simply keeps inconvenient noises from being heard.

If only we could start over, I think we all could rally behind the call to “Soundproof America!” Or maybe some Branson/Musk/Bezos-type could get the entire population of Earth to support, “We’ll Be Quieter!” or, “You Don’t Need Us Anyhow.”

As it is, we’re stuck with each other. I wonder who you think has the power to free us?

Review of Zhang Zuo’s March Seventeenth of Two Thousand Eighteen Performance of Beethoven’s Fifth Piano Concerto (Emperor) with the Colorado Symphony Orchestra at Boettcher Concert Hall

I should have known the night was on my side when her dress fit.

She briskly, confidently, and oh-so-perfectly entered Boettcher Concert Hall, holding the thin, race-car red fabric of her dress off the floor with her soon-to-set-the-piano-on-fire fingers.

Red is my favorite color. And if dresses could direct their attention, her dress pointed directly at my heart. Did I mention that it fit? It fit.

Beethoven is said to have said something like, “Music is God’s final revelation to man.” Of course, with an understanding like that, he could only have meant the LORD. Amen, Brother B. Amen. And thank you, LORD.

All I really want to do here is call to your attention this pianist. If she comes to your town, drop everything–every single thing that you are holding, whether in hand or mind–and pay any dollar amount to see her play. (Or any other currency for that matter, you uptight legalists.)

This woman turns the concert hall into the cathedral.

Do you believe that there is more to music than sound? Good. Me too. Zee Zee three.

You will not be disappointed.

Eeet Eeece Tyme

I am slowly working on the new novel, the one filled with all the sex and violence you can handle (and desire)–and probably more–but I haven’t been writing it that often.

And obviously I haven’t been blogging much.

And I still don’t have a post for you.

But!

But I do finally have the desire to share this video of a speech I gave at one of my beloved toastmasters competitions back in 2012 and in doing so finally pull back the curtain on my never-requested-but-just-the-same-deliberately-hidden appearance. I don’t have the hair or beard these days, but yes, the rumors are true, I am still that good looking. 😉 (for the ladies.) (Fellas: sorry, but you shouldn’t need an emoticon to calm you down.)

Enjoy.

Click here.

Oh. And Happy Birthday…Djyaa-nit.

Review of Whiplash, By Damien Chazelle

I don’t care if any of you watch WhiplashI care if filmmakers do.

Sure, it could’ve been better. I have no context for jazz music. I want to like it and know why I like it, but I don’t. Adding a few scenes which dropped subtle hints that answered “why jazz?” would’ve only made it better. But when I grin like a fool, shake my head in disbelief, write when it is past my bedtime, and what’s more, when I only gave half my attention to the film’s last forty minutes because the other half was busy re-budgeting my time and money towards future music instruction, I know someone just made an effing fantastic movie.

Review of Birdman, starring Batman

I wanted to be really edgy with this review of Keaton’s Best Picture-winning Birdman and use “circle-jerk” in the opening sentence. Then something told me that I might not be the first wannabe movie critic to use this adolescently pejorative gimmick to describe this film. Googling “birdman circle-jerk”, I confirmed my suspicions. Oh well. As another similarly themed saying goes, if you wait, you masturbate.

My new co-workers are one of the least movie-watching crowds I’ve ever labored alongside. There are moments, you can imagine, when this circumstance causes me to question my love of movies. I’ll ask myself, “Have I been wasting my time?” and “Is there more to life?” However, as time goes on, the moments shorten and the doubts disappear.

After watching Birdman, though, ironically my questioning clamored to deafening levels.

Forget that a movie about a movie star won best picture. The only question that ran through my head for the duration was whether or not an expertly made film depicting the ups and downs experienced by the people behind the stage and screen has any inherent metaphorical value for me. Put another way, “Are celebrity’s problems really the same as my problems, only amplified by fame and fortune?” Or yet another, “Does every human being live on a ledge from which they jump, sometimes falling, sometimes flying?” To all these questions I answer, “No.” I say, just like with the quickly-fading-from-view 50 Shades phenomenon, the difficulty with this movie is remembering that I don’t have to let these people frame the discussion. Despite every effort on all our parts to turn celebrities into gods, they are not gods. But remembering this is admittedly challenging because they are rich. And that means they must know something I don’t, right?

****

Prelude to this review’s conclusion: Today I can’t recall what BDSM stands for. And while right now I feel like I may be able to identify with the major motif of Birdman, even admiring all of its on-point updates to the reigning annal of contemporary social history Forrest Gump, I know that tomorrow I will look forward to the new Mad Max. 

Conclusion: As always Hollywood, less talk, more work.

Arpicembalo Che Fa Il Piano E Il Forte

“Large keyboard instrument that produces soft and loud (Barron 95).”

At seven feet long, six hundred seventy pounds, and taller than a toddler, it demands attention. But for a few aesthetic nuances, there is purpose in every handcrafted stationary and moving part. Equally beautiful and functional, the black behemoth exemplifies creativity. Neither do its origins disappoint. Cristofori’s problem was monotony. The harpsichord produced one sound. The strings were plucked. No matter how hard or soft the musician pressed down on the keys, the resultant volume was the same. But life’s spark would not let the matter rest. He sought both soft and loud, and henceforth created a new connection to the Infinite.

Mystifying in its identical name, the keyboard these words are typed on sits atop a wooden table in a room whose walls and closed blinds seem inclined to constantly advance inward. The piano keeps them at bay. Its weight symbolizes its persistence to preserve its place in this world.

The words begin to grow short. The afternoon advances. The man approaches confidently, if lazily. As he steps around the bench, his body brushes against the hanging blinds. He pulls his hand up short of the light switch. As if unable to contain a joyful secret, the swinging blinds reveal the sun is shining. He opens them and smiles.

There is nothing, I mean nothing, that compares to playing the piano in the light of the sun.

*Barron, James. Piano: The Making of a Steinway Concert Grand. New York: Times, 2006. Print.

Just Humming Along

He whistled loudly as they approached the grocery store.

“What song are you whistling, Daddy?” H- begged.

My Favorite Things,” he answered.

“Oh,” she said, not familiar with the tune.

“All aboard!” he called, signaling it was time for her to hop on the front of the cart if she was going to.

He watched and heard her begin an open mouth hum as she attempted to demonstrate her own Christmas spirit notwithstanding a deficit in whistling ability. Chuckling, he pushed the cart into the store and began searching for beautiful women whom he could make smile with the assistance of his little helper.

“I said humming to town,” H- said, laughing innocently as congestion in the baking aisle halted their progress.

“What’s that?” he asked.

H- then proceeded to hum the chorus of Santa Claus Is Coming To Town. Afterward she again giggled and said, “I said humming!”

Squinting and with a cocked head, he looked at her in disbelief and thought, “Surely she knows when she hums no one hears the words?”

“Oh yeah?” he quickly said before the moment passed.

Progressing now to the cereal aisle, another repeat of the chorus was followed by, “That time I said coming.” More humming and another laughing explanation. “I said humming again!”

“Man, I can’t believe they don’t have any corn flakes.”

“Santa is probably humming to the reindeer as they pull his sleigh,” she said thoughtfully, unconcerned with the moment’s dilemma.

“What?” he asked, rising from the crouched position where he had just verified the awful truth that he’d have to get creative to make the cookies.

“I said,” she labored, “Santa is probably humming to the reindeer.”

“A wordsmith is born,” he thought smiling, unable to hide his pride.

You Have Listened To Good Music, Right?

For Sam

Dear Stereo Makers,

How many times have you ever broken a nail with a hammer? Or how many times have you sat on a chair and had the chair just simply break? I know! I know! How many times have you turned on a faucet and the water came out so fast that it put a hole in the sink? No, better yet, how many times have you read a book so fast that it broke?

Zero, right?

Then why, for the love, do you sell a product which allows me to turn up the volume so loud that it breaks my speakers? Why? Surely there’s a way you can prevent this. Surely you can put a line on the knob that lets me know “any louder now, Bub, and you might break your speakers”. I would obey. Promise.

Thank you for reading. Just do better.

Pete

****

PS – If you’re interested, I ended the affair. The End.

Setback

Church-going Christians: Probably want to skip this one. Or maybe you are my target audience. It’s difficult to say.

Because the topic is endlessly fascinating to me, I have read John P. Meier’s A Marginal Jew series–the first four volumes–and I am anxiously awaiting the concluding fifth volume. I am also one book in to N.T. Wright’s New Testament and the People of God five volume series. These books center themselves on the question “What does the historical record say about Jesus of Nazareth?” I believe them to be intellectually honest, and I have found great comfort and value in them. As an added bonus, I am fairly confident that I understand who Jesus of Nazareth was and thought he was much better than before. So much so that I have recently begun to hunt for a church which I think I could stomach attending week to week.

You should see the looks on the generally elder crowd’s faces when I tell them I’ve been away for a decade. They are so thankful that I’ve returned. It’s a little hokey but feels good nonetheless. My biggest complaint about modern churches is their music selection. It’s horrible, just horrible. I have never sat next to a person who didn’t agree, either. Because I’m older and can only attempt this adventure with authenticity, I let a guy know that I missed the Baptist Hymnal of my youth. He tells me, “You’re in luck!” It seems there is a Sunday School type class that sings the old hymns because there are others like me. Another vote for opening my big mouth, I think.

Yesterday, however, I discovered I should just sit quiet from now on. While the packed room did sing one (1) traditional hymn, I was sure that before the hour’s end I would be the only one not grasping St. Peter’s welcoming hand at the pearly gates.

Social decorum demanding obedience as it does, I remained in the room.

Skipping to the end, what did the well-meaning old timers want to debate for the hour we had together? Whether there is such a thing as unpardonable sin–a sin which is so awful that even Jesus’ saving power can’t redeem the perpetrator’s soul. (Consensus – There might be one, but don’t worry you can’t commit it inadvertently.)

The only thought that occupied my mind for that hour was, “Who gives a shit?”

The sermon was pretty good at least.