Thursday, May 28, 2009

Best. Magazine. Ever.

Books & Culture is the best magazine I have ever read. It's published by Christianity Today International, which is headquartered a couple blocks away from my apartment. CTI (as everyone around here calls it) has had to trim some of their publications recently. Thankfully, Books & Culture was spared. But I decided that, cheap as I am, it's time I actually subscribed. You should too. Go here to get your trial issue.

Special K, I specially direct this recommendation to you. A good chunk of the books reviewed are non-fiction, which I know you are partial to. I think you would really enjoy this magazine.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

I love a good sonnet

In high school, I heard a translation of a sonnet attributed to Michelangelo. It was in a video about the Renaissance artists. I went up to the teacher after class and asked if I could play it back. I rewound and played the laserdisc over and over till I had the whole thing written down.

Ten years later, I think that piece of paper is in my apartment somewhere. But I can't find it, so here's what I remember:

In a frail boat through stormy seas, my life
In its course has now reached the harbor
The bar of which all men must cross
To render an account of good and evil done.

I now know how laden with error
Was that fantasy which made Art for me
An idol and a king, and how mistaken
Is that earthly love which all men seek.

What of those thoughts of love, once light and gay,
As now I approach a twofold death?
One is certain; the other menaces.
No brush, no chisel quiets the soul
Once turned to the divine love of him
Who stretches out his arms on the cross.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

New Context, New Meaning

Lileks once wrote of attending a performance of the musical Annie: "That 'Hard-Knock Life' tune is very odd. (Wonder how many people in the audience wondered why they were playing a Jay-Z song.)"

Indeed. I remember the first time hearing a recording of Sinatra singing "Love and Marriage." It didn't compute. Why would Sinatra sing the theme song from "Married With Children"? There's no way he was a fan of that show . . .

Of course, I eventually realized that the Sinatra performance came first, but I still can't stand to hear him sing the song. Everything Sinatra touched he infused with class, but Al Bundy and Fox managed to wring all the class out of that one.

So our topic is clearly songs which once had an independent existence, but have been completely absorbed into and associated with some new context. Could be a movie that used the song ("Time Is on My Side" in Fallen?), a certain artist's signature performance (Whitney Houston's cover of "I Will Always Love You"), a parody ("Just Eat It"?).

What comes to your mind?

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Guitar picking

I've been whiling away many a free hour playing around with the guitar. I come home from work, do a few household chores, and play for a bit before the boss comes home and I have to get back to business. That time has traditionally been blogging time, so things have been sparse around here of late.

Here are some of the songs I've enjoyed playing. Understand that I play all of them badly.

#1: You Ain't Going Nowhere by Bob Dylan. Super super easy to play, and it sounds really cool. There are multiple sets of lyrics out there. I prefer the ones with "Gonna see a movie called Gunga Din." It's also not clear to me what the lyric after Oooweee is. I've been singing "You ride me high," but it could be something "behind"? Who knows?

#2: I Am an Orphan Girl by Gillian Welch. Chaka is sentimental. Not Thomas Kinkade sentimental, but singing this song subjects me to excessive lacrimosity.

#3: The Story by Brandi Carlile. I like the instructions that go along with the tab on this one. "Begin strumming softly . . . Start rocking out like your hair is on fire . . . Back to fingerpicking . . . Hair is on fire again." Cough loudly when I get to the F# minor, you really don't want to hear that.

#4: Don't Let Your Deal Go Down by Charlie Poole. Because there are things I need to know, like who's gonna shoe your pretty little feet?

#5: The Scarlet Tide by Allison Kraus. This one is actually a cheater transposition, and I still can't play it well. Cool song, though.

#6: Clavelitos. (Traditional Tuna song. That's right, Tuna. Nothing to do with fish.) You know this song, you just don't know that you know it. Picture an Andalucian scene, a Spanish lad with a guitar serenading a young lady on the balcony above. Okay, got that pictured? That song he's playing? That's the one.

My favorite part is the "No! te! creas que ya no quiero--es que no te los pude traer." So many preposed pronouns! It sounds so dramatic, but it's actually a pretty lame line (see the translation here; the whole song actually loses some power in translation. I'll give you a bell! Woohoo!).

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Sci-fi Implausibilities

I thought the list below was about Star Trek when I first heard it. It comes from a recent episode of The Dollhouse. The scene begins with a character rattling off the list, but you don't hear the category until the list is complete. I believe the way they phrased it in the episode was "common sci-fi errors."

Of course, if they wanted to pick on Star Trek specifically, they could have added

time travel whenever the plot requires it
transferring matter to energy and back in defiance of Heisenberg

American English as a permanent lingua franca

But you protest "What about the Universal Translator? They aren't all speaking English, the translator just makes it seem that way." In which case, we can add to the list:

instantaneous, flawless machine translation

And for that matter

conducting any meaningful communication with aliens.

Understand, I'm not hating on Star Trek. I've been delightedly rewatching TNG episodes. I will be seeing the movie. But I think I would most enjoy seeing it with two of the great nitpicking fans, Phil Farrand and Joss Whedon.