Okay, that out of the way...
As you've gathered, I was born and raised in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, but like lots of other hill folk, I followed the job to
elsewhere. I was born in 1954, so, yes, I did live through the 60s. But I hated them. The only good things that
happened in the 60s were The Great Society and
I put ten years into the army (about six too many). Then I got a job with the Department of Defense (yes, I'm a dreaded federal employee -- don't get me started on the budget process and furloughs!!). Currently I live in Laurel, Maryland, which lies in between Washington, DC, and Baltimore. There are some amenities to the area:
* the National Arboretum,
out New York Avenue and undervisited
has [among many, many others]:
and in the area
- The BSO!
--a world-class symphony orchstra in the Meyerhof, one of the world's best halls
- the Inner Harbor
- the National Aquarium
-- sharks, jellyfish, a rainforest, dolphins, very nice
Yards (* Oriole Park at Camden Yards), where
the Birds play ball
- MT&A Bank (formerly PSI Net Stadium (sounds like Bester hangs out there, doesn't it? but no such
luck....))Stadium, where the newly-named
Ravens play mediocre (okay, they won the super bowl... I still hate them) NFL
(may it die a thousand deaths) football, and the Stallions used to
play winning, in fact championship calibre CFL (faster, more exciting)
football. Now that Bal'mer has succumbed to the lure, crawled back to the NFL
(the same NFL they were renouncing vehemently when denied an expansion team just
a couple of years ago), and stolen Cleveland's team [joke: what's the difference
between a bum and a hero? whether his football team is moving out of or into
Baltimore!], the Stallions, despite being
the Grey Cup Champions (think Super Bowl), couldn't draw ticket holders
and ended up leaving in May, moving to Montreal to become the
[this page has moved, and now there's info there! Keep up with the guys here.) Goodbye,
Stallions; bonjour, Alouettes: bon chance!
- the Walters -- a lovely, little, museum
with spectacular revolving exhibits
- the Lyric -- where Broadway
often tries out and the Baltimore Opera
Company makes its home
- Edgar Allan Poe's
grave -- why d'you think they called the football team the Ravens?
Some stuff about my likes and interests.
Constantly being added to, of course...........
I'm not a party-pooper; I'm a party-poopee! No, I'm not shy. Nor lonely. Nor
antisocial. I'm an introvert. I need to be alone to recharge, because you
extraverts are draining!
Aaacckk! The Wall Street Journal spreads another myth! On 16 April, they
ran a Work Week blurb that began:
CHIEF EXECUTIVES think they are introverts.
Their subordinates disagree. A new survey of 481 corporate chiefs finds 70% of
them are introverted...But a survey of the CEO's colleagues -- board members and
subordinates -- finds they are seen as "forceful," dominant, socially
Hey, WSJ! Wake up and smell the coffee! Introverts are not feebs, dweebs,
pushovers, or socially inept bunglers: damn straight we "can obviously turn it on
when [we] need to". In fact, we're usually more socially skilled
than extraverts, 'cause we've had to learn how.
If you want to know more about introverts and how we think, check out
the Greenbelt (I also go on a bit about the rest of the
MBTI characteristics there, too).
I love Language. And languages. [joke: what is a language? a dialect with an
army!] I love grammar, and syntax, and deep structure, and all the ways that
language functions. I love the smartness of colloquial
speakers. I Love Language! (I hate Language Mavens, though -- look here for
an article about the nightmare of being cited by
There's more on TV than there was last time I did this page...
Torchwood! Torchwood... a spin-off of Doctor Who, dark and delicious and sexy. The team is quirky and intelligent and sometimes annoying, and I doubt Gwen would be seen in a starring role on American TV, and I'm fairly certain Jack would have to tone down his sexuality, and it's bloody sometimes ... but Russell Davies makes a great show, blending sci-fi and fantasy into a chilling, funny show. Give it a shot - BBC America, Saturday night.
House. What can I say? I can't believe I'm watching a show on Fox ... but for Hugh Laurie, Robert Sean Leonard, the Cottages, and this writing staff... I will. I so will. And you should, too. This season has been better than last, too - their long arc so far was something I feared (a reality show-style picking of new assistants?) but it turned out brilliantly.
Pushing Daisies. Weird, stylistic, and funny. The acting is good, the storyline is bizarre, and it's not even meant to be real - but it's definitely worth watching.
"Primeval"- (now on BBC America) - a terrifically engaging show, with interesting characters and great SFX. I love the twist between seasons 1 and 2, and can't wait for season 3!
"Life on Mars" - wow. I mean, just wow. John Simm handles a difficult job (he's in virtually every scene of the entire show) and Philip Glenister is simply brilliant. It's Brit, it's short (16 eps total), and it's a complete story. Watch it.
"Slings & Arrows" - an absolutely brilliant Canadian television series (or think miniseries - 6 episodes). This is funny and sad and true - well written and acted. I don't even know how to summarize it: a brilliant actor has a nervous breakdown in the middle of Hamlet, and years later he returns to direct his then Ophelia, also his then lover, in a production planned by the then director, now dead, who betrayed him into madness... and is hanging around as a ghost. Meanwhile, the theater company itself is under attack by an American who wants to turn it into a theme park. Just take my word for it (Netflix it): it's great!
"Torchwood" and the new "Doctor Who" of course.
"Bender's Big Score" - Good News, Everyone! YAY! Futurama, the show that wouldn't die! Is this a "movie" or an extra-long episode? Who cares? It's Futurama - the whole gang back together! Fry, Leela, Amy, Zoidberg, the Professor, Zap Brannigan, Kif, Morbo, the Hypnotoad, Robo-Santa, the head of Richard Nixon and the headless body of Agnew ... the Chanukkah Zombie and Kwanzabot and the head of Al Gore (and the rest of him) and new aliens and ... come on! It's Futurama!
"Hogfather" - yes, Terry Pratchett's novel comes to film - and live action, at that. It was made for Sky TV, and is lowish budget, but it's still pretty remarkable. The casting is excellent, and the script is good adaptation. I do kind of miss Death of Rats and Quoth the Raven (though they have small scenes), and some other scenes, and I wish they'd kept the sword blade invisible, but those are little quibbles... It's wonderful.
"Brigada (The Gang)" - a miniseries from Russia about the rise and of some New Russians, from their youth in Soviet times to their involvement in politics and crime in Putin's brave new country. It's well acted and the production values are terrific. The only drawback is the subtitles: whoever did them didn't really know his English well. There are a lot of near-homonyms used, where he wrote the word that sounds like the word he meant when pronounced with a Russian accent (like "bit" for "beat", for instance). Also, he couldn't find the standard English spelling for some things, so you get, for instance, Sanya referring to the "Monteki and Capulotti" instead of the "Montagues and Capulets", or to "Alexander Makedonsky" instead of "Alexander the Great". And the use of the nicknames is a bit bewildering to non-Russophones: he's "White" because they call him "Belyy", which means white and is a pun from his surname, "Belov". If you speak Russian, this is an unqualified recommendation; if you don't, it's a bit of work but not much, and I think it's worth it.
"House Season One-Three" (see above) and "Veronica Mars Season One-Two" (ditto): two tv shows which are worth watching over and over again. Nice extras, but buy these for the main courses - you won't regret it.
"Firefly" was Joss Whedon's unconventional and brilliant (and very funny) sci-fi drama on Fox for about 8 or 9 weeks last year. It wasn't a very Fox-y sort of program, I guess; at any rate, they didn't even bother to show all the eps they'd made. Which makes the box set of dvds even better: it has all the eps, and in the right order, too. It also has some nice extras, such as commentary on some of the eps, good documentaries, and a very funny clip of Adam Baldwin (who played Jayne Cobb) singing the song from "Jaynestown"... The casting was good, the writing tight and clever, and the vision of the future--half American and half Chinese--inspired and unexpected. It was a visual treat, too. With any luck, the film they're making now will impress someone and they'll get this series back on tv. But for now, this box set is most definitely worth buying and watching, over and over. -- And SciFi's showing it - as a runup to the MOVIE!!! Finally!
And "Serenity"... sigh. So nice to see it finally. Yes, it's better on the big screen, but don't let that stop you. And you don't have to have seen "Firefly" (but you'll appreciate it more once you do). It suffers from the same problem as "The Peacekeeper Wars" did: the need to put a season (possibly, for "Serenity", a season and a half) into one movie, but although you can miss all the extra mysteries (Book, for instance) and if you're an Inara fan you'll love the deleted scenes, since most of her screen time hit the cutting room floor, still the heart of "Firefly" is here, and the main mysteries are revealed, and - although, since this is Joss Whedon's work, no one is safe and there are tears - you'll go away more than satisfied.
"Concert for George" - the cd's good, the dvd's better. You get the theatrical release, the complete concert, uncut, and a lot of interviews and rehearsal footage. The concert itself is wonderful, beginning with Ravi Shankar's (other) daughter, Anoushka, playing a sitar solo and accompanying Jeff Lynne on The Inner Light, and then conducting a mixed Indian/Western orchestra in a long piece Ravi wrote for George's memory. Then a 22-song set of some of George's best songs (also a Traveling Wilburys number, a Carl Perkins number, and a ukelele version of a lovely old standard), performed by some marvellous musicians (Tom Petty, Eric Clapton, Ringo Starr, Jeff Lynne, Paul McCartney, Gary Brooker, Joe Brown, Billy Preston) - and with the dvd you get to see them. Ringo's wonderful, at the mike or on the drums. Plus, you get Jools Brown's number, cut from the cd for some reason. Also, you get the talking, by Eric, by Ravi, by the others, which means now you can hear Olivia's observation on seeing Dhani on stage with the others. And you get to see it, so now you'll know (if all you have is the cd) just why the audience clapped and cheered in the middle of I'll See You In My Dreams... plus you get a lot of backstage stuff, and a lot of interviews (the musicians, Dhani and Olivia, producers, Pythons (yes ... two Python numbers not on the cd ...) If you loved George, you'll love these dvds.
"Roswell"'s third season's finally out on dvd. This uneven but excellent and addictive show never quite knew what it was or who its audience was. But the premise is entertaining, the acting good, and the writing usually good, too. It's much better than most of what's out there now.
"Sailor Moon" - the uncut first and second seasons, complete with Japanese show title (Bishoujo Senshi Sailor Moon: Pretty Soldier Sailor Moon). If you're a very young girl, this may be a bit intense for you. If you're not, this is Sailor Moon as it was meant to be seen. Some episodes weren't ever on the DiC TV version, some were cut (some were shredded), and no episodes were translated properly. The plot holes are gone (even the silly ones, like "Darien", his memory gone, insisting that he doesn't recognize the name "Darien" when all the Dark Kingdom people are calling him "Prince Darien" -- after all, he's Mamoru and Prince Endymion in Japanese). Zoisite is male, Rei dates Mamoru, the backstory is more complete and a lot darker, and people do die. It's like a whole different show. It's intense, funny, and I admit I cried during the last two episodes of the first season. (If you're worried about your children seeing it, I'd say if they're old enough to sit through a subtitled program and read the subtitles (there is no English dub), they're probably old enough to handle it. It's not graphic, even though it's not for the little bitty ones.)
"Descendants of Darkness" -- four story arcs in a thirteen-episode tale of supernatural cops (tracking down those who kill, and those who won't die) in modern-day Japan. This one's too intense for youngsters, but teens can handle it. It's beautifully drawn and well-written, with lovely character development and (for a change) the English dub's not bad, if you don't mind that truly awful voice they've given Watari... The story follows Tsuzuki, a bit of a loose cannon, and his new partner Hiroki (who's got problems of his own, stemming from his untimely death at 16), as they find themselves targetted by a madman, the truly evil Dr Muraki, who's obsessed with Tsuzuki in more ways than one... We've got a vampire, we've got a cursed violin, we got a murder mystery on a cruise ship, we've got cloning experiments and transplants and falling cherry blossoms... And, oh, yes; we definitely have men in love. With men. If that bothers you, this one's not for you. But if it doesn't (and it's not like there's sex going on), then this one is most definitely a keeper.
Not anime, this time. It's the "Complete Black Adder Collection" on DVD. Not just Black Adder I, II, III, and Goes Forth, but also Blackadder Back and Forth. Plus many special features (including "Historical Footnotes" that tell you what really was going on), especially Blackadder shorts, like the infamous "Blackadder's Christmas Carol" and "Blackadder: The Cavalier Years". Rowan Atkinson is priceless, of course, and his supporting cast likewise. Brian Blessed's Richard IV and Hugh Laurie's Prince Regent stand out, but everyone's perfect. This series is funny. You'll never hear the phrase "I have a cunning plan" without chortling again.
Okay -- more anime. (Just remember: it's a medium, it's not a genre!) "Martian Successor Nadesico": this is absolutely hilarious. It's science fiction, but it's funny. And yet it explores some pretty serious themes: the nature of war, why we (should) fight, the meaning of leadership, and the pervasive influence of pop culture, in this case, anime itself. Yes, that's right: the characters on "Nadesico" are hooked on an anime series called "Gekigangar 3" and it and its fans (some of whom are, not to spoil the story, quite unexpected) are a major characters. There are mecha, of course, and girl pilots, and a young genius girl, and a hapless boy pilot who'd rather be a cook than a hero, and a mysterious doctor... all the standard ingredients but somehow, as if Howmei-san herself had mixed it up, the recipe comes out different and remarkable.
Ooooo... this one's very good. "The Hakkenden: The Legend of the Dog Warriors". Seven soul brothers, the reincarnations of the children of a heroic dog and the princess of the clan he saved (don't worry, it's incredibly tasteful), find themselves inexplicably drawn to each other and a beleaguered clan in 15th c Japan. It's a complex plot, with a lot of characters, and well worth your time. It's gory, but all the violence is integral to the plot--just don't let your little children watch it. One word of warning: when you get to ep 10 and the animation sucks (there's not a kinder word for it) don't panic: the much more beautiful style returns in 11. I have no idea what happened there... just put up with it.
And you can't miss "Cowboy Bebop"! It's anime, it's totally cool, and it's on Adult Swim on the Cartoon Network (Saturday, 11:30pm). It's also out on DVD. Plot? Oh, yeah. A lot of plot. Heroes Spike and Jet, with new-comers Faye and Ed (who's a girl, by the way), are bounty hunters in a solar system which features a ruined Earth and 'gate' travel that allows people to get from Venus to Ganymede in days. (Venus, by the way, is gorgeous.) The police seem to rely on bounty hunters, not surprising considering the sheer size of the place, and they rein them in by only paying on live prisoners. The animation is detailed and often breath-taking, characters are developed over the course of the series, and back-stories are deep and complex. Watch the characters watching Faye's younger self on Beta tape in "Speak Like a Child"; watch Jet deal with Alisa's explanation for why she left him in "Ganymede Elegy"; and watch Spike take off like a crazy man at the mention of Julia's name in "Jupiter Jazz"these are real people with a lot of pain in their pasts. Anime conventions are used and sometimes to startling effect: rain or snow often washes things clean again in the art-form: in the episode "Waltz for Venus", the fall of spores from the floating plants (floating in the sky, that is), echoes that theme visually, but as the spores are in fact the cause of the tragedy contained within the episode, it is an ironic echo. And then the ending... oh, wow. Tragic, inevitable, real... This is a very, very, very... very good series.
Currently mysteries, mainly; also biographies, science fact, and general/regional
(like New Stories from the South, or Bailey White).
I still love Angela Thirkell! She wrote splendid
and hilarious comedies of manners set in a fictional rural English county. You
must read this women. She is unbelievably good. Try Growing Up, a funny,
poignant look at coping with WWII. Or The Headmistress, another WWII novel
dealing with displacement, of a girls' school and of the people whose house it now
occupies, and with watching one's children grow up and go off to war. Really.
Read this woman.
And of course, read Anthony Trollope, too - Angela Thirkell's character's grandparents!
- Darwin's Dangerous Idea by Daniel Dennett. A terrificly engaging look at evolution and the way it's changed everything we thought we knew and threatened everything we - or many of us - hold dear. Dennett's argument is that we should embrace those changes, because the truth will indeed set us free.
- Big Bang by Simon Singh. A lucid - and pellucid - history of the currently held theory of the origin of the Universe. Singh explains it all, from the beginnings in ancient Greece up to the earth-shaking WMAP findings of 2003. You don't need any math to understand him - just a reasoning mind. Highly recommended!
- The Ancestor's Tale by Richard Dawkins. Darwin's greatest disciple takes us backwards through time in search of our first ancestor - a pilgrimage meeting our relatives, family by family as we go back. On the way, Dawkins explains the newest findings in evolutionary biology and shows us that even if we had no fossils at all, molecular biology tells the tale loudly and clearly... As with everything Dawkins has written, recommended - and this one's not one of his aimed at his fellow scientists, so it's highly recommended for all of us.
- The Man Who Found Time by Jack Repcheck. One more little book about a scientist and his discovery, this time about Joseph Hutton and his theory on the age of the Earth (not 6000 years old, but billions...) A fascinating portrait of Edinburgh during the late 18th century, the Scottish Enlightenment, and of the entrenched resistance to the notion of Earth's antiquity.
- Ava's Man by Rick Bragg -- even better than "All Over But The Shoutin'", this book is brilliant. It crackles like the love between Ava and Charlie did, "something that once crackled and roared along the banks of the Coosa River back when it was wild." In this one, Bragg tells us the story of his maternal grandfather, who "grew up in a hateful poverty, fought it all his life and died with nothing except a family that worshiped him and a name that gleams like new money." I can't say enough about this book, a paean to hard-working men who know the most important they can do is keep their families fed and clothed... and told in the sort of virtuoso writing we've come to expect from Bragg. Must reading.
- The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt and Theodore Rex by Edmund Morris -- the first one (somewhat revised for the new release) won the Pulitzer. The second covers TR's presidency. Excellent writing, massively researched, fascinating story.
- And Then We Went Fishing by Dirk Benedict -- this book is excellent. Even if a phrase like "my wife told me we had been selected by a soul to become its parents" gets to you, don't quit on this book. This story is engrossing, the writing excellent. Flashes of humor, streaks of tragedy, hope and courage and terror and eventual triumph. I've read it three times already...
- Galileo's Daughter by Davina Sobel -- unbelievably good. Also her Longitude and the new one, The Planets
- The Ice Finders by Edmund Blair Bolles -- a small book, a fast read, and an incredible story. This book actually made me understand why anybody ever believed in the Open Polar Sea...
- The Man Who Discovered the Missing Link by Pat Shipman -- a life (told
as an unfolding story) of Eugene Dubois, discoverer of Java Man ... a man who told
his wife, as they sat in a lifeboat waiting to see if their ship would sink, that,
if it did, she had to save the children--he had to save the fossils.
- Eliot Pattison's Shan Tao Yun series - The Skull Mantra, Water Touching Stone, Bone Mountain, Beautiful Ghosts: these fascinating books are set in contemporary Tibet, capturing the struggle of the Tibetans against their Chinese occupiers ("the very Tibetan stalemate, the tank against the prayer circle") in the story of Shan, a disgraced and imprisoned inspector who becomes involved in solving murders while trying to avoid going back to the prison camp. There's a definite ideological stand here, but these books are no polemic: they're engrossing and suspenseful and exotic. Highly recommended.
- Donna Leon's Inspector Brunetti series, beginning with Death at La Fenice: Set in Venice, very much a small Italian town, these mysteries are as interested in the people as the problems. Brunetti matches his aging, tourist-ridden city for charisma, and Leon's writing is seductive.
- Henning Mankell's Kurt Wallander series, beginning with Faceless Killers: Set in Ystad, a small Swedish city, the feeling of Mankell's books is radically different from Leon's - as different as Sweden and Italy, I imagine- but both are well written and peopled with fascinating characters.
- Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro: Another brilliant, unsettling novel by the author if When We Were Orphans and The Remains of the Day. Set in an England not quite like ours, the differences only slowly revealed to us, the story explores what it means to be human and, maybe, what it means not to be.
In fact, anything and everything by Ishiguro.
- Monumental Propaganda by Vladimir Voinovich: Very funny yet very serious book about the transition from Stalinist to New Russia, mostly through the viewpoint of an unreconstructed Stalinist... Aglaya loves Stalin so much she shelters in her apartment a huge cast-iron sculpture of him after it's torn down in the Khrushchev years. (It probably helps to know that the title is a term for political statues, not just bigger and better propanda.)
- The Kitchen God's Wife by Amy Tan: This is not a new book, but I just found it. It's far better than 'The Joy Luck Club', deeper and more focussed. Winnie's life is hard and yet she manages to rise above it, not even knowing how strong she is (one of the most poignant moments, for me, comes when she marvels at how blind her second husband is, to think her strong). You're irresistably pulled into the world of pre-Communist China, submerged in scents and sounds and a whole way of life, passing away before your eyes. It's gorgeous.
- Oba-san and Itsuka by Joy Kogawa: These two books explore the Canadian side of the Japanese internments during World War II through one family, particularly one woman, a girl at the time, and her two very different aunts (Oba-san means Aunt; itsuka, someday). The second one is more overtly political than the first, but after reading the first you'll want to know what happened, not just to Naomi but to them all. It's no surprise that Kogawa is a published poet: the books, especially 'Oba-san', are lyrical even while they rend your heart. Beautiful.
- Summerland by Michael Chabon: This book is a coming of age novel that blends baseball, fairy tales (the old kind), American myth (Native and frontier both), and Norse mythology into a swirling, delectable and engrossing read. It helps if you like baseball but you don't have to. If Charles de Lint and WP Kinsella hooked up with Mark Twain... something like that. Wonderful.
- Peace Like a River by Leif Enger. Words fail me. I don't know how to describe this brilliant and mesmerizing novel. Any plot summary would sound either bizarre or hokey, and the book's neither by a long shot. Reuben and his sister Swede and their father's search for Davy, the older brother who killed (in self defense perhaps, or perhaps not) and escaped and fled into the badlands, kept me glued to the book until it ended. Swede's epic narrative poem, which echoes and reflects and illumines, is excellent in itself, and Reuben's narration simply glows. Definitely read this book.
- The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd. Another brilliant first novel, this one is lyrical and sweet as honey. A coming of age novel about a Southern girl at the dawn of the Civil Rights era, rooted in its time and yet timeless. Simply gorgeous.
- The Year of the Death of Ricardo Reis by José Saramago. This novel, told in an incredibly well-handled omniscient-author point of view, floats in and out of the minds of the characters, who include not only Ricardo Reis himself, but a dead poet, a crippled girl, a hotel maid, and a host of others, including the reader, who is drawn inside the story and made part of it. The time is 1936, the country Portugal, and the story deceptively simple: Ricardo Reis returns from Brazil and tries to make sense of his life as the world falls to pieces around him. Saramago's style is idiosyncratic and compelling, and the novel is, too.
- Bombingham by Anthony Grooms. Another incredibly powerful first novel,
this one (framed lightlybut increasingly weightilyby a patrol in Vietnam) describes the summer of '63 in Birminham as seen through the eyes of a young black boy whose mother is dying: the marches and the terror, the dreams (found and lost)... I can't say enough about this book. It's very nearly an imperative read.
- His Dark Materials trilogy by Phillip Pullman -- forget Harry Potter. I
mean, those are good. Pullman is brilliant
- When Kambia Elaine Flew In From Neptune by Lori Aurelia Williams. An
indescribably wonderful first novel about coming of age, told with heartbreaking
clarity of language, poetry, and truth. I cannot recommend this one too highly. Also, the sequel: Shayla's Double Brown Baby Blues, equally excellent.
- Robert Rodi -- anything by him! -- funny, sad, true... he'll break your
heart and make you laugh while he does. Especially recommending Fag Hag, Drag
Queen and Kept Boy.
- Thief of Time and the rest of the
-- not for everyone, but if you like Python and/or Douglas Adams, you'll love these indescribable fantasies.
- In A Dry Season and others by Peter Robinson... lifting police mysteries to fine art, these books are brilliant.
Opera (this is my page on that), classical, classic rock,
girl groups, Barry Manilow, folk (Peter, Paul & Mary; Ian and Sylvia; Stan
Rodgers), folk rock (Steeleye Span), modern Celtic (I mean like Carreg Lafar and
traditional (like The Corries), Mandy Patinkin, medieval (motets, Anonymous 4),
contemporary country (Mary-Chapin Carpenter), and bluegrass (I'm talking Norman
Blake and Ralph Stanley, here).
- Dial-s-Song by They Might Be Giants: If you already love TMBG you may already have all these, but this anthology is much more than a short "greatest hits" - it's 52 trememendous tracks plus all the lyrics and two essays, on by TMBG and one by Sarah Vowell. Anng Ng and Birdhouse in Your Soul and They'll Need a Crane and Particle Man and Istanbul and I Palindrome I and 46 more. What's not to love?
- Great American Songbook by Rod Stewart: And I admit it, I thought the Doonesbury strips were funny, and moreover, there was a time when if I'd never heard Stewart's voice again it would have been too soon (Maggie May being fine the first oh hundred times I heard it that month) - but I love these cds. Stewart interprets these classics brilliantly, his voice grows on you amazingly, and the songs are just plain fun.
- Johnny Cash - Cash Unearthed The partnership of Johnny Cash and Rick Rubin to make the American Recordings was without a doubt one of the most ... insert your own superlative here ... occurences in American music. Period. It's no wonder that each of the first four albums released won a Grammy (consider them each recommended, by the way). And this set -- yes, it's expensive. But it's worth it, would be worth it at twice the price -- is a marvellous exploration of that partnership. This isn't something quickly cobbled together after Cash's death; it was in the works to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the partnership, and it glows with care. The book that comes with it is a coffe-table book in miniature, not just liner notes, with interviews by Sylvie Simmons on each of the five discs included. There's the obligatory "best of" disc, but then there are four more: two of recordings not used, which are often intriguing looks into the recording precess and sometimes simply wonderful covers in and of themselves; one of old songs that Cash loved to sing; and one of gospel songs, this one a disc he'd wanted to record his whole career. This black box set from the man in black is ... beyond words.
- Concert for George A wonderful set of some of George's best songs, performed by some marvellous musicians (Tom Petty, Eric Clapton, Ringo Starr, Jeff Lynne, Paul McCartney, Gary Brooker, Joe Brown, Billy Preston), plus a cd of Ravi Shankar's other daughter, Anoushka, playing a sitar solo, accompanying Jeff Lynne on The Inner Light, and a mixed Indian/Western orchestra in a long piece he wrote for George's memory. If you loved George, you'll love this cd. (but note: see the dvd review above)
- George Harrison - Brainwashed I always liked George best, and this album is probably the best one, certainly the best one since "All Things Must Pass". It's pure George, the man who couldn't tell the difference between a hit song and a metaphysical speculation. Marwa Blues showcases his guitar playing, and his voice rarely sounded better than it does on Any Road and I'll Never Get Over You. And he and Dhani chanting the Naamah Parvati at the end of the album -- the perfect way to say 'goodbye, George...'
- Ron Sexsmith - Cobblestone Runway An odd name, an odd voice, but a master lyricist and tunesmith. His best album to date, just wonderful. "There's Gold in Them Hills", "Former Glory", and "These Days" are wonderfully singable and "God Loves Everyone" is poignant, while the message of the "Dragonfly on Bay Street" will make you think twice. I love this man's music.
- Rachmaninov: Piano Concerto Nr. 3 Leif Ove Andsnes. I have had the good
fortune to hear this brilliant pianist play this in person, in Baltimore just last week. He has the technique. He has the emotion. He's splendid, brilliant... get out the thesaurus. This recording is a must. EMI Classics 56350
- O Brother, Where Art Thou? I don't often buy soundtracks, but this one... oh, my goodness. We're talking a coherent album here, not just a bunch of new songs, and we're talking roots/bluegrass/oldstyle whatever you want to call it. Alison Krauss's "Down in the River" will send chills down your spine, and Ralph Stanley's "Oh, Death" will finish the job. Buy this
- "Ralph Stanley": Even if "O Brother" weren't so good, it would have to be blessed for bringing bluegrass/roots music to the ears of so many people, and thereby making so many new collections and artists available. Not to mention rejuvenating the career of the incomparable Ralph Stanley, who's signed a new deal with Columbia and brought out a new album. The man is astounding. DMZ/Columbia CK86626
- Invincible Summer kd lang: another outstanding theme album from a woman whose voice and lyrical pace are almost unbelievable. Much happier than, say, "Ingénue" or "Drag", Summer is a collection of songs about love, from the deliberately corny (yet irresistable) "It's Happening With You" and the slightly bittersweet "Summerfling" (Laugh, how we would laugh at anything and so pretend a never-ending summerfling) to the triumphs of "When We Collide" and the longing questions in "The Consequences of Falling"... another album I can (and have) listened to for hours. Warner 9 47605-2
- Hermann Jadlowker: Dramatic Coloratura Tenor: not quite everything he ever recorded, but one heck of a great collection, from Mozart (see note here on Mozart) to lieder by Strauss and Tchaikovsky, including his incomparable "Noch tönt mir ein Meer im Busen (Fuor del Mare)" and "Ecco ridente in cielo" from Rossini's "Barber of Seville". Marston 52017-2. Because of the age of the recordings, there is some noise, easily (in my opinion) overlooked. As soon as I found this, I had to buy it. As Tom Kaufman's liner notes say, "Jadlowker's voice and skills were unique." Simply a fantastic collection, 2 discs, and I can (and have)
listened to the first disc for literally hours.
- Wrecking Ball Emmylou Harris. Asylum Records 61854-2. She
won a Grammy for this. She should have. It's a completely wonderful album: voice,
music, words... frail my heart apart and play me a little 'shady grove', ring
the bells of rhymney till they ring inside my head forever...
- The Innocent Age by Dan Fogelberg. What can I say about this
album? I've loved it for more than a quarter of a century.
- Oedipus Tex and other Choral Calamaties by P.D.Q. Bach (one of his
- Starring Fred Astaire Standards introduced by Astaire's distinctive,
light voice, written for him and his RKO movies
- Appalachia Waltz Yo-Yo Ma, Edgar Meyer, Mark O'Connor. "Something
Entirely New" -- Texas fiddle married to Irish traditional with a large addition
of classical strength, this recording is strings at their best.
New Old -- Reissues and Compilations
- The Complete Columbia Stanley Brothers Ralph and Carter Stanley. Bluegrass at its very best. Bill Monroe threatened to leave Columbia if they signed the Stanleys; they did, and he did (going to Decca). No wonder: they were the best and most authentic of his competition, and this collection has all the best of their work, from "The White Dove" to "Man of Constant Sorrow." Columbia/Legacy CK53798
- Ingénue k.d. lang. Possibly her best album ever. Certainly up at the top. She calls it her "stalker" album, but it's not stalking, it's obsession. Her wonderful, distinctive voice is at its best, the lyrics are compelling, and the concept builds step by step from "Save Me" to her mega-hit "Constant Craving". I can listen to this one all afternoon. Sire/Warner Bros. 9 26840-2
- Anthology: The Warner/Reprise Years Emmylou Harris. Fifteen years (75-90) of one of the most influential (and wondrous-voiced) singers of our time, covering the sixteen albums she made with The Hot Band. Not to be missed. Warner Archives/Rhino R276705.
- 25th Anniversary Collection Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. 3 CD set covering them from "Sherry" to "Grease". The best ethno-urban-pop group ever. Bob Gaudio's words and music, Bob Crewe's production, and Frankie Valli's wailing vocals...I defy you to listen and not sing along... Rhino R2 72998
games I like are mostly classic board games like Clue, Parcheesi, Monopoly ...
I also play bridge (well, sort of), and dominoes. I GM/DM/WM/boss a fantasy role
playing campaign, and would love to run as a player again (hint hint to anyone out
there looking for people). I also like frp computer/nintendo games, games that
require thought and may, in fact, contain no actual violence at all. I like Ultima,
Zelda, Myst ... you probably get the idea.
Flash! A friend just introduced me to "The Settlers of Catan" -- and am I
glad! This game is loads of fun (even though I lost the first three times I played it).
Strategy, luck, interaction, no violence ... I love it!
Politics I am a
Liberal. I have a lot more to say, but ... you'd better go to the Greenbelt's
liberal campsite for more, if you want to hear it.