June 2006


This is for an old friend with whom I’ve fallen out of touch. Hopefully they’ll like it.

  1. It’s Oh So Quiet — Björk
  2. Karmacoma — Massive Attack
  3. Cafe “La Humidad” — Roberto Goyeneche
  4. The Upward March — The Bell Orchestre
  5. Sappho — Dave Douglas
  6. Hey-Hee-Hi-Ho — Medeski, Martin, and Wood
  7. Sister Kate — The Ditty Bops
  8. Mission to Moscow — The Hot Club of Cowtown
  9. Back In The USSR — The Beatles
  10. She Turns Me On — Jim’s Big Ego
  11. I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight — Bob Dylan
  12. The Two Women — Paul Kotheimer
  13. “Uh-Oh, Chango!”/White History Month — Don Byron
  14. Too Late — Talib Kweli and Hi-Tek feat. RES
  15. Raga Tilak Kamod – Shruti Sadolikar Katkar
  16. The Wind That Shakes The Barley — Dead Can Dance
  17. Hora Ca la Ursari — Taraf de Haïdouks
  18. Stay Loose (Lyrics Born remix) — Jimmy Smith
  19. Rebels of the Sacred Heart — Flogging Molly

Symphony’s Requiem to die for — Joshua Kosman, Chronicle Music Critic.

(by Peter Shaffer) Equus is one of those famous plays that I never read but could probably fake knowledge of it. It’s the story of a young man, Alan Strang, who is put in a psychiatric hospital after blinding six horses. The play centers around the doctor, Martin Dysart, and his attempt to unravel the cause of Alan’s actions. Dysart has his own neuroses — a distant wife, a recurring dream about carving up children, and he constantly questions the morality of his job. Alan, for his part, is deeply suspicious of Dysart’s objectives, but eventually opens up. Dysart interviews Alan’s parents — a very religious mother and an atheist and overbearing father. He elicits from Alan flashbacks and dreams and eventually pieces together a psychosis in whose logic the blinding of the horses is inevitable.

The original stage directions are given in the version I have, so you get a real sense for the theatricality of Shaffer’s writing. That is, I think, the strongest point in the whole piece. What bothered me was the cleanliness of the psychoanalysis. It’s appealing to think that even the most horrific events have rational antecedents, that we can make acts of cruelty into acts of passion, and while this story may exemplify that approach, I got the sense at the end of the play that I had witnessed a particularly clever sleight of hand. It’s a very neat case study. However, apart from that, we have the effect of the process on Dysart himself, which Shaffer teases out in a really beautiful and true way.

It’s definitely a play worth reading and I’m sure worth seeing as well. I’ve heard there’s a movie version, but I think the play is too theatrical to be suited to a realistic film, so I think I’ll give it a miss. I’m sure it would only accentuate the things I didn’t like about the script and eliminate the theatricality by using real horses or something.

I had my first voice lesson in a long time today. I have a ton of stuff to work on, but the good news is that I can sing A-flats with few problems. It’s just that my larynx and diaphragm and everything else mostly refuse to cooperate. Hopefully I’ll have enough time to practice and improve in the next week around all of the Verdi Requiem rehearsals and concerts.

So thanks to Darcy, I believe, I have a syndication feed for this blog on livejournal. Unfortunately, the way livejournal is set up, you can comment on the post directly within livejounal, so that the comment will not show up on the main blog. I have no idea how many comments I have missed (probably not many), but if y’all livejournalists could remember to comment on the main blog, that would be cool.

I looked around for quick (< 5 minute) fixes for this, but haven’t found one yet. Maybe when I’ll have more time I’ll look again.

We just finished 4 performances of Mahler’s 8th Symphony, the “Symphony of a Thousand.” It’s the end of the subscriber season, and what a way to go out. Although the review was not as favorable as I had hoped, but you can’t please everyone. I think that this is one of those pieces that most audience members experience, especially those who haven’t looked at the score before heading to the concert hall. Here are some of my favorite moments from the piece:

  • The opening, naturally.
  • The violin (and later also viola) solos on “infirma nostri corporis” and “uns bleibt ein Erdenrest.” They’re so independent of everything else and just plain bizarre that I instantly fell in love with them.
  • The tenor line on “ductore dic te praevio,” which is completely buried in the texture. No matter how hard we sing, nobody will really hear us. It’s depressing and fun at the same time, like tilting at windmills.
  • The choral opening of the second movement on “Waldung, sie schwankt heran.” Again, one of those creepy, almost musically alienating moments.
  • The women’s chorus on “Jener Rosen.” It’s just so pretty, like the Knaben Wunderhorn songs.
  • The Mulier Samaritana solo. I heart Stephanie Blythe. That plagal cadence at the beginning is so… resonant.
  • The Mater Gloriosa solo. I don’t know what the effect on the audience is, but she was right behind us and it was great.

Next up : Verdi’s Requiem. I’ll always remember this Mahler though — what a trip.

Play with Librarything.. Dangerous, dangerous, dangerous.

Three more…

The Namesake (Jhumpa Lahiri) — I think I devoured this book in about two sittings, it was so good. Or maybe it was more that it was so relevant. Most books by authors of Indian descent are set in India, but Lahiri is American, like I am, and this book is about that experience, or rather the experience of Gogol Ganguli, the child of Indians who immigrated to the US. It’s one of the few stories I’ve read like it that really hit me with its truthfulness and compassion.

Pattern Recognition (William Gibson) — I don’t have much to say about this, except that I enjoyed the read but never bought Gibson’s premise. A world in which people are obsessed with out-of-sequence movie footage released by some unknown auteurs? Confusing.

City of Djinns (William Dalrymple) — This is a very engaging travelogue and history of Dehli, a city which I now want to explore. Dalrymple writes about his year living there and trying to dig through the various incarnations of the city : modern, Raj, occupation, Mughal, Sultanate, all the way back to the Mahabharata. What was most amazing to me was how many ancient gardens, palaces, and so on have just vanished or gone to seed. In some sense it’s a city with no sense of history, but you get the impression that many of the residents are anachronisms in their own right.

By “recent” I mean “since January, more or less.” These are in no particular order.

The Cheese and the Worms (Carlo Ginzburg) — This book, translated from Italian, is an attempt to reconstruct what peasant culture in 16th century Italy was like through the story of a miller named Menocchio who held a number of unorthodox beliefs and was condemned to death by the church. I saw a play about Menocchio at the Berkeley Rep a few years ago, so I knew the story. In the play Menocchio seems like a bit of a hero, speaking truth to power, and is punished. That doesn’t seem to be the play’s intent, but performance makes the audience sympathize with the miller, so it was a little unavoidable. The book is clearer but still very engaging, especially if you like history with a story.

When Gravity Fails (George Alec Effinger) — This is the first instance of Arabian cyberpunk that I’ve come across, and it was really engaging. I think it appeals to the parts of me that like Naguib Mahfouz and sci-fi and noir all at once. It’s a gritty detective murder tale set in the Budayeen, a run-down district in a nea-futuristic Arab city. People can chip in new personalities and abilities into a port connected to their brain, drugs are everywhere, and there’s more intrigue than you can shake a stick at. Good stuff.

A Fire in the Sun (George Alec Effinger) — This is a sequel to the above, with the same main character, Marid Audran. Marid has to unravel a tangled web of back room deals while dealing with his past and trying to do the right thing. This one settles into some real character development that was lacking in the first book.

The Arabesk Trilogy (Pashezade, Effendi, Felaheen) (Jon Courtenay Grimwood) — More Arabian sci-fi! Although this is less cyberpunk and more alternative history. The trilogy is set in a world in which Germany won WWI and the Ottoman Empire still exists. The action centers on El Iskandriya and the prodigal Ashraf Bey, who is thrust into the middle of more intrigue than you can shake a stick at. Pretty good reads, I think.

Old Man’s War (John Scalzi) — This one is up for a Hugo. At the risk of sounding like every other review of the book, I’ll say it’s a must-read for Heinlein fans. It’s big in scale and has the same kind of humor.

The Algebraist (Iain Banks) — This one was up for a Hugo last year. It’s monstrously long, and as a friend put it, it’s like “taking an amusement park ride through Iain Banks’ imagination.” Interstellar plots, psychotic religious despots, civilizations that live inside gas-giant planets, and a humungous mystery hunt to save the world await. I liked it, but it’s not the best Banks book I’ve read.

Mumbo Jumbo (Ishmael Reed) — A hugely imaginative farcical take on American (and world) history. It’s all about the African-American artistic movement of the Harlem Renaissance era (Jes Grew) and its conflict with the Eurocentric artistic establishment (The Wallflower Order). The best thing about it is the writing, which really demands some attention to get it in your ear (or in your soul). This is a re-read for me, but I liked it even more the second time.

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