Friday, February 27, 2009

A Father, A Son And A Duet

The great jazz pianist Chucho Valdes reunites with his father, pianist Bebo Valdes, after eighteen years and luckily for us, there is a video. There are hugs and smiles in the room (and a fatherly "you are fat as a toad!") but there is also a beautiful duet. (Link to YouTube, via MetaFilter.)

Don't miss the "damn-this-is-too-much-fun" smile exchanged between father and son around the 4:00 mark.

While we are on the subject of fathers, sons and jazz music, here's the always popular "Song for my father" by Horace Silver. If the opening piano riff sounds familiar, it's because of these guys. (Both links to YT).

Thursday, February 26, 2009

The Mahatma - Blogging, Perhaps?

(Image Source:, Artist: Debanjan Roy)

The rest of the series, titled "India Shining" (by Debanjan Roy) is worth a look.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Dressing Up To Save A Bird

A good story in the Times' Sunday magazine about the effort to save the whooping crane.

The best part of the piece? This one sentence:
Already, it has come to this on planet Earth: men dressed like birds, teaching birds to fly.
Now that's funny and scary.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

So You Want To Be A Bookseller?

"But the real reason why I should not like to be in the book trade for life is that while I was in it I lost my love of books. A bookseller has to tell lies about books, and that gives him a distaste for them; still worse is the fact that he is constantly dusting them and hauling them to and fro."
George Orwell's tasty little rant about working in a bookshop. The essay contains a priceless quote: "If you don't see an ad. for Boswell's Decline and Fall you are pretty sure to see one for The Mill on the Floss by T. S. Eliot."

Well, long as I don't see Far from the madding crowd by the Hardy Boys...

Saturday, February 21, 2009

The Crime, The Punishment

"The 31-year-old Iranian is demanding the ancient punishment of "an eye for an eye," and, in accordance with Islamic law, she wants to blind Majid Movahedi, the man who blinded her."
Just in case the Compassionate Liberal in you feels outraged after reading this story, take a look at the second image on that slideshow and then tell me "eye for an eye" is a barbaric concept.

It is not easy to discuss the implications of this violent story. Retribution seems equitable, even necessary. But how does that affect all that we have learned about forgiveness?

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

This, In New Jersey?

Overheard at a Barnes & Noble recently:

"I am looking for a Bruce Springsteen album...."something-something-run?"

I was a little surprised. Maybe the (old) man was not a rock fan. But the store clerk? He was a younger person and had to have known his "Born to Run" from his "Born in the USA". Instead, he led the old man to the CD rack, which seemed well-stocked with the something-something-run? album, and helpfully asked, "did you mean Springsteen's new album?"


Speaking of B&N, they are now selling vinyl (with a "Vinyl is BACK!" sticker on top of the shelf). I rarely even stop at B&N's music section but on my last three visits to the store, I have found myself lingering in front of the vinyl rack. Oh, mama. CDs and MP3s can go screw themselves. 180 grams of vinyl is where it's at.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Robert Frank: "The Americans"

(Via All Things Considered on NPR yesterday)

One of the greatest pieces of documentation of America turns 50 this year: Robert Frank's collection of photographs, "The Americans". Some of the best-known images from the much-praised book can be seen in this slideshow.

Lens Culture, a photography site/blog says the book "redefined what a photo book could be".

Frank's pictures get you thinking about what it must have meant to be an American in the 1950s and what it means to be one in the 21st century. (Look at the one titled "Parade - Hoboken, New Jersey". It's a sad and chilling picture.)

That fifty years later, these photographs still move us (and not just fill us with nostalgia for the Gilded Nineteen-fifties) is proof of the timelessness of Robert Frank's work.

Note: If you live in the DC area, the National Gallery of Art is holding a retrospective of Frank's work.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Will A Matchbox Hold My Clothes?

Pictures of matchboxes from India. An eye-popping collection. (Via MetaFilter).

Yes, the iconic "Chavi" is there, along with several new ones I had never seen before: an image of Amitabh Bachchan from "Coolie", a Mickey Mouse (and a matchbox called "Super Miki" with a graphic of Donald Duck), a matchbox called "Priyanka" (and wouldn't you know, there's a "Chopra" too), one titled "Astrice" (with a picture of an ostrich) and a tribute to a classic film, "City Lights" (which must be popular with the arson crowd?)


"Matchbox" also happens to be one of my favorite early rock 'n roll songs but if you didn't know about the song's history, you should read this amazing blog post. (Via Wiki)

Thursday, February 12, 2009

The One-Question Stiff Beer Quiz

Which author said this and about whom? The second blank is hard to fill, I know.
"_____has an extraordinary ability to make a _______hoot and sing like angels on a Saturday night, exhausted from being good all week and needing a stiff beer."

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

As Slow As Possible

There are three kinds of people in this world: those who love avant-garde music, those who believe, as John Lennon himself put it, that avant-garde is French for bullshit and then there are those who can take it in small doses. You will be pleased to know that I belong in in all the three categories.

The part of me that belongs to the first category thinks John Cage's "As slow as possible" is genius. If you haven't heard of it (and can't guess what the piece is about from its title), here's a little background:
" a musical piece composed by John Cage and is the subject of the slowest and longest-lasting musical performance yet undertaken."

Apparently, John Cage forgot to indicate just how slow it had to be played, which led to a discussion between musicians and philosophers (thankfully no lawyers were involved) who settled on a number: 639 years.

But why is the work meant to be played over 639 years?
"It was originally a 20-minute piece for piano, but a group of musicians and philosophers decided to take the title literally and work out how long the longest possible piece of music could last. They settled on 639 years because the Halberstadt organ was 639 years old in the year 2000."

Today we have news (link to BBC, embedded video, creepy organ music) coming in about the "newest note" having been struck in St. Burchardi church in Halberstadt. The newest note!

I wish the media took a cue from this event and released the news one letter at a time, over 639 years. Think about it while you also consider the longevity of newspapers, Internet and the planet itself.

BTW, today's note is only the seventh note in the piece. When the music is over in 2640, I hope they don't turn off the lights.

Instead, they should ask for an encore.

Ever been inside an empty cathedral with the organ playing? I have, once. Shook me up. And I don't mean just physically or aurally.

Friday, February 06, 2009

That Smooth Jazz Crap

An old classic that deserves to be read again: guitarist Pat Metheny demolishing Kenny G and his music.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Is This Just Fantasy?

A very interesting (ok, a little scary too) video of a 7 y.o. boy, absolutely baked on anesthesia, after a visit to the dentist. (Via Boing Boing)

What makes this video so interesting for me (I didn't find it all that funny) is that the boy's reactions are not unlike someone's first reefer experience.

How is it that the kid's brain processes the "high" in the same way as an adult's brain? I mean, he is practically spouting metaphysics. (Not that everyone who is high spouts metaphysics.) Does the question "is this real life" mean he has already learned that "real life" equals predictable (and controllable) sensations and feelings? How and when does a seven year-old learn that? How does all of mankind learn that?

I remember the sensation of unease upon first reading "Alice in Wonderland" in school. Sure, the book was funny, but it primarily was a depiction of real life going fast out of control. Years later, when I discovered Flann O'Brien's brilliant and bleak The Third Policeman, I learned that just because one is older does not mean the fear of losing control goes away. I think it is actually amplified with age.

Here's the video on YT.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

When Bad Memes Happen To Boring People

This, according to the "Fashion and Style" section of the Times, is all the rage on the Internet.

That, according to me, is why newspapers should stop writing about rages on the Internet.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Okra, Coke And A Tall Salted One

“Am I a vegetable, cold drink or lassi that he said so?” an angry Fiza said, reacting to Chand’s “badhiya cheez” comment at a crowded press conference at her flat.
I don't know what the story's about, but it must be something serious.

A person named Fiza has got to be a cold drink. Come on.

Monday, February 02, 2009

Curious, Generous But Stubborn

Entertaining, sure, but it's bloody bogus science:
"Matchmaking agencies provide blood-type compatibility tests, and some companies make decisions about assignments based on employees' blood types.

Children at some kindergartens are divided up by blood type, and the women's softball team that won gold at the Beijing Olympics used the theory to customize each player's training."