Category Archives: music

Music to Get Your Day Going


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Belated Bereavement

I have been silent on my blog about the death of Michael Jackson. Part of it is due to the oversaturation of the event in the media, but part of it is the time it takes me to process some things. I didn’t know what Michael Jackson’s death meant to me. I was sorry he died, felt bad for his family, etc., but other than that had no real strong feeling. It wasn’t until my 10 year old nephew began sending me Michael Jackson music videos that it began to have more of an impact of me. He sent me the video “Black and White,” and I responded “I was 11 years old when this came out.” And I remember when the video aired. A Michael Jackson video being aired was a big event when I was a kid. This one aired simultaneously on November 14, 1991, n 27 countries. He really revolutionized what you could do with the music video. He also used them to provoke a reaction. Jackson got involved in trying to unite the world, and I think that was a fitting role for him. Jackson had vitiligo, in which the pigment of your skin is lost. I have known people with this condition, and it is usually a slow process where the pigment disappears in patches. Did Jackson have the process expedited? Maybe, but I don’t know that I would blame him, he was very much in the public eye. The nose thing? Was he trying to look more “white” I don’t have the answers to that. Maybe Jackson saw himself as a bridge. A bridge between races, cultures, and sexes and genders. Maybe his appearance reflected that.

Jackson was also a great entertainer. I can still remember the first time I saw the full length “Thriller” video. It was in my cousin Emily’s basement, just after dusk, the lights out as we sat cross legged close in front of the tv. I was a little scared, I admit it. As time went on and Jackson became more the butt of jokes and criticized in the media, I didn’t know what to think. Jackson was odd, sure, but that’s not against the law, and most successful performers are quirky in some way or other. As far as the allegations, well in this country you are innocent until proven guilty, so who am I to say? I can say the media was hypocritical in its portrayal of him before and after his death. I can say that I think they went overboard on the coverage when I wanted to know what was happening in Iran, as well. But the media has never really been known for being impartial– a big part of what they are is entertainment and selling commercial slots. I did enjoy Jon Stewarts “Rippy Awards” on the daily show, which mocked the mainstream American media coverage. I think it should have been covered, just not to the 24/7 extent it took on. And as Jackson was very private in life, he probably wouldn’t have been too keen on that either.

In short, I’m saying that I still don’t know what to say, and that’s not much. But after my nephew sent those videos, I felt I had to say something. Because his music is still affecting people, and that is what his legacy will be.

On a lighter note– proof that I know the Thriller dance:

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Sarah Recommends

This may become a series if anyone finds these at all useful, so let me know.

Today, in “Sarah Recommends,” we have:

  • Movies
  • Books
  • CDs
  • Random

Movies: Underground

undergroundIn the category of movies, Sarah recommends that you watch Underground. Underground(Serbian: Подземље, Podzemlje) is a 1995 award-winning film directed by Emir Kusturica with a screenplay by Dušan Kovačević. It helps to know some general Serbian history before watching this movie, but you could still gain something without knowing. The movie spans a long period of wars for Yugoslavia– WWII, the Cold War, and the Yugoslav Wars. The movie centers around two best friends., Marko and Blacky. When it starts they are carefree, and enjoying life. Then the Germans invade. The main characters are wanted because they are communists, and they go into hiding underground in a shelter underneath Markos’ grandfather’s house. Marko moves his own younger brother, a stuttering zookeeper, along with his money; Blacky, Blacky’s three year old son Jovan, and various others into the shelter. He stays above ground with Blacky’s mistress Natalija. For whatever reason, whether to keep Natalijia for himself or to keep the fame, money and power to himself, Marko maintains a farce that the Germans are still occupying the country even after Tito comes to power. He keeps the basement dwellers making arms for him that he continues to profit from, not for the resistance, just for profit, and then later as a profiteer in the Yugoslav wars. He has his Grandfather slow down the clock, so eventually the denizens of the underground believe they have been there 15 years, when in fact it’s been 20.  Then the monkey uses the man-made tank to bust through the walls and escape, at which point Ivan goes after him and Jovan and Blacky go to single-handedly defeat the Germans. The whole movie is symbolic, and full of satire, and the end particularly is surrealistic. A brass band following Blacky around provides not only the soundtrack to his life, but an excellent movie soundtrack. Underground is simultaneously the funniest and the saddest movie I have ever seen.Kevin Thomas of the Los Angeles Times nailed it when he called Underground a “sprawling, rowdy, vital film laced with both outrageous absurdist dark humor and unspeakable pain, suffering and injustice.”

Books: Man in the Dark, by Paul Auster

maninthedarkIn the category of books, Sarah recommends that you read the 2008 novel Man in the Dark, by Paul Auster. Man in the Dark is more accessible than the last Auster book I read, Oracle Nights, where half the story takes place in footnotes. That said, it is still very much a postmodern novel and sometimes a bit much to wrap your mind around. It’s a story about a man (August Brill) who used to review stories for a living who tells himself stories at night when he can’t sleep to keep his mind off of the real story of his life. In one of these stories he tells himself at night, a version of the United States exists similar to ours, except 9/11 never occurred. Instead, New York seceded after the 2004 elections and a terrible civil war ensued. The main character in this story, is brought from our world to this world in order to complete a mission to put things aright. His mission, in fact, is to kill the man telling the story, to kill August Brill. It’s things like this that make the novel post modern, but at it’s heart, Man in the Dark is a love story. The real importance of the stories is how they intersect with Brill’s real life, and how he cannot use them forever to avoid his real life. In his real life, his wife, whom he divorced then got back together with but never remarried, is recently dead; he has broken his hip in a car crash; his daughter is recently divorced; his granddaughter’s husband has been murdered in Iraq; and there are three generations embodied in the three people living under the same roof. It is a love story to life, even though he is often times disillusioned with it, it is clear that Brill has loved deeply in his life, and in spite of regrets, continues to do so, now with his family and the memory of his wife.

CDs: Madvilliany, by Madvillain.

In the category of CDs or music albums, Sarah recommends that you listen to the 2004 album Madvilliany, by Madvillain. Madvillain is an American underground hiphop duo consisting of MF DOOM (MC) and Madlib (producer). Why should you listen to this? In one track, they rap over accordion music. Need I say more? I mean really. Seriously. Okay, I’ll say more. This is smart rap, with great flow, great lyrics built from a wide and varied body of knowledge, and a unique sound. This is the rap with alter egos, with heroes and villains and a story line. The only hiphop that is of that vein that I have seen make it to the main stream is Lupe Fiasco’s The Cool. Madvilliany won’t be found on any top 8 at 8 radio shows, but it has met with great critical acclaim and has shown up in various underground type spots, i.e. on the Boondocks cartoon, etc.

Random: La Prima Mr. Smooth Coffee beans

In the category of random, Sarah recommends the Mr. Smooth blend of coffee beans from La Prima espresso roastery that is carried by Simpatico Espresso.A wonderful mix of Indonesian coffees that feature low acidity and an earthy, good body.

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Capture the Illusory

A picture can only capture so much. It embodies a visual instant, but how to encompass the full reality? The feelings, the atmosphere, the sounds and smells and tastes and touch, not just a quick visual?  It is something I have been experimenting with with live event photography. My camera is only so good, not a digital rebel as I would like, so I have to be creative with the settings. To keep the aperture open longer, I can set it on night scene or night snapshot. To capture shadows more I can lower the flash or turn it off all together. Music especially seems hard to capture. It is something that is always in perpetuity. It always moves forward, so in these pictures I tried to let the movement be seen. Don’t know how other people will think of them, but I like what I ended up with. I would have liked to try more with the belly dancer though. The subjects are bellydancer Janim at Istanbul Grille on 27 Feb and Rado Angelov, playing accordion at Jalsah X on 28 Feb.



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i want to play clarinet THIS good

ivo papazov and his wedding band, from bulgaria

i started playing clarinet in the fifth grade. i picked clarinet because my cousin jaimie played it. i played from 5th-10th grades in the concert bands and took private lessons from 6th-8th grade. I stopped playing for two years, then took private lessons at mount union college, focusing on jazz and blues, improvisation, and reading music in the key of c in the key of b flat so i could play it. Stopped playing again for a year or two, then started playing again, blues, mostly. Pads got chipped and moth eaten so sent to a friend to fix, but she never did, two years later i got it fixed at volkweins music in pgh, got it back yesterday and started playing klezmer music. still playing on my size 4 reeds, but i dont last as long as i used to! i’m still decent and remember all the notes and such, so i’m hoping to improve and improve and improve. i doubt i’ll ever be as good as ivo papazov, tho….

i can play my clarinet with rado playing accordian, just like ivo papazov and petar ralchev!

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World’s Smallest Organ or World’s Largest Organist?

You decide…

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Dependent Co-Arising Continues

Day 8: Jam Session

Day 9: take another look

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