Friday, May 30, 2008

Grab Bag Friday: Patriot Guard Riders

Ok, I'll admit it. I had more than one teary-eyed moment at our town's Memorial Day Parade on Monday. The Veterans for Peace got me. The Navy's unaccompanied singing got me. Even the shy girl leading the tiny horse got me. Ok, so I was feeling a little emotional.

But I almost lost it when the Patriot Guard Riders came by and parked right in front of us for a few minutes. These guys are true heroes.

A couple years ago, when Westboro Baptist Church members traveled to Maine to protest and spread anti-homosexuality hate messages during Sgt. Corey Dan's funeral, the Patriot Guard Riders came to the funeral and created a human shield.

Groups of Riders have been doing this all over the country, and on their website you can read seventeen pages of heartfelt thank you letters. It's pretty amazing.

You can see them in action here. Don't be surprised if you get a little choked up or extra-proud. It's almost impossible not to.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

American Songs 2 on Zooglobble

Thanks to Stefan over at Zooglobble for his Memorial Day review of American Songs vol. 2! If you haven't yet been to Zooglobble, it is *the* place to go for kids and family music reviews. That said, I'm pleased as punch to see American Songs vol. 2 reviewed on the site and considered "a good folk song primer for slightly older kids."

Also just up at Zooglobble, and worth a visit, is an interview with Frances England about her much-anticipated new album, Family Tree, and the surprise success of her first, truly lovely album, Fascinating Creatures.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Happy Memorial Day Weekend!

Since I'm planning to be outside as much as possible this weekend and hope the same for you, I'm not even going to post any links for you to peruse.

Instead...get your work done as fast as possible, shut down your computer, go home early, and enjoy the long weekend! Maybe even leave the computer *off* all three days!

I'm planning to work in my garden, read a book or two, take in a parade, soak in the sun...oh, and this little project of building a set of stairs into our house. (Wish me luck!) I'll be off on Monday, but back with some sort of musical post on Wednesday. Enjoy the weekend!

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Oren Lavie: A Dance 'Round the Memory Tree

Here's another lovely song from the end of the Prince Caspian movie.

I had never heard of Oren Lavie, but according to his bio on Tuition, he's originally from Tel Aviv and just came out with his debut album, Opposite Side of the Sea. If you want the ultra-quick version of the bio, I liked Muzorama's sum-up. You can listen to the whole album and flip through the pages of some very cool virtual liner notes, lyrics, and reviews at www.orenlavie.com.

Monday, May 19, 2008

The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian

This weekend, Kevin and I went to go see Prince Caspian, the 2nd in The Chronicles of Narnia series. It had been so long since either of us had read the original C.S. Lewis book, that we immediately had to start reading it again to see how it compared to the movie.

If you're interested in The Chronicles of Narnia, you'll definitely want to check out Caspian vs. Caspian, Elizabeth Bird's simultaneous review of both the book and the movie over at Fuse #8. But be warned: there are plenty of spoilers, so if you want to watch the movie or read the book fresh, save this for later.

I agree with Ms. Bird on almost every point. For instance (no plot spoilers here),

  • Prince Caspian was never my favorite Narnia book. (The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, on the other hand...)
  • The girls as excellent warriors was a good move. (She has an interesting tidbit about how the filmmaker had to argue for this.)
  • The book has such a different tone from the movie that neither one could possibly spoil the other.
I think our biggest point of contention would be that I actually loved the Regina Spektor song at the end. (Check out the fancy-schmancy new song-clip widget from Amazon, or you can hear the whole song here.)


Overall, I thought the movie was pretty good. The characters are awfully flat (Kevin described it as taking the "meat off the bones"), and the tension could be ratcheted up a notch on lots of levels, but I have to say, the visuals make up for it. Just seeing the world of Narnia come to life is pretty spectacular. Plus, how could you not love seeing Reepicheep in action?

Here's the New York Times review, too.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Grab Bag Friday: Procrastination

This week, while a huge mound of laundry piled in my bedroom, and dirty dishes overtook even the smallest recesses of my kitchen, I really enjoyed delving into Slate's special issue on Procrastination.

Some interesting, funny highlights guaranteed to waste some time:

Seth Stevenson's Letter to a Young Procrastinator: Some last-minute advice from a veteran slacker

Josh Levin's Solitaire-y Confinement: Why we can't stop playing a computerized card game

Daniel Engber's The Unfinished Stories: All the stuff we never got around to including in the special issue. My favorite headline from this one:

"Doing Things vs. Not Doing Them: Which is better for the environment?"

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

The Peanut Butter Jam!

DJ Chris Wienk over at WEXT (a terrific independent, listener-supported radio station out of New York) emailed me to let me know that they're adding my music to their regular rotation. Starting with Unclouded Day on The Peanut Butter Jam this Saturday (5/17) at 9am EST. (You can even listen online to their live stream.)

The Peanut Butter Jam is a way-cool kids music show that plays things you would expect:

...and things you wouldn't:
I love kids shows like this that recognize that kids love *good* music, no matter what age it is marketed to.

I love radio stations like this that break the mold, play outside of the market "rules," and support independent artists.

Thanks, WEXT! Thanks, Peanut Butter Jam!

Monday, May 12, 2008

Toni Morrison: What Color Would You Paint Your Walls?

Photo by John Morgan

That Yael Naim video reminded me of a piece of a Toni Morrison interview that I heard over ten years ago. I came across it on some audiobook series that I can't remember for the life of me, so if this rings a bell and you know where it came from, I'd love to hear from you.

I remembered putting this clip on a mix tape for my friend Amy and liking it so much that I made a copy for myself (ah, remember mix tapes?). So this morning I dug through all my cassettes and actually found it! I figure it must have been around either the 1988 or 1992 election because later in the Q&A, they talk about Beloved, which was published in 1987. Here's the question from an audience member and Toni Morrison's answer, transcribed to the best of my ability:

Question: Times are becoming more and more depressing, um, especially with this election coming up. Do you have…what do you do to, like, maintain hope? (laughter from crowd)

Toni Morrison: Well, I’ll tell you something. You’re right. It’s very dangerous, it’s extremely depressing, and it’s really not funny. On the other hand, you really have to…it’s like you know a few years ago when there was such a build up of nuclear weapons and it was just getting like everybody was armed to the teeth and it was, like, awful…one realized that they had, somebody had imagined that. And it lived. So the problem then seemed to be to unimagine it. Unimagine it. What would it be like if it didn’t exist? What would it be like? In all of its details. In every way. What would it be like if you had it like you wanted it? What would it be?

Can you really imagine living in a world without nuclear weapons? It’s very difficult to do. What would you do differently? Where would you live? How would your life change? Or without all sorts of things. Well, that has got to be imagined in order to prevent the paralysis. Because if we’re paralyzed because it’s unworkable, unthinkable, non-political, we won’t move. That’s one thing.

The second thing is, there are things to do. There are not…if we think in huge numbers about how to save the continent, we’re already whipped. But if you think in terms of one…you know, small things. Six people. One person. One room. One backyard. Not the beach. The highway. You know, “What are you doin?”

And then it works. And you know that you have imagined a world in which you can live. It may be small, as small as your room, but you have imagined it. And then you are in control. That’s not hope, that’s real work. And that’s what’s important.

It doesn’t matter about those other little people. They’ll all sort of come and go, all these little junky people. It doesn’t matter. What’s important is that people realize how valuable life is and simply exercise the one thing that human beings have, which is the ability to imagine what it would be like if you had it the way it was supposed to be.

Then what would you do? What color would you paint your walls? And then paint ‘em.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Grab Bag Friday: Linda Urban's Bada-Bings

This week, I came across a recipe for some deeelicious chocolate cookies with a zing. In Linda Urban's smart and funny middle-grade novel, A Crooked Kind of Perfect, 10 year old Zoe's dad has a penchant for mail-order Living Room University courses. One of his courses is in cookie making.

So it may come as no surprise that on Ms. Urban's website, you can find a recipe for Bada-Bings...fudgy, chocolate cookies with dried cherries (or cranberries) to give just the perfect balance of sweet with a tang. Yum!

Kevin and I have been loving these cookies. And they're so rich, that I'm actually perfectly satisfied after one or two. Which is unheard of. Gingersnaps, for instance...I could easily eat the whole pan in one sitting. :)

(We halved the recipe and it still made two cookie sheets full.)

I suggest picking up A Crooked Kind of Perfect, whipping up a batch of Bada-Bings, and having yourself a *lovely* weekend!

As for the book, here's the jacket-flap sum-up:

Ten-year-old Zoe Elias has perfect piano dreams. She can practically feel the keys under her flying fingers; she can hear the audience's applause. All she needs is a baby grand so she can start her lessons, and then she'll be well on her way to Carnegie Hall.

But when Dad ventures to the music store and ends up with a wheezy organ instead of a piano, Zoe's dreams hit a sour note. Learning the organ versions of old TV theme songs just isn't the same as mastering Beethoven on the piano. And the organ isn't the only part of Zoe's life that's off-kilter, what with Mom constantly at work, Dad afraid to leave the house, and that odd boy, Wheeler Diggs, following her home from school every day.

Yet when Zoe enters the annual Perform-O-Rama organ competition, she finds that life is full of surprises—and that perfection may be even better when it's just a little off center.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Yael Naim: New Soul

A friend of mine recently sent me this video by Yael Naim. It's been out awhile, so maybe you've seen it, but I really liked how it deals with the act of creating and how lovely and fun the process can be.

It also made me think about how there are so many ways in which we can create our own reality, and how *that* is really like creating a work of art or music or a new space. It starts with imagination. What would you like to see, do, be? And then you can begin to create those things around you. And soon enough, you might just be able to push down the wall and *be* there...right in the middle of things.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Cinco de Mayo: Octavio Paz on Crickets and Stars

In celebration of Cinco de Mayo, here are some characteristically thoughtful, lovely words and a poem from Mexican poet Octavio Paz. I thought they resonated nicely with Rachel Carson's "sense of wonder" that I like to talk so much about.

This was part of Octavio Paz's Nobel Prize banquet speech in 1990. You can read the whole speech, and his entire Nobel lecture (in Spanish or English) on the Nobel Prize website.

"In the countryside one night, years ago, as I contemplated the stars in the cloudless sky, I heard the metallic sound of the elytra of a cricket. There was a strange correspondence between the reverberation of the firmament at night and the music of the tiny insect. I wrote these lines:

The sky's big.
Up there, worlds scatter.
Persistent,
unfazed by so much night,
a cricket: brace and bit.

Stars, hills, clouds, trees, birds, crickets, men: each has its world, each is a world, and yet all of these worlds correspond. We can only defend life if we experience a revival of this feeling of solidarity with nature. It is not impossible: fraternity is a word that belongs to the traditions of Liberalism and Socialism, of science and religion."

Friday, May 2, 2008

Grab Bag Friday: The Six O'Clock Scramble

I've always said that if I won the lottery, the one thing I might splurge on would be a private chef. I can't stand to plan meals. I'm not a great cook (though I can *bake* like nobody's business!) and Kevin and I only have a few standard meals:

Coming up with a unique meal plan for the week and figuring out what ingredients we would need is like nails on a chalkboard to me.

So recently, we've been trying out The Six O'Clock Scramble. It's an online program that plans out your meals for the week and spits out a grocery list to match. We tested a couple similar programs first, but settled on The Scramble because the meals were both tastier and healthier.

Here's the deal:

You pay $1 a week. You have to pay upfront for a year, but if you don't like it within 30 days you can get your money back.

You can choose how many meals you need for a week, and this takes a little experimenting. We've found that for 2 of us, taking leftovers into account, 3 or 4 meals gets us through a whole week.

You can swap out meals you don't like. Kevin hates fish, so anytime there's a seafood meal, we choose "Custom Menu" and search through the database to pick something else.

So far so good. I love not having to think about what I'm going to make for dinner tonight. The grocery list isn't perfect (it may list things twice if you need it in 2 recipies, so you just have to be vigilant), but it still saves a ton of time. We've had a couple meals we weren't crazy about, but overwhelmingly, they've been delicious. And they've added a *huge* amount of variety to our diet.

Here are just a few of the hits we've had in the last month:
  • Southwestern Cobb Salad with Avocado Ranch Dressing
  • Barbeque Meatloaf
  • Polenta Mozzarella Melt with Roasted Red Peppers
  • Peanut Beef Skewers
  • Fried Rice with Tofu and Snap Peas
  • Panzanella (Italian Bread Salad with Salami)
I can't believe I actually made these things. And seriously. They were easy.

So I'd say The Scramble is worth a shot. I'm certainly enjoying dinnertime a whole lot more. :)