Saturday, February 26, 2011

Life is like a train these days....

This weekend I have vowed to do nothing more than to attend to my bookkeeping which is way overdue at my accountants.  Well, maybe except for writing this blog. :) It has been a busy year, much like a train where I hop off here and there for a bit, but mostly chug onward toward my destination, sadly, with no time to stop and smell the flowers.

I have had to put off a lot of things but the easiest thing to put off was my company bookkeeping.  I have to confess, there is little which I procrastinate more than this and my accountant is hounding me. I have been very neglectful this year and did really nothing except throw receipts into a shoe box. This weekend I need to pay the piper. So I need to hit the post button then turn off the internet!

Happy Birthday Johnny!

I blogged about Rosanne Cash last week but it was only by coincidence that I happened to do that in the same week as Johnny Cash's birthday. He would have been 79 today, if he had not died in 2003, 4 months after the death of his soulmate and partner of 35 years, June Carter.   Johnny proposed to June on on February 22, 1968 at a live performance in London Ontario.  They were married a week later.  

Johnny Cash and June Carter CashImage via Wikipedia

No doubt, their 35 year love affair (I think of their relationship even after their marriage as a love affair) was something particularly special. They were blessed to have found such a strong and enduring love.

From Wiki:
At the July 5, 2003 concert (his last public performance), before singing "Ring of Fire", Cash read a statement about his late wife that he had written shortly before taking the stage:
June Carter CashCover of June Carter Cash“ The spirit of June Carter overshadows me tonight with the love she had for me and the love I have for her. We connect somewhere between here and heaven. She came down for a short visit, I guess, from heaven to visit with me tonight to give me courage and inspiration like she always has.

The Cash family have released two posthumous albums containing songs recorded by Johnny before his death, entitled American V: A Hundred Highways  in 2006 and American VI: Ain't No Grave in 2010.  It wouldn't surprise me if there were more in the vault as well.

One of Johnny's biggest hits was "Ring of Fire" but my favourite traditional Johnny Cash song is Folsom Prision Blues.  To provide some perspective, the album that Cash recorded there, At Folsom Prison, went on to sell more copies than any individual album from The Beatles.  Neat to watch the vintage footage in the first clip,  from a performance at Cummins Prison in 1969 and to contrast that with the 1992 video featuring a mature Johnny Cash.  


Written by June Carter and Merle Kilgore
Recorded by Johnny Cash on 3/25/63
Number one - County Chart; Number 17 - Pop Chart

Love Is A Burning Thing
And It Makes A Fiery Ring
Bound By Wild Desire
I Fell Into A Ring Of Fire

I Fell Into A Burning Ring Of Fire
I Went Down, Down, Down
And The Flames Went Higher

And It Burns, Burns, Burns
The Ring Of Fire
The Ring Of Fire

The Taste Of Love Is Sweet
When Hearts Like Ours Meet
I Fell For You Like A Child
Oh,But The Fire Went Wild

I Fell Into A Burning Ring Of Fire
I Went Down, Down, Down
And The Flames Went Higher
And It Burns, Burns, Burns
The Ring Of Fire
The Ring Of Fire

Love Is A Burning Thing
And It Makes A Fiery Ring
Bound By Wild Desire
I Fell Into A Ring Of Fire

I Fell Into A Burning Ring Of Fire
I Went Down(down), Down(down), Down(down)
And The Flames Went Higher Higher Higher

I Fell Into A Burning Ring Of Fire
I Went Down(down), Down(down), Down(down)
And The Flames Went Higher Higher Higher

And It Burns

I hear the train a comin'
It's rollin' 'round the bend,
And I ain't seen the sunshine,
Since, I don't know when,
I'm stuck in Folsom Prison,
And time keeps draggin' on,
But that train keeps a-rollin',
On down to San Antone.

When I was just a baby,
My Mama told me, "Son,
Always be a good boy,
Don't ever play with guns,"
But I shot a man in Reno,
Just to watch him die,
When I hear that whistle blowin',
I hang my head and cry.

I bet there's rich folks eatin',
In a fancy dining car,
They're probably drinkin' coffee,
And smokin' big cigars,
But I know I had it comin',
I know I can't be free,
But those people keep a-movin',
And that's what tortures me.

Well, if they freed me from this prison,
If that railroad train was mine,
I bet I'd move out over a little,
Farther down the line,
Far from Folsom Prison,
That's where I want to stay,
And I'd let that lonesome whistle,
Blow my Blues away.

Walk the Line - the Movie
Interested in knowing more about Johnny Cash?  This recent film focuses on Cash's younger life, his romance with June Carter, and his ascent to the country music scene, with material taken from his autobiographies.
 from Wiki:
Walk the Line, an Academy Award-winning biopic about Cash's life starring Joaquin Phoenix as Johnny and Reese Witherspoon as June (for which she won the 2005 Best Actress Oscar), was released in the United States on November 18, 2005 to considerable commercial success and critical acclaim. Both Phoenix and Witherspoon have won various other awards for their roles, including the Golden Globe for Best Actor in a Musical or Comedy and Best Actress in a Musical or Comedy, respectively. They both performed their own vocals in the film, and Phoenix learned to play guitar for his role as Cash. Phoenix received the Grammy Award for his contributions to the soundtrack. John Carter Cash, the first child of Johnny and June, served as an executive producer on the film.

I think I will go rent the movie and watch it tonight, once I put in a good 10 hours of work!
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Thursday, February 24, 2011

Rosanne Cash and the Johnny Cash Legacy - The List

Johnny CashImage via WikipediaI don't often listen to country music, but I was brought up on it because my parents are great country music fans. I developed an appreciation for the twangy tunes but I must admit, I quickly tire of heartbreak songs, so don't listen to country very often. That said, Johnny Cash was more than just a country music star with a lifetime of achievement not only in that genre but in others as well. You just need to have one listen to the NIN song "Hurt" to understand what I am getting at.

Recently, I heard of an album which Rosanne Cash had made called "The List" and it grabbed my interest.

As Rosanne explains in this CBC interview that the album, The List,  is based on a list of 100 greatest country and American songs which her Dad compiled for her when she was 18.  In it she is joined in a few of the songs by a few non country contemporaries - Bruce Springsteen, Elvis Costello, Rufus Wainwright and Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy. I really like her interpretation of "Movin' On", which is the last of the 3 songs I have chosen for this blog. The other two are songs which are pretty typical of the Country Genre - broken heart songs. In the first, Sea of Heartbreak, she is accompanied perfectly by The Boss.

I understand that the week after Valentines Day is prime break up time according to some radio commentary I was listening to this week. So the first two songs are crying time songs - pure country lament.  The last song, I'm Moving On, is a good way to finish a blog that contains two crying songs.  For anyone out there hit by the post Valentines Day breakup thing  (if there is such a thing), it is a good piece of advice.

Sea of Heartbreak

The lights in the harbor
Don't shine for me
I'm like a lost ship
Adrift on the sea

The sea of heartbreak
Lost love and loneliness
Memories of your caress
So divine how I wish
You were mine again my dear
I am on this sea of tears
Sea of heartbreak

Oh, how did I lose you?
Oh, where did I fail?
Why did you leave me?
Always to sail

This sea of heartbreak
Lost love and loneliness
Memories of your caress
So divine how I wish
You were mine again my dear
I am on this sea of tears
Sea of heartbreak

Oh what I'd give just
To sail back to shore
Back to your arms once more

Come to my rescue
Oh, come here to me
Take me and keep me
Away from the sea

Sea of heartbreak
Lost love and loneliness
Memories of your caress
So divine how I wish
You were mine again my dear
I am on this sea of tears
Sea of heartbreak

Sea of heartbreak
Sea of heartbreak
Sea of heartbreak

I Still Miss Someone

This song is not from the album but features a nice introduction by Rosanne retelling a time she sang this song with her Dad and I like the song it for its simplicity. It showcases Rosanne's wonderful clear voice nicely.

At my door the leaves are falling
A cold wild wind has come
Sweethearts walk by together
And I still miss someone

I go out on a party
And look for a little fun
But I find a darkened corner
because I still miss someone

Oh, no I never got over those blues eyes
I see them every where
I miss those arms that held me
When all the love was there

I wonder if she's sorry
For leavin' what we'd begun
There's someone for me somewhere
And I still miss someone

I'm Moving On
I love the way that Roseanne has given this song a really interesting sound, moving it away from the country genre just a bit.

That big eight-wheeler rollin' down the track
Means your true-lovin' daddy ain't comin' back
'Cause I'm movin' on, I'll soon be gone
You were flyin' too high, for my little old sky
So I'm movin' on

That big loud whistle as it blew and blew
Said hello to the southland, we're comin' to you
When we're movin' on, oh hear my song
You had the laugh on me, so I've set you free
And I'm movin' on

Mister fireman won't you please listen to me
'Cause I got a pretty mama in Tennessee
Keep movin' me on, keep rollin' on
So shovel the coal, let this rattler roll
And keep movin' me on

Mister Engineer, take that throttle in hand
This rattler's the fastest in the southern land
To keep movin' me on, keep rollin' on
You gonna ease my mind, put me there on time
And keep rollin' on

I've told you baby, from time to time
But you just wouldn't listen or pay me no mind
Now I'm movin' on, I'm rollin' on
You've broken your vow, and it's all over now
So I'm movin' on

You've switched your engine now I ain't got time
For a triflin' woman on my main line
Cause I'm movin on, you done your daddy wrong
I warned you twice, now you can settle the price
'Cause I'm movin on

But someday baby when you've had your play
You're gonna want your daddy but your daddy will say
Keep movin' on, you stayed away too long
I'm through with you, too bad you're blue
Keep movin' on

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Saturday, February 19, 2011

Snow Moon and Moonstruck

'Snow Moon' Over Earth (NASA, International Sp...Image by NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center via FlickrThis week we had our mid winter full moon, called the Snow Moon (other names for it are Wolf Moon, Hunger Moon, Storm Moon and Candles Moon).  The week has been another busy one for me, but joy of all joys, ends with a long weekend.  In Canada we have a tradition of holiday long weekends, mostly through the summer.  A few years ago the decision was made that we all needed a mid winter break and they invented Family Day on the 3rd weekend in February to fill the need.

This week a change was in the air.  We had a breath of almost spring temps for a few days.  Yesterday the high reached 10 °C before plummeting to below freezing temps with gusting 100KM per hour winds last night.  The brief thaw reminds that spring is not far away and lifts the spirit.

I have lots to do this weekend, so no time right now to have a long thoughtful blog, but I did want to write a bit before starting my day in earnest.  I awoke today and to my delight I found that dawn has crossed the magic line to arrive before 7 a.m.  My favourite time is the morning and this is a nice contrast to waking in darkness. 

I am very excited today because I am going to pick up a piece of art I bought last weekend.   Then, after attending to the day's chores I will head up to GopherBroke Farm near Collingwood to spend some time with my dear friends.

As those of you who visit this blog regularly might know, I live in an area of Toronto called Liberty Village and it is, among other things, an area where there are a good number of artist live-work spaces and thus has a thriving artistic community.  One of our local artists (actually Liberty Village's official artist-in-residence) Michael Golland has a project on the go which I absolutely had to be a part of.  The collection is called "A Work of Heart" and it is a fund raiser for the Laser Eagles Art Guild, a group which works with people with physical disabilities to produce works of art.  More on this later in the weekend when I have time to do it justice and can include a photo of my Heart hanging on my wall.

In the meantime, the full moon this week had me thinking about my all time favourite romantic movie - Moonstruck. 

According to Wiki:
Moonstruck is a 1987 romantic comedy film directed by Norman Jewison. The movie was released on December 18, 1987, receiving largely positive reviews from critics. The film went on to gross $80,640,528 at the North American box office, making it the fifth highest grossing of that year. The film was nominated for six Oscars at the 60th Academy Awards, winning three for Best Original Screenplay, Best Actress, and Best Supporting Actress.

If you happened not to be into romantic comedy's in 1987 and haven't caught it on late night reruns on TV, it is a real gem.  Now, over 20 years later it also has an extra bit of campy charm.

The theme is an eternal one,  a love triangle, but with some unique twists.  As the movie starts,  Loretta Castorini (Cher) is planning her wedding  to Johnny Cammareri (Danny Aiello). Loretta has been unlucky in love.  Married once before to a man she loved who died suddenly, she has decided to settle for a safe but loveless choice - Johnny.  Johnny leaves the country to tend to his dying mother and while he is away Loretta falls in love with his estranged brother Ronny (Nicolas Cage), who Johnny had asked her to locate and invite to the wedding.

As we watch the movie unfold we are left pondering the nature of true love and how sometimes it is impractical and complicated and the question is whether it can prevail over the easier choice - for Loretta to stick with Johnny and live a good but loveless life or whether she will follow her heart and live a life of passion and true love.

There are so many great things about this movie. The cast is just right - a young Nicolas Cage (he is a favourite of mine),  Cher at her acting best and Olympia Dukakis is perfect as Rose, Loretta's mother.  The others actors, the extended family of the Castorini's, are equally capable if less well known and add a lot of side bars and smiles to the main plot.  The music is a perfect backdrop for the Italian-Brooklyn location where the movie is set. 
My favourite part of the movie is Ronny's plea to Loretta, after they spend an evening together at the Opera.

“Loretta, I love you. Not like they told you love is, and I didn’t know this either, but love don’t make things nice – it ruins everything. It breaks your heart. It makes things a mess. We aren’t here to make things perfect. The snowflakes are perfect. The stars are perfect. Not us. Not us! We are here to ruin ourselves and to break our hearts and love the wrong people and *die*. The storybooks are *bullshit*. Now I want you to come upstairs with me and *get* in my bed!”

I enjoyed the browse I had through You Tube looking at the Moonstruck video pieces folks have uploaded.   The movie trailer certainly does it justice.  If after watching it, you want to see a selection of various scenes there are lots to choose from and even the whole movie on You Tube.

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Monday, February 14, 2011

Animated Film and Poetry by Andrea Dorfman

I am really getting into video narratives and video poetry. I found a few really great gems on You Tube lately. Last week, I shared some poetry by Billy Collins. I was remiss in not mentioning that he served as Poet Laureate for the State of New York from 2004 until 2006. Collins read his poem The Names at a special joint session of the United States Congress on September 6, 2002, held to remember the victims of the 9/11 attacks.  I am now waiting for a book of his poems to arrive from Amazon.

This week, I want to share with you some special videos by someone I found on You Tube - Andrea Dorfman.

Andrea Dorfman is a artist and film maker who is with the National Film Board living in Nova Scotia, on the eastern coast of Canada. She is starting to build quite a nice list of credits as you can see from the Cinematography section of her web site, where she has listed 8 shorts and 2 feature films.  Go here for a full filmography.

I found this first video to be very inspirational and I hope you do too.   It is an animated film about life and love.  It is only in a small way about love. It also touches themes of  fear, busy lives ("Busy is a religion"), happiness, making mistakes, being an artist, riding a bicycle, beauty and hindsight.  There are a lot of thoughts tucked into this little 4 1/2 minute short.

I chose this video to feature today because of the section about love.  It is Valentines day today - a time when folks who are "paired", have their smiley day and so somehow it seemed appropriate to lead with something more real and less traditional about love for us singles.  The section on love perfectly fits my sentiment.  I have transcribed a small part of the lyrics from that section, so you can appreciate what I mean. It is for those of us who have loved and lost, loved and thrown away, or just plain fallen out of love but at the end of it all still have hopes to fall in love again.  

From the short "There's a Flower in My Pedal"
by Andrea Dorfman

I play this song over and over and over because
At the time I was sad and terribly in love.
Long after it made me happy to listen and remember
About a time I thought I was in a never ender.
People disappoint me and leave me broken down
That is the price we pay for love and I wear it like a crown.
I lived my life so far than ever I could
It is a gift to feel so much
It is worth taking the bad with the good.

There's a Flower in My Pedal
by Andrea Dorfman

How To Be Alone
Film by Andrea Dorfman
Poetry by Tanya Davis

I can't begin to explain all the things which I love about both the video and poem.  The poem itself was written by Tanya Davis - a friend of Andrea Dorfman.  Personally, I have learned to be happy alone, but I know folks who have not.  For those folk, this short provides a wonderful step by step approach to learning to live life fully as a single person.  It would be very inspirational, I think, for someone who is recently single after a long marriage.

I didn't so much need a course in how to be single - I have been taking baby steps and even big leaps through the happily alone space for some time.  I have taken week long vacations to resort destinations on my own and am planning a travel sabbatical on my own next year.  Even so, I found the video inspirational and full of little gems.  Having listened to it many times, there are a few lines which grabbed me.

  • "Go to an unfamiliar city, roam the streets, there's always statues to talk to " - this section features a statue of Winston Churchill which sits in the area of the Toronto City Hall near Osgoode Hall which I have walked by hundreds of times.  As a women alone, it is really easy to go look at public art displays without feeling odd to be alone.  I have wandered the Toronto streets quite a bit admiring our public art (check out my Toronto Art Blogs) and enjoy these outings a lot.

  •  "lonely is a freedom that breaths easy and weightless and lonely is healing if you make it... Cuz if you're happy in your head then solitude is blessed and alone is okay." Isn't this a wonderful line?  I have blogged recently about my "Fortress of Solitude". I say no more.

For more information about "How To Be Alone", including the full text of the poem, go to Tanya's web site.

I noticed as I finished this blog and was searching out some links to add, that the  Toronto Sun Newspaper had a Valentine's Day column which mentioned Tanya Davis's poem How to be Alone.
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Sunday, February 13, 2011

Sunday Morning in Toronto

This was my view yesterday afternoon as I sat at my desk working.    A brief snow squall had slipped in from the lake and although there was a hole punched out of the clouds in the middle of the lake to let the sun shine OVER THERE - over here it was dark and there was snow in the air.  Today we are supposed to have above freezing temps and I am hoping that we will get a bit of sun rather than rain so I can get out for a long walk.

OK guys, I want to officially state for the record that I am absolutely tired of winter weather.  I wish I could get to a beach for a week, but I pretty much used up any time I have when my Dad was in hospital.  *sigh*

I am a bit ahead of the game this week as I put my blogs ahead of my other stuff this weekend and  I have written my weekday blog already.  It will be published on Monday morning as a Valentine offering to perk up the day for us single folk.

 I need to go dashing off to catch up on all my chores  now before I get to go out to play and I will leave you to enjoy some really fine music from Quebec. One of the programs I try to catch each week is CBC Radio's Jim Corcoran and his program called A Propos. He features music and cultural items from Quebec - Canada's French Province. Sadly, French Canadian musicians seldom get air time in English provinces - and it is our loss. There are some fabulous Quebecois musicians who tour Europe and France - but not English speaking Canada.  I am so glad that I can rely on the CBC - our purveyor of all things Canadian not to leave out  the other distinctive society which makes up the Canadian mosaic.

One Quebecois talent  not to be missed is Martin Leon.  His music is very sophisticated - understated and smooth as silk with jazz overtones.  As his website says - it is music with soul.    He was featured for a full hour in Jim Corcoran's program of Jan 15th. You can listen to the Podcast by going here.  After listening to the songs that Jim shared with us in the hour long program I went off to iTunes and bought many of the tunes which were featured.

I found the following You Tube video which includes two of his best from his  new album Les Atoms which was released last fall.  My favourite song of all  is the 2nd one on this Video. It is titled All In and it is has a real jazz flavour.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Ben Folds/Nick Hornby - Lonely Avenue

Ben FoldsCover of Ben FoldsSeveral weeks ago, I decided to start a blog series following a theme.   I have to admit that the theme is a bit of a winding path.   I posted part one on Jan 21 and it sat at the tail end of a blog about my lazy day and the need I have to park my brain for a while to recharge and gain creative energy. In that blog I featured Steve Johnson and the Multi-sketch video "Eureka Moments are Hard to Come by".  That was all about innovation.

This blog, the second in the series, is all about some pretty neat innovators and the collaborative project undertaken by the musician Ben Folds and the writer Nick Hornby.

I first heard Ben Fold's music on the CBC's Radio 2 Morning Program with Molly Johnson several months ago.  She talks so warmly and personally about the musicians she features and my ears perked up when I heard his name because  it was not familiar to me.  When she played "From Above",  I loved the song.  The melody is upbeat and the lyrics tell a story.  Hearing "From Above" led me to the You Tube I included below and then to the internet to "follow the links" to learn more about Ben Folds.  It also led me to discover more about Nick Hornby - but that will be the subject of the next blog.

Firstly, according to wiki:
Benjamin Scott "Ben" Folds (born September 12, 1966) is an American singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, and the former frontman of the alternative rock band Ben Folds Five who now performs as a solo artist and collaborates with many other musicians.

Ben Folds also was featured as a judge on the TV a cappella competion  The Sing Off  in 2010 during the 2nd season of this NBC program.

If you listen to pop radio, you will know Ben Folds from his hit "You Don't Know Me" which features Regina Spektor.

Ben collaborated with William Shatner to produce the album "Has Been" in 2004. I listened to the samples on the Amazon site it is an interesting album and some of the songs are pretty funny. I wouldn't buy the album although I would like to listen to it once.  I don't suspect any of my friends have a copy, so probably no chance of that.

What you might not know is that Ben became a contributing photographer at National Geographic in 2010 and was invited to speak and present photographs live at National Geographic as a part of their new series "Music On Photography".   He is one of our many musician/photographers (the most notable of which, to my mind is Bryan Adams.)

Lonely Avenue

Folds' newest album, a collaboration with English author Nick Hornby, is titled Lonely Avenue and was released on September 28, 2010.  Hornby is well known for his novels "About A Boy" and "High Fidelity", which were both adapted for screen to critical acclaim.  Hornby wrote the words and Ben created the melodies to the songs in this album.  By and far the song  From Above is my favourite.  It is a pop album, not likely to garner a place in the top 500 albums of all times, but most of the songs are a good listen, although there are is one I didn't much like at all -  Levi Johnston's Blues. The songs on the album are each quite different - some of vaguely Beach Boys sounding, with orchestral accompaniments and vocal harmony during the chorus - others are not at all like that.  Go here to check out the BBC review of the album.

"From Above" is the first single from the album which received air play.   I have since purchased the actual CD, which is a hard cover book/CD combination.  The book includes 4 short stories by Nick Hornby and wonderfully illustrated pages containing lyrics from the songs on the CD.

You will notice that the Video which accompanies the song is in a format used by Steve Johnson the "Eureka Moments" video. In this type of animation,  referred to as "multi sketch" ("RSA Animates" is used by RSA but is a branding of the technique), the story is illustrated by a series of pictures that is drawn as the narration or song unfolds.

Visual communication combined with verbal/narrative communication is a very powerful way to get your message across. From the website of Cognitive Media, I learned that the work that the illustrators do is called "scribing" and that they specialize in providing a visual synthesis to accompany an oral presentation.  Since seeing my first "scribed" video presentation, which was an RSA Animation in a previous blog, I have seen this type of video increasingly on You Tube.  It adds measurably to the Video accompanying the song From Above.  Interesting to watch what happens in the video to illustrate the lyrics.

From Above
Music by Ben Folds
Words by Nick Hornby

They even looked at each other once across the crowded bar
He was with Martha, she was with Tom
Neither of them really knew what was going on
A strange feeling of never, heartbeats becoming synchronized

It's been that way forever but most of the time it's just near misses
And kisses once at a bookstore, once at a party
She came in as he was leaving and years ago at the movies
She sat behind him, the 6:30 showing of "While You Were Sleeping"

He never once looked around

It's so easy from above
You can really see it all
People who belong together
Lost and sad and small
But there's nothing to be done for them
It doesn't work that way
Sure we all have soulmates but we walk past them every day

And it's not like they were ever actually unhappy in the lives they lived
He married Martha, she married Tom
Just this fake notion that something was wrong
An ache, an absence, a phantom limb

An itch that could never be scratched

It's so easy from above
You can really see it all
People who belong together
Lost and sad and small
But there's nothing to be done for them
It doesn't work that way
Sure we all have soulmates but we walk past them every day

Neither of them knew what was going on
A strange feeling of never, heartbeats becoming synchronized

It's been that way forever

Who knows whether that's how it should be
Maybe a ghost lived in that vacancy

Maybe that's how books get written
Maybe that's why songs get sung
Maybe we are the unlucky ones

It's so easy from above
You can really see it all
People who belong together
Lost and sad and small
But there's nothing to be done for them
It doesn't work that way
Sure we all have soulmates but we walk past them every day

Maybe that's how books get written
Maybe that's why songs get sung
Maybe we are the unlucky ones
Maybe that's how books get written
Maybe that's why songs get sung
Maybe we are the unlucky ones

About the Collaboration

I have since started reading Nick Hornby's book "Songbook", referred to in the video explaining the Folds/Hornby collaboration. In the book, Hornby has written an essay for 31 songs which have in some way "gotten under his skin". There are some interesting song/musicians in the list and some that I have not heard of - he is from England and some of the musicians are not as well known in North America. I am still reading it so I will save the detail for a blog when I get it finished. Just to whet your appetite, from the back cover:
Quintessentially Hornby: an idiosyncratic and charming exploration of the meaning of music and how it changes as we grow up and grow old"
More about Nick Hornby in a blog to come.
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Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Poetry by Billy Collins

Billy Collins 2006Image via Wikipedia

I am constantly coming across poets new to me, who are wonderfully clever and creative and (just as importantly) write in a style that I find a treat to read and which brings a smile to my face.  Billy Collins is one such poet.

I was introduced to him last Sunday on CBC's Radio 1's Sunday Morning Edition,  when the propriety of the Billy Collins poem "Taking off Emily Dickinson's Clothes" was being discussed.  I will leave the appropriateness of that idea for you to decide, but do go for a listen to it being recited on You Tube, if you enjoy ever so slightly erotic poems and are not aghast at the subject matter.  After I heard the poem recited I was hooked on Billy Collins.

According to Wiki:
Billy Collins (born William James Collins March 22, 1941) is an American poet, appointed as Poet Laureate of the United States from 2001 to 2003. [1] He is a Distinguished Professor at Lehman College of the City University of New York and is the Senior Distinguished Fellow of the Winter Park Institute, Florida. Collins was recognized as a Literary Lion of the New York Public Library (1992) and selected as the New York State Poet for 2004-2006.
The Wiki source also indicates that Collins is a good friend of actor, Bill Murray.  I think a lot of Bill Murray but that is another story (my favourite movie being Groundhog Day) and I sat up and took notice that they are acquainted.  As a consequence of the brief read of a few of Collins' poems and I know that I will enjoy getting to know Collins work a lot better. His poems are quite clever and a bit quirky. It is all I can do to hold off running to Amazon to send off an order.  Nice to know that isn't necessary because a lot of his work is available online for free.

After a brief journey through You Tube land and various recitations, I chose to share a few which I particularly liked.  The two You Tubes are from 11 animated poems read by Billy Collins. The rest of the animated poems are worth going to see if you like the two below.

by Billy Collins
Forgetfulness, the title of this first poem, is something that I have been thinking about lately.   I am taking my Mom for an appointment at a Geriatric Clinic this week to have her cognitive functioning assessed - and the  prime symptom of her issue is a failing memory.  I myself am getting to the age where it is quite acceptable that I might have small memory lapses and I can calmly proclaim a "Senior's Moment".  As much as it might frustrate and be a bit worrisome that I seem to forget some details now that I would never have forgotten a decade ago - that goes with the territory I guess.  In my Mom's case it is more severe and I have started to wonder how long she will be capable to manage on her own in the years ahead.

This poem is whimsical and while ominous in its conclusion, I like it's slightly humorous treatment of the theme.  

The name of the author is the first to go
followed obediently by the title, the plot,
the heartbreaking conclusion, the entire novel
which suddenly becomes one you have never read,
never even heard of,

as if, one by one, the memories you used to harbor
decided to retire to the southern hemisphere of the brain,
to a little fishing village where there are no phones.

Long ago you kissed the names of the nine Muses goodbye
and watched the quadratic equation pack its bag,
and even now as you memorize the order of the planets,

something else is slipping away, a state flower perhaps,
the address of an uncle, the capital of Paraguay.

Whatever it is you are struggling to remember,
it is not poised on the tip of your tongue,
not even lurking in some obscure corner of your spleen.

It has floated away down a dark mythological river
whose name begins with an L as far as you can recall,
well on your own way to oblivion where you will join those
who have even forgotten how to swim and how to ride a bicycle.

No wonder you rise in the middle of the night
to look up the date of a famous battle in a book on war.
No wonder the moon in the window seems to have drifted
out of a love poem that you used to know by heart.


The next poem I found to be very interesting in its concept and how it illustrates that the foundation of our tomorrow is the sum of all our yesterdays.

by Billy Collins

Each one is a gift, no doubt,
mysteriously placed in your waking hand
or set upon your forehead
moments before you open your eyes.
Today begins cold and bright,
the ground heavy with snow
and the thick masonry of ice,
the sun glinting off the turrets of clouds.
Through the calm eye of the window
everything is in its place
but so precariously
this day might be resting somehow
on the one before it,
all the days of the past stacked high
like the impossible tower of dishes
entertainers used to build on stage.
No wonder you find yourself
perched on the top of a tall ladder
hoping to add one more.
Just another Wednesday
you whisper,
then holding your breath,
place this cup on yesterday's saucer
without the slightest clink.

The Dead

The last poem I wanted to share from his collection is "The Dead". I loved the poem and the animation which illustrates it.

If you like Billy Collins poetry, I would really recommend you zip on over to You Tube and /or the site with 11 Animated Poems Written by Billy Collins and the experience some more of his poems. He has been particularly kind in providing creative commons license to his work so there are a great deal of his poems available with/without animation illustration.
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Sunday, February 6, 2011

Two Steps Forward, One Step Back

I guess it is going to be a bit of an uphill climb before I liberate enough time to blog at the frequency I did through 2009 and the first half of 2010.  While I got out of the gate of 2011 with a good start after the new year, I have since fallen back to more sporadic postings.  I find this to be very frustrating because I have a whole pile of ideas neatly stacked in my list of posts in a draft state but I am not getting time to get back and finish them.  

Life is just so busy, I may have to accept that a post now and again is all I will manage for the time being until I finish catching up with other tasks which fell behind over the fall and until I can find time to spend fewer hours working to earn a living.  I suppose I should be glad that I am earning a good buck and be satisfied to work while I can, but truth is I am getting tired of it.  For now I won't beat myself up, but one thing is sure, if I  can't free up some serious chunks of time by the end of March I will need to re-evaluate things and figure out a way to liberate some time.

Not that all is work with no play.  Last night my son Eric took me out to see my favourite local performer Alejandra Ribera who performed at the Toronto supper club, Hugh's Room.  This has been her 3rd performance at that venue in just over a year.  I have blogged about Alejandra several times before and you can catch up here.

You can view all the photos that I took by going to my Picasa Gallery.

The evening was just splendid.   We had a fabulous table just out of the glare of the stage lights about 6 feet from the stage.  The food and service was very good - particularly when you understand that they serve about 250 people in the 2 hours before the show starts at 8:30.  I had the roast chicken (I know, boring) and Eric had a steak which he proclaimed to be tender and tasty.  The dessert was scrumptious - chocolate cheesecake.

The music was exceptional and enhanced by the wonderful acoustics of the room.  A great introduction by Richard Flohill started the event just about on time at 8:30.  Alejandra just gets better every time I see her.  There was quite a change in her band which was all for the better - not that there was anything wrong with her old band.  Except for the piano, some new musicians filled the spots of brass, drums and bass and she added two new instruments - electric guitar and accordion!  Both added significantly to the sound and brought some previously heard songs to a whole new level.  Pirate was spectacular with its new interpretation.  The Spanish influence was apparent in some of the new songs and the accordion lent a gypsy flair to few of them.

Alejandra was her usual warm but slightly nervous self with wonderful bits of humour tucked into the song introductions.  She introduced one of her new songs with the information that in one week last year she lost her apartment, her husband and her appendix.  I agree with her that it made great fodder for her new songs.  There were several and I am hoping she will be soon getting into the recording studio to start work on them for the new album.

Alejandra's guitarist was a big surprise and treat.  Surprise because she has never had an electric guitar accompanyist and I would not have thought it would work before having heard it.  A treat because Alejandra managed to get Donna Grantis  to perform with her.  Not sure if you know Donna Grantis but if you google the words  "Donna" and  "guitar" from Toronto she comes up in the 2nd spot after some bogus placeholder advertisement (set up to forward the link clicker into the Internet void).  She is an electric guitarist extraordinaire, accompanying the likes of  Shakura S’Aida and - no less - the musical director and performer of the 2010 Toronto Women's Blues Review I attended at Massey Hall in the fall.  Of course, Alejandra performed at the Women's Blues Review so I can see the connection.  Alejandra often accompanies herself on an acoustic guitar, but the electric guitar and Donna's performance added a new dimension to her songs. 

The most exciting news ever is that Alejandra is coming back to the Cameron to do a weekly performance on Tuesday nights in the 6-8 pm time slot starting in March!  She said she has a bunch of new songs to work on and she is looking forward to getting back into the routine of a regular weekly performance at her old haunt to do that.

The Next Blog Post:
I decided in this blog to leave you with more just a wishful promise for the date of the next blog to come.  I have already written and have posted the next blog in advance so its ready for publication on Tuesday Feb 8th.  So do come back and visit and hear about Forgetfulness, Day and The Dead.
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