Andrew Lindemann Malone's Internet Playpen
Movie Reviews

Thursday, 12/30/04: Current Events

If you all have some cash you can spare and haven't yet donated something to help the relief efforts in Southeast Asia, I recommend donating at Doctors Without Borders, as I have just done. They're used to going places where normal doctors fear to tread and setting up in rugged conditions to save lives, and that seems to be exactly what's needed there right now. The linked page has instructions for donating via any means necessary.

 

Saturday, 12/25/04: Good Christian Friends, Rejoice

It has come to my attention that a bunch of people are up in arms this holiday season about what terms one uses to denote the holiday season. One one hand, you have Christians who have written opinion columns about the fact that "Merry Christmas" should be the holiday greeting of choice in all circumstances because most people here celebrate Christmas, and why neuter the force of your merry greeting to appease a tenth of the populace? On the other hand, you have people who do not celebrate Christmas making the somewhat self-evident argument that wishing them "Merry Christmas" is genially clueless at best and offensive at worst.

But there's more! On the third hand, you have people like Blake Gopnik, the head visual-art critic for the Post, who wrote about two years ago that, despite his personal Judaism, he just loves wishing folks a Merry Christmas come December, or atheists who happily give gifts and enjoy family togetherness without ever referring to the birth of Jesus on the 25th. On the fourth hand (we are assuming you are an octopus for the sake of this argument), you have people who are tired of what they see as Christian triumphalism but who are also tired of the ongoing effort to pretend that all the other holidays occurring 'round the winter solstice merit the same fantastic level of expenditure that Christmas does. (No, I'm not going to spend my Christmas morning finding links to people espousing all these viewpoints. I'm amazed enough that I'm writing this at all.)

Myself, I am a Christian, middle-class white male, and thus the beneficiary of any casual prejudices our society chooses to exercise, but among my blue-state friends there are way too many people who do not celebrate as I do to make buying "Merry Christmas" cards a cost-effective proposition. Also, in my reading of Jesus' character, he does not seem like the kind of guy who would be into pointless conversation-stopping confrontationalism as such. So here are my holiday prescriptions:

  • Everybody who celebrates Christmas has to go out and buy a copy of the overture and suite from Rimsky-Korsakov's "Christmas Eve." Its alternating sublimated atmospherics and festive dances, all orchestrated with R-K's usual astonishing inventiveness, make it the great unheard holiday opus, even if the actual plot of the opera involves witches
  • Those people should also recognize that, if they don't know what holiday a person celebrates, saying "Have a happy holiday!" or some such is the path of least resistance to spreading actual cheer
  • If those people forget and say "Merry Christmas" anyway, people who do not celebrate Christmas should recognize that the error is one committed in a spirit of giving and shrug it off
  • If those people do not forget and insist on saying "Merry Christmas" in a spirit of holiday triumphalism, people who do not celebrate Christmas should feel free to sneak some coal into the greeters' stockings. If the greeters keep it up, people who do not celebrate Christmas should feel free to kick the greeters' asses in whatever fashion their religion (or lack thereof) prescribes

Finally: Merry Christmas, everybody! And as usual, thanks for reading.

 

Friday, 12/24/04: Presence

Today I went to town at the Dollar Place at City Place Mall. The store teemed with holiday shoppers looking to find something for those hard-to-please people on their list that cost a buck (or $1.05 with tax). There was more excitement at Dollar Place today then ever there has been in my experience. Only adding to the cheerful frenzy was the music being played, a Christmas-themed version of the one hit that made a wonder of Lou Bega, "Mambo No. 5":

A little bit of Santa's all I need

A little bit of presents all I seek…

When this wasn't playing, dance versions of undanceable Christmas music such as "What Child is This" took up the slack.

Nevertheless, I bought eight bucks' (and forty cents') worth of stuff, including:

  • Two cookie tins depicting cherubs playing musical instruments in what appear to be physically impossible ways, unless cherubs have double-jointed elbows
  • A fake tree, about a foot high, that's very attractive if you stash it somewhere where no one will look at it too closely (it's atop my TV now)
  • A pack of twelve red tea candles, because color coordination is the reason for the season
  • One of those little things you use to dispense individual droplets of olive oil at the table, because for a dollar how bad can it be?

I did not purchase either of the two rolls of wrapping paper emblazoned with the Tennessee Titans logo, so you can go pick those up.

I linked to the promotional website of the Daedalus Quartet on Monday. Here's their real official website, complete with short discussions of each of three programs, short sound clips, and a blog with no content as yet. Hopefully the blog will end up being as cool as Sam Bergman's blog from the Minnesota Orchestra's road trip. Or at least it could have endless dilatory essays on odd corners of the repertoire, so I would know that I am not the only one polluting the Web with this stuff.

 

Wednesday, 12/22/04: As Promised

Here's a review of the Daedalus Quartet's debut at Carnegie Hall on Friday, December 10. It's rather long! If I'm writing for my own amusement, I'm not going to worry about freaking word counts. Plus there's a little point of contention between me and the NYT critic at the end!

Other notes from that weekend:

  • Spoken to my dad while walking from Penn Station to Grand Central: "One of the things that makes New York a great city is the fact that pedestrians have the right of way on any light. It's written into their constitution!"
  • Dear Dan,
    Please forgive me for transposing two numbers in the number I was trying to call and (judging from your uncertain voice) waking you up at 10 am (9 your time) on Saturday morning. I was a little agitated and just didn't dial right. I hope I didn't ruin your sleep. If you read this message, e-mail me, and next time I am in your city I will buy you a beer.
    Sincerely,
    Andrew
  • The Aztec exhbit at the Guggeinheim was awesome. I wonder: What is it about a civilization that believed in human sacrifice as the ultimate path to spirituality that captivates me so? Don't answer that.

Monday, 12/20/04: Chestnuts Flamed

In this review of the National Philharmonic Chorale's performance of Handel's "Messiah," the copyeditors made a lot of edits. Some were good, some were pointless but non-catastrophic either way. But the overall message came through plain as day: This was a bad performance. It was actually bad enough that the highlight was seeing a couple deer upon walking out of the hall after the first half of the program (I had thought that the cold would convince me that it was a good idea to come back in for the second half). The choruses were pretty good, but it was so odd to see 132 people not overwhelm 40 musicians that I couldn't really get over it.

Scene-setting I didn't get to do in the Choral Arts review linked to directly below:

  • The concert began at 7 pm, because it was immediately followed by a gala. Lots of talkative latecomers. Great environment for music-making, I'm sure.
  • The two talkative latecomers in front of me and my momma (Yes, I take my parents to classical shows. If you want to get taken to a classical show, holla) glared at me and my momma when we had the nerve to actually participate in the singalong portion of the program. I guess they thought it was more appropriate to talk during every other second of the program.
  • The principal cellist in the American Youth Philharmonic is named Whitley, and she looked every inch the Whitley: tall, blond, thin, imperious. During her solo in the Suppé overture, I had a vision of her 20 years from now working the room at an embassy cocktail party, wearing strapless black, cutting people direct left and right, holding a martini coolly while cradling the elbow of her martini-holding arm with her other hand. Then she smiled, which kind of killed that.

I swear on a stack of presents that I will have a review of the Daedalus Quartet's debut at Carnegie Hall up by the end of the day Friday. Hopefully sooner.

 

Wednesday, 12/15/04: Chestnuts Roasting

Here's a review of the Choral Arts Society that fulfills a purely ceremonial purpose. I'm pretty happy with how it came out, though.

More later today.

 

Friday, 12/10/04: Special Double-Linked Edition!

Here's a review of the Guarneri Quartet's show at the Kennedy Center on Wednesday. That's the normal link. There were a couple very deft edits in the first couple sentences that saved space and eliminated redundancy — it's great to have good editors.

If you've ever been interested in what exactly it is I do all day, an extremely good friend of mine wrote this advance notice of proposed rulemaking for revising the nursery stock regulations that was published today in the Federal Register, a venue somewhat less prestigious but way more legally sufficient as public notice than the WaPo. Please note that comments on this ANPR should not be sent to my e-mail address, but instead to EDOCKET, because as much as the friend is a good friend of mine, I don't have his e-mail address and never will. Sending your comments here is the most futile thing you can possibly do. But this is certainly an example of the type of thing I do all day, and because it takes a high-level view of the nursery stock regulations, it's almost comprehensible to laymen!

 

Tuesday, 12/7/04: Static

Before I get into the normal mundane musings, I'd like to wish all my Jewish peeps a happy Hanukah. Light them candles, baby! Yee-haw!

Yesterday I had the greed/money vertigo again. Today I had the more familiar sloth vertigo ("I could do absolutely no work this entire day and no one would notice"). In the night that passed between these two days, I dreamed that my parents found ten-year-old cakes in the closet of my childhood bedroom, covered in mold and insects, and made me eat big slices of them. After this, I died in a nuclear explosion (again, in the dream), but afterwards my incinerated corpse somehow found time for discussing John Dryden in the quad of a verdant campus. Whatever stone my brain is trying to pass between my neurons, I hope it passes soon.

 

Sunday, 12/5/04: Because the Internet Wants to Know

This is going to be a for-real blog entry full of first-person musing, irrelevant mundanities, and a quote from a better writer than me. Okay? Here we go! (Oops — the personal musings got really, really long, so they went into the Arguments section as "The Ornaments of Success.")

I bought a veggie burrito and small soda at Baja Fresh for $6.66 today. "Demon burrito!" I said, upon hearing the price. The clerk was nonplussed. (Was it, in fact, a demon burrito? My gastrointestinal system says: It was the spawn of Satan indeed.)

Here is one of the funnier quotes I have read over the past few months, from my old adversary Dave Barry's 2004 Gift Guide:

We Americans "really" love our dogs. Why? Because dogs ask so little, and give so much. All you have to do for a dog is feed it, and provide it with a place to live, and walk it ever morning even when you're really tired and it's raining, and regularly take it to the veterinarian for shots and dewormings and various other procedures that can run into thousands of dollars if, for example, the dog has — and this is not out of the question — swallowed a toaster oven. And for doing these things for your dog, you get, in return, an animal who really and truly and sincerely loves you, or anybody else who happens to feed it.

In the last sentence, he commas around "in return" and the polysyndeton set up the punchline masterfully, especially when Barry splits the compound object of "loves" with the comma so you expect the pause to be emphasizing the preceding point. Grammar makes things funnier!

 

Thursday, 12/2/04: Chronicles

I know I should update this more, but all my thoughts lately are half-formed. They're not the kind of rounded, decisive thoughts that lend themselves to expression in a couple paragraphs. (Plenty of bloggers are indecisive, but the best ones are decisively indecisive.) I don't know how Terry Teachout and O.G.I.C., Alex Ross, C-Po, and Kittytext do that shiznit.

My guess is their thoughts aren't any more formed than mine are (except C-Po and Kittytext, who I know are my thought-formation superiors), but they have more of that little self-reinforcing cognitive circuit that says "If I had this idea, it must be good/interesting/worth reading for a bunch of folks." For example, Alex Ross' best-of-2K4 is probably not based on having heard every single classical and non-classical release that came out during the last year (otherwise, he would have included Madvillainy). But he's heard enough CDs that he thinks such a list would be useful for other people to read, or at the very least he's confident that people are interested in his opinion. Of course, that's probably partly because Alex Ross is a way better writer than I am. Whereas I would have to be listening to music 24-7 before I would even think about putting up anything I hear as the best of anything. Though, time having passed, I am pretty sure that College Dropout was in fact the best hip-hop album of 2004.

In non-self-flagellating notes, here's some stuff worth reading:

Well, I haven't strayed too far from self-flagellation for the past week.

 

Wednesday, 11/24/04: You Have My Gratitude

A review of a mediocre concert is here. There were no cleavage details to leave out of this one.

I'm leaving today for Chicago, where I will celebrate Turkey Day in the utmost gustatory style with Spam-O-Maticker Mark Knoblauch, not to mention his sister, my parents and like ten other people. So I need to make my Thanksgiving announcement early this year.

This past year has left me profoundly thankful: for the opportunity to write for the Post, for the continued opportunities afforded me by Jazz Times and APHIS, for my health and the health of those close to me, for figuring out that running in Sligo Creek Park is beautiful, for the Borders that now lives a ten-minute walk away. I am continually amazed at the things the world is willing to give to me and that I can get with hard work, even if I can never get everything I want. And one of the miracles of this modern age is that I can post this combination broadsheet/oeuvre and anyone, including you, can read it. I thank you for doing that.

(If you haven't read this site much before: Yes, I get sappy every holiday. Deal or delete the bookmark.)

 

Tuesday, 11/23/04: World Cultures 101

If any of you are in the Washington area and see this before 8 pm, turn your TVs to Comcast Sports Net and check out the fascinating documentary about the Maryland Terrapins men's basketball team's trip to Italy. It is full of interesting tidbits about what happens when people like Gary Williams go to Italy (he went native and tried to lead his team in an Italian-language song). Also, I just learned that "El Duco succio" (ell DOOK-o soo-CHEE-o) is how you say "Duke sucks" in Italian. You just can't make this stuff up, folks. I hope.

 

Sunday, 11/21/04: Ya Slippin'

I didn't really have time to update the site last week, and I won't have much this week. Sorry.

Here's a review I wrote with the artist's dad sitting two seats to my right in the row in front of me (I think). I'm glad I got to use the verb "to pile into" in this review, even if the copyeditors corrupted "rhythms and blue notes" into "rhythm and blues notes," which is decidedly not the same thing, although what I wrote is uninformatively vague enough that I see why they did it.

Also, Pei-Yao Wang is the early front-runner in the Most Cleavage Bared, Classical Non-Vocal Perfomer category for 2005. She's a slender woman, so it wasn't too noticeable when she sat sideways at the keyboard, but man was that a low-cut spaghetti-strap top. You'll notice that this delightful fact did not make it into the Washington Post. Maybe they'll start mandating that I comment on such matters in accordance with their new editorial direction, though.

 

Sunday, 11/14/04: Ceci N'est Pas Content, Either

I forgot to upload the post below yesterday, so here it is. In my book, though, both of these count as posts, and I doubled up for your time-wasting pleasures over the weekend. When I remember to put in the links tomorrow, that'll be yet another post.

 

Saturday, 11/13/04: O.D.B., R.I.P.

News reports indicate that Ol' Dirty Bastard, one of the founding members of the Wu-Tang Clan, collapsed and died in a studio today. He was 35.

Ol' Dirty's first solo album, Return to the 36 Chambers, was the second hip-hop album I ever bought. The first was Raekwon's Only Built for Cuban Linx…I bought the Raekwon on a recommendation. The O.D.B., though, I bought for the oldest reason of all: I liked the single. I recall well the first time I realized how cool "Shimmy Shimmy Ya" was; indeed, I recall that I was driving on Dale Drive, crossing Wayne Avenue, when it occurred. I had not been following hip-hop for a number of years, having been pressured out of it in junior high school by ignorant peers who considered such an enthusiasm inappropriate for a honky such as myself, and had been listening to the radio and getting back into things for a few months. O.D.B.'s fervent, if somewhat nonsensical, lyrics, rough singing of the hook, and habit of stretching out random syllables of words piqued my interest; when I listened I discovered a banger of a RZA beat underneath, rough drums, deep bass and two notes on a twangy piano hammered relentlessly. It was like watching a four-wheel-drive vehicle successfully land after driving off a cliff, over and over again, just the landing part: rugged and utterly certain and weirdly joyful at once.

Return to the 36 Chambers is universally acknowledged to be one of the very best Wu-Tang solo albums, and I have nothing much to add to that assessment. During my senior year in high school, I was home sick for about a week; when I was awake, I played Civilization and listened to Return to the 36 Chambers and Smetana's Ma vlast, with the result that those two compositions now share synapses in my benighted memory, and I can't think of moving catapults around without hearing "Raw Hide."

He didn't have much idea how to get along in the world. He fathered child after child out of wedlock, did plenty of drugs, and generally caused a ruckus wherever he went. He sang the hook on Pras' "Ghetto Superstar" after crashing the studio; everyone agreed that O.D.B. saved that otherwise lame song. He snatched a mic at some awards show, but haven't we all wanted to do that? He also helped raise a car off a kid who was trapped underneath, then left and didn't tell anyone about his good deed, including his publicity people, so that the other people who had raised the car eventually called the newspaper. His lyrics were full of profanity, misogyny, and other pathologies, but it was hard to tell whether he actually meant anything he said with lyrics like "This is something old…and dirty…and dirty!"

I didn't like his second album, and then he kept getting jailed, the last time for a couple years on drug charges. He got out and was doing his new album when he kicked the mic stand. Regardless, he'll be missed, as you can tell by the fact that I just spent a half-hour writing this obit when I could have been working on the truly titanic amount of work I owe to Jazz Times on Monday.

 

Tuesday, 11/9/04: Spray

On Sunday, I trudged through Tampa's airport for the second time in two days, this time going home to BWI. My plane flew out of the same gate I had flown into on Saturday, I realized as I fell into the first available black vinyl seat. Feeling the call, I managed to yank myself up and go to the restroom. I tapped the faucet for water and put my hands in the sink to get doused, only to find that the pressure was too high. Water sprayed all over my torso. Suddenly, I realized this was the exact same faucet at which this same thing had happened the day before.

My first thought: "You should have remembered."

Working on a lot of paid writing, so nothing but blog entries for a while.

 

Saturday, 11/6/04: Celà N'est Pas Un Punchline

Yesterday at work, we were scheduled to have gone duckpin bowling as a staff, or at least with whatever members of the staff that wanted to go duckpin bowling. However, apparently everyone else in the office had decided that no one, in the event, wanted to go bowling yesterday — even the people who organized the outing had made other plans. So I showed up at the office ready to hit the lanes and found that my aspirations were on the wrong end of a decision with which I had not been involved. (It was suggested that the lack of follow-up communication should have indicated to me that this decision had been made, but in the government you never really know what silence indicates.) I thought about rolling up to the AMF for a game or two by myself, but decided I didn't want to become a sociological cliché.

 

Thursday, 11/4/04: Postal Delays

Here's a review that appeared in the paper yesterday. (Yesterday kind of got away from me.) I've linked directly to web page 2 of 2, which is where I show up. I don't think they put R.E.M. above me just because they had art for R.E.M.

 

Tuesday, 11/2/04: Election Night Special

For those of you who just don't want to surround yourselves with all this election jazz — I voted, but I'm not watching the coverage right now, and I don't plan to take in more than a couple minutes of it — we have an essay on Maryland's triumph over Florida State to distract you, finally.

I have an ambition to do a little piece about discussing the election results at work, but I'm not going to get it done tonight, so what use is it?

 

Monday, 11/1/04: Straight Outta Austria

A somewhat unconventional review in that I spent a lot of time talking about the piano as an instrument, which I certainly have not done before. But Bosendorfers are cool.

No FSU-Md. article today. Tomorrow. Me feel tired and misanthropic.

 

Sunday, 10/31/04: Hallowent

This is my best year ever for Halloween candy giving-away: 13 kids or so! I need to actually move to a house in the suburbs with a white picket fence already, or at least make friends with someone who has one for the purposes of giving away candy. I miss doing it at my parents' house: carrying a big knife for no reason, playing Bach organ music incredibly loud, hamming it up in general for the young ones. I just can't get into it in the apartment.

Article on Maryland's triumph over FSU coming Monday; too tired to finish it properly tonight.

Do you know what Green Bay's triumph over the Redskins in the Redskins' final home game before the election means? Jack doodely. I said this before the game and I'm saying it now: The fact that the incumbent party loses when the Skins lost their final home game before the election has absolutely no predictive value. The call taking away the apparent late Skins TD was a horrible call, but the ref who made it is not bucking for Secretary of State in the Kerry administration, as the (horrible) color dude intimated. Nevertheless, go Kerry, sort of. (That site has been my favorite Web place for the past couple weeks.

 

Friday, 10/29/04: A Quote (Not Necessarily Coinciding With the Beliefs of This Site's Proprietor)

One of the principal benefits that matrimony confers on the young professional class is that it enables us to give up that tiresome pretence of being interested in spiritual and cultural matters—forced upon us by our education and courtship rituals—and lets us settle down to a frank and total absorption in our financial and material circumstances.

-Michael Frayn

 

Wednesday, 10/27/04: This One Time

First of all, here's a review that appeared in the Post yesterday. The last sentence of the first paragraph got moved into the second paragraph, making the idea-layout a little more conventional than I normally have it and eliminating the kind of bridge-by-paragraphing between #1 and #2. Also they had to cut it a bit for space reasons. I'm sure it looks fine, but it still feels odd to me when I look at it.

Now: In less than a week, we all will go to the polls and vote or Puff Daddy will kill us. This site has studiously ignored the presidential race and politics in general for the most part. The reasons for this are twofold:

  1. I have nothing interesting to say about presidential politics that I didn't read on Slate.
  2. In this election, the normal tediousness of day-to-day exaggerations, glib summaries, shameless rhetorical gambits and shrill denunciations has been amped up by contentiousness that typically makes reasonable discourse impossible.

But today I will speak to it a bit.

For someone who's known from March that I was going to have to vote for John Kerry, I haven't been doing much to help his election. I have friends who have been far more diligent in that regard. Sometimes, I regret my inaction, but then I read the paper or watch TV and remember the reason for it: I dislike John Kerry and think he will be an ineffectual president. His complete lack of political courage, his inability to clearly state his own positions, and his general mien of patrician condescension all spell a mediocre four years for the country if he is elected. However, I will vote for him with regret but absolutely no hesitation, because of the thoroughgoing jackass who currently occupies the White House.

George W. Bush has failed morally, particularly in his refusal to hold Rumsfeld accountable for Abu Ghraib. He has failed legally, in his administration's repeated contentions that the rule of law goes out the window in time of war. He has failed at the objectives he set himself, leaving Afghanistan to slowly descend back into chaos while spreading new chaos in Iraq. His administration selectively used intelligence to the point of distortion to justify the latter war to the American people, including me, since I believed Colin Powell when he presented to the UN. He has proposed to use the Constitution to enshrine a prejudice that we will all be embarrassed at ever having entertained in 50 years, despite the fact that a law (the Defense of Marriage Act) already exists to accomplish the same purpose. His economic policies are dedicated to the questionable ideal of moving towards a flat tax. And, perhaps most of all for me, he and his adminstration seem to view reality as an unwelcome encumbrance on their designs. I don't think John Kerry will deal well with reality, but I do think he'll deal with it.

So the Spam-O-Matic officially endorses John Kerry for President of the United States. I don't entertain the illusion that this will shift anyone's vote. But if I haven't provided John Kerry any material assistance, at least I've said what I think.

 

Sunday, 10/24/04: Solid Gold!

A new In My Changer is now up to fulfill the guarantee given to you, the Internet, on Thursday and to take up the cudgels on behalf of some music I feel deserves some more respect.

 

Friday, 10/22/04: Lacking Luster

Not real happy with this review (second one down) am I. But you turn in what you have when the deadline comes up. The Panocha Quartet was way better than my review was, it's just hard to explain exactly why in convincing fashion, and I was tired.

I wrote the paragraph above last night so I wouldn't have to write anything this morning, but now the review seems better (although still not as good as the Panocha Quartet; I have no idea why one of the senior reviewers didn't jump all over this). Still not my fave, but it is really hard to explain how satisfying a performance that refuses to exaggerate everything all to hell can be.

Daniel Ginsberg immediately above me shows there's more than one way to skin a cat in writing about the Johannes String Quartet. It would be really neat to meet my fellow reviewers and talk shop sometime.

 

Thursday, 10/21/04: A Likely Story

I hereby give the Internet my Solid-Gold Guarantee: Sometime this weekend I will get some original, non-blog, non-classical review content up on this site. I know I often say stuff like this and then never do it, but: This is my Solid-Gold Guarantee. There is no finer guarantee. I'll totally be able to flagellate myself into doing some work using that pledge.

 

Monday, 10/18/04: Das Post von der Schlaflosigkeit

Having been awakened by a nightmare (poor baby!) and not thinking I'm going to get back to sleep any time soon, I'm taking the opportunity to post a link to this review of the 21st Century Consort (split in an ungainly fashion across two pages). What I did not get a chance to mention in the review is that the Terps dominated, with the consort's artistic director Christopher Kendall and managing director Christopher Patton and the non-Mahler composers on the program all from U-Md.'s School of Music, not to mention percussionist Thomas Jones, oboist Mark Hill, violinist Elizabeth Adkins, and guest conductor Kenneth Slowik (although all except Slowik were indeed not mentioned. They're supposed to be 250 words, people). Since I repeatedly received hints of various kinds that many people in the School of Music didn't like my concert reviews too much when I was at Maryland, I think this is a wash in terms of bias.

Yes, someday I will post something that does not have to do with a classical review.

 

Saturday, 10/16/04: Register to Win

Here's a review of the Balitmore Symphony Orchestra, second one down. (I love Christopher Rouse!) I'm doing a lot more reviews now because it feels so easy; right now, it's just flowing like my movie reviews used to. I debated using the following phrases in the review but ultimately dumped them:

  • "polyrhythms worthy of go-go"
  • "represented B-More to the fullest"

If you think those are inappropriate for a classical review, you should see my draft hip-hop reviews.

 

Tuesday, 10/12/04: This Post Approved By the National Organization of Women

I completely rewrote the lead to this review (last on the page) of a performance by 16-year-old Lise de la Salle after becoming annoyed with it. This was the original lead:

Wearing a red gown with matching necklace, her hair hanging in one long braid, sixteen-year-old Lise de la Salle looked ready for a homecoming dance when she strode onto the stage of the Kennedy Center's Terrace Theater on Sunday afternoon. But the French pianist came here under the auspices of Young Concert Artists of Washington to make her local debut by playing two hours of Bach and Lizst, repertoire forbidding for pianists of any age.

I actually talked about this with my dad in the car on the way home. "I'm going to use the prom lead, Dad," I said.

"It's fall, so you should probably use homecoming rather than prom," he said.

"Okay," I said. "And I can totally make it not patronizing." (Yes, I talk like this.)

I was wrong. It's totally patronizing to spend more than a microsecond on Lise's appearance, even if the context is "Man, for a young chick she can pound out those octaves." When she steps on stage at the Kennedy Center, she's at a point where her peer group is other pianists, not other 16-year-olds. Something about the homecoming lead treats Lise as a curiosity rather than as someone who delivered a bunch of really distinguished performances.

And her peer group is all other pianists; I noticed that the first comparison that leapt to my mind for Lise was Martha Argerich. In part, this was because Lise played the Prokofiev Toccata as an encore (quite well, too), and Argerich's ascent to fame was helped by the fact that no one could play that piece as fast as she could; in part, it's because my mind has been conditioned to think that female pianists should be compared first to other female pianists. (And I'm calling her "Lise" here only because I became sick of writing "de la Salle" when I was writing the review.)

I do think that in a really long review, such as I used to write for the Diamondback, I could have pulled off not being patronizing while talking about her appearance. But that lead's more than a quarter of the length of review I'm supposed to write for the Post, and its weight leads the piece in a direction which enlightened me didn't wish to take. I suppose an alternative title for this post is "Inside the Mind, Such As it Is, of a Classical Concert Reviewer," but I thought you all might be interested.

Also, something I couldn't fit into the review: The "brief, pregnant pause" found Lise stopping for a while after "La lugubre gondola." Her body went slack, and she sat for what can't have been more than 20 seconds. She then pulled out a little towel and wiped her hands, then the keys, in a quick soft bass-to-treble sweep. Then her hands moved bassward and settled over her starting chord for the "Mephisto Waltz," but hung there for about three unbearable seconds before she powerhoused the opening as described in the review. For me, it was as badass a moment as when Clint Eastwood tells the old dude in "A Fistful of Dollars" to "Get three coffins ready": She took her sweet old time to deliver the blow of death.

To my friends: Thanks for reading these reviews even though they are incomprehensible to most of you.

 

Monday, 10/11/04: How Am I Funny, Like a Clown? What Is So Funny About Me?

On Thursday, while waiting on the Red Line platform at Metro Center, I saw one of my neighbors and went over and said hi. Neither of us really knew each other (she knew my name from having seen mail address to me), so we exchanged some of the usual pleasantry questions before getting on the train and taking far-apart seats — both out of necessity and because it seemed like she was a little embarrassed by her English (she remarked on how much better her roommate's was; they get the Korea Times every day, in which "Korea Times" appear to be the only two English words). Still, I caught up with her as we disembarked, and we chatted as we walked back to our building.

"So, you have a job? What do you do?" she asked as we walked down the hall to our apartments.

"I write regulations for the Department of Agriculture," I said.

And she laughed a full and hearty laugh, the first laugh of our conversation, after she uttered not a peep at all my cool-ass jokes.

Combined with the other instance of someone I barely knew breaking into laughter after I told her what my job is, along with my mom (my own mother!) pronouncing it "sad" that I knew that the Budget rent-a-truck packing tip indicating that you should not pack the dog and cat in the same box implicitly violated 9 CFR part 3, Subpart—Specifications for the Humane Handling, Care, Treatment, and Transportation of Dogs and Cats, §§ 3.13. through 3.19, I have started to think there might be a problem here.

So I ask the Internet: Is my job funny to you? Does the fact that I enjoy music, movies, good eating, baseball and football, and verbs besides "to require," "to prohibit," and "to provide for" make it comical that I sit around writing about compensating custom harvesters whose activities were affected by wheat diseases all day? Or is it only amusing that I take it seriously and do a good job?

I guess I can see both sides of the question.

 

Saturday, 10/9/04: Re-Posted

Here's a review that was in the paper today. Last one on the page. I don't appear to have anything funny to say about it either way. I thought for a while the odor of the gentleman sitting next to me was going to ruin the concert — he obviously had been wearing his clothes for a few days without washing them and while engaging in strenuous activities of some kind — but it turned out not to be a big deal. I could get excited about it, but who knows why people do things. Better to assume there was some kind of good reason.

I was on vacation until Tuesday and it took me until today to get everything straight again, which is why I didn't blog until now. Actually, I cannot honestly say I'm enjoying this, either. I do have lots of Exciting Ideas about stuff to write, but thinking's easier than doing. I'm writing something this evening, but the Internet will never see it (at least while I'm alive. Perhaps someone will excavate all my personal papers and put them on the Internet after I kick the bucket. Never say never, I gues).

 

Thursday, 9/30/04: Happy New Fiscal Year's Eve

The Fessenden Ensemble? Yeah, I reviewed 'em. What's it to you? (Should we go back to puns on the word "post" in the day-title?)

I found the receipt from the Salvadoran-Peruvian restaurant I ate at before seeing the Arlington Symphony Orchestra (see 9/20/04): Its name is El Majahual. I don't even know how to pronounce that!

 

Wednesday, 9/29/04: The Club Beat Shall Sound

At Whole Foods today, after I had picked up my organic Caesar salad dressing and Cortland apples and just before I sampled some Australian cheddar and had to buy half a pound, 50 Cent's "In Da Club" came on as background music. Except that it was loud, and the vocals weren't potted, so as I passed the deli with precooked meats and cold pasta dishes from organic and local producers, I heard:

You can find me in the club, bottle full of bub'

Look mami I got the X if you into takin drugs

I'm into havin sex, I ain't into makin love

So come gimme a hug, if you're into gettin rubbed

I thought, "Almost every possible line has been crossed now," as I picked up a sample of fresh-made banana bread. (Delicious!) Lyrical transcription courtesy The Online Hip-Hop Lyric Archive.

You may have noticed that there was something up on Monday for about 24 hours that then came down. I was advised by the very wise Spam-O-Maticker Mark Knoblauch that I might get into copyright issues if I left it up. Uh, sorry for faking around with you. I'll make it up to you soon with a long essay on Rachmaninov's "Symphonic Dances." And by "soon," of course, I mean "not soon, and possibly never."

 

Monday, 9/27/04: Longeurs

Today I got a piece of spam from someone named "Stultify U. Section." That's such a good name that I almost clicked to learn more about the "Really Sexiest Incest" his e-mail promised. But not quite.

 

Sunday, 9/26/04: Representative

It's Redskins Weekend on my beloved WPGC, preparing for the big rivalry game against Dallas on Monday night, as Chris Paul has written another pump-you-up parody of a current popular tune devoted to praising the Redskins and dissing their opponents. I don't know why PGC doesn't make these songs available on their website, but it's probably due to copyright problems of some kind. This latest one uses "99 Problems" to dis Dallas, and quite skillfully, as all his jams do.

After that, DJ Flexx took calls from Dallas fans who were born and raised here. Here's a typical call:

Flexx: Are you a Dallas fan?

Caller: Yes.

Flexx: Were you born and raised in Washington, D.C.?

Caller: Yeah.

Flexx: Why would you not root for your city's team?

Caller: Because they suck.

This was offered as a justification on no less than three calls, after which Flexx would immediately hang up. Finally, Flexx found someone he could talk to rationally, but that just made him more incredulous. "Why would you not take pride in your city?" he railed at one point, to which the caller said, "Good question." Flexx continued (this is an approximate transcription, because I was driving while listening), "My dad raised me — you ride with who you ride with. All the people I grew up with, I ride with them, whether good times or bad. I ride with them. You people need to talk to my dad."

Like Flexx, I don't really understand it. To me, you root for a team because they're from where you're from. If no teams are from where you're from, only then do you get to pick. And even then, there has to be some organic connection to the team; fandom shouldn't be this random walk among decent clubs. The only organic connection any of these people had with Dallas was that Dallas has beat the Skins a lot in the last few years. Faithless, this rooting strategy, and very modern too. Buy a jersey and a cap and you, too, can be a fan for life. You don't even have to particularly like the team, as long as they're good.

I think I will have to write at greater length about this.

Speaking of which, I still need to do the Long Version of yesterday's review. I'll do it this evening (probably).

8:45 and looks like I'm not going to do it tonight. Once again, I make a promise to myself: "Never promise the Internet that you will write anything substantial."

 

Saturday, 9/25/04: Going to New Lengths

Here's a review of Alexandria composer Garrison Hull's new violin sonata and the performance thereof at Strathmore on Thursday. "But wait," you say, "that review is so short! I could stand a much longer description of what the piece sounded like. And what really happened in the Enescu performance?" Well, I'm going to try to get together a loooooong version of this review by the end of the day Sunday. Then you will regret asking those questions.

 

Tuesday, 9/21/04: Lazy and Linking Like Crazy

Here's a really funny entry from Jason Walter's blog.

Here's a good shopping tip courtesy of Wonkette.

The probable passing of TMFTML is announced here. Thanks for all the astonishingly caustic posts and the sidebar link, anonymous Internet person.

Want another place from which to download a rap song in which I rhymed about a great Detroit Tiger of the past? How about the site of the man who produced it! He also has some other groovy tunes, especially if you like videogame music. (I've been known to whistle a lilting Johann Strauss-esque version of the water-level waltz from the original Super Mario Brothers.) Check, check it out.

Finally, the truth about my adolescence, lain bare! Bottom post here.

 

Monday, 9/20/04: Tough to Digest

Here's a review of the Arlington Symphony Orchestra in the Post. I'll post some stuff that didn't make it into the review for various reasons tonight. Right now I'm going to go take a shower and eat breakfast and go to work. (Slacker! Yeah, whatever.)

Also make sure to peep the addendum to the post below if for some reason you read this blog yesterday.

As promised, the marginalia:

  • Despite my amazing lack of skill at driving in Virginia, I only got a litle lost going to Schlesinger Hall. After successfully navigating 395 (hey, Virgina — when I see an angry-yellow sign that says "Seminary Road Left Exit 1/2 Mile," it implies that the left exit is the only exit available, not one of many exiting options), I overshot the NVCC campus and went to a strip mall at the corner of George Mason Drive and Seminary Road in whose parking lot I plotted my next move. The next move ended up being dinner with Nate Vaughan, the Spam-O-Maticker who had accompanied me, since I was hungry. We ended up finding a place with a menu in the window that listed only Peruvian and Salvadoran dishes. Inside was a TV with Latin American soccer of some kind, an incredibly loud jukebox blasting Spanish-language pop, and absolutely no white people except for me and Nate. I had this kind of beef log that had obviously been cooked for hours in this astonishingly savory sauce (given an earthy tone by the addition of numerous peas) until it was tender enough to be cut with a fork. It was transcendent. It came with white beans and rice, just in case you try to order it. I forget the name of the restaurant (I don't think I ever really noticed it), but if you're in the Seminary Road-Route 7 neighborhood you should check it out.
  • That's obviously not the origin of the day-title. I didn't manage to get this into the review, but a program of Brahms, Grieg and Rachmaninov is like having bread pudding as an appetizer, an entree of beef burgundy, and then an entire pound cake for dessert. Too much high-calorie Romanticism for one evening: there wasn't time enough to digest all those swelling chords and brooding souls and winsome second subjects. It was really, really dumb of the ASO to undertake such a program. If you want another blockbuster for the second half, play the Mozart 41st and spare the audience the extra poundage.
  • Being a community orchestra, the ASO had a bunch of funny fundraising gimmicks. The least amusing of these was the $1.50 Costco cookies and $2.50 Costco brownies out front. Whenever I go to concerts where people have made homemade baked goods to sell, I always pony up and shovel down; hell, I've been known to dump in an extra buck, because those people are making the effort. But when you go storebought, anyone can do the mental calculation of how much margin you're expecting, and for a $1.50 cookie it's pretty astonishing, on the order of 200 percent. And I don't roll with a 200 percent markup. I'm sure the cookies are quite tasty, but that price is tough to swallow.

Saturday, 9/18/04: Sentences That Seem To Be Missing Words

This will be an occasional feature until I tire of it. The missing words are added in [brackets], just so.

From Parade Magazine, September 12, 2004, in an article about the hostilities in Afghanistan:

Opium and marijuana are omnipresent, drawing frequent jeers from Marines who must deal with stoned-out Afghans but who are not allowed even to drink a beer inside this country for fear of offending Muslim sensibilities [, much less get high on the reefer].

It appears to be missing the word "reefer" because of the use of the term "stoned-out" earlier in the sentence.

In other news, I dreamt last night that I was marrying Teresa Heinz Kerry. Yes. Apparently she had become unmarried somehow and I had been designated the Kerry successor. I remember two things about our wedding in the dream: it exuded a level of luxury beyond my imagining even though I had specifically said I did not want a big wedding, and I had no idea why I was there the entire time. I was contemplating what I knew had to be the eventual consummation of my marital duties with trepidation when I awoke.

[Addendum, 9/19: I'm not trying to dis Teresa's countenance by the above mention of trepidation. It's just this: You're in surroundings you couldn't have possibly paid for getting married to someone you barely know, but who's looking at you expectantly. Now think: Why are you here?

I also forgot to mention that throughout the dream I referred to her as te-REES-ah and not te-RAYS-uh, and kept getting chided by some anonymous hangers-on for doing so.]

 

Thursday, 9/16/04: A Lack of Currency

Who says advertisements don't teach us anything? Today I saw a poster for Citigroup — one in its highly noncondescending "Live Richly" series — that told me "Your college girlfriend just called to remind you that you were broke and happy once." I learned three things from this:

  1. Citigroup is cheerfully blasé about what happens to your money once you deposit it with them. Because it's better for you that way. Live richly!
  2. Non-college graduates, homosexual men, and heterosexual women are not part of the target demographic for financial services. I guess they can use those check-cashing stores I see advertised elsewhere on the Metro.
  3. I had a girlfriend in college. Someone should go back in time and let the collegiate me know about this. It would have saved the world a whole lot of bitter e-mail.
  4. I just wrote #3 and then realized I did have a girlfriend for the first semester of college. How silly to forget that protracted dwindling of interest on her part, the dwindling that led to an imperative to "be friends" followed by no commuication whatsoever! And now she wants to get in contact again! But she's using Citigroup to pass along messages to me.

I guess I better sign up for all the financial services Citigroup offers if I want anything more out of them. Even if they're just going to make me broke again. Like the poem says: "'Tis better to have given all your money to a confidence-deflating multinational corporation in the hope that such a step will reconnect you with your first love than never to have loved at all." Well, I'm sure one of the monkeys has typed that by now.

 

Wednesday, 9/15/04: Wave Hello

A review of Tyler Higgins' new piece, "In Waves," is now available in the "Reviews That Involve Massive Conflicts of Interest" section of The Rest of Our Culture. I know all the reviews that involve massive conflicts of interest are suspiciously laudatory, but I wouldn't be writing them at all if I didn't think the cultural events described therein were cool.

 

Sunday, 9/12/04: You Can Count on Me

On a Saab commercial during today's Skins game, Stevie Wonder's "Signed, Sealed, Delivered" was playing as a voiceover described this great new Saab deal of some sort. (My mind was occupied with the question of where great leaders like Joe Gibbs come from and why we can't just make them be president, Cincinnatus-style.) The words "Signed, Sealed, Delivered" played on the screen in time with Stevie's chorus. In tiny letters below a speeding Saab after the next cut: "Program subject to discontinuance at any time."

 

Thursday, 9/9/04: Maybe Not

It occurs to me now that perhaps the people who were asserting that this birthday was especially significant may have been "joking," or perhaps "teasing," in an attempt to engender amusement in me or themselves (or both, I guess). To my coworkers: I'm doing my best to not be so grim anymore, I swear!

Terry Teachout/O.G.I.C.'s blog has a little Almanac thing, which makes it like an electronic commonplace book. Today's quote is from Philip Larkin and reminds me (a) why I want to read Larkin and (b) why I still think of marriage as something more appropriate for other people. Not so much the self-demoting part as the idea that someone would actually have to endure my various inescapable moody periods, inventive and colorful cursing when I have a migraine, occasional hours of wandering around my domicile naked, etc. Well, I could probably cut out the last one. In any case, there's no danger of having to confront this prospect anytime soon, but I thought about the quote a lot today so I thought I'd put you all up on it. I need to go buy a Philip Larkin anthology.

 

Wednesday, 9/8/04: I Wasn't Supposed to Make It Past 25 — Joke's on You, I'm Still Alive

Frankly, my birthday was almost an anticlimax compared to actually getting this computer problem fixed, but here I am, 26 rather than 25 years old. In the last year, the number of people reading my writing has increased markedly, especially with my recent addition as a freelancer to the preeminent paper with a comics section in the U.S. of A. But even with its modest mission of wasting your time when time needs to be wasted, the Spam-O-Matic still holds the fondest place in my heart (with the occasional bouts of ambiguity and antipathy that attend any great fondness). It is, as the header suggests, a place for me to play, and when so much of my writing is brow-dampening work, it's nice to have somewhere to go and just spew or argue or praise or describe. And it's double nice to have people reading it.

So, once again, the primary gift you denizens of the Internet can give me for my birthday has already been given: Your occasional attention and, mostly, affection. I thank you all.

Today I have heard from several people that I have now entered my late twenties and soon, a feeling of unspecified weirdness will come over me along with the realization that I am closer to 30 than I am to 20. Some of these people were rather vehement about this, which is the only reason I am taking the time now to dis them on the Internet. That and the fact that I know none of them read this:

  • The base-10 system is arbitrary. If we had a base-8 or base-12 system, these people would have expected me to freak out two years ago. If we had a base-9, they would expect me to freak out next year. The fact that some people are affected by the random vagaries of counting schemes doesn't mean that I have to be, or will be.
  • I have exactly zero nostalgia for being 20. I'm a lot happier now. In fact, my happiness has been trending upward ever since I was 19, which means I actually look forward to the passing of additional time. I know eventually my happiness will plateau, but I'm going to ride this horse until it gives out completely, and I sure ain't a-gonna dismount it because my age now rounds to a different tens unit.
  • Even beyond that, the world is full of possibilities, which I feel myself more capable of exploring with each passing year. I can run a faster 10K. I can volunteer (finally, get off my ass and figure out how). I can take up a new sport. I can write stories again. I can undertake the various activities that would be necessary for me to actually get a date. Or I can not do any of those things, but something I haven't even thought of yet. Every time my birthday rolls around, though, I feel more ready than I did last time. Possibilities don't close with the passing of time; they open. At least until my body starts breaking down, which hopefully won't be for a while yet.

For me, feeling an unspecified weirdness when a birthday rolls around would be a triumph of fear (and not just fear, society-driven fear) over imagination and pride. I guess some people must like it, though, or they wouldn't put themselves at its mercy.

On a completely different note, some people who read the Spam-O-Matic were made aware in hystericalish tones of the fact that I turned my oven on Sunday to cook some pizza, and it never turned off, even when I turned the switch to "OFF," instead hanging around at 150 degrees. Those people will be pleased to know that I now have a new oven, and it is ice-cold with the dial on "OFF." I may make it to 27 after all.

 

Tuesday, 9/7/04: Technical Difficulties Ben Stern is a Golden God

You are probably wondering: "Why no updates for a few days? And I thought we were just getting going with actually updating the site regularly." The answer is that I am having a truly bizarre problem with my hosting that leaves me able to access every site on the Internet except this one from my home computer. Not being able to access the site, of course, means I cannot update it. (I am currently working in a text file of the index2.html file from a neutral location.) Hopefully the hosting company will get off its keister and figure out exactly what is going on soon, but for now not much will be going on. Sorry. Tomorrow is my birthday, so I'll try to get my standard inspirational/grateful message up there. I'm thinking about changing my hosting to Fat Cow, which at least has a profession-appropriate name.

Oh, and yes: I am still getting e-mail at the regular address, although I do have to access it via webmail, which makes me unhappy. So I guess life is proceeding essentially as usual. I do want to put up a movie review eventually, though.

UPDATE: The official IT consultant of the Spam-O-Matic, Ben Stern, has solved the problem. Not just solved it: He strode in where representatives from both Starpower and GoDaddy.com both feared to tread, and showed them all to be puny midget IT personnel in the wake of his colossus' stride across the fearsome plain. In short, he correctly diagnosed the problem from the start, found the solution, and fixed everything up nicely.

Ben is now the co-master of his own firm, Fortress Technology, which provides network security solutions along with a host of other programming services. In all the time Ben has served as the Spam-O-Matic's IT consultant, he has never been wrong (for long, anyway), and he has always figured out how to do whatever it was that I needed to do. If you are in the market for services that Ben can provide, I suggest you write him a check and sit back and let him provide you those services.

It is truly a constant joy to have talented friends.

 

Wednesday, 9/1/04: Addendum

O.G.I.C. linked me to the fullest in the new entry. Play on, playa.

Just for giggles: The 5 Most Essential Hip-Hop Songs of the 1980s (in chronological order)

  1. Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five — "The Message"
    It certainly belongs on a list like this.
  2. Run-DMC — "Sucker MCs"
    The first great hip-hop minimalism masterpiece, still unsurpassed in that field, with Run and DMC as fiery as they ever were.
  3. Doug E. Fresh f/Slick Rick — "La Di Da Di"
    Besides being four and a half of the shortest-seeming minutes ever, besides being the ultimate showcase for the effectiveness of beatboxing as an instrumental alternative, besides being one of the Greatest Hip-Hop Stories Ever Told, Slick Rick's rhyme on this track codified the taunting disdain that so many rappers after him tried but failed to successfully employ.
  4. Public Enemy — "Fight the Power"
    For reasons stated previously.
  5. De La Soul — "Plug Tunin'"
    Here is where the underground begins.

Honorable mention: Eric B. & Rakim — "Eric B. Is President." Perhaps the best song of the 1980s, but didn't fit in the list of most essential for some reason. Those are the breaks! Break 'em up, break 'em up, break 'em up!

The Five Most Essential Hip-Hop Songs of the 1990s (in chronological order)

  1. A Tribe Called Quest — "Check the Rhime"
    This most fluent and effortless of all hip-hop songs also apothesizes the jazz-influenced hip-hop that dominated one strain during the early 90s, despite the fact that the sample is actually from the Average White Band.
  2. Dr. Dre f/Snoop Doggy Dogg — "Nuthin but a G Thang"
    Again, for reasons stated previously.
  3. The Notorious B.I.G. — "Juicy"
    Biggie's rags-to-riches track, and a fine one at that. With beat-biting production from a young Puffy.
  4. 2Pac — "Dear Mama"
    Tupac Amaru Shakur's most wrenching take on the sensitive-thug life.
  5. Jay-Z — "Hard Knock Life"
    Nothing spoke more about where hip-hop was towards the turn of the century than the fact that Jigga could have a huge hit rhyming over a beat derived from "Annie."

Honorable mention: Nas — "The World is Yours." Again, you'd think a list like this would have room for Nas, but no such luck.

Yes, hip-hop has been dominating my musical thoughts this week.

 

 

All this tasty writing ©2002-11 by Andrew Lindemann Malone. All rights reserved.