Thursday, December 28, 2006

Performance: Wicked

I do my best to keep my promises and I promised Luna that I would take her to see Wicked once upon a time. So to fulfill my end of the bargain, we went to see it. Simple enough.

This incarnation featured Saturday Night Live alumna Ana Gasteyer in the role of Elphaba, the Wicked Witch of the West and Kate Reinders as Glinda the Good Witch. I must say that Ms. Reinders does a a great kristin Chenowith impression, the wonderful performer who originated the role on Broadway. At points its honestly scary how much she mimics her mannerisms and performance style. I never got tired of it though. Gasteyer was especially strong in the comedic elements of the show. Her wit and acidic sarcasm were on display this eve and she used them to her advantage.

Enjoyable show. Not much more to say I guess.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Moving Pictures: The Holiday

Being a good only son, Mom and I have our movie dates from time to time. And the holiday season is so overloaded with movie choices that it is not difficult to find a suitable one that we would both enjoy. Since every black person in Brooklyn was losing their mind over Dreamgirls we avoided it to go see The Holiday.

Now when I saw the trailer for the movie, I immediately tagged it a date movie I could tolerate. Why? Well, it had Kate Winslet, who I gain more appreciation of with each movie I see with her. Also Cameron Diaz, who I've liked all the way back to The Mask. But if even they were not in it, the inclusion of Jack Black was the dealmaker. The man is just funny and I haven't seen him ever take away from a movie. Matter of fact, Jack Black is often the only reason to watch a movie (Orange County, Saving Silverman). But of course when the one person I would have gone on a date with to see the movie already saw it, it freed me up.

So two women depressed with their circumstances trade houses for the Christmas holiday. Winslet comes to the L.A. movie executive's house as Diaz moves to the journalist's cozy English cottage. Along the way, they spark up unexpected romances as they try to get over their old ones. Diaz with Law, the journalist's brother and Winslet with Black, a friend of movie exec's ex-boyfriend. Cuteness & flirtation ensues and everyone ends up happy in the end. But then again it's Christmas and New Year's. Who wouldn't be happy?

So that's the gist. Wonderful performances all around, although Ms. Diaz kind of weighs things down a little. Something this movie opened my eyes to a little more was the idea of chemistry. The opening scene for Diaz has her kicking out her boyfriend played by Edward Burns. But there is absolutely no chemistry and Diaz is trying so hard that you really ending up being super annoyed with her. It's something she has to overcome for the rest of the movie. Thankfully her partner for the rest o her. But for a while it wasn't looking good. Jack Black, in his few scenes, manages to be quite the charmer and plays the sensitive, lovable guy quite well.

So if you are a guy and your lady would like to watch the movie, don't roll your eyes too hard. It's tolerable. And just wait for Jack Black.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Movie: Apocalypto

Man movie times are a interesting beast. And because of it I saw this movie I barely even knew existed. Lots of resistance off the bat.

1) Mel Gibson was prominently involved. For some reason I just feel he feels himself a little too much.

2) The whole thing was done in the ancient dialect of the native Mayans so that meant I had to read. This is not usually a problem but at midnight on Christmas, English would have been appreciated.

3) Plus I didn't know the plot going in. Few want to see a movie not knowing what it's about.

Groupthink wins out over everything though.

So it's a bout 16th century native tribe presumably in Central or South America. The rain forest is being overtaken by another scivilization capturing people to be human sacrifices to end their drought. It follows the journey of Jaguar Paw (that is his real name) on his escape from the captors and back to save his family.

It was fast paced. Funny at points. Actually a decent movie. There is no need for regret if you never see it. It wasn't some amazing achievement in filmmaking either. It just seems like an exercise Gibson did to prove he could and yay for him he did. Now when is the Good Shepherd playing?

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Notes: Handel's Messiah - A Soulful Celebration

My mom used to manage a pianist who did lots of work with Afrocentric twists on classical tunes. So he was commissioned to work on this little project which was an African-American take on one of the most performed classical pieces in the world.

Now I usually break it out around the holidays and even though it must be like 15 years by now it still amazes me that such an endeavor was undertaken. And even more, it was executed so wonderfully. From the start, the African-American musical aesthetic is emphasized. The overture is a minor history lesson that travels trhough the evolution of Black music in America from spirituals to house music. Most of the songs take on the style prevalent in the late 80'sand early 90s which was contemporary R & B, I guess what would be termed today as adult. But there is young Busta Rhymes (now 5 Percenter) rapping on "Glory to God" and a reggae version of "And The Glory of the Lord". Jazz also comes through in the form of the Yellowjackets and Al Jarreau, who won a Grammy for his work on the album.

So this album is great for a multitude of reasons. There's a versatility and diversity displayed on the album but it never seems too scattered or entropic. Furthermore, it just makes you proud at seeing how much Blacks have contributed to the musical landscape. If they ever do it again they need to include some rock though. And blues wouldn't hurt either. Those are ours too.

Notes: Mozart's Requiem

When I first joined my choir in college, Mozart's Requiem was the first major work that we did. I soaked in all the history our director tried to impart to us about the significance of the work and all the many elements that occurred in the music. Initially I was just worried about learning the incredibly difficult music.

So today as I walked and needed release from a disappointing chain of events, the new iPod was dispatched to the Requiem playlist. It's hard to explain why, but the Requiem just hits a place in my soul. Maybe it's the intricacy that is necessary to sing it correctly as it swoops from gentle dolce suono all the way to sweeping power. Maybe it's the dichotomy of complexity and simplicity that is characteristic of all the separate parts working in concert together. It just moves me.

Mozart accomplishes so much in one work. There's a haunting sweetness in the Lacrymosa only moments after he has bowled you over with the rushed energy of Dies Irae. I am too ignorant over the many elements of the work that I am sure countless papers have touched upon. Lisstening to it made me sad that so many are just ignorant to its true beauty just cause they don't understand the words or it doesn't make them dance. Such is life.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Notes: Georgia Anne Muldrow - Olesi: Fragments Of An Earth

I first heard Ms. Muldrow on the Platinum Pied Pipers disc Triple P (which might get it's own review one day; it is one of my smart playlists) and since I have made my journey back into the depths of indie hip-hop, her name kept popping up. So it seems that she is the first woman who is signed to Stones Throw Records, which it seems is at the forefront of the indie hip-hop movement. They already have Madlib and MF Doom doing records for them and in independent hip-hop you only need like 2 to present legitimacy.

So I heard her EP. Interesting. And now the full length.

I must say, even as I listened to it, I wasn't sure how to explain it. Off the bat, I can tell you there are a select few who will enjoy this music. Georgia Anne (I think I just love her name; she seems like good people) sings and raps and makes her own beats. I can consistently say that the beats are always something to look forward too. My head was nodding the whole time. Often her singing is discordant and arrhythmic. And the raps come from nowhere and they are often at odds with the beat as well.

This is not sit down and read to it music. It's not even get up and dance to it music. I still liked it though. It's worth a listen. You either like it or dislike it.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Perfomance: Il Barbiere di Siviglia

So Nitro and I traversed up to Lincoln Center to see a performance of Il Barbiere di Siviglia (The Barber of Seville). This was particularly exciting because it was directed by the Bartlett Sher, who also directed Light in the Piazza which me and Nitro especially enjoyed last year.

And this performance did not disappoint. Rossini's music is some of the most challenging. At this point I wish I had taken theory and had a greater understanding of what I was witnessing. Sadly I must resort to what I have gleaned over all the practices I have sat through. Each of the main parts, which consisted of a bass, a baritone, a soprano, and a tenor, each had their share of challenging runs.

Each of them did their parts especially well. Gladly, each performer was not just singing but they added some real thought into what their characters were doing. Charisma was oozing from the set, especially from the barber played by a Swede and the too short Rossini tenor from Spain.

The production values were very excellent as well. Since I started to attend Broadway musicals and now the opera with more frequency, the sets have always interested me because most times you have to use the same basic structure unless you have enough time during an intermission to make extreme changes. But no detail was spared and it all worked together, even the random donkey.

If you can, you should catch this production. It's a treat

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Notes: Kidz In The Hall - School Was My Hustle

I know I have been absent for a while but sadly I have been working myself like a dog so when I put on some tracks, I don't have time to waste wondering if I'm going to enjoy it or not. So I've been sticking with the proven favorites as of late.

Amazingly though, I have found ways to enhance my musical experience at work. And so I have procured a copy of the new album School Was My Hustle by Kidz In The Hall. Now there is a plethora of reasons for me to be attracted to this record. First off, they were Okayplayer featured artists, which is the online home of The Roots, Jill Scott, and a bunch of other people I rock. Second it is underground rap. Third, these guys are Ivy Leaguers (Penn) so you have to hear what they really sound like. Fourth is the fact that this is a release from the long dormant Rawkus Records which used to be the standard bearer for progressive hip-hop.

From the first track, I already felt a pull back to the olden days, around the mid-90s. They kind of remind me of a Camp Lo type group. Smart lyrics, soulful beats. I'm really feeling Ritalin, an energetic two-minute romp that comes right after the intro. And it's quite apparent that they are college kids cause they keep referencing songs that were before their time like Wheelz Fall Off ('06 Til) which definitely takes inspiration from Souls of Mischief's '93 Til Infinity. But honestly this is really good stuff. They even have a track that uses the same sample Mr. Carter used for Show Me What You Got which seems pretty peculiar since the albums have dropped so close to each other, but honestly The Kidz Don't Stop sounds like the superior record.

I might actually go out and purchase it.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Live Notes: John Legend (w/ Robin Thicke & Consequence)

You know I really like Robin Thicke. I saved the New York Times article from the time that he (then recording as just Thicke) and Justin Timberlake were both releasing their first albums. The article focused on the return of blue-eyed soul and I privately rooted for him. While Justin had multi-platinum success with Justified, Thicke never cracked the Billboard 100 though he made some ripples on the Heatseekers charts.

Fast forward a couple of years, add his first name, a hook up with Star Trak, and a more stylish wardrobe and haircut, and you have Robin Thicke in his current incarnation. Of course I got a snippet of the new album and was rocking "Got 2 Be Down" featuring Faith Evans till my hall got sick of it. Which is why I decided to see if he was performing any time soon. Lo and behold a date with John Legend. I like John Legend. I'll pay 25 beans for that show.

Funny though that Boston public transit system. Red line down? Shuttle bus? Uhhhhhhhh.

So since Boston wants to be all timely with it's shows, I actually missed a chunk of his set. And I missed Consequence who must have got on even before the advertised showtime. But as a walked in I was treated to that awesome falsetto. And he is quite the showman. I'd like to see him in a more intimate club setting with people who are crazy for the music. He did rock it last night with the short time I did see him.

So next up was Mr. Legend. The last time I saw him live he was still John Stephens and I had only gone to that show because he did a decent Stevie cover at an open mic and his was one of the names I remembered. Wow from little underground hole to Best New Artist Grammy and multiplatinum sales. I don't know why I feel a kinship with Legend. Well actually I do. Both black. Both attended Ivy institutions, though he graduated. And for some reason I can tell he loves the old school, but actually does throw on some Dipset sometime, and I kinda feel the same way.

Anyway, he came in and funked up the place for his first two songs. From that point on he never lost his energy. By the end of the night the dude looked like he visibly lost weight. He did a pretty good representation of what pleases the people, an underrated task even though he only has two albums of material. The second one almost doesn't count cause it just came out two weeks ago so the populace wasn't as familiar. But he did such a great job of seamlessly weaving in and out of the new songs that you wanted to go buy the new joint right then and there.

He says he got the name Legend because his contemporaries said his voice sounded like something from the old school. I really cannot deny this. Something in that voice is warm. There's a subtle warble that brings soul to every note. I wonder if it is smoke tinged. It sounds aged though so I totally understand the Legendary connection. And from the way he rocked out and had church and moved hearts, it would be a shame if people weren't be likened to him in 20 years.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Notes: Where Did The Good Music Go?

So Banana pops in some obscure CD today as we're coming home and man that joint was good. One of those corny ones (I believe it was called The Down Low) that they sell on BET late night. Anyway, it was just a mix of all that 90's R & B with like SWV and Deborah Cox. And me and Banana both keep saying "How come s%@$ don't sound this good any more?"

I mean back then it seemed like the hits kept coming. Now I am subjected to dances about jewelry length and lunch choices. And even the more conventional love songs all sound like they have been pre-fabricated at a factory and that anyone can just go buy their own and assemble like so many Ikea furniture kits. Oy.

I should have been born in 1966 and then I would have grown up in the midst of hot music on a regular basis.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Words: Passing

It was a long day at work. I was sent to the Crisis Unit to watch a child that decided to walk along the edge of a wall and threaten to kill himself. I was babysitting until the people came from the hospital to screen him for admittance. So while he slept and I needed to occupy myselfI finished Nella Larsen's Passing, a Harlem Renaissance novel. Taking place in a late 20s summer in Chicago and New York, it tracks the rekindling of friendship between three women, now with families of their own. The twist is that they are all African-American but possess a pigmentation that allows them to behave as though they were white, hence the title. While two are proud of their blackness, one is straight up trying to live life like she was white. Her husband doesn't even realize that she is black.

Deftly written and consistently engaging, the main draw of this book is its ability to provoke thought. In a time when access to certain privileges of life are determined by the arbitrary, how far would you go to deny your identity? What would you stand for? What wouldn't you? I still don't have any answers but I've been thinking about it ever since I started reading. Then there's the other side. How far would you go to exploit your identity for gain (cough - affirmative action - cough)?

Anyway, it's a quick read and like I said worth the brain activity.

Happy Birthday to my Mom who made sure I made regular trips to the library, sang me loads of songs as a baby, and let me watch Christian video tapes. She baptized me in so much culture. And she helped make me the man I am today. Love you.

Moving Pictures: The Departed

Banana and I were looking to see The Prestige but alas our timing was off again. But The Departed came highly recommended.

Now on paper this was potentially a really great movie. First off, Martin Scorsese is still desperate for Oscar and every year he delivers an ambitious project to help him taste its glory, so you know just because he's directing that there is a good shot that it is good. Second, the cast was just chock full of credible acting. Jack Nicholson, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Matt Damon. Plus Mark Wahlberg, Martin Sheen, and Alec Baldwin in supporting roles. This was either going to be really good or really disappointing.

Luckily the former won out. We didn't even realize how long the movie was (about 2.5 hours) until it was over cause we were so caught up in the story. Basically it follows a Boston mob figure (Nicholson), the cop he has in his pocket (Damon), and the cop who is spying on him (DiCaprio). DiCaprio is particularly good cause he plays the tormented soul angle all too well. It makes you wonder what's happening in his personal life cause he's so good at it. He gets all the layers down perfectly. Nicholson is a little over the top sometimes but I don't know if that's his issue or maybe the script's. Damon also does well. The ensemble movie is gaining more steam and rightly so because it's a whole lot easier and plausible to make a quality movie when multiple quality people are involved. Makes the story a lot realer too.

Anyway,highly recommended. Will join my DVD fold eventually

Monday, October 16, 2006

Moving Pictures: Little Children

As my last meal before my death trip back to the gripping cold of Massachusetts, I decided to treat myself to a movie. Now there were two choices: The Last King of Scotland or Little Children. Now I wanted to see "Scotland" cause Forest Whitaker looked frightening in the trailers, but that is an intense political story and I really wasn't in the mood to think. I picked "Children" because it was basically a story being told and thinking would have been incidental.

And it was fantastic. Basically it revolves around a bunch of loosely interconnecting stories centered in a suburban Massachusetts town over the summer. There is the return of a sex offender. There are desperate housewives. A crazy policeman. And even a desperate house-husband. They all connect with no more than two degrees of separation but a lot of their stories are kept separate all the same.

I don't like to give things away so here's a couple of things I got from the movie:

* Kate Winslet is a great actress. The whole Titanic craze threw me off. I'm very suspicious of overhype. But Eternal Sunshine, Finding Neverland, and now this show me how great she is. She is a master of the action, the insignificant little things that separate actors from thespians. For some, there is just the repeating of lines but with Ms. Winslet I feel an embodiment of them. She can look like the impatient child or the fantasizing housewife or just about anything. Just the range she displays between movies and within them is awe inspiring

* I like movies that are stories. And this came from a novel. Go figure.

* I would love to be a house-husband as long as my wife was not condescending.

* There are some real crazy people in this world and how they get there is beyond me.

So Little Children please go see whether in the theater or on DVD

Words: The Namesake

I thought I read this book. Maybe I started it but didn't finish. But I began to read it again when Luna said she was and I always like to talk about books and I figured it would be good airplane material.

I was right. Written by Pulitzer Prize winner Jhumpa Lahiri, The Namesake follows the life of Gogol, the Massachusetts born son of Bengali immigrants. We see him navigate life trying to balance his duty to his family with the all too familiar trappings of the "American" life.

Lahiri does a great job. I know I am not Indian but Coffee Bean and Lady Godiva are and I've seen how they feel the pressure from two sides to be Indian but a desire to fit in to American lifestyle as well. Furthermore just the coming of age as a young man resonates because it doesn't seem that he always knows what he wants. It's like he's following a script that someone gave to everyone. It's only when the script goes seriously awry that he slows down and figures things out.

It's a great read. Very insightful into the human condition. Stars abound

Concert: Regina Spektor (Park West, Chicago, IL)

Do I know this artist well? Not at all

Do I know this artist a little? Ummm not really

Really the only way I went to this concert is because of the beautiful invitation from Luna who is particularly enamored with her. I didn't want to impede her enjoyment during my visit just because I didn't know an artist. Plus that would go against my whole open-minded to music thing that I like to foster and express.

So here we are at the Park West which is actually a pretty cool venue. There's enough of a space for people to stand and swoon at the artist but also lots of chairs and it all feels cozy and close. Really nice. We need more of these in New York. I always feel to spaced out or too cramped there. Park West was comfortable.

Well this guy with a Jewfro opened named Only Son (yeah you read that right). He wasn't so bad. His band (i-Pod) was great. His guitar work was great. Even his lyrics were kind of on. His voice was kind of braying however. Like the whine of someone coming off a flu and took too many Dayquils. Eh worth a MySpace visit or something.

Anyway, Regina Spektor is a Russian immigrant naturalized in the suburbs of New York City. She is one of the purveyors of a genre of music some have labeled as anti-folk, I guess because it embodies elements of folk music like acoustic instruments and the singer-songwriter dictum but the subject matter is off base as well as some of the other musical influences that make it into the eventual brew. Despite that seriously atrocious run-on sentence, I forge on.

And she was really good. The music was rocking. Whether she was banging away on her piano, using a stick on a wooden chair as improvised percussion, or even with her band, it was all very groovable. She did employ some interesting lyrics like "Non-believers become the dirt and the believers spit on their graves" and "They're fucking to my song in the next room" and also "I'm so cool, I'm so cool, I'm so cool".

It was all so joyful and vibrant. I did leave there feeling a bit effervescent. And a little more open to Regina Spektor. Actually she's just in now.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Becoming Abigail

Man two books in two weeks. I forgot what a pleasure it is to read.

The second book was a novella named Becoming Abigail, written by Chris Abani. I really have no recollection as to how I heard about this book. Probably some blurb from a pretentious observer piqued my attention, but I was the guy buying it in Barnes & Noble.

The book follows Abigail, a young African girl that finds herself in London. She looks amazingly like her mom, also named Abigail, who died in childbirth. Her father's depressed. Yeah this ain't exactly a story of hope and survival. Or maybe it is.

But Mr. Abani writes beautifully. The book doesn't have too much of a story. It is a novella. It's almost like a really detailed character study, and he alternates each chapter between the past and present helping us to understand this Abigail and her many idiosyncracies and motivations. The most amazing element of the book is the writing. Abani dispenses metaphors and descriptions that ooze with lyricism. At times it felt like I was getting nuggets of poetry within the story.

120 pages. Enjoyable. Reading is still in fact fundamental

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

The Science of Sleep

One of my favorite movies is Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Such an odd little film, but beautifully shot, beautifully acted, and beautifully absurd. Well the director of that film, Michel Gondry, just made another gem The Science of Sleep.

Gael Garcia Bernal stars as Stephane, a young artist who has problems distinguishing reality from dreams. It's like the two bleed into each other. That's mainly the gist. The movie ends up being one of the more absurd romantic comedies ever, if you even can put it in a genre. But it's really good.

Probably I liked it so much because it was so free and random, but you never felt like lost or anything. There are loads of laugh out loud moments and Bernal is pretty good speaking in like three languages. My decriptive features are failing me right now but it definitely is a must see and made my DVD to buy list about 35 minutes in. That's a good rate of return

The Blend

Last night I was making a mix-data DVD of music for my upcoming Michigan trip to Lunaville and I started to think of the intricacies of making a good mix for someone. I've been doing it since you had to record each song separately onto a cassette and have followed into the realm of burning CDs more to my liking. I even mentioned it in this blog.

So what makes a good mix? I guess the idea is to make somebody happy. You have to have cohesion and thought. You can't rush a good mix, or else you'll end up with 10 songs you always bump and 7 songs you skip. And that's not a good ratio. I burn CDs for people then they get mad when they don't get one for a while. Well it took me a while to make that one goshdarnit. You better be patient cause this craftsmanship takes a while.

Hopefully Luna likes this one

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Notes: Res - How I Do

This isn't something on my computer. Rather it's something I rediscovered during the forced organization of my room. I've never had a cleaning and organization ritual be so rewarding but this one just keeps delivering.

Thanks goes to Luna for reminding about this amazing artist and thanks also goes to Gnarls Barkley for employing her as a background vocalist for their concerts. I saw the record and realized I had none of it on my computer, so I packed it so I could rip it when I got back to Mass.

So me and Bassline are cruising along, catching up, but we keep hitting this incessant, inexplicable traffic. Finally frustrated with all that's occurring, we both realize there is no music to soothe us. So he goes to me cause he's not exactly feeling his music choices. First I put in a Kelis album that I had brought for the same purpose as Res: songs I didn't have that I wanted to hear. But we only listened to the first track "Young Fresh & New" because it was obvious that it was not conducive to our mood and also because I heard the break in the song that I wanted to.

So next I put in Res. I was nervous. I always get nervous when I play not comercially accepted music that I like for others. But Bassline is a smart cookie and into kitschy kind of stuff so I wasn't that worried. But still.

And heaven rediscovered.

Even the newly musically snobbish Bassline (you take one theory class and you think you know everything) opened my eyes to the genius that was contained though my ear could tell it liked it, even if it didn't know the clinical terms. She rocks out when she wants. She vibes when she wants. And all the writing was pretty much handled by Santi White, who developed this thing around the late 90s of being the queen of women in underground NYC rock and it's pretty excellent.

My favorite track is definitely "Sittin Back", which totally embodies what I think Res was trying to accomplish, which is to say a certain "Man I'm a just take this music where I want it to go" kind of vibe. And it's all good.

Needless to say the album didn't sell all that well. The critics loved her. She even headlined a concert back in the summer after this came out. I mean Raphael Saadiq opened for her and Raphael Saadiq is instrumental in selling a whole lot more records. But ultimately the music is just too weird for mainstream success. Unlike Gnarls Barkley, there's no track on the album that makes you have a reaction a la "Crazy". There's no way you can't reaact to "Crazy" and that's what's given Gnarls its push. While most of the tracks for Res are great and innovative, even I admit nothing really says "man I gotta put that on repeat" and that is so what you need if you're not doing cookie cutter music. She's black but sings rockish hip hoppish soulish type of music. Ain't no radio station automatically adding that to their rotation.

Anyway good record. Glad I found it. Now you find it too.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Editorial: The Lord Is Good

I think the thing about music, one of the most underrated gifts God gave us, is it's ability to connect with the human soul. David played the harp to cool King Saul out. And he also danced his booty off in celebration of how good God was.

Today, even though I was listening to the secular (A pox on thee Scott Storch for you amazingly listenable music) it was amazing how it lifted me from a possible funk. Though it is cold and windy and I had a possibly frustrating morning, I still had that music to lift me up. And I did significant damage to the craziness that is my room. Plus I found a song that helped me get a brand new outlook on life.

Oh thank you God (and also Mario and Scott Storch, begrudgingly)

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Words: The Blind Side (Michael Lewis)

Why are we so interested in sports and the lives athletes lead? Truly their contributions don't exactly change our lives. Or at least they wouldn't if we didn't care so much. But if we didn't care, they would just be people who were good at something, just like there is someone who can build furniture like no other or the mom who is really good at chocolate chip brownies. But that's all hypothetical. We care about sports in America. A whole lot. Lord knows what percent of the gross domestic product is tied to it. Astronomical I'm sure.

So here's this book telling this story about a rags-to-riches kid in Tennessee who plays football and gets the big time literally handed to him. But it's not so simple. And it's much more compelling.

Michael Lewis, who wrote Moneyball, which exposed the nouveau mindset behind talent evaluation in Major League Baseball, takes on this ride. Lewis deftly juxtaposes the evolution of the importance of the left tackle position in professional football with the story of Michael Oher, a kid who only played 15 games of high school football but ends up a high school All-American with a full ride at the University of Mississippi. He begins by giving readers insight into why left tackles became so important. Mainly it's because as the NFL became more pass-dependent the left tackle was necessary to neutralize pass rushers like Lawrence Taylor that came on the blind side (the one he can't see) of the quarterback. Basically the position requires freaks of nature, huge strong guys who run inexplicably fast. And Michael Oher is just that.

Except he is seriously behind in school. Doesn't know where his father or 12 other siblings are. Oh and has nowhere to live. Miraculously he ends up at a white Christian school on the other side of Memphis and gets adopted by a well-to-do white family. I don't want to give too much away but it's not as heartless as I may have painted it.

Throughout the book, Lewis does a awesome job of letting the story tell itself. Most times it does seem like true non-fiction. Even when he offers his own opinion, it doesn't sound authoritative; he lets the reader decide. But he makes seriously adept observations about culture, and not just sports.

In the end, I really enjoyed this book. It was laugh out loud at points and opened my eyes to a lot about football and our culture. But mostly I was really inspired and impressed with the human condition. I guess we're not as destitute as I thought we were.

Notes: The Roots - Game Theory

Music is a very compelling subject. For most, music is the touchstone that conjures memories of where one's been and where one hopes to go. Even the snootiest of music lovers will hear Britney Spears in 25 years and remember where they were and what they were doing when "Toxic" was burning it's way up and down the charts.

The implanting for music I assume happens somewhere around puberty I figure, although considering the kids at my job, the age might be getting younger. Anyhow, music tends to parallel one's life. During youth, the more energetic music tends to dominate but as you mature, the introspective tunes tend to hold more weight. Eventually, and sadly, it seems that music falls out of favor once you're older. It's like an afterthought. I think that part of the reason that the Stones, Springsteen, Dylan, and U2 are still popular is that for the adults that purchase them it presents a nostalgic ticket to their past. The youth they once used to inhabit.

Music has always been a part of my house. I knew how to flip the vinyl and land the needle by kindergarten. I played cassettes so hard that you could hear the tape screaming to be stopped. So when I was rebaptized into music in adolescence it was natural. And a seminal group in that immersion was The Roots.

I can't remember exactly how I found them though it definitely occurred because I became the biggest Tribe Called Quest fan overnight. I did amazing research about my new found love of hip-hop and found the Native Tongues, who the Roots were supposed to be the new purveyors of. So I picked up there most recent album of the time "illadelph halflife." Looking back I remember not really vibing to it as much as the Tribe or De La Soul I had picked up. But I liked it enough to get there preceding album "Do You Want More?" That was it. And now I was dedicated to the Roots. When Tribe announced their departure, and De La disappearing into the sunset, the Roots were my best hope. Since then I've been to so many Roots concerts I lost count and I've never been disappointed.

So what is with this long diatribe before the actual commentary on the album? Well like I said, music parallels life. And I kind of see the Roots as paralleling me. They've always been excellent. The critics always knew. But they've also been ambitious. And they've missed the mark a couple of times. ?uestlove, the band's musical director, has said that he basically mailed in "The Tipping Point" , their last album, and even admits it was a B-. They have had loads of musical ideas that sometimes they shouldn't have touched, or not committed to so hard. And I feel that about myself at times. Ambitious. Maybe overcommitted. Not prioritizing too well.

But "Game Theory" is a masterpiece. When I first got it, I was disappointed it was only 13 tracks. "Tipping" was only 10. They used to pack as much as they could on there. But maybe they realized that simple fact might have been holding them back. These 13 tracks are the most cohesive thing I have had the privilege to listen to ever. Every moment sounds like it was perfectly tied to the next one, even across tracks.

The music is darker, but honestly I don't think I've heard them better. And I noted this when I first heard them during their Radio City Music Hall concerts and even when I saw them in a crappy venue in Boston two months ago. The music is not all the same but they don't overstep their abilities either. Even though, it's a darker tone, your head still snaps. And you want extended breaks just to listen to the music.

Lyrically, I haven't heard Black Thought this good, well, ever. And I'm a Black Thought fan. At one point he rhymes "you're mesmerized by the calm nonchalantness." I'm not sure that nonchalantness is a word but I totally understood what he was saying. Isn't that what an emcee is supposed to do? Jay-Z is so good because he makes even drug dealing so vivid that farmers in Wyoming feel like they've been on the block. Thought does the same damn thing. Over the whole album he seems spry and agile, like there is nothing that will knock him off his game. The return of Malik B must have helped some. Since he left the group due to drug problems, I've missed him a lot. And I didn't realize how much he was missed till I heard his rapid fire flow on the track "Game Theory." Peedi Peedi also is amazing in his guest spot on the track "Long Time." Throughout, even though the content is darker, speaking about the sad state of affairs in the world today, they don't sound bogged down. Thought deals with the government and mourning all with the same aplomb and candor. It's amazing.

This album is indicative of why I even listen to music so hard in the first place. Not only can music take you somewhere, but its quality to perfectly identify with who you are is also ethereal. You may not like hip-hop but this album will be looked back upon on some VH1 special in 25 years as a turning point in music. Yeah I said it, and I meant it.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Update: I Was Reading Too

I know I just dropped mad music posts but I was reading in that time period too. I just went through 150 pages of The Blind Side by Michael Lewis, the brainchild behind Moneyball. Not the biggest sports book guy I know, but I was intrigued when I first read an adapted article in Sports Illustrated and then the New York Times, exploring different elements of the book. The story was compelling and it explores the evolution of the importance of the left tackle position in professional football as it explores the life of this really peculiar high school recruit in Tennessee. Truly interesting. Heartwarming, funny, well written. It's just been fun the whole time. And going with all this music has made my heart superhappy.

Editorial: Phontiggalo the Rap Gigolo

"I'll scoop you up in my Porsche, sike
You know I got a Nissan
That I'm still paying for, still got a lease on
But it don't matter 'cause that ain't my aim to get you
I got fame, but you know that just ain't the issue
Because you're looking like a woman of virtue
So well-rounded, no wonder you're in my circle
And normally you probably wouldn't give me the time of day
'Cause Tay got rhymes, but no he ain't got time to waste

Sometimes I think I'm from another world (preach)
When I'm trynna tell a woman just exactly where I stand that (aight)
I want a girl, when I want a girl
And when I don't want a girl, I want a girl who understands that
And that's some hard shit to explain
To a woman that's in love with you, it's a pitiful thing
Until I had to figure
That I don't wanna play around, but I don't wanna settle down
And that's a man's dilemma, 'cause every man remembers
How his daddy and his uncles did it
'Cause more than likely that's the way they're gonna do it
I know it sound fucked up and most wont admit it
But yo, I gotta face it 'cause I know I'm living through it
'Cause when the party stops and niggaz get old
And the chain and the cars and the houses get sold, and that
Other side of the bed gets cold, you don't wanna be alone
So girl I'm trynna hold you.."

Phonte of Little Brother everyone. Destined to be one of the greatest.
Or maybe just one of the greatest you never heard.

Seen him live. Heard him on record. He's got the whole package
Charisma. Stage presence. And rhymes.

He did a whole verse and you don't even notice that he didn't rhyme cause his flow was that
tight. The first time you recognize is at the end of the verse when he tells you that he just
didn't rhyme. How sick is that? The kid is cocky before he even sold 7 records.

And he'll tell you he was sad that he only sold 7 records. And does it well. The kid is crazy.


Notes: Best Fall Back Record Ever

and the award goes to.....Little Brother for "The Minstrel Show"

I feel like I've abused this record. I know that there are probably more cohesive and greater achievements in my library. But something about this record. There are a multitude of bangers that I can always go to in the hopes of revving up. There are introspective songs when the mood is a little slow. And there are countless quotables. Just perfectly built to fall back on.

The prize for best fall back album is the promise that I will purchase all of their albums that are comercially released for eternity.

Notes: LSAT Week (This is a long one)

So before I dashed out of South Lancaster, I had the clever idea to make an MP3 CD of music since I find myself out of my mind when I am home. Why? you ask. Well quite simply there is only so much of the internet a boy can take. The TV is off limits cause the parents control both sets. There are books but how long can those last. And remember people, I do everything with music. Clean. Dress. Sleep. All music based.

Anyway, I mashed something up very haphazardly. I put on some new albums that I got. And the Timberlake and Thicke that I've been bumping. Now for the rest I was just gonna put on my most played playlist. However, I forgot that all those songs amount to about 2 gigs of memory. What to do. Well I just threw a playlist Bassline made for himself and a playlist I had just made for Banana.

And the mix has been amazing. One for the reason that it lifted me from post-LSAT blues. And two cause it helped me remember how awesome music is. I curled myself under a blanket with the express premonition to have myself comatose within minutes. Damn music (coupled with this new book, subject of another posting)

Here are a few notes:
Jon B - Lately: Yeah I know for most it's a throwaway track but man that's my guilty pleasure banger. I still don't know too much about what the hell he's saying. I know he's hollering at some old flame but I mean damn.

Beyonce - Suga Mama: First, Ms. Knowles was a co-conspirator in setting back women about 25 years by being a part of "Cater To You." Even I was appalled at the content of that song. Now on her own album, she takes the role of, well the title of the song, "Suga Mama" and compares herself to a Jolly Rancher and promises to buy her beau anything he wants. But damn that funky 70's bassline. So damn danceable (okay I will cut down on the damns from here on out).

Janet Jackson - Do It To Me: Her voice sounds older, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. For the first time she almost sounds like she could actually sing. Sounds like the older stateswoman even though the song is interchangeable with every other girl singing.

Busta Rhymes - Yeah it seems Bassline put more than one track on here so I'll give a general summation. Busta is underrated. Busta is nicest on New York style beats (heavy bass, piano, hard snares). Though Dre gave him life, the West Coast thing doesn't work. (Also can Stevie Wonder sound bad on anything? He kills "Been Through The Storm")

Gavin DeGraw - I mean I don't listen to mainstream radio that often but this guy was pretty successful and on the right side of tolerable. What happened to him? Bassline (who just might be white even though he looks like Hershey's Dark Chocolate) put both of his popular tracks on there. And the acoustic version of "Chariot" is great plus there was that first song where he just went on "Idonwannabeanythinotherthanwhati'vebeentrynnabebaby." Sad he disappeared

Jay-Z - Yeah he's just nasty. Over a tennis ball beat. "I just take a pen to the wind" Really there's nothing more to say. Kingdom Come is coming out on what day

LL Cool J - For some reason Bassline put a bunch of tracks by him too. I'm praying this was out of curiosity and not real admiration or else me and Bassline need to have a talk. Anyway, the first song was "Preserve The Sexy" with former Def jam chanteuse Teairra Mari or however you spell it. What. The. Fuck. Like LL really shut it down. Then he has a track with Mary Mary?!?!?!?!? The worst part is that it's almost listenable. If it was a Mary Mary track I'd probably be telling y'all to cop the album. Sadly it's not. And LL really compares his early life to picking cotton. Nigga please.

Maroon 5 - Another one of the white superstars from last year that has disappeared. And I really like them. Best New Artist. I mean I know there's a mini-curse on the winners but I was hoping to have them get at least another album.

Jamiroquai - Drifting Along: You can almost smell the weed from this song. I need to go to Jamaica.

Outkast - Morris Brown: Yeah ummm they're nasty. It's a marching band beat. It's a bloody marching band beat. And I don't know what I like about Big Boi's personal vocalist Scar but I just like his voice. Always been a sucka for a falsetto.

Black Thought - Why do people hate on Black Thought? Am I missing it? They say there's a lack of charisma or personality. Still missing it. I wasn't convinced before and even if I was Game Theory would disprove me. I really don't get it. Humorous. Thoughtful. Verbose. Just nasty.

Mos Def - I somewhat understand why he sings and acts so much. Because spitting fire is just too easy for him. It just is. You can hear how naturally the stuff comes to him. If he did an interview and said "I can live my whole life speaking in rhyme form" I would believe him and it wouldn't be boring either. I'd rather hear Mos spit about his breakfast choices than 90% of the music that is out.

Carl Thomas - Totally poised to be our generation's soul singer. Oh wait he was on Bad Boy. Career over.

R. Kelly - Wonderful: Now technically I should be crediting Ja Rule for this song but I hate him. The only reason I ever endured this song was the seven (7) seconds where Kells is uninterrupted singing the hook. "If it wasn't for the money, cars and movies stars and jewels/And all these things I got/I wonder." And once again I must start my petition that R. Kelly should be singing on everything. Commercials. Navigation system directions. Airplane directions. Every bloody thing he can get his hands on.

Yummy Bingham - Come Get It: A certain someone who will remain nameless surreptitiously blocked my attempts to holla at this young lady when she was only inches away from me and honestly amazed at the musical knowledge I displayed. A vision of beauty with a peculiar voice, she finally got her own deal after background vocals for De La Soul (the first time I heard her) and a failed group (Tha Rayne, yeah that was gonna work). But sadly it seems her career has stalled again. And sadly has Rockwilder's her producer on the track, who not so long ago was the producer du jour (Christina Aguilera Dirrrty anyone?). It's a banger though.

Christina Aguilera - Without You: If I was ever going to make writing music my profession I would aim to write a song like this. Pure beauty. And no one can tell me that Christina's not the best voice we got out there. I know about 15 years ago she would have been lost in the shuffle, but let's appreciate what we have. And she's only like 25 or 6. It's really nice.

I would have had more but I hit a button by mistake and now the thing doesn't recognize the MP3's anymore. But wasn't that enough for a while

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Notes: 100/90s #1

So I was idly doing jack nothing so I decided what better time to follow through on a goal I set for myself: this bloody blog.

So finally I pressed play on the 100 Most Famous Songs of the 1990s which will heretofore be referred to as 100/90s cause we will be typing that too many times cause this playlis is over 7 hours and that's not gonna be one setting.

So far I have only listened to the first three songs. But it is indicative of the craziness that was the 90s. Nirvana to Madonna to R. Kelly (inspirational R. Kelly no less). I needed to breathe cause I really wasn't that prepared to go through puberty all over again.

First impressions though: they still made some awesome music.

We'll see how I feel come Macarena time

Notes: Randomly

So I got back to making that rock CD for my kid titled Crazy Loud Commotion (I know I'm gifted in the title realm) and then I realized: I have totally been neglecting my music. I mean I knew it was there. I knew it was good but honestly some of this stuff, though not right up my immediate alley, is just straight up good.

It's been random tracks here or there but so far here is what I've discovered.

Sleater-Kinney: Weird wails from some banshee but oddly cool
Bloc Party: Yeah I'm feeling it
Franz Ferdinand: Heard it before but didn't realize how good it was
LCD Soundsystem: They sound like fun
Pavement: I realize why my former college roommate was so into them

And I anticipate more fun tidbits as the night moves along. That is after LSAT study.

Update: Chyeah So....

So I've been totally neglectful of my responsibilities. I have looked at my first chosen playlist but was scared away by it's daunting 7.2 hour length. I will succeed though I will. Of course we are in a Sabbath mode right now so such music is unlistenable but I will conquer. I have made an awesome CD for Banana though (check Hotchie Motchie for my people descriptions; you might have to archive it). And I am working on a more rock themed one for one of the kids at work who in his coke-addled brain found 7 seconds to request it. So for that accomplishment I thought I'd present him with his very own CD. Even titled it to match his initials. Anyway, more later.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Update: Format

So I'm thinking that some of my playlists are quite extensive and quite boring at times. Plus there are new albums that I am more eager to hear. So instead of one at a time there will probably be an alternating series. And now to the 100 Most Famous Songs of the 1990s. Peace

Monday, September 25, 2006

What It's All About

So here's the deal. As I have said in my other blog countless times, I love music. I could write like 20 O's in love to explain my point but I'm a little too tired to do that right now. Anyway it is my biggest passion. I also accumulate a lot of it. But like most things, including DVDs and books, I often get a lot without ever really having a plan to absorb it all. But hopefully that will all change with this.

On iTunes, there is a feature called the smart playlist. Instead of creating a playlist and dragging files in, you can make a smart playlist that has everything according to a number of characteristics you specify. This can range from artist, album, genre, or even the beats per minute. There is a plethora of options. I personally use it mostly every time I get a new album so I can separate it and listen to it later. I have a couple set up for certain artists I frequent and also certain genres of music like Acid Jazz, Classical, and Religious.

I got the idea to just take the plunge and listen to each of these smart playlists in order and just review them. I'm sure there will be moments where I wonder why I have certain albums on the computer. I'm sure there will be breakthroughs where I wonder how I existed before I heard certain songs. All in all I'm pretty sure that it will be a fun ride altogether.

At points there will be a random book review or DVD review. I would like to cover all of the bases of my media overkill. That will be a while though cause I am still studying for an LSAT that I am taking next week. And some smart playlists are huge so there might be multiple postings just on one.

So enjoy the ride. The first smart playlist is 100 Most Famous Songs of the 1990s. Yeah you read that right. What a way to kick it off.