Archive for December, 2008

Strength and speed rightly draw admiring eyes.

Whether stallion, sprinter, swimmer, striker, or wide receiver, the ripple of muscled thigh and the cheetah-esque capacity to finish are awe-inspiring. Such forceful, fluid athleticism commends itself. It needs little added praise. (more…)


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Rob Lane and Joseph Vitarelli have not only written a reflective and shimmering work of music. They have provided a textbook example of how to write film music itself.

The thirty tracks of this HBO Series soundtrack strike notes that are alternately noble, daring, pensive, and troubled. All of it is stirring in the way that one’s soul is moved in proximity to great literature or the finest musical art. Yet, as is the nature of the case with a genre of music meant to frame a visual depiction rather than to publish its own grandeur, most viewers of John Adams will fail to realize the degree to which the series’ success has depended upon Lane’s and Vitarelli’s work in the shadows. (more…)

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If salsa is not the most joyous of musical genres it is at least one of the happiest. This entry in the Ballroom Latin Dance series features splendid CD liner artistry and a solid lineup of high-energy salsa performed by little-known but expert musicians.

The series comes at you without written comment as a simple source of dance music. It delivers extremely well on that promise and can hardly be faulted for what it does not aim to accomplish.

Great salsa here, on the cheap!

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I am not a doomsayer.

If this sounds both egocentric and unrequired, I risk making my statement in just this way because I am headed in the direction of one of those apocalyptic texts in Revelation of which the doomsayers drink deeply and then scatter their painfully precise predictions to the wind.

As I write this, we are in the midst of or in the wake of or at the beginning of an economic shakedown that many are calling unprecedented. I’ve consulted with a lot of smart people on where events appear to be taking us. None of them knows. (more…)

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Every once in a while, trudging along in this vale of tears, one stumbles upon an artistic statement so fresh and compelling that one has to stop in a clearing, put a foot up on a log, and pause to wonder how he got this far without knowing about this.

Sons of Korah and their 2002 release called simply shelter make for such a wonder-filled moment. From Lillian Carland’s eery and Edvard Munch-esque artwork to the spare minimalism of this Aussie band’s revisitation of the biblical psalms, a moment for head-scratching ponderment upon the forceful before and after of it all is upon us. (more…)

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There are two things you should know before buying a greatest hits album by one of the legendary composers whose music we often call ‘classical’.

First, the purists hate them. Their ire is understandable. Art music is so enriched by an understanding of its historical moment, its place in a composer’s career, the history of its performance, and the like that it seems almost barbaric to strip out a few listen-able tunes and flog them on an album that provides none of this context. These are portions of long pieces, not the four-and-a-half minute stand-alone tunes to which we’ve become familiar (and learned both to love and to consider normal) in pop music.

Second, the big box stores are full of ‘greatest hits’ albums performed by fourth-tier, no-name orchestral groups with little personality and unrecognizable roots. Don’t buy them if your entree into, say, Bach is really an entrance to something larger rather than just a need to fill the house with a little background music (which is not a bad thing on its own terms and beats hearing the doors squeak on their hinges or the frozen pizza sizzle on its lard-ish pan). (more…)

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For a reader like me who has lived without hunger and first-hand experience of judicial violence, it is difficult to fathom the venom that the writer of the Apocalypse injects into his depictions of cosmic villains. Babylon the great mercantile capital, figured as a woman, is a case in point:

So he carried me away in the spirit into a wilderness, and I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast that was full of blasphemous names, and it had seven heads and ten horns. The woman was clothed in purple and scarlet, and adorned with gold and jewels and pearls, holding in her hand a golden cup full of abominations and the impurities of her fornication; and on her forehead was written a name, a mystery: ‘Babylon the great, mother of whores and of earth’s abominations.’ And I saw that the woman was drunk with the blood of the saints and the blood of the witnesses to Jesus. When I saw her, I was greatly amazed.

John sees an incorrigible evil in the world’s conventional arrangements that I do not. Where he detects the brazen drunkenness of a woman who has gulped won ‘the blood of the saints and the blood of the witnesses to Jesus’ from a filthy goblet, I see a flow of goods and services that perhaps could become a bit more fluid if only the boys at the WTO would get their act a bit more together on the Doha Round. (more…)

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This little doobie is just the thing if you ship more than a handful of packages each week. The physics of it make it a simple matter to get a tight swath of tape around your package without wrinkled tape and disproportionate cursing.

Trust me, you’ll quickly recoup the 25 clams you’ll invest via increased efficiency and fewer damaged goods en route.

Plus, with a little imagination, you could use this thing (it’s got teeth!) as a self-defense implement. You might end up buying a second one and storing it beside your bed for this very purpose. It’s cheaper than getting a dog.

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Mo Leverett’s New Orleans jazz, a vehicle of the most streetworthy and reflective Christian faith, is just the thing.

Sensuous, anchored, penetrating, persuasive, Leverett’s music celebrates life as a gift that is capable of thriving and enlightening journeys walked out in otherwise insufferable darkness.

Leverett’s convincing voice is ragged in the very best sense yet so very sure of itself. He celebrates his family—not least his ‘Cajun queen’—with no hint of embarrassment. If he’s preaching—this reviewer suspects he is—his words get into the listener’s ears and perhaps even through his pores before any defenses can be raised. (more…)

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My basement office—a.k.a. ‘the man cave’—is for me not unlike the Garden of Eden. Still, about 20 mornings per year it’s just a little too cold.

I could attack this with the home heating equivalent of using a hammer to kill a mosquito, turning up the heat and arming every single corner of the place to about five degrees above the status quo. But that costs money.

Instead, I bought the Presto HeatDish Plus Footlight two years ago for those cold winter days when my favorite space in the house needs just a touch of extra warmth. It’s got good adjustment and, with a little practice, can be focused on the area where I sit in front of my desk in my stocking feet and do the thing I do.

I recommend this economical, highly concentrated, easily adjustable solution to one of life’s cold zones.

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