Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Artist of the Month - Mar 2012

Missed this last month! And I don't feel like putting in a repeat performance! The good news is that I've had longer to think of a winner (like it's really a big deal, right?). Anyway...onto the announcing. A-P's artist of the month for March 2012 is...

*drum roll*

David Garrett

Sound familiar? I've posted a video before of a long-haired chum with a hoodie and a violin, and since then I've been listening to more and more of him. Trust me, I put this guy up with Charlie Daniels and Mairead Nesbitt as fiddling royalty! German-American child prodigy, he's been playing since the age of four and got his first Stradivarius at age 11. He recorded his first album when he was 13, for Pete's sake! His style is a blend of classical violin and modern rock, and he does it well. In 2008, he became the world's fastest violinist by playing Flight of the Bumblebee in a staggering 1 minute, 6 seconds (the record has since been broken, but still...holy cow!) I wonder how many bows he goes through every performance? ;)

The Fifth

Mr. Garrett's spin on Beethoven's fifth symphony. Superb stuff.

Walk This Way (with Orianthi) 
Claire de Lune
He's a Pirate
Music of the Night
Flight of the Bumblebee (speed record)  Skip ahead to 5:41 for the actual record-breaking.

As always, happy listening!

Your pal,


Saturday, February 25, 2012

Reviews From a Modest Movie Buff (The Phantom of the Opera - 1943)

I waited until after my second viewing (again, gotta love YouTube!) to review this one, so here we go!

Erique Claudin (played by Claude Rains) is a violinist in the orchestra of the Paris Opera. He's also in love with young soprano Christine DuBois (Susanna Foster). After an accident that leaves him disfigured and a fit of rage that drives him to commit murder, he's forced to go into hiding and become the Phantom of the Opera.

It's the same story...kind of. It's the same plot...for the most part. It's the same characters...wait a minute, who is this Anatole Garron, anyway? And where did Franz Liszt come from? This adaptation doesn't exactly follow the line of Gaston Leroux's book or the earlier silent movie, and as such it just didn't feel the same to me.

Don't get me wrong; I enjoyed it quite a bit. The design was gorgeous (in flaming Technicolor!) and the music was superb. The parts where Claudin's beloved concerto were played were just lovely, and it was clever how the producers managed to tweak the details of actual operas to avoid copyright issues...but if you're not into classical music, you probably won't go for all of it. My beef with the whole thing lies in two details: the focus on Christine's love triangle and the sudden tragedy that forces Claudin into the sewers beneath the Opera. Christine's dilemma of choosing her career, Garron the famed baritone or Inspector Raoul D'Aubert felt like extra weight to me. I mean, I thought this was supposed to be about a masked musical genius and his obsession with a beautiful singer! And it was complicated enough between said genius and viscount inspector before they added another singer! The slight "accident" during which Claudin is scarred really threw it for me. The appeal of the story is the man born with a hideous deformity that kept him from living a normal life and spending his years completely unloved. To change that all but destroyed the tragedy of the character. I still feel sorry for him, but my heart doesn't bleed for him.

There's a lot to like here, despite those issues. This was shot using the same set that was used for the Lon Chaney movie (and a few of the shots themselves looked ripped right out of the Chaney movie), the art direction and cinematography bagged some Oscars, and don't let's ever, ever, forget Susanna Foster. Oh my word, that woman could sing! I think that note was called G over high C, but whatever it was, it was amazing! From now on, whenever I think of Christine, I will hear Ms. Foster.

It seems there was also a radio presentation of this with Basil Rathbone of Sherlock Holmes fame cast instead of Mr. Rains...I'll have to find that and see what I think. Who knows, it might be on YouTube as well!

All in all, I'd give this one five, maybe six out of ten stars. They really don't make movies like this anymore, but I was too disappointed by the departure from the original story to give it a higher rating. It was good enough to watch twice, though, and I'll have to see if I can find a DVD and add it to my collection.

Susanna Foster - Lullaby of the Bells

And just in case you want to watch it yourself...

The Phantom of the Opera (1943) 

Your pal,

Half and Half

It seems I'd forgotten I actually had such a thing as a blog for awhile there...sorry about that.

So, I was doing some thinking last night and ended up doing some reminiscing about what life's been like these past several years, and I came up with some mildly interesting observations. I might have been born a Yankee, but ten years south of the Mason-Dixon have a way of working on you. I strongly suspect that I have adopted some distinctly Southern qualities and morphed into a pseudo-hillbilly.

How do I know this? Let me share a few tidbits as I make my case.

 - We have had the dubious honor of living along a dirt road with an honest-to-goodness moonshiner for a neighbor. No joke. He drove an El Camino you could hear coming from a mile away, and he lived next door to a junk yard. You get some interesting neighbors in the sticks, let me tell you!

 - We have lived with goats as pets...inside the house. Yep, two little kids by the name of Tag-Along and Shadow. They wore diapers and were the cutest things you ever saw, especially when they played with our red-bone coon hound and got him on the run. Eventually, they got too big for the house and had to stay in their pen outside, but for several months, they slept on their designated blanket in the kitchen. Don't worry, they were clean for barnyard animals!

 - We have driven an excess of five miles on a flat tire through no-man's-land to get a replacement. It wasn't even a chain garage in the city, to be clear. It was hardly more than a shed in a little podunk town so small it didn't even have a post office. It wasn't even on the map, for crying out loud! And those five miles were the longest you could imagine, seeing as we couldn't go too fast on that flat. Why didn't we just use the spare, you ask? Didn't have one! The car itself wasn't in good shape (see below).

 - We have owned a car that had to be started with a screwdriver. As in, pop the hood, break out the Philips-head, poke around in the engine block, and you're good to go. It wasn't that bad, really...unless it was raining. Or really cold out.

- We have gone off-roading in the dumbest vehicle imaginable. Namely, an 80's model Chevy Celebrity, and my Lord, how we hated that car. To be fair, though, we didn't choose to pull a Dukes of Hazzard  stunt like that, but...we were trying to beat a tornado home and the traffic was horrible, so...we pulled across the median. That at once sounds not so bad, and even worse. Mom, bro and I were almost wiped off the face of the earth in that very heap, but that's another story.

 - We have gotten the back bumper of a pickup truck stuck on a tree. Yes, you read that correctly. I still have no idea how that happened, but Dad was trying to back out of a halfway cleared clearing while sis and I guided him out, he got too close, we didn't signal fast enough, the truck rocked, and there you have it. A sapling not ten inches around wedged between the tailgate and the bumper. It takes a special kind of doofus to pull that off, but we managed between the three of us. We finally got it free again (no idea how that one happened, either), and as a direct result it fell off a week later and landed neatly in a roadside ditch.

So it seems I'm neither a pure Yankee nor a true redneck, but I'm happy having bits of both. I've got an understanding of things the Southerners don't, like hot tea and snow, and I have yet to hear a Northerner use the phrase "fixin' to." I'm a scrappy, motley, mixed-up little weirdo, and I'm rather proud of that.

Your pal,