Friday, August 28, 2009

The Duhks - Fast Paced World

Album: Fast Paced World
Group: The Duhks
Like/Don't Like: Awesome! Like!

Lindsay gave me this album for my birthday with the intention of me falling in love with them so that I would go to their show with her.

Mission accomplished, Linds!

I think you should check them out. I really think you'll like them. Yes, you! You'll like them.

They're exactly the type of music that I love. Which is to say, they're all over the place. Folk, blue grass, jazz, rock, gospel. On the album they have a Brazilian samba, a French ballad, an Irish jig and a cover of Whole Lot of Love. The musicianship on it is incredible and the lead singer has pipes. She sounds like a less screechy and more sober Janis Joplin.

Their show last night was a free concert in the park in Pasadena. Don't you think all concerts should be free and outdoors? It just makes for a really fun night. People are more apt to get up and move. And there are always really adorable children dancing in front of the stage. And the area smells like picnic food and blooming flowers. And, as was the case last night, forest fire. (Ah, late summer in California. 100+ degree weather and fire in the mountains.)

They were incredible live. They had a very easy presence on stage which I think comes from being really good and having great music to play. And they played a lot of zydeco. Zydeco = fun.

They're not the type of band to hit it big and get air time on the radio, and they probably won't be coming to a city near you. But you can certainly get their album. Did I mention that I think you'll like it?

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Shop Class as Soulcraft

Book: Shop Class as Soulcraft
Author: Matthew B. Crawford
Like/Don't Like: Not enough to sustain me. I made it about 20 pages from the end and decided I was done.

There are times when I'm sitting at my desk and working on the computer that I wish I had gone to trade school to learn a marketable skill, like flower arranging or hair cutting or basket weaving. Because there is something so much more rewarding about physical work then desk work. There's a process to it and problems to fix and a product at the end and you're usually supplying a need for people. This is why I have the World's Largest Felt Collection. Because you can't just sit and think about felt, you have to actually do something with it. Same with the skeins and skeins of yarn and the mountains of fabric and the ribbon drawer that barely closes anymore. When my mind gets too full of thoughts that don't get me anywhere I head to the felt collection and make something with my hands.

This is also why I like recipes and patterns. It's satisfying to follow the instructions, step by step, and come up with the intended product. And if it's not right I don't mind at all going back and figuring out if it was me or the pattern. I love that feeling of being able to find the problem and work on it until it's fixed.

What I'm saying is that I like work. I like making things and fixing things with my hands. I think a lot of people are like this.

This book explores that desire to work and societies push to get people out of jobs that require them to work. How many of us were told in high school to skip college and become a welder? None of us, right? Because somewhere along the lines manual labor lost its honor and cubicle labor became the way to earn a living. But the problem is that some people are just better suited for manual labor - that's how their minds work - and most people actually find joy in doing some form of it, and everyone requires that labor to be done in order for our world to move smoothly. Imagine if your plumber had taken his guidance counselors advice to go on to a 4 year college and study liberal arts?

Crawford actually did go to a university and studied physics, and then ended up getting his PhD in political something or other. But before he went to school he was an electrician, and that's the work that supported him through all of his schooling. He also worked on cars and motorcycles on the side. But after he got his degree he decided that he need a job that reflected his education and he got one working at a think tank. Which made him miss physically working. So he quit and opened up a bike shop.

The premise was great. But it seems as if it was written for academics to explain how one of their own could up and leave the field for a greasy shop. He has some truly fascinating takes on it but in the end it felt ironic to be sitting on a chair, reading about working. It made me want to get up and actually do something instead of thinking about the philosophical reasons of why I wanted to.

So I just stopped reading it. Not because of what he was saying, it all made perfect sense. I just think I was the wrong audience. I went into it not needing to be convinced.


Movie: Arranged
Like/Don't Like: It was lovely

It's been weeks since I watched this movie and somehow I have forgot to post about it until now. This may be brief.

Emily (whom I've never actually met, she's a friend of a friend of a friend, but hi to her anyways, and thanks!) reviewed this on her blog and it sounded intriguing. Two teachers in a NY public school -- one a Jew, one a Muslim -- end up becoming friends and discover they are both going through the process of having marriages arranged for them.

In short (because that's about all I can remember): I loved the way the women and their cultures where portrayed. Not as weird or mysterious or unapproachable, but as faithful and loving people who struggle sometimes with their faith but ultimately choose it because they want to. Not because they're forced to, as so many people believe. It was nice to see religious people portrayed as rational human beings instead of fanatics or brain-washed simpletons. It was refreshing.

Forever Strong

Movie: Forever Strong
Like/Don't Like: Feel-good sports movie. Like.

I get the gist of most sports, but rugby stumps me. As does cricket and Australian rules football. Basically sports that are popular primarily in the former British Empire are a complete mystery to me.

I was hoping that since this movie was about a high school rugby team I would get a handle but I finished it still not understanding the purpose of the scrum. Or why they all lift one guy up to catch the ball. And why they can't pass forward.

But not knowing these things didn't actually hinder enjoying the movie. It wasn't anything revolutionary, just your standard feel-good sports movie. I think we're hard-wired to like them. Who can resist Rudy (who is actually in this movie) or Hoosiers or Remember the Titans? You can't! You can't resist the power of the final seconds ticking down in slow motion. Don't even try.

As a funny side note: Gary Cole is in this as the coach of the team and most of his lines are made up of Important Life Lessons. And all I could think of while watching him was when he played Mike Brady in the Brady Bunch Movie and spouted off Important Life Lessons. That was played for laughs. This was not. But I laughed anyway.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

Book: Pride and Prejudice and Zombies
Authors: Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith
Like/Don't Like: Clever

You know how in Anne of Green Gables Diana submits Anne's story, Avril's Atonement, to the Rolling's Reliable Baking Power contest by inserting that Avril uses Rolling's Reliable to make the cake? This is what Seth Grahame-Smith has done with Pride and Prejudice. Same story, just with zombies thrown in. It's pretty clever.

England has been plagued with the undead for decades when the story opens and the Bennett sisters have to do more than just take long walks and find husbands. They have to kill zombies too. They have studied extensively with Shaolin monks and never travel anywhere without their knives and shot guns.

I never get tired of reading Pride and Prejudice but after a while the zombie talk got a little old. It's not overbearing, but it lost its originality over time. There were a few funny twists that made the book hilarious. I won't give them away but I will tell you that Charlotte Lucas doesn't marry Mr. Collins out of a desire to be mistress of her own home. There are darker reasons for it.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Julie & Julia

Movie: Julie & Julia
Like/Don't Like: I'm seeing it again tomorrow. It's that good!

You know I'm sensitive to mouth noises, right? I mean, abnormally so. Chewing -- sometimes even my own -- makes my heart race with anxiety. It's horrible.

This movie is FULL OF LOUD CHEWING. And slurping and sipping and crunching. Just typing those words makes me want to crawl under my desk and cry.

And yet the movie just charmed the anxiety right out of me. I loved it. There was one scene at the beginning when I thought that Amy Adam's husband was chewing loudly enough to warrant a punch in the face, but after that I completely fell in love with everyone on the screen and forgot all about the squishy sounding food.

Most of that love was centered on Meryl Streep and Stanley Tucci. What's not to love about them? They're amazing. It would have been easy enough for them to play the characters as the zany chef and the straight-man husband but they didn't. One of the best parts about the film is how sweet and real their relationship is. It was very refreshing to see a happily married couple in a movie. Two, actually, because Amy Adam's character and her husband had a great relationship too. Despite his disgusting chewing habits.

So the acting was great, the story moved along nicely, which is a feat considering how it jumps back and forth between Julie and Julia, and the food looked delicious. Don't go hungry.

Addendum: I saw this a second time and I remembered something I wanted to comment on. Both Julie and Julia wear fabulous brooches and pins in the movie. FABULOUS! Julia had on a sparkly monogram brooch that, were it mine, I would put on the pillow beside me and snuggle with at night.