October 26, 2011 § 4 Comments
Guest post by Laura Mettler.
…for the juxtaposition of my two least favorite colors. To my eye, black and orange look and feel like an alarming death warmed over, then burnt to a crisp, and somehow still slightly, well, fuzzy. They conjure such terrifying visions as construction signs, blaze orange hunting gear, 90′s orange flames on black background, and large, fake tarantulas.
It is also the time when my least favorite genre of films and stories spike in popularity. Horror/gore? No stank you!
That being said (and meant!), I must confess that I do love a good murder mystery. My all-time favorite stories are those with eccentric and brilliant crime-solving heroes. Two fictional characters stand head and shoulders above the rest: Sherlock Holmes and Father Brown.
1. Sherlock Holmes
True confession: I have never read Sherlock Holmes. I tried, briefly, in some remote corner of a library I can’t place, and failed. Ah, well. Fortunately, we have at least three devilishly attractive and stunningly portrayed guides to the mind of Sherlock (with an apologetic shoulder-shrug to Robert Downey, Jr.):
a. Basil Rathbone.
b. Jeremy Brett.
My personal favorite in terms of flamboyant and endearing mannerisms. I recommend starting with this old episode on youtube:
c. This guy.
I just watched season one of SHERLOCK (all of three episodes) this week courtesy of the local library system. It makes solving crime with a sociopath fun again, in a thoroughly modern way. And hey! Dr. Watson moonlights as THE Hobbit.
I have found my new celebrity crush.
2. Father Brown.
I could go on and on. About how my brother and sister-in-law introduced me to this fellow. About how his stories were written by G. K. Chesterton, who is rather a hero of mine. About how my friend and fellow seminarian Richard got an extra copy of his complete collected stories for me out of the blue. About how I often read them out loud with my roommate (a process which takes around a half an hour or 45 minutes, roughly the length of a television show). About the dumpy little priest himself: his secret, his scandal, his resurrection, his shapeless hat and disheveled umbrella. About how I refuse to watch the television series.
About how the heart strips down dirty and is offered a good wash during the read. But I’ll end here.
Which is just to say, if I have a hankering for justice (with a slightly disparaging nod to the human condition), I watch Sherlock. If I need a good dose of true horror and hope thrown in the mix, I commend my soul to the wise and homely ministrations of Father Brown.
August 12, 2011 § 1 Comment
Allegra over at Here’s to Us proposes a new reality show, “America’s Next Top Author,” replete with agent pitches, books readings, and camera shots of pensive would-be authors hunched over laptops–such would be the drama of watching people write. (Read the rest of her humorous post here.) It’s a fun line of thought, but it made me think about what it would do to the publishing industry, author opportunities, and the general public’s interaction with books.
I got a glimpse of this outcome through a recent article where the The New York Times sat down with professional dancers to hear their opinion of the reality show So You Think You Can Dance. While these dancers appreciated the mainstream support dance was getting, they were concerned about the lack of opportunities taken to educate the audience, the audience’s expectation of flashy jumps and tricks accentuated by camera angles (meaning TV audiences will be less appreciative of slower, technique heavy genres such as ballet), and that contestants were getting jobs back on the show, but not elsewhere in the professional dance world.
Reality shows have certainly given us more exposure to various art forms, but they tend to give us a breadth of knowledge, not depth. And while the occasional winner becomes a self-supporting star (i.e. American Idol’s Carrie Underwood), it’s good to ask what–if any–lasting contributions do these shows make to the art world, and are they positive changes? Even if the answer is a small yes, the first priority of reality shows is still commercialism.
Yet I do enjoy SYTYCD, and I’m grateful for the chance to see talented choreographers at work and to be inspired by dancers’ movement. As the SYTYCD season just ended, here are a few favorite routines that combine good dancers, good choreography, and good music.
1. The contestants Melanie and Marko dance a contemporary piece by choreographer Dee Caspary, set to the song,”Skin and Bones” by David J. Roch. I love the simple use of the hanging lightbulb as a prop–for the visual addition to the piece as it blinks on and off as well as for the symbolism involved as the dancers’ attraction to and fear of the light oscillate throughout the piece.
2. The contestant Sasha dances a hip hop routine choreographed by Christopher Scott (who also choreographs LXD), set to Dorothy Moore’s “Misty Blue.” It’s a fun storyline, and I love the 60s feel to it and light groove. Sasha performs another interesting contemporary piece using a simple prop: a wall.
3. These next two dancers didn’t make it far in the competition, but their hip hop routine by choreographers Tabitha and Napoleon was one of my season’s favorites. I love that this show has previously featured the gracefulness of hummingbirds in flight, and now the staccato-ness of woodpeckers learning to fly.
4. And a bonus: one group routine. Normally, clowns freak me out, but these clowns are too graceful. I love the costumes, music, and theatricality of this routine by Tyce Diorio.
A nod to reality shows for what they are.
July 20, 2011 § 2 Comments
When it comes to shoes, I admit I’m somewhat oblivious to them, contrary to the stereotype of women. But during this busy week, it’s been hard to maintain oblivion as I’ve stumbled over pairs of shoes littering my hallway. Finally, I took the time to put them away. Even for a non-shoe-fetish person, I still own an absurd number of shoes. I’m not sure how this happened.
It reminded me of two scenes in the British sitcom Coupling by the brilliant writer/producer Steven Moffat. In one, the men complain about women (“Why do they have so many shoes? Do they sprout rows of additional feet while we’re asleep and gallop around the streets at midnight?”), while a parallel scene features the women complaining about men.
“They’re overdressed toddlers needing dinner. There are empty bottles in the fridge, and the whole place smells of feet,” complains one woman.
“Not enough shoes,” says another.
“Not enough shoes. Their feet get sort of marinated and smell.”
Enlightenment. The tables have turned, and my question is now: why don’t men have more shoes?
Life magazine’s slideshow tracks the oddities of famous footwear trends from both men and women in the last 80 years, everything from converse sneakers to combat boots.
And the poet Charles Simic contemplates the self-revealing nature of what shods our feet in his poem, “My Shoes.”
Shoes, secret face of my inner life:
Two gaping toothless mouths
Two partly decomposed animal skins
Smelling of mice-nests.
My brother and sister who died at birth
Continuing their existence in you
Guiding my life
Toward their incomprehensible innocence.
What use are books to me
When in you it is possible to read
The Gospel of my life on earth
And still beyond, of things to come?
I want to proclaim the religion
I have devised for your perfect humility
And the strange church I am building
With you as the altar.
Ascetic and material, you endure:
Kin to oxen, to Saints, to condemned men,
With your mute patience, forming
The only true likeness of myself.
At least Paolo Nutini knows what makes everything alright:
The investigation continues.
May 11, 2011 § 1 Comment
How are Nutella, Agnes Obel, and Kelly Kapoor related? Read on and the clarity of these three entities will be revealed.
In 1951, Pietro Ferrero, an Italian owner of a patisserie, developed a creamy mixture of hazelnut/almond paste and chocolate call Supercreama. In 1964, Ferrero’s son, Michele, modified the recipe into Nutella and the first jars went out of the Ferrero factory. My first experience with Nutella was with an old roommate who would sit in the kitchen and eat it right out of the jar. I always wondered why she couldn’t get enough of it. Years later, the 13 ounce jar of hazelnut spread is now a staple on my grocery list. Well, I just purchased a 26.5 ounce jar.
A Danish songbird has been streaming through my apartment for months. I can’t decide if Agnes Obel is a pianist who sings or a songwriter who plays piano. Either way her debut album Philharmonics has me tip toeing whimsically around my kitchen floor, swaying as I sew stitches on a summer dress, and singing along as I write letters.
Kelly Kapoor is the Indian American bubbly, talkative, and boy-crushing character on The Office played by Mindy Kaling. Kelly can be quite extreme in her affection towards others or desire to attain superficial goals; however, she continues to make me laugh until I’m gasping between words for air due to laughing so hard. Below is a clip of her attempts at a cleansing diet.
Still wondering how all of these three are related? Well…they’re all imported and amazing.
April 18, 2011 § 2 Comments
Most of us think of the song, “You Are My Sunshine,” as a sweet, lighthearted chorus, but the original version is more of a melancholy ballad. When Pakou and I saw The Civil Wars this weekend, they performed their cover of the song, intentionally reaching back to the sad moments in which it was written just before WWII.
When they sing it, you understand that the narrator is currently living through a period of grey skies. It’s not a song of sentimental appreciation for the lover; it’s a desperate plea to return, to stay, to be near.
It’s amazing how a simple change completely reinterprets a song, the most famous example being Aretha Franklin’s cover of “R.E.S.P.E.C.T.” Written by Otis Redding in 1965 and covered by Aretha just two years later, the song went from a cry for respect from a woman to a powerful symbol of women’s rights.
Both renditions are amazing (I love watching Otis dance!), but Aretha’s version, tied to some injustice, to an international, churning frustration pushed the already popular song into becoming a feminist icon.
For me, changing the gender of the singer in Glee’s cover of “It’s a Man’s Man’s Man’s World” similarly transformed the song to a powerful expression of pain and bitterness. Since I first heard it, I’ve loved the music to James Brown’s song. There’s those intensely dramatic first bars, the strings running down the scales to begin the slow and soulful beat of the song, the strings now periodically rising and falling in the background. And I love James Brown, his funk and “I Feel Good” voice. But the chauvinistic words have always chafed at me, even if intended to be complimentary to the women in his life.
While a few women have covered this song before, like Christina Aguilera and Joss Stone, their versions still seem self-glorified, as if women are the only good things around. Then last year, the TV show Glee covered it, placing a pregnant teenage girl at the center of the song. In the loose storyline behind this scene, she’s become increasingly outcast at school and at home while the guy she slept with has barely faced any troubles.
Forget for a moment the cheesy choreography of swelling bellies and the fact that Dianna Agron can’t sing soul to save the Tasmanian Forester Kangaroo.
For many women in abusive relationships, trapped in sex trafficking, or just hindered by poverty and single motherhood, this is a real and bitter reality. When I hear this sung by a lonely woman struggling to survive, to find some self-worth in a male-dominated world, the song takes on a power that matches the music, a power I don’t feel is present when sung by a man looking at his success and realizing women make it more meaningful.