delphipsmith: (all shall be well)
Hillary Clinton lost and Leonard Cohen died. Saturday Night Live managed to combine acknowledgement of both in an unusually sober and remarkably beautiful opening to their show on Nov 12th. Lovely.

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delphipsmith: (Nietzsche music)
Have just discovered the Fleet Foxes. Am impressed.

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delphipsmith: (George scream)

That is all.

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delphipsmith: (books-n-wine)
Day 1 - Ten random facts about yourself
Day 2 - Nine things you do everyday
Day 3 - Eight things that annoy you
Day 4 - Seven fears/phobias
Day 5 - Six songs that you’re addicted to

Day 6 - Five things you can’t live without
Day 7 - Four memories you won’t forget
Day 8 - Three words you can’t go a day without
Day 9 - Two things you wish you could do
Day 10 - One person you can trust

"Can't live without" is pretty strong. I'm not sure there's anything I truly couldn't manage to live without, other than Maslow's basics: air, water, food, clothing and shelter. So assuming this actually means "Things without which my life would be unbearably dreary, featureless and grim," I shall go with these:

1) Family
2) Reading and writing (sorry, can't separate these two)
3) Music (if I haven't got any, I'll make some)
4) Cats (for companionship, they cannot be beat)
5) Wine or tea (I'm torn on this one, they're so mood-dependent)
delphipsmith: (Nietzsche music)
Day 1 - Ten random facts about yourself
Day 2 - Nine things you do everyday
Day 3 - Eight things that annoy you
Day 4 - Seven fears/phobias

Day 5 - Six songs that you’re addicted to
Day 6 - Five things you can’t live without
Day 7 - Four memories you won’t forget
Day 8 - Three words you can’t go a day without
Day 9 - Two things you wish you could do
Day 10 - One person you can trust

Another tough one! I have so many; music has always been a big part of my life. Here are six that I can listen to over and over and never get tired of them.

1) Queen, In the Year of 39. I love the way this song hints at a much larger, much more complicated story. Why did they have to go off searching for other planets? Where were they from? Who were the volunteers? Why did he leave her behind? So many questions. I keep hoping someone will write the story to go with it. Their Seven Seas of Rhye is the same way: anything that has beings descending from the sky saying, "I command your very souls, you unbelievers" just demands a kickass story to go with it. And oh god, that piano...

2) Loreena Mckennit, The Highwayman. This one tells a complete story, and it breaks my heart every time. I loved the poem from the time I read it in high school and was thrilled to discover the song, even though it's so sad.

3) Meat Loaf, Hot Summer Night. Just a damn good rock anthem. It's hard to beat the Loaf.

4) Runrig, The Summer Walkers. As a manuscripts librarian, this song had me at the phrase "archive gold." A gorgeous meditation on how things used to be, and how they are, and what we've lost.

5) Nightwish, I Wish I Had An Angel. Symphonic metal at its best: lush, heavy, thumping, operatic and gorgeous.

6) Warren Zevon, Accidentally Like a Martyr. This one carries a lot of bittersweet memories for me, which I suppose is exactly why it has stuck with me for so long.

There are a lot more, of course: The Mingulay Boat Song, a perennial favorite at the final pub sing; A Sailor's Prayer for the strength of its lyrics; and just recently I've become obsessed with Leonard Cohen's Come Healing.

But if I don't stop now I'll just go on and on and on, so I'd better hie me off to bed :)
delphipsmith: (bide 1)
These two kids are absolutely INCREDIBLE. I had no idea you could rock a cello like a fiddle! I nearly bounced out of my skin just watching/listening, they got me so riled up. I love musicians who make instruments do new things, not in a twisted distorted smash-the-guitars way but in a push-it-to-the-max way. Paganini has nothing on these boys. (When this one finishes, click on "I Will Wait" for their more traditional but still gorgeous cello experience.)

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And if that wasn't enough, here they are on America's Got Talent with their teacher -- their Russian grandfather, who cries as he watches from backstage ::snif:: These kids are really wonderful...

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delphipsmith: (Sir Patrick Captain)
Being out of town three weeks out of four since Oct 27 and hosting Thanksgiving plus a lunch for 20 people will do that to you. In lieu of anything deep and/or thoughtful, I offer this fabulous giggle-inducing Christmas video featuring Sir Pat, found for me by my ever-lovin' spouse, Mr Psmith: "Make It So, Make It So, Make It So!"

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delphipsmith: (roses)
This is the most amazing -- and sensual -- pair of dancers I've seen in a very long time, if ever. Their athleticism is astonishing, and yet it doesn't detract from the beauty of their movements by turning it into a gymnastic exercise (and wow, is she bendy!). I was spellbound by their performance; it made me want to cheer and cry at the same time.

(skip to about the 1-minute mark if you don't speak Russian!)
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“There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is
translated through you into action, and because there is only one of
you in all time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it
will never exist through any other medium and will be lost.”
― Martha Graham
delphipsmith: (bide 1)
So we have a subscription to Pandora, the "music genome project." The idea is that you "seed" a channel with one or two songs and then it extrapolates from those to play others that you might like. You can thumbs-up or thumbs-down a given song to sort of train it on what you like. Generally, it isn't bad and I've discovered two or three new groups (e.g., Oysterband) that I really like through them.

When it plays a new song, it offers you the option to query it, "Why is this song playing?" Normally you get answers like, "This song has close harmonies and a folksy sound" or "This song has a strong melody line and a complex backbeat."

This evening we queried a song Pandora played on our Pretorius channel.

The response was, "This song has amazing sackbuttlery."

I can't even bwahahahaaaaaaa type that without laughing :D
delphipsmith: (George)
1. Kenneth Branagh (squeee!) will be directing a live-action version of Cinderella. Helena Bonham Carter plays the Fairy Godmother (so, presumably, not a crazy hag -- surprise! Though she's also playing Miss Havisham, so maybe this is an anomaly).

2. Chickens: the Steadi-Cam of the animal kingdom

3. Miss Piggy wearing the Hope Diamond. Yup, the actual Hope Diamond.

4. The Secret Life of Bees and The Necromancer's House (yeah, I need to write a proper review, but trust me on this: they're both -- in very different ways -- fantastic.

5. New Pope rocks.

6. Queen + physics = Bohemian Gravity:

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delphipsmith: (fiddle me)
I admit it, I absolutely LOVE the Charlie Daniels Band song The Devil Went Down to Georgia. The story itself is great, the fiddle-playing is awesome, the tune rocks -- just everything. (It's just barely edged out for first place in my heart by Uneasy Rider: "I'm a faithful follower of Brother John Birch, and Ah b'long to th'Antioch Baptist Church, and Ah don't even have a garage, you can call home an' ask ma wife!!").

So I got a big fat laugh out of this riff on it by the Adam Ezra Group, in which the Devil -- yes -- comes to Boston. I'm sure native Bostonians will get more out of it than I did, but what I did get had me laughing like a loon.

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delphipsmith: (KellsS)
[ profile] sshg_exchange has posted the reveal -- and with 180 items, it is a freakin' HUGE reveal! The quality of writing and art that comes out of SSHG never ceases to amaze me.

I have squee'd in no uncertain terms about the gifts I received, but now I know who my bestower of loveliness is and I'm thrilled to be able to properly thank [ profile] sixpence_jones for my two phenomenal gifts, For Love and Loss (art) and All Shadows Pass Away (fic). I treasure both of them. ♥ ♥ ♥ to you, my dear!!

And on the flip side, I can now claim authorship of "Bide, Lady, Bide," a combination of the folk song "The Twa Magicians" and a very manipulative Lucius who very nearly gets caught in his own net, which I wrote for [ profile] owlbait. So many people were kind enough to leave praise and comments; I am both thrilled and humbled.

Title: Bide, Lady, Bide (on LJ) (on AO3)
Recipient: [ profile] owlbait
Rating: Suggestive
Warnings: None
Genre: Romance
Summary: Lucius has a cunning plan. What will he do when it backfires?
Word Count: 8,521
Original Prompt: (Possible spoilers) Of the three prompts given, I've combined #2 and #3: (2) "Something inspired by "The Twa Magicians" - Childe Ballad verses here and Steeleye Span's spiffy version here. (3) "The Marriage Law Oopsie: With the war over, Wizarding Britain is worried about the rise in Squibs. In typical Slytherin fashion, Lucius connives to get his friend the girl of his dreams. He moves behind the scenes to get a Marriage Law passed requiring all Muggle-born witches to marry Purebloods. Lucius, recently widowed/divorced, petitions for Hermione. He engineers out all other escape routes in order to send her fleeing to Severus's offer. Finally, with time getting down to the wire for Hermione to accept another proposal or have to marry him, Lucius gets fed up and tells Snape to offer for Hermione, already. It seems our Sev has kept some things to himself. "What do you *mean* you aren't a pureblood?"
delphipsmith: (weeping angel)
Clockwork Angels: The NovelI finally had a chance to sit down and dig into Clockwork Angels, which I got for Christmas and which I'd been eagerly anticipating. I'm a huge fan of Rush and have been since high school; largely thanks to Neil Peart, who's incredibly widely-read, many of their songs and albums are strongly story-oriented (think Fountain of Lamneth, or Red Barchetta, or all of 2112), so a collaborative book/album project sounded intriguing. In the end I enjoyed this book very much as far as it went, but was left wanting a lot more.

The steampunk-y world-building had many lovely little details: the Clockwork Angels of the title, the invented names of alchemical stones and minerals, the news office of Barrel Arbor and its announcement of the daily predictions, the personal letters the Watchmaker sends to every citizen on important occasions, the brief glimpses of other people and continents beyond the kingdom of the Watchmaker, and lots more. Taken as a whole, though, the story reads like a parable because in the end that's all we're given: little details and glimpses. The characters -- except for Owen Hardy -- are ultimately one-dimensional, and even the Watchmaker and the Anarchist are in the end nothing but symbols of the two extremes between which Owen Hardy is pulled, the Watchmaker's total predictability and the Anarchist's total unpredictability.

I was happy for Owen that he eventually found a happy medium, but I wish he'd spent a lot longer exploring. I had a nagging sense that I was missing out on lots of exciting things just out of sight; I felt like I was constantly craning my neck out the back window or trying to sneak off down alleyways to see things for myself and getting brought up short.
delphipsmith: (the road)
Thing 2 of the 100 Things Poems! "The Highwayman," by Alfred Noyes, has everything: true love and infinite courage, heartbreak and death, a deeply romantic tale and a lovely ghost story. I don't ever remember not knowing this poem. When I was in 8th grade my English teacher gave extra credit if you memorized poems, and this was one of them, but I'm pretty sure I knew it before that. It's best read aloud; it has wonderful rhythmic beat to it that evokes the hoofbeats of the highwayman's galloping horse. I can't come up with a word for how this poem makes me feel -- aching, haunted, sorrowful, longing, it's all of those and none of them and more -- but it's always drawn a real lump-in-the-throat response from me, more so the older I get and the more I revisit it (which is odd, you'd think it's impact would fade). Here are a few stanzas to give the the flavor; the full text is online here.

Over the cobbles he clattered and clashed in the dark inn-yard.
He tapped with his whip on the shutters, but all was locked and barred.
He whistled a tune to the window, and who should be waiting there
But the landlord’s black-eyed daughter,
Bess, the landlord’s daughter,
Plaiting a dark red love-knot into her long black hair.

“One kiss, my bonny sweetheart, I’m after a prize to-night,
But I shall be back with the yellow gold before the morning light;
Yet, if they press me sharply, and harry me through the day,
Then look for me by moonlight,
Watch for me by moonlight,
I’ll come to thee by moonlight, though hell should bar the way.”

Loreena McKennit has done a gorgeously lush and haunting version of it, which to this day, no matter that I've heard it dozens of times, makes me tear up:

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delphipsmith: (Luddite laptop)
During filming of The Hobbit, Ian McKellen had an angsty moment over the fact that he was acting with thirteen dwarves and yet not a single actor was there on camera with him -- all he had were 13 photographs of the dwarves on top of stands with little lights; whoever he was "talking" to their light would flash, but the actual actors did all their camera time separately and were filled in later by the computer techs. "I cried, actually. I cried. Then I said out loud, 'This is not why I became an actor'. Unfortunately the microphone was on and the whole studio heard..."

I sympathize with him. Much as I love special effects and amazingly realistic goblins, dwarves, dragons, monsters, spaceships, etc., there's something missing when 90% of what you see was produced inside a computer. The best, most memorable performances I've ever seen are live: Phantom of the Opera, Les Mis, Jesus Christ Superstar, The Mikado, even the junior high musicals I was in (under protest) and the high school musicals I worked tech crew on were magical in a way that movies can't be. When you know there are no second takes...when the actors are responding in real time to the audience...there's a wonderful feedback loop that gets going, and its remarkable. Light years different from what happens in a movie theater, where your reaction makes no difference at all to what's playing on screen.

This is also why I'm very excited about the movie version of Les Mis that's coming out next month. Instead of the usual approach, where the singers do all the singing in the studio months ahead of time and then have to time their acting to what they did weeks earlier, this production is allowing them to sing in real time, while they act. It's an interesting middle ground between live performance and movie-musical, and the actors are pretty excited about it.

We've already bought our Hobbit tickets; may have to snap a couple of these up as well.
delphipsmith: (queenie)
We have returned safely from our trek to Pennsylvania for the Blackmore's Night concert and the PA Ren Faire, huzzah!

By happy chance (so he says *ahem*) Mr Psmith picked a hotel for Friday that was across the street from not one, not two, but THREE Irish pubs!! So as a prelude to the evening's main event there was well-poured Guinness for Mr Psmith and a nice pinot grigio for me, and a bartender from Leitrim with a GORGEOUS accent (when we asked him how long he had been here, he said "T'ree weeks"). We then "garbed up" and, since the theatre was only two blocks from the hotel, paraded downtown in our Renaissance-y best, nodding regally at mystified passersby. The concert was very good; lots of fellow audience members also in garb, so it was a bit like going to see the 16th century version of Rocky Horror Picture Show, only with less toast and more shawm. Seeing Carl as the opening act on a big stage was great fun, and then Blackmore's Night played for 2-1/2 hours straight -- many old favorites and one or two we didn't know, and Candace's voice was as stunning live as it is on the CDs.

The next morning we had a two-hour drive to the Ren Fair but a luxurious hour to get dressed once we arrived (normally at our "home festival" we have about 20 minutes!). We looked splendid, if I do say so myself, particular Mr Psmith who is quite dashing in doublet, hat, boots and sword :) We strolled the grounds like visiting nobility all day and had quite the time, inspecting the baby dragons (i.e., anole lizards), watching the various minstrels, and eating anachronistic but tasty food items. The PA Faire is more "produced" than our home festival -- for example, all the performers are mic'ed and the joust had theatrical piped-in music that sounded like the soundtrack to Ben Hur! But once you get past the different character it's a fun change of pace. The Faire's theme this year was a fierce competition between Shakespeare and Marlowe, and the "Finale in Song" (which is what PA has instead of a final pubsing) had some very funny bits indeed where they got out of temper and ranted at each other, and the Queen was clearly channeling her Blackadder incarnation. Though as Mr Psmith said, the last number was much more Glee than Tudor. Still, worth the trip if only for the chance to see Empty Hats and trot out our black velvet one more time :)

Mr Psmith scored again with Saturday night's hotel which had an excellent restaurant complete with vegetarian menu (spinach, mushroom and goat cheese quesadillas with chipotle honey glaze -- nomz!!)

We slept in this morning, then headed out and were home by 5pm, well ahead of Hurricane Sandy which was all over the news of course. On the drive home NPR taught us things about Kurt Weil and the Threepenny Opera, and we passed a convoy of five utility trucks which we speculated were being mobilized ahead of the storm. Made me feel rather reassured; not that we're supposed to get more than high winds and an inch or so of rain at Chez Psmith, but still, it's nice to know that people are Planning Ahead. We're happy to be home, and I hope that all of you who are in Sandy's path weather the storm safely and with minimal damage!
delphipsmith: (Elizabethan adder)
Clark Kent is quitting his day job with a major anti-infotainment rant about the state of the news media today. No mention yet of what the Man of Steel's new job will be -- anyone want to take a guess? Put it in the comments, we'll see who gets it right.

In other news, Spotify has discovered that music is apparently a turn-on. Thank you, Captain Obvious. The list of songs is a little surprising though; I'm amused to see that one in three participants identified Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody as a song that is "better than sex." I dunno, for big symphonic rock I think I might go for a little Nightwish.

Friday Mr Psmith and I are off to Pennsylvania for some big-time fun or, as we like to call it, hangin' with the Tudors and partying like it's 1590. Friday night we have tickets to Blackmore's Night in concert -- first time seeing them live and I'm VERY excited. If you go in garb (as of course we shall) you get special up-front seating :) Then Saturday we're off to the PA Ren Faire -- ale! Empty Hats!! weirdly anachronistic food items!!!

It really just doesn't get any better than this. I predict that A Good Time Will Be Had By All.
delphipsmith: (waka waka bang splat)
Paul McCartney and the Boss are playing their warbles, and the millicents cut them off in the middle of their finale?? Tsk, tsk, tsk. And one of them a Sir, too! Turning the lights and zvook off on a Knight seems right oozhassny. Somebody owes somebody an appy polly loggy.

Ed.: If you've never read A Clockwork Orange you might need this...
delphipsmith: (thinker)
I have another "reptilian hindbrain" surprise, but I think I'll save that in favor of one that I was reminded of last night as we were watching Supernatural (digression: Yay the Impala!) and enjoying the classic rock music.

When you're a kid, you think all grownups are old and boring. They do boring thing like go to work and pay bills, and the things they do for fun are a real snooze, like going out to dinner. Right? And then at some point something happens, and you are amazed to find that hey, they're not that different from you, and you get your first inkling that the gap between kid and grownup isn't some unbridgeable chasm, on the other side of which Grownup You will be some unrecognizably alien and different being from Kid You. Instead it's a continuum, a long and a winding road with no gaps, just slow changes, and for the first time you can (sort of) picture yourself somewhere up ahead on that road.

This happened to me when I was about thirteen. I babysat one night for a couple that I thought of as "old" because they were married and had a baby, though of course they were probably in their early 20s. As per usual, the husband had picked me up at my house around dinnertime, so then when they got home he gave me a ride back to my house. On the way home he had the radio on. We're putt-putting along, I'm kind of sleepy because it's late, and all of a sudden he says, "Oh man, I love this song, do you mind if I turn it up?" Of course I said "No," and he cranks the volume and the windows are practically vibrating to the beat of The Knack's My Sharona.

Now I loved that song as well (still do, actually -- shameful secret LOL!), and of course one must listen to at a very high volume :) So I distinctly remember the surprise I felt at this: A sedate grown-up wanting to blare loud rock music?? What is this??? Grownups don't do that!!! And for the first time I could actually imagine myself becoming a grownup, because here was something that I liked and (apparently) they liked too, at least some of them.

That husband probably didn't think of himself as very different from what he'd been as a kid; looking back, that long and winding road is easy to see. Looking forward, though, it's unimaginable: how will I change, across that gulf separating Now from Then? What will I be when I'm done? Will I even recognize myself? This was my first clue that there is no chasm, no gulf, no sudden transformation: just the drip-drip-drip of accumulated little changes, a thousand-mile journey composed of one small step after another.

It was a strange sensation, almost like a snatch of time travel, seeing through the eyes of Future Me...
delphipsmith: (much rejoicing)
...but in case anyone asks, The Magic Flute @ Chicago Lyric Opera is amazing!


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