Last Week’s Good Things

 

apr6It was 80 degrees in Kansas City on Saturday. It was a day that I should have had the top down on my car, mowed the grass, planted something, had a drink on the patio, or washed my car. I didn’t do any of those things, but here are some other good things that happened during the week.

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1. Union College wins the Division I Hockey Championship – Little Union College in Schenectady, NY is where both Dan and I went to school. It is an idyllic little liberal arts school in the middle of a very working class town. It is known much more for academics than sports. But this week, the Union College Dutchmen (yep, you read that right), plowed past Boston College and the University of Minnesota to be the victor of the Frozen Four. Saturday night, we had friends over and watched the game over cocktails and locally made kielbasa. That’s the way it should be done.

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2. Flowering Kansas City – I always think that there is one week in Kansas City that outshines all others as far as showing off its beautiful nature. Maybe there will be better, but it is going to be hard to beat last week for the best. Magnolias, Bradford Pear, Forsythia, Redbuds, daffodils, tulips, hyacinths! Even the dandelions looked bright and cheery. Well done nature!

3. Pattie Mansur wins a school board seat! – I met Pattie when her daughter became a member of my Girl Scout troop. It was such a gift to me to become acquainted with such a caring and fun family. There are always people in your life that you know you can count on. That is the Mansur family. Even though Girl Scout days are long past, I  still run into Pattie occasionally. We always eagerly catch up. When she announced that she was running for school board, I was so excited for our city. This week, voters came out and elected a wonderful advocate for all of the children of our city.

s4. S. by J.J. Abrams and Doug Dorst – I love to read and I love pretty books. When those two elements are combined, it is more than delightful. This week I finished reading S.. I can’t really adequately describe what an amazing book this is. There is marginalia of several different colors snaking its way around most every page of the book. Tucked inside you will find mass cards, napkins with maps, letters, code solvers … You just don’t know what is next. I must say that I enjoyed the experience of reading the book more than the book itself, but that is not really fair. I know he is J.J. Abrams, but the fact that publishers still gave the okay for this makes me optimistic about the future of book books.

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5. 10,000th Blog View – Early this week, someone clicked on my blog for the 10,000th time. That is pretty cool to me. It is not the sign of a hugely successful blog, but it is a sign that many of you read what I write and choose to come back. There are weeks that I don’t feel like posting this or anything. I usually convince myself that my being there is both good for me, and for the people who might read it and recognize good things that they otherwise may not have. Thanks for being part of my second 10,000!

Have a good week and be aware of the good things!

 

 

Blak and Blu by Gary Clark, Jr. (Album of the Week)

 

Gary_Clark_Jr-Blak_And_Blu_artAlbum: Blak and Blu

Artist: Gary Clark, Jr.

Year: 2012

Details: 13 songs; 1 Hour 7 minutes

Who’s Choice: Deliberate Obfuscation

Hearing the opening horns on Gary Clark Jr.’s Blak and Blu, I pretty much was sold. But that song wasn’t what the album was all about. The Dap Kings brassy sound was there for Ain’t Messin Around, but Clark plays around with all sorts of styles on this album that came out in 2012. Overall, the album has energy, and I predict that his energy is exponential when he is on stage. I am happy to report that Dan and I share enthusiasm for this album. He does a great job of writing what it is like to come across music that makes you want to go out and be the band’s promoter.

I had not heard of Gary Clark, Jr. until last week when I chose the album. This summer I am going to attend my first big deal music festival and I am prepping by getting familiar with some of the acts that I don’t know. Mr. Clark earned a place in my line-up.

There are so many personalities at play here. He will do a song like Travis County that has Chuck Berry piano banging and guitar picking. He gets his Marvin Gaye    falsetto going on Please Come Home that has girls singing the “oo-oo’s” in the background.  Next Door Neighbor Blues is recorded in a style that harkens to an old Muddy Waters recording complete with some foot stomping. And when he rocks his guitar on a few of the songs, it is Woodstock Hendrix.

I like it best, I think, when Clark is singing the blues like he does in Bright Lights Big City. Listening, you can easily envision him performing this song. As you should for any blues song worth its salt, you feel his pain. He has this emotion-packed vocal delivery that is slow and steady. Then this chorus of guitars jams and sings the response to his vocals. This is sit-with-a-sweaty-beer-and-close-your-eyes-and-rock-to-the-beat music. He finishes that song with the line “you gonna know my name by the end of the night.” Truth.

Like George Michael’s Symphonica, this is a long album – over an hour, with most  of the songs passing the five minute mark. He fills those minutes with masterful guitar work and other musicians who also bring their game. This is not a style of album that would tend to get heavy rotation for me, but he holds great appeal for me as a live act.

Next Up: Snoop Lion’s Reincarnated

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Last Week’s Good Things

 

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We are into April! It is hard to believe that the first quarter of 2014 is behind us. For me, the week was one of catching up and keeping busy. Since Dan wasn’t here for most of it, I found things to keep myself occupied. Also, with spring starting to peek through more often than not, just paying attention to that was a good thing! Here are other things that caught my attention:

1.  Sounds in the morning – I remember shoveling snow a few months ago and marveling at how quiet it was. There were no cars on the road, so the opportunity for noise was nil. That is winter. Spring is so much different. This week, stepping out of the house each morning at about 5:15, I have been greeted by a louder and louder cacophony of birds. It sounds more like a jungle than a neighborhood street in Kansas City. I am glad that I am not trying to sleep through it! No matter – It sounds like a change of season, which is completely great!

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2.  Wentworth Military Ball – Ali has gone to two military balls in the past few months. For each, she wore a beautiful outfit, her hair was lovely, and her make-up was perfect. Saturday was my turn. Wentworth had its military ball and I did my spousely duty and got myself ready to go. It was amusing that both Ali and my sister wished that they were here to offer me support in getting ready, I think that I did fine! Hair (I chose a Goody barette and a bobby pin) – makeup (I had on some chapstick) – clothes (it was something I wore at another such occasion – but I did get some new shoes (flats)). Whatever I looked like did not matter. It was a night for the students. Again, I was overwhelmed by the respect and dignity that the students at the school exhibit. I do not know that I have been called ma’am as many times as I was Saturday night. This is obviously not something that I joyously go into, but once there, it is pretty darn special.

3.  Cooking for Myself – Dan left for California early Monday morning and he came home well past my bedtime on Friday. During that time, I did not have a single frozen meal and I only ate out once! The rest of the time, I cooked for myself. One night it was a ground round burger/steak that I peppered a lot and served like a cube steak. One night it was a hearty salad. One night it was a chicken breast with mushrooms. The best was Dragon Noodles. I had heard about this dish and website on one of my favorite podcasts. I decided to save it for the last night, which was a great plan. It was really hot and tasty and delicious. A good way to end my bachelor stint

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4.  Picture of my dad on Facebook – The Internet is bizarre. One morning this week, I woke up and looked at Facebook as I was doing my regular morning routine. One of my high school classmates had posted a picture of the groundbreaking of my elementary school. This was probably in 1967 or so. In the picture are many Sinclairville folk that I recognize. Howard Green, our town postmaster is there. Mrs. Bloomer, our Principal is there. And so is my dad (fourth from right). He was the town lawyer, so he was there for the event. He was probably 35; youngest guy there. It made me think of him at that age, and time. I tend to think of my dad in a different time. This picture was a really nice recollection.

UPPERCASEissue21cover5. Hammersmith and Uppercase – In that I had been by myself all week, I figured I needed to treat myself. On Friday, I put in some work on my book, and later in the afternoon, I went downtown to find some shoes for the ball. Bob Jones Shoes is a wondrous place – even for the non-fashion savvy. After I found the appropriate sensible black flat, I went over to Hammersmith. Hammersmith is a store that also is a wonderful letterpress printer. It is an establishment full of cool cards, posters, gift wrap, and other things that they find interesting. It is my source for one of the most beautiful magazine eye candy that I experience. Uppercase is a wonderful art journal that takes a theme and throws the kitchen sink of ideas at it. The result is page after page of lovely images and accompanying text. I adore it, and when I am feeling wanty, I go buy myself one. It is pricey for a magazine, but I go back to them again and again. The latest issue is patterns – love it, and it is worth it!

I hope that wherever you are,spring is springing out. This week I saw a magnolia and a forsythia in bloom. Wishing you similar!

 

Symphonica by George Michael – Album of the Week

GeorgeAlbum: Symphonica

Artist: George Michael

Year: 2014

Details: 15 songs; 1 Hour 9 minutes

Who’s Choice: Gone Mild

George Michael fell out of a car going 70 miles per hour last year?? Who does that? I don’t pay a lot of attention to the personal life of George Michael, but for god’s sake, this guy is a mess. That he is still on his feet performing – not in jail or in a hospital bed – is something. I still, however, don’t care for him.

Dan’s love for George Michael has always kind of cracked me. When he picked Symphonica for our album, I had a giggle. I had some giggles when I listened too. But in his post this week, Dan describes his own willingness to just give in to liking him, warts and all. We take opposite sides on this album as a whole and even on specific songs. We all have our guilty pleasures, and this album even made me return to one of mine.

This seemed a very long album – performed live with an orchestra. From my understanding, many of these songs are George Michael standards. Not knowing his work, I had to fact check most of them. Most of those that aren’t his own songs, are popular standards.

The album starts out with Through – one of his. To me, this sounds like a something from a Andrew Lloyd Webber musical. The orchestra is lush and beautiful with some really nice french horning. But when he sings about the audience being so cruel, and then the album’s production has the crowd clapping joyously, it doesn’t listen well to me. I call phony claptrap. Five minutes and ten seconds of him pronouncing “through” different ways, is also too much for me.

I do kind of like the album when he goes Harry Connick/Michael Buble upbeat. The finger popping like he does on My Baby Just Cares for Me, and even when he does Nina SImone’s Feeling Good, is nice. If there were more of these, I may have enjoyed it to a greater extent than I did. 

His ballads just sound so schmaltzy to me. And when he sings some of the lyrics, they really sound goofy. He sings this song, Let Her Down Easy.  This is a Terence Trent D’arby song that I did not know before looking it up. When I went to listen Terence sing it, the song made much more sense. That research actually made listening to George Michael’s version easier. 

That wasn’t the case with his singing Roberta Flack’s The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face. Even though I know this song, his vibrato and dramatic phrasing on this – oh boy! The guy has a pretty voice, but this made me roll my eyes. It felt like something you would experience in an American Idol performance. 

And then there is this one, (which is one of his):

But the words that made me cry

The thing he softly said

It stayed with me, it keeps messing with my head

He said, “If Jesus Christ is alive and well

Then how come John & Elvis are dead?”

What does that mean???? And he sings it with such over the top emotion. 

I don’t really get “live” albums either. When the production brings audience sounds in at different points in a track, I find it weird and distracting. 

As I noted earlier, thanks to this week’s album and George’s version of Idol, I became a little obsessed with listening to my guilty pleasure – old Elton John. I thought of picking one of those for our next album, but I think we need something new.

Next up, Gary Clark Jr.’s Blak and Blu

Gary

Last Week’s Good Things

 

photoThis was the week that Dan and I listened to Pharrell Williams quite a bit. That means that the song Happy was often in our ears. That wasn’t the only good thing this week. Here are a few more:

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1. Larry Tye talking about Superman at the Library – The Kansas City Library has an amazing schedule of speakers during any month. I can remember so many good authors and talks that I have gone to over the years. Last week, I left work and headed to the beautiful downtown library to hear a talk about Superman. Before the talk, I got to roam through the current exhibit focused upon how American comic books took on the Nazis, Hitler and the Holocaust. After that, I got my complementary glass of wine, and plate of snacks, and sat down to hear a very engaging Mr. Tye talk about the genesis of Superman. That was not a bad way to end a day!

2. The Etsy Gift – Dan had been telling me that he had bought me a gift on Etsy, but he wasn’t quite sure if I was deserving of it. This made me pretty sure that this was going to be something greatly amusing. I was not, however, prepared for the awesomeness of what it was. For the past few years, we have been talking about starting a brewpub called Goats & Rabbits. The Goats and the Rabbits were the two political factions in old time Kansas City politics. Over the past several months, the conversation about starting the restaurant has become much more serious as Sam and Jean are making plans to come to Kansas City. It is really getting exciting. And on opening day of that restaurant that will be made, I will be wearing this:

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3. Setting the Table for Company – After we came home from our trip to Italy, Dan and I both agreed that we should be more conscious about how we eat. One of the things that we talked about was sitting at the table for meals. As the kids left, it became more routine to sit in the living room and eat. We have gotten somewhat better at that, but there is still work to do. What is great about Dan and me sitting at the table is the same thing that becomes even better when the number of people at the table expands. I love setting the table for a meal. I like figuring out what dishes will be needed. I like setting down the plates, silverware and glasses. I like putting together a centerpiece and ironing the tablecloth and napkins. Saturday night we hosted our dinner club, so I got to get my table-setting jones met. Prettiness ensued.

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4. Good books – I finished two different, but both great books this week. Sam recommended Mission Street Food, particularly for the philosophy that they take regarding business philanthropy. The book is an autobiography of their restaurants that started from a food truck night in San Francisco and grew to have a massive cult following. The other book was the novel, Salvage The Bones by Jesslyn Ward. This is the story of a family in Louisiana dealing with alcoholism, poverty, teenage pregnancy, and cruelty – as Hurricane Katrina is coming in. This was my gym book and as my treadmill time ended on Friday, I had about a chapter left. I reset the time and went to the end. It is quite stunning story telling. She manages to get such sweetness in the midst of some really pretty horrible scenes. It was definitely worth extra time on the treadmill.

5. Good Moods – There are just those days when there is nothing special, but it just feels great to be who you are; where you are. I had one of those days on Friday. I should have been feeling a little badly because I didn’t get any book work done, but I didn’t. I just reveled in the moments of the day. I read, exercised, made lists, grocery shopped, organized … Nothing special, but very special.

I hope all of us have some great mood days ahead of us!