School of Rock
I really wanted to hate School of Rock, but I just couldn't. This movie is hysterically funny, and touching. Jack Black plays a washed-up musician of mediocre talent (the characterwill seem very familiar to the Tenacious D fans out there.) Posing as a substitute teacher, he is able to teach the children at an uptight private school how to rock out, among other valuable lessons. Joan Cusak is her usual charming self as the stern, neurotic principal that has a secret wild side.
April 2004 Archives
School of Rock
Once Upon a Time in the West
Sergio Leone's 1969 masterpiece Once Upon a Time in the West is a simple, straightforward story of a widow (Claudia Cardinale) trying to fight off an evil gunfighter (Henry Fonda as you've never pictured him before!) working for a corrupt railroad baron, with only mysterious Charles Bronson and talkative Jason Robards looking out for her. But the plot is really an excuse for Leone to show the end of the old west (The middle aged gunmen nearing the end of their days) and the coming of civilization (The railroad; Self-sufficient women). Lovingly photographed & staged. From Paramount Home Entertainment (165 minutes plus audio commentary & extras). See also: Sergio Leone's The Good, The Bad & The Ugly with Clint Eastwood & Eli Wallach.
The Man Who Cried
The story starts out in Russia with a father and his young daughter. The father is forced to leave the country and goes to America but promises to send for his daughter. The daughter shipped to England and adopted by an elderly English couple and she learns to sing. She joins a theatre company that brings her to Paris. There she meets a Gypsy with a horse, a Tenor and the invasion of the Germans into France. This movie beautifully portrays the lives of these people of different backgrounds and cultures and they must do to survive.
Drums and Wires
English Settlement, by XTC
Back in the late 70's and early 80's it seems that there were thousands of bands in England making pop records. Of those bands, XTC rose to the top on the strength of their quirky songs and cerebral lyrics. For the band, the period between 1979 and 1982 is truly their high water period. Starting with their record Drums and Wires, the band began to further hone their pop sensibilities. So much so that, on the three records released during this time, there is hardly a lame song in the bunch. In 1980, the band released Black Sea. Lyrically their finest hour, the songs are more poignantly political and satirical. Vocalist Andy Partridge's voice also reaches a new dimension; previously it was frantic and breathless, trying to keep up with the pace of the music. On Black Sea, the more complex and thoughtful songs allow him to catch his breath and deliver the lyrics with more assurance. The record also features such XTC landmarks as "Tower of London", which features Dave Gregory's soaring guitar break and "Respectable Street", which captures the essence of English family life perfectly in a mere 3 minutes and 37 seconds.
As the band's confidence grew, so did their output. In 1982 they released a sprawling two- record set called English Settlement. Stylistically all over the map, this record amazed me when it came out. Twenty-two (!) years later, it holds up amazingly well. Around the time of "English Settlement", constant touring got the best of Andy Partridge, causing a nervous breakdown and the band ceased playing live; they continued to record though. The bands recorded output from the rest of the 80's and beyond fluctuated between further brilliance, moribund three chord pop and downright strangeness. But, for a brief moment in rock history, XTC were the pop band all others aspired to be.
2 Many DJs Mix Album,
by 2 Many DJs
Impossible to find in record stores, I can't believe the library managed to get this one.One of the most disparate mixes of songs I've ever heard. If you have never made a connection between Royksopp and Dolly Parton, you'll hear one now.
by Ned Rorem
Ned Rorem is perhaps better known for his Paris and New York Diaries, which scandalized the music world, than he is for his musical compositions. This is a shame because he is one of America's most gifted composers of the past 60 years. His symphonies, here performed by the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Jose Serebrier, exhibit gorgeous orchestration, like the large-scale works of Ravel, who had a profound influence on Rorem. While generally more harmonically sophisticated, they are lyrical enough to put you in mind of Aaron Copland occasionally.
by Bob Dylan
Bob Dylan's legendary (and much bootlegged) performance at New York's Philharmonic Hall on October 31, 1964 has finally been released to the public after nearly forty years on the two-disc Live 1964 from Columbia Records. Features the then-23 -year-old singer/songwriter playing such now-classic numbers as "The Times They Are A-Changin'", "To Ramona", "Talkin' John Birch Paranoid Blues" and (with Joan Baez on a few cuts) "With God On Our Side" and "It Ain't Me Babe". Recaptures the excitement and power of the phenomenon named Dylan, whose songs mix social comment, humor and an underlying concern for the oppressed and who would continue to influence his generation and the ones to follow. See also: The Essential Bob Dylan, a two-disc overview of the performer's amazing career.
Dead Can Dance, 1981-1998,
by Dead Can Dance
A retrospective collection covering the entire recording history of this extraordinary group, which created a unique and often mesmerizing music from many sources: Medieval and Renaissance music, folk, and World music from many countries are prominent in the mix. Dead Can Dance was a pioneer in the use of unusual instruments, sampling, and fusion to create an alternative rock music. The compositions, while varying greatly in style and structure, are immediately recognizable as theirs.
by Black Sabbath
The album Paranoid by Black Sabbath is one of my favorites. Originally released in 1970, this legendary effort from the godfathers of metal shows just how far ahead of their time Ozzy & company were. Starting off with the all too poignant song "War Pigs", this CD packs in mega-hits such as "Iron Man" and "Rat Salad" while still saving room for electronic flights of mind-expanding fancy like "Planet Caravan". All in all, it is still a thoroughly enjoyable album.
War Paint: Madame Helena Rubenstein and Miss Elizabeth Arden: Their Lives, Their Times, Their Rivalry,
by Lindy Woodhead
A fascinating book that includes biography, chemistry, history, business and sociology all in one book. Bet you didn't expect that from a book about the cosmetics industry! This book not only includes all of the topics listed in the rather lengthy title, but also traces the social changes that took place from the late nineteenth to mid twentieth centuries, especially regarding women's lives. These two pioneers really opened the door for women to express themselves as well as become business leaders in their own right - though I wouldn't have wanted to work for either of them.
Skeletons on the Zahara: A True Story of Survival,
by Dean King
If you like true survival stories this is the book for you it's Skeletons on the Zahara: A True Story of Survival by Dean King. What the human body can tolerate--dehydration, starvation,c ruelty, torture, sandstorms, murder, barbarism-----all as a result of shipwreck The ship called the "Commerce" from Connecticut on a trading voyage to Gibraltar got caught in strong currents and winds off the coast of Africa and then the nightmare begins......a riveting tale.
by W. Jackson Bate
This masterful biography by Johnson scholar Bate brings Samuel Johnson to life and explores his curiously modern mind. The reader learns to know Johnson in a more rounded way than the witty conversationalist presented in Boswell's portrait. Bate clarifies Johnson's amazing breadth of intellectual activities, his moral concerns, and his lifelong struggle with personal doubts and character flaws. The overall effect is inspiring, both intellectually and emotionally. Many readers will want, as I did, to start reading or re-reading Dr. Johnson himself.
Genealogy for the First Time: Research Your Family History,
by Laura Best
Genealogy for the First Time: Research Your Family History by Laura Best provides a systematic overview of genealogy research and resources. It shows the reader how to proceed step-by-step. The graphics are outstanding, and there are many useful charts and checklists.
Nine Parts of Desire,
by Geraldine Brooks
Even though this was written in the mid-90's, this book remains a very topical and important book for all to read. Brooks writes compellingly about the culture and religion of Islam. In particular, she explores the role of the veiled Muslim women in several Islamic nations. She also adds very interesting sections about Mohammed's relationship with his wives and other women in his life. Brooks has been a reporter for the Wall Street Journal and is not only a engagingly thorough reporter, but writes in a clear and concise style which adds to the book's readability and timeliness.
Locating Your Roots: Discover Your Ancestors Using Land Records,
by Patricia Law Hatcher
Locating Your Roots: Discover Your Ancestors Using Land Records, authored by Patricia Law Hatcher, explains how to use such documents as deeds, grants, mortgages, and wills to research genealogy and family history. It also provides tips on other resources available to the novice.
Lies (and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them): a Fair and Balanced Look at the Right,
by Al Franken
While I listened to this book on CD rather than reading it in the traditional way, Franken's scathing and hilarious look at the government, the news media, and the world in general was as interesting as it was funny. Franken intersperses the text with fictional scenes and other bits that carry his point across while breaking the stereotype of the dry, bitterly written political tome. The audio version is especially enjoyable because Franken has actors portray the characters in his fictional scenes. While I would recommend this book, I especially recommend it to those who are looking for an audiobook- it had me laughing through rush hour traffic on the Merritt, which is certainly a difficult feat!
by Edward Conlon
A true account of the day to day life of a NY City cop, written by a NYPD detective. Don't pick this up expecting car chases, shootouts and other Hollywood style depictions of life as a cop. This focuses on the side of law enforcement that the public does not see, which includes the same drudgery and office politics that we all have. Fortunately, most of us don't need to avoid bricks aimed at us from the tops of high buildings! Informative, funny and touching. The chapters concerning 9-11 are something you won't soon forget. As someone who was never a big fan of the police, I learned to appreciate police officers and the sacrifices they make to keep us safe.
All God's Dangers: The Life of Nate Shaw,
by Theodore Rosengarten
The life of an Alabama sharecropper born in 1885, reconstructed from extensive interviews done by Rosengarten in the early 1970s. It's a long way from 21st-century Fairfield County (in several ways), yet this autobiographical work does more than depict the rural South as experienced by a spirited African-American farmer from 1885-1970. Shaw's life, while vivid and moving, conveys not just the particulars of his story, but also evokes the more universal struggles of many individuals in many times and places - a sure sign of top-rate historical writing.
Addicted to War: Why the U.S. Can't Kick Militarism,
by Joel Andreas
The Sorrows of Empire : Militarism, Secrecy, and the End of the Republic,
by Chalmers Johnson
Although it is non-fiction, this book's low page count and graphic novel style format make it a brief yet enlightening foray into the nature of American Militarism. With no shortage of facts and historical quotations, the author illustrates just how prescient George Washington's farewell address was when the father of our country warned a budding nation of the dangers of keeping a standing army. Reader's whose appetite for the subject is whetted by this quick read will probably also enjoy The Sorrows of Empire : Militarism, Secrecy, and the End of the Republic by Chalmers Johnson. This book gives the subject a much more in depth view. The author brings to light many facts which most readers will be unaware of - the 725 Military bases which exist outside of our country, for example, all the while drawing startling parallels between the US in the 21st century and Imperial Rome. Anyone who has ever wondered how people in other countries can seem to have such a negative view of America should read this book. You'll probably be just as shocked as I was to hear how frequently we've covertly and overtly flexed our military muscle, often to the detriment or outright destruction of other nations' sovereignty.
A Painted House,
by John Grisham
A Painted House is a departure from Grisham's other works, which deal mostly with mystery and involve lawyers and legal issues. It is a novel of the land. It describes life on a cotton farm in the 1950s and what it must have been like living on that farm. It is inspired by the author's own childhood. The story follows one boy's journey from innocence to experience. Luke Chandler is a 7-year-old boy who works with his family picking cotton for a living. This year, 1952, seems like it will be a perfect harvest bringing more money, so that Luke's family will be able to buy their land. Unfortunately, Luke's uneventful existence is broken apart when he is forced to witness a killing and a murder and learns things that he would rather have not known, and he grows up because of it. This story is warm and wonderful and a nice piece of literature. Grisham is truly a master storyteller.
The Queen's Fool,
by Phillippa Gregory
OK, so I picked up The Other Boleyn Girl based on the cover art - I admit it! I'm glad I did, though, because it turned out to be a great book. I enjoyed it so much that I had to try the second book in the series, which was just as good. Set in Tudor England and containing a great amount of historical detail, these books have everything: adventure, sex, intrigue and great stories. I found myself looking forward to my train ride home, just so I could continue reading.
Oryx And Crake,
by Margaret Atwood
Oryx And Crake, by award-winning Canadian author Margaret Atwood, is a not-so-inconceivable tale foretelling the end of humanity as we know it. Snowman, the story's protagonist and seemingly sole-survivor of a global biological holocaust, is a man haunted by the memory of his best friend Crake, and the love of a mysterious woman, Oryx. He recounts a world ruled by ruthless corporations that vied with one another for top intellectual talent, talent that was granted free reign to create designer genetically-engineered abominations in the name of corporate profits. Atwood's prose is rich and inventive in its description of an elitist, market-driven society where the dollar means everything and the building blocks of life are the means by which to acquire it. I consider this story extremely pertinent to our "real" world where governments are allowing corporations to sell genetically-modified food and to patent genetic code not even invented by them, but by Mother Nature. Oryx And Crake left me wondering whether the human race truly is its own worst enemy, and whether we won't eventually be pushed aside for a species less inclined to destroy itself and everything else around it.
My Sister's Keeper,
by Jodi Picoult
Anna Fitzgerald is not sick, but she might as well be. By age thirteen, she has undergone countless medical procedures so that her older sister, Kate, can somehow fight the leukemia that has plagued her since childhood. The product of genetic planning, Anna was conceived as a bone marrow match for Kate -- a life and a role that she has never challenged...until now. Like most teenagers, Anna is beginning to question who she truly is. But unlike most teenagers, she has always been defined in terms of her sister -- and so Anna makes a decision that for most would be unthinkable, a decision that will tear her family apart and have perhaps fatal consequences for the sister she loves.
The Known World,
by Edward P. Jones
Jones was awarded the 2004 Pulitzer Prize for fiction for this book and it is a wonderfully rich read. He writes about a little-known phenomenon in American history - free black persons who owned slaves before the Civil War. This is a densely-woven tale involving the lives of free blacks, slaves and whites who live in Virginia. Central to the story is Augustus Townsend who is free and an exceptional woodworker. Each character is affected by the peculiar institution of slavery and they all are vibrantly created by Jones. It is highly recommended!
In the Time of the Butterflies,
by Judith Alverez
This is a wonderful story about 4 sisters growing up in the Dominican Republic during the 1960's under the Trujuillo dictatorship. Written as a novel, it is based on a true story. Alverez does a wonderful job of describing the beautiful landscape of the Dominican Republic and makes tragic events in the history of that country come alive.
If Looks Could Kill, by Kate White
Kate White introduced her 30-something heroine, Bailey Weggins, in her debut mystery, If Looks Could Kill. Bailey writes a true crime column for Gloss magazine, and like every unwilling amateur detective, she stumbles over more bodies than she writes about. In this book Bailey had the misfortune of being one of several bridesmaids in Peyton Cross' wedding in Greenwich, CT. Even though Peyton was a raving "bridezilla" it doesn't explain why her bridesmaids are dying off in suspicious "accidents." Bailey travels from Manhattan to Greenwich to investigate and to observe Peyton's catering empire (a la Martha Stewart) in the backcountry. On page 128, Ms. White describes a visit to the periodicals room at the Greenwich Library to look up an entry in the newspaper's police blotter and she describes our own Bob Taylor to the last detail! The Bailey Weggins mysteries are entertaining, witty and endearing. Apparently ABC thinks so too, since there is a rumor of a Bailey Wiggins pilot in the works.
Game of Kings,
by Dorothy Dunnett
First in the "Lymond Chronicles" series of historic novels, this page-turner follows the adventures of Scottish nobleman Francis Crawford in the era of Mary Tudor and Mary Queen of Scots. Like a cross between James Bond and Walter Scott, with a lot of cultural history thrown in, the book will draw you on through the adventures, intrigues, joys and sorrows of Crawford and his compatriots during a tempestuous period. Crawford himself, brilliant and mercurial, is a wonderful creation.
Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight, by Alexandra Fuller
Fuller recounts her childhood growing up in Africa in Zimbabwe, Zambia and other locales in the 1970's and early 80's. She communicates so well her love of Africa as her parents worked on various farms. Those were perilous and violent times to be farming in remote areas of these countries. Hers was certainly a different childhood and her story is very sad and compelling at times.
A Commissario Guido Brunetti Mystery (series), by Donna Leon
Attention mystery fans! If you have not read the series by Donna Leon, run, don't walk, to your favorite library and introduce yourself to Commissario Guido Brunettiof the Venice Police Force. Follow him by vaporetto as he races through the canals to apprehend his suspects; go home with him and meet his fascinating wife and children; and amble around with him as he takes you on a virtual tour of this magical city. Vivid characterizations, subtle humor, intricate plots, Venice as the setting, and a high level of writing offers the reader exceptional recreational reading. DIVERTITEVI
The Dew Breaker,
by Edwidge Danticat
This is a terrifically written collection of short stories about a group of Haitians and their experiences in Haiti and when they left their homeland. Looming throughout these stories is the presence of the Dew Breaker, a torturer who loyally served the Duvalier regime. Eventually, the reader realizes there is a connection among these characters and the final story revolves around the evil man himself. Danticat has gotten great reviews for this new book.
Daughter of God,
by Lewis Purdue
Daughter of God by Lewis Purdue is a fast paced, well written thrliler blending themes of Nazi art plunder, a second Messiah, Hitler's blackmail of the Pope, secret Swiss bank deposits, and an ambitious Cardinal eager to be the next Pope. If you were disappointed in the Da Vinci Code you will not be disappointed in this - better written and no loose ends.