Monday, October 30, 2006

Recommended














I show up late to most parties I attend. If you are lucky enough to have found this magical little journal, or better yet, you actually have the pleasure to be one of the 78 or 79 people who know me, you also know that I am not invited to many parties. If, being one of those people who know me, you have no idea why I am not invited to many parties there is simply one conclusion I can draw: you are lying, and in fact, do not actually know me. Most likely, you are one of the many who have confused me with English theater director Patrick Swanson. It is easy to confuse us. Both of us are named Patrick Swanson, and I also once directed Fighting Over Beverly by Israel Horowitz (at the Young Vic). Unlike Mr. Swanson, I managed to cause a furor when, during an interview with Theatre Pulse!, I referred to the playwright of Beverly as "that Jew with the Jewy name."

Anyhoosiers, I'm always the last to hear about the new hip music that the kids seem to like. When I heard about indie chamber-pop multi-instrumentalist quirkwizard Owen Pallett, who records under the moniker Final Fantasy, I immediately was an admirer. He's most famous for his string arrangements for the Arcade Fire, but his dissapointingly-titled "He Poos Clouds" blows that much-lauded band's work away. It's surely the best (and certainly the most original) new album I've heard all year.
Though he has gained most attention for his video-game referencing lyrics and his homosexuality, his music is assured and refined to an astonishing degree. The arrangements are the work of someone with a lot of training, and the melodic and harmonic material is masterful. What's more-he's a very talented string player.
Some critics often praise "pop" musicians who write intelligent music that isn't "classical" with the air of a condescending teacher giving a bite-size Snickers to a child who learns how to spell. It's a shame, as Pallett's songs are really quite special. This New York Times piece on Final Fantasy labels him as a sort of Indie hip post-modern weirdo, and I guess he is if you feel he is. To me, he seems like a smart and sweet guy with real talent for song-writing who makes darn good music. I hear without borders, my mind is open to all ideas, blah blah blah.

"He Poos Clouds" now seems easier to find in CD stores after it won the Polaris Prize but buy it off his website so you can give Pallett some money. If you want to hear what you are getting (in which case you are saying you don't trust me, and I'm very, very hurt) download "This Lamb Sells Condos": a bittersweet little ragtime about death that I have yet to get out of my head since I heard it months ago. Check the lyrics here. They are very funny and very smart.
In case you were wondering-the other song I can't get out of my head? Ready For the World's "Oh Sheila" which I have had in my head for about 9 years.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Zen: Interrupted

Zen: Achieved

Friday, October 27, 2006

Samhain



















I will say no more about the upcoming Elections save for the fact that I can hardly wait to watch the Republicans be destroyed in every race they run. Still, I must say that watching "news" and political punditry (it matters not which shows-they are all awful) in the last few days has been as frightening as the Green Man under your bedsheets*. Americans who get their news from television are treated to 'debates' on these incredibly important Gordion Knots of perplexity:
-Was the fat, drug-addicted and insane radio host right in questioning if Michael J. Fox is faking his Parkinsons because Stem Cell Research, although very likely to save hundreds of thousands of lives in the future, will deprive the adorable embryos en route to being thrown out chance to become Southern Evangelical home-schooled child beauty pageant winners?
-Should you vote for one proven racist instead of another because one of them wrote things in a work of fiction that are morally wrong?; Or it's follow-up: what is fiction and art anyway? Aren't words in books true and capable of magical powers?

A hex on all of you. (Not you readers: the media).

*Not because he is a frightening pagan God but because he always wants to spoon when you just want to sleep.
Though Not Exact, Too Close For Comfort




(A classic album.)















(A collection of recordings of pops, whistles and hullabaloo emitted by various legally retarded men.)
Not Even Punny

I'm in the University of Minnesota Music Library on my MacBook and connected to the place's wireless network. Because of this, my iTunes (playing Kathryn Scott's incredible complete set of Faure piano works-though middle and late Faure is where it's at I am enjoying the Gounoudian lyricism of the lilting and at times slightly bluesy Barcarolle No. 1 in A-minor at the moment) gets the iTunes playlists of other people in the library implanted in my collection.

One playlist, which I can't see the contents of, is dreadfully titled Eclectricity. I am unable to study for an important French test because of how distressed I am by this. I see a few people on laptops here at cubicles and I am trying to guess who has this playlist. I can promise you this: there will be blood spilled.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Consume, Destroy, Consume












Me and a friend have made Amazon lists of recommendation of (extremely) random for each other. The items are things that I like at the moment. The list is such so that you can look at it and buy all the things on it. You should make one too and link to it. Then we can all spend money on products and do our duty in a time of war.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Zu Hilfe











I've noticed that while looking at Tears of a Clownsilly's mainpage on several computers (I read my own site many times a day on different computer screens around the tristate area to bask in my genius) that on some it looks fine, but on others Blogspot has placed the sidebar with my links and archives way far down where I would instead have them at the top.

Which one do you see? And, more importantly, if some of you absolutely pathetic computer nerds out there could help me in making any changes if neccessary.

Thankz Guyz!

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Dawkins on Colbert













The amazing Richard Dawkins is on The Colbert Report tonight. You should watch it. He has a new book which I will be reading soon: The God Delusion. You should read it.

That is all. Carry on.
More Wagner Bloggin'















Trevor of Natural Harmonics has posted a complimentary review of Wagner's Flying Dutchman that is exponentially more thoughtful and funny than my own too-brief dismissal of the work. I still hold that Tannhauser is Wagner's first true masterpiece, but Trevor gives some credit to this work where it's due.
Besides these, he rates the work numerically, which Pitchfork Media has proven to be the best method of judging the creative products of humanity. A brilliant touch- he also has a rating of Anti-Semitism (Dutchman scores a pleasant '0' out of 10). It really isn't until the Ring that Wagner got his Jew-hating on in full, and it reaches its zenith in the truly despicable politics behind the musically sublime Parsifal.
This all reminds me of a difficult but charming game I played recently at the University of Minnesota's music library. The game was this: try to read something about Wagner.
It's harder than you think. The library's section devoted to composer bios and analyses contains about 11 shelves dedicated to Wagner. In my experience of leafing through some of them, it follows that there has maybe %0.00000059 of all that has been written about Wagner is in any way useful, well-written, objective and intelligent. Many of the books are authored by forgotten priests of the long lost Wagner cult, whom must have lived very sad lives indeed, fawning over such a man in such an embarassing way. I wish that we could go back in time to meet them and try to turn them on to new and diverting hobbies; if only Electric Model Trains had met their zenith in the late 1800s! Sadly, time travel is not possible as of yet, and we are left with millions of pages of silliness.

Among the ridiculous writings contained therein are the prose writings and essays of Herr Wagner himself, which fill up a hefty 5 or 6 volumes. These works serve more the scholar of Wagner than anyone else, but a quick survey of them attests to Wagner's mental powers and more often than not, Wagner's incredible batshit craziness. Unless you enjoy 200 page essays on why Mendelssohn's multiparted string writing in the Fingal's Cave Overture is an example of "Jewish trickery" or whatever, it's best to stay away.

Ignore Wagner's writings on Wagner, or Adorno's, or Newman's, or Gutman's or anyone else. They are not fit to discuss the man. Me and Trevor alone, both writing on the free and unattractive Blogspot personal blogging network, are up to the task.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Dudley Moore Does Britten and Pears



Or rather, he hilariously makes fun of them. It's hard to imagine a more perfect impersonation of Pears' light tenor and sly parody of some of Britten's music than what you get here here. Enjoy Britten's lost setting of "Little Miss Muffet"! Or not!

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Dickens' Pickwick Papers






















I've been reading the 24 year old Charles Dickens' breakthrough, The Pickwick Papers, as the first installment of the plan to get through all of Dickens' novels in the next few months.* I read Oliver Twist and Christmas Stories in my youth like every other good boy and girl, and David Lean's films of the former and Great Expectations are among my favorite films, but it took a reading of G.K. Chesterton's wonderful book on the man recently to inspire me on to tackle the whole lot. He writes of Dickens' early masterpiece:

"Pickwick is in Dickens's career the mere mass of light before the creation of sun or moon. It is the splendid, shapeless substance of which all his stars were ultimately made. You might split up Pickwick into innumerable novels as you could split up that primeval light into innumerable solar systems. The Pickwick Papers constitute first and foremost a kind of wild promise, a pre-natal vision of all the children of Dickens. He had not yet settled down into the plain, professional habit of picking out a plot and characters, of attending to one thing at a time, of writing a separate, sensible novel and sending it off to his publishers. He is still in the youthful whirl of the kind of world that he would like to create. He has not yet really settled what story he will write, but only what sort of story he will write. He tries to tell ten stories at once; he pours into the pot all the chaotic fancies and crude experiences of his boyhood; he sticks in irrelevant short stories shamelessly, as into a scrap-book; he adopts designs and abandons them, begins episodes and leaves them unfinished; but from the first page to the last there is a nameless and elemental ecstasy -- that of the man who is doing the kind of thing that he can do. Dickens, like every other honest and effective writer, came at last to some degree of care and self-restraint. He learned how to make his dramatis personæ assist his drama; he learned how to write stories which were full of rambling and perversity, but which were stories. But before he wrote a single real story, he had a kind of vision. It was a vision of the Dickens world -- a maze of white roads, a map full of fantastic towns, thundering coaches, clamorous market-places, uproarious inns, strange and swaggering figures. That vision was Pickwick."

Not expecting more than a messy comedy by a young future genius I have been astounded to find a book much more than that: a messy comedy by a young but already bonafide genius. After I began reading it and was seeking out other materials I was suprised to find that it is none other than the redoubtable Harold Bloom's favorite Dickens novel.

The book has its quirks as well as problems due to it's episodic structure and the jarring inclusion of strange and lurid tales told by the new acquaintances of the Pickwick Club as the wander around England, but it's sheer comic brilliance, biting irony and joyful tone carry the book away:

Mr. Pickwick's oration upon this occasion, together with the
debate thereon, is entered on the Transactions of the Club. Both
bear a strong affinity to the discussions of other celebrated
bodies; and, as it is always interesting to trace a resemblance
between the proceedings of great men, we transfer the entry to
these pages.

'Mr. Pickwick observed (says the secretary) that fame was dear
to the heart of every man. Poetic fame was dear to the heart of
his friend Snodgrass; the fame of conquest was equally dear to
his friend Tupman; and the desire of earning fame in the sports
of the field, the air, and the water was uppermost in the breast of
his friend Winkle. He (Mr. Pickwick) would not deny that he was
influenced by human passions and human feelings (cheers)--
possibly by human weaknesses (loud cries of "No"); but this he
would say, that if ever the fire of self-importance broke out in his
bosom, the desire to benefit the human race in preference
effectually quenched it. The praise of mankind was his swing;
philanthropy was his insurance office. (Vehement cheering.) He
had felt some pride--he acknowledged it freely, and let his
enemies make the most of it--he had felt some pride when he
presented his Tittlebatian Theory to the world; it might be
celebrated or it might not. (A cry of "It is," and great cheering.)
He would take the assertion of that honourable Pickwickian
whose voice he had just heard--it was celebrated; but if the fame
of that treatise were to extend to the farthest confines of the
known world, the pride with which he should reflect on the
authorship of that production would be as nothing compared
with the pride with which he looked around him, on this, the
proudest moment of his existence. (Cheers.) He was a humble
individual. ("No, no.") Still he could not but feel that they had
selected him for a service of great honour, and of some danger.
Travelling was in a troubled state, and the minds of coachmen
were unsettled. Let them look abroad and contemplate the scenes
which were enacting around them. Stage-coaches were upsetting
in all directions, horses were bolting, boats were overturning, and
boilers were bursting. (Cheers--a voice "No.") No! (Cheers.)
Let that honourable Pickwickian who cried "No" so loudly
come forward and deny it, if he could. (Cheers.) Who was it that
cried "No"? (Enthusiastic cheering.) Was it some vain and
disappointed man--he would not say haberdasher (loud cheers)
--who, jealous of the praise which had been--perhaps undeservedly--
bestowed on his (Mr. Pickwick's) researches, and smarting under
the censure which had been heaped upon his own feeble attempts at
rivalry, now took this vile and calumnious mode of---

'Mr. BLOTTON (of Aldgate) rose to order. Did the honourable
Pickwickian allude to him? (Cries of "Order," "Chair," "Yes,"
"No," "Go on," "Leave off," etc.)

'Mr. PICKWICK would not put up to be put down by clamour.
He had alluded to the honourable gentleman. (Great excitement.)

'Mr. BLOTTON would only say then, that he repelled the hon.
gent.'s false and scurrilous accusation, with profound contempt.
(Great cheering.) The hon. gent. was a humbug. (Immense confusion,
and loud cries of "Chair," and "Order.")

'Mr. A. SNODGRASS rose to order. He threw himself upon the
chair. (Hear.) He wished to know whether this disgraceful
contest between two members of that club should be allowed to
continue. (Hear, hear.)

'The CHAIRMAN was quite sure the hon. Pickwickian would
withdraw the expression he had just made use of.

'Mr. BLOTTON, with all possible respect for the chair, was quite
sure he would not.

'The CHAIRMAN felt it his imperative duty to demand of the
honourable gentleman, whether he had used the expression which
had just escaped him in a common sense.

'Mr. BLOTTON had no hesitation in saying that he had not--he
had used the word in its Pickwickian sense. (Hear, hear.) He was
bound to acknowledge that, personally, he entertained the
highest regard and esteem for the honourable gentleman; he had
merely considered him a humbug in a Pickwickian point of view.
(Hear, hear.)

'Mr. PICKWICK felt much gratified by the fair, candid, and full
explanation of his honourable friend. He begged it to be at once
understood, that his own observations had been merely intended
to bear a Pickwickian construction. (Cheers.)'

Here the entry terminates, as we have no doubt the debate did
also, after arriving at such a highly satisfactory and intelligible
point.

Friday, October 06, 2006

You Tube Crazies

One of my new hobbies is searching YouTube for strange videos. Some of my favorites recently have been videos posted by young Christians hoping to spread the Good Word via the World Wide Web. Take it from me-these kids are hilarious! I hope to post some of these for your enjoyment in the next weeks.
Here's one I found by a user dubbed ANNOINTEDWARRIOR777. Mr. Warrior is very intense and often demands you submit and put down the Cooler Ranch Doritos so that you may "fill yourself with the love" of the Ruler of Heaven and Earth. He puts his hands towards the camera and delivers breathy incantations separated by tense, mystical silences. He often seems to be wanting to bless you through the screen. This is quite convienient for people like me with busy lives; now with a touch of the mouse you can let some creepy dude fill you with the holy spirit- through the internet!
In this first video, Warrior begins with his head down, deep in concentration, and soon gazes at you and says "Let him begin to fill you with his peace and holiness. Let him love on you." This last sentence disturbed me a tad, as it sounds more R. Kelly than J. Christ. Oh well. Sit back and enjoy the madness and hilarity!:

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Boom















Look at these two men. They just won the Nobel Prize for what Stephen Hawking calls "the greatest discovery of all-time". They basically just proved the Big Bang.

What did you do today? I made myself a nice loose-meat sandwich. It was pretty good.
My Favorite Picture of All-Time











-"Fuckin' jews. Are you a jew?"
-"Yes."
You Care What I'm Reading, Watching and Listening To (V)

















(Have any of you ever read this? After completing Madame Bovary and Sentimental Education I was not prepared for so many beheadings, flaming elephants with arrows in their eyes, naked dances with snakes, catapulted human excrement, eyebrow-less eunuchs, dead apes in trees falling into gardens with ponds full of gem-encrusted fish. Either way, the book is amazing. I plan to read his Three Tales and Temptation of Saint-Anthony next. Anyone ever read those? Anyone? No? Yes? Well answer me!)
















(I like books with naked laides on the covers. This is the book cover of my Horace but I think the translator is different in my edition for some reason. Both ways, Horace is Horace.)

















(It is measure of your genius Montaigne, that a dopey 20 year old from Minneapolis plans to forsake this selection of your Essais for the complete collection so that I may read your essay "On Thumbs" from Book One and other such pearls of wisdom.)

















(Frank Rich is the least irritating of the New York Times editorial team and this book is very good. Although I cringed when Rich, a former theater critic, spent a page comparing a typically clumsy sleight of hand Bush press conference with a scene from the abdominable Oscar winning musical Chicago. Mr. Rich, if Ari Fleischer is like Richard Gere's Billy Flynn and Bush is like Catherine Zeta-Jones' Roxie Hart, is Dick Cheney 'Capn' Andy' Hawks from Show Boat?
























(I've been listening to more than these but these are the ones I can think of at the moment. Bernstein conducting Mahler's Second also is around me, as is Tortoise's new boxset of rare material which has some nice stuff on it. "Salammbo" seems to make me want to hear Strauss' operas. As for movies, I haven't the time. Too much reading and studying to stare at things on screens. I'll find some time this week perhaps with the lady.)

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Wagner Bloggin'














In the next few months I plan to listen to the complete (good) operas of Wagner, from Dutchman to Parsifal. I will give you my thoughts, however pithy, however verbose. Feel free not to read them, as who could possibly care what my thoughts on Wagner's operas are? I am aware that this blog has become a little too Andy Rooney-esque in the last few weeks with lots of bitchin' and moanin'. In my defense I'm bitching and moaning about things that I think matter, and not about shoelaces and cereal.

So much has been said about Wagner's operas. Too much, really. I have managed to keep out of the loop by avoiding the man, as I at a more prejudiced time sensed I would not like what I would hear. Though I've heard most of the operas before, and have loved many of them (conditionally), I do it here with renewed concentration and preparation, like a man about to scale a dusty old mountain.

I will reserve this post for a few thoughts on listening to Der fliegende Holländer (The Flying Dutchman):

Usually singled out as Wagner's first 'mature' opera, this work seems to be acknowledged as a fine opera, and nothing more. The liner notes of my Solti recording by the admirable, late Deryck Cooke proclaims Dutchman as a "vivid work of genius." Wagner always brings out the most dangerous loss of reason in people, whether they hate him as Satan or love him as the savior of Western art.

In honesty, I have never heard of anyone who have claimed to 'love' this work as many do Meistersingers or Tristan. To this listener, despite fine and memorable moments, it is a dull and banal 2 hours. The opera's main musical material (introduced mostly in the admittedly rousing Overture) is often of a badness not to be believed. Wagner simply needs extended chromaticism and polyphony to work his magic, and this highly tonal and rhythmically four-square opera is absolutely decimated by Berlioz's music of the same period in harmonic adacity, rhythmic freedom, melodic invention and orchestral mastery. Berlioz himself pointed out the work's definciancies to Wagner, the suffocating brass, the simplistic drama's oddly worded libretto, the constant diminished seveth chords, etc.
Before he had truly found his style (which seems to magically appear in his next two operas), Wagner seemed to patch together what he liked from Meyerbeer, Weber, Beethoven, Belini and Berlioz himself. In the first act for example, after a fine start with the Sailor's songs, the Dutchman's entrance solo and the meeting of Dutchman and Daland, there appears a joyful duet between these two cardboard cutout men, as the former celebrates his future marriage to Daland's daughter, and the latter celebrates the Dutchman's treasure he will receive upon said marriage. After the previous 40 minutes of muscular tremelo strings pounding open fifths, horns blowing fanfares, and the orchestra swelling and crashing like the waves of the sea during a storm, we are treated to a goofy and cutesy duet straight out of a bad Italian opera from the 1830s. It is hard to imagine anything, even if the two would have begun singing through kazoos over African tribal drumming, that could be more jarring and awkward.

There are snatches here and there that show some signs of the beast (dramatically and musically) that would be soon be awakened, and a view ingenious orchestral touches and ensemble writing, but is mostly a stepping stone work in Wagner's catalogue. It is a fine, thankfully short work that probably suffers to much in comparison to it's antecedents, but all in all Der fliegende Holländer is Wagner on training-wheels.