Michaelwclark.com

Just my stuff


Leave a comment

Just got out of a bad relationship… but not what you’re thinking…

twitter.com/mattwi1s0n via Flickr


That’s right. I just got out of a bad relationship. It used to be good. But it got progressively worse.

You’re probably thinking I’m talking about a person. Well, actually, no. I’m talking about the group of persons who manage my former ISP. We just changed to a new one. And the difference is like night and day.

Of course, there are a few glitches here and there with the new provider. Nothing is perfect. But so far the total effect has been marvelous. I’ve been streaming music like a kid who just got a new radio. And this is my latest find. It’s a very pleasant and melodic CD. Actually 4 CDs. I’m fortunate that my local library carries Naxos online. So I can hear it for free. But of course, it’s not really “free.” There’s the civic taxes, the ISP bill. But it still beats laying out cash for a clunky old physical CD.

Anyhow, just thought I’d announce my new “relationship” with a little bit of Joe. Haydn that is…


Leave a comment

Chick Corea – a few mini reviews at Pinterest


Leave a comment

Rediscovering John Prine

Back in the library today. Happened to see this oldie goldie that I haven’t heard for ages. Wasn’t really knowing what to expect. Last time I heard this album it was on vinyl and I was just a young boy (I had older brothers and sisters so got a good musical education as a child).

So putting the CD in, I was entranced at how much I liked it. I mean, I REALLY liked it. Lyrics like “there’s a hole in Daddy’s arm… where all the money goes… Jesus Christ died for nothing, I suppose” and another about people making love “10 miles apart” didn’t make much sense to me as a young boy. But today I realized that Prine is a classic.

In the song posted below – “Your Flag Decal Won’t Get You Into Heaven Any More” – you can hear a definite Hank Williams Sr. influence in the word “heaven.” Hardly surprising. Maybe Prine was channeling Hank at that moment. I wouldn’t be surprised. I think Hank Williams would have really liked Prine. And since Hank Williams is my very most favorite artist out of all of them, that’s a big compliment coming from me.

Another thing I like about this album is that it’s not overly produced. The musicians are slick but not showoffs, throwing every country lick they know in your face. Nope. This is just good old-fashioned  folk-country with a dash of rock.

The entire lp is on YouTube.


Leave a comment

Elton John – The Diving Board full album on YouTube

I actually heard this through my public library but just discovered it’s on YouTube.

Elton was a pop phenomenon when I was the ripe young age where pop music meant everything. I was pretty “into” some of his tunes. My aunt is an accomplished pianist (finishing second in a piano competition to none other than Glenn Gould). And I remember in Elton’s heyday her saying that he was probably just a “flash in the pan.” Well, I think time proved her wrong on that one.

Elton can really tickle the ivories, as we hear in this album. And the lyrics of Bernie Taupin, with whom he’s co-written for decades, are just as poignant, at times, as some of the best (Rocket Man, Daniel, Don’t Let the Sun Go Down On Me, Your Song). But this isn’t classic Elton John imo. It’s a nice, soothing, somewhat repetitive album. Like one big song with a few variations.

While listening it felt like I was watching the glowing embers of a once raging fire. Nothing wrong with that. But I wouldn’t pay money for it (other than what was already paid through city taxes). And I probably won’t listen to it again, except maybe for one tune about waking up in Paris.

Elton recently said he just wants to make “beautiful” music now that he’s getting older. I can understand that. But it’s not really me. I don’t think we have to fall into a schmaltzy rut just because we’re older. The other extreme to Elton’s view, of course, is the late David Bowie (whom I also adore). On Bowie’s last lp there were songs like “‘Tis a Pity She Was A Whore” and so on.

Anyhow, I digress. Listen for yourself and make up your own mind. Music is a very personal thing. This is just my reaction to Elton John, a once gifted superstar, now an Americana crooner.


Leave a comment

Late nite listen – Sibelius

11-year-old Sibelius in 1876 (Wikipedia)

I’m listening to Jean Sibelius through Naxos streaming music at the Toronto Public Library web site.

Sibelius seemed to have a mixed career and some people really dislike his music. One person calls him “the worst composer ever.” It appears he’s a little too innovative for some regimented critics, expecting their music to sound a certain way.

Sibelius was a nature lover and one of his compositions from Trees, “The Spruce,” sounds almost like modern jazz. I am impressed. It reminds me of Pat Metheny or Chuck Mangione–something like that. And “The Lonely Pine” reminds me a bit of how Erik Satie can evoke visual imagery. When I heard this selection, it really sounded like the shape of a pine. Narrow at the top, wider at the bottom.

Anyhow, I’m enjoying listening to Sibelius online. The album is Sibelius Piano Music by Naxos (a selection).

This note was (mostly) dictated via Dragon.


Leave a comment

Pixels – DVD Review

Official poster for Columbia Pictures’ film “Pixels” – Wikipedia

Last night I returned some library material to a branch that I don’t visit too often. Browsing the DVD section I saw a fresh copy of Pixels. I’d been curious about it, so checked it out.

I was drawn into the film fairly quickly. Being about 20 yrs in 1982, where the movie begins, it brought back a host of memories. Some good, some not so good.

Adam Sandler plays Sam Brenner, a “loser” working as a tech installer. His orange outfit even has the word “nerd” in the corporate logo. Sort of a cliche these days, one which I doubt actual tech installers would appreciate.

On the other hand, Sam takes on an attractive “snob” (Michelle Monaghan) who wouldn’t kiss him because of his lowly status. And he does it well. So the film is a bit more complicated than merely perpetuating harmful stereotypes.

What really grabbed me in this movie was its integration of early video games, 80s pop culture, and the idea of an ET invasion. If you extend your imagination a bit, I think this movie is pretty good. I laughed here and there. Yes, drifted a few times… but one can always hit the pause button and get a coffee or snack when that happens.

On the whole, I felt that Sandler and the supportive cast did a good job. I wouldn’t say “great” but again, it was the synthesis of old, new and the beyond that made the difference.

More or less panned on other web sites. I think this film was just a bit too clever for some learned “critics” whose minds are too regimented to appreciate a flick that doesn’t fit into the current sci-fi box. True, it appears stupid and silly. One reviewer just called it “tediously bad.”¹ But something higher was going on. At least, it was for me.

Final word – Pleasantly surprised.

MC

¹ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pixels_%282015_film%29#Reception


2 Comments

DVD Review – Elementary My Dear Watson: The Man Behind Sherlock Holmes

rf_holmes

Reality Films

Title: Elementary My Dear Watson: The Man Behind Sherlock Holmes
Genre: Documentary, Mystery, Biography
Production Company: Reality Films

I came to this video knowing precious little about Sherlock Holmes and his creator, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, except that Holmes is an antiquated super-sleuth with a trusty sidekick, Dr. Watson. So Philip Gardiner and Brian Allen’s Elementary My Dear Watson: The Man Behind Sherlock Holmes was a learning experience, for sure.

The film includes a good deal of b&w clips from the early days of cinema. It even shows Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, himself, talking about his craft and personal convictions.

It seems that Doyle turned to spiritualism in 1906 after the death of his wife, a personal tragedy followed by several others around the time of World War I. Doyle became so engrossed in parapsychology that he went public with his views, this sometimes bringing him into conflict with his peers, including his personal friend, the skeptical magician and notorious escape artist Harry Houdini.

But Elementary My Dear Watson digs even deeper than this. The film outlines the entire inner/outer world that played on Doyle’s creative imagination, from his early days as a hesitant Catholic right up to his fascination with gnosticism and alchemy. And instead of painting a Doyle as an infallible hero, the documentary tells of his rank humiliation for endorsing Victorian-era fairy photos that proved to be hoaxes.

Such is the plight of pioneers willing to think different and take risks. Their flashy successes are just as visible as their, perhaps, unavoidable stumbles.

The DVD includes the bonus feature, The Madness of Sherlock Holmes, which presents another side to the central story. Serious fans will definitely want to watch both segments to get the whole picture on Doyle.

And what a fascinating picture it is. Travelers of the spirit will gain insight from this film’s journey into the past, as will laypersons, students and experts interested in the wily and whimsical world of Victorian history and culture.

Since first writing this review in 2009, Hollywood has given Holmes and his sidekick Watson a serious makeover… a testament to the lasting appeal of Doyle’s creative genius.

—MC

This review originally appeared at Earthpages.org