Friday, June 29, 2012

"It is not unlike beef...."

I'm listening to Anthony Trollope's Barchester Towers right now.  I can't recommend it highly enough. It's hard to do justice to Trollope in a brief excerpt; his genius manifests itself over pages and chapters, not in paragraphs.  Nevertheless, I strongly encourage you to read this book.  The following is part of the chapter that introduces the novel's central villain, Mr Slope:
Mr Slope is tall, and not ill made. His feet and hands are large, as has ever been the case, with all his family, but he has a broad chest and wide shoulders to carry off these excrescences, and on the whole his figure is good. His countenance, however, is not specially prepossessing. His hair is lank, and of a dull pale reddish hue. It is always formed into three straight lumpy masses, each brushed with admirable precision, and cemented with much grease; two of them adhere closely to the sides of his face, and the other lies at right angles above them. He wears no whiskers, and is always punctiliously shaven. His face is nearly of the same colour as his hair, though perhaps a little redder: it is not unlike beef,--beef, however, one would say, of a bad quality. His forehead is capacious and high, but square and heavy, and unpleasantly shining. His mouth is large, though his lips are thin and bloodless; and his big, prominent, pale brown eyes inspire anything but confidence. His nose, however, is his redeeming feature: it is pronounced straight and well-formed; though I myself should have liked it better if it did not possess a somewhat spongy, porous appearance, as though it had been cleverly formed out of a red coloured cork.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

"..and we move around like tigers on vaseline..."

The first 45 seconds is people talking, but then the guy starts to dance.  And it is incredible.  Having watched this now a dozen times I'm still not entirely convinced this person is an actual human male.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Jack White Concert Review

The wife and I go to see music once a year at most.  Last year we saw The Dead Weather; this year we saw Jack White.  The common link is my wife's semi-obsession with Mr White.  Apparently she has frequent dreams in which we both move to Nashville (I think I get to go), somehow run into Jack somewhere around town, and all become friends.  So.  I don't know what to make of that, but it doesn't sound promising, does it?

White played a few nights ago at the Wiltern and so we dressed up like young people and left the valley. On a weeknight.  Which is basically, for us, the equivalent of dropping acid, hijacking a yacht, and spending a month cruising the Dalmatian coast.

The show was not bad.  White has a likable stage presence and he's obviously a gifted musician.  He also looks remarkably like Edward Scissorhands.  His tour is in support of his first solo album, Blunderbuss, which is made up, apparently, of songs he's been writing over the last several years.

The band was fine, the songs were okay.  My takeaway was that White needs other people who are creatively potent as himself to be in contact with.  He has innate musical talent--he's one of those people that if you invented a new instrument tomorrow, he could play it well by next week--but his songwriting skills have yet to really blossom.  He works mostly in fairly standards--blues or three-chord, I/IV/V, single basic repeated riff-driven songs.  That's nothing wrong with any of that, but I don't get the sense, watching him, that he's pushing his own creative boundaries.  What he needs is a collaborator who's as talented as he is, someone who'll challenge him to be better than he has been before.

A few nights before the concert, The Last Waltz had been on TV, and when I watched Jack White the person I thought off was Rick Danko.  They're both talented musicians; they both play many instruments well; and they both have a genuine rock oddness to them.  They're not trying to seem eccentric, they really are eccentric.  The difference is that Danko, for whatever reason, joined his talents--for some amount of time anyway--with other people as equally talented and strong-willed as himself.  The result was at least two masterpiece albums.  White, on the other hand, keeps finding projects where he's the alpha dog.  The resulting music is what I imagine Rick Danko's solo albums probably sound like.  They're fine; they're not devoid of interest, but they're not special.  White could be special--I think.  But not on his own.