Somebody is always in the air, some several bodies, at this moment planes carry hundreds of people to vacations, funerals, sales meetings. On September 11, 2001, we learned to fear our wings. Strange that we had to learn. Being too stupid to be scared by fire, water, steam, volts, that blessed idiocy is what's brought us here. Wherever that is. We won't be staying.
May 26, 2006
May 19, 2006
(Full disclosure: DJ Sweeney used to be my next-door neighbor, and her mother is a close friend of mine.)
DJ's jazz/swing/blues vocals are backed with some of the best instrumental talent Kansas City can offer. All the songs are classics, but for the most part not standards. I was familiar with only two, Cole Porter's "You'd Be So Nice to Come Home To" and the Rogers & Hammerstein hit, "I Can't Give You Anything but Love." The other tunes deserve to be better known.
For a self-titled album (though I understand that was unplanned), DJ Sweeney is refreshingly free of ego. DJ sings cleanly, with precision and feeling. Her performance is unencumbered by flash, flourishes, and superfluous ornamentation. She doesn't stand between the song and the audience, and she has the tact to give her talented instrumentalists time for wonderful solos. My only complaint is that the album is too short. I wasn't ready for it to be over.
You can find DJ Sweeney at www.cdbaby.com/cd/djsweeney
May 16, 2006
Me Again: Uncollected Writings of Stevie Smith.
One of my favorite modern writers. Humorous and serious at once, she often reminds me of Emily Dickinson. This book includes reviews, essays, poetry, correspondence, and of course her whimsical drawings. My favorite of the essays is "Some Impediments to Christian Committment," which expresses her highly moral agnosticism and includes such vigorous poems as "Was He Married?" She has at least one fansite on the web, at http://www.steviesmith.org.
The Works of Horace.
In translation, of course, I don't read Latin. It's an old book, a compilation of translations ranging from the sixteenth century to the early twentieth. (Louis Untermeyer is one of the translators. He's better known as an anthologist than as a poet, but he was equally mediocre in both roles. He's the target of a satire by e. e. cummings, "mr u will not be missed. …") It's always risky to judge a poet from translations or from a couple of millenia away. Nevertheless, I'm developing an active dislike of Horace, or at least of his persona. I know better than to judge him by my culture's values — values of which he wasn't aware — but his easy acceptance of slavery and his odes to tyrants leave a bad taste. When he's not hard to take, he's boring. Nevertheless, there are aesthetic thrills here and there, and I'd probably find many more if I could read him in the original.
The Dance of Anger, by Dr. Harriet Lerner.
(Don't ask.) It's pitched towards women, which is unfortunate, since the issues it addresses are not gender-specific. Either that, or I have a lot of feminine qualities. (Come to think of it, I don't like sports. Or cars. Or power tools. Does that make me a metrosexual?) Dr. Lerner's book isn't just for women, and it isn't just about anger. It's about the dynamics of relationships, and almost anybody would find it useful.