Saturday, September 30, 2023

Two duo versions of “It Might As Well Be Spring” by Bill Frisell & Fred Hersch and by Keith Jarrett & Charlie Haden

The song "It Might As Well Be Spring" was written by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II for Walter Lang's 1945 movie musical "State Fair". Guitarist Bill Frisell and pianist Fred Hersch opened their 1998 album "Songs We Know" with an exquisite if relatively brief version (3:10) I've listened to many times since. Today, I put on pianist Keith Jarrett and bassist Charlie Haden's album "Last Dance" (released in 2014, recorded in 2007) without looking at the song list, and when the melody of "It Might As Well Be Spring" began, I stopped whatever I was doing and got lost in Jarrett and Haden's much longer reading of the tune (11:55). (Andrew Shields, #111Words, 30 September 2023) 

Friday, September 29, 2023

Some things I learned today about Dianne Feinstein (1933-2023)

As the President of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, to which she was first elected in 1969, Dianne Feinstein (1933-2023) became Mayor of San Francisco on 27 November 1978 when Mayor George Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk were murdered by former Supervisor Dan White. In all the time that she served as Mayor and later as a Senator from California (until her death yesterday), I had forgotten (or perhaps I had never known) that she had replaced Moscone after his assassination. Nor had I known that on the Board, she had often sided with White against Moscone, and that later, she vetoed domestic partner legislation in San Francisco in 1982. (Andrew Shields, #111Words, 29 September 2023)

Thursday, September 28, 2023

Remembering Michael Gambon (1940-2023) in “Emma” and “Fantastic Mr. Fox"

At the end of Jim O'Hanlon and Sandy Welch's four-part BBC series of Jane Austen's "Emma" (2009), Emma Woodhouse (Romola Garai) and Mr. Knightley (Jonny Lee Miller) leave her family's Hartfield estate to honeymoon at the seaside. A shot out the back of their carriage shows Emma's "valetudinarian" father Mr. Woodhouse (Michael Gambon, 1940-2023) looking down from an upstairs room as the newlyweds depart. His forlorn face came to mind today when I heard the news of Gambon's death, along with his superb reading of the role of Bean in Wes Anderson's stop-motion adaptation of Roald Dahl's "Fantastic Mr. Fox" (2009): "That's just weak songwriting. You wrote a bad song, Petey!" (Andrew Shields, #111Words, 28 September 2023)

Wednesday, September 27, 2023

Anna Rosenwasser at the Literaturhaus Basel

This evening, Swiss journalist and activist Anna Rosenwasser presented her new book "Rosa Buch" (Rotpunkt Verlag) at the Literaturhaus Basel, with Sascha Rijkeboer moderating the lively and relaxed discussion. At one point, Rosenwasser recalled how the increasingly conservative Neue Zürcher Zeitung once commissioned her to write about gender-sensitive language. Given that context, she tried to write a diplomatic presentation of the issue. When the NZZ told her the text had generated numerous comments and asked if she could respond to a few of them, she said that she thought to herself that it was not worth her time to read the comments for the low fee that they had paid her. (Andrew Shields, #111Words, 27 September 2023) 

Tuesday, September 26, 2023

Laying out prose on the blackboard as a poem

In discussing a passage from N. K. Jemisin's story "L'Alchimista" in class this week, I have been writing it down on the blackboard not as prose but with the layout of a free-verse poem, so as to highlight the pattern of the words: "He looked up at her. The hat still shadowed his eyes, but – she blinked, frowned, peered closer. Then took a step back." In particular, I wanted the sequence of verbs "blinked, frowned, peered [...] took" to be in a column. This made it easier to keep track of both the individual verbs and the overall effect of the sequence. It also raised the issue of form in prose. (Andrew Shields, #111Words, 26 September 2023)

Monday, September 25, 2023

On hearing The Grateful Dead on Saturday Night Live in 1979, in what must have been a rerun

From seventh to tenth grade (1976-1979), I was on the Ottawa Hills High School cross-country team. Every fall, we ran a 24-hour relay around the school on a Saturday and Sunday. In October 1979, we watched Saturday Night Live, and somebody commented on the band: "They fired their backup singer and the pianist and replaced them with a pianist with a falsetto." — That was The Grateful Dead; the firing occurred in February 1979. — But the Dead only played SNL in October 1978 and April 1980. So in 1979, we probably saw a rerun of the 1978 episode, with the Dead playing "Casey Jones". That was the first time I noticed them. (Andrew Shields, #111Words, 25 September 2023) 

Sunday, September 24, 2023

Buying three used albums in Spring 1982 at Chimera Books and Records in Palo Alto

One afternoon in Spring 1982, I went to Palo Alto's Chimera Books and Records (where I could buy used albums and return them if I didn't like them), and I took three albums home: a Steppenwolf greatest hits, Black Sabbath's "Sabbath Bloody Sabbath", and The Grateful Dead's "Workingman's Dead". I remember clearly how I first thought Black Sabbath sounded really cool. But when Ozzy Osbourne started to sing, I took the album off and planned to return it to Chimera. And then I put on "Workingman's Dead", and "Uncle John's Band" entranced me right away. I kept the Steppenwolf, too, but didn't listen to it nearly as often as "Workingman's Dead". (Andrew Shields, #111Words, 24 September 2023)