SOUNDTRACK: MOHAMMAD REZA SHAJARIAN-Tiny Desk Concert #276 (May 20, 2013).
I had never heard of Mohammad Reza Shajarian, but I see that he was voted one of NPR’s 50 Great Voices.
With the visit of the incredible, honey-voiced Mohammad Reza Shajarian from Iran, we lucked out by having him sing on not just any day, but on the biggest holiday of the Persian calendar: Nowruz, the New Year.
Shajarian is accompanied by brothers Sohrab and Tahmoures Pournazeri (celebrated musicians in their own right) and French percussionist Robin Vassy.
They play one song, an improvised piece called “Az Eshgh (Love Song).” There is an upright, bowed instrument, the Kamancheh which plays the lead melody for much of the song. The rest of the music comes from the Tar, one of the most important musical instruments in Iran and the Caucasus. It has a rather tinny sound.
Meanwhile, the drummer has several different gourd drums. He hits one with his fist and scratches the notches on the side. Around three and a half minutes in, he starts blowing into this whistle-like object that makes a wind sound. He also has two gourds that are floating in water. He takes one out and we can hear the dripping. He gets almost two minutes of a solo to play all of these sounds. Its very cool.
Interestingly, even though this Tiny Desk is all about Shajarian, he doesn’t sing all that much. But when he does, it’s quite powerful. As the blurb says:
In the course of this love song, titled “Az Eshgh,” Shajarian unleashed torrents of swooping, soaring, goosebump-inducing sound — still perfectly controlled at age 73.
[READ: September 20, 2016] The Terrible Two
I love Mac Barnett. He’s one of my favorite children’s authors. I only know Jory John a little but I’ve enjoyed what I’ve read by him. There are also fantastic illustrations by Kevin Cornell to make this book a delightful story about pranksters.
The book opens in Yawnee Valley, a quiet place where cows are the main thing. Literally. They are everywhere–and you hear them mooing all day and night (and throughout the book). Miles Murphy (the dark haired boy on the cover) is moving to Yawnee Valley. And he is not happy. He has already sighed 100 times that day. He hates the thought of leaving his friends and starting a new school.
Page twelve lays out an excellent summary of what it’s like to be a new kid in a school. What kid are you going to be? chess kid? basketball kid? front-row kid? kid who’s allowed to see R-rated movies? Kid whose family doesn’t own a TV and just wants to watch your TV? And so many more options. But Miles knows who he is. He’s the prankster.
But when he gets to school (this is the first day of school), someone has moved the principal’s car to the front of the stairs–blocking the front door. Looks like Yawnee Valley Science and Letters Academy already has a prankster.
The principle is Principal Barkin. He loves being principal of the school, as his father and his father and his father and his father had been. There was one embarrassment in the family chain of command–the principal who actually closed the school during a blizzard, but otherwise, their record was sound–no closures. And Barkin’s own son was poised to become the principal as well. After all, he had been elected president the past two years–just as had all of his ancestors–president and then principal–that’s the plan.
But this first day of school was not a good day for Principal Barkin. And Chapter 6 lists the 40 things that happened as soon as he found out that his car was blocking the main entrance (none of them were good for him).
Principal Barkin suspects and questions everyone for being responsible for doing this prank. And when he sees Miles–the only child he doesn’t recognize–he automatically assumes he is guilty. Miles assures him that he didn’t do it. Principal Barkin says okay but he will have his eyes on him.
Barkin then gives him a book called 1,346 Interesting Things You May or May Not Know About Cows. He also gives Miles a buddy. The buddy is named Niles. He is dressed in a blazer with a sash that reads “school helper.” The introduction goes like this: “Niles is the student who first told me abut my car. Miles is the student who I suspect moved it.”
Niles is the most cheerful, obnoxious child Miles has every seen. And he will not let up. Niles introduces Miles to people (like Holly the girl who sits next to him). He states the obvious. And he tells Miles about Josh Barkin, the Principal’ son. And boy is Josh a jerk. Josh intentionally hits Miles in the face with his backpack as he walks by.
Niles says “while i don’t want to call anyone the worst, Josh is pretty mean sometimes…also he really likes the word nimbus for some reason.” (Josh calls everyone a nimbus as an insult).
Another kid who makes a lot of noise and is used mostly for comic effect is Stuart, Stuart talks in all caps and really really states the obvious. Everyone hates him.
Miles is still pretty bummed about someone else being the school prankster. But when Josh comes over in the cafeteria to give him a hard time, Miles deliberately dumps his food all over himself and then manages to blame Josh. Josh says he didn’t do it, but Niles supports Miles. When Miles asks why he would lie for him, Niles says that Josh made him swallow a rock over the summer–twice.
Miles gets home an has a kind of rough night. So doe Principal Barkin whose father calls to yell at him for the embarrassment of his school day. But while Bakin is beaten down, Miles is inspired. And he comes out with his greatest prank ever.
The awesome birthday party of a boy he just made up, Cody Burr-Tyler. The plan? Make the party secret, tell only a few people and then watch everyone show up with presents.
It’s a great plan and it works. And just as he is about to reap his rewards, Cody Burr-Tyler shows up and steals the show. What just happened?
I don’t want to spoil who the prankster is. He is impressed by Miles but sees some serious flaws.
Like the birthday party–did Miles really think he could fool the entire class and walk away with a bunch of presents and have people still like him? He had to learn to be subtle.
And so the prankster offers to let him join forces to become a great pranking team. But there is no way Miles is going to join forces with HIM. So instead, Miles challenges him to a prank battle.
And the rest of the book is a series of escalating pranks. The whipped cream one is outdistancing as is the diorama double cross (everything about the plan is genius–on both sides).
Can these two join forces to torment the person who most needs some comeuppance? (Yes). But what can they do that will really be a spectacular prank that people will talk about for years?
I was surprised and delighted by the final prank and I love the way they pulled it off.
I’m really looking forward to book two.
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