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Archive for the ‘Rick Riordan’ Category

percy3SOUNDTRACK: TROMBONE SHORTY-Tiny Desk Concert #162 (September 29, 2011).

tromb Trombone Shorty is from New Orleans and his backing band is called Orleans Avenue.  I can’t think of too many bands that are fronted by a trombone player.

This is a super fun set.  It opens with “Dumaine St.” a short (just over 2 minutes) jazzy number that comes from his then recent album For True.  There’s some great rhythm in the low end–the baritone sax and bass guitar keep a great groove, especially during the trombone solo (!).  It’s short, but it’s great.

Dan “Uncle Potato Chip” Oestreicher, opens the second song with a great bass line on the baritone sax.  The song is called “Lagniappe which is “a little gift you get for buying something. It’s an especially common practice in certain corners of the world, including Louisiana, where the term originates.”  It’s an improvisational piece built around the great bass line.  It features a trombone solo and great tenor sax solo by Tim McFatter.  The song builds (for about 5 minutes) to an exciting  conclusion (“a light workout,” Shorty calls it).

The final song has lyrics sung by Shorty. It’s probably my least favorite of the three as the lyrics aren’t that great (although his voice is good).  It’s got a good funky rhythm, but it slows things down when he is singing.  And I just want to hear him play.  Once he picks up the trombone again, the song springs to life and is a super amount of fun–with another great melody.

I wasn’t sure I’d like this set but I enjoyed it a lot.

[READ: November 22, 2015] The Titan’s Curse

The good news was that I could get both the second and third graphic novels at the same time (both with art by Attila Futaki).  The bad news is that apparently the fourth (and fifth) books were never made!  I don’t know if there are plans for them to get made but as of right now, we’re stuck at a to be continued.

Of the three, I found this book to be the most confusing because so many characters looked alike.  There was also the addition of several new characters (and as with the previous book, there was very little in the way of introduction).

We don’t know why, but Percy and Annabeth have gone to a specific place to rescue two orphans, Bianca and Nico.  They are both half-bloods, unbeknownst to them.  Bianca is initially suspicious of the heroes, but Nico is right on board.

In terms of action, there’s quite a lot.  We meet Artemis, goddess of the hunt who has arrived with her hunters.  She speaks formally and is suspicious of men.

After careful consideration Bianca decides to join Artemis’ hunters (which gives her immortality–death may only come in battle–as long as she forswears romantic love, which she has no problem doing).  Meanwhile, Nico decides to return to the camp with the others.

Oh and Annabeth, while fighting a manticore, is thrown over the side of a cliff, presumably lost forever.  Percy is freaking out but they convince him to head back to camp for reinforcements.

A new quest is decided upon, but Percy’s first goal is to rescue Annabeth.  Although we soon see that she is not dead, she just has the weight of the world on her shoulders.  Literally.

And then Apollo shows up in his golden chariot (which is a sports car naturally).

Back at camp, the director has them don helmets for more training, this time hunter against half-blood.  The hunters win every time.  This was a hugely confusing scene since everyone is in battle gear. The book is also hugely confusing because several of the scenes are done with characters in close up and Zoe (whose origin I can’t even recall) and Percy look quite a lot alike

But there’s some really wonderful scenes, like when the horse speaks to Percy and later when Percy rescues the Ophiotaurus (which he calls Bessy).

I liked that the middle section takes place in the Museum of Natural History–which allows for some cool details.  The dinosaur teeth are actually dragon teeth and the lion is really the Nemean Lion.  And when the bad guys get some skeletons to rise from the earth, they are sent on a single mission–to destroy Percy.  And they cannot be stopped by half blood weapons.

There’ a great scene with a large flying statue and then a cool scene at the Hoover Dam.

I typically enjoy when the scenes turn mystical but I was confused a bit when Artemis returned to her sisters.  I think the character of Zoe perplexes me too much, even when she reveals her true identity.

And speaking of true identity, Nico’s reveal is pretty fantastic, too.

The final scene shows a meeting of the Gods again, which I liked.  Unfortunately it seems to set the stage for book four, which we won’t seem to ever get.

More reason to rad the actual novels, then, right?

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percy2SOUNDTRACK: JENNY LIN-Tiny Desk Concert #160 (September 6, 2011).

linJenny Lin is an amazing pianist.  So it’s slightly disconcerting that she is playing these beautiful pieces on a Korg keyboard.

The write up says

It’s rare to see a world-renowned pianist willing to make such a sacrifice, but that’s how strongly Lin feels about getting the music out there, knowing that (with even more downsizing) folks could watch her perform this Tiny Desk Concert on their iPhones.

And while I wouldn’t think that a great pianist would have a problem playing an electronic piano, I had to wonder if the keyboard weight impacted her at all.  It sure doesn’t seem like it.

She plays five pieces altogether.  And they are all modern pieces.  I don’t know a lot about Shostakovic, but the blurb says that  Shostakovich, inspired by Bach wrote his own set of Preludes and Fugues in all 24 keys in 1950.  I would have guessed they were Bach, but you can hear differences in his more modern style (and not just because of the keyboard).  The notes are fast and furious (and beautiful).

I don’t know Federico Mompou at all, but the blurb says  “Barcelona-born Federico Mompou was a contemporary of Shostakovich’s, but that’s where the comparisons end. In the 1960s, he completed four volumes of piano music he called Musica Callada, or “Silent Music.” Mompou’s sound, [features]  austere beauty and emphasis on the spaces between notes.”  And you can really hear the way the notes ring out (I’ll bet even more so on a grand piano).

The final song is an arrangement of Gershwin’s “Fascinatin’ Rhythm” which has been “souped up by the late American virtuoso pianist Earl Wild. His arrangement turns the Gershwin song into a kind of stride-jazz extravaganza.”

Watch Lin’s hands fly around the keyboard.  It is hard to comprehend.  I don’t know which hand I am more impressed by.

It’s amazing to be able to watch a master so closely.

The setlist:

  • Dmitri Shostakovich: Prelude and Fugue No. 2 in A minor, Op. 87
  • Dmitri Shostakovich: Prelude and Fugue No. 7 in A major, Op. 87
  • Federico Mompou: Musica Callada — Nos. 1, 15
  • Gershwin (arr. Earl Wild): “Fascinatin’ Rhythm”

[READ: November 22, 2015] The Sea of Monsters

Clark really liked the first graphic novel and asked me to get the rest.  So I did.  And then I had to see how the story continued, too.

Book two of the graphic novel series (also with art by Attila Futaki) begins with Percy at home.  He is told he shouldn’t return to Camp Half -Blood, but his mom won’t say why.  At “regular” school, he is still picked on, but he now has help from a huge boy known as Tyson.  The bullies make fun of Tyson too, calling him a retard, but Percy sticks up for him. [The one problem with the graphic novels is they have to edit down so much, there’s no real introduction to Percy’s school or to Tyson].

On the next page, though, we learn that the bullies are actually demons and that Tyson is able to fight them off because he is …a cyclops.  (It must be very hard to create a cyclops–visually, they are just so wrong–where do you put that eye?  Do the normal eye sockets still exist? I always find them disconcerting to look at). (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: LOpercy1CAL NATIVES-Tiny Desk Concert #113 (February 21, 2011).

localI’ve decided to cherry pick some Tiny Desk shows for the end of the year–order be damned.

Local Natives are from L.A.  They play (in this Tiny Desk Concert anyway), a folkie alt rock which really emphasizes the band’s gorgeous harmonies.

For this set there are two acoustic guitars, an acoustic bass, a drummer and some cool extra percussion.  It also makes me laugh to see them all packed so tightly in that little space.

The first song “Wide Eyes” has lovely harmony vocals by the guitarist and the percussionist.  But when the backing vocals kick in, the sound really soars.

“Cards & Quarters” has a lovely guitar intro and fantastic three part harmonies.  I love the way the songs builds and builds to the end–it’s very dramatic.

For the final song, “Airplanes,” the percussionist switches to guitar (and sings lead vocals) and one of the guitarists plays the mandolin.  This song is very personal, with lots of details about the singer’s grandfather.  Again, the harmonies are gorgeous.

I’ve heard a lot about Local Natives and now I need to check them out more closely.

[READ: May 23, 2015] The Lightning Thief

I have seen the Percy Jackson movie and now I’ve read the comic book, but I have yet to read the actual novel (or series).  I figure I will some day.  But for now I’ve had this cool graphic novel to flesh out the movie.

It’s interesting how the movie and graphic novel (with art by Attila Futaki) emphasize different things.  It felt to me like the movie spent more time on introducing the characters once they got to “camp,” while the graphic novel seemed to gloss that.  But there were some other adventures that the group went on which were different between the book and movie (which may have just been for expenses).

Okay, so the brief summary of the book is that Percy Jackson is a boy in school.  He has trouble reading and his teacher gives him a hard time.  As we open, the class is learning about ancient Greek myths and the teacher is emphasizing how important they will be for Percy.  On the next page, one of Percy’s teachers turns into a demon and attacks him.   But no one else is aware of it.  Except maybe his best friend, Grover.

When school ends, Percy heads home to his mother’s house.  His mother is living with a totally awful guy (there was more about this in the movie) and explains that Percy’s father left before he was born.  But just as they settle in, Grover shows up and tells them they have to go.  Now. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: TEGAN AND SARA-“Alligator” on CDC Kids’ Mamma Yamma (2010).

Tegan and Sara take a slightly different approach than the other artists on Mamma Yamma.  Rather than creating a new song, they took their hit “Alligator” and made new words for it (much like many artists have done on Sesame Street).

The melody is exactly the same (which is good, as it’s a really catchy song). But rather than being about a failed relationship, it’s about alligators.

Old lyrics: Run around on me, I’d sooner die without

New lyrics: Run around a tree, skip and jump about

It’s a cute version and the band sounds very good.

I really enjoy these introductions to interesting musicians on kids shows.  I wonder if kids actually like seeing grown up musicians like this.

You can watch it here:

[READ: April 20, 2012] Vespers Rising

I finished The 39 Clues series last year. Or so I thought!  After completing books 1-10, I found out that they were planning a whole new series.  And they began with this transitional book, which they called #11 and which was co-written by four of the prominent authors.

Vespers Rising is actually four short stories that trace the history of the Cahill family and their feud with the Vesper family.  The Vespers were not a part of the first series at all.  In the first series, the 39 Clues were a kind of Amazing Race for Cahill family members.  (I’ll get to some details about the family in a moment).  It was a kind of private race for the prize–which was a life-enhancing serum.  But this book introduces a new villain to the story and explains that the villain has been there all along, just lurking.

Rick Riordan wrote the first story in this book takes us back to the beginning.  In 1507, off the coast of Ireland, Gideon Cahill invented this serum.  He was and alchemist, seeking an antidote for the Black Death which was ravaging Europe.  He was working for Lord Damien Vesper, a man bent on power.  Vesper wasn’t interested in helping people with the Black Death–he had no real value for life–however, he was interested in the results that Gideon might discover. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACKPUGWASH-Giddy (2009).

I found this CD through a connection to The Divine Comedy (Neil Hannon plays on a few of their tracks).  Pugwash (what a crazy name–it comes from a series of children’s books (and a TV show) called Captain Pugwash) is an Irish band with four CDs (and this collection).  And man, it’s hard to find their stuff over here (although their website has a wonderful collection of videos and such).

Giddy is a collection of songs from all of their albums.  Their first album is represented by two songs here “The Finer Things in Life” and “Two Wrongs.”  These two songs sound, with no disrespect intended, like great Oasis ballads.  Say what you will about Oasis’ originality, they wrote some great songs, and these two sound like the best Oasis songs you’ve never heard.

Their other three albums sound far less like Oasis and far more like XTC.  In fact, the XTC comparisons are well-founded as Andy Partridge eventually co-wrote a song with them and eventually signed them to Partridge’s Ape House records (which is how this collection was released in the U.S.).

The XTC comparison is unavoidable on a few tracks.  The opening of “Song for You” (the “when we die” part) sounds like an uncanny XTC outtake, but when the chorus kicks in it sounds nothing like them and moves into more of the gorgeous orchestral pop that overflows on this disc.  And the Partridge co-written “My Genius” is also a wonderful near-XTC outtake, clever, witty, and perfect.

And the song “It’s Nice to Be Nice” is just a wonderful cheery pop ditty.  It sounds retro and charming; if the simple lyrics (and gorgeous harmonies) don’t bring a smile to your face you must be made of stone.

Although the album is primarily orchestral pop, there’s a wonderful array of styles on here.  “Anyone Who Asks” has chipper keyboard bits in the verses, but the chorus is a wonderful mix of dark minor chords.  And then, the absolutely bizarrely wonderful “Monorail” sounds like a fantastic Beck song (with lyrics that are as decidedly unusual as anything Beck himself might write).   It even opens and closes with wonderful circa 1920s banjo.

Despite the obvious nod to XTC, Pugwash does something that XTC doesn’t.  XTC is a very mannered band.  They always seemed very rigid and formal (and were wonderful because of it).  Pugwash uses XTC as a springboard, but Thomas Walsh seems like a guy who likes to let loose with unchecked silliness, so he can move past the strictures of XTC (and sound like Beck!)

And the packaging is just wonderful. The carnivalesque appearance of the cardboard case is enhanced by not just a cardboard sleeve but also by a second cardboard half-sleeve that you slide on top.  Depending on which way you slide it on, it creates a different set of pictures.  It’s a little thing but it’s a nice nod to the fun of non-digital products.

This is certainly one of my favorite albums this year (even if it came out last year).

[READ: September 21, 2010] One False Note

I enjoyed the first book of the series so much, I couldn’t wait to get to Book Two.  In particular, I was interested to see if Gordon Korman’s writing style would differ much from Rick Riordan’s.  As I said last time, I hadn’t read Riordan before, (although I have read a few by Korman) and while I wasn’t expecting them to write in the same manner, I wondered if they would try to keep the style the same (or if it would be really obvious that they were different writers).

I have to say that I didn’t notice the difference between the two.  Korman’s seems a bit faster paced (but he had no exposition to deal with), and it’s possible that he made things seems a bit more scary/dangerous than Riordan, but not much.

The question I have with the series is three-part: Is the basic plot given to each new writer–like the writer is told what the 39 Clues are–or, possibility two, are they told very specifically, the clue is this and it is here and the writer has to figure out how to get the kids there, or possibility number three, they are free to do whatever they want.

Either way, this is an exciting series, and I’m looking forward to Book Three.

So in Book Two, Amy and Dan continue their adventure.  This time, they go to Saltzburg and Venice.  The Saltzburg trip leads them to the Mozart house.  There’s a wonderful sorta subplot about Mozart’s sister, Nannerl (real name Maria Anna), who was also a great pianist and harpsichordist, oftentimes getting top billing when they played together.  I’s never heard of her, and didn’t know of her talent, and that’s the point of the subplot–how Nannerl had to put her musical skills to the side because she was a woman.   This works nicely with the pairing of Dan and Amy and how they are both good at different things and are both very useful on the quest. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: BARENAKED LADIES-Buck Naked (1989).

Although The Yellow Tape was the major catapult, their previous cassette (known as Buck Naked) was their first demo tape.  Wikipedia explains that it came in many versions with several covers.

The initial release had 5 songs.  The final release bumped it up to 15.

I wasn’t even aware of this cassette until I was browsing around for The Yellow Tape.  And, thanks YouTube for supplying all of the tracks.

The recording is just Steven Page and Ed Robertson and a couple of acoustic guitars. And it’s totally a home recording.  But for all of that, it’s delightful to see how fully released some of their songs were.  It includes these songs which appeared on later releases” “King of Bedside Manor,” “Great Provider” “Be My Yoko Ono” and “If I Had $1,000,000.”

The rest of the tape is a mix of a few silly things and a lot of not at all silly songs.

“Road Runner” is a cover. But not THAT cover.  Rather, it’s a cover of the Saturday morning Road Runner cartoon theme song: “Road Runner, the coyotes after you….” They also cover “Psycho Killer” which is pretty hard to mess up (their version is a good campfire version, although it devolves into nonsense).  “Rudi, a Message to You” one of the great, mellow ska songs also get something of  an acoustic cover here.  Although it’s more lackluster than the original (no horns).  Finally “Wishing Well” is a cover of the Terence Trent D’arby song and is full of amusing cheap casio sounds.

“Really Don’t Know” also has a delightful excerpt from the Geddy Lee/Bob and Doug MacKenzie song “Take Off”

The other songs are decent folkie songs.  Primarily they seem to be about relationships (but it’s not always easy to tell).  Although “Careless” is a fun pop-culture mocking song (that would probably still work well live).

Sadly, the last track, the 5 second “How’s the Level,” does not seem to have made it to YouTube.  It’s obviously a goof of some sort, but I would have liked to have heard it.

I can’t imagine how many times this cassette was played before it was sent to YouTube, some of the songs sound very faded which is certainly a problem of the tape, not the original recording, but even those song (where the lyrics are hard to decipher) still sound good (and their harmonies were solid back then too).

[READ: September 13, 2010] The Maze of Bones

For two years now, this series has been red hot.  All of the kids want to read these books (probably second only to the Percy Jackson series).  What fascinated me about this series is that it is written by several different authors (which is a nightmare for libraries who shelve their books bu authors). There are ten books in all.   The authors are: Rick Riordan [Book 1], Gordon Korman [Books 2 and 8], Peter Lerangis [Books 3 and 7], Jude Watson [Books 4 and 6], Patrick Carman [Books 5], Linda Sue Park [Book 9] and, and Margaret Peterson Haddix [Books 10].

I’ve not read any of Riordan’s other books, so I don’t know how this compares.  I felt the story opened a little slowly (there’s quite a lot of information to impart) but once it took off I couldn’t put the book down.

Amy and Dan are orphans living with their mean and controlling aunt.  They learn that their grandmother (whom Amy loved and Dan thought was weird but had cool stuff) has just died.  When they go to the funeral, their grandmother Grace has set up a fascinating contest for the surviving families.  They can either take their allotment ($1 million) or they can give it back in exchange for the first of 39 clues.  Solving the clues will give them the secrets they need to become, literally, the most powerful people in the world (although at the stage we don’t even really know what that means). (more…)

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