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Archive for the ‘Child Development’ Category

[LISTENED TO: August 2017] The Trouble with Twins

I grabbed this book because it seemed kind of interesting.  I see also that this book was released in the UK as Missing Arabella, which I think is a slightly better title).  I wasn’t entirely sure if we’d like it.  I mean, we don’t have twins and this is about twins and I wasn’t sure that our 12-year-old boy would like a book about twin girls.

But holy cow was this book outstanding!  It was utterly hilarious and the way it was read aloud was genius.

The book begins with this wonderful setup:

And so it begins in front of the fire, the story of two twin sisters.  One remains with her family in their lovely country house, where yellow roses perfume the air.  The other waits for her in another house, where she stands alone at huge arched windows.  She is restless, pacing wooden floors that creak in the night when a cat jumps down from the bed to chase at shadows.

And then in different typeface:

“What are their names?” the girls asks.  “The sisters.”
“Arabella and Henrietta.”
“Are they lonely,” asks the girl.
“They belong together,” says the mother.  “And it makes them sad to be apart.”
“Can’t you tell a happy story?” the girl asks.
“With puppies and a garden?”
“Yes!” says the girl.
“I’m only telling it the way my mother told it to me,” the mother says.
“And will there be puppies?” the girls persists.  “Or only gloomy girls at windows?”

(more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: MARGARET GLASPY-Live at the Newport Folk Festival (July 30, 2017).

Every year, NPR goes to the Newport Folk Festival so we don’t have to.  A little while afterwards, they post some streams of the shows (you used to be able to download them, but now it’s just a stream).  Here’s a link to the Margaret Glaspy set; stream it while it’s still active.

Margaret Glaspy has been making music professionally since 2010, but she released her solo debut last year and it’s really good.  She plays a rocking guitar, although she seems to play a lot on the higher strings.  Her sound isn’t tinny, but it’s a much more treble than bass.  But she’s got a two piece backing band to pick up and complement the low end.

She also has a unique vocal delivery style.  She enunciates words with a strange inflection–I never would have guessed that she is from California.  And it’s that unique sound that I think makes her lyrics that much more interesting.  She’s also not afraid to throw in a curse or a graphic description in her lyrics.

Glaspy played 13 songs in total.  10 of the 12 songs from her record, two new ones and a Lucinda Williams cover.

She doesn’t speak much, she just gets right to the music, playing the first five songs faithfully to the record with just enough grace notes to make it stand out.  But she seems to let it all hang out by the time she gets to “Situation” which has a much louder, rougher guitar sound–she really lets loose and it sounds great.

She introduces the band Daniel Ryan on the bass and Tim Kuhl on the drums and then she starts the slower “Black is Blue.” I hadn’t noticed before but at times her delivery is kind of like Laura Marling’s in this song.  “You Don’t Want Me” has a spoken word section and her delivery once again reminds me of Marling’s.  They certainly don’t sound alike, but there is something similar in the style–that would be an awesome double bill.

She might explain her lack of talking when she says, “This is my first time at Newport and I don’t take it lightly.  So thank you so much for having me.”

The NPR blurb also sees a lot of strength at the end of her set, so I’ll let them sum up

She says she’s “Got some new songs for you:”

a slow-burner called “Mother/Father” and another that doesn’t yet have a title [the chorus: life was better before we were together].  A late-set highlight was “Memory Street,” which boiled over into a seething solo before a final verse that had Glaspy repeating a disjointed phrase over and over, to the point of uneasiness [it is quite long, she sings the words “Times I” with an appropriate skipping sounding drum click for over 20 seconds]— a compelling imitation of the skipping record her lyrics invoked.

She plays a cover of Lucinda Williamss’ “The Fruits of my Labor.” and then ends with “You And I” and that catchy circular guitar riff that is so wonderful and original.

Glaspy has been on my list of people to see live and I hope she comes back this way after she tours around for a while.

[READ: June 20, 2017] “The Work You Do, The Person You Are”

This issue has a section of essays called “On the Job,” with essays about working written by several different authors.

Toni Morrison (it’s hard to think of her as doing something “before” being an author) speaks of working for Her, in the 1940s in a house that had all kinds of things that she had never seen before: a hoover vacuum cleaner or an iron not heated by a fire.

She gave half of her earnings to her mother–which meant she was helping pay the rent, which made her feel good. But she also got some money to squander of junk. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: PINEGROVE-Live at the Newport Folk Festival (July 30, 2017).

Every year, NPR goes to the Newport Folk Festival so we don’t have to.  A little while afterwards, they post some streams of the shows (you used to be able to download them, but now it’s just a stream).  Here’s a link to the Pinegrove set; stream it while it’s still active.

I was pretty excited to hear what Pinegrove did at a big venue like this.  And, true to form, they sound great and are kind and generous to the people helping them out as well as all the fans who are there: “thanks for taking a chance on us.”

What’s particularly fun about Pinegrove is that their songs are mostly pretty short–but they feel fully complete.  But that means you can get 11 songs in a 45 minute set.

The band is in the process of writing and recording new music but this set is all older stuff (1/2 from Cardinal and the rest older).  But this is such a clear recording (with occasionally pops from the bass), that it’s great to be able to hear these songs live and to hear what they do differently with them.

The first song, “Old Friends,” Evan Stephens Hall seems a little less voice-cracking than usual (as if he’s trying to sing pretty for the Festival), but when he gets into the middle of “Aphasia” he sings “But if I don’t have you by me then I’ll go underground” with reckless abandon and the crowd goes nuts.

To me the most notable difference in these songs is the louder harmony vocals of Nandi Rose Plunkett.  And they sound terrific (Plunkett has her own band Half Waif who I’ve been interested in seeing, although i hope it doesn’t distract her from Pinegrove).

They run through several of the songs and they all sound great–the band really transcends when they play live. (and the rabid fans certainly help).

He introduces the band and has a problem getting Plunkett’s name out (I’ve got an avocado in my mouth).  Then he runs through everyone else: Samuel Skinner on guitar, Joshua Fairbanks Marre on the guitar and vocals, Adan Carlo on the bass guitar, Zachary Levine on the drum kit and vocals (he gets a big response).  And then they introduce Lincoln their newly acquired trusty stuffed sloth.

They dedicate “Angelina” to Lincoln, (he ends by saying “just a tiny little song”)

Okay we’re gonna quickly play two more songs.  After a quick “The Metronome” Hall introduces the final song by saying

Most of these songs are about love whether it be romantic, platonic, or familial and when they began they were about how to love the people we knew the best we could, but a more important initiative is loving the people we don’t know as well as we can.  It’s a localized sentiment but also a very public sentiment.

This works as a wonderful introduction to “New Friends” which sounds tremendous with all of the harmony vocals firing on all cylinders.

[READ: June 20, 2017] “Brush Clearing with the Teen-Age Boys in Arkansas”

This issue has a section of essays called “On the Job,” with essays about working written by several different authors.

Richard Ford writes of working in the summer of 1967.  He worked for the Neighborhood Youth Corps in Little Rock.  It was not a job he wanted, just one he could get.  He had always had jobs and wasn’t about to not have one during the summer while living with his mother.

So he enrolled in this program which “summons images of clean cut boys standing at attention, but was really about low income (black) kids getting work experience.”  And he realizes now it was designed to keep them in school and out of the State’s hair. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: TASH SULTANA-Tiny Desk Concert #609 (April 7, 2017).

Tash Sultana is a force of nature.  I’d heard her song “Jungle” a bunch of times on the radio before seeing this.  I thought it was interesting and kind of catchy with some cool guitar work.  But it never occurred to me that Sultana was doing the whole thing BY HERSELF!

For this Tiny Desk, she recreates that song (and two others) entirely by herself with loops and loops and effects and all kinds of good stuff.

As “Jungle” opens, Tash plays the guitar chords and loops them.  And then she plays the opening riff.  And loops it.  And then more riffs on top and loops them.  She creates a huge sound for about a minute and a half.  Then when all that sounds good, she starts playing the drum machine.

It’s so much fum watching her dance around her little area (barefoot, mind you) tapping pedals and setting effects on and off.  And when she starts soloing, she’s got a perpetually big smile on her face just really enjoying all of the work she;s doing and the sounds she’s making.

She finally starts singing and she’s got two microphones–the chorus gets the second microphone which has a processor and echo to totally change her sounds.

And then towards the end of the song she starts messing around with a solo and has all kinds of effects at hand for whichever part of the solo she’s doing, including a wild, ass-kicking, classic-rock style solo that all mellows out into  sweetly echoed section and a gentle guitar ending.  The song itself isn’t that complicated, but holy cow she packs so much into its 7 minutes.

So who the hell is Tash Sultana?

This 21-year-old Maltese-Australian got a guitar from her grandfather when she was three, she says, and has played it every day since. It’s astonishing to watch Sultana’s fluidity on her instrument, like a natural extension of her body. (She also plays bass, saxophone, trumpet, flute and more, but kept it “simple” at the Tiny Desk.) I thought I had a lot of energy — watching her bounce from guitar to drum machine to two separate microphones — and then hopping barefoot from looping pedal to effect pedal as she builds her songs was exhilarating and exhausting.

She says she wrote “Notion” when she was having a difficult time with myself… and someone else.

It opens with that her singing “oohs” into that processed mic and it sounds otherworldly.  And then again she jumps around from guitar to drum machine looping more and more.  Although it’s interesting that most of the song stays kind of mellow.  Her melody is very pretty and her voice is great.  The only trouble is it’s kind of hard to understand what she;s singing.  But its fun that she’s singing some of the song without playing anything else (it’s all being looped) and how intensely she sings it.

After playing the song for some 9 minutes, she hits some pedals and the just takes off on a wailing guitar solo.

“Blackbird” is very different–it’s all played on acoustic guitar.  There’s no looping.  She says she wrote this while in New Zealand.  She was wandering and got lost in a cave.

But acoustic doesn’t mean simple folk song.  She plays some great riffs with her right hand while hammering-on with her left hand. The part around 19:15 is just fascinating to watch.  She must have an alternate tuning as well because when she plays opens strings it sounds great (and it’s 12 string as well, so it sounds even more full).

After singing a few verses she plays an incredibly fast section.

There’s just so much going on, and I have no idea if all of that is part of the songs or if she’s just going off into her own world.

I was so impressed by this set that I just got tickets to her when she comes to the area in a few weeks.

[READ: January 31, 2017] “Mo Willems’s Funny Failures”

I have never really written about Mo Willems, even though my family loves his books (I’ve even got an autographed copy of one of them).

The Piggy and Gerald books are wonderful first readers (and are fun for adults too) and Pigeon is the best bad-tempered character around.

Since I like Rivka Galchen and post about just about everything she writes, I wanted to include this here.  It is a biographical essay based on a few interviews she had with Willems. (more…)

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6616 SOUNDTRACK: GLEN HANSARD-Tiny Desk Concert #225  (June 17, 2012).

glenWhat can I say about Glen Hansard that I haven’t said already—he’s a powerful singer and a great storyteller.  This is his second appearance on Tiny Desk (although his first solo) and his fourth or fifth concert on NPR.

With The Swell Season, they played for 34 minutes (a Tiny Desk Record).  And this Concert is no shortie either at nearly 22 minutes.

He’s playing songs from his solo album (on that same beat up guitar).   Although he is distinctly himself, without the band(s), he sounds a bit like Cat Stevens and sometimes like Van Morrison (and he looks like Gordon Lightfoot).

He sings rather quietly and then impressively loudly–powerful and passionate.  He is clearly into what he does.

“Love Don’t Leave Me Waiting” is rocking folk song (he throws a coda of RESPECT at the end) in which he really belts out a few parts.  He’s got a delightful “La la la” middle section, and the overall melody is great.

“Bird of Sorrow” is  much more mellow song.  It builds through some verses and allows him to belt out a few lines near the end.

“Come Way to the Water” has him on a 4 string tenor guitar.  Although it is quite clearly a Glen Hansard song, the guitar is much more timid sounding compared to his voice.  And it really does give the song a very different (darker) feeling.  In fact when it’s over, he says, “that was kind of depressing wasn’t it?”

“Lucia” is a “song he hasn’t finished yet” but he’s going to play it because “it’s a little bit happier.”  Although the lyrics are “Lucia, you’re letting me down again / Lucia, your heart’s not in it babe…. And if your heart’s not in it, then your heart’s not in it, babe.”  Not exactly a happy song.  But very pretty.

“The Song of Good Hope” is slower with no big powerful singing, but it’s really heartfelt and intense.

And as always, he is unfailingly polite and thanks everyone for listening.

My friend Jonathan says that he will always try to see Hansard live, and it seems like I should be doing the same next time he comes around.

[READ: January 12, 2017] “At Home in the Past”

The June 6 & 13, 2016 issue of the New Yorker was the Fiction Issue.  It also contained five one page reflections about “Childhood Reading.” 

As soon as I started reading this, I knew that Sarah would want to read it as well.  For although I have not, Sarah has read The Secret Garden, which is what Tessa Hadley is writing about here.

Tessa says that she didn’t own many books as a child–mostly she borrowed from the library.  But the ones she did own she read over and over and “some of them soaked in deep under my skin, composing my private mythology and shaping my mind.”

She says she had a Puffin paperback of Frances Hodgson Burnett’s The Secret Garden.  The cover picture of a dark-haired girl in a white coat standing among thorny bare rose bushes looks just like Mary Lennox is described in the book.

Although it was published in 1911, she felt no separation from the Edwardians.  She felt at home in the past and often preferred it to modernity, which seemed somehow inferior. (more…)

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6616 SOUNDTRACK: PATRICK WATSON-Tiny Desk Concert #221  (May 31, 2012).

pat-watsPatrick Watson is a Montreal-based singer songwriter with whom I was unfamiliar.  But he has received many accolades, including being nominated for the Polaris prize many times (and winning once).  It turns out that Bob Boilen also really likes him a lot. And I can see why.

Watson and his band make sounds that are quite unexpected (but are still melodic and pretty).  The first song “Adventures In Your Own Backyard” itself is amazing the way it unfolds.  The first sounds we hear are the drummer using a violin bow on Boilen’s Emmy statue (which I’m sure Bob was genuinely delighted by).  There’s two acoustic guitars and the violinist’s beautiful ooohs.  About one minute in, there’s a big drum sound as the drummer starts playing snare and bass.  And then the acoustic guitar is is put through some kind of filter to give it a very electric sound.  Once you get used to the acoustic guitar sounding electric and the electric guitar sounding acoustic, the violin comes in (sounding like a violin).  And then there’s backing vocals oohing until Watson comes back with more vocals, but this time through a microphone that is hugely distorted and mechanical-sounding (he and the violinist shared oohing duties and their voices get processed together).  All of this sounds like chaos and yet the melody is catchy and constant (and yes, the song ends with the drummer bowing that Emmy one more time).

Watson explains that for “Words In The Fire” the band was “nine hours north of nowhere” north of Quebec with these kids who invited them to a campfire party.  They had nowhere else to be so they went.   The kids requested a Bob Marley song, but they didn’t know any.  So they wrote this song.  For the start, it’s just Watson singing with the acoustic guitar.  Midway through the song, the percussionist plays a saw, giving it an eerie quality.  Despite the craziness of the first song, this song is delicate and pretty and Watson’s voice is high and sweet as well.

“Into Giants” opens with some lovely guitar intros and lots of harmonies.  This song is especially fun to watch because the five of them are all squeezed in behind the desk and seem more crammed than before.  Watson even has to move out of the way to let the violinist take her solo.  The whole band sings in a big folksy chorus “started as lovers don’t know where it’s gonna end” with appropriately big bass drum sounds.  The song seems like it’s going to end with Watson’s oooohing, but with a minute left, the song picks up again, with Watson playing a cool riff on the keyboard.  He even gets out that distorted mic again to build the song back up.

I love watching a Tiny Desk by someone I don’t know and immediately falling for a band.

[READ: January 12, 2017] “The Book”

The June 6 & 13, 2016 issue of the New Yorker was the Fiction Issue.  It also contained five one page reflections about “Childhood Reading.” 

Matar’s story is quite different from the others.  He says that his earliest memory of books is being read to, not actually reading.  Many of the classics were read to him: One Thousand and One Nights, and the Arabic literary renaissance of the twentieth century.   But there were hardly any books for children in the house.

He says that during his life he has had a passionate affair with books in English and Arabic.  And he makes this wonderfully succinct comment about youthful reading: some books were “undeserving of my youthful fervor, a few … I encountered at the wrong moment, [but there were] plenty of others that still light up rooms inside me.”

But, for him the book that affected him the most if one that he hasn’t read.  He doesn’t even know the title or author. (more…)

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6616 SOUNDTRACK: DANIEL JOHNSTON-Tiny Desk Concert #224 (June 11, 2012).

danDaniel Johnston makes me uncomfortable.  I find his music to be simple and his voice isn’t very good.  And yet he is beloved by so many other people.  The fact that he is schizophrenic makes me worried that there’s some kind of exploitation going on.  But who knows.  He has had rather a lot of (relative) success.

The blurb tells us

Johnston has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, and he’s been institutionalized, but these days he travels and performs. It’s amazing to see and hear a spark of candor in what he does, all while he’s shaking like a scared child. There’s an odd sort of curiosity to watching Johnston perform, but it’s easy to root for him: He’s endearing and sloppy and unmistakably talented.

He and his guitarist Friend McFriendstein (actually Shai Halperin who plays under the name Sweet Lights) play four songs.

“Mean Girls Give Pleasure” is a pretty funny fast romp.  “Sense of Humor” is a slower song.

Between songs, they show off Johnston’s book Space Ducks.  There’s an iPad app and video game which is “Much beter than checking out Starbucks on yelp.”

“American Dream” is a clever song that’s full of monsters as metaphors.  “True Love Will Find You In The End” is a pretty, uplifting song.

His songs are short and unadorned, and surprisingly catchy.  But I don’t think I’d ever listen to him intentionally.

[READ: January 12, 2017] “Uninhabited”

The June 6 & 13, 2016 issue of the New Yorker was the Fiction Issue.  It also contained five one page reflections about “Childhood Reading.” 

Young says that when he was in fifth grade he read Robinson Crusoe (not the abridged version) in one weekend.  But he wasn’t showing off.  He saw an image or cartoon of the book and picked it for a book report not realizing how massive the actual book was.  He delayed until Friday for a report due Monday and thus had to cram in an entire novel.  He did the same thing with Gulliver’s Travels, “Who knew Gulliver met more than just Lilliputians?”

But he says that these masterpieces didn’t seem that different from non-fictional travelogues like Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo, the gory account of the U.S. bombing of Japan.

Crusoe is apt because he says he felt shipwrecked when they moved from New York to Topeka, Kansas.  (more…)

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