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Archive for the ‘Child Development’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: SHE & HIM-Christmas Party (2016).

The first She & Him Christmas album was a little flat, a little dull.  So I wasn’t that excited to get a new one.  But this one is so much more fun than the first.

Zooey Deschanel feels much looser and freer and the music is more lush and not so restrained.  It’s still not anything like the craziness that Zooey Deschanel is capable of. In fact, there’s a lot of restraint.  But some fun is certainly have, mostly as little asides.

“All I Want for Christmas Is You” starts the album and you can hear the big change.  There’s a choir singing behind her which sounds huge (in comparison) and Zooey puts a nice vibrato on her voice.  There’s drums and a bouncy beat.  This album feels very much alive compared to the first one.

“Let It Snow” slows things down.  But it’s and jazzy very appropriate to the song.

“Must Be Santa” is a silly fun track.  This one has accordion and a bouncy backing chorus.  Like in the Dylan version, they list the presidents along with the reindeer.  But it hurts a lot that after the first batch of presidents, they tack on Barack Obama and Hilary Clinton, which hurts a lot.

“Happy Holiday” has a pretty, echoey guitar and Zooey really shows off her voice nicely.

“Mele Kalikimaka” is a favorite Christmas song.  This version is a little delicate compared to the more rocking version, but it does capture a Hawaiian spirit.

“Christmas Memories” is a bit too slow for my liking but it is a pretty song.

“Run Run Rudolph” M sings lead.  This song is kinda dumb when you actually hear the words.  I’m surprised they didn’t upend gender stereotypes on this one like they did on “Baby, It’s Cold Outside.”

“Winter Wonderland” a duet with Jenny Lewis.  It’s fun to hear another voice with hers.  There’s a goofy moment where Jenny sings, “we can pretend he is Jerry Brown.”

“The Coldest Night of the Year” is a nice sweet duet.  When the chorus comes in with Ward in the backing vocals it sounds really great.

“A Marshmallow World” is perfect for her.  Fun and bouncey and surprisingly restrained for what it could have been.

“The Man with the Bag” is pretty and old-fashioned-sounding.  Zooey does this style very well.

“Christmas Don’t Be Late” This normally hyperactive song is almost like a dirge.  I don’t know why the excitement has been removed from it.  It’s a bummer way to end the record.

[READ: December 1, 2017] “Eva”

Once again, I have ordered The Short Story Advent Calendar.  This year, there are brief interviews with each author posted on the date of their story.

Hello. Welcome. It’s finally here: Short Story Advent Calendar time.

If you’re reading along at home, now’s the time to start cracking those seals, one by one, and discover some truly brilliant writing inside. Then check back here each morning for an exclusive interview with the author of that day’s story.

(Want to join in? It’s not too late. Order your copy here.)

This year I’m pairing each story with a holiday disc from our personal collection.

This story is really wonderful.  It’s sad and strange and powerful.

It opens with a man visiting “the hairy child” in Quetzalenango.  The girl is Eva.  Her mother hopes this man is a doctor.  But he is not.  He is a representative of Doña Teresa de Miraflor, a Cuban heiress who was setting up the Society of Scientific Knowledge in Havana. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: PHOEBE BRIDGERS-Tiny Desk Concert #675 (November 27, 2017).

Phoebe Bridgers has an incredibly delicate voice.  And yet despite its delicacy it is also really powerful (as evidenced by the note she holds at the end of “Motion Sickness”).

I know the original of “Motion Sickness” which has a big raw guitar and a powerful chorus.  Her entire sound is stripped down here, with just pianist Ethan Gruska and violinist Rob Moose accompanying her on her quiet guitar.

Together, they celebrated the occasion with languid renditions of three of the album’s best songs: the sad and seductive “Demi Moore,” a drastically muted “Motion Sickness” and a piano-driven take on Bridgers’ first-ever single, “Killer.”

“Demi Moore” has some interesting synthy sounds accompanying Phoebe’s gentle guitar.  I really like the way the violin is playing somewhat unsettling notes rather than gentle accompaniment.  I cannot figure out what this has to do with Demi Moore, though.

As noted, “Motion Sickness” is very different.  It’s a little less catchy somehow (I really like the contrast of the guitars and her voice on the original).  But the song sounds really pretty this way (and I am charmed at the way she seems to be smiling throughout the song).

She describes “Killer” as being about murder.  It includes an unsettling conversations about Jeffrey Dahmer and Bridgers singing without her guitar.  It’s a stark piano song that really lets you hear how pretty her voice is.

I’m very curious to know what she typically sounds like live.

[READ: May 13, 2017] My Brilliant Friend

In what I thought was the final issue of The Believer (it went on hiatus for a couple of years), Nick Hornby says he really enjoyed My Brilliant Friend.  So I decided to check it out (since it’s part of a series and was compared tangentially to My Struggle, I decided to keep a running tally of pages just in case I decided to read all four of these books).

I haven’t read a ton of Italian writers, I gather.  And while that doesn’t really impact the quality of the story (or the translation by Ann Goldstein) the book does talk about locations that I’m pretty unfamiliar with.

Evidently there is intrigue about the identity of Elena Ferrante (the name is a pseudonym).  I didn’t know that until after I read the book and looked up to see how many more books there were.  Ferrante (I’ll go with she, because why not) has written four books in this series and three other books with out her identity being discovered.  I suppose the reason her identity is interesting is because this book seems to be autobiographical.  Of course what do you call an autobiography by a pseudonym? (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: RHEOSTATICS-Fall Nationals, Night 8 of 10, The Horseshoe Tavern, Toronto (November 18, 2004).

The Rheostatics, live at the Legendary Horseshoe Tavern in Toronto, November 18, 2004. This was the 8th night of their 10 night Fall Nationals run at the Horseshoe.  Featuring a crazy 17 minute medley followed by Neil Young’s Powderfinger.

Kevin Hearn played keyboards for much of the show and they played a number of songs from the Group of 7 disc and Harmelodia.  The show ran for 2 and a half hours.  There’s only one recording of this show, and it sounds great.

The show opens some what mellow-ish with “Digital Beach.”  It’s a pretty version of this unexpected song and it’s followed by an awesome “Boxcar Song” with Kevin Hearn on keys.

“P.I.N.” sounds lovely.  Midway through, you can hear bongos playing and Martin sings “I’m in the snow / playing bongos.”  He’s quite growly through the song.  After the song, you hear people shouting: “Come on let Martin sing!” Dave: “I think he is for hire, sir.”  Mike: “But only as a mohel.”

Kevin Hearn is on the organ for “It’s Easy To Be With You” and he sings on “Yellow Days Under A Lemon Sun.”  Actually everyone seems to take a verse on this song (but I think they’re making them up as they go along).  At the end, Tim says, “We started off with no keyboard players and now we have two.”

Mike asks if he can get more of Kevin’s sampler?  Dave: “Careful what you wish for–he’s got some Buddy Hackett in there.”

It’s followed by three more from Harmelodia: a sweet “Loving Arms,” a fun “Home Again” and a romping “I Am Drumstein.”  Tim says he is disappointed because he missed a perfect bongo opportunity in that last song.

After an introduction of Chris Stringer on “the organ and effects and other stuff,” they move toward 2067 with “Marginalized.”  There’s a sweeping, trippy keyboard solo in the middle.  And then some guys start shouting “Whale Music” and other things.  Dave says “Loud guy crowd.  Every Fall Nationals there’s a loud guy crowd.”

Introducing “The Tarleks” Dave says, “Dr. Johnny fever was here last night in the flesh, it was rather exciting.”  (Did they really not mention Howard Hessman the night before?).

Over the entire run there’s been constant requests for monitor sound level changes, especially by Mike.  Mike says he could use less of Martin’s vocal (groans from the audience) and says he can’t hear Martin’s guitar.  Martin asks if his guitar sounds okay out front.  There is much applause.  Mike: “you’re just fishing for a compliment.”

Before “Pornography,” someone asks where the bongos are.  They are put to good use in the song.  After saying how proud they are of the new album the  opening of  “Shack In The Cornfields” sounds a little off.  But it is quickly righted and off they go.  The song ends with what sounds like a skipping record and very quiet percussion playing as the s song slowly segues into “Try To Praise This Mutilated World.”  Martin says, “I like that song.  Dave wrote it.  We’re the Rheosatics.  Are you having a good night?”  Someone shouts something and Martin snarks: “You wanna hear our older, funnier stuff?”

They go old, but stay mellow.  Tim is “gonna serenade you with a song.”  “All the Same Eyes” is one “we don’t do anymore.  And now one we just started doing, ‘Here Comes the Image.'”  Tim introduces it by saying “This is a lesson for all you drummers out there.  Never be late for a rehearsal or you will be banish-ed to the keyboard.  Because everyone else wants to play those drums, including me and Dave.  This next song takes place in 2067, so best of luck to you all.”  It’s followed by another mellow song “Who Is Than Man, And Why Is He Laughing?” with Jen Foster on accordion.  After the song, Dave says, “I don’t know if I was dying back there or if someone is cooking but I smelled pancakes.  Kevin, you got a griddle back there?”  Mike also says, “Shameless plug.  Jennifer has her CD for sale at the merch booth.”  Tim: “It’s called Shameless Plug.”

Dave notes that they are “just entering the ‘shang’ part of the evening, folks.”  Whatever that means, the first song is a rollicking “Stolen Car.”  It feels a bit shambolic, but never out of control.  There’s some cool keyboard sound effects during the middle jam.  There’s a pretty “Little Bird, Little Bird”and then a powerful “California Dreamline.”  It segues somewhat oddly into a grooving “Horses” (the only time they’ll play the song during the nine nights).   Kevin gets a wild keyboard solo in the middle of the song.

Dave says there are here the next two nights and the Loud Guy says “we’re coming tomorrow.”  Dave: “Thanks for the warning.”  Dave seems a bit tired of the bozos.  But he does seem to like the fans up front: “You guys have great looking twin shirts there.  I can’t read what’s on the second bus though.  Nowhere and Boredom.”   Mike says he’d choose Nowhere over Boredom, but Dave’s not so sure.  “Boredom gives you something to work with.”

Tim says, “Bear with us while we do this song for our friend Ron Koop.  He is having a hard time right now and hopefully he draws something from this.”  It’s a lovely version of “Making Progress” which is followed by an upbeat and rather silly “Monkeybird.”

And then comes the above mentioned 17 minute medley.  I’m glad Darrin wrote all the songs down, because it’s hard to keep track:

The Horseshoe Medley (The Pooby Song / The Hockey Song / Devil Town / The Ballad Of Wendel Clark Part II / Bees / Folsom Prison Blues / Ring Of Fire / Old Vancouver Town / War Pigs / Human Highway / Rockaway Beach / Walk On The Wild Side / So Long Farewell / Who Stole The Kishka / Let’s Go Skiing In The Morning).

It begins with Dave playing the acoustic guitar and singing “The Pooby Song.”  “Take one, Kevin” and Kevin gets a simplistic guitar solo.  Dave shouts “take it to C” and they start Stompin’ Tom’s “Hockey Song.”  After the “second period” Dave notes: “last game of the lock out season that didn’t exist.  Doesn’t matter, we got enough hockey stored up in our heads that we’re skating all the time anyway.”  The songs ends, but that isn’t the key from the first tune, we gotta go back to the first tune.  Tim: “Take it to B flat.  I love B flat.  Now, back to D.  You got any chords you like?”  Kevin starts singing Daniel Johnston’s “Devil Town.”  Up to E sharp (or F, whatever you want to call it).  Back down to D take it to C.  They start “Wendel.”  Kevin’s got one.  “‘There are bees, there are bees, everywhere’  you know this one, right?”  Tim: “Does this take place in the devilish town?”  Take it to C, for Dave to sing Johnny Cash’s “Folsom Prison Blues” then Kevin switches it to “Ring of Fire.”  Tim picks up with Stompin’ Tom’s “Bridge Came Tumbling Down.”  Kevin resumes with a hilariously upbeat and folksy “War Pigs” with Martin doing some suitably metal guitars sounds.  They even try to do the heavy staccato part before resuming the bluesy part.  “Go to G.”  Dave sings Neil Young’s “Human Highway” but messes it all up, “Okay, never mind go back to E again.”  Tim: “Take it up to A” for “Rockaway Beach.”  Then it’s Kevin with an amusingly upbeat take on “Walk on the Wild Side.”  Mike jumps in with a goofy stab at “So Long, Farewell” and then Dave takes over with “Who Stole the Kishka.”  Tim is yelling “someone call the motherfucking cops.”  The medley should end there but someone keeps it going “a two-step nightmare.”  Dave sings Frankie Yankovic’s “Let’s Go Skiing” while about three other songs go simultaneous.  Someone chants “four more years” and then Dave starts “Powderfinger” in the medley.  He kind of screws it up and as it fades, Martin asks, “What’s the next verse?”  “Something about hunting” and then Martin takes it over for real. He knows some of the words, and they kind of salvage it.”

At the end Dave even says “Thanks, I think.”

But after 8 days in a row, you’re allowed a bit of a fun meltdown.

As they walk off, Martin asks, “Hey Dave what’s a kishka? A sausage type thing?”  A fans shouts, “a small donut.”  Dave: “It’s not a small donut.  But that’s funnier.”  It’s a great and funny end to a wild show.

[READ: July 11, 2017] Real Friends

I’ve enjoyed Shannon Hale a lot recently, so I was pretty happy to read a new book by her.  Sarah had told me that it was a really excellent portrayal of girl friendship in grammar school.  It is also biographical and makes me think that it’s pretty amazing that Hale made it through to high school at all.

The book is divided into sections with friends’ names, and each of these sections is basically how she met these friends.

Shannon was the middle child between a pair of older girls and a pair of younger siblings.  She was kind of alone and was very clingy to her mom.  But on her first day of kindergarten, despite being nervous and sad, she made friends with Adrienne.

They were soon inseparable.  Shannon made up games for them in which they fought off bad guys (boys who just seemed to want them in whatever capacity a five year-old girls thinks boys might want them).  I love that their game was utterly feminist and yet they were portraying Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders because that’s who was popular and everyone wanted to be one.  And yet these cheerleaders had pet saber toothed tigers and sharks and they beat up ghastly boys. (more…)

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[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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