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Archive for the ‘Crossword Puzzles’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: KING GIZZARD AND THE LIZARD WIZARD-Oddments (2014).

After the psychedelia of the previous album, KGATLW released this varied collection of songs.  Indeed, none of the 12 songs sound anything like the others.  It’s hard to say if this is a collection of leftover songs or an attempt to make a varied record.  After all, they had released four and a half albums in three years.

Nothing is really more than 3 minutes except “Work This Time.”  Everything goes by so quickly it’s hard to know what to think.

“Alluda Majaka” opens this record with an instrumental that has every style of music thrown into it–funky bass, organ, Indian music, there’s also sound effects and clips from a movie or two and really loud drums.  It’s a crazy opening for a crazy album.

“Stressin'” slows things down with a falsetto vocal and a gentle groove including a warbly wild guitar solo.  It’s followed by “Vegemite,” a nonsensical ode to vegemite with a great beat and an easy to sing along chorus (sung by Ambrose, I believe): Veg-e-mite…I like.

“It’s Got Old” is slower simple rocker (complete with flute and handclaps) and somehow is followed by the trippy, synthy swirls of “Work This Time.”  It opens with a rumbling wild drum intro and then becomes really gentle with more soft falsetto vocals.

“ABCABcd” is 17 seconds of garage rock nonsense before the sweet rocking acoustic guitars of “Sleepwalker.”

“Hot Wax” sounds like an old(er) KG garage rock song.  There’s creepy vocals from Stu and a simple riff and a chorus that literally repeats chorus from “Surfin Safari” but with their own muffled, fuzzy garage rock chords.  “Crying” has an old soul sound with its simple three note melody.  It even has spoken word parts (the way you act, girl) and everything.

The end of the disc throws in even more craziness in the last five or so minutes.  “Pipe Dream” is a one minute instrumental that doesn’t really do anything except evoke a psychedelic moment.  It fades out just as a riff begins.  But it’s not the riff to “Homeless Man in Addidas” which is a quiet acoustic folk song that sounds an awful lot like “April She Will Come” by Simon & Garfunkel.  The disc ends with “Oddments,” a 25 second piece of silliness that’s like a commercial for the disc which even chants out the disc name.

Unlike their more cohesive albums, this is not a necessity exactly, but it is a fun opportunity to see just how much KGATLW can do in 30 minutes.

[READ: November 2018] Cluetopia

This is a brief history of the crossword puzzle as broken down by year.

David Astle (whose name must be a crossword answer) is a crossword maniac.  What makes this book especially interesting to me is that he is from Australia, which means he has a very different perspective on the crossword puzzle than someone like Will Shortz.  For there is a great American/British (and Australian) divide when it comes to crosswords.

Astle is a huge fan of British-style cryptic puzzles and he really delves into some of the best ones over the last century.

A neat summary of the different types of puzzles comes from Always Puzzling: (more…)

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2across  SOUNDTRACK: ZUILL BAILEY-Tiny Desk Concert #63 (June 4, 2010).

baileyZuill Bailey plays a cello.  Well, actually, that’s not right.  The cello he plays is old “very old — but it’s also special, built by the renowned Venetian maker Matteo Goffriller in 1693. That means Johann Sebastian Bach was all of 8 years old when Goffriller slapped on the final layer of shellac.  The instrument is unusually large, with a tawny orange hue, and one of only two Goffrillers which can boast an intricately carved Rosette under the fingerboard [see below].  And its sound? A full, round, burnished tone that pours forth with remarkable volume.”

Bailey plays three pieces from three of Bach’s suites (he had just released an album of six suites).  And they sound amazing.  The first piece is instantly recognizable and sounds incredible on this instrument.

But beyond playing a gorgeous cello, Bailey is a great storyteller.  He describes how when Bach started writing suites for cello, the instrument was considered a church bass–basically a piece of furniture and not something to write gorgeous suites on.  He also says that people have asked him if he has named his cello and he says that he calls it J.Lo. because it is “robust in the bass tones.”

Introducing the second piece he says that the sarabande was banned from polite society because it was considered too slow and sensuous in those times (which is why he’s going to play it now).

bailey2And then he describes the feeling of the sound that comes from that cello–it resonates through the maple in the instrument and vibrates his body. It is clear how much he loves this instrument.

Obviously the pieces are beautiful, but his renditions are really stunning.

J.S. Bach: Solo Cello Suite No. 1 – “Prelude”

J.S. Bach: Solo Cello Suite No. 2 – “Sarabande”

J.S. Bach: Solo Cello Suite No. 3 – “Prelude”

[READ: September 13, 2015] Two Across

Sarah brought this book home and loved it.  She thought I’d enjoy it, too.  And why not?  The main character, Stanley, is a crossword puzzle maker (Sarah finished it on the day that puzzler Merle Reagle died, sad to say).  The other main character, Vera, is a math genius who also becomes a puzzle maker.  The fact that I just finished the Felicia Day book in which she (a real person) is a math genius, gave me strange parallels between Felicia and Vera.

If those character traits interest you, there is so much to like about this book.  We first meet Stanley and Vera as they are competing for the national spelling bee in Washington D.C.  They are both certain that they will win (we get alternating perspectives from each of them).  And we see their minds as they hate the other one who is trying to take the title from them.  When the bee ends, they are both rewarded for their efforts.  And they form a strange bond, because they both have a lot in common even though their lives are entirely different.

Stanley lives in a hotel.  His grandfather was a chef there and his father died in WWII, so the hotel has offered them their cheapest (crappiest) suite for the rent of $1 a month. Stanley’s mother never leaves the room… ever.  She had never recovered from Stanley’s father’s death.  The hotel staff is like Stanley’s family, and he is well looked after.  But his mother pushes Stanley very hard, insisting that he go to Harvard.  And Stanley is clearly a genius–he used to memorize the encyclopedia, and he has all kinds of facts at his disposal.  But he is also deeply wounded by never knowing his father.

Vera, on the other hand, is pretty much transient.  Her mother is working her butt off to become an IBM sales rep and so they travel everywhere.  Vera is also a genius, finishing her school work in a few days and then spending the rest of her time reading or doing challenging math.

They are both quite likable, even if neither one has any social skills at all. (more…)

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