Thursday, July 28, 2011

Summer Mix, 2011—Heat wave edition

Here is the track list for our 2011 summer cd, the 6th we’ve made as a family:

Lovely Day--Bill Withers
Eet--Regina Spektor           
Boogie Nights--Heat Wave           
Chic C'est La Vie--Countess Luann
Montezuma--Fleet Foxes
Police On My Back--The Clash
Like A Rolling Stone--Bob Dylan
You've Got a Friend in Me (para el Buzz Español)--Gipsy Kings
Firework--Katy Perry
Dancing Queen--Abba
What a Wonderful World--Louis Armstrong
Thunder Road--Bruce Springsteen
Right as Rain--Adele
Candombe Del Olvido--Alfredo Zitarrosa
The Cave--Mumford & Sons
Sugar Mountain--Neil Young
Town Called Malice--The Jam
Viva La Vida--Coldplay
Maybe I'm Amazed--Paul McCartney
Doña Soledad--Repique
Mountain Greenery--Ella Fitzgerald

Perhaps not surprisingly, Uruguayan music is represented as never before. Of the three kiddie pop songs that emerged after a weekend with our Vermont cousins, Justin Beiber and Taio Cruz didn’t make the cut, but Katy Perry turns out to be a crowd-pleaser. And, in honor of a genius tribute video by one of my husband’s colleagues, we have our first ever track from one of the Real Housewives, Countess Luann. As Izzy (5) says, “It’s silly, but it’s fun to dance to.” Coldplay makes its third appearance, one of only three artists to do so in six years. The other two are Stevie Wonder and Pink Martini. That trio captures, I think, what it is we’re up to here: picking great songs that are fun to share across generations. 

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Lady Henry Somerset & the Chinese Shoe

My grandmother grew up in China, where she lived until she went to college. She once described witnessing little girls with newly bound feet being chased about the courtyard with switches, the older women forcing them to become accustomed to walking so bound. My grandmother loved China, spoke Chinese, believed—in spite of some of her strict Lutheran teaching—that God must surely admit some of the kind, non-Lutheran Chinese to heaven, too. She did not at all love her girlhood on the mission, but she loved Chinese culture. She was a brilliant, kind, strong woman, and, for all that, she abhorred footbinding.

All that is a long preface to explain why I was so forcibly struck by this quotation from Woolf on footbinding, from a short review called, to emphasize her metaphor, “The Chinese Shoe.” Woolf reviewed a biography of Lady Henry Somerset in the fall of 1923. She emphasizes the immense social pressures that conspired to quash Lady Somerset’s joie de vivre:

“The Victorian age was to blame; her mother was to blame; Lord Henry was to blame; even the saintly Mr. Watts was forced by fate to take part in the general conspiracy against her. Between them each natural desire of a lively and courageous nature was stunted, until we feel that the old Chinese custom of fitting the foot to the shoe was charitable compared with the mid-Victorian practice of fitting the woman to the system.”

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Bonar Law, The Forgotten Prime Minister

One couldn't laugh at him. He looked so ordinary. You might have stood him behind a counter and bought biscuits--poor chap, all rigged up in gold lace. And to be fair, as he went his rounds, first with Clarissa, then with Richard escorting him, he did it very well. He tried to look somebody. It was amusing to watch. Nobody looked at him. They just went on talking, yet it was perfectly plain that they all knew, felt to the marrow of their bones, this majesty passing; this symbol of what they all stood for, English society. Old Lady Bruton, and she looked very fine too, very stalwart in her lace, swam up, and they withdrew into a little room which at once became spied upon, guarded, and a sort of stir and rustle rippled through every one openly: the Prime Minister!--Mrs. Dalloway.

Thursday, July 07, 2011

Alfredo Zitarrosa

Last week, after the conference was over, two of the English professors from the University of the Republic of Uruguay were kind enough to take me and another visiting American on a drive to the charming vacation town of Colonía.

While there, I spotted a music store and asked my new Uruguayan friends to help me pick some Cds to remember Uruguay by. I had read about Luciano Supervielle as the hot new Uruguayan artist on the plane, so I picked up his album. I also got a two-cd compilation of Candombe, the distinctive, highly percussive Afro-Uruguayan music (and, I’m told, the only music that this solely Uruguayan—tango, being, of course, shared with Argentina). Both are terrific.

If you want old music, traditional music, they said, maybe try Alfredo Zitarrosa. But, the man warned, his music is very sad, very depressing. He has one song, my new friend continued, in which he likens his failed love, his failed life, his failed nation, to the slaughter of a calf which is vividly described in the 16-minute song. By the end of the 16 minutes, you’ll want to kill yourself, too, he said. This music may not be for you.

But my fellow American and I took one look at this face—that sad, manly bassett hound topped with a lot of hair and a bit too much gel really does it for me—and picked up copies of a collection of Zitarrosa. I can’t stop listening to it and it seems to me that his is the music I have been needing all my life. Gorgeous, lush, and melancholy, with beautiful clear masculine vocals and a sweet Spanish guitar, the music moves me to my core.

To hear this man singing mi pais, mi dolor, mi gente, mariposa is to feel, all facts to the contrary, almost able to understand Spanish.

I love Dylan and Leonard Cohen, but there is something about melancholy songs in another language that just slays me. My love for Jacques Brel will never abate, but I needed someone new. Zitarrosa forever!

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

The first Mrs. Dalloway

I really can barely stand the Clarissa of The Voyage Out, but this is too funny:
Mrs. Dalloway, with her head a little on one side, did her best to recollect Ambrose—was it a surname?—but failed. She was made slightly uneasy by what she had heard. She knew that scholars married any one—girls they met in farms on reading parties; or little suburban women who said disagreeably, "Of course I know it's my husband you want; not me."

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

A thin thread

“Because,” he said, “I sometimes have a queer feeling with regard to you—especially when you are near me, as now: it is as if I had a string somewhere under my left ribs, tightly and inextricably knotted to a similar string situated in the corresponding quarter of your little frame.  And if that boisterous Channel, and two hundred miles or so of land come broad between us, I am afraid that cord of communion will be snapt; and then I’ve a nervous notion I should take to bleeding inwardly.  As for you,—you’d forget me.”--Jane Eyre, chapter 23
Spotted whilst watching the wonderful new film of the book on American flight 596 from Buenos Aires to JFK, confirmed via e-text. Compare to:
And they went further and further from her, being attached to her by a thin thread (since they had lunched with her) which would stretch and stretch, get thinner and thinner as they walked across London; as if one's friends were attached to one's body, after lunching with them, by a thin thread, which (as she dozed there) became hazy with the sound of bells, striking the hour or ringing to service, as a single spider's thread is blotted with rain-drops, and, burdened, sags down. So she slept.--Mrs. Dalloway.

You never know when you'll find a footnote.

Monday, July 04, 2011

Coloquio Internacional Montevideana VII: Programa Montevideana VII

Coloquio Internacional Montevideana VII: Programa Montevideana VII: "MIÉRCOLES 22 DE JUNIO 13.30 – 14.30. Inscripciones. 14.30 – 15.10. Palabras inaugurales a cargo de: Enrique Aguerre, Director del Museo ..."