MSNBC's Rachel Maddow delivered her best line in weeks today. She reported on the Czech PM Mirek Topolanek who is soon to host POTUS and who boldly called Obama's stimulus plan a "road to hell", a slander reportedly learned while attending an AC/DC concert. While the Prime Minister's remark refers to the eponymous hit single from AC/DC's sixth album 1979, "Highway to Hell", Maddow tops him by extending the popular music cultural reference to AC/DC's subsequent and more highly regarded album* (Back in Black, 1980). Her ace rejoinder conjures an early misogynist line in Back in Black's "You Shook Me All Night Long":
"She had the/sightless eyes, telling/me no lies/Knocking me out with those A/merican thighs".
Maddow's response at once retorted the unapologetic Prime Minister and neutered the male gaze behind the lyrics:
"And now you'll know the back story if you read that at that meeting the Czech Prime Minister got himself knocked out with some American thighs."**
(Snap!) Topolanek is clearly attempting to provoke President Obama into a quarrel he can't win; Maddow's got him there. She also reminds us ("if you read . . .") that although we can't presage the President's actions, Obama has the obvious upper hand at that meeting. The PM, by channeling AC/DC, has been rhetorically assaulted by Maddow's clever retort, which subverts or places out of context the rude tone of "You Shook Me". At the same time Maddow invites subjects of the male gaze, wherever it may exist, to turn the tables and "take the power back." (Whether it's read that way is another matter entirely.) A two-fer!
This piece is superb, but one mistake unfortunately mars Maddow's otherwise great episode. In an earlier piece, she strangely gave "permission" to her audience to disengage with articles that likened Obama's Afghanistan plan to Iraq-style insurgence. But why not read on, and learn what else the paper is misreporting or getting right?
* - The latter album hit #1 in the UK and in the band's native Australia, hit #4 on the Billboard Pop Album chart (Highway showed at #14), and placed 73rd on Rolling Stone magazine's top 500 Albums in 2003. (Highwaywas at the 60th percentile at #199.) The two pertinent singles had divergent fates: "You Shook Me" had less sway with Billboard, sneaking in at #35 on the Billboard Pop Album chart while "Highway to Hell" was well toward the top (#17).
** - Microphones captured some of Maddow's staff laughing in real time to her delivery. She's excellent!
Interested readers might have already inquired, "Whence the subtitle to this blog 'Live from Montreal'?" After such a pithy opening gambit, I must now admit that I was attempting to fool no one in that first sentence with the plural 'readers'--Zac knows where the subtitle comes from. (Hi Zac!)
In any case, this is a rave about taxes you pay. Uncle Sam--and by that metonymic device I mean, of course, all you taxpayers--has done me well over the past four years in the form of student loans. And so, I feel incredibly indebted to you all this evening. Last time I checked (c. 2003), roughly 50% of students' tuition at the University of Minnesota was subsidized by state taxpayers. There's a lot of students in attendance, and so that's a lot of money we're talking about. Of course, there are many residents of the state as well. Agreed, but each pays taxes each year that helps me (and thousands like me) attend university. I'm stuffing lots into my brain right now; I'm 'working out' pretty heavily that I might in some way repay in the form of educating students.
Listening to Frank Zappa's iconoclastic debut Freak Out! (1966) tonight, I couldn't get past my thoughts on the countless ways in which Frank's voice must be remembered. There's a concert tour going around these days called "Zappa plays Zappa" led by Frank's musician (I think he'd prefer that to simply 'guitarist') son Dweezil. Now, I'm not sure if Dweezil considers himself a "Zappa fan" proper, but a "Zappa fan" is all I could ever hope to be. That's his dad we're all listening to. Hey guys, Happy Father's Day eleven months early. Remember, you're kids are listening to what you tell them . . . bystanders overhear you.
"Who could imagine that they would freak out in Minnesota? Who could imagine?"
[more later . . .]
My word, if you don't already know, you should learn how much of a dick Superman was:
Click here for SUPERDICKERY!!!
If you're anything like me, you nearly immediately forward to your friends and colleagues URLs of cool things you find on the internet. And so I forward these to you--Short comedic films by Mitchell Rose. I especially like his "Modern Daydreams" series. If you're reading this you must know me fairly well, and I you. Accordingly, I am confident that you'll enjoy these charming films.
Until recently, I hadn't been properly introduced to Richard Wagner's Ring Cycle. It always felt like a musician's Everest--taunting those who have never attempted to summit, casually eliminating many who have attempted, and standing as the unspeakable reward to the few who have made it 'to the top'. But I decided to host a screening of the Cycle with my roommate this month, beginning with Das Rheingold last Thursday.
I'll speak of only one of the many striking components of this first work. Das Rheingold opens with 130-odd measures of one single tonality, E-flat major. It's a necessary transitional tool from the real world to Wagner's unabashedly fictional world, and I think it works extraordinarily well. If one gives in to this device, she will find the E-flat major tonality rendered in an insistently and stunningly gorgeous way.
Actually, I think students of orchestration could learn very much with a diligent study of these opening measures. Take Wagner's use of the flutes, for instance. So elegant, so simple, yet so effective in convincing us that flutes can downright shimmer! Take a look at the composer's rhythmic and dynamic work, as well. How well does he time his acceleration and crescendo! Listen to this passage--it's perhaps the only portion of the Ring that can produce an equivalent effect without the visual component--and see what you find. I think you'll be impressed, and perhaps enticed to watch the whole Vorabend (Levine with the Met is an effective traditional setting).
I had seen a little Wagner before. But once I decided to give the Ring Cycle my full attention, I honestly saw his importance in a different light. Give it a shot, if you haven't, and allow a set of simple figurations in E-flat major take you somewhere. You might just wish you had experienced it earlier!
Nothing on the internet has made me laught more heartily or more consistently than Pokey the Penguin. Rather than attempt an explanation, I invite you to discover for yourself the humor of this animated flightless bird. Suffice it to say, thought, that this comic might just define the phrase non sequitur.
I have added to my blog a hyperlink to this hilarious site. Enjoy (repeatedly) and do visit the Pokey archives,
I found out only last night that I love Barbara Hershey. She's a truly great actress. Watch her in "Tin Men" and you'll see what I mean.
I woke up early this morning to the sounds of fire truck in reverse. Lying still, I was confronted with the smoke which surely precipitated their arrival, yet I was in that half-in, half-out of sleep state and didn't react strongly. But after some time I decided to check out this emergency outside.
Sure enough, a building on the other side of the block was or had been on fire. I couldn't really tell for the trees between the site and me. I believe the fire was contained by the time I went a-gawking.
But anyway, my point is that on all four streets of the block there were emergency vehicles of all sorts, manned with personnel who gear up for this sort of activity each Friday night. The city of Montreal must have sent 10 fire trucks, 2 ambulances, one interesting all-purpose bus, and maybe one other vehicle.
Everyone was there. This entire episode assured me that if, god forbid, something was ever to happen in the building I occupied, that these people would react with everything they've got to try and pull my sleepy butt from el fuego, le fue, das Feuer, the fire. So a Rave to fire fighters of every stripe in every city, (under)paid or volunteer, man or woman, rookie or vet. Thanks for your rapid response.
(not proofed - still sleepy)
Finished my class Wednesday. Finals, papers, entering grades . . . it's all done. And already my life feels drastically different - I made time to read The Turn of the Screw by Henry James yesterday, and today I'll watch the opera by Britten. This was simply not possible last week. As hard as I tried, I never managed to get ahead in lecture preparation.
Orpheus Singers, this chamber group I've been with for a few months, is putting on a concert this weekend. We're singing some wholly unsatisfying lieder/part songs, and Liszt's Mass, which is comparatively intricate. The German pieces (Brahms, Mendelssohn, Schumann) are new for me - never sat down to listen to this part of the Romantic Era - and unfortunately they seem to have never grown on me.
The day after the concert I fly to Minneapolis, the City of Lakes. (Come to think of it, there are many cities with lakes in that area . . . Minneapolis must have had to lobby really hard for that name.) I'll be in town for two weeks (-18 JUN).
All for now,
I have attained the status of having a market value.
(+) or (-)?
Yes, I received my first paycheck as an instructor yesterday. There are apparently people and committees here in Canada that believe the musical factoids I've stuffed into my head are worth some money.
To celebrate, I discussed Pinocchio in class today. Seems a logical trio - Verdi, Wagner, and a Puppet-Boy. I'll let you think about that one for a while.
ps - this entry was typed entirely employing the famous one-hand typing technique . . . though eating popcorn with my other hand is perhaps not as naughty as you were thinking. For shame!
Whew, what a day. Spent my morning translating French into English, and now I shall wait hopefully to learn if I did or did not pass my first language examination here at McGill. I'm pleased with what I turned in - there were no major hiccups, as far as I could tell, and my finished product read like more than passable English.
I moved right from the exam to lunch (beans, couscous, chicken salad sandwich, mmm).
After an hour, it was time to teach. Today we covered three genres of the classical era other than the symphony (which we had discussed the previous two days). Sonata, concerto, string quartet. Watched Alfred Brendel perform Mozart's K.457, and the Borodin Quartet perform the final movement of Beethoven's op.59 no.2. I could explain the genre of, say, string quartet until I'm blue in the face, but I think it's more effecient and instructive to show the students how four musicians conspire and become one.
Now, it's off to prepare both a review session and a lecture of Mozart's Don Giovanni.
Vienna waits for me. (never thought I'd make Billy Joel references)
I'll be attending a five-week summer session with Allen Forte, Professor Emeritus of music theory at Yale University. We'll be studying the music of Mahler, Schoenberg, Webern and Berg from what promises to be analytical and historical in basis. This is great news for me, since I haven't studied this music with any real depth before.
But what the BAD news is, is that I'll also be in Vienna during my friends' wedding. Zac and Solange are getting married in New Orleans, which as you must have heard, was decimated by Katrina last year (about two months after my most recent entry other than today's). They had a date set, around which I was planning my summer, but I failed to notice that Z&S had to move the date, since arrangements in Louisiana must have needed some serious untangling.
So, my very best to you two! I wish I didn't have my heart set on going to Europe this summer. Bring you back some absinthe?