Summer begins

As Summer begins let’s begin with a simple poem.

Summer Song by William Carlos Williams

Wanderer moon
smiling a
faintly ironical smile
at this
brilliant, dew-moistened
summer morning,—
a detached
sleepily indifferent
smile, a
wanderer’s smile,—
if I should
buy a shirt
your color and
put on a necktie
where would they carry me?

While I was looking up this poem there were several websites that were already trying to crown a “Song of the Summer.” Sure the season of Summer began on Memorial Day but we’ve still got more than half the summer left so how can we decide what the song is now. Billboard offers the top 10 list since 1958 but this really is a new thing. The Huffington Post offers their own suggestions as to what it might be and even has some guidelines as how to pick the song which includes what has to be my favorite “rule” “by the end of Summer, the entire world must never want to hear it again.” If you don’t care what the song of this Summer is TimeoutNY offers a playlist of the top 50 best songs about summer, this is by far a list that I would fire up at any summertime party.


Memorial/Decoration Day

ABC has a great article up about the meaning of Memorial Day, for many Americans it marks the beginning of the Summer with a cookout but that is not what the Day is intended to be. The Day began in earnest after the Civil War although there were local Decoration Days where people went and decorated soldiers’ graves with flowers. In 1882, the name what changed to Memorial Day it until 1968 it was on May 30th. In 1968 it moved to the last Monday in May. This has caused some issues for servicemen and women who believe that changing the date has undermined the very meaning of the day and caused it to be looked at by the general public lack of real observance of the day. This is a day to remember those who have died in service of our nation.

Last year we looked at Longfellow’s poem that remembered the day, this time around it Charles Ives. Ives was a modernist composer who I’ve never heard of before but in his four movement symphony A Symphony: New England Holidays the second movement is Decoration Day.

Sing Street (2016)

Sing Street is the latest film from John Carney, director/writer of Once and Begin Again. This is the other musical which was nominated for a Golden Globe this year. Once again focusing on music but this time in the 80s in Ireland. We have a story of a boy who starts a band to impress a girl. Spoilers to follow.

The film begins at a family meeting where we meet Lawlor’s who are on hard time so they take their youngest son Conor (Ferdia Walsh-Peelo) and place him in a free state-school, Synge Street CBS, run by the Christian Brothers. Conor’s older brother, Brendan (Jack Reynor) rubs this in, joking about pedophilia, but also laments about the state of the family which is in a rocky state. On Conor’s first day at school he runs into trouble with the school principal, Brother Baxter, who reprimands him for not wearing black shoes as indicated in the school dress code, Conor also run into the school bully. This leads Conor to met a budding entrepreneur Darren (Ben Carolan), who has also been bullied and Conor and Darren become friends. The next morning or so meeting up before school Conor ask Darren who the girl across the street is, Darren doesn’t so Conor goes over and talks with her, she’s an aspiring model named Raphina (Lucy Boyton) Conor asks her if she wants to be in a music video for his band, she agrees.

The only problem is that there is no band. Conor and Darren go about assembling a band from the school.  They start with Eamon (Mark McKenna) a multi-instrumentalist, who has all these instruments around, and round out the group with the black guy in school, and two other guys who sort of are just there to fill out the band. As they get together they begin as a cover band but after Conor brings a recording of the band for Brendan to listen to, and Brendan isn’t a huge fan as they are just a cover band and cover bands are a dime a dozen. This inspires Conor to begin writing his own music and with Eamon’s help they are pretty good at it as well. After the first song is written they film a video and Raphina shows up. With each new song the band’s style evolves while Conor and Raphina get close at the same time Conor’s home life implodes. However, the closer they get Raphina seems all to motivated to leave for London to become a famous model and one day she leaves. Conor is heart broken and can’t write or play music but Brendan inspires him to write so someone can get out of this place. Will Conor write or ever see Raphina again.

If you have a brother this is a wonderful movie to watch, even if you don’t have one or you are one it tells a timeless story of love and family. Fans of the music of the 1980s should give it a look as well as those who have enjoyed other John Carney’s movies I hope that you take the time to watch the film.

Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God

We always begin the year with this Holy Day of Obligation and there is good reason for it. Sure Mary plays a role in the Christmas story but she sometimes get lost, since we’ve got Jesus and the shepherds, Joseph, animals, a little drummer boy, those kings all figure prominently in songs. Sure Mary is mentioned “the babe the son of Mary” but of the songs about Mary vary greatly. We have the Kingston Trio in Mary Mild singing about a child Jesus wanting to play at ball and making a bridge with the beams of the sun. Then we’ve got the song which is from Mary’s point of view, Breath of Heaven, this is a decent song from Amy Grant and is sort of like Michael Card’s Joseph’s Song which is kind of about being the parent of the Son of God. Finally we have the worst in my opinion Mary, Did You Know?, it has been covered by a whole bunch of artist, and the simple answer is that Mary learns of most of this in a vague since at the Presentation roughly forty days after the birth, when she meets Simeon “Behold, this child is set for the falling and the rising of many in Israel, and for a sign which is spoken against. Yes, a sword will pierce through your own soul, that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed” (Luke 2:34-35)

By turning towards Mary as we begin the year is a way for all of us to look towards someone to aspire to since Mary points us toward Jesus. The Theotokos is honored in Eastern Orthodox Church on December 26th as Father Alexander Schmemann, notes “the Church points to Mary as the one through whom the Incarnation was made possible. His humanity—concretely and historically—is the humanity He received from Mary. His body is, first of all, her body. His life is her life.” Honoring the mother and child at the birth is something that we should all do. Sure we all celebrate our birthday but we weren’t the only ones there, our birth partners, our mothers, are an important part of the event. Let us all remember our heavenly Mother this year and especially our own mothers on the date of our birth.

The Wrecking Crew (2008)

This is a documentary about The Wrecking Crew, session musicians behind some of the most iconic songs of the 60s. If you listened to any of the records from like The Beach Boys, The Mamas and The Papas, Phil Spector groups, and many others even Frank Sinatra you’ve heard them play but may not know them. These were the musicians behind the bands in the 60s. I hadn’t really heard of The Wrecking Crew until the film came out, but I guess that could be said for a lot of people. If you haven’t heard of them go watch the documentary and discover a unique part of the development of Rock and Roll. It’s nice to see these people from behind the scenes get the recognition that they deserve even after all these years.

Litany of Loreto

I’ve never really gotten into any other Marian devotion beside the Rosary, sure when I was at Catholic school at noon we prayed the Angelus and Regina Coeli during Easter and I pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet. This was the extent of the Marian devotion that I knew about until I found out about the various types of Rosaries. While reading about these Litanies were mentioned sure I know the Litany of the Saints but this one is devoted to Mary. It was approved in 1587 by Pope Sixtus V. It became famous in Lorato when it was written is debatable as some claim that it has existed since the time of the Apostles, although historians roughly date it back to the turn of the 16th century. The oldest document that we know of is from 1558 and is titled “Order of the Litany of Our Lady as said every Saturday at Loreto”.

Lord have mercy.
Christ have mercy.
Lord have mercy.
Christ hear us.
Christ graciously hear us.

God, the Father of heaven,
have mercy on us.

God the Son, Redeemer of the world,
God the Holy Spirit,
Holy Trinity, one God,

Holy Mary,
pray for us.
Holy Mother of God,
Holy Virgin of virgins,
Mother of Christ,
Mother of the Church,
Mother of divine grace,
Mother most pure,
Mother most chaste,
Mother inviolate,
Mother undefiled,
Mother most amiable,
Mother admirable,
Mother of good counsel,
Mother of our Creator,
Mother of our Saviour,
Mother of mercy,
Virgin most prudent,
Virgin most venerable,
Virgin most renowned,
Virgin most powerful,
Virgin most merciful,
Virgin most faithful,
Mirror of justice,
Seat of wisdom,
Cause of our joy,
Spiritual vessel,
Vessel of honour,
Singular vessel of devotion,
Mystical rose,
Tower of David,
Tower if ivory,
House of gold,
Ark of the covenant,
Gate of heaven,
Morning star,
Health of the sick,
Refuge of sinners,
Comfort of the afflicted,
Help of Christians,
Queen of Angels,
Queen of Patriarchs,
Queen of Prophets,
Queen of Apostles,
Queen of Martyrs,
Queen of Confessors,
Queen of Virgins,
Queen of all Saints,
Queen conceived without original sin,
Queen assumed into heaven,
Queen of the most holy Rosary,
Queen of families,
Queen of peace.

Lamb of God, who takest away the sins of the world,
spare us, O Lord.

Lamb of God, who takest away the sins of the world,
graciously hear us, O Lord.

Lamb of God, who takest away the sins of the world,
have mercy on us.

Pray for us, O holy Mother of God.
That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

Let us pray.
Grant, we beseech thee,
O Lord God,
that we, your servants,
may enjoy perpetual health of mind and body;
and by the intercession of the Blessed Mary, ever Virgin,
may be delivered from present sorrow,
and obtain eternal joy.
Through Christ our Lord.

I took this basic form of the Litany from the Vatican website. It has also been adapted into song by Mozart and bunch of other composers. These are beautiful pieces and this is nice to pray the Litany during May.

Super Bowl L

Well this Super Bowl wasn’t the most exciting but the Broncos defense outlasted the Panther defense and  won their first Super  Bowl since 1998. Was this the final game in the storied career of Peyton Manning, we don’t know currently. If it was the final game it ends a wonderful career of Peyton Manning as he follows the footsteps of John Elway, and it looks like in seven years Peyton will be joining the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Although Cam Newton lost I doubt that this is the final Super Bowl in his Career. The game itself wasn’t that exciting with a combined six turnovers and two offensive touchdowns.

The Ads: There were only a couple of really funny ads that I remembered from Super Bowl Sunday. The best in my mind was the Doritos commercial with the pregnant lady getting an ultrasound.

Halftime show: I would say that two thirds of the halftime show worked, Beyonce and Bruno Mars Coldplay fell flat. Sure they were the headliners but Beyonce and Bruno Mars upstaged them. Perhaps next year there will be a good halftime show at the game in Houston where all sides of he shoe work well together.

News Roundup

Star Wars: We start with the primary fact that the new film comes out in a month. Kevin Smith has said some good things about the film. Honest Trailer has done a the original Star Wars. Over on Wired they have an interesting article that basically says that “There is never going to be a final Star Wars movie” since the thing major studios are doing now is all about the Universe, Marvel is a great example they’ve made a dozen films and have three television shows, soon to be four all set in the same shared world. This seems like the way franchises are going to work. With Star Wars they’ve already had an extensive written canon (sadly Disney erased it from the film canon) but from here they can make just about any type of story that a director wants.

Symphonic Metal: While I was browsing on Reddit I stumbled on this genre of music. It a weird mix of classical with drums and guitars.

Movies: Hollywood is going to reboot/remake the 2000 Christopher Nolan film Memento. This is clearly a horrible idea since the original just came out. Sure it makes some sense if it were a foreign film being remade in English, but I’m not that big of a fan of those film either. With films being more widely available to the consumer especially from places across the globe why not just release the film with subtitles or I’m not a big fan of it but they could even dub the film and release it to the American audience.  Case in point Oldboy, the South Korean film is considered a masterpiece but the American version was a dud. If Hollywood is out of ideas lets let some young directors make something like an American Graffiti or a Clerks, all films don’t have to be 100 million dollar productions. In fact some of the least expensive films have had the greatest return on Investment. Yet giving young directors a chance to make an original film is a necessity for Hollywood.

Language: The OED, the definitive record keepers of the English, have named the Emoji ‘Face with Tears of Joy’ the word of 2015. Is this a good idea, clearly it isn’t but with so many people communicating with emojis it seems like it was about time that it happened. It is interesting to see that this is the direction that language might be heading, With texting and messaging like this so commonplace maybe a hundred years from now spelling tests will consist of drawing different emojis.


Pitch Perfect 2 (2015)

I liked the first movie and thought that a second movie would be a good idea but I don’t think it really worked out for the best and now there are talks about a third film in the works, not sure how I feel about that one yet.

Spoilers to follow so read with caution.

So Pitch Perfect 2 begins with the Barden Bellas doing a national tour for winning a third ICCA (college A Cappella) national championship in a row. They preform at a birthday celebration for President Obama and suffer a mishap as one of the costumes rips and Fat Amy (Rebel Wilson) exposes herself to everyone watching.  The Bellas are suspended by the ICCA and can’t hold auditions but Beca (Anna Kendrick) pleads and says if they can win the World Championship they will be reinstated  or the group will end. They learn that a team from Germany has taken over their tour. From here you already know where the plot is heading the girls are going to be working to try and beat the German team. A freshman, Emily (Hailee Steinfeld)  comes to their house and since she is a legacy they allow her to audition and she becomes a Bella.

Beca is trying to figure out what to do after school is over and she takes an internship at a recording studio, and this plot really doesn’t go anywhere sure we have Keegan-Michael Key but we go there like three times and nothing really happens. The Bellas have a real problem as they need to find their sound again after the disaster at the beginning, the other problem they have is that the whole group exists of seniors and one freshman. They are forced together in funny situations and all the secrets come out they all basically say that they weren’t looking at leaving each other as they have all been such an important part of their lives. The Bellas then sing Cups (the big song from the last movie) together and they found their harmony.  All of them but Emily graduate and they go off to Copenhagen for the World Championship and they win over the crowd and come back with their good name reestablished.

It’s not that it’s a bad movie I just found it predictable and the whole plot really wouldn’t exist in real life. It would have been interesting if this film was about them trying to defend the National Championship or trying to win it back and have some real college A Cappella groups appear (SoCal VoCals, Voices in Your Head, Pitch Slapped) as competition. What we get is basically a retread of the last movie, Bellas are embarrassed at the first performance, there’s a riff-off, the second performance ends with a disaster, then they regroup and become a team again and win with the final performance. If you liked the first one your bound to like this second one it was a decent popcorn movie. It’s about a small microcosm the A Cappella world and sure it’s nice that more people have been introduced to this style of music as Barbershop an A cappella are two cool styles of music

News Roundup

Music: This was a cool story about how the music of Mozart and other classical composers sounded a little different from what we know it as. Since there was a completely different style of playing the piano. Christina Kobb has taught herself how they played the piano some 200 years ago. It’s pretty cool and there is a video of it as well. If you have some time watch the video.

Theatre: Some sad news Theodore Bikel the originator of Captain Von Trapp and played Teyve more times than anyone in the world has died. I was lucky to see him in Fiddler back in 2001 when it stopped by Wolf Trap.

Space: This is the best news of the week NASA has conducted a study which said that human could be back on the moon by 2021. With all the recent NASA news about Pluto and the the robotic missions it is nice to have some speculation about NASA sending human back into space. This is only if NASA continues the collaboration with the private space companies (SpaceX, Orbital Sciences, Boeing) like with the resupply missions (ongoing) and eventually crewed missions (2017). I hope that with all the other science that we are getting from Outer Space it inspires younger American to get interested in become Astronauts, and perhaps there will be one day when we have a moon colony and we can go visit the moon like it’s only a trip across the ocean. Then we can start development on Luna Park.