Dixie Darr

Archive for the ‘music’ Category

Pop Culture

In Books, creativity, Learning, Learning Tools, music on January 22, 2018 at 4:18 pm

For years, I watched Entertainment Tonight religiously. If I had to miss an episode, I recorded it to watch later. At some point, however, I realized that I had no clue who the people were they were talking about. I think I aged out of their target demographic.
It may have coincided with the TV writers’ strike in 1988 when the networks started filling time slots with unscripted shows, reality shows in other words. I had absolutely zero interest in the various Survivor-like shows, although I did like the talent shows like American Idol and Nashville Star and So You Think You Can Dance.
Then came the Kardashianization of America when kids started stating their ambition was to “be famous” with no thought of what they might have to do to become famous. I blame Ryan Seacrest who created and produces the show. I mean, ick. Why anyone wants to know anything at all about any member of that family is beyond me, but I can’t look at a news website without seeing something about one or another of them.
Nevertheless, I do like learning about exceptional entertainment options, and I keep up with them by listening to the NPR podcast, Pop Culture Happy Hour. Host Linda Holmes and three thoughtful, intelligent guests choose one movie, TV show, musician, or play to discuss and recommend. This is my major venue for discovering worthwhile culture.
Recently, I learned from them about the Amazon Prime series, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, and also the captivating song, Havana, by Camila Cabella. Unlike ET, I don’t have to wade through a dumpster full of detritus to get to the good stuff. At my age, there’s no time for that nonsense.

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The Wait is Over

In Christmas, Church, music on December 24, 2017 at 9:54 pm

My Secular Advent, Day Twenty-Two

The wait has now dwindled down to hours. Later today, I will head to my brother’s for conversation and goodies before dinner and the candlelight service at church. It does seem odd not to go to church this morning although I’ve been confused for a couple of days about what day it is. Sunday. Christmas Eve.

The hardest part about Christmas for me is the day after when, after all the angst and preparation, it’s suddenly over. Finished. That day, I will probably go out for breakfast, but I never participate in the annual gift return ritual.

While it’s still Christmas Eve, I want to enjoy the waiting a little while longer. Savor the sweet anticipation. Maybe this year we will finally experience peace on earth. We sang Silent Night and Joy to the World. Time to snuggle down and sleep through the night. When we wake in the morning, let the celebrations begin.

Merry Christmas everybody.

Christmas Music Naughty and Nice

In Christmas, music on December 10, 2017 at 2:02 pm

My Secular Advent, Day Eight

Every year the world of pop music attempts to add new Christmas songs to our repertoire, with mixed results. Obviously, we need more Christmas music, especially if you work someplace like the grocery store where the checkout clerk told me as I sang along to Bing Crosby, “It gets a little old if you have to listen to it all day long.” For most of us, it is the most wonderful time of the year.

Some pop songs return year after year as novelty songs, like the one I heard at breakfast the other day, “Surfin’ Santa.” Or add “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Clause,” “The Chipmunk Song,” “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” and “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” to the list.

The best of the lot become standards: “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas,” “I’ll Be Home for Christmas,” “Jingle Bells,” “The Christmas Song,” “Blue Christmas,” and the most popular song ever, Bing Crosby’s “White Christmas.” One of my favorites is “Christmas Without You” by Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers.

It’s not that easy to write an enduring, non-religious Christmas song, although pretty much everybody tries. The best new one in recent memory is “All I Want for Christmas is You” by Mariah Carey. The song, reluctantly co-written by Carey and Walter Afanasieff in fifteen minutes, has earned tens of millions of dollars and became the first holiday ringtone to be certified double platinum for more than two million sales.

From the sublime to the ridiculous, whatever you do, don’t listen to Bob Dylan’s truly terrible Christmas album. Who’s bright idea was that? And with apologies to the incomparable Eartha Kitt, save me from ever again hearing the truly dreadful “Santa Baby.”

Friday Favorites

In Christmas, creativity, music on December 8, 2017 at 9:30 am

My Secular Advent, Day 6

In case you missed it, you must watch this Star Trek version of “Let it Snow”

If you’re tired of hearing the old Christmas standards, Sia’s new album, Everyday is Christmas https://wwwis getting rave reviews for its bouncy tunes and sly lyrics, especially Santa is Coming For Us, Candy Cane Lane, and Puppies are Forever. NPR’s Glen Weldon on Pop Culture Happy Hour declared these to contain “the queerest lyrics ever, supplanting don we now our gay apparel.”

“I’ll call Rudolph down to meet us in the street
We can dance, he can prance
There’s no can’t’s, ’cause here everything is possible.”

A couple of days ago, I mentioned the unlikely duet between David Bowie and Bing Crosby on Peace On Earth/Little Drummer Boy. You can watch the video here.

Finally, yesterday I wrote about my love for the classic movie, A Christmas Story.  Here’s the audio of Jean Shepherd reading the Playboy version of the chapter that became the movie, “Duel in the Snow or Red Ryder Nails a Cleveland Street Kid” from his novel, In God We Trust: All Others Pay Cash. 

Comfort and Joy

In Christmas, music, spirituality on December 4, 2017 at 10:03 am

My Secular Advent, Day Two

I’ve excised many activities from my Christmas calendar so I can focus on what’s truly meaningful, hope, peace, love, and joy. Gone are gifts and their attendant shopping, wrapping and mailing; parties, cookies and candy (well, I may make half a recipe of fudge. I’m not made of stone). What remains are my two four-foot Christmas trees and a few other simple decorations, about a dozen cards with my annual Christmas letter, Christmas Eve dinner at my brother’s, and the candlelight service at church.

And, of course, there’s the music. Every year I pick one concert of Christmas music to attend. When my friend Vera’s daughter Tricia sang in her high school choir I went to their Christmas program. She taught me that the correct lyrics were Deck the Hall, not Deck the Halls. When she graduated, I flailed for a few years, not from lack of choices.

For a few years, I sought out performances of bell choirs across the city. I do love bell choirs. Then I met Marla at church. She’s the musical director of the Arvada Chorale and also her own women’s chorus, Safonia, and enjoying their Christmas concerts has become my tradition.

Yesterday, they presented “Merry and Bright.” It was lovely and I’m sorry you missed it. You have another chance to catch Safonia performing with the Rocky Mountain Ringers on December 15. (http://www.rmringers.org/).

The program featured several traditional Christmas standards, including the most beautiful rendition of Jingle Bells I’ve ever heard. Yes, Jingle Bells. Even that little ditty sounds glorious when sung by 22 inspired women’s voices arranged and conducted by people who know what they’re doing. There were a couple of songs I didn’t know, which is fine. I like being introduced to new music, but I expect and appreciate hearing the familiar tunes and feeling them wrap me in their comfort and joy.

She Loves You

In Colorado, Denver, music on November 30, 2017 at 7:12 am

One month after the devastating assassination of President John F. Kennedy, “I Want to Hold Your Hand” hit American radio stations, including KIMN here in Denver. I remember thinking it was a strange title for a song by a group named after bugs, but the song was fabulous—cheery and optimistic. If there was one thing this country needed right then, it was a little optimism and good cheer.

It debuted on the KIMN top fifty chart on my 16th birthday in January of 1964 and I’ve felt a special connection with the Fab Four ever since. Paul McCartney has broken my heart three times in the past 53 years by marrying other women when I was the one he was clearly meant to be with. When I was 16, he was too old for me. Now I’m too old for him. Sometimes the world just sucks.

That summer they came to Red Rocks and I wanted to go more than I’ve ever wanted anything before or maybe since. Somehow, I had the $6.60 for a ticket. Very expensive for that era. They went on sale at the downtown Denver Theater box office on a Saturday and my dad had to work that morning. I was inconsolable, convinced they’d be sold out before I could get there. Miraculously, they were not sold out and my brother and I both bought tickets. As we would later learn, the concert at Red Rocks was the only venue on their first US tour that didn’t sell out. I have no idea why.

Danny and I went to the concert and I am eternally grateful to him for taking his younger sister to the biggest event of the year. That was my first concert at Red Rocks and still ranks among my peak experiences. Watching Ron Howard’s sensational documentary Eight Days a Week—The Touring Years last night on PBS brought it all back.

If I seem to have a little extra spring in my step today, it’s because I’m feeling 16 again.

Light Up Your Face

In Learning, music, spirituality on November 29, 2017 at 5:18 pm

I went out for breakfast this morning and sat in a booth next to two women and a baby. The baby looked at me and gave me that wide open smile that seems reserved for babies and other innocents. I couldn’t help but smile back.

It lifted my spirits all day.

While smiles are not as contagious as yawns, they are infectious. As the saying goes, “Smile and the world smiles with you.”Nobody really knows why we smile, apart from some nonsense speculation that it’s a perverted form of baring our teeth to scare off enemies. We do know it’s not learned behavior. Babies born blind who have never seen a smile, still respond the same as their sighted counterparts. Ain’t science grand? Furthermore, smiling is universal, occurring in all human groups and for the same reasons. We smile because we’re happy and also to make ourselves happy.

That’s right. If we put on a smile, whether we’re genuinely happy or not, our brains will interpret it as happiness and our mood will change accordingly.
And it turns out your mother knew what she was talking about when she told you it takes more muscles to frown than to smile. I hate it when that happens. She was also right that babies smile sometimes smile as a result of gas until 6-8 weeks old. After that, their smiles mean the same thing ours do. Unborn babies even smile in the womb. That’s understandable. What’s not to like in a natural environment designed just to keep them happy?

Here’s a song from Nat King Cole to bring a smile to your face. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TAjx0d-fda4)

Sing along, “Smile though your heart is aching, Smile even though it’s breaking” and tell me three things that make you smile.
Here’s my list: (1) Daffodils in the snow, (2) starting a new book by a favorite author, and (3) the full moon rising over a lagoon.

Friday Favorites

In creativity, Learning, music, spirituality on November 10, 2017 at 5:59 pm

I’ve enjoyed the thoughtful postings of Reverend John Pavlovitz on Facebook for the past year. Now his book, A Bigger Table: Building a Messy, Authentic, and Hopeful Spiritual Community offers a welcome progressive perspective on how religion can inspire the best in us even as we see only the negative aspects of fundamentalist evangelicals on the news media. No one likes to eat alone; to approach a table filled with people, only to be told that despite the open chairs there isn’t room for you. The rejection stings. It leaves a mark. Yet this is exactly what the church has been saying to far too many people for far too long.” At Pastor Pavlovitz’s table, everyone gets a seat.

I’ve been savoring the book slowly but need to speed it up because it’s due soon at the library. I may have to buy my own copy of this one.

James Altucher is an earnest and frequently irritating writer and interviewer. Nevertheless, his podcast is one of the best – Two excellent recent episodes featured HBO producer Sheila Nevins and musician and songwriter Mike Posner. Altucher also writes some of the most honest blog posts online and some useful books, including Choose Yourself, Reinvent Yourself, and Become An Idea Machine: Because Ideas Are The Currency Of The 21st Century. The little man with the wild hair has his finger on the pulse of our times.

You no doubt heard that scientists have discovered a previously unknown massive void in the Great Pyramid at Giza. Lying just above the Grand Gallery, it is 100 feet long, its purpose unknown. In honor of this discovery, I offer Paul Horn’s magnificent 1983 recording, Inside the Great Pyramid.

He later teamed with Native American flute player R. Carlos Nakai to produce Inside Canyon de Chelly and Inside Monument Valley (1999), all very peaceful and contemplative pieces in our troubled world.

If you miss my postings on Facebook, you can always catch up at my blog: https://constantlearner.wordpress.com/

Old Movies

In creativity, music on November 6, 2017 at 9:05 am

When I was growing up, my mother worked, so my brother and I were under strict orders to go straight home from school and stay there. One of the things I loved to do was watch old movies on TV especially the MGM and Warner Brothers musicals of the 1930s and 40s.
If you’ve never heard of Busby Berkeley, the director and choreographer famous for his elaborate dance numbers frequently filmed from above, you can check out a compilation of his greatest hits here.
Of course, I love Fred Astaire with all his various partners, especially Ginger Rogers. While Astaire got most of the accolades, the Frank and Ernest cartoon pointed out that Ginger Rogers “did everything Fred Astaire did, backwards and in high heels.”
My favorite of his partners was Eleanor Powell. “Eleanor Powell was one of the very greatest, period, bar none,” said Fayard Nicholas of the Nicholas Brothers dance team. “Not one of the greatest woman—one of the greatest, period.” Astaire once said she had “a very mannish style.” That’s manspeak for “she’s better than I am.” Here they are dancing together.
I’d rather watch these old black-and-white dance scenes than Dancing With the Stars, which would be better without the “stars” or even So You Think You Can Dance with its real dancers and top choreographers.

I’ll leave you today with a video you’ve undoubtedly seen before, the mashup of old dance scenes to Uptown Funk, always worth another look.

What the Heart Wants

In creativity, Finding Your Calling, Learning, music, solitude on October 5, 2017 at 7:23 am

Some words of wisdom on work, solitude, and love.
THE REAL WORK
by Wendell Berry
It may be that when we no longer know what to do
we have come to our real work,
and that when we no longer know which way to go
we have come to our real journey.
The mind that is not baffled is not employed.
The impeded stream is the one that sings.

How to Find Your Mission in Life by Dick Bolles
Rule #3. to exercise that talent which you particularly came to earth to use — your greatest gift, which you most delight to use, in the places or settings which God has caused to appeal to you the most, and for those purposes which god most needs to have done in the world.

“Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs are people who have come alive.” Howard Thurman

“For many people, being alone with their thoughts puts them in enemy territory.” Barbara Winter

“The best thinking has been done in solitude. The worst has been done in turmoil.” Thomas A. Edison

“In order to be open to creativity, one must have the capacity for constructive use of solitude. One must overcome the fear of being alone.” Rollo May

“Creativity is intelligence having fun.” Albert Einstein

“If I should ever die, God forbid, let this be my epitaph: The only proof he needed for the existence of God was music.” Kurt Vonnegut, Man Without a Country

“Someday, someone is going to look at you with a light in their eyes you’ve never seen, they’ll look at you like you’re everything they’ve been looking for their entire lives. Wait for it.” Author unknown