Thursday, December 17, 2009

Christmas Confession

I have never purchased anyone's Christmas album and I don't really have plans to do so anytime in the near future. This is not to say that I especially dislike Christmas music - its fun to listen to around the holidays - but I don't regularly seek it out. I tend to find it annoying when radio stations and stores start playing holiday music before Thanksgiving, especially since they often are playing less than great versions of holiday classics.

If I had to choose a favorite type of Christmas music to listen to I guess I'd go with Bing Crosby style classic Christmas music. As far as playing it goes (which I haven't done in awhile...I really should pull my flute out at some point soon to make sure I still remember how to play) my favorite holiday song was always Sleigh Ride. We played it a few times in high school band for our holiday concert and it was always a ton of fun. I wonder if I still have a copy of the sheet music for it.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Christmas Jukebox

I am apparently ahead of and behind the times when it comes to Straight No Chaser. About 10 years ago I used to regularly attend concerts by Amazin' Blue, one of University of Michigan's co-ed acapella groups. At one of their concerts they had special guest Straight No Chaser, who (clearly) made something of an impact on me (and I guess, on at least one band member!). At the time they were still based out of Indiana University. Imagine my surprise when I was browsing through Schuler's a few weeks ago and caught their album out of the corner of my eye. These days they're signed with Atlantic Records and their album Christmas Cheers is in regular rotation on my CD player lately. And I guess I'm late since their "12 Days of Christmas" was top in the Christmas pop charts last year.

I like this CD for the same reason I liked (and still do) Amazin' Blue - the collegiate acapella community arranges their own songs for their own enjoyment and frequently inserts musical jokes and references for their own amusement. You need to look no further than the first track for an example, "The Christmas Can-Can," a fun and funny parody of the song everyone knows. I especially like their version of "We Three Kings," a personal favorite carol of mine, which starts with the Mission Impossible theme and in the middle makes a nod to a Carribean beat.

Their sound is a bit more polished than I like, probably having to do with the post-production on the music, and the tone leans more towards easy listening than I would typically choose, but you can't help but get up and groove to "Hey Santa!" and "Who Spiked the Eggnog?" My sister-in-law loves "You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch" and I have to admit, I do have a weakness for a good bass.

If you're looking for a little tongue-in-cheek fun this holiday season, I highly recommend this CD.

Shabanu: Daughter of the Wind

And so I present my long overdue review of Shabanu which assigned me a few weeks ago for our "assign each other a book" project. My delay in getting this one finished was not because of the length of the book - it took me just two days to read - instead it was that I had been trying to finish another book which I am sad to say was probably not worth the time I put into it. Anyway, I am happy to report that Shabanu most definitely was worth the time and reaffirmed to me that I actually can finish a book quickly - something that hasn't happened as often as it used to.

The book was written by Suzanne Fisher Staples and it falls into the Young Adult Fiction section of the library (of which I am not at all familiar with in my local one so I had to wander around a bit until I found the right section). The story focuses around a young girl, Shabanu, who is part of a desert herding family that lives in Pakistan. It is a coming of age story and while I found the book very good, I also thought it was very depressing. Much of the story is about freedom and the lack of it. As a child, Shabanu has freedom to roam the desert with her beloved camels, but as she grows older her freedoms diminish considerably. It actually makes me really angry that women in different cultures and parts of the world have so little say in the course of their lives. I cannot imagine being married off barely into teen years to immediately begin bearing children, or facing the possibility of being beaten or killed if I disobeyed my father, or so many of the other things that Shabanu has to wrestle with throughout the story.

The ending made me want to cry a little.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

An Extraordinary Correspondence

Hoo boy, look at the bags under those eyes. I guess this is what I have to look forward to in my old age. But that is a story for another time.

Today's story is Griffin and Sabine: An Extraordinary Correspondence by Nick Bantock. I read it by assignment from S, after quite the run around in my local library. Finally though, I managed to get my hands on it, and I read it yesterday while the 6th graders did a verb worksheet and read their books for Battle of the Books. Did you have Battle of the Books, S? We did, and we were allowed to pick partners, but not groups, so my partner was my best friend at the time (also named Sara, but with no H) and we were forced to team up with the two most rude, rambunctious non-readers in our class, we two being the most polite, calm readers. We still could have won, except that holding down a trivia game with half your team refusing to participate can only get you so far, really.

But, once again, I digress.

Griffin, an artist, receives a letter from a woman named Sabine, whom he has never met, but it seems that she is very familiar with his work. So familiar in fact that she seems to know his process. She knows that he has darkened the sky on a finished piece, that in the original sketch it is a cup and not a wine glass in another, and that on a third he a sketched a bird in the bottom corner which was erased and obliterated. How does she know?

This is a fun and beautiful story about the lonesomeness of art and finding a soul mate, that one person who understands, who can see the real you. Or is it? I enjoyed it thoroughly, in spite of the cliffhanger ending. It's only fault is (dare I say it?) it's too short! I'm going to have to do the same run around with my library to get the sequel.

I thought that if the students saw me reading a book, they would be more inclined to read theirs. This was not the case. Ah well. I guess you know the story of the bags under my eyes after all.