Merry Christmas from Sufjan Stevens

Today I received this wonderful surprise from my friend June in Philadelphia. We're both big Sufjan Stevens fans, and June found this little holiday nugget and sent it my way!


Lo How A Rose E'er Blooming
The Worst Christmas Ever
The Friendly Beasts
Holy, Holy, Holy

It's a box set of five extended play CD's released by Sufjan over the past five years.

All together there are 42 songs, about two hours' worth of quirky and yet touching Christmas carols that bring a certain wistfulness and quiet joy to the season.

Thank you, June. And Merry Christmas!

Say Hello To Joanna Newsom

I LIKE her. I've been listening to her latest release Ys, and have decided I need to try to share her with some of you. Granted, her music is not going to be to everyone's taste, but I think if you give it a chance you just might be surprised how it grows on you and how you end up responding to it. And if not, well, at least you will have broadened your horizons a bit. And that's a Good Thing. Here's a review from last year, and a video clip as well.

The Russians Are Coming!

Could it be? The Greatest Show On Earth???

The Moscow Cats Theatre is coming to town, and I think this one I will have to see for myself. It boggles the mind! I've added some feline follies pictures in their own little gallery.
It sure looks like a lot of fun. Happy


Those Crafty Old Greeks

A Device Light-Years Ahead Of Its Time
11/30/2006 USA TODAY
By Dan Vergano

The "Anti-kythera Mechanism," an ancient Greek astronomical calculator dating to about 100 B.C., possessed a technical sophistication centuries ahead of its time, an international research team reports. "The actual design is superb, almost jaw-dropping," says study leader Mike Edmunds of the United Kingdom's Cardiff University.

Cyber Bard?

Professor Funded For Virtual Shakespeare World
By Adam Pasick

LONDON, October 19 (Reuters Life!) - Indiana University Professor Edward Castronova has made a name for himself as an economist who studies virtual worlds. Now he's been awarded a US$240,000 grant to create one himself, based on the world of William Shakespeare.

"What we plan to do is have people encounter the texts in Shakespeare and ideas in the text at many points within a really fun, multiplayer game, so without even knowing it, they gradually are learning more about the bard's work," said Castronova, author of
"Synthetic Worlds: The Business and Culture of Online Games." Read More...

Three Cheers For Pooh! Happy

Today I found a treasure on eBay, Three Cheers For Pooh. I first ran across this recording somewhere back around 1982 or so in a library in West Lafayette, Indiana. It's a collection of songs based on A.A. Milne's Winnie-the-Pooh poems, and it tickled my fancy to no end. In the 1920's Harold Fraser-Simson set many of Milne's Pooh poems to music, and in 1981 Robert Tear and Philip Ledger decided to record several of these songs as formal recital pieces in the traditional classical music style. The end result can only be described as charming, and I fell in love with what I heard. Read More...

La Planéte Sauvage

Winner of the Grand Prix Award at the Cannes FIlm Festival in 1973, La Planéte Sauvage was an animated surrealist comment on the Soviet occupation of Czechoslovakia. It was originally released to DVD in France with a beautiful video transfer and the original French soundtrack with no options for subtitles. When it was finally released on DVD in the U.S. as The Fantastic Planet, Anchor Bay did a fairly shoddy job of transferring the video and then compounded that crime by embedding English subtitles into the video so that a viewer had the choice of watching the film in French with English subtitles or in English with (yes) English subtitles. Go figure. Anyways, I was looking for a small video project to mess around with, so I got ahold of a French release DVD, captured the vibrant video from that disc, and then added to it the English audio track from the U.S. release DVD.

Here's a
short snippet from the final project.

Randy Newman and Humor That Hurts

These days most people know Randy Newman for his Academy award winning cheery, lovely, and sometimes wistful soundtracks to cartoons such as Toy Story and Monsters, Inc. and nostalgic movies such as Seabiscuit. But Randy has been writing music for many, many years now, and one shouldn't be fooled by his nice guy, child friendly, cartoon persona. His gentle and loving humor can quickly turn into biting sarcasm, and his music often drips with a harsh and sometimes brutal social commentary that has rarely (if ever) been matched in American pop music. Just ask the good citizens of Cleveland, Ohio...

Over The Rainbow

Heart Upon Demand by John Gorka

The Judy Garland show was a one season TV marvel back in 1963-64. The show didn't last, but many of the amazing performances did. The
complete season is available on DVD along with several multi-episode discs and two compilation discs. The Judy Garland Show: Legends captures two wonderful solo performances by a very young Barbra Streisand and one magical duet between Barbra and Judy. It's almost as if the torch is being passed from one generation of performers to another. Judy was a Legend. If you're any kind of a fan of the Broadway showtune/cabaret style of singing, you should check out some of these DVD's. They're keepers.


The Land Of Fire And Ice

I always seem to notice these travel stories about Iceland. It's been on my mind for many a year now. Perhaps one day soon I'll see it for myself!
JB Happy

Iceland: Tolkien-esque Adventure in the 'Land of Fire and Ice'
By Josh Roberts

Three days into a trek across the volcanic highlands of southwest Iceland, it occurs to me: This is Tolkien's Middle-earth. With its obsidian lava fields and steaming hot springs, its moss-covered foothills and treeless valleys, Iceland is Mordor one minute and the Shire the next. It has a magical quality to it, this Land of Fire and Ice as if it has been plucked from the imagination and placed here

It's All Relative

It's always good to keep things in perspective. Here's a little cosmic comparison to consider. Read More...

Everybody Loves Muffins

My sister sent this link to me this morning, and it was just too much fun not to pass along. Nothing like muffins on a weekend morning. Enjoy!
But watch out for Vendetta, she
makes things..... Happy

Muffin Films ..................... and ................... Making Fiends

Music and Mayhem in The Big Apple: Grendel Lives!

Opera Review
From a huge cast, one stands out
New operas don't often come in packages the size of Aida, but Grendel did on Tuesday at its Lincoln Center Festival opening. Huge numbers of choristers and dancers, plus a monumental revolving set and some of the best opera singers alive, told the Beowulf legend in images and music - from the viewpoint of the enemy, Grendel. Read More...

The Lord of the Rings: Complete Songs and Poems

In 1995 Caspar Reiff founded The Tolkien Ensemble.

And that year, Caspar, a classical guitarist who studied at the Royal Danish Academy of Music, and his like-minded musical colleague and co-composer Peter Hall along with the Tolkien Ensemble began what proved to be an all consuming task, to set to music all 70 poems from J.R.R. Tolkien's
The Lord Of The Rings. Ten years, 150 musicians, 14 soloists, 4 recordings, and one complete re-mastering session later, Caspar & Company can sit back and enjoy the fruits of their many labours.

Garrison Keillor and The Prairie Home Companion

I first ran across the Prairie Home Companion radio show back around 1982 or so, and I quickly became a devoted listener spending 2 hours of many a Saturday afternoon doing chores around the house with the radio on so I could listen to the latest news from Lake Wobegone "where all the women are strong, all the men are good looking, and all the children are above average." And for many years later when I was not quite so glued to my radio on Saturday afternoons I would still, countless number of times, find myself sitting in the car in a parking lot somewhere not quite ready to get out because I had stumbled across Garrison and his latest update from Lake Wobegone, and Life took a short break while I listened to that voice and his meandering and yet so funny and insightful tales of small town midwestern life. Read More...

Lord Of The Rings: The Musical

Hi, Everybody!

Well I did my little there and back again journey to Toronto, and I’m happy to say that the weekend was a LOT of fun. I saw the LOTR musical twice, Friday night and again Saturday afternoon, and I am really glad I did. It was WONDERFUL!!! I kid you not. On Friday night I was amazed and all caught up in the theatrical stage wizardry on display, but on Saturday I just sat back and enjoyed the whole experience. The 3 plus hours seemed to fly by.

Salsa time!

My friend Lill Ann is a dancing maniac. Swing is her thing. Yes, Lill Ann is a Swing Baby. Not Astrid Marie though, Astrid Marie is a Salsa Queen! Well, AM, I realize the CD I sent to you is more Samba than Salsa. I thought that since you had just returned from Rio, The Land of Samba, you might enjoy it, but I know you are a Salsa Queen, and so here is something I thought you might be interested in reading.

Seminal Latin Label's Music Resurrected
The founders of Fania Records didn't set out to change the course of Latin music, but that's just what they did. Fania signed artists such as Celia Cruz, Ruben Blades and Ray Barretto, who would eventually usher in the golden age of salsa. Read More...

The Starlit Jewel: Life In Middle Earth Before PJ & Company

If your first experience with The Lord Of The Rings was through Peter Jackson's three movies, you might be surprised to discover that there was quite a bit of Middle Earth activity going on in the several decades before the films.

For example, The Starlit Jewel was originally a cassette tape released in the mid 90’s, but 7 of the songs were actually written years earlier by Marion Zimmer Bradley of “
Mists Of Avalon” fame. In 1969 she set 7 of J.R.R. Tolkien's poems to music, a collection of songs that she called The Rivendell Suite. Read More...

Another Favorite

As one reviewer said, "The voice of an angel and the guitar of The Devil."

Your Train
A Witness To Joy
I'm Watching My Heart
A Pound of Prevention
Pablo's Lights


North Carolina

Carolina In My Mind

I've been to North Carolina only a few times, and then just to the Raleigh and Nags Head areas. One of these days though I'm going to spend some time there exploring because I know there are lots of really beautiful parts of that state.

My cousin Torrie moved there a few years back, and she loves it. She sent me this picture a week or so ago. She snapped it from her front porch after getting home from work one afternoon. All I can say is "wow".

James Taylor mentions North Carolina in several of his songs, usually with a note of longing to it. Well, after seeing Torrie's view from her front porch, I think JT has it right.


That last quote is priceless...

Skating Scandal Made Into Opera

MEDFORD, Mass. -- When Tufts music student Abigail Al-Doory sought inspiration for her opera, she looked not to Wagner's "Ring" cycle but to the Olympic rings, where themes like power, envy and greed are plentiful.

In "
Tonya and Nancy: The Opera," Al-Doory provides 18 movements on the scandal that turned the once-dainty sport of figure skating into a soap opera of whacking, wailing and time spent in jail. Read More...

Three Places I've Lived Happy


Happy Easter!


Grendel The Opera

My good friends all know that one of my favorite authors is John Gardner. His two collections of short stories The King's Indian and The Art of Living are books that I go back to again and again and again, and his little known collections of fractured fairy tales (Gudgekin The Thistle Girl, Dragon, Dragon, and The King Of The Hummingbirds) are both charming and somewhat disturbing! But of course he is best known for Grendel, a retelling of the Old English epic Beowulf from the perspective of the monster destined to be killed. I'm also a medievalist at heart and a former singer and theater veteran. So when I ran across this posting I had a moment of heightened cosmic awareness, rarely have so many of my divergent interests converged in one event. Happy I think this would be really interesting to see on stage! Read More...

The Ladybugs Picnic

From my sister. Happy Because somedays counting to twelve is just one or two numbers too many to remember!

The Ladybugs Picnic.

Word Play. Way Too Much Fun!

Washington Post Mensa Invitational

More (or another) from the web legend Washington Post Mensa Invitational, where you are asked to take any word from the dictionary, alter it by adding, subtracting, or changing of one letter, and supply a new definition.

1. Cashtration (n.): The act of buying a house, which renders the subject financially impotent for an indefinite period.

One for the road...

There are days when I really miss singing. And there are days when I miss a lot of the people with whom I used to sing. Many memories of many friends and many years past. This is one of the songs that stays in my mind on such days. I can hear the voices and see the faces of many a Revels friend. One for the road...

The Parting Glass

The Lord Of The Rings Musical

Time Magazine

“A breathtaking theatrical adaptation, directed, designed and choreographed, produced with searing attention to detail. I was completely transported, not just by the story but also by the way 21st-century stage know-how melded with old fashioned stagecraft”

I've Got A Little List!

Speaking of musical treasures, back in April of 1960, The Bell Telephone Hour broadcasted a wacky rendition of Gilbert & Sullivan's The Mikado. The production featured The Bell Telephone Orchestra and the wonderful Norman Luboff Choir, and it starred Robert Rounseville as Nanki-Pooh, Dennis King as The Mikado, Stanley Holloway as the oh so dry Pooh-Bah, Barbara Meister as Yum-Yum, and Sharon Randall as Pitti-Sin.

And tossed into this mix of excellent musicians was Groucho Marx as the hapless Ko-Ko. Yes, Groucho. The result was a wonderfully charming slice of Americana, though I'm not quite sure if Gilbert & Sullivan would have been flattered or flabergasted! But whichever it may have been, for your listening pleasure, here are a few samples from this brave endeavor from the era of live television.
Oh, modified rapture! Happy

We Are Gentlemen Of Japan

Behold The Lord High Executioner/
I've Got A Little List

What I'll Never Do

The Execution

The Flowers In Spring

There's Beauty In The Bellow Of A Blast

For He's Gone And Married Yum-Yum


Juilliard's Newest Musical Treasure

Juilliard Given "Priceless" Music Manuscripts

NEW YORK (Reuters) - New York's Juilliard school unveiled a treasure trove of music manuscripts on Tuesday given by a collector determined to seek out the original papers scribbled and annotated by the likes of Beethoven, Mozart and Bach.

A highlight of the collection donated to Juilliard, considered one of world's leading music schools, by its board Chairman Bruce Kovner is the manuscript prepared for the printer of Beethoven's Symphony No. 9. The manuscript had been kept for 180 years in the vault of the publisher.

Saying Goodbye

Angels, Bruce Holmes

It’s one of the most natural things in the world, a basic part of Life itself, and yet that doesn’t seem to make it any easier when it comes your turn to say goodbye to someone who has been a part of your life. And a part of me realizes that this is a Good Thing. Losing someone you love should hurt. It is a part of Life.

Happy Fat Tuesday, New Orleans!

God bless you. God bless you everyone! Go To The Mardi Gras

Tout Partout

Sometimes you just have to laugh

Okay, so I know things are not so good in several spots around the world these days, but sometimes all you can do is trust that everything is going to work out for the best. Someday. Maybe. I mean really, on the geological time scale, how much of this stuff really matters? A million years from now, who's gonna know about it? Seriously. Think about it. And maybe try to smile a little. Maybe it will help.

Party At The U.N.


Thursday Thoughts

Well it’s nearly the end of another week, and it seems like not too much of news worthiness has happened here lately. Leah and I spent sometime on the phone and on-line together this week going over some sample websites for her musical. She’s going to talk it over with her collaborator Sean, but I think we might see a new website up and running by this time next week. If it happens I’ll post a link here on Little Delving.

Other than that, things have been fairly quiet. Maggie and I finished reading Eragon two nights back.

This one struck me...

They say miracles are past, and we have our philosphical
persons to make modern and familiar, things supernatural
and causeless. Hence it is that we make trifles of terrors,
ensconcing ourselves into seeming knowledge when we should
submit ourselves to an unknown fear.

Lafew...All's Well That Ends Well


Route 66 - The Mother Road

Lore Drives Lure Of This Road

Route 66 remains a rite of passage for the adventurous. The "mother road" delivers a mother lode of vintage kicks and oddities. From Chicago to Los Angeles, Americans know Route 66 as a bygone road evoking a simpler era of road trips and song. But Karen Macaulay and Andy Garrett say Europeans like them still get their kicks retracing a decommissioned highway that now exists officially only in tour guides and on the occasional brown historical marker.

U.S. Route 66, a more than 2,400-mile link between the nation's second and third most populous cities, is hardly a distant memory for many.

Wednesday Thoughts

Well, not too much going on this week. I managed to finish my 9th Robin Hobb book, Fool’s Fate over the weekend. It was a great read! Thanks to London Vicky for putting two of the nine books into my hands and telling me to read them! I highly recommend the whole series of books to anyone looking for a good winter read. Start with The Assassin’s Apprentice and work your way right through them all. Now I’m a third of the way through Eragon, a birthday present from Denver Vicki. It’s great having a bunch of reading friends to share favorites with. Read More...

Beowulf - Coming Soon To A Theater Near You

The Burial Draw The Story The Final Battle

Lo, there do I see my Father,
Lo, there do I see my Mother and my Sisters,
and my Brothers,
Lo, there do I see the line of my People back,
to the beginning.
Lo, they do call to me.
They bid me take my place among them,
in the halls of Valhalla,
Where the Brave may live forever.

The 13th Warrior was a fun movie, but it was only loosely based on the Old English epic. Soon, however, there will be two new Beowulf movies coming out,
Beowulf And Grendel, and Beowulf.

Medievalists the world over will be holding their collective breaths and hoping for the best!


The Dead

One of my favorite movies is the last film John Huston directed before he died. It's called The Dead, and it's based on a James Joyce short story of the same title. It was the last story in his collection Dubliners published in 1914.

The Poem Old Parkinson The Lass Of Aughrim Snow Is Falling

The Dead
By Roger Ebert, December 18, 1987

"Better pass boldly into that other world, in the full glory of some passion, than fade and wither dismally with age." Read More...

Niggle's Adventure

Last fall when I bought my new 60gig iPod (Fatty Lumpkin) I was very concerned about finding a good home for my old friend Niggle, an original generation 10gig iPod who had been my constant companion of nearly two years. Niggle deserved better than to be shelved somewhere, but since he was one of the very early iPods he needed to go to an Apple friendly home. iTunes and iPods didn't start playing nicely with Windows PC's until a year or so after Niggle arrived.

After a little thought I realized I had the perfect person, my friend Doug out in Mt. Shasta. Doug not too long ago started working with Apple's at home, and Doug and I have a really strong bond over music to boot. We attended many a Bumbershoot Festival together in Seattle when we were both happy residents of The Great North Wett.

So, with no more worries I bundled up Niggle, and off he went to California.

Doug, upon receiving his new friend, immediately took Niggle off on a hiking adventure up into the mountains. Now at the time, I think I had told Doug that Niggle's namesake was a character from Tolkien's short story "Leaf By Niggle", but he had never read the story himself. Yet, with that natural aptitude that Doug has for doing the right thing, off they went to the mountains. If any of you ever get a chance to read "Leaf By Niggle" you will understand just how right that was.

A week or so later, Doug sent me this link.
Niggle's Adventure. Happy


Sick Of Hearing About Harvard?

I ran across this article recently and found it interesting.

A Flood of Crimson Ink
Sick of hearing about Harvard? So is everyone else -- except Harvard-educated journalists.

Another academic year is drawing to a close, another year in which Harvard has generated vastly more headlines than any other American university. Most of these, of late, have concerned Lawrence Summers, Harvard's president, who famously suggested that there may be a biological explanation for the paucity of female scholars in the hard sciences. (He hasn't stopped apologizing since.) But a single controversy doesn't account for all the interest.

Brokeback To The Future

My friend Doug sent me this link. It's a testament to the art of trailer editing, and it's a hoot to boot. Check it out. I think you'll laugh once or twice.

Brokeback To The Future


Unni Wilhelmsen

Unni Wilhelmsen is a new favorite of mine. My Norwegian buddy, Lill Ann, sent me a few songs a while back and I really liked them, so I went looking for her CD’s, but they’re a bit hard to find here in the States.

I did find one used copy of To Whom It May Concern on Amazon which I grabbed. And then I was very pleased to find Hurricane’s Eye on the iTunes Music Store, a nice surprise, but that was it. My streak of good luck ended there. Well, here’s a couple of Unni numbers for you to listen to and see what you think.

I Won't Go Near You Again
Hurricane's Eye

Can't Stop
Lack Of Logic
Everyone's Honesty


Politics and Cocker Spaniels

Pants On Fire? It's OK With Me
A Few Tips on How and When to Lie Effectively

Garrison Keillor, Tribune Media Services
Published January 18, 2006

It's good to know how to lie, and lie effectively, so you can go backstage after the high school production of "The Crucible" in which your friend's daughter mumbled her lines and stood like a fence post, trying to look horrified and looking drugged instead, and now here she is, fluttery, ashen-faced, perspiring, and you say, "It was fascinating to watch. You were so in the moment, Lindsey. So believable. It really resonated with that audience, there was so much intensity." The truth is that she has no more talent than the average cocker spaniel--but so what? There's no need to face the truth all at once.

Echo And Shadow

Every so often I hear something on the radio that stops me in my tracks. This one did it to me. It's from a collection of performance pieces by Chicago poets and musicians. The CD is called ReVerse.

The piece is
Echo And Shadow by Li-Young Yee.