Archive for the Of the Day Category

Song of the Day: “Ruby, My Dear”

Posted in Music, Of the Day with tags , , , , on 14 August, 2009 by Ally

Today I happily stumbled upon Hisae Nakajima’s beautifully angular performance of Thelonious Monk’s (already quite angular) ballad Ruby, My Dear. I hope you’ll enjoy it as much as I did.

Song of the Day: “Gloria’s 100 Million Daughters” by Stephen Evens

Posted in Music, Of the Day with tags , , , , on 1 June, 2009 by Ally
Stephen Evens

Stephen Evens needs YOU!

Stephen Evens is a songwriter who has a lot of bitterness and resentment and is channeling it into writing songs to void it manifesting itself as a cancer or an abnormal growth. The songs are beautiful and the words are horrible. I don’t know why you don’t think that’s a good thing. It’s all our fault.

My good friend and bandmate Stephen just happens to be the man behind Stephen Evens. I hope you’ll trust me when I tell you his tunes are worth listening to attentively, not because I know him but because they’re quite marvelous. I especially recommend Gloria’s 100 Million Daughters, which makes my tummy go all funny.

You might even consider seeing his gig at the 12 Bar Club next Monday (8 June 2009). The password is “mukluks”, just tell him Big Vinny sent you.

Webcomic of the Day: Hark! A Vagrant

Posted in Of the Day with tags , , , , , , , on 23 May, 2009 by Ally
Hark! A Pony

Hark! A Pony

I fear I’m somewhat late to the party with this one. Last night I laughed myself silly reading Kate Beaton’s webcomic Hark! A Vagrant. And this morning I continue to chortle and guffaw.

With illustrations styled somewhere between Quentin Blake and Don Hertzfeldt, and references ranging from the historical to the downright surreal, it’s truly a joy to behold. So far my favourites include:

Wednesday the Cat
Pony Adventures
More Shetland Pony Adventures
Napoleon & Josephine
The Greatest Engineer in the World

Might I also add that glasses make you sexy? I might? Good.

Introduction of the Day: Only Connect

Posted in Of the Day, Television with tags , , , , , , on 10 November, 2008 by Ally

Victoria Coren’s introduction to this week’s edition of Only Connect made me laugh heartily indeed. Allow me to share it with you:

Hello and welcome to Only Connect; the quiz that tests not just knowledge but more importantly lateral thinking — That ability to switch lanes suddenly in the middle of a mental journey, without ploughing into a milk float and scattering yoghurt all over the tarmac of logic.

Life Affirmation of the Day

Posted in Film, Of the Day, Woody Allen with tags , , , , , on 9 November, 2008 by Ally
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Woody Allen in Hannah and Her Sisters (1986)

Woody Allen’s ensemble comedy-drama Hannah and Her Sisters includes a plot in which Mickey Sachs (Allen) believes he has a brain tumour. After being told by the doctors that he is in fact perfectly healthy, his initial elation is quickly replaced with an unshakeable fear of death. He briefly converts to Catholicism, much to the chagrin of his Jewish parents, but it proves useless because he is unable to believe in a God.

Later in the film, he tells Holly (Diane Wiest) the story of how he regained his joie de vivre. After a failed suicide attempt, he aimlessly wandered the streets, finally reaching a movie house. The film playing was the Marx Brothers classic Duck Soup.

And I started to feel, how can you even think of killing yourself? I mean, isn’t it so stupid? I mean look at all the people up there on the screen, y’know, they’re real funny and… What if the worst is true? What if there’s no God, and you only go around once and that’s it? Well, y’know, don’t you want to be part of the experience? You know, what the hell, it’s not all a drag.

And it’s true, you know. It’s not all a drag.

President of the Day

Posted in Of the Day with tags , , , , , , on 5 November, 2008 by Ally
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Yes We Can

I hate to be so predictable, but I simply have to write about the new President-elect of the United States of America. Barack Obama’s victory is truly awe-inspiring, even to a non-American like myself. I can’t imagine how good my American friends must feel right now, it must be wonderful to actually be proud of your country!

You simply cannot ignore how great a progression this is; for an African-American man to win the presidential election. Of course nothing is so romantically simple, Obama winning the election doesn’t suddenly make racism in America disappear, but it is a substantial and long-awaited victory for civil rights and for equality. His victory speech was deeply moving – take for example this excerpt:

This election had many firsts and many stories that will be told for generations. But one that’s on my mind tonight is about a woman who cast her ballot in Atlanta. She’s a lot like the millions of others who stood in line to make their voice heard in this election except for one thing – Ann Nixon Cooper is 106 years old.

She was born just a generation past slavery; a time when there were no cars on the road or planes in the sky; when someone like her couldn’t vote for two reasons – because she was a woman and because of the colour of her skin.

And tonight, I think about all that she’s seen throughout her century in America – the heartache and the hope; the struggle and the progress; the times we were told that we can’t, and the people who pressed on with that American creed: Yes, we can.

At a time when women’s voices were silenced and their hopes dismissed, she lived to see them stand up and speak out and reach for the ballot. Yes, we can.

When there was despair in the dust bowl and depression across the land, she saw a nation conquer fear itself with a New Deal, new jobs and a new sense of common purpose. Yes, we can.

When the bombs fell on our harbour and tyranny threatened the world, she was there to witness a generation rise to greatness and a democracy was saved. Yes, we can.

She was there for the buses in Montgomery, the hoses in Birmingham, a bridge in Selma, and a preacher from Atlanta who told a people that “we shall overcome”. Yes, we can.

A man touched down on the Moon, a wall came down in Berlin, a world was connected by our own science and imagination. And this year, in this election, she touched her finger to a screen, and cast her vote, because after 106 years in America, through the best of times and the darkest of hours, she knows how America can change. Yes, we can.

The video of the entire speech can be viewed on the BBC website.

Quote of the Day: The Third Man

Posted in Film, Of the Day with tags , , , , , , on 28 October, 2008 by Ally

Anna starts rummaging in her handbag for money — in the process some of the contents tumble out on the counter including a photograph. Martins picks it up.

MARTINS
Harry?

ANNA
Yes. He moved his head, but the rest is good, isn’t it?

Upon watching The Third Man for maybe a third or fourth time, that line affected me as it never had before. It’s just a small moment, but it perfectly mixes humour with sadness. First I laughed, imagining a blurred head on a botched photograph, but then the poignancy of it overcame me. That Anna would keep even a botched photograph of her dead love, and even carry it with her in her handbag, is too sad for words.

So I shall say no more. Except The Third Man is a truly great film on all levels.

Quote of the Day: Almost Famous

Posted in Of the Day with tags , , , , , on 19 October, 2008 by Ally

Almost Famous is one of my favourite films from a purely emotional perspective, and I think one of the best ever to be made about music. If you haven’t seen the extended Untitled cut, I recommend it – it makes the journey last that little bit longer.

There are certain moments and certain lines in the film that truly encapsulate what it is to be a music fan, “to truly love some silly little piece of music, or some band, so much that it hurts.” A particular favourite of mine is spoken by Lester Bangs, a real-life critic and mentor for the lead character, teenaged rock journalist William Miller. As an eternally unhip person, I will forever cherish this advice.

The only true currency in this bankrupt world… is what you share with someone else when you’re uncool.

– Lester Bangs (Philip Seymour Hoffman), Almost Famous

Songwriter of the Day: Irving Berlin

Posted in Music, Of the Day with tags , , , , , on 15 October, 2008 by Ally

Irving Berlin

I have been admiring the songwriting of Irving Berlin of late. I recently purchased two great albums which showcase his work; Ella Fitzgerald’s Irving Berlin Songbook, and a cheapo (but flawless) Fred Astaire compilation called “Let’s Face the Music and Dance”. The latter isn’t entirely devoted to Berlin, but both are packed with classic songs performed impeccably in the singers’ respective styles. And the Fred CD actually features the recorded sound of tap dancing, which will never cease to bring joy to my tiny jaded heart.

Irving Berlin was one of the few so-called Great American Songbook composers who wrote both the music and lyrics to his songs. He was astoundingly prolific, so naturally there are plenty of songs in his oeuvre which don’t appeal to me – “There’s No Business Like Show Business” is particularly grating, for example. But he wrote more than his fair share of classics, many of the best ones introduced by Fred Astaire on stage and screen. Take “Top Hat, White Tie and Tails” for example.

Fred Astaire in Top Hat (1935)

The chorus melody (“I’m… puttin’ on my top hat…”) is bordering on inane, but it gives way to this insanely complicated bridge packed with internal rhymes, awkward accidental notes and dizzying syncopation. “I’m going out my dear to breathe and atmosphere that simply reeks with class.” Somehow it manages to sound elegant and memorable despite the difficulty in actually singing it. What I wouldn’t give to be able to pull stuff like that out of my head. And paired with such a charming and inventive dance routine… don’t get me started! Absolute magic.

The entire Ella Fitzgerald album can be heard on last.fm, although the tracklist rather awkwardly merges the songs from both discs. Highlights include laid-back, swinging interpretations of Astaire gems “Cheek to Cheek”, “Isn’t This a Lovely Day” and “No Strings (I’m Fancy Free)” – which includes a brief scat interlude. And then there’s the heartbreaking “Supper Time”, about a wife’s reaction to the news of her husband’s lynching. Ella doesn’t get much room to break out into her vibrant improvisations on the album, but her interpretations go straight to the heart of the songs.

Whether it’s Fred or Ella, you can hear great performers at their best, singing the work of a great composer at his best. Everybody wins, don’t they?

Video of the Day: Peter Serafinowicz

Posted in Nothing Really, Of the Day with tags , , , , , on 15 October, 2008 by Ally

I stumbled upon this most entertaining video by Peter Serafinowicz. You may remember him from his (frankly more miss than hit) sketch show on BBC2 last year. Or you may remember him more fondly from Look Around You, that wonderful parody of 1970s educational programmes which are still boring schoolchildren today. He can also be seen in Spaced, Shaun of the Dead, and indeed most decent British comedy series of recent times. He’s a veritable Kevin Eldon, so’s he is.

Anyway, this is one of those irritating “50 Impressions in 2 Minutes” deals, with the delightful twist that all of his impressions are of imaginary celebrities. Non-existent catchphrases include “this isn’t goodbye; it’s greatbye” and “I’m gonna commit you-icide!” Admittedly some of it is decidedly puerile but Serafinowicz’s brand of parallel universe comedy, where his bizarre imaginings are passed off as common knowledge, never fails to amuse me. Well, I suppose a lot of it did fail to amuse me in his sketch show, but we’ll just forget about that and remember Look Around You.

Thanks, Peter. Theter.