Sunday, August 26, 2007

Fighting the Dog Days

I'm back from our vacation in Williamsburg, VA, one of our favorite holiday spots - we go at least every other year, and we own a timeshare down there. We usually spend most of our time at Colonial Williamsburg, being the suckers for history that we are. And the place was jumping, as much as a "living history" place could jump, that is. It's the 400th anniversary of the Jamestown settlement (even the Queen visited this spring), so everything's been spruced up and "kicked up a notch". We did both Jamestown and Yorktown on separate days, and each location has two separate sites to visit, one run by the National Park Service and the other by a proprietary organization. We kept busy at Williamsburg though, planning our week to see a pirate trial; a colonial-style comedy show; a wonderful program by re-enactors of African-American music on a replica of a plantation; an "apprentice tour" where my 11-year-old got to work with a blacksmith, a wheelwright and a tailor; a behind-the-scenes tour of the stables where we got to meet some horses and see them hitched up to the carriages; an audience with Thomas Jefferson; and a lot more. But the most interesting new feature is the "Revolutionary City", a series of interactive dramatizations at different locations in town, where the re-enactors really get the visitors involved in the simulated events leading up to the Revolutionary War.

Music: Also while on vacation, Mrs. N. and I got to see the film Once, and we both highly recommend it. In case you're not aware, it's an independent Irish film about a Dublin busker (Glen Hansard of the Irish band The Frames) who meets a young Czech emigree (Markéta Irglová). They start to collaborate performing and writing songs, while forming a close friendship and trying to achieve success with their music. It's a feel-good movie with a bittersweet end, and the soundtrack is terrific - much of the movie, in fact, plays like a musical, with the songs integrated directly into the action of the film. See it if you can.

Recent CD acquisitions:
1. Augie March - Moo, You Bloody Choir: My first "freebie" from the Amazon Vine club (see August 7th blog) - it's a strong album by this Aussie band - a bit hard to pigeonhole, but imagine a cross between Crowded House and Elbow. You can see my full review here.

2. New Pornographers - Challengers: Still deciding how this stacks up to their previous three albums - the last one, Twin Cinema, was one of the best albums of 2005. For those unfamiliar, they are a Canadian-based "supergroup" whose members include alt-country chanteuse Neko Case, and they do power pop better than anyone since Lindsay Buckingham-era Fleetwood Mac. This time out their sound has mellowed a bit, but a lot of their trademark style is still there. Chances are it will end up on my final best-of-the-year list, as will Augie March.

No Top Ten list this time out - the XPN bulletin boards, my source for these lists, has been down for several days.

Poetry: Still trying to weather a creative drought - dashed off a couple of short pieces last night, but nothing to brag about. No new publication news, either. So I'll pull another old favorite out of my hat. This one appeared a few years ago in Edison Literary Review:

Clouds in the Jaguar Window

Natural selection on the highway –
the Jaguar cuts in front of me at the light,
buffed and detailed, a sleek animal
the color of a Colt revolver,
its occupant, suited, cellphone to skull,
speaking to someone, no doubt,
more important than me.

But before the light changes,
before he gets another five-second jump on life,
cumulus clouds from the windy blue sky
reflect on his rear window.
They roll across like screen credits,
chiaroscuro on smoky glass,
steaming majestically to their next country.

And when we ply the road again,
I want to pull my unworthy minivan
abreast of him, and mouth these words
to his air-conditioned window:
Thank you.

Thank you for reminding me
that the clouds still travel untethered
even over you.

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