Thursday, October 18, 2007

Last night, we attended the San Francisco Opera's presentation of Mozart's The Magic Flute.

I'm not a big fan of opera but this is my favourite so far. Opera's mix of drama and music just doesn't work for me. The plot usually moves much too slowly while the music is usually better without the need to fit into the plot. One reason that I liked The Magic Flute more than some of the others I've seen is that the plot in act I moves quickly

I have some friends who are big opera fans and they would probably give me a hard time for living so close to a world class opera and not taking advantage, but I have managed to see a few live operas here, including Fidelio, The Flying Dutchman and Tristan and Isolde. Later this year, they are also doing Das Rheingold but I will probably skip it since it is an modern staging that will probably annoy me too much.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

I just finished Les Paul:An Americal Original by Mary Alice Shaughnessy, a biography of the musician and inventor.

Les Paul is a pretty cool guy, though it sounds that like a lot of artists, he's kind of a bastard to the people in his life. Aside from being an accomplished jazz player and having a ton of hit records back in the 50s with his wife, Mary Ford, and playing with many of the biggest stars of the day, like Bing Crosby and the Andrews Sisters, he also was an innovator in early solid body electric guitars and recording technology, particularly multi-track recording.

Like a lot of artists from that era, he was wiped off the charts by the rise of rock and roll and the dominance of teenagers in pop culture. Today, most people probably have no idea who Les Paul is. If anything, they might know his name from the line of Gibson guitars.

Here's a fun video of him playing Tiger Rag with his wife:

Of course, Les was also a pioneer in using backing tracks so they are probably either playing along with a backing track or just faking it.

Amazon Link: Les Paul: An American Original

Monday, October 15, 2007

This morning I finished The Lady in the Loch by Elizabeth Anne Scarborough, a pseudo-historical mystery/fantasy with Sir Walter Scott as the main character.

It seems popular these days to write fantasy books that combine historical figures with new stories. Some, like Tim Powers, try to be careful to stick to actual historical events while taking advantage of gaps in the historical record to establish a secret or hidden history. Others, like Elizabeth Anne Scarborough, just take a historical character as a starting point and create an alternate history.

In the alternate history of The Lady in the Loch, Sir Walter Scott became sheriff of Edinburgh instead of Selkirk and magic and ghosts are well known and commonplace. Scott gets involved in a series of murders involving a band of Travellers and Dr. Frankenstein-ish serial killer.

It's not a bad book but the mystery isn't particularly interesting and the phonetically spelled Scottish English of many of the characters starts out tiresome and gets more irritating from there.

Amazon Link: The Lady in the Loch