Supporting Friends Friday: Frederick Ingram’s “Yesterday’s Weather”

My good friend and fellow musician Frederick Ingram released a hot new LP (really a “double EP”), Initial Exposure, back in December.  It’s a great album, and I’m going to review it soon(ish).

But today, I wanted to look back at one of his older songs, from Frederick’s Elements.  This single/EP has always held a warm place in my heart.  I remember playing some Christmastime gigs with Frederick when he released this little recording, and I still find it enjoyable.

It’s not just nostalgia for younger, slimmer days and more musically ambitious times.  It’s a good recording.  The lead-off single, “Carolina Sands,” is a highly listenable song about the beauty of South Carolina.  But for all of its radio-friendly qualities, I find it is now my least favorite track on the release (which, to be clear, does not mean it is a bad song—it’s very good!).

That distinction likely goes to “Yesterday’s Weather.”  The track features Frederick’s characteristically enigmatic songwriting and ability to craft hypnotic grooves against naturalistic metaphors.

It’s a song about lost love, all framed in terms of hot (or cold?) fronts and currents:

I highly recommend listening with good headphones; it really captures the sonic subtleties of the piece, as well as the droning, persistent bass line.

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Monday Morning Movie Review: Nobody (2021)

I’ve been watching a lot of crappy movies lately, especially with the snowy weather we had in South Carolina this weekend, but each one has been more forgettable than the last.  Regular reader Ponty asked me to write a review of a really bad movie, but that requires a movie to be bad and memorable.  Most of the dreck I’ve watched lately has been bad and boring.  The vast majority of bad films—indeed, probably the vast majority of films, period—fall into this category.

My aunt, also a regular reader and subscriber has asked me to review 2021’s The Electrical Life of Louis Wain.  I plan on doing that soon, but I have to track down the film first.  It looks like it’s on Prime Video, so I’ll have to see if there are some credentials I can borrow to watch it (or I’ll just break down and get an Amazon Prime membership).

So I was in a bit of a bind going into Sunday, with no film rising to the level of reviewable (or, I should say, with the inability to remember any details of any films I’ve watched recently).  Then my younger brother mentioned that he and his wife were going to watch Nobody (2021) Saturday after their kids went to bed, and I remembered that I’d purchased the DVD from RedBox months ago, and had been meaning to watch it ever since.

Nobody was a film I wanted to see in theaters.  The premise—an everyday working stiff finally cracks and takes action against bad guys—is one I’ve always enjoyed in movies (probably as a form of wish-fulfillment), and Bob Odenkirk is a comedy legend.  Comedy, action, the little guy throwing punches?  That’s my kind of flick.

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TBT^2: Beethoven’s Sixth Symphony

One of the many benefits of teaching music is (re)discovering beloved favorite works.  During last week’s round of distance learning, I had to pull out some of the classics.  If we’re going to sit on a Google Meet call, let’s listen to some music, not just talk about it.

I really love programmatic music—instrumental music that tells a story, often accompanied by program notes explaining (usually very briefly) what the listener is supposed to hear in the musical “story.”  Students often like to imagine their own stories when listening to instrumental music, which is great, but I find that programmatic works give students (and myself!) some guideposts to follow.

Fortunately, Ludwig von Beethoven provided some handy ones for us in his Sixth Symphony, quite possibly my favorite symphony, and certainly my favorite of Beethoven’s.  It’s the so-called “Pastoral” symphony, as it depicts a pleasant trip to the country (besides the roiling thunderstorm in the fourth movement).

It’s also unusual in two respects:  instead of the standard four movements of the classical symphony (a fast opening movement, a slow second movement, a dancelike third movement, and a fast fourth movement), Beethoven includes five; and the third, fourth, and fifth movements all flow seamlessly into one another, without the customary pause between each.

It is also long, especially by the standards of the classical symphony (the Romantics, however, would have easily matched Beethoven for runtime), clocking in at nearly forty-five minutes (the typical classical symphony averages around twenty-five-to-thirty minutes, but forty-five would have been the upper limit for the time).  But that length is in service to Beethoven’s vision, and he fully explores every theme in this symphony.

Here is a particularly excellent performance—the one I showed, in part, to my classes last week—by the Berlin Philharmonic, under the direction of Bernard Haitnik:

With that, here is 4 February 2021’s “TBT: Beethoven’s Sixth Symphony“:

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Midweek Mad Scientist Movie Madness II: Metropolis (1927)

Since the first installment of Midweek Mad Scientist Movie Madness two weeks ago, I’ve watched several more films from Mad Scientist Theatre, a collection of mostly bad, mostly public domain films.  As with any such collection, the appeal is in the handful of renowned classics, and some of the hidden gems.

The first three flicks on the very first disc are all silent movie classics.  I’ve already reviewed Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, which both debuted in 1920.  I appreciated and enjoyed both films for different reasons, and both were very well done, although quite different, films.

The third film is 1927’s Metropolis, perhaps the greatest silent film of all time.  I took a modern German history course in college, and we were supposed to attend a screening of Metropolis for class.  For some reason, I did not attend, which was very out of character for me (I only missed class twice in college:  a session of Human Geography because my saxophone sextet had its recital that morning, and a rehearsal of the University Band so I could play The Elder Scrolls: Oblivion the night it was released).  I guess we were never tested on it, but when I found out there was a robot woman, I was kicking myself for missing the flick.

Now, some twenty years later, I’ve finally watched this classic of Weimar Germany’s wild cinematic scene.  I wish I’d gone to see it in college!

As with Jekyll and Caligari, you can watch Metropolis for free on YouTube (although, apparently, the film won’t be back in the public domain in the United States until the end of this year):

As you can see, it is a long film—depending on which cut you see.  Apparently, there are dozens of different cuts and restorations, and no one knows for certain which is the “definitive” version.  One of my readers asked me which cut I saw, and I have no earthly idea (sorry, cinephiles).  It’s whatever version Mill Creek Entertainment decided to put on this collection.  I do know the film felt long in parts—although I was glued to the screen for most of it—but it didn’t feel like it was two-and-a-half hours long.

What I can say is that Metropolis is worth seeing, not only because it is an important film in the history of cinema (and the height of German Expressionism), but because it is a good movie with an important message:  the head and the hands must work together through the heart.

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Getting Medieval… with LEGO

This weekend I embarked on the ultimate in childlike self-indulgence and built the largest, most detailed LEGO set I’ve ever encountered:  The Medieval Blacksmith (#21325) set.  This bad boy is part of the LEGO Ideas series, which allows LEGO fans to submit ideas for sets.  If the set gets 10,000 votes, LEGO reviews the build and, if they like it, they turn it into an official LEGO set.

These are premiere sets, and are often quite expensive.  I managed to pick it up on sale at Target and had a gift card, so against my better judgment, I treated myself to Medieval Blacksmith for the princely sum of roughly $145.

Readers must understand:  that kind of splurge is very out of character for me.  But sometimes a deal is too good to pass up, and I’ve been drooling over this set ever since it was announced some months ago on LEGO’s website.

I’d say I got my money’s worth with this one.  Around 2 PM Saturday I set to work on the behemoth, taking breaks of varying lengths for meals and to walk Murphy.  I stopped building around 12:15 AM Sunday morning, just before the first bits of icy sleet began to fall from the winter storm (which I dubbed “Winter Storm Randy”).  I resumed building Sunday morning around 10 AM and wrapped up before noon.

In total, I’d say I spent a solid eight hours of actual construction time (that includes probably half-an-hour looking for a single missing piece on my hands and knees, which at the time of writing I still have not found).  Normally I’d never have the time for such an endeavor, especially in one stretch, but with a gloriously open weekend and the Korean series Squid Game, I set about building the blacksmith’s shop and home—all 2164 pieces of it.

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Embracing the Dark Side… with LEGO

Regular readers will have surmised that, in spite being thirty-seven-years old, I am very much a kid at heart.  Often, I am also a kid in practice.

I was blessed to receive two incredible LEGO sets for Christmas:  the Imperial Shuttle (#75302) and the Darth Vader Helmet (#75304).  These sets are 660+ and 800+ pieces, respectively, and are probably the largest LEGO sets I’ve done.  I did have the legendary Black Seas Barracuda (#10040) as a kid, which is nearly 900 pieces, but I never built it—my older brother did.

Both of these builds were deeply satisfying.  I was sick with a low-grade fever and a sore throat (but tested negative for The Virus, no worries) the week after Christmas, and was generally enduring some low times besides the sickness, so I had plenty of time to dive into both of these kits—and was eager to do so.

Here, I’ll share some pictures of the builds, and discuss a bit of what it was like constructing them.

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Monday Morning Movie Review: The Wicker Man (1973)

I watch quite a few movies, and most of them come and go without leaving much of a mark.  Indeed, I pretty much only watch movies now, with the exception of a few shows (like Bob’s Burgers).  Some of them probably deserve more attention than I give them, as I’m usually multitasking—poorly—while watching them.

But for every eight duds there is one film that will stick out.  These are usually the ones I write about.  Typically they stick out in a positive way, though Ponty has encouraged me to write some reviews of movies I don’t like (you can read one such review here).  This week’s selection really made an impact on me, and it’s one I heartily recommend.

The flick is 1973’s The Wicker Man, based on a 1967 novel by David Pinner called Ritual.  The film is, perhaps, one of the most Christian (and pro-Christian) movies I have seen in a long time.  I don’t think its creators intended it as a Christian film, but I’ll make the case for it in this review.

That said, if I’m correct, The Wicker Man probably has the most nudity of any Christian film ever made.

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Midweek Mad Scientist Movie Madness I: Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde (1920) & The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920)

For Christmas I received a couple of box sets, each containing fifty films from their respective genres.  The first collection I cracked open, Mad Scientist Theatre, consists of, well, fifty films about science and scientists gone wrong (or mad, I should say).

I’ve decided to write reviews of the films from these collections throughout the course of the year semiregularly.  Son of Sonnet is taking a bit of a hiatus from writing for the time being, so these midweek reviews seemed like a good way to fill the void his pen has left.  I don’t plan on writing these reviews every Wednesday, but maybe once or twice a month.

Also, I’ll be making the meat of these reviews for subscribers only.  That’s not to cut out my lovable band of regular readers, but to further sweeten the pot for existing subscribers.  I thought about doing these posts for $5 and up subscribers, but as of this past weekend, I finally have a subscriber at the $3 level.  Because I think she will enjoy these oddball film reviews, I’m going to make them available starting at that level.

That said, I will still provide a substantial portion of these reviews for non-paying readers, as their energy and enthusiasm in the comment sections really keep the blog alive and fresh.

So!  With that lengthy preamble out of the way, the first two flicks on the first disc of Mad Scientist Theatre are both silent films from 1920:  Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari.  You don’t need Mad Scientist Theatre to watch these films, either, as they’re both in the public domain (indeed, they’re both 102-years old, which is wild to contemplate—film is a young medium, but it was around and commercially viable a century ago).  You can view both on YouTube:

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (with the original color tinting, which is not on the Mad Scientist Theatre collection):

These are quite different films, but each interesting in their own way.  The themes and situations explored in each are eerily prescient for those of us living through our own “Roaring Twenties,” with all this decade’s excesses, licentiousness, and absurdity.

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Monday Morning Movie Review: Boys from County Hell (2020)

Today is my birthday.  I’m thirty-seven today, and am on the downward slide towards forty.

But even on my birthday, I must deliver the goods.  Since it’s Monday, that means a movie review, and this flick is really quite fun.

The film is Boys from County Hell (2020), a comedic vampire movie that takes place in rural Ireland.  My family and I had the opportunity to visit Ireland in 2006, and the film’s setting really reminded me of that trip.

The premise is straightforward:  in the small, dying town of Six Mile Hill, there is a stone cairn in the middle of a farmer’s field.  The cairn is said to be the grave of Abhartach, an ancient Irish vampire who is said to have been the inspiration for Bram Stoker’s Dracula.

The cairn—indeed, the entire town—is threatened by a proposed new bypass.  The bypass will route so much traffic away from the town, it will kill the struggling local economy.  Naturally, the construction will also move directly through the cairn.

You can probably see where this is going.

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