March 20th, 2010

storyteller doll

The Clipping File

To follow up from my last entry, the Central Asian dance workshop was challenging but mostly enjoyable. The instructor went a bit fast for those who didn't have a background in that style and I can't say I got many of the nuances, but it was worth going.

The jetpack from Martin Aircraft Company of New Zealand looks like a viable version of the personal hovercraft that we were supposed to have by now. I want one. Of course, aside from the cost (they don't give a figure but I am guessing on the order of $100K now), the airspace around here is so heavily controlled that it probably would not have been the solution to the rush hour traffic on the beltway I was stuck in yesterday coming home from a meeting. But I can dream.

I also wanted to mention that I got an interesting insight into one of my colleagues the other day. She is one of a handful of people who has access to a particular room in our facility. Nobody had been in there for a while and, when she went in, she noticed a foul odor. She found its source - a dead mouse. And she immediately screamed for the nearest man to handle it for her. I was amused, but I'm not sure I would have reacted differently.

Finally, there was a news story about a jogger on a beach in Georgia who was killed by an airplane making an emergency landing. You can't get much worse luck than that.
storyteller doll

Tom Paxton

On Thursday night, I went to see Tom Paxton perform at the Barns at Wolf Trap. For the non-locals, I should explain that this is the indoor venue they use from October through April. The Filene Center, with its lawn for picnics, gets used only in the summer.

Paxton has been a significant name in the folk music world for 50 years now and he performed a mix of old and new. That included his first hit ("The Marvelous Toy") and several of his best known songs ("Bottle of Wine," "Ramblin' Boy," "The Last Thing on My Mind"). I was amused by his inclusion of a one verse parody version of the latter, found on the internet. Somewhat surprisingly, the only other satiric piece he performed was "I'm Changing My Name to Fannie Mae." That song is a minor rewrite of "I'm Changing My Name to Chrysler." To quote Tom Lehrer, "it don't matter if you put a coupla extra syllables into a line" but the poor scansion does bother me. So do some weak rhymes in other songs and a few unnecessarily repetitive lyrics. There are certain genres where fans can be excessively forgiving and, alas, folk music is one.

There were some performance weaknesses too. Paxton has always been a better songwriter than a singer and he had trouble keeping his volume consistent at times. He was still energetic and did get the audience singing along fairly frequently. But I noticed his somewhat limited range more than I might have otherwise. (Of course, the limited range is part of what has made him a songwriting success. His songs tend not to be very hard for other people to sing.) I should also note that he was accompanied by Robin Bullock, playing guitar, cittern, and mandolin. In general, I thought the accompaniment was effective and, in a few cases, it overshadowed the songs themselves.

But concerts by musical legends have as much to do with nostalgia as with the actual performance. Oddly, the age of a song has little to do with the feelings of nostalgia it brings up. My personal reveries were focused on "Central Square" (which is, I think, fairly recent and unrecorded), "Comedians and Angels" (which is lyrically weak, alas) and "The Bravest" (about 9/11). Those moments made the concert worth going to, but I don't feel any great desire to see Paxton perform over and over.