Archive for 2009

The Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin – Book Review

October 18th, 2009

      A beautiful novel.
      I urge anyone to read The Wizard of Earthsea, not just those who are C.S. Lewis & Tolkien fans [two others often mentioned in reviews of Le Guin's work], and not just those who are interested in fantasy and science fiction. The language is spare, noble, at times biblically rarefied. The psychological insights are shrewd and not over-labored. What this slim novel says about the human condition and our collective struggle to overcome fear and be whole could fill a library.
     I’m not very good with plot summaries, so I’ll keep mine minimal: the setting is a mythic place called Earthsea, made up mostly of ocean and archipelagos. A boy, Ged, grows up on the isle of Gont with great innate talent for magic. He rapidly grows into his powers, eclipsing his peers, but struggles with pride, anger, and temper. He lets loose a dark nemesis early on in his development which he must spend the rest of the novel coming to terms with and challenging. This struggle of Ged’s to reckon with and integrate a dark side, a shadow, forms the dramatic and emotional crux of the novel.
     I loved too how Le Guin explores the idea of True Names; everything in Earthsea has a surface name [the protagonists's birth-name is "Duny"] and also a True Name [his True Name is "Ged"]. Like Plato’s Ideals, this world of Earthsea is made up of transitory markers and their inherent, immortal signifiers. Magic on Earthsea is dependent on a sorcerer’s knowledge of True Names — without the knowledge of a thing’s True Name [be it animal, stone, ghost, person, region of the sea, etc] , one cannot control it or affect it with spells. Much of the action in the novel revolves around Ged, his friends, and his enemies navigating the external world and the unchanging signifiers that world is tethered to. It’s a fruitful and flexible philosophical underpinning that (among other things) distinguishes Le Guin’s world as unique in the fantasy canon.
     There’s so much more about this book I loved. For instance, the inhabitants of Earthsea seem to be uniformly dark-skinned — at one point early on, Ged thwarts a pirate raid, and the murderous, pillaging pirates are described somewhat like Vikings, pale-skinned and fair. Ged and most of his friends, meanwhile, are clearly described in many passages as being dark-skinned or black. Not many books of the fantasy/sci-fi canon — and keep in mind the times; she wrote this in the 60s — feature non-white protagonists, let alone entire nations of non-whites. And incidentally, Le Guin doesn’t treat this detail at length or pointedly/politically (it’d be fine if she did, but that would mean a totally different novel); this physical detail of her characters is mentioned very matter-of-factly.
      Finally, and I’ve talked about this already in brief — I love Le Guin’s voice. It’s tender but forthright, economical but not dry, careful in its use of details: just enough to keep the novel from being too lofty & allegorical. She spends good, warm, emotional page-time on the friendships Ged forms, the rivalries, the interactions with people and animals which help shape and challenge him — something vital to this novel of otherwise solitary struggle and awakening.
     So, anyway: man, book review. Been a bit since I bashed out one of those. I feel like a middle schooler again. Enough — it’s a damned great novel so go to the library, git it, read it.

Ursula K. Le Guin’s Site

Order Ursula’s Books
   
C. Way/ SnailCrow.com © 2009

[posted by: C Way at 7:00 PM]

[file under: ART OF THE DAY]
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New Album: C. Way’s ‘Needle Out’

May 2nd, 2009

! ! ! ! ! NEEDLE OUT Album Release ! ! ! ! !



   

Hey everyone!

      My new album, ‘Needle Out’, is ready and I’m happy to share it. I know cds are passe and all but it’s the only way I’ve gotten around to distributing the thing [update -- iTunes too, check sidebar!], so bear with me. I’m proud of these 11 songs (about 35 minutes) and I hope you eat ‘em up like fritos.
      As a bonus, you’ll get free cd-sleeve-sized ink & brush art with each order for a limited time (i.e. until I get too busy to do it).
      Free mp3 from album, and order page here. Just $7 including shipping [US only], that is cheeeepieeeee!

      Enjoy the Springin.

-C.Way

[posted by: C Way at 11:25 AM]

[file under: Music]
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Some Photos, Paintings, Drawings

March 7th, 2009

Various photographs, paintings, collages & drawings of mine for sale via PayPal here.

“Untitled 10″:

Thanks for looking and let me know what you think if you have a chance.

-CW

[posted by: C Way at 2:32 PM]

[file under: MY ART]
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‘Winding like a Snake in the Grasses’: A Review of AZITA’s ‘Enantiodromia’

February 23rd, 2009

I saw Azita open up for Stephen Malkmus at Irving Plaza in New York several years ago. Malkmus was terrific — all drawl and solos, and I can’t get that floppy bowl cut he wore out of my mind — but it was Azita who stayed with me until long after the show was over. I was struck by her singing, edgy and free and swooping in and around vowels, scooping out vowels with an unpolished spoon. Sharp and flat in the right ways, like Astrud Gilberto; moving in and around her head voice, from nasal to back of throat to everywhere else, lending her voice this totally distinctive elasticity. And those melodies — they completely insinuated themselves in me by show’s end, winding and complex, knotted, beguiling. I bought the LP “Enantriodromia” soon after.

I haven’t listened to the album in probably 8 months. So when I put it in this evening — it’s still playing now — I had this thrill, this shock of glad recognition. Don’t you love that? When you realize a forgotten record has burrowed deeply into you, into strata you had no idea it had possessed the power to penetrate. Maybe its her melodies — I believe that part of the power of a well-constructed, complex melody is its capacity to imprint the brain more deeply, sink down into its trenches, its Marianas, like a kind of tremendous galleon, sink down and stay there for centuries, attracting kelp and wolf eels and endless glittering shoal. Like Van Dyke Parks’ melodies, like Brian Wilson melodies, like certain melodies of Debussy or that of Chopin’s ‘Barcarolle’… the density of the melody helps it anchor down in the peat of the brain, slowly effervescing up through the soil, leaking good rust for months and years, blooming, ripening, gaining emotional power.

I love this record. I love her honest voice, honest and open like Oldham’s, Guthrie’s. Simple despite its restlessness and leaps and changes in timbre. I particulary dig “Birds”, its buoyant scatted passage, its arresting chord change right at “Birds have grown up singing in the trees”. I love her piano playing, instinctive and serving well those endlessly-surprising slanted harmonies of hers. Tons of extended chords, diminished chords, so much tension and suspension that so richly satisfies and never feels confrontational or difficult for the sake of it: a kind of dancing slowly and to one side, with unusual but necessary bodily contortions, like a kind of aural Butoh.

This record is a spell: long and hypnotic incantations, multiple languages, strange symbols woven into the air, complex results that reveal themselves in time. Letting this record into you is like waking up one day in a house of gordian-knotted ribbon and vine; such rare pleasure in stretching your limbs, admiring the whorling braids, pulling it all in and over you like blankets.
   

AZITA’s Offical Website

   
C. Way/ SnailCrow.com © 2009

[posted by: C Way at 11:36 PM]

[file under: Music]
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No Neck Blues Band at Issue Project Room, Brooklyn, NY – February 13, 2009

February 14th, 2009

no neck
   

A man in the corner rattled a horn.

Another man with a long braided beard-tail carried a cymbal on a rope. He let it brush against the floor and shivered it there, giving the room some shimmery metal hiss. Sometimes he’d use his feet to play with it and pick it up. Then he would hover it and swing it, slowly & carefully, with purpose. Like you would wave and shake a censer.

This man would walk back through the seated crowd sometimes, through the aisle, not in confrontation, but just as you would move your arms in a stretch and kick your feet out in a stretch because you want to uncoil.

A woman flailed against a piano, her palms rapidly striking blocks of keys. Sometimes she slapped a cymbal. I think I saw her on the floor.

Another man played drums. What he played was sturdy and necessary. A frame for wild ivy to grow in and around.

They kept moving and changing position. They kept bringing out different drums, different instruments. Their restlessness soothed. Restless the way birds seem. Constant motion without tension.

Sounds emerged and died over time, naturally and without fuss. Guitar sounds, percussive sounds, breathy pants and moaning sounds, organ-like keyboard rumbles. All of it shifting in and out of place naturally and imperceptibly, like a star fading as dawn begins to glow, like leaves of certain tropical plants turning to face or unface the sun.

The music they brought was not a song, it was without beginning or end, it was like a jungle waterfall you approach, sit beside, feel the rushing misty balm of, and then leave behind: it was falling before you got there and it will keep falling when you’re gone. It doesn’t care about you and at the same time will always need a witness.

   
C. Way/ SnailCrow.com © 2009
   

No Neck’s Myspace

   

Soundatone Records [order No Neck stuff here]

[posted by: C Way at 4:09 PM]

[file under: Music]
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