One of my favorite liturgical pieces is Αγνή Παρθένε, “O Pure Virgin,” by Saint Nectarius of Aegina:
Antonín Dvořák is one of my favorite composers, as one would expect: Czech heritage, an interest in the nineteenth century, a love of Romanticism, and fond memories of Bohemia make me rather susceptible to his charms. I paid my respects to the illustrious man in the Vyšehrad cemetery just south of Prague, as I like to visit the graves of famous folks. Anyway, I probably love the Slavonic Dances most, obviously followed by his Ninth Symphony, From the New World. As an American, it is a civic duty to love this wonderful tribute to our land. Indeed, I cannot understand how anyone could not love it. Below is Z nového světa, performed by the Wiener Philharmoniker, and conducted by Herbert von Karajan:
Second Movement: I
Second Movement: II
Fourth Movement: I
Fourth Movement: II
Earlier in the “Fun” realm, I discussed Renaissance Festivals and how they bring together the diverse demographics of American geekdom. As the Negroes say, I can pass—when it comes to geekiness. Perhaps, I have full-fledged nerd street creds, but I never really fit well in any crowd—even among the social pariahs of yesteryear who have now come into their own, as David Brooks wrote some months ago, “The Alpha Geeks” in that Graying Old Whore. Well, I am glad that the alphas now have a safe haven from the benighted epsilon-minus semi-morons. Yet, didn’t all that social ostracism give nerds the necessary time to innovate and to make America technologically superior? If potential Bill Gates get peer respect and girls, then we might as well send the White House’s keys to the Peking oligarchs now; the contest is over.
Brooks’ account of nerd ascent misses entirely the covert nerd integration into mass consciousness through the work of Led Zeppelin. What? Did I just call perhaps the greatest rock band ever a bunch of nerds? Yep! In what might be the best executed stealth maneuver in pop cultural history, Led Zeppelin succeeded in bringing geekdom to the masses in the language of rock, thus paving the way for George Lucas’ Star Wars. I know the accusations of heresy that I shall incur from the dogmatists. Yet, I stand and can do no other: “Before there was Hans, there was John Bonham.”
Should you have any doubts, consider Robert Plant’s fantasy sequence in Led Zeppelin’s movie, The Song Remains the Same:
Even without mentioning Tolkien, the defense rests.
Adam introduced me to the Magnetic Fields some time ago—he is my indie and 1990’s music source, I suppose. As with all of his recommendations, the Magnetic Fields is a fine band with pleasant tunes.
I found this fan video of “The Luckiest Guy on the Lower East Side,” which was a school assignment for the video creator. I think that it is rather impressive: charming, fun, and silly, just like the song:
As in all songs, I have my favorite part. With this one, it’s “Well I’m a fool.” I am not sure why I have favorite moments in songs and movies, or why such parts please more than others. It is strange.
You may know that I am quite fond of the band Belle & Sebastian, which Adam introduced to me several years ago. Here is one of their few videos featuring “Dog on Wheels” available on their Push Barman to Open Old Wounds album.
It is true to their quirky form. I like the stuffed dog.
Many pop and indie music critics find the band pretentious, but it seems that their pretense consists in their utter lack of pretentiousness. The band appears quite comfortable with childhood silliness in an unironic way, and such a comfort level presupposes a decent amount of confidence—a confidence not situated in common social opinion. I remember that my friends and I finally realized that we were no longer children when we could indulge in childlike activities unironically without shame or embarrassment because we were quite comfortable in our maturity. Likewise, I think that B&S enjoy making songs about sleepovers, libraries, and ladies’ journals because they do not feel the need to prove themselves “deep” beyond the superficialities of life. Hence, their lyrics do not revolve continuously around “adult” themes like sex, death, and the meaningless of life—though they occasionally play with those topics, too. Just like normal life, we get the high and the low, the trivial and the profound, all mixed up like a typical day in the life of Everyman.