blue plate special

Indiana songwriter delivers a blue plate special.

Carrie Newcomer has a gift for writing character sketches of people who do not receive much notice in popular music, which was evident in her first recording, Visions and Dreams, with her treatment of modern-day immigrants (“Sounds of the Morning”). Last year, she released a best-of recording called Betty’s Diner that included the previously unreleased title track. “Betty’s Diner” is a brief glimpse into the working-class lives of people found in this fictional diner. With a few phrases, Newcomer is able to flesh out a three-dimensional image of the diner patrons.

Arthur lets his earl grey steep
Since April it’s been hard to sleep
You know they tried most everything
Yet it took her in the end

The diner patrons have returned in Newcomer’s latest offering, Regulars and Refugees. On the CD liner she writes, “After I’d written and recorded the song it became apparent that the diner people had more to say, and so arose a series of songs, poems and short stories written from the perspectives of different characters who frequent a hometown diner in southern Indiana.” She includes a written introduction to the characters of each song, ether as the narrator or from the perspective of the diner waitress, Miranda. The songs them selves come from a variety of perspectives ranging from the protagonists themselves to Arthur’s story, as told by the dog he and his Libby-dearest rescued from the pound (“Arthur B and Me”).

Newcomer’s musical style is sometimes country, sometimes folk, sometimes pop, but more often it’s a combination of all three. The composition and production quality of Regulars and Refugees is classic Newcomer, and does not disappoint. The stories themselves become the emphasis of the recording versus the traditional musical hook. Overall, I give it two thumbs up and a side of slaw.

vocal bands

It started one night a couple of months ago when I was cruising CD Baby for some music similar to The Bobs. I ended up buying two CDs: In Accord’s Departures and In the Buff’s Disturbing the Quiet Enjoyment of the Home. Then last week I was surfing the web and ran across a mention of Grapevine, the women’s a cappella group at Swarthmore College. I ordered the CD and it’s been on regular rotation at work and at home. Now I’m hooked! I can’t get enough of this stuff! If you know of any other groups I should hear, please let me know.

my poor car

This hasn’t been a good week for my poor little car. On Wednesday, I left work late (around 7:30pm) and found a note on my car. A male student with a large truck did not park with care, and as a result, the passenger side rear light on my car was smashed and a long dent/gash ran from it to the top of the wheel well. At least he left me his contact info. The repair estimate: $1120. We’ll get that one sorted out soon, I hope.
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[not my car, but one very much like it]

Tonight I was out doing a bit of shopping, and was on my way home when I got rear-ended by, as it turns out, a barrista at a coffee place around the corner that I frequent. I was the lead car at a major intersection, the light had turned green, and I was just starting to pull out when I noticed that a car coming from the left was not stopping for the red light. I braked and waited for it to go past, but the barrista behind me didn’t. BANG! On my end, only the bottom middle part of my plastic bumper was broken. (No bumper stickers were harmed in this accident, for those of you who may be concerned.) Her car was left with cracked plastic vanity light covers and two broken vanity bulbs. Also, the hood of her car had some issues, but that may or may not have been related to this accident.

The irony in all of this is that it is nearly six years to the day from when my car was first smashed by someone not paying attention to what they are doing. That one banged in the front passenger side and took several months to get fixed. Even so, it was never quite the same. I should have seen that it was only the beginning of a long trend of dings and bangs for my poor little car. At least she still gets me to where I need to go.

press readers

What kind of reader are you?

This came in my email today:

  1. The Wall Street Journal is read by the people who run the country.
  2. The Washington Post is read by people who think they run the country.
  3. The New York Times is read by people who think they should run the country and who are very good at crossword puzzles.
  4. USA Today is read by people who think they ought to run the country but don’t really understand The New York Times. They do, however, like their statistics shown in pie charts.
  5. The Los Angeles Times is read by people who wouldn’t mind running the country — if they weren’t on a freeway, or playing beach ball, or at a Botox appointment or an audition — and if they didn’t have to leave Southern California to do it.
  6. The Boston Globe is read by people whose parents used to run the country and did a far superior job of it, thank you very much.
  7. The New York Daily News is read by people who aren’t too sure who’s running the country and don’t really care as long as they can get a seat on the train.
  8. The New York Post is read by people who don’t care who’s running the country as long as they do something really scandalous, preferably while intoxicated.
  9. The Miami Herald is read by people who are running another country but need the baseball scores.
  10. The San Francisco Chronicle is read by people who aren’t sure there is a country or that anyone is running it; but if so, they oppose all that they stand for. There are occasional exceptions if the leaders are handicapped minority feminist atheist dwarfs who also happen to be illegal aliens from any other country or galaxy provided, of course, that they are not Republicans.
  11. The National Enquirer is read by people trapped in line at the grocery store.

wordpress

Wow! WordPress really is that easy to use! It took me about ten minutes to set it up on my server with an appropriate theme. Over the past 48 hours, I have added 80+ entries, three static pages, two plugins, and tweaked almost all of the templates for the Chartreuse Girls archive. I know nothing of PHP, but my experience with Perl and MovableType coding informed me enough to know what to look for. It’s not quite to where I want it, but leaps and bounds ahead of where it would be if I had been using MT. I don’t plan to convert this blog over to WP. While it is tempting, there are too many tweaks and hacks that make this blog what it is. However, I will strongly recommend it to any new blogger looking to host a CMS on their own site.

hearing voices

chick lit disguised as a cozy mystery — a pleasant but unsubstantial read

My Very Own Murder by Josephine Carr takes place in an upscale and venerable Washington apartment building. Aside from mentions of retired Senators, nothing particularly distinguishes the inner-beltway setting, and it could be any major American city with a sizeable international population. The focus is entirely on the protagonist and her worldview from the eighth floor. Recently divorced at fifty and living off of a generous inheritance, Anne quickly grows bored with the usual time fillers. It is at this point in her life when she is seeking direction that a message comes to her. A voice in her head tells her that a murder will be committed in the building within thirty days and she must prevent it. Deciding to take it seriously, she enlists the aid of her ex-husband, two grown children, and the cleaning lady to sleuth out the murderer and prevent the murder. Between the sex, drinks, and shopping, a bit of sleuthing occurs, but this is definitely in the cozy mystery category or borderline chick lit.

The author seems to have spent more time on Anne’s relationships than on developing a solid mystery. Through the events of the story, Anne rediscovers herself and grows in ways she was unable to in her failed marriage. In and of itself, that aspect of the story is quite compelling. However, the problems occur when Carr attempts to wrap this into an armchair detective story. At times, it is difficult to tell if the red herrings are red herrings or if in fact they are the fumblings of a not-very-well-thought-out plot. Sinister or suspicious characters are introduced and then never fully explained away. In the end, and almost paranormal science fiction explanation is given for the voice heard by Anne — an explanation that seems out of place. The author would have done better to leave this as a self-discovery coming of age story, rather than attempting to use the mystery genre for that purpose. Still, it is a pleasant escape from reality for a few hours, and likely to be popular with the chick lit crowd.