The Shapiro Files

Friday, July 29, 2005

Hope for Humankind?

Along the lines of my previous blog entry about Oprah Winfrey’s “Summer of Faulkner” Book Club selections, there is yet more evidence that high art is still viable and popular in our culture. Last month for a limited time, the BBC made new recordings of all nine Beethoven symphonies available as free MP3 downloads from their website. (Yes, I downloaded several of these excellent recordings myself.) Well, guess what? The number of downloads (1.4 million) far exceeded all other music recordings available on the Internet, included Paul McCartney’s Live8 performance of “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” (the best-selling online track of all time). Of course, the Beethoven recordings were free. But holy moly, we’re talking Beethoven here — not U2, not Gwen Stefani, and not Coldplay. But Beethoven! And if that isn’t enough to get you feeling a little better about the world, even classical music downloads available for a fee (by way of iTunes and other services) are doing surprisingly well.

Check out this article from The Guardian for all the details.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Ya Gotta Hand it to Oprah

While many people I know either love or hate her, I’ve never had a strong opinion about Oprah Winfrey one way or the other. I suppose my only criticism is that she tends to inject too much of herself during interviews. But that’s only a minor quibble — and one I have for just about all popular talk show interviewers. However, I really have to say that I’ve recently earned new respect for Winfrey as a cultivator of high art by way of her well-known (and very influential) Book Club. In recent months she has gradually begun eschewing popular contemporary fiction for classics of literature. Recent Book Club selections have included authors such as John Steinbeck and Gabriel García Márquez. And now, she’s launched an ambitious “Summer of Faulkner” reading list. Having read a fair amount of William Faulkner in college, I know just how dense and challenging (though ultimately highly satisfying) his work can be. So good for you, Oprah, for encouraging your fans to stretch out and enjoy such difficult — yet very rich — works of art.

Check out this article from The Nation for some excellent commentary on Winfrey’s Faulkner program. Choice quote: “[Winfrey] has gone beyond the intellectual limits of the acceptably middlebrow — and of her own show — in openly embracing a writer who is not only highly experimental in his prose but utterly despairing in outlook. And that is little short of astonishing.”

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Random Silliness

Ever have one of those days? Well here's a very funny animated graphic that's been making the rounds to help put things into perspective.

Still need a big laugh? Check out this photo of legendary "Wall of Sound" producer (and now alleged homicide practitioner) Phil Spector taken during a recent court appearance. It doesn't matter what kind of mood I'm in, this photo never ceases to make me laugh.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Baby Update

After far too many entries of random thoughts and news of my theater/acting activities, I'm way overdue for a Baby Shapiro update! So here's what's been going on baby-wise lately:

The Baby Shapiro name poll I set up in April was lots of fun and Melody proved to be the most popular choice by far. We still aren't committing to a name yet, but Melody certainly is the name that Marcie and I keep returning to. Odds are this won't be a decision that gets made until the last possible moment. Sorry, folks!

We hit 30 weeks and Baby Shapiro was estimated to be 3 pounds 4 ounces on Monday. For those who are interested in such things, I've posted online three ultrasound scans (with labels to help people make sense of them): 8 weeks, 18 weeks, and 30 weeks.

Now well into the third trimester, Marcie is very much hitting that always-uncomfortable stage. But she's still managing extremely well. She also looks adorable in her maternity clothes and I hope to post some photos of her to my website in the very near future.

Baby Room
It was a long and hot day, but I finally cleared out the garage to make room for the furniture that was in Baby Shapiro's future room. With Marcie's cousin Akiva's generous help, we finally cleared out the room last weekend and I then spent the next couple of nights assembling the glider chair (very comfortable!) and the crib (which came with a pretty ridiculous set of directions). The room is still a bit of a mess, but it's definitely coming along. When it starts looking a little better, I'll take photos and post them online.

Overall, the next couple of months will be consumed with baby showers, getting mentally prepared, and making sure we have all the necessary baby "stuff" in the house to allow us to properly take care of a new munchkin. No doubt these will be some very fast-moving weeks as we rapidly head toward parenthood!

Monday, July 11, 2005

The Art of the Mix Tape

I've recently read an article about a new book by Sonic Youth guitarist Thurston Moore called Mix Tape: The Art of Cassette Culture and I was inspired to write a blog reflection on my own love affair with the mix tape. Prior to the digital age, anyone of my generation who had a cassette recorder and any reasonably sized record collection most likely made a mix tape or two in their lives. Like so many of my contemporaries, I made countless mix tapes for friends, significant others, and of course, for my own enjoyment. Of all the tapes I made, my all time favorite was a little something I made in August 1987 called Almost Mellow. This was a collection of songs that were exactly as the title implied: songs on the verge of being mellow. There's quite a bit of 1970's rock stuff there that I was really into at the time (still am, actually) and a couple of now-embarrassing cheesy ballads. It wasn't a perfect collection, but it always proved popular at social gatherings when I wanted to mellow things out.

So warts and all (please remember this was the 80's and I was considerably younger), here's Almost Mellow:

Side 1:
1. "Amanda" - Boston
2. "If You Leave Me Now" - Chicago
3. "Still...You Turn Me On" - Emerson Lake and Palmer
4. "Every Little Thing" - The Beatles
5. "Comfortable Numb" - Pink Floyd
6. "Behind Blue Eyes" - The Who
7. "Be My Number Two" - Joe Jackson
8. "Ten Years Gone" - Led Zeppelin
9. "Maybe I'm Amazed" - Paul McCartney
10. "You Make Me Feel Like a Natural Woman" - Aretha Franklin
11. "Out Here On My Own" - Irene Cara

Side 2:
1. "Sea of Love" - The Honeydrippers
2. "And I Love Her" - The Beatles
3. "A Man I'll Never Be" - Boston
4. "Snowblind" - Genesis
5. "For No One" - The Beatles
6. "Romeo and Juliet" - Dire Straits
7. "Haven't We Been Here Before" - Styx
8. "Dear Mr. Fantasy" - Traffic
9. "Thank You" - Led Zeppelin
10. "The Night is Still Young" - Billy Joel

Like any good thing, Almost Mellow spawned two sequels, Almost Almost Mellow (how could I resist?) and Almost Almost Almost Mellow (taking the joke a little far that time). But no other mix tape was ever quite so special to me as the original Almost Mellow. Here's to you, old friend.

Friday, July 01, 2005

Where Have I Been?

I can't believe a full week has passed since my last post. I have no idea how that happened. I suppose time flies when you're doing nothing. So let me think back over the past week to see if I can remember what's been occupying my time for the past week...

  • Had a delightful dinner with Adeline and Chris at their home last Friday and watched the mildly entertaining but largely predictable Secret Window on their huge HDTV set
  • Had a delightful dinner with David and Amy at David's apartment Saturday night and caught up on life since Japan
  • Saw the incomparable Kevin Pollack at the San Jose Improv Sunday night
  • Saw Batman Begins on Monday night with Lee, Brian, and Chris
  • Spent the rest of the week working on transferring Jason's wedding videos to DVD (almost done)
So I guess I have been busy after all. The time simply got away from me. This weekend will be mostly concerned with cleaning out the garage so we can clean out the future baby room. Not very exciting, but it has to be done!