Vehicle For Dissertation

Books I read, music I hear...My imperious opinion on both.

Friday, February 25, 2005

Alison Krauss - Now That I've Found You

A conversation with a friend brought this album to my always-searching-for-music-I-might-like consiousness. I heard one of her songs on recently which reminded me to look up one of her albums and see if it was available from my favorite source. And it was. Of course I got this one in preference to a newer album because of the recommendation from the said friend.

I really didn't quite know what to expect as I had heard virtually nothing of her (yes, the one song on FolkAlley). This of course, is a collection, and from '95 at that. So her sound my have changed in this span of 10 years. I'm rather ignorant despite the fact that she is a rather well known personage.

Anyway...enough of that. My evaluation was at first quite mixed. I liked the first track but the second quickly jarred me out of that pleasent feeling, and so on. After more listening I have decided that I like it best when she sings low and soft. In that character her voice reminds me of Nichole Nordeman, who's singing I like rather well in general.

After more listening I have selected a few tracks to present as my choice favorites, as usual...

The middle pick is the previously unreleased Broadway. My third choice, I Will and the best of all (maybe)...
In the Palm of Your Hand

If you want to hear the others that I liked fairly well and those that I didn't like (Oh, Atlanta), you click this link to Barnes&Noble or go to some other site. The links here open in Windows Media Player.

Google Search: "Now That I've Found You Alison Krauss"

Monday, February 21, 2005

The Way I Am - Jennifer Knapp

The first music I heard by Jennifer Knapp was A Diamond In the Rough, a collection of some of her works. Some of them previously unreleased. Since I liked what I heard I got a copy of The Way I Am through my usual channels. (Usual channels sounds more interesting than: “from the public library”).

Besides just her voice, I like Jennifer's writing \ singing style. It seems to convey meanings and thoughts without even completing a sentence. For instance in Breathe On Me the resurrection is portrayed simply by:

Testimony Come Now, Quickly,
Whisper In My Ear:


Peace At Last Not Far Away,

Empty Sheet,

A Borrowed Grave:


Come Freedom, Come

Come Freedom, Come”

Many of the songs seem wistful and conscious of being only human,
prone to trouble, yet in the hand of God.

My favorites could be as follows
(Note: I fixed these links. I had run out
time before and hadn't set them to play
the sample clip. It opens in WMP):

Fall Down

Breathe On Me

Sing Mary Sing


Come To Me

Of course I like virtually all of them on the CD with one exception: Light of the World. For a ridiculous reason too! It includes some various people quoting Scripture. That is perfectly fine. However, the first time I heard it I wasn't expecting a different voice just talking and it gave me a start. I've pretty much skipped that track ever since! But really any of the Knapp albums are a good listen. I'm waiting for my copy of Kansas to come in...

Gotee Records (look in the “Artists” menu for: Jennifer Knapp).

The Fall of Baghdad - Jon Lee Anderson

This is a very fascinating book on Baghdad before, during, and after the war, or perhaps I should say after the initial war. Probably the most interesting book on the war in Iraq that I've read so far. The other two books I've read on the subject are based on the experiences of an embedded journalist (In the Company of Soldiers) and a hostage (Escape in Iraq). This book, however, is from the vantage point of a journalist who stayed in Baghdad during the war.

The neat thing is the variety of people who the author (Jon Lee Anderson) had contact with throughout the book. They ranged from Sabah, his loyal (usually) driver, to the descendants of the man who killed Col. Leachman in the 20s, to Ala Bashir the artist and favored doctor of Saddam Hussein. In fact the author suspects that he may have seen Saddam in Baghdad and his friends who knew the dictator thought it was quite possible that the man he saw was indeed Saddam.

While I didn't find much new or startling information here, save some history I didn't know, the “picture” it gives of Iraqis and the now dissolved government, is quite insightful.

NPR Interview

Google Search: “The Fall of Baghdad Jon Lee Anderson”

Saturday, February 19, 2005

Miracle of November: Madrid's Epic Stand, 1936

I realized not long ago that, while I knew some amount about pre-WWII Europe, I knew little about Spain. When I saw that Dan Kurzman had written a book on the war in Spain during the thirties I looked it up.

It was quite different reading this account because, well, I didn't know what the outcome was! Usually when reading history you know at least in a basic sense what happened at “the end”. I, however, couldn't remember whether Franco had attained power or exactly what happened when the Spanish civil war faded into WWII.

Reading Miracle of November was somewhat confusing at times because of the number of names and groups you need to keep straight as you follow the narrative. I got it worked out pretty well by the time I was halfway through. It's just that there were so many different groups fighting within the two main opponents in the war. For example: on the side defending Madrid (against Franco and “the rebels”), were anarchists, communists, the Loyalists and the militia consisting of citizens of the city.

As usual the author follows several figures throughout the narrative. They include generals on both sides, leaders and members of political groups involved, a priest and a few foreigners from Britain and America. It gives you a good idea of the scene from many different vantages points.

So...I found out that Franco did eventually win and became the “head of state”, probably in a large part due to the fact that Hitler was backing him while Stalin had ceased to back the government as he had at the start of the war.

Monday, February 14, 2005

Anne's House of Dreams

Well, it's my fifth L.M. Montgomery book finished this year. It is, I'm afraid, the last in the series I will like. I have yet to read Anne of Ingleside though perhaps it will be just as good. I just know that last time I read the series (approx. 5 years ago) I didn't think much of Rainbow Valley (#7). It wasn't about Anne! At least hardly... That might have been okay if only the new characters were as endearing.

I tend to think that this book has some of the best characters in the whole series. Captain Jim is someone it seems you wouldn't mind knowing. I wish I could read his life-book. Cornelia Bryant and Leslie are quite good too. Marilla, however, almost fades from view now that Anne has moved from Avonlea... Isn't it fun? Making the books seem like reality. I almost begin to think of the events as historical facts.

In any case if you've any interest in seeing the book online here is my usual link to Project Gutenberg:

Anne's House of Dreams

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

The Tragedy of American Compassion

I saw a reference to this book while reading Bush's Brain and, like usual, put in a request at the library.

The Tragedy of American Compassion by Marvin Olasky examines the change in attitude towards what is sometimes called charity, compassion, welfare or other things. Basically it's how society looks at poor and/or homeless people and what obligation the better off do, or do not, have towards them.

There was a lot of activity in the charitable arena at the turn of the last century, and this book notes many of the methods of various New York organizations as well as others around the nation. Much debate centered around whether charitable assistance was a right that the “economically depressed” deserved or something that could cause perfectly capable people to become careless and “pauperized”.

Many of the late 19th century groups determined whether potential beneficiaries of their help were truly needy by using “work tests”. By performing some service (often helpful to others in need) applicants for aid could show that they were committed to doing something about their situation themselves and weren't just looking for a handout.

Probably the greatest loss you see when contrasting now and then is the lack of personal involvement. In small communities folks new each other and their situations well and thus could help in a way that was beneficial. In more urban society such kindness often becomes impersonal and the balances in place when personal knowledge is in the picture easily disappear. There is more potential for abuse by both the giver and the receiver.

Somewhere (Mr. Olasky points to the sixties-seventies) government financial assistance became a right instead of a last resort. The transfer of the responsibility from citizens to the government, of supporting those in need, had been in process for a long time. However, it was now seen as something owed rather than given or lent.

Charitable organizations also used to be free to emphasize the change of the inner person as a necessary part of the change from reliance on alms to self-sufficiency. Now, if they receive government support, such establishments must not “discriminate” in any way or promote faith in God and renewal of spiritual life through Jesus Christ as an important part of gaining independence. Since assistance is now a “right” it seems to be the “correct” thing to give it out indiscriminately. Be tolerant! But I won't start on tolerance...

This is definitely an interesting work. I would say the best chapters are the first few and the last few. Several chapters in between are full of examples from the turn of last century that, while informative, become redundant.

Read more at: The Tragedy of American Compassion

New links added...

I've added a few new links in the past two days. Under the "Music" section you'll find one for Kate Rusby's website. I've heard her albums Hourglass and Underneath the Stars and like them both a lot.

There's also Fivacious. A cool group of a cappella singers from California who I met last summer. They have two CDs out: In the Key of Love and Snow Down On Me.

Under the "Literature" section I added a link for Project Gutenberg. They have a large collection of online books from various authors.

So scroll down to the "Links" section on the left or check 'em out in this post...

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

More newly completed books...

I know I've already posted concerning two of the other L.M. Montgomery books but... I just get started on a series or author and keep reading their writings. So, I've just finished Anne of the Island as well as Anne of Windy Poplars.

I finally solved a small mystery I had. Around the same time I read Anne of Windy Poplars for the first time I also read Edgar Allan Poe's The Fall of the House of Usher. Very connected stories don't you think? In the fourth book in the series Anne visits one Miss Minerva Tomgallon who lives in a house her family has held for some six generations. There were a great many tragic deaths in the family which she pronounced to be on account of a curse on her family. I specifically remember the part where she mentions here grandfather (or great-grandfather, I'm not positive). He had fallen down some stairs and broken his neck on some festive occasion.

I pictured the Tomgallon mansion to be virtually identical to The House of Usher and thus confused the two stories as well. When I read The Fall of the House of Usher again I expected to hear of the old gentleman who had tumbled down the stairs and any number of other unfortunates who suffered like tragedies. However I didn't read anything of them. I couldn't figure it out. There was of course the rather demented Roderick Usher and his sister who was pronounced dead quite too soon.

When I began the chapter in which Anne visits Miss Minerva Tomgallon I soon realized that I'd finally figured out my small mystery. The Tomgallons were similar to the Ushers but belonged to L.M. Montgomery not Edgar Allan Poe.

For some reason Project Gutenberg doesn't have Anne of Windy Poplars available in the same format as the other books. It's there but all on one page instead of in chapters. Pretty inconvenient when your looking for one particular section. They do have Anne of the Island in chapter format.

Anne of the Island

Anne of Windy Poplars