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Jazz in Cairo
Published on March 28, 2013 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, occasional Rule of Thumb contributor Roger Noyes writes about his band's recent trip to Egypt for the jazz festival in Cairo.

Click here to read his piece.


Going Caving
Published on March 28, 2013 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, I write about going caving.

Here's an excerpt:

"I recently visited Howe Caverns, the popular Schoharie County cave, for the first time. I feel a little embarrassed to admit this — I’ve lived in the Capital Region for over a decade, but had never visited one of the area’s big attractions. And I’m not one of those people who is afraid of caves. I like caves. I think they’re fun!

For some, the appeal of caves is hard to fathom. Caves are dark and frequently occupied by bats; they often require visitors to navigate tight spaces and put aside their fear of the unknown. However, caves can be beautiful as well as fun: They contain stalactites and stalagmites, interesting rock formations and cool features such as streams and crystals. Going into a cave offers a glimpse into a hidden world, and provides a certain thrill — it can be exciting to follow a guide down a darkened path, through winding passages, deeper and deeper into the earth.

My cave experience is not extensive. I’ve been to Mammoth Cave in Kentucky, Lewis and Clarke Caverns in Montana, Wind Cave National Park in South Dakota and the Secret Caverns, located down the road from Howe Caverns. Mammoth Cave is pretty impressive. Wikipedia informs me that it is the longest known cave system in the world, with some impressive features — giant vertical shafts, rivers populated by blind fish, glittering gypsum crystals. Lewis and Clarke isn’t quite as amazing, but its beautiful formations are very much worth seeing. What makes Wind Cave interesting is its boxwork — a honeycomb-like calcite formation that projects from a cave’s walls and ceilings."

Click here to read the whole thing.


Bad Economic Trend Alert
Published on March 26, 2013 by Sara Foss

Great news! The incomes of the bottom 90 percent have risen about $49 during the last 40 years.

Hurrah!

Click here to read more about this wonderful trend!


Snow Or Not, It's Spring
Published on March 26, 2013 by Sara Foss

It's spring, whether it snows or not, according to my colleague Margaret Hartley, who writes about the transition to a new season in her column Greenpoint.

Here's an excerpt:

"The last day of winter had us shoveling around 10 inches of new snow. The first day of spring saw the shovels out again, cleaning up another 2 inches or so that had fallen overnight.

So what? Spring is here anyway.

I have proof. Not only is the sun a little higher every day, but the chickens have started laying again. Spring means eggs.

Chickens are light-sensitive. With no artificial light source they will stop laying in the winter and start up again in spring. In nature, this makes perfect sense, allowing chicks to be born in spring and summer when their chances of survival are far better.

For people who raise chickens, the winter shutdown is not particularly welcome. I made fun of some people I know, fairly new to chicken raising, who gave away their whole flock last month. They were fed up with the lack of eggs.

'We need a different breed,' they said, and I thought, 'They need a better light.'

Maybe they’re just like us and keep forgetting to turn the light on. Or maybe, like us, they have a henhouse light that’s just not strong enough.

And maybe, being new to chicken raising, they don’t realize that even chickens who stop laying in the winter will start again in the spring.

Click here to read the whole thing.


Watching "Stoker"
Published on March 26, 2013 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, I review the new movie "Stoker."

Here's an excerpt:

"For a certain type of moviegoer, 'Stoker' is one of the most anticipated movies of the year.

A stylish Gothic thriller, the film marks the English-language debut of Park Chan-wook, the Korean auteur behind the cult hit 'Old Boy' and the bloody and haunting 2009 vampire film 'Thirst.' Chan-wook is a boundary pusher, and his films are often extremely visceral — violent, sexually provocative and emotionally raw.

On the surface, 'Stoker' is a little more buttoned up and restrained than Chan-wook’s previous films, telling the story of a teenage girl named India whose mysterious Uncle Charlie moves into the family mansion after her father is killed in an automobile accident. But there are strong emotions roiling beneath the surface, and the film builds to a thrillingly deranged conclusion — perhaps not quite as deranged as the final scenes in 'Old Boy' and 'Thirst,' but certainly in the same ballpark.

The film centers opens just after India (Mia Wasikowska) has learned of her father’s death; at his funeral, she notices a handsome young man watching the proceedings from a hill. This handsome young man turns out to be Uncle Charlie (Matthew Goode), who charms her frosty mother (Nicole Kidman) and makes himself at home. Mia takes an immediate dislike to Charlie; she didn’t know that she had an uncle, and regards him warily. Charlie is friendly, but we know from the opening scenes that there’s something wrong with him, although we don’t know quite what, and that he poses a threat. India is also a bit odd: Her heightened sense of hearing enables her to hear conversations and sounds that nobody else can, and she has no close friends. Her only close relationship was with her dead father (played in flashbacks by Dermot Mulroney), who taught her to hunt."

Click here to read the whole thing.


Roots Music Festival Impresses
Published on March 25, 2013 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, I write about the local roots music festival, which was pretty good.

Here's an excerpt:

"On Saturday I attended the fourth Roots Music Festival at The Linda in Albany, which featured a number of good local musical acts, and a Rhode Island-based duo who deserve more attention: Brown Bird.

I caught Brown Bird last year at Club Helsinki in Hudson, and was impressed with their darkly lyrical brand of folk, which mixes blues, bluegrass and Eastern European and gypsy music. A lot of contemporary folk music sounds the same to me, but Brown Bird was something different, boasting a broader range of influences, surprisingly complicated arrangements and unusually literate songwriting that evokes classic American novels such as 'Moby Dick' and the Bible. Also impressive is the full and forceful sound produced by Brown Bird: Dave Lamb plays guitar, drums and sings, usually simultaneously, and MorganEve Swain plays the upright bass, cello and violin. After watching the duo in Hudson, I picked up their 2011 CD 'Salt for Salt,' which has steadily grown on me.

Brown Bird has gotten even better since I saw them during the summer. The duo immediately impressed with their emotionally complex songs and technical virtuosity; for those who expect folk music to be gentle and pretty, their rhythmic, often aggressive sound probably came as a surprise. They played a number of songs off 'Salt For Salt,' as well as tracks off their upcoming album, 'Fits of Reason,' which comes out on April 2."

Click here to read the whole thing.


Arts and Books Inspire Trips
Published on March 25, 2013 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, I write about how reading and looking at art make me feel like traveling.

Here's an excerpt:

"Last weekend my parents were in town, and so I took them to the Albany Institute of History & Art to see the Currier & Ives and Hudson River School exhibits.

Both exhibits are quite good and well worth seeing. But I think the Hudson River School exhibit is of particular interest to people who live in upstate New York, as it features numerous paintings and prints of the Adirondacks and Catskills and other Northeastern attractions, such as New Hampshire’s White Mountains.

I’ve visited many of the places depicted in the Hudson River School exhibit, and I enjoyed seeing familiar places transformed by an artist’s eye and imagination.

As I wandered through the galleries, I reminisced about hiking in the Catskills and Adirondacks, and marveled at Albany’s heyday as a bustling port city with a vibrant riverfront teeming with boats. I remembered my awestruck first trip to Niagara Falls and was reminded of my newfound appreciation for communities to the south of the Capital Region, such as Hudson and Woodstock. And when I stopped to gaze upon a depiction of the Cohoes Falls, my first thought was that my parents and I should drive out to Cohoes and look at it. After all, my mother is wild about waterfalls.

Why not take a little drive, and see the real thing?"

Click here to read the whole thing.


Recent Viewing: Films
Published on March 25, 2013 by Sara Foss

National Velvet (1944) ****

Violence at Noon (1966) ***

The Last Flight (1931) ****

Oz the Great and Powerful (2013) ***

The Invisible War (2012) ****

Never Let Me Go (2010) ****


Watching "Oz the Great and Powerful"
Published on March 21, 2013 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, I review "Oz the Great and Powerful."

Here's an excerpt:

"Don’t be scared off by the lackluster reviews: 'Oz the Great and Powerful' is a fun, magical adventure, one that should appeal to both fans of 'The Wizard of Oz' and people who have never seen the original film. It might not be as good as the 1939 Judy Garland film, but few films are. What we have here is a decent movie that functions as both an homage to a beloved classic, and a smart new take on the rich and inventive world created by author L. Frank Baum.

Directed by Sam Raimi, 'Oz the Great and Powerful' is a prequel that tells the backstory of the wizard of Oz — of how a so-so magician named Oscar (James Franco) remade himself into the man behind the curtain. The film opens at a circus in Kansas, where the rakish Oscar performs for small crowds and seduces the local women by giving them pretty little music boxes and telling them a heart-wrenching story about how it once belonged to his grandmother. Eventually Oscar’s ruse is found out, he flees in a hot air balloon, is whisked away by a tornado and finds himself in Oz.

This Midwestern-set prologue is filmed in sumptuous black-and-white, while Oz is a rich and brightly colored landscape, filled with interesting and unusual creatures, imaginatively designed cities and familiar sights such as the yellow brick road. In Oz, Oscar meets Theodora (Mila Kunis), a good witch who believes that he is the great wizard whose arrival was foretold in prophecy. She brings Oscar back to the Emerald City to meet her sister, Evanora (Rachel Weisz), who warns him about the evil witch Glinda (Michelle Williams). Fans of 'The Wizard of Oz' will immediately wonder what is going on, because Glinda is a good witch in the earlier film."

Click here to read the whole thing.


Reflection on "Park Row"
Published on March 20, 2013 by Sara Foss

About a year ago, I watched Samuel Fuller's 1952 tribute to journalism, "Park Row," and I meant to write something about it, but never did.

However, Criticwire's Matt Singer recently watched the film, and wrote a nice little piece about it.

For the record, I highly recommend "Park Row." Especially if you're a journalist.


Reflections on the Celtics and the Heat
Published on March 20, 2013 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, I offer my thought on the Celtics and the Heat, LeBron and Jeff Green. 

Click here to read more.


Movie Theater Etiquette, Part II
Published on March 19, 2013 by Sara Foss

I've been beating the movie theater etiquette drum lately, but it's a drum that needs to be beaten.

I just got back from seeing "Oz: The Great and Powerful," and there was a couple about three rows behind me, whispering and talking in low voices through the first 20 minutes of the film. This was one night after going to a screening of "Fargo" where a couple gabbed quietly through the whole thing.

I've spent the past 15 minutes reading through movie etiquette posts online, to see what they say about talking in the theater, and most of these posts address the clueless loudmouths who yell and make wildly inappropriate remarks at inappropriate times. These people are obnoxious, and they need to be stopped, but I've decided that quiet talkers/whisperers are almost worse. In my experience, they're more common than the blatant loudmouths, and because their behavior isn't as egregious, they're harder to deal with. In fact, until recently my general inclination has been to tolerate them - after all, they're not that bad. It's not like their cell phone keeps going off, or they're yelling at the screen, or running up the aisles. 

But tonight I decided that these quiet talkers/whisperers must be addressed. They seem to think that talking quietly and/or whispering entitles them provide running commentary throughout an entire movie. And they are mistaken. The etiquette is very clear: You should keep your mouth shut, unless talking is absolutely necessary. For instance, there was a couple sitting in front of me that managed to keep their mouths shut for the entire film, with one exception: When the man got up to go to the bathroom. Then he whispered something to his wife, and quietly exited. These people were not a problem.

 (More)


American Art at the Albany Institute
Published on March 19, 2013 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, I write about two exhibits at the Albany Institute of History and Art: the Hudson River School and Currier & Ives.

Click here to learn more.


Why Prince is a Gen-Xer
Published on March 18, 2013 by Sara Foss

Toure makes the case.


Another Paper Folds
Published on March 18, 2013 by Sara Foss

Having started my career at a paper that no longer exists, the Birmingham Post-Herald, I take newspaper closings personally. Which might explain why I feel compelled to share Charles Pierce's recent piece for Grantland on the folding of the Boston Phoenix.

In related news, here's the latest state of the media report from the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism. Kids, do not go into journalism!


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