Tag: Stuff

“The Great Gatsby” - F. Scott Fitzgerald

“The Great Gatsby” by F. Scott Fitzgerald is a novel about a man who accumulates all the wealth and possessions he could hope for but is still denied the one thing he so desperately seeks.

Nick Carraway a bond salesman from New York moves to West Egg (on Long Island South) where he meets his wealthy and mysterious neighbor Jay Gatsby. Gatsby, renowned for his parties where the whole upper-class enjoys themselves, is, if anything, a mystery. It is rumored that he has killed a man, has studied in Oxford and served in World War I, all of which turn out to be somewhat true or at least likely. Nick also meets  Daisy, his second cousin again, who is, not so happily anymore, married to Tom, a successful football player from Yale. After being invited by Gatsby to one of his parties he attends a few of them and realizes that no one seems to really know anything about Gatsby. More and more it becomes clear to Nick, that Gatsbys only goal is to become worthy of Daisy, whom he fell in love with before the War, and finally marry her.  In his sheer shyness he uses Nick to facilitate a reunion and Daisy seems to care for Gatsby, too. But things go sideways, Daisy, driving in Gatsbys fancy sport car accidentally runs over, what (ironically) turns out to be, her husbands affair. Wanting to protect her at any cost, Gatsby turns it into a hit and run, advising Daisy against admitting the accident and is later found out by the victims husband and shot. His funeral is attended only by Nick and some old man whom Nick once met wandering in Gatsbys library, none of his business partners, so called friends or benefactors of his parties come, not even Daisy.

Fascinating about this book is mostly the narrative, which only shows us Nicks personal, imperfect, often incomplete and biased view of he things and more precisely of the mystery that is Gatsby. It also shows the ungratefulness and falsehood of the people that enjoy Gatsbys hospitality.

5/5

“We The Living” - Ayn Rand

Ayn Rands “We The Living” is about a young talented, freedom-loving woman living in the grim and repressive Soviet-Union, desperately and with all her might trying to preserve her love and her virtues.

Born as daughter of a once successful (his textile factory was seized and nationalize) industrialist, Kira the protagonist of the novel finds herself in the anti-burgoise environment of the Soviet-Russia of the nineteen-twenties, when returning (with her family) from exile to her hometown Petrograd. She starts pursuing an education as engineer aspiring to one day build skycrapers and bridges, knowing that she is meant for greatness. We then see the family’s decay as the conditions of living harden, greatly affecting her family, but leaving her semingly unimpressed, as she finds love in the freethinker (son of a Admiral who was on the wrong side in the revoution) Leo and meets her soulmate Andrei, a Communist and officer of the G.P.U (the secret police). As Leo falls ill with tuberculosis, Kria desperately tries to find a way to send him to a senatorium in the south, but fails due to the system, that does not value life. As a last resort she pretends to love Andrei (who fell in love with her) to get the money to save Leo. After his recovery Leo returns but is a changed man, he starts a business (as a so callled speculator) selling food stolen from the state with help of a corrupt Communist official. He and Kira slowly disunite as he also starts drinking and gambling, while Kira is trying to save money for their escape, knowing that it will not end well. But unlinke Leo, who has given up, Kira doesn’t and continues to believe in her dreams, sacrificing everything for them (best illustratet by the betrayal of her precious friendship with Andrei). As one of the revolutionist of the first days Andrei fits the longer the less into the party that has become a hoard of opportunistic beaurocrats only empt at improving their own profit and destroying lives, as he keeps on arguing his idealistic views he is kicked out of the party, discovering that Kria still loves only Leo he commits suicide. Having become emotionally numb Leo leaves Kira and Kira decides to leave the country, still pursuing her dreams with all her might. She dies very near the border, hit by a lucky shot of a guard.

I’m lucky that I haven’t written this review immediately after I’ve read the book, since the critique would have been slightly less appreciative, but I’ve had time to think about this book (and it does get you thinking) and some points I did not like now make me, in retrospect, enjoy the book even more. Firstly the portrayal of the living conditions is shocking and it gets to you, without being placative. Then there are the three most important characters of the book. Leo the attractive, first virtuous, but more and more disillusioned, and lastly broken man and one and only true love of Kira, then there is the idealistic, loyal and thoroughly respectful Andrei, Kiras soulmate despite their differing viewpoints. And then there is Kira the realistic but firm believer in her dreams and virtue, she fights the injustice of the system not by force but by not changing her beliefs and by an admirable endurability in the face of hopelessness. These three characters are what make this novel truly remarkable.

5/5

“The Golden Bowl” - Henry James

“The Golden Bowl”, in short, is about a young, naively innocent woman (Maggie Verver) and her rich father (Adam Verver) getting engaged (almost simultaneously) to two Italians (the prestigious Prince Amerigo and the staggeringly beautiful Charlotte Stant) who happen to have had a love affair (of which both father and daughter, of course, know nothing about), and their mingeled relationships.

Maggie (obvously having an Electra complex) neglects her Prince and spends a lot of time with her father, which leads to the Prince and Charlotte spending more time toghether (in lack of better companions) and finally starting an adulterous affair.

Maggie finally awakes from her naivety by finding out about the affair and starts reclaiming her marriage, by intrigating against Charlotte, seperating the Prince and Charlotte, and persuading her father to return to America (the story takes place in London) with his wife (Charlotte) thus also seperating herself and her father. The prince is quite taken by the new, matured, Maggie, and that’s where the book ends.

I can’t say, that I’ve enjoyed this book as much as I usually enjoy books, it certainly is well written and has an interesting style, which unfortunateyl makes it also quite hard to read. The plot is sometimes unexpected but the scope of the story is way to small for me, the implications seem quite limited, the book doesn’t open new horizons. (At least not for me.)

3/5

Awesomeness: Jason Mraz in Zürich

Alright, firstly I want to apologize for all the errors that will be in this text (I hope none of them grammar or spelling errors, though), since I (unfortunately) don’t remember everything exactly, and did not tape the show, which, looking back, I should have done.

So, me and a good friend of mine went to the Jason Mraz concert in the “Kaufleuten”, which is a renowned club and lounge in Zürich, we arrived just early enough to place ourselves somewhere in the middle of the first two thirds of the hall, with some hundred other exited people (some more than others).

Image courtesy by evamaria_n

Opening (on 19:30) for Jason Mraz was Ingrid Michaelson, a New York-based indie-pop singer-songwriter (according to Wikipedia), she talked and joked a little and played some of her songs, I heard her for the first time and was quite impressed, she has a beautiful voice and her music is the style I like. She played (Please feel free to comment, if I have missed a song or when the order is wrong):

Be OK

Keep Breathing

Giving Up

Somewhere Over The Rainbow

Image courtesy by evamaria_n

After that (and a short wile of waiting) Jason Mraz came on stage, together with Toca Rivera and Ian Sheridan. Here’s what I remember of the songs they played, the order is somewhat random, though I tried to order them correctly, that means, the songs are somewhat in the right place.

Make It Mine

Unfold

Conversation With Myself

Peg (A song by Steely Dan)

Remedy

Lucky (with Ingrid Michaelson)

Live High

Dynamo of Volition (A song by )

Mary Jane (A funk-song they had been experimenting on just before the show, so I guess it was the first time they played it.)

I’m Yours

Ain’t Got No Dope

You And I Both

Life Is Wonderful

If It Kills Me

Butterfly

And lastly some unordered impressions:

  • During the whole show there was this guy somewhere in the back, and he was always shouting stupid stuff, he didn’t sound drunk but he acted as though he was, which was kinda funny at first but became annoying very fast. ;)
  • There was a girl in the front who apparently had birthday just that day and her friends were shouting, that it’s her birthday, Jason finally noticed them and stated that it was a tradition for all the birthday girls on his shows to come on stage and get naked, which she then sadly didn’t do. ;)
  • The last forth of the concert Jason played Ingrid’s Ukulele (Oh, did a mention that? Ingrid played all her songs, except one, with an Ukulele) instead of his acoustic guitar. (Here’s a video of that.) And I was always hoping he wold begin to play Smells Like Teen Spirit.
  • Jason talked about our modern patchwork religions, using the analogy of a salad buffet, where anyone can choose a little of anything he likes and put it together and finally have his own kind of salad and be happy about it.
  • There are some videos on YouTube, but the turnout has been way smaller than I expected.
  • It was the first concert of Ingrid Michaelson outside the US.

So that’s all for now. I am still hoping that there are more videos out there, so I’ll keep searching and I’ll put them on here when I find them. I’m also hoping, that someone taped the show, because it was simply great, and I though I saw some one tapeing, so if it turns up, I’ll be posting it here as well.
I would also, very much, like your comments. If you have something to add or to correct, please feel free to write, thanks.

Review of “The Village Sessions” - John Mayer

Oh, just buy it, for god’s sake! ;)
John Mayer’s “The Village Sessions” is a beautiful, fitting, acoustic live album. I’m a little disappionted that it is so short (just 6 tracks) but hey, one track outshines the other, so what more is there to ask for.
If you want a post-Continuum live album, this certainly is the one to go on.

5/5

1. Waiting On The World To Change (feat. Ben Harper) (2:52)

One, Two, Three, Four…
This is the song with which John Mayer advertised for his 4th studio album “Continuum“, this live version is as beautiful and encouraging as ever, although not as rebellious, a little too smooth for my taste. (Probably Ben Harper’s involvement has something to do with that) But very clean, there are choruses in the background, I particularly like the acoustic guitar in this one. And the ending is great.

2. Belief (3:44)

Another song from “Continuum”, the acoustic guitars work very well again, this version draws even more power form the piece itself, the rhythm and the melody because the instrumentation is as sparely as possible.

3. Slow Dancing In A Burning Room (3:53)

This is probably one of my favorites form “Continuum”, though it is really hard to tell, since there are just exceptionally great songs in “Continuum”. For this song, acoustic is perfect. Since it is a kinda sad piece, the less instruments there are, the better it fits,  and the solo in the middle is even more beautiful, it almost is as if he makes the guitar sing. Oh, yeah, this song definitely is my favorite form this album. You should buy it just to be able to listen to this song, seriously.

4. Good Love Is On The Way (3:24)

The first Non-Continuum song on “Village Sessions”, I first thought this was a cover, but it apparently is not. It’s from “Try!“, an album John Mayer made with Steve Jordan and Pino Palladion. It’s a little more bluesy than the previous ones. And again, nicely arranged, but it has lost power compared to the Try!-version.

5. I’m Gonna Find Another You (2:47)

What is there to say, I’ve said it all already. The tuned down, acoustciness works great with this song as well. Above all with this song it produces a certain vulnerability that really fits.

6. In Repair (5:47)

Once again: Acoustic! I love the solo, the tone of the guitar is so warm, and it really starts to rock in the end. Great!

Hooray! 3rd Term I come…

I’ve finally passed the “Basisprüfung”, which is a block of 7 exams to test the accumulated knowledge of one year (just the first actually) of electrical engineering studies. It was my second try (last year I failed), so I’m happy it finally worked out (with a grade of 5.01 (The grades in Switzerland range from 6 to 1, where 6 is the highest and 4 is the line between fail and pass)), which means I’m pretty happy right now and excited as well, since there will be a lot of new stuff coming at me. (The 3rd term starts at the 17. of September, right after the one and only “I’m Yours” Jason Mraz concert in Switzerland, I’m obviously attending).

Review of “Hello…x” - Tristan Prettyman

So let’s start with reviewing Tristan Prettymans new great album “Hello…x“. Just to get it out of the way: The new album is nowhere near her debut, which is probably the best album ever released. (or so says my music player) But let’s cut to the chase. This album is quite diversed, driven by Tristan Prettyman’s unique and beautiful voice. It has bluesy and jazzy elements, lots of pop, rock and folk. It’s almost never dull and quite enjoyable. There’s some clapping, a lot of acoustic guitar, some piano and string, occasionally.

I might need some getting used to, especially if you have already come to know and love her debut but it’s definitely worth every minute (of total 50) of listening.

4/5

1. Hello (3:25)

The first track on the album (obviously), there’s the evermore stylish clapping, some (a little) quirky guitar play and Prettyman’s smooth, sometimes somewhat edgy voice. And there’s also some off-beat singing, which I really dig. Overall a good start.

2. Echo (3:38)

It starts with a really nice guitar tune, and makes you tap your toes (at the very least), then there’s some nice e-piano underlying, a little e-guitar as well. This song really has power and groove. (although some people might argue about the power, as always. But it’s just not about the volume and speed, when I mean power)

3. California Girl (3:58)

I had my difficulties liking this tune at first, maybe it’s a little too slow and uneventful for me, but there’s at least a short e-guitar solo at the end (the bright yellow-white part in the picture above). Definitely not my favorite song on this album, but there are plenty…

4. Madly (3:19)

Damn, I just like that guitar. And oddly enough I really like the drums (I never seem to notice them enough in other songs to actually appreciate them). Then there’s that clapping again (who started that anyway? Paolo Nutini?) The chorus is a little dull, to be honest, but it’s never the less a good sond.

5. Blindfold (3:58)

A very stripped down song, no unnecessary instruments, the focus almost just on Prettymans’s voice. (Which is good, by the way) It let’s you concentrate on the beautiful lyrics. It’s a little slow at first, but then just a little over the half it starts to get a little mor spirited.

6. Handshake (3:47)

Some quirky, squeaking guitars again, I don’t really enjoy it as much as the other songs until the piano starts getting louder and Tristan prettyman starts to absolutely rock (honkey-tonk style), at which point I am absolutely enjoying myself (yes, definitely more than just toe-tapping - unless I’m in some very public place, of course).

7. War Out Of Peace (3:49)

Oho, this doesn’t sound too much like Prettyman a first, just not enough acoustic. I like the broadening of her musical horizon, actually I find that this song would make a great soundtrack (in fact I think it sounds a lot like the soundtrack of “The Holiday” with Kate Winselt and Jude Law, which I now absolutely can’t confirm, listening to it on youtube ;), well, whatever. Oh, wait allright there it is, I just wasn’t patient enough. (Here, listen for yourselves)). This song is so full of potential to be fullfilled, so much optimism and pathos. (Also a little like Coldplay’s “Viva La Vida”)

8. You Got Me (3:24)

Probably my favorite. Nice lyrics, cool guitarplay, slow enough, but never boring. What is there more to say? Ah yeah, off-beat singing. :D Ok, that’s it definitely my favority although I can’t really explain why…

9. Don’t Work Yourself Up (3:41)

Melancholic, raw and … damn, off-beat singing. ;) (Alright I’ll stop…) I like the flow between those raw, stripped periods, where you almost just hear her voice and the full and loud periods that sound exuberant and almost optimistic. It’s the contrast that make this song great.

10. A Little Bit (3:40)

A bluesy track, which definitely proves that Prettyman’s style has become more varied. Overall a pretty much average track and in the end there’s a cool chorus repeating the refrain.

11. Interviews (3:32)

I especially like the acoustic guitar in this track. “Interviews” has a quite catchy melody. I mean what’s not to like about this song…

12. In Bloom (3:47)

A piano-driven ballad with accompanying strings. The character of this track, however, is dictated (once more) by Tristan Prettyman’s beautiful voice. The comparison to Norah Jones can most definitely not be dismissed. I find that Norah Jones tend to be lighter (in a good sense), but they also tend to build much less tension and are therefore a little less interesting (in general, though you can argue with me here. But as a fact I also like Norah Jones music very much, it’s just not as “rocking” as Tristan Prettyman’s)

13. God Gave Me Patience (3:46)

Another ballad…

So light the day
And invite me to stay
‘Cause now I see
I was always on my way
Just a little late

14. Hummingbirds (2:50)

A lighthearted, up-beat kinda song, the ideal finish, in my opinion. And this song really does the album justice.

Review of “We sing, we dance, we steal things” - Jason Mraz

jason mraz - we sing, we dance, we steal things - front

jason mraz - we sing, we dance, we steal things - rest

I would not say, that “We sing, we dance, we steal things” is Jason Mraz’s best album yet. It is just so hard to pick a favorite. I would say it most certainly is Jason’s cleanest album, maybe also his most varied (with many influences, from funk, jazz, R&B, folk, rap and electro), although “Mr A-Z” was quite varied already. The tracks on this album differ quite a bit from what you would hear live from Jason, much more than they did on the previous albums, perhaps it is just because his style is changing (or expanding), and I’m not quite sure how I like it. Don’t get me wrong, all the songs are great, I love this album. Like many great albums it needs some investment to really love, but the songs are steadily getting better, the more you listen to them, this is a quality that is very rare, especially concerning pop albums, so I’m glad Jason pulled it off.

5/5

1. Make It Mine (3:08)

A very clean, optimistic, upbeat song, nicely instrumented, an inspiring trumpet (?) solo (did I mention, that I love solos?). There certainly is no flaw in this song.

2. I’m Yours (4:04)

The already famous “I’m Yours” (from Jason’s live performances), the lyrics are just ingenious and so funny, the first time I heard the song live (in Lucerne) i had to laugh. This version is not as playful, as others I’ve heard, never the less a great song, extremely catchy melody, there’s very sunny, almost Jamaican feel to it. A live gem, that finally got the attention it deserved.

3. Lucky (3:10)

A smooth, harmonic duet (with Colbie Caillat) about nothing less than the perfect love. I especially like the flow of this song and it’s kind of “old” feel to it.

4. Butterfly (5:00)

An ode on sexual chemistry. Very funny lyrics again, this song just rocks, underlined with a fitting brass section, quite funky and extremely catchy. I just love those horns.

5. Live High (4:12)

I’ve heard this for the first time as a version that Jason sung walking through some French city, and absolute loved it. This version of course, is not as acoustic, not as raw, but it still is quite brilliant. An empowering refrain, cool background choruses. Overall: Strong, at times almost ecstatic and very optimistic.

6. Love for a Child (4:06)

A wonderfully melancholic track about having your parents divorce. “And they never to check to see my grades, what a fool I’d be to start complaining?”. With this song Jason once more proves how good a storyteller he is. With this song he proves once and for all, that it’s not just all about the wordplay.

7. Details in the Fabric (5:46)

It starts off a little like “Plane” (maybe it’s just because of the distorted (radio-like) voice) and becomes a guitar-heavy ballad. Sometimes it sounds like Damien Rice, or David Gray. It is somewhat too depressing a first, but I find it gets better as the song progresses.

8. Coyotes (3:38)

Just another new facet, Jason and electro-pop, certainly not my taste, but oddly enough it fits. In the end there are actually some kinds (or so it sounds to me) singing (or rather shouting) with him, which is just great, and gives this song just so much more power. (The multiple choruses in general do.) And there is also some opera singing (like in Mr. Curiosity)

9. Only Human (4:03)

“The planet’s talking about a revolution”, Jason’s hint in the direction of environmentalism, but without blaming anyone, it makes you think though. Primarily it’s just a good song, with a great chorus.

10. The Dynamo of Volition (3:37)

Definitely my favorite. Another tongue twisting wordplay.

I do not keep up with statistics
I do not sleep without a mistress
I do not eat unless it’s fixed with
Some kind of sweet like a licorice
My home is deep inside the mystics
I’m known to keep diggin’ on existence
I’m holdin’ in the heat like a fish stick
And my phone it beeps because I missed it

Just ingenious because of the mad and sometime unexpected rhyming, (this is modern poetry).

11. If It Kills Me (4:34)

I’m never quite sure whether this piano ballad (highlighted with strings) is optimistic (I find it is at most times) or melancholic - I suppose it’s a little of both. But I certainly like it.

12. Beautiful Mess (5:36)

A beautiful ballad, a little like “Please Don’t Tell Her”. Jason’s flawless voice turns this song into a masterpiece.

Joss Whedon’s “Dr. Horrible” - Part 3

And there goes the happy ending. ;)

Captain Hammer has everyone fooled, and marks the great hero. Where he has to give a speech about his work for the homeless (which he despises) Dr. Horrible amushes him, freezes him with his freezeray and tries to kill him with his newly invented deathray, but he can’t. The freezeray malfunctions and Captain Hammer (unfortunately) can move again, he hits Dr. Horrible in which course the deathray gets damaged, which Captain Hammer des not notice, so then, when he pulls the trigger to finally kill his foe, the weapon is destroyed in an explosion, and Captain Hammer feel pain for the first time and runs away like a whyning baby. Penny gets hit by debree and dies. Dr. Horrible has now lost everything holding him back on his evil path (And I’m sure Penny’s last words “Captain Hammer will save us” gave him the rest). Dr. Horrible finally can join the evil league (because of Penny’s death) and he now does evil things…

He’s so evil, to even exchange his white coat with a red one.

This last part was alright, but not as good as the first two, because there was no letter from “Bad Horse”, because Dr. Horrible turned evil, because Penny died, and because this episode (in my opinion) was less humorous than the other two.

4/5

Joss Whedon’s “Dr. Horrible” - Part 2

Today the second part of Joss Whedon’s  “Dr. Horrible” came out.

Dr. Horrible’s Arch Nemesis “Captain Hammer” (played by Nathan Fillion) is stealing Penny’s (Dr. Horrible’s true love) heart and Dr. Horrible slowly shifts to the evil side, he’s already on. His atempts do denounce Captain Hammer and win back Penny fail horribly, so he then decides to kill Captain Hammer, ho have him out of he picture, and to finally become a member of the evil league.

In this episode, we get to know a little bit more about Captain Hammer, wo really seems to be all about his strength (and nothing else, apparently). Dr. Horribles fall into evilness continues (can he still be saved?) and with his freze-ray complete he now posesses a weapon worthy of a superhero.

5/5

The final part will air on the 19. July.