concenter · fiction · Lit · music · recommend · wondermous

{book} the colorless

When Tsukuru first hears Haida’s recording of Franz Liszt’s ‘Le mal du pays,’ from the Years of Pilgrimage suite ‘Year 1: Switzerland,” it is described as “a quiet, sorrowful piece that began with a slow, memorable theme played out as single notes, then proceeded into a series of tranquil variations” (68). Tsukuru asks Haida about it. Haida says, ‘Le mal du pays’ is French and is “usually translated ‘homesickness,’ or ‘melancholy’, or as precise a translation as can be managed ‘a groundless sadness called forth in a person’s heart by a pastoral landscape’” (69). Tsukuru adds that the piece evokes “a calm sadness without being sentimental.” This section describes Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki. Murakami transcribes a quiet sorrowful piece replete with tranquil variations.*

a delightfully well-designed cover.

Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage: a novel

By Haruki Murakami

Translated from the Japanese by Philip Gabriel

Knopf 2014.

In High School Tsukuru Tazaki used to be part of a group comprised of five. He was one of three boys and the only of the five whose name did not include a color. The latter wasn’t the only thing to make him different, but the balance had already been struck. Like the trait that decides 5 fingers make the most harmonious human hand, the five young people found a miraculous society within and between themselves. But perhaps what they had was not as true a harmony as first believed (322).

“I’ve always seen myself as an empty person, lacking color and identity. Maybe that was my role in the group. To be empty.” […] “An empty vessel. A colorless background. With no special defects, nothing outstanding. Maybe that sort of person was necessary to the group.” (179).

Moving away  for college shouldn’t have changed things as dramatically as it had, yet suddenly Tsukuru was shut out. It is a long sixteen years later that Tsukuru is tasked with finding out why.  Murakami writes a deeply compelling mystery—in Tsukuru Tazaki.

The mystery as to what Tsukuru could have done and how all might finally find resolution is the spine and is much like rails drawing the reader along, yet Murakami is building a station with Tsukuru Tazaki that is rife with such beautiful complexity the “colorless” becomes riveting. Murakami must take pleasure in his ability to move readers through the most ordinary sequences of life in pursuit of the most poetic; and he uses the most ordinary of characters to do it.

The novel is one of those places where the figurative can be rendered quite literally, and unreality resides in simultaneity with reality. It is the perfect space, other than the dreaming and memory, for Murakami to explore his preoccupations with the waking, conscious existence of liminal spaces. Can a desire become strong enough to knock on a door an impossible number of miles away? Are evil spirits merely psychic projections? Can a mild-mannered handsome boy harbor a violent, ugly aspect and not recall it? Can he harbor a intimate desire so deep, he could mistake the real for a fantasy (and vice versa)?

Tsukuru Tazaki learns that all number of paradoxes exist, some of which are comforting, others disturbing. We can die and be regenerated inside these vessels that refuse to pass away. A musical score can transport the most vivid recollections into the present, even the presence of persons long lost (258). And we wonder at whether differences between our existence and absences are substantial enough to matter.

Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki also understands that some explanations are never found, sorrows never redeemed, conflicts never resolved, and there are apologies made that shouldn’t satisfy forgiveness but will—because we cling to life, stupidly, dangerously, and with a profound love for it. A few readers who are going to hate this book.

Murakami can be infuriating in the way he allows characters and storylines to drift off into inexplicable disappearance. But none of it is wasted in its contribution to the whole. His novels are annoyingly coherent. The rewards just come in unexpected ways—which is a reward in and of itself.

Murakami’s genius is in that ending. He draws us out of another one of Tsukuru’s fugue-like states, this one listing among his lovely self-reflections, when he perches us once more on that brink between life and death. Murakami presents us with a character no one should have ever doubted, not even Tsukuru himself. It is quite brutal. It is perfect.


*Here is one variation, when Tsukuru is contemplating his self-characterization of an empty vessel.

“Maybe I am just an empty, futile person, he thought. But it was precisely because there was nothing inside of me that these people could find, if even for a short time, a place where they belonged. Like a nocturnal bird seeks a safe place to rest during the day in a vacant attic. The birds like that empty, dim, silent place. If that were true, then maybe he should be happy he was hollow.” (258)

When Natalya was reading Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki, she found ‘Le mal du pays’ and played it for us. You’ll want to do the same.

RIP IX's Lavinia by Abigail Larson———–

of note: a Reader’s Imbibing Peril (RIP) read, there is mystery, melancholy, and allusions to devilry.

"review" · Children's · concenter · music · non-fiction · Picture book · poet-related · recommend · wondermous

{book} a legacy, a man, a company of men, and Ntozake Shange

30 days of pbDay Twenty-Nine: Ellington Was Not a Street

Written by Ntozake Shange

Illustrated by Kadir Nelson

Simon & Schuster for Young Readers [text: 1983] 2004

ellington2The narrative of Ellington Was Not a Street comes from Ntozake Shange’s poem “Mood Indigo” (from A Daughter’s Geography, 1983). The poem, excerpted for the picture book, is a reflection of and tribute to a legacy of African American innovator, a “company of men” “who changed the world.” It is a personal poem of a young Shange (nee Paulette Williams) whose home nurtured and was nurtured by this company of men.

Only such gorgeously wrought poem could withstand the company of Kadir Nelson’s illustrations. The images themselves (as Sean, an Artist, breathed “precise”) have a precision a poet, too, would recognize.


ellington celebrating-the-duke

You may want to read with some kind of liquid precision the first time through, caught in a rhythm of the words, but plan the time to linger again and again on an image, a deeply impactful moment Shange and Nelson have crafted. It took me a stretch of time to pull away from the cover, then from the portrait facing the title page (‘piano’ image above). I was drawn to circle

our house was filled with all kinda folks

our windows were not cement or steel

our doors opened like our daddy’s arms

held us safe & loved

As the narrative acknowledges the simultaneity of then and now, the illustrations move back and forth in time between the streetscape whether the narrator reminisces and her childhood home. Her home is quiet, interior, full of warm patterns. The street is busy with a different sort of liveliness, other textures that are met with rain. The narrator holds a red umbrella amongst the institutionalized black, a “Don’t Walk” sign flashing at the intersection.

Our narrator, she is small in the presence of the company, her and her brother, and she is small in this house (another of her surroundings), but she is without question present, never forgotten, and cherished (e.g. a man’s suit jacket draped over her as a blanket as she sleeps on the couch).

ellington fps-133397_2zThe images are real, not abstracted. The poem is hardly abstract, but an illustrator could have reinterpreted the narrative into something more ephemeral. The detail in the setting, the verisimilitude of the portrait, the inclusion of a group sitting for a ‘photograph,’ these establish the very real and tangible existence of the life/lives represented.

Ellington Was Not a Street includes two pages of biographies using excerpted images from the narrative, “More About a Few of the Men ‘Who Changed the World’:” (I will list them as the book does) : Paul Robeson, William Edward Burghardt (W.E.B.) DuBois, Ray Barretto, Earlington Carl “Sonny Til” Tilghman, John Birks “Dizzy” Gillespie, Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, Edward Kennedy “Duke” Ellington, Virgil “Honey Bear” Akins, The Clovers.

The endpage at the close shares narrative the in its stanzaic form of “Mood Indigo.” Of course “Mood Indigo” is also a musical composition by Duke Ellington, so exquisitely observed on the vinyl held by our narrator on the cover: the record, an RCA Victor special of Mood Indigo by Duke Ellington and his famous orchestra. I have a YouTube option, undoubtedly a lesser quality, if you are interested.

Do I really have to say it? You really must find a copy of Ellington Was Not a Street.

ellington cover


Ntozake Shange, Barnard College, Reid Lecture, November 1978 via Barnard College Archives

Poet, performance artist, playwright, and novelist Ntozake Shange was born Paulette Williams on October 18, 1948, in Trenton, New Jersey. She earned a B.A. in American Studies from Barnard College in 1970, and then left New York to pursue graduate studies at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. It was during this time that she took the name “Ntozake” (“she who comes into her own things”) “Shange” (“she who walks like a lion”) from the Zulu dialect Xhosa. She received an M.A. in American Studies from USC in 1973. […] She is the author of multiple children’s books and prose works, including Some Sing, Some Cry (St. Martin’s Press, 2010), If I Can Cook You Know God Can (1998), See No Evil: Prefaces, Essays & Accounts, 1976-1983 (1984), Sassafrass, Cypress & Indigo: A Novel (1982), and The Black Book (1986, with Robert Mapplethorpe).

Kadir Nelson is an award-winning American artist whose works have been exhibited in major national and international publications, institutions, art galleries, and museums. Nelson earned a Bachelor’s degree from Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, New York. […] Nelson has also gained acclaim for the artwork he has contributed to several NYT Best-selling picture books including his authorial debut, “WE ARE THE SHIP: The Story of Negro League Baseball”, winner of the Coretta Scott King and Robert F. Sibert Awards, and was published by Disney/Hyperion in the spring of 2008.

His corpus thus far is extensive: Heart and Soul: The Story of America and African Americans (2011); Nelson Mandela (2012); He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands (2005); Baby Bear (2014); Change Has Come: An Artist Celebrates Our American Spirit (2009); Moses: When Harriet Tubman Led Her People to Freedom, words by Carole Boston Weatherford (2006)…. you can find listings here and here.

{images belong to Kadir Nelson, words to Ntozake Shange}



"review" · comics/graphic novels · concenter · music · recommend · young adult lit

{comic} days like these

days like this coverDays Like This

Written by J. Torres

Illus. by Scott Chandler

Oni Press, 2003.

I slipped this one off the Library shelf, my eye caught by a cover with three young black women on it. 1960s isn’t a fascination for me as a general rule, music included, but I was curious. That it is J. Torres and Oni Press, didn’t hurt. Shall I just get it out of the way and say: I liked it.

It is the early 1960s and recent divorcee Anna Solomon is about to strike out on her own in her ex-husband’s world: the music business. She isn’t the only one launching her career. A fresh young female song writer is looking to sell her work where she can, and three high school singers are starting out where many do: the church choir and a school talent show. Its just good timing that the three paths should intersect, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t going to be easy.

Ben (the ex-brother-in-law: So I hear the little divorcee is starter her own record company.

Anna: With those ears, I imagine you can hear rhinos mating in Africa.”

Ben: Do you have any idea what it takes to run a record company?

Anna: I’ve been watching you Solomon Brothers do it for years. Learned what to do from Abe, what not to do from you.

Ben: Well, won’t you be surprised when it turns out to be more complicated than making meatloaf or starching a shirt…

Nice, guy, huh?! but such is the attitude with which Anna is confronted. Time is another conflict. Launching a record label and organizing a young up-and-comer is time consuming. Her daughter Ruth, who is the reason Anna was at that talent show, makes the introduction to lead singer Christina and her trio before fading into the background, reminded that if she gets hungry, they are well-stocked in frozen dinners. Illustrator Scott Chandler relates most of that story by placing and not forgetting a Ruth left behind and trying to negotiate her parent’s divorce and mother’s new career on her own. It is a testament to the book that Anna doesn’t come off as looking like an absolute villain; plenty has to do with her other admirable traits; much of it has to do with writer J. Torres’ decision not to moralize in that direction—and he doesn’t have to, you can sense an equilibrium of consequences in the offing… No, the stern frown is directed toward those conservative cultural notions that prove destructive (including self-).

Christina is the “Tina” of “the Tiaras,” and she dreams of being a star. We learn that she dreams this primarily through her mother who is valiant in her defense and encouragement of Christina signing with Anna. Her opposition? her husband Luther who thinks the choir should be the extent of his daughter’s ambitions, to say nothing of his feelings about the hell dimension that is the music world.

Have you heard about this Little Richard character? The man who wears make-up? Only man I know wears make-up is a clown! And then there’s Elvis! Stealin’ black folks’ music and gyratin’ on the TV, making all the young girls lose their heads… and speaking of young girls, what about Jerry-Lee-what’s-his-name marrying his teenage cousin!

And there is no convincing him after he finds out they’ve taken the “Christ” out of “Tina.” Even so, it is a study in marital dynamics the way two very determined parents pursue what they think is best for their child; especially the mother—who is finally fed up talking around one of the central issues in the story. What is a concern other than dreams? money. She is going to see to it her daughter will rise out of poverty and if she can do it while doing something she loves? The manipulative tactics may be uncomfortable for some, but for most: all too familiar. However, this is an issue upon which Christina’s mom is willing to take risks. All the women in the Days Like This have reached a decisive moment (Christina on the cusp) and prove self-determining.

The third path, which is actually the first one we meet, is Karen Prince age 17 and a go-getter in her own right. Along with the “Tiaras” (who are brilliant), she makes up the lighter, more comedic moments—well, when Anna isn’t telling some man what she thinks, that is. Karen bridges Anna’s boldness and Christina’s youth. She has just sold her first song with persistence and happenstance. But she crushes on boys and admits her own father had his doubts when trying to envision her future—a new golf-bag helped. In the end, you understand what Luther and other must: there is no stopping these women.

Not that all the men in the story are discouraging. Anna’s ex does not share his brother’s view of Anna’s capabilities. And Anna has made contacts in a male-dominant industry, with strings she can pull. One resource is a song-writer whom she wants to pair with Karen—as her b-side of the record. Ben, for all his “rat faced” remarks, bought Karen’s first song. And even Luther is complicated by what he is unwilling to say…those manipulative tactics look less manipulative as time passes; the wife is just giving him his plausible deniability—until she is no longer willing to give him that.

days like this prv51_pg1

The artwork, all in black and white, is reminiscent of the 60’s if not earlier. There is a nice balance of text and illustrated expression; engaging and easy to follow.  Torres references ‘60s culture, but most of the historical weight is in Chandler’s clean-lined renderings. And while Torres tries to off-set the serious with quick wit, Chandler provides his own sense of well-timed humor. Days Like This is a beautifully plotted out piece in form.

That the story is set in the ‘60s creates a nice conversation about that time in our country and in the music of the times; however, plenty of it still resonates today. Women and men both are faced with difficult decisions under the pressures of a lot of cultural baggage. The development of the girl’s image (weight, song choice) are abbreviated allusions any reader of the present will pick up on and connect with.

The story is a quick read, Torres choosing his moments carefully. The book ends as Tina and the Tiaras are properly launched, however it creates enough momentum behind a positive trajectory that you understand how it will all play out for our protagonists. The optimism isn’t in the present day reader, but in the characterization of the women (and men) in story.

"review" · comics/graphic novels · fiction · music · recommend · young adult lit

{comic} Page by Paige

Natalya had been acting more peculiar than usual. I figured it was the lingering effects of David Almond’s My Name is Mina which inspired all sorts of strange yet creative behavior. After finally getting to Page by Paige by Laura Lee Gulledge, a comic I had picked up at the Library and N had read and raved about, I understood. In fact, after I finished it, I handed it to Sean and said, “You might should read this.”

In understanding, of course, I worried. “Please, tell me I am not like the mom,” I whispered to N; because sometimes I feel like I must be wearing a Mrs. Smiley-face mask in an effort to make everything appear normal, or at the very least more vibrant and optimistic. It comes with the “I’m your mom” kit. It comes with knowing there are decisions parents have to and will make that will cause their children difficulty. It can come with the resentment or exasperation of the child—at least those who are very observant and highly intuitive—and who don’t appreciate the effort. Sometimes we don’t know when to take the mask on or off, especially with our aging children. N put her arm around my shoulder and squeezed, “You’re not.” And then we talk about the story, because while the mom is the focus of some of Paige’s angst, there is so much more.

When Paige’s parents move her family from Virginia to New York City, Paige doesn’t know where she fits in anymore. At first, the only thing keeping her company is her notebook, where she pours her worries and observations and experiments with her secret identity: ARTIST. With the confidence the book brings her, she starts to make friends and shake up her family’s expectations. But is she ready to become the person she draws in her notebook?

Laura Lee Gulledge’s stunning art digs deep into the soul and exposes all the ups, downs, and sideways feelings of being a young adult on the edge of the rest of your life. ~back copy

It was interesting to me how isolated the artistic Paige feels from her parents who are both writers, “I don’t feel totally like myself around them. I bite my tongue a lot. It just makes things easier.” I guess it goes to show parents and children are parents and children, even if they are all artists. But you do quickly come to understand that a sense of routine and expectation has settled into the household, and indeed Paige’s life. And where the move creates an opportunity for Paige to take some risks, maintaining “normalcy” is a natural desire on the part of the family as well. Ah, the conflicts of change…

Page by Paige is an angst-ridden read. Paige is necessarily self-absorbed, a situation she (&/or the author) acknowledges here and there. But the book is her “notebook” where she illustrates her inner life. The transitions of external and internal are part of the charm,and Gulledge has a gift for rendering a narrative without a lot of text; although at points there is a lot of text. Her illustrations are very appealing, I think they would especially resonate with the young audiences of the book; the imagery is highly accessible.

As Paige meets and makes friends, finds a boyfriend, and stretches her artistic muscles, Gulledge creates an optimistic atmosphere of change. She also inspires the reader’s own creativity. Paige takes risks, the positive kinds. Vulnerable in sharing her work, she takes a leap and entrusts it with friends (and later family). She learns the art and pleasure of collaboration. She enacts some cool art projects; the notebook, of course, being a first great idea—inspired by her artist grandmother. Paige’s grandmother came up with a set of “Sketchbook Rules” and the chapters of the book follow these rules. The first is “No more excuses! Draw a few pages each week. Buy a sketchbook.” More than the rules and the notebooks, Paige talks her new friends into projects that are community oriented, or challenge themselves to grow as individuals and artists.

{image from Author’s/Paige’s blogsite, see links below}

The pages are black and white and Gulledge leaves no page to simple panel lay out. Yes, that phrase “a feast for the eyes” comes to mind. It is a “notebook” and for the most part the images and texts are not hard to follow. Pages 8-9 were difficult. One of those, I don’t know how she could have refigured the lay-out, but tracking wasn’t smooth (I tested this on S and N). There were a few other moments of visual gymnastics. So sometimes the rule “Keep It Simple Stupid” was not adhered to. I would like to think that the trickier parts were nice thematic additions, but such thoughts didn’t stick. A minor quibble nevertheless. Page by Paige is a fun book to look at.

The creativity at play may deceive the page-flipper into the thinking the novel a light read. It is actually quite dramatic. The romance portion is sweet, but the friendship and familial angst, to say nothing of the inner drama of constructing an identity, has some weight. Like Paige herself, you get that there is a lot going on with the other characters as well. Their initial introductions of personality take on some nuance; especially with Jules. I really like that Paige makes friends with fellow creative types who deal with identity as an artist and its risks, too. The reader, in a way, becomes just another part of their group, commiserating and becoming excited by like-minded souls. They get to geek-out with one another, dissolving any feelings of loneliness and drawing Paige (and Reader) out of their head, to live and engage in the present.

While Paige is finding a satisfying fullness in her inner life and in her outer life with friends, home life has yet to catch up—something she feels the need to remedy (thank goodness). Having grown in confidence, she takes the initiative. Like many situations in the book, it is a bit awkward at the onset but nevertheless heartfelt. One of the most important things Gulledge does marvelously in Page by Paige, is sincerity. As an artist and educator who also grew up in Virginia and moved to New York, Ms. Gulledge translates a rich inner life of Paige onto the page.

One added pleasure to the reading experience: the music/band references.  No doubt N really responded to these inclusions as well. I smiled seeing Badly Drawn Boy scribbled across a character’s tee. There is a “Page by Paige Soundtrack” at the back of the book with a list of bands referenced (e.g. Regina Spektor, Broken Social Scene, Sigur Ros). Another smile: Paige reading Brian Vaughn’s Y: The Last Man.

recommendations: for the artists in the family; fans of comics or no; primarily girls, but I wouldn’t discount the boys on this one; it’s a gentle coming of age; middle-school and up; lovers of music.

of note: I have every intention of gifting N with a copy of this book with a fresh notebook for her writing and a request to participate in and encourage the growth of her artist identity. I think this a good enough idea to share. Maybe I will go with her to pick out her journal, some pens… Maybe we could take a friend or two along… Page by Paige is certainly one to share.


Page by Paige by Laura Lee Gulledge

Amulet Books, 2011


Paige’s blog

{all images are Laura Lee Gulledge’s}

"review" · cinema · music · recommend

{film} broken hill

…and an absence of glamour.

Luke Arnold as Tommy McAlpine and Alexa Vega as Kat Rogers in Audience Alliances musical drama Broken Hill. Image: Matt Nettheim

A gifted teenage composer (Tommy), dreams of being accepted into the famous Sydney Conservatorium of Music. Unfortunately, a good band is hard to find in the middle of Outback Australia – until a strange incident involving flying watermelons leads him to a group of talented prison inmates. ~published summary by H. Rose (IMDb)

Plenty have pegged Dagen Merrill’s 2009 film Broken Hill as a formulaic small-screen feel-good drama—as if this is necessarily a bad thing. Nor is the accusation wholly accurate. A family channel submission would have a excluded two important aspects to the film. As it is, I think the film works for young audiences.

Luke Arnold as Tommy plays the Dreamer convincingly. With a faraway gaze, a youthful (almost childlike) verve, a smile of absolute delight he transcends the limits of his rural home in Australia. Even as the inescapable is acknowledged, Tommy’s determination is equally impossible. He is driven, partly because he is impossible—wonderfully improbable. Or is he?

Luke Arnold as Tommy McAlpine in Audience Alliances musical drama Broken Hill. Photo Image: Matt Nettheim

One of the wonders of the film is how much Tommy is a product of his surroundings. Not the “uncultured” small town, but the greater vista and history of his homeland. He isn’t impossible, and, ultimately, what he needs isn’t necessarily elsewhere. The story is lovely in how it strives to find value in what already exists, in places that are small or marked uncivilized. Tommy’s mentor and the music teacher at the school is aboriginal. Tommy goes to do community service at the prison, where unexpected beauty exists. Tommy meets and finds encouragement from a prisoner who “lost” diamonds he was accused of stealing and only seeks means of escape. The forgotten and the forsaken and the lost echo the feelings and trajectory of the hero, Tommy.

The echoes are transparent for the older, more critical crowd, and as devices they lack sophistication in the mechanics of plot. However, I prefer the error of accessibility in a film that would inspire young people to pursue their dreams both within their environs and beyond.

By finding an ending more probable than impossible, Broken Hill moves from a whimsy of dream to hopeful reality. We know the formula where some great talent, some diamond in the rough, finds his or her way to the great urban center where they obtain glory and redemption for all that hard work. And we sigh and rarely believe its potential in our own lives. The characters are mythical, legendary, other. After the marvelous experience of witnessing Tommy and his musicians glimmer in the stage light, the film settles. And while they do end up in a great urban center of Sydney, they aren’t in the iconic Sydney Opera House, and there is no Conservatorium scout in the audience. There is his father, and his teacher.  But what is hopeful about missed opportunities? Because there was a key opportunity missed, an initial goal unfulfilled. There is an absence of glamour. We return to the argument Tommy has with his father (Timothy Hutton) when the small-town hero shares the time-worn story of the injury that held him back from playing for the big leagues, from becoming someone. Tommy wants to know just how things went wrong for his father whom we have already seen to be a prince among the locals; he owns his own future, married well, has a gifted son who loves him, is a celebrity. Opportunities shift and dreams become flesh, and it is not to inglorious result.

The other unexpected aspect to the formula that is Broken Hill is in the romantic drama between Tommy and Kat (Alexa Vega). Tommy is obsesses over Kat from afar. His best friend Scott (Rhys Wakefield) pushes him to ask the American beauty out. Yep, a big school dance is in the offing. But Scott’s Cyrano approach is painfully embarrassing. And what gets Tommy on Kat’s radar is that he has a truck. It is actually his father’s, but he has the keys and the crush. He stupidly allows himself to be used. Kat would then leave Tommy to get arrested, obvious in her careless manipulations, and while his attraction isn’t fully extinguished, Tommy becomes wise, cautious, and repelled. Unlike Scott, Tommy doesn’t excuse her because she is “hot.”

The relationship between Kat and Tommy is given time for recalibration with each re-evaluating their assumptions of the other. The development works thematically, the initial daydream shifting into a workable reality that could still inspire a happy ending. Broken Hill is ultimately pragmatic. There could still be the romance, but Tommy isn’t completely the fool, no matter how hot Kat is. He would pursue his dreams, but it takes work,  humility, and great deal flexibility in vision.

With a film about a talented young composer, the music composed must be good. And it is. I like the different forms it finds, both elegant and rugged. I like the hands that carry it. And as a character in itself, the way the piece Tommy composes develops.

The photography is lovely. There is enough of the landscape to enthrall without becoming the main course. The pacing, editing…little if anything in the film is unexpected or erroneous. The transparencies, any predictability, they are not unpalatable. Even the young reader of film will be saying, “of course,” but to comforting effect.

That happy ending is noticeably off-center, unusual to formula. Yet, in the end, Tommy has everything that matters, including his dignity. His dreams now attainable are perhaps less glamorous, but they didn’t have to sparkle, they only needed to serve his desires—for acceptance, for freedom, to be.

Broken Hill (2009)

Directed by Dagen Merrill

Produced by Chris Wyatt, Julie Ryan

Original Music: Christopher Brady

Cinematography: Nick Matthews

Film Editing: David Ngo, Mike Saenz

Starring: Luke Arnold, Alexa Vega, Timothy Hutton, Rhys Wakefield

Rated PG for thematic elements and some language

Running Time: 1 hour 42 minutes.

IMDb. Wiki.

{photo images via Matt Nettheim at}



Natalya is gone…again.*

N flew** in from her 11 day trip to Oregon where she had spent her third year at camp followed by a camping trip with a group of families (who are our family) on the coast for the weekend into the 4th. I picked her up at the airport, stayed the night at the in-laws (who stayed up to wash her two sets of camp clothes), and then took to the road southerly for a 5-hour** road trip for her last trip this summer: 2 1/2 weeks with the others. After dropping the daughter off, I turned round and headed back for a long lonely wearisome drive.

The road trip would have been a lovely time to exercise my new found habit of listening to audio-books, but it is a new enough thing for me that I forgot to check one or three out. Instead, I had the company of the same discs that have lived in the car for the last year or more. (I broke our iPod connector early on.)

Sean and I dated long distance. I would get 4 day weekends at work (thank you ladies) and drive 12 hours to ABQ when it wasn’t winter. Oh the books I would have read if I’d used audio-books. Instead Sean wooed me through the mixed-cds he made me. (yes, they were that good.)

When we were married a year and I was stuck (for a brief time) in ABQ and Sean moved up to Bozeman for work, I would make the endless drive north for long weekends, again. By then I knew what to play at 5 in the morning (Green Day American Idiot) and what worked best for city driving (Juno Reactor or Prodigy) and that mid-afternoon slump (Slobberbone, Old 97s, Cake, Pete Yorn, or those good ol’ mixed cds).

Driving home the other day, I found I didn’t regret the necessity of listening through complete albums and singing maniacally at the top of my lungs, just letting the tears fall during the emotional parts, harmonizing at will… The cds Sean made will have to return to the car, I missed them. But I did have my Perfect Circle, Blink-182, Foo Fighters, Snow Patrol, Belly…and N’s mix we made for her when she turned 8. Will have to burn her 10th year compilation, too, now I think about it, now that I am listening to it, the ‘b-side’ was good.*** And maybe some Guster, I could sing the Keep It Together album quite energetically while winding through the passes (at a respectable speed and pitch)—“Careful” anyone?! Hmm, and maybe Snow Patrol’s “Chasing Cars” for the straightaways with my Lover in the car with me this time…

May need to forget the audio-book on the return trip to get my baby girl again—the day before she turns 11! Maybe another compilation to celebrate– and wile away those long hours? again.


*Recalling, too, her 12 day trip to Berlin, Germany for an exchange program early June.

**I really should sit down and catalog the number of flights she’s taken in her young life so far.

***part 1 were female singers, part 2 male (mostly). Part 2: Stare at the Sun by Thrice; Closer by Kings of Leon; Bullet with Butterfly Wings by The Smashing Pumpkins; Call to Arms by Angels & Airwaves; Basket Case by Green Day; The Middle by Jimmy Eat World; The Love Cats by The Cure (one of her faves); Make you Smile by +44; Staring at the Sun by TV on the Radio; Obstacle 1 by Interpol; Where is My Mind by The Pixies (still trying to win her over to this band <sniffle>); and Hallelujah by Jeff Buckley.

above photograph by friend Ryan Shelburne. I call it “oregon” and it makes me homesick.