30 July 2014

Late night tracks / Leyla McCalla

Once again, it's a late night and I'm lazing on the couch, listening to songs on repeat.  And maybe the night has a certain velvety atmosphere to it because just like last time, I find myself serenaded by yet another singer-songwriter.  (Nothing wrong with that!)

Tonight's soundtrack features the talents of Leyla McCalla, a New Orleans-based Haitian-American singer with her hands strumming across an ensemble-full of instruments: cello, banjo, guitar - and probably others that are slipping my mind at this hour.

What I enjoy the most is the simplicity of the instrumentation and yet the richness she is able to achieve with such elements.  Some of her songs are in Haitian Creole (kreyol ayitien), some are in English, some are folk songs or based on Langston Hughes poems, but all are soulful and lilting.  It's like having a living room jam session, Nawlins-style.  And something more.

From her new album released earlier this year, Vari-Colored Songs, one of my favorites is "Mesi Bondye," a folk song sung to the jaunty tenor banjo.  Some lyrics (kreyol and English):

Mesi Bondye, gade kijan la mize fini pou nou. 
Mesi Bondye, gade kisa la nati pote pou nou. 
Lapli tonbe, mayi pouse. 
Tout timoun ki grangou, pwale manje. . . .

Thank you God, look how misery has ended for us. 
Thank you God, look what nature has brought for us. 
Rain has fallen, corn has grown. 
All the hungry children are going to eat. . . .

The conclusion is: let's dance!  That should be the conclusion to many things, right?

I didn't find a great video of this song, though, so included a different kreyol song about the Arbonite region of Haiti, with great instrumentation (plus, just watch the musicians get into the groove!).  And here's another:

I discovered Leyla through the Twittersphere, which is serendipitous and makes me feel indebted to Ta-Nehisi Coates, who happened to hear her music in his friend's car.  (Yes, 140 characters can contain this much information.)  This little episode showcases one of the reasons why I even joined Twitter in the first place: the ability to discover unexpected new things, like bread crumbs in the forest when you weren't even looking for food (or a trail).

28 July 2014

Shifting horizons + sinking suns in Harvey Cedars

I can't believe it's already almost August.  Here's a little way of reliving a June sunset, as seen from the rooftop of the Abbott/Gibson vacation house in Harvey Cedars.  We watched the sunset, snapped photos, laughed down at the "adults" lounging on the deck below, and felt like freedom.

(Plus, this was a bit of Photoshop fun.  I didn't have a tripod when taking the pics, though, so pardon the drastic jumpiness.)

08 July 2014

Midnight Thief released into the wild

I finally have my hands on Midnight Thief, the debut young adult fantasy novel by friend and fellow MIT-er Livia Blackburne.  Whoever thinks scientists are just buttoned-up folks with pocket protectors and taped glasses will think twice after reading her book.  I'm itching to start it, but told myself to finish the novel I'm already reading (Delicious! by Ruth Reichl) and let the Tall Man take a shot first.  Sighs.

Until then, I'll revel in the cool cover art and try not to read too many book reviews (although I've already slipped up on the latter - oh well).  And I'll try to figure out what typefaces are used in the book (always a good challenge).

Oh, and I'll look forward to the book signing event in Boston at the end of the month.  If anyone else is in the area, do come along!  It will be held Thursday July 24th at 7pm at Porter Square Books, one of the city's cozy independent bookstores.

07 July 2014

More to B'more

These last three weeks have been a whirlwind of travel and life happening: first a family reunion with the Tall Man's family at the beach, then his sister's wedding in DC, and then Baltimore this past weekend for 4th of July and another wedding.  Whew!  In between, I've managed to get some thesis done and meet with my adviser before he heads overseas for research.  To say the least, it's been pretty exhausting.  And our apartment is chaos itself.

But I did want to share a couple little slices of Baltimore - also known as B'more or Balimore.  To be honest, it has long been one of those East Coast cities I've never thought to visit.  It's pretty close to the Philly area where I grew up, but we've always bypassed it to go to DC, or stopped short of it to go to the surrounding beaches.

B'more surprised me, in the pleasantest of ways.  The more I learned about it, the more I hunted for more information.  It sort of reminds me of Philly in terms of its pockets of fun coolness alongside industrial sites, with aspects reminiscent of Boston (history, walkability) and Seattle (quirkiness).  While crime is on the forefront of most people's minds when they think of the city, even its less-than-polished parts intrigued me.  (Maybe that's the architect/urban planner or industrial waste enthusiast in me.)  And there were plenty of other parts of the city that charmed me, from quaint Fells Point to cultured Mount Vernon and post-industrial Clippers Mill.

Our "home away from home" and first experience of AirBnB, a rendition of the B'more rowhouse with ample porch (the link has a great runthrough of the various types of rowhouses in the city).  The neighborhood had a bit more local color than your average hotel situation, but I loved the fact that most every hour of the day (except the dead of night), people were hanging out on their porches and kids were running in the streets.  A little slice of reality in a weekend that could otherwise just be filled with touristy activities.

I'm still combing through my photos and processing images and stories from our other trip, so more soon.