Midweek Music Moment: Crazy

I’m going to admit that until this week I had no idea that Willie Nelson wrote ‘Crazy’ – first made famous by Patsy Cline in 1962.

In his autobiography (which I’m currently reading) Willie writes of years of struggle while trying to get his music out there, before finally getting ‘Crazy’ in front of Patsy’s husband, Charlie Dick at a local Nashville bar one evening.

 

 

Recording ‘Crazy’ was a struggle for Patsy, as Willie’s version had his own unique sense of timing, and Patsy was also recovering from broken ribs from a near-fatal car accident – and was unable to hit the high notes. It wasn’t until a week later that she returned to the studio and recorded the version we now know in one take.

Cline’s subsequent recording in 1962 went to #2 on the country music charts and turned it all around for Willie. And despite multiple covers of this country classic, Patsy’s is still his favourite version.

 

If you’re like me and have never heard the original Willie Nelson version, here it is for your comparison.

 

 

And for a little extra flavour, check out this live version for Willie’s 70th birthday celebrations with Diana Krall and Elvis Costello.

 

Movie Review: Hunt for the Wilderpeople

‘Hunt for the Wilderpeople’ is a big-hearted, offbeat New Zealand drama-comedy that is currently playing local cinemas.

Written and Directed by Taika Waititi (‘What we do in the Shadows’, ‘Boy’), this movie is well-written, brilliantly acted and beautifully shot with plenty of sweeping landscape vistas.

 

if you’ve seen Waititi’s previous work, this movie follows in that same humour – witty, sweet and sometimes sad.

 

Sam Neill plays crusty old Hector, the unwilling uncle to 13 year-old ‘bad egg’ Ricky Baker (Julian Dennison).

And as they make their way through the New Zealand bush on a wild manhunt, they form a classic odd couple.

 

These two have great screen chemistry together as two fish out of water in society.

 

There’s also some notable ensemble performances in the movie played by Rachel House (Paula), Rhys Darby (‘Murray’ from ‘Flight of the Concords’), Rima Te Wiata (Aunt Bella) and talented NZ musician, Troy Kingi (T.K.).

 

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Rachel House plays the relentless case worker who is determined to find Ricky and return him to ‘the system’.

 

Rhys Darby plays the conspiracist hermit, Psycho Sam who gives the ‘men on the run’ food and shelter for the night.

 

This movie has had great reviews and is currently rating at 92% on Rotten Tomatoes. Light and sweet, with depth: it’s one of the best films I’ve seen all year, do yourself a favour and go see it.

 

Sleep discipline

Lately I’ve been facing the fact that sleep has it’s own type of discipline.

And more to the point –  if I want to get a great night’s sleep, then there are certain standard ‘rules’ I have to follow.

 

(See my blog here: http://katemckay.ca/great-habits-for-a-quality-sleep)

 

Sleep is ideally a simple, biological activity that our bodies just naturally knows how to do – but sometimes we ‘forget’ how to sleep well and need to address any number of causes.

 

Got the digestion sorted out. Got the Vitamin D, magnesium, fish oil. Got the electronics off. Got the candles on. Got the ‘no reading’ in bed. Got the teddy.

 

Personally I’ve been chipping away at my sleep barriers over the past few months, and at the moment I’m working on sleep discipline.

Specifically, the discipline of getting up at the same time, every day, no matter what. In this case, 7am.

 

As a lifelong weekend sleep-in-er, the hardest part to get my head around is a 7am weekend wakeup.

 

The reason for the disciplined wake up time is to address my morning grogginess.

It would seem that no matter how much sleep I get, and what time in the morning I wake up, I struggle to get out of bed every morning.

(It’s been suggested to me that my melatonin and my cortisol production might have their timing flipped)

 

This is what your cortisol and melatonin levels are meant to look like

 

I’ve been assured by ‘those in the know’ that if I am consistently out of bed at the same time day-in day-out, that eventually my body will fall into a natural wakeup rhythm which will ease the grogginess.

So… for this past week my alarm clock has been set on loud in another room. Forcing me to get out of bed to turn it off, with the goal being that once I’m up, to stay up.

I’ll give myself a 40% success rate so far.

Given that it took me 3 years of vigilance to finally break my night snacking habit, I’m taking a marathon approach to this one too and taking a steady, long haul approach.

 

Midweek Music Moment: Wona

‘Wona’ is one of the new, catchy tunes from Mumford & Sons latest album ‘Johannesburg’.

 

 

Created from their South African tour in early 2016, ‘Johannesberg’ is an intense collaboration with Senegalese singer Baaba Maal, South African band Beatenberg and The Very Best.

The result is an uplifting, buzzy album filled with Mumford & Sons traditional folk sound blended with African beats and the smooth soaring vocals of Baaba Maal.

And if you enjoyed ‘Wona’, you can feel the energy coming off the stage with this live version of the first single off the album, ‘There will be time’.

 

 

A gifted vocalist, guitarist and percussionist, Baaba Maal is one of Senegal’s most famous musicians.

This particular song, ‘Dreams of Kirina’ was performed to celebrate ‘The Playing For Change Foundation’ building a new music school in the Village of Kirina, Mali. Kirina is a village of musicians, some of whom can trace their musical ancestry back over 75 generations – Baaba Maal and friends performed for the village elders in honour of their new music school, École de Musique de Kirina.

 

Movie Review: Conan the Barbarian

‘Conan the Barbarian’ is a 1982 fantasy film starring the perfectly rippled, Arnold Schwarzenegger in his breakthrough role as Conan.

With classics such as ‘E.T.’, ‘Blade Runner’, ‘Rambo First Blood’, ‘An Officer and a Gentleman’ and ‘Tootsie’ all released in this same year, 1982 was a memorable year for both ‘celebrity’ directors and breakthrough roles.

 

Arnie’s acting isn’t particularly great in the film, but it somehow makes the film even better. Two years previous to the film, Arnie had won his 7th (and final) Mr Olympia title after just 7 weeks of preparation!

 

Originally pitched to Ridley Scott, Conan ended up with Italian pulp Producer Dino De Laurentiis – who was then able to pitch it successfully to Universal Pictures.

 

De Laurentiis only got pitched because he happened to be staying at the hotel next door to Scott after he rejected it. It was one of his biggest hits.

 

Extremely violent and dark, the movie is based on Robert E.Howard’s 1930’s pulp fiction Conan stories of sorcery – and combined with the famed comic book imagery of Frank Frazetta.

 

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Director, John Milius was a huge fan of Frazetta’s work, and chose a more natural look by avoiding special effects in favour of optical illusions and mechanical ‘smarts’.

 

In order to balance out the lesser known actors such as Schwarzenegger, dancer Sandahl Bergman and pro surfer Gerry Lopez, Milius cast veteran actors James Earl Jones, Max von Sydow and Mako Iwamatsu.

 

Schwarzenegger, Bergman and Lopez were each top athletes in their field, and received training from black belt and expert swordsman Kiyoshi Yamazaki who forced them to practice routines over a dozen times before allowing them to step in front of a camera.

 

The role of Thulsa Doom almost went to Sean Connery, but James Earl Jones — fresh off a mainstream success as the voice of Darth Vader — was cast instead.

 

It would be remiss of me not to mention the disappointing 2011 remake of this film, but let’s face it – ‘Conan the Barbarian’ is the perfect product of its time and could never be truly recreated. Do yourself a favour and skip the remake.

Available on Netflix and here’s the official trailer for you:

 

5 golden questions for getting things back into perspective

When time is short and the pressure’s cranked up, my default is to buckle down, roll up my sleeves and ‘get er done’.

 

Sometimes you just have one of ‘those’ weeks

 

It certainly ticks those To-Dos off the list, but unfortunately for those around me, it doesn’t always make for the nicest little miss weasel.

It’s really not hard to spot: my tone gets sharp, my words short and my thinking highly critical.

Commando Kate I call her. Abrupt, impatient, critical, bossy. Out she comes.

 

Gunnery Sgt. Shawn D. Angell is a drill instructor at the Officer Candidate School aboard Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va., dedicated to training, educating, evaluating and screening the many candidates who go through the course and turning them into Marine leaders.

She’s not as loud as this drill sergeant, but she’s certainly about as subtle

 

So when I’m red-lining and Commando Kate decides it’s time to ‘whip everyone into shape’, here’s my top 5 golden questions for getting things back into perspective (and playing nicely in the sandbox with the other kids):

1. Will anyone but myself notice this picky little imperfect detail?

2. Will I remember this challenging moment when I’m on my deathbed?

3. What’s the opportunity in this for me to learn from?

4. How can I still ‘get ‘er done’ but in a simpler way and with more fun?

5. In which small ways can I begin to move from my head (control) back down to my heart (love and connection), and focus on what’s really important?

6. What would Chuck Norris do? (okay I just threw that one in there for a laugh. Laughing is the great undoer of Commando Kate)

 

And as the brilliantly spontaneous jazz musician, Miles Davis once said ‘Do not fear mistakes, there are none’

 

Which means it’s simply a matter of perspective.

Midweek Music Moment: The Doll Song

One of the pleasures (and tortures) of having worked in opera and musical theatre for so many years, is that every now and again a snippet of an aria will get stuck in my head.

This week’s recurring snippet is the ‘Doll Song’ from the wonderful opera, ‘The Tales of Hoffman’ (‘Les Contes d’Hoffman’).

Written in 1881 by Offenbach, the opera is a story of unrequited love for the foolish poet, Hoffman. In each of the opera’s 3 self-contained acts, Hoffman falls for a ‘woman’ who is not all that she appears to be.

In the case of this particular piece of music from Act I, Hoffman falls in love with a mechanical doll, much to his public embarrassment when he realises.

 

 

Erin Morley sings Olympia’s Doll Song in this Metropolitan Opera performance. Of interesting note is that the last note she sings is an Ab, which is the highest note ever known to be sung on the Met stage.

And for something a little different, here is the dazzling trailer of the 1951 film of the opera.

 

Movie Review: Mud

‘Mud’ is a 2013 adventure film set on an island in the Mississippi.

Starring Matthew McConaughey as the mysterious fugitive ‘Mud’, his strong performance in the film has received rave reviews and drives this coming-of-age story.

 

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It’s somewhat satisfying to see McConaughey ‘grubbied up’ in the movie – his natural good looks would have been out of place and certainly distracting

 

However despite the star power and great reviews, I just couldn’t get past the first 30 minutes of this film.

Perhaps you have to be a guy to enjoy this film (I actually haven’t found any female rave reviews) or maybe it’s my aversion to coming-of-age movies.

But either way despite really wanting to like ‘Mud’, I found the movie dry, the accents difficult to understand (far to much muttering for my tastes) and I never made it past the initial character setups.

 

Sam Shepard also appears in the film as an old hermit, but unfortunately I didn’t make it to his performance.

 

It wasn’t my cup of tea, but all of those reviews can’t be wrong. So I recommend this film to anyone who enjoys coming-of-teenage adventure stories.

Available on Netflix and you can check out the official trailer here: