Thursday, July 19, 2012

Classical Thursdays: Schubert and the Smurfs

No, I haven't given up on my dream of bringing classical music to the several with my Classical Thursdays feature. In fact, today I'm going to present you with a piece that's already received considerable modern play due to its being used in that beloved (or, if you were me, filler) cartoon of the 80s, The Smurfs.

Did you know that The Smurfs was noted for its frequent use of classical music as background or theme music? (See Wikipedia confirmation of this fact here.) Little nine-year-old Rachel never realized this when she was watching the show, but fast-forward ten years later when I was an exchange student in Bielefeld, Germany, and my host mother took me to a Sunday morning symphony. As the orchestra played Schubert's Unfinished symphony, it struck me that I had heard this piece before. I'm not sure how long it took me to figure out where: the first movement is better known to us children of the 80s as Gargamel's theme song.

What do you want to bet they didn't use this piece as his theme song in the creepy-looking 2011 Smurfs movie? Aannnnnnd sigh. Do you recognize this piece?

Monday, July 16, 2012

Jetlag Rambling And An Excellent Book

I've been up since 4:30 this morning, giving me about four hours of sleep out of the last 40, so please forgive me if I'm a little incoherent. My husband and I got back last night from our two-week jaunt abroad, and I nearly fell to the threshold and kissed the floor when we walked in. The cats are still alive, hooray, and the older one has been following me around the house with moonbeams in his eyes. So what I'm saying here is it's good to be back.

The trip was fun--a few days in Paris, and then we rented a car and drove down to the south of France, through Italy to Zurich, and up to Munich, spending three days in most of the places we stopped. We ate like hogs. The entire time we were accompanied by between two and six friends, and the itinerary didn't allow for much (any) downtime, so by the end my solitary soul was a little oversocialized and starved for some me-time.

Because of the busy agenda, I didn't get to do as much reading as I'd hoped. I finished Jellicoe Road on the flight over, and it was as wonderful as everyone promised. On the second week of the trip I read The Westing Game, mostly during an afternoon at the Deutsches Museum, which I've already been to and is way too technical for an exhausted Rachel to enjoy. And on the flight home, I read Paolo Bacigalupi's The Drowned Cities. While I liked his last book, Ship Breaker, for its amazing world building and descriptions, this new one belongs to the slim collection of books that I find to be just about perfect. Here's the jacket description:
In a dark future America where violence, terror, and grief touch everyone, young refugees Mahlia and Mouse have managed to leave behind the war-torn lands of the Drowned Cities by escaping into the jungle outskirts. But when they discover a wounded half-man--a bioengineered war beast named Tool--who is being hunted by a vengeful band of soldiers, their fragile existence quickly collapses. One is taken prisoner by merciless soldier boys, and the other is faced with an impossible decision: Risk everything to save a friend, or flee to a place where freedom might finally be possible.
The story was absolutely brutal, exciting and hopeful and sad and horrifying. I suppose it fits under the dystopian label, but it's not like most of the other dystopians I've read where the "dys-" element is based on something fairly fantastical happening to our DNA or moral code. The horrors in this book are rooted in current events and the possibility that the ever-worsening environment could drive our society into the kind of chaos you'd think could only happen in a third-world country. It's an extreme view, but it's thought-provoking and, most importantly, a really great story. Two thumbs up. 

I plan to dive into that thick stack of ARCs I got at ALA over the next few weeks, and then, o happy day, the Summer SCBWI Conference is upon us once again. Shout out if you're going--I'll be there!

Yet another gratuitous kitten photo