Sunday, December 20, 2009

"A Blacksmith Courted Me"

Eddi Reader (born Sadenia Reader, in 1959 in Glasgow) is a singer and actress who hit number one in Britain as part of Fairground Attraction with their single Perfect in 1988. She performs in the recently released film Me And Orson Welles. I first came across her singing what has since become one of my favorite ballads, "Blacksmith," also known as "A Blacksmith Courted Me." This traditional English folk song is perhaps hundreds of years old. It was first published by the composer and folk music chronicler Ralph Vaughan Williams (Perhaps best known for his arrangment of another popular English folk classic, Greensleves) in 1909, who got it from a Mrs. Powell.

Reader performs "Blacksmith" on her solo album Mirmama. Here it is below, done justice with her powerful voice and the haunting arrangement. Beneath it are the lyrics from Wikipedia, and then a rendition of Williams' Greensleeves for good measure.

A blacksmith courted me
Nine months and better
He fairly won my heart
Wrote me a letter.
With his hammer in his hand
He looked so clever
And if I was with my love
I would live forever.

But where is my love gone
With his cheeks like roses
And his good black Billycock on
Decked around with primroses.
I fear the shining sun
May burn and scorch his beauty
And if I was with my love
I would do my duty.

Strange news is come to town
Strange news is carried
Strange news flies up and down
That my love is married.
I wish them both much joy
Though they can't hear me
And may God reward him well
For the slighting of me.

Don't you remember when
You lay beside me
And you said you'd marry me
And not deny me.
If I said I'd marry you
It was only for to try you
So bring your witness love
And I'll not deny you.

No, witness have I none
Save God Almighty
And may he reward you well
For the slighting of me.
Her lips grew pale and wan
It made a poor heart tremble
To think she loved a one
And he proved deceitful.

A blacksmith courted me
Nine months and better
He fairly won my heart
Wrote me a letter.
With his hammer in his hand
He looked so clever
And if I was with my love I would live forever

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Henrik Sundholm's "Visual Ideas"

Swedish blogger Henrik Sudholm considers himself an amateur photographer. He only just bought his first camera. If this is what he considers amateur work, it will be interesting to see what he does once he has better honed his skills! His usual subject is landscapes that have been altered by man. He thinks those alterations are improvements, just like his digital editing of his own work can be said to raise the mechanical process of photography to the level of fine art. Above is a detail from his "Yellow Locomotive III." Below is "Smoke Shafts." Check out Sundholm's photographs at Flickr and his essay Thoughts On Photography at his blog.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Lie to Me "White Lie"

Lie to Me, which debuted in Jan of 2009, is a crime drama with a twist that has become a pleasantly unexpected hit. The show involves Dr. Cal Lightman (the Oscar-nominated character actor Tim Roth) and his team of human lie detectors who use the science of microexpressions to determine the veracity not only of their subjects, but often of the clients and agencies that have retained their services. Much of the show is formulaic, along the lines of House, with sexual and psychological tensions among the players bridging the plots of the otherwise largely self-contained episodes. All the usual politically correct stereotypes and cliches are there, the misunderstood Muslim, the hooker with the heart of gold, the farmer with a tractor bomb. But the show's gimmick, the scientists' ability to detect lies, means that the writers are always dealing with deeply held values worth lying about. You can focus on the drama and disregard the not always so subtle moralizing. The clip below, where the unpaid intern and loose cannon Eli serenades some kids to keep them calm during a bomb threat is maybe not the most riveting, but in context, it was one of the more memorable scenes in recent scripted television. You can and should catch Lie to Me at Hulu or elswhere and monday nights on Fox. Enjoy also the voice of Felicia Day, here a school teacher, also known to many as Penny, the love interest of Neil Patrick Harris from Joss Whedon's cult hit, Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog.

Friday, December 11, 2009

"Alice" — Syfy's retake of Wonderland

"It'll be just like the old days — justice, reason, and the rule of law!" If you've ever wanted to hear that phrase belted out by the smooth yet stentorian Tim Curry, one of the greatest voices of our time, then that's just one more reason to check out Alice, the new miniseries by Syfy, cable's rebranded Sci-fi channel. Alice is a two-part four-hour miniseries set in a modern-day Wonderland. Written for adults (the show is sponsored by Kay Jewelers) the retelling is hip and visually stunning with some dark but mostly comedic edges that make for a quite satisfying retelling of the Carroll Lewis classic.

In this version, Alice (Caterina Scorsone) is all grown up, and a karate instructor to boot, even if she has some issues, a father who abandoned her at age ten and a problem committing to mister right. When she brings home her latest, Jack, to meet mom, he offers her a ring out of the blue. She turns down his proposal, but he slips the ring in her pocket. Trying to return it she shes him dragged off through a dark alley by thugs, and chasing after she falls through the looking glass to an alternate dimension.

It turns out that Jack is the Jack — the Jack of Hearts, son of the casino-boss Queen of Hearts, Kathy Bates and her put-upon King, Colm Meaney — and the leader of a resistance trying to overthrow his mother's tyrannical rule held in place by a drug economy that refines the emotions of kidnapped earthlings into chemical elixirs.

With its battles, beasts and betrayals (Beware the Jabberwock, my son!) the story is your standard fantasy adventure fare, sometimes light in the plot, but quite pleasant. We meet the roguish Hatter, played by British heart-throb Andrew-Lee Potts. He and the White Knight, played by the delightful Matt Frewer, whom you may recognize as the former Max Headroom, set off with Alice to find her father and return to her own world, even if she has to overthrow the Red Queen to do it. The show is full of familiar faces and the visual art blends iconic images from the classic book illustrations with quirky and sexy modern effects that recall Twin Peaks and Farscape. The show will be replayed on Syfy, Sunday December 13 from 5pm til 9pm Eastern. Set your DVR.

Here is the intro at YouTube: