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November 24, 2005
HOLIDAY GIFT GUIDE
section available in print edition
'TIS THE SEASON, AND THE
WELL-CONSIDERED GIFT OF MUSIC is always appreciated (at least
by those who like music). With that in mind, the Journal
asked a few folks involved in the local music scene in one way
or another to discuss some of the albums they like. We recruited
a mom who's involved in the Humboldt Folklife Society, a radio
pro, a bass player (and former concert promoter) and a drummer/sound
man who provided a diverse set of selections. We're thinking
about running another batch of reviews before the rest of the
holidays arrive; if you think that's a good idea, or perhaps
would like to contribute a review of your own, drop a line to
A Decade Of Sin: 11 Years Of Bloodshot Records
For more than a decade the
Chicago-based label Bloodshot has been releasing music falling
between country, rock, soul and various genres merging those
cornerstones. Their 11th anniversary compilation offers 42 unreleased
songs by Bloodshot's stable of American roots country artists,
including Scott H. Biram, Richard Buckner, Sally Timms, Graham
Parker and the Figgs -- as well as friends like Ralph Stanley,
My Morning Jacket and Hank Williams III -- offering a generous
view and listen into the unfortunately underground existence
of traditionalists and pioneers of Americana, alt-country and
styles without names.
Where else will you hear
a hauntingly nervous rendition of Jane's Addiction's "Ocean
Size," as sung by Bobby Bare Jr.? Also haunting yet soaring
is Carla Bozulich's "Lonesome Roads," which pulls listeners
down their own highways of regrets and disappointments. The true
beauty of Bloodshot is their disdain of formula. This country
is a mix of cultures and histories, and our American music is
reflected in many different experiences. Bloodshot has shown
a willingness to provide us with the honest music beneath the
surface you never hear on the radio.
-- Mike Donohoe, bass
player for The Ravens
a Bamako -- Amadou and Mariam
Every once in a while, it
happens. You walk into the record store just to look, and the
next thing you know, you're listening to the best new music you've
heard in a long time. In my case, it was a bright orange CD by
Amadou and Mariam (who?), with a sticker on it that said, "Produced
by and with Manu Chao," the Clandestino guy. (I don't
have enough space in this review to give you the history of this
blind couple from Mali, nor of Manu Chao. Google away.)
The album begins with a slow,
hypnotic incantation performed by the duo's young son, Mamadou:
"M'bifé" draws you in, tuning your ears with
guitar, organ and tabla. The next track turns up the heat with
a high-tension riff on electric guitar that lays the foundation
for a stirring balafon (akin to xylophone) solo. Each song flows
into the next with a grace you don't find much anymore. I have
played this album a few times at the Arcata Farmers' Market,
and each time people ask me what it is, and where to buy it.
This CD is a beautiful fusion of Malian Afropop with Manu Chao's
unique aural design, and I can't recommend it enough.
-- Mike "Tofu"
Schwartz, Farmers' Market soundman, drummer for the Chernobles
and Absynth Quintet.
-- Death Cab For Cutie
The last time Death Cab For
Cutie played Humboldt, there were maybe 90 people there, if that.
A longtime darling of the indie set, they've never really approached
large-scale popularity until Plans. Mainstream acceptance
may not be in the cards for them, especially with an album like
this one, loaded with lyrics of loss and mortality.
But at the end of the day,
Plans is a spectacular album. I'm not kidding. I can't
stop listening to it. It's melodically interesting and sonically
diverse, but it's the gracefully sophisticated lyrics that pull
you through the record. "I Will Follow You Into the Dark"
is the best song I've heard in a very, very long time. With just
an acoustic guitar and vocal, songwriter Ben Gibbard's knack
for super-clean melody strikes the balance between hum-ability
and unpredictability. Followed by "Your Heart Is an Empty
Room," the album picks itself up, dusts off, and moves on.
"What Sarah Said" takes place entirely in a hospital,
and pegs that unsettling, waiting-room remoteness perfectly.
The music is potent, and
definitely sounds better when you're by yourself, better still
with headphones when it's raining. But it's a mistake to write
DCFC off as another overtly introspective shoe-gazing band. They're
on the edge of bringing thoughtful, lyric-driven pop back into
-- Mike Dronkers, music
and program director of KHUM and K-SLUG.
Tales/Fiddletales -- Jessie Modic
Southern Humboldt musician
Jessie Modic has independently written and produced three of
the finest storytelling CDs available anywhere: Her Fiddletales,
Magical Tales and Saltarello are neatly balanced
blends of mystery, magic, humor and music. Each disc features
two lengthy tales with Celtic, old-time and classical tunes intermixed
between and throughout the stories.
Fiddletales has an Americana feel; Magical Tales is
a CD-book of the fairies; her most recent release, Saltarello,
features the stories of pirates, selkies and fisherfolk. These
recordings offer an introduction to folk music, but more, each
is a clever fusion of story and song and imagination that appeals
to all ages. I've heard each of her CDs hundreds if not thousands
of times, and my children blissfully recite long scenes from
every story. The fact that they never wear out on Jessie -- and
that we, as parents, never wear out on Jessie either -- is a
testament to her amazing gift. Jessie performs locally with Mothers
and Daughters and The Prunella Sisters; this fine wit and rich
musicality is evident throughout the collection.
-- Maia Cheli-Colando,
Humboldt Folk Lifer, shares her writing and photos at www.littlefolktales.org.
A selection of classic toys that teach
by MARCY BURSTINER and DEBRA
AT KAYBEE TOYS IN THE BAYSHORE
MALL, you can find toys that flash colored lights, talk, vibrate
and play songs. But if you want a toy that does none of that,
that's harder to find.
With the Christmas season
here many parents are shopping for toys their young children
will not only like, but that will develop cognitive and motor
skills. Educational experts and the toy industry alike say fun
and learning can go hand-in-hand. That connection, though, does
not have to be battery-powered. Some experts urge parents to
de-tech the toys.
"With electronic toys
[children] don't figure out how to make their own fun,"
says Diane Levin, a professor at Wheelock College in Boston and
the founder of Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood. "The
more zaps a toy produces, the more zaps the child needs and the
less interest they develop in doing other things."
Electronic toys can captivate
young children. And they can teach beneficial skills, like eye-hand
coordination or certain types of dexterity. But that can come
at a cost -- development of certain skills at an unnaturally
early stage and concentration on activity that keeps children
sedentary. They can overstimulate some senses, and children will
start tuning out noises and lights. Because some toys have electronic
sounds that take a while to play out, the child may lose the
connection between the cause and the effect -- in other words,
he may forget that Three Blind Mice is playing because he pushed
the red button. These toys tend to emphasize repetitive play
and de-emphasize parent/child interaction, creativity and problem-solving
skills. Levin said the best toys not only give a child a problem
to solve, but encourage children to constantly discover new problems
to solve as they discover new uses for the toy. A classic example:
Electronic toys seduce not
only children but parents, who like how a whirring, whizzing,
toy will entertain their children while they work or do household
But because electronic toys
tend to have limited functionality, children soon tire of them
and over time they will expect increasingly sophisticated things
from each new toy. Long term, Levin says, toy gizmos end up boring
children completely. As a result, they stop playing with toys
at an earlier age, as they move on to video games and computer
entertainment. "The longer we can delay children's dependence
on media and electronics the better," Levin says.
Locally, you can find buried
among the electronic displays at Target, K-Mart and the Toy Box
in Eureka toys that do help children develop cognitive and motor
skills, without electronic voices, sirens or Mozart sonatas.
And at Moon's Play and Learn
in Eureka, you'd be hard pressed to find toys that require batteries.
There, manager Dawn Craghead said the store has been emphasizing
non-electronic toys since it opened 25 years ago. "It's
our main focus," she said. "We prefer kid power. Kids
get so much electronic stimulation."
Craghead said that at Moon's,
construction sets are particularly popular with young children.
Levin's favorite toy, on the other hand, is Play-Doh, which encourages
evolving play -- children figure out how to do different things
with it as they themselves mature. She noted that her son's love
of Play-Doh evolved into a love of pottery-making when he got
Below is a sample list of
some toys you can find in local shops that will keep children
unplugged, and the skills they help children develop. Most sell
for less than $25 each, and many sell for less than $10.
BUILDING BLOCKS: They encourage imaginary play. Children learn
to grasp pieces and put them together, which develops finger
and hand dexterity. They allow children to play together. At
Target, you can get the LEGO 50th Anniversary set of 90 pieces
for ages 2-5 for $10.99; a 100-piece set of Lincoln Logs for
$19.99; the Melissa and Doug wooden blocks in a crate for $21.99;
or the Giant Train, which has blocks that form into a three-car
train, for $30 at Michael Olaf Company, available through its
catalog or Arcata warehouse.
SHAPE SORTERS: These are usually triangles, squares and stars
that children can take out of a similarly shaped hole and put
back in. Develops finger and hand dexterity, problem-solving
skills, grasping and release of objects. It grows with younger
children as they learn to do increasingly complex things with
them. Fisher-Price Baby's First Blocks, $6.99 at Target; Tolo
Rolling Ball Shape Sorter, $14.98 at the Toy Box
MUSICAL INSTRUMENTS: Encourages a child to use different fingers,
and that's a precursor to using tools and writing and drawing
skills. Teaches cause and effect. Encourages sensory development.
Little Tikes Baby Tap-a-Tune Piano, $15.99, or Bug Tunes Chimes
the Caterpillar, $18.99, at Bev's Real Kids; Fisher-Price Toddling
Tunes Puppy, $12.99 at Target; First Act Discovery Band in a
Bucket, $21.99 at Target.
MAGNA DOODLE: Typically comes with stampers, which help
develop the thumb/index finger/middle finger grasp, and gets
children to use a stylus wand for beginning tool use. $14.99
TOOL KITS: Encourages bilateral hand and rotational movements
and imaginary play. Construction Set In a Box or Take-along Took
Kit, both by Melissa and Doug, $21.99 and $10.99 at Moon's.
MR. POTATO HEAD: A true classic. Encourages skilled eye-hand
coordination, bilateral hand movements, imaginary play, mastering
various grasp patterns. Plus, the pieces are stored in his butt!
$5.89-$9.99 at Target.
STACKERS: Develops visual and perceptual skills; children
learn to differentiate sizes and colors. Develops eye-hand coordination
and arm control. Fisher-Price Rock and Stack, $5.54 at Target.
BALL RAMPS: Encourages visual tracking, which is a precursor
to reading. IQ Preschool Pound-a-Ball $17.99 at Moon's Learn
PLAY-DOH AND SILLY PUTTY: Sensory development, hand dexterity, tool
use, creativity. Available at most stores.
BIG RUBBER BOUNCY BALLS: Hand and arm control, balance. Gets children
to run and chase. Buy several of different colors and they will
learn color differentiation. Available at most stores.
Marcy Burstiner is a journalism
instructor at Humboldt State University. Debra F. Burstiner is
an occupational therapist in Arcata who specializes in the developmental
skills of young children.
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