February 2006

Graceland is one of my all-time favorite albums. Among the many African singers and groups that contributed, I only remember LBM because I’ve never heard anything like it. Now on the 20th anniversary of Graceland (gosh I’m getting old!), LBM is touring the world with a show titled “Long Walk to Freedom: Music of South Africa”. The programme says in some concerts Sarah McLachlan sings in Homeless (I doubt how much she can sing in that song) and Melissa Etheridge in Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes. Not in this concert, though. The complete first half was a solo act by the special guest Vusi Mahlasela, which turned out to be actually better than the second half by LBM.

Vusi is called “Bob Dylan of South Africa”. Boy his voice is so much better than Dylan’s! He plays the guitar well, and sings a variety of voices. Compared with his songs, LBM is way too simple and monotonic. No wonder there’re many copycat groups. They did sing Homeless, whose last segment in Zulu roughly means (as told by Graceland’s jacket) “We would like to announce to the entire nation that we are the best at singing in this style”, which is used in many of their songs. It’s pretty amazing that the group leader Joseph Shabalala has kept it going for more than 40 years with a rolling roster of mostly his relatives (brothers, cousins, sons) and a few friends, with several members died tragically or being murdered.

It’s The 10 Days of Aquarius again: nothing but coincidence that my three closest friends were all born within 9 days before me.

Ling couple drove up early on Friday and had dinner in Chinatown with some friends. Later She went clubbing and Huan came to ours. Saturday morning (actually noon) the girls went shopping and boys went to driving range, played pool, then prepared the hotpot dinner. It’s consistently great, topped off by Cindy’s green tea cake. The only imperfection is that the cream was whipped too early and it liquidified, so we had to run out to buy CoolWhip, which isn’t as firm as freshly whipped cream.

We gave Huan a golf-theme Monopoly as birthday present, and we played it together with our classic version. We made a critical mistake, though, to allow people to choose which board to go to when they pass Go. It made the game a bit more unpredictable at first, but risk avertness and nepotism slowed down the game pace. We figured that it’d be much better if we divide the players into two groups, one starting on each board, then dictate a figure-8 route across two boards. That way the late goers will be able to grab as many real estates.

Sunday morning (again noon) 8 people huddled into Jay’s MDX and headed for Da Nico in Little Italy. It’s a nice but a bit hasty lunch, as we had to hit Lincoln Center Theatre at 3pm for The Light in the Piazza. We watched the nice dance play Contact in LCT a few years ago, and seems like being in Lincoln Center isn’t the only difference between those plays and the usual Broadway shows. There’s no fanfare, big set, or even a catchy tune, but the sincerity and realism of most characters, especially Margaret Johnson, make up for everything–anything except the lack of subtitle for the abundant Italian conversation and lyrics. The incidental music flow smoothly, songs occur naturally, and there’s no stupid recitative. The slight discord and lack of operatic climax in the music perfectly reflects the real theme of the play: life as it happens with incidents and accidents, drama and anticlimax. Everybody knows Clara’s marriage has little chance of working out, but let’s enjoy the moment while we can, and remember Heath Ledger’s tagline in Brokeback Mountain: “If you can’t fix it, you gotta stand it”.

We drove back home after the play, and the DC gang left after a glimpse at the beginning of Superbowl XL. Had dinner and played pool again with Jay couple. During after dinner chat, I was happy to find that Jay couple doesn’t like mixing English in Chinese conversation either. As of lately, especially during the last new year’s parties, I found myself mixing English words alarmingly often. Now hopefully with more people’s concerted efforts we can stay clear of Engnese.