Not the soul of wit

Monday, 30 January 2006 — 10:38pm | Scrabble

Remember what I wrote in The Gateway a few weeks back? The experts agree. I’ve been validated.

Let’s go over few news items that have been simmering since Friday. So it looks like the stars decided it would be a good idea to stay in alignment, and presto – Toy Story 3 is out the window. Does anyone still have doubts about the Pixar buyout? I didn’t think so. It’s the gift that keeps on giving.

In the isolated world of obscure comic book anthologies based on Pulitzer-winning novels, Dark Horse has cancelled The Amazing Adventures of the Escapist. This is a landmark in that I now unexpectedly own every first-printing issue of a comic book series. It’s also too bad, because in the last few issues, the series was just beginning to show some of its true potential.

I haven’t mentioned how a little over a week ago, I saw the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra perform a night of sacred music with pianist Kevin Cole and Vancouver-based singer Denzal Sinclaire. By “sacred”, I mean George and Ira Gershwin, and I mean it in earnest. There’s not much to say about it aside from the fact that it was an exhilirating night with the American canon thanks to interpreters who are best described with the word clarity.

Listening to Mr. Cole dance on the keys is a lighthearted reminder that speed isn’t created by cranking up the metronome: it’s an illusion generated by what you play, and the cleanliness with which you play it. Budding pianists would do well to remember this, especially when it comes to ragtime. It’s all about control with the illusion of freedom. That’s magic, isn’t it?

As for Mr. Sinclaire, who has seen a lot of airplay on CBC for as long as I’ve listened to jazz, I’m enjoying his latest album, My One and Only Love. (The title track has been moving up and down the stuck-in-my-head playlist since the opening credits of Leaving Las Vegas.) It’s heavy on ballads of mellow disposition, but listening to him run the gamut from Hoagy Carmichael to Stevie Wonder makes it easy to place the disc in a grand tradition of song displaced by half a century. In person, Denzal was a littler guy than I expected, but mass-over-density has minimal bearing on presence when it comes to voice.

Speaking of jazz, I’ve always been a little baffled at the lack of dynamism in how jazz is filmed. I harbour a deep admiration for music videos on a purely technical level, as a person who takes pleasure in watching moving pictures for that elusive logistical how’d-they-do-that. I can’t stand to watch a lot of them, though, because generally, the music sucks. Were it not for A Hard Day’s Night and Fantasia, I’d almost posit a systematic inverse proportionality between the quality of music and the quality of a film constructed upon it. And there’s a gulf of difference between Walt Disney’s dream of the “concert film” and the modern music video, even though they share a common heritage.

There are some great videos that aren’t just a mask for a lack of musicality – consider Stars in “Your Ex-Lover Is Dead”, an ostensible tribute to Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (and a pretty good song). But not in jazz. Recent years have seen Diane Reeves’ contextual insertion into Good Night, and Good Luck and Diana Krall’s Chrysler commercials, but that’s a very specific type of jazz, the mellow strain.

So it’s with reinvigorated joy that I present this Wynton Marsalis iPod advertisement. This is probably the best visual representation of the bebop aesthetic’s latent dynamism that I’ve seen since Michal Levy’s animation of Coltrane’s Giant Steps. Pity it’s so darn short.

And now, as they say, for something completely different.

The National Scrabble Championship is no more. Starting with this year’s event in Phoenix, Arizona, its moniker is now the U.S. Scrabble Open, or maybe the Scrabble U.S. Open (they’re not wholly consistent). It makes a lot of sense, since for years, Williams and Edley have responded to questions about why Americans don’t have an invitation-only regional championship like us Canucks with the vision statement, “It’s like the U.S. Open.” Unfortunately, I don’t think the T-shirts will make for great conversation pieces like the ones with alluring words like “national” and “championship” written on them.

The official transition to the Second Edition of the Official Tournament and Club Word List (OWL2) isn’t until March, but this weekend I played the last-ever Calgary tournament with the old book, so for all intents and purposes I’m finished with l’ancien régime. It’s going to be an interesting change of pace to throw defensive strategy out the window now that Q and Z are a palpable threat, which leaves C and V as the only foolproof blocking tiles, but also means that I won’t have to fret so much about botching an endgame on account of drawing an unexchangeable Q. Bring on the QI and MBAQANGA!

Speaking of the Q, I’ve always wanted to play ENQUIrES on a double with the Q on a TLS for 122 points, and this weekend, I did. That made for a good $10 in addition to the $50 in third-place lunch money I earned with my 9-5 record.

Not so hot was when I tried to play APHORIsT on a triple in another game, which in my excitement I placed as APHROIsT*, losing both my turn and my spot. I think it’s the Scrabble nerd’s equivalent of shopping at FCUK.

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