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March 7, 2011

On Books and Music

Michael Kurtianyk

The other day, I stopped for dinner at my brother-in-law’s house. I saw that there was a copy of Ayn Rand’s “Atlas Shrugged” on the kitchen counter.


“Who’s reading this book?” I asked. My niece Jordan, a junior at Gov. Thomas Johnson High School, said that she was.


Seeing that the bookmark was about halfway through, I asked her how she liked it.


“Oh my God, Uncle Michael, there are, like, whole chapters that are sooooooooo boring. I mean, she keeps repeating herself. But some of it is actually pretty good.”


I told Jordan that though I hadn’t read “Atlas Shrugged,” but that I did read “The Fountainhead.” I mentioned that Ayn Rand had a unique outlook on life.


“Yeah, Uncle Michael, I know all about the whole ‘rugged individualism’ thing, but leave it to me to read a book and the movie isn’t coming out until April!”




In watching the Academy Awards the other night, I was struck by the number of books made into movies. The following movies were originally books: “True Grit”, “Winter’s Bone”, and “127 Hours,” to name a few.


There have also been books that were written as the movie was being made – Arthur C. Clarke’s “2001: A Space Odyssey” is the prime example of this.


And then there are movies that aren’t as good as the book. Each of us can name a few of those.


It just goes to show you that you shouldn’t judge a book by its movie.



Last week, Frederick County Public Schools participated in the national “Read Across America” Program. I was invited to read in my wife’s Pre-K class at Lincoln Elementary. I read three Doctor Seuss books: “The Cat in the Hat Comes Back,” “Mr. Brown Can Moo, Can You?” and “Fox in Socks.” I was invited back to read to another class, and the children seemed to have a great time.


The day’s events reminded me that reading to children is important, and one of the greatest gifts we can give to others. I was glad for the reminder, as it was a fulfilling day.




Now is a good time to be a music fan. The spring season not only brings robins to our yards, but also new music. I’m particularly excited about the new album by R.E.M. It’s called “Collapse Into Now.” I’ve heard the entire album, and I agree with others that this is their best album in years. The band is doing something unique. For each of the 12 songs, the band chose different people to direct each of the songs. As lead singer Michael Stipe explains:


"It was a way of presenting the idea of an album in 2011, beyond a music fan's idea of an album 20 years ago. The way technology is right now, it's possible to present something in any way you want to. I basically wanted to explore the idea of what is an album, and how we present it with everything that we have available.


"I went to people I really wanted to work with and I could trust them to do whatever they wanted. They had absolute free rein. In many instances I was surprised, in many instances I got what I wanted. What I wanted wasn't primarily important though, what was important was to trust the directors with something as precious as a brand new song.”


The new Radiohead album came out, and it, too, is an album that I’ve been listening to quite a bit. Titled “The King of Limbs,” it’s a provocative album, one that rewards the listener with repeated playing.


Look for new albums this Spring by U2 (“Songs of Ascent”), Paul Simon (“So Beautiful or So What”), Blur, and Fleet Foxes.


Yes, I like Alternative Music.


It’s better than anything on American Idol….


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