Monday, August 31, 2009

The Last Movie I Saw

All summer long (and much of the spring too) , every movie I went to seemed to be preceded by the trailer for Ang Lee's new movie, Taking Woodstock. And every time I saw it, I thought, "that looks really good." The more I saw the preview, the more my expectations rose, so that I really had high hopes for the film. So much so, that as I finally made my way into the theater on Saturday to see the movie, I was struck with the realization that it couldn't possibly live up to those expectations and I was bound to be disappointed. Well, lucky me, the film turned out to be even better than I anticipated, largely because it was something different than I had been led to believe. For one thing, while my first-hand experience with the Age of Aquarius (let alone Woodstock itself) is limited, I feel like I know something about living in a small town, and Lee seems much more interested in exploring the nature of life in the depressed hamlet of White Lake, NY than delving too deeply into the half million visitors who descended on that small town for three days of peace and music. He evokes a particular sense of something close to ennui in the fading past-its-prime town, where even life-long relationships seem fairly tenuous as far as shaping anything approaching real community spirit, even as they appear to be the only bond holding the town together. When the swarm of newcomers arrive for the big show, they serve more as a catalyst than the object of Lee's themes of personal identity and community commitment which are manifested in the central character Elliot, played by Demitri Martin. The festival, and more to the point, the array of people drawn to or swept up in that momentary cultural vortex, provide shifting expressions of the endless possibilities that tend to be invisible (or forgotten) in a provincial backwater like White Lake. Lee treats virtually all of his characters with a level of compassion that only some of them earn based on their behavior in the film, but that all of them deserve if one embraces the heady ideology so often attached to the myth of Woodstock. It's easy to be cynical and dismiss that ideal as so much hippy-dippy nonsense, but the fact that we endlessly commemorate the original event (the film itself no doubt calculated to open on its fortieth anniversary) suggests that we still want to believe in its utopian sentiment. Lee's film speaks to that enduring legacy in terms that transcend the frankly trivial connection to the music or fashion or drugs of a particular era, and suggests that a more universal application of those values may still be possible. Whether the experience had a positive effect on White Lake is unanswered by the film; but given its impact on certain individuals, like Elliot and Max Yasgur (Eugene Levy), it suggests at least a foundation for rebuilding a true sense of community there and elsewhere. I think that's a message that bears remembrance, and not just for those still wearing tie-dye and listening to Jimi Hendrix, forty years on.

Soup Diary 090831

So when did Broccoli Soup join the ranks of old stand-bys? I don't remember it being so common on menus before about ten years ago, but these days it is as ubiquitous as Chicken Noodle and Beef Vegetable. More often than not it's actually Broccoli Cheddar as opposed to the more straightforward Cream of Broccoli, but it does seem to be available almost everywhere. I'm not complaining-- I don't think I've ever had a bad cup of Broccoli soup, though I certainly have suffered through some crummy Chicken Noodle. But by the same token, I don't think I've ever had an outstanding bowl of the stuff either, which means I generally only order it if there are no other options, or if the only other option is something involving clams or oysters or such. The cup I had the other night was perfectly fine and of the "cream" as opposed to "cheddar" variety. I guess that's why it's become a standby: it's hard to mess up. I just hope that some day I come across a variation that knocks my socks off.

Thought for a Monday

Clarence Darrow (1857-1938) was the preeminent defense attorney of his generation, perhaps most famous for his role in the Scopes "Monkey" Trial in the 1920s. This quote gives you some idea of how he thought the law should be practiced:

"As long as men collectively impose their will
upon the individual units, they should consider
that this imposition calls for intelligence,
kindliness, tolerance, and a large degree
of sympathy and understanding."

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Battle of the Bands Results, Round 1

Creedence Clearwater Revival

Tonight was the season premiere of my radio show, Dr. John's Record Shelf (the tenth season!). And we introduced our new feature, as discussed on this blog several times in the past few months: a Battle of the Bands (you can see the brackets here, here, here, and here). Two of the number one regional seeds were in action, with the Byrds (playing "I'll Feel a Whole Lot Better") taking on Thee Midniters ("Whittier Blvd.") in the Southwest bracket, and Creedence Clearwater Revival (with "Fortunate Son") matching up with the Sonics ("Psycho") in the Northwest. In both instances, the top seed won in unanimous decisions.

The Byrds

Joining Art Vandelay and myself, as our potentially tie-breaking third judge, was my brother-in-law Tom. So the Byrds and CCR move on to round two next Spring. It turned out to be a fun part of the show, and I'm looking forward to seeing how the entire thing plays out over the coming months. Here's hoping the listeners enjoyed it too.

Sunday Funnies

Today, in a bit of a switch, I'm going to focus on a strip that I did not read in the Sunday papers when I was a kid, because it had been discontinued (in that format) some years before I was born. However, upon discovering Will Eisner's The Spirit as reprinted by Warren magazines in the seventies, I was immediately hooked.

The Spirit was produced by Eisner starting in 1940 as part of a supplement syndicated to newspapers as either a replacement for or addition to the normal Sunday color funnies. In addition to The Spirit, other features were also included in the package, making for a weekly comic book anthology.

Eisner was one of the brilliant stylists of early comic books, and his work on The Spirit was his most enduring. Much later, he essentially invented the graphic novel format, which was a natural evolution of the serialized nature of much of his earlier work.

The Spirit was a former cop named Denny Colt, who realized he could more effectively fight crime outside the constraints of the established criminal justice system (though he remained on friendly terms with Commissioner Dolan and the rest of the police force).

He battled an array of archfiends, most notably the mysterious Octopus (in the strip, you only ever saw the Octopus' gloved hands), and had amorous encounters with a wide array of femmes fatales (most of whom straddled the line between good and bad), though it seemed his true love was Ellen Dolan, daughter of the police commissioner.

While The Spirit could be pretty violent, as the hero suffered any number of pummelings at the hands of the bad guys he pursued, one of the most attractive features of The Spirit was the tongue-in-cheek humor of the strip, often turning into a parody of the adventure and super-hero genres. Although original strips were produced over fifty years ago, The Spirit has enjoyed being in print (either as reprints or in new adventures) more or less continuously since the being revived in the 1970s in the aforementioned Warren magazines. A year or so ago there was finally a film version (which I haven't seen yet) and apparently there's a new series being put out by DC Comics.

It's hard to imagine the new versions can live up to the classic originals, mainly because Eisner was such a singularly brilliant creator. But the continuing popularity of the character certainly speaks to how great the concept and character were to begin with, and I'm glad they continue to appeal to a contemporary audience.

P.S. You can read a complete Spirit Section (with Lady Luck and Mr. Mystic strips as well) at this site.

New Hal Crowther Column

Hal Crowther is my favorite contemporary essayist on the American scene. His work is always thoughtful, provocative, and, in an odd way (given the topics he often addresses) even heartening. I guess that last quality emerges from my sense that his work demonstrates that fruitful contemplation has not entirely disappeared from our public discourse. You can see what I mean in the new column he has posted at the Durham Independent web-site, on race and related matters. Check it out.

Sunday's Quote

Here's a quote from the most prominent public intellectual in America of the mid-nineteenth century, Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882):

"Our life is an apprenticeship to the truth
that around every circle another can be
drawn; that there is no end in nature,
but every end is a beginning, and under
every deep a lower deep opens."

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Saturday Morning "Car"toon-- Posted in the Evening

Back when I was a kid, NASCAR was virtually unknown, at least where I grew up. But toy slot cars and Hot Wheels were extremely popular. There were even clubs where you could go and race the former on really big tracks against other members. Of course, there was also the annual Pinewood Derby for those of us in the Cub Scouts. I guess all those signaled enough interest among the younger set to justify a cartoon on the subject of auto racing. One of the best things about Wacky Races, something that really made an impression on me at any rate, was that you really never knew who was going to win: it wasn't always the heroic Peter Perfect. I vaguely remember pulling for the Anthill Gang, but also had a soft spot for Muttley, Dick Dastardly's henchman. Here's the very first episode (in two parts-- with really cool soundtrack music too!):

Soup Diary 090829

About twenty-five years ago, I was in Washington DC for a conference. On the day I left, I stopped for a quick lunch at a place called Schlotzski's Deli because it was on the way to the airport (it might've even been in the subway station where I was catching a train to make my flight). The sandwich I had was so good, that I made a point of stopping there again the next time I was in the capital, a couple years later. I thought I had stumbled across a fantastic local institution, but it turned out to be a chain, which eventually opened a store in Buffalo a few years later. I was thrilled, but after a half-dozen truly mediocre meals at the new spot, I stopped going and pretty much forgot about the place (in fact that Buffalo restaurant closed soon after, no doubt when everyone else reached the same conclusion as me). You can probably see where this is going... I haven't been in a Schlotzski's in about twenty years, until today. I was down in Idaho Falls, and was trying to think of a place where I might get a nice cup of soup. Driving by the mall there, I spotted a Schlotzski's, which I had seen before but avoided. It dawned on me that it had been there at least as long as I have been visiting (12 years), so must be at least better than the last franchise I had patronized; besides, what deli can claim that name without offering soup? So I went in. The first bad sign: the place was empty at about quarter to twelve. But I ordered a pastrami sandwich and a cup of creamy chicken and wild rice soup. The soup came first, with a second bad sign: the modest cup was surrounded by four packets of crackers, instead of the usual one or two. Now I don't complain when someone brings me extra food, even crackers. But I had to wonder if this was a signal that the soup needed help, or that I needed some kind of compensation for choosing it. I guess I just have a penchant for reading too much into things (big surprise, huh?), because the soup truned out to be pretty good. Not great, but a fine complement to the sandwich, which was also quite satisfactory (the crackers, on the other hand, were kind of on the non-crispy side-- the only real flaw in the whole meal). Plus the place was filling up by the time I finished, so maybe Idaho Fallsians are just late lunchers. So, in conclusion, I doubt it'll be twenty years before I visit Schlotzski's again.

Today's Quotation

English poet John Keats (1795-1821) didn't live very long, but I think this statement betrays a wisdom that belies his youth:

"I am certain of nothing but the holiness of
the Heart's affection, the truth of Imagination.
What the Imagination seizes as Beauty must
be truth-- whether it existed before or not--
for I have the same idea of all our passions
as of Love: they are all, in their sublime,
creative of essential Beauty."

Friday, August 28, 2009

Golden Age of Television

Below is a clip from Caesar's Hour in the 1950s, featuring Sid Caesar and Nanette Fabray. It's practically a comic ballet, and keep in mind it was originally done live with no cuts or breaks in the performance. It's hard to think of anyone today who would even attempt such a bit; which doesn't mean nobody has the talent, but I think there was a different entertainment tradition back in those days that has been replaced by more technologically oriented material. Anyway, here's a look into the first generation of television comedy:

Friday Family Blogging Quiz

Most of you will recognize Natalie and Nicky in the above photo. Here's your question: who do those feet in between them belong to? Put your guesses in the comments section.

Last week, I asked you to tell me where the shot of my Dad shooting some video was taken. There were several good guesses, but no one got the right answer, so I'm going to leave that one open a while longer. Go back and take another crack at it, even if you already posted a response (hint: Mom was the closest on the first go-around).

More Friday Family Blogging

So as not to appear to be playing favorites, here's a recent shot of Gerik's sister Marenka too. I don't recall what she was so excited about (probably not having her picture taken), but then again she generally seems to be a pretty happy-go-lucky kid.

Friday Family Blogging

I thought those of you back east might appreciate a look at cousin Gerik, taken a couple weeks ago when I was out in Washington. The G-Man is doing well, and no doubt looking forward to the imminent start of school (he can dispute that in comments if he wishes).

Friday Philosophy

I'm guessing Dwight Eisenhower requires no introduction. He probably isn't widely thought of as a particularly philosophical kind of guy, but the following statement is pretty profound:

"A democracy smugly disdainful of new ideas
would be a sick democracy. A democracy
chronologically fearful of new ideas
would be a dying democracy."

Thursday, August 27, 2009

The Bobby Fuller Four!

Once again, I'm amazed at a Youtube find. The Bobby Fuller Four is one of the great underrated sixties rock groups. They are usually consigned to the one-hit-wonder category for the awesome single "I Fought the Law." But Fuller was practically a reincarnation of Buddy Holly, updating that west Texas sound for a new generation through a fairly prodigious recording output (though much of it only released after his own tragic way-too-soon death). Here's the band performing what might be my favorite cut of theirs, "Never to Be Forgotten" (which has probably been played on my radio show more often than any other song):

A Favorite Author

Back around my freshman year in high school, I discovered the detective fiction of Dashiell Hammett-- which led me in turn to Raymond Chandler and the other writers of the Black Mask hardboiled school. Unfortunately, aside from Hammett and Chandler, it was hard to find much more from that period outside of a few anthologies that occasionally popped up at Sattler's Bookstore (where I sought my paperback fix). Most of the more contemporary mystery writers I checked out, like the various MacDonalds (Ross, John and Gregory) of various spellings, just didn't quite reach the heights I expected after reading Hammett and Chandler. But then I stumbled across a book called Ask the Right Question by Michael Z. Lewin, which for some reason really hit the spot.

Make no mistake: I'm not arguing that Lewin's series of Albert Samson novels were really in the same literary ballpark as Hammett or Chandler. What I liked about them is that they adopted the broad framework of those classics-- starting with the somewhat seedy but good-hearted P.I. as the hero-- and transplanted it to the heartland city of Indianapolis, where Samson's work often took on an aura of the mundane. In other words, I discovered that I really didn't so much want more of the same, but was ready to see somebody turn the conventions of the genre upside down. Actually, Lewin didn't really take it too far-- his stories were hardly post-modern deconstructions. But they were totally entertaining.

The reason why I'm bringing this up here and now is that I just discovered that a new Albert Samson mystery came out about five years ago and I somehow missed it (I stopped looking for Lewin's stuff when he moved to England and started writing what, to my eyes, were just old style drawing room mysteries). As far as I knew, Called by a Panther from 1991 was the end of the line. But an idle Amazon search uncovered Eye Opener and I ordered it immediately (heck, it was only 75 cents plus shipping used). I'm looking forward to revisiting the world of Albert Samson after close to twenty years, and I'll be sure to write up a review. In the meantime, let me recommend the other novels in the series: Ask the Right Question, The Way We Die Now, The Silent Salesman, The Enemies Within, Missing Woman, Out of Season, and Called By a Panther. Good stuff all.

Thursday's Quote

Ludwig Boerne (1786-1837) was a German journalist who raised his voice against the all-too-common anti-Semitism evident in central Europe. Here's a sentiment from his book The Eternal Jew with which I wholeheartedly agree:

"If you must hate, if hatred is the leaven
of your life, which alone can give flavor,
then hate that which should be hated:
falsehood, violence, selfishness."

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Wonderful Scene From A Classic Movie

John Sayles may be my favorite filmmaker-- I think I've seen all the movies he's directed, and they're all good, most great. He has a knack for managing ensembles, and tends to get fantastic performances out of his actors. The stories, which he also writes, always unfold on a human scale with an absence of artifice or melodrama. My favorite is probably Lone Star (1996), but the first was Return of the Secaucus Seven (1980). Here's a scene from the latter, which involves a weekend reunion of a bunch of old college friends, in which we learn the source of the film's title:

Political Comment

As should be clear from previous posts, I'm in favor of health care reform in this country. Because of that, I appreciate the temptation to use the death of Ted Kennedy to generate support for the version of the bill that includes a public option, which the late Senator advocated. There's an eerily similar precedent for this, as Lyndon Johnson invoked the recently assassinated John F. Kennedy's name to help pass the Civil Rights Act of 1964. While I have to admit uneasiness that anyone involved in the legislative process might be subject to such emotional appeals while rejecting the more valid substantive arguments for passage, it would represent some kind of poetic justice after all the ridiculous lies about death panels and such that have been used by opponents to bash the plan. So in the end, I won't complain if that's the way this plays out.

Quote of the Day

As a historian, I'm pretty sensitive to the responsibility reflected in this comment from the Roman historian Cornelius Tacitus (c55-117):

"The chief duty of the historian is to judge
the actions of men, so that the good may meet
with the reward due to virtue, and pernicious
citizens may be deterred by the condemnation
that awaits evil deeds at the tribunal of posterity."

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Heroes of the Small Screen

Phil Silvers was a comic genius, and his greatest creation was definitely Sgt. Ernie Bilko. Here's a clip from The Phil Silvers Show, where Ernie makes like a beatnik as he tries to recruit a jazz combo:

Geography Quiz

I haven't done one of these in awhile (though I guess last week's Family Blogging Quiz is sort of in the same category). The question is, can you identify where the above picture was taken? Put your guesses in the comments, and the one that comes closest will earn my everlasting admiration.

Classic Power Pop

I'm experiencing a bit of blog-writers block tonight, so I'll just fall back to posting a couple of videos. First up: possibly the greatest power pop song of all-time, courtesy of the Flamin' Groovies, who really should be better known (well, I'm doing my part):

Tuesday's Quotation

Walter Savage Landor (1775-1864) was an English writer and poet. Here's something he wrote in Imaginary Conversations from 1824:

"If there were no falsehoods in the world,
there would be no doubt; if there were no
doubt, there would be no inquiry; if no inquiry,
no wisdom, no knowledge, no genius."

Monday, August 24, 2009

I Love a Mystery

I was searching the internet for stuff about the classic radio serial I Love a Mystery, written by Carlton E. Morse and featuring the adventures of Jack Packard, Doc Long and Reggie York (hands down, my favorite old time radio drama). One of the items that popped up, however, was this scene from a Deanna Durbin movie called Something in the Wind featuring the great Donald O'Connor. It seems to have been partly inspired by the radio program, but in this instance, it's definitely O'Connor's show. Hope you like it:

The Last Movie I Saw

Some comments on the new Quentin Tarantino movie Inglourious Basterds (sic):

1. Brad Pitt is really funny in this film, in a performance that could seem rather oafish based on any single scene. But the amazing consistency in both the physical and verbal means used to convey his character's actual character-- a kind of cocky but folksy self-righteousness-- in a variety of encounters is truly a tour de force. It'll never garner any award consideration, because comic roles rarely do, but after last year's Curious Case of Benjamin Button and Burn After Reading, I don't know if there's anyone aside from Sean Penn who has displayed this kind of range among current actors.

2. I'm not a fan of horror films, so maybe this next statement results from a personal blind-spot, but Tarantino must be one of the most gruesome filmmakers working today. The blood quotient in this movie isn't all that high-- there's a great deal more time spent building tension through dialogue than actual gory violence. But when it comes, it often seems over the top (not unlike in all of his previous films, with the possible exception of Jackie Brown), though in hindsight, none of it appears to be gratutitous (also, as in his previous work). A basic premise of this film, with which I agree, is that Nazis were scum. When they get their just desserts, it's hard not to say its perfectly justified.

3. There's a cottage industry within the historical profession of creating "What if?" scenarios in relation to real events. When they engage in such speculation, a serious historian will try to construct a counter-narrative that is at least reasonably consistent with certain true-to-life factors so that the outcome is a reasonable conjecture of alternative reality. Tarantino is no historian, and so likely felt no compunction to play by those kinds of rules. His alternative history of World War II is pure fantasy, yet speaks to a deep-seated desire to retroactively exact a more severe punishment on Hitler and his followers than the actual victory represented-- and providing a valid history lesson to a current generation long separated from that particular conflict. The terms "Nazi" and "fascist" are thrown around so easily in contemporary political discourse that those terms have become lazy synonyms for something bad or dangerous, without necessarily acknowledging the utter evil of real Naziism. In a way, Inglourous Basterds makes a stab at re-establishing just how sinister those particular villains were, and in so doing distances them from the more pedestrian (and frankly idiotic) accusations made about, say, advocates for health care reform. I don't know if the movie will make a difference in how those terms are tossed around, but it's hard not to see it as at least something of a response to the devaluation of such labels in recent years.

4. Tarantino has regularly demonstrated that he is a master at constructing musical soundtracks for his films, and he's definitely on his game here. It's a sign of how deeply immersed he is in getting all the elements to click, which is probably why he has never made a bad (or even mediocre) film. Well, maybe his segment in Four Rooms, but I'm thinking I need to watch that again, because now I suspect I missed something the first (and last) time I saw it.

Quote for the First Day of School

I know most schools are still a week or two from beginning classes, but not my University, where the Fall semester began today. In keeping with that occasion, a quotation from the eminent twentieth century educator Jean Piaget seems appropriate:

"The principal goal of education is to create
men who are capable of doing new things,
not simply repeating what other
generations have done."

Sunday, August 23, 2009

The Great Ernest Tubb

Here's one of the best country singers of all time, singing one his greatest hits (the visuals are kind of crummy, but just listen). Why doesn't country music ever sound like this anymore?

Sunday Funnies

When I was a kid, I always enjoyed reading Moon Mullins in the comics section, though it was Moon' little brother Kayo who was the star of the strip to my young eyes.

The setting of the strip was a boarding house run by the Plushbottoms, who had pretensions of being higher class than their tenants (he was in fact Lord Plushbottom).

Moon himself was kind of a shady character-- he hung around a pool hall and was always looking for some angle to play.

The style of the strip, created by Frank Willard, and inherited by Ferd Johnson by the time I was reading regularly, was kind of gritty and much less "arty" than some of the other classic strips I've written about here. But that fit the setting, a kind of working class urban setting (which for some reason I always associated with Chicago, though I don't know if that's literally where it took place).

I couldn't find an episode with the reprobate Uncle Willie, but above is one with his wife Mamie, who worked for landlady Emmy Plushbottom and took care of Kayo. I can't think of any current strip that is anything like Moon Mullins, which I guess speaks to how hard it is to replicate a classic.

Saturday Evening's Sky

The sky over Dillon last night was pretty cool, as an array of colors burst out as the sun went down and clouds swept along the Beaverhead Valley. These shots are, respectively, looking to the East and the Southwest.

Sunday's Thought for the Day

I completely understand and empathize with this quote from the great Scottish novelist Robert Louis Stevenson. Unfortunately with school starting tomorrow, my opportunities to live up to this ideal will be significantly reduced for the next few months:

"For my part, I travel not to go anywhere,
but to go. I travel for travel's sake.
The great affair is to move."

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Saturday Morning Cartoon

Maybe you are familiar with the Peter Sellers, or more recent Steve Martin, Pink Panther movies (of course, they didn't actually play panthers). But do you remember when the Pink Panther who appeared in the credit sequences of those movies had his own cartoon series? Whether you do or not, here's an episode from about 1968 (which must be about the time I first saw this):

Soup Diary 090822

I was in Bozeman this afternoon and ended up having lunch at a place called the Soup Shack, which I'd never been to before. The menu advertised four regular soups and up to seven daily specials, so how could I go wrong? Well, it turns out they exaggerated, and they only had three of the regulars available, and one was clam chowder (which is an automatic skip for me), so it was between Grandma's Chicken and Roasted Tomato Basil. As you can tell from the above photo, I went with the latter. It was pretty good, obviously homemade, but a little bland, and I couldn't help but be disappointed that there weren't a couple more interesting options. I guess I shouldn't complain-- the BLT I had with the soup was really good. Maybe next time (and I do anticipate going back) I'll get lucky and find something really exciting on the menu. I'll keep you posted.

Quote of the Day

School starts for me on Monday, so I'm in the process of psyching myself up for the new year. The words of Joseph Addison (British man of letters, 1672-1719) help quite a bit in achieving that goal:

"Education is a companion no misfortune can
depress, no crime can destroy, no enemy can
alienate, no despotism can enslave. At home
a friend, abroad an introduction, in solitude a
solace, and in society an ornament. It chastens
vice, it guides virtue, it gives at once grace and
government to genius. Without it, what is man?
A splendid slave, a reasoning savage."

Friday, August 21, 2009

A Classic Film

Here's an early scene from the Bill Forsyth classic Local Hero. I'm posting it in the hopes it will inspire you to go out and watch the whole movie. You get a good sense of the tone, humor, and setting from this clip, and believe me, it just keeps getting better from this point forward. The two characters here, Mac (the American) and Danny (the Scot), work for a giant oil conglomerate and are heading to a remote seaside village to buy the place to build a refinery. Things don't quite unfold as you might expect...

Friday Family Blogging Quiz

I inherited my love of cameras and taking pictures from my Dad, seen above with an ancient (well it seems so now) video camera on his shoulder. He's obviously taking pictures of the scenery, but the question is, where exactly was he shooting this footage? Put your guesses in the comments section.

Last week, the question was what all the people surrounding Thomas were doing in the posted photo. There was only one response, but I guess everyone else realized that Mom nailed it: they were watching a baseball game (the Tacoma Rainiers vs. the Iowa Cubs to be exact in last Friday's game). I mentioned in an earlier post that I attended the game with Richard and Gerik, but failed to mention that Thomas was there with Catie as well. That omission obviously didn't fool Mom.

More Friday Family Blogging

In the interests of equal time, here are some shots of Joseph's siblings, starting with Thomas (you saw him playing the piano in a previous post-- here, playing a different keyboard):

Next up is Sara, who usually ducks when I pull the camera out, but for some reason actually gave me a smile this time:

And here's one more of recent birthday girl Maria, showing that Joseph is not the only Banning wwith gymnastic tendencies:

Friday Family Blogging

Here's a couple of shots of Joseph Abraham showing off his gymnastic moves during my visit last week. I believe he called the above move "the crab."

It wouldn't surprise me in the least if Joseph eventually becomes an Olympic grade athlete, as he's been getting loads of practice since he was yea high (imagine me holding my hand flat a couple inches above the ground).

Friday's Quote of the Day

Here's a good example of "what goes around comes around," courtesy of the master styoryteller Edgar Allan Poe. These words were written in the 1840's but echo a sentiment heard quite commonly today in relation to the internet:

"The enormous multiplication of books in every
branch of knowledge is one of the greatest evils
of this age, since it presents one of the most serious
obstacles to the acquisition of correct information
by throwing in the reader's way piles of lumber
in which he must painfully grope for the scraps
of useful matter, peradventure interspersed."

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Cool Song

Sally really liked the last video I posted from Norah Jones, so here's another. This time it's a song she composed (and probably my favorite of her work) called "Nightingale." I hope you like it too:

Separated at Birth?

Last night I watched a pretty mediocre movie on DVD, Woody Allen's Vicky Christina Barcelona. I felt a little obligated to watch it because I made some disparaging comments about Allen's recent output in a previous post, and remembered that this movie was somewhat well-reviewed when it came out a year or so ago. It did have some good performances in it, and actors I generally like; and it was set in Barcelona, with the location well-used as a backdrop for the story. These elements didn't add up to much, however, and I spent much of the film trying to think of whom Javier Bardem (the male lead) reminded me. Finally, it dawned on me that he was a Spanish dead ringer for Robert Downey Jr. Both are extremely gifted actors, and though Bardem projects a bit more physical presence (that is, he's bigger), they really do resemble each other to an incredible degree. Here are two photos (among the first to pop up for each on a Google image search)-- do you see what I mean?

Javier Bardem

Robert Downey Jr.

On a quick glance, could you definitely say these were two different individuals?

A Favorite Painting 41

John Marin, Lower Manhattan 1922

For two years back in the early eighties, I walked past the Woolworth Building on Broadway in downtown Manhattan every workday, and rarely failed to be impressed. John Marin's painting is composed as a view looking down from the Woolworth Building, and captures the dynamic energy of the neighborhood, which probably changed little in the sixty years between (even if much of the detail of the physical geography evolved). The beauty of modern art is often found in the explicit action of the image, even where the details of realistic representation are cloudy or virtually non-existent. The genius of Marin's work is that it isn't hard, given just the clue of a title, to see exactly what he intended to depict, which is certainly true here (though perhaps subject to the viewer's familiarity with that milieu). The vitality of lower Manhattan (where one would find Wall Street, the Brooklyn Bridge, Park Row and City Hall) is abundantly clear in this painting; and even if you don't know the place, I'd imagine it hard to miss the vibrant character of Marin's subject, as displayed in this painting.

Soup Diary 090820

This is the first time in this series where I will address some soup that I actually made myself. A couple days ago, I cooked up a big pot of chicken noodle. I'm starting easy here, and will eventually work up to something more exotic. It would be immodest for me to praise my own efforts, but I will say that it came out totally edible, and I'm even looking forward to eating the concoction several times over the rest of the week (I made a really big pot). The key to my success, such as it is (and not evident in the photo above, which I found on-line), is that I added red and green sweet peppers to the mix, as well as some crushed garlic (but not too much-- I get tired of overly garlicky food). Since I only had to satisfy myself with this batch, I have to rank it a complete success. We'll see if, once I get a bit more ambitious, I can uphold that standard.