Saturday, March 31, 2012

Classic Country

I know that Terry Allen isn't exactly one of the kingpins of Nashville, but to me this is a great country song from one of the incredibly numerous talents to emerge from Lubbock, Texas.  That's the equally great Lucinda Williams (not from Lubbock) on harmony vocals:

Saturday Morning Cartoon

This is good: a cartoon based on the classic James Thurber story "The Unicorn in the Garden." The cartoons produced by the UPA Studios have a wonderfully modernistic design, quite different from what was being done at Warner Brothers, MGM, and the other studios in that period (late forties/early fifties). I really love the look of this one:

A Quote for Saturday

A noble sentiment from the great athlete and humanitarian Arthur Ashe (1943-1993):

"I know I could never forgive myself if I elected to live 
without humane purpose, without trying to help the poor 
and unfortunate, without recognizing that perhaps the 
purest joy in life comes with trying to help others."

Friday, March 30, 2012

A Rockabilly Gem

I came across a reference to this obscure song while researching something else for a book I'm writing.  Much to my surprise, there was a clip on YouTube (can you find everything there?), so naturally I had to share.  It's a prime slice of fifties rockabilly, but with an oddly demented vocal style:

Yet More Friday Family Blogging

Sara and Maria about to be consumed by a great fish. This was taken at the aquarium at the Tacoma Zoo.

Soup Diary 120330

I visited Steve's Cafe in Helena last week and was not disappointed in the soup selection, though it was a variety I'd had before.  Their Chunky Creamy Tomato is quite a treat-- rich in flavor, and loaded with slightly crunchy chunks of red pepper and celery along with more tender pieces of tomato.  It actually tasted a bit like gazpacho, though with a warm, creamy broth.  As on my past few visits, the place was quite busy, and it's not just the soup that's pulling them in.  I also had a wonderful grilled chicken sandwich with bacon and avocado, which by itself would be a huge incentive for return visits (though I'm also curious to sample some of the other items on the menu as well).  I only get up to Helena four or five times a year; if I lived there, I'd probably be going to this place three or four times a week, it's that good.  My only regret is that I didn't find this place until last year, and I wonder how many great meals I missed out on before I did.       

More Friday Family Blogging

This picture was taken at the Anderson Gallery (just a few blocks from Sally's house) a couple of years ago. You can see Sally in the adjacent gallery through the arched doorway (in the direction Emma is headed). 

Friday Family Blogging

Better be careful, Big Broth... er.. Big Sister is watching you! I wonder what I did to prompt this look of amused suspicion from Helen.

Friday Philosophy

Something to keep in mind, courtesy of the American statesman John Quincy Adams (1767-1848):

"Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be 
our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our 
passions, they cannot alter the state of facts 
and evidence."

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Great Song (and Performance)

Dave Van Ronk was one of the driving forces in the great folk scare (his term) of the 1950s and 1960s.  He wrote a great memoir of that period called The Mayor of MacDougal Street, which I highly recommend.  Here he is talking about one of his main influences and performing a true folk standard:

Toonerville Thursday

Once again we turn our attention to the goings-on in Toonerville, where the hijinks never seem to end...

Thursday's Thought

Today we share some wisdom from the famed Jewish physician and scholar Moshe ben Maimon, often referred to as Maimonides (c1137-1204):

"At times the truth shines so brilliantly that we perceive it as clear as day. Our nature and habit then draw a veil over our perception, and we return to a darkness almost as dense as before. We are like those who, though beholding frequent flashes of lightning, still find themselves in the thickest darkness of the night."

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Cool Song

It's takes some guts to cover the King, but Dwight Yoakam does a great version of the Presley hit "Little Sister" in this video:

The Last Movie I Saw

While down in Southern California a couple of weeks ago, I had the chance to go and see another film presented by the American Cinematheque (at the Aero Theater in Santa Monica) with post-screening commentary from the film's maker.  Last year I saw Bertrand Tavernier present his The Princess of Montpensier; this time it was Terence Davies and The Long Day Closes.  Unlike the former, this was not a premiere-- in fact, The Long Day Closes was Davies first feature, first released back in 1992.  No matter: it was a real treat to see it on the big screen, made even more memorable by Davies' insights on its making afterwards.  The film is autobiographical, telling the story of Davies as a youth coming of age in mid-fifties Liverpool. The focus is on the immediate working class neighborhood where he entered his teen years, just after the death of his father.  While it is clear that the young Davies has deep affection for much of that period in his life, especially the relationship with his mother, siblings and neighbors, he nonetheless also regularly seeks escape from the hardships of adolescence (particularly in starting at a new school) at the movies, and in the popular music of the day.  The movie is beautifully composed and shot, like all of his films (he has a new one about to be released called The Deep Blue Sea, which I am really looking forward to seeing).  Davies is one of the most formalistic directors working today, with a visual style that is impressively consistent from film to film, even from shot to shot.  He allows the camera to linger on a scene in a way that intensifies the emotional connection and impact between the viewer and his actors.  I can't think of another current director who has that kind of trust in his audience to be so engaged with the visuals of his movies (as opposed to the usually phony energy created by flashy quick-cutting editing).  In answering a question afterwards, he explained that this came from remembering how he would stare at, for example, the pattern in a rug for long minutes as a youngster, something I can identify with-- just absorbing the detail of an endless, seemingly inconsequential, moment of time.  In this way, I kind of think of Davies as the most painterly of film directors, where the "kick" of his work comes more from these passages of relatively quiet visual contemplation than the more typically verbal elements of narrative storytelling.  It still adds up to a great story, but made all the richer by the depth of meaning I, as the viewer, attach to those quiet passages.  That may not work so well for everyone, but it's a quality that places Davies' work (like The Neon Bible and House of Mirth) very high on my list of favorite films.


Wednesday's Words

L. Frank Baum (1856-1919) was the author of The Wizard of Oz, so I think it's safe to say he knew a little something about the subject of this quote:

"Imagination has brought mankind through the dark ages to its present state of civilization. Imagination led Columbus to discover America. Imagination led Franklin to discover electricity. Imagination has given us the steam engine, the telephone, the talking-machine, and the automobile, for these things had to be dreamed of before they became realities."

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Great Song

For a year or so I used this song (actually a shorter version) as the regular closing number of my radio show.  I can't imagine why the Wild Seeds never became big stars, as this is one of many great tunes that they put out in their heyday back in the '80s.  Enjoy:

This Week's Top Five List

From last week's edition of Dr. John's Record Shelf, here is this week's Top Five List:

A Tuesday Thought

I really like this line from the British critic John Ruskin (1819-1900), which he wrote in reference to great painters:

"The greatest thing a human soul ever does in this world is to see something, and tell what it saw in a plain way. Hundreds of people can talk for one who can think, but thousands can think for one who can see. To see clearly is poetry, prophecy, and religion, — all in one."

Monday, March 26, 2012

Good Song

Jim James (leader of My Morning Jacket) kind of stole the soundtrack to the Bob Dylan movie I'm Not There with his rendition of "Goin' to Acapulco" (with Calexico). Now he's done the same thing on the Buddy Holly tribute album Rave On with this sweet cover of "True Love Ways."

More Pictures of the Huntington Library Grounds

You can probably tell how much I enjoyed wandering around the Huntington Library grounds-- this is my third post of pictures taken that day (and there may be more to come).  Above is a shot taken just inside the entrance area.  The red buds on these trees was very eye-catching (though I have no idea what they are).

This is the view looking north from the patio outside the Library itself.  Pasadena lies just beyond the trees in front of the mountains in the distance.  

This image seemed to lend itself to the black and white treatment-- with the sunbeam glowing down on the small little shrine (you can just make out the statue inside the columns, if you look closely).

 These colorful flowers I recognize-- they are cherry blossoms.  This tree was on the edge of the Japanese garden that I featured in an earlier post. 

This is the atrium outside the Gallery of American Art.  It's a really nice collection, more expansive, I thought, than their European collection (which seems geared way too much towards British painting for my taste).  This is one of my favorite places to visit in Southern California, and I hope to have the chance to visit again sometime. 

Quote of the Day

I fully agree with all parts of this statement from the poet Maya Angelou:

"Human beings are more alike than unalike, 
and what is true anywhere is true everywhere, 
yet I encourage travel to as many destinations 
as possible for the sake of education as well 
as pleasure."

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Good Song

I just started reading Donovan's autobiography, so naturally I was put in mind to post one of his songs.  This is one of my favorites (maybe I'll find out in the book what or who inspired it):

The Getty Center

One of my favorite places in Los Angeles is the Getty Center, a massive arts center in the hills west of the city.  It's an architectural wonder, which houses some incredible art and also affords some of the best views of the surrounding area.  Here are some photos I shot on my last visit.

The statue of the boy holding the frog is located on the steps leading up to the main entrance of the complex.  You actually park at the bottom of the hill, and take a tram up to the top, where this is one of the first things you see.

There are a number of balconies and terraces throughout the Center, as above.  They offer some spectacular views. I believe the cluster of buildings seen at the right center of this photo is Westwood Village (just behind the pillars would be the UCLA campus).

I have some traditional shots of the central plaza, but I like this one more, where you see some of the activity in the reflection of the windows of one of the galleries. In the foreground is a rock sculpture fountain.

 There are also lots of nice gardens around the Getty Center, as you can see hear.  A few days ago, I posted photos from the Getty Villa, which is an affiliated site, celebrating the classical arts. The Center is more devoted to modernism, and the design of the grounds as well as the buildings are the chief expression of that approach.

Looking north from the Getty Center, you can see the 405 Freeway going up towards Sepulveda Pass (that's Sepulveda Boulevard running alongside on the right).  Based on my experience (not all that extensive), that counts as very light traffic in LA, especially on that particular road (this was a Saturday morning).   

Sunday Funnies

This week, I feature another of the great New Yorker cartoonists-- Peter Arno, whose work appeared for decades in that magazine.  Here are a few examples of his work.

 "Well, if you ever need us again just give us a ring."

 "I'm afraid as a kid star he's through"

 "Now let me tell you about my troubles!"

"I hate to think of waking him. He didn't get in till all hours."

 "In the interests of science, Miss Mellish, I'm going to make a rather strange request of you."

A Quote for Sunday

This comment by Mark Twain (1835-1910) is undoubtedly true-- I wonder how many conditions can replace the premise here, so that the rest remains true? 

"The man who sets out to carry a cat by its tail 
learns something that will always be useful and 
which never will grow dim or doubtful."

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Cool Song

I always liked this song by Sebadoh, but I never realized there was an "official" video for it.  I wonder if this ever played on MTV?  Either way, here it is for your listening (and viewing) pleasure...

Riding the Wild Surf

 Actually, the surf wasn't all that wild the afternoon I  stopped to take these pictures at what I think was Topanga State Beach in Malibu.  Trying to capture the action of the waves and the surfers is a great photo exercise, and I think these turned out pretty good (with a little cropping and exposure adjustment).

I like the curl of the wave I captured in this one.  I don't know what the debris is out beyond the surf-- it might just be seaweed. If it's not, then you have to admire (or scratch your head over) the surfers going out into the garbage.

In addition to the guys with their boards, there was also a huge pelican swimming out from where I was shooting, but I couldn't get a shot that looked like anything other than an old log (mainly because he was between me and the sun, so every shot came out totally backlit). 

Saturday Morning Cartoon

I always liked Droopy Dog, with his deadpan delivery and Tex Avery's wild visual gags.  I was also a sucker for anything with a western theme when I was a youngster, so this cartoon was right up my alley:

Saturday's Quote

Today I share an insightful allegory from the renowned Irish politician Edmund Burke (1729-1797):

"Because half-a-dozen grasshoppers under a fern make the field ring with their importunate chink, whilst thousands of great cattle, reposed beneath the shadow of the British oak, chew the cud and are silent, pray do not imagine that those who make the noise are the only inhabitants of the field; that of course they are many in number; or that, after all, they are other than the little shrivelled, meagre, hopping, though loud and troublesome insects of the hour."

Friday, March 23, 2012

Cool Song

As far as I'm concerned, Nina Simone is at the top of the list of female vocalists. She's great on ballads, politically charged songs, covering classic rock or jazz... really anything.  Here's a bouncier number than she was typically known for, and she nails this one too...

Yet More Friday Family Blogging

I don't put up enough photos of Raechelle (mainly because I don't see her as often as my other nieces and nephews), but here's a nice shot from that same old memory card mentioned in the previous posts.  Looks like she was getting ready for Christmas.

Soup Diary 120323

I've fallen a bit behind on keeping everybody up-to-date on the soup I've been eating.  That's not because I'm eating less soup, just rarely having anything new or noteworthy.  On my recent road trip, I had soup every couple of days at least, but it was usually something I've commented on before, like the Chicken Tortilla Soup at Baja Fresh (which actually does seem to taste better the closer one is to Mexico), or something fairly nondescript, like the Split Pea at the Ellis Island Casino in Las Vegas (as part of the still phenomenal steak dinner special). Bean Soup seems to be coming back as a regular option, as it was the soup de jour at a couple places I stopped: Jan's in Beverly Hills and Izzy's Deli in Santa Monica (where I also had a Cobb Salad that came in a bowl bigger than my head). The picture above is of the Creamy Tomato Soup which is a March staple at the Souplantation and raved about in many places.  I've had that before too and wasn't impressed.  But it was awhile ago (the chain only exists in the Southwest, apparently), so I stopped in at the location in Phoenix to give it another try and I wasn't any more convinced of its greatness.  They actually have several varieties available (it's an all-you-can-eat soup and salad bar), so I also tried the Chicken Stew which was mediocre, and the Pinto Bean (there it is again) which was the best of the lot in my opinion.  Souplantation is a nice option because you can load up (I went the evening I visited the Mariners camp, and I hadn't eaten since very early that morning), but I wouldn't really recommend it for its soups, which all taste mass-produced. They advertise that they are made from scratch, and I believe that's probably true, but if you need to keep six or seven pots full for however many hours the place is open, it's got to be hard to give each batch a little individual attention. Oh well... this weekend I'll be in Helena, with the promise of something really good from Steve's Cafe.  Stay tuned...          

New Hal Crowther Column

As noted here a number of times in the past, I'm a fan of the cultural critic Hal Crowther, who has a new column out on the primaries.  If you'd like to take a look, you can find it here

More Friday Family Blogging

Here's another shot off that misplaced memory card, of Marenka and Gerik.  Again, I apologize if this is a repeat (I know I've seen it before!), but I like it too much to err on the side of caution.

Friday Family Blogging

It's possible I posted this one before-- Maria, Natalie, Ben, Thomas, Joseph, and Sara (and me in the reflection) at Virginia City-- but I just stumbled across it on a memory card, so maybe. It's one of my all-time favorites, so even if it was up here before, I don't mind showing it off again.

Friday Philosophy

Some good advice from the philosopher and educator John Dewey (1859-1952):

"Since changes are going on anyway, the great thing is to learn enough about them so that we will be able to lay hold of them and turn them in the direction of our desires. Conditions and events are neither to be fled from nor passively acquiesced in; they are to be utilized and directed."

Thursday, March 22, 2012

A Good Song

I should have posted this last week along with the photos I put up from my own trip to Arizona. Oh well, better late than never.  Mark Lindsay, some of you may recall, was the lead singer of Paul Revere & the Raiders-- this was his first solo hit:

Toonerville Thursday

I believe that Little Woo Woo is the youngest citizen of Toonerville that Fontaine Fox featured in his classic strip.  But she's just as colorful as her older compatriots, as you can see.

A Thought for Thursday

A little something to think about from the British poet and adventurer Lord Byron (George Gordon Noel, 1788-1824):

"It is singular how soon we lose the impression of what ceases to be constantly before us. A year impairs, a luster obliterates. There is little distinct left without an effort of memory, then indeed the lights are rekindled for a moment - but who can be sure that the imagination is not the torch-bearer?"

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Pretty Song

I don't know what all the clutter embedded in this video is about, but just ignore it and listen to one of the Byrds greatest songs (though not a hit for some reason) as well as one of the best compositions by Gene Clark (who also handles lead vocals here):

Statues at the Getty Villa

Another one of the spots I visited on my recent road trip was the Getty Villa in Malibu, California.  It's a replica of an estate in ancient Pompeii that sits on a bluff overlooking the pacific and houses a wonderful collection of ancient art, mostly from the Greeks and Romans.  I took the opportunity it provided to work on my portrait skills.  

I don't believe there was a name on the first statue seen above, but the woman is Athena, which is set up in an alcove near the entrance of the estate and visitors are encouraged to touch it to get a sense of the different textures employed by the sculptor in shaping the work.  Kind of rare for a museum, especially given the statue's age. 

It's unfortunate that this statue has not weathered the years so well, since it's quite striking.  It's one of a group celebrating the ancient muses of Greek culture.

 I can't remember now if this was a statue of Zeus or Hercules, but I'm reasonably sure it was the former.  There are so many statues on display, including multiple versions of the most famous figures, that it was difficult to keep them straight (plus I was more interested in seeing if I could take an interesting picture of them than memorizing their identities).

I believe this last sculpture was also unnamed, and was out in the garden (I'll post some pictures of the grounds in another day or so).  He looks frightened, which seems an odd expression in comparison to the other works I saw there. 

Wednesday's Words

Today I've selected a line from the Brazilian author Paulo Coelho to share:

"Dreams nourish the soul just as food nourishes 
the body. The pleasure of the search and of 
adventure feeds our dreams."