Friday, August 31, 2012

Cool Song

A nice cover of the Beatles' "Norwegian Wood" by the band Cornershop.  Enjoy:

Yet More Friday Family Blogging

This is not a picture I took, and I'm hoping someone can tell me where it was taken.  Aunt Clare and Gramma on a bench in a park by a merry-go-round somewhere in the Seattle area-- could it be in the complex around the Space Needle?

More Friday Family Blogging

Like many shots I have of Emma, I find her expression here somewhat difficult to read-- it's like she's in on some amazing secret that I can't even imagine. 

Friday Family Blogging

Raechelle at hyper-speed on the night of the Tall Ship down at the Canalside Harbor in Buffalo.

Friday Philosophy

Something to think about from the great psychologist/philosopher William James (1842-1910):

"All the higher, more penetrating ideals are 
revolutionary. They present themselves far less 
in the guise of effects of past experience than in 
that of probable causes of future experience."

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Cool Song

Wow Todd Snider looks really young (and clean cut) in this clip.  I believe this was the song that kinda put him on the map way back when...

Toonerville Thursday

More funny doings from teh good folks of Toonerville.

A Thought for Thursday

Today's quote comes from the noted educator Maria Montessori (1870-1952):

"Discipline must come through liberty.... We do not consider an individual disciplined only when he has been rendered as artificially silent as a mute and as immovable as a paralytic. He is an individual annihilated, not disciplined."

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Great Music

As long as I'm thinking about Patti Smith (see previous post), here's a medley of "Horses" and "Hey Joe" performed by her group back in 1976:

The Last Book I Heard

I can't really explain why, but I am fascinated by accounts of New York City in the 1970s, especially if they focus on Greenwich Village and the arts world.  Maybe it's because I discovered the Village Voice in the seventies and was enamored with their coverage of the local scene.  In any case, I was looking forward to reading Patti Smith's memoir of that period, with an emphasis on her relationship with the artist Robert Mapplethorpe, since I first heard about the book a year or so ago. As it happens, when I went to the library to borrow it, they had the audio version, read by the author herself, so it became the soundtrack to my long drive back from Buffalo to Dillon, and I couldn't have had better accompaniment.  Hearing Smith's prose delivered in her distinctive New Jersey voice, conveying genuine emotion prompted by the memory of her experiences, was a big plus.  She describes her upbringing in New Jersey, family life and early work experience, but the book really starts to take off with her arrival in NYC in the late sixties, where she works a variety of minimum wage type jobs while trying to make her way as an artist and poet.  Mapplethorpe becomes her partner, and their relationship ultimately transcends that of friends or lovers, with each fueling the other's creative impulses even as they move in different directions, she towards music and he towards photography.  It's quite a sweet story, told without irony despite the impoverished seediness against which much of it it unfolds.  Along the way, there are encounters with the likes of Andy Warhol, Janis Joplin, and Harry Smith (compiler of the seminal Anthology of American Folk Music), not because they add celebrity color to the tale, but because each played a role in shaping the trajectory of Smith's and Mapplethorpe's careers.  Patti Smith's prose is every bit as impassioned and engaging as her music, but even if you're not already a fan, there's a good chance this book (especially the audio version) will win you over with its style, grace, and compelling story.       

A Tuesday Thought

From George Villiers, First Duke of Buckingham (1592-1628):

"Men's fame is like their hair, which 
grows after they are dead, and with 
just as little use to them."

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Jazz for a Sunday Evening

A classic number from the great trumpeter Lee Morgan and his band featuring Joe Henderson on sax, Bob Cranshaw on bass, Barry Harris on piano, and Billy Higgins on drums:

The Pennsic Wars

Here are a few of the pictures I took at the Pennsic Wars, the annual SCA gathering in western Pennsylvania.  Above is a skirmish during one of the daily battles.

A portion of one of the competing armies entering the field of battle. 

There were also one-on-one contests, like the one seen above.

This guy didn't seem to happy as he left the field.

Of course, it wasn't all fighting at the Wars.  You could find various forms of entertainment around the camp, as well as numerous merchants peddling a variety of wares. 

Quote of the Day

Interesting observation from the famous novelist Theodore Dreiser (1871-1945):

"The most futile thing in this world is any 
attempt, perhaps, at exact definition of 
character. All individuals are a bundle of 
contradictions — none more so than 
the most capable."

Friday, August 24, 2012

Cool Song

This  is one of the most notorious of copycat records from the sixties: Mouse & the Traps channeling their inner Bob Dylan with "Public Execution."  This could have easily been mistaken for Dylan's followup to "Positively Fourth Street:"

Yet More Friday Family Blogging

So do think Sara is being shy or coy in this shot?  She usually hides when I pull out my camera, so I feel pretty good about getting such a good shot of her.

The Last Movie I Saw

One of my few regrets of this past summer is that I didn't get to go see The Bourne Legacy with Natalie, Ben and Tom on my last night in Buffalo (mainly because I hadn't packed yet).  It is exactly the kind of movie that is enhanced by seeing it with a bunch of people, so that afterwards you can ooh and aah with each other over the shared thrills of the non-stop action.  But even going to see it by myself, I had a good time.  Like the earlier entries in the series, it's action packed and bounces around the globe with great set pieces against exotic (and some not so exotic) backgrounds.  It doesn't really advance the theme of government duplicity that was the point of the previous three films; in fact the genuinely sympathetic performance by newcomer Edward Norton (as a national security bigwig) almost makes all the previous revelations about rogue CIA extremism seem both necessary and justifiable-- almost.  But the real appeal of the film to me, was the whole Rosencrantz and Guildenstern concept, wherein the events of this film, focusing on agent Aaron Cross, occur simultaneously with those of the third in the series, which focused on Jason Bourne-- mostly in different places, but with some overlapping cast.  No doubt a script by Tom Stoppard (let alone William Shakespeare) would have elevated this beyond mere action fare, but considering how dumb most such movies are these days, I'll take cleverness as a reasonable stand-in for genius.  Oh yeah, and Rachel Weisz proves once again to be the smartest and sexiest actress to occasionally dabble in the action-thriller genre.            

More Friday Family Blogging

Emma armed with a couple of water balloons, though it looks like she's already taken a couple of hits herself.

Friday Family Blogging

My nephew Joe looking pretty suave in this car window reflection.

Friday Philosophy

I'm not entirely sure if this is an optimistic or pessimistic observation by Johann Gottfried Herder (1744-1803), but it's worth thinking about:

"The nature of man remains ever the same: in the ten thousandth year of the World he will be born with passions, as he was born with passions in the two thousandth, and ran through his course of follies to a late, imperfect, useless wisdom."

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Good Song

These guys are at the top of my list of bands I'd like to see live: Darker My Love.  Here's a live clip from an appearance they made at Amoeba Records a few years back:

Toonerville Thursday

 Time to once again check in with the Skipper to see what he's been up to as he navigates the Trolley back and forth across Toonerville.

A Thought for Thursday

I could not agree more with this comment from the novelist Doris Lessing:

"With a library you are free, not confined by 
temporary political climates. It is the most 
democratic of institutions because no one — 
but no one at all — can tell you what to 
read and when and how."

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Cool Song

There must be thousands of versions of this song on record, but you'd be hard-pressed to find as soulful a version as this, featuring the dual saxophones of Coleman Hawkins and Sonny Rollins (sorry, I don't know who does the bass solo):

Soup Diary 120822

Diary entries have been absent for awhile here, not because I stopped eating soup, but because it's become virtually impossible for me to find a place serving something I haven't already written about.  Fables Cafe used to be good for at least one new variety a week, but this summer they seemed to have gone to about five or six tried-and-true choices in rotation.  They are mostly okay, but what's the point in writing about tomato basil for the third or fourth time?  Likewise, at Athena's, every time I stopped in over the past three months they were serving split pea.  I love their split pea soup, but how many times do you need to hear that?  So I was looking forward to getting back to Steve's in Helena, since I'd only been there a handful of times, and always on Saturdays.  It seemed a good bet that a mid-week visit might afford the opportunity to try something different.  Well, I was half right in that assumption.  The soup of the day yesterday was Potato Bacon.  I've been a little surprised to see how common potato soups have become over the past couple of years (it's one of the staples at Fables now too), mostly in the form of "loaded" baked potato soup.  Thankfully, Steve's avoided the temptation to go overboard.  It's not that I dislike the loaded soup, but I suspect a big part of what makes it taste so good is the copious amounts of cheese in the mix. Nothing against cheese, but it's supposed to be potato soup, so I'd like to taste the potato (this is a common problem with broccoli soups too, by the way).  So Steve's does it right-- no cheese, and really only a bit of bacon to enhance not overwhelm the creamy potato flavor.  I was looking for something a bit more exotic, but I really can't complain when something so straightforward is done so well.  It's starting to look like I'll have to start experimenting in my own kitchen if I want something truly out of the ordinary.  

Wednesday's Words

I like the distinction that poet Edgar Lee Masters (1868-1950) makes in this statement:

"Genius is a bend in the creek where bright water has gathered, and which mirrors the trees, the sky and the banks. It just does that because it is there and the scenery is there. Talent is a fine mirror with a silver frame, with the name of the owner engraved on the back."

Monday, August 20, 2012

Cool Song

Lee Renaldo, late of Sonic Youth, recently put out a really fine solo album, and it's quite good.  I shouldn't be surprised-- clearly he was an instrumental figure in shaping the sound of his old band (though not as well-known as comrades Thurston Moore and Kim Gordon).  Anyway, here's a cut off that solo effort:

The Last Movie I Watched

I finally caved to all the friends who said I needed to get Netflix, and signed up for the streaming version over the weekend. The first thing I watched was Luis Bunuel and Salvador Dali's surrealist classic Un Chien Andalou, because I wanted to see how the process worked, and that was only fifteen minutes long. Following that I spent a couple of hours going through their various menus and compiling a queue of about 200 or so titles, ranging from several documentaries on African-American history (which I'm teaching as of next week) to a bunch of obscure films noir to some classic foreign stuff from the fifties and sixties to... well, you get the idea.  I was slightly disappointed that some movies I've long dreamed of seeing were not available (Wim Wenders' early works, for example), but there were some in that category, including the first feature I watched: Bill Forsyth's Gregory's Two Girls, which came out almost fifteen years ago, but which I never saw playing in any theater nor in any video format I had access to.  But there it was on Netflix, so I jumped at the chance to finally see it.

Forsyth is a Scottish director who made some of my favorite movies of the eighties, including Local Hero which is probably one of my top three or four all-time favorite movies.  The only one of his films that I didn't think was very good was Being Human, which had snatches of Forsyth's signature charm, but ultimately was undermined (I think) by an all-too-common cloying Robin Williams performance (I remember thinking at the time that Williams' presence-- an uncommon big star in a Forsyth film-- may have led to greater studio interference than was evident in the director's earlier work).  Then, Forsyth seemed to vanish.  It's possible that Gregory's Two Girls (a sequel to his breakthrough film Gregory's Girl from 1980) was never even released in this country, and I only knew of it from a reference I stumbled across in the Internet Movie Database some years after it was made.  Needless to say, I was excited to finally get a chance to see it.

The movie does not attain the heights of Forsyth's best work, but it is a much better swan song (if it proves to be his last film-- he's done no others since this one) than Being Human.  As a sequel, I expected it to be a similar kind of offbeat romantic comedy like it's predecessor, but that's only a jumping off point.  All of Forsyth's films, to one degree or another revolve around an almost playful conflict between realism and fantasy.  Not the kind of fantasy one associates with unicorns or outer space or comic book super-heroics, but rather the kind that motivates almost all of us to imagine a life more simple, more enriching (however defined), or just better.  Gregory represented that in his first appearance, when as a gawky high school student he developed a severe crush on the female star of the school's soccer team, a girl well out of his league which all of his mates recognized long before he did.  In the later film, Gregory is now an only somewhat less gawky English teacher in the same high school, and has a crush on one his students (who also plays soccer), while he is pursued by one of his female colleagues.  But the real heart of the film (into which his romantic fantasies are integrated) revolves around his being compelled to act on the lessons he tries to instill in his students to question authority and actively resist the blandishments of an exploitive consumer, corporatist society.  It's a political dimension that Forsyth never really engaged before, and one can question if he successfully pulls it off here. For example, the "bad" guy in the story is really only bad in an abstract sense-- as a character interacting with others he seems mostly a pretty decent guy.  It's hard to know if that is a consequence of Forsyth's basic humanity or a pointed comment on how insidiously the "machine" operates to win us over.  But even acknowledging such shortcomings, this is an entertaining flick , especially if you're in tune with Forsyth's sensibility (I admit, not everyone is) and can appreciate the melancholy inevitability that even the most mild-mannered of fantasies can rarely be realized even when they seem to come true.           


A Monday Quote

Ludwig von Mises (1881-1973) was an Austrian economist and phiosopher.  Here's something he once said:

"As society is only possible if everyone, while living his own life, at the same time helps others to live; if every individual is simultaneously means and end; if each individual's well-being is simultaneously the condition necessary to the well-being of others, it is evident that the contrast between I and thou, means and end, automatically is overcome." 

Saturday, August 18, 2012

A Song for Maria

I know this is from a little before her time, but I think it fits my niece Maria pretty well.  I hope she likes it:

Happy Birthday Maria!

I know I'm a day late, but I can't let the occasion of my niece Maria's birthday pass without wishing her all the best.  I hope you had a great day yesterday, and from now on!

Saturday's Quote

Good to know that Ogden Nash's (1902-1971) work had a nicely thought out rationale behind it:

"Among other things I think humor is a shield, a weapon, a survival kit.... So here we are several billion of us, crowded into our global concentration camp for the duration. How are we to survive? Solemnity is not the answer, any more than witless and irresponsible frivolity is. I think our best chance lies in humor, which in this case means a wry acceptance of our predicament. We don't have to like it but we can at least recognize its ridiculous aspects, one of which is ourselves."

Friday, August 17, 2012

Great Song

Danny Neaverth and Joey Reynolds were legendary Buffalo disc jockeys, playing the hits at the mighty KB.  I guess they thought it looked easy to make a record, and went into the studio to concoct this little slice of musical heaven (or hell, as your tastes dictate):

Yet More Friday Family Blogging

This one goes back a few years. It's my brother Nick's high school graduation and Gramma and Uncle Dick were there to help celebrate.

Sioux Falls

I've driven through Sioux Falls South Dakota many times over the years, and even spent the night there a few times.  But until this past week, I never took the time to go and look and the Falls that give the place its name.

There's quite an impressive park through which the Big Sioux River flows with the falls and rock formations taking on the appearance of a kind of mini Grand Canyon, which can be easily traversed by foot.

The buildings on the left are the remnants of a mill that was built in the 19880s, and which went bust within a couple of decades-- never receiving enough grain to make the endeavor worthwhile.  But the ruins add a nice historical touch to the surroundings.

 Possibly the coolest feature of the place is that you can walk out onto the rocks and right up to the water over almost the entire stretch of the Falls. I saw a lot of kids hopping from one dry spot to another, but couldn't quite time one to catch them in flight.

One last shot, this one looking north from the Falls. The tower in the background is part of the park (though I didn't go up).  I'm glad I finally got a look at this spot, as hiking around and taking pictures made for a very pleasant evening.

More Friday Family Blogging

Helen's okay, she's just playing Ginger Rogers to her dad's Fred Astaire.

Friday Family Blogging

I wish all my portrait shots turned out as well as this one of Emma, taken last week at the Pennsic Wars.

Friday Philosophy

Today's line comes from the Nobel winning novelist V.S. Naipaul:

"One isn't born one's self. One is born 
with a mass of expectations, a mass of 
other people's ideas - and you have to 
work through it all."

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Cool Song

Here's another of the million or so artists out there who deserve more attention and popularity than they seem to have, namely Chris Mills.  Think about it-- is most of what you hear on contemporary pop radio really as good as this?

Toonerville Thursday

I guess like everyplace else, Toonerville has its share of folks who just can't get along.  But at least in this case it's kind of funny.

Visit to an Art Gallery

This past Monday I found myself at the Carnegie Visual and Performing Arts Center in Covington, Kentucky to visit the 20th Annual International Colored Pencil Exhibit.  The exhibit included a very nice piece of work by my talented sister Liz, which you can see behind me in the shot below. 

Liz's piece shared a wall with several other pictures with horses as the subject (and there were several others throughout the exhibit, which occupied six galleries spread over two floors of the Center).

I suspect the building was at one time a library, and it had an interesting central atrium, which you can see from these last two pictures.

If you find yourself in northern Kentucky before the end of the month, be sure to check out the show-- lots of good stuff on display (almost as good as Lizzie's!).

A Thought for Thursday

This comes from the pen of the poet George Sand (Amantine Lucile Aurore Dupin, 1804-1876):

"But if these people of the future are better 
than we are, they will, perhaps, look back at 
us with feelings of pity and tenderness for 
struggling souls who once divined a little 
of what the future would bring."

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Very Cool Video

This is Fairport Convention in one of their earliest-- if not the earliest-- incarnations.  Judy Dyble is the lead singer, who would later be replaced by Sandy Denny.  The song was something of a hit for Richard & Mimi Farina, but this version is pretty distinctive in its own right.

One More Saturday Family Picture

Helen at the Buffalo Zoo, earlier this summer. She was actually climbing a tree in this shot-- taking after some of the animals we saw on that visit.

More Saturday Family Blogging

This one could've been a quiz: who does Nik resemble in this picture?  I think he looks a little like Mr. Peabody's pet boy Sherman.

Saturday Family Blogging

It was quit hot this past week at the Pennsic Wars, but Emma had a parasol to help shade her from the sun.

Saturday's Quote

I fully agree with this quote from the noted freethinker Robert G. Ingersoll (1833-1899):

"Anger blows out the lamp of the mind. 
In the examination of a great and important 
question, everyone should be serene, 
slow-pulsed and calm."