Monday, November 30, 2009
Sunday, November 29, 2009
The Swiss go to the polls today to vote on a referendum designed to halt the construction of Islamic minarets--the architectural towers, familiar in Muslim countries--which symbolize Islamic religious presence and are used to broadcast the "call to prayer"--the lyrical wail which is heard through the Islamic world each day.
Thursday, November 26, 2009
One such composer was Igor Stravinsky [1882-1971]. Stravinsky, a native of Russia, abandoned the study of law to pursue private musical studies with Rimsky-Korsakov (the composer of Scheherazade, among other works, and often cited as the master of orchestration of his era). The great ballet impresario Sergei Diaghilev, attended the premier of one of Stravinsky's early pieces in St. Petersburg, and hired him to compose a full-length ballet for his company, The Firebird . Firebird is, in most respects, a very efficient and clear expression of late romantic evocation, moody and impressionistic. It remains a concert hall favorite, in its various "suites" incarnations (revised, by the composer, with different instrumentation, over the ensuing decades), 100 years later, because of its delicate and exotic flavor. Influences upon it might include Mahler, Chabrier, Rimsky, and, most obviously, Tchaikovsky. It's very pretty, but didn't really break any of the musical rules or modes of its time.
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
Thursday, November 19, 2009
Fats Waller (born Thomas Wright Waller in 1904) was precocious, musically, and began to play both the piano and the organ at an early age. Despite living only to the age of 39, he produced a wealth of jazz recordings and compositions, many of which are considered classics. Fats came of age right at threshold of the 1920's, and was thus positioned historically to participate in the flowering of the first great two decades of the Jazz Era.
There's a charming anecdote about Larkin and Amis from the old days. After they'd both achieved some recognition, both as writers of verse and fiction, these two long-time friends enjoyed getting together, drinking, and making up scatological limericks. What good limericks aren't dirty, you ask? The question I'm inquiring about is the effect friendship has on creativity, and the consequences of confusing friendship with other qualities (or values), such as inspiration, or importance, or opportunity.
Sunday, November 15, 2009
The success of the Hannibal Lector series of films is reminiscent of the hoary old days of The Phantom of the Opera , The Hunchback of Notre Dame [1939, 1996], and Elephant Man . The public fascination with a demonic perpetrator, bizarre obsession (including sadomasochism and torture), and lurid physical deformity, are all combined in this nifty franchise of films, each so far based on the novels of Thomas Harris [Red Dragon (1981), The Silence of the Lambs (1988), Hannibal (1999), and Hannibal Rising (2006)].
George Tice [1938-] occupies a position, historically, that follows closely the Second Generation of photographers in a sequence that begins roughly with the F64 Group (which included Edward Weston, Ansel Adams, Imogen Cunningham, Alma Levenson, Brett Weston, and a half dozen others), Dorothea Lange and Paul Strand, in the early Thirties, followed by a second wave that included Morley Baer, Brett Weston (again), Don Worth, Wright Morris, Paul Caponigro, Wynn Bullock, and Harry Callahan, among others). There is naturally some overlap--you could make a case that the first generation came to maturity before World War II, the second group after. A third generation, born in the late 1930's, or early '40's, would undoubtedly include George Tice.
Friday, November 13, 2009
The 49ers latest win against the hapless Chicago Bears raises more questions than it answers. I expected the 49ers to win, given that the Bears have a very weak defense, and the 49ers have what appears to be (despite the Atlanta debacle) one of the best defenses in the league, strong against the run, and very good against the pass.
Thursday, November 12, 2009
Anejo tequila is the aged version of tequila, put down in oak barrels in much the same way that other spirits and wines are the world over. Don Julio Gonzales, a major Mexican tequila producer, has been making cactus spirits since 1942. He named this Anejo (meaning "aged tequila" [at least 1 but no more than 3 years in the barrel]) "1942" to designate its uniqueness.
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
In my sojourns around the country hunting for collectible books to trade, I recently happened upon a copy of the poet Lewis Turco's first book, First Poems [Francestown, New Hampshire, The Golden Quill Press, Publishers, 1960]. I knew Turco's name well, having encountered his poems in countless periodicals over the years. He seemed to be the darling of poetry journals, such that it may have seemed that Turco had mastered the metier of the ideal magazine poem. Not the perfect New Yorker poem, or the perfect Paris Review poem, perhaps, but the poem of the academic quarterlies, which once constituted the platform of acceptance in a system of trial and initiation.