September 29, 2009

Where was I?


Lisa's b-day at Dogwood just down the street last Wednesday. Nice space, nice waitress (we loved the recommendations), and great food. ++ Would Go Again. The next night, since Lisa had plans for an LSU game in Starkville over the weekend, was a rescheduled ASO concert from Saturday. All the better since Thursday was the opening night for the season. Our photo on the red carpet taken from the ASO's Facebook profile:


Tchaikovsky continues to surprise me. A composer I used to dislike, maybe my Old Age is helping to reveal a character I hadn't heard before. Also, Garrick Ohlsson on the Rachmaninov 3rd; the orchestral writing is not much, but the piano work is an outstanding show piece. How many times have we seen Garrick Ohlsson now?

I was a bachelor for the weekend and enjoyed many a movie. Other than Days of Wine and Roses, watched the Danish flick Pusher (3/5) and some less notable anime. Evangelion 1.0 is playing at the Plaza this week, so I might try to see that.

posted by sstrader at 7:44 PM in Concerts , Where was I? | permalink

September 28, 2009

Days of Wine and Roses (4/5)

I haven't seen my generation's contribution to the cinema of alcoholism (e.g. Leaving Las Vegas) but have seen Trainspotting and Requiem for a Dream and would put Days of Wine and Roses in a similar class. One odd difference is that from the start of Days, we get more of a sense of grim, self-loathing from the leads. The manic beauty and potential in the primary characters of the two modern films were absent in Jack Lemmon and Lee Remick. In fact Jack Lemmon's outwardly directed self-hatred is revealed in the first few minutes. My memories of Trainspotting are not as fresh as those of Requiem, yet I found nothing in the early part of Lemmon and Remick's romance to match Jared Leto and Jennifer Connelly's beautiful and hopeful rooftop scene. Jack Lemmon's character was constantly complaining and any success in their careers or marriage was tainted by a subtle menace in the dialog. There were no Halcyon days.

Minor differences aside, the three films are similar in how much they feel like watching a slow motion train wreck. Without too heavy a hand, Blake Edwards paces the unique downfall of the two leads skillfully enough to merit the nearly two hours of screen time. Both actors were outstanding in their most shrill and exhausting scenes, yet it was the more quiet scenes that delivered: Lee Remick in a stupor, absently mumbling what seemed like a full page of uninterpretable dialog to her young daughter as she tucked her into bed.

I felt the scenes of Jack Lemmon in straight-jacket dementia were a little much, and I don't watch Mad Men yet oddly had it in my mind the entire movie. Definitely have some slapstick comedy at the ready to cheer you up afterwards. I don't think you'll want a drink.

posted by sstrader at 10:25 PM in Cinema | permalink

September 27, 2009

Tablet PC and music

My tablet PC has been the perfect addition to my sheet music library. Although it's not a replacement for a good urtext edition, it's allowed me to work on sight reading and get familiar with a wider range of composers. So far, I've read through the first few Mozart Sonatas, a set of J.C. Bach's Sonatas (recently purchased in a huge sale from Daedalus), and the first few sets of Mendelssohn's Lieder Ohne Worte.

A question recently on Slashdot asked for recommendations for good tablet PCs to use while teaching. First comment (that I saw) was for a Motion Computing LE1600. I'd seen these in my original research, but none were < $1000 bucks or so. Found one for $400 and it has a 12-inch screen (cf. my HP TC1100's 10-inch screen). The HP's size is acceptable but as small as you'd want to go if you're looking for you own sheet music browser. That LE1600 would be perfect and well worth the extra $100.

posted by sstrader at 8:47 PM in Home Network & Gadgets , Music | permalink

September 17, 2009

Art and grammar

I noticed something recently while writing music at the piano. The section I was working on contained two independent lines separated between the hands, but at one point the harmonies generated became noticeably thin and the two lines were no longer distinct. It was obvious that the problem was a few successive parallel octaves (parallel perfect intervals diminish the sense of separate voices) so I reworked the section to eliminate the error but keep the intended mood. I recognized the error because of how it sounded, and even understood how to fix it by reworking the melodies and listening, but understanding the process involved a working knowledge of the grammar of music.

The High was recently showing Monet's Waterlillies. Currently, they're showing works of Leonardo Da Vinci. For major shows, they will display a large-scale poster covering the front of their main building and facing Peachtree Street. The Monet was a section of a Waterlillies painting with an overall right-pointing triangular layout (c.f. the Classical design style that often uses the more stable hypotenuse-base triangle). The Da Vinci poster consists of a section of a terracotta relief sculpture that contains a reclining angel (clipped section below).


The figure suggests a syncopation of geometric shapes fitted elegantly and embellished with slight, Renaissance curves. You can immediately see the artist's thoughts as he blocked out the design.

Both instances show how an understanding of the grammar of the arts helps the viewer both to understand the mechanics of communication and to recognize the cause of flawed communication.

posted by sstrader at 11:10 PM in Art , Language & Literature , Music | permalink

September 10, 2009

Notes on Obama's speech to Congress on healthcare

The source material:

References on Joe Wilson's ass-hattery (i.e. yelling you lie when the President said that illegal immigrants will not be covered):

Another argument I've heard (that the bill will cover illegal immigrants) is that Democrats removed some of the wording that would help enforce that restriction. NPR reports that the wording was removed because it would have restricted the healthcare rights of citizens. No references yet on either of these points.

Finally, the picture of the day:

The look the Prez, VP and Speaker gave Joe Wilson on Twitpic
posted by sstrader at 5:54 PM in Politics | permalink

September 5, 2009

Started the holiday weekend with a jog

Was slack for the week, so this was a much-needed workout and I got to run past all of the traffic standing still on Peachtree.

Thursday night, we went to see In the Loop [ 4/5 | IMDB | Rotten Tomatoes ] at Landmark. Quick of wit and ultimately depressing for its bouncy, manic, nihilistic view of politics and the Iraq War. In other words: it's spot on (as the Brits would say). Many of the quips from the snappy dialog are only sinking in today. Afterwards was dinner at Apres Diem for the first time in a while. Sea bass special was only slightly over-buttered and the vegetables on the side had nicely under cooked baby carrots. A pleasant surprise.

Last night, I watched Il Grido (The Cry/Outcry) by Antonioni on The Auteurs [ IMDB | Rotten Tomatoes ]; the first Antonioni I've seen. The story is that of a man (Aldo) who'd been living with a married woman (Irma) for seven years while her husband worked out of country. In the first few scenes, Irma receives news of her husband's death and she realizes she no longer loves Aldo. He attempts to reconcile but eventually is shamed and leaves town with their young daughter. The bulk of the film depicts their travels on the road. He has many opportunities to start a new life with interested women, yet his melancholy and longing for Irma always pushes him back to wandering and eventually back to his home town in an attempt to rejoin with her. It's a meandering, episodic film and the b&w shots are neatly composed, adroitly framing the actors. The overarching theme of individual selfishness and alienation is presented in numerous variations: sexual interest, filial respect, parental love. In a backdrop to the final scenes of Aldo's return home, the citizens of his home town fight against being forced to live his lifestyle on the road, with the government threatening to raze the town in order to build an airstrip. One is always subject to the selfish power of another.

Today, the Blinky and Bettig prints get taken to The Rolling Frame Review. They did an excellent job framing our prints from VaHi Summerfest a year ago. Both prints are more beautiful in person than I remembered. Really very stunning.

posted by sstrader at 12:18 PM in Cinema , Where was I? | permalink

September 2, 2009

The Last Western by Thomas S. Klise

Recommended by Maria Bustillos on the Infinite Summer blog as a novel similar to Infinite Jest. In the blog comments, one of the author's daughters posted a reply. Reviews over at Amazon are few yet positive. Out of print, but found a copy at AbeBooks via BookFinder. Not sure what to expect.

posted by sstrader at 10:48 AM in Language & Literature | permalink