I was slow to return to the blogosphere after my recent trip to the hospital, but I’ve been accumulating links ever since then and want to share a few of them with you.
– Ms. Pullquote taught Chinatown to her film class the other day:
A show of hands today revealed that only two people in a group of 64 had seen the movie before, so these were virgin eyes. (Oh, to be able to watch this film again for the first time.) And, boy, did some of them have a problem with the ending. One kid even came up afterward to ask if he’d missed something. I had to say no, the bad guys triumphed. Sorry. Today I tried to give them a little context–the Holocaust, and Manson, and Vietnam, and Watergate–but some still felt cheated of their happy ending. They have a lot more disappointment to look forward to….
– Cathy Siepp, who is battling cancer, discovered Ernie Pyle’s wartime journalism not long ago and found it strangely comforting:
Healthy people never really think they’re actually going to die; they have a nagging suspicion that somehow an exception will be made in their case. Then when you get very sick, you have the equally delusional thought that somehow you’re the only person in the world who has to die before your time. Reading “Brave Men” cheered me up enormously, because it brought me back to reality, reading about all these brave men, mostly very young, who died in battle. (The message I got: See? You’re hardly the only one, not at all.) It reminded me of when an old friend of my dad’s came to visit from Winnipeg a couple of years ago, still quite rattled from her turbulent flight. She kept herself calm en route thinking of all the people in her life who’d died already. “If they can do it,” she pointed out briskly, “so can I!”
– Mr. House of Mirth shares two of my other preoccupations, both more benign:
The holiday blahs rolled in right on schedule, during the third week in December, and hung on until well after the ball dropped on New Year’s Eve. Sometimes there’s nothing to be done. I took solace from rereading one of my favorite novels, J.F. Powers’s Wheat That Springeth Green, with its pragmatic credo: “As for feeling thwarted and useless,” muses the priestly protagonist, “he knew what it meant. It meant that he was in touch with reality.”
Another solace: hitting the repeat button on the iPod in my coat pocket so I could keep listening to Louis Armstrong’s 1933 version of “I Gotta Right to Sing the Blues.” At the time I wasn’t struck by the thematic consistency (he’s complaining, I’m complaining). I simply got hooked on this gem from Armstrong’s big band phase in the early Thirties, which used to be the subject of endless bitching from his fans. Sure, the guys in Zilner Randolph’s orchestra couldn’t hold a candle to the rough-and-tumble rapport Armstrong elicited from the Hot Fives and Sevens. Still, you’d have to be deaf to miss the delights of this recording….
To listen to “I Gotta Right to Sing the Blues” in streaming audio right this second, go here, scroll down, and click on the link. (Incidentally, I wrote about Wheat That Springeth Green in the Teachout Reader.)
– Mr. Jerry Jazz Musician asked a bunch of varied luminaries this question: “What musical recording(s) changed your life?” Here’s my favorite response:
When I was eleven years old, the only music that had reached me deeply, viscerally, at that point, was the often improvised singing by the cantors–the “chazzans,” as they were called–in the Orthodox Jewish synagogue. When I was eleven, I remember walking down one of the main streets of Boston. In those days the record stores had public address systems, and suddenly, out of one of those public address systems, I heard the music that made me shout in pleasure, and Boston boys do not shout in the street–not back then. I rushed back into the store, the name of which I still remember, Krey’s Music Shop, and I asked the clerk what the music was. He told me it was Artie Shaw’s “Nightmare.”…
Guess who said it?
Listening to “Observatory,” the wonder is no wonder: Simultaneously light and airy but full-bodied, her voice is rich and dextrous, and she plays with melodies, harmonies, arrangements and nuances of intonation in ways that reinvent standards such as “Night and Day” and “Autumn in New York.”
She recorded the tracks for the album in New York before moving to Sacramento, with a trio that features guitarist Ben Monder, who animates her version of the standard “In a Mellotone” with a ripping solo that might thrill Miles Davis….
If you don’t have Dollison’s debut CD, Observatory, get it.
– Mr. Zayamsbury thinks the way I do:
It’s late. I’m tired. And I’m trying to remember this thing Harlan Ellison said once.
“Every writer’s success is your success.”
I’m a strong advocate for competition in the arts. Lovey-dovey whatever drives me insane. The notion that for some reason everyone’s born with the divine right to be a brilliant artist, that all it takes is someone someday just recognizing that you are a special and unique snowflake makes me a bit ill. “Everyone has a novel inside them.” Bah.
At the same time, when the day is done, when I read something or see something that’s amazing, when the artist just knocks it out of the park, I want to go buy them a drink, give them a hug, and let them talk all night long about how cool it is to complete something that cracks a hole in the world….
– Ms. Pretty Dumb Things is also on my wavelength:
I am a rocker. I can’t say that the mod aesthetic doesn’t appeal to me with its futuristic clean lines and plastic sheen, but at my entropic heart sullenly slumps the bourbon-soaked hirsute tatters of a rocker, and I cherish its bird-flipping defiance.
Which is why I find the fact that the Rolling Stones were chosen as this year’s Superbowl family-safe act disturbing….
– Eye Level, the new (and excellent) blog of the Smithsonian American Art Museum, offers this trenchant criticism of a lukewarm comment about artblogs by an art dealer:
The qualifier gives it away: “seriously authored by qualified people,” a sentiment totally contrary to the esprit de corps of the blogosphere. What’s in fact great about most blogs is that they are nonseriously authored by nonqualified people. By the best count I’ve read, there are around 400