Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Evan Tucker's Pyramid of Greatness

Because if it's good enough for Ron Swanson, it's good enough for all of us.

Row 1:
Low Expectations: Always assume the worst from the world. Be delighted when results exceed expectations.
Row 2:
Israel: The only subject for which your opinion quantifies the brittleness of your soul.
Herring in Wine Sauce: The ultimate aphrodisiac. Consume a jar daily.
Row 3:
Showers: A bar of soap and baby shampoo will suffice. Anything more is bragging.
Music: The only thing in the world as beautiful as herring in wine sauce.
Self-Delusion: The importance of which cannot be overestimated.
Row 4:
Excellence: The most poisonous of all the world’s myths. Always act like it’s attainable.
Irony: Those who are not in on the joke are happier. Think less of them.
Seltzer Water: A healthier addiction than alcoholism.
Hypocrisy: Your ability to take glee in it determines your success in life.
Row 5:
Religion: Pretending there is a god staves off the suspicion of those who would kill you.
Dried Fruit: Should be a felony.
Money: Hoard it in case of your homeland becoming a dictatorship which necessitates bribery.
Bars: Only wood panelling acceptable. If the musak has beats, leave immediately.
Universities: The place where ignorant people learn new ways to be ignorant.
Row 6:
Scotch: Drink it.
Dessert: If you need dessert, you haven’t eaten enough main course.
Nature: A vestige of pre-rational man. Avoid when possible, conquer when necessary.
Great Novels: You have a moral obligation to read them. Skip all boring parts.
Ingredients: Use cheap store knockoffs. Then tell guests you bought it at a farmer’s market.
Women: Backstabbing connivers. Just like men except lacking men's need to glorify dishonesty.
Pastries: If you must eat them, eat three-to-six at a sitting.
Row 7:
Modernism: Nature’s way of determining who likes art.
Physical Fitness: Only partake in enough to avoid early death.
Coffeehouses: The only place worth having conversations which does not involve g-chat.
Coffee: Drink Tea.
White Bread and Mayo on Deli Should be charged as a warcrime.
Long Life: The only contest that matters. (S)He who tells the last story writes history’s verdict.
Stereotyping: Typecast people rigidly. Create new categories when proven wrong.
Row 8:
Suburbs: A place for people who fear life.
Life: There is good reason to fear it.
Sherman Helmsley: The greatest actor who ever lived. No argument.
Physique: Should be cultivated purely for utility, stamina and strength to weight ratio.
Family: The world’s worst institution, except every other.
Failure: Never respect someone who does not daily.
Ivy League Schools: Places for sociopaths to learn how to help us fail daily.
Smiling: It prolongs life. Yet another way we are coerced to think we’re happy.

Row 9:
People: They’re not impressive enough to be intimidating.
Attire: Wear long-sleeve clothing as often as the odor from sweat permits.
Semi-colons; A persecuted punctuation mark. Use whenever possible.
Kindness: Always be polite and solicitous to other people. Then savage them to other people.
Funerals: Just as much fun as weddings.
Newspapers: The only reliable source of information. Particularly when wrong.
Golden Ages: Overrated, always better than now.
Cyclists: Those who do not wear helmets deserve to be run over.
Culture: A word for something too boring to be entertainment.
Row 10:
Philosophy: If it wasn’t written in English, don’t read it.
Sports: Waste only enough time following it to fake knowledge.
Babies: Adorable poop machines.
Chamber Music: The only music worth playing.
Restaraunts: All the great ones have autographed pictures of celebrities.
Video Games: One day, they’re going to be awesome.
Salad: A great sandwich substitute. Stuff accordingly.
Civilization: The antithesis of fun.
Fun: The world only has a finite amount. You’re having it at a better person's expense.
Gratitude: The only logical way to thank people for the enjoyment they give you is to rejoice in their suffering.

Monday, May 30, 2011

When the Saints Go Marchin' In

Satchmo and Danny Kaye

Wanda Landowska

There has not been a Bach player in the recorded area, not even Glenn Gould, who played Bach with the daring or the nobility of Wanda Landowska. Gould's Bach was virtuosity personified (in the best sense), with all the elegance of a great mind studying a great mind. Landowska's Bach was Bach as perhaps he'd like to see himself. The 'harpsichord' on which she played Bach was as authentic a harpsichord as a Stratocaster is an authentic guitar for folk music. Her harpsichord was so rich with dynamics and overtones that it was often redolent of all Bach's favorite instruments: it resonated like an organ, it sang like a choir, it thundered like a baroque orchestra, and it danced like ...well....a harpsichord. But a great instrument alone (and there was no instrument more miraculous than Landowska's harpsichord) does not make for great Bach, it needs a player of incredible sensitivity and technique to capture all the nuances of which it's capable, and a player of enormous daring to even attempt something so orignal.

By today's standards, this sounds thrillingly old-fashioned. It's almost completely unlike any harpsichord Bach would have recognized. By the standards of her own day, Landowska's Bach was ferociously authentic. How many had ever thought it important to hear Bach's music on the instrument for which it was written. Landowska's Bach came upon music lovers with an explosive force of revelation that not even Glenn Gould could equal later. She was the keyboardist who opened the music-world to how incredibly vast Bach's music could be. Eighty years after her prime, there is still not a Bach player to equal her.

Just Because

The greatest slow movement ever written.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

The Hidden Power of Smiling

This sounds completely like pseudo-science. But I really hope it isn't.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Swanson Pyramid of Greatness

I think it's time to start watching Parks and Rec.
A fantastic read on Colonel Qaddafi's son and heir apparent: Saif.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011


Heading to Boston in the morning for a week in the more temperate environs of New England. Blogging will not cease, but shall become sparser.

Concert Minis #6 (Mahler Mini #2 from Leipzig)

Mahler: Symphony #3 - Staatskapelle Dresden dir. Esa Pekka Salonen

Go here for Mahler-Mini #1

This is a series of reviews of the relays from the Mahler Festival in Leipzig. Every concert of which you all can listen to here.

My interest in this concert was more for its novelty than its content. Imagine Cole Porter and Aphex Twin on the same stage and you'll have some idea of how weird this pairing looks on paper. The thought of the world's most traditional orchestra - the 450 year old Staatskapelle Dresden - teeming up with ultra-modernist conductor Esa-Pekka Salonen is more than a little strange. Both are truly great at what they do, yet the qualities they expound so excellently are at opposite ends of the musical spectrum. The result is, as expected, truly bizarre. Individual moments of beauty were surely there, many enough as to make it doubly disappointing every time the performers brought the beauty to a halt by some singular peculiarity that stuck out like an ear-worm.

Neither the orchestra nor the conductor has, in my experience, shown great understanding of Mahler. The performance felt as though there was an open war between two conceptions, neither of which works. For all his ear for color and form, Salonen does not exhibit much understanding of melody. Rather than let the music breath with flexibility, he would simply change tempo if he felt it required. The Staatskapelle responded to Salonen's ultra-physical podium style with an un-Mahlerian reserve one could readily see Salonen trying to shake off. Yet gone was the famed 'Old Gold' Dresden sound which they produce for so many other conductors, and in its place was a surprising technical sloppiness. This pairing was an easily foreseeable mistake. The highlight of the performance was, without a doubt, the 4th movement vocal solo by Finnish mezzo Lilli Paasikivi. Her gorgeous voice and consummate phrasing worked like a nucleus around which both conductor and orchestra could briefly unite before returning to the battlefield.

George Plimpton's Video Falconry

Please Please Please tell me this is real!

Concert Minis #5 (Mahler Minis from Leipzig)

This is a series of reviews of the relays from the Mahler Festival in Leipzig. Every concert of which you all can listen to here.

Mahler Symphony no. 2 - Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra dir. Riccardo Chailly

Go here for Mahler-Mini 2

For sheer craftsmanship, there is no conductor in the world more masterly than Riccardo Chailly. A Chailly performance emerges with perfectly calibrated dynamics, rhythms, and balances, and it does so only rarely at the expense of the music's energy and emotional content. The only thing missing in Chailly's makeup is a sense of exploration. A knowledgeable listener can guess exactly what a Chailly interpretation will sound like without having to hear it.

Back in 2002, I heard Chailly perform the Resurrection Symphony live in Washington DC with his old orchestra, the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra of Amsterdam. A few details aside, this was virtually the same virtuoso account I remember nine years ago, but with one major difference: While the Royal Concertgebouw has been the world's pre-eminent Mahler orchestra for the century since his death, their Mahler performances can also smack of a routine they know all too well. For over 200 years, the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra has been one of the great German orchestras. But excerpting Bruno Walter's brief pre-Nazi tenure, none of their directors until Riccardo Chailly were great Mahler champions. This performance had all the excitement of a new discovery. The Gewandhaus Orchestra tore into Mahler's apocalyptic passages with relish, and played the quiet passages with a truly rare level of expression. Ever the secure guide, Chailly elicited more nuance from the orchestra than most conductors can dream. For once, Mahler's sprawling (and occasionally dull) score emerged as something constructed with the rigor of Beethoven's symphonies. The combined forces of the Berlin Radio Chorus, the Leipzig Gewandhaus Choir and the Central German Radio Choir gave better choral work than perhaps I've ever heard in this piece. Soprano and Mezzo Christiane Oelze and Sarah Connelly, gave distinguished contributions, particularly Oelze, that couldn't help being obscured by the excellence of everything else.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Quote of the Day:

Le Malon: your dad insulted guinness on my facebook page.
we're fighting now

Netanyahu Deals With Hecklers the Right Way

I am no fan of Netanyahu's. But what he did here is fantastic - and it just so happens that he's right...on this issue. I think every Republican leader is currently wishing that Bibi would run for the Republican nomination for President.

The Poetry of Numbers

1 x 8 + 1 = 9
12 x 8 + 2 = 98
123 x 8 + 3 = 987
1234 x 8 + 4 = 9876
12345 x 8 + 5 = 98765
123456 x 8 + 6 = 987654
1234567 x 8 + 7 = 9876543
12345678 x 8 + 8 = 98765432
123456789 x 8 + 9 = 987654321
1 x 9 + 2 = 11
12 x 9 + 3 = 111
123 x 9 + 4 = 1111
1234 x 9 + 5 = 11111
12345 x 9 + 6 = 111111
123456 x 9 + 7 = 1111111
1234567 x 9 + 8 = 11111111
12345678 x 9 + 9 = 111111111
123456789 x 9 +10= 1111111111
9 x 9 + 7 = 88
98 x 9 + 6 = 888
987 x 9 + 5 = 8888
9876 x 9 + 4 = 88888
98765 x 9 + 3 = 888888
987654 x 9 + 2 = 8888888
9876543 x 9 + 1 = 88888888
98765432 x 9 + 0 = 888888888
1 x 1 = 1
11 x 11 = 121
111 x 111 = 12321
1111 x 1111 = 1234321
11111 x 11111 = 123454321
111111 x 111111 = 12345654321
1111111 x 1111111 = 1234567654321
11111111 x 11111111 = 123456787654321
111111111 x 111111111=12345678987654321
h/t PS

Justin Timberlake Plays Mozart Playing Himself

Monday, May 23, 2011

Quote of the Day

Ethan: They should refer to Jewish Guidos as 'Guidish.'

Movies Nobody Loves but Me (The Sequel)

See the far superior original here.

Babe: Pig in the City: Everybody knows and loves the first Babe the Pig, and far be it for me to feel anything but great love for a movie about every self-hating Jew’s favorite animal. But the far less known sequel is, perhaps, even better. If Babe the Pig is really a movie about life in the country and how different types of people cope with living (and it is,...really!), then Babe: Pig in the City is a movie no less about life itself, and deals with the obverse question of how people cope with city living. It seems ludicrous, and probably downright pretentious, to read all sorts of comments upon philosophy, politics and historical events into a movie about an anthropomorphic pig. But I put it to you that that is precisely what the Babe the Pig is. They are two of the greatest allegories ever made into movies. And they’re about my favorite animal!!!!

Frost/Nixon: It’s still recent enough to be remembered, but Frost/Nixon has ‘forgotten sleeper’ written all over it. Ron Howard, longtime purveyor of boring movies about interesting subjects, got his hands on a script that he could not dilute. Peter Morgan, more than Aaron Sorkin, is the best writer about politics in the movies (The Queen, The Last King of Scotland, The Special Relationship). He does not have Sorkin’s urge to romanticize everything he writes about, and he has few illusions about the kinds of people who lust for power. In Frost/Nixon he creates a far more compelling portrait of Richard Nixon than Oliver Stone’s larger-than-life attempt. Morgan’s approach to portraying Nixon is far more human, and therefore both far creepier and far more moving. The script is hilarious, the movie has an incredible feel for the 70’s, and you will remember the dialogue from whole scenes years later. The ‘phonecall’ scene should be remembered as one of the very greatest scenes in any movie.

United 93: It should be impossible for any work of art to recreate the circumstances of historical atrocities with any plausibility. I don’t doubt that there are people who feel that this movie is exploitative and completely unappreciative of the heroism of passengers who rebelled against their terrorist kidnappers, even if it meant near-certain death. But this movie is, very simply, a plausible re-enactment of what happened. It asks the question, what would we have done in their place? In place of a hagiography, it supplies us with the confusion, the fear, the claustrophobia and the bravery which these people must have felt in their situation. It is, simply, an enormous achievement.

Innocence: This is a beautiful movie about a subject no young person wants to think about - old love. It is about the rediscovery of forgotten passion, of joy in living, of the reclaiming of dignity and the invariable humiliations that accompany. It is one of the most moving films I’ve ever seen, and I doubt that any friend of mine has ever seen it.

I <3 Huckabees: It’s all too easy for people to rag on the art-school pretense of this movie. But how many art school students have a sense of humor? This movie was billed in the trailers as an ‘existential comedy.’ I still have no idea what that means, but it succeeds as a comedy full of sadness and anger - like Candide (or Cheers). The whole movie is paced at the fever pitch of a screwball comedy, and balances a huge ensemble cast in which every character is equally well developed. Few movies were more unfairly maligned.

Pleasantville: Another under-appreciated movie which I’m not sure is under-appreciated enough to belong here. Pleasantville is a movie that anticipates Mad Men in its ability to show why America’s mid-century Pastoral had to end. Pleasantville shows us that the past is something to which we cannot return no matter how much we wish, and the future is something unavoidable which we can either choose to meet with hope or fear. I don’t recall any movie which makes me feel more hope for the future than this one.

A Simple Plan: I’m fairly sure that this is a movie beloved by anyone who’s ever seen it, it’s just a shame that more people haven’t. This a rare foray by Sam Raimi (Spiderman, Evil Dead) into realism, and makes me sorry he never went again. The result is a Great American Myth, about small-town people who struggle to live well from day to day. One day they happen to come upon a few million dollars lost in the woods, and in their desperation for better lives, they perpetrate betrayal after betrayal against one another. I can recall very few movies that take us further into the darkness of human nature, and no movie with a more heartbreaking climax. Bill Paxton and Billy Bob Thornton are the kinds of actors movie stars should be, and would be if they had less vanity - taking us far further into the desperation of real people than Sean Penn ever does.

Eve’s Bayou: Roger Ebert listed this as his #1 movie of 1997. If he didn’t, nobody would have ever remembered it. It is one of the greatest movies ever made on the subject of family. Like The Night of the Hunter, a movie which clearly influenced Eve’s Bayou, it has the dream-like tone of an adult’s half-remembered childhood memories, with every event taking on a tall tale significance. It is a film about the medieval superstitions from which all our families originate, and still permeate our lives’ fabric in ways we never want to admit. It is both a drama about eroticism and the sternest of morality tales. It’s been ten years since I’ve seen it, yet few films stay as vivid in my memory the way this one still does.

Everyone Says I Love You: I am not a movie musical person. Not because I hate musicals, only because I don’t care for movies that tidy up human nature. The world is too interesting to always be an adorable place. But Woody Allen came up with a great solution to the problem of musicals, stage a musical sung by people who can’t sing. The result sounds far more personal, more like a soliloquy than a song. The songs they sing are uniformly excellent songs from the days of Tin Pan Alley and the Great American Songbook. And, of course, it also helps that the movie is really funny.

Autumn Sonata: One of the less-remembered Bergman films from the end of his career. It was touted in its time as the long-overdue collaboration between the two great Swedish Bergmans - Ingrid and Ingmar. Bergman’s earlier movies, while they had more humor than is generally supposed, were full of unrelentingly serious themes - with famous scenes of playing chess with the angel of death, dream sequences of watching one’s own funeral, and Pagans raping Christians. But beginning with Persona, a new Bergman began to show himself. The older Bergman was more interested in portraying human beings than in black-and-white allegory. This movie is nothing more or less than a scorching confrontation between mother and daughter (played by Bergman’s favorite actress, Liv Ullman). Bergman, whose mother was a theater director, learned as much about the awfulness of family dynamics from watching Strindberg and Ibsen as he did from his own family. His movies are never better than when they deal with questions of family, and few movies have ever portrayed the misunderstandings between family members better.

First Ever Mahler Review in Chicago

March 23, 1907

Ugly Symphony Is Well Played Thomas Orchestra Shows Director Mahler of Vienna Writes Bad Music - by Miller Ular

Gustav Mahler is director of the Vienna opera. He is unequaled as an opera director, and almost unsurpassed as an orchestra conductor. He is a man of remarkable personality and of profound musical learning. So it is but natural that he should compose. His principal compositions are symphonies—six of them. The fifth, known as “The Giant Symphony,” was performed yesterday by the Theodore Thomas orchestra under the baton of Frederick Stock. It is a work an hour and fifteen minutes in length, 1 and before it was done, fully half the audience had fled. And with good reason. For Mr. Mahler, to judge by this one symphony that has been heard in Chicago, writes absolutely the ugliest music ever written. Why the symphony should have been termed “The Giant” is hard to say. Because of its ugliness, it might have been named “The Octopus”; because of its length, “The Dachshund”; and because it is without form, and void, it might well be termed “Chaos.”

Mr. Mahler’s compositions have nothing to do with the true, the beautiful and the good, which are supposed to be subject matter of poetry and music. Rather he deals with the false, the ugly, and the meretricious. His technical knowledge of the orchestra is equaled only by Richard Strauss, and his learning by Reger. But of originality, he has not the slightest trace. His themes are trivial, sometimes vulgar, always uninteresting and lacking utterly beauty of melodic curve. This symphony—which really is less of a symphony than any of
Tschaikowsky’s—is in five movements. Each of these movements is split up into innumerable subdivisions, by changes of tempo and rhythm. The result is a lack of cohesion and unity, producing an effect of intolerable tedium. Of these movements, the first is a funeral march, solemn and impressive, but which strikes one as lacking in spontaneity. The so-called scherzo is part waltz, part a sort of mazurka, and contains a piece of crass plagiarism on the scherzo from Beethoven’s fifth—I refer to the passage for strings, pizzicato. The
adagietto is the one oasis in the desert—a beautiful, slow movement for strings and harp; deep, thoughtful, melodious and expressive. Then it all ends with a rondo, based on the cheapest of themes, developed with a skill almost superhuman, but quite ineffective.
In short, it is a symphony which, it is devoutly hoped, will never again be heard in Chicago.

Mr. Stock’s own view of this work is interesting. Here it is, as it was expressed to the writer yesterday after the concert: “It is a pity that Mahler, with all his learning and ingenuity, has not more originality, more ability to conceive themes, to rise to real inspiration. It
is a pity he has a sense of beauty no more highly developed. Most of the symphony is very ugly, indeed, though it is all highly interesting to the technical student. But, after all, Richard Strauss summed it up correctly when he said, ‘Mahler is to the symphony of today what Meyerbeer was to the opera seventy-five years ago.’ I do not believe that this symphony is the kind of music that will live.” A verdict both cruel and true. The only redeeming feature about it was that the orchestra—increased to about 100 men—played with a
virtuosity it has never surpassed, making nothing of the unspeakable difficulties of the symphony. Each man and each group fairly surpassed itself, and the result was a truly remarkable rendition.

Listen to the piece reviewed here

First Ever Mahler Review in Chicago

March 23, 1907

Ugly Symphony Is Well Played Thomas Orchestra Shows Director Mahler of Vienna Writes Bad Music - by Miller Ular

Gustav Mahler is director of the Vienna opera. He is unequaled as an opera director, and almost unsurpassed as an orchestra conductor. He is a man of remarkable personality and of profound musical learning. So it is but natural that he should compose. His principal compositions are symphonies—six of them. The fifth, known as “The Giant Symphony,” was performed yesterday by the Theodore Thomas orchestra under the baton of Frederick Stock. It is a work an hour and fifteen minutes in length, 1 and before it was done, fully half the audience had fled. And with good reason. For Mr. Mahler, to judge by this one symphony that has been heard in Chicago, writes absolutely the ugliest music ever written. Why the symphony should have been termed “The Giant” is hard to say. Because of its ugliness, it might have been named “The Octopus”; because of its length, “The Dachshund”; and because it is without form, and void, it might well be termed “Chaos.”

Mr. Mahler’s compositions have nothing to do with the true, the beautiful and the good, which are supposed to be subject matter of poetry and music. Rather he deals with the false, the ugly, and the meretricious. His technical knowledge of the orchestra is equaled only by Richard Strauss, and his learning by Reger. But of originality, he has not the slightest trace. His themes are trivial, sometimes vulgar, always uninteresting and lacking utterly beauty of melodic curve. This symphony—which really is less of a symphony than any of
Tschaikowsky’s—is in five movements. Each of these movements is split up into innumerable subdivisions, by changes of tempo and rhythm. The result is a lack of cohesion and unity, producing an effect of intolerable tedium. Of these movements, the first is a funeral march, solemn and impressive, but which strikes one as lacking in spontaneity. The so-called scherzo is part waltz, part a sort of mazurka, and contains a piece of crass plagiarism on the scherzo from Beethoven’s fifth—I refer to the passage for strings, pizzicato. The
adagietto is the one oasis in the desert—a beautiful, slow movement for strings and harp; deep, thoughtful, melodious and expressive. Then it all ends with a rondo, based on the cheapest of themes, developed with a skill almost superhuman, but quite ineffective.
In short, it is a symphony which, it is devoutly hoped, will never again be heard in Chicago.

Mr. Stock’s own view of this work is interesting. Here it is, as it was expressed to the writer yesterday after the concert: “It is a pity that Mahler, with all his learning and ingenuity, has not more originality, more ability to conceive themes, to rise to real inspiration. It
is a pity he has a sense of beauty no more highly developed. Most of the symphony is very ugly, indeed, though it is all highly interesting to the technical student. But, after all, Richard Strauss summed it up correctly when he said, ‘Mahler is to the symphony of today what Meyerbeer was to the opera seventy-five years ago.’ I do not believe that this symphony is the kind of music that will live.” A verdict both cruel and true. The only redeeming feature about it was that the orchestra—increased to about 100 men—played with a
virtuosity it has never surpassed, making nothing of the unspeakable difficulties of the symphony. Each man and each group fairly surpassed itself, and the result was a truly remarkable rendition.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

World's Largest Male Chorus

8,000 in Wales. Blend gets easier with more singers, but this is still impressive....and what a toupee on that conductor!

The Failures That Created the Israel-Palestine Crisis As We Know It

I. The Failures of The Great Powers

1. The Failure of the Peel Commission: Let's not forget how revolutionary the idea still seemed in 1935 that the White race did not have a natural right to hold dominion over the other peoples of the earth.

II. The Failures of Israel

1. The Failure of the Meir Administration: Everyone should at some point read 'The Accidental Empire' by Gershon Goremberg....or so I'm told. Especially because it's been sitting on my bookshelf for about four years, so then you can tell me what it says.... But within this book, Goremberg details the precise handling of the settlement blocs by leaders viewed by the American Jewish community as leading liberal lights in the post-'67 fervor. Those who (perhaps rightly) see Israel as the bastion of liberalism in the region ought never forget that the settlements in the West Bank were a Labor Party creation. The Israel of the 1960's and 70's were almost an exact mirror-image of America in the same period. In both countries, liberals believed fervently in the judicious application of military might. When discriminating applications of military solutions failed to obtain the results desired, both countries opted for right-wing governments which desired to solve the same problems with far more indiscriminate might.

A. The Failures of Moshe Dayan:

There is nothing about this man which is not shrouded in controversy. But in a book of interviews with Israeli journalist Rami Tal, Eshkol-Meir Defense Minister Moshe Dayan expressed regret having not returned the Golan Heights to Syria while there was still a chance to do so. He further says that more than 80% of the Israel's pre-67 border skirmishes with Syria might have been avoided if Israel were not interested in provoking the fight. Furthermore, Dayan denounced the claim (as told to every birthright kid who passes through the Golan) that Syrian snipers fired from the Golan Heights onto Israeli Kibbutz workers in the 60's as a fraud. Here's his version of the events:

I know how at least 80 percent of the clashes there started. In my opinion, more than 80 percent, but let's talk about 80 percent. It went this way: We would send a tractor to plough someplace where it wasn't possible to do anything, in the demilitarized area, and knew in advance that the Syrians would start to shoot. If they didn't shoot, we would tell the tractor to advance farther, until in the end the Syrians would get annoyed and shoot. And then we would use artillery and later the air force also, and that's how it was......I made a mistake in allowing the Israel conquest of the Golan Heights. As defense minister I should have stopped it because the Syrians were not threatening us at the time [fourth day of the war].

The last two sentences are especially telling. Because during the Six-Day War (of 1967), Dayan overruled the wishes of both the Prime Minster Levi Eshkol and (then) Foreign Minister Golda Meir to capture the Golan Heights. The reason for all this is perhaps simpler than it seemed: Dayan was a native-born Israeli Kibbutznik of the North. He viewed it as fundamental right that the demilitarized land near the Syrian border should be cultivated by Israel for agricultural use. If Syria would fire on the Kibbutzniks below from the Golan Heights, then the Golan Heights must (in Dayan's estimation) be captured.


Saturday, May 21, 2011

What To Listen For in Music


Quote of the Day:

The Hicks: kiddie pool parties (for adults) that are serious get dangerous quick
people drown

Friday, May 20, 2011

Quote of the Day:

Der Gordon: No Stan Bush?

Rapture Playlist

No London Calling, REM End of the World, Hallelujah, Sympathy for the Devil, Can't help including The Doors though.

Mahler: Resurrection Symphony

Johnny Cash: The Man Comes Around

Bach: Et Resurrexit

Skeeter Davis: The End of the World

Messiaen: Quartet for the End of Time

The Who: Won't Get Fooled Again

Franz Schmidt: Book of Seven Seals

Jerry Lee Lewis: Great Balls of Fire

Scriabin: Mysterium

AC/DC: Highway to Hell

Bruckner Symphony no. 8 "Apocalyptic"

The Doors: The End

Wagner: Gotterdammerung Finale

Abba: Dancing Queen

Beethoven: Et Ressurexit

John Coltrane: Ascension

Benjamin Britten: Death Be Not Proud

Creedance: Bad Moon Rising

Christopher Rouse: Rapture

The Pixies: Monkey Gone to Heaven

Beethoven: Et Resurrexit

Blue Oyster Cult: Don't Fear the Reaper

Verdi: Libera Me

John Lee Hooker: Boom Boom

Berlioz: Tuba Mirum

The Animals: We Gotta Get Out of This Place

Allegri: Miserere

Led Zepplin: Stairway to Heaven

Leos Janacek: Veruju

The Ramones: Blitzkrieg Bop

Messiaen: Et Expecto Resurrectionem Mortuorum

The Impressions: People Get Ready

Gesualdo: Moro, Lasso

Johnny Cash: Ring of Fire

Thomas Tallis: Lamentations of Jeremiah

Howlin' Wolf: Smokestack Lighting

Harry Partch: Revelation in the Courthouse Park After the Bacchae of Euripides

Edith Piaf: Non, Je ne regrette rien

John Tavener: Song for Athene

Charles Mingus: The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady

Monteverdi: Lamento della Ninfa

Jacques Brel: Ne Me Quitte Pas

Bach: So Ist Mein Jesus Ist Gefallen

Bjork: New World

Tchaikovsky: Francesca da Rimini

Nick Cave: The Mercy Seat

Schubert: Death and the Maiden

Sufjan Stevens: Seven Swans

Kodaly: Esti Dal

Kenny Chesney: Everybody Wants to Go to Heaven

Berio: Sinfonia Third Movement

Vera Lynn: We'll Meet Again

John Cage 4'33

(at some point I gotta stop this...)

Thursday, May 19, 2011

For the sheer joy of it.

Quote of the Day:

Dad: Don't marry a shiksa, Evan. I'm sure your marriage will be great, the sex will be great, but you'll have to live the rest of your life with Early American Furniture.

From this fantastic page.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Quote of the Day

Le Clem: Maybe I should start using Facebook again from time to time. But it's a scary place full of babies and high school, and I want very little of it.

OK OK.....

here's something for Mahler's 100th anniversary (of being deceased).

Bernard Haitink and Claudio Abbado are probably the first conductors to have performed Mahler's music for the entirety of their careers. And in both their cases, they now display a mastery of the material which nobody has ever achieved. I didn't much care for this Mahler 9 when the BBC broadcasted it in 2009. But now I see that this performance is one of the great ones - effortlessly commanding every single detail of the structure with all the sure-footedness of a Beethoven Symphony. I still prefer Abbado in this symphony (to Haitink and just about everybody else save Bruno Walter and Barbirolli), and I still think that Haitink seems to 'Brucknerize' Mahler, trying to make the music into something more orderly - and therefore milder - than what Mahler intended. But the fact that this score, formerly thought of as a loose baggy monster, can be laid out with such effortless command is an amazing achievement in its own right.

And if this is that good, just wait. Haitink is performing the work next week with his old orchestra, the Concertgebouw of Amsterdam. If Haitink's been living with this music for his whole life, it's in part due to the Mahler he must have heard as a kid, championed by his great predecessor, Willem Mengelberg. No orchestra in the world has played Mahler more, for longer, or better than the Concertgebouw. Don't believe me? Listen to this.

(Should be self-explanatory)

Mahler oftened said that he would settle in Amsterdam after retiring from conducting. One can hear why.

The Soul Bowl on Judgement Day

The Soul Bowl On Judgment Day

(to the tune of Gilligan's Island)

Oh, the game was played on Sunday
In Heaven’s own back yard,
With Jesus playing quarterback
G B7
And Moses, blocking guard.
Eleven of the Apostles
Lined up to kick the ball
Only Judas the vile traitor
Played at Sat’n’s awful call.

G Em
Hosanah! Maranatha!
C Am Em
Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Halleloo!

Em G
Oh Mathew Mark and Luke and John,
G B7
They are our Fearsome Four,
They make up our defensive line
G B7
So Beelzebub can’t score.
Backed up by the seven Archangels
G B7
Playing on our Master’s team
Combating all sin and evil
Am Em
That are the Devil’s scheme.

G Em
Hosanah! Maranatha!
C Am Em
Hallelujah! Halleluja! Halleloo!

Em G
Oh Lucifer he plays dirty
And Lucifer he plays hard
Faster than a bullet
G B7
Like light’nin’ greased with lard.
Using all the dirty tricks that

Only he would know
Coveting our immortal souls
G B7
For his fire down below.

G Em
Hosanah! Maranatha!
C Am Em
Hallelujah! Halleloo!

Here is Peter, rock and center,
Of our offensive line,
And Paul’s our mighty fullback
G B7
Knocking them on their b’hind
Mephisto and the fallen angels

Pitif’lly did they weap,
When our dear Lord outwitted them
G B7
And call’d a right flank sweep.

G Em
Hosanah! Maranatha!
C Am Em
Hallelujah! Halleloo!

Our savior’s mother Mary
Led cheering in the stands
And lovely Mary Magdalene
Was the leader of the bands
And the angels in the bleachers,
My God, how they did yell,
When Jesus scored a touchdown
Against those boys from Hell.

Hosanah! Maranatha!
C Am Em
Hallelujah! Halleloo

Then Jesus led the team in pray’r
Which added to his fame
“Our Father who art in Heaven
Oh hallowed be Thy name.
I am the truth, I am the light,
I am the only way,
If you want to win the bowl game
That’s played on Judgment Day.”

G Em
Hosanah! Maranatha!
C Am Em
Hallelujah! Halleloo!

h/t Dad


I'm celebrating by listening to the B-Minor Mass.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Movies Everybody Loves but Me (the sequel)

Nixon - Sad man with a Welsh accent becomes important politician.

Synedoche, New York - In case Adaptation wasn't self-absorbed enough.

La Vie en Rose - Edith Piaff lived a hard life but made some nice music.

Atonement - A masterpiece of English literature turned into a romantic weeper.

Syriana - An Arab ruler wants modernize the region. Always works out well.

Master and Commander - Meticulous adherence to period decor apparently includes Russell Crowe’s overexposed chest.

A Beautiful Mind - "Love is the equation that lets me be." Apparently this is appropriate for a Nobel Prize Acceptance Speech.

American Splendor - Harvey Pekar has a sad life. How adorable.

Pollock - Artist dude makes good art. Self-destructs.

Elizabeth - Historical fiction, with an ATTITUDE!

Happiness - People are fucked up. Reeeeaaally fucked up. I mean, look at'em! They're reeeeeeeeeaaaaaaaallly fucked up.

Natural Born Killers - Serial killers are fun! Wait, they're not? Well how about I give the audience vertigo to distract them?

The Piano - A movie for people who find turtles erotic.

Unforgiven - Some people are just natural assholes.

Chariots of Fire - Some people like to run.

Reds - Communism killed 200 million people. But they threw some kick-ass parties!

Kagemusha - Swords! Samurais! Battle Scenes!

Blowup - Reality is only what you want to see, which is obviously girl-on-girl action.

The Thin Red Line - War is apparently the boringest thing EVER.

Garden State - Hollywood's airbrushed version of New Jersey. Even more irritating than the real thing.

Finding Neverland - Guy takes kids to play in a fantasy world full of magical magicness. Nobody calls child protective services.

Sexy Beast - Ben Kingsley plays obnoxious dude, apparently the role of his career.

The Reader - Kate Winslet plays naked Nazi.

Ghost World - Are our lives really that pathetic? Apparently, yes.

Closer - Other people's sex games are not that interesting to other people.

Being John Malkovich - Oh we're just soooo clever...

Shine - Guy with musical talent gets exploited by family, then exploited by new family.

Full Metal Jacket - Vietnam f*cks you up.


Stanley Kramer - Look at me! I'm so progressive!


The Magnificent Ambersons - Maybe the studio execs had a point...


Jacek Yerka

Hats off, Gentlemen. A genuis.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Dead Souls

I've been waiting for Rodion Shchedrin's operatic version of Gogol's Dead Souls to appear on youtube for years. Here it is:

Shchedrin is a composer underrated because he clings so resolutely to tonality. Every one of the important post-Shostakovich Soviets carved their own path (comprising between them the most important body of classical music written in the twentieth century's second half), but none of them hewed so closely to Shostakovich's model. But don't be fooled, Shchedrin always sounds like his own man.

Here's what might be his most famous piece, and certainly the place to start: Naughty Limericks. Imagine the risk taken in playing a 'formalist' piece like this in a Soviet concert hall at the start of the Brezhnev era. Shostakovich himself must have been impressed.

Quote of the Day:

Dad: There's only one man who can satisfy a woman in under five minutes, and that's Colonel Sanders.

Spring Symphony

Another piece Lenny did better than anybody.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Movies Nobody Loves but Me

OK OK. Der Fersko twisted my arm.

See the vastly inferior sequel here

Definitely, Maybe - That's right. A sappy romantic comedy with Ryan Reynolds and Abby Breslin (as father and daughter). It's a real movie, and it has a fantastic sense of the way life goes on and passes us all by. It's like Chekhov for the Kate Hudson set. Nice emo soundtrack too.

O - The nineties were the decade when Hollywood decided that all works of great literature must be remade and set in a high school. This one is a leagues better re-scripting of Shakespeare than Baz Luhrman's Romeo and Juliet, and unlike Cruel Intentions (Valmont) and Ten Things I Hate About You (Taming of the Shrew) this one has the balls to remake a grueling tragedy into something defiantly unadorable.

The Invention of Lying - Ricky Gervais's movies can't get any respect. The reason for this is not difficult to figure out. Unlike most comedians, Gervais seems to have no desire, whatsoever, to be loved. His movies/television makes a specialty of playing unlovable lowlives, and showing that his obvious cruelties are no worse than the everyday cruelties perpetrated around him. The Invention of Lying takes that premise to its logical extreme. It's also really funny.
Speaking of which...

Death to Smoochy - I didn't believe whoever told me ten years ago (der Thobaben?) that this movie is awesome. But it was savaged so universally by critics that there was simply no way to believe them. Then I saw it and I'm not sure I laughed that hard at anything since I was eight years old and watched Spaceballs. Forget everything else and just focus on Robin Williams. Some people say it's his worst performance. I say it's the role he was born to play - a creepy, pathetic, sad clown wannabe of a villain. It's as though Robin Williams's id has been taken off its leash, and it's scarily hilarious to behold.

I, Robot - When Alex Proyas made I, Robot, it seemed like a clear next step from Spielberg's Minority Report. This is a movie every bit as intelligent as Minority Report, but without Spielberg's sentimentality or Tom Cruise's preening (it was before Will Smith became annoying).

Crash - Yeah, it won Best Picture. But nobody (except me and Roger Ebert) thinks it should have. The movie is far more hated than loved. People of a certain ilk say that it's the ultimate in condescension and preachiness. But when was the last time you saw redeemable characters onscreen who have engaged in unredeemable acts? Whether or not Paul Haggis meant it as a statement on anything greater than race, the result is far more a movie about redemption than race. In the verbatim words of Stephen Hunter, this movie shows the world through the eyes of what it must look like to God Him(Her)self. Characters intersect with one another in random ways, all of whom are capable of acting with as much cruelty as heroism.

Primary Colors - I believe Primary Colors is the greatest modern movie about politics. Far greater than Wag the Dog. Wag the Dog is a David Mamet jigsaw-puzzle, admittedly a very good one, which dramatizes our darkest fears of what politics might be. But Primary Colors is about the hope which politics can engender, and the difficulty we all have if we wish to maintain that belief.

Eurotrip - Come on. I mean....come on.

Sunshine - This film isn't hated. It's just so forgotten that another movie's already been made with the same title. This portrayal of a claustrophobic Jewish family in Hungary is one of the great family sagas in film history. There has never been a movie made which articulated what it meant to be Jewish in the Twentieth Century with the same eloquence.

The Illusionist - The Prestige is one of Christopher Nolan's better movies, but it's still a Christopher Nolan movie. His movies are elaborate games to figure out, not portrayals of human beings. But this one, the other movie about magic set in fin de siecle Europe released in 2006, is a sleeper. The Prestige shows you the trickery and difficulty involved in magic, The Illusionist wants to show you the mystery and romance. The latter is why magic is still beguiling, and why The Illusionist is such a clearly superior movie.

Baby's Day Out - The Citizen Kane of baby movies. Just sayin.

Hellboy - Who can't love a story about a comic book hero who is a demon sent to destroy humanity after Hitler didn't work out but rescued by the Americans and raised to protect the American Way? It also helps that Guillermo del Toro is a genius, would that he could finish a movie.

Elf - I'm a Will Ferrell hater. But I love this movie. Somehow, the part of an overenthusiastic giant manchild is perfect for him. Don't ask me why.

A.I. - It's far from a perfect movie. But it's a far greater movie than the failed experiment it's usually treated as being. Many science fiction films reach for the complex handling of ideas seen in this movie. Too few achieve them.

Hulk - Ang Lee did comic books the honor of taking it and its ideas seriously. He was rewarded for his troubles with what's widely regarded as the only failure of a brilliant career. The only problem is that Hulk is not a failure. It's just a movie too serious for the comic book crowd, and comic books are thought to be too silly for the artfilm crowd. One would think that there's enough overlap for this movie to have found a good audience. Apparently, one would be wrong.

Jarhead - A Sam Mendes picture I actually like. I'm as amazed as anybody. This is a movie about the gruelling process of war training. Soldiers have their identities taken from themselves, all on the off-chance that the mercilessness for which they've been trained is necessary. Yet often it isn't. That is the plot of Jarhead.

No doubt, there are many on both lists which I missed. When I think of enough of them, I'll make a 'sequel' to them both.

Concert Minis #4

It's a hallowed tradition for critics to denigrate Music Directors with memories of their predecessors, and sometimes nostalgia can't be helped. While listening to Marin Alsop's lumbering way with Schumann - beginning at 3:00 today at Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall - I couldn't help if memories of David Zinman's refined elegance crept into my mind. Alsop's vision of Schumann has its virtues, but in everything from program to performance it was clear that she doesn't 'get' Schumann. Both the Manfred Overture and Schumann's First Symphony were performed in rearrangements by Gustav Mahler. The changes aren't dramatic, a doubling here and there, but they're enough to strip Schumann of his classical lightness.

(A full-blown romantic, Wilhelm Furtwangler could be relied on to reshape the daintiest classicism into a struggle for life and death.)

This isn't always a bad thing. The moody Manfred Overture acquired a dramatic heft which it often lacks in performances of Schumann's original score. Alsop only helped matters by inserting some Mahlerian shifts in tempo to raise the adrenalin level.

But blunt force turns easily to excess. The heavy-handedness that proved so helpful to Manfred was nearly lethal to Schumann's first two symphonies. The slow movements, with their decrease in activity, proved the most effective. But the rest of the movements sounded like exercises in loud dynamics and raw attacks. Alsop added some nice personal touches to what was written in the scores, but I'd have traded them all for some cleaner ensemble and more dynamic contrast.

(David Zinman 'gets' the balance between Classical and Romantic which Schumann requires.)

Judging from this outing, Marin Alsop plays Schumann as though it's second-rate Mahler. Alsop is frankly a better conductor of the late romantic music than David Zinman ever was. But even at his most volatile, Schumann requires a fastidiousness and restraint which both Alsop and the BSO sounded unwilling to provide. And given the level of Schumann which the BSO used to produce, this was doubly disappointing.

(Zinman talks about Schumann - in English with German subtitles.)

Quote of the Day:

(talking about who takes over from Garrison Keillor on Prairie Home Companion)

Me: the person who would, honestly i mean this, is drew carey
i thought of this earlier today
Der Fersko: He is Midwestern
me: he sings, he's a good host, he can think on his feet, he has the everyman appeal
and of course, he's midwestern
colbert is not
Der Fersko: And he really jumped to soon on The Price is Right
me: i'm sure he can leave it
Der Fersko: That is literally a show where they give you a shovel and ask you to dig for 30 years

Greatest Piece Ever For Concert Band

Berlioz's Symphonie Funebre et Triomphale, even if there are cellos. Berlioz wrote this as a piece to be played at events of national mourning. America needs a composer, or a great pop musician, to attempt something similar. Imagine a piece of this power at JFK's funeral or after 9/11.

(I prefer Gardiner to Davis. Gardiner's faster and has the period brass snarl. But in this performance it's still awesome.)

Friday, May 13, 2011

Quote of the Night:

(Parents calling from Western Ohio)

Dad: Evan, it's terrible. Your mom and I are bumblef*cking!

Me: What?

Dad: We've been bumblef*cked!

Me: Do you mean 'We're in bumblef*ck?'

Dad: Oh..yeah...that.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Gnome Chomsky

I'll Fly Away

Such an amazing song.

Why aren't you in bed?

Emo Mahler Posting.

I think this sums up today pretty nicely.

My favorite DVLDE's movement by movement:

I. Klemperer/Wunderlich
II. Kletzki/Fischer-Dieskau
III. Schuricht/Oehlmann
IV. Horenstein/Hodgson
V. Tennstedt/Konig
VI. Walter/Ferrier

And I didn't even get to mention Bernstein.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Quote of the Night:

Le Malon: re: John Ford
Maine's Native Son
i will put this with great subtlety

Movies Everybody Loves but Me

2001: A Space Odyssey - Nothing will change the fact that this movie is built around a GIANT F!@#ING SQUARE!


L'Avventura - The boredom symbolizes the meaningless of our lives. I'd rather watch Married with Children.

Rashamon - Things look different to different people. That's the whole movie.

Ran - King Lear, by John Ford.

12 Angry Men - Liberalism. YAY!

Adaptation - My boring life is SO INTERESTING!

Babel - We all need to love one another. Let's watch kids die.

Dr. Strangelove - The A-Bomb will kill us all. Peter Sellers is so funny.

Easy Rider - We're the next step up the evolutionary...wow man, fingers are weird.

The Grapes of Wrath - Great Depression sucked.

JFK - Guy who almost incinerated the whole world was killed by his government!

Last Tango in Paris - Pay to see stuff you can watch for free on youporn. Without Marlon Brando ranting about pigshit and vomit.

Lawrence of Arabia - SAND! GLORIOUS SAND!

Magnolia - Everything in the world happens for a reason. FROGS!

Snow White and the Seven Dwarves - HOW CAN YOU HATE DISNEY???? YOU'RE EEEEEVIL!

West Side Story - Greatest, rawest musical of ever made becomes a Technicolor extravaganza!

A Clockwork Orange - Rape is so funny. How dare they try to change the personality of a rapist!

Kenneth Branagh Hamlet - GO LAERTES!

Wings of Desire - Angels hear and influence our thoughts. Our thoughts are incredibly pretentious.

Shawshank Redemption - Friendship is awesome!

Spaghetti Westerns - Preserve an American tradition in embalming fluid!

Memento - Backwards. Whooooaaa! Tattoos! Double Whoooaaaa!

The Matrix - Save yourself a dollar and take Dark City out of the Redbox.

Se7en - What gruesome way of murdering someone is he gonna do next?!?!?

American Beauty - $10 million a year movie stars tell us what's wrong with the middle class.

Amelie - Awww. She's so cute! And so whimsical!

Requiem for a Dream - Drugs are bad.

Das Boot - Being on a submarine sucks.

Reservoir Dogs - Violence is soooo awesome!

Life is Beautiful - Auschwitz. What a great place to learn life lessons.

Braveheart - Rent Rob Roy.

Inglourius Basterds - Ew!... They're Nazis. It's ok.

Gladiator - Who knew the Roman Empire had so much social mobility?

Mr. Smith Goes to Washington - Never give up on your principles!!!! But I'm just trying to compro...YOU'RE NOT FIT TO LIVE!

No Country for Old Men - Wow. That guy's eeeeevil.

Snatch - British accents. They're weird.

Donnie Darko - Adolescence sucks. Being a schizo teenager sucks worse. Being a schizo teenager whose visions are real sucks still worse. Being a schizo movie sucks most.

There Will Be Blood - And there is.

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid - Newman and Redford. So handsome. So charming. Wait...this is a movie?

Avatar - Look mom. James Cameron made another toy!

In Bruges - Gangsters bicker.

Tim Burton - Let's relive my childhood! Again!

Stanley Kubrick - Can the machines please just take over already?!

Spirited Away - Weird things are weird.

Ben-Hur - Charlton Heston's jaw is very square.

The Usual Suspects - Verbal Kint is Kaiser Soze! Soooo............

Fahrenheit 9/11 - George Bush is bad. Wait, he's really bad enough that I don't have to make shit up???

Fellowship of the Ring - There's a monster! There's another monster! And another monster!

The Lady from Shanghai - Everybody's evil but Orson Welles!

Shaun of the Dead - Zombies don't do anything. But they're awesome!

Dances With Wolves - Let's go back to pre-industrial world with its pre-industrial mortality rates!

Cabaret - Berlin is going to the Nazis. Let's have kinky sex (musical's better).


The Natural - In the book he strikes out.

Frank Capra - America's a magical place. Not for everyb....SHUT UP!

John Ford - How the West was Won, by a Maine WASP.

The Exorcist - Little girl acts like a bitch. Scaaaaary.

* The opposite, movies I like which nobody else does, involves real thought. Each deserves a post/essay in their own right. This is faster :).

Quote of the Day:

Der Koosh:
so at the risk of spoiling the surprise
I think you could use the good news
La Pothier and I put together the list of table names for the wedding
try to guess which one you'll be at


Monday, May 9, 2011

Concert Minis #3

(Szell/Cleveland can do it that fast.)

One wouldn't think a program of Mendelssohn and Mahler would lead to a half capacity audience but that's precisely what we saw at Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall this past Sunday at 3. It was odder considering that the program's first half was Mendelssohn's ever-popular Italian Symphony. Though a lackluster performance such as the one Marin Alsop and the Baltimore Symphony gave is not deserving of greater attendance. Alsop set tempos far too quick for the orchestra to sustain, there was nary a soft dynamic to be heard, the ensemble was far too imprecise for Mendelssohn's fastidious writing, and the phrasing was atypically bland.

(How The Master did it.)

But then came a performance of Mahler's Das Lied von der Erde (Song of the Earth) that would have gladdened Mahler himself. Alsop's interpretation had nearly as much dynamism and flexibility as the Mahler performances of her mentor, Leonard Bernstein. The BSO savored the bittersweet nuances of Mahler's writing. But no performance of DLVDE can work without two good vocal soloists. The young British tenor, Simon O'Neill, showed why he established himself so quickly as a dramatic tenor to be reckoned with. His piercing voice filled the hall with metallic ring (excerpting a single flubbed note) but tempered by a rare musical intelligence. The American mezzo, Theodora Hanslowe, may not have displayed the same vocal gift as O'Neill, but she displayed even greater musicianship. None but a true artist can guide us through DLVDE's half-hour-long final song without it becoming brutally tedious. With Hanslowe and Alsop as our guides, it was very nearly transcendent. The end result may have been the greatest performance I've ever heard Baltimore Symphony give under Marin Alsop. It's just a pity that so few appreciated it. Among the half-capacity audience brave enough to experience Mahler in 2011, half walked out during the applause.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Happy Mother's Day

Citizen Kane's Birthday

In addition to it being Mother's Day, there remains a far less important matter that still can't be ignored: Citizen Kane turns 70 today. Seventy years ago, the alleged 'Greatest Movie Ever Made' was finally released, but not before having nearly been burned, bankrupting the studio which green-lighted its making, and destroying the life of the most talented artistic genius America has ever seen. For over fifteen years after its initial (and limited) release it languished in film vaults, virtually forgotten until the advent of TV syndication.

An attack on Kane's value is long overdue. No film lover under the age of 50 can possibly remember a time when the debate over the 'Greatest Movie Ever Made' did not begin and end with Citizen Kane.

But you won't get it here. Kane is an inescapable fact of film, haunting all the great movies that come after it, and even haunting those that come before as though they prefigure all of Kane's developments. It is an astonishingly intimate look at larger-than-life themes. Like all great tragedy, it brings to earth a flawed hero who would fly in the clouds. Is it the greatest movie of all time? I have no idea, nor do I care. All I know is that it's f---ing great. No matter how many times I've seen the movie, it remains fun. So many of the movies which we talk about as though they are 'visionary' films by 'visionary' directors from 2001 to Metropolis to Lawrence of Arabia to Wings of Desire to Rashamon to L'Avventura to JFK to Pierrot Le Fou are simply not worth the effort to watch. These are films (like so many others) which disguise their lack of any basic human intelligence or interest under a pretense of loftiness. People can (and do) claim that each of these films is somehow making a 'great statement' about the world, but art does not exist on any terms so simple as a 'statement.' People fear complexity, but the pleasures of great art lie in ambiguity. The great pleasures of art lie in asking questions, not in having them answered. And because so many people fear seeming unintelligent or unperceptive, they pretend to like movies which can't possibly give them much pleasure.

I fear that some people may soon feel the same way about Citizen Kane. There's certainly been a lot of bull written about Citizen Kane over the years. But I would ask every person who feels tired of getting Kane forced down their throats to forget everything everything they've ever heard about the movie. Just watch it, frame by frame, and let the story it tells wash over you. It can be watched in an extremely philosophical manner, but it never has to be. It can just as easily be watched as 'just another movie' that shows us a piece of extremely gripping drama, and along the way we also get comedy, incredible looking shots, great music, great writing, and all of it completely in the service of the larger work. It may all add up to the greatest masterpiece of the cinema. But when it's this much fun to watch, who cares?

This isn't the time to get into potential interpretations of Citizen Kane as a take on the American Dreams and myths, or the parallels between Kane with the totalitarian dictators of the 20th century, or an epistemological examination of what we truly know about any person, or a metaphysical interpretaion of what illuminates a man's soul. Charles Foster Kane could be any and all of these things. But more importantly than any of them, Citizen Kane is a good movie. It's a fun movie. It's a gripping movie. This is why it's held up over seventy years, and why it will probably continue to do to people who come long after us.

William F. Buckley on Ayn Rand

h/t Ebert

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Bachwoods Country

I got through an entire country album tonight (Welder by Elizabeth Cook for anybody who cares), so I'm celebrating with Bach. I had high hopes for it. But for the life of me I can't, try as I might, take any country newer than Johnny Cash seriously. It's just....tooo.....slow.... Every time I listen to a country radio station (and for novelty's sake, that does happen on occasion) I feel like I'm reading the Simple English Wikipedia page.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Grumpy Robert Hughes (part of an ongoing series)

Boston Symphony Upcoming Season: PATHETIQUE!

The new BSO schedule is finally out. It will suffice to say is that this is frightening. This schedule shows that the highups at the BSO are probably not aware they're currently in a crisis of fairly stupendous magnitude. It's the same old repertoire with the same old conductors. I'm sure that management would argue that they did the best they can to fill Levine's dates with whomever was available. I'm equally sure that there are any number of promising potential Music Directors who would drop everything in the most underhanded manner to be courted by the Boston Symphony.

It would seem that the BSO is putting all their eggs in the basket of Riccardo Chailly or Andris Nelsons. Both of whom probably have more attractive options than the current BSO. As for the other conductors on the schedule:

- Esa-Pekka Salonen is already the director of the Philharmonia in London and (allegedly) a full-time composer as well.

- Jiri Behlolavek wouldn't have even been seen as an attractive option if he hadn't just been (re)hired by the Czech Philharmonic to be their next Music Director (which he should have been for the last fifteen years).

- Juanjo Mena and Jaap van Zweden are both very good musicians who probably know that being invited by the BSO to direct for two weeks is a great honor.

- Anne Sophie Mutter and Leonidas Kavakos are fine violinists.

- Frankly, I've never heard of Juraj Valcuha.

As for the other people on this list. Here are the most distinguished conductors among them and precisely why they're not legitimate candidates to be new Music Directors:

David Zinman - 75 Years Old

Charles Dutoit - 77 Years Old

Rafael Fruhbeck de Burgos - 78 Years Old

Christoph von Dohnanyi - 82 Years Old

Bernard Haitink - 82 Years Old

Kurt Masur - 84 Years Old

If the Boston Symphony were willing to do what the New York Phil did with Lorin Maazel and give a proven veteran seven years to keep the orchestra in shape, any one of these directors would make for a very good stopgap - ten years ago. But now they're simply too old to commit to more than a couple weeks a year. I smell another principal conductor appointment, and I can't possibly be the only music lover who thinks that a Principal Conductor is just a euphemism for 'Absentee Music Director.'

So let me say what must now be said in a manner that won't offend anybody:....


If the Big Five thought they were immune to the problems of 'lesser orchestras,' one would think that the bankruptcy of The Philadelphia Orchestra (!) would remind them of the times we live in. The New York Philharmonic, until recently the most antique of American orchestras, finally began the serious work of building a new reputation for itself as an orchestra in touch with the world of the contemporary arts. Had the Cleveland Orchestra acted with the sleepiness of the other Big Five members, they'd have met the Philadelphia Orchestra's fate long ago. It is not too late for any of them, even Philly, to turn things around. But the great orchestras of Boston, Chicago and Philadelphia seem determined to do everything they can to make it precisely that.

Quote of the Day:

(about the Republican nutjob debate)

me: and ron paul is going to get huge applause from a small portion of the audience every time he talks
Le Malon: absolutely
and that portion will continue to accost unsuspecting strangers at the few remaining Borders in America

For Arthur Laurents (1918-2011)

The writer of West Side Story's script died today. Makes me sad.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Lady Gaga Fugue

h/t Fredösphere

Shorty the Pimp

h/t OTK

Why Louis CK is The Best

Because he is.

h/t Der Koosh

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Slow Beethoven

(Slow Beethoven)

There are certain pieces of Beethoven's, particularly in his 'late' period, that are so static that they do not have any of the properties we generally associate with great music. There is no rhythmic variety, no contrast or variation, only a static sense of contemplation to which you can either surrender or resist.

Even at Beethoven's prescribed (surprisingly fast) tempo of 60 beats per-minute, there are far from enough 'signposts' that your attention will be held in the manner of a Mozart piano concerto or even a Middle-Period Beethoven Symphony. You're thrown into the music, immersed in a warm bath of pleasing sonorities without any genuine sense of the direction the music is heading.

Beethoven's need to challenge the listener can occasionally be as troubling as it is invigorating. But there are very few musicians (or artists in general) who have enough variety in their work for all moods. When played compellingly, there may be no composer whose work has more of that variety. And he will continue to engage and confound his listeners for as long as music still exists.

(Fast Beethoven)

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

James Levine on Terry Gross

I'd hate to think that this is the NPR audience's introduction to classical music. This is every bit the 'inscruitable' James Levine of recent years, an interview subject that makes the Frost/Nixon interviews look fascinating. Levine talks about being a marathon talker, but the public has not seen evidence of that for about twenty-five years.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

I Was Glad

I Was Glad by Hubert Parry is one of the dullest, most overrated pieces in all Victorian Choral Music. And as most people with a pulse know, there's no music duller than Victorian Choral Music. It has one compelling chord progression at the beginning (the entrance of the chorus), and another at the end. In between are six minutes of the least memorable and most bombastic counterpoint imaginable. I've probably heard this piece a couple dozen times and I can't remember anything between the beginning and the end.

...but at least Hubert Parry isn't Charles Villiers Stanford.

Quote of the Night:

Dad: If the navy seals come into this house with guns ablazing i'm liable to use you as a human shield


I just have no idea.

Ahmadinejad: bin-Laden is in Washington

In Praise of Dick Cavett

(h/t Der Fersko)

Jerry Lewis is, to this day, movie idiocy personified. But it takes a lot of intelligence to create that level of idiocy. And while egomaniacal jerk he might have been, Lewis was/is nobody's fool.

But what's equally mesmerizing about this is Dick Cavett. Dick Cavett is an ideal talk show host, and of a type unseen in today's TV-scape. Cavett is a true comic, but one who wears his intelligence lightly. Intelligence is not something which mainstream talk-show hosts are supposed to have. Both Leno and Letterman cultivate an anti-intellectual everyman persona that is at odds with the intelligence it must take to run a mainstream talk-show for decades. Sure, one can make the argument for Stewart, Colbert, and Conan being intelligent humorists of the 'Cavett' variety. But none of these three are truly 'talk-show hosts.' The guests on their programs are incidental to their shows' charms; just another small part of the whole. Their shows do not work through 'talk', each of their shows are carried by the charisma of their hosts and the sharpness of their writers' material. In today's landscape, a comic who wears his intellectual curiosity as pridefully as Cavett did would be relegated to a youtube channel.

In a true 'talk-show' the host gives his guest equal billing. Charlie Rose is a 'talk-show' but his show is hampered by the fact that its host is clearly a hundred times stupider than any of his guests. James Lipton's 'Inside The Actor's Studio' is also clearly a 'talk show,' but Lipton's show is hampered by the fact that he's less interested in interviewing his guests than in fellating them. Bob Costas had a fine talk show, but the only people in the frame of mind to watch intelligent conversation at 1:30 in the morning are college stoners. The celebrity who came closest in our time to Dick Cavett was, oddly enough, Pat Sajak. Sajak is a nice and intelligent fellow whose personality is plainly wasted on Wheel of Fortune. His talk show's brief run was surprisingly engaging, and would have probably worked if we didn't discover that beneath Sajak's amiable facade lay a right-wing kook of the Rush Limbaugh variety.

It is one of the strange 'what ifs' of TV history that neither Letterman or Leno was among the top choices to succeed Carson on the Tonight Show. According to rumor/legend, the top two choices were Billy Crystal and Jerry Seinfeld. Clearly, Seinfeld made the right choice. But every year it looks more likely that Billy Crystal made the wrong one. One can imagine a Crystal Tonight Show as everything Leno isn't. Consistently funny, engaging interviews with guests, and bringing large-scale audiences up to the level of his material rather than pandering to the level of the material a focus group wants. Granted, Leno has taken too much flak for everything he isn't rather than people realizing what he is (a first-rate comic who sold out, and even now his political jokes can be surprisingly sophisticated). But its still not as much slight on Leno as it seems to say Crystal would have been a true successor to Carson rather than a seat-warmer who makes you nostalgic for better days.

Nicolas Cage Terror Threat Level

h/t GZ

The Invective of Pauline Kael

This appreciation of Pauline Kael ought to be read by anybody who loves the movies (i.e. all of us.). One does not have to agree with Kael much (perhaps even most) of the time to realize that she was one of those rare critics to elevate criticism to an art in itself. No American critic in any artform was as read (or as feared) in their heyday as Kael was in her's. She was often lambasted (not least by her colleagues) as a bile-spewing flamethrower who had only irrational loves and irrational hatreds. But tasteful, proper writing never did anybody any favors. If we can't feel an individual personality, with preferences and irritants behind the words, what reason is there to read that writer's writing? Reading her pieces today can often be as edifying as they must have been thirty-five years ago when she was the herald of American film's rebirth (the Romantic age, if you will). And who can possibly not love her (correct) take on A Clockwork Orange?

Monday, May 2, 2011

Quote of the Day

The Harris: When I become God, I'm going to have Father of the Bride remade with a clone of Osama Bin Laden, just to satisfy my own curiosity.
Then I'll do a second remake where all the parts are played by such clones.

Real Courage


h/t La Kozak

The Only Proper Music for Today

Don Giovanni is dead, but the most important thing is to figure out where life goes from here.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Quote of the Night:

The Hicks: so i figured out that Saint's are patrons of the wrong sh*t
for instance, the saint of childbirth is a childless zombie virgin

Grigory Sokolov

The Tick-Tock Clock by Couperin. All I can say is: @#$^$%^&!

Live: From the Brain of Dr. Jack Tucker

I am worried about the future prospects of Bashar al-Assad, M.D. I'm not sure that his background as an opthalmologist has adequately prepared him for what a dictator needs to do.

His father was a kind of model dictator. When there were symptoms of unrest in Hama, he razed the city and killed 20,000 people, and after that, there was hardly a peep out of the entire land of Syria. The Syrians knew what to expect out of Assad, Sr. If Daddy were alive now, he would have sent troops to Dara and leveled it to the ground and killed tens of thousands.
Instead Junior handles the crisis by trying to put out individual fires and that does not work. Oh sure, he has allowed the army to kill a hundred or two demonstrators, but that does not solve the problem. It merely stokes the fires of hatred against his regime. It's the way of previous kings and dictators, from Louis Philippe of France to Mubarak, have temporized in the past only to be overthrown for lack of a decisive use of force. Unfortunately, Dr. Assad does not seem to have the stomach for being a dictator. He would have preferred to be a dictator-reformer, but as other dictator-reformers have learned the hard way, the most dangerous time is precisely the time he tries to introduce measured and limited reforms. He just was not properly trained for the stuff a tyrant needs to do.

Daddy Assad had trained his older son, Rafiq, to follow in his footsteps while allowing Bashar to go off to London to be educated and become a doctor. I'm sure Rafiq would have become a dictator to make his father proud where not a peep would be heard from his completely intimidated countrymen, but he alas, he has gone off to the land of the seventy virgins and I am sure he is now in a better place.

But poor Dr Assad was never properly trained in dictatorship techniques , and really became the heir to the autocracy by accident. I can imagine that horrible phone call from his father when poor Rafiq drove his BMW over a cliff. "Son, I know you love your medical practice in London, but I'm afraid with Rafiq gone, you now have to come home and get involved in the family business. I have no one else to leave it but you. Really, I only killed those 20,000 people in Hama for you and your brother, and now that he is dead . . ."

I'm not sure that Junior has the stomach for the kind of brutality that a dictator, particularly one coming from a hated minority ethnic group, must be capable of in order to stay in power. Maybe if Dr. Assad had been trained as, say, a dentist, he could relate more easily to torture as an instrument of policy. Perhaps by taking 100 demonstrators and publicly and personally poking their eyes out, Dr. Assad would demonstrate to the Syrian public not only that he means business, but also that Opthalmology training can be a positive attribute for a dictator. Maybe 21st century dictators would follow his example and go to medical school first if they wanted to become ruthless tyrants.
Of course, if he does poke out the eyes of his enemies, he will undoubtedly loose his British medical license and be censured by the British Opthalmological Association. The BOA would probably argue that his Hypocratic Oath requires him to do no harm. I suspect that unfortunate prospect troubles his conscience, a fact that explains why, to date, he has been capable only of half measures and not the kind of brutality the current situation requires if he wants to keep power the way his father did.

Ubi Caritas by Paul Mealor

Definitely not a masterpiece - it is extremely easy for choral composers to pile sevenths and ninths on a chord to give their music a fuller sound, the real challenge is for the choirs singing it - but this is a very 'nice' piece which I enjoyed. Musically, it was the highlight of an extremely undistinguished musical selection at the Royal Wedding.

Yes...I watched it. I had a day off on Friday and nothing better to do. So sue my anti-monarchist ass.

Ubi Caritas

Yes. I had nothing better to do on my day off Friday, so I watched a rerun of the Royal Wedding (Royal Wedding reruns, hehe). Musically, it wasn't much to write home about. The brass were impressive sounding until they flubbed half the notes. The chorus sounded excellent, in that generic and enervated British way in which every voice matches perfectly by stripping itself of all personality.

The repertoire were mostly the usual jingoistic anthems: "Jerusalem", "I Was Glad", a token new John Rutter piece from his assembly line of diabetic tonality. The real greats of British music like RVW, Britten and Elgar were represented by some of their least impressive offerings. There was only one piece that impressed at all.