Wednesday, November 17, 2010

196. STOCKHAUSEN'S advice on COMPOSING

Stockhausen wrote this to accompany the DGG double-LP of HYMNEN (1967). Of all the "composition teachers" I have had -- including the great Nadia Boulanger -- I do not think I ever got advice this good:

Hide what you compose in that which you hear.

Cover what you hear.

Place something next to what you hear.

Place something far outside of what you hear.

Support what you hear.

Continue for a long time an event which you hear.

Transform an event until it is no longer recognisable.

Transform an event which you hear into the previous one which you composed.

Compose that which you expect next.

Compose often, but also listen for long periods of time to that which is already composed, without composing further.

Mix all instructions.

Gradually accelerate the stream of your intuition.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

195. 2011 30-Stadium Baseball Tour

2013 update: This never happened, but it's something that's definitely on my bucket list.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Wow that was hard!

After many hours of looking at 30 different schedules, I've come up with a PRELIMINARY itinerary:

w/JOANNIE

Tu 6/7 Leave TUCSON
We 6/8 Travel
Th 6/9 lad @ COL
Fr 6/10 Travel
Sa 6/11 Travel
Su 6/12 Travel
Mo 6/13 laa @ SEA
Tu 6/14 Travel
We 6/15 Travel
Th 6/16 Travel
Fr 6/17 sf @ OAK
Sa 6/18 Relax in sf
Su 6/19 Relax in sf
Mo 6/20 Relax in sf
Tu 6/21 min @ SF
We 6/22 Travel
Th 6/23 Travel
Fr 6/24 laa @ LAD
Sa 6/25 Relax in la
Su 6/26 Relax in la
Mo 6/27 was @ LAA
Tu 6/28 kc @ SD
We 6/29 cle @ ARI
Th 6/30 TUC
Fr 7/1 TUC
Sa 7/2 TUC
Su 7/3 TUC
Mo 7/4 TUC (fireworks!)
Tu 7/5 TUC
We 7/6 TUC
Th 7/7 TUC
Fr 7/8 Travel
Sa 7/9 Travel

***

Hopefully Alan -- can you possibly plan to take off 7/10 to 7/25? Two weeks?

We would meet in Dallas on

Su 7/10 oak @ TEX
Mo 7/11 Travel
Tu 7/12 Hang in HOU
We 7/13 Hang in HOU
Th 7/14 Hang in HOU
Fr 7/15 pit @ HOU (!)
Sa 7/16 Travel
Su 7/17 Travel/Hang in MIA
Mo 7/18 Hang in MIA
Tu 7/19 sd @ FLA
We 7/20 Travel
Th 7/21 nyy @ TB
Fr 7/22 Travel
Sa 7/23 Hang in ATL
Su 7/24 Hang in ATL
Mo 7/25 pit @ ATL (!)

Alan stays in Atlanta (?)

Tu 7/26 Travel
We 7/27 Hang in PIT
Th 7/28 PIT
Fr 7/29 PIT
Sa 7/30 PIT
Su 7/31 PIT
Mo 8/1 chc @ PIT (I need to know how many tickets to buy!!)

Hopefully, Wes and Wendy now join me.

Tu 8/2 Travel
We 8/3 atl @ WAS
Th 8/4 Travel
Fr 8/5 tor @ BAL

(Wendy stays in BAL) (?)

Sa 8/6 Travel
Su 8/7 nyy @ BOS
Mo 8/8 sd @ NYM
Tu 8/9 laa @ NYY
We 8/10 Travel
Th 8/11 Travel
Fr 8/12 was @ PHI
Sa 8/13 Travel
Su 8/14 sd @ CIN
Mo 8/15 Travel back to PIT

Becky now joins me (?)

Tu 8/16 Travel
We 8/17 lad @ MIL
Th 8/18 Travel
Fr 8/19 stl @ CHC
Sa 8/20 tex @ CHW
Su 8/21 cle @ DET
Mo 8/22 sea @ CLE
Tu 8/23 Travel
We 8/24 kc @ TOR
Th 8/25 Travel back to PIT

Just THREE more stadiums to go!

I was hoping maybe Erica might be willing, if she could take a few days off:

Fr 8/26 Travel
Sa 8/27 Travel
Su 8/28 det @ MIN
Mo 8/29 Travel
Tu 8/30 Hang in STL
We 8/31 STL
Th 9/1 STL
Fr 9/2 cin @ STL
Sa 9/3 Travel
Su 9/4 cle @ KC

If not, I'll figure it all out somehow.

Please let me know what you think. I would like to start making ticket plans asap -- and this is all EIGHT MONTHS in the future, so I hope you can help me out!

I'll be seeing each team --

ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS - 1
ATLANTA BRAVES - 2
BALTIMORE ORIOLES - 1
BOSTON RED SOX - 1
CHICAGO CUBS - 2
CHICAGO WHITE SOX - 1
CINCINNATI REDS - 2
CLEVELAND INDIANS - 4
COLORADO ROCKIES - 1
DETROIT TIGERS - 2
FLORIDA MARLINS - 1
HOUSTON ASTROS - 1
KANSAS CITY ROYALS - 3
LA ANGELS - 4
LA DODGERS - 3
MILWAUKEE BREWERS - 1
MINNESOTA TWINS - 2
NEW YORK METS - 1
NEW YORK YANKEES - 3
OAKLAND ATHLETICS - 2
PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES - 1
PITTSBURGH PIRATES - 3
SAN DIEGO PADRES - 4
SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS - 2
SEATTLE MARINERS - 2
ST. LOUIS CARDINALS - 2
TAMPA BAY RAYS - 1
TEXAS RANGERS - 2
TORONTO BLUE JAYS - 2
WASHINGTON NATIONALS - 3

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

194. SOFIA COPPOLA

How wonderful that she is finally being recognized for her amazing directorial talents!

I've been in love with SC since NEW YORK STORIES (1989), a three-director project (Allen, Coppola [daddy] and Scorsese)


Monday, September 13, 2010

193. Why I Can't Do Organized Religion

I'm in a terrible mood for a variety of reasons and I haven't posted a real "blog-type" post on this thing in a LONG time!! This one won't be as technical as most of my others!

On our Southwest flights -- both to AND from -- Chicago this weekend, was a young woman who belongs to the local Reformed congregation which Joannie and I used to belong to.

Seeing her brought back a flood of memories.

You see, in the early 90's when Sarah and Rachel were very little, I attended shul practically EVERY Friday night and rarely missed Saturday morning services and the near weekly bar or bat mitzvahs and Torah study, of course.

This young lady was once 13 -- and her Bat Mitzvah was one of the most astonishing things I'd ever seen! (of course all 3 of my girls had pretty good ones, too!)

Anyways, it got me thinking about those old days of yore when I felt comfortable and at home in a synagogue.

At one point, we went through four or five rabbis in a two-year period -- and for a time, the Temple president sought out me and the girls to help lead services or Torah study or whatever.

We participated in virtually every facet of Temple life -- from doing community service to Torah study in the park to making latkes at Channukah.

It was a good time.

The sanctuary was (is) gorgeous -- and was a place where very private things happened vis-a-vis communing with ancestors, etc.

I became pretty fluent at Biblical Hebrew and wrote out my own Torah in 54 blue machberit notebooks in script.

It was a good time.

However, the temple was broke (probably from paying off all those expensive rabbis they hired then fired!) ...

so a rich guy paid off the mortgage and the PTB hired a BIG-BUDGET rabbi who rah-rahed the congregation and everyone was happy again.

*&%*

To this day, it is extremely difficult for me to analyze the whys and wherefores of what happened between me and this new rabbi.

Things started occuring which really freaked me out. In Torah study, I would bring up some tidbit from the Mo'am Lo'ez, for example -- and he would jump down my throat telling me how wrong it all was and how I didn't understand it, but would ignore me and go on to the next thing.

[It seemed that any mention of Orthodox source commentary stuck in his craw.]

(I *LOVE* the Mo'am Lo'ez, btw. Just finished re-reading it recently.)

One day I was excitedly trying to get him to help me understand some details in the long Jacob story in Genesis, concerning various minutiae like the diacritical marks above the word VA-YEESH-SHA-KAY-HOO (he "kissed" him)...

... I mentioned how there was an old tradition of reading the word as NA-SHACH (as opposed to NA-SHAK) which means "TO BITE" !! IOW, Esau "bit" Jacob.

The Rabbi seemed potently annoyed at me for such crazy heresy -- even though the comment is mentioned right there in the GLEANINGS section of Plaut.

(Yes, it also says that Ibn Ezra "roundly condemned" the tradition!)

Nevertheless, the diacritical marks are cool to look at in the Torah! Why are they there?

My favorite parashah is NOT the one from my Bar Mitzvah (altho that one's pretty cool -- TZADIK TZADIK TEERDOF!)

... it's the penultimate parashah -- HA-AZEE-NU (Deut. 32). The Song of Moses.

I spent many many months trying to soak up every bit of commentary and writing about this magnificent Hebrew poem. The Hebrew is SO powerful and filled with puns and double entendres...

The imagery is fantastic! The second verse mentions FOUR different kinds of rain!

The poem is laid out in the actual Torah in two columns, which read from right to left -- RIGHT-HAND column first and then the LEFT-HAND column.

We had a rabbi (not this current one) who actually read the ENTIRE thing from right to left ACROSS THE PARCHMENT, forgetting that the poem ran down the right side first and THEN the left side!!!

This was a RABBI, folks !! A graduate of Cincinnati!! And he couldn't figure out what he was reading?? I couldn't believe it.

*&$%)_*(&

THE LAST STRAW

We were to get a new, kosher Torah. A VERY big deal!

One of the administrators of the Temple saw me one Shabbat and kindly asked me if I would be willing to accept the honor of drawing (tracing) a letter in the final page of the Torah - a real honor!!!

The day came and I was in my wheelchair on the bimah, waiting to hear what to do, when the Rabbi walked by and asked me what I was doing there?

He shooed me off the bimah which was apparently reserved for rich people who paid full dues.

This was the final straw because it had happened SO SO many times previously.

This was May of 2001. So it is nearly ten years since I've set foot in a shul.

I really miss it.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

192. KUROSAWA 7: Yoidore tenshi (Drunken Angel) [1948]

Here is the beginning of my post. And here is the rest of it.

191. KUROSAWA 6: Subarashiki nichiyobi (One Wonderful Sunday) [1947]

Here is the beginning of my post. And here is the rest of it.

190. KUROSAWA 5: Waga seishun ni kuinashi (No Regrets for Our Youth) [1946]

Here is the beginning of my post. And here is the rest of it.

189. KUROSAWA 4: Zoku sugata sanshiro (Judo Saga II) [1945]

Zoku sugata sanshiro (Judo Saga II) [1945]

This is Kurosawa's fourth film!

There are a few very cool moments! There are some interesting shots. A few of the characters are memorable. It is a sequel.

But it was made during the last year of the war -- a time when defeat was finally acknowledged (if not completely openly); when a filmmaker considered himself lucky to be able to make a film at all (and after all, how do you say no to the Emperor?); when said filmmaker considered himself lucky to have a small lighting rig which his man had cobbled together from shoelaces...

Kurosawa claims that he was not very enthusiastic about making the sequel, and it definitely shows.

Most AK fans consider this to be his worst film. Go see it!

It is 1887, five years later. Sanshiro (Susumu Fujita) is back from his travels. He witnesses a brutal American sailor (Osman Yusef, a Turk) beating up a young rickshaw boy, Daisuburo (Ko Ishida). As in the original, someone gets thrown into the river. In Sugata I, the villain was the westernized Gennosuke Higaki (Ryunosuke Tsukigata); in II the evil is combined into Gennosuke's two younger brothers, Teshin (played by Tsukigata) and the crazy, Noh-influenced Genzaburo (Akitake Kôno). After winning the big fight at the end, Genzaburo tries to kill Sugata with an axe, but Sugata smiles in his sleep and Genzaburo and his brother suddenly see the light. Sugata smiles even more broadly...

For a detailed, frame-by-frame analysis of this film, click here.

SsII1 This is funny because Sugata said the same thing about judo in the first film!

Until just a few weeks ago, the only available version of this film featured subtitles which were created in Hong Kong by Chinese who apparently were not well acquainted with either the Japanese or the English language!

But help is on the way (I am told). This link takes you to the new AK 100 box, which (I am told) contains a brand new translation of this film and the others with similar problems. If you make it to the Film Forum on Monday, you should also see a new, readable translation.

Other than that,
  • The boxing matches are beautifully edited ~ you feel like you're getting a glimpse of what he would achieve in later years. Kurosawa's editing was always a major factor in what made his films so great and so captivating...
  • A nice dramatic moment: Sugata is trying to get away from the horrible boxing match; he lingers by the door as he watches (the Sugata theme is playing) -- finally he opens the doors, turns to face the camera, and slams them shut, with the music crashing on a chord as the doors slam shut...
  • The scene where Yano enters the room where Sugata has been drinking (against rules) and kicks the sake bottle around is precious! Great editing/timing...
  • Daisuburo (the rickshaw boy) wants to learn judo. At his lesson with Sugata he is thrown no less than 14 times.
  • He faces the camera and bows. As he rises from his bow, another image of the boy enters the room (it is the same boy), as the first boy dissolves and the second repeats the action. The third dissolves as before, and bows as before. However, one can begin to detect very slight differences in each version of the boy. By this third version, he seems a bit more cocky in his walk, a bit more confident in his bows! The fourth version of the boy walks in much slower, tugs at his kimono belt, and sits. He picks up something in front of him and tosses it to his right; something else to his left; and then faces the camera. He bows. Very beautiful sequence...
  • The scene with the priest (Kokuten Kôdô) and Sugata is wonderful: Sugata can't sleep; the priest says he'll stay up and think with him. Sugata starts to talk, but the priest interrupts, shouting: "don't make noise." Sugata is still. "You must look at those who tackle you -- until he disappears. Understand?" Close on Sugata. He is staring straight ahead, trying achieve satori. The "Sugata" theme begins. POV behind the two, a fire burning. A gorgeous dissolve has Sugata (and the fire) disappearing from their former positions, and dissolving into Sugata prone on the floor. The priest never changes. The music tells us it is morning (trilling flute) and we change angles to a prone, sleeping Sugata, shot from above, his arms outstretched as he sleeps...his eyes open; his head turns. He sits up with a start. "I still can't do that," he says, bowing his head quickly. He turns to look at the priest. He stares. He moves closer. Cut to opposite angle, Sugata on the left staring at the sleeping priest on the right, in profile. The priest moves his mouth, as if to indicate he had always been awake. Sugata smiles -- perhaps because he is relieved the priest did not attain satori when he could not; or perhaps because he is amused by what he knows is a deception on the part of the priest; or both; or neither ... but it's a cute scene in an otherwise dreadful film ...
  • The final fight scene would have been beautiful if Kurosawa had had any decent film stock and/or lighting equipment. As it is, it looks like a play of shadows...
  • There are no wipes in this film.

188. KUROSAWA 3: Tora no o wo fumu otokotachi (The Men Who Tread on the Tiger's Tail) [1945]

Here is the beginning of my post. And here is the rest of it.

187. KUROSAWA 2: Ichiban utsukushiku (The Most Beautiful) [1944]

Here is the beginning of my post. And here is the rest of it.

186. KUROSAWA 1: Sugata sanshiro (Judo Saga) [1943]

A Sugata sanshiro (Judo Saga) [1943]

This is Kurosawa's first film!

With world war raging around him, and the Japanese censors making the choice of material nearly impossible, Kurosawa read a book, convinced his bosses at Toho to purchase the rights, begged for the chance to direct his first feature film and against all odds made a hit!

The year is 1882. Sugata sanshiro (Susumu Fujita) witnesses a fight between two rival judo sects and makes himself a disciple of the winner, Yano (Denjirô Ôkôchi). However, he fails to understand his sensei's teachings and, like an obstinate baby, throws himself into the dojo's pond and spends the night shivering, clinging to a wooden stake. Seeing the lotus blossom at dawn, he "awakens" and asks Yano's forgiveness. He then faces a series of tests and judo matches culminating in the "ultimate showdown."

Before we begin, please understand that there existed a very definite difference between a print of a film coming out of Hollywood in 1943, as opposed to a film coming out of Japan!

There are severe lighting problems throughout -- although you lucky folks who will see this at the Film Forum will get a much better view than us poor slobs who have to sit through the old VHS (only very recently did this release find its way to DVD via this 25-film Criterion set).

In addition, the Japanese censors made cuts (necessitating intertitles) before the film's premiere -- and two years later, the Occupation authorities banned the film due to its depiction of feudalism. It was not seen again until 1952 and is obviously missing chunks of storyline, mostly concerning the two women in Sugata's life!

A lot of you (I hope) will simply be curious to see what AK's very first effort was all about ~ but the truth is -- this is a very good film on its own merits (other than the technical deficiencies) and is fun to watch, even 67 years later!

A few tidbits that always come to mind when I watch this unique debut:

  1. Kurosawa was a painter before he became a filmmaker. I still gasp at the way he "paints" the very first scene in his very first film: the credits are shown against a black background. Under a background of sky with three points (left, center and right) barely visible at the bottom of the frame, a subtitle: "1882." These points are actually the very tops of buildings and after four seconds, the camera pans downward and stops at street level. We now see the structures in their entirety, on either side of the street which divides them. The camera faces the structure in the center. Basically, he drew three simple vertical lines (left, center and right) and a gentle vertical pan down these lines to set the scene.
  2. I count at least 24 people in this first scene and their movements are "drawn" onto the film quite beautifully. Before the camera even reaches the bottom of its pan, we see a man in a cap exiting the frame on the left. Two men are walking slowly on the left, coming towards the camera. A rickshaw boy pulls a well-dressed lady in front of the two men. A two-horse carriage sets an entirely different tempo on the right side of the screen. A one-horse vehicle now appears and the children who had been playing at the back of the left side of the frame now scatter towards the camera.
  3. Seiichi Suzuki's score comes to a halt. The camera begins a slow, methodical pan to the left, down an alley, showing close architectural details -- two women working, and finally coming to rest on some older children (two of them have babies on their backs), who we have heard singing since this shot began.
  4. My blog post goes into quite a bit of detail concerning the wipe.
  5. In order to drive Yano's rickshaw, Sugata tosses his getas (clogs) away."There is a Japanese phrase, 'geta o azukeru,' which literally means to hand over the wooden clogs but has the figurative meaning of putting oneself in the hands of others. Perhaps this was in Kurosawa's mind when he constructed the sequence which follows. Sugata, having put himself in the hands of the judo teacher, and made himself barefoot to do so, pulls the rickshaw off down the road" [Richie, p. 21].
  6. Kurosawa sure knew how to pull a particular type of expression out of his actors: "While on location for Sanshiro Sugata Kurosawa discovered Fujita had been sleeping with a local woman. When Kurosawa learned of the tryst, he used Fujita's embarrassed expression for the scene where Sanshiro is scolded by Yano. Fujita, even into his seventies, was fairly notorious as a ladies' man"
[Galbraith, pp. 42-43]).
  • Richie does an excellent job of helping us keep things straight. One intertitle reads: "Sanshiro is still young. The girl's denunciation shocks him. Yano trains him in the moonlight. Sanshiro is like a spiritless dummy. But as he is thrown by the instructor, he regains his courage and understands. Yano has taught him what life is. Sanshiro is strong-minded, once again." Richie: "(This girl is, of course, different from the temple-girl [Sayo] though the story obviously parallels these two daughters. Since all existing prints of Sugata are mutilated and sections of the original negative are missing, she disappears after an aborted attempt on Sugata's life. The negative was only reconstructed in 1952 and this also accounts for the lavish use of titles in existing prints. The later editors decided to explain everything while they had the chance and many of the major sequences are separated by needless continuity titles telling us that so many months have passed or that such and such has happened.)" [p. 23]
  • There are eight wipes in this film; four horizontal (2/2) and four vertical (all top to bottom). Notice the beautiful effect as the vertical wipes accentuate the downward movement of Sugata as he descends the steps!
  • 185. KUROSAWA flm reviews, Part II

    Click on Film/KUROSAWA1 to see my "frame-by-frame" analyses of the first ten films.

    The following links will take you to my most recent reviews (January 2010) for my friend David Lehman's blog, The Best American Poetry:
    1. Sugata sanshiro (Judo Saga) [1943]
    2. Ichiban utsukushiku (The Most Beautiful) [1944]
    3. Tora no o wo fumu otokotachi (The Men Who Tread on the Tiger's Tail) [1945]
    4. Zoku sugata sanshiro (Judo Saga II) [1945]
    5. Waga seishun ni kuinashi (No Regrets for Our Youth) [1946]
    6. Subarashiki nichiyobi (One Wonderful Sunday) [1947]
    7. Yoidore tenshi (Drunken Angel) [1948]
    8. Shizukanaru ketto (The Quiet Duel) [1949]
    9. Nora inu (Stray Dog) [1949]
    10. Shubun (Scandal) [1950]
    11. Rashomon (In the Woods) [1950]
    12. Hakuchi (The Idiot) [1951]
    13. Ikiru (To Live) [1952]
    14. Shichinin no samurai (The Seven Samurai) [1954]
    15. Ikimono no kiroku (I Live in Fear/Record of a Living Being) [1955]
    16. Kumonosu jo (Throne of Blood) [1957]
    17. Donzoko (The Lower Depths) [1957]
    18. Kakushi toride no san akunin (The Hidden Fortress) [1958]
    19. Warui yatsu hodo yoku nemuru (The Bad Sleep Well) [1960]
    20. Yojimbo (The Bodyguard) [1961]
    21. Tsubaki Sanjûro [1962]
    22. Tengoku to jigoku (High and Low) [1963]
    23. Akahige (Red Beard) [1965]
    24. Dodesukaden [1970]
    25. Dersu Uzala [1975]
    26. Kagemusha (The Double/Shadow Warrior) [1980]
    27. Ran (Chaos) [1985]
    28. Yume (Akira Kurosawa's Dreams) [1990]
    29. Hachigatsu no kyoshikyoku (Rhapsody in August) [1991]
    30. Madadayo (Not Yet) [1993]