Insistent Imps

Just a few days ago, it was the 149th anniversary of first impressionist exhibition, held at 35 Boulevard des Capucines in Paris from April 15 to May 15, 1874, doors open 10 am – 6 pm, 8 pm – 10 pm. This little fact led me down a blooming spring path of reading up on the event and the subsequent seven exhibitions, the last of which was in 1886. All in all, the recurrence of these exhibitions was amazing, especially given the number of artist egos and practicalities (such as money) involved.

I began with this excellent Artchive summation and wound up reading all of the summaries from Impressionist Art.com, which covered seven of the eight with a wealth of images, facts, plus a few typos and opinions (e.g., Caillebotte was handsome), and then the quick summary from ThoughtCo.

These artists, from Morisot and Monet to Degas and Cezanne, and the rest of the lot (e.g., Marie Bracquemond, and paternal Manet hovering in the background) are some of my very favorites, and the world they inhabited with its art dealers and crowds, internal and external politics, and witty prose reactions, is, in a word, rich. And obscurities abound, such as the notoriety of Jean-François Raffaëlli, who I knew only from one painting in one of the Art Institute’s 19th-century galleries.

With all I learned, the most interesting must be that in some instances the artists chose how to display their pictures contrary to academic ways (no surprise there, I guess, since this is what the exhibition was all about). Pissarro’s and Cassatt’s frames were two discussed, along with the ways some artists were given their own galleries and some featured in the front of the exhibition, some (the more challenging ones) at the back.

This led me to this little illuminating article from Australia’s AnArt4Life blog, highlighting both the simple colored frames used, the color of the paint on the walls behind the paintings, as well as how the paintings were displayed to as to be appreciated much more easily and individually. It just so happens this article’s writers are in Melbourne, Victoria, where I once happened to visit some of their museum galleries with a person who had a knack for pointing out how the frames of the paintings affected and enhanced the experience.

Well, there you have it, a dully prosaic write-up on one of the most lyrical times in art history. I hope you find something to enjoy in it, despite the stilts. I’ll leave with a couple images from Pissarro, whose role (and work) I came to appreciate more thanks to this exercise. I am enjoying imagining how we would have preferred to display these: venue, wall, frame, and all.

Gelée blanche (Hoar Frost / White Frost) by Camille Pissarro, 1873. Displayed at the First Impressionist Exhibition. Source: Wikimedia Commons.
Les châtaigniers à Osny (The Chestnut Trees at Osny) by Camille Pissarro, 1873. Also displayed at the 1874 exhibition. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

Watching Black Swan the other day, I thought about how few movies I see. Thinking about it slightly more, how many great movies do we need to have per year anyway? One or two seems fine as the years go by and we keep busy at other pursuits.

So, here we have 50 56 films for my years, with a nod to some I might not feel like seeing these days, but had an impact at the time. Sometimes once or twice is enough anyway. Not every film I loved from way back when is here either, so no E.T. or Indiana Jones here. Consideration of wanting at least one film by certain actors factors in as well.

I used to keep meticulous track of all the movies I saw, but tossed it aside and now form this list from a list of a bout 140 movies that I whittled things down to. My film-viewing history is neither complicated or interesting. As a kid in the ’70s and ’80s, I saw plenty of those decade’s lesser offerings, onward into the ’90s to now, seeing only a few here and there. The only era into which I have delved deeply, as an aficiandao, was during the ’90s when I avidly recorded ’30s and ’40s films thanks to channels like AMC and TCM.

So, here we have the first 55, more difficult to narrow down than the follow-up TV post that actually was posted before this! Four that I wrote up have been deleted to make it 55; seems like the coming years will bring more than one induction each. We only live once, and two movies a year isn’t so bad anyway.

Orphans of the Storm (12/28/1921): If only for the necessity of gazing at Lilllian and Dorothy Gish through the camera lens.

Animal Crackers (8/23/1930): If I had my way, I’d splice the first three Marx Brothers films together and watch on repeat, but pick this one for the presence of Lillian Roth along with the usual players. The Cocoanuts was the first and had the amusing 1920s Florida real estate boom satire and Monkey Business the Chevalier stuff. And then there’s the next few movies they did…

Follow Thru (9/27/1930): A real journey into another era, with hit or miss humor and lots of labor to make a film with decent sound and in color, but it has Nancy Carroll and Thelma Todd and is very entertaining. The work of DeSylva, Brown, & Henderson deserves to be remembered and celebrated.

Palmy Days (10/3/1931): A stand-in for all of Eddie’s early work, some of which might show up on this list eventually. He’s paired well with Charlotte Greenwood and lots of great jokes. The blackface that shows up in his work is especially unfortunate as Eddie was Jewish with a lot of his humor based on being a decided outsider.

Movie Crazy (8/12/1932): Harold Lloyd with sound is even funnier and he made two top-notch talkie films that deserve to be watched and watched again. Constance Cummings comes along for this ride.

Love Me Tonight (8/18/1932): Maurice Chevalier, Jeanette MacDonald (and Charles Ruggles and C. Aubrey Smith and even Myrna Loy) in one of the most charming and compelling films made. Maurice and Jeanette paired up again, but never better than here.

The Fatal Glass of Beer (3/3/1933): W.C. distilled into a nutshell. A film to howl to for all 21 minutes.

*New for 2023*

Made on Broadway (5/19/33): A shining, but nothing flashy, example of early 1930s drama. Short, sharp, and intriguing. No angel himself, the Robert Montgomery character winds up pronouncing judgment on the Sally Eilers character, making me cringe as her character has certainly been victimized by men in her past. Also introduced me to Madge Evans, in the role of the true confidant and lifelong love.

Alice Adams (8/15/1935): Touching. Earnest Katherine Hepburn, plus references to being liable to eat “broken glass” and “rusty tacks.”

The Milky Way (2/7/1936): Harold Lloyd strikes again, this time with the snappy Verree Teasdale, Adolph Menjou, and Helen Mack as worthy accomplices.

Any Andy Hardy film (3/12/1937-1946): From A Family Affair to Love Laughs, nothing better captures the times, albeit in simple, idealized fashion. Funny and fun to see Mickey Rooney use an old-time phone.

Easy Living (7/16/1937): Jean Arthur at her winsomest with great support. About as screwball as they come, although these next two top it. Too bad she lost her job at The Boy’s Constant Companion, though.

The Awful Truth (10/21/1937): Irene Dunne, Cary Grant, and Asta/Skippy. Mostly improvised on set, the brainchild of director Leo McCarey.

Bringing Up Baby (2/16/1938): Katherine Hepburn, Cary Grant, and Asta/Skippy. Plus Nissa the Leopard and Charles Ruggles. The screwiest of them all with non-stop laugh lines—ad-libbed and scripted. Both stars at their peak, with Grant no doubt getting a bump in technique from his previous film (see above).

The Wizard of Oz (8/25/1939): The stuff of legends, emblazoned on every kid’s mind. Glides along seeming like no time at all. What could be better?

My Favorite Wife (5/17/1940): More laughs, possibly, than the previous screwballs, as Dunne and Grant and McCarey team up again. One of the most welcome “sequels” in cinema history. Hard to believe this was released in May as it has the air of a holiday picture.

Rhythm on the River (9/6/1940): Der Bingle could have appeared before this, but now that he has, one of film’s greatest is commemorated. Mary Martin, Oscar Levant, Basil Rathbone. Real quality light musical comedy stuff. Kind of a precursor to Holiday Inn, below.

Kipps (6/28/1941): A film (and book) worth revisiting. Michael Redgrave and Phyllis Calvert are winning, and she gets one the best lines ever, “Artie, I wouldn’t do this for everyone, mind you.”

Holiday Inn (8/4/1942): Top to bottom one of the most well-made and entertaining films ever with possibly its best song. If not for the blackface/”Abraham!” elements, it would be cherished ’til kingdom come.

Meet Me in St. Louis (11/22/1944): Nostalgic Americana as only this era could do it. Margaret O’Brien and Harry Davenport particularly charming, along with a raft of songs and scenes.

It’s A Wonderful Life (12/20/1946): Must have been quite interesting to see a few days before Christmas so long ago. Has one of my favorite scenes and, actually, any scene with Donna Reed in it is a fabulous one in this story.

Life with Father (8/14/1947): Tour de force for William Powell, permeating the film when he’s not even on screen, leaving all other actors, except possibly Jimmy Lydon, as bit players—not that I’d want it any other way. Masterwork.

The Bachelor & The Bobby Soxer (7/24/1947): Hilarity combining Andy Hardy and screwball comedy. Cary Grant, Myrna Loy, Shirley Temple, Rudy Vallee, and again amusing Harry Davenport.

The Heiress (10/6/1949): Brilliant story from a brilliant novelist, a brilliant script, a brilliant director, with a brilliant composer and theme song, plus brilliant acting all around. But there’s really only name needed to recommend this movie: Olivia de Havilland.

The Red Balloon (5/3/1956): One of the products of the 50s that endures in my mind. A tribute to the days of elementary school filmstrips.

Wild Strawberries (12/26/1957): The first meditation on life and time on this list. Extremely well done with many moving scenes, despite some of the usual 1950s clunkiness and heavy-handedness.

The Innocents (11/24/1961): My favorite “horror” movie. A movie of ghosts, mystery, the unseen, the unexplained, the whispered. Wonderful!

The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (4/22/1962): My favorite western of the few I’ve seen. Great cast and story and message.

The Music Man (6/19/1962): Small town, Midwestern charm of old, coupling nicely with Meet Me in St. Louis above. Many infectious, heartfelt songs and wonderfully cast, top to bottom. Robert Preston and Shirley Jones outstanding, one nearly over the top, one understated. And the stylized, but historical, mise en scène and costumes pack a wallop.

Les dimanches de Ville d’Avray (11/12/1962): Bare, yet lush black and white, with the textures of Corot in a place he painted. A story of what can happen to the disturbed, damaged, dreamers.

Les parapluies de Cherbourg (2/19/1964): Lush everything, yet a simple story, entirely sung. A real achievement, drawing us in with those most beautiful of opening credits and mesmerizing throughout.

Mothra vs. Godzilla (4/29/1964): Mothra must be included in the film that represents Godzilladom. More entertaining in every aspect than most of its genre.

The Gospel According to Saint Matthew (9/4/1964): Striking and brave in its originality, despite an ancient “script”.

The Spy Who Came in from the Cold (12/16/1965): Two great acting leads. The spy movie to beat all spy movies.

The Family Way (12/18/1966): My favourite of the kitchen sinks, and a much-needed Hayley Mills entry to this list. Great job all-around. If it only had Herman’s Hermits, although there are ties to Paul McCartney and The Smiths.

Chinatown (6/20/1974): Modern day film noir, with great leads and just about everything else. My memory used to fixate on the bandaging Nicholson wears in his face after injury, but now it fixates on his generous helpings of Old Crow.

Rikki-Tikki Tavi (1/9/1975): Television special, but something we saw as a school filmstrip. A beautiful depiction of a short story; another reminder of how great animation used to be pre-computer.

Monty Python & The Holy Grail (4/3/1975): Funniest movie ever made. Memorized.

Star Wars (5/25/1977): What can be said? If this were the only Star Wars film it would still be an all-time classic and then some.

Close Encounters of the Third Kind (11/16/1977): Spielberg without much corn. Completes the landmark sci-fi year that was 1977 from a very different perspective than the above.

Watership Down (10/14/1978): Favorite feature-length cartoon.

Monty Python’s Life of Brian (8/17/1979): Second flick, funny as the first. Almost.

Airplane! (6/27/1980): Best of its genre, silly-stupid joke after joke after joke, although the Naked Gun movies deserve a mention for more sustained achievement.

Blade Runner (6/25/1982): One of the best scene-setting, world-creating films out there. Some amazing lines too. Its sequel is one of the rare worthy ones and made earlier drafts of this list. See the Final Cut.

Pee Wee’s Big Adventure (8/9/1985): Upon re-watching this last year, I found I’d almost memorized the whole thing and still found it hilarious. Priceless, unique.

Eight Men Out (9/2/1988): The only baseball or sports movie that really sticks with me despite its oversimplifications for this former Deadball fanatic.

Flirting (3/21/1991): The two leads are excellent in this imaginative film. Absorbing, although it suffers from male gaze, and depicts a world I was thankfully never a part of that is thankfully almost gone.

Howards End (3/13/1992): By far the best of its Merchant-Ivory, drama-based-on-a-novel kind. If asked, I’d probably still say this is my favorite film. I saw it in a theater in the small town where I started graduate school. Little did I suspect…

Clueless (7/19/1995): Charming way of getting into the head of an “other” many would assume was a dummy, not many of us admire or would want to be. The camera absolutely loves Alicia Silverstone; I fell too. One of many 1990s movies I missed. This might be one I was most happy to finally see.

Saving Private Ryan (7/24/1998): Everyone should experience war, or this movie, so as to avoid supporting casual entry into it. The TV series, Band of Brothers would be another option, as would Born on the Fourth of July, although this movie is something else again.

Topsy-Turvy (9/3/1999): I guess this is the best back-stage drama out there, although the plot is incidental. The film is really just vignettes in how The Mikado was made, with the swirl of human drama the players underwent while preparing, focusing on their character and lives, not the show.

Donnie Darko (1/19/2001): You can learn the “real” story if you read up and watch the director’s cut, but the verve and mystery of the original is a more jarring, enriching experience. I enjoyed coming up with my own ideas in this very cool film with a killer opening credit song.

Elf (11/7/2003): I laughed a lot, out loud, in the theater the first time I saw this. And I didn’t feel stupid about it afterwards: the true test.

The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (3/19/2004): Glad I overcame a certain prejudice to see it. Winslett is amazing, Carrey excellent, and the layered story endlessly engaging. A joy to “figure out” or, better yet, meditate upon.

Black Swan (9/1/2010): Beauty, focus, competition, art, physical strain, abuse, insanity, delusion, illusion.

The Day He Arrives (5/19/2011): Another one that plays with time. A much more cerebral take on repetition and variation than the phrase that has entered our language, Groundhog Day.

What will be next? Another from the pre-Hays Code era, something at least somewhat contemporary, some lingering nostalgia from my youth? Tune in later in the year to find out.

51 for 51 (TV)

Applying my movie list idea to TV shows before the movie list is even released! One show for each year of my life. Unlike movies, there have only been a few years of my life sans much television. Those busy times were great, and so were the dinners mixed with TV and bits of family conversation from the 70s to present. Here, a nod to different program genres so as not to overwhelm or monotonize the brain. Roughly, the first twenty-five were viewed in my younger years, the second group viewed in my older, more adult years.

I’ll add a new one every year and maybe tinker by adding links and other stuff as the weeks pass.

Newhart: My favorite show as a kid, especially the first few seasons before the characters descended into parody as happens to all shows when ideas don’t fly as thick as before. Besides Bob Newhart, one of many highlights was two seasons of Steven Kampmann as Kirk Devane.

Romper Room: An early memory with Do-Bee and a magic mirror and earnest regard by motherly figures of an era that was ending.

Captain Kangaroo: Another show from another era with great puppets and people.

Ray Rayner and His Friends / The Bozo Show: Chicago magic. I’ll never forget Ray and his writing (in chalk) weather reports on the wooden frame of the chalkboard and the many joys of Bozo and his friends and games.

Gigglesnort Hotel: More Chicago magic with a most memorable dragon. One of a handful of shows enjoyed on Sunday mornings when it is assumed many were in church, and the likes of The Magic Door and The New Zoo Revue took over.

Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood: Celebrated for the man himself, his home, and his Neighborhood of Make-Believe. Endlessly wonderful.

Sesame Street: One of the great highlights of childhood. Countless great characters and memories that can never be driven from the brain even if I wanted to. And, if Elmo’s fraught relationship with Rocco is any indication, still going strong at least now and then.

Wild Kingdom: Specific memories are dim, but fondness for the adventures of Marlon Perkins, Mutual of Omaha, and put-upon man in the field “Jim” will never die. Landmark, along with Jacques Cousteau’s specials.

All in the Family: Limited and even slight in some ways now, but it and what it spawned was greatness and very funny.

The Mary Tyler Moore Show: Wears ever so well upon re-reviewing. This along with the above were the two staples of the ’70s and I’m happy I got to see many of their episodes in original broadcast!

Alice: Among a ton of other sitcoms of the era, this one stands out for surprisingly snappy jokes.

The Brady Bunch: For me all re-runs, but each episode seemingly stamped line-for-line in my brain. Thankfully one can live with this as it was a good show for all its silliness.

Monty Python’s Flying Circus: Speaking of silliness. Worshiped by me and many of my peers. Gold standard TV.

Saturday Night Live: Despite a lot, lot of awfulness, it’s accumulated an amazing amount of still-standing hilarity, not to mention launching many careers good for a follow-up or two.

The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle & Rocky Show: Big brother to another great show, George of the Jungle/Super Chicken/etc. This and all its featured cartoons were excellent.

Gumby: Adorable weirdness from another era and dimension all its own. Catchy theme too.

Peanuts specials: The ’60s and ’70s was full of them. Christmas rules, with Halloween a close second (“I got a rock”), but many golden moments throughout them. And don’t forget their first couple of films.

Rankin-Bass specials: Just as emblazoned on the mind as anything else listed above. Rudolph is the best, but then there’s misters Snow and Heat Miser, Nestor the Donkey, The Little Drummer Boy, and on and on.

Star Trek: Captured the imagination way back when and still a model for thoughtful, less action-heavy adventure drama.

The PBS NewsHour: JIm Lehrer, Robin MacNeil, and the great big gang of excellent journalists. A staple throughout my life, although there are periods where one just gets sick of the news!

The McLaughlin Group: My relatives enjoyed this one too, and despite all the shouting there was humor and something to be learned from watching this one.

Pee Wee’s Playhouse: Madness.

The Simpsons: Streotypes, yes, but also an unmatched investigation of American culture of the 80s and 90s. Stopped watching after that.

Fawlty Towers: Short-lived but oh so sweet.

Law & Order: Beats all the other old dramas I used to watch, hands down. A formula that worked splendidly despite cast changes, plus a “fun” way to see NYC.

Al TV: Occasionally, “Weird Al” took over MTV, much to its improvement, commenting on videos (thank you, Madonna) and other frazzled, madcap stuff he did, per usual. Just Say Julie was good too, as were 120 Minutes and Yo! MTV Raps, of course.

Mystery Science Theater 3000: In the vein of the above, but full-blown and exceptionally funny. Ridiculous old movies commented upon, with sketches galore between. A study in allusion and parody.

Seinfeld: My family could all quote this one extensively. A true landmark in entertainment history, plus that NY feel of the time.

Friends: Fewer iconic moments than Seinfeld, but a bumper crop of them, thanks especially to Ross and Rachel. Phoebe grew on me too, the second time around. Actually, I watched most of this one in reruns before the show wrapped up. An activity: keep stats on which character makes you laugh the most—could be applied to Seinfeld and other great comedies as well.

Clarissa Explains It All: Inventive escapism for someone in their 20s remembering their teens.

Are You Being Served? + Are You Being Served? Again! (aka Grace & Favour): Ridiculous in oh so many ways, but endearing and a laugh riot. Once told by a British professor that I would likely not appreciate it. He was wrong.

The Thin Blue Line: Matches Fawlty for hilarity in a short-run comedy.

As Time Goes By: A comic drama I guess, with a lot of heart and laughs. Another one that my family all enjoyed, which adds some charm to it.

Keeping Up Appearances: Formulaic to the extreme, but always generating laughs.

Prime Minister’s Questions: See above entry. Highlight: the Tony Blair vs. John Major years, with credit to Blair and William Hague for carrying forth most of that energy when Labour took over.

Joan of Arcadia: One of two shows from the time that employed “One of Us” by Joan Osborne to good effect, this one quite literally. The other was the also notable Homicide: Life on the Street.

Ballykissangel: A little hand-wringing perhaps, but a good portrait of small town life with a nice dose of British Isles atmosphere and more than a smidgeon of institutional skepticism.

Zoboomafoo: The first of a trio of PBS kids’ shows that kept me company while making dinner after work. Zoboo—both live and filmed—is hard to resist, as is the Kratt enthusiasm. You won’t believe your mind.

Arthur: Kind of a Simpsons for little kids with a lot of parody, dredging up childhood conflicts, and not unacceptable lessons.

Odd Squad: Makes me snicker more than I should admit.

Parks & Recreation: A comedy that turned into a drama, you started to care about the characters that much. Another good look at civic life with a lot of interesting cast members, both regular and guest.

The Office: Lasted much too long, but many, many moments make it one of the century’s best and Steve Carell tolerable despite his character being the opposite.

Big Brother: Shallow, sophomoric, and prone to at least a couple of -ists, but also one of the purer, cynical mind/power politics games out there.

Pureheart 19 / Soonjung 19: Whatever you call it, the finest vehicle for learning some Korean culture and language while laughing and having the heartstrings tugged a bit. Also had an interesting Roomba-type character.

Arrested Development: The first three seasons bear repeated study, unfolding layers with each newly-deciphered mumble or background action. A show where one would like to see all of the cut scenes spliced in for the grandest of comedy spectacles.

The New Adventures of Old Christine: You feel the angst (or agony?) of the main character, painfully, almost every minute of the show. Quite an achievement for something so funny and clever.

Extras: Has some of the funniest TV moments committed to film. Doesn’t overstay its welcome.

Wallander: The atmosphere was palpable, and the character’s mental plight inspired me to find and upload a replica of his ringtone, which was specially composed for the series.

Broadchurch: Just compelling, with the two leads acting up a storm.

Death in Paradise: The funnest mystery show I know, with ups and downs depending on cast changes. The “importing a white male English detective inspector” element is awful, but everything else compensates for it.

*New for 2023*
Jonathan Creek: Recently re-watched the earlier seasons and it’s just as good if not better than it once was; thank you Alan Davies and Caroline Quentin. Although everyone involved is sent up over the course of an episode, the downside is a certain amorality and sexism that very occasionally creep into the plots and jokes, most of which I attribute to the “male gaze” and Creek’s “chaotic good” nature. The specials add to the heft. And adding Season Four stamps the show’s immortality for certain, thanks to the inimitable Carla Borrego, played by the splendid Julia Sawalha.

What will be next? One of a couple shows currently running, or something else dredged from the past.

As much as I’d like to use a Greek “k” when spelling disc, I’ll go with a standard that’s been around for decades. This British staple is not so well-known here, but it seems about time for me to appear on this radio show where eight tracks are selected, plus a book and luxury item to have at one’s disposal while stranded on a desert island. What are yours?

I came up with my selections off the top of my head after only briefest musing. I wonder how they’ll hold up.

Eight Discs
1 “Swan Lake Suite” by Tchaikovsky. I figured I could be granted this if not the entire opera. Drama, beauty, melody, atmosphere, birds, ballet.

2 “Moonlight Serenade” by Glenn Miller & His Orchestra. I love Big Band vocals, but the beauty of the sound, mood, and feel of my grandparents’ generation makes this the one.

3 “The Rain, The Park & Other Things” by The Cowsills. My favorite of a certain 60s genre and subject matter.

4 “Everybody Is A Star” by Sly & The Family Stone. Captures so much in its brief stay.

5 “Born Under Punches (The Heat Goes On)” by Talking Heads. For certain moods.

6 “There Is A Light That Never Goes Out” by The Smiths.

7 “Streets Of Your Town” by The Go-Betweens. Everything comes together perfectly for a band’s music that is full of associations with many of my favorite people on this planet.

8 “Hurricane” by Natalie Imbruglia. One in my quests for the best of the female voice. A song I didn’t know until recently, so good to have something fresh to get to know on this island.

Many important figures in my life are left out. I did an exercise in picking five songs with some friends years ago, with different tunes, but this is how this one turned out. I’ll share those sometime too.

Contestants are granted a copy of the complete Shakespeare (thank you) and The Bible or other religious tome that suits them (not so keen). I apparently echo Eleanor Bron and others in my selection of Homer’s Iliad in dual language (original and the Richmond Lattimore English translation). Could I put this in the place of The Bible and pick another one?

Luxury Item
Pending. Any suggestions?

Ageless and

I hear the opening bars and how can I resist? I’m back in the 1970s again, Barbra Streisand’s “Evergreen” bringing me there. This transport is instantaneous. Resisting isn’t even an option; there’s no time for it. Hearing that song again after a long time, I think it would be fun to pull together a collection from Streisand’s peak era, that decade. I tried the same with Bette Midler and that failed miserably due to lack of quality material, but in this case it worked out, as it has recently for in-depth looks at Natalie Imbruglia, Laura Nyro, Lisa Loeb, Sarah McLachlan, and an over four hour sampler of Olivia Newton-John’s entire career. With Streisand, as I collect the songs I remember that I once owned her second greatest hits cassette. No wonder this is so familiar.

Streisand’s never meant too much to me. Stoney End is a great album I invested in some time ago. But, otherwise, of her films, her life, and her earlier and later songs, only her ridiculous version of “Jingle Bells” figures in my active consciousness as I find myself singing it once every year or two. And, although she didn’t write anything I can think of, she did have a way of making songs her own, as singers of earlier eras and her ilk do. (Sometimes—even in the era of sing-songwriters—it’s surprising to learn that they did write a lot of their own material, as is the case of Melissa Manchester.) In the 70s, Streisand’s songs were beautifully arranged and lovingly orchestrated—she definitely cultivated a sound.

So, spurred on, I started listening to a bunch of her songs from my early life and created a 17-song “golden hour” group. Some are from that old hits collection and some I’d never heard or heard of. I left out the duets with Neil Diamond and Barry Gibb, wanting to keep it her voice—although the Donna Summer song is included (“No More Tears: Enough Is Enough”) as they meld well in their womanly sentiments.

I wound up grouping them haphazardly, but by album. Along with “Evergeen” and “The Way We Were,” two songs written to make me want to cry, there’s “All in Love Is Fair” and the towering “Woman in Love.” I hadn’t heard “Prisoner” in ages. “Superman” and the touching “Songbird” were faint memories.

Hearing “My Heart Belongs to Me” again for the first time in decades is a grand reunion; it might be her very best song. Possibly more exciting, there were songs I’d never even suspected existed: “The Summer Knows,” the surprising (based on its eyebrow-raising title) “Wet,” and best revelation of all “Lazy Afternoon,” a truly amazing atmosphere you can enjoy during any season (winter especially?), which I link you to here.

With all of the music coursing through my veins and across my ears, I should be doing posting daily to squeeze this all into what’s left of my lifetime. One day I’ll pursue my “Women of Song” or “1970s Epitome” ideas. Maybe I’ll analyze just what this 1970s feel is; for now I think of it as beauty unfiltered by experience. But for now there’s this, the song that’s haunted me in and out, off and on, for days: click here.

The nature of…

Time this time. I was looking through Instagram photos of soccer teammates, the joy and camaraderie they find in each other, then thinking how ephemeral sports teammate-dom often is, in a world of trades, injuries, and retirements. A thing of a season or a few seasons. Many things appear this brief to me now, having nailed down a few decades of life, but when you’re young and doing something among well-liked peers, the impacts and memories are deep and long-lasting; time seems to slow to allow you to really take hold of a moment, or at least it takes hold of you in retrospect. Schopenhauer pointed this out.

These thoughts, and some listening to Arcade Fire (whose best topic will always be nostalgia), particularly “We Used To Wait” (a song I will always identify with in our cellphone-changed world), got me wondering, how can we slow down time? In younger days, the novelty of what life set before me and the lack of self-conscience and relative lack of busyness and worry all added up to a slowed-down time. But could I, as an adult, get time to slow down?

I think of my multifarious life: the places I’ve lived, people I’ve known, pastimes I’ve pursued for pay or other (mostly other), the multitude of subjects I’ve read about and explored. I think of my time on a soccer team or at my junior high school or with a certain group of friends or minoring in Classical Studies in college or studying dragonflies and damselflies. With all of these, and the countless other things I have spent time on, it feels like I have just scratched the surface of what they could be.

Time and change go hand in hand, but I wonder what if I had stayed with my group of 7th grade schoolmates through my whole life, would I still feel I really had plumbed the depths of the relationships? There were so many people I barely knew, not to mention my friends and all the things we left unexplored. Or if I’d stuck it out in my DC job at age 30, where some people I used to work with remain colleagues. Would moving through time with this same set have made time seem richer and slower?

Put another way, imagine living in a year, say 1992, for a whole lifetime, meeting the same people, maybe traveling a little, but essentially exploring everything that was 1992 for a lifetime, the people, the places, the topics, the issues, etc. Not exactly a “Groundhog Day” recurring over, but time stood still allowing for all the world’s texture to be experienced.

But, of course, time doesn’t stand still, ever.

This is not the way of humans, the world, but if you look at a lifelong poet or a professor specialized in a narrow topic, you get a hint of the possibility of just how long time can seem. Imagine poring over the literature on a couple of specialized topics for the entirety of life, tweaking courses you are teaching, creating studies, honing pieces of writing that you are proud of, that benefit from a life’s focused gathering of expertise. Getting to know your colleagues in these endeavors, how their views differ or harmonize with yours, how change and evolution or stubborn resolution not to change points of view manifest themselves.

Maybe these minor adjustments and permutations really do slow down time in our minds, more than changing places and ideas and people incessantly as the months roll by. I’ll have to think more about this, and apply it to my life if it sounds like a better way.

Just a ragged peer into an inexhaustible realm.

As a former Classics minor and regular museum attendee of minor prestige, I have off-and-on read bits and pieces about how ancient sculpture was anything but monochromatic. If you go to museums these days you start to notice casts of color on ancient objects more than ever before, either because of the buzz about the topic and/or because these pieces are now being showcased.

It’s one of those times of year I wish I was visiting NYC. I spent a lovely summer there long ago and used to visit now and then when I knew people who lived there. Add to that an out-of-the-blue recent conversation I had on a cool New York Public Library exhibition of their collection’s treasures. And then there’s this article from yesterday’s New York Times on the Met’s “Chroma: Ancient Sculpture in Color” show, which features “colorized” versions of ancient sculptures, a public culmination of the studies of the Brinkmanns, a scholarly couple who have been at this for decades. Well, it makes me wish I could hop on planes and trains like I used to, or at least makes me think about studying something interesting like this in depth.

The article covers a lot of ground on ancient polychromy, including a new angle I’d not encountered, namely that by seeing only monochromatic (usually white/whitish marble) human figures in ancient art, our aesthetic and racial views of the world are significantly affected. Check this out for more on that.

Well, that’s plenty of links for you to peruse. But what really intrigued me about the Times article was this:

“However, some historians worry that the Met Museum has elevated the increasingly ubiquitous Brinkmann replicas to an iconic status that is becoming the default representation of ancient polychromy, when the couple’s research is just one among dozens of competing theories. The debate now encompasses more than a disagreement about pigments and scientific method; some academics see the reconstructions as a larger discussion on who gets to define the past.”

As much as I’d like to see the Chroma exhibit in person—and there’s a lot to it, including a fascinating glossary that includes ancient pigments—what I’d really love to see is an exhibit covering these dozens of competing theories, including replicas, succinct write-ups, lectures, evidence, etc. Maybe Chroma will feature some of this—I have not consulted its calendar. I can always resort to books and journals, but what a wonder such an exhibit would be. For that I would hop on the next plane and figure out somewhere and some way to stay in New York for a spell.

Ancient statue of a woman with blue and gilt garment, fan and sun hat, from Tanagra, Greece, 325–300 B.C. Exhibited in Berlin’s Altes Museum. Source: Wikipedia.


Just over a year ago, he was sick and just lying around; finding food he’d want to eat was not easy. He kept going, though, and we even thought he might recover and keep living in his senior state for a good while longer. It didn’t happen, though, and I came home a year and a day ago for his final moments.

This is one of the songs I was listening to yesterday, one that I was listening to a year ago. It’s all out of context from their original intention, but the lyrics here still make me think of him lying there, and thinking he might turn around. I hadn’t said goodbye, but the pain and doubt and wondering if this was the end or if he’d recover made me feel these words:

Don’t even say you’re turning around again
Don’t try to walk back into my life
I fall for it every time, I fall for it every time

I lose my will
I turn toward you still
It’s a bad dream where I
Can’t raise my hand to wave goodbye

Don’t even say you’re turning around again
Don’t try to walk back into my life
I fall for it every time, I fall for it every time

Springtime Carnivore, “Bad Dream Baby”

Yes, it makes little sense, but what really does?


Recommending Music

Despite lengthy inactivity due to other commitments, this blog still crops up in my thoughts and will continue. I originally planned to focus on music here, which I considered one thing I knew something about, and that the things I knew about it were fading. This led me to think that the “younger generation” or the international set might get something out of what I was writing, that maybe my personal recollections and opinions, and a healthy dose of links and images might bring some joy of discovery.

Now, I have often strayed from the blog’s intent into the personal realm, often thanks to the thoughts music has dredged (or conjured) up. Apart from these more meditative (or cathartic) entries, though, music remains the focus. It struck me the other day, though, how instinctively resentful I can be when someone recommends music to me. Music takes less time than a book or even a movie, so a music recommendation is easier to pursue, and there’s a broader pallet of music I want to spend time on than for books or movies, but there is still that knee-jerk reaction.

This resentment is not universal and it is not historical—a lot of my early musical taste came thanks to others and people to this day, especially if I like them, can send me in wonderful directions. I recently met someone who has had just this effect. There is great joy in discovering something for one’s self, but it doesn’t need to always happen that way.

So, when it comes to this blog, I am not necessarily recommending music to people when I write about it: I am mentioning it in the context of my life and tastes and if people latch onto it so be it and fantastic! I discovered a lot of music incessantly listening to the radio and poring over entertaining reference books on the subject, and people now allow some music service to shower them with similars. I prefer the album format, and will continue to push that here, but otherwise I am looking forward to just continuing to recount my personal taste and experience and letting it be for whomsoever.

Here’s to 2022.

I was listening through my mix CDs the other day and came across these two classics:

Raydio, much better than Ghostbusters, “You Can’t Change That

Naked Eyes, of so many New Romantics, “Promises, Promises

After thoroughly enjoying both, I wondered which was better. Then I realized, of course, that luckily it doesn’t matter. Both are awesome!

So, back to the old station wagon car and little transitor radio tunes. Sometimes it seems it would have been good if the world had frozen sometime around then, but maybe the past can be much more thoroughly enjoyed when it’s pretty deeply buried, so I get luckier and luckier as the weeks and months move along.

Okay, logically-unsound-and-not-thought-through thought for the time being. But another post and a couple of great songs for whoever sees this.