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A good book is the precious lifeblood of a master spirit, embalmed and treasured up on purpose to a life beyond life.

John Milton

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Monday, November 26th, 2007

🦋 Random thoughts about The Merchant of Venice

  • Jeez, that Portia sure is a piece of work huh. What does Bassanio see in her? (Duh, obviously that she is pretty and wealthy...) I don't have too good of a picture of Bassanio yet.
  • Jessica and Lorenzo, I like them. I get the sense that that is how the author wants me to react, but ok. He is writing well then, to get me to have the reaction he's looking for. (Shades of Roger and Jessica.)
  • Lots of bigotry, right? I always hear about this being the Anti-semitic Shakespeare play but there's plenty of Anti-african sentiment too ("racism" seems like the wrong word somehow?) and of course misogyny.
  • I like the poetry. Something appealing in the movement back and forth between metered dialogue and prose dialogue.

posted evening of November 26th, 2007: Respond
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Sunday, November 25th, 2007

🦋 Shakespeare

I was watching (the fantastically good) Bad Education the other night and saw a preview for the 2004 movie of The Merchant of Venice, and it looked pretty good. So I have added it to my Netflix queue, and today I bought the book to keep me company in the meantime, and this brought to mind my post a few days ago about embarrassment -- because Shakespeare is always a source of worry for me, that I will be found out as insufficiently literate, because I have not read or seen enough of his plays, or do not recognize quotations from them quickly enough. Silly (it goes without saying) but there it is.

Reading the play this afternoon, and getting into the rhythm of the meter more than I can remember having done in the past -- my memory is that when I was reading Shakespeare in high school and college, I was always trying to figure out what the meter should sound like, without much luck.

posted evening of November 25th, 2007: Respond
➳ More posts about The Movies

🦋 Music I can identify with

We saw I'm Not There this afternoon. My reaction to it was similar in a funny way to my reaction to The Nutcracker (though in the final analysis I way prefer this movie to that ballet) -- it was a beautiful series of music videos, each of them a valid work of art in its own right; but the combination left me a little cold.

I want to see Peckinpah's Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid now, which the Richard Gere portion of this movie is billed as an homage to. The scene of the group on the bandstand playing "Goin' to Acapulco" may have been the most beautiful imagery in the whole film -- although the sequence of Cate Blanchett's character singing "Ballad of a Thin Man" was well worth while as well.

One thing that really struck me was "Alice Fabian" (I guess a stand-in for Joan Baez?) saying of "Jack Rollins", (approximately) "It seemed as if he was singing what I meant to say but could not figure out how to express" -- this struck me as very similar to my own reaction to some of my very favorite stuff, e.g. Orhan Pamuk's writing or Dylan's music.

posted evening of November 25th, 2007: Respond
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Saturday, November 24th, 2007

🦋 Music I can't identify with

We went to see The Nutcracker at Lincoln Center today, meeting up with our friends from south Jersey who made the trip up, whom we met on our China trip. Most everything about the performance was fun -- being in the lovely New York State Theater, the festive mood, the walk up to the theater featuring really beautiful weather, watching Sylvia and Kimberlee be entranced by the show; but I sort of shook myself midway through the second act and asked, why is this not making any impression on me? Because it was not -- the only thing I could really connect with about the whole show, was watching the girls watch it. I could listen to the instruments and think they sounded very sweet and clear, and watch the dancers and be impressed by their athletic ability; but I got no emotional reaction to it.

Does the music have any emotional depth to it? I do not consider myself a good judge of classical music -- but this seemed like fluff to me. Much of it is melodies that I recognize -- from Fantasia, from Muzak, from Sylvia, who is learning "The Nutcracker March" for her orchestra; indeed probably from having seen the whole ballet at some point in the past. Any one of them is pretty on its own. But the melodies just seem like they're strung together without any connecting tissue -- I'm not sure that is my problem with the ballet as a whole but it is one thing that occurred to me while I was watching.

I wondered why I wasn't digging the dancing more -- specifically it occurred to me that I had felt really involved in what I was watching, when we went to an acrobatic performance last month, and that the ballet was a similar kind of experience. I guess probably the difference was distance -- the acrobatic troupe was performing in a very small theater, so they were close enough I could really see their faces, whereas the ballerinas just looked like little dolls or something.

Update: Some useful information from Ellen, about different versions of the Nutcracker story.

posted evening of November 24th, 2007: 6 responses
➳ More posts about Music

Friday, November 23rd, 2007

🦋 Wow, my guitar still works!

After we watched The Red Balloon today, we all went over to Hannah's apartment for us to get acquainted and try playing a few songs together. It went really well, I must say -- I was a little surprised to find out she wanted me to play guitar rather than violin (or "as well as" violin, but primarily guitar), but when I picked up her guitar it felt very comfortable and famliar. The songs she was thinking about playing sound pretty easy to get hold of; we played The Cowboy Junkies' "Misguided Angel" and then I played fiddle along with a recording of her own song "Smile to Pretend" (I might be misremembering the title -- a lovely song it was.) Very satisfying -- when I got home I took out my guitar for what must be the first time in a year or so and though it needs new strings, I was getting some pretty decent sound out of it.

posted evening of November 23rd, 2007: Respond
➳ More posts about Fiddling

🦋 Dream blogging

So I'm sitting at a desk with a couple of notebooks lying open on it, and with many drawers. Each drawer, when I open it, contains a jumble of books I am reading or have read or am planning to read, papers with partial paragraphs written in my hand -- mostly excerpts from stuff I have actually written or have actually intended to write -- and random junk like seashells, paperclips, lint, etc. I am trying to write, and I scribble a line here and there on a paper at the top of one of these piles, or on one of the notebooks open on top of the desk; but I can't bring myself to disturb the disorder in the drawers. (Rarely do I have a dream so amenable to interpretation.)

posted morning of November 23rd, 2007: Respond
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Wednesday, November 21st, 2007

I went by Menzel Violins today to get new strings for Sylvia's violin -- nice! Got the strings, got the bridge rounded over a little more than it was, and when I came home Sylvia sounded way better -- the notes ringing clear and loud -- a really noticable difference. And, Maureen was selling lightly-used CD's for $6 apiece, which turned out not to mean $6 per disc, but $6 per entity. So I got a nice box set of 4 CD's by Flat & Scruggs and the Stanley Brothers, for $6. I have not heard such lovely white gospel music since I misplaced the first disc of my Carter Family box set. (Disc 1 is beautiful, the rest of the set kind of annoyingly cutesy.)

The open mic tonight at Here's to the Arts went really well. I got there just before Steve and Rob were going to play, and I played with them on "Key to the Highway", "Jimmy's Garden", "Friend of the Devil", and "Angel from Montgomery".

Mike (he who produces the open mic) called me a few days ago to let me know that Hannah is going to be playing a show there in December and wanted to have me play on a couple of her songs. Great! I got in touch with her today and am going to meet up with her Friday evening to try some tunes.

posted evening of November 21st, 2007: Respond

🦋 Tomorrow

Happy Thanksgiving, everybody! (Everybody that celebrates Thanksgiving anyways.) -- I hope your day off is pleasant and free of stress.

We are cooking a smallish dinner and carting it out to Great Neck, to eat early with Ellen's parents. Traffic allowing, we will get back in time to go over to Michele's for dessert.

(Ooh, and also!: I have Friday off, and we are all three going in to the city and watch a screening of The Red Balloon and White Mane at Film Forum.)

posted afternoon of November 21st, 2007: Respond

🦋 Guestbook

Leave a comment to let me know how you found the site and what, if anything, you thought was useful about it.

posted morning of November 21st, 2007: 51 responses

🦋 Tense

Does anybody remember a Pogo strip in which Albert and Churchy and Howland were arguing about verb forms, coming up with ever sillier strings of participles to express a present continuous action? I was thinking of that just now.

posted morning of November 21st, 2007: Respond

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