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Archive for the ‘Neat Stuff’ Category

Before nodding off last night, I began watching the 1942 movie Casablanca for what might be the the nine hundred and fifty first time. It’s one of those films that is easy to jump in and out of because there is always something to relish at any given moment– a memorable scene, shot, line or piece of music. It is chock full of small pleasures that totally add to a greater whole.

Perhaps the greatest of these pleasures is the performance of Dooley Wilson who plays Sam, the star performer at Rick’s Cafe Americain. His musical performances light up the screen, most notably the song As Time Goes By which has taken on legendary status.

Watching and listening to it last night made me think about how it was a fitting song for the end of the year, a wistful looking back as the clock marches on.

The song was written in 1931 by Herman Hupfeld for a Broadway show, Everybody’s Welcome, that had a short run. It went on to have modest success as recording by a number of record labels and orchestras. Herman Hupfeld was a minor songwriter of the era who you wouldn’t think would be the composer of a song that would turn out to be one of the great classics of the American songbook. He wrote some popular songs of the time that have long faded into the dustbin of history. I’ve included one at the bottom just to give you a taste.

As Time Goes By almost didn’t make it into the movie. The musical director, Max Steiner, was opposed to its inclusion but was overruled by the movie’s producers. Then in post-production they considered dropping it but because star Ingrid Bergman had already cut her hair for another part, they couldn’t possibly reshoot the scenes that already contained the song. So, it remained and became one of the most memorable parts of a true classic.

I wonder how the the film would have felt without it.

So, for this New Year’s Eve day, here’s the original along with that other Herman Hupfeld classic, , When Yuba Plays the Rhumba on the Tuba. Have a good New Year’s eve.


 

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Have yourself a Merry (and just a little bit weird and creepy) Victorian Christmas. Just goes to show how the nuances of any era can be lost.

But seriously, Merry Christmas to all.

Children attacking a large pudding on a Christmas card. Date: circa 1890s

Roasted Rat for Christmas

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Socks

This time of year it seems like so many radio stations play nothing but Christmas music. It’s a constant rotation of the same old holiday standards, often remade by singers from every genre. Flipping the channels around I seem to bounce from one version of  Santa, Baby  or Jingle Bell Rock to another. And mixed in are some new holiday songs that are usually saccharine sentiments set to some pretty blah music.

It’s hard to get too excited about a month of this stuff.

But I saw there was an album of new holiday songs from retro rock and roller JD McPherson called Socks. The title intrigued me. I definitely had childhood memories of opening Christmas presents that revealed brand new pairs of pale yellow or blue socks from my grandmother or an aunt. It was hard as a selfish little kid to paste on a grateful smile.

So I listened to the song. Then the next. And the next, and on and on. What a great fun album! They were all very catchy, easily accessible tunes with sharp, humorous lyrics, well produced with not a trace of sappiness. Found myself singing along by the end of most of them thanks to their videos that run the lyrics.

Here are three from the JD McPherson album that jumped out at me. There are several others that are as much good fun that aren’t here, most notably Claus vs Claus and Hey Skinny Santa  with its R&B Big Band sound. If you feel like some holiday music that doesn’t necessarily feel like holiday music, give a listen. Hey, any fun we can wring out of these days is a good thing.

Have a great day.



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I was listening to some music early this morning and came across this song, one that I hadn’t heard in a number of years. Thought it might be a good one to share if only to show the painting that adorned the album cover from which it came.

The painting is from Pieter Bruegel the Elder from 1559. It is titled Netherlandish Proverbs and contains depictions of at least 112 proverbs or idioms used by the Dutch at the time. Some are still in use, such as “Banging your head against a brick wall” which you can see in the bottom left hand corner. Others have faded from usage, like”Having one’s roof tiled with tarts” which indicates that one is very wealthy.

If you go to the Wikipedia page for the painting there is a great list of the the proverbs along with the imagery for each. I am enjoying it as I work my way through the list. Even without the list, looking closely at a Bruegel painting is always a great pleasure.

The painting was used on the cover of the Seattle based Fleet Foxes‘ self-titled 2008 first album. The song is White Winter Hymnal which works well for this time of the season. The lyrics are actually kind of nonsensical but the song is lovely and the video is interesting. The song has also been covered by the acapella group Pentatonix.

So, take a look at the painting and hopefully you will enjoy the song and video. Have a good day.

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All that we see or seem is but a dream within a dream.

― Edgar Allan Poe

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Last night I had a kind of odd dream. In it, I found myself remembering many previous dreams, some from many years gone by, in great detail. I should say that it was the details of places, of houses and landscapes, that existed in previous dreams that I remembered.  With each dream place there was also a clear memory of the emotion contained in the dream in which it originally existed.

I knew that I was dreaming and that these places I was remembering in this dream were from my dreams and that they didn’t exist in the real waking world. At least in the waking world that I know. In a way it was like I was inventorying these places, trying to put them in order in way in which they would make sense to me when I woke up.

I don’t think that worked. At least, not yet.

The memory of each of these prior places came with such clarity. It was as though they somehow had some meaning, some importance, that made them deserving of remaining stored deep in the recesses of my brain and not washed away as so many dreams seem to be upon waking.

It was puzzling but there was also a sense of reassurance in the recall of these dream memories. I wondered in the dream if it was somehow connected to my work, to the sense of place that I believe is vital to my painting, one that I often connect with some deeper emotion or memory. The dream made me feel that there was a connection.

I don’t know if I am conveying anything here. I am still processing that odd dream, that strange feeling of clear memory of dreamed places within another hazy dream.

If nothing else, it gave me something to think about on my walk to the studio.

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People have the idea that an image must stand for something else, that the real meaning needs to be described with language. Instead it is the image itself that is the meaning.

Mark Ryden

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I came across the quote above from contemporary artist Mark Ryden and it struck a chord with me. So, often an image has a feeling to it  that is beyond words that adequately describe it. I know I have sometimes written about a piece of  mine and even though I have tried to fully describe how it strikes me, I often feel that the words fall well short.

Sometimes you just have to let the image be what it is.

Now, to be honest, I don’t know a lot about Mark Ryden except that he is a contemporary big name artist that works in the genre of Pop Surrealism. His work is sometimes also called Lowbrow which is a movement that began in LA in the 1970’s based on underground comix, punk music and other fringe pop references such as the tiki and hot rod cultures of the region. You may best know his work from his album cover painting for Michael Jackson’s Dangerous.

His work is engaging and appealing on many levels with recurring themes that run through the work. It is rich in symbolism though I think there is so much ambiguity that one could get lost in trying to decode many of the paintings. Which makes his statement about the image itself being its own meaning even more understandable.

I also came across another quote from Ryden that hits close to home for me: I believe if you follow your heart and do what you love, success will follow. If you enchant yourself, others will be too.

It’s something I have been saying for many years now. The biggest challenge as an artist is creating in yourself an excitement with your own work. If you are excited– enchanted in Ryden’s words– by it, more likely than not, it will excite others as well.

I can see where Ryden would be exchanted in his own work. It is something to which any artist in any field should aspire.

 

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Art has always been my salvation. And my gods are Herman Melville, Emily Dickinson, Mozart. I believe in them with all my heart. And when Mozart is playing in my room, I am in conjunction with something I can’t explain — I don’t need to. I know that if there’s a purpose for life, it was for me to hear Mozart. Or if I walk in the woods and I see an animal, the purpose of my life was to see that animal. I can recollect it, I can notice it. I’m here to take note of. And that is beyond my ego, beyond anything that belongs to me, an observer, an observer.

–Maurice Sendak

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Amen to these wise words from the late great Maurice Sendak.

Thought it might be nice to share some of his work beyond Where the Wild Things Are. It is equally as wonderful.

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