Thursday, June 28, 2007

Scores in the Birthday Film Festival, Part I

You might have noticed last week that I never mentioned the scores to the films we watched. You might have even thought to yourself that it was strange how I never mentioned the scores to the films we watched. After Tuesday's movie, I decided that I needed a full post just to discuss the music.

The Seven Samurai - When the title cards flash up at The Seven Samurai's opening, strains that could have come from a Hollywood production issue forth. The dissonance between the images of feudal Japan and music of Western European derivation is harsh, but expected given Japan's musical history in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Western music gained a foothold in Japan during the Meiji period's rapid modernization. It began when military wind band music was imported and adopted alongside Western military tactics and arms. These instruments were followed quickly by string and keyboard instruments until, by the middle of the 20th century, most Japanese children were trained on Western instruments instead of traditional Japanese ones. Even beyond childhood training, composers in particular gravitated towards Western compositional idioms in the 1950s as a backlash against the ultra-nationalist sentiment that pervaded the early Showa era during WWII. Many agreed with Toru Takemitsu (perhaps Japan's greatest composer of the mid-20th century who later wrote the score for Kurosawa's film Ran) who claimed to regret his Japanese heritage and allowed himself “to gaze only into the mirror of Western music and Western art.”

As a result, the music for The Seven Samurai is unremarkable. It serves its purpose, but the only times it really adds in a new way to the film are the moments it breaks into traditional Japanese instruments. These instruments are brought into play to represent the farmers, the lowest social class of the film and the constant object of scorn and because of this association, they gain an air of being a lower order of instruments. But their sound is distinct and powerful to Western audiences in generating time and place. Film music is an interesting phenomenon to me in that it doesn't have to be from a time or place to evoke that time or place; just consider the fallacy of a late 19th century orchestra playing for a Shakespearean drama. But for a foreign film to work for Americans, it almost needs that layer of verisimilitude.

Chinatown - Jerry Goldsmith's score for Chinatown certainly fits into the category of music for a time and place but not of that time or place. Although he used numerous popular tunes from the 1930s, most of Goldsmith's underscore was written for an ensemble of four pianos, four harps, percussion, strings, and solo trumpet. Not exactly an ensemble you would have found in 1930s LA., nor in any noir film from any era. But the sparse constructions that Goldsmith favors perfectly match the film's style and the percussive nature of the instruments echo the film's percussive dialogue and editing.

Goldsmith was known for taking chances on his scores; he wrote Planet of the Apes using the 12-tone language for goodness sakes. With Chinatown he practically avoided melody and harmony, making single lines that are almost pointillistic, like flecks of color, that weave in and out of one another. The result is unsettling during the film, not allowing you to relax into the narrative flow because you know there are things going on beyond what you are seeing. This score was much more effective than I expected, and rivals Vertigo for the best written of the week. Constantly surprising, I can't imagine the film succeeding on the same level without it.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

New Review - Michael Giacchino's "Ratatouille"

I have a new review up for public consumption - Ratatouille by Michael Giacchino. The film opens this Friday, and if early reviews and the music are any indication, it is truly a family film that all will enjoy. A movie that appeals equally to children and grown-ups alike is a rare enough creature, but throw in the film's artistic achievement and you have one of my most anticipated movies of the summer.

Giacchino is probably best known as the composer of Alias and Lost, two shows whose music is key in their identity, and The Incredibles, whose music both situated that film in the lineage of action/superhero films while helping it transcend that category. He's done some interesting stuff with Ratatouille, so check it out.

Gag Order

Sam has a disturbing new habit. See if you can guess what it is using our simple multiple choice quiz.

Sam likes to gag himself until he:
a) chokes.
b) gets red in the face and coughs.
c) burbs noxious fumes.
d) throws up a little of his last meal.
e) all of the above.

If you chose e), you're right. This little trend started a few weeks ago when we would take too long at stores. Sitting in his perch, high above the floor where he wanted to run on, Sam would grow bored. With only his hands to play with, he started sticking his fingers in his mouth. After we batted his hands out of his mouth a few times, you could see the idea flit across his eyes - "Hey, if sticking my dirty fingers in my mouth gets this reaction, what would happen if I put my whole hand in there? I'd get all the attention I need!"

But as so often happens with Sam, he decided the feel of fingers against the back of his throat was pleasant or unique enough to experience at other times. So now, even though he mainly gags himself in store carts, he occasionally swallows his hand at supper.

Our attempts to curb this trend give new meaning to the term "gag order."

Monday, June 25, 2007

The Rules of the Game

Last Friday night, we finished my birthday film festival with Jean Renoir's The Rules of the Game. This film has a checkered past. It was originally released on World War II's eve and the original negatives were destroyed during the war. When it premiered, it was a critical and commercial failure the likes of which Renoir had never seen (the Criterion DVD contains an introduction by Renoir in which he states that one audience member methodically took out a matchbook, lit a match, held it to his newspaper until it caught on fire, and attempted to burn down the theater). He then re-cut and re-released the film several times so there are numerous editions available (the current Criterion DVD runs longer than the original theatrical release!) Yet in spite of these problems, The Rules of the Game is ranked consistently in the top ten films of all time by critics and directors around the world.

The film is the original manor house farce a la Gosford Park (in fact, Altman claimed to have learned how to film his movie by watching Renoir's). Renoir constructed a biting critique of the rampant decadence he saw among all levels of French society by having members of every social level, from servant to master, stretch loyalty to self, marriage, and friendship to the breaking point and laugh off the repercussions. It goes so far that when the climatic murder occurs, the owner of the country estate remarks on how sad it all is and then casually suggests everyone forget the incident and go back to bed.

I appreciate all that Renoir accomplished with this movie. There is a tremendous amount of activity in the plot, and many storylines are forwarded in the background of the scene, so there are layers and layers to peel back. This movie would definitely reward repeated viewings. Yet Renoir keeps it all flowing effortlessly and you never sense the movie creaking under its own pretensions. His directorial skill alone makes it worth viewing.

But overall, I was not engaged with the film. I think I would have enjoyed the film more if the subtitles had been legible, a strange lapse for Criterion, a company that usually provides outstanding transfers and subtitles. Since so much of the film is visual, and I spent most of the time struggling to read, never achieving the flow of reading and watching I usually do with foreign films, I missed much and became frustrated. Still, I'm glad I saw the movie and it was a good way to end an interesting week. Tomorrow I'll post a bit on my impressions after this experience, but for now I have cake to finish!

Friday, June 22, 2007


When I was in high school, and just discovering that films worth seeing were made before Star Wars, I decided to watch Hitchcock's Vertigo. I don't remember the exact circumstances, but I distinctly remember being underwhelmed. "This is Hitchcock's masterpiece?" I thought to myself, a thought followed by one wondering if I should bother with his other films.

But then I watched North by Northwest and was mesmerized. I watched Psycho and was chilled. I watched Rebecca and was entranced. So I assumed that Vertigo was a fluke, and I simply didn't agree that it was the director's masterpiece.

Last night I discovered that I hadn't seen Vertigo at all those many years ago. When I saw all the other Hitchcock films I loved, I saw restored and remastered versions. But Vertigo wasn't restored until 1996, a few years after I watched the film. What I had seen was a squashed, desaturated film that lost Hitchcock's framing and color scheme, two elements he felt were essential to a film's emotional impact.

He was right. Watching Vertigo last night was a revelation. The reds and greens that dominate the film add the the spiral of obsession into which we are pulled. Putting Kim Novak, remade for the film into an icy Hitchcock blond, into a grey suit is off-putting because it does not look right on her. That color choice makes you feel that something is off before you know for certain. And when Judy is remade as Madeline at the movie's climax, the green fog she emerges out of and the swirling camera work bring everything together technically in an emotionally satisfying way.

Vertigo is still not my favorite Hitchcock film (that honor would either go to North by Northwest or Rebecca) but last night's viewing did make me reevaluate the film, see it for the amazing achievement it is, and want to watch it again to catch a few more of the layers upon which Hitchcock built.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

The Producers

In the midst of a week of heavy, serious drama, The Producers was a pleasant interlude. It was funny, clever, and light-hearted. What more can you ask from a comedy?

Truthfully, The Producers was not what I expected. Most Mel Brooks movies I've seen are parodies of common films or film genres, like his send up of Hitchcock in general and Vertigo in particular, High Anxiety. Two of those parodies, Blazing Saddles and Young Frankenstein, are among my favorite comedies; they never fail to make me laugh. The Producers is not a parody, but a straight farce about two men and their scam to make a million off a Broadway flop. Ironically, when Brooks transformed it into a musical and it became an enormous hit, it became a parody.

Perhaps it was expectations, perhaps it was because envelope-pushing comedy in 1968 seems tame today, but I didn't find The Producers to be as funny as I expected. The casting is inspired and perfect and Zero Mostel and Gene Wilder have incredible timing, but too many of the jokes just didn't work for me.

Still, it was an enjoyable film and provided one moment of serendipitous comedy. Christopher Hewett plays the flaming director in drag, and when Joy and I realized how we knew the actor, it produced an unexpected outcry of "Mr. B, what happened to you?"

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Childhood Hyperbole, Exclamations, and Declarations

Recently, Sam discovered the exclamatory sentence.

"I love bear crackers!" he shouted from the back seat on our drive home from Kindermusik yesterday morning. Well, it was more like "I luff be-ah crackahs!" but you get the point.

Did I also mention he also discovered hyperbole? That statement was soon followed by:

"I love water!"

The rest of our morning was a series of hyperbolic exclamations:

"I love trucks!" (no argument with that one)
"I love applesauce!" (he'd probably eat nothing else if he could)
"I love 8!" (waa?)

During dinner, we also realized that Sam is into declarations. He started squirming in his seat, looked over at Joy, and declared:

"Making diaper."

Yes, it is always entertaining at our house. At least he hasn't learned (yet) how to combine all three into the hyperbolic declarative exclamation:

"I love making diaper!"

But the day is coming...


We managed to watch all of Chinatown last night, and I'm glad we did because it requires sustained attention. Right down to the final three minutes, the movie constantly surprises and manages to play against genre convention to great effect.

I've always enjoyed film noir - the chiaroscuro filming, the twisting plot, the air of dread punctuated by witty one-liners - but I recently discovered I have a limit in my toleration of it. While in New York, I read James Ellroy's The Black Dahlia. Ellroy's prose is sharp and his pacing impeccable, but spending a week with my head in that dark space, I knew that the film version of noir suits me better than its literary cousin. Two hours is about all I can take of the genre's relentless pessimism.

Chinatown is unique in the way it flaunts typical noir conventions. It is a colorful noir, taking place primarily during the day. In fact, the sun's bright wash plays the same role shadow does in films like The Maltese Falcon - evil deeds hide in its embrace. The film features a main character who isn't completely hard-nosed and thick-skinned. Jack Nicholson plays Jake Gittes as a romantic, even telling his potential clients they should go home and forget about any possible adultery because knowing causes more pain than wondering. Better to work things out than have a marriage irrevocably destroyed. However most intriguing to me was the film's use of the Black Widow archetype. Throughout the night, Joy and I kept telling Jake not to trust Faye Dunaway's character Evelyn Mulwray. After all, in noir, the beautiful woman brings about the detective's downfall. But in Chinatown, all rules are off and Evelyn becomes the most fascinating and compelling character because she doesn't act in the way we expect.

So far, we're two for two. Now for something a little lighter - The Producers

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Seven Samurai

Truth be told, we cheated on our film festival last night. I had a meeting at church and Joy had some Kindermusik business to finish up. So we didn't start Seven Samurai until 9:00

The movie lasts 3 1/2 hours.

We have a 20-month-old.

We stopped at intermission and finished it up during Sam's nap this afternoon.

I wasn't quite sure what to expect. We watched Rashomon a few years ago, and while I admired Kurosawa's technique and found the concept of shifting perspectives intriguing, I wasn't fully engaged with the movie.

Seven Samurai was the opposite experience for me. The film moves at a leisurely pace; you could tell the plot in half the time (and Hollywood did in 1960 with The Magnificent Seven), but in doing so you would lose the story. The characters are archetypes we all recognize - both Joy and I remarked on how universal the wise old leader, the naive young idealist falling in love, and the hotshot whose swagger hides ingrained pain are. But despite the familiarity we have with these characters through countless Hollywood imitations, Kurosawa draws them with full brush strokes. You spend the movie's first half coming to know the samurai and the farmers they are hired to protect so that by the second half's battles, you grieve with the survivors. Seven Samurai is an action movie and Kurosawa's one of the best I've seen at making clear visual sense of multiple layers of action, but it is also a drama of great sensitivity, exploring class division in 16th century Japan and dealing with themes of loneliness and belonging. All in all an engrossing movie, one that even my wife enjoyed.

Onward to Chinatown.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Birthday Film Festival

My birthday is on Saturday, and as a way to celebrate this year my wife is giving me my own film festival. Every night this week we'll be watching a movie I picked that usually Joy would not be eager to watch. I'm lucky that we share similar movie tastes overall, and where we don't converge, Joy is gracious enough to barter - one "Andrew movie" for one "Joy movie." That means for every noir film we watch, I also suffer through one meaningless chick flick.

Compromise is the stuff of good marriages.

This opportunity is rare, so over the past two weeks I've agonized over what to watch. I've come up with several lists, some involving complete viewings of The Godfather trilogy and some nothing but foreign films. Below is the official list, along with a link to essays by Roger Ebert on the films:

1. The Seven Samurai (1954)
2. Chinatown (1974)
3. The Producers (1968)
4. Vertigo (1958)
5. The Rules of the Game (1939)

I've only seen one of these movies, Vertigo, and it was in high school so I remember very little of it. But I've heard two papers on its music, both of which made me eager to see it again.

You'll also notice the three main categories of "Andrew movies" represented here: classic foreign films, film noir, and slapstick. It should be an interesting week and I'll post quick reactions to the films and, at the end, the experience, for those interested.

New Review - Loudon Wainwright's "Strange Weirdos"

There's a new review up for your reading pleasure: Strange Weirdos: Music from and Inspired by the Film Knocked Up. I rarely review a completely song-driven score since such efforts are usually tangentially related to the films they accompany. I'm sure you can think of myriad examples where the music on those albums never appears in the film itself. But with Strange Weirdos, Wainwright has crafted a musical analog to the film's atmosphere. It is gently mocking, bitingly sentimental, and a welcome rebuttal to "Music Inspired By" scores.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

The Earth Says Happy Father's Day

Isn't Google Earth one of the coolest tools invented by Google? I love zooming around and looking at the world from up high. It really is a superior gadget. And since advertisers keep telling me that Father's Day is all about getting your Dad gadgets (and advertisers are never wrong), here is your Google Earth Father's Day Greeting.

Since one application of Google Earth just isn't enough, here as a bonus is my favorite video of They Might Be Giants's "Alphabet of Nations," currently one of Sam's favorite songs:

Happy Father's Day everybody!

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Splashing Around

Yesterday it was finally summer. I know that summer doesn't officially begin until next Thursday, but it arrived early and with a vengeance. The sun was close and hot, there was not a cloud in the sky, and little cartoon wavy heat lines were coming off the pavement.


Since it was hot, Joy decided to call a friend and head over to the sprayground at a park near my office. The sprayground is a wonderful concept where jets of water shoot out from poles and from the ground, sometimes constantly and other times at random intervals. As you can see from the picture on your right, they even have guns you can use to shoot water at other kids (but, wisely, the guns don't shoot water outside the sprayground, so parents sitting on the sidelines are safe).

We all met up and watched our kids romp in the water, squeal, and then give us big wet hugs. This is what summer is all about.

Bedtime Stories

Bedtime rituals are very important at our house. We've been doing some variation of the same bedtime routine since Sam was about 2 months old in the desperate hope that it would help him sleep.

Our routine goes something like this:
Annoucement of Bathtime
Book & Ba (known to all you crazy people out there as pacifiers or binkies)
CD and Bedtime

Recently, Sam has begun choosing his bedtime book. Lately it's been the beloved Dinosaur Train, but it could just as easily be The Pigeon Loves Things That Go! or The Pigeon Has Feelings, Too! Some nights we even make it back to the old favorites Hush, Little Baby or Goodnight Moon.

Tonight, when the time came to choose a book, Sam requested "The Truck Book." I'm thinking, hmmm..., he must mean that new truck book we got at the library sale, but maybe it's something else. So, I say, "Can you show me the truck book?" Sam marches right over to the Ford Magazine on the floor and picks it up and brings it to me.

Now by Ford Magazine, I mean the multi-page Ford ad that comes to you in the mail if you ever managed to get on a Ford Dealership's mailing list. And of course, it is full of pictures of cars and trucks.

Dutifully, I dive in as I struggle to figure out how I'm going to "read" the truck book to Sam. Andrew waltzes in as I am in mid-story.

"Sometimes there are red trucks. Some trucks have maps. Some people take trucks to the mountains. Some people like to put boats on top of trucks."

Surpressing guffaws, Andrew and I finally make it to the end, when Andrew announces the text for the final page of the book: "I like trucks!"

Of course, then I still have to make it through the rest of the ritual. After prayer, Dad escapes to laugh his little heart out, while I try to sing our bedtime songs. Making matters worse, Sam has started singing along just this week albeit in some crazy child-falsetto that also gives me that absolute giggles. Plus, tonight he's decided to make a point of trying to make me laugh. So, he turns to face me and starts laughing himself and pointing out my facial features, while I'm trying to sing.

In the end, I am trying so hard not to laugh, I'm crying, and I finally have to stop singing (because I can't manage to get the words out anyway), turn on his CD and flee the room before I explode into peals of laughter as I run down the stairs.

And what does Sam do, he lies down in his crib and laughs himself to sleep.

The Best Dinosaur Name Ever

Since having Sam, my childhood love of dinosaurs has been rekindled. Sam is crazy about dinosaurs. And trains. And Dinosaur Trains.

But I digress.

I'm beginning to show Sam the names of various dinosaurs, so I was excited this morning by the news of a new dinosaur who was given the best dinosaur name ever:

the Gigantoraptor!

Really, does it get any better than that name?

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Comics Characters Revealed - Gimmick Girl

I've recently been inspired. It would be good if I were inspired in my article I'm refining or my book I'm wading through, but instead I've been inspired in trivia, specifically comics trivia. My brother sent me a link to Chris's Invincible Super-Blog where Chris writes the snarkiest reviews of the worst comics you've never read. Seriously, where else can you discover the long-forgotten battle between gorillas and the Nazi army?

This has inspired a new semi-regular feature of Sonic Granades where I'll bring to light justly neglected comic heroes and heroines screaming for their own big screen feature.

Or at least a little headshaking from the general populace.Today's hero: Merry Pemberton, the Gimmick Girl.In 1948, DC decided that the Star-Spangled Kid needed a sidekick. Enter Merry Creamer (yes, that was her real name), abandoned by her criminal father and adopted by the Pembertons when Dad Pemberton decided that young Sylvester just didn't have enough friends. Soon, though, Merry discovered that her new "brother" was a super-hero and decided to help out as Gimmick Girl. She fashioned a utility belt (no idea where she got that idea) full of boxing glove guns and vest pocket nets. But the jokes wore thin and a few years later she had a mental breakdown and faked her own death.

If that were the end of the story, I probably wouldn't be showcasing her here, but in the late 1990s, Merry reappeared as, yes, a member of Old Justice.
This was a group of sidekicks from the 1940s grown old and crotchety who complain about the kids these days and their crazy superpowers and their lack of respect. Sure Batman and Superman and Wonder Woman have been the same age for sixty years, but their sidekicks? They've grown old and are tired of these young whippersnappers not knowing who they are so they take action. Talk about a Gimmick!

Favorite non-heroes you'd like to see profiled? Let me know.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Sam Doesn't Sing the Blues

While we were in Alabama last week, Stephen and I had the great idea of recording Sam and Eli singing, speaking, and generally goofing off. Stephen hauled out his digital microphone, set it up, and Eli starting singing and talking.

Sam responded with his typical I'm-almost-two-and-you-can't-make-me response:

Ah yes, the joys of a fully talking 2o-month-old. Still, Joy did coax him to sing a bit of "Old MacDonald:"

Much more common was to have the two boys chiming in as when we asked them what sounds various animals made:

As you can tell, we had a great time recording the boys, although Sam treated the recorder like a phone, meaning he'd rather listen to Eli than speak himself. Stephen's posted several examples from our session of Eli (Eli's story is priceless), but be sure to listen to Sam's response in this clip when we asked him to sing part of "Wheels on the Bus."

And, since no performance is complete without an encore, here are Eli and Sam proving their are our sons by loudly affirming the supremacy of Trogdor:

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Feeling Like Grown-ups - the Nelson Atkins Museum's Bloch Building

This afternoon we went to an art museum. I know this may seem a bit pedestrian to many of you, but as the father of a young child, I know that it is rare that the entire family goes to a cultural event.

We went because it was a special occasion. Since we moved here, the Nelson Atkins Museum has been under renovation. We toured the original, stately, 1933 Neo-classical building when Joy was pregnant and many of the exhibits were closed. My favorite paintings were those of Thomas Hart Benton, a Kansas City painter of Americana I have always found compelling, but I wondered where their truly modern art was hiding.

Now I wonder no more. The Nelson Atkins unveiled the Bloch Building, their new addition, this weekend with a big gala that included performances by the Symphony, the Rep, and the Ballet; interactive art for the kids; and lectures galore. The Bloch Building has been receiving raves for some time from the likes of The Washington Post and Time Magazine, so we decided to check it out. The building is stunning, graceful, and as elegant a place to see modern art as MoMA. Just look at the Donald Judd sculpture to the right - the Bloch is made of transparent glass and is largely underground, so light defuses downward creating a glow around the art. As a result, the building, spectacular as it is, recedes into the background and simply highlights the art. In other words, it does just what a good museum should do.

But beyond the chance to experience art, our adventure to the Bloch Building was a reminder of how much our lives have changed. When we lived in Champaign, Joy and I used to go to concerts, to theater, to art museums all the time. We reveled in contemporary culture. Going to the museum today reminded us both what we had given up in having Sam and reorienting our lives. We felt adult again, looking at the paintings and sculptures and photographs and discussing the new building's virtues. Our discourse was beyond the daily grind and Sam's latest adventures.

And yet, through it all, we were dealing with Sam straining to move on, see new things. He was a constant tug back to reality. I love Sam, and I had a wonderful time showing him art works and pointing out things for him to focus on, but it is remarkable to realize how quickly our lives were transformed almost two years ago. I wouldn't want to return to our old life, but there are things I miss. It's a reminder of how important "grown-up time" is, getting dressed up and enjoying each others' company away from our regular existence. It's something that would restore us and need to consciously pursue.

Still, Sam was remarkable at the museum. He, of course, wore his monkey:

But this time, we had numerous people mention how much they loved the monkey. One man even remarked, "That's the most humane way to keep up with them I've ever seen." I couldn't agree more, especially if it lets us go to more events like this one.

Friday, June 8, 2007


About a month ago, my brother introduced me to the lolcat phenomenon. People seem to be obsessed with putting captions on pictures of cats and while most of them are throwaway gags, there are a few that resonate. Stephen even got in the game with a brilliant lolcat reconstruction of Star Trek's "The Trouble with Tribbles" episode, inspiring a host of imitators.

As musicology has long been the stepchild left in the garden shed while all the other children are having birthday cake of the academic world, it is fitting that as the fad is beginning to run out of gas musicologists attempt to create musicoLOLogy.

Observe exhibit A, lolcage from Tim Rutherford-Johnson:

Good effort and nice allusion to the opening lines of Cage's famous "Lecture on Nothing," but the blue lettering just doesn't quite work and his Kitty pidgin is a bit off.

Of course, the theorists beat us to the punch with this little lolfege:

It needs larger lettering, but kudos for bringing the 10th century Guidonian hand into the digital lolcat age. Still, all in all, the examples just show that musicology has an uncanny ability to take a new paradigm and poorly imitate it. I mean, will we ever see musicoLOLogy equal this level of sublimity:

Sadly, I think not.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

New Review - Basil Poledouris's "Red Dawn"

It's that time of the month again, time for another film score review. Currently posted for your reading pleasure is Basil Poledouris's Red Dawn, newly restored and expanded from its original 1984 release.

For those of you not in the know, Red Dawn is a vision of America invaded and overtaken by the Soviet Union. The only people left to stand up to the evil commies are those 80s heartthrobs Patrick Swayze, Charlie Sheen, Lea Thompson, Jennifer Grey, and Powers Boothe.

The music is by the master of 80s testosterone movie music, Basil Poledouris, a Kansas City native best known for scoring Conan the Barbarian, thereby musically introducing us to the governator.


Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Is There Anything Better

on a hot summer day than playing with bubbles?

I don't think so.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Heroes Among Us - Superpowers Revealed!

This past year, no show has caught our fancy like Heroes. The show follows the exploits of ordinary people who wake up one day to discover they have extraordinary powers. The show plays to that desire we all have to be something, or do something, beyond our everyday existence. I mean, who wouldn't want to be able to stop time and teleport like Hiro or fly like Nathan? (Ok, maybe not fly exactly like Nathan...)

But I've discovered that people in my family have superpowers as well. Like Joy, for instance. She has the amazing ability to sense when dairy products are about to go bad. You think I'm kidding, but she can tell with uncanny accuracy three days before milk goes bad. This afternoon at lunch, she stopped eating her quesadillas, looked at them quizically, and declared that the cheese was close to going bad. She could make a killing in the dairy industry but hides her talents and dedicates her life to protecting her family from bad dairy.

Or even Sam. He has the amazing ability of supersonic selective hearing. We'll be walking outside and suddenly he'll stop, cock his head, and cry "beep, beep!" He can hear a car going beep from three miles away. But come dinner when we ask him to put his toys away, he doesn't hear a thing. A truly amazing power.

What's my power, you might ask? I'm the Dr. Suresh in this Heroes equation. I find out about their powers, keep them safe, clean up after them. Not glamorous, but certainly necessary.

So what about you? Any superpowers lurking out there?

P.S. Hey Stephen, I've figured out why Peter doesn't fly at the end. He either has enough problems controlling one power that using two at a time is beyond him or he simply can't use two at a time. He never does during the 1st season.

P.P.S. Yes, this is what watching this show reduces you to. Don't you want to start watching too?

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Swingin on Home

After waiting in line at the airport for 45 minutes while the e-check in line was empty (the joys of traveling with an infant - at least he still flies free!), we finally arrived home last evening.

Sam was the only one among us who was not ready to be finished traveling. At dinner last night he kept asking, "Blue Bus, where are you?" and "Go ride airplane; ok!"

Even though we are glad to be back home, we had a wonderful time in Alabama. As you can see, we played on the playset at every opportunity, we cooked freezer meals, we played trucks, we held Baby Liza and made funny faces at her, we played chase around the house and found monsters everywhere, we splashed in the pool each afternoon, we solved the world's problems, and we collapsed every evening from exhaustion.

In fact, for those of you interested, our exhaustion each evening prompted our newest TV show, Veronica Mars. Stephen and Misty own the first season and so we tried it out. Addictive, well-written little show that it is, we powered through the first two DVDs while we were there.

So, to recap: we have the most adorable niece (if you don't believe me, just look at this), Sam and Eli love to play together (and get each other in trouble), we're into a new TV show, and summer has officially started.

Friday, June 1, 2007

Time for Great Art

A small meme has been bouncing around classical music blogs over the past few days. It began with Terry Teachout pondering if there were any great scores for movie comedies and quickly spiraled into Alex Ross proposing Danny Elfman's Beetlejuice, Matthew Guerrieri throwing out Franz Waxman's The Philadelphia Story, and Lisa Hirsch wisely bringing in Carl Stallings.

All in all, an interesting discussion and one I'd have to think about more deeply than is possible in my sleeplessness addled brain today, but I was most struck by the age of the film scores proposed as great by all the commentators. As is often the case, music from the past twenty years gets no respect.

Think about the AFI's list from a few years ago. Certainly the list proves that comedy scores are routinely ignored and has other problems like putting Vertigo and The Adventures of Robin Hood outside the top five, but notice that the most recent film score is from 1986.

Is this neglect a feature of our historical imagination? Most will argue that great art needs to stand the test of time to be considered great art, but why is twenty years the proper amount of time? Why do we seem chronically unable to recognize great art within our own time period?