Wednesday, October 26, 2005
Tuesday, October 25, 2005
nice piece on Harold Pinter's fine acting--not mentioned here are a couple of small bits in Losey's "Accident" and "The Servant"--
"Pinter's role in (Beckett's) Catastrophe allows him to plumb the depths of this theme further. John Gielgud plays the Protagonist--a political prisoner standing limp and pliant on the stage of a theater--while a Director (Pinter) and his Assistant prepare him for a public exhibition. Pinter orders minute changes to Gielgud's posture and clothing to make his appearance more ridiculous (and thus more humiliating). "Raise the shins," he orders. "Higher. Bare the knees." As Pinter speaks these words, he doesn't snarl, nor does he betray any anxiety. Degrading the Protagonist is all in a day's work. The power of Pinter's performance lies in how little such degradation affects the Director. "
Posted by Peter at 10:19 PM
"Don't Let Anthing Get Between Us!"--
my favorite Captain Beefheart - Clear Spot
"Big Eyed Beans From Venus. At last.
THAT slide intro. THOSE rasped blues vocals that the Captain seemingly pulls up from his feet. "Distant Cousins -- there's a limited supply!" The rhythm climbs in steadily under the riff with a stereo split of guitars and some fantastic staccato drum rolls. For the next minute or so you're just getting used to how good it sounds when the break hits you and what happens next is the highlight of not just Clear Spot, but CB & The Magic Band's entire recordings.
"Mr. Zoot Horn Rollo, hit that long leaning note and let it float". The sound of Zoot's guitar is just a mind-blowing heavenly buzz.
The Magic Band crash back with a heavy metal bragger that'll have your head banging and feet tapping.
A real power & energy gets conveyed while Beefheart delivers Freudian lyrics about wallets & purses.
I know I'm labouring a point, but even though this is heavy rock stuff, no one could compose or deliver it as uniquely. I mean, for starters there's the drum roll (ta,ta,ta,ta,ta,ta) that lifts "Big Eyed beans.." onto an even higher level. Violin style guitar is a strangely delicate but effective backing as CB's howls about being "on the right track." and "No SNAFU." Perfect. The whole section finishes with an earnest, electrifying cry of "Check these out! Don't Let Anything Get Between Us!", more fantastic drumming from Marimba and a chorus that is one of the finest recorded moments in rock.
And what d'ya know, but then we're back to the start with a slightly different rhythm. A gradual build up gets it back to fever pitch before the Captain's pay off line with a gruff cry of "Big Eyee---ed Beans From Veee-nus" and Zoots last long, floating note. Astounding!"
Posted by Peter at 1:55 PM
DANTE'S INFERNO (1935), with Spencer Tracy--
"Amazingly enough, at least one part of the movie does end up in hell; a six-minute montage more than half-way through the movie gives the viewer a vision of hell, and it makes for the highlight of the movie and gives it its most special moment. This is a good thing, since despite the fact that it's well acted all around and has high production values (particularly during the spectacular final twenty minutes of the movie), the story itself is fairly predictable. Nonetheless, horror fans may well want to tune in for the hell sequence; it really is quite amazing."
Posted by Peter at 12:43 PM
Philip Pullman on the upcoming "Paradise Lost" movie--
"There's also the problem of what to do with the verse. The majesty of the language is a huge part of what the poem is about -- lines like "High on a throne of royal state, which far Outshone the wealth of Ormus and of Ind, Or where the gorgeous East with richest hand Showers on her kings barbaric pearl and gold ..." would be sadly missed by any lover of the poem, but what do you do with them in a film? They're stage directions: the next words are "Satan exalted sat," and you could just show that by -- showing it. It would be a pity to reduce that poetry to a mere brief for the designer. So I look forward to this project with great interest, and some hope, but a little scepticism too."
Posted by Peter at 11:38 AM
Monday, October 24, 2005
from A Sportsman's Sketches, by Ivan Turgenev trans. by Constance Garnett--
"And how fair is this same forest in late autumn, when the snipe are on the wing! They do not keep in the heart of the forest; one must look for them along the outskirts. There is no wind, and no sun; no light, no shade, no movement, no sound: the autumn perfume, like the perfume of wine, is diffused in the soft air; a delicate haze hangs over the yellow fields in the distance. The still sky is a peacefully untroubled white through the bare brown branches; in parts, on the limes, hang the last golden leaves. The damp earth is elastic under your feet; the high dry blades of grass do not stir; long threads lie shining on the blanched turf, white with dew. You breathe tranquilly; but there is a strange tremor in the soul. You walk along the forest's edge, look after your dog, and meanwhile loved forms, loved faces dead and living, come to your mind; long, long slumbering impressions unexpectedly awaken; the fancy darts off and soars like a bird; and all moves so clearly and stands out before your eyes. The heart at one time throbs and beats, plunging passionately forward; at another it is drowned beyond recall in memories. Your whole life, as it were, unrolls lightly and rapidly before you: a man at such times possesses all his past, all his feelings and his powers--all his soul; and there is nothing around to hinder him--no sun, no wind, no sound...."
Posted by Peter at 4:45 PM
(A Sportsman's Notebook)
Walking down Minetown
I surprised the covey of quail
you kindly braked for last spring--
grown some since! it starts
as a scare almost--boom--low low note
somewhere inside the startled flapping
a blossom in the thorax
a mirror-ball flash of upturned leaves,
no time for even a decent recount,
less than ten, more than four
but quail for sure, that short take off leap
and then low bottle neck cormorant
underwater plunge about a foot up
from the tangled thirty degree slope then gone
but however fast its the sonic boom
that arrives just after you do,
and anyone can learn to do that--
like that Aussie woman on the newschannel
you can dehumdify
the room until it matches
you preferred level of discourse--
the earnest western tweet
swept beneath laquered feedback
with a smooth adjustment of the wrist,
the windows thrown open
onto a clean clear drink of water
forever and forever and forever.
Posted by Peter at 3:50 PM
"Donnie Macca, Ronnie Macca, biscuit.
I shoo shiwawa, biscuit.
Ice cream soda with a cherry on top.
Ice cream soda with a cherry on top.
Mama mama, I feel sick.
Call for the doctor, quick quick quick."
Two younger girls, a little coyly, offer an alternative:
"There once was a young English girl called
I shoo shiwawa [they touch their eyes and shoes].
All the boys on the football team
Loved I shoo shiwawa.
How was your boyfriend, all right?
Down in the fish shop, last night.
What did he die of? Raw fish.
How did he die, then? Like this ..."
But where do such verses originate? "Someone just brings them in in the morning and everybody just learns them," explains one of the "I shoo shiwawa" girls. They are passed on orally, which accounts for the "Chinese whispers" nature of the local variations: 21 years ago in Hampshire, Iona Opie heard a rather different version that began, "I know a little Dutch girl called Hie Susie Anna...". Lyrics also differ according to region. The Hackney rhyme, "I went to a Chinese restaurant", is equally familiar among Ingrow's children, but with no mention of Andy Pandy."
Posted by Peter at 8:45 AM
Sunday, October 23, 2005
sleeve notes from the late John Fahey's great 1983 Railroad I
"FRISCO LEAVING BIRMINGHAM
Memory of a steam train I saw one night a long time ago. I watched it firing up, picking up speed and then barreling through Bukka White territory (North- eastern Mississippi) to Memphis. Destination, Springfield, Missouri. Where it went, it was dynamite. Real name, Saint Louis-San Francisco Railway Company. But it never got anywhere near "Frisco." It had a government charter to build out that far west, but it sold the charter to the Sante Fe. Now it's part of the Burlington Northern
There's a railroad yard there. It's part of the Delaware and Hudson R.R. Corp. I saw this line in 1948 as I was leaving Secret Caverns at Howe's Cave, New Tork, I love the D &H logo, and there's something eerie about that valley it runs through along the Sesquehanna from Albany to Binghamton. Valley of Desolation. Something frightening about that road. The sunsets around there are pure pantheism. Grandma
Moses, Hudson River School and books by William Kennedy. I go through there every summer. I have to.
SUMMER CAT BY MY DOOR
The Chessie. I grew up beside it. Back then the Cat was called the Baltimore and Ohio. It went by HER house on the suburban line. I was warned about the Cat and what it could do to you on a summer afternoon. And believe me, it did it to me. It was hot and I was only 14. It got me. There was simply nothing I could do. And
nobody could help. Nobody. But, it didn't kill me. Not completely anyway. In the end, of course, the Cat or the Dog will get you. Just like the Cat got HER too. I know this line too well to let you off with a cute aphorism. I know what can happen. Watch out.
STEVE TALBOT ON THE KEDDIE WYE
First he worked on the Espee, later the Western Pacific. He used to tell me hair-raising stories about running down out of the mountains and hitting the Wye and the tunnel at Keddie, California going west. Feather River Route. Now, I hear the whole town's for sale. Nevertheless, the Union Pacific bought the W.P. Something's up.
AFTERNOON ESPEE THROUGH SALEM
I live here by the mailine. Can't get away from it. I hear it all day and all night. A great chord, but what the hell is it? Not the same as the Great Canadian (minor) Triad. One of the tunes here I learned from Bukka White who was a good friend of mine and who was also obsessed with trains. (They got him at the end.) The verse
This train I ride,
It don't burn no coal,
Oh, it don't burn no coal
I should have asked him before he died: Was he singing about a diesel - or a "spiritual" train, or what? But the question only occurred to me too late. We get a lot of U.P. engines and cabs on the S.P. mainline here because of a pooling arrangement which the two railroads have. They meet in Portland. The "Friendly" is talking merger with the Cat. If they do that, I'll be back home again. The Cat is following me. See what I mean? You can't get away from them. No way out really. It's just a matter of time.
ENIGMAS AND PERPLEXITIES OF THE NORFOLK AND WESTERN
Always on the edge of my habitat, my periphery. Where does it come from? Where does it go? I have the impression that at night it changes its road beds and changes where it comes and goes. It won't stay still. Not like the other roads at all. It's irrational. You might wake up some morning and find it going by your house - or through your backyard. And then the next day it's gone! Sometimes it's there and sometimes it's not. What more can I say?
CHARLIE BECKER'S MEDITATION
Once he stayed up very late and thought about things. Maybe more than once. I wonder if he came to any conclusions. He's a conductor on the Mount Hood Railway, a branch line of the Union Pacific. Neat guy.
MEDLEY: IMITATION TRAIN WHISTLES/PO' BOY
Bukka White and I co-authored Po' Boy. He sang this song and played it in open G (Spanish). I arranged it so I could play the tune and the accompaniment in open D major. Not the same song as "Poor Boy A Long Ways From Home" which I have recorded elsewhere. Bukka got these two songs mixed up too, occasionally.
LIFE IS LIKE A MOUNTAIN RAILROAD
I ask you, is it?
DELTA DOG THROUGH THE BOOK OF REVELATION
This song rises off the Yazoo-Delta tracks (ICG now). They're very hot in the Northwest Mississippi bottom land. When I see the sun going down on the flat orange horizon, I know it's waiting for me. If you ever see it you'll never be the same. Charley Patton knew all this, but he got caught. He saw the "Dog" in front of the evening sun once. And that's what got him. And it may get me too. "
Posted by Peter at 1:26 PM