Monday, May 31, 2021

Memorial Day 2021

Today is Memorial Day in the United States, a day for remembering the people who died while serving in the country's armed forces. And I want to honor two of my own relatives who fought died in World War I and the other fought valiantly in World War II.

I am sure my relatives are rolling in their graves, after fighting and dying to make sure that Fascism did not spread around the world and to the United States. That was a time when Republicans thought Fascism was a bad thing, unlike today. I know both of these men (one of them an Italian immigrant), if they were alive now, would be appalled and outraged that Fascism is being institutionalized by the Republican party, and welcomed and encouraged by its supporters. My relatives died so the very thing that is happening now, wouldn't. And it makes me infinitely sad and frustrated that these men seemingly died for nothing...and that segments of the population of this country support the kind of nationalism, totalarianism, disdain for facts and humanity, and suppression that are the hallmarks of Fascism.
I honor my brave relatives and all who fought Fascism. I truly hope that we can fight this frightening movement to the right and ensure that they all died for the noble, uplifting principle of humanism.

"We are always at war. We spend twice as large a share of our GDP on the military as the world does in general. It’s the longest sustained period of open-ended combat in our nation’s history. And yet the country as a whole is barely affected. We have halftime ceremonies honoring the heroes. We let them get onto commercial airlines earlier, but we don’t think seriously about what they’re doing, the missions we’re asking them to undertake.

And, as a result, in my view, we have embarked on a series of unwinnable wars. We call people heroes and then send them to do things they can’t do....

When I was a kid in the ’50s and ’60s and then older in the ’70s, American pop culture reflected a country familiar enough with its military to make fun of it at times. You had shows like 'Gomer Pyle,' or 'Hogan’s Heroes,' or 'McHale’s Navy.'

You had works of art like 'South Pacific' or novels like 'Catch 22' and even movies like 'MASH,' respected the importance of the military and the important things it did that were heroic in the large scale, like World War II, but it was still made of real people with their real foibles.

But we — now we have started to have this artificially reverent view of the military that’s also distant and disengaged."
--James Fallows

Sunday, May 30, 2021

BEAUTY: Painting--Greta Laundy

Greta Laundy's lovely, abstracted landscapes remind me of the work of legendary Disney illustrator (and designer and color-stylist for It's A Small World) Mary Blair. Her color palette is just as bright, varied, and fun as Blair's.

Top to bottom: The Ecology Of Hope; First Light (One Day In Summer); Into The Hills; Journey To The Other Side Of The Valley; The River; The Strength Of Mountains no.2; Temple Gardens; Temples For Warrior Women

Saturday, May 29, 2021

Laurie Anderson: Tiny Desk (Home) Concert on NPR

I adore Laurie Anderson (previously here). I have seen her many, many times in concert over the decades. I was even lucky enough to see her groundbreaking, mind-boggling musical and theatrical performance art piece "United States I - IV" when she toured it in 1983. She remains a national--international--treasure.

Bob Boilen | May 20, 2021
Laurie Anderson is a revolutionary artist who has mixed storytelling, music and technology for the past four decades plus. This Tiny Desk (home) concert celebrates the truly breathtaking breakthrough album she put out in 1982, Big Science. On that record, she used a few different voice processors; one of them was a Vocoder. By singing into a microphone attached to a keyboard, you can hear how it effectively adds harmony to her voice on "Let x=x." Laurie Anderson also used that effect, creating what I think of as 'the voice of authority' in her storytelling, on "O Superman," a song unlike anything music I'd heard when it came out in 1981. She made use of a vocal loop, something ever-present these days in sampling, but here she uses an Eventide Harmonizer, looping the single syllable "ha" as the rhythm of the song. It's a song about dealing with the technological revolution, about compassion; if it's your first time hearing it, take it in and see what strikes you.

Here, Roma Baran, who played on and produced Big Science with Laurie Anderson in 1982, performs on synthesizer. We also hear some brilliant cello and improv from Rubin Kodheli.

On a personal note, I was a lover of Laurie's music back in those days; they were also the days I played synthesizer in my band Tiny Desk Unit. We opened for Laurie Anderson in 1981, and Laurie joined us onstage for a song. I bring this up because the Tiny Desk name (created by our guitarist Michael Barron) was familiar to Laurie long before this NPR series existed. At the end of her home concert, Laurie, I assume, mistakingly, thanks Tiny Desk Unit for having her. It made me smile and sparked so many memories. Thank you, Laurie.

Friday, May 28, 2021

BEAUTY: Drawing--Per Adolfsen

The light, sketchy, bucolic images of Danish artist Per Adolfsen feel so right for summer...and they are all created with colored pencils utilizing a hatching and cross-hatching technique. Beautiful.

Tuesday, May 25, 2021

BEAUTY: Painting--Eric Nash

The quintessential views of California, at least for those of us who live here, are the freeway signs we see on our daily drives. Eric Nash paints photo-realistic images of signage for on and off ramps as well as signage for businesses. But I think I love his lighted pools at night most of all...

Top to bottom: 76 With Tow Palms; Cahuenga Blvd.; Hollywood View; Hollywood Blvd.; Lincoln Av.; Mobil With Palm; Night Swim; Night Pool II; Night Pool III; Night Waters; Pacific Coast Hwy; Sunset Blvd.; This Way To LA; Western; Western Hotel; Wilshire Blvd.

Monday, May 24, 2021

"Grains" by Yotto & Cassian and "X-Ray" by Raphael Mader

Great dance tracks from label Odd One Out:

"Grains" by Yotto and Cassian. I love the gauzy start which gives way to a driving, percolating sound highlighted by a sample of a distorted, plaintive fact, there seems to be a sort of pervasive, yearning sadness in the entire song structure itself.

"X Ray" by Raphael Mader, with its plaintive vocal sample sounds just as sad but in a deeper, even slightly ominous way.

Sunday, May 23, 2021

BEAUTY: Painting--Alai Ganuza

I just love the charming, domestic scenes of kitchens and food by wildly talented artist Alai Ganuza. Regular readers know I have a soft spot for paintings that display their paint like cake frosting, and Ganuza manages to be both Impressionistic in that sense as well as approaching a sense of photorealism.

Saturday, May 22, 2021

Harvey Milk Day 2021

Today is Harvey Milk Day, an international day of remembrance and celebration of the life of political pioneer and gay rights activist Harvey Milk (May 22, 1930 – November 27, 1978), organized by The Harvey Milk Foundation.

Harvey Milk, who was known informally as "The Mayor of Castro Street," was the first openly gay candidate elected to political office in California, and the first openly gay man elected to public office in the United States, winning a seat on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in 1977. His presence, life, and tragic assassination at the hands of a homophobic murderer (an event that triggered the White Night Riots) changed the texture, pulse, and meaning of life for gay men and women everywhere. Cleve Jones, a friend of Milk's and intern for Milk at the time of his assassination, put it succinctly: "His murder and the response to it made permanent and unquestionable the full participation of gay and lesbian people in the political process." The progress we have made and the continued success of gay rights was certainly helped by Milk and his courage. Anne Kronenberg, his final campaign manager, wrote of him: "What set Harvey apart from you or me was that he was a visionary. He imagined a righteous world inside his head and then he set about to create it for real, for all of us."