Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Three Things

No, I have not yet commented on the loss of Vaclav Havel here. That will come soon, and I'll post another slide show video when I do it.

For today, here are three things:

1. All hail Helen Frankenthaler, explosive Abstract Expressionist Extraordinaire.

2. Ave atque vale Sam Rivers, Loft Jazz Maestro.

3. Yet another way of demonstrating that there are many more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in our philosophy.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Holiday Festivities

Are you rockin' the Holiday action? I know you are.

Quick rundown of some of what's been going on:

Hanukkah Nights 2 and 7 were spent with Yo La Tengo - great shows, natch. Please send lots of good healing mojo to Ira the K.

Christmas Eve in Dumont with Cory cooking and eating the Feast of the Seven Fishes with Cory's Italian Family. All went well in spite of a small, shall we say, disagreement with a can opener.

Christmas morning I woke up way too early and couldn't fall back asleep for a long time, so I watched the last hour and a half of Gunfight at the O.K. Corral. Of course I did.

Later on, after waking up for real and having some steak and eggs (for some reason, I was craving a cowboy's breakfast) I called the folks and the grandfolks and then it was out to Paramus for Christmas presents and dinner with Cory's Extended Italian Family. Jollity ensued.

Boxing Day was chill; bit of running around looking for a place serving brunch food in the 'boken on a day that wasn't technically a weekend day but sure felt like one. Wound up at the diner. Later on, caught War Horse at the cinema up the street from BoHome before going to Maxwell's for dinner and the show.

And now it's back to work. I'll leave you with this holiday message from the world of Pop.

If my eyes and the internets don't deceive me, this is a poster from 1972 wishing "Season's Greetings from Ardent Records" We can only hope it's the real thing.

Monday, December 12, 2011

More Prague

Here is another set of Prague pix. Went with some funkier music this time around, partly because, irrespective of the fact that this city is wildly historical, jam-packed with churches and has beauty from every age anywhere you turn, it doesn't take itself terribly seriously and has a long and proud party tradition. (And an extremely powerful connection to rock and pop music. Seriously. Did you see Tom Stoppard's Rock and Roll? Were you aware that Vaclav Havel proposed Frank Zappa to be the official U.S. cultural envoy in the early '90s?)

But mostly I went with the funkitude because our hosts Kristin and Ondrej like the music. Take a look and listen if you have a spare 6 minutes.
Untitled from nycmick on Vimeo.

Heard from Kristin the other day, after the first slide show went up. As it happened, and very apropos my post earlier this month, she had been to a couple of events where the Dalai Lama was speaking that day. (She's a pretty amazing person and does some pretty amazing things on a regular basis. In case that wasn't already clear.) She shared what she found to be the most interesting thing he had to say: "Action is more important than prayer or wishful thinking."

Amen, sister.

The shots in this viddy are from our second day in Prague. The Eiffel Tower looking thing that starts you off is the Petrin tower, built two years after Eiffel did his thing in Paris and it's the same altitude - if you factor in the mountain it's standing on. Many of the opening shots are from the top of that tower, and there are also a bunch from a tour of the Prague Castle, including the Valdstein/Wallenstein Gardens, the Loretta and Capuchin Monestery (home of some truly astounding beer - in a world where excellent beer flows freely), more locations from the Amadeus shoot (look - there's the exterior for Wolfy and Stanzie's apartment!) and our own private wanderings. Enjoy.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Prague Pix

Ok, much later than I'd expected, but here at long last is some visual and sonic stimulation from our trip to Prague. This little project is set to music, so you can't go through it at your own pace. Live with it.

Prague from nycmick on Vimeo.

This starts with a mini sort of 'greatest hits' montage, and then follows with introductions of the major players in our trip: Kristin, Jasmine, Zach, Ondrej, and of course Cory. Then it goes to images from our first day there, all to the strains of the overture to Magic Flute, played by the Vienna Philharmonic (thanks, Vienna Philharmonic!) Because as you know, Mozart lived much of his adult life in Vienna, and found one of his most receptive audiences in Prague, enjoying some of his greatest successes there. And you probably also are aware that the Amadeus film was shot in Prague. But you may not realize that we went to see The Magic Flute while we were there, in the very theater where Don Giovanni had its first performance ever (and where, not for nothing, they filmed most of the Opera scenes in Amadeus - fun!)

If you don't want to spend 7 minutes on it, just fast forward through it. You won't get to appreciate my attempt at meaningful synchronization, but you can still see the pix.

[Ok. I took away the upload and am now just embedding from Vimeo. The resolution is better (though still not as good as I'd like) so it looks ok either small or in full screen, and the synch problem is fixed. Whew! Enjoy.]

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

There Goes the Neighborhood

Ok, I might not agree with every single one of these "reasons," but check out an interesting list of infobits about one Mr. Fred Rogers, courtesy the good people at Project Argus.

15 Reasons Mister Rogers Was the Best Neighbor Ever

1. Even Koko the Gorilla Loved Him
Most people have heard of Koko, the Stanford-educated gorilla who could speak about 1000 words in American Sign Language, and understand about 2000 in English. What most people don’t know, however, is that Koko was an avid Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood fan. As Esquire reported, when Fred Rogers took a trip out to meet Koko for his show, not only did she immediately wrap her arms around him and embrace him, she did what she’d always seen him do onscreen: she proceeded to take his shoes off!

2. He Made Thieves Think Twice
According to a TV Guide profile, Fred Rogers drove a plain old Impala for years. One day, however, the car was stolen from the street near the TV station. When Rogers filed a police report, the story was picked up by every newspaper, radio and media outlet around town. Amazingly, within 48 hours the car was left in the exact spot where it was taken from, with an apology on the dashboard. It read, “If we’d known it was yours, we never would have taken it.”

3. He Watched His Figure to the Pound
In covering Rogers’ daily routine (waking up at 5; praying for a few hours for all of his friends and family; studying; writing, making calls and reaching out to every fan who took the time to write him; going for a morning swim; getting on a scale; then really starting his day), writer Tom Junod explained that Mr. Rogers weighed in at exactly 143 pounds every day for the last 30 years of his life. He didn’t smoke, didn’t drink, didn’t eat the flesh of any animals, and was extremely disciplined in his daily routine. And while I’m not sure if any of that was because he’d mostly grown up a chubby, single child, Junod points out that Rogers found beauty in the number 143. According to the piece, Rogers came “to see that number as a gift… because, as he says, “the number 143 means ‘I love you.’ It takes one letter to say ‘I’ and four letters to say ‘love’ and three letters to say ‘you.’ One hundred and forty-three.”

4. He Saved Both Public Television and the VCR
Strange but true. When the government wanted to cut Public Television funds in 1969, the relatively unknown Mister Rogers went to Washington. Almost straight out of a Capra film, his 5-6 minute testimony on how TV had the potential to give kids hope and create more productive citizens was so simple but passionate that even the most gruff politicians were charmed. While the budget should have been cut, the funding instead jumped from $9 to $22 million. Rogers also spoke to Congress, and swayed senators into voting to allow VCR’s to record television shows from the home. It was a cantankerous debate at the time, but his argument was that recording a program like his allowed working parents to sit down with their children and watch shows as a family.

5. He Might Have Been the Most Tolerant American Ever
Mister Rogers seems to have been almost exactly the same off-screen as he was onscreen. As an ordained Presbyterian minister, and a man of tremendous faith, Mister Rogers preached tolerance first. Whenever he was asked to castigate non-Christians or gays for their differing beliefs, he would instead face them and say, with sincerity, “God loves you just the way you are.” Often this provoked ire from fundamentalists.

6. He Was Genuinely Curious About Others
Mister Rogers was known as one of the toughest interviews because he’d often befriend reporters, asking them tons of questions, taking pictures of them, compiling an album for them at the end of their time together, and calling them after to check in on them and hear about their families. He wasn’t concerned with himself, and genuinely loved hearing the life stories of others. Amazingly, it wasn’t just with reporters. Once, on a fancy trip up to a PBS exec’s house, he heard the limo driver was going to wait outside for 2 hours, so he insisted the driver come in and join them (which flustered the host). On the way back, Rogers sat up front, and when he learned that they were passing the driver’s home on the way, he asked if they could stop in to meet his family. According to the driver, it was one of the best nights of his life—the house supposedly lit up when Rogers arrived, and he played jazz piano and bantered with them late into the night. Further, like with the reporters, Rogers sent him notes and kept in touch with the driver for the rest of his life.

7. He Was Color-blind
Literally. He couldn’t see the color blue. Of course, he was also figuratively color-blind, as you probably guessed. As were his parents who took in a black foster child when Rogers was growing up.

8. He Could Make a Subway Car full of Strangers Sing
Once while rushing to a New York meeting, there were no cabs available, so Rogers and one of his colleagues hopped on the subway. Esquire reported that the car was filled with people, and they assumed they wouldn’t be noticed. But when the crowd spotted Rogers, they all simultaneously burst into song, chanting “It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood.” The result made Rogers smile wide.

9. He Got into TV Because He Hated TV.
The first time he turned one on, he saw people angrily throwing pies in each other’s faces. He immediately vowed to use the medium for better than that. Over the years he covered topics as varied as why kids shouldn’t be scared of a haircut, or the bathroom drain (because you won’t fit!), to divorce and war.

10. He Was an Ivy League Dropout.
Rogers moved from Dartmouth to Rollins College to pursue his studies in music.

11. He Composed all the Songs on the Show.
And over 200 tunes.

12. He Was a perfectionist, and Disliked Ad Libbing.
He felt he owed it to children to make sure every word on his show was thought out.

13. Michael Keaton Got His Start on the Show
As an assistant — helping puppeteer and operate the trolley.

14. Several Characters on the Show are Named for His Family.
Queen Sara is named after Rogers’ wife, and the postman Mr. McFeely is named for his maternal grandfather who always talked to him like an adult, and reminded young Fred that he made every day special just by being himself. Sound familiar? It was the same way Mister Rogers closed every show.

15. The Sweaters.
Every one of the cardigans he wore on the show had been hand-knit by his mother.