Musings @musicandmeaning.com

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"He had a theory that musicians are incredibly complex, and know far less than other artists what they want and what they are; that they puzzle themselves as well as their friends; that their psychology is a modern development, and has not yet been understood." – E. M. Forster

Archive for January, 2003


Sunday, 26 January 2003

Music to help keep me sane and healthy

I haven’t updated my “What’s in my CD player” page in a while, but here are some artists who have helped keep me going these days. Some of whom should be no surprise. Links lead to artist sites (official or not).

Ryan Adams
Richard Buckner
Chopin
Coldplay
Frou Frou
David Gray
Hem
Iron & Wine
Ivy
Kings of Convenience
Diana Krall
Peggy Lee
Allison Moorer
Oscar Peterson
Six Parts Seven
Hawksley Workman

Thanks to the friends who gave me CDs as gifts, and as always, to Anne Litt who often plays a few of these and other musicians/bands I love (she even played some Chopin last weekend…okay it was filler music but still…).


Monday, 20 January 2003

The more things stay the same…

Earlier tonight (technically last night) I had the TV turned on during the 3-hour-tape-delayed Golden Globe Awards (given by the Hollywood Foreign Press, which has a membership of 90 people…90 people who can give a seemingly huge-biz-deal, internationally televised awards party…isn’t that amazing? I’ve always thought so). I was working on something on the computer; the TV is situated behind me, so I ended up just listening in every so often.

When Nicole Kidman accepted her Best Actress in a Drama award for playing Virginia Woolf in The Hours, she made a comment about how the past year had so many good performances and roles for women. And she pleaded with writers to continue writing rich and complex roles for women, because (may not be verbatim) “we’re very interesting.”

It was a nice speech, and it got much well-deserved applause…but I couldn’t and still can’t help thinking that a decade ago, when I was so very into the film industry and kept up with all of the news I could, actresses were trying to get the same message across. In no way do I intend to critique the originality of Kidman’s speech — not at all. I’m saying: What does it mean when, after ten years, female actors still have to plead for diverse and interesting characters to play?

Of course, I realize that it’s not as if things have remained static from 1993 to 2003. I acknowledge that improvements have been made. Even if Michael Cunningham had written The Hours back ten or fifteen years ago, I don’t know if the film would have been made…perhaps. But if it had, it likely wouldn’t have included such a remarkable “A” list cast, nor would it have been backed by a huge studio like Paramount, and without that cast and financial backing, it never would have had a chance in heck at winning an award like the Golden Globe. So a major dramatic movie about three women (who are not in their twenties, nor action heroes, nor evil spies, nor singing and dancing seductresses) like this one…it’s a positive sign, definitely (and I haven’t even seen the film yet). Even with the dollar-driven drivel that gets green-lighted these days, there’s still hope. Not just for actresses but for women as directors and writers and in the many other talents.

But I hope to witness the day when women will not have to ask men to write especially for them (and more women will be welcomed in the biz as writers), and when women will not have to search far and wide for (to borrow Kidman’s phrase) “complicated, rich characters to play.” Let’s try and see if we can make it happen. Because, let’s face it, I don’t want to have to make this case again ten years from now…and I’m sure I’m not the only one.

Posted at 3:03 am | Filed under Favorite posts, Film, News commentary |  

Thursday, 16 January 2003

The stuff of which dreams are made

Earlier in the week, when I talked about sitting outside under the stars at night, I mentioned how I’d forgotten so many of the stars (and couldn’t identify many of them). I’d read about some basic astronomy a couple of years ago, but it’s true, I’m still very much a night sky newbie.

Well, I dug up my spiral-bound copy of Terence Dickinson’s excellent book Nightwatch: A Practical Guide to Viewing the Universe and refreshed my memory a bit. I went back out a couple of hours ago with binoculars, a chair, notepad and pen and spent a good chunk of time identifying stars and trying to remember their characteristics so I wouldn’t forget so easily.

Orion stood high and proud in the SW, and it was easy to spot Castor and the slightly pinker Pollux, as well as Procyon, Sirius and Regulus. Turning around and facing NE, it was hard to avoid seeing Ursa Major. I noticed two very visible planets: one was extremely bright, which I guessed to be Jupiter. Looking south, it was between the Leo constellation and Procyon, almost a straight line out from Bellatrix to Betelgeuse onward. The not-nearly-as-bright second planet, between the moon and Aldebaran, had almost a yellowish tint. After I came back inside, I fired up Adastra Freestar (highly recommended if you don’t already have it!) and ID’d the second planet as Saturn and confirmed the first as Jupiter. (Thanks to my brother for letting me know about Adastra in the first place.)

It’s a fantastic night for stargazing. The sky was clear, and even with the moon overhead, hovering just “above” Capella, I could see very clearly. One of these days I would love to get out of the city for a while…take a camera (or two) and binoculars and get away from the light pollution, to really see what the night sky can look like.

Posted at 1:18 am | Filed under Musings & everything else |  

Monday, 13 January 2003

Midnight, the stars, and you

I won’t go into details, but suffice it to say that over the past weekend, something came up and I became extremely upset. It was Friday night, well okay Saturday morning, at around 2 o’clock…and I needed to get some air. Usually when I’m upset I pick up my guitar and just play, or listen to some music, or write…but this time it was different. I had already tried writing and listening to music…I needed to get outside. For a few seconds I imagined myself hopping into the car and just driving somewhere, anywhere, with the windows down and the wind against my face. This wasn’t something I ever did to remedy negative feelings, though, plus it’s not exactly a safe idea, and I didn’t want to wake up anyone. But I had to get outside. So I resorted to doing something else.

For the past couple of years in late fall/early winter, I’ve set up a tripod and folding chair in the backyard, taking a camera and trying to capture some Leonids on film. This time, I grabbed a pair of binoculars instead of the camera, and sat outside, leaning back in the chair and occasionally looking through the lenses into the night sky. It was pretty bright out, thanks to the moon, and the brighter stars were still very visible. Though there was cloud cover, it moved fairly quickly, passing over my head and heading south/southeast.

I tried to identify the stars and the planets, but couldn’t be sure of most of them. After a few minutes I even spotted a falling meteor — no matter how many times I see one, I’m always awestruck. I sat there for half an hour, listening to the faint sounds of the city: of the whoosh of passing cars on the nearby streets, of the fallen leaves wrestling gently against the breeze…and feeling the briskness of the air in my lungs. For those of you in “real” winter climates, you might wonder “sitting outside in January? Are you nuts?” — but remember, this is in Southern California, where the low for that night did not dip below 45 degrees F.

Just sitting there calmed me down considerably, and it probably was more effective than a drive would have been. Watching the large fields of cumulus clouds hovering by, obscuring my view of the stars every so often, helped put my own mind clouds in perspective. I was just a person, one of countless others, underneath passing cloud formations, sitting still on a rotating planet, gliding around the sun, through space, one planet in a neighborhood of many, a few of which I could see. “God,” I thought in a sort of opening prayer, “I am glad to be a part of this.”

So after a half hour or so, I gathered everything and went back inside. And I picked up my guitar, and very quietly, began playing — mostly Richard Buckner songs — and felt my tension ease away even more with every note.

Posted at 7:28 pm | Filed under Musings & everything else |