Recharging the Important

I have a dog.

He is a double dapple longhaired Dachshund.

His name is Spike.

He and I are pals.

barnes1 (1).jpgThat has nothing to do with this blog, but it is always good to start a blog with a dog reference. So there it is – my dog reference.

Sometimes a fellow needs to reset. I did that today by spending the day at the Barnes Foundation http://www.barnesfoundation.org. If you’ve never been, I strongly recommend it.

My wife and I got there at about 11.

The building is about as artful as the collection. You are immediately struck by the use of water in the landscaping. A small reflecting pool dominates the entryway in front of the gray concrete building. The highly polished doors open to a darkened hallway, which eventually open to a bright atrium.

529_600_bf811_i2rThe atrium – lit by a series of skylights – is about the size of half of a football field and filled with artsy cushioned benches. The entrance to the collection is non-descript, but when you enter the main gallery you are bombarded by several paintings, but Georges Seurat’s Group of Figures dominates the room.

The collections of more than 3,000 works of art incudes 181 Renoirs, 69 Cézannes, 59 Matisses, 46 Picassos, 16 Modiglianis, and 7 Van Goghs.  I was overwhelmed by the colors, themes, and variety of the work.

As I move from room-to-room, I remembered things of which I had lost sight:

  • The importance of art in our world and humanity
  • The five components of the visual arts: Color, Line, Unity, Balance, Shape
  • How art is as fundamental to society as economics and religion,

It’s funny how you remember the important things when you step away from the important day-to-day things. There is a difference even the two, but that is for a different note.

By the way Spike says, :Hey.”

BACKUP SINGERS – THE CANARY IN THE MINE FOR POPULAR MUSIC

I have long asserted that music from the 70’s and 80’s was richer, more substantive, and frankly, demonstrated greater virtuosity than the music people are making today. With few exception – and there are always exceptions – today’s popular music is woefully wanting.
Case in point. Last night I watch the documentary “Twenty Feet From Stardom” about backup singers — if you haven’t seen it, take the time.
The film gave a great overview of the history of that craft as well as introduced me to many of the faces connected to the voices I’ve heard so many times. One point made several times through the film was the importance of Rock and Roll bands to the singers.
Several of the singers talked about the freedom rock bands gave to backup vocalists. Instead of hemming the singers in, artists like David Bowie, The Rolling Stones, George Harrison, Elton John, and Stevie Wonder gave them great freedom and as a result, we have songs like Gimme Shelter and Young Americans.
These songs – and so many others – have a color, timber, and depth I find lacking in modern popular music.
Toward the end of the film the backup singers lamented, the opportunities for their talent is has dropped off in recent decades as record producers cut budgets and backup singing is relegated to a “mice to have” role.
It all kind of makes me wonder. Rolling Stone reports that album sales have dropped precipitously in recent years and record industry execs blame it on competition with streaming services. I wonder though.
Backup singers could very well be the canary in the mine and their drop in use might indicate a drop in quality of the music and that is the reason for dwindling record sales.
Just a thought

I’m an addict.

I’m an addict.
There I said it. I’m an addict and I don’t care
I’m addicted to books, but I am in a pickle. It seems I have accumulated books faster than I can read. I’ve got about a dozen and a half books just waiting me to crack them open and bask in the stories, histories, sciences, and the like.
I had planned to read all the books I had lying around the house and on my e-reader, but ,,, I had to get more. I saw a special on PBS about the atomic bomb and realizing I didn’t know anything on the topic, bought Richard Rhodes “The Making of the Atomic Bomb” and then I picked up a couple of Robert E. Howard stories (not just Conan) and decided I wanted to know more about his work so picked up a reader. Did you know there have been several authors of Conan novels?
So here I am up to my hips in Conan stuff, atomic bomb stuff, and all the while my other books are laying around. Don Quixote is on the bureau, several Louis L’amour in my office, Panzer Leader by Guderian is shouting from the bookcase, assorted mysteries in every room, mad James Joyce Ulysses is calling me out from the night stand.
The books are everywhere and the guilt mounts. The only place I can go to get away from all the stress is the bookstore or library.
Then it happens all over again; a new distraction, a new path, and three new books.
This time I’m going to do it for sure. All the books in my house – done. One after another. Unless of course something …

My Review of Major Crimes

majorcrimsRarely does a spinoff find its own identity.
The graveyard of all the Joanie Loves Chachi spinoff wannabes is pretty large. Still every now and then a lucky few find their own way and turn into something special. Think about it. There is NCIS from for JAG and the plethora of Homicides, or CSIs, Still quality is hard to come by.
That’s why I like Major Crimes so much.
This “The Closer” spinoff has really found its own footing. Crisp writing, excellent characters and powerful story lines fuel the action. The show uses inventive approaches to camera work and direction all having the effect of riveting viewers to their sears.
Mary McDonnel portrayal of Capt. Sharon Raydor is/was an excellent crossover for the stickler form IA who found a home with the rough and tumble squad. The character has a significant advantage over Brenda Lee Johnson (play by Kyra Sedgewick in the Closer). Raydor cares as much about her people as solving the case, while the Johnson would sacrifice friend and foe alike to catch the bad guy.
G.W. Bailey always the loveable curmudgeon, is excellent as LT Provenza. The writers have done a nice job humanizing him, but Provenza does his best to keep humanity at bay. It is his shtick, but that is okay.
Lt. Flynn Andy Flynn, played by Tony Denison, has come a long way from his first days of plotting against Brenda Lee. So much so that now he is having a relationship with Capt. Raydor.
I hope the writers can resist the urge to have Raydor and Flynn break up and make things uncomfortable in the unit. It has been done to death.
The one thing I miss are the old Provenza and Flynn screw up episodes. They were always fun. You know, like the time they found a body in the garage, left it there so they could go to a baseball game and serious antics ensue.
I was not a big fan of the Rusty storyline (played by Graham Patrick Martin) until he pulled it all together as a faux journalist who uncovered the true identity of a dead Jane Doe. The writing was masterful and each episode layered the next. I have to admit it was pretty cool.
I have always been a big fan of Raymond Cruz. I think he gobbles up the screen. I would encourage the writers to make more use of him and the Julio Sanchez and his mom storyline.
I was skeptical of Kearran Giovanni as Sykes, but by golly, she has really proven to be a real addition to the team
I guess the real test of any spinoff is whether you forget the source show. Major Crimes has achieved that. It stands alone as a unique work of art.

Another Good New Show From Syfy – Dark Matter

DarkMatter_photogallery04
Mr. Lemke as #=Three from Syfy Good new show, Dark Matter

You got to give Syfy their props; they just keep coming at you with original programming. They have a new show in their stable – Dark Matter.
It’s a space show that seems very influence by Firefly, a dash of Star Trek the Next Generation, and old film Noir.
Without giving too much away, six people wake up on a spaceship from some kind of frozen stasis to find their memories wiped clean. We don’t initially know who they are, or what their talents are or any back story. Those details are cleverly revealed piecemeal in every episode.
As time goes on we find out the people are hired supposedly thieves and/or killers who go from job to job at the behest of one evil corporation or another. Oddly, they;ve all woken up with some level of conscience and moral compass. Something is obviously afoot.
This is an extremely clever plotting device allowing the writers great creative opportunities for internal/external conflict.
Instead of names the crew uses the number in the order they woke up. The leader of the band of – whatever they are – is Two played by Melissa O’Neil. Ms. O’Neil inhabits the role and is pretty believable. It is good to see a women back in charge of a spaceship. I don’t recall seeing one since Captain Janeway from Star Trek Voyager. Ms. O’Neil character is already more complex than Janeway was.
The fish out of water is One played Marc Ben David, who, according to IMDB has done several things, but I’ve never seen him, before. One is the consistent good guy in the show who always wants to do the right thing and by doing so pulling the entire crew into danger.
The most fun to watch is surely Three played by Anthony Lemke who gets the best comic lines. Many will remember Mr. Lemke from his time on Lost Girl, before Bo became a self-absorbed blah, blah, blah (Another day for that ultimately disappointing mess). Regardless, Mr. Lemke plays a brigand with a heart of – if not gold – brass.
Four is played by Alex Mallari Jr., whose character I haven’t figured out yet. They better right the ship with this one or he is going to end up as a Star Trek Crewman in a red tunic – expendable. Near as I can tell he is a brooding martial arts master waiting for the right time to spring into action I guess. Mr. Mallari has a pretty extensive resume and seems fairly competent at his craft.
Jodelle Ferland – who plays Five is the obligatory child crew member who has mystical powers ala River Tam from Firefly. She has an extensive resume already so hopefully they will put her skills to better use. Right now she is a secondary character who could also end up in a Star Trek Red Tunic. It’s very early yet though.
Six is a bit interesting. Roger R. Cross has been in a million things and does them all fairly well. In Black Matter he is the pilot of the space shuttle and all around badass and nice guy. As the show unfolds I look forward to seeing him get more screen time.
Billed as one of the Stars of the show Zoie Palmer, also a Lost Girl alum, has been the biggest disappointment so far. She plays the Android. And they really need to step it up. She is neither funny, nor engaging. It’s just flat, blah. You know.
All in all it’s a good show that seems to have found a niche and needs a little character development. Let’s hope the writers can keep this thing afloat. for more info

@Elkton Station Emerging Artist Showcase Great Night, Great Event

Justyn Quirk, Alli Graham, and Phil Hanser brought my play to life last night at the Emerging Artist Showcase
Justyn Quirk, Alli Graham, and Phil Hanser brought my play to life last night at the Emerging Artist Showcase

If you live near Elkton Maryland, Northeast Maryland, or Newark Delaware and didn’t attend this year’s Emerging Artist Showcase at the Milburn Stone Theater @Elkton Station, oh man you missed a heck of a night.

I’m not saying this because my play, a one act “Memento Mori: Why Marley Saved Scrooge,” had a public reading, though it was what drew me, it was just this wonderful night of young artists (myself excluded, I am an old bastard) to showcasing their talent and it really worked.

I arrived a little late; I went to the wrong place because I wasn’t paying attention. I got to @Elkton Station at the tail end of the first play and missed most of it. It was one two plays written by Merlyn Quandry.

Alli Graham, Justyn Quirk, and Phil Hanser carried the acting load all night as they appeared, in different combinations, in each One Act. They were wonderful.

The event was emceed by a very funny young man, Brandon Gorin who has great crowd skills, charisma, and just enough quirkiness to make each of his appearances a bridge between acts.

My play was read beautifully by the Graham, Quirk, and Hanser. This is the second time I’ve heard my show and this time I heard a whole different set of corrections and improvements I could make.

Hanser’s Marley accent was excellent and gave the performance a real authenticity. Quirk, who played St. Peter, was wonderfully sarcastic. Her portrayal and cadence made me realize I had some unnecessary word repetition in my sentences. Thanks so much. Ms. Graham was perfect as Michael the Archangel, her precise delivery hit just the right tone. I didn’t realize until I heard her, how tough some of the lines were. I may change something there – I may not.

Madeline Funke enthralled – not a word I use lightly – with a ukulele medley of some pop tunes. It really worked.

Fluid Mosaic – a local quintet – made up of Michael Veiering on guitar and vocals, Alexis Boyd on Sax. Ms. Funke on uke, Jon Luther on Bass, and Seth Tillman on drums, rounded out the evening with some excellent jazzy coffee-house numbers. Tillman also stepped out from behind his drums to do a solo song. It was all quite excellent.

The point is – it was a wonderful evening of quality entertainment put together by great local talent. If they do this again next year, you really should go.

VACUOUS BILLBOARD MUSIC AWARDS REACH NEW HEIGHTS OF SELF INDULGENCE

Here’s what we know from watching the Billboard Music Awards last night.

1. Chrissy Teigen will knock people down to get on stage.
2. She is married to John Legend and they have sex a lot.
3. David Lee Roth can’t sing anymore (or won’t)
4. Ludacris is in a very successful movie earning more than $1 billion
5. Fallout Boy is pretty good (or at least they have the good sense to hire good dancers)
6. J-LO has a killer body
7. Rita Ora forgot underwear
8. Meghan Trainor can actually sing
9. And BB King never existed.

I presume – and it is not much of a presumption – that many people like me tuned into the Billboard Music Awards curious to see what kind of tribute would be staged to commemorate the passing of BB King. One could argue – I think fairly effectively – that his work in blues laid the groundwork for pop music. In a seven degrees of Kevin Bacon kind of way those distractionists (I refuse to call them artist) at the awards could draw a line from their work to Mr. King.

But nothing like that was forthcoming. We were instead treated to Chrissy Teigen reminding us she sleeps with John Legend, a self-indulgent video of Taylor Swift in her newest piece of distraction “Bad Blood,” and David Lee Roth attempting to gyrate his aged body to feedback strewn guitar music that hasn’t stood the test of time.

And yet I waited.

I watched until they said we’d soon see a tribute to that longtime musical genius Paul Walker

Better him, I guess, than the guy who was Eric Clapton’s idol.

I threw my hands up at the lot of them. Sad, sad, sad.