Dedicated to classics and hits.

Thursday, December 06, 2012

The Last Chronicle of Barset by Anthony Trollope

Victorian Style Furniture: You talk about Anthony Trollope, you talk about Victorian Style.

Book Review
The Last Chronicle of Barset
by Anthony Trollope
p. 1867

   I had this book downloaded onto my Kindle but while in Hawaii I actually saw a recent Penguin Classics edition of The Last Chronicle of Barset by Anthony Trollope sitting on the bookshelf of the owners bedroom of the house we were staying in and I was like, "That's a sign to read The Last Chronicle of Barset by Anthony Trollope."   Anthony Trollope was a successful, prolific Novelist, the Victorian equivalent in output and popularity to a Steven King or Thomas Wolfe.  His popularity has declined in recent centuries like the 20th and 21st.
Victorian Style Dress- modern version.

 The most important descriptor of Anthony Trollope as a Novelist is the word "Victorian."  No single writer captures the essence of mid-period Victorian literature like Trollope captures the essence of mid-period Victorian literature.  The essential Victorian-ness of his Novels has likely heard the long-term popularity of his work.

Victorian Style Hat

  If you want to know what I mean when I call Trollope "Victorian," just look at The Last Chronicle of Barset.  The Last Chronicle of Barset is the sixth volume in a six book series about life in a Church-dominated town in England (inspired by Salisbury.)  The Last Chronicle of Barset is over 700 pages in paperback form, and I'd imagine the other books are similarly lengthy.

Victorian Lady: Tattooed Style

   The Last Chronicle of Barset has three intertwined major plots (Like an "A, B, C" story line on a 30 minute sitcom or 60 minute television drama.) and numerous sub-plots that reference the prior five books in the Chronicles of Barsetshire series. So we're talking about 5000 pages, more or less, of Novels written about life in small town England in the mid 19th century.   Trollope blends influences- the Vanity Fair of William Thackeray Trollope overshadows the third major plot while the main plot of Josiah Crawley and the stolen 20 pound check more resembles the Gothic/Sentsationalist novels of the mid 19th century.

Salisbury Cathedral inspired the Chronicles of Barsetshire and served as the model for the community depicted.  Salisbury Cathedral is a Gothic-style (Early English Gothic) Cathedral in England.

   Significantly, Chronicles of Barsetshire is one of TWO six volume Novel sets about contemporary British life that Anthony Trollope wrote between 1850 and 1870.  The other set, the Palliser Novels, is about the world of British government ministers.  Phineas Finn, which I read a few weeks back, is one of the Palliser Novels- the second- while The Last Chronicle of Barset is the sixth of six.

The Bishop's Palace, Salisbury Cathedral: Setting for the Barsetshire Chronicles- home of the Bishop.

  It's hard to mourn the passing of Anthony Trollope as a popular favorite.  Both the length, volume and subject matter of his books work against him, but he is certainly remembered by the English publishing/literary establishment and to a lesser extend by the British Broadcasting Company, who have produced TV (Palliser Novels) and Radio (Chronicles of Barsetshire) adaptations in the last decade.

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Hana Maui & The Charms of a Tropical Paradise

   A paradise is a place where "existence is positive, harmonious and timeless."  The word "paradise" is from the French word paradis, which itself derives from the Latin and Greek.  It's notable that the term does not simply appear in the western Greek/Latin/Romance languages/English wing of the Indo European language family.  Old Iranian (Avestan) contains pari-daeza- which literally means walled enclosure.  From Old Iranian it was adopted by Aramaic speakers- which is the language of the old testament and therefore the source of the Hebrew/biblical word for paradise.

The Summer Palace of the Kublai Khan, reflects the Middle Easter pre-Christian idea of a Paradise.

   Basically, the roots of a paradise are in a walled pleasure garden of the Middle Eastern variety.  The kind of thing a Kublai Khan would have lying around in his stately pleasure dome.  Obviously, whether you are talking ancient Middle Eastern paradise or any of the paradise varieties of the Abrahamic religions (Christianity, Islam, to name two.) you are talking about something that is far away from the world of the tropics.

  The coupling of a tropical environment with the imagery of a paradise is something that happened in the 19th century as Western explorers familiar with the Christian version of Paradise located islands in the Pacific Ocean.  Although Spanish explorers had fantasized about imaginary tropical paradises (the Fountain of Youth, El Dorado) their day-to-day experience with Tropical/Jungle environments did not generate a lot of romantic whimsy or adulation on the part of inhabitants.

Gaughin popularizer of the Tropical Paradise concept.
  Starting in the late 19th century a substantial body of Art elaborating the idea of a Tropical Paradise in places like the Polynesian island chains and Hawaii began to appear.  Painters like Gauguin, writers of the fictional and non-fictional variety.  Early Western immigrants traveled slowly by the power of sail, but the real  colonization didn't begin until Steam Engines were attached to ocean going vessels in the 19th century.  Gauguin and his progeny all belong to this later group.

Lucas Cranach Fountain of Youth reflects a paradisaical idea with wide spread currency in the Europe of the Middle Ages.

  Thus, the central narrative of a Tropical Paradise today is that of the Paradise overwhelmed and destroyed by Western Invasion. This invasion/destruction metaphor can be elaborated in a variety of ways but the most potent metaphor continues to be an Ecological/Biological/Environmental description of the destruction of an environment where man lives in harmony with nature.

This woman is posing on Hamoa Beach.

    When it comes to remaining Tropical Paradises, Hana, on the island of Maui, is high on the list.  Hana is fortunately isolated on the rainy side of Maui island.  Getting there involves either a treacherous 2 plus hour drive OR a ride in a prop engine plane to the small airport.  The environment of Hana is a Jungle Rain Forest perched on the side of a volcano next to the Ocean.  Fruits like Bananas, Guavas and Avocados grow naturally and the landscape pulses with greenery.

Hayden Pantierre posing on Hana Black Sand Beach, 2010.

  The amenities in Hana for a tourist are minimal and this is a huge plus in terms of Hana maintaining it's status as a non violated Tropical Paradise.  For example, the area outside the two block "downtown" of Hana does not receive cell phone coverage.  There is one gas station, two convenience stores, two restaurants, etc.

Hana Bay Beach- unfortunate looking pier here.

  The Hits of Hana are the beaches- the three main beaches are Black Rock beach in the Waianapanapa State Park, Hana Bay Beach and Hamoa Beach- located in that order as you drive through from north to south.  Hamoa Beach is the trickiest to find- there isn't a sign that I could see- the road is Haneoo Road- though I don't recall seeing a sign.

Hana Lava Tube one of the few non beach things to do.

  Other then the Beaches- which each can handle multiple visits- you've got a lava tube tour, a hike into the Bamboo Cloud Forest and the drive around the island to the tourist coast or "upcountry" with a 10,000 foot volcano.

Taken in the Hana Bamboo Forest

  Hana Maui is indeed an unspoilt Tropical Paradise that continues to exist in the 21st century.  Because of the hostile attitude of the community to economic development, it is likely to remain that way for the foreseeable future.  Finding lodging isn't that tough, Hana does have a single hotel and vacation rental agencies that offer competitive prices.  Staying there does require a rental car, and on Maui that will cost you.

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Phineas Finn by Anthony Trollope

Lady Laura Standish is one of three women that the titular hero tries to woo.

Book Review
Phineas Finn
by Anthony Trollope
p. 1869

This is Violet Effingham, the second female love interest in Phineas Finn by Anthony Trollope.  Violet Effingham is obviously younger and more attractive then Lady Laura Standish

   What is the Audience for Anthony Trollope in 2012?  Literature grad students and undergraduates.  Publishing professionals?  Anthony Trollope was, above all else- prolific. He wrote two six volume Novel series about two separate environments- the Barset books deal with a church intensive part of rural England and the Palliser series- to which Phineas Finn belongs.  The Palliser series , "analyzes the lifes and loves of government ministers and their families."

Madame Max Goesler: This is the third love interest for Phineas Finn a wealthy Jewish widow.   Trollope is pretty straight up about confronting anti-Semetic attitudes in british society in the 19th century.

   WHOOO!  Are you excited by that description?  Is anyone?  Seriously, anyone in the world who isn't a graduate student or undergraduate studying literature who wants to read a six volume series about the lives and loves of government ministers in Victorian England?   I suppose the answer is television shows of the sort Aaron Sorkin specializes in.  By extension, you could include all of the doctor and lawyer tv shows and novels.

This is Phineas Finn, the titular hero- here looking older then in the book.  The character type is recognizable as the "Hugh Grant" style of appeal and awkwardness.  A contemporary remake of Phineas Finn might well star Hugh Grant

  Compared to the Barsetshire Chronicles, the Government Ministers live in a more "exciting" environment- if you consider 19th century British parliamentary procedure "exciting."

  The fact that Trollope is the first to master the mundane details of a proto-modern life does everything to  both ensure his enduring inclusion as a classic Victorian Novelist while also minimizing his appeal to a contemporary Audience for classic literature.   Also Trollope is writing like someone who got paid by the word- and he did actually get paid by the word.  Trollope is a wizz at managing the multiple strands of plot the length of the Novel requires.   His writing has a formal elegance that surpasses predecessor/contemporaries like Charles Dickens.

Monday, December 03, 2012

DD & Brandon Rock Duo Play Soda Bar/Haunted Hearts Cut on Pitchfork

     Brandon & Dee Dee Welchez will be performing as a duo at the Soda Bar in San Diego CA on December 12th, 2012, and you can buy tickets HERE.  Support is being provided by Heavy Hawaii and DJ Mario Orduno.

      Brandon (Crocodiles) & Dee Dee Welchez(Dum Dum Girls) have started a new band together called Haunted Hearts and you can check out the "A-side," Something That Feels Bad Is Something That Feels Good, HERE.


Show Review: How To Dress Well, Beacon @ Soda Bar San Diego

Show Review
How To Dress Well
@ Soda Bar in San Diego, CA.

  The thing about this show is that before it was booked I was actually asked by someone about how I thought the show would do and I checked the page- saw 3.5 million plays and basically opined that the show would do well- sell-out even.  How To Dress Well (which is Tom Krell and whomever he taps to tour with) scored back to back Best New Music nods for his first two records.  If you can show me another Artist who has done that- please- leave a comment, because I can't think of one.

  But actually if you compare the two Best New Music picks with his number of plays, the number of plays is actually pretty low- compared to other Artists who have gotten BNM for a first record.  Two Artists in the immediate vicinity of How To Dress Well- Grimes (9.7 million plays) and Purity Ring (4.1 million plays) have garnered a larger Audience with fewer records.

  Comparing the Pitchfork success with the last fm profile size would seem to support the conclusion that the Audience for popular music does not like How To Dress Well as much as the music reviewers at Pitchfork.

  The Audience size for last nights show was good for a 12/15 price point on a Sunday night, but nothing close to a sell out- as I thought well might be the case when I was originally asked how I thought this show might do.

  The Audience composition last night was def. "FANS OF HOW TO DRESS WELL." with a smattering of local regulars.  Opening act Beacon impressed the booth invading college students who were near by me during the set.  They are a two piece- with one guy handling the beats and the other guy singing 90s r&b style.  The live element was non existent, whether by design or from lack of experience I don't know.  I thought Beacon has the ingredients to be a viable act but it will come through a full length record rather then a strong live show presence.

  In between sets I heard that the Grimes show at Porters PUB was sold out, that the XX show at the Hollywood cemetery was a real good time and that the Purity Ring concert at UCSD last year was also a really good time.  I was thinking about the recent Skrillex concert I had gone to and the difference between an Artist like Skrillex who draws 20k people to an outdoor shed in Chula Vista, vs. a more serious, but still electronically based, Artist like How To Dress Well who struggles to draw 100 people to a Sunday night show in a top 20 US Market after two Best New Music awards.

  Obviously, the difference can most easily be expressed in terms of popularity. And I suppose it equally easy to say that How To Dress Well is closer to "serious" Art and Skrillex is meaningless pop trash.  BUT- if you actually listen to both acts, they share many more similarities then differences because they are both rooted in the shared universe of electronic dance music.

  When you are dealing with an Artist who is also a graduate student in philosophy, whether it be John Maus or Tom Krell, it's worth asking whether the music achieves some kind of impact that extends beyond meaningless fun.  Personally, I feel that intelligent/meaningul IDM occupies the same spot as "conscious" hip-hop: the critics may love it but you will have no gold records on the wall.  I'm sure Tom Krell has thought it over and decided that the world of Skrillex is something he'd best avoid- but there is no reason he couldn't compete in that arena if he wanted to- instead of playing to 90+ 20 year olds on a Sunday night in San Diego.

 Go for Ibiza, is what I'm saying.  Forget the US indie rock club touring circuit, it don't pay.

Uncle Silas by J. Sheridan Le Fanu

Jean Simmons as Maud Ruthyn

Book Review
Uncle Silas
by J. Sheridan Le Fanu
published in 1864- serial in Ireland, three volume book in England

Jean Simmons screen testing for the Audrey Hepburn role in Roman Holiday

   Wikipedia calls Uncle Silas a "Victorian Gothic mystery-thriller" as well as an "early example of the locked room mystery subgenre."  Sheridan Le Fanu was an Irish writer descended from (French) Hugenots.  He inhabits the same literary space as Wilkie Collins and is a forerunner of Bram Stroker and Arthur Conan Doyle.  Uncle Silas should be properly seen as a stand-out work in an area that produced a lot of non classic literature.   Sensationalistic literature was often inspired by the news and the Audience for "Victorian Gothic mystery-thrillers" or the literature of the sensational over-lapped with the Audience for non literary sources like crime pamphlets and daily newspapers.

This is a good representation of what Uncle Silas- the character is all about- kind of a Scooby Doo villain vibe if you know what I mean.

  The story of Uncle Silas involves a young heiress, Maud Ruthyn, who is sent to live with her creepy Uncle Silas.  Uncle Silas may or may not be scheming to murder poor young Maud because if she dies before she reaches 18, he inherits her estate.   Although this novel is part of the gothic/thriller genre, it does not involve any explicit supernatural plot points (Ghosts, for example) and I think the ability of Le Fanu to evoke the supernatural without being cheesy about it is a key reason that Uncle Silas has endured as a mid period Victorian classic, albeit a minor classic.

This is the cruel french maid Madame de Rougierre with Uncle Silas in another adaptation
  A stand out minor character is Madame de Rougierre and I wanted to mention that the character of the evil french maid re-occurs in Victorian literature.  It's funny, because Le Fanu himself is descended from French immigrants to Ireland.   But just generally speaking the evil French Victorian period maid is an under-developed character archetype. I think you could get lots of play with it artistically, especially since "naughty french maid" is an already established motif with wide-spread familiarity.   Cruel French maid wears more clothes and is craftier then naughty French maid- and cruel French maid is specifically mid-period Victorian whereas naughty french maid can be from any time period.

      Dickens famous evil French maid- Hortense of Bleak House- was actually based on a real life murder- but where Hortense of Bleak House actually is the murdered, in Uncle Silas, Rougierre ends up being a pawn of the real villains.  Thus, Le Fanu successfully manipulated an Audience that had no doubt read the books of Wilkie Collins and Charles Dickens Bleak House.

Sunday, December 02, 2012

How To Dress Well Plays Tonight @ Soda Bar in San Diego

How To Dress Well AKA Thomas Krell

Event Preview
Sunday, December 2nd, 2012.

How To Dress Well
(triangle symbol)Aimon
DJ Mario Orduno of Art Fag/Dream Recordings

 How To Dress Well is the artist name from Brooklyn-ite Tom Krell.  He brings his 3.5 million Last fm plays to the table and shares similarities with Twin Shadow, Balam Acab, Purity Ring and Active Child.  Interested to see if the live show is a good time or mopey.


Openers Beacon combine "Southern Bass with Ambient" so that could be cool, too.

(traingle symbol)AIMON

(triangle symbol) Aimon may or may not be local- they are identified as being from Southern California.  They fit "well within the witch-house movement."  I'm pretty sure that witch-house has a couple break out artists to go before they achieve movement status but what the hell. It's Sunday night- it's either this or TV.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Development of the Chola Empire in Southern India 900 AD - 1300 AD

Chola Empire Map: approx. 900 AD 1300 AD

   The [late first millennium AD] scene in the Indian peninsula was dominated by the Tamil identity, forged under the Cholas... The classicism of the Chola period drew less on political authority and more on the institutions established at this time, together with the articulation of cultural forms.  In many spheres of cultural life, whether of social institutions, religion, or the fine arts, the standards established during this period came to dominate the pattern of living in the south, and to partially influence the pattersn existing elsewhere in the peninsula.  There was also an active intervention in south-east Asia to a greater degree than before, in the commerce of the region and in its cultural forms.

Parantaka first empire of the Chola Empire

    The Cholas emerged as the dominant power in the south,  The core region of their control- Cholamandalam- was the area around Tanjavurup to the eatern coast, the Coromandal of later times.  Mention of Chola chiefdoms goes back to the turn of the Christian era in the Shangam poems.  Towards the middle of the ninth century, a chief claiming Cholla ancestry conquered the region of Tanjavur, the heart of Tamilaham.  In 907 AD the first important ruler of the Chola dynasty, Parantaka I, came to power and ruled for almost half a century.

Rajendra Chola: Clearly a huge pimp if this movie still is accurate.

  Chola power was firmly established with the acession of Rajaraja (985-1014) and his son and successor, Rajendra, which allowed about half a century for the Chola kingdom to be consolidated and stabilized.  The reigns of both father and son were filled with extensive campaigns in almost every direction.

Aziz Ansari was born in the U.S but his parents are Tamils from the Tamil Nadu.

  Chola power weakened in the thirteenth century.  In the south, the Pandyas had superseded the Cholas as the dominant power in the Tamil country.

M.I.A's famil is from Sri Lanka where they were part of the Tamil minority- the ethnic majority in Sri Linka is the Sinhalese.   Historically, the Tamils would have been colonial invaders similar to the role Rome played in the history of Northern Europe.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The Water-Babies by Charles Kingsley

The Water-Babies illustration- if you are into drawings of naked young boys The Water-Babies is the book for you.

Book Review
The Water-Babies, A Fairy Tale For A Land Baby
by Rev. Charles Kingsley
published 1862-1863

The Water-Babies combines allegory, satire and children's literature in a similar fashion as books like Gulliver's Travels, Alice in Wonderland and Gargantua and Pantagruel.  It certainly hasn't fared as well as the other two examples of similar books- in that Hollywood has not adapted The Water-Babies with Jack Black starring or Tim Burton directing in the last five years.

The Water-Babies cover illustration- reoccurring motive of naked young dudes.

  To a contemporary reader, for example, me, The Water-Babies seems less like children's literature and more like an adult allegory.  Kingsley wrote The Water-Babies shortly after Charles Darwin published his seminal works outlining his theory of evolution.  The story of The Water-Babies involves a chimney sweep who is treated cuelly by his boss and his transformed into a "Water-Baby" by a fairy godmother type.

 After his transformation he has several adventures that involve him traveling up north and learning valuable life lessons.  According to the description in 1001 Books To Read Before You Die, The Water-Babies is also complex allegory that explains the theory of evolution to children.  Well- I totally didn't get that part.  In fact, it was quite clear to me that reading The Water-Babies on a Kindle, without the benefit of full-color illustrations that accompany every printed edition of the book, is far from being the ideal format.

The Water-Babies illustration:  Look at the expression on the face of that fish in the background.  Don't you want your kid to have something like this in their room?

  I think The Water-Babies by Charles Kingsley is a marginal title on the 1001 Books To Read Before You Die list and a good candidate to be cut in the second edition.

      I would say though if you are currently a parent of a young child this is a good look for the kid- guarantee you will wow the other parents during your next discussion of children's literature with your peers, "Oh yeah we got him/her The Water-Babies- by Charles Kingsley?  Not as well known as Snow White but our son/daughter has really taken a shine to it."  And then the other parents will be like, "The Water-Babies?  I got my kid an APP that lets him pretend to be one of the Cars, from Walt Disney's Cars movies."  Suck it, other parents.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Tuesday Night in San Diego: Tamaryn, Young Prisms & Cathedral X @ The Casbah

Event Preview
Dream Recordings Presents
Young Prisms
Cathedral X
@ The Casbah San Diego, CA.  Tuesday, November 20th 2012.

  Cathedral X is a very weird scene and I like that about them.

Les Misérables by Victor Hugo

Anne Hathaway as Fantine in the 2012 film version of the musical adaptation of  Les Miserables

Book Review
Les Misérables
by Victor Hugo
p. 1862

   I've read some long books in my perambulations through the literature of the 18th and 19th century but none that FELT as long as Les Misérables by Victor Hugo.  I've literally been reading this book- on the ole' Kindle- for over a month.  By virtue of numerous film/tv adaptations and one incomparably famous musical adaptation, Les Misérables has unquestionably earned a place as one of the most popular novels of all time, though after actually reading the book I questions whether even 1 percent of the people who are familiar with the musical or one of the film adaptations have actually read the book.

Hugh Jackman as Jean Valjean in the 2012 film adaptation of the musical version of Les Miserables

  Published in 1862, Les Misérables take place earlier in the 19th century, telling the now well familiar tale of the convict Jean ValJean, his adopted daughter Cosette, her would-be lover Marius and of course the immortal Inspector Javert.   As a bonus, each of the five books that comprises Les Misérables contains not only the central narrative of Valjean/Cosette but also lengthy passages about historical events and philosophy.   These passages set Hugo apart from other contemporary writers like Charles Dickens.  

Amanda Seyfreid as Cosette in the 2012 film adaptation of the musical version of Les Miserbales.

   Generations of critics, scholars and fans have pointed to the "universality" of Les Misérables as being key to its enduring success with a global audience.   Hugo was a prolific author of poetry and prose, fiction and non-fiction.  Hugo was living in exile- in England- during the period when he wrote Les Misérables and it's hard not to impute some of the universal appeal of this book to his awareness of the success of novels like David Copperfield (1850),  Bleak House (1853),  Hard Times (1854), North and South (1855) and A Tale of Two Cities (1859.)

Helena Bonham Carter as Madame Thenardier in the 2012 film adaptation of the musical version of Les Miserables.

  To compare the style of The Hunchback of Notre Dame (published in 1831), his other big hit novel, with the style of Les Misérables is to see growth in the scope of what a Novel could accomplish within a historical setting.   The Hunchback of Notre Dame is squarely under the influence of Sir Walter Scott and his historical novels.  While Les Misérables also takes place in the past, it is much, much more then a historical tale with contemporary political undertones.   Les Misérables by Victor Hugo is a novel of ideas and more resembles Moby Dick and War and Peace then what Dickens was turning out.

  The initial publication was a huge hit with the Audience- on an international scale- but less so with critics, who took issue with a number of aspects- the sentimentality, republican sympathies and the "immorality" of the characters.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Movie Review: In Search of Beethoven on Netflix

Ludwig van Beethoven

Movie Review
In Search of Beethoven (documentary)
d. Phil Grabsky
currently streaming on Netflix

   There should be a word for things that are both interesting and boring at the same time.  If that word existed, it would describe In Search of Beethoven, a comprehensive and very no-nonsense documentary about the life, times and music of the immortal composer and pianist, Ludwig van Beethoven.  In Search of Beethoven, currently streaming on Netflix is two hours and twenty minutes long.  It actually took me a week and five separate viewing sessions before I completed In Search of Beethoven.

   The entirety of In Search of Beethoven is some pictures of Ludwig van Beethoven, interviews with scholars and musicians about Ludwig van Beethoven and performances of his works.   Over the two hours and twenty minutes there is quite alot of all three things.

   There is so much useful and interesting information about Beethoven in this documentary that I wanted to see a written down version of what all the talking heads were saying.   One of the keys to understanding Beethoven that I extracted in between my lengthy sighs upon realizing just how long In Search of Beethoven is, was that he was very, very, very unlucky in love.  He was forever pining after teenaged Aristocratic girls and in early 19th centuy Vienna that shit was not going to happen.

  The two songs I've written about here so far- Fur Elise and Moonlight Sonata, were love notes to two different girls.  Both are sonatas, or as we would call them today, songs.  Ludwig van Beethoven's works can be broken down into three categories: sonatas, concertos & symphonies. He also did one opera and a very famous mass, but the main categories are the sonata (one instrument- piano), concerto (one lead instrument and backing instruments) and symphonies (full orchestra + chorused vox.)

  The symphonies were his big statement pieces.  Beethoven never really left Vienna and never toured, but he did play a couple of big live shows- the first when he debuted his immortal Fifth Symphony:

  Several years later he also did a live performance of the Ninth symphony:

  Beethoven's achievements were measured next to those of Haydn and Mozart by his contemporaries.  This despite the facts that Haydn had long stopped composing and Mozart was actually dead.  The "three geniuses" of early 19th century Vienna were Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven.  Compared to those two, Beethoven did a couple of things differently.  First, he abandoned the classical symmetry that characterizes much of pre-Beethoven classical music in favor of a more tension inducing, unbalanced style of music. Second, Beethoven went big.  When the Audience heard the Fifth Symphony for the first time the reaction must have been something like a big crowd getting wowed at an arena rock show- no one had ever written symphonies on such a grand scale.

Ludwig van Beethoven

 In fact, at least one interviewee on In Search of Beethoven credits him with the creation of the grand, classical symphony as we know it today.  Beethoven's deafness, which is the kind of biographical detail that has ensured his immortality in the Romantic artistic canon, certainly limited his ability to perform live (he played the Piano in the live setting), but didn't stop him from composing.  In fact, several people argue that his deafness probably liberated his music from the conventions of the time.

  Despite his general unhappiness with his material circumstances, Beethoven was acclaimed as a genius by his Audience during his life and immediately upon his death.  It was clear to contemporaries the extent of his talent, and Beethoven, composed in such a way so that people would damn well understand how great he was- if only because his songs were often impossible for lesser skilled musicians to play.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Show Review: King Dude @ The Soda Bar in San Diego

TJ Cowgill of King Dude, as he appeared last night.

Show Review
King Dude
at the Soda Bar in San Diego, CA.

  King Dude got a very solid turn out at the Soda Bar last night.  100+?  Query as to whether the price point (7 USD) had a positive impact on turn out last night.  I frequently have conversations with friends about the wisdom of shows that are priced 12-15 USD.    If you are charging 12, you can pull 60 paid and clear 720 at the door, whereas you could draw 100 at 7 USD a ticket and actually make less.  However, the difference between a show that has 60 paid vs. 100 paid- can be the difference between everyone: band, audience, venue feeling like the night was a flop vs. the night being a success.

 Personally, I would say that for your average mid week indie rock show you are looking at potentially 50 more people for a show that is 7 USD vs. 12 USD.   When you are talking about a threshold for success that starts at 100 paid, that is potentially a huge difference.
TJ Cowgill of King Dude

  The other thing I was thinking about last night at the show was booze.  I think it was last week when I was perusing Pitchfork and saw a scotch ad that incongruously featured Best Coast (Bushmills?) and that had me thinking about how, in the same way that all of television is just window dressing for advertising, all of the indie music scene is essentially window dressing for the sale and consumption of alcohol.

  Last night I was actually excited about the prospect of a bourbon but the bartender served my order of "Makers, neat" in a shot glass, like an idiot.  Who drinks neat bourbon out a shot glass?  More importantly, what bartender serves that specific drink in a shot glass.  I've never seen it done.  I have been to multiple bourbon distillers in Kentucky however, and I know that if the bartender tried to serve someone in Kentucky a neat bourbon in a shot glass he get the dick slapped out of his mouth.   Small quibble at any rate- didn't impact my enjoyment of the night.

King Dude Band as they appeared last night in San Diego, CA.

  Live, King Dude performed as a three piece.  From the press photo I was expecting a Rick Rubin type appearance but instead it was more of a Johnny Cash thing- everyone dressed in matching black button down shirts, combed back hair and- and- an american flag that had been spray painted black hanging behind the band during the set.   The performance reminded me of lying somewhere between the Thermals and Crystal Stilts.  TJ Cowgill- King Dude's songwriter/singer/main man obviously knows how to write song, has obviously thought out the King Dude set and has a delivery that ranged from compelling to awkward- which is all to the good as far as I'm concerned.

  According to all press King Dude is actually a side project for Cowgill who also (fronts?) Teen Cthulhu and Book of Black Earth, but King Dude has already garnered more plays then the other two, earlier projects.  I think Cowgill is onto something here and he should probably stick with it for another album or two- I think everyone associated with King Dude should be stoked about the turn out they pulled on a Wednesday night in San Diego at the Soda Bar.

Here are some upcoming tour dates for King Dude- recommend checking out that First Unitarian Church gig in Philly if you are a local- Dirty Beaches played there last year and I heard it was a great venue.
12/07/12 Brooklyn, NY  Europa
12/08/12 Philadelphia, PA  First Unitarian Church
12/12/12 Chicago, IL  Empty Bottle
12/14/12 Oakland, CA  Uptown Nightclub
 12/15/12 Oakland, CA  Uptown Nightclub

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

How Much Does Your Building Weigh, Mr. Foster?

30 st Mary Axe or Swiss Re Building in London UK- designed by Norman Foster.

Movie Review
How Much Does Your Building Weigh, Mr. Foster
 (2011 documentary about architect Norman Foster)
currently streaming on Netflix

Buckminster Fuller and Norman Foster hangin' out.

  SPOILER ALERT: The title is a comment that American philosopher/crazy person Buckminster Fuller made to architect Norman Foster when they were palling around.

This is an example of Gothic Architecture.

  As  anyone who wants to write art criticism, or for that matter, read it- needs to understand that architectural criticism provides much of the vocabulary and ideas about Art that are used by critics of other art forms besides architecture.  To give two well know examples, the phrase "Gothic" was used by John Ruskin to describe certain designs that characterize medieval buildings and directly inspired the Gothic revival of the mid to late 19th century.  The other example is the phrase "post-modern" which is commonly used to describe art works from all sorts of artists in every discipline.  Originally, if you called something "post-modern" you were talking about a building, not a book or a record.

   Thus, the movie How Much Does Your Building Weigh, Mr. Foster, is a biographical film about an Artist, the architect Norman Foster.  Norman Foster has to be among the most famous and prolific of all active architets in the entire world.  His rise has been highlighted by structures he has built in places like China, Hong Kong and the Gulf States of the Middle East.   Perhaps the tone of self-satisfied triumphalism that pervades How Much Does Your Building Weigh, Mr Foster? can be excused on the grounds of the massive scale of Foster's success on a planet-wide scale.

John Spoor Broome Library, California State University Channel Islands, designed by Norman Foster

   If you are looking for critical engagement about the wisdom of building the "largest building in the world" (Bejing Airport Terminal) for a repressive dictatorship or the likelihood of success for a project that involves constructing a self-contained eco paradise for 80,000 people in one of the Persian Gulf statelets, this is not the movie for you.

Commerzbank Tower vom Rathenauplatz designed by Norman Foster


       A movie about Norman Foster could do in a whole other direction in the sense that his work can be seen as a harbinger of the kind of soulless corporate modernism familiar from books like 1984 or Brave New World.

The redesigned German Reichstag by Norman Foster.

 However, Norman Foster does not operate wholly above politics.  As an example, when Germany asked him to redesign the Reichstag(!) in the aftermath of the reunification of Germany, he rejected the idea of restoring what was there before, and left hateful Russian graffiti where it lay- choosing to keep the vandalism as a reminder of the past.

  That is just how Norman Foster rolls, OK?

Saturday's PLATEAUS Record Release Show @ Soda Bar is Plan A-2!

Plateaus (BAND)

Event Preview
PLATEAUS (record release party)
San Diego Music Awards Multiple Nominee for Best Club DJ, Mario Orduno
at the Soda Bar in San Diego, CA on Saturday November 17th, 2012


Saturday, Nov. 17

PLAN A1: All My Friends Music Festival @ Casa de la Cultura (Tijuana). As I make clear in my guide on Page 28, it's well worth heading across the border for this epic, daylong fest. It's got an impressive lineup and is set to go late into the night.
 PLAN A2: Plateaus, Joy, DJ Mario Orduno @ Soda Bar. Read my feature on Plateaus, a local band that bangs out delightfully loud, totally chill garage-rock tunes.
Soda Bar, San Diego CA outside view looking down the street- photo credit NATALIE KARDOS

  Never in all my life have I heard of a Plan A1 AND a Plan A2- ever, but hey it's ok with me.  PLATEAUS also grabbed the "Weekly Event Preview" feature, and it is a very decent piece written by Peter Hoslin over there:

   If they resemble any style, though, it's that of local (or formerly local) bands like Wavves, Crocodiles and Mrs. Magician. Like them, Plateaus sing about everyday life with an irreverent, stone-y, occasionally sardonic twist: Over the jangly licks and ramshackle beat of "The District," the band pays tribute to the shiny-shirted denizens of the Gaslamp Quarter, whom Gist describes as "Downtown shitheads." (SAN DIEGO CITY BEAT)


   That is an album with high replayability levels AND something that fits in with a lot of music that is popular with discerning Audience members these days.  If you look at the top sellers over the last month at Revolver/Midheaven- you see that Plateaus fit right in with alot of those bands.

  Additionally, I've seen the opening band- JOY at last year's Desert Fest by the Moon Block Party group and they rocked- I actually bought their 7"- so it's worth it to see BOTH bands on Saturday night at the Soda Bar

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