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.

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