Monday, May 31, 2010

Memorial Day, 2010

Today, May 31, is Memorial Day in the U.S., when we pay tribute to American people killed in military duty. This video by ArmySam on Youtube expresses the meaning of this holiday eloquently.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

The KIng over Troubled Waters

As I mentioned in my very first blog here on April 12, 2010, when I listen to something on Youtube, I keep following links, and I can stay up all night finding musical gems.  I just found a few that are so good that I have to share them.

Elvis Presley was incredibly good at singing many kinds of music.  Of course, there is the sexy, hip swinging, genre which brought him fame.  A good example is  "Jailhouse Rock."

He also had a clean cut genre, as shown in this clip, made when he was in the Army in 1960.  His leading lady here was a puppet, and his audience was children.  The song is a German folk song, but the tune is identical to a tune in Suzuki Book 1, which I teach to my beginning violin students.

I am very moved when I hear Elvis singing gospel music.  It's almost enough to make me a believer.  Here is a very poignant video of Elvis's funeral procession overlaid with a live recording of Elvis singing "Precious Lord Take My Hand."

Elvis also took a beautiful song by Paul Simon, "Bridge over Troubled Waters," and sang it like a gospel song.  I love the original Simon and Garfunkel version, but I love Elvis's version even more.  What soul! It reassures and inspires me.

It's no wonder that he's called "The King."

Monday, May 24, 2010

Happy 69th Birthday, Bob Dyaln

Celebrate Bob Dylan's birthday with some nostalgia:  Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, PPM, and the Freedom Singers singing "Blowin' in the Wind" at the Newport Folk Festival in 1963.


Sunday, May 16, 2010

Violins at the luthier's

From Violin Shopping, November, 2009

From Violin Shopping, November, 2009


Romeo and Juliet Reincarnated in a Comic Book

My head is still reeling from Shakespeare's immortal R & J Twitterized as described in my blog of April 17, 2010, and I've found a new twist to the old tale.  Kill Shakespeare is a new comic book in which some of the most striking characters from Shakespeare's plays are revamped, brought together at the same time, and divided into two warring camps.  Will they kill William Shakespeare?  Is Shakespeare the purveyor of good?  Does he really exist as a person, or is he a god?
The comic book Romeo and Juliet are both very different from the same characters in Shakespeare's play.

Juliet has a new personal history. Her own attempt at suicide failed, and she is ashamed of Romeo's presumed death. She is now totally dedicated to fighting for the oppressed, and she leads the resistance against the evil King Richard III.

Romeo, contrary to Juliet's belief, did not die.  He was rescued by the Priest of Verona and raised by the clergy to devote his life to Shakespeare the Creator.  Like Juliet, Romeo is determined to kill the evil Richard III.

Romeo and Juliet are joined by Hamlet, Othello, Fallstaff, and Puck and opposed by Lady Macbeth, Iago, and  King Richard III, himself.
The comic book was released for sale in April 2010, and its sale is being promoted in a very modern fashion, via its own website and much ado on social websites.  You can get the latest news updates and people's comments on Twitter at  @killshakespeare or on the website itself.  One commenter said that he/she loved the idea of 5 Minute Marvels, taking 5 minutes a day to draw superheroes with your children.  I suppose that this is great for parents who have only 5 minutes a day to spend on quality time with their children.  Another advantage of this approach is building skill in speed drawing.  

How good or bad is the idea of reincarnating Shakespeare's plays in new formats such as Twitter and comic books?  After all, Shakespeare's plays were adapted into other art forms, including opera (Otello), ballet (Romeo and Juliet), and music (Romeo and Juliet, once by Tchaikovsky and again by Prokofiev).  The opera, ballet, and music were inspired by Shakespeare's plays and were expressions of the story, characters, and emotions in the plays.  The Twitter and comic book adaptations are linked to Shakespeare's plays very tenuously, and I certainly would not call them works of art.  In fact, I view them as jokes, ways of using contemporary technology to create or promote forms of entertainment which are definitely not works of art.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Addendum to Lang Lang at the Intersection of Art and Money (See my blog of April 29, 2010)

The great classical pianist Lang Lang is not above lending his name to various products -- Steinway youth pianos, silk scarves, and Adidas shoes -- to make some more money.

I just learned that Lang Lang has played some piano music for Rolex's watch advertisements.  Rolex takes the point of view that the arts, sports, and their watches are all related.  "Shamis K" has made a video compilation of Rolex ads with Lang Lang, ballet, opera, tennis (Wimbledon), and equestrian performances.  I think it's very good entertainment, maybe even art.

Lang Lang has also given a hilarious demonstration of the mingling of art and technology. As the first of four encores to one of his concerts, he played Flight of the Bumblebee on an iPad.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Sometimes people care, even in the big city

The Washington DC metropolitan area, where I live, is big and impersonal.  People are always in a hurry.  They push, shove, and jostle one another without seeming to notice.  Whenever someone bumps into me or steps in front of me on the Metro and says, "Excuse me," I know they must be tourists.  People in my condo building stop at the communal row of mailboxes with their heads down and eyes averted lest they should have to say hello to each other.  Nobody seems to care about anyone but themselves.

What a surprise I had the other day when I got sick on the Metro system.  I was changing trains, and while I was walking, I suddenly felt very dizzy and faint.  I leaned against a large post to steady myself, and a woman stopped and asked whether I needed help.  I told her how I felt, and she told me to sit down so that I wouldn't fall down and injure myself.  She asked me whether she could do anything to help, like getting me something to drink or summoning a Metro employee who could send for an ambulance.  I kept telling her that I'd be OK if I just rested for a while.  She didn't want to leave me alone, but after I reassured her repeatedly that I'd be OK, she left.  By then, two of the Metro employees had come over to me and offered me the same help the woman had.  By this time I was drinking some of the water which I always carry with me and feeling somewhat better.  The Metro workers  were reluctant to leave me alone and sick, so they stayed with me and kept watch over me.  Then the most amazing thing of all happened.  A male passerby stopped and asked whether I needed help, as the others had.  I soon realized from the questions he asked me that he had had medical training.  He asked whether I was unaccustomed to the heat and humidity of Washington, whether I was taking any medications, whether I was under a doctor's care, where I was going, whether someone would meet me there, etc.  I asked him whether he had a medical background, and he told me that he was a retired LPN.  When I asked him his specialty, he said, "Resuscitation," and I felt very lucky.  He took a pen and a small notepad from his pocket, took notes, and handed the paper to me to keep.  It was a list of the responses I had given to his questions, and these notes would be important if I were later taken to a medical facility.  I could tell that I was still too confused to tell my story myself, and I understood and appreciated the importance of what he had done.  Then came the most amazing thing of all.  He offered to accompany me to the Metro station I was headed for, where I had a previously arranged rendezvous with a friend.  I gratefully accepted his offer.  The combination of rest, drinking water, and his proffered help made me feel much better.  Soon we were on our way, and I just couldn't stop thanking him.    

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Naturalist's Log #5

I walked around my condo complex photographing flowers today, and it was a strenuous experience.  My asthma is absolutely terrible.  There is so much oak pollen floating in the air that I had to brush it off of my socks before I came into my home.  I could not have walked to a store just a few blocks away, and I don't own a car.  I can either (1) stay at home until July or (2) call cabs or get rides from friends.  At least I got some good photos.

Azaleas are in bloom in profusion.  They come in many colors, although I've only shown two here.

Honeysuckle vine, which spreads across many fences, is in bloom now.  I wish I could share its sweet fragrance with you.

Purple iris


 Yellow iris