Tuesday, November 24, 2015


Saint Joan of the Stockyards (3:10 min) from Vladimir Rovinsky on Vimeo.

I've been reading this book I got ultra-cheap a while back at a library sale: Bertolt Brecht: His Life, His Art, and His Times by Frederic Ewen. It;s a fairly heavy book - about 500 pages before you get to the appendix, notes, and index - but I've found it unputdownable.

It's probably inevitable that Brecht's reputation rises and falls with the political tide and is at times shunned by people who don't share his political leanings, since that was the subject of so much of his work. Still, he was a working writer and not just a professional Communist agitator. As I've been reading I've seen more about his curiosity and penchant for experiment. His initial ventures into poetry were influenced by his medical studies. By the time he left Germany he was starting to absorb the influence of Japanese Noh drama as well.

Again, though, there was always going to be some fraction. The play excerpted in the video above is Saint Joan of the Stockyards, his reinterpretation of the Joan of Arc story. In Germany at the time it didn't play in theaters, only getting a partial reading on radio. It was 1932. Other stuff was starting to happen, about which you may have heard.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Self on the shelf

"Holy shit! What have you fucking lunatics done to my head? And you call yourselves professionals!"

Friday, November 20, 2015

Rhody showing

These two paintings are from a Providence-based artist named Julie Gearan. The cook picture is cropped somewhat, which is a shame. The full-length version is on her website but wasn't downloadable.

There's a tension in a lot of her work between the Flemish-style classicism of her rendering and the contemporary subjects. Subtly sometimes, but they are modern. Note the female Pierrot's cigarette and slapdash makeup. Sure she's not the only one this could be said about, but she's gotten very interesting results.

Gearan also painted the official portrait of former Governor Lincoln Chafee. You can find it online if you look. It's such a work of classical grandeur that it may have played a role in convincing him he should run for President. Oh well.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Wet night

Earlier in the night I got off the bus and a couple of young ladies were looking for Apsara's, an Asian restaurant. The driver didn't know where it was, but I told them truthfully that they'd gone a few blocks too far. By bus or foot they'd have to turn back. The skies were clear then.

More recently I was sitting here and heard the wind, which rattled the window panes once in a while. Then I noticed the sound of water in there too. So we got a sudden rain... I woulds say "rainstorm." Much too calm for that. But we are getting something of a downpour. I got up and looked out the window. Not the one exactly in my apartment, but out in the hall. I looked out and found it good.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Caws for alarm

Crows have the ability to recognize and remember specific human faces. from Justin Gabaldon on Vimeo.

This is very short, but I think, rather funny. Aside from the well-rendered crow I think the best part is the way the intertitle sets up the scene. Like, maybe the guy runs because there's a bit more of a story here than we know about.

Sunday, November 15, 2015


Here's a blog post I found to be quite interesting, from an author on how he deals with having aphantasia. Aphantasia is the inability to see things in one's mind's eye, essentially imaginative agnosia. As a diagnosis it's quite recent, only officially being named this year, and it's somewhat controversial still as well. The idea has been floating around for some time though.

Now to be clear aphantasia is not a condition I can claim to have. For example, say to me "black winged butterfly typing on a Smith-Corona" and I have no problem picturing it, or hearing the butterfly's friends ask if using a typewriter is some kind of hipster affectation and it says, "Listen, you do you and I'll do me." But the mind's eye seems so central to fiction writing especially that I was curious about how an author can work without really having access to it. And an underlying question is what you need to be an artist in any field, what you can do without, and how do you balance it out.

Anyway, Hickey has practical ideas about his own work and it's a thought provoking piece as well.

Friday, November 13, 2015

This blog post will self destruct in five seconds

Not sure what arrangement, if any, made this possible, but the whole first season of Mission Impossible seems to be on the video hosting service Dailymotion now.

The first season of MI was different from the rest of the sixties/seventies series and it's largely failed revival in the eighties. In all of those, the cast was led by Peter Graves as Jim Phelps, who by the eighties episodes was cast as a father figure. The first season, on the other hand, had Steven Hill in the lead as Daniel Briggs. The reasons this didn't last are detailed below.

When he started in movies in the fifties, Hill had been one of the moody man's man actors produced by the Actor's Studio, kind of like Marlon Brando but without Brando's obvious-in-retrospect sexual ambiguity. His early appearances on TV drama followed the same script, Hill appearing as a determined man of action. In later years he'd settle gracefully into old age, paunchier but gentler. His last major acting role - the man being alive but long inactive as of this writing - was as District Attorney Adam Schiff on the first ten seasons of Law & Order. While his time on most episodes was limited, he could be the highlight of most of them just by shrugging and sighing for three minutes.

His year on Mission Impossible sees him at a midpoint between the tough guy actor he'd been in youth and the decent old grump he'd eventually become. It also marked a temporary end to his career as an actor. Hill's name at birth had been "Solomon Krakovsky" and he was of Russian Jewish heritage. Lots of people are Jewish, and there are lots of kinds of Jews. In the mid sixties he was becoming very serious and deeply observant about his Judaism. One result of this was that he was refusing to work on the Sabbath, i.e. Saturday. To the studio, this was valuable shooting time and highly inconvenient for the lead actor to absent himself on that day. There was also some tension between him and Martin Landau, who had a more easygoing relationship to his faith and didn't like being questioned on it. And on top of that, Hill was starting to look a little rumpled and dad-ish, not necessarily the man the network wanted as the face of its sleek modern spy drama.

And yet. One can sympathize with the decision to replace Hill at the end of season one, on account of his being a pain in the tuchus. But the fact remains that as Impossible Missions Force coordinator Dan Briggs, Hill is fascinating to watch.Graves, an all-American cowboyish actor, would play Jim Phelps as a cloak-and-dagger action hero, a more focused Matt Helm who saved the martinis for after work.

Briggs, though, is something else again. He walks through, not seeking attention, approaching each job as just that: a job. There's a chance to jump into another role here and there, and Briggs lights up with enthusiasm at these times. But by nature he holds himself in check. In other words, Hill actually is credible as a bureaucrat. While there's not much background provided for the character, you can imagine him as a postal inspector who found that he could work around guns and surveillance equipment and not mind it.

The show has other assets as well. It's interesting to see the way TV engaged in and avoided the Cold War simultaneously. There's a heady romance to its nighttime airstrip takeoffs and get-to-know-each-other meetings. And Landau and Barbara Bain, already married for years, have great flirtatious chemistry as Rollin Hand and Cinnamon Carter.

Hill as Briggs, though, is the great thing the show couldn't hold onto.