A snowy night…

Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound’s the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

— Robert Frost (American poet, 1874-1963)   Published in the collection New Hampshire (1923).  This volume of Frost’s poems is a Pulitzer-prize winning collection.

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“Don’t Think Twice” – Movies borrowing Bob Dylan songs and lyrics

Most of the literate world is aware at this point that songwriter musician Bob Dylan was recently awarded the 2016 Nobel Prize in Literature.  For those who don’t follow the news regularly there was some concern in the days following the announcement that Mr. Dylan couldn’t be found because he hadn’t formally commented about receiving this honor.  Finally he did respond publicly saying that receiving the award was “amazing, incredible.  Whoever dreams about something like that?”  It’s been reported that Mr. Dylan won’t be attending the awards ceremony, however, in Sweden on December 10 as he has another commitment at this time.

In the aftermath of Bob Dylan being the recipient of this award, I was reminded about seeing earlier this autumn two recent film titles that are lines lifted from Bob Dylan songs.  It made me realize how much his music has permeated our cultural consciousness.  These very recent films are entitled “Complete Unknown” (2016) and “Don’t Think Twice” (2016).

I began to wonder how many movies have borrowed their titles from Dylan songs through the years.  Here is a list of some films (as well as a few TV series):

“Forever Young” (1992)

“Corrina, Corrina” (1994) (Dylan didn’t write this blues/country song – his cover of it is well known)

“Just Like a Woman” – Three movies with this title since the late 1960s: 1967, 1992 and 2012

“A Simple Twist of Fate” (1994)

“Like a Rolling Stone” (1994) – Japanese film

“If Not For You” (1995) – TV series that ran 8 episodes

“Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door” (1997) – German film

“All Along the Watchtower” (1999) – TV series that ran 6 episodes

“Tangled Up in Blue” – Three different full length films have been made with this title.  Their respective years of release were 2004, 2009 and 2011.

“Shelter from the Storm: A Concert for the Gulf Coast” (2005)

“Gotta Serve Somebody: The Gospel Songs of Bob Dylan” (2006)

“Blowin’ in the Wind” (2007)

“One Too Many Mornings” (2010)

“My Back Pages” (2011) – Japanese film

I’m actually leaving out innumerable short films and individual television episodes (from a wide range of TV series) whose titles also borrow from Dylan’s repertoire.

Epilogue

In spring 2016 Rolling Stone magazine published this list of the 100 best Bob Dylan songs. Here is the online link: http://www.rollingstone.com/music/lists/100-greatest-bob-dylan-songs-20160524

And in providing some commentary in regard to these songs, writer/director Cameron Crowe states “Dylan’s stuff continues to inform every generation – it just lives and lives and lives…”

The Life of Pi

Disclaimer:  I’m afraid this isn’t going to be an objective review of a book.  I think, with the risk of sounding like a cougar or a kook or both (& possibly fickle), I’ve fallen in love with the central human in the novel The Life of Pi, the young man known as Piscine Molitor Patel (Pi).

This novel, by author Yann Martel, won a number of awards when it was first published, and it has also made its way on to high school reading lists and read by book clubs so I’m not the only reader who’s been swept up (swept away) with this character and his tale of survival.  For me it wasn’t until the latter pages of this story that I realized how emotionally wrapped up I had become with Pi and his story.

Full disclosure: In light of how I feel about cats, both big and small, I believe this aspect of my personality and emotions was also tapped while reading this story.  At one time in my life I had a cat I named “Tiger Moon.”  At another time in my life I had a cat whose survival and my ability to take care of this animal became very very important to me.  I also believe that meerkats are fascinating creatures.

Here is one of my favorite passages from this novel Life of Pi:                                                            “There were many skies.  The sky was invaded by great white clouds, flat on the bottom but round and billowy on top.  The sky was completely cloudless, of a blue quite shattering to the senses.  The sky was a heavy, suffocating blanket of grey cloud, but without promise of rain.  The sky was thinly overcast.  The sky was dappled with small, white fleecy clouds.  The sky was streaked with high, thin clouds that looked like a cotton ball stretched apart.  The sky was a featureless milky haze.  The sky was a density of dark and blustery rain clouds that passed by without delivering rain.  The sky was painted with a small number of flat clouds that looked like sandbars.  The sky was a mere block to allow a visual effect on the horizon: sunlight flooding the ocean, the vertical edges between light and shadow perfectly distinct.  The sky was a distant black curtain of falling rain.  The sky was many clouds at many levels, some thick and opaque, others looking like smoke.  The sky was black and spitting rain on my smiling face.  The sky was nothing but falling water, a ceaseless deluge that wrinkled and bloated my skin and froze me stiff.

There were many seas.  The sea roared like a tiger.  The sea whispered in your ear like a friend telling you secrets.  The sea clinked like small change in a pocket.  The sea thundered like avalanches.  The sea hissed like sandpaper working on wood.  The sea sounded like someone vomiting.  The sea was dead silent.

And in between the two, in between the sky and the sea, were all the winds.

And there were all the nights and all the moons.

To be a castaway is to be a point perpetually at the centre of a circle…”

I finished reading this book last nite and today am realizing I miss Pi.  Some characters have the ability to draw the reader in and Pi, for me, is one of them.

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Elvis, liking his music (& also a movie about him meeting Nixon)

Elvis!   I was too young to understand what all the fuss was about when I was growing up – I grew up on the Beatles and the first wave of the British Invasion bands that followed and Elvis just seemed corny and out of date to me.

Then one nite, in the mid 1980s, I heard a song sung live by a local rock band in the city where I was living at the time.  This song was pure rock n roll, up tempo and very danceable – it dazzled me like a meteor roaring across the sky (to make my own corny metaphor).  Afterwards I asked someone in the band who wrote this song and the musician looked at me oddly – it’s an Elvis song.

After that I began to take an interest in this American icon of rock n roll.  Within that year I watched the film performance of his 1968 Las Vegas concert.  I began to realize Elvis contributed quite a repertoire of very likeable rock n roll songs to contemporary music.  While I didn’t make it a mission to seek out any other specific songs per se, I definitely had a new respect for Elvis Presley and his music.

Now recently I saw the movie “Elvis and Nixon” released in Spring 2016 starring actor Michael Shannon as the King of Rock n Roll and actor Kevin Spacey as the President.  It’s based on the real life meeting between Elvis and Nixon that took place sometime in  Dec 1970/early January 1971.  The film takes its premise from an infamous photograph of the two of them shaking hands when they met at the White House.  No one knows what their conversation, however, was actually about.  The movie extrapolates on this meeting by additionally focusing on friends of Elvis who possibly accompanied him to the White House when he traveled there and also on Nixon’s aides who (in this film version anyway) encourage Nixon to go and ahead meet this visitor, Elvis Presley.  “Elvis and Nixon” is ultimately kind of quirky and fun and possibly of interest to Elvis fans.

Anyway here is the song that made me like Elvis!

 

Lynda Barry — hello again

This week I ran into an old friend, Lynda Barry, at least it felt that way, however I’ve never
actually met this woman.  For some time in the mid-1980s to early 1990s I knew this writer/illustrator from her comic strip “Ernie Pook’s Comeek” that was published in the back pages of a free local weekly alternative newspaper located in the city where I was living.  Barry’s unique sensibility seemed to capture the minds and hearts of my peer group at a time when venturing further and further into adulthood and its responsibilities we found there weren’t many reliable guideposts to lead us.  Lynda Barry helped soothe in an odd way somehow our adult laments.

Before this recent encounter with Lynda Barry I had a few years ago worked with children in a library and purchased Ms. Barry’s book “What It Is” with the hope that an interested child would find this book inspiring.  The day a boy chose it from among the other art and illustration books in the children’s collection I was secretly happy both for him and its creator.

Now, this week, I saw in the Sunday New York Times Book Review (7/31/2016), filling an entire page, a Lynda Barry comic strip has appeared.  “When Heidi Met Carrie: Scenes from the Book I Needed When I was 12” is something you hoped this friend would create (and she has done so without your knowing you need this).  It’s good to see you again, Lynda Barry!

MarlysAdviceonLife                      PoodleWithaMohawkLyndaBarry

America

A video clip of “America” from the musical film version of “West Side Story” – music by Leonard Bernstein and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim.  The Broadway production of this musical was first performed in 1957, and the movie was released in 1961.  This musical about the Sharks and the Jets, rival gangs in NYC, is based upon the play “Romeo and Juliet” by William Shakespeare.

More Soundtracks…”Aloha”

The film “Aloha” was released in 2015, and before its release evidently this film was riddled with controversy.  Criticism initially stemmed from what is regarded as insensitive casting choices, and then in the wake of Sony studio’s hacked email communications, it was revealed that some studio executives believed the film was a mistake and the studio would lose money.

I saw “Aloha” on DVD the other night – it isn’t a great film, and in my opinion some of the plot lacks plausibility.  The chemistry among the actors was believable, however, and that kept my interest.

What “Aloha” does have is a cavalcade of good music ranging from traditional Hawaiian songs to selections by David Bowie, the Rolling Stones, Fleetwood Mac, Hall & Oates, Eddie Vedder & his seven-year-old daughter, Harper, and more.  Given that the writer/director, Cameron Crowe is a former editor/writer for Rolling Stone Magazine, and Crowe’s other movies have similarly memorable musical moments, the abundance of music in “Aloha” is not all that surprising.

“Heart is a Drum” by Beck Hansen is a song in the film that captured me.

Two poems

Afternoon Sleep

I

I was descending from the mountains of sleep.

Asleep I had gazed east over a sunny field,

And sat on the running board of an old Model A.

I awoke happy, for I had dreamt of my wife,

And the loneliness hiding in grass and weeds

That lies near a man over thirty, and suddenly enters.

II

When Joe Sjolie grew tired, he sold his farm,

Even his bachelor rocker, and did not come back.

He left his dog behind in the cob shed.

The dog refused to take food from strangers.

III

I drove out to that farm when I awoke;

Alone on a hill, sheltered by trees.

The matted grass lay around the house.

When I climbed the porch, the door was open.

Inside were old abandoned books,

And instructions to Norwegian immigrants.

–Robert Bly, American poet, translator and editor, born 1926 (poem is from an early book of his poems,  Silence in the Snowy Fields, pub. 1962).  Bly was designated the first Poet Laureate of Minnesota, holding that position from 2008-2011.

Night and Sleep

At the time of night-prayer, as the sun slides down,
the route the senses walk on closes, the route to the invisible opens.

The angel of sleep then gathers and drives along the spirits;
just as the mountain keeper gathers his sheep on a slope.

And what amazing sights he offers to the descending sheep!
Cities with sparkling streets, hyacinth gardens, emerald pastures!

The spirit sees astounding beings, turtles turned to men,
men turned to angels, when sleep erases the banal.

I think one could say the spirit goes back to its old home;
it no longer remembers where it lives, and loses its fatigue.

It carries around in life so many griefs and loads
and trembles under their weight; they are gone; it is all well.

–Rumi (Jalal ad-din Muḥammad Rumi, 1207 – 1273), Persian poet & mystic – translated by Robert Bly

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Honoring the trees today (Arbor Day, April 29, 2016)

Optimism

More and more I have come to admire resilience.
Not the simple resistance of a pillow, whose foam
returns over and over to the same shape, but the sinuous
tenacity of a tree: finding the light newly blocked on one side,
it turns in another.  A blind intelligence, true.
But out of such persistence arose turtles, rivers,
mitochondria, figs–all this resinous, unretractable earth.

–Jane Hirshfield, American poet, born 1953

From: http://www.poetseers.org/contemporary-poets/jane-hirshfield/janep/optimism/index.html

What did the tree learn from the earth to be able to talk with the sky?
~ Pablo Neruda

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He who plants a tree
Plants a hope.
~ Lucy Larcom

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Earth, Earth, Earth Day ~ April 22, 2016

Living_on_the_Earth

Morning Song

Day breaks open artlessly

across a field of switchgrass tossing

wild and easy in the windswell.

The weedy fastness gives way to a widening

brim of eastlight blazing the mist.

Spring is the dangerous season, awakening

this bee-crazed meadow to overgrowing—

and in me awe, and ache, avid to begin

like birds and the earth all over.

— Don Colburn, poet and journalist

 

For more about Don Colburn go to: http://doncolburn.net/