Sunday, December 27, 2009

Going .... going .... gone ....

Soon departing Minneapolis/Saint Paul International Airport

I'm learning to fly, but I ain't got wings

Well I started out down a dirty road

Started out all alone
And the sun went down as I crossed the hill
And the town lit up, the world got still

I'm learning to fly, but I ain't got wings
Coming down is the hardest thing

Well the good ol' days may not return
And the rocks might melt and the sea may burn

I'm learning to fly, but I ain't got wings
Coming down is the hardest thing

Well some say life will beat you down
Break your heart, steal your crown
So I've started out, for God knows where
I guess I'll know when I get there

I'm learning to fly, around the clouds,
But what goes up must come down

I'm learning to fly, but I ain't got wings
Coming down is the hardest thing

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Should religion die, so, too, might music

The Cathedral of Saint Paul, beneath a summer sky

The weapons of choice

Whatever pathway a man chooses, he would be wise to carry with him pen, paper, pistol and prayer, and never be fearful to use them.

Advice given by an old man to a young man
in "Cottonwood Stasis: The Last Camp"

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Who, then, can be believed?

Playwright Arthur Miller, toward the center wearing the tuxedo, is on stage with the cast members of a 1999 revival of his play, "Death of a Salesman," at the Eugene O'Neill Theater. The play opened on Broadway in 1949, and has been a fixture in American theater since that time. Miller was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for his drama.

Flexible, imaginative & innovative = ??

I simply asked him if he was making any money.
Is that a criticism?

Willy Loman

in Arthur Miller's
"Death of a Salesman"

My resume always has proclaimed me to be flexible, imaginative and innovative, which is to say without actually saying it, unorthodox. How much that might be true is in the eye of the beholder.

Once upon a time, my unorthodox journalistic existence included coordinating production of a weekly arts and entertainment section. I wrote a bit, but mostly assigned newspaper staff members and free lance writers, photographers and artists to produce elements such as reviews and critiques of books, motion pictures, plays, concerts and recordings, as well as interviews with the authors, artists and performers who created these works. Then, it became my task to turn these items into a page or two or three of dazzling data that would attract readers and draw their applause and cries of encore.

In deference to full disclosure, another of my weekly tasks was to coordinate production of a weekly outdoors section, which centered on hunting and fishing. At times, in addition to being flexible, imaginative and innovative, I also have been my own strange bedfellow. In any event …. to continue:

A few posts on other blogs, in addition to some recent events in my personal life, have gotten me to thinking about books, films, the theater, music and the role of the critic in examining these phenomena.

Among the gimmicks my innovative soul created was to assign three individuals, when it was feasible, to review and critique the same book or film or stage production or concert. They were, of course, pledged not to discuss their assessment until their finished work had been turned in to me.

To add still another aspect to this assignment, the three individuals would come from varying backgrounds. For instance, those whose task it was to review a college/university stage production might include a student from the university; a middle-aged woman who was a homemaker and mother first and a writer second, and who had community theater experience; and a man who ordinarily covered sports and had never been to a live theater production in his life.

It was educational and a great deal of fun to read their finished products -- at least, I thought so.

On one occasion, the newspaper received a letter from a person who could only be described as angry with my style of assigning reviewers. In brief, the letter writer complained that after reading three very disparate reviews of a college production of Arthur Miller's masterpiece, "Death of a Salesman," he was unable to decide if he wanted to attend the performance himself or not.

"What are you trying to do, confuse the reader?" he chided. "At that, you have certainly succeeded. I don't know which reviewer to believe."

So much for flexible, imaginative and innovative ....

A few words in passing about Arthur

While this post is not about Arthur Miller or "Death of a Salesman" per se, it would be a sin not to mention a bit more about him after having spoken his name. As one journalist put it, "Arthur Miller, one of the great American playwrights, whose work exposed the flaws in the fabric of the American dream .... grappled with the weightiest matters of social conscience in his plays. They often reflected or reinterpreted the stormy and very public elements of his own life, including his brief marriage to Marilyn Monroe and his staunch refusal to cooperate with the red-baiting House Committee on Un-American Activities."

"Death of a Salesman," a landmark of 20th-century drama, opened on Broadway in 1949, and won Miller a Pulitzer Prize. The play centers on Willy Loman, a 63-year-old salesman and an archetypal character representing the failed American dream. It has been made into films and television productions, and performed live on stage by hundreds (perhaps thousands) of high school, college and community theater groups. It has been translated into a couple of dozen languages. Willy, incidentally, kills himself at the end of the story, ostensibly to obtain life insurance money as a means to provide for his family.

Some of Miller's other plays included "The Crucible," a 1953 production about the Salem witch trials, and "A View From the Bridge," a 1955 drama of obsession and betrayal, both of which also would ultimately take their place as popular classics of the international stage.

Miller wrote other media, as well. Perhaps most notably, he supplied the screenplay for "The Misfits," a 1961 movie directed by John Huston and starring Monroe, to whom he was married at the time. He also wrote essays, short stories and a 1987 autobiography, "Timebends: A Life." Read it, and very possibly you will learn from it.

A few of Miller's attributes (flaws, possibly, depending upon one's world view):

He held that every man is responsible for his and for his neighbor's actions.

He believed every play should teach a lesson and make a thematic point. He imagined that with the possible exception of a doctor saving a life, writing a worthy play was the most important thing a human being could do.

He despised critics. He once dismissed them as "people who can't sing or dance .... I don't know a critic who penetrates the center of anything."

Right on, Art ....

And then, there was she. Arthur Miller and Marilyn Monroe were married four years, proving, in my critical analysis of life itself, that all things are possible. During their marriage, Miller wrote the screenplay for the film, "The Misfits," which featured Monroe. At this endeavor, the innate critic within me pronounces her performance as stellar.

Something special ....