Monday, August 26, 2013

View from a balcony drifting in time

Since I have been nowhere this summer that I have not been before and since the general theme of this post is the past, why not run another photograph from the past -- in this instance, once again from 2004 -- as an easy means to provide some manner of illustration to be part of the overall equation? So, here it is: A photo from the past, a photo from the "City of Light," a photo from what once was my reality and today is a dimming memory. Two more points: While it might not be overtly apparent, the musical selections do have a connection to the photograph and the written commentary and, while I generally think profanity should be confined to bars and back alleys, I have been posting occasional songs in which the singer tosses out a few such words. Such is the music today .... sorry.

When I was a boy

When I was a boy, I wanted to walk, ski and dogsled to the North Pole. One trip by three means, you understand, not three treks. For you who study such matters, I was (and still am) in the camp which does not believe Robert Perry was the first to actually reach The Pole in 1909, although he is given credit for doing so. Neither am I persuaded that Frederick Cook was the first to reach it, as he claimed to have done and which many believe he did in 1908, but I think Cook at least did as well as Perry in his attempt.

Now, such a journey no longer is real adventure. If you have the money, you can charter an aircraft and fly there and, if the weather is right, even parachute down onto that particular top of the world.

When I was a boy, I wanted to climb Mount Everest. I wanted to find the body of George Mallory and discover proof that he actually had gained the summit in 1922.

Now, such a journey no longer is real adventure. If you have the money, you can hire someone even to carry you to that particular top of the world. And, since more than 200 climbers have died on Everest and it has been impossible to recover the majority of the bodies and the locations of most, including that of Mallory, are now known, such a journey seems truly to be a whim rooted in futility.

What made those memories rise to the surface was running across the film, "The Eiger Sanction," on cable television. Not that I wanted to assassinate the "bad guys" for the CIA while climbing The Eiger -- as the novel and the subsequent motion picture focus upon -- but, yes, you probably have guessed it: When I was a boy, I wanted to be among those who could proudly boast of climbing The Eiger's indomitable North Face.

I think this feat remains a worthy challenge today, but the appropriate moment in time for accepting it is a decade or two behind me.

The world today is made up largely of phony challenges in terms of discovery and being the first (or even among the few) to conquer an obstacle of Nature -- such as reaching the North Pole or climbing Mount Everest or scaling The Eiger.

It is true that hard work, skill, talent and determination continue to be part of many personal challenges in this, the 21st Century, but few actual life or death "top of the world" achievements still exist to be sought out. Now, fools take part in silly obstacle course races on television, and bigger fools watch these programs. And, for instance, while it might be a personal accomplishment to run a marathon, just about anyone who is willing to put in the necessary time and effort is able to do it. More than 25,000 people demonstrate this fact every year in Boston and a few dozen do every year -- yes, believe it or not -- at the North Pole.

I guess what I am saying is that while the universe still might be expanding, life on this planet is shrinking for human kind except in this sense: Managing to survive while maintaining a measure of sanity and refraining from laughing yourself into oblivion.

Long live rock and roll

It is fairly common knowledge, I think, that Andrew Lloyd Webber wrote the music for "The Phantom of the Opera" to match the sound/quality of the voice of Sarah Brightman. I suppose some would say that is another "urban myth," but I believe it is true -- especially since both principals in the matter have told this story.

Probably not as well known was Webber's selection of the voice of Ian Gillan, later of heavy metal Deep Purple fame, to be the voice of Jesus in another of his masterpieces -- "Jesus Christ Superstar." Actually, I did not know this fact until recently.

If you do not recognize the names of Andrew Lloyd Webber, Sarah Brightman or Ian Gillan, I am sorry to have bothered you. If you do recognize the names, but not these musical connections, you might consider listening to them in their various venues. I think you might discover what is below the surface often is more relevant and wonderful than what is on the surface -- no matter what the context of the conversation.

Monday, August 12, 2013

I wonder what her story is ....

I published another view of this portrait on one of my posts in March 2009. It, like this one, was taken in 2004 when I made sort of a "grand tour" of Europe. It was not grand enough, because most of Europe remains unseen by me and I would like to explore more, more, more. The reason I have this photograph of this painting today is because a segment of my post is about Leonardo da Vinci's "Mona Lisa" and the model for his masterpiece. You can read about that below. In the meanwhile .... hmmmm .... 2004 .... nine years ago! Do you believe it? I do not. It does not seem like yesterday. It seems like a lifetime ago and, for some, it was that long ago. A lifetime ago. How many people do you know who were here then, but no longer are? Time waits for no man, for no woman; for nothing nor for no one. To borrow a few lines from Whitesnake:

Restless heart, restless mind,
I'm tired of wasting,
My precious time.

Just for fun .... No. 1

For those of you who do not keep up with developments in the realm of archaeology, researchers are excavating the remains of Lisa Gherardini's husband and sons as the next step in the quest to identify the skeletal remains of Leonardo da Vinci's model for the "Mona Lisa." The Gherardini family once was Leonardo's neighbor in Florence, Italy.

DNA samples taken from the family's bones will be compared to samples from skeletal remains excavated last year at the Florence convent where Lisa Gherardini became a nun after her husband's death and was eventually buried.

But first, the skeletons uncovered at the convent will be examined to determine how old the women were when they died and narrow the field of eight possible Mona Lisa candidates. If Lisa Gherardini's remains are identified, scientists plan to virtually reconstruct her face from her skull.

I am not so sure if this is a good idea or a bad idea. The quest for knowledge is admirable, but, I think, some things are better left a mystery. Some researchers also are theorizing and attempting to learn why the Mona Lisa's smile is a bit strange or unique. Did she have crooked teeth? Did she have congenital palsy?

My god, who cares? Some people are born idiots, but not all of them are driven to publicly demonstrate it. Admire the painting, adore the face with its wonderful expression and keep your idiocy to yourself. Whatever was the cause of her special smile, I, for one, would have loved to kiss the lips which formed it.

Just for fun .... No. 2

The writer of the The Sixties classic song, "Hey, Joe," is disputed still today. Tim Rose is listed as the author by the record company that owns the rights to the piece, but Rose himself said it was a traditional song (i.e., original author unknown and/or sort of a folk song) and a number of others claim credit for it. What cannot be disputed is that it has been recorded by literally dozens of individuals and bands. 

In my not so humble opinion, Jimi Hendrix owns the best version of it no matter who wrote it. His rendition of it is, probably, the best known and the most often heard on classic rock radio stations today. No one comes close to performing it the way Hendrix did. I could say more, but will not at the moment.

A little-known, little-heard adaptation of the song was recorded by Deep Purple on the band's first album in 1968. Without adding an abundance of flowery adjectives in praise of Deep Purple, I will say two things:

First, I think this band -- with its varying faces and battling personalities -- was the greatest of the rock era. It was not afraid to experiment or to try anything in a musical sense, and usually succeeded in accomplishing what it set out to do.

Next, after Hendrix, I like the Deep Purple version of, "Hey Joe," more than that of any other musician or group. It is done very differently from the customary manner and is, I think, a perfect example of this band succeeding at leaving its own unique imprint on a song really owned not by an individual, but by an era: The Sixties.

What do you think? Keep listening, even when the song seems to be over. And, it is a great song to dance to .... try it, but listen to it a time or two first.

Something special ....