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Posts from February 2007

Sonata for a Good Man


Sebastian Koch as the writer Georg Dreyman in The Lives of Others: Art, beauty, and love have the power to change a life

The movie “The Lives of Others” is set in East Germany in the mid-1980s, five years before the fall of the Berlin Wall. A Stasi captain who has essentially lost his humanity rediscovers it as he spies on a writer and his actress girlfriend. The captain experiences people for whom art is something natural –- a central, beautiful and normal part of their lives -- and it changes him. This is a movie worth seeing (I went at the insistence of my mother). A musical score by the Lebanese composer Gabriel Yared (he also wrote the scores for The English Patient and Cold Mountain), “Sonata for a Good Man,” sets the mood.

In the film, each character asks questions that we confront every day: how do we deal with power and ideology? Do we follow our principles or our feelings? More than anything else, “The Lives of Others” is a human drama about the ability of human beings to do the right thing, no matter how far they have gone down the wrong path.
-- Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck (Writer & Director of The Lives of Others, Academy Award winner best Foreign Language picture)

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The Mountain House String Band

The Mountain House String Band does Old Dan Tucker (for variations see the Max Hunter Folk Song collection) / Lake Chrisann / Feb. 2007

Get out the way, old Dan Tucker,
It's too late to get your supper
Get out the way, old Dan Tucker,
It's too late to get your supper

Old Dan Tucker come to town
Swingin' the ladies round and round
First to the right, then to the left,
Then to the one they love the best ...

At the Mountain House it's never to late to get your supper since it seems like we feast 'round-the-clock. Thanks to my Musical Director "main dawg" for adding his technical polish.

To Johnson City, Tennessee


My steps were made from Appalachian Soft Textured Oak by the Miller Brothers Company, Johnson City, Tennessee / Feb. 2007

Paulo is taking up each of the stair treads and sanding them. He found this label on the back of one. According to the Miller Family Papers at East Tennessee State University, Elbert Haynes Miller and W. H. Miller formed two successful Johnson City businesses with other members of their family: The Miller Brothers Lumber Company and Central Tobacco Warehouse. What caught my eye was “Johnson City, Tennessee” -- immediately the lyrics to the family-favorite Old Crow Medicine Show song Wagon Wheel popped into my head: Walkin' to the south out of Roanoke / I caught a trucker out of Philly / Had a nice long toke / But he's a headed west from the Cumberland Gap / To Johnson City, Tennessee. Here they are performing the song on the Woodsongs Old Time Radio Hour:

Turns out that Johnson City was known as a hotbed for old-time music and was the site of a Columbia Records recording session in 1928 known as the “Johnson City Sessions” (Fiddlin’ Charlie Bowman was one of the most famous participants; recordings from the Johnson City Sessions are rare). See a postcard image of the Miller Brothers plant after the jump.

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Dombra Spring = Melody & Rhythm


MARIMEKKO fabric: Dombra Spring: Yellow; Designers: Maija Isola and Kristina Isola

Orange, coral, and deep pink on deep yellow. This fabric makes me happy. It was originally designed by Maija Isola in 1960. Maija's designs were inspired by traditional folk art, modern visual art, nature and by her trips around the world. I wonder if she went to Kazakhstan where a long-necked, stringed instrument called a "dombra" is the national instrument? It is similar to a lute and played by either strumming or plucking the strings. "Kazakhs developed the art of solo vocal and instrumental music to a high level. Narrative pieces called kui ("frame of mind," "mood") tell stories or represent specific images, feelings or qualities of human character through melody and rhythm alone. Kuis are most commonly performed on the dombra..." (National Geographic)

See David Baker playing a dombra and singing here; see  a close-up of a man playing a dombra here.

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Out on the lake


View from the porch of the igloo hut and skating rink / Lake Chrisann / February 2007

A winter weekend with lots of snow like when we were kids. Bundled into hats, scarves, gloves, snow pants, boots. Down the hill through the snow drifts to the frozen lake. A plan for a custom skating rink and igloo hut. Strong arms and shovels move the snow. 30-year old ice skates from the back room take us gliding across the surface. Snowing hard one minute, the sun's brightness behind the clouds the next. That wonderful winter quietness.

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Whimsical and Subversive


Cover: The Good Citizen's Alphabet by Bertrand Russell / Gaberbocchus Press, illustration by Franciszka Themerson, 1953

"the ABC, that gateway to all wisdom, is not made sufficiently attractive to immature minds."
    -- Bertrand Russell

I love letters and I am intrigued by alphabet books. What words has the author chosen to represent each letter? Is there a theme or just random words? What type font is used to display the letters? The Good Citizen's Alphabet, by Bertrand Russell, first published in 1953, is a creative and ... subversive alphabet book. The Design Observer writes:

It is fascinating to think back to the early 1950s. A couple of Polish émigrés, having studied physics, architecture and painting, and having made a few art films and started a publishing company, sit down with a leading philosopher to make something whimsical and subversive. That an alphabet book was the outcome pleases me to no end.

Russell's citizen's alphabet ["A" (asinine) to "Z" (zeal)] is full of words important to political and social discourse. Each has a wonderful illustration and, though it is over 50 years old, the words and definitions are oh so relevant in the world we live in today ["O" is "objective"--a delusion which other lunatics share]. View a slide show of the book here.

To effect change through design


The Hurricane Poster Project / Scott Laserow, Zygo; Wyncote, Pennsylvania

I saw a wonderful display of posters at Moore College of Art and Design last night. The colorful, thoughtful posters, like the one shown, are all part of The Hurricane Poster Project (THPP) "conceived as a collective effort by the design community to unite and effect change". Limited edition copies of the posters are for sale and the goal is to raise at least $1,000,000 for the Red Cross to help victims of hurricane Katrina.

Little remains ... to tell of the fame


R. Wood & Co Bronze Founders Phila / Central Park, New York / Sept. 2006

Do you know who belongs to these legs? It's the back of a statue of William Shakespeare -- the first sculpture of a writer to be placed on the Mall in New York's Central Park (also called Literary Walk). What caught my attention was the founders mark on the back side.
"Little remains today to tell of the fame of the Robert Wood iron factory of Philadelphia save for a few written references to the output and, best of all, the existence of marked iron from the factory." [from "Lacy Iron" by Julia Nash; p.233] Wood was innovative in his field and well known for his iron fence and garden ornamentations, but he also ventured into making larger-than-life-size bronze statues like this one.

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