Basketball as Epic

Golden State Warriors artwork battling NBA
NBA Battle from 2018 exhibit Dubz Against the World, drawn by Pzhouart.

Sing to me of the man, Muse, the man of twists and turns
driven time and again off course, once he had plundered
the hallowed heights of Troy.
The Odyssey, opening, Fagles translation

The Trojan war lasted nine years, not counting pre-war skirmishes, trade negotiations at Grecian Menelaus’ palace, or the kidnap of Menelaus’ wife Helen by the Trojan prince Paris. The Trojans and the Greeks had a long history. Epic hero Odysseus wandered among the magic isles of the Mediterranean for ten years. Still older Sumerian tales of Gilgamesh spanned decades while the Indian classic epic Mahabharata lasted for generations. So it may seem impudent to talk of a four-year basketball rivalry in the same terms. Yet many parallels lie between sporting events today and the stories of old, and a contest that now covers an unprecedented four meetings could be described in the language of the epic. Continue reading “Basketball as Epic”

The Hypnotic, Horrific Jolliness of Mr. Trololo

The screen begins to undulate in a moire pattern of yellow, green, and orange. Purple drips start to appear, and just as your eyes start to scream No more!, jaunty waves of violins, punctuated with trumpets and cymbal crashes, chime in to assault your ears. Words appear. In Russian. The screen dissolves to a man wandering behind a curved iron gate in front of a honey-colored wall … crooning. What is he singing? Why is he so cheerful? Is that his real hair? And why is he singing like that?

20180110 trololo screen
YouTube Mr. Trololo, with English Subtitles

So many questions come to mind. You are transfixed with emotions you cannot name. Horror. Fascination. Amusement — no, Giddiness. Glee! Make it Stop! Never Stop! Continue reading “The Hypnotic, Horrific Jolliness of Mr. Trololo”

Yes, But is it ART…Art…art…or art?

Yeah man, Interpreting is Generative
–Forsaken Artform comic

20170830 Interpreting

Generative—gen·er·a·tive (adjective)
adjective: generative
relating to or capable of production or reproduction.  “the generative power of the life force”

On the drive back from Oregon last week, we spent quality time discussing a topic that could fill many a long and winding road:  What defines art?

Mind you, this is a topic with which I am greatly enamored. I could easily fill 10,000 words without blinking. My traveling companion and I debated for over an hour between Arbuckle and Benicia; even writing an outline for today’s entry took 800 words. So, I will try to focus mainly on one output of the discussion – a taxonomy of art.

It’s ART/Art/art whether You Like it or Not
Two ground rules are, however, necessary. First, let’s not confuse whether something is art (in a moment, I will redefine that term, but hold that thought) with what we like. Walt Disney is credited with saying, “I don’t know if it’s art, but I like it.”  The converse is true. Whether you like it or not does not make it art. What defines art and its value to you or anyone else are two different things.

It’s valid to dislike things that are art, even when you are knowledgeable on why that thing is art. I like Jackson Pollock but dislike Mark Rothko, even though both were abstract expressionist painters with some of the same goals in mind. Leonard Bernstein once said there is good and bad Beethoven and good and bad Tina Turner. Some good Tina Turner can be better than bad Beethoven. Continue reading “Yes, But is it ART…Art…art…or art?”

What Fools these Midsummer Mortals Be

20170719 mids movie

Oberon, what visions I have seen! Methought I was enamoured of an ass!
— Titania, Act IV, Sc 1

In the dark of the wood, under moonlight, at midnight, anything can happen. That’s the premise of A Midsummer Night’s Dream and what makes it one of the greatest comedies ever written. Aside from making my case as to why this is so, let me also point out a few interesting facts about midsummer, good vs. disastrous Shakespeare, and how Midsummer has been interpreted.

Midsummer is long days and languid nights; fireflies or sparklers glowing while the sound of crickets or frogs echo above dark green trees, thick with foliage. Midsummer is a time for foolery, which is the perfect time to watch a play, especially outdoors. Shakespeare in the Park is popular worldwide in New York and Paris but also in small towns and local venues. Summer solstice-y traditions are also popular whether it’s official Scandinavian holidays like Sankthansaften in Denmark or Juhannus in Finland or even our backyard barbecues. There’s drinking and feasting, sometimes a naked sprint or some skinnydipping, and when the sun finally sets, there’s might be a giant community bonfire. In the dark of the night, in front of a fire, in shadows and in light, anything can happen.

Magic and the Just Desserts for the Snobbish
Lovers enter a dark forest, filled with mischief makers and aphrodisiacs. Local actors prepare a play and, like in Waiting for Guffman, simple actors act simply. A fairy queen and king are at odds, interesting shadows to the real queen and king, also at odds.  Why does A Midsummer Night’s Dream’s plot work so well? Three reasons: Continue reading “What Fools these Midsummer Mortals Be”

Tracing the Guitar String Theory of Two Brians

pal·imp·sest
ˈpaləm(p)ˌsest/
noun: palimpsest; plural noun: palimpsests

–a manuscript or piece of writing material on which the original writing has been effaced to make room for later writing but of which traces remain
–something reused or altered but still bearing visible traces of its earlier form

What makes a physicist turn into a rock star? What makes a rock star turn back into a physicist? This is the story of two Brians.  One of them you know, though you may not know this part of his background.  The other you might know if you are young and/or hip, or if you wait a few years. Both of them wanted to excel at doing more than one thing. We all have been told we should do what we’re passionate at. But what if you love two things?

This story reminded me of Buckaroo Banzai, star of screen and comics, was billed as an adventurer, physicist, brain surgeon, test pilot and rock musician, saving the world from the invasion of aliens from Planet 10. This awesome movie from 1984 starred Peter Weller as the super cool adventurer.  It always seemed like the most incongruous pair of roles in that list was physicist and rock musician. But though Dr. Banzai was a fictional character, maybe there is something natural that yokes physics and rock’n’roll. Continue reading “Tracing the Guitar String Theory of Two Brians”