Let’s throw out a list….

Lloyd put out a call for lists:

So, who would like to share a list of something on a weblog entry? Come on, you've got a list stashed somewhere. I know it. 😉 Naturally, I'll list all responses here.

I was particularly struck by Lloyd's list of periodicals that he has subscribed
to at one point or another: Let me put in bold ones I also subscribed to at one
point or another.

  • Atlantic Monthly
  • Brill's Content
  • Commentary
  • Dissent
  • The Economist
  • Elysian Fields Quarterly
  • Far Eastern Economic Review
  • Foreign Affairs
  • Granta
  • Harper's Magazine
  • In These Times
  • Macworld
  • MacWeek
  • Mother Jones
  • The Nation
  • National Geographic
  • The New Republic
  • New Scientist
  • The New York Review of Books
  • The New York Times
  • The New Yorker
  • Newsweek
  • The Progressive
  • Psychology Today
  • Red Herring
  • The San Francisco Chronicle
  • Scientific American
  • Sports Illustrated
  • Threepenny Review
  • Tikkun
  • TIME
  • The Times Literary Supplement
  • US News and World Report
  • Utne Reader
  • Vanity Fair
  • Washington Monthly
  • Weekly Standard
  • WebTechniques
  • Wilson Quarterly

I'll throw in two lists of my own:

  • My amazon
    -- which I add to through my wireless phone when I'm browsing
    at a bookstore and see a book that intrigues me. I just type a search on amazon
    and drop it on the list,
  • My
    current RSS subscription list
    in OPML (XML) format.

Not terribly inspired but I'm sure revealing, nevertheless.

Fluidity is a tough thing to accomplish at times

Laura wrote:

ugh, I need to start writing here more often, and at greater length, because I'm losing my fluidity and my sense of my own voice. I want to follow up on Raymond's wonderful piece on the presentation by Neil Brand, which he and friends Ildi and Peter and I attended on Saturday night. I'm having so much trouble composing that I've been making notes in MS word and shuffling them around, the way I used to when I was on deadline. One thing I like about blogging is that I don't usually have to do that--so I'd better get back into practice.

I sympathize....I find that blogging is a game of inertia -- though not exactly of the Newtonian type. A body in motion stays in motion; a body at rest stays at rest. I know how fluid Laura's writing can be -- so I look forward to the return of words to her blog!

Neil Brand at the PFA

Last night my friends Ildi, Peter, Laura, and I attended a special PFA event featuring Neil Brand:


Lecture and Piano Accompaniment by Neil Brand

Gain a new perspective on film, music, and the creative process in this special evening with Neil Brand, one of the best-known silent film accompanists working today. Brand will lead the audience through the creation of an improvised score, playing piano accompaniment to excerpts from Pandora's Box (G. W. Pabst, 1929), South (Frank Hurley, 1919), and Menschen am Sonntag (People on Sunday, Robert Siodmak, 1930)—as well as one clip from the PFA Collection that will be a surprise to both the audience and Brand himself—and discussing ideas of emotional color and narrative structure in a presentation that promises to be funny, self-revealing, and provocative. This talk is adapted from a lecture first delivered at the Pordenone Silent Film Festival in memory of New Zealand's Jonathan Dennis, a tireless archivist, champion of silent film, and dear friend of PFA who passed away in 2002.

I must say that the lecture/demonstration exceeded my already high expectations for the evening. Granted, I wasn't exactly sure what to expect. Though I was intrigued by the prospect of hearing about how a piano player might create a "sound track" for a silent film, I could see why a lot of my friends couldn't care for it; how relevant is silent film today?

Plenty relevant, I learned from Neil Brand. First of all, he pointed out how much we expect music to be part of the films we see. But isn't that a bit odd? Why do we want a rousing orchestral accompaniment to big dramatic events like a plane crash or an invasion in our movies? That's pretty far from reality. Hence, the way that music is created for silent films provides a wonderful window into how music is created for today's movies. We might not think too hard about the soundtracks of today's films since we take them for granted. Having Neil Brand create that music for a film that was made years ago -- something we don't experience very often -- helps unsettle what we take for granted.

The amazing thing about "piano players" like Neil Brand (he never said "pianists") is that they often improvise the scores to films! So he is providing real time commentary to the film that must bring out key elements while not being overbearing. And he has to do it when he doesn't even know what the film will be about ahead of time. Rather amazing how many things piano accompanists would have to keep track of, all the while spinning out music suitable for the film.

Another key insight I got last night: silent films are far from dead. Why? Because there are a lot of amateur videographers -- parents, for instances, with videocams who are essentially making silent films. OK -- the films of little Johnny or Joanne have some meaningful audio. By and large, however, these videos are just crying out to have a soundtrack. The vast majority of us are not in the creative position that Neil Brand is. While we reach out for the CD of some music that we particularly like and think might fit as background music for our little masterpieces, Brand can write and improvise his own scores. So far from being relic of dead art -- Neil Brand has the gifts and skills that I'd love to have for my own media work. Would it be great for me to film aspects of life around me and sit down at the piano to improvise a score for it?

It seems that there is a chance that Neil Brand will be back at the PFA next year. Don't miss him the next time around!

Who is Silvio Berlusconi?

After reading The New York Review of Books: Italy: The Family Business, I'm amazed that a corrupt leader of a modern western country like Italy can stay in power -- regardless of how rich he is. (Boy, that was a naive statement!) If you don't know much about modern Italy, I highly recommend the essay. A quote that caught my eye was:

It would be a mistake to dismiss Berlusconi as a vaguely comical product of an Italian subculture. Italy has a remarkable record in the twentieth century as a kind of laboratory of bad ideas that have then spread to other parts of the world. Fascism was invented in Italy, so was the mafia; and left-wing terrorism went further in Italy than in any other European country. All three were byproducts of a weak democracy with few checks and balances. As a country that was late to unify and industrialize, Italy is a place where all the strains and problems of modern life are present, but with few of the safeguards that exist in older, more stable nations; ideas get taken to their logical extreme. The increasingly close relations between big money, politics, and television are important everywhere, but in Italy, thanks to Berlusconi's domination of the networks and the press, they have achieved a kind of apotheosis. He has now introduced a law that will make it legal for him to own newspapers as well.

After reading the essay, I typed Berlusconi into google and got a lesson in modern media. One of the top entries is a "Cool man of the week" profile of Berlusconi from AskMen. As you can imagine, a different perspective from the NYRB. An illustrative quote:

He has a beautiful wife, but don't kid yourselves, he is well aware of his charm and his magnetism with the fairer sex.

Power and money have historically been aphrodisiacs for women, and Berlusconi has both. In a country with beauties such as Maria Grazia Cucinotta and Monica Bellucci, that could be a very good thing.

Some tidbits

I tend to oscillate between two types of blogging: 1) writing an entry that has little to do with what might be happening this day and is therefore not terribly topical and 2) passing along news stories and tidbits I find interesting. I've started to use SharpReader, a RSS aggregator to help gather news for me. I'm also able to quickly piece together the items I gather to form an entry. This mode is definitely of type #2. Some tidbits I found today:

Harvard Medical School is setting up a new department, the school's first in two decades, devoted to the emerging field of systems biology. [New York Times: Education]

Canada is a country where compromise, consensus and civility are the most cherished political values. [New York Times: International]

In taking the helm of the Emmy-winning show, John Wells has the task of making the series more politically relevant. [New York Times: Arts]

Inpsired by Quicksilver, his giant doorstop of a new novel, Neal Stephenson has put up a wiki where his readers can collaboratively annotate the ideas in the book:
[Boing Boing Blog]

Monster miscreant database now in state hands [The Register]

Must I be further deflated?

Just when I'm getting used to the idea that I'm not as smart as I think I am, I learn from Harold Bloom's Hamlet: Poem Unlimited that I'm also less intelligent than a fictional character:

  • "Vastly intelligent, far beyond us--if we are not, say, Freud or Wittgenstein--Hamlet cannot believe that the proper use of his capability and godlike reason is to perform a revenge killing." (p. 70)
  • "Don't condescend to the Prince of Denmark: he is more intelligent than you are, whoever you are." (p. 86)
  • "If Hamlet perishes of the truth, such truth is barely external. Hamlet is the truth, insofar as any hero of consciousness can be." (p. 94)

Why do you care?

"So where are you from?" asked the elderly (white) lady facing me.

"I'm from Canada," I responded.

"Where are you really from?" insisted the woman.

"I'm from Timmins, Ontario."

She was furious. "You know what I mean!"

I did. I answered, "My parents are from China."

The exact scene is no longer clear in my mind. Was it in a church somewhere or some other public gathering? The words are probably different from what I recall. But the emotional dynamic is something I recall clearly to this day. I was probably being a bit mean in baiting her. I knew what she was after -- and I wasn't going to let her know right away -- at least until she would admit what she was asking. Something in her first question tipped me off that she wanted to know my ethnic/racial heritage. Was I Chinese? Japanese? Korean? Filipino? But I was from Canada. I've never been to China, my parents' homeland. If she wanted to know my ethnicity, she could have asked straightforwardly. And if she chose not to, why should I tell her? I resented the implicit assumption -- that I was not reallyfrom Canada, where I was born.

Believe it or not, Miss Manners is the inspiration for today's entry. Before this morning, I had little idea that my experience is that of many others. She wrote:

But the next thing Miss Manners knew, a version of "Where are you from?" was back. Only this time it is not as bland as before. Geography is no longer the issue; the inquiry has to do with race and ethnicity. People who answer as carelessly as before, stating their hometowns, are further interrogated as if they are being disingenuous:

"No, where are you really from? Where are you from originally? Where were your parents from?"

This is particularly galling to homegrown Americans whose looks or names strike the descendants of other immigrants as somehow more "foreign" than their own. The presumption that there is a particular American look or nomenclature is not borne out by the census figures.