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Art thoughts

Wednesday 8/18/21

When Van Gogh was at his lowest, those who knew him and his family spoke of him in the past tense, though he were dead. Everyone—brother included—was either indifferent or viewed his death as being for the best. Van Gogh rallied and created, but no affection came. He painted.

Listening to outtakes from the Who's The Who Sell Out, I'm taken aback by how loud they were even in the studio.

The Beatles’ “Strawberry Fields Forever”/“Penny Lane” is, in my view, rock’s finest single, and yet it pales as a document in relation to the bootleg It’s Not Too Bad, which documents the creative process of “Strawberry Fields.”

I think my two favorite love story films are The General and Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison. One is about a man and his train, the other a Marine and a nun who are deep and abiding friends.

You listen to the outtakes and chatter from the Sgt. Pepper sessions and it’s obvious the Beatles knew they were at a kind of pinnacle. The LP has come down in reputation in recent years such that it’s become underrated. The sum is larger than the parts.

I’ve been watching Mexican horror films from the 1930s. They move the camera—a lot. Quite the contrast with American pictures from the same period with their emphasis on dialogue and cutting.

When you have the right voice for a story, everything does itself. I'm not sure it's writing. It's something mediumistic, but with characters more alive than people. It's listening, relaying, as someone who has been open. The characters move you; not the other way around.

I’m listening to Mozart’s Symphony No. 25, under the baton of Bruno Walter. Like all great works of art, it starts going into you—italicize that phrase—from the very first. The human realness is plain from the initial bar.

Out of the Past, Night of the Living Dead, and Rio Bravo all have a similar opening sequence, executed differently.

People tend not to know this—and it’s not especially good—but Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall teamed to make 78 episodes of a radio series called Bold Venture in 1951-52.

The Jagger-Richards duet towards the end of the Rolling Stones’ “Brown Sugar” thrills for the precise—and singular—reason that it is executed as a kind of race, one voice trying to get to the finish line before the other, each hitting the tape at the same time.

A Hard Day’s Night observations: “Tell Me Why” is the great Beatles cut no one talks about. “Can’t Buy Me Love” has the first take-yer-head-off guitar solo in rock and roll. The doubling of piano and guitar on solos—“AHDN,” “Anytime at All”—isn’t repeated in the discography.

There is such a higher level of energy to the Abbey Road sessions than the White Album sessions. The third take of "The End" has a full-on '62 Star Club vibe. The haven't put the solos in yet and they're throttling the hell out of the thing.

The last scene of The Long Goodbye is taken wholesale from The Third Man. Comically so.

I remarked some weeks back on Downtown that I would put up the entire script of the Quiet, Please episode, "Northern Lights." Here it is.

I spent chunks of the past weekend with various forms of Ahab, in prose, film, on radio. I admire his fixity, if not his cause. The drive of purpose is better spent elsewhere than on the extirpation of a white whale. In other words, there are more fitting white whales.

John Huston's Moby Dick is unfairly maligned. Melville wrote yarns. He could plot. He could rouse with adventure. Atop the yarns, he piled mountains of philosophy that I believe still reads excitingly and as an outgrowth of the plot--certainly of the characters. Both the characters in the story, and the characters out in the world. We, the readers. Orson Welles nails his part as Father Mapple, who was inspired by a preacher Melville observed in the church outside my door. In that same church, I wrote the first story of my first book. The people of my flesh and blood are from New Bedford, which is where Melville sailed from. That's where my biological mother was from, and where I lived with my foster mother. Melville sailed in 1841. My house I am trying to get back in Rockport was built in 1840. It stood when Melville began his journey.


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