Saturday, November 21, 2009

Julian Fellowes Talks About PAST IMPERFECT

Photo © Giles Keyte

PAST IMPERFECT opens with its anonymous narrator, a member of the minor aristocracy, being contacted by Damian Baxter, an ex-friend from Cambridge whom he hasn’t seen in decades. Thus begins a journey that contrasts the na├»ve debutantes and would-be debonair beaux of the London Season of 1968 with their surprisingly altered (or not) selves 40 years later.

Reached by phone in Chicago on Halloween morning, Julian Fellowes observed to freelance writer Bella Stander that “Lake Michigan is like an enchanted sea around a fairy castle.” Later that day, From Time to Time, which he produced, directed and wrote, was screened at the Chicago International Children’s Film Festival. Starring Maggie Smith, the picture went on to win the Best of Fest Award and two other prizes.... more at

Monday, November 09, 2009

My Birthday in Music

Today started off happier, thanks to all the birthday wishes I got via email and Facebook. I've had the Kinks on my mind the past few days, but couldn't find anything by them in our pared-down music collection (350 LPs & 500+ CDs). So I played T. Rex instead. Loud.

After a very late breakfast I stretched out on the couch to read the Sunday Times to a 2-CD set of Chopin nocturnes. Op. 9 No. 2 is one of my favorites:

At around 3:30, Darling Husband took me out for another drive to Washington Park. This time we went to the southern lake, and shared a bench with a woman who had her newly adopted miniature collie on a leash. On the way to and from the park, I relived my wild days in art school by listening to a tape of Jerry Jeff Walker's ¡Viva Terlingua!, which I'd found when vainly rummaging around for a Kinks tape that I suddenly remembered once owning. I still know all the words to "Up Against the Wall Redneck Mother":

I further relived my wanton youth by listening to a tape of Edgar Winter's White Trash ("Oh, the Scientologist," said DH). Here's "Keep Playing that Rock & Roll":

Which then led to Long John Baldry's "It Ain't Easy." It opens with the definitive version of "Don't Try to Lay No Boogie Woogie on the King of Rock & Roll," but the only track I could find on YouTube is "Flying":

After that came Leon Russell:

And then with a delicious dinner of Key West shrimp and a green salad with some of the last tomatoes from the garden, I played some Randy Newman. Here's my long-time favorite, "Sail Away":

Saturday, November 07, 2009

My Day in Music

I started off the day in a blue mood. Prompted by a Twitter post, after breakfast I lay on the couch and listened to "Can't Find My Way Home" on the Blind Faith album, a touchstone of my teenage years. The lyrics took on a whole new meaning, now that we've delayed our move to our home state of New York due to my wasted body--which I really wish I could leave.
Can't Find My Way Home
by Steve Winwoood

Come down off your throne and leave your body alone
Somebody must change
You are the reason I've been waiting so long
Somebody holds the key

But I'm near the end and I just ain't got the time, oh no
And I'm wasted and I can't find my way home

Come down on your own and leave your body at home
Somebody must change
You are the reason I've been waiting all these years
Somebody holds the key

But I'm near the end and I just ain't got the time, oh no
And I'm wasted and I can't find my way home

But I'm near the end and I just ain't got the time, oh no
Oh no, and I'm wasted and I can't find my way home

But I can't find my way home
Still I can't find my way home

And I ain't done nothing wrong
But I can't find my way home

After a bit of emotional catharsis, I decided that the ideal music to listen to next was Kurt Weill. So I put on "Ute Lemper Sings Kurt Weill," followed by Weill's Die Dreigroschenoper (Threepenny Opera), also with Lemper.

Meanwhile I read the New York Times. Or at least the A section. Or rather, the stories that didn't get me too upset. So I skipped the one on the front page about the victims of the Fort Hood shooting, and the one inside about the Orlando shooting (I had to put my hand over the photos).

To cap it all off, there were two op-eds about veterans and PTSD (which I have). The Forever War of the Mind by Max Cleland is absolutely devastating and absolutely true; Stress Beyond Belief by Bob Herbert also hits hard. Both are must-reads.

Darling Husband hid upstairs until the music was over. When he came down, I said, "Y'know, I don't think it was such a good idea to listen to Weill when reading bad news in the paper."

He responded, "It's NEVER a good time to listen to Weill. In German. That's when I know you're really depressed."

After that I made myself a bowl of popcorn and mug of mocha (DIY antidepressants) and cheered myself further by playing "Ella Fitzgerald: The Songbooks." At the same time, after wiping the butter off my hands, I redid the layout of the upcoming Bella Terra Southeast Lighthouses Map.

Then Darling Husband took me for my first post-surgical drive that wasn't for an appointment with a healthcare provider. We went to Washington Park and took a (very short, slow) walk by the first lake. We passed four 20ish guys sitting on a bench. One of them, with his lower leg in a monstrous cast, was playing Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit" on a guitar.

When we came back, he was idly strumming. A German woman with a toddler said, "His favorite song is 'The Wheels on the Bus.'" The guys looked puzzled, so I said, "You know... [singing] 'The wheels on the bus go round and round...'"

Whereupon, to the little boy's delight, all four guys burst into a rousing rendition of "The Wheels on the Bus." As we got into the car, I heard them starting on the third verse.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

IN MY FATHER'S SHADOW: Orson Welles's Daughter Speaks

"Ignore your children and they will be obsessed with you for life."—Alain de Botton

From the moment I saw In My Father’s Shadow: A Daughter Remembers Orson Welles in the Algonquin Books fall catalog, I knew that I must read the book and speak to author Chris Welles Feder. As the daughter of actor Lionel Stander (a contemporary of Welles), I wanted to learn how Feder managed to survive with—and more often, without—a famous, larger-than-life father.

A few days before she took off for California to start her book tour, I reached Feder by phone in her New York City home. The voice that greeted me was so youthful, I found it hard to believe it was coming from a 71-year-old. I started off by asking why she wrote In My Father’s Shadow....

Read more at Wild River Review

Photo of Chris Welles Feder © Gregory Downer

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Siegfried Sassoon, More Relevant than Ever

The UK Guardian ran a piece on WWI poet-soldier
Siegfried Sassoon: The reluctant hero

"Cambridge University is on the verge of securing Siegfried Sassoon's personal papers for posterity – his unpublished poems and letters are more relevant than ever, says Michael Morpurgo"

The article includes this undated poem, "just a scrap torn from a notebook":
Can I forget the voice of one who cried
For me to save him, save him, as
he died?
I will remember you, and from
your wrongs
Shall rise the power and the
poignance of my songs
And this shall comfort me until
the end
That I have been your captain and
your friend.
Sassoon's July 1917 Soldier's Declaration, according to Morpurgo, "was published in newspapers and read out in the Commons; it very nearly got him executed." I imagine the same furor would erupt today. I wish it would.
A Soldier's Declaration

I am making this statement as an act of wilful defiance of military authority, because I believe the war is being deliberately prolonged by those who have the power to end it.

I am a soldier, convinced that I am acting on behalf of soldiers. I believe that this war, upon which I entered as a war of defence and liberation has now become a war of aggression and conquest. I believe that the purposes for which I and my fellow soldiers entered upon this war should have been so clearly stated as to have made it impossible to change them, and that, had this been done, the objects witch actuated us would now be attainable by negotiation.

I have seen and endured the suffering of the troops, and I can no longer be a party to prolong these sufferings for ends which I believe to be evil and unjust. I am not protesting against the conduct of the war, but against the political errors and insincerity's for which the fighting men are being sacrificed.

On behalf of those who are suffering now I make this protest against the deception which is being practised on them; also I believe that I may help to destroy the callous complacence with which the majority of those at home regard the continuance of agonies which they do not share, and which they have not sufficient imagination to realise.

S. Sassoon,

The Real Rules

I've been sending my rules out in bits and pieces on Twitter. It's time to put them all in one place. Follow them faithfully and I promise you won't go wrong.

Bella's Rules of Life

1. The world is filled with wankers.

2. When the going gets tough, the tough go to bed.

3. Just say no.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Amazing Resemblance

As research for a piece I'm writing, yesterday I watched "Citizen Kane" and "The Battle Over Citizen Kane." The second film had a photograph of Orson Welles just after his arrival in Hollywood in 1939, sporting a Van Dyck beard and smoking a pipe.

Wow, I thought, that "beatnik" guy on "Mad Men" (above right) looks just like Welles. I wonder if it's by accident or on purpose?

I stopped wondering after a Google search for "Michael Gladis" + "Orson Welles" got 225 results, the 2nd of which is an AMC blog, which begins:

He looks like Orson Welles, smokes like Albert Einstein and wants to be Ernest Hemingway. Michael Gladis was born to play bohemian ad man, Paul Kinsey.

Q: Your character is compared to Orson Welles. You've played Orson on stage. Is this an ongoing theme?

A: I remember at like six-years-old my grandmother saying you look like a young Orson Welles and I had no idea who that was. I had to turn to my mother and be like is that a good thing or a bad thing? She said no sweetie it's a very good thing. My whole life there has been comparisons drawn. I was cast to play Orson in a film that didn't get made and I was heartbroken.

Q: Did that have anything to do with casting you as Paul?

A: That came up in the audition. Matt Weiner, at the beginning of the season (I think referencing our conversation in the audition room) said some time this season someone is going to make note of your resemblance to Orson Welles. Mark my words. And I never heard anything else about it. I'd see every script and there was nothing there. Finally, Joan makes the reference in Episode 12 and Matt says see you thought I forgot didn't you? He stuck it in.

Until I read the above, I'd forgotten about that line. I wonder how Gladis feels about Christian McKay, who played Welles in the play "Rosebud," getting to portray him again in "Me and Orson Welles," which opens on Nov 25. McKay sure as hell doesn't look like Welles in the movie's poster, below. However, he does in the shot with Zac Efron, probably due to padded cheeks and bulky clothing.