Sunday Salon 10-13-13

Time: 8:00 Sunday morning.

Place: At my laptop in the living room, with news sans sound on the television (somehow the daily news is more palatable when you’re not paying attention to it).

Eating: Just living off my accumulated fat for the time being. But later, my famous strawberry breakfast shake – a half cup of apple juice, half a cake of silken tofu, a banana, and a cup of frozen strawberries all into the blender – healthy and tasty.

Drinking: Coffee, always coffee at this hour.

Reading: I’ve recently finished a book that I got as a gift months ago and that has been recommended to me repeatedly, The River of Doubt by Candice Millard. The story of Theodore Roosevelt’s harrowing several weeks in the middle of the Brazilian rain forest charting a little-known tributary of the Amazon, The River of Doubt was every bit as good as advertised. While I have never had a particular interest in James Garfield, the subject of Millard’s second book Destiny of the Republic, I’m probably going to read the book soon simply because she wrote it. I’ve also finally completed, after weeks of lollygagging, Eddie Muller’s book on film noir, Dark City. A review is about 95% complete, and should appear soon. Yesterday I started Roger Lipsey’s The Spiritual in Twentieth-Century Art, which I bought at the Contemporary Jewish Museum a while back after seeing the Museum’s quite beautiful current exhibition Beyond Belief: 100 Years of the Spiritual in Modern Art.

Watching: My return to Muller’s book was prompted by the recent release of the fourth volume of Columbia Film Noir Classics, of which I’ve watched a couple so far, the very fine Johnny O’Clock (1947) with Dick Powell and Lee J. Cobb, and the fairly good Between Midnight and Dawn (1950) with Edmond O’Brien. Last night it was the beautiful new Criterion Blu-ray of Frantisek Vlacil’s Marketa Lazarova (1967), which many argue is the greatest Czech film ever. Set in the Middle Ages, the film depicts the conflict between two families and a corrupt government official – overlaid with the tension between Christianity and the local medieval pagan beliefs – with the devout young Marketa, the daughter of one of the families, caught in the middle. Definitely one of the most visually striking films I’ve seen. Otherwise it’s just been the usual round of news programs, with a special nod to LinkTV’s Link Asia, a weekly round-up of news from Asian countries.

Listening: Much of my listening in recent weeks, as usual, was dictated by my program note writing for the Reno Chamber Orchestra and Reno Philharmonic. Certainly the highlight of that recent listening was getting to know in some depth Hector Berlioz’s song cycle Les nuits d’été, a remarkable series of songs on love, lost and found, and death (see the video below). Coincidentally, both orchestras are performing Dmitri Shostakovich symphonies this month: the Ninth is an offbeat masterpiece, while the Twelfth, which I’d never really paid attention to until now, has moments of greatness and lengthier passages of tedium and bombast.

Pondering: When I went out for my daily walk at about 5:30 this morning, I was expecting the usual near-total darkness. But a low layer of clouds blanketed the sky, and the lights from downtown Reno set the clouds themselves alight with a subtle ambient glow. So, even well before sunrise, my way was gently lit for me in a nice, vaguely mysterious way.

Blogging: The fact that I am blogging again, after around four months away, comes as somewhat of a surprise even to me. Whether I actually have anything to say is yet to be seen.

Anticipating: Eleven straight days of work after today, with Reno Chamber Orchestra concerts next weekend, and a possible birthday trip to San Francisco the following weekend. So life is busy, but it could be worse. I could be employed by the federal government.

Gratuitous Video of the Week

Anne Sofie von Otter singing my favorite song from Berlioz’s Les nuits d’été, “Le spectre de la rose,” with Marc Minkowski conducting Les Musiciens du Louvre.

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