The Thirty-Two Minutes Top Ten List!

Top 10 imageA few weeks ago I was surprised to notice that this blog had been around for three-and-a-half years. I haven’t made as much of the blog that I would have liked to, at least not yet. But there have been some good moments. And there may very well be some more in the future! When I made this discovery about the age of the blog, I went into the WordPress statistics about the site for the first time. It was interesting to note which posts had the most activity.

So now, for no special reason, here are the Top Ten (actually, twelve) most popular posts to date at Thirty-Two Minutes!

1. Looking at Giotto’s The Lamentation
I’m not shocked to find this post in first place, with over three times as many hits as any other blog entry I’ve made. It seems every day someone is checking out this post — not because I had anything especially insightful or unusual to say about this famous painting (although I hope I did an adequate job in explicating it), but because this 700-year-old work still speaks directly to viewers and moves them deeply.

2. Sibelius’s Eighth Symphony
I was very happy to see this entry place so high. There are lots of bits and pieces of information out there about this legendarily non-existent piece. Last year a couple of possible fragments of the symphony were performed, and on that occasion I decided to assemble what information I could about the Eighth and its history in one handy place.

3. Jun’ichiro Tanizaki: Some Prefer Nettles
One of the best-known works of one of Japan’s greatest novelists, still too little known outside of his homeland.

4. Miguel Covarrubias: Island of Bali
This book on the landscape, history, and culture of Bali is nearly eighty years old now, but is still useful and informative. It also has the advantage of featuring many of Covarrubias’s own wonderful drawings. Bali ranks high on my list of places I hope to visit.

5. Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni: The Palace of Illusions
I loved this novel derived from the epic Mahabharata, and hope that some of my enthusiasm came through in this post.

6. Anna Karina and Wordless Wednesday 4-11-12
These two posts were simply dedicated to photographs of Anna Karina and Tatiana Samoilova, two of my major movie crushes. The photos, I think, speak for themselves.

7. Mozart, Mesmer, Franklin, and the Glass Harmonica
I can’t remember where the idea for this post came from. An obscure and unusual musical instrument brought together three fascinating people of the eighteenth century, and I wanted to look into those relationships further. I was actually hoping that I would find evidence that Mozart and Benjamin Franklin had met at some point, but alas, this doesn’t seem to have happened.

8. Stave Churches
One day I hope to view some of these remarkable old Norwegian churches first hand. In the meantime, I wanted to read up on them and share a few fun facts.

9. Arundhati Roy: The God of Small Things
My review of a remarkable book. Not long ago, just to pass the time, I made up a list of the ten people I would most like to invite to a dinner party if I could. The brilliant Arundhati Roy was on that list. Someday I may share who the other nine were.

10. Happy Birthday, Setsuko Hara!
Just a few days ago, I just watched the recently released Criterion Blu-ray of the restored version of Tokyo Story. One of the great films of all time (and oddly, just one of my five or six favorite Yasujiro Ozu films), it reminded me of why Setsuko Hara is, has been, and will likely always be my favorite actress. Still alive, so far as I know, at age 93, she remains as provocative as ever.

11. Martin Gayford: The Yellow House
A bonus eleventh pick … Within a fairly short period I read both this fine book, on the fateful months that Vincent Van Gogh and Paul Gauguin spent together in Arles in 1888, and the massive Van Gogh: The Life by Steven Naifeh and Gregory White Smith (about which I wrote an interminable but, I think, worthy review). It was a great way to immerse myself in the life and art of Van Gogh.

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Sunday Salon 12-15-13

Time: 10:30 Sunday morning, a little later than I usually work on my Salon. I slept in, so sue me!

Place: At my main computer, still surrounded by remnants of old computers I want to get rid of.

Consuming: Just finished a nice bowl of cereal. Now it’s back to coffee.

Reading: I have just about finished Roger Lipsey’s excellent The Spiritual in Twentieth-Century Art. I’m sure I’ll be doing a review for the blog pretty soon. After I’m done with that, I will be turning to reading related to my upcoming trip to southeast Asia (less than two months away now!) My next books will be Michael Coe’s Angkor and the Khmer Civilization and Buddhism: A History by Noble Ross Reat. As a little end-of-day reading I’m continuing to enjoy Why We Write: 20 Acclaimed Authors on How and Why They Do What They Do.

Watching: The only film I watched this week was one that I’d already seen several times. But it happened to appear on Turner Classic Movies (the one television channel I think I could not live without), and I couldn’t resist watching again: the outstanding Sullivan’s Travels (1941), written and directed by Preston Sturges, and starring Joel McCrea and Veronica Lake. Seldom has there been such a neatly crafted film, that turns from comedy to drama and back again so effortlessly that you hardly even notice. Once again related to my trip, I am also watching, and reading the accompanying book, Foundations of Eastern Civilization from The Great Courses.

Listening: I’m still plugging away at writing program notes for January’s concert by the Reno Philharmonic, and so have been listening to things like the Ancient Airs and Dances Suite No. 2 by Respighi and the Fourth Symphony by Brahms. One other CD that I must call attention to because it is so good is the most recent effort by the chamber ensemble eighth blackbird, meanwhile – a great selection of very vivid and colorful music.

Pondering: Last week I was pondering how much I needed to start making lists of tasks in order to be more productive. This week, after a couple of very productive days, I’m pondering how good of an idea that was. Also, I read today of the death of Peter O’Toole, one of the greatest actors of our time, and I was remembering back to when I saw him on stage in London, around thirty years ago now, in Shaw’s Pygmalion. He was almost certainly drunk, and even came close to falling over a couple of times. But he was also fabulously funny and energetic. How much fun that evening was, and how much charisma O’Toole had… If I had the time to spare, I’d watch Lawrence of Arabia or My Favorite Year again today.

Blogging: Not much recently, but several things are in the works.

Anticipating: Getting into the holiday spirit, because it certainly hasn’t happened yet!

Gratuitous Video of the Week: A few days ago, in an online forum I take part in occasionally, the subject of Vivaldi came up. And I chimed in with what is probably my favorite Vivaldi work, the Concerto in C major, RV 558 “con molti stromenti.” I posted a link to a YouTube video of a nice complete performance of the Concerto. But, honestly, much more to my taste is this performance of the Concerto’s first movement by Fabio Biondi and Europa Galante. Vivaldi came up with a truly peculiar ensemble for this work – pairs of mandolins, theorbos (relative of the lute), recorders, trumpets, chalumeaux (a single reed woodwind not unlike a clarinet), and violins in tromba marina (take note of the aluminum foil the two lead violins have on their instruments, adding a little “buzz” to their sound to imitate the sound of this obsolete string instrument), along with cello, strings and continuo. These diverse, extravagant colors are used by Vivaldi in a really marvelous way. Biondi is known for his fairly extreme interpretations of Baroque era music. But in this case, his approach to color, dynamics and tempo – his basic tempo for this movement is faster than any other I’ve come across, and he slows down and speeds up in fairly unusual ways – really suits this zany, tuneful, wonderful music. It’s a whole lot of fun. Enjoy!

Sunday Salon 12-8-13

Time: 7:30 Sunday morning.

Place: At my main computer, trying to keep my hands warm as I type.

Consuming: Coffee. Hot, fortunately, as it’s gotten all the way up to 4 degrees outside.

Reading: It has been a bit of a slog recently. A few days ago I completed John Burdett’s Bangkok 8. I’m making further progress in Roger Lipsey’s very interesting The Spiritual in Twentieth-Century Art, and may be able to finish that this week and report on it in this blog soon. For a little inspiration I’ve also been slowly making my way through Why We Write: 20 Acclaimed Authors on How and Why They Do What They Do.

Watching: As in so many areas of my life, there isn’t much new and interesting to report here. The only film I’ve watched in the last week was, fortunately, one that I absolutely loved: Frances Ha (2013), directed by Noah Baumbach to a script by Baumbach and the film’s star Greta Gerwig. Having seen the trailer, I had a feeling I would like this film (the mere fact that it’s in black-and-white was one attraction). But this smart and funny and charming film, residing somewhere halfway between the French Nouvelle Vague and Woody Allen, proved to be a total delight. While much of the film is actually rather melancholy – one of its main themes is the difficulty of connecting, and staying connected, with people – the experience of watching it was much more exhilarating than depressing, due, among other reasons, to the excellence and charisma of all the actors and the visual beauty of the film (it was shot digitally, and how those color images were meticulously turned into the glowing black-and-white seen here is the subject of one of the extra features included on the Blu-ray). I have not until now seen any of Baumbach’s films, although I’ve certainly heard of and read about much-praised films like The Squid and the Whale (2005) and Margot at the Wedding (2007). Now I must seek these out. More on this film, specifically its music, below.

Listening: While the stack of newly purchased CDs continues to grow (the most recent purchases being eighth blackbird’s meanwhile and Hilary Hahn’s new collection of encores she has commissioned, In 27 Pieces), most of my meager listening has been associated with program notes I’ve had to write for the Reno Chamber Orchestra and Reno Philharmonic.

Pondering: How I really need to start making more lists in order to accomplish something in my life. Accumulating check marks on a list carries a certain satisfaction.

Blogging: I’m here today, aren’t I?

Anticipating: Twelve concerts in six days at the Reno Chamber Orchestra’s Nevada Chamber Music Festival, December 26-31. The musicians will be working much harder than I will, but it’s still going to be a stretch of long and stressful days.

Gratuitous Video of the Week: One of the attractions of Frances Ha was the canny selection of music. Most people that see the film will probably remember its effective use of David Bowie’s “Modern Love” and Hot Chocolate’s “Every 1’s a Winner.” But I was especially impressed with the selection of bits of scores from classic films from the French New Wave. I’ve had this odd conceit recently of imagining how my mostly lonely and tedious life might be enhanced if it were accompanied by a music score. Readers of this blog might remember that this first occurred to me a few weeks ago in watching Hirokazu Koreeda’s television series Going My Home. The delicate, pretty acoustic guitar music that comprised its score puts the viewer in a very attractive space. But after watching Frances Ha, I’m turning my imaginings to the scores of French comedies and New Wave films of the 1950s and 1960s. How could one’s life not be better when accompanied by the music found in, say, Jacques Tati’s Mon Oncle? For one of the main themes of Frances Ha, Baumbach turned to the great Georges Delerue, re-purposing, one might say, Delerue’s “Theme de Camille” originally written for François Truffaut’s Une belle fille comme moi. That jolly, carefree banjo melody (as Steve Martin wisely observed, it’s impossible to play sad music on a banjo) might become mildly obnoxious were it not for the warm string chords that accompany it. As I was writing this Salon, I decided to spend a few minutes creating a video of stills from Frances Ha accompanied by the “Theme de Camille.” I’m not saying that my life would be a worthy partner to this tune. But I would like it to be.