Sunday Salon 1-11-15

Time: 7:30 a.m., right after a surprising morning run. Nursing a sore shoulder/neck, I thought I’d take a day off to recuperate. But I spontaneously changed my mind this morning and put in a couple of miles. This gives me the opportunity to feel complacent and superior all day long!

Place: At my main home computer.

Listening: Right now, most of my music listening has to be dedicated to the writing of program notes for the Reno Chamber Orchestra and Reno Philharmonic, one of my tasks in life. One set of RCO notes is due this week, and a concert’s worth each of RCO and RPO notes the following week. Every now and again the orchestras program pieces that I’ve already written about, thus saving me some effort. But no such luck this time. Today’s listening and writing will feature two Antonín Dvořák compositions, the Te Deum, which I’ve never heard before, and the Symphony No. 8, which I love love love. Once I get out of program note mode, I’m considering adding a weekly playlist to the blog to highlight the good music I come across.

Reading: As threatened last week, I decided to take up Richard Powers’s novel Orfeo. I’m only about a third of the way through, but am so far finding it an unusually fascinating combination of road novel, bildungsroman, and meditation on both music and life in a time of terrorism. It sounds like an unlikely mix, but so far I’m quite engrossed. Powers’s descriptions of musical works like Gustav Mahler’s Kindertotenlieder and Olivier Messiaen’s Quartet for the End of Time are powerful. Also in the reading mix are Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead by Brené Brown, and Ten Years in the Tub by Nick Hornby.

Viewing: Only two films made their way to my eyeballs this week – both of them very recent films, a departure for this classic film viewer. The Grandmaster is Wong Kar-Wai’s latest film. Most, or at least much, of the critical attention for this movie seems to dwell on the fight scenes. While they’re admittedly done in a very stylish manner, they don’t seem that different from similar scenes in numerous other films I’ve seen (although many who are more knowledgeable than I have remarked on how innovative they are in depicting several styles of martial arts). I was drawn to the more meditative moments in the film, which are many, and recall the director’s films like In the Mood for Love, of which I’m a huge fan. Tony Leung Chiu-Wai and Zhang Ziyi are always extremely attractive stars, too. Speaking of attractive stars, Scarlett Johansson was the centerpiece of Jonathan Glazer’s Under the Skin, which I watched last night. Having read a bit about it, I was expecting it to be strange. But it proved to be even more strange and inscrutable than I’d figured. However, I like inscrutable, and found the movie’s tone admirably creepy and disturbing, and the lack of exposition (or much of any dialogue) most appealing. I can’t help but think that the films of Andrei Tarkovsky and, much to my surprise, my much-loved Thai director Apichatpong Weerasethakul were influences on the film’s imagery, pacing, and approach to narrative.

Blogging: I’ve managed to follow through on my New Year’s resolution and get 2015 off to a decent start in the blogging realm. Along with two worthy quotations, this week I posted a brief feature on the excellent photographer Fan Ho, whose work is on display at the Modernbook Gallery in San Francisco through the end of this month.

Pondering: While I have been keeping up a regular exercise schedule and, even through the holidays, eating pretty well, I had gone many weeks without seeing any weight loss. Apparently this is routine, as the body gets used to a new state of being. Suddenly, however, this has changed, and I’m down four pounds in the last two weeks. Perhaps the breakthrough I’ve been waiting (weighting?) for has finally arrived.

Anticipating: Tomorrow I am tentatively planning to meet, for the first time in person, someone with whom I’ve been exchanging emails for several weeks. An increasingly common phenomenon anymore, it’s as though you know this person rather well on one level, and not at all on another. You’re meeting both a familiar friend and a stranger, and it’s impossible to know what to anticipate. I hope she will like me, and I her.

Gratuitous Manatee News: Through the fine magazine American Archaeology, I’ve recently learned that the oldest manatee in the world currently resides in Florida. Snooty is 66 years old, was apparently the first manatee ever born in captivity, weighs half a ton, corresponds on a regular basis with students (with some help from the South Florida Museum staff), and enjoys kale, bok choy, and broccoli. He even has his own webcam! Read more about Snooty here, and see the Snooty Cam here. (Photo from Kobee Manatee)

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