Reading: I’ve managed to get somewhat stalled in my reading the last week or two. I’m making good progress in The Penguin Book of Japanese Short Stories, edited by Jay Rubin, and have spent a few very enjoyable moments, mostly in the evening, slowly making my way through The Big Book of Science Fiction, edited by Jeff and Ann VanderMeer. Both are quite large books, though, and may not be completed any time soon.
Viewing: A showing on Turner Classic Movies last week of F.W. Murnau’s silent masterpiece Sunrise, the first film he made after moving to America from Germany, got me hooked on Murnau again and led me to a couple of his other films. One was his third American film, City Girl (the second American film, 4 Devils, is, sadly and highly frustratingly, lost), as well as the film he made in Germany immediately before Sunrise, the highly atmospheric Faust. I may well continue with more Murnau, moving forward to his final film, Tabu – he died in a car crash at age forty-two right after completing Tabu – and backward to some of his German films, like Der letzte Mann (The Last Laugh), Herr Tartüff (Tartuffe), and perhaps even a tenth-or-so viewing of the classic Nosferatu.
Listening: My music listening recently continues to be tied to the program note writing I do. Just a couple of days ago, I finished up notes for the next Reno Chamber Orchestra concert, which allowed me to revisit, and write about, favorites like Maurice Ravel’s Le tombeau de Couperin and the Variations on a Theme of Haydn by Johannes Brahms. Next up are notes for the Reno Philharmonic that will include Antonín Dvořák’s famous “New World” Symphony No. 9.
Blogging: My main post this past week was also inspired by recent program note writing, as I looked at some of the bad reviews received by Pyotr Tchaikovsky over the course of his life. I’ve also finally finished (I think) the article on the connections between Claude Monet’s work and Japanese art that I’ve been considering for many weeks now. That should appear in the next few days, as should a look at Kitchen by Banana Yoshimoto, as I get back to the Japanese Literature Challenge I’ve been participating in.
Pondering: I feel myself being pulled in a bunch of different directions lately, and am getting a bit frustrated by my inability to focus on any one thing. There’s the Japanese Literature Challenge. There’s the ongoing program note writing. I’m also making a presentation on “Music and Renaissance Art” in a couple of weeks, and am fairly drowning in facts, dates, names, music, and paintings as I prepare. A couple of potential job offers are floating out there, too. All this and trying to maintain my daily schedule of exercise, meditation, and Japanese language studies are rather overwhelming me. Wish I had a larger, better-functioning brain.
Reading: Along with continuing in the novel Headlong by Michael Frayn, which I should finish in the next day or two, I read one self-help book this week, Susan J. Elliott’s Getting Past Your Breakup, which I indeed hope will prove to be self-helpful.
Viewing: My coolness toward film watching continued this week, as I only watched a couple of documentaries: InnSaei, a somewhat muddled exploration of intuition and mindfulness, and 10 Questions for the Dalai Lama. It’s never a bad idea to spend some time listening to the Dalai Lama.
Listening: It has once again been a listening week dedicated to the music I needed to write about for my program note projects. This time, it was the contents of the concluding concerts of the Reno Chamber Orchestra’s current season: Beethoven’s concert aria Ah! perfido and Antonín Dvořák’s Stabat Mater.
Blogging: My blogging goals seem to have settled into the idea of doing two extended pieces per week, along with a Wordless Wednesday and a Sunday Salon. I usually feel fairly good if I can manage that much. And this week, I succeeded, producing:
Pondering: This has been another of those weeks where pondering, thinking, anticipating, remembering, dreaming … they’ve all turned out to be more harmful than helpful. Living in the present moment, which is all we’ve got after all, without judging and evaluating and comparing seems to be a more beneficial way to go.
Time and Place: 7:00 a.m. Tuesday, at my main computer. I’m about 48 hours late for my usual Sunday Salon, having taken a couple of days off to celebrate my birthday. But now I’m back with a special Tuesday edition of the Salon.
Viewing: For a change, I’ve been indulging myself a bit on the movie front, largely thanks to Turner Classic Movies. Hammer Studios horror films are a big part of TCM’s Halloween celebration this month, so I’ve been watching fine, atmospheric films like Horror of Dracula and The Curse of Frankenstein. Also in the horror vein, thanks to my friend Jessica, I saw Stephen King’s It at her combination birthday-dinner-Halloween movie party. On the non-horror front, thanks to MUBI, I also saw a relative rarity by Luis Buñuel, La mort en ce jardin (Death in the Garden).
Reading: I’m currently continuing with the same three books that I had underway last week: Elena Ferrante’s My Brilliant Friend, Thupten Jinpa’s A Fearless Heart, and Julia Cameron’s The Right to Write.
Listening: While I haven’t been listening to much music, I’ve been enjoying a couple of podcasts that I am happy to recommend: Myths and Legends, featuring modern re-tellings of mythological tales from around the world, and my current favorite, You Must Remember This, “the secret and/or forgotten history of Hollywood’s first century.”
Blogging: I was reasonably active last week, posting…
* An article on the Tripitaka Koreana, a set of 13th century woodblocks containing some of the world’s oldest Buddhist texts
* A look at Apitchatpong Weerasethakul’s film Cemetery of Splendor
* Norman Mailer’s Lego City
* Shinji Tsuchimochi’s wonderful 100 Views of Tokyo
* A cool photo of Harry Partch and his instruments
Pondering: Yesterday I embarked on the second half of my sixth decade on the planet. In other words, I turned 56. I don’t know that this is a particularly noteworthy achievement, but that I have managed to avoid major health problems and actually feel fairly decent at such an advanced age is a positive. I don’t think I’ve wasted my life thus far, either, and I hope to continue that trend. As it happens, I share my birthday with George Crumb, who turned 87 yesterday – Happy Birthday to the great composer! (Fun fact – George Crum, minus the “b,” a nineteenth century New York-based chef and travel guide, was the inventor of the potato chip.)
Anticipating: The World Series is about to get underway, leading me to post the following on Facebook a few days ago: “The Chicago Cubs came into being in 1870 as the Chicago White Stockings, and were one of the original eight National League teams when the League formed in 1876 (they officially became the Cubs in 1906). The Cleveland Indians started life as the Grand Rapids Rustlers in 1894, and as the Cleveland Bluebirds became one of the original eight American League teams in 1901 (the Indians nickname was adopted in 1915). I love baseball history! Two of the oldest of all baseball franchises go to the World Series!”
Gratuitous Van Lingle Mungo Reference: Thinking of baseball history leads me, inevitably, to Van Lingle Mungo. Along with a pretty decent career that included three All Star Team selections, 120 career wins, and leading the National League in strikeouts (with 238) in 1936, Mungo has been immortalized by Dave Frishberg in a classic song, the lyrics of which are entirely made up of the names of baseball players from the past. Few of those names, however, are as sonorous as Van Lingle Mungo.
Reading: As always, I have multiple books underway right now. With all the recent furor surrounding the supposed “unmasking” of the formerly pseudonymous Elena Ferrante (here’s a fine summary and commentary by Dayna Tortorici from n+1), I decided it was about time for me to see what all the acclaim her Neapolitan Novels have received is all about. Halfway through the first volume, My Brilliant Friend, I can begin to see why so many readers are enthusiastic. Along with that, I am currently reading A Fearless Heart: How the Courage to Be Compassionate Can Transform Our Lives by Thupten Jinpa (the Dalai Lama’s English translator). To help push me forward in my writing endeavors, I’m also slowly working my way through Julia Cameron’s The Right to Write.
Viewing: There hasn’t been too much film viewing recently. I did finally watch for the second time Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s Cemetery of Splendour, and loved it again (as I pretty much always love his films). I’ll be writing about it soon. I also watched The Innocents on Turner Classic Movies last night, and, aside from wondering if Deborah Kerr was quite the right actress to be playing the governess, thought the film was wonderfully dark and atmospheric. Tonight, TCM is showing a couple of the Hammer Studios Frankenstein films, and I’ll probably be there.
Listening: Julia Wolfe’s Pulitzer Prize-winning Anthracite Fields impressed me as much as I’d hoped it would. More to follow in this space soon, probably later this week.
Blogging: Last week was comparatively slow for the blog, although some good stuff got started and is in the pipeline. I did manage to post…
Pondering: I try not to ponder too much. Thinking hurts my brain.
Anticipating: This is the week for the launching of FilmStruck, the new collaborative venture for Turner Classic Movies and the Criterion Collection. With its mix of foreign and independent films, not to mention the Criterion Collection itself, it’s likely I won’t be able to resist subscribing. Impressions will surely follow soon.
As the world celebrates the fiftieth anniversary of the airing of the first Star Trek episode on September 8, 1966, I think it’s worth taking a moment to acknowledge one of the lesser-known parts of the Star Trek universe, Star Trek: The Animated Series. Created, like the original Star Trek, by Gene Roddenberry, The Animated Series (I’ll also call it TAS) was originally known simply as Star Trek, or The Animated Adventures of Gene Roddenberry’s Star Trek. Twenty-two half-hour episodes were produced over 1973 and 1974 by Filmation, directed by Hal Sutherland (the sixteen episodes of season 1) and Bill Reed (the six of season 2).
Fan pressure after the cancellation of Star Trek: The Original Series (which we’ll sometimes call TOS) led to The Animated Series. They couldn’t return to doing more live-action television because the sets and other props from the original series had already been destroyed or given away, and creating new ones was deemed too expensive. TAS wasn’t terribly successful in the ratings and was canceled after just two seasons. But it was, oddly enough, the first production in the Star Trek franchise to win an Emmy Award, winning a Daytime Emmy in 1975 for “Best Children’s Series” (beating out Captain Kangaroo and The Pink Panther).
With the exception of Walter Koenig (Chekov), all the familiar actors from TOS were again present: William Shatner (Kirk), Leonard Nimoy (Spock), DeForest Kelley (McCoy), James Doohan (Scotty), Nichelle Nichols (Uhura), George Takei (Sulu), and Majel Barrett (Nurse Chapel and the Enterprise computer). Doohan and Barrett, in fact, did double duty, as they provided the voices for the two new alien members of the crew – Lieutenant Arex, an Edosian with three arms and three legs; and Lieutenant M’Ress, a rather feline Caitian – as well as many other guest characters. Nichols also contributed her voice to some additional characters. Originally, Nichols and Takei were not going to be hired for budgetary reasons. Leonard Nimoy apparently insisted that they be included, refusing to take part unless they were.
Other guest actors from TOS also provided voices for animated return appearances by their characters, including Mark Lenard as Spock’s father Sarek, Roger C. Carmel as Harcourt Fenton Mudd, and Stanley Adams as Cyrano Jones (Ted Knight, soon famous as anchorman Ted Baxter in The Mary Tyler Moore show, also turned up as a guest voice). While Koenig wasn’t one of the voice actors, he contributed by writing one of the episodes, “The Infinite Vulcan” – he was the first cast member to write for the series.
Even though it aired on Saturday morning, TAS was designed at least as much for adults as for children. The writers, many of whom also wrote for TOS, used the same “series bible,” or writers’ guide, that had been created for television. On the one hand, animation allowed for a wider range of aliens, spaceships, and planets. But on the other, the budget for the series was not huge, and the overall animation quality is not of the highest. Even so, TAS really does feel like an extension of the original series, and is often every bit as entertaining.
Not only the characters, but many story-lines, incidents, and locations from the original series reappear in TAS. David Gerrold, who wrote the famous “The Trouble with Tribbles” episode in the original series, created a sequel for TAS, “More Tribbles, More Troubles.” (Gerrold, incidentally, also gave Captain Kirk his middle name, Tiberius, here.) Likewise, TAS’s “Once Upon a Planet” was a sequel to the original “Shore Leave,” and “Mudd’s Passion” a sequel to “Mudd’s Women” and “I, Mudd.”
References forward and backward in the Star Trek universe appear in The Animated Series. For instance, the time portal that appeared in the original series episode “The City on the Edge of Forever” reappears in the animated “Yesteryear” – written by D.C. Fontana, who also wrote episodes for TOS as well as Star Trek: The Next Generation. Looking forward, something very similar to The Next Generation‘s holodeck is introduced in the animated series episode “The Practical Joker,” where it is simply called the “Recreation Room.”
For many years, TAS was barely acknowledged as part of the Star Trek universe; Gene Roddenberry apparently didn’t take the series very seriously. Gradually, little references to The Animated Series started turning up in Deep Space Nine and Enterprise. Only in 2007 did information about The Animated Series appear at the official Star Trek website, and it is now accepted as part of the official Star Trek “canon.”
Unfortunately, there don’t seem to be any complete TAS episodes available online, although I’ve included a couple of short clips here. The entire series is, however, available on Netflix. Watching a couple of episodes again recently, even with the somewhat dated animation and the restrictions of having only a half-hour to work with, I found them entirely entertaining. I would like to think that most Star Trek fans are already acquainted with Star Trek: The Animated Series. But if not, do check it out soon.