Volcano Choir – Repave

f30d71739522f955027111f738cef64dSomeone once said of New Yorker stories, that the chief editor said they must leave the reader with a handle to carry the story with them when they are finished. I’ve always thought this was a terrific analogy to leaving the reader with something to feel, see, reflect, love, hate, weep, laugh.

I’ve just finished my first listen to Volcano Choir’s new effort – Repave. It was like my first experience with Bon Iver’s For Emma Forever Ago. I am speechless and moved. It is filled with such grace and passion that it’s impossible to not start it immediately all over again to delve deeper into the cadences and beauty.

Music this extraordinary rarely happens. My expectations for Repave were extremely high based on Justin Vernon’s previous efforts and it delivers more than I had hoped. It simply is astonishing.

And like all great short stories, it leaves you wanting more, but gives you a handle to hold on to – and this handle contains a world of emotion.

Stream the entire album here: http://www.npr.org/2013/08/18/210220081/first-listen-volcano-choir-repave

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Before Midnight

before-midnightThe “Before” trilogy of films has been far more satisfying to me than any other trilogy over the past 20 years. Before Midnight is an extraordinarily deft and intelligent study of a marriage that is going through changes both good and bad, and how the couple will navigate through it. Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy are so natural and elegantly suited to each other that you forget that they really aren’t together in real life.

Built really upon four distinct scenes that create back-story, the history of where and what they’ve been doing since we last saw them in Before Sunrise and how each of them are dealing with the stresses of parenthood and their romance. There is the “car scene” where we learn of what’s happened. The “dinner party” is when we begin to understand where they are in their relationship. The “stroll” which cements their love for each other in the viewers eyes and in their own. And then the “hotel room” scene where their marriage fractures and fissures, which, by now are deeply felt by everyone involved. These are two amazing performances for their naturalness and candor. It sometimes feels like we’re eavesdropping, which is a stunning achievement.

Before Midnight, like its predecessors, is deeply romantic, but in a real sense – not some Nicholas Sparks simplistic trope, but in a way of how real people challenge and explore each other: cajoling, needling, hurting, loving, laughing, learning, defending and believing in the eternal love you feel when you meet the right person no matter the differences that do come up.

It’s the best film of 2013 so far. And, sadly, in a class by itself in this summer of Superhero blockbusters. Go see it and be moved.

Pippin on Broadway

PIP-0003M-640x300Recently, while in New York, I was able to see PIPPIN (watch the video linked here), a musical I’ve been wanting to see since my youth since it opened on Broadway when I was in high school. I remember watching The Ben Vereen Show on TV because of his extraordinary performance as the Leading Player, which won him a Tony Award in 1972.

PIPPIN has been a beloved Broadway score by Stephen Schwartz by millions of people, and has been a key music produced in colleges and high schools across the country. Bob Fosse’s signature style of dance elevated the 1972 production to that of a classic.

The new revival of the play by Diane Paulus, who also revived HAIR and PORGY AND BESS has a knack for breathing life into musicals who’s historical runs ended years ago, and have taken on a sort of mystical air. It takes a brave and brilliant soul to mess with these musical war horses and I’m delighted to have experienced all three of her revivals.

But PIPPIN remains, for me, a touchstone musical, mainly for the score – and more precisely – for the songs, “Corner of the Sky” and “Morning Glow.” Two beautiful and moving songs that spoke to me at my young age. Watching them a few weeks ago brought back all those feelings and memories of growing up.

Aside from the music, this revival includes circus acts, a fine cast and a set that reveals itself to be beautiful, but illusive itself. It’s a stroke of genius because, when everything is finally stripped away, there is only ourselves.

The Place Beyond the Pines

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The Place Beyond the Pines, to me, is the first great film of 2013. Set in Schenectady, NY amid various classes and men, the film weaves together three generations, but aims at the relationships of fathers and sons.

Derek Cianfrance (Blue Valentine) has made a minor epic propelled by stellar performances and a palpable dread that infuses almost every scene, which keeps you riveted for its entire running length of 2 hours and 20 minutes.

Eva Mendes, who has the difficult task of being almost the sole female in the cast, isbrilliant for being at a loss as to what to do about the circumstances she finds herself in and the deceit swirling around her.

I loved how the camera moved through the scenes: from the very first time we see Ryan Gosling almost glide with confidence from his trailer,through the carnival and into a tent, we watch how the director probes each scene for nuance whether it’s a tattoo or a dangling cigarette.

It’s novelistic in its approach, revealing characters and lives set in motion by tragedy. I hope it has a long life beyond the theater and will become a minor classic.

Once Again, Shame on Our Senate

memorial182way_wide-fac1c51137f78550cfe70161d1def6fa17d3e6d0-s6-c10I think every Senator who voted NO on background checks should have the experience of being held up at gunpoint and knifepoint like I was many years ago when I was living in Los Angeles. Maybe then they would understand the fear that an experience like that engenders. The kids who held me up were no older than 25, most likely showing their mettle as part of a gang, and most likely I was just one victim in their life of crime. Or maybe the Senators should spend a day walking in the shoes of a parent, sister, brother, loved one or friend who’s lost someone to gun violence. They wouldn’t have to look very far at all.

Those that believe that background checks for every gun purchase – online, at a store or gun show – isn’t necessary is missing the point. You have to show your ID to buy Sudafed, a prescription, to walk into a bar, to use your credit card. There would simply be some traceable record of that gun and it’s connection to the purchaser, and maybe it might save the life of one person, or several lives inside a theatre or school because that person may think for a moment about the repercussions of easily being caught.

For those who believe that we should just enforce the laws we have now, please, show me the ones we are supposed to enforce – like the one where felons are not supposed to have guns? That one? Laughable. They can buy a gun at a gun show. Or steal one of the millions upon millions we have in this country. We are the most violent country in the world – and for good reason. We own the most guns – and guns kill. I’ve read about several accidental deaths lately of fathers losing sons and vice versa. That would not have happened, and that family wouldn’t be going through the trauma and grief they are going through now if there wasn’t a gun in the house.

We have had a shameful Congress for far too long now on a variety of issues. Don’t you think it’s time that we begin to rethink the people who are being elected and vote for those people whose intelligence and compassion outweigh their need to line their pockets?

Mountains

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I always draw inspiration for writing and solitude from the mountains. My work is rife with mountain imagery and water.

Today’s excursion to Twin Falls in the Central Cascades was no different. A glorious day and abundant water made the falls spectacular. Lucky I brought the big camera to take some photos.