Tag Archives: Alex Ross

Das Cinegold

One of my summertime must-sees is the new Terrence Malick film, The Tree of Life. Along with his instinct for gorgeously shot images, Malick shares with Stanley Kubrick a genius for using music — found music, usually classical — to create moods. The opening of The New World, set to the opening of Wagner’s Das Rheingold is a case in point:

One of the boldest choices in Malick’s 1973 debut feature, Badlands, was the use of  Carl Orff’s”Gassenhauer” to give the film a feeling out of time. Only once does his use a Fifties vintage song, and his austere approach guarantees it has plenty of impact.

In the scene where Kit and Holly burn down her house after killing her father, the beauty of the imagery is sometimes too much — you worry about losing the horror of what’s happening. But that is precisely Malick’s point: Kit and Holly live in their own world, with Holly providing a narration cobbled from romantic cliches and movie-magazine gossip.They are so divorced from the reality of their atrocities that Kit’s affable greeting every time they meet a potential victim becomes devastatingly creepy.

Judging from this trailer (and this tasty preview from Alex Ross) The Tree of Life will be a similar orgy of classical and original music. Judging from the trailer, some of the music is overly familiar but still capable of giving pleasure: it’s been ages since I listened to “The Moldau,” but the passage here reminded me of long-ago days when Smetana’s music flowed through the house. I can’t wait to experience this movie.

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Friday finds

Proportion Wheel

Illustrator blog site Drawger presents The Museum of Forgotten Art Supplies, some of which I still use regularly. (You can take my Rapidographs when you pry them from my cold dead fingers.) Others bring back dread memories of the days when newspaper pages were assembled on flats, with stories and veloxed photos printed as blocks and strips of paper and fed through waxers by pasteup artists. This hand-held waxer, for example, was enough to give Torquemada nightmares: that little red plug was often loose or missing entirely, allowing hot wax to splash across the hand of an unwary paster-upper. How about this Freddy Kreuger manicurist set used to cut and transfer itty-bitty strips of type? Hard to believe I used to enjoy working with this stuff — I even became quite a dab hand with the proportion wheel pictured up top.        

David Bordwell has some advice for scholarly authors.

Where would Pulitzer Prize-winning music writer Alex Ross go if he had a time machine?

The bus ride up is not for cardiac patients. I nearly shat myself four times in 20 minutes, what with the switchbacks and the crumbly one-lane roads with buses running two directions. Several times we inched painfully close to the ravine to allow another bus to pass, and I could stare straight down several thousand feet at the rusting carcasses of previous, less lucky buses. I can only hope the folks aboard died on the way down.”

Author and cult figure Ayn Rand was a huge fan of Charlie’s Angels. In fact, she wanted Farrah Fawcett to play Dagny Taggart if a movie version of Rand’s novel Atlas Shrugged ever got off the ground. 

Frederik Pohl on the hazards of chemically assisted writing.

“Photographs of the novelist Kingsley Amis, taken between his fiftieth Kingsley Amisbirthday in April 1972 and his death in October 1995, sometimes show a resplendent sheen on his forehead, nose, and cheeks. This is what some people call ‘sweat alcohol,’ a common problem among heavy drinkers of shorts and beer. On both of the occasions on which I had the pleasure to meet this funny and distinguished man, he drank whisky throughout lunch and by the afternoon was wearing that slightly bewildered, slightly aggressive, slightly penitent expression known as the ‘Scotch gaze,’ a look familiar to all who have walked the streets of Glasgow or Aberdeen at closing time on a Friday night. It is an expression curiously unique to whisky drinkers. You can often tell a man’s tipple just by looking at him.”

Now that you know what bully sticks are, how do you feel about giving one of them to your dog?

Hanif Kureishi on the rigors of adapting his second novel, The Black Album, for a stage version.

Are you a female debut author whose book will be released from a major publisher between September 2009 and September 2010? Then you might want to join The Debutante Ball class of 2010.

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Friday finds


This image of the recent space shuttle launch is just one of a collection of great Twitter images gathered here that show the launch from all kinds of perspectives. The backyard photos have a real Ray Bradbury “Rocket Summer” feel to them. And as long as we’re watching the skies, here’s a nifty slide show on the history of the telescope.

William Zinsser on writing (and rewriting) On Writing Well.

Are you ready to learn the secret of the mother of all funk chords?

“All real narrators are unreliable.  That is a great strength: it is realistic.  Another is that one can hint at things left hidden.  A third is that you can reveal in Chapter 19 something that was hidden in Chapter 9.  Please don’t ask for examples.”

You’ve heard the band, now drink the wine.

I’ve already linked to this post once before but I’m doing it again because I think the writer has really captured something about this band’s greatness.

I’m sorry. I know I should be open-minded about such things, but really . . . this is just so sad.

Alex Ross has heard the upcoming Bob Dylan album and the word is good: “There’s a fantastically chilling, end-of-one’s-rope number called ‘Forgetful Heart,’ which has this Kafkaesque image: ‘The door has closed dylan-through-lifeforevermore / If indeed there ever was a door.’ But the sadness of the scene is lightened by sweet-sounding arrangements (mandolin, accordion, and violin fill out the band) and by flashes of wit (“Down by the river Judge Simpson walking around / Nothing shocks me more than that old clown”). Some up-tempo, old-time rockers also keep the night terrors at bay.” Allan Jones agrees: “Together Through Life gets in your face immediately – with the wallop of the cheerfully-titled ‘Beyond Here Lies Nothin”, which is driven by spectacular drumming and massed horns, a trumpet prominently featured – and over the course of its 10 tracks doesn’t back off, doesn’t appear to even think about doing so, Dylan’s voice throughout an unfettered roar, a splendid growl.” And Bill Vogt is taking a trip down memory lane with the bootlegs in his life.

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Friday finds

Caustic Cover Critic offers a beautiful roundup of Geoff Grandfield’s noir cover designs and illustrations for various editions of Graham Greene’s “entertainments” and other books. Personally, I think the black and white interior illustrations (such as the one above, which I assume is from The Power and the Glory) are the best of the bunch. Grandfield’s work on these Raymond Chandler special editions is also nothing to sneeze at.     

Show of hands, please. How many people remember Welsh artist Kit Williams and his Masquerade challenge? For some reason, the Great Minneapolis Octopus Hunt reminded me of the search for the golden hare. 

The perfect vacation destination for the typographer in your family.

Michael Swanwick’s post about the power of words has gotten me re-reading Samuel R. Delany’s short stories. Which goes to prove his point.

Liz and Dick, Kurt and Courtney, Brad and Angelina . . . Sylvia and Ted?

Apparently the Federation of Light did not make its scheduled appearance in the skies. Wow . . . didn’t see that one not coming. (Maybe this was the Federation that Blossom Goodchild had in mind.) Anyway, we all know that flying saucers came here a few decades ago.

The news that Paul Krugman had won the Nobel Prize in economics had heads exploding the length and breadth of right-wing punditry and blogitry. Here’s your chance to pick the winner from “the five most impressive spontaneous human combustions” tracked in the wingersphere.  

An international team is preparing to study the Gamburtsevs, a puzzling mountain range buried deep beneath the Antarctic ice. “You can almost think about it as exploring another planet – but on Earth,” said Dr Fausto Ferraccioli from the British Antarctic Survey. “This region is a complete enigma. It’s in the middle of the continent. Most mountain ranges are on the edges of continents, and we really can’t understand what these mountains are doing in the centre.” I can think of at least one explanation.

Now that music writer Alex Ross has won a MacArthur Foundation genius grant, you’ll want to listen to excerpts from some of the music he describes in his book The Rest Is Noise

What is generative music? And why am I not surprised that Brian Eno is involved with it? The Guardian article is worth reading simply for the news that when Music for Airports, Eno’s first collection of ambient music, was finally played in an airport, “people complained of nameless, gnawing anxieties – not what one needs moments before boarding an aeroplane.”

From the Roman Empire to the steps of a bankrupt Icelandic bank — follow the verbs.

What would you rather do: Attend a Baltimore City Language Arts professional development session, or get poked in the eye with a flaming stick? You want some time to think it over? I understand.

There have been two recent films based on the poem Beowulf. The good professor reviews the one you ought to see.

In memoriam, Neal Hefti: composer of television themes that, once heard, cannot be forgotten.

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