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Dunkirk Done Right

Today, 79 years ago, the siege at Dunkirk was at its savage height

The small screen managed to do a better job of it than the big screen

I wanted to recommend a VERY good dramatization about Dunkirk that I saw recently – and I do not mean the cinematic Twilight Zone episode that got all the hype two years ago.
 
It is a three-part mini-series (three hours in total) from 2004, which is currently on Britbox. But it may be findable elsewhere.
 
Part docudrama narrated by Timothy Dalton, part scripted drama, it gives a much better idea of what a shitstorm it really was, compared to the artistic license version we saw in the cinemas.
 
And Benedict Cumberbatch is featured in the last part, when he was just starting to be recognized as someone special. “Bennie” loses his celebrity status quickly and is truly terrific as one of the real-life lions in those dark hours.
 
Not that the 2017 film wasn’t a good movie. But as my review puts it back in the day, it was a creative way to try to tell the re-examined metaphysical tale, rather than spend the zillions required to tell the actual one.
 
And in case you haven’t seen the movie yet, my review doesn’t spoil very much at all.
 

Talking Heads

Live from Rome, 1980, Talking Heads featuring Adrian Belew

Hypnotic, Exhilarating, and Far Too Long Ago

Talking Heads had been together for five years at the time this concert film was shot. There is as much time between this performance and today as between this performance and the Attack on Pearl Harbor.

The band’s sneak attack on conventional popular music ultimately changed the musical world order, as ripples of the post-Punk revolution were felt ever afterwards. It could be said this was Talking Heads at their peak, just before they took a hiatus and returned as a slicker, well-established music industry entity that appears in Johnathan Demme’s cinematic release Stop Making Sense.

By this time, the core members of the band were supplemented with many more human components that gelled into one of the most original and influential contemporary concert acts of their time. This included the exuberant anarchy of guitarist Adrian Belew, whose compelling fretboard antics continued to be imitated by other Talking Heads guitarists (and elsewhere) after he moved on to other musical horizons.

Happy 70th Birthday to Jerry Harrison!

 

James Dean Wilson Brings Famous Faces to Life

“Mona Lisa had the Highway Blues, you can tell by the way she smiles.”

Delightful as they are awesome, visual artist James Dean Wilson seemingly breathes three-dimensional life into these two-dimensional masterpieces, if for a few brief, breathtaking moments.

These marvelous video manipulations renew the humanity in iconic works of art, considered masterpieces specifically because of the humanity captured by the painters and sculptor who created them in the first place.

James Dean Wilson has also brought to life portraits of Elizabeth I and her father Henry VIII, in addition to other subjects.

Check out his YouTube channel HERE

And his Facebook page HERE

Merlin Fragments Discovered – predate known English versions

Very early depiction of Merlin and King Arthur found by accident

Seven leaves of parchment from the 1200s discovered in 15th-century book at Bristol Central Library

Despite England’s obsession with the mythic King Arthur, the original legends surrounding that mysterious figure come from France. The newly uncovered fragments refer to the preparations for a battle near Trebes, by the South Riviera, where the king’s wizard Merlin and various legendary knights faced off against the forces of King Claudas. They contain details and variations different from all known versions of the Vulgate Continuation of Merlin (Suite Vulgate de Merlin,) from the larger Story of Merlin (Estoire de Merlin,) and predate any known English language telling of these tales.

Merlin fragments found

Photo: University of Bristol

Press release issued: 30 January 2019

Centuries lost ‘Bristol Merlin’ uncovered at city’s Central Library

A chance discovery, hidden away in a series of 16th-century books deep in the archive of Bristol Central Library, has revealed original manuscript fragments from the Middle Ages which tell part of the story of Merlin the magician, one of the most famous characters from Arthurian legend.

Academics from the Universities of Bristol and Durham are now analysing the seven parchment fragments which are thought to come from the Old French sequence of texts known as the Vulgate Cycle or Lancelot-Grail Cycle, dating back to the 13th century.

Parts of the Vulgate Cycle were probably used by Sir Thomas Malory (1415-1471) as a source for his Le Morte D’Arthur (published in 1485 by William Caxton) which is itself the main source text for many modern retellings of the Arthurian legend in English, but no one version known so far has proven to be exactly alike with what he appears to have used.

In addition, one of the most exciting elements of this particular find is that the Bristol fragments contain evidence of subtle, but significant, differences from the traditional narrative of the stories.  

The seven hand-written parchment fragments were discovered by Michael Richardson from the University of Bristol’s Special Collections Library who was looking for materials for students studying the history of the book for the new MA in Medieval Studies.

They were found bound inside a four-volume edition of the works of the French scholar and reformer Jean Gerson (1363-1429) and, recognising a number of familiar Arthurian names, Michael contacted Dr Leah Tether, President of the International Arthurian Society (British Branch), from Bristol’s Department of English to see if the finds were in any way significant.

Read the full Merlin fragments discovery article at the University of Bristol website

Robert Burns, why Burns Nights still matter, and should

Today is the 260th anniversary of the birth of poet Robert Burns.

While I have not attended a formal Burns Night Supper in years, I still celebrate in my own way, each and every year.

This evening, I am taken

back several years to the Immortal Memory given by my scholarly university mate, Thomas Keith, at a public Burns Supper given at the First Presbyterian Church on 5th Avenue, in Greenwich Village.

Today is the 206th anniversary of the birth of poet Robert Burns.
 
While I have not attended a formal Burns Night Supper in years, I still celebrate in my own way, each and every year.
 
This evening, I am taken back to the Immortal Memory given by my scholarly university mate, Thomas Keith, at a public Burns Supper given at the First Presbyterian Church on 5th Avenue, in Greenwich Village.
 
Therein, Thomas dispelled the stereotypical image of Burns as a hard drinking libertine (by those who associate him with the old Scots comic songs he collected and sometimes rewrote) by presenting detailed analysis of the poet’s working life and family life, and the sheer volume of his literary life.
 
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Tallinn, Estonia

Burns can be a difficult read for many Americans these days, given how much of it is written in dialect. What is easy to grasp and relate to is the poet’s theme of romantic love. But what make Burns immortal are his liberal themes of universal equality and social justice.

 
That is what people like Lincoln and Emerson found so inspiring. And that is why he remains revered wherever there have been popular revolts against oppressive rulers, from the former Soviet satellites to Latin America. And why there are more statues and memorials to Burns in the USA than anywhere else outside of Scotland; even then if only lesser by one.
 
He grew up when slavery was still legal in Scotland. And like Lincoln, he was mainly home-educated and worked at extremely hard agrarian labor from an early age. And both men could relate to the plight of those in bondage who were paid nothing, and those of the lowest freemen whose backbreaking life profited only their landlords, with little hope of improving the tenant farmer’s lot.
 
And at this troubling period in our own time, his observations on those on high whose character and true worth are in no way on par with their status can really hit home.
 
He is appreciated to this day for being ahead of his time when supporting both the American and French Revolutions, when that was a most unpopular position in the UK and the rest of Europe.
 
And here in this article, a Scotsman argues that Burns’ impact on American culture goes beyond the songs of Bob Dylan to having a direct hand in ending slavery here and in a deep influence on American poetry itself.
 
But that is not why we have Burns Night Suppers, really.
 
We do it because how how we relate so clearly to his love and celebration of life’s simple yet profound pleasures, often residing and reflected in “objects in nature around me that are in unison or harmony with the cogitations of my fancy and workings of my bosom.”
 
That is what brings a tear to the eye, when one is surrounded by their boon companions, reflecting on the joy of the moment and the sheer profundity of our fleeting lives.
 
His sincere belief in the brotherhood of mankind is why we gather around the globe, in small cottages and extravagant halls, in every hemisphere and on every continent, on this night or whenever we can find the time go meet, and lament that “Young Rabbie” only lived to be 37 years of age, and why we celebrate the eighteenth-century Scotsman whom we like to believe would have liked us as much as we are sure we would have liked him, and who would have accepted our invitation to join us at our table, to raise a glass and sing a song, or seven.
 
To the immortal memory…

“Sláinte!”

R.I.P Sister Wendy Beckett

The art historian, Catholic nun was 88

Every time she opened her mouth, Sister Wendy Beckett made me happy.

Like Thomas Becket centuries before, Sister Wendy Beckett devoted her life to the Church of Rome. But she also gave the gift of art appreciation to millions who watched her on television in the 1990s, first in a series called Odyssey, and later in the History of Painting.

I would often stumble upon her programs while channel surfing, but I was always glad I stuck around to see what she happened to be discussing at that particular moment.

Do yourself a favor and start watching this first episode from the History of Painting (1996.)

I never knew much about her other than her TV programs. Like for instance, she lived in a camping trailer, what in England is called a caravan, on the grounds of a monastery in Norfolk.

For those interested in learning more, here is the BBC’s official obituary

 

Winter Solstice – birth and rebirth

Io, Saturnalia!

Annum novem faustem felicem vobis!!

Saturnalia Solstice

The Winter Solstice begins at 5:23PM, Brooklyn, New York time.

At the death and reincarnation of the natural year, I am happy to announce a return to regularly scheduled blogging!

I have been undergoing a couple of years of troubling issues that impacted my ability to spend much time writing and typing, and playing the guitar – the three things I can do well enough to earn some sort of living.

At the moment some of the various therapies I have undergone are allowing me to risk doing such things more often and, hopefully, henceforth and ever after, as much as time and tendons allow.

At this the darkest time for the northern hemisphere, and in many ways the darkest time that America and the entire planet have seen perhaps ever since humans walked here, I am wishing for a brighter, happier year ahead for all, and the ability to cherish peace, love, hope, healing, charity, and open-hearted, open-minded tolerance, while wishing for all the strength to resist, endure, and ultimately overcome the baser human weakness toward war, hate, despair, greed, pollution, and heartless close-minded bigotry.

Many of our secular Christmas traditions of gift giving and good will come from the joyous celebrations within the Roman festival of Saturnalia, which the historian Catullus called “the best of days.”

Here’s to hoping our best days still lie ahead, and will arrive sooner than we can yet imagine.

 

Armistice Day Essay

While we dedicate this day to honor all veterans, the reason we do it on this specific day should never be taken for granted. The eleventh hour on the eleventh day of the eleventh month was when the First World War came to its official close, back in 1918. One hundred years ago today.

The end of a war should be commemorated, with giving thanks and celebration, both. Just as its beginning should never be forgotten, while we mourn all that was lost during the war.

Anyone who went to war will have their own personal sacrifice to live with, if they were fortunate enough to live through it in the first place. One does not have to serve in a frontline unit end up in harm’s way, but only the veterans who served in actual combat know the full measure of such service. And yet, we can all know that such events give good reason to mark the end of wars, lest we forget what happens in them.

onemanz.com ww1

My grandfathers leather flying helmet and U.S. Navy Air Station “flat hat.”

The Great War of 1914-1918 remains unique in our collective history. Tactics developed during the American Civil War and the Franco-Prussian War met and were bested by modern weaponry capable of horrors never before visited upon mankind. The results exceed what civilized humans can imagine.

In one battle alone, on the River Somme, there were over one million casualties, with 310,486 killed outright and many more dying in the coming months as a result of their wounds. On a single day in 1916 the British army lost over 57,000 men in one engagement. Such numbers make the American losses on D-Day seem like footnotes. The losses of the French and Germans during the many battles around Verdun are beyond comprehension. And they kept at it; bravely charging into the face death again and again.

On the whole, the world had never seen anything like it. Unfortunately we cannot say such things were never seen again.

Today the 11th November is referred to as Veterans Day and has been expanded to remember and honor all veterans who served their country ever since, in peacetime and in war. That is a good thing…

1912 U.S. Sailors Armistice Day

Read the Full Essay