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Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Larry King Is Hanging Up His Suspenders

The legendary CNN star is decided to put an end to his Larry King Live. So many monarchs, and presidents, and celebrities of all kind, all approached with his formidable style of an average Brooklyn guy... the parade seemed endless. It lasted 25 years.

Well, Larry King announced last Tuesday that he would hang up his suspenders as nightly host.

Read more in this Washington Post column (the images are also captured from there):



Tuesday, June 29, 2010

A Video with Neshani, the Poem of Sohrab Sepehri

Some time ago I posted on the blog Neshani, the famous poem of Sohrab Sepehri. I found today this video. Meanwhile I succeeded to find Kiarostami's Khane-ye doust kodjast?, a movie that, among other things, offers a cinematic vision based on Sepehri's poem (it's not the only movie of Kiarostami referring this poem; I spoke here about The Wind Will Carry Us)

The verses are of such beauty that I will give you again the English version here:

The rider asked in the twilight, Where is the friend's house?
Heaven paused
The passer by bestowed the flood of light on his lips to the darkness of sands,
and pointed to a poplar and said:

Near the tree,
Is a garden-line greener than God's dream
Where love is bluer than the feathers of honesty.
Walk to the end of the lane, which emerges from behind the puberty,
then turn towards the flower of solitude,
two steps to the flower,
stay by the eternal mythological fountain of earth,
where a transparent fear will visit you,
in the flowing intimacy of the space you will hear a rustling sound,
you will see a child,
Who has ascended a tall plane tree to pick up chicks from the nest of light,
ask him:
Where is the friend's house?

(Iranian Film and Poetry)


Monday, June 28, 2010

New from Arvid: A Few of My Favorite Things

Celebrating the summer with friends is always a welcome adventure, but none more so than getting together with the Wine Club of Thomas Arvid. I met him once and it was a great moment. And I met with his paintings many times, before and after meeting him in person. And I think that when you have a glass of wine, you need to drink it with the heart of Arvid: then it becomes pure joy.

(P&C Art)


Friday, June 25, 2010

Crazy Wedding Pictures

Bride and Groom Boxing


Groomzilla and His Bride


Friday, June 18, 2010

Doubt, The Movie and the Case

I missed this movie when it was released a couple of years ago. I watched it recently on tv: Doubt, made in 2008 by John Patrick Shanley. I think there are two distinct cases to discuss: the case in the movie; the case about the movie.

The case in the movie: it is 1964 and in a Catholic school in Bronx a conflict erupts between the principal (Meryl Streep) and the priest (Philip Seymour Hoffman). The principal is Sister Aloysius, a nun very strict about the discipline. The priest, Father Flynn, is just the opposite, a very natural guy, open to people and to the world. The nun suspects him of pedophilia. The suspicion will never be confirmed, never thrown away. Eventually it's up to us to decide, and our role of spectators is played in the movie by Sister James (Amy Adams), a younger nun who is trying to understand what really is, oscillating between the two. By the way, genial idea of using male names for the Catholic nuns, to stress out the strictness of their rules.

The case about the movie: the epoch Doubt was made and the epoch the picture takes place are very different. The sixties were the years of Vatican II; the Catholic Church was opening largely its windows. It was the conflict (often merciless) between new and tradition, between progressives and conservatives. That was then. Today the Church is facing the scandals of pedophilia (and the way they are handled by the Catholic hierarchy).

So, if we take the epoch of the sixties, we take the side of Father Flynn, a man open to modernity, empathizing with the young generation, with their questions and their way of seeing the world, speaking the language of his epoch, a wonderful man suspected by a retrograde nun.

Only the movie is made today, for today's viewers, and we are focused on today's issues. So here is the question: once the nun had suspicions that the priest was a pedophile, what was the right way to take? To not follow a case without positive evidence? Or, by the contrary, to follow the case, to force him to come with proofs of his innocence? What was more important: his right to privacy or the safety of the boys?

We can say that the movie leaves the case open. Nothing demonstrates positively that the priest is a pedophile; nothing demonstrates that he isn't.

Well, the movie brings something more: what if? What if the boy is born with another orientation and the priest is just understanding and protecting him? Maybe just because the priest has the same orientation?

There is a key scene in the movie, the discussion between Sister Aloysius and the boy's mother (wonderfully played by Viola Davis), leading to an unexpected outcome.

Doubt: Nun & Mother
(video by MiramaxFilms)

And I think here is the doubt the movie is putting forward: more than the doubt of Sister James (is Father Flynn an abominable pedophile, beyond his openness?), more even than the doubt of Sister Aloysius (was she right in following a man without positive proofs?), there is the doubt of humanity. Human behavior is complex, each human case is unique and cannot be assimilated to a general pattern. Things aren't every time what they look like, we should always consider this question, what if?


Here are some excerpts from the movie:

Doubt: Part 1
(video by junmeskie)

Doubt: Part 2
(video by junmeskie)

Doubt: Part 3
(video by junmeskie)

Doubt: Part 4
(video by junmeskie)



Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Andrzej Munk: Eroica (1958)

Eroica, made in 1958 by Andrzej Munk, is a courageous movie that demythologizes some sacrosanct taboos of Polish history: the heroes of the anti-Nazi Resistance are just humans, with moral weaknesses. History has put them in heroic situations, against their will, and they try to cope somehow; there is a permanent negotiation between their weakness and the imperative of the moment. In the same time their legend is emerging, against the nude truth, and that is because they need their legends for survival.

The movie is composed of two separate stories: Scherzo Alla Pollacca and Ostinato Lugubre.

The copy of the movie that I found is without subtitles; thus I will give you here the synopsis, as rendered by Wikipedia:

Scherzo Alla Pollacca
The first part is a bitter, tragicomic story of Dzidziuś, a street-wise bon-vivant, drunkard, and coward who unwillingly becomes a soldier in the Home Army during the Warsaw Uprising. Dzidziuś wife Zosia is having an affair with a Hungarian officer stationed nearby, and Dzidziuś is ordered to contact the Hungarian unit and convince the officer to join the battle against the Nazis.

Think for comparison at Wajda's Kanal!

Ostinato Lugubre
The second novel is set in a POW camp for Polish soldiers. Lt. Zawistowski, one of the interned soldiers, decides to make an attempt to escape from the camp. While none of his fellow inmates are sure whether he succeeded, his absence upsets the guards and provides hope and inspiration for the rest of prisoners. Soon his legend grows, making him a hero within the camp and helping to boost the prisoners' morale. However, it turns out that Lt. Zawistowski didn't actually follow through on his escape plans, but is hiding in the attic of one of the barracks. It turns out that he was hiding from his colleagues, whose ostentatious patriotism he simply could not stand.

Eroica: Part 1/8
(video by OldFilmPL)

Eroica: Part 2/8
(video by OldFilmPL)

Eroica: Part 3/8
(video by OldFilmPL)

Eroica: Part 4/8
(video by OldFilmPL)

Eroica: Part 5/8
(video by OldFilmPL)

Eroica: Part 6/8
(video by OldFilmPL)

Eroica: Part 7/8
(video by OldFilmPL)

Eroica: Part 8/8
(video by OldFilmPL)


Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Ten Burgers To Eat Before You Die

Ten burgers to eat before you die? It sounds maybe a bit too dramatic, or even pathetic, or, you know, you can say this of Naples (the famous Italian saying, vedi Napoli e poi mori), not necessarily about burgers. And after all, you shouldn't die after eating ten burgers; rather live further and keep on eating.

I found the other day an article on the web about the top ten US burger joints. Actually it's about ten places where you can find such stuff: ten places all over America, from coast to coast. A tavern in the City of Winds near the Great Lakes, a shack in Madison Square Park in Manhattan, a bar in Las Vegas, a bite or something in Santa Fe, a boutique in Atlanta, a drive in in Brentwood (to see what Missouri can show us), a burger house in L.A., another one in San Francisco, a great place in Dallas, and a tub (yes, that's it) in Hollywood (only it's the Hollywood in Florida).

1. Billy Goat Tavern (Chicago, IL)

A goat entered once in the tavern and remained there as a permanent patron. The owner of the place (a Mr. Sianis) took such a liking for the animal that he made it part of the family.

This Mr. Sianis was kind of a fellow: according to Mike Royko (the famous, or rather infamous, Chicago columnist), he was the best tavern keeper in town.

Well, Mr. Sianis (who by now was known as Billy Goat Sianis) was a Chicago Cubs fan, so he decided to buy two tickets for the game and to take the goat with a limo to the stadium. The ushers didn't allow them to pass the gates. Mr. Sianis appealed to the owner of the Cubs, who knew him well. But even the owner was firm: the goat stinks! Mr. Sianis was so upset that he put a curse on the club, to not win any more, never, nada, and the curse worked! The Cubs became for years The Lovable Losers, and Billy Goat Sianis had now good reasons to ask the club owner: well, who stinks now?

You see, the world of baseball is full of such legends, and so is Billy Goat Tavern!

2. Shake Shack (New York, NY)

I 've never been in Chicago, so I'm excused to never visit Billy Goat Tavern, but there is no reason I didn't go yet to Shake Shack: it's in Madison Square Park and I passed by many times. The restaurateur owns also another two eateries, not far from this place (Gramercy Tavern and Union Square Café). Speaking about Gramercy, I was once at Gramercy Theater, invited to a very special screening: Jack Goelman was presenting some very old footage, French and American documentaries from between the world wars. But this is another story and it deserves a post of its own.

3. Burger Bar (Las Vegas, NV)

The bar is run by the same person who runs Fleur de Lys, a notable restaurant there in Las Vegas.

Says the article I found on the web, the pièce de résistance is the pricey Rossini burger made from Kobe beef, sautéed foie gras, shaved truffles and Madeira sauce on an onion bun, and it continues, shakes and floats plus an extensive selection of bottled and draft beers and a small but first-rate wine list nicely complement the cuisine. I asked a friend who recently was in Las Vegas; he visited the place and said to me that's true, beef, foie gras and all that stuff.

4. Bobcat Bite (Santa Fe, NM)

After Nevada, New Mexico. Bobcat Bite: it used to be a trade post in the old times. Well, times have changed and we are now aware of cholesterol and stuff, but at Bobcat Bite they keep on the same old recipe for burgers.

5. FLIP Burger Boutique (Atlanta, GA)

They claim to have 30 varieties of burgers at FLIP, though I wouldn't recommend to check the whole enchilada. I had today a medical appointment and I was told that my cholesterol raised in the last two months, so you will understand my caution.

6. Carl's Drive In (Brentwood, MO)

The secret to a great burger is getting it from the grill to the customer as fast as possible, this is what I found out once: I was passing by a Dixie store in Georgetown (the famous neighborhood in Washington, DC) and there was a festival of alcohol and burgers there. By that time I didn't know that such a secret had come from Missouri. I learned it at Carl's in Brentwood.

7. 25 Degrees (Los Angeles, CA)

It's just a burger, nothing more :)

8. BurgerMeister (San Francisco, CA)

A friend of mine offered his wife a trip to San Francisco: it was the fifteenth anniversary of their marriage and they wanted to do it in style. So BurgerMeister was not on their list. It happened though that they discovered some old neighborhoods with their special charm, and BurgerMeister was there. It's from them that I learned about the place.

9. Chip's Old Fashioned Hamburgers (Dallas, TX)

I was in Dallas and it's a shame I did not know about this place: the exterior is maybe kind of conventional, but inside it looks like all those good old Texan shacks look.

10. Le Tub (Hollywood, FL)

A great venue: you can come by boat, buy your burger and then enjoy it on your deck.

It used to be a gas station here, long time ago. The present owner bought the barren space and created a garden decorated with all kind of sea stuff gathered by him in four years of beach jogging.


Monday, June 07, 2010

Philadelphia Museum of Art: Duchamp influenced by Muybridge

Marcel Duchamp - Nude Descending a Staircase, No. 2 (1912)
Oil on canvas

It is at Philadelphia Museum of Art, and it's a great example of what Dynamic Decomposition means within the Cubist style.

Actually Dynamic Decomposition is tending to leave the Cubist room while opening the eyes on Futurist motivations.

Says Gilles Néret, Cubism sought to bring to light the essence of the picture; Futurism saw in the picture an ideal locus for expressing the contradictions and the tensions of the modern world.

If we look at the work of Marcel Duchamp, we can realize that it is a transgression from both styles. The Nude Descending a Staircase is Cubist in form, while Futuristic in content (if I am allowed to paraphrase here a famous, or rather infamous, expression).

Well, this painting of Duchamp was a replica to Eadweard Muybridge's Woman Walking Downstairs.

Following Muybridge, Marcel Duchamp is trying to split the second: to render in his work both the whole and the moment.


Labels: ,

Sunday, June 06, 2010

What Mexico Gulf Oil Spill Means: Dying Birds

East Grand Terre Island, LA, Jun 3rd
(AP Photo / Charlie Riedel)


Thursday, June 03, 2010

The Man Who Split the Second

There is at Corcoran these days an exhibition devoted to a person whose name is probably known only for few people.

If you ask somebody today who invented the cinema, people would think at Edison, or at Lumière brothers. You can rightly call them the Founding Fathers; you should know however that there was also a Grandfather: a British photographer who lived most of his life in America, born as Edward Muggeridge, who changed his Edward in Eadweard (an ancient spelling of the name) and his Muggeridge in Muygridge firstly and then in Muybridge.

Rebecca Solnit (who wrote his biography) called Eadweard Muybridge the man who split the second, suggesting that his role in the history of art was as crucial as it was the split of the atom in the history of science.

I met firstly with the works of Muybridge at Phillips Collection: a great exhibition dedicated to early movies and their links to American painters at the end of the nineteenths century and the start of the twentieth. I was there with a friend of mine who was visiting DC; he told me what he knew about Muybridge and the question of galloping horse.

I wrote about Muybridge some time ago here on the blog. His experiments were seminal for cinematography, and not only. After all, his research to find the answer to the galloping question (can be a galloping horse with all four legs in the air in the same moment) means: can visual art catch movement as a whole while also in a distinct moment? Which means: can life be understood as a whole while also in a distinct moment? No wonder that great modern artists (like Marcel Duchamp and Francis Bacon) were so obsessed with the works of Muybridge. And I think the way to get the meaning of Francis Bacon's paintings is to go a bit in the past, at Muybridge.

Well, Eadweard Muybridge had many other artistic preoccupations in his long life: as an explorer of the Yosemite Valley his photographs foresaw the environmental photo-reportage (and maybe there, trying to capture the grandeur of the landscape, the whole and each bit of beauty, Muybridge firstly thought at the question which would later lead him to his experiments).

Another photo of Muybridge
(Corcoran Gallery of Art)

But let's come back to the exhibition at Corcoran: it is exhaustive (as all Corcoran's exhibitions have been). And it follows an interesting idea: Muybridge was a man of his epoch; his preoccupations were the ones of his times, of great scientific discoveries, of great industrial beginnings, the times of steam and electricity, of daring expeditions in terra incognita, the epoch of political and industrial revolutions, the world of Livingstone and Stanley, of Darwin, of Lincoln.

Plate 640. Jumping a hurdle; saddle; bay horse Daisy, 1887
(Corcoran Gallery of Art)


(Early Movies)


Wednesday, June 02, 2010

The National Museum of the American Indian in DC

(photo by Blinkofaneye)

The National Museum of the American Indian: I passed by so many times, and I did not find time to pay a visit. Too bad! It would have been an opportunity for me to understand just a bit the spirit of those who had been the masters of the place before the Pale Faces came and changed everything. I believe there is a spiritus loci that remains hidden in the place, regardless what history sets and resets, and sets and resets, again and again. Is it true also for the New World?

(Washington, District of Columbia)

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Incetarea din viata a Academicianului Mihai Draganescu

Mihai Draganescu
(1929 - 2010)

Inginerul Mihai Corneliu Draganescu s-a nascut la 6 octombrie 1929, la Faget, in judetul Prahova si a fost membru corespondent (1 martie 1974) si membru titular (22 ianuarie 1990) al Academiei Romane, presedinte al Academiei Romane (2 februarie 1990 - 18 ianuarie 1994), fondator si presedinte al Sectiei de Stiinta si Tehnologia Informatiei (1992-1994 si din 1998).

Mihai Draganescu a urmat studiile liceale la Ploiesti. A absolvit Institutul Politehnic din Bucuresti in 1952, cand si-a luat licenta in electronica. In 1957, a devenit doctor inginer, cu teza Capacitatile tuburilor electronice si dependenta lor de conditiile de functionare. In 1974, a obtinut titlul de doctor docent. A fost asistent, lector, conferentiar si profesor la Facultatea de Electronica si Telecomunicatii, iar intre anii 1961-1966 a fost prodecan si decan al acestei institutii.

Mihai Draganescu a fost presedinte al Comisiei pentru Metalurgie, Constructii de Masini, Electrotehnica si Electronica din cadrul Consiliului National pentru Stiinta si Tehnologie (1965-1967), secretar permanent al Comisiei guvernamentale pentru dotarea cu tehnica de calcul si automatizarea prelucrarii datelor (1967-1971). Intre anii 1989-1990, a ocupat functia de viceprim-ministru al guvernului provizoriu condus de Petre Roman, iar in perioada 1994-1997 a fost ambasadorul Romaniei in Belgia. Din anul 1992, este profesor consultant la Universitatea Politehnica Bucuresti. Din 1996, este cercetator stiintific gradul I la Institutul de Cercetari pentru Inteligenta Artificiala al Academiei Romane, unde se ocupa de un program de cercetare referitor la modelarea structural-fenomenologica.

In domeniul activitatii educationale, Mihai Corneliu Draganescu, a creat si o scoala romaneasca de dispozitive electronice semiconductoare si de microelectronica (1963-1990). A avut contributii in solutionarea a numeroase probleme teoretice, printre care: influenta sarcinii electrice spatiale asupra capacitatilor dintre electrozii tuburilor electronice (1953-1960), circuitele elctronice neliniare si influenta nelinearitatii capacitatii dispozitivelor electronice asupra oscilatorilor electronici (1956-1958), teoria tranzistorului la nivele mari de injectie (1960-1962), efectele inductive la dispozitive semiconductoare (1961-1965), teoria diodei dielectrice (1964-1965). In domeniul microelectronicii, a creat o noua disciplina originala: electronica functionala (1978-1991). In acelasi timp, Draganescu este initiator si promotor al revolutiei informatice in Romania. A conceput o noua teorie a informatiei pe baze structural-fenomenologice si elemente conceptuale privind Societatea informatica in Romania (1970-2001).

In calitate de lider al informaticii romanesti, a initiat construirea retelei nationale de centre teritoriale de calcul, introducerea informaticii in programa de invatamant si dezvoltarea industriei de software in tara noastra. In domeniul filosofiei stiintei, a publicat lucrari in Romania, Statele Unite si Belgia si a inventat conceptele de informaterie si ortoenergie. A tinut conferinte si comunicari peste hotare in mari orase ale lumii: Atena, Berlin, Bruxelles, Budapesta, Moscova, Sankt Petersburg, Praga, Roma, Beijing, Tokyo, New Delhi.Draganescu este considerat ca fiind un important pilon al renasterii Academiei Romane dupa 1990. Intre anii 1990-1994, Draganescu a fost presedintele Academiei Romane, succedandu-l pe Radu Voinea. A fost ales membru de onoare al Academiei de Stiinte din Republica Moldova.

Mihai Draganescu a primit mai multe premii in tara, dar si peste hotare: Premiul Ministerului Educatiei Nationale pentru Cercetarea Stiintifica (1963), Ordinul Meritul Stiintific (1966), Ordinul Steaua Republicii (1971), Medalia Centenar Mihai Eminescu (1989), Premiul Constantin Noica (1996), Premiul Canalului Romania Cultural al Societatii Romane de Radiodifuziune (2000), Premiul Centrului International Biografic din Cambridge (1999), Medalia Mileniului III, conferita de Institutul Inginerilor Electrotehnisti si Electronisti. A fost distins cu ordinul Comandor al Legiunii de Onoare (Franta, 1971), cu Diploma Meritul Academic (1999) si Ordinul Steaua Romaniei, in grad de comandor (2000).

Cu stima,

Adrian Davidoviciu

Senior Adviser

S&T Romania