Monthly Archives: April 2017

The Third Fifty (YGtCTO Index #2)

Halfway to three hundred. Here is an index of 101 to 150:

# Category Subject Date
101 Words Jonathan Carroll 1/4/2017
102 Other Stephen Chow 1/6/2017
103 Music Public Enemy 1/9/2017
104 Words Arthur Miller 1/11/2017
105 Other Anonymous 1/13/2017
106 Music Balfa Brothers 1/16/2017
107 Words Mary Roach 1/18/2017
108 Other Ben Edlund 1/20/2017
109 Music The Box Tops 1/23/2017
110 Words William Makepeace Thackeray 1/25/2017
111 Other Joel & Ethan Coen 1/27/2017
112 Music Tim Hardin 1/30/2017
113 Words Charles Stross 2/1/2017
114 Other Marc Maron 2/3/2017
115 Music Randy Newman 2/6/2017
116 Words Barbara Tuchman 2/8/2017
117 Other Mill Creek Park 2/10/2017
118 Music Fats Waller 2/13/2017
119 Words Alexandre Dumas 2/15/2017
120 Other Frank Gilroy 2/17/2017
121 Music King Crimson 2/20/2017
122 Words John M. Ford 2/22/2017
123 Other MIDI 2/24/2017
124 Music Mohammed Rafi 2/27/2017
125 Words Terry Jones 3/1/2017
126 Other Anthony Bourdain 3/3/2017
127 Music Sparks 3/6/2017
128 Words F. Scott Fitzgerald 3/8/2017
129 Other Peter Weir 3/10/2017
130 Music Vladimir Horowitz 3/13/2017
131 Words William Gibson 3/15/2017
132 Other James Rado, Gerome Ragni, Galt MacDermot 3/17/2017
133 Music Huey Lewis & the News 3/20/2017
134 Words Paul Bowles 3/22/2017
135 Other Lenny Bruce 3/24/2017
136 Music Patsy Cline 3/27/2017
137 Words Cara Black 3/29/2017
138 Other Utopia (Dreamland) 3/31/2017
139 Music Blood, Sweat & Tears 4/3/2017
140 Words E.E. Cummings 4/5/2017
141 Other Greg Rucka 4/7/2017
142 Music Jackie Wilson 4/10/2017
143 Words Elizabeth Hand 4/12/2017
144 Other John Ford 4/14/2017
145 Music  The Pretenders  4/17/2017
146 Words  Christopher Buckley  4/19/2017
147 Other  Claude Monet  4/21/2017
148 Music  Clifford Brown  4/24/2017
149 Words  William Saroyan  4/26/2017
150 Other  Akira Kurosawa  4/28/2017

Akira Kurosawa (YGtCTO #150)

Ran


Film directed by Akira Kurosawa and written by Akira Kurosawa, Hideo Oguni, Masato Ide and William Shakespeare

Things change. When I started writing You’ve Got to Check This Out, I started building a list of topics. They included songs and movies and books and all those other things that felt appropriate. A few months in, I decided to lead with the name of the person, instead of the work (i.e., William Faulkner instead of The Sound and the Fury). With a few exceptions for places or technology, that has worked out.

About the same time, I discovered that I had listed more than enough topics to fill out my intended 300 blogs. So, I did what I do and organized matters. Except I kept the original listings- sometimes a name and sometimes a thing. As I sit down today, I look ahead and see that I have listed multiple movies by Akira Kurosawa: High and Low also appears, but I could have included Seven Samurai, The Hidden Fortress, Yojimbo, Rashomon, Throne of Blood,… Of course, there are also the movies that his films inspired: Star Wars (The Hidden Fortress) and The Magnificent Seven (Seven Samurai).

Akira Kurosawa

This is my favorite film.
Saying you like Akira Kurosawa is like saying you like Alfred Hitchcock, Leonardo Da Vinci, or The Beatles. These are all monumental cultural presences who produced voluminous work at times when their chosen art form had wide distribution. (All right, Da Vinci is a slight exception, but his work, like the rest, was created in a format that has lasted.) You have to close yourself off in order to find nothing to like in all of their work. They may not be a favorite, but somewhere in their catalogs is a creation that works for you.

Because Hollywood does not really do samurai films, Kurosawa is primarily associated with that genre in the U.S. Film festivals and repertory cinemas show the samurai movies. So, High and Low feels like more of a revelation than it is within Kurosawa’s body of work.

As a suspense mystery, it is unusual in structure. Like all the best art, the story is brilliant and also a commentary on the world. Each shot serves multiple purposes, as we expect from Kurosawa. Perhaps because it feels like he is working on a context we know (film noir), the skill truly shines through. Americans watch a lot of cop shows, so we know what we’re dealing with here. We are more bound to lose ourselves in a samurai film before we can fully appreciate the artistry.

Introducing The Hidden Fortress on DVD, George Lucas talks about having to go to a special showing back in the day. I somehow doubt Kurosawa envisioned an American audience while making most of his films. The wonder of his art is the universality that he captured. Like the best westerns and noir, Kurosawa’s messages speak to everyone.

What’s it all about?

You’ve Got to Check This Out is a blog series about music, words, and all sorts of artistic matters. It started with an explanation. 150 more to go.

New additions to You’ve Got to Check This Out release regularly. Also, free humor, short works, and poetry post irregularly. Receive notifications on Facebook by friending or following Craig.

Images may be subject to copyright.

William Saroyan (YGtCTO Words #50)

The Time of Your Life


Play written by William Saroyan

As near as I can recall, this is the first play that I ever read. I remember the struggle with its format, which is probably why it seems like the first. For middle school, I attended the tiny Kennedy School in downtown Youngstown. We were housed in a, well, big house. The fifth through eighth graders were in two rooms downstairs- maybe ten or twelve of us. For a few months, I sat beside the bookcases that lined one wall. During down times (or maybe also boring classes), I pulled something from the shelves and started reading. The section of books on archaeology and anthropology was within easy reach, so I devoured those. Next came poetry and theater.

Re-reading The Time of Your Life, I am shocked by how much it formed my basic philosophy of life. Kindness and friendship matter above all else. Both sides in disputes, no matter how apparently virulent, ought to be able to sit down for a drink afterwards. It’s more than fine to go see how other people live, but you do it with respect and an openness to the unexpected. No matter how someone looks or what their past might entail, they deserve to be treated with respect. Sometimes, people are just mysterious and you’re not going to understand their motivations. Appreciate what people bring to the table- they’re not trying any less than you or anyone else.

This begs the question of how much the art influenced my early thinking. The more reasonable argument might be that it gave structure to protean thoughts in need of clearer definition. I was no different from anyone else that age- caught on a bad day, I might think some awfully unkind thoughts. But the things I saw and read kept moving me toward my better self. Saroyan offers no solutions to “big” questions. He doesn’t solve the national debt or find a way to defeat the Nazis. His stage is small and interpersonal, but that is where we all start.

William Saroyan

The public library
had to go deep into the sub-basement to drag out the copy I used for this blog. It includes the play as well as a set of essays Saroyan wrote later. He writes about crafting the play in a short time while locked up in his hotel room. After all, he promised it to an interested producer before having actually beginning to write it. (Now, there’s a whole ‘nother blog about artistic chutzpah.)

The essays illustrate an artist raising his head out of his bunker and looking at the world. For him, that world remains the struggle of the artist to maintain his integrity. But this demonstrates the difficulty we all face.

I’ve been naive before and I will be again, but I find most people around me have been invested with those qualities I describe above. In small, personal interactions, we want to be that person who can be kind. We want to be able to sit at a table with strangers of any stripe and chat about whatever- basically be people of good will. We have been imprinted with the messages of decent behavior.

But we stop there. We are bad at carrying that behavior forward to those who are out of sight. Art fails us. We struggle to find a language for universal peace and happiness. Our actors and paintings and songs allow us to embody handshakes and picking up the tab for coffee. Our art doesn’t help when confronted with corporate malfeasance and foreign dictators, let alone molecular biology and ecological engineering. Those require progressive acquisition of knowledge.

William Saroyan was a start, a good start.

What’s it all about?

You’ve Got to Check This Out is a blog series about music, words, and all sorts of artistic matters. It started with an explanation. 151 more to go.

New additions to You’ve Got to Check This Out release regularly. Also, free humor, short works, and poetry post irregularly. Receive notifications on Facebook by friending or following Craig.

Images may be subject to copyright.