Friday, October 26, 2012

John Cage

Ideas are one thing and what happens is another.
--John Cage

During my first and only year as a theater major at U of I, for some reason I was chosen to squire four members of the John Cage company around campus.

It was a thankless job as, first of all I had never heard of John Cage, and the four people spoke no English. They were from Albania or Guatemala or someplace I had no interest in visiting.

But I took them around for the day, and really don't recall many particulars. When we finally landed at the auditorium for their evening performance, only 10 people or so showed up and likely they were lost, looking for the cafeteria or something.

There is no such thing as an empty space or an empty time. There is always something to see, something to hear. In fact, try as we may to make a silence, we cannot.
― John Cage

The concert consisted of the four standing at various points on the stage and two would open their mouths and make a sound, and two would open their mouths and not make a sound. And then they'd change positions. This went on for the better part of an hour. There could have been more to it, but I doubt it. Besides, I was on the payphone talking to my boyfriend.

It is not irritating to be where one is. It is only irritating to think one would like to be somewhere else.
― John Cage

So I heard an old interview between Terry Gross and Cage tonight. And once I got beyond the fact that Cage sounded a lot like Vincent Price, he made sense, wonky sense to my sense of sense, but sense, nonetheless.

And I remembered the John Cage Company, and how I couldn't wait to ditch them. How on that night I tapped my foot and wrung my hands, because this was agony, when pleasure waited just a hopscotch across the quad away.

"If something is boring after two minutes, try it for four. If still boring, then eight. Then sixteen. Then thirty-two. Eventually one discovers that it is not boring at all." -- John Cage

Finally, finally when I dumped these four at their dormitory, I raced to an apartment and jumped into bed with my beautiful boyfriend. Whoever he was.

Everything we do is music.
― John Cage

I hiked the Sam Merrill trail this week. Half way to Echo Mountain, I ran into a woman with a scarlet macaw on her shoulder. And I asked if I could take her picture. "Not me," she said, all flustered. "But you can take a picture of my bird."

"But I want a picture of you both."

"Oh no," she said, flinging out her arm so the bird perched as far from her as possible.

Further up the trail I came upon another hiker. “Hey,” I said, “That bird gave me a turn.”

“Oh thank god you saw it, too,” she sighed. “I thought the altitude was getting to me.”

We are involved in a life that passes understanding and our highest business is our daily life.
-- John Cage

Saturday, October 20, 2012

This Week’s Matinee: It’s a comedy. Bring vino

Gianni Di Gregorio wrote the screenplay to Gomorrah. He also wrote/acted/directed and probably sewed the costumes, cooked the pasta, and did everyone’s make-up in Mid-August Lunch.

One movie is an epic and ungodfatherly look at how the Camorra and gang wars have infiltrated most aspects of daily life in Naples and beyond.

The other film is a picaresque tale about a trustworthy, unambitious, middle-aged mama's boy ne’er-do-well, and his day in the company of four 80+ year old women. Shot, by the way, on a $400,000 budget.

See the first one if you’re a fan of Pasolini, Rossellini neo-realism.

But whatever your taste, see the second film. Trust me on this.

Mid-August Lunch (Pranzo di ferragosto) is a comedy about boundaries, ceding personal space to make room for each other. Grudgingly or willingly. Or grudgingly, then willingly.

We're going to rub shoulders in this life, that's inevitable. The only choice we have in the matter is whether to feel irritated or enriched by the experience.

The movie also features age – great age – women in their 80’s and 90’s. That's rare enough; rarer still, the women are characters for sure, but never cartoons, or dotty old fools. At a certain point, Di Gregorio pretty much turns the movie over to them. Actually, he has no choice.

After territorial wars over the kitchen and the television set, a great summit takes place around the table. So it’s also a movie about food. Ok, wait, maybe it’s a movie about hunger in all its manifestations, and nourishment.

Nothing much to offer via youtube, just this trailer (and skip the ad). The movie streams on Netflix.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Altadena gets its ghoul on

Either the Altadanish are creative or have way too much time on their hands.

On the other end of the spectrum, we also have the Ice Cream House at Christmas time. Which to some tastes may be even more horrifying.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Gentle Giant

Sorry about everything that is wrong with this photo, but damn the lighting, and full speed ahead.

These two guys were rescued during Thursday's thunderstorm. A friend of mine saved the pit bull, the pit bull saved the wiener dog. The little guy has a serious case of hero worship. You have a problem with pit bulls, tell it to the wiener dog. Be prepared for an argument.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

First Rule of Life: Don't Croak

At the Huntington.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

The Altadena Crest Trail: It's a Long Story

By the late 1980’s, the area directly north of Altadena’s Lincoln Avenue known as La Vina had seen better days. La Vina Sanitorium, an upscale tuberculosis rehabilitation facility founded in 1911, had closed its doors more than a decade earlier. Now there were no doors left to close. Or windows for that matter. Not much remained that hadn't been ripped from a wall, torn off a hinge, axed, broken, or burned.

Walking the grounds meant picking your way through vestiges of indeterminate medical leftovers -- cracked glass, hoses, broken dishes, test tubes, concrete pillars -- ruins so ruined one couldn’t tell if the remnants of this room or that had been used for examinations, operations, living quarters, or something mysterious an elegant convalescent hospital may have entertained, back in the day.

In other words, by the late 80’s, La Vina’s attractions were only evident to vandals and those who liked to stub a toe on the remains of recent history. Oh yes, and real estate developers.

Ultimately, the property was purchased for a housing subdivision. And in the early 1990’s, the new owner fenced off La Vina as construction got underway.

The fence, however, much to the surprise of those of us who weren't really paying attention, didn't just enclose what was left of the hospital, but considerable acreage around and above it as well. The fencing even severed a portion of an historic trail, one used daily by hikers and horseback riders – the Altadena Crest Trail.

No worries, said the developer. Once the subdivision is complete, we’ll reconnect the trail and make it better than ever, plus provide some open space recreational acreage. Everybody wins! Hooray, said the county officials.

That was almost 20 years ago.

There's more on Patch. But like I said, it's a long story.