Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Closer to the Golden Dawn

I am still contemplating on the new Bowie album.  My first reaction was that it was in the same ballpark as Reality and Hours and..., which, to me, means not that great.  But it's growing on me.  The song told from the vantage of a soldier in Iraq ("I'd Rather Be High") is excellent; some of the others have the potential, maybe, to turn into minor favorites.  A lot of critics have talked about the album in terms of all the references it makes to songs and phases of Bowie's own past.  What it most reminds me of, so far, is actually late-era Dylan (Modern Times, e.g., or Time out of Mind).  It's an album by someone who has no difficulty turning out solid, enjoyable rock but who clearly, given the right circumstances, is capable of much, much more.  It's not reasonable to expect a man in his mid-sixties to subjugate himself to the emotional and artistic anguish it must take to make an album like Low or Station to Station; I can't hold Bowie accountable for not producing a masterpiece of modern music.  Still, I wished he'd pushed himself a little more.  The lyrics feature too many uninspired cliches and the rhymes are often equally unimaginative.  The musical ideas, such as there are, don't do much for me either.  It's the album of a man who doesn't have to push himself and doesn't want to push himself.  It inspires admiration, maybe, and gives a modicum of pleasure but it doesn't feel significant, in any way.

* * *

Not very anxious 
to bloom, 
my plum tree.

* * *

I'll be in [Southern City] at the end of April.  The play--the long promised play--is finally being read (or walked-though, whatever you want to call it) by real actors.  It'll be very low-key, with a small (or non-existent) audience, but still: it's a deadline, and I'm excited.  I'm working eight or nine hours a day right now on good days; if it weren't for a flare-up of some my old, somewhat debilitating blood sugar/hypoglycemia issues (short version: I get dizzy and slow-witted after almost every meal, and my mood sometimes collapses for no discernable reason) I'd say this is the happiest I've been in LA in a long time.  My doctor's appointment is at the beginning of April; hopefully that will do something towards rectifying my health.  And then... it'll all be discotheques and yachts, and champagne-swilling on the Champs-Elyssee.

* * *

Doctor Faustus got progressively more tedious the farther I got into it.  Does anybody read Mann anymore?  Fifty years ago he ranked in the top echelon of 20th century writers.  Now, I can think of only person I've ever known who's recommended one of his books to me.

I started A Passage to India last week.  I had it around, I hadn't read it, I needed something new.  I'm also going back through the Aubrey-Maturin books for the...fifteenth time, I think?  Each time through each book I find something new to appreciate.  In 300 years will people consider the two greatest writers of the 20th century P.G. Wodehouse and Patrick O'Brian?  It wouldn't surprise me.

* * *

The wife got us tickets to John Logan's play Red, last Saturday.  It was being recorded for some audioseries, so there was no set, staging, props, nothing--just two actors speaking into a microphone, with a sound effects guy on the side.  It ended up being surprisingly captivating.  Alfred Molina, who pioneered the role, was playing Rothko.  That guy can do anything and make it worth watching.  (Watching the old guy makes all the sound effects off to the side in real time was really neat).  Play where people do nothing but argue about theories of art--those are ANCIANT plays.  Great stuff.   Good job, Wifey!

* * *

Climb Mt Fuji,
O snail,
but slowly, slowly.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Status Update Wombat

Not much happening but I'm due to post and I'm sure my legion of loyal readers are breathless to hear what I'm up to.

was great, as per usual.  Sage, a restaurant in the Aria, remains one of the two best in the whole city (Le Cirque is the other).  Again it delivered a superlative meal.  I even loved the dessert (a pineapple themed...thing far too elaborate to describe here).  The card games were fine, and I won substantially playing 8/16 H/L Omaha.  A bad beat at hold'em the next day (I got all in as a 95% favorite and lost) took my winnings for the trip down some, but I still finished up.

The last few weeks I've been really enjoying Hugh Johnson's exceptional World Atlas of Wine.  The world of wine is endless--even the world of French wine is near-to-endless--and the knowledge and experience it offers both fascinates and slightly nonplusses me.  We just ordered a new selection of Burgundies, with a few Northern Rhone and Italian reds thrown in for variety.  One nice bottle every week has become the new MO (the old--four not-nice bottles every week--is discontinued).

Doctor Faustus
Alex Ross recommended the Mann novel in his Five Books interview a while back and I've been slowly pushing through it ever since.  I won't attempt a thorough summary here, but it does cry out for a good translator (the one who did the Modern Library edition is appallingly bad).  Faustus conforms to almost every stereotype of German art you can think of; it's filled with abstruse, sometimes incoherently complex philosophical, theological, and historical speculations; its prose often seems designed to defeat, and not promote comprehension; and it cares about ideas to the expense of all else (pleasure, drama, character, development of scenes, etc).  For all that, it's still a great, great novel--though perhaps one to be admired more than loved.  I'm considering reading more Mann fiction after this, but we'll see.  I may need a break.