All posts by CurlsnSkirls

... a rusty sewer of some years, working to better those skills.

April in January

Moving from East to West Coasts in the United States can be traumatic, if you’re used to verdant green trees and grass.

It’s often thought to have the best weather in the U.S., with dry heat and no rain from about March until about October. (There can be pesky earthquakes, mudslides,  and fires, but with luck one avoids them.)

Indeed, much of the state is semi-arid, which means it rains only in the winter.  The lyricist who wrote  “hate California, it’s cold and it’s damp…” wrote the truth.

Enter the movies, since they’re so identified with the state.  However, pieces such as The Enchanted April, rarely get made there.

Trust the British to write a book and make a film that transports the viewer from acrid post-WW I London to a quaint castle during an idyllic Italian spring.

If Portofino and wisteria sound wonderful ‘bout now, one couldn’t do worse that read/watch this.

The original book was written by Elizabeth von Arnim and is now available free from Project Gutenberg.


Frank Langella on acting & life

Recently, Charlie Rose and Frank Langella discussed, amongst other things, the current Frost/Nixon movie.

Langella works to get to the soul of his character, and playing Nixon for two years on Broadway gave him time to consider what to do in the movie.

Just as singers and other artists, serious actors are always working toward growth in their craft; which means growing their spiritual lives, because that feeds their craft. (As for all artists.)

It was also interested that both men discussed the current stage of their lives. Langella is now far less concerned with anything that doesn’t involve  the core of what one might term his spiritual identity.

He’s trying to learn how to love, both himself and others.  Making a clear distinction between that and lust, Langella told a story about a woman who’s sat with more than 500 dying people.

He asked her what she had learned from her experiences.  She told him that the ones who die peacefully are the ones who are loving – who allow themselves to love and to be loved.

The ones who are bitter are those who are not loving, who stubbornly hold onto their sense of hurt, betrayal, or anger.

Langella mentioned three things a baby wants: food, warmth, and to be held – all basic human needs. Rose agreed, saying he still enjoys all three very much!

Why do some people fight so hard against love? Who knows. There are too many others longing for these nutriments, and life is too fleeting to waste them where they’re refused.

Langella no longer has time for pettiness.  Who does?


Word origins, or why it’s pumpernickel

According to King Arthur Flour’s information web site,

Pumpernickel is an affectionate German name given in fun… to describe their [rye flour] effect on the digestive system. (“Pumpern” is the German word for “intestinal wind” and “nickel” is a word for demon or sprite.)

The things one can learn while doing a bit of holiday baking… ain’t the Internet wonderful?

Ian McShane & John Thaw, a.k.a. Lovejoy & Inspector Morse/Peter Mayle

Ian McShane as Lovejoy, the U.K.’s best known & most notorious antiques dealer ~ plays a lovable rogue who looks the camera straight in the eye while winking himself into one’s heart.

A consummate actor, McShane’s credits include Dallas and Deadwood (U.S.), and the devastating lead in the BBC’s DisraeliLovejoy also has an impeccable cast, gorgeous settings, and priceless antiques.

Don’t miss the Christmas specials either, one in atmospheric Prague, and the other in the U.S. Why it’s included when it has nothing to do with the holidays is a mystery, but we’re not complaining. Why stay a punter when Lovejoy can teach you the trade?!

Peter Mayle is an author to read anytime/anywhere, and feel that life is good and worth living.  Around this time of year we particularly like the gentle spirit of watching his entire year passing, via the DVDs, Peter Mayle’s A Year in Provence.

It’s also very refreshing to watch John Thaw (literally), more generally known to Americans as terse, beer-drinking Inspector Morse.

U.S. telly has almost no sightings of Thaw except in this excellent mystery series, but do watch Provence for laughter, wonderful French character actors, and a continuing plot against their never ever-quite-finished Provençal house. There’s ever so much more than’s in the books!


Feeding One’s Soul, Mae West, & Dudamel

Why is it so difficult to feed one’s soul?  Julia Cameron speaks about this extremely important point at great length and makes it a weekly must in her book, The Artist’s Way.

Stick with your nose to the grindstone and never look up.  Where’s the inspiration in that?, she points out. Sounds more like martyrdom, and it’s self-martyrdom because it’s self-induced.

It’s bad enough the rest of the world constantly throws dirt into whatever art you pursue.  Don’t do it to yourselves!  And for heaven’s sake, get away from anyone who does it to you!  A toxic attitude will block or murder one’s positive impulses.

Consider Mae West.  In her 1935 movie Goin’ to Town, she astounds the viewer by singing the end of Mon coeur s’ouvre a ta voix( from Samson & Dalilah) “in delectable French” with tenor Vladimir Bykoff.  Mae West and opera??

The lady had class.  She had style.  She also knew exactly what she was doing as actor/writer/director/producer on Broadway and Hollywood.

To watch her fingering locks of Samson’s long curly wig while singing is priceless. So are her warmup arpeggios.

Many people feel the arts should and can uplift the human race, as in “music hath charms to sooth the savage breast.”  I think there’s a great deal to be said in that sense.

Did you know that an entire country in South America has embraced classical orchestra training as the way to lift their country’s economy, and they’ve been at it for 30-odd years?   How’s it working out?

60 Minutes did a review lately and thought things were going just swell.  A rising star of the program, Gustavo Dudamel,  just got hired by the L.A. Phil.  He’s a product of that program.

CLASSICAL music, as in strings and harps and stuff?  Yes!  It’s amazing to see the footage of the poverty in South American city slums, then see and hear classical music everywhere in those slums.   It changes the people.

Why?  How?

It lifts people up.  Above where they are.  To a higher level.  It gives them dreams, and discipline to reach them.  Then they’re no longer in the slums.

When mental self-image changes, the physical environment can change, too. Ms. West knew that decades ago.

A Tea Bag’s Tag

Photo credit: Good Earth site

In mathematics you don’t understand things.  You just get used to them.            

Johann von  Neumann (1903-1957)

Some people think music’s the same.




*Good Earth Herbal Tea original decaf

A November’s Twilight Song

“ Pears from the boughs hung golden,
The streets lay still and cool,
Children  with books and satchels
Came sauntering home from school;”
So begins Evening, an art song by Maryland composer John Duke. Yours truly is always reminded of it around this time of year, no matter the location. Next is the most introspective portion of the poem by Frederic Prokosch ~
“The dusk fled softly inward
Across each darkening sill,
The whole sweet autumn slumbered.
The street lay cool and still:”
Together the musician and poet have created a wonderful melding of words and music, which only continues…
“The children moved through twilight,
The village steeple gleamed,
Pears from their boughs hung trembling”
Then the entire mood shifts with a gloriously abrupt forte chord on the piano, immediately followed by swirling sixteenth notes, while the poet exclaims:
“And suddenly it seemed,
Shaken by such a wildness
Of terror and desire,
My heart burst into music
And my body into fire.”

The composer’s accompaniment mirrors the sheer joy and excitement of the essence of the poem’s words.

An exciting art song for concert performance!


Spontaneity & MLK

  1. SPONTANEOUS, a. [L., of free will.]
  2. Voluntary; acting on its own impulse or will without the incitement of any thing external

Of free will.  No wonder so much stress is placed on it.  In an atmosphere of so many human wills trying to influence and/or control others, to practice true spontaneity is not easy.

All too often, one may doubt their own thoughts – which is exactly what those who want to control them desire.

Think about it.  If you’re busy worrying about whether an impulse is genuine, you’re not doing it.

That’s opportunity lost…

Martin Luther King, Jr. referred to this in a sermon as “the paralysis of analysis.