Footbarn's Celebration of Theatre: Theater X-Net
Visit: Michael's Montana Web Archive
Theater, Art, Flash Gordon, Funky Music and MORE!
NEW! Spitfires of the Spaceways
Watch Dale Arden rescue Flash Gordon for a change!
Charity Alert: Keep that resolution as Winter settles in. Click on The Hunger Site every day.
In The Community: This year's Kalispell Art Walk was the biggest one yet -- the most participating businesses ever, plus special receptions for many local artists at places that do not usually display their work, like Gini Ogle and Carol Sweeny at the Conrad Mansion, and Karen Leigh at Alpine Lighting. We had well over 300 visitors at the Hockaday -- many came to hear the choir sing, which is beginning to be something of a tradition. It wasn't near as cold or miserable as other nights have been, so it was a rewarding time for everyone who braved the Winter. We also got a response already to our request for research help on our website, concerning Summer's Winold Reiss Art School 1930-34 exhibit. Hockaday Museum of Art
Media Watch: Bollywood Movies -- It had to happen sometime! Shah Rukh Khan goes to jail for stealing the bride in Veer-Zaara, our most recently purchased DVD featuring this rascally East Indian Casanova. I also put up with a mostly good, but sometimes lousy Hindi-western called Sholay which owed an awful lot to the Seven Samurai, but went artistically bankrupt before any pay-back took place.
Book TV had a Q&A with ex-Senator John Edwards, plus a recitation program of famous speeches in New York City, and three hours with Jimmy Carter, our best ex-president ever.
Real books -- Catch A Wave by Peter Ames Carlin -- yet another tome about the family fight known as Brian Wilson and The Beach Boys. This one is a somewhat younger fan's view of the story. I read it because the author covered the recent resurrection of Smile, but he said little that wasn't shown in the video, except for one or two elaborations about Danny Hutton, the talented singer who founded Three Dog Night. There's a lot of gossip that doesn't always add up, and it might be true, or exagerrated, or too tame, or patently false. I was pleased to read that one of my favorite Beach Boy songs, Marcella, was based on a real lady, who had a very active sex life. I think serial shaggers like these musicians SHOULD honor the women who really shared their lives. I'm afraid the deaths of Carl and Dennis Wilson have doomed any balanced account of the family's many travails. The author nails the facts that Carl was the Beach Boys' real leader for over a decade, Mike Love has called the shots in the performing band since about 1980, and there's been litigation amongst everybody involved in the enterprise. The rift between surviving cousins Brian and Mike seems depressingly wide. The book has a tantalizing email quote by Bruce Johnson about the group being "just business" for him, but nothing directly from Al Jardine. I recently saw Brian Wilson singing Good Vibrations with his fabulous touring group (Previously known as the Wondermints) on one of those strange award shows -- this time called the U.K. Music Hall of Fame. His vocals can be pretty rough nowadays, and he misses an occasional note, but I don't mind hearing Wilson's own voice in his own songs, win, lose, or draw.
IFC showed Kurosawa's original Seven Samurai on Saturday. This film is a deep well of beauty, craft, inspiration, and the drama within human strengths and weaknesses. I first saw it as a hero-worshipping post-adolescent. I was seduced by it's spectacle, and got impatient during the "slow" parts, but the film's humanism worked on me then like it works on me now. It was intended to be entertainment, and succeeded, but it delivered so much more than "good" guys beating "bad" guys. The film contains strong messages that are applicable to today's world -- especially about power requiring humility, and reality trumping delusion. There is also idealism in Kurosawa's vision which makes his vivid portraits of fear, desperation, and social malaise more bearable.
I had a chance to reflect on the state of Japan when Kurosawa made his film. Never forget that "Samurai" was used by the militarists who unleashed the brutal Japanese Empire over Asia, literally perverting the high-minded code of "Bushido" into race warfare and oppression. The Never-Never Land of Samurai movies tried to remind Japan and the world that their warriors once had ideals. History shows that the Samurai (warrior) class which ruled for 250 years under the Tokugawa Shogunate was both horribly ruthless and economically beneficial in turns, but Japan's culture was stuck in the Middle Ages until the mid-19th Century because of them. I call Tokugawa Japan an accident of history, rather than a model for anyone to follow. Saying that, the Yakusa or gangsters of modern Japan maintain their underworld under some of these old "rules," which are broken as often as they are kept. Kurosawa made movies about Japanese criminals too.
Before the movie started, the History Channel played two shows from it's Dogfights series about the air war with Japan in WWII. Interviews with actual survivors of these conflicts softened some of the jingoism, but it was there in the smug, inevitable tone of the narration, and selective context of the presentation. It doesn't take much reading to learn that Clare Chennault was a tactical genius, but a strategic moron, who was seriously compromised by his position as a mercenary for the Kumontang, one of the most viciously corrupt governments in the long history of China. The Flying Tigers were very brave, and played a significant part in defeating the Japanese Empire, but the damned Chinese Communists played a bigger part, by rallying the population of China to throw out ALL the occupiers of their country, and their agents, including us. The Chinese people paid a high price whenever the Communists made mistakes, and they made many, but they now control the biggest nation in the world, and are the U.S. government's largest creditor. It's too bad that they also prop up insane martinets like Kim Jong Il, and support criminal regimes like the Myanmar government in Burma or the Khymer Rouge. Their indirect bankrolling of the Iraq War should give us pause and make us all ashamed.
The Solomon Islands campaign in WWII was as desperate a battle as the USA ever fought, and we could have lost it many times. Nobody should ever be smug about the war in the Pacific. No one should be smug about warfare at all -- it's costs, in people and resources, are extremely high, and the debts incurred are never really forgiven. These anecdotal approches to battles are like using microscopes instead of binoculars -- you are going to miss seeing a lot of other things.