view from the hill

A look at the elements and events that come into view from where I'm standing...
... the stuff that matters in this life. Some flicker and are gone in a matter of hours
only to live in memory, others become life long travelling companions, never far from reach.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

moving to?

(Tiffany here to say that becaus Blogger is no longer supporting ftp
blogs we're moving ours -for new posts- but haven't figured out where/
when yet. We will post a link
when we do know.
thanks for your patence. T- )

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Testing... Testing... 123...

Is this thing on? Can you hear me in the back?

Sent from my iPhone

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Romeo and Juliet can Dance too!

June 18th, 2007
rjb1We’re filling up our poor deprived LA souls with scads of culture while here in the Big City, and this evening we continued our Shakespeare theme by seeing the American Ballet Theatre's production of Romeo and Juliet.

What an absolute triumph! The curtain went up and we were in a lush world of Elizabethan gowns and operatic sets. The ballet was pure visual music, and I was instantly transported away like a child at his first movie. It was so dramatic and achingly tragic I actually forgot there were words to this play. The orchestra had such power and force with Prokofiev’s score, we knew we were in the hands of masters. And the pictures fit the music perfectly. Stripped of Shakespeare’s words the dancers soared freely, and from the choreography of huge crowds down to the nuanced movements of individual expressions, emotion became visual. The complexities and subtleties of the story played beautifully through each instrument in the orchestra and each gesture of the exquisite dancers.

rjb2I’ve never seen a dancer move like Diana Vishneva’s Juliet, she’s just remarkably fluid and languid with arms like water. There’s a scene near the end where Romeo dances with the yet-to-be-resurrected Juliet and it just breaks your heart. The moves echo their first meeting, but this time Juliet is a deathly limp rag doll. It’s beautiful and tragic and amazing that so much emotion is conveyed with music and movement.

When the curtain fell, she was showered with bouquets from the cheering audience.

A magical evening.

Love’s Labour's Lost

June 14th, 2007
lll1We’re back in Central Park after waaay too long to see a New York staple – New York Classical Theatre, and their “site specific” productions that wander the park all Summer. The shows are free, and since we’ve been away, the popularity has grown. What used to be an intimate gathering has turned into an unruly throng. Still, who can complain if there’s a big audience turning out to see some free Shakespeare?

With picnic blankets in hand, our group was kept on our toes as each scene is acted out in a different location - under a grove of trees, on a rock overlooking the pond, a hillside lawn. The actors have fun getting us to move on to the next bit, telling us in their Elizabethan best what path to hurry down.

lll2It was great fun. We’ve seen a couple other shows by these guys, and this time the experience outshone the play, but that’s ok, it’s the overall experience we’re after. The actors were fine, the play a bit of a confusion. Though as always, the language is so rich and varied with an amazing exploration of themes – book learning vs. experiential feeling, head vs. heart, loyalty to an oath vs. following passion. And it’s not a straight comedy either. Like all of Shakespeare’s plays, there’s a real range of color as some things are left very bitter sweet.

lll3But seeing the young kids in the audience run at top speed to get the best seats in the make-shift front row was worth it all. The night grew deeper, the flashlights came out to illuminate the players, and fireflies danced under the trees. Venus peaked between Upper West Side apartments, and 100 people gathered to watch a Shakespeare play performed for free. This place is magical.

Rose Center for Earth and Space

June 11th, 2007
One of our first stops after stepping out onto the Manhattan streets… This place was home from home back when we lived here, and it’s great to be back wandering under the planets, laying hands on a meteorite, and having a generally mind-expanding experience in the planetarium show – an incredibly realistic simulation of how the moon formed by slamming into a very young Earth – not to be missed!

Like much of NYC, this whole place is truly the best in the world.


June 11th, 2007
Come on! Who doesn’t love these little critters? Of course, they pack quite a wallop, so it’s a good thing they’re behind glass. Tiff and I are taking in the sights at the American Museum of Natural History, a treasure trove packed to the rafters with amazements, and all designed to open up your brain – mission accomplished!

Home from Home

June 10th 2007
apt1Here we are in a very lived-in apartment on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. It was a bit funky getting in here - we had to hand over a massive wad of cash to a guy we'd just met in exchange for a key, but that's life in the big city if you want a place to stay.

I spent the first half hour of our time here opening every single cabinet, cupboard, and drawer getting to know our absent mystery host. apt3Apparently she's on tour for the Summer, a musician who speaks German and Japanese, her place is wall to wall architecture and design books, with a smattering of art history, there’s an impressive classical music collection, and every nook and cranny is utilized in the way only New Yorkers know how. It's such a relief to be in the presence of an artist. Lately we've been surrounded by financial consultants, hedge fund managers, and endless talk of mergers and acquisitions. It's so dang tiring after a while. I want to hang out with people who don’t own ties, and actually go to museums to view art, rather than sip cocktails as part of some corporate meet-and-greet.

apt4Now we’re in the New York we know and love – a cramped place stuffed to the gills with a rich life, Julliard and Lincoln Center within walking distance, bookstores near by, museums across the way, and an all-night French café on the corner. It’s comforting and energizing, and it feels like home.

Old Friends

met1 June 12th, 2007
Went to the Met today to visit some old friends. And I mean old... Rembrandt was first on the list clocking in at a sprightly 400 years. It's always amazing to get right up close to these paintings and see the splotches of goo that make up a gold bracelet, or the fine wisps that become a fur-lined collar. Rembrandt will always stand head and shoulders above the rest of his circle because he didn't paint accurate representations, he got slightly impressionistic he painted people's souls.

After saying hello to the familiar faces, I realized I wasn't so much in a painting mood, so headed off for the sculptures of the Far East. I wandered through room after room of statues and bronzes depicting Hindu deities and tranquil Buddhas. There's literally a world that I know next to nothing about when it comes to Indian mythology and art. It's striking to see these intricate poses etched out of black stone, faces of gods and goddesses, characters filled with meaning and significance that I can only guess at.

Later, walking the streets of Manhattan I could imagine each passer-by encircled by a halo of their own private deities, an elaborate aura containing entire histories telling the tales of each life. I wonder if the artists and sculptors 900 years ago in India saw the same thing.

Lack Luster Jewels

jewels1 June 12th, 2007
Saw our first ballet in over a year the other night at Lincoln Center. Tchaikovsky was part of the program, so on a whim and we grabbed tickets to the New York City Ballet's production of Jewels choreographed by George Balanchine. I have to say I was disappointed.

The dancing was great, it's always amazing to see what these dancers are able to do, the strength and grace they have is spectacular. But the music I didn't love, and my synasthesia crept in giving me visuals in my head more fascinating than anything going on on stage. There were some interesting asides, but the choreography missed key moments and I was left under-whelmed.

Jewels is a ballet in three acts, each scored by a different composer. There’s no story, only different moods and colors to distinguish each act as an abstract representation of emeralds, rubies, and diamonds. It’s all very 1967, right down to some unfortunately dated dance moves.


The last piece of the night was Tchaikovsky’s 3rd symphony, and though the music is wonderful, the conductor wasn’t up to the task. It's hard to screw up Tchaikovsky, and he didn't murder it, it just lacked vibrancy. It was like watching a film that hasn't been mixed properly. Where the strings should be soaring, there was a watered down whimper. Where the horns should've been triumphant it lacked urgency. I could hear that the music was there, it just wasn't emphasized properly.

jewels3Maybe it’s time to get a really great recording of Tchaikovsky’s 3rd and let the images flow in my mind - that's a show I'm looking forward to seeing.

Pearl Jam at the Gorge

July 23rd, 2006
pj3I’m a late-comer to the whole PJ live experience (I was actually a bit of a late-comer to their early albums – an unfortunate situation that has since been remedied). But I have now seen the Original Kings of Grunge, the keepers of the flame of Authentic Rock, and I did it all at the infamous Gorge amphitheater in Washington state last Summer as Tiff and I drove back from Vancouver to LA.

pj1What an incredible show in an incredible setting! Pearl Jam has loyal fans, and this venue brings ‘em out in force because it’s a trek to get to. The amphitheater is carved into the hillside overlooking the Columbia River Gorge, in the desolate landscape of Eastern WA, miles from anywhere. There’s overnight camping, so a concert at the Gorge is always a multi-day party.

To the average 98.7 listener, PJ may have seemed out of the limelight lately, but they are a band forever strong, continually putting on blazing live shows. It helps too that they’re latest album rocks! These guys have some true power. They are the real deal.

pj2I missed the first night’s show where they played a more “radio friendly” set (according to the couple next to me). The second night, my night, and the last night of their US tour, dug into the deep tracks and the crowd ate it up – Rats, God’s Dice, In Hiding, Little Wing, Crazy Mary, Marker in the Sand (as the sun set), Tom Petty’s I Won’t Back Down, and of course, closed with Yellow Ledbetter with Mike McCready’s scorching guitar.

The music echoed off the bluffs and into the star-filled sky, and my grin didn’t fade until well south of Portland as we continued our drive into CA.

First Love

June 15th, 2007
Tonight we saw Romeo and Juliet at the Delacourt Theatre in Central Park, and, shock of shocks, in my headlong rush into all things Shakespeare, this is actually the first time seeing Romeo and Juliet on stage. rj2Sure, I've seen Baz's film a gazillion times, Shakespeare in Love many times, read (most of) the play, and seen tons of scenes preformed here and there, but after tonight there's now one less gaping hole in my education.

Diving in to a Shakespeare play is always like exotic travel. It's a different country every time, each with it's own language, history and unique peoples. There's culture shock and foreign mannerisms to get used to, thickets of words that tangle and tear, soaring vistas and stews of emotions. Sitting in the theatre tonight seeing the entire play done so well, I finally visited a foreign land that up till now I'd only read about.

rj1The lines flowed off the tongues of the actors, the stage was magnificent - a rotating circle that brought action into the foreground or drew it back away from the audience - and to see the whole thing framed by the trees of Central Park, the turtle pond and the Belvedere castle beyond blew out any imagined walls of the theatre and gave the night even more scale. The balcony scene was a reflective blue shimmering off the water of the circular pool that made up the center of the stage. With the stars above and the orange glow of Manhattan reflecting off the clouds, the most famous of magical scenes was made all the more magical.

The play was magnificent and epic, so much more than I expected. It starts out like Cinderella and ends up a Hamlet. Turns out Bill Shakes knows how to write, and I can see why this one’s got staying power.

So, I have now visited the continent that is Romeo and Juliet and my life is that much more rich because of it. I'm sure I'll measure all future productions against this one - there’s nothing like first love. Delacourt, you've set the bar pretty high.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

The Bad Plus part 2

BP3May 15th, 2007
Last week I took myself off to see one of the great live acts in jazz – the Bad Plus. I've seen these guys twice before – in Hollywood a few years ago, and London in '05, and now they've got a new album out, they're hitting the clubs once again. Man, they rock! Yep, they’re a jazz trio – drums, bass, piano - but they pull from influences like they’re a JackFM DJ on an eclectic binge. In their ever-expanding repertoire of cover tunes they did a smoking version of Tom Sawyer by Rush (so you know I was smiling), and made a stadium-sized anthem out of Bowie's Life on Mars. The highlight of the first set was the meditative journey Giant off their new album.

The second set put an already incredible night into the stratosphere when they eased into a sublime Heart of Gold by Neil Young. The audience gasped.

Did I mention they’re a jazz trio?

progOf course, amongst the cover tunes that ranged from achingly beautiful to wryly comical, there were plenty of originals that are just a treat to hear and see live. In a genre known for loose structures and breaking of rules, this is a band that redefines boundaries. There's no "state theme, deviate from stated theme, pause-for-yet-another-round-of-solos, reconvene and restate stated theme." These guys keep you on your toes as an audience. They're inventive, energetic, chaotic, mischievous and insanely good at what they do.

If your up for some mind-expansion, check them out as they roll through your town.

In the meantime, hear a taste here…