Monday, February 29, 2016

Monday Music: Two Choirs Walk into a Bar

"Here's what happens when two of America's premiere male ensembles, Cantus & Chanticleer walk into a bar..." A beautiful rendition of Franz Biebl's Ave Maria!

I'll never forget the day I met Chanticleer during it's early days.It was in the Spring of 1978, I had started grad school in the San Francisco Bay Area just a couple of months earlier. My roommate and decided to go into San Francisco one afternoon, and came upon some young men in Renaissance costume singing old songs a Capella on the street near Ghiradelli Square.

We were quite impressed and went up to talk with them after their performance. I was a recent English Major graduate and was fascinated when the young man we spoke with said the group's name was Chanticleer. In the years hence, I am always thrilled when I hear them mentioned on the radio, recalling having met them on the streets of San Francisco. Now I am happy to hear about the group Cantus, as well.


Saturday, February 27, 2016

Saturday Haiku: New Day


sea birds greet the sun
half-humming an ancient song
that brings a new day

Photo by Jenny Lines: "Sunrise on the Florida-Alabama line"
Found at Only in Your State


Friday, February 26, 2016

Recipes My Daughter Likes: Polenta with Speckled Butter Beans

Anything I file under "Recipes my daughter likes" will by definition be vegetarian and vegan. This one is quick and easy and has a Southern flavor. It is a recipe that I threw together the other night with things that we had on hand. It turned out very well, being healthy, filling and it even had a gourmet flair.

Here is what I had on hand to prepare the dish:


  • Fresh frozen speckled butter beans, 10 oz.
  • Field Roast brand Vegan Italian sausage (1 link)
  • One roll of packaged polenta
  • Vegetable bouillon 

Here is what I did:

Using one cube of Knorr's Vegetable Bouillon, prepare 2 cups of broth in a medium sized boiler.

Add about 10 oz. of fresh frozen speckled butter beans (I used about 1/3 of my 32 oz. bag in the freezer). Bring to a boil, then cover and simmer for about 45 minutes, until beans are tender. Add water as needed.

While the beans are cooking:
  • Unwrap the polenta and slice if into ½ inch rounds 
  • Unwrap one of the Field Roast Vegan Italian sausages and slice it into ½ inch rounds. 
Have these on a plate ready to cook when the beans are done.

Cooking the polenta and sausage:

In a large skillet, dissolve another cube of Knorr's Vegetable Bouillon in about an inch of water. Use this broth to cook the polenta slices as well as the sausage slices in. (I have cooked polenta in the oven and I have tried frying it in a skillet with some oil, but the best method I have found is to simmer the slices in a skillet with some broth instead of oil. This way, there is no sticking to the pan, and the polenta is nicely flavored by the broth)

Over medium heat, sauté the polenta in the skillet with the broth for about six minutes, turning each slice over halfway through (about 3 minutes per side). When the polenta is cooked, remove them to a serving plate and then do the same preparation with the sausage slices, sautéing them in the broth for 3 to 4 minutes on each side. 

By the time I put the sausages in, the broth had cooked down and I needed more liquid, so I added a little sherry to the skillet to finish cooking the sausages (of course, on should always have some sherry at the ready in the kitchen).

When serving, place three or four slices of polenta on a plate. With a slotted spoon, dish out some butter beans on top of the polenta. Scoop up some sausage rounds ad scatter then on top of the butter beans. Enjoy!

Yield: This recipe produced three good servings. Adding another sausage link would have stretched it to four good servings servings. You could increase the amount of speckled butter beans as well, depending upon how many people you are serving.


Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Igor Stravinsky Meets the Honeymooners

Wikipedia photo
Igor Stravinsky (Public Domain photo)

It All Started with a News Release

A friend recently shared some news that he as a musician was quite excited about. It was a news release about some long lost Stravinsky manuscripts:

The orchestral parts for a Stravinsky score believed to have been lost 
or destroyed in the 1917 revolutions have turned up in a pile of old manuscripts at the St. Petersburg Conservatory.

Call it stream-of-consciousness, call it word association, or just call it zany, but when I read about the discovery of Stravinsky's lost manuscripts, I said to myself, "Wow! And we thought finding the lost Honeymooners episodes was a big deal!" From there, my mind began working on on how to connect those two discoveries. I imagined Jackie Gleason's Ralph Kramden character looking through Stravinsky's lost manuscripts that he had stumbled upon. 

Kramden always seemed to be coming up  with some get-rich-quick scheme that never turned out the way he anticipated. I began to envision a Honeymooners type of scheme playing off of the Stravinsky find. 

A Story Takes Shape

Picture, if you will, that cold water flat in Brooklyn, NY. Ralph has called his friend and neighbor, Ed Norton, down to tell him of his tremendous find by the trash heap at the bus station.

"Take a look at this Norton. You just never know what people are going to throw out."

"Looks like some kind of music, Ralph."

"Dis ain't just some kind of music, Norton. Take a closer look right here. Ya see? These are gen-u-wine Stravinsky manuscripts!"

"Stravinsky, you say?" 

"Stravinsky. You know, he was one a dem famous high-brow musicians! Can you believe it, Norton? These Stravinsky manuscripts are a gold mine! A GOLD MINE I'm tellin' ya!" 

"A gold mine, huh?" Ed inquires.

"Norton! You know that talent contest we saw advertised in the paper? First prize is a brand new washing machine and dryer! What I wouldn't do do get Alice somethin' like that to help out with the housework. We can take this Stravinsky music, put some words to it and have us a show! And if we do this right, Norton, the sky's the limit. We could be on our way! Who knows where this could lead? We could see our names up in lights!"
"You said it Ralph! Just imagine, 'NORTON and KRAMDEN' lit up on Broadway!"

"I think that would be, 'KRAMDEN and NORTON." Are you forgettin' whose idea this?"

"Right you are, Ralphie! Let me get to the piano and we'll be on our way ta da big time!"

Once at the piano, Ed will crack his knuckles, adjust his seat, place his fingers on the keyboard then adjust the music. Then he will adjust the seat again, limber up his fingers with a wiggling motion, adjust the music again, put hands to the piano keys then adjust his seat again until an impatient Ralph Kramden shouts, "Will you play da piano?!"  

Ralph and Ed start hammering out some lyrics as the scene fades. In the next scene we get to see the end product of their efforts. Imagine an old-fashioned 1950s television stage production of Kramden and Norton's "Stravinsky Follies" which will surely win that washer and dryer that Ralph wants to give to Alice. If things go right, maybe Ralph can even earn enough money to get her a mink coat and a nice uptown apartment.

Of course, with it being The Honeymooners, there will have to be a turn that sets them right back into the dim reality of driving a bus for Ralph and working the sewer lines for Ed, but oh what a blissful moment it will have been, imagining a different kind of life. 

Alice and Trixie will, of course, assure there foolish husbands that they would have no other life than the one they have now. Ralph will hug his wife, and say, "Alice, your're the greatest!" as the curtain falls and the band begins to play.


(Still shots of scenes from the classic Honeymooners episodes were found online)


Monday, February 22, 2016

Monday Music: Blowin' In the Wind (Stevie Wonder)

Stevie Wonder, at 16 years of age, gave an incredibly strong performance of Bob Dylan's "Blowin' in the Wind." The video of the live pereformance is a bit grainy, but the audio is very good.


Saturday, February 20, 2016

Saturday Haiku: Evening Lights

lanterns remind us
lesser lights will show the way
when darkness sets in


Image: Miyajima Evening (wood block print)
Artist: Ito Yuhan


Friday, February 19, 2016

The Pope and the Donald


I happened to be at home getting some home repair work done yesterday when the news broke on CNN: “Pope Says Trump Is Not Christian.” The coverage that ensued got crazier and crazier. In fact, I haven't laughed so much at the news since John Stewart left The Daily Show.  

While the news people were talking about what Pope Francis had said about building walls instead of bridges in response to an immigration question while in Mexico, the news went live to a Trump gathering where the Donald was responding to the Pope's comments. It came across as, "Oh so the Pope it talking about ME? (swagger, swagger). Well let me tell ya, for a religious leader to question someone's faith is disgraceful!"

It's not like others have not questioned the Donald's faith, wondering if he is just pandering to the voters, since faith had never seemed to me an important issue with him before. Early on, when he said the Bible was his favorite book next to his own, some news journalists asked what particular scriptures were his favorite, he said, "I wouldn't want to get into it because to me that's very personal them all. The Bible means a lot to me, but I don't want to get into specifics." And of course there was the hilarious quoting of "Two Corinthians" when he spoke at Liberty University. 

I should add that to me, it sounded like the Pope, in responding to the question of a proposed wall along the border, was explaining that that kind of action would not be Christian. Some of the context may have been lost in translation, but it is not the first time that a pope has called out a nation’s practice as being contrary to the Christian faith (that is sort of what pope’s do in their pastoral role). John Paul II called out the US on economic policies that do not reflect Christian values and in the same vein spoke out against capital punishment.  One could also point out that Bernie Sanders has some policies that do reflect Christian values, but that does not mean he is a Christian (he in fact is Jewish). I do not see it as a matter of judging a person, but rather a matter of judging a policy.  

The Donald Does Not See Himself in the White House

Donald Trump tipped his hand by his choice of words while he was responding to the Pope's comments. He does not really expect to make it to the White House. He said that “if and when the Vatican is attacked by ISIS, the Pope would have only wished and prayed that Donald Trump would have been President because this would not have happened." That sounds like someone who does not expect to be in the White House. You heard it here first. It will be just as well for Mr. Trump, though. He can continue to say things like, "That would not have happened if I had been President!" I think he will like that just fine.

Then the anchor went to Jerry Falwell, Jr. for his response. The junior is not as impressive a speaker as his dad, but he discounted the Pope remarks because Jesus said religious leaders were a bunch of hypocrites (he didn't seem to notice that he was being interviewed because he himself is a religious leader). Falwell was also quite displeased that the Pope is trying to get countries to act more Christian when Jesus, in Falwell's view, just wanted individuals to be charitable and let to just let the Romans handle all the government stuff. So suddenly, The Rev. Falwell, Jr. thinks that Christian beliefs have no place in the U.S. government? Well that should save him and his ilk lots of time formerly spent advocating for prayer in schools and ending abortion.

Between the anchor trying to explain what the Pope said, Trump's comments and Falwell's comments, I was rolling with laughter. What can I say, they were filling air time. If you wrote a screen play like this for the movies, critics would say, "That would never happen in the real world!"


Thursday, February 18, 2016

Bob Marley: A Voice of Hope when Things Fall Apart

I went to see Star Wars: The Force Awakens with my daughter during its first week at the box office. I had been a big fan of the first trilogy, but I was not as thrilled by the prequel trilogy that came some twenty years later. This newest Star Wars adventure, as others have already said, had the feel of the original, and it was great to see our old heroes back on the screen. It may come as a surprise to some that I was hit with a Bob Marley excitement during one scene in the movie.

In The Force Awakens, we find the heroes of the original Star Wars trilogy scattered and taking refuge as the powers of the old Empire have set about reclaiming their dominion. A cantina scene recaptures the one in the first Star Wars movie. There were unusual beings gathered together at an intergalactic “watering hole.” Only this time, instead of music that resembled some roaring twenties speakeasy that we heard in Star Wars: A New Hope, the music had a distinct reggae beat. It wasn't a Bob Marley song, to be sure. The music was written by Lin Manuel Miranda and J.J. Abrams, but it was the reggae tempo that caught me. My mind went immediately to Bob Marley. I said to myself, “Yes! This is what it's all about! Those who are down will find a way to get back up!” 

The Reggae Beat

I was not very familiar with the music of Bob Marley until the early 1980s even though reggae had already made a significant impact on the airwaves of broadcast radio. I was teaching English at Hong Kong Baptist College (now Hong Kong Baptist University) when I learned about the music of Bob Marley and the Wailers from a high school student who was the son of one of my colleagues. Years later, that same young man would recall in a conversation with me, “His music was very relaxing, yet so revolutionary!”

Mikal Gilmore of Rolling Stone magazine wrote something similar in The Life and Times of Bob Marley:

Marley wasn't singing about how peace could come easily to the World but rather how hell on Earth comes too easily to too many. His songs were his memories; he had lived with the wretched, he had seen the downpressers and those whom they pressed down.

…He was a superb melody writer, and his songs' insinuating pop hooks pull the listener into the realities Marley was describing. It's a wonderful yet subversive device: Marley sang about tyranny and anger, about brutality and apocalypse, in enticing tones, not dissonant ones.  

Bob Marley certainly had a profound impact upon the world of music and his influence was felt far beyond his Jamaican homeland. In his music he found a source of hope, but it was also a way to give voice to the struggles that so many endure. He so skillfully used that reggae beat that is able to incorporate both slow and fast rhythms at the same time. Perhaps the form itself is a metaphor for our times.

Meanwhile at Movie Galaxies Far Away

It was that profound hope and joy that I felt while viewing The Force Awakens, and it was evoked by a few strains of reggae. Upon reflection, I was reminded of another Marley reference at the movies. The 2007 post-apocalyptic film, I Am Legend, starring Will Smith, gave Marley much more overt recognition. In that story, an outbreak of a genetically engineered virus has wiped out most of humanity, and the few survivors are trying to make their way. Will Smith’s character, Robert Neville, finds himself having to explain the music of Bob Marley to his new-found survivor friend and plays “Three Little Birds,” a selection from a Bob Marley CD he describes to her as “the best album ever made.” He then tells her of Marley’s radical idea that you could “cure racism and hate by injecting music and love.”

Every age has its oppressive Babylon, and every era has those who have been pressed down under the hand of the ruling elite. Every age also has people who are conscious of the end of their own era. Those who are conscious during pivotal times can see the collapse of one era and the dawning of another. Finding hope during uncertain pivotal times can be crucial to one’s well-being when things seem to be falling apart.

Another Soundtrack for our Day?

Politicians are in the business of selling hope and solutions for the problems that besiege us and the uncertainties that plague the populace at large. Recently, I was among the many who took delight at Bernie Sanders’ campaign ad that made effective use of  Simon and Garfunkel’s song, “America.” I loved the positive message of hope that countered so much negativity that has been offered up on the other end of the political spectrum. Bernie was tapping into the soundtrack of my generation and it struck a chord with us.

Maybe Bob Marley's hard-won optimism in the midst of poverty and oppression is one that can resonate with more of us during these uncertain times. My daughter tells me that everyone in her age group is expecting an apocalypse, which is why she and her friends are attracted to post-apocalyptic films and TV shows about zombies. In our current political mix we are seeing on the one hand a politics of fear tapping in to a base of xenophobic climate-change deniers. On the other hand we have those who want to see a more equitable landscape and a greater effort for the common good.

I am thinking we all need to add more songs of hope to our own personal soundtracks. As Mikal Gilmore said, "Marley sang about tyranny and anger, about brutality and apocalypse, in enticing tones, not dissonant ones." Maybe we need some reggae to bring it all together for us. I would love to see a new Bernie Sanders campaign ad with a little reggae in the mix. He is, after all, calling for a revolution. We could use that reggae ability to incorporate both slow and fast rhythms into our lives. We need a word that speaks of a new day, letting us know that “every little thing’s gonna be alright.”


Monday, February 15, 2016

Monday Music: Remembering Maurice White "Shining Star"

On February 4, we lost another luminary in the world of rock music when Maurice White died at the age of 74. In a New York Times op ed piece by Roger Thompson, "Earth, Wind & Fire’s Musical Reintegration," Thompson observed:

It may seem obvious that without Mr. White, there would be no Commodores, Kool and the Gang, or the Gap Band. It is less obvious that without Mr. White, there is probably no “Thriller,” Outkast, Pharrell Williams or Drake.

"Mr. White faced the central challenge for the black musician of the time: how to find a wider audience within an increasingly consolidated music industry and a fragmenting music landscape.


Sunday, February 14, 2016

Living Beyond Cupid's Arrow (Re-post)

Here is a re-post from Valentine's Day 2011:

Antonio Canova's
Psyche Revived by Cupid's Kiss
Today, on St. Valentine's Day, we celebrate romantic love. How many songs, stories, legends, and movies have been sung, told and made that center around the notion of romantic love? When it catches us, all is right with the world. But is it realistic to try to sustain the euphoria? Is it natural to try to repeat that initial phase of romance throughout one’s life?

Most people understand that romantic love serves to bond us into a relationship. Much has been written about how romantic love lasts about 18 months – long enough for a couple to commit and have their first offspring. Science might say that romantic love serves a biological and evolutionary purpose - but when you are caught up in it, it is so much more fun than science makes it sound! The problem for many is that life sets in: “the honeymoon is over,” “the magic is gone,” “the passion subsides.” Some may wonder how they can re-kindle the flame; others may leave one partner to pursue another in order to repeat that initial sensation of being in love.

Love and Limerence

In the 1979, Dr. Dorothy Tennov, in her book, Love and Limerence – the Experience of Being in Love, coined the term limerence to refer to that aspect of intense romantic love. Characteristics of limerence include intrusive, involuntary thoughts about the “limerent object” (the object of one’s affection); feelings of elation, buoyancy and freedom; a longing for reciprocation; a fear of rejection; and overwhelming shyness in the presence of the “limerent object.”  Limerence can lead to euphoria or despair.  It all sounds like situations we have heard about in story and song about love potions, love-sickness, the arc of Cupid's arrow, and the tragedy of unrequited love. (1)

According to Tennov, there are three possible bonds in a pairing relationship:

1. Affectional bond in which neither partner is limerent.
2. Limerent-Nonlimerent bond in which one partner is limerent.
3. Limerent-Limerent bond in which both partners are limerent. (2)

It seems that limerence can be magic, wonderful, volatile, or tragic - which brings me back to our celebration of romantic love. What does it all mean? I think most people like to see young people in love – it somehow reaffirms our hope and belief in the upward and loving process of Life. We can take joy in the fact that there continues to be loving, caring, pairing and bonding. The true test of love, however, is not in keeping the euphoria and elation alive. The true test is in the commitment to continue to make a life together.

A Shared Life

One of my favorite movies is Fiddler on the Roof. In that musical drama, Tevye’s solid traditional world is sent spinning as he witnesses one daughter after the other marrying for love rather than opting for the security of arranged marriages. Then there comes that brief, quiet song where Tevye asks his wife, Golde, “Do you love me?” She first takes it as a foolish question, but Tevye persists in asking, “Do you love me?” One senses that Tevye wonders if he has missed something along the way. Golde reflects upon how they have spent their lives together for 25 years, making a family and a home amidst all the drudgery of housework, chores and daily living. She concludes, “If that’s not love, what is?” “Then you love me?” Tevye asks again. “I suppose I do,” she says. “And I suppose I love you, too,” Tevye sings with relief and reassurance. At the end of the song Tevye and Golde sing together, “It doesn't change a thing, but even so; After twenty-five years, it's nice to know.”

Cupid’s arrow was beyond the scope of Tevye's and Golde’s experience, but they found that bonding of love that sustained them in a changing world where they struggled to maintain a minimal standard of living. Nowadays, though statistics show marriage to be on the decline, most of us seem to think we should marry for love. Sometimes that “love” is really a blind limerence not based in reality. Often it is a true romantic bonding that gives an emotional foundation to build upon. Couples who live beyond Cupid’s arrow understand that love is more than a feeling and more solid than an emotion. Love engenders a caring and a respect and a commitment to go through the storms of life together.

Celebrating Love

I took heart the other day when I was out buying Valentine’s Day cards for my wife and my daughter. I was encouraged that the card industry was appealing to so many aspects of familial love and romantic love. There were cards for daughters, sons, wives, husbands, nieces, nephews, new lovers, and long time lovers. I was also encouraged by taking note of who was selecting the cards for purchase. They were young, old, fat, thin, plain and ordinary people. They were ordinary people caught up in the midst of life’s struggles who wanted to stop and recognize the importance of love in their lives. I did not see anyone who appeared to be in the throes of limerence or struck by Cupid’s arrow, but they were regular folk stopping to celebrate the ways that love has touched their lives.

References cited from Wikipedia:

For further reading:

I can recommend three books by Robert A. Johnson. Very readable on the layperson's level, Johnson's writings provide an understanding into the the psychology of relationships by using imagery from Greek mythology:

  • He: Understanding Masculine Psychology
  • She: Understanding Feminine Psychology
  • We: Understanding the Psychology of Romantic Love


Saturday, February 13, 2016

Saturday Haiku: Sunrise on the Water

dark waters reflect
the beauty of the sunrise
as do human hearts


Photo by Christy Kinnaird: Sunrise on Lake Union, looking toward Seattle, Washington

Friday, February 12, 2016

Sharrif Simmons Offers a Poem for Birmingham

From an article in :

"Simmons is a musician, spoken-word poet and cultural organizer, and he's used those art forms to influence Birmingham, his adopted hometown. In "A More Perfect Union," the native New Yorker speaks to the city's past and present while encouraging an ever-brighter future."


Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Stuck Inside the Diner (with Attila the Hun)

I'm calling this one imitative poetry. The inspiration came with the cartoon below that had so many zany elements, it reminded me of a Bob Dylan song. Captivated, I then set out to try to imitate a Bob Dylan song which you can read by scrolling down below the cartoon. (Since the following was inspired by a cartoon image, it can also be classified as an ekphrastic poem)

                   Stuck Inside the Diner (with Attila the Hun)

(start out with a little bass guitar blues rhythm…)

Oh I walked into the diner,
Wasn’t looking for nothin' more
Than a sandwich and some coffee
And there was blueberry pie on the floor.

There was a waitress with her pencil
Sayin' “What can I getcha, Hun?
That's when I turned and saw Attila
Sittin’ at table number one.

Well he was lookin’ at the menu
He said “I’m eatin’ on the run.
Lookin’ for mare’s milk and blood
And some raw steak when I'm done.

Well I was stuck inside the diner
With Attila the Hun,
Said I was stuck inside the diner
With Attila the Hun.
Lookin' for food for the body,
Lookin’ for refuge on a bun.

Now the waitress kept her cool,
She said, I've seen your kind before.
If you don't like the food we're servin'
We can show ya to the door.

Then Attila went to grumblin'
Gimme the pepperoni, then.
I gotta get used to eatin' Italian
Since I plan to move on in.

So she wrote the order down
And gave him cole slaw on the side.
She stuck her pencil in her hair,
The lady had no need to hide.
   (spoken as an aside: the lady was cool)

But I was stuck inside the diner
With Attila the Hun,
Yes I was stuck inside the diner
With Attila the Hun.
Lookin' for food for the body,
Lookin’ for refuge on a bun.

(guitar riffs will go nicely here)

There hung a portrait of a rabbit
On a suicidal mission for sure
Grippin’ dynamite in his teeth
Lookin’ for the man that has the cure.

Well I had the strange impression
Of bein’ eyeballed from the side
‘Cause underneath the counter
Somebody found a place to hide.

So I kept my wallet close
Didn’t know if I should run
‘Cause I was stuck inside the diner
With Attila the Hun.

(more guitar riffs winding down to the final chorus)

I was stuck inside the diner
With Attila the Hun,
Oh I was stuck inside the diner
With Attila the Hun.
Lookin' for food for the body,
Lookin’ for refuge on a bun.


Monday, February 8, 2016

Monday Music: Kodaline "Big Bad World"

I knew nothing about Kodaline until last week when I heard their impressive rendition of the sea shanty, "Haul Away Joe," in the movie, The Finest Hours. They are an Irish indie rock band, originally known as 21 Demands, and have had songs featured on Grey's Anatomy, MTV's Catfish and other television venues. You can check out other songs of theirs on their YouTube channel.


Saturday, February 6, 2016

Saturday Haiku: Blossoms in the Snow

blossoms which herald
the bright promises of spring
sometimes wait in snow
                                                                                                           ~ CK

Japanese Garden in Snow ~ Bunkyo Ward, Tokyo.
Photo by tokyobling


Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Movie Review: The Finest Hours

It is not often that I review a newly released movie (I have reviewed some movies decades after their release*), and I wasn't exactly sure what to expect from The Finest Hours since the few clips I had seen were mostly scenes of guys shouting in heavy rain. I have to say that it was an excellent movie-going experience, with much to offer.

For one thing, the film was an interesting "period piece." Set in 1951-52, it wasn't really "the fifties" yet, but more like the forties. Seeing the old cars, clothing fashions, and the old-fashioned  kitchen furnishings was pleasing to the eye and definitely helped to set the mood. Some may see it as simply old-fashioned and nostalgic, but I saw it as a period piece effectively telling a true-life story of heroism and struggle against the elements.

I was impressed with Chris Pine's portrayal of the lead character, Bernie, who leads a small Coast Guard crew to rescue the survivors of an oil tanker that has broken apart in gale force winds and choppy seas. Suddenly he was not just "that other actor who played Captain Kirk" in the new Star Trek reboot. He demonstrated some depth and breath in his acting ability. Casey Affleck (Ben's brother) also gave an effective performance as Pine's "counter part" -- the one on the oil tanker who rises to a leadership role to rally the remnant of a crew in order to stay alive long enough to be rescued.  

An Understated Culture

The acting on everyone's part was subtle rather than larger than life. We were given a picture of ordinary people, just "regular guys," who became heroes under very extreme circumstances. I had a little difficulty following the New England accents at first, but the Maine dialect that Pine and the other actors were able to capture gave the story more authenticity in my mind.

We also see something of the complicated and subtle masculine culture of coastal Maine. We see that guys expect guys to do things in certain ways. Bernie is in the Coast Guard, and we come to see that he believes in doing everything according to regulation, even to the point of getting permission from his commanding officer to marry his girlfriend. It is ironic that Bernie's colleagues seem to look askance at his intent to do everything by the book, yet at the same time they have their own demands about how one should act in order to get along in their world. 

Photography Brings it Together

The photography was so good, it could almost qualify for the role of best supporting actor. Indeed, the photography along with the special effects did much to carry the story along, whether is was an aerial pan of the area to fully orient the audience to the location of the men at sea, or the slow motion depictions of waves spraying across the bow and men struggled against nature.

While the photography was setting the mood, the music helped to underscore that mood. At one point when Bernie's girlfriend, Miriam, is looking out toward the sea wondering how her beloved is faring, I found myself thinking, This looks like a moment evoked by so many sea shanties. Sure enough, there was the singing of a sea shanty, "Haul Away Joe," by some of characters on the boat. The greater musical treat, however, came during the closing credits when the Irish group, "Kodaline," sang "Haul Away Joe." Their performance was so good that I had to look up the group to see who they were and what else they were doing.

It is an intense story with with great music, great photography, and a happy ending. Based on a true story, we see ordinary people coming together to do extraordinary things. Just do not leave the theater during the closing credits until you have heard Kodaline sing "Haul Away Joe."

Here's the promotional trailer:                           


  • Chris Pine as Boatswain's Mate First Class Bernard "Bernie" Webber
  • Casey Affleck as Ray Sybert
  • Ben Foster as Seaman Richard Livesey
  • Holliday Grainger as Miriam Pentinen Webber
  • John Ortiz as Seaman Wallace Quirey
  • Eric Bana as Chief Warrant Officer Daniel Cluff
  • Josh Stewart as Tchuda Southerland
  • Graham McTavish as Frank Fauteux
  • Kyle Gallner as Engineman Third Class Andrew Fitzgerald
  • Keiynan Lonsdale as Eldon Hanan
  • Rachel Brosnahan as Bea Hansen
  • Michael Raymond-James as A.B. Seaman D.A. Brown
  • John Magaro as Seaman Ervin Maske
  • Matthew Maher as Carl Nickerson
  • Benjamin Koldyke as Donald Bangs
  • Beau Knapp as Mel Gouthro


* For example, see my review of Three Days of the Condor, or my discussion of The Americanization of Emily.


Monday, February 1, 2016

Monday Music: Some Nights (Fun)

I asked my daughter to pick out today's Monday Music feature. This one was rocking the airwaves when she rolled out of college and into graduate school. Often it is the youth who are the most articulate in talking about an existential crisis and  these kids do it with a catchy tune and a nice beat.  Performed by American indie rock band Fun, the song was released on June 4, 2012, as the second single and the title track from their second studio album of the same name.

Some Nights

Some nights, I stay up cashing in my bad luck
Some nights, I call it a draw

Some nights, I wish that my lips could build a castle
Some nights, I wish they'd just fall off

But I still wake up, I still see your ghost
Oh Lord, I'm still not sure, what I stand for oh oh oh
What do I stand for? Oh what do I stand for?
Most nights, I don't know anymore
Oh whoa, oh whoa, oh whoa oh oh
Oh whoa, oh whoa, oh whoa oh oh

This is it, boys, this is war, what are we waiting for?
Why don't we break the rules already?
I was never one to believe the hype,
Save that for the black and white I try twice as hard and I'm half as liked,
But here they come again to jack my style

That's alright, I found a martyr in my bed tonight
Stops my bones from wondering just who I, who I, who I am, oh who am I, mm, mm

Well some nights, I wish that this all would end
'Cause I could use some friends for a change
And some nights, I'm scared you'll forget me again
Some nights, I always win, I always win

But I still wake up, I still see your ghost
Oh Lord, I'm still not sure what I stand for, oh
What do I stand for? Oh what do I stand for? Most nights, I don't know (come on)

So this is it? I sold my soul for this?
Washed my hands of that for this?
I miss my mom and dad for this?
No. When I see stars, when I see stars, that's all they are
When I hear songs, they sound like a swan, so come on
Oh, come on, oh, come on, oh come on!

Well that is it, guys, that is all, five minutes in and I'm bored again
Ten years of this, I'm not sure if anybody understands
This is not one for the folks at home, I'm sorry to leave, mom, I had to go
Who the fuck wants to die alone all dried up in the desert sun?
My heart is breaking for my sister and the con that she called "love"
But when I look into my nephew's eyes,
Man you wouldn't believe, the most amazing things, that can come from,
Some terrible nights, ah (oh whoa, oh whoa, oh whoa, oh oh)

Oh whoa, oh whoa, oh whoa, oh oh
Oh whoa, oh whoa, oh whoa, oh oh

The other night, you wouldn't believe the dream I just had about you and me
I called you up, but we'd both agree
It's for the best you didn't listen
It's for the best we get our distance, oh
It's for the best you didn't listen
It's for the best we get our distance, oh
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