Blogging on Christmas is what coolkids do

YouTube featured this video yesterday; it’s a product of the earliest days of filmmaking…”Santa Claus” from 1898. Pretty nifty camera tricks for 110 years ago!

One of the things on my Christmas list was the Charlie Chaplin movie City Lights…instead my family got me this. AHHH A DREAM COME TRUE!!! My favorites – City Lights and The Kid – are there, plus Monsieur Verdoux (in my opinion, his best sound film) and an awesome biography that I already watched, haha.
On a relevant (but sadder) note, Charlie Chaplin died on Christmas Day in 1977…not exactly a celebratory event, but it gives me an excuse to post a video:

Charlie wrote the music for that song…it was originally featured in Modern Times, then lyrics were added and since then it’s been covered by a ton of artists including Rod Stewart and Eric Clapton, yay!

Celebrate Christmas, Beatles and Monkees-style!

The following video is from the Monkees Christmas episode. The “gay apparel” thing is slightly offensive but hilarious (how did they get away with that in 1968? TV was still pretty censored…) I’m pretty sure I’ve posted this before, but you can never watch it too many times:

Finding a way to incorporate the holiday season into this journal wasn’t as hard as I thought it’d be. Most of my favorite bands have done something Christmassy. Every year from 1963 to 1969, the Beatles issued a Christmas record for their fan club. The first couple are incredibly silly; the next few consist of a bunch of drug-induced nonsense, and by the last ones they were obviously pretty disinterested in the whole thing. Nevertheless, they are all pretty great. Back before YouTube, when I actually had to search high and low for Beatles promos, bootlegs, and lesser-known records, I managed to find all the Christmas records and put them on a CD (I was just that obsessed). Anyway, listening to them again, I must say my favorite has got to be 1964:

Celebrating 6 and a half decades of Keef

Happy birthday to my favorite Rolling Stone, the indestructible Keith Richards! The man has done every drug known to mankind, survived jail, Altamont, and falling out of coconut trees, and he’s still going strong.

“We are not old men, we are not worried about petty morals.” – Keith, in court, 1967
(You could say he’s an old man now, but definitely still not worried about “petty morals”…)

From Classic Rock Macros (I love 60s fashion, haha):

The snitch one makes me laugh so hard. Ahhh I love Keef. And the people who make these things.

Hollywood in the 1910s and 20s

Excerpts from Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton’s autobiographies:

Thomas Ince gave barbeques and dances at his studio, which was in the wilds of northern Santa Monica, facing the Pacific Ocean. What wondrous nights – youth and beauty dancing to plaintive music on an open-air stage, with the soft sound of waves pounding on the nearby shore.
– Charlie Chaplin

I sometimes wonder if the world will ever seem as carefree and exciting a place as it did to us in Hollywood during 1919 and the early twenties. We were all young, the air in southern California was like wine. Our business was also young and growing like nothing ever seen before.
– Buster Keaton

How amazing to have lived then, when everything was changing so quickly. Records and movies and were still novelties; it seems like everything they did was totally embraced by eager audiences. The concept of the “celebrity” had never existed before that, and suddenly Hollywood was the world’s quintessence of glamour and movie stars. I wish I could’ve seen LA before it became the urban, smoggy metropolis it is today.

Also, I am amazed at how involved these guys were in making their movies. They basically did it all; wrote the story, picked the cast and location, directed the picture, and starred in it. From Buster’s autobiography:

In those free-and-easy days we all had fun making comedies….We directed our own pictures, making up our own gags as we went along, saw the rushes, supervised the cutting, went to the sneak previews…In the silent days we could try anything at all, and did. We were not supervised by business executives who lacked a sense of humor. We were the ones who decided what should go into a script to make the audience laugh. All our bosses asked of us was that our pictures make fortunes, and our pictures did.

And a video of Charlie describing his studio as it was in the late 1910s:

Can you tell I’m fascinated by this stuff? Haha. Random note: I pass the old Chaplin Studio every time I go to the train station! Yay!

Alice, Tom, Rupert, and Paul

Just saw this music video on VH1 Classic. Don’t know how the video relates at all to the lyrics, but it’s pretty sweet:

While we’re on the topic of rock gods creepily making their way into children’s tales: Singing Frog Chorus Ft. Paul McCartney, anyone? I seem to remember being a pretty big Rupert fan, but I definitely never knew about this.

PS – I just did some research. Rupert the Bear has been around since 1920, who knew??

Let me die in my footsteps

It may seem a bit contradictory, but from studying ethnomusicology I am learning how much I love American music. Not because I don’t like other music (I love it, and I love learning about it), but I’ve just realized that most of my favorite types of music are what you would call “American” genres: rock and roll, blues, motown, country, bluegrass, ragtime. But the interesting thing is, all of these genres have their origins in other countries or cultures, in some way. I guess that goes for America in general. We are just one big melting pot, which is part of the beauty of it all.

I starting thinking about this a few weeks ago when we had a guest lecturer in music class, Mark O’Connor. He’s a pretty big name when it comes to violinists and classical contemporary composers. He demonstrated the versatility of the violin by playing all sorts of stuff, Irish jigs, folk tunes, blues, classical…it was really cool.
But what really interested me was his explanation of his latest work, Americana Symphony. He talked about the influence of landscape and travel on American music: the “great wide open,” the constant migration West, the trials and tribulations of the Pilgrims, Indians, and African American slaves. There is a common spirit in all of these people that really seems to manifest itself in early American music, well, even current American music, which he proved with his symphony.

It’s true, when I hear certain music, I can envision the Great Plains, the Rockies, the West…prairies, desert, farmland. I think imagery has a lot to do with music, it’s part of why I love it so much. You can hear horses, trains, and steamboats imitated in the rhythmic strumming of a guitar, the whistling of a flute, or the pounding of a drum. And because I’ve grown up listening to these things, it feels so familiar and comforting to me. I’m really thankful to have learned to appreciate music at such an early age, and also incredibly lucky that I got to see a great part of the West and Midwest through countless road trips with my parents (and the rest of the country from touring with drum corps the past three years).
I love traveling…I love music…and I love writing about it. That’s why I’m studying ethnomusicology (the next person to ask me what I’m going to do with my degree can suck it). I’m studying it because I like it…if I don’t get a job that pays lots of money, oh well. As long as I can have my music room and a nice backyard, I’ll live out in the middle of nowhere and be happy.

Let me drink from the waters where the mountain streams flood
Let the smell of wildflowers flow free through my blood
Let me sleep in your meadows with the green grassy leaves
Let me walk down the highway with my brother in peace.
Let me die in my footsteps
Before I go down under the ground.

Go out in your country where the land meets the sun
See the craters and the canyons where the waterfalls run
Nevada, New Mexico, Arizona, Idaho
Let every state in this union seep deep down in your soul.
And you’ll die in your footsteps
Before you go down under the ground.

– Bob Dylan

The Great Stone Face

When I made this blog I totally thought it would be an outlet for my music nerdiness. Turns out suddenly it’s a lot more movie-nerdy. Maybe this nerdism will die down after my film class is over, but secretly I hope it doesn’t, haha. Anyway, I might as well go all out while I have an excuse.

Tribute of the day: Buster Keaton!

Reasons to like Buster:
*He did crazyyyy stunts
*He was born in Kansas (and has a midwestern accent :)
*He also wrote, directed, and produced a lot of his movies
*You hardly ever see him smiling or laughing on film but when he does it’s soooooo cute!

Some videos:
The Play House – Pretty sweet camera tricks for 1921…
The General – CLASSIC.
Buster singing – Dunno why it amuses me so much, but it does.

…and those wonderful people out there in the dark

I am in the middle of writing another film paper and this time it has to be about one of the movies we’ve watched in class. I think I spent more time trying to choose a film than I’ve actually spent writing, there are just soooo many good ones. This entry is going to be a tribute to some of my favorites, with the help of my good buddy YouTube.

Trouble In Paradise – This is a great time capsule of the 1930s…I love the elaborate art deco sets and glamorous styles. It also has some very witty dialogue. Yay for pre-code films!

Citizen Kane – Obviously earned the spot as #1 movie of all time on AFI’s list. There is just so much going on, and the cinematography/filming techniques are ingenious. It’s so artistic and powerful.

The Best Years of Our Lives – This one is about three men returning from WWII and basically starting life anew at home. It’s got some great funny moments and also some incredibly sweet and touching moments.

The Searchers – I’ve never really been one for Westerns, but I quite enjoyed this film. I’ll admit, if not for the amazing landscapes and setting (and we watched it on Blu-Ray!), I probably wouldn’t have enjoyed it as much, haha. Oh and I read somewhere that the shirts the Monkees wore in the first season were inspired by John Wayne’s style as seen in this movie. Sweet.

Honorary Mentions: Way Down East (a silent film from 1920; Lillian Gish is wonderful and some of the title cards are so poetic), Sullivan’s Travels (a 1941 screwball comedy and source of inspiration for O Brother, Where Art Thou?),and Casablanca (I guess I’m a typical female viewer…I was more interested in the romantic storyline than anything else going on in the movie).

But the film I chose to write about and my absolute favorite so far, is Sunset Boulevard. It’s the ultimate Hollywood movie, complete with all sorts of glamour and drama. Gloria Swanson is amazingly entrancing and creepy at the same time. She plays a former silent film actress (which she really was) who can’t accept the fact that she is no longer the greatest star in Hollywood. By the end of the film she has gone completely delusional, and the only way the police can get her out of her house to be arrested is to make her believe she is shooting a scene. It’s sooooo good. Some of the greatest names in Hollywood, from the 20s up to 50s, appear in this movie…Erich von Stroheim, Cecil B. DeMille, Buster Keaton, Hedda Hopper…it’s epic. A classic scene:

Ahhh I love this class so much; I’m going to be so sad when it’s over.

A sad two days in music.

Miriam Makeba passed away on Monday. She was one of the greatest singers to come out of South Africa, and also one of the strongest voices against apartheid. She had a heart attack as she was leaving the stage after a performance Monday night.
If you are not familiar with South African music, I’d suggest checking it out. I love how rich and soulful the music is, and it was Miriam Makeba and Ladysmith Black Mambazo (both of whom worked with Paul Simon) who gave me my first taste of it. This video is of Miriam at the Graceland concert:

Today Mitch Mitchell, drummer of the Jimi Hendrix Experience, passed away at 61. He was the last surviving member of the band, and he wasn’t even that old. At least now the Experience is reunited. R.I.P. Mitch.

Beatles and Who….Who-tles?

I saw this pic on Capslock Who and LOL’d. Oh Pete.

So I found out while looking at the classes for next quarter that the music history department is offering a class dedicated SOLELY to the Beatles. No joke. I think that is pretty amazing, although I would never take it (one, because I have no need for it in terms of my academic requirements and two, because I can guarantee I already know everything they’re going to teach…I guess it’d be a super easy A though). Anyway, a celebration in the form of macros: