Saturday, 12 March 2011

A tribute to American truckers

(image by Peterbilt)

Ever since I lived in the US back in the 70´and 80´s I have been fascinated by the big rigs and their drivers. They have always been doing a great job in keeping America rolling. Driving one of those big trucks is a tough, and often lonely job. Country music has traditonally been - and probably still is - favourite listening for many truckers. Songs like these have made life on the road a little bit less lonesome ....

The great Merle Haggard, always a truckers´ favourite:

Dave Dudley´s  Six days on the road is a classic:

Red Simpson and one of the great trucking songs:

The role of truckers in popular American culture is described in an article, written by University of Georgia professor Shane Hamilton:

Many people may be aware of the 1978 film Convoy, starring Kris Kristofferson as a renegade trucker who defies the Teamsters, the federal government, and Sheriff “Dirty” Lyle Wallace (played by Ernest Borgnine) as he leads a “mighty convoy” across the country. Most readers are, however, probably unfamiliar with such cultural gems as They Drive by Night, a 1940 Warner Brothers film starring George Raft and an actor who was then relatively unknown—Humphrey Bogart. Widely regarded by film historians as a classic “social conscience” film from the New Deal era, They Drive by Night focuses on the travails of two truckers, Joe and Paul Fabrini, as they strike out on their own to make a living as independent haulers of farm products in California. Not long afterwards, the Nashville country music industry hit upon the idea of marketing trucking tunes to roadside cafes via a new technology of the time: the jukebox. Early trucking songs, including Art Gibson’s 1947 western-swing number “I'm a Truck Drivin' Man” and Ted Daffan’s 1952 “Truck Driving Man” were aimed explicitly at truck drivers as a market segment inclined to listen to country music.
Like other country songs from the period (and unlike the rock n’ roll music that came to the forefront of American popular music in the 1950s), these tunes dealt directly with the daily concerns of working-class Americans. Later country music songs about truckers scored tremendous successes, particularly Dave Dudley’s 1963 recording of “Six Days on the Road,” along with a raft of similarly rousing paeans to the American trucker in the late 1960s and 1970s—from Merle Haggard’s “Movin’ On” to Red Sovine’s spoken-word tear-jerker, “Teddy Bear.” Country music scholar Bill Malone has gone so far as to say that trucking songs account for the largest component of work songs in the country music catalog. For a style of music that has, since its commercial inception in the 1920s, drawn attention to the coal man, the steel drivin’ man, the railroad worker, and the cowboy, this certainly speaks volumes about the cultural attraction of the trucker in the American popular consciousness.

Friday, 11 March 2011

Picasso on show at the Tate

"And how different would the art galleries of the world be today if the painstaking Jan Vermeer had lived to be ninety-one and the over-prolific Pablo Picasso had dies at thirty-nine , instead of the other way round"

Niall Ferguson, historian

Here is the good news for all Picasso lovers:

The most expensive painting to be sold at auction, Pablo Picasso's "Nude, Green Leaves and Bust," goes on public display in Britain for the first time on Monday at the Tate Modern gallery in London.
The 1932 work, which sold for $106.5 million at Christie's in New York last year, has been lent to the Tate galleries from a private collection and will be on display in a new Pablo Picasso room in the Poetry and Dream section.
"Nude, Green Leaves and Bust is one of the sequence of paintings of Picasso's muse, Marie-Therese Walter, made by the artist at Boisgeloup, Normandy, in the early months of 1932," said Nicholas Serota, the Tate's director.
"They are widely regarded as amongst his greatest achievements of the inter-war period."

And here is the bad news:
Well, I am not planning to go and see the painting. For the following reason:
Watch closely the video below - the third man from the right with the black mobile phone was my agent at the auction. I had ordered him to bid up to $110 million, but the poor man had to go to the loo just when the much lower bid was accepted. I was of course not at all amused. As a matter of fact I was furious. But what could I do?

So now I hope you understand why I can live without never again seeing one of the greatest achievments of 20th century art.

Seriously speaking, I would not contemplate travelling to London in order to see the Picasso "masterpiece" because I happen to agree with the opinion of the Scottish artist and poet Dee Rimbaud:

"I think Picasso was mightily over-rated.  Sure, he was a brilliant draftsman and his early work was powerful, but he wasn't the innovator that he's made out to be.  I think he jumped on every bloody bandwagon going, and he picked up a lot of the credit because of his technical expertise.  Once the market men got their hooks into Picasso they weren't going to let go and see the value of their investments diminish, so, it didn't matter what Picasso produced, it was always hailed as brilliant.  The guy was an art factory, knocking out up to three paintings a day.  I don't know about you, but something that requires so little effort has little value to me.  You know what I think about Picasso's middle period, it was kind of soul-less.  As for his later work, the senile ravings of an embittered old man: ugly, without the redemption of any real intensity." 

For those of you interested in what is good and not so good in art, I would like to recommend one of my previous posts.

PS 2
It has now been revealed that my "competitor" at the auction was, not surprisingly, Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich - you know the guy who owns a football team and a couple of smallish yachts. Roman´s flat in London is currently being repainted, and with no place for the Picasso at home, he offered it to the Tate.

Thursday, 10 March 2011

A message to old and new visitors of this page

Many of the more timeless posts have been updated - often with new videos added. You are most welcome to have a look!


The Spanish Riding School in Vienna - perfect equestrian ballet

Watching a performance of  the traditional equestrian ballet at the Spanish Riding School in Vienna is one of those things in life you never forget:

Here is some interesting background on equestrian ballet:
The development of the ballet proper begins in the 16th century with medieval mounted contests of martial skill being influenced by three other factors. The first is an allegorical ideal: tournaments began to be fought for the reputation of one's city, or for the beauty of a lady, etc. The second is the increased use of spectacle. A procession to show off one's sumptuous clothing assumed enormous proportions in accordance with the fictional framework. The "mostra," as they were known, thus became as important as the combat. The third element is the introduction of dressage and the Baroque ideal of raising the horse to a work of art through equitation, by combining complex movements to form a picture of flowing grace. The dressage training itself generally took place in an indoor manege or riding hall, where the horse was taught the haute ecole. The high school movements, or airs above the ground, are now only taught at the Cavalry School in Saumur in France, and at the Spanish Riding School. With the mixing of these new elements, the medieval tournament developed into a new type of equestrian festivity, the carrousel, which Watanaby-O'Kelley describes as such:
A carrousel thus consisted of a procession with floats, horsemen, footmen, and musicians usually divided into groups called quadrilles, of recited or sung speeches, of a mock combat with pre-ordained outcome and/or of competitions involving running at the ring or at the quintain. (Watanaby-O'Kelley 205)
The final refinement was added in the second half of the 16th century: the equestrian ballet. Von Holleuffer describes it in the following passage:
Equestrian ballet (la Foule, from the Italian, la Fola) is an exercise where several riders on horseback perform various figures to the sound of instruments. This exercise was also invented by the Italians, who decorated their carousels with a great many inventions, which produced a surprising yet pleasing performance.
For this exercise, well-trained, perfectly schooled horses and very talented, skillful riders are challenged, because of the difficulty, to observe the regularity of the ground, and to preserve the horse's training, position, and rhythm of the gaits.

Monday, 7 March 2011

Franco Corelli

       Listen to the great Franco Corelli sing "Dicitencello vuie". The best Italian tenor ever.  

Sunday, 6 March 2011

On friendship

(image by Wikipedia)

Marcus Tullius Cicero  (106 BC –  43 BC) the Roman philosopher, statesman, lawyer and political theorist as a humanist deeply influenced the culture of the Renaissance, and as a republican the Founding Fathers of the United States and the revolutionaries of the French Revolution. Among Cicero´s best and most enduring works are the ones he wrote at his estate in Tusculum after leaving Rome. One of them is On Friendship, from which I have selected these brief excerpts - still very true:

Real friendship is even more potent than kinship; for the latter may exist without good will, whereas friendship can do no such thing. You can see its unique power when you consider this point. The bonds which nature has established to link one member of the human race with another are innumerable; but friendship not only surpasses them all but is something so choice and selective that its manifestations are normally restricted to two persons and two persons only - or at most extremely few. 

Friendship may be defined as a complete identity of feeling about all things in heaven and earth: an identity which is strengthened by mutual good will and affection. With the single exception of wisdom, I am inclined to regard it as the greatest of all gifts the gods have bestowed upon mankind. Some people, I know, give preference to riches, or good health, or power, or public honours. And many rank sensuous pleasures highest of all. But feelings of that kind are something which any animal can experience: and the other items in that list, too, are thoroughly transient and uncertain. They do not hang on our own decision at all, but are entirely at the mercy of fickle chance. Another school of thought  believes that the supreme blessing is moral goodness; and this is the right view. Moreover, this is the quality to which friendship owes its entire origin and character. Without goodness it cannot even exist.

Friendship, on the other hand, serves a great host of different purposes all at the same time. In whatever direction you turn, it still remains yours. No barrier can shut it it out. It can never be untimely; it can never be in the way. We need friendship all the time, just as much as we need the proverbial prime necessities of life, fire and and water. I am not speaking of ordinary commonplace friendships, delightful and valuable though they can be. What I have in mind instead is the authentic, truly admirable sort of relationship, the sort that was embodied in those rare pairs of famous friends.

Friendship, then, both adds a brighter glow to prosperity and relieves adversity by dividing and sharing the burden. And another is of its very many and remarkable advantages is this. It is unique because of the bright rays of hope it projects into the future; it never allows the spirit to falter or fall. When a man thinks of a true friend, he is looking at himself in the mirror. Even when a friend is absent, he is present all the same. However poor he is, he is rich; hoever weak, he is strong.