Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Ars Gratia Artis


Famous MGM Studios logo
Since the political party to which
I have belonged my entire adult life is committing institutional suicide (and thus forcing me to leave it), and my beloved Kansas City Royals are in a horrendous tailspin, and the country's economy is struggling, and the dreadful Common Core standards continue to erode the quality of the education our nation's children receive, I am deeply grateful for the various art forms which offer me some refuge. 

One of the reasons this blog features weekly book, video, and music recommendations
is because those art forms offer me such refuge from the miscellaneous unpleasantnesses of life. I enjoy sharing my enthusiasms in the arts with others, just as I did for 30 years in the classroom.

Of course, it isn't necessary for art to serve such an instrumental function, not at all.
The Latin maxim ars gratia artis gets this exactly right: Art in any of its forms needs no reason for being other than itself. As one of my literary heroes Raymond Chandler once put it...
There are no vital and significant forms of art; there is only art, and precious little of that. The growth of populations has in no way increased the amount; it has merely increased the adeptness with which substitutes can be produced and packaged.
Exactly so. And so I am always grateful whenever I come across the Real Thing. Life would be unbearably tedious without the arts.

"You really miss directing plays, don't you?"

You have no idea...

Requiescat in Pace

March 23, 1931 - June 6, 2016

Chess Grandmaster Viktor Korchnoi died yesterday at his home in Wohlen, Switzerland. He was 85.

Korchnoi was one of my chess heroes in high school, in part because he was a fan of the French Defense, as I was (and still am), but also because he was an outspoken critic of the Soviet Union's stranglehold on international chess in those days.

Arguably the strongest player never to become World Chess Champion, in his playing career he held plus scores against World Champions Mikhail Tal, Tigran Petrosian, and Boris Spassky. He held even scores in his games against Mikhail Botvinnik and Bobby Fischer, two of the greatest World Champions of all time. All told he defeated nine different World Champions over-the-board, including the current title-holder Magnus Carlsen.

His career was marred by the anti-Semitism of the Soviet chess hierarchy (Korchnoi was Jewish), and by his stubborn, outspoken temperament. Nonetheless, he was a towering figure in the history of chess. R.I.P.

Happy Birthday!

Chemin a Papeete, 1891

On June 7, 1848 Eugène Henri Paul Gauguin was born in Paris. He would become one of the greatest painters of the last half of the 19th century.

When I began decorating my classroom in Atlantic with fine art prints, I strove
to have as many works in the "portrait" orientation as in the "landscape" orientation, for aesthetic reasons. It is a bit harder to find prints of paintings in the "portrait" orientation, so I was glad to come across the one shown at left.

I was never the biggest fan of Gauguin's style, but over time looking at this painting caused me to reconsider him.
It helped when I learned that Gauguin was a major influence on Henri Matisse, one of my favorites.

Do You Really Want to Find Out?

From the pen of Lisa Benson, whose editorial cartoons you should read often, as I do.

Until Next Time...

This week's Music Recommendation is a new release from the Royal Scottish National Orchestra, celebrating the orchestra's 125th anniversary. There is nothing but terrific stuff on this album. Highly recommended!

My first encounter with the group was in 2000, through their album of music from the Trevor Jones / Randy Edelman score of Michael Mann's awesome 1992 film The Last of the Mohicans.

The original soundtrack is one of my all-time favorites, but I also enjoy listening to this version. The RSNO is conducted by American film composer Joel McNeely, and they do a splendid job of reinterpreting the original score.

Today's send-off is a delightful video from the orchestra's YouTube channel. It is a "flash mob"-style performance of an excerpt from Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture filmed at the Glasgow Airport on September 21, 2012. Enjoy...

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