Category Archives: Documentary

Wonder(full) Rodriguez

This blog became two years old the other day. If it could take a voice, I imagine it would take the voice of Sixto Rodriguez and say, “Thank you for keeping me alive!”, in the same simple, clear and vibrato way as Rodriguez welcomed his fans at his ‘resurrection’ concert in S. Africa in 1998. 

So two years in, Thank you Escape for making some sense out of me. Thank you all. 

And yes, I Wonder. And I thank you for Wondering:

The first song I ever heard of Rodriguez was this very “I Wonder”. It was summer, I was in a bar above the sea, on a starry night. Its style and his voice amplified the evening breeze. Shazam, beautiful shazam app, helped me ‘tag’ the song and led me to Sixto Rodriguez’ limited discography. 

searching-for-sugar-man_no__11608

Then, recently, I watched the documentary film “Searching for Sugarman” (2012) about the weird story of Sixto Rodriguez. Rodriguez, living in Detroit, made a couple of albums as a young musician at the end of the ’60’s beginning of ’70’s that didn’t do well. With his music career not going anywhere, he spent his life working as a builder in constructions.

Parallel to his low expectations life, from the ’80’s onwards his records became popular and loved in South Africa. There, for the anti-apartheid white youth of South Africa, he became a symbol; he was actually considered bigger than Elvis. And although we are talking about the final years of the 20th century, Rodriguez was living in Detroit poor and unaware of his success in some other part of the world, while in South Africa he was believed to be long dead. The rumour had it that he had heroically committed suicide on stage. That was the case until he was ‘discovered’ alive in the 90’s, thanks to the internet, to an equally big surprise to his South African fans and to him and to his family and friends. As a S. African article put it during his first ‘resurrection’ tour there in 1998 that attracted more than 50.000 people: “The US zero – the S.A. hero”. How can you not ‘Wonder’?

Here is the ‘Searching for Sugarman’ documentary film (duration: 1hr 26mins):

 

And I wonder,

I want to keep wondering

and I want to keep on sharing my wonders and my wanderings with you on ‘Escape’

How wonder-full ..!

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The Wand Masters: Leonard Bernstein and Herbert von Karajan

Leonard Bernstein and Herbert von Karajan; two very different maestros, two very unique styles; two contemporaries expressing their common ‘call’ in very distinct ways.

The two maestros appreciated each other and there is a rumour that they were planning to collaborate, late in their lives. This plan sadly didn’t materialise. Still, by these men living in the 20th century we are given the opportunity to listen to their interpretations and get glimpses of their ways of conducting life and music freely online.

I got hooked the other day listening to Bernstein after I started watching his Norton Lectures at Harvard on Music (via openculture). I was impressed by the interdisciplinary take of this modern man. So I started listening to him and was fascinated by his  (American) style of referring to his mentors throughout his career and giving a lot of importance on mentoring and education.

It was at that point that I felt the need to check out Karajan’s style, which seemed to me a lot more controlled, a more traditional approach, appropriate for an Austrian man.

The first cd I listened to in my life was the Deutsche Grammophon’s recording of Bethoven’s 9th Symphony conducted by Herbert von Karajan. It was a memorable introduction to the then new quality of sound. The surprise has stayed with me. So it was absolutely great when so many years later, that is few months ago, I found on the the itunes store an app for ipads for the 9th symphony (by Touchpress). This absolutely beautiful, easy to use app is made to help us explore and appreciate Beethoven’s music on two versions, a free one and a paid one. There you can listen to Karajan’s, Bernstein’s and others interpretation of this music, the development and use of the orchestra, the dynamics and the choices they made. It is a great app for all of us lay people to explore and understand the beauty of Beethoven’s music.

But it seems that there is always a visionary behind a masterpiece. So here are two interviews shedding some light into the personalities of Leonard Bernstein and Herbert von Karajan respectively. Two people that passed on some great old music down the to us to enjoy.

Leonard Bernstein

“The key to the mystery of a great artist is that for reasons unknown, he will give away his energies and his life just to make sure that one note follows another… and leaves us with the feeling that something is right in the world.”

“Teachers and Teaching” is an autobiographical documentary by Bernstein about his mentors and his ethics as a maestro teacher (duration: 1hr)

Herbert von Karajan

“If I still have so many things left to say and my body lets me down then it’s up to nature to give me another body. The greatest goal is to see one’s profession as a calling.”

“Karajan Or Beauty As I See it” is a documentary about the life and work of Herbert von Karajan by Robert Dornhelm. (duration: 1hr32mins)

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Garry Kasparov, “Happy Birthday!!!!!”

I just saw on my dad’s fb that today is Garry Kasparov‘s birthday. How could I have forgotten that? It is a birthday I know all my life. I am also born on the 13th of a different month and I have received many comments on the date’s bad luck connotation, to which I usually reply that this number gives birth to great minds.

Whoever doesn’t know me and reads this would probably think that I am a chess aficionado, which (sadly) I am not. But I grew up with chess all around me as my dad is a chess lover. Garry Kasparov, ever since he dramatically appeared on the international chess scene, was considered nothing less than a hero, a wonderman, a genius in my house, an (informed) view that influenced me.

So, although I do not follow chess I have  followed the outline of Garry Kasparov’s career and I am always interested in what he thinks and does.

I have also met him in person. My dad and his chess friends ages ago got him to come and play some chess in Corfu. I remember anticipating to meet the man, to hear his opinions at first hand and off the record, to spend time with him and to find out about his taste. Unfortunately, he didn’t satisfy my apetite. I remember him as a serious, focused man. A moment without playing or other obligations, a carefree moment, was not a chit chat opportunity time, but a great opportunity for him to think and reflect. To progress. The only way you could attract his attention at such moments, considered free time for the rest of us, was by bringing up a subject that fell into his active interests like history and chess.  Everything else seemed like mere distractions.

After he had left and I got over the fact that I didn’t get the pleasure to fill his time on the island with my interpretation of pleasure on Corfu,  I felt a deep respect for the man. I don’t think I had met anyone before that enjoyed and opted for serious concentration when visiting a mediterranean summer island holiday destination. By meeting Garry Kasparov I didn’t learn more about chess or history or politics but I  learnt a lot about the power of concentration and determination.

Here is a bit old documentary about Garry Kasparov that gives a fair portrayal of the chess man (English & Russian with Greek subtitles). Being a decade old doc means that it has no information on Garry’s off the (chess)board activities, which are plenty…

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Francis Bacon: The Optimist

“Great art is always a way of concentrating, reinventing what is called fact, what we know of our existence – a reconcentration… tearing away the veils that fact acquires through time.”

Francis Bacon

Francis Bacon was born like today, 28th October, in 1909 and died in 1992. He is probably the only ‘shock’ artist I like. Here is a link to an 1985 documentary about him, his work and his views. I think in this just short of an hour film you can see the man, who claims to be “an optimist for nothing” and to have no thoughts on the meaning of his individual works.

http://www.ubu.com/film/bacon.html

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Beauty in the sky

Every summer I cannot decide if I prefer full moon nights or the dark starry ones. The truth is I care not choose, I love both. In this sense I love August, a month with magical full moon(s) and star-dotted night skies.

This is an iphone (hipstamatic) pic I took of the full moon rising a couple of nights ago on the beach (almost) in front of my house in Kolymbithres, Paros.

And here is a video – guide for spotting celestial objects in the summer night sky (english with Greek subtitles.) Thank you Silina for sending me this video!

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Looking at how CERN is looking for Higgs

Excellent documentary by BBC on the research that goes on in CERN. Hearing people that either do research there or that their theories are being tried out in this mega-lab made me feel very appreciative of the commitment that has gone into CERN. A huge idea, a huge place, a huge cooperation existing in order to try out ideas (usually called ‘theories’).

This documentary was produced earlier this year, before CERN scientists announced that they have found something that could be the Higgs boson. But it is recent enough to give you the feeling that we are about to have news… and beyond that, it gave me an idea of how that huge organisation – (even logistically) on terms of research, budget, equipment and of course of scope – goes about trying to prove modern physics and mathematics.

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Richard Feynman – No Ordinary Genius (full version BBC doc)

This is a BBC Horizon documentary on Richard Feynman, this beautiful man full of curiosity. I love how in pictures of him shown on this doc he looks younger as he grows older.

Horizon: Richard Feynman – No Ordinary Genius (full version) – YouTube.

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Jorge Luis Borges, The mirror – documentary on Vimeo

Jorge Luis Borges, the mirror

A documentary on Borges. At the very beginning it sounds a bit too “proud” for the man about to portray, but very quickly it becomes interesting, informative and engaging.

Here is a Borges quote from an interview of him featured in this doc:

“Reality is a combination of perceptions, emotions, feelings, distractions, dreams and surprises. That is reality” 

(via Jorge Luis Borges, the mirror on Vimeo.)

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