A funny tale about an old cabinet and a long lost wallet (some Burbank photos supplied by me and my friend Mike). I guess you might call this everyday archeology.
Last night I watched Ironclad (2011), which, this Friday being the 150th anniversary of the epic battle of the U.S.S. Monitor vs. the C.S.S. Virginia (aka Merrimack), you might think is about Civil War era naval warfare, but, no, you would be wrong. What are ironclad are men, and this movie takes place in England in 1215, just after a group of fed-up barons forced King John to sign Magna Carta. That's the most authentic history you get in this hack and slash flick, which was made apparently to show extended sequences of men slicing into each other a la 300. The (halting) tag line for this movie is "Blood. Will. Run." Does. It. Ever.
The history utterly stinks. There is one sequence where King John, played by Paul Giamatti, has a major hissy fit and goes on about how he's the product of thousands of years of kings. Thousands? Uh, closer to about 61. He also describes Rochester Castle (an impressive stone keep in the 12th C. style) as having been built by his great grandfather. Wrong again. Okay, perhaps John was a colossal liar; that's in keeping with the usual wretched depiction of him. I'll give the filmmakers that.
But the biggest howler was how, in the film, Rochester keep was held by only a handful of men against the (Danish mercenary) forces of King John; in fact, it was surrendered to John. No Danes. Especially no Danes wearing blue woad as in Braveheart. From wikipedia: "Producer Rick Benattar strove to make the film as historically accurate as possible..." They always say that, and when they do, you can be assured that it won't be historically accurate at all.
But one doesn't watch a film like this to learn about history, one watches it to see gobbets of CGI blood flecked onto the camera lens and to learn what people mean when they say somebody is going to "get medieval" on somebody else. Off with his hands!
It was a fairly ridiculous movie.
The other day I was pondering how many composers I know whose symphonic output I'm familiar with in entirety. That is, if you dropped the tonearm somewhere in the middle of a random symphony by one of these, I'd be able to tell you the who and what (after some thought). Here they are: Beethoven (9 symphonies), Brahms (4), Sibelius (7), Tchaikovsky (6), Vaughn Williams (9), Rimsky-Korsakov (3), Stravinsky (4), Borodin (2 1/2 - the third was unfinished).
Few people know all of Haydn's symphonies; he wrote 104 or 106 (it depends...) of them. Bruckner wrote a Symphony #0; it was harshly criticized, so Bruckner withdrew it - hence the number. Even odder, however, is his Symphony #00 (I kid you not), an early work. One critic said, "It is not very inspired" (which is what I thought of the Bruckner Sixth when I heard it last year). #00 - were I a music critic I'd call it the "Buckshot" Symphony - appears to have been an academic piece, like homework.
My favorite-named composer, Carl Ditters von Dittersdorf (1739-1799, shown above - no, that's not Mozart), was probably the Symphonic Quantity King, having written at least 120. I have never heard a one of them.
Symphonies are funny things. There are great ones and there are lesser ones, and the ones you like might describe who you are to some extent - although I wouldn't want to do the analysis. Perhaps my very favorite is a minor piece lasting only about fourteen minutes long and written in one movement, Myaskovsky's 21st in F sharp minor. It's the one I would like to have played at my funeral. (Sigh not - I'm only half serious, Cari.) For some reason it has connotations and meaning for me far deeper than those aroused by the more ambitious works. So what does it say about me? That I am minor and unknown, perhaps?
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