Movie Review: Paris Can Wait – June 24

Movie Review: Paris Can Wait – June 24

My daughter had been a bit gloomy for the past couple of days. Typical fourteen year old drama learning how to manage relationships over texting instead of real conversations. So to get her out of her funk, I suggested we see a “girls only” movie on a summer Saturday afternoon.

A good friend joined us at the Steelstacks Cinemas for a screening of Paris Can Wait. I was totally in the mood for a foodie movie. And I got just what I wanted. But the producers really would have made magic by supplying samples of the wine… I left the theater wanting to eat crusty bread and fancy goat cheese with a rich merlot.

The movie runs a little short; just over 90 minutes. But if it were any longer, it would have felt too long. Diane Lane is simply delightful. She has very acrobatic eyebrows. And I really. REALLY loved the beige pants she wore in the beginning of the film. Good thing my friend is a costumer. She was able to tell me how they were constructed, so I can try to find them. Of course, Ms. Lane is in great shape too, which always makes pants look fabulous. I’m not the only one looking for those linen pants. Check out this blog I found. And then this other one. I think this movie will be more about those pants than the food, the wine, the locations or… wait. Was Alec Baldwin in it?

While the story was simple, the scenery and message were what I wanted. It was a lovely trip to France, with a message of appreciating the surroundings and the simplicity of what nature already provides. Nice movie by Mrs. Coppola; Sophia’s mom. Her husband? Yeah, that guy.

If you care to read a better review of the film, the Los Angeles Times was nice. On average, the movie isn’t getting rave reviews by the critics. But I can tell you that women in their 50s are going to be thinking of how fabulous Diane Lane looked in this film; defying expectations for “mature” Hollywood actresses. Wait. I’m the same age as she… I’m mature?!?!?! (ick)

I don’t think I would have enjoyed the movie as much in the other multiplex theaters around. I love seeing movies at ArtsQuest. They’ve always got a few good choices. The comfy chairs, the clean floors and the potential to enjoy an adult beverage and the $8 ticket, no matter the time of day – will always keep the Banko Alehouse Cinemas my favorite venue to take in a movie.

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Made in Bethlehem – June 22

Made in Bethlehem – June 22

There’s a group of people making a documentary film about the Bethlehem art scene. The project started last summer with the support of a Mellon Foundation grant through Lehigh’s Digital Humanities program. The production team is interviewing dozens of people in our community who have built the current cultural scene that has helped the local economy recover after the fall of Bethlehem Steel.

What we see today is because of the perseverance of people who were determined to make something special. Now they want to make that special thing last.

As I say to my students, having assets in a community is great. The quality of the assets are what define the quality of the place we call home. Assets are parks, independent businesses, concert venues, diverse dining, art galleries, coffee shops that sell locally roasted beans….  those tangible things that shape the character of a community.

But assets are not just the things; they are the results of creative and contributing citizens. But if we all don’t take and share the care and support of the assets, especially the people, they go away.

This film is about supporting the people who are the voice of our community’s culture, history, art, music and personality. This film is about giving respect to, and taking care of the people who define the Bethlehem arts scene.

Here is a direct link to the Kickstarter page so you can see updates on the project make a contribution. This crowdfunding effort has less than three more weeks to reach its goal. I hope you’ll consider giving your support to the people in our community that are true treasures to behold.

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What I’m Watching – June 19

What I’m Watching – June 19

There was an event today; a gathering of Lehigh Valley people involved in the arts, humanities, and libraries. The people in the room have dedicated their lives to the arts, not because they are determined to succeed, but they are called to serve. They dedicate their hearts and skills to keep the arts, history, and our collective human knowledge in tact for our community, and for our future.

There was also one other person in the room; Rep. Congressman Charlie Dent, leader of Pennsylvania’s 15th congressional district since 2004. Perhaps more significantly, he is on the Appropriations Committee in Congress.

The reason for the gathering was a program suggested by the Pennsylvania Humanities Council, who requested time in Congressman Dent’s schedule soon after the last presidential election. With good reason, statements from our current president cause much worry for us. To be threatened with a proposed elimination of the federal programs that have supported the character of our country is a doomsday scenario. Not that life wouldn’t go on, but the impact would be traumatic.

Since the culture wars of the 1990s, artists and arts organizations have been at the front of the firing line for each fiscal year budget (perhaps even since their foundations). While the comparative allocation of funds for the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Institute of Museums and Library Services PALE in comparison to the national defense budget, the programs of these agencies provide national recognition of the ongoing work to preserve and nurture our national culture. There are many young artists that don’t understand how government funding or even the administration of government funding works. The people in this room do. We also know that we must summarize our truths in ways that translate to others who may not have the same emotional attachment to the issue.

Congressman Dent has been a part of the appropriations process for years. He understands the cycle that the president presents his budget ideas, but the congress actually is the branch of government that dispenses the funding. He took the time today to share with us, what he feels about the importance of the humanities, libraries, museums, and the arts, and to give a picture of the process. He took the time to communicate to us what we can do to support the future of our community’s pride, its soul, its creativity, its history, its character – its humanity.

Our local, state and, national arts agencies gather data on the economic impact the arts bring to communities. They facilitate research on programs that enhance education, health, and community vitality. One thing we learned today is the stories of our work could make the biggest difference in supporting the value of the intangible.

Do you have a story about how a musical experience, a play, a book, a poem, a piece of art, a film, or an historical site changed your life? If you do, it’s time to share that story instead of posting a complaint. The Lehigh Valley Arts Council launched a project to gather your story.  The Power of Story Project, an arts advocacy campaign that highlights how the arts touch lives. 

So the next time you have a complaint about a local mural, or a free outdoor concert, or your local library, or how a group of kids come together in the summer to learn to sing School House Rock, think about the group of people behind the scenes doing magical things to make that happen. Oh wait, it’s not magic? There’s actually knowledge and skills and long hours? Yep.

Then think about your story of how art changed your life. Think about who was involved in the moment. Think about all the conditions that led to that moment. Think of how empty your life would be if you hadn’t experienced that moment.

That’s how empty our future could be. Share your story. Be a force for positive change in your community.

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12ness – Theatre Review June 11

It’s been a weekend of enjoying more art “Made in Bethlehem.” Friday night at Godfrey Daniels, I was soaking in the “front porch” feel of good ol’ folk music by Tom and Betty Drunkenmiller with Norm Williams. It was a perfect night for some laid back classics and good stories. I was feeling a bit too much of a summer cold to enjoy any fun on Saturday (especially the Food Truck Boarder Brawl at ArtsQuest), but grateful to feel better to take in a play at the Ice House this afternoon.

Local theatre company, Crowded Kitchen Players premiered an original piece written by local playwright, Charlie Barnett. The play was directed by Selkie Theatre’s George Miller.

12ness is a play that recounts the historical relationship between two influential musicians, Arnold Schoenberg and George Gershwin. The play features wonderfully written dialogue that sounds as natural as if the audience were secretly transported in a time machine to 1937 Los Angeles.

The minimal sets, vintage costumes, and sound design also brought a touch of classic Hollywood that helped the audience sink back in time and get to know the characters even without too much “scholastic” knowledge.

I’ve studied lots of music history, required of my academic music degrees. But it’s not a requirement to know those details to thoroughly enjoy the relationship between the four characters. Yet, all of that knowledge that was crammed into my head for the doctoral comprehensive exams came leaking back to the front of my brain and I was able to catch most of the references to the number 12, and a few double reed jokes seemingly written with full knowledge of the quirky personalities that result from too much air pressure. (Reader, I play the bassoon.)

If you go, here would be my comments to put more context into some of the text:
  1. 12 tone composition (Dodecaphonic)  was designed by Arnold Schoenberg. Otherwise known as “serialism,” a method of composing where notes only relate to each other. 12 tone uses all of the half steps within the octave. Schoenberg came to this way of constructing music after sensing that traditional western harmonic structure had pretty much played itself out. Think about the really long lines of a Wagner theme, and you might understand how the listener can lose the sense of tonal center. It was highly intellectual music; order, form, and function of a serial application also extended to length of note, or sometimes dynamic.
  2. There is a reference to the word “atonal” in the play. Listeners might apply this word to serial / 12tone music in that there is no tonal center typical of western music, such as in the key of B-flat. That doesn’t mean there’s no “tone” to the music.
  3. George Gershwin was at the height of his career in 1937; the same year he died from a brain tumor.

In looking for some ideas for this review, I found this 1 minute comment about Gerswhin by Schoeberg himself. The video features a still image of Gershwin painting Schoenberg’s portrait. If you are so moved, stick around for the video that follows. It’s silent home movie shot by Gershwin, accompanied by Schoenberg’s String Quartet.

The play doesn’t just focus on music. The play also shows how they may have talked about art, the senses, and the creative process. If you ever wonder what artists might be thinking about the way they create, or how they perceive value of their work – this play is a fabulous conversation starter with friends.

12Ness runs for another weekend at the Bethlehem Charles Brown IceHouse, 56 River Street, near the Wooden Match or Artisan. Make a night of it with dinner at any of the lovely restaurants on Main street before hand. Performance begins at 8pm on Friday, June 16 and Saturday, June 17th. The final show is Sunday, June 18th at 2pm.

Notes for further inspiration:
  1. There have been a few academics who have presented research on the relationship between these two composers. This play offers an imagination into their conversations about art. What I found so wonderful, is that these kinds of conversations happen today. Robert Wyatt & John Johnson wrote a book, “The Gershwin Reader” that includes a chapter about this friendship. There happens to be copies of this book in the libraries of all six independent colleges in the Lehigh Valley. I think the next time I go strolling through the stacks, I’ll seek this out.
  2. There is a copy of “Shall We Dance” at the Bethlehem Public Library. I just might pull that one out for a spin.

What I’m Watching – June 9

What I’m Watching – June 9

I’ve had the good fortune of seeing the latest block buster, “Wonder Woman” with Gal Godot. In the movie, Robin Wright plays an Amazon general; tough as nails and gorgeous in her strength. I also finished season 5 of House of Cards in which Ms. Wright again presents her resilience and power. Anyone who’s watched it all knows the last two words of the season. Talk about nailing it!

These characters are in my mind as I think about the triad; Maiden, Mother, Crone (or Wise Woman). The crone is not wrinkled, weak or shrunken. She is full of experience and knowledge from having been there and done all that.

 

I’ve seen incredibly strong women in my lifetime; women who possess such knowledge of things. There are times I feel I’m on my way to this status when I know how to comfort one of my kids, or give them advise they actually heed. I know how to throw ingredients together to make a meal, I know how to pretreat a stain. I know the cause of the smell in a room.

I’ve got lots of academic knowledge. And artistic knowledge. And I’m pretty savvy with the educator networking and community building.

I want to acquire more knowledge. Not the kind from books, but from watching people. I want to be able to learn from the women I work with; to learn how to support an arts organization with strength and confidence over the long haul of annual campaigns, donor cultivation and relationships with foundations. I’m in the right place for this knowledge. What’s even more remarkable, is that I’ve finally found the arts leader mentor I’d been seeking. She’s such a wise woman.

And I couldn’t be more thrilled with every new lesson I take.

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What I’m Watching – June 5

When you watch your kids achieve a milestone, it’s hard not to feel a little pride. They make me and their dad so proud.

Whether it’s first smiles, sleeping through the night, holding their own bottles, taking first steps, first words, first music lesson, first dance recital, first acting role, first date…

There’s still a moment when you remember in a flash that memory when the nurses bring your babies to you in the maternity ward. You look at your husband and say, “Holy cow, we’re parents. I hope we don’t screw this up.”

I can still remember complaining about being tired. Wondering when parenting will get easier. It doesn’t get easier, it gets different. Life just changes. And thankfully, we’ve been blessed with these amazing alien creatures.

Somehow, they’ve been surrounded by great friends, awesome teachers, and lots of loving friends. We’ve only got four more years.

Please Lord, slow it down.

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What I’m Watching – May 29

What I’m Watching – May 29

The Memorial Day Edition.

Ever since we moved into our house, we’ve attended the Memorial Day service at the Bethlehem Memorial Park. It’s sponsored by the United Veterans of Bethlehem, The Lehigh Valley Military Affairs Council, and the City of Bethlehem.

The program features patriotic music from a three local school bands, the American Legion Band, speeches from local politicians, historic readings by local school children, a laying of the wreath by the Blue Star Mothers, and opening & closing prayers. With cooperative weather, the program includes a rifle salute, echo taps, and releasing doves.

Since the sun rose with a steady rain, the ceremony was moved indoors. The appropriate space is the Liberty High School Memorial Gymnasium. According to Wikipedia,

Liberty High School was built in 1918 and opened in 1922. At the ceremony in May 1923, Liberty High School was dedicated to “the progressive spirit of the citizens of Bethlehem.” At the opening of the school, Liberty was seen as “one of the greatest achievements of the City of Bethlehem,” and designed to not only “further the well-being of youth” but also to stand as a “War Memorial, commemorating the valor of Bethlehem men who went to the front, the sacrifice of the heroic dead and the manifold contributions and productions of the city toward bringing the war to swift and just conclusion.” Liberty High School was given its name to cement this War Memorial status.

This memorial site was mentioned in State Representative Steve Samuelson’s speech. He also mentioned the Revolutionary War site, the Civil War site, and a site in South Bethlehem to honor the men from the neighborhood who died in war.

Bethlehem is rich in history. There are memorial sites all around the city. My office is right next to God’s Acre and just a couple of blocks from Nisky Cemetery. There are stories behind each plaque, or park.

I took these pictures last December, when I learned that a new memorial is being planned. When my kids are at their music lessons in Moravian College, I’ll wander around the building (the Brethren House) and read the plaques and pictures. It’s crazy to think of who else walked those halls. Learning about history is under our noses, if we simply choose to notice it. Once we understand its meaning, it can’t be ignored. It must be honored.

I want to know more about the history in Bethlehem. All of it. Who were the people that our parks and buildings were named after? What did they do? What kind of lives did they live?

I’m ever so grateful for the elected officials who were present at today’s service. I’m also grateful for the veterans who keep putting this ceremony together, and for the people who gather at it.

It’s not enough to pay respects. To truly honor their sacrifice, we must stay active in politics; whether the person we voted for is in office or not.

If you’re getting frustrated with current politics, and can’t muster the energy to get involved, learn about local history. If you’re looking for ideas to learn more about Bethlehem’s history, give me a comment. If you want to share an idea, do it in the comments.

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