Saturday, January 22, 2011

The King's Speech: yes.

Yes, thumbs up. Yes, go see it if you're at all interested in -

  • History
  • Leadership
  • Courage
  • Standing up to a challenge
  • Great stories.
It's one of those rare movies where the audience applauds - especially interesting since it's been in theaters for nine weeks now. And it's one of the rare ones on Yahoo Movies where both the critics and viewers rate it A. Roger Ebert's review, as usual, matches my view.
On a personal note, I was strangely moved by Colin Firth's portrayal of the parallel challenges "Bertie" faced: stammering, and being thrust to the throne as his country approached war. He compellingly conveyed both feelings: "I don't know how to do this" and "I know I must." I was moved to tears by the portrayal, credible and not overdone, of courage and backbone in the face of fear and duty.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Have you heard Martin Luther King's final speech - the whole thing?

Delivered by Martin Luther King, Jr 3 April 1968, Mason Temple (Church of God in Christ Headquarters), Memphis, Tennessee. It is ripped from a DVD from the series Great Speeches, volume 6th, published by EVG (Educational Video Group). To be watched for educational purposes only.

Everyone's heard the final words of Dr. King's last speech - "I've been to the mountaintop," "I may not get [to the promised land] with you" - but do you know what Dr. King was talking about that day, the day before he was killed?

I was 18, about to leave high school and go to college in Boston. My head was about to get turned around seriously, but from my comfortable home in the Twin Cities suburbs I had no idea what all these protestors were upset about.

I didn't recall the circumstances that day in Memphis, but this full length version of the speech starts with a narrator's description. Then listen to King's extraordinary oration, his call to his followers to keep the faith: "Only when it is dark enough can you see the stars"; "A man can't ride your back unless it is bent"; his retelling of being stabbed by a black woman in 1958, and why he's glad he didn't die that day - the things that happened every year since then.

The people King stood for were being firehosed to the ground, Maced, attacked by police dogs, for their peaceful assembly to protest segregation; and he lists an amazing array of companies to boycott because they wouldn't stand up to change it. Yet he preached non-violence, no matter what. This is a great orator, with a deep passion for the rightness of his cause.

The speech ends around 21:10; the video continues with the start of another track from the DVD.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Four year old drummer Howard Wong

Here's the weekend's most fun discovery. My Uncle Sandy sent this - four year old Howard Wong. Watch this - around 2:15 we start to see a future rock 'n' roll monster:–)

I dug on the internet (imagine that) and found this one at age 3, a bit less sophisticated (of all things):

And way back at 23 months - a bit tentative, but he sure gets it:

Isn't it fun to see someone discovering what they were put on this earth to do?

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Defying Gravity: an artist hits a new level

I've written before about my sister Suede, a professional jazz singer who lives on Cape Cod. On January 1 in Provincetown she delivered her annual New Year's show.
This year there was a big difference: she'd had significant abdominal surgery 11 days earlier, and none of us knew whether she'd be able to sing at all.
But she did, and she blew us away. Still recovering from deep incisions through four layers of muscle wall, she didn't have the customary powerful vocal mechanism that singers learn to use - and hers is stronger than most. But the artist was still there, and she pulled together everything she did have, and she performed. Man, did she perform.
Defying Gravity, from Wicked, starts: "Something has changed within me - something is not the same." When she sang it this night, there was new meaning; we got to see who the artist is when the usual palette isn't there. And a different kind of power emerged: authentic, vulnerable, sometimes softer. Yet there was no sign of weakness or compromise; before her last song she announced she'd had the surgery, and there were gasps and murmurs.
And the show she found inside her was newly excellent. There were two standing ovations within the show, before we even got to encore time. In 20+ years of seeing her perform I've never seen that. Yes, this was mastery; this showed a layer of the performer we'd never seen before.
In the end, for her second encore, she pulled out her eternal crowd-pleaser, Sister, from The Color Purple. Including trumpet solo. (Hear the full song on her sample tracks page.)
Unbelievable. As a chorus singer myself, I have an inkling of what it must have taken to achieve that breath control with that sutured abdomen.
Later she said it was quite something, confronting her own mortality. (Don't I know it!) Her surgery was more complicated than planned; the surgeon discovered things were much worse than expected, and the recovery was difficult. She went right home to bed after this show, and her recovery is continuing well.
Yeah, I'm proud of my sister. But more than that, I'm in awe. Because really, two days earlier we all didn't know if the show would even be possible. And she pulled together a masterpiece.
Her next show is in Annapolis on January 15, then Ogunquit, Maine on Valentine's weekend. Ticket info on her schedule page. Here's hoping that future shows include more of this newly discovered gem side of her - the softer side of Suede.