Wednesday, December 31, 2008


A Christmas Memory on the last day of 2008.
Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Circa late 1940s/early '50s.
Photo by Ross J. Care, from an original Kodachrome color slide.


Monday, November 17, 2008

FormerMSTGuys





The MST guys are now called RiffTrax Live and if I had read the schedule program more carefully I would have seen they were referred to as the “former writers and cast-members of Mystery Science Theatre 3000” and perhaps avoided the chilling trauma that gripped me when I realized there was only going to be mere humans, however droll and astute, commenting on the film.





Monday, November 3, 2008

PLAN 9 FROM SANTA MONICA

The Senate Theater on Market Square in Harrisburg where I first saw LILI.

It was unusual for an MGM film to be screened at the Senate which was usually the home of Universal International and RKO. This proves what Caron said at the screening, that MGM really did not know what to do with LILI, and that the film was almost not released at all.

Photo from a color slide by Ross Care. The beautiful Senate has of course since been razed.


Poster for Leslie Caron's appearance at the American Cinematheque in Santa Monica. In the LILI still she is seen with Carrot Top.

+++++

A few weeks after the screening of MGM’s LILI, the whimsical poignant charm of which (in our currently mega crass age) now seems beamed in from another more benign age and planet, another spacey entry filled the Sunday evening slot at the American Cinematheque’s Aero Theatre in Santa Monica.

Ed Wood Jr.’s PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE was the final offering of a monumental Halloween series that included a Nov. 1 dusk-to-dawn Horrorthon of six films ranging from THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE, PART TWO (1986) to LET’S SCARE JESSICA TO DEATH (1971) and DEATHDREAM (aka DEAD OF NIGHT) (1974).

All that was missing for the Horrorthon was a drive-in setting but the mode at least continued with PLAN 9 the next evening. Though screened in the cozily retro setting of the neighborhood Aero on Montana Ave. there was an added attraction in the form of the three Mystery Science Theatre guys, Michael J. Nelson, Bill Corbett, and Kevin Murphy who provided the kind of running commentary familiar to and beloved of fans of TV’s gone but never forgotten MST3000 show.

The guys were in top form though the occasional longueurs of Wood’s magnum opus at times even put a strain on their usually razor sharp repartee. However, a grand time was had by all and the audience was still chortling after Criswell concluded his epilogue and the “The End – Made in Hollywood, USA” (just like MGM) finally flashed on the screen and everyone left in high spirits.

Actually (and unlike MGM in Culver City), PLAN 9 apparently was made in Hollywood USA (and far flung environs including the then-city limit of San Fernando). Some of the most interesting footage was too brief shots of period LA for the “Saucers Over Hollywood” sequence, including a very brief shot of the Macambo on Sunset with Eartha Kitt’s name of the marquee! (A sign for Frances Faye also made a brief appearance, and knowing Wood’s taste these could not have been arbitrary choices).

At the conclusion of LILI audiences could actually admire the four beloved puppets from the film that were on display in the lobby. Much attention was paid and comments such as “Carrot Top vanished for fifty years.” And “Was Carrot Top married?” were heard.

Before the screening the lady who sat down beside me and, perusing the Aero program with the photo of Caron and Carrot Top (shown above) asked me “Is that Howdy Doody?”

Well, no, it wasn’t I said, and told her who it was, an explanation which still seemed to leave her somewhat disappointed and a bit mystified.

Re PLAN 9: I cannot conclude my account without expressing the crushing disappointment I felt when I first realized that Tom Servo and Crow T. Robot were not going to be seen anywhere at the screening.

However, the MST guys are now called RiffTrax Live and if I had read the schedule program more carefully I would have seen they were referred to as the “former writers and cast-members of Mystery Science Theatre 3000” and perhaps avoided the chilling trauma that gripped me when I realized there was only going to be mere humans, however droll and astute, commenting on the film.

So though I did have a great time, I do feel that the least they could have done was put Tom and Crow in a glass display case in the lobby. I’m sure they would have gotten as much attention (or more) as Carrot Top and his companions. And who knows what wonderful audience reactions and comments this may have inspired?

And, speaking of puppets, one of the most terrifying ever created - not! - will put in a rare appearance when the Cinematheque/Aero shows THE GIANT CLAW (1957) on Thurs., Nov. 6 as part of their 4-day ATTACK OF THE GIANT SCREEN post-Halloween series!

Imagine Bill Baird on a bad trip.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Darling LILI, Darling LESLIE


Leslie Caron at a screening of MGM's LILI at the American Cinematheque at the Aero Theatre in Santa Monica, October 12, 2008

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

I Read the News Yesterday, Oh Boy

Tuesday, October 7,
2008

For the Record:

Today’s Headlines:

Fears of world recession deepen
Plummeting markets indicate limits to government’s power to

HELP!

Already, new state budget is in crisis

Turmoil sweeps the globe

25% of wild mammal species are imperiled

There’s little joy as the cost of gasoline slides

Pakistan blast targets politician; 20 die

Jobless man kills family, self

Is now a good time to panic?

YES

Meanwhile back in Ventura…….

A sleepy beach town wakes up

“To compete for shopper’s hearts and wallets, downtown Ventura has added upscale stores and eateries, while keeping a few reminders of yesterday”.

(It’s the end of the world as we know, and we feel fine….)

“The just-opened Watermark Restaurant brings a bit of Hollywood high life to Main Street,”

(Not to mention Hollywood prices….)

“ with a dress code and valet parking, both of which had been unheard of in these parts……”

(Thankfully, until now that is…..)

O. J.’s fate

(Some good news anyway….)

And of course, it being LA:

Oscar mania’s out of control
Oscar mania causes havoc

(Like we don’t have enough to worry about already….)

Friday, October 3, 2008

PUCCINI ThreeSome


I was fortunate to experience the new production of IL TRITTICO just before it concluded its run at the Los Angeles Opera. Puccini’s relatively rare triptych of one-act operas was co-directed by film directors William Friedkin (Il Tabarro, Suor Angelica) and Woody Allen (Gianni Schicchi).

Only in LA.

The first two one-acters were staged in a fairly traditional mode, the Parisian Seine-side setting of Tabarro being especially impressive as it cinematically passed from sunset to darkness in the course of the tragic one-acter.

Allen’s Schicchi, Puccini’s only comic opera, was an up-date that transposed the original renaissance characters into a kind of retro Rossellini comic neo realist mode (if you can imagine) with Schicchi himself apparently a smarmy Mafioso don. Schicchi’s daughter, Lauretta, here visualized as a hot Mafia moll, looked like if anyone was thrown off the Ponte Vecchio she would be doing the throwing.

And after long lines at the lobby bar during the two intermission by the third act the audience was actually clapping along with the accordion music Allen had added as a none-Puccini Main Title sequence with ludicrous Italian credits on a drop-down movie screen before the actual opera began

James Conlon presided over the considerable forces (including a large international cast) needed to mount this elaborate work that ultimately clocked in a four and a half hours with the two intermissions.

I recall having seen TRITTICO many years ago in Philadelphia but I only really knew the score’s greatest hit, “O Mio Babbino Caro” (aka the theme from ROOM WITH A ROOM), and had actually performed it with my friend, Dianna Burdick, the previous Saturday evening.

Otherwise I deliberately eschewed any homework on TRITTICO and so was able to approach the evening with fresh ears. I was impressed with how well the libretto (or libretti) worked dramatically. I even found the essentially static Suor Angelica quite moving, wondering how the Catholic-suffused work was going to deal with the suicide of the heroine. I admit to being quite relieved (and moved) when the Virgin descended from on high, arms spread in benign forgiveness for the distraught (and dead) Angelica.

Unfortunately during the much-anticipated Schicchi I was frequently distracted by the blinding reflection of a spotlight in an on-stage mirror that focused so directly at my particular seat in the 12th row that I was barely able to read the super titles. Relief came only when someone in the cast passed in front of the mirror or the spotlight. Fortunately, due to Allen’s frenetic staging, this did happen frequently.

The opening Tabarro (The Cloak) was atmospheric verismo melodrama and for me the most engaging third of the trio. TRITTICO was composed during World War I. Throughout, but especially in Tabarro, you could discern the compositional influences of early 20th century, notably Debussy and the impressionists, and even Stravinsky. (Having just played the lush parallel triads of “Babbino” I was especially aware of the Debussy influence).

All in all another memorable and unique production from the innovative Los Angeles Opera. I only wish I could also have seen their also current production of Howard Shore’s THE FLY. In spite of lukewarm reviews, FLY seemed like another fascinating production in the mode of LAO’s production of GRENDEL – Transcendence of the Great Big Bad, by another composer who has worked in films, Elliot Goldenthal, and which I enjoyed in a previous season.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Disneyland Daze

Merrily on our way........













The Happiest Place on Earth is frequently home to the Biggest Behinds on Earth.

+ + + + + + + +

I went to Disneyland for two days last Monday to use the last few days of my southern California annual pass. It being September, school back in session and so on, I naively thought it might be less crowded

That was not to be the case and I unfortunately discovered that Disneyland is now preschool/stroller hell at most anytime during the year.

In fact, it’s become more than ever a nightmare of apparently mindless fecundity. Not that it hasn’t always been but with economic and environmental chaos on the not-distant horizon people always seem to inexplicably retreat into The Family Mode for whatever reassurance and false security that may provide.

On Monday I was also kept wondering what the point is of taking weeks - sometimes seemingly days-old infants on the Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters?

Do they nurse the kid with one hand and wield a blaster with the other?

And what will be the eventual effect of this barrage of noise and psychedelia on these newborns, some of who literally look like they just popped out of the womb?

One shutters to think…..

Across from Disneyland, in the aptly named new Toy Story Mania that now certified white elephant, California Adventure, finally has a major draw. The lines there even on a Monday almost rivaled those of the recently opened Finding Nemo remake of the old 20,000 Leagues submarine ride in Tomorrowland.

TS Mania is a sort of a high-tech fusion of video game and old-fashioned shooting gallery. Except you’re seated in a moving car and what you shoot at is an assortment of 3-D projections in which plates shatter and assorted other targets explode and fly in your face if you hit the mark.

It’s a fun experience and guaranteed to bring out the NRA in the most confirmed peacenik.

It’s pretty much conceded now that California Adventure, aka Michael Eisner’s folly, is a major dud and has already been scheduled for an embarrassing and majorly expensive makeover. And from the look of the gargantuan crane over Paradise Pier it is already in progress.

IMHO they might as well call it Pixar Land and get it over with, as, aside from putting a few unobtrusive Jack Sparrow automatons in Pirates of the Caribbean, there has not been a major new purely Disney attraction in any of the parks for years.

Well, at least the beloved Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride survives in California, which is more than it did in Florida.

Happily so, as we’re now more than ever merrily merrily on our way to nowhere at all…….

PS: Actually I still love Disneyland. It’s just that like seemingly every other appealing place on the planet it’s just become too popular for it's own good.

And the good of its “guests….”

Monday, September 8, 2008

El Dorado


In the wine country around Los Olivos and Solvang, north of Santa Barbara, California.
Photos by/COPYRIGHT: Ross Care

Thursday, August 21, 2008

On the Beach


+++++

Well, the kids are back in school (as of August 19), and the tourists with their monstrous, ocean-view-blocking SUVs and RVs along old PCH have at least partically departed.

The surfers with their black wetsuits - which you never saw in the old California BEACH PARTY movies! - will always be with us, and that's OK. (The wetsuits are of course because most of the year you freeze you @** off going into the Pacific).

However, late August and the fall can sometimes be the true DAYS OF HEAVEN Out Here. Yesterday I had two extended swims in the surf and lingered with the pelicans until sunset while the tide was going out on one of my favorite remote beaches near Gaviota.

And the evening before I swam on the beach in the above photo (near Ventura) with hardly anyone else in sight.

Soon the avian winter visitors, sandpipers, godwits et al, will return as well. I always look forward to seeing them again.

So Heavenly Days On the Beach... for now.....

(But I'm also thinking of my relatives on the Atlantic coast of Florida who are experiencing terrible weather and flooding due to Hurricane Fay even as I write this).

Photo/Text COPYRIGHT 2008 by Ross Care

Santa Barbara Pyramid

Even the cemeteries are grandiose in California. This one is on the bluffs overlooking the Pacific in Santa Barbara.
Photo: Copyright 2008 by Ross CARE

Friday, August 15, 2008

Flashes & Distant Rumblings

Image, text by/COPYRIGHT 2008: Ross Care

After a prolonged visit to the Panda Buffet for lunch I slept through part of my birthday (August 14) so stayed up late watching DVDs that night. After seeing THE DARJEELING LIMITED and part of VELVET GOLDMINE I emerged from headphones to hear ominous (and real) stereophonic rumblings in the night.

At about 1.45 am a thunderstorm was rumbling across the Montalvo section of coastal Ventura. For anywhere in southern California this is unusual, almost unique. In fact, I had not heard such a racket from those little men bowling in the skies since we crossed the Nebraska plains on the 4th of July some years ago on The Way West.

As it turned out last night’s mostly rainless pyrotechnics outdid both the terrific storms I experienced on the Great Plains and even those monster cloudbursts in Florida and the South. The lightening last night came in both purplish, fog-muted flashes and huge kinetic bolts that snaked across the whole of the night sky in all directions. They were so brilliant they left a kind of imprint on your eyelids when you closed your eyes.

The jagged bolts sometimes left brief glowing domes of green light when they seemed to strike the ground. It reminded me of the alien special efx in the original George Pal WAR OF THE WORLDS. The effect was all the more frightening when I recalled that it was lightening strikes that started the recent devastating wildfires in northern California near Yosemite.

There was also the smell of eminent rain, that expectant redolence of first drops on macadam, by now an unfamiliar but well-remembered scent from another life when, unlike Out Here, rain still happened in summer.

About 2.05 a drizzle commenced. I optimistically closed an upstairs window. But I needn’t have.

For all the sound and fury there was not enough rain to form puddles or to create that nostalgic sound of rain spattering on the roof and pouring out of rainspouts.

About 2.15 there was a climactic thunderclap, like the blow of Donner’s hammer at the end of Wagner’s DAS RHEINGOLD. Then the storm seemed to move away, towards the eastern mountains and Ojai.

Flashes and deep distant rumblings continued in the night as I fell asleep. The storm slowly faded out as well.

Monday, August 4, 2008


CINEMA: Somewhere in Yorkshire, England
Photo by/COPYRIGHT: Ross Care

Saturday, July 19, 2008

JOURNEY TO THE CENTER OF THE EARTH in 3D




I’ve had a weakness for 3-D ever since I saw the awful BWANA DEVIL (and the much better HOUSE OF WAX) when I was a kid back in the middle 1950s. And even before that there was one of my favorite “toys,” a Viewmaster (viewer) through which one got one’s first visions of faraway places in remarkably pristine and (seen today) poignantly uncrowded three-dimensions.

In a way the current JOURNEY TO THE CENTER OF THE EARTH IN 3-D harks back to these nostalgic times and experiences. It’s not a great movie, but then the first 3-D films of ‘50s hardly were either. But like them it does have its exciting and even thrilling moments.

This JOURNEY is a remake (sort of) of the 1959 20th Century-Fox version, which was also shot in a then-new process, CinemaScope. Like 3-D, the wide screen process was launched to lure fickle ‘50s movie goers back into theaters and away from their new and highly addictive BxW television sets.

Both versions are of course loosely based on the Jules Verne fantasy novel. Here (as in the ‘50s version) a contemporary scientist follows a passage to a strange subterranean world at the center of the earth, and in the process verifies a discovery made by an earlier pioneer who had vanished without a trace. In this case the scientist is Brendan Fraser and he takes along only his cell phone addicted nephew and a capable girl guide the two guys hook up with in Iceland.

After that it’s pretty much the same as the earlier film but with some spectacular CGI efx (instead of matte shots and giant soundstage mushrooms) and much more realistic dinosaurs.

The new film gets off to a somewhat slow and talky start and you begin wonder when the 3-D is really going to kick in. But eventually it does. However, the thing I really liked about this film is that it is essentially benign, and you don’t have to endure fifteen endless and laborious battle scenes or an interminable pirate sword fight. (I realize this may not be a plus for many contemporary viewers)

There is also little gore and no really threatening violence. And there’s even time for some truly lovely effects (such as the flock of fluttering phosphorescent “glow” birds) and some luminous underwater scenes, these a kind of color nod to the effects in the iconic CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON, also in early 3-D.

On the wilder side the storm sequence/chase on the underground sea with some nasty giant piranhas and their pursuing oceanic dinosaurs creates some genuinely impressive and Vernian imagery. And of course there’s the obligatory dinosaur chase and theme-park thrill ride sequence in run away mine cars.

But generally the tone is genial and tongue in cheek, a mode well served by the goofy throwaway charm of Fraser who seems to be having a good time through it all.

As did I.

I left 2.15 screening at the beautiful Arlington in Santa Barbara with the pleasant but not overwhelmed feeling I used to get after a Saturday matinee at the Senate Theater back in Harrisburg, Pa.

And when was the last time you saw a nasty but affectionately tacky man-eating plant attack and then get ripped out by the roots in a recent movie.

JOURNEY had a limited 7-day run in 3-D at the Arlington but is still playing in its dimensional version in the LA area.

By the way, some of the most thrilling 3-D efx are reserved for the first minute or so of the end credits, so stick around for those.

Thursday, July 10, 2008


Spring Shadows and Green return to the Onofreo Firezone
The stream, beach, and ocean are in the distance.
PHOTO: by/COPYRIGHT Ross Care
When we came back south from the Solvang/Buellton area the temperature must have dropped about ten degrees on the other side of the tunnel. The tunnel passes through a huge and rugged formation, virtually a mini-range of red rock mountains, which serves as a barrier between the sunny clear (hot) inland, and the (sometimes) gray (cool) foggy coast.

(It might be noted that the temperature hit a high of 126 in Death Valley this week, and wildfires are raging north of Sacramento).

As a weather/climatic barrier this sudden elevation of rock works extremely well because the coastal region around Gaviota was still remarkably cool and blanketed in fog while it was sunny and intensely hot in Solvang.

In spite of the fog we did spend some time on a favorite secluded beach, San Onofreo, to which there are two coastal accesses between Gaviota State Park and the Refugio State Beach to the south.

Neither one is what you’d call easy access. From the northern parking area, called Vista del Mar or something like that, you hike across the top of the bluffs and face a precipitous descent that is more like going down into a crevasse than a trail.

The southern access is less rigorous. From a parking area along the railroad tracks a sloping trail descends to the beach down a moderate slope. The trail once passed through a thick tangle of chaparral, but that was all burned away in a wildfire that crossed the freeway and burned to the sea last year.

For a while this was a blackened nether land of ash and charred trees but after spring rains it quickly came back to life and was ablaze with dazzling yellow mustard instead of fire. By July the mustard has dried into a combustible mass of ochre yellow but other growth continues.

It has been an interesting experience to see the area come back to life. Unfortunately for native plant enthusiasts much of the new growth is by invasive species. Among these castor beans, summer mustard, sweet fennel, jimsonweed, and a variety of thistles are the most fecund and aggressive.

By now these species are to be found everywhere along the coast. Some are quite decorative. Fennel adds welcome touches of feathery green to the arid summer landscape (but seeds like mad). The blossoms of the jimsonweed are beautiful but, like the entire plant, deadly (enough to kill cattle and sheep that have grazed upon it. The seeds are said to be a powerful but also toxic hallucinogen).

With all these invaders California natives face much competition for soil and space but some are making a comeback here as well. The stand of California sycamores seems dead and charred at first glance but new growth is sprouting profusely from the base of the trunks. (See photo). Chaparral and California sagebrush also seem to be gradually recovering and some California poppies dotted the ashen soil in the spring.

Before hitting the beach the trail passes along a stream. It flows between the chaparral and the steep hills that ascend to the bluffs that line this secluded coast for miles. It was a cool green riparian oasis but the fire also passed over the woods of sycamore and oak that line its banks.

Just before emptying into the Pacific there was a small oasis that was one of the most magical places I’ve ever seen in nature.
Blooming nasturtiums literally climbed into the trees, other flowers lined the banks, and the stream itself formed a small pond that was clear and tranquil and a home of tadpoles in the spring and early summer. After the small pond it burbled on over the rocks and into the ocean surf.

In fact, this was one of the places that were a decisive factor in my decision to move to California over ten years ago.

But like all coastal environments this bower undergoes constant change, not the least of which was last year’s wildfire.

But yesterday as I moved onto the beach and passed the clear waters of the pond I noticed plumb tadpoles resting on the underwater rocks and a sprig of late nasturtiums dangling over the back.

Change, sometime radical, is a part of nature, especially on the rugged, sometime inhospitable California coast.
But so is regeneration.

On to the beach……

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Contrasts in Gray and Gold


Along Alisal Road, towards Solvang.



Along route 101 near Gaviota. Fog rolls over the now golden hills, July 7, 2008.

Photos: by/COPYRIGHT Ross Care


++++++++


Speaking of contrasts, yesterday we drove up the coast from Ventura to my favorite country north of Santa Barbara along the Gaviota coast.

There was (and is) fog in Ventura. What’s commonly known as “June gloom” is a bit late this year, in keeping with the general and disturbing scrambling of seemingly all the natural elements on the planet.

We hoped it might disperse as it sometimes does in an unpredictable coastal region but the fog, so thick that you could see it drifting in soft gray clouds over the now golden hills, held out until we passed through the great red rock formations around Gaviota.

But once through the tunnel it was, almost startlingly, all bright golden hills, dark green oaks, sunshine and blue skies. We stopped at our favorite park, Nojoqui Falls, always a pleasant setting for a picnic and a walk in the charming woods there.



The stream, which runs off from the falls, is (predictably) dried up but the falls are still trickling. In spite of the dryness the woods remain green, if a bit dusty (and buggy). They are a riparian combination of dark oaks, California maples and sycamores, and profuse, still green undergrowth including some ferns on the hillsides.

There are also a variety of other trees and shrubs, which I still cannot identify among the profusion of natural life that flourishes in this secluded yet accessible environment. (We once saw wild turkeys wandering through the picnic area!)

I have visited this area in all seasons and yesterday recalled how the big leaves of the maples turn bright yellow in autumn and how the trail along the main stream is alive with side streamlets and the musical sound of running water in the spring.

The park is off Alisal Road that runs on to Solvang, the area’s appealing, if somewhat Disneyland-ish Danish village. The road there is a fascinating microclimate as well, unusual in that the oaks and other trees along it are festooned with pale mint green Spanish moss.

The ghostly moss on the live oaks also suggests, to me at least, the similarities between this section of southern California and the southeastern United States, particularly Georgia and northern Florida.

That’s rather odd, considering we are a dry, almost arid environment, and the southeast is so damp, humid, and swampy. But there is definitely a similar look to certain aspects of the landscape that I’ve also noticed in the Ventura river estuary. By the river there is a low scrub woods of oak, bay and underbrush, and the look and dim, tented feel of the place is very similar to the tangled palmetto groves of coastal Georgia and its sea islands (without the palmetto of course).

After a loop through the beautiful rolling wine country of Solvang and Los Olivos (seen in SIDEWAYS, and where a few of the vineyards still tout their appearance in that film) we drove back down 101 to a favorite secluded beach.

Once through the tunnel you’re back in the persistent fog that did not, however, stop us from enjoying an impressionistic, if somewhat chilly late afternoon of black gulls and gray Pacific on a beach that, remarkably, we had entirely to ourselves.

Always wonderful to discover that isolation is still possible, even in southern California.

To be continued……

Maples & Spanish Moss













Along Alisal Road, near Solvang.
California maple leaves with California oaks and Spanish moss in the background. (See above entry).
Photo: by/COPYRIGHT Ross Care, 2008

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Rim of the Canyon (and Disaster)

Photo: Meadow, Carpenteria Bluffs, July 1, 2008.
COPYRIGHT 2008 by Ross Care
Some entries ago I mentioned that many people think of California as having no seasons. As I also noted, it’s my theory that we have all four seasons, they just happen all at once, depending on the region, the microclimate, and the elevation.

Mature readers may remember the classic Ralph Rainger song, “June in Jaunary.”

Right now in southern California it’s October in July.

The lush greenness of the spring (i.e., January to May) has given way to a kind of golden fusion of summer and autumn. The grasses and hillsides are now a lambent gold, dazzling, glimmering (and combustible, as you may well know from news of the persistent fires around Big Sur and the recent one just happening today in Goleta, north of Santa Barbara).

Leaves and shrubs that have not completely dried out are turning autumnal reds and oranges in the canyons.

At any rate, now there’s gold along long the 101 freeway both to the north and south, an almost poignantly beautiful phase before the landscape’s inevitable demise into the dull (and dangerous) earthen aridity of the winter months.

I took a walk in Ventura’s Arroyo Verde this evening and, as often happens Out Here, I thought of how close, perilously close, any urban development is to a rugged, near-wilderness environment, particularly populated areas in or adjacent to the many canyons along the coast.

(Last year it was truly surreal to drive from Pasadena to Hollywood, traffic moving business as usual on the freeway as Griffith Park blazed, sending mountains of smoke into the otherwise clear blue sky).

Part of Ventura’s Arroyo Verde Park is of course kept verde (green), unnaturally so, by consistent irrigation. (Not to worry, we in California – and Las Vegas - are assuredly certain that the water supply will never ever run out).

Entering the Arroyo from Foothill Road the space between the hills is green as Kensington Gardens. Nobody seems to mind or even notice the incongruity of such a lushly expansive and landscaped lawn set between the unkempt wilds of the canyon walls.

But we feel we are entitled to everything here, even a village green, no matter how expensive or none-green politically.
This is not even to mention the incongruous, unnatural green expanses of golf courses of Palm Springs, and the surreally verdant Forest Lawns of Glendale, Burbank, et al).

It’s sort of the same thing when you drive across Coldwater Canyon in LA and descend over the Hollywood hills into Beverly Hills. The homes and profusely irrigated lawns look like something out of a particularly affluent (and sometimes kitschy) New England town (or a 1940s David O. Selznick movie which is tasteful in comparison!)

However, behind the pleasant, one might say complacent facade is the wild, somehow threatening aridity of dried brush and bare earth of the canyon walls, sometimes seemingly only a few feet behind this idealized vision of suburbia and The American Dream.

A vivid illustration of this California suburban/wilderness effect can be seen in one of my favorite science fiction films, the original INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS (1956) when Miles and Becky flee out of the comfortable tree-lined streets of their small town into the wild canyons just beyond, and where Becky finally falls asleep and victim to her pod persona.

BTW didn’t that film, set in classic era ‘50s California, turn out to be one of the most prophetic ever made?????

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Letter to the World - Program



SPECIAL thanks to Molly Kohler Pei for her elegant program design and notes.

Ross

Letter to the World - Program Cover, Design and Notes by Molly Kohler Pei

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Take That CALIFORNIA TRIP(tych)

San Onofreo

On the central coast
you do not collect shells.
Instead there are moonstones to be gathered,
and agates,
microcosmic mesas and plateaus,
lava flows,
the planet Jupiter itself.

You could live out a life on these rocks,
on this beach,
among these wavebuffed fragments
of the fragile shell of earth,
and it would be a rich life

The sun lowers,
the day hovers like a gull
on a reluctant golden closure
and the sea runs misted silverblue.

With the long twilight
comes the scent of dillgreen licorice
and the atonal submarine slurrings
of a massive
earthtoned marimba.

Ross CARE

From: "Take That CALIFORNIA TRIP(tych)"

Poem/Photo: COPYRIGHT 2008 by Ross Care







Post-Concert Blues & Heat Wave



“Ah, Sunflower,
Weary of time…..”
William Blake


Well, the much-anticipated June 8 concert went well, and was well attended (in spite of the competition from the many early summer activities in the area, including the world-famous Ojai Music Festival).

I wish to thank my entire crew of singers and instrumentalists for their talent and dedication, as well the First United Methodist Church of Venture for providing the beautiful setting.

Special thanks to Dianna Burdick from making this happen. From our first meeting looking for an aria from Norma at Wright Library through the final Sunday performance with four singers, two fine Los Angeles string players, and me apprehensively on piano, it’s been a genuine pleasure working with and getting to know you (and everyone).

You really made it happen, Dianna, and have become a wonderful, understanding friend as well. I’m more grateful than I can say for both your talent and friendship.

Thanks of course also to Molly, Steve, Philip, and Maksim, and Linda for her invaluable vocal supervision and inspiration.

So, in spite of the inevitable post-concert doldrums (tempered with a bit of relief) we move
Into the Future and Whatever Happens Next.

There’s gonna’ be a Heat Wave, a tropical heat wave…”.
Irving Berlin
(and Marilyn Monroe - in CinemaScope
in THERE’S NO BUSINESS LIKE SHOW BUSINESS)

What Happened Next for California is a Major Heat Wave.

Temperatures for the end of the week and current weekend are in the triple digits in many spots and hitting record highs for this early in the summer. (Today’s Times listed a high of 118 in the appropriately named Thermal, California - where ever that is - but it’s been higher than that in Palm Springs and Death Valley).

Coastal Ventura is moderate compared to inland, but yesterday the (comparatively moderate) humidity was still too much like the East Coast for my taste.

Living in California you forget about the ghastly eastern humidity but yesterday reminded me too much of Lancaster, Pa., or one especially wretched 4th of July weekend spent in Washington, DC (Humidity Capitol of the World) where all you could do of flee from one air-conditioned space to another in a dazed, lethargic frenzy.

Still we were (and are) better off than Ojai and certainly cooler than in the Valley. On Wed. Dianna and I attended a rehearsal of Verdi’s Rigoletto in Canoga Park which at 7.00 pm was still like a blast furnace.

The heat wave is expected to abate around Sunday, none too soon for me.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Letter to the World CONCERT

Ross Care, composer/pianist, Dianna Burdick, soprano, Molly Kohler Pei, soprano, Steven Perren, baritone.

"He who hears music, feels his solitude peopled at once." - Robert Browning"

LETTER TO THE WORLD – POETS TO SONG
Original Songs and Theater Music of Ross CARE


Sunday, June 8, 2008, 2.00 PM,
First United Methodist Church,
1338 E. Santa Clara St.
Ventura, California

Singers: Dianna Burdick, Molly Khler Pei, Steve Perren, Linda Ottsen
Philip Vaiman, Violin, Maksim Velichkin, Cello,
and Ross Care, Piano

I. POETS/ART SONGS

Letter to the World (Emily Dickinson)

Song: When I Am Dead, My Dearest (Christina Rossetti)

Oh See How Thick the Goldcup Flowers (A. E. Housman)

White in the Moon (A. E. Housman)

The Owl and the Pussycat (Edward Lear)

Tarquin (Frank O’Hara)

4 Songs from CHAMBER MUSIC to Poems of James Joyce for Voice, Violin and Cello with Piano Obligato

Strings in the Earth and Air
The Twilight Turns from Amethyst
Winds of May
Rain Has Fallen

2 Songs to Poems of William Blake for High Soprano Solo, Violin, Cello, Piano, and 2 Backup Voices

The Lamb
Ah, Sunflower

II. THEATER MUSIC

The GLASS MENAGERIE

Suite from the incidental music

for the play by Tennessee Williams
for Solo Violin, Cello, and Piano

Laura’s Theme
Paradise Ballroom
Wish on the Moon

BEAUTY AND THE BEAST
I’ve Never Felt This Way Before
(Lyrics: Cheryl Clemson/Ross Care)

THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS
Poems by Lewis Carroll
Soloists & Ensemble, Piano, Violin & Cello
Prologue: Child of the Pure, Unclouded Brow
Jabberwocky
Tweedle Dum & Tweedle Dee
The Lion and the Unicorn
Royal Lullaby
The Feast
Epilogue: Come, Harken Then

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

CONCERT: Music of Ross CARE


CONCERT:

Letter To The World –

The Original Songs and Theater Music of Ross Care

BIO:

Composer Ross Care (ASCAP) graduated from West Chester University in Pennsylvania and studied with Ben Weber (New York) and Harold Boatrite (Philadelphia). In Ventura the Ventura Master Chorale has performed several of his choral works, and his score for The Glass Menagerie was used in the Rubicon Theatre production with Susan Clark. His music for early films by Academy Award-winning (2007) animator, John Canemaker, may be heard on a recent DVD, and another of his short film scores won a “Best Score” award in the ASIFA-East Film Festival in New York. His musicals (Alice) Through the Looking Glass and The Prophet (after Gibran) have been performed nationally, the latter at Philadelphia’s Annenberg Center.

As an author/critic, Ross has written for the Library of Congress, and film journals such as Film Quarterly and Sight and Sound. Recently he wrote the liner notes for the acclaimed Film Score Monthly 2-disc CD restoration of the classic 1957 John Green/MGM score for RAINTREE COUNTY. For several years he wrote a regular music column for the cult genre magazine Scarlet Street.

Notes on the Music

Care has always been interested in the fusion of music and poetry in a somewhat neglected form, the modern art song. “Letter To The World” draws from both classic and modern texts. The settings in this concert are written for voice and piano and voices with piano, violin, and cello.

Songs

The concert’s opening segment features settings of poems by Emily Dickinson, Christina Rossetti, William Blake, and Frank O’Hara. All of these poets are extremely modern in every aspect but the chronological. Frank O’Hara was also a noted art critic and a key figure in the New York school of contemporary poetry.

A. E. Housman is most famous for his popular volume, A Shropshire Lad from which two settings are drawn. Edward Lear is most famous for his nonsense verse, especially “The Owl and the Pussycat,” but he was also a noted visual artist. James Joyce is most well known for his complex novels but his small volume of poetry, Chamber Music, like Shropshire Lad, has been popular with modern art song composers.

Theater Music

Care’s original incidental score for The Glass Menagerie follows the detailed musical directions in Tennessee Williams’s original script. The new suite from this score has been arranged for solo violin, cello, and piano, and is a California premiere. Philip Vaiman, a concert and recording violinist from Los Angeles, will perform the work. Vaiman is also a part-time string professor at Ventura College.

From Care’s original musical version of Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass comes a cycle of nonsense poems and rhymes. The theatrical version uses the Carroll poetry included in the original book, including the mysterious and much celebrated (and analyzed) “Jabberwocky”. Care faithfully adapted the script from Carroll’s second Alice book. NOT combining it with Alice in Wonderland as many more diffuse adaptations do.

Dianna Burdick and Molly Kohler Pei who will also be singing in the program have organized this concert. The third vocalist is Steve Perren, baritone. All singers have performed extensively in area concerts and theater. Guest instrumental soloists are Philip Vaiman, violin, and Maksim Velichkin, cello, both from Los Angeles. The composer will be at the piano.

Letter to the World, Original Songs and Theater Music of Ross Care, First Methodist Church, 1338 E. Santa Clara St, Ventura.

Sunday, June 8, 2.00 PM. Suggested donation: $15.00, net proceeds to benefit FUM Church Music Program.

More INFO, PHOTOS - contact Molly Pei:

Email: mkpei@earthlink.net, phone: (805) 218-2042

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Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Cole Porter's OUT OF THIS WORLD: Musical Theatre Guild Concert Staging




GRAPHIC: Sheet music cover from the original production of OUT OF THIS WORLD.
Illustration from the book,
Performing Arts - Music, Iris Newsom, editor, Library of Congress, Washington, DC, 1995
which features the illustrated article,
Out of This World: The Lesser-Known COLE PORTER
by Ross Care.

This article is based on primary material from the Library's Cole Porter collection and includes a lengthy section on the evolution of OUT OF THIS WORLD.


OUT OF THIS WORLD was Cole Porter’s much-anticipated follow-up to his sensational comeback show, KISS ME, KATE. In fact, KATE was still playing on Broadway when WORLD opened in New York in December of 1950. However the new show did not match either its predecessor’s critical acclaim or longevity, closing (and more or less disappearing) after only six months. But OUT OF THIS WORLD was fated to quickly to enter the pantheon of glittering Broadway legend.

Today it’s still well remembered for Lemuel Ayers’ opulent sets, effects, and costumes, the racy choreography of Agnes de Mille (who though still credited with staging was replaced as director during the show’s troubled try-out period), and the Broadway return of Charlotte Greenwood as Juno. It’s also legendary for its difficult try-out phase which involved much re-writing, song shifting, and a switch in directors, and during which parts of the show were literally “banned in Boston”. (This new version, spiced up with some polymorphous metro sexual goings-on, would have created even more of a scandal back in 1950!)

So during its pre-opening phase the offstage activity at OUT OF THIS WORLD was apparently as (or more) colorfully dramatic than those in the troublesome script. But eventually Porter’s score reached such cult status that several attempts were made to revise the show’s problematic book (which was freely based on the ancient Plautus comedy, AMPHITRYON, which in turn was based on the myth of the god Jupiter’s infatuation with a beautiful mortal woman).

The recent Musical Theatre Guild’s staged concert reading of OUT OF THIS WORLD (at the Scherr Forum of the Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza, and also at the Aero in Glendale) used one of these new revisions (by Greg Mackellan). It maintains the basic concept of mortals unwittingly caught up in the machinations of the lecherous gods and goddesses of ancient Greece. But these are no mere mortals; rather now ‘50s Hollywood types who are doing a film on location in Athens, metamorphosing the original plot (involving an average honeymooning American couple interacting with gods and gangsters) into a kind of satiric Clash of the Titans.

The original Chicago gangster is here replaced by a busybody bisexual Hollywood columnist (acidly played by Eileen Barnett) who amusingly tempts the various secondary gods (including Mars and Apollo) to go aggressively Hollywood in the show’s second act. This revision also maintains the show’s original period, providing a timeframe for Porter’s patented “list” lyrics which remain as cuttingly satiric and “in” as ever for those with a knowledge of the references (Peggy Joyce, Truman’s Bess).

But today of course OUT OF THIS WORLD is most fondly remembered for Porter’s fabulous score as a whole that (like his work for the MGM film THE PIRATE around the same period) took some time to achieve the recognition and respect it so richly deserves. Porter’s music is a brilliant pastiche, and anticipates such later shows as FOLLIES and CANDIDE. The songs range from some of his loveliest and least-known ballads, “Use Your Imagination,” and “I Am Loved,” both particularly moving in as sung by Teri Bibb/Helen, to the pseudo spiritual “Climb Up The Mountain” which provides a boffo opening to act two.

In between are some of Porter’s most tongue-twisting (and Gilbert and Sullivan-ish) list/patter numbers and ensembles. “They Couldn’t Compare to You,” was brilliantly executed by Richard Israel as Mercury, and a melodic trio, “What Do You Think About Men,” (like the opening “Hail to Juno”) could have come out of an Offenbach operetta.

Suffice to say each number is a glittering jewel and here brilliantly performed by an equity cast well up to the challenges of both Porter’s scintillating words and demanding music. This OOTW maintains almost all of the original score in more or less the order of the 1950 version, but also reinstates the now classic “From This Moment On” which was dropped from the original score. One minor personal carp, however, is that this version drops “Hark To The Song of the Night,” one of Porter’s mostly lyrical melodies and a number to which I was especially looking forward to due to the stirring baritone of David Holmes as Jupiter. But it was replaced by “You Don’t Remind Me,” which was one of many numbers dropped from the original production,

This production featured a true ensemble cast and it’s difficult to mention individuals though Damon Kirsche was a super and sexily nerdish Clark Kent-style male lead, and his brief turn disguised as the smitten, if still pompous Jupiter was especially well done. The petite Marsha Kramer amply filled in for statuesque Greenwood as Juno, the show’s plum role. But then everyone, gods and mortals, were supernaturally excellent as a whole, an aspect of these MTG concert productions even more amazing considering the tight schedule with which they are put together.

The costumes by Shon Leblanc, were mostly, yes, white (Leblanc, get it? J) but inventively accessorized to provide an opulent and visually cohesive impression. The minimal choreography, Todd Nielson’s direction, full of both broad and subtle comic detail, and Ed Martel’s music supervision and fluid keyboard work, kept everything both focused and animated.

This superb Music Theatre Guild presentation proves you don’t need falling chandeliers or a retro pop anthology score to provide a brilliant and endlessly entertaining evening of theater, if you’ve got the right material. OUT OF THIS WORLD definitely is the right stuff, and this production was a legendary Broadway dream come true.

For me it also re-emphasized the magical, poignantly transient wonder of live musical theater and I came away wishing this production could be ensconced in one of those reasonable 99-seaters in Los Angeles (or anywhere) where everyone could have the opportunity to orbit OUT OF THIS WORLD every night!

Ross Care

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

California Spring


Lupine and California poppies cascade down Figueroa Mountain, Santa Barbara county, California. April, 2008.
Photo: By/Copyright 2008 by Ross Care.
Seizing the California Moment!
A March 1989 Sunset magazine article calls California’s wildflowers a “treasure of the moment.”

This is definitely the year and time to seize that moment because after plentiful rains, not to mention some of the worst wildfires in the state’s history, there are now wildflowers everywhere. Even the fire zone that leads down to one of my favorite beaches near Gaviota has been transformed from a charred wasteland to ground now ablaze with glowing yellow mustard instead of wildfire.

My favorite landscape on the central coast is the country between Santa Barbara and Gaviota and beyond. It began to green up after the midwinter rains of December and January. Even after the record heat wave of last week (April 10 to 13) the land remains green and undulant, except where the hills are covered with acres of wild mustard, a none-native plant that nonetheless is extremely decorative this time of year.

Veering away from the coast around Gaviota route 101 passes through some vast and incredible red rock formations and on to Solvang and Los Olivos where the waysides and hills of this beautiful wine country (featured in SIDEWAYS!) are now literally a lavenderblue riot of massed lupines that have sprung forth this year.

A trip off 101 and into the mountains (such as Figueroa) and canyons will also reveal all manner of wildflowers aside from the ubiquitous lupine and mustard: shooting stars, crimson paint brush, canyon sunflowers, and, if you’re lucky, the elusive Mariposa lily. Just looking along the side of the road or having a closer look at some rough rocky bank will also reveal species that will send you back to your favorite wildflower guide.

This week I explored new territory by going back Refugio Road, which cuts off from 101 just beyond El Capitan state park. The road is a key example of California’s unique microclimate environment, passing through rolling coast hills, many now planted with vineyards, riparian deciduous woodland with a beautiful roadside stream, and finally past the Circle R and Reagan ranches on to the dry high country from which can be seen awesome vistas of the road just traveled and on down to the Pacific and channel islands.

Further up 101 I was amazed that the riotous lupines had remain fresh and vibrant even after the sweltering heat wave of last week, but near Solvang the green of the hills is already tempered with the Mediterranean gold of the inevitable (and relentless) California summer.

They are not long, the days of wine and lupine, but while they last California is truly the paradise it’s so obsessively (and not always accurately) hyped to be (even with regular gas hitting $4.00 per gallon this week!)

For more California spring and wildfire photos see:

Friday, March 28, 2008

SCARLET STREET: RecordWracked


























Scarlet Street cover, featuring Ross Care's article on CHINATOWN, the Film and Jerry Goldsmith's score.

Partial bibliography of Record Rack and other film and music articles by Ross Care.

Scarlet Street was a popular genre magazine created and edited by Richard Valley. It achieved quite a cult following over a decades-long run.

__________________________________________________________


Care, Ross. “Dark Passages: The World of Film Noir – Some Like It Hot,” Scarlet Street, (#40, 2000) – An esay on the Billy Wilder noir comedy.

Care, Ross. “Disney Unlocks the Music Vault” Scarlet Street, (#27, 1998) – Overview of the first classic Disney Original Soundtrack CDs. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Pinocchio, Dumbo, Bambi, et al.

Care, Ross. “Disney’s Unburied Treasures, DVD Reviews by Ross Care, Barry Monush, and Richard Valley” Scarlet Street, (#47, 2003) – The classic Disney animated features on DVD.

Care, Ross. “Forever Raksin: An Interview with David Raksin” Scarlet Street, (#22, 1996) – An interview with the famous composer of "the face in the misty light."

Care, Ross. “The Music of Sound: Alfred Hitchcock Rear Window,” Scarlet Street, (#37, 2000). A detailed look at the use of sound and music in the 1954 Hitchcock film. Composer Franz Waxman provided the original musical theme but a variety of other music cues were woven into the film’s total soundtrack. This article also draws on the original cue sheet for the film.

Care, Ross. “Record Rack: Adventures on Marco Polo” Scarlet Street, (#35, 1999) – The Uninvited, Adventures of Marco Polo, King Kong, Moby Dick, etc CDs of music by Victor Young, Max Steiner, Philip Sainton, and others are reviewed.

Care, Ross. “Record Rack: Bernard Herrmann on CD,” Scarlet Street, (#17, Winter 1995)

Care, Ross. “Record Rack: Chinatown, the Film and the Score,” Scarlet Street, (#24, 1997)

Care, Ross. “Record Rack: Classic Hollywood Scores on Marco Polo” Scarlet Street, (#20, Fall 1995) – Music by Hugo Friedhofer and cother.


Care, Ross. “Record Rack: Classic Musicals on DVD” Scarlet Street, (#43, 2001)

Care, Ross. “Record Rack: “Fox Renascent: The Fox CDs ” Scarlet Street, (#28, 1998)
CDs discussed: Journey to the Center of the Earth, Mephisto Waltz, Overview of the 20th Century-Fox music department.

Care, Ross. “Record Rack: Fun with Peter, Alice, and Lolita” - Scores for the Films of Disney and Kubrick” Scarlet Street, (#32, Winter 1999)

Care, Ross. “Record Rack: More Music from 20th Century-Fox on CD” Scarlet Street, (#44, 2002) – How to Marry A Millionaire, Blue Denim, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, Batman: the Movie (1966), Illustrated Man, Stagecoach

Care, Ross. “Record Rack: Music for Gods, Monsters, and Bugs” Scarlet Street, (#34, 1999) - The 7th Voyage of Sinbad, Psycho, Mighty Joe Young, Gods and Monsters, et al

Care, Ross,.“Record Rack: North by Northwest on CD,” Scarlet Street, (#21, Winter 1996) – A review of the complete score on Rhino CD.

Care, Ross,.“Record Rack: Portraits in Black, Music for Film Noir ” Scarlet Street, (#29, 1998)
CDs discussed: Film Noir (Stromberg/Morgan/RCA Victor CD), Double Indemnity (Koch CD), Murder Is My Beat (Rhino CD), LA Confidential

Care, Ross.“Record Rack: Rebecca, Meet Me in St. Louis, Ziegfeld Follies” Scarlet Street, (#19, Summer 1995). - CD reviews.

Care, Ross. “Record Rack: RecordWracked: Recent Scores on CD,” Scarlet Street, (#18, Spring 1995) Ed Wood, Interview with the Vampire, et al

Care, Ross,.“Record Rack: Miklos Rozsa” Scarlet Street, (#38, 2000) -

Care, Ross. Record Rack: Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs & Pinocchio: the First CD Releases” Scarlet Street, (#12, Fall 1993) - Care’s first column for Scarlet Street.

Care, Ross. “Record Rack: Tony Perkins Just Sings” Scarlet Street, (#49, 2003) – The singing career and records of actor Anthony Perkins.

Care, Ross. “Record Rack: 20th Century-Fox Music on CD” Scarlet Street, (#28, 1999) – A roundup of vintage CD soundtracks from the major Hollywood studio.

Care, Ross. “Record Rack: Warner. Bros. 75 Years of Film Music,” Scarlet Street, (#31, 1999) – A review of the WB CD anthology.

Care, Ross. “Record Rack: A Wistful Longing for Horror: The Fantasy World of MGM” Scarlet Street, (#44, 2002) – Bandwagon, Brigadoon, Meet Me In St. Louis, Wizard of Oz, Ziegfeld Follies, et al


Scarlet Street, (#25, 1997) – The fantasy/horror elements of MGM musicals are mused upon.