RIP Gene Wilder

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In memory of Medill professor Bob McClory

“So I’m thinking it’s either a Pulitzer in six years, or a mental hospital for you.”

That was Bob McClory, a journalism professor of mine who died last Friday at age 82. Or at least that’s what I remember him saying at the end-of-the-quarter meeting about my writing and final grade when I was a journalism undergrad student at Medill at Northwestern.

He thought my continual use of quotation ledes ventured onto the less sane side of decision-making. What I heard though in that sentence was: I see what you’re doing. I don’t always get it or agree with you, but I believe in you. He probably said the same thing to lots of other students.
Continue reading “In memory of Medill professor Bob McClory”

Dave Brubeck, 91, has died

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Dave Brubeck, 91, has died. The jazz pianist and composer, perhaps best known for “Take Five” (watch video below).

Read the AP obituary here.

Brubeck was no stranger to the Capital Region. The venues he performed in include the Saratoga Jazz Festival at Saratoga Performing Arts Center, Proctors in Schenectady, Troy Savings Bank Music Hall, the Massry Center for the Arts at The College of Saint Rose in Albany, and Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival in Becket, Mass., His most recent performance was with his son’s band, Chris Brubeck Triple Play in June 10, 2011, at Zankel Center at Skidmore College.

What are your memories of Brubeck?

Remembering Marvin Hamlisch

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David Wiegand of the Times Union’s sister newspaper, San Francisco Chronicle, has a wonderful appreciation of Marvin Hamlisch. He is part of it:

Mr. Hamlisch often wrote with great heart and emotion, but the music for “Chorus Line” memorably shows how much more there was to Mr. Hamlisch’s music than what we heard on the surface on a first listen: He didn’t write songs of hope, love and longing — he wrote human songs, songs about life, not just Broadway or Hollywood’s version of life.

Mr. Hamlisch wrote scores for more than 40 films, including “Sophie’s Choice,” “The Way We Were,” “The Informant” and “Ordinary People.” He was an equally gifted arranger, most memorably, perhaps, for his work on the Paul Newman classic, “The Sting,” in which he adapted the ragtime music of Scott Joplin. If you listen carefully to that score, as everyone did when the film came out in 1973, you may get yet another sense of Mr. Hamlisch’s genius. The score, and the main theme, “The Entertainer,” display an absolute respect and loyalty to Joplin’s original music, even while reworking it for a big Hollywood film.

In a more popular music vein, Mr. Hamlisch and then-girlfriend Carole Bayer Sager composed “Nobody Does It Better” for the 1977 James Bond film “The Spy Who Loved Me.” It was sung by Carly Simon on the soundtrack and became one of her most enduring hits.
And through it all, the awards kept coming: He was one of only 11 people to have won Tonys, Grammys, Oscars and Emmys, and one of only two people to have also won the Pulitzer (the other is Richard Rodgers).

Unlike other composers, it isn’t always that easy to identify a Marvin Hamisch song or score. We might be able to identify a piece of music as, say, a “Henry Mancini song” or a Bernard Hermann score, but that’s less true of Mr. Hamlisch’s music. The same man who wrote “Sunshine, Lollipops and Roses,” sung by Lesley Gore, wrote the score for the musical “The Sweet Smell of Success,” the score for the film “Bananas,” the classical symphonic suite “Anatomy of Peace” and was principal pops conductor for the Pittsburgh, Milwaukee, San Diego, Pasadena and Dallas symphonies. He was due to be announced as principal pops conductor of the Philadelphia Orchestra at the time of his death, had completed the score for the forthcoming Steven Soderbergh film about Liberace, starring Michael Douglas and Matt Damon, and was working on a new Broadway show called “Gotta Dance.”

That isn’t to say that Mr. Hamlisch somehow lacked a style — far from it. If anything, he owned many styles, and each one was authentic and unique.

Continue reading “Remembering Marvin Hamlisch”

Ray Bradbury, 91, dies

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The AP is reporting that Ray Bradbury, the science fiction-fantasy master who transformed his childhood dreams and Cold War fears into telepathic Martians, lovesick sea monsters, and, in uncanny detail, the high-tech, book-burning future of “Fahrenheit 451,” has died. He was 91.

I read “Farhenheit 451” when I was in eighth grade and my teacher didn’t know what to do with me anymore, because I had completed all the SRA reading levels by October (see ya, aqua!).

The reading experience was transformative. I got to read this sci fi book for credit? And while my classmates toiled away at the SRA cards, I kicked back with Bradbury and this crazy book filled with characters who had memorized so many other books, because, as everyone knows, Farhenheit 451 is the temperature at which paper burns.

I didn’t even have to write a paper about the novel. I just sat and had a 20-minute talk with the teacher about it, and then I was free to move on — so then I read Martian Chronicles, and then other sci fi, such as Heinlein’s Stranger in a Stranger Land and Frank Herbert’s Dune.

In many ways, Bradbury was my introduction to sci fi as something more than an escape, but a means for intellectual pursuit.

What’s your Bradbury story?