Thursday, October 08, 2009

It's the Arts

Another installment my (regular? occasional? time will tell) series of odds and sods from the artsy fartsy realms.

Happy Anniversary – I
Monty Python has been such a ubiquitous presence in my life (it's where the post title came from) that sometimes it’s hard to remember it’s been around longer than I have. In fact, this year marks the 40th anniversary of the debut of Monty Python’s Flying Circus on BBC television. Last Sunday’s New York Times had a large article about the group and the upcoming anniversary events. For true Python fans, the big one is a new six-part documentary, Almost the Truth (The Lawyer's Cut), that debuts on IFC the week of October 18-23.

One of the interesting things about Python, given its staying power, is that there hasn’t been any new material for more than 25 years. Yeah, things like Spamalot! repurposed the old shtick, but the five remaining Pythons haven’t been back “in the studio,” so to speak, since the Reagan years. Does that add to the staying power? Imagine if, say, Yes stopped producing new material after Drama. Would their reputation be better, without bearing the weight of Big Generator, Open Your Eyes, and the like? Maybe the Pythons got it right.

Happy Anniversary – II
OK, there’s 40 years of Python, so how about a milestone for another major influence of my formative years, Bloom County? Next year will be the 30th anniversary of the strip’s debut and will see the entire run of the series reissued in a series of (hardback? I hope) books. Bloom County is not only my all-time favorite strip, it’s one of my favorite things of all time. It had a perfect mixture of whimsy, socio-political commentary, and open hearted good humor. I see a lot of myself in the various characters and how they view the world.

Anyway, to mark the occasion, USA Today this week has an interview with the stripper (look it up) Berkeley Breathed, along with a series of old strips annotated by the author. Among his revelations in the interview, what the main characters are up to these days:

Q. Are the Bloom County characters ageless to you, or do you imagine them as having aged and grown up since 1989? If they have aged, what would you imagine they are doing these days?
A. If you force me to do this:

Milo: An early retiree with $200 million of bonuses from AIG.

Binkley: Became a hairdresser, as his dad feared in 1983.

Oliver: One of the New Atheist writers. Privately still trying to reconcile the existence of Rush Limbaugh with Darwinian evolution.

Bill the Cat: Finally revealed to be a sexy smoochy teen vampire. New stuffed versions of himself on the way.

Opus: As many know, he's tucked in and sleeping in the bunny's bed from Goodnight Moon. Forever. Where we all hope to go, really.
The strip annotations have some interesting info in them, too. Check 'em out.

LUFC on the Big Screen
As long as they toil in the third circle of English football (even though it’s called League One), I’ve got no chance of catching Leeds United on the TV over here. At least they’re top of the league at this point! But I will get to see a bit of infamous Leeds history on the big screen soon, with The Damned United opening on the coasts this weekend.

The film, which Salon is calling one of the year’s best, is about the tumultuous 44-day tenure of Brian Clough as the team’s manager in 1974. It’s one of the more spectacular flameouts in English sports history, IIRC. It’s brought to the big screen by the writer of The Queen and Frost/Nixon, with Michael Sheen (who played Tony Blair in The Queen and David Frost in Frost/Nixon) playing Clough. I doubt it will make much of a splash in the US, given its subject, but I'm looking forward to it.

A Virtual Treasure Trove
I found an awesome link for art lovers today in, of all places, the comment thread to this Reason article on the oral argument in the Stevens case this week. Turns out the Metropolitan Museum of Art has most of their extensive collection sorted and cataloged online, available for anybody to browse. More than that, their terms of use allow you to post their images to your blog/website, providing it’s not a commercial one.

So, for example, here’s an interesting van Gogh:

That's "Corridor in the Asylum," a view from a French asylum where van Gogh spent about a year later in his life.

There are over 136,000 items in their collection, so just about anybody can find something interesting in there.

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