Category Visual Arts

“Once Were Brothers: Robbie Robertson and The Band”

Some people are just born for the camera and stage and storytelling. Robbie Robertson was 16 years old and a high school dropout (not because he was a ne’er-do-well stoner, but because he had a serious jones for music-making) when he sold one of his guitars to finance a train ticket from his native Toronto to Arkansas, where he joined up to become one of the “Hawks” backing noted rock & roller Ronnie Hawkins.

Hawkins had first noticed Robertson playing locally when Hawkins toured in Canada, then invited him to come explore the possibilities of joining up with him in Arkansas. Robertson wound up writing two songs that Hawkins used, launching the teen on a songwriting and guitar-playing mission that has served him well over his subsequent 60-year career...

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Two Popes Make for One Great Movie

Early in the current Netflix release, “The Two Popes,” I recalled the outlandish, unexpected success of “My Dinner With Andre,” Louis Malle’s 1981 film featuring two guys talking—and talking, and talking, for 111 minutes—across a café table in Manhattan. That was pretty much it as far as plot and characters go, but oh, what glorious talk it was.

Brazilian director Fernando Meirelles’s “The Two Popes” features quite a bit more dramatic backdrop and tension than did Malle’s film, but in its essence, it’s a kind of intellectually, theologically combative buddy movie that features two marvelously gifted (and hard-working!) actors reveling in sometimes solemn, sometimes fierce, and often enough humorous, even tender dialogue about matters of great import to themselves, their church, and the world beyond.

Two Welsh actors do virtually all the lifting required by producer and writer Anthony...

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Seventh Annual Holiday Photo Gallery

I’ve noticed something of late: In both my work and my blogging life, I pore over so many thousands of photographs through the course of a day and a year that I have sometimes begun to feel jaded and not all that impressed. “Another 9,000-shades-of-orange sunset, yawn…”

That of course, is when I need to give myself a not-so-slight whack on the head with my vintage edition of “Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind,” and remind myself—yet again, and again—how truly magnificent the world is, and how much we owe to photographers who help us see and think about it more attentively, with greater appreciation for its depth and breadth, detail and wonder.

So! Welcome to Traversing’s Seventh Annual Holiday Photo Gallery, guaranteed to bring you, if not great luck and fortune, at least a smile and, I trust, an involuntary “Wow!” and “Ooh!” or two. The pixels, please…

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Good to the Last Drop, by Joel Valve

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Cootie and C...

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Two Guys in a Lighthouse: What Could Go Wrong?

The sum total of what I knew before walking into the theater to see “The Lighthouse” last night: “Two guys in a lighthouse, and things go south.” Wasn’t hard to foresee a taut psychological thriller, full of insight into the difficulty of human relations set amidst the extreme conditions of solitude that residing in a lighthouse would bring. Count me in!

What I wasn’t ready for—and quickly had to steel my defenses against—was an unrelenting 109 minutes (felt like 109 hours…) of human misery, wretchedness, crudity, homoerotic violence, loud clanging noises from the lighthouse, loud farting noises from an ancient mariner’s lower orifice, flashbacks, hallucinations, guilt, desperate masturbation, mermaid sex, hostile seagulls, even more hostile seas, and having to look at Willem Dafoe’s artfully rotted teeth, which showed prominently behind the beard that often seemed to contain outsized shards o...

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On “Rocketman” and Artists, and Rocking One’s World

Prodigies rarely have it easy. No matter how much fame or wealth they may manage to accumulate on the basis of their outsized talent, they often wind up leading desperate lives, besieged by an inner desert of radical isolation from everything—loved ones included—that would offer them comfort and a reason to go on.

Vincent Van Gogh, Mark Rothko, Kurt Cobain, Sylvia Plath, Anne Sexton, Phil Ochs, David Foster Wallace: barely the tip of a vast iceberg of genius talents who struggled mightily before cutting short their own lives when their inner demons overpowered the seemingly all powerful will-to-live that animates all life forms.

Despite multiple dark circumstances that had him pushing toward and then hovering on the edge of such self-destruction over many years, British rock star Elton John has managed to escape a place on that list, at least as of today, well into his 72nd year...

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