Tuba Tuba Tuba

Most people think of the tuba as a slow, ponderous instrument. In fact, in the right hands (And lips!) it is as light and facile as any instrument in the orchestra. But don’t encourage your child to play the instrument. Student model instruments cost about $7000, whereas you could pick up a flute for as little as a hundred bucks.

To give you some idea of just what a tuba can do, check out Øystein Baadsvik:

Given this, it comes as no surprise that Los Angeles is having a tuba crime wave. According to NPR, the string of thefts are going to supply the needs of banda groups who are all the rage. What is banda? It’s a Mexican brass band that plays German polka-derived music. Stranger things have happened.

But their loss is your gain. Enjoy:

Killing Properly

CiceroBefore Cicero was murdered, he said, “There is nothing proper about what you are doing, soldier, but do try to kill me properly.” When I just tried to do a Google search on Cicero, Google offered me an option: Cicero’s Pizza. Cicero’s final words came to my mind. There is nothing proper about what we are doing to our culture, but let us at least try to kill it properly.

Presume “Guilty”

Presumed InnocentLast night, I watched Presumed Innocent. I hadn’t seen it in many years and I was pleasantly surprised. What I most remembered was that it was a very dark film, and so when the credits displayed “Cinematography: Gordon Willis” I was not surprised. What most people don’t understand is that video always has a higher contrast than video. So when you are watching a projected film, you can see great detail in even the darkest areas of the image. When this is transferred to video and displayed on a TV, most if not all of that detail goes away. Willis is a cinematographer who gives no thought to the fact that most people will watch his work on video and not film. Even though this bothers me, I can’t help but be impressed by his commitment. And even on video, his films still do look great and unmistakable.

What is most remarkable about the film is Harrison Ford in the lead role of Rusty Sabich. He is swallowed up by the actors around him. I know that the character is a hard one. He plays things very close to the vest. But Ford almost disappears in scenes with Raul Julia and Brian Dennehy. He is at his best in scenes with Bonnie Bedelia, where they seem to have a real connection. Of course, this is utterly counter to pretty much everything Scott Turow has ever written which can be reduced to a single sentence: women are unknowable. So it would have been better if they didn’t look so good together. I think the film would have been better with a great actor in the lead role, but I can’t think of who that might have been.

Novels—good ones anyway—are not preachy. Movies, being a melodramatic art form, often work better when they get in your face. And Presumed Innocent definitely gets in your face. It ends with a stunning voice-over with a shot of an empty courtroom:

I am a prosecutor. I have spent my life in the assignment of blame. With all deliberation and intent, I reached for Carolyn. I cannot pretend it was an accident. I reached for Carolyn, and set off that insane mix of rage and lunacy that led one human being to kill another. There was a crime. There was a victim. And there is punishment.

He is saying that even though he didn’t kill Carolyn Polhemus, his decision to have an affair with her started a process than ended in her murder. It is an “I am my brother’s keeper” moment. And it is very compelling to me. My experiences through these many decades have shown me that those we term guilty are not as guilty as we would believe, nor are the innocent free of guilt.

I cannot bear to be around people who consider themselves even mostly good or innocent, because they are neither; they are just fools.