Tuesday, May 26, 2015

John Denver: Explanation of His Death

You probably want to watch this clip slowly, pausing as you need to to read the information from the report of this accident.  John Denver passed away in a plane crash over Monterrey Bay in 1997 before his 54th birthday.
This is a short documentary which puts to rest any theories about the death of John Denver.  Rumors circulated that is was a suicide, or drug involved affair.  Neither of these was true.  This report gives two reasons for the accident. in which John Denver nosed dived into the ocean.  The first, is Denver declined topping off the tanks.  Had he done this the accident would have been avoided.  One tank would have sufficed for his short trip.
This was a new plane to Denver, and his first time flying this plane solo.  The other cause was Denver inadvertently putting the plane into a nose dive.  This was because of a design flaw in the fuel switch.  The plane had two tanks, one in each wing.  If the fuel from one ran out, a switch had to be manipulated to access the fuel in the other wing.  However the switch had been moved to behind the pilot, to avoid the fuel line running through the control area.  It was hard to get to, and two test pilots had triggered a nose dive when the attempted to do this.  They were up high enough to come out of the nose dive.  Denver was not.  His plane nose dived into the ocean at 125 miles per hour and disintegrated, killing Denver instantly. 

Monday, May 4, 2015

Movie Review: Six by Sondheim

This is an HBO 2013 documentary special about the career of Stephen Sondheim.  James Lapine, who often wrote with Sondheim directed and produced.   It focuses specifically on six songs, but tells a much broader story.  Sondheim was mentored by Oscar Hammerstein and his wife.  His first break came when he wrote the lyrics for West Side Story, with Hammerstein writing the music.  They particularly focused on "Somethings Coming," a song added to the beginning of the musical to introduce Tony, and to put him in a sympathetic light.  
Sondheim describes his writing as being a difficult process, with delving into the characters, to come up with the style and lyrics the characters would use.  Hammerstein taught him that a song has a beginning, middle and end, but also must move the story along. 
The documentary also focused on "Opening Doors"  from Merrily We Roll Along.  This is the closest to an autobiographical musical, as it explores persons who are struggling to make it in the Broadway business.  One song was about the piece being hummable, which concept Sondheim did not like. 
"Send in the Clowns"  from A Little Night Music was an after thought type of song, added so the character Desiree could explain her disappointments.  The documentary showed many different artsts singing part of this song; it has been covered many times.
"Being Alive" from Company is Sondheim, who was not married, explaining why marriage is important.  He had asked many of his friends about marriage.
Carlotta, a woman who has been through the entertainment world for many years sings "I'm Still Here" from Follies.  The song was written at the last, and took the place of "That Boy can Foxtrot."  Sondheim felt that song wasn't working, as it was humorous, but quickly got old.  The new lyrics are a list of things the character had gone through, and she is "still here/"
"Sunday" Sunday in the Park with George Sondheim explains has almost a funeral type feel, but it is not a funeral song, but a bit more. 
Broadway Baby from Follies plays as the credits are given, giving this production a seventh song.

Documentary Review: The Fall of Saigon

This documentary portrays one of the most tragic moments in U.S. history.  It is presented by a You Tube site Maharbal which says it was posted in 2014.  These events actually took place 40 years ago this past week.  I was a senior in high school.
I lived through these events, and the nightly news which tried to tell the public what to think about them.  I thought they were tragic at the time.  In a very real sense the United States abandoned its allies and left them hanging in the wind to a fate worse than death.  I think events since the fall of Viet Nam have born this out.  However at the same time, Viet Nam has been a united country since.
I had a friend from work, who served as a doctor in the South Vietnamese Army, and was subjected to the re-education camps.  What a horrid life under communism.  And they say this was freedom. After released form the camps, he talked about the life of the people.  They could not be seen to have any wealth.  If you had chicken, you closed the curtains so no one could see and report to the government. We have all heard of the killing fields.  Millions of people died, so we could have peace.
Sometimes answers are not easy.  However I have a hard time getting my brain around the idea that this was the right way to go.  This documentary focuses on the last push towards Saigon,  from several sides, the government of Viet Nam, the U.S. military, the South Vietnamese military, and the North Vietnamese military.  It also focuses on the thousands who were left behind.  What a tragedy.