Law and Conversation

April 26, 2011

Get your Beethoven on

Filed under: Music,piano — Helen Gunnarsson @ 6:00 pm
Tags: , , ,

My amazing piano teacher, Abraham Stokman, will play a benefit concert for the victims of the Japan earthquake and tsunami on Wednesday, April 27, at 7 PM at Nichols Recital Hall, 1490 Chicago Avenue, Evanston, IL. Beethoven junkies, this one’s for you: Abe will play not one, not two, not three, not four, but FIVE (count ’em!) Beethoven sonatas:  Op. 28, Op. 90, Op. 101, Op. 27, No. 2, and Op. 111. Tickets are $20 for adults, $15 seniors, $7 students at the door. All proceeds go to the Japanese Red Cross.

You can watch a fourteen-minute video of Abe playing part of J.S. Bach’s Goldberg Variations on YouTube.

March 23, 2011

Three more Japanese anime films

Earlier this week I recommended watching Isao Takahata‘s “Grave of the Fireflies” as part of thinking about the awful destruction from the recent earthquake and tsunami in Japan.  As I noted, the film, about two orphaned children struggling to survive in Japan at the end of World War II, is excellent but depicts the worst of human nature and behavior and is unspeakably sad.

As an antidote to sadness, today I’m recommending three equally lovely but upbeat animated Japanese films, each of which depicts the best of human nature:

1) “Whisper of the Heart,” by Yoshifumi Kondo.  This sweet tale of first love has it all for the sentimental among us, including a great version of John Denver’s “Country Roads.”  Unfortunately, Kondo’s career was cut short by his untimely death in 1998.  Though this is the only film Kondo directed, director Hiroyuki Morita paid it homage in his “The Cat Returns,” including making the cat statuette called “The Baron” one of his principal characters.

2) “My Neighbor Totoro,” by the great Hayao Miyazaki (may he disregard his rumblings of retirement and make many more films). If you have small children, this gorgeous, numinous film is a must-see. If you don’t, it’s still a must-see.

3) “Kiki’s Delivery Service,” also directed by Miyazaki. A coming-of-age story about a young witch who leaves home with her cat, Jiji, to find her way in the world. White magic, only–no worries!

I’ve posted many times about my love of comics, whether in graphic novels or animated films. What are your favorite animated films?

March 21, 2011

Watch This: Grave of the Fireflies

Filed under: Film — Helen Gunnarsson @ 2:12 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

The coverage of the devastation in Japan from the recent earthquakes and tsunami and fears over radiation from its damaged nuclear reactors reminded me of a wonderful film with a heartbreaking story, Isao Takahata’s “Grave of the Fireflies.”

The film depicts the worst of human nature and behavior.  Two children are left to fend for themselves at the end of World War II when their mother dies after a bombing raid; their father, an officer in the Japanese military, is away at war and may have died already.

Neither family nor neighbors nor the law help the children. Their aunt takes their rice and their mother’s expensive kimonos, allows them little to eat, and abuses them. The boy’s little sister becomes terribly sick, either from malnutrition, radiation sickness, or both. A doctor tells the boy she must have food, but neither he nor anyone else offers any food or any help. Neighbors refuse to share. Law enforcement authorities not only provide no assistance but threaten to punish the boy for stealing food.

Watch this beautiful, unutterably sad film, and be sure to have a supply of clean handkerchiefs by your side.

For more about the film, you can read the Wikipedia entry if you don’t mind spoilers. Yahoo! has a story with links to various organizations who are accepting donations for helping Japan.

Blog at