Saturday, August 18, 2018

Not Anyone


One of the glorious moments of 50s cinema, with the wonderful Hadda Brooks at piano.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Programmed


Not at this radio station. Not then, not ever, as WKRP in Cincinnati -- cancelled by CBS after continued pressure from the Reaganoids and the Falwells -- went out with its bravest and most heartfelt season. This lovely and very funny episode from Christmas 1981 celebrates the days when radio disc jockeys were actually allowed to program their own music. Imagine that. . .

Sunday, August 12, 2018

The Greatest


His number was retired yesterday by the Giants in the presence of:

Cepeda
Gaylord Perry
Stretch!
Willie Mays!
Juan Marichal!!

And for all you PED-Obsessives:

1999(start of the so-called Steroids Era) to 2003, Age 34 to 38:
2,104 ABs, 247 HRs, HR/AB: 8.53

2004(when Bonds was tested for PEDs every week) to 2007, Age 39 to 42:
1,122 ABs, 104 HRs, HR/AB: 10.79

Fuck the Hall of Fame.

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Shy

A beautiful essay by Hugh Iglarsh.

Monday, August 6, 2018

Go

Three ways.

Sinatra.



Lee Morgan.



Brother Bill Evans.

Friday, August 3, 2018

Once Upon a Time. . .


Happy 92nd Birthday to Mr. Bennett!


Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Sacred Heart


The Saint was perhaps the deepest and most beautiful thinker of her century.

Simone Weil left us with these five self-judgments:
1. Not to be dishonored.

2. Not to die without having existed.

3. To traverse this somber age in manly (or womanly) fashion.

4. To perish with a clear vision of the world we shall be leaving behind.

5. To work toward a clear comprehension of the object of our efforts, so that, if we cannot accomplish it, we may at least have willed it, and not just have desired it blindly.
Her essay on concentration ("Reflections on the Right Use of School Studies with a View to the Love of God"), concentration being the ultimate act of love, puts the reader in a state of Grace.

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Jelly Roll

My daughter rolls with laughter whenever she watches this episode, which unfortunately has been around 20 times this week.

One of the best in the series: "Wally's Haircomb" from May of '59. (And dig that crazy music!)

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Listen

Each day the miracle known as Saya teaches me more about life, love, joy, sadness, right and wrong than all the books I've read, all the teachers I've had, and all the "friends" I've mistakenly listened to. And she's just a normal kid. (Okay, a lot cuter than normal.) Saya-chan is also the most demanding teacher I've ever had, requiring complete attention. One must look at her when she speaks, and listen carefully to all she says, even if what she says she's already said twenty times.

Surprisingly, one of the best pop culture embodiments of her gift and wisdom is Leave It To Beaver. Surprisingly because my memories of the show (what little there were) pictured the show in its "ABC incarnation." Because of Saya I picked up Shout! Factory's magnificent LITB Complete Series box. (For the most comprehensive review I've ever seen of any box set, go here.) Having now watched most of the first couple seasons, and remembering some of what followed those years, it's clear there were two LITBs. Aside from one obvious answer -- namely, Jerry Mathers growing up into a rather awkward adolescent -- what were the reasons for the dramatic shift in tone, look, and quality? We can mark when the shift occurs: when the Cleavers move into the second house. In "First House" incarnation, everything is different. Ward is a handsome, charming, even dashing figure, reminiscent of a younger Pat Riley: a relaxed, happy man with a good life. His boys adore him. June ~ what a dish! With a style clearly based on the middle-1950s Grace Kelly, she's witty, graceful, and very much in love -- and in lust -- with her husband. And that's the first major part that goes out the window when the Cleavers move into their new airplane hanger of a house -- the sexy, fun, adoring relationship between the parents, at its best worthy of comparison to some of the screwball comedy couples of the 1930s. Why did they get rid of this? Why did they change Ward from a stylish, man-about-town into a cranky, always worried, humorless stiff?

And what they did to June was worse. Everything she wore in the first house was beautiful, especially her hairstyle. After the move, she becomes this dull, washed-out mannequin, with the worse haircuts possible from the time. (And the early-60s was a Hall-of-Fame time for bad hairstyles.) And the boys! In the first couple years, the brothers are in love with life, always thinking about what was the right thing to do (and often failing); caring more about others then themselves. The family moves -- the boys become different. Now often nasty and selfish, and generally looking at their parents as old fogies who don't understand anything about fun and life. (Considering what June and Ward became, I guess the boys were right). Wally becomes the obnoxious Big Man on Campus. Beaver becomes a BMOC-wannabe. And their second-house friends! Eddie, Lumpy, Larry, Whitey, Richard, Gilbert. Whatever happened to the cool Chester or the blind Chuey? Or the sweet-and-cute Benji with the very strange voice? Couldn't the boys have one second-house friend who wasn't a conniving butthead? Who were the producers of the show trying to appeal to once the show became a hit, because once they decided to base LITB on a "kids are more fun and smarter than their parents" theme, the show really goes downhill. And the look of the show as well. In the first two years, LITB glistens with an almost Fassbinderian white glow. About the best-looking TV black-and-white I can think of from the time. Then they move -- and everything suddenly seems as if it had been shot in someone's garage. The same is true of the music. There's that lovely, sad melody they use in the first two years -- after they move, it's gone.

So what happened? Answer: Leave It To Beaver changed networks. It went from uptown CBS to downtown ABC -- and the shark swallowed it whole.

My favorite episode from when the show was good: "Beaver Runs Away," June 1958.

Monday, July 16, 2018

Miss Yamada is Waiting for You

The collage is formed from Ryuichi Sakamoto's music and the five movies Isuzu Yamada made with Kenji Mizoguchi, 1935-36: Downfall of Osen, Oyuki the Madonna, Osaka Elegy, Sisters of Gion and the recently discovered Ojo Okichi (a Mizoguchi co-direction). Of the four members from the inner circle of Japanese Classical Actresses (Setsuko Hara, Hideko Takemine, Kinuyo Tanaka are the others), Isuzu Yamada is the most melodramatic and moving, the most beautiful and erotic, and certainly the loneliest. Under Mizoguchi, her atmosphere is like pure oxygen; if you breath it deep it can make you dizzy and joyful, or poison you. Her always melancholy eyes and faintly hollowed cheeks make it seem as if she is feeding on her own beauty.

Friday, July 13, 2018

Simpich


Bill Simpich is one of the bravest and brightest lights in the current constellation of Kennedy assassination researchers. His (free!) book -- State Secret -- is an investigative and interpretive masterpiece, one of the major works in the canon which not only names names but proves the naming as well. While I depart from Simpich's view of a very contained intelligence cadre taking out JFK (a conspiracy theory that smacks of pique as the primary murder motive rather than anything systemic or money-based), his detailing of the Mexico City heart-and-soul of the plot goes beyond anything we've had before: a thorough indictment of William Harvey, Richard Bissell, David Morales, Anne Goodpasture, Tracy Barnes, David Phillips, George Joannides and others deep enough to bring before any of the Hanging Judges in a true court of Heaven. If we had one.

Here, Bill Simpich indicts another member of the plot, more hands-on and closer to home: Dallas police captain W.R. Westbrook.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Ghosts

I've never been much of a fan of Rod Serling or his original Twilight Zone. (Its contemporary genre sister One Step Beyond has always seemed more genuinely strange and mysterious and honest). There's a quality of over-literary slumming to most TZ episodes (the same feel I get from Herb Leonard's Naked City and Route 66 [George Maharis!] -- Method Museums both). Yet, from the position of hate and degradation we're all covered in by our current Commodity Culture, to deny the show's occasional greatness is absurd.

Episode number five was called "Walking Distance" -- premiering October 30, 1959 and starring the sadly forgotten Gig Young (who seems to have once lived in the Amberson mansion). Strange to say for a network TV show, but the greatness of "Walking Distance" is in its music -- perhaps the most moving ever written for a single episode of any series, by Bernard Herrmann, coming off of Vertigo and North by Northwest, and preparing for Psycho. An excess of love seems to come from the sound, a kind of abnegation and loneliness which speaks of what is tender and what is lost forever. Herrmann's music contains the ghost of tenderness itself. (And how much better the episode would be without Serling's nail-on-the-head narration.)

Friday, July 6, 2018

Longing


A movie exploring extreme states of consciousness or moments of vision or intense emotion is notoriously difficult for story-based viewers to deal with, since most movie criticism is exclusively "realistic" and story-based in its awareness, only sensitive to social events and interactions among characters, fetishistic at analyzing psychology and motivations and resumes: criticism, in brief, only capable of describing and understanding who said what to whom, why he or she said it, and what the consequences in the plot plausibly should or should not be. The difficulty with all this is that all great movie moments are moments when frequently nothing that matters is happening in those ways, nothing may be going on socially, verbally, or "professionally" that is important. The only event taking place at a given moment may be a derangement in the style or in the tone; the occurrence of an expressive close-up of a figure’s face; or the brightness or quality of light falling on the wall of a room ~ actions or events more momentous than those noticed by the story-fetishists and are obviously not analyzable in terms of psychology, resume, dialogue, or social interaction.

The reality to which these true movie moments pay allegiance is a reality that offers itself as an alternative to the prison of manners, social standing, and political categories as definitions of the individual, or as indications of his or her capacities of performance. These are precisely the moments in which a character or a dramatic situation escapes from being understood in those terms, moments when social or political definitions break down or when an individual is released into another, less limiting relationship to his or her surroundings.

These are the moments or scenes that descriptions of the characters or summaries of the movie story leave out, scenes or fleeting moments when characters simply sit still and are silent; when they look at each other but do not speak; when music swells on the soundtrack, or the rhythm of the editing changes, or a special lighting effect is used, even though nothing is apparently happening in terms of the advancement of the plot or the dialogue spoken. Such moments, when the social situations of the characters or the lines they speak cease to express the meaning of a scene, are often the most important ones in movies, moments when the film is longing to express feelings or visions too intense or private to be expressed in story or social form.

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Go Forth

Saturday, June 30, 2018

From the Heart

Robert Francis Kennedy on CBS's Face the Nation, November 26, 1967, (complete).