Friday, July 21, 2017

Stars, No Stars

Happy Friday, if happy is what it is. It has turned hot, even here in the vacation state - making it a challenge to find ways of getting around the heat. I stick to my chair - it is warm. There is respite here, though, it ids always cool by the river...



I should, coming in here once a week, manage to find something to say about the world. Donald Trump is still president, though still a fool; Republican health care savagery is on hold, though it's hard to get rid of it; John McCain is gravely ill, leading to a certain amount of hand wringing, at least on left - he voted against us, he got a free pass sometimes for talking like he might vote differently, but he never did - but you still had to respect the man. I certainly suspect that if he'd managed to win the residency in 2000, we'd be a lot better off... I hope he recovers, as a person, and really - if all Republicans were John McCain, we'd be a lot better off. It is a luxury to have opponents you can respect - who can respect Donald Trump? What kind of monster would respect Donald Trump?

On the other hand, McCain did elevate Sarah Palin to prominence, and that is part of why we have the scum we have now in Washington, so... I've never quite been able to shake the conviction McCain did that to make sure he'd lose in 08 - that's a mighty price to pay for getting Obama elected though.

Enough politics. I could note the passing of another rock star, Chester Bennington or Linkin Park - however, the less said the better, lest I bring up my opinion of Linkin Park. Its too bad about him, though. All musicians are, in fact, heroes, as musicians - I don't have to be a fan to respect them, and mourn their passing. Though I'm not posting any Linkin Park at this blog...

What else? TV countdown at WITD, but I hope you know that my now. My parts of that are still a ways off, though I hope to do some writing on the subject here, too... On that score - TV? I am, for the first time in a long while, watching a TV series in (nearly) real time - Twin Peaks Return, of course. I could be watching Game of Thrones in real time - I have HBO these days, first time in ages (I had it in 2010 just long enough to watch the first season of Treme in real time - that was a promotional offer, so that was all of that.) I did watch 4 seasons of Game of Thrones in a bunch a couple years ago, then read the books - so it might be tempting. But it is on opposite Twin Peaks: it is incomprehensible to me why someone would watch GOT over Twin Peaks. (Obviously, in this day and age, you DVR both - it comes down to which you watch first.) Maybe it isn't incomprehensible - GOT is a fine show (well - the first 4 seasons were - the 5th sounded like it jumped the shark pretty badly; even though I hadn't read the books when it came out, it sounded as though the show went completely off the rails that season. It sounded like a violation of the books - and of the show that I had seen to that point, since the show still felt like it matched the books, more or less. Maybe - through 3 seasons anyway. That is a topic for another day.) But even at its best, compared to Twin Peaks - it feels like, I don't know - comparing Lord of the Rings to Ulysses. For all of Tolkien's powers, it shrivels to nothing beside Joyce.

I know that's a minority opinion, all of it - that Twin Peaks is that much better than Game of Thrones - that Joyce is that much better (and worthy of your time) than Tolkien - and, probably most of all, that Joyce is that much more enjoyable than Tolkien (though that is true: Ulysses is a joy to read; LOTR is a chore. The Hobbit or the Silmarillion, I can make a case for - but reading the Lord of the Rings would be work, and I'm not going to do it. This is as a source of pleasure alone - never mind quality...) A minority opinion, though getting back to the TV shows - one that might mark certain boundaries. Twin Peaks is probably the cinephiles' choice - it certainly seems that way on Twitter. It's a show for movie lovers - though probably a minority form of movie lover - cinephiles - taken in all its connotations... The difference tends to bring out the way TV and films are different - GOT is TV, all the way - and TV is far more literary than film. That is one of its strengths - it can tel different kinds of stories, differently - long, complex stories, with complicated relationships among characters, with the stories, relationships and everything else made explicit, explored - words are powerful, and TV allows for words to be used differently than film, as such... This version of Twin Peaks puts it all in the images and sounds, the editing, the flow of information - a film; if you were making literary comparisons, more like a poem than prose....

That's part of it, though not all. It is also simply true that Twin Peaks is better than Game of Thrones - the way Ulysses is better than Lord of the Rings. (Or A Song of Ice and Fire, for that matter.) It's art - or better art; it beats it at its own game. And to be honest, some of that is due to the fact that TwinPeaks - at least this version of Twin Peaks - is completely in the care of David Lynch. I am very fond of David Lynch - in ways I can sometimes articulate and sometimes not. I'm not quite sure I can articulate why Twin Peaks The Return is so good, yet - but it is, and it is something I can't miss.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Bastille Day

Happy Bastille day, France, and Francophiles everywhere. Try not to dwell too much on the appeal of the tumbrel in these troubled times, as our (sort of) elected leaders demonstrate how Louis XVI ad co weren't the worst you could do....

I know this is another placeholder type of post - I don't know when that will change. As always, for the next few months, don't miss the TV countdown at Wonders in the Dark; don't miss the new Twin Peaks. Baseball starts back up after its all star break. And the Tour de France rolls along, with a twist - Chris Froome and the invincible Sky Team have lost the lead! Though no one seems to npticethe obvious: the current leader, Fabio Aru, got it yesterday by winning a sprint up the side of a wall after rding the entire race on Chris Froome's wheel. If Sky is so invincible, don't beat em - join em! Make them pull you through the mountains!

Good enough. Music? Kraftwerk can bring you the sport:



And as usual - a bit of French pop is in order - here's Johnny Hallyday:



et encore - live, 1960!

Friday, July 07, 2017

A Berry Nice Friday

Happy Friday again. A busy kind of week, with the holiday and all, at least the beginning of it. Lots of summery stuff! parades and fireworks, fried dough, barbecues, strawberry picking, jam making, lots of shortcake eating, you name it. Along with watching bicycle racing, complete with Controversy! - involving stray elbows, not doping this time... Major star #1, Peter Sagan, collides with major star #2, Mark Cavendish, and Cavendish crashes and breaks a shoulder. Sagan gets kicked out of the tour for it. Everyone who cares has an opinion, and most of them think Sagan was badly done by - there area couple angles on the crash, one of them looking like Sagan whacked Cavendish with an elbow as he went by, the other looking like Cavendish ran into him first, and Sagan's elbow came up after Cavendish was already down. The more you lookat the picture, the less Sagan seems to be to blame - but the tour kicked him out.

Anyway - there's plenty of bike racing to come, for those of us who care about that sort of thing. No Sagan, which drains a lot of the fun out of it, but plenty of Chris Froome and the invincible Sky Team, for those who love the Yankees.

I could say something about politics, though as usual, it is nothing but depressing. Trump feuding with CNN, some dipshit making a dim witted wrestling meme of Trump tacking CNN - which Trump, being more dimwitted and classless even than his fans, retweeted. Followed by controversy over whether CNN should name the dipshit who made the meme. All of this creating noise while Trump and company continue to work on dismantling the country. Trump abroad, where he's soiling himself among other world leaders and getting ready to meet the boss. God.

So maybe I won't write about politics. Do't forget to look in on Wonders in the Dark's TV Countdown. Don't forget to watch Twin Peaks when it comes back this Sunday. (I actually have pay cable these days - I can watch these things when they air!) Don't forget to enjoy the summer as much as you can.... And eat all the strawberries you can. To which end - some music:

Brother's Johnson!



Strawberry Alarm Clock!



An obscure group from a northwestern English seaport!

Monday, July 03, 2017

Television Countdown

This is a busy week, but I want to get this out there - a new countdown has stared at Wonders in the Dark, devoted to the 80 Greatest TV shows of all time (as voted by participants and friends of the blog.) That will be going all summer. As aways, expect plenty of fine writing and a few arguments along the way. Check it out!

Friday, June 23, 2017

We Are Only Strangers

Another week gone - easy to despair, with our Senate bravely shoving a bill through to get rid of Obamacare, to finance tax cuts for the rich from the blood and treasure of everyone else... Transparent theft, open repudiation of campaign promises even Donald Trump made (though who didn't know he was lying through his teeth?) I despair. The Republicans seem determined to extract every penny from the country before it burns down that they can get - the Democrats - somehow manage to end up seeming to be more concerned with sup[pressing the wrongthink on their side than in stopping the GOP. Maybe that's a symptom of reading Twitter, where people seem to spend all their time mocking their enemies, and shivving whoever is standing just to your right or left.... I suppose conservatives do that as well, but they still seem to somehow keep the votes in line.

There is only so much of that we need. Instead, let's talk music. First, June 22 marked the 40th anniversary of Peter Laughner's death (19771) - my opinions of Pere Ubu are no secret, and though their legacy came mostly after Laughner left, he was certainly instrumental in their sound. And I like Rocket From the Tombs almost as much - and in fact, like Laughner's work, separate from Thomas and company, almost as much. He was different from Thomas - and different from Cheetah Chrome and Stiv Bators, as well, though he overlapped with them all. RFFT mixed up the Velvets, the Stooges, Captain Beefheart and Cleveland - Pere Ubu dialed up the Beefheart (so to speak), Dead Boys the Stooges - Laughner doubled down on Lou Reed, and used that as a departing point to bring in more folk, more mainstream rock - blues, Richard Thompson, The Stones. If he'd lived (if he hadn't killed himself on booze and speed at 25), he might have been really big - maybe not record selling big, but reputation big. He wrote great songs, he was a very good guitar player, he was a passable singer with a distinctive voice... He should have been somebody. Here, in any cae, is a Stones cover recorded, I believe, the day he died...



And a Peter Laughner tribute, from Wilco:



Meanwhile, on a less depressing front - I was doing some cleaning, trying to get some of my junk in order, looking at my boxes of cassettes and trying to get them down to something manageable, and I found this: Translator's second record, No Time Like Now, with the son Un-Alone on it. I had forgotten about Translator - forgot they they existed. Usually that happens rooting around YouTube - stumble on some band that sounded really cool 35 odd years ago... but sometimes, it happen in the atom world too. I wish I hadn't forgotten them - they were pretty damned good. They sound like a nice bridge between new wave and the kind of psychedelic jangle pop that filled certain radio stations in the 80s - that is to say, they sounded like a west coast version of REM, more or less contemporary... Some win, some lose, I guess... but they were good.

Here is the video for Unalone, good sound, and what looks like scenes from Twin Peaks, of all things...



And a very energetic live performance, on old videotape...



And also live, their first single, Everywhere That I'm Not. That's impossible, that's imposs...

Friday, June 16, 2017

Bloomsday and Politics and GWAR

Happy Bloomsday! if you fry up some kidney, be sure to share with the cat....

I get hungry just reading it:

On the boil sure enough: a plume of steam from the spout. He scalded and rinsed out the teapot and put in four ful spoons of tea, tilting the kettle to let the water flow in. Having set it to draw he took offthe kettle, crushed the pan flat on the live coals and watched the lump of butter slide and melt. While he unwrapped the kidney the cat mewed hungrily against him. Give her too much meat she won't mouse. Say they won't eat pork. Kosher. Here. He let the bloodsmeared paper fall to her and dropped the kidney amid the zsizling butter sauce. Pepper. He sprinkled it through his fingers ringwise from the chipped eggcup.

Meanwhile, in the world - my god who wants to live in this world? Gunmen preying on congressmen, gunmen preying on citizens; terrible fires in London. Nonsense in the hals of government - Trump lying and looking for new ways to defy the constitution and law and order; congress itself trying to sneak a new health care law through the senate, a law that will cause massive suffering and undoubtedly cost citizens a lot of money, all in the name of an upper class tax cut. They are sneaking it through because they know that not even habitual Republican voters are going to support it - they don't want to talk about it, they don't want anyone talking about it - so I suppose I must talk about it.

Ugh. I suppose I will have plenty of time to give in to despair in the coming years, so I will leave it off now.

Leave you with GWAR, doing terrible things to a Billy Ocean song:

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Adam West

Bad news - Adam West has died, 88 years old. He is still the best Batman of them all - the show was fun, exciting, and hilarious, holds up as well as ever, better than the mopey Bats. He anchored it, of course, deadpan and unflappable, with impeccable timing - just great.

I send you off with a compilation of all the wall climbing cameos - two ordinary crime fighters, going about their business...

Friday, June 09, 2017

25 Films for the 21st Century

Well, I know today is a Friday, and I try to post musical things onFriday, but it is more important that I post anything on a Friday, and this has been going around, so why not? The New York Times posted their 25 best films of the 21st century - I have seen others getting on on the act - so here you go. we're almost through two whole decades of this century - shocking... all right.

1. Inland Empire
2. Yi Yi
3. Vanda's Room
4. Kingsand Queen
5. Colossal Youth
6. Los Angeles Plays Itself
7. O Brother Where Art Thou
8. Secret Sunshine
9. Moonrise Kingdom
11. The Master
12. There Will Be Blood
13. The Royal Tenenbaums
14. The Death of Mr Lazarescu
15. Toni Erdmann
16. L'Intrus
17. Mulholland Drive
18. Inside Llewyn Davis
19. Sympathy for Mr Vengeance
20. The Headless Woman
21. Memories of Murder
22. Syndromes and a Century
23. Carlos
24. The Act of Killing
25. Mysteries of Lisbon

Friday, June 02, 2017

We Could Stay at Home and Play Games, I Don't Know

Lately I have had Steely Dan on the mind. I don't own enough of their music to do a decent Band of the Month, or they might have made it - if I started doing scaled down versions of that series, I might put them in there. But for now, just getting something on this blog will count as a Win. So - I've gotten them in my head and they aren't coming out, so I am putting them up here for your enjoyment. Go get em, boys!

Here's an early bit, Doin' it Again live on Midnight Special, back when David Palmer did a lot of the live vocals... I've posted their Reelin' in the Years too many times to post it again - this will do. Jef Baxter on congas, Denny Dias on that great solo...



This is the one I can't get out of my head lately - Rikki Don't Lose That Number... I remember hearing this back in the 70s sitting in a pizza joint in Brunswick Maine, this on the jukebox, and some guy at the next table telling two girls he was with that he had done something while he was under the influence of barbiturates... ah, decadence!



And for good measure - here are some Brooklyn hipsters (Hospitality) I had never heard of covering the Dan, and doing a fine job of it...



And from after they got back together and went on tour in the 90s - Deacon Blues, which is the first Steely Dan song I remember hearing on the radio - very cool song, I thought:



And finally, some I can't find the Minutemen doing it - here are the Mountain Goats covering Dr. Wu:

Friday, May 26, 2017

Happy Friday!

Happy Friday! It is time to find ways to get this blog going again. Not just this blog everything. I moved recently, a new state, new everything - that has been a huge disruption of my life (though one I chose) - though the build up to it was just about as disruptive. That may be a topic for another day... Right now, I have moved, I am getting settled, and I have to start resuming the things I like to do. Writing - writing for this blog. Yes.

I can't promise anything too fancy yet - start with the simplest posts. Nothing makes for quick content better than music - so here you go. Friday music: rebuild my writing habits from the bottom up! So without further ao - the last few days I have been listening to a lot of Janelle Monae - enjoy:

Here she is singing Smile, with guitar accompaniment:



And Sincerely, Jane, live in 2012:



Finally - both those songs feature Kellindo Parker, her guitar player - here he is, shredding on his own:

Friday, May 19, 2017

Friday Music and another Obituary

This year has not been as devastating as last year, but we still seem to be losing people - this week, Chris Cornell of Soundgarden and Audioslave, died, apparently hanging himself in his hotel room. It is very strange, given the circumstances, in the middle of a successful tour, when he seemed fairly content - his family wonders if too much medicine was involved.Whatever the reasons, it is sad. I don't feel the same connection to most of the big 90s bands I had to earlier groups (and some later groups, or smaller 90s acts), but Cornell was noticeable - a spectacular voice, a strong front man for good bands. It is a shame.

Here, then, to start, is Soundgarden playing Black Hole Sun, his last concert:



And Rusty Cage, from 1992:



And Audioslave, Shadow on the SUn, live in Germany:

Friday, May 12, 2017

Allan Fish Online Film Festival

I have been very absent from this blog for quite a while now. At least in the last few weeks I have had a viable excuse - I've just moved, to a different state, a very irksome process. The last week or so particularly have been very busy, lots of work, disruption, and, since I am an old man and did the move myself (with various friends and relations), lingering aches and pains. And a cold. And a lovely stretch of weather more suitable to March than May....

All this, particularly the timing of the move, meant I am not contributing directly to the latest project at Wonders in the Dark - but it is a good one, and I am certainly taking advantage of it.

The first annual Allan Fish Online Film Festival is being held, starting yesterday, May 11, Allan's birthday, and running - quite some time. The concept is that each day, someone wil host and post a link to a film that can be found online, and host a discussion. Details here, in Sam's introduction. This festival is being held in memory of Allan Fish, the fine writer who co-ran Wonders in the Dark with Sam Juliano all those years, who died absurdly young last fall. He was an insatiably curious cinephile, who used the internet to track down obscure and undistributed films - this is a fine tribute to his passion.

So click on over, take a peek, watch some films, and talk about them.

Thursday, April 06, 2017

Lafayette! Here We Come!

I've been bad about keeping up with historical posts, but this is worth noting: 100 years ago today the US declared war on Germany in World War I. (The Great War, back in the day.) It was an important act - the US pretty clearly tipped the balance in favor of the Allies, at a time that the Russian Revolution was starting to look like it would tip the balance in favor of Germany. The effects took another year to show up on the battlefield - 1917 would be another miserable year for all concerned, and leave France pretty well neutralized as a force, and the UK not far behind - American troops turning up in 1918 would turn it back. Though just the presence of the Americans in the war, fully committed to the cause of the Allies, and thus to their economic and naval warfare against Germany would have almost as much impact as those fresh soldiers would.

The Germans - well, they were in a hard place in the first world war - submarine warfare brought the US in - but without it, they were going to be slowly starved into submission (while their enemies were not.) Submarines were their best chance to win the war - but they turned the world against them, so they had no chance. One of those things. Wars are never entirely military. Politics and diplomacy never go away - economics never goes away.

As for the US - we didn't get much out of our involvement. Woodrow Wilson dreamed of using the war to bring about a peace that would stabilize the world - that didn't work out (to put it mildly.) There were widespread crack downs on civil liberties in the US - it led to prohibition - it probably helped spread the influenza epidemic that killed more people than the war - and killed 100,000 odd Americans outright. Whether this saved anyone, improved the situation in Europe in any way, is anyone's guess. But off we went,a nd took our place in one of the worst disaster ever to befall humanity.

Sunday, April 02, 2017

Baseball 2017

I know I have been scarce lately, but i have not given up completely on this blog. (Indeed, once things are settled, I hope i can get back into this for real. I should: I have been thinking about films - the idea that 2016 might be the year of the decade. There might be something there - if I get around to writing it.) Right now, though, it is time to welcome the baseball season - coming this evening - not a minute too soon. Spring in New England is the usual mess - the morning I thought I'd overslept by two months: yesterday it was snowing; today it's past 50, sunny and perfect. Just in time! It's been a nice spring for baseball - I finally watched a World Baseball Classic, very gratifying - but I am glad for the arrival of the real thing.

Here goes.

Americal League:
East
1 Boston - they look like the clear favorites, though there are reasons to worry. They are already having issues with the health of their pitching, which might be worrisome, though they are deep enough to survive. Take Price and Pomeranz away, and they still can run Sale, Porcello, Rodriguez and Wright out there. They have a great core of young position players, but they also have some holes: do we really trust Sandoval? Mitch Moreland? their catching? do you? Still - they have to be the team to beat here.

2 Toronto - easy to see decline, without Encarnacion, with Bautista and Tulo getting older, but I don't think they are going to fall too far, not with the pitchers they have. i expect them to hang around,a nd be the most obvious candidate to pounce if the Sox run into trouble.

3 NY - lots of question marks here, too, but they seem to be reloading nicely. Can Tanaka and Pineda stay healthy enough to carry them? will their young hitters continue to hit? somewhere in the middle I suspect, low 80s.

4 Baltimore - they should be able to mash; they might have some serious pitching weaknesses. If they find arms, they could be dangerous - no reason to dismiss them, really. Yanks and Jays seem better balanced, though.

5 Tampa - I suppose they can put things together, but they have no margin for error at all, and lots of room for errors. BUt they do have some arms and bats - they could get in the race, though it's a long shot.

Central
1 Cleveland - they come off a very close run for the championship, bringing back a strong lineup, extraordinary pitching (at least if they are all healthy), high ed bullpen - they should take the division and be in the running for the world championship once again.

2 Detroit - getting old, but they have talent - things would have to go perfectly, and they would have to find some relief pitching, but they have the core of team that can win some games.

3 KC - can they come back? Yordano Ventura's death leaves their rotation, already a bit thin, even weaker - the offense disappeared last year, but they have talent out there,that should rebound. Still - hard to see them being good enough to take down both the Indians and Tigers.

4 Minnesota - they wildly over-performed 2 years ago, collapsed completely last year - will they land in the middle? Seems likely to me. Sano and some of the other kids are promising - can they develop? if they do, they might be okay, sooner rather than later.

5 Chicago - they sem to have decided to blow it up, start it over - Dave Dombrowski was more than willing to help them. Moncado couldbe the real deal - maybe not immediately, but stranger things have happened. But I suspect it won't matter - they will find ways to move Quintana, maybe Robertson, Frazier if they can,and put themselves in a place to be relevant by 2020 or so.

West:
1 Seattle - this is brave, but they have to win it someday. This is actually the hardest division to call, I think - any of the three contenders are very capable of inning the division. Still - Seattle added Segura and Smyly - that's not bad. They had talent - Cano and Cruz and Seager, etc - they should be good, and this could be the year they break through.

2 Houston - or Houston could. McCanna and Beltran are old, but they are reliable professionals, and not required to be the best players onthe team:that's Altuve and Correa, maybe Springer.They could use more pitching, I think - Keuchel needs to bounce back, they need to keep McCullers on the hill - but they are in a good spot to contend.

3 Texas - or why not Texas? Maybe lack of pitching depth; maybe aging hitters; maybe the usual swings of fortune. They have certainly swung, from playoffs to dreadful to best record in the AL - thy seem far more volatile, even now, than their competition, who should get their 85 and depend on how many more they can win - Texas doesn't feel like a guarantee to win 80.

4 Anaheim - poor Mike Trout. Of course when you have Mike Trout, you don't need a lot of things to go right to be in the thick of things. Some pitching here, a couple good years from people like Calhoun, they could be - well, a .500 team. Poor Mike Trout.

5 Oakland - unfortunately, they are the type of team that desperately prays their best player is healthy and pitches well, not so they can contend, but so they can trade hi for something. Though usually when I make cracks like that, the team ends up winning the division. Unlikely.


National League:
East:
1 Washington - they won last year which is a reason to pick someone else; but they should be pretty good - Harper is more likely to bounce back than not; they have a fine rotation - they should be there when all is said and done.

2 NY - They could be very good, of course, especially if they get all those pitchers healthy for most of the year. Even without that, they have a decent team - they should be in contention, in position to win. Not the best bet.

3 Philadelphia - I have to have some fun. Why the Phillies? no good reason, but they have some interesting players around, so why not? I don't expect much of the bottom of this division so let's back the long shot!

4 Florida - probably should let them have third, the outfield is too good, they should score some runs - but they are dull and going nowhere.

5 Atlanta - they are going to the suburbs, but nowhere else that I can see. Though Bartolo Colon seems to be able to carry a team, so, hey, who can say?

Central:
1 Chicago - there's no reason to pick against them. Unless a couple pitchers get hurt, they are going to be in the thick of the hunt to win it all again. If anything , with Schwarber healthy, maybe Hayward coming back - they could be better.

2 Pittsburgh - I expect them to come back nicely. Cole is healthy - McCutcheon had a bad year, and those guys tend to come back to the norm - they have a good enough team, they should be around.

3 SL - As should the Cards. I don't see anything about them different than the usual run of Cardinals teams - a bit of luck, they win 98 and the division; a bit of bad luck, 86 miss the wild card. Most likely? 91 and the wild card?

4 Milwaukee - they can hit; any pitching to speak of? not much. I imagie they will be interesting to watch, with Braun and Vllar - the rest, though? I'm not convinced.

5 Cincinnati - another team with some talent around the diamond - Votto, Duvall, Suarez are all decent - but there isn't much else here.

West:
1 Arizona - all right. You have to say one crazy thing a year, and this is mine. Last year, the were the fun pick - but I stayed away and they went straight into the toilet. This year, no one is picking them to do much - but why not? reversion tot he norm, for guys like Greinke? a healthy AJ Pollack? Maybe Shelby Miler comes back - maybe Tajuan Walker steps forward? Lots of ifs, but a lot went wrong last year that shouldn't have - so maybe this year it goes right... More fun than picking the Dodgers to lose in the division series again...

2 LA - I know, they are the best team out here. They should win. The won last year even without Kershaw for a long stretch of time - unlikely to see that again, but they should be fine. Just boring.

3 SF - same story as always with the Giants - great pitching - good players, but thin in the field - not likely to fail, but a lot has to go right to win the division.

4 Colorado - offense! poor pitchers. They shouldn't be awful, but it is going to be hard to get past the teams ahead of them.

5 SD - Another team not really in a position to do much this year.

All Right - Post-seson?
AL: Boston - Cleveland - Seattle & Toronto/Houston - Red Sox of Indians in the series, probably depends on whose pitching is healthy, and who gets hot.
NL: Washington - Chicago - Arizona & - actually, this is tough (since I'm being weird with the D-Backs) - at least 5 more teamsthat are very solid contenders. I'll guess it's the Dodgers and Mets. who comes out? Cubbies, obviously.
MVPs: Al - Trout of course. The usual suspects as runners up - Betts and Altuve and Machado... NL - Harper likeliest, Bryant and Seager and Golschmidt are real contenders.
Rookies: Should have been paying attention - Andrew Benintendi!

And will the Cubs repeat? or will the Sox take their 4th of the millenia? Or is this the Indian's year? or something weird - something really cool? Seattle and Washington? I suspect - Cubs beat Indians, second year in a row.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Chuck Berry

Chuck Berry is pretty much the point where rock and roll becomes tock and roll, instead of whatever else it was before. I've never loved him the way I loved some of his contemporaries (Elvis, Bo Diddly, Buddy Holly, Johnny Cash), but it doesn't matter - he was still the root and cause of all of it. And he put in one hell of a shift - 90 years on the planet, most of it rockin' and a reelin', reelin' and a rockin...



I can't argue with the songs....

Well - maybe I can argue a bit with Rock and roll music - I like modern jazz, even if they play it too darn fast... and - maybe those songs get diluted the more often they're played, with special guests and a horn section and the duck walking and splits and... Though I can't say he didn't act like he meant it,a nd doing a good thing well for 70 years is a thing to be honored ...



So take me back to the 50s, up through the 70s, and let Mr. Berry do his thing - it was a thing to be proud of: Johnny B Goode:



Roll Over Beethoven:



Memphis Tennessee:



And a full concert from 1969:


Friday, March 17, 2017

St. Patrick's Day With Thin Lizzy

Haven't posted in ages - here's a reminder that I am still alive... A bit of something from the old country in honor of Evacuation Day...

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Movies! Prizes! Lists!

Best intentions aside, I have not exactly been burning up the blogging wires this year... February has been a - interesting - month.... More on that later, I imagine. Now, though, since we seem to have arrived at the Academy Awards, this weekend, I shall endeavor to address the Oscars, so far as I am willing, which isn't very far. An excuse to hand out my own awards for various categories, really... and so - generally speaking, I'll look at the nominations, say who I think will win and who should (so far as I have opinions on those things), then offer my own slates. I'm not going through the whole list of awards - just the obvious ones. Off we go:

BEST PICTURE:

Arrival
Fences
Hacksaw Ridge
Hell or High Water
Hidden Figures
La La Land
Lion
Manchester by the Sea
Moonlight

I've seen 4 of them - Hell or High Water, La La Land, Manchester by the Sea, Moonlight; have wanted to see at least Hidden Figures and Fences, but my filmgoing habits have been abysmal. The others I can live without (not that I'll avoid them, but don't count on it). Of those four: La La Land was all right, but nothing special - wildly overhyped, since people talk about it as though it were an actual good film, a really good film. I don't understand that. Annoying characters, bland, hackneyed story, not real great music - and weird ideas. But this is not a review of it (though that is something I should have done - oh well), and really, I don't even hate it - just that I find that it's apotheosis has started to get under my skin, especially since it seems the favorite to win. Hell or High Water was a lively little heist picture, lots going for it, though the story was absurd - but for what it was and with that cast, it was quite a fine thing. Not worth considering one of the 10 best of the year. The other two, on the other hand, are certainly worthy. Of the two - I hope Moonlight wins, though I doubt it has much chance. But they are both fine films.

As for what I would have picked? 5? This might look different if I were trying to imagine an Oscar ballot - a ballot that represents what Film Is Today, maybe - 9 films? I'd leave Fences and Hidden Figures in, though I didn't see them; leave Moonlight and Manchester By the Sea; might begrudge Other People La La Land; definitely add Certain women, 20th Century Women, Silence - finish up with Loving. Right? as for my favorites? keeping to English fiction narrative films...

1. Paterson
2. Certain Women
3. Silence
4. 20th Century Women
5. Love and Friendship


ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE

Casey Affleck, Manchester by the Sea
Andrew Garfield, Hacksaw Ridge
Ryan Gosling, La La Land
Viggo Mortensen, Captain Fantastic
Denzel Washington, Fences

I have seen two of those - I would vote for Affleck, maybe in general - he is fantastic. Gosling? the character is so annoying, I couldn't vote for him for any reason. (He's like Llewyn Davis, if the Coen brothers thought Davis was right about everything - obnoxious self-destructive bully who steals his material from better people, and thinks he's doing them a favor. The Coens know he's a prick - they know he does it to himself - they understand that sympathy is not endorsement of bad people; they used to get trashed for despising all your characters, but I don't buy it - they made me sympathize with Roland Turner for god's sake! ... La La Land isn't in that universe.) Now, if Gosling got nominated for The Nice Guys - I'd like that. As for the rest? Garfield is nominated for the Mel Gibson thing instead of the Scorsese thing? oy. Maybe. The rest might well be deserving. Stil have to see Fences somewhere... As for me?

1. Adam Driver - Paterson
2. Affleck - Manchester by the Sea
3. Joel Edgerton - Loving
4. Ralph Fiennes - A Bigger Splash
5. Tom Hiddlestone - I Saw the Light

ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE

Isabelle Huppert, Elle
Ruth Negga, Loving
Natalie Portman, Jackie
Emma Stone, La La Land
Meryl Streep, Florence Foster Jenkins

I saw all but one of these. This was a miraculous year for actresses - everyone of them (that I saw) is deserving (Emma Stone's character is underwritten - boy did that film annoy me - but she's fine in it, does all that's humanly possible to save it), and they might not even make my top five. I'd vote for Huppert - I suspect Stone will win... Negga would be great too. My choices? from a very deep pool:

1. Huppert - Elle
2. Kate Beckinsale - Love & Friendship
3. Anette Bening - 20th Century Women
4. Ruth Negga - Loving
5. Sandra Huller - Toni Erdmann

ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE

Mahershala Ali, Moonlight
Jeff Bridges, Hell or High Water
Lucas Hedges, Manchester by the Sea
Dev Patel, Lion
Michael Shannon, Nocturnal Animals

Saw three of these - approve completely of the nominations (Ali, Bridges, Hedges.) Another deep field, though that might be because trying to parse out who's lead and who's supporting is not as obvious as always - in Moonlight say - how do you choose among the 3 leads? Anyway: I hope Ali wins - he really is outstanding... Me?

1. Mahershala Ali - Moonlight
2. Tom Bennett - Love & Friendship
3. Alden Ehrenreich - Hail Caesar
4. Tadanobu Asano - Silence
5. Jeff Bridges - Hell or High Water

ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE

Viola Davis, Fences
Naomie Harris, Moonlight
Nicole Kidman, Lion
Octavia Spencer, Hidden Figures
Michelle Williams, Manchester by the Sea

Saw only two of these - can't gainsay any of the choices, though. This is another category that seems very deep, but the depth is not really here. So - Harris or Williams would be fine choices, so might the others... I would have picked these 5:

1. Lily Gladstone - Certain Women
2. Greta Gerwig - 20th Century Women
3. Naomie Harris - Moonlight
4. Michelle Williams - Manchester by the Sea
5. Paulina Garcia - Little Men

From here on down, I'll be cherry picking categories, just to give the ones I have opinions on...

DIRECTING

Arrival
Hacksaw Ridge
La La Land
Manchester by the Sea
Moonlight

Saw three of these - no real complaints (except the usual stuff about La La Land), though only Moonlight does anything with the direction that adds to the film. Manchester is a writer's and actor's film - Lonergan does his work, to get the most from his script and his cast, but that's still where the work is. Jenkins adds a great deal with the way he films Moonlight. (Indeed, I found the script its weakest part - it's solid, but it's too on the nose sometimes - especially compared to the subtlety of the performances and direction.) Any chance he can win? I hope so - that would redeem a lot o0f things. Gonna be La La Land, though, isn't it? The poor bastard tries, but in the end, for Hollywood drama/spoofs, I didn't just prefer Hail Caesar - I preferred Cafe Society!

1. Jim Jarmusch - Paterson
2. Scorsese - Silence
3. Maren Ade - Toni Erdmann
4. Barry Jenkins - Moonlight
5. Kelly Reichhart - Certain Women

DOCUMENTARY (FEATURE)

Fire at Sea
I Am Not Your Negro
Life, Animated
O.J.: Made in America
13th

Only saw one of these, oddly - did see some decent documentaries, but the only great documentary I saw was I Am Not Your Negro. That is a stone cold masterpiece - though from what I hear, so is the OJ film. From the few I saw, my top 5 (which I ca't pretend competes with the actual pool):

1. I am Not Your Negro
2. Lo and Behold
3. Gimme Danger
4. Tickled
5. Where to Invade Next

CINEMATOGRAPHY

Arrival
La La Land
Lion
Moonlight
Silence

Saw three of them - they all look good, I can't fault La La Land there. I hope Silence wins, it has to win something - Scorsese's best in decades? though Moonlight is also very good. But me?

1. Paterson [a pattern might be emerging here]
2. Silence
3. Moonlight
4. The Handmaiden
5. Jackie

WRITING (ADAPTED SCREENPLAY)

Arrival
Fences
Hidden Figures
Lion
Moonlight

Saw just one of these. Like I said - I liked almost everything about Moonlight, but I did think the script was just adequate. So I can't say if it should win. I would nominate(with some caveats in case I'm mistaking adaptations from originals, somewhere):

1. Love & Friendship
2. Certain Women
3. Silence
4. Elle
5. The Handmaiden

WRITING (ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY)

Hell or High Water
La La Land
The Lobster
Manchester by the Sea
20th Century Women

The first category I have seen every single nominee in. Nice! 2 of those seem like obvious contenders - the others have enough going for them (except La La Land) that I have no complaints. Still...

1. 20th Century Women
2. Toni Erdmann
3. Paterson
4. Manchester By the Sea
5. The Nice Guys

FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM

Land of Mine
A Man Called Ove
The Salesman
Tanna
Toni Erdmann

Managed 2 of these - having finally seen Toni Erdmann - it is the best film of the year. It should win this. Salesman might - it is a fine movie, though getting a bit old hat for Farhadi, who has always been something of stretch as a great filmmaker - solid, but not really a master... I didn't see as many foreign films as I would like, but I saw some good ones...

1. Toni Erdmann
2. Elle
3. Salesman
4. Things to Come
5. The Handmaiden

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Another Year Another set of Obituaries

Well, it took a while to get going, but 2017 seems to be taking up were 2016 left off, as far as celebrity deaths go. This week, we've lost Mary Tyler Moore and John Hurt, and those of us who are krautrock fans, lost one fo the great German rock musicians, and one of the greatest rock drummer so all time, Can's Jaki Leibezeit. All this against a backdrop of Donald Trump doing all he can to make the US a laughing stock in the world. Yeah...

Well, I'm not going to dwell on Trump. I am going to dwell on some people I admired very much,a nd who made the world a better place.

John Hurt in the Elephant Man - I am a human being!



And, some particularly fine work from Jaki Leibezeit, and a reminder that sometimes, all of Can feels like an elaborate percussion instrument:



And Mother Sky....



And finally, in memory of Mary Tyler Moore - here's Joan Jett, making it after all...



And Husker Du...



And, I suppose the most famous bit from the Mary Tyler Moore show - Chuckles the Clown's funeral:



The whole episode here...

Monday, January 23, 2017

Films of 2016

2016 in movies, a bit late, though not as bad as last year, and it does let me get some some films in that are taking a while to get to the theaters. I did not have a great year going to the movies - it's a trend that's been building, and one I suspect is going to get a lot worse next year (for reasons maybe to be discussed.) The last couple years have been underwhelming film years - not bad, exactly; there are plenty of enjoyable films, but not as many transcendent ones, it seems. And the transcendent experiences sometimes seem to come from some detail in the film, some resonance, more than from the quality of the film itself. Maybe. Looking at what I saw - there are some fine films on there: plenty of pleasure, all the way down the list - and a few moments that brought back all the joys of the movies. I think I enjoyed this year's bunch of films more than I thought I did...

Whether that's so or now, I have done a terrible job of writing about films. I haven't written a thing about new films in a couple years - not a word last year. (Barely anything the 2 years before that.) Not much about old films either - unless it's for someone else (thank god for Polls!) Anyway: let me try to make up for that, with a few lines about these films - at least the top 10. And so without further ado -

Released in 2016:

1. Paterson - Beautiful and enthralling, based on the wonders of the everyday world - William Carlos Williams its obvious guiding saint - rooted in the world, and the way the world filters into one man's mind. Full of imagery - twins, writers and artists, performances, lovers - doubles and puns and internal rhymes. With nods to other films - Nagase at the end (from Mystery Train), Method Man rapping, Gilman and Hayward talking on the bus about Gaetano Breschi, the anarchist weaver who shot the king of Italy.

2. Certain Women - sharp ensemble piece, three stories almost entwined. Things happen, though nothing too dramatic, and even if something dramatic does happen, it does so quietly, almost apologetically; full of silences and looks; people working; people thinking. Beautiful film with a stellar cast.

3. Silence - best Scorsese film in 2 decades. Intense and driven, and carried by superb performances by all concerned. (Tadanabo Asano's character - weak, constantly betraying, trampling the cross and informing, and constantly coming back, begging for absolution - might be the most interesting.) A very interesting historical film as well - giving voice to the Japanese, in a fascinating tangle - a film by Americans of a novel by a Japanese about Portuguese priests...

4. 20th Century Women - Handsome clever film about a middle aged single mother trying to raise her son - another film bursting with brilliant performances: Bening and Gerwig and Crudup and Faning and Zumann the kid - Bening at the center, but first among many greats.

5. Love and Friendship - Whit Stillman adapting Austen directly, early, obscure Austen - which he describes on the DVD as an Oscar Wilde play written by Jane Austen. Kate Beckinsale is front and center - one of Stillman's monsters, the kind of character Chris Eigenman used to play - completely self-absorbed and likable anyway, you can't turn away, she's so brazen at what she does, always both completely honest and completely false. With a very cool ending, everyone getting what they want - including Lady Susan, who appears to have landed in the middle of a perfectly successful threesome...

6. Loving - Story of the Lovings, whose marriage and lawsuit ended miscegenation laws in the United States. Seen through the couple's eyes, his and hers, with their complimentary virtues, their love. It is beautiful, quiet, building tension without anything really overt happening - the fear and their ability to live around the fear, the way Edgerton squirms around the sheriff, the way they fight back. Not that it's needed, but more proof that Jeff Nichols is one of the great contemporary directors.

7. The Witch - A man is banished from his New England town in the early 17th century. He takes his family into the woods and carves out a farm there alone - but things are not well. The baby disappears - secrets and lies are revealed through the family's misfortune, and they all start going mad. Accusations fly - who is the witch? is Black Phillip the devil? A cool, brooding little film, tight and gripping - family disfunction, religious lunacy, the dangers of the frontier, madness and hormones, all add up to disaster of biblical proportions.

8. Mountains May Depart - Story in three parts: 1999 - a worker and a rising capitalist chase the same girl, until she chooses the money; 2014- the son visits his mother, whose long since divorced the capitalist; 2025 - the son, in Australia, as alienated from his father as his mother, has an affair with an older woman (Sylvia Change, so thus believable)... Melodrama of sorts, a story of misery and loss, a death as the main emotional foundation, with failed love affairs and children who don't talk to their parents the content. Everyone suffers - the rich guy ends up a pathetic loser, collecting guns in Melbourne; the worker - probably dead; the girl alone with her dog - which comes off as rather a triumph, in this context.

9. Elle - tour de force for Isabelle Huppert, who plays a rich woman, owns a video game company, and is raped to open the film - but reacts with a kind of cool numbness that we soon realize is her natural state. The story works in the backstory - her father was a mass murderer, who dragged her into his crimes, making her infamous, creating her shell. She never quite comes out - never quite becomes clear to us - stays strange throughout, as is her way.

10. Moonlight - film in three parts about a black boy/man in Miami (and Atlanta) - Chiron/Little/Black. He's a quiet sensitive boy who runs a gauntlet of trouble for it - called faggot at 9, beaten for it as a teenager, and crusting it over in street hardness as an adult. Revolves around three scenes at the ocean - learning to swim with Juan, a drug dealer who becomes his friend; smoking a joint and experimenting with sex with a friend as a teenager; then talking to the same friend, now a cook, at his house by the ocean as adults. Beautifully shot, acted with grace by the whole cast - handsome, very moving film.

11. Our Little Sister
12. Midnight Special
13. Fireworks Wednesday
14. My Golden Days
15. Little Men
16. Lo and Behold
17. Hail Caesar
18. Things to Come
19. Too Late
20. Jackie
21. The Handmaiden
22. A Bigger Splash
23. Hunt for the Wilderpeople
24. Manchester By the Sea
25. Krisha

Made in 2016 - an interesting list, because most of the best films released were in fact new last year. Usually you get a lot of the best foreign films from the year before showing up sometime in the first 2-3 months of the new year. ast year didn't have as much of that - or I didn't see them...

1. Paterson
2. Certain Women
3. Silence
4. 20th Century Women
5. Love and Friendship
6. Loving
7. Elle
8. Moonlight
9. Midnight Special
10. Little Men

And the annual look back a year - 2015. What I posted at the beginning of 2016:

1. The Look of Silence
2. The Forbidden Room
3. The Assassin
4. Tangerine
5. The Wolfpack
6. Taxi
7. Youth
8. Carol
9. The Big Short
10. Diary of a Teenaged Girl

And how it looks now - not much changed to be honest:

1. The Look of Silence
2. The Forbidden Room
3. The Assassin
4. Tangerine
5. The Wolfpack
6. Taxi
7. The Witch
8. Mountains May Depart
9. Our Little Sister
10. Carol

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

The Future, Where We Will Spend the Rest of Our Lives

I guess so.

It's kind of a sad thing to revive this poor blog with a post about politics and despair, but that's the world we live in. Boy, 2016 was a shitty year. That seems to be the consensus, and I'm not one t argue. All the famous people dying - and all the great artists who died - all the interesting people who died - it was a year that seemed to bring an endless stream of obituaries and loss... That has picked up in 2017: an online friend died; I found out that one of my closest friends for much of my life, who I'd lost touch with for the last decade or so, had died a couple years ago - been plenty of bad news this year too...

Though let's not kid ourselves: what makes this year look even scarier than last year is Donald Trump. His election put the finishing touches on 2016 - and now we're stuck with him. Of course he makes any day worse when you hear about him - there has never been a time when I knew he existed and didn't wish he did't - but as president? Dear god. How did he win? Like everything else he's ever done - he failed, and was bailed out on a technicality. I worry, though - he's gotten to a point where he can't hope for generous bankruptcy courts and 18th century racists to undo his failures - as president...

Dear god. Friday, Donald Trump is going to become president. The contrast to this and Obama's inauguration in 2008 is almost to much to think about, I remember how that felt: it was a day of wonder - it was hard not to feel optimistic, joyful. The USA had done something we could be unambiguously proud of - we had elected an African-American president - we had addressed, directly, America's original sin, and come out on the right side! Well - fat chance! Obama's election flushed the racists into the open - they howled and gibbered for the next 8 years and gave the Republicans the spine to cripple the country for electoral gain, culminating in what is hard to distinguish from a slow motion cup in the last year. Not confirming Merrick Garland comes awfully close - and then Trump sneaks into the white house, probably with the active connivance of the FBI and Russia - great. A loathsome little braggart pretending he routed his enemies - picking fights with people )John Lewis) whose boots he is not worthy to lick clean - sucking up to fucking Vladimir Putin.... We are well and truly fucked.

Though given how extraordinarily unpopular Trump is, he might do more to strengthen his opponents than to enact his (and the Republican party's) evil deeds - who knows. I'd rather not have to find out.

So that's the world outside. And me? It's odd, in that 2016 was not all that bad, for me, objectively. Things were all right for me, nothing bad happened to anyone too close to me, no relatives or friends dying or getting sick, nothing like that. It could have been all right - but it felt like shit. All the reasons up above, but there's more to it. Some of it, I won't deny, is work - Im not saying much about it, but suffice it to say that I have had my fill of it... But that might just be a side effect.

This blog is not, really, my life, but it does tend to reflect how things are going in my life. Look at those numbers, over there on the right of the page, going down, year over year - does that not signify? It can - I know what I have been writing. I know, back in 2011-13 what I was writing - weekly music posts, simple and routine - weekly film posts, screen shots, similar to the music videos.... Plus director of the month posts for a year, which were basically replaced by band of the month posts in 2013. And film posts - collections of capsule comments, some longer reviews; occasional essays - not just more posts, but more substance. Plus history - especially during the 150th anniversary of the civil war - and the usual occasional politics, sports and whatnot. But over the years, from 2014 on, these things have fallen away - the film posts first - then the history posts (the Civil War wrapped up; I started doing the same with WWI anniversaries, but never as ambitiously) - and finally, last summer, the band of the month posts - and then even the weekly music videos. Since summer, it's been a ghost town here - other than essays for Wonders in the Dark, there isn't much - and when their science fiction countdown ended - it's done. Some lamentations re the election, and a couple anniversaries... and silence.

Easy to blame Trump. Tempting to blame work. I don't know. Something has enervated me, something that has been going on longer than those things. Which has, I think, mostly convinced me to uproot myself, move back up to Maine, see what I can find to do up there. Which is a strong temptation, not to be dismissed. Some of it is the realization that I am not really doing anything in the city I can't do elsewhere - my movie going has declined almost as much as my movie writing. (Maybe not that radically - but it's not anywhere near as much an obsession as it used to be.) I stay at home more - don't eat out as much, don't go to museums as much. I stopped playing softball a couple years ago - the knees and hips were starting to insist - but that's cut down my exercise, and the time I spend hanging around with people. These days, when I hang around with people, it's mainly my brothers and some of their kids online, playing games and sooting the breeze - and they mostly live up in Maine. So - there's a theme...

But whatever I do in the atom world, here among the bits, I have to start writing more. This is not one of those "I'm still alive" posts, "See you next year!" - I hope. There's only so long you can feel sorry for yourself (or your country) - you have to do something. So - you know - nice to see you again! (anyone who might come by here), and I promise to try not to be quite such a stranger. What form these miraculous new literary emanations may take, I don't quite know yet - but I shall try to emanate them.