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music friday: 1992

Radiohead, "Creep". I'm one of those Don't Get Radiohead geezers. But I love this song.

Dr. Dre, "Nuthin' But a 'G' Thang". Dangerous, because Dre's music sounds so good, and Snoop's rapping sounds so good, and that's fine until you actually listen to the lyrics.

PJ Harvey, "Sheela Na Gig". You exhibitionist.

Bruce Springsteen, "If I Should Fall Behind". Took on added meaning after the E Street Reunion. On the last day of the last lecture class I ever taught, I played this video at the end.

k.d. lang, "Constant Craving". When she went from Patsy Cline to  Julie London.

The Pharcyde, "Passin' Me By". You do not know me but I know you very well.

Sophie B. Hawkins, "Damn I Wish I Was Your Lover". Surprised by the Led Zeppelin sample?

Mary J. Blige, "Real Love". Hip hop soul.

Body Count, "Cop Killer". Law and Order.

The Cure, "Friday I'm in Love". For me, the difference between The Cure and Radiohead is that with The Cure, I like more than one song.

Bonus: What Bruce Springsteen actually sounded like in 1992. He toured with the unfairly maligned Other Band. Maligned because the albums he was touring behind weren't as popular/good as what came before. Maligned especially because they weren't The E Street Band. We saw him twice with this band ... they were fine.

 A disappointing Spotify playlist ... missing Dre and Body Count. 


tv catch up: counterpart, glow, humans

Counterpart. I wrote a bit about J.K. Simmons and this show last month ("TV Actors"), and he is the best reason to watch. It's surprising that I like it ... honestly, I'm not sure how much I like it, because the plot (involving parallel worlds) is hard for me to follow, and my patience with such things is weakening. Besides Simmons, there's a fine cast ... of the ones I recognize, there's Olivia Williams, Stephen Rea, Lotte Verbeek, Jamie Bamber, Richard Schiff, and Jacqueline Bisset, and I was quite taken with a new-to-me actress, Sara Serraiocco. Time will tell if I keep watching, but you shouldn't let me keep you away from the show, which is highly regarded in many places.

GLOW. I wrote about Season One a year ago, and don't have anything to add, except that Season Two will be released on Netflix tomorrow, and I am really looking forward to it. That earlier piece was one of my better ones regarding writing about Peak TV, and I don't mind if you read it again (or for the first time).

Humans. I wrote about Season Two;

I’m not trying to damn Humans with faint praise. I like the show quite a bit. But it’s just another show about humans and machines that can’t quite live up to the greatness that was Battlestar Galactica. And while the straightforward presentation is helpful to clods like me who have trouble keeping up, it comes across as rather mundane compared to shows like Sense8 and Legion.

Well, I'm three episodes into the third season, and I like it at least as much as ever, perhaps more. For one thing, I have to get over comparing things to Battlestar Galactica. It's like saying "Nice movie, but it's not Citizen Kane". Plus, the longer the show runs, the deeper its take on humans and machines and society gets, the more I can accept that it is its own show. And while I love Sense8 probably more than I should, I've given up on Legion, so perhaps I like mundane. Truth is, Humans is not mundane, and if it deals in standard concepts, it does well with them. And there's only 8 episodes per season, so you can binge it all fairly quickly.


20 faves #19: sleater-kinney, dig me out

19th of 20, roughly by chronology.

I didn't realize this would become a mini-theme, but once again, I pick an album that meant the most to me personally over albums that I might think of as "better". I've written way too much about this band ... not sure what I could add at the moment. Suffice to say that they are my favorite band since this album came out in 1997, and were already approaching that status by then. I've mentioned seeing many of the acts on this list multiple times ... since I first saw this group, I've seen them 15 times, only one less time than I've seen Bruce Springsteen during that period (and I've seen 7 or 8 shows featuring members of the band in "side projects"). The Woods could easily be on this list. That's an album remarkable for being arguably their best, ten years after their first, seven albums in. But Dig Me Out won my heart. And there has never been a better breakup song than "One More Hour".

Dig me out


tv catch up: the 100, the americans, atlanta

I watch as much TV as ever, but I continue to find it difficult to write about television as it exists today, with too much good stuff to keep up with, and a sense that any audience that might read what I write will be at different points in the process of watching a show ("I'm only through Season 2, no spoilers!"). So here is a quick look at some shows I am watching (or, in a couple of cases, not watching), that I recommend if you're looking for something new.

The 100. I love watching this show, and while it is far from perfect, it has mostly recovered from the big mistake in Season 3 Episode 7. It remains relentlessly dystopian, and it serves most of its large cast well.

The Americans. This is an example of the "problem" with writing about current TV. The Americans had its series finale ... it isn't on anymore. Except, of course, hardly anyone watches TV when it's "on", so The Americans sits out there, waiting to be discovered by bingers. On its face, it's a story about cold war Russian undercover spies. But more than anything, it's about family. The family on The Americans is on the wrong side of history, and we know that (it takes place during the Reagan years, and the spies, as true believers, don't know that they are going to lose). We care about them ... they are the center of the show. They are the "bad guys", yet we root for them. And they do despicable things in the name of Mother Russia. It is one of the handful of best TV series of all time. You should watch it.

It also makes great use of music. Every show nowadays has a montage set to music. Usually the music is crap, and the montage is a cliche. The Americans does it right.

Atlanta. Another show that is so much more than a basic description would suggest. It seems to be about a young black man in Atlanta, trying to make his way, his cousin who deals weed and raps, and their odd friend. It is that, but it is also simultaneously a comedy and a gripping drama. Calling it a "dramedy" would insult what Donald Glover is doing. Atlanta oftens feels quite real, but it slides effortlessly into the surreal. One episode was so unique, I actually did get around to writing about it: "Teddy Perkins".

To be continued ...


before sunrise (richard linklater, 1995)

I was interested in seeing this again, because I've always thought of it as the weakest film in the trilogy. Not that it's bad ... far from it ... but I felt each movie was better than the one before, perhaps because the earlier movies added depth to the later ones. Returning to the first, I see that it is of a piece with the others, and if I still believe the third is better than the second is better than the first, my opinion about Before Sunrise is higher than when I first saw it and didn't know others were to come. (When I watched Before Sunset a few years after it came out, I found my appreciation of that film had grown, as well. Guess when I re-watch Before Midnight, I'll have to call it the best film of all time.)

The truth is, I didn't get any new insights into Before Sunrise by watching it again. There were no surprises I hadn't noticed before. I just find the groove Linklater establishes to be amenable to my own rambling thoughts. As always, I also have a crush on Julie Delpy.

This movie falls into another category that I am realizing over the years is more well-stocked than I ever knew: Movies I Love But I Bet My Wife Wouldn't Love. She isn't a fan of Linklater ... as she said about halfway through Dazed and Confused when I finally convinced her to watch it, "Is anything going to happen in this movie?" Saw Slacker and thought the same thing. I think the only movie of his she liked was A Scanner Darkly, and that came in part because we love the book and the movie was an excellent version.

Point is, I want to share my favorites with my beloved, but I'm crushed if she doesn't like them, too. I'm not talking about everyday favorites ... I don't take it personally if someone doesn't care for Gun Crazy (although Bonnie and Clyde might be a different story). But I can't bring myself to sit her down with the Before series, because I assume in advance she won't like it, and I really want her to. (The best/worst example of this is In the Mood for Love, one of my very favorite movies, which she would hate because "nothing happens".)

She often has the TV on during the evening and on the weekends. She has shows she likes, and movie genres she enjoys, but mostly she's looking for something she can half-watch while she knits. Mad Max: Fury Road turned up on some channel the other day, and that's only my favorite movie of the last few years. She liked it when we saw it, she is always ready to watch something again (since she's knitting, it helps that she already knows what's happening), and she loves action movies. I would have sat down and watched with her ... well, I would have stuck the Blu-ray in the player rather than watching the "TV version", but she never cares about that. But it seemed like a perfect movie for us to watch together. Instead, she surfed around until she found another action movie and watched that.

And I knew, once again, that we really don't have the same taste in movies anymore.

 


20 faves #18: hüsker dü, new day rising

18th of 20, roughly by chronology.

I chose Dirty Mind over later, perhaps "better", Prince albums because it has a special place in my life. If I were going by the same concept, this 18th album would be Zen Arcade, which I played over and over. Still play it, especially "Turn on the News", one of Grant Hart's best (my fave of his remains "Sorry, Somehow", for the way he sings, "You're making me sorry, sorry somehow, AND I'M NOT SORRY!"). But New Day Rising gets my vote. It's not as sprawling as Zen Arcade, and while Hüsker Dü played in more than one style, the overwhelming sonic power is best when compacted into what we used to call a single disc. The opening cut and title track is in some ways the ultimate Hüsker track ... the entire lyrics being "New day rising" repeated over and over atop a noise squall ... if nothing else, that one must have imprinted itself on my kids' brains, I bet if I mentioned Hüsker Dü to them now, in their 40s, they'd say "New Day Rising!". And there's my favorite of all favorite Hüsker Dü songs, the one I quote regularly because it's the story of my life, but I can't really get it in words, because like with Grant in "Sorry, Somehow", Bob Mould's vocals are crucial:

So now sit around we're staring at the walls
We don't do anything at all
Take out the garbage, maybe, BUT THE DISHES DON'T GET DONE!!!!!!!!

My wife, who loved the Ramones, never liked Hüsker Dü, because of the noise. I'd tell her that they wrote great pop songs, just like the Ramones, and they were loud, just like the Ramones, but she'd say they were just noise. She was probably right. For me, though, the way the sound of the instruments all bleed into each other is the primary appeal.

New day rising


music friday: 1991

Nirvana, "Smells Like Teen Spirit". I saw Pink perform this song earlier this year. She did a very straightforward version, which only shows that the original is already perfect.

The Geto Boys, "Mind Playing Tricks on Me". As important to rap music as "Teen Spirit" was to grunge.

Bonnie Raitt, "I Can't Make You Love Me". 1989's Nick of Time was supposedly her comeback, and it did indeed reach #1 and win a lot of Grammys. But Luck of the Draw was a much better album.

The Feelies, "Sooner or Later". I preferred their previous album, Only Life, but I saw them in 1991 (second time, first being in '89), so they're just fine right here.

A Tribe Called Quest, "Scenario". Ladies and gentlemen, Busta Rhymes.

Saint Etienne, "Nothing Can Stop Us". I'm not entirely sure how two songs from the same album ended up on two different Music Friday lists, but whatever. This was their first release with Sarah Cracknell.

fIREHOSE, "Flyin' the Flannel". They headlined that 1991 show with The Feelies. I think the wrong band was headlining.

Naughty by Nature, "O.P.P.". Even with all of the other great songs from his year (including a few on this list), I'm not sure any record puts us right back in 1991 better than this one.

Eg & Alice, "Indian". Confession: I've never heard of these folks.

My Bloody Valentine, "Only Shallow". If we're to believe Christgau, this was an almost-great band. His grades for their first four albums (one an EP): A- A- A- A-.

Spotify playlist ... a couple of songs weren't available, so I added two surprises. 


tender age baby jails

We are seeing things right now on our American borders that are so shockingly and disgracefully inhumane and un-American that it is simply enraging. And we have heard people in high position in the American government blaspheme in the name of God and country that it is a moral thing to assault the children amongst us. May God save our souls.

-- Bruce Springsteen

I was born on this date in 1953, and in my 65 years I've lived through a lot that I found shocking and enraging and disgracefully inhumane. Over the years, I have heard many people in high positions in our government assault people, children and adults, with their self-proclaiming morality. There is no God to save us ... if salvation comes, it will come from us, not a higher power.

I am no longer able to say that the kind of behavior we are now experiencing is what Bruce calls "un-American". For there comes a time when we have to admit that it is all too American. We are not the good guys. Hunter Thompson once wrote, "This may be the year when we finally come face to face with ourselves; finally just lay back and say it—that we are really just a nation of 220 million used car salesmen with all the money we need to buy guns, and no qualms at all about killing anybody else in the world who tries to make us uncomfortable." Thompson wrote this in 1972.

In 1630, John Winthrop famously wrote of what would eventually become America, "We shall be as a city upon a hill, the eyes of all people are upon us." Ronald Reagan was fond of quoting Winthrop, and it is fairly common nowadays for politicians to reference Winthrop's city. Winthrop was warning his people of the dangers of living an improper life. "So that if we shall deal falsely with our God in this work we have undertaken, and so cause Him to withdraw His present help from us, we shall be made a story and a by-word through the world. We shall open the mouths of enemies to speak evil of the ways of God, and all professors for God’s sake." But today, that city is used not as a warning, but as a reminder of American exceptionalism, a braggart's boast.

And, as Thompson noted, we no longer give a fuck what the eyes of all people think of our actions.

At what point then is the approach of danger to be expected? I answer. If it ever reach us it must spring up amongst us; it cannot come from abroad. If destruction be our lot we must ourselves be its author and finisher.

-- Abraham Lincoln


today i am 65 years old

The first time I had a birthday during the life of this blog was 2002. I was, what, 49 years old. Doesn't seem so old to me now, although it seemed ancient when I was 19. On that first-ever birthday post, I quoted Pink ... yes, I've been doing that for 16 years. Here are the lyrics I quoted, along with the song's video, which is deep ... I used it in class a couple of time.

I'm a hazard to myself
Don't let me get me
I'm my own worst enemy
It's bad when you annoy yourself
So irritating
Don't want to be my friend no more
I wanna be somebody else
-- Pink, "Don't Let Me Get Me"

 

 


gun crazy (joseph h. lewis, 1950)

Nowadays, we can't help but recognize similarities to the real-life story of Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker, but this noir doesn't actually remind me much of the later classic film. Joseph H. Lewis makes good use of his limited budget, culminating in a single-take getaway from a bank robbery that is a marvel of low-cost invention. The IMDB has some great trivia about Gun Crazy, including this:

The 17-page bank robbery sequence was scheduled for a three-to-five-day shoot with numerous camera set-ups, but Joseph H. Lewis decided he didn't want to do it the conventional way. He told the producers he could pull it off in a single day with one shot that never entered the bank. Since that would cut down on production time and eliminate the need for a bank set, the idea appealed to their budget consciousness, but he still had to prove to them it was possible. So he did a test run with extras using his own 16mm camera. 

There is nothing particularly unique about Gun Crazy, just another low-budget noir with a femme fatale and a sucker of a man. But the leads, Peggy Cummins (Curse of the Demon) and John Dall (Rope) are so good they lift the film a level or two. (There is a full 12 inches between the 5'1" Cummins and the 6'1" Dall, which somehow makes her ability to control him even more impressive.) Combined with the solid job by Lewis (aided by a script by Dalton Trumbo, blacklisted at the time), you have a movie that approaches the level of Detour. It doesn't have that film's evil meanness ... the two robbers, Annie Laurie Starr and Bart Tare, really do seem to care for each other. But Bart loves guns without quite knowing why, while Annie is pretty much a psycho, just as good with a gun but also with a taste for killing. And their attraction to each other goes beyond their shared love of guns. Another IMDB anecdote:

In an interview with author Danny Peary (1981), director Joseph H. Lewis described how he instructed lead actors John Dall and Peggy Cummins: "I told John, 'Your cock's never been so hard,' and I told Peggy, 'You're a female dog in heat, and you want him. But don't let him have it in a hurry. Keep him waiting.' That's exactly how I talked to them and I turned them loose. I didn't have to give them more directions."

That's a pretty accurate description of how it plays on the screen. #701 on the They Shoot Pictures, Don't They list of the top 1000 films of all time.