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October 2012
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December 2012

music friday: bruce springsteen concert tonight

Honestly, I don’t think I have to say anything more than that. I suppose I could give stats:

Song I’ve seen him play live more than any other: no surprise, “Born to Run”

Song that is in the Top Ten Songs I’ve Seen Him Play Live that might be a surprise: “Ramrod” (13 times)

Songs I’ve seen once (not a full list): a lot of Tunnel of Love; a lot of the Seeger Sessions; “Haunted House”; “Have Love, Will Travel”'; “On Top of Old Smokey”; “Outer Limits”; “Rag Mama Rag”; “Who’ll Stop the Rain” (most likely to be heard tonight)

Number of times I’ve seen Bruce live: tonight will be #35, covering 1975-present. It will be our second of 2012.

Other people we’ve seen do guest cameos w/Bruce (all I can remember, I might be forgetting someone): Flo & Eddie (“Hungry Heart”, Los Angeles, 1980); Gary U.S. Bonds (actually, Bruce did a cameo for him … they did “Jole Blon”, “This Little Girl”, “Quarter To Three”, “School Is Out”, and “New Orleans”; San Francisco, 1981); various people at the two Bridge Concerts he played at; various people at the Amnesty show (Oakland, 1988); Southside Johnny (“Hungry Heart”, Oakland 1999); Joan Baez (“Pay Me My Money Down”, Concord, 2006).

In honor of those collaborative efforts, I’ll once again post this, from the last Amnesty show, Buenos Aires, 1988 (after which, Bruce and the E Street Band didn’t play together for seven years, and didn’t tour for another decade):

blast from the past: the troth of her daughter

It’s Thursday, and that means Blast from the Past day on Google+.

Apparently, you can access parts of the Newspaper Archive via your Facebook account. I dug this up, from the Berkeley Daily Gazette, Thursday, February 01, 1945:

Mrs. G.C. Harrison Reveals the Troth Of Her Daughter

    Mrs. Georgia Cralle Harrison of the Garden Court Apartments, Berkeley, has announced the betrothal of her daughter, Nancy-King Harrison, to Pfc. Joe Rubio, U.S. Army.
    Nancy-King, now a senior student at Berkeley High School, and an accomplished pianist, will graduate in June. She is the daughter of the late George Gibson Harrison. The bride-to-be has one younger sister, Janet Cralle Harrison, who is known for her ability as a singer.
    Pfc. Rubio, now stationed at Camp Cook, is the son of Mrs. Francis Rubio of Antioch. He attended the schools in Antioch and the University of California, where he studied journalism and has contributed sports articles to local newspapers. Previous to entering the Army he studied under A.S.T. programs at the University of Colorado and the University of Missouri. He is the brother of Mary Rubio and Mrs. Barbara Solis of Antioch, and of Michael Rubio, U.S. Army Air Corps, who has been serving in England for two years. He has a third and married sister, living in Hawaii.
    The young people do not plan to wed until after the war.

marvin miller, r.i.p.

I’ll be brief … there are already many excellent pieces about Miller floating around the web.

Marvin Miller died yesterday at the age of 95. He was the head of the Major League Baseball Players Association from 1966-1982, and his influence during those years was immense. When you read that Miller was as important a figure in baseball during his lifetime as anyone else you could name, it is not hyperbole.

While the head of the Union, he negotiated the first-ever collective bargaining agreement with owners … he got the minimum salary raised … he placed the arbitration process into the system … he was a key part of the destruction of the reserve clause that had effectively kept players signed to their current club forever (or until the club decided they were no longer needed). With this, he helped usher in the era of free agency that exists to this day.

Not everyone liked what Miller accomplished. I recommend Joe Posnanski’s article, which features an interview he did with Miller a decade ago, and details why Miller was a polarizing figure. ( Miller is especially critical of the role he thinks fans should play in labor negotiations (short version: no role at all). Given that many fans think athletes make too much money already, Miller was often on their shit list in any event. Owners hated him, of course. But what he did for the players was historic, and ever since, every player should thank Miller for being a part of their lives as employees.

I have a personal anecdote so slim it’s barely worth mentioning. When Miller first took the job as director of the union, he left his post as a high-ranked official in the United Steelworkers union. I was a member of the Steelworkers for a decade when I worked for Continental Can, and I can recall this one guy, who had the best sense of the history of the union as any of my co-workers, speaking highly of Miller’s work with the Steelworkers.

As I say, I don’t have a lot to add. But Miller was an important figure, and he deserves to be mentioned here.

rip it up

Our daughter, son-in-law, and grandson are staying over a couple of days a week while Ray works a temporary contract job with the university. They’ve taken on the herculean task of making the basement livable, and they keep coming across interesting tidbits from the past.

Today, Sara and I were going through old books when I found a copy of my honors thesis for my Bachelor’s Degree in American Studies. It’s called “Rip It Up: Adolescence in American Popular Culture of the Post-War Era”, and it’s dated December 4, 1987. I think I’ll dip into it a few times, see if I can get any good posts out of it.

For now, there are the three quotes that kicked off the paper. The first is from John Robinson, speaking to the Mayflower Pilgrims in 1620:

You are many of you strangers, as to the persons so to the infirmities one of another, and so stand in need of more watchfulness this way, lest when such things fall out in men and women as you suspected not, you be inordinately affected with them.

Next, Abraham Lincoln, from his Lyceum address in 1838:

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.

And finally, Elvis Presley, 1954:

I heard the news, there’s good rockin’ tonight!

what i watched last week

Three Colors: White (Krzysztof Kieslowski, 1994). The second film in Kieslowski’s trilogy, and I’m still wondering what all the fuss is about. I felt over my head when watching the first film, Three Colors: Blue, and wondered if the film required a particular frame of mind. Still, Juliette Binoche was good, and I had a generally good reaction to the movie. White left me much colder, though. It’s something of a comedy, which I didn’t figure out until the movie was well underway, besides which it is supposed to be “anti-comedy”, whatever that is, so you can see why I was confused. I laughed out loud once (for those who have seen it: “Home at last!”), but it’s not meant to be ha-ha funny, so that’s not the problem. Julie Delpy’s character is such a bitch that I could barely stand it when she was on the screen (and that’s something, since I love Julie Delpy). The “hero’s” transformation from sad sack bum to moneyed capitalist to the King of Revenge struck me as just about as creepy as Delpy’s role as his ex-wife. Reading about the film, I can see the connection between what is happening to the hero, and Kieslowski’s own experiences as a Pole in France, which makes the movie more interesting … it’s a good film to think about after the fact. But when I have to go to Wikipedia to understand a film’s finer points, something is wrong, either with the film, or with me. #909 on the They Shoot Pictures, Don’t They list of the top 1000 films of all time. 6/10.

Island of Lost Souls (Erle C. Kenton, 1932). 8/10.

treme, season three finale

And only a few episodes to go in a future, shortened fourth season. Since this episode was made before Treme got its extension, it plays a bit like a series finale, although it’s good to know we’ll get another season, even a truncated one.

Music has always been at the center of Treme, and I’m not exactly certain why it seemed even more important tonight. Perhaps because, in the benefit for LaDonna’s bar, we got to see so many musicians come together to entertain so many of the show’s regular characters. In the end, there’s always the music. Not everyone’s life turns out as they had hoped, but people keep trying, even when it seems futile. For the non-musicians, music is the background of their daily lives, and the focus of their breaks from the routine. For the musicians, music is their lives, to a greater or lesser extent. Two different characters tonight realized they couldn’t completely abandon their love of making music. And for us in the audience, the music provides a break, yes, and joy, yes, but also something deeper. Even an outsider to New Orleans can feel the sense of community where it seems like someone is playing music at any time of the day.

That communal feel is aided by the judicious use of real musicians in cameos (and more). It could seem like stunt casting, but in fact, when Treme’s characters interact with musicians we know, it feels right, because that’s what those characters would be doing if they were “real”, too.

Meanwhile, there’s the expected brilliance of the ensemble acting that comes with every David Simon series. It’s unfair to single anyone out, but Khandi Alexander is always going to get our attention. The biggest imports from The Wire, Wendell Pierce and Clarke Peters, do something I would never have thought possible, making us think of them not simply as Bunk and Lester, but also as Antoine and Big Chief. (And a special shout out to the way honorifics are used in Treme. People get called “Chef” or “Chief” because they have earned those titles.) I’ve always loved Kim Dickens. And a couple of non-actors have done quite well here: violinist Lucia Micarelli is a natural, and Phyllis Montana-LeBlanc, whose only prior experience on film was in Spike Lee’s two documentaries about New Orleans, goes beyond “natural” … you could say she’s just playing herself, but no one else could do it better.

There are shows on Sunday nights that get better ratings and more attention … The Walking Dead, Boardwalk Empire, and Homeland are all currently running, for instance. I like them all, especially Homeland. But if I could only watch one, it would be Treme. Grade for season finale: A. Grade for Season Three: A.

music friday: yes, it’s still bruce

The show is next Friday. Here is a song that is often requested by many of my Bruce friends. I saw him sing it four times on the River tour in 1980, where it was played almost every night. But if you came to Bruce after the River tour, it’s entirely possible you’ve never seen him perform this one. This video is from 2012, so there’s at least a chance my friends with finally be rewarded. I wouldn’t mind hearing it again, myself. “Drive All Night”:

Here’s one he most definitely will not play. I doubt this one has ever turned up live. “Without You”:

And another for the folks who want to relive 1978. “Prove It All Night”:

by request: island of lost souls (erle c. kenton, 1932)

This wasn’t exactly a request … I suggested to Robin that we watch a movie and asked her preference, she said “something old”, I gave her a few choices, she picked Island of Lost Souls.

Island of Lost Souls is so full of ideas that it’s something of a miracle it clocks in at a mere 70 minutes, especially since it isn’t particularly fast-moving. The film features various scenarios that, if you take time to think about them, are interesting and revolting simultaneously. (It is clearly a pre-Code film.) Take Dr. Moreau, played by Charles Laughton in a manner that makes us laugh until we understand what he’s up to. Moreau is the typical scientist who will stop at nothing to create new worlds. But he doesn’t mess with dead bodies, or artificial limbs, or anything quite so proper. No, he’s a vivisectionist who plies his trade on living beings (without anesthesia, it should be added). This takes place in his “House of Pain”, and he’s not kidding.

Moreau is trying to make humans out of animals. Or something like that … I admit I wasn’t always sure. His island is full of the results of his experiments, human-like creatures who can talk, and who follow his “laws” while he cracks a bullwhip. (Yes, this is where “Are we not men?” got started.) His one attempt at a female is The Panther Woman, who features in a scene that seems to create a reason for a Code all by itself: The Panther Woman seduces the hero, they kiss, and then he notices she is growing claws. Somehow, this isn’t exploitative: frustrated bestiality is just another symbol of the continuum of animal behaviors that underlies Moreau’s experiments and makes Island of Lost Souls so unsettling.

There are no real weak spots. The acting is good-to-excellent, the cinematography compelling, the themes designed to make us think, even as we turn our heads from the screen. Much of this seems tame to modern audiences, but the creepiness remains. 8/10.

what i watched last week

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (John Madden, 2011). A variety of events, almost all good, have mostly kept me away from movies lately. I doubt I would have chosen this one to welcome my return, but the Netflix Blu-ray sat at my house for almost a month, so I finally dove in. You can learn all you need to know about this one via a brief description: several venerable British actors find themselves in a hotel in India, stuff happens, we learn a few nice lessons, and it’s bedtime. The actors are indeed the cream of the crop: Judi Dench, Tom Wilkinson, Bill Nighy (a personal fave), Penelope Wilton and Maggie Smith (for all the Downton Abbey fans), Ronald Pickup, and Celia Imrie. All of them do fine jobs … Wilton has the misfortune to play the one unlikeable character, but otherwise, a fine time is had by all. It’s like one of those Agatha Christie movies from the 70s, without the mystery. It should go without saying that it’s nice to see so many actors in their 60s and 70s getting substantial parts in a movie that made money. I’d rate it a lot higher, though, if there was some bite to it. 7/10.

Skyfall (Sam Mendes, 2012). It’s a Judi Dench film festival! I’d like to rank her films from favorite to not-so-favorite, but the truth is, most of the Judi Dench movies I’ve seen are Bonds. Skyfall maintains Daniel Craig’s winning streak as Bond (I know lots of people dismiss Quantum of Solace, but I thought it was OK). It’s as good as Casino Royale, if not quite as surprising, since by this point, we know Craig can deliver. Skyfall even works on the level of a movie-movie … you don’t have to like James Bond movies to appreciate this one, although long-time fans are rewarded on several occasions. There is room for some real emotion, which is unusual for the series, there are plenty of the action scenes we expect, and Dench does well in her biggest part yet in a Bond film. Javier Bardem plays a different kind of villain: he’s not different from a standard villain, he’s different from the usual Bond villains. He doesn’t intend to take over the world; his complaints are personal. Skyfall is a Bond movie for non-fans, which means it will never be the favorite of the true aficionados. The best of the Craig Bonds (Casino Royale and Skyfall) are better than anything with Pierce Brosnan, Timothy Dalton, or Roger Moore … heck they’re as good as any with Sean Connery outside of From Russia with Love and Goldfinger. 8/10.