Television critic Alan Sepinwall has a tradition of revisiting a series every summer, watching and writing about one episode a week. This year, he has chosen Season One of The Sopranos. We’ve gotten through the first three episodes. I bring this up because it was on this date in 2000 that Nancy Marchand, who played Tony Soprano’s mother Livia, died.
When I was five years old, the California Golden Bears won the NCAA Tournament with a 71-70 victory over the Jerry West-led West Virginia. They made the finals the next season but got blown out by Ohio State. I remember listening to Cal games on the radio, called by Bud Foster. I’m always talking about how memories are untrustworthy, so I’ll just say I think I remember that West Virginia game. Cal has never been to an NCAA final match since.
I was 21 years old when the Golden State Warriors won the NBA title, sweeping Washington. I remember that very well. My son was 9 days old. I mention this because I have fond memories of sharing that title with Neal as I fed him in his high chair. But he wasn’t eating in a high chair on May 25, 1975, so my memories are, as usual, off.
Some thought the Warriors were even better the next year, but they lost in the Conference finals to Phoenix. Game Seven came on Neal’s first birthday. Somewhere in there, I fed him in his high chair.
And the Warriors had never won the NBA title since that 1974-75 season.
My wife had access to great season tickets in the early-80s, and we went to more games than we ever have since.
So this post is dedicated to my wife’s fave Joe Barry Carroll, and World B. Free, and Larry “Mr. Mean” Smith, and Purvis Short, and above and beyond, the great Bernard King.
I don’t write about it much, because it was most intense in that period from the mid-60s to the mid-70s, and I wasn’t a writer then. But I had a serious obsession with Bob Dylan in those days. I read and re-read the biography by Anthony Scaduto in ‘72 ... heck, I even read Tarantula and pretended to “get” it. We saw him for the first time in 1974 with The Band, and again in 1978 (without The Band ... ah, Street Legal, if nothing else you put a temporary stop on my Dylan obsession). I remember when the TV special Hard Rain was telecast (filmed at the end of the Rolling Thunder Revue), some person whose name I have long forgotten addressed the mostly negative reviews by claiming those critics were missing the point ... that the next day, all sorts of young while males would start wearing scarves on their head, emulating their idol.
And yes, the next time I showed up at work, I had on a head scarf.
Blood on the Tracks meant a lot to me, because it was the one great album of the early years of our marriage. I thought Planet Waves was that album, until Blood came along and showed just how far such an album could go.
And I’ve mentioned before that Bringing It All Back Home was one of the first albums I ever bought.
But towering above all of this was “Like a Rolling Stone”. I used to think of it as our generation’s National Anthem, and I probably don’t say that any longer because I don’t say that kind of thing any longer.
And it’s all over the Internet today, because it’s the 50th anniversary of the day “Like a Rolling Stone” was recorded.
Alongside all of the words being written, there are many photographs of the recording session. And for some reason, that’s where it hit closest to home for me. The pictures offer concrete proof that a group of people recorded that song.
Because when I look at the pix, I realize I find it hard to believe the session happened. It’s more that “Like a Rolling Stone” just fell from the sky.
Andy Greene at Rolling Stone called it a “venomous song”, and I’m not saying he’s wrong ... you can find a lot of people agreeing with that sentiment. Me, I think if you want an example of Venomous Dylan, check out his next single, “Positively 4th Street” (“You’ve got a lotta nerve to say you are my friend”). Or, what the heck, “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right”.
Here’s the thing ... when I hear “4th Street”, I hear Dylan just crushing the object of his dismissal. And yes, there is some of that in “Like a Rolling Stone”. But the way the chorus line “HOW DOES IT FEEEEEEL?” is like a sing-along has always led me to believe Dylan included himself among the complete unknowns. This is why I thought of the song as a national anthem: it was the story of all of us. (“Positively 4th Street” could never fulfill that function.)
I’m going to have to add a new blog category for these things if they keep happening.
To recap: a little more than a week ago, I wrote a Throwback post about how twice in recent times I’d gone looking for something on Google and found that the source for that something was me.
Today, on the Greil Marcus website (which seems to be the genesis for a lot of this), they posted Marcus’ Rolling Stone obituary for the great Ralph J. Gleason. It was lovely, because Greil and Ralph were friends as well as colleagues. (And I connected with that obituary because Marcus and Gleason and I are/were all Bay Area-centric, so I knew what Marcus describing.)
I can think of two great music-related obituaries, each of which took a different approach. Lester Bangs’ piece on the death of Elvis is as good as anything he ever wrote. It is also, as was often the case, longish and rambling. And then there was Miles Davis, who was one of the many contributors to that Rolling Stone issue from which Marcus’ piece was taken. I’ve never forgotten it, because it was so perfect, but also because it was so brief, I could memorize it. Miles said, “Give me back my friend.” Five words.
I quickly googled to check the quote ... a silly thing to do, I know it by heart ... and the second suggested link took me to Rockcritics.com, where someone had quoted Davis in the comments section. Guess who was the person with the quote?
Cronos (Guillermo del Toro, 1993). I’m a fan of Guillermo del Toro ... Pan’s Labyrinth is a 10/10, Pacific Rim was a very good blockbuster ... I even like The Strain, his (and Chuck Hogan’s) comic book turned TV series. Cronos was his first feature film, and without ever seeing it, I confused it in my mind with the 1950s sci-fi B-movie, Kronos. They are nothing alike, although I wouldn’t mind seeing Kronos again some time. When you’re dealing with a distinct talent like del Toro, it’s fun to see his early work. You can spot many of the things he used in his more noted films ... I can understand why the old auteur theory critics would get excited about seeing a bit in an Howard Hawks movie that Hawks had returned to in a later and more important film. Del Toro treats fantasy rather like magic realism, although the emphasis is often on the magic more than the real. He has a feel for childhood vision ... in Cronos, a young actress named Tamara Shanath, who rarely appeared again in movies, plays a child who barely speaks, yet we know what she is thinking, and she seems to connect with the oddities in the world of the film. Ron Perlman has a major role, and he’s a bit ordinary, which in this case means he’s quite odd indeed, for why would anyone treat this world as ordinary? Plus, Perlman plays an American who barely speaks Spanish (del Toro is Mexican, and the film takes place in Mexico), so he uses his size to command attention and acts like he knows more Spanish than he lets on, but can’t be bothered to use it. All in all, a quirky movie that will be appreciated most by del Toro fans. 7/10.
Of course, there’s only one reason I’m including Regina Spektor on this episode of Music Friday. The new season of Orange Is the New Black, for which Spektor wrote and performs the theme song, was released today.
The animals, the animals Trap trap trap till the cage is full The cage is full, stay awake In the dark, count mistakes The light was off, but now it's on Searching underground for a bit of sun The sun is out, the day is new And everyone is waiting, waiting on you And you've got time You've got time...
Think of all the roads Think of all their crossings Taking steps is easy Standing still is hard Remember all their faces Remember all their voices Everything is different The second time around...
Animals, the animals Trap trap trap till the cage is full The cage is full, stay awake In the dark, count mistakes The light was off, but now it's on Searching underground for a bit of sun The sun is out, the day is new And everyone is waiting, waiting on you And you've got time You've got time You've got time...
Today we learned of the passing of Christopher Lee, and Ornette Coleman, giants in their fields. And then that silly thing about death coming in threes slapped us again:
Hard times are when the textile workers around this country are out of work, they got 4 or 5 kids and can't pay their wages, can’t buy their food. Hard times are when the auto workers are out of work and they tell ‘em to go home. And hard times are when a man has worked at a job for thirty years, thirty years, and they give him a watch, kick him in the butt and say “hey a computer took your place, daddy”, that’s hard times! That’s hard times!
This is what we know. In the future, we will always fuck off. No one will work. You won't feel pain, you'll revel with family and friends. There will be no labor; what the heck, since this is utopia, neither will there be death. No work will be freely chosen, because no work will be done. You will fuck off forever, you will make no sacrifices to the work ethic, you will fuck off in as many different ways as there are molecules in the universe. Fuck work. Fuck off!
My wallpapers generally follow two patterns. On my desktop, I have a rotating random selection of photos from the hard drive. On my phone, I usually have the latest cute picture of my grandson.
But right now, both desktop and phone have the same photo, cropped in the case of the latter to fit the screen:
I love this picture because of the look on Carrie Brownstein’s face. There is such joy, as she throws out the first pitch at a Mariners’ game. She has brought joy to a lot of people, but I don’t think it’s always been easy for her ... we’ll find out when her memoir comes out later in the year. In the meantime, look at that face:
I usually start a new week on this blog with a roundup of the movies I watched during the previous week. But I didn’t watch any this time around, so that’s out. I’ve been “online busy”, but not here ... I had the usual movie post, and a couple of Marianne Faithfull-centric posts, and that was it. Most of my blogging went to my recently re-opened World Cup blog, which may get a lot of my attention over the next month.
But I also found myself having “undercover” conversations on Facebook about Caitlyn Jenner. I wasn’t really writing anything, I was just posting links. And there was the “undercover” aspect of those posts (where “undercover” just means I engaged in “conversation” indirectly).
Someone I like, whose interests are often close to my own, and who is a very smart person (i.e. he and I share a lot of opinions), went off on a Caitlyn Jenner rant after the Vanity Fair cover. He said he was “astounded at the money-making pranks of Bruce Jenner” and concluded that “Jenner is a media ho through-and-through and even talking about the douche bag does an injustice to the real dialogue we should be having about women's rights.” I didn’t reply in the comments (hence, “undercover”), but instead posted a link to a short panel discussion of the issue that aired on ESPN’s Outside the Lines:
Having decided that I wasn’t making myself clear, I later posted a link to a piece by Christina Kahrl, who also appeared on the OTL segment. She wrote:
Whether you devour or despise celebrity coverage, Jenner is an important player in that conversation, not only because of what she has to say, now and into the future, but because the nature of celebrity affords everyone else the opportunity (and excuse) to start talking about it among themselves. ...
Take Jenner’s looks and the corseted glamour shot, for example. Sure, there’s a lot of money invested in achieving the look; Jenner had the means to spend it and chose to do so. Some might fidget over women allowing themselves to be sexualized in such a way, but Jenner has made a choice that other famous and beautiful women such as Scarlett Johansson and Kerry Washington have been free to choose. There’s something ultimately transgressive in putting a beautiful 65-year-old trans woman in that kind of company. ...
So let’s welcome Caitlyn. She’s not just a conversation-starter, not merely a celebrity or just a person with privilege that some might envy. She is first and foremost a beautiful woman, a parent, an accomplished Olympian. But most of all, like all of us, she is somebody trying to make her way in the world. Let her do things her way, and karma might just pay you back by letting you do the same.
I was sadly not surprised when my posting of this link led to a comment from a friend that went on another rant against Jenner. In this case, I actually inserted myself into the conversation, asking if the commenter had read Kahrl’s piece. She admitted that she had only seen the Vanity Fair cover that accompanied my link, and hadn’t noticed that I wasn’t just posting the picture but linking to an important article.
I used to write more on this blog about what gets the category tag “Current Affairs”. I do much less of this now, because I don’t feel I have enough personal insight or expertise, but even more, because other people who do have that insight and expertise have already written what I want to say, and I don’t often see the point of just posting a bunch of links. Even here, I am focusing less on my opinion re: Jenner, instead looking at the dynamics of Facebook conversations while letting Christina Kahrl say what I think needs to be said.
There’s another thing. Over the years, I have grown tired of a certain method of bringing up a subject that first insists on establishing a distance from that subject. For instance, “I have never once seen a reality TV series, and I couldn’t name a single Kardashian other than Kim, but I think ...” followed by an explanation of why this one thing a Kardashian did was good. Such an approach is more interested in proclaiming the writer’s immunity from popular culture than it is in making its supposed point. I do this myself, of course, but I try to catch myself in advance. So I didn’t want to frame a discussion of Caitlyn Jenner with my own take on reality television or the Kardashians. My relative ignorance about those subjects does not lead to insights, but rather means I lack knowledge in the area being discussed. So I fall back on links to the work of others.