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music friday: concert highlights

One for each letter, except for I, X, and Z. Artists I've seen over the years, with the actual year I saw them when I remember.

GG Allin (1989). The setlist that night: Outlaw Scumfuc / Dope Money / Die When You Die / Abuse Myself I Want to Die / Caroline & Sue / Jesus & Mother's Cunt / Makin' Love to the Microphone Stand / Dogshit
The Bobs (1983?) Acapella group that specialized in covers like "Helter Skelter" and "Psycho Killer".
The Cramps (1979) Like a lot of these acts, I saw them when they opened for someone else. In this case, the headliners were The Clash.
Lee Dorsey (1980) Different concert, but Dorsey, too, opened for The Clash.
English Beat (1982) Believe it or not, another different concert, another group opening for The Clash.
Flipper (1980) They opened for Public Image, Ltd.
Peter Green (1968) Slight alphabet cheat, since I saw him with the band he created, Fleetwood Mac. In honor of his passing.
Pee-wee Herman (198?) This was The Pee-wee Herman Show, which ended up on HBO when he played L.A.

That's the immortal Phil Hartman as Captain Carl, while the singing duo was known as Rick and Ruby in the Bay Area. I met "Rick" at a wedding in L.A. around the time of this show.
Etta James (1990) Clarence Clemons opened this show.
B.B. King (1971) One of the concerts I attended when I lived in Bloomington, Indiana.
Los Lobos (1984) Would you believe me if I told you they opened for The Clash?
Paul McCartney and Wings (1976) The closest I ever came to a Beatles concert.
The Nuns (1978) Opened the notorious "Last Sex Pistols Show".
Orchestral Manouevers in the Dark (1982? 1984?) Got free tix from KALX. Not a big fan of synth pop in general, and my feelings weren't made any better when OMD had to stop the concert at one point to fix their computers.
Public Image, Ltd. (1980) My second time seeing John Lydon.
Quasi (2004) They opened for Sleater-Kinney, which was convenient since the two bands shared the same drummer.
The Tom Robinson Band (1978?) Saw them in a tiny club in Davis, got to meet them backstage.
Sun Ra (1979?) A friend took me. Not sure who the headliner was ... the other act was Cecil Taylor. I preferred Sun Ra.
Ike and Tina Turner (1971). They opened the aforementioned B.B. King show. How's that for a double-bill?
U2 (1982) They opened for The J. Geils Band. They were great, although I was on mescaline and so can't be trusted. This marked the last time U2 opened for anyone.
Joe Venuti (1975?) Jazz violinist. For several years, we caught shows at the Concord Jazz Festival because we got free tix.
Barrence Whitfield (1980s?) Can't remember where I heard of him, but the word was, he put on a dynamite show. The word was right.
Neil Young and Crazy Horse (1978) Whenever I want to revisit this concert, I watch the movie Rust Never Sleeps, which was recorded at this show.

film fatales #88: leviathan (lucien castaing-taylor and verena paravel, 2012)

I can imagine this experimental film appealing to some people, so take this with a grain of salt. I did not find it appealing.

The concept is interesting: a documentary on commercial fishing off the coast of New Bedford, where parts of Moby Dick took place. Credit must also be given to the directors for not just taking the easy route of most documentaries. The film eschews things like linear narrative, dialogue or narration, or any contextual moments to help the audience find its bearings. It is perhaps best described as psychedelic, and I wish I'd taken some edibles before watching.

Wikipedia offers some insight into the production. "Over the course of filming Leviathan, Castaing-Taylor got seasick and Paravel went to the emergency room numerous times.... While filming, the director's first camera was lost at sea and they had to resort to their backup cameras, Go-Pros. The images produced by the Go-Pros created afterimages of haunting qualities due to the lack of clarity within the lens. According to Castaing-Taylor, 'It activated the viewer’s imagination much more.'"

It all sounds fascinating, but I barely survived the 87-minute running time. For me, the key was the total lack of context. I was rarely able to figure out such basic things as what am I seeing, or where is this scene, or why is this important. As I say, it may work on some abstract level, but I'm not sure I have 87 minutes of abstract in me at this point in my life.

There was a scene that summarized my reaction, far too easily, in fact. I actually knew what I was seeing for a change. One of the fishermen is sitting at a table in what looks to be an eating area. There is a jar of mayonnaise on the table, and a tin of chewing tobacco, among other things. The fisherman appears to be having a chew ... he occasionally spits into a cup. We hear what sounds like a television show, although we don't see it, and I'm not sure how they had a TV out on the sea. It's a one-take scene, with a stationary camera. It lasts for around 4 1/2 minutes. We watch the man ... we hear the TV ... the man spits ... he stares in the direction of what we assume is the TV ... he spits ... we watch him ... and gradually, after about 4 of those minutes, his eyes gradually close and we realize he is falling asleep. Everybody's a critic.

Some critics didn't fall asleep ... it's #83 on the They Shoot Pictures, Don't They list of the top 1000 films of the 21st century.

(Here is a letterboxd list of Film Fatales movies.)

opening day? not this time

For 40 consecutive years, starting back on April 17, 1980, I have attended the San Francisco Giants home opener.

I had tickets for #41 on April 3. That game never happened. COVID-19 caused the season to be postponed until less than a week ago, when the Giants met the Dodgers in Los Angeles. Today is (as I write this) the home opener for the Giants, who will host the Padres tonight. I won't be there ... the 40-year streak is over ... no fans will be there, since one of the differences of baseball post-COVID is that no fans are allowed in stadiums for the foreseeable future.

I admit it was fun watching baseball again when the Giants and Dodgers met last Thursday, and if tonight's game is played, I'll be checking it out. But the idea of a baseball season during a pandemic is a dumb one, as Major League Baseball is finding out. One team, the Miami Marlins, had to postpone games after at least 11 players and 2 coaches tested positive for the virus. This has already had an effect on other teams ... yesterday, two games were postponed for COVID/Marlins reasons, at least one is postponed today.

Some players have opted out of returning to the field this season, including Giants icon Buster Posey. Five-time all-star and former Cy Young award winner David Price also stepped back, and when the Marlins outbreak occurred, Price went to Twitter. "Now we REALLY get to see if MLB is going to put players health first. Remember when [baseball commissioner Rob] Manfred said players health was PARAMOUNT?! Part of the reason I’m at home right now is because players health wasn’t being put first. I can see that hasn’t changed."

Thus far, in the few games that have been played, we've seen seats filled with cardboard cutouts of people (you can get in on the action in San Francisco for $99). Hunter Pence of the Giants, when announced before the opening game in LA, doffed his cap to the "fans". Star first-baseman Anthony Rizzo of the Cubs had hand sanitizer in his back pocket, and the first time the opposing Brewers got a man on first, Rizzo offered the runner some of the sanitizer.

Perhaps my favorite moment came during the Oakland A's home opener. MLB has decided to change the rules ("temporarily") to keep games from going too long. If a game goes to extra innings, the batting team gets to automatically have a runner on second. It's really stupid. The A's and Angels were the first teams to meet this new rule, when they were tied 3-3 after 9 innings. Before hand, there had been a lot of discussion about possible strategies teams might use in these situations. Put a fast guy on second, play small ball to get that runner across the plate, all sorts of possibilities. Well, the Angels couldn't score in their half of the 10th (their automatic runner was promptly removed from the bases on a rundown). Things went differently for the A's. Their first batter was hit by a pitch. A wild pitch moved runners to 2nd and 3rd. Another batter was walked to load the bases. The Angels brought in a new pitcher. On the first pitch, Matt Olson hit the ball 427 feet over the fence for a game-ending, walk-off grand slam. So much for small ball.

The A's players reacted like, well, like humans (who could predict that?). They stormed the field to greet Olson as he crossed the plate. You couldn't blame them, but it was a sight you'd rather not see during a pandemic:

So tonight, the Giants will finally play the home opener that was supposed to happen in April. I don't have tickets ... at least I got my money back. I've been perhaps too paranoid during the quarantine ... I'm someone with a lot of those existing medical conditions that are warning signs (it doesn't help that I turned 67 last month), so when I went to do some blood tests last week, it marked the first time I'd gone anywhere in more than four months.

How will I pass the time on my first Opening Day at home in 41 years? It makes a certain circular sense ... the last time I went out before those blood tests was on a Tuesday in March, when we saw our last "Geezer Cinema" movie in a theater (it was Emma.). Today being Tuesday, we'll be at home, watching the 20th at-home edition of Geezer Cinema. Here's the previews for today's movie (it's my turn to pick). It has the legendary Brian Dennehy, who died last April.

Finally ... why not? Perhaps the best Opening Day moment of those 40 years, in 2002, when Barry Bonds came up in extra innings against the Padres:

religion, sisyphus and me

An excerpt from a piece I wrote in 2011 for Souciant:

I spent several weeks during Xmas season in 1972 in Indiana, where I had lived in 1971-2. My friends and I would stay up until all hours, drinking wine and smoking weed, going on “adventures” like a trip to the supermarket to count the number of items containing garlic. One night, we were sitting around, probably high on some combination of things. I started talking about Camus’ Sisyphus, how he was condemned by the gods to push a rock up a mountain. When he got to the top, the rock rolled back down the mountain, followed by Sisyphus, who, when he reached the bottom, would once again push the rock up the mountain. This punishment was eternal. Sisyphus would perform his task forever, and would know as he performed it that he would be pushing that rock into eternity.

Something about the telling of that story got to me. I had a flash of insight, perhaps the only one I have ever experienced. I didn’t understand Camus intellectually. Rather, I connected in some visceral way. In that instant, I thought I understood the meaning of life in a deeper way than I ever had, before or since. We are all Sisyphus … this is the message that filled me with emotion far more than it filled me with an intelligent recognition of the facts.

I started to laugh.

I was always prone to giggle fits in those days (I’m still susceptible; perhaps we all are.) But this was not that; I was not giggling. No, I was laughing with awe and sadness at the wonderful absurdity of human life. We push the rock up the mountain, it rolls back down, we push it back up, indefinitely.

I am very suspicious when people say something changed their life. It seems to me that life-change is a process, that if we change at all, it takes a lot more than a moment, that it must be spurred on by more than just one event. And, in any case, I have no idea what was actually occurring as I rolled on the floor in uncontrollable laughter. But I do know that to this day, I think of my life in terms of what happened before that night, and what has happened since.

Of course, at the time, I wasn’t really thinking about what would happen down the road, or what the implications were for my laughter. But something happened that night, and whether I knew it then or not, part of that something was my spiritualism flying out the door.

african-american directors series/by request: he got game (spike lee, 1998)

In most respects, He Got Game has the strengths Spike Lee brings to all of his films. He gets the expected great performance from Denzel Washington. He draws another fine performance from Ray Allen, a basketball player early into his Hall of Fame career who had never acted before. His canny casting brought Milla Jovovich, a teenage Rosario Dawson in only her second feature, and some of Spike's usual suspects (Bill Nunn, Roger Guenveur Smith, John Turturro, Lonette McKee), along with many famous basketball names playing themselves.

But He Got Game is too long. The Milla Jovovich subplot is unnecessary (she's a prostitute that Denzel wants to help). The plot itself is ludicrous ... Denzel is a convict who is offered a deal by the warden. The governor of the state wants Denzel's son, the best high school basketball prospect in the country, to attend the governor's alma mater, so Denzel is released for a week to get his son to sign a letter of intent. If he succeeds, the governor will reduce Denzel's sentence.

Denzel works the hell out of the plot, but he can't save it. Still, the interactions between him and Ray Allen as his son are often powerful, and again, Allen shines in his first acting job. It's not enough to save the film, but it does make it worth seeing once.

Something should be said about the music, because Lee always delivers, and He Got Game is no exception. The movie features a canny use of Aaron Copland that is on target throughout. And Public Enemy does the title track, which is terrific. They later released an album of their own material with "He Got Game" at its center, and it's arguably the best album of their post-peak life. I love that track in particular. I like the video as well, but it's hard to find an unedited version, so here's a lyric video with the correct lyrics in place:

(Here is a letterboxd list of movies with African-American directors.)

dirty laundry

(I wrote this in 1998 for the journal Bad Subjects. I am reprinting it here, unedited, because the Bad Subjects website has been down for what feels like years. Looking at it now, I realize the third paragraph has the style of the fiction I wrote briefly in the mid-90s. It's also interesting to look back into my past, since as I type this, my wife and I are retired and doing pretty well because she worked at an HMO for 15 years.)

Dirty Laundry: Wherein a trip to the laundromat leads to ruminations about health

I'm at the laundromat. Five quarters to wash a load of clothes, another three or four to dry them. I have lots of loads. I come every two weeks; we have a washer and dryer, but the dryer has been broken for months going on years, and even though it probably wouldn't take much to get it fixed, and even though I detest the laundromat, every two weeks I trudge down with load after load of dirty laundry.

I sit at a table while the clothes get clean, reading Dostoevsky on my Palm Pilot. At the table to my left, a woman does her banking while she waits for her own clothes to finish. The manager of this laundromat is an older guy who moves very slowly from one end of the room to the other. He moves so slowly, I've come to think of him in my mind as Uncle Joe, after the character in Petticoat Junction. Some say he lives in a room hidden behind the dryers. Every once in a while when I am washing clothes, the owner comes in to collect the change from all the machines. He banters with Uncle Joe, as if they were old friends. In Berkeley, owners like to think they treat their workers as equals. In the far corner, a man sits staring at the washing machine that holds his clothes. Every few minutes, he gets up, goes over to the wash basin stuffed into his corner, and washes his hands. Then he returns to watch his machine, until he again gets the desire to wash his hands in the basin. He does this a dozen times, two dozen times. The washing machine with his clothes never seems to finish, but perhaps he doesn't mind, as this gives him more time to clean his hands.

I decide to step outside for a bit, to get some fresh air. I go to the parking lot and walk over to my car. A man is sitting in a car parked next to mine; he is listening to talk radio and coughing up mucus into a cruddy handkerchief. Across the street, a middle-aged woman stands on the sidewalk, smoking a cigarette. We're an unhealthy lot. I go back into the laundromat, where my dirty laundry gets clean. There is always lots of dirty laundry at the laundromat. I check on my clothes and go back to "Notes From the Underground."

Laundromats are public places. But they are not exactly the town square, not really the site for communal gatherings. Revolutionaries wouldn't meet in laundromats to plot their insurrections. Long ago, when I was first married, my wife and I had one of those meaningless spats that allowed each of us the chance to prove that, married or not, we were still separate individuals. I decided to run away from home. Since I only had a couple of bucks to my name, I decided to head for the closest laundromat. I knew it was open 24 hours a day. I knew I could hide there. I knew there would be no revolutionaries to ask me troubling questions. It was the laundromat.

I'm still married. I'm still going to the laundromat. I see many unhealthy people in the laundromat, who I assume are fighting personal demons, as we wash our hands and do our banking and relax in our rooms behind the dryers. It's a public place, but I never speak to anyone. A friend told me recently that she has begun trying to strike up conversations in the laundromat. I wonder why she bothers, even as I am impressed by her efforts.

Public places are important, even or perhaps especially anonymous public places like laundromats. For the ever-growing number of people who are abandoned by more traditional outlets designed to help the poor and infirm, laundromats provide a momentary refuge from the rest of the world. Of course, I am only guessing at this, for unlike my friend, I don't talk when my dirty laundry is out where people can see it. I go back to my Dostoevsky and imagine what kinds of lives my fellow laundromat inhabitants lead.

Even in this public place, we are all on our own, with our Russian literature and our checking accounts and our hand-washing rituals. When it comes to our health, physical and spiritual, we are on our own. The sick of America need our laundromats, which are open 24 hours a day, whether or not you've got health insurance, whether or not you're stable enough to get from one day to the next without your mind exploding.

"Lord, you don't know the shape I'm in."
-- The Band, "The Shape I'm In"

These days, it seems like individuals are responsible for their own health. One of the most treasured aspects of some jobs in the USA is health insurance. Without it, you are at the mercy of your body and your pocketbook. Without it, you are on your own. I rely on my wife's group insurance plan at her work, which allows me membership in an HMO. A few years ago, she was free-lancing, and so she had to arrange her own insurance. There was no group plan, and her new plan wouldn't take me with her. I am not healthy. My cholesterol is too high, my blood-pressure is too high, I have a history of migraines and my lungs aren't too good, and I get kidney stones every few years. I am a bad risk. What to do? Eat better. Get more exercise. Improve my mental attitude. Drink many gallons of water every day. Piss it out all night long. I am responsible for my own health; if I get sick, and I don't have health insurance, and I don't have extra money lying around, I will just have to stay sick. Better to take matters into my own hands, make myself healthy, so I don't have to worry about insurance.

Of course, if I don't take matters into my own hands, then my poor health is my own damn fault, and if that's the case, then why should the government worry about me? God helps them that help themselves. Pull yourself up by your proverbial bootstraps. Like the hand-washer, like the man living among the clothes dryers, I am responsible for my situation. If I don't like it, I can make it better. This is America. Don't wait for someone else to take care of you; do it yourself. The rest of the country has more important things to do.

It is perhaps a useful metaphor for the health of the country, that we so often act as if people are as healthy as they want to be, as if illness were purely a function of the decisions we make as individuals. We think of our own health as something distinct from the health of other people. A more holistic approach to health might look to an ailment in one part of our body as something which affects the body as a whole; we would indeed look to make the weakest members of our society stronger. But America rejects the holistic approach. No matter how many sick people walk the streets of America, the so-called healthy assume that their own apparent good fortune is all that matters. We are on our own. If you have the money, you buy a washer and a dryer, so you never have to air your dirty laundry in public.

The flaws in this "system" should be obvious, and thus it is no wonder that "alternative" medicine is on the rise. And it is easy, too easy in fact, to assume that such an alternative must be viable, even crucial, to a healthier public, on the level of the old saw that the enemy of my enemy must be my friend. On the one hand we have for-profit "health" in a capitalist society, rooted not only in profits but in the omnipresent (and therefore questionable, for anything so closely tied to the capitalist menace must be challenged) "Western science." On the other hand, we have an "alternative." To what precisely it is an alternative hardly matters, as long as it is presented as the enemy of my enemy.

And so increasing numbers move towards this alternative, often leading to startling cultural dislocations, as in the case of Isaac Hayes, Mr. Hot Buttered Soul himself. One week Hayes, in his role as Chef on South Park, sings about how delicious are his spicy chocolate balls. The next week, he appears on the cover of Alternative Medicine magazine, touting the wonders of the Master Cleanser. "For nearly a month," we are informed, Hayes gave himself a cleansing fast where "he drank six to 12 servings a day of a blend of water, lemon juice, cayenne pepper, and maple syrup." Which certainly qualifies as an alternative to chocolate balls, if nothing else. Is this the proper alternative to a life of dirty laundry? Can we ride Master Cleanser into the millennium, proud and victorious over a health system that has abandoned so many?

"The Twentieth Century has not been particularly kind to me"
-- Bob Mould, "I Hate Alternative Rock"

There are at least three areas where Alternative Medicine falls short. Granted, in at least two of these areas, mainstream medicine fails as well, but this should not prevent us from exercising our critical thinking skills in the analysis of the alternative. First, though, it is worth noting that the problems I describe here relate to what we might call the "alternative mainstream," systems of thought whose opposition to standard capitalist medical practices is more apparent than real. As is true in so many areas, excellent work is being done at the grass-roots level to help improve the health of the many Americans forced to the fringes of society. But, as is also often true, such work is largely neglected, by both the mainstream and "alternative mainstream" media, in favor of the Master Cleanser version of alternative medicine.

One initial problem is that the insistence on personal responsibility for one's own health that often pops up in discussion of alternative medicine is -- or should be -- more limited than it actually is. A smoker might be well advised to give up cigarettes as part of an attempt to improve their own health. But can you blame the patient for having germs? For getting cancer? For being born with a weak this or an impaired that? Do we blame the patients when they don't get better? The mainstream health system, with its emphasis on the doctor/expert, may give too much power to that expert, but with that power comes responsibility, and failure results in blame. Alternative medicine, taking power away from the experts and giving it to the patient, also transfers responsibility (and blame) to that patient. It isn't any different from conservative social theory that blames the poor for their own plight. You aren't sick because you have a disease which might be cured with a pill; you are sick because you haven't fully integrated your mind and body into a whole. It's your own fault.

Second, it must be noted that whatever alternative medicine is opposed to, it is not an alternative to capitalism. Alt-health gurus are as interested in making a buck within the system as more traditional doctors. This relates to the previous problem: your poor health isn't the fault of the for-profit health system of capitalist societies, it's the fault of the "dis-eased" patient who hasn't accepted their holistic reality. Whether it's colonics or vitamins, aromatherapy or shark cartilage, someone is always ready to make a buck off of your anxieties about health.

Most importantly, though, is the rejection not only of problematic aspects of the Western science tradition, but of important and vital aspects of that tradition. In particular, the frequent absence of systematic analysis such as double-blind testing means that far too many alt-health claims are rooted in the anecdotal and the unverifiable. That some people are susceptible to vague claims is understood; that people concerned about their health might be particularly willing to believe that something might improve their lives is also understood. What is hard to understand, though, is why anyone (including leftist cultural critics) who is ready to attack complex social problems with critical thinking strategies, would turn their brains off when it came to the relative merits of aromatherapy versus a visit to the doctor for a drug prescription. We are back to our old saw: the Age of Reason and the glorification of Science and Progress is so clearly problematic that the absence of concrete scientific data regarding the value of something like aromatherapy is seen as a positive. Aromatherapy proves it is the enemy of Science (my supposed enemy) by existing outside Science, which makes aromatherapy my friend. That this is nonsense is only part of the story. What is especially sad is how often this means that otherwise intelligent people risk their very lives in the service of "alternative" health notions.

"You took my joy, I want it back"
-- Lucinda Williams, "Joy"

Me, I take pills. My cholesterol has been high for at least 20 years. I've lost weight and I've gained weight, I've been in good shape and I've been in bad shape, I've eaten crappy food and I've eaten healthy food, and through it all, my cholesterol remained high. About a year ago my doctor prescribed something called Lipitor. Within months, my cholesterol reached normal levels for the first time since I can remember it being checked. I have had severe headaches ever since I can remember (and I can remember stuff from 40 years ago). I tried acupuncture and I tried meditation. Then my doctor prescribed Beconase, a topical nasal spray steroid. I haven't had a headache since.

Meanwhile, I avoid the worst of the self-flagellation that comes from blaming the victim. Yes, I need to take care of myself; yes, I am responsible for my health. But my headaches aren't a result of pent-up aggression, they are (happily, I can now say "were") a result of sinus problems.

To enjoy good health is to enjoy life. A life full of joy, this is a goal many of us would love to achieve. But while lip service is paid to the notion of joy, there is actually very little joy in American health. Not from the alt-med crowd, with their endless Thou Shalt Nots and their Maple Syrup diets and their victim-blaming philosophy. Living on Master Cleanser for weeks on end is a way of placing health ABOVE joy; it mistrusts joy, assumes that we are better off being miserable but "healthy" than we are being some combination of joyful and healthy.

But neither is there joy in the laundromats of America. It's hard to find joy living behind the dryers. Good health isn't any easier to find. The cholesterol medicine I take is paid for by our healthcare plan. The actual cost of the pills is about $135 a month. Without health insurance, I'd still have high cholesterol. And too many Americans, too many people across the globe, are without guaranteed health care of one kind or another.

No health care, no joy. No joy, and we're in the underground with Dostoevsky. Our collective laundry is still dirty. We can wash our hands as many times as we like, but we can't get rid of the depression that accompanies the helplessness and joylessness of the modern health care "system." We need to demand our joy.

Copyright © 1998, 2020 by Steven Rubio . All rights reserved. Permission to link to this site is granted.

music friday: led zeppelin, 1977

The search bar on TypePad isn't very reliable, but as far as I can tell, I have never written an entire post about the time I saw Led Zeppelin. [Ed. note: I did, back in 2007.] It was 43 years ago today, at a Day on the Green. It was my second of the summer ... a few weeks earlier, I'd seen Peter Frampton/Lynyrd Skynyrd/Santana/The Outlaws. Although no one knew it at the time, July 24, 1977 was the last time Led Zeppelin played in the U.S., as Robert Plant's son died a few days later.

For this show we paid $11.50.

Judas Priest was the opening act. They got their name from the Dylan song "The Ballad of Frankie Lee and Judas Priest", so it was perhaps appropriate that they performed "Diamonds and Rust", a Joan Baez song about Dylan. I seem to remember singer Rob Halford rode a motorcycle onto the stage, but the memory is faint. Here is a 2001 video:

Next up was Derringer, the new band of Rick Derringer, who had a solid career by that point, as a member of The McCoys in the 60s, and playing with Johnny Winter in the early 70s. His big hit was "Rock and Roll, Hoochie Koo", played here with the Edgar Winter Band:

Then came a long wait (estimates vary, 2 hours sounds about right). We were given a series of excuses ... what we didn't know is that goons from the Led Zep teams had beaten the crap out of one of Bill Graham's people. Graham threatened to sue, Zep threatened to leave without playing the show. Eventually they hit the stage. Different opinions about the quality of the show have emerged over the years. For those of us seeing them for the first and only time, it was great. For others, Jimmy Page's heroin addiction didn't help things. They played a lot of my favorites, in particular "Since I've Been Loving You" and "Kashmir". Here's the set list:

The Song Remains the Same / The Rover (intro) > Sick Again / Nobody's Fault But Mine / Over the Hills and Far Away / Since I've Been Loving You / No Quarter / Ten Years Gone / The Battle of Evermore / Going to California / Mystery Train / Black Country Woman / Bron-Yr-Aur Stomp / White Summer > Black Mountain Side / Kashmir / Trampled Under Foot / Guitar Solo > Achilles Last Stand / Stairway to Heaven / Whole Lotta Love(intro) > Rock and Roll

And here is the audio for the entire concert:


african-american directors series/geezer cinema/film fatales #87: the old guard (gina prince-bythewood, 2020)

A superhero movie with a difference, starting with the fact that if, like me, you came to the movie cold, you couldn't tell it was a superhero movie until things were well underway. Gina Prince-Bythewood (Beyond the Lights) gives us a movie that falls into one of my most-used genres, where a movie is praised for what it doesn't do. There are action scenes, but they tend to be more individual fighting rather than car chases. Time is offered to give depth to all of the main characters ... I usually balk at such things, because the efforts are half-hearted and I just want to get to the good stuff. But Prince-Bythewood pulls another switch on the standard superhero film, by making the characters matter. No one wears a costume, and they only have one super power (which does give them the chance to become really good at fighting).

The Old Guard has a strong cast, beginning with Charlize Theron in the lead. Theron is an Oscar winner with a solid pedigree in action pictures as well, from the sublime (Mad Max: Fury Road) to the not-so-sublime (Atomic Blonde). The Old Guard is in the middle, quite a bit better than Atomic Blonde without reaching the heights of Fury Road.

Theron once again does many of her own stunts, which makes her performance more believable. KiKi Layne (If Beale Street Could Talk) is a standout as the second lead, and it was good to see Anamaria Marinca (4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days) in a minor role. The plot is a little silly, and the movie drags at times (it clocks in at just over 2 hours). But you'll find yourself caring, not just about the action, but also about the characters. Which will be especially important when the inevitable sequel arrives.

(Here is a letterboxd list of Film Fatales movies.)

(Here is a letterboxd list of movies with African-American directors.)

graduation (cristian mungiu, 2016)

Cristian Mungiu wrote and directed 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days, a film that made the list of my 50 favorite movies that I did some years ago. For that reason, I looked forward to Graduation, although I didn't know much about it in advance. It takes place in post-Ceaușescu Romania, and while the story it tells is a personal one, the lives of the characters are integrated into their society such that Graduation is never just a drama, never just social commentary, but instead a subtle combination of both.

Romeo (Adrian Titieni) is a doctor, honest, respectable. His daughter, Eliza (Maria Dragus) is about to graduate from school and only needs to pass final exams to receive a scholarship to Cambridge. Graduation seems almost idyllic at first, but that doesn't last long. We soon learn that Romeo has a mistress. Eliza is assaulted, and the trauma makes it hard for her to concentrate on those exams. Romeo is insistent on her passing, because he sees Cambridge as Eliza's way out of Romania (another clue that things aren't quite idyllic ... Romeo doesn't want his daughter to live in a corrupt society). She understandably does poorly on the first test, and Romeo decides he will do anything to help his daughter go to England. He sees her as pure ... he sees himself as an honest person in a corrupt society. But then he decides he will have to break a rule (or two) to aid Eliza. Everyone in Romania seems to know someone who can do a favor for someone in return for a favor. Gradually, Romeo is entwined in the very corruption he wants to direct his daughter away from.

Mungiu likes to plant his camera in one place for long takes. Often in Graduation, those takes are conversations between two people. There is an intimacy to this approach, although the characters often seem to lack that intimacy between each other. Those characters, especially Romeo, think of themselves as outside of the general corruption, but as events unfold, they are forced to confront their own involvement. Mungiu doesn't judge his characters, but neither does he let them off the hook. #976 on the They Shoot Pictures, Don't They list of the top 1000 films of the 21st century.