One Year

It has been a year. While no one can really comprehend all that has been last during our pandemic year, there is some optimism that the world will at least partially reset. If only it were that simple.

But what kind of world will it be? Will it be a world where social injustice is met with with activism? Will the fast world of McDonald’s be replaced by home cooking? Will the interest in home gardening sustain itself? Will positive change really happen? Will the movies ever be the same again? How will we interact as people? How will work at our jobs? Will we have jobs?Will people finally give up listening to REO Speedwagon?

I cannot answer those questions, but bringing them up helps our society face them and built something better. Sadly, I fear we will all just forget everything we learned and struggled through and go back to what was. That would be disappointing. I want to believe that a better world will emerge, but I have doubts.

As someone who is social by nature I find it odd that I don’t miss gathering in large groups. I miss concerts to an extent and going to the pictures. Man I miss going to the movies. But overall, I am fine just staying in and reading my books, listening to music or watching tv.

This “time off” has made me enjoy taking long walks, sitting on my pack porch and doing more and more cooking. I also am less concerned about having stuff. This has resulting in a massive decluttering which has been therapeutic in that it has made more open space for the apartment.

The cooking has been interesting. I’ve learned t make a lot more Indian, Thai, Korean and Mediterranean dishes that I like. I’ve spent a lot more time in international grocery stores which has bene interesting in that there is often a discovery in every aisle. Like kimchee, which will sit in the fridge forever and it is always filling, or various Indian sauces which will always give things a spicy edge and provide flavor. Oh, and cauliflower rice is the bomb.

On the flip side, I’ve had to learn a lot about cleaning products, hand sanitizers and applications for bleach.

While I never injected myself with bleach, I did do some floor mopping and surface cleaning with it to such an extent that the smell never got on my nerves. Looking back, that crazy scramble for hand sanitizer, latex gloves and Clorox Wipes was a theater of the absurd. Everyone became obsessed with it. It got a little out of hand.

Separation Nation remains in full effect. Over the last year I have seen a few of my friends here and there as they stopped by to visit social distantly and say hello. But, generally, I haven’t seen many of them for over a year. That’s weird. It also is kind of freeing though in that this distance and isolation really has helped a lot of people discover who their real friends are.

Having been vaccinated now I feel obligated to help others get their appointments. I’ve been doing this for a few weeks now and it has been very rewarding. It has underscored my hope that all of this makes people care abut their neighbors and fellow human beings. I suspect it will not since Americans are, by nature, stupid and selfish.

So the best advice. can offer is to pay it forward, any way you can. We need more empathy in our world right now and even more in the future. Empathy and giving up REO Speedwagon will lead the way.

I still plan on doing social distancing and masking up. I don’t really think I am going to change my routine up all that much.

For me, I really have enjoyed the weekly Zoom get togethers I have with friends in other places. it’s been nice to have social interaction and a sense of camaraderie. It also has introduced me to lots of crazy things like Korean TV shows, new recipes and an appreciation for new authors and bands.

I also have made it through the year by doing a weekly online board gaming night and that has been a lot of fun. It keeps the brain working and I get to some friends! It is interesting how board gaming was able to pivot to new formats during all of this. I also am doing word search puzzles which keeps the noggin’ sharp.

Had the pandemic not come I doubt I would have discovered so much new music. Thankfully, The Wants, The Reds, Pinks & Purples, The 1981, Phoebe Bridgers and Swansea Sound have been around to keep me company. I also have really enjoyed rediscovering Telex, Felt, The Jazz Butcher and The Close Lobsters.

I also have listened to more jazz than I used to and watched more streaming symphony concerts than I had previously. I still hate Phil Collins.

There also is a cool app called Radio Garden that lets you hear radio from around the world. I have listened to stations in Madagascar, Liechtenstein and places like that. It is interesting to hear what Western music is played where. For example there’s a lot of contemporary country getting played in Triesen, Liechtenstein.

I also have written more. I have had a lot of time. Two of the outlets I contributed to regularly folded and I had to scramble for fresh freelance work Luckily, I was able to interview John Doe, Tim Burgess (The Charlatans), Kathy Valentine (The Go-Go’s) and Chris Frantz of Talking Heads. Those were all fun! I also did a few reviews of streaming theater events and films.

Not being able to travel sucks. I don’t miss flying, airports or packing. But, I do miss seeing people I normally see when I travel. Even though I have gotten my jabs I still am in no rush to get on a plane. I can wait.

I mentioned before that I missed movies. That may have been off base in that I did still watch them at home. However, because streaming was insanely off the hook this year, I found a lot of good TV and films. I also got media credentials for the Vienna Shorts Film Festival and Slamdance which allowed me to see some really different, cool stuff.

Slamdance was pretty great. they had a really good selection of short films and they had some feature stuff that was really evocative. Trammel was my favorite short film. It’s about a guy whose only real communication with the outside world is through visits with his local pharmacy technician. It is sweet funny and has a lovely melancholy to it.

CODE NAME: Nagasaki is an emotional documentary about family, self-discovery and alienation. Marius and Fredrik are two friends who live in Norway and pretty much hang 24/7. Driven by a passion for movies and filmmaking they decide make a film about Marius’ quest to find and meet his long lost Japanese mother.

Seeking out a mom who left him decades earlier does not come without some intense drama and the film has that in spades as Marius weighs his every move with careful deliberation. The emotional distance between the two is heartbreaking and as the movie plays out these feeling of solitude and separation become further amplified.

It looks fantastic. Mixing black and white and animation, this powerful piece of cinema was named the fest’s best documentary film.

I also enjoyed the gritty minimalism of No Trace (Null Trace), another example of the exciting things filmmakers are doing in Quebec right now. shot in black and white it looks amazing.

Set in a dystopian future, the plot is sparse but centers on a callous smuggler whose hardened by life attitude shows cracks after she guides a young woman and her child across the border to safety. Unaware that their lives are inescapably linked their journey and struggle for survival is emotionally tense and compelling.

Director Simon Lavoie is a master of visual storytelling and I really liked how the narrative evolved with barely a spoken word. This will probably go into wide release.

Grimy Brit films were represented at Slamdance with A Brixton Tale, a film that takes on a lot of issues in a compact amount of time. Class status, exploitation, love and the art world collide in a movie filled with unsavory characters who just want to survive.

Speaking of gritty…. I watched Trainspotting again. The film has just turned 20 and it is still really enjoyable. Well as enjoyable as a film about heroin addiction can be.

Two decades on, the acting still stands out and the soundtrack perfectly frames everything. It doesn’t sound dated at all. In fact, I had forgotten about how good the Blur song in it was.

Upon seeing it, it made me miss Edinburgh. It’s an interesting flick too in that it calls out a lot of striking societal issues which have been careful been woven into the film. Robert Carlyle is a force of energy, Jonny Lee Miller is cool as a cucumber and Ewan MacGregor shines in his breakout film. I am curious to see how Ewen Bremmer plays Alan McGee in that biopic he is doing.

It is pretty cool that Perseverance is on Mars. JPL did some amazing things to get that project going and their efforts did a lot to lift the nation’s spirits.

It was amazing to watch the landing and see all the data come in over the last few weeks. Isn’t it amazing what science can do?

Here’s one last thing! There is furniture news! I have some new DVD shelves and bookshelves. It’s helped with the massive declutter in terms or organization and storage.

Anyway the adjustment into a person who is going back out into the world is Underway. Hopefully when it happens in a few weeks things won’t seem as desolate or sad or weird. I am not holding out hope. But it will be nice to not have as much of the worrying.

Entropy

Note: I wrote this abut a month ago when it was really, really, cold out. I had forgotten that I had this as a draft.

Everything is falling apart. I just finished spending 45 minutes getting the internet back online. I am not sure if it was a network outage or some weird thing on my end. But I do know that I trouble shooted the daylights out of my modem and router and finally got it working. It was incredibly frustrating.

I hate talking to service companies and (f)utility companies. They never really help and you always end up either shouting at them or trying to bang your head against the wall getting them to understand you.

If that wasn’t bad enough there was about a two week stretch last month (February) of really, really bad cold weather. There was ice and snow and subzero cold. St. Louis in winter is no fun anyway, but this was a particularly nasty stretch of weather. in fact, it was the longest cold spell with single digits temperatures since the 1940s.

For about 16 days it was in the teens at its warmest with wind chills between -15 and -25. It was no fun. Early , I toughed it out and planned things out to minimize exposure. After the first snow stopped, however, I went ahead and shoveled the back steps, driveway and front entryway. Thankfully, it was the kind of snow where you could just sweep it away.

It was like sweeping inside a meat cooler. I set my phone alarm for 30 minutes so I would not be out very long. It was 1 degree out and a -8 windchill. Ick!

It was like seriously Jack London and Ernest Shackleton cold. It was not a time to play around. I didn’t even have a Tauntaun. However, I did wear layers and paced myself. I got a lot of it cleared off in pretty decent time. Having finished that, I threw down some salt because it was supposed to snow two more times over the coming days and all the smart people from the weather bureau said it would help keep freezing down when the next snow hit.

It did snow again and boy were they right about throwing salt of gritty stuff on the ground.

Next, I moved the trashcan and recycle bin next to the back stairs, so it was right outside the back stairs so all I would need to do is open the back door and go a few steps to unload recycling and trash. My motivation for this was to avoid going outside again for a long period of time. I am glad I did this because I didn’t leave home for six days. I bundled up and dropped stuff in bins twice but I was only outside for, at most, maybe a minute or two.

The entire time this was happening I was worried about the pipes freezing. There is no-one living on the second floor which meant that no one was running a tap lightly at night to keep things from freezing. Luckily everything held.

It was Pushkin novel cold outside.

With regards to warmth, plugging in heaters and using every available blanket to bundle up was fun. Not really. Although things were not too cold inside, it got a bit rough when the winds picked up. But there was whiskey, hot tea and hot chocolate for that.

Having weathered that fiasco the drama of the water heater unfolded. There was no warm water for nearly a week. The pilot light just would not stay lit. A guy game to fix it and installed a new thermometer in it and things got warm for a few hours. But then it was cold again. This was the saga. Light pilot light, have warm water for a short duration and then it was cold again. Repeat, repeat, repeat. It went on forever, almost as long as the Battle of Iwo Jima. There also was water leaking for the tank into the drain in the basement.

So the back and forth of getting my property manager to fix this went on and then they fixed it. When they sorted it out it was if the Red Sea had parted or something. It was insanely frustrating.

Then there was the entropy in the outside world. People were losing their goddamn minds. They couldn’t get vaccinated. They chose not to get vaccinated. They didn’t eat the red M&M’s. They insisted on going out maskless. They watched Friends. Civilization was ending.

If that wasn’t enough my freelance client spent a lot of time explaining to me that the Pope was a robot. Normally I would have cut my losses and run but she was paying me and the money was a nice supplement to the work income I was losing because the store was closed.

These kind of failures are emblematic of modern times. Things break, fall apart or need to be disassembled and then reassembled until they are in working order. In the end it all get sorted. Unless you need a vaccine in Missouri, then you are just screwed.

To call the ineptitude and disorganization around Missouri’s distribution of Covid vaccines Stalinist would be a compliment. This kind of total bureaucracy mixed with an unwavering sense of malice is utterly vile. The lack of compassion and disinterest in planning is simply inexcusable in our world. It is all infuriating.

On the plus side, I did get finally get my first shot. I only had to register at 20 (yes 20!) places before getting lucky. I even dug out the map of the state so I could find all these hick towns in the region that got more vials of vaccine than they had residents.

The Loneliness of the Long Distance Slummer

So I think I have reached the part of the pandemic where I am basically slumming it. I don’t want to go out and I wear pajamas as often a possible if I have nowhere to be. This is mainly because I am working part-time and basically looking for a gig in the spare time. Thankfully, there are a lot of ways to pass time. There are books to read, movies to catch up on, a dazzling amount of new music to investigate and tons of great streaming TV. Then there are also word puzzles and online boardgames. If that is not enough and I still picking up freelance stuff here and there. In general, there isn’t all that much to go out for, unless it is work, the radio show or errands.

My slumming also includes doing remote work. I like that because I don’t have to catch other people’s germs or deal with annoying people in public. To be clear, when I say “slumming it,” I am not meaning to imply being lazy or nonproductive, I simply mean being a homebody. I know it is not really “slumming it” when you just want to read a good book and be left in peace. However, I think I am just fatigued with making much of an effort to do a lot of stuff with people around during a pandemic.

It’s not like I am giving up completely. I just know the limits of what is sane in an insane world. It is all about finding a comfort levels in a city of unmasked idiots. For me, it is best to avoid the misguided and stupid.

For example, I still enjoy walking and getting fresh air, but, I think it is kind of pointless to walk into a store and go shopping when you don’t have a specific need to be there. I also am a “get in and get out” person. No loitering or hanging around. Direct and t the point. Again, the worst part of all of this is that you can’t control other people’s tomfoolery.

While the Super Bowl is a big deal for millions of people, I find it all kind of annoying after a bit. For starters, everyone has to call it “the big game” or something like that because of copyrights. That is dumb. The commercials are usually fun, but this year seemed so different thanks to the ever-present pandemic. Although I like watching football and appreciate a good game, it has been my experience that the Super Bowl is always kind of a let down. Like New Years Eve. With that mindset, having lots of fans at Super Bowl XL was a dumb idea. The game was terrible. I hate Tom Brady.

Another dumb idea was watching Crocodile Dundee. I had never seen it and thought it would be a fun romp of escapism. Man was I wrong. It doesn’t hold up well as a fish out of water story and some of the jokes are terribly inappropriate. I didn’t see it when it came out because it did not seem funny. Turns out I was right. Plus, Paul Hogan just isn’t a great actor. He sets up the gags well but his timing is sometimes off.

Another relic of the late 1980s is Bright Lights, Big City. It is a 1988 film based on the book by Jay McInerney. I saw it when it came out and I remember that New Order recorded True Faith for the soundtrack. It stars Michael J. Fox, cast against character in an attempt to get him different roles, and an interest ensemble that includes Kiefer Sutherland stars as Tad, his smarmy friend and enabler. Phoebe Cates and Swoosie Kurtz are also in it, along with a cameo from Jason Robards.

Fox plays  Jamie Conway, a small-town kid who moves with his wife to New York City. Working at a magazine while his better half gets a modeling job, things begin to spiral out of control, leading for late night drinking binges, complete with lots of cocaine and poor decisions. The result of this is tragic as Jamie slides deeper into addiction, eventually blowing his job and crippling his life.

Fox isn’t terrible in a movie that somewhat accurately depicts the debauchery clubs and capitalist greed of ’80s New York. His slide into the abyss is believable and it is good to see him in a role that differs from the boy next door parts he had been taking prior to this. Like Less Than Zero, the film is a part of the decade’s films that were based on books that were dark and rebelled against the conventional. While it was compelling to read, it didn’t always transfer to film.

With the pandemic happening I am also trying to revisit films I love or have not seen in awhile. One of those is The Seven Samurai. I enjoy Kurosawa’s films but see them so infrequently that when I watch them again it is pretty terrific.

With The Seven Samurai, I like watching Toshiro Mifume and Takashi Shimura. They are both incredible here in a film that features an amazing ensemble. Kurosawa worked his actors to death but the results were simply incredible.

It is epic in every way and the performances are incredible. While it remains one of the most influential films of all time, it is still unknown to a lot of people which is very sad.

What I also love about this one is that it is beautifully shot. Kurosawa was painstaking in his writing and editing and it shows. It also maintains its intensity throughout the entire film. Hailed as a massively influential film it still holds up really well.

I am so over this cold weather. While I do not mind it for a few days, a few weeks is a different thing altogether. Maybe it just seems longer because of the pandemic. I just know that I hate winter.

Slamdance 2021 is underway. Building on its reputation as a place for filmmakers to rebel in peace, the fest has a strong virtual component this year. Doing this allows the festival to do expand their inclusivity while offering a broad slate of films.

Running through February 25, 2021, Slamdance offers 25 features along with 107 shorts and episodics for the 27th edition of the festival. Programming also includes Unstoppable, a new showcase for creators with disabilities.

So far I have only seen a few short films but I intend to see a lot more stuff in the next week, including Isaac, a Soviet noir and No Trace,  a movie about a hard-living smuggler who guides a young woman and her child across the border to safety. They also have a track of animated short films that look interesting.

I finished Season One of The Flight Attendant. Going in I was not expecting much but it was actually pretty decent. Overall, it checked off all the boxes that a good thriller needs for television.

The basic premise surrounds a flight attendant named Cassie whose fling with a passenger in Bangkok sets of a spiraling chain of violence filed by poor choices. To make things worse, she literally has baggage. Added to this is her alcoholism which clouds her memory and often gets her into deep trouble.

I have never thought that Kaley Cuoco was a terrific actress and she may not be. But here, they the writers and directors play to her strengths in a way that she’s not as annoying as you may expect. They also surrounded her with an amazing ensemble cast, including Rosie Perez who is sublime as her bestie coworker.

Michelle Gomez chews up scenery and steals the entire thing. She alone is worth watching the series for. Ruthless but funny, Gomez’ take no prisoners attitude gives the show a great edge that really helps with the pacing.

Another weird thing about the show that I like is how it uses interior design. There isn’t a band house or apartment to be found. Everyone has big open spaces with modern design and lots of open space and natural light.

The last month has seen an uptick in new music. For starters there is The Third Chimpanzee, a new EP from Martin Gore of Depeche Mode. Filled with beeps and beats, its instrumental tracks shimmer with Detroit techno influences.

Diving beneath the textured layers of grooves is Howler a cinematic and dark track that accompanies another solid cut, the expansive Mandrill. Overall, the E.P. finds Gore returning to the long form electronic music he’s featured in recent collaborations with Vincent Clarke (as VCMG).

I have been enjoying Dry Cleaning a lot. They are from London via Bristol and have an album called New Long Leg dropping in April. I loved Scratchcard Lanyard, their single for last year.

Strong Feelings, their new single, picks off from where that track left off with some sludgy post-punk edginess. It snarls and sneers in all the right ways.

I am happy to have a new Mogwai record coming into the world. They just dropped “Ritchie Sacramento” ahead of their new album, As The Love Continues.

I love how sonically expansive their music is. Their tenth studio album sees them continuing their knack for crafting really textured songs that don’t meander or lose their heart. They are just a really good band.

I think doing any of the things people suggest you to do on HGTV requires some serious cash. Over the last few months I have found myself watching the channel more and more. I enjoy the design aspects of seeing a place get completely redone as something fresh.

Home renovation and rehabbing is a foreign world to me. Nonetheless, watching the pile of shows the network has is kind of a fun timesuck. It’s a nice way to get ideas for interior spaces, even if you have a budget. It also serves as a great distraction from the chaos on on the news.

Another fun thing is the sly ways that the Property Brothers handle irritating clients. However, in an industry that is all about money they also show a great deal of practicality and empathy, Plus the ‘competative brothers’ double act works pretty well.

Still, I can’t buy a house anytime soon so there is that….

Because of the weather it looks like I have some serious inside time in the next week. I am okay with that. I’ve been slumming it at home for almost a year now and there is a satisfaction to finishing projects, discovering new stuff and making all kinds of interesting meals. There is also booze!

Dumpster Fire Redux

Well it looks like 2021 is telling 2020 to “hold my beer.” I was not expecting much for the start of the year and I am not optimistic about the next two or three ones. Sure, I want there to a be a return to normalcy, but I would rather it be in methodic, careful steps rather than a super rush to satisfy back accounts and commercial interests.

Man did 2020 suck. I am aware that you probably already know this, but I wanted to get it out into the universe.

This year would sure be a lot better if the crapmongers I work with actually wore their masks inside at work. It also would help that if when they did they would also cover their noses. I also would appreciate my six feet. Seriously, the rules are pretty f’n simple. Six feet, cover face, wash hands done. Why is this such a big deal?

Trying to put a positive spin on things, I had a pretty cool freelance thing this year already. It was a total last minute project that I got called about and even though it was a tight turnaround it was great to have the work. But overall, I want this thing over with so I can get back to normal. The bad news is I still have to do some content creation for this kooky lady who loves conspiracy theories. I do my work, bill her, get paid and then move on. I need a real job, But like a lot of folks I am doing whatever it takes to get by during all of this fun.

Living in this bubble of now, I’ve been watching a lot of streaming content. It’s endless. How can anyone keep track of anything?

There are a slew of great music documentaries streaming right now. There are ones on Pulp, Creation Records and the now defunct Other Music record store. I still need to see Springsteen On Broadway too.

I enjoyed the David Bowie documentary, Finding Fame. Loaded with interviews and clips, the film examines Bowie’s early years, a period of Bowie’s career that is often overlooked.

Bowie’s own words frame the narrative and allow his music, most of which is from concerts, video clips or TV shows. If you want to see it, Finding Fame is screening on Showtime and a few other places this month.

I also saw Lazarus again. Although I had seen it it London, seeing it again, at home, without distractions or crowd noises, meant I could get more out of it this time. Working around The Man Who Fell to Earth, the production features very intense drama, combined with Bowie’s music.

Swirling within the science fiction dystopia are some themes of mental illness, death, love and heartbreak. The performances are all great, especially Michael C. Hall whose performance perfectly straddles the line between madness and melancholy.

I know it has been five years since he passed, but I really wish we had him on this planet right now. Certainly, everyone would be better off with having him create distractions for humanity.

I am adjusting to this feature films streaming at home thing. I will go to movie houses when things become normal, because I like sitting in the dark of a theater and seeing movies. However, until then I will make due.

Promising Young Woman is the new film from Carey Mulligan. Written and directed by Emerald Fennell, it is a powerful commentary on rape culture and sickening machismo. It also is a revenge film, where, like in Heathers, you cheer for the vile to get their just desserts.

Molly Shannon and Alison Brie are good in small roles. Clancy Brown is always solid and here is no exception as he brings a nuanced sense of humor to the film.

At it’s core this is a ‘vengeance for the wicked film’ that finds Mulligan’s Cassandra one step ahead of her victims, most of which, frankly, have it coming. Stark and callous, Mulligan’s protagonist is the antihero we need right now.

Another film with an antihero is This Gun For Hire. Released in 1942 and adapted from a Graham Greene novel, it starred Alan Ladd and Veronica Lake along with Robert Preston, whose solid performance is overshadowed by Ladd’s breakout turn as Raven, a paid killer looking for payback after he is double crossed. Lake plays a sometimes magician and nightclub singer whose been dispatched to watch her boss who is suspected of selling out his country.

Ladd and Lake are terrific together. From the first time they meet on a train until the gripping finale, there is lots of tension between the tow and it is interesting to see this dynamics of their relationship change throughout the film. Laird Cregar is great as Lake’s treacherous boss.

This Gun for Hire launched Ladd’s career and led to three other pairings with Lake who became a star in her own right. I enjoyed this movie much more than I expected. It’s a hidden gem in that it isn’t as popular as other Ladd/Lake films and it doesn’t have a ton of star power in it either.

Only Angels Have Wings came out in 1939. It starred a young Clark Gable alongside Jean Arthur. It was directed by Howard Hawks who loved him some airplanes. It also featured the first major role for Rita Hayworth.

In fact there are lots of airplanes in this film about mail pilots who fly the perilous skies over the Andes to deliver their cargo. Based on a story written by Hawks about situations he witnessed personally, the film at first appears to be a lesson in machismo. But in actually it’s a lot more. It’s man versus nature, man processing grief and a testament to the power of survival instincts. It’s also a film that feature Arthur an Hayworth as strong women who don’t take any crap as they take their footing in a masculine world.

Grant plays a cynical pilot named Geoff Carter who is works hard to save the airline he manages from falling into ruin. To do this he has to push his friends and fellow pilots while also holding his own emotions at bay. His tough as nails exterior cracks when he encounters Arthur as a street smart entertainer who, despite initial resistance, begins to feel affection for Carter and his band of ragtag misfits.

Once you get past the ludicrous hat Grant wears at the start of the picture you settle down and get caught up in the drama. It’s a slow boil filled with crisp dialogue and an atmosphere of constant peril.

I am getting ready to watch The Queen’s Gambit this week.

I have been rewatching Fawlty Towers and it has been a great tonic for laughter right now. Even after all this time the humor works on several levels. Sadly, some of the humor is terribly inappropriate these days.

WandaVision has been a real hoot. The painstaking care that the production team took in recreating the feel of 1950s sitcoms paid off in giving the characters some new dimensions.

The paranoia and uneasiness of the time is also evoked here to perfection. It also is nice to see a new spin on the superhero story. This is more than capes and special effects. I also love that Dick Van Dyke was a consultant.

So, Cobra Kai season three has been cheery. That whole series is all about people making poor decisions. It is really hard to like any of the characters, yet it is still enthralling to watch. One of the things that it has going for it is that the episodes are relatively short in length. this lets them draw things out and better focus on the narrative over a season.

One upside of the last fourteen months is that there has been a lot of really good music released. There’s a ton of really great indie records being made right now and the lockdown has afforded opportunities for a lot of new artists to get their music out there, via Bandcamp, Spotify and good old fashioned radio. This long chasm of staying inside has also given artists who have already put out one or two albums an opportunity to build on what they’ve done.

Shadow of Fear is the new release from Cabaret Voltaire. Now pretty much a solo project for Richard H. Kirk, the album features Kirk throwing down minimalist compositions laced with samples, percussive beats and lots of energy.

Despite being the first Cabs album of new material since 1994, the music remains just as intense as some of their previous work. Despite going it alone Kirk manages to maintain Cabaret Voltaire’s pattented sound without sounding dated.

Be Free and the epic Universal Energy illustrate how Kirk is still channeling the industrial sounds of Sheffield and the techno soul of Detroit into something new and askew.

I know I have previously mentioned that I really like The Reds, Pinks & Purples. They have an album out called You Might Be Happy Someday (scheduled for wide release on Slumberland later this spring) which was amongst my favorite albums of the last year. But now there is also a new single out called Pour the Light In which is terrific.

Headquartered in the Bay Area, the band is the baby of Glenn Donaldson, a surrealist artist who has all played in Jewelled Antler, Thuja, The Skygreen Leopards, Art Museums and The Blithe Sons & Flying Canyon. He also has released solo material as The Birdtree and The Ivytree.

This is bedroom pop at its finest. In addition to the manly harmonies, there is a sparkle in the melodies that drapes the melancholy tones in Donaldson’s vocals, resulting in sheer pop perfection.

I also have been listening to Blackout Transmission, a four piece from Los Angeles whose sound lies somewhere between Echo & the Bunnymen, Wire and Interpol.

Due out on February 19th, their debut, Sparse Illumination features the lead single, Portals, a track that finds the band wearing their similarities to Echo & the Bunnymen on their sleeves. Other highlights include the brooding and expansive Once There, and Heavy Circles a song filled with some lovely dream pop swirls. This is good stuff.

There also have been some great streaming concerts to see. I saw the Fontaine’s D.C. last month and they were terrific. Even with no audience they had boundless raw energy. There have been a ton of other ones I wanted to see, but I’ve had work or other stuff going on and now I am playing catch up.

In appliance news, a friend of mine recently explained Dubai light bulbs to me. These bulbs are more efficient then bulbs in the West, mainly because they have more filament and run at a lower voltage. While the bulbs produce less light, they do burn much longer. So, to compensate for the low light output, they add more filament to each bulb.

There’s a lot of crazy appliance/household stuff going on. The kitchen light switch toggle thingee came completely off. I could still turn the light on and of, but it was not easy. To make things wackier, the overhead lights decided to go on the fritz. I was afraid there could be a wiring issue in the lighting bay but it turned out that I just had to replace both of the bulbs.

This required going into a hardware store during a pandemic. It was kind of surreal. The staff was nice and wore masks and people socially distanced, but you could just feel the atmosphere that these people were being put out. It was palpable.

In other news, there’s a Roomba here now. It is making its inaugural journey this week after I clear up some more floor space for him. I am fighting the urge to do stupid things like put action figures on it or set up things for it to plow through as it moves across the floor.

Most of the last month has seen me also playing catch up with a few books. One of the ones I have been meaning to get to was Such A Lovely Little War, an autobiographical graphic novel about growing up in Saigon by Marcelino Truong.

Told with vivid honesty, Truong tells about the hardships and complexities of growing up amidst the onset of the Vietnam War. While the brutality of both Diem’s rule and the Vietcong is integral to the story, Truong’s triumph here is his depiction of how his family lived each and every day during a time of tumult and violence.

Here is a foodie section……

I am still trying to support local businesses as much has I can. I cannot recommend Whisk on Cherokee enough. The food is good, the staff is amazing and they are making lots of new stuff every day.

Parker’s Table has great cheese and wine. They also make great sandwiches and offer a great Thai curry sauce. They also have a lot of other good food offerings as well.

Meshuggah Cafe is close to where I live and have still been grinding it out each day. The smoothies are awesome and their scones are also very good. The best thing about it for me is that it has still managed to hold up as a regular meeting place for folks in my neighborhood to socially distant visit and catch up. You can’t spell community building like this.

Since being inside most of the time is so much fun, I have spent a lot of time just learning about stuff I have always been curious about. One of the things I have been doing is picking an artist each month whose work I am interested in and then learning more about them.

I have always looked at Piet Mondrian and wondered what was going on. Over the years I have felt like I didn’t get it but should. In addition to examining his art, I was intrigued about the meaning behind his placement of shapes and how he set about developing form in his work. From there, I read about his actual life and that was interesting too.

In the past, I would stop and look at his paintings and think they were interesting, but never really get what was going on. But slowly, as I learned more about art and hung out with art school girlfriends, a lot of what he was doing became clearer. But then, after I read about the correlation between his work and his passion for jazz something clicked and I wanted to really learn more.

There was some snow this week. It was perfect. It accumulated but not too much to disrupt anything and it looked nice. Even though I love the silence that happens outside during a blizzard, I was not really ready for that yet. If I ever can do it, I am moving to a more temperate climate. Assuming global warming isn’t so messed up that those plans will go wonky.

I guess I’ll finish off with another plea to not be an ass clown right now. Be kind, be chill and try to be a better person despite that fact there are soooo many dimwits out there right now. Support local business and do something creative and new.

Merry Christmas and Get the Hell Out of Here 2020!

I am now recovering from the holidays and a mindbogglingly intense few months. I am glad the year is ending, it needs to go like a bad throw rug. But I am a bit worried because each year since 2017 has gotten progressively worse for me.

Anyway, the year ends with mixed feelings of terror, anxiety, frustration, hope and melancholy. I am sure I am not alone. No one should spend their life alone, so if you have family you can stand or friends who substitute for family be thankful. Especially now. But most of all, just don’t be a terrible person.

Mentally, I am mostly okay but still anxious about assclowns who just don’t get it or refuse to acknowledge the obvious. It’s a challenging time to deal with the stupid and I don’t do it very well sometimes. But I am thankful that so many people I care about are safe and well. A few of my medical profession friends got the vaccine and that is terrific news since they have been knee deep in the waters and are emotionally spent.

I miss being able to travel but I don’t miss going out much. Streaming has replaced going to the movies and I am trying to read more. With winter here I won’t be able to sit on the back porch and read which is kind of a bummer. I hate the ice and the cold and the general malaise of winter. Add a pandemic to it and it’s a real party.

I am still on the short end of the work stick have & have spent the last few months working on some freelance stuff. I’ve learned not to expect any help from people I know who could offer work but don’t. Ironically, they are the same people who always ask me for free tickets to stuff. They are on the naughty list.

It is weird to be reviewing theater type stuff again. The Rep has been doing an online series called Cooking, Carols & Cocktails that features local musicians and chefs. Opera Theatre St. Louis is pressing their virtual season with a holiday concert. Both have been welcome distractions from the insanity of the world.

A few quick hits about Christmas

-That Mariah Carey song is the work of the Devil!

-Black Friday is dumb!

-There’s a pandemic and people are still out rushing around.

-The Misfit toys are cool & have been marginalized in recent years.

-Santa is a huge jerk in Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer.

A few quick hits about New Year’s Eve/Day etc…

-There are better songs on War by U2 than New Year’s Day.

-Prosecute them all!

-Ryan Seacrest is still annoying.

-Please support St. Louis’ excellent local restaurants, bookstores, shops, record stores and businesses during this time. If you read this from other places then support local businesses wherever you are.

-When these places talk of being in dire straights they are not messing around. It is important to support those who have toiled to build a business from scratch!

Also, it it totally true when you get older New Year’s Eve is less of thing. I remember being at my Grandma’s house on New year’s Eve when I was a kid. we watched Lawrence Welk and Guy Lombardo and the ball drop in New York then we had ginger snaps and went to bed. She also told these great stories about childhood celebrations she had when she was younger.

I have some appliance news! It is not super exciting, but the lighting fixture in the kitchen had bulbs go out. There was a lot of blinking and waiting around for it to get brighter. So, alas, they have been replaced with shiny and new 4 ft LED lights. It is so much brighter. There is also a Rhoomba here now, so cleaning hardwood floors should be a bit easier!

Mank is streaming now and is also in some theaters if you are bold enough to go to those. Gary Oldman is terrific in it and if you love classic Hollywood this is right up your alley. Mank is all about the creation of Citizen Kane and the backlash it created.

It also explore the relationship between Orson Welles and Herman J. Mankiewicz, who wrote the script. David Fincher filmed it in black and white to do it justice. Cinematically it is gorgeous. Yes there are some liberties taken with the story, but generally, it is a really good film about the making of a cinema classic.

It also is nice to see Herman J. Mankiewicz get some credit since Welles is often prominently in the spotlight with the creation of that film. Sadly, despite his creativity he was a terrible drunk which led to him dying young in 1953.

Some days you just need to do nothing and watch nonsense. I did this recently and revised The Coneheads. It was on the telly and I had not seen it in decades. I figured why not? Surprisingly its themes of home and immigration resonate today as does some of points on law enforcement.

I also forgot that literally everybody is in it; Sinbad, Chris Farley, David Spade, Adam Sandler and bunches of others. Even though it is pretty forgettable there are some fun moments in it.

I did recently stumble upon a nifty little film from 1978 called The Silent Partner. Starring Elliott Gould as Miles Cullen, a nebbishy bank clerk who discovers his bank is going to be robbed by a man dressed as a mall Santa. Christopher Plummer stars opposite of him as Reikle, a seriously bad psychopath.

Seeing an opportunity to look after himself, Cullen skims a cool fifty grand from the bank’s till during the robbery. From here things get really interesting as Gould and Plummer have a battle of wits after Plummer discovers he’s been outwitted. Cullen’s life is compounded by his complex relationship with a coworker as well as the arrival of Elaine, a mysterious woman who he he en counters at his father’s funeral. From here the tension gets turned up to eleven as the walls close in on Cullen, forcing him to make some drastic decisions.

This movie totally caught me off guard. I had never even heard of it before, but apparently it has a massive cult following.

Each Christmas I make it a point to watch a few holiday movies that I have not seen before. This year I watched The Bishop’s Wife.

It was a rough movie to make. they had a few director changes. Grant was really picky about details on filming with the sets and dialogue. To add to all of that, Niven, was still grieving over the death of his wife. With all that going on it’s a Christmas miracle that it got made at all.

Niven plays a bishop who is so obsessed with building a new cathedral for his congregation (and a wealthy parishioner) that he completely blows off his wife.

Grant plays Dudley, an angel sent to make things right. Unfortunately, he is too good at his job and his handsome looks and kindness make him attractive to Julia (Loretta Young), the bishop’s wife. There relationship and the wrinkles it causes with Niven’s bishop form the tension of the film. There’s a lot of stuff in here about faith, duty and responsibility. It’s pretty sappy at times but the actor is stellar and the melodrama keeps you watching.

I took the advice of a friend and finally watched Auntie Mame. Despite some totally awkward racial stereotypes it is a real ball of fun.

It is interesting to see how much commentary there is on class, individualism, self worth, feminism, wealth and the importance of family. Despite the comic draperies, there’s a lot of pretty heavy stuff happening here.

The movie is whimsical and silly and funny all at once. Rosalind Russell is on fire throughout the entire thing and she really propels the movie. Everyone has an eccentric relative and her Mame pretty much sets the bar as a partying socialite who is suddenly thrust into raising her nephew. To do this requires a lot of personal growth, stubbornness and tenacity. I love how steely Mame is. She is a fighter who plays by her own rules and it is exhilarating to watch. I suspect that in 1958, when this came out, people may have freaked out.

I have finished Schitt’s Creek. The ending was pretty predictable but still managed to deliver in terms of fun. In a crap year it was such a great tonic for laughter. It also has an emotional gravitas to it the tis nice as well. I am sad to see it end because now I need to find a new comedy to watch.

There is still a lot of stuff to stream. I have made a list of all it since there is so much. I want to see Soul and I am excited about The Prom since I didn’t get to see it when I was in New York two years ago. There is a new season of Cobra Kai as well.

Because I am not going to movie theaters for awhile making a best of they year film list is kind of a nightmare. There are loads of things I am hearing via word of mouth. Things like The Sound of Metal, The Ammonite or the two thousand streaming movies Tom hanks has out right now. So, alas there is no best of film list this year.

That Left Turn At Albuquerque was one of my favorite fiction reads for the year. I read it very early in the year and its a real gem in terms of how the characters are fleshed out and the action unfolds.

Phillips doesn’t make warn and fuzzy characters which is refreshing. They have depth and texture and are very, very grey. If you like really good crime stories with helpings of art, lust and treachery, then this is a book for you. This is some seriously good old school noir.

I also liked Roddy Doyle’s Love. It is rich and frothy and he is a master at dialogue.

In addition to being a homage to pub culture it is a lovely story about friendship and love that tugs on our inner sense of regret. At a time when we can’t go out it’s nice to read a book about going to the pub and hanging out. The book also has Doyle’s rich characters too which are always intriguing.

The Neal Gaiman Reader is also solid. it is a really good collection of his work that fearers excerpts from his books as well as some short stories.

I do not always like books like these because they often play out like a greatest hits collection or a money grab. However, here the material is so imaginative and rich that it is perfect. Even though I have read most of the 52 pieces collected, it is still a great read in that it is well organized and flows well.

I am a big fan of Gaiman so the odds going in were that I would like it. But I was impressed by the selections featured. there were some I had forgotten and the rediscovery was terrific.

I really love The Reds Pinks & Purples. Glenn Donaldson’s newish project is poptastically exquisite. His latest album, You Might Be Happy Someday is one of my favorite records of 2020. It has lush melodies and catchy lyrics.

There is some melancholy too, but, taken as a whole the album is an uplifting experience that needs to be heard. The mixture of lyrics and music is seamless and the results are wonderful.

One of the things I did love about 2020 was that there was so much good music out. There was a lot. I also love how bands did streaming concerts to make connections with their fans. I watched really good streamed shows from OMD, Hot Chip, Fontaine’s D.C. and Cigarette After Sex.

While all of these were amazing, nothing beat Nick Cave’s Idiot Prayer. It was simply stunning in every way.

Alone at a piano Cave channels his pain through his art, giving us 22 really amazing tracks. I loved Girl In Amber, Galleon Ship, The Mercy Seat and Into My Arms. Also available as a video, this is worth your time. It is really incredible.

I hate putting faith on hope and thinking the road ahead is gonna be better and all that jazz. I am a pragmatist. However, this year so so awful and terrible that even I want there to be some progress in tackling important social issues and moving back to normal in 2021. But, until it happens I will continue to be worried and aggravated by the stupid, selfish and insipid. The one takeaway from 2020 is that it showed how America is a place that needs a ton of work. I fear that calls for unity and togetherness are just going to be unanswered, It’s sad but it’s true.

For now, I just want to get through the coming year in one piece and in better shape than the tattered mess of the present. I want people to be kind and decent and vaccinated. I want art to thrive and people to be treated fairly and with dignity. I want less poor decisions and more opportunity.

Although I want to play more great music on the radio and absorb loads of cool movies, graphic novels books and stuff, I’d like the world to be filled with compassion and caring. More money would be nice too. I know that it is terribly capitalistic, but seriously who doesn’t want a cushion right now.

2020 totally sucked. It was worse than 1848, 1914 or 1939 all rolled into one. So much ion the pain could have bene avoided and people were stupid, shallow and callous. Good riddance. Please let 2021 be better.

Gobble Gobble Hey

It has been a crazy month. I’ve been quarantined and tested and poked and prodded. I had some kind of bug that fortunately didn’t blow up into something worse. but the stress of all that has been a nightmare. Adding to that are the chuckleheads who still don’t follow any sort of common sense and continue to make things worse. Sigh.

The holiday season means this stupid GMC add is back. Who the Hell gives another person a truck anyway? There are some serious economic headaches happening right now and it is crass to encourage people people to spend their cash or go deep into debt for something like this. Plus who lives like this? Certainly no one I know.

Who needs a truck that big? I know there are people who haul and build and move things but these things look like tanks. These are stupid vacuous people.

A few quick points about Thanksgiving

-Miles Standish was a jerk

-The Pilgrims were religious zealots.

-The last piece of turkey is the most important piece of turkey!

-The Native Americans saved the Pilgrims ass that winter!

-Be thankful and be kind

One of my recent discoveries is the New York Adventure Club. They have been doing these online webinars about different topics related to New York.

So far I have watched ones on Mary Pickford, The New York Subway and NYC in the 70s and 80s. All were excellent. They have pivoted to an online format really well and as someone who used to live in the big city, it is a way to reconnect it at a time when I miss it terribly. For info and a list of tours visit: https://www.nyadventureclub.com

There is a new season of The Crown. I have to say that Olivia Colman is just stunning in it. Gillian Anderson’s Thatcher is macabre and terrifying.

The last thing I want to see right now is Thatcher, yet her macabre performance is simply incredible.

The Mandalorian also continues to make me happy. It is so well written and executed within the Star Wars universe. I am curious to see where all of this is going. They are artfully laying little breadcrumbs lying around to tempt us all.

I think I need to watch The Expanse.

The St. Louis International Film Festival is over for 2020. I saw about 19-21 things over the fest and the programming was varied, informative, daring and compelling. There are some amazing filmmakers out there doing great stuff.

I will probably post of other films stuff later as well, but here are three which I think will eventually come out in theaters or streaming.

I really liked The Bare Necessity. It’s an odd and quirky debut film from Erwan Le Duc that really emphasizes living life to the fullest.

A big hit at Cannes, it is a well acted light romp that makes you feel good during all of this mess we are in.

Citizens of the World was another favorite. Directed by Gianni Di Gregorio and starring Ennio Fantastichini, Giorgio Colangeli and the aforementioned Gianni Di Gregorio, it is a calm film about a trio of pensioners who think about bailing on their lives in Rome for better pastures like Bulgaria and the Azores.

Motivated by the high cost of living in Rome and a nagging sense of needing to find fulfillment in their lives they set out on a journey of self discovery. It is warm, funny and I cannot wait to see it again.

Undine is the new film by German auteur Christian Petzold. I loved his previous film, Transit and this one brings some of that cast together into new territories. His films Phoenix and Barbara are also worth investigating.

Franz Rogowski is great in everything and this film is no exception. He’s a master and emoting emotion nonverbally while still being able to be remain intense onscreen.

I have started Scott Eyman’s biography of Cary Grant. I wanted to read something that had politics or heavy history. I have seen a bunch of his movies and after reading a few reviews decided to get this from my library.

His body of work on film is pretty solid and I especially love his stuff with Hitchcock. This has been informative and fun without being over gossipy. As a complete aside, I loved how they had a character on The Flinstones named Cary Granite.

I got asked to do one of these year-end best of music things. It’s been annoying to work on. But it is done.

Here are my favorite 15 records of the year.

Fiona Apple-Fetch the Bolt Cutters-Epic
The Beths-Jump Rope Gazers
Phoebe Bridgers-Punisher-Dead Cceans
Tim Burgess-I Love the New Sky-PIAS
Fontaines D.C,-A Hero’s Death-partisan
I Like Trains-Kompromat-Atlantic Curve
IDLES-Ultra Mon-Partisan
Pet Shop Boys-Hotspot-X2
Porridge Radio-Every Bad-Dead Oceans
Psychedelic Furs-Made of Rain Cooking Vinyl
The Reds, Pinks & Purples-You Might Be happy Someday-Touch Love
Rolling Blackouts coastal Fever-Sideways to New Italy
Run the Jewels RTJ 4-BMG
The Wants-Container-Council Records
X-Alphabetland-Fat Possum

I recently watched a streaming concert by Fontaine’s D.C. It was pretty good. Even without a live audience to interact with they still have a raw and exuberant energy about them. Their new album, A Hero’s Death, dropped in July.

Tom yum soup needs to be more of a thing. It is so good on a cold day.

Well that is a wrap! Wear a mask! Stay safe!

November Spawned A Monster

Sitting down to write this I have been thinking about a lot of things. You know, besides that thing and the other thing. Stuff like, my damn phone was acting up until I got lint out of the charging port and why is the garbage disposal suddenly making noises that sound like crushing bones?

What all of this proves is that it is interesting to discover just how much the mundane of now can become a big deal with these “unprecedented times.” The combined anxiety of so many things right now accentuates everything and send folks into a dither.

With regard to the title of this post, it’s from a Morrissey song and seems appropriate. I remember those halcyon days when Morrissey was just weird and not a complete jerkface. So far, November has been a crappy month with lots of ugly people trying to do ugly things. Whatever happened to that Pope of Mope that was so odd and kooky that we bought all of his singles and 2000 best of compilations?

There’s the one thing that started parties in the streets and celebrations but I am reserving judgement until it is all over. So, with that in mind it is kind of a crappy month. Seriously, enough with storms, hurricanes, COVID and idiots who didn’t take civics class.

I am mostly holding up okay. Entropy seems to have permeated everything, causing frustration and insanity. I am really tired of people freaking out about masks and meeting in large groups and being stupid. It is all so frustrating.

But let us turn to other more interesting things……

The International Space Station is now 20 years old. It must have been cool to be around for those early space missions in the late 1960s where each trip to space was a real big event. It must have been a real thrill ride since the public had a pretty cool idea of what was happening with NASA and its missions. Now it is more of a curiosity for the public, unless you have an interest in science of space stuff.

Still, the fact that people of all kinds of nationalities and backgrounds have lived in space for two decades, in relative harmony, is kind of cool. It would be nice, in this time of division, if something like this was more widely celebrated.

The last week or so has seen some really great night sky viewing. The Full Moon on Halloween was pretty cool.

With the exception of a week or so, we’ve been pretty lucky in these parts to have mostly clear skies at night. It has allowed for some terrific autumnal evenings.

A quick note on Halloween. I got a rock and I hate Kandy Korn.

It is still to early to play Christmas music or put up a tree. However, if that gets someone through all of this emotionally I can’t really argue. This is a big step for me.

I also have no qualms with not doing large gatherings for the holidays. I wish everyone stayed the Hell home.

Maybe it was a pang from not being able to go to a movie theater or I was just nuts, but, I recently got a box of Milk Duds. That was a mistake. Sadly, they all glopped together in the box making it impossible to eat just one without chopping each piece up. That’s a lot of work for mediocre candy.

Nancy Noisemaker, the girl on the 2nd floor, still likes to talk loudly into her cell phone. But at least the loud bowling like sounds have stopped. She is really very nice, but for a person living on her own she sure makes a ton of noise.

One of the happy frustrations of the last few months is that there’s been some good television to watch. A lot of it is streaming stuff, but nonetheless, there is some great stuff out there.

I am far behind with what I want to see. It’s gotten so weird I’ve had to go old school and start making lists. My friend has been recommending a lot of Korean dramas and there is always a plethora of British stuff to watch as well. Then, there’s also PBS stuff and sports and great old shows too. It’s maddening to try and keep it all sorted.

The Crown is starting up again. Olivia Colman is a force of nature in anything. I am fascinated by how good the casting always is.

The last season of Schitt’s Creek has been a nice remedy for when I was sad. It runs the board on emotions and never fails to deliver on giving audiences some laughs when they need them.

Matt Lucas has been a breath of fresh air for The Great British Baking Show (aka The Great British Bake Off in the UK). I still think the original lineup for the show was the best but I am making do.

Lucas’ sense of humor works really well and his interaction with the bakers is a perfect blend of curiosity and sympathy. He has been a real hoot to watch.

The format makes it pretty watchable and the bakers always seem properly British in that they never loosen their reserve. But, the biggest problem I still have with the show is that Paul Hollywood just seems like a big jerk.

I found out he races cars. Of course he does, I am guessing that goes along with the chasing young girls part of his persona.

The Mandalorian is back. Despite some really subpar films, you can always count on some part of the Star Wars universe to come through and cheer you up in dark times. I am hoping Season 2 is just as awesome as Season 1.

It is early in Season 2, but so far we’ve I’ve been pretty happy with things. It’s cool to have the Tuscan Raiders back and Timothy Olyphant was great in the season opener. Boba Fett is maybe back, or its a clone. This makes me happy. I heard he is getting his own series. That is swell.

I finally saw The Go-Gos documentary. Overall, I thought it lived up to the hype. Each one of them has their own issues and problems. they each are kind go a mess. But musically, each of them brought something to the band that made it unique and fun and awesome.

I also really liked seeing the old footage of them when they started out. There is a lot to process but the big takeaway is that Gina Shock is probably the most ground of them all. She has a great laugh too.

Basically, the band got worn out after they became popular and it really accelerated a breakup. Plus there was a to of blow and craziness. Despite this though, it was cool to hear about their chart success and their tours with Madness, The Police and The Specials.

Overall, I would say the film is something that their fans will love as well as anyone who loves ’80s music or is interested in the music business. It’s a very realistic and compelling view about life in rock music.

I have not watched Barnaby Jones or Cannon lately but I love me some Columbo. It is still great. Each of these shows are great in their own way. Cannon has that wavy side hair that needs to be trimmed, Jones is just a guy who you guess smells like a good aftershave and Columbo is a frumpy mess covering a very perceptive mind.

I have been taking advantage of streaming stuff as much as possible. Lately there has been some great live theater to watch from a wide range of sources.

I have enjoyed the The Seattle Shakespeare Company’s production of Richard III. It resonates emotionally and maintains all of its momentum from start to finish.

Presented in an audio format, it does not lose any of the performance’s emotion. It is riveting, well acted and nothing short of amazing.

Playbill presented an encore of the Goodman Theatre’s 1999 production of Death of a Salesman. Starring an unstoppable Brian Dennehy, it eventually went on to Broadway and won four Tony awards. It that was not enough, it also nabbed a slew of Drama Desk awards for acting and directing.

Just as intense now as it was when it got a Pulitzer Prize in 1949, it remains the quintessential American drama. I saw it live in 1999 and was mesmerized by it. Seeing it all these years later that feeling remains unchanged as the production delivers some potent rage, raw angst and tension. Dennehy is a force of nature.

Every year around halloween I watch Ed Wood again. It remains one of my favorite Tim Burton films and I love the ensemble and the soundtrack and the way it looks.

Beneath the schlock and goofiness however, there is great tragedy and sadness with Bela Lugosi. This is because Martin Landau completely inhabits the role and takes over the film. While Johnny Depp is quirky and odd and somewhat affable despite his finer jerk qualities, he simply is outmatched by Landau. Bill Murray is terrifically sublime as well. It is one of his more under appreciated performances.

I love the wacky stupidity of it. I love how it is creepy and spooky while still having no problems at all with mirroring Wood’s own ineptitude. Burton also did a great job of giving some heart to a rogues’ gallery of oddballs, charlatans and misfits. The result is a fun film made by a wonderful ensemble.

With science under such ferocious attack I feel compelled to read more science books. The problem is, I am not a brainiac in these areas but am fairly inquisitive. Sadly, my Catholic education did give me a broad understanding of several concepts and theories which means that I have an appreciation for science and a desire to learn more about it, even though I am not really proficient in any one area.

Usually, I get into some archaeology books that I can dovetail into my love for history and nonfiction. I also love astronomy but the math gets me all the time. Nonetheless, I love reading about it.

Everyone should have a physicist friend to ask questions to. It is so helpful in understanding what is going on.

I read a review of The End of Everything and am pretty curious to check it out. It seems like it won’t overwhelm me too much.

I may also try my hand at the new Brian Greene book, Until the End of Time: Mind, Matter, and Our Search for Meaning in an Evolving Universe. I have seen Greene on PBS and the way he breaks things down is pretty terrific. His books also don’t lose me with lots of smarty pants fiddle faddle.

At a time when everyone is looking for finite numbers and final counts, reading a book that explores infinite possibilities is a welcome sight.

As my city slogs along through a weak economy it is important to support as many of our local restaurants, stores, venues and independent businesses as we can. Most of these are run by really nice, hardworking people who have built something out of their sweat and passion. They deserve your love.

Please buy local and give back to your city. I would not preach about it if I didn’t know so many chefs, bartenders, booksellers, stage crews and business owners who were up late at night trying to plan their next steps.

I wrote about the plight of local bookstores for Sophisticated Living. But don’t just take my word for it, go out and read the blogs, social media and press releases of local entrepreneurs and then see for yourself.

As 2020 winds down I am determined to make it work on my own terms. I will probably fail, but I am determined to get some more reading in and make a dent in all the pop culture I am waiting to consume. From a practical standpoint, I am hoping to make cabbage in a cornfield and find some decent work where I am not an underling getting barked at by a burned out boss whose spirit has been nibbled away by an aching resentment of almost everything.

If that dense;t work then there’s always Vonnegut and Vicodin.

My October Symphony

Welcome to autumn. The leaves have changed and the weather is getting cooler. It has been lovely to take boring walks in this brisk weather. As the temperature drops I will miss reading outside and feeling the sunshine on my face.

It is boots and long jacket weather. I would enjoy the autumn much more however, if I didn’t know that winter was, literally, coming. This would not normally bother me, however, with now so many more allergies, bugs and icky maladies going around one doesn’t want to go out very much.

Everyone with half a brain is on edge, a little worried and kind of frustrated. This could all lead to a really annoying and tough winter. My fear is that the cold weather, fear of a flu outbreak and the continuation of Covid will not be enough to keep the ignorant from wanting to tear down all the precautions and get back to the world that was.

In summary: I am really fed up with these halfwits who don’t understand that the old way of doing things is not coming back anytime soon, if at all. Why are people so reckless and apathetic?

I voted.

I got my flu shot.

I got my pneumonia shot.

I am staying hydrated.

I am not fighting with the stupid.

I went to the DMV on my birthday. It was scary it was Hell. You might as well just pull out a kidney and plop down on the clerk’s desk at this point. DMV offices are some of the drabbest places on Earth.

Tom Yum soup is the best.

It is great for a cold day and for cleaning out congested sinuses. I like mine form Thai 202 in the Central West End.

As a way to not get throttled by the madness of today I have been listening to more jazz and classical music. Lately it has been a lot of Shostakovich, particularly his Symphony No 2 ‘To October’ in B major op 14. The strings in it are exquisite. I also like how it is big and grandiose.

Listening to this made to a bit of thinking about the work and how it fits within the context of the current mood of the world in relation to the October Revolution that Shostakovich’s textured work celebrates.

With that in mind, I decided to dig back into Sheila Fitzpatrick’s seminal The Russian Revolution. Diving back in seemed appropriate. Particularly at a time when the separation of haves and have nots widens and the public discourse over issues of the day is filled with more and more shouting.

Fitzpatrick’s quick and concise narrative takes no sides and presents the complicated story of how those nasty Bolsheviks led Russia down a path to totalitarianism.

Now, as the clock slowly ticks off till the end of the month, the historian in me pauses with an anxious breath. Like the madness of 1917, we are seeing angry masses of people who are fed up and looking for change. Then, the old world was going away and a new one was coming. It wasn’t pleasant or fair or even remotely peaceful. This has not changed much.

As you may have guessed I read books that are dull to most folks. However, recently I have been reading more fiction, mainly the new books by Roddy Doyle and Nick Hornby with intentions of getting to Steinbeck again.

Over the last few weeks, before I got all brooding and serious, I plunged back into some graphic novels. I got caught up with the most recent batch of Moon Knight comics and a return to the Infinity Gauntlet series. I also am revisiting Warren Ellis’ excellent Transmetropolitan series, which also is incredibly timely right now.

With Halloween nearly here, I also returned to Batman: The Long Halloween, a 13 part epic that I like a lot.

In addition to restoring some noir oomph to the series, the story manages to collect all the usual suspects in Batman’s pantheon of baddies into a compelling arc.

There is a lot of bullying and emotional abuse in It’s the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown. Just sayin.’

Despite the fact that it has retained its charm, humor and melancholy, when you peel back the layers there’s a lot wrong with those kids. Charlie Brown is depressed, Lucy is a psychopath, Sally needs to become more liberated and Linus has a whole mess of tings going on with him. Plus, Snoopy is a classic narcissist. I also love how it celebrates bucking the system and finding your own path on your own terms. Linus may be nuts he’s his own man and sticks to his guns.

But maybe the most overlooked aspect of the special is Vince Guaraldi’s score. People tend to think that his work in A Charlie Brown Christmas is his best but I will argue that the music in this special does much more for setting the tone of the piece. It also creates more ambiance that breathes life into the characters.

Covering the five boroughs, art galleries, bars, parks and restaurants it’s a book that explores every facet of the city, from its founding until now.

Knowing all the ins and outs of the city is hard work and this book serves as a nice guide to stuff you don’t get in tourbooks. New York is best when you avoid the beaten path and explore on your own.

The Big Apple has so many things about to learn and now that it is daunting. it is nice t have a concise thing that breaks it down. My other NYC encyclopedia is his mammoth thing that weighs a ton.

The sections on the city’s musical history are particular tight and there’s some neat stuff on the birth of the fountain pen and stuff like that too. There’s a lot to chew on.

I have started Dylan Jones mammoth book on the New Romantic movement. Covering 1975-1985, Sweet Dreams documents the New Romantic movement with a broad palate that includes ska, goth and electronic music.

Jones argues that the movement helped spawn electronic music and I am not sure I agree since there was also house music and Kraftwerk. Ditto for goth which could be argued as a bi-product of punk happening. Again, Jones offers an interesting premise that I had not thought of.

Jones is bold in navigating this time in British pop history. there was a lot happening. Growing out of post-punk (which is still happening concurrently) Jones chronicles the movement’s history from sleazy and glammy clubs o the shores of North America where many artists of this period found success on MTV, leading the so-called “New British Invasion.”

Fortunately, he’s got some big personalities in here, Bowie, Visage, Sade, Ultravox, Adam Ant, Culture Club, Duran Duran and loads more. It is well researched and there’s some great stuff in it. My only problem is that I think he’s overreaching in places.

As we get nearer to the election I have found Lou Reed’s New York to be very prescient.

Released in 1989 and recently reissued in an expanded edition, Reed’s 15th album is full of references to Oliver North, the NRA, Rudy Giuliani, Jesse Jackson and more.

Political but still entrenched in rock n’ roll, Reed’s album is filmic as it sprawls out for nearly a full hour. There’s some harsh criticism of corporate greed, poverty, corrupt politicians and poverty, all things that still resonate today.

Halloween Parade remains one of the most important songs about the AIDS crisis ever recorded. Sick of You name checks the great villains of the city during that period, many of which are still kicking around today.

Taken as a rock album, it fires on every cylinder. It’s a basic rock record with some nice nods ot should and blues in the mix. Even as a concept project it retains the grit that makes Reed’s records so intriguing.

Why are they playing sports? I get it, there’s a lot of scholarships and boredom to appease and TV money to make, but really, to me, it seems insane to even try to put people at risk.

I know that many other cities have a Greekfest and that writing about the one in St. Louis isn’t necessarily a big deal, but I wold be remiss if I did not. I went to the one held in St. Louis County at Assumption Greek Orthodox Church.

Lasting full weekend, it normally is filled with dancing, crafts and music. However, this year’s feta fête, was in the same boat as almost everything else as it pivoted to no entertainment programming but plenty of curbside food.

In the past I have loved to hear the different musicians playing as I wandered the stalls with stuff was being sold. But as good as all of that was, the food was the thing everyone wants.

Pandemic be damned this years festival didn’t disappoint. I could literally eat the dolmades for months. The grape leaves are tightly wrapped nothing inside gets out. The rice was not bland and they didn’t go cheap on giving put taziki sauce. I had a beef and lamb gyro and it was not overcooked. The pita bread was not too try or doughy. The Baklava was also pretty damn good.

As I wind this down I want to send a final note out to support your local indie bookshops. I did a story on this last month and it was really interesting to see everything they are going through right now. Literally every dollar matters. So even if you buy a gift certificate you are helping.

I am trying to keep this shorter than last time. hope that is okay.

The Autumn of My Discontent

I apologize for the long delay in posting. I have been making a list of things to mention and write about but life got in the way. I had a freelance project to do and that pays, so that took priority. I am now getting ready to do another one where I interview a golfer. That should be interesting. I also have been working both jobs and picking up some extra shifts. I realize this is not an excuse for writing but, alas, it is what it is.

A lot of really sad and infuriating stuff has been going down over the last few weeks and I do not want to dwell on it and bring everyone down. But, all I can say is this… be active, participate in the process and make a difference. Also, the stupid can be frustrating. That is what alcohol is for.

My two pre pandemic planned trips in September didn’t happen. I miss travel. Although I have done a lot of traveling from the living room to the back porch recently.

Shifting gears……It takes a special kind of jerk to come into a restaurant or place of business 10 minutes before they close. It is kind of rude. People are winding down and trying to finish things up and go the hell home! Now, with the pandemic, people are even more anxious to get the Hell out of there and get home and clean up, decompress and get on with it. Please do not be that person! When in doubt ask or call first.

Also, where the Hell is all the Lysol disinfect spray?

It is insane. Especially since most everything else is coming back.

I also hate how long it takes after I get home to change, clean up, sanitize stuff and then, maybe get onto other things. It gets tedious. So does the whole wiping everything down a few times a day and making sure the ventilation is happening correctly. But I do it and persevere on.

As much as I love baseball, it is a miracle they are getting the season in. There really shouldn’t be sports and this whole ‘let the kids play’ business is moronic when you consider the bigger picture.

It is kind of sad to see all these schools in Missouri rush with excitement about playing sports. I know there are scholarships and titles to win and all of that, but really, nobody is going anywhere and people can slow down and be safe.

One of the best things about St. Louis is that, as a community, most folks are trying to support local businesses, restaurants and when possible, music venues. This is really, really important! Keep it up.

I love how the St. Louis Symphony are doing all these pop up concerts around town. it is a great way to get people engaged at a time when they need a pick me up.

The only appliance news this time is that there is a new garbage disposal unit and new handles for the sink since there was leaking going on under the sink.

I am thinking of getting a fire pit for when it gets cold. A small one so I can still enjoy some time on my back porch and get some fresh air. It has been a welcome relief to get fresh air in a space free of other people.

I wonder if Pushkin ever owned a fire pit? Probably not because he was born into nobility. Maybe a small makeshift one. But one has to wonder if Pushkin strolled into an ACE hardware store would he be moved to prose? I suspect not.

The holidays are coming. Hide! Again, shop local, shop indie and don’t be an assclown to workers. They are trying to not die. I have no qualms at all with not being with family for Thanksgiving and Christmas. Peace and quiet for the holidays on my own terms sounds great.

A coworker of mine cannot believe I do not watch The Masked Singer. This is because if the apocalypse is coming I want to watch better television. Plus, I tend to hate all of the judges on all of those shows.

Speaking of TV judges, the new season of The Great British Bake Off is on Netflix. It has been terrific. I have not liked the last few seasons but this year, adding Matt Lucas has been great. He is funny, empathetic and a nice counterbalance to Paul Hollywood, who is still kind of a smug git.

The bakers all seem like nice people. I like Rowan, he’s a music teacher and he likes Bowie. He’s also hilariously funny.

I will never be able to make any of this stuff but I totally appreciate the work that goes into it. I also could never handle that much stress crammed into such a short period of time.

Having interviewed the cast of Cobra Kai, I am a bit partial to the show. They are all terribly nice. Ralph Macchio is very gracious and modest and William Zabka is not pretentious at all. In fact, I was kind of caught off guard by his overall niceness. The kid who plays Joey’s son seems like he’s kind of a doofus, but that’s the only complaint I have.

As for the show, yes it is sappy, over the top drama filled with teenage angst and eldercare regret, but it is sure a lot of fun.

It also is great to see everyone completely flip characters that seemed so one dimensional in the 1980s. I also love how it doesn’t take itself too seriously.

I also started watching a Korean drama called Chicago Typewriter. It ran there in 2017 and has been making the rounds globally ever since. Despite being popular it will not have a second series. Most Korean dramas only run one season, however, there have been recent exceptions.

Robustly tense and spanning eighty years, it tells the story of three friends who helped resist the Japanese during their occupation of Korea in the 1930s. Today, they live as reincarnated versions of themselves. Adrift in the modern world, there is a snobbish and arrogant writer named Han Se-joo, whom, after experience a serious case of writers block, hires a ghost writer (with a penchant for jazz and antiques) named Yoo Jin-oh to get hm out of his funk. Their partnership is problematic. Loving fame but resentful of his adoring public, his life is upended when he meets Jeon Seol, an obsessively kooky fan.

It is here, in contemporary times, where the trio must discover themselves again before they seek out elusive answers from their past. Their journey is not easy, but it certainly compelling.

Spanning 16 episodes, Chicago Typewriter is a race against time filled with the usual tropes of redemption, betrayal, loss and love. The series begins as a slow boil before percolating into a compelling story. Jou have to stick with it and it is pretty worth it at the end.

I first saw Chungking Express in 1994 and remember really loving it. The balance of pathos and comedy work well and the acting is great, especially Tony Leung who says volumes with just his castaway glances. Takeshi Kaneshiro and Faye Wong are also both charming in it.

To be honest, I love Wong Kai-wai. For me his nonlinear narratives are not difficult to follow and his films generally translate well to a Western audience. He also has incredibly solid music in his movies which really punctuate the emotional tones he is going for.

I discovered his films in the early and mid-1990s when I dove head first into Hong Kong cinema. Although, most of the films coming to the States in wide, art house releases were solid, I was drawn to the fact that he has interesting characters and is not afraid to surprise his audiences. His cinematography is also magical.

In the Mood for Love and Ashes of Time are two other films of his that impressed me. it also is hard to not like Happy Together, even if it is a be redundant.

Do we need another Lion King movie? No!

I also have no interest in a live action Mulan film. Remaking animated classics is dumb.

In addition to the 2000 other things I’ve told myself I was going to do and because we can’t have nice things or go anywhere now, I have decided to rewatch some Wes Anderson films. My motivation for this is that I want to laugh and appreciate nuanced moments of tenderness and beauty.

I don’t remember seeing The Darjeeling Limited in theaters. In fact, I had very limited memory of any of it. So I got it for my local library and got to it.

I am not the biggest fan of Owen Wilson but he’s okay in this. The triad of him, Adrien Brody and Jason Schwartzman really work wells and they collectively create a very real sense of dysfunction.

Anderson again is visually stunning as he mixes terrifically shot scenes onboard the train with vibrant images of India. It’s beauty, poverty and spiritual resonance seep into every pore of the movie as Anderson skillfully uses the country itself as a character.

I was surprised at how much the zen-like empathy of the film came into sharper clarity amongst the backdrop of contemporary times. Despite the overwhelming sense of melancholy and loss, there is a tenderness lurking beneath the surface. It is perfectly nuanced. The movie’s themes of familial disunity and personal reflection also provide a nice counterbalance to the cinematography and dry humor.

I also loved the music. Anderson always uses interesting sounds in his films and I argue his use of music is as good or better than Tarantino’s when it comes to framing the drama onscreen. Besides, any flick with three Kinks songs in it cannot be all that bad. Plus the Joe Dassin cut he uses is terrific.

On September 29th, 1986 New Order released their 4th studio album, Brotherhood. Having really loved Lowlife, I was looking forward to hearing it. I remember picking it up at West End Wax and then listening to it on the steps across the street from Metro High School where I was waiting to hang out with some friends.

While Bizarre Love Triangle is one of the most heralded and beloved tracks from the ’80s I think some of the album’s other tracks, Paradise, All Day Long and Every Little Counts exemplify that tis was a band really finding their footing.

I remember that Brotherhood was interesting in that a lot of people were expecting a more dance oriented album. Pardon the pun, but it has some real substance to it in the songwriting and production. Peter Hook’s bass really shines here in what is the last record of theirs to really let him do his thing. His bass playing really gives the tracks some texture and helps ease us into all the synths and beats. Weirdo has a vibe to it the makes it an ideal mid album surge of energy.

Looking back, I can’t help but think of it more as an album of a time in my life more than anything else. I do enjoy it, but I cannot hear it without being taken back to an easier time when discovering music was more organic and, in many ways, satisfying.

The band has a new single out called Be a Rebel and a shoe deal with Adidas. Weird.

They also have reissued Power, Corruption and Lies in a new ‘definitive’ edition. I wish they would stop putting out greatest hits albums and reissues and get down to the business of sorting things out with Peter Hook. They sound a bit hollow without him.

Stephen Morris’ new memoir is finally coming out over here in paperback. Released last year in the UK, Record Play Pause finds the New Order percussionist giving his side of the story of events that have been covered in both Bernard Sumner and Peter Hook’s books.

The problem those two are bickering aunts right now so finding out what really went down requires a voice probably somewhere in the middle. This is where Morris comes in.

From his stories of growing up around Manchester to his discovery of music and involvement in Joy Division it is a one of those great memoirs that is also a bit of a snapshot of time and a scrapbook of memories.

However, unlike those two, Morris seems a bit more grounded. With a second volume coming, Morris clearly knows he has a lot of things to say, and he’s pretty good at it. His prose is more casual than his constituents and he’s also more astute in describing the inner workings of both bands.

IDLES!

In a year where everyone wants to scream, yell, stomp around and break things, the arrival of Ultra Mono, the new record from IDLES is well timed.Loud, angry, aggro and fuel injected it’s a record that minces no words. It’s abrasive, catchy and cathartic.

It’s also distorted, disturbing and raucous. Utterly magnificent, it distills the anxiety of Joy Division anxiety with the jitters of Gang of Four, creating songs that are intriguingly blemished yet beautiful. But perhaps the best testament to its greatness is the fact that I cannot stop listening to it.

Mac Davis died this week. He was the man. He acted, he sang and he wrote some of the best songs of the last half century.

Helen Reddy died too. Her career is greatly under appreciated by casual listeners. This is a shame.

We also lost Frederick Hibbert of Toots and the Maytals. Even if you are not a person who is deep into reggae you have probably heard Pressure Drop. I have never really dug as deeply into that genre as I should, I do know that Toots’ voice was golden and smooth.

A pioneer in music for sixty years, his Do the Reggay is considered to be the source for coining ‘reggae’ as a name for an entire genre of music. He also worked with both Willie Nelson and Public Enemy which is pretty cool.

The part where the protagonist comments on the rubbish music he hears at work!

Everyone has to cope with hearing music they dislike while on the job. Whether it is a coworker playing stuff in their office or just bad songs at an office party, suffering through bad tunes is (or was) a part of the American workplace.

Look, I get it, I worked in a record store for six years and heard a lot of music I didn’t necessarily love. But, I can at least say that it was selected by people who had some taste or a sane rationale for what they threw on.

With this context I must say that the music I hear currently at one of my jobs is dreadful. And, even though my hours have been sliced to a laughable four hours a week at that gig (hence needing more than one job) because of Coronavirus, the piped in music I hear there is excrement.

It’s like they took all the worst music featured on the soundtrack for Felicity and dragged it out for eternity. I am not screwing around, this is some seriously bad music. I understand the folks at corporate want to connect with the kids, but doing it by playing the blandest, most mediocre music ever is not the way to go.

I get that I work in a corporate culture that wants to have a pleasant environment for customers, in this case college students. It is the belief that need to hear upbeat pop songs as they look for textbooks that drives their musical selections.

However, it all is played on a programmed cycle where the same tracks are regularly repeated. This, of course, leads to having my ears beaten down during each shift by some awful music.

Here are some examples…..

Weezer’s Beverly Hills gets played every damn day at work. Don’t get me started on how miserable they make me feel. They are so bad that I am glad I have fewer hours so I don’t have to hear it four times a shift. This song is so terrible they had to reuse the hooks of Undone (The Sweater Song) to make it even remotely listenable. In the annals of Western Civilization this record is a low point. To make it worse, they slogged deeper to rock bottom by releasing an annoying cover of Toto.

In addition to some pop from Lady Gaga, Madonna and Katy Perry there is a lot of Coldplay going on. I get it, they are safe and appeal to a wide audience. But my point is that the music I hear while working is so bad that it makes the polishy sounds of that band sound like punk rock.

The other band they abuse my hearing with is The Killers. Why do people like The Killers? They sound like New Order with all the trauma, struggling and hardscrabble of working class Manchester sucked out. Every record they make sounds formulaic and trite.

This brings me to Matchbox Twenty. If You’re Gone is a song I hear every time I work and I hate it. It’s like spending eternity walking around an empty mall. They are terrible. Period. End of story.

Sometimes while I am doing mundane tasks on the job I am interrupted by The All-American Rejects’ Move Along, an utterly useless piece of garbage that causes agony for the ears and dying cells for the brain. Can we trade them for hostages somewhere?

There is not a Turkish prison big enough to hold the sheer craptitude of Blink-182’s All the Small Things. Seriously, they need to do time for their years long con of making American youth think they were cool. They could donate every cent they made to fight hunger and then hang themselves and I would still find them repugnant.

Have you ever had kimchee? If so, then you know it has more flavor than anything by Plain White T’s. Every single time this gets played at work my boss bobs her head and hums along. Kill me. Please make it stop. Oh, and they have the stupidest band name ever. It reeks of suburban uncreativity and parents buying instruments for their entitled kids. Ironically, when I hear Hey There Delilah while folding sweatshirts or stacking coffee mugs I can’t help but feel like this is a band that embodies everything that is wrong with being in a band when you really should think about going to trade school.

Jimmy Eat World. I don’t get it. I have now heard The Middle at least a hundred times and I just cannot fathom how this is appealing. It’s got no soul, no heart and the lyrics are fecal. Call The Hague and try them for crimes against humanity.

Sometimes, you get a hamburger and want to put ketchup on it only to find you have one packet for the whole thing. If this feeling of exasperation could have a musical form it would be Suddenly I See. To her credit K T Tunstall has made a catchy as all giddy record.I can’t say anything bad about it other than it is not my thing. Hearing it so often I cannot help but feel like I am trapped on a show on the CW Network or sitting in a store that sells fancy soap. It is not the best songwriter either. She’s Scottish. Where’s the fierce sense of independence? she sounds like watered down whisky served at Denny’s.

This brings me to Fergie, an artist who, despite understanding how pop music is crafted for the masses, takes the easy road to hitsville by sampling Little Richard’s The Girl Can’t Help It. Another excuse for my boss to bop around, Clumsy is a cheap sham. Because she has enough talent to know better and instead opted to do this, she needs to be held accountable for her misappropriation of someone else’s talent.

I could go on, but you get the gist. The long and short of it is that I take it on the chin each week by exposing my eardrums to nonsense as I work around college kids who have no clue about the pandemic.

Sadly, I don’t think I am going into a movie theater any time soon. In addition to health concerns there just aren’t that many films I want to see right now.

This brings me to Lindy West’s new book. It’s a cracker.

In the book she takes on the popular films of the last few decades and offers sage criticism of why they do and do not work. Her humor is writing and her critiques are spot on. She demystifies classics like Top Gun and Forrest Gump with great fervor and it is a hoot.

Nicky Hornby also has a new book out. Just Like You is another of his works to examine the nature of adult relationships, but this one has a few more twists.

Despite having all the usual ingredient of his previous novels; clever dialogue, references to music and film and rich characters, this one sees Hornby switching things up a bit as he slyly comments on post-Brexit England, love and race. I am curious to see where this one goes.

I also am reading more graphic novels these days. More on that later I guess.

Until then I am just another sad bastard carrying on and doing what I can each day. One thing is certain, living in a ‘challenging’ world filled with insipidly cruel and stupid people is incredibly hard.

Kitchen Sink Drama

So I have been meaning to update this sooner but things have been crazy. I have been been putting in more hours at the university bookstore job and it has been weird since the kids are now back and even though we are only letting 10 in at a time they don’t always pay attention to the rules of social distancing. They are wearing masks though which is a plus. We still don’t have plexiglass at the registers. I am all over corporate about it but I think they are oblivious. My coworkers are trying to be socially distant and most of the kids are as well, but there are still a few knuckleheads out there.

I also have been knee deep in radio stuff. Juxtaposition turned 25 and I had planned a 5 hour show only to have management put the kibosh on that a little more than 48 hours ahead time even though they had two plus weeks notice. Anyway, it is fine, I am just spreading some of the live sessions out over a few weeks instead. Still, I had gone through a lot of archival sessions and interviews and planned a lot which ate up time and delayed getting back to this. However, the point of all of this is that I had a ton of time invested in that which detracted from updating the blog.

This brings us to now. Pretty exciting.

Let’s talk about appliances!

So early, early last Saturday morning I noticed the kitchen sink was filling up with water. It smelled like sulphur and the water was gross. I put on gloves to see if there was a clog in the garbage disposal. There wasn’t so I ran the disposal to see if that helped. It only made more water come up. After cleaning out a few buckets of water and drying up everything I put the stopper over the drain, cleaned up and went to bed. In the morning the water was back, rising past the stopper. It got a bit worse as the morning went on so I had to get more buckets of water out of the sink. it was gross!

I needed up calling maintenance and after a bit of back of forth about getting a person to fix things it was discovered that the cause of all of this was the girl on the second floor dumped more than half a bag of rice in her kitchen sink which clogged everything up. I was hoping that it was not a broken pipe. that would have been a mess. I also was quite happy that no one had to come into the apartment.

This brings me to the point that getting any kind of maintenance help right now is a messy drama. It adds a ton of intense stress as well. Especially, since a lot of people involved in that particular line of work don’t believe in social distancing or necessarily masks.

So, if all of that was not enough the washing machine decided it didn’t want to be polite and operate properly. It stopped working. Luckily, I was able to hang dry a lot of cloths until a guy came to fix that last Monday. In this case the service was prompt and pleasant.

With COVID everyone in learning about new gizmos and gadgets. For me, the month has been filled with learning about MERV filers and circulating fans, this month it is other stuff like ventilation and dry hydrogen.

I picked up a 59s UV-C LED Sterilizer box. it is great for sterling things like pens, my phone, keys, he charging chord, masks, credit cards and everything else that can fit inside of it. It takes about three minutes to use and runs silent.

It has a very abrupt Asian voice that says “sterilizing’ when you start and “sterilizing over” when it is done. In fact, everything about the product is direct and to the point. So far it has been a nice thing to have around in that I don’t need to wash every little thing when I get home.

In other appliance news Deep Thought has arrived. That is the name given to the new air purifier that is lovingly cleaning the air around me (I hope). It reminded me of the TV version of the character from Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, hence the name.

Since I get allergies and want to improve air circulation I thought this could be handy with keeping any of this stuff and any other nasty stuff from blowing around the apartment.

While it does not speak it does know how to circulate in a room. I hope it does not go HAL 9000 on me.

I have spent a lot of time during the pandemic watching movies. Some are ones I have not seen in awhile, some are new and some are ones I just wanted to take a chance on.

One film I saw was It All Came True, a Humphrey Bogart flick from 1940. When I broke my foot in 2010 I was laid up for several weeks at home. During that time I made an effort to see as many of Bogie’s films as I could. To date, I have seen nearly all of them including this one which I rewatched since it is not shown very often.

Although it is not one of his best. It is not terrible either. He plays a gangster named Chips Maguire who is hunkered down in a boarding house after killing an unsavory character named Monks.

Ann Sheridan co-stars as Sarah Jane, a showgirl resident of the house who just happens to recognize Chips but keeps his true identity secret.

Despite a dubious reputation, Chips is basically a nice guy underneath it all. Monks was a real jerk and had it coming, so in the film world, he had it coming.

In the meantime, the affable boarding house owners, Nora Taylor and Maggie Ryan are about to lose everything because of their back tax debts. Down on their luck, Nora and Maggie get a break when Chips decides they could solve their cash problems by turning their stodgy boarding house into a fancy NYC nightclub. As a bonus Sarah Jane could sing there and be discovered.

Like many pictures of that time there is lots of double dealing, frame ups, wisecracking and backstabbing. It also has some pretty schmaltzy stuff in it as well. However, It All Came True is interesting to watch because we see Bogart in a raw phase of his career, eager to break out of gangster roles and develop more rounded characters. As the story unfolds Bogart tries his darnedest to make Chips more than a thug as he smoothes out the edges to make a more developed character for audiences.

There also was a slew of George Raft movies on TCM this month. Background to Danger is a 1943 spy thriller with Peter Lorre and Sydney Greenstreet. Raoul Walsh directed it and some of the script was edited and tightened up by William Faulkner.

The film is set in Turkey and revolves dastardly plot by a group of Nazis (led by Greenstreet) who are trying to turn the neutral country into an Axis power. Raft is an American who is sucked into the action by Russian agents who are fighting to keep Turkey neutral.

It is an entertaining little wartime film with Raft again filling in as a Bogart light character in his performance. However, as in all of his movies, he talks tough, is no nonsense and gets right down to it. The supporting cast is terrific and Greenstreet is gleefully diabolical as a Nazi.

Manpower is another Raft movie, this one with Edward G Robinson from 1941. In it both men play power line workers who become entangled with Marlene Dietrich. The biggest takeaway from it is that being a power line worker is not a fun job. Walsh also directed him in this one which is notorious because Robinson and Raft got in a fight on set which made filming problematic. Also, Raft turned down The Maltese Falcon to make this film.

Raft, who didn’t always make the best life choices, was also famous for hanging out with gangsters and turning down a number of now infamous parts in High Sierra, All Though The Night and allegedly, Casablanca. Sadly, the Scarface star also had a reputation for not being all that warm and fuzzy. Offstage he was often difficult for studios, directors and castmates to work with and his taste in friends put him on the outs in Hollywood.

In Escape Route (titled I’ll Get You in the USA) he is wrapped up in Cold War espionage in London after Russian conduct Western scientists. It it not a particularly thrilling picture nor is it exceptional.

However it is interesting to see that Raft has done zero to hone his craft and improve his technique. he basically is playing the same character he played decades earlier.

Do not watch Brazil in dystopian times. It will frighten you! I watched the Criterion edition a few weeks ago and while I did enjoy seeing the film again it was kind of disturbing in the context of present times.

I have been listening to Grandaddy a bit these days. I never stopped liking them but somehow I just lost touch with them. Although, I have heard the Jason Lytle solo records.

Although it is 20 years old, The Software Slump is still wonderfully majestic. I love how it mixes melancholy and melody perfectly. It does;t bother me that some of the songs are long because they have a real pulse to them and are constructed with narrative in mind. I am not sure how they did it but the band evoked a real mood in their music, warm and sad at once,. it is fascinating.

Smell The Magic, the first album from L7, has been reissued by Sub Pop Records. It is a loud and angry record that still sound fresh today. When I saw them at Lollapalooza 1992 I was backstage waiting to interview a band when they were walking by. They had already played and I mentioned I enjoyed their set. They clearly had been partying. this became obvious when while I was talking to a label rep, Demetra Plakas bit me in the neck. it was hilarious but also weird.

Anyway, I am glad their debut is been remastered. I think it got lost in the shuffle after their success on commercial alternative radio. It really is a solid debut and I hope more people discover them now.

Labor Day was pretty uneventful. The biggest thing was I had to run a few errands and noticed all of the little monsters from Washington University are back. None of them are social distancing. they are in gaggles going on blissfully unaware of the world around them. It is pretty annoying!

I also went to the Missouri Botanical Garden. It was peaceful and serene. The English garden there is terrific and they had a lot of new flowers blooming which was nice. I am glad I went, it was good to get some air.

Today I am hoping to get some chill time in with a book before heading off to work.

Because I fear I am babbling on endlessly, I am gonna call it a post. My next post will probably have some more book stuff and movie things in it. I have been seeing a ton of movies lately.