Silents & Some Jams

I am trying to not think about how bizarre things are right now or about the politics of mask wearing and the babbling of fools and madmen. But I will say that people who are not taking any of this seriously are selfishly shallow chuckleheads.

I am back at work. It is only a whopping 5-10 hours a week. Really. It would be absurdist comedy if things were not so serious. We are, for now, closed to the public and, in many ways, it all seems so utterly pointless. We are getting more knickknacks, clothes and textbooks in as we prepare to accept customers. Really who has money for luxury gods like school logo-ed shirts and coffee mugs right now? Also, opening schools is a bad idea.

to make matters worse the in house music they play is wretched. there is like three Coldplay songs on repeat followed by a cavalcade of blasé’, trite and generally insipid pop crapness. It is Hell.

And another thing, those little bastards should all be taking classes at home. They can’t be trusted in public anymore. And they won’t vote. They are all spoiled, selfish and stupid. I wish people that really wanted to go to college could afford it.

Like most people (not the ones in the Ozarks, on planes or in bowling alleys) I have been spending my downtime job hunting, watching movies, reading and listening to lots of music, old and new. Some of this music consumption is because I am inside a lot more and some of it is from planning my KDHX radio show. But either way, there has been some great stuff coming out.

I forgot to post before that I watched the Nick Cave streaming event, Idiot Prayer. The set was amazing. I spent a quiet night watching this and loved it. I was thinking about getting it for a few days and then, about 15 minutes before it started, I decided I needed to see it.

The performance had a strong set list, highlighted by Brompton Oratory and Nobody’s Baby Now. Cave’s voice was in great shape which lent to his strong performance. Watching him live, particularly with this set of songs, you could feel the pain and sadness built up within him over the last two years. He was turning his grief inward.

Speaking of Australians….

Midnight Oil have released their first new song in 17 years. I cannot believe it has been that long. I have always liked how noisy they are and this sounds like that. But what is fascinating about them is that they also have a keen sense of melody in their music.

The band’s new single, Gadigal Land, is everything you would expect from them. It is angry, topical and pointed in its message.

In the pantheon of Australian bands I always preferred them to INXS or Pseudo Echo.

Jarvis Cocker has a new album out. Using the moniker Jarv_Is and reloading with a new band, he is back to making interesting records again. On some of these songs he sounds like Leonard Cohen, which is fine in and of itself, but one hopes his new material will remain lyrically solid.

Cocker has a great ear for music which comes through in this album which is both sonically expansive and melodically unobtrusive. I really liked the first single, House Music All Night Long.

The Fiery Furnaces are back with their first new music since 2009, a 7″ single on Third Man Records called Down at the So and So On Somewhere. It is a shining example of pop fun.

Even though I have enjoyed Eleanor’s solo albums I am happy to see them back as a full fledged band again. The new single is really catchy without relinquishing any of the band’s melodic complexities.

Both of the Eleanor and Matthew Friedberger are from Oak Park, Illinois. My friend Gerry has shown me around there on numerous occasions and on one of them we drove by the house where the Friedbergers grew up in. It was pretty cool.

I am not sure whether this release is just a one off or if it means that an album is coming, but I like it.

Purple Noon is the 4th album from Washed Out (aka Ernest Greene). While I did not love the last two records, this one is a bit of a throwback. While I do not love everything in the chillwave oeuvre, his first two records were pretty tight. I do like the new single, Paralyzed and think it represents that era of his music.

It also has an ’80s vibe going on and it is not hard to imagine hearing it on MTV back in the day. But not the channel now since today’s MTV is rubbish.

So, over the last few weeks I have had a massive freelance writing thing with two very long articles due in short order. They required lots of interviews and research which, sadly, took time away from my movie watching.

It is fine since the need to have income is paramount right now, but it still made me feel like I had no time to get anything done. Between that and hemming a modest 15 hours work week together from two jobs during a pandemic, things were pretty bonkers.

However, I have managed to still see a few things, I like Derry Girls and am still moving towards the end of Schitt’s Creek. The Mandalorian has been great and I have added a few other things to my ‘to watch list.

Last weekend I capitulated and decided to watch something I knew would be utterly useless, Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga.

Man I was totally surprised how fun this was. Will Ferrell hasn’t really had a proper ‘hit’ in ages and I have not really spent time watching his latest movies. but I am glad I caught this one.

The movie is a fictionalized tale of two friends whose dream is to win the Eurovision song contest. It is goofy, stupid and actually pretty funny at a time when laughter is needed.

Rachel McAdams is in it. She too has needed a comeback of sorts. Her chemistry with Ferrell is hilariously wacky. Dan Stevens is also great channeling a smarmy Russian Simon LeBon type.

This over the top nonsense is a reminder that sometimes stupid funny can be a nice escape from reality.

There is nothing stupid funny about Olivia DeHaviland who passed away at 104. She was the last tangent connection to Classic Hollywood. I think my favorite movie of hers is still The Adventures of Robin Hood. I also liked her in Dodge City. I cannot abide by Gone with Wind. It just has no appeal to me.

In most of her films she had this sort of grand aloofness thing going on that I think made many people forget what a powerhouse she was as an actress. Anyway, her passing reminded me of the really nasty feud she had with her sister, Joan Fontaine. It was really, really unsavory and they would snipe and bicker at each other constantly.

Although the two were always competitive most of the public had no idea of their distaste for one another until their ill will manifested itself at the 1942 Oscars. That year their rivalry became really personal when they were both nominated for Best Actress; DeHaviland for Hold Back The Dawn and Fontaine for Suspicion.

Upsetting her sister who was the favorite to grab an Academy Award, Fontaine won and then blew off her sister’s congratulations. Five years later, when DeHaviland grabbed an Oscar for To Each His Own, she returned the favor by not acknowledging her sibling.

If that was not enough their feud was also rooted to affairs of the heart as evidenced by Fontaine’s marriage to her sister’s ex, Brian Aherne. Fontaine also was critical of Olivia’s marriage to the novelist, Marcus Goodrich, something that didn’t help things get better. The sordid history between these two plays out like an episode of Dynasty. It just goes on an on and on. It is kind of sad really.

Speaking of Fontaine, I really like Suspicion. Hitchcock was smart to cast Cary Grant with Fontaine and their chemistry onscreen really worked. I also like how it has some comedic lightness to it that is not found in a lot of Hitchcock films.

Weirdly, Joan Fontaine was in a Cannon two parter I watched last week. Fontaine played a reclusive Hollywood starlet.

Even though her guest starring turn was clearly a cash grab she was pretty entertaining in it. Incidentally, the part of her son was played by Richard Hatch of Battlestar Galactica and The Streets of San Francisco.

Earlier in the week I watched Three Strangers, a nifty little noir from 1946. It was co-written by John Huston and stars Peter Lorre, Sidney Greenstreet and Geraldine Fitzgerald.

I can watch Lorre and Greenstreet in pretty much anything and they both are great here. Lorre plays a down on his luck drunk while Greenstreet plays a solicitor who has fiddled with a wealthy client’s books. Fitzgerald is pretty intense as a scheming woman trying to get her husband back. Alan Napier (Alfred from the Batman tv series) is pretty terrific as David, Fitzgerald’s doomed spouse.

It is set in London on the eve of Chinese New Year in 1938.The whole crux of the film lay in the supernatural belief that Kwan Yin, the Chinese goddess of fortune and destiny will grant their wish, provided they all want the same thing. They settle for money since it appears to be the cure for all ills.

Setting all of their hopes in a winning ticket for the Grand National (a horse race head annually near Liverpool) things go drastically wrong for each of them, leading up to a really dramatic conclusion.

Since we appear to be living in the 1920s again I thought I would kick it old school and watch some silent movies. I began with 1927’s Wings, the first film to win the Academy Award for best picture.

At a time when Lindbergh’s flight made everyone giddy about aviation, William Wellman’s tense drama about two small-town lads who become WW! flying aces is perfect for the time.

Wellman, a former fighter pilot who directed over 80 films, was the perfect person to put this whole thing together. He was the Jerry Bruckheimer of the late 1920s and early 30s.

With Wings, he has crafted an action film loaded with rich characters and plenty of action.

It is easy to see why Clara Bow was such a big deal. She exudes this sort of girl next door charm and certainly is adept at comedy and drama. She also plays an intelligent, albeit lovelorn, character. Here she got top billing even though the film’s load was carried by co-stars Richard Arlen and Buddy Rogers.

I saw Wings a few years ago at Webster University and it was cool seeing it on a big screen. Watching it now on a TV, I thought it was just as spirited and adventurous.For a film that is 93 years old it holds up surprisingly well.

When they say that Louise Brooks was the embodiment of the Roaring ’20s they are pretty right. The epitome of an uninhibited flapper, her work in Pandora’s Box, a film widely panned in 1929 and now hailed as a stunning work of Weimar cinema, made her immortal.

Leaving Kansas for big city aspirations Brooks was a Ziegfeld Girl in NYC before going on to Hollywood and being in W.R. Heart’s posse. There she had a film career that was decent but no shakes in making her a star.

When an opportunity arose to film this movie in Germany, she skipped town, literally dropping everything and bailing. it was smart because she may three film there that launched her to international stardom. The first was G.W. Pabst’s Pandora’s Box.

Despite being made in 1929 there is a lot of stuff that would make the conservative film watcher of today freak out. For starters, it doesn’t have a cheery, crisp, all smiles ending. Then there is the lesbianism, sexual innuendo and murder. Although I am sure they would love the guns.

Starring as Lulu, Brooks is not a willowing dove. A carefree mistress of vacuous morals and selfish motives, she is feisty, freewilled and determined to live on her own terms. Sadly, this is not always the best course of action as she finds herself in terrible situation after terrible situation. As a result, Pandora’s Box is a tense drama that serves as a stylish visual template for Weimar Germany as well as a bold work of cinema.

Without realizing I was following a theme I saw a few of chaplain’s early short films. In those films it is pretty cleat that while Fatty Arbuckle is the star, Chaplin is on a meteoric rise.

This is especially true in The Rounders, The Knockout and Tango Tangles, three pre-WW1 shorts that find Chaplin in hilarious escapades featuring much more physical comedy than the pictures he made later on.

I am a little behind in my book reading for the month. This is mostly because I have been catching up on some magazines that have been piling up. I was overjoyed to find The Believer again. Even though it is, at times, really pretentious, I do love their music coverage.

I also am revved up to read Adrian Tomine’s The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Cartoonist. His memoir details how he became a cartoonist and digs into the nitty gritty of the indie comics industry.

It also is a love affair to comics by an illustrator who really knows how to capture humanity in his work.

This week the exciting world of pandemic cooking includes fresh green peppers and cucumbers that a friend left me. I can use the peppers for curries, some Mexican food and in breakfast omelets while the cucumbers can be incorporated into a sale or some of the Greek stuff I have been making. I also have a few cocktails I want to make with gin and cucumbers.

In appliance news there are some nifty MERV 13 furnace filters installed. A HEPA air filter is likely coming too. With vey allergies and stuff it will get used.

Finally, I have been meaning to mention the hoosier hot tub for awhile now. This started a few weeks ago when we had that nasty heat spell. It reminded me of this woman named Linda I worked with who drove down to the boonies to get a horse trough.

As she explained it, she did this because when it was hot she could fill it with cold water and when it was cold she could use warm water and then sit inside it. I was later informed that this is called a “hoosier hot tub.” Wow.

So for the next week or so, I am hoping to finish a writing project and then get on with a freelance piece that I am getting assigned. I hope to get some more reading in and find as better job. But mostly, I just want to cope and get by like everybody else.

Of Masks and Men

It has been way too long I know. I have been woefully negligent with posting anything but this is mainly because of a combination of going back to work and tackling this crazy series of articles I have due for a magazine.

The articles are fairly intensive with talking to sources, researching and editing. But the tricky bit is that both big assignments are back to back and due on the same day.

Add Zoom calls, my other job and some decluttering and my time has rapidly been filling up. It has been kind of annoying to be so busy during a time when folks are still on lockdown.

Another thing that has kept me frazzled is the way people are casting aside sage advice in favor of listening to morons. Somewhere out there, in the weirdest parts of America, Carol and Stanley Idiot are just hanging around, selfishly refusing to wear a mask, social distance or show any sense of compassion for their fellow man.

Carol and Stanley Idiot are the dumbest form of sheep. Inconvenienced by wearing a mask to help flatten the curve but exuberantly happy to wear a hunting mask when they out to kill some squirrel or whatever it is they eat. For all I know it could be possum. Sadly they are part of the new normal.

But the point being is that when John Steinbeck created a really interesting character named Lennie Small he had no idea that over eight decades there would be thousands of people walking the planet who were just as mentally challenged. Unlike Lennie though, their mental challenges are self-inflicted and their big hearts are nonexistent.

I also have had a pileup of stuff to transcribe and edit and fiddle with and it is time consuming. I also have been interviewing folks for the KDHX website which has been fun. So far I have interviewed Kathy Valentine of The Go-Go’s, John Doe of X, Hazel English, Tim Burgess of The Charlatans and Chris Frantz of Talking Heads. All of that has kept me busy.

Both Valentine and Frantz have books out which is why I talked to them. Remain in Love is Frantz’s new book. It covers a lot of ground and is a great oral history of New York in the 1970s, a time when so much was happening. There’s a lot of ground covered, Lou Reed, Andy Warhol, The Ramones, the Bowery etc..

But the really interesting stuff is about David Byrne and his relationship with the rest of Talking Heads. It was not rosy.

It is not pretty. I won’t ruin anything but as someone who is a fan of his music it put me in a weird spot emotionally. He was kind of a jerk back then and I sincerely hope he has mellowed with age.

Frantz also has managed to have an amazing love affair with Tina Weymouth and the book goes into that as well. It is very heartwarming in these crappy times.

Here is a link to my interview with Tim Burgess. his Twitter listening parties have been a great time occupier during all of this.

https://kdhx.org/articles/music-news/2051-telling-stories-with-tim-burgess

After talking to Burgess, which I might add was pretty cool, I got his first book. Going into the interview I was expecting him to be aloof and kind of distant. instead he was jovial, although serious, and very nice. He’s lived a real rock star life and his band is still under appreciated in the States in my opinion.

The first time I heard The Only One I Know was in 1990. My friend Jennifer took me to Wax Trax Records in Chicago and I was scouring the imports bin. The guy at the counter threw the 12″ single on and it began to play. I was in a different row from her but we could see each other. There we were, her with wildly black disheveled hair and I with a short mop, both decked out in leather jackets trying to just not stick out.

The record started and we both did that cool head bob thing you do when you her a record that hits like a delicacy on the tongue or good whiskey. it was pretty cool. I somehow managed to get one of the last codes of the damn thing and spent the rest of the day grasping it like a nun with a rosary.

From that point on I have checked in on them now and then. I think they are a great singles band with a few great albums smattered in-between. Burgess knows how to take his influences and pour them back into his music which is harder to do than it may appear.

As for his book, Telling Stories is pretty straightforward. It is a quick read and Burgess does indeed have stories that are informative, funny and insightful. Burgess has a new book, One Two Another coming out over here soon. it is a collection of lyrics accompanied by lyrics and annotations.

Now onto The Wants. They are from Brooklyn. they have a new record out called Container that is rad. They have this Interpol/Gang of Four thing going on and it totally works. They are grimy and dark and murky and they have great chords.

Their new ‘single’ is The Motor.

Fear My Society is also really good.

Beneath the surface is a serious sense for pop sensibility that also plugs into a minimal techno vibe in a few places. These guys sound like all the dark underbelly of New York places that I used to go to when New York still had such things. If you want more info on these guys check them out on social media or here: https://thewantsnyc.bandcamp.com

IDLES have a new record coming out called Ultra Mono. I love IDLES. they make great musical hissyfits and Joe Talbot has a distinctive voice. I also love that they are mostly angry. Grounds is their latest single and it does not disappoint. It flails uncontrollably in a wash of snarls and abrasive guitars.

IDLES are the perfect band for the disenfranchised minority. In this case that minority are people who appreciate the awesomeness of loud, angry post-punk and want to punch Nickelback in the face. Their songs are intense, crunchy and filled with lyrics that are clever and sly. They are the real deal.

I started watching The Mandalorian which has been a nice break from the hell we are living in. I am that guy too, the one guy that thinks there is too much Baby Yoda. But it is not that big of a deal. Beyond that there is some real character development going on. And I love that it is a Western.

I also started watching Derry Girls which has been fun. I have not needed subtitles. I have heard some Americans “don’t understand” the accents. If you are American and cannot understand an Irish accent by now I can’t help you. Just saying.

Schitt’s Creek is still great and I never want it to end.

I have taken the plunge and started watching The Expanse. There is a lot going on and they just throw you in feet first.

Nonetheless, it is just gritty enough to keep me curious. It isn’t shiny or cute either which is good. At first I thought the premise was a bit hokey but it grew on me.

Edward Hopper has kept me sane during the pandemic. So many of his paintings feature figures that are in isolation despite being in a large city. His elegant landscapes of urban areas are beautiful but desolate.

As this thing goes on I find myself looking at his work and finding comfort. If there are people in his paintings they look burdened or miserable or just tired. People can relate to that. If they are landscapes or houses or gas stations they are appear desolate and abandoned. the tis another thing that resonates today. They drip of melancholy and that makes me oddly calm.

Appliance news for this month……

There is a spiffy new rotating fan that has really helped cut down on running the AC. We also got some new hospital grade air filters. Hopefully that will help keep germs and viruses at bay, or at least slow things down.

Not quite an appliance but there is a new kitchen table. It has opened up some space in way too small kitchen which is fantastic. It is nice to have the extra space.

There has been workmen outside the apartment playing terrible classic rock for the better part of two weeks now. It is like an obstacle course trying to get around them because they are of the ilk that doesn’t social distance, even outside. They are nice but….

  • 1. They have crap taste in music
  • 2. I do not know what form of English they speak
  • 3. They love to litter
  • 4. They don’t clean up after themselves
  • 5. See social distancing complaint above.

Anyway, the poor bastards have bene out in the heat taking down hornets nest and walking on roofs so I can cut them some slack. They have a cherry picker that has been out in front for a while and they love it. They go up and down all day like giddy school kids.

Randomness…

I need to see that damn comet.

They should not be playing sports.

Selfish & stupid people are going to be the end of us.

On some mornings I find myself watching old timey steam trains in North Wales. They are on webcam and you can see them as they come and go. Everyone is socially distant and wearing masks. They run mostly from Porthmadog and Tan y Bwlch.

You can see the mountains of Snowdonia in the background too which is also calming. My dad worked for a railroad and I remember when he took me to the roundhouse and it was pretty cool.

Link: https://www.festrail.co.uk

I miss being able to travel. I still have no desire to eat inside a restaurant or go bowling. I wish I could say this is all going away, but nope it is not.

I just want one day where it does;t feel like 2020 is piling on. Just one. Ok, maybe a few. Like the rest of the year.