June Swoon

Well, we’ve reached the halfway point of the year. June has been pretty awful so far. I really want the latter half of the year to be better. But, I’m not holding out a lot of hope.

Man, it’s been hot. I haven’t been going outside very much with all the ghastly weather. I basically am talking my walks super early, before the humidity and extreme heat kick in. What is weirder is that the few weeks before had lovely weather.

To make things even more fun, the allergies kicked in late last month. Joy. All I want is for there to be one season, either nasty hot or annoying allergy-ific spring. The back and forth is pretty annoying.

Top Gun is Stupid

People are all sugared up for the new Top Gun film. I could care less about Top Gun Maverick. I hated the first one. It was stupid, pointless, badly acted, and generally uninteresting. The new one appears to feed on all the flag-waving dumbed-down war porn nostalgia that got us here we are today. I am in the minority here, but it seems stupid and pointless to have a sequel in the first place. Also, it is pretty sad when Tom Cruise has to muscle his way into the Queen’s Jubilee to hawk his movie.

The interesting thing about movies like this is that it appears that nostalgia for films of the 1980s is underway. There is a Dirty Dancing sequel coming amongst other things. I think they are making another Gremlins movie too, and a sequel to Beetlejuice.

Speaking of the unrealistic, the new Downton Abbey film is out. This one had some charm and humor to it and felt like the tv series. It’s sad to watch rich people have their problems. Wait till the Great Depression hits them. It is interesting how the show takes on issues of classicism. Obviously, this is a well-off family, but they aren’t madly insane like others with their money.

Some Books

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how 2022 and 1922 are similar. Both were years with an economy that was slumping after a global pandemic. Both had nationalistic tumult. And each year was rich with innovation, creativity, and artistic achievement.

1922 was the year of the 19th Amendment, Nosferatu, Ulysses, and the dawn of the Roaring 20s. There was a lot going on. There was the finding of King Tut’s tomb, Einstein won the Nobel Prize and the Bauhaus was in full swing.

To wrap my head around what the world was like a century ago, I grabbed Constellation of Genius: 1922: Modernism Year One by Kevin Jackson. Following the year in chronological form, Jackson connects the events of that mad year into a concise volume.

In preparation for the dystopian chasm we are plunging into I picked up Sasha Fletcher’s novel, Be Here to Love Me at the End of the World.

Set in Brooklyn in a world that is frighteningly similar to the present, it’s a sublime story about falling in love as the world is tearing itself apart. Despite the sense of doom and gloom it is a surprisingly powerful read.

Some Music

Everything Was Beautiful by Spiritualized is definitely in my best-of-the-year albums. It’s pretty, tragic, sad, and shimmering all at once.

It’s the sound of hope after pain. Always Together With You starts sad and builds into this Phil Spector wall of sound that craters back into melancholy.

Every Spiritualized record is exquisite and this one is no exception. I love how elegiac it is. I love how it is almost a musical hallucination. There’s even a jet sound on it.

Skinty Fia from Fontaines D.C. is also pretty incredible. Every album they make takes them closer to being massive.

Grian Chatte’s lyrics and vocals are also getting better with each record.

This track is my favorite. I love the percussion on it and how it leads into a nice buzz of guitar sounds. I saw a virtual concert of theirs during the lockdown and it was pretty incredible. There was no audience but they still played their guts out.

From start to finish this entire album is great.

The Umbrellas are from Oakland. they have a real pop sensibility to them that makes their tunes perfectly catchy. They have a twee/C86 influence, however their songs do not sound like they are trapped in the mid 1980s.

In fact, their jangle pop gloriousness has a freshness all of its own. For me, Write It In the Sky is the song of the summer so far. It’s so catchy and perfect.

I saw Kraftwerk last month. It was absolutely incredible. The sound was perfect. The onscreen backing visuals were in 3D and did not disappoint.

They also did a fantastic job of balancing their setlist with a blend of their popular tracks and fan favorites. They played for almost two hours and did not miss a beat And they brought robots!

I am so happy for Kate Bush. She has earned every bit of the success she is getting right now.

Get Off My Damn Lawn

Everyone always gets excited about Fair St. Louis. And every year they forget that it usually rains at some point over Independence Day weekend. The last few years have been warm and dry, but previously, it somehow rained that weekend.

Maybe the showers are a metaphor for the crappy musical entertainment they book each year. In the past, I remember going to the Riverfront and seeing Ray Charles, Elton John, Isaac Hayes, and Al Green. They really knew how to book acts. Now, we have Third Eye Blind to look forward to. Yuck.

When the best thing about your career is you are known for being the guy who dumped Charlize Theron, that’s a pretty telling sign. When your make really bland records and your livelihood is made playing cruise ship retro shows, small-town festivals, and one-off gigs, it is time to quit. I can’t understand how mediocrity like this continues to get booked each year at Fair St. Louis.

This year we also have Coolio, Tone-Loc, and Young MC. At least Coolio made a cookbook.

But seriously, Tone-Loc and Young MC were a big deal when their label, Delicious Vinyl, broke. They both made serious party anthems that made people laugh and feel good. those records are classics. Color Me Badd is on the bill too. Their music is as terrible as their spelling.

My point is this. Wouldn’t it be better to feature a bunch of local artists rather than this stuff? We have tons of local singers, rappers, and indie bands who would be much more entertaining. If we truly want to instill any sense of civic pride about where we live, shouldn’t we support local music at big events like this? “America’s largest birthday party” deserves better.

That is why events like Music at the Intersection are way more interesting. Besides supporting local music, they book national acts-ones that people want to see.

They are hiring people to help clean Busch Stadium. They have overnight shifts available and they pay $19 an hour. That’s terrible. Especially when you have to clean up after drunk Hoosiers, little kids, and Cubs fans. How do people expect to attract workers when they underpay people for really nasty, crappy jobs?

I would love to be able to watch Jeopardy! without having t endure political ads during the breaks

The idiot who blocked the driveway with his car for four days has finally moved it. He got a bunch of tickets but no tow. He needed the car to be there unattended for 120 hours. I do not understand why people are so dumb.

Appliance News

The hot and humid days of the last few weeks have made busting out the rotating fan a necessity. It helps keep the place cool and helps save on running the AC.

Having the newish shower head is great. Although it got installed last fall, it has made taking a shower after coming in from a walk or being outside for a while on a hot day way more bearable.

Epilogue

I understand why people are out and about again. They hated being cooped up inside and couldn’t find enough things to do inside. But, they seem to forget that the pandemic is not quite done yet. Plus it’s brought monkey pox along. that just sounds like a horrible, terrible thing.

As the really sweltering days of summer come rolling at us I am looking forward to hanging out inside, reading, and watching old movies. There’s also way too much streaming content to catch up on, so that will keep me pretty busy too.

I am just super thankful for whoever invented lemonade. I know it was not Orville Redenbacher, but it sure would be cool if it was. That guy rocked a bowtie like nobody else.

Finally, as we get into the dog days of summer, remember to hydrate and be kind!

May is for Misanthropes

So, although it is still early in the month, all signs are pointing to another month of misery and terribleness in the world. The Ukraine situation is not getting any better and it’s just heartbreaking. Plus, the pandemic is not over. Yes, we are holding our own, but we need to still be practical and not stupid.

It has felt weird to be in crowds again and even eat in a restaurant. For me, there is, to an extent, still an odd sense of impending doom with all of this. Some of it is my anxiety, some of it is being inside for two years, and a lot of it is based on dealing with the public at my old job. People are still shitty.

I am settling into the new gig. I like being at home and I only have one thing to focus on which is a nice change. Plus, if I deal with anyone it is at a distance and they are not able to physically annoy me, which is nice.

As someone who is fairly extroverted, the pandemic and the weird period following the lockdowns didn;t really get to me. In fact, I liked being left alone by the masses. Except for movies, concerts, and bookstores, I did not miss a lot.

This brings me back to my main point of thinking… Please do not be an assclown and please be careful out there.

Thinking about the news…

That corrections officer who ran off with a prisoner looks exactly like what you think a corrections officer looks like.

I have made my own judgement on the Johnny Depp and Amber Heard trial. They are both terrible people. Really, no one should really care about this. It’s mindless National Enquirer fodder.

It also is sad how much of a mess our infrastructure is. The roads and bridges here need work, and I suspect it is a lot like this everywhere. There are a lot of really messed up streets and bridges right now. I hope they all get fixed.

Over the last month, I went out into the world. I went to Atlanta for a few days to see Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark (OMD). They were really good. I have seen them before and was glad to see them again. Especially since they did Stanlow, a song about an oil refinery.

It was a nice weekend getaway. The weather there was abysmally hot, I got to see some friends, and I got to see the Puppetry Center which was pretty terrific. They had a pretty good collection of puppets, past and present. A large portion of it is based on the work of Jim Henson and his crew.

Outside of Sesame Street, there as also some pieces from The Muppet Show, The Dark Crystal, and a nice section on the history of puppetry.

I spent a nice afternoon there.

I was a bit chuffed that the Marriott I stayed in had no closets or drawers. They just expect you to plop your suitcase in a corner and live out of it. It’s fine if you are a hostel kind of person, but if you are not, it’s a bit maddening.

Apparently, this is a nationwide kind of thing. I want to know what genius got the idea of taking closets and dressers out of hotels at a time when people are beginning to travel again. it sounds like a giant miscue to me. I know they want to attract younger travelers, but at this point, those folks are going elsewhere.

It is this kind of nonsense that symbolizes the decline of Western civilization as we know it.

I still love Air BNB, but there are times when it isn’t practical in terms of money and location.

The Upthrown Stone

I recently watched The Upthrown Stone, a 1969 film from Sándor Sára.

I was pretty unfamiliar with the films of the Hungarian New Wave, but this story was well-acted and gorgeously shot. It is set in the postwar Hungary of the 1950s, a time when there was a lot of division and angst in rural areas of the nation as gypsy farms and lands of the lower classes were gradually taken from farmers.

In the film, Balázs Pásztor’s father is jailed, forcing him to grow up fast. His father’s incarceration also means he won’t be allowed to attend film school.

Without much of a future, Balázs becomes a surveyor and starts to build a farmhouse with a Greek partisan, Ilias, and his wife. When a government land grab happens, the local peasants blame them for the false promises of the state.

Later on, Balázs works on a film crew to get the experience he is denied by not being admitted to college. As the film progresses, an older, Balázs has become a director. Knowing the power of film, he makes a film about his experiences and the plight of Hungary’s gypsies.

The movie was well-acted and holds up well over five decades after its release. I also liked its pacing.

Everything Everywhere All At Once

I know it is pretty early in the movie calendar year, but so far, Everything Everywhere All At Once is the best thing I have seen this year.

It is not a movie for everyone. You have to pay attention and just go with it, but, in the end, the performances are amazing and the story is gloriously bonkers.

Basically, an interdimensional rupture unravels all known reality, and Evelyn, an unlikely hero with no sense of direction, must fight a range of odd and strange dangers from the multiverse.

While Michelle Yeoh is great as always, Jamie Lee Curtis is terrifically entertaining. The film lets her use her depth and range, something we never see in the Halloween films.

The Cheap Seats

I have been seeing more theater over the last month. The latest touring production of Hairspray was more enjoyable than some of the other recent touring shows at the Fox Theatre. The revived production of My Fair Lady was also really good.

I have seen the touring production of Hamilton twice. What was cool was that the first time I saw it was a show where several of the understudies performed. Most of the leads were the same some of the support characters were replaced.

The second time I went, I had seats that were closer than previously. This meant I could see a lot of the staging better. What is intriguing about Hamilton, besides the songs, is how they transition scenes and move the sets. It is all very clever and sly.

I also saw Stray Dog Theatre’s hilariously goofy Triassic Parq. A spoof of the Jurassic Park franchise, this musical follows the daily drama of the dinosaurs who live on the island where the films take place.

In appliance/household news. The faucets in the bathroom have very small drips going on. They probably need to be replaced. Also, as the hot weather approaches, I am thinking about getting a ceiling fan.

Here I go again, ranting like an old man

I am amazed at how people have reverted back to pre-pandemic behavior with a careless nonchalance. You would think that with no live theater happening for over two years people would show up in time for the curtain. Nope.

The long and short of it is, show up to the damn play on time. it’s a pain in the ass for everyone to stand up and move so people can get by. It makes following the play harder and it is disrespectful to the people making the show happen. If you can make your dinner reservation or be on time for aunt Hilda’s big dinner, you can make a curtain time without bothering others.

I am not sure why I am starting off the month being so grumpy. I am sorry.

But I will say that this is the best time of the year to read new books and hear great new music. and there are some excellent films out.

Binges and Hinges

It’s been a very crazy few weeks. To quote The Smiths, “I was looking for a job, and then I found a job…”

Yes, there is some stability in the cards. I am giving up on depending on just freelance and contract work for a full-time agency gig. I wasn’t doing the hustling and scraping on purpose; it was just the hand I was dealt. You can’t get an agency gig without experience, and you cannot get experience without a job, so it was a crappy circle.

Despite the new content creation gig, I will still do freelance writing and take on clients. But, it won’t be my only way of doing things. But, it does not mean I won’t have to have a part-time hustle anymore.

It is a small firm with maybe six employees, none of which are hipsters. Plus, it is remote, so I can work without a chance of seeing hipsters and too cool for school agency types. There are two types of people who do content creation agency work; those who are chill or those who are annoying. There is no middle ground.

It is a small firm with maybe six employees, none of which are hipsters. Plus, it is remote, so I can work without a chance of seeing hipsters and agency types. There are two types of people who do content creation agency work; those who are chill or those who are annoying. There is no middle ground.

But, for the first time in over three decades, I am not doing any type of customer service or retail!

I quote the great Lloyd Dobler.

I don’t want to sell anything, buy anything, or process anything as a career. I don’t want to sell anything bought or processed, or buy anything sold or processed or process anything sold, bought, or processed, or repair anything sold, bought, or processed. You know, as a career, I don’t want to do that.

It’s sad when a store closes that has been around for over five decades. It’s like it is being placed in a home. The worst part is the vultures who come in waiting for the discount prices to drop to 50% or better. They hover over the things they want. Most of which haven’t sold for a reason. Or worse, they ask a million dumb questions, like “when are you closing?” or “when is the next sale reduction?” Store closings attract weird people. Most of them bring calculators to ensure the markdown is correct. They are truly hideous people.

After years of working in record stores, book stores, libraries, museums, and offices I can certify any statements that people are simply insane. Somewhere along the line people gave up using their brains, thinking for themselves, or learning.

The result is that there are now lots of selfish people out there. Sadly, for the last eight years, at my last gig, I waited on a lot of them. They got enough cigarettes, porn, racing forms, beef jerky and change for parking meters to last a lifetime. Generally, they were rude, and pretty stupid. I will not miss any of that.

It is not quite appliance news, but the toilet got a new flush valve. The old one lasted about 15 years and had seen better days. Now, with the new one added, that ting roars like a jet engine.

The biggest at-home hassle of the month was replacing a hinge on one of the kitchen cabinets. One of them completely snapped off. There was no pulling or extra pressure, it just snapped. It was pretty weird. Once that happened I had to find a replacement.

This was not as easy as I anticipated. As it turns out I needed an 830-40 Soft Close hinge. Every place I tried was out of them. It was crazy.

The only problem is that they do not make them anymore. Luckily, the internet was good to me and I found several replacement options.

The biggest takeaway from all of this is that shopping for cabinet hinges is pretty boring!

I finished binge-watching the latest season of Cobra Kai. It is mindless fun. The show’s soul rests completely on its nostalgia. Between ’80s metal and old clips from the film, it clearly plays with its connections to the past.

There is a lot of melodrama and predictable plot twists, but somehow, it remains an interesting melodrama. Everyone makes poor decisions. Seriously, they all do. All I want is for one of the characters to pause for a minute and reflect on the potential results of their hasty actions.

I guess you could say I just watch it for kicks.

Top Chef is back. It is early, but so far it’s been kind of dull. I hate the fact they are doing it in Texas, where over half the 15 contestants would most likely have problems voting. However, Houston’s diversity and restaurant culture could make the series more interesting as the season progresses.

I am now starting on Station Eleven. It has gotten a lot of really great reviews, and it looks interesting.

I am not sure a series set during a pandemic is the most stable thing to watch, but it looks really good.

I did watch some of the Winter Olympics. While it was not as compelling as previous ones, I enjoyed seeing curling again. I also checked out the biathlon, hockey, and any fast-moving sled thing. Luge, bobsledding, two-person bobsledding, relay bobsledding, bobsledding in kitchens. All of it.

I think the Olympics were missing a soul. They seemed flat. Maybe it was the location or lack of crowds. Instead of having it on to watch, I just tuned in sparsely when the sports I wanted to see were on.

The problem with watching things like the Olympics is that I know that if I ever met any of these people in real life, they probably would be self-centered jerks with massive egos. The curlers seem to have an “everyday person” ethos to them. Maybe that is why I watch it. Or it could be because it is stupid.

Speaking of stupid, this business with the MLB owners and players is annoying. The real people getting hurt are those who work at the games, parking lots, ticket booths, and concession stands. The local businesses that serve that industry are also screwed.

No one should be surprised, rich people have been fighting over crumbs for centuries, and this is no different.

Morris Day can no longer use “Morris Day and the Time” because the Prince estate is claiming ownership. This is a pretty crappy thing to do.

Leave him alone! The man has brought a lot of joy and happiness to people through his music for decades.

I have been listening to Fall In Love Not In Line, the new record from Kids On A Crime Spree. They are an Oakland based three piece trio, comprised of Bill Evans, Rebecca Barron, and Mario Hernandez, who make music meshes power pop, reverb fuzziness, jangly vocals, and blissed out melodies.

It is their first album in 11 years and it is well worth the wait.

I have been enjoying Reversing into The Future: New Wave Graphics 1977 – 1990. It is a wonderful book about album art and graphic design spaning punk, new wave and post-punk eras.

Written by Andrew Krivine (who owns a massive collection of stuff from this era), the book represents a visual history of the period with essays on the art, design, album sleeves, posters, and adverts

The book also signifies how the indie music scene of the time used visual design elements that coincided with the anti-consumerist and anti-materialistic aspects of the music. Eschewing away from the black and white print style of punk, designers within the new wave movement instead favored a more artistic approach. One that incorporated visual style with the music.

I also am revisiting each of Neil Gaiman’s short story collections. I had not read Fragile Things in a few years but recently explored it again, and it did not disappoint.

Currently, I have delved back into Trigger Warning, his most recent collection of short stories. I forgot how dense it was. Each of the stories is wonderfully imaginative. I am still a sucker for The Return of the Thin White Duke, his nod to David Bowie and Nothing O’Clock, his nifty Doctor Who story.

During the pandemic, I saw him do a virtual reading of Click-Clack the Rattlebag that was pretty spooky. Overall, Trigger Warning is a compendium of great stories culled from various sources.

He is doing a speaking tour right now, and I would love to see him, but I’m not sure how the money shakes out.

I was not expecting much from The Batman. I wasn’t really intrigued by the trailers and thought another version of the franchise was redundant.

However, I must admit that this new incarnation of the Caped Crusader plays out like a neo-noir. It is gritty, brutal,l and dark. It also captures the detective feel of the comics which has been missing from other films.

While it has a ridiculous end scene that causes the film to run 15 minutes too long, this mashup of mafia film, cop drama, film noir, and superhero flick captures the grimy aspects of the comics without compromise.

Colin Ferrell damn near steals the film as the Penguin, and Jeffrey Wright is terrific as Jim Gordon. Robert Pattinson’s sulky emo antics got a bit tired, but I am hoping he ups his game in the next films as Bruce Wayne develops further.

Paul Dano is pretty creepy in everything. Here he lets it all loose. Thankfully, they took the Riddler out of the stupid clothes of the comics and cartoons. Now he looks more menacing and contemporary.

Hey, if you are looking for something to listen to and love music, check out Modern Musicology, a podcast that I am on. It has been a lot of fun to do and I hope you check it out. Each week we discuss an interesting topic. Tune in and dig it!

With the cold weather seemingly behind us, I am so looking forward to reading outside in the sunshine again. I like Spring. It is not too hot and it usually features a bevy of interesting new records.

However, what I really want this spring is for an end to the madness and unhinged terror of the world to subside. maybe it will be replaced with kindness and lemonade. I doubt it. But it would be nice.

The Guy Who Came In From the Cold

The weather over the last few weeks has been obnoxiously brutal. I am not a cold-weather person. I do not mind the serenity of a snowstorm, but I certainly don’t want a foot of that stuff, much less sleet and ice.

Going out to shovel the snow this month was unpleasant. I went out after the first storm hit and cleared the front and back steps and made a path along the walkway. I cleared out the driveway as best as I could. But the heaviness of the snow and the nasty 30 mph wind just made me stop.

The problem with this methodology is that you feel frustrated during the entire process. You know that more snow is coming. You know it’s going to be garbage out. But, you also know you need access in and out in case of an emergency.

So with this thinking in my noggin, my dumb ass went out and did some shoveling. It wasn’t all bad. I did it in moderation, and the crisp air was nice when the wind wasn’t whirling. Eventually, I called it a day and went inside to a cup of tea.

I didn’t do my radio show that night, opting instead, to run a prerecorded program from the KDHX archives. I hate missing shows. When it happens,I get this empty feeling in the gut, an unsatisfied fix. Anyway, staying in was the prudent thing to do.

The next morning saw the full force, the big show. All of the weather folks said we were going to get snow, and they were right. It started light and lasted over 12 hours. It was wet, heavy, and compact snow, over a few inches of ice.

I got up that morning and did another go-round with the shovel. It was a pretty crappy endeavor. There was just too much. It was the biggest snowstorm here since 1982 and the second-biggest since 1912.

When it all stopped that early evening I went out, and with the help of a few neighbors, got the driveway, stairs, and entryways done. I also cleared off the sidewalk. While I was outside I could not help but think how nuts you would have to be to live in a climate like that for a long time.

I hate winter. I hope this is the bloody end of the snow for this year. I feel bad for parents that have little mongrels running around sugared up and excited to go out and play in the stuff. I also hate how the entire city freaks out and decides to bum rush the grocery stores and gas stations. It is frightening that people think they need to shop like they are going on a safari or something just because there is a snowstorm coming.

Having no desire to go outside, I spent four days inside doing projects, reading, and watching movies. For someone who has been indoors most of the last two years, being inside because of a winter storm is a piece of cake. It’s not a hard decision really, it’s cold, it’s icy, you cannot see well, and the wind is beastly.

On the positive side, I got a respite from dealing with the public. These days you aren’t sure what to expect when you go out into the world. While there are a lot of kind and empathetic people, there also are morons who deserve the opprobrium heaped on him. Especially selfish people who are oblivious to the world and think everything is about them. Selfish people who seem oblivious to the world, instead of thinking everything is all about them.

While winter storms are an inconvenient disruption, they are also a chance to slow things down, get some projects done and catch up on books, movies, TV, etc.

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I have been hearing more and more about Iceland over the last few years. I worked with a guy who went there often for music festivals, and another friend of mine was there a few times and loved it. Iceland also has become a more frequent subject of travel shows in recent years.

I am also curious about it because I listen to loads of bands from there. There is a musical vibe happening there, and it is so much deeper than Sigur Ros or Bjork.

This, along with my interest in history, led me to How Iceland Changed the World: The Big History of a Small Island by Egill Bjarnson. A journalist based in Reykjavík, who has championed his country in several publications over the years, Bjarnson has written a crisp book about the country he loves.

While I have read books about the Vikings over the years, I had not thought about Erik the Red or Leif Erikson since grade school. When you are young, their exploits capture the imagination. When you read about them as an adult, you quickly discover that Erik the Red was an exiled murderer and Erikson was a religious zealot.

Expanding his narrative to include Greenland and Northern Canada, Bjarnson’s chronicle of the country’s founding is fascinating stuff. Later, he moves on to Iceland’s role in the contemporary world. From creating natural energy to serving as a neutral arbiter in world affairs. Overall, this is a pretty compelling read.

Izumi Suzuki was a Japanese writer, actress, model, and countercultural icon. Her life came to a tragic end in 1986 after she committed suicide. During the last decade of her life, she produced an influential body of radical, punky, and groundbreaking fiction that is only now being discovered by English readers.

Terminal Boredom features an intriguing collection of stories that use gender roles, despair, and isolation as common themes. Translated into English for the first time, there are some great sci-fi elements to her work that are a throwback to some of the best SF of the 70s.

Each of the seven stories featured combines her black humor, sense of irony, and dystopian unease with clever storytelling that never rests on solid ground.

I watched a film from 1961 called The Hoodlum Priest. Filmed on location in St. Louis, it was interesting to note the different settings in the film. The movie is based on the true-life story of Charles, “Dismas” Clark, a Jesuit priest who helped the recently incarcerated find a new life.

The biggest takeaway I got from the movie was that there was a seriously seedy underbelly going on in the city back then. There were a lot of slums, underdeveloped areas, and forlorn residents.

Don Murray and Keir Dullea star in it. Murray played it serious in an intense performance. Dullea was pretty good in his first feature film.

The St. Louis of 1961 does not seem very appealing. Now I know why my mom hated moving here so much.

At the moment there are a lot of great bands coing out of Oakland and the San Francisco Bay area. there’s a lot happening there, and Artsick is at the center of it.

Hailing from Oakland, the band featues Christina Riley of Burnt Palms, bassist Donna McMean from Lunchbox, and drummer Mario Hernandez from Kids on A Crime Spree. energetic and raw,

As a whole, Fingers Crossed is fine collection of eleven songs steeped in power pop melodies and post-punk snarling.

On Fingers Crossed, released via Slumberland Records, the trio makes music that is spirited, and lively, resulting in a slick debut filled with catchy songs and clever melodies.

The Olympics are on. I have not seen as much of it as I would have liked. But the curling and speed skating have been great. The luge, skeleton, and bobsledding have also been competitive.

I watched the biathlon the other day. I still don’t get it. It just seems like a lot of work. Those rifles have to be heavy, and I am sure the athletes are exhausted after finishing.

I also am pretty sure that those kids who do the half-pipe and snowboarding are probably as annoying as the local skateboard kids in my neighborhood.

A few weeks ago saw John Adams conduct the St. Louis Symphony. he debuted a new work and selected a program of exceptional contemporary works. The SLSO has done a great job with social distancing, masking, and keeping people safe. They also got a rad new filtration system.

I have also seen some plays. Most of the smaller companies here are doing a great job of keeping people safe. I saw The Prom at The Fox and was a bit nervous by the volume of people and the great swarm of people who didn’t cover their noses.

In appliance news, I cleared out some calcium from the kitchen sink faucet. The UV sanitizer I got during the pandemic finally crapped out. It served me well.

The biggest domestic hassle was having a hinge snap on one of the kitchen cabinet doors. I jumped online to get a replacement and quickly discovered it had been discontinued. After more digging, I found one from a specialty seller and am hopefully good to go.

I also got some new sneakers for the first time in over two years. Going to a shoe store right now is pretty weird.

That should do it for now. After a slight warmup, it is cold again. People are still weird though. Much more than usual.

Nasty, Brutish and Long: Farewell 2021

Here is my last blog post for a grimy and ugly year.

Although 2021 wasn’t quite the dumpster fire that 2020 was, the year was filled with frustration as the general public, body politic, and powers that be continued to half-ass their way through coming out of the pandemic.

No one gets along. It has stretched into every aspect of society, from the government to retail to restaurants and shipping. It is simply maddening. It made the whole year sadder and really crushed any optimism people may have been feeling.

The most frustrating part of the latest surge is that it easily could have been prevented. For most of us, 2021 was the year that the selfish, intolerant, and entitled ruined everything. Thanks to this obnoxious minority it became impossible to read a paper, watch TV, or go online without getting aggravated or shaking a fist in disbelief.

The weather in St. Louis was pretty decent this year. There was a really long winter spell where I nearly froze my ass off each day, but that run of about two weeks was pretty much all the cold weather we had. We also had a relatively mild summer, which was also a nice escape from our annual humidity. While I did enjoy the weather, the fact that the change in seasons was so drastic worried me.

Moving into a new year I am glad to see so many people getting fed up with their rubbish jobs. Part of the reason why there is a job shortage is that people finally are fed up with abusive customers, low pay, and no advancement.

For these disenfranchised folks, driving an Uber or doing Postmates is an opportunity to make more scratch without dealing with the hassles of working for the man. Personally, I never want to work retail again, it is simply not worth it. As the new year begins, I hope a lot more people get paid more for doing the jobs that form the bulwark of our economy.

Everything NASA did on Mars this year was really cool. From flying helicopters to exploring the Jezero Crater, the Mars mission has been a great distraction from life on Earth.  

Searching for water and trying to understand the Red Planet’s geographical history has given us a ton of data. The amazing photographs sent back were simply astounding. I cannot wait to see what comes next.

With the launch of the James Webb telescope, I feel kind of sad for the Hubble telescope. It is living on borrowed time now. Despite still being useful, it will soon be in the shadow of its more powerful sibling.

However, Hubble has nothing to be ashamed of. It has done an incredible job and given us a greater understanding of the universe.

On a better note, it was an outstanding year for books, movies, and films. There were a lot of great debut records this year. There also were some really interesting records by established artists. In a year of divisiveness and clamoring of nonsense, it was good to know there was a lot of great music to listen to.

While I still have to see some of the movies that are on best-of lists for the year, I have managed to sort out my favorite music of the year. Here is my Best of 2021 Music list in alphabetical order.

Arab Strap-As Days Get Dark

Beachy Head-Beachy Head

The Catenary Wires-Birling Gap

Dry Cleaning-New Long Leg

Ducks Ltd.-Modern Fiction

IDLES-Crawler

Japanese Breakfast-Jubilee

Mogwai-As the Love Continues

The Reds, Pinks, and Purples-Uncommon Weather

The Umbrellas-The Umbrellas

Honorable Mentions

Snail Mail-Valentine

Billy Bragg-The Million Things That Never Happened

Nick Cave & Warren Ellis-Carnage

Desperate Journalist-Maximum Sorrow

Kiwi Jr.-Cooler Returns

Geese-Projector

The Goon Sax-Moon II

Blankenberge-Everything

TV Priest-Uppers

Courtney Barnett-Things Take Time, Take Time

Bobby Gillespie & Jehnny Beth-Utopian Ashes

Piroshka-Love Drips and Gathers

Chime School is from San Francisco. They have an excellent self-titled record out. The “band” is the latest project from Andy Pastalaniec of Pink Films, Cruel Summer, and Seabite.

Released on Slumberland, the album is filled with jangly melodies and well-crafted songs.

Taking cues from the spangled indie pop of the 1990s, Chime School’s record features a collection of whole songs, there’s not a bad one in the bunch. They are well constructed and have some terrific hooks.

The Vaccines have ended the year by releasing a collection of demos from their debut, What Did You Expect from the Vaccines? Formed in South London, the band released their debut album 10 years ago on Sub pop in the USA. Since then they have put out five records in total, but this one is still the best. Raw, rough, and grimy, the songs are catchy despite being layered beneath textures of noise.

In their demo form, all of the songs on that auspicious debut are rougher and more energetic. The proof is in the pudding here, because, even in this infant form, the songs are engaging and energetic.

I am still sorting out my favorite movies of the year. There are still lots of things I need to get to still. I was glad to several great music documentaries: Summer of Soul, The Sparks Brothers, and The Velvet Underground film from Todd Haynes.

I did see Just Look Up. There was a lot of talk about this movie and I was curious to see if it lived up to the hype. It is one of those rare films that is both entertaining and terrifying at the same time. When people watch this film decades from now they will feel the electric tension of the times.

Encapsulating a wide range of contemporary issues, Just Look Up is a satirical science fiction film that resonates loudly. Featuring an all-star cast, it gets its point across without being too preachy. The events depicted would be hilariously funny if they weren’t so true.

I really liked Spider-Man: No Way Home. The first film I saw in a somewhat crowded theater since the pandemic, it was glorious escapism. I was happy to see Alfred Molina turn up again as Dr. Octopus. This time he got to give him some depth, which really helped the character stand out more. Willem Defoe was also terrific, returning again as the Green Goblin.

There is a lot of stuff happening in the MCU right now, and this film may be the most exciting part of it. Having Dr. Strange in perfectly set up the oncoming tragedy of Peter Parker’s life as a hero. Tom Holland is so good you practically forget he’s a grown-ass man playing a teenager. Tragic, comic, and emotional he carries the film.

It was also good to have Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield back. This time they got to dig deeper into their versions of the webslinger, giving their films an epilogue they sorely needed.

Unfortunately, I could care less about the new Batman movie. There have been too many and it is getting insane. I wish there were more original movies instead of adaptations of comics, books, or reboots.

Phillippe Garnier’s book on Hollywood in the 1930s has been an excellent read. Set during a time when Hollywood was still blue collar, gives the screenwriters of this magical time in pictures an overdue reappraisal.

Translated into English, the book gives the screenwriters of the 1930s (Niven Busch, Rowland Brown, Silvia Richards, and Edward Anderson just to name a few) their props for their creativity, determination, and grit. The book also describes how literary figures like James Faulkner toiled away on scripts as they honed their craft. Working long hours, drinking often (i.e. a lot), and avoiding encounters with the law, gangsters, studio executives, and other unsavory types these intrepid souls laid the foundation for Hollywood’s golden age.

Told with vivid clarity, the book also details how the haunts frequented by writers (bookstores, bars, restaurants, and hotels), served as hubs for collaboration that helped birth some of the decade’s best films.

In appliance news, the lettuce recall hit close to home as I had to throw out some me salad that was recalled because of listeria. The recall meant I had to chuck the bad greens out, along with any food next to, on top of, or near it. Then I had to remove everything else and thoroughly clean the refrigerator and the containers holding the rest of the food I could use. Then I had to wipe down all the surfaces where I set the uncontaminated food while I was cleaning the fridge. It took forever.

My old portable phone recharger also kicked the bucket, forcing me to get a new one. The one I had was lightweight and unobtrusive. The new one, a Boosa, is a lot heavier. But it gets points because it is black.

In addition to being mentally exhausting, this year was so long. For a while there I didn’t expect it to ever end. This is mainly because the pandemic slowed things down, but also because I settled into a routine with my remote work.

It sucked not being able to travel this year. I only took two trips. I took a long weekend in Atlanta. I saw some friends outside and socially distant and got to do a few other things in the city. I also took a train to Chicago for my birthday. While a lot of the city was operating on a weird schedule, I still had a nice break from the clustermess that is happening here.

People always mention resolutions as the year winds down. For me, all I want is for people to not be so stupid and selfish. It would be nice if there was a really dull year where nothing happened and everyone got along. Of course, this will not happen. It would be nice if the horse betting, Wall Street Journal reading, nonmaskers got their shit together and made life easier for the rest of us.

In 2022, I would like to eat indoors and maybe go to a bar without worrying about the person next to me being a walking infection. I also want to go to the grocers again and not have to improvise because they are out of weird crap like kimchee or feta cheese. Maybe the roller rinks could reopen?

But when all is said and done, the new year just has to be chill. We’ve all had enough. We are worn out. I want a year that brings me as much joy as hearing Pet Sounds. A year without beatings, shootings, boosters, and reality TV. One with good books, a wider selection of movies, live concerts, and less stress for those working on the frontlines in any capacity.

I hope the next trip around the sound brings enough kindness and normality that I won’t need a stiff drink or meditation to cope each and every bloody day. If only…..

Holiday Sneer

Having spent ages working retail and having a pretty nonexistent family holiday season for the last few decades, I am not a big holiday person. The lights are great, and the kitschy pop culture and fun records of the holiday are also amusing. But, in general, I wish the holiday season was a time of comfort and joy. I am one of those who sneer at the gross excess, annoying car commercials, and the irritating antics of hardcore fundamentalists.

Maybe it is because, as a kid, my parents never overdid it for the holidays. We always had a few gifts, mostly a combination of fun and practical. I was taught to spend the season helping the little guy, those in need, alone or down on their luck.

Twelve years of Catholic school didn’t do much to help either. They rammed Christmas down your throat. It was mass after mass after mass. Having said that, it is nice to hear a proper pipe organ with a good choir.

Overall, the holidays are a bourgeois construct. People lose their damn minds trying to buy stuff. I remember Christmases of the past when there was a clamor for Cabbage Patch Kids, Atari Pac-Man, and hot wheels cars. I must have missed the memo because I wanted other stuff.

Anyway, all I really want for the holidays is for the cadre of idiots out there to put a damn mask on so we can get us over all of this. I also am looking forward to chilling out, watching movies, and maybe having a drink or two. Not too fussy, no oversaturation of consumerism.

I have nothing against the well to do. They can buy all the crappy stuff they want. I just want them to shop at a local business. They can spend till their heart is content, as long as they don’t bother me with it.

Since the onset of the pandemic, I’ve been trying to learn more about artists, authors, and bands that have interested me. For various reasons, I have not had the time to learn about them. But with more time at home, I have been able to delve deeper.

I have always been fascinated with the photography of Don McCullin. His work explores the gritty of urban life, champions the downtrodden, and brings the horrors of war to life.

While his photo sessions with The Beatles are amazing, he is best known for his work in the warzones of Vietnam, Syria, and Northern Ireland, where, as a photojournalist, he brought the horrors of ar to the public consciousness.

amazing as well. He also did some photography of the beats, and his travel photographer is pretty amazing as well. His work has a stark beauty to it. It’s not pretty all the time, but it is provocative.

In exciting household news, the air ducts are cleaned. I had not thought about getting it done for a few years but then I saw a thing on TV and decided it ould not be a bad idea. Fortunately, when they came to clean the ducts they were not in bad shape. There were no dead animals, no massive clumps of yuck, and Osteen-like wads of cash. Since the cleaning, the air has been much better inside the crib.

There also is a new showerhead. The old one was kind of limited and dull, this one changes settings and is removable. It’s pretty nice. With the world being so nutty right now, having an amazingly comfortable shower can go a long way.

I picked up 4K Criterion remaster of Citizen Kane. I got that one because the regular blu ray copies had issues with the first disc and you had to send it back and wait for a new one. It was a hassle.

It looks incredible. I didn’t think that much more could be said on the subject of the film, but that is not the case. There is a ton of extra stuff, including The Hearts of Age, a silent film made by Welles in 1934.

Zhang Yimou is one of my favorite filmmakers. His film work includes Shanghai Triad, Raise the Red Lantern, Hero, House of Flying Daggers, To Live, and so many more. He also directed the opening and closing ceremonies of the Beijing Olympics in 2008.

In addition to being a great storyteller, his use of rich colors makes his movies a sumptuous visual treat. Frequently writing about events in Chinese history, his films focus on the tenacity of everyday Chinese citizens in the face of adversity.

His new film, One Second, was pulled right before a planned screening at the Berlin Film Festival. Fortunately, it was picked up by the St. Louis International Film Festival. Screening only once, I was anxious to see it on a big screen.

One Second is a love letter to film and the power it has to bring communities together, and document important events. Superbly acted, the film is about a man who escapes from prison during Mao’s Cultural Revolution to get a glimpse of his daughter who is appearing in a film screening that is screening in a small town. While it lacks the action and tense drama of his more recent work, One Second has some wonderful comedic moments weaved into its nostalgic narrative.

in addition to making the film festival circuit, the film has gotten picked up by a distributor. I have no idea when it is coming out. Most likely in 2022.

Another film I saw at the festival this year was Memoria. An award winner at the Cannes and Chicago Film Festival, it is coming out in the next week or so nationally. Its distribution is pretty weird. Neon picked up the distribution rights for the United States and they are planning for it to be a “never Ending” release in that it will be shown on one theater screen at a time, week by week, across the country.

Memoria is the Colombian entry for this year’s best foreign film Oscar. A hybrid of drama, fantasy, and science fiction, the film was written by Thai director Apichatpong Weerasethakul whose Uncle Boomee Who Can Recall His Past Lives was terrific.

Here he has Tilda Swinton starring as a woman visiting Bogota because her sister is in the hospital. While there she is awakened in the night by a strange banging noise. At first, she thinks it is a sleep-related issue or some other ailment. However, after hearing the sound in a variety of places, including a restaurant, she begins to investigate.Being the only one to hear this particular sound disturbs her greatly as she seeks help from various people, including a sound engineer and a man living alone in the countryside.

Despite having outstanding sound mixing and incredible cinematography, the film moves at an achingly slow pace. A lot of film reviewers loved it, but, despite being imaginative and having an unexpected crescendo near the end, the film is drawn out, and crawls to a halt several times.

Swinton is terrific in the film, but audiences who miss a second of things often do not know what is going on. If you blink or miss a patch of dialogue you are lost.

There comes a time when you see a film and want it to be great art, but often are left staring at the canvas and wondering what the images mean. This is interesting, and the theater of the mind is always wonderful, but, here it doesn’t work. I also think the rollout for the movie is pretentious and kind of annoying.

The interesting thing about the current Spider Man film, and its predecessors, is that no matter who is cast in the lead role, they can dodo whatever a spider can

Beach House has a new album coming out early next year. It is called Once Twice Melody and it may be the record that gets them over.

Coming in with eighteen tracks, the band has spent the last three years diligently working on it.

The Umbrellas are an indie band from San Francisco. Their self-titled album was oneof my faovrites for the year. They have a very jangly ’80s vibe going on with a pinch of mid 1990s sugar pop thrown in for measure.

The entire album is filled with terrific melodies and clever hooks. It is a wonderfuk work of indie pop. Not too polished, not too grimy.

Billy Idol has made a Chritmas album. We are doomed. Although it has some nice hooks, it does fall flat.

Even in my youth, I knew there was a lot more to the Rankin/Bass holiday specials than was being let on. While they were made as fun entertainment, nearly all of them have some sort of bullying, stereotyping, and emotional abuse happening. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer has the protagonist ostracized for a physical deformity. He is bullied, laughed at, and told he is not worthwhile. Meanwhile, Hermie the Elf is relentlessly taunted and mocked for his life choices.

Then there is Yukon Cornelius. While he seems endearing, he is a pretty greedy guy, driven by a hunt for treasure. He is more accepting than others, but his selfish nature often results in poor decisions. As for Santa, he’s a real piece of work. A blustering autocrat who does not tolerate abnormalities or work delays, he has no interest in Rudolph until he suits his own needs. What a jerk.

The Island of Misfit Toys is pure segregation that implies that if you are not what society thinks of as normal then you should be cast away. Not a wholesome message.

The Year Without A Santa Claus features Santa as kind of a wishy-washy jerk who wants to stay home. He claims to have a bad cold that makes him want to stay home. However, I find it hard to believe that a guy who has made that trip like two million times has never had a cold before. I think he is just burnt out.

That particular special implies that Mrs. Claus is incapable of solving any problems on her own. Well, she proves them all wrong. She is strong-willed, independent, and smarter than her husband. As for the Mizer Brothers, despite their impressive dance numbers, they are reticent fascists who rule their fiefdoms. Depicted as funny, they are uncompromising tyrants.

Santa Claus is Coming to Town is a little better. Here Santa is a noncormmist and a rebel who fights the machinations of authoritarians by being kind. Panfully optimistic, the Santa depicted here uses gifts to gain influence and escape form tight situations. While it is clever and teaches kids that they can share, thsi behavior also implies that people can be bought.

Overall, I think the Rankin/Bass stop motion specials remain entertaining in that they use siniging storytelling to convey the spirit of Christmas. However, they also feature some tewrrible character traits that are not healthy.

Santa Claus is Coming to Town is a little better. Here Santa is a nonconformist and a rebel who fights the machinations of authoritarians by being kind. Painfully optimistic, the Santa depicted here uses gifts to gain influence and escape tight situations. While it is clever and teaches kids that they can share, this behavior also implies that people can be bought.

Overall, I think the Rankin/Bass stop motion specials remain entertaining in that they use singing and storytelling to convey the spirit of Christmas. However, they also feature some terrible character traits that are not healthy.

It is interesting that as you get older you just care less and less about the holidays. I think this feeling runs deeper if you’ve worked with the public during the season. they can be stupid, terrible, selfish, and stupid. But, all of that experience makes you more determined and tenacious in the face of adversity.

Unfortunately, working in retail also wears you down and makes you cynical. It also opens your eyes to how important it is to move away from the materialism of the season. I also think it helps you become more aware of others by underscoring the importance of kindness during the holidays.

Personally, there is something awful about coming into a store five minutes before it closes so that the staff has to undo a bunch of stuff they’ve started working on to close out the day. It’s just rude. Learn some time management people!

Also, people who come to the theater late are annoying.

I’ve been seeing a few plays over the last month. It is great to see live theater again. It also is heartening that the local companies get it by taking precautions for their audiences. Masks are mandatory and they are checking to make sure folks are vaccinated.

The holidays have brought a lull in freelance work. It should pick back up again in early 2022. But, I am glad to have the break. I can catch up on reading and seeing movies. There is also a bunch of streaming stuff I want to see.

Although I am doing a few things out in the world, I am still masking up and being socially distant. The recent surge has made being alert more important than ever. It is still important to not let down your guard.

Man I hope 2022 is better. My fear is that it will turn out to be 2020-two. I hope I am wrong. Either way, I am looking forward to better things, including more kindness from a cruel world.

Throw MAGA from the Train

The Doors sang about how people were strange. Well, if they did that now they would sing about people being stupid. These days, people are being just that. it soent matter what political affiliation they are or where they went to school or what they eat for breakfast, people today are just nuts.

Every day I get up and do my part, only to encounter a bunch of useless imbeciles who don’t do theirs. I might add they also have rubbish taste in films and music. it is all so maddening. Why have people suddenly reverted to pre-COVID 2019? It is like they forgot every lesson they learned and went back to doing everything they could be selfish consumerists again. It amazes me how many people are meandering around aimlessly like there was never a pandemic. I know folks are excited to get back out into the world, but in their excitement to do so they have become nuts.

Another thing is that it’s like there was no reset button. People learned nothing and adapted their post-pandemic behavior in no way at all. They still are rude, talk during movies, cut lines, and drive like imbeciles. They also care nothing about the environment. It’s like they’re feral.

A few weeks ago I took Amtrak to Chicago. It was so much of a change of pace from the insanity of flying right now. The train was clean and the seats were comfortable. Although it takes a lot longer to get there by train from St. Louis, it was nice to not rush and get some serious reading done and listen to music.

Unfortunately, there was a wild pack of assclowns in my car. They were older and going up to Chicago for a weekend. They were excited to smoke cigars, buy very, very pricy whiskey and pick up chicks in clubs. They were annoying! I didn’t have the heart to tell them. that were not going to pick up any “chicks” because they (a) were morons, and (b) no one is going to the disco right now.

But the biggest thing that got on my damn nerves is that they just wouldn’t wear a mask. A few of them half-assed it and wore it under the nose. However, one guy, a painfully tan Kenny Rogers guy, didn’t wear his on the entire trip. I spoke to the conductor about it after he sneezed a few times. But I got nowhere. Finally, I added a third mask and went on with my business pausing every few minutes to process the stupidity coming from his mouth.

It was a full train so I couldn’t move seats. But if I did I would have missed out on stimulating conversation from the Kenny Rogers guy. He would not stop commenting about the black fencing behind the train stations at every stop, saying “I bet the governor’s brother got that contract.” The repetition was friggin’ irritating. Clearly, this is someone who needs attention and has no sense of imagination. Other topics of conversation were Kid Rock, how big courthouses were, gambling, checking into the hotel early, hoping they wouldn’t get shot in Chicago, copy machines, and how nice it was to get away for a party weekend. Yuck.

Coming home was much better. The conductor on the train was snot screwing around you got two warnings about makes and then your ass got thrown off the train. It didn’t matter where. Our car was full but everyone seemed to be quiet and minding their own business. The best part is that they didn’t talk so loudly that everyone knew their business.

It was a quiet evening trip home until we reached Springfield, Illinois. There some moron pulled the emergency switch because he was upset he had t wear a mask. The train crew was apologetic. When this happens there’s a bunch of protocols that are in place they have to follow. It slows everything down. Luckily, they managed to get everything done quickly and threw the culprit off the train.

Despite all of this, I still would take a train now. It is comfortable and you can relax. I would however go, business class, since you don’t (normally) get all the dumbasses that ride in coach, and each seat has outlets for computers, phones, etc.

I had not been in Chicago for over two years. It was weird coming off the train and going into a deserted downtown at 12:30 on a Friday afternoon. Oddly, it was like this for the entire weekend the city was pretty empty. I went to Quimby’s and Myopic Books. Both are terrific, inexpensive, and independently owned. Quimby’s sells zines and a lot of cool indie books you cannot get anywhere else. Myopic has loads of really interesting stuff. Their music and film sections are very strong.

Overall, stores, museums, and businesses were closing early which was kind of weird for a city that is normally so busy. The weather was great so a lot of people were dining outside and walking around Millenium Park. People were wearing masks and being civil except there was not a lot of social distancing happening. I know we are supposed to be ‘coming out of all of this, but I am being careful and vigilant because there are so many morons out there.

One of the biggest things I’ve noticed about Chicago over the years is how the West Loop has gone bonkers. I used to go there for underground parties and concerts, It reminds me of Chelsea in New York now in that the gentrification has just gotten ridiculous and eliminated a lot of the character of the region.

While I still love the more Bohemian eats in Pilsen, I did have. a nice meal at Cabra. I wanted to go to a nice place fr my birthday weekend and this place did not disappoint. Their empanadas and ceviches. were great.

In addition to seeing some old friends in real life, it was great to get back to the Art Institute. In addition to seeing all my favorite works, I got to get a gander at the new Tiffany window that this pretty cool. It came from a church in Pennsylvania and was restored. it looks amazing.

I loved the André Kertész exhibition.

Although the exhibition is pretty small, there’s a lot of really wonderful stuff here. His postcards from Paris give you an idea of what the City of Light was like in the 1920s.

The weather was unseasonably warm which made it great for doing stuff outside. This is good since I was careful about where I was going with the pandemic going on. I did dine outside and wore masks whenever I was inside or around a lot of people.

It is interesting how seriously everyone there is taking mandates. The businesses are drawing in people despite the mandate and restaurants have mostly pivoted to this new world. It is a far cry from here where people bitch and moan about everything.

Every time I go there I find something new and unexpected. That is one of the reasons why I keep going there, even if a lot of the places I love have gone away.

Here are some other things that have bugged me over the last few months…

It has been my experience that people who own large boats, tend to be jerks.’

Law & Order does not need to return.

I have no idea why, but people who own cream-colored patio furniture tend to drive me nuts.

For decades people have bought newspapers, folded them neatly, and carried them under their arms. Now everyone wants them in paper bags. Mother Earth thanks you for doing this you lazy bastards. Newspapers are generally lightweight and foldable. They fit nicely anywhere, so why put them in a bag? Unless sit is raining. Otherwise, it is lazy.

Also, in our age of technological wonder why do people wait around for a receipt when they check out? In some cases, it is like they are waiting for the messiah.

I don’t mean for things that could be returnable or need tracking like a TV, clothes, mail, or groceries, I mean like one candy bar or a can of soda or a pack of smokes. Look in your online banking account. It’s there. why waste paper if you don’t have to?

Yes, I alluded to this earlier, but really, if you have been dying to go back to the movies then shut the hell up during the film. You’ve had 15 months to talk to the person next to you, you can be quiet for two hours.

I still am annoyed by pumpkin pie and sweet potatoes. I understand this makes me even more unpopular.

Candy Corn is just wrong!

People who don’t tip right now are evil and mean.

I have learned that the new season of Top Chef is going to be in Houston. While I have heard the city has an amazing food scene going on, I think they should pull out because of the state’s blatant attempts at voter suppression. I am surprised since Tom and Padma are so in tune with the world.

There’s a lot of music stuff going on. In addition to his recent Nightmare Before Christmas live concert, Danny Elfman has been actively making music! Now soundtrack, but actual noisy music.

While most of us were sitting on our couch during the pandemic Danny Elfman was making music. Not his wonderful cinema compositions, but real, agitated, rock and roll. Arriving 37 years after his debut, So Lo, Big Mess is loud, brazen, and raw.

Much louder and more visceral than his orchestral scores, the album illustrates Elfman’s skill at crafting melodies that mesh styles and forms. The record also is a reminder of Elfman’s terrific songwriting abilities, dusted off here, they have not gone stale.

Amongst my favorites are Sorry, Happy, Love in the Time of Covid, and True. Dark and brooding, We Belong is the perfect mix of the elegiac and the sorrowful.

Wet Leg are from the Isle of Wight. They have a few singles out and an album dropping soon on Domino. They also have some American live dates coming up.

Sonically, they have a terrific sense of melody and their lyrics are gloriously fun. They are going to be huge.

One of the things I did during the pandemic was read a bunch and learn more about the artists I had an interest in but not much knowledge of. I have always liked what I have seen from James Ensor but had not known very much about him. I saw an exhibition of his work at the Art Institute of Chicago a few years ago and ever since then, I wanted to dig deeper.

There was a cool book of his work at a local used bookstore and I picked it up. It was pretty interesting. As a side note, there is a They Might Be Giants song about him too.

His artwork uses distorted forms and features lots of masks and people hiding their true visages. He also has a lot of symbolic imagery going on which is pretty interesting.

As an artist and printmaker, he was a pretty big influence on the Dada movement as well as Expressionists and surrealists. He was pretty dark. His work has a macabre feel to it that celebrates the grotesque, while also satirizing upper-crust privilege. Artistically, lot going on in his noggin.

It was great seeing Dune on the big screen. It looks amazing. The acting was great and the cinematography is gorgeous.

I wrote about it for needcoffee.com!

Anytime you adapt a book it can be problematic. People have their imagery in their minds and trespassing on that will never live up to their concepts or imagination. However here, I don’t have any issue with how characters were depicted. The world building is awesome, and the costumes and effects are great.

I saw Filibus, a 1915 Italian silent film directed by Mario Roncoroni and written by science fiction writer Giovanni Bertinetti.

It has recently been restored, and although it has some glitches in the print, it looks fantastic. Running just over an hour it is formatted as a serial, it is filled with a lot of fun action and swashbuckling antics.

Shot on location in the Italian Riviera, Filibus is about a cross dressing sky pirate who uses her airship to pull off daring capers. Holding a grudge again the well-to do, her robberies and grandiose and bold.

It screened at Webster University and was sponsored by Silents, Please STL who are doing some really coolstuff around town! This makes me happy since I love silent movies!

As the fall moves into the winter the leaves are falling and the commercial wheels of Christmas have already began spin. A few places already have lights up. Ugh! I also don’t want to see that dumb TV commercial where the guy buys his grilfriend a car as a Christmas gift. Who does that?

All I really want for the autumn is to have a real break between Halloween and Christmas. it seems that now the stores just jump into the yuletide season on November 1st and it is kind of dumb. Call me old fashioned, but I like the break. I want some time to prepare for the holidays, or at least, develop an escape plan.

The Sparks Brothers

(NOTE: This has been sitting in my draft folder for ages. I simply forgot to post it. Sorry)

The Sparks Brothers sees Edgar Wright doing something new, a documentary. As a longtime fan, he was itching to cover Sparks, a band that has released over 25 albums over their fifty-year career. But Wright’s obsession does not end there, for this film he has recruited a bevy of famous fans and the bands themselves, to talk about their prolific output, their music and how they have while influenced hundreds of artists around the world.

For more than For five decades, Sparks have generally enjoyed more commercial success in Europe than here at home. Adapting to the times at their own discretion, they have done everything, from glam rock, camp pop, to floor stomping disco, synthpop and art rock.

Like many subjects in Wright’s film, Ron and Russell Mael are not much to look at. Ron’s deadpan humor and curious mustache (part Hitler, part Chaplin) plays well against Russell’s spastic activity. They look weird but make great art. But the best part is, they are gloriously fun and odd.

Filmed in black and white and color, Wright shouts about their greatness from the highest mountaintop, deploying animation, stop motion, archival footage, interviews and testimonials from Neil Gaiman, Beck, Flea, Weird Al Yankovic, Tony Visconti, Giorgio Moroder, New Order and Mike Myers amongst others.

As a diehard fan, Wright is unwavering in pointing out how Ron and Russell’s longevity and resourcefulness impacted future artists. As he notes through interviews, behind their quirky veneer, Sparks are unafraid of being different. They have never accepted conformity. Endearingly energetic, their stubbornness, when paired with a relentless spirit of adventure, has led to their own reinvention several times over.

The documentary also illustrates that Sparks is a band that has experienced both sides of the musical coin. After years of being a ‘cult’ band they achieved some notoriety in American clubs in 1979 with their eighth record, the Giorgio Moroder produced  Nº 1 in Heaven and again in 1983 when they had a Top 40 hit with Cool Places, a collaboration with Jane Wiedlin that got them on MTV and American Bandstand.

Wright is also quick to point out that heir audacity has been epic. From a failed collaboration with Tim Burton to their FFS project with Franz Ferdinand, and their musical, Annette (streaming now) Sparks have always sought to remain relevant.

Ironically, Sparks has always had their own renaissance. This success stems from Sparks’ ability to makes music that meshes melancholy, exuberance and silly commentaries on the contemporary without sounding outdated. As noted by Wright, this formula serves as connection for their multiple eras and various experiments.

Their career of innovation is visually underscored by Wright’s use of television clips, music videos and live performances. He also follows their trajectory chronologically, allowing audiences to move beyond Sparks’ vagueness about their private personas and appreciate their musical legacy.

Wright also sets aside the glowing praise of their famous fans and examines their catalog, paying key attention to several releases, including, Kimono My House, Propaganda, Big Beat, Angst In My Pants, In Outer Space, Music That You Can Dance To, Lil’ Beethoven, Gratuitous Sax & Senseless Violins, Balls, and last year’s A Steady Drip, Drip, Drip. he also previews and their film, Annette, which opened the 2021 Cannes Film Festival.

In addition to the standard rock band bio stuff, Wright also dips into moments of surreal fun as he follows the Maels to some of their favorite haunts as they get coffee, eat ice cream, and work in their private studio. The results of which are heartwarming and hilarious.

With The Sparks Brothers, Edgar Wright once again proves that he is a masterful storyteller. While his previous films have mixed drama, comedy and pathos with clever dialogue and snappy pacing, this one is just as compelling and fun.

A love letter to a band he loves, Wright treats the band with great reverence as he brings their career into a focused celebration of their musical mayhem and kooky brilliance. The film is streaming now and a DVD is coming. For more information on Sparks visit their website http://allsparks.com. The movie is streaming now. Sparks are also touring America in 2022.

Darkness and Door Locks

This is a short post. I am a bit off kilter and wonky. There’s a lot other stuff going on but that will be in the next post. But, in general, June and July were kind of crappy.

Between the variants, the heat, the rain, the stress of getting rid of my mom’s car, work and my perpetual weeding out of stuff, I am pretty knackered.

First, for, the second time in three days, the power went out. It was maddening. The first time it was in dribs and drabs. Then, the power went out and then was on again for ten or so minutes before going out again. It did this about three times before it finally worked itself out. This was near the end of June. it was insane.

After that, however, the power went out for ten hours. Apparently it was because of a fallen tree somewhere. The updates from the electric company were hilariously brief. “We are aware you are without power and have a team assessing the issue.” Then there was, “power is out in your area. We have a team working on it. We will keep you updated when power is restored.” Well, for that one I think I’d have noticed because I wouldn’t be sitting in the dark with a bunch of candles around me reading that. Unless I was Sting. Sting would do that. He did that in that one Police video.

The next text from the electric company mentioned a tree fell and that “additional resources” would be required. This was followed with the same polite “we will keep you updated.” There were maybe six texts total. Each was pretty droll. Then the power went on. I got two texts afterwards telling me the power was on again.

Unfortunately, I didn’t notice the power was back on until about 4:30 in the morning when I got up to get some water. I saw a little light from the computer mousepad. To be sure I had power, I turned on a light and then turned on a fan. Whoopee! But, I was awake then. That was a party.

Once I saw the text telling me I had lost power, (again thanks for noting the obvious), I brought some ice home from work. I saved most of the food in the refrigerator and moved things around so I would not trip and fall in the dark.

Ten hours later it is all done. Despite being a huge aggravation and a stress builder, I did get to take an inventory of candles and flashlights and sort out what worked and didn’t work for next time. The other positive from all of this is that I got to talk to my neighbors which was nice. They are pretty chill people and very outgoing. I had chatted with them on and off as the pandemic deepened into lockdown, but it’d been awhile since I had seen them. They have two very nice dogs.

I was on the porch reading as dusk tuned to darkness. I went inside at around 10 pm but came out again around midnight. It was like a Hitchcock film. Total darkness but sounds from the neighborhood. I could see flashes of lights from my neighbors as they turned flashlights on and off while moving to and fro. The police drove by and shined those huge ass lights they have over a few buildings. That was kind of cinematic.

The timing of the outage was pretty frustrating. I had a lot of stuff I needed to get done and wanted to do, and it all got scratched. But these things happen and there’s not much you can do about it, so you move on. Postscript, I think I’d be fine if this didn’t happen twice in three days. That was the real hassle of it. I didn’t really enjoy the feeling of not knowing what was going on. I did not feel, mad, panicked or helpless, just sort of malcontent and inconvenienced.

In appliance news, although this is not really an appliance thing, the really messed up light switch in the bathroom has finally been fixed. It worked before, but you just had to do this thing where you would move it and press it off to the side as you toggled it up or down.

This is also exciting (not really)! The nappy old front door lock is gone and in its place is a shiny new lock. You could lock the top deadbolt but not the bottom one. I tried new keys and WD40 but had no luck. The lock was over 20 years old and the keys didn’t really work well anymore. Luckily, I found an affordable locksmith who replaced it. He also changed out the crappy one on the back door and re-keyed everything so now one key fits each lock!

When I was looking for a locksmith I made it a point to find someone who was local and independent. The guy I used was terrific. He was a hippie, but I overlooked that. But my point is this, please support your local artisans, craftsmen, workers and businesses. If you buy online, look for someone who is selling their own stuff. Right now, it could be the only income they have.

Turning to weather, have you ever noticed how goofy looking the weather people are in other cities? I know the same could be said about the folks here, but it is really peculiar to see other city’s news and weather teams. When I travel I always try to see what the newspeople look like, especially the weather people. Do they look zany? Do they have bad hair? Do they look like freaky suburbanites? Are they the kind of people you’d find in the stores you never shop at in the mall? Do they look like pedophiles or insider trading criminals? Do they seem kind?

Anyway, Im rambling. As I said, the weather was really ghastly over the last few weeks. It was like Mojave desert hot with an apéritif of humidity. I only went out in the morning for my walks and to run any errands. Beyond that I was inside for a few days. Luckily, the weather over the last week has bottomed out and it has not been terrible. It also has been rainy and humid, but not a furnace.

I am reading Matt Kindt and Jason Hall’s Pistolwhip graphic novel. It is the complete version with some one shots in it as well. So I am pretty much getting all of it. I have been meaning to get to it for awhie and finally set aside the time. It is terrific.

Kindt, who is from St. Louis, weaves together a lot of story lines. It’s dense with drama and the characters never get dull. There are parts you may need to reread as you go along, but generally it is pretty compelling stuff.

It looks like concerts are back in full force. I have started to look at going to a few in 2022. I also am reviewing some live theater again. It has taken forever for the arts to come back and it is great to see so many local companies getting back at it.

I recently ate at Grace Meat +Three. Man, it was seriously good. The greens were amazing and worth the cost alone. I got the mac and cheese as well which was also pretty stellar. I was impressed at how organized they were and handling a long line. The staff was very friendly as well.

Cleveland Heath in Edwardsville, Illinois has gotten rid of their roasted cauliflower. This is a tragedy. Despite this, their mushroom fondue was simply amazing. I had a roasted chicken and it was well seasoned and not dry. They make a mean kale salad as well.

I am lucky to still be working. In addition to my part-time retail thing, I am continuing to work remotely from home doing a bunch of content writing. I love working remote since I don’t have to put up with so many morons who think the world is back to normal. It’s also work in my field which is nice. I did pick up some work writing for a resuable energy company’s catalog. it has been fascinating research. I also am working on an article for I Am East St. Louis magazine.

With hardly any connection to the outside world during the pandemic, I played online board games. It was great since it gave me some socialization and I got to use my brain. I like gaming, but my insane schedule always got in the way of things so this was nice since I could do it at my leisure. There is a beautiful connectivity with board gaming, and right now we could all use that!

Speaking of which, some friends of mine have a board game out! Those who love gaming and want to support local folks should check out Greece Lightning! It is available online or at local gaming stores here.

There is a lot more to come about books, music, and movies. But for now this is a boiled, down simple happenings of the last few weeks. Hopefully, the next post will not be as dull.

I Haven’t Got A Witty Title

I guess I should begin by apologizing for the long delay. It has been a bit of a ride lately. Not that anyone really reads this or waits around for it.

Since I last wrote a post I have become even busier. The store I work at has extended its hours. This means I have about 20 hours a week now rather than 12 or so. It’s not a really great job, but I get to read a lot of newspapers and magazines from around the world and I meet some interesting people.

The big thing, however, is that I also picked up two writing gigs. The first is for a national chain of dentists. I write copy and content for their websites and social media. I also edit and write doctor bios. It’s not the most glamorous job but it pays well. The biggest hassle with it is that I work with this person who has a habit of being really condescending. It’s pretty annoying.

Anyhow, after I started that gig, I got another contract from an ad agency. It’s a shorter thing, mostly project by project. It has fewer hours, but it is still money and it is with an agency so that foot in the door helps a bunch.

The biggest thing about these two things is that they are remote and in my field. For years I have wanted to work in marketing and content creation, and this is my opportunity. However, it is ironic that I waited until the back end of the pandemic to find some steady work.

In addition to these, I also am writing articles when I can for a few magazines and websites. So far I’ve done a theater review, a couple of opera reviews and I just finished writing about a woman who owns a pastry shop in East St. Louis.

Opera Theatre of St. Louis has moved their season outdoors. So far the weather has been terrific for the three shows I have seen. They have done a great job of spacing things out and keeping the shows running smoothly.

It is nice to have the arts back. In so many ways they are leading us out of all this. Sports are too, but that’s different. The arts provide mental stimulation, relaxation, and an opportunity to engage in new ideas, stories and experiences.

St. Louis is really lucky to have such a vibrant theater scene. One that works together and endeavors to make our community a better one. In addition to Opera theater and The Rep, there are so many other companies that are plotting their return to the stage. that is awesome!

I also have seen two films at the Hi-Pointe because everyone there is responsible and sane.

While so many great restaurants have left us in the last year or so, many terrific ones are still around. This is why I am trying to eat and shop local.

Running a restaurant is hard work. It is backbreaking and there is always a worry about money, customers, and competition. It’s a rather rough way to earn a living, so please eat locally and tip when you get a meal!

I am still catching up on TV. I did enjoy The Queen’s Gambit. The overall narrative and pacing were great and the sets and costumes were eye candy in their use of color and pattern schemes. The acting was also pretty darn good too. I also enjoyed how its length was just right. I wish more shows would follow the lead and only release the exact number of episodes needed to tell the story correctly. By not having extended fluff and tight plotlines, the drama was heightened, and thus, more enjoyable.

I am now starting on The NeversThe Expanse, and Resident Alien based on personal recommendations. We shall see how that turns out. If that was not enough, there are still a lot of movies that I want to see too.

Once again I got credentials for the Vienna Shorts film festival. There was some really terrific work in it this year. I particularly loved the animated shorts. Some were delightfully melancholy and some were just tripy and weird.

I also like Bella, a short set in Athens, Greece doing the 1980s. It had a lot of layers to it that made it especially interesting.

Here’s a bit on some books that have interested me lately……

Anthony Bourdain’s World Travel is out. Sadly, it is a reminder of what we’ve lost. He really was a great writer. I don’t think people gave him enough credit for that.

Released posthumously, World Travel features Bourdain profiling some of his favorite places to eat around the globe.

Split into short sections, each filled with wit and insight, the book does suffer a bit from feeling incomplete. Its a great read but you can tell there was supposed to be a lot more.

Continuing on the idea of chefs turned writers is Yes, Chef, an engrossing book from Marcus Samuellson.

Seen on PBS’ No Passport Required and as a guest judge on a bunch of cooking shows, Samuelsson, who runs Red Rooster Harlem, candidly talks about how began his career and worked his way up the ladder to achieve notoriety.

Born in Ethiopia and raised in Sweden, his unique story is told in a refreshingly candid manner. His passion for food and the people who make it is at the core of this warm and candid memoir.

For some unexplained reason, there are a few books on 1984 in bookstores right now. At least one of them looks at the year in sports, while another focuses on the year in American music.

However, for me personally, David Elliott’s 1984: British Pop’s Dividing Year is the definite read on that year.

Told in great detail, the book features an incredibly fascinating year in music. From post punk to synthpop and a rising scene of jazz-flavored artists, Elliott covers it all.

The year saw the rise of The Smiths, an increased presence of socially conscious cuts, and a fierce streak of rebellion that led to some incredible music from a wide range of artists.

As Elliott points out in his self-published work, the specter of nuclear war looming over Thatcher’s Britain helped the pop music rebel, enthrall, and create some incredible music. From MTV to Apartheid and Band-Aid, no stone I left unturned.

I saw some live virtual concerts from Madness and Midge Ure. They were each good in different ways.

The Madness gig was a lot of fun. They played most of their hits and had Roland Gift and Paul Weller turn up to guest sing a few songs.

They also used some skits to break things up a bit and keep things light. I have never sene them live and this was a great way to experience their energy and chaos.

Digging into his catalog as a soloist and member of Visage and Ultravox, Midge Ure’s concert was a career-spanning affair.

Four decades on his voice is still in top form. He did all the hits, Fade To Grey, Reap The Wild Wind, and Vienna along with fan favorites like Mr. X and New Europeans.

Presented more or less as a straightforward barrage of songs, Ure was relentless as he energetically guided his band through the show.

Midge Ure was one of the last shows here in town before last year’s lockdown. I was sick as a dog and could not go.

As things begin to open up let’s all get our bearings……

Yep, in case you missed it COVID is still a thing! Really, I swear! But seriously, the pandemic is still kind of an anxious thing for me. I am vaccinated but am still wearing a mask and being careful. I have mostly eaten outside at restaurants. Going inside to eat still seems weird. I know it may be silly to be cautious but after being inside for so long it just seems like baby steps may be the best way to go.

Despite all the positivity and cheerleading about things going back to normal, I prefer to ride this out a bit longer. This is largely due to the fact that there are still a lot of idiots and morons out there waiting to just be silly and goofy and frustrating in their resistance to facts and science.

And, because there are also people in high places eager to prove them wrong, I just think I am going to be cautiously optimistic until I see more data come in on how things play out with the longevity of the various vaccines and how they hold up against new strains, especially the Indian ones.

I should point out that I am not against getting the vaccine in any way. I think they work and I think they are effective. But, I also know I am likely going to need a booster shot sometime soon. With that in mind, I prefer to be pragmatic in my return to the world of ‘normalcy.’

Anyway, that’s pretty much a rundown of all the shenanigans going on here. Again, I apologize for being so tardy and incredibly dull this time around. Hopefully things won’t be as scattershot next time.

Stay safe.