Kitchen Sink Drama

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

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

This brings us to now. Pretty exciting.

Let’s talk about appliances!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.