Monday, August 31, 2009
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
Tuesday, August 25, 2009
American Bill Buford attempted to dissect this mystery in his book, Among The Thugs. While living in England, Buford latched onto various platoons of Manchester United supporters. I think Buford went into this endeavor believing he could provide evidence of a link between football violence and The End of the British Empire. I think he too readily believed that football violence was an outlet for unemployment and other such economic discouragements.
The problem was that as Buford befriended many of these so-called hooligans, he found that many had good jobs and were enormously likable people. What might appear to be unimaginable and incomprehensibly violent acts were a sort of hobby for these folks. Perhaps what happened today is not a statement of labour discontent. I suppose it is more frightening to see it as a nihilistic outlet similar to the one that the combatants sought in the film Fight Club.
Baker was a junkie till death and his battered skeletal appearance contrasts harshly when juxtapositoned with images of the uncommonly good looks of his youth. Chet’s ravaged face resembles a sunburned dust-bowl Okie. Amazingly, Baker’s trumpet playing and pondering, melancholic vocals endure as we watch clips of his European performances.
The film also gives voices to the ex-wives and children who were left in the dust of Chet Baker’s wandering career. All involved are treated empathetically, even Baker himself despite what at times seems to be his senseless path of destruction wrought by his ego and addiction.
If anything, this film reunites me with Baker’s music which will always be everything I look for in music: enchantment, searching, soothing and haunting.
Monday, August 24, 2009
There are dozens of Travis McGee mysteries – one of my earliest posts dealt with The Lonely Silver Rain. There’s no mistaking why mystery writers construct these leading characters as they do – because their target audience is men with marginal control over lives that contain little in the way of adventure and lusty mayhem. Let’s face it – James Bond never did paperwork and Travis McGee never has to punch a time card. (Slimbo learned the hard way that publishers aren’t fond of heroic protagonists who sit in cubicles.)
I brought The Turquoise Lament with me to Hawaii as part of the book takes place there. Any time I’m due to vacation anywhere involving palm trees, I take along some John D. MacDonald. This book has Travis trying to save an old flame, the daughter of a sunken-treasure aficionado. There’s psycho husbands, corrupt lawyers, complex business arrangements and (cue music) murder……
Anyway. Great stuff – totally captures 1970’s laid-back malaise. Also - I borrowed this righteous 1973 first edition from the library – awesome over-the-top illustration of McGee on the cover. Dig those threads!
Sunday, August 23, 2009
Edith finds herself alone after her marriage ends and the peripheral men in her life make their exits. Edie develops a case of alopecia shortly after her relationship with a married man comes to an abrupt end. After the death of Phelan Beale, the trust bequeathed to Edith and Edie runs dry.
Mother and daughter then fortify themselves against the outside world of modernity and change. They attempt to encapsulate their patrician world though all while their home, Grey Gardens, descends into a state of squalid isolation. East Hampton neighbors complain, tabloids take note, and Cousin Jackie herself must make a temporary rescue.
By the 1970’s the high society world of gentrified privilege that created the Beales has waned in influence and relevance. Just as the Beales are oblivious in their Quixote-like resistance, the viewer feels a tremendous admiration for their instinctive endurance.
Tuesday, August 11, 2009
Now when I watch the film Woodstock and see those faces in the crowd, I don’t enviously watch pilgrims of peace and love, striving to create a utopian existence through music. I see a bunch of white kids who, at the mere jingling of Volvo car keys, would later abandon their love beads for lives of materialistic suburban conformity in Reagan’s America. Sure, sure – I know some continued that near-impossible task of taking social justice and idealism into adulthood. But for the most part, Woodstock was just a forum for the timeless holy trinity of youth: get high, get laid, have fun.
One of the most iconic and compelling moments in the film Woodstock is Jimi Hendrix’s 'Star Spangled Banner'. The anthem, distorted and interspersed with bomb-like sound effects, shocks and mesmerizes. Hendrix played in the morning on the last day of the festival. He was supposed to close the festival the night before but amid the shoddy administration of the event, he was delayed. As the camera pans behind Hendrix, we see that most everyone has gone home.
The camera then tightly zooms in on Hendrix’s hands. As he plays his not-so-subtle version of protest, you gravitate away from the anti-war statement being made and find yourself simply amazed that a human being could do what he did with an electric guitar.
After the 'Star Spangled Banner', Hendrix launches into a hasty version of 'Purple Haze' which then morphs into the pondering and beautifully melancholic instrumental, 'Villanova Junction'. As this somewhat somber song continues, the camera pans across what is left of Max Yasgur’s farm and it is a muddy, polluted expanse of garbage and debris. This epic-length film now concludes its kaleidoscopic images of music, youth and beauty with the harrowing sight of acres upon acres of garbage under a slate-grey sky. The image is a fitting bridge between the chaos of the sixties and the oncoming malaise of the seventies which sadly would begin with Hendrix’s overdose and death.
My generation would have its own Woodstock after all. We are a generation motivated and controlled almost exclusively by commercial possibilities and the commercial possibilities of a return to Woodstock were too strong to hold back. Despite a glint of youthful excitement, I elected not to go. After all, you don’t go to sit in the mud of Yasgur’s farm when you’re an accountant. Also, the thought of my generation’s toxic nihilistic brand of music felt inordinately out of place with what Woodstock was allegedly supposed to be. Unfortunately, the 1999 version event turned into a riotous meltdown once the masses of attendees came to the late realization that they’d been thoroughly fleeced by promoters and marketers under the banner of fabricated hippie nostalgia.
Now as we look back on this 40th anniversary of the original Woodstock festival, we could probably use some of that intangible magic that its attendees proclaim. Since the 1999 Woodstock fiasco, something noxious, divisive, apathetic and uncivil has poisoned America’s culture. Reactionary, anti-intellectual vitriol has replaced calm dialogue. I suppose that’s why I pine for this event even though it occurred before I was born. It was free and brimming with optimism. It rained and everyone danced. It was a pocket of peaceful coexistence where young people behaved themselves while old people and law enforcement complemented them for it.
I don’t know. I’ve known a lot of Irish people in my time and I feel as though these descriptions could be generously applied while actual clinical diagnosis would really not be needed. Contemplating some of America's more vociferous Irish-Americans - Joseph McCarthy (lunatic), Sean Hannity (dumb idiot) and Bill O’Reilly (lunatic imbecile) most readily come to mind.
The Fire is what Major League Soccer wants – a competitive team with feisty, moderately well-known players like Claudio Blanco and Brian McBride who play in a beautiful soccer-stadium that usually draws a good, raucous crowd.
But back to the O’Leary’s and their cow – it is alleged they fled Chicago post-fire. They are then said to have settled down south where apparently (if certain family folklore of one particular ex-girlfriend is to be believed), I dated one of their descendants. I’ve no clue of what became of the O’Leary cow. Now that I think about it, I would have put the cow on the badge. Just a thought.
Thursday, August 6, 2009
Wednesday, August 5, 2009
"But I could discover nothing new. I saw only the strange impoverishment that threatened me from all sides. In some mysterious way trusted pleasures and thoughts that had become dear to mme were paling and fading. My profession count not make up for what I was reluctantly leaving behind, for all the lost joys of boyhood; it held no great appeal for me and I was to abandon it before long. It meant no more to me than a way into the world, which I felt sure would offer me new satisfactions. But what would they be?"
Is such dyspepsia the root of my insomnia? Maybe...hell, I don't know.
But to look on the brighter side - one of the few benefits of insomnia is the ability to catch up on independent films as presented on the Sundance Film Channel!
Two films I'd like The Shelf to highlight:
(1) La Fille Coupee en Deax (Girl Cut in Two) (French - directed by Claude Chabrol) - Gabrielle, a young budding television personality, falls in love with an older married man who happens to be a renowned author. Her obsession only brings heartbreak though, when he is unable to leave his wife.
All the while, she is pursued by an erratic young man, Paul. Paul is consumed by a borderline disturbing devotion to Gabrielle. He is also heir to a vast fortune while controlled by a cold calculating mother.
Although Gabrielle aligns herself with the younger Paul her heart still belongs to the older man, Charles. Paul's imbalance worsens as he is increasingly unable to contain his raging obsession with the ghost of Charles and Gabrielle's former affair.
Yeah, yeah, yeah. I know - a bit of a soap opera. Perfect case in point, though - you can make anything in French and I'll be drawn to it like a horny exchange student to a smarmy local.
(2) Garage - (Irish - directed by Lenny Abrahamson) Although the Irish speak English, I was grateful that this film came with subtitles. Garage is set in a rural isolated Ireland that the Celtic Tiger ignored and the rest of us over-romanticise.
Main character Josie leads a sparse life, tending a petrol-station set seemingly in the middle of nowhere. He has a harmless awkwardness about him and you ache as you watch him, time and time again, desperately seeking some sense of social connectivity with others.
His modestly romantic overtures towards a local girl are chillingly rebuffed. His mates at the pub are cruel to him and enormously unlikeable.
A brief spate of companionship comes from David, a fifteen year-old boy brought to work at the garage by Josie's boss. Josie briefly develops a big-brother relationship with David and the exchange between the two, however sparse, is immeasurably tender. But this soon falls to ruin when Josie, seeking some gesture of macho camaraderie, shows David a pornographic video.
David's parents complain and then Josie is in a heap of trouble. Despite the stupid, antisocial nature of what Josie had done, you can't help but to feel sorry for him. Josie is devastated by what transpires and his already marginalized existence seems to be headed towards an end even worse that the anonymous lonely world that greeted us at the start of the film.
Actor Pat Shortt brilliantly delivers Josie to us. I was slayed in the way Shortt could, wordlessly, bring you Josie's obliviousness and devastation.
This film's stark realism and its tangible humanity reminded me in a way of Slingblade.
Tuesday, August 4, 2009
At any rate, as I toil with the enormous question of whether I should give it all up for good, I leave you with some more of my B- art work from the sludge of those times.