Wednesday, August 16, 2017


The King died forty years ago. Can you believe it?  Elvis Presley, maybe still the biggest rock star ever, has been gone for two generations.

He was only 42 when his body gave out, but he'd lived several lifetimes by that point.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Bully For You, Children For Me

I've been reading up on two playwrights, Oscar Wilde and Eugene O'Neill.  In most ways they couldn't have been more different, but they had one similarity--both were children of fairly well-known fathers.

Actually, both Wilde's parents were famous in their day.  Sir William Wilde was a surgeon, but also a notable archaeologist and author.  Jane Wilde was a poet and political activist.

James O'Neill was a popular actor, best known in his time for his many performances of The Count Of Monte Cristo

It can be tough for children to grow up in the shadow of eminent parents.  But both Oscar and Eugene far outstripped them, so much so that today William and Jane and James are almost solely known as the parents of their famed children

William Wilde died before his son truly started his literary career, while Jane Wilde lived long enough to see her son's reputation fall into disrepute.  I wonder how they'd feel if they knew they'd be remembered, but only because their son would be so famous (and completely rehabilitated in the public eye).

And what would James O'Neill, a celebrity, feel about being best known today as the original version of the father in what is probably his son's greatest work, Long Day's Journey Into Night?  Perhaps he's feel better about it if the portrait he inspired wasn't so lacerating.

Monday, August 14, 2017

It's GOTten Real

The somewhat deceptively named "Eastwatch," the fifth episode of the seventh season of Game Of Thrones, offered a lot.  It didn't have a big fight at the end, so some may have been disappointed, but that's not why I watch the show.

We start with the aftermath of the big battle--now featuring a dragon-y goodness--from last week.  If there was any doubt as to Jaime and Bronn's fate, fear not.  Bronn comes up out the water--surprisingly far from where he went in--and pulls out Jaime.  Bronn won't let his meal ticket die, and neither will the show, just yet.

The Kingslayer just wanted to end the war by attacking Dany--it's what he does.  But that's a no-go with dragons.  Now, however, they've both seen warfare with dragons, and realize something has to change.  Dany's the one with the atom bomb.  Jaime will tell his sister, but how will that go?

Tyrion looks at the brutal aftermath.  Dany address the Lannister troops still alive.  She doesn't want this, she wants a better world.  So bend the knee or die.  One who won't bend is Randyll Tarly.  Enjoy your honor for another minute, Tarl.  His son Dickon agrees, and off they go--no one will ever confuse his name again.  Tyrion advises mercy, but that's not how Dany works it.

There's been some dispute over whether Dany would save Westeros, or be just another cruel dictator.  It's hard to say, but she certainly knows how to be brutal when people don't do what she says.  She has Drogon barbecue the Tarly men.  It's pretty horrifying (though is it worse than any death in a war?)--not quite as bad as burning Shireen at the stake, but it gives you pause.

At King's Landing, Jaime explains to sis the disastrous battle and how they can't buy their way out of it with mercenaries.  But what to do then?  Submit and die? Also, some other news (so much going on this season they've got a lot to get through).  Jaime explains Olenna was behind Joffrey's death, not Tyrion, though Cersei has trouble believing it.

At a bluff back in Dragonstone, with the help of some bad CGI, Dany lands Drogon right in front of Jon Snow.  Snow takes off his glove and has the dragon sniff.  Does Drogon recognize Targaryen blood?  Dany gets off and the two talk...about dragons, battles and oh yeah, what was that Davos said about a knife to your heart?

But before he can answer (guess we'll get that later, just like his true parentage), the Dothraki bring in Jorah.  It's a better reunion than the ones we've been getting a Winterfell--it happens fast, but you don't see it coming. Jon knew Mormont's dad, of course, because in Westeros it's who you know.

Speaking of Winterfell, Bran is hanging out with ravens, who fly beyond the wall to see the army of the dead.  They spot the Night King and scatter.  Have we forgotten, by the way, it's Bran's fault the Night King got to the last Three-Eyed Raven?  Anyway, Bran needs to send out ravens to warn everyone. (Why didn't he do it earlier?)

Way down at the Citadel, the archmaesters are discussing Bran's claims of dead men marching.  They mock him a bit, but Samwell, who's hanging around, says he know Bran, and maybe more important, he knows the dead, and they're no joke.  He advises them (like they'll listen) to warn everyone about this threat, so people will send their armies up North.  Ebrose says they'll look into it, now back to work.  He also knows Sam's dad and brother have died, but hasn't told him yet. (I wonder how Sam'll take it--being head Tarly doesn't sound so bad.)

At Dragonstone, Varys and Tyrion fret about the Dragon Queen.  Varys served the  Mad King, and knows what it feels like to give advice and then watch people burn.

Meanwhile, Jon has gotten the news that Arya and Bran are alive.  You think he'd be happy, but downer Bran also lets him know the dead are on the march.  Snow needs to return.  The brain trust at Dragonstone come up with what sounds to me like an unnecessarily complicated and unlikely to work plan--go beyond the Wall, get a wight, bring him back, show him to Cersei and convince her to have a truce while they defeat the dead.  Why not just burn Cersei, have them surrender and then turn their attention to the Wall?

So Tyrion has to meet Jaime to tell him the plan and let Cersei know.  Davos will smuggle him in.  It'll be good to have the Onion Knight do what he does best.

Back at Winterfell, the Lords are whining again. It's getting tiresome.  They've unhappy that Jon is gone and seem to prefer Lady Stark.  Sansa reassures them that Jon is doing what he thinks is best, as Arya watches.  Later, the two sisters talk, like old days--i.e., they're at odds.  Sansa has gotten used to being in charge, and wants to be better than everyone, including Jon, whom they were insulting.  Hey, these two just got back together and already they're fighting?

Davos and Tyrion get ashore at a secret spot at King's Landing.  Davos has business at Flea Bottom, but first we follow the Imp.  As Bronn has brokered the meeting, Jaime is surprised to see Tyrion.  He swore to kill him after his father's death.  Tyrion gets somewhat emotional, explaining dad was ready to execute him thought he was innocent.  But enough about that.  Here's the deal--a truce, which isn't bad coming from Dan.  Just give us some time to handle this threat up North.

Meanwhile, Davos (who apparently figure he won't be recognized--really?) goes into a smith shop and sure enough, there's Gendry.  Lots of reunions this year, and this episode has more than most.  There's been talk for a while of Gendry's return--he was last seen being saved and sent off by Seaworth.  To be honest, I don't care about Gendry, and if he never came back that would be fine with me.  But he's a hero, and can't wait to leave, so I guess he'll be part of the adventure.

Back at the shore, two guards chance upon Gendry and Davos at their boat.  The trip had been too easy, so something had to happen.  Davos knows the drill and pays them off.  It's going fine, but then Tyrion returns and you can't fool the guards about a dwarf with a scar.  It looks tense, till bang bang, Gendry's silver hammer comes down upon their heads.

Jaime tells Cersei about the armistice.  In a plot development I don't like, but can sort of understand, Cersei already knew about the meeting, but let it go on.  Really?  If she knew everything going on, how could she possibly let Tyrion go?  In any case, Cersei knows she doesn't have the power, so has to play Dany carefully, and this truce thing is a good start.

And oh yeah, Cersei is pregnant.  This time she won't be embarrassed to let everyone know that Jaime is the father. (How Targaryen of her.)

At Dragonstone, it's time for Jon to leave.  Davos introduces Gendry, who spills the beans about his parentage.  Why not?  Two royal bastards.  They've got plenty in common.  Anyway, Gendry plans to go up north with Jon to fight.

Though Tyrion has seen Mormont, they haven't spoken, and have a mini-reunion at the shore before Jorah leaves.  They talk about all the good times they had. (Jorah probably isn't too mad--the Imp got him back to the Queen, and he's been cured of greyscale). Jon takes his leave of Dany, without having bent the knee--though they seem to get along.

In Oldtown, Samwell and Gilly (back from Detroit) are reading the old scrolls.  Gilly has something interesting about Rhaegar's wife, but Sam doesn't care.  He's too angry that he's doing what he thinks is scut work while defeating the Night King is put on hold.  He decides he'll do something about it. He and Gilly take off.  Same, get your degree first.

At Winterfell, some action I'm not clear about.  Littlefinger seems to be conspiring about something, while Arya secretly watches.  He gets an old raven note (he seemed quite interested when he heard a couple episodes ago how all the raven notes had been stored at Winterfell).  Arya sneaks into his bedroom and finds the note. I'm sure there are screen grabs around that have it, but I couldn't make it out.  After she leaves, turns out Littlefinger is watching.

Hmm. I thought being a faceless woman (or girl, as they'd say), Arya is the one who pulls off ruses.  But it's good to see Littlefinger is doing something, and playing others again, after a season of everyone getting the best of him.  (Many fans want him to buy it, but I've always sort of liked him.  I'd at least like him to survive till the last season.)

Finally we get to Eastwatch-by-the-Sea.  Jon has his plan, though Tormund thinks returning to beyond the wall is stupid.  Also, they captured some guys who said they had business there--Thoros and the Hound!  Good to see them.  As I said, lots of reunions. (Jon hasn't seen the Hound since the start of the series.)

Lots of anger.  Tormund wants nothing to do with any Mormont.  And Gendry has no lost love with Thoros and the Brotherhood, who sold him to be killed by Melisandre.  But next thing you know, they're opening to gate, ready to march north.  What can I say?--Jon knows how to bring people together.

A fun episode, with lots of good scenes. And quite a motley crew at the end.  Imagine if someone told you at the beginning of the season we're going to get to a point where this gang marches beyond the wall to find someone from the army of the dead.  Who?  Oh, just Jon, Davos, Tormund, Jorah, Gendry, Thoros and the Hound.  Now that's a gang.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Wool Hat

Mike Nesmith has a memoir out, Infinite Tuesday.  Why not?  Bandmates Mickey Dolenz (I'm A Believer) and Davy Jones (They Made A Monkee Out Of Me) have put out their autobiographies.  I've even read the Dolenz book and thought it was pretty good.

For that matter, Nesmith has done some interesting things, being a pioneer in music videos, producing movies like Repo Man and putting out a bunch of solo albums.  (And his mom invented Liquid Paper.)

But he's got the same problem that Dolenz, Jones and presumably Peter Tork have--what we care about most is the Monkees phenomenon, which burnt itself out in a two or three years.

I would guess any life story from a Monkee would concentrate on those years.  But would it concentrate enough.  Is giving a half the book to those year enough?  Three quarters?  I'm not sure.

Nevertheless, I'll check it out if I see it in the library.

In Plain Hearing

I was watching the James Caan movie Hide In Plain Sight on TV.  As I often do, it was with the CC on.  And once again, it reminded me that closed captions are done by humans, and humans can hear things incorrectly.  (Maybe some day they'll be done by computers, who can also hear things wrong.  Just ask Siri or Alexa.)

Early on, two mafia guys are talking about their driver.  One says "He's a fag" to which the other replies that he hasn't looked into the driver's sex life.

But the CC had the line as "he's a fed," which would not only be a very significant plot point, but also makes the response a delightful non sequitur.

Later, two guys are playing pool and listening to the hockey game on the radio.  It's a Chicago Blackhawks game because you can hear the announcer mention Stan Mikita.

Soon after, someone states, according to the CC "Pole just scored." Okay, maybe not a big deal if you get it wrong, but someone reading along may wonder who is this Pole and why should we care. But any hockey fan listening to the movie (or the game on the radio) would know that it was Bobby Hull who got the goal.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Down Time

I just saw Good Time, the well-reviewed action film starring Robert Pattinson.  I mention I saw it, because after reading April Wolfe's review in the LA Weekly, I'm not sure we saw the same thing.

She talks about how many gritty New York films have white males as their leads.  Also, "like so many other films of its ilk, revels in its ugly male characters." Okay, so what?

Then she notes the Safdie brothers, who made the film,

seem to have no awareness of how repulsive they’ve made their lead. We’re supposed to laugh when 30-something Connie kisses 15-year-old Crystal and tries to fuck her just to distract her from his mug shot on the TV — do I have to remind people that statutory rape is rape? That Crystal happens to be black and that the filmmakers chose to over-sexualize her was not lost on me [so Wolfe recognized Crystal was black--nothing get's past her]. We’re also supposed to laugh when Connie beats the shit out of a security guard (Barkhad Abdi), who is also black, before Connie’s partner in crime for the night (Buddy Duress) dumps a pop bottle of LSD in his mouth. Every punch and every dude yelling nonsensically just to be loud and disorienting tried my patience.

Connie is the most fascinating figure in the film, though that's almost be default. It's his story, and, while trying to help his mentally challenged brother, he comes up with one stratagem after another.  Movies generally make the protagonist (played by the best-looking person, usually) the most magnetic character.

But Connie as sympathetic?  I didn't quite see that. For all his canniness, he's hot-headed and readily willing to turn on anyone.  His criminal plans are what cause he and his brother's problems in the first place. We recognize, as he tries to figure his way out of a spot (through criminal means, of course), that while it may make for an absorbing story, it also leaves behind a path of destruction.  Even if we root for him to get away with it, he's not a conventionally sympathetic character.

You know who's sympathetic?  The black characters.  We feel bad for Crystal and hope she isn't too poorly treated by Connie.  And I didn't hear anyone laugh at the brutal beating the black security guard received.  In fact, that might have been the turning point in the audience's sympathy for Connie.

You know who wasn't sympathetic?  The white guy drug dealer.  You don't mind when Connie screws with him since he's such a jerk.

Wolfe doesn't have to like the film, but she might have tried to take it on its own terms.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Make Money

I just read John Waters' new book, Make Trouble.  It took all of ten minutes.  After all, it's just an illustrated version of a graduation speech he gave at the Rhode Island School of Design.

He doesn't have anything deep to say, though he does marvel at how he's made a career as a purveyor of filth.  I can't blame a guy for trying to make a living, but if you read anything by Waters, I suggest it be Shock Value, his memoir from many years ago.

In the speech he claims he's not rich, though I have to wonder if he's talking poor.  His films (and books, and personal appearances) may not have made him tons of money, but what about the Broadway musical adaptation of Hairspray?

He didn't write it, but it was based on his movie so he must own a percentage.  It ran for over six years on Broadway, has since been performed around the world, and was turned into a major motion picture.

Perhaps his idea of rich is different, considering the types he hangs out with, but I would guess most people could happily retire on the money he's already made from that show.  (If not, I suggest he get a new financial advisor.)

Thursday, August 10, 2017

McHale's Gravy

Last year Joel McHale came out with Thanks For The Money: How To Use My Life Story to Become the Best Joel McHale You Can Be.  It's part memoir, part how to guide.

I recently saw this book in the library.  What interests me about McHale is his years as star of my favorite comedy, Community.  Unfortunately (or is this a case of a glass half full?) only part of one chapter deals with the show.  So I sat down and read those pages.  He spends about one paragraph per co-star, and then a few pages on his weird and troubled relationship with Chevy Chase.

This is what, he claims, the reader wants to know about.  In fact, he has a footnote to this section.  (Almost every page has humorous footnotes--it's that kind of book.)

I can't remember the exact wording, but it was something about how you're now reading this in the airport bookstore, looking up this particularly story, so why don't you break down and buy it?

I have to admit, he got me right.  Not about Chevy Chase, but about only wanting to read a certain section of the book.  So sorry I didn't buy it. But then, if he'd spent a few more chapters on Community, maybe I could have.

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