Category Archives: Entertainment

And With Freedom Comes Responsibility

flag-day-fireworks

There are a great many options when it comes to spending (I prefer investing) our free time in today’s world.

We can take ridiculous “tests” that determine which Kardashian we would be, or which character in Silver Spoons we would be, or which nursery rhyme villain, Disney World ride, Lady Gaga outfit, extinct animal, Spielberg film, Shel Silverstein poem, Chinese Food menu item, etc…

We can crush Netflix original programs four episodes at a clip;

We can pore over, troll and contribute to various social media platforms;

We can have sex (alone or with others), pamper ourselves, shop, exercise, eat, travel, play sports or games, read, nap, Prancercise, meditate, go to the movies, do a crossword, enjoy time with friends or family, volunteer…

We have choices…lots of them. And for that, we are fortunate. God bless America.

I urge all of you to take an hour or so and read The Case for Reparations by Ta-Nehisi Coates, an intriguing and very well written piece recently featured in The Atlantic.

I have no idea how you will feel while and after reading the article. I read it a few weeks ago and still haven’t fully determined how I feel, what I think, and what, if anything, I should do now that I read it, given that it definitely affected me in profound ways.

A few of my personal takeaways:

Reading this piece made me feel ashamed and embarrassed to call myself an American in much the same way most of the W Bush presidency did (especially in the aftermath of Katrina – “Heck of a job, Brownie,” the invasion of Iraq and failure to find WMDs and his continual buffoonery that made him a global laughing stock) – and a great deal of the current Obama presidency is doing (Obamacare, the IRS scandal, his hypocrisy in solving the financial crisis – thank god we bailed out GM so they could continue to be so poorly run that their shoddily built cars have killed hundreds – and aren’t we all equally proud that our tax-dollar bailouts were used to bestow giant bonuses on Wall Street’s wolves just days after they fleeced us and the Federal Government out of billions. And don’t get me started on Obama’s consistently shameful treatment of Israel, arguably America’s most loyal and important ally, but alas that is for another article and another time.

My own black history education is shameful…and I know I am at least partly to blame for this. Worse still, I believe I received a top 1% education in our country, and still feel this is true, so I can’t imagine what is taught (and more importantly, what isn’t) in classrooms and curricula that unfortunately fall in the lower tiers of the American education system. I expect the world, and most importantly all Americans, to be educated on the Holocaust as I believe this will at least help to preclude something that awful from ever happing again…and I know there is a complete systemic failure right now in our country in making Holocaust education mandatory and in ensuring it is carried out professionally and effectively (watch this video if you don’t believe me). I similarly believe black history and race relations need to be taught at every level of education in our country. Ignorance nurtures racism…education combats ignorance.

Random thought: show me an important article on race that doesn’t feature an embarrassing nugget about a Philadelphia mayor…

Unfortunate thought: I am once again sickened by Donald Sterling, and he wasn’t even mentioned once in this article. (And Dan Snyder is no prize either).

History is littered with examples of man’s mind-bogglingly evil inhumanity towards his fellow man. Vonnegut built an incredible career upon that fact. Kubrick’s 2001 showcases man’s inhumanity as a core theme. Women (i.e., 50% of the world population) have been mistreated since the dawn of time, and unfortunately continue to suffer in many parts of the world. Same for homosexuals, mentally and physically challenged, vertically challenged, Native Americans and countless others. Bottom line, I am not sure reparations can ever fully repay everyone…or anyone, frankly, who has been egregiously wronged throughout history.

As a Jew and a grandchild of Holocaust survivors, I kept waiting for the author to relate his argument to a situation in which reparations have been paid in the recent past. I know Germany paid reparations to Israel and to survivors of the Holocaust. I was glad to see the parallel drawn, but was also upset that important lessons, themes and facts regarding Germany’s reparations were omitted. While Germany and some other groups did pay approximately $7 billion in today’s dollars to Israel and direct survivors of the Shoah, Jewish and otherwise, the payments were quite small (a few hundred dollars a month)…let’s say 500,000 people were paid, that total would amount to $14,000 per person. Furthermore, families of those who died received little or nothing. And payments typically only endured for the lifespan of the survivor, so once my grandfather passed away, his payments ceased…same with my grandmother. But what of their children? What of their parents, brothers, sisters and children that perished? The reparations contemplated by Coates are quite different to those paid by Germany in that money would only be paid to descendants of victims (obviously there is no choice at this point). And Coates fails to explain who actually footed the bill Germany paid, how it was funded, how news of it was received in Germany, who received payments, who didn’t, and who was responsible for determining all of this. At least for me, some if not all of that information would have been interesting if not essential for a true thought-provoking comparison to be made.

Among the issues not discussed are the feelings of resentment many Germans felt when these payments were announced – particularly Germans who believed they were innocent and whose families did not participate in the horror show. Also not discussed is the rampant Anti-Semitism raging through Germany and the rest of Europe today…so perhaps the cathartic act of reparations helped quash some racism in the immediate sense (though I doubt that), but the deep-seeded fear, hatred and ignorance always lingered just below the surface and were just waiting for time to pass, memories to fade and hard times to fall in order to resurface. Sure, Germany is not the most blatantly anti-Semitic country in Europe right now…so whoop-dee-doo…I guess the nation deserves a prize for that…but as a Jew, would I dare to live there right now? Would I be comfortable walking alone anywhere in Germany wearing a yarmulke, or a visible Star of David?

That said, I believe it was a good thing that Germany did anything at all even though you could never put a price-tag on the horror of the experience endured nor on the lives and livelihoods lost. But I am not sure I can ever forgive Germany despite the act of contrition. The problem is, it could never be enough, and the powerful and unimaginable anti-Semitism that it took to allow the Holocaust to be perpetrated had been ingrained into the fabric of German and Eastern European life over hundreds of years. Paying money most Germans never authorized or actually supported in reparations did not extinguish that ignorance and hatred.

And then there is this…I am honestly not sure how I feel about the premise of paying reparations given my ancestors were not in America during the time of slavery. My suspicion is there are many people who would feel similarly. Furthermore, my grandparents were treated just as horrifically in Germany and Poland and Russia, if not more so, were left with nothing, and faced awful racism themselves, even in America.

But when the time came to start over, even with nothing, in America…let’s just say that I concede it was fortunate my grandparents were white. Being white is a blessing in many ways for most Jews. If Jews were blue, or green or any color other than white, I am not entirely sure there would be any Jews left on our planet. Hell, we flirted with extinction more than a few times even with our light skin. But being white allowed many Jews to blend in with non-Semitic whites in many parts of the Western world and rise to some modicum of wealth and status. And for American Jews, it can be argued that many direct and indirect benefits we experienced as a result of being lucky enough to have light skin came, at least in some part, from the same exploitation of black people Coates argues quite convincingly benefitted (and continue to benefit) all white people in America. So we reaped and continue to reap the benefits, even if we aren’t culpable for the gruesome and unconscionable acts that enabled the benefits to exist.

Given the above sentiment, I am reminded of the seminal moment in Soul Man, when Darth Vader asks Pony Boy what he learned from his experience as a “black” man, and CTH replied, “if I didn’t like it, I could always get out…” I heard JEJ saying, “you’ve learned a great deal more than I thought” quite a few times as I read the piece.

Other pop-culture references I recalled during and after reading the article:

Dazed and Confused teacher, Ms. Ginny Stroud, to her class after the bell rings: “Okay guys, one more thing, this summer when you’re being inundated with all this American bicentennial Fourth Of July brouhaha, don’t forget what you’re celebrating, and that’s the fact that a bunch of slave-owning, aristocratic, white males didn’t want to pay their taxes.”

The Wire, when Prez quoted the first few lines of The Rolling Stones’ Brown Sugar, and nobody had any idea what he was saying…the opening lyrics of that song are haunting.

Coates’ piece accomplished exactly what the author set out to do, in my opinion. He frustrated me. He made me feel guilt. But most importantly, he made me think. This is an important topic, and if nothing else, my hope is that the education requirements and curriculum for black history and race relations education are expanded as a result of this article.

Anyway, I hope you all have a wonderful and safe holiday weekend. I am interested in hearing/reading your thoughts on Coates’ piece. Feel free to comment below.

Best regards,

 

IDROS

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Christmas Caroling

carol brady

Two can play that game, Claus. I, too, have made a list (for a change). Oh, and I checked it twice. Why should you get to corner the market on list-making this time of year, anyway? You hear me, Mr. Saint Nick? (If that is even your real name). So you’re the world’s greatest mensch. Whoop-dee-doo. I’ve got my own list to unveil for you. So without further ado – I will quit rhyming.

Here are the top ten greatest Carols of all time…at least in my humble opinion (feel free to weigh in below, and add any I missed):

10) Carol Leifer – Seinfeld writer and inspiration for Elaine Marie Benes

9) Carol Alt – One of the first supermodels

8) Pete Carroll – Football coach vying to join the “elite” club comprised of Jimmy Johnson and Barry Switzer as the only head coaches to ever win both a collegiate national championship and a Super Bowl

7) Carol Channing – Actress from another generation, known for classics like Hello Dolly. I know her from her guest appearances on The Love Boat where she played Julie McCoy’s Aunt Sylvia

6) Diahann Carroll – Stage and television actress and singer

5) Carol Kane – Latke’s wife on Taxi; LIAR! She’s not a witch, she’s Miracle Max’s wife

4) Carroll O’Connor – Good ol’ Awchie Bunker, America’s favorite racist curmudgeon sweetheart

3) Carole King (or should I say, Carol Klein) – Tapestry is a masterpiece

2) Carol Burnett – Queen of the variety show

1) Lewis Carroll (which is actually a pseudonym for Charles Lutwidge Dodgson) – Creator of Alice, Wonderland, the looking glass, the Mad Hatter and the Jabberwocky, his deranged and brilliant creativity has inspired Disney classics as well as LSD-fueled paranoia…and that type of range must be applauded.

And in keeping with the Christmas music theme I invoked but haven’t really delivered upon, do you remember this classic? Please watch it. You will not be sorry. I just can’t believe it’s been nearly 30 years…

So on that note, I wish you all a very merry Christmas and a happy and healthy new year.

Much love,

IDROS

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It’s Howdy Doody Time

I apologize for my recent hiatus. You all count on me for overly-long, trivial and generally self-serving posts on a regular basis, and for the past several months, I have let you, my faithful readers, friends and family down (most of you probably didn’t even notice…so there’s that).

But the good news is, I’m back. Back with what will certainly be my crappiest post yet.

You’ve all heard the term “back in a flash,” but after an absence that can only be categorized as literary constipation, I suppose you could say I am back in a “flush.”

The theme of this welcome back post, as you may have already guessed, is a topic I happen to know a thing or two about. And to celebrate the finale of one of my favorite television shows of all time (said show’s end-game inspired this disgusting entry, so thanks Vince Gilligan and Dean Norris and the great Walt Whitman), I am going to list some of the more memorable number twos in pop-culture history.

That’s right, you read correctly. In the immortal words of Taro Gomi in her children’s book read the world over, Everyone Poops. And for the purposes of this “made for the toilet” super-list, the more significant the poop, the higher (actually lower) on this list it will appear. As always, IDROS is not omniscient…there are bound to be omissions. Please, readers, add any that are glaring, or any that you feel are appropriately inappropriate.

20)   The Cook, The Thief, His Wife & Her Lover – if this entry means nothing to you, ignore it. Trust me. There are a few people out there that know why this movie made the list, they know who they are, and all I can say is we should have gone to see I Love You to Death…or even Ernest Goes to Jail (both released the same weekend).

19) Summer School – Did the kid who went to the bathroom for the entire movie and still scored highest on the aptitude test play a significant role in Mr. Shoop’s classroom farce? No. Did he really spend an entire summer on the can? Probably not. In fact, he may not have gone to bathroom at all after absconding with the hall pass. But the sentiment was there.

18)   Me, Myself & Irene – In all fairness, Charlie repeatedly asked his neighbor not to let his dogs defecate on his lawn before resorting to this.

17)      Sixteen Candles – Did Grandpa Fred’s deuce have anything to do with the plot? No. Was the scene funny? Of course.

16)   Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery – Tom Arnold’s scene in the bathroom stall beside Austin (“Who does Number Two work for?”) was classic, but like the scene above, really had no effect on the plot;

15)   Jurassic Park – Not a bad idea to find a toilet in the middle of a prehistoric park when having the crap literally scared out of you, but when T-Rex comes a knockin’…well there are better ways to go.

14)   American Pie – Gotta’ love Finch and his issues with going in school bathrooms. We’ve all been there.

13)   South Park – Who doesn’t love Mr. Hankey?

12)   Along Came Polly – Two classically uncomfortable scenes, neither of which really had an impact on the plot. Stiller’s predicament in Aniston’s bathroom after spicy Ethiopian food was high comedy. Capote’s matter-of-fact statement that he just sharted and needed to leave was almost as good as his work in Lebowski.

11)   Speaking of uncomfortable, the unspeakable horrors of Trainspotting somehow got even worse in the scene to which you all know I am referring.

10)   Thank god for John Hughes. While Principal Vernon was duking it out in The Breakfast Club, Bender was telling a joke as he made his way back to the library through the air duct. We are getting closer here. This scene did allow the plot to advance toward its hokey RomCom ending from its teen angst roots.

9)   The Karate Kid – Daniel san’s costume inspired him to “shower” perennial 80’s cretin, William Zabka, aka “Sweep the Leg” Johnny Lawrence, whilst he took a crap at the Halloween dance. There were many scenes in this movie that required suspension of disbelief. A “cool” high school jock taking a crap at a dance in the school john may have taken the cake…but it definitely amped up the rivalry between John and Dan.

8)   The Help – I like to think Octavia Spencer’s secret pie recipe helped secure her Oscar.

7)   Bridesmaids – Nasty but effective scene by McCarthy and gals.

6)   Lethal Weapon 2 – The bad guys rigged a bomb to Murtaugh’s toilet, creating a scenario where Glover really was too old and too scared for this shit…hilarity ensued.

5)   Can’t Buy Me Love – Maybe the crap in the brown bag was dog poop. Maybe it wasn’t. Either way, metaphorically, McDreamy took a crap on one-time bestie Kenneth Wurman’s house. But the way Donald, or Ronald, apologized at the end certainly merited an 80’s slow crap…er clap.

4)   Dumb and Dumber – The Farrelly brothers clearly know their way around potty humor. Seeing Will McAvoy pay the price for betraying Lloyd Christmas was both funny and satisfying.

3)   Seinfeld – Costanza, drawers around his ankles, clutching a newspaper, emerges from Jerry’s can screaming “Vandelay Industries” as Kramer botches his whole unemployment scam. Maybe not the best Seinfeld scene, but this clip is definitely in the top five.

2)   (Mild spoiler alert…if you haven’t watched any of the final season of Breaking Bad, do not read this) Look. We all know Hank’s discovery in Walter’s master bath can is the most significant pop-culture crap of all time. (There are memes, gifs and even a website dedicated to this). But in keeping with the theme, the best dump belongs at NUMBER TWO…duh.

1)   Second prize is no set of steak knives here. Vincent Vega’s poorly timed twosie in Pulp Fiction made things a little easier for Butch. Little did he know what awaited him in Zed’s dungeon moments later…but that’s for another list.

Whatchoo got kids?

As always, thanks for reading. Hope you enjoy tonight’s grand finale. Hope Vince finishes this thing as well as he has executed this entire final season, and the four before it.

All the best,

IDROS

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Bob Marley By The Numbers

Bob MarleyIn honor of Mr. Robert Nesta Marley’s 68th birthday, I thought a little numeric homage was in order. You know, for a man who rolled more numbers than the average Joe, if you catch my drift Mon.

So to the rescue, to the rescue, to the rescue
Awake from your sleep and slumber
Today could be your LUCKY NUMBER
Sun is shining and the weather is sweet –
Bob Marley, Sun Is Shining, Soul Revolution, 1971

And the countdown begins…

2-6-45 – Nesta Robert Marley was born (Jamaican Passport official later swapped his first and middle name, telling Bob’s mother that Nesta sounded too much like a girl’s name, thus giving us Robert Nesta Marley)

9-23-80 – Bob’s final live concert at the Stanley Theater, Pittsburgh, PA

5-11-81 – Bob passed away due to cancer in Miami, FL

1,000,000,000 – And a BILLION men a sparking. Rastaman Live Up lyric, Confrontation, 1983

1,000,000 – MILLION miles from reality. So Much Trouble In the World lyric, Survival, 1979 (see also, Stand Alone lyrics)

10,000 – I see TEN THOUSAND chariots, and they coming without horses – Midnight Ravers lyric, Catch A Fire, 1973

2313 – 2313 Tetsnell Street, Wilmington, Delaware. In 1966, the day after marrying Rita (Alpharita), Bob split for the states, alone, where he lived at this Wilmington, DE address with his mother, and worked at a DuPont plant for nearly 7 months earning money to finance his music career

2,000 – TWO THOUSAND years of history could not be wiped away so easily – Zion Train lyric, Uprising, 1980

1994 – Bob was posthumously inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. His induction speech was delivered by Bono. Jann Wenner had this to say:

Bob Marley was the Third World’s first pop superstar. He was the man who introduced the world to the mystic power of reggae. He was a true rocker at heart, and as a songwriter, he brought the lyrical force of Bob Dylan, the personal charisma of John Lennon, and the essential vocal stylings of Smokey Robinson into one voice.

1962 – Bob releases first single, Judge Not

400400 Years. Song title, Catch A Fire, 1973, written by Peter Tosh

100 – We bubbling on the Top 100, just like a mighty dread…Roots, Rock, Reggae lyric, Rastaman Vibration, 1976

56 – 56 Hope Road, Kingston Jamaica – Former home of Bob Marley, and now the home of the Bob Marley Museum

34 – 34 Ridgemount Gardens, Camdentown, London, England. Bob’s London address in 1972.

17 – Shows Bob Marley and the Wailers were supposed to open for Sly and the Family Stone in a US tour in 1973 (See 4 below)

12 – Age Bob moved to Trenchtown

11 – Number of Bob’s children according to Wikipedia and BobMarley.com (from 7 different women) – some sites list 13 children, and others speculate Bob fathered as many as 20

9 – NINE Miles (St. Ann Parrish) – Area in Jamaica where Bob was born and grew up

7 – And I hear the angel with the SEVEN seals… Rastaman Chant lyric, Burnin’, 1973

5 – FIVE days to go, working for the next day…Work song lyric, Uprising, 1980

4 – Shows Bob actually played before being fired – FOR STEALING SLY’s THUNDER! (Fans were actually chanting MAAARRRRLLLLEEEYYY during Sly’s set, and in some cases, more fans were in their seats for the Wailers’ opener than for the headliner)

3THREE little Birds. Song Title, Exodus, 1977

The I-THREES (three back-up vocalist beauties, one of which was Rita Marley, who joined the group after Tosh and Bunny Wailer left the group in 1974)

2 – Three Crows on top TWO is laughin’. Mr. Brown song lyric, song originally written by Glen Adams and released as a single

1 – A few contenders here…

ONE Drop. Song Title, Survival, 1979.

ONE Heart. One Love song lyric, Exodus, 1977

ONE bright morning when my work is over, Man will fly away home.  Rastaman Chant lyric, Burnin’ 1973

ONE good thing about music, when it hits you, you feel no pain. Trenchtown Rock lyric, African Herbsman, 1973

But ONE true Champion:

ONE love, Song Title, Exodus, 1977

…..

And a nugget for the road (pun intended). Bob drove a BMW once he started making some money…and why? He used to tell whoever would listen that the letters stood for Bob Marley and the Wailers. He later got rid of the Beemer though, saying it caused him nothin’ but trouble. He bought a jeep.

Thanks for reading. Watch the documentary, Marley, on Netflix, if you haven’t already. Heart wrenching at times. Particularly his pre-show rendition of I’m Hurting Inside, just before his final show in Pittsburgh.

IDROS

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This Is 50…And Counting…Happy Golden Anniversary To Mick, Keef And The Rolling Stones

From Rolling Stone Magazine

From Rolling Stone Magazine

Lezbeonest. I don’t care what it is (or who, for that matter). Doing it (or him or her) for 50 years…in a row…is worthy of significant celebration. It is a rare feat, celebrating a 50th anniversary of any kind. And the half century the Rolling Stones have endured and bestowed upon us is no exception. In fact, it borders on incredible…the stuff of myth. I mean, the band had to overcome the incarceration of its two primary songwriters (in 1967, Mick and Keith were jailed for drug possession and shortly thereafter were released on bail), the “firing” and subsequent death (by drowning but due to drug abuse) of a founding member and close friend (Brian Jones), the resignation of another band mate and talented guitarist (Mick Taylor), the ubiquitous shadow of the Beatles the Stones were relegated to live in (the band was basically labeled the “evil” or dark yang to the Beatles light, angelic yin and were viewed as ruffians parents should never let their daughters date, a characterization these well-schooled middle class musicians took a few years to fully embrace), the unfortunate and horrifying experience that was Altamont (where unruly, drunk and drugged up Hell’s Angels provided “security” (read: incited a riot) while a fan was murdered by throngs of out of control concert-goers and the band feared for their own lives), a self exile to the South of France for financial reasons (mostly exorbitant back taxes owed), a massive heroin problem that enveloped some members of the band (notably Keith) as well as many important crew members, and finally, the imprisonment in Canada of Keith for heroin possession (he faced a lifetime sentence, but was released upon a vow to go straight)…and that was all in the first 15 years of the band’s existence. The subsequent 35 years were similarly rife with highs and lows, the worst of it stemming from a tumultuous and deteriorating relationship between Richards and Jagger, the de facto leaders of the band.

And yet here they are, fifty years later…mostly intact, and somehow still churning out the best soundtrack you are likely ever to hear at a Golden Anniversary party (not that there’s anything wrong with a one-man band’s rendition of In The Mood, The Way We Were, Unforgettable, I’ve Got The World On A String or any of Frank Sinatra’s great love ballads). So in anticipation of the American leg of the Stones 50 & Counting mini-tour, which will culminate with a Pay Per View-streamed performance on Saturday, December 15 at the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey, I felt it was high time to give the original bad boys of rock and roll their due. Having already dedicated a post to that other mega-success story of a band from England, the timing couldn’t be better to roll out the red carpet, and fittingly paint it black, for the only other band in history besides the Beatles that arguably deserves its own wing in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Sure, scoff all you want. Insert a joke or two here under your breath regarding said wing that evokes images of a nursing home…the wing should be in Florida; its snack bar should offer an early bird special; hope there’s round the clock medical staff on call. Blah, blah, blah. If you could throw down on stage like the Stones at any age, you would, and you know it.

While I agree that the Stones are old (arguing this fact would be as foolish as arguing that water is not wet), the band’s two stalwarts, both nearly 70 years of age, continue to defy the odds. Mick, who inspired a song regarding his moves, has the energy of a man fifty years his junior, and the waistline of an anorexic supermodel. And Keith…what can I say? What can anyone say really? He is a medical marvel that continues to mystify… with blatant disregard for logic and the laws of science.  (To get a taste, I do recommend his autobiography, Life, if you haven’t yet read it.) So perhaps it isn’t such a conundrum that these relics continue to bring it while on stage.

So in honor of the centuries of combined rock experience that is the Rolling Stones, I felt a list was in order. Lists are great because they demand thought, from both the writer and reader(s). There is always room for debate, particularly in a good, well-reasoned list, but generally the conversation is lively and worthwhile. And that is why we’re here, right?  At least it’s why I’m here. Tapping on the keys like Thelonius Monk in the wee hours of the morning, eyes bloodshot, head pounding, but thoughts racing…ahh. And the Stones are incredibly list-worthy. Exile on Main Street could be its own list. So could Let It Bleed. So in the spirit, of Rob Gordon from High Fidelity, from whom music-themed lists seemed to flow like cheap beer at a frat party, we begin.

My top ten Stones tunes of all time (at least for today):

10) I had a hell of a time choosing among Miss You, Emotional Rescue and Salt Of The Earth, but for the sake of a clean list, I am going with Emotional Rescue. Perhaps my list would be different on any other day. I dig the disco influence. And the tune is catchy as hell. This is not your typical Stones song, but that doesn’t make it a bad song.

9) Sweet Virginia. Raw, gritty and heartfelt. This will not be the lone gem from Exile to crack my top ten, but a great tune in its own right.

8) As Tears Go By. An oldie but goodie. Penned by the Jagger/Richards dynamic duo, this classic was first recorded and released by Marianne Faithful in 1964, and then by the Stones a year later. Just a beautiful song, emotional and powerful despite the restraint that was a trademark of that era. I would put this tune up against almost any from the mid-60s, and it holds up well, even today.

7) Loving Cup. Just give me little drink. Please.

6) Shine A Light. Wow. Just Wow. Maybe this one should be higher on the list (probably), but the bottom line is, it needs to be on the list. Such a powerful message. Marty Scorsese named his 2008 Stones documentary after this tune, and we all know what Marty thinks of the Stones.

5) Gimme Shelter. That creaky floorboard percussion effect is eerie as hell. And speaking of Marty Scorsese, we all must thank him for recognizing the genius in the Stones in this tune, and for marrying its theme to your own particular genius (Scorsese used this song in 3 of his films…thus far). Violence and war is everywhere; not just on the battlefield, but on the mean streets of every city across the world.

4) You Can’t Always Get What You Want. Can’t help but think of The Big Chill opening here, but the message is clear and pure, and the melody is perfection personified. Interestingly, it seems Brett Morgen, the director of the most recent Stones documentary, Crossfire Hurricane, drew inspiration from Lawrence Kasdan as he used this song during his own post-death funeral procession music to honor Brian Jones’ passing.

3) Sympathy For The Devil. Perfection in capturing and breathing life into a theme by overlaying incredible lyrics on transcendent music. Timeless.

2) Waiting On A Friend. Profound emotional ballad capturing man’s need for companionship after his wild oats have been sown.

1) Can’t You Hear Me Knockin’? Here’s the thing…I love music. And even before this tune kicked off the great mini-mix on my iPod shuffle that ushered in the greatest day of my life, it would have topped this list. The meaning behind the song is murky, like the drug-addled paranoia some of the lyrics evoke. But if your ears could smile, this song could have that effect on them, from start to finish. The jam toward the end of that track is so incredible it has moved me to tears on numerous occasions. Everything was clicking there, from Keys’ blistering sax solo to Richards’ guitar. And then Mick Taylor steals the show with a completely improvised virtuoso performance lasting nearly 4 minutes to end the song. There are hints and influences of numerous other great musicians and musical genres intertwined in the rich, mellifluous orgy of musical delights. To quote Richards, “the band’s music was influenced by everyone from Mozart to Marley.” That is clearly evident in this song alone, a virtual microcosm of the Rolling Stones vast and impressive oeuvre. And make no mistake, Charlie gets the last “word,” which is quite fitting for a tune titled “Can’t You Hear Me Knockin’?”

So that’s my list. Hope nobody was offended by my selections. I would love to hear some of yours, so feel free to share below.

As always, thanks for reading.

Happy holidays,

IDROS

Oh, and for another blogger’s take on the same subject matter, feel free to click here.

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Everyone’s A Critic: The Advantages of Being A Product of the 80s

https://i2.wp.com/vecto2000.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/06/Cinema_Movie_Film_Vector_Stock.jpg

I’ve been meaning to work a Movie Review segment into this blog for some time now, but really haven’t found the right moment (or movie, for that matter) to kick it off.

Well move over bacon…it’s SizzleLean. Um, I mean, welcome to “Everyone’s a Critic,” a forum in which I take my zero years of film review experience, zero combined classroom hours of film study and zero authority on anything related to cinema, directing, acting, producing or editing, and aim them, concurrently, at some unsuspecting cinematic production just like Peter, Ray, Egon (and Winston) targeted all things phantasmagorical with their proton packs. So with apologies to the likes of Gene Siskel (RIP), Roger Ebert, Anthony Lane, David Edelstein and their ilk…

After graduating college, my roommate and I kept Leonard Maltin’s Movie Encyclopedia on our coffee table as a reference while we watched movies and television. We would eagerly thumb through this cumbersome tome whenever we came across any actor or movie that triggered a “have to know and won’t be able to fall asleep tonight if I don’t” moment in either one of us, which occurred at least once a day. This burden was thrust upon us, by the way, because our cohabitation took place in a time just before Al Gore unveiled the Internet (actually, that’s not really accurate, but it was before IMDb, Wikipedia and other Internet sources for all sorts of cinematic arcana were available, if you can wrap your mind around that).

Said roommate was (and still is) a huge film buff.  He would likely list Scorsese, Spielberg and John Hughes among his heroes. He did attend film school, logged hours of classroom credits in all things cinema, and secretly wished (perhaps still wishes) something akin to the plot of The Freshman occurred to him while innocently going about his own NYU curriculum.

I hereby dedicate this first installment of “Everyone’s A Critic” to that roommate and lifelong friend, who is currently on his Honeymoon after a literal storybook wedding. Congratulations to him and his beautiful bride.

Friendships we make during our adolescence can be powerful. And now I can’t help but think of Mrs. Smith in Better Off Dead grabbing poor Monique’s face as she says: “Friend. You know, Friend?” (I really wanted to attach this clip here for reference, and was shocked to find that in the entirety of the Interweb, nobody has uploaded this treasure.  I mean, Laura Waterbury is priceless in this film playing Dennis Blunden’s, er, I mean Ricky Smith’s mother…but all I could find were her “Christmas” and “International Language” clips. If any of you can find the “Friend” clip, please let me know or post in the comments section). But, as usual, I digress.

We share our most awkward and fragile times in our lives with our middle and high school friends, and often rely on them as sounding boards, confidantes, comic relief, and vital companions as we fight tooth and nail to find our way in a world that can be cruel, confusing and overwhelming at times. I think Richard Dreyfuss’ adult version of Gordie LaChance said it best in Stand By Me: “I never had any friends later on like the ones I had when I was twelve. Jesus, does anyone?”

With that in mind, it brings me joy to announce The Perks of Being a Wallflower as the first movie I will review. After John Hughes passed on (actually, after he inexplicably stopped making movies about teen angst), my generation has been craving a good coming of age cinematic storyteller. Sure, there have been some valiant efforts over the years to fill Hughes shoes: Can’t Hardly Wait, American Pie, Donnie Darko, Nick and Nora’s Infinite Playlist, Juno, Superbad, etc. But despite some brilliant one-off efforts, there is a gold standard when mining the high school experience for cinematic exuberance, and in the mid 1980s, John Hughes set it…over and over again. (Sidebar: Cameron Crowe, with a distinguished oeuvre that includes Fast Times at Ridgemont High and Say Anything, as well as Almost Famous, which does focus on teen angst and insecurity as a primary theme, certainly has earned a reserved seat at this exclusive table).

Stephen Chbosky adapted his own highly acclaimed novel for the big screen. His tale is ambitious. Perhaps too ambitious in tackling a seemingly large number of issues that plague modern youth, and if I had any complaint at all regarding this film, it would be rooted in that over-zealous ambition.

That said, the story works and the acting is far beyond any expectations one could have for a film comprised of characters primarily in their mid to late teens.  In fact, some of the performances are brilliant. Even the cameos and bit parts played by familiar “adult” actors add welcome, innocuous accompaniment to the stellar cast.

Some will argue this film (and the book it is based upon) offers characters and plot resolutions that are too good or too neat for the powerful and ugly (at times) storylines that are explored. My answer to that is people are jaded. You can’t accept the hokey tabletop birthday cake scene with Jake Ryan and Sam Baker at the end of Sixteen Candles (or Farmer Ted waking up in a Rolls Royce with the prom queen for that matter) without a desire for a neat, Hollywood ending. That’s what audiences want. That is why Claire can kiss John Bender and wrap her giant diamond earring in his hand as the credits roll, and why Ferris successfully eludes Rooney and his parents. It is why we not only accept Lloyd Dobler getting on that plane with Diane Court, we expect it.

Sure, perhaps elements of Charlie’s relationship with his new friends, and with Sam in particular, seem forced and unlikely at times. But we want things to work out favorably for Charlie…and for Sam and Patrick. We enjoy seeing Paul Rudd as a friendly, inspirational role model for our protagonist despite every cliché and tired action his character is seemingly forced into by the script (his performance is strong nonetheless, and his character has perhaps the best non-comedic line of the entire film). Like with Noah Wyle and Drew Barrymore in Donnie Darko, we really don’t care how ridiculous or forced their dialogue may be – we just respect them for finding a worthy script and joining the cast of a special film, even if it is a small role outside their comfort zone.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower has its warts, just as all adolescent students have theirs. However, the script is witty, unique and at times, moving. The characters are likable and generally plausible. And the music, as with any teen angst movie worth watching, is terrific.

Because I was a senior in high school myself when this film takes place, the soundtrack certainly resonates with me (and likely my contemporaries) even more. Music plays a huge part in our formative years, often setting the mood for how we interpret, participate and adapt to the world around us. You can actually witness and feel the impact music has on the characters in this film, at times cringing in disbelief and at times smiling and nodding and tapping your feet as appropriate lyrics and emotionally relevant melodies envelop us along with our on-screen companions.

As previously conceded, my resume fails to empower me as an expert authority, or even an amateur wannabe, on anything film-related. So please bear with me as I briefly discuss the cinematography. I thought it was great. Scenes flowed together effortlessly, and crafty dialog and cut-aways allowed our imagination to create some of the film’s more graphic, unpleasant and violent scenes and images in our heads rather than on screen. The director even used some creative filming and editing techniques to seamlessly fade unrelated images into one another as scenes began and ended, as well as intelligently used music lyrics to help tell his story or to reinforce images and themes.

My favorite element of TPOBAW was its focus on friendship, and how important friends can be to our survival during our adolescence and while navigating the pitfalls of high school. And there are many such pitfalls: from parental pressure to hormonal changes, from our first job to dating woes, from sexual experimentation to maintaining our eligibility for athletics, from college prep to our first car, from fitting in to finding a date for the prom, from cigarettes, alcohol and drugs to problems at home, from peer pressure to acne, for most, high school is fraught with horrifying potential.

At the base of this film’s plot is a story of friendship, and how it profoundly affects the trajectory of the primary characters’ lives. Despite what the overwhelming majority of Hollywood’s teen movie genre may indicate, high school stories center on much more than the jocks and cheerleaders, than the popular kids. Every one of us lived through high school and have become who we are today from the unique experience we had during those crucial years. John Hughes knew this, and gave us a balanced account in most of his films. Judd Apatow and Paul Feig also knew this as they delivered their masterpiece, the television drama Freaks and Geeks, which unfortunately was axed after only one brilliant season, far too early.

Bottom line, Chbosky put forth a worthy effort in exploring teen angst; and considering he had to edit, and in some ways, compromise his own novel to do so makes it even more admirable. J.D. Salinger, the undisputed master of teen angst prose, never breathed cinematic life into his opus. I am in no way drawing a comparison to The Catcher In The Rye here for TPOBAW, though I would not be the first to do so (click this amazing piece and this book review for a sampling). I am saying that Chbosky tells a poignant and powerful tale of teen life in early 1990s Pittsburgh that resonates today with people of all ages, of all geographies, males, females, gay and straight, and that is an accomplishment worthy of praise.

Tying in with the theme of TPOBAW, I attended my aforementioned roommate’s (and lifelong friend’s) wedding this past weekend. Many of our high school friends were there. It was so incredible to celebrate with all of them, to relive our youth and also fill in the gaps of life since high school for those we don’t see or speak to as regularly anymore. Reuniting with my own companions and support system, my friends, who made my high school years manageable, memorable, and fortunately for me, four generally fun and carefree years in my life, was incredible, but also bittersweet.

Why, you might ask? Well I keep hearing Dreyfuss’ voice echoing in my head. No, we never do have friends like we do during our adolescence. A lot of this certainly has to do with nostalgia for our own youth and innocence. Maybe all of it does. Even if we are lucky enough to retain those friends from our youth, life changes. We don’t see these people every day like we used to. We don’t have the free time we used to. We may not even live in the same state or country as these people.

But those friends we make in high school are not diminished by our changing lives. Whether they remain our closest friends or have drifted away, their importance at the crossroads of our personal development dictates that they remain part of us forever, woven into the fabric of our very essence.

And those are the Perks of being part of whatever group of friends you happened to make and fall in with in high school. They are meaningful and profound, and if you are lucky, they are eternal.

I thank you all for reading and for your friendship. It was great to reminisce with those of you I saw in New York.

IDROS

Everyone’s A Critic Grade:   The Perks of Being a Wallflower –  A    94/100  “EAC It” (Yes, I decided I needed a hokey tagline)

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My Silver Lining of the Anniversary of Jerry Garcia’s Passing

Jerome John Garcia (“Jerry”) died 17 years ago today. For me, and for throngs of Jerry fans everywhere, it is a sad day. August 9 will always carry with it a somber note, a tinge of the blues evocative of some of Jerry’s more melancholy tunes, like Morning Dew or Stella Blue.

For those that don’t like Jerry/The Grateful Dead or understand the appeal, I can only offer one possible line of debate. When you turn on the radio, depending on the station, you hear the same songs over and over again. And what’s worse, generally speaking, you hear the same boring version of said song. Top 40 is the worst offender, bordering on criminal (how many times can you listen to the same friggin’ Adele, Katy Perry, Nicki Minaj or Cold Play song?), but all genres have a standard cue of 50 to 100 songs that their affiliated stations play non-stop, on a virtual continuous loop.

The Grateful Dead offer a song catalog of nearly 700 songs. This doesn’t even include the songs side project bands such as the Jerry Garcia Band (JGB) add to the mix. Furthermore, because the Dead are a touring band that played more than 2,300 shows, pretty much every song in that catalog has many versions.

So Sirius/XM radio station 23 is incredible because they play the full archives of a band that amassed the thickest songbook in the industry. Even though you are wont to hear Sugar Magnolia, Playin’ In the Band, Truckin’ or Jack Straw (among others) quite often, chances are, each time you hear the song in a given month, or even year, it will be a unique version of the song. How you like me now Ryan Seacrest?

And Jerry and his bands were intriguing A) because they played great music; and, B) because you never knew what they would play when you saw them live due to their vast catalog and fearless approach to both writing original songs and covering artists across all genres of music.

A few notes:

Jerry played nearly 3,200 live shows over the course of his lifetime as part of 12 separate entities. Not one of these live shows ever fell on August 9. This is amazing considering the date had no real relevance to Jerry (though it certainly does now to his fans, family and friends) and that he played enough to have just about crammed 9 different shows into every date. So not only is August 9 a terrible day in Grateful Dead history for the obvious reason, but also was a rare date that never had any positive Dead “spin.” And keep in mind that attending even the worst Dead (or JGB) show was better than pretty much anything else you could have done on any particular day.

If you want to troll the net to prove my claim wrong, you may come across two separate shows Jerry may have played, one on August 9, 1969 as part of the New Riders of the Purple Sage, and the other on August 9, 1974 with Merl Saunders. Please note the fine print in the links I attached to each date above (the lostlivedead blog offers a decent argument that the New Riders played a run of shows at the Matrix in 1969 but not conclusive evidence that August 9 was among the show dates, and under the Notes section of the 1974 Merl show, pay attention to the fact that this show was likely played a day or two later, and again, no substantial proof has ever materialized to prove otherwise).

Last but not least:

My wife’s birthday happens to fall on August 9. Since we met, her happiness has always taken precedence over the anniversary of the death of one of my idols. As upsetting as the date once was to me, the fact that the love of my life was born on that same date has changed everything for me. There is positive significance to this date, and I recognize that my life is better because of August 9. You see, my wife is my silver lining of August 9…Jerry was the touch of grey…and we all will get by, and we’ll survive.

And just for fun, I encourage you to read this article.

Have a great day and thanks for reading,

IDROS

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