There was a Ghostbusters Xmas Sighting. I ran into this bunch at a local diner. They'd participated in a Christmas parade. They had the car (new movie version) out in the parking lot too. It was really kewl. I asked them if I had to worry about a giant Marshmallow Man tromping through my neighborhood. They assured me I was safe for the evening anyway.
If you have never seen the Nicholas Brothers dance, then prepare to have your breath taken away. This is considered one of the great dance performances of all-time. My body hurts every time I view it. LOL The routine starts about a minute in. Watch it until the end and give your day a boost.
The throttle of my life is pretty much stuck in hyper-drive until end of the year. However, last week, for 24 hours anyway, the speed of life took a pause as I got to celebrate Thanksgiving for only like the 3rd time in the last decade. I was surprisingly excited about this for the weeks leading up to the holiday and the day didn't disappoint.
A friend invited me over to his family's for the event. I like his family. They are always interesting and two teens in the group pretty much guarantees that remains the case. They were relaxed and chilled and gave me a chance to be the same. Plus, they fed a single guy with a real feast.
There was the turkey - a small portion of which you see above - and two kinds of stuffing. One kind was for the vegetarians in the group who clearly skipped the Turkey. There were mash potatoes and bread, cranberry sauce, and two kinds of pies which the teens made and proved themselves chefs in the making. There was something called 'Sunshine Salad' which everyone stayed away from but the guy who made it, lol, and of course there was also wine. Three bottles to be exact which I brought as my contribution. I indulged in it all.
The lady of the house made a playlist to fit the holiday. The songs were themed to be a play on words like one song being by The Cranberries and another about TuPac's mother. I liked this as part of the meal. A bit of a modern twist to a traditional moment.
One highlight for me was watching Planes, Trains, And Automobiles. It isn't a holiday if a John Hughes film isn't going, right? I had seen this before and rate it as one of the top five comedy classics of all-time. But I hadn't seen it in years and I found myself laughing until I literally cried. It was a nice diversion from the serious material I have been dealing with for months.
My friends sent me home with a enough leftovers that lasted me every dinner through Monday. I polished off every last bite's worth. Aren't leftovers the best part of Thanksgiving dinner anyway? Wish I had taken more pie though. Lol.
On Friday I watched people do the American Black Friday ritual. It is a curse really. Like a bad Voodoo spell gone astray. People were lined up for nearly 2 miles to just get off on the exit ramp to the outlet mall where I live. It was taking them over an hour to get off on the ramp. What could possibly be so crucial to own at a mall that a person would waste so much of their life and put themselves through that?
Commercialism and money are the gods to many in this country and when you accept that fact, it explains a lot of what is going on in this country right now. Still, I wonder how so many could forget the lessons of Thanksgiving so quickly and toss them aside for a cheap pair of shoes or a tv. If I ever get that way, I hope someone bitch-slaps me back into reality.
Here is hoping your holiday season is a good one. Remember what is important. As a hint, you won't find it in an advertising slogan.
This month is the 75th anniversary of the release of Casablanca. I had the good fortune to see it on the big screen, courtesy of TCM which sponsored showings this week. Considered by many to be the greatest movie ever, most movie buffs would put it in their top 3 of all-time.
This was not my first time to see it on the big screen. I've been lucky to see it twice. And tonight I went with someone who had never seen the movie before and they became a huge fan after viewing it.
Simple things like this can make a week special. In my last blog post I spoke of the car accident for which I am now fighting for a fair settlement. My computer crashed last night, leaving me scrambling to find another unit before a big deadline next week. Luckily, I found a good one from a roommate that we worked a deal on.
I had been excited to see this movie since before even buying the tickets. And after all that has happened, sitting in the cinema watching Bogie and Bergman and that great cast, was much needed relief. As a writer, I also marvel at the outcome of the picture because the script was being written on a day-to-day basis, sometimes over lunch. The actors had no real way to prepare but yet, there it is, one heck of a script and one of the greatest movies of all-time. So yeah, it was a good day.
I wish the car above was mine. It pulled into the garage while I was there and quickly became the envy of everyone present. Oh, why was I at the garage? Look below.
Some guy - who was having a terrible day all on his own - backed into me while I was parked. Fortunately, he was an honest man and tracked me down to tell me about it. Most drivers here just take off.
Unlike the guy who hit me, his insurance company is trying its best to rip me off. They say the door can be replaced for $98. If you're laughing, I guarantee you that the mechanics were laughing even harder. Pretty sure I will blog about the insurance company when this is over. I have to argue with them next week. They gave me an estimate of 1/2 what they admitted it would cost for repairs. No one is surprised of course. Like most insurance companies, they're basically just a legal criminal enterprise.
At the same time as the wreck, my Le Mans key chain broke! I guess it is giving me an excuse to go to Le Mans and buy another one. This one was a gift but I have always wanted to go to the Le Mans 24 hr race. Just think it would be kewl and I'm not even a racing fan.
Well, I sign off on that note. Take the car out of the equation and it has actually be a really interesting month. More good than bad to be honest. Strange at times but positive. If life wasn't strange or interesting, I'd probably be worried.
Halloween is a huge deal down here. All the houses decorate and on Halloween thousands of kids do the trick or treat. I love the pic above because the kid came as Cat Boy. I hung out for a while with a friend, drank a beer, passed out candy. Saw other friends and lots of kids who invented their own super heroes, or had costumes that lit up, inflated Godzilla outfits, and one really, really cool Wednesday Adams which was my fav. Someone came as James Orglethorpe, with little pics of him plastered all over her. The diversity and creativity of the costumes were really awesome. Oddly, no Stranger Things characters which I half-expected. And fortunately, not a single Trump reference. I think he's too vilified even for Halloween at this point. Below are a variety of pics. Not the best but with the phone and before it got dark.
While everyone is awaiting Season Two of Stranger Things, I took a couple hours to watch the Netflix documentary, What Happened, Miss Simone?. A different genre to be sure, but definitely worth the time.
I have to say, I knew very little about the famous singer/musician Nina Simone before I hit the play button. The movie starts a bit slow but once it gets going, Simone's story is fascinating. It is aided in large part by the fact there are interviews with her ex-husband and that her daughter is the Executive Producer on the project.
Trained to be a classical pianist, Simone ended up being one of the most unique jazz voices and influences in history. This movie covers her childhood, start in the business, how she met her manager/husband, and how he helped guide her to being one of the most popular singers in the world before the destructive personalities of both of them collided and ruined it.
There are clips from her appearance on the Hugh Heffner's Penthouse show, (It was good to see the Don Adams cameo in that spot as well), and in-depth details of her growing - and often militant - involvement with the Civil Rights Movement. Her song, Mississippi Goddam which you see her singing live, conveys the anger, resentment, that she repeatedly expresses having throughout the film.
The time in Africa is explored a bit and her daughter gives insight on that though there is little footage from that era which is a bit disappointing. But it may be a case that she was just hanging out and footage wasn't on anyone's mind at the time.
If there was one disappointment in the film, in an area I wish I had learned more about, it was the years she spent playing a little Parisian dive for a few hundred francs a night. There was almost no footage of that era and no interviews. She was living in a dirty hole of a flat, in despair, and there should have been more material in the film of her time at the bottom. Just saying.
I was glad that her musicians and friends were interviewed for this and provided insight to her behavior and how she was rescued, and rescued is the word to use, and put back on the course to make her star rise again.
Her voice haunts you. Her songs are memorable. And frankly, I found Backlash Blues relevant for the times we are living in today which is why I posted it atop. This film, music buff or not, is worth your time. Stream it on Netflix. I give it 4/5 on the rating scale.
Maybe I am posting this because it is a Monday, but definitely for my DJ friend, Superfrye. Maybe the urge for this is because it dawns on me that the 1% is too large a bloc, should be cut in half. Then later that half can be sliced in half and so on but definitely because we all hate tourists. Maybe this is a reaction to the lady who slammed her carry-out bag down at McD's, in a public huff, due to her fries being not fresh enough. Those first world problems will drag a person into madness and what could defy reason more than me posting William Shatner's cover (and it is a good one) of Common People? How about two videos in the name of irony, as in seeing your life slide out of view? The original version by Pulp is a kewl video. And yes, we all still hate tourists.
"I knew a man once. He was what anyone would call somebody. He made something of himself." The stranger explained this to me with a force in his voice that left little room to doubt the authenticity of the information.
"The man went from what most might call humble beginnings to really accomplish great things, though ..." and now there was hesitation in the tone "only historians and cultural buffs will be able to tell you his name and feats ten years from now. Shame."
The man twitched, shifted his stance, as to reaffirm his own belief. "You know how lucky I am? I got to know someone who made it to the top. He even called me by my first name - twice! They say he was bad at names but he remembered mine. Stood as close to me as I am to you and said my name - twice! Never mind that in the end, the weight of success crushed his spirit. Too much to handle. Poor man. All that fame ... wasted."
The man drifted into his own abyss of what might have been and I watched as he abruptly broke off the conversation, proceeded on his way, against the light, crossing from one corner to the next with an undeserved haughtiness that made me pity him, albeit, for one brief second. The encounter was all forgettable; the changing lights, the man walking into the sound of a honking horn, the mysterious human who epitomized the pinnacle of his existence, the very street corner itself which was tagged by a Future Construction sign.
I knew a man once. I met him on a street corner. He apparently judged himself by low standards and the elbows he rubbed. But the brief encounter reminded me that time washes away the footprints we leave - whether or not you ever knew such a man.
Filed under the category of things you don't ever expect to happen to you personally, comes this experience from last week. Basically, I got confronted by a guy passing himself off as a police officer when he wasn't.
While standing behind the counter at my part-time job, this guy comes in and whips out a badge from under his shirt. It was on a chain just like the movies. He didn't give his name but only said they were looking for a particular person. I leaned in to take a look at the badge - mainly because I didn't have my glasses on - and realized he had his hand cupped over it so I couldn't read it. Then he whipped it right back under his shirt. Red Flag One. It also irritated me.
He thrust a photo in front of me of the guy he was searching for in this manhunt. The photo was on a plain piece of paper, run off someone's home printer from a badly scanned pic. While he is going on about the guy - who I had never seen - but who he described as 5'1", long hair, and weighing 250 pounds (basically he was looking for an obese long-haired pygmy) - I was noticing his shirt.
The shirt, resembling a garage mechanic's, was embroidered with USCA. I started thinking to myself, I know most of the security agencies, who the hell is USCA??? After confronting a couple other workers, and as I started to ask a pointed question, the guy avoided the manager and left as quickly as he came in.
My first reaction was to say, that guy was no cop. After some back and forth, the others consented they didn't buy into him being law enforcement either. The fact he looked like he was in desperate need of a shower and had his shirt buttoned wrong, were also Red Flags.
Still, no one at the store wanted to call the real cops. Mainly because at the store, like most people, no one enjoys interacting with real cops. You never know what you are getting into once you start down that road. But the incident kept bugging me and so I repeatedly brought it up over the next hour or two.
Then the next shift came in and this high school girl who is always full of life and humor, says, "Yeah, we had this weirdo come in last night and flash a badge, saying he was an investigator." Turns out it was the same guy and he had tried to pump her for some personal information. Definitely a Red Flag!
I looked at the manager and said, hey, if you don't want to make the call, I will. He relented and told me to call from the office. Consequently, I ended my shift making out a police report. To her credit, the female co-worker got a look at the vehicle he was driving. An old SUV. Apparently, he couldn't get his hands on one of those black SUV's they use in the movies. Guess the fake badge busted the budget.
Fortunately, he hasn't been back and that bizarre incident has been filed under, "Huh, go figure..." Makes for a different kind of blog post though.
Tom Petty died this week. A college radio station today left regular programming to play the entire Damn The Torpedoes album. Century City - a song I hadn't heard in years - played and I knew every damn word. Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers were the garage band everyone loved. They were taken for granted. The group down the street that always jammed and you sorta figured always would. Until this week.
It is a testament to Petty's skills as a songwriter and musician that people seldom named him as their number one favorite but knew every hit song he had and willingly did carpool karaoke when his songs played on the radio. They were the garage band we'd love to sit in the driveway, light a joint, pop a beer, and listen to them rock our miserable average lives away. My favorite song of his is Even The Losers (Get Lucky Sometimes). There's few songs more common man than that one. That's probably why as late as last week, the group was playing sold out concerts on their 40th Anniversary Tour. A tour Petty said might be his last.
His riffs and lyrics were economical. More importantly they hit the right chord and stuck with us. He rocked hard but also gave us softer gems like Wildflowers. He played in one of the greatest super groups of all time, The Traveling Wilburys. How you beat Petty, George Harrison, Roy Orbison, Jeff Lynne, and Bob Dylan in the same band, I don't know. Three of those five are now passed away.
My brother reminded me of a good story of how Petty took on the courts and record companies. At the top of his heyday, he fought for control and setting the price of his work. He couldn't release an album for a couple years because of the legal hassles. Knowing it was going to court, he placed the master tapes in a car, gave the keys to a friend, along with his credit card, and told him to keep driving until he heard otherwise. The guy spent like a year driving around the country, living off the credit card. In court, Petty honestly told the judge he had no clue where those tapes were.
I've spent the last couple days rediscovering the body of Tom Petty's work. The songs never left my music rotation but had been more on the peripheral. After all, I didn't expect that garage band ever to go away. Now that they have, the silence is deafening.
The guy I thought most about yesterday was Rocky Bleier, the former Running Back for the Pittsburgh Steelers who has Super Bowl rings to prove his excellence as a player. We all witnessed the protests yesterday in the NFL by players, coaches and execs. This, a direct result of Trump's vulgar attack on their character. Trump's racist remarks turned what was a scattered protest into a league-wide (and beyond the NFL) statement against Trump and his Nazi-led base.
I don't know where Rocky Bleier stands on the protests (which started under Obama and were aimed at police brutality against minorities) or politics, so why did I think about him often during this football weekend? Character. He exemplifies all the drive and honor that Trump does not.
Bleier went to serve in Vietnam because he got drafted by the Army at the same time he got drafted by the NFL. Donald Trump used a fake bone spur to arrange for FIVE deferments so he wouldn't have to join the armed forces. Bleier was wounded in an ambush by gunfire and grenade fragments and told he might never walk again let alone play football.
Instead of giving in to what seemed a certain fate, Bleier worked for two years to literally get on his feet again. The result was that he was signed by the Steelers and went on to help make that dynasty. He and Franco Harris were a rare example in league history where TWO running backs on the same team both rushed for over 1000 yards. Bleier earned every yard and Super Bowl ring the hard way.
Now you take that example and you compare it to Trump who makes racist attacks on a weekend when over 3 million Americans are without food and water in Puerto Rico, in large part because Trump has yet to send ANY aid to the island which is totally without power in the wake of Hurricane Maria.
I actually understand Trump and the deferments. I have never belittled anyone for not wanting to fight in Vietnam. If you had the means to avoid the draft, why not? It was a terrible war. But don't stand there and act like you did anything else but avoid the draft while guys like Bleier, men without means or who felt it was their duty, went and bled. But Trump time and time again disparages Vets. Take McCain whom he ridiculed for being a P.O.W. or the Vet organizations he pledges money to but never pays. If you took the deferment, you are in the back of the line buddy.
For the record, if you think that there isn't a difference in how police treat whites versus minorities in this country then you need to get out of the house once in a while. It is two very different reactions. This country has a serious race problem and only someone dwelling in denial would not acknowledge that.
So before anyone else calls athletes "sons of bitches" and unpatriotic because they think free speech is their right, consider the case of Rocky Bleier, what he fought for both in Vietnam and in the States. And the Steelers yesterday? They lost to Chicago (HOW???) but their best moment was when the team as a whole stayed in the tunnel to boycott the National Anthem. Except for one guy. An ex-Ranger and West Point graduate who came out for the song. Free speech. Take a knee when you feel the need.
The above picture was posted by Stephen King online, showing a Swedish book display. Now this is the way to sell books. With IT sweeping the globe, the display made me smile so had to share.
She lost her sister in Auschwitz. Her boyfriend and future brother-in-law to a firing squad. All three for Resistance activities. She herself lived off forged papers before joining the French Army, going behind Nazi lines as a nurse and providing key military intel on troop movements that won her a couple dozen medals. When the war was over, she was in Occupied Germany and then left the army to be a nurse in Cambodia and Vietnam. This is the life of Marthe Cohn.
I went to hear her speak last night at the Buckhead Theatre. Cohn is 97 but a pretty lively speaker and it was easy to tell had a bit of wit about her. Sitting next to her was her husband who helped her along at times. The event was sold out and some schools must have made the night a project because there were a fair number of school-aged kids on hand. I sat next to a few. They were well-behaved and listened intently. A good sign for the future.
Marthe has written a book about her exploits, Behind Enemy Lines. I found her discussion frank, without hyperbole so my guess is that the book is a good read.
She was at her best when she was describing her sister - a hero in her own right - and the fate that befell her after she was arrested, put in a French camp, then eventually deported to Auschwitz. Clearly, this experience remains an open wound in her mind.
It was interesting to hear first hand the exploits of a spy and also the situation the French Army found itself in toward the end of the war. From her talk, I also learned how vast the French resistance to the German occupation was and how the population circumvented German rule to keep Jews and others alive.
The only downside to the night was the Buckhead Theatre itself or the organizers. I can't say which. There were technical difficulties with the curtains not working right. Also a DVD was played at the very beginning and it had a severe buffering problem which someone should've known about before the presentation. But the audience bore with it.
You can see pictures of Marthe Cohn in this post - she is very short - and the medals she won which were on display (although the Theatre never turned up the lights afterwards to get a good shot). Overall, it was an interesting story to hear and a fine way to spend a Thursday evening.
In the past month, I found myself on a Dashiell Hammett binge for an inexplicable reason. Hammett was the author of some of crime noir's best hardboiled detective novels. His most famous being ones like The Maltese Falcon; The Thin Man; The Dain Curse. While he wrote other notable stories, it is these that made him famous. Many of his famous novels were turned into movies and I suspect, like me, that is where you know the likes of detectives Sam Spade and Nick Charles from. Hammett was also married to Lillian Helmann, the famous playwright.
I chose two very opposite stories to read. Red Harvest is one of his earlier works and not as famous. However, I found myself identifying characters in the story, who would be used for the foundation of other characters in like The Maltese Falcon. From a writing standpoint, it was interesting to see that development over time.
The story itself is one of racking up the body count, double-crosses, sex for sex sake, and a hardboiled detective in over his head. It was an easy read and should be taken as a simple crime novel escape. The crimes themselves aren't that noteworthy. Like I said, it was an earlier novel.
However, you can see Hammett's improvement in storytelling with The Thin Man. I love The Thin Man movies! They still have a big fan base and channels like TCM show them on a regular basis. So I was expecting to pretty much know the story and not be really surprised. I was wrong.
The book is somewhat different from the movie in the plot. And the characters are more fully developed, leaving a lot to learn about the lead characters, Nick and Nora. You also get a glimpse of elite New York back during Prohibition that doesn't really translate in the movies. The visits to speakeasy's, the way business was done, and even policing, expose a whole different side that the movie doesn't have time to delve into on the big screen.
It turns out that I enjoyed the book, The Thin Man, ever bit if not more than the movie. That says something. Hammett also has a unique way for his characters to tell their stories. Both of these novels are first person but in The Thin Man, the lead character Nick has a way of dismissing society norms that will bring a smile to your face. It is a refreshing technique.
I hope to read The Maltese Falcon at some point down the line. But if you like these kind of stories, I would say pick up The Thin Man which I give 5 of 5 on the rating scale. Then if you are wanting more, and a quick escape, Red Harvest which is 4 of 5.
This month I went to see an exhibit at the MODA in Atlanta of world-renown Luba Lukova's work. I have posted a sampling from the exhibit, snapped with my trusty phone so don't expect Pulitzer photos here. But this gives you an example of her work.
I like her art because it is simple, challenges the mind, and uses little text to get the point across. There is very much a propaganda feel to her style. I don't know if as a Bulgarian, a Soviet influence crept into her style or not, and I don't meant that in a bad way. Hey, they knew how to make propaganda work.
I really like the first poster that I put up here. There are other good ones not shown and it is worth the visit. MODA is less than ten bucks for a ticket and the tour is one floor so can swiftly done on your lunch break if need be. I encourage you to check it out if you get the chance.
Believe it or not, this year marks the 100th anniversary of the U.S.A. entering WWI. There is an exhibit at the Atlanta History Center, I believe simply titled Uncle Sam Wants You! that features posters, propaganda pieces, and artifacts from WWI. Here is just a handful of snapshots that I took while touring it. I encourage you to check out the exhibit if you get the chance.
Tucked behind the main museum of the Atlanta History Center, a short walk's distance down a path, is President Snow's Mansion. President Snow as in President Snow from The Hunger Games. In real life the place is called The Swan House. My friend and I were on a tight schedule so we didn't have time to tour inside but we took a couple quick shots outside. You can see the mansion and the field where the party scene was filmed.
A sidebar. There was a photographer setting up for a wedding. He was using a drone to stream the event. It got me wondering what sorta omen it was to have your your marriage attached to The Hunger Games.
A Nazi is a Nazi. That is all you really need to know. I don't even like to attach neo to the word because the beliefs are old, dated, primitive. Nazis are violent, small-minded, intellectual midgets, who think they are bringing on some sort of resurgence of white power while ignoring the fact that whites have never made up the majority of this planet and are no more gifted than the next race. In doing research, I've rarely found a case of a person regretting being a Nazi, only that Hitler was such a failure.
The Nazi attack on Charlottesville today demonstrates all that you need to know about Nazis. They plowed a car (the photo above snapped at the moment and published by the local paper, The Daily Progress) into a group of counter-demonstrators killing and injuring dozens. This after running street battles that turned the quiet town into a miniature 1930s Berlin. With their Wal-Mart tiki torches and "Heil, Trump", America got a firsthand display of violent idiocy.
The White House of course refused to condemn the Nazis. But this is a White House where Bannon gave an interview praising the attributes of Hitler; where the fake counter-terrorism expert Gorka has a life-long oath to a Hungarian Nazi party, and the lead speechwriter flashes white power signs from the press room and styles himself after Goebbels. Trump's father was a well-known racist in his day and his sons have appeared on Nazi podcasts in the past. Trump gladly and publicly accepted the support of the likes of David Duke and the Nazi parties during the election. Don't expect any heartfelt condemnation to be forthcoming.
The sad truth is, there are going to be more street battles in the days head. An anti-fascist movement has taken root here. On one hand that is the good news. On the other hand, once a cycle of violence begins, it increasingly becomes hard to break it. But the only way to deal with Nazis is to confront them head-on. They are bullies by nature. I actually encounter a couple on a daily basis here and I make sure never to give an inch when around them. Like all bullies, they have little else going for them once put in their place.
This is the state of our affairs here. Our country, ripped apart in less than a year by the Trump family of lunatics. A palace of freedom reduced to a brothel of desperate deeds.
Christopher Nolan's Dunkirk is holding up as one of the summer's big blockbusters. With Wonder Woman the only clear other huge hit, I am not sure if Dunkirk's success is a product of the film itself or the fact people just want to see something that lives up to the billing for a change. Dunkirk is a solid movie. Having said that, it isn't a classic. It won't be up there with a Saving Private Ryan for instance. But it does hold your attention and the craft aspect of the film is nicely done.
One odd thing about the film that becomes quickly apparent is the lack of real lead acting parts. This is no reflection on the cast but more a product of the script itself. A lot was made of Harry Styles appearance in this film but truth is, that was more for P.R. purposes than not as almost every role in this movie is simply a supporting cast role. Consequently, there are no real standouts in the acting category here - with the exception of one.
He wasn't meant to be a lead with this script but the guy who steals this movie is Mark Rylance in the part of a small boat owner. He already has one Oscar for his supporting role in Bridge of Spies and I would think he has to be considered with another nomination for his role in this movie.
Christopher Nolan's directing was spot on. The camera work here is top-notch. In spite of the subject matter, this is a a beautiful film to watch which is probably also part of its appeal. The camera fills the gap for the lack of lines in the script.
Like I said, this won't be a classic movie but it is solid and worth the ticket price. On my rating scale, I give it a 4 of 5. Just wish they had given Rylance a larger part or put more acting in the story.