Saturday, May 28, 2005

Another year

Santa Monica 5/29/61

Looking ahead a little to tomorrow, and back a bit more to 1961, one can't help but think about time. Didn't Einstein say that time is like an accordion that stretches and squeezes when played by memory?

Or was that Lawrence Welk ?

Or not?

Einstein's brain must be turning over in its jar.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Bulworth takes on the Terminator

Warren Beatty has some longstanding and serious political positions and sophistication. He has actively campaigned for democratic principles and liberal values while forging a major movie career and bedding some of the most attractive female stars and starlets on three continents. Make that four. Or five.

So it stood to reason that his voice would become the first from the Hollywood fraternity to challenge the latest orange-haired actor to perform the leading role in the California State House. I hope some additional influential voices are soon raised against the Governator's attempt to Bushify our Golden State.

I am currently reading a new biography of Pat Brown and it is a shame to see how far our state leadership has fallen since his days in office.


Several decades ago, Daily Variety created the historic headline: CRIX NIX HIX PIX.

I wonder if they didn't miss another great opportunity as afforded by George Lucas' Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith . And don't tell me he didn't know what he was doing with his anagrammically tempting title.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou on DVD

This film has moments when it seems to have been written, but most of its moments seem to have sprung from a sense of futility and desperation. The plot is about a desperate documentary filmmaker, Steve Zissou, who shambles about in an awkward attempt to put together his current production. Zizzou, much like Wes Anderson, relies on the cooperation and commitment of his regular cast and crew members to pull his project through. When Zissou re-structures a scene to compensate for failed planning, I feel that is also the modus operandi directing Anderson's depiction of the situation.

The over-all result is Theatre of the Absurd, Black Comedy, Tragi-comedy, Warm Comedy, Pathos and Bathos. Sometimes I wish Fellini had never made 8 1/2. So many tender minds have been led to distraction in their sad attempts to emulate it. I didn't find any real point to The Life Aquatic. Like 8 1/2, it seems only to say that making the making of a movie is its only needed justification.

Yet, there are some pleasant moments. Some easy laughs. Good performances, but can it be called acting when there is no context for characterization? Though I especially like Owen Wilson's unexpectedly restrained, humane and egoless creation of a sensitive southern gentleman.

One of the great charms of DVD is that it costs so little in time and money to check out a flick. Despite my criticisms, I see no reason to dissuade any one curious about The Life Aquatic from springing for the rental fee.

Friday, May 20, 2005

Pastry with nuts

Peter has long played a major role in the search for the origins of the word poontang. I once provided him with a song lyric and some clues and now you can check out the source for yourself on this Clara Smith recording from September 12, 1929. To do this, you will have to click on the above title and the framed pastry on Pacific Eclectic .

Tuesday, May 17, 2005


I've been stuck with a cold for the past few days with nothing much to do but watch old Danger Man segments and browse the National Geographic. The May issue contains a long feature on toxins, fascinating enough, but somewhat buried in the text is a passing comment that struck me most of all.

It seems to me that just about everyone over the age of thirty is concerned with the aging process. Not how to do it gracefully, of course, but how to inhibit -- or even reverse it. Health articles and products abound with claims of how to "cure" the "disease" of aging.

But then the Geographic, in the midst of describing the vast world of poisons, points out that oxygen is the ultimate toxin. Yes, oxygen. The plain fact is that the biochemical price of breathing is aging. Oxidation. And, as we know, rust never sleeps.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Poison pen review

Richard Schickel does not review CHAPLIN AND AGEE, he uses it as an opportunity to viciously attack the personal life and creative ability of James Agee. His unleashment of jealous vitriol has almost nothing to do with the book under consideration. It is the sick ranting of a failed old man lashing out in his death throes at the recognition time has awarded a better man, writer and critic than himself.

Schickel writes that Agee was "lucky" in his early death. How sick is that? It prompts me to suggest that Schickel is unlucky in having a long life consumed by jealousy of his betters and self-loathing at his own insignificant literary maunderings.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Urban Ephemerals

Peterme posted an interesting review and commentary on his site which I added a coment to. His comment program, however, has gone askew, so I am posting my comment here. But you should read his review first. And then this:

San Francisco might well be described as De Tocqueville once said of Phildadelphia, "it's sole defect, I repeat, is to be monotonous in its beauty".

I first hit S.F. in 1950, and might still be there yet if the labor unions hadn't had such a controlling grip on job applications. After a few days of hiring hall corruption I headed south to L.A. and still be there yet.
Regarding San Francisco, I have to agree with Kotkin, except for his belittlement of its mayor and service industry. That is pure bitchiness.

Otherwise, I have enjoyed S.F. as a visitor several hundred times in the past 55 years. But I have never thought of it as a city, I even refer to it as The City as an ironic comment on its pretension. And no way is it now or ever has been an art or culture center. It is, and has for decades been a holiday destination. I remember Herb Caen saying so himself in columns dating back to the early 60's.

Cable cars, bright orange bridge, chinatown, a twisting street, Fisherman's Wharf, Candlestick Park. These are holiday icons and attractions, not the stuff of urban sinew and muscle, not: HOG Butcher for the World, Tool Maker, Stacker of Wheat, Player with Railroads and the Nation’s Freight Handler; Stormy, husky, brawling, City of the Big Shoulders: not a Chicago.

Where else I disagree with Kotkin is that he seems to think this is a bad thing. Or that there is some methodology available to determine what any city can, or should, be. I say let San Francisco be San Francisco. I need to enjoy it every couple of months or so.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

I May Not Always Be Right, But I'm Never Wrong Department.

My 74 year-long record of the above is now really on the line. When L.A. rainfall reached Second Place last month on the annual rainfall list I said it wouldn't reach First. Julie challenged me on that and I rashly issued my guarantee that this year's rainfall would not become our all-time record. Rashness is, of course, a requirement of any bold claim; cautious pronouncements are not worthy of utterance.

As of yesterday, L.A.'s current rainfall lies at .94 of an inch short of the 1883-84 record 38.18 inches. And counting.

Our rainy season runs from June 30 to June 30 so there is still seven weeks to go, with June Gloom to come.

I gaze out at a clear blue sky as I write this. And it warms my heart to see it.

Friday, May 06, 2005

Heads up! Posted by Hello

Sunday, May 01, 2005

Germanic breast beating

DOWNFALL is a serious picture. But then, of course, it is German. Maybe it is even a good picture. I don't think so, but maybe I am too informed about Hilter, his era and his bunker.

Downfall covers the same territory as THE LAST TEN DAYS or DER LETZTE AKT to use it's IMDB listing. Both movies are heavily based on information given by Traudl Junge, a favorite secretary of Hitler in his burial bunker.

The difference is that The Last Ten Days is a spellbinding piece of drama that uses the arts of cinema to stun, surprise and captivate its audience, while Downfall is satisfied to tell us -- Warning Plot Alert -- don't read further to find out that war is brutal and ugly, Hitler was demented, committed suicide and was content to drag a complicate German population down with him. But where the film should be shocking and moving is is merely cold and predictable.

But then you have not seen The Last Ten Days (not to be confused with the dreary British remake starring Alec Guinness) so maybe Downfall is worth your while. You won't be entertained, but you might become a little better informed about the nature of leaders and power. But better yet, is BLIND SPOT or Im toten Winkel - Hitlers Sekretärin on IMDB, in which the aged Fraulien Junge gives testimony to her years in that Berlin bunker. Her simple re-tellings of the experience are much more powerful that all the sturm and drang and blood and explosions of Dawnfall.

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