Sunday, September 10, 2006


As a high school truant in the late 1940s, I spent many daytime hours in Cleveland's Lower Mall Theater. This specialized movie house at the commercial edge of downtown Cleveland was an absolute treasure trove of foreign and revival films. Having grown up and thrived on the luxury of film revival theaters, I can really appreciate what video, especially DVD, can bring to me.

My revival house experience was not your standard movie-going group entertainment. The Lower Mall, at least in the daytime, attracted very few customers. I sat alone in the dark, relating only to the movie, not the scattered few others in attendance. I think porno theaters are today's comparable experience. It was, like DVD is now, essentially a personal, not group experience.

Watching Knut Hamsun's HUNGER on DVD tonight was much like it would have been in the Lower Mall, that is to say, the only way I would have wanted to watch it. I never even mentioned to Julie that I had the DVD and was going to view it. I know she would never sit still for a 40-year-old, sub-titled, black-and-white downer film from Norway.

I watched it alone and was caught up in every frame of every scene. The only distractions were my own wild thoughts and inner comments on the action, the actors and the intense predicament of the central character. This character is focused on like almost no other in film history. And the performance by Per Oscarsson won Best Actor at many film festivals such as Cannes in 1966 and America's National Society of Film Critics Award in 1969.

DVD, Blockbuster Online, Netflix and a handful of specialized video stores are now the source for the best film viewing experience in America today. The Cineplex be damned.

California Dreamin'

Interesting article in the LA TIMES today on Newberry Springs real estate. This Mojave Desert hot spot seems to have a mystique for investors. I wonder if part of that mystique relates in some way to the film shot there about twenty years ago, Bagdad Cafe .

I made a point of driving into Newberry Springs after seeing the movie. Parked in the heat of mid day, outside the cafe, all I could hear was wind. Not too far distant I could see, but not hear, cars and trucks on the freeway carelessly by-passing this little oasis.

The German filmmaker saw something here. His subject was abandonment and survival. Whether it foreshadows something about Newberry Springs or not, it is a good movie.

Friday, September 08, 2006


I developed a DSL and phone line problem a couple of weeks ago. As is always the case, I spent hours on the telephone, following voice prompts and speaking with numerous Customer (non)Service and technical personnel.

Days went by with intermittent connectivity, mis-communication and frustration. Eventually, an AT&T technician named José gave me a call one morning and agreed to pay me a brief, early visit to eyeball the situation on his way to a scheduled appointment. Seeing the inadequately installed outside connection box and wires, he started to check for the problem, even though he had not received authorization from HQ for this work.

To cut to the chase, two hours later José had installed a proper weatherproof enclosure outside the house and drilled holes inside the house to run and install phone lines to secure connections in my office space. My phone and DSL have worked perfectly since then.

I knew that José was on company time, but I also knew that he had jumped me ahead of his scheduled appointments for that day and had gotten my Internet up and running some days before AT&T would have scheduled me. In appreciation I tried to press some cash on him, but he refused.

José is a thin, tough looking little guy, but with a bright and friendly demeanor. He is also a 59-year-old grandfather who had graduated from Loyola Marymount University Law school many years before. LMU is the Jesuit run university whose campus borders the end of my street.

Law school graduate, poet, extensive traveler, ethnic historian, cultural and religious anthropologist and telephone technician. In two hours one can, if interested, learn quite a bit about a guy while he is busy with his hands and familiar skills. Again I was reminded of the richness that lies beneath the plain surface of most lives.

And aside from the fact that José was doing me a big favor, it was nice to see someone break out of the Customer Service strait jacket to extend a helping hand when it was really needed.

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