Saturday, April 11, 2015

B-Day Watch: Guardians of the Galaxy and Superman - The Movie

This weekend marks my 40th birthday.  As such, I'm taking it easy and enjoying some of my favorite movies.

Last night was a recent favorite, Guardians of the Galaxy (2014), because it will be a while before I see Rocket Raccoon in anything, and I will rewatch Captain America 2 just prior to Avengers 2.

Es muy bueno!

It's actually a little surprising how well the movie holds up upon multiple viewings in a single year.  And, man, you don't hear much about it, but it's also a very pretty movie.  Space isn't a black field with white dots - it's a nebula cloud of Kool-Aid colors.

And, this morning I got up early and put on Superman: The Movie.  Not much new to see on a 50th or so screening of the movie, but I wasn't going to let a "Ryan gets to watch whatever he wants this weekend" window go by without Superman.

As the credits rolled, Jamie asked me if I'd seen it 100 times yet.  And, I don't think so...  but you never know.  It's possible.  I know I've seen it a few times per year every year since 2008 or so, and before that I'd watch it a lot more than that.  So...  yeah, I have no idea, really.

I also started Blade Runner last night and realized I was exhausted during the "let's kill the eyeball guy" sequence, so I didn't finish.  Sometime this weekend, though.

Oh, and Daredevil is pretty @#$%ing right on.  Check it out on Netflix.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Signal Watch Reads: Mother Night

Between longer audio books, I'll sometimes do a Vonnegut book.  After finishing a 37 hour book-listen, taking on a decent audiobook that's at a mere 6 hours can feel like a downright vacation.  Sure, I know I'm missing a lot by not seeing Vonnegut's doodles and intentional use of the page, but, I figure, better this than the fact I'd never get around to it as a sit-down read.

Mother Night (1961) was released a few years prior to Slaughterhouse Five, and also deals with the lives of participants in World War II during and after the war.

Told as an account by Campbell himself, as evidence to present at his coming trial in Israel, the book makes interesting use of time, assuming the audience will not be surprised by many aspects presented and revealing many things immediately rather than at key points to create surprise, were the story a straight chronology. It certainly has the matter-of-fact quality I've come to recognize in Vonnegut's work.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Actor James Best Merges with The Infinite

Both our own Alfredo Garcia and the New York Times are reporting the passing of actor James Best, known best to Gen-X'ers as Sheriff Rosco P. Coltrane on TV's The Dukes of Hazzard.

I did not really follow Best's career, but at some point - possibly even pre-Wopat/Schneider departure, I identified most with the good Sheriff the most of any character on the show.  All I, too, wanted was to park my car beneath a shady tree and take a snooze beside a lazy hound-dog while the cicadas chirped away.  And we were never gonna catch those durn Duke Boys anyway.


Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Billie Holiday hits the Century Mark

It's tough to top Billie Holiday.  She's undoubtedly one of the most important vocal performers of the 20th Century, and certainly one of the most recognizable voices since recorded and broadcast music sprung into existence.

Today marks the birthday of Ms. Eleanora Fagan, born April 7th, 1915 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Holiday's biography also reads like the blueprint for a terribly depressing biopic, but it's also a remarkable American story.

This weekend I tried to watch Annie Lennox, who I have admired since I was a kid, perform her new concert, Nostalgia, on PBS, recorded in front of an upper-crust audience at LA's Orpheum Theater.  And, while I understand that many performers sooner or later hit a point where they explore The Great American Songbook - Lennox performed a few of Holiday's standards, and I found the thing puzzling enough I turned it off.  But, taking apart what was happening and for what audience could take a few hundred pages and a deconstruction of cultural appropriation that would leave nobody happy.

Strange Fruit and God Bless the Child aren't owned by Billie Holiday, but they're certainly part of her catalog, and I don't blame Lennox for wanting to emulate Lady Day, but...  context.   Billie Holiday's voice, song choice and expression were formed by what amounts to an extremely troubled youth (broken home - to put it mildly - and as a kid, she ran errands in a brothel) and young womanhood (prostitute by age 15).  Holiday was part of the colorful jazz scene of Harlem from the early 1930's and onward (she was performing by age 17), and was playing with Count Basie and Artie Shaw within a few years.  Even after some very public problems, she did manage to play shows at Carnegie Hall that were very well received.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Talking Heads "Slippery People"

From the Talking Heads concert film Stop Making Sense
One of my favorite songs from one of my favorite bands.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Mad Men starts winding it up this evening

I am going to miss the hell out of these two characters

The second half of the final season of AMC's Mad Men begins this evening.

Of all the shows that have marked the transformation of television in the past 10-15 years, something that looks, on paper, like a sudsy soap opera, free from gun play or spies or gangsters or even the threat of violence, has been the show that's genuinely surprised me the most over the duration of the program.

You don't need to jump to the comments to tell me you tried it and just couldn't do it.  I know.  I've heard that a lot over the years.  I don't expect everyone to all like the same thing.  I'm sure AMC wishes that the show had the greater appeal of a prime-time soap, and for all I know, that's what they thought they were green lighting.  Instead, they produced one of the most nuanced, long-running, multi-character character studies to ever get broadcast.

One of the funny things is reading articles or posts on legitimate news sites and pop-culture reflector sites from writers who are clearly longtime viewers, and so often their criticism of the show boils down to you really wanting to just raise your hand and say "you're describing your own baggage you're bringing to the show.  The problem isn't that the show didn't do that well, it's that this aspect of the character gets to you."  Next time you see a Mad Men puff piece in Salon or Slate of Huff Po or whatever site likes to write about the show, just look for it, for I assure you, it's always there.

It's a difficult show in that it does not ask you to sympathize with a Walter White as he goes down the well.  You aren't up close feeling his desperation and tasting his victories or understanding his horror at some of his own choices.

Elvira Easter

Happy Easter from The Signal Watch and Elvira

Ann Miller, What Are You Doing? Easter Edition

Ann Miller, that is a lovely Easter Bunnet.