Another sign my job is becoming absolutely uncategorizable by any sort of union rules: I was asked to whip up some theme music for a co-worker's video show. Not because I am a brilliant in-house resource, but because they don't have to pay anyone royalties. The request: "something 70s." That means different things to different people, of course; could be tasteful langourous Eagles ballads about fickle suntanned California coke enthusiasts, or Boz-Scaggs albino soul, or Ohio Players funk complete with SAY WHAT shouted at random, or chainsaw punk guitars fed into a wood chipper, or pristine antiseptic ABBA It may have been the most diverse decade in popular music; also one of the worst. Weed and 'ludes and session cats and Rupert Holmes, disco Beethoven. But it ended in the Great Cleansing of Punk and New Wave, and you couldn't have had the stripped-down rave-up bands unless they had something full of frosting and ham to reject.

That said, I'll still fire up the ELO playlist from time to time. And there's more, but I'll save it for the end.

Went to the Edina Art Fair on Saturday to shoot some video for the Jim “Jimmy” Lileks Show Program. I enjoyed playing an idiot who asks stupid questions; you get the most interesting answers. They had an information booth, so I asked them “What is Art?” The answer may surprise you! Or not; if you think anyone would say “it’s the combination of technique and insight, building on millennia of accumulated values,” well, no. “Whatever you want it to be” was the answer I got twice. So we’re told. I don’t think most people believe it.

The movie theater had an interesting line-up:


Watched “The Fall of the Roman Empire,” which was apparently shot in real time; it takes years. It’s one of those super ultra-wide-screen movies that does not fit your TV; Romans are always falling out of one side of the set, and barbarians on the other. You have to sweep up after it’s done. The plot is the same as “Gladiator,” without the interesting visuals, arresting cinematography, or special affects; on the other hand, it has Sophia Loren acting as badly as possible, and Sir Alec Guiness looking as though he has a headache through the entire first hour. The music is particularly disappointing, and seems to go out of its way to avoid melody whenever possible. I ordered it from Netflix on the recommendation of many critics who found its epic scale and lack of video trickery to be impressive, and I’ll admit it’s remarkable to see real sets, not CGI. But “Rome” the TV show had sets as well, and was better than this movie by a factor of 203,045. The only compelling moment comes when Caesar is being buried, and the assembled troops sent up a wordless moan; it’s eerie and unnerving, and seems imported from a very good movie about a distant but recognizable culture. The rest is gilt-speckled dross.

Also watched “Rocky Balboa,” and to my surprise it was very, very good. I’m serious: the Rocky movies haven’t grabbed me since the second one, which was full of fool-pitying and the rest of the still-new T schtick, and I still remember rolling my eyes during #4, when Rocky’s plucky never-say-die-when-you-can-say-yo inability to quit when his brain is bleeding internally not only defeats the evil Soviet Robot, but makes Gorbachev himself rise to his feet in approval. But “Rocky Balboa” is small-scaled, humble and endearing. An odd thing, this Stallone; he seems like such a rockheaded lummox, and he makes all sorts of painful junk, but then he writes and directs something as human and economical as this – thirty years into the franchise.

The credits sequence is sweet – ordinary folk running up the steps of the Museum, reprising the famous moment from the first. But the last shot is Stallone / Rocky or Rocky / Stallone standing alone on the steps at dusk, hands behind his back instead of raised over his head, head slightly bowed in contemplation or gratitude. It’s the last thing I would expect to find touching, but it was.  

The weekend’s 40s movie was “The Postman Always Rings Twice,” which I’d seen before. I had a brief desire to see the remake, but it passed. One of the characters sounded very familiar, so I googled him: sure enough. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Fred Flintstone as Tony Soprano.

Back to the 70s: Punk and New Wave and the proto-electronica bands all started in the 70s, and opened up the gates for anything that wasn't laid-back or wacka-chicka disco. I have no idea why I bought Jona Lewie's first album, but I did, and I loved it. This, my friends, was the height of fashion almost 30 years ago: "You Will Always Find Me In the Kitchen at Parties."

I can still sing along to every line. Don't miss the moment when Jona actually deigns to play the keyboards. Or the "new way" in which they dance.

Didn't take long for them to tire mightily of lip-syncing the damn song, though:

I love the 80s. I wish I'd spent more time there. New comics. See you at!