No Friday Night Pizza; no Saturday Errands. Sunday on stage. Everything upended and better for it.
An excellent weekend. Let me begin by telling you about something impossible to put into words, followed by interpretive dance about architecture. Actually, writing about music is not like dancing about architecture; you can summon up the ineffable qualities of a good performance with words, but it’s only interesting to the people who were there and want to have the experience recapped. Otherwise, no. I never read reviews of concerts, because I don’t care. So I won’t trouble you with anything except this:
Nachito Herrara is a local pianist who made his debut with the Cuban National Orchestra at the age of 12, and for reasons I don’t know but am grateful exist, he lives here now. The last time I heard him play with the Minnesota Youth Symphonies was with Doc Severinson a few years back; this time he played “Rhapsody in Blue,” and Good. Lord. There were, I think, a few notes in there George did not write down. Some rhythms you don’t usually hear. It was magnificent and exhilarating, and I was honored to introduce it. Backstage I stood next to a kid who wants to conduct someday, I suspect; he knew the piece completely as well, and we stood there grinning like idiots over what Nachito was doing, what he just slipped in. This kid, by the way, had started the show by playing “Toccata and Fugue” on the hall’s pipe organ, just for fun. There’s your heavy-metal band with a Marshall stack and all the knobs turned up to 11, and then there’s Bach on a pipe organ.
The orchestra also played some Star Wars, and I was reminded that this was Star Wars Day, and I should go out and say “may the Fourth be with you,” and I contemplated how I could get away with that horrible pun. I hate puns. I actually considered saying that I didn’t want to mention that the Fourth should be with you, but the conductor, well, she followed, and try as I might I couldn’t e-Vader.
Decided against that.
On Saturday night I listened to a BBC adaptation of “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service,” the book that spawned a curious movie: Curious for having Telly Savalas as Blofeld; curious because it ret-conned the previous movie so Blofeld didn’t recognize Bond; curious for that horrible introduction of Lazenby as he faces the camera and breaks the fourth wall; curious for not being a bad Bond movie at all. The radio adaptation hewed close to the book, and gave me the impression that the book was . . . ridiculous.
As in bad.
The plot concerns Bond infiltrating a Swiss Alps redoubt in the guise of a genealogical researcher who wants to assist Blofeld in making his claim to be a Count in the Bleuville line, or something. Apparently Bond looks like a fellow who is known to do such on-the-spot interviews. You’d think M or someone would say “given the keen attention you’ve been paying to SPECTRE and Blofeld in the last several years, I think we’d best send in 008,” but they’re banking on no one at the Alpine Redoubt shouting “Good God that’s Bond, here, look at the photos.”
But SPECTRE is apparently that thick, and Blofeld is motivated by vanity. Or he knows all along. Or doesn’t.
What we do know is that the Alpine Redoubt has a lot of rich young girls with connections to the agricultural industry of England, and they are all allergic to something, be it wheat or pigs, and Blofeld has assembled them under the guise of curing their allergies to introduce bioagents to cripple British livestock and cash crops, which will require the government to spend hard currency to replenish the stocks, which would make the pound crater if anyone knew it was happening, so . . .
. . . So? It’s the worst attempt at world domination ever, and when you add Bond’s marriage proposal to the psychologically damaged Sicilian crime-lord’s daughter he met months ago, well, it’s like watching someone play Jenga with oven mitts. I mean: secret Alpine lab base for treating allergies.
All that aside: the writing is banal and the characterizations thin. I think you had to be there.
I went to the postcard show, which my daughter taunts me for attending: nerd. True. Sitting in a big room with people who are looking at things I cannot imagine being interested in: 100-year-old drawings of flowers. Farm machinery. “Got any Lincoln?” someone would say, and the dealer would get out the box of Lincoln. Ridiculous, unlike my interests, which are interesting. Of course. I purchased 52 motel postcards, which, when added to the Fall Show haul, assures at least two years of updates for the summer motel update period. These have been scanned and filed. Also bought some ships of the Holland America line, and this::
The Hart brothers built it. Hence the logo, I'm sure, "heart of Los Angeles" notwithstanding. An LA Times account of its skid-row period, here. The buildings were once connected by tunnels, long sealed, and I wonder what's left. Tile and faded signage.
I watched an advance copy of “24.” It felt odd to slip back into it, the shing-JONK shing JONK of the clock, the irritation with Jack being on the outside; why can’t he be a hero who gets borne around on the shoulders of CTU staff at the end of every successful mission? He doesn’t say a line for the first 37 minutes of the first hour, by the way, although someone else says “there’s not enough time” or some classic variant. President: William Devane, who used to be the go-to guy for JFK-type POTUS guys, and has settled into avuncular old-dude president mode now, which he does with intelligence and kindness.
I watched “King of Comedy,” which I hadn’t seen for years. I remember seeing it in the theater and thinking Marty was on the way down; the budget felt small, the scope narrow, DeNiro out of sorts from the usual menacing craze-guy, and Gawd the Wardrobe. But it’s a brilliant movie. Noted this:
Kosmo was the MC on the famous "Stiffs Live" record, and was the "occasional" manager of the Clash, as wikipedia puts it. If you're very young you may wonder who the Clash were. Mick Joe and Paul, that's who. Ellen sang on a Clash song but is better known for her sparring role in "Paradise by the Dashboard Light" with, as the NYT called him, Mr. Loaf.
Pearl Harbour, a singer also known as Pearl E. Gates (ah, the 80s) was also married to Paul Simonon, as it's usually spelled.
And so a potent collection of punk / New Wave icons appeared in a Jerry Lewis movie, probably unknown to 99.9 percent of the audience.
While I was watching it Daughter kept coming into my room to bother me, because she was hideously bored. Ever mindful of the fact that the desire to talk to Parents will fade, and even if it doesn’t she will go away to college, I was keen to have Collegial Interactions, but on the other hand I was busy and I wanted to finish the bleepin’ movie, and all she wanted me to do was say something odd so she could post it on Vine.
Earlier in the day, after the postcard show, I went to the office on a Saturday and sat at my desk and watched the claw take apart the Freeman building.
Large Aluminum Thing Submits to Gravity from James Lileks on Vimeo.
I’ll bet that guy loves his job.
Not a review, but a look at the faces and styles of the era. So:
A movie that takes place in the tropics isn’t going to have the noir standards; no rain-soaked streets, no cigarette smoke curling in the shadows of venetian blinds. Our hero:
Robert Taylor, with the dated facial hair. After meeting himr in a hotel in the island of Los Tangos, we flash back to learn about his mission. His boss:
This guy is always a favorite here at Black and White World, mainly due to his uncompromising performance in “When Worlds Collide.” Always a shock to see him standing up. But here’s what made me blink:
Why was that familiar?
Then another ping:
Vincent Price. Carlota. Why was that familiar? But then all of that was forgotten when we meet . . . the Femme Fatale.
Hey, who’s that in the background? It’s Charles Laughton, with the worst job in the history of film: being in the same frame as Ava Gardner.
She could sing, but she's not singing this.
As for not being standard noir: perhaps I should reassess, I thought. Lots of this:
On and on the movie goes with no particular force or suspense, really - again, it could be my mood, or the chemistry between Taylor and Gardner. They were having an affair while the movie was made, but it didn’t seem obvious. Perhaps that’s Gardner’s fault. She plays a good girl. She shouldn’t play a good firl. But it turns out the movie has a secret weapon, and that’s Laughton, who is a shambling, sweaty, odorous mess.
It's well-lit and well-staged and a bit too long, and only Price really has any malevolent energy. The climax takes place during a fireworks festival, and it certainly makes you leave the theater feeling as though you got your money's with.
I lied above about not knowing why the movie seemed familiar. It was "Cartlota" that did it right off the bat. F.O.C. Friends of Carlota. A hero named Rigby. A movie that probably doesn't hold up, but was fun at the time.
Work blog around 12:30, Tumblr around noonish or so - see you then!