A weekend of going to bed early. There's a guarantee of fun. I am not, and have never been, one of those people who toddles off to slip into the warm waters of Lethe after the Carson monologue is over. Well, high school, yes. I regarded watching the opening monologue as the requirements of a sophisticated citizen. This was a grown-up thing, a civilized little party with a hint of naughtiness and the obligatory boozehound yukking at the host's quips. Perhaps I would see the desk routine, if it was Karnak. Otherwise, sleep. On the weekends, all the way to the end until they ran out of MORE TO COME cards. (They'd show that card even though the MORE consisted entirely of saying goodnight.) Of all the goals of youth, "having dinner with Doc" was not on the list, but that happened four decades later. Never even considered I'd meet Johnny; that just didn't happen. They were celestial beings. No one in Fargo sold a ladder that tall.

After Carson, a movie. Or Alfred Hitchcock, which came from another world, another time that was alien to the middle of the 70s. And it was. Now the mid 90s - as distant from today as Hitchcock's TV show was from 1975 - seem remote but familiar, because there was never another Great Break like the Sixties.

Just as well. I can imagine what might cause another broad & deep revision of the cultural revision, and it's not a pretty thing to consider. If it does happen, I think it will play out in the real world but not on the television. The values of TV are instructive first and reflective second. If the culture turned hard and fast against the things TV wants us to think and believe, TV would pretend otherwise for a long time, aside from the occasional Message Show to condemn where Society was going. Like the Quincy M.E. Punk ep, maybe.

I'll tell you this: whenever I watched the old black and white shows, I had the feeling I was looking at something better. Not the shows themselves, necessarily, but what was behind it. If nothing else they had a sense of comportment, and that meant something I couldn't quite explain. There were rules. We didn't have rules any more because everything was rotten and rules were for suckers and hey, Watergate and Nam. There was a certain sense of self-satisfaction in knowing you were no longer bound to old codes, because we had evolved, or been granted special knowledge by the apostles of Haight-Ashbury, or both. But there was no sense of what was coming next, except that it wasn't good. God, what a curdled era.

Driving Daughter and friends to the Art Institute for a Friday night outing. They were going to look at paintings and go to a coffeeshop. Dad is proud. On the way they are discussing two boys of limited utility, as least as far as I could tell. One went to the U of M for some extension class, and had been talking about how the U's student council had rejected memorializing 9/11 because it might provoke Islamophobia. Because he was sensitive and engaged with justice, he had understood. Because some people, you know, could, you know.

"Your dad's probably going to write a novel about this," one of the girls said.

I'd rather not. It's too depressing, at least based on what I overhear.

Anyway: got a haircut after I dropped the kids off, and talked about the approach of Winter with the stylist. I've had her cut my head many times. She is from The Islands, and is delightful. But she hates the dark. We talked of being on the beach at night and hearing the surf. Then we fell silent because it was too damned depressing to think about, but then we cheered up when we realized the days would begin to lengthen in a month. Went home, did radio, plinked away at the site for a few hours, then watched some TV before going to bed EARLY. Because I had performances to do on Saturday and Sunday.

The concert: it went very well. This was my view. As you can tell, it was sparsely attended.

No, we had a full house; that was during the dress rehearsal. Did I mention what I was doing? The piece, as you see, is Journey into Jazz, and consists of a narrator telling a story, Peter & the Wolf style, while the orchestra plays. There are some specific cues where the words have to match the sounds. And by "some" I mean everything the narrator says is pegged to a particular moment. So it's necessary to read music, inasmuch as you can tell what the cues are. Sometimes I just had to count measures while the jazz band improvised - and they were just extraordinary; took the roof off the place - and sometimes it was easy, because I had a GP. I loved to see that GP. I meant I could narrate without the orchestra, stretch it out, play with the words.

There was one moment when I looked at the page, however, and saw . . . hash. I mean, nothing comprehensible. This.

But that passed in a second; just some blip in the back of my head, some little vial of carbonated nerves that had been shaking all day and finally popped. As it turned out I wasn't nervous, because I'd practiced until I was sick to death of reading the thing along with a YouTube version (read by Skitch Henderson, of all people), but there's no substitute for sitting on the stage and realizing your mike's on the wrong side and everyone is looking up at you and you get the nod from the conductor. Then you find the part that says this is fun, and off you go.

So it all went well and they gave me a bottle of single-malt in payment.


Now comes Thanksgiving week with all of its hideous deadlines. Here we go; it begins. Keep your hands in the car. It won't come to a stop until the Second Day of next year.



Now and then you find something that establishes its mastery in the very first seconds. This is one of those movies:

That shot tells the entire story. Note how the ceiling looks as if it's pressing down on the man in the back? How the man in the foreground doesn't look as if he's bumping into the ceiling at all, but stil looks bigger than the fellow in the corner?

Imagine you woke up to the man in the hat. And he's brought some of your friends.

I'm not going to name the film. It'll be apparent after a while. It's set in a middle / Eastern European city, where people live in a watered-down 1984 world. A world of law, but not justice; a world of rules, but not mercy.

And you think you have a difficult commute:

If you had to name the movie right now, what would you guess?

Who would you say wrote the story on which it was based?

Eventually we get outside, and we see the oh-so-Soviet Bloc archtecture that attempted to look like German modernism with space-age touches, and ends up a dead leaden flats designed to squeeze the juice out of every soul, inside and out:

The city crushes the individual, and makes him irrelevant and insignificant. Find the actors:

But sometimes the relationship between people can be just as skewed and cruel:

In the end, though, the fate of any citizen . . . is this.

When that happens, you need a lawyer. Now. Here's one of the best reveals I've seen in a while. What is spoken will reveal the name of the movie.

Yes, here's your lawyer.

He wrote and directed it, too. He says "The Trial" was his best movie, and while others are more enjoyable, there's nothing else quite like this. It's been restored from its battered condition, and can be streamed on Amazon.

It took me a few sittings to get through it. A popcorn movie it isn't.

That's it for today! See you tomorrow.



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