Thursday, August 28, 2008
Tuesday, August 26, 2008
Riddle's triumph lies in the fact that his arrangements and orchestra speak to and with Sinatra, answer him back, such that there is the feeling of an ongoing conversation - barroom or otherwise - seldom found in pop at the time. The opening "You Make Me Feel So Young" very properly sounds like a shiny, yellow herald of a new and better world; Harry "Sweets" Edison acts as Sinatra's unspoken conscience almost throughout, adding his muted trumpet comments to nearly every track, but look also at Riddle's subtle use of flutes, for instance; on "So Young" they flutter like autumn leaves in response to Sinatra's "old and grey" and at other times talk in the manner of the woman who is making him so happy. There is a beautiful inevitability about Riddle's build-up, especially when the cathartic bells materialise at the request of Sinatra's "bells to be rung" to say, away with the war, with the old, with paying back, with saying sorry; now and tomorrow are what count, the new marriage made in post-war heaven, a beauty so cherishable that you can easily excuse and understand Sinatra singing "you make me feel so spring has sprung" in the second verse.So deservedly does Sinatra's voice get the lion's share of attention that his role as bandleader -- his understanding of how instrumental coloration deepened the emotional chords he was wringing from that voice -- gets too little attention (a funny anecdote in Bill Flanagan's chronicle of U2 in the studio and on the road At The End of the World shows the band clearly shocked that, when Sinatra joins them in the dressing room in 1987, he knew so much about music and music-making; apparently no one ever talked about music with Sinatra). Personal favorite: "Too Marvelous For Words."
Monday, August 25, 2008
Scarlett came to me today with one of those questions actors ask, “What’s my motivation?” I shot back, “Your salary.” She said fine but that she needed a lot more motivation to continue. About triple. Otherwise she threatened to walk. I called her bluff and walked first. Then she walked. Now we were rather far apart and had to yell to be heard. Then she threatened to hop. I hopped too, and soon we were at an impasse. At the impasse I ran into friends, and we all drank, and of course I got stuck with the check.
Once again I had to help Javier with the lovemaking scenes. The sequence requires him to grab Penélope Cruz, tear off her clothes and ravish her in the bedroom. Oscar winner that he is, the man still needs me to show him how to play passion. I grabbed Penélope and with one motion tore her clothes off. As fate would have it she had not yet changed into costume, so it was her own expensive dress I mutilated. Undaunted I flung her down before the fireplace and dove on top of her. Minx that she is, she rolled away a split second before I landed causing me to fracture certain key teeth on the tile floor. Fine day’s work, and I should be able to eat solids by August.
Saturday, August 23, 2008
Thursday, August 21, 2008
My inbox fills with liberal "alerts" and related wailing about the pro-McCain media, how unfairly Obama's being treated, and yappity yap yap yap. Jesus, I swear on what little honor I possess that I honestly want Obama to win the election. Hell, I may actually break down and vote for him if the polls look tight. Not that I have any serious belief in Obama the Change Genie. Too many hands rubbing that lamp as it is. No, I simply cannot stomach another four years of liberal self-pity. Plus, I'm anxious to see liberals supporting imperial war and making excuses for the state.The purging of the Justice Department of career lawyers, the rewriting of scientific and environmental studies, our failure to observe the Geneva Convention, and, oh, right, torture are matters of such importance that I'll overlook liberal self-pity. Maybe I'll even join them.
Some believe that a President Obama will disillusion his liberal supporters. I think the opposite will happen -- that libs will embrace a warmongering mule prez. I remember when New York Dem Liz Holtzman defended Bill Clinton's bombing of Serbia on some cable chatfest, calling critics of that "humanitarian" exercise un-patriotic, insisting that the president must be fully supported during a time of war, etc. It was delicious to see. I want more of that in the next four years. The reactionaries have had their fun. Let liberals swim in the blood for awhile.
Tuesday, August 19, 2008
Monday, August 18, 2008
Saturday, August 16, 2008
Thursday, August 14, 2008
Tuesday, August 12, 2008
Monday, August 11, 2008
A unabashed enthusiast for any song that bulldozes instead of sneaks same-sex sentiment into the Top 40, I was ready to endorse it had Perry given me a clue as to how she wants me to respond. Where Carrie Underwood would have unearthed some ambivalence in the chorus and Rihanna delighted in the transgression to her value system, Perry just sounds blank; she could be the female edition of Bret Easton Ellis' protagonist in Less Than Zero, to whom things happen in an expanding, scarcely credible chain of randomness. In its way "I Kissed A Girl" tells us much about America in 2008: we're tired of being forced to take a position on those damn gays, tired of this president, and we're not so crazy about the funny old white guy and slick black guy running to replace him. Its anomie can barely rise to annoyance.
Sunday, August 10, 2008
Saturday, August 9, 2008
Thursday, August 7, 2008
Wednesday, August 6, 2008
Speaking of which...they range from pneumatic to pretty great. Scorsese captures an unexpected tension between Jagger and Richards during "As Tears Go By": Richards looks so jazzed – as if it was Richards appearing with his heroes for the first time and not Jack White –
that he undercuts the precision and rue that Jagger carves into the lyrics. Nice versions of "Connection" and "You Got The Silver." They kick up a nice storm through "Undercover of the Night" (everybody: "OAN-DAH-COVAH OF DA NOIGHT!") and open up "Tumbling Dice" without flattening its classic tumbling rhythm. Not a single tune from A Bigger Bang (during rehearsals we watch Jagger practice his slide guitar part on "Back of My Hand"); not a single tune younger than "Start Me Up."
Monday, August 4, 2008
Simply accept that most artists are cranks, and the kind of horrorshow that Solzhenitsyn lived absolved him from feeling anything at all. He lived to see the empire of terror that tried to crush him itself molder. His life made a mockery of Kissingerian realpolitik: what authority can it command when an American president, one of its gleeful enablers, couldn't be seen with Solzhenitsyn in the White House? But he was also human. He could have been Primo Levi, and chose instead Norman Podhoretz as an ideological comrade. No one with a soul can begrudge him this.
Meanwhile, the fearsome edition of The Gulag Archipelago sitting in my closet needs to be dusted. Robert Conquest's The Great Terror, Hannah Arendt's The Origins of Totalitarianism, and Martin Amis' Koba the Dread remain suitable preparation.
Sunday, August 3, 2008
The Hold Steady - Stay Positive
I get the complaints that these guys haven't "evolved" much, but with their triumphant Pitchfork Music Festival performance still ringing in my ears and head, it's hard to begrudge this move towards positivity, and, yes, the key is the title; you can practically hear Craig Finn grinding his teeth into a smile, even on numbers as bleak as "One for the Cutters." Neither as well-observed nor consistent as the now-maligned Boys and Girls in America, this one flows like a failed attempt at The Cars' Heartbeat City, in which three or four theoretical hit singles compete with really interesting filler -- bejeweled with harpsichords, talk boxes, and Night Ranger guitar solos -- for your celebrated summer's earhole. As with the Cars album, the singles are the simplest and hence best numbers. But theoretical hits they'll remain, and that's where my cavils interfere with my enjoyment; you'd be forgiven for thinking that Stay Positive is an instant Top Ten and MTV consolidation like Heartbeat City. Finn and co. try so hard to stay positive that the album tracks designed to give context and heft to "Sequestered in Memphis," "Yeah Sapphire," and the title track carve a distance that Finn's never-more-committed performance can't cross. Recounting hard-luck tales for non-members of A.A. (figuratively, that is) takes a charisma quite beyond what this band is capable of, especially when they were more convincing writing from the scene instead of about it.
Robert Forster - The Evangelist
I haven't said much about this record because I'm wary of accusations of favoritism; and, really, if you don't care by now there's no way I can convince you. But as a Go-Betweens fan who thought the frontman with the dolorous talk-singing and cramped melodic sensibility only made one very good solo album (back in 1991), I was ready to show mercy anyway in the wake of Forster's personal loss. How condescending. Despite a couple of blank spots, this is a damn fine record, written, sung, and played by an adult, and I can't stress that point enough. Forster's not American, but an article like this advances the wrong idea about "literateness" in rock music. Every song, failures included, is well-observed and taut. Forster has not only adapted his demotic singer-songwriter-isms to three-dimensional production -- his voice and guitar, wry and colorful, remind us that he's alive and committed to this world. As the author of "Darlinghurst Nights" and "Born to a Family" has shown, he's absorbed the late Grant McLennan's tuneful generosity so that The Evangelist's numbers about him aren't so much elegies as full collaborations, credits be damned. This album is neither a funeral nor a wake -- it's a conversation in a bar between friends.
Saturday, August 2, 2008
Friday, August 1, 2008
When you plunged
The light of Tuscany wavered
And swung through the pool
From top to bottom.
I loved your wet head and smashing crawl,
Your fine swimmer's back and shoulders
Surfacing and surfacing again
This year and every year since.
I sat dry-throated on the warm stones.
You were beyond me.
The mellowed clarities, the grape-deep air
Thinned and disappointed.
Thank God for the slow loadening,
When I hold you now
We are close and deep
As the atmosphere on water.
My two hands are plumbed water.
You are my palpable, lithe
Otter of memory
In the pool of the moment,
Turning to swim on your back,
Each silent, thigh-shaking kick
Re-tilting the light,
Heaving the cool at your neck.
And suddenly you're out,
Back again, intent as ever,
Heavy and frisky in your freshened pelt,
Printing the stones.
-- Seamus Heaney