Tuesday, June 20, 2017

an open letter to believers

Dear faithful,
I'm curious...you're comfortable with the thought that a god would send one of its children to Earth just once in the thousands of years of recorded history? Just once, and no more? Isn't it more consistent to propose that god might ALWAYS have one of its children on Earth, to perform miracles of goodness and explain life to everyone? I mean okay, god is mysterious, but intentionally so? God wants to make it HARD for us to believe, rather than easy? What would god possibly get out of that? What's the holy upside? Why set up a system that screens out people inclined toward logic and fairness? To appear once, preaching and miracling up a storm, then disappear completely...that doesn't strike you as random, even sadistic?
I'm curious, just curious.
I'm trying not to pick on christians specifically, but taoists and jews aren't claiming the U.S.A. as their very own.
And do you ever wonder whether god sent any of its children BEFORE recorded history? Maybe jesus was the 144th Earth child of god. A neanderthal child of god, perhaps? Do your minds not work that way?
I'm also trying to wrap my head around what christians mean, when they claim that this is a christian nation. Are they claiming that we as a nation act in a "christian" manner? At a glance, that's beyond preposterous. Jesus preached non-violence, radical sharing, and inclusiveness. As a country, we have always used violence to further our wealth and power, and also as a primary means of conflict resolution. And sharing? Jesus said "Whoever has two tunics is to share with him who has none, and whoever has food is to do likewise". It doesn't get more unequivocal...yet here we are, long the richest country on the planet, yet we have always chosen to allow the most abject poverty among our brothers, sisters, and babies. And inclusiveness? There was a time when we manifested that..."give me your tired, your poor"...but our selfishness has long since kicked that sentiment to the curb. So what exactly is it that christians are talking about? It's clearly not our behavior, so is it nothing more than the fact that a majority of americans believe in some kind of god, and a majority of those believers are christian (at least in name)? Our founding fathers, almost none of whom were christian, created rules of governance that couldn't have been more clear about not wanting religion within 20,000 miles of national decision-making.
So are christians just making a power grab? I can't find any other reasonable interpretation...yet to seek earthly power rather than spiritual rectitude only underscores the notion that these people are anything but "christian". Unless you want to chuck the New Testament - then, by the barbarically savage and punitive standards of the Old Testament, we are indeed "christian".
Or i suppose rather, we're jewish.
Hava nagila,
wrob

Friday, June 16, 2017

unstill waters

I arrived in California for the first time this week, and attended a roger waters concert almost immediately. Both events were steeped in surreality - roger's music has permeated my life, but i never imagined i'd hear him live. In terms of impactful lyrics, there's lennon and waters...and nobody else, really.
His time in Pink Floyd is the heart of his legacy - his solo work has been brilliant, but not nearly so transformative or transcendent. In a hopefully pardonable oversimplification on both sides, he was the spirit of Floyd, but his bandmates were the sound. When he left he struggled to recapture the balance between word and melody. Yet for all the genius of DARK SIDE, THE WALL, WISH YOU WERE HERE, ANIMALS, and MEDDLE, if i could have only one roger album, it would be his solo masterpiece AMUSED TO DEATH. The lyrics are more cutting and immediate than anything Floyd offered. It's searing, eviscerating, and melodically fantastic. Beyond that, were i about to be dumped on a desert island and could grab only Floyd or roger's solo work...i might take the solo box.
I spent the thirty-six hours leading up to the concert immersing myself in his new album, IS THIS THE LIFE WE REALLY WANT? A twenty-five year buildup of delayed gratification might swamp anything, and perhaps this one will wear better with time, but it feels...average. Better than HITCHHIKING, and on par with KAOS and FINAL CUT (though lacking the one or two standout tracks that grace those works), it delivers a dark edge but breaks no new ground.
Roger has hinted that this tour, "Us & Them", is probably his last. The concert promised to focus on Floyd songs, and as i took my seat in the arena, i realized this meant that i might not hear any of my favorites...but told myself that if i heard just one of four tracks ("Three Wishes", "It's a Miracle", "Towers of Faith", or "...Crazy Diamond"), i'd be happy. As the encore arrived, i still held out a slim hope for "Miracle"...but the double-bang of "Dark Side" and "Comfortably Numb" was no consolation prize. Nor was the show itself. Roger and the band were exquisite. "The Great Gig in the Sky" offered entrancing variations on clare torry's vocals, and after intermission, the show ascended to another level. As a suite of songs from ANIMALS began and a replica of the Battersea power station descended over the arena, cinematic images of global devastation, poverty, and trump flowed over the crowd...it culminated in "Money", and was breathtaking in its anger and outrage. I myself might have chosen to avoid the donald angle (giving a narcissist any attention, positive or negative, is generally the wrong choice), but roger left nothing unsaid, and i love him for it. The political theme of the show was RESIST...a message not lost on the crowd (though i should add, that anyone rich enough to afford this show isn't likely to be on the front lines of the revolution...a sad paradox almost certainly not lost on roger). If this is his swan song, he can walk away with no regrets, knowing he gave us a much-needed voice of protest, unrest, and hope. His songs touched the masses, and his lyrics fed the brilliant.
DREAM SET LIST
-One of These Days
-Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun
-Us and Them
-Three Wishes
-Picture That
-Have a Cigar
-What God Wants
-To Kill the Child
-Echoes
(intermission)
-Time
-Towers of Faith
-Comfortably Numb
-Hey You
-Shine On You Crazy Diamond
-Knockin' on Heaven's Door
-Each Small Candle
-The Tide is Turning
*encore*
-It's a Miracle
-The Final Cut

Monday, June 12, 2017

titles 2

Writings only available in performance, the last batch of scribblings from those floridaze...
-Four Girlfriends
-Hobo Song
-Smone Soup
-The Three Nanny Goats Gruff
-Life Among the Death-deniers
-The Turtle and the Bunny
-The Ugly Cygnet
-Rubber Cuddle
-Resensitization
-Lost Planet

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

farewell FMB

(or, bye-bye Booze Beach)

And another chapter comes to a close.
Or not...i've been trying to dis-indoctrinate myself from seeing this life in terms of some kind of personal mythology, whereby the maintenance and creation (or even self-destruction) of that narrative inhibits us from actually being alive in the moment.
But yes, another home is about to become part of my past, as i head for San Francisco (a city, and for that matter state, where i've never been). This will be the first time i've moved to a new home with no support system waiting. I'll have a brother ninety minutes away, but otherwise i'll be a stranger in a strange land. I don't have my residence lined up yet (know anyone in the city by the bay who has a room for a non-materialist, semi-flatulent free spirit??), but i'll have a week or two housesittting in Davis to get that arranged.
I've been told all my life that i was made for CA...progressive and so laid back i won't be perturbed by mudslides, fires, or San Andreas hi-jinks. Of course, the Yellowstone supervolcano may also be due for an eruption that would wipe out the western U.S., which would merit one hell of a "gnarly". But with coastal wind conditions, San Fran might get only a half-inch of ash, unlike the 1-3 feet that would fall inland...so i've got that goin' for me.
Have i enjoyed my time here? I came to find peace, warmth, and healing after a decade in the cold, hard city, plus a spiritual journey that had disabled my emotional walls...and healing i found. Falling coconuts to open, beautiful storms and sunsets, more nudity than city life provides, and lush plants to tend (i bemoan the coming drop in upkeep for the greenery at my home - it's taken me all this time to get the whole thing beautified: candle-wood, frangipani, poinciana, passion vine, devil's trumpets, bridal tree, corn tree, and others i can't even name).
I came to take my baby steps in the public speaking of my own writings, and that's been a resounding success. Even more surprisingly, i've been able to delight any audience, from the young and hip to the old and cranky (or even fundamentalist!). My repertoire is honed, and it's time for a metropolitan, progressive pond in which to play.
Personally however, it's been more disaster than delight. The friend i came for above all, the one i thought of first whenever i wanted to share something i'd written, someone i'd cultivated for fifteen years and had hoped was ready for a friendship that would show the world how to do it, flickered out in a sociopathic, hurtful haze (Did i live here twice as long as planned partly to give her time to sort through her demons, and know i would still be here? Sure.). Number two on my friend list didn't bloom either. And my mother hasn't dealt well with her fear and control issues - she pretty much kicked me in the stomach every time i saw her these first few years. The one play i acted in was a horror show, with unexplained loathing for me emanating from my co-star. My romantic life was almost non-existent, and might have been better had nothing happened at all...one almost-lover came laden with post-traumatic issues, and focused so much unbalanced hatred at me that i feared for my life. I had one work client descend into bipolar depression - i should have left her, but was perhaps her only regular human contact, so in return for my amazing work and friendship i let myself be kicked in the face with paranoia, obsessiveness, and cruelty for many months. Another client transferred all her stress onto me...i tried to disentangle myself but she wouldn't let go, and i stayed with her because i thought i might be able to help her confront her control issues, or at least give her a little of the physical caring she had lived without for so long.
In many ways, i need to recover from my recovery.
On the plus side, my two aunts were a source of joy, and i had many clients who were a delight. The personal connections i made through my public speaking were breathtakingly humbling. My housemate chris was a rock, always there with support and the type of joyful irreverence that feeds my spirit. My other housemate irene has been descending into dementia these four years, but can still be a delight. I tried to get her out of the house once a day while she was still living at home, and i considered remaining here until she died. But her death has dragged on for over a year, and she doesn't want me to put my life on hold. So the other day, i had to say goodbye to her forever. So hard. My two closest physical companions, sarah and hank the rescue pit bulls, are away on a trip that has taken far longer than expected, and i won't even get to say goodbye. So sad.
Yet even in this broken, unfeeling world, and with my own flirtations with clinical depression, my creativity has persevered. I've written continually...essays, poems, and new versions of every classic fairy tale. Last month i recorded ten of my songs with a dear, dear friend. My little thoreau's cabin on this canal has been an unfailing sanctuary.
I love you all.
See you in San Fran.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

"Stumbling on Happiness"

-by daniel gilbert
2005
A charming book, that proposes a definitive completion to the endlessly iterated (and eternally debunked) proposition that "humans are the only animals that BLANK". Every time we've tried to finish that sentence (make tools, have culture, use drugs...), our puffed-up arrogance has eventually gone pfffffffffft. But now, NOW, gilbert finally has the correct sentence (or not...perhaps our compulsive need to finish that sentence merely reveals a pathological need to justify our behavior or expunge our murderer's guilt). For what it's worth, gilbert tells us that humans are the only animal that projects its own existence into the future, and thus we're the only creature constantly making decisions based on what we THINK will make us happy years or decades from now. He explores our biology, and our singularly enormous frontal brain lobe. He then illuminates the aspects of human psychology that make us so horribly bad at our aforementioned happiness-projections...namely, that our capacity for self-delusion in the service of ego seems almost limitless, and that we also never stop making the mistake of basing our future state of mind on the limits of our current state of mind. We're also profoundly geared toward needing a good self-image...and to that end, we subconsciously let the truth be damned! We always report a high level of happiness with conditions we're STUCK with (a marriage, a bought car, a circumcision), but are more truthful with ourselves about conditions we can jettison easily (a girlfriend/boyfriend, a leased/rented car, a piercing). For example, we always pay lip service to the notion that parenthood is a source of profoundest joy, when in-depth studies reveal that parental happiness takes a universal dive after children are born, never to return to original levels until the kids have left the nest. Gilbert's main thrust, advice-wise, is to urge us to trust the advice of others who have greater experience. Time and again, studies show that method to be more reliable than our own guesses...yet (surprise?), we seem profoundly resistant to such advice.
A fascinating book, and a wonderful read. In this day and age, it always seems that the psychological profession is farthest behind the curve, relative to the speed with which the other sciences teach us new things about human nature. Thank you for restoring my faith a bit, daniel.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

"Freethinkers"

-by susan jacoby
2004
I'm hard-pressed to offer a more perfect and concise critique of this book, than that provided by philip roth - a freshman course on the history of american secularism should be required at every college, and "Freethinkers" should be the text. There's simply no level on which jacoby's work isn't everything you could want: depth of research, clarity of vision, and smoothness of prose. Her main thrust is twofold - honoring the rich history of american freethought, and making it clear how vital the separation of church and state is to democracy...a message that may be more needed now than ever, with fundamentalist revisionists trying to jam religion back into government, and convince everyone that we're a "christian" nation. It takes a staggering level of truth-avoidance to suggest that the founding fathers wouldn't have been appalled by those efforts, but many believers are willing to take that leap. Jacoby helps you understand how easily minorities are disenfranchised by allowing religion into government, even a tiny bit. A world without diversity, or freedom of thought...is that the America to which we should aspire?
"Freethinker" is a word that has long since fallen out of vogue, but it was a noble honorific during the 19th century, when the notion of not being beholden to dogma or superstition was so strong, it was a national movement. Before radio or cinema, the primary social entertainment was lectures, and there was no more prominent 19th-century draw than robert ingersoll, the "Great Agnostic" who almost single-handedly restored the fame and honor of thomas paine, the godfather of american freethought. Would the Revolution have happened without paine? Would the slaves have been freed without william lloyd garrison? Would the feminist movement have happened without elizabeth cady stanton? Would the labor movement have happened without eugene debs? Would the civil rights movement have happened without bob moses? In all cases, the answer is almost certainly yes...but these were the freethinking people who stood up and dedicated their lives to making our murderous, greedy, hypocritical country actually live up to the ideals on which it was based.
The stories jacoby illuminates are fascinating, like how susan b. anthony and margaret sanger furthered the feminist movement by compromising it, making undesirable alliances or backing away from the depth of their beliefs, the way stanton steadfastly refused to do.
Or francis bellamy, who wrote the pledge of allegiance...but most people don't know that he was a minister who was defrocked for railing against the evils of capitalism, and that he would have been appalled by the insertion of the two words "one nation UNDER GOD" sixty years later.
Nor, jacoby admonishes, should we take any humanist victories for granted, for they could disappear in the blink of an eye. An hysterical but frightening example came after the Espionage Act of 1917-18, which criminalized any disloyal language. On that basis, a filmmaker was imprisoned for making a short film about the American Revolution, which cast our then-ally England in a negative light.
I've gone back and forth with labeling myself. Is agnostic too abstract or conciliatory? Is atheist too immodest or confrontational? Is secular humanist too wordy or toothless? In many ways, freethinker is better than any of them. Let's keep the dream alive. Thank you, susan.

Friday, May 26, 2017

"Unbought Songs"

I spent two days in Sarasota last week, sharing laughs and great food, and recording ten songs i wrote. I went in with little more than words and melodies, and the most brilliant musician i've ever known turned that into ten beautiful recordings. Glorified demos, but the fact that he was able to construct fully realized songs (modulate that fucker!) within minutes of hearing my raw material, is impressive...and the fact that i can't hear one thing i'd now change, is astounding. We did story songs, blues ballad, punk rock, folk music, trance music...his name is jim (prosser, if you'd care to know), and he's one of two friends i still have from my teenage years. He's worked as a composer/accompanist all his adult life, mostly at FST (Florida Studio Theater). The professional actors he works with tell him they've never met anyone better. I told him that once i get settled in San Francisco, to be ready for me to book us as a duo in a nightclub. I'll give him top billing in the jim & wrob revue (if you heard him play and sing, you'd do the same). Half the music will be my bizarro creations, and for the other half i'll pick up some bongos and get out of his way.
I've tentatively named the album "Unbought Songs". I'm also considering "Meadow Music" and "Naked Notes", but since most of these songs were written when their home was called Unboughtsoul, the former title may be most appropriate. Here's the track list:
1) Giving Love
2) Penniless Writers
3) Woody & Soon Me
4) Every Child
5) Hippie Man
6) Too Late
7) Cuddly Cunt
8) Bend You Over
9) Whose Ass?
10) The Hurtin'
11) Too Late (alt. take)
I've already learned how to accompany myself on two of them. If you see me with a ukulele case that looks like a guatemalan wallet, make a request - don't worry, you'll regret it. I love you all.

Monday, May 22, 2017

T.R.U.M.P.

Temporary regressive uber-narcissist misogynist president?

Thursday, May 18, 2017

"The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy"

-by douglas adams
2002 (ultimate edition)
You know how once in a long while, some things of fantastic repute are just as good as advertised?
I feel like a traitorous cad to say this, but douglas adams isn't one of them.
People whose opinions i respect often love adams. Monty pythons, or neil gaiman (who wrote the foreword for this collection), and many others offer devoted testimony. I want to love him, i do. If you're stuck in a cabin in the woods with barely tolerable relatives, and an adams novel is the only book sitting in a basket of Redbook magazines, it sure as hell beats mushroom-hunting with uncle lou...but not by a lot. The best thing about this collection is the aforementioned foreword, actually. Rich, beguiling prose, but gaiman's talk about the transformational power of adams' work mystifies me. And maybe that's okay. Maybe it doesn't mean the devotees are defective, or I'M defective...i should have loved adams, though! It seemed like i was so temperamentally well-suited as a teenager. I was an avid reader, intelligent and already inclined toward sci fi and british humor. The unseen emanations of cultural inclinations pointed me to adams, so i read the first novel, and...nothing special. Maybe i was in a strange mood that week? I meant to read another, but never got around to it. Thirty years later, this collection fell into my lap, and i decided to rectify my probably-faulty initial impression. I read all five novels, and...nothing. Good, but an "heir to twain"? Great googily, not even close. Adams was intelligent and offbeat and imaginative, but with all the buildup that gaiman and others provide, the reality just feels like somebody's slipped you a watered-down substitute, hoping you'll be cowed enough to not mention the naked head of state. And the thought that's most pernicious, is wondering whether adams himself would have been the first to say that his books really are adams-lite.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

"Mythology"

-by the Bee Gees
2010
Let me play devil's advocate - what's the only difference between the Bee Gees and the Beatles? Disco! Had the fab four stayed together through the seventies, it's very possible they would have had their disco period, and then been caught in the same blowback that turned the gibbs into a punchline. Preposterous? Listen to paul's "Goodnight Tonight". Ergo, the only reason the Beatles loom larger is because they had the good sense to break up. It's an interesting thought, and not without merit...but probably nonsense. Even if the gibbs had george martin's classical touch, even if they had lyrics that meant anything (and the fact that Bee Gee lyrics are relentlessly about nothing, cannot be denied - even during their folk phase, they were barely socially relevant), even if all that were true, the melodic lyricism of the Beatles probably stands alone. That being said, it also cannot be denied that the Bee Gees have been treated to an historically unjust trashing, one that obscures their relentless brilliance. If you played the Bee Gee and Beatle catalogs for some passing aliens, it might not be clear to them that one is superior.
I'm just saying.
This four-disc box set comes at you from an interesting angle - separating each brother (including andy) into a single disc, to focus on the songs that featured them (or their personal favorites). It's curious to treat a collective unit like solo artists (sort of the artistic flip side of cobbling together a hypothetical Eagles album from don, glenn, joe, and timothy solo songs), but the result is pretty damned enjoyable. What jumps out is the rather sweeping awesomeness of the barry disc. The others are delightful, even surprisingly so in maurice's case, but the barry disc flows over you like a juggernaut. And if you're like me, more than a casual fan but far from an aficionado, you might not have even realized that maurice sang any lead vocals. That was him on "Closer than Close"? Really?? Bang-on, brother mo.
But this approach begs the question (and an online search has failed to provide a single clue), is it credible to separate Bee Gee songs the way one can with the Beatles? "That's a john song, that's a paul song" stands up to a fair amount of scrutiny, but the Bee Gee creative process seems to have been more integrated - they apparently did their writing in the studio, as a team. Is there any extent in which it's fair to say that "Night Fever" is a barry song, and "I Started a Joke" a robin song? I dunno. Regardless, this collection is dandy from start to finish. Some purists claim to dismiss anything they did after the 60s...but that feels like elitist nonsense. Are you really going to argue that they were less talented as writers and musicians in their thirties than they were in their twenties? Because that's a growth curve with which i'm not familiar. And be absolutely truthful...does anyone think that 60s Bee Gee music has aged better? Is there anybody who finds those songs to have conspicuous replay value today? I've got tremendous folk affinities, and i find their 60s work respectable but bland.
To a semi-casual fan like myself, these discs (at least the final three) are loaded with songs you've never heard. Which is great. The standouts? Barry's "Spirits Having Flown", which at first listen may feel like a flaccid choice to lead off a box set, but after a few hearings i rank it as one of their best ever (did you know that after george martin, barry is the most successful pop producer ever?). Robin's "Islands in the Stream", done as a solo, is exquisite. Maurice's "Lay It on Me" is almost inexpressibly delightful, because it's more raunchy and rebellious than anything you've heard them do (but stay away from the last cut on his disc - you've been warned). Andy's disc doesn't have any unheralded standouts, but fares surprisingly well aside the larger outputs his brothers are able to access.
The only flaw in this collection...eighty-one tracks and no "This Is Where I Came In"??
But i quibble.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

"Pete Rose"

(My Prison Without Bars)
-pete rose, with rick hill
2004
If you've never read a book about sports (and perhaps never wanted to), this might be the exception you should make. And not for any reason that will be obvious to 99% of readers...to most, this will be just another mindless jock book. But if you have a keen eye for the human condition, this book occasionally (and perhaps even unintentionally) touches upon a kind of honesty that not one writer in a hundred comes near. There are moments of self-revelation that are viscerally frightening, perhaps all the more so because it never strays far from the macho attitude.
If i tell you that pete rose is a sociopath, can you understand that i'm not singling him out? That we are all of us in some degree sociopaths, and it is only up close that his breathtaking inhumanity stands out?
Words are manipulations, and pete never strays too far from his primary motivation - to convince you that he's remorseful, that he's served his time (in prison literally), and as his crimes were so much less toxic to baseball than steroids, would we PLEASE allow him into the Hall of Fame already? He's angry about the hypocrisy with which he's been treated, and it's a fair point. He maintains that he never for one second compromised the integrity of the game, and you're inclined to believe him.
To that i say...well, whatever. Awards and honorifics don't mean much to me.
But the visceral part of this book is in how pete genuinely tries to come to terms with his sociopathic side. He never uses that word, but he talks openly of his inability to perceive the feelings of others (or himself). It's obvious he's been in therapy, and the term "oppositional/defiant" is invoked often. You do get the sense that beneath his bravado, a part of him is genuinely ashamed, mostly because his dead father never would have approved of lies. He speaks of his father in heroic terms...and while you want to admire that, you also realize that something in pete's childhood was cripplingly dysfunctional. And again, pete is not unique in that regard. In this culture of fear and alienation, we are all of us irrevocably damaged by the time we're adults.
The final chapters fall back into the self-mythologizing, ain't-it-great-to-be-me nonsense that every other sports memoir offers up. But on the way to that place, there are some detours that are disturbing and...admirable.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

"Barney Miller"

-created by danny arnold, theodore j. flicker
1975-1982
Pretty middle-of-the-road: sometimes intelligent, occasionally a touch hip, but largely guaranteed to offend no one. Its one glowing contribution to cultural progress was its diversity - a squad room with jew, black, wasp, hispanic, and asian all working together, and nobody seeming to notice or care. The pacing (most laid-back cop show ever?) would never make the cut today (would SOMEBODY pick up their cues please??), but that was an acceptable style back then. Like all cop shows pre-HILL STREET BLUES, the characters suffer from two-dimensional distress, but there's enough chemistry to keep things afloat. Hal linden (JACK'S PLACE, OUT TO SEA) was as steady a series lead as you could want. Abe vigoda (FISH, JOE VERSUS THE VOLCANO) left pauses so big you could drive sanitation vehicles through them, but was irresistible nonetheless. Max gail (D.C. CAB, 42) was steadfast as wojciehowicz (there, i spelled it...and the evolution of his hair-replacement was fascinating too). Ron glass (THE NEW ODD COUPLE, FIREFLY) mastered the acting style known as "indicating", but still had charm. Steve landesberg (FORGETTING SARAH MARSHALL, HEAD CASE) never got credit for being actually funnier than the vigoda he replaced, and also being the best character on the show. Jack soo (THE GREEN BERETS, RETURN FROM WITCH MOUNTAIN) missed many cues too, but still became adorably iconic. The one-note kvetching of ron carey (SILENT MOVIE, HISTORY OF THE WORLD: PART 1) wore a bit thin, but he acceptably endured. The producers backed off appropriately when someone (detective luger, barney's wife) wasn't firing on all cylinders. The gold standard for age-inappropriate casting will always be GOLDEN GIRLS, but BM merits mention. Vigoda (mid-50s) plays a cop facing mandatory retirement. Soo (60s) was playing 40s. Carey plays a youngish cop, but was past 40. Landesberg (40s) played a 29 year-old. My grandfather loved BARNEY MILLER, and i loved my grandfather. If morty were here, this is what we'd watch.
MILLERTHON (season)
-The Life and Times of Barney Miller (unaired pilot)
What a wild little alternate universe. The plot is a pre-hash of the second pilot, with some of the same actors, but the only leads who matriculated are linden and vigoda. Charles haid (HILL STREET BLUES, ALTERED STATES) and val bisoglio (M*A*S*H, QUINCY M.E.) play detectives, and barney's wife is delightfully played by abby dalton (THE JOEY BISHOP SHOW, FALCON CREST).
-Hash (3)
When the precinct is unknowingly gifted with hash brownies, half the squad get varying degrees of looped. The series' funniest episode, and winkingly subversive.
-Power Failure (3)
During a blackout, barney has a serious flirtation with a psychiatrist. He ultimately retreats back into self-loathing monogamy, but it's nice to see some genuine humanity.
-Jack Soo: A Retrospective (5)
A clip show narrated by the cast after the death of the beloved jack.
-Contempt (7)
For refusing to give up the identity of a snitch, barney goes to jail. This two-parter is as grim as any middle-of-the-road sitcom gets, as the darker moments come close to exposing the inexcusable inhumanity of locking any living being inside a cage.
-Bones (8)
Not quite brilliant, but very touching. A native indian is arrested for stealing back a museum's stolen bones, and he elicits great sympathy while making his undeniable points. The capper on this one is the image of various brown-skinned people inside a cage surrounded by whites (plus harris, but he was one of the whitest black men in TV history).
-Landmark pt. 3 (8)
Parts 1&2 of this series finale are so unambitious that they barely have a pulse, but this one plucks the heartstrings, with appearances by most every recurring character. The worn-out 12th becomes a historical landmark, and everyone is transferred. Barney and levitt are promoted, wojo becomes a Staten Island K-9 cop, dietrich goes to upper Manhattan, and harris retires in protest at being sent to Queens.
FISHATHON (caveat - i've yet to see FISH season 2)
-Experience (1)
Fish finds himself alone in the station with a time bomb about to explode. His physical comedy touches are priceless.
-The Kid (2)
Fish finds himself amazed and uncomfortable to be attracted to the mother of a juvenile delinquent. She's quite smitten as well...
-Fish and Roots (FISH, season 1)
When one of fish's charges (todd bridges - ROOTS, DIFF'RENT STROKES) feels disaffected and alienated over his heritage, an african exchange student (herbert jefferson, jr. - BATTLESTAR GALACTICA, STAR TREK: OF GODS AND MEN) pays a visit. The writing avoids condescension...barely.
-Lady and the Bomb (7)
Fish visits the precinct for the first time in three years. Twenty years before viagra, he uses his sexual impotence to talk a woman out of setting off a bomb (if only he could have worked similar magic with FISH).
HOOKERTHON (no, not t.j.!)
-The Courtesans (1)
Wojo, the most intolerant officer in the station when it comes to prostitutes, has his world turned upside down when he develops feelings for one (nancy dussault - TOO CLOSE FOR COMFORT, THE IN-LAWS). The show's attitude toward prostitution leans toward sympathy, and shame over our society's hypocrisy. The first episode to make it clear that the writers aspired to be smart, not just funny.
-Stormy Weather (7)
In the middle of a storm that locks down the city, dietrich has an irresistible flirtation with a deaf mute prostitute (phyllis frelich - SANTA FE, SANTA BARBARA). Levitt steps up with sign language translation. Wojo jumps into the Hudson after a fleeing looter, and nearly drowns.
-Wojo's Girl (5)
In this two-parter intended to launch a spin-off, wojo's lover (and a former prostitute) moves in with him...or tries. The discomfort is poignant and palpable, a compelling commentary on trying to extend carnal intimacy into the domestic arena in a culture of alienation.
WENTWORTHON
Linda lavin (ALICE, ROOM FOR TWO) pops off the screen as novice detective janice wentworth. As a walking advertisement for being a woman in a man's world, she's frustrated, sassy, and sometimes startlingly sexy. Whenever she's onscreen, she makes the other actors look like cardboard cutouts. Had they managed to hold on to her, the show might have been great instead of near-great.
-Ms. Cop (1)
-Heatwave (1)
-Grand Hotel (1)
-Block Party (2)
-Massage Parlor (2)
DIETRICHATHON
-Accusation (5)
After dietrich spurns the sexual advance of a lonely woman he treats kindly and escorts home, he is accused of improper sexual conduct. Not quite brilliant, but not nearly as regressive as you might fear, and fascinating in the light of evolving attitudes about harassment.
-Fire (FISH, season 1)
Dietrich visits fish at his new home, as one of phil's wards is suspected of setting fire to an abandoned home.
-Dietrich's Arrest (6)
This two-parter has arthur arrested for attending an anti-nuke protest, violating the department's behavioral policy. Not quite brilliant, but fascinating.
-Resignation (7)
After shooting a suspect in self-defense, arthur's non-violent conscience compels him to resign. The squad convince him that abandoning yet another career may not be the answer.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

"The Brain that Changes Itself"

(Stories of Personal Triumph from the Frontiers of Brain Science)
-by norman doidge, m.d.
2007
For centuries, it has been assumed that the brain is a static construct, never changing (and only diminishing) once adulthood is reached. This book turns that assumption on its head, and my initial skepticism was gradually swept away by the depth of research doidge has given his subject. He details all the pioneers in the field of brain "plasticity" - the brain's ability to reorganize itself, as in the case of debilitating injury to body or head, or to learn new things and grow new neural pathways well into old age. "Localization", the idea that each brain function has a specific biological location which can ONLY happen at that place, is also de-pantsed, as we learn how adjacent brain areas can "take over" functions which have been denied or debilitated. Doidge writes of the role that habit and culture play in brain growth, and how repeated behaviors create "pathways" that become easier the more one uses them. Our unguessed-at flexibility can be both a blessing and a curse, as established pathways can be profoundly hard to undo, should those behaviors or attitudes become undesirable. There is a wealth of information in this book for those dealing with addictive behaviors (and who among us isn't, in one form or another?).
Our plastic brains are capable of far more self-creation than traditionally assumed. The "power of positive thinking" isn't just hyperbole, after all. For instance, i knew that the brain didn't know the difference between fantasy and reality (as in studies that show an athlete's brain has an identical reaction to winning a race, or just imagining winning). But the ability goes much deeper - a study revealed that doing an exercise over a certain period of time results in a 30% muscle increase, but also showed that people who spent just as much time imagining themselves doing that exercise, achieved a 22% muscle increase.
There are now brain exercises that can sharpen perception and memory...the biggest thing to remember with memory loss being the salutary effect new learning has on old memory retention.
Another example of the brain's stunning adaptability is the child who was born with only one brain hemisphere, unbeknownst to the parents for several years. The child's development was abnormal to be sure, but her remaining hemisphere "took over" the missing functions so well that the child is now an adult who holds a job.
The implications for stroke victims is immense - as it turns out, there is a 3-6 month cerebral shock period after a stroke in which rehab has long proven ineffective, but we now know that the same rehab done later can have positive, even dramatic, affects.
The implications for psychiatric therapy are also hard to overstate.
And pain, as it turns out, is not at all as simple as we once thought. A significant part of any pain response is a product of the brain's almost instantaneous anticipation of that pain. Mind control is no joke.
And the differences between brains in different cultures is not just...cultural. Asian people literally have significantly different brains than westerners. Holism vs. analytical object-focus...
The notion of human nature as it relates to evolution is also an area which we can no longer view in the same way. In many ways, the structure of human brains is changing rapidly in the electronic age - shorter attention spans are probably with us to stay. Yet too, doidge admonishes that the danger of becoming too alienated from our biological nature is still very real, and could result in a culture of depressed, neurotic individuals. Sound familiar?
The only chapter which seems at all shaky is the one on sex, where perhaps the author lets his cultural biases flavor some of his conclusions.
But overwhelmingly, a delightful and amazing piece of work.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

name that band!

How interesting is your favorite band? I don't mean musically or lyrically, i mean compositionally (oops, another music term), in terms of its members' diversity? Racially, or by age/class/gender/philosophy? How many of your favorites are just a bunch of dusty, old (or young) white guys? Here are the bands that challenge that paradigm. Quiz your friends! Answers below.
1) A band that initially couldn't have been more soporifically homogeneous. Four youngsters of the same pigmentation, gender, sexual orientation, and socio-economic background. It was only after the band broke up and began solo careers that they became interesting: one became an atheistic revolutionary, another an apolitical crooner, another a holy roller, and the fourth a happy-time dickie.
2) An all-white band almost singularly unique for its gender balance and equity, with two men and two women. The lead singer was a she, and the primary songwriter a he.
3) The first major american band to have an integrated, multi-gender lineup, with three black men, two black women, and a couple o' white guys. The women weren't just backup singers either - they played instruments and sang an occasional lead vocal.
4) Not a grand symbol of equality in diversity, as this quartet's singer/songwriter was just as white and male (and pretty nerdy) as two of his bandmates...but they're worthy of mention for that white chick on bass.
5) Founded at a time when black bands and white bands couldn't have been more segregated, this unit was universally embraced for the brilliance of its black singer/songwriter/guitarist...yet many people never realized that the other members of the trio were white.
6) An oh-so-rare rock duo - one he, and one she. She played drums and sang an occasional vocal, he did most everything else.
7) Another XX/XY duo, and this one more balanced - he did most of the songwriting and she did most of the vocals, but they both did both.
8) This quintet's most fascinating feature is that two of their three lead singer/songwriters were women...yet they never became identified as a "girl band" in the public consciousness. Why? Because they took their name from their all-male rhythm section? They're also the only major band in pop history comprised of brits and yanks.

1) The Beatles
2) The Mamas and the Papas
3) Sly and the Family Stone
4) Talking Heads
5) The Jimi Hendrix Experience
6) The White Stripes
7) Ike & Tina Turner
8) Fleetwood Mac

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

"China Beach"

-created by john sacret young, william broyles jr.
1988-1991
What are we to do with you, CHINA BEACH? I so wanted to love you, because (with apologies to TRAPPER JOHN M.D. and AFTERM*A*S*H) you were the heir to M*A*S*H, which was about the Vietnam war in everything but name. You took Vietnam head on, with the setting a military field hospital (again). You were a drama, so i dreamed of you being hard-hitting and searing. The best i can say is that you steadfastly refused to suck...yet just as determinedly refused to be great. You tried, though - fine acting, impressive visuals, competent dialogue, and (as much as possible in mercenary Hollywood) the feeling of a labor of love.
What was the fatal flaw? You didn't have a voice, a clear point of view. All you offered was a general "isn't war bad" message. Is it possible for a show to be great without a distinct voice? Yes, actually - THE WEST WING, one of the three greatest shows ever, had no particular voice, just a hazy, diffuse, nebulous humanism (i know, i just used three words that mean the same thing). But there were two things WEST WING also had - scintillating dialogue and a lightning strike of chemistry. The comparison deepens when you discover that sacret young would become one of the late-era producers of WW. Or perhaps chemistry is CB's fatal flaw...and that's a damn shame, as it's nobody's fault. But the relationships never popped with depth or believeability, so we never fell in love with the characters (which made the final season semi-interminable, because it's devoted to the soap opera aspects of the show). The soldiers never felt quite as coarse as they ought have been, and the uglier realities of war were sometimes rose-tinted.
Were there great elements? Yes! It was quietly one of the greatest feminist shows ever, with female directors and writers, and a central character (dana delaney - TOMBSTONE, EXIT TO EDEN) a woman who enjoyed serial sexual relationships just as much as her male TV peers (and most real people). The commanding officer (concetta tomei - PROVIDENCE, DON'T TELL MOM THE BABYSITTER'S DEAD) is female, and the cast skewed in the estrogenly direction. There was a fully humanized prostitute (marg helgenberger - SPECIES, ERIN BROCKOVICH), who is a fantastic testament to the notion that war doesn't just create fucked-up people - it attracts them. And more than half the women were a far cry from the barbie dolls that network television usually trots out. Ricki lake (HAIRSPRAY, CRY-BABY) in particular, was a brilliant challenge to audiences unaccustomed (or even uncomfortable) with seeing a fat woman as a real person, in lust and love (and abortion). One wonders whether the first season chemistry had the most potential, with a criminally innocent donut dolly (nan woods - IN THE MOOD, ONE MORE SATURDAY NIGHT), and a man-crazy USO performer (chloe webb - SID AND NANCY, SHAMELESS) who has such a jarringly different quality from typical TV characters that i was never sure whether i loved or hated her, or whether she was a brilliant actress or terrible...
After the satiric buffoonery of all command officers in M*A*S*H, CHINA BEACH humanized the brass. It was a nice touch, and actually worked.
The show's only character that one ultimately cares about, is the emotionally-void super-soldier dodger (jeff kober - ALIEN NATION, TANK GIRL). He finishes his tour and takes a vietnamese baby home, but can't survive without the war, and finds himself back "in country" trying to build a hospital. He meets a paraplegic vietnamese woman, and you long for them to find something beautiful. All this makes his ultimate fate as just another mindless born-again all the more heart-rending.
Robert picardo (STAR TREK: VOYAGER, STARGATE: ATLANTIS), michael boatman (HAMBURGER HILL, SPIN CITY), nancy giles (DELTA, I'M NOT RAPPAPORT), troy evans (ACE VENTURA: PET DETECTIVE, ER), meghan gallagher (HILL STREET BLUES, THE LARRY SANDERS SHOW), and ned vaughn (APOLLO 13, THE BEACH BOYS: AN AMERICAN FAMILY) all do fine work, too.
What else? Your theme song "Reflections" was the only great recording diana ross ever did. You were a touch of healing for the national wound that was Vietnam - the war finally got its own show, one the veterans could take pride in. And perhaps best of all, you didn't underplay how war fucks up its participants permanently (including your central character). The audience waits for Hollywood endings, and it generally doesn't happen.
But i actually bent the truth when i said the show never sucked or reached greatness. It was awful twice - the mawkish, clod-footed "Warriors", and "Skylark", which i believe the future producers of TOUCHED BY AN ANGEL must have recorded on Beta max, to watch over and over and over...
But "One Small Step", in which the haunted but irrepressibly upbeat boonie (brian wimmer - TANK GIRL, FLIPPER) gets his leg blown off and finds himself stateside in one recovery hospital after another, is damn-near unqualifiedly brilliant. For a marathon of the show's best, watch this plus the first three episodes of the third season. Just try to resist any temptation to watch the rest of the series, unless "good not great" is good enough.

Friday, April 21, 2017

"Cass County"

-by don henley
2015
If you had told me that one day don would release an album which i would have zero interest in hearing more than once, i wouldn't have believed you. It's a sign of how eagerly i anticipated this one, that i waited an extra year for the "deluxe" edition to drop in price, before hearing the album at all. And let me be clear, it's not awful - if you like mindless country music, give it a spin. But it's the first jarringly un-henley thing don has ever done. All the edge and social relevance are gone. Don't misunderstand...even though the current crop of Nashville's finest are paperweights unfit to hold george or lyle's hat, i find some country tunes and sounds pleasing. No, what sticks in my craw is the way don almost celebrates his newfound apathy. Not that i don't understand the impulse - you could argue that his lifetime of socially relevant lyrics haven't changed one damn thing, so who could begrudge an old fart no longer giving a shit? But if you've got nothing to say, why not just make an album of instrumentals? Or why couldn't you have just recorded your friend timothy b.'s "I'm Not Angry Anymore", which has a similar sentiment but is more musically satisfying (don could even add some of his own lyrics to personalize it)? Most of the CASS COUNTY lyrics are inoffensive, but some are worse. He takes a british stiff upper-lip attitude - no complaining, no bleeding heart humanity, just accept things and shut up. I first noticed this trend on "Get Over It". Yes, many people whine a lot, and some of it is gratuitous, litigious bullshit which shows no appreciation for real suffering. Fair point...to a point. But to extend that to an ethos of indifference, in a world where selfish greed is causing incalculable misery and destruction? Say it ain't so, don. By the time a good song finally appears ("A Younger Man", a kiss-off from an old man to a young woman), i had given up on the album entirely. "Where I am Now" has its merits, too. The trio tune with mick jagger however, feels lifeless, as though the participants just recorded their bits on different continents, never once meeting. Still in all, you've got to respect any artist who refuses to kowtow to their fan base. And kudos for writing a love note to your Texas roots, don. If there's another album in your future, i'll be there.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

benny 1938

Benny goodman's 1938 concert at Carnegie Hall is widely acclaimed as the event that brought jazz into the cultural mainstream. In case you think it was just a white performer lending legitimacy and reaching mass audiences by simply copying his dark-skinned superiors, have a taste. Benny is unearthly, and harry james offers a trumpet solo as good as any i've ever heard...
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ayNEiQvKqac

Friday, April 14, 2017

21st century

The great american question of the 17th century - who ARE these pink-skinned assholes?
The great american question of the 18th century - what loyalty is owed a government that keeps rich men from their profits?
The great american question of the 19th century - what loyalty is owed a government that tolerates racial slavery?
The great american question of the 20th century - what loyalty is owed a government that tolerates gender slavery?
The great american question of the 21st century - what loyalty is owed a government that tolerates POVERTY?

Monday, April 10, 2017

"Weird Things" leftovers


So what about me? This paragon of skeptical rationalism? This guiding light for the unwashed mass of muckbrains? Any "weird things" lurking in my own cerebral closet?
Well...yes.
God or ghost? Nay.
Karma or reincarnation? Non.
Tarot or tea leaf? Nyet.
Fate or Friday the 13th? Nein!
Afterlife or astrology? Nahi!!
New Age or numerology? NO NO NO!!!
But...
I have entertained musings about telepathy, telekinesis, and the law of attraction. Unseen connective forces, our brains affecting the universe beyond our bodies, and other such jedi bullshit...for the record, there is NO scientific evidence to back up any of it. And not for lack of serious looking. So i don't drink the kool-aid.
But i sniff the cup probably more than i should.
And i am a bit of a sucker for certain conspiracy theories - JFK, government plots to pull us into wars, the barons of capitalism maneuvering to keep the masses poor and ignorant (capitalism does that by itself just fine, thank you).
That's it, i'm sure there's nothing else...ohhhhhhhhhhh wait. I, um, seriously dabble in the health (and life-extending!) benefits of non-ejaculatory sex. In my last long-term relationship i never came once, and alone i ejaculate one time out of seven. I confess, i even just googled "health benefits non-ejaculatory sex" to see whether science has caught up (that would be a no, not as such). Ah well, taoist non-wet dreams don't die easily...
So that's it, right? Wrong. There's one more skeleton in my credulous closet, far deeper than all the rest.
Are you ready?
When listening to the radio, i generally hit the "scan" button as soon as i hear a song i don't like, or a commercial is played. And when i find a song i like (or at least find acceptable), i sometimes imagine that were i to keep going, there's always one more song coming which i would have loved even more. Even if there's been nothing on continuous scan for five minutes, the moment i stop the search, i imagine that a far superior song starts playing on another station. Not that i'm continually chasing greener sonic pastures. Mostly, i'm relieved to find "acceptable" and stay right there. And i don't actually believe that this "superior song snydrome" has ANY basis in reality. It's more private joke than actual belief. I suppose it's a little echo of murphy's law, plus a parallel to well-earned romantic cynicism. Choose one, and you give up the better one lurking beyond the next bend! How degraded, how sad.
How about you? What weird things do you nurture in the bosom of your private thoughts?
On second thought, maybe keep it to yourself.
Use your judgment.
I'm not saying trust it...but use it as best you can.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

"Skipping Towards Gomorrah"

(the Seven Deadly Sins and the Pursuit of Happiness in America)
-by dan savage
2002
Down with the virtuecrats and scolds! UP WITH PEOPLE!
Or some such.
Columnist and radio host savage goes undercover, investigating each of the "deadly sins", to find out whether the hell-in-a-handbasket alarms raised by the buchanans, bennetts, borks, and o'reillys are so much hot air. They are...and what's worse (for them), astute constitutional and biblical scholarship actually supports the "sinners" over the hypocritical humanity haters.
For greed, he takes a hard-knocks crash course in gambling, and discovers that it's not about money, it's about the need to feel ALIVE in this couch potato culture.
For gluttony, he attends a NAAFA (National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance) convention, where he discovers a good idea gone wayyyyyy overboard, then cleans his supersized plate (including a piece of cake the size of his head) at an infamous Claim Jumper restaurant.
For envy, he rubs elbows with the super-rich at a $500 a day fat camp that treats you harder than an army recruit...and up close finds almost nothing to envy.
For pride, he attends a gay pride parade, and discovers that the moralizing has become just an excuse for a humdinger of a party. He warns idealistic, trusting gay youth (of which he was once one) to take the "gay people are nicer" propaganda with a big grain of salt.
For anger, he goes to gun school in Texas...and while he still decries the idiocy of our hyper-armed society, he also discovers a talent and passion for shooting that outlives his journalistic mandate.
For lust, he digs deep into the thriving swinger subculture, discovering normal people at every turn...plus the interesting insight that it's the men who persuade the women to try, but the women who keep couples swinging back for more.
For sloth, he indulges in his own once-a-year pot habit, extending time and leaving his worries behind...and unleashes a scathing indictment of our unrelenting, stressed-out culture which creates an unending need for escape mechanisms of every stripe.
Dan's writing style is familiar and friendly, and his insights are far more sane than any of the virtuecrats he takes on (someone's got to point out that falwell and bin laden are philosophically almost indistinguishable, and dan's the man). If the seven deadly sins were rewritten to reflect a higher morality, the only one that dan would fall prey to himself is tribalism (and violent tribalism at that), as he offers unapologetic support for the wars on Iraq and Afghanistan. And when he asserts that no one under eighteen should have sex, i can't help wonder whether he's entirely sincere...surely he must have some glimmer of the irreparable damage we do to our youth by denying them any outlet for their natural sexuality? Is he just protecting himself from virtuecrat backlash on the sexual front, forcing them to deal with him on their own turf (where, it turns out, he's better at their game than they are)? But these are the only quibbles i can muster for this brilliant book. You'll feel like he's your friend...
And you'll probably be right.

Friday, March 31, 2017

"Why People Believe Weird Things"

(Pseudoscience, Superstition, and other Confusions of our Time)
-by michael shermer
1997, 2002
Is it falsifiable?
If not, then it ain't science (or even scientific). It's speculation at best, and wishful thinking at worst. Between friends, such fare can be benign or even productive. Unfortunately, in troubled times our overactive imaginations too often take a turn into anti-scientific, anti-humanistic rubbish. Does religion foster attitudes of helplessness or self-loathing? Does belief in psychics prevent people from taking responsibility for themselves?  Do these and other unsubstantiated beliefs come between humanity and the one endeavor (science) that leads to true liberation? Michael tries to wrap his mind around the whys and wherefores of all our contemporary bogeymen and dead-end spiritual/intellectual streets.
He calls the ability to dream up wild ideas an evolutionary adaptation, at the heart of our talent for stunning technological and artistic wonders. If we weren't able to invest in off-beat notions more deeply than other animals, we would never have made bicycles or bassoons. But in an imbalanced world, this adaptation can be the noose around our neck. A greedy, violent, self-serving culture currently dominates our species, and studies reveal that the more unstable and fearful a society becomes, the greater the belief in magic (god is a concept by which we measure our pain, indeed).
But the greater question shermer tries to tackle is not why gus and norma normal believe in ghosts and numerology, but why genuinely smart people dine at the untestable trough too. There are long-term studies which show that non-believers are smarter than believers, and this writer himself has taken those results and (rather unapologetically) run with them. Not so fast, says shermer! Brilliant people can embrace hooey as well as, or better than, their dimmer compatriots. Some studies reveal that the relationship between intelligence and belief is orthogonal - in other words, no relationship at all (and with certain beliefs such as the new age movement, smarter people can be MORE susceptible). And smart people can be the devoutest of the devout because of the confirmation bias, our tendency to embrace evidence that substantiates previously existing attitudes (like my reaction to the "believers are dumber" studies), and screen out anything that fails to support us. Thus, a lifetime of small, successive seemingly rational assessments can lead to one grand whopper of irrational belief. And smarter people are better at rationalizing and defending their ideas, once they're invested.
But take heart! There's also evidence that even overly-credulous ninnies know they're being hoodwinked, at least subconsciously. When religious folk were asked to compare why they believe with why they thought others believed, they gave intellectual justifications for themselves, but emotional motivations for others. In other words, "I'm smart, but my idiot friends just need comfort and community".
Shermer, a well-traveled lecturer, debater, and founder of the Skeptics Society, also tackles creationism, near-death experiences, and Holocaust-denial (indeed, you might be advised to skip the chapters on that last one - to 2017 eyes, it's overkill). He delves into the 25 intellectual fallacies that lead people down blind alleys. With easygoing prose, he takes us on an occasionally infuriating but lovely ride.

Monday, March 27, 2017

sir paul's mop

Sigh.
Oh, paul.
What in holy hell happened to your hair??
I say this, mind you, in a world of comb-overs, weaves, implants, straightening, bottle blondes, reddish-brown asians, and whatever life form has taken residence on the donald's head.
A few years back, your hair suddenly appeared a deeper shade of brown than even when you were a twentysomething moptop.
Please, paul, we beg you...tell us it ain't so.
I know, i know, it's nobody's business but your own. Even if you wore seaweed tresses, it's YOUR head and anybody who don't like it can sod off.
Freedom of expression! Respect for one's elders!
Except...
If ever the personal were political, this is it. Have you truly thought about the message you're sending? I know you understand how horribly ageist this society is. Old people are marginalized, demeaned, or made invisible. It's there in most any magazine or movie...OLD IS UGLY. Some kind of "sickness" to be resisted and fought, tooth and nail, until that pathetic day when we finally croak and rid the world of something nobody was comfortable seeing anyway.
Not only that, but you're catering to the fear of death, and fear is something this world very much needs LESS.
And i know...you've been "hitting the bottle" for a long time. Decades, one should think. But it's just so bald-facedly obvious now. It's gone on far too long to be just something some dim-witted female had you do, which you went along with because you wanted to get in her pants and who among us hasn't been there? I wore combat boots and plaid shirts for a few months when i was fourteen. It happens. Maybe you got in the habit, and had no idea how to stop once it occurred to you to do so.
But i know you believe in the notion that age is not to be avoided, but revered. And what about embracing yourself for who you are? Or the idea that older people might have a little wisdom to share...and even if they don't, they should still be venerated, because they've SURVIVED, and most young people have no idea how hard that actually is?
Understand, i'm not one of the haters. I've never once slagged you for what you're not. You're not lennon? No, and he's not YOU. I'm the only macca fan i know who has never even dumped on PRESS TO PLAY. It's one of your better works, and anyone who says otherwise can sit on it. "However Absurd", "Only Love Remains"...are you kidding? Achingly, brilliantly beautiful. "Angry", though a great tune, may be the most myopic, self-righteous thing you ever wrote..but i digress.
The point is, do you remember the album cover? The black and white of you and linda? Do you remember your hair? It was black and whitening, a metaphoric parallel of the photo itself. You looked beautiful, and seemed proud of it. THIS IS WHO WE ARE, the photo gently shouted, and it's fucking gorgeous. If you'll forgive just one more comparison to that lad from Menlove, am i the first person on the planet to realize that the PRESS cover was your TWO VIRGINS? More subtle, but just as politically powerful.
And now, it's hard to look at you. You've become some pathetic pitchman for every plastic "surgeon" or $100 wrinkle cream. You've become something to be explained and pitied. But unlike kenny rogers, it's not too late. Shave it off. Today. Now.
Go back to being a person the world needs.
I love you paul.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

dear amanda 6

Dear amanda,
Perhaps i should make this note only outward-directed support and love for who you are (the only tragic aspect of reaching such an elevated place of self-love as where you're headed, is the almost impossible task of finding others who can meet you on that level once you get there). But the initial impetus for this note was a little whimper from my own battered humanity, and perhaps i should honor that, as one of the reasons i walked away when i did was not wanting to set a horrible example in denying my own humanity, as i had done for your sake for so long. Not that i regret any of that...to earn your trust, even a tiny bit, and know that nothing could possibly endanger that trust, denying my humanity was a small price to pay.
But part of the spiritual journey is embracing our humanity, so i ultimately despaired that my one bad example might start overshadowing all the good ones.
So here are the battered thoughts that popped into my head. Did i ever have a chance to throw eric under the bus? Sure. Did i ever have a chance to throw justin under the bus? Absolutely. And in both cases, i had profound selfish reasons for doing so. But i wouldn't do it...not just for nobility, but because it would have been self-defeating. If they were made miserable, you would be miserable, and so on to me...
But it's sad knowing that neither them nor you may ever thank me for not tossing them under said public transport. For fifteen years, i dedicated myself to selflessly loving you and anyone you brought into my life. And for my efforts, i got...tossed under you-know-what.
But it's okay. I always knew what i was getting into. I never expected that there would be personal rewards from loving you. Oh sure, i hoped. But never expected.
And ultimately, every second of self-sacrifice was worth it, when i remember those one or two fleeting moments when you showed me YOU, without (or very nearly without) any walls.
Amazing.
Beautiful.
I won't send this note, as i've no reason to think it would be welcome. You've perhaps already turned me into something far less than what i was. That's understandable. We never see people as they are, but as WE are, and we spend our entire lives shaping our own personal mythologies, molding people and memories into the raw material of our personal narrative, continually creating and re-creating to serve our agenda.
But something very beautiful and elusive happened between us.
I'll always know that, and always be here.

love and love,
wrob

P.S. Is there something faintly pathetic about still harboring beautiful feelings for someone who treated you like you were dipped in shit for three years before you cried uncle? Maybe. It's fucked up, which is pretty much all humanity is capable of these days.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

all-time greatest TV theme songs

In this era of syndication, they've got an unfair earworm advantage over pop songs...but still, greatness must be acknowledged. The links are to the iconic versions when nothing else will do, but most take you to alternate or cover versions that might blow your little minds...
1) "Barney Miller"
-by jack elliott and allyn ferguson
-performed by chuck berghofer
Those opening bass notes, so iconic, indelible, funky, sublime...
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mL3Q8GNSKi4
2) "Cheers"
-by julian williams, gary portnoy, judy hart angelo
-performed by gary portnoy
Has there ever been a theme that more perfectly captured the essence of a show? But which version? The original? 200th episode extended? NBC 75th birthday? This one by foy vance may be better than any...
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wzyij-rsXhw
3) "Mission: Impossible"
-by lalo schifrin
Grinding, nasty, and...slinky? Somehow, yes.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mWGeRgFa-hI
4) "The Muppet Show"
-by sam pottle and jim henson
The greatest funvitation ever.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RLDcV_S-BCI&spfreload=10
5) "The Pink Panther Show"
-by henry mancini
Has there ever been a theme song that almost overshadowed a show this big?
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dtnNO5_Ao6U
6) "Hill Street Blues"
-by mike post (featuring larry carlton)
How about an absolutely shimmery, funky version by rodney franklin?
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J0HPyXKa6io
7) "Star Trek"
-by alexander courage
Where, where, where did alexander come up with this? And since no musician ever soared higher than maynard ferguson... (but be warned, maynard's GALACTICA is possibly the worst sci fi cover ever).
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_v1J-kGxXds
8) "Peter Gunn"
-by henry mancini
No cover comes close.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oysMt8iL9UE
9) "M*A*S*H"
-by johnny mandel, mike altman
Let's go with the movie version, which ups the poignancy.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xIIqYqtR1lY
10) "The Odd Couple"
-by neal hefti
Well, this is different...rearranged and performed by the composer almost fifty years later, featuring devyn rush.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TKFl1EWAZUs
11) "Batman"
-by neal hefti
Get a load of neal postcini.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OpWVV8wuM1A
12) "All in the Family"
-by charles strouse, lee adams
How about this cast salute to family viewing hour version? You'll thank me.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IvrIltxWnS0
13) "Bonanza"
-by ray evans, jay livingston
An end-of-show version filmed for the pilot, and never aired. When you hear it, you'll understand why.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qpUd9KecPa4
14) "The Beverly Hillbillies"
-by paul henning
-performed by jerry scoggins with flatt and scruggs
What, you thought i WOULDN'T pick the weird al version?
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aMiRGCGIfCg
15) "The Greatest American Hero"
-by mike post
-performed by mike post with joey scarbury and larry carlton
The full studio version.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CpLI1uf2g0A
16) "Law & Order"
-by mike post
What, never heard the ukulele version?
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GT23bwUPHpU
17) "Scooby Doo"
-written by david mook, ben raleigh
-performed by larry marks or george a. robertson jr.
Both versions are worthy, but let's go with george:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0_C2HJvtRDY
18) "The Big Bang Theory"
-by barenaked ladies
The fuller, geekier version.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8KTA50Z9Z0U
19) "Welcome Back, Kotter"
-by john sebastian
The fuller, harmonicalized version.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xZzEzDkeHzI
20) "It's Garry Shandling's Show"
-by joey carbone, alan zweibel, garry shandling
-performed by bill lynch
Wait...the singer didn't write it? Oh garry.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iqO1HO9VpLo
21) "The Rockford Files"
-by mike post, pete carpenter
Mike post...he's no mancini. Spaced-out synth, folky harmonica, rock god guitar...
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hj8V5sRVXGk
21) "What's Happening!!"
-by henry mancini
Henry mancini...he's no mike post. The full mancini...slinkiest organ solo ever?
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=22tfSmhqwkQ

Thursday, March 16, 2017

defanged!

The meadow looks the same...
But it's been gutted. There's no other word for it.
All the most powerful or funny pieces are gone. In data storage, or in my hands as i read them live.
A testament to...selfishness?
Up until now, my literary output has been free for the world to enjoy (or steal, i suppose). Maybe in five or ten years, i'll restore the meadow to its former glory. Bring back all the missing pieces, and the new ones deemed too brilliant for appearance here. In my personal life, i'm about to dive back into a large metropolitan pool, the kind where art can flourish and ripple on a larger scale. If you've been paying attention, you know i'm not convinced this is the best thing for my muse. Myriad are the compromises and corruptions of the marketplace, to say nothing of courting fame, so i'd like to hope that this isn't all just an ego play...i hope it's about maximizing my ability to reach people who are looking for glimmers of hope or comfort...being a voice of sanity in a world where rape and superstitious self-loathing have run amok...selling the hope that we may yet save our species...to say nothing of the world.
It is those things, yes.
But i'm also bone-weary and unprotected in a society where self-interest is the only thing on which one can truly rely. Most of us are far too poor, battered, desensitized, afraid, or overwhelmed to care for others. We only know how to give when we "get". Can i make my way in THIS world, accrue some measure of physical comfort and security, solely on the products of my mind?
Maybe.
So is the naked meadow...plowed? Paved? Should i just pack it in until such a day as complete, free nakedidity may bloom again? Would it be only an exercise in necrophilia to persist? Yes, perhaps not, hopefully not, and hopefully no. But what's possibly left that's worth your attention? Nothing but reviews?? Even the damned poetry's gone! Well, there will still be pop culture commentaries, romantic memoirs, letters, the naked nurse, and occasional tastes of essay or rant or tale that don't measure up...or some that might be of highest quality but are too timely to be of lasting interest. And i may introduce some new regular feature, distilling and encapsulating the most naked experiences of life...the raw material that becomes the finished essays or tales. "Naked day"? "Naked time"?
And what of my output? You may have already noticed a shift - once, it was common for me to have a new posting every two or three days. Heck, who can forget that heady day in 2010 when i had THREE postings in one day?? Ah, youth. Now, i seem to be settling in at one every four days...and even that may drop, once my public speaking moves from occasional to regular.
I may give you a taste once in a while of the titles you're missing - some incentive to hear me perform in person, or find out whether i'm publishing in some more conventional sense, or self-publishing, or e-publishing, or communing with dolphins...for example, here are some recent pieces you won't be reading here.
-Heartsex
-Pick-a-Path
-Pick-a-Path 2
-The Dastardly Drippy Dick!
-Song of the Unfucked
-Faeries and Feminists
-Carnaltruisticking Sexbomb
That last one may be testament to the possibility that i'm better at titles than content. But come on, what poem could ever measure up??
Anyway...
Mine, not yours? Not ours?
I'm out here on my own, the meadow ain't dead, and i love you all.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

"Rehab Reunion"

-bruce hornsby & the noisemakers
2016
I'm not sure i've ever written a bad music review. It just feels so much more productive to acknowledge greatness, and pay mediocrity no mind. Yet there's a bit of a double standard there, as i'll occasionally indulge in a critical slam of some movie or show. Perhaps it's more easy and appropriate (and frankly, sometimes fun) to be disgusted with Hollywood. Couched in the idiom of a more pure universal language, there's an element of music that's harder to hate. And perhaps musical appreciation is ultimately more subjective?
But just as an honestly bad album is no sin, an honest bad review is nonesuch either. So i'll say that i've perhaps never been more disappointed in any album. After the middling LEVITATE, i was ready for a return to greatness. Please understand the love from whence this comes - it's fair to say that there's not a single living artist in whom i place greater anticipation, as hornsby well embodies the pop/jazz balance of my own tastes. When he's good he's lovely, and when he's great he's incomparable, with his mix of hypnotic composition, razor sharp lyrics, and singularly beautiful musicianship.
So what the hell happened? Perhaps it's just my own subjectivity roaring displeasure, as he didn't nail any of the elements that get me revving. Yet i'm almost inclined to start a "bruce is dead" conspiracy theory, as this album feels like a pale imitation of the man's work (when you find out that he DOESN'T PLAY PIANO on a single track, your alarm bells might go off too). I even did a web search for "hornsby hand injury", dreading the worst. But it goes deeper. "Hey Kafka" is the only track that's lyrically interesting...and that more for subject than substance. "Celestial Railroad" is the only track that's musically interesting, and that not nearly enough to offset the mildly insipid sentiment.
Sigh. Oh, halcyon days...

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

three wild moments

UN MOMENT D'AGAREMENT (ONE WILD MOMENT)
-directed and written by claude berri
1977
BLAME IT ON RIO
-directed by stanley donen
1984
UN MOMENT D'AGAREMENT
-directed by jean-francois richet
2015
My favorite french film has always been 1977's "Un moment d'agarement", a tender, poignantly funny look at a middle-aged man having an affair with his best friend's under-aged daughter. The backdrop is a beach holiday for two men and their teenagers. Pierre (jean-pierre marielle - URANUS, THE DA VINCI CODE) regrets the affair as soon as it happens, and tries to extricate himself from her declarations of love while coping with his friend's insistence that he help find the mystery cad who used and abandoned his daughter. The film is a gentle but so, so real look at human desire and hypocrisy. Its only weakness is (of course) patriarchal double standards, as we see an enraged father try to control and deny his daughter's sexuality...but all that is profoundly offset by the incredible humanity agnes sorral (THE OGRE, I LOVE YOU) invests into her part. Berri refuses to moralize - the lovers face each other in the final scene, and as the credits roll the audience has no idea where they will go.
1984's "Blame It On Rio" is one of the few Hollywood adaptations to shine as brightly as the original, because they didn't even try to capture the same flavor, instead creating something much more akin to a bedroom comedy, which hilariously follows the father and his miserable accomplice as they chase the "unknown" lech. Donen found the perfect writers (charlie peters and larry gelbart) and perfect cast, led by michael caine (ZULU, THE MUPPET CHRISTMAS CAROL) and joseph bologna (MY FAVORITE YEAR, JERSEY GIRL). Valerie harper (RHODA, VALERIE) plays caine's estranged wife, and demi moore (G.I. JANE, BEAVIS AND BUTT-HEAD DO AMERICA) his daughter - you can take the opportunity to smile or cry as you see the beautiful breasts nature gave demi, which would soon be mutilated by the surgeon's knife. Caine has never been better, and michelle johnson (GUNG HO, DEATH BECOMES HER) is also perfect as the smitten teen.
Perfect, but...johnson was also a sexbomb who was eighteen playing sixteen, which de-toothed the humanity and poignancy of the original. Soulless Hollywood strikes again! Which brings us to the 2015 re-remake, back in the hands of the french. Sadly, you might be justified in wondering whether french cinema now sucks as much as the yank stuff. The film stars vincent cassel (IRREVERSIBLE, BLACK SWAN) and lola le lann, who are wonderful...but once again we have a sexbomb teen playing a younger part, and on top of that, vincent looks so much like a movie star that the combination hijacks any deeper meaning, as the audience ends up just wanting these unrelateably handsome people to fuck already. You're a fine actor, vincent - you couldn't have grown a beer belly maybe? The ending also feels too easy, as laurent's own teen-angsty daughter forgets her outrage, and louna's father forgives his friend...which one might chalk up to a more enlightened european sensibility IF we hadn't spent an hour watching the man boil with homicidal rage toward the "despoiler". It all feels like such an opportunity lost. Couldn't we have tossed the patriarchal, sexually self-loathing overtones out the window? With apologies to THE READER and TADPOLE (but not many, as that fifteen year-old was twenty-three), isn't it long past time for a movie about a non-tragic affair between a teenage male and an over-forty woman?
Anyway, the first two would make a delectable double feature. One of the funniest, sweetest connections is the lightning strike at the exact same moment in each film. Wonderful.

Friday, March 3, 2017

"Hill Street Blues"

-created by stephen bochco and michael kozoll
1981-1987
Bates and coffey.
Hill and renko.
Davenport and furillo lip-locked at the end (or boink-blocked by that damn pager).
Hm...the show's greatest characterizations seem to come in twos. Except of course, the sgt. esterhaus roll call.
HILL STREET BLUES - one of the worst-previewed pilots ever picked up (it's not that test audiences hated it, but rather that their confused silence was thunderous). The lowest-rated show to ever not be canceled after its first season...just before taking in a record emmy haul and going on to seven seasons, with an influence that reverberates across television to this day.
The show broke much ground, but towers above all for the humanization of people whom we had only ever seen as two-dimensional functionaries living just to "get their guy". Suddenly, all the weaknesses and foibles of real people (ego, drugs, greed, lust, divorce...) were on conspicuous display. The show enjoyed an unprecedented level of independence from the studio - a case study in the proposition that if you leave writers and artists alone, something brilliant might happen.
And it all happened only because NBC's roster was so pathetic in 1981 that they had nothing with which to replace it.
It felt so real in part because of the production - the handheld camera work, the unprecedented density of interior background actors in continuous dynamic motion, the soft cuts - instead of going to commercial after some contrived climax, you often had silent fade-outs of people simply taking it in. The serial-episodic writing was new, with plot lines interwoven over the course of many episodes (and like life itself, things often didn't "resolve"). The bad guys, and the efforts to thwart them, were still there, but almost incidental. And even the bad guys got humanized.
Ultimately though, the brilliance of the show began and ended with the dialogue...and perhaps never in the history of television has it been more obvious on whose shoulders that rested, for when stephen bochco (L.A. LAW, NYPD BLUE) left, the final two seasons became so flat and unfamiliar it was jarring. The cast and talented writing staff soldiered on, but the results are almost painful. Aside from his humanistic insight, bochco employed a brilliant ironic touch - as one cast member described it, he had a way of "going sideways" when least expected.
The earliest episodes could be ridiculously unrealistic, as the writing style took a while to gel. But once they found their groove, they set a standard that's seldom been matched (the show's successors, even the good ones, usually feel too slick and "produced"). An episode guide is perhaps superfluous, because of the interwoven plots and a level of excellence that almost never deviated. So here then, a tribute to the characters, and the actors who made them real.
capt. frank furillo (144 episodes)
-daniel j. travanti (MILLENIUM, MISSING PERSONS)
Anchoring this bursting ensemble with sympathetic humanism wrapped in no-nonsense morality, travanti embodied the kind of leader we might wish really existed. Yet he also struggled with the demons of alcoholism and emotional repression. Never less than wonderful...and if you're looking for a reason to re-visit LOST IN SPACE, apparently he plays a space hippie.
officer/sgt. lucy bates (144)
-betty thomas (TROOP BEVERLY HILLS, CPO SHARKEY)
Trying to maintain some dignity in a world that caters only to barbie dolls, betty was relentlessly real...and one of the few characters the writers didn't know how to write, early on. Her humor and goodness never dimmed, the respect of her male peers was never in question, and we never stopped rooting for her. She went on to a fine career as a director (PRIVATE PARTS, THE LATE SHIFT). Casting her instead of some runway refugee was the most credible choice the producers made.
officer bobby hill (144)
-michael warren (CITY OF ANGELS, PARIS)
Michael injected endless humility and dignity into hill, making him the other moral center of the show. Women wanted him, men wanted to be him. Not bad for a flatfoot.
officer andrew renko (144)
-charles haid (ALTERED STATES, THE GREAT ESCAPE II)
Haid rendered such sweet believability to the manchild renko, that we all fell in love with someone few of us might like in real life.
det. neal washington (144)
-taurean blacque (ROCKY II, SAVANNAH)
Taurean never once misplayed a scene, imbuing the smooth washington with full depth. His acceptance of his abrasive, damaged partner j.d. challenged us all to be so forgiving.
joyce davenport (144)
-veronica hamel (A NEW LIFE, HERE COME THE MUNSTERS)
Her triumphs and tribulations as public defender made us all a bit disgusted with the system. She accomplished what few (if any) female television characters ever had...thriving in a man's world without sacrificing one ounce of femininity.
det. mick belker (144)
-bruce weitz (ANYTHING BUT LOVE, DEATH OF A CENTERFOLD: THE DOROTHY STRATTEN STORY)
Giving depth to a character so over-the-top with the growling and biting, bruce endured and prevailed.
det. j.d. larue (144)
-kiel martin (THE PANIC IN NEEDLE PARK, SECOND CHANCE)
Kiel brought the ugly reality of a self-centered charmer to life - in essence, larue was han solo without the rosy lucas lenses. The real life parallels were a bit eerie, as kiel was a high-functioning alcoholic who was apparently never sober during the first couple seasons, but never again drunk after that.
sgt./lt. henry goldblume (144)
-joe spano (AMERICAN GRAFFITI, NYPD BLUE)
Joe brought hope and pathos to an idealistic, non-violent cop in the city's most violent precinct. Yet i'm not sure the writers ever knew exactly what to do with him.
lt./sgt./lt. howard hunter (144)
-james sikking (STAR TREK III, DOOGIE HOWSER M.D.)
HILL STREET's frank burns...and like larry linville, perhaps the greatest acting challenge and achievement of the show.
lt./capt. ray calletano (109)
-rene enriquez (BANANAS, HARRY AND TONTO)
A thread of chemistry without which the show's tapestry wouldn't have been so american. His promotion and semi-departure from the show (like the last two seasons in general) were clumsy at best.
officer joe coffey (104)
-ed marinaro (LAVERNE & SHIRLEY, SISTERS)
The friendship between coffey and bates gave us all just a little hope for humanity. He escaped the sinking ship after season six...in retrospect, would that they had all thus gone. Is there any other iconic character from an iconic show who was there neither at the beginning, nor the end?
fay furillo (103)
-barbara bosson (HOOPERMAN, COP ROCK)
Barbara turned a shrill, thankless part into a reminder of the destructive inhumanity of marriage, and that in real life, problems don't just magically go away. Perhaps the writers were never quite able to do her justice...in fact, we didn't even notice when she disappeared in the sixth season. Yet the show would have been shallower without her, and her part might have been catastrophic in less capable hands.
leo schnitz (94)
-robert hirschfeld (ESCAPE FROM ALCATRAZ, MORE AMERICAN GRAFITTI)
Khaki officer schnitz plugged away with one or two lines per show, eventually injecting his own poignant humanity into a couple meatier storylines.
chief fletcher daniels (73)
-john cypher (MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE, MAJOR DAD)
John was irrepressibly oily as the political, self-serving chief.
sgt. phil esterhaus (71)
-michael conrad (THEY SHOOT HORSES, DON'T THEY?, THE LONGEST YARD)
The erudite esterhaus was in many ways the heart of the show...michael's sudden death during season four was perhaps the most heartbreaking, resonant death of a series star that television has ever known. What does it say about how frightening this world is, that we so embraced this gruff, rock-solid man who just wanted us to be careful?
irwin bernstein (58)
-george wyner (SPACEBALLS, FLETCH 1-2)
Plugging away in a mostly thankless supporting district attorney role for years, george finally had a moment to shine (and show his naked humanity), in season seven's "Bald Ambition".
sgt. stan jablonski (54)
-robert prosky (THE NATURAL, GREMLINS 2)
An actor asked to do the impossible, replace michael conrad. Amazingly, he kind of pulled it off, as we took the stodgy stan to our hearts.
lt. norman buntz (44)
-dennis franz (BAY CITY BLUES, NYPD BLUE)
Plus five episodes as det. sal benedetto, and thirteen in the doomed spin-off BEVERLY HILLS BUNTZ. Talk about kissing your sister - you do a five-episode run as a scumbag cop in the glory years, and just as the show asks you to become a regular in a more interesting part, bochco up and leaves. Yet life is funny, as franz would ultimately go on to log more bochco hours than any actor ever. And as the hard-edged buntz, he outimpossibled prosky by almost making the last two seasons watchable.
officer robin tataglia (37)
-lisa sutton (THE BRADY BUNCH MOVIE, 28 DAYS)
The recurring robin, as mick's love and eventual mother to his child, was never less than perfect. It's a shame they didn't make her a regular.
jesus martinez (29)
-trinidad silva (THE JERK, UHF)
No other actor had as much pop-per-screen-second as this lazy-eyed, nobody's-fool gang leader.
attorney/judge alan wachtel (29)
-jeffrey tambor (THE LARRY SANDERS SHOW, TRANSPARENT)
As a no-nonsense judge or maladjusted lawyer wearing a dress on the advice of his therapist, jeffrey never missed a moment.
det. harry garibaldi (29)
-ken olin (BAY CITY BLUES, THIRTYSOMETHING)
Ken was impeccable as a law school-attending detective getting by on looks and charm, and bound for self-imploding mortality.
det. patsy mayo (26)
-mimi kuzyk (THE CHRIS ISAAK SHOW, LOST AND DELIRIOUS)
At once vulnerable and hard-bitten, mimi was poignant as dedicated detective or furillo flirtation.
sid thurston (25)
-peter jurasik (BAY CITY BLUES, BEVERLY HILLS BUNTZ)
Pitch-perfect as two-cent hustler and snitch.
officer patrick flaherty (20)
-robert clohessy (OZ, BLUE BLOODS)
Through no fault of his own, robert was the poster child for the final two seasons...something you never expected to become regular, and never felt quite right.
officer tina russo (19)
-megan gallagher (CHINA BEACH, THE LARRY SANDERS SHOW)
Megan is surprisingly sexy to those who know only her later work, and quite compelling as an officer who has sex with a suspect while undercover, is raped while undercover, and only wants to use a fellow officer for sex. It's sad that another female character is defined almost solely by sex, but it also makes you long for what russo could have become in bochco's hands...
grace gardner (18)
-barbara babcock (DR. QUINN MEDICINE WOMAN, SPACE COWBOYS)
Okay, if she's over forty, we'll accept a female character being defined by her sexuality. Rock on, grace.
officer ron garfield (9)
-mykelti williamson (BAY CITY BLUES, FORREST GUMP)
A fine turn as a rookie struggling to stay on the straight and narrow.
gina srignoli (8)
-jennifer tilly (THE FABULOUS BAKER BOYS, BOUND)
No actor on the show was ever this sexy and funny. And her sister played a hooker.
gene scapizzi (8)
-marc alaimo (STAR TREK: DEEP SPACE NINE, THE NAKED GUN 33 1/3)
Memorable neck, forgettable role.
sgt. jenkins (7)
-lawrence tierney (RESERVOIR DOGS, THE NAKED GUN)
Tierney is so iconic that every time he briefly appeared you wondered whether you were dreaming. And to him fell the final line of the series.
shamrock (7)
-david caruso (FIRST BLOOD, NYPD BLUE)
Perfectly memorable as a pugnacious, snot-nosed gang leader.
connie chapman (6)
-frances mcdormand (SHORTS CUTS, FARGO)
Perfectly discomfiting as a brittle, drug-addicted public defender.
ralph macafee (4)
-dan hedaya (CHEERS, ALIEN: RESURRECTION)
He was actually more memorable in a one-off, as a bum who leads a gang rape of belker.
captain freedom (4)
-dennis dugan (RICHIE BROCKELMAN PRIVATE EYE, SAVING SILVERMAN)
As a would-be superhero who dons a costume, fights crime, and gets shot dead, no actor did more with less.
sandy valpariso (4)
-linda hamilton (THE TERMINATOR 1-2, BEAUTY AND THE BEAST)
She loved coffey, but couldn't get over her being raped. Joe, you're an idiot.
officer randall buttman (3)
-michael biehn (THE TERMINATOR, TOMBSTONE)
No, he and linda's episodes don't overlap...but he's absolutely brilliant as an amoral rookie.
officer harris (3)
-mark metcalf (ANIMAL HOUSE, BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER)
As a smirking, dirty cop, mark proved he could do drama as skillfully as comedy. Just loathesome.
derelict (3)
-garrett morris (SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE, 2 BROKE GIRLS)
Delightful...even without captioning for the hearing impaired.
judge paul grogan (3)
-donnelly rhodes (SOAP, BATTLESTAR GALACTICA)
Dandy donnelly.
kristen (3)
-ally sheedy (THE BREAKFAST CLUB, WARGAMES)
Yes, larue has sex with a catholic school teenager. Would this one make the air today?
Plus one-offs by tim robbins, don cheadle, scatman crothers, brent spiner, jonathan frakes, dwight schulz, james cromwell, armin shimerman, merritt butrick, michael richards, laurence fishburne, tim daly, forest whitaker, john ratzenberger, and joaquin phoenix.
Let's be careful out there.

Monday, February 27, 2017

"Expando"

-by timothy b. schmit
2009
Very possibly the most intimate album ever released by any current or former member of the Eagles - so stylistically different from any of timothy's earlier work it's jarring at first, and may take a few listenings to appreciate. Slick production is gone, replaced by the simple sounds of a home studio, a dynamic reinforced by the number of instruments timothy plays himself, with a versatile virtuosity previously unsuspected. He plays armfuls of instruments, and on several tracks he's a one-man band. The lyrics are similarly homey, and show a heretofore untapped capacity for self-revelation. He's disarmingly candid about his failings, foibles, rich person's guilt, clinical depression, and the celebrity life that insulates him from the real world...but all that comes wrapped in the context of trying to make an entertaining song. It ranges from funny to heartfelt, and once you settle into the style, it's hard to not call this the best solo effort of his career. If i say that no single track achieves greatness, can you appreciate how hard it is to create an album in which nothing is less than very good?
He has a wonderful roster of drop-in musicians (and presumably good friends) who offer their talents: keb' mo', gary burton, jim keltner, benmont tench, garth hudson, the Blind Boys of Alabama, and others. The tracks range from good to very good. Here are the must-haves on any schmit anthology:
"Parachute"
- The "graham nash supporting vocal" has become almost an institutional sub-genre in and of itself, but his presence here is as perfect as any vocal he's done.
"White Boy from Pasadena"
- A hoot that name-checks schwarzenegger and pat boone, about growing up in the California suburbs.
"I Don't Mind"
- The best tuba-flavored pop tune since, um...weird al maybe?