Dec 5, 2014

Black Mirror | White Christmas | Channel 4 (For Nick C)

Yum! Jon Hamm, Rafe Spall, and Oona Chaplin in the feature length "holiday" Black Mirror.  In the UK on Channel 4 on December 16.  When will it get Stateside?

XTC - Melt the Guns - 1982 (For Nik C)

I'm speaking to the Justice League of America.

The U S of A,

Hey you,

Yes you in particular!

When it comes to the judgement day and you're standing at the gates with your weaponry,

You dare go down on one knee,

Clasp your hands in prayer and start quoting me,

'cos we say...

Our father we've managed to contain the epidemic in one place, now,

Let's hope they shoot themselves instead of others,

Help to civilize the race now.

We've trapped the cause of the plague,

In the land of the free and the home of the brave.

If we listen quietly we can hear them shooting from grave to grave.

You ought to,

Melt the guns,

Melt the guns,

Melt the guns,

And never more to fire them.


Dec 3, 2014

I found this practically by accident.

I was looking on YouTube for docs on WWI, typed in the Great War, and this popped up.  It is an eighteen hour long BBC documentary, featuring Sir Michael Redgrave as the narrator, and Sir Ralph Richardson as Sir Douglas Haig.

You really get the feeling that Ken Burns most certainly could have seen this somehow when he was a youngster, or when he went to college, because it is pretty much the complete foundation for his style.

I am five episodes in, out of twenty-six total, and it is great stuff.  Highly recommended.


Nov 27, 2014

Nov 22, 2014

The Three Wise Men - Thanks For Christmas

New Wave Anglaise

This is a great video, XTC playing in Paris, almost thirty-five years ago to the day.  I like the Parisian up front, with a coat and tie, jumping up and down.  And, I like the little computer graphic they use after the introduction.  And, our hosts are so French.  One of them, in the background, looks like he is a super villain, holding a small pet

Three years later, Andy Partridge had a nervous breakdown on another Paris stage, and the band never toured again.


Nov 14, 2014


That swear word in Paris was appropriate because this is what happened in London (not all that far away from us, actually) on our first night in London.  

While we were checking out the Food Hole (25% discount for teamies!) and having a smashing dinner at e&o restaurant in Notting Hill, Chelsea FC were busy eliminating PSG from Champions League two-nil.  It was a late goal from Chelsea that sealed Paris' fate.

So, even though, after two matches, both sides were level on points and goals (three each for both for both), it was Chelsea's penalty in Paris that saw them through to the semis. Chelsea scored an away goal, you see.  Paris did not.  

PSG will get 'em next year.




This is what was happening across "town", if you will, on our first night in Paris.  We were so jetlagged and exhausted from our flight, that after a nap, and a snack and some Champers at Cafe de Flore (right across the street from our bedsit), we promptly tried to go to sleep again.  It was a bit daunting for me, because the celebration in Paris of this 3-1 Champions League victory over London's Chelsea Football Club was loud and crazy.  There was drinking and singing and jubilation (all very good natured and sweet) until five AM all over Paris, and right underneath our window! The next morning, at the street corners where they would have their giant green glass recycling bins, all the bins were completely stuffed with bottles, so the Parisians politely and neatly placed all their wine bottles, upright, on the pavement surrounding the bins.  The tourists all got a huge kick out of that, and took a bunch of pictures.  (We skipped that photo opportunity.)

But, this video is amazing.  It is one of my all-time favorite sports videos ever.  I love how he gives us a before and after the match on the streets.  I love how close he gets us to the action.  I love the sensation I get, that I am really at the match, and that these are real people we are watching.  There is none of that fakeness, or eroticization, of a television production.  I am not saying our "director" is a genius, or anything, but that it is just so refreshing to witness an amateur up close document of a major sporting event.  No commercials.  No jumbotron.  No replays.  And, he edited it! It is slightly less than half of the full match in length.  Brilliant!

But, my favorite part has to be when Chelsea converts their penalty (we do not get to see the foul that conceded the penalty), and our director yells, "Merde!", and then scans over to the hinterlands of Parc des Princes where the Chelsea hooligans were all relegated.  

He had good reason for swearing.  That penalty was huge, because a week later in London, ...

Nov 8, 2014


For our last day and night in Paris we decided we would go to Père Lachaise Cemetery, say hello to Edith Piaf, Jimbo, and lay some flowers on Oscar Wilde's tomb.  Père Lachaise is north of the Seine, and is not in a particularly touristy part of Paris.  Generally, everywhere we had been in Paris to that point, we could count on hearing a fair amount of English, and be comfortable speaking English, too.  

After paying our respects, the Wife decided we should go to this Thai bistro she had heard about called Sawan.  Sawan was closer to where were staying, Saint-Germain-des-Prés, on the north side of the Seine, but was still a considerable jaunt from Père Lachaise.  We decided to try and catch a cab, and until we could, just keep walking south towards our destination.  Only problem was there was nary a cab to catch.  So we walked.  And walked. And walked.  We must have walked through two or three arrondissements just to get to this restaurant.  These were not touristy neighborhoods, either.  They were decidedly working class, a little dingy in spots, and no one spoke English.

I was getting cranky for sure, but Renee kept us on the path towards nourishment, and we did reach Sawan.

Sawan was packed when we sat down, but was fairly empty by the time we left.  One thing I noticed was that the menu included prices in Thai Bhat as well as Euros.  I suppose you could pay in that currency if you had it.  Next to us, packed fairly tightly, by the street window, were two Parisian businessmen, both wearing coat and tie.  When our waiter came, Renee took the initiative and placed her order in English.  The waiter understood perfectly, and I did the same.  But, you should have seen the look on the older (facing me) Parisian businessman when he heard the two of us have the Charles de Gaulle to not even try to speak French.  It was pretty funny.

The meal was wonderful.  I had a beer.  It was one of the best restaurant experiences we had on our honeymoon, and it was cheap.  But, the punch line comes near the end of our meal, just before the businessmen left.  The younger businessman (facing Renee) wanted to do a high five with his buddy.  They tried.  It was the most pathetic high five I have ever seen.  Their hands barely grazed each other, and there was no oomph or panache whatsoever.

So.  Maybe we are a couple of well-meaning ugly Americans, but the Wife and I sure as hell have mastered the American art of the high five!


Nov 7, 2014

For Nik C, the Grundy Pistols Filth and Fury Interview, 1976

I particularly love the way  Siouxsie Sioux matches Grundy's lecherous flirtation with one of her own.  It is amazing to think how shocking this was in the UK in 1976.  It is fucking brilliant.  I will always love the Pistols.


Nov 6, 2014

Philip always tells the truth, and exactly what is on his mind.

Except when he lies.  But, his lies are lies of omission or plain thoughtlessness.  And, because he believes he is an open book and everything he thinks or does is so obvious, to be thought of as a given, any chance he might have to find true happiness in his life, with or without a lifetime partner, is suffocated.  

Philip is played by Jason Schwartzman in the film Listen Up Philip, which was written and directed by Alex Ross Perry, and is truly one of the best films I have seen in years.  (And, this comes on the heels of Los Angeles Plays Itself -- another masterpiece.  So, I am getting very lucky lately with the cinema.) 

There are so many things to love about Listen Up Philip.  I love the fact that there are no tidy endings, or serious romantic hookups; that real love in this universe is fleeting and might last no longer than the second it takes to throw a glance in someone's direction.  I love that there are so few likable people in the picture.  I am so tired of the maxim that films and novels and plays have to have likable people in them to be great or appreciated.  It seems such a lazy criticism.  I love that the story is constantly changing focus, moving from the country to New York City and back so haphazardly.  It makes it feel like a real novel.  That you are watching.  Which is just an astounding amazing trick all of itself.  I love the stylized, again novelized (if you will) dialogue. Everyone tells the truth constantly.  Insight and keen personal perception are never precious in this film.  Everyone seems capable of summing up their exact feelings and emotions in breathtaking devastating brevity.  There is absolutely no small talk.  Zimmerman's daughter susses Philip the instant they meet.  And, never once does a single character in this film refrain from expressing themselves.  Ever.  I love the fact that some characters disappear for long stretches of the film.  I love the novelistic voice over narration, which is normally a conceit in films that I do not like.  I love the end titles.  I love Elizabeth Moss, Jason Schwartzman, Jonathan Pryce, Krysten Ritter, and Joséphine de La Baume.  I love the way the film plays with our ideas about storytelling.  It is as if Alex Ross Perry has written a novel with film stock.  An experimental challenging novel in which no one wears a mask or hides their feelings about any gesture or opinion or emotion.  Which only goes to prove that in that kind of 'utopian' sort of life, where there are no lies, and everything is always on the table, there can also be no lasting love or real happiness.

These are my feelings.  And, I have already heard from a colleague who differs.  (Which did not take long, by the way, and seemed the perfect riposte that proves the point of this film.) But, this might just be a Michael thing.  I can definitely understand why others might dislike this film, even if I have bookmarked Alex Ross Perry's name in my own personal, never to be published, novel of the cinema.  He is a name to watch, and for me, Listen Up Philip is an absolute master work.

All my love,

Nov 5, 2014

The Jewels - Opportunity

This was not the documentary I wanted to see.

And, to be honest, I do not think it was all that great a documentary, period.  Even going in to it with the knowledge that Mr Dynamite is supposed to be an account of the rise of James Brown, this film did not cut it.  

You can not tell the story of this man and conveniently forget about the end.  The battle over the body, the spousal abuse, the high speed car chase, the drugs, the hypocrisy, the fact that he would constantly fine his band for essentially not keeping all eyes on him at all times, or the fact the he rarely paid the Famous Flames or his other bands, at all.  

Mr Jagger and Mr Gibney would have been better served to just compile a greatest hits of all available film and video materials to present like a thrilling feature length film, near to what a James Brown Revue Performance would have been like.

And, it is no surprise to me that Brown supported GOP folks like Nixon.  Or, that GOP folks like Nixon would callously use him to further their own political aims.  Mr Brown never wanted a hand out, and good for him.  But, like it is mentioned in the film by a witness, most African-American folks in this country are not as "immensely talented, driven, or ruthless" as James Brown.  Brown appears to me to have many of the hallmarks of the typical entrepreneurial conservative.  i.e.  I got mine, Fuck you.  Whilst all the time completely forgetting about all the others that were crucial to his succeeding in life.  

Perhaps his art would not have been so important, so crucial, so earth shattering, if he had not been such a ruthless egomaniacal asshole.  And, that is fine.  Lots of great artists are assholes.  But, if you are going to do a documentary about The Hardest Working Man in Show Business, you had best come with a fully rounded honest approach about the entire sweep of his life, actions, and career.

Seriously, you are much better served watching the TAMI Show, and any performances you can find on YouTube.

Mr Dynamite did little or next to nothing for me.


Oct 25, 2014


When the Wife and I finally made it to the Rothko Room at the Tate Modern in London, there was a docent, a teacher, and about a dozen and a half French schoolchildren -- I would guess they were Junior High age (?).  (I also like to imagine they were from Paris, but I have no idea.)  The docent spoke in English to the children.

Rothko Room at the Tate Modern

The docent explained about the Seagram's commission, and how Rothko turned it down, and the paintings ended up here at the Tate instead.  And, he even told the possibly apocryphal story about why Rothko refused the Seagram's job, where his very large paintings would have been hung in the Four Seasons restaurant on the ground floor.  The story goes that Rothko refused the commission because he could not stand the idea that people would be eating in front of his paintings.  The docent leaned heavily on the idea that the story was not true.  Personally, I disagree.  That seems totally like something Rothko would say.

The Wife and I explored the room a bit on our own, and soaked up the religious atmosphere, but you really could not help but be sucked in to the docent's talk.  The kids were not having any of it. They were bored to distraction.  They seemed to understand the language.  That was not the problem.  They just did not "get" Rothko, or Abstract Expressionism, I suppose.  

The docent even tried some typical English laconic humor out on the kids.  I do not remember the jokes.  The Wife, the teacher, and I all thought he was very funny.  The jokes died with the kids, though.  They continued to yawn, scratch their arms, and smack their gum.  

A Monet Water Lilies panel at the Tate Modern

Finally, at one point, the docent proclaimed that just about everyone believed that the Rothko paintings at the Tate were considered the finest acquisition the museum ever made. Then, he said, he begged to differ.  He thinks the Monet Water Lilies panel is the best.  

I love the Water Lilies panel, but I got to disagree with him there on that one, too.

When we first encountered the group upon the entering the room, I thought it might spoil the experience for me.  It did not.  Everything was just fine.

Long work week just about over! 
All my love, 
Ardent (mds)

Poor Bobby!

He really really would like to stay.  But, he has to ramble.  On.

Oct 23, 2014

Ah, Sports!

Or, as they say in England:  Sport.

The bar where the attack happened.

This happened Wednesday evening in Lille, France.  According to all the UK sources I have read, Evertonians (Everton Football Club supporters are called Evertonians) were attacked by a group of hooded Lille OSC supporters.  The UK press, and the eyewitnesses in the video embedded in the link above, all maintain the attack was unprovoked.  The confrontation got so bad that the police had to teargas everyone involved to end the melee.

I would seriously encourage you to watch the video at the link.  The newspaper's eyewitnesses are two nine stone weight, probably teenage, Liverpudlian brothers.  My favorite parts of the video are their accents (of course!), and the time where the older brother explains that although he really does not smoke, actually (Really hoping his Mum doesn't see this!), he was, just this one time, smoking outside the pub when the Lille hooligans struck.  I also like how the older brother, who does most of the talking, says that the little brother was knocked out cold early in the fray, and missed some of his slightly heroic attempts at protecting the Evertonian bairns in the bar.

I was talking to Nick C, though, and I was wondering what the Lille press reaction would be.  I would like to think that they would report that it was an unruly drunk mob of Evertonians that attacked a group of Lille Grammar School children that were on a school evening field trip, attending a Debussy concert in the park.


PS:  The game went off without a hitch today, a nil-nil draw.  Lille travels to Liverpool in two weeks!