Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Remembering Don Adams

The gang is saddened by the death of Don Adams. Yet another icon of the 60s moves on. Get Smart was a great show. It took the dominating Sean Connery James Bond films [fully loved by the gang] and made fun of them. The gang appreciates the joke.

"Would you believe" was a catch phrase of great power. It made Max Smart loveable. He was inept like we all are, yet he got the job done. There was hope.

Fun, laughable; and we loved it all.

Saturday, April 02, 2005

Keeping Up Appearances I

Of late the gang at the lake has been focused on the British sitcom “Keeping Up Appearances.” In KUA, Hyacinth Bucket [pronounced “Bouquet”] is determined to overcome her lower class beginnings by being as arrogant as she can. Her husband Richard takes it and takes it from her. He dishes it back quietly. Hyacinth lives in a world of her own. She is totally oblivious to the fact that every one knows she is a tactless bore. In one episode, they stand on the streets in relief as she leaves for the country. She thinks they are appreciating her and she wonders how they will all get along without her; but they are all ready to sing and dance.

Richard puts up with it all. He is a model of love. She is packed with flaws, but he quietly persists; occasionally given the recognition granted a long-suffering prisoner of war by others. They all seem to think he needs a vacation by himself.

Richard also is a slight passive-aggressive. In every episode, he flips tiny digs at Hyacinth. She is so much of a non-listener that she never hears or sense them. Every one expects Richard to break at some point. He does only once that I can find. Hyacinth is rudely pushing herself ahead of line at a phone booth—asserting her right to use the phone first outside of normal politeness—and Richard yells at her to get back in the car. She is shocked. What has taken place escapes her. Richard is wrong and she is right. It could not be otherwise.

In the end all of her exploits to raise her status in society fail. The fail because she over estimates herself. They fail because she fails to note that the people she admires (any one royal or rcih) are either snooty like her or most often nice people who prefer the people she most degrades as beneath herself.

The gang has undertaken a count of the number of times Richard gets a dig in. The record seems to be seven in one episode. The count may change because every time you watch more details emerge. For now the “Iron Age Remains” episode is on top. The gang watches as often as twice a day in their pursuit of an accurate count.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Experience Dulled

While watching a concert of 1960s singers and singing groups on PBS, I was struck by the fact that they just stood there. Not that this was new to me, because that is what most acts did back then, but the striking comparison to MTV’s wild actions was splendidly clear.

Jimi Hendrix was one of the filmed participants. Considered a leader of musical direction in his times, he just stood there. What path did the generation take that music moved from being the focus to being a part of an experience? Odd that Jimi Hendrix would be on screen as my thoughts on this developed, as his group was the Jimi Hendrix Experience. I delved deeper as I realized that back when Hendrix was gigantic, most people had never seen him. He played concerts, but the bulk of his followers listened on the radio or to records. An appearance on television in the 1960s was for one song, two at the most; sung on a stage with restricted motion. Lighting was appropriate for a television stage and television technology at the time. Yet, we listened to it, loved it, and bought it.

One of the issues that brings this out is that over the last bunch of years I had had one of my classes spend a week looking for music of alienation in their lives. Any kind of alienation; by any kind of singer people were listening to. Over that period the event of focus is that the number of people who have no idea what the words are has taken off. In the late 1990s it was one or two people per class. It now has approached the majority. While rock has always been subject to this, the majority of the words were clearly apparent. As an old rock and roller I recall putting my head right in the speaker to try and pick out a phrase so my band could use the song and sound right. But the bulk of the songs had no such problem. I remember being in discussions of the meaning of songs, such as “American Pie.” The words were crucial to the point of the song.

I think three things explain this change. [1] Rock music has shifted to a more mushy sound. The Beach Boys and Beatles were people who thought the words important. I am not sure that is true any more. With such a colophony of sound, is any part of it important versus the whole? [2] The music has been visualized. The music is not just music, a set of sounds; it is an “experience.” It is more than sound; it is sight with movement, and sound. Has the point been reached where the visual exceeds the impact of the sound? Is Brittany Spears about seeing Brittany shake, or the sounds? The answer seems obvious. [3] Attention spans may play some role. Listening to the words is a more deeply worked out experience than just passively experiencing the act. One is involved with words because the mind must work with them. IS it as involved when the act involves a mixture of senses?

In all, it is sad. The ability of music to bring messages of meaning is stifled in favor of a mind dulling sensory experience. Of course shutting out the world could be the message. The postmodern experience surely makes great headway in this area.

Saturday, March 12, 2005

Missing Sandra Dee

The gang at the lake has been a little down over the passing of Sandra Dee. While made fun of in places like Grease, she is an icon of the early boomer age. Her life was not filled with the happiness that should have followed some of the characters in her movies through life. My favorite is A Summer Place. I watch it several times a year. In it she is filled with angst over the sexual issues that the boomer group would soon rebel against. She wants love with Troy Donahue, and nothing is more important. She and he pursue it while questioning what is right and proper. While it looks archaic today, it represents the real outlook of the young boomer crowd. The trend of society, the nature of the hippie movement, and all that are in every wondering thought she has in that film. Sandra Dee stood at the forefront of societal change. To Rizzo in Grease she was at the end of the line, but she actually stood near the front. Change came not from bold leapers who extended the limits of society, but from those who avoided the hype and pushed a little more. The media followed those who bounded forward. The Boomers followed those who inched forward and thought carefully about it all. Sandra Dee was certainly among those leaders of her times.

Sunday, March 06, 2005

Alone in the Wilderness

The gang here at the lake just finished watching Dick Proenneke's 1968 travels to wilderness Alsaka in Alone in the Wilderness. What a wonderfully exciting experience. Traveling to a beautiful place, one isolated from people, and living alone for decades; what a challenge. He builds his cabin using materials found at the site. He makes handles for those tools he did bring in. He is visited by a friend who flys in supplies. But mainly he is alone in the midst of a giant stretch of nature.

Is this not a dream for many just crushed by the stress and push of postmodernity? Of course it is. Yet who gets to actually try? Dick Proenneke does. You get to view the first year of decades he is to spend alone. Of course the only once spoken danger is that health care is not available. No phone to calll and no one to actually call. He does note during one climb that if he fell he would be making peace with his maker, but otherwise injury is a silent element. Such a dream, yet healthcare makes it impossible for most of us who would like to get away. This is particularly true of those of us in those 50s and beyond. But then again, the lifestyle looks so healthy that would there be a need for non-accident health care? If we each shoveled a mile of path per day without a snowblower, would health care not be a part of our lives?

I have seen the show twice and have just been glued from start to finish. I was attracted by the fiftyish
travelogue look, but stayed for the inspiration.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Old Guys Win

While the gang at the lake spent most of Oscar time watching Love Story given its recent purchase in the $5 bin at Wal-Mart, the end of the evening in Hollywood was worth a peak. When Million Dollar Baby won for best picture, three old guys in bald or gray hair took the award. How refreshing. Clint Eastwood, in particular, looked a little hagard like us all; and here he was walking away with the big prioze. How uplifting is that! It makes you want to get up and get soimething done.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Appreciating Simon

Simon Cowel on American Idol has the role of playing the non-American who does not have to worry about the self-esteem of the contestants. In this role he is great. Notice how gingerly Randy and Paula back their way into telling any one they did not like something. Typical Americans these days. That no one would pay a dime for a record by the non-competitive contestant means nothing. They want to break it gently. This is nice, but showbiz is not.

Of course note how this non-approved behavior has to be discredited. Is there much else that Seacrest says except to dig at Cowel? Then there are the frustrations of Paula.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

The Notebook

The Notebook [2004] is one great picture. It follows Duke [James Garner] reading what appears to be a book to Allie [Gina Rowlands], while the screen shifts back and forth to the action of the “book.” The story has been accused of being smaltzy, but who cares. If Hollywood burned good smaltz movies, the town would fit in a desert garage.

The mystery of the book becoming just a notebook about Duke and Allie earlier in life is only hinted at until it slowly begins to become an obvious fact. Duke appears as a friendly guy just reading to an elderly women at the start, but it turns into something more at just the right pace. The roles are well acted, and the movie as a whole is very touching. .In our normal at home DVD-watching mode, we are doing something else part of the time. With The Notebook, we put those things down and watched.

Check its website at: The Notebook

Thursday, February 03, 2005

State of the Union Media Bias?

With all the specualtion concerning media bias during the 2004 election, I noticed an oddity during the State of the Union address on Feb 2, 2005. During the speech I often swithch channels to see if there are altenative camera angles. Last night I noticed that the Fargo FOX and ABC channels had a louder volumne than the NBC and CBS outlets. While this could be the choice of engineers in Fargo and have nothing to do with media bias, it was curious. THew channel thought more pro-Bush has more volumne than the two considered more anti-Bush.

Sunday, January 30, 2005

Phantom Of the Opera is Great

Phantom of the Opera is worth your time. While an old story, this version really grabs you and takes you along. The singing is of top quality. The sets are fantastic. Paris can easily be beautiful, but the fading in and out through time is done with true skill.. The only ding on the surface is that the scenes can seem to jump at times. Why is she standing there when she was in another place the scene before? What is the blonde girl doing at the end? This is minor and of those I went with only once did we agree on this. See it soon.

I'm Back

The web offers so many things to do that as I try them out I keep finding that time runs short to do them all. My blog has been one of those lost souls. A lot has taken place, but expressing myself is one of those things that has to come back. It has been a year under a rock. More to come...