Archive for February, 2012

Let’s Get Lost (1988)

Posted in Films 2012 with tags on February 14, 2012 by tom

Blame Evan Rachel Wood for this. She tweeted that her song of the day, in honor of Valentine’s Day, is “My Funny Valentine,” by Etta James.

My favorite version is by Chet Baker. I went on YouTube to find a version to post here or on Facebook, and lo, and behold, somebody had posted the entire Bruce Weber documentary, “Let’s Get Lost.”

Even if you aren’t familiar with Bruce Weber’s name, you have definitely seen his work. He’s the guy who shot all those steambath Calvin Klein ads in the 80’s & 90’s.

Chet Baker is the perfect Bruce Weber subject. In the 1950’s, Chet Baker resembled James Dean. When New York was a riot of frenetic bebop, Baker and his peers epitomized the more relaxed, melodic, even romantic West Coast Sound (“Cool Jazz,” as some of the hep cats called it).

Chet Baker’s trumpet sound was amazing, warm and rich; his vocals were haunting. One photographer who shot a recording session Baker played said, “Looking at him through the lens, I suddenly understood what ‘charisma’ meant. And ‘star quality.'”

“Let’s Get Lost” shows hundreds of photos of young, handsome Chet Baker. These pictures are juxtaposed against Weber’s footage following Baker in 1987.

Holy shit, what a difference. There are some scenes where Baker makes Keith Richards look like Dakota Fanning. (Well, not quite, but I love that simile)

Ravaged doesn’t begin to describe the changes in Chet Baker’s visage. The documentary does. Chet Baker had his teeth knocked out trying to buy heroin in San Francisco. It took him three years before he was ready to play in a New York club again.

Baker tells these stories in his soft, haunting voice. I know I used “haunting” before, but there’s no better adjective to describe that voice, not as it talks about his favorite high being a “speedball,” and how the ratio of heroin to cocaine has to be just right. Not as it tells about arrests and jail and broken marriages.

And there are other accounts. Some of Baker’s ex-wives and former girlfriends describe their times with Chet, the manipulation and chaos. His teenaged daughter talks about trying to visit him, finding an empty house, and taking some of his girlfriend’s jewelry, because it’s the only way she could “get back at her.” His own mother admits to being disappointed in Chet as a son.

The odd thing is, everyone seems to accept him as he is. The camera follows Baker around Los Angeles and Cannes, and there are many times where he’s nodding off, obviously wasted on something. Near the end, we hear Bruce Weber tell Chet that they’ve arranged for some methadone, since he’s been away from his usual Amsterdam doctor. Baker’s response implies that he’s found another source, or else he wouldn’t have been able to complete the filming.

Chet Baker in “Let’s Get Lost” is a hot mess, but he still has that “something.” He may be half-stoned when he’s talking, but in the studio scenes, he is clearly in control. His voice is weaker than it once was, but he can still sing. To me, Chet Baker as a singer was always sad, like he was teetering between love and hurt, between being great or dreadful, with no gray area.

Weber shoots “Let’s Get Lost” entirely in black & white. His iconic stills are mostly b&w, so it makes sense. The added benefit in this case is that the modern flows so seamlessly into old tv footage and stills of Chet Baker. It gives the sense we’re seeing one big arc.

A card shortly before the credits describes how Chet Baker died shortly after filming. He jumped/fell/was tossed from an Amsterdam hotel window. He doesn’t seem like he’d jump. He was lost, but he was still kicking. Just in a subdued, purgatorial way.

I’m a jazz guy. I have been since I was a kid. I’ve seen many of the greats, and I’ve seen some old guys who might have been thisclose once, but now just play for drinks on open jam night. If you asked me which trumpet players were most innovative, I’d say Dizzy Gillespie and Miles Davis. If you asked me which trumpet player is my favorite, it has always been Chet Baker. He still is.

“Let’s Get Lost” just enhances the haunting beauty of Chet Baker’s music. It’s an amazing documentary, nominated for the Best Documentary Oscar in 1988. Another nominated film that year was Clint Eastwood’s tremendous biopic “Bird.” Forest Whitaker gave a scalding performance as Charlie Parker, a 1950’s jazz great, whose battles with drugs and the law cut short his career. Care to guess which sax player gave Chet Baker an early break?

“Let’s Get Lost” is a documentary that feels like a novel. It is sad, but also very, very beautiful. Even if you don’t like jazz.

Grade: A

Oh,Nutella! Saturday Mental Chex Mix

Posted in mental chex mix on February 11, 2012 by tom

*- One thing I hate is having to read signals, to discern whether “Of COURSE you can go out with your friends” really means “Don’t you DARE go out with your friends!”

*- This is why I like direct things, like Nutella.

*- Sunday was World Nutella Day. I trust you celebrated appropriately.

*- Nutella is awesome, with over 50 HAZELNUTS PER JAR!

*- When The Universe created hazelnuts, they weren’t quite right. Nor was cocoa.

*- I mean, how could anyone carry 50 hazelnuts, not to mention cocoa?

*- It took Canadian brilliance to mush them all together and put the resultant awesome sauce into jars.

*- Nutella doesn’t play games.

*- Nutella gives you a suggestion on how to work it into a balanced breakfast: “A glass of skim milk, orange juice, and Nutella on whole wheat bread.”

*- Best of all, right on the label, it commands, “DO NOT REFRIGERATE OR MICROWAVE.”

*- There’s none of this, “Please” or “It would be best if you didn’t,” or “We recommend…” Not for Nutella.

*- And neither for Laurence Fishburne.

*- LurkerType mentioned “Event Horizon,” specifically that Sam Neill does a great job of going nuts.

*- Lo and behold, it was in the $5 bin at my Wal-Mart. I put it in my cart, along with my jar of Nutella.

*- Laurence Fishburne is one of my favorite actors. His face, voice, and bearing just scream, “DO NOT REFRIGERATE OR MICROWAVE, OR OTHERWISE DICK WITH ME.”

*- Laurence Fishburne is captain of the Lewis & Clark, a rescue ship sent to Neptune to rescue any survivors of the Event Horizon.

*- The Event Horizon is basically a portal to hell, designed by Sam Neill, in order to see people tortured and eaten. Or something like that.

*- The important thing is that Sam Neill goes nuts, claws out his eyes, then everyone starts seeing loved ones who aren’t there.

*- But no matter what happens, Laurence Fishburne is steady and calm, even when standing in the gateway to hell or defying physics.

*- I love this movie. It’s not good, but it’s fun.

*- And when Sam Neill is trying to save his demonic portal ship, Laurence Fishburne doesn’t gently try to soothe the crazy guy. He cuts loose with, “FUCK THIS SHIP!”

*- And in the end, Laurence Fishburne closes the portal to hell.

*- Sam Neill-demon screams, and Laurence Fishburne bellows, as the final explosions start, “I SAID DO NOT MICROWAVE OR REFRIGERATE, YOU DEMONIC M**HERFUCKER,” and eats one last spoonful of a certain hazelnut & cocoa spread.

*- And that’s why I love Nutella, because Laurence Fishburne died for it, and he staved off Hell in the process.

*- No damn way peanut butter could do that.

*- Happy Saturday

My Soul to Keep, by Rachel Vincent

Posted in Books 2012 on February 7, 2012 by tom

A new “drug” called frost is making its way through Eastwhatever High School’s cool kids. It’s powerful. It’s gaseous. It’s sold in black balloons.

It’s demon’s breath.

Kaylee Cavanaugh, teen bean sidhe, and her hunky boyfriend, Nash Hudson, find themselves more in the middle of this crisis than they’d like.

Add in the avarice hellion, Avari–who still has his knickers in a twist about Kaylee’s last dealings with him–and the story unfolds.

There’s not a lot I can reveal without spoilers, but I’ll make a generality: Rachel Vincent doesn’t put her characters on pedestals. Sure, Cousin Sophie is a bitch, and BFF Emma has enviable curves, but everyone–human and bean sidhe alike–has faults, and some strike close to Kaylee’s heart.

I like where Ms Vincent took this story, and I look forward to finding out how she resolves things in the next book. I have it loaded into the Kindle and ready to go. But I’m going to read a Stephen King next. I’m about teened out for awhile.

I do like this series, though.

Grade: B

Soul Screamers, Volume 1: My Soul to Lose•My Soul to Take•My Soul to Save by Rachel Vincent

Posted in Books 2012 with tags , on February 7, 2012 by tom

If you are new to the Soul Screamers series, this is the place to start. This volume contains a prequel short story, plus the first two novels in the series.

Kaylee Cavanaugh is living a Harry Potter sort of existence: she’s essentially an orphan, lives with her aunt, uncle, and spoiled, obnoxious cousin, Sophie.

I kept thinking of Sophie like Quinn on the “Daria” show, except Quinn wasn’t quite as bitchtastic.

Kaylee’s secret is that she’s a bean sidhe, what we bastardize into “banshee.”

Kaylee has an irresistable urge to scream when somebody is dying. She meets Nash Hudson: jock, hunk, and boy bean sidhe named after two defunct car companies. (Being a curmudgeon, his name bothered me for awhile, though I doubt Ms Vincent named him after cars on purpose)

In case you’re curious, male bean sidhe don’t have the same gifts as females.

Much like in the Potterverse, we learn about the bean sidhe world as Kaylee does.

I liked this collection. The prequel shows what happened when Kaylee’s bansheeism manifested in a JC Penney, before she knew anything about it. She ended up restrained in the psych ward.

Once she begins to master and control her gift–with Nash’s help–it leads to two good stories: one about a rogue reaper killing teenaged girls, the other about pop stars who literally sold their souls.

I’m not a Young Adult reader, as a rule, and I admit that some of the teenaged angst in which Kaylee wallows sometimes–OKAY! YOU HAVE SMALLER BREASTS THAN YOUR ÜBER-POPULAR BEST FRIEND! WE GET IT!–but my annoyance patches were really quite rare.

One thing I admire in Rachel Vincent’s work thus far is that, like J.K Rowling, she can convey a rather harrowing story, involving teens who drink and have sex, and yet she never resorts to excessive profanity. I’m not a prude–I swear frequently and con molto brio–but I’m impressed that her characters didn’t drop f-bombs every fourth word.

Ms Vincent’s storytelling skills are first rate, and I recommend Volume 1. Good stuff.

My Soul to Lose: B+
My Soul to Take: A-
My Soul to Lose: A-

Lone Justice Live “Working Late” via YouTube (Why I love Maria McKee’s cowpunk guts)

Posted in Uncategorized on February 5, 2012 by tom

80’s alert!! “Split Enz – I Got You” on YouTube (Always loved the song, also digging the outfits!)

Posted in Uncategorized on February 5, 2012 by tom

The Parallax of Life

Posted in Uncategorized on February 5, 2012 by tom

I was driving back from lunch tonight, and the radio played Bruce Springsteen’s “Glory Days.”

The Born in the USA album came out when I had just graduated from high school. The album’s first single was “Dancing in the Dark,” and was released on May 4th. The first time I heard that was driving home from school one glorious spring afternoon. I could relate to that song. I’d broken up with my girlfriend, and I could most definitely identify with “…wanna change my clothes, my hair, my face,” and the cruel inevitability of another dateless Friday night.

I bought Born in the USA right before I left for college. I remember liking most of the songs, until I got to that festering, melodramatically wistful “Glory Days.” I wanted to yell at the turntable, “Quit whining, Boss!”

Much tempus has fugited since then. Now? I completely relate.

The song hasn’t changed–it remains a simple, bar-band rocker, with a Little Steven mandolin solo–but I’m viewing it from two completely different points in time. Now, when my glory days lay behind me, it makes perfect sense.

Bob Seger’s “Night Moves” is another of my parallax songs. I was ten. I loved this song, and knew all the words. However, knowing the words, and knowing what the words meant are two very different things. “I used her; she used me, but neither one cared. We were gettin’ our share.”

Thank the gods of childhood I didn’t ask my mom, “What are they getting their share of?” Hopefully, she’d have scolded me for ending a question with a preposition and not explained it to me.

“And points of her own, sittin’ way up high…way up firm and high.”

Yeah.

The third song in my parallax triad is the Eagles’, “Take it to the Limit.” I always hated that song. HATED. Triple-H HATED! It was the rare Eagles song not sung by Glen Frey or Don Henley. I didn’t like the ultra slow tempo, or Randy Meisner’s vocals, plus I just didn’t get it.

Many moons after I began my hate-hate relationship with “Take it to the Limit,” I was working at a Classic Rock station. “Take it to the Limit” was on my playlist. Dave/Bob, my Program Director, was in the studio with me. I said whatever I was supposed to say into the microphone, then started the song. I turned the monitor all the way down. “I hate this damn song.”

Dave/Bob looked at me and smiled. “You’re young. Wait till you’re 40, then see if you feel the same.”

“Take it to the Limit” and I didn’t cross paths for a number of years. It was around a year ago, and I heard it start while I was driving somewhere. My ever-quick right hand started toward the radio to change stations, but I stopped.

At the next traffic light, I caught myself singing along, full voice: So put meeeeeeee on a highway;
And show meeeeeeee a sign.
And take it to the limit one more time.”

And the transformation was complete.

The Latin phrase is “Tempus fugit”: Time flies (or flees). It really does. I blinked, and suddenly, my 20’s are far far away. I realize that my life is more than half over, and there won’t be anymore days like when I was 16, smacking 300 yard drives, and eating McNuggets without gaining weight.

As time flies, though, it also drags. Some days are interminable–the days of drudgery and work. Other days–the days with loved ones, little kid hugs, and awesome memories–they just keep on slippin’, slippin’, slippin’ into the future. (Sorry)

But for now, work is over. It’s time to go home, take my stabbyfeet meds, and watch “V for Vendetta” with Wind.

And take it. To the limit. One more time.

Happy Sunday.

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