How BOUT Them Patriots!

This one was especially sweet. I NEVER thought they’d get back there a third year in a row. I KNEW in my widdle heart of hearts, especially after that Miami debacle, that they’d go out in the playoffs.

And yet, here they are AGAIN, Superbowl champs!

And with a Jewish MVP!!!! ONE FOR THE TRIBE, BABY!!!! Edelman, future hall of famer, just flat out amazin’!

I could muse about who is back next year and who won’t be and all that other crap, but I’ll save it for later. Too busy enjoying this now, and plan to bask in it for the time being. I spent my childhood, high school, college and young adult years watching this team either disappoint or outright suck. The last 17 years have been amazing, a blessing, something to treasure as a sports fan.

Oh, Patriots hater, are ya? Don’t like Brady? Don’t like Belichick? Well, then…


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Have A Healthy Day, Jack!

So I’m at the grocery store on the way home, loading up on a few items, grabbing some ginormous shrimp for dinner and the like.

I get into the checkout line and in front of me is some kid who works at the store, cashing out a couple of snacks. It must be break time.

Then the other kid starts to ring me up, and goes “Oh, how’d that happen? It’s giving you his employee discount.”

So I say “Does that mean I have to grab a uniform and start stocking shelves?”

The kid smiles, and I regale him with stories of my brief days working at a supermarket as Jimmy the Bagboy™ for minimum wage many years ago. He finishes ringing me up & bags my stuff and hands me the receipt. “I couldn’t reset it, whatever!”

Oh YEAH! At the bottom of my receipt reads “Team Member Discount -6.49 Have a Healthy Day, Jack!”

So thanks for that six and a half buck discount of my bill, Jack. I hope you have a healthy day as well.

Oh wait, it WAS too good to be true. A customer had an allergic reaction to some guacamole they were giving samples of, and the bathroom is an ungodly mess. They’re handing me a mop and bucket. The hazmat suit is extra, and I’m not giving back that $6.49. Well, here goes…

Friday Art: A Pair From Konstantin Korovin

Korovin was a Russian impressionist painter of the late 19th and early 20th centuries who mostly worked in theater decor. He wrote that the impressionist work he saw in Paris for the first time contained “everything he was punished for” back in Moscow university. I must admit, I never really think of Russia when I think of the impressionist movement. Korovin’s stuff, however, is all quite lively and beautiful. He eventually moved to Paris shortly after the Russian Revolution, not to escape Stalin but I’m sure it worked out that way. He’d paint Parisian nighttime scenes a lot, they’d be his support when a bunch of his works were stolen before an intended exhibit. And he’d continue to work largely in scenery design for the theater.

A Night In Paris above, is typical of his work. A lively scene of happy colorful nightlife on shiny reflective streets (makes ’em look wet, but it’s not raining). This one evokes similar types of street scenes by Pissarro and (with the suggestion of rain) Caillebotte, but what makes it different is the 20th century modern feel to it. Look at how the two women in the center have a flapper look to ’em, and (especially) look at the cars. Look at all that electric light coming out of the cafés, through the shades and windows. It’s all bright ‘n’ fun ‘n’ alive, to say the least.

Continue reading “Friday Art: A Pair From Konstantin Korovin”

That Was Pop: Relistening to XTC, Part 2

After starting off with XTC’s final two albums, I thought I’d go all the way back to the beginning of their career and focus on their first few records.

It’s a lot like listening to Abbey Road and then going back to Please Please Me and reminding yourself it’s the same band, although the difference between early/late XTC and early/late Beatles is fairly stark. XTC evolved a LOT over a longer period of time.

Other than the distinctive quality of Andy Partridge’s voice, the debut album White Music sounds like a completely different band than the XTC of Apple Venus/Wasp Star. And to a large degree, it was a completely different band, also featuring the keyboards of Barry Andrews and the drums of Terry Chambers, but mostly featuring an earlier and rawer Partridge and Moulding at the center.

While there are hints of the literate quality of Partridge’s lyrics to come, the songs here are simple and quick. Some of them seem rushed and unfinished. But it doesn’t matter – White Music from 1978 overflows with energy, fast nervous beats, overdone affected singing styles and a lot of really good songs. It matches up nicely with the first/early albums of their contemporaries in the New Wave/Postpunk material that certainly flooded my record collection at the time – debut albums from Talking Heads, Elvis Costello, Graham Parker, The Cars, Joe Jackson, Devo, Blondie, The Jam and others all came out around this time. And like White Music, they all stand as bursts of energy from acts that evolved, developed, mellowed and altered their sounds and styles over the years, some more than others, and some more successfully than others. The brash we-don’t-care youthful attitude of the brand new rock band permeates this record, and it’s a wonderful listening exercise in tracing the band’s evolution, finding the little hints of what was to come, and hearing a lot of what got left behind. A lot of it is quick and forgettable, but the better cuts like Radios In Motion, This Is Pop, or Statue of Liberty stand out, as well as the lone cover in XTC’s catalogue, an odd version of All Along The Watchtower.

Continue reading “That Was Pop: Relistening to XTC, Part 2”

Bookending Anthony Mann, 2 Movies: The Great Flamarion (1945) and A Dandy In Aspic (1968)

I’ve always liked Anthony Mann’s directorial work, especially the old cheap noirs he mostly started his career with, as well as the string of westerns he did throughout the 1950s. While deciding to work my way through his later 1960s material by beginning with his final film, 1968’s A Dandy In Aspic, I also wanted to go back and hunt out any other noirs or westerns I might have missed out on.

The late 40s-early 50s noirs like Raw Deal or Border Incident are especially good, so I thought I’d check out an earlier cheapie from his catalogue, 1945’s The Great Flamarion, with Erich Von Stroheim, Mary Beth Hughes and Dan Duryea.

Told in flashback, this one has a nice creepy vibe throughout. Von Stroheim tells us the story of how he fell prey to scheming femme fatale Mary Beth Hughes. It’s weird to watch Von Stroheim as a would-be romantic in this movie, especially knowing all the entertaining stuff about his real life escapades, never mind not being able to blot out the image of him playing Max in Sunset Boulevard every time he turns up on screen.

And the vaudeville act he does will make yer skin crawl! Hughes and her husband (Duryea) pantomime a wife & her lover sharing a drink, but then in what is supposed to be comedy, the angry husband returns (Von Stroheim) and his sharpshooting act begins.

Continue reading “Bookending Anthony Mann, 2 Movies: The Great Flamarion (1945) and A Dandy In Aspic (1968)”

Why Is Ben Watson Spamming Me?

Every day for the past several weeks in my inbox or spam folder…. another email or two from “Ben Watson.”

Ben Watson wants me to claim my $1500 Wal-Mart award. Ben Watson has reviewed my job application and I should click on the link. Ben Watson warns me it’s my last chance to claim my Amazon reward.

And yes, Ben Watson wants me to click on the link for discount Viagra. And I thought Google was datamining and spying on me. Who knew former Patriots tight end Ben Watson was behind it all?

I always liked him as a player on the Pats, who let him go as a free agent once they knew they had Gronk in the offing, I guess. He went to the Browns, the Saints, the Ravens and then back to the Saints again before announcing his retirement a few weeks back.

And when he does stuff like publicly call out Roger Goodell over the dumbfounding non-call in the NFC championship game, I like him even more, since as any good Patriot fan will tell ya, Goodell SUCKS.

BUT WHY ARE YOU SPAMMING MY INBOX, BEN????

Unless you actually ARE simultaneously running rewards programs for Amazon, Target and Wal-Mart WHILE examining resumés on LinkedIn AND selling Viagra AND Bosley hair treatments AND working for assorted banks I don’t have accounts with yet need me to click links to check on fraud…. no matter what sort of obvious email spam you could think of, I’ve gotten one in the last few weeks from “Ben Watson” as the return address. You’d think these idiots would be more creative than that… or else it really IS YOU Ben Watson, sending me all these things!

No wonder you needed to retire from the NFL. You’re just too damned busy.

Hmm…. unless I’m wrong, and it’s this guy who is actually spamming me.

Might just be…. I really don’t follow Premier League or care about soccer in general. He must be trying to get my attention.

I think I’ll go on playing hard to get.

That Was Pop: Relistening to XTC, Part 1

I got treated to the 2017 documentary XTC: This Is Pop via a free promo weekend of Showtime. It’s a solidly made doc following the history of the band from its earlier Helium Kidz incarnations to its 1977 album debut, personnel changes, rise, fall, re-rise, strike, sputtered comeback and eventual demise. It’s a great intro to the band if you’re not at all familiar with them or only know them via “Dear God” or wonder whatever happened to that offbeat sounding band with the odd sounding lead singer who sang “Senses Working Overtime.” Lots of music and old wonderfully cheap-styled circa 1980 rock video is presented, along with interviews with musicians, critics, and principal band members, notably Dave Gregory, Colin Moulding, and Andy Partridge.

The band’s history, song by song, is covered in Neville Farmer’s authorized 1998 band bio XTC Song Stories (a book evidently later trashed by Partridge, can’t say I’m surprised for reasons I’ll go into shortly). A lot of the same material is covered in the film visually, but the film adds one amazing scene that’s a true revelation for longtime fans of the band like me.

Andy Partridge has synethesia, where perceptions get mixed up – colors become tastes, sounds become pictures and so on – and this mixed up/associative way of seeing the world is how he writes songs. He strums a guitar and finds a strange sounding chord he claims he’s never heard before…. starts strumming it… says it makes him think of the color brown, but sad, like a brown puddle… and then comes up with lyrics about a sad brown puddle and it all comes together. And all at once the seemingly limitless styles of arrangements, sounds and tones of the vast catalogue of XTC’s music suddenly made perfect sense to me. This scene alone makes the movie worth seeing.

So I thought I’d go back and listen to it all again, bearing in mind Partridge’s synesthesia and seeing (well, hearing…. I don’t have synesthesia) if I could pick elements of it out of his songs. The Moulding songs? No problem, I’ll go along for the ride with ’em… I always liked his stuff too.

Continue reading “That Was Pop: Relistening to XTC, Part 1”

Friday Art: A Pair From Everett Shinn

Shinn was an American realist painter of urban life who loved painting scenes from the NY theater scene. He’s associated with the Ashcan School of early 20th century American painters like John Sloan for the realistic depictions of everyday goings-on in the big city, like in one of my fave pics of his above, The Canfield Gambling House (1912).

Winter scenes always make me nostalgic for living in the northeast, now that I’ve been in SoCal lo these many years. Shinn’s depictions of the overall iciness are what draw me into this one. The whites are SO bright, with light reflecting off the icy surfaces regardless of texture – hard steps, flexible umbrella, soft horseback – but the ice doesn’t care. Everything freezes in winter. The ivy on the walls is dormant and bare. It’s zombie ivy, getting sleeted into a deeper coma. Wonderful subtle touches of white snow in every nook and cranny of the door, the carving above it, the windowsills, the wheel, the driver’s sleeve…. everywhere. There’s no escape from the driving flurries that are not depicted as falling flakes anywhere, only as landed residue. His technique is wonderful.

Continue reading “Friday Art: A Pair From Everett Shinn”

Me, During The Patriots’ AFC Championship Game

I lost count of how many heart attacks I had during that one, even if they all came in the 2nd half and the overtime.

I’d figured the entire game would go like the 2nd half and overtime, maybe I should be relieved.

Amazing game, tho. Even all of you Patriot/Brady/Belichick/Gronk etc HATERS out there gotta admit MY team gives lovers of the sport some of the most exciting postseason games EVER. As someone who remembers far too many snorefest Superbowls of the 1970s-80s, be thankful you’re a fan in this moment, even if you’d prefer a different outcome.

So it’ll be where Brady started – Patriots vs Rams, only this time, the newbie kids are on the other side of the field. Should be a good one, and will probably mean I should stock up on the CoQ10, red wine & cholestoff.


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