Rodgers that

In all the late-60s-English-blues-guitar-god listening I’ve been doing lately, I’ve taken a real fancy to Free. I’m drawn to both Paul Rodgers tasty, cooler-Rod-Stewart vocals and Paul Kossoff’s tasty Les Paul guitar tones. (Though he is also named Paul, Paul McCartney does not enter into the picture, though Pauline Kael might.) Free had, true to their name, a nice looseness that Bad Company lacked. And although Free had a big following, the songs on “Fire and Water” have a quiet intimacy–they would come across better in a small club than a stadium. “Cooler Rod Stewart?” you ask. No, it’s not a joke; I’m thinking of Rod in the “Jeff Beck Group” era, before he blew all his blues rock cred with those horrible multi-platinum albums in the mid 70s. Pagey formed Led Zepplin as his New Yardbirds (with John Paul Jones on bass). How much less ridiculous would Zep had been if Rod was its singer. As he was in Jeff Beck’s own version of the New Yardbirds. Well, you can compare them directly since both groups did “You Shook Me” on their first album. Personally, I prefer Stewart to Plant. Gasp! Here’s more fantasy football, what if Rodgers had been the singer for Zep? Would it sound anything like “The Firm”, the group that Page and Rodgers eventually formed together in the 80s? Don’t know, never heard them. Any comments here?

Where am I going with all this? Ah, grasshopper, always impatient. When Zep formed their vanity label, Swan Song, Bad Company was the first act they signed. Their other big act was the group that Paul Rodgers is now touring with, and of course I’m talking about Queen. And now you know… The rest of the story!

Fun with the thesaurus

Main Entry: terror
Part of Speech: noun
Definition: fear
Synonyms: alarm, anxiety, awe, consternation, dismay, dread, fearfulness, fright, horror, intimidation, panic, shock, trepidation, trepidity

Frankentheo Zappamonk

Roland Barthes has died. Or so I just learned. I didn’t even know he was sick. But then, I’m about twenty-five years late in finding this out. I’ve been meaning to read something of his for some time now. Besides this fact, I have come to believe that Renquist was a hardcore nerd (not that there’s anything wrong with that, jurisprudentially-speaking).

But that’s not where I meant to begin at all. LGA is like a challenge. It throws down, gentle reader (by which I mean you, Bert) the gauntlet—“Just land here! I dares ya! Ah-Booga-booga-booga!” Ok, so a little rain in Dallas/Ft. Worth is all it takes to throw AA into psychotic spasms, shutting down every flight it can think of, like C3PO in the SW garbage compactor scene: ‘No, shut them ALL down!’.

Being accustomed to LGA’s sly gambits, a mere flight cancellation does not phase me. Within moments of returning to the gate following a peripatetic fool’s errand, somehow thinking I could find a copy of Richard Dawkins’ “The Blind Watchmaker” at an airport bookstore (I can dream, can’t I?), only to find that the flight is, no, not delayed as usual, but downright cancelled, I am all “Hello Moto” on the Razer (the ‘It’ phone) to my travel agent. The fellow-traveler fellow traveler next to me (I’m all ‘I haven’t been home in two weeks’ and she’s all ‘I haven’t been home since June’) tells me of a Continental flight into EWR tonight that still has some seats left. Wow, humans. They’re just super sometimes. Meanwhile, my agent is trying to sell me on the great AA flight out tomorrow leaving 11:50. Uhm, staying at the airport Marriott would be lots of fun and all, but can you please check Continental for me?

As Bill Cosby once said, I told you that story to tell you this one.

I can’t say that I approve of the whole ‘car’ thing, but at least I understand it. Your own personal pressurization chamber in the morning, de-pressurization chamber at night. And perchance to listen to some music. Finally, I come around to the point.

Thelonious Monk is great, and any day in which you don’t hear at least a little, is just that much wasted. But what is the link between “Monk’s Time” and the other CD I grabbed from last weekend’s drive-fest in Northern Georgia, Frank Zappa’s “Sheik Yerboutti?” Well, Monk is wonky, and Zappa’s goofy, but they both belong on the same side of the ping vs pong, gnip vs gnop, Pespsi vs Coke spectrum. And it’s a damn good side, too, with plenty-long tracks.

Oh yeah, Bert. Wireless hotspots are, like, way old. But I’m glad you’re enjoying it.

The Crisis in Leadership

“It was a broiling August afternoon in New Orleans, Louisiana, the Big Easy, the City That Care Forgot. Those who ventured outside moved as if they were swimming in tupelo honey. Those inside paid silent homage to the man who invented air-conditioning as they watched TV “storm teams” warn of a hurricane in the Gulf of Mexico. Nothing surprising there: Hurricanes in August are as much a part of life in this town as hangovers on Ash Wednesday.

“But the next day the storm gathered steam and drew a bead on the city. As the whirling maelstrom approached the coast, more than a million people evacuated to higher ground. Some 200,000 remained, however—the car-less, the homeless, the aged and infirm, and those die-hard New Orleanians who look for any excuse to throw a party.

“The storm hit Breton Sound with the fury of a nuclear warhead, pushing a deadly storm surge into Lake Pontchartrain. The water crept to the top of the massive berm that holds back the lake and then spilled over. Nearly 80 percent of New Orleans lies below sea level—more than eight feet below in places—so the water poured in. A liquid brown wall washed over the brick ranch homes of Gentilly, over the clapboard houses of the Ninth Ward, over the white-columned porches of the Garden District, until it raced through the bars and strip joints on Bourbon Street like the pale rider of the Apocalypse. As it reached 25 feet (eight meters) over parts of the city, people climbed onto roofs to escape it.

“Thousands drowned in the murky brew that was soon contaminated by sewage and industrial waste. Thousands more who survived the flood later perished from dehydration and disease as they waited to be rescued. It took two months to pump the city dry, and by then the Big Easy was buried under a blanket of putrid sediment, a million people were homeless, and 50,000 were dead. It was the worst natural disaster in the history of the United States.

“When did this calamity happen? It hasn’t—yet. But the doomsday scenario is not far-fetched. The Federal Emergency Management Agency lists a hurricane strike on New Orleans as one of the most dire threats to the nation, up there with a large earthquake in California or a terrorist attack on New York City. Even the Red Cross no longer opens hurricane shelters in the city, claiming the risk to its workers is too great.”
–National Geographic, Oct 2004.

“I don’t think anybody anticipated the breach of the levees.”
–George W. Bush, Good Morning America, Sept. 1 2005

The return of the thin white duke

The entire Thin Man series is now out in a 7-DVD box set. This is cause for great celebration, or at least several rounds of martinis. But what makes the original movie pop so, where the follow-ups threaten to fizzle? First of all, W.S. Van Dyke shot the entire thing in twelve days. Yes, one of the best movies ever made was shot in twelve days. Not for nothing was he called “one-take Woody”. You can feel the result of that briskness in the movie, there isn’t a single frame of film that doesn’t just simply advance the story. The film “watches” the way Dashiel Hammet “reads”. The last time I read one of his novels, I was struck by how bare it was, almost like reading a screenplay. Well, the movie is almost like watching a screenplay.

But wait, there’s more! And better yet, it contradicts what I seem to be saying two sentences ago. The acting is great, and perfectly suited to the unrealness of the characters. So now I’m getting into territory familiar to anyone who has ever talked about film with me. This film is all about artifice and staging. As are, I believe, all films—the good ones celebrate this fact and the bad ones fight it. All of the corny 1930s devices utilized, and there are quite a few, are there unapologetically and the actors pull them off. (Rather than smash you on the noggin with them the way Oliver Stone would. Or just exaggerate them beyond all recognition the way the Coen brothers do in Hudsucker Proxy.)

Moreover, the characters themselves are attractive in a cartoonish way. Nick Charles is an alcoholic Bugs Bunny, and Nora is a feminist Betty Boop. You can see the appeal of Nick to a 1930s audience, he’s a man of modest upbringing who has hit the big time. He’s witty, charming and sophisticated, but also down to earth and friendly with all manner of hoods he has sent up the river. And Nora is smart, independent, funny and of course beautiful and rich. As a couple, they are equals, partners and this even extends to their comedic roles—neither is the straight man. Role models of modern marriage, and what’s more, they really know how to throw a party!

A quick note to Nora Ephron, Johnny Depp, et al. The day you re-make this movie is the day I pack my bags for Mars.

Over, Under, Sideways, Down

LGA, 6:13 am: The cab pulls up to the AA departures outside lane. “Thank you sir. You’re a good tipper.”

Odd. But that’s not where I meant to begin. That is not where I meant to begin at all.

One week earlier.

JFK, a somewhat saner hour (the Little Rascals is now over). : The new terminal is… new. And very clean. Few people. I imagine for a moment that I’m in Canada. It’s convincing.

Seven hours later.

“Velcome to the most beautiful city in the world.” Just after touching down, the lead of the front attendant crew came over the P.A. and uttered this in his thick Russian brogue. I already liked this guy for his sense of humor–playing up his accent for comic relief in a Bronson Pichot kind of way, weirdly dragging out Sun… Frun… Seesco every time. And there’s something to what he said, which you can already begin to see on final approach. This nicely sprawling city nestled in the California coastal mountains.

It’s pleasantly chilly. And hilly. How delightful!

When I caught up with Ivan again on the way back. I looked at him and asked, “Paris?”

“Yes, but ve must be patrreeotic!” he replied. You can’t argue with that. Plus, he’s a big guy.

“Velcome to the capital of the world!” he announced as we landed at JFK. Not sure if that’s quite true either, but I didn’t really mind.

And now Dallas. (Back to today and LGA.) Well, Irving and Las Collinas. But who would have thought that there’s such a nice Italian restaurant just across the highway. And three PhDs at the next table, the one speaking of the time he met Bucky Fuller.

East, West. North, South. Hot, Cold. Left, Right.

I feel streteched and folded. Like a filo. And then Atlanta, a drive, the Wedding. Dallas. Then home, sweet home.

san fran

“Welcome to the most beautiful city in the world.” Just after touching down, the lead of the front attendant crew came over the P.A. and uttered this in his thick Russian brogue. I already liked this guy for his sense of humor–playing up his accent for comic relief in a Bronson Pichot kind of way, weirdly dragging out Sun… Frun… Seesco every time. And there’s something to what he said, which you can already begin to see on final approach. This nicely sprawling city nestled in the California coastal mountains.

“Welcome to the capital of the world!” he announced as we landed at JFK. Not sure if that’s quite true either, but I didn’t really mind.