Cell Phone Service Rip Off


All Contents Copyright © Bill Van Dyk
2011 All Rights Reserved

Raging Kitsch

Best paragraph from a movie review this year (Manohla Dargis, NY Times, on “Extremely Loud a& Incredibly Close”):

But it’s an impossible role in an impossible movie that has no reason for being other than as another pop-culture palliative for a trauma it can’t bear to face. In truth, “Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close” isn’t about Sept. 11. It’s about the impulse to drain that day of its specificity and turn it into yet another wellspring of generic emotions: sadness, loneliness, happiness. This is how kitsch works. It exploits familiar images, be they puppies or babies — or, as in the case of this movie, the twin towers — and tries to make us feel good, even virtuous, simply about feeling. And, yes, you may cry, but when tears are milked as they are here, the truer response should be rage.

Best line from a Wikipedia entry about a washed up former actress:

“I’ve just been robbed by the girl who played Kimberly on Diff’rent Strokes.”

From a 911 call, February 28, 1991. How did the police know she wasn’t kidding?


The Pernicious Influence of Joseph Campbell’s Mythological Insights on Hollywood

[this article is still in the “thinking aloud” stage.]

Firstly, let’s get one thing clear: it’s the influence that is pernicious– not Joseph Campbell, the author.

Campbell argued that all stories are essentially variations of the same basic archetype, the hero sets out on a journey, undergoes some arduous trials, is challenged and almost fails, encounters a mentor or inspiration, re-engages the challenge, succeeds, and lives happily ever after, or dies like Jesus Christ.

All right– I’m playing with that a bit.

Which not to say that I am particularly dazzled by Campbell’s work. Some people write about him as if no one before him had ever written thoughtfully about the essential elements of tragedy. In fact, the Greeks did, long before Campbell came along, and Shakespeare himself seemed to have the formula down pat.

No, no– my problem is that I don’t like the concept of a “hero”, and even if I did like it, I don’t believe that there is any real-life correspondence to the idea– it’s all fantasy. It’s all usually male fantasy. It’s all sometimes a bit fascist, as in “300”.

It would be more interesting– but far less popular– to identify the delusions the general public demands from hero-worshipping tales.  Firstly, that all other characters must defer to the hero; secondly, that his acts of violence are palatable because it is established that his enemies are unworthy or have sex.  Thirdly, that people worship heroes even though the actions of the “heroes” in real life highlight the deficiencies in the rest of us.

Think about a mother who neglectfully allows her baby in a stroller to roll into the street.  The “hero” sees the baby and rescues it and returns it to the mother.  In the Campbell story, the mother is eternally grateful and worships the hero for his timely act.  In real life, the hero’s action is a rebuke to the mother for her carelessness, something she will not want to highlight or be reminded of.

Real life is far more complex than Campbell’s mythic delusions.

And “Star Wars” is a crappy “B” movie that accidentally became the object of millions of people’s fetishistic enjoyment.  They are happy they get it.  Unlike “A Space Odyssey” and “Blade Runner”, it is immediately comprehensible, and just as immediately ridiculous.

More on “The Hero With a Thousand Faces”.


Silence is Golden (1967)


This is one of those songs I vaguely remember as part of the aural wallpaper of the rooms of my youth. Nowadays, you would hear a song that you like as much as I liked this and immediately go home and download it. Well, no– you would just immediately download it onto your iPhone or whatever.

I probably hadn’t heard it in 30 years when I suddenly remembered it. Actually, it’s the name of a recent column by Maureen Dowd in the New York Times. And I remembered part of the song: “and if I tried, I know she’d say I lied” then something something then “… don’t hurt her, you fool”.

So I went to Youtube and there it was. And I was frankly astonished at the harmonies.

Even more astonishing in this video: they are actually playing and singing! Live!

The lyrics, for an early 60’s pop song, are surprisingly allusive:

Talking is cheap, people follow like sheep.
Even though there is no where to go.
How could she tell he deceived her so well?
Pity she’ll be the last one to know!

But it’s the vocal arrangement that is… well, really quite stunning, with the harmonies:

How many times will she fall for his lines
Should I tell her or should I be cool?
And if I tried I know she’d say I lied.
Mind your business don’t hurt her you fool!

The solo falsetto voice insinuates itself into your mind, like a distant conscience, only to be hammered into full awareness by the choral harmonies, and then that wonderful, sliding, “or should I be cooooool”.

The real live Tremeloes.  This is a rarity.  Most video performances from this era– and most eras– are lip-synched to a studio recording.   If you care as much about the issue as I do, this is a fabulous treat, a real performance.

The girl at 0:59 looks to me like she’s not into her dance partner: she’s scanning the floor for someone she really wants to dance with.

At 1:32 some genuine feedback, affirming that this is a live performance!

The falsetto, if you’re wondering, appears to be coming from the singer in the middle.

This was also performed by Frankie Valli with our without the Four Seasons.

Incidentally, the advertising on YOUTUBE is getting to be extremely annoying. Extremely.

The Four Seasons released “Silence is Golden” as the “B” side to “Rag Doll” in 1964. Inexplicably, it never caught on, and the Tremeloes smartly picked it up in 1967.

The Tremeloes had been known as “Brian Poole and the Tremoloes” (a newspaper misspelled the name) until 1966 when Poole left. He did them a favor: without a “lead” singer, all of the members of the band stepped up, and, it turns out, all of them could sing very well. “Silence is Golden” sounds like it: nobody has the diva role.

A faster version has been recorded by “The Square Set” (1967) in South Africa.

Boogaard Boogie

After Derek Boogaard died, from a combination of prescription pills and alcohol, it appears, the Minnesota Wild held a tribute to their former enforcer showing video clips from his career, including all three goals that he scored over seven years. It showed him interacting with fans and children, checking opponents hard, skating, shooting.

The tribute video–five minutes long– didn’t show a single fight.

Didn’t Don Cherry have a say in the choice of clips to show? In the context of what happened to Bob Probert Rick Rypien, Derek Boogaard and Wade Belak, Cherry’s comments earlier this season are obscene.

It has become more and more evident with research that the brain damage suffered by many NHL “enforcers” is not the accidental result of the occasional bad hit: it is endemic to the role itself, to the battering that all enforcers endure on a regular basis. It is not a matter of if but when brain damage occurs, and once it occurs it spreads, and once it spreads it cannot be stopped or rescinded. It clots the brain cells, disconnects synapses, tears at the very fabric of the tissue. It is an enormous price to pay for the fans who sit behind the glass happily jumping and waving and hooting at the destruction of a man’s personality.

Hockey at its best is the best sport: nothing else has the sustained thrust and counter-attack, intensity, elegance, or flow of an intense contest between two well-matched teams. No other sport has faster breaks, more dramatic shifts of momentum, more sheer grace than hockey when it is at its best.

Why the league would choose to sell it on the basis of grown men battering each other’s faces into oblivion is beyond all sensibility.

In my opinion, shoot-outs are pretty boring. It makes hockey more like football: let’s all just stand around and stand around and stand around– oh wait! Somebody…. never mind. Let’s stand around some more…