Monday, December 24, 2007

a few of my favorite things

Capote's short story A Christmas Memory (1946), a sweet remembrance about a seven year old and the adventures with his best friend in the whole World...the gentle Ernest Lubitsch masterpiece, The Shop Around The Corner (1940), with its romance and comedy mixed in with good old Capitalism...The Honeymooner's, 'Twas The Night Before Christmas (1955), the best ever TV Christmas episode, where all the joys of the season are played out on the barest of stages, including a great kiss at the finish, with the cast taking bows out of character...and, of course, all thirteen minutes and forty-one seconds of John Coltrane's soprano sax on the stirring, My Favorite Things (1960).

Saturday, December 22, 2007

cards never sent

Thursday, December 20, 2007

tv shows that I build my schedule around

There are only 3. What a difference from my youth. I probably had at least a dozen way back then.

The New Yankee Workshop - A weird choice, I know. But watching master craftsman Norm Abrams build furniture in his workshop is a wonderful half hour escape from the cruel world. He does make it look easy though. It appears all his fingers are real.
The Simpsons - I still record it while watching to make sure I miss nothing, from Bart at the blackboard to guest voices in the credits, and every little parody in-between. Indeedily I doodily!
Ghost Whisperer - What a comforting concept. To see the dead and assist them in crossing over. Although the first season was the best, the writing and supporting cast remain strong on this....oh, hell, I admit's Love Hewitt's breasts.

Got 3 shows of your own you just can not miss?

Sunday, December 16, 2007

room with a view

The des-pi-ca-ble Winter Storm has passed. Like an uninvited relative you've dropped off down at the bus station, your hope is that it's stuck on a journey East in the aisle seat next to a loud talker with a hacking cough describing in detail his unnecessary surgery.

Yet the wind is still howling and the sun is out. The huge spruce just outside my window is carrying the burden of heavy snow on its bent limbs, but it is a beautiful sight from where I sit. A gust, and a clump of snow loses its footing and slips from the roof with a dull thud. It's the only sound I hear. Another gust, and fine particles resembling white sand swirl down in the sunlight and become dazzling diamonds.

On the highway I can see 18 wheel giants ride at normal speed through the packed ice and snow, while the little ones are hesitant with drivers that are no doubt leaning forward, concentrating hard and gripping the steering wheel with all their strength, like a man with pancakes and sausage beginning to backup trying to ignore a nagging passenger.

Another clump of snow commits suicide. The coffee is steaming my glasses when I sip and it tastes mighty good on days like these. Now for some Nat King Cole to break the silence.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

film of the day

Keri Russell shines in Waitress, (written and directed by the late Adrienne Shelly), as Jenna, who dreams of escaping her abusive husband, passionately creating an inventive pie(“I-Hate-My-Husband Pie”) to fit every hallmark event of her small-town life.

I must admit..I never would've been interested in seeing this movie if it hadn't been for Andy Griffith, who plays crusty Old Joe, the owner of the diner where Jenna bakes her magnificent pies. Andy has been my hero for years, and I've sketched more stories from fictional Mayberry than from anywheres else. He's a joy to watch. It reminds me of James Cagney in Ragtime: An aged actor from long ago still dishing it out, not just casted for the sake of getting them out of the house.

But it led to the sweet, not sugary, joy of this movie: Keri Russell. She's in nearly every scene, and is funny, sincere, fresh, and yes, as tart as her colorful pies.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

miss ya, Johnny

'oh hey hey Johnny....
Can't you come out to play
in your empty garden'

I've been playing his music today, trying not to be sad, but it ain't working.
Joe has a great essay on how some of us found out about that horrible event.

Friday, December 7, 2007

five soundtracks

My favorite soundtracks remind me of specific scenes from movies, rather than those that slap together hits just to sell records.

Amélie - A delight from Yann Tiersen. Includes one clever instrumental accompanied with a good old-fashioned typewriter.
Midnight Cowboy - Everybody's Talkin' is a timeless hit, but it opens the film and sets the mood carried through to the end in the expert hands of John Barry.
Twin Peaks - The ultimate romantic and evil atmospheric setting for the greatest tv series ever, by Angelo Badalamenti. "There's always music in the air."
Local Hero - Mark Knopfler's music truly enhances the enchantment of a Scottish town and its quirky folk.
The Natural - Randy Newman's score for this mythical baseball film soars out of the park.

What are your favorite soundtracks, Dear Reader?

the immigrant

I wonder if there's a file on my ancestors in those undisturbed, ancient cabinets on Ellis Island. And was it noted that the man arrived with a cardboard suitcase.
And that he waited and dreamed for this day.

Stephen Wilkes was allowed access to document that hallowed ground in his magnificent collection, Ellis Island: Ghosts Of Freedom.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

the light in her eyes(scenes from a non-existent movie)

She had discovered the Secret Of Life and was anxious to share it with a friend. Her heart was racing as she closed her cell phone and was seated at The Café outside under the flapping green canopy at the only table where conversations could not be overheard. The L shaped moldy red brick wall behind an arbor with climbing green vines at her back shielded her from the World that she could now conquer without firing a shot.

Removing her beret and lightweight black jacket and setting them in the chair next to her shopping bags, she ran her fingers twice through her long dark hair, a few strands still flowing over her forehead in the gentle breeze sweeping in from Moon River. She loosened the top button on her brilliant white blouse and freed it from her tight blue jeans. Running her hand approvingly around her front waist, she thought a bun and coffee would do nicely. She ordered it from a pale corpse-looking waiter in a crookedly tied apron and a straight unimpressed mouth. He looked as though he'd just stepped out of a Tim Burton film and she felt like squeezing his hand to bring him back to life. A bun and coffee, he thought, would certainly get us out of the red and allow us to start a franchise, lady. He did not know the Secret yet.

She was in the habit lately of noticing mouths. They told a lot about a person, she thought. Like the check out lady at the old clothes shop with the puckered, suspicious gray lips.
“Be careful…I’m a dangerous felon,” Winona would say, lowering her voice trying to sound like James Bond. But the icebreaker sometimes just won’t work on an iceberg. Or her own mouth. She had noticed in the full length mirror that she was biting her lower lip holding up under her neck that ridiculous pink flannel shirt with white flowers. She would smile briefly and roll her eyes, imagining that it was once worn by a LSD companion of Timothy back in the 60’s.

As she was nibbling away at the bun waiting for her friend, a dozen doves, finishing a chorus of coos, settled on the brick wall. They were watching silently. I have an attentive audience, she thought, after a little bit. She felt a tingle over her scalp like the time she shyly spoke once at a microphone on a darkened bare stage under a spotlight.
“Do you know the Secret of Life?” she softly asked her feathered audience. “It’s that you have to….,” she started, as two doves on the end, apparently uninterested, flew off. There’s always some in every crowd, she thought.
She continued, unfazed, “it’s that whatever you do in Life you must be passionately devoted to your calling.”

The two had been startled by slight movement, then the invading flash scared the rest away into the blue like desolving sugar. There were following scenes of a dead waiter coming to life, swinging fists and breaking glass. Shards of glass scattered on the pavement, a broken lens scooting to a stop at her left foot, and angry yelling. The paparazzi was dragged to the 120 degree kitchen and decapitated with one swing of a dirty sharp knife by the impatient Head Chef, she hoped. Bring me the bloody head of the razzi on a silver platter, she thought.

A white boomerang of doves returned after the storm. It reminded her of the Cather novel, Death Comes For The Archbishop, where doves landed on the outstretched arms of the much-abused Magdalena, eating crumbs from her hands and lips. Winona rose slowly with a morsel in her lips. One trusting dove fluttered in front of her, and up close Winona noticed reflected light in her black eyes as though the shiny white dots were irises. The hovering dove cautiously approached her mouth. It thrilled the girl and she trembled as she held her breath.
They kissed and then they parted.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

happy birthday, Woody

He flunked out at NYU, with an F in English, and only had a C-plus in film studies. It all led to a mind that pondered....

Once again I tried committing suicide-this time by wetting my nose and inserting it into the light socket. Unfortunately, there was a short in the wiring, and I merely caromed off the icebox...


How wrong Emily Dickinson was! Hope is not "the thing with feathers." The thing with feathers has turned out to be my nephew. I must take him to a specialist in Zurich.

Both republished without permission from The Complete Prose of Woody Allen. Maybe NOW he will call me.
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