Saturday, November 22, 2014

PS TO LAST POST

First of all the sound on this video doesn't come close to the sound in the room (I can hardly hear my son's bass in this iPhone recording, or the other instruments very well for that matter, and they were crushing it) and I recorded, I thought, an entire song that was the most dynamic of the night, but it ain't on my phone, so this will have to do as a taste of Edith Pop.

Her influences are Edith Piaf and Iggy Pop, but she reminded me more of Lydia Lunch back when I saw Lunch perform her first show, or what I remember as her first show, in New York, only Pop is more dynamic in person, and ultimately more appealing despite the intensity of some of her lyrics and vocalizing and performing, unfortunately not caught on this clip. You had to be there. So next time, not a bad idea to try to be.

Oh well, couldn't even get the bit of performance I caught on my phone to upload, after several tries and almost an hour so, let the above suffice to describe what occurred this evening (actually now last night) which I was grateful to witness.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

EDITH POP TOMORROW IN NYC

The Brooklyn band my oldest son, Miles, plays bass in is performing tomorrow evening, Friday the 21st at (le) poisson rouge on Bleecker Street in Greenwich Village, "8PM sharp"... They have been called one of the best new bands on the NYC music scene today. Check out their song "Money" at this link that gives details of their gig tomorrow evening.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

IRISH (THAT IS, THE LANGUAGE) SHORT FILMS

My friend Bill took me to see an evening of short Irish language films at the Irish Arts Center in Manhattan last night and it was a delight. The best part was a row full of Irish speaking folk of all ages in front of us, so we got to hear current speakers of a language the English fined, beat, jailed, tortured and murdered my ancestors out of.

There's all kinds of oppression, and losing the language of your ancestors seems to me to be one of the worst. Today in Ireland there are very few Irish speakers who grew up in a household where that was the only language, let alone the first language. Thankfully the language was saved before it disappeared entirely, and when at least some of the Irish finally won their freedom from England, in the early 20th Century, Irish became the official language of the government and began to be taught to all school children.

Nonetheless, few people, as I said, speak it as a regular way to communicate with others. Which was why it was so moving to hear these ordinary looking New Yorkers—or people who could be taken for that—sharing a laugh and gossip, or whatever they were sharing, in the language that was lost to my family generations ago (though even my mother and father would use an Irish-language expression here and there, as I suspect many other Irish-American families did too).

I couldn't find any of the short films I saw last night on Youtube, so here's an interview in Dublin searching for Irish speakers among the Irish, so you can at least hear what a distinct language it is:

And here's another, more official, Youtube video that explains the history of the language and its present state (depicted as much more of a presence than I, and the video above, imply):

WORTH WATCHING TO THE END, ESPECIALLY THE END

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

THE GUNFIGHTER

Caught this 1950 Western on cable tonight and though I've seen it before, including when I was eight and it first came out, tonight I was struck by how incredibly understated and subtle yet almost existential everything about this movie is as it unfolds the story of a "gunfighter" in completely unexpected ways, including the ending.

I've seen it a few times over the years and been impressed with Gregory Peck or with the cinematography and the directing and eventually, tonight, with everything about it, particularly the writing, which I hadn't even thought about until this evening. It's a classic and I never realized that before.

I had the great good fortune to have seen Gregory Peck up close once, back in the 1980s. I had finished a day of shooting a TV show I was on (it only lasted a half a season so never made reruns in syndication) that was mostly filmed on the MGM lot (this was before Sony bought the lot) in an old sound stage where some of my favorite movies from my boyhood had been shot and some of my favorite stars from back then had worked.

We had been shooting in downtown L.A. on location in a garment factory (I played the evil owner of the company) and had been driven back to the MGM lot where our cars were (one of the greatest thrills of my life was driving on to that lot for work every day and having the guard at the gate wave me through with a "good morning Mister Lally" or later "Michael" when they got to know be better).

I was with the actor Eddie Velez, who also was in this TV show (it was called BERRENGERS and was mostly set in a family owned department store, go figure) and we both noticed the big kleig lights, or whatever those giant searchlights that sweep the sky at openings are called, so we went to see what was going on.

This was one of the most surreal set ups anyone could have imagined. There was a red carpet leading down one of the lot's alleyways between sound stages, from the MGM commissary to the MGM screening room, which had been rechristened the Cary Grant Theater by the studio as they were trying to lure Grant out of retirement to make a movie with them.

About every ten feet down this I'd guess fifty yard red carpet were old violinists in tuxedos leaning against the wall smoking cigarettes or just looking bored, and on the other side of the carpet there was a velvet rope, like they have at night club doors, only enough to cover the length of this carpet and keeping us behind it.

One of the writers for the show, I think it was Diana Gould, and a producer were the only other people there, so we asked them what was going on, and they told us about the theater being renamed and that there was a dinner with MGM stars at the commissary which was about to end and the stars would be walking down the red carpet to the renamed theater to see a screening of MGM's latest film. And sure enough the commissary doors opened and stars in formal wear, tuxes and gowns, started filing out and walking down the red carpet chatting a smoking as the violinists threw away their cigarettes and began serenading them.

There were some photographers suddenly down where the carpet ended at the theater and I assumed some reporters, but otherwise the only people to witness this fifty yard stroll by these stars were Eddie and me and Diana and the other lady producer. So we stood there as Fred Astaire and Sammy Davis Jr, and Dean Martin, and of course Cary Grant, and other famous movie stars from Hollywood's golden years walked by and nodded or smiled or ignored us (I'm sorry I can't remember any of the women stars right now).

And then suddenly there was Gregory Peck, standing out because he was the tallest and turning to look right into my eyes from just feet away and give that famous half smile as his eyes stared into mine and he gave me a nod, to my mind acknowledging that we had something in common, because as a boy and young man I had thought we did, even if it was just our tall, lean, black Irish looks (a bit arrogant of me maybe, but at the time it seemed true to me).

I felt if I never had another experience in Hollywood I'd be happy because I'd had that one. Cary Grant didn't make the movie, and by the time I left Hollywood a lot of the folks I saw that night were either at the end of their lives or already gone. And I got to meet some of them at parties and dinners and other events in ways that were more intimate or personal or informative, but none as thrilling as that strange scene with fifty or so Hollywood icons strolling in their formal wear by serenading violinists as a crowd of only four people looked on.

I got a little sidetracked, but the point is simply that Gregory Peck has always been a bit of a mystery as a movie star, in many ways, not only because sometimes he seemed so stiff and almost self-conscious he didn't seem like a movie star at all. But he was, and a unique one, and tonight I saw again why as he helped elevate THE GUNFIGHTER in my mind to the level of the top classic Hollywood Westerns only maybe even more so.  

Sunday, November 16, 2014

JUST A QUICK THOUGHT (OR OBSERVATION I GUESS)

Last night a friend gave me a ride home from a great poetry reading (see two posts back) and dinner with old and dear friends (as well as a few new) afterwards, and as we drove down West Broadway in Soho—my old neighborhood (in the 1970s)—there was the new "Freedom Tower" aglow in the near distance (that contradiction is the only way to describe its visual impact) and I couldn't help observing that it made me feel like I was in Dallas, or on a highway heading to an underpass or beltway around some smaller Southern or Midwestern city with a couple of skyscrapers (no offense to Dallas or any other city, but they ain't New York).

It may look a little more original in daylight with its curved facade of nothing but glass windows, but at night, when those curves don't really declare themselves and all there is is that needle tower and antenna on top of a squat lit up block, it made me miss the Twin Towers and their simplistically unoriginal but nonetheless iconic double and slimmer straight-edged shapes.

I don't mean to be unpatriotic or insensitive to what the new building represents, but to be the highest building in the Western hemisphere (though the extended length of the antenna makes the whole building look more like a structure at the end of an airport runway) and be as ugly in its nighttime appearance (and after taking over a decade to even complete) is, well, not a mark of New York's importance but rather it seems to me a sign of its (hopefully temporary) decline (no matter how many more wealthy people populate it now, or because of)...

...it sure doesn't, to my mind, look like it's the highlight (let alone high point) of the cityscape of a world-class city, let alone one that often purports to be the world's most important city. And it doesn't say much culturally either. That's my take at any rate.