Thursday, December 27, 2012

In Memoriam: Jack Klugman 1922-2012

Actor. 12 Angry Men. Days of Wine and Roses. I Could Go On Singing. The Detective. Goodbye Columbus. The Odd Couple (TV series.) Quincy M.E.

"For 50 years, acting was the reason I got up in the morning."

12 Angry Men (1957) With Henry Fonda, Robert Webber, and  Lee J. Cobb.

The Twilight Zone, "A Passage for Trumpet" (1960).

The Days of Wine and Roses (1962) Couldn't find the clip I was looking for, so I had to settle for a still photo. Other than Klugman's fine performance in a good, though not great, film, there's something else I want to point out. Klugman famously played Oscar Madison in the TV version of The Odd Couple. Jack Lemmon, seen here on the right, played Felix Unger in the movie of the same name. So, there you have it, folks, Oscar and Felix. Except they're not Oscar and Felix in Wine and Roses, and never played Oscar and Felix opposite each other. Odd, huh?

I Could Go On Singing (1963) Klugman's hands rest on the shoulders of one of the greats, Judy Garland.

Goodbye, Columbus (1969). With Richard Benjamin, Ali MacGraw, and Nan Martin. The last name of Benjamin's character is Klugman!

The Odd Couple (1970-1975) With Tony Randall, whom, to my knowledge, never appeared in a movie with Walter Matthau.

I was never a fan of Quincy M.E. (1976-1983), all about a coroner who solves crimes, but Klugman himself was apparently passionate about the show, and that made it worth watching from time to time. Klugman also fought to make it more than a typical crime drama. The only crime in the episode "Seldom Silent, Never Heard" has to do with an orphan (rare diseases) drug bill that's being held up in Congress. Here's an excerpt, featuring Paul Clemens as a young man with Tourette syndrome:

Jack Klugman is obviously not the focus of the above clip. However, shortly after this episode aired, Klugman testified in front of Congress himself, the real Congress, not a fictitious TV version, about a real orphan drug bill that was being held up for some reason. Despite Klugman's testimony, a senator, Orrin Hatch, remained skeptical. So Klugman did a sequel, this one with a fictional, skeptical senator (sorry, I couldn't find a clip) which put pressure on the real skeptical senator. Eventually, The Orphan Drug Act of 1983 was passed, providing incentives to pharmaceutical companies to develop treatments for diseases that, as the young man in the clip says, never make it to the Top 40. Good going, Jack!

Another Quincy show from around the same time deals with a bunch of teenagers who become crazed murderers after listening to punk rock. I'm not going to show you a clip from that particular episode. I've seen it, and trust me, it deserves to be orphaned.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

No Room at the Speakeasy, or, I'm Dreaming of a Wet Christmas

Barring a Christmas miracle, I'll be away from the computer on the 23d, 24th, and 25th. In the meantime, enjoy the holiday as it was celebrated in the 1920s (in pop culture, at least):

By John Held Jr, probably the most popular cartoonist of the era.


Clara Bow, "The It Girl."

Christmas card.

Didn't that company just go belly up?

 A Salacious Santa.

You never know what Santa might have picked up after a trip around the world


Gloria Swanson is ready for her close-up, Mr DeMille.

Christmas at the Fitzgeralds.

Here's an Italian postcard. They had flappers, too, though they seemed to dress a little warmer.

The automobile had become more commonplace.

Why, even Santa was driving one.

Christmas in LA.

Prohibition did put a damper on things. If you're not familiar with 1920s fashions, I can assure you what that gentleman holding the spray bottle is wearing was way out of style, even back then. But maybe that's the whole point. It's the fogies who want to spoil all the fun.


Mary Pickford.

That "wotever it is" looks like a paint roller brush, doesn't it?

OK, I see a keyboard, but where's the screen?

Louise Brooks.  Her signature bob hair style defined the flapper look. Speaking of flappers...

...not everyone had a positive view of them.

OK, I've shown you the side of the 1920s that the purveyors of popular culture wanted you to see. They wanted you see it back then, and they want you see it now. But for most people, it wasn't as glamorous as all that. Here's some pictures of ordinary people celebrating Christmas:

OK, enough with the ordinary people already. One last look at Clara Bow:

All of the above photos were culled from various places around the Internet (unimaginable in the 1920s)

This was fun, and I might do it again next Christmas. To avoid repeating myself, though, I'll have to jump ahead ten years to the 1930s.

Expect a lot of Salvation Army Santas.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

In Memoriam: Daniel Inouye 1924-2012

Politician. Democratic senator from Hawaii 1963-2012

"In 1941, the date December 7th was a day that evoked anger, fierce patriotism and dangerous racism. Soon after that day, I suddenly found myself, pursuant to a decision by the government and along with thousands of Japanese Americans declared 4C, enemy aliens. It was a difficult time. I was 17."

Enemy alien or not, Inouye enlisted in the US Army, and lost part of his right arm during a charge on a machine gun nest in Italy.

“This is my country...Many of us have fought hard for the right to say that. Many are now struggling today from Harlem to Da Nang that they may say this with conviction. This is our country.”

--Keynote address to the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago. Yes, THAT 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago.

"There exists a shadowy government with its own Air Force,
its own Navy, its own fundraising mechanism, and
the ability to pursue its own ideas of national interest,
free from all checks and balances, and free from the law itself."

In the late 1980s, Inouye chaired a special committee investigating the Iran-Contra scandal.


Sunday, December 16, 2012

Quips and Quotations

Random violence is incredibly infectious.

--Nicholas D. Kristof

We are a country of excess. So it's not the violence, per se, but the exacerbation and constant repetition.

--Norman Lear
Anyone with a gun can go out and commit an act of terrorism, even without a political affiliation.

--Aaron McGruder

What does it tell you that applications for guns since the shooting are up 41 percent in Colorado, and that our cameras found about 50 people in line at one gun shop yesterday outside Denver?

--Brian Williams, shortly after the shootings at Columbine.

Eighty-six percent of the gun death of children under the age of 14 internationally is right here in the United States of America. It is madness.

--Congresswoman Nita Lowry (D-New York)

I can calculate the motion of heavenly bodies, but not the madness of people.

--Isaac Newton

Pain is real when you get other people to believe in it. If no one believes in it but you, your pain is madness or hysteria.

--Naomi Wolf

The most dangerous creation of any society is the man who has nothing to lose.

--James A. Baldwin

Neither the life of an individual nor the history of a society can be understood without understanding both.

--C. Wright Mills
In these times you have to be an optimist to open your eyes when you awake in the morning.

--Carl Sandburg

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Passing Notes in Class

Jazz legend Dave Brubeck died a few days ago at the age of 91. He's best know for an piece called "Take Five". Best known to me, anyway, since I'm rather ignorant about jazz. At least the jazz that emerged after World War II when that Bird fellow came along and reinvented the whole thing. Bop I believe it was called. Then came bebop. Or are bebop and bop the same thing? Then there was cool jazz and West Coast jazz and smooth jazz and fusion. Brubeck did one of those kinds of jazz, or maybe he did all of them. "Take Five" sounds pretty cool to me. For the sake of argument,  let's just say he did that.

I really shouldn't blame that Bird fellow--Charlie Parker, right?--for my lack of knowledge about jazz. That's irresponsible. Instead, it's the intellectuals, the ones with pointy heads especially, that are at fault. Before WWII, jazz was much like early rock 'n' roll in the way it thrilled the young and shocked the old. Then in the 1950s the eggheads came along and claimed the music as their own and suddenly it was just like classical and you had to be educated in jazz in order to fully appreciate or even understand it. Bone up on your blues, class. There'll be a test tomorrow.

As is often said when art and ignorance clash, I do know what jazz I like, and I like "Take Five":

 If you're just looking at the freeze frame rather than the actual video, you may think the fellow on the sax is Brubeck. No, that's actually Paul Desmond, a member of The Dave Brubeck Quartet who wrote the piece and played the--well, what the hell do you think he played? Also featured is Joe Morello on drums, Eugene Wright on bass, and Brubeck himself on piano. The Quartet had many other members over the years, but I guess this was the most famous version.

If you did play the video, you'll notice it's an instrumental. However, a few years later a version with  lyrics written by Brubeck and sung by jazz singer Carmen MacRae came out. I like it even more:

 I get the impression from people who know a lot more about jazz than me that it's music you're supposed to listen to very carefully, so as not to miss some intricately improvised chord progression that shifts the overall tone blah, blah, blah. But I bet for a lot of people, including those who consider themselves jazz enthusiasts, it occasionally and simply makes good background music. Especially if the piece is familiar. This clip is from Manhattan Murder Mystery (1993). Listen carefully, and see if you can't discern "Take Five" in-between Alan Alda's, Woody Allen's, Diane Keaton's dinnertime patter:

  Did you catch the chord progression? Or was Alda laughing too loud?

OK, enough already with "Take Five". Another famous Brubeck piece is "Unsquare Dance", which I also like. It features both hand-clapping and something done on the drums, and is a favorite of tap dancers everywhere, because they enjoy confusing the issue. Is it the clap, the tap, or the drum you're hearing? Watch these two perform and figure it out for yourself:

Finally, to borrow a phrase from the decidedly unjazzlike Steppenwolf, let's take a magic carpet ride.  "Blue Rondo à la Turk":

OK, it turns out I'm familiar with all of these pieces. I just didn't know, until I started researching this, their names or that they were by Dave Brubeck or that they were even considered jazz. It's just music I've heard over and over again in movies, TV shows, half-time shows, and talent shows . Maybe even when I've been put on hold.

What a way to get an education.



Friday, December 7, 2012

This Day in History

On December 7, 1941, one empire inadvertently begat another:


Saturday, December 1, 2012

Quips and Quotations (Apocalyptic Arias Edition)

I see the bad moon arising.
I see trouble on the way.
I see earthquakes and lightnin'.
I see bad times today.
Don't go around tonight,
Well, it's bound to take your life,
There's a bad moon on the rise.
I hear hurricanes ablowing.
I know the end is coming soon.
I fear rivers over flowing.
I hear the voice of rage and ruin.
Don't go around tonight,
Well, it's bound to take your life,
There's a bad moon on the rise.
Hope you got your things together.
Hope you are quite prepared to die.
Looks like we're in for nasty weather.
One eye is taken for an eye.
Don't go around tonight,
Well, it's bound to take your life,
There's a bad moon on the rise.

--John Fogerty

When the saints go marchin in
Oh, when the saints go marching in
Lord, how I want to be in that number
When the saints go marching in
And when the sun refuse to shine
And when the sun refuse to shine
Lord, how I want to be in that number
When the sun refuse to shine
And when the moon turns red with blood
And when the moon turns red with blood
Lord, how I want to be in that number
When the moon turns red with blood

--19th century spiritual and 20th century jazz standard (go figure.)

Don’t you understand what I’m tryin’ to say
Can’t you feel the fears I’m feelin’ today?
If the button is pushed, there’s no runnin’ away
There’ll be no one to save, with the world in a grave
[Take a look around ya boy, it's bound to scare ya boy]
And you tell me
Over and over and over again, my friend
Ah, you don’t believe
We’re on the eve
Of destruction.
-- P. F. Sloan, by way of Barry McGuire

That's great, it starts with an earthquake, birds and snakes,
an aeroplane - Lenny Bruce is not afraid.
Eye of a hurricane, listen to yourself churn,
world serves its own needs, dummy serve your own needs.
Feed it off an aux speak,, grunt, no, strength,
The ladder starts to clatter with fear fight down height.
Wire in a fire, representing seven games, a government for hire and a combat site.
Left of west and coming in a hurry with the furies breathing down your neck.
Team by team reporters baffled, trumped, tethered cropped.
Look at that low playing!
Fine, then.
Uh oh, overflow, population, common food, but it'll do.
Save yourself, serve yourself. World serves its own needs, listen to your heart bleed dummy with the rapture and the revered and the right - right.
You vitriolic, patriotic, slam, fight, bright light, feeling pretty psyched.
It's the end of the world as we know it.
It's the end of the world as we know it.
It's the end of the world as we know it and I feel fine.

--Berry, Buck, Mills, and Stipe

I couldn't take it any longer
Lord I was crazed
And when the feeling came upon me
Like a tidal wave
I started swearing to my god and on my mother's grave
That I would love you to the end of time
I swore that I would love you to the end of time!
So now I'm praying for the end of time
To hurry up and arrive
'Cause if I gotta spend another minute with you
I don't think that I can really survive
I'll never break my promise or forget my vow
But God only knows what I can do right now
I'm praying for the end of time
It's all that I can do
Praying for the end of time,
So I can end my time with you!!

--Jim Steinman, by way of Meat Loaf

In time the Rockies may crumble,
Gibraltar may tumble,
There're only made of clay,
But our love is here to stay.

--The Gerswhins