Amoeblog

(Wherein our hero looks back - and sees so much bleached denim.)

Posted by Job O Brother, June 2, 2014 12:21pm | Post a Comment


It's 1989 and things are lookin' up... side-down.


The final year of junior high was heavy for my 8th grade class at Live Oak Waldorf School.

We’d bonded unusually deep; our eccentric education, overseen by the same, stern woman annually and paid for by unconventional, often dysfunctional parents, made us peers not just of age and fads, but in isolation: we weren’t represented in popular culture – there weren’t Cosby kids too poor to afford clothes or dental work; INXS wasn’t singing about the world of antiquity, accompanied by recorder ensemble; the cast on Facts of Life never gathered in a bi-monthly circle to share from their hearts until everyone wept and atoned and affirmed admiration for each other – then broke for their next class on American folk dancing.


"I'm afraid being raised without an understanding of more mainstream, cultural norms
is going to handicap my trajectory in life, Tootie."

The final months of that semester were strange; our lessons became devoted to one, final project: a run of Shakespeare’s As You Like It, barely edited, performed for the public by either of two casts, each featuring the same students in alternate roles.

It was our teacher’s idea this would avoid certain students having all the glory of lead parts. While well-intended, it instead ensured that shier kids who’d have preferred to skip the spotlight, couldn’t; it meant everyone had two characters to memorize – quite a task, considering this was most pupils’ introduction to iambic pentameter – and made what would have been the natural, unfriendly phenomena of critical comparison between kids’ acting skills even more impossible to avoid.

Continue reading...

(Wherein the author reviews the author.)

Posted by Job O Brother, January 24, 2011 04:33pm | Post a Comment
Smile.

Don’t take this personally, but I totally don’t feel like writing this paragraph you’re reading. As grateful as I am to have a slot on the illustrious Amoeblog, and even though I have a great big crush on you, dear reader, there are times (they’re rare, but there) when I feel like I have nothing to give, and this is one of those times.
 
A week ago I was sick, and this week I had a brief but intense emotional breakdown; I cried so hard I dry-heaved, and gave voice to deeply personal and vulnerable psychological wounds in a tone not unlike Mary Tyler Moore when she got very upset with Rob Petrie or Lou Grant.


I mean really... what's the point of anything, anyhow?

As if all this wasn’t enough to render me limp, I discovered today that our young cat, Maybe, has a taste for new, unused garbage bags…

I am not a strong man. Well, physically I’m totally strong and could absolutely beat up your dad, but my heart is tender and prone to aching. This world often feels too cruel and complicated for the likes of me. Usually I can fake it, but every once in a while the stress and fear and sadness fills my holding tank to capacity, and there’s spillage.

A breakdown can come unexpectedly. For example, yesterday’s meltdown all started with a conversation with the boyfriend about why I didn’t want to order Indian food on my cell phone while I was en route from Amoeba Music, after working my shift, to our home in the Miracle Mile, via bus. Cut to me sitting on the kitchen floor with my back against the washing machine and wailing about how “I can’t understand why I don’t do the things I want to do” – a very vague thing to be upset about, but which makes more sense if you’ve been in a romantic relationship with me for four years (which I highly recommend!).

Whiskers on roses & raindrops on kittens: I. Overture

Posted by Job O Brother, August 5, 2007 11:29pm | Post a Comment

It was on this day in 1962 that Marilyn Monroe took her own life. Or, if conspiracy theories are to be believed, it marks the day that the Kennedy Family hired Reticulians to invade the actress’ home, kill her, make it look like a suicide, and then use snippets of her DNA to… I dunno… revive Adolf Hitler’s dehydrating brain. (I’m not as well-read when it comes to American history as I should be.)

It’s also the day that the Manson Family first killed, fulfilling the only thing possible that Charles Manson could do that would actually be worse than his music.


Ladies of the Canyon: "Gypsy", Ruth Anne & "Squeaky"

It’s also the anniversary of the day that Paul Tibbets flew his airplane, named after his mom, Enola Gay, over to Hiroshima, where he performed an act that would later be re-enacted by every Thai food delivery service that gets inside my apartment building.


"Look Ma, no mercy!" Paul Tibbets in the cockpit

I could go on. In short, it’s a particularly dark day in history. So I’m sitting with my beloved in his favorite café, Stir Crazy (at La Brea & Melrose), asking myself to accentuate the positive and eliminate the negative; I’m calling upon myself to remember things – music, movies, flavors of Method cleaning products – that remind me that it is a beautiful world after all, and that Norma Jean didn't have the right idea, forty-five years ago.

The café’s stereo is playing Steely Dan, which I really like, but I can’t blog about how great Steely Dan is because my dear, sweet, wonderful boss, Karen, will fire my ass*.

And anyhow, at this point, it’s switched to Johnny Cash.

Okay… So, what makes me happy?

Lots of things make me happy, but what I want to pinpoint are those things that make me happy entirely – not distractions from modern anxiety and classical angst, rather, persons or art that overrides any temporal concern or self-consciousness and overwhelms my id with hella phat radness.

Let’s make a list. (By “let’s” I of course mean me, not you and I, as is implied by my choice of verbs, which wasn’t meant to be taken literally, but used to create a sense that you and I are of one purpose, which, because one of the fundamental needs of humans is intimacy, would ideally cause you to feel safe in the presence of my blog… you sweet thing, you.)

What follows then, is an incomplete list of proper nouns that rock my world:

1.) The Boswell Sisters.


You... shook me all night long - The Boswell Sisters

I once thought the Andrews Sisters were the bee’s knees, until I discovered the Boswell Sisters, the cat’s meow. The Andrews Sisters modeled themselves after the Boswells, and while I still enjoy a tune as warbled by LaVerne, Maxene and Patty, they do not come close to slaying me like their predecessors, Martha, Vet and Connee.

Their close harmonies are lulling yet spooky; intriguing like a walk in the woods at night, knowing that ghosts don’t really exist, but feeling as though they do. The sisters were raised in New Orleans, and you can hear the influence of early, Black American music in their vocal styling. Listening to such tunes as “Trav’lin” and “An Evening in Caroline”, it’s easy to imagine an alternate reality where Vivian Girls were used as slaves, singing work songs sounding like dirges sprinkled with fairy dust.

Connee, the middle sister, was mastermind of the group and arranged their distinctive tunes, often alternating traditionally major keys with minor ones, and vice versa.


Connee Boswell

Due to childhood health issues (which vary depending on sources) she performed and recorded either sitting, or in a wheelchair. This fact was never secret, but wasn’t an image that was promoted (kind of like that gap in Madonna’s teeth – we know it’s there but it’s not really a part of our collective focus).

Because of her “condition”, Connee wasn’t allowed to perform for the troops overseas. It was thought her being wheel-chair bound would demoralize the soldiers. (Funny, I would think it would be far more demoralizing to hand the soldiers weapons and tell them to kill people, but that’s why I’m not a commanding officer, I guess.)

After the sisters retired the act, Connee went on to enjoy a successful solo career, and while I own and enjoy the results of it, it is the work with her sisters that is the “Object of My Affection” (the title of the group’s biggest hit).

Ella Fitzgerald cited Connee as a major influence. I wish sesame bagels weren’t so fattening. Especially when slathered with an inch-thick layer of cream cheese. And Connee performed with Eddie Cantor! He’s another act that makes me happy. And she performed with Bing Crosby, whom I loathe – not only because his idea of teaching his kids not to sneak a cookie from the jar was to knock the bee-jesus out of them, but because that drunken jerk produced the daughter who would one day grow up to shoot JR Ewing.


"My Dad beat me which led me to shoot fictional Texans and wear obscene amounts of lip gloss."
Mary Crosby as Kristin Shepard on "Dallas"

Please accept my apologies for the above paragraph.

Of all the music that the Boswell Sisters recorded, no other record kills me so quick as their rendition of the Duke Ellington standard “Mood Indigo”. Upon hearing it, I literally go weak in the knees. The pace, the subtle swelling of the voices, and the labored but impetuous crooning of a lone clarinet conspire to make me woozy with delight. I recommend its use for trying to take advantage of me.

*This is a ridiculous exaggeration, written for humor, and should not be taken as a reflection of my employer’s personality, temperament, or work ethic, all of which are impeccable. But see, saying that isn’t very funny, is it?

Ingmar Bergman + 1918-2007

Posted by Job O Brother, July 30, 2007 10:25am | Post a Comment




 

(I vilket författaren diskuterar hans favoritt direktör.)

Posted by Job O Brother, July 14, 2007 08:23am | Post a Comment

Today is Ingmar Bergman’s birthday!

I know – you’re ready to leap from the computer to rush out to buy a piñata and cake.

Or, more likely, you re-read the above sentence a couple times as your brain grappled with confusion over whether or not I wrote Ingrid Bergman. Quite possibly, some of you still think I did.


Actress Ingrid Bergman, star of "Casablanca" and the Bergman film "Autumn Sonata";
no relation to the director and much better looking in a dress.

I’m not being (intentionally) condescending; it’s just that that’s what seems to happen every time I gush about my most favorite film director.

Fellini, Buñuel, Pasolini, Hitchcock, Godard, Woody Allen… There are many film directors that cause me to go weak in the superego, but none of them so deeply penetrate my soul and slop it on the screen like ol’ Ingmar.

Furthermore, many of his films star his ex-wife and one of my favorite actresses, Liv Ullman.


Liv Ullman looking ravishing as she has a nervous breakdown in "Persona"

I’m the first to admit that his films aren’t for everyone. They’re an intimidating option when considering an evening’s entertainment. When faced with “what to do”, who in their right mind would subject themselves to a somber, cryptic and psychologically penetrating film in which handsome Swedes come to grips with their innermost core-of-self amidst Midnight Sun landscapes?

Me. I would subject myself. Sadly, I’m often alone for the ride. It’s hard to convince your date that a five hour epic like “Scenes From a Marriage” – in which you see a happy couple crumble toward divorce in episodes that make “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf” seem like “Oliver & Company” – is good material for snuggling.


"Oh darling, I can hardly wait until your treachery leads me to contemplate suicide!"
Liv Ullman & Erland Jospehson in "Scenes From a Marriage"
My father was a proud Swede. Actually, most Swedes are proud Swedes. Listening to him speak about Swedish culture, you’d think the Garden of Eden still existed, and it’s capital was Stockholm. He took me there when I was a teenager for a disastrous trip that was meant to bring us closer together but instead ended up in me pretending to have the flu and hiding in my hotel room to watch Euro-Mtv while he went out in search of museums and got lost.

Even so, his expressions of admiration for Sweden had an impact on me; not in that I was hypnotized with amour for the country itself, rather, it became a reminder of everything that was my father. He was a typical Swede, so Swedes remind me of him. (He passed away in 2000.)

Oh… I suppose I should have mentioned that Ingmar Bergman is Swedish. Those of you who didn’t know were probably wondering what the hell was going on as I leapt from subject to subject without any semblance of continuity. Sorry!

Anyway, milkshakes are a delicious, cool, dessert beverage that are wonderful to attract ants with on a hot summer’s day.


I cite my relationship with my father because it accounts for some of the profound emotional impact that Bergman’s work has on me. Those of you who didn’t have stoic, Swedish dads who were raised by Victorian women (and many of you don’t, it seems) may not buckle in the face of Bergman’s work like I do. The final scene of “Through a Glass Darkly” ends with the son exclaiming in astonishment that his father “spoke” to him (meaning honestly) and it makes me cry every time.

Even so, you may find yourself deeply pondering the nature of your heart and mind after watching one of his movies. Bergman himself stated (in a 2004 interview) that he can no longer watch his own films because they "depress him". Ouch.

Many, many filmmakers cite Bergman as an influence, and any film student will/has been presented with his work.

There are dozens of hilarious spoofs of his films: Chevy Chase and Louise Lasser do a sketch in the first season of Saturday Night Live about tricking Death into leaving them alone by sending him away to pick up a pizza; SCTV has a great scene in which listless women babble in fake Swedish while accosted by midgets; the character of Death in "Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey" is a take-off of the Death character in “The Seventh Seal” and Woody Allen’s fantastic film “A Midsummer Night's Sex Comedy” is rife with silly nods to the director.


"I would love to have children!" Happier times between Woody & Mia

Woody Allen very directly (no pun intended) went through a period wherein which he made films so obviously influenced by Ingmar that they are referred to as his “Bergman period”. They also account for the period in which fans of Woody’s comic pieces were frustrated and annoyed by him. Of these works, “Interiors” is the most obvious “Bergman film”.


Separated at birth: Scenes from Ingmar's "Autumn Sonata" & Woody's "Another Woman"

Are you still reading this? It’s not one of my funnier blogs. I get really worked up by Bergman.

If you’ve never seen any of his works, I recommend starting with “The Seventh Seal”. It’s his most famous, and it’s a good gauge to determine whether or not to continue with others. If you see it and like it, continue on with “Persona” (a personal favorite). If you hated it, try “Romy and Michelle’s High School Reunion” because it is funny and has nothing to do with Bergman. At all.

And let me know what you think. I’m always curious to hear people’s opinions about his films.

Grattis på födelsedagen, Ingmar!

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