Paganism

Bathers in Lake Ontario with dark clouds
Bathers in Lake Ontario with dark clouds

I wasn’t able to walk with Peggi today so I took a photo of her as she walked by on the street below. I sprained my ankle watching a soccer match, the Brazil Argentina World Cup qualifier. The PA at Urgent Care thought I must have overstretched it while sitting with my legs under me down in front of the tv where I can see who’s who on the pitch. And then as I descended our basement stairs, trying not to put too much weight on my sprain, I stubbed the big toe on my good leg. There was a crack and it hurts worse than my good leg.

The artificial intelligence on our tv apps recommended two stellar movies based on what we they think we like. “The Wicker Man” from the golden year of 1973 was sensational. Extolling the virtues of paganism over Christianity I felt like was inside a Bruegel painting. When that was over we started “Trilogy of Terror” with Karen Black from 1975. I can’t wait to get back to that one.

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Digital Media

Utility company artwork on sidewalk
Utility company artwork on sidewalk

We probably won’t be able to watch as much television when this pandemic is over and that is probably a good thing. Maybe we can trim our programing bill. We’re finding some dynamite stuff on HBO. “Olive Kitterridge ” is the best thing we have seen since Breaking Bad. Our bass player, Ken Frank, turned us on to that one. Frances McDormand kills it and Richard Jenkins, who plays her husband, is sensational.

A few years back we rationalized getting an Apple Music subscription by looking at the monthly costs as the price of buying one album. Yesterday we streamed Pharaoh Sanders new one, his first in twenty years, and Archie Shepp’s duo with Jason Moran. It was the early seventies all over again and it felt good.

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Smith High

Helicopters from Fort Drum over the lake
Helicopters from Fort Drum over the lake

We put our third row of greens in this afternoon, a short row of arugula next to the spinach and butter crunch. We’ll plant more of each in a few weeks and work the Swiss chard, mesclun and kale in. We started some of this indoors last year but found the things we planted directly were more productive. It was warm enough today to break out the Cumbia records and have dinner on the porch.

We are in the middle of a soccer drought as La Liga is off for Holy Week. We knew this was coming so to tide us over we recorded a Sevilla match. They are in fourth place just behind Atletico, Barcelona and Real Madrid, our three favorite teams. It looked like Sevilla was going to lose 1-0 to Valladolid but in the last minute of stoppage time they pulled out all the stops, left their goal empty and guess who put the tying goal in the net. Bono, the Montreal born Moroccan goalie!

Peggi just finished re-reading Strangers on a Train. (I think that might still be her favorite movie. I haven’t checked in a while.) Peggi read Patricia Highsmith’s bio and passed that on to Louise. We watched the French version of the Talented Mr. Ripley a few days ago and found it much more exiting than the American one which we loved. We plan to watch that again tonight. And last night we rewatched Carol. I hardly remembered it but loved it this time.

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Disassociating

Kodak Colorama in Eastman Museum Parking Lot
Kodak Colorama in Eastman Museum Parking Lot

Naturally Kodak’s Coloramas, the giant photos that graced Grand Central Terminal for so many years, have wound up in the collection of the George Eastman Museum. And brilliantly, they have decided to show some of them in their parking lot. I love how the image is so disassociated from the surroundings. We’ve been doing a lot of that in our living room as we stream a disparate array of content on these deep winter evenings.

M” Fritz Lang, Berlin 1931, Peter Lorre and tough subject matter. The movie feels utterly contemporary. The filmmaking and directing is so good he hardly needs sound and in some cases he lets the scenes play out without. The movie is like getting swallowed up in a Beckmann painting or maybe an August Sander photo. This is a masterpiece. We kept the disc a second night and watched it again.

“Pretend It’s A City” I loved these episodes but I became concerned, finding I share so many of Fran’s curmudgeonly views. Scorsese’s straight man and editing were brilliant.

“Notes on Marie Menken” We knew nothing about Marie Menken, “the mother of the avant-garde.” She inspired Warhol, Stan Brakhage, Jonas Mekas, Kenneth Anger and Gerard Malanga. A larger than life character, Martha in “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” was based on her.

“The Dissident” A rage-maker of a documentary. We know the story so it was painful to watch it laid out in detail. This MBS guy buys so much military hardware from the US that we’ll let this slide. A reporter, Khashoggi, is sawed into pieces in the video conference room of an embassy while the action is streamed to the boss. and then some dude walks out past Khashoggi’s widow while wearing Khashoggi’s clothes.

“Joan Didion: The Center Will Not Hold” We watched for a second time. Just because she is brilliant and beautiful.

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Two Pecks

Yellow  house with two swans
Yellow house with two swans

We each came home from Aman’s with a peck of apples in our backpack. Peggi had 20 Ouncers for apple sauce and I had Snap Dragons, our new favorite eating apple. I also had a six pack of Buffalo’s Big Ditch in mine and a quart of raw honey. It was a big shop and our packs were heavier than they have ever been.

We found a couple movies to stream on the Film Forum website and both were fantastic. “Gunda,” filmed entirely in Spain, featured no actors, only farm animals, mostly a pig family, and it was riveting. There was was no voice over either, just the animals’ voices.

Crock of Gold” features the great Shane MacGowan and Ireland and Irish culture, it’s history, the Catholic Church and the IRA. Johnny Depp put up some money so we have to put up with him but he is hardly there until the end. Sensational songs, mostly Shane’s, with a handful of traditional ones and at the end a short tribute to Shane with Bono and Nick Cave who only serve to point out how great MacGowan is. (He is still alive.)

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Jimmy Carter Says Yes

Sea Breeze Volunteer Fire Association Inc. Rochester, New York
Sea Breeze Volunteer Fire Association Inc. Rochester, New York

Although the Little Theatre five screens are still closed they have been movies that would have been shown there as streams. The Little gets a cut but we still work about them. “Jimmy Carter: Rock & Roll President” seemed like a stretch of a concept but they pull it off. And on top of that it is a real feel good film. Imagine that considering the current occupant.

Present day Carter has a nice looking turntable. Bob Dylan, Willie Nelson and the Allman Brothers are featured. I could never figure out the appeal of that last one but they were fellow Georgians. A glaring omission though was not featuring “Jimmy Carter Says Yes.”

I’m pretty sure it was Chris from the Squires of the Subterrain that first made us aware of those so-called song poems. I think he may have gotten a copy from Tom Ardolino, NRBQ’s drummer. Somehow we wound up with a cassette with that and other gems, “Do You Know the Difference Between Big Wood and Brush” and the sensational “Little Rug Bug.

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Waking

Mama snapping turtle looking for a place to lay her eggs at Conifer and Hoffman in Rochester, New York.
Mama snapping turtle looking for a place to lay her eggs at Conifer and Hoffman in Rochester, New York.

We’ve seen/heard the Tulsa, Oklahoma band, Jacob Fred Odyssey, three times at Rochester’s jazz fest. In 2006, 2010 and 2012 when they performed their Race Riot Suite. We bought the record and had them sign it. The band was so damn musical in a free wheeling boozy way. The back of the lp had a brief history of Tulsa’s Race Riot, enough to get me to read more about it. How come we weren’t taught about this in school?

We’ve been pitching in to help the Little Theatre by renting the movies they offer during the pandemic. The last is a threesome, three movies for twelve bucks! We started with the raw but powerful documentary on Ferguson. Six years on and Minneapolis has just unfolded as a video rewind of Ferguson. The Toni Morrison documentary was second up, a rich tribute to a clear headed,  powerful voice. And then the great James Baldwin movie, “I Am Not Your Negro.” We had already seen this one when it played at the Little. We sat right next to total strangers without masks back then. The movie is so jam packed it deserves a least a second viewing. 

Tonight we’re working our way through “15 Essential Black Liberation Jazz Tracks,” most from my favorite musical period, the early seventies, and many I have never heard before.

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Old School

Cuba Cheese truck delivering the goods to Aman's on East Ridge Road
Cuba Cheese truck delivering the goods to Aman’s on East Ridge Road

Cuba Cheese makes some kick ass extra sharp cheddar. Imagine a slice of that with a Honey Crisp apple. Aman’s was our first stop today and then Wegman’s where we bought so much stuff it didn’t all fit in our back packs. Peggi had two packages of rice cakes sticking out of the top of her backpack. When we got home we discovered one was missing. Peggi went back with the car and spotted it next to the sidewalk on East Ridge Road. And our loaf of whole wheat bread sitting right beside it.

I feel like Kanye dumping on Taylor Swift when I say I was disappointed that Parasite won so many awards. We worked hard to see as many of the nominated movies as we could before the ceremony and the only one I fell asleep in was Parasite. It was right around when all the characters started getting killed off. I was liking the movie up until it became obvious that the sister was going to get a job in the rich people’s house too. And then of course, the father and mother. Best screenplay was certainly a stretch.

I liked “Pain and Glory,” “Once Upon A Time” and “The Irishman.” All old school.

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Pain And Glory

Snow covered trees near the creek at the end of Hoffman Road in Rochester, New York
Snow covered trees near the creek at the end of Hoffman Road in Rochester, New York

If every winter day was like this one we wouldn’t appreciate this one as much. Full sun can turn the ski trails to mush so you need temperatures well below freezing for crisp, squeaky traction and today was perfect. Except for the part when I went off trail on short hill and caught my skis under a frozen branch. It was pretty much a face plant but I did manage to break the impact with my arms. I would go out there again in a second but I have jury duty tomorrow.

We’re scrambling to watch the Oscar nominated movies before the awards so our queue is all contenders. I’m hoping Anthony Hopkins gets best supporting actor for his role in The Two Popes. He made the creep he played enduring. And I’m pulling for Antonio Banderas for best actor in Pedro Almodóvar’s “Pain and Glory.” We had more fun watching “Once Upon A Time In Hollywood” than any other movie so that gets our vote.

We watched the Linda Ronstadt documentary, “The Sound of My Voice'” and I was blown away by how good she was. She was so popular I pretty much dismissed her. The Gilbert and Sullivan and especially the Mexican work she did near the end of her career was amazing. And I really liked listening to her talk. We have three friends with Parkinson’s and her story made the debilitating effects all too clear.

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Across Time

Statues of fishermen's wives along beach in Porto
Statues of fishermen’s wives along beach in Porto

I’m still digesting the photos I brought back from our Portugal to Spain walk. There is art in public spaces throughout the Iberian peninsula. A lot of it is really good art, good being “I must take a photo of this so I can enjoy it again.” I’m always reminding myself not to let that act interfere with my appreciation of the piece in real time. These fishermen’s wives are really expressive, very physical. And the bathers in the distance, in mid October, accentuate the story.

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Solvitur Ambulando

My shadow with giant spoon
My shadow with giant spoon

“It is solved by walking.” This giant spoon was on the lawn in front of a house on the side street we took to Wegmans. The house was for sale, empty inside and this thing was sitting in that patch of land between the sidewalk and the street.

We had “Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie” back in the red Netfllx envelope and by the door on its way to the mailbox when we decided to cut it open and watch the movie again. Luis Bunuel’s masterpiece keeps getting better. We made sure we digested the subtitles the first time through and we just sat back and enjoyed it the following night.

We watched “The Shining” last night. It’s the perfect horror movie but once you’ve seen it a few times its all about the amazing Jack Nicholson and Shelley Duvall performances. My favorite scene was Grady (the first caretaker) and Jack in the red and white bathroom. And after that it would have to be the interchanges between the bartender and Jack. Third favorite scene would be the interview when Jack officially gets the Overlook position. Plus the soundtrack takes centerstage and almost usurps the storyline. Whoever it was that put that altogether kicked ass.

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Going Back

"Barely There" painting by Barbara Mink at Geisel Gallery in Rochester, New York
“Barely There” painting by Barbara Mink at Geisel Gallery in Rochester, New York

I’m guessing that we have seen the coming attractions for the David Crosby documentary four times now, each time in front of another movie. I know we asked for this by the movie choices we made.

“Echo in the Canyon,” ostensibly about the significance of Laurel Canyon in the sixties, is full of Jacob Dylan as MC and then bandleader with a roundup of contemporary artists when the only people who’d come to this movie would only want the real stuff from that magical period. The Tom Petty footage was good though.

“‘Marianne & Leonard” was a better movie but it would have played just as well on the small screen because the best footage was old movies and still shots. Leonard was a ladies man and the Marianne & Leonard thing was doomed. His guitar player, interviewed in the movie, said he realized early on that most of the people who came to see the band were young, depressed women. The love story was touching. This movie could appeal to a younger crowd because Cohen’s music is so universal but there weren’t any young people in the theater when we saw it.

“Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood” was really great to look at, especially in the film version that our city is lucky to have. And the acting was was just as good but there wasn’t much story here. It was more like a few days back in the day. Some weird stuff happened. A lot of ordinary stuff happened. I was so back there I never noticed how long the film was until I had to go to the bathroom.

The movies, cover bands, Americana, MAGA. Everybody wants to go back. It’s getting a little depressing. I think I’ll go put my Silver Apples lp on.

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Chicken Cacciatore

Magnolias in Durand Eastman Park at their peak.
Magnolias in Durand Eastman Park at their peak.

Gloria and Pete invited us over for dinner on my birthday. Pete asked me what I liked. Easy for him, Gloria does all the cooking. I had been thinking about Chicken Cacciatore for quite a while and I couldn’t lie so I spoke up. Gloria’s masterpiece includes artichoke hearts, carrots, celery, mushrooms, black olives and chicken that was just falling apart in the sauce. It was the best I’ve ever had.

We got caught up in the One Take Film Festival this weekend, documentaries playing at both the Dryden and the Little. Caught “Dennis & Lois” on Friday afternoon, about a couple who met at a Ramones show at CBGBs and never stopped going to shows together, over 10,000. The Happy Mondays wrote a song about them. The director said he has about six hundred hours of footage of the couple. They can barely walk now but they’re still doing it. They haven’t even seen the film either.

We saw the Aretha Franklin movie on Saturday, the gospel show she recorded in Los Angeles in ’72. She was spellbinding. We came home and watched a Robert Johnson documentary and then some of Beyonce’s drum and bugle Coachella performance. Wow.

Garry Winogrand: All Things Are Photographable,” at the Dryden today, was the best. Absolutely brilliant. I think it’s running on PBS. You take his street photos in with your whole body. They are physical constructions. Animated with life. And there are hundreds of them in the movie.

 

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Post-Apocalyptic Movies

"What Men Want" poster at Regal in Culver Ridge Plaza
“What Men Want” poster at Regal in Culver Ridge Plaza

After Tarkovsky’s meditative psychological drama, “Solaris,” which we spent three nights with, the post-apocalyptic horror film, “A Quiet Space” felt kind of cheap. It was hard to give a hoot about the nuclear family and the director didn’t bother warming you up to the characters before they started introducing the quick cut, scary things. I spent a good bit of the movie wondering if the male lead would have been a better actor if you could see his face behind the bushy beard. But I guess anything would seem bankrupt after Tarkovsky.

We brought a dvd of “The Post” home from the library and really loved that. A meaty true story told at a brisk, edge of your seat pace, there were only a few places where Spielberg felt the characters needed to explain themselves. And they didn’t. The politics were handled really well.

There was only one other couple for a screening of “Vice” in the stadium seating theater in Culver Ridge Plaza. This movie was a mess. They did not handle the politics well. They could have just told the story of big footprint Cheney and it would have read as horror but instead they tried to be cute or something. I was afraid to google what “What Men Want” is all about.

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Going Pro

CaminoDeSantiagoPt2

I guess I joined Flickr ten years ago. At least that is what it says at the top of my Photostream page. Mostly I used it as a backup for my photos. With a free membership they gave you an insane, one terabyte of storage. Well, that business model broke and free members were recently informed that their limit will now be a measly 1,000 photos and the new owners threatened to dump the rest of your photos unless you go pro. I didn’t upload a thing for months while I looked around for an alternative. Today I went pro.

I promised my cousin I would send her a link to photos from the second leg of our Camino adventure. Peggi and I did the first half of the Camino with her but we had to be back here for some Margaret Explosion gigs. She continued on without us and then we covered the same ground – Leon to Muxia – in October.

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Small Cult

We watched Greendale again last night and it has only gotten better. We are a small cult, those that love this movie. It is in my top ten. I have an affinity for the form, 8mm and family members as cast. I made the movie above in the winter of 69/70. It features my brother, Tim, on drums, my drums. He’s wearing my clothes too. My brother, John, is playing guitar and their friend, John Spar, playing harmonica. I hung one of my lithographs on the garage door and my youngest brother, Fran, and his friends did double duty as a rental crew and snow acrobats. Years later I added a soundtrack from Invisible Idiot.

The cool thing about filming without sound is that you can direct (bark orders or offer encouragement) while you’re shooting. Neil Young adds an amazing soundtrack from Crazy Horse, just three musicians with very few overdubs, and then has his cast lip-syncs his lyrics. The whole thing is beautiful and brilliant. A rock opera without the hysterics.

The characters, all mouthing Neil’s vocals, make you realize how good the lyrics are, the storytelling and the character development. I remember my nephew telling me the only thing he didn’t like about Neil Young was his voice. I love it. And you realize how expressive it is while you watch all these characters voice the lyrics.

The movie is relentlessly good. When this 2003 movie finally catches on I could see it playing with Rocky Horror Picture Show-sized crowds singing and dancing along with every line.

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Right On!

Modern apartment building in Buffalo, New York

Press for “BlacKkKlansman” was everywhere so we bought tickets on opening night. The screening was followed with a discussion, part of a monthly presentation the Rochester Association of Black Journalists (RABJ) and the Little Theatre. Both the movie and discussion were great. The discussion, the range of reactions from disgust to anger, was actually better than the movie but then it would not have happened if not for the movie. It was heartwarming to hear how fired up people in attendance were. There was a real resolve to do something.

This passage in A.O. Scott’s review of the film really caught my attention. “Spike Lee has often been a gleeful curator of racial invective, and he observes the Klansmen with a fascination that stops only a few degrees short of sympathy. They are monstrous and clownish, but more than just figures of fright or mockery. Understanding what makes them tick is as much Ron’s (main character) mission as bringing them down.” This is exactly how people interrupt Philip Guston’s portrayals of the Klan, the hooded characters in his late paintings. We laugh at them because they are hideous and tragic and so much like ourselves. This is an artful movie.

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Apostle Of Beauty

White Lincoln Continental parked at Sea Breeze, New York
White Lincoln Continental parked at Sea Breeze, New York

No, this isn’t the Popemobile. Although Pope Paul VI did use a modified 1965 Lincoln Continental to greet crowds in New York City. The current pope’s ride is a more modest, Ford Focus.

The world, our world, would be a better place if everyone saw the new Wim Wenders’ movie, “Pope Francis: A Man of His Word.” In it Francis has plenty of advice for mankind, common sense advice that you can’t argue with regardless of your religion or lack thereof. I think he is a genius or at the very least, a living saint. The first pope from the Americas, the first from the Southern Hemisphere, the first Jesuit, but most of all, the first pope ever to choose the name of Francis, the patron saint of the environment.

He likens the neglect of the Earth to the neglect of the poor and he looks to artists for a way out. He says, “The biblical story of creation is a mythical form of expression” and “an artist is an apostle of beauty.” He asks us to “imitate God with our hands.”

The movie is playing at the Little now. If you can’t get there you could watch the 60 Minutes interview with Wenders. It is full of wisdom.

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Beavers On Crack

Beaver damage on Durand Lake in winter
Beaver damage on Durand Lake in winter

We had not been down the west side of Durand Lake in a while so this was the first we had seen of the beaver damage there. What were they thinking trying to gnaw their way through trees this big?

Duane suggested we add the 1957 French film, “Monsieur Hulot’s Holiday,” to our Netflix queue. We have but we’ll have to watch “Advise & Consent” first and mail it back. I wish they would just make the switch to everything streamable. We streamed “The Dinner” a few nights back. I loved the story, a moral dilemma, almost like a nightmare. Laura Linney was great as the over protective mom and Richard Gere made a pretty good straight man. The guy who played his brother, Steve Coogan, surprised us because we had just seen him in “A Trip To Spain” and couldn’t stand him. Our friend, Claire, loved him in that movie. Guess that’s the sign of a good actor. I read that “The Dinner” was based on a book and it has already been made into three movies. I think some could do a killer movie with this story but it might take a few more tries. It has been compared to Polanski’s “Carnage” so we will have to track that one down.

Although we have been Amazon Prime members for some time we had never watched anything from them so we lined up a queue there. Jim Jim Jarmusch’s “Paterson” is great. Peggi and I think it is his best movie. He wrote the story as well. It’s understated, slow, beautiful, and a real fantasy. Adam Driver is fantastic.

Driver is great in Scorsese’s “Silence” too but unfortunately he is not the lead. I loved the look of this movie. I loved the whole Catholic thing and the way the Japanese fought it. Whoever it is that’s writing Roger Ebert’s site put it this way, “Silence is a monumental work, and a punishing one. It puts you through hell with no promise of enlightenment, only a set of questions and propositions, sensations and experiences.”

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Fake Out

Tree with big lips in woods near Durand Eastman
Tree with big lips in woods near Durand Eastman

Peggi reads everything by Stephen King. I read only his “On Writing.” I experience King through the movies and Peggi keeps reminding me that the book is so much better. Except in the case of “The Shining.” I guess they got that one right. But I hear Stephen King didn’t like it. We just finished watching the eight part “11/22/63,” something we rented from Netflix, and we were telling John Gilmore about it. He told us his Kennedy assignation story.

He was in band class in the first trumpet seat. The teacher and band leader was forever banging his baton on the lectern trying to bring order to the class. When he announced the president had just been shot, John assumed it was a ploy to get the kids to behave so he shouts, “Fake Out!” The teacher orders him out of the class and he never played trumpet again.

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