Posts Tagged ‘Martin Scorsese’

We have become more and more numbed to the cascade of horrors that seem to take place on a regular basis here. But this week seemed worse than most, marked by dark and deadly deeds around this country. These acts were not done by 9 year old Honduran girls struggling on a highway 1000 miles away. Nor were they done by women who protested the Kavanaugh nomination nor blacks who demanded justice in the legal system. Nor was it football players kneeling on the sidelines during the National Anthem.

No, these were done by white men based on irrational prejudices and hatreds which allowed them to frame themselves as somehow being victims.

This week:

Two black adults were shot down in a Kentucky supermarket. The killer had attempted to enter a predominately black church just before he came to the supermarket. Fortunately, its doors were locked.

Early in the week, multiple pipe bombs were sent around the country to mainly political leaders who had spoken out against the actions of this administration. The man responsible was a fanatic follower of the president who attended his rallies and adorned his van with all sorts of right wing propaganda memes, including pictures of many of his targets with the cross-hairs of a gun superimposed over them. He was a rabid defender of the president* on social media.

Then yesterday, horror of horrors. Eleven Jewish congregants were killed by a gunman in The Tree of Life synagogue in the Pittsburgh neighborhood that Mr. Rogers called home. 6 other people, including 4 police officers, were also wounded by the man who had a history of hate speech in his social media accounts. In our long and bloody history, this was the deadliest shooting of Jews in America.

And in the midst of this horrible week, we had a president* who proudly proclaimed himself to be a nationalist at a rally. The term nationalist is most often associated with groups that believe in and demand a purely white racial identity for one’s country. They view all other races as being inferior, as being threats to their place in the social hierarchy. Undeserving takers.

They see themselves as victims and these others as scapegoats on which responsibility for most any problem can be heaped. While they believe that  nationalism is a term of strength, it is actually a term of weakness, of a culture of  seeing oneself as victim.

This is well known information, not obscure in any way. When he used that term, when he glorified that word, he knew what he was doing. He knew what triggers he was pulling among his base.

And if his ignorance is genuine, he is unfit to be in the office.

Regular readers know where I stand on that subject.

There is no coming together moment in sight nor do these nationalists desire that. This nationalist  president* continues to shamelessly spew a steady stream of incitement and an ever increasing litany of lies even as these tragic events unfold. He continues to portray himself as a victim even as he falsely poses as a strongman. He simply does not have the ability or the desire to unite this country.

And those who helped him get to this point– the moneyed interests and congress– are too invested, too implicated, and too morally weak to stem this tide of division. They will offer thoughts and prayers but nothing more.


The events that took place this week feel as though they could be the starting point for a new period of even greater horrors to come. At this point, our only recourse is to vote for a sweeping change in the government. That is the only chance we have to change the course on which we have been set.

It might well be our last chance.

Vote for change. If we don’t, the blood will be on all our hands.

Okay, this Sunday morning music is The Weight from The Band and The Staples Singers taken from the film The Last Waltz, directed by Martin Scorsese. Have a quiet Sunday and take a few moments from your day to think about those lives lost in Kentucky and Pittsburgh. And remember, you still have the power to change this.





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Triple SpiralThe rational part of my brain always wants to shrug off coincidence as mere matters of probability but I still am excited in a way when I experience it, even when the coincidences are seemingly  mundane, not appearing as some sort of cosmic omen or example of the universe’s synchronicity.

Take this past weekend.  I had one of those weird moments when I was singing a song to myself and just a short time later it pops up on the car radio.  Now, that doesn’t seem like too much of a coincidence.  I mean, I’m sure most of us have had this experience, especially when a song is popular and regularly played on our favorite station.  I know this used to happen to me all the time as a kid, when I would be humming a song and would flip on the radio and there it was, almost synchronized in its timing.  But this recent time was with a song from 1967 that was not a classic song but a novelty hit, Judy in Disguise (With Glasses),   from what was considered a bubblegum band of the time, John Fred and the Playboys.

I shrugged it off with a smile.  It is an infectious song, after all.  Besides, who wants to think that their destiny is somehow entwined with this song?

Then on Sunday evening, we were watching the Martin Scorsese produced Boardwalk Empire on HBO.    A few days before this, I had written a post for this blog that was titled Acres of Diamonds, about the famed inspirational speech from Temple University founder Russell Conwell.  The episode this night was also titled Acres of Diamonds and briefly played  a recording of the speech performed by Conwell.

This coincidence gave me more of a pause than Judy in Disguise.  It just struck me as odd that I had chosen to write about this story on just the weekend that it was also referenced on the TV show.  It was a somewhat famous speech in its time but is pretty obscure today.

Coincidence or omen , a symbol of deeper meaning?  Some view coincidence as evidence of a universal consciousness or of God’s directing hand at work.  I don’t know that we can ever know with any certainty of such things.   I know that I would like to believe that these pop culture coincidences somehow demonstrate that I am closer to the center of the labyrinth that is life, but, as I said, the rational part of me tells me to take it easy– if it’s a symbol, it will reveal itself in due time.  If not, it’s just a fun coincidence.

What do you think this is trying to tell me?  Maybe the message was a warning about buying those pants. Message received…

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GC Myers 2001One of my favorite songwriters is the late,  enigmatic Harry Nilsson, who passed away in 1994.  While he is somewhat still well known, it is probably not the same level of fame that his work deserves even though he achieved great fame and earned many accolades during his life.  He recorded and wrote many hits, earned Grammy Awards, and cavorted with the biggest names in music. Lennon and McCartney named him as their favorite songwriter  ( he also recorded an album and more with John Lennon) and Keith Moon and Mama Cass both died in his London flat.  Yet how many twenty or thirty year-olds even recognize the name?

But there is still a great deal of interest in his music and life and there are those out there trying to let the world about the talent of this flawed man.  This past month there was a release of a  large box set spanning his career at RCA as well as a biography, Nilsson: The Life of a Singer-Songwriter,  from author Alyn Shipton.  Not to mention, a celebrated documentary from several years back, Who is Harry Nilsson (And Why Is Everybody Talkin’ About Him)?  So, hopefully his work will stick around in the public eye a bit longer.

If you don’t know his name, you probably know the music.  It is used extensively by filmmakers including this song, Jump Into the Fire, that was used in a pivotal scene in Goodfellas by Martin Scorsese.  It’s a good song to pump up a dreary morning.

FYI, the painting at the top is an older piece of mine from back in 2001.



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We saw Martin Scorsese’s newest film Hugo yesterday, the story of a young orphan who lives in the clockworks of a Paris rail station.  I enjoyed it very much even with though I am still not yet sold on the need for 3-D in this film.  Or most films, for that matter.  Some of its use in the film was interesting but often I found it distracting and sometimes downright irritating.

But what I really did like was that one of the main characters in the story was the great pioneering filmmaker, George Melies.  His life and body of work were key elements in the storyline.  It gives an overview of his life from his birth in 1861 through his early years as an illusionist and magician, as well as a maker of automatons, which are self-operating machines that often resemble human forms.  Clockwork robots– another important part of the film. It then documents his career in film , telling how he used his background in magic and illusion to create wonderous worlds in the new medium of film.  He created some of the first special effects seen on film and even toda, with all the CG effects available,  they are quite interesting to see.

The film also tells of his fall from the public eye and the destruction of many of his films, many of which were sold to the French military to be melted down to make celluloid heels for boots.  As in the film, Melies ended up running a toy booth at a Paris rail station before a new generation rediscovered the genius of his early work.  Though much of his work is lost forever, many have been recovered and restored.

Being a fan of early fims, I am glad that Scorsese was able to so beautifully pay homage to this early giant of cinema in Hugo.  I’m hoping that a few moviegoers will find in Melies’ work a huge imagination and inventive spirit  worth exploring more.  There is an amazing amount of wonderful film from the earlest days of the medium and I hope that a new generation will discover these hidden treasures, much like those who rediscovered Melies after World War I. 

Here is a restored Melies film, Le Diable Noir. Like many early films, it is short and a simple story.  For modern filmgoers, the acting will seem a little over the top but you have to remember the time frame here.  In early films, as well as the theatre of the time, gesture was big part of getting across emotion.  But that aside, the effects Melies incorporates are tremendous for the time.  Actually, ahead of his time.

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I saw a neat story on the evening news about one city’s response to being listed by Newsweek as one of America’s top ten dying cities.  The people of Grand Rapids, Michigan got together to create  a video promoting their fair city and created quite a stir with a terrific piece of film.  It’s one continuous 9 minute shot rolling through the city of Grand Rapids with over 5000 of the residents participating in different scenarios as they lipsync to a live version of  Don McLean’s American Pie.  There’s a little bit of everything here, from football players and firetrucks to fiery explosions and helicopters.  All accompanied by hundreds of guitar toting residents, all strumming along. 

This struck me first because I love continuous, uncut shots in movies.  Think of Henry Hill’s entrance into the nightclub in Martin Scorsese’s GoodFellas or the amazing scene from the Dunkirk of WW II in Atonement.  These are incredibly intricate shots requiring a vast choreography in order to preserve the continuity of the scene.  It can take months of planning for a relatively short shot.  With this in mind, the Grand Rapids film is a pretty remarkable video,  given the fact that all of its performers were amateurs who completed the whole thing in about 3 1/2 hours.

But it also hit me because I have lived in and near a small dying city for my entire life.  We, too, were once part of that band of industry heavy cities that spanned the northeast and midwest.  Cities that saw their factories close or relocate, causing huge portions of the population to flee to seemingly greener pastures.  My city’s population is about half the size it was at its peak over 50 years and there are no signs of it ever recovering that loss.  It has left a huge hole in the area that goes beyond the sheer loss of people.  There is a loss of momentum, a loss of vibrancy and a loss of confidence.  The remaining folks start picking at the things that are lacking and forget the things about their home in which they take pride.  The entire area ends up with a feeling of general malaise. 

So to see the people of Grand Rapids exhibit their pride in their own battered hometown was a wonderful thing to see.  I think there’s lesson here somewhere.  Maybe it’s that making lemonade when all you have are lemons thing.  Sounds simple but we all too often forget to try to make the best of what we have, instead lamenting what we don’t have.  So kudos to you, Grand Rapids.  Your lemonade is tasty!


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There’s a new documentary out (actually a re-edited version of a 2006 film) called Who Is Harry Nilsson? (And Why Is Everybody Talkin’ About Him) which concerns itself with the life, death and influence of the late American singer/songwriter.  His career was both brilliant and tragic, qualities you can often see in many of his songs. 

 He had a genius for composing beautiful ballads yet often had a bitter edge, throwing in lyrics that catch the listener off guard.  For example, in Don’t Forget Me Nilsson takes a tender song that has a wistful air and suddenly drops a line like “and when we’re older and full of cancer, It doesn’t matter now, Come on, get happy” that disarms you completely.  Neil Diamond perfromed that song on a recent album and changed that lyric, which bothers me in that it alters the whole song.   Or you can choose any of the lines from You’re Breaking My Heart with its happy rhythms and the ultimate punch of its chorus.

I’m hoping that more people will learn more about Nilsson and his talent to keep his music alive.  It has been a staple for film-makers since his Evcerybody’s Talkin’ from Midnight Cowboy  in 1969 captured the essence of  film and its memorable characters.  A personal favorite of mine is Martin Scorsese’s use of Jump Into the Fire from Goodfellas.

So, if you get a chance, take in this documentary or least find a Nilsson song and give it a listen.  I guarantee you will find something in there to like.  Here’s the trailer:

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GC Myers 2002There’s something in the air.  

Maybe it’s just the time of the year and the way everything looks here right now, all brown and gray with the snow having receded.  The bones of the trees look stark and even fragile.

Maybe that’s the word.  Fragile.  The world does seem very vulnerable at the moment and one can’t feel anything but helpless about their own ability to affect the direction of things.  And this sense of futility only fuels our fears and makes future prospects seem even more dire. 

I know this is only stating the obvious.  I certainly have no answers.  Who does?  When I hear the talking heads on CNN and CNBC, I realize they have no more answers than myself, only blather and an obnoxious, ignorant certainty that they indeed have the golden ticket.  

And then I feel even more helpless…

I know we can’t avoid the subject so I won’t even try.  In the spirit of this feeling that hangs in the atmosphere, here’s Neil Young singing with The Band from The Last Waltz, directed by Martin Scorsese  in 1978.  Here’s Helpless, a song that always gives me chills…

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