Saturday, February 27, 2010

giving good face

The other day my pal Whitney sent me this photograph of her son:

It's perfect.

Over the phone, we also shared a hearty laugh about the scene in Mrs. Doubtfire when busted Mrs. Doubtfire utters "Helloooooo" in a mud mask.

This morning my friend Katie gave me a jingle on Gmail video chat. I was quite frankly a little apprehensive about picking up because I was fresh out of bed and didn't have my face on yet.

It got me to thinking....

From now on, any time I log onto chat, I think I shall apply a cakey mud mask, don a matronly curly white wig, and answer all calls like Busted Mrs. Doubtfire. Even better: Maybe I will just go on Chat Roulette and skip from chat to chat doing just that. 

Thursday, February 25, 2010

jr on jj

I have listened to jj's album "jj n° 2" a bunch recently and this particular song about 200 times:

For starters, research proves it's very difficult to find out the singer's name.

Her voice reminds me of the husky ache of Yaz's Alison Moyet. While Moyet can mourn with the best of them, sitting in a dark room staring at the rain frustrated, choked with grief, dying of broken heart, pleading with her loved one "don't go", she can also put up a fight, tell off the operator, and tell her lover "I ain't never gonna let you go!"

jj similarly offers an album that strikes a moody balance between the quiet, bruised search through biting nostalgia and the bark of rebound and recovery where tough love pulls no punches and master plans to be feared are laid.

"From Africa to Malaga" opens with Blondie "Heart of Glass" style percussive palpitations and kicks in with the keen-edged opening statement:

It's too easy to cry 
when everything eventually dies.
If not today then maybe tomorrow. 
Don't let that thought slip away, 
let it come out and play.

Out of the gates, jj rules out the best excuse in the book for throwing in the towel. The song begins with The End and looks for the "and then...."

Throughout the song jj argues that dead ends are, in fact, new beginnings:

A thought that you found, 
takes you to town, 
smashes your face, 
burns out your heart, 
then you go home and turn it into art....
Don't cry for the time you lost in your life.

Ok, so the "turn it into art" part may be pushing it, but I buy it, and take all it to mean: "It's brutal out there. You are gonna get yourself into scrapes again and again. You gotta keep getting back up again round after round and make something vital out of it."

And I keep spinning this song round and round

Yaz, and tomboy tough attitudes aside, I think I'm also hooked because the anthem immediately conjured images of the movie "My Bodyguard" in my mind.

Particularly the vision of tiny Chris Makepeace finally facing his bully nemesis Matt Dillion, while Makepeace's bodyguard Adam Baldwin coaches from the sidelines. If you haven't seen it, I recommend it. Even though the trailer voice-over is ridiculous.

The message of both the song and the film bear repeating: We are born losing, but don't let that stop you. As jj says, "No matter how down you are you'll eventually rise."

(Which I originally misheard as "no matter how dumb you are...." Which raised an eyebrow and some questions.)

And, yes, the album art is a bloodied mary-jew-ahna leaf.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

parts recall

Toyota's recent troubles had me thinking a heap about the history of the automotive industry and of the automobile proper. I started thinking about the recall of parts and auto parts generally, and how they've evolved. Thoughts turned to one of my favorite Chicago sculptors John Kearney. Kearney makes hearty animal sculptures out of welded steel car bumpers—a fixture that became pretty much a thing of the past once the industry started universally using Thermoplastic Olefins (TPOs), instead. I never knew that's what they called plastic bumpers until I looked it up. Now we will all throw around "TPOs" like it's going out of style. Here are a couple of Kearney creatures:

Incidentally, I also recently learned that you can tell what side of the car the gas tank is on from the driver's seat by looking at the gas gauge on the dashboard and looking for the arrow indicator.

No more gas station arrival panics/cranking the rear view mirror/leaning half way out the car/actually getting out of the car to answer this riddle. Then forgetting the moment you fill up. You may now coast into Flying J in the PT Cruiser the rental car company stuck you with (that makes you look like you are driving around in a big goofy John Fleuvog shoe), with all kinds of "I got this one" confidence. Now we are smarter.

My grandfather Jack was an engineer and, in fact, a Manufacturer's Representative for auto part companies. He was the guy responsible for selling individual fixtures to car companies. One fixture he knew inside and out was the air conditioner. My mom told me a story about my grandfather visiting his Aunt Gert in Sarasota, Florida who lived next door to the Ringling Brothers property. One day during his stay the air conditioning unit used in the Ringling animal stables broke down and my grandpa went over and repaired it. That is a true story. Lucky animals.

During my lifetime my father, a creative director in advertising, wrote commercials for Ford dealers while working for J. Walter Thompson, Chicago. My dad's big break for Ford national advertising came while visiting another client: King's Island amusement park, in Dayton, Ohio. While on a (presumably important) roller coaster (meeting), an announcer came on over the park PA saying that my father had a phone call. My father disembarked the ride, got on the horn, and on the other end of the line was the head of J. Walter Thompson New York. "Ralph," he said, "We're working on some Ford national spots here. We have some darn fine middles, but no beginnings and ends. We need your help." So my dad flew to New York to help create and install new parts for automotive ads.

Maybe I should fly him out to New York to help me write the end of this post.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

ice ice baby

Tonight while watching the Winter Olympics, I told a friend that if I were a men's figure skater I would dress up like a member of the Na'vi tribe from Avatar and dance to a Celine/Enya/Enigma medley. I really would.

Alternatively, if I needed a back up plan, I would also consider dressing up like the Kool Aid man. And balletically, emotionally skate to a weepy classical piece. Or bounce around to a 1920's Charleston number? I'm torn. Please advise.

Monday, February 8, 2010

birds on film

Last night the Saints won the Superbowl. Could there even have been an alternate ending?

Last night everybody won the Puppybowl. Could there even have been an alternate ending?

If you missed that masterpiece, please, at the very least, check out this year's starting line up, with descriptions such as "Bandit, Husky Mix: Women love him, men want to BE him."

Here is my favorite commercial of the evening:

Important Chicken slowly marching into the Oval office is the real show stealer.

In other birds-in-the-world news, French artist CĂ©leste Boursier-Mougenothas has a new installation at the Barbican, London. He created an indoor aviary using musical instruments for perches. The result is, well, wild. I may just have to go and see it for myself.

My favorite review of the Superbowl half-time show came from founder, Will Leitch: "At the end of their set, The Who are going to smash their hips." 

The evening drew to a close last night with a car ride home discussion of scary movies. I have thin skin for spooky. I explained to my four friends that even "Picnic at Hanging Rock" did a number on me, and nothing too clearly horrifying really ever happens. [Cue: Foreigner's "Head Games"] But to me, even the girls' eerie procession to the picnic is nerve-wracking. Not unlike the Important Chicken marching into the Oval Office. 

But there is no real reveal and screaming chicken payoff. The main reveal is that I am a total chicken.

My friend Amy has never seen the film. Her husband and my pal Kevin astutely offered, ""Picnic at Hanging Rock" is basically about a group of school girls who go into the wilderness... and get attacked by synthesizers."  

[Holding arms above my head signaling touchdown.]

Monday, February 1, 2010

a dark horse

I just watched most of Seabiscuit for the first time the other night. It was on cable and the end time was 4:40am. I made it to 3:45am and through all kinds of obstreperous ten-minute commercial breaks then conked out. Watching movies on cable is a bumpy ride. You get into a quiet, focused groove, then suddenly you are hit with the smarting switch of noisy, endless, commericials, man-handling announcers, and discernibly on-the-juice television volume.

Even so, I still got into the movie. And I still fell asleep.

Mostly, it made me want to revisit another horse drawn coming-of-age film, 1979's The Black Stallion. As I remember it, it is a touching, visually striking feature with a gripping performance by young actor Kelly Reno as Alec Ramsey. Save for a few opening scenes, the first half of the film is nearly wordless—just a boy trying to survive on a deserted island and befriending his cast away companion: a black stallion. The score is elegant—carefully, quietly navigating with Alec around this totally unfamiliar environment. I am glad it is never on cable because interrupting that mood would be criminal.

There are some beautiful horse riding scenes in the first half and competitive horse racing in the second half. And, oh yes, Mickey Rooney shows up half way through, delivering a really solid performance—and not as a horribly offensive caricature of an Asian landlord (see: Breakfast at Tiffany's).

I just watched some footage of The Black Stallion on youtube and was instantly swallowing tears. Kelly Reno is amazing. Like, Justin Henry in Kramer Vs. Kramer forgot-the-plot-is-not-actually-happening-to-this-child amazing. Mr. Mom's Terri Garr as Kelly Reno's worried mom does a pretty admirable job, as well.

Why am I writing home about this film? Well, last post I covered what I appreciate in a short film. Today I offer that this feature length film has everything my blog could ask for: A coming-of-age tale featuring an animal, a desert island, music as dialogue, a sporting event, and an actress who was in Mr. Mom.

In related news I just found a website featuring a list of animal idioms. Am I in heaven?