Thursday, December 01, 2016

World War II Memories

AMERICAN FAMILIES
Billy Manbo is about my age and we both grew up during the war in the American West, with a significant difference.  I was comfortably raised in Spokane while Billy and his family were dealing with harsh realities in Heart Mountain, a Japanese American relocation center in the Wyoming badlands.  
While my father was serving in the Army reconstruction unit in war devastated Japan, his father, Bill, was trying to truthfully answer harsh loyalty questionnaires for military authorities.
Like my Dad, Bill Sr. was handy with a camera and took color photos of life in the camp that are featured in the book “Colors of Confinement” edited by University of North Carolina law professor Eric L. Mueller.  
This puts a name and face on racism.  Or Emet Minnesota Congregation of Humanistic Judaism presents a discussion on this topic 10 am Sat. Dec. 10 at the Minneapolis JCC.

http://uncpress.unc.edu/books/11713.html

Friday, November 25, 2016

BROTHERHOOD OF WRITERS

Jesse Eisenberg
Jason Segel
You know this story because it’s yours and it’s mine.  David Lipsky and David Foster Wallace, two gifted writers, meet for the first time in 1996 in the movie “The End of the Tour” on a day like today.  Wallace is an acclaimed novelist on tour selling his latest book and Lipsky, also a published author, is assigned by Rolling Stone Magazine, to write a profile piece on DFW.  Wallace teachers creative writing at a Midwest university,
TWO DAVES BOND
The chemistry is right between Jason Segel as Wallace and Jesse Eisenberg as Lipsky with James Ponsoldt directing.  One reviewer called it “funny” but that misses the point.  Maybe it’s ironic.  Both characters are in thirty-something limbo and meet at the right time.  The dynamics of bonding are explored where the two Daves are first antagonists but find they have much in common.  Lipsky stays overnight at Wallace’s home and snoops through his stuff to get a better idea about the “real” Wallace.
TOUR ENDS IN MINNEAPOLIS
Lipsky and Wallace then fly to Minneapolis where Wallace, at the end of the book tour, gets a short downtown tour.  On the way to the reading, they pass the Mary Tyler Moore statue on Nicollet Mall which is a defining local icon, their local driver explains, but to some visitors it’s hokey small town bad taste hilarious.  The two writers do more sharing at the Mall of America with the theme park in the background, another iconic Twin Cities venue.
YOU KNOW THESE GUYS
“Of Course You End Up Being Yourself: A Road Trip With David Foster Wallace” is the book by David Lipsky which was made into the movie “The End of the Tour.”  Some memorable references in the movie about the two Daves:  They choose to take dates to see an incredibly bad action guy movie at  the Mall.  Wallace is addicted to TV, likes the 1939 classic movie “Algiers” and his “best friend” is a junker Honda Civic.  Questions of uncomfortable conforming while being misunderstood in a perceived hostile society must be issues for many writers as they are for the two Daves.
“TOUR” RESEMBLES “VELVET”

 In the British movie “Velvet Goldmine,” a Rolling Stone reporter bonds with gay glitter band 70s rockers with the reporter played by Christian Bale.  Like “The End of the  Tour,” it’s good to be a Rolling Stone writer where the assignments are better than what I knew as an Idaho Statesman reporter in the 1960s.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS

 LOCAL BOY MAKES GOOD
Little did I know in 1956 when I saw Mike Todd’s “Around the World in 80 Days” that 35 years later I would be living in his home town, Bloomington, Minn.  Todd was one of those bright young Jewish lads, sons of Eastern European fathers like the Volk Brothers, who found their fortune in movies.  (Todd was born in 1909, a year after Sidney Volk and a contemporary of my father who came to Minneapolis in about 1920.)

FAIRY TALE FOR ADULTS
I saw Todd’s “fairy tale for adults” “Around the World in 80 Days” at the refurbished Post Theater in Spokane where the projection booth was moved from the second balcony to the first floor and a wide curved screen was installed for Todd-AO plus surrounding speakers.  Todd-AO and Cinerama were both Todd enterprises that brought TV viewers out of their living rooms to the theaters again.

THRIFT STORE BARGAIN
The price tag was $49.63 but I bought it for $1.28 at the thrift store.  That would be the double DVD set of “Around the World in 80 Days” which includes a documentary on Todd’s life.  Liz Taylor is flashing the 29 carat diamond Todd gave her in the 90 minute CBS live coverage of Todd’s Madison Square Garden “party” celebrating the movie and this is painfully boring.
Todd never had a follow up act for ATW and I doubt that when the bills came due he could swing another ring for Liz.  They lived large and did not frequent thrift stores.

Monday, November 21, 2016

The Player, Bob Roberts and William Tell


I KNOW THAT THEATER
A famous organist gave a concert at the Rialto in South Pasadena in the summer of 1963 and I went with my roommate John Miller of Orlando, Calif., when we were living in a quaint apartment without air conditioning in South Pasadena.
  It was a beautiful theater and is featured in the Robert Altman black comedy “The Player” (1992) where movie producer Maxwell drowns the innocent screenwriter David in a nearby alley.  According to Los Angeles magazine, “The building was sold late last year (2014) to downtown developer Izek Shomof, who has restored several historic structures including the Alexandria Hotel and Title Guarantee Building.”

MUSIC UP CLOSE
I have never bought a ticket in advance for the Bloomington Symphony Orchestra so Sunday at the last minute I was seated with the orchestra on the stage.  You really do FEEL the William Tell Overture sitting near the brass section.  Hi Ho Silver!  I learned my lesson; buy early when the orchestra is at  the Schneider Theater.

FAMILIAR STORY?

A famous media celebrity launches a political campaign based on empty slogans and slandering his opponent.  This celebrity is quick tempered with an enormous ego.  Sound familiar?  Actually it’s the 1992 Tim Robbins’ fake documentary “Bob Roberts” and worth seeing now in the light of recent events.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

SWIMMING IN THE ABYSS

Before Nov. 8 we thought we were peering into the abyss, but on Tuesday “we fell into the abyss,” said journalist Moustafa Bayoumi Wednesday afternoon at the University of Minnesota Provost’s conversation in Coffman Memorial Union.

“The election was a catastrophe of global and epic proportions, especially for foreign policy,” said Bayoumi, who has served on the American Studies Association's National Council and currently teaches English at Brooklyn College.

Trump-land “is not the country I want to live in.  I want a pluralistic society that demands cooperation,” he added.  There’s a lot to deplore out there including Steve Bannon and Frank Gaffney but maybe we can agree to support the Native Americans in their fight against the Keystone Pipeline and Ms. Levy-Pounds for Minneapolis mayor.  Also, the Minnesota Interfaith Alliance on Gun Safety is worth our efforts. 

Bayoumi is a journalist whose work has appeared in The Nation, The London Review of Books, and The Village Voice, Moustafa Bayoumi has served on the American Studies Association's National Council and currently teaches English at Brooklyn College. In eye-opening lectures based on his award-winning book “How Does It Feel to Be a Problem?”, he highlights challenges facing young Arab- and Muslim-Americans today.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Carnival of Souls and Spellbound

ORGANIST CHASED BY ZOMBIES
There are a few times in my life when I feel like the church organist in “Carnival of Souls” being chased by zombies and now is one of them.  Other incidents in my life when I was a bit paranoid were the three years I worked for the Grain Exchange and the four years I lived in Boise.
Sad to say, the church organist couldn’t escape the zombies.  They done her in.  So when a friend called last night to suggest I watch someone from the Trump group on “60 Minutes” I said “no.”  I’ll catch that act at the State Fair Midway’s freak show in August.
Mrs. Trump looks and talks like Ingrid Pitt in the Hammer gothic horror “The Vampire’s Daughter.”  Let me know when apocalypse arrives or is it here?

“SPELLBOUND” PROVIDES LINK TO VOICE TO VISION
To understand what University of Minnesota art professor David Feinberg is doing with the Voice to Vision project you need to see Hitchcock’s forties thriller “Spellbound.”  Focus on the Salvador Dali hallucination where the Gregory Peck character sees art that shows the nightmare he represses from a childhood accident.
V to V particpants use art to form a collage that helps define the terrors they experienced in the Holocaust or similar homeland depravity they escaped.

Feinberg spoke Friday night at a meeting of Or Emet Jewish Humanist Congregation at the St. Louis Park JCC. 

Monday, November 07, 2016

SPOKANE TV IN '50s


DEEP RETRO TV
Before Trump, America’s most notorious died blond was villain wrestler Gorgeous George who was resplendent in a pink fuzzy robe entering the ring before gouging the eyes of his opponent.  I traveled down that rode lat night via YouTube and watched the Gorgeous one strut his stuff in the Chicago Inernational Arena.  In the Zarkin household, we gathered around the Arvin with our TV dinners to see this permanent wave get mussed up.

SNOOKY LANSEN AND MORE
Saturday night was eagerly anticipated with KHQ/NBC showing kinescopes of Your Hit Parade.  The episode from 1956 featured Dorothy Collins singing “The Wayward Wind” on a train.  YHP did pantomimes to illustrate the hit songs, but they were annoying.  Collins number would have worked better if she was hanging onto a tree in a Florida hurricane.  The number one hit was the theme from “Picnic” that week and that was handled by the dancers.  Other singers on the show were Snooky Lansen, Gisele McKenzie and Russell Arms.  Raymond Scott led the orchestra. www.imdb.com/title/tt0042172/

CHUCK HESTON AS HEATHCLIFF

Continuing in the retro mode, last night I watched the 1950 Studio One “Wuthering Heights” with Charles Heston and others eating up the scenery.  I continue in the Heston vintage performances today with “Ben Hur” at the Heights Theater.  Studio One Westinghouse spokesperson Betty Furness was pushing a B&W TV that could be converted to color with an adapter in 1950.  Seems suspicious to me.