Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Archive for the ‘Movies & TV’ Category

Is there a Mafia musical?

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We were talking about The Irishman and I wondered whether there was a Mafia musical. I immediately thought of Bullets Over Broadway, but that’s not a musical.

Written by LeisureGuy

8 December 2019 at 2:00 pm

Posted in Movies & TV

“Midnight Diner: Tokyo Stories”

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I seem to be on a Japanese gastronomic kick. I found the food portrayed in “Samurai Gourmet” to be very appealing indeed, and now I’m watching “Midnight Diner: Tokyo Stories” with the same appreciation. Both series have 25-minute episodes, so they move right along. And the food is mouth-watering.

Written by LeisureGuy

17 November 2019 at 5:21 pm

Posted in Food, Movies & TV

“Lady in the Dark” and some memories of it

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In the late 1930’s Moss Hart (a frequent collaborator with George S. Kaufman, whose father Gustav Kaufman was involved in the invention of the Ferris wheel) underwent psychoanalysis, something that few people at the time had heard of and something that was generally not discussed. He, however, was quite impressed and wrote a Broadway musical derived from his experience, Lady in the Dark (1941), with music by Kurt Weill and lyrics by Ira Gershwin. The play was subsequently made into the movie Lady in the Dark (1944), starring Ginger Rogers, Danny Kaye, and others.

Hart’s autobiography, Act One, is a good read.

Danny Kaye has a marvelous patter song made of up of the names of Russian composers. Legend has it that Ira Gershwin got the names by going through the sheet music on his brother George Gershwin’s piano. The song occurs in a dream sequence in which the protagonist, Liza Elliott, the unhappy female editor of a fashion magazine, Allure, who is undergoing psychoanalysis, is (in the dream) on trial (as explained in the second clip). In the play, a Russian composer (Tchaikovsky) is named, and…

The title is “Tschaikowsky (and Other Russians,” using the spelling Gershwin preferred (the German transliteration of the name). The song (lyrics here) was cut for the movie, but they did keep one of my favorite songs from Lady in the Dark, “The Saga of Jenny,” also in the trial dream sequence, here from the movie version with Ginger Rogers:

One effect of the musical was to bring psychoanalysis and its ideas into the national conversation.

Written by LeisureGuy

17 November 2019 at 2:06 pm

Posted in Books, Movies & TV, Music

Enjoyable series on Netflix: “Samurai Gourmet”

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Enjoyable for a foodie, I suppose: lots of nice shots of appetizing food, a comfortable story line, and short (25-minute) episodes. Watch a few. It’s based on a comic book, of all things.

Written by LeisureGuy

14 November 2019 at 10:04 am

I give up on Czech & Speake shaving soap

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Starting the Simpson shelf of brushes with the Case, and since it’s a small brush I chose the travel-size puck of Czech & Speake in the nifty (and hefty) machined aluminum case with a screw top. The soap is simply terrible, one of the worst shaving soaps I’ve used. I knew it was bad but I kept trying to ignore that because this sucker cost so much — though, truthfully, I suppose the “sucker” here is I.

I was careful to load the brush very well, remembering past experience. It did no good: there was almost no lather for the second pass, and for the third pass I had to reload. I’m going to pry out the soap and put in soap that will produce a decent lather, probably by grating a puck of (say) Arko and pressing it into the cavity. Once I’ve made lather from it, the moisture will weld it together.

There was another terrible shaving soap that was quite similar in (lack of) performance: Caswell-Massey. Czech & Speake is as bad if not worse. Maybe it was a terrible batch. I’ll never know because I will never again buy that brand.

Still, the Lupo delivered an excellent shave in terms of closeness and efficiency. There’s rather more blade feel than one would want for extreme comfortable, but it’s certainly comfortable enough and I got no nicks — and the smoothness is remarkable.

A splash of Alt-Innsbruck with the old menthol kick and I’m ready for the weekend to roll.

Did you watch The Game Changers on Netflix? One guy posted that the movie was made to sell product, and I’m baffled. I did not see a single product placement (no big, glowing Coke or Pepsi machines, for example, or cans of soda or beer with the brand name carefully turned toward the camera) or product mention in the movie, but maybe I missed it. Did anyone who saw it notice any pushing of product?

Written by LeisureGuy

9 November 2019 at 9:25 am

Posted in Movies & TV, Shaving

“My friend Mister Rogers”

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In the Atlantic Tom Junod has an article well worth reading:

A long time ago, a man of resourceful and relentless kindness saw something in me that I didn’t see in myself. He trusted me when I thought I was untrustworthy, and took an interest in me that went beyond my initial interest in him. He was the first person I ever wrote about who became my friend, and our friendship endured until he died. Now a movie has been made from the story I wrote about him, which is to say “inspired by” the story I wrote about him, which is to say that in the movie my name is Lloyd Vogel and I get into a fistfight with my father at my sister’s wedding.

I did not get into a fistfight with my father at my sister’s wedding. My sister didn’t have a wedding. And yet the movie, called A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, seems like a culmination of the gifts that Fred Rogers gave me and all of us, gifts that fit the definition of grace because they feel, at least in my case, undeserved. I still don’t know what he saw in me, why he decided to trust me, or what, to this day, he wanted from me, if anything at all. He puzzles me now as much as he did when I first met him at the door of the apartment he kept in New York City, dressed, as he’d warned me when we spoke on the phone and he invited me over, in a shabby blue bathrobe and a pair of slippers. Fred was, let’s not forget, a rather peculiar man, and it is not just his goodness but rather the peculiarity of his goodness that has made him, 16 years after his death, triumphant as a symbol of human possibility, although just about everything he stood for has been lost.

I met fred rogers in 1998, when Esquire assigned me a story about him for a special issue on American heroes. I last spoke with him on Christmas Day 2002, when I called him to talk about an argument I’d had with my cousin; he died two months later, on February 27, 2003. In late 2014, I heard from two screenwriters, Noah Harpster and Micah Fitzerman-Blue, who were interested in using my Esquire story as the basis of a movie, and in January 2018, I received a call from the movie’s producer with the news that Tom Hanks had been cast as Fred Rogers, which meant, emphatically, that the movie would be made. A few months after that, I visited the set in Pittsburgh, where I met Matthew Rhys, the actor who had agreed to play … well, me, or some variant of me, a cynical journalist who in the end proves amenable to Fred’s life lessons—his ministry.

I had been thinking of starting this story at one of those points of departure, at one of those beginnings or one of those endings. But stories don’t only speak; they are spoken to, by the circumstances under which they are written. And so I have to start by mentioning that I have begun writing a story about Mister Rogers the day after two young men armed with assault rifles killed a total of 31 people in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio.

I am often asked what Fred would have made of our time—what he would have made of Donald Trump, what he would have made of Twitter, what he would have made of what is generally called our “polarization” but is in fact the discovery that we don’t like our neighbors very much once we encounter them proclaiming their political opinions on social media. I often hear people say that they wish Fred were still around to offer his guidance and also that they are thankful he is gone, because at least he has been spared from seeing what we have become. In all of this, there is something plaintive and a little desperate, an unspoken lament that he has left us when we need him most, as though instead of dying of stomach cancer he was assumed by rapture, abandoning us to our own devices and the judgment implicit in his absence.

What would Fred Rogers—Mister Rogers—have made of El Paso and Dayton, of mass murder committed to fulfill the dictates of an 8chan manifesto? What, for that matter, would he have made of the anti-Semitic massacre that took place last fall in his real-life Pittsburgh neighborhood of Squirrel Hill? The easy answer is that it is impossible to know, because he was from a different world, one almost as alien to us now as our mob-driven world of performative slaughters would be to him. But actually, I think I do know, because when I met him, one of the early school shootings had just taken place, in West Paducah, Kentucky—eight students shot while they gathered in prayer. Though an indefatigably devout man, he did not attempt to characterize the shootings as an attack on the faithful; instead, he seized on the news that the 14-year-old shooter had gone to school telling his classmates that he was about to do something “really big,” and he asked, “Oh, wouldn’t the world be a different place if he had said, ‘I’m going to do something really little tomorrow’?” Fred decided to devote a whole week of his television show, Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, to the theme of “little and big,” encouraging children to embrace the diminutive nature of their bodies and their endeavors—to understand that big has to start little.

Fred Rogers was a children’s-TV host, but he was not Captain Kangaroo or Officer Joe Bolton. He was an ordained Presbyterian minister who was so appalled by what he saw on 1950s television—adults trying to entertain children by throwing pies in each other’s faces—that he joined the medium as a reformer. He considered the space between the television set and the eyes of his audience sacred, and from 1966 to 2000 he taped nearly 1,000 episodes of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, trying to make that space less profane. And although he made his living speaking to children, his message and example endure because he found a way to speak to all of us—to speak to children as respectfully as he spoke to adults and to speak to adults as simply as he spoke to children. Such fluency was the result not of spontaneous enthusiasm but rather of the rigorous editing he brought to bear on himself and everyone around him. When I first visited the Neighborhood 21 years ago, one of his in-house writers, Hedda Sharapan, told me what had happened when he’d enlisted her to write a manual intended to teach doctors how to talk to children. She worked hard on it, using all her education and experience in the field of child development, but when she handed him her opening, he crossed out what she’d written and replaced it with six words: “You were a child once too.” . . .

Continue reading. There’s much more.

Written by LeisureGuy

7 November 2019 at 1:22 pm

What, after all, is art?

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I’ve been having a number of art-related discussions lately, and I’ve encountered again how often people have the idea that art is external to themselves. Let’s stick with paintings for now.

The art of the painting depends heavily on the viewer’s knowledge and understanding. The painting presents ideas visually. A lecture presents ideas in speech. Both demand that the viewer/listener have the appropriate cultural knowledge and tools to grasp what is being communicated or the communication fails.

People who view (say) a Jackson Pollack painting without understanding anything of the context and intent and cultural issues will get no more out of it than will the typical American listening to a talk given in Mandarin. The talk may be full of excellent ideas, intricate wordplay, clever allusions to classical Chinese literature, and so on, but to the American who knows nothing of the Mandarin language and Chinese history and culture, it will just be a steam of odd vocal noises. The fault there is not in the speaker, but in the lack of knowledge in the listener.

The same is true of the painting. “Beauty is in the eye of beholder” speaks directly to the beholder’s role: what the beholder actually perceives are light rays reflected from oil paint applied to canvase. The meaning, the beauty, the ideas: those the beholder constructs by combining the visual stimulus with his or her cultural knowledge and experience.

Magritte’s famous painting speaks explicitly to this issue. That is not a pipe. It is oil paint on a canvas. The “pipe” exists in the viewer’s interpretation of the light reflected from that paint. And this particular work of art can be appreciated without the depth of cultural knowledge that (say) Jackson Pollack’s work require because this is representational — but it is also art because it places a demand on the viewer’s understanding, something that decoration does not attempt. Decoration aims to please the eye, art demands some work and though (and knowledge of context and cultural history).

That being said, let me highly recommend the Martin Scorsese documentary Picasso and Braque Go to the Movies. The movie provides the context for a series of paintings and is extremely interesting.

Written by LeisureGuy

4 November 2019 at 10:51 am

Posted in Art, Movies & TV

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