Caught Out in the Rain

So I went to the bus station to pick up my young friend Victoria who was travelling from Nashville back to Louisville. It was about  8:00  in the evening on a cool spring night. It wasn’t quite dark yet.

Since we were downtown we thought it would be a good idea to have drinks at the 21C Hotel bar.

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I drove the six blocks or so to the the hotel and parked out on the street. 21C was a favorite of ours. We really weren’t dressed for the place but in Louisville that didn’t really matter.

We entered through the restaurant and made our way to the bar and sat on a couch on the rear wall.

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“Just like being in our own living room,” I remarked.

“Yeah, but better because of the people watching,” she said.

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I ordered a Jack and soda and she had a Rum Coco. Something she had started drinking since she came back from Cuba a couple of months ago.

We had our drinks and some nice conversation about her latest trip to Missouri. She went there with her mother and grandmother to visit her uncle who was doing eleven years in the federal penitentiary in Springfield.

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We looked the menu over but we didn’t see anything we wanted to eat so we decide  to go the the Tavern in old Louisville to round out the night and get a late night snack.

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We finished our drinks and walked out through the bar to the restaurant exit out onto  the street. To our surprise it had started raining. It was really coming down and it was a cold rain. We ran the two blocks to car and got soaked. Once we were safely ensconced inside I was huffing and puffing from the exertion.

Victoria ventured, “I’ve never seen you run before.” And she let out a little laugh. 

“Well it is is pretty unusual,” I said. “It doesn’t happen very often.” And I laughed too.

I caught my breath and drove to the Tavern where we had more drinks and shared an order of wings.

On the way there I was put in mind of a song I like by Beth Hart: Caught Out in the Rain.

Here it is. Hope you enjoy it.

A STAR IS BORN

A Stra is Born

Who needs another remake? It turns out we do. As a rule, I generally eschew remakes. In this case I made an exception. The trailer looked good so I gave it a chance. And friends, I am glad I did. This film is fresh and original in its interpretation. Bradley Cooper proves himself an adept director and makes a lot of smart choices in the presentation of this material. Lady Gaga is a wonder. The thing about Gaga for me has been she always wears a mask and we never get to see the real person behind the persona. Here we do. A very satisfying portrayal of an insecure character with a lot of personality and a load of talent.

Bradley Cooper is very good as the alcoholic country rock star who is in decline and fighting his own demons. The chemistry between the stars is palpable and their love story believable.

I liked the camera work and the production values are superb. It’s not an unqualified success, but Bradley Cooper hits this one out of the ball park. Two thumbs way up!

Elevator to the Gallows (1958)

Movie Blurb

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Elevator to the Gallows (1958) is Louis Malle’s first feature film. A French Noir and an early entry into the New wave. Excellent entertainment that touches on several societal issues and displaying a gorgeous black and white portrait of Paris from the 1950s. Sizzling performance by Jeanne Moreau and a killer sound track by Miles Davis. There is absolutely nothing not to like here. Highly recommend!

 

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Jeanne Moreau

Maurice Elevator

Maurice Ronet

Jeanne Moreau

Jeanne Moreau

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Jeanne Moreau

The Maids (1975)

Review

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The Maids (1975)

Glenda Jackson and Susanna York

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Susanna York

The Maids is a film based on the Gene Genet play of the same name. It is a film about a sad-masochistic relationship between the maids and their employer. It is about role playing, the nature of reality, and class distinctions. It is one of those things that to fully appreciate you had to be there. In other words, to see the live performance of the actors Glenda Jackson and Susanna York, which were electrifying. The whole thing seemed a bit dated and stultifying to me as time has eroded some of its shock value. Still a valuable contribution to the cinema.

Austin City Saloon

Review

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The Austin City Saloon, located in the heart of beautiful downtown Corbin, Kentucky, is a pretty cool place to eat. Just opened. Hostess one of those beautiful Kentucky girls you hear so much about with long blonde tresses that fell to the small of her back. A million dollar smile and tight blue jeans. Step this way she purred as she strutted her way among the tables in her high heeled cowboy boots. Food was good but the service was slow and the country music was so loud you couldn’t think. But I did call my hostess over a time or two for a little tete-e-tete which took away all the pain. Bottom line. Yep, I’d go back.

Yojimbo (1961)

Movie Review

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Before there was Kevin Costner there was Toshiro Mifune, who stars in Akira Kurasawa’s Yojimbo (Bodyguard). Kurasawa intentionally made his film using all the western tropes of the Western. Then Sergio Leone copied Kurasawa and made A Fist Full of Dollars starring the man with no name, Clint Eastwood. Walter Hill had a go at it too with his Last Man Standing with Bruce Willis. But this is the original and is Kurasawa’s masterpiece.

Toshiro Mifune

Toshiro Mifune as Sanjuro, the Ronin Samuari

Dog Yojimbo

The first thing the ronin samurai Sanjuro sees when he arrives in town is a dog trotting down the main street with a human hand in its mouth. This sets the tone of the movie. I have seen this image before. Once in the David Lynch film, Wild at Heart, and once at the Houston Museum of Fine Arts in a medieval painting from Europe. The images are too strikingly similar to be coincidental.

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Sanjuro learns from the innkeeper that the town is divided between two gangsters, he hires on as a body guard first to one then the other of the gangs and plays one side off against the other in order to ultimately free the town from their malignant influence.

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Beautifully photographed in his inimitable style in glorious black and white. Two thumbs way up!

The Act of Killing (2012)

The act of Killing

Movie Review

The Act of Killing is a documentary type of film that depicts former Indonesian death squad members reenacting their real life mass killings from the 1960’s. These older gangsters were encouraged to choose their own film genre in which to reenact these murders. The film was directed by Joshua Oppenheimer and Anonymous.  I found it very interesting that much of the rest of the crew was listed as Anonymous. The executive producers of the film were Werner Herzog and Errol Morris.

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The resulting effect of the multiple genres chosen by the older gangsters was quite surreal and jarring. These gang members were common thugs who were influenced by American movies like Scarface and The Godfather. They imitated their movie heroes such as Al Pacino and Marlon Brando. The word “gangster” was said to be the Indonesian word for “free man.”

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Many of the gangsters admitted the killings were wrong and some suffered from gruesome nightmares from the past killings. But some did not think what they did was wrong since they were never held accountable and were even praised for what they did and still receive praise to this day. They killed with impunity Chinese, communists, and whoever opposed the authoritarian regime of General Suharto. In one particularly chilling scene, a gang member describes destroying a village and raping its inhabitants, saying 14 year old girls were the best.

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A riveting and telling documentary some are calling a masterpiece is a must see film about events most people have either forgotten or have never heard about: the genocide of upwards of 1,000,000 people in Indonesia on the 1960’s.  This film is a grim reminder of the evil that lurks in men’s hearts and of the banality of evil that allows such horrific events to occur.

 

 

Concentration Camps

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Representative Alexandria Occasion-Cortez, of New York, recently called the U.S. detention camps for migrants “concentration camps.” She caused quite a stir by so saying. I have been saying the same thing for months. I feel that it is a complete moral outrage for the American government to detain these men, women, and children in these camps.

Now we are arguing over the terminology. In my view a thing ought to be called what it is. And these camps are clearly concentration camps. The meet the technical definition. Historian Andrea Pitzer has made the same assertion in her piece in Esquire magazine: “The United States has created a concentration system.” She argues that mass detention of civilians without a trail was what made these concentration camps.  The full text of AOC’s tweet reads as follows: “This administration has established concentration camps on the southern border of the United States, for immigrants, where they are being brutalized with dehumanizing conditions and dying. This is not hyperbole. It is the conclusion of expert analysis.”

Strange bedfellows Liz Cheney and Bill Maher condemned the remarks as being emotionally laden with memories and connotations of the holocaust. Masha Gessen, writing in the New Yorker, says this is a failure of imagination. We don’t’ want or cannot imagine a world where we as a people would be evil enough to place human beings in the same predicament as the Nazis did in WWII. Well, I agree with Green and I disagree with Bill Maher. Maher every once in a while, strikes a sour note and sings out of tune. It is surprising coming from a fellow who wears his political incorrectness on his sleeve like a red badge of courage.

These camps meet the technical definition of concentration camps, and so what if it brings up images and memories of the holocaust? It doesn’t devalue it. Rather, it shrieks out a warning, do not go there! It should be a warning that this is what we are capable of, the same thing the Nazis did in WWII. This what Hannah Arendt describes as the banality of evil.

We have to have the moral imagination to realize what we are doing is wrong and can lead to greater evil. We need to make a course correction now!

 

 

A Quiet, Clean, Well-Lighted Place

 

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It was late and everyone had left the café except for me. I was sitting at a sidewalk table in front of the window and could watch the passersby on their way home. A tree sat a few feet from me in a large round pot casting a shadow over the empty table sitting next to it. A slight breeze gently moved the leaves on the tree. There was enough light to read by. I liked to sit late at night in this café and read and drink my whiskey and soda in peace. It was quiet now that all the other customers had left. There only remained two waiters, one old like me and the other young. The younger one seemed impatient to go home. Probably had a wife to go home too. That was not the case for me or I suspect the other waiter.

Last week I attempted suicide.

Why, you may ask?

Loneliness, despair, I don’t know. Just couldn’t stand the pain of going on.

It wasn’t for lack of money. No, no, I have plenty. There just didn’t seem to be any point going on. I was saved at the last minute by my niece who cut me down. I’m not sure she did me any favors.

I noticed out in the street a soldier and a girl walking briskly by. They better get home soon, I thought, or they will be out past curfew and have to pay the price. Hope he gets what he wants.

I signaled the waiter for another drink.

The younger waiter sauntered over.

“What will you have?”

“Another whisky and soda.”

“You’ll be drunk.”

I just looked at him. He went away.

The two waiters were huddled together at a table near the door. They were whispering. Probably talking about me I thought. Probably want me to go. Well, I’m not ready to go.

The waiter went to the bar and poured a shot of Woodford into a tumbler of ice and spritzed it with soda water. He carried the drink outside to where I was sitting. He placed the drink in front of me and said, “You should have killed yourself last week.”

He probably thought I couldn’t hear what he was saying as I am practically deaf. But I hear well enough in a quiet environment.

The waiter went back into café and sat down with his work mate. They began whispering again. Probably think I’m drunk and need to leave, I thought. Oh, well, I’ll stay a little longer and have one more for the road. I had a wife once. She left me long ago.

I like this place. It is clean, well-lighted, and quiet.

I motioned to the waiters for another drink.

“Another whiskey and soda, amigo.”

“No,” the young waiter said. “You’re done. Time to go.”

“Another,” I insisted.

“We are closing now.” He began to wipe the table clean with his towel.

I slowly stood up, looked at the bill he had unceremoniously laid on the table.  I pulled my cash from my pocket and paid the bill, leaving a modest tip.

I walked down the street away from the café slowly, a bit unsteadily, but with as much dignity as I could muster. I could feel the eyes of the two waiters burning a hole in my back. I wasn’t ready to go home yet. I didn’t want to face my dark room and the empty bed. One more drink, I thought. There must be some place open tonight. Only thing was, they would unlikely be as clean and well-lighted or as nice as this last one was. I didn’t want any music. No, I really couldn’t stand to listen to any music. And it would be difficult to stand with dignity in front of a bar. What was it I wanted? Just a clean, quiet, well-lighted place. What was it I had? A whole lot of nothing. I faced a cold void, full of nothing. A darkness. Deliver us from nothingness.

I came to a bar that was open and stood at the counter.

“What will it be?” asked the counter man.

“Nothing. I’ll have a cup of nothing.”

“What, are you crazy, old man?”

I laughed.

“I’ll have shot of Tequila, then. Patron.”

“This is a very bright place you have here,” I said, “and it is very pleasant, but the bar needs cleaning.”

The counterman gave me a look, but did not speak. It was too late to talk.

“You want another shot?” he asked.

“No thanks,” I said and left.  I dislike bars and dirty cafes. A quiet, clean, well-lighted place is a different matter altogether.

Now, I will go home. I will lie in my bed and fall asleep just as the day is breaking. I am probably not the only one who has trouble sleeping, I thought to myself, as I walked the six blocks back to my apartment.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vincent van Gogh: His Life in Art

Museum Exhibition

On a recent trip to Houston, Texas my step daughter Kim and I had occasion to visit the Houston Museum of Fine Arts. This is something I always do when in Houston as the museum here is world class and they always have great exhibitions. This time was no exception. On exhibit, much to our delight, were the paintings of Vincent van Gogh (1853-1890).

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Vincent van Gogh, Self Portrait

This exhibit highlights the artist’s early years in the Netherlands; his luminous period in Paris; his search for light and color in the South of France; and his exploration of nature as a source of enduring inspiration in Saint-Rémy and Auvers.

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Street Scene in Montmartre Le Mpulin a Poivre, Feb.-March 1887

The exhibition showcases portraits, landscapes, and still lifes drawn primarily from the collections of the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam and the Kröller-Müller Museum in Otterlo, the Netherlands.

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In the Cafe: Agostina Segatori in Le Tambourin, January-March 1887

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Basket of Lemons and Bottle, May 1888

The color yellow held a particular fascination for Vincent van Gogh. Experiencing the intense sunlight of the South he once wrote his brother Theo, in Paris, “Sunshine, a light which, for want of a better word I can only call yellow – pale sulfur yellow, pale lemon, gold.”

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Portrait of a Prostitute, December 1885

Van Gogh, who lived with a former prostitute for years in the Hague, was particularly sympathetic to these women cast out by society.

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The Langlois Bridge at Arles, 1888

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Still Life with a Plate of Onions, January 1889

This picture was painted the day after Van Gogh was released from the hospital where he was being treated  for the self inflicted injury to his ear. The book in the painting is a handbook of homeopathic medicine and the envelope belongs to a letter he had received from  from his bother Theo.

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Tarascon Stagecoach (La Diligence de Tarascon), October 1888

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The Sheaf Binder (after Millet), September 1889

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Peasant Woman Binding Sheaves (after Millet), September 1889

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The Good Samaritan (after Delacroix), May 1890

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Portrait of a Peasant Woman in a Straw Hat, June 1890

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Women Crossing the Fields, 1890

Van Gogh had seen these women walking and described them in a letter to his brother Theo just a month before he died. It was in one of these Auvers wheat fields that he shot himself with a revolver on July 27, 1890.

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Farmhouse with Two Figures, 1890

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Irises, May 1980

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A Pair of Leather Clogs, autumn 1889

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Tree Trunks with Ivy, July 1889

Feeling to weak to live Van Gogh checked himself into The Saint-Paul-de-Mausole mental hospital at St. Remy. in May 1889. He was allowed to paint out of doors, but was confined to the garden of the hospital where he painted several versions of this sous-bois of tree trunks and undergrowth.

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The Garden of the Asylum at Saint-Remy, May 1889

There is little doubt that Vincent was a talented genius and a tortured soul. These  magnificent master works are on display for all to see at the Houston Museum of Fine Arts through June 27.