So there I was, watching the movie Argo about the six Americans escaping Khomeini's Iran in 1978 in the aftermath of the embassy takeover and subsequent hostage situation. None other than the mighty Ben Affleck is the hero of the movie. Ahem. Otherwise it's a great movie. I mean, he hasn't changed his stone-dumb facial expression since 2003's stinker Gigli with J-Lo. Be that as it may... When the plot really started kicking in, when the idea of pretending to be making a science-fiction movie in Iran to smuggle out the six, Led Zeppelin's "When The Levee Breaks" comes on. It doesn't work. In the song, the levee is breaking or about to; in the movie, the tension was just being set up. Wrong. A bit later in an outdoor, sunny, pool-side Los Angeles mogul scene, with John Goodman doing a slimy L.A. film producer as fellow-cine-snake Alan Arkin and he schemed to get Affleck and his 'actors' out alive, on came a Van Halen tune. That worked. The energy was interesting. But the flow of the movie was jarringly marred by the Zep choice. Worse than Affleck's cast-iron face. Now, did a show ever do its music better than the The Sopranos? I think not. I've always marveled at David Chase's music picks. I just watched a couple of early seasons and was knocked out by Chase's choices: the Otis Redding song when Christopher was shot by the junior gangsters; the haunting opera when Pussy Bonpensiero cried on the toilet, wired by the Feds, as he just hugged A.J. telling him how wonderful his father was, realizing he was also setting him up for life imprisonment; the Keith Richards tune closing out "Bust Out" which showed Tony's victims dealing with how he left them broken as his family celebrated Meadow's graduation. Brilliant, really. Same with Quentin Tarantino's Django Unchained, particularly the weird French tune used when DiCaprio's house servants were setting the dinner table in unison, a strange choreography of movement and song that worked magnificently. And even the Jim Croce tune during Django's murderous apprenticeship learning the bounty hunter trade in the mountains in the winter. Yes, Jim Croce. As the late great Bernard Herrmann said in an interview at the end of one of his compilation CDs, nobody knows why certain music works and why it doesn't. But when it does work, it heightens and deepens the artistic experience and in a way, you cannot make a false step. It takes some kind of super special emotional/musical intuition to make it work. Put it this way, you really notice it when it doesn't, probably more so than when it does. Which is why I am such a picky bastard 'cuz nobody's gonna pick the wrong song for the soundtrack of my life. And when I do put on something that isn't what my demanding infant inside wants, I have inner hell to pay. Goddam whiny invisible brat--when I hear music I don't wanna hear I get instant psychic diaper rash and it is a bitch! But the kid wants what the kid wants. So let the kid have it. Keep the peace. Maybe I'll get a job someday puttin' music to drama. *************************************** Hey, look, I don't sit around arguing politics all day with people when they come into the store. I don't have to. In the last few weeks I've had some real unsolicited doozies come my way. Let's just say maybe I've got that kind of political bartender kind of face or charisma and customers feel the need or get the impression they're with a fellow traveler, so by all means, let loose the liberal lions. But as this guy was buying some CD, I can't remember what it was, and we were talking about spoken word stuff, Jack Kerouac's name came up. Now, I'm neither a Kerouac fan nor a detractor. And I had his 4-CD box set for a while and did like his work with jazz saxophonist Zoot Sims, where Jack would read a line of his Beat poetry and Zoot would answer with an improvised line of sax. It was cool. Really cool. Yet as I told the fellow about it, he made a grimaced face like he'd swallowed poison and said, "I'd never buy an album by that fascist!" Jack Kerouac a fascist?!? Genuinely a bit stunned but hiding it, I asked, "Oh, how do you figure?", as I bagged his purchase and gave him his change. "He voted for Goldwater!" Ah, yes, the great spiritual son of Mussolini, Barry Goldwater, who once said "The income tax created more criminals than any other single act of government," and "Hubert Humphrey talks so fast that listening to him is like trying to read Playboy with your wife turning the pages."That Barry Goldwater. Sigh. So one of the great American modern writers of the 20th century who exercised his right as an American to vote for a Republican later widely acknowledged as one conservatism's greater thinkers and founders is a political anti-Christ, a fascist, the ultimate smear. A man for whom entire generations were inspired by one of the great odes to youth, freedom and exploration of the American post-war psyche, “On the Road.” Sigh. I didn't even bother to register a slight protest. But you know the country has officially lost its mind when Jack Kerouac is denounced at your local record store for voting the, ahem, fascist ticket. The last time the weather was nice--last year, ow--I was sitting on the store's sidewalk speaker reading a newspaper with an interesting story about the budget negotiations, such as they were, between Boehner and Ryan and Obama and the White House. Certain details Ryan had come up with were pretty goddam reasonable, I thought, and the more I read the more I realized most people have no clue what actually is being talked about between the heads of both parties. A lady acquaintance came up and asked me what I was reading, as Booker T and the MG's oozed out from under my perch. I told her, mentioning Boehner's name and she instantly mocked him with a character smear about his public emotionalism. Done. Nothing about the not-so-arcane talks on how to designate our financial priorities, or our catastrophic debt (and spending), or the need to boost the economy or our insane tax code. I raised my eyebrows, sighed and said something to the effect of, uh, he didn't cry during the meeting from what I've read so far and "Is that the best you can do?" She ended the short conversation with, "That's why I hate talking politics." So, we ain't talking to each other these days, are we? We're smearing, we're power-playing, we're abusing each other's best efforts. We are, in our own way, a version of the Middle East. Yeah, you read it right. I think we have a good chance of ending up alright but I don't know. Civilization and democracy are sturdy but fragile. No one, however, saw us in the situation we we're in back in '08. Is anything better? Where are the great American problem-solvers? Or does the war between the opposites really have to play out 'til both sides are exhausted and then, then someone waltzes to the podium and speaks like a uniter, a giver, a cajoler, an inspirer, a discipliner, a hoper. Because frankly I feel us moving spiritually into the blase malaise of '70s territory, between Watergate and the Great Reagan Rescue of the '80s, with a lost decade in between. Apparently it has to be that way. When Jack Kerouac is dissed as a fascist in a record store, when a political 'conversation' lasts less than 30 seconds, when even a five-year farm bill spends a trillion dollars we'll borrow from the Chinese on farmers who don't need the converted yen and food stamps for obese types who need to go on a diet, well, yes, while the extremists prevent thoughtful understanding the crony capitalists are gang-banging every last dollar out of the hen house it can. We're fucked and we're to blame. *********************************************************************************** Do you think the Pixies will be any good this Friday night at the LC Pavilion? Will Black Francis look severely middle-aged? Will they play the good shit? I'll bet the intensity will still be there, that indeed, nobody's monkey has gone to heaven. In a way, the older a band gets the more they have to prove--to us, to themselves, to their creditors. Because I've never seen the Stones just do it for the money (though the Steel Wheels tour was pretty lifeless) and I thought the Police a few years ago were playing as if their lives depended on it. I'm just wondering--does anybody care about the Smashing Pumpkins anymore? *********************************************************************************** Nine seconds--that's how much time I spent on the Super Bowl. And that was a month ago, as I scanned the sports page to see if any of the following words were in the line-up: Browns, Steelers, Packers. My Brownies, of course, were out of the race practically before it'd begun; the Steelers whom I deeply hate but love secretly because Pittsburgh is really just Cleveland with crazy hills and fewer Slovenians; and of course, the greatest old-school NFL team of them all, the Green Bay Packers. Nevertheless, it sounds like Bruno Mars won the whole night. I'm gonna have to check him out on Dude Tube or whatever it is. You can have the Chili Peppers. Never did like 'em, though when they played Stache's about 400 years ago with original guitarist Hillel I dug their energy. After he kicked the heroin bucket, they didn't mean squat. Our own R.C. Mob smoked 'em. Regularly. And always. *********************************************************************************** Speaking of speakers irritating Ohio State University, when in the hell is the School of Jazz gonna let Craig McMullen, Columbus's own guitarist who ran off with The Impressions when he was a wee lad and then went with Curtis Mayfield on his solo career (Superfly soundtrack--that's Craig, plus a number of other Curtis milestone tracks as well as a subsequent two-decade career playing on major R'n'B and jazz records and tours). When is Craig Mac gonna get to host some kind of special three-hour seminar or something perhaps called What The Music Biz Is Really Like? Whenever I hang around the man, who never doesn't drop some kind of stone cold little pearl of life wisdom and always applicable to the nearly-sacred artistic endeavor of making music in America. C'mon, Mr. Wallace--give this man a podium, some power point gear and his own buffet! And let the kids learn from a pro who has been there and has the royalty statements to prove it!