Mitch Blum

Destroyer of Words

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Album Review: Trigger Hippy (2013)

November 22nd, 2013 · Music, Pop Culture

In his cooking memoir “Heat” Bill Bruford writes about legendary late-night dinners in New York City, where accomplished chefs would cook for each other and drink, smoke and tell war stories until the break of dawn. With no customers to cater to and no critics to sway the Chefs were free to just do their thing. They could experiment. They could impress their peers. They could fail. But most importantly, they could remember when the art of cooking was their passion, before it became their life, their business and their master.

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In today’s modern music scene, too many “artists” are using music as a means to an end. They want the fame. They want the money. But they don’t care about the song.

The song is all that should matter! The song that reflects our past, defines our present, and provides a signpost to the future. The song has nothing to do with genre or success and everything to do with sincerity and human expression. The song is why we love music.

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Individually the members of Trigger Hippy have nothing to prove.

Founder Steve Gorman helped to propel The Black Crowes to the top of the charts, produced one of the greatest rock albums ever (“The Southern Harmony and Musical Companion”) and proved himself to be one of the few living drummers capable of holding John Bonham’s sticks.

His partner in rhythm Nick Govrik is the band’s secret weapon, a funky bassist who writes songs that stop you cold and demand your attention.

Singer Joan Osborne burst on the scene by adding an entry to the Great American Songbook (“One of Us”), and then proceeded to bring her strong soulful voice to a variety of styles and songs. Whether originals or covers, Joan brings it every time, usually improving upon the template. And then she became a part of the Grateful Dead family and resurrected the long-neglected Pigpen blues tunes, literally blowing everyone’s minds and expectations.

Jackie Greene does it all. He can play anything with strings, plus keys and harp. He’s an amazing songwriter (cue up “Love Song; 2:00 am” sometime) but best of all is that voice. To listen to Jackie sing is to realize how rare truly brilliant rock singers are. His voice is smooth, it’s strong, it’s expressive, it’s soulful and it’s sweet.

Lead guitarist Tom Bukovac is a classic “you don’t know him but you’ve definitely heard him” guy. A musician’s musician, Tom is the hottest session player in the business, winning industry award after award, while staying in the shadows. His work with Trigger Hippy will shine some richly-deserved light on his skills.

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With the Record Store Day release of their self-titled debut, Trigger Hippy makes a great first impression. While only containing four songs (all originals) the EP shows many facets of the band while hinting at future possibilities and leaving us desperate for more.

The lead single “Turpentine” kicks things off with the band’s signature – the twin vocals of Joan & Jackie. Listening to them makes you wonder why more bands don’t explore the male/female vocal combination. Joan and Jackie blend together magnificently and the possibilities are endless. The song itself is a fun, upbeat tune with guitars both crunchy and ringing and a trippy summertime vibe. Best of all, you can hear plenty of space for this tune to explode in a live setting.

Next up is “Heartache on the Line” which is a gorgeous ballad. Even with a slow dance the band flexes its muscles, with Gorman hitting hard, a soulful organ, and layers of sounds that build into a cohesive whole. Of course Jackie & Joan deliver another stellar vocal performance.

Things get a little funkier with “Pocahantas”, which has a little “Trampled Underfoot” vibe going on and short but effective guitar and keyboard solos in the middle.

Closing out the set is “Ain’t Persuaded Yet” a bluesy story-song that really lets Joan and the rhythm section shine. Nick lays down a sweet bass line, Gorman thunders and the guitar very subtly steps back to create an ominous atmosphere.

All four tracks are great and will garner multiple listens. Based on my own predilection for weepy country-rockers, “Heartache on the Line” will be in heavy rotation. I can’t hear that song enough, which is always the true sign of success for me.

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For a new band Trigger Hippy exudes an astonishing level of confidence and polish. There’s no holding back and no half-measures. They just go for it on every song. It’s the type of music that works as pleasant background music but also rewards careful listening. Focusing on the individual parts reveals just how perfectly constructed these tunes are, how they come together with intent and purpose.

I’m excited to see where Trigger Hippy takes us next. The blues as a genre has long been dormant, with much celebration of the past but little innovation. Yet here’s a blues band that is changing the formula by adding soulful voices, a funky bass, and a drummer that swings to the expected guitar virtuosity.

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In my mind there are musicians gathered around a table, late at night after the gig’s over and the fans have gone home, sharing a meal, a drink and a smoke and talking about music. Not about their careers, but about their passion, their inspiration and their ideas. They’re excited about music and remembering why they walked down such a crazy path in the first place. And at that table are Steve, Jackie, Joan, Nick & Tom, dreaming up a vision for Trigger Hippy, a band built on passion, love and mutual respect.

(By the way, I’m also at that table, spreading good vibes. Hey, it’s my dream after all).

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15 Deadwood Actors Who Found Work at FX

October 18th, 2013 · Kibbitzing About TV, Pop Culture

David Milch’s Deadwood is one of the great TV dramas of the new Golden Age of Television. Running on HBO from 2004-2006 the show resurrected the Western genre through beautiful visuals, excellent writing, memorable characters and masterful cursing. But more than just being a classic show, Deadwood has served a far greater purpose as a virtual casting pool for FX.

1) Timothy Olyphant starred as Sheriff Seth Bullock…

"I hated Skyler White long before everyone else"

…only to become Marshall Raylan Givens on Justified

"I'll trim the 'stache, but I'm keeping the hat"

2) Ian McShane played the incomparable Al Swearengen…

"Don't call me Swidgen"

…before crazy-ing it up as Leigh Emerson on American Horror Story

"I've still got that Lovejoy mullet"

3) W. Earl Brown was loyal underling Dan Dority…

"Sigh, more blood to clean up"

…long before he was fugitive Cal Wallace on Justified

"I'll be back in the future with less hair"

…or Phil Critter on American Horror Story

"Yeah, that's me in the dark"

4) Paula Malcomson was Trixie the hooker with the heart of gold…

"Sol Star left me for the big screen"

…before returning to her native Ireland as Maureen Ashby on Sons of Anarchy

"Don't blame me for that shitty season"

5) Dayton Collie was deep-voiced messenger Charlie Utter…

"Aw, Jane, let me clean you up"

…before becoming Chief Wayne Unser on Sons of Anarchy

"Aw, Gemma, let me clean you up"

6) Robin Weigert was a mess as Calamity Jane…

"Anyone up for a drink?"

…before a quick guest spot as Cynthia Potter on American Horror Story

"No screengrabs for guest stars"

…and a recurring role as lawyer Ally Lowan on Sons of Anarchy

"Surprisingly, bikers are cleaner than prospectors"

7) Sean Bridgers was sweet, dumb Johnny Burns…

"I like working at the Gem"

…until he made the inevitable guest appearance on Justified as Virgil Corum

"I miss working at the Gem"

8) The great Jim Beaver was the most honorable Mr. Whitney Ellsworth…

"What you see is what you get"

…until he became Sheriff Shelby Parlow on Justified

"What you see is not what you get"

10) Kim Dickens played Madame Joanie Stubbs…

"I have a smaller hat under this hat"

…and parlayed that role into Madame Collette Jane on Sons of Anarchy

"Okay, maybe I look better without the hat"

11) Titus Welliver played creepy Silas Adams…

"One day I'll pass for Irish"

…before getting his Irish on as IRA boss Jimmy O’Phelan on Sons of Anarchy

"At least my fake accent is better than Jax's"

12) Peter Jason was Con Stapleton…

"I borrowed Joanie's hat"

…until he called old buddy Tim Olyphant for a spot as Owen Carnes on Justified

"No screengrab for me"

13) Who could forget Keone Young as Mr. Wu?

"SWIDGEN!!!"

…not Sons of Anarchy, who cast him as crime boss Bohai Lin

"Feed him to the hogs, Wu"

14-15) Garrett Dillahunt played two different roles on Deadwood – Jack McCall…

"I went to the lazy eye school of acting"

…and Francis Wolcott…

"Yup, same actor, different guy"

…before appearing on Damages as Marshall Phillips

"You might also recognize me from Raising Hope"

In other words, Timothy Olyphant is an actor’s best friend.


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Handicapping the 2013 ALCS, Private Investigator-Style

October 11th, 2013 · Kibbitzing About TV, Pop Culture, Sports

Today the internet will be bursting with sabermetricians breaking down this year’s ALCS, where the phoenix-like Boston Red Sox will take on the comeback Tigers from Detroit.

So while others will be discussing how many starts Justin Verlander will be able to make or whether Xander Bogaerts will ever get to pinch hit for Stephen Drew*, I wanted to focus on a less-visible but perhaps more important method for handicapping the series, namely, which team is represented by the better fictional private investigator.

(* Side note: Is Stephen Drew a masochist or is he just trolling Red Sox nation? Who in their right mind signs with the same team that their brother played for, after their brother was viciously ripped apart by the media and fans for 5 years? Aside from his playoff grand slam JD Drew was reviled in Boston. His biggest sin? Being perceived as an underachiever, the absolute worst crime in Boston, a town that values over-achieving dirt dogs who slap on the stirrups no matter how injured they are. Most shocking is that Stephen is wearing the SAME NUMBER 7 that JD wore. I vote troll. Well done, Stephen.)

SPENSER FOR HIRE (BOSTON) VS. MAGNUM, P.I. (DETROIT)

First, a little background:

Magnum, P.I. was a popular CBS television show that starred Tom Selleck as Thomas Magnum. Magnum lived and worked on Robin Masters’ estate in Hawaii, ostensibly as the head of security, but most episodes featured him taking on side gigs, usually to save a damsel in distress. Magnum was famous for his glorious moustache, his impossibly short khaki shorts, his Hawaiian shirts and his signature Detroit Tigers cap. The show ran for 8 seasons, 162 episodes in total, and averaged about 17mm weekly viewers. Selleck won an Emmy for his portrayal of the charismatic Viet Nam vet.

Spenser: For Hire was a television series based on the popular novels by the late Robert B. Parker. Robert Urich played Spenser, the tough yet intellectual detective who used his fists, his gun and his wits to thwart the local mob, random toughies and anyone who threatened underprivileged children. The television series only ran for 3 seasons, 66 episodes in total, and was cancelled due to the high cost of shooting on location in Boston. (4 TV movies starring Joe Mantegna were also produced). The Spenser book series was much more successful, with 40 books published until the 2010 death of author Robert B. Parker (who was probably murdered by someone from Detroit).

DEVOTION TO TEAM

Magnum is consistently portrayed as an avid Tigers fans, which was his grandfather’s favorite team. His favorite player was Al Kaline. However, it was also revealed that as a child he rooted for the Washington Senators. Living in Hawaii, Magnum doesn’t attend or watch any Tigers games. Even though Robin Masters is a billionaire he was apparently too cheap to spring for the MLB Extra Innings Package.

Spenser is a diehard Sox fan. He frequently references players both past and present. His listens to Sox games in the car, commenting on the announcers. He is constantly watching and talking about the Sox. Red Sox games and Fenway Park are occasionally featured in the mysteries. In many ways, the Red Sox are one of the key localizing elements of the Spenser series.

This one is an easy call…Magnum’s obviously a pink hat.

ADVANTAGE: SPENSER/RED SOX

SIDEKICKS/FRIENDLY ADVERSARIES

Now we’re talking.

On the one hand, Magnum hangs with Rick, who is not nearly as cool as he thinks he is. On the other hand, Magnum also hangs with TC, who is amazing. Plus, TC has a bad-ass chopper, painted in the exact same brown and orange color scheme as my childhood kitchen in the 70s. Magnum’s friendly adversary is Higgins, a prissy Brit who likes to dress like Bwana Jim with his pants pulled all the way up to his nipples.

Spenser has the coolest sidekick of all time, Hawk. Hawk was tough, Hawk was cool, Hawk kept it real. He was great with a shotgun and even better with the ladies. To be honest, I’m getting a little verklempt just thinking about Hawk, who was so great he got his own spin-off show.

Spenser’s friendly adversaries were Belson and Quirk from the Boston PD. While amusing enough (they had an Unger-Madison thing going on) they weren’t as important as Higgins.

So while Higgins bests Belson & Quirk, Hawk easily takes TC & Rick, chopper be damned.

ADVANTAGE: SPENSER/RED SOX

STYLE/SEXINESS

Spenser is pretty non-descript. When not working out at the boxing gym he likes to wear jeans, tee shirts and a leather jacket. He also dons a Red Sox cap when working undercover or battling the elements. While Robert Urich was an attractive man, Spenser is also portrayed as being more charismatic than handsome, with the face and hands of an ex-boxer.

Magnum was the epitome of 80s sexiness. Shakespeare would have written sonnets about that thick, luxurious moustache of his. He also contradicts one of Homer Simpson’s most famous aphorisms (“There’s only two kinds of guys who wear Hawaiian shirts: gay guys and big fat party animals.”)

Obviously we’ve got to give this one to Magnum. They even named plus-sizes condoms after him, for God’s sake.

ADVANTAGE: MAGNUM/TIGERS

CARS

Magnum had unlimited access to his boss Robin Masters’ bright red Ferrari, obviously a show-stopper of a car. The only thing young boys dream of more than having a thick moustache is driving a Ferrari.

Spenser, while not driving a Ferrari, drives a sweet ‘66 Ford Mustang, reportedly as homage to Steve McQueen.

Now, while this one might seem like a home run for Magnum, let’s really think about it for a second. They’re private eyes. They need to tail suspects. In a loud, bright red Ferrari. Why don’t you just drive an ice cream truck blaring “Turkey in the Straw”, Magnum?

ADVANTAGE: SPENSER/RED SOX

CULTURAL RELEVANCE/SOCIAL ISSUES

Magnum was the first TV show to sensitively portray Viet Nam veterans in the years immediately following the fall of Saigon. While the media tended to portray Viet Nam vets as dangerous or unstable, Magnum and his buddies were deeply affected by the war but successfully reintegrated into society. Score one for Magnum.

Spenser was also a veteran (of the Korean War) but the show didn’t really contain any commentaries on war; However, the show did examine race relations through the friendship of Spenser and Hawk, against the backdrop of Boston. That’s pretty ballsy.

Culturally, Magnum is probably a better-known figure, benefitting from the longevity and popularity of the show. Plus, Magnum is a kick-ass Halloween costume. I do wonder if awareness of Magnum is starting to recede, as the show isn’t really something the kids are binge-watching on Netflix.

Spenser is probably a more enduring character as the book series is far-reaching and well-respected. Spenser books are still being written even after the death of Robert B., proving that people in airports across the country are still looking for breezy tales of investigators who drink three beers with every lunch and half a bottle of scotch each night.

ADVANTAGE: TIE

CONCLUSION

In a clear, decisive victory, Spenser takes Magnum down 3-1-1, virtually guaranteeing a win for the Boston Red Sox. Plus, it’s 2013: beards are much cooler than moustaches.

Thanks for reading. Enjoy the series!

[By the way, I’ve written about Magnum before. Click here to read: “Magnum, P.I.’s Short Shorts and the Golden Age of Television”]

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False Duality & the Three Endings of ‘Breaking Bad’

October 1st, 2013 · Kibbitzing About TV, Pop Culture

For the last several seasons of Breaking Bad we’ve been living with a false duality: is the real Walter White the emasculated genius Walter Hartwell White or the cunning criminal mastermind Heisenberg?

With each successive immoral decision the scales tipped further in Heisenberg’s favor, culminating in the memorable scene of Walter lying on the ground in ‘Crawlspace’, having lost his money, seemingly having lost his mind, and visually framed as if in a coffin. It was presumed to symbolize the final death of Walter White and the permanent ascension of Heisenberg.

As the series finale “Felina” demonstrated, in actuality neither persona was the real Walter White. Both were merely masks: Heisenberg as the confident id who could bend reality to his will and Walter White as the subsumed ego, who swallowed his immense anger and pride in order to survive as an unremarkable family man.

The real Walter White was the same Walter White that we always knew: a toxic blend of genius and hubris, a master liar whose greatest victim was himself.

Walter White’s original sin, the fuel that powered Heisenberg, was the false belief that he was doing it for his family. This is the lie that allowed the Heisenberg persona to commit awful acts while retaining his innate Walter Whiteness. Immoral acts powered by a moral justification.

It was only when Walter White lost his moral justification that he was no longer able to tap into the power and confidence of Heisenberg. The death of Hank in “Ozymandias” crossed his one indelible line, as his actions directly led to the death of family (even if he temporarily blamed Jesse) and the rejection from his son Flynn in “Granite State” robbed him of his motivation.

Another feint: the show was always pitched as the transformation of Mr. Chips into Scarface. But while Walter’s actions changed the person never did. He was always just Walter White.

(Walter) White + black (Hat) = Grey (Matter)

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The biggest surprise in “Felina”, however, wasn’t the reveal of the inner workings of Walter White/Heisenberg. The real shock was the fact that the bad guys won in the end.

Breaking Bad has always been a moral universe – meaning that bad people were punished for their immoral actions. Even people who appeared to be innocent (Hank, Andrea) ended up dying due to their association with the blue meth (both were unwitting financial beneficiaries of the drug empire). This held true for about 60 episodes.

And then Walt and Jesse got away with it.

In reality, Jesse was a drug dealer and a thief. He killed Gale. Yes, he was full of remorse. Yes, he was more lovable than any Ed Hardy-wearing punk should be. But he was still a bad guy, who we cheered as he choked the life out of Todd and made his getaway. Score 1 for the immoral universe.

Walter was the devil. He committed unspeakable acts in service to his pride and ego. In the end he was able to enact revenge upon all of his (past and present) enemies, get the drug money to his family, reconcile with Skyler, say goodbye to his daughter, take the off-brand blue meth off the market, and get his family out of legal jeopardy while giving Marie closure for Hank’s death. Most importantly, he got to die on his own terms, by his own hand, and in the arms of his one true love (the lab), just like the song says. Score 2 for the immoral universe.

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I actually think the series could have ended after any of the last 3 episodes, with each one imparting a different meaning for Walter’s story.

“Felina” was the “redemption” ending, where all the pieces came together as planned and the bad guy gets away with it. In shows where the protagonist is an anti-hero happy endings are usually satisfying, as viewers identify with the anti-hero and want them to win. But what does this ending mean? It appears that the show is saying that Walter succeeds in the end as a reward for his finally being honest about his intentions. That once he embraced reality (instead of trying to define reality) he could go out on his own terms.

“Granite State” was the “purgatory” ending, where the protagonist gets away with the crime, but loses everything they hold dear and is left with nothing but regret and self-reflection. The scene of Walter, powerless, paying the disappearerer $10,000 for a game of cards would have been a perfect return to the powerless, emasculated Walter from the pilot. He started cooking meth when he thought he had nothing to lose only to realize that he had much more than he thought, but he was too bitter and blind to see it.

“Ozymandias” was the “everyone dies” ending, where the protagonist finally meets his match. There would have been some elegance to this ending, where Walter the genius – who bested Gus the meticulous crime lord – is brought down by a gang of sloppy, remorseless Nazis. This would have been the scientific ending – that once you start an experiment you lose control of the reaction.

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So, as it turns out, a show about Mr. Chips turning into Scarface wasn’t really about transformation. And a show about hard science turned out to be about spiritual redemption. Go figure.

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Kibbitzing about TV: Breaking Bad “Blood Money” (S5E9)

August 12th, 2013 · Kibbitzing About TV, Pop Culture

Breaking Bad creator Vince Gilligan has long described Breaking Bad as a show about the transformation of Mr. Chips into Scarface. The reality, however, is that Scarface was there the whole time, lurking underneath Mr. Chip’s mild-mannered exterior. The drivers of Walter White’s behavior – arrogance, bitterness and hubris – have clearly existed from the Grey Matter days. It’s the viewer’s perception of Walt that is changing, not Walt himself.

Of course, the Scarface transformation happened long ago. You can pick your cataclysmic moment: was it when he watched Jane die? When he set-up Hank? When he pulled the Godfather move on Mike’s guys? (Sorry about the dropped oranges, Carol.) So what’s left for the show after all of the chemical transformations have occurred?

Resolution. And that’s what made this season’s premiere so enjoyable. The cold open flash-forward picked up where last season’s premiere left off: with a bearded Mr. Lambert packing heat and returning to ABQ. We quickly learn that Walt has been exposed as Heisenberg, his family is gone and the end is near. We also get quick confirmation of the return of Walt’s cancer. Best of all, we get the long-awaited showdown between Hank and Walt, culminating in the most-satisfying punch since Lane Pryce decked Pete Campbell.

The transformation in the garage scene was perfect. First, “good guy” Walt checks in on his brother-in-law Hank. Then Heisenberg takes over and confronts Hank about the GPS tracker. After 5 years of Hank being portrayed as the more powerful man the camera angles suggest a shift in perspective as Walt literally towers over Hank and warns him to “tread lightly.” But the end is coming, as Skyler hoped and we all knew it must.

Jesse’s arc felt repetitive, as we’ve seen him wallow in guilt before (reminiscent of Don Draper’s déjà vu season 6 arc) but the question remains: does Jesse kill himself, kill Mr. White or finally find a way past his guilt and shame? Either way, he’s the best paperboy ever.

It’s going to be hard for Breaking Bad to live up to the hype and expectations for this final season, but we’re off to a fast start. Walter may mirror Gus’s fastidiousness when it comes to placing towels in front of commodes, but he certainly doesn’t exhibit the patience of the man with the box cutter.

Seven.

(That’s how many pies Chekov ate.)

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The Cars That People Drive on “Breaking Bad” Reveal Their True Nature (Updated)

August 7th, 2013 · Kibbitzing About TV, Pop Culture

With the return of Breaking Bad just one short meth binge away I thought it would be fun to revisit my classic essay from 2011 as a easy-to-digest picture. People have left a ton of great comments on the original post, so please click here to see what your fellow Badheads are saying.

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A Rough Week For the Young Boston Sports Fan

June 28th, 2013 · Boston, Sports

Good thing it’s the last week of school, because here are the messages I had to deliver each morning this week to my young Boston Sports fans…

Monday: “Hey, I know it sounds impossible, but the Celtics traded their coach Doc Rivers. Remember that time we met him outside of the Colonnade and he was really nice to you? He’s gone now.”

Tuesday: “Bad news. The Bruins lost the Stanley Cup. I know you slept in your Lucic jersey and he scored the go-ahead goal in the third, but then they gave up 2 goals in 17 seconds and lost. It was a good run, though.”

Wednesday: “I guess the Patriots are going to need a new tight end because it looks like Aaron Hernandez might have pulled a Ray Lewis. Hopefully it’s just a misunderstanding and everything will be okay.”

Thursday: “Sometimes when grown-ups murder someone they have to murder someone else to cover up the first murder. But sometimes they forget to swallow their Bubblicious gum and get caught. The important lesson here is don’t chew gum and/or murder people. Anyway, it looks like Aaron Hernandez won’t be playing for the Pats anymore.”

Friday: “I guess Mom already told you that the Celtics traded Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett – the two best players on the team and the heart of the franchise. The good news is that we got a lot of draft picks in return, so they might be good again in 5 or 6 years!”

Looks like it’s going to be an expensive summer of jersey buying.

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Kibbitzing About TV: Mad Men Season 6: The Death of Don Draper

June 24th, 2013 · Kibbitzing About TV, Pop Culture

When I was in college I took a “Crime in American Film” class and wrote my final essay on The Godfather Part II. My thesis was simple: by ordering the death of his brother Fredo, Michael had committed spiritual suicide. He had turned his back on the path of light and was no longer the good man that Vito so desperately wanted to save.

I thought it was an interesting perspective but my professor disagreed and my brief career as a film critic went swimming with the fishes.

I was reminded of this episode after watching last night’s season 6 finale of Mad Men. As always, lots of crazy shit happened to everyone, but the most important thing to me was the death of Don Draper.

Now, obviously Don Draper didn’t die in a corporeal sense. But the lie of Don Draper was publicly laid bare during the Hershey’s pitch when Don committed personal and professional suicide and finally allowed little Dickie Whitman to emerge from the shadows and reclaim his primacy.

For six season we’ve watched as Dick would emerge at times of stress – going all the way back to when he wanted to run away with Rachel Mencken – and we always thought of Dick as the weak side of the cool, calm and collected Don persona.

In retrospect, Don was always the weak one – the false persona, the stolen identity that allowed Dick to overcome his shame of being a hobo raised in a whorehouse.

What Don finally realized – the result of hitting bottom, particularly with regard to Sally – is that he could never have a real life or real relationships until he accepted the truth of being Dick Whitman.

And so a season that seemingly ended in chaos actually represented a bright new beginning for Don/Dick and a host of other characters: some seeking the warmth of the California sun while others embracing the healing light of truth.

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Going for The One: The Hidden Funk of the Grateful Dead

June 21st, 2013 · Music

When people think about the Grateful Dead the last thing they think about is funk. Now, a real deadhead will point to Spring of ’77 tour as proof of funkiness, but the hidden connection between the Dead and funk is actually much stronger that a sweet Dancin’ jam.

It all comes down to “The One”, a concept invented by James Brown and executed by bassist Bootsy Collins:

“Bootsy’s bass fit perfectly as the new means for carrying the One, James Brown’s own pet name for the style of funk that found its emphasis on the one and the three beats—the upbeat rather than the downbeat, because “the upbeat,” as Brown once philosophized, “is rich, the downbeat is poor. Stepping up proud only happens on the aggressive ‘One,’ not the passive Two, and never on lowdown beat,” the four. Previously, the drums had instigated the One; now it was the bass.” [Source: The Faster Times]

Here’s a great video of Bootsy talking about “the One”.

So, what does that have to do with the good old GD? Let’s see what Jerry has to say about the One:

“Rhythmically, our policy is that the one is where you think it is. It’s kind of a Zen concept, but it really works well for us. It makes it possible to get into a phrase where I can change into little phrase spurts, spitting out little groups of notes that are attached fives-five in the space of four, or five in the space of two, is more common for me-and then turn that into a new pulse, where those fives become like a sixteenth note pulse. Then I’m inside of a whole irregularly rotating tempo in relation to what the rest of the band is playing, say, the original common time. It produces this ambiguity, but all I have to do is make a statement that says, “end of paragraph, and one,” and they all know where it is.” [Source: Gans, 'Conversations With the Dead', p. 67]

In other words, funk music starts on the one and Grateful Dead music uses the one as a home base during jams.

And that, my friends, is the hidden funk of the Grateful Dead.

Don’t tell me this town ain’t got no heart…

[Note: over the years I've reviewed quite a few shows by Phil & Bobby. If you're interested, you can read all GD related content here.]

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In Defense of Next Food Network Star

June 20th, 2013 · Kibbitzing About TV, Pop Culture

I’m not a huge fan of reality TV. I’m not a huge fan of Alton Brown. In my TV repertoire, Food TV has exactly one role: to watch Guy Fieri late at night when I’m literally too lazy to change the channel with a remote.

I do, however, respect Food TV as a brand. Sure, they’ve put most of the real chef talent out to pasture (Mario, Emeril) but they’ve created a strong property with a sense of place. It reminds me of the Might Marvel Comics Bullpen of the 1970s – a space full of compelling personalities that really only exists in the consumers’ minds.

The reason why I like Next Food Network Star is because the judging criteria and feedback is incredibly valuable to anyone who presents in front of an audience for a living. People like me – your friendly neighborhood ad guy.

Alton, Bobby, Giada and the gang demand that the aspiring talent demonstrate perspective and authenticity, the two key ingredients for truly connecting with an audience.

Perspective is having something unique to say. It’s the ability to introduce new ideas or frame existing ideas is a new way. This is the value that is delivered.

Authenticity is delivering your perspective in a way that is true and real for you. Consumers can’t connect with fake personas no matter how well constructed they are.

it’s fascinating the watch the process of someone realizing their public voice. Let’s just hope that voice doesn’t sound like Paula Deen’s.

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