Tuesday, December 6, 2022

"The Girl Can't Help It" (1956)

Do you want to have a weird but fun experience?

There are times, like the 1950s and 1960s, when culture shifts dramatically. New views, reflected in cinematic entertainment, replace older ones. Sometimes, and this is rare, both new and old approaches confusingly appear in the same movie. Here's a perfect example.

"The Girl Can't Help It" was made in 1956. It was intended as light comedy, establishing Jayne Mansfield as a "sexpot" (a term they used back then). Much of the movie is a dumb running-joke depicting how Jayne's body has such an ultra-feminine shape that it renders men speechless. The view accurately reflects early-Fifties culture on gender.

During the making of the movie, however, producers felt the film needed something more to appeal to young people -- so they added wildly discordant scenes of nascent rock-n-roll. Amazing musical performances were added by emerging rock stars like Little Richard, Fats Domino, Gene Vincent, Eddie Cochran and The Platters. About a third of the movie are fabulous concerts by young musicians who would go on to later rock stardom. (This is the new clashing with the old.) These scenes alone are reason to watch the movie.

Plus there's another reason: the movie is justly credited with being the catalyst for formation of the greatest music group of all time (The Beatles). Teenage Paul McCartney was entranced by the performances of his idols in the movie and learned how to imitate them. When Paul met teenage John Lennon, Lennon was hugely impressed by Paul's imitation and both of them became obsessed with the movie when released in Britain in 1957. The rest is history.

Saturday, December 3, 2022

Best of the Year

It's the end of the year already. How did that happen? 

I thought it'd be fun (and possibly helpful to you) to list my favorite things of 2022. Most are new but some are recent discoveries of old stuff. I recommend all of them. Here goes:

- Best TV: "The Peripheral" (Prime) (Sci-fi drama adapted from William Gibson novel with themes that resonate today)

- Best Food TV: "Somebody Feed Phil" (Sweet man travels and makes friends while eating dinner)

- Best Foreign TV: "Borgen" (Best political drama of all time, returning after long hiatus with an exceptional story)

- Best Book: "Sacred Nature" by Karen Armstrong (eye-opening look at how ancient civilizations regarded nature, with important lessons for us today)

- Best Artistic Performance Witnessed Live: Opera singer Golda Schultz (performing with NY Philharmonic)

- Best Sports Witnessed Live: New Jersey Devils (Hockey; palpable excitement and a magical season)

- Best New Game Obsession: Wordle (NY Times)

- Best Film Noir: "In A Lonely Place" (Humphrey Bogart, 1950)

- Best Action Film: "Alita: Battle Angel" (Rosa Salazar, 2019)

- Best Lesbian Romance: "Portrait Of A Lady On Fire" (2019)

- Best L.I. Pizza: Taglio (Mineola) (Roman-style fermented dough; orgasmic)

- Best L.I. Seafood: Catch Oyster Bar (Patchogue) (fresh, expertly prepared seafood)

- Best L.I. Fine Dining: Sandbar (Cold Spring Harbor) (perfect blend of exquisite cuisine and friendly atmosphere)

- Best L.I. Spice Store: Sayville N Spice (Sayville)

- Best Hot Sauce: The General's Hot Sauce (Dead Red) (Medium-hot red cayenne sauce)

- Best New Motorcycle: Janus Halcyon 450 (retro-style with modern tech)

- Best Personal Addition: My new garage (room for four motorcycles and my 2021 Miata)

- Best Personal Experience: Opportunity to have private dinner with artistic genius Lino Tagliapietra

- Best History: Reading about the lives of Abstract Expressionist artists

Tuesday, November 22, 2022

Gawkers


Well, it's started...

I've been riding my Janus to break it in but hadn't parked the bike anywhere. Today I did -- and within minutes a crowd surrounded the bike. A few people drove past, turned around and returned to get a closer look. Geez!

The uniform reaction is: "Holy shit! What is that?!"

As the only kid on the block with one of these handmade beauties I need to brush up on my public speaking skills. :)


Thursday, November 17, 2022

First Ride

Janus Halcyon 450: Got my new bike registered and on the road. Took it for a first ride today. Wow!

I discovered three remarkable things. (1) Gas-mileage: I'm getting 65 mpg which is about average for this bike. 65!! This gives the small gas-tank (2.1 gal.) a range of over 100 miles which is amply adequate for around-town rides. (2) The bike is so light! I feel like I can lift it up with two hands. Only 350 lbs. (3) Ride: peppy and nimble. Unlike bigger motorcycles this bike handles easily and can squeeze into a shoe-box. Will wait until after break-in to explore high speeds.

When you own multiple vehicles you want each to deliver a different experience. This one does; it's nothing like my other bikes. Great choice.


Wednesday, November 9, 2022

New Motorcycle!

My new motorcycle has finally arrived!

You may recall I ordered this bike back in March. It took a long time because the motorcycle was hand-made by a small company in Indiana (Janus Motorcycles). The company builds only 100 bikes a year and there's a waiting-list to get this new model (Halycon 450). There's high demand for these bikes despite their high price and rarity. I'm probably the only kid on Long Island to own one.

I love the bike's retro-style which harkens back beyond the usual 1950s to an earlier time. Its closest inspiration is the famous Brough Superior SS100, a British bike made in 1924. None of those old machines are in rideable condition today and the Janus has new technology. I have the best of both worlds -- vintage style with the safety of modern tech.

I also love that I was able to customize the bike to suit my individual preferences. For instance, the bike has a number-plate on the front fender which I customized with a message of personal significance. The plate reads "RH-104" which are my initials and the house-number of my childhood home. I fondly recall that house and its number is etched in my memory since, when I was a toddler, my mother forced me to repeat it endlessly in case I got lost. Thus, this is MY motorcycle, personalized in a pleasant way. 

See ya on the road!










Thursday, November 3, 2022

My Birthday

Sixty-five years, passed in an eye-blink. Still hanging on to my wide-eyed enthusiasm for life's adventures.

Wednesday, November 2, 2022

New Camera!

Good friends pay attention and support your passions. 

One of my closest friends, Emma, just gave me an old film camera that belonged to her father. Made in 1977 the Minolta XG-A is a 35mm SLR with detachable lenses.

My first real camera was also a Minolta. I got it as a teenager and played with it for years. I learned how to develop and print film in a darkroom. It's been a half-century since I shot 35mm film and I'm excited to return to that format.

The camera from Emma is shown above; here's a photograph I took back in the 1970s of my first car (fish-eye lens).



Friday, October 28, 2022

Old Age

When I was a kid, I wondered about a distant, magical year (2000) when the century I was born in would turn over to a new one. It seemed momentous.

I calculated how old I'd be when this event would occur and the answer shocked me -- 43. That sounded so old! Well, 43 came and went. Two decades have passed since and next week I have another big birthday (65). Good grief, as Charlie Brown used to utter.

The bright side is I'm still active: riding motorcycles, hiking mountains, chasing dreams. Darkness appears, though, as some of your parts start to go. Our bodies wear out in our sixties no matter how well we live. Worse, you discover the warranty has expired.

My attitude now is live each day to the fullest. We're not promised tomorrow. Squeeze the opportunity and extract the most juice you can.

Friday, October 21, 2022

Famous Art

The artwork I purchased last month is featured in today's New York Times with a positive review of the artist. My piece is pictured in the review (purple hummingbirds).

Take a look -- here



Thursday, October 13, 2022

We Interrupt Our Normal Programming...

with this special announcement. I have COVID.

Yup, the coronavirus is still here. We pretended it went away but it hasn't. Someone gave it to me over the weekend and now I'm suffering. Vaxxed and boosted I'm protected against worst illness but it's still very bad. Severe headache pain over several days and 80% loss of vision in both eyes. One eye's sight has returned but the other is still only 50%. Scary stuff.

I'm old enough to qualify for the best antiviral medicine (Paxlovid) and it's supposed to speed up the recovery. Don't know when I'll be back to normal. In the meantime here are some photographs I took for you to enjoy.

Stay healthy.




Saturday, October 8, 2022

Creedence Clearwater Revival

Our view of history is colored by what happened later and that can distort an event's original significance. For example, if I ask you a simple, important question -- what was the most popular rock band in 1970? -- I'm sure you'll get it wrong

Many of you will guess The Beatles but they broke up and passed the mantle of number one to then-number two band. This second band is overlooked for several reasons. First, it was popular for only 2-3 years, then broke up and never re-united. Its individual members lacked the charisma of John Lennon, Mick Jagger, Janis Joplin, et al. and never reached the same height again. Plus they hate each other. Prior to their amazing period of popularity, the band worked in obscurity for ten years and perfected its craft; it was ready to become number one when the opportunity arose. 

The band is Creedence Clearwater Revival. CCR soared to the top of the charts in 1969-71; they even played at Woodstock. CCR broke up in 1971. Before then the band produced a string of great hits, some of which you recognize in covers by others (e.g., "Proud Mary" [Tina Turner]). Among their huge hits were "Bad Moon Rising," "Travelin' Band," "Midnight Special," "Susie Q" and "I Heard It Through The Grapevine."

If you want to look back a half-century in music, check out CCR. Several compilations of their greatest hits were made and are worth listening to.

Wednesday, October 5, 2022

Pop Quiz

I used an old camera and 110-roll film to take a picture (shown below). What is it?

Is it a cosmic view of a space galaxy? Some scene in nature perhaps? An abstract painting by a famous artist?

Almost unrecognizable, the image shows leaves floating on water at a lake. (Belmont Lake State Park, to be specific). I pointed my camera downward at the edge of the lake, mesmerized by the leaves' bright colors and their fortuitous array. 

Nature did the design here; I merely spotted it.



Sunday, October 2, 2022

Country Fair

When you're in rural country, you do rural country things. Today I went to the 145th annual Deerfield Fair which centers on farm animals (sheep, goats, horses) and tractors.

I headed straight for the goats because they're my totem-animal. I don't know why; I just gravitate toward them. Here are some pictures. The horses were also impressive. No interest in the tractors. :)















White Mountains

My plan for yesterday was smart -- go hiking (Flume Gorge) and then relax with a brewery tour and beer-tasting (Woodstock Inn Brewery). I couldn't have done these things in reverse. :)

I've hiked virtually every trail on Long Island and, honestly, they're Little League compared to majestic NH mountains. Created a million years ago by glaciers, these immense peaks are impressive in numerous ways. Just being near them transforms you, causing us to reflect on our place in the world.








Friday, September 30, 2022

New Hampshire

I'm warming to New Hampshire. It's a beautiful place with big mountains, small towns and medium-sized people. :)

On my way to the White Mountains I stopped in Keene, NH today. It has a notable attraction. Politicians say “the run to the White House runs through Lindy's Diner.” The diner, built in 1961, is popular among candidates for U.S. President. New Hampshire holds the first national primary and Lindy's is the central landmark here. Everyone from George H.W. Bush to Biden has eaten breakfast at Lindy’s. I figured I'd give it a try.

Meh. Food is ordinary. If you want really good food in a rural diner, go to Gracie's Luncheonette in Leeds, NY (an hour south of Albany). I'm glad I saw Lindy's for its history but won't return for a meal.

Now on to some mountains!



Thursday, September 29, 2022

Old Photography

I love the images you can get from film and old cameras. They're impossible to duplicate with digital equipment.

These were taken last month. It takes three weeks to get film negatives developed and scanned.









Wednesday, September 28, 2022

Amber Cowan

In New York if you're not first you're last.

I popped into NYC today and bought another work of glass art. I squeezed the trip into my schedule -- ahead of my journey to NH tomorrow -- because an artist's show is getting rave reviews and will sell out before I return from hiking. Competing with museums and other rich collectors requires fleet feet.

Last week I attended a private event celebrating the Corning Museum of Glass's release of its annual New Glass Review. I got to hobnob with the Museum's president and chat with Susie Silbert, its irrepressible Curator of contemporary glass art. I saw Susie on TV two months ago when she was Guest Judge on "Blown Away," Netflix's show about glass. At this event I also spoke with an artist unknown to me, Amber Cowan, and viewed some of her work.

Amber is a Philly-based artist who handles material I didn't recognize (milk glass) and uses techniques I've never heard of (e.g., flameworking). In addition to having pieces in several museums, Amber is well-known to powerful people in the fashion and entertainment industries. Her show, up right now at the Heller Gallery in Manhattan, is attracting major media attention. Three magazines have covered it and a lengthy, glowing review will be published soon in The New York Times. 

I examined Amber's work more closely today and made my move. Good thing too -- several well-heeled collectors are vying for pieces and it's a race to the finish line. I'm pleased to have slipped in before it was too late. The work I acquired has hummingbirds in it! (See below.)

If you're in New York take a look at Amber's art. Or come visit me when I invite you to future parties. :)









Thursday, September 22, 2022

Lansky Bros.

The new Elvis movie is bringing attention to the coolest place to buy clothes in America -- Lansky Brothers ("Clothier To The King"). A store in Memphis, Lansky Brothers gave free clothes to Elvis when he was struggling to make it in the music business and later designed costumes for him to wear performing. Bernard Lansky was a mensch who helped many other rock stars (famous and unknown) find their unique style.

I had the good fortune to visit the Lansky Bros. store in Memphis 15 years ago. It's inside the Peabody Hotel which is famous for a pond in the lobby that's full of ducks. Real ducks. Several times a day the ducks walk in a line to and from the pond, amusing observers. It's a magical place. A scene in the new movie takes place inside the Lansky Bros. store and shows Elvis's affection for its staff.

I brought home from that trip a fun Elvis-jacket and have mail-ordered many shirts since. A package arrived today with a cool red bowling shirt with vertical leopard stripes and a t-shirt with Elvis's personal logo on it -- TCB (Takin' Care of Business). The logo is displayed in the title-scene of the movie.





Tuesday, September 20, 2022

Ruffles

This outfit started with ruffles. I saw a cute top in a discount-store and conceived an outfit around it. Then I looked for a skirt that complemented the ruffles' femininity and found one. 

I like this look. What do you think?









Saturday, September 17, 2022

Contemplation

During the dance, "Arthur keeps watching his feet, but his mind's on Odile's mouth and her romantic kisses. Odile is wondering if the boys notice her breasts moving under her sweater. Franz thinks of everything and nothing. He wonders if the world is becoming a dream or if the dream is becoming the world." (Band of Outsiders [1964]; discussed here). 

The dialogue reminds me of two photographs I took recently in my hometown (Huntington, NY). The first is of a sculpture on top of a building and the second is a new mural painted on the side of a building.





Friday, September 16, 2022

Jean Luc Godard

Jean Luc Godard died Tuesday. A film legend, Godard was best-known for "Breathless," his first of 44 movies. "Breathless" is a 1960 crime drama that introduced new cinematic techniques, like jump-cuts, and paid homage to film history. It shouldn't be a surprise that before making movies, Godard was a respected film critic.

Revisiting his œuvre I just admired "Band of Outsiders" (Bande à part). The work is many people's favorite Godard film, including Quentin Tarantino. The film stars Godard's muse at the time (Anna Karina) as the linchpin of a three-person heist. Anna was an "effervescent free spirit of the French new wave;" she was also a widely imitated style-icon of the time. 

There's an unexpected, oddly charming dance scene in "Band of Outsiders" that has been referenced many times in later films. The scene inspired the famous dance sequence in "Pulp Fiction" with Uma Thurman and John Travolta. Uma's black wig and iconic look was stolen directly from another character in "Band..." (seen in the bathroom just before the dance). You can catch the dance scene here; it's short and lots of fun to watch.

Saturday, September 3, 2022

Summer Dress and Introspection

Often we're blind to ourselves. This is especially the case when you're brought up and forced to be someone you're not. I'm on a journey toward discovering my true self and I make mistakes along the way.

One mistake is not understanding why we do things. For example, I crave common female experiences, like picking out a cute dress in a store, accessorizing it with jewelry, squeezing into its tight fit and then showing it off to friends. The appeal are the experiences generated, not the end-result.

So when I engage in this fun behavior, I enjoy myself -- up to the point of seeing photos of the result. Then I get sad because, of course, I'm not attractive or even passable under current, heightened social conventions of female beauty. That sadness usually propels me to make excuses when posting pictures.

I shouldn't. Because I'm losing sight of the whole point which is to create joy in my life, such as it is. I'll never compete with the beauty of cis-gender women whose lifelong efforts and natural advantages eclipse anything I can do, particularly now. But I don't have to measure myself with that yardstick; it's not the goal. The real aim is to take what and where I am and improve on it. And I'm doing that simply by moving toward authenticity. In truth, I relish these experiences and need to remind myself of that.