Archive for the ‘Movies’ Category

Happy Birthday, Bobby!

February 19, 2008

The great songwriter and singer Bobby Charles turns 70 years young on Thur the 21st. And many happy returns!

A Louisiana Cajun (born Robert Charles Guidry), Charles grew up in Cajun country listening to Hank Williams and Fats Domino. Early on, he wrote such classics as “See ya Later, Alligator” (made famous by Bill Haley and the Comets) and “Walkin’ to New Orleans” (written for the great Fats Domino himself) and then went on to help develop the musical style of Swamp Pop. All of which is great, but for me it gets no better than his 1972 self-titled recording with The Band. This album ranks as one of my all-time top ten. Especially noteworthy tracks include “Save Me Jesus” in which he implores Jesus to save him from “this godforsaken place” and “All the whiskey” with its refrain of “He got all the whiskey and he won’t give me none” (and apparently he got all the women, and he got all the money) written for his then-manager Albert Grossman (yes, the same Albert Grossman who managed Bob Dylan). I think you can see what Charles thought of Grossman’s managing style. Obviously, it wasn’t a long-lived collaboration. In fact, it really signaled the end of recording for Charles. After fiascos with Grossman and other music-biz people, he went to Louisiana and settled back into the quiet rural life. He put out a “return” album in 2004 that I was really excited about–including collaborations with Neil Young, Lucinda Williams and others–and while it has some decent cuts, it’s certainly not the Charles of old. But, then again, I don’t hold that against him. Bobby, you’re still one of my favorites. For the rest of you, if you get a chance, give this a listen:

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The Great Debate

January 7, 2008

So, spent this playoff sunday at the movies, Denzel Washington in the Great Debaters. Pretty solid if at times a bit predictable. Now, you might ask that shouldn’t a true story be predictable? We know what happens–yes, if you haven’t seen it or don’t know the story, small black Wiley College defeats national debate champions Harvard–so what’s wrong with predictability. Agreed, except that what’s predictable is the format (or formula). Even in the midst of the serious racist society this movie ultimately tries to portray, what we get is the come-from-behind, cinderella sports story (I guess on a playoff sunday I can’t really get away from such stories and metaphors). Don’t get me wrong, it’s a well-done story and the cliche that is at the heart of hollywood is actually done in an effective manner, but for a figure as complex as poet Melvin Tolson (who is the debate coach and who effectively challenged the poetic conventions of “his people” in profound ways), I think this movie might have complicated the formula just a bit more. You can sense a bit of the Oprah production, but still a solid movie worth seeing.

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Afterward, dinner in downtown Iowa City. A wonderful twilight walk by the melting Iowa River–a slushy, sloppy day in the 40s here after weeks of ice storms and frigid temps. It’s nice but frankly I am happy with it staying winter in the midst of winter–don’t toy with these springlike days until you’re ready to be serious.

Anyway, the bar was near empty and I managed to catch the end of the San Diego-Tennessee game. Looked surprisingly close when I stepped in, but it quickly changed with two SD touchdowns and that was all she wrote. So  a nice mellow bar, a game on the big screen and one of my favorite beers in nice, big drafts. After many years I spent in Minnesota (most of the 90s that is), I am still partial to Summit Pale Ale.

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Now, I know that this doesn’t really rank in the top tier of world beer’s I’ve tasted, yet it remains surprisingly strong. A good crisp ale with a nice malt, hop balance, some days it is just the perfect beer. Besides, it just always brings back great memories of my years in Minneapolis where this was our staple. I will still go out of my way to find the new profound hop sensation, but this beer remains home to me. Hangin’ out with MB, a good veggie burger, some football on the tube and a cold summit. I am a happy man…