Thursday, October 19, 2017

Best PR Job Ever

With the Nobel's recently announced, I've been reading up on Alfred Nobel.  Fascinating life.

He was a morose fellow who felt he was a failure.  And why not, considering what people thought of him.  His creation and manufacture of dynamite had him condemned worldwide (though much of it was cheap attacks at an easy target).

His pariah status was not merely due to his materials used in war.  After all, his father was a munitions maker, so he was used to that.  But dynamite, and related discoveries, led to numerous industrial deaths.

(By the way, in later years Nobel had heart problems, and was not happy to find he was prescribed nitroglycerin.)

His brother Ludwig died in Cannes and was mistaken for Alfred. The headline for the obit read (in French) "The Merchant Of Death Is Dead." No one wants to be remembered that way, so Nobel, who had amassed a fortune, wrote a will pledging his assets toward annual prizes. They'd be given out in science (physics, chemistry and medicine), in literature (Nobel always wanted to be a writer) and in peace (that'll show 'em).

His relatives were not thrilled, and challenged the will, but five years after his death, the Nobel Prizes were first awarded.

And since then, they've become the greatest honor in the world (and include a nice chunk of change). Now when anyone thinks of the name Nobel, the thoughts are almost all positive and high-minded.  Nice work, Alfred.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

KM No TM

I just missed the birthday of Kevin MacLeod.  Who he?  A composer who's released 2000 pieces of royalty-free music at his website, incompetech.com.

Because he only requests attribution, his music is heard on numerous YouTube videos and films.






Tuesday, October 17, 2017

The Bloom Is Off The Berg

One stop I often make on the internet is Bloomberg View, which has a number of interesting contributors to its editorial department--some of them friends of mine.

But the website is now requiring registration to read its content.  They promise it's free, but I consider it an imposition and won't do it.

If there's one thing that's easy to get on the internet with nothing standing in your way, its people's opinion.  And that's how I like it.  Even the slightest hindrance makes me think twice.

In other words, I can get along fine without Bloomberg View, and I guess they've decided they can get along fine without me.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Hang Fire

Halt And Catch Fire has ended its four-season run.  The ratings were always low--well under a million for the initial airings--but its fans got to see it grow from a Mad Men knockoff to something much deeper.

It focused on five characters in the computer business, and how they maneuvered through the 80s and 90s. I didn't go for the fourth season as much as the second or third, perhaps because it was a little slower.  Near the end, one of the major characters died, and the last three episodes were essentially about how the others handled it. Still, Halt And Catch Fire was to the end one of TV's best (if least seen) dramas.

It did have one flaw, if that's the word for it, that it could never get around.  The show is set in the real world, and real brand names are mentioned.  The characters are on the cutting edge, always in on a trend just before it would break.  But we know they'll never make it to the top, because we know which firms really did hit it big.

I liked all five leads, so let me list them: Lee Pace, Scoot McNairy, Mackenzie Davis, Kerry Bishe and Toby Huss.  I look forward to seeing them in other projects. (You've probably seen them already and don't know it--an actor like Toby Huss has done tons of TV guest shots.) Maybe they can return in a few years as their characters for an episode set in the present (their future) and we can see how they turned out.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

What's So Funny?

TV shows and movies sometimes run up against the news.  Tragedy strikes and suddenly a plot point is too painful.  I heard some show--forget which--had to cut some stuff about a shooter after the recent Vegas incident, for example.

But sometimes it's a closer call.  Take the latest Modern Family episode "Catch Of The Day."

I don't know the lead time such shows have, but it's at least a few weeks at this point. Anyway, early on Claire notes she and Phil are going to a Steely Dan concert at 3 pm.  Phil wonder why it's so early and she replies "They are not young men."

A passable joke.  At least before Walter Becker, one half of Steely Dan, died last month.  Now it's just sort of gruesome. It makes you wonder why they didn't edit it out.  Perhaps because it becomes part of the plot, as Phil and Claire need to get to Haley to borrow her car keys and make the concert on time.

Almost makes you wonder if they thought about doing a Dr. Strangelove.  In that film, the pilot, played by Slim Pickens, listing what's in the crew's emergency kits, notes "a fellow could have a pretty good weekend in Vegas with all that stuff."

Originally, however, he said "Dallas," but between the shooting of the film and its release, John F. Kennedy was assassinated, thus the change.  It's an easy enough line to sync in--it matches close enough that you won't normally notice it (though the joke is somewhat weakened).

I wonder what band they could have had Julie Bowen say to replace Steely Dan.  Is Steeleye Span still performing?

Saturday, October 14, 2017

A Second Helping

Today is National Dessert Day.  (Not to be confused with National Desert Day, which doesn't exist, and shouldn't.)

So treat yourself.


Friday, October 13, 2017

You've Read The Book, Now See The Movie

No sooner do I finish Molly Haskell on Stephen Spielberg than I catch the HBO documentary on the same subject.  Featuring interviews with the man himself and numerous big names who worked with him, as well as footage from his movies, it does a good job giving you a feeling for both the man and his work.

The story is told chronologically, for the most part, with his films dominating over his private life.  Even with a career like Spielberg's, it's a bit long at two and a half hours. It's also highly positive, though it stops short of hagiography.

It made me think about his accomplishments.  Is there any director (let's not even get into his producing) in Hollywood history who can compare to him--someone who's had both gigantic hits and significant films, and sometime both?

Look at the list: Jaw, Close Encounters Of The Third Kind, Raiders Of The Lost Ark, E.T., Jurassic Park, Schindler's List, Saving Private Ryan, Catch Me If You Can, Lincoln.

A lot of directors would be glad just to have done the films that are his secondary (according to me) efforts: The Color Purple, Empire Of The Sun, Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade, Amistad, A.I., Minority Report, War Of The Worlds, Munich, Bridge Of Spies and so on.

He's a natural-born filmmaker who speaks in the language of cinema (though he also proves to be fairly articulate in his interview). But it's not as if he has no flaws. For instance, he often has extended codas which he may believe lends something extra-special to his films, but generally weakens the overall effect.  He also has certain themes, such as the break-up of the family, that he has trouble taking head on so he has to hide behind genre.

But at his best, and even second-best, he's something special.  Now 70, he maintains a busy pace.  Soon he'll be releasing The Post and Ready Player One.  I'm looking forward to both.

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