That Would Be All Of Them

Over at Hot Air, Ed Morrissey introduces us to their movie-rating scale:

I have to say that the very last time I paid a full-price movie ticket was for the final Harry Potter  episode — and in fact, I went to the movie house for all the Potter movies.  If I recall correctly, the last non-Potter movie I saw in a cinema was Saving Private Ryan, and even that was some time after its initial release.

Every single other movie  over the past twenty-odd years has fallen into the #2 category.  As far as I’m concerned, there is not a movie in recent history worth the price of a movie ticket, or that is so good that I can’t wait to see it.

That doesn’t mean I think all movies have sucked in recent times — I’ve enjoyed lots of them, and Midnight In Paris, The Fabulous Baker Boys, A Good Year, The Incredibles  and Gosford Park (to name but some) I’ve not only watched but watched over and over again.

And I’m not even going to get into the horrible morass that is watching a movie in a cinema today:  people talking (loudly) all through the movie, people talking (loudly) on their phones all the way through the movie, people walking in and out of the cinema all through the movie, deafening movie soundtracks with bass turned up so high it can make one feel nauseated, trash and litter everywhere… do I need to go any further?

The only reason I’d go to the movies would be to watch Donald Trump winning his second term on Election Night in November 2020  — and that won’t be screened in cinemas anyway, so I can watch it for free on TV and (even better) see the mainstream TV personalities’ reaction:

(picture credit: some sick bastard on the Internet)

Tell me you wouldn’t pay money to see that.

Monday Funnies (delayed)

So to alleviate the pain somewhat, a little mirth:

My guess is that the above did not originate in this branch:

And on a philosophical note:

And speaking of mystical things, let’s do a little yoga:

The mirror broke, sorry.

Anyway, get out there and back into the spirit of things…

Inexplicable

Try as I may, I fail to see the fascination with Katie Holmes, formerly Mrs. Tom Cruise.

This is not a knock on her, by the way:  at worst, she’s inoffensive — and she gets huge kudos for keeping their daughter out of the clutches of the foul Scientology cult.

Or maybe it’s just because  she’s the ex-wife of the dwarf action star (what I call the “Chelsea Clinton” effect) that the media seems to follow and photograph her all over the place;  and she continues to get movie roles, lots of them.  Once again, this is not a knock;  but she is unremarkable both in looks and talent:  girl-next-door pretty and capable of not screwing up a movie (the latter being no small thing, by the way).  Here she is in casual dress:

See what I mean?  And yet she’s played up — Vogue covers, etc. — and even when she’s in a movie, that praise continues.

For an example of the latter, one of the characters in the brilliant Thank You For Smoking  says of her that she has “world-class tits”, when it’s quite obvious that she doesn’t — not even close to world class, as the movie reveals later when she’s actually topless.  And the femme fatale  role she’s given… well, she’s not so fatale, as it turns out.

Granted, our Katie does clean up quite well:

…but given the amount of cosmetic trickery involved in shots like this, hell, even Chelsea Clinton can look passable (be charitable, willya?).  That said, Holmes certainly plays it for all it’s worth.

But I just don’t get it.  The movie business is lousy with gorgeous and egregiously-talented women, and yet Holmes gets more column inches and celluloid time than a lot of them.

Inexplicable.

En Passant

In an otherwise-unmemorable piece on woke-scolds ending Comedy As We Know It, NRO mouthpiece Jay Nordlinger says this:

I received a note from my old friend Larry Shackley, a longtime NR reader and a great admirer of P. G. Wodehouse. In fact, Larry is reading through the complete Wodehouse — complete — right now.

…as though this were somehow unusual.  Maybe it is, for Murkins who — for shame — don’t know who Pelham Grenville Wodehouse was.

To call P.G. Wodehouse one of the most-read humorist writers of the 20th century is to understate the thing — he is quite possibly the greatest humorist writer, ever.  Here’s a personal indicator.

When I left South Africa in 1986, I brought with me three suitcases of clothes, my cameras and a few other things I couldn’t bear to part with.  I brought only two books with me (from a library of well over a thousand), and those were The World of Psmith (a compendium of three books) and The Jeeves Omnibus (another compendium).  Both were written by P.G. Wodehouse.  I reasoned — correctly as it turned out, in those pre-Amazon times —  that I wouldn’t be able to find them here.

And there was just no way I was going to live in a house without Wodehouse.

Now, a lot of people don’t “get” Wodehouse because most of his situations are concerned with utterly trivial concerns — trivial maybe to us, nowadays, and certainly only non-trivial to the English upper classes circa 1928.  (One story involves the “theft” of a wonderful cook by one titled twerp from another titled household.)  But that doesn’t stop the brilliant writing from making one burst out with uncontrollable laughter occasionally.

And it should be said that Wodehouse himself was very much a fervent socialist — his take on the peccadilloes of the English upper classes is almost invariably satirical — yet his satire is not the bitter waspishness of Private Eye  magazine, but gentle and almost indulgent.  Look at these idiots, he seems to say, see how foolish and inconsequential they are.  One of my favorite lines from the Bertie Wooster stories comes when Bertie is beset with looming trouble and catastrophe, and says to his long-suffering “gentleman’s gentleman” Jeeves as he is being dressed for dinner:

“At a time like this, Jeeves, I wonder whether the length of one’s trousers actually matters,” and receives the gentle rebuke:
“There is never  a time, sir, when the length of one’s trousers doesn’t matter.”

Wodehouse left England for a career as a Hollywood scriptwriter, only to become embroiled in the Cold War-McCarthyism of the Fifties.  How ironic, then, that he, the one-time socialist, should write of that time:

“Humorists have been scared out of the business by the touchiness now prevailing in every section of the community. Wherever you look, on every shoulder there is a chip, in every eye a cold glitter warning you, if you know what is good for you, not to start anything.”

What was practiced on the socialists of that era is being repeated with even more venom and coldness by the P.C. (and mostly socialist) tribe of today.

Anyway, enough of that.  I think I’ll marmalade a slice of toast, and go and read A Pelican At Blandings, featuring the wonderfully-named Galahad Threepwood of whom it was said (and I paraphrase) that he was so ardent a party animal that he hadn’t slept till age fifty.  And if anyone should think that I resemble Galahad’s elder brother Clarence, the Earl of Emsworth, who looks with utter bewilderment on the modern world and prefers to retreat to his library and read — well, you’d be absolutely correct.

Friday Night Music: The Hogwash Interlude

As I may have mentioned before, the vast preponderance of my Army time was spent as a draftee in the South African Defence Force, as a musician in the Entertainment Group, actually a small unit of some sixty personnel in the Permanent Force (PF), but augmented by the addition of a few draftee National Servicemen (NSMs) usually, like myself, having been professional musicians before being drafted — Trevor Rabin of Yes  was an alum, a couple years before I arrived.

There was a Big Band, managed by the unit’s Commanding Officer Maj. George Hayden and staffed almost exclusively by PF musicians, and was of astonishing virtuosity and quality — mostly older men, many of them recording stars of an earlier era, they performed Glenn Miller-type material and played concerts all over the country.  Sometimes the concerts would feature solo artists, singers, violinists and classical guitarists, most of these being NSMs who’d been sent there after completing their basic training (boot camp).

Then there also were a few dance bands which played mostly popular music of all kinds, whether Top Ten hits, country music or Afrikaans Boeremusiek, “sakkie-sakkie”  as we irreverently called it (here’s an example).

And then there was Hogwash.

(yes, that’s Yer Humble Narrator on the left, age 24)

We were thrown together one Friday night because some Army unit was having a dance and all the Entertainment Group steady bands were already booked — I mean, we found out at 3pm that we would be playing at 8pm, and a two-hour drive to the venue lay between.  A frantic scramble followed, to get some band equipment together  — only I had brought my own gear into camp, so everyone else had to content themselves with equipment that none of the other bands wanted.  At least it all functioned, more or less.

We were saved by the fact that we were all good musicians — the others, to be frank, quite a lot better than I — and fortunately, our keyboard player Boze knew the lyrics and music to a jillion popular songs, so the rest of us just followed him along.  I knew a bunch more, of the Creedence Clearwater- and early rock ‘n roll genres, so we busked our way through five hours of music — and enjoyed the experience so much that we decided to make the band a permanent one (or at least for the remaining time of our draft).  We found an empty practice room, and set about putting together a repertoire that was astonishing in its variety (as you will see below).  And because our whole job was to play music, we played all day and every day, five days a week — sometimes taking two or more days to master a complex song.  We played gigs at military bases all over South Africa and, to our great joy, at forward combat bases in the “Operational Area” of South West Africa (later Namibia).  And we rocked.  We were better than a lot of professional club house bands, all but the drummer could sing, and harmonies became our stock-in-trade:  nobody  could sing with us, not even the pros.  As we already had a good list of oldies and party songs, we could concentrate on playing stuff that we wanted to play, and which made us all better musicians.

Hogwash was together for just under eighteen months, but it was quite honestly one of the happiest times of my life.  We had no responsibilities and nothing else to do but play, and play, and play — and when we weren’t playing music, it was like being in Monty Python, with wicked humor, outrageous behavior and general mischief in abundance.  (We discovered, for example, that “gronsk” was not a word, but a letter  — the first letter of a magic word.)

Here’s some of the music.

The Fez (Steely Dan) — played note-perfect, as we did a couple other Dan songs

Who Loves You (4 Seasons) — ooooh those harmonies

Doctor Tarr and Professor Fether (Alan Parsons Project) — we played several Alan Parsons songs, and loved them all

Lazy (Deep Purple) — we played this version, not the indulgent live one

Breezin’ (George Benson) — smooth jazz, baby

Fantasy (Earth Wind & Fire) — funky (well, the way we played it, anyway)

China Grove (Doobie Brothers) — and a whole bunch of other Doobies

One Chain (Santana) — and a couple others by Carlos

I Wish (Stevie Wonder) — tough bass part and complicated backup vocals… I sweated bricks playing this one;  thanks a bunch, Stevie

Jive Talkin’ (Bee Gees) — and all their other disco songs;  hey, it was 1978

I Just Wanna Make Love To You (Foghat) — hair band music, even though we had no hair

…and the song which we played in our very first impromptu gig, and never stopped playing thereafter because we loved it, and because Boze sang it better than Garfunkel:

I only Have Eyes For You (Art Garfunkel) — best version of this song ever recorded

Here we are playing at some dismal Army camp or other:

Sadly, although we’d planned on staying together and playing professionally after the Army service was complete, Boze decided that he didn’t want to play pro.  Without him, the whole thing fell apart.  “Grundelstein” the vocalist quit music altogether and went into the hotel management business.  I rejoined Atlantic Showband (believe me, it was no hardship) and played with them from 1979 until I emigrated in 1986.  “Bee” the guitarist and Franco the drummer went on to play for two of the most well-known club bands in South Africa (Circus and Ballyhoo, respectively, for those who might know what I’m talking about).

Not playing pro with these guys is one of my greatest disappointments in my musical career.  I miss them all still.