Apologies for my abject silence for the last three weeks. Yipes.
Short story long: For those of you who don't know, I work in the ticket office at Seattle Opera, an internationally-renowned company hailed for its dazzling stagings of the works of legendary composer Richard Wagner. I love my job, and the company I work for, so please take it in the best possible light when I say that for all of August, I've been Richard Wagner's bitch.
Seattle Opera has staged the composer's complete Ring cycle thrice in the last three weeks; the final run-through of Wagner's 18-hour epic wound down last night, and patrons from 49 of 50 states, and over 15 different countries, attended. If you're unfamiliar with this mammoth work, think Lord of the Rings, only with all of the dwarves, maidens, dragons, warriors, and deities singing, and with all of the special effects being created live, onstage. Yes, it's that big. And as you can imagine, working in any capacity in service to such an epic presentation is almost as epic as the operas themselves.
Long story short: I've been busy, Bucky. But during my rare moments of time-wasting reverie this month, the following indulgences have provided much joy in this quarter.
Gunga Din (1939): George Stevens' classic adventure rivals Gone with the Wind in its political incorrectness, but there's a rip-snorting adventure awaiting you if you can overlook that particular 800-pound gorilla. The trump card here is the effortless, worth-its-weight-in-gold chemistry between the three heroes. Victor McLaglen's loveable rhino of a Sgt. MacChesney, Douglas Fairbanks Jr's dapper yet pugnacious Balantine, and Cary Grant's hilarious cockney rounder Archie Cutter are the stuff of pulp-action gold, believe you me.
Gimme Fiction by Spoon: I shouldn't like this. Really. It's largely piano-and-keyboard-based pop, a genre that always leaves me cold (Elton John, I blame you, you treacly old geezer). But Gimme Fiction plays more like Wilco channelling Ziggy Stardust, with catchy glam piano hooks wedded to lead singer Brit Daniel's urgent but tuneful singing. Constant repeat track: the closer, "Merchants of Soul", which sounds like a staredown between David Bowie's Ziggy Stardust and Thin White Duke personas, while someone falls down the stairs in the background. Great stuff.
Twin Cinema by the New Pornographers: These Vancouver kids get my vote for the best pure pop group in the world right now, and Kurt Newman, their Ringmaster and frontman, is a genius--point frickin' blank. No other band out there combines twisty complexity and ear-yanking hooks so effortlessly. Fans of the first two Pornographers' records will relish the muscular and catchy uptempo numbers like the title track, but a bracing sophistication emerges, too. Maybe it's just the mood I'm in as I listen for the umpteenth time, but "Stacked Crooked" in its surging, quirky way, is the most soaringly, luminously romantic song I've heard all year. Jaw-droppingly brilliant, the track carries the grand baroque pop tradition of The Zombies and Love straight into the futuristic stratosphere--and that's not just the mood I'm in.
Television on DVD:
Adam-12: The Complete First Season : A few random observations. One, Adam-12, one of the longest-running TV brainchildren of Dragnet icon Jack Webb, is a solid straight procedural cop show that still works well. Two, the show's also genuinely, intentionally funny--the workaday banter between earnest rookie cop Jim Reed (Kent McCord) and his cranky partner Pete Malloy (Martin Milner) mines a surprising vein of situational humor.
Three, I've been convinced for years that Pete Malloy is gay.
This has been a good-natured but lively debate between my wife and I for a long time now. Rest assured, neither of us has any problem whatsoever with such a lifestyle choice, but Rita, who crushed on Milner big-time as a kid, asserts that Malloy's just a gruff straight guy who's uncomfortable around girls. The veteran cop's protective and attentive demeanor around his young and handsome partner is just paternal, she argues. And his abject indifference to women in most episodes, just a side-effect of his awkwardness. Then again...
Rita randomly picked the episode, "Log 152", to watch first. In it, Malloy (a bachelor) gives a ditzy-but-charming oil heiress (played by Enter the Dragon's Ahna Capri) a speeding ticket. The girl flirts with him, attempting to ask him out, but he insists (with unprovoked nastiness)that she's "not [his] type, and never WILL be!" He rebuffs the girl's escalating advances with increased hostility, and at one point passes up an evening with her to go on a sailing expedition with 'the guys'. Finally, he goes on a date with her. We don't see said date, but in his terse description of the evening's events to his partner the next day, Malloy insists with an enigmatic smirk, "That's the last time we'll get any trouble from HER again!"
Your honor, I rest my case.