Monthly Archives: August 2022

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Joey DeFrancesco, RIP

I was very saddened to hear of the death of jazz organ player Joey DeFrancesco, who died at the age of 51 on August 25, 2022.

RIP [YouTube link]

Courtesy, Wiki Commons

Song of the Day #1960

Song of the Day: Lemon Tree was composed by folk artist Will Holt, who was inspired by a Brazilian song from 1930. It went into the Top 20 of the Billboard Hot 100 in a rendition recorded by Trini Lopez in 1965. Check out that version as well as renditions by Peter, Paul, and Mary, Bob Marley and the Wailers, The Kingston Trio, and Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass [YouTube links].

Song of the Day #1959

Song of the Day: Peaches is credited to a host of writers, including Justin Bieber, who recorded this song for his sixth studio album, “Justice“, which debuted atop the Billboard Hot 200 Album Chart in 2021. The song, featuring Daniel Caesar and Giveon, hit #1 on both the Hot 100 and the Hot R&B Hip Hop charts. Check out the official video and a remix with Snoop Dogg, Ludacris, and Usher [YouTube links].

BB, EC, BCS: A Dialectical Unity

There are no spoilers here, after the grand finale of “Better Call Saul” (BCS). But after finishing what is, in my view, one of the best written, well-acted, finely-plotted television series I’ve ever seen, I am now convinced more than ever that one cannot reasonably separate “BCS” from its predecessors, “Breaking Bad” (BB) and “El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie” (EC). There is an organic unity to these shows that deeply enriches one’s experience of each show, such that the universe they constitute is more than the sum of its parts.

Recently, I began re-watching BB, and noticed just how much more I am appreciating that series in light of the backstories the writers created with BCS. Likewise, BCS cannot possibly be fully appreciated in the absence of BB (and EC, which expands on aspects of the BB story). Each is an extension of the other; each could not be what it is in the absence of the other. They are the very exemplars of a dialectical sensibility, both constituting and being shaped by the wider context of which they are a part.

Above all, the universe that Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould gave us is epic storytelling at its best. I will miss it—but return to it, and hopefully write about it much more extensively than I can here. Suffice it to say, I am not suggesting that the creators of this franchise had all the plotlines worked out from the very beginning. Of course they didn’t! But as their stories unfolded, as their characters came to life, there was an evolution in both the plot and its central players that was almost inexorable. That is what makes the achievement all the more remarkable—that its creators didn’t know from the beginning where it would go, even as they propelled us toward such a well-integrated conclusion.

Bravo to the creators, writers, directors, production teams, and to the terrific actors who delivered performances that humored us, enraged us, touched us, and broke our hearts. Bravo to this great franchise for delivering an unforgettable ride.

Check out the nice discussion of this on Facebook. Therein, I compare the BB/BCS “epic” to another: “The Godfather Epic.” In response to a point that Ayn Rand would have dismissed BB as the “dead end of naturalism,” I stated:

I don’t think BB should be dismissed because of its naturalism. Though Rand never wrote on it, producer Al Ruddy told me that he provided her with a private screening of “The Godfather”, which deeply impressed her. It is what convinced her that he could be the man to bring “Atlas Shrugged” to the screen. (This later fell apart because he refused to give her final script approval; as it happens, he now owns the film rights!)

Sometimes you can depict the importance of values by showing what happens in their absence, or, more tragically, what happens when you choose “bad” means of trying to preserve “good” ends. That is precisely what “Breaking Bad” depicts in painful detail. Indeed, I’d argue that there are very strong parallels between the “Godfather Epic” and the epic that constitutes the BB/BCS narrative. But that’s a post for another day.

Bob Odenkirk—who would go on to star in “Better Call Saul”—tells us, with regard to his final moments on the set of “Breaking Bad”, that Vince Gilligan provides people with an illustration of the ways in which bad decisions create severe unintended consequences that undermine the human ability to survive and flourish. (Indeed, I think Rand herself does this in her most ‘naturalistic’ of novels, “We the Living”, which shows how the “airtight” environment of totalitarianism destroys the human capacity to either survive or flourish.)

Check out Odenkirk’s comments here.

I made these additional comments on two other threads. In response to those who would attempt a chronological reordering of the BB/BCS landscape, similar to that in “The Godfather Epic,” I wrote:

It worked a lot better in “The Godfather Epic” IMHO than it ever could in the BB-BCS universe, especially because in the Epic, they added over 50 deleted scenes to the chronology and kept intact a key flashback scene toward the end. I understand why Coppola in “Godfather II” chose to counterpose the rise of young Vito and the loss of his son Michael’s soul … but I think a lot gets lost in the translation and so much is gained in the reshuffling of that story, chronologically, especially with those added scenes that were not in the theatrical releases. I think it would do a lot of damage to the artistry of BCS if somebody reshuffled those scenes, so I agree wholeheartedly on that score.

And in response to this article in The Guardian, which hails BCS as “more profound” than BB, I wrote:

Insofar as it is possible to evaluate BCS singularly, it is the greater achievement. But I don’t think that can be done reasonably. It would not have been what it became without BB, and BB is all the more enriched because we now have BCS. They constitute an organic whole, IMHO. Can’t be sundered or separated without doing damage to our overall conception of their universe.

Song of the Day #1958

Song of the Day: Cherry Pie, words and music by Jani Lane, was a Top Ten Hot 100 Hit for the glam metal rock band, Warrant—the title single to their 1990 album. It’s considered a “hair metal” anthem. The video received heavy airplay on MTV (remember when they used to show music videos?). Check it out on YouTube.

Major League Sportsmanship from the Little Leaguers

After the batter was hit by a pitch and takes first base, he comforts the pitcher… who is so obviously shaken up. Now granted, this wasn’t a purposeful drilling. But I can think of a few major league ballplayers who can take lessons from the kids on great sportsmanship.

Check out more on this story here.

40 Years Later: 1982 Films Still Having an Impact

Check out this NY Times article, “Five Sci-Fi Classics, One Summer: How 1982 Shaped Our Present.” This is a really interesting read on 5 films from 1982 that are still having an impact on the sci-fi genre 40 years later: “ET, The Extra-Terrestrial,” “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan,” “Blade Runner,” “Tron,” and John Carpenter’s “The Thing“.

Also see the discussion on Facebook.

Song of the Day #1957

Song of the Day: I’ll Be with You in Apple Blossom Time was written in 1920 by Albert Von Tilzer and Neville Fleeson. It was first recorded as a waltz by Nora Bayes. It was later covered by such artists as Artie Shaw (vocals by Tony Pastor) and Harry James and Helen Forest [YouTube links]. But it is most well known for having been performed by The Andrews Sisters, whose version was featured in the 1941 Abbott and Costello film, “Buck Privates.” Check out the film clip and studio version [YouTube links].

Vin Scully, RIP

A great baseball broadcaster, Vin Scully (1927-2022), has died at the age of 94. Check out retrospectives on the life of the man who started broadcasting for the Dodgers back in 1950, when they were still in Brooklyn! 67 seasons, not only as the Voice of the Dodgers but of so many memorable moments in baseball history …

In the NY Times here and here, ESPN, Sports Illustrated, and MLB. It was actually through the NY Yankees that I learned of Scully’s passsing late last night; they put up a loving tribute to him. Also: check out Mike Lupica’s tribute.

Vin Scully (from Wikipedia)

Song of the Day #1956

Song of the Day: A Taste of Honey, words and music by Bobby Scott and Ric Marlow, was first heard in the 1960 Broadway version of the British play of the same name. A 1965 version by Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass [YouTube link] would go on to score four Grammy Awards, including Record of the Year. Other notable instrumental versions of the song were recorded by Paul Desmond & Jim Hall, Harry James, Jackie Gleason, Chet Atkins, The Ventures, and Emily Remler [YouTube links]. The first vocal versions were recorded by Billy Dee Williams in 1961 and Lenny Welch in 1962, followed by renditions by The Beatles and Barbra Streisand [YouTube links]. But today’s featured rendition is by the legendary Tony Bennett [YouTube link], who celebrates his 96th birthday.