Release the “Clowns”

I never thought I’d get to see “The Day The Clown Cried,” which will probably stand as Jerry Lewis’ second or third most famous movie despite the fact that it’s never been released. I also never thought I’d get to see a commentary or documentary that treated the movie with as much dignity and respect as David Schneider does here.

He raises a point that has always merited discussion: is it even fair to have an opinion about a movie that’s never been seen, was never even completed, and which the director has worked hard to keep completely under wraps? No, of course it isn’t. It’s just way to hard not to. “Jerry Lewis did a movie set inside a concentration camp” is a phrase that spurs as much impassioned imagination as the orange light inside the briefcase in “Pulp Fiction.”

And then, of course, there’s Jerry’s recent comments about the film, during a public Q&A a couple of years ago:

Someone asked Jerry if the movie would ever be released.

“It’s very easy to sit in front of an audience and expound on your feelings,” he said, referring to the Q&A. “It’s another thing to have to deal with those feelings. And in terms of that film, I was embarrassed. I was ashamed of the work, and I was grateful that I had the power to contain it all and never let anybody see it. It was bad, bad, bad. It could have been wonderful. But I slipped up. I didn’t quite get it. And I didn’t have enough sense to find out why I’m doing it, and maybe there there would be an answer. Uh-uh. It’ll never be seen.

“Sorry. I’ll tell you how it ends…

I’ve read that the production ran into financing issues, in addition to legal trouble when the creator of the work upon which the screenplay was based insisted that their rights to the story had lapsed. If that’s true, then my next obvious question is “Would the Jerry of 1972 have finished and released this movie, if he could have?”

I can’t speculate. I’ll say that he seems sincere in this Q&A. He’s forty years older, probably a lot wiser, and maybe he’s giving advice to the younger version of himself that the 46 year old Jerry Lewis might not have taken.

I can easily imagine “The Day The Clown Cried” being similar to that super angry email that you wrote but never sent because you didn’t trust the privacy of a public WiFi connection, and then you forgot about it until you rediscovered it a couple of years later. You can remember everything about that email, and even now, you think you were perfectly right to be this angry with this person…but you’re relieved and grateful that fate prevented this thing from getting out.

Jerry’s by no means one of my favorite filmmakers, though I respect his obvious love of the artform. Still, I always thought it was unfair to judge a movie that he never “finished.” Drivesavers recently told the story of the herculean efforts they undertook to recover “lost” writings of Gene Roddenberry. 200 floppies full of files, which he had written with an early CP/M-based computer whose OS and apps had been custom-made for him. The recovery wasn’t just a technical problem or a forensic problem…the challenge was practically an archaeological one.

His estate now has all of the recovered text. It’s hard to imagine that Gene left behind a complete, fully written and revised manuscript or screenplay for everything. Even any outlines would be, at best, the frameworks for a future work and not the work itself. I’m sure hundreds of thousands of people would love to read these things, but should we? The drafts of a work-in-progress have a certain “sanctity of the confessional” about them. I’ve written some stuff where I tried to stretch myself and explore The Gentle Cruelty of the Human Condition and it was just maudlin trash. Fair enough; I gave it a try and had enough objectivity about my work to see that it wasn’t worth developing further. It’d be wearying to spend the next forty years of my life being judged, partly, by this thing that I myself decided wasn’t any good.

You’ve probably heard that Jerry has donated “The Day The Clown Cried” to the Library of Congress, along with a trove of other personal papers (with the proviso that it wouldn’t be made available to the public in any form for ten years). That seems to be in line with the sentiments he expressed during that Q&A. He’s deliberately chosen to place that footage within the historical context of his life’s story, and not as part of his creative canon. It’s there for the benefit of film historians, not movie audiences.

Either way…I can’t not see this movie. I never thought I’d live long enough to see Star Wars: Episode VII or “The Day The Clown Cried.” I’ve managed to avoid drunk drivers and poisoned chalices long enough to see the first and now I’m quite hopeful about the second.

The Bugle’s “Hotties From History” Compilation

John Oliver and Andy Zaltzman’s weekly “The Bugle” podcast has been on hiatus for a lonnnng time. I’m not supposed to be upset about it because John and Andy’s careers have been on such an upswing since the show started in 2007 that it’s become difficult for them to find time. The Bugle is a half an hour to 45 minutes of well-crafted political comedy. If it were “two guys get a tiny bit lit and then argue about last week’s episode of ‘Daredevil’” it’d be easy to maintain a consistent schedule but it wouldn’t be as interesting or funny.

The guys keep saying that a relaunch (as a monthly) is in the works. I can’t wait. In the meantime, I’ve been listening to old shows. Many of The Bugle’s fans have cut together their own compilations.

Here’s 90 minutes of The Bugle’s “Hotties From History” segments. This fine tradition started with one of the guys’ throwaway references to Florence Nightingale. Listeners started writing in with their own picks for historical figures capable of inducing downstairs tinglage, and at that point the bit became an unstoppable force.

“Unstoppable force” is also an apt description of Andy’s heroic acts of stamina, courage, and more than anything else “looking on Wikipedia for lists of things,” in the form of his epic pun runs. They’re like the performance art of Marina Abramovic, a single act that might seem like the product of a burning self-destructive impulse achieves a kind of stature and grandeur when it’s placed within the larger context of the artist’s life’s work.

I’m keeping tuned to The Bugle’s Twitter feed for news on the show. If John and Andy never recorded another show, I’d still be vastly grateful for what for years was the best podcast of my week. But I really hope they can find a way to keep the show going.

Ubering While Black — Matter — Medium

Ubering While Black — Matter — Medium:

‘The premium car service removes the racism factor when you need a ride,’ she wrote. Peterson, who lives in D.C., said that since her original post, she has taken ‘hundreds of rides’ with Uber. ‘The Uber experience is just so much easier for African-Americans,’ she told me recently. ‘There’s no fighting or conversation. When I need a car, it comes. It takes me to my destination. It’s amazing that I have to pay a premium for that experience, but it’s worth it.’

(Via.)

Uber’s on my personal list of companies that would have to screw up really big, and clearly in an institutional fashion, for me to stop using it. I almost can’t even listen to the taxi industry’s complaints about it. Uber and other ridesharing systems are only thriving because of huge, longstanding failure points in the taxi system that the industry doesn’t seem to want to fix:

  • Limited number of taxis on the road (which is often an artificially-created scarcity; many taxi companies have opposed the issuing of new medallions in their cities, to keep demand high and competition low);
  • Drivers who discriminate, and it’s so deeply ingrained in the industry that drivers aren’t even cautious about how they do it;
  • Entire geographic communities that taxi companies won’t serve;
  • Utter and total unreliability, even when a customer books a pickup days in advance;
  • Appalling customer service when things inevitably go wrong;
  • Doggedly sticking the customer with rotary-telephone-era inconveniences, in an iPhone world.

I use Uber a lot. The only instance in which I refuse to call an Uber is when I need a ride from an airport. Taxis are right there, and I’m aware that taxi companies often have to pay beaucoup bucks for the right to make pickups outside the door. I feel guilty for using a service that doesn’t need to pay anything at all.

But overall? I feel the same way about the taxi companies as I did about the independent bookstore a few miles away from my childhood home when Barnes & Noble drove it out of business. I’m not happy about seeing a business go under and people losing their jobs. But the fact remains that the store never carried anything I liked. I stopped going there entirely when I walked in with a friend and the owner gruffly ordered me, and I quote, to “roll right back out of here just like the tide.” The new Barnes & Noble at the mall carried everything and they seemed to encourage me to hang out and browse for as long as I liked.

The point is that you can’t consistently tell me that you don’t give a crap about me and then expect me to be on your side when a new business that fits my needs well starts making life difficult for you.

I won’t celebrate when your company folds. It’s worse than that: I simply won’t care.

Mustard! Mustard! Mustard!

I made myself a ham and cheese sandwich with a healthy dose of Bookbinder’s Whole-Grain Mustard. This mustard is my favorite intersection between “great mustard” and “easy to find.” It’s great on a sandwich, it’s great in a marinade, and I usually mix it with a little olive oil and use it as a dressing for green beans.

It prompted me to write this Tweet:


In retrospect, I think Bookbinder’s is like a $5-$6 mustard at my local store. But the principle is the same. You can’t afford to buy a $72,000 Audi instead of a $24,000 Toyota. But chances are that you can afford the fancy kind of mustard and the difference in flavor between a good one and a standard brown or yellow one is amazing.

A couple of people replied with the names of their favorite mustards, and then I encouraged everyone else to chime in. I feel as though it’s now my civic duty to record for posterity this list of Mustards that Someone Felt Worthy of Recommending. Here are the five that caught my eye (ones I sure intend to try):

  • Raye’s Mustards. Handmade (“Since 1900”) in Maine. A wide line that includes beer mustard, wine mustard, and cranberry mustard.
  • Maille. Holy cats these look like fancy-shmancy mustards. They’re not all $43 a jar but oh my god there’s mustard that’s $43 a jar! But this one got many recommendations and after looking at the selection…my curiosity is piqued. This is maybe the Bugatti Veyron of mustards and even so: hey, I got $43.
  • Düsseldorfer Löwensenf. They’re Germans and they’ve been making mustard for a mighty long time. Also some interesting flavor varieties here.
  • Kosciusko Spicy Brown. It seems like a straightforward, non-fussy but excellent mustard. And although the name doesn’t even have even one umlaut, let alone two, there’s something about it that creates a sense of confidence.
  • Sir Kensington’s Spicy Brown. Well, okay: you can’t possibly get a less ethnic brandname than “Sir Kensington.” But it’s well-spoken-of.

And these are all winners! Because each was so well-liked that someone chose to recommend it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

 

 


 

An Apple Event in the Bizarro World

I’m going to do a “wow, you wouldn’t believe the dream I had last night” post, even though I regard those as the Brazils in the big jar of Blog Topics Mixed Nuts. I think you’ll agree why I’ve chosen to share this one.

It was an Apple keynote/media event. But one in the bizarro world, a strange dimension in which Apple is no good at running media events.

Clearly I’ve both a keen eye for what Apple does so well, and a clear memory of all of the awful media events I’ve been to in the past, hosted by other companies. The lowlights:

  • The check-in process was totally screwed up. One line for everyone and everything. A network camera crew could hold up the whole line because they need a spot in the TV pit and nobody behind the counter knows who has the list of approved media for that location.
  • The venue was a deep, narrow, flat room with a low ceiling, so it was practically impossible to see anything. There were a few live monitors scattered around, but you could barely see any of those, either.
  • The seating was all folding chairs and there weren’t quite enough to go around. So you kind of had to grab one wherever you could find one and move it to where you needed to be.
  • The event started super-late. If you milled around during the delay, it was likely that someone would steal your chair.
  • Tim Cook took the stage, but seemed to have been pushed out there without a rehearsed game plan or a specific message in mind. Phil Schiller and Craig Federighi came out along with him, but just sort of stood around sheepishly with nothing to do, making me wonder why they were out there.
  • A pointless appearance by the CEO of a company Apple was partnering with on a project. And it was via video.
  • The audio wasn’t working for the first ten minutes and they just pushed ahead instead of fixing it.
  • They also forgot to dim the house lights, so the audience’s focus was never 100% on the presentation.
  • They hired a celebrity pro wrestler (in his full ring costume and in character) to take part in a terrible little skit on the stage midway through.

I’m being awfully negative about Bizarro Apple here, so I’ll also say that the WiFi in the room was fast and rock-stable.

I’m sure that this was a dream triggered by my deep respect and gratitude for how well Apple does things, or a musing on how flying 3200 miles and losing 72 hours of productivity and spending $1000 to attend media events on the West coast might be more trouble than it’s worth. I decided to attend fewer of those events in 2015, and it seems to have worked out fine.

This definitely wasn’t one of those “o no its final exams and i never attended any of the classes and i have to write all of my test answers with a blade from a ceiling fan” dreams. The only Fail on Dream Andy’s part was bringing a terrible mobile keyboard for his iPad. It folded for pocket storage, but it wouldn’t lay flat, and the keys were mushy and terrible.

In fact, that’s what pulled me out of the dream. Even before I saw “Inception,” I noticed that my dreams usually end when something I see somehow gooses my rational brain back online. “This is impossible. Oh, wait…so this must be a dream, right?”

Still, it’s quite odd that the thing that took me out of the dream was “I had chosen to rely solely on an untested new mobile keyboard for live note-taking during an important event.” It wasn’t “Apple decided that the best way to introduce a new product would be for Tim Cook to talk about it with a pro wrestler in a huge feathered cape, reading everything awkwardly off of a prompter.”

I think this should give you an idea of just how bad some of the product introductions I’ve covered have been.

From my Flickr: “Merry Christmas”

And those shepherds in the fields saw a star, shining in the East

They followed it and found that all was as the angel had said unto them

There was a child, in a manger, in swaddling clothes

And his parents, already in line for the new iPhone

See it here: http://flic.kr/p/CmwR8U

From my Instagram

Hell of a walk to 106th Street to get here, but Straus Park has been on my list for quite some time, for its beautiful memorial modeled by Audrey Munson. I almost called it off on account of darkness. Luckily, I tool a chance and was able to get some nice shots with my phone by holding my headlamp out to the side and using it as an illuminator.

After I didn’t get mugged taking the phone photo, I whipped out my E-M1 and got a few shots using the same technique. Via Instagram: http://ift.tt/1QPuIs3

From my Instagram

I learned last week that the Metropolitan Museum will let you use a tripod if you arrange for a permit first. So I was able to live the dream: take great photos inside Gallery 700. The lighting there is super tricky for any handheld camera.
So it only took me about 18 visits, but I finally got some great photos of “Bacchante and Infant Faun,” an important sculpture with a fascinating history behind it.

Wow, I was there for two hours and all I really did was reshoot four or five old photos! Via Instagram: http://ift.tt/1m89Csf