Thanks, Alfred!

When you’re staying in a strange, rural area, and you pass an old, gabled farmhouse, and happen to look up and see the unmoving outline of a woman backlit against a third-floor window, what thought comes to mind?

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Psycho, of course!  Even though there’s no Bates Motel sign to be seen, you’re subconsciously scanning the landscape for a knife-wielding Anthony Perkins clad in an old-fashioned full-length dress.  No steaming hot shower is ever completely comfortable when you are in the immediate vicinity of such a scene, is it?  And that slashing, stabbing Psycho soundtrack music helpfully starts playing in the back of your mind to add to the creepiness factor, too.

l’m sure there’s a perfectly good reason why a woman would be up in the third floor of a house, framed against the window.  Maybe it’s her favorite place to watch TV, or maybe that precise spot is where cell phone reception is inexplicably the strongest.  Or maybe it’s just a rotting, maggot-infested corpse kept there by a deeply disturbed murderer with a Mommy complex.

Thanks, Mr. Hitchcock!

Jaws At The Ohio

IMG_5707The CAPA summer movie series is one of the great treasures of Columbus.  For several months the mighty Ohio Theatre becomes a repertory cinema, playing the best Hollywood has produced for your enjoyment in plush, opulent, air-conditioned comfort — with a plus.

This afternoon Kish and I went to see Jaws, which is the summer movie to end all summer movies.  Until you see Jaws again, on the big screen, in all of its colossal splendor, you forget what a marvelous film it is.  So believable in its portrayal of small-town provincialism, so well-acted by Richard Dreyfuss, Roy Scheider, and Robert Shaw, and so compelling in its set pieces — from the little scene between Captain Brody and his son at the dinner table, to the destroyed kid’s raft that washes ashore after one of the Great White attacks, to the bloody, horrible, screeching end for Quint in the shark’s mighty, threshing mouth.

It was telling that, even forty years after its release, the film still brought a gasp and shriek to the audience when the face of the dead fisherman drops into view in the hole of his ruined vessel.  Jaws is being released for a limited engagement, nationwide, next week, and if you get a chance to see it in a full-sized theater you have got to go and hear that familiar shark music again.  It really is a masterpiece of American cinema.  (If you live in Columbus, you can go catch Jaws at the Ohio Theatre tonight, at a 7:30 performance.)

IMG_5725And speaking of masterpieces, no description of the CAPA summer movie series would be complete without a mention of the “plus” that I was talking about — the “Mighty Morton” theatre organ that rises from the stage floor to entertain the audience with classic organ music and then sinks back down, with the organist still playing and pumping away, as the curtains open and the film credits roll.  The organ  alone is worth the price of admission — which is only $4 a person in any case.

Louie, Louie

The man who sang one of the greatest rock ‘n roll songs in history has died.  Jack Ely, the lead singer for The Kingsmen who delivered the definitive vocal rendition of Louie, Louie, died recently at age 71.  His song is an acknowledged classic that is instantly familiar to every rock music fan and was memorably sung by the frat boys in Animal House.

What makes a song great?  The Kingsmen’s version of Louie, Louie is only 2 minutes, 46 seconds long.  It features a cheesy organ intro, a simple beat, crashing drums, and an off-kilter guitar solo, but what makes it unforgettable are vocals that sound like they were recorded at 3 a.m. in a bus station bathroom by a drunken guy who is singing in a rare Martian dialect.  The unique sound occurred because Ely, who was wearing braces at the time, was placed in the middle of the band by the recording engineer to achieve a “live feel” in the recording and had to scream out the lyrics into a microphone located several feet overhead.

The deliciously slurred, garbled result was an immediate hit, in part because you could dance to it and in part because teenage boys across America had heard that the “real” lyrics were “dirty” and bought the record in droves trying to decipher them.  In fact, Louie, Louie, which was written by Richard Berry, is a simple, sweet song about a man thinking about the girl he is going to see when he returns to Jamaica — but good luck figuring that out from Ely’s howling, boozy-sounding vocals.

The rumors of a dirty meaning to the song were so persistent and widespread that the FBI and other law enforcement entities actually looked into the issue to determine whether Louie, Louie violated then-existing obscenity laws. They ultimately concluded that The Kingsmen’s version was “unintelligible at any speed.”  And that’s what made it great.

Han Senior Citizen

The new trailer for Star Wars:  The Force Awakens is out.  It gives us our first peek at my favorite character, Han Solo, and his faithful sidekick Chewbacca, who gets to utter one of his trademark worried growls.  It may as well be 1977 all over again.

Of course, Han Solo is a lot older, but he’s still looking pretty darned sprightly for a death-defying smuggler in his 70s.  And while he may be older, is he any wiser?  That’s one of the reasons why I’ll be heading to the theaters when the new movie is released.

The Wrath Of Columbus

Columbus isn’t exactly Hollywood, California, but this week it sort of seems like it, because they’re making a movie on the streets of Ohio’s capital city.

IMG_5153The film will be called I Am Wrath and it stars John Travolta.  According to the IMDb website, it’s about a husband out for vengeance when his wife is killed and crooked police officers can’t, or won’t, catch the murderer.  It sounds vaguely like Death Wish and a number of other vigilante and quasi-vigilante movies.

There have been a number of Travolta sightings around town, including some shooting along Parsons Avenue close by German Village.  Today the film crew was supposed to work downtown, in the alley that runs between Gay Street and Broad Street.  (Our receptionist said, somewhat breathlessly, that they were going to film a scene in a neighborhood eatery and had cast an actual waitress and cook as extras.)  As a result, the parking spots on our side of Gay Street were unavailable so the movie trucks and trailers would have a place to park, and there were a number of random people — women, especially — wandering around hoping to catch a look at the star of Welcome Back, Kotter, Saturday Night Fever, Urban Cowboy, Grease, and Pulp Fiction.

I didn’t get to see Mr. Travolta, but I’m glad that they are using Columbus as a backdrop for a movie.  I’m not sure how much revenue a movie crew and actors pump into a city’s economy, but every little bit helps.

Atonality Aversion

On Friday we’ll be going to another performance of the Columbus Symphony.  Part of the Symphony’s American Roots Festival series, the performance will mix familiar pieces — such as George Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue and an overture by Antonin Dvorak — with some works that are totally unknown to me, including George Antheil’s Jazz Symphony and Kurt Weill’s Little Threepenny Music.

I’m always game to listen to a new musical composition, but I approach such performances with a mix of anticipation and apprehension.  I love classical music and enjoy just about everything from the baroque era forward — until we get to the “modern” classical music of the mid-20th century.  Atonal and jarring, discordant and squawking, the modern compositions are just not pleasant to hear in my view and suffer by comparison to the richly melodic and beautiful compositions of the masters.  It’s as if the classical music world hit the wall around 1950 or so.

Some people suggest that those of us who don’t like the modern stuff simply aren’t sufficiently refined and sophisticated in our musical tastes.  Their arguments remind me of the scene in Defending Your Life where Albert Brooks and his after-life guide are eating a meal.  Albert’s steak looks very tasty, while the guide’s plate is filled with what looks like elephant droppings.  When Albert asks about the difference, the guide explains that because Albert only uses a tiny fraction of his brain, much less than is used by the guide, he can’t possibly appreciate the exquisite and nuanced flavors in the plate of crap.

So perhaps my brainpower isn’t adequate to the task of enjoying modern symphonic  music — or maybe I just like steak.  I’ll be interested to listen to what Friday brings.

The Cold Weather Workout

I think there are lots of good reasons to walk in the morning, especially on cold mornings.  But is losing weight one of them?

There is an intuitive logic to the notion that walking — or for that matter, doing much of anything — in the cold will help you lose weight.  Calories are, after all, units of heat.  If you’re out in the shivering winter weather, it stands to reason that your body will need to burn calories just to keep warm.  So you would expect that cold weather would be a plus factor beyond the benefits provided by walking, generally.

IMG_5799Some medical research supports that reasoning — and also indicates that walking in the cold affects the fat cells in the human body.  There are unhealthy white fat cells — presumably the jiggly, blobby glop that Brad Pitt and Ed Norton stole from the liposuction clinic to make soap in Fight Club — and healthy brown fat cells, which help the body burn heat.  If you’re out in colder temperatures regularly, you apparently increase your supply of that good brown fat.  (Incidentally, am I the only person who didn’t know there there was good fat and bad fat?)

Of course, as is always the case in the health area, there are contrary findings.  One recent study questioned whether cold-weather exercise burns more calories and also found that low temperatures increase the amount of an appetite-stimulating hormone, ghrelin, in the blood stream.  So, when you walk in the cold, you’re not only not burning more calories, you may be setting yourself up for a post-walk, diet-killing chow down of epic proportions.

I’ve long since stopped trying to figure out which of the competing health studies should be followed and simply tried to do what seems to work for me.  I like walking in the cold because I like breathing the crisp air, and I feel mentally sharper and more fit when I get to the office.  Whether I am actually sharper and more fit, I’ll leave to the researchers.