Saturday, March 26, 2016

Coming to Amazon Prime: April 2016



April 1:
Amistad
Bananas

Batman (1989)
Crimes and Misdemeanors
Cube (1997)
Cube 2: Hypercube
Cube Zero
Death Wish
Dennis the Menace
Deuces Wild
Dr. T. and the Women
Dream Lover (1993)
Ferris Bueller's Day Off
Gang Related
Gremlins
Into The Blue 
Lars and The Real Girl
Liberty Stands Still
Maximum Overdrive
Men in Black II
Music from Another Room
Naked Gun 2&1/2: The Smell of Fear
Nurse (2013)
Payback (1999)
Pootie Tang
Pumpkin
Pumpkinhead
Rare Birds
Rescue Dawn
Risky Business (1983)
Ronin
Santee
Simon Says (2006)
Skipped Parts
Step Into Liquid
Swimming With Sharks
Teen Wolf Too
The Arrival (1996)

The Big Lebowski
The Dead Zone
The Devil's Advocate
The Holiday (2006)
The Peacemaker (1997)
You've Got Mail
April 6:
The Transporter Refueled
April 7:
Nasty Baby
April 8:
Catastrophe - Season 2
April 9:
Maggie
Sliding Doors
April 12:
Mad Max (1979)
April 15:
Thunderbirds are Go! - Season 1
The Whistleblower (2010)
April 18:

Home Fires - Season 1
The Widower - Season 1
April 19:
Tangerines
April 21:
Veep - Season 2
April 22:
Pawn Sacrifice
April 25:
Unity: The Latin Tribute to Michael Jackson
April 27:
The Great Fire - Season 1
April 30:
Ides of March

Coming to Amazon Prime: April 2016



April 1:
Amistad
Bananas

Batman (1989)
Crimes and Misdemeanors
Cube (1997)
Cube 2: Hypercube
Cube Zero
Death Wish
Dennis the Menace
Deuces Wild
Dr. T. and the Women
Dream Lover (1993)
Ferris Bueller's Day Off
Gang Related
Gremlins
Into The Blue 
Lars and The Real Girl
Liberty Stands Still
Maximum Overdrive
Men in Black II
Music from Another Room
Naked Gun 2&1/2: The Smell of Fear
Nurse (2013)
Payback (1999)
Pootie Tang
Pumpkin
Pumpkinhead
Rare Birds
Rescue Dawn
Risky Business (1983)
Ronin
Santee
Simon Says (2006)
Skipped Parts
Step Into Liquid
Swimming With Sharks
Teen Wolf Too
The Arrival (1996)

The Big Lebowski
The Dead Zone
The Devil's Advocate
The Holiday (2006)
The Peacemaker (1997)
You've Got Mail
April 6:
The Transporter Refueled
April 7:
Nasty Baby
April 8:
Catastrophe - Season 2
April 9:
Maggie
Sliding Doors
April 12:
Mad Max (1979)
April 15:
Thunderbirds are Go! - Season 1
The Whistleblower (2010)
April 18:

Home Fires - Season 1
The Widower - Season 1
April 19:
Tangerines
April 21:
Veep - Season 2
April 22:
Pawn Sacrifice
April 25:
Unity: The Latin Tribute to Michael Jackson
April 27:
The Great Fire - Season 1
April 30:
Ides of March

Friday, March 25, 2016

Life is Sweet Turns 25




Life is Sweet is the prototypical Mike Leigh film, embodying all that is right and good about the early phase of the director’s career. Before he branched into darker themes and period pieces, Leigh made his name with sharply observed comedies depicting ordinary working class Brits getting on with their lives, complete with tender hopes and twinkly dreams undashed by Thatcher’s experiments in Social Darwinism. Leigh’s two films from 1988, High Hopes and the made-for-TV The Short and Curlies, used lightness and eccentricity to celebrate the daily heroism of the masses and to individualize the tough slog faced by the young and unremarkable.


Life is Sweet applies Leigh’s effects to a more mature family, led by 40-ish hotel chef Andy (Jim Broadbent) and the effervescent Wendy (Alison Steadman) who holds down a variety a part time jobs. Still at home are their university-age twin daughters: the studious, well adjusted Natalie (Claire Skinner) and Nicola (Jane Horrocks), a snarling, bulimic layabout full of blind, unfocused rage. One fine afternoon, Andy leaves their humble North London townhome to visit a scrapyard with his childhood friend Patsy (Stephen Rea), an amiable ne’er-do-well with a deep fondness for ale. There, Andy acquires a rusting abandoned food truck - years before such an idea was trendy - with misty visions of finally going into business for himself.


While Andy’s scheme is greeted with skepticism, it serves as a sort of slow motion catalyst for Leigh’s widening web of offbeat character sketches. Along the way, viewers are introduced to Aubrey (Timothy Spall), a former coworker of Andy’s who is now about to open his own tragically hip bistro, featuring a menu so exotic it’s downright stomach-turning, and a thuggish young loser (David Thewlis) who casually endures a bit of rough stuff sex with Nicola every Wednesday afternoon. Through a number of meandering, but delightful, digressions - in Leigh’s best work digressions are the building blocks of narrative - the film’s collection of snapshots form a rich and compelling album of life as Britain's tumultuous 20th Century draws to a knackered close.


In typical Mike Leigh fashion, Life is Sweet rises and falls on the strength of its characterizations and happily the film offers acting splendors aplenty. Steadman (the then Mrs. Leigh) creates marvels as Wendy, adopting the permanent, slightly annoying chuckle of matriarchs who have seen it all, and must adopt sunny attitudes just to remain sane. Viewers who know Jane Horrocks mainly as the uber-ditz Bubble from the Britcom Ab Fab will be shocked at the blackhearted textures she achieves here. Horrocks pushes the character right to the edge of cartoon, then deftly backtracks as her immeasurable insecurities eventually tumble out like potatoes from a torn sack.


Broadbent and Rea, both veteran character actors in the midst of career breakthroughs, bring subtle flavors to their camaraderie that make any notions of backstory superfluous. Through tossed away line readings and abrupt intonations, the pair evoke the muscle memory of a lifetime of shared experience. One boozy night in a smoky pub the men hold forth on the great footballers of their youth and mourn the sport’s heroic history lost in time’s relentless drift. Despite the scene’s comedic tenor, and their buzzed stupor, Broadbent and Rea experience a universal passage toward mortality: that moment when sports fans realize that star athletes are now much younger than them.


Mike Leigh’s vibrant realism is accomplished the old fashioned way, through clever, perceptive writing and painstaking immersion in character. He has never resorted to bouncy cameras or other documentary style shorthand to sell audiences his bill of goods, but trusted only actors and text to structure worlds so common and familiar they unnerve. The homey flesh and blood creations of Mike Leigh seem to live just down the street, whether that street is in London or Lubbock. Life is Sweet finds this unique auteur at the top of his game and viewers will be entranced by the film’s densely dimensional characters and warmed by its fully human glow.




Life is Sweet Turns 25




Life is Sweet is the prototypical Mike Leigh film, embodying all that is right and good about the early phase of the director’s career. Before he branched into darker themes and period pieces, Leigh made his name with sharply observed comedies depicting ordinary working class Brits getting on with their lives, complete with tender hopes and twinkly dreams undashed by Thatcher’s experiments in Social Darwinism. Leigh’s two films from 1988, High Hopes and the made-for-TV The Short and Curlies, used lightness and eccentricity to celebrate the daily heroism of the masses and to individualize the tough slog faced by the young and unremarkable.


Life is Sweet applies Leigh’s effects to a more mature family, led by 40-ish hotel chef Andy (Jim Broadbent) and the effervescent Wendy (Alison Steadman) who holds down a variety a part time jobs. Still at home are their university-age twin daughters: the studious, well adjusted Natalie (Claire Skinner) and Nicola (Jane Horrocks), a snarling, bulimic layabout full of blind, unfocused rage. One fine afternoon, Andy leaves their humble North London townhome to visit a scrapyard with his childhood friend Patsy (Stephen Rea), an amiable ne’er-do-well with a deep fondness for ale. There, Andy acquires a rusting abandoned food truck - years before such an idea was trendy - with misty visions of finally going into business for himself.


While Andy’s scheme is greeted with skepticism, it serves as a sort of slow motion catalyst for Leigh’s widening web of offbeat character sketches. Along the way, viewers are introduced to Aubrey (Timothy Spall), a former coworker of Andy’s who is now about to open his own tragically hip bistro, featuring a menu so exotic it’s downright stomach-turning, and a thuggish young loser (David Thewlis) who casually endures a bit of rough stuff sex with Nicola every Wednesday afternoon. Through a number of meandering, but delightful, digressions - in Leigh’s best work digressions are the building blocks of narrative - the film’s collection of snapshots form a rich and compelling album of life as Britain's tumultuous 20th Century draws to a knackered close.


In typical Mike Leigh fashion, Life is Sweet rises and falls on the strength of its characterizations and happily the film offers acting splendors aplenty. Steadman (the then Mrs. Leigh) creates marvels as Wendy, adopting the permanent, slightly annoying chuckle of matriarchs who have seen it all, and must adopt sunny attitudes just to remain sane. Viewers who know Jane Horrocks mainly as the uber-ditz Bubble from the Britcom Ab Fab will be shocked at the blackhearted textures she achieves here. Horrocks pushes the character right to the edge of cartoon, then deftly backtracks as her immeasurable insecurities eventually tumble out like potatoes from a torn sack.


Broadbent and Rea, both veteran character actors in the midst of career breakthroughs, bring subtle flavors to their camaraderie that make any notions of backstory superfluous. Through tossed away line readings and abrupt intonations, the pair evoke the muscle memory of a lifetime of shared experience. One boozy night in a smoky pub the men hold forth on the great footballers of their youth and mourn the sport’s heroic history lost in time’s relentless drift. Despite the scene’s comedic tenor, and their buzzed stupor, Broadbent and Rea experience a universal passage toward mortality: that moment when sports fans realize that star athletes are now much younger than them.


Mike Leigh’s vibrant realism is accomplished the old fashioned way, through clever, perceptive writing and painstaking immersion in character. He has never resorted to bouncy cameras or other documentary style shorthand to sell audiences his bill of goods, but trusted only actors and text to structure worlds so common and familiar they unnerve. The homey flesh and blood creations of Mike Leigh seem to live just down the street, whether that street is in London or Lubbock. Life is Sweet finds this unique auteur at the top of his game and viewers will be entranced by the film’s densely dimensional characters and warmed by its fully human glow.




Tuesday, March 22, 2016

New on Netflix: April 2016



Available 4/1

"16 Blocks" (2006)
"2001: A Space Odyssey" (1968)
"A Clockwork Orange" (1971)
"Best in Show" (2000)
"Chaplin" (1992)
"Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" (2005)
"Codegirl" (2015) 


"Colegas" (2012)
"Cujo" (1983)
"Deep Impact" (1998)
"Dennis Rodman’s Big Bang in Pyongyang" (2015)
"Dolphin Tale" (2011)
"Erin Brockovich" (2000)
"Explorers" (1985)
"Frank and Cindy" (2015)
"Jeremy Scott: The People’s Designer" (2015)
"Looking for Richard" (1996)
"The Mask You Live In" (2015)
"Morituri" (1965)
"My Girl" (1991)
"The Next Best Thing" (2000)
"The Perfect Storm" (2000)
"The Phantom" (1996)
"The Princess Bride" (1987)
"The Right Stuff" (1983)
"Rising Sun" (1993)
"The Running Man" (1987)
"Say It Isn't So" (2001) 


"The Shawshank Redemption" (1994)
"Scrooged" (1988)
"Something's Gotta Give" (2003)
"Transporter 3" (2008)
"Uncommon Valor" (1983)
"Under the Same Moon" (2007)
"V for Vendetta" (2005)

Available 4/5
"Walt Before Mickey" (2015)

Available 4/8
"God's Pocket" (2014)

Available 4/9
"Look Who’s Back" (2015)

Available 4/14
"Moonwalkers" (2015)
"Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine" (2015)

Available 4/15


"Belgica" (2016)

Available 4/22
"Catching The Sun" (2015)

Available 4/24
"Minions" (2015)

Available 4/27
"Begin Again" (2014)

Available 4/29
"Hellion" (2014)
"Special Correspondents" (2016) ­­

New on Netflix: April 2016



Available 4/1

"16 Blocks" (2006)
"2001: A Space Odyssey" (1968)
"A Clockwork Orange" (1971)
"Best in Show" (2000)
"Chaplin" (1992)
"Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" (2005)
"Codegirl" (2015) 


"Colegas" (2012)
"Cujo" (1983)
"Deep Impact" (1998)
"Dennis Rodman’s Big Bang in Pyongyang" (2015)
"Dolphin Tale" (2011)
"Erin Brockovich" (2000)
"Explorers" (1985)
"Frank and Cindy" (2015)
"Jeremy Scott: The People’s Designer" (2015)
"Looking for Richard" (1996)
"The Mask You Live In" (2015)
"Morituri" (1965)
"My Girl" (1991)
"The Next Best Thing" (2000)
"The Perfect Storm" (2000)
"The Phantom" (1996)
"The Princess Bride" (1987)
"The Right Stuff" (1983)
"Rising Sun" (1993)
"The Running Man" (1987)
"Say It Isn't So" (2001) 


"The Shawshank Redemption" (1994)
"Scrooged" (1988)
"Something's Gotta Give" (2003)
"Transporter 3" (2008)
"Uncommon Valor" (1983)
"Under the Same Moon" (2007)
"V for Vendetta" (2005)

Available 4/5
"Walt Before Mickey" (2015)

Available 4/8
"God's Pocket" (2014)

Available 4/9
"Look Who’s Back" (2015)

Available 4/14
"Moonwalkers" (2015)
"Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine" (2015)

Available 4/15


"Belgica" (2016)

Available 4/22
"Catching The Sun" (2015)

Available 4/24
"Minions" (2015)

Available 4/27
"Begin Again" (2014)

Available 4/29
"Hellion" (2014)
"Special Correspondents" (2016) ­­

Monday, March 21, 2016

Masculin Féminin Turns 50





Masculin Féminin (1966) is generally considered a transitional entry in director Jean-Luc Godard’s filmography. It is a product of his ‘contemplative’ period - the years between his big budget, star laden excursion Contempt (1963) and his manically productive year of 1967, which saw him direct no less than five features and documentaries. It was an era in which he completely lost interest - what little interest he had anyway - in traditional methods of cinematic storytelling, preferring improvised and often irrelevant vignettes. These low budget films were made fairly quickly with guerrilla production techniques and constructed like impressionist sketchbooks with little in the way of narrative through-lines. If you’re one of the legions repulsed by Godard, it’s probably because of a film like Masculin Feminine.




Set in the traffic snarled, grungy Paris of the 1960s, the raw world of Masculin Féminin consists of heavy gray skies, wet streets and bustling cafes populated by a generation of young adults who seem literally overcome with ennui. Here we meet the gloomy Paul (Jean-Pierre Léaud), a recent discharge from the army with no idea how to proceed with his life. One day while sipping espresso, he has a chance encounter with a young and pretty fashion magazine editor (Chantal Goya) and his aimless life suddenly finds something resembling a purpose. The rest of the film will be devoted to their meandering romance; a wobbly, chaotic affair that flames and fizzles like a hinky barbecue grill. As with all Godard films, this unambitious plot serves only as a framework from which the director hangs his decorative baubles of political diatribes, Marxist philosophies and jarringly abrupt audiovisual transitions.




Godard skewers his favorite targets - the Vietnam War and Lyndon Johnson - in ways both subtle and audacious. He also seems infatuated with singer Bob Dylan, who is mentioned several times in conversation, and Chantal Goya's character is given the surname Zimmer. There are also passing references to Godard's best frenemy Truffaut, with whom Jean-Pierre Léaud had made a number of films. In general, Godard doesn't have a terribly high opinion of his young protagonists, referring to them as "the children of Marx and Coca-Cola." Yet these rather empty vessels deliver some of Godard's most acid observations: "If you kill a man, you're a murderer. If you kill millions of men, you're a conqueror. If you kill them all, you're God." and "Give us a TV and a car, but deliver us from liberty."




The film caused a bit of a stir due to Godard’s casting of Chantal Goya, a teenage music phenom with no film experience but a portfolio of treacly, vacuous pop songs. In today’s terms this collaboration would be like Michael Haneke casting Justin Bieber in one of his bleak dramatic dirges. And no discussion of Masculin Féminin would be complete without mentioning the glorious monotone photography of Willy Kurant, which is crisp yet retains a brooding, mysterious murk. Indeed, many black and white French films of this era have a similar aesthetic. Whether it was the Seine water used at the Pathe film lab or the permanent Gitanes haze in the Parisian air, the films of this era have a look that has never been duplicated (although Scorsese and D.P. Michael Chapman came very close with Raging Bull in 1980). Willy Kurant would go on to have a career of mind blowing diversity, filming everything from the art house classics of Godard and Agnes Varda, to the Barbara Eden vehicle Harper Valley P.T.A. (1978) to Louis C. K.’s Pootie Tang (2001). Snug in his compound on Lake Geneva, I’m sure Godard watched all of them, and smiled approvingly.



Masculin Féminin Turns 50





Masculin Féminin (1966) is generally considered a transitional entry in director Jean-Luc Godard’s filmography. It is a product of his ‘contemplative’ period - the years between his big budget, star laden excursion Contempt (1963) and his manically productive year of 1967, which saw him direct no less than five features and documentaries. It was an era in which he completely lost interest - what little interest he had anyway - in traditional methods of cinematic storytelling, preferring improvised and often irrelevant vignettes. These low budget films were made fairly quickly with guerrilla production techniques and constructed like impressionist sketchbooks with little in the way of narrative through-lines. If you’re one of the legions repulsed by Godard, it’s probably because of a film like Masculin Feminine.




Set in the traffic snarled, grungy Paris of the 1960s, the raw world of Masculin Féminin consists of heavy gray skies, wet streets and bustling cafes populated by a generation of young adults who seem literally overcome with ennui. Here we meet the gloomy Paul (Jean-Pierre Léaud), a recent discharge from the army with no idea how to proceed with his life. One day while sipping espresso, he has a chance encounter with a young and pretty fashion magazine editor (Chantal Goya) and his aimless life suddenly finds something resembling a purpose. The rest of the film will be devoted to their meandering romance; a wobbly, chaotic affair that flames and fizzles like a hinky barbecue grill. As with all Godard films, this unambitious plot serves only as a framework from which the director hangs his decorative baubles of political diatribes, Marxist philosophies and jarringly abrupt audiovisual transitions.




Godard skewers his favorite targets - the Vietnam War and Lyndon Johnson - in ways both subtle and audacious. He also seems infatuated with singer Bob Dylan, who is mentioned several times in conversation, and Chantal Goya's character is given the surname Zimmer. There are also passing references to Godard's best frenemy Truffaut, with whom Jean-Pierre Léaud had made a number of films. In general, Godard doesn't have a terribly high opinion of his young protagonists, referring to them as "the children of Marx and Coca-Cola." Yet these rather empty vessels deliver some of Godard's most acid observations: "If you kill a man, you're a murderer. If you kill millions of men, you're a conqueror. If you kill them all, you're God." and "Give us a TV and a car, but deliver us from liberty."




The film caused a bit of a stir due to Godard’s casting of Chantal Goya, a teenage music phenom with no film experience but a portfolio of treacly, vacuous pop songs. In today’s terms this collaboration would be like Michael Haneke casting Justin Bieber in one of his bleak dramatic dirges. And no discussion of Masculin Féminin would be complete without mentioning the glorious monotone photography of Willy Kurant, which is crisp yet retains a brooding, mysterious murk. Indeed, many black and white French films of this era have a similar aesthetic. Whether it was the Seine water used at the Pathe film lab or the permanent Gitanes haze in the Parisian air, the films of this era have a look that has never been duplicated (although Scorsese and D.P. Michael Chapman came very close with Raging Bull in 1980). Willy Kurant would go on to have a career of mind blowing diversity, filming everything from the art house classics of Godard and Agnes Varda, to the Barbara Eden vehicle Harper Valley P.T.A. (1978) to Louis C. K.’s Pootie Tang (2001). Snug in his compound on Lake Geneva, I’m sure Godard watched all of them, and smiled approvingly.



Saturday, March 19, 2016

News and Notes: March 2016

Here's a very cool video with side-by-side comparisons of originals and remakes. Scenes from Solaris, Psycho, Old Boy and more...


Remakes from Jaume R. Lloret on Vimeo.





Fans of Yasujirō Ozu, or those looking to learn more about this extraordinary filmmaker, will want to check out this list of essential films from Indiewire.  Then take a few minutes and watch this beautiful video essay by Lewis Bond.






Anime fans will want to investigate FUNimation, a new streaming service devoted to the genre.





And finally, that spiffy new Amazon Echo has a secret audio equalizer built in...who knew??





News and Notes: March 2016

Here's a very cool video with side-by-side comparisons of originals and remakes. Scenes from Solaris, Psycho, Old Boy and more...


Remakes from Jaume R. Lloret on Vimeo.





Fans of Yasujirō Ozu, or those looking to learn more about this extraordinary filmmaker, will want to check out this list of essential films from Indiewire.  Then take a few minutes and watch this beautiful video essay by Lewis Bond.






Anime fans will want to investigate FUNimation, a new streaming service devoted to the genre.





And finally, that spiffy new Amazon Echo has a secret audio equalizer built in...who knew??





Thursday, March 17, 2016

Days of Future Passed: My Earliest Memories, Part 2


Click Here for Part One

The next memory to pop forth from my mind would have happened a few weeks after my visit to Dr. Bill when he plied me with vaccines. My mother took me to the local elementary school to register me for first grade. This must have been in the summer because I remember the building being really hot - no schools in our area had air conditioning at the time - and the windows were open. This was significant because it meant we could hear the foul oaths of a farmer named Hart whose hay baler had broken down in the nearby soybean field. Although my mother tried to ignore it, Mr. Hart’s stream of imprecation reverberated with impressive acoustic power, as he recalled in colorful verbiage each and every time the baler had crapped out on him at critical moments, and the great inconvenience and expense the grease-spewing contraption had caused him over the years.

We were met by a Mrs. Eichel, who told us she would handle our registration and would be my first grade teacher in the fall. As she wrote down my name and address, my mother showed her my birth certificate and a citation signed by Dr. Bill attesting that I had received the pre-school inoculations required by the great state of Virginia. Whenever there was a lull in the conversation, the void was quickly filled by the bellowing of Mr. Hart, who loudly questioned the ancestry of his hay baler.

Mrs. Eichel then did a most peculiar thing. She stepped out from her desk and moved directly behind me. She then started tugging and separating my hair, and rubbing her fingers on my scalp. As my mother looked on quite stunned, Mrs. Eichel said that she was just checking for lice, and it was standard procedure.

“Well I assure you, my child is clean!” snapped my offended mother.

“Yeah, everybody says that.” Mrs. Eichel responded, “But you’d be surprised. Especially these curly headed boys. Lot of places for those critters to hide. I’ve had nothing but white trash in here all day.”

My pate having passed muster and the registration process completed, my mother and I left - stormed would be a better word - out of the building and into our 1958 Ford Fairlane. My mother’s face was bright crimson and I had never seen her so angry. Not even that time at Easter when she caught me throwing handfuls of mud at my cousin Amy. Mr. Hart’s endless malediction seemed the perfect musical accompaniment to her pitch black mood. I remember thinking that this school stuff was not getting off to a good start.

On the way home, we stopped off at Punk’s Grocery where my mother bought me a candy bar and told me to wait in the car while she made a phone call. Like most folks in our community, we didn’t have a telephone at our house, and Punk’s phone booth was a popular spot. I knew this would take a while because she had bought me a Sugar Daddy, a gooey caramel confection that required beaucoup saliva and tongue labor to devour. When parents wanted their kids to be quietly busy for awhile, Sugar Daddys always did the trick.

About a week later, an article appeared in the local newspaper announcing that Mrs. Charlotte M. Eichel would no longer be teaching at county schools because she had been assigned to the post of Deputy Curriculum Planner by the School Board. The address and phone number of her new office would be announced at a later time once the details had been determined. While the article - possibly written by Mrs. Eichel herself - put a highly positive spin on the news, this didn’t really seem like much of a promotion, especially since they weren’t sure where they would put her. When my father read the article at lunch that day, he leaned over and gave my mom a little kiss on the cheek. “I guess your phone call paid off.” he said with wink.

It turned out that day at Punk’s my mother had called Mr. McLean, head of the local school board. Mr. McLean was also in the cattle business and my father had purchased several expensive pedigreed bulls from him over the years. My mother actually spoke to Mrs. McLean - for her to speak directly to Mr. McLean would have been a breach of protocol - and she recounted Mrs. Eichel’s louse search and my mother made it quite clear that she found the whole process offensive and demeaning. The sympathetic Mrs. McLean said she was unaware of any such policy at the school, and would speak to her husband about it when he came home from work.

My mother was a kind and gentle person, but she could be distant and reserved at times. She was also prone to long, gloomy sulks and silences; a trait I unfortunately have inherited. But that day I learned that when it came to her family, my mother would fight like a pitbull. She showed her affection in deeds, not words. We may not have always seen eye-to-eye, but I knew that I would always be able to count on her when I needed support and love. And for nearly 50 years, I did.

Click Here for Part 3

Days of Future Passed: My Earliest Memories, Part 2


Click Here for Part One

The next memory to pop forth from my mind would have happened a few weeks after my visit to Dr. Bill when he plied me with vaccines. My mother took me to the local elementary school to register me for first grade. This must have been in the summer because I remember the building being really hot - no schools in our area had air conditioning at the time - and the windows were open. This was significant because it meant we could hear the foul oaths of a farmer named Hart whose hay baler had broken down in the nearby soybean field. Although my mother tried to ignore it, Mr. Hart’s stream of imprecation reverberated with impressive acoustic power, as he recalled in colorful verbiage each and every time the baler had crapped out on him at critical moments, and the great inconvenience and expense the grease-spewing contraption had caused him over the years.

We were met by a Mrs. Eichel, who told us she would handle our registration and would be my first grade teacher in the fall. As she wrote down my name and address, my mother showed her my birth certificate and a citation signed by Dr. Bill attesting that I had received the pre-school inoculations required by the great state of Virginia. Whenever there was a lull in the conversation, the void was quickly filled by the bellowing of Mr. Hart, who loudly questioned the ancestry of his hay baler.

Mrs. Eichel then did a most peculiar thing. She stepped out from her desk and moved directly behind me. She then started tugging and separating my hair, and rubbing her fingers on my scalp. As my mother looked on quite stunned, Mrs. Eichel said that she was just checking for lice, and it was standard procedure.

“Well I assure you, my child is clean!” snapped my offended mother.

“Yeah, everybody says that.” Mrs. Eichel responded, “But you’d be surprised. Especially these curly headed boys. Lot of places for those critters to hide. I’ve had nothing but white trash in here all day.”

My pate having passed muster and the registration process completed, my mother and I left - stormed would be a better word - out of the building and into our 1958 Ford Fairlane. My mother’s face was bright crimson and I had never seen her so angry. Not even that time at Easter when she caught me throwing handfuls of mud at my cousin Amy. Mr. Hart’s endless malediction seemed the perfect musical accompaniment to her pitch black mood. I remember thinking that this school stuff was not getting off to a good start.

On the way home, we stopped off at Punk’s Grocery where my mother bought me a candy bar and told me to wait in the car while she made a phone call. Like most folks in our community, we didn’t have a telephone at our house, and Punk’s phone booth was a popular spot. I knew this would take a while because she had bought me a Sugar Daddy, a gooey caramel confection that required beaucoup saliva and tongue labor to devour. When parents wanted their kids to be quietly busy for awhile, Sugar Daddys always did the trick.

About a week later, an article appeared in the local newspaper announcing that Mrs. Charlotte M. Eichel would no longer be teaching at county schools because she had been assigned to the post of Deputy Curriculum Planner by the School Board. The address and phone number of her new office would be announced at a later time once the details had been determined. While the article - possibly written by Mrs. Eichel herself - put a highly positive spin on the news, this didn’t really seem like much of a promotion, especially since they weren’t sure where they would put her. When my father read the article at lunch that day, he leaned over and gave my mom a little kiss on the cheek. “I guess your phone call paid off.” he said with wink.

It turned out that day at Punk’s my mother had called Mr. McLean, head of the local school board. Mr. McLean was also in the cattle business and my father had purchased several expensive pedigreed bulls from him over the years. My mother actually spoke to Mrs. McLean - for her to speak directly to Mr. McLean would have been a breach of protocol - and she recounted Mrs. Eichel’s louse search and my mother made it quite clear that she found the whole process offensive and demeaning. The sympathetic Mrs. McLean said she was unaware of any such policy at the school, and would speak to her husband about it when he came home from work.

My mother was a kind and gentle person, but she could be distant and reserved at times. She was also prone to long, gloomy sulks and silences; a trait I unfortunately have inherited. But that day I learned that when it came to her family, my mother would fight like a pitbull. She showed her affection in deeds, not words. We may not have always seen eye-to-eye, but I knew that I would always be able to count on her when I needed support and love. And for nearly 50 years, I did.

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10 Years of The Savages

The Savages struck a vibrant chord with me when it was first released 10 years ago. It’s all about a pair of 40-ish siblings...