WEIRDLAND

Tuesday, July 09, 2019

Rock Culture in the 21st century, Bob Dylan, Lou Reed, Buddy Holly in Rhinelander

"I don't think that I've ever made a fully realized piece of art. I've always felt like the best stuff I've made has been the stuff that I didn't intend to be there, that I look at and say, how did that happen? that's the stuff that makes it worthwhile to me. Because if you could imagine it, why do it? Why take that journey?" -Jeff Tweedy from Wilco.


In their many justified laments about the trajectory of their profession in the digital age, songwriters and musicians regularly assert that music has been “devalued.” Over the years they’ve pointed at two outstanding culprits. First, it was music piracy and the futility of “competing with free.” More recently the focus has been on the seemingly miniscule payments songs generate when they’re streamed on services such as Spotify or Apple Music. Less obvious are a number of other forces and trends that have devalued music in a more pernicious way. And by music I don’t mean the popular song formats that one sees on awards shows and hears on commercial radio. I mean the sonic art form — imaginative, conceptual composition and improvisation rooted in harmonic and rhythmic ideas. In other words, music as it was defined and regarded five decades ago, when art music had a seat at the table.

When I hear songwriters of radio hits decry their tiny checks from Spotify, I think of today’s jazz prodigies who won’t have a shot at even a fraction of the old guard’s popular success. They can’t even imagine working in a music environment that might lead them to household status of the Miles Davis or John Coltrane variety. They are struggling against forces at the very nexus of commerce, culture and education that have conspired to make music less meaningful to the public at large. We truly do devalue music when we reduce our most impactful art form to an artifact of celebrity. Complex instrumental music has become marginalized to within an inch of its very existence, and that has a lot to do with industry folk defining “value” in only the way that affects their mailbox money. Here are some of the most problematic issues musicians are facing in the industry’s current landscape.

1. The Death of Context: Digital music ecosystems, starting with Apple’s iTunes, reduced recordings down to a stamp-sized cover image. As classical music commentators have long argued, these systems do a poor job with composers, conductors, soloists and ensembles. Plus they’re devoid of context. While there are capsule biographies of artists and composers in most of the services, historic albums are sold and streamed without the credits or liner notes of the LP and CD era. The constituency of super-fans who read and assimilate this stuff is too small to merit attention from the digital services or labels, but what’s lost is the maven class that infuses the culture with informed enthusiasm. Our information-poor environment of digital is failing to inspire such fandom, and that’s profoundly harmful to our shared idea about the value of music.

2. Commercial Radio: It’s an easy target, but one can’t overstate how profoundly radio changed between the explosion of popular music in the mid 20th century and the corporate model of the last 30 years. An ethos of musicality and discovery has been replaced wholesale by a cynical manipulation of demographics and the blandest common denominator. Playlists are much shorter, with a handful of singles repeated incessantly. DJs no longer choose music based on their expertise and no longer weave a narrative around the records. As with liner notes, this makes for more passive listening and shrinks the musical diet of most Americans down to a handful of heavily produced, industrial-scale hits.

3. The Media: In the 1960s, mainstream print publications took the arts seriously, covering and promoting exceptional contemporary talents across all styles of music. Thus did Thelonious Monk wind up on the cover of TIME magazine, for example. When I began covering music for a chain newspaper around 2000, stories were prioritized by the prior name recognition of the subject. Music/discovery stories were subordinate to celebrity news at a systemic level. Industry metrics (chart position and concert ticket sales) became a staple of music “news.” In the age of measured clicks the always-on focus grouping has institutionalized the echo chamber of pop music, stultifying and discouraging meaningful engagement with art music.

4. Anti-intellectualism: Music has for decades been promoted and explained to us almost exclusively as a talisman of emotion. The overwhelming issue is how it makes you feel. Whereas the art music of the West transcended because of its dazzling dance of emotion and intellect. Art music relates to mathematics, architecture, symbolism and philosophy. And as such topics have been belittled in the general press or cable television, our collective ability to relate to music through a humanities lens has atrophied. Those of us who had music explained and demonstrated to us as a game for the brain as well as the heart had it really lucky. Why so many are satisfied to engage with music at only the level of feeling is a vast, impoverishing mystery.

5. Music in Schools: It all begins — or ends — here. Like any other language, the rules and terms and structure are most readily absorbed by the young. And as music’s been cut from more than half the grade schools in the US in a long, grinding trend, the pushback has been based increasingly on evidence about music education’s ripple effects on overall academic performance — the ‘music makes kids smarter’ argument. This is true and vital, but we tend to lose sight of the case for the value of music in our culture — that music education makes kids more musical. Those who internalize music’s rules and rites early in life will be more likely to attend serious concerts and bring a more astute ear to their pop music choices as adults. Source: medium.com

It’s also important to note that no one individual person or act invented the genre formally known as rock & roll; it was, generally speaking, wrought from the confluence of Americana forces: big band, jazz, country, and blues. When Dylan turned electric in 1965, it was seen as a betrayal to the folk genre, something a lot of fans hated and scorned him for, even to this day. In reality, the move from lone troubadour to electric frontman was, in fact, his total acknowledgment and loyalty to pure music Americana. Rock ’n’ roll was a new art form that emerged with the deepened expansion of the American spirit. He was honoring his roots. “I’m not a folk rock singer,” he adamantly told the press. When asked by journalists why he didn’t write protest songs anymore, he simply responded, “Who said that? All I ever do is protest.”

Bob Dylan's Behind the Shades interview appeared in the February/March 2015 issue of AARP magazine, while promoting his live album Shadows in the Night. Dylan talked about Sinatra, aging, his new album and if the thinks rock ’n’ roll died. The article started out with Dylan discussing the fact that his band was made up of old-timer elements like the pedal steel and stand up bass, and that there were no overdubs or separate tracking. But when the conversation moves into his early influences during childhood, he went off onto a tangent about rock ’n’ roll: “I was still an aspiring rock 'n' roller. The descendant, if you will, of the first generation of guys who played rock ’n’ roll — Buddy Holly, Chuck Berry, Carl Perkins, Gene Vincent, Jerry Lee Lewis. They played this type of music that was extremely incendiary. And there must have been some elitist power that had to get rid of all these guys, to strike down rock ’n’ roll for what it was and what it represented. And that was extremely threatening for them, I would think. When they finally recognized what it was, they had to dismantle it, which they did, starting with payola scandals.” 

The payola scandals revealed that labels and distributing companies were bribing disc jockeys to spin certain records a certain amount of times per week. Before DJ’s were known as the lucrative, technical button-pushers they are today, they were curators of music trends in the 1950’s, when cheap 45 rpm’s took off and the American teenager (*Boomer alert*) was, for the first time, a viable economic force. In 1950, there were approximately 250 disc jockeys in the U.S. By 1957, the number had grown to over 5,000. The increase was partially due to the sheer amount of new records being produced, both by major and indie labels. These on-air personalities had so much clout with younger listeners, Time magazine called them the “poo-bahs of musical fashion and pillars of U.S. low-and-middle-brow culture.” The hammer eventually came down in 1959, when 335 DJs admitted to receiving over $263,000 in “consulting fees” before the U.S. House Oversight Committee (over $2 million in today’s money). 


It was around this time Doo-wop came to commercial prominence, and not only did it help simmer the flames sparked by rock, but it also helped cultivate the eventual Italian-American assimilation. Doo-wop did to rock ’n’ roll what Sinatra and his previous generation of crooners did to jazz. In A Renegade History of the United States by Thaddeus Russell, it’s described as: “A style combining smooth vocal harmonies, romantic lyrics, and a stationary stage presence… doo-wop shot to the top of the pop charts in the late 1950s when Italian Americans adopted it as their own — just as most African American performers moved toward ‘soul music.’” Why did the committee single Alan Freed out? Freed was abrasive. Dick Clark was squeaky clean, Brylcreemed, handsome and polite. Once the grilling started, Freed’s friends and allies in broadcasting quickly deserted him. Freed refused — “on principle” — to sign an affidavit saying that he’d never accepted payola. WABC fired him, and he was charged with 26 counts of commercial bribery. Freed died five years later, broke and virtually forgotten. By the time “Twist and Shout” arrived to us from across the pond in 1964, rock ’n’ roll had already taken one hell of bludgeoning.

Although the primal wave of Rock & Roll of the Fifties is seen almost like a surreal fantasy these days, what’s happening in garages and makeshift basement studios across the country — the fourth wave of garage rock, as loosely described by Ty Segall — tells us that despite the turbulent effects of the digi-scape on all sectors of our culture in the 21st century, rock ‘n’ roll is not only still kicking, but it’s doing so in the illuminated dark, out of the mainstream limelight. Though it may be snatched or bought off the streets and shamelessly adulterated in corporate studios now and again (and forever doomed to the purgatory of PR sub-genre-labeling), the current garage revival underway proves its spirit is what persists, and what returns to haunt the status quo.



Lou Reed's "Your Love" (1962) from Rare Singles From The Golden Age of Rock and Roll. Sylvia Morales (Reed's ex-wife) is contemplating to write a memoir about their marriage, she met with NPR at a Chinatown café recently for a chat: "Lou was a person who was extremely bright. For example, there was the music he really loved – the ‘50s doo-wop, Otis Redding, a very intense love for that that remained his entire life. Lou didn’t like to do interviews, and he shied away from too much press. He asked me if he should release Take Not Prisoners and I said yes – I was younger, and maybe should have rethought that one. Well, he was very close to not releasing it, and a lot of people around him were saying, “Are you insane? Do not release this!” Growing Up in Public (1980) was deadly serious. Lou was dealing with growing up in one big lump, as he tried to evolve into a healthier version of himself. It was very rough. But I’ve never seen anyone stronger. Nowadays, people have rehab and more social support, there is a little less social stigma. But he totally did it by himself. He was very strong and determined.  Maybe “Heavenly Arms” from The Blue Mask (1982) is not as timeless as “A Perfect Day” or “Pale Blue Eyes,” but it's what he gave to me. After the Velvets reunion, Lou and I attempted to work together despite our marriage eroding. We tried to work together because we both still had the same values. We both believed very much in doing his work. I totally think he was a very meaningful, very important artist. We struggled through a lot. But I’m pretty proud of the fact that we didn’t do what maybe other couples have done. We tried to behave a certain way to get things done." —Podcast by Eric Davidson (December, 2018)

The world of Rock and Roll was a bit different in the 1950s than it became in later years. Other than Elvis Presley, who was already playing in stadiums in the late 1950s, most rock bands still performed in smaller auditoriums and arenas. In 1958 Buddy Holly was a recognized musical star, yet he barely got interviewed by the press or radio and domestically he maintained a grueling schedule playing in smaller venues across the country. One of those small venues was the Crystal Rock in Rhinelander, Wisconsin. In July 1958 Buddy Holly and the Crickets toured the upper Midwest with the Summer Dance Party, a tour that started on July 4 in Indiana, and ended on July 13 in Wisconsin. They played every day in a different town or city, except for July 7. On July 12 the band was scheduled to play two shows in Wausau, Wisconsin.


Holly’s time in Wisconsin could not have been overly memorable for him. The band spent the night in Wausau, and Holly woke up to find that someone had slashed the tires on his Lincoln Continental. After getting the car repaired, the group drove up to Rhinelander for the July 13 show at the Crystal Rock. In Rhinelander a local band, the Runabouts, and twin sisters Judy and Joan Bender, who performed as the Jayettes, opened for Holly. Judy Bender, now Judy Oestreich, knew that she was performing on the same stage as an up-and-coming legend. "Holly was very talented. Very, very talented," remarks Judy Oestreich, from the town of Ringle, WI. "I think it was the way he presented the music. He wrote it, so he felt it." Judy and his friends started talking with Holly, and when the bar closed, the party moved to her house. Judy rounded up his extensive record collection, and she and Holly talked about music, and life on the road. She reckons that Holly was a perfect gentleman that night and maybe he might have been expecting for some sign of personal interest on her part, but she was too tired to initiate a romantic overture. Also, Judy was dating his future husband, Terry Oestreich, The Runabouts drummer, who also attended the party. Terry gave Buddy Holly his name and number, and was surprised when Holly called him the next morning.

Holly and the Crickets had another gig on July 13 at the Crystal Rock Ballroom in Rhinelander, and The Runabouts and the Jayettes opened the concert again. The musicians and Terry Oestreich spent part of the afternoon at a picnic with the band. Judy Oestreich ended up seeing Buddy Holly once again, on February 1, 1959, before a performance in Green Bay. With them were Judy's sister Joan, and Larry Matti, who played sax for The Runabouts and who ended up marrying Joan. Holly invited them into the performers' dressing room, and they all met the Big Bopper, Ritchie Valens and other performers on the fateful Winter Dance Party Tour in the Midwest. Two days later, Holly, the Big Bopper and Valens were killed in a plane crash near Clear Lake, Iowa. When Judy and Terry Oestreich got the news, "We were absolutely devastated," Judy lamented. "I think Buddy Holly would have been huge, if he had lived. Bigger than even Elvis." But not everyone attending was a fan. In 1958 a 17-year-old Bill Knutson was at the Rhinelander concert, and he recalled being in the rest room during a break when Buddy Holly came in another burly fellow in the restroom started to threaten Holly physically. Knutson intervened and allowed Holly to duck out before anything worse could happen. Back on stage, Holly (tongue-in-cheek) dedicated his next song “for the guy who just saved my life.” Holly and his band slept in their cars that night in a parking lot across the street from the Crystal Rock, after which they returned home. Holly passed through the Northwoods again for 1959s Winter Dance Party tour but never performed in Rhinelander again. Terry Oestreich, Judy's husband, was a roadie of sorts for the Jayettes and The Runabouts. His brother Bob Oestreich also was a drummer for The Runabouts. Holly's music "was just different, you know? And we liked it," Terry said: "The talent was obvious, but everyone who came in contact with Holly that night and the following morning say the same thing. He was a decent, quiet, down-to-earth, nice guy." Source: medium.com/cuepoint

Strauss-Howe's The Fourth Turning references the cyclical nature of history, the rise of authoritarianism in the past and the likely future cycles. It is interesting to note that this work, published in the nineties, predicted a major financial (on par with the great depression) occurring some time between 2005 and 2010, and a major democratic (as in the system, not the party) crisis between 2015 and 2025 in Europe and the US. Fast forward to 2019. 90% of American media controlled by 6 corporations. Or just 5, since CBS and Viacom have consolidated under the umbrella of National Amusements. A Google search of the legislation passed in 1999 that deregulated our financial industry and lo and behold the very first result was a form of compliance for the bill that protects consumer privacy/information. Anyone looking to research the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act is met with a friendly search engine optimized version of the bill that tells them nothing about the havoc it actually caused. This cross contamination occurs as often it's more about making people angrier and more paranoid. Getting angry has become our primary source of entertainment. Now we're all angry at one another and factioned to a degree where we're dismissing one another's concerns, paralyzing us from addressing the source of our problems and becoming a parody of the mass media we consume. Much like the media, every time a lot of of us talk, it's just to make someone angry. It turns out that liberal democracy and free trade may actually be rather fragile achievements. There is something out there that doesn’t like liberalism, and is making trouble for the survival of its institutions. Fukuyama thinks he knows what that something is, and his answer is summed up in the title of his new book, “Identity: The Demand for Dignity and the Politics of Resentment” (2018). Hegel thought that the end of history would arrive when humans achieved perfect self-knowledge and self-mastery, when life was rational and transparent. Rationality and transparency are the values of classical liberalism. Source: www.newyorker.com

Tuesday, July 02, 2019

Luhrmann's Elvis biopic, Rock & Roll, Vietnam, Analysis of Kubrick's Full Metal Jacket

Miles Teller: “I feel they’ve never really got an Elvis biopic right yet. I want to play young Elvis. It’s easy to do wrecked, bloated, and drug-addicted. You’ve got to see him rocking and rolling. Just gotta make my accent a little more ‘Memphis’”

Ansel Elgort, Miles Teller, Austin Butler and Aaron Taylor-Johnson are in the funning to play Elvis Presley in Baz Luhrmann's Untitled Elvis Presley Project. Five young actors have tested for the part of the King of Rock and Roll in Baz Luhrmann’s upcoming Elvis Presley biopic. Ansel Elgort, the Baby Driver star who is about to start shooting Steven Spielberg’s West Side Story; Aaron Taylor-Johnson, who appeared in Kick-Ass and Avengers: Age of Ultron; and Miles Teller, the Whiplash actor who will be in the Top Gun sequel, tested for the filmmaker last week. Also Austin Butler, who has a role in Quentin Tarantino's Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. The lead role is expected to be filled in the coming weeks. Tom Hanks is already on board the project as Col. Tom Parker, the legendary manager who controlled every aspect of Elvis' life. Source: www.hollywoodreporter.com

Elvis completed his 18-month stint in Germany and arrived back in the U.S. in March of 1960. At Fort Dix, New Jersey he was honorably discharged from active duty on March 5, 1960. He received his mustering-out check of $109.54 and Elvis Presley, Sergeant E-5 returned to home the life and career he had left behind.  Where did Elvis stand on the Vietnam War? He did not issue a single public statement about the Vietnam War, either for or against it. Elvis may well have supported the war, if we take into account his letter written to President Nixon in December 1970, but his stance was not cut clear. Other musicians like Bob Dylan and Joan Baez wrote a handful of protest folk songs. Jimi Hendrix was not an official protestor of the war, and he actually sympathized with the anticommunist view. However, with songs like “Machine Gun”, dedicated to those fighting in Vietnam, he did protest the violence that took place during the conflict. While Hendrix’s point of view was probably not similar to the protestors, his songs became anthems to the antiwar movement and a driving force during the war years even after his death. 


There are few songs particularly representative of that period and, all of them, are openly against the war. In chronological order of recording: “Eve of Destruction” (Barry McGuire), “Give Peace a Chance” (John Lennon), “Fortunate Son” (Creedence Clearwater Revival), “Ball of Confusion” (The Temptations), “Ohio” (Crosby Stills Nash & Young), and “War” (Edwin Starr). These songs were written (except the first one “Eve of Destruction” which was released in the 1965) recorded and released between late 1969 and early 1970. In fact, a few of them were during in the same month: at the height of the American presence in Southeast Asia and at the height of the anti-war movement in the U.S. In the immortal words of the German Romantic writer Jean Paul Richter “Music is moonlight in the gloomy night of life”. Vietnam was in fact known as “America’s first Rock ‘n’ Roll War.” Much of the music written during the 1960s and 70s characterized the discontent of American youth with the escalation of America’s involvement in the Vietnam conflict (Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia from November 1955, to the fall of Saigon in April 1975). Since Rock music was the most popular genre at the time with American youth, it inevitably became popular also in Vietnam among the young American soldiers. In retrospect, Rock ‘n’ Roll music ultimately became an anthem of the American youth demonstrating their anti-establishment anti-war sentiment. 90% of the combat soldiers were under 23 years of age.


For instance, “Purple Haze”, by Jimi Hendrix, made reference to a slang term for the M-18 violet smoke grenade, used by United States armed forces. In the song “Magical Mystery Tour” by The Beatles, the lyrics “Coming to take you away, dying to take you away”, had special meaning for Marines during the battle of Khe Sanh (when the Marine base was isolated and there were a series of desperate actions that lasted 77 days). The most common medium for the music between soldiers in Vietnam was the Armed Forces Vietnam Network (AFVN) Radio. This 24 hour radio station was created by the U.S. Armed Forces to entertain the American troops. As Michael W. Rodriguez (combat veteran of the Vietnam War and writer of the book “Humidity Moon”) stated: “Rock ‘n’ Roll meant fully automatic fire, get some adrenaline running through the body like a runaway train.” Rock music became the megaphone of an idealistic and confused generation, which ultimately identified itself in the lyrics and music by artists such as Jim Morrison and The Doors, Janis Joplin, and Bob Dylan, just to name a few. These so-called “cursed heroes” became wonderful interpreters and their songs have survived long past the war torn years during which they were created. The music itself has become immortal still listened to today, some 40 years later, by American youth who have little knowledge of the Vietnam War. Source: faculty.buffalostate.edu

The Balance of Order and Chaos in Full Metal Jacket: The combination of the demented treatment the recruits receive in boot camp with the combined hours of boredom and terror of the Vietnam scenes is intense. There is the ongoing theme of dehumanisation, the cynical world view, the hilarious black humour, the cold, distant and unsympathetic characters, the key use of disconnecting popular music, and the central role of war and conflict. Yet again, and very much like Werner Herzog he makes the surreal seem utterly believable, and reality seem surreal. The dehumanisation and brutality of boot camp, the moral ambiguity of the war and the questionable mental stability of some American soldiers is shown unsparingly, but so is the uncompromising barbarity of the communist enemy. When Joker finally confronts the sniper, Kubrick begins anew his deconstruction of hypermasculinity, in extremely complex ways. To begin, that the sniper is revealed to be a woman has enormous implications. In the ideological programming of the Marine Corps, that a woman could kill and hold off a whole platoon of marines is in itself deeply emasculating. 

The ending moment is keenly allegorical. Kubrick has created in this space apocalyptic signifiers, staging a Dante’s Inferno. When Joker approaches the unknowing sniper, Kubrick juxtaposes Joker with a conspicuously undamaged Vietnamese flag, which later becomes juxtaposed to the five men hovering over the mortally wounded Vietnamese woman soldier and then becomes a signifier throughout the mercy killing scene. Kubrick again uses shorthand signifiers to offer us larger allegorical meanings, in this case, represented by the space of the allegorically coded Vietnamese building and the allegorically coded Vietnamese woman. Arguably, up to this moment, Joker has not fully succumbed to the hypermasculinization process. Throughout the film, Joker has mocked and ironized the hypermasculinization process as well as America’s ideological rationalizations of the war: his mocking John Wayne line; his “duality” conception throughout, especially as he defines it to the colonel asking him “which side are you on?” 

Killing the (woman) sniper is a killing of the self. The fact that Joker delivers the shot that finally kills her can be read to mean that, in killing the sniper, Joker takes a further step toward self-mutilation and, therefore, toward self-destruction. Joker’s killing of the sniper can be seen not just as a self-mutilation but as a suicidal act. Kubrick establishes once again, that the Other is always the Self because the distinctions between the masculine and the feminine are false. Masculinity and femininity are  symbolic scripts, and masculine is not to be confused with male. In other words, the Vietnamese woman sniper becomes a kind of symbolic mirror image of Joker as he wrestles against his action, the contemplation of which is very much an interior Otherness (in ideological terms, the “feminine” within) pushing back against such a traumatic, monstrous act. The dramatic music, lighting (half of Joker’s face cast in shadow emphasizing his duality), Joker’s peace sign disappears when he takes the shot, leaving only the “Born to Kill” on his helmet, suggesting that his duality is at an end. Joker’s face contorts in a mask of what looks like supreme will power to commit this extremely difficult act. 

The Mickey Mouse Club song chanting in the end can be confusing to the viewer. Seen through a conservative or patriotic perspective, some film critics found a bit suspicious the lack of an explicit condemnatory stance in Kubrick's final conclusion. In order to save communist Vietnam (or the woman sniper) America had to mercy kill her? Or, more likely, Kubrick forces us to see the hidden reality of war: Sanctioned killing is sanitized by the military and in most war genre representations (especially filmic), but when presented in this naked form, where ideological/moral sanctioning does not apply, we witness a killing of the self. In this way, like Kubrick showed with the developmentally challenged Private Leonard "Gomer Pyle" Lawrence (who killed himself), Kubrick teachs us in this decisive moment that killing the Other can be, from a moral perspective, a killing of the self or “suicidal” act. Source: www.yourfilmprofessor.com

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Cheerfulness, Marilyn Monroe & Frank Sinatra

Like with most of the men in her life, Marilyn Monroe had a complicated relationship with Ol’ Blue Eyes, Frank Sinatra. Following their divorces from Joe DiMaggio and Ava Gardner, Marilyn and Sinatra found consolation together and commiserated over their shared troubles with insomnia, loneliness and insecurity. “He has always been very kind to me,” Marilyn told gossip columnist Louella Parsons, when asked about their affair. Indeed, some say that Frank became so intent on saving Marilyn from her demons that he asked her to marry him. 

“Her beauty and her vulnerability made her seem like a soft little pussycat that needed to be protected,” actress Ruta Lee exclusively told Closer Weekly—in the magazine’s latest issue, on newsstands now—at the Edwards-Lowell Gallery and the Andrew Weiss Gallery Present Marilyn Monroe: 17 Years in the Making opening night. Marilyn and Frank began seeing each other casually in the late 1950s—her maid Lena Pepitone says the star even moved into Frank’s L.A. home briefly to recover after her split from Joe—but their romance really heated up in 1961. “They spent a lot of nights together,” said Jimmy Whiting, a Sinatra friend. “They took bubble baths together.” Out of deference to her ex-husband, Frank tried to keep the relationship a secret. “He didn’t want Joe to get pissed off,” Jim White explained.

That August, Frank and Marilyn hosted friends on the singer’s yacht, but it wasn’t smooth sailing. “[Marilyn] was giving him a hard time…taking a lot of drugs and drinking,” and insider revealed in Sinatra: Behind the Legend by J. Randy Taraborrelli. “Marilyn was real dependent on Frank,” explained Jim White. “She used to say, ‘If I have any problem, there’s only one person I know can help: Frankie.'” Though Sinatra loved her, in February 1962, he announced his engagement to dancer Juliet Prowse—surprising even his closest friends. Not surprisingly, Frank’s new romance ended in just six weeks. That August, Frank invited Marilyn to Cal-Neva Lodge in Lake Tahoe. 

“When Frank saw Marilyn, he was alarmed at how depressed she seemed,” Joe Langford, a security guard, recalled. Frank had special meals sent to Marilyn’s room and worried about her well-being. “I think he proposed to her,” manager Milt Ebbins said. “He loved her and he would have done anything to save her.” But Marilyn couldn’t be saved and died one week later of an apparent drug overdose. “Frank was totally in shock for weeks,” said his valet George Jacobs. It grew worse when he arrived at Westwood Memorial Park and discovered that Joe DiMaggio had barred him from her funeral. “I loved her too,” a distraught Frank told a pal. “No one can say I didn’t love her too.” Source: www.closerweekly.com

Americans weren't cheery people in the beginning, argues Communication and cultural studies scholar Christina Kotchemidova. She writes that in the early eighteenth century, Americans, like Europeans, were more interested in melancholy. Many novels and plays aimed to evoke sadness. Both Catholic and Protestant traditions saw suffering as a means to virtue, and people who had been wronged were more likely to express sorrow than anger. Public crying was socially acceptable. But as the economy modernized, Americans became more individualistic and focused on controlling their own destinies. Sadness, an essentially passive emotion, fell out of favor. Around the time of the American Revolution, the emerging middle class began embracing emotional control as a key to success. In this view, being cheerful, even in the face of bad luck, allowed merchants to retain a necessary rational approach to their business. 

Starting in the early twentieth century, companies implemented personality testing and psychological experiments designed to promote emotional control and interpersonal harmony. “Foremen and managers typically came from middle class homes where they had been brought up in a family culture of cheerfulness,” Kotchemidova writes. “Victorian women’s culture was bearing fruit. Meanwhile, a growing consumer culture called for salesmen who were able to ingratiate themselves with potential customers. How to Win Friends and Influence People, Dale Carnegie’s massively successful 1936 self-help guide, codified the need for pleasant behavior in the business world. The twentieth century also brought a general reduction of emotional intensity. Strong romantic love, fear, and anger all began to look like violations of rationality and self-restraint. 

Cheerfulness, on the other hand, was a mild emotion that meshed perfectly with good social and economic performance. U.S. companies are certainly not unique in demanding that workers comport themselves in ways that increase collegiality and, it follows, productivity. But Kotchemidova argues that, compared with Europe, the nation’s lack of a formal social hierarchy means that Americans are more anxious about their social status, leading to “a constant need to lubricate social relations” with continual smiles and pleasantries, which unsettles some visitors. Source: daily.jstor.org

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Buddy Holly Historical Recordings, Under the Silver Lake (Songwriter Scene)

The fire that swept across the backlot of Universal Studios Hollywood on Sunday, June 1, 2008, began early that morning, in New England. Eventually the flames reached a 22,320-square-foot warehouse that sat near the King Kong Encounter. The warehouse was nondescript, a hulking edifice of corrugated metal, but it was one of the most important buildings on the 400-acre lot. Its official name was Building 6197. The scope of this calamity is laid out in litigation and company documents, thousands of pages of depositions and internal UMG files that were obtained. UMG’s accounting of its losses, detailed in a March 2009 document marked “CONFIDENTIAL,” put the number of “assets destroyed” at 118,230. Randy Aronson considers that estimate low: The real number, he surmises, was “in the 175,000 range.” If you extrapolate from either figure, tallying songs on album and singles masters, the number of destroyed recordings stretches into the hundreds of thousands. In another confidential report, issued later in 2009, UMG asserted that “an estimated 500K song titles” were lost. Among the incinerated Decca masters were recordings by titanic figures in American music: Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Al Jolson, Bing Crosby, Ella Fitzgerald, Judy Garland. The tape masters for Billie Holiday’s Decca catalog were most likely lost in total. 


Virtually all of Buddy Holly’s masters were lost in the fire. Most of John Coltrane’s Impulse masters were lost, as were masters for treasured Impulse releases by Ellington, Count Basie, Coleman Hawkins, Dizzy Gillespie, Max Roach, Art Blakey, Sonny Rollins, Charles Mingus, Ornette Coleman, Alice Coltrane, Sun Ra, Albert Ayler, Pharoah Sanders and other jazz greats. The vault fire was not, as UMG suggested, a minor mishap, a matter of a few tapes stuck in a musty warehouse. It was the biggest disaster in the history of the music business. UMG’s internal assessment of the event stands in contrast to its public statements. In a document prepared for a March 2009 “Vault Loss Meeting,” the company described the damage in apocalyptic terms. “The West Coast Vault perished, in its entirety,” the document read. “Lost in the fire was, undoubtedly, a huge musical heritage.” Source: www.nytimes.com

It's hard to comprehend that the master tape for Nevermind, a huge album from my college days, possibly doesn't exist anymore along with those beautiful sounding Buddy Holly tapes. Along with an unthinkable amount of other important and interesting music. Just heartbreaking. It is unknown exactly which master tapes were held by Universal, it they were the ones still kept in Clovis. Norman Petty did send master tapes to Universal and to Steve Hoffman in the 80s and didn't get them all back. What Petty received back were duplicates. So this whole thing is still a bit of a mystery. According to one official source, the Analogue Productions (2017) issue of the 1958 self-titled album "Buddy Holly" was taken from the original master reel. Supposedly it had both tape splices between songs and Norman Petty's notes. If we are to assume the N.Y. Times story is correct, and all the "true analogue tape masters" were destroyed, the new question becomes the storage location of the digital transfers made by Steve Hoffman in the mid 1980's. Hopefully they were not in the same facility. 

One point I'm not sure whether the Buddy Holly LP masters would have contained the actual masters as recorded by Norman Petty, or if they would have been copies made by Decca. My impression was that Decca did not receive the first generation masters, and thus those LP tapes would have been copies of some sort. Steve Hoffman probably knows, but he's probably not in a position to discuss the matter. The second part of the question is: other than the 20 tracks on the 1986 compilation CD, how many other tracks in the entire catalog were transferred to digital at that time, and did Hoffman keep a digital copy of the entire catalog for safety, as many recording engineers do? Due to circumstances around the departure of Hoffman from the employ of MCA, and the dispute between Maria Elena Holly and MCA over increased royalties paid to Norman Petty for making the first master tapes available, much of what we would like to hear is still cloaked in fog. It would be great if new high quality reissues were made available, in time for the grand opening of the fabulous Buddy Holly Center for the Performing Arts. Source: www.voy.com


Under the Silver Lake (Songwriter Scene): The piano man says that “I am the voice of your generation, your grandparents, your parents and all the young people...”. The songwriter appears to be very old, around 80 years old. That means the piano man would have been 16-18 when he wrote the songs he claims which seems pretty unlikely; if he was around 30 when he did, that would make his actual age closer to 100, which seems unlikely considering how well he plays the piano. Or, he’s not the one who wrote the songs. Again, it’s pretty speculative but in the same context he states "I wrote this" and begins to play Beethoven - Ode to Joy, written in 1824. Which is impossible. Then he plays a litany of popular hit songs: Earth Angel by The Penguins, La Bamba by Ritchie Valens, I Love Rock and Roll by Joan Jett, Where is My Mind by The Pixies, Smells Like Teen Spirit by Nirvana, etc. 

The piano man might have become senile, and is mistaken about what music he wrote - I’d buy this rationale. He seems decided to destroy Sam's illusions, telling him bluntly: "I don't care what's fashionable or cool. It's all silly and meaningless. I've created so many of the things that you care about... the songs that give your life purpose and joy. When you were fifteen and rebelling... you did that to my music. There's no rebellion." When Sam kills him, the shot of the mans head basically reveals an empty skull. Another explanation is the piano man is in fact not the first one to falsify the pop culture songs. Because he speaks in first person about himself and his predecessors, it obfuscates the fact he is not the first. Possibly he is a demonic archon whose role is to deceive naïve people like Sam. In Dictionary of Gnosticism (2009)Andrew Phillip Smith defines the Archons as: "The archons have a negative role, restraining the spiritual impulses of humanity and direct human affairs for the Demiurge, being responsible for the flood of destruction and the crucifixion of Jesus."

I asked one of my musician pals to help me decipher the decorative sheet music on the Songwriter's fence. The notes are: A♭ A C B E E E. The sharp on the second note is apparently cancelled out by the flat on the first, according to music theory, and the last three notes are all E, the first being low, the latter two being high. The original theme is: C C# E E♭ G# G# (last G# note 1 octave higher). It is the same as A♭ A C B E E only 3 tones higher. I think in a more general way the songwriter scene shows us the inner destruction of a society, made by this symbolic personification of "modernism" combined with a failed capitalist system. I think the scene isn't meant to be perceived literally. The Songwriter is the personification of the entire pop-culture facade spun around by the "elites" (whoever they are). As such, his skull is empty because the message is empty (and disingenuous). It's also a metaphor that the elites themselves are empty, as Sam discovers at the end of the film when he solves the riddle. I think the reason Ode To Joy is thrown into the mix is done so precisely to point to the Songwriter being a figurative/metaphorical/fantastical being that transcends time. And the make-up isn't meant to look human, he's mean to look human/monster-like. 

Several years ago a series of blog posts (later expanded into a book called Weird Scenes Inside the Canyon, by LA researcher David McGowan) was published postulating that the popular hippie music of the 1960s was in fact designed by a government conspiracy to derail and discredit leftist movements. For no discernable reason musicians with spooky, government and military-connected backgrounds and parentage began to congregate in LA's Laurel Canyon in 1965. People like Frank Zappa, whose father was a chemical and biological weapons researcher for the defense industry, and Jim Morrison, whose father was a Navy admiral in charge of the Gulf of Tonkin incident. I have no doubt that the director of the film is aware of this conspiracy research, and is referencing it all in the songwriter scene.

The climax of the film takes place in the Hollywood Hills. Sarah says "There's no getting out now, so I may as well make the best of it". Andrew Garfield then replies "Yeah", there is a cut to the Hollywood sign, then a cut back to Sam and he says "Same here". Why would he say that? There's the desire for immortality and living forever - the tombs under the Hollywood Hills - a common trope/desire of being a Hollywood star is being immortalized on the silver screen. The rich can hide underground while awaiting ascension - avoiding what’s to come for the rest of citizens - but Sam functions like a Holy Fool witness to a technocratic dystopia that is ready to plan its demise. The sad state of late stage capitalism is also exposed by the contrasting of the old glamour of Hollywood (the old movies and stars his mother adores) with the new Hollywood (where everything seems shallow and meaningless). The subtheme of the futility of looking for order amidst chaos is compensated with a subtle commentary of how meaning only comes through love (trite maybe, but a timeless theme), which is shown in the scene when we see Sam entertaining the possible idea of suicide, and minutes later looking touched by Janet Gaynor's performance. 

Starting with one classic motivation—the sudden disappearance of a beautiful girl—Under The Silver Lake evolves into a sprawling adventure that updates the neo-noir for the millennial generation. We go down the rabbit hole with Sam, as he sets off on an increasingly weird and mysterious adventure across the City of Dreams. Mitchell pitches us into the full-on weirdness of a Los Angeles filled with drugs, violence, deception, conspiracy theories, cults, underground societies, odd-ball characters, an incomprehensible parrot (it seems to howl 'Hollywood' or 'I Love Her') - and there’s also a dog killer on the loose. Sam bumbles along from one event to the next, somehow finding his way towards the end of his journey. There’s puzzling games (involving a map on the back of a vintage cereal box), codebreaking, and plenty of symbols to examine, keeping Sam attentive to his journey, which also includes imagery of actress Janet Gaynor. Sam contacts with an underground comic books author who reveals him hidden conspiracies and lives in fear of the Owl Woman, as he feels that the secret he possesses has marked him for death. The Owl Woman is Hollywood incarnated, she kills whomever doesn't pay reverence to her.  

Andrew Garfield is often disaffected as the central character, none too bright but deeply inquisitive, perhaps the most unspectacular sleuth of the millennium. He’s a pretty unlikeable character but Garfield gives him just enough playfulness to negate the selfish side of his personality. Eventually, Sam approaches the truth—not just about what happened to Sarah, but about the entire fabric of modern society and his miserably inconsequential place within it. Formally, Under The Silver Lake is unmistakably Lynchian (with a particular debt to Mulholland Drive), even including a courier (The Homeless King) who leads Sam into underground tunnels which in his first incursion connect to a convenience store’s refrigerator room. You really don’t get to know what makes Sam tick, why he is so oblivious to his own personal situation, and why given the crises in his life he would rather devote all of his time in the pursuit of someone he only met once. But maybe that is the point of the film. Perhaps Sam is just another comic book character and living in reality is the last thing he would want to do. Source: www.avclub.com

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Deciphering the Mystery of "Under the Silver Lake", Against civilization (Thomas Sowell)

Deciphering Under the Silver Lake: There are two graffitis that can be seen in the toilets and on a wall and which are coded with the Copial Cypher. The 'Copiale Code' is a weird manuscript from the 18th century found in Berlin at the end of the Cold War, with 105 pages full of encrypted messages. A computer scientist created in 2011 a program to translate the Copiale Cypher, and who was it? Kevin Knight, who works for the USC Information Sciences Institute and Department of Linguistics and Philology (Marina del Rey, CA). 

If you translate the code in the toilets and on the wall, you will find same two words: COFFEE MENU. Therefore the copial cypher indicate us a coffee menu. This one can be seen at the beginning of the film, in the background. On the bottom of the menu board, you can see a morse code that can be translated by: XJVO OJRY XERSW. It is a cypher with a key that we have found in the artist's house. With this key, it gives: WHAT THRE WORDS. And using another key, E=EE from the "I can see clearly now" billboard, we found: WHAT THREE WORDS. What3words is a geocoding system for the communication of locations, encoding geographic coordinates into three dictionary words that are linked to a three metres square on the world map. Something really interesting is that the logo of the app is the hobo code for "this is not a safe place", which can be seen in the film. 

On Sarah's room, we can see three dolls: Betty, Marilyn and Lauren, It's a reference to How to marry a millionaire, the film that Sarah is watching on this scene and she's got a poster on. Below their name, we can see a cypher, which is the Zodiac Killer cypher and which has been decyphered by Kevin Knight. Here his work about Zodiac killer cypher in 2010: Bayesian Inference for Zodiac and Other Homophonic Ciphers (Information Sciences Institute from University of Southern California) http://aclweb.org/anthology/P11-1025. So if we translate it according with Knight's decoder, it gives us: BETTY MARILYN LAUREN / TOMBSTONE SHERIFF ENTRIES. It is important to say that it is the second time we "meet" Kevin Knight in the film. 

More over he is credited on the generic as Cryptography Consultant. Well, then the three words we found can lead to two positions depending on whether we put them, in the order of the dolls or the film that Sarah is watching. It gives us: 36°42'36"N 118°35'30"W for the dolls position and 25°52'21"S 129°29'10"E for the position of the actresses in the scene we see from How to Marry a Millionaire. I think the location is clearly the entrance to an ascension chamber that is inside Barton's Peak. If you look at the location on Google Maps and 3D view, and spin around a little, the coordinates are perfectly at the base of Barton's Peak. Here's a weird synchronicity, the position of the location is at the base of Barton Peak which was named after the stockman James Barton. Another person I could find a conection to was James R Barton, who was the 2nd Sheriff of Los Angeles, and the first to be shot on duty dead. He was also the treasurer of the very first Masonic lodge of LA, Lodge 42. There was also a famous architect named Barton that lived in Silver Lake.

The coordinates could belong to the entrance to an ascension chamber which is buried beneath Barton Peak. If you look at the geography of Barton Peak, it is pyramid shaped. It's also located in King's Canyon. Sphinx Lakes are just near there as well as Deadman's Canyon. In the old times, the druids liked to do their rituals in the area of Redwood Groves. Bohemian Grove is in the thick old Redwoods of California which is where an actual real cult may be located. —"Biggest discovery of the UTSL mystery." Source: aclweb.org

“Millennials are the first generation to experience in a full-throttled way the social and economic problems of our time,” said David Grusky, professor of sociology and director of the Stanford Center on Poverty and Inequality. As millennials tried to enter the job market during the Great Recession of the late 2000s, they also had to deal with rising inequality and declining economic mobility. This made it an especially difficult period, Grusky said. “We can think of Millenials as canaries in the coalmine who reveal just how toxic those problems are.” Mortality rates among young adults have also increased substantially, according to the report’s analyses of health, written by Stanford economist Mark Duggan. Despite their progressive views, Millennials are also equally likely as Gen Xers to believe that blacks are lazier than whites, according to analyses by sociologist Aliya Saperstein. 

Between 2008 and 2016, mortality rates among those between 25 and 34 years old increased by more than 20 percent. These deaths were mainly driven by a rise in suicides and drug overdoses, Duggan and Li found. The mortality rate among non-Hispanic whites, aged 20 through 34, saw the highest jump – 27 percent – in comparison to a 9 percent increase for blacks and a 6 percent increase for the Hispanic population, according to their analyses of data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. These findings are in juxtaposition with the fact that more millennials were covered by health insurance. Duggan and Li found that because of the Affordable Care Act, the share of adults in their 20s without health insurance fell by more than half from 2009 to 2017. Source: news.standford.edu

Thomas Hazlett: What about the transference of bad ideas? You argue that the gangster rapper in contemporary America is living in dysfunctional families, disdaining education, and proving their manhood by fits of rage.

Thomas Sowell: Unfortunately, that has been encouraged since the 1960s on both sides of the Atlantic. I'm struck by how Britain has followed the same pattern as the United States, even though the British underclass is white and much of the underclass in America is nonwhite. Really, it's what people do when they go against civilization.

Thomas Hazlett: You worked at the United States Department of Labor. What turned you away from Marxism?

Thomas Sowell: The first thing I ever published was an article in the American Economic Review in March 1960 on Marxian economics. I realized what I would have been taught had I studied under [public choice economist] James Buchanan. Institutions, including government agencies, have their own agendas. So the whole left-wing vision began to unravel. 

Thomas Hazlett: You wrote: "While virtually anyone could name a list of medical, scientific or technological things that have made the lives of today's generation better than that of people in the past, it would be a challenge for even a highly informed person to name three ways in which our lives today are better as a result of the ideas of sociologists or deconstructionists." I guess you are not asked to serve on many committees at Stanford. You express deep doubt in the faith that academic research inevitably helps the world.

Thomas Sowell: The fact that we don't have people who are educated to be able to analyze arguments but who are swept along by rhetoric is one of the reasons that allows people to get away with these kinds of things. Take the 1920s, which was a great period of great progress in the world—but not in the intellectual sphere. You would never gather from reading most histories that the 1920s was a pivotal decade in the economic rise of most Americans, when families got electric lights, radios, automobiles and much more. I really should be very upbeat, but I must confess I am certainly no less pessimistic today than I was in 1980. In 1980 we did not have any country that would dare to publicly announce that they would consider bombing the United States of America and who apparently have the technology to do it. We did not have a school system that was turning out people who have no conception of thought, but only of repeating slogans and images. Source: reason.com

Thursday, June 06, 2019

Tarantino's philosophy and nods to a bygone era

Tarantino is at his best when he’s motivated by affection, and for that reason, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood ranks among his finest; the serrated bitterness of his last picture, The Hateful Eight, has vanished. This is a tender, rapturous film, both joyous and melancholy, a reverie for a lost past and a door that opens to myriad imagined possibilities. It’s a stunning elegy for a lost Hollywood. It’s the most fun the director seems to have had in years, but it’s also, oddly, his most compassionate picture. And there’s a lilting sadness at the film’s heart. Like all of Tarantino’s movies, it’s filled with references you may or may not get: There are woolly, rambunctious Jack Davis caricatures from MAD magazine, nods to blond dream girls like Joey Heatherton and Anne Francis, allusions to a bygone era. 

Nor is it the first time he has made the outrageous suggestion that cinema, as both an art and an industry, can make up for some of life’s most grievous imperfections in ways that nothing else can. At the Cannes press conference, one reporter asked Tarantino why Sharon Tate had so little dialogue. “I just reject your hypothesis,” he said.  Tarantino did not approach Polanski, he admitted at the press conference. But Tarantino asked for and received help from Sharon Tate’s sister Debra, who is thanked in the credits. “There was a little bit more of her; everybody lost sequences. And she is an angelic presence throughout the movie, she’s an angelic ghost on earth, to some degree, she’s not in the movie, she’s in our hearts,” Tarantino explained. He too addressed the crumbling state of the Hollywood industry in the late 60s: "Sharon Tate and Polanski represent the new Hollywood, and Rick is notably not part of it. He doesn’t understand it. He was taught that the way to be a leading man was the audience had to like you. If he was offered Joe Buck [Jon Voight in ‘Midnight Cowboy’], he would turn it down. He’d walk out of ‘Easy Rider’ in the first 10 minutes!'” Source: www.indiewire.com

The complex narrative organization of 'Pulp Fiction' plays with temporal sequence, so that it is difficult to understand the causal connection between events. Most jarringly, Vincent, a leading character, is killed halfway through, only to reappear and play a significant role later in the film—but earlier in the temporal sequence of events. What is common to all the Tarantino films is that there are glimpses of compassion and morality among the tough, cruel, and immoral people that populate them. In Reservoir Dogs Mr. White (Harvey Keitel) takes pity on Mr. Orange (Tim Roth) when Orange is shot. He holds Orange’s hand and comforts him. When they arrive to the warehouse, Mr. White holds Mr. Orange in his arms.

After a night out on the town with Marsellus’s girlfriend Mia (Uma Thurman), Vincent Vega (John Travolta), one of the “low-rent hitmen” in Pulp Fiction, tells himself in her bathroom that he must have just one drink and then go home because he is facing a moral test involving loyalty and “being loyal is important.” As for what influences the movie's action, the episode in which Vincent is tempted by Marcellus' wife, Mia (Thurman), whom he's been asked to ''look after'', echoes the vintage noir 'Out of the Past', in which Robert Mitchum falls for a bad guy's girl. In Pulp Fiction, Jules Winnfield spares the couple who try to rob the restaurant, and its patrons, in the coffee shop where he is having breakfast with Vincent Vega. In Kill Bill Volume 1, Bill tells Elle Driver (Daryl Hannah) not to kill “The Bride” (Uma Thurman) because to “sneak into her room in the night like a filthy rat and kill her in her sleep” would “lower us.” And The Bride and Vernita Green (Vivica A. Fox) postpone their fight to the death when Vernita’s daughter comes home from school so the daughter won’t be traumatized. 

The “good guys” also sometimes show great courage and a strong moral sense in Tarantino’s films. In Pulp Fiction, Butch goes back to save Marsellus, the crime boss who is trying to kill him, from some perverts who want to rape and torture him. Butch does this because he thinks it is the right thing to do and even though he thereby puts himself back at risk. When Pulp Fiction's Butch takes a payoff to throw a fight and then doesn't, Tarantino nods to director Robert Wise's engrossing The Set-Up, in which the apostate pugilist (Robert Ryan) tries to flee from mobsters after failing to take a dive. In Reservoir Dogs the cop that Mr. Blonde (Michael Madsen) has captured refuses to disclose that Mr. Orange is the undercover cop that tipped off the police, even under severe torture and when facing the prospect of immolation. So within a sea of brutality and immorality, Tarantino still depicts some people acting admirably and displaying admirable human emotions. -"Quentin Tarantino and Philosophy: How to Philosophize With a Pair of Pliers and a Blowtorch" (2007) by Richard Greene

Tarantino: I never went to film school. I studied acting for about six years. My first teacher was James Best, who starred in Sam Fuller’s Verboten! [1959]. He’s the Confederate soldier in Fuller’s Shock Corridor [1963] and Jerry Lewis’s partner in Three on a Couch [1966]. And the other one was Pauline Kael. I got her book, When the Lights Go Down [1980], when I was sixteen. I’ve learned as much from her as I have from filmmakers. She taught me a sense of how to be dramatically engaging, how to make a connection with the audience. She was my professor, although I never met her. In the film school of my own making, she was like my Kingsfield in The Paper Chase [James Bridges, 1973]. The Killing [Kubrick, 1956] is my favorite heist film, and I was definitely influenced by it when I directed Reservoir Dogs. Before, my first script I ever did was True Romance.

What do you say when people say that movies like Reservoir Dogs do nothing to discourage violence?

Tarantino: Nine out of ten of the (crime, horror) films are going to be more graphically violent than Reservoir Dogs. I’m just trying to be disturbing. There are ramifications and consequences to the violence. With movies as an art form, I think 20 percent of that art form is supplied by the audience. I like things to be ambiguous. Constantly people will ask me, “Why did Mr. Orange tell Mr. White that he was a cop at the end of Reservoir Dogs?” And my answer to that is, “If you have to ask that question, you didn’t get the movie.”

Tarantino: I doubt Oliver Stone (in Natural Born Killers) would ever let a question like that be asked about one of his movies. He wants you to know exactly where he’s coming from, and his movies are making big points. He doesn’t want ambiguity. He twists emotions entirely and he’s hammering his nails in. He wants to make an impact. He wants to punch you in the face with this stuff. I’m more interested in telling the story. To me, Oliver Stone’s films are very similar to the kind of films that Stanley Kramer used to make in the fifties and sixties, the big difference being that Stanley Kramer was kind of a clumsy filmmaker and Oliver Stone is cinematically brilliant.

What about earlier writers? Is your script for Pulp Fiction modeled on Cain, Chandler, and Hammett?

Tarantino: I don’t know how much I am actually influenced by those guys, but I have read them all and I like them. The idea behind Pulp Fiction was to do a Black Mask movie—like that old detective story magazine. Two other writers I’m crazy about are Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur, both as playwrights and as screenwriters. In fact, on the first page of Pulp Fiction, I describe two characters talking in “rapid-fire motion, like in His Girl Friday [Howard Hawks, 1940].” I wanted Bruce Willis as the boxer Butch to be basically like Ralph Meeker as Mike Hammer in [Robert] Aldrich’s Kiss Me Deadly [1955]. I wanted him to be a jerk, except that when he’s with his girlfriend, Fabienne [Maria de Medeiros], he’s a sweetheart. The jumping-off point—besides asshole here, sweet guy with her—was that Bruce has the look of a fifties actor. I can’t think of any other star that has that look. He reminds me of Aldo Ray in Jacques Tourneur’s Nightfall [1957] in particular. I told him I could imagine Aldo Ray being great as Butch and Willis said, “Yeah, I like Aldo Ray.” So I said, “Let’s go for that whole look. Let’s get a buzz cut.” I like mixing things up: for example that golden watch story begins in the spirit of Body and Soul [Robert Rossen, 1947] and then unexpectedly ends up in the climate of Deliverance [John Boorman, 1972]. What I most enjoy are space-time distortions, jumps from one world to another. 

Why does Schultz [in Django Unchained] makes the decision to sacrifice himself? He’s won [against Candie]. They’ve given [Candie] $12,000 ransom money. Schultz is going to shake hands [with Candie]—But he decides, “I’m going to blow you up away!”

Tarantino: I think one of the definite reasons, though, is Schultz had to put on this facade in dealing with this inhuman depravity that he’s witnessing. Now that he’s on the other side of it, it’s all raining down on him. He’s haunted by these memories. What he was working hard not to allow himself to feel is now permeating him. I think he’s actually realizing inadvertently he and Django caused D’Artagnan’s death. Without their presence, I don’t think Candie at that moment would have actually killed D’Artagnan, just for running away. I’m just saying it wasn’t Candie’s plan to destroy him at that moment.

So why did he destroy him?

Tarantino: To test Django. Because when Schultz offered to buy D’Artagnan all of the sudden—'Whoa, what the hell?' Candie knew it wasn’t right: “This is weird. These guys are up to something. Why would [Schultz] care? He’s getting into Mandingo fighting; why should he care about this guy?” Why did Django let this man be sacrificed? Django has got one mission and one mission only: extract his wife from this hell. Nothing else means a damn compared to that. There’s that moment [at the end] where Django turns to Broomhilda and has that kind of punky smile that Jamie does. If I’ve done my job right, modulating this movie the right way, then the audience will burst into applause. They’ll clap with Broomhilda. -"Quentin Tarantino: Interviews, Revised and Updated" (2013) by Gerald Peary