RULER REBEL

Opening with a drone before strains of 1970s Ennio Morricone and Lalo Schifrin arise and the whisper of a trumpet emerges above minimalist piano loops and a pulsing rhythm that segues seamlessly into a sound reminiscent of a hybrid of Miles Davis’s seminal BITCHES BREW and SKETCHES OF SPAIN, RULER REBEL, the latest album from Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah—the first in his trilogy of albums celebrating the centennial of jazz—is a wholly unique musical saga that takes you places you never knew you wanted to go, an off-the-beaten-path diner where hip-hop and Philip Glass merge in the mind of a jazz visionary possessed of unparalleled technical mastery and artistic taste who sits across from you in a pleather booth to tell you a story that could exist only in the unspoken. And you can only listen.

The next album in the trilogy, DIASPORA, drops 23 June.

SINCE WE FELL

Dennis Lehane is possessed of a nigh-mystical ability to make me homesick for a home not of my birth but for one whose tough love hurled me through my twenties and into what passes for adulthood; each new Lehane book returns me to a living, breathing Boston alongside characters deserving of empathy and solace, a solace I know they will never find—it is, after all, a Dennis Lehane story. It is a Boston story.

While his latest, SINCE WE FELL, certainly made me homesick for that home of tough love, it did little else but frustrate me. After a turn that unnecessarily complicated matters and thrust the final third into a dense forest of incoherent plotting populated by once-fascinating people transformed into plot-driven guideposts, SINCE WE FELL read as though he was trying to extricate himself from a drastic narrative misstep on a tight deadline.

In SINCE WE FELL, Lehane branched out from his usual wheelhouse and for that we should cheer; however, the result of this particular branching is a failed, if noble, experiment, a failure in the manner that the final season of THE WIRE is a failure: even at its worst, it’s still better than most—but the disappointment is palpable.

(TW)

ANTHROPOID

One of those “I don’t know what to watch” films picked at random on a bleary-eyed Saturday night, ANTHROPOID turned out to be a diamond-tipped needle in the haystack of infinite streaming choice. Detailing a part of history I knew little about—the assassination of the Third Reich’s architect of the Final Solution, Reinhard Heydrich, by agents of the Czechoslovak government-in-exile and the atrocities the Reich unleashed in the aftermath of Heydrich’s death—ANTHROPOID is elevated above similar tales (like Bryan Singer’s 2008 effort VALKYRIE) by a stellar cast (led by Cillian Murphy) and a solid emotional through-line that makes the denouement of the film that much more tragic. While the pacing can be a bit tedious in the first half, once ANTHROPOID finds its way it careens to a climax that one hopes to avoid but one upon which history has other ideas. Recommended.

The time change and its enforcement of springing ahead into a sleep-deprived stupor. The day awaits.

(TW)

Routine / Lab Experiment

I always did enjoy a good mad scientist movie.

Between the hours of my wife’s departure for her work among the humans and her return, I’m mostly devoid of human contact, marching ever-forward into my destiny as the figure in Colin Nissan’s New Yorker piece, “I Work From Home.” In that period of solitude with canines and imaginary people, I find something of a foundation in (arguable) humanity by honing and perfecting a routine.

The questions I face: do I measure out my cereal before or after I cook my omelet? During the melting of butter? Or during the time between eggs making contact and their placement on a smiley face Fiesta plate, folded like a business letter over provolone? Should I return to my office after the day’s 3.6-mile run in the 20 minute interregnum between it and the anointed hour to cook lunch? Is it best to set an alarm to conclude lunch or let it end on its own, when it’s done, so I can add another ten minutes before the workday ends at 2PM or should I take into account the clockwork need of The Morkie to go outside precisely when I’m ready to go back to work (the dogs are, if you couldn’t tell, creatures of habit as well…perhaps I’m turning more into a dog than anything else; fine by me)…

I am my own lab experiment.

(TW)

Writing Badly Well

Hopes of a snow day vanquished in the face of mounds of snow/fluff on the ground. Hopes of words of any quality appearing here vanquished in the face of who knows what. Mental incapacity? Mental over-capacity? A struggle since Monday. If you are going to write on a regular basis, you have to be willing to write badly, according to Jennifer Egan. I’ve been willing this week, it seems. Dietician appointment went well. Continue with stabbings as is; repeat daily. Currently more adroit with insulin injections than with words.

(TW)

ButIDontWanna

A morning when I don’t want to write here, when I question the utility of it all. Creative schizophrenia rampant: To whom do I owe these pieces? (No one but myself). Who reads them? (It doesn’t matter/But it does, doesn’t it?/No, not at all; you forget what you’ve written by the time you hit publish). No doubt a byproduct of one truncated day and one eliminated day but one that demonstrates how essential this place is for me. The work of the writer is simple: to show up and write words, even—especially—when one doesn’t want to. All of the 60.1 pages and 14,900 words (according to the stats on the Ulysses sheet I use to compose these maunderings), that comprise the 92 (93) posts on this site are the results of a daily revving of what passes for my creative engines. Some days they sputter like a cold lawnmower, others they blast down the straight stretch of SR 95 between the towns of I forget the first one’s name and the aptly-named Funk. But no matter what, they must be ignited. To work.

(TW)

Scraggly Bobblehead Morkie

A truncated time limit today of 15 minutes from the normal 30, as there is a Morkie that must be delivered promptly to her grooming appointment so as to end her present appearance as a scraggly bobbleheaded lion. She will be clean for a total of nine to ten minutes (possibly) following her shearing before rolling in the mud wrought by the madness of our current weather.

Tomorrow will likewise be a short day, or possibly a non-existent one, as I have a follow-up appointment to make sure my blood sugar (wonderfully appropriate that its initials are BS) is copacetic and to adjust daily stabbings accordingly.

(TW)

DOCTOR STRANGE

If DOCTOR STRANGE represents the future of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it’s on a solid path, one that opens up new storytelling dimensions (literally) and brings engaging new characters to life in moments ripped from psychedelic Ditko dreamscapes and the stellar Brian K. Vaughan / Marcos Martin mini-series DOCTOR STRANGE: THE OATH. However, like every Marvel film before it, it isn’t without its problems.

At the root of those problems is the intractable Marvel cinematic formula. First film: introduction. Second film: set-up/join Avengers. Third film: result of character being in Avengers. At this point, I hesitate to even call Marvel’s films films; rather, they are a nebulous amalgamation of a streaming series, a movie, and a constant effort to show the utmost fealty to the concept of a shared universe. They are not films; they are components.

And, as this is the first film in another franchise, it must be an introduction. And introduction=origin story. Origin stories are a tricky beast, one that Marvel hasn’t quite gotten right–save for the first IRON MAN film– resulting in drama-challenged expository set-ups for future franchise installments. DOCTOR STRANGE, for all of its right notes—Cumberbatch plays Strange as a perfect balance of humor, drive, and arrogance, indeed setting him up as the new Tony Stark when Downey Jr. retires from the role—isn’t immune from the virus. It drives through the origin in a stakes-free unspooling of expository tedium: we already know that the title character makes it out alive to join the Avengers and have a crisis for having been part of the assembled world-savers.

(TW)