Monday, January 15, 2007

THE TLRHB EXPERIENCE (with apologies to Jimi)

At the risk of becoming a irredeemable linkmeister, I just hope everybody is keeping up with That Little Round-Headed Boy these days. He’s got a very pleasant new template to go along with all the usual well-observed writing in posts that touch on all corners of the pop culture landscape, which are very effectively informed by his expansive point of view—it’s what I like to think of as the TLRHB Experience. (He recently, and good-naturedly, ranked on the film Bubble advertising itself as ”a Steven Soderbergh Experience,” so I will cop to a little TLRHB-baiting here.)

My only complaint is that if you don’t check in with regularity, you’re likely to miss something really good, and I do mean miss it-- TLRHB has revoked access to his archives, so once it’s gone it’s gone. (I wanted to link to his review of Neil Young: Heart of Gold on my top-15 list, but instead had to settle only for my memories of the way TLRHB so perfectly evoked the experience of watching that film, and its quiet meaning as well.)

If you act now, you can enjoy this viewing tip regarding Kevin Willmott’s The Confederate States of America:

“Like Spike Lee's sorely underrated Bamboozled, (C.S.A.) makes smart connections to present-day racial issues, our so-called notions of progress and especially how prejudice is always lying exposed in plain sight, even if we sometimes pretend not to see it. (I was thinking about that this morning when I drove by my neighbor's house, which proudly waves a Confederate flag just below the American one.)”

TLRHB is a voracious reader too. I’ve currently got a request in to him for recommendations of titles from his favorite author, James Salter, and he’s currently offering praise for Rob Sheffield’s new book:

“(Sheffield is) Rolling Stone's resident pop culture junkie, which means he's such a good writer that I read him even when he's blathering on about Britney and the latest MTV reality show. He's that rarity: A first-class, instantly recognizable stylist, with the enthusiasm to embrace new musical trends, but with the background smarts to appreciate the history and roots of country, pop, rock and soul. When The New Rolling Stone Album Guide came out a few years ago, Sheffield's contributions were the star attractions. I could tell which ones he'd written from the first sentence.

But none of that prepared me for the emotional wallop of Sheffield's new book, Love Is A Mix Tape: Life and Loss, One Song At A Time (Crown). I figured it would be more of his effervescent observations on pop culture. I should have read that subtitle more closely. The book, while offering up plenty of pithy patter on rock music, is a real heartbreaker: It's the story of the love of his life, and her early, untimely death. This is High Fidelity — without much of a happy ending.”

Finally, more timely than ever, it seems, is Robert Altman’s plunge into the Nixonian soul entitled Secret Honor, and TLRHB found himself spinning Criterion’s luxurious DVD of the film during a confluence of events that just made the movie even more resonant:

“On the week of Richard Nixon's birthdate, on the week after Gerald Ford's funeral, on the night of George Bush's speech about committing even more troops to Iraq, I sat down with Robert Altman's Secret Honor for the first time in years. What a weird harmonic convergence. As I watched Philip Baker Hall's Nixon bitching about the Ford pardon and the reaction to his escalation of bombing in Cambodia, I could hear the TV downstairs broadcasting Bush's speech about upping the troop count in Iraq. I felt like I was hallucinating. We needed to be in Vietnam to stop the Communist domino effect from spreading across Southeast Asia; now, we need to stay the course in Iraq to stop civil violence from spreading out of Iraq's borders across the Middle East. Different decades, different presidents, same old rhetoric about a "winnable" war. Pride over honor, blood over logic. God, I miss Altman.”

(Read the whole excellent piece here.)

We all have favorite sites and blogs that have become not just a daily habit, but a daily necessity, a checkpost for interpreting and re-experiencing the world around us. Some of them offer new stuff every day, some tantalize us with two or three days in between posts. But they are sites that always trumpet the good reasons why they’re bookmarked. That Little Round-Headed Boy is such a site for me, and if you haven’t bookmarked it yet, please do. TLRHB’s posts may be available for a limited time only before they get replaced by more trenchant, thoughtful commentary, but their shelf life in the mind lasts long after the expiration date.


The 'Stache said...

Gee, thanks. As Wayne and Garth said to Alice Cooper (or was it Aerosmith), I'm so unworthy, I'm so unworthy! Your continued kindness is truly touching.

I didn't know I had "revoked access" to my archives. That sounds so...Nixonian. I just had some weird "design" (or mental) issue with all that clutter on the page and tons of back posts staring me in the face. Some part of me likes the ephemeral nature of the blogosphere, and doesn't really want everything to last. It must be the old print guy in me.

Anyway, I'll try to keep up some of these posts for awhile. Well, maybe. My oath is about as good as Richard M.'s on that one, I'm afraid...

Dennis Cozzalio said...

You access-revoker, you! The people demand to be able to look at that Neil Young: Heart of Gold review!

I do like the new streamlined design of TLRHB very much, but the old rummager in me wants to be able to go back and thumb through every once in a while. However it goes, though, I'll still keep reading!

DBrooks said...

I very much enjoy reading TLRHB's thoughts and perspective on film. He has a fresh, thorough and recondite approach to the experience of viewing and appreciating movies. His political perspective is another thing. While I respect his political opinions, I disagree with some of those he has expressed lately. There are legitimate and sober arguments to be made about the decision to enter Iraq, and the conduct of that effort since that decision. TLRHB may feel comfortable equating the Vietnam War with our current situation in Iraq. I think it is only fair to remember that our decision to abandon Southeast Asia resulted in the deaths of 1.5-2 million people in Cambodia, and an estimated 500,000 in Vietnam. While those are just numbers, they represent a human horror that I hope we don't repeat in Iraq. I know this isn't the kind of site where this type of discussion is encouraged, and I apologize for pursuing it. TLRHB deleted my comment in response to the post on his site, and I made a crack about Midol that I regret. I understand that he didn't desire to travel down that road, but it would be disrespectful of me, in a way, not to respond honestly when I read something I disagree with so strongly written by someone whose general intellect and perspective I hold in high regard. Robert Altman is one of my favorite directors. I love many of his films, with McCabe & Mrs. Miller being a particular favorite. He was inarguably an astute observer of human behavior. On the other hand, I would shudder to think of him making public policy, or having the final say in areas of national defense or foreign policy. I mean no disrespect to TLRHB or to you.

Dennis Cozzalio said...

Thanks, DBrooks, for writing. I apologize for taking so long to get back to you. I couldn't agree more with your assessments of TLRHB's approach to pop culture. His unpretentious, open-minded style really is refreshing.

And though this isn't a politically oriented blog, I will take the time (since you brought it up) to mention that, on the matter of Iraq, my feelings about the situation are pretty well in line with TLRHB's as well. If, as you say, there are "legitimate and sober arguments to be made about the decision to enter Iraq, and the conduct of that effort since that decision," I have to say that I haven't heard them, from either the administration or proponents of the war. (Darren Hughes at Long Pauses recently cited this quote from Jim Webb which, I think, says a lot.) To my mind, this recent 21,500-troop escalation is like taking a paper towel and dropping it onto a flooded basement floor just so we can say we did something. And when Bush asks for better solutions from those who would oppose his actions, like, say, withdrawal of all troops, it couldn't be more depressing to understand that there is no way he would ever seriously entertain any "plan" but his own.

As for Altman, again I agree with both you and TLRHB regarding his status as a great director. However, in fairness to TLRHB, I think you mischaracterize his wish for Altman, or any artist, to provide some perspective on this crisis. It's a long way from "Now, more than ever, we need the one thing we're probably not going to get: Another Altman to make sense of it all" (TLRHB's observation) to your interpretation that TLRHB is somehow advocating Altman or anyone like him "making public policy, or having the final say in areas of national defense or foreign policy." I wouldn't choose Altman as a member of anyone's presidential cabinet, and I don't think TLRHB would either. What's missing is Altman's iconoclasm, his disregard for being popular, his refusal to look for cues and indicators as to how he'll interpret and respond to events before he incorporates them into his art. That's what TLRHB feels is missing from the current miasma of American political chaos and foreign policy: a clear-eyed assessment from an artist who has no fear and no need for constant pats on the back. That was Altman, and I miss him too.

DBrooks said...

Hey, Dennis. Thank you for your serious reply. I agree with much of what you wrote. You misunderstood part of what I wrote. I meant there are legitimate and sober arguments IN OPPOSITION to the decision to enter Iraq, and the conduct of the war, but equating our current situation with the Vietnam War is overly simplistic. And, as I said in my comment, there were devastating consequences to our withdrawal from Southeast Asia that I rarely see mentioned when comparisons are made between Iraq and Vietnam. Again, thank you for your response. I very much enjoy your site, and I promise not to be one of those nag-commenters who find personal affront in every post.

Dennis Cozzalio said...

No problem, DB. I've always hoped that the comments section on this site would be a place where people could disagree civilly about whatever subject without the discourse degenerating into an onslaught of monosyllabic name-calling (with most of the names misspelled or abbreviated into incomprehensibility). Thanks for responding to my comment in that spirit. I hope both TLRHB and I continue to give you lots of good reasons to stick around and stay interested.