Sunday Goodbye Roundup : Christopher Lee

 a44cc2d13c8a1281a45bfca5c1aae78bGood Afternoon

What a man…

The last of what I consider to be a legendary connection to the true classic horror film…Christopher Lee passed away earlier this week. He was 93.

I have several obituaries to share, with some memorials from various actors, directors and friends who have written or made statements about Lee since his death was announced three days ago.

Christopher Lee dies at the age of 93 | Film | The Guardian

Sir Christopher Lee, known as the master of horror, has died at the age of 93 after being hospitalised for respiratory problems and heart failure.

His wife, the former Danish model Birgit Kroencke, decided to hold back the information for four days until all family members and friends were informed. The couple had been married for more than 50 years and had one daughter, Christina.

4e7b6fea15588248b29465fc40980c93More on Lee’s career and life in a bit but I thought this was cool:

After dabbling with music throughout much of his career, including a song on The Wicker Man soundtrack, Lee released his first full-length album Charlemagne: By the Sword and the Cross in 2010. It was well-received by the heavy metal community and won him the spirit of metal award at the 2010 Metal Hammer Golden Gods ceremony.

His 2013 single Jingle Hell entered the Billboard Hot 100 at number 22, which made him the oldest living artist ever to enter the charts.

About his role as Dracula: Christopher Lee: an actor of muscular intelligence with a staggering career | Peter Bradshaw | Film | The Guardian

763fc4c8237565392bbf799c43f64d69Christopher Lee’s initial appearance in Dracula, in 1958, was a shock. Before that moment, the fabled vampire was more associated with Max Schreck’s demonic Nosferatu from the classic German silent picture — a pale creature closer to Gollum from today’s Tolkien movies. The vampire was something stunted, bestial, insidious.

But when Lee’s Count Dracula first walked down to the stairs to greet his visitors in the first Hammer movie version it was a revelation. He was tall (six foot five), handsome and well-built, with an easy athleticism and a frank, direct manner. His deep, melodious voice completed the effect: commanding. There was nothing unwholesome-looking about this vampire, not at first: he looked more like a British or at any rate Central European version of Gary Cooper. So it was even more powerful and shocking when 074fc825cf5414730eaf2c5595edfccethis patrician figure disclosed his Satanic qualities: and that face became pale and contorted, when the lips peeled back to reveal the fangs, the eyes turned red and the lips dripped with blood — and his whole being oozed with forbidden sexuality. Christopher Lee was Dracula; he had taken over the character as clearly as Sean Connery took over James Bond.

Bradshaw writes more about the Dracula role but also about The Wicker Man:

Lee’s favourite role, perhaps his greatest role, was in a movie made in this same era with obvious debts to the great vampire legend. Lee played Lord Summerisle in the horror classic The Wicker Man in 1973, written by Anthony Shaffer and directed by Robin Hardy. He was the “leader”, or 2f6018d8d1c9c35a6f75d1f3f6a1ba2achieftain, of a remote Hebridean island still in thrall to pre-Christian pagan rituals, where Edward Woodward’s pious police officer comes to investigate the disappearance of a young girl. Like Dracula, Summerisle is an aristocrat, and also a big beast: a physically and vocally imperious leader who looms over everyone. He is like a human and rational version of Dracula, but every bit as sinister. The film is of course noted for the burning wicker man statue itself. Every time I see the film, that outline looks like an occult reflection of the larger-than-life figure of Summerisle — and Lee.

As for the life of Lee: Christopher Lee obituary | Film | The Guardian

Lee became an actor almost by accident. Through birth and education he seemed a more likely candidate for the diplomatic ladder, but he never reached the first rung. His father, Geoffrey, a colonel much decorated in the first world war, wrecked through gambling his marriage to Estelle, the daughter of the Italian Marquis de ea010cf68029e93f6780b9aa07bc1a5cSarzano, and a society beauty of the 1920s. Christopher was born in Belgravia, London. His education at Wellington college, Berkshire, ended abruptly at 17, and he had to get along on the pittance of a City clerk.

But the second world war might be said to have rescued him, making him an intelligence officer with an RAF squadron through north Africa and Italy. At the end, he was seconded for a period with a unit investigating war crimes. Though demobbed with the rank of lieutenant, he had suffered a psychological trauma in training and was never a pilot. In his later civilian life he was endlessly required to fly as a passenger, and it was barely a consolation to him having his film contracts stipulate that he travel first class.

Without previous aspirations or natural talent for acting, except a pleasing dark baritone voice that he exercised in song at home and abroad every day of his life, he was pushed towards film by one of his influential Italian relatives, Nicolò Carandini, then president of the Alitalia airline, who backed the suggestion with a chat to the Italian head of Two Cities Films, Filippo del Giudice. Lee was put on a seven-year contract by the Rank entertainment group, with the executive who signed it saying: “Why is 7466d3d22ce9f80da154cfd7912eef8dFilippo wasting my time with a man who is too tall to be an actor?”

His height – 6ft 4in, kept upright by his lofty temperament and fondness for playing off scratch in pro-am golf tournaments – actually proved helpful in securing him the parts for which he had the most affinity: authority figures.

[…]

He shared his aptness for sinister material with two friends who lived near his London home in a Chelsea square: the writer of occult thrillers Dennis Wheatley and the actor Boris Karloff. The latter once cheered him up when Lee was overloaded with horror roles, remarking, “Types are continually in work.”

IMG_1685Lee initially studied method acting at Rank’s “charm school”, where he was supposed to spend six months of the year in rep. But floundering at the Connaught in Worthing, and humiliated by audience laughter when he put his hand through a window supposedly made of glass, he recognised that the theatre was not his metier and never went near the stage again. Perhaps the most useful coaching Rank gave him was in swordplay: across his career he fought in more screen duels than opponents such as Errol Flynn and Douglas Fairbanks put together.

7e74190e8ef0421b63faec80c5c687ceRead the rest of the Guardian obit at the link, more on Lee….

Christopher Lee Dies at 93; Actor Breathed Life Into Nightmarish Villains – NYTimes.com

Mr. Lee was 35 when his breakthrough film, Terence Fisher’s British horror movie “The Curse of Frankenstein,” was released in 1957. He played the creature. But it was a year later, when he played the title role in Mr. Fisher’s “Dracula,” that his cinematic identity became forever associated with Bram Stoker’s noble, ravenous vampire, who in Mr. Lee’s characterization exuded a certain lascivious sex appeal.

[…]

Even in his 70s and 80s, Mr. Lee, as evil incarnate, could strike fear in the hearts of moviegoers. He played the treacherous light-saber-wielding villain Count Dooku in the “Star Wars” installments “Episode II — Attack of the Clones” (2002) and “Episode III — Revenge of the Sith” (2005). And he was the dangerously charismatic wizard Saruman, set on destroying “the world of men,” in the “Lord of the Rings” and “Hobbit” movies.

Mr. Lee could be philosophical about having been typecast. Of his roughly 250 movie and television roles, only 15 or so had been in horror films, he maintained in an interview with The New York Times in 2002. And they included at least 10 outings as Dracula (sequels included “Dracula: Prince of Darkness” in 1966 and “The Satanic Rites of Dracula” in 1973), as well as one as Frankenstein’s monster and one as the Mummy.

c670a76280449e632b81f5c6685ab14cMany of his other characters were nevertheless terrifying. He was the swashbuckling assassin Rochefort in “The Three Musketeers” (1974); the eerily manipulative title character in “Rasputin: The Mad Monk” (1966); the Bond villain Francisco Scaramanga in “The Man With the Golden Gun” (1974); a Nazi officer in Steven Spielberg’s “1941” (1979); and a mad scientist in “Gremlins II” (1990). During the 1960s, he played the title role of the Chinese criminal mastermind in five Fu Manchu movies.

But Mr. Lee also played men of quieter power. He was the dying founder of Pakistan in “Jinnah” (1998); Sherlock Holmes’s brother in Billy Wilder’s “The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes” (1970); and Prince Philip in a television film, “Charles and Diana: A Royal Love Story” (1982). He even made a western, “Hannie Caulder” (1971), with Raquel Welch, in which he played a peaceful family man.

2517c22ca07d786ff4e58c56f6a0069aYou can read more about his film list at that link.

22 Incredible Facts About The Life and Career Of Sir Christopher Lee

If Sir Christopher Lee had just been a movie star, he would still have been an icon. But the late actor, who passed away last week, had an amazing life even beyond his incredible body of work. Whether you’re still lamenting his passing or unsure why his death is such a loss, here’s 22 reasons why Christopher Lee will always be a legend.

Like this one:

7) Lee never said anything specific about his time in the SOE, but he did say this: “I’ve seen many men die right in front of me – so many in fact that I’ve become almost hardened to it. Having seen the worst that human beings can do to each other, the results of torture, mutilation and seeing someone blown to pieces by a bomb, you develop a kind of shell. But you had to. You had to. Otherwise we would never have won.” By the end of the war he’d received commendations for bravery from the British, Polish, Czech and Yugoslavia governments.

bf6a63848dea8a558f4f1e8b4a441427Lee spoke six languages and was a cousin of Bond author Ian Fleming.

Tributes…

George Lucas, Peter Jackson, Samuel L. Jackson, Ian McKellen and Kathleen Kennedy Pay Tribute to Christopher Lee – IGN

Lee’s Star Wars co-star Samuel L. Jacksontweeted, “Christopher Lee was a kind & most gracious man, that embodied the words Gentleman & Pro. I’m enriched by my time spent with him!”

Peter Jackson’s Christopher Lee tribute posts on Facebook | EW.com

Read Jackson’s full remembrance of Lee below. For more tributes to the late star, head here.

It is with tremendous sadness that I learnt of the passing of Sir Christopher Lee. He was 93 years old, had not been in his usual good health for some time, but his spirit remained, as always, indomitable.

7f33dcf3420d2617d0cf45936877119fChristopher spoke seven languages; he was in every sense, a man of the world; well versed in art, politics, literature, history and science. He was scholar, a singer, an extraordinary raconteur and of course, a marvelous actor. One of my favourite things to do whenever I came to London would be to visit with Christopher and Gitte where he would regale me for hours with stories about his extraordinary life. I loved to listen to them and he loved to tell them – they were made all the more compelling because they were true – stories from his time with the SAS, through the Second World War, to the Hammer Horror years and later, his work with Tim Burton – of which he was enormously proud.

I was lucky enough to work with Chris on five films all told and it never ceased to be a thrill to see him on set. I remember him saying on my 40th Birthday (he was 80 at the time), “You’re half the man I am”. Being half the man Christopher Lee is, is more than I could ever hope for. He was a true gentleman, in an era that no longer values gentleman.

I grew up loving Christopher Lee movies. For most of my life I was enthralled by the great iconic roles he not only created – but continued to own decades later. But somewhere along the way Christopher Lee suddenly, and magically, dissolved away and he became my friend, Chris. And I loved Chris even more.

There will never be another Christopher Lee. He has a unique place in the history of cinema and in the hearts of millions of fans around the world.

The world will be a lesser place without him in it.

My deepest sympathies to Gitte and to his family and friends.

Rest in peace, Chris.

An icon of cinema has passed into legend.

 

There is a gallery at the NYT’s link with 250 pictures of Lee in various movie/tv roles.

Pinterest Pictures:

 Christopher ❤ Tall, Dark, and Gruesome ❤

9d8811339459ebe2121392680cac4205A LIGHTER SIDE TO CHRISTOPHER LEE!

Christopher Lee – Quotes – IMDb

Movie clips: Christopher Lee: a career in clips | Film | The Guardian

For a fun take on the life of Christopher Lee…Badass of the Week: Christopher Lee

Past interviews and reviews:

Interview: Christopher Lee – Telegraph from 2011

Christopher Lee 1922-2015: an appreciation by Mark Kermode | Film | The Guardian

Christopher Lee: The real James Bond “I was… • wlmager

888b0cde02173dda74029a65af1334dcChristopher Lee: The Actor’s Secret Life in Heavy Metal | Rolling Stone

That time Christopher Lee taught Peter Jackson the sound a stabbed man makes – LA Times

According to the video, Jackson was blocking a scene in which Wormtongue (Brad Dourif) stabs Saruman (Lee) in the back. Jackson goes into a long explanation about how he wants Lee to react and Lee says, “Have you any idea what kind of noise happens when somebody’s stabbed in the back? Because I do.” Lee was a veteran of World War II. The whole rundown is embedded below along with a collection of Lee memories from his colleagues, fans and plenty of delightful Lee voice work. This man was King.

The video is chilling…go watch it.

5610dec1e2ccd737c43757510663cee7In the video…Christopher Lee: The real James Bond “I was… • wlmager

Filming a scene in Return of the King (seen only in the extended version), when Grima Wormtongue (Brad Dourif) stabs Saruman in the back on top of the tower, Christopher Lee corrected Peter Jackson on the fact that when a person is stabbed in the back of the chest, they do not scream (as the director wanted), in fact the air is pushed out of their lungs and they “groan” with an exhalation of air, very quietly, as their lungs have been punctured.

From Peter Jackson’s DVD commentary: “When I was shooting the stabbing shot with Christopher, as a director would, I was explaining to him what he should do… And he says, ‘Peter, have you ever heard the sound a man makes when he’s stabbed in the back?’ And I said, ‘Um, no.’ And he says ‘Well, I have, and I know what to do.’”

The crew said that they knew Christopher Lee had been in the British Royal Air Force Intelligence Service in World War Two, and they didn’t really push him for more information about how he knew in such detail exactly what noise a person makes when this is done to them.

cc4b137c090a6a0b74b8398045545940He wouldn’t have told them anyway.

When pressed by an eager interviewer on his SAS past, he leaned forward and whispered: “Can you keep a secret?”

“Yes!” the interviewer replied, breathless with excitement.

“So can I.” replied a smiling Lee, sitting back in his chair.

Sounds like there should be a film about Christopher Lee’s life to me!

 

TCM will be celebrating Christopher Lee in Film on June 22nd with the following films, unfortunately The Wicker Man is not on the list: TCM Remembers Christopher Lee

6:15 AM The Mummy (1959)
8:00 AM The Curse of Frankenstein (1957)
9:30 AM Horror of Dracula (1958)
11:00 AM Dracula, Prince of Darkness (1966)
12:45 PM Dracula Has Risen From the Grave (1969)
2:30 PM Horror Express (1972)
4:00 PM The Three Musketeers (1972)
6:00 PM The Four Musketeers (1975)

Now for a few newsy links:

ESA’s Philae comet lander wakes up after seven months of hibernation | Ars Technica

The perfect picture from the International Space Station an astronaut tried to take for 200 days – Salon.com

The perfect picture from the International Space Station an astronaut tried to take for 200 days

Rise of the mermaids: Weeki Wachee’s biggest attraction makes quite a splash | US news | The Guardian

Bulgarian ‘phantom’ at center of fake Avon bid – Business Insider

Apocalyptic scenes in Georgia’s Tbilisi as animals escape from zoo during freak flood | Daily Mail Online

Zoo Animals Roam Tbilisi After Disastrous Flood — NYMag

Jurassic Park’s VFX legacy still casts a shadow—especially for Jurassic World | Ars Technica

10 companies that are openly contemptuous of their customers – Salon.com

Tamir Rice report: witnesses contradict officer on warning to boy shot dead | US news | The Guardian

 

Let’s end with an update:

83ca1120c36579b4d702553bb81a26b8Oh Hey There’s A Shark In The Middle Of The Road, Guess The State: Your Florida Roundup | Wonkette

And We Shall End With a Nice Time!

Yr Wonkette had previously noted the story of Cameron Boland, the Florida go-getter who was all ready to be a National Honor Society something or other but then had to go whore it up by exposing her bare shoulders. (“Dirty little slut,” Jeb Bush says into the mirror, while fapping, probably.)

Well. It turns out that slut-shaming upholding basic moral principles does not in fact go over well, so the fad750d7ab2f5dc6ed7b850e4bd5b12cNational Honor Society prudes have officially reconsidered. Hooray for bare shoulders!

As we Wonksplained:

For once, and probably never again, the state of Florida is actually the source of some Nice Time! You might remember the story last week about Cameron Boland, the junior at Fort Myers High School who was stripped of her elected position as her county’s National Honor Society “Historian” — really more of a social-media/press relations job — because she gave her campaign speech wearing a sundress with excessively thin straps. (We keep seeing them described as “spaghetti straps,” but those are at least linguini straps.) Anyhow, all the negative publicity the story generated seems to have shamed the school district, or at least made it say “Oh well, what the hell,” and now the Lee County School District’s superintendent has given Cameron back the “Historian” position. Another girl who also had her NHS job taken away for being bare-shouldered has been restored to the position of NHS president for Lee County. The girls will share their positions with the students who were chosen to replace them, so that all noses may remain safely in joint.

See, good things do happen in Florida every once in a while. Usually after a healthy dose of shame.

Have a good Sunday. This is an open thread of course.

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Sunday Reads

Jim Rockford reading file

Good Morning!!

We’ve lost another one of the greats. James Garner, star of movies and TV, has died. He was 86. I loved his TV show The Rockford Files (1974-1980). I watched the show faithfully and watched the reruns for years after it went off the air. I loved the show’s combination of comedy and drama that played off Garner’s relaxed, good-humored personality.

Garner was found dead in his home late last night, according to ABC News.

Actor James Garner, whose whimsical style in the 1950s TV Western “Maverick” led to a stellar career in TV and films such as “The Rockford Files” and his Oscar-nominated “Murphy’s Romance,” has died, police said. He was 86.

He was found dead of natural causes at his home in the Brentwood area of Los Angeles Saturday evening, Los Angeles police officer Alonzo Iniquez said early Sunday.

Police responded to a call around 8 p.m. PDT and confirmed Garner’s identity from family members, Iniquez told The Associated Press.

There was no immediate word on a more specific cause of death. Garner had suffered a stroke in May 2008, just weeks after his 80th birthday.

200 a day plus expenses

From The New York Times: James Garner, Witty, Handsome Leading Man, Dies at 86.

Mr. Garner was a genuine star but as an actor something of a paradox: a lantern-jawed, brawny athlete whose physical appeal was both enhanced and undercut by a disarming wit. He appeared in more than 50 films, many of them dramas, but as he established in one of his notable early performances, as a battle-shy naval officer in “The Americanization of Emily” (1964) — and had shown before that in “Maverick” — he was most at home as an iconoclast, a flawed or unlikely hero.

An understated comic actor, he was especially adept at conveying life’s tiny bedevilments. One of his most memorable roles was as a perpetually flummoxed pitchman for Polaroid cameras in the late 1970s and early 1980s, in droll commercials in which he played a vexed husband and Mariette Hartley played his needling wife. They were so persuasive that Ms. Hartley had a shirt printed with the declaration “I am NOT Mrs. James Garner.”

His one Academy Award nomination was for the 1985 romantic comedy “Murphy’s Romance,” in which he played a small-town druggist who woos the new-in-town divorced mom (Sally Field) with a mixture of self-reliance, grouchy charm and lack of sympathy for fools.

Even Rockford, a semi-tough ex-con (he had served five years on a bum rap for armed robbery) who lived in a beat-up trailer in a Malibu beach parking lot, drove a Pontiac Firebird and could handle himself in a fight (though he probably took more punches than he gave), was exasperated most of the time by one thing or another: his money problems, the penchant of his father (Noah Beery Jr.) for getting into trouble or getting in the way, the hustles of his con-artist pal Angel (Stuart Margolin), his dicey relationship with the local police.

Jim Rockford and Angel Martin

Jim Rockford and Angel Martin

“Maverick” had been in part a send-up of the conventional western drama, and “The Rockford Files” similarly made fun of the standard television detective, the man’s man who upholds law and order and has everything under control. A sucker for a pretty girl with a distinctly ’70s fashion sense — he favored loud houndstooth jackets — Rockford was perpetually wandering into threatening situations in which he ended up pursued by criminal goons or corrupt cops. He tried, mostly successfully, to steer clear of using guns; instead, a bit of a con artist himself, he relied on impersonations and other ruses — and high-speed driving skills. Every episode of the show, which ran from 1974-80 and more often than not involved at least one car chase and Rockford’s getting beat up a time or two, began with a distinctive theme song featuring a synthesizer and a blues harmonica and a message coming in on a newfangled gadget — Rockford’s telephone answering machine — that underscored his unheroic existence: “Jim, this is Norma at the market. It bounced. Do you want us to tear it up, send it back or put it with the others?”

And isn’t it nice to know that Garner was a “a lifelong Democrat who was active in behalf of civil rights and environmental causes…”?

Here’s one of The Rockford Files iconic opening sequences:

I came across a terrific 2012 essay on The Rockford Files by a philosophy professor named B.B. Olshin at Cynical Times News: Finding Solace in The Rockford Files: Values of Post-Watergate anti-hero still resonate.

I like car chases.

As a philosophy professor, who spends a good deal of time reading through Plato and exploring obscure Daoist thought, there’s something about sitting in front of the television and watching one slick car chase after another that allows my own mind to throttle back. Car chases, in fact, are a big part of the reason I still enjoy watching reruns of “The Rockford Files” — a series loaded with car chases that ran for six seasons, starting in 1974. Another reason is the inherent goodness of lead character Jim Rockford, which is so hard to find today.

After all, I am a philosophy professor, which means that as I watch The Rockford Files, I can’t help but notice how the societal shabbiness and decay it depicts mirrors the period we’re now experiencing – especially our almost willful hurtle towards authoritarianism.

We like to think that the good guy will win out, but even in “The Rockford Files” the fast car chases don’t always end with evil on the run. That said, you would never see Jim Rockford embracing the tactics of repression, like those practiced in places like Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay, to eke out a win.

The show featured lead character Jim Rockford in a broad-lapeled sport jacket. The private detective was often tailing someone in his gold Pontiac Firebird or expertly evading a tail by the bad guys.

Rockford had a strong jaw and a stylish look, but was really more anti-hero than hero. He always strove to do the right thing, even when it meant coming up short. The character mirrored a real and honest citizen more than anything else.

Check it out. The essay is two years old, but I think it’s still relevant to current events.

Israel’s Attack on Gaza

Tanks maneuvered outside the northern Gaza Strip on Friday, as Israel intensified its land offensive against Hamas, with artillery, tanks and gunboats. Credit Ronen Zvulun/Reuters

Tanks maneuvered outside the northern Gaza Strip on Friday, as Israel intensified its land offensive against Hamas, with artillery, tanks and gunboats. Credit Ronen Zvulun/Reuters

The rest of the news today is pretty much a downer, led by Israel’s continued attacks on Gaza. This was posted moments ago at CNN: Dozens killed in Palestinian town; Netanyahu calls for demilitarizing Gaza.

Gaza City (CNN) — Hundreds of Palestinians fled in panic into Gaza City on Sunday as Israeli troops focused their firepower on the nearby town of Shaja’ia. The shelling and bombing killed at least 60 people and wounded 300, according to the Gaza Health Ministry.

In previous days, Israel warned residents to flee, through calls, text messages and dropping fliers that said “it is the intention of the IDF to carry out aerial strikes against terror sites and operatives” in the area. The fliers told people to head to Gaza City by Wednesday morning and not to return until further notice. The IDF posted an English translation of the fliers Sunday on Twitter.

Some residents said they had received the warnings but felt that even if they fled, they could face the same dangers in other parts of Gaza.

Israel claims these people were ordered by Hamas to stay in harm’s way, and therefore they are responsible for their own deaths and injuries. Republican Senator Marco Rubio agrees. He says the deaths in Gaza are “100 percent Hamas’ fault” (video).

I highly recommend reading this NYT article by Tyler Hicks, who witnessed the deaths of four young boys who were innocently play on a beach in Gaza City. But have a box of Kleenex handy.

Through Lens, 4 Boys Dead by Gaza Shore.

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I had returned to my small seaside hotel around 4 p.m. to file photos to New York when I heard a loud explosion. My driver and I rushed to the window to see what had happened. A small shack atop a sea wall at the fishing port had been struck by an Israeli bomb or missile and was burning. A young boy emerged from the smoke, running toward the adjacent beach.

I grabbed my cameras and was putting on body armor and a helmet when, about 30 seconds after the first blast, there was another. The boy I had seen running was now dead, lying motionless in the sand, along with three other boys who had been playing there.

By the time I reached the beach, I was winded from running with my heavy armor. I paused; it was too risky to go onto the exposed sand. Imagine what my silhouette, captured by an Israeli drone, might look like as a grainy image on a laptop somewhere in Israel: wearing body armor and a helmet, carrying cameras that could be mistaken for weapons. If children are being killed, what is there to protect me, or anyone else?

I watched as a group of people ran to the children’s aid. I joined them, running with the feeling that I would find safety in numbers, though I understood that feeling could be deceptive: Crowds can make things worse. We arrived at the scene to find lifeless, mangled bodies. The boys were beyond help. They had been killed instantly, and the people who had rushed to them were shocked and distraught.

Some helpful reads on the Israeli-Palestine conflict:

Yesterday I read an interview with Max Blumenthal that Dakiniat posted a couple of days ago. I highly recommend reading it if you haven’t already, To Zion and Back: Ismail Khalidi interviews Max Blumenthal. Blumenthal is the author of Goliath: Life and Loathing in Greater Israel.

Also worth reading, MJ Rosenberg at Tikkun Daily: Gaza Burns To Please The Donors.

Malaysia Airlines Crash in Ukraine

Here’s an excellent–though graphic–article on the downed Malaysian airliner in Ukraine by Max Seddon of Buzzfeed: Chaos At Malaysia Airlines Crash Site Leaves Victims By The Roadside.

HRABOVE, Ukraine — A muted sun baked golden fields of hay and sunflowers. Bloated and mangled bodies gave off a fetid stench. A burly gunman who called himself Grumpy stepped into the road as a convoy of international observers snaked along the bumpy country road to the crash site of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17.

“I will let none of you pass! I have an order!” he shouted. Motley gunmen in ragtag uniforms flanked out alongside him. A lanky rebel in a beekeeping suit who reeked of alcohol folded his automatic rifle in his arms. The observers wandered out, then meekly retreated.

Two days after MH17 was shot down over east Ukraine — turning a simmering separatist conflict into a crisis of global proportions — the crash site remains a hideous mess that will make it harder for investigators to establish what happened — and for relatives to get peace. As Ukraine, Russia, and Moscow-backed rebels trade barbs over which side fired the missile that brought the Boeing 777 jet down, the bodies of the 298 passengers and crew killed instantaneously were still strewn across a field, decomposing in the 85-degree heat.

Nobody seemed to know where the bodies would be taken. Ukraine wants them stored 185 miles north in Kharkiv, the only nearby city with the facilities to take them, but claims that rebels have already spirited 38 corpses to their nearby stronghold in Donetsk and conducted their own autopsies. With the wreckage from the crash spread out over a 10-square-mile radius, the many bodies still at the scene may fare worse. Ukraine claims to have found 186, and BuzzFeed counted 82 in Hrabove alone, many of them unmoved since the crash. Local firemen and police officers, some of whom had clearly spent the night drinking moonshine, listlessly shoveled body parts into black garbage bags and left them to broil at the roadside.

Read more at the link.

Today’s latest headlines on this story:

USA Today: Bodies of MH17 victims on train bound for rebel-held city.

Live Blog at Zee News: Ukraine rebels to give MH17 black boxes to International Civil Aviation Organisation.

These are the biggest stories so far today, IMHO; I’ll add a few more headlines in the comment thread. What are you reading and blogging about this summer Sunday?


Sunday Open Thread: David Frost Dead at 74

sunday_morning_songs_series

Good Morning!!

Mona isn’t feeling well, but will try to get her scheduled post up later on today. Meanwhile here’s an open thread for early risers.

Famed British broadcaster Sir David Frost has died of a presumed heart attack while giving a speech on a cruise ship. He was 74. The Guardian reports:

Sir David Frost, the journalist and broadcaster whose lengthy career covered everything from cutting-edge 60s satire to heavyweight interviews and celebrity gameshows, has died of a heart attack on a cruise ship, his family said.

The 74-year-old, whose programmes included That Was The Week That Was and The Frost Report, was to have given a speech on board the Queen Elizabeth, which had set sail from Southampton on a cruise to Lisbon.

Frost, who was knighted in 1993, helped establish London Weekend Television and TV-am. He was famed for his political interviews, most notably with Richard Nixon in 1977, in which the US president conceded some fault over Watergate for the first time.

From BBC News:

Born in Kent, Sir David studied at Cambridge University where he became secretary of the Footlights club, and met future comedy greats such as Peter Cook, Graham Chapman and John Bird.

After university he went to work at ITV before he was asked to front the BBC programme That Was The Week That Was, which ran between 1962 and 1963.

Casting a satirical eye over the week’s news, the show boasted scriptwriters including John Cleese, John Betjeman and Dennis Potter.

The Frost Report brought together John Cleese, Ronnie Barker and Ronnie Corbett in a sketch show which would influence many comedy writers including the Monty Python crew.

Much more at the link.

Former President Richard Nixon with TV interviewer David Frost in Mid-March in 1977 before they began taping their interviews later that month. (AP Photo)

Former President Richard Nixon with TV interviewer David Frost in Mid-March in 1977 before they began taping their interviews later that month. (AP Photo)

Of course Frost was best known for his interviews with Richard Nixon after Watergate forced Nixon to resign the presidency.

He…conducted a series of interviews with Mr Nixon, who had resigned the presidency two years earlier, in which the former president came close to apologising to the public for his role in the Watergate scandal.

Their exchanges were eventually made into a film – based on a play – which saw Michael Sheen portray Sir David Frost to Frank Langella’s Nixon. Sir David himself appeared at the premiere of the film in 2008.

The Irish Independent notes:

David was regularly scoffed at by fellow broadcasters for his allegedly non-aggressive style of questioning.

But he invariably had the last laugh because he almost always extracted more intriguing information and revealing reactions from his subjects than other far more acerbic broadcasters who boasted about their hard-hitting treatment of their “victims”….

His interview with the doomed American President “Tricky Dicky” Richard Nixon was a TV classic. During it, Nixon dramatically admitted that he had “let down the country”.

But there were many other historic moments, including one when he suddenly introduced the word “bonkers” during a tense interview with the then prime minister Margaret Thatcher over the sinking of the Argentine warship the Belgrano during the Falklands conflict. She was furious.

 

A few clips from Frost’s long and illustrious career in broadcasting.

 

 

 

From That Was The Week That Was (TW3), 1963

 


Tuesday: Break On Through To The Other Side

Ray Manzarek with Jim Morrison

Ray Manzarek with Jim Morrison

Good Morning!

Yesterday we lost another influential 1960’s icon. Ray Manzarek, keyboardist for the legendary rock group The Doors has died at 74, after a long battle with cancer. From The New York Times:

Ray Manzarek, who as the keyboardist and a songwriter for the Doors helped shape one of the indelible bands of the psychedelic era, died on Monday at a clinic in Rosenheim, Germany. He was 74.

The cause was bile duct cancer, according to his manager, Tom Vitorino. Mr. Manzarek lived in Napa, Calif.

Mr. Manzarek founded the Doors in 1965 with the singer and lyricist Jim Morrison, whom he would describe decades later as “the personification of the Dionysian impulse each of us has inside.” They would go on to recruit the drummer John Densmore and the guitarist Robby Krieger.

Mr. Manzarek played a crucial role in creating music that was hugely popular and widely imitated, selling tens of millions of albums. It was a lean, transparent sound that could be swinging, haunted, meditative, suspenseful or circuslike. The Doors’ songs were generally credited to the entire group. Long after the death of Mr. Morrison in 1971, the music of the Doors remained synonymous with the darker, more primal impulses unleashed by psychedelia. In his 1998 autobiography, “Light My Fire,” Mr. Manzarek wrote: “We knew what the people wanted: the same thing the Doors wanted. Freedom.”

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It’s difficult to describe how powerfully I was affected by The Doors’ sound back in January 1967. I was 19 years old, a sophomore at Ball State University in Muncie Indiana.

I had purchased their first album in the college bookstore on a whim–based simply my intuitive response to the cover art. I had never heard of the group–their music wasn’t being played on AM radio, that’s for sure.

I bought a lot of albums “sound unheard” in those days–a new kind of music was being born and the powers that be in radio didn’t know what to make of it yet.

When I got home, I put the LP on my cheap stereo record player and sat on my bed to listen. As soon as I heard the sound of Manzarek’s “piano bass” on “Break on Through to the Other Side” and his amazing organ intro and solo on “Light My Fire,” I was transfixed. This was really something new and unique. It’s not an exaggeration to say that music changed my life.

Along with Bob Dylan, Frank Zappa, Jack Kerouac, and a few other musical and literary influences, The Doors music helped me begin to realize that I was not alone, despite my sense of being out-of-place in my dull Midwestern town–there were other people out in the world who were like me, who didn’t want to accept the status quo in those days, who didn’t want to settle for the unexamined life. Little did I know as I listed to those songs that I would be living in Boston just a few short months later–a place where so much was happening, where so many other young people were opening up to new ways of being, thinking, and feeling.

I guess that sounds pretty corny now, but it’s the truth. The late 1960s was a time of real change, when “the doors of perception” really did begin to open and a different world began to form.

Back to the Times obituary of Manzarek:

The quasi-Baroque introduction Mr. Manzarek brought to the Doors’ 1967 single “Light My Fire“ — a song primarily written by Mr. Krieger — helped make it a million-seller. Along with classical music, Mr. Manzarek also drew on jazz, R&B, cabaret and ragtime. His main instrument was the Vox Continental electric organ, which he claimed to have chosen, Mr. Vitorino said, because it was “easy to carry.”

The Doors’ four-man lineup did not include a bass player; onstage, Mr. Manzarek supplied the bass lines with his left hand, using a Fender Rhodes piano bass, though the band’s studio recordings often added a bassist.

Mr. Densmore said, via e-mail: “There was no keyboard player on the planet more appropriate to support Jim Morrison’s words. Ray, I felt totally in sync with you musically. It was like we were of one mind, holding down the foundation for Robby and Jim to float on top of. I will miss my musical brother.”

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From the Detroit Free Press: Ray Manzarek’s keyboards opened musical doors

It was the iconoclastic makeup of The Doors that helped make them a success from the monster debut of the group’s self-titled 1967 album.

There was Morrison’s otherworldly howl, Krieger’s Spanish-influenced guitar work, Densmore’s subtle, jazz-infused drumming and perhaps most striking of all, Manzarek’s keyboard, which did triple-duty as lead instrument, accompanying instrument and the band’s lone bass sound. Together, the group recorded numerous multiplatinum albums and had hits with “L.A. Woman,” “Break On Through to the Other Side,” “The End” and the Manzarek showcase, “Light My Fire.”

“You just can’t imagine ‘Light My Fire’ without Manzarek’s organ,” says Andy Greene, associate editor of Rolling Stone. “He was unquestionably one of the best rock keyboardists ever. But more than that, he was proud of the band’s legacy (after Morrison’s 1971 death in Paris). The Doors came back in a big way in the ’80s and Ray was mainly the one carrying the flame.”

Greg Harris, CEO of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, of which Manzarek was an inductee and at whose ceremonies he was a frequent performer, said the organist was “instrumental in shaping one of the most influential, controversial and revolutionary groups of the ’60s, (which owes) much to Manzarek’s innovative playing.”

For many fans and musicians alike, The Doors’ brooding and sometimes dark sound crystallized the experimental rock music emanating from Los Angeles, which stood in stark contrast to the lighter, soaring sound coming out of the San Francisco Bay Area that was typified by the Grateful Dead and Jefferson Airplane.

A couple more links–an NPR interview of Manzarek from 2000 and a Billboard interview with Manzarek, Densmore and Krieger from 2006.

In other news,

The death toll from the Oklahoma tornado has been lowered considerably, according to the AP–to 24, including 7 children, as of now. The Chicago Tribune reports:

MOORE, Oklahoma — Officials lowered the death toll to two dozen this morning as emergency crews continued to search feverishly for survivors in the rubble of homes, schools and a hospital in an Oklahoma City suburb ravaged by a powerful Monday afternoon tornado.

Officials in Oklahoma City said on Tuesday that 24 bodies were recovered after a 2-mile wide tornado tore through Moore, a sharp decline from the 51 deaths they previously reported.

“We have got good news. The number right now is 24,” said Amy Elliott, chief administrative officer at the Oklahoma City Medical Examiner’s Office. The prior figure of 51 dead may have included some double-reported casualties, Elliott said.

“There was a lot of chaos,” Elliott said.

She cautioned that additional bodies could yet be recovered from the rubble.

At least 60 of the injured are children. Obviously, this story is far from over. I’ll update in the comments thread as I learn more–and please add what you hear as well! But it does sound like good news that there may be more survivors of this incredible storm than authorities originally believed.

More surprising (and disappointing) news breaking… From the BBC: Guatemala annuls Rios Montt’s genocide conviction

Guatemala’s top court has thrown out the conviction for genocide and crimes against humanity of former military leader Efrain Rios Montt.

The constitutional court ruled that the trial should restart from the point where it stood on 19 April.

On 10 May, Gen Rios Montt was convicted of ordering the deaths of 1,771 people of the Ixil Maya ethnic group during his time in office in 1982-83.

The 86-year-old was sentenced to 80 years in prison. He denies the charges.

The three-to-two ruling by a panel of constitutional judges annuls everything that has happened in the trial since 19 April, when Gen Rios Montt was briefly left without a defence lawyer.

The defence team had walked out of the court on the previous day in protest at what they called “illegal proceedings”.

The New York Times reports:

The decision by Guatemala’s Constitutional Court was a dramatic legal victory for General Ríos Montt, 86, and a blow to human rights advocates who had called his conviction a sign that Guatemala’s courts would no longer allow impunity for the country’s powerful.

General Ríos Montt was sent to prison immediately after the verdict on May 10 when a three-panel tribunal found him guilty of genocide and crimes against humanity. He was sentenced to 80 years in prison but was soon transferred to a military hospital for medical tests. Monday’s decision means that he will return to house arrest, where he had been held since the case against him began in January 2012.

The additional effects of Monday’s court ruling were unclear. The court did not invalidate the entire trial, which began on March 19. Instead, the court ordered that the proceedings be rolled back and reset to April 19, when a complex decision by another judge sent the trial into disarray, causing a brief suspension….Legal experts said repeating the final days of the trial before the same tribunal would be unlikely because it would amount to a form of double jeopardy for the general. But it was unclear if the rest of the trial would remain in limbo or could be restarted before a new tribunal.

General Ríos Montt was found to be responsible as commander in chief for a series of massacres and rapes and the forced displacement of the Maya-Ixil ethnic group during his 17-month rule in 1982 and 1983. During a month of prosecution testimony, the court heard wrenching descriptions by survivors of the army’s scorched-earth policy through the hamlets of the Mayan highlands.

I’ve long been appalled by the FBI’s use of elaborate sting operations to entrap hapless men in Muslim communities in the U.S. who would never have thought of or have been able to commit a terrorist act on their own. Here’s one recent example. In fact, I suspect that the Boston Marathon bombings may have resulted from the FBI’s targeting of accused bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev.

I recently read a book on this subject by reporter Trevor Aaronson called The Terror Factory, and I highly recommend it. According to Aaronson, there have been hundreds of convictions of American Muslims for supposedly planning “terrorist attacks,” but only a few of those involved actual attempted terrorist attacks. The rest were operations in which the FBI sought out a vulnerable person, provided the know-how, the plans, an the (fake) weapons. In many cases these men were very reluctant and had to be really pushed by the FBI “informants” who targeted them.

There have also been reports of the NYPD using similar tactics, and yesterday the AP focused on those efforts in one of their “big stories,” a report from an ongoing NYC trial.

A New York Police Department detective told a federal judge that he’s seen no evidence that one of his informants brought up the subject of jihad as a way to bait Muslims into making incriminating remarks. But text messages obtained by The Associated Press show otherwise.

And while the detective, Stephen Hoban, described the activities in a new legal filing in U.S. District Court as narrowly focused on a few people under investigation, text messages show a wide-ranging effort. Eager to make money, Shamiur Rahman, the informant, snapped pictures during prayer sessions, rallies and a parade; recorded the names of people who signed petitions or protested; and reported fellow Muslims who volunteered to feed needy families.

When the detective responded, his text messages nearly always sought more information:

“Did you take pictures?”

“I need pictures from the rally. And I need to know who is there.”

“Get pictures”

Rahman told the AP last year that he made about $9,000 over nine months spying widely on friends and others. He said the NYPD encouraged him to use a tactic called “create and capture.” He said it involved creating conversations about jihad or terrorism, then capturing the responses and sending them to the NYPD.

I wonder how many other large city police departments are emulating the FBI in this way? Could Boston be next? I sure hope not.

I’ll end there, and throw the floor open to your contributions. What stories are you following today?


RIP Margaret Groening, Inspiration for Marge Simpson

Margaret Groening and son Matt in 1996

Margaret Groening and son Matt in 1996

The announcement came in an obituary at The Oregonian on May 6, 2013. Here it is, in full:

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Groening, Margaret Ruth 94 March 23, 1919 April 22, 2013 Margaret Groening died peacefully in her sleep on April 22, 2013, in Portland. Born Margaret Wiggum on March 23, 1919, in Chisolm, Minn., Margaret was 94 years old. Margaret’s parents, Matt and Ingeborg Wiggum, met on the boat coming to America from Norway. They settled in Everett, Wash., where the paper mill “smelled like money,” and Matt worked as a machinist. As high school valedictorian and Miss Everett, Margaret’s highest honor was being named May Queen of Linfield College. She graduated from Linfield in 1941 and married classmate Homer Groening, whom she chose because he made her laugh the most. Margaret taught high school English before starting a family, and her love of language was apparent in the many Double-Crostics she completed (in ink). Margaret and Homer supported the Oregon Symphony, the Portland Trail Blazers and many local yarn shops (Margaret was a talented needlework artist). Besides Homer, Margaret was preceded in death by her oldest daughter, Patty, who died in Jan., 2013. She is survived by her brother, Arnold; her children, Mark, Matt, Lisa and Maggie; eight grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren. The family thanks the wonderful caregivers from Visiting Angels and the hospice nurses from Housecall Providers. Special appreciation also goes to loyal friend, Grace Clark.

Notice the familiar names?

Here’s a longer write-up, also from the Oregonian: Margaret Groening, mother of ‘The Simpsons’ creator Matt Groening, remembered as ‘a sweetheart’

For more than 20 years, Portlanders have gottenspecial pleasure from the very familiar names – Terwilliger, Flanders, Lovejoy, Quimby – that recur in “The Simpsons,” the iconic animated Fox comedy series created by Portland nativeMatt Groening.

No reference was more direct, however, than Groening naming the fictional Simpsons after members of his own family: Homer, Marge, Lisa, and Maggie. Only Bart –an anagram for “Brat” –wasn’t named after one of the Groenings.

So it was with a special twinge of recognition that many Portlanders noticed the paid obituary in Monday’s Oregonian for Groening’s mother, Margaret Ruth Groening, who died April 22, at age 94. In interviews over the years, Groening’s mother pointed out that she didn’t go by “Marge,” but that didn’t stop fans from equating her with the ever-tolerant, ever-doting mother on “The Simpsons.”

As a commenter wrote on The Oregonian’s online obituary guest book Monday:“She made this world a better place! And her legacy as ‘Marge’ will live forever. Matt Groening has created such a loving depiction of her! You will live on in our hearts, Marge ‘Simpson.'”

Another, in a note to Matt Groening, wrote, “Your mom became everyone’s mom.”

It sounds like she lived a long and happy life.

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Late Night: Guitarist Alvin Lee Has Gone Home

Alvin-Lee-II

Sad news today…

Alvin Lee, lead guitarist and vocalist for the 1960s group Ten Years After, died this morning of complications from routine surgery, according to his website. He was 68.

From The Hollywood Reporter:

Lee’s blues-rock group Ten Years After already was big in England before rocketing to international fame with its wild show at Woodstock in 1969. The band’s 10-minute rendition of Lee’s “I’m Going Home” became a cornerstone of Michael Wadleigh’s film about the festival and its soundtrack album, which would spend four weeks at No. 1 in the U.S. in 1970.

Having grown up on his family’s jazz and blues records but inspired by ’50s rock ’n’ roll, Lee, born Dec. 19, 1944, formed the Jaybirds in his midteens in his hometown of Nottingham, England. The group had some success after following The Beatles to Hamburg, Germany, but took hold after changing its name and relocating to London.

The newly christened Ten Years After played a residency at Marquee Club, where The Rolling Stones had debuted a half-decade earlier. A gig at the 1967 Windsor Jazz & Blues Festival led to a record deal with Denam. The band’s 1967 self-titled debut album — an innovative mix of rock, blues and swing jazz that featured “I’m Going Home” — failed to chart but received some airplay in San Francisco’s burgeoning FM radio scene.

That led legendary promoter Bill Graham to bring the band across the pond for a U.S. tour — the first of more than two dozen American jaunts during the next seven years.

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The New York Daily News:

Woodstock propelled Ten Years After into the forefront of the second-wave British Invasion, whose emphasis often was on flashy guitar playing with extensive solos.
Lee told the BBC in 2012 that he still had the 335 he played at Woodstock, but that he didn’t use it much any more, “because it’s too valuable.”

Lee also later said he was ambivalent about the band becoming headlining stars, saying it took away some of the intimacy he enjoyed playing for smaller audiences in closer quarters….Lee, like his friend John Mayall, always said he wanted to stay true to the blues, country, jazz and rock roots he heard in his youth, and he spent much of his musical time going back there.

Back to The Hollywood Reporter:

Ten Years After ultimately released 10 albums before splitting in 1973. Lee soon teamed with American gospel singer Mylon LeFevre for a country rock album, On the Road to Freedom, which featured such guests as George Harrison, Steve Winwood, Jim Capaldi, Mick Fleetwood and Ron Wood. Lee would spend the rest of the ’70s touring and making solo records. During the decade’s waning years, he formed Ten Years Later, which released a pair of albums, and he continued to play gigs in the U.S. and Europe.

During the ’80s, he teamed with Rare Bird vocalist Steve Gould and toured with ex-Stone Mick Taylor in his band, and his ”90s albums include Zoom and 1994 (I Hear You Rocking).

In 2004, he released the rootsy Alvin Lee in Tennessee, teaming with Scotty Moore and D.J. Fontana from Elvis Presley’s band. His most recent record, 2007’s Saguitar, flowed from hard rock to slow blues to a take on rap. His 14th solo album, Still on the Road to Freedom, was released in August. A new compilation album, Best of Alvin Lee, was issued in May.

Rest In Peace, Alvin. You’ve left us too soon.

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