Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Then cometh the rain

Ramblings Post #323
Sometimes the words get muddled. The milk sours. And in those moments where the storm pounds down upon our heads, we can only see the rain and hear the thunder and for a brief instant, we are horrified that maybe it will go on forever. But it can't. It won't. My grandfather once said that if you get caught in a storm you keep moving. Because the storm can't last forever. But this isn't about a grand teaching parable that will guide us in those moments of despair. This is about traffic in the rain in Atlanta. But this sounds like it's leading to something so epic, didn't it?

What is it about Atlanta traffic?

Leaving the office today.

In the parking garage, there is a line to leave. Inside the garage. I get up, swipe my pass, and get through the gate, and the driveway to the street is full. The short street that dead ends into the major thoroughfare, at which we all have to turn right on, is bumper to bumper across all four lanes. I need to get on that street, get across all four of those lanes, and make an immediate left at the light....all in the space of what, forty yards? My usual thing is to make a left drive out of the garage, drive to the other end of the block and make two rights to get onto said major thoroughfare whereupon switching lanes becomes easier. Smart, right?

The car in front of me, and the six or seven cars between it and the end of the street all are determined to make that right onto the major thoroughfare right here. So we wait for a good Samaritan to let the first driver in. Then another, and another...just so the congestion right out of the garage clears. Five minutes.

I make the left, and at the first intersection before the end of the block going away from traffic is...a standstill. Not inching along, I mean gridlock. For another five minutes. Then we move, a little, the bus in front of me is letting off people even though there is no stop. Rain is pouring, another five minutes. Edge along a little as cars getting out two different other garages ease into gridlock. Pull up a little further and ...there are three cars sitting in traffic with their blinkers on. Waiting. I only wish they were broken down.

At the intersection pedestrians have the right of way, and most of them shuffle along like they haven't a care in the world and it's not pouring buckets of agua from the sky. Guy in front of me can't make a left turn, won't even ease out, even after traffic abates for a brief fifteen second count. (Seriously, I counted.) He finally makes the turn when someone is halfway through the crosswalk. I make the FIRST right turn, and for a brief moment my car is going faster than 2 mph. Wooooo!

Next light, next right and suddenly we're stopped again. I turned wide, because I could, and now I'm in the third lane over and have just one more to go. I see the people to my right - lanes one and two, easing up, why are we stopped? Someone else trying for the fourth lane has decided they need to get over NOW, in the middle of the block. We wait behind because we forgot to mount lasers on our hoods. He gets over, gets to the end of the block...and keeps going straight. So why did he have to get over right then?

I finally get back to the front of my building. I glance at the clock in my car. Twenty five minutes have passed and I'm literally right in front of my building. Make the left, miss the bus which is hanging across three lanes, pull in and up the hill. And why is this guy driving so slowly? The lanes headed the other way are bumper to bumper. The way we are going is clear. Why is he doing twenty? Intersection, we're right next to one another. And there is a truck trying to join the bumper to bumper traffic and lo and behold he's in my lane, broadside, when the light turns green. Oh joy.

He finally joins traffic and I press on, oddly catching the slowpoke two lights later where he's just getting to the intersection. And the worst part is I'm not even at the bad intersection yet.

If only Marta was worth a damn.

Barkeep. You have no idea.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Turning up the color on my TV

Ramblings Post #322
I am of the opinion that what I am doing now is preparing for the next stage in life. In that stage a lot of the trivial things that cause us needless anxiety will be be banished to the far edges of my periphery, and my concerns, although esoteric, will be much more palatable. This is a fancy way of saying in the not too distant future I want my major problem to be deciding what to have for lunch. By the way, this has absolutely nothing to do with the piece that follows. Thank you. 

So I tried to do my part and watch some television focused on people who look like me, and didn't quite make it. 

I started with Queen Sugar, a new slow drama on Oprah's network. I'm not quite sure what the deal is there, because I was only able to get through the first thirty minutes before I just couldn't sit there anymore. In that first thirty minutes we meet three of the main characters, the rich daughter in LA, the earthy daughter who sells a little weed, the son who is just desperate and the impetus of the story, the father who works as a janitor at night and still has some beautiful acreage that used to be produce a nice sugar crop.   

And in this half hour where had this Empire - someone would have gotten shot, three people would tried a hostile company takeover, the company would have been in financial peril, two albums would have dropped, an evil twin would show up and someone would have gone to prison and got out. But on the slightly more sedate Queen Sugar, I think you got a day and a half where ONE scandal broke and one store got robbed. The characters and scenes just linger, with lots of long pauses and wide shots of Bayou that make you wonder if the show is sponsored by the tourist board.

I stopped watching however, because of the little boy. The desperate son has a child named Blue, and just looking at him made me wonder if parenting isn't such a bad thing. He's that cute. And because he was such an effective little emotional tool, looking at one point just so sad because the other kids won't come to his birthday party, I couldn't watch anymore. Because this isn't a comedy where he'll have three or four smart lines an episode, this is a drama which means that child character is going to experience nothing but heartache. And since I understand the first of his many tragedies happened in the first episode, because the whole thing is based on a book about the adults teaming up to keep the farm after the father passes, I'm not really up for watching children, even just actors, go through those kind of emotions regularly on a Tuesday night. So this isn't for me.
Atlanta. via Donald Glover.
So I flipped over to FX and caught the rebroadcast of the premiere of Atlanta, Donald Glover's show about the ...um, well, it's about something.

There is something weird about Donald Glover, and I don't know what it is. Maybe I'm just old, but the show seems to move between goof ball comedy (the WET lemon pepper wings glowing inside the box) to goof ball weird (the guy on the bus demanding Glover eat a sandwich) to family drama to racial statement to police and sexuality issues (the episode Earn spends in processing) to an exploration of blackness and celebrity from the inside. Donald's character is broke, a father, a ivy league school college drop-out, his parents are tired of giving him money and just seems lost. All of which would be cool if this were an indie film, but as a weekly show leaves something to be desired. And for a show that on it's face appears to be about the nuances of a certain type of blackness*, Glover's character seems... other. Not white middle class, but some odd hybrid that certainly exists somewhere in real life, but is hard to relate to or identify with.     

I like the other characters, his cousin, the Paper Boi, who is rough, rugged and raw but also thoughtful is very interesting. Far too often a thug character is just bad, instead here is more realistically depicted as someone who becomes aware of how is actions are affecting those around him. Paper Boi's sidekick character may just be pure comedy relief, as he always feels like you're only getting half the conversation - but since the other half is strictly in his head, you're not missing what you think you are. That he sounds like Dave Chappelle and looks like he could be Chapelle's younger hungrier brother only makes it funnier. I want to comment on the woman supporting Glover's character, but we barely see enough of the baby's mother in the first two episodes to get a good feel for her, other than she is doing okay while he struggles. 

A lot of the story is quiet, but deceptive in what it shows and what we take from it. Take the scene where up with the mother of his child, who he still intimate with, only to find out she has a date that night so he'll need to watch their child. Had the positions been reversed, the guy would have been viewed with disdain. I've read other reviews, and it's taken as just a woman exploring her options because the main character is supposed to be so downtrodden. Interesting. Or the white character casually using the N-word with Donald Glover's character, but realizing that wouldn't be wise with other black people around. Little things. That aside, I think this show will live or die on just how interesting the audience finds the city of Atlanta, which is being pushed as a character in the story, much as a story about NY would emphasize how much the borough shapes it's inhabitants. There is a scene in the second episode where the guy just starts telling Glover's character his story because he just needs to tell someone, has actually happened to me. And that guy sounded just like the guy on the show  - a distinctive Southern urban patios that is as identifiable as face tattoo. But that vibe is an acquired taste. Still, a story where the hero rides the bus should always be given a chance. 

So Queen Sugar looks like it might be something, so far well written and expansive for sure, but I'm not gonna sit there and watch it every week because reasons. But I think people should see for themselves what's up with that. As far as the FX offering, as soon as I can figure out exactly what Atlanta is supposed be, I'm certain I'll enjoy it more. A quirky rap political statement comedy?  

Barkeep. I need a some wings, fries and beer. You got buffalo wing sauce? No, not medium, buffalo wing. Fine, lemon pepper then. 

*Contrary to popular belief, black people are not socially homogeneous. A black man can listen rap and appreciate Jordans, or prefer jazz and want to rope cattle on weekends. The Autobiography of Malcom X or Beowulf. We are all different, yet all black.  

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Movie Trailers. Seriously.

Ramblings #321
I am a creative. I write the stories that run through my head, with that neat program on my Ipad I pretend to make music riffs, and I have some canvas and as soon as I remember to buy that paint...and those brushes...and maybe a smock, I'm gonna paint something. Oh, and the movie. But I'm also fairly well versed in business, so I realize it's not JUST the talent, but also packaging and marketing. Which brings me to this....

Seriously, who is responsible for trailers in Hollywood? Which editor? Because I watched the whole of the new Eddie Murphy movie in 2 minutes, and while it looks very good, a little over saturated with emotional  treacle and using what looks like the old Magical Black Person trope, but still good. The trailer however under cut the entire reason for seeing it, because you can practically see the whole thing. A lot of the dramatic tension just gone.
You don't believe me? Here is what I gathered from the TWO minute trailer - A mother is dying, and her ex (or possibly just the daughter's father) arranges for Mr. Church (Murphy) to come and cook for the family. The little girl initially hates him but comes to love him. Mother slowly deteriorates. Daughter gets accepted to college and daughter hates mother for dying too soon. Mother dies. Daughter thinks her life is over as well, but Church gives her the money to go to college. She goes to college, at some point she gets pregnant and comes back to Mr. Church. Something happens, perhaps a complication or an accident, but an older Church comes to the hospital and gets her, giving her a place to stay. She defends her relationship with the older black man, one that is entirely paternalistic, by explaining to some unknown potential antagonist figure that she now knows that after the money her mother had ran out Church for some reason (possibly love) somehow supported them. Mr. Church then helps the daughter raise her own child, for which he is grateful. Mr. Church has some secret he wants no one to know about.

This is two minutes of trailer. Two minutes. See for yourself.

Explain to me why I now still have to go see this movie? I like Eddie Murphy. I've thought of him as a grand untapped dramatic talent after his terrific Oscar nominated turn in Dreamgirls, so I'm happy to see him in something that gives him a chance to stretch. But after the trailer, my entire impetus for maybe seeing this film is over. I know most of the story now, with the only mystery is what the character Church is hiding. I know the mother dies, the girl gets to go to college, she gets pregnant and has a baby, and Church doesn't die .... unless the whole thing is a flashback at Church's funeral. 

Can we please stop this? This give us all the high points deal? Unless the trailers are going have SPOILER ALERT pop up after the first thirty seconds, the idea of giving away the entire film in the trailer just seems silly. Sure, I can watch the same movie over and over, but a film that I'm seeing the first time should still have a little leeway to surprise me, some dramatic tension. I don't know this one will still be able to do that.

I will reiterate an idea I proposed some time ago: A person creating a trailer should only be allowed to use footage from the first thirty minutes of a film, with the exception of a film involving a huge battle finale needed to show scale and scope - BUT the battle footage used cannot contain any named character. If the first half of the film isn't engaging, or can't be cut so that the trailer is engaging, then perhaps the film ought not have been shot in the first place. But that's just my opinion, and I'm not really anybody.

Barkeep. Wine. I feel erudite and critical of minute details and other silly crap like that. Something Scandinavian. Yes, a Scandinavian wine. Or Boone's farm.