R.I.P.: Jonathan Demme

(I may say more later — right now I’m having trouble processing all these people passing on.)

Equals parts filmmaker and music nut and creator after my own heart. I thought a good deal of his stuff didn’t quite work, but every time out I could precisely feel and understand where he was trying to go.

The neglected item: Melvin and Howard. Eccentric, sure, but how many movies are not only eccentric but one-of-a-kind?

Favorite uplift from source material: Silence of the Lambs. The book, which I was captivated by the flick enough to read afterward, is clunky and ordinary in comparison. Every change Demme made is an improvement. Wise to shun sequels.

The ultimate of course is Stop Making Sense. Changed the way amplified concerts were filmed. No band could ask for a finer monument. I was riveted by right from the first of the several times I’ve seen it. About halfway through it hit me: “Ho-lee crap — there’s no question this is more exciting and overwhelming than seeing the actual show. No single audience position could knock out your brains like this!”

R.I.P.: Robert M. Pirsig

Writer who nailed his moment. 

Nice that Montana State University honored him.

(Though I have to be honest and say when he taught there, it was the toilet of writing-teacher jobs. But by all accounts he had wonderful effects and I wish I could have studied with him as …. a … well … 7-to-9 year old kid.)

I thought Zen and the Art was a captivating book, drew you into the spell of a flamboyant storyteller who was capturing a cross-America jaunt in the lineage of the Beats, the Merry Pranksters and itself as a final chapter. The land wouldn’t seem as open after the mid-’70s. I did not consider it profound, though I appreciated the boost for my interest in Buddhism and thought it laid out a detailed, off-beat, personality.

What I really resent, though, are comparisons that claim the book is a “post-counterculture” influence the way Carlos Castaneda is a ’60s influence.

Whatever its limitations and overrations, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance is not a malevolent fraud.

R.I.P.: Joe Harris, Who Made Underdog an Over DAWG

Another animation super-pro who had a long career and life. I don’t even begrudge him a phrase that probably helped ruin the health of who knows how many. And hey,  — [revision alert] one of my favorite kids jokes is under investigation since the original version I heard had nothing to do with rabbis, which would have meant nothing to me. {EDIT EDIT: The person I contacted who was around with me when we giggled at the joke said my memory was simply faulty — we were told that a rabbi was “a Jewish priest” and that’s what mean next to nothing. It does flatten the joke of course, but just the kicks are for Trids part was haw-haw enough. WHEW Over-explanation over.}

But Underdog stands out as having the exact dash of MAD satire to it. And one of the very best show themes in the history of cartoon TV:

Beware, there’s an odd number of bogus versions out there … this is like all variants.

(Notice how many buildings prominently display TV antennas. I now keep track of the three or four rusting, hi-tech roof antiques I know in our neighborhood. The past isn’t gone until it’s gone, right?)

R.I.P.: Elyse Steinman

Saying goodbye to Prince last night, now have to say farewell to the slyly inventive slide guitarist of one of my all-time fave stylistic mash-ups, Raging Slab:

From the debut.


PS: [April 4]: Sorting and storing and discarding vinyl this after noon I was reminded that the band Junkyard — esp. S/T debut (Geffen, 1989) was in most ways a West Coast equivalent of Raging Slab. Except it was made up of members from established previous bands and never had quite the lifetime-commitment vibe of Raging Slab. Indeed, I never liked anything else I heard by these guys as much as the debut. It should be played right along with Slab, though.