Category Archives: Pop Culture

Unwritten

    After rather involved February and March posts, the intent was to have been concise through April. Content will still be shorter but the subjects have changed.

    April 2014 is the centenary of French author Marguerite Duras’ birth. Best known here for her book The Lover (most guys watched the movie version to ogle a gloriously naked Jane March), Duras also collaborated on the Hiroshima, Mon Amour script, a cinematic feat that set intellectuals, and those who adore their brilliance, swooning. Continue reading Unwritten

Las Sirenas

    
    Marie Anne Erize Tisseau and Marina Ginestà had a connection. Each now would’ve been tagged an insurgent. Or militant. No. Probably terrorist. Language has undergone so much massaging why call a spade a spade when it can be labeled an entrenching tool? Though the conflicts enveloping both and devouring one were dissimilar, they eventually shared the same depth in their respective causes.  

    Separated by eras, the Atlantic Ocean and clashes, similar impulses must’ve pushed them. Each believed she could be part of a beneficial movement. And each understood the prices victory required might’ve demanded their lives.

    Today that height of commitment solely belongs in the province of religious extremists. What cause will encourage modern men and women to sacrifice their lives if necessary for an idea?

    An idea, not duty. A!–more–>

    Do absolute good and evil (the intellectual versions, not spiritual) even exist today? Unquestioningly so in Ginestà’s time. Many years later when Tisseau strode among us, the old polarities were well on the way to becoming our present-day every shade of gray murk.    

    By coincidence, Tisseau and Ginestà each recently returned to awareness. A newspaper article conjured the long vanished Tisseau the next to last day of 2013. Column inches lent Ginestà an appreciation the first week of 2014. At 94, she recently reached the end of her life.

    Reportage by (Spain) El Pais’ Diego Manrique and Jacinto Antón drew these women from the fog. Or in Ginestà’s case revived her through light and shadow, while Tisseau may have been commemorated in song.

    Ginestà is clearly portrayed. Unless she alerts us from the beyond, Tisseau will stay a good twisty mystery. Mist veils her. She is elusive and maybe all that remains of her is allusive. Conjecture shrouds the tasks which led to her vanishing. Did she also serve as muse for an admirer who became even more ardent as his reticence increased across the decades?

    If Tisseau’s presence tricked one of those heartfelt love requiems from him, he’s not confessing. Neither are those behind her disappearance.

    Tisseau was an Argentine model, Ginestà politically acute and French. Both combated the leading repressive regimes of their times and places. The first woman joined intrigues opposed to her nation’s militarist regime; the second defended Spain against the reactionary Falange.

    The women’s respective causes failed. The rebel victory over the duly elected Republican government not only retarded Spain’s progress by decades, but also emboldened the Axis powers intending world plunder. That much talked about line had been trampled. Could there have been a starker example of put up or shut up than The Spanish Civil War? If the high-minded democracies couldn’t and wouldn’t aid one of their own, weren’t black shirts convinced they too could pick off other weak and disjointed republics?

    Munich didn’t green light the Second World War. Letting Spain become a live-fire laboratory for total war did.

    After withdrawing from Spain, Ginestà bracketed Mexican exile between escaping and returning to France. Postwar she eventually settled in Paris. Indeed, mamie had worn combat boots.

    Again, who can say, or who will ever confess, how Tisseau expired? Since 1976 her physical presence has been completely expunged. The 24-year-old was that figure who walks into the jungle and leaves no tracks behind. But rather than being digested by savannah, the Argentine urban jungle consumed her.

    Thanks to the world’s myriad ideological or religious discords, Westerners are familiar with the shadowy villains slinking among us looking to foment this cause or indoctrinate that creed by whatever method of imposition necessary. Their blood-drizzled objectives make no distinction between bystanders and the particular pillars they insist need razing. To ideologues, there are no innocents. People living as unobtrusively as possible merely bolster their contention. If you aren’t with them …

    Marie Tisseau became an Argentine dissatisfied with her nation’s narrow direction. Now she’s nearly a caricature of a limousine revolutionary. She was that bourgeois baby who agitated for bread and justice, but whose upbringing had delivered her material goods and comfort aplenty. Her concept of “without” was just that. Theory. Elevated roundtable chatter made romantic through the chaotic energy of youth, cigarette smoke, though ultimately condescendingly delivered regarding “the people.”  

    Fighter, militant, insurgent, “terrorist” even, Marina Ginestà is best seen as a recruiting pitch. More pointed than posters featuring Uncle Sam or Lord Kitchener, Ginestà’s pose atop a Barcelona roof in 1936 made an appeal stronger than ¡Sangre y Patria! The Catalan capital as her backdrop, the 17-year-old’s glance summoned without hectoring. Uncle Sam and Kitchener beseeched ambivalent patriots into serving. Ginestà’s easy on the eyes coaxing flatly stated “Boys, this is what you’re fighting for!”

   

Marina Ginestà, Barcelona, Spain, June 1936.

    One must wonder whether Ernest Hemingway ever glimpsed her portrait. With all occurring around him, had her image imprinted itself in Hemingway’s mind? Could Ginestà’s inviting steel have been the basis behind the fictional Maria in his For Whom the Bell Tolls?

    Here’s a backstory: the militiawoman’s come-hither defiance was a setup. Hers seems a contrivance Joseph Goebbels should’ve staged. Hans Gutman, a German pro-Republican photographer had his Edward Bernays’ moment. One he hoped advanced Republican sympathies. In Ginestà, Gutman found the requisite pretty girl. He and his subject climbed to the roof.

    Mediterranean sunlight emphasized Ginestà’s peasant loveliness. A mild breeze ruffled the short black crop atop her head. Barcelonan cityscape provided effective contrast. Yet the scene was incomplete. She lacked an accessory. Clever Gutman appropriated a nearby militiaman’s rifle and slung it over Ginestà’s shoulder. Perhaps the weapon enhanced her allure, and with it the Republican cause. Wouldn’t be the first time an armed woman has been regarded deferentially.
 
    Nothing so martially clear for Tisseau. She and her Montoneros, the leftist assemblage opposing the right-wing junta then ruling Argentina, engaged in asymmetrical shadow warfare. No great battles. No stirring proclamations. No sterling literature. No bombastic sloganeering or music. Given the conflict’s nature, also little valor. Nothing romantic about it at all.

    Unlike the Spanish insurrection, Argentina’s aptly named Dirty War lacked fixed lines and readily admirable leading personages. It was an ideological struggle that dissolved into state sanctioned torture and murder. In reflection, the Argentine government assumed the worst vestiges of what we widely recognize as an organized criminal structure. Due process for a lost number of political captives ran along that dictated by Alice’s Queen of Hearts: “Punishment first, then the trial!”

    Is anyone still alive who can attest what deeds Tisseau performed on behalf ogf the Montoneros? Was she a go-between? Active in a cadre? Or just a peripheral traveler whose prominent profile fit into Argentine domestic intelligence’s crosshairs?    

    Unlike Ginestà’s unwavering fealty to Spanish Republicanism, Tisseau drifted into the Montonero movement. Casually politicized at best, she’d led an idealized youthquake life. Lovely, languorous, and fearless, the cover girl gadded-about throughout early 1970’s Europe.

 


Marie Anne Erize Tisseau, unknown.

    Glamorous, say, an Uschi Obermaier who didn’t reach the next shore, Tisseau exemplified that era’s free-spirited vibe. On occasions – oh, the usual no cash ones – she dipped into larceny. But exquisite larceny! No grubby bank heists for her. More than a flighty personality behind a pretty face, the mannequin nurtured an interest in anthropology. A concentration the least-likeliest thief turned into lucre by smuggling art.

    Doubtlessly the sort of daring-do which further aroused an already besotted tunesmith. Verses, well known ones in specific circles, resound about a thoroughly captivating woman. Do these refer to Tisseau?

    Throughout decades the lyricist has preferred obscuring his muse’s identity. Doesn’t lovelorn cloaking attract our curiosity all the more? On the surface his reticence may appear selfish. Is his one of those manufactured mysteries meant to keep embers alive, the artist’s name in speculation? Or does the songwriter’s silence derive from an instance of a draw so powerful, a loss so raw, that revelation would wrench soul debilitating pain?

    There are some nuggets our human hearts never wish to yield.  

   

What Is Beat?

    Finally watched the film version of On the Road recently. Anticipating disappointment, Walter Salles’ 2012 effort lived down to expectations.

    I imagine when the project was pitched and possible directors were suggested, Salles emerged a natural fit. After all, the Brazilian had done a tender job helming The Motorcycle Diaries, the sort of movie that makes most American audiences eyes glaze over yet rewards patient viewers. You know, solitary figures sitting in the dark interested in more than excessive explosions and stunted adults wallowing in juvenile humor.

Continue reading What Is Beat?

Frolic and Friction

    The initial subject of this post was to have flogged Properly Stirred, the 2013 Slow Boat Media explicit exploits extravaganza. (Properly Stirred is available through Amazon Kindle.) However, incipient background upheaval and a timely dovetailing of international relations with anecdotal observations favor the topical subject.

    President Obama’s recent cancellation of bilateral discussions with Russian President Vladimir Putin has set the “be afraid, be very afraid” segment of America into full peek in the closets/check under the beds mode. For them, the sudden spate of bug-out embassy and consular evacuations was soothing music. More sanguine Americans saw these closures as large scale security theater panic.

    Aware of history and the threat against our nation, menace cannot be discounted. Yet in the 21st century haven’t we yielded common sense vigilance to Bernard Breakdown instances of quivering uncontrollable fear?

    Similar to Breakdown, a Dick Tracy villain from the early 1980s, it takes little to disrupt the security apparatus’ coping mechanism.  

Continue reading Frolic and Friction

Cool. Resolute. Polished.


    Watching John Boehner well up, I wonder what father would’ve thought of such displays. While it’s good the Speaker of the House is comfortable enough in himself to let tears roll at the drop of a charged moment, isn’t there something unnerving about the leader’s, uh, expressiveness? Continue reading Cool. Resolute. Polished.

Summer Snippets


    Mine won’t be the usual lament about the end of summer. The season did not zip by. No flings that thanks to the heat’s affect on our emotional states ballooned into unwieldy romances pricked by calming September’s inevitability.

    There’s nothing I wished I’d done. Since the season did not present me with opportunities, none slipped away.

    Maybe as an adolescent I may’ve regretted the passing of yearly unstructured seasonal idylls. Today, though, an adult, I have much greater appreciation of idling.

    However, what Summer 2012 lacked, the last several actually, is the absence of accidental street music. (That, as well as the chatter which accessorized it.) If loud enough, then the insistence of incidental thrum and declaim. Ear buds and the prevalence of automobile air conditioning have mightily limned the noise.

    No more ghetto blasters. Far fewer rolling boom boxes. Continue reading Summer Snippets

Sinister Sojourns


    Isn’t the best part about movie remakes comparing them against the original? Or given that today’s moviemakers take such license, the “source material.” Title and characters remain unchanged but the newer efforts detour and slalom moments after the premise has been established.

    Recently the 2010 remake of And Soon the Darkness lent me an opportunity to see how far storytelling has advanced. My interest in both films stems from a distinctly modern actress, Amber Heard. She’d been a bunny on NBC’s short-lived Playboy Club. Maybe that program would still be in production if Frank Ballinger from M Squad, and Crime Story‘s Mike Torello and Ray Luca (all characters from TV series also set in early 1960s Chicago) had run tabs there.

    Heard filled out her bunny costume and shook her tail nicer than I remembered happening inside the actual clubs themselves. Of course today I have much greater appreciation of such nuances. Continue reading Sinister Sojourns

Down the Line

 

    Despite the sad circus my place of employment has become, there’s still work to be done.

    On what would’ve been singer-songwriter Buddy Holly’s 75th birthday I kept an appointment in Saratoga Springs. While I wished we could’ve met at the horse track, preferably between educated selections of The Racing Form (a publication whose pages are prayed over more than any evangelical’s Bible), alas, the clients preferred wagering on whether our company could fulfill their request.

    One puckishly hopes we labeled the Saratoga Springs job “Longshot” and not “Out of the Money.” Continue reading Down the Line

Graphic Thrills

 

 

    More than an “s” differentiates the Boris Vian novella I Spit on Your Graves from both schlock movie versions of I Spit on Your Grave. Nor does the former serve as source material for the latter pair.

    Book and movies arrive from distinct places.

    Vian’s 1946 tale is an oozing helping of exported Americana strained through culture, news, music, and propaganda into France. While the United States and Soviet Union won World War II, it would take Stalin’s death and Khrushchev’s admissions of the deceased commissar’s criminal excesses before the workers’ paradise gleam assumed a rightfully heavy tarnish.

    Until that happy day America alone occupied the whole ambivalence spectrum.

    Each movie follows one simple arc. A damsel in distress turns tables on her tormentors and becomes Ellie Mae Clampett on meth. It’s carnage deluxe. Continue reading Graphic Thrills