I’m not watching the Super Bowl this evening. It’s not a protest or anything — I just don’t care about either team, and once it became clear that the Bengals had regressed to their mean (and that’s pretty mean indeed), I quit paying attention to the pro season last fall. But if you’re watching — whether for the game, the commercials, the snacks, or the camaraderie — I hope you’re having a blast. And if you aren’t watching, I hope you aren’t being supercilious. Anyway…
The Spawn was under the weather late last week — not the flu, but some sort of virus — but she seems somewhat perkier this evening and plans to get back to class and the job tomorrow. Other than a lingering cough, I seem to be back up to snuff as well. I’ll be getting my first batch of papers from the Freshpeeps on Friday, so we’ll see how I’m holding up after that.
This week I watched a couple of closely related movies on Netflix. The first was A Futile and Stupid Gesture, a biopic about Doug Kenney, one of the co-founders of the National Lampoon and the principal scenarist of Animal House and Caddyshack. Because of an accident of timing, I was too young for the prime years of NatLamp (although my dad had been a fan and I eventually got to read some old issues), but enjoyed a series of gift subscriptions during my college years in the early-to-mid-80s. One issue from that era was a 1985 tribute to Kenney, which let me in on what I had missed. Of course, that meant that I knew the general outline of the biopic, but I still found it interesting. I found myself weirded out on occasion as I watched present-day comic actors playing the part of actors and writers I remember from the first time around — the Belushis, O’Donoghues, Hendras and such. (Of course, the fact that Will Forte, a 47-year-old actor, played Kenney, who died at age 33, is also a bit off-putting, but there you go.)
After that, I watched Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead: The Story of the National Lampoon, a 2015 documentary on the same topic. Both films essentially told the same story, of course, with many of the same scenes, and both essentially end with Kenney’s death under uncertain circumstances. The biopic implies suicide a bit more strongly, while the people interviewed in the documentary seem to lean more toward an accidental death theory (and John Landis suggests that Kenney may have been murdered in a drug deal gone bad). I actually found the documentary more engaging than the newer movie — possibly because it included more bits from the magazine and its spinoffs like Lemmings and Radio Hour.
From a personal standpoint, spending three-plus hours watching (twice!) the story of a gifted creator with emotional demons and a self-destructive streak may not have been the most uplifting choices I could have made. Certainly I’ll cop to some melancholy when I was finished, but I found both movies engaging, and wouldn’t have a problem recommending either of them.
On a related (in an “Ou sont les neiges” kind of way) front, I was watching some videos on YouTube last night and saw the video for “Touch and Go“, the 1986 single from the only album released by Emerson, Lake, and Powell (By the way, I was reminded that the main riff in the song was lifted from the second theme in Ralph Vaughan Williams’s “Fantasia on Greensleeves“, which nicked it in turn from an English folk song called “Lovely Joan“.) As I was watching, it occurred to me that all three of the members are dead. I mean, I knew that intellectually, but it kind of stunned me when I thought of it. Maybe it’s because I saw the band in Cincinnati — where Cozy Powell put on one of the greatest performances I’ve ever seen from a drummer. As my friend Mike Dearing said, “When you go to a show with Keith Emerson and everyone is talking about the drummer afterward, you know something special just happened.” Or maybe it’s just like Mr. Marvell said: “[…A]t my back I always hear/ Time’s winged chariot drawing near.”
Given all that, you can probably understand why I spent the rest of the evening watching MST3K riffing on The Sidehackers. One can only handle so much elegiac feeling in a week.
Here’s kind of an odd one to close with. This song was actually in the soundtrack of The Sidehackers, which I didn’t realize until just a few seconds ago! The New Life were a SoCal band, apparently gigging a lot at a club in Long Beach called The Cinnamon Cinder before getting tapped for the soundtrack by music-mogul-turned-politician-turned-mogul -again Mike Curb. It’s a South African tune, done at some point by the recently departed Hugh Masekela. One of the cool things about the internet is that you run into the princes of Serendip on occasion; one of the commenters on the video was the drummer for New Life, who says that this was one of only two tracks the band released. Anyway, here’s The New Life, with a somewhat acidic version of “Ha Lese Le Di Khanna.”
See you soon!