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Life in a Minor Key Posts

Appreciation: David Ogden Stiers and M*A*S*H

On Saturday, March 3rd, we lost a member of my family. Well, not my real family, mind you, but in my Television-based education, there wasn’t a show that had more impact on my belief structure than M*A*S*H, which aired for a total of eleven seasons, through my own coming of age, from 1972 to 1983.

I thought I’d written elsewhere about the series, but clearly that’s not true. At least, not ever in depth, and that’s a shame because I was obsessed with the series as a teenager.

Back in November of 2006, I noted that director Robert Altman had died at 81. The man’s work was amazing. The Player and M*A*S*H had more influence over my adult life than most other movies I can name, but it was really the series that mattered most to me.

Let me paint you a picture of me, roughly age 14-19, prime rerun time for the series, but first, a little background for the post-cable set:

Back in the dark ages, when cheap televisions were still black and white and the best we could hope for was unimpeded access to the analog airwaves, when there were so few channels available you could still count them on fingers and have fingers left over, M*A*S*H aired in the syndication market. I don’t remember when it started, or when I started to care, other than to say that by the time I got to high school, the reruns became a major focus of my out-of-school time.

It’s important to know that Rochester, NY (before cable) picked up TV signals from three other markets: Buffalo, Syracuse, and (when you held your arms just right) from Toronto. At one point in its heyday, M*A*S*H aired in eight half-hour slots, at least two of which overlapped, and because of the scheduling process, these slots were never synced up.

I don’t have an accurate count for the number of times I’ve seen certain episodes in the series, but I can tell you I got good enough to ID an episode before the title came up on the screen, in something like the first 15 seconds, and could switch to the episode I wanted to watch without missing more than a minute of any of them.

That’s how I avoided watching Dreams, one of the few to air without a laugh track. I haven’t seen that episode in well over 30 years, and yet it still gives me chills. And it’s how I stopped watching the earlier episodes for the meatier ones after Larry Linville’s departure and Winchester’s arrival.

While Frank Burns was often portrayed as the mean-spirited bastard, and Loretta Switt as his partner and “moll,” Burns’ departure gave “Hot Lips” a chance to grow and become a more principled, stronger woman, and a good deal of the misogyny that characterized the earlier years went away, too.

Henry Morgan’s Colonel Potter, who replaced McLean Stevenson (Henry Blake), brought his representation of “old-school war movie meets modern day police action” to the series, which helped move the stories from the glory of World War II to the senseless reality of Korea. I can’t watch the episode where they announce Henry Blake’s death without crying.

From these characters I learned a lot about people that informs my feelings about today’s military action.

I learned that you could be smart and still not quite with it (got that from Radar). That you could find humor in even the darkest moments (Hawkeye). That you could be a woman and have a job and earn respect (Margaret “Hot Lips” Houlihan). That it was okay to be spiritual even in the least spiritual moments (Father Mulcahy).

I truly disliked Winchester’s snide snobbery, but his character grew so much in the second year that I simply can’t imagine the series without him.

Even Klinger, whose Section 8 fantasy seen through today’s filters smacks of problematic gender appropriation and feels wrong when held up to a more enlightened understanding of trans reality, provides a human connection, especially seen in context of the Korean war.

In many ways, Klinger is the most “everyman” character, a guy from Toledo who represents not just your average Joe who doesn’t want to be there, but the working class stiff who’s proud beyond measure of his Lebanese immigrant roots. This becomes truly clear once he drops the dresses for the uniform as Radar’s replacement in the office.

More than anything else, I learned that war is ugly, that good people placed in bad situations can still be human, and that evil sometimes wears the same uniform you do. It’s a perspective that’s sorely lacking in today’s arms-length wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, and elsewhere.

I came to believe that peace is more important than a flag, that maiming people for the sake of property is WRONG. That war isn’t glorious. That there are senseless deaths. And that there are people on both sides of the conflict who often get in the way of indiscriminate ammunition and shrapnel.

I watched the final episode at my then-boyfriend’s house in New Paltz with around 40 like-minded people. It was an historic moment in television history, not just for the length and breadth of the series, but because the episode pulled no punches. Goodbye, Farewell, and Amen did as much in its final two hours as the movie had done over a decade before, to focus on the people who made that art and give us some sense of closure.

I can’t imagine a time when M*A*S*H wasn’t a part of my life. And when I heard about David Ogden Stiers’ death from bladder cancer last Saturday, I realized that I’ve never written these things down to share with anyone, although I’ve talked about it in the past, at enough length to make the listener’s eyes glaze over.

I visited the Smithsonian American History Museum as a tourist and made my pilgrimage to the set when it went on display, must have been the summer of 1984, a full two years before I moved to the metro DC area.

Somewhere along the line, I acquired a copy of one of the shooting scripts for an episode. (It’s downstairs and the title isn’t relevant to this post.) I’ve watched the reunions, read material, followed the careers of the series’ stars. I tried to watch the spin-offs, but they never quite worked for me because they lacked the guts of the series. Too sanitary, too…alien to be believed as a continuation.

I have the entire series on DVD. Now that I know that you can turn off the optional laugh tracks on the DVDs, I will watch all 256 episodes without them when I have some time to just kick back and relax. It would be worth watching the show without the invasion of fake people that the network though was mandatory for situation comedies.  (Larry Gelbart despised the fake tracks.)

I know that David Ogden Stiers had a long and varied career after the series ended. It’s not possible for me to hear Cogsworth and not see Stiers voicing the role, even if Disney’s Beauty and the Beast is animated. His career was wide-ranging, as broad as it was deep. Chances are, I even saw him perform in The Magic Show on Broadway in 1974. I’ve seen a lot of the titles listed in his obituary appreciation on Variety.com.

And so another member of the cast in my head departs this plane. There are only a few still here, and I hope they are still doing what they love. I’ll be grateful forever for the impact they have had on my life.

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August 1, 2017: In a Heartbeat – Animated Short Film

Hello, fans!

It’s been a while since I saw anything inspiring enough to interrupt my current crazy life, but this short film is too awesome to skip a post. And this is something else. Beautiful art, fabulous story.

I ain’t promising I’ll be more regular than the occasional dip in here, but take the 4:05 minutes and watch.

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March 13, 2017: Honest Trailers – Moana

Don’t get me wrong. I loved the movie MOANA so much I saw it twice in theaters, and I will own the Blu-ray version as soon as I can get my hands on it. That said, Honest Trailers is not wrong, as usual.

Stay all the way to the end. As with other movies, there’s a pay-off that’s spit-take worthy. Trust me on this. Swallow first.

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January 25, 2017: Mary Tyler Moore Show – Bloopers Pts. 1 and 2

For the better part of my life, Mary Tyler Moore was a hero for women like me, born during the Liberation movement of the 1960s. She was just about the same age as my parents, and in our household the TV was always on, so her presence was a near constant for my childhood.

Funny, cool (for the most part) under pressure, and talented as hell, she provided a glimpse into a life that I could attain as an adult woman. Her production company, MTM Enterprises, put out almost a dozen TV shows that I watched faithfully growing up, including The Mary Tyler Moore Show (1970-1977), The Bob Newhart Show (1972-1978), Rhoda (1974-1978), Phyllis (1975-1977), WKRP in Cincinnati (1978-1982), Hill Street Blues (1981-1987), and
St. Elsewhere (1982-1988).

She was a classy lady, truly deserving of the respect and applause, and all that laughter. Click through the links and learn more, if you haven’t paid attention or you were too young to know. And make sure you’ve swallowed the drink.

Thanks for the memories, Mary. Glad you were here.

Biography.com: Mary Tyler Moore (autolaunch video warning)

Cloris Leachman, Mary Tyler Moore, Valerie Harper exclusive with Katie Couric for “GMA” Apr 5, 2013

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December 25, 2016: George Michael ~ Freedom

It used to be that we would say the famous people died in groups of three.

I think by now everyone acknowledges the enormous amount of suckage that 2016 represents. Yeah, sure, people who are famous die. And yeah, there are a lot of people who are paying this year for choices they made when they were younger. And we’re all getting older.

That doesn’t mean it gets any easier, especially when our icons are dying daily. We just can’t keep up, can’t recover.

I was never much of a Wham! fan, because the music was way too pop-oriented for an edgy New Wave fan, but they were in the clubs when I was, and the music was all over the radio back before I stayed tuned to NPR most of the time. It wasn’t until Freedom hit the airwaves that I really paid any attention to George Michael.

This song became one of my anthems, intended to be sung at the top of my lungs in the car.

I’m sorry that fame comes at such a price, that we do what we do to those who live a different life. Sorry especially for the ones who crash and burn early. His was another unique voice silenced in a year that has hit the music industry hard and its fans harder.

53 is too damn young. Trust me. I know.

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November 15, 2016: Hair – Let the Sunshine In

From Wikipedia:

Hair is a 1979 musical war comedy-drama film adaptation of the 1968 Broadway musical of the same name about a Vietnam War draftee who meets and befriends a tribe of long-haired hippies on his way to the army induction center. The hippies introduce him to their environment of cannabis, LSD, unorthodox relationships and draft dodging.

I was a sophomore in high school, and working on my school, newspaper when the movie came out. I wrote a review for the paper, which I have around here somewhere and may add later, if I feel like it.

My father, who had seen the musical onstage with the original cast, had the music on reel to reel tape, and it was a regular request in our house.

When the movie came out, I was excited to see it for the first time. (Nudity wasn’t a thing for kids then or now, really.)

Until this scene came onscreen, I was all about listening to the music and seeing how it played out in real life.

Now, here’s the thing. Dad used to take us to airshows when we were kids. We would see the old WWII planes as well as more modern military craft. After the movie, I wouldn’t go near the C-130s. I couldn’t shake this scene, no matter what I tried.

It is virtually impossible for me to see these airplanes and not see Arlington National Cemetery on the other side.

This song has popped onto my Pandora feed a couple of times since I added HAIR to the playlist for my Modern Musicals channel.

Today, I’m sharing this with you.

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November 11, 2016: Leonard Cohen and Armistice Day

It seems fitting, somehow, to include this video on this of all days.

At the same time some of us are mourning the losses on this year’s Election Day, we can also remember that this was the end of the “War to End All Wars” that wasn’t. I

Today news broke that we lost another in a growing cadre of musicians and poets, Leonard Cohen, on November 7th. Best known for his song, “Hallelujah” (thanks largely to its inclusion in the movie Shrek), Wikipedia says of Cohen:

Leonard Norman Cohen, CC GOQ (21 September 1934 – 7 November 2016)[1] was a Canadian singer, songwriter, poet and novelist. His work explored religion, politics, isolation, sexuality, and personal relationships.[3] Cohen was inducted into both the Canadian Music Hall of Fame and the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame as well as the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. He was a Companion of the Order of Canada, the nation’s highest civilian honour. In 2011, Cohen received one of the Prince of Asturias Awards for literature and the ninth Glenn Gould Prize.

Armistice Day (co-opted in 1954) remembered the event at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month of 1918 as the moment when the Allies defeated Germany during World War I.

Wikipedia says of the first Armistice:

The Armistice of 11 November 1918 was an armistice during the First World War between the Allies and Germany – also known as the Armistice of Compiègne after the location in which it was signed – and the agreement that ended the fighting on the Western Front. It went into effect at 11 a.m. Paris time on 11 November 1918 (“the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month”), and marked a victory for the Allies and a complete defeat for Germany, although not formally a surrender. The Germans were responding to the policies proposed by U.S. President Woodrow Wilson in his Fourteen Points of January 1918. The actual terms, largely written by French Marshal and Supreme Commander of the Allied Armies Ferdinand Foch, included the cessation of hostilities, the withdrawal of German troops to behind their own borders, the preservation of infrastructure, the exchange of prisoners, a promise of reparations, the disposition of German warships and submarines, and conditions for prolonging or terminating the armistice. Although the armistice ended the actual fighting, it took six months of negotiations at the Paris Peace Conference to conclude the peace treaty, the Treaty of Versailles.

In this year, 2016, the year the music died, we are on the brink of many changes. We have forgotten so much of our history, but Cohen, born the same year as my mother,  was old enough to bear witness to the ugliness of the second War to End All Wars.

I will listen to his words and remember.

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November 8, 2016: Election Day

When I launched this blog, I originally highlighted a brilliant tip of the hat to Lady Gaga.

This year, with Hillary Clinton so very close to winning her place in the Oval Office and making history, I recall this earlier expression of history. It’s what I think of when I cast my vote, which I did last week during early voting in my state.

Polls are already open in the east. They close at different times during the day, but if you are already in line, STAY THERE. You have a right to vote, no matter when the polls close.

And (as if this is necessary): There is no such thing as online voting. It’s a scam. Don’t fall for it!

See you on the right side of history tomorrow!

#ImWithHer

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September 21: We interrupt this wholesale revision of posts for an important message…

Today, this crossed my social media feed. Not only is it an important message, but time is running out.

The Cassie Times has a timer. Today’s the 48th day before election day. In a little over a month, we will know whether we’ve preserved our democracy or blown it straight to hell.

Your vote matters.

If you aren’t registered, WHY NOT?

If you THINK you’re registered, go check. If you didn’t bother to vote in the primary, you might not have noticed that you’ve dropped off the roll. That’s not okay.

Don’t be a provisional voter. Make your voice heard.

The world’s biggest celebrities explain why it is Important that you vote on November 8!

Visit: http://www.savetheday.vote to find out how you can register to vote.

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June 7: The Fallen of World War II

Now that my current degree is complete, it’s time to go back to this blog. I’ll be moving it shortly to a new home, but for now I’ll keep posting here.

This video crossed my feed yesterday, on the 72nd anniversary of D-Day. I think it’s right and proper to recall all the costs that we paid for “the “War to End All Wars” that wasn’t.

I’ll let the video speak for itself. It has plenty to say, and as they say, a picture’s worth a thousand words.

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January 25: SnOMG2016: Codename Snowzilla (1/22-23/2016)

Occasionally, the videos I post here are mine. I’ve been waiting to use my camera’s interval timer since I acquired the Nikon almost two years ago, but I didn’t have a reason, until Friday.

Feel free to share and enjoy!

Credit where credit is due, thanks.

Blizzard2016 (aka Snowzilla, SnOMG and assorted others), taken in the DC metro area.

Credit: Betsy Marks Delaney / Hawkeswood Productions: www.hawkeswood.com. All rights reserved.

Music: “Don’t Turn Back” by Silent Partner, YouTube Audio Library https://www.youtube.com/audiolibrary/music

Time lapse video shot with my Nikon D5100 over the course of the storm.

Got a slightly late start, had a couple of instances where the battery ran out and I needed to replace it, and had to move the camera about 3/4 of the way through because of moisture outside the window.

The ghost at the left of the frame is me, working on my computer while the camera went off.

Total accumulation here: 19″ as measured by me off my back deck.

Camera settings for Time Lapse photography provided by Michael Schwarz from his Nikon camera page: http://michaeltraining.com/camera-settings/nikon-d5100-camera-settings/

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January 21: Bread and Milk…

This is the one and only repeat video, because I just couldn’t resist. Now with new and improved second link!

Viral video responses to real world events. They’re a thing. And particularly appropriate, given last night’s Alberta Clipper in the DC region. Schools delayed or closed over the equivalent of two inches of snow, because we were too busy preparing for #SnOMG!, the 2016 edition.

Honestly, you’d think people would remember that this is what happens when El Niño is active, but no. Not so much.

So here’s today’s installment, viewed over 14 million times. Accept no substitutions.

Bread and Milk

But wait! There’s more!

Bread and Milk – Part 2

Now go forth and conquer the grocery store. Hurry. Before it’s too late!

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Bowie…

I suspect those of you who are following my blog already know, unless you’re living under a rock, that David Bowie is gone.

I could write volumes about his influence over my life, or I could simply present those pieces that struck me most deeply.

Lazarus

Blackstar

The Stars (Are Out Tonight)

Space Oddity

Ashes to Ashes

Fashion

Under Pressure (Freddie Mercury and Queen)

As the World Falls Down (Labyrinth)

His entire last album is here: YouTube: Blackstar

CNN/Rolling Stone: The story behind David Bowie’s stunning new album

From his YouTube Vevo page:

“‘Lazarus” off David Bowie’s album Blackstar available now on iTunes: http://smarturl.it/blacksta…
Amazon: http://smarturl.it/blacksta…
Spotify: http://smarturl.it/blacksta…
Vinyl: http://smarturl.it/blacksta…
Limited Edition Lithograph & Music Bundles:http://smarturl.it/blacksta…
Limited Edition Clear Vinyl:http://smarturl.it/blacksta…

Follow David Bowie:
http://davidbowie.com
http://facebook.com/davidbowie
http://twitter.com/davidbow…
http://instagram/davidbowie

Peace to everyone.
#imablackstar

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Still here, sort of…

I’ll bet you’re wondering what happened. Or maybe not.

See, I’m in a 2nd Bachelor’s degree program at UMUC and I’m overloaded with classwork (except I’m not just now, which is why I’m writing this post). When classes end in May, I’ll pick up the blog again. At the moment there’s too much going on. Don’t despair though. Just pick a keyword and go exploring. And if you notice a dead link (happens a lot on Youtube, unfortunately), drop me a line and I’ll fix the post.

Thanks! See you again in a few months!

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June 3: Ingrid Michaelson ~ Girls Chase Boys (An Homage to Robert Palmer’s “Simply Irresistible”) and “The Way I Am” performed at ASCAP “I Create Music” EXPO

It’s so easy to get distracted by the things in life, just in general. As I’ve gotten older, it seems there’s some new thing to deal with every day, and some new reason to move away from established habits. I’ve let this blog slide because of that, but today’s Twofer Tuesday selections come in direct relationship to the discussion of #YesAllWomen, #NotAllMen and #AllMenCan, the three hashtags accumulating their current fifteen minutes of fame.

I would like to think that the discussion will outlast the next few weeks, and that we will continue to explore our views of sexuality and violence as they relate to gender and equality, but I think Ingrid Michaelson got there first.

I don’t even remember how I got turned on to the first of these videos. I may have mentioned before that when I was a kid and MTV still played music (a statement that dates me instantly) I watched everything, and Robert Palmer’s “Simply Irresistible” appeared in heavy rotation back then. I disliked the video, even as the music caught my attention. I’ve included Palmer’s original for reference, so you can see shot for shot, how well the director pulled this off.

Now that the distraction has become an extended discussion about the foundations of communication between men and women, this seems most fitting of the videos I’ve collected in my playlist, so I’m presenting it to you for further comment.

It’s likely that there aren’t a lot of people today who remember the noise and furor surrounding the publication of Playgirl magazine, the first porn magazine directed at and for women. Reading the Wikipedia page tells you nothing about the handwaving that surrounded the publication. Chippendales, with a sordid history of violence, bankruptcy and legal issues. Objectification of men just doesn’t happen all that often, so when videos like this one come along, they’re eye openers.

(Here’s Robert Palmer’s original, for reference.)

Now the thing about YouTube is, if you watch one video, you’re often presented with similar videos to watch that follow up on the subject matter, the artist, or the action in the video. So I watched this follow-up and liked it a lot, because it’s much more real than the first video. It speaks volumes about the difference between seeing someone as a whole person and seeing only what you want to see. It’s sad that people don’t check the entire package before buying for the pretty wrapping outside.

I’ll note that the first of Michaelson’s videos has reached viral status. The second has under 150k hits. That’s a shame but not a surprise.

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May 12: Three Time Lapse Travel Videos by DeFrees Productions

A few months ago, while exploring Time-Based Media options for class, I came across these videos produced by DeFrees Productions. generated with a couple of [Sound and Video warning] GoPro cameras and a LOT of time on the road, Brian DeFrees created these videos from around 200,000 images.

I’ve wanted to do something like this for years, but from inside the car. Been pricing out GoPro cameras, thinking that might be the way to go. I dunno, but these are awesome, particularly since Brian hit a lot of the highlights I’ve seen.

Roadtrips were a staple of my family life from the time I was around 8 years old until I settled in my current area. I’ve started taking them again because I miss travel and because for me it’s much more about the journey than the destination. I like the concept of camper travel (never did it as a kid – we were all about car camping then) but the cost of gas makes me think it’s not practical. Maybe if I could get someone to back me for it…

Well, while not precisely history, there’s a lot of history behind the sights and sites Brian visited.

Happy Monday

And…

And finally…

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May 11 (Mother’s Day): 500 Years of Female Portraits in Western Art

Having just completed a class in Time-Based Media, I have a much better idea of how this video was constructed, but the mechanics aren’t the point. Watch how women are represented in art as we slip quickly through five centuries of artistic representation. Notice how often the woman’s eyes are downcast, and notice how shape, color and texture changes.

Art is an idealized form. Even in photography, especially with the tools available through Photoshop and similar editors, truth is often elusive. These are the ideals of the eras, or the truths viewed through the lenses of their artists, most of whom were men.

This Mother’s Day, consider how often we try to reach for the ideal and wonder whose ideal that is. We don’t live in an ideal society. We live in the real world, and our connection to that reality is manipulated all the time.

If you’ve watched this video before, watch it again and consider the filters through which you view your own life.

Happy Mother’s Day.

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