Friday, April 6, 2018

Review: Eric Clapton: Life in 12 Bars

The following is my opinion...

Rock stars are arrogant. By and large, the statement I just made would most certainly be true. Successful recording artists are gifted with free everything from the onset of their first big hit. Most of us who love their music don't much care if they are arrogant. Many of them are also selfish. Reading biographies, watching documentaries or browsing through an interview would most assuredly make that statement pretty much true as well. Again, by and large, fans rarely, if ever, bother to care. Just play "Layla," since hearing it 40,000 times over the last forty plus years isn't enough!

Eric Clapton has led an interesting life. He hasn't necessarily led a fulfilling life looking in from the outside, but interesting would be more than a modest understatement. He became a guitar icon during a time when music mattered. He was raised by his grandparents, thinking they were his parents. (as a side note, both actor Jack Nicholson and singer Bobby Darin were also both raised by women they thought were their mothers, but were in reality their respective grandmothers, so Clapton shares this with them). His mother left the household as a teen-aged girl once she had given birth to Eric Clapton. He eventually sold enough records over his 55 year career to land him in the top 40 of all-time best-selling album artists. He became a heroin addict and an alcoholic and he overcame both substances. He was a notorious womanizer and he fell in love (but was it love?) with his best friend's wife. He started his own rehab center in Antigua. By the time the documentary has concluded you find yourself asking how is he still alive? It is a realistic question to ask. Has he led an interesting life? Yes, he has.

Eric Clapton: Life in 12 Bars was produced by Lili Fini Zanuck. Zanuck married into show business royalty (if you will) and became a producer. She and Clapton bonded years ago and it was to her that he allowed his life story to be told. Somewhere, you just know Clapton must have had a thing for the attractive and intelligent blond producer. Keep in mind he spent much of his life as a womanizer, so I assume there was more than met the eye, at least from his perspective, regarding their long relationship (no known romance between these two).

Zanuck's production team reportedly spent several years gathering archival footage of Clapton to include in this somewhat all-encompassing documentary. For those of us who have read multiple biographies on Clapton you realize quickly that much is not included, but we all are intelligent enough to know that everything cannot be included in a 2:15 documentary. For example: the inspiring people behind Clapton's recovery from heroin addiction are not even briefly shared which is highly unfortunate. The people behind his somewhat speedy healing were remarkable people, but no one on this team thought they were worthy of discussion.

The wild and rock star wacky story between Clapton and Pattie Boyd Harrison (George Harrison's first wife) is addressed somewhat fully in this documentary.  Clapton was not kind to Boyd. Boyd, in her autobiography stated she should have pulled a Jane Asher when it came to George Harrison and Eric Clapton. Jane Asher famously dumped Paul McCartney when she caught him cheating on her. Yes, the lovely Pattie should have dumped them both!  Clapton caroused, cheated voraciously and was so dismissive to Boyd you have to question why she would stick around for as long as she did. He claims he was once madly in love with Boyd, but this couldn't have been love. No one that loves would possibly treat a human the way he treated Boyd. For further reference, all of this is referenced in Boyd's autobiography and Clapton mentions this in his autobiography as well.

Obviously, Clapton has a long legacy for musical brilliance. He began his career with The Yardbirds then joined John Mahall and his blues band. He left to form Cream (at one point in the documentary, Atlantic Records founder Ahmet Ertegan claims Cream was bigger than the Rolling Stones and then he goes on to laughably say they were bigger than the Beatles. Needless to say, the average 40 year old today has no idea who Cream is, let alone anyone younger than 40, so the quote is beyond silly). Once he left Cream he formed Blind Faith for one album and then went on to perform as Derek and the Dominoes and finally settled into his long and illustrious solo career. He is surely one of the three or four greatest guitarists of the rock era. This documentary is highly infotaining, but it still fails on many fronts, but Eric Clapton: Life in 12 Bars moves along quite smoothly and quickly.

The most annoying part is the complete lack of talking heads. No one wants to sit through non-stop talking heads, but a few would be helpful. This tactic of not using any talking heads got started annoyingly in the HBO two part documentary series, Frank Sinatra: All or Nothing At All a couple of years ago. It didn't work then and it hinders the viewer from attaching self to the life story flashing before you.

The viewer walks away from this documentary not liking Clapton much. These folks who have been pandered to by everyone in their walkways appear to be selfish and arrogant humans. Why I may be shocked at this proves naivete may never die.

If you have spent a certain part of your life listening to classic rock and to Clapton's music specifically, this is a highly worthwhile couple of television hours. Clapton was a passionate blues-minded, gifted and in many ways nearly unequaled guitarist.

Eric Clapton: Life in 12 Bars can be found on Showtime.

Copyright The Flaming Nose 2018  

Friday, March 16, 2018

ROTTEN on Netflix Is Magnificent Television.

We are a nation of complainers and we move around with our whining frequently, but what happened to all of the people who were screaming about overpopulation just a little more than a generation ago? The world's population is now over seven billion and many scientists (in a variety of categories) tell us the world is unsustainable with nine or ten billion people on it. Even the major environmental groups no longer discuss overpopulation. I've read in several locations how they were shut down by major foundations. The money meant more to these groups than the health of our green and blue spaces. We now live in a world that is more crowded and more dangerous than ever. It's also a dangerously unstable planet.

In the United States alone we have increased our population by an additional 13 million people (just via legal immigration and that isn't counting the citizen birthrate) in just the last 18 years. In the next 50 years the U.S. is expected to add 100- 150 million people and this would be roughly the equivalent to Great Britain and Canada together as a total population (as of today's population in these two nations). One need not know much about math to determine that this will add an entire third of our current population. This is not a political statement, since immigration is a battle, but it should be concerning for those who care not only about our green and blue spaces, but food and water sources. The environment, traffic and congestion will take its toll with another 100 to 150 million people packed into our space; and the vast majority of the people will be catastrophically adding to our urban metro areas. Pollution! Sprawl! These are serious situations and ultimately they will become serious problems.

Where will water come from? We are already having water shortages in large parts of the world, including in areas of the United States. If you have caught such enlightening and downright brilliant documentaries like Chasing Coral and the two Blue Planet series you will know we are destroying our oceans. Over 300 container barrels per year end up somewhere in our oceans, because in large part we have to ship cheap junk all over the planet . Plastic is now as pervasive in some parts of the ocean as species of fish. These are not ramblings. These are facts.  Go and look up water and food shortages. We have nearly one billion people of our current world population already starving to death, so how will we sustain adding to the current numbers?

The major foundations that keep telling us about how good "fake" food is are led by people who will be able to afford whatever real food will be left. These are not attempts to scare, but they are attempts to make people think. Just fifty years ago, we didn't worry about antibiotics, pesticides and growth hormones. Now, if you want to eat clean you will no doubt be spending more money to do so. The western world is becoming morbidly obese and in large part that is due to people not just eating too much, but eating food that essentially isn't good for the body and mind.

Some tell us to eat in moderation, but we still have more than 50% of the population not just waking up to too much fat, but they are waking up to a body that will not last long. The U.S. has had its life expectancy rates shrink in the last few years. The data tells us much of this is caused by opioid use, but our rising rates of health related illnesses due to being overweight is also causing this. The numbers of people in their 30's having strokes and heart attacks (yes, stroke and heart attacks) has risen dramatically in the last ten years. Type 2 Diabetes is now pervasive in the West.

I go back to food. It is a completely silly thing to say that food is essential. Of course, it is essential. I've watched a dozen food-themed documentaries in the last few years (and I've read dozens of books on food). One of them even led me to stop eating meat. Food Inc. is one of the best documentaries ever made. I have also viewed Forks Over Knives, What the Health, In Defense of Food and several other films and all of them are currently available via Netflix or they can be borrowed from your public library. We should make use of our public libraries. You are most likely paying property taxes and a portion of your property tax bill goes to your local public library. Some of these documentaries  are good and some aren't worth viewing. Skip Cowspiracy. In my opinion, this is one of the worst of the docs in the food category.

Netflix recently began streaming a six part series entitled Rotten and it is for the more cerebral crowd paying for the streaming service. It is the availability of projects like Rotten which makes me want to pay for Netflix. The first season six part series is like nothing else out there. Each episode takes you through another edible item and of course, by the end of the running time you may feel down in the dumps, but at least you now have knowledge. Whether knowledge is really power is a question to be analyzed, but to have knowledge is better than not to have knowledge.

The first episode focused on bees and honey. There has been a tremendous amount of news reporting regarding the importance of bees and the decimation of our bee populations. If you think we don't need bees, you clearly need the knowledge I referenced in the above paragraph. The world seemingly is running out of bees and no one seems to know exactly why. Bees are a big business and you have to be passionate about bees to do this for a living, but we need bees.

One of the biggest businesses in the US. is the almond industry. Once we were told by the scientists that almonds are good for our overall heart health, health minded people wanted almonds. There is one small portion of the central valley of CA that grows almond trees and yes, sooner rather than later we may run out of almonds.

The second episode details the wide varieties of food allergies. Very few people used to be allergic to food. Now, it seems every other child is allergic to dairy, peanuts, various tree nuts and more. There was a restaurant owner in the U.K. who wanted to cheap up his takeaway outlets, so he stopped using almonds in his Indian food takeouts. This corrupt man started using peanuts. Someone died. Big deal? Of course, it's a big deal. A man died, because someone put peanuts in recipes and didn't reveal that information.

The third episode asks us the question - do you know where your garlic is coming from? Are you aware that most of our garlic comes from China? I didn't know that and now that I do I will be leery of my beloved garlic. The gigantic nation cheats and they have figured out all kinds of ways to dodge U.S. federal food authorities. There are farmers in New Mexico who grow garlic and they are in a tiff with each other. If you live in New Mexico find the farmer's market where these garlic growers go and buy your garlic there.

Episode four deals with chicken. I highly recommend the book Big Chicken. It is much better than this installment on our various problems with chicken. 100 years ago Americans didn't eat a great deal of chicken, but World War II saw the rise in chicken eating. Now the bland and blamed chicken deserves its bad reputation. There are some companies that don't use chickens with antibiotics, but they are few and that's not the only issue. Perdue is the big company to buy your chicken from and some others as well, but they are the biggest game in town for having no antibiotics in chicken. Also, if you must eat chicken in a restaurant  (I don't eat meat and that includes chicken) purchase from Panera Bread, Chipotle and Chick-fil-A - all of which purchase chicken without antibiotics. Much of this information in this paragraph comes courtesy of the research done by the author of Big Chicken.

Keep in mind, some of these horrific factory farms house 20,000 birds at a time. Factory farms will  potentially be feeding our ever growing population. We will have more disease and our environment will be significantly damaged, but go ahead keep eating chicken. Did you forget about animal welfare and your own health? At least, do the self-involved side of this and do it only for your health. Frontline (the PBS doc series) also did a remarkable documentary on chickens. Salmonella kills people every year and Frontline exposes the death cycle.  You can stream it free on their site. Americans eat nine billion chickens a year and worldwide the chicken numbers reach 58 million. Go ahead, keep eating those cheap, fat chickens! The chicken industry is controlled by a few big corporations and what could possibly go wrong with a system that grows birds so fast they cannot walk and the ammonia in their living space (if you will) makes their air unbreathable and they have no light.

                                                          Read This Book! Big Chicken
                                                                by Maryn McKenna

Quality matters. There is an ethical argument for giving chickens room to live. Do you want chemicals in your food? Shop at farmers markets or learn how to understand package labels like free-range, pasture-raised and organic. 

You want to eat chickens that can run-around, scratch, forage and thrive. That's a healthy chicken.

Episode five focuses on milk. Is raw milk a high priced fad and can it kill you? We learn that in the last 18 years alone the U.S. lost 30,000 dairy farms. The dreaded and feared factory farm can produce milk. Why would anyone with an I.Q. over 84 make the decision to buy milk from a factory farm?

There is a great segment in episode five where a young woman farmer says farming teaches you everything you need in life. It teaches life and death. Good and bad. The beauty of life. How to work. You have responsibilities and it keeps you grounded. What a mantra for living life. To switch your farm from conventional to organic farming is costly, but many are doing it. I read recently that a huge number of people under 35 are leaving their cubicles and offices to start small farms. Thank God! We need to get back to more family farming practices. Thomas Jefferson would be thrilled to hear this news.

Episode six takes on the cod is dead aspect on fish practices in the world and it's not just that the cod are dead. In the last fifty years we have doubled our seafood intake; and 94% of the fish that Americans eat comes from foreign countries. Much of it is farmed under unknowable conditions and we have no idea where the fish is coming from. To add more trauma to this is that the fish can be frozen 2-3-4X over. The concept of eating fresh and local fish is long gone. Of course, we have begun to deplete our fish numbers around the world. Watching Blue Planet II we learn the Puffin is a fisherman and a father, but he's running out of fish which will mean we will run out of Puffins. Most people won't care, but we will run out of a lot more than the cute Puffins if our population literally keeps swelling.

Of course, there are scandals in the fishing world and there is a detailed takedown of one greedy guy who has decimated East Coast fishing companies. American fisherman are being put out of fishing. 80% of the U.S. fleet has left the business.

I care deeply about our environment, but never be brought in by the cause in and of itself. Many of these groups sold out a long time ago.  According to ROTTEN, the Environmental Defense Fund takes huge sums of money from the Koch Brothers, Walmart and Intel, so they are in bed with the big-moneyed foundations. Don't get me wrong, some arguments at times have two worthy sides, but I don't trust these mega-foundations and I still want to know why some of the major environmental groups no longer discuss population. Why?

Want even more additives in your fish? Then continue to buy fish from foreign sources and watch out for the filth. Whatever you do, don't eat tilapia or catfish, per ROTTEN on Netflix. That's the documentary speaking on behalf of the tilapia and catfish.

U.S. wild caught fish is best. The bottom line is no one is saving fish. Thank God I'm as old as I am. The world is in big trouble. God didn't intend for humans to destroy the planet and yet we have done just that. Wait. Don't bother me. Everyone around me is texting.

Rotten is an exceptional series which should not be missed. This six part series is well done on every level and for serious minded people (we have too few of them) you will anticipate the second season. Tragic in some cases, but more than worthy of your time. Learning never felt so right.

Rotten is available via Netflix. 

Copyright The Flaming Nose 2018 

Thursday, January 11, 2018

A New Season of "Baskets" Coming to FX!

We can't wait to see the new season of this innovative, funny, kind, unusual and humane series!  Brilliant in all sorts of ways and with a cast that is unsurpassed!  We're glad that Zach takes time away from his broad appeal movie comedies to create this very unique series.  There is such honesty in the performances that it's frequently as heartbreaking as it is amusing.  Highly recommended!

Monday, December 19, 2016


We live in an interesting world. For those familiar with the life quotes of the Chinese philosopher Confucius you will recall that as a curse he stated the following: "May you live in interesting times." Well, if you are alive in 2016 you are living in interesting times. We also live in a world that provides a wide variety of entertainment options. Having spent an entire life working in media in one area or another I find myself linking arms with an ever widening group of program options that are wildly dissimilar from one another.

Hence, my two favorite new shows this season are The Crown on Netflix and Shooter on USA. Lethal Weapon on Fox would rank in third place, but only because Clayne Crawford may very well be the best American actor working today. Lethal Weapon is silly, ridiculous and mostly fun, but it will not be memorable. Crawford though easily could have played Bobby Lee Swagger in USA's Shooter. As I said, my two favorite new shows are The Crown and Shooter. My tastes are diverse, but good content is good content. This would be no different than saying you love Beethoven's symphonies and much of classic rock.

The Crown is an elegant, well-written, intriguing look at the life of Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II. A separate review will be done for this series which is a don't miss, but Shooter is also well-written and intriguing, although no one would label it as elegant. What Shooter does have is a non-stop nervous romp of what's next and the what's next comes just about every three to four minutes in this series. There are times when I'm so nervous I end up fast-forwarding a bit to make sure the world is alright. I squirm on the couch through much of the one-hour.

Shooter is based on the Stephen Hunter best-selling 2007 book, Point of Impact. It was adapted for the big screen a few years back with Mark Wahlberg in the lead role, but the television version has already proven to be far superior to the feature film. Admittedly, creatively you can do much more with an 11 episode series (the series on USA was picked up today for a second season) than you can with a two hour film format, but that is besides the point. This series forces the viewer to pay attention. There are motives for everything in this series and you have to sit still since you have no idea what is around the corner. Bad guys are everywhere and our hero, Bobby Lee Swagger (yes, that's his last name and boy does he have it) is one of the good guys.

Some terrific performances are embedded in the weekly series with some standout work coming from Ryan Phillippe as Bobby Lee; and Omar Epps as the corrupt former Marine who is currently working for the Secret Service. Why are members of the Secret Service, the military and CIA all trying to set up former top sniper Bobby Lee Swagger? Beyond Epps, look for a solid turn by Tom Sizemore as the crooked CIA operative. Eddie McClintock is another high end corrupt government official and Cynthia Addai-Robinson plays an FBI agent who at least for the moment is attempting to assist Bobby Lee Swagger as he hides in plain sight dodging his would be assassins. These bad guys have set up Swagger as the assassin of the President of the Ukraine, even though what they really wanted was to set up Swagger to take out the U.S. President. His original would-be assassin missed both the President and Swagger. Swagger hasn't taken out either of the world leaders, but the world at-large believes he is the bad guy.

Swagger is the good guy. He was welcomed home as a hero after taking out 390 terrorists in the Middle East. He is an American Sniper who now has to find a place in society that doesn't involve sniper work. Our Swagger is smart, savvy, quick and clever. Additionally, he is unselfish and he does everything for family and country.  How do you not love Bobby Lee Swagger? By the way, he looks like Ryan Phillippe.

The suspense in this series is intense and satisfying and I can't wait until Tuesday night since I have to know what happens next. If you haven't committed to watching this show get a kick-start with the pilot which is currently On Demand. By the way, the pilot is the weakest episode. This show gets better with each passing episode.

The old NBC tag of must watch TV applies to this USA original. Shooter is must watch TV!

Copyright The Flaming Nose 2016