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!

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Coming Apart in America: How Lethal Weapon on Fox Displayed No Moral Code

What has happened to our critical thinking skills? I ask this as a general question relating to the world around us, but I also must ask this question regarding the very value system we hold. The fact that I must ask these questions regarding television programming may seem silly. After all, does one need critical thinking skills to watch television? I would argue that it would be helpful. We are now a people entertained by a rape culture on Game of Thrones, destruction of the soul via Breaking Bad, overall darkness on everything from Criminal Minds to Law and Order: SVU and let's not forget the heart-tugging pull of cheering on a serial killer in Dexter.

I have worked in media my entire career and I enjoy a good television series. This past year, I enjoyed everything from The Crown on Netflix to This Is Us on NBC, The Americans on FX to Lethal Weapon on FOX.  Please note, there were two reasons I responded at all to Lethal Weapon. Like many people alive over the last thirty years I witnessed all four of the original Lethal Weapon films and to varying degrees they were entertaining. When I heard about Lethal Weapon being licensed as a series last year I noticed Clayne Crawford would be taking on the role of Martin Riggs. Crawford has had an interesting career. He spent much of the last 15 years doing episodic guest-starring roles and it culminated in a significant four year stretch on the Sundance Channel's little seen series, Rectify. Rectify was a deeply conflicted series about life, death (literally), relationships, redemption, love and so much more that constitutes the day to day and the year to year of life itself.

When Lethal Weapon premiered in September, 2016 the pilot was a mindless, but entertaining one hour. I enjoyed it so much, I placed it into the DVR for recording. There, I admit I enjoyed the pilot. The series would move back and forth over the course of season one with some good episodes, but several muddled and bad episodes. Much of the time it was near obvious that some of the writers didn't even know who Martin Riggs and Roger Murtaugh were. Try watching some of these episodes again. Actually, I wouldn't force anyone to sit through the catastrophic disasters that constitute episodes 10 and 13. In fairness, these two episodes were the worst of the season. Bad guest star acting preceded by misguided writing and throw in some hazardous editing and you have a badly bloodied rendering of what Mel Gibson/Danny Glover/Richard Donner presented as entertainment during the eleven year period from 1987 through 1998.

If you know the back story of Martin Riggs you would know that his wife died suddenly as she was headed to the hospital to deliver her unborn child. Riggs always suspected his wife's death was not an accident. Fair enough. Even though the average person would never think being destroyed by an oncoming truck would be a murder. Riggs though is not your average human and he has worked as a police officer and had his fair share of encounters with the Mexican drug cartels. Ok. We can buy that.

The finale of season one may very well be one of the worst hours of television programming in the last year, if not the last ten years. The finale was not a display of the chaotic wisdom of Martin Riggs. This was a Martin Riggs unleashed from any moral fiber, any sense of a value system, any sense of I am a member of an American law enforcement agency. Hello Venezuela! "Dirty" Harry Callahan, made famous by Clint Eastwood in five films during the 1970's/1980's himself wouldn't have orchestrated such illegal, unethical and highly immoral acts on behalf of justice. Yes, he does let a murderer off the hook in Sudden Impact, but that wasn't this. Charles Bronson glorified vigilantism in a series of Death Wish films, but even his character displayed a sense of calm while doing it and he certainly didn't torture anyone or leave a humans body on a running train track. Yes, our warm and fuzzy Martin Riggs decided to kidnap an assassin (a very bad guy), torture him (although, he only broke a couple of fingers) and then not just kill him, but let him die a splattered death in a subway of Los Angeles. Where is that by the way? Los Angeles is not known for its public transportation system, so maybe that is why no one was anywhere near two of LA's finest while all of this was happening.

The entire season ending episode was over the top. There wasn't a single moment that was believable in the episode. I'd like to know how many people involved in this series in one way or another condemn the "overreach" of law enforcement? How many people involved in this series believe law enforcement agencies are basically racist? Do any of the producers, actors, writers think police officers are violent? Having written that, there is no thought as to the real blue lives working our towns, cities, counties, states and the nation at-large. Let's face it, sophisticated elites in San Francisco, New York and the beltway aren't watching Lethal Weapon.

Has anyone noticed that Riggs and Murtaugh are working in Los Angeles? That's your MAD magazine stupid question of the day. This is a city comprised of 49% of a Hispanic population; and yet the only Hispanic on the entire force is a former gang member portrayed by Richard Cabral and he's not in every episode. Outside of Miranda Riggs (Floriana Lima), who is now deceased, there isn't one redeeming Hispanic on the entire show. Now that we know her father, Ronnie Delgado (Tony Plana) is going to prison that even eliminates him. I looked up the Los Angeles police department and their detectives don't spend nearly as much time on the Mexican drug cartels as this show would have us believe.

Another question for the series team. Does anyone on or involved in this series want to control the border? You can take a guess what those numbers would be. The drugs are going to keep pouring in. If you want to get a realistic portrayal of the evil perpetuated by drug cartels, rent Sicario. By the way, the character portrayed in Sicario by Benicio del Toro is a paid assassin, but we know he's a paid assassin. Martin Riggs he isn't. He isn't a police officer.

Mexican-Americans should be highly offended by this series. The only Mexican-Americans this show knows are cartel members and they all manage to be on the dumb side. As a country, the United States should be so fortunate to have a series of dumb cartel members. Check the heroin/opioid overdoses in the U.S. The folks of West Virginia, New Hampshire, Ohio and much of the rest of the country would like to get their family members back.
Lest one think I am being unfair to this show, if you have a brain that works you will know I am not being unfair to the show. This is just some of what happens in the near laughable 44 minutes. See the next paragraph for a wild and fuzzy ride.

Riggs kidnaps an assassin and he does all of this by himself decked out in all black. He shoots everywhere and yet no one gets killed. He blows out the back of a van. He hides the suspect in his illegally parked trailer and then conveniently takes him to a cabin in Lake Arrowhead. It's California and this would take hours to get there, but he's there in a heartbeat. His partner has his phone located and he then is there in moments. Poof! Then the kidnapped suspect gets loose in a second, runs through the woods, gets shot at by Murtaugh and jumps into running rapids full of large rocks. Murtaugh says no one can survive this. Sure. Guess who we see again? Surprised yet? Then we find out Riggs' father-in-law knew about this all along. What the heck? Why do that? We liked Ronnie Delgado. The writers destroyed any semblance of Miranda's family with one awful moment. Why on earth would they do that? Riggs gets kidnapped. Murtaugh gets kidnapped. Riggs manages to get past four members of a Mexican drug cartel with a piece of tin foil 1/3rd the size of his index finger and by the way, none of the Mexican drug cartel members appear to be from Mexico. We even seemingly have someone who appears to be of Chinese descent involved. Riggs goes to Mexico. Yes, he goes to Mexico to kill a drug cartel leader and Murtaugh follows him there. These guys never call for back-up. Of course, now that they are doing something illegal, they can't. These are Los Angeles police detectives. This is all against the law and neither of these individuals would survive any of this. James Bond and all of his gadgets wouldn't survive any of this. Lest I forget, Riggs calls the cartel leader to explain that when he kills him (so, he will commit murder and manage to be away from his job for days at a time - where are the tax dollars going?) he will look him in the eyes. For some odd reason, Riggs is wearing this absolutely ridiculous cap and a pair of white sunglasses and it's dark out. Oh sure, no one will be suspicious of this silly-touristy American. In this particular part of Mexico one would assume there are no tourists, so his presence rings no bells? The final episode made the entire series look silly.

On another note regarding the character of Roger Murtaugh. We have seen throughout season one the great love of family displayed in the Murtaugh household. Roger and Trish love one another. They even like one another which is sometimes the more difficult aspect of a day to day relationship. They are solid and thoughtful parents who love their children deeply and dearly. Roger Murtaugh will now sacrifice everything in life to travel to Mexico to assist his highly dysfunctional, troubled and now murderous partner kill someone? Yet, no one at FOX or Warner Bros. has a problem with any of this? Highly unethical, illegal and immoral behavior, but these "dudes" are cool?    

If all of this weren't bad enough, some of the shows fanbase (thank God the ratings for Lethal Weapon dropped significantly from its premiere and has laid flat ever since) think this show "kicks ass" and Riggs is a "bad Motherf----."  Cue the music from Shaft now! Check out the Twitter feeds for the actors, the series, the writers and the fanbases, including one from Italy. Italy? Yes, that Italy. Home of Michelangelo and the Vatican. What the heck is going on in Italy? Fortunately, the series has already been pulled from New Zealand, Norway and a few other countries. No wonder why Americans looking to relocate to New Zealand has sprung up 70%. Yes, I did like this show at one point!!!!

You also have to be highly suspect of those people either seeking real solace or for that matter, pretend solace in the supposed loneliness and sadness of Riggs. The pretenders want to grab the attention of an actor on social media. Folks, this isn't rocket science. It usually goes with "thanks so much for being who you are, my marriage ended or my spouse died or my life is sucky and you make my life better because of your character and acting." If this were the case, psychotherapy in America and the world beyond would be unnecessary. Maybe we could alleviate substance abuse issues - just force everyone to watch Lethal Weapon. Actors, writers and producers are either dumb enough to believe this or they just want to believe it for the sake of ego. The reality is most of these people want their faves to follow them on Twitter or Instagram. It's the nature of the beast.  

When you have a "fun" character like Riggs leaving a man (I don't care how bad he is) on a rail track and this is seen as fun and just, then the country is in even deeper trouble than some people think.

Next time someone brings up the country coming apart, think of Lethal Weapon on FOX.  It may seem simple on the surface, but this is how it unravels. Little by little.

Let's hope they don't get a season three.

Copyright The Flaming Nose 2017