RIP Alan Vega

It’s been 7 hours and 13 days

RIP Garry Shandling

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RIP Garry Shandling, 1949-2016

I grew up with Garry Shandling on TV—weird, enigmatic even—dry, sure—watching him when I was too young to get what he was doing. But he stuck out more than others to me when I’d watch Carson late at night with my grandmother. And then watching It’s Garry Shandling’s Show on Fox sometimes, with my parents: it was like Newhart (and Bob Newhart’s stuff in general)—I didn’t quite get it (yet), but I wanted to get it. It wasn’t dumb—and when it was dumb, it was dumb in a smart way.

And then came The Larry Sanders Show. I was, what, 13? 12? HBO wasn’t really HBO yet—sure, it had The Kids in the HallTales from the Crypt, *ahem* Real Sex, and the largely forgotten Dream On—but it’s hard to imagine contemporary laugh-trackless-meta shows without The Larry Sanders Show.

Saying The Larry Sanders Show was ahead of its time is an understatement. Sure, it had its progenitors (Albert Brooks’s Real Life comes to mind—hell, The Muppet Show too)—but The Larry Sanders Show somehow synthesized its parts as both a show about a show, but also, like, a show. The late-night show on The Larry Sanders Show (uh, The Larry Sanders Show) was very very funny.

The writers’ room segments (and all the showbiz backstage stuff) were/are hilarious too; The Larry Sanders Show is the obvious progenitor of not just 30 Rock, but any number of dry, deadpan shows that purport to look behind the scenes (Veep comes quickly to mind, as do Curb Your Enthusiasm and Arrested Development).

The Larry Sanders Show was so overloaded with talent that I’m not going to bother listing all the names. Suffice to say that the show was basically a starting point, or at least an early stomping ground, for a large number of Gen X comedians and actors. Shandling was great at letting other people be funny, even as his character Sanders expressed deep anxieties over being replaced by the younger, hipper Jon Stewart. In a sense, Shandling was a Boomer bridge between a style of comedy he had grown up with and been influenced by, like Johnny Carson’s reserved irony, and the new (but not new) irony of Generation X.

And while Shandling let the Gen Xers have their time on his show, perhaps the funniest stuff on the show came from its more senior cast members. God bless, Artie; God bless Hank.

Garry Shandling was fucking funny and I’ll miss the guy. I follow(ed?) him on Twitter and he was tweeting just a few days ago. I think his legacy and influence on contemporary television can’t be underappreciated.

RIP Phife Dawg

Advice to young writers from Umberto Eco

RIP David Bowie

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I don’t remember the first time I heard David Bowie because I was born in 1979 and he was always there, ahead of me. Always on.

I don’t remember the first time I heard David Bowie, but I do remember my uncle and my cousin would riff this routine on Bowie and Jagger’s video for “Dancing in the Streets,” which I knew even as a child (the video; the routine) was campy fun. Maybe I didn’t know the fun was camp. Maybe I learned the camp from Bowie.

I don’t remember the first time I heard David Bowie, but I do remember the first time I saw Labyrinth.

I don’t remember the first time I heard David Bowie, but I do remember my babysitter, who I believed I was in love with—I was nine, a mature (?!) , impressionable nine—declaring, “David Bowie is my hero” in a dreamy voice. I didn’t that was an option, that a singer could be a hero. I hadn’t heard “Heroes” yet.

I don’t remember the first time I heard David Bowie, but I do remember being utterly bewildered as Macauly Culkin introduced Tin Machine on Saturday Night Live. This was in 1991. I was in, what, seventh, sixth grade? Why weren’t they David Bowie and Tin Machine? My father couldn’t tell me.

I don’t remember the first time I heard David Bowie, but I do remember the first Bowie tape I bought on my own, Diamond Dogs. I think I paid $7.99 for it at the Camelot in the mall. I was in the ninth grade. Then Ziggy Stardust—they were like novels, like sci-fi novels. (I think I tried The Man Who Sold the World next and didn’t quite understand its blues).

I don’t remember the first time I head David Bowie, but I do remember not understanding what the hell was going on in the beginning of Fire Walk With Me.

I don’t remember the first time I heard David Bowie, but I do remember the first time I head Earthling and I thought it wasn’t half bad.

I don’t remember the first time I heard David Bowie, but I do remember my first real Bowie phase, in my freshman year of college: Low“Heroes,” Lodger. And later: Young Americans. Although all you needed for a real proper dance part was Changesbowie (even “Fame ’90” was a jam). You could (you can!) sweat and grind and flop and writhe with others to Bowie; you could (you can!) sit in your room and listen to Bowie on big headphones. Drive to Bowie.

I don’t remember the first time I heard David Bowie, but I do remember that my friend Nick was always ahead of me on Bowie, always sort of leading me into and through Bowie. That Bowie was and is somehow mixed into our friendship.

I don’t remember the first time I heard David Bowie, but I do remember coming home from college one weekend to discover my father had bought ‘Hours…’. This perplexed me. The old man was never a big Bowie fan. “I liked ‘Thursday’s Child.'”

I don’t remember the first time I heard David Bowie, but I do remember the first time I saw The Man Who Fell to Earth. And the next few times.

I don’t remember the first time I heard David Bowie, but I do remember the first time I heard Adrian Belew’s guitar playing on “Boys Keep Swinging.”

I don’t remember the first time I heard David Bowie, but I do remember his evocation of Andy Warhol in Basquiat. And how appropriate, now, I suppose: Bowie does Warhol. That Bowie extended Warhol was a given—Bowie transcended Warhol, and Bowie performing Warhol is a perfect trick, given the relationship of both artists to authenticity and art. Bowie intuited—and then exemplified and engendered and practiced—that authenticity is a performance, that authentic authenticity must be performed. This is why David Bowie was the signal artist of the emerging 21st century.

I don’t remember the first time I heard David Bowie, but I do remember a few months after I graduated college, on the way to work, sleepy, maybe a bit hungover, breaking down in tears at “Space Oddity” for no good reason.

I don’t remember the first time I heard David Bowie, but I do remember the first time I heard David Bowie at a wedding.

I don’t remember the first time I heard David Bowie, but I do remember drunkenly demanding that my best friend blast “Blue Jean” at a party he was having.

I don’t remember the first time I heard David Bowie, but I do remember my son asking who John was re: “John, I’m Only Dancing.”

I don’t remember the first time I heard David Bowie, but I do remember the first time I heard Blackstar. How?

I don’t remember the first time I heard David Bowie, but I do remember how sad I felt the day Lou Reed died—was he not immortal? If Lou Reed could die anybody could die. But not David Bowie. David Bowie is too immortal to die.

The intimacy we feel with our heroes. They sing for us. They sing loud and public, or privately for us. We sweat to them or fall asleep or space out or more. We jam them into our ear. We know that they wrote those songs for usAbout us. How ridiculous to think, Well of course you didn’t know David Bowie! Of course I knew David Bowie.

I don’t remember the first time I heard David Bowie, but I do remember pulling out David Bowie records and playing tracks from them all afternoon.

I don’t remember the first time I heard David Bowie, but I do remember that there’s a lot I’m forgetting, but I’m just riffing and ranting and maybe you loved him too. I bet you did.

Haskell Wexler talks about shooting Medium Cool

RIP Haskell Wexler, 1922-2015

On the Road with Robert Loggia (RIP)

RIP Wes Craven

RIP Wes Craven, 1939-2015

Like a lot of people my age (I was born in 1979), I grew up alternately seeking out and then trying to look away from snippets of Wes Craven films—posters, previews, surreptitious late-night cable screenings—hell, even Mad Magazine parodies. Nightmare fuel, sometimes glimpsed through webbed fingers. Was it A Nightmare on Elm Street or Swamp Thing I saw first, at 9 or 10, probably on the USA network? I know I didn’t see his cult classics until later, until I was in college—The Last House on the Left and The Hills Have Eyes. By then I’d seen the Nightmare on Elm Street films a few times in their raw VHS glory. My favorite is still Dream Warriors. And of course I saw Scream and its sequels in the theater—we loved it, thought it so clever, so meta! But my favorite Craven film by far is The People Under the Stairs, a 1991 dark fable that summarized Reagan’s eighties. Predatory capitalism as horror. Anyway, dude was a legend and his films will live on, both in and of themselves, but also as the generative material for films yet to come.

RIP E.L. Doctorow

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RIP E.L. Doctorow, 1931-2015

Ragtime–-what a book. Up there with the best of the metafictionists, if also different, to its credit. I dug The March too, even though historical fiction isn’t my bag. Read “Wakefield,” Doctorow’s recasting of Hawthorne’s classic tale. First paragraph:

People will say that I left my wife and I suppose, as a factual matter, I did, but where was the intentionality? I had no thought of deserting her. It was a series of odd circumstances that put me in the garage attic with all the junk furniture and the raccoon droppings—which is how I began to leave her, all unknowing, of course—whereas I could have walked in the door as I had done every evening after work in the fourteen years and two children of our marriage. Diana would think of her last sight of me, that same morning, when she pulled up to the station and slammed on the brakes, and I got out of the car and, before closing the door, leaned in with a cryptic smile to say goodbye—she would think that I had left her from that moment. In fact, I was ready to let bygones be bygones and, in another fact, I came home the very same evening with every expectation of entering the house that I, we, had bought for the raising of our children. And, to be absolutely honest, I remember I was feeling that kind of blood stir you get in anticipation of sex, because marital arguments had that effect on me.

RIP Ornette Coleman

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RIP Ornette Coleman, 1930-2015

Amanda and Her Cousin Amy — Mary Ellen Mark

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RIP Mary Ellen Mark, 1940-2015

I first saw her work in a 1991 issue of Rolling Stone. (I had a subscription then). You can see the same photos I saw in that issue on her site. This photograph, this one above, reminded me of the cover of Dinsoaur Jr.’s album Green Mind. That photograph is by Joseph Szabo though. I remember cutting the pics out of Rolling Stone and pasting them in a collage that afterward hung in my bedroom for years, until I grew up and went to college and threw so much away. The photos were accompanied by an essay by the filmmaker Louis Malle, who wrote of Mark:

It is Mary Ellen Mark’s triumph to combine successfully two different approaches to photography. Like Cartier-Bresson and the best photojournalists, she knows how to find the perfect angle, the exact fraction of a second that will tell the story in one shot. On the other hand, her choice of subjects, her taste for the singular, her visual imagination, make one think of Diane Arbus and other poet-photographers. But what makes Mary Ellen unique is her compassion. She never puts down the people she photographs. She is moved by them; she shares their sufferings, their difficulties, their contradictions. Even when she portrays a Klansman at an Aryan Nations Congress, she does not ridicule him or pass judgment. The setting, the composition, emphasize the pathetic isolation of people who are parochial remnants of the past, left behind by history on this country road, guerrillas of a war long over.

RIP Tanith Lee

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RIP Tanith Lee, 1947-2015

Publisher Tor has reported Tanith Lee’s death. She was the author of nearly 100 books in various genres, including fantasy, sci-fi, and horror. I probably read a dozen of those books between the ages of ten and thirteen, but the one I most remember is her first novel, The Dragon Hoard, which I still have a copy of somewhere, nestled neatly by tattered copies of The Once and Future KingThe Halfmen of O, and The Hobbit.

I don’t remember the plot of The Dragon Hoard so much as I remember the kind librarian who suggested it to me (I asked for “Something with dragons”). I also remember my reaction to the author’s first name: “Tanith” sounded like the name of a fantasy character. I know I first read the book viat the library but at some point I must’ve conned my mother into buying it for me. I know I read whatever other book’s our little local library held by her. I’m pretty sure I wasn’t conscious of any of the feminist themes in her work, but I’d like to think they seeped in somehow.

I found the pic for this post–it’s Lee’s PR pic–at an appreciation of Tanith Lee by Alison Flood published at The Guardian. I’m glad that it was published when Lee was alive.

RIP Daevid Allen

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RIP Daevid Allen, 1938-2015

 

RIP Leonard Nimoy

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RIP Leonard Nimoy, 1931-2015

I was born in 1979 and there was always Star Trek—always Spock. The reruns on local TV (after them, episodes of The Twilight Zone in black and white). Later, The Next Generation—it was the only show we, that is, my family, were permitted to watch while we ate TV. We ate pizza in front of it. Ambassador Spock made an appearance in a two-parter! Leonard Nimoy directed my favorite of the Star Trek films, Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home—you know, the one with the whales? The oh-so misunderstood one? Still love it. I remember watching it with my grandmother, she incredulous. Watching it again in college, laughing so hard. What a film. No Star Trek without Spock, no Spock without Nimoy…but he’s always there, his presence confirmed all the more by its absence. Live long &c.

RIP Tommy Ramone

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RIP Tommy Ramone, 1952-2014

RIP Walter Dean Myers

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RIP Walter Dean Myers, 1937-2014

Books transmit values. They explore our common humanity. What is the message when some children are not represented in those books? Where are the future white personnel managers going to get their ideas of people of color? Where are the future white loan officers and future white politicians going to get their knowledge of people of color? Where are black children going to get a sense of who they are and what they can be?

–From a March, 2014 piece Myers published in The New York Times entitled “Where Are the People of Color in Children’s Books?”

I taught for seven years in an inner city high school. I cannot overstate how important Myers’s books were to my students. His novel Monster—a classic—was one of the first books I wrote about on Biblioklept. I love the book, and I loved reading it with my students. Monster was an especially effective bridge to others by Myers–Slam!, HoopsBad BoyThe Beast—and one of my favorites, Fallen Angels—but I also saw it turn kids who hated reading into voracious readers. I read Myers myself as a young teen (his book Scorpions is especially good), but reading them again with my students revealed a depth and precision I hadn’t detected as a kid. Those books are all true, even the ones that are made up. RIP Walter Dean Myers.