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Saturday, February 27, 2010

Note to Readers

Sorry, no posting here since Thursday, trees and branches fell on our property just north of NYC in big storm, knocking out power, heat, online etc.  After 2 cold days, just moved to hotel and may not post much at all.  May not be fixed for a few days.  See you soon.  

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Scott Brown, Not So Briefly

As it's done a lot lately, NYT Mag posted very early an upcoming feature: This one on new Mass. Sen. Scott Brown (who just went against conservatives in helping to advance jobs bill). Bonus: He's pictured in leather shorts. Also check out multimedia time line and video. Excerpt from Frank Bruni piece:

Brown’s exposure owes at least as much to, well, his exposure. Back in 1982, when he was 22, he posed nude for Cosmopolitan magazine, which named him the sexiest man in America. The layout of the photograph skimped on some key information, but the accompanying interview made space for his fantasies, which he said turned to women who were “tall, athletic and have longish hair and beautiful legs . . . hmmm, I’m getting excited!”

Nearly three decades later, as he campaigned for the Senate, that article drew widespread notice, as did the fact that Brown, at 50, seemed as plausible a centerfold as ever. An obsessive exerciser, he competed in more than six triathlons, both abbreviated and full length, in the first half of 2009 alone. The trim, muscular results of all that swimming and sweating explained an atypical addition to the Washington press corps that shadowed him during a visit to the nation’s capital just after his victory. A reporter for the gossip site TMZ was on hand to ask him if he was “bringing sexy back to the Republican Party.”

He’s certainly bringing it a résumé and panache that aren’t the norm. And he’s transporting them — in the unlikely event that you haven’t yet heard — in a green GMC Canyon pickup truck. Seldom has a politician got more mileage out of a vehicle, and I don’t mean Brown’s crisscrossing of Massachusetts during the campaign.

Beethoven With a Pal

Looking forward tonight to going to Lincoln Center for 3 Beethoven quartets with my friend in from California, Kerry Candaele, who I am trying to help with his upcoming film on LvB which I have hyped often, Following the Ninth. (He's finishing filming this week but go watch the trailer now.) Group tonite is the Miro Quartet, who I recently saw in great performance of the Heiliger Dankgesang with Stephen Dillane's T.S. Eliot performance. Here is great "lento assai" movement from opus 135 they will be doing tonite.  UPDATE:   Miro was absolutely tremendous and closed with "only encore possible" -- the Cavatina. 

Glenn Beck a Commie?

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Monday, February 22, 2010

The Krugman Blues

The New Yorker helps boost its profile of the NYT columnist with video up on its site of the great Loudon Wainwright III singing his tune "The Krugman Blues."

Lou Reed, a Non-Olympics Moment

For those of us who remember Lou Reed from his "Heroin" and "Waiting for My Man" days with the Velvets it's bizarre to see him singing one of his later tunes behind a popular ad that is punctuating Olympics coverage on NBC. Reminded us of this mashup that had Lawrence Welk covering "Sister Ray."

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Sunday Morning in the Church of Beethoven

In my weekly "sermon": Another hat for the extraordinary upcoming film by Kerry Candaele Following the Ninth, the first look at the global influence (cultural and political and musical) of the Ninth Symphony -- from Beijing to Billy Bragg. Great trailer below and go to the site here -- he's still fundraising to complete it and I am personally helping with a new "100 Club" seeking $100 donation for which you get bunch of goodies.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Last Train to Nowhere?

There's a stunning piece just posted at NYT site from tomorrow's paper on a book I wrote about last month--Charles Pellegrino's Last Train from Hiroshima. I wrote about it in the context of it being bought by James Cameron for a movie (I have written dozens of stories on the subject and co-authored the book with Robert Jay Lifton Hiroshima in America). Pellegrino is an old friend of Cameron and worked with him on Titanic and other projects. Now William J. Broad in the Times reveals that a key revelation in the book is based on a hoax.

Pellegrino fell for a story from a guy who claimed he was a last minute substitution on an A-bomb bomb and told the story of a partial "dud" -- made up out of whole cloth. The author now says he will revise the book ASAP. Here's an excerpt:

That section of the book and other technical details of the mission are based on the recollections of Joseph Fuoco, who is described as a last-minute substitute on one of the two observation planes that escorted the Enola Gay.

But Mr. Fuoco, who died in 2008 at age 84 and lived in Westbury, N.Y., never flew on the bombing run, and he never substituted for James R. Corliss, the plane’s regular flight engineer, Mr. Corliss’s family says. They, along with angry ranks of scientists, historians and veterans, are denouncing the book and calling Mr. Fuoco an imposter.

Facing a national outcry and the Corliss family’s evidence, the author, Charles Pellegrino, now concedes that he was probably duped. In an interview on Friday, he said he would rewrite the book for paperback and foreign editions.

“I’m stunned,” Mr. Pellegrino said. “I liked and admired the guy. He had loads and loads of papers, and photographs of everything.”

The public record has to be repaired, he added. “You can’t have wrong history going out,” he said. “It’s got to be corrected.”

Friday, February 19, 2010

The Tweeting White House and More

I did a radio thing today (summary and link) on the White House's new infatuation with Twitter and also its relations with bloggers and who will lead the "pack" in 2010 campaign coverage.

Walken to Broadway

I saw last night a preview of new play by guy who wrote and directed the hysterical In Bruges. It's titled "A Behanding in Spokane," about a guy who had a hand allegedly chopped off 47 years ago and has spent a lifetime looking for it. Naturally, it stars Chris Walken, plus Sam Rockwell and the great Anthony Mackie in rare comedy turn. It's very funny, tho slight and has a few sags. Here's Walken talking about it. He's much, much funnier in the play.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

First Episode of My Rock History Series Still Airing

UPDATED: Yes, we brought you the trailer back in December and now the first episode of "An Incompleat History or Rock 'n Roll" has arrived, and it's timely too, what with the Saints winning Super Bowl, and now Mardi Gras, as it focuses on New Orleans music, most notably, the Fat Man himself. Thanks for the many views and notes and comments so far.

High Point of Piano Music Ever?

Newly posted at YouTube, Daniel Barenboim plays section of Beethoven's Hammerklavier sonata that may top all of his other late piano work.

And The Chair Still Is Not My Son

Hysterical new "literal" version of "Billie Jean" with new lyrics -- now you can understand all of them and they are mashed up with film instructions such as "closeup", "dissolve" and "look concerned."

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

'Avatar' on the West Bank

Unreal: in a protest a few days ago on the West Bank, Palestinian, Jewish allies and others painted themselves and dressed as oppressed figures in Avatar.

Thundercrack

This was quite possibly the first rock song I saw Bruce play in December 1972 at the landmark Kenny's Castaways gig when us/we Crawdaddy guys "discovered" him before anyone else. Never made it as an album cut but was central part of early sets. This is rare video from Columbia Records promo meeting the following year. It will be feature in my next episode of my popular "Incompleat History of Rock 'n Roll" video series.

Lenny and LvB on TV

NYT today has big front page piece, and huge photo, on its Arts section about the release of new DVD of Leonard Bernstein's Sunday Omnibus TV shows from the mid- to late-1950s. As a youth I remember them well--not the content, really, but being on the tube with this guy chatting about classical music. His entire show on Beethoven's Fifth Symphony--and the changes the composer made -- has been up on YouTube for awhile, here is part I:

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Get Out of the New One If You Can't Lend a Hand

We posted audio earlier but now here is full video of Dylan at White House doing "Times They Are A-Changing," with Obama intro.

Tricky Dick and the Pink Lady

Yes, that's the title of my Random House book about the infamous 1950 U.S. Senate contest in California that drew major attention and was picked as one of the New York Times' "Notable Books" of the year. The stars, of course, were young Dick Nixon and the beautiful former actress (and wife of Melvyn Douglas) Helen Gahagan Douglas -- both up and coming members of congress at the time. It was one of the dirtiest, and most far-reaching election contests of the century, highlighting issues surrounding the Red Scare -- and women in politics. I've been highlighting some of my books here all week. You can read more here and film rights are now available. Contact me at: epic1934@aol.com. See other books by scrolling down on the main page of this blog.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Joy in Mudville: Catch the Fever!

Some of you may know me more for books on, ahem, rather serious subjects: dirty politics, Hiroshima, capital punishment, and the like (see the gallery over on the left rail here). But I've also written a popular comic memoir about...coaching my son in Little League. It drew wide national attention -- even a column in the NYT about the days I used to softball against Bruce Springsteen -- with USA Today, for example, declaring that the "winning portrait brings home boys of summer and their dads." Publishers Weekly: "Mitchell writes with wit and humanity." And so on. More here.

More importantly, financially: It was optioned for six figures by Universal and Playtone for Tom Hanks. Scripts were written, including one where I was re-located from Nyack, N.Y. to Berkeley, Ca. and got a new career -- as a writer of celeb profiles for People magazine. So you can see: I am a good sport. Anyway: that option has elapsed so the book is now available for a new option. You can contact me at: epic1934@aol.com.

I've been posting here this week on other books that seem suitable for new film interest. You can find those two posts by scrolling down the main page here. Thanks! And play ball!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

'Ran' to Meet You Tonite

I posted this a few days ago but now the day is here: A real thrill for me, I've been invited to be interview guest at screening of Kurosawa's final masterpiece -- and one of the true works or art in cinema -- Ran this coming Thursday at the Burns Center in White Plains, N.Y. It's the premier film center in New York area and we've been members since year one. Why am I to be interviewed for this? I'm one of the few Americans to do a lengthy interview with Kurosawa in the U.S. his later years, and it came just as he was planning Ran. New trailer below for this new print.

The Great Atomic Film Coverup

For years I’ve felt that one of the few “untold stories” of World War II, especially after all of the media and film attention the war has received in recent years, is the U.S. occupation of the two atomic cities, Hiroshima and Nagasaki. I’m one of the few Americans to write widely about it, going back to the early 1980s – largely focusing on the film aspects and a “cover-up” of key footage -- and then even more after I visited the two cities at length a few years later. This led to my rather well-known 1995 book with Robert Jay Lifton, Hiroshima in America, and articles for dozens of leading magazines and newspapers, as well as serving as chief adviser to the award-winning 2004 documentary, Original Child Bomb.

As recently as last month I wrote a column for Huff Post on James Cameron visiting one of the few Japanese to survive both atomic bombings just before he died – and then purchasing the film rights to the new book on the survivors, although he may just have a TV documentary in mind.

I’ve written about all aspects of Hiroshima but particularly about the U.S. occupation in 1945 and 1946, the obvious health hazards faced by our servicemen there, Hollywood and TV movies about Hiroshima, and the “film cover-up” angle. I hope the time is right now for a book—and a major film feature or documentary (contact me at: epic1934@aol.com). Yes, there have been plenty of "Hiroshima" films but none that have focused on U.S. servicemen in the aftermath.

Anyone interested should start with my lengthy piece about the film coverup at Huff Post (a much shorter version is in the Hiroshima in America book). In a nutshell: A special U.S. military film crew was sent into the atomic cities shortly after the bombing to record the devastation – but their footage was locked up for decades so the American people never got a true glimpse of the effects of the bomb during the whole period of the nuclear arms building up and testing from the 1940s to 1980s. (We also seized all of the Japanese footage.) Hollywood produced hokey versions only. I interviewed both the director of the U.S. filming and one of his chief aides who tried for years to get the footage released, and obtained exclusive records documenting the shooting – and the cover-up. I also now have on tape all of the key footage that they shot.

It’s a great, human, story focusing on two fascinating men (one shot other footage for Hollywood and the other went on to a pioneering CBS job) and their struggle, all in the context of the U.S. occupation, our film and TV industry, and the nuclear arms race. Again, check out the Huff Post piece. My contact email again: epic1934@aol.com

Weather Or Not

A lot of media coverage has given room for those who confuse local weather and global climate. Stephen Colbert naturally has some fun with that.
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Highlights of White House Civil Rights Concert

It's on PBS tonite but here is trailer with Morgan Freeman, Dylan, Obama singing with Smokey Robinson, and more. Wash Post also has audio of Dylan segment, workshop video and links.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Marvel Not a Stand-up Comic

This is no joke: Marvel Comics has caved to pressure from Tea Partier upset that a recent Capt. America edition pictured them carrying signs they do not like. That's the panel at left. NYT story here. Excerpt:

In issue No. 602 of Captain America, the hero and his ally the Falcon find themselves at a rally where protesters hold signs that read “Tea Bag the Libs Before They Tea Bag You!” and “Stop the Socialists!” Captain America remarks that the assembly appears to be an “anti-tax thing,” and the Falcon, who is black, says he probably would not fit in with “a bunch of angry white folks.”

The sequence incited complaints from Tea Party officials who say it is an unfair criticism of their movement. In an interview with FoxNews.com, Michael Johns, a board member of the Nationwide Tea Party Coalition, called the characters’ apparent jabs “juvenile,” adding: “The Tea Party movement has been very reflective of broad concerns of all Americans. Membership is across ethnic, religious and even political lines.”

Dylan at White House: Come Senators, Congressmen Please Heed the Call

And don't block up the damn hall. At the White House civil rights era tribute last night. No duet with Joan Baez, but lot of other great stuff, such as "Change Is Gonna Come." Here is audio--more mournful than angry, which seems apt. Introduced by Morgan Freeman, sounds like. Reminder: If you haven't checked out first episode of my acclaimed rock and roll series, go here.

And Film Option Now Available!

Big news: A new edition of my Random House book The Campaign of the Century – winner of the Goldsmith Book Prize and one of five finalists for the L.A. Times Book Award -- will be coming out soon. As many may know, it tells the wild story of how famed leftwing writer Upton Sinclair nearly won his 1934 race for governor of California after sweeping the Democratic primary, and was stopped only because his opponents--including the Hollywood moguls-- invented the political campaign as we know it today, dominated by dirty money and “spin doctors.”

Hollywood also made its first real plunge into politics, as the studios threatened to move to Florida, forced all of their actors and workers to contribute to the GOP candidate – and Irving Thalberg, of all people, created the first “attack ads” for the screen. This, in turn, sparked the outrage that led to the seemingly permanent leftward tilt in Hollywood.

But the uproarious campaign, which took part in the depths of the Depression, was much more than that. The cast of characters who played roles reads like a who’s who of the era: FDR and Eleanor, Louis B. Mayer, W.R. Hearst, Will Rogers, Charlie Chaplin, H.L. Mencken, Billy Wilder, Katharine Hepburn, Jimmy Cagney and on and on. You can click on this Amazon link to read much more. My email is: epic1934@aol.com

The book has so many fun and wacky elements it inspired a serious attempt at a Broadway musical. It was hailed by leading magazines and newspapers, excerpted in Newsweek and The New York Times and got a full page in Vanity Fair. And Leonard Maltin on Entertainment Tonight raved, "Fascinating -- I can't recommend it more highly. A great story well worth reading." (He showed the Thalberg "attacks ads" that I uncovered on TV for the first time.) But it has special relevance today, of course, during the worst economic period since then – and there’s even a governor’s race in California this year as the state faces a crisis similar in some way to what it had to deal with in 1934 when Sinclair led his End Poverty in California (EPIC) movement.

I was chief adviser to a wonderful PBS documentary that was largely based on the campaign back in 1993, and there have been a number of feelers from Hollywood over the years but now may be the time for a feature or HBO film, with the film industry angle a good commercial angle. Anyone interested in the book or film rights can contact me at: epic1934@aol.com

Bill Nighy Plays Robin Hood

The great, droll, often fun British actor helps new campaign for a "Robin Hood tax" on financial institutions to help the poor -- in video directed by old mate Richard Curtis, director of "Three Weddings and a Funeral" and other hits. The Guardian has big story today.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Before "Who, Dat" There Was "Say, Hey"

NYT posts review for tomorrow's paper of new book by/about Willie Mays, one of my idols. Also, an excerpt. And a song:

Whites Stripes vs. Air Force

The band is protesting the use of their classic song "Fell In Love With a Girl" by the Air Force Reserve in a Super Bowl ad seen by gazillions. Statement at their site here, which also includes original song video (below)and the commercial.

Monday, February 8, 2010

From Pentagon Papers to the Oscars

Really happy to see NYT with lengthy piece asking my old pal Dan Ellsberg about his movie picks. The doc film about Dan is up for an Oscar this year and he says he plans to attend -- like any redblooded American he considers this akin to going to the Super Bowl. Some of his movie choices may delight/surprise/disappoint you. Sees "The Hurt Locker" as brilliant but possibly recruitment film for over-macho men. Here's clip from the Oscar nominated film:

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Fess Up: "Go to the Mardi Gras"

Saints Go Marchin' In

Palin's Cheat Sheet


Blogs and tweets lit up with commentary and evidence of Sarah Palin at tea party affair checking out her left hand for notes during interview session -- after rapping Obama for using a teleprompter. Now a closeup of her hand has emerged with words like "energy" and "tax" and "lift spirits" on it.

Sunday Morning in the Church of Beethoven

My weekly feature. This week: Since I'll be heading off to NYC this afternoon, and missing half the Super Bowl, for 3 Beethoven quartets at the new Alice Tully Hall, here's a selection from one of them, the astounding opus 131, as used in a high point of Band of Brothers. Virtually the greatest two minutes of music ever.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Discovered: Cameron/Bigelow Music Video

NYT's Carpetbagger today points us to James Cameron's only music video, for an obscure band, which he did with then-wife (and fellow Oscar nominee) Kathryn Bigelow. One of a kind, to be sure:

Thursday, February 4, 2010

The Super Bowl -- If Famed Directors Shot It

One for the Ages

As some may recall, I've been locating rare performances of Beethoven's late string quartets expanded to orchestras. Leonard Bernstein, for example, calls his recording of the op. 131 his favorite project ever. Just now someone has put up at YouTube a Furtwangler version of one of Beethoven's greatest string quartet movements, the Cavatina:

Name in Vain

Oh, the indignity! It's bad enough that the new owner of E&P decided not to retain me when the magazine started up again last month -- with most of the "E" taken out of the E&P -- but the publication is still using me to sell subscription renewals.
I was alerted to this by a current subscriber, who forwarded an email he had just received, along with the note that he would NOT be renewing. Here's the pitch from the email:
Your subscription to Editor & Publisher is about to expire. In order to extend your service, we need only a few moments of your time. To verify that we have your correct information, please click below. You will be prompted to your personal renewal page where you can manage your account and ensure continuous service to Editor & Publisher in print and online.
It's signed, "Greg Mitchell, Editor."

Now, I could object on several grounds, but added to that, what about making me look bad as a writer? Consider the closing line: "We look forward to continuing your service to Editor & Publisher." Now that's really going too far. -- Greg Mitchell

Pressing Ahead?

The Editors Only blog has a big piece today about the future of E&P partly based on email interview with yours truly and new owner Duncan McIntosh. I find some parts a bit misleading, but you will surely get a kick out of it, especially when McIntosh says that what's needed now, going forward, are more pages about printing presses! But read and decide yourself! It's all here. -- Greg Mitchell

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

The Death of Mainstream News

Chris Hedges, the author and longtime NYT war reporter, writes that reliance on the old "objectivity" model worked for decades when the government leaders were "competent" but when they showed they were not the same model doomed news outlets. An excerpt:
Real reporting, grounded in a commitment to justice and empathy, could have informed and empowered the public as we underwent a corporate coup d’etat in slow motion. It could have stimulated a radical debate about structures, laws, privilege, power and justice. But the traditional press, by clinging to an outdated etiquette designed to serve corrupt power structures, lost its social function. Corporations, which once made many of these news outlets very rich, have turned to more effective forms of advertising. Profits have plummeted. And yet these press courtiers, lost in the fantasy of their own righteousness and moral probity, cling to the hollow morality of “objectivity” with comic ferocity.

The world will not be a better place when these fact-based news organizations die. We will be propelled into a culture where facts and opinions will be interchangeable, where lies will become true, and where fantasy will be peddled as news. I will lament the loss of traditional news. It will unmoor us from reality. The tragedy is that the moral void of the news business contributed as much to its own annihilation as the protofascists who feed on its carcass.

Putting On Ayers: A 'Soloist' No More?

At E&P, I assigned early on a piece about Steve Lopez, the L.A. Times columnist who was writing about a gifted, homeless classical musician he had found on the local Skid Row. He turned it into a book, The Soloist, which became a 2009 movie starring Jamie Foxx as the musician, Nathaniel Ayers, and Robert Downey Jr. as Lopez. I posted numerous Web stories and blog items about all of that, plus the movie trailer and so on.

Today, Lopez writes that "Mr. Ayers" as he calls him has gone into the studio to cut his first CD, with the help of two players from the L.A. Philharmonic -- and Flea, from the Red Hot Chili Peppers. There's even a video. Lopez writes:
I picked him up on skid row and packed his bass, cello, violin, guitar, trumpet and flute into my car. He left his viola, French horn, keyboards and trombone in his room, perhaps saving them for his second CD.

On the way to Silver Lake, Mr. Ayers was nervous but game. He wanted to know how the day would play out, and I reminded him there was no strategy other than for him to jam on as many instruments as he cared to play. Steven Argila, a pianist and owner of the studio, had met Mr. Ayers before and was ready to go with the flow, and the same was true of Stephen Krause, the recording engineer.

Bass player Flea and drummer Scott Gold, my mate at The Times, beat us to the studio. I think it's fair to say Mr. Ayers had never met anyone named Flea at Juilliard, but musicians are musicians, and they were all playing together before long.

Will Tea Party 'Eagle' Fly?

Last week I wrote at Huff Post about a Tea Party candidate in Illinois' 8th congressional district after the NYT covered the uproar over Walsh using famous "Lead the Way" song by the "other" Joe Walsh (Eagles, James Gang, etc.) in campaign and in video below, with new right-leaning lyrics, such as: "We’ve all had enough / Of this health-care stuff / We’re losing more jobs every day." "We've all been betrayed/by this cap and trade." "Pelosi and Reid wanna screw ya." "Joe Walsh is just the perfect guy to lead the way." Lawyer for old Joe has sent letter to new Joe on gross copyright infringement -- guy in video uses the whole song with new lyrics. Joe the Candidate defended.

Last night, the candidate Joe won a surprise upset.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Alcoholic Anti-Semite Calls Journo A Name

Mel Gibson being Mel.

Backstage With Bob, Tom and Popeye

Ford an Edsel?

Stephen last week mocked the former Tennessee congressman for considering run for Senate in NY -- and allegedly changing positions -- so last night brought him on to give him a chance to respond. Colbert actually grilled him again and Ford may have made things worse by calling the incumbent, Kristin Gillibrand, a "young lady" -- she is 44 and he is 40.
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Monday, February 1, 2010

It's That Time of Year

NYT film critic A.O. Scott presents his weekly video on a classic film--this time it's the ultra-timely Groundhog Day. Go here for it and see clip from film below.

Townes Without Pity

My "descendents" at the latter day online Crawdaddy present a great probing of one of the great songs of our time, Townes Van Zandt's "To Live's to Fly." Here's audio: