ELW Photography #9

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Dear Readers, September arrives with plenty to share. New images of my neighborhood shows the hard work being done to keep life as normal as possible. Labor Day weekend begins….

This park sits atop the FDR Drive on the far Eastside of Manhattan. As seen above the Esplanade over looks the East River. Views of Roosevelt Island, Triborough Bridge re-named the RFK, and Hells gate freight bridge can be enjoyed here.

In the collages we see all kinds of activity. A girl flies a kite. A young Dad walks home with his friend and kid. A woman confined to a automated chair enjoys jazz music. A yoga class takes place. Two men workout on the Great Lawn. A Doorman washes down the walk. A man finishes up his run checking his phone.

I have many more images to share of Central Park. The gallery below features them.

The Ramble

A natural ecosystem that is great for walks. One of the nation’s top bird watching spots.

The many paths feature charming views of forest. A great way to escape for a while.

As our city continues to re-open I am hoping the awful numbers of March do not return. If Summer 2020 proved one thing to me it’s that we are all together. No matter what happens New Yorkers will continue to support each other.

My Dear Readers, thanks for stopping by Evan’s Gate! Until next week…

Flash Gordon’s Alive!

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Origins Of Swashbuckling In Outer Space

Before I delve into the legacy of Flash Gordon…

Buck Rogers is a fictional space opera character created by Philip Francis Nowlan in the novella Armageddon 2419 A.D., subsequently appearing in multiple media.

Without Buck Rogers there would be no Flash Gordon. First appearing in 1928, the character of Anthony “Buck” Rogers was the first to feature space exploration! As it paralleled the latest advances in technology of the early twentieth century, the space hero would take to alien worlds to defend Earth from certain peril.

The strip made its first newspaper appearance on January 7, 1929. 

Later adaptations included radio in 1932, a film seriala television series (in which his first name was changed from “Anthony” to “William”), and other formats.

Buck Rogers was the inspiration for other comic strips:

 Tom Swift (1930-1937), Brick Bradford (Central Press Association, 1933-1987), Don Dixon and the Hidden Empire (Watkins Syndicate, 1935-1941),  Speed Spaulding (John F. Dille Co., 1940-1941),  and  John Carter of Mars (United Feature Syndicate, 1941-1943).

The adventures of Buck Rogers in comic strips, movies, radio and television became an important part of American popular culture. It was on January 22, 1930, that Buck Rogers first ventured into space aboard a rocket ship in his fifth newspaper comic story Tiger Men From Mars.

The Buck Rogers strip was popular enough to inspire other newspaper syndicates to launch their own science fiction strips.  The most famous of these imitators was Flash Gordon (King Features Syndicate, 1934-2003).

I did not discover this about these 2 serials until I created this entry for Evan’s Gate!

In the 1980’s NBC-TV premiered “Buck Rogers In The 25th Century” based upon the feature film of the same name that appeared in theaters. Starring Gil Gerard as Buck and Co-starring in the series were Erin Gray as crack Starfighter pilot Colonel Wilma Deering, and Tim O’Connor as Dr. Elias Huer, head of Earth Defense Directorate, and a former starpilot himself.

Buck Rogers will get its own entry in this blog at a future date. You just cannot celebrate a Flash Gordon Anniversary without providing this necessary background.

The Buck Rogers movie served as a pilot for a potential TV show. Released a year before Flash Gordon in 1979, the box office was good enough for NBC to hire creator Glen A. Larson (Battlestar GalacticaBuck Rogers in the 25th CenturyQuincy, M.E.The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew MysteriesB. J. and the BearThe Fall GuyMagnum, P.I. and Knight Rider.)

The television series lasted two seasons. The actors strike of 1980 disrupted production. When it returned the show was revamped with new characters and format. The 1980-81 Season was to be its last.

Fun fact: Larry “Buster” Crabbe” made a cameo appearance on the Buck Rogers TV series!

Serial Start For Flash Gordon

Serial adventures were a staple of the American cinema from the 1930’s through the 1950’s. Each week a chapter would appear in theaters. The ending was usually a cliffhanger. Our hero would be caught in some sort of death spiral that left viewers wondering how they would manage their escape.

These serialized adventures were provided as an added attraction at theaters. They did a lot with small budgets.

Based upon various comic strip characters of the day, those serials produced one character in particular that has stayed around for over 70 years—Flash Gordon. A comic strip created by Alex Raymond in the 1930’s influenced the adventures of Batman, Superman, Captain Kirk, and Luke Skywalker.

I saw the original movie serials on Channel Thirteen, a Public Television station here in New York during the 1970’s. The re-runs coincided with the release of Star Wars in 1977.

Later on I discovered that Star Wars creator George Lucas was a fan of Flash Gordon. He inquired about the rights with King Features but found out the expense was beyond his means. Movie fans got a space fantasy filled with characters inspired by Flash Gordon.

I had been enthralled by science fiction and fantasy since the re-runs of Star Trek. Then Flash Gordon appeared and then Star Wars. I could not see the direct lineage of these series until much later.

Summer of 1977 marked movie history being made. George Lucas’ Star Wars changed the popular culture. Becoming at the time the highest grossing movie of all time, its success would lead to the first Star Trek movie in 1979 and Alien in that same year! In fact Alien won the Visual Effects Oscar over Star Trek. And of course launched another franchise.

Then came a big budget European feature film of Flash Gordon announced in the pages of American fan magazine, Starlog. Italian Producer Dino DeLaurentis with Director Mike Hodges created a unique vision of the comic book hero.

The Italian film legend Federico Fellini turned down an offer to direct Flash Gordon.

Putting together an all-star European cast with two unknown Americans as Flash and Dale was an unusual contrast not unlike Star Wars. There were many European stars wearing masks in both pictures.

For example British TV/Film actor and Bodybuilder David Prowse wore the Darth Vader costume for Star Wars; British TV star Peter Wyngarde (Department S, Jason King) wore a mask as General Klytus in Flash Gordon. Mr. Wyngarde’s voice is heard while Mr. Prowse gets dubbed by James Earl Jones.

But I digress. Back to our main focus. The cast of Flash Gordon—

Max Von Sydow (“The Seventh Seal”, “The Exorcist”) was Emperor Ming The Merciless; Timothy Dalton (James bond) was Prince Barin; Brian Blessed (Black Adder) was Vultan; Ornella Muti was Aura; Mariangela Melato was Kala; Peter Wyngarde (Jason King) was Klytus; Richard O’ Brien (Rocky Horror) was Fico; Topol was Dr. Hans Zarkov; Melody Anderson was Dale Arden; Sam J. Jones (“10”) was Flash Gordon.

Coming Of Age

As a gay kid in the 1980’s there were a lot of stimulating images in film. What I mean is that there were lots of films featuring shirtless guys on their posters. “Beastmaster” is a good example.

“Flash Gordon” was a singular phenomena. There are no sequels. At the time it cost $70 million which would probably be over $200 million today.

At the time of release the picture had a PG rating. There are scenes with graphic violence and sexual connotations but nonetheless there was no PG–13 back then in 1980. The blood shown on screen was blue and green.

I loved this film for its tremendous effort to capture the spirit of the original serial. Now seen in rich color of every shade and hue. The skies of Mongo were a awash in red, blue and orange.

It was important for the film to keep to the universe Alex Raymond created in the 1930s. The only update was making Flash a football player for the NY Jets, Dr. Zarkov was a NASA scientist, and Dale is now a travel agent.

On the left is Charles Middleton as Ming in the 1930’s; On the right is Max Von Sydow as Ming in 1980. From B&W to Color Ming remains the same.

As a kid I was ignorant of this paradigm. It’s important to note the exoticism worked both ways in the film. Princess Aura seduces the blonde/ blue-eyed Flash Gordon as her object of exotic desire.

This was strong stuff for a pre-teen gay kid! Then you had Sam J. Jones shirtless in the execution and resurrection scenes, wearing nothing but a pair of PVC briefs!

On the left is Buster Crabbe; On the right Sam J. Jones. Both versions have Flash Gordon bare chested while facing punishment.

A ton of art was created for the film and some of it just for promotional purposes. Unknown to me at the time how many posters exist is incredible. Released globally there were images used in various countries to target specific audiences based on region.

Lobby Poster Art

All I knew then was the poster for American release was brilliant. Then I found a small copy of the art in a full page ad in Playbill magazine. I cut it out and put it on my wall. The name AMSEL was signed on Ming’s cloak.

The film’s Tagline, all in caps, PATHETIC EARTHLINGS…WHO CAN SAVE YOU NOW?

Who was underlined to stress that Flash is the hero.

The lightning bolt logo with planet Mongo at its center was an American market image. The font with its Red/Yellow/Orange coloring was brilliant. In Europe as well as in the opening titles the name is stylized in the mode Alex Raymond had used. You see it in the Italian promo posters we saw earlier in this entry.

Also note how Ming is so large like Darth Vader was for the Star Wars posters with Flash and Dale in a similar pose like Luke and Leia!

Instead of a fleet of X-Wing fighters you get a fleet of Hawkmen swooping down in an almost 3-D effect with Vultan’s cloud kingdom seen in the background on the right side of the frame.

All of his works are signed AMSEL with floating periods on either side of his name.

Richard Amsel was a prolific artist who attended the oldest school of Art in Philadelphia. After graduating he went on to create the poster art for films like “The Sting” and “Chinatown”. Following “Flash Gordon” he designed the art for “Raiders of the Lost Ark”!

He also designed album covers including Bette Midler’s Divine Ms. M.

For full bio of his life and works plus an animated slideshow of his iconic poster art click here: https://www.richardamselmovie.com/

He had an association with TV Guide for 13 years producing over 40 covers. A portrait he did of Lily Tomlin hangs in The Smithsonian. His final movie poster was for “Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome”.

The collage seen below is just a small sample of Amsel’s TV Guide covers. His first was an image of Lucille Ball upon her retirement from TV and show business.

I put up two of my favourites: All In The Family, Alice, and Richard Chamberlain in Shogun, a mini-series that aired for a week on NBC.

Notice the placement of the cast of Alice and All In The Family is similar to his placement of characters in his film poster work for Flash Gordon.

Richard Amsel died of AIDS in 1985 at the age of 37. I mourn him today. I had no idea he was one of the many awful casualties of that pandemic. His work is amazing.

Critical Reaction To Flash Gordon

The film found appreciation with some film critics, such as The New Yorker ‘s Pauline Kael. Kael described Flash Gordon as having “some of the knowing, pleasurable giddiness of the fast-moving Bonds…The director, Mike Hodges, gets right into comic-strip sensibility and pacing“.

She also stated the movie was “Like a fairy tale set in a discotheque in the clouds.” 

On their syndicated TV program Siskel and Ebert were giving films a Yes or No at that time before their now iconic thumbs up or down.

Gene Siskel of The Chicago Tribune did not care for it. Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave it a borderline Yes vote citing the fun comic book nature of the movie.

Visual Effects

In homage to the serial chapters of the 1930’s the film version was produced in strong primary colors and utilized Chroma Key effects.

Chroma key compositing, or chroma keying, is a visual-effects and post-production technique for compositing (layering) two images or video streams together based on colour hues (chroma range). The technique has been used in many fields to remove a background from the subject of a photo or video – particularly the newscasting, motion picture, and video game industries.

All of the space craft were done this way. Flash Gordon riding a Hawkman rocket cycle was also accomplished with this method as seen below. War Rocket Ajax, Vultan’s Cloud City and Flash with the Hawkmen approaching Mingo City are all Chroma Key images.

Favourite Scenes

The lavishly produced feature included giant set pieces adapted directly from the pages of Alex Raymond’s work partly as homage and because the formula worked!

I love the film as much as Rocky Horror loyalists. I can quote dialogue from any scene. This section brings us to my favourite parts of the film. A bit tricky because I really do enjoy all of it. Here goes…

In The Court Of Ming The Merciless at the point in which are trio from Earth first encounter all the ‘breeds’ of Mongo. This set is enormous. Ming’s throne looks like the inspiration for the Iron Throne on a certain HBO series.

Each ‘breed’ of Mongo gets introduced. Gathering in Court to present their tributes to the Emperor we see rivalries between Hawkmen and Treemen as the two groups argue over who stole their tribute!

Awaiting Ming’s first appearance in the film are assembled Hawkmen, Arborian Tree Men, and assorted races.

The image seen above is a fish-eye view of the court. Unknown to me as a kid but later appreciated as a film student that Flash Gordon utilized the Todd–AO camera system. At the time of filming in 1979 this was the state of the art widescreen format. Everything about the film is grand scale for a timeless adventure.

The Palace of Prince Vultan and his Hawkmen.

Initiation on Arboria where Prince Barin rules his treemen there is a rite of passage that all youth must experience. Within a warren of hollow tree stumps lives a beast in which the initiate must reach all the way in full arms length. If you choose the wrong path the beast will bite injecting the victim with deadly venom. The result is pain so awful the victim begs for death. Barin forces Flash to take this test in order to live.

Above in this gallery a view of Arboria against the colorful skies of Mongo, at the left bottom a birds eye view of Flash and Barin as they begin their duel, and on the right the beast that resides within the stump.

The Screenplay

Lorenzo Semple Jr.

The dialogue in Flash Gordon was purposefully done in a tone of high corn. Movie fans always call it camp.

Having written King Kong for Dino DeLaurentiis, Lorenzo Semple Jr. was then asked to write the Flash Gordon script.

The Batman TV series of 1966 was also written by him. The camp humour of that show was revived in Flash Gordon.

To this day every fan of this movie can quote dialogue. The language is comic book affectation in my opinion.

Ming The Merciless scolds those pathetic earthlings, Flash, Dale and Zarkov: “….If you had any inkling of who or what is out here you would have shuttered from it in utter terror!”

Ming The Merciless

Lines like, “We only have 14 hours to save the Earth” could only make sense in an over the top fantasy.

“What do you mean Flash Gordon approaching?”
“You’re a hero. Can’t you see that? Are you sure you don’t want a kingdom of your own?”
“Klytus, are your men on the right pills? Maybe you should execute that traitor?”

Original Soundtrack Music By QUEEN

Flash Gordon is the ninth studio album and first soundtrack album by the British rock band Queen, released on 8 December 1980 by EMI Records in the UK and in February 1981 by Elektra Records in the US. It was one of two film soundtracks that they produced along with Highlander. It is the soundtrack to the science fiction film Flash Gordon and features lyrics on only two tracks. 

Following the success Queen had with Flash Gordon two other notable rock groups contributed to movie soundtrack albums: Toto’s music was featured in “Dune” and AC/DC’s music was heard in “Maximum Overdrive”.

This was unusual at the time. Rock groups were not generally commissioned to score films.

I walked out of the cinema with the Queen music in my head. Following a trip to a furniture store I went to a local record shop to pick up the album. Dropping the needle onto this record was such a joyful moment for me.

Then to find they had included the dialogue from the film throughout the record was such a bonus. And the package for this record was so different from all of Queen’s previous efforts. It included an insert with a full colour image of Ming on one side and the lyrics for Flash and The Hero plus album credits on the other in red and yellow.

Seen above are the inner sleeve of the soundtrack featuring images of Queen on on side and the international cast on the other with a die cut in the center that lines up with the custom label featuring the logo.

For whatever reason the American version of this record did not have the die cut hole. The center was left intact so you lost the custom label peaking out effect.

Years later DJ Vanguard released a special re-mix of the single Flash.

On what turned out to be Queen’s final American Tour with Freddie & John in the Summer of 1982 Flash opened their shows followed by a performance of The Hero at the top of their setlist.

Flash Gordon Memorabilia

From the original 1930’s film serials to the 1980 feature to today the Flash Gordon franchise has produced a large array of collectibles.

In the 1930’s there were tin wind–up toys of spaceships from Flash Gordon and miniature figures in tins.

In the decades that followed numerous Sunday comic strips were published weekly. Comic Books, Toys, Figures, Posters, Trading Cards, Candy, Mugs, T-Shirts, Keychains, Magnets, and on and on and on.

Above are images of collectibles relating to the Flash Gordon franchise. On the Top Left are Flash and Ming figures with fold out Vultan’s Cloud Palace backdrop from Biff!Bang!Pow!

On the Top Right an early Pop-Up Book.

On the bottom Left a Lionman figure from Mattel based upon the Filmation animated series in 1979 on NBC.

Middle Right is a Viewmaster pack with 21 stereoscopic images also from the cartoon. And the bottom Right is a volume collecting Sunday comic strips of Flash Gordon now published by Titan books. There are 4 volumes in this series.

Flash Gordon books and magazines have been published over the past 70 years. In this gallery seen above notice the Mad Magazine clone Crazy with its parody of the movie!

The 1980 movie spawned several comic book adaptations, a novelization, poster books, and recently a graphic novel from Dynamite press called Zeitgeist.

Both DC & Marvel have published Flash Gordon comics at some point.

Archie Meets Flash Gordon in New Crossover One-Shot. Archie Comics has announced a new crossover one-shot with Flash Gordon, that was to hit comic shops back in June of this year.

The selection of pins seen here have been licensed by Vice in the United Kingdom.

Pulp Fiction

Pulp Fiction is a term used to describe a huge amount of creative writing available to the American public in the early nineteen-hundreds. Termed “pulp magazines” because of the low quality paper used between the covers, these publications proliferated in the nineteen-thirties and nineteen-forties and beyond.

Flash Gordon was the subject of several pulp series sold in drugstores and book shops. The gallery seen below features some of the covers published. There were even Flash Gordon Flip-books! There the small sized books that you flipped pages fast to create the illusion of motion! Checker books’ collections of Alex Raymond strips in full color featured The Ice Worlds of Mongo.

Toys + More Collectibles above and below

A pinball machine showed up in game arcades which I got to play several times. It had Queen’s music! The Atari Game Cartridge was less exciting somehow, Mattel sold a toy rocket ship for kids.

Titan Books published a 4 volume set collecting Flash Gordon comics from Alex Raymond to the present day.

There was even a Flash Gordon Colorforms Set! Along with Silly Putty and Yo-Yos Colorforms were a 1970s staple kids toy.

The 1979 NBC Saturday morning series was licensed to comics, figures, and lunchbox/thermos sets.

A comic book adaptation of Flash Gordon was published by Golden. The price was $1.95

There was also a program sold at select theaters for the film. I found it years later at a Horror/SciFi Convention.

40th Anniversary of Mike Hodges’ Flash Gordon Movie featuring the music of QUEEN

STUDIOCANAL is excited to announce the new 4k, Ultra High Definition restoration of Mike Hodge’s cult classic FLASH GORDON (1980), in honour of the film’s 40th anniversary.

 Flash Gordon was scanned from the original 35mm negative to produce 4K files. Over 500 hours of manual restoration repaired serious damage that included image instability, scratches, and intermittent flicker.

The sound was scanned from the original track negative and underwent restoration to improve issues ranging from audio drop-outs throughout the feature and during reel changes, digital clicks and optical distortion.

The film was colour graded for theatrical, home entertainment and 4K HDR release, using previous digital releases and 35mm prints as a reference. In line with the Director’s vision and the original 35mm cinema release, VFX work was applied to remove the strings in all scenes where visible. This restoration was approved by Director Mike Hodges in May 2020 and will include the first 4K HDR Dolby Vision master of Flash Gordon.

This Fall a new coffee table book will be published called Flash Gordon The Official Story by John Walsh.

Click here for Pre-Order information: https://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/667683/flash-gordon-the-official-story-of-the-film-by-john-walsh/

The End?

Originally there were to be 3 Flash Gordon movies to form a trilogy. Sam J. Jones had a falling out with the movie’s producers. The box office in North America was disappointing. At a cost of $70 million (a huge amount in 1979/80) and a paltry $20 million take in America no sequels were made.

While the irony is not lost on me that Flash Gordon up until this movie had multiple chapters including the short lived NBC cartoon, I think the movie is even more appealing because it is the only one of its kind.

A short-lived live action series appeared on the SyFy Channel. Dispensing with the former image of Ming as a caricature of Asian villainy he appeared as a bland modern CEO in an alternate dimension.

Another animated series also appeared on Cable television with less than encouraging results. Flash Gordon went into dormancy again.

The chroma key special effects. The model space ships. The glitzy costume design. Queen’s trademark sense of corn/camp are all part of the 1980 film’s lasting appeal.

This movie has become a true cult classic. Appealing to sci-fi/ fantasy geeks around the globe many of whom dress up as their favourite characters for ComicCon and Halloween.

I have seen the film at least 100 times. It’s my favourite cult film.

Seth Macfarlane, creator of the animated series Family Guy is a fan. His comedies, Ted & Ted2 featured Sam J. Jones and Flash Gordon. Comic book artist Alex Ross loves the movie and also proclaims Queen as a favourite band.

Family Guy episode with the Hawkmen. The Ted movies were packaged with Flash Gordon.

Alex Ross art above for the Blu-Ray of Flash Gordon; The Ming Wants You art came with the disc.

There is talk in recent years of a Flash Gordon reboot with CGI effects but time will tell if this becomes reality.

All I know is that this work combined two of my favourite things: Flash Gordon and QUEEN.

This Fall boss Fight Studio is releasing figures of Flash and Ming to celebrate the 40th Anniversary; Movie posters for the 40th Anniversary Edition.

There is a new documentary called Life After Flash now streaming on Amazon Prime. It tells the story of actor Sam J. Jones’ sudden stardom followed by years outside show business. It will be one of the many extras on the upcoming blu-ray sets.

This was the theatrical movie poster for the documentary, Life After Flash.

Thank You Dear Readers! And Thanks Flash!

The multi-hued skies of Mongo.

“Keep your feet on the ground, put your hand on your heart, lift your head to the skies, and the world’s for your taking. Yes, you’re a Hero!”

“My life is not for any Earthling to tinker or take…”

ELW Photography#6

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August 7, 2020

  • Avoid Crowds
  • Mask
  • Walk Daily
  • Listen to music
  • Research

Just a few of the things that keep me busy. Our city has seemingly become more normal than it has been in months. Traffic patterns are gradually building back up on 5th Avenue and Lexington Avenue.

Summer has become one long weekend for me. I break the season down as follows: June is Friday; July is Saurday; August is Sunday; September is Monday.

I know Americans think Labor Day is the unofficial end of the season. September is still quite warm. Cool weather really arrives the week of Halloween.

On a recent walk around I noticed the local teenagers have begun to return. Most of them disappeared for July. Many are not wearing masks or have taken to wear them around their necks. In better times the young often act badly; during this hard time they are opening themselves up to potential disaster.

My photos have captured people in their moments of distraction. Too many still babble away on their phones breaking the otherwise wonderful quiet of the park.

Activity is always abundant in the city that is coming back to life.

Just Being

Fair weather opened August with gentle breezes. The Summer is beginning its annual winding down. Soon we will be reminded of the number of weeks, then days until Labor Day!

You feel a commonality with the people you see around in the park or on the street. No matter the activity, we are all trying to maintain a sense of hope, a spirit of neighborliness.

Dear Readers: As Summer begins to wane I hope you can stay healthy and enjoy as much as possible…’til next week…

Tourists? Group of four in masks who are very close.

ELW Photography #5

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July 31, 2020

I was just thinking how we were told back in January to write out the full 2-0-2-0 when dating important docs. Who knew that it would be almost exclusively applied to receiving unemployment benefits.

My Dear Readers: Updates from New York City. July ends. USA continues to deny the impact of Covid—19 despite the largest recorded drop in its economy in history!

If you reside outside of North America you may have heard about how poor our safety net is here. This is showing up now during this unprecedented crisis.

I only glance at the headlines each morning. It takes until late in the day to realize how much more our country has slid in the eyes of the world.

New York City has sport once again with its expensive corporate stadiums empty. Overpaid athletes are playing with piped in crowd noise.

Several athletes in baseball are now sick. Games are getting postponed. I think baseball should cancel the season.

No Broadway/ Off—Broadway theater. No museums. No movie theaters. Broadway and Hollywood had both reached their commercial summit. I do not believe this will happen again.

If we have cinemas the interior of those spaces will have to be reinvented along with Broadway and Off—Broadway theaters.

Personally, my fear is that America will be vunerable like never before to a new authoritarian reality. Already the President floated the proto-fascist notion of delaying the Fall Election. This never happened in America before this con man took office.

People are waking to see how much damage has been inflicted upon regular people over decades of blindly adding police to streets. This has resulted in the brutality seen in recent days.

The people were empowered to fend off the awful notions of power hungry office holders. Our struggle for greater Democracy will continue.

With such heavy issues hovering over us I refuse to conform to the reactionary nature of certain friends and family. I just read “Twilight Of Democracy” by the historian Anne Applegate, seen below in the picture, argues strongly for Democratic ideals. She is hopeful Americans will reject the anti—democratic platform of Donald Trump.

Highly Recommended to everyone who cares about Democracy.

My photography is an outlet to express what I see daily to counter the ugly forces at play in today’s world.

Despite it all I am having a lovely Summer. What else can I do? November will be chilly. And by then our biggest Election will be upon us.

Museums

5th Avenue from E. 86th Street to E. 103rd is called Museum Mile. There are several along this route on the East Side. The Museum of the City of New York, The MET, The Guggenheim and The Jewish Museum are my favourites. I took pictures of their facades over the past three months. Devoid of crowds. A silence. Mourning? Will they come back as strong as before the shutdown?

The Museum of the City of New York, The Cooper-Hewitt Design Museum, and The Jewsih Museum are seen below:

Candids

Another component of taking images on walks are the people you see in moments. So distracted are these strangers that I could not resist capturing them in time. What follows are the first results of my observations.

August Arrives Tomorrow

Major League Baseball attempted to start a shortened season but finds itself in a bind now that the Miami Marlins team is ill with Covid—19. Then the Phillies were struck then the St. Louis Cardinals.

All of the hot spot states are only beginning to require masks and think about shutting down again.

The Republican party is making this crisis a partisan issue; their leader floats proto—fascist ideas daily.

Here in New York City while we have settled into our Phase 4 lives a new month starts tomorrow!

What will it bring? Will we learn?

Until next week Dear Readers!

Stay in good health.

Wear a mask.

ELW Photography #4

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Introduction

July 24, 2020

New York City entered Phase 4 this week of recovery from the Coronavirus pandemic. Outdoor dining and retail are back. I have gone out to dinner with my husband a few times already. We have seen some friends and family too!

Continuing to show my photographs of the Upper Eastside and Central Park I thought about my connection to these images.

This week I feature statues and buildings that have stimulated my lifelong sense of whimsy. A lover of fantasy since childhood I re-discovered places in the park I needed to explore.

I hope they bring back your sense of whimsy as well….

Statues

The base of the Mother Goose figure has characters like Humpty Dumpty and Little Boy Blue carved around it. A homeless man sleeps on a bench nearby. As enchanting as this statue can be there are many experiencing hard times.

This statue shows the famous author sitting on a bench reading his classic, “The Ugly Duckling”, with his top hat placed to the side. You can see the details of this work in each image including the sculptor of the work, Georg J. Jober. The architect who designed the work was Otto F. Lancmann. The statue was dedicated in 1956. The Park Conservancy works hard to preserve all of its treasures.

Hans Christian Andersen (/ˈændərsən/Danish: [ˈhænˀs ˈkʰʁestjæn ˈɑnɐsn̩] (listen); 2 April 1805 – 4 August 1875), in Denmark usually called H.C. Andersen, was a Danish author. Although a prolific writer of plays, travelogues, novels, and poems, he is best remembered for his fairy tales.

Andersen’s fairy tales, consisting of 156 stories across nine volumes and translated into more than 125 languages, have become culturally embedded in the West’s collective consciousness, readily accessible to children, but presenting lessons of virtue and resilience in the face of adversity for mature readers as well. His most famous fairy tales include “The Emperor’s New Clothes,” “The Little Mermaid,” “The Nightingale,” “The Steadfast Tin Soldier“, “The Red Shoes“, “The Princess and the Pea,” “The Snow Queen,” and”The Ugly Duckling,” our subject pictured above.

Alice In Wonderland

The centerpiece of this section is the statue of Alice. I took many images of this statue. On any given day the natural light cast many unique looks at this charming monument.

Above you see the entire statue large enough for children to climb on. You see close–ups of her Wonderland cohort: The Mad Hatter, The Rabbit who is always late, and the Cheshire Cat. If you look closely at the rear view you can find the Jabberwocky!

Charles Lutwidge Dodgson , better known by his pen name Lewis Carroll, was an English writer of children’s fiction, notably Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and its sequel Through the Looking-Glass. He was noted for his facility at word play, logic, and fantasy.

At the base of the steps are engraved plates displaying verse from the classic book seen below…

The Eldorado

One of a series of stately apartment buildings towering above Central Park West, The Eldorado is famous for its Art Deco-inspired twin towers that mirror its predecessor’s, The San Remo. Constructed a year after The San Remo, The Eldorado is a product of renowned architect Emery Roth, whose buildings are visible all along this stretch of Eighth Avenue. Its location, at 300 Central Park West is located near the reservoir.

Art Deco Twin Towers Rise Above Central Park West In Pre-War Grandeur. This is my favourite building.

My Neighborhood

The commercial corridor has declined over the past year. Several stores closed. A movie theater shut down. The Barnes & Noble bookstore is moving to a different location on Third Avenue, a much smaller space.

Restaurants have built outdoor dining areas on the street. The ones who had outdoor tables to start are expanded now. All servers wear mask.

The Metropolitan museum of art announced a return date of August 29, 2020.

The Streets

Walking down any avenue you cannot avoid passing people. Wearing a mask is really the only thing you can do to protect yourself. Remaining indoors is only an option during horrid spells of excessive heat. As of this writing we are having our worst heat of the season.

New York City has proceeded with caution. This enabled us to flatten the curve. Now there are over 30 states with out of control numbers of virus cases. This did not have to happen. Wearing a mask is not a partisan issue. The largest problem now is re-opening the schools.

Will New York City survive? Can we invent a new economy? Do we really need to depend so much on tourism?

The retailers in our area include H&M, Best Buy, Staples, Old Navy, and Banana Republic. Independent shops are mainly services like shoe repair and dry cleaners. A major re–think must be done. New York City is not really as interesting a place as it was in the 20th Century. The internet is a powerful tool but this tech has ravaged our urbanity. If every corner is a fast food chain what is so special about living here? It seems in the past 20 years people have raised children without imagination. Just staring down at screens is Huxley’s Brave New World come to dystopian reality!

In the past 2 weeks I have witnessed a solitary officer and his car guarding a statue of Columbus in Central Park and 3 police vehicles in front of the Met museum with lights on. It was not clear to me what had happened accept perhaps a kid was playing in the fountain. We have collectively lost our marbles during this stressful time.

I have theorized our police are dispatched in groups like street gangs. This can never result in positive outcomes. We need to change how our city is protected.

People are in heavy denial. Understandably the shock of this time is powerful. But I have thought from the start that nothing will come back quickly. I do my part by wearing a mask. Such a simple thing.

I have seen horrifying results of people who think they cannot wear a mask and not get sick. The sacrifice is small yet people are unwilling in so many cases.

My photography continues in the coming weeks of Covid Summer 2020. These were just thoughts I have had while being out enjoying the weather.

Stay healthy dear readers. No matter what polls say, Vote this November!

ELW Photography #3

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Over the past 3 months I have been taking walks around my neighborhood. This includes Central Park. Afternoons have been mostly hot and humid. A lot of sunscreen has been applied to protect myself from ultraviolet radiation. I read a wonderful article today in the paper that shows what a car free future could do for city living.

A 30 year old died of Covid today. He went to a Corona party. The statement he gave upon arriving at the hospital was that he thought it was a hoax. Tragic and absurd.

I always wear a mask. I discovered charcoal filtered masks this week. Even if this pandemic ended tomorrow I would still wear a mask. Filtering out air pollution is important. All of the people who live along side me in New York who wore masks long before Covid are true visionaries. They were much more aware of potential crisis.

During the Summer of Covid I have found that these walks do me good for both mind and body. Seeing people doing activities is reassuring. The outside is safer than the indoors.

I am grateful my school years were not affected by something of this magnitude. It was challenging enough during those days without a pandemic. People will adapt to survive.

Continuing my galleries of images taken during my daily walks around the city I hope you can relax a bit from the new challenges facing humanity in the 21st Century.

Heatwave

Beauty Is Everywhere

Everyday is different. You can visit a space each day. The presence or absence of people, the changing conditions of environment always create a new experience.

Nature is never boring…

The trees in Central Park are treasure in plain sight. Admission is free. The newly planted landscaped tree line in front of the Metropolitan museum is a joy to walk through each day. The reservoir has Geese and Ducks.

Look Up!

Pathfinder

The park is filled with paths that stretch out in front of you. It’s tempting to want to try them all in a single day. That would be impossible. Unless you want foot injury.

The neighborhood streets have become like a suburb. On weekdays there is so little noise I feel calm in ways I did not think possible in the city. Sorry suburbanites, city living wins out!

In The Neighborhood

If you are not familiar with New York than you do not know it is probably the closest to European any American city gets in terms of culture, easy walking, and largess of services.

Back To The Park!

Although I have walked streets around our neighborhood I prefer park walks. I have found out during these strange times the greenery is calming. I love finding images throughout my outings.

Keeping our distance; exercising; meeting friends.

Next Week: Favourite Building/ Statues

ELW Photography #2

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I posted my first ELW Gallery about a month ago! Time flies even in a pandemic. Here is a brief update from New York City….

July 10, 2020—New York Phase III—Outdoor Dining Began this past Monday. Indoor Dining was cancelled. All events in the city are off through September.

A few words before presenting my second gallery of photos from the city that now sleeps. Yes, there are more cars again, more people not concerned enough about Covid.

The young will pay a hefty price for their natural feelings of invincibility.

Our politicians are challenged on more than just the Covid front. Race and Justice are now exposed again.

People are justifiable in their needs during this crisis.

I have walked almost every day to keep sane myself.

New Yorkers need more physical space.

I hope my photos of a mostly empty Central Park help you to escape as I did for a little while…

Welcome to the second gallery of photography featuring images of a newly quiet New York City.

What’s Normal?

As I stroll around the park, walk down 5th Avenue, and any number of differing paths I note a strong feeling of loss. There is also feelings of hope and escape from a newly quieted city.

New Eyes

As a trained photographer you see the world around you with new eyes every day. During this period of extreme crisis this ability is heightened. The next set of images was taken from the July 4th Holiday and beyond.

Architecture of Central Park

I always take notice of details that seem to be missed by people busy with every activity except looking. The interior of the park has gorgeous designs both natural and man made.

Conditions Change

Tropical Storm Fay Is Pounding The City Today: 3 Inches Of Rain Expected. We need it badly.

Keep Your Distance

Thank you Dear Readers for visiting Evan’s Gate!

See you next week!

Bob Dylan’s Rough and Rowdy Ways —An American Classic

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Rating: 5 out of 5.
The 39th Studio Album from Nobel Laureate Bob Dylan and 42nd overall is a collection inspired by the best of Walt Whitman and William Blake. 77 minutes. Double CD/Digital Streaming.

Juke Joints Sing The Songs Of Self

“Endless unfolding of words of ages!
And mine a word of the modern, the word En-Masse.

Walt Whitman

“I Contain Multitudes” opens the record with a reference to another epic poet whose work, “Song Of Myself”, celebrates every living creature on the planet. The title of this track is a Whitman quote. The ‘I’ is used here inclusively. Evoking the value in all living things.

The songs speaks to the experience of life. Loving and hating in equal measure. Composing, painting, eating, drinking, and our bodies as vessels that contain a universe.

I love Mr. Dylan’s end to this track. You can accept this line as just playing recordings of the classical giants or perhaps it is an expression that his final chapter maybe spent composing classical pieces:

“I’ll play Beethoven’s sonatas, and Chopin’s preludes…”

The cover image for this record is important. Presented in a cinematic letter-box format, anonymous couples are dancing. They are people of color. A solitary figure is hunched over the juke trying to decide what to play or in anguish over lost love or any number of reasons you could imagine.

For the first time Bob Dylan’s name does not appear on the cover! We listeners are to focus only on the image of a juke joint interior. The name of the record seems to pop-up from the floor in vivid technicolor. The color scheme applied is simply the best ever used in his catalog of 42 records.

Once again he is creating a mythic eden seeded in the past but brought into our present. A secret place where people of color went to actually express their humanity. The Queer folk also went to these type of places to do the same. Evoking Whitman’s celebration of humanity and non-humanity alike within the dark spaces of the juke joint where all can be free together.

American Folklore’s Rough and Rowdy Ways

His choice of title reference classic folk music by way of Jimmie Rodgers. The adjectives of Rough and Rowdy are masculine in nature. Playful but potentially dangerous like people themselves. A Dylanesque wink to the underlying violence packed within the culture. Dylan loves to use folklore and tall tales for referents to his lyrics. This album is more than worthy of his best works. His mystique is intact; here now his innermost troubles are laid bare.

False Prophet

A 10 stanza poem that could have been a part of Whitman’s “Leaves of Grass.” In the sixth stanza he invokes the ‘I’ in repetition:

I searched the world over, for the holy grail, I sing songs of love, I sing songs of betrayal. Don’t care what I drink, I don’t care what I eat, I climb the mountain of swords On my bare feet.”

Mr. Dylan is baring his soul like never before throughout this record. In the verse quoted above you here his artistic declaration of mission. He once again invokes his religious beliefs too. Willing to climb a mountain of swords in bare feet is a form of stigmata.

“My Own Version Of You”

Expressing his heart’s desire to create his own Frankenstein—like creature in his image to be able to assign it the qualities he feels are required to balance the world. The lyrics here are macabre yet have a restless play about them:

I’ll take the Scarface Pacino and The Godfather Brando
Mix it up in a tank and get a robot commando

Using fictional toughs from the 1970s in ‘The Godfather’ and 1980s in ‘Scarface’ as his character ingredients expresses the raw masculine imagination at work. A modern American ethos is applied here.

Dylan appeals to Julius Caesar, St. Peter, Mr. Freud, and Mr. Marx. As usual for the Ancients to connect to the Moderns as the basis for a new brain. Politics, Religion, and Philosophy—these are the areas of human endeavor forever swirling around in Mr. Dylan’s grey matter too.

“I wanna bring someone to life, turn back the years
Do it with laughter and do it with tears

The strongest desire of all seems to be the return of older values and ideas. The masks of comedy and tragedy must always balance the equation of reality and fiction.

“I’ve Made Up My Mind To Give Myself To You

The love poem of the album is addressed to an unknown woman (or perhaps every listener). A nice ballad delivered pretty straight and dry. In contrast to all of the other songs here this track stands out as the least grim.

“I’m giving myself to you, I am
From Salt Lake City to Birmingham
From East L.A. to San Antone
I don’t think I can bear to live my life alone

Mr. Dylan has had two marriages that produced 2 grown sons. His declaration here becomes clear. He wants to give up his lonely wandering.

“Black Rider”

A 5 verse poem that reinforces letting go of youthful recklessness. The doppelganger of violent intent is warned to release its grip or be hacked to pieces. The song is the simplest one here.

“Goodbye Jimmy Reed”

A 6 verse poem expressing Mr. Dylan’s goodbye to the blues. Mr. Reed is the most influential bluesman who passed back in 1976. He is the connective blood and tissue to Mr. Dylan’s other friends, Elvis and The Rolling Stones who covered Mr. Reed’s songs.

Mother of Muses”

A poetic prayer expressed with a selfish desire to have the top muse all to himself.

Mother of Muses, wherever you are
I’ve already outlived my life by far

In seeming desperation he lays his soul out for her to see. That life has now gone on too long. He needs her injection of spirit. Perhaps to fill the void if he lets go of his former life.

“Crossing The Rubicon”

Reinforcing his connection with the Ancients via Julius Caesar again, here to express a dedication to a new and risky course. This is a 9 verse poem that Dylanologists will love parsing among themselves. The densest work in this collection. Great poetic phrasing with just the right dose of abstraction.

“Key West (Pirate Philosopher)”

4 Verses of philosophy; 4 choruses describe Key West. This is the second longest track here. It serves as Prelude to Disc 2’s opus, “Murder Most Foul”.

In such simple verse Mr. Dylan crystallizes his ways. Key West is flat land where he can keep his feet planted firmly and listen closely to a pirate radio signal for inspiration and peace.

My favorite lines make up Chorus 4:

“Key West is the place to be
If you’re looking for immortality
Key West is paradise divine
Key West is fine and fair
If you lost your mind, you’ll find it there
Key West is on the horizon line”

Throughout his years writing songs Bob Dylan embraces places real and imagined as Eden–like. Key West is now his present flashpoint in life. It represents his cohorts: Ginsberg, Corso, and Kerouac; his greatest influencers: Louis, Jimmy, and Buddy.

This song closes out Disc 1. Key West is defined by Dylan as a tonic for life. The epic track on Disc 2 acts as counterpoint to the divine.

Murder Most Foul” is a nation’s fall from grace as well as an individual’s reckoning.

Due to the length and depths of that track I gave an entire blog entry over to it.

Click here for my analysis of the 17 minute track: https://wordpress.com/block-editor/post/evan-s-gate.com/1542

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Bob Dylan is that rare artist who continues to be inspired by the myriad roads travelled and the places he has seen. At once worldly and still forever in deep love with his own country, he is able to imbue his work with just the right amount of ambiguity and self—worth. He has become a true Renaissance man. I am a grateful listener.

Bob Dylan’s Murder Most Foul

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At midnight on March 27th, 2020, Bob Dylan released “Murder Most Foul”, his first studio release since 2017’s Triplicate and first original song release since 2012’s Tempest.

American Elegy—Our Nobel Laureate Publishes Another Masterpiece

In a career now spanning six decades Bob Dylan has been through numerous phases in a life that has itself become the stuff of living legend.

Now revealed that this song is the third side on his upcoming, Rough and Rowdy Ways, he continues to inspire and write brilliantly about history.

His ability to connect our ‘modern times’ with the ancient culture that brought it about, specifically the Romans, enabled his new life as a Nobel Prize recipient.

Murder Most Foul is Mr. Dylan’s longest song. if you take the time to listen to this track you will learn a lot about this wonderful country and its brutal past and present.

You will also discover an underlying feeling of hope in the soft accompaniment with its piano, light timpani, and strings.

Dylanologists are going to have another great track to explore for many years to come. There are a ton of deliberate references to all kinds of cultural arcana in this track. Too many in fact for a single blog entry.

But herein I will discuss some of my takes on this peerless work. The closest thing to a spoken word song or a revival of the beat poet in the vast Dylan catalog.

First Section

It was a dark day in Dallas, November ’63
A day that will live on in infamy
President Kennedy was a-ridin’ high
Good day to be livin’ and a good day to die
Being led to the slaughter like a sacrificial lamb
He said, “Wait a minute, boys, you know who I am?”
“Of course we do, we know who you are!”
Then they blew off his head while he was still in the car
Shot down like a dog in broad daylight

Was a matter of timing and the timing was right
You got unpaid debts, we’ve come to collect
We’re gonna kill you with hatred, without any respect
We’ll mock you and shock you and we’ll put it in your face
We’ve already got someone here to take your place
The day they blew out the brains of the king
Thousands were watching, no one saw a thing

It happened so quickly, so quick, by surprise
Right there in front of everyone’s eyes
Greatest magic trick ever under the sun
Perfectly executed, skillfully done
Wolfman, oh Wolfman, oh Wolfman, howl
Rub-a-dub-dub, it’s a murder most foul

Here in the beginning of the poem we are explicitly told how Mr. Dylan feels about the day President John F. Kennedy was murdered.

Using a phrase as his title, he frames the dreadful event as a Murder Most Foul. As the track continues there will be an evolution or rather a de-volution through the following decades as America’s culture and politics slowly decays.

The great hope of a young, handsome, and brilliant leader is cruelly blown off the face of the Earth. The promise of a new frontier delayed by his killing.

Mr. Dylan further frames the President’s murder as that of a lynching. Mr. Kennedy was white on the surface, but he was also the nation’s first Catholic elected to the Presidency. In Bob Dylan’s view he was ‘led like a lamb to the sacrificial slaughter’.

The first verses also make clear how this crime was such an American scene. Committed in broad daylight in front of the world; ‘greatest magic trick ever under the sun’.

The Second Section

Hush, little children, you’ll understand
The Beatles are comin’, they’re gonna hold your hand
Slide down the banister, go get your coat
Ferry ‘cross the Mersey and go for the throat
There’s three bums comin’ all dressed in rags
Pick up the pieces and lower the flags
I’m goin’ to Woodstock, it’s the Aquarian Age
Then I’ll go over to Altamont and sit near the stage
Put your head out the window, let the good times roll
There’s a party going on behind the Grassy Knoll
Stack up the bricks, pour the cement
Don’t say Dallas don’t love you, Mr. President

Put your foot in the tank and then step on the gas
Try to make it to the triple underpass
Blackface singer, whiteface clown
Better not show your faces after the sun goes down

Up in the red light district, they’ve got cop on the beat
Living in a nightmare on Elm Street
When you’re down on Deep Ellum, put your money in your shoe
Don’t ask what your country can do for you

Cash on the barrelhead, money to burn
Dealey Plaza, make a left-hand turn
I’m going down to the crossroads, gonna flag a ride
The place where faith, hope, and charity died
Shoot him while he runs, boy, shoot him while you can
See if you can shoot the invisible man
Goodbye, Charlie! Goodbye, Uncle Sam
Frankly, Miss Scarlett, I don’t give a damn
What is the truth, and where did it go?
Ask Oswald and Ruby, they oughta know
“Shut your mouth,” said a wise old owl

Business is business, and it’s a murder most foul

Now a tourist destination, the arts & entertainment hub of Dallas, TX was part of Kennedy’s fatal route on the day of his murder.

The last lines of these first 2 sections of verse connect to reinforce this crime as foul cold-blooded murder. ‘Rub-a-dub-dub, it’s murder most foul; Business is business, and it’s a murder most foul’.

The actual neighborhood near the crime scene of Kennedy’s death is referenced following the pop culture explosion of The Beatles who became a salve for the real pain young people felt at the time. Deep Ellum, the arts and entertainment hub of Dallas, TX had a rise in crime too.

Referenced in the song’s second section above: ‘When you’re down on Deep Ellum, put your money on your shoe’.

‘Don’t ask what your country can do for you’, the famous Kennedy line to demand public service of youth is juxtaposed to remind people now trapped in poor communities not to expect any government assistance. The social contract was murdered too.

Explicitly calling out Woodstock and Altamont and the Age of Aquarius with the mythology of free love and the violence of Altamont. America has always created myths to soothe the wounds of very real crimes.

The reality of the made up summer of love is the real slaughter of men, women, and children in Vietnam. The daily death toll were surely murders most foul.

Mr. Dylan performs a conjuring trick as well raising the original sin of race hatred in a line that also references his hit “Hurricane”. Blackface singer, whiteface clown
Better not show your faces after the sun goes down

Up in the red light district, they’ve got cop on the beat
Living in a nightmare on Elm Street

Also quite cleverly references a Wes Craven horror film released in the decade that followed his hit song about boxer Ruben ‘Hurricane’ Carter.

The name covers Dallas’ real murder of a President and the fictional murders of teenagers in a genre called the slasher film. The cruelty on display in Dallas would continue to resonate for the decades that followed.

The Third Section

Tommy, can you hear me? I’m the Acid Queen
I’m riding in a long, black Lincoln limousine
Ridin’ in the back seat next to my wife
Headed straight on in to the afterlife
I’m leaning to the left, I got my head in her lap
Hold on, I’ve been led into some kind of a trap
Where we ask no quarter, and no quarter do we give
We’re right down the street, from the street where you live
They mutilated his body and they took out his brain
What more could they do? They piled on the pain
But his soul was not there where it was supposed to be at
For the last fifty years they’ve been searchin’ for that
Freedom, oh freedom, freedom over me
I hate to tell you, mister, but only dead men are free
Send me some lovin’, then tell me no lie
Throw the gun in the gutter and walk on by
Wake up, little Susie, let’s go for a drive
Cross the Trinity River, let’s keep hope alive
Turn the radio on, don’t touch the dials
Parkland Hospital, only six more miles
You got me dizzy, Miss Lizzy, you filled me with lead
That magic bullet of yours has gone to my head
I’m just a patsy like Patsy Cline
Never shot anyone from in front or behind
I’ve blood in my eye, got blood in my ear
I’m never gonna make it to the new frontier
Zapruder’s film I seen night before
Seen it thirty-three times, maybe more

It’s vile and deceitful, it’s cruel and it’s mean
Ugliest thing that you ever have seen
They killed him once and they killed him twice
Killed him like a human sacrifice
The day that they killed him, someone said to me, “Son
The age of the Antichrist has just only begun”
Air Force One comin’ in through the gate
Johnson sworn in at 2:38
Let me know when you decide to throw in the towel
It is what it is, and it’s murder most foul

I set the third section above in big bold type since at this point forward the song becomes full and explicit. Brimming with anger at President Kennedy’s demise, whom Mr. Dylan likens to a King as the Kennedy White House became Camelot, then in a blink ‘his eyes, nose, and ears were filled with blood.’

The Zapruder film in some way becomes America’s first slasher film, only it’s real.

Mr Dylan describes the piece which he claims to have seen over 30 times, as ‘vile and deceitful’.

That first piece of social media created an infinity of conspiracy theories. I see it as a reflection on his own youth. In his youth the repetition is easily performed. Now, at 79 Mr. Dylan only needs a single reading.

Freedom, oh freedom, freedom over me
I hate to tell you, mister, but only dead men are free

This is my favorite line in the poem/song. Using Whitmanesque phrasing to connect Lincoln with Kennedy. Both men were after all the great hope of a wounded nation. Slavery in Lincoln’s era and Vietnam/Racism in Kennedy’s time. Both men were victims of murder most foul.

Mr. Dylan has undergone phases of life where he composed Christian influenced records. He has deep personal beliefs that crop up nicely here.

Declaring, ‘the Age of the Antichrist’ has just begun following the Kennedy assassination the nation saw a steep rise in cult activity, the crimes of Charles Manson, and satanic music also came into being in American culture.

Echoing the conventional wisdom that the nation had lost its soul are Mr. Dylan’s lyrics describing the Kennedy post mortem: ‘No soul was found where it should be.’

The Fourth Section

What’s new, pussycat? What’d I say?
I said the soul of a nation been torn away
And it’s beginning to go into a slow decay
And that it’s thirty-six hours past Judgment Day
Wolfman Jack, he’s speaking in tongues
He’s going on and on at the top of his lungs
Play me a song, Mr. Wolfman Jack
Play it for me in my long Cadillac
Play me that “Only the Good Die Young”
Take me to the place Tom Dooley was hung
Play “St. James Infirmary” and the Court of King James
If you want to remember, you better write down the names
Play Etta James, too, play “I’d Rather Go Blind”
Play it for the man with the telepathic mind
Play John Lee Hooker, play “Scratch My Back”
Play it for that strip club owner named Jack
Guitar Slim going down slow
Play it for me and for Marilyn Monroe

It’s Mr. Wolfman Jack to you. Bob Dylan has reached a point in his career that he can compose a poem that includes 1970’s icon Wolfman Jack.

This is a reference to the alter—ego creation that he underwent in the 1960’s, Robert Zimmerman became Bob Dylan; Robert Weston Smith became Wolfman Jack.

Also in the new age of the antichrist men were literally becoming beasts. It’s in this section that Mr. Dylan begins to recommend recordings using the word ‘play’ as a command.

It references his 2 years as a D.J. himself on satellite radio. Using famous titles/lyrics from the era’s violent refelctions include “Only The Good Die Young”, published in 1977, the year of the Son of Sam killings in New York.

Bob Dylan makes his listeners do a lot of history homework. I strongly believe this is why his work ranks so high.

Playing up the description of President Kennedy’s car of choice, ‘a long black Cadillac’, itself a coffin on wheels.

Take me to the place Tom Dooley was hung
Play “St. James Infirmary” and the Court of King James
If you want to remember, you better write down the names

For my take these 3 lines set up why Bob Dylan has become such a master at connecting seemingly disparate ideas.

You see the ‘place where Tom Dooley was hung’ is in North Carolina, where the Wolfman took his last breath.

Being white, Wolfman Jack died of a heart attack not a lynching. Tom Dooley became the subject of many folk songs, a genre that gave artistic birth to Bob Dylan.

Tom Dooley is part of a sad American tradition known as Appalachian Murder Ballads. A murder most foul.

St. James Infirmary references blues music. An alternate title for the song was “The Young Man Cut Down in His Prime”) about a soldier who uses his money on prostitutes and then dies of venereal disease. The theme ties in with Kennedy’s death.

Then closing the section with a simple notation of why the name checking will continue unabated for the rest of the piece—to remember with clarity write down the names.

Only an artist of Bob Dylan’s caliber tells the listener his intent in writing this or any other song/poem is to preserve it for the ages to come beyond his mortal years.

The Fifth Section (Conclusion)

Play “Please Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood”
Play it for the First Lady, she ain’t feeling any good
Play Don Henley, play Glenn Frey
Take it to the limit and let it go by
Play it for Carl Wilson, too
Looking far, far away down Gower Avenue
Play “Tragedy”, play “Twilight Time”
Take me back to Tulsa to the scene of the crime
Play another one and “Another One Bites the Dust”
Play “The Old Rugged Cross” and “In God We Trust”
Ride the pink horse down that long, lonesome road
Stand there and wait for his head to explode
Play “Mystery Train” for Mr. Mystery
The man who fell down dead like a rootless tree
Play it for the reverend, play it for the pastor
Play it for the dog that got no master
Play Oscar Peterson, play Stan Getz
Play “Blue Sky,” play Dickey Betts
Play Art Pepper, Thelonious Monk
Charlie Parker and all that junk

All that junk and “All That Jazz”
Play something for the Birdman of Alcatraz
Play Buster Keaton, play Harold Lloyd
Play Bugsy Siegel, play Pretty Boy Floyd
Play the numbers, play the odds

Play “Cry Me a River” for the Lord of the gods
Play Number nine, play Number six
Play it for Lindsey and Stevie Nicks
Play Nat King Cole, play “Nature Boy”
Play “Down in the Boondocks” for Terry Malloy
Play “It Happened One Night” and “One Night of Sin”
There’s twelve million souls that are listening in
Play “Merchant of Venice”, play “Merchants of Death”

Play “Stella by Starlight” for Lady Macbeth
Don’t worry, Mr. President, help’s on the way
Your brothers are comin’, there’ll be hell to pay
Brothers? What brothers? What’s this about hell?
Tell them, “We’re waiting, keep coming,” we’ll get them as well

Love Field is where his plane touched down
But it never did get back up off the ground
Was a hard act to follow, second to none
They killed him on the altar of the rising sun
Play “Misty” for me and “That Old Devil Moon”
Play “Anything Goes” and “Memphis in June”
Play “Lonely at the Top” and “Lonely Are the Brave”
Play it for Houdini spinning around in his grave
Play Jelly Roll Morton, play “Lucille”
Play “Deep in a Dream”, and play “Driving Wheel”
Play “Moonlight Sonata” in F-sharp
And “A Key to the Highway” for the king on the harp

Play “Marching Through Georgia” and “Dumbarton’s Drums”
Play darkness and death will come when it comes
Play “Love Me or Leave Me” by the great Bud Powell
Play “The Blood-Stained Banner”, play “Murder Most Foul”

In this final section of this elegiac piece Mr. Dylan reminds us of the worst scene of racial violence in the nation’s history.

The Tulsa race massacre (also called the Tulsa race riot, the Greenwood Massacre, or the Black Wall Street Massacre) of 1921 took place on May 31 and June 1, 1921, when mobs of white residents attacked black residents and businesses of the Greenwood District in TulsaOklahoma.

It has been called “the single worst incident of racial violence in American history.” The attack, carried out on the ground and from private aircraft, destroyed more than 35 square blocks of the district—at that time the wealthiest black community in the United States, known as “Black Wall Street”.

This awful history was dramatized on the Premiere of HBO’s ‘Watchmen’. Here the line takes us back to the scene of the original crime.

He connects it to the currents of hate/racism that from 1921 became a tsunami that killed another American President.

Then swirling through the American history of Jazz music and its iconic progenitors he adds crime figures like Bugsy Siegel who builds Las Vegas and on and on in a dizzying meter of names that arrives at “Love Me or Leave Me” by Bud Powell.

This is Dylan’s response to the hateful crowds that state, America love it or leave it.

The final line is perhaps the most stinging reminder of how far America needs to go to overcome its bloody past and present: Play The Blood Stained Banner , Play Murder Most Foul.

‘The Blood Stained Banner’ was a Confederate anthem and a version of the Confederate Flag presented in 1865. Bob Dylan is telling the nation to never forget this happened.

And to kindly play the song just ended, his American Elegy, Murder Most Foul.

Updates from New York City/ Random Thoughts in Downtimeland

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  • The New York Times today gave voice to the famous since they are lacking a platform. What do they miss about their beloved city?
  • Dear readers I can tell you what I don’t miss. The noise. The crowds. The expense.
  • I have a strong immune system. I go out everyday.
  • I danced in the middle of 5th Avenue, Madison Avenue, Lexington Avenue, and intersections that now stand empty. I do not miss traffic.
  • No sympathy for Disney. Are we not capitalists? You take risks with your investments. The government must stop their welfare for the wealthy. If Disney fails let it go away. Some other thing will come along for the 21st Century.
  • This just in, Disney+ using Hamilton as bait for more subscribers! It’s meant to be seen live.
  • The 7 pm banging of the pots has started to fade. Less and less volume now.
  • That homeless dude on the 6 train was right 2 years ago. Anyone of you may be jobless tomorrow. Did anyone listen to him? nah!
  • I do not “like” any of our politicians. They do not know what to do.
  • The people with means left the city months ago.
  • Some days are better than others. Just like before the pandemic.
  • I wonder how suburbanites will survive. They have to drive everywhere.
  • Now is the chance to lower subway fares. Ridership will not return to previous levels. Why run empty buses? We need to build a new transportation system. Monorail!
  • Our current Mayor will close streets to cars. Pedestrian only zones so people can walk and be distant from one another.
  • How about motorcycle only roads? A Harley highway.
  • New York City was all about luxury for the wealthy before this hit. Now that many of them have left for good how about converting the completed condo units into affordable homes for the rest of us? A rent strike for universal suffrage. Rents should fall back to 1960 levels.
  • Convert failed retail spaces into community use areas.
  • Our primary is now a go! Yay democracy.
  • Delegates count. It affects the party platform.
  • Haircuts? Hey guys, let it grow! We need non-conformity! Learn about rebellion. You can stand out. The Constitution allows for it, lol.
  • We should support Amazon’s workforce. This is retail today. The virus will not go away. Physical stores will never feel safe again. It’s nice to shop at a click with a solid returns policy.
  • Movie theaters are going to have to do a lot more to get us back. YouTube has a lot of great films from all over the world, no CGI needed. Stories about people are making a comeback following a decade of shlock from Marvel (Disney).
  • If independent book shops opened across the city with a medium size sales floor people could enjoy the experience. A no children under 16 policy would be nirvana. Book shops should sell books. No toys, no stationary.
  • New York will remain closed until at least May 18. Politicians are biding (pun intended) their time.

You Tube Allows Discovery For Viewers

World cinema abounds on this platform.

https://youtu.be/3Y2pPaqcHtU

Cut and paste the above address to view a beautiful 30 minute French film about a family that takes a sea voyage around islands and sees whales. The boys swim with dolphins, explore sea life, and enjoy what looks like one amazing childhood.

The choices are yours on YouTube. Why are you wasting money on the banal service of Disney?

Heavy Metal Rules

The corporate record labels forced metal away from the mainstream. It made the culture stronger. Metal listeners are hundreds of millions of people from over two dozen countries. We love Lemmy, Ozzy, Priest, Maiden, Metallica and a zillion other artists who play amazing music. It will last forever. A creature comfort. And always regains its stature when things go South.

Metallica are still America’s best metal band. “Hardwired To Self Destruct” is amazing.

The wearing of masks is so metal! Rock on. Up The Irons! Bang thy head that doesn’t bang.

That’s it for now! Just a quick update inside the city of New York 2 months into the pandemic.