Hotsy Totsy members: Juliet Clark - Ray Davis - Anselm Dovetonsils - Christina La Sala
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The Hotsy Totsy Club

1999-08-14. . . Cholly Kokonino reporting

Now for something we hope you'll really like: a new installment of Constance Kandle's Nonprofit Chronicles, featuring Bossy the Clown!
Bossy Wants to Know

"I need you to give me a new copy of that report right away..."
"Because I had it right here, on top of this pile, and now it's gone..."
"OK, I know I'm unorganized sometimes, but I have other redeeming qualities, right?..."

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What better way to celebrate the Alfred Hitchcock Centennial than by buying a brand new Psycho bean-bag bear or shower curtain? (Well, drinking two bottles of wine and three snifters of cognac would probably be better....) Head on over to QVC and search on "Hitchcock" for more values! (Pointer via the Association of Moving Image Archivists)

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Alice Waters's daughter -- what was her name? The one with the wart on her?: More than any other director, Howard Hawks recognized that the art of the talking moving picture doesn't depend on still-photography's visuals or on theater's words, but on the inherent musical structure of moving talking pictures: the patterns of pacing and tone, of rhythm....

At least, that's what I always say. I always just say it, 'cause talk is cheap and research is expensive.

So let's all be grateful to Lea Jacobs, who went ahead and did the research. Since Hawks's films are voice-driven, she realized that she could use words-per-second as a fairly decent measurement of tempo. And by focusing on His Girl Friday, she obtained a perfect compare-and-contrast stooge in Lewis Milestone's original film version of The Front Page. With semi-solid numbers and a control case to back her up, Jacobs is able to go to town without making a pompous ass of herself, bringing in such non-verbal rhythmical elements as gestural density and character movement, and making occasional references to other Hawks masterpieces (e.g., To Have and Have Not's big lust dialog saunters at 1.6 wps; the immediately following scene breaks the mood at 3.8 wps).

As expected, His Girl Friday is faster than its predecessor: in a sample sequence of twelve scenes, Hawks conducts nine of them at 4-or-more wps, Milestone only two of them. But of more interest is Jacobs's structural analysis: Hawks not only uses more fast tempos, he modulates between tempos more organically, over greater length, and to greater dramatic point. Molly Malone's suicide attempt is devastating in Hawks's film, stagey in The Front Page, but, as Jacobs points out, it's more clearly motivated by the latter's script. Hawks motivates it structurally instead, by steadily ratcheting tempo and dynamics up to "intolerable" levels; he then punches the shock home by only allowing the briefest of pauses before bringing those levels back again (an old Beethoven trick...) and plunging us into the out-of-control world of the movie's final stretch.

(If you're a computer professional, you can probably afford Northern Light's fee for viewing the article. If you're in a university, you might already have access to the periodical Style for Fall, 1998 -- I know it sounds like some kind of Vogue rip-off, but it's not. Otherwise, if you know Lea Jacobs, maybe she'll let you see her copy.)

Update, Feb. 2015: Now there's a book!

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Recently received: Invitation to a wedding at the Wing Lam Kung Fu Studio. Despite my lack of enthusiasm for marriage, I have to admit that some weddings have been fun:

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I love listening to Gertrude Stein. She sounds just like Margaret Dumont. Like if Margaret Dumont had been a full member of the Marx Brothers.

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Free and direct discourse: I cherish the memory of telling my college professors who Derrida was, but sometimes I wonder how the guy who introduced Hitler to Nietszche felt.

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Would the Nazis have developed without Nietszche? Probably, but at least they wouldn't have been able to claim that Nietszche was on their side.

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In production: MGM returns to musicals with Ben Stiller's remake of Lost Weekend, starring an unshaven Jim Carrey, a shaven Gwyneth Paltrow, and the Dalai Lama as Joe the Barkeep. Andrew Lloyd Webber's score packs such potential VH-1 hits as "The Brandy Man," "Tomorrow (I Guess I'll Clean Up My Act Tomorrow)," and "Sink":

Sink till sunk.
Life is simple
If you live it drunk.
Don't worry if you're not good enough
To manage a goddamn thing.
Just sink,
Sink till sunk.

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Never say "Your mother!" to an Irishman: Just in time for AMC's John Ford tribute is a new online summary of Bridget Cleary's 1895 murder (pointer via Robot Wisdom). I wonder what Yeats, Lady Gregory, and other Anglo-aristocratic defenders of Irish cultural integrity had to say about the case....

. . . 1999-08-17

On the other hand, anything that publishes a profile of Mister Rogers can't be all bad. Unless it's Readers Digest. Or TV Guide. OK, it can be all bad. But Mister Rogers can't be.

Sadly, Salon's editors missed the exciting link between Mister Rogers and the Alfred Hitchcock Centennial: Fred Rogers attended Florida's Rollins College at the same time as Mister-Rogers-lookalike Tony Perkins. "I had a piano in my room because I was a composition major, and Tony used to stop by and play every once in a while," says Mister Rogers. They co-starred in a school production of The Madwoman of Chaillot; some years later, they met in Manhattan and threw paper airplanes off a roof. "I wish that we'd been able to stay close after that. But his was a very different life from the one I had chosen."

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Things that scare me: During one of those "Who do you think is sexy?" discussions, an ex-lover of mine picked Tom Savini and Mister Rogers. I try to avoid those discussions now.

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Bosley Crowther, thou shouldst be living at this hour: Never trust a guy who says that High Noon is a masterpiece.

Actually, it's kind of nice to know that even the current generation is capable of producing a movie pundit who's script-happy and film-blind. And it makes sense that he'd find a home at Salon, which, with help from Gene-Shalit-on-'ludes Charles Taylor and mirror-lensed Camille Paglia, is starting to make the New York Times look like Cahiers du cinéma.

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Shtick as Muse:

"Satir, narr technique: Can usually be expressed in the formula: 'Pretend to be stupid.'"
-- Robert Musil, Diaries
Who's pretending? With few exceptions (movie stars, rock musicians...), any action or expression will be stupider than the theoretical limits of the intelligence responsible for taking or making it.
"Americans project irony onto the world.... The subject has lost the battle. He knows that he lacks either the individuality or the reason to defend himself against his opponent.... The subject no longer speaks; he is spoken, cursed by an uncontrollable and parodying tic."
-- Delphine Perret, "Irony," Poetics Journal
(Don't mind me; I spent all weekend writing JavaScript....)

. . . 1999-08-18

An armed society is a polite society because an unarmed society can't tip their hats or shake hands.

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We've been tardy about noting the nice write-up that Juliet Clark's Art of Walt Disney received from peterme a while back:

Join Juliet Clark on a well-crafted, Disney-inspired reminiscence. There's something almost haunting about it.
(I guess the "almost" is in there so's not to confuse it with that f/x movie all the kids are crazy for.) Cholly will add that, like her other illustrated pamphlets, it's an enviably blissful marriage of text and picture, a Fred Astaire of graceful economy somehow strayed into the "Heyyy-eyyy, Abbott! I'm expressing myself! Look! I'm EX-PRESS-SING myself!" wide world of the Web.

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Gosh, I like the Internet: Tom Parmenter, famous father of the Parmenter boys, easily identified one of my mystery MP3 files as "Troubles, Troubles" by Clarence "Frogman" Henry; on the same day, one of the alt.binaries.sounds.mp3.1950s habitués identified the "holler billy goat" song as "Hide and Go Seek" by Bunker Hill. Amoeba Records, here I come.

. . . 1999-08-19

Hotsy-Totsy observer Curt Salada rightly took me to task for my rather casual dismissal of High Noon, adding, "Admittedly, I would rather have seen Grace Kelly keep on riding out of town."

As always, I blamed my aggressive stance on other critics' overratings; after all, an unnoticed entity does little harm: " slam is more due to the build-up it's always been given as 'the thinking man's Western.' Viewed from that seat, I thought it was as soppy as most 'thinking man's' things: full of self-pity and self-aggrandizing ideas of heroism...."

The astute Mr. Salada responded:

"Thinking man's" things might be a good avenue to explore further in the club (e.g., Uma Thurman -- pinup, Ayn Rand -- philosopher, etc.), though this kind of criticism may evolve into "how very bourgeoise," which is more distasteful than the things themselves.
... to be continued ...

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Yeah, I know the whole Web is getting into the Amazon Recommendation game, but by sacred Hera's bracelets mine are still the best:

You requested: Early Girls, Vol. 1 (Ace Records girl groups collection)

Our auction sellers recommend:

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And while the Hotsy Totsy Club is highfiving and backslapping itself, perhaps we might as well admit that Ray and Christina will be committing their soon-to-be-finished horror film, The Ichthyoid Syndrome ("The Persona of my time!" -- Camille Paglia), to the San Francisco Arts Commission Gallery as of September 22, 1999. Be there or be elsewhere.

. . . 1999-08-21

Finishing off my week of Salon-bashing: Mr. Delany read at Modern Times Bookstore last Tuesday to publicize the dual release of polemic Times Square Red, Times Square Blue and (very) graphic novel Bread and Wine, the story of Mr. Delany's now ten-years-solid romance with a formerly homeless man. A fine performance, and Mr. Delany looked downright rosy, but he had a few pointedly bemused remarks for the reviewer who asked, "What have these two impossibly unlike men spent the past decade talking about?"
Now anyone who wonders that can't have lived with someone for any length of time. Living together doesn't depend on intellectual discussions. It's more a matter of "Who'll do the laundry?" and "How was your day?"....

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Bang and bong and boulder bun
Are all my brain and body need.
Bang and bong and boulder bun
Are very good indeed.

... an' anotha thing ...... then again ...

Copyright to contributed work and quoted correspondence remains with the original authors.
All other material: Copyright 1999 Ray Davis.