Saturday, January 03, 2015

The Elvis Atlas


The Elvis Atlas: A Journey Through Elvis Presley's America (Henry Holt Reference Book) by Michael Gray and Roger Osborne

Michael Gray and Roger Osborne follow the career of Elvis documenting the geography ofelvis text the world of the king, the geographic basis of the influences on him and his music, and the places where Elvis played and made his career. A detailed history accompanies the maps and charts.

The first chapters begin with the musical roots of his music and family. We get to see mapped and discussed the places he was known to frequent. Elvis is a product of those things that influence d him. His music is not a creation of itself.

The influence of the South is vividly made in the book. Tennessee is the hub for those concerts making Elvis a musician and then a star. Gray and Osborne map out the concerts of Elvis to show the locations and the size of the crowds. The South is also the melting pot for the country, blues, gospel, and African components that combine in early Rock and in the music which begins his career. Elvis sang a combination of Country as it was based in Appalachian music, Blues as sung by African-Americans, Gospel as sung by both Whites and African-Americans, and the rhythms of earlier African-American and African music.

Interesting is that Elvis venturing north was not an automatic success. Early concerts in the North do not have filled auditoriums. One does not expect this. It is possible that anti-Rock and Roll movements or the cost of tickets held these audiences down. The eventual fan base for Elvis is not reflected well in his early concerts outside the South.

The move to Hollywood for movie making takes his music west, but also spreads it around the country. This period would include his time in the Army and Germany. Rather than Elvis in concert, you get Elvis as movie star.

The sorrow of the later post-military movie period is shown as putting weight on Elvis as it was his managers will and not his. The early films and their locations were films Elvis wanted to make, but his later career’s films were formularized to maximize Colonel Parker’s sense of what would market Elvis. There is some expansion of his geographic world to Hawaii, but this is not his favored part of the world.

The fall of Elvis is shown in his being pulled away from the places his early and middle career took him. Graceland becomes an escape His spiritual comfort is in his youthful locations and work. Pulled to Hollywood and places not to his suiting, stages where he is not singing his work, deprive him of reward.

In this wonderful work, one flaw that should be noted, is in the attempt to place the Presley family in its historic perspective. This also extends into the historic development of Country Music itself. If going into this history at all, the specific history of the Scot-Irish people should have correctly noted. Country Music develops from a Scot-Irish musical tradition. The sense of sadness, gloom, hurt, loss, and the tough nature of life in early Country Music—or first called “Hillbilly” music-- reflects the history of the Scot-Irish people.

The Scot-Irish title denotes a group of people who began as Scot crofters or farmers who were expelled from their land in favor of sheep herding by the land owners. These Scots were offered land in Northern Ireland as the British consolidated their control of the Irish in the North just after 1600. Later their Presbyterian faith was not regarded as acceptable and they faced some persecution in Ireland. Those who left for America were called the Scot-Irish after their previous dual locations.

In America they moved to the hills to escape the governmental control they regarded as mean and unsafe. Life in the hills was not pleasant or easy. It was a tough life with many hardships. The sense of death, loss of love, hard conditions of Country Music comes from their songs into the mid-1900s. Rock then takes an African set of rhythms, blues, and instruments and Rock was created. Elvis develops his music out of this heritage.

The Elvis fan can follow the career of the king in this book, noting the geography of his life and music had great impact on him and the music many like.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Cabaret is Us


Cabaret [1972] follows the life of American Sally Bowles and her compatriots at the Kit-Kat Club in Berlin in the 1930s. Joel Grey, as the emcee in the stage show, states the purpose of the show as being that life outside is disappointing, but here everything is beautiful. Put that outside truly outside your mind and enjoy. While it is clearly Berlin in the 1930s, is it so much more, like America in 2014? The parallels are multiple and scary. Strictly as Germany in the 1930s it shows a world quickly being overtaken by totalitarian fascism with many ugly sides. The film has a giant elephant in the room throughout it and the cast is in the process of accepting and/or adjusting to it in a clear show of decadent behavior.

The Cabaret makes light and fun of the world for a mixed audience of damaged souls. It promotes and exposes the corrupt world while only hinting about the fascist elephant. Enjoy!, escape!, We the future looks changing and disastrous. “Money Makes the World Go Around” mimics the greed of America from bottom to top, Sally Bowles saying”…when I go I’, going like Elsie” forecasts enjoyment of a valueless life that was their fate and increasingly ours.

The Nazis singing in the park and the masses joining in as those more aware cringe. Americans cheer as their land of freedom becomes totalitarian. Totalitarian? Yes. Name an area of life that is not controlled or influenced by government, and ridiculed if ti is not? It is impossible actually as the question lacks an answer.

So Americans party in ignorance of the impending doom. In Cabaret they find illumination too late. Will we?

Of course a major difference is that the Nazis beat up the opposition while in America they are just marginalized via ridicule. Publically ridiculed they are disenfranchised. They are a silly or worse part of an equation where they work out to a zero. You can tell it easily because it is the place the fascists violate their pc rules. They are supporters of women’s right yet national insult and degrade any woman not in line with fascist policy. Note the disenfranchisement of the Tea Party as racist or stupid for not wanting to spend into the ground.

“Tomorrow Belongs to Me” is the key. The elites tell the lower classes of the rewards if American belongs to them while making their deals with business.

And in America. The dancing girls dance as the band plays on as the fascists’ wreak their damage. Cabaret is Berlin in the 19030s and Chicago in the 2010s.

Thursday, February 06, 2014

Good Movies and Their Place: Rose Marie [1936]

Rose Marie [1936]. Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy sing for their peoplsemariee. Three great films for that warmer feeling about life. Sweethearts is their theme song based movie. Funny and a classic. Naughty Marietta is light and fun, but slightly plagued by a lack of editing skills. Rose Marie is a triumph of wonderful wilderness scenes and magnificent singing. The geography view is of Quebec. Now one has to figure that out as it sure looks like California...well because it is. Shot in El dorado County, Lake Tahoe, and Cascade Lake, California, the studio is using local mountains to substitute for what has to be the more rugged parts of Quebec. Either that or they cut out a long train ride some place. The hills are rounded and somewhat forested. They do look watered but should have more tree cover. Not too bad of a job for select parts of Quebec. They use one correct lake name, but other places are made up. Some time is spent in Montreal but is all indoors.

Wednesday, January 08, 2014

Dallas: a television sample of credits


IN just the first minutes of a Dallas episode from the 1980s note how much of Dallas one sees as setting for the drama.  And yes I have to note the exaggeration.  If you visit the ranch in real life, it is just not that large and has a housing development to the South.  Television does distort some.

Peyton Place Credits Show the Setting


The opening credits are used in media presentations to establish setting, among other elements.  The goal, especially on television, is to establish a context or setting for the drama so that viewers or listeners can begin immediately to place the dramatic action in proper context.  On television this is essential as the program only has 22 or 44 minutes to entertain and cannot take time to establish setting by normal action and views.  The movie has more time and often exploits this time to the fullest.

In the opening credits for Peyton Place we notice the very strong music bringing out the visual elements of New England.  We see farming, ocean coasts, seasonal changes, and such.  The small town nature of Peyton Place is made clear.

Character Alison Mackenzie begins the next section providing a transition from the purely visual scenes to those scenes being couple with human emotions of importance to the dram of the book and movie.

Good Movies and Their Place


A Summer Place [1959]. Sandra Dee and Troy Donahue overacting to the maximum in this drama of adult and teen angst set on an island off the coast of Maine. Sloan Wilson’s novel comes to melodramatic life in this exploration of the growing sexual permissiveness of America. See where it all started and how.  The concerns of the teens will seem charming to some and totally odd to younger post moderns.

Your geographic view is of the coast of Maine. The isolation of the island and the rocky coast are well depicted.  The coast is beautiful and Holly wood travels to places like this partially to just show that big view that television has lacked most of its life. 

Then again, just that people might love on a island and have some isolation from postmodern life, may be a geographic mention that will strike a chord with many in any postmodern audience.

You also get to see a Frank Lloyd Wright building in Carmel-By-The-Sea, California. The Della Walker house is worth a look by itself.  Lloyd attempted to make architecture fit its environment, to become a part of it not a separate element.  His home blends into the rocks of the shore.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Good Movies and Their Place


7. Across the Universe [2007]. A tale of the 1960s set to Beatle music. Beautiful music, wonderful adaption of those songs, and a story suited to explaining the times. What the 19060s were about all tied in one. The geographic view is of Merseyside, United Kingdom; Liverpool,, United Kingdom; New York City; and Princeton, New Jersey. The English locations show an industrial zone and the housing of those living there. It has that old, dirty look, certainly one of some poverty. New York city is the stereotypic New York of apartments and urban life. Princeton, New Jersey is a typical university site.

Sunday, October 06, 2013

Good Movies and Their Place


3. Peyton Place [1957]. My favorite book made into a great screen film. Melodrama at its best. Diana Varsi is marvelous as Alison MacKenzie. Hope Lange does an excellently troubled Salena Cross. And David Nelson not trailing his younger brother is a treat for those of that age. Lloyd Nolan is crotchety as the old town doctor. Russ Tamblyn is near totally perfect in his role as Norman. And all of this is Grace Metalious’s marvelously constructed story of small town New England life. And the view of New England is breathtaking. Your geographic view combines some stereotypic icons of New England like the leaves and the lobsters, with a 1941 look at the nature of housing and life.  The images in the credits are particular place setting and beautiful.  The view from Peyton’s Rock gives an over view of the area.  Of course, just the scenes of daily life take lace ina tre lined, lake, ocean area.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Casablanca [1942]

2. Casablanca [1942]. What can one say. The judgment of the world places this one on top most of the time. Made on the fly, it turned out one of the best stories ever told. Ingrid Berman and Humphrey Bogart carry this tale of love and war over the top. Claude Raines lightens the emotional load all the way. The location is Casablanca. while the location of the film you are watching is Morocco, the movie was filmed in Hollywood with one scene at Van Nuys airport. Nonetheless, one gets the look of the desert and the heat. Of course the most geographic line in the movie is where Claude Raines and Humphrey Bogart are outside talking.
Captain Renault: What in heaven's name brought you to Casablanca?
Rick: My health. I came to Casablanca for the waters.
Captain Renault: The waters? What waters? We're in the desert.
Rick: I was misinformed.
or watch Misinformed.
[Sources: IMDb. 2013. IMDb. Online. . The Worldwide Guide to Film Locations . 2013. The Worldwide Guide to Film Locations. Online.]  Video Link]