Scott Hutchison: An Appreciation

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“I hate when I feel like this, and I never…hated you.”

Looking back now, surveying the wreck, I can see, and concede, that I wasn’t quite ready to share four walls of any description with Scott Hutchison, and that my limited exposure to his work, intense and gratifying as it was – right up, at times, to the edge of transcendence – left me terribly ill-prepared to process the sad end to which he came. The self-effacing singer and oft-stunning lyricist of revered folk/indie rock thunderhead Frightened Rabbit died at some point last week, surely by his own hand, in the woods near a marina in his native Scotland, his body finally discovered at the end of a desperate, wide-ranging, communal search effort two days after he’d gone missing. If it appears I am unconcerned about the specifics in this case, you are correct. There’s nothing to be gained in any sense I value by trailing behind Scott Hutchison and somehow observing as he whittled away his life’s final hours in isolation. My heart’s broken enough already, thanks. Continue reading “Scott Hutchison: An Appreciation”

Bill Paxton: An Appreciation

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Bill Paxton’s characters always seemed like they were up to some mischief, or, failing that, up for some. The hint or indicator springs from the face, and his was a deceptively expressive one, with its deep, handsome lines, wide, slightly gap-toothed smile, and flinty grey-blue eyes that fairly danced with life, ill-contented to ever sit idly by while others made their mark or had their fun, desperate to be wherever, and with whomever, the action was. Action became Bill Paxton’s calling card over time, but he brought the same levels of play and professionalism to grade-Z schlock that he did to ponderous prestige pictures, and reliably came out of the transaction as one of the most memorable things on the screen. The kind of resume and cinematic archive he now leaves to the ages couldn’t possibly be the product of luck alone. Continue reading “Bill Paxton: An Appreciation”

Ian “Lemmy” Kilmister: An Appreciation

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I foolishly tasked myself with the impossible, to attempt to sum up Motorhead’s Lemmy Kilmister for posterity. My head was spinning at the news of his sudden loss – at the age of seventy following a very public year in precisely the wrong sort of spotlight, and a late cancer diagnosis kept sensibly private from everyone but those who most needed to know – and the tears were still uncomfortably fresh. If the world this morning after is full of shocked music fans who surely felt themselves existing on an intimate, “need to know” basis nevertheless, that only serves as another bit of evidence of how far the man’s reach extended and how deeply his impact was felt. Ian Fraser “Lemmy” Kilmister was so many different things to a sneaky large segment of the music-going public: a figurehead, a fountainhead, a guru, a gadfly, a hedonist, an evangelist, a hellraiser, a barnburner, a stoic professional and rock and roll raconteur all rolled into one, with countless miles of astonishing history behind him and a cheering crowd before him each and every night. Continue reading “Ian “Lemmy” Kilmister: An Appreciation”

Scott Weiland: An Appreciation

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“STP last night was one of those rare shows where you strain in hindsight to think of ways it could’ve been much better and come up with air, outside of ‘oh, they didn’t play obscure song A…’ Who cares, when you notice at a particularly heightened moment that 4000 people are singing the lyrics to ‘Plush’ in unison? So good to have them back, happy, energetic, rocking, in full bloom. Great night with Nick and D.”   -Personal Facebook entry, 8/18/10.

Late Stone Temple Pilots frontman Scott Weiland was just one of those guys, a soul so historically troubled by issues with drug abuse that his end, when it eventually came, would inevitably be heralded online in a procession of shared news links, more often than not containing personal notes to the effect of, “Sad, but not surprising.” Yet, the news of his passing, received ignominiously in just that sort of sober outpouring via my Facebook newsfeed at, like, 2:30 this morning, nevertheless hit me like a punch to the gut. Continue reading “Scott Weiland: An Appreciation”

Wes Craven: An Appreciation

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It could be said that I came of age, as both a horror fan and a fan of movies in general, during Wes Craven’s golden age, but the very suggestion of a “golden age” implies undue disrespect to the several distinct and highly influential phases of his career as the author and director of uncommonly smart, uncommonly affecting, above the bar genre nightmares. Craven was a calm, thoughtful, professorial type, sensible but sly, a horror lifer who never particularly seemed to mind toiling away in a disreputable genre. Instead, his work strengthened it from within. At two flashpoint moments, in 1984 and 1996, he succeeded in bringing the movie mainstream to him rather than the other way around, but some of his most personal and memorable successes were written in the margins of his career comparatively. Neither quite the all-encompassing brand name that was his zombie-wrangling forebear George A. Romero, nor the sci-fi/horror auteur that was his contemporary John Carpenter, Wes Craven’s name on a poster, above or just below the title, still carried impressive weight and, with it, made plain certain, unspoken promises. Continue reading “Wes Craven: An Appreciation”

Chuck Noll: An Appreciation

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As best I can piece together, the first football game I ever watched was the Pittsburgh Steelers’ victory over the Los Angeles Rams in Super Bowl XIV. In 1980 I was still a fairly tiny thing, pure as the driven snow, and life was interesting to a degree I found almost overwhelming. From what I could tell, everybody sure seemed excited and invested, practically over-awed, by what was happening on this particular field. There are surely few athletic feats more impactful for an impressionable youngster to witness than Joe Greene engulfing a cowed quarterback or the sick thud of Jack Lambert concussing a tight end. It was striking. Continue reading “Chuck Noll: An Appreciation”

Mad Magazine and editor Al Feldstein: An Appreciation

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In my mother’s house in Northeast Tennessee, at the top of a staircase that is far too narrow, steep and rickety for her to climb with any regularity, sits the last of my childhood bedrooms. Predictably, given its former tenant, it’s kind of a mess even today, a dusty three-dimensional collage disguised as something habitable and seemingly hammered together out of antique furniture, stacks of obsolete videotapes, B-movie and album posters and pictures of musicians decades old, or in a few cases (Freddie Mercury, Kurt Cobain, Joey Ramone), decades deceased. Every time I visit my mother’s farm it’s like sleeping in a time capsule, which honestly isn’t all that bad a deal. I can see empty, vaguely rectangular blue spaces on the wall, indicative of the choicest few posters, which migrated with me when I moved to Ohio. My old room is a valuable link, mentally and emotionally, to the teenager I used to be, and I think that’s just as much for the few items that are missing as for the many more that are preserved. Continue reading “Mad Magazine and editor Al Feldstein: An Appreciation”