Tag Archives: A Clockwork Orange

How the rabbit ears died

Nothing ages faster than a vision of the future. Re-read A Clockwork Orange today and you’re reminded of the Cold War, Harold Macmillan, and B.F. Skinner. Re-watch 2001: A Space Odyssey and you wonder whatever happened to Pan-Am airlines. Re-read Fahrenheit 451 and you find yourself explaining the concept of rabbit ears. 

Yeah, rabbit ears. Fahrenheit 451 was part of the summer reading list Dances With Mermaids brought home from school, so I got her a copy along with The October Country. Since she more or less lives with earbuds pumping dubstep directly into her brain, I derived some small amusement from mentioning Ray Bradbury’s image of people walling themselves off from the world with tiny “seashells” jammed into their ears. Then I remembered the scene in which Montag notices that the only house in his neighborhood where people are laughing and talking to each other is the one without a television antenna on the roof. And I found myself explaining to this child of the digital age how TV was once delivered into the living room through a roof antenna that looked like a deranged Erector Set project, or a pair of rabbit ears on top of the TV set, and that television reception was often a very iffy thing, apt to dissolve into a blizzard of static if the rabbit ears were improperly adjusted, or if somebody stepped back from the television after tweaking the controls like a safecracker. Even the way you sat affected reception on certain days. No wonder cable caught on so fast. I didn’t know from tai chi when I was a kid, but later on I instantly understood its purpose — an ancient Chinese technique for improving television reception.

I rattled on about all this, even throwing in a mention of the Peanuts comic strip sequence in which Charlie Brown has Snoopy stand on his TV and move his ears to clear up the picture. Then I caught the distant look in her eye, the look of a teenager who knows that if she waits long enough, Daddy will run out of oxygen and she will be able to leap free of the Old School Time Machine Tour. I do go on sometimes.

I was thinking of showing her some episodes of The Outer Limits, but I wonder what she would make of the intro, and the idea of someone else controlling the sacred vertical and the sanctified horizontal. The course of one’s evening TV viewing used to hang on those two pegs.

Maybe I just won’t worry about it. One of those tempus fugit things.

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Friday finds

Anthony Burgess once said he would have preferred to be thought of as a musician who wrote novels, rather than a novelist who wrote music on the side. This interview with composer-conductor Paul Phillips includes samples of the late author’s symphonic and choral works, and touches on Burgess’ use of musical structures in his novels: e.g., A Clockwork Orange was patterned on the sonata form. It’s all interesting enough to make me hope Phillips’ book about Burgess and his music, A Clockwork Counterpoint, comes out in a much less pricey format.

What’s a nice waterfront property in Iceland going for these days?

A meditation on the wonder of the guitar, sparked by current shows at both the Met and MoMA.

Allison Flood goes forward in time to critique an unreleased and (by her) unread Stephen King novel about going back in time.

Frederik Pohl remembers Ian and Betty Ballantine, the couple who turned Ballantine Books into a paperback publishing giant.

For the day after St. Patrick’s Day, a brief animated biography of the man of the hour.

Brian Malow talks about Hollywood’s intensifying love affair with the works of Philip K. Dick. At the risk of sounding repetitious, I still think Christopher Nolan’s Memento is the film that comes closest to capturing PKD’s tone, even if it isn’t based on one of his stories.

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Friday finds

Today would have been film critic Pauline Kael’s 90th birthday, and to mark the occasion film blogger Jason Bellamy has turned his site The Cooler into a clearing house for arguments about all things Kael. The clip above is from a four-part 1982 interview on the occasion of her book 5001 Nights at the Movies, and if you like it you can watch parts two, three and four.  

Pauline Kael. She’s never said a good thing about me yet. That dirty old broad. But she’s probably the most qualified critic in the world. Cause she cares about film and those who are involved in it. I wish I could really rap her. But I can’t. Cause she’s very very competent. She’s knows what she’s talking about.”

Of trains, Secaucus Junction, William Carlos Williams and Paterson, N.J.

What did you do for Bloomsday?

Time to catch up on John O’Hara.

Call me crazy, but the time to stop your boss from trying to murder your only son with electric bolts is before he starts, not several minutes in when your kid is smoking like a grill full of baby back ribs.”

Learn more about Anna Julia Cooper and why she belongs on that stamp.

A chat with Michael Moorcock.

What were people reading during the Depression? Take a stroll through back issues of Publishers Weekly to learn who was “the best paid author in the world” in 1933, and to find ads for Mein Kampf (a “stirring autobiography [in which] you will find Hitler’s own story of his meteoric rise from obscurity to world-wide fame”).

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Friday finds

clockworkSome years ago, Stanley Kubrick ordered an assistant to gather up and incinerate all the outtakes and unused footage from his 1971 film A Clockwork Orange, thereby denying future cineastes any hope of seeing an alternate or extended cut of the movie. There are, however, stills from some of the deleted scenes, and you’ll find a bunch of them at this very thorough tribute site dedicated to the star, Malcolm McDowell. The stills, with corresponding passages from the Anthony Burgess novel, include shots from the gang’s attack on a man coming home from the library (above),  the “sammy act” with the old ladies at a bar, and scenes of the droogs preparing to steal a car.  

What Samuel Johnson can teach us about writing. Apropos of which, today’s word is devotionalist.

It’s the new taste sensation that’s going to harden the arteries of the nation! Really, your cholesterol is going to shoot through the roof just reading about this thing.

Back in 1972, Jerry Lewis embarked on the film he envisioned as his grand artistic statement. The result was The Day the Clown Cried, a legendarily le-jerry1awful Holocaust drama starring Lewis as a clown who plays Pied Piper to a group of children being led into the gas chamber at the Auschwitz death camp. The production was a nightmare of delays and financial problems, and the film could not even be released because the rights to the screenplay had lapsed. The handful of people who have seen the only existing rough cut of the film say it is a work of jaw-dropping bad taste — one witness said it is “so drastically wrong” that it achieves a kind of perfection. This remarkable site gathers stills and production photos, various drafts of the script and this lethally hilarious essay that was one of the high points of the days when Spy magazine could still bring the funny. (Bird-dogged by Scott McLemee.)        

This bookseller in Kabul doesn’t much like The Bookseller of Kabul.

We reached the northern town of Akureyri, and met up with Janus, the Greenlandic man who did not love Eeva-Liisa. That night we watched the northern lights in the clear sky above the fjörd. Janus — who bragged that he saw the aurora borealis “five or six times a week” at home — told us that if you whistled, the northern lights would move. I was amazed when he whistled, and the yellow streaks shimmered green and wiggled toward us.

Troy Paiva was photographing Vermillion Sands before he even knew about the place. Now that he does, he can understand why people kept making the comparison.

In the mid-1970s, Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page agreed to compose soundtrack music for Lucifer Rising, at that time the latest  film from Kenneth Anger, who shared Page’s interest in Aleister Crowley and matters of the occult. Anger ended up firing Page and hiring a former Charles Manson crony to compose the music, but now you can listen to Page’s work here. Should you download? As Crowley himself would say, do what thou wilt. And, if you live in the New York area, you can catch this retrospective of Anger’s films at P.S. 1.

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