I’ve bought an embarrassing number of weird old records over the last several years, some of them priced considerably higher than the $1 I dropped on Proudly They Came… to Honor America. The double LP was a memento from “Honor America Day,” a 1970 Independence Day observance organized by President Nixon’s inaugural committee chair.
I’d never heard of that event until I found this record, but when I read up on it, mostly in Kevin J. Kruse’s 2015 book One Nation Under God, it struck me as similar in intention to the self-aggrandizing “Salute to America” that President Trump has announced for this Thursday, but far less dire and militaristic. I wrote about all this for the Washington Post.
What a treat to dissect the third and gnarliest John Wick with Linda and Glen and Aisha Harris.
While recommending Brian Raftery’sBest. Movie. Year. Ever: How 1999 Blew Up the Big Screen, I happened to name one of my most be-loathed movies from that year, the Best Picture-winning American Beauty, while omitting the names of my most beloved: Rushmore, Three Kings, Eyes Wide Shut, and so on. Raftery did not include John McTiernan’s remake of The Thomas Crown Affair in his book about 1999’s most notable and groundbreaking movies, probably because a remake of a 30-year-old thriller isn’t groundbreaking, and the movie did not have a substantial cultural impact.
But it was was the last good movie McTiernan made, I’m sorry to say, and I saw it in the theater that summer along with Star Wars: Episode I — The Phantom Menace, Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me, Notting Hill, American Pie, The Sixth Sense, Mystery Men, and all the rest, and I have revisited it on several occasions since.
Have mercy! This is just getting ridiculous now. For the lucky thirteenth iteration of my Yuletunes Eclectic and Inexplicable series, I thought that instead of releasing it in two indefensibly long parts, as had been my habit since I stopped burning and printing physical CDs of this thing—a nice bauble to thrust into some unsuspecting person’s hand, but expensive—I thought I would do a sort of podcast limited series of four episodes, released weekly, counting down to the Feast of Christmas. Because four is more than two—one hundred percent more, from a numerical perspective. And I believe in always giving one hundred percent, Christmaswise.
I learned of my former boss’s passing last Saturday via a text from my friend Brian just after midnight:
“My sincere condolences on your friend Ricky Jay.”
I worked for RJ for eight months, 13 years ago. He was kind to me, and I recall many moments of warmth between us, but it would be disingenuous for me to imply we were buddies. I was his employee. Then again, people who knew him for much longer than I did spoke of being very conscious of minding those kinds of boundaries with him, too.
I didn’t think I was going to write anything about him. I didn’t see how I could without also writing about me, and a rough patch in my life, which seemed perilously narcissistic/self-pitying/starfucking/all of the above.
Then old buddy Glen, who is also, happily, my editor, prodded me to start and I couldn’t stop.
It had been too long since I got to appear on a PCHH panel with the great Gene Demby from Code Switch, so I was very happy to find myself sitting beside him for this episode dissecting Creed II, which frustrated each of us in different ways. You can hear the episode here; my review of the movie is here.
I’ve got a feature in today’s Washington City Paper about Raghad Mahklouf, a Syrian asylum-seeker—and veteran actor—who’s appearing in The Welders’ new riff on Pericles. Only 34 seats are available for each performance, so don’t sleep on those tickets if this appeals to you.