Music: The Songs of Chuck Berry

You are bound to read me expounding sometime soon in these pages about how I love creating playlists on Spotify, an extension of my longtime favored pursuit of making mix tapes and later CDs. I recently endeavored to compile a set of Berry songs covered by others from what’s available on the service, and I admit I was surprised not to find more (even if his compositions, classic as some may be, are low in number). The ones that I did find, many of them gem performances, made explicit how Berry’s mastery of and cleverness with simple musical and lyrical forms is the true cross from which much of the rock’n’roll at its essence was carved. And they do endure and continue to satisfy, especially in the right hands. Currently at my personal #1 in the playlist of 70 or so recordings is Dion’s snappy take on “Sweet Little Rock’n’Roller.”

DVD/Cable Movie: Just Visiting

It takes a lot to get me to really laugh, and do so consistently, much as I’m a good humored guy, an absurdist as well as wiseacre at times. I didn’t expect much when I decided to view this movie via On Demand, only wanting some very light entertainment. I later learned that critics largely lambasted the remake of the French film Les Visiteurs. The premise is that a French knight and his servant are transported from the middle ages to modern times by black magic after an accidental misdeed, and wind up contending with the culture clash as well as fixing issues that date back to their time as well as current ones to help them return to their time. It stars Christina Applegate, and other critics be damned, I found it a total hoot, laughing throughout, delightfully entertained. And sometimes a good extended tickle of the funny bone is just what it takes to hit the sweet spot.

TV Series: Masters of Sex

This new Showtime show’s previews didn’t exactly woo me into watching. But given how good much of the original programming the channel creates is, I almost always give their series a shot. And find myself rather charmed by this story about the pioneering research on human sexual response done by William Masters and Virginia Johnson at Washington University starting in 1975. And just a few episodes in I am largely won over. It’s due in part to the strong performances by Michael Sheen and Lizzy Caplan as the duo, plus a perfect measure levity it brings to the sexual aspects of the show that strikes a tone that keeps it all from being tacky, voyeuristic or pandering.

From The Progressive Populist, December 1, 2013


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