Bits and Pieces from the Culture Wars

Some truly random thoughts today on aspects of the entertainment business.

I tried to watch The Interview yesterday. I felt it was important that I exercise my free speech rights, though it did not seem like the type of film I would enjoy. I came to two very definite conclusions:

First, the North Korean government has no sense of humour. There is nothing in this spoof that is worthy of the fuss they made over it. Certainly it is tasteless. I would suggest the humour was sophomoric or juvenile, but it probably isn’t that good.

Secondly, I would suggest those who made this film also have no sense of humour. That is rather sad given that this is supposed to be a comedy. I watched 30 minutes out of a sense of duty. Then I stopped. I have no idea if I will ever finish the film, but it isn’t high on my priority list.

Yesterday however did produce some cultural high spots. First and foremost, if you didn’t hear already, Harper Lee is going to publish a new novel in July. This is big news; it has been more than a half century since her last book. If her name isn’t familiar, you may have head of the book: To Kill a Mockingbird.

Harper Lee is 88 years old. She wasn’t planning on publishing a new work. Go Set a Watchman is a sequel to To Kill a Mockingbird, but was actually written first. Her editor, after reading Watchman, suggested she write the Mockingbird story, and the rest is American literary history. Lee thought the manuscript for Watchman had been lost, and with its recent rediscovery decided it was good enough to publish. The initial print run will be a couple of million.

I must confess, it has been so long since I have read To Kill a Mockingbird that I only retain bits of the story in my brain. And I have never seen the movie, though I know Gregory Peck was the star. I remember the names Atticus Finch and Boo Radley, and as I write this I am thinking I will have to dig out my copy of the book and reread it.

Also on the lost and now found and being released is a new album from David Wiffen, material recorded in the early 1970s and lost in the vaults until now. The album is rather appropriately titled Songs From the Lost and Found.

David Wiffen was part of the soundtrack of my early adult years, an Ottawa-based singer/songwriter who wrote intelligent songs that would stick in your head for days. I don’t know how many times I saw him in concert between 1973 and 1976, probably a dozen or more. Sometimes on his own, but once, memorably, a benefit show with his former bandmate Bruce Cockburn (they were in the group 3’s A Crowd together back in the 1960s).

I always expected David Wiffen to become a star, internationally known and acclaimed. That didn’t happen. Partly due to the breaks of the music business, where sometimes talent isn’t enough, and perhaps even more due to issues with alcohol. He doesn’t tour any more – it’s been close to 40 years since the last time I saw him perform live. During that time his songs have been covered by other artists, but it is david’s voice I have missed.

I haven’t heard the new record yet. It doesn’t matter – as soon as I can find it in a store I’m buying it. I remember what David Wiffen sounded like in the early 1970s; I know it is a great album.

So those are my thoughts for today, movies, literature and music all rolled into one.

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