Babylon Berlin

Babylon Berlin

I know, I know, this is the fourth missive today. You think I’m not worried about overloading you? But this has been one of those hellish weeks of obligations and today I’m free because I was planning to sit in a chair all day for an IVIG infusion, tomorrow and Sunday too, but it took too long for insurance to approve it, assuming they ultimately approve it at all. So I’m planning on next weekend, we’ll see.

As for my skin…

It’s much better than it was. But I’m starting to get some new skin rips so the dermatologist said on Monday to get said IVIG and another Rituxan infusion in May. It’s going in the right direction, but I’m still taking the prednisone. Got down to 12.5 mg and…

I’ve just about had it. These damn pills not only make you whacked, they give you the munchies, at least that’s what the cardiologist said. So the dermatologist said to go down to 10 and if that works, after a week go to 7.5, but beware of crashing.


Oh yes I did.

She was listing the potential symptoms. Balance issues, dizziness. I’d felt some of those, but didn’t want to admit it, I wanted to get off the damn pills. But Tuesday night watching “Babylon Berlin” on my iPad, I started to feel weird. Off. In bed too. You know, like if you weren’t really tired you’d like to commit suicide.

And then Wednesday…

I was driving to the cardiologist, not because I’m dying, but because she’s an expert and money will buy you the ability to live, and I’m beginning to peak and freak, am I really going to be able to hold on all day? Worried about this I packed a 2.5 mg prednisone pill in my pocket and took it in the bathroom when I arrived at the doctor and that took the edge off, but I’m wondering if I can ever get off. The dermatologist said I might have to see an endocrinologist, it’s endless I tell you, ENDLESS!

So “Babylon Berlin” is the most expensive non-English TV series ever. Sixteen episodes for $40 million. And it looks it. All that money is up on the screen. Almost makes you want to see it on the big screen, i.e. the theatre. As for all the e-mail I’ll get for watching it on my iPad, and I will, society is filled with people telling you you’re doing it wrong, oh, at first I watched it on the flat panel, but long after dark Felice is asleep and the noise…

So watching this I wanted to jet back to that era, 1929 Germany. Oh, I know, it wasn’t good for the Jews, and to tell you the truth I’d be dead, with my CML and pemphigus, but it was so intriguing, in the days before not only mobile phones but TV and so much more. As in, you were on your own and could get away with things. Now you don’t want to commit any offense, there’s a camera everywhere. Just watch these crime dramas on television, they always go to the tape.

And the whole family, multiple generations, is living in one apartment. And there’s squalor and lack of work but despite being so depressed and downtrodden everybody’s fully alive. Living by their wits. Imagine a world where no one’s looking at a screen, and fighting for survival.

So Charlotte is a prostitute at night and a wannabe sleuth during the day. She needs the money, that’s why she sacrifices her body, after dancing in a way that makes sixties movements look tame, and the investigatory life inspires her, we all need something to live for.

Not that you can figure this out right away. “Babylon Berlin” is one of those shows where you cannot tell what’s going on. Turns out it’s intentional. You don’t know why they’re stealing the train at the beginning until almost the very end. But by then you’re hooked. The more you watch, the more you like it.

And there are too many loose ends, and too many questions.


You enter an alternative universe and you can’t wait to sink back into it every night.

Liv Lisa Fries is the breakout star here. She treads the line between cute and beautiful and with her voluminous hair and pluck you cannot take your eyes off her. She far eclipses Jennifer Lawrence. Watch out for her. And her name is “Charlotte,” and oftentimes they call her “Lotte,” and now I know where that name comes from, I always wondered, like “Lotte Lenya,” you pronounce the “e” at the end, unlike in English.

And you keep wondering why the vice detective is slurping drugs.

And the hated policeman is a Jew, but then how did he get this gig?

It’s 1929, before Hitler, and there’s a fight between…

You almost believe these people are living in that era, that’s how well done this series is. You’d be stunned to see them in regular life.

I’d love to go into the plot but I don’t want to ruin it for you.

I’d love to watch it again, but I don’t do that, like Pauline Kael I only see something once, especially in a world where there’s so much else to see. I focus on plot, story, I want to know what happens, and once I do…

But there’s this death scene… You think you know what happened, and then you don’t, spectacularly done, one of the best in visual media.


I can’t exactly recommend “Babylon Berlin.” Some of you will turn it off immediately, some will wonder where it’s going.

But others will be entranced.

By a whole world where it’s not about a happy ending so much as telling you how it really went down.

If you can handle the truth.

P.S. Watch the show with subtitles, the dubbing is just too disorienting. Go into your Netflix settings, it’s easy.

P.P.S. When Bryan Ferry sings in the club your jaw will drop. It’s like all his solo records come alive. He was always a man from another era, THIS ONE!

My Tires

My father was an early adopter. He was the first person in our community to have air conditioning in his car, an aftermarket installation in our ’64 VistaCruiser, and the first person to buy Michelins, my father swore by Michelin tires, before Sears rebranded them and drove them over railroad tracks to prove the superiority of the radial tire.

And I’ve always driven Michelins since.

They came on my BMW 2002. The XAS. Which over the eleven year lifespan of that car morphed into the XVS, but it was essentially the same tire, and each set lasted 60,000 miles when they were warranted for 40,000, when that was seen as stratospheric, before the low-rolling resistance wonders of today which can be warranted for 60,000.

My BMW 325e came with Pirellis. Always an also-ran, with a famous calendar. But despite that car going 190,000+ miles I never switched to Michelins, because every time I’d be about to, Pirelli would have a sale, and it just didn’t seem economically prudent to switch to the French brand with an American factory, even though the P6s never lasted that long.

And the car I’m driving now came with Bridgestones. What crap they were. Only lasted 12,000 miles. And noisy! God, my car is noisy to begin with!


I couldn’t buy Michelins because they didn’t come in my size.

So I went with the Pirellis.

Now you have to understand, my high performance car came with high performance summer tires, which you truly can’t drive in the cold, because they firm up and slide all over the place, not an issue in SoCal, but just about everywhere else…they’re a no-go or you need two sets of tires (and maybe two sets of rims!) Furthermore, summer tires wear more heavily. In addition, if I want to take my car to the snow (that’s how they say it down here, where the snow never falls in the city, you GO to the snow)… But I never have, even though my machine is four wheel drive. But I switched to the all season iteration, of the aforementioned Pirellis, and they were much quieter than the Bridgestones and drove much better but around 20,000 miles, they were worse for wear. But damned if I was gonna buy a new set, they were so damn expensive. So I kept driving them and driving them…

Until I made it to 30,000 and became too scared. You see my car has a quirk. It wears out tires on the outside of the front wheels. Save me the alignment comments, I get my car aligned twice a year, I bought the lifetime contract, more of which later. And I keep looking at other four wheel drive cars to see if they have the same issue, but they don’t. Then again, they are not WRXs with STi steering racks. Yes, my unique Saab which is really a Subaru has that, a mixture of standard and extreme. And I got an insane deal on it, $9500 off, but I’m sacrificing on resale, because Saab went out of business, even though my 92x is superior to the equivalent WRX, which could fetch 10k, but I keep driving it, because it’s paid for and I don’t have to worry about it, and I’m a serious worrier.

And you need a Japanese car, you always want to buy a Japanese car, don’t let anybody tell you otherwise unless money is no object. Sure, buy a Tesla or German automobile, better yet, LEASE ONE, if you’re not worried about costs, because the repair bills will kill you. The window regulator on my physical therapist’s BMW just went and it was $600 to fix it, at the INDEPENDENT! You don’t want to pay that.

And having OCD and being an inveterate i-dotter and t-crosser, I took my car to Pep Boys three weeks back to have the tires rotated and aligned, which I do every 5,000 miles, to ensure the warranty will be honored, and they wouldn’t do it, wouldn’t rotate, wouldn’t touch it, because the damn tires were worn out in the same way! On the outside!

Did I tell you I switched to Michelin? Once they made them in my size, after the Pirellis.

The first set went 20,000 and fell apart, the warranty was honored.

This is the second set. They only had 24k on them. But they said I needed new ones.

No way.

These tires cost the better part of a grand. ENOUGH ALREADY!

So I’m continuing to drive. But I’m scared. There’s that OCD for you. I’m catastrophizing in my mind. And when the car squirms over the Botts Dots, I fantasize accidents. And I’m thinking how far I want to go in this car, and then I think I should get the tires replaced, but after the major service, the dealer will rotate the tires for me, I know they will, the rears have a bit more life in them than the fronts, even though at Pep Boys they said the rears were done too.

So last Friday afternoon I’m driving to Brentwood and I hear a thump. Driving over a gutter that I cross all the time. And the radio was off, I’d just been talking to my mother on the phone, I felt I was being super-sensitive.

And after my appointment it wasn’t in my mind.

But I heard that sound on the freeway. And descending the hill to Felice’s house. And when I got out of the car, figuring I’d check to see if there was a problem, even though I knew there wouldn’t be one, the tire was nearly flat.

Oh boy.

The physical therapist was coming in a little over an hour.

But if I left the car until the next day, the tire would certainly be flat, and then I’d have to call AAA, and they’d have to install the donut, so I Googled, there was a Pep Boys on Sepulveda, the PT said she could do Sunday if necessary, I decided to drive.

And now I’m really anxious. Am I gonna make it?

And when I get to the Mobil station I see the air hose and decide to pull in.

And the tire is essentially flat, but it won’t fill up all the way. I can hear the air hissing out. I can see the nail in the tread. I only have two more miles to go, will I make it? I’m so worried about ruining the rim.

And I do. And tell this new Pep Boys shop to rotate after fixing.

And they said yes and then said no. BECAUSE OF THE WORN OUT EDGE OF THE TIRE! They wouldn’t touch it. Could I make it to the 76 station, they’d fix it, right?

Oh, I forgot to mention. I couldn’t buy new tires BECAUSE THEY DID NOT HAVE THEM IN STOCK! Not until Tuesday, and what was I gonna drive until then?

Maybe Pirellis. But they were not only not in stock, they were more expensive!

And the clerk is searching and finally he says…

He can have the Michelins tomorrow.

Now there’s the matter of the price.

The guy in Santa Monica said he’d charge me $1200. Including the lifetime alignment. You see I bought that at the predecessor shop, Discount Tire, but now Pep Boys was no longer honoring it. So I’d have to buy it again. But that was way too much money. But then he said if I paid for them then, he’d give me an all-in deal for $900. Which is still insane. Especially since he said he had to order them and they’d come with no warranty.

Then I decided I’d join Costco, where they’re friendlier and the price is better and they fill the tires with nitrogen so you don’t have to check them, but then I found out…

They don’t do alignments, so that’s a no-go.

So now I’m waiting for this Pep Boys guy Sal to figure out a price. And he keeps on hitting the same screen on the computer again and again. My eyes are rolling, this guy is illiterate. And then he can see me looking and he explains it’s not his fault, you have to do it this way.

And when he’s all done, he comes up with a price, including the lifetime alignment, of $560!!! Even cheaper than Costco, I’m in! You see all that computer work was about honoring the 45,000 mile warranty, it had to be done tire by tire, I was getting $69 off per tire!

He says the tires will be there the next day between 11 and 2 and he’ll call me but the phone doesn’t ring so I dial him and he says they just came in and my car will be ready in an hour and a half. And I ask him if he’s gonna be there, and he says until they close up shop.

But he wasn’t.

And the new guy, Henry, he’s looking at the bill and says Sal made a mistake, and now the price is gonna be deep into the 700s. And they’ve got me over a barrel, and I’m gonna pay, and it’s still less than I had budgeted, but why is it always something. And I’ve been through so much I’m just standing there mute, and Henry says it’s actually the computer’s fault, this happens, it only writes up installation for one tire instead of four.

So Henry says he won’t charge me full price for installation.

And I just stand there.

And then he lowers the price on the lifetime alignment, and it’s down to $625, and WTF, I’ll just pay.

Meanwhile, it’s pouring cats and dogs. That’s right, all pedigrees, no half-breeds. And I can’t even check whether they put the right tires on, since there’s too much water on the wheels. And I had this problem once before, of them ordering the wrong tires, so I’m anxious. That’s a bad thing about getting older, you’ve seen too many mistakes, you always expect the worst.

But when the sun came out and I got back in my car…

The ride was softer. And they’re Michelins, so they’re dead quiet. And i was no longer scared. But the PERFORMANCE! This is the Michelin Pilot Sport A/S 3+. The best they sell. For my car anyway. And suddenly…

The transition from the 405 to the 10. I’m glued to the curve.

And I’m hitting 80 on the freeway and it’s like walking. And my car has the power, the turbo fires up and the four wheel drive with the twitchy handling allows you to meander all over the road and a smile crosses my face. This is FANTASTIC!

I know, I know, they’re only tires. People are dying every day. Maybe not starving in Europe anymore, like my parents used to tell us at the dinner table growing up, but life is challenging.

But it’s the little things that put a smile on your face, that make you feel everything is all right.

That’s why I buy the best, that’s why good isn’t good enough.

Like I said, this is not a BMW or a Mercedes-Benz, but it’s the best of the pedestrian performance automobiles. I could save money and buy noisy Goodyears, or some off-brand junk, but why cripple the car? Why not let it fly free, do everything it’s supposed to?

That’s what my father believed. You pays your money and you gets your results. Sure, you want a deal, but if you buy the best you get the performance and these companies honor the warranties. Well, in this case they did!


Right Here, Right Now

Right Here, Right Now – Spotify

Right Here, Right Now – YouTube

I was alive and I waited, waited
I was alive and I waited for this

This song has been going through my brain all week. Maybe it was when I read about the Kentucky teachers following in the footsteps of those in West Virginia.

It was not supposed to be this way. The Wall fell and democracy was gonna reign, that’s what Jesus Jones’s “Right Here, Right Now” is all about.

The song was promoted by SBK, back when record companies were burgeoning, when new ones were being formed on a regular basis. With a crack promotion staff run by Daniel Glass, SBK made hits of one-offs no one else wanted to touch, like tracks by Technotronic and Vanilla Ice.

And Jesus Jones.

The fruit of a relationship with the U.K.’s Food Records.

And the irony is that “Right Here, Right Now” was not a big hit in the U.K.

But over here?

I remember going to see the band in Ackerman Hall at UCLA. The band lit into this number and heads exploded, the assembled multitude was freaking out like jumping beans, they just had to release that energy.

And SBK was folded into EMI which ultimately disappeared entirely.

As did Jesus Jones.

But it was not smooth sailing.

The internet came along and disrupted the music business.

And then movies and news, even though each of those industries refuses to read the memo.

There’s something happening here and it sure ain’t exactly clear.

Forget that the studios won’t go to day and date, the media missed Trump and now they’re missing what’s coming next. Gun control was supposedly impossible, and it’s not politics as usual.

A centrist Democrat wins in Pennsylvania and the analysis by the usual suspects is the party must run to the center, not understanding that this is how they got into this mess to begin with. Even I winced when Hillary Clinton said her favorite book was the Bible, who can believe in a liar like that? Whereas Bernie Sanders resonated with the heart and soul of the party, those who were not triangulating, those running on emotion, who felt the game was rigged and it’s better to turn over the table than try and fix it.

That’s what Trump ran on and won. He tapped into dissatisfaction.

And the dissatisfaction is rampant. As are the stories. The AP just detailed the failure of the tax cuts in Oklahoma. We’ve been sold a bill of goods, that those who are rich know better, are the job creators. Meanwhile, everybody in entertainment just wants to be rich too, not realizing that their power is in their voice, and that’s much more powerful than money.

So it was Ferguson. Then it was #MeToo. Now Parkland. The entire nation has been turned upside down.

A woman on the radio talked about revolution
When it’s already passed her by

The baby boomer establishment believes it’s still in charge. Feels that the story is fake news, the perils of technology, whereas those truly spearheading the revolt are using the tools of the future to get their message heard.

Bob Dylan didn’t have this to sing about

Dylan was complaining. We need complaints again. In our feel good nation all entertainment must be positive, characters must be likable, but the truth is we need interior resonance, which is how rap succeeded in the first place, by detailing the plight of the streets.

I saw the decade in, when it seemed
The world could change at the blink of an eye

It happens that fast, faster than ever before, that’s the power of the internet, this morning’s news is already passe by tonight.

Right here, right now
There is no other place I want to be

It wasn’t supposed to be this way. The Supreme Court was packed with righties, the Congress was controlled by Republicans, businessmen, the Kochs and Mercers were too influential.


Right here, right now
Watching the world wake up from history

I don’t think we’re gonna get a protest song, one that dominates the culture, that we all can sing. First and foremost, today’s hit music is unsingable. Secondly, the music business is seen as whored-out. Hell, what else are “The Voice” and “Idol,” forget the contestants, what about the judges, the biggest stars in the industry couldn’t say no to more money and more exposure?

Meanwhile, the rank and file, the supposedly powerless, the generation that was all about selfies and self-promotion, united, rose up and got its voice heard. More eloquently than anybody in entertainment. As “stars” trumpet endorsement deals, promote everything from alcohol to luggage, the great unwashed took a page from their playbook and focused on the essence, the voice, the message and the performance.

It ain’t good. They pushed it almost to the wall.

But now we’re pushing back.

It’s better than any movie, any book, any song. You surf the sites, crack the newspaper, and there’s inspiration on every page.

I was alive and I waited, waited
I was alive and I waited for this

Right here, right now
There is no other place I want to be
Right here, right now

“Teacher Discontent Swells Over Proposed Cuts to Benefits”

“GOP confronts another failed tax experiment in Oklahoma”

The End Of Virality

There’s no buzz.

Last night I watched “Logan Lucky” on Amazon. That’s where the movies are now, since Netflix has gone into production. I ain’t gonna say it was great, it was paint-by-numbers, something Soderbergh has done before, and I expect more from him, but no one is talking about the film’s appearance on the service, I’ve gotten no e-mail, seen no tweets.

And then I caught some of Letterman’s Clooney interview on Netflix. Which was surprisingly good. After I crawled through the offerings to find it. And that’s when it hit me…

Virality is dead.

What I mean is the goal, especially since “Gangnam Style,” was to do something so out there, so extraordinary, that it would spread on the internet like wildfire and become a huge success.

But that paradigm is dead. We’ve all got too many marketing messages, too much product.

Look at music. You can get a review in the newspaper and there’s no effect. You can go on late night TV and there’s no effect. You can go on SNL and there’s no effect. UNLESS, you screw up. Kinda like that dog dying on United this week. We’re all ears and eyes for something unrelated to politics and entertainment, something that’s about humanity, and dogs are man’s best friend. But if it’s a usual suspect project, you hit a brick wall.

Now back in the last century film distributors advertised their wares heavily on television on Thursday nights. We thought it was superfluous, we already knew about the new releases. But now, if you don’t do this, you get no traction. That’s what happened with “Logan Lucky,” Soderbergh didn’t think he needed to spend, and he didn’t, the film’s ad budget was much smaller than its competition, and therefore the flick failed. Of course, there was the fact it wasn’t a superhero flick, but the word didn’t get out, you’ve got to get the word out.

Only you can’t. There’s no way to reach everybody!

Used to be printing the top ten in the newspaper got people interested.

But then these looky-loos realized they didn’t like the music featured and gave up. As for films, only one, at most two, films are successful each week, why go to see a loser, when there are new films next week?

So you can’t light a fire that ignites everybody.

But marketers still believe you can.

In music, what appears like virality, is oftentimes an after the fact clean-up victory lap. Like Cardi B and Post Malone. Yes, they ended up with a ton of media attention, but that was AFTER they were ALREADY a huge success online.

What this means is your ascension will be slower than ever before. Instant success is nearly impossible. And if it happens too fast, for whatever reason, you’ll fall back to earth almost quite as fast.

So there was a monoculture. That was what MTV in the last part of this century was all about. You get on the service and everybody knows your name.

Then the internet killed that and the key was to get everybody on the internet talking about something.

And that worked for a while.

But now, just like we no longer send jokes to each other in e-mail, we don’t forward cute videos or any of that crap, and if we do post them on our Facebook page most people ignore them, because they’re being dunned to pay attention all day long and they just ain’t got that much time.

So world domination is passe. You can’t even dominate the United States. They keep telling us what is big yet we haven’t heard about it, and the irony is we don’t care.

You’ve got to do the hard work and appeal to a core which sustains you. The rest is nearly unachievable and is gravy at best.

They came for the popsters, that’s the story of the last year, they all failed in the marketplace. Because there’s no there there, no built-in audience to spread the word.

And this was after they came for the rockers and every other genre other than hip-hop and country.

And hip-hop and country are their own backwaters, the BIGGEST genres, but they don’t spread outside their borders. Come on, remember when Shania Twain crossed over, from country to pop? Even Taylor Swift? Now both their new projects are dead in the water. As for live business, that’s about hard core fans, look at Gaga, she hasn’t had a hit in eons, and many fewer people are required to sell out venues than to dominate in the cultural discourse.

We’ve all hit a wall.

The question is whether we’re looking to be directed, does the public want to be told what to watch and listen, or is it happy in the niches?

We’re in a transition period.

But if you expect your project to spread like wildfire, nearly instantly, to all people.

You’re dreaming.