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Latest travel feature here:
I’ll be contributing tourism articles and features here:
The opening episodes of ABC’s new series Pan Am, and NBC’s The Playboy Club, are cagey attempts to capitalize on the American yen for early 1960’s chic embodied in the critically acclaimed cable tv hit Mad Men. While the two new shows are generally spot on regarding the wardrobe, hairstyles, and decor that marked the era, other details were not granted sufficient attention. The shortcomings include dialogue, character development, and story line.
One area where Mad Men succeeds where imitators fail, is in its accurate representation of period dialogue. Never does a Gen-Y expression slip into the teleplay. Last night alone, the adjective “amazing” was uttered on The Playboy Club. Amazing, (and it’s predecessor, “awesome”) in the context and tone in which it was used during the episode, did not enter the lexicon until The Gilmore Girls hit the small screen, and the boy band Hanson a phenomena. In addition, another Bunny character answered a question with “It’s complicated.” Really?
While The Playboy Club addresses issues such as civil rights and sexual identity (examing the former much earlier than did Mad Men), it suffers from a lethargic, gangster subplot. The Chicago mob story line lacks tension, leaving viewers uncaring. Those seeking an aesthetically hip, cheesecake factory, will find one there.
Which brings us to Pan Am. Okay, these directors also nailed the look, although wide shots of uniformed stewardesses striding through airports are tired ripoffs from the film Catch Me If You Can. One half expects Leo himself to pop up on set any minute. The early ’60’s attitude towards women is a common theme of both series, which one expects to develop further, now that the expository episodes are behind us.
Neither show boasts as many intriguing characters as Mad Men. Both would be well served by better music, background and popular. The quality of the acting is, shall we say, not on a par with that on popular Showtime (The Big C, Dexter, Weeds) or HBO (Hung, Treme, Boardwalk Empire, Entourage) series. If it’s not on the page, and the casts are weak, neither bunny tales nor flights of fancy will survive the November sweeps.
Hats of to Rosie Dempsey and John Feeley, Jr. for their new book “Brookland”:
Disco was a genre I more tolerated than enjoyed. I never learned to dance to it, it spawned some god awful fashions and films, and marked an artistic (but probably not commerical) low in the careers of bands such as Kool & The Gang and Earth, Wind and Fire.
That’s Where The Happy People Go – The Trammps
Young Hearts Run Free– Candi Staton
Bad Luck– Teddy Pendergrass
Turn The Beat Around– Vickie Sue Robinson
Rock The Beat– The Hues Corporation
Macho Man– The Village People
If I Can’t Have You– Yvonne Elliman
Off The Wall– Michael Jackson
Here’s an unpublished book review of the late Dr. Manning Marable’s Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention
Marable’s X Files Combine Theory & History
by Bijan C. Bayne
Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention
by Dr. Manning Marable
Viking Press $30
In the last several years before his death in April 2011, Columbia University professor Dr. Manning Marable devoted himself to writing the most significant biography of Malcolm X since the early 1990’s. As did author Bruce Perry, who wrote Malcolm: The Life of a Man Who Changed Black America in 1991, Marable sets out to fill the historical and personal gaps apparent in Alex Haley’s 1965 best seller, The Autobiography of Malcolm X. Whether Marable succeeds, depends both on one’s familiarity with the subject, and opinion regarding areas about which Malcolm was discreet. Marable’s excavation leads him down some paths Perry trod, such as details concerning likely homosexual encounters. Both authors agree that Malcolm embellished his underworld status- Marable believes the exaggeration was a means of making his evolution from criminal to spiritual leader a more cautionary tale for at risk Negroes. Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention also offers insight into the family issues that shaped Malcolm’s early life, from the staunch Garveyism of his parents Earl and Louise Little, to his tenuous experience in foster homes. Those who enjoy learning about historical figures such as Malcolm X sometimes look for history classes via online universities.