Monthly Archives: December 2009

Aviva Kempner on Yoo-Hoo, Mrs. Goldberg

Gertrude Berg
Gertrude Berg

Whenever I discover a gap in my television/pop culture culture, I have an immediate need to fill that gap. Aviva Kempner‘s documentary, Yoo-Hoo, Mrs. Goldberg, was an important person and project I knew nothing about. To fill this information chasm, I contacted Kempner for an email interview. As detailed at the Cielsa Foundation website: “Ciesla Foundation produces and distributes award-winning films about strong and important, but often unknown, Jewish heroes. Its mission is to educate and inform audiences about social and public interest issues of the past and present through storytelling and filmmaking….Award-winning filmmaker Aviva Kempner, whose credits include Yoo-hoo, Mrs. Goldberg, Today I Vote for My Joey, The Life and Times of Hank Greenberg, and Partisans of Vilna, is Ciesla’s director and founder. Yoo-Hoo, Mrs. Goldberg chronicles the “humorous and eye-opening story of television pioneer Gertrude Berg.  She was the creator, principal writer, and star of The Goldbergs, a popular radio show for 17 years, which became television’s very first character-driven domestic sitcom in 1949. Berg received the first Best Actress Emmy in history, and paved the way for women in the entertainment industry.” My thanks to Kempner for her time. I hope the interview motivates you to donate to the foundation and to Kempner’s efforts.

Tim O’Shea: I’m sure you have many ideas for subjects to pursue, but after wrapping 2002’s Today I Vote for My Joey how many concepts (ballpark figure) did you consider and set aside before deciding upon Yoo-Hoo, Mrs. Goldberg?

Aviva Kempner: I was thinking about doing a few dramatic scripts and did not get much further than research. I also had a couple more documentary ideas but none were fundable at first glance. Another one did receive research funds and am now happily back on working on that film on The Rosenwald Schools. Once I went to the Jewish Museum in New York’s exhibit of Jews Entertaining America and saw the Molly Goldberg living room I knew that was my next film project.

Continue reading Aviva Kempner on Yoo-Hoo, Mrs. Goldberg

1980s News: Cocteau Twins Concert in Ohio

Thanks to a tweet by SomeBadIdeas (and a retweet by Colin Meloy [of the Decemberists]) I got to watch this YouTube clip of some 1985 news coverage for a Cocteau Twins appearance in Columbus, Ohio.

I’m not sure if my favorite part is the fellow with a typewriter or the concertgoer who explains “I’m a genetics major and (inexplicable nervous head bob movement) everything.” or the co-anchor at the end of the piece who appears to fake fall asleep.

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Human Interest: After Some Die, Where Does Their Stuff Go?

As most everyone has heard, the newspaper industry is slowly being cut into smaller and smaller pieces, thanks to a tough economy, market share loss to other media outlets and a dwindling advertising base. I think as the industry continues to shrink (and their budgets along with it), we will see less and less human interest stories.

So I was heartened to read this piece from today’s Los Angeles Times by Molly Hennessy-Fiske regarding estates with no heirs that are auctioned off by Los Angeles County officials.

“The Public Administrator’s Office mostly tends to those who die either very poor or very wealthy, either without heirs or with heirs locked in disputes. About half the estates the office handles are worth $30,000 or less. About a third are worth more than $100,000, including the estates of some celebrities.”

Since I was a kid, I’ve always enjoyed stories like this, where I find out a little bit about a person who I otherwise would have never known. I hope no matter what the newspaper industry evolves into in the coming years, I will still get to read articles like this.

Podcast Recommendation: SLG Radio

Since joining Robot 6 almost a year ago (we celebrate our one-year anniversary at the end of this week) I rarely blog about comics here at Talking with Tim. But sometimes an item comes along that transcends the boundaries of comics  (plus to be perfectly blunt Robot 6 is on holiday hiatus for the next few days). Anybody that’s read Evan Dorkin’s Milk & Cheese, or his blog, Big Mouth Types Again, knows just how funny he is.

Important side tangent here, Dorkin would understandably be unhappy if I neglected to mention his great Dark Horse miniseries with artist Jill Thompson, Beasts of Burden, wrapped up this week with the release of issue 4.

SLG Radio

Back in October, SLG Publishing head honcho Dan Vado launched SLG Radio, a weekly podcast where the focus is to discuss comics, SLG comics in particular. At least I think that’s Vado’s goal, but honestly the show has evolved into an incredibly hilarious back and forth between Vado and frequent guest/borderline co-host Dorkin. The most recent episode had the added bonus of Dorkin’s frequent collaborator (and spouse) Sarah Dyer. Dorkin’s bombastic personality (in a good way)  just enlivens every episode, in this most recent one he was stuck in traffic while calling in to the show–and he dictated what he was passing (slowly) while stuck, and was able to make it both funny as well as indictment of the banking crisis at the same time.

This podcast is far more about comics, at its core it’s two old friends talking.  There a great many podcasts these days where two friends just chat–and it rarely works. Why? Because a typical friendship has a series of inside jokes and personal connections that translate into incredibly bad podcasts. There has been many a podcast I have listened to where the hosts were laughing throughout the show because of inside jokes or behind-the-scenes aspects of their personal life that was darn funny to them, but annoying and alienating to listeners like myself. There’s none of that with Dorkin and Vado, while they typically talk comics for a spell the show goes off into tangents that may touch upon their respective personal lives, but in a manner that makes for engagingly fine storytelling.

Give the show a try, even if you don’t read comics, as it’s a fun listen.

Merry Christmas: It’s A Wonderful Life

For those of you who observe the holiday: Merry Christmas. For those of you who do not: Sorry about all the stores being closed.

As a child, my family typically went to Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve. Most of my family, that is. My father would often attend another mass, typically. And one year, it just so happened that Frank Capra’s 1946 film, It’s A Wonderful Life, was being shown on television. My father offered that I could skip midnight mass if I wanted to watch this film with him, and my father rarely made such offers like this, so I took it. And because my father so clearly loved this film, I grew to love it as well.

I was just reading Roger Ebert’s 1999 essay on the film–and something that Ebert wrote really struck a nerve with me:

“This was the first movie he (Capra) made after returning from service in World War II, and he wanted it to be special–a celebration of the lives and dreams of America’s ordinary citizens, who tried the best they could to do the right thing by themselves and their neighbors.”

There were no shades of gray in my late father’s view of the world. He saw the world in terms of the right thing to do or the wrong thing to do. For my father, anything other than the right thing was never an option. Hearing Ebert’s take on Capra’s intent with the film allows a glimpse past the heart-warming surface of the tale. It also allows me to see a little bit more of my father’s thinking, years after his death, through his appreciation of a film.

I keep the memory of my father alive in odd ways, but they are ways that work for me. And hearing George Bailey exclaim “Zusu’s petals” always takes me back to my childhood and my first viewing of the film.

Vicki Delany on Winter of Secrets

Winter of Secrets
Winter of Secrets

The week of Christmas, I can think of no better interview to feature than this one with Vicki Delany on her new book, Winter of Secrets. As described at Delany’s website: “Siblings Wendy and Jason Wyatt-Yarmouth and their friends are in the peaceful mountain town of Trafalgar, B.C. enjoying a two-week vacation of skiing, drinking, drugs, and sex. Tragedy strikes the group of privileged students when two of the group crash through the ice into the frozen river.It’s Christmas Eve and the snowstorm of the decade has settled over the peaceful mountain town of Trafalgar, B.C. Constables Smith and Evans have a busy shift, attending fender-benders, tumbling pedestrians, and Christmas tree fires. At the stroke of midnight, they arrive at the scene of a car accident: a vehicle has gone off the snowy road into the icy river. An accident, agree police, coroner, medics. But when the autopsy reveals a shocking secret, Constable Molly Smith and Sergeant John Winters are plunged into the world of sexual predators, recreational drugs, privilege, and high-living.”

Winter of Secrets is the third installment ” featuring Constable Smith, Sergeant Winters, and the town in the shadow of the glacier, Trafalgar, British Columbia.”

A first chapter PDF of the book can be found here.

Tim O’Shea: Your website includes the phrase: “Canadian Author of Mystery Novels and Suspense Novels”. Do try to set all your novels in Canada? And in terms of writing, do you think your Canadian background/experience allows your novels to have a perspective and nuances that readers cannot get from non-Canadian writers?

Vicki Delany: I do set all my books in Canada. About all I can say I bring to my books is a Canadian perspective on Canada. And that’s a good thing. We in Canada are overshadowed so much by our so-much-larger neighbours that it can be difficult to get our stories told. Even Canadian publishers sometimes prefer books set in the U.S. because they think that has greater market appeal. Toronto is often a stand-in in movies and TV shows for places such as New York, but it is not often allowed to be itself. Canada and the U.S. are alike in many ways, but there are significant differences also and I think everyone benefits from knowing how the rest of the world works. For example, my police officers in the Constable Molly Smith series are not allowed to carry their guns when out of uniform so they will not walk out of a restaurant into a gun battle or some such. Gold Digger is set in the Yukon during the Klondike Gold Rush, which was about as far from a Wild West town as you can get; the North-West Mounted Police being firmly in charge. That sort of thing, and other nuances, are why I think it’s valuable for Canadian people to set their books in Canada.

Continue reading Vicki Delany on Winter of Secrets

Footnotes: Considering Bill Simmons

Is it wrong that I prefer to read the footnotes in Bill Simmons‘ books, rather than the entire book?

Looking at his new book, The Book of Basketball, I’m sad to see the detail of his footnotes have made it so they have to placed in the traditional bottom of the page slot (for most footnotes), instead of to the side, as done with his previous book, Now I Can Die in Peace.

Radio: Dave FM’s Inside Eddie’s Attic

As much as I love music, I have an embarassing admission to make. I have never set foot in the local major musical venue in Decatur, Georgia (aka my backyard), known as Eddie’s Attic. I mean, I’m looking at the venue’s website right now, and this Wednesday they’re featuring Peter Bradley Adams (formerly of eastmountainsouth) and that is just one of many people I’d love to see live that they seem to host on a regular basis.

But what got me thinking of Eddie’s Attic was listening to the radio show, Inside Eddie’s Attic this past Sunday the host (and founder of the venue) Eddie Owen played a great collection of live holiday tunes recorded at the attic. If you’ve never listened to the show, you’re in for a treat.

Now, I just need to make the time and finally get myself down to the attic myself. This Christmas Eve Eve is looking better and better by the minute, honestly.

Art: Brendan O’Connell Launches New Website

A former high school classmate of mine and accomplished artist and writer, Brendan O’Connell, has launched his new website. As O’Connell describes himself, he “divides his time between writing and painting, between figuration and abstraction.” I consider myself fortunate to know Brendan and hopefully one of these days I’ll be able to run an interview with him, as our respective schedules permit. In the meantime, please visit his website, it’s a visual and intellectually intriguing delight on many levels. Here’s just one of his pieces:

Snacks by Brendan O'Connell
Snacks by Brendan O'Connell