Category Archives: You’ve Got to Check This Out

Donnie Yen (YGtCTO #294)

Ip Man

Film directed by Wilson Yip; written by Edmond Wong and Tai-Li Chan; starring Donnie Yen; action choreography by Donnie Yen

If you live among primarily English speakers, but are also fortunate enough to live near an outlet for foreign movies of all types, then you may find yourself having the following conversation:

“So, what’d you do last night?”

“Went to the movies with my son.”

“Oh, what’d you see?”

(hesitates) “Dirty Ho… It’s a martial arts movie… really…”

If you’re fortunate, people will understand that you’re not creepy. Or maybe they will just keep it to themselves. I had that conversation (no surprise there) during a martial arts film series a number of years ago. I could have lied about the movie title, but I really liked it. It deserved to rise above the snickers at its title.

I was blessed to grow up next door to Ron, who had an early and long-lasting love for martial arts. Both of us being gifted with gab, he shared that interest by introducing me to that coolest of all 70’s icons: Bruce Lee. I’m pretty sure that the first time I sat on a car roof was at the drive-in watching a Lee double feature with Ron. The drive-in closed soon thereafter and it took almost thirty years before I got back to one, but I never stopped watching martial arts films. Lee died, but Jackie Chan capitalized on that earlier breakthrough.

Donnie Yen

The Hollywood spectacles

that tried to harness Chan’s kinetic energy paled in comparison to the Hong Kong features, which sometimes required serious pursuit. As video stores splintered into niches (followed by streaming services doing the same), seeking one film revealed many others starring a new face. Chan led to Sammo Hung to Jet Li to Donnie Yen.

Watch enough action films and you start to look for something new and interesting. Martial arts becomes dance, which of course leads to the (probably obvious) realization that the action choreographer matters a great deal. Appreciation arises when you suddenly start recognizing the intricacy and planning and practice and grace and self-control involved.

By the same token, we develop favorites, like ballet aficionados and baseball fans. Where would the Wu-Tang Clan be without The 36th Chamber of Shaolin (and we would all be a little poorer)? Just to be clear, if you know any movie has choreography by Yuen Woo-ping, then you must see it… or anything involving Chia-Liang Liu.

Then, there is Donnie Yen. He starred in Iron Monkey (with choreography by Yuen Woo-ping) which we saw about the same time as everyone was losing their minds over Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. The latter was a lovely film, but Iron Monkey was fantastic. I don;t take responsibility for anyone’s desire to sit friends down and make them watch it. Follow that maybe with Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny.

I hope that Rogue One is a hint of more to come- yes, that was Donnie Yen. It’s a little weird to use Star Wars as the signifier when he comes up in conversation. On the other hand, he was the absolutely coolest thing in a very cool film. Come to think of it, that’s pretty much what Ron was talking about all those years ago. Here’s a really wonderful thing that needs to be shared.

What’s it all about?

You’ve Got to Check This Out is a blog series about music, words, and all sorts of artistic matters. It started with an explanation. 6 more to go.

New additions to You’ve Got to Check This Out release regularly. Also, free humor, short works, and poetry post irregularly. Receive notifications on Facebook by friending or following Craig.

Images may be subject to copyright.

Montague Rhodes James (YGtCTO Words #98)

Ghost Stories of an Antiquary
Book written by Montague Rhodes James

As near as I can tell, this was the second book that James published, after A Descriptive Catalogue of the Manuscripts in the Library of Peterhouse. One of the few approaching Poe in sheer talent and creativity, this Cambridge don lived a life vastly different from that great American writer. On the other hand, I’m not sure a few days in the company of either would go down so well. While Poe might kill you with his lifestyle, James would seemingly vacillate between the tedious life of the university and occasional fulminations against the modern world. Well, he couldn’t have been all bad. He did like reading Agatha Christie. I’d like to believe that Poe would have also appreciated what she did with the modern detective mystery genre. Both pursued short story writing as a sidelight to their main careers (though Poe certainly viewed writing as his primary pursuit).

As a youth, we (friends in the neighborhood) had an occasional thing where we would go overnight camping in one of our yards. Half the time, people wound up in their own bed, but not always. While sleeping bags were a good idea, we desperately wanted entertainment. After all, we had been raised on television and comic books. Someone, often me, dragged out a copy of short stories by Edgar Allen Poe. The Tell-Tale Heart was always a favorite for ensuring that no one got much sleep.

Montague Rhodes James

Many of James tales were meant to be read aloud on Christmas Eve. This was a practice for which he created fresh stories annually. Some publisher must have been in attendance or heard about them, but they were soon enough collected, a practice that continued every few years as he continued preparing them. A bit of me wonders at the age of the person who came up with this title for the first collection, considering that James was in his early forties.

The remarkable thing about these tales is indeed how well they have aged in over a century. Everything about them is just as creepy as ever. But the language and the tone and the format all speak of a current sensibility. They lull you with such an ease and smoothness that the shocks roll over the audience with wonderful ferocity.

This feeling that James writes like authors today is no accident. No one creates a spooky story of much value outside of James’ influence. His method, drawing us into the main character first followed by slow unveiling of oddness glimpsed out of the corner of the eye culminating in an exploration of that oddness, is a powerful formula. Reading James beside earlier and later masters also reveals just how finely honed his prose was. The words move with an ease that belies the horrors that sit within. The shock of discovery when you first read Canon Alberic’s Scrap-Book or Oh, Whistle, and I’ll Come to You, My Lad is doubled by the comfort initially felt. For that matter, those titles could be ripped from any short story collection written this year.

What’s it all about?

You’ve Got to Check This Out is a blog series about music, words, and all sorts of artistic matters. It started with an explanation. 7 more to go.

New additions to You’ve Got to Check This Out release regularly. Also, free humor, short works, and poetry post irregularly. Receive notifications on Facebook by friending or following Craig.

Images may be subject to copyright.

Roland Rahsaan Kirk (YGtCTO Music #98)

A Sack Full of Soul

Song composed and performed by Roland Rahsaan Kirk

If you are the sort of person who runs or rides a stationary bike or engages in any sort of exercise on a regular basis and you’ve kept this up for a number of years, then you know the true destination of all that effort is a place somewhere just north of boredom. An hour making your legs go around and around is tedious. Maybe if you need to exercise for your living, then you feel differently, but I have to tell you that you are a lot more focused than those of us with the attention span of a gnat.

Most of the time nowadays, I read when my balance and the exercise activity allows. I don’t usually watch video, though I have a soft spot for those devices that provide a competitive track because they still manage to bring out that desire to win. (I write this while recovering from knee surgery, so we’ll see how that fire burns in a few more weeks.)

Instead of reading, I listen to music. Being a little eclectic (you might prefer the word “odd”), I listen to all sorts of things, though ballads can be a struggle while working out. Before iPod’s and all such sundry options, I had to listen to the stereo. This proved the perfect time for checking out anything in the old CD collection that I hadn’t really paid attention to. This was also the era when I would go to a record shop and find one or two items that would be mentally filed as “save for later.”

Roland Rahsaan Kirk

Roland Kirk’s We Free Kings

found its way into the CD player one day when I started exercising. Do I need to say that when it reached Sackful of Soul I stopped what I was doing and just listened? I will never forget that moment when it occurred to me, “Oh, this is what I’ve always wanted to hear. This is why I keep listening to new music and even jazz, which frankly I find a little difficult at times. I mean, for crying out loud, this may be the single greatest thing that my ears have ever experienced.”

Interestingly, I really knew next to nothing about Kirk, which is ridiculous. I seriously took the picture on the cover of the album and classified it in my head with all the other goofy album covers that I had seen. I had no idea that it was a normal picture of the man in action. He played all those in the same song and sometimes simultaneously. He sometimes played instruments of his own construction. Oh, yeah, he was blind.

I adore an awful lot of musicians out there as this series has testified, but I’m not sure any of them are operating on the same level as Roland Rahsaan Kirk. I literally feel like I am drowning when I contemplate what he accomplished against every possible obstacle. Then, I listen to some of his music and I rejoice. I even follow him into all that jazz that put me off in the first place, because… well, check it out. I mean… what else is there to say… talk about inflated tears…? Oh, yeah, you might have missed that he’s a great flute player, too…

What’s it all about?

You’ve Got to Check This Out is a blog series about music, words, and all sorts of artistic matters. It started with an explanation. 8 more to go.

New additions to You’ve Got to Check This Out release regularly. Also, free humor, short works, and poetry post irregularly. Receive notifications on Facebook by friending or following Craig.

Images may be subject to copyright.