All posts by billwhite1951

About billwhite1951

Bill White was a film reviewer for the Seattle Post Intelligencer from 1999-2009. Since then he has written a novel, The Goners, and a memoir, Cinema Penitentiary. He is currently working on a new novel, The Mayor is a Gringo. Born in Seattle, WA, he spent the years 1981-1997 in Boston, MA, where he worked as a disk jockey and a theater director, He also has an obscure place in the history of Northwest Rock Music.

The Shape of Water


Movie of the Day    The Shape of Water

Into what is surely the most unapologetically romantic film since Casablanca, director Guillermo del Toro deftly weaves the social nightmares of a contemporary America that has revived the paranoias and prejudices of the cold war era.  The Shape of Water is a cinematic cry for compassion that echoes Bob Dylan’s anthem for the underdog, Chimes of Freedom. Del Toro has created a landscape of nostalgia and horror from the relics of mid-twentieth century america.  Movie theaters with huge panoramic screens overflowing with sunday school imagery, diners serving twenty cent slices of pie to the lonely and weary, as long as they are neither homosexual nor Negro, the disabled and racially despised service workers vilified by a privileged class of fascist dogs who themselves labor under the threat of having their names erased from the book of life if ever they fail their diabolical masters. But within this social matrix of death camp oppression, the human heart still beats with the empathetic heroism   of the freedom fighter.  The Shape of Water is a reference to the oceans of love that surround us even in the worst of times, when the ability to change, even if that change effects an emergency evolution n our very bodies, can save us from a poisoned world.

The Shape of Water is pure cinema, all the elements of the medium working together to guide us through this world in the wrap of an  aesthetic comfort that insulates us from the pain of such a journey. Some may argue that Del Toros film is nothing more than a retelling of Beauty and the Beast fantasies such as King Kong in Creature from the Black Lagoon drag.  but Sally Hawkins’ exquisite performance shows us that beauty needs not physical beauty to attract the beast, and the perspective of the Richard Jenkins character affords us a view of the beast that is erotically charged with an otherworldly beauty.  And finally, del Toro is telling us that if we are devolving socially, it might be wise to submit to a physical devolution as well, and return to the water to start the whole thing over again from scratch.


Song of the Day   Dont Go Down that Road

from the album Home from the Hill

Don’t go down that road
Don’t open up that door
The house of our first happiness
It ain’t our home anymore

The people where we used to live
Acting stranger every day
Built a fire on the carousel
Where the children used to play
And on the backstreets
These same children now are grown
Building houses out of cardboard
And making soup with stones

Repeat chorus

The floor is covered with salt water
And the walls are faded green
It’s not like any place we’ve ever been
It ain’t like nothing we’ve ever seen
No doggies came a running
When the waves broke out of the sea
To warn the people of what was coming
Now what has been is not to be

I heard tell tales of gypsy witches
spread on the beach like jellyfish
And if you trust them with your wishes
The skies be damned, you’ll get your wish

Repeat chorus


Black Translucent Alphabet



New on Bandcamp. Click link to listen for free,
Black Translucent Alphabet by Bill White

1986…the junk of life piled high…sleeping atop milk crates filled with mildewed books…emerging from four months of bedridden sickness…beginning ten years of college radio in the days when radio was free,,,evacuating orson welles cinema then five years as my own defense attorney to exonerate the saving of lives over property…eating a steak and drinking a beer when morrissey comes over the radio and i give up meat, booze, and chew endless nicorettes…writing songs out of habit with nothing to say…embarrassing vocal mannerisms…writing script from word association games with the actresses, then filming uninteresting soap opera, another blunder,,,,…/black-translucent-alphabet
1.The Ransom 02:10
2.Battle Witch 01:42
3.Ruler of the Heart 02:07
4 Breaking the Seal of the Seventh Kiss 00:46
5.What We Do Tonight 03:35
6.Pork Barrel 03:47
7.Men Who Don’t Own Land 03:18
8.Streets 03:10
9.Medley- 5 Seconds to Midnight / Your Little Heart 07:01
10.Spin the Glass Web 01:36
11.Konstantine’s Song 01:44
12.Lonely Boys 03:18
13.Black Translucent Alphabet 07:33
14.Goodbye, Jerry Lewis 01:20…/black-translucent-alphabet

My Ten Favorite Musicals

  1. Carousel
  2. West Side Story
  3. Renaldo and Clara
  4. 200 Motels
  5. Meet Me in St Louis
  6. Singin in the Rain
  7. Born to be Blue
  8. Begin Again
  9. The Young Girls of Rochefort
  10. Marat /Sade


These are my 10 favorite musicals.  What are yours?


What I am listening to

Leonard Bernstein conducts West Side Story

Bernstein lifts the music high about its Broadway inception with this, the  most exhuberant  version of the music to be yet recorded.  the songs that used to be faint little sentimental dribbles are now triumphantly transcendent.  the arrangements are not simply backing tracks, but full symphonic pieces, giving us something of a cross between Porgy and Bess and slaughter on 10th avenue.  Until you have heard Bernstein’s version, you havent really experienced the music of West Side Story.

What I am watching

Woody Allen’s Wonder Wheel

The description led me to believe Woody had fabricated his own version of the legendary musical, Carousel.  but it is nothing like that.  Wonder Wheel is a trite, cliché laden, melodramatic noir comedy with nary a surprise not point of interest.  if there is anyone out there who wats to see a romantic comedy drama between Justin timberlake and Kate Winslet, this ones for you.

What I Am Reading\

The Demon haunted World by Carl Sagan

I was drawn in by the title.  Had I bothered to note that Carl Sagan was its author, I never would have opened the book.  Puerile physics for the scientific illiterate. No challenging theories.  No provocative musings.

Song of the Day

I Dreamed a Dream

Back in the day, a Broadway showstopper like this would have been recorded b o from Lulu to James Brown, from Petula clark to Otis Redding, and maybe even Anne Murray, Donna Summer, and Joe Cocker. but yoday its a glottis competition for the amateurs of American Idol and Britains Got Talent. and the winner is the one who destroys the song with the most superfluous throat.  but i changed all that with my version for the album Book of martyrs.  Most will hate it, but those who like ut are likely to become my friends.

click link for free download or just to listen to

Movies- Disappointments, disasters, and mediocrities Reading mark twain, listening to Johnny Hartman, posting album #44

What I am Watching



I dont want to dissuade anybody from seeing Lucky, a narrative tribute to character actor Harry Dean Stanton, because I am glad I saw it, although it isnt much of a movie.  A few good scenes are scattered among its diffuse ramblings, but the ideas it presents are only given superficial weight, and the tale is one told by a mute.  Still, as Bergman once stated, cinema is an exploration of the landscape of the human face…and what a face we have here..  But exploring the decay of human flesh drooping from the bones of a 90 year old actor is almost ghouishly invasive.


Movies, escpecially horror movies, have become so amateurish that strong production values are sometimes all that it takes to make us believe we are watching a good movie.  Veronica has such prodution vals, but nothing else.  The story is trite, there are no scares,  unless the act of flipping a mattress to find black stains on its reverse side a terrifying experience.


Todd Haynes newest is a true disaster. There is nothing good about it.  The story is dull and poorly told.  The child actors are insufferable.  Even the most weighted-down bottoms will overcome their owners complacency and rise to wisk them out of theatres showing this bomb.


What I am Listening To


John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman

After repeated listens to the last five Bob Dylan albums, all comprised of tunes from the great american songbook or more specifically, the hit parade, it becomes clear that, unless you have a voice as rich and mellifluos as Johnny Hartman\s. you should thik twce about singinng those songs professionally.  Dylan, who has been struggling with suc material for decades, has finally found a way to perform them somewhat effectively, but put Johny hartmans versio of My One and Only love after listening to Dylan sing it, and you will find it difficult to defend the old croakers insistence upon adding such difficcult material to his repertoire.   Coltrane was chided for his relatively weak tone on this album, which he brushed off by claiming he had lost his mothpiece and was having difficulties with the new one..but I like the lighter tone he employs, and it contrasts nicely with Hartmans strong baritone.


What I Am Reading\

The 30,000 Dollar Bequest by Mark Twain

I dont think a funnier or truer satire of projected value investments has been written before or since this hilarious novella by Mark Twain, in which a couple make imaginary investments with an expected windfall that nets them millions of imaginary dollars and ruins their lives.


New from the Bill White Music Archive  Album #44

these recordings span the years 1973-2017, and were recorded in seattle, boston, los angeles, and peru. yet i think there is some kind of unity here…for the fourth and final volume of the notorious k-mart tapes. perhaps because the first two songs are the only remnants of a truly weird experimental period and the last three are from one of the last nights of music at seattles rainbow tavern, once the citys premier music showcase and in 2006 way past its heyday and on the verge of a hideous transformation into shiny college meatrack.

Click link to listen

Top Ten songs for December from the Music Archive. Which is your favorite?

Top Ten Songs from the Bill White Music Archive
December 2017
Click on links to listen free

1. Its You Alone
from the album Early Years with John Olufs
2. Why Does It Hurt?
from the album Tales of Midnight with Acoustic Maddie
3. Timmy and Ron
from the album Defense Attorney
4. Christmas Time is Here (Good Cheer)…/christmas-time-is-here-goo…
from the album You Brought christmas Back to Me
5. Rehearsals for Retirement…/rehearsals-for-retirement
from the album The Family Piano
6. Gasoline, Ashes, and Whiskey…/gasoline-ashes-and-whiskey
from the album The 70s Redux
7. You Brought Christmas Back to Me…/you-brought-christmas-back…
from the album You Brought christmas Back to Me
8. Lou Marsh
from the album Book of Martyrs
9. These Boots Are Made for Walkin…/these-boots-are-made-for-w…
froom the album The K-Mart Tapes volume 3
10. Teenager In Danger
frpm the album Dead Mans Corner

Best Ten Movies of 2017

Best Ten Movies of 2017


A Quiet Passion

The Wizard of Lies

Madre (the one from Chile, not the Jennifer Lawrence picture)


Get Out

Wind River

Last Flag Flying

I Love You Daddy

Endless Poetry


What I am litening to

Dusty Springfield  The complete Studio Recordings

The pre-1966 recordings are interesting in that the material is so bad  that they cannot contain the vivicious enthusiasm of Dusty\s vocals.  It was finally the Burt_Bacharach material that challenged her enough to calm her down and contain her.  Many other English pop singers, such as Cilla Black, were not so lucky, and were little knwn outside of England because of inferior material.


What I am Reading

Still absorbing Harold Bloom’s insights on Hamlet.  The similarity between Hamlet and Jesus has always intrigued me, and Bloom not only clarifies the issue, but provokes new ideas from the reader.  In my case, I see that both characters were pacifists with violent fathers, both were forced to live out a story they resented being imprisoned within, and both shared similar last words.  Hamlet…the rest is silence.  Jesus..It is finished.   And both dealth with that situation through wit and double talk.  Finally, both suffered physical death following a spiritual ressurrection.

song of the download from the bill white music archive …click link to hear.. Cloud Princess,,from the album Defense Attorney


the Return of Cinema Penitentiary

After two years of silence, the Cinema penitentiary diaries returns, but with new intent.  Rather than watching and writing about 1-5 movies a day, Ill maintain silence for the most part on the movies.  There will be a movie a day, with a few notes on it, but I am most excited about my return to music, and the archiving of nearly 50 albums recorded throughout a 50 year career.  Each day will feature a song of the day that can be streamed or downloaded free from the Bill White music archive.  Another feature will be What i Am i Listening  To, offering some notes on whatever is on my stereo that day, as well as What I Am Watching, and finally What I am Reading…..all of these things will reflect on events in the real world as well.  For a sample , just to get started, although the blog will technically begin on January 1st, here is the lowdown on today from the Cinema Penitentiary. If you find this and read it, please comment and let me know what you think of this new format.


Song of the Day.  Alley of Rats, from the album Dead Mans Corner. Click Link to stream song or receive a free download,
“I Think We Are In Rat’s Alley, Where The Dead Men Lost Their Bones” T.S Eliot, The Waste Land

What I am listening to

Lester Young. The Complete Verve Studio Sessions

Listening to Lester Young started me thinking about all the soloists who lost their jobs when the big bands started falling apart at the end of that era.  Perhaps this was the beginning of what they used to call modern jazz.  The best and most ambitious of the soloists put together small combos and found paying work in crummy bars, Labels such as Verve and Blue Note recorded these groups and a new era replaced the one that had passed.

What I Am Reading

Hamlet Poem Unlimited by Harold Bloom

The first five pages of the venerable professors book gave me enough to think about for several hours.  One of the most stimulating was his idea that Horatio represented the audience.  As a theater director who directed the play at Bostons Suffolk University, I was stymied on the Horatio problem.  He was Hamlets only friend, yet had so few scenes that I was unable to portray that closeness, or Horatios importance to the play.  Blooms idea of Horatio as surrogate audience member gave me a belated solution.  Place a row of seats on the stage.  Fill it with four actors, each of whom pays Horatio, as well as random audience members.  Divide Horatios lines between the four actors, and we ow have a Hamlet who is interactive with the audience.  two lines alone would justify such a movie.  When Hamlet refers to him as one who is suffers all yet suffers nothing.  Is that not the perfect description of a totally empathetic audience member?  And at the end, when Horatio proclaims his intent to suicide and Hamlet admonishes him to stop thinking about such a thing because he is needed to spread Hamlets story throughout the land.  Word of mouth.  Get it?   There is so much more in Blooms book that I was brought to tears when recalling to my wife the days when such professors illuminated literature to eager students.  I was very luck to have attended a lecture on Hedda Gabler by Harold Bloom at the ART theater in Cambridge MA.  Actually it was  debate between Bloom and Carl Gilligan, which ended with Bloom walking off the stage in disgust when the audience vocally displayed their preference for Gilligans ridiculous theories to Blooms well reasoned and more dynamic interpretation of the play.

What I Am watching.

Whose Streets?    Not a great piece of film making, but it includes some heartbreaking yet inspiring footage of the people who were harnessed, attacked, arrested, and prosecuted because they held a memorial for Mike Brown,  one of 17 unarmed black man who were murdered by policeman during the final year of the  Obama administration.