It occurs to me, though, as I peruse this week's coming events, that aversion might always be better fuel for nostalgia than affection. In fact it's hard to love something consistently throughout your whole life. Could it be that the vulnerability that automatically comes with pure enjoyment?fears of dependence, loss and of being laughed at?makes us more apt to miss what we despised, and posed no such threats? It's something to think about as we begin what promises to be an extremely nostalgic mini-era.
"Greet the millennium with a look at rarely seen material from perhaps the best-known and most influential situation comedy of all time," suggests the Museum of Television and Radio, whose three-part series "The Unseen Lucy and Desi" opens Friday. Part One features two early Lucy and Desi appearances, one on the Ed Wynn Show and one with Jack Benny, plus the premiere of I Love Lucy. As an extra treat for all the baby boomers who spent their teen energies rebelling against 50s consumerism and domesticity, yet will giddily attend this series, "The Girls Want to Go to a Nightclub" will be shown with its original commercials. (1/21-3/5, screenings Tues.-Sun. at 12:30 & 3 p.m., Thurs. at 6, Fri. at 7, 25 W. 52nd St., betw. 5th & 6th Aves., 621-6800, $6.)
No slight intended toward Lucy?up there with Groucho as one of the best physical comedians of the 20th century?or her legion of fans, to which I am a relatively recent addition. I hated I Love Lucy as a child (episodes ran every weeknight evening at 7:30 throughout the 70s, on Metromedia Channel 5, right after M*A*S*H, as I recall), too, but now I find those reruns even funnier than the contortions of boomer critics lauding Lucy's "subversive" display of "urban bohemianism."
Speaking of nostalgia for what was abhorred, the M of T&R is also on the bandwagon for Man on the Moon revisionism, screening Andy Kaufman's ill-fated tv special through Sunday, 1/30. (Tues.-Sun. at 1 p.m., Thurs. at 6, Fri. at 7, address & phone above, $6.) And another landmark in subversive, 50s New York bohemianism, Hitchcock's Rear Window, opens in restored form Friday at Film Forum. It's another false memory in my case, but how could a 21st-century Manhattanite not be nostalgic for the low-rent West Village where Jimmy Stewart and Grace Kelly act out Hitch's ultimate gift to film theory professors (and Godfrey Cheshire)? (1/21-2/10, 209 W. Houston St., betw. 6th Ave. & Varick St., 727-8110.)
I'd be more pseudo-nostalgic for the 50s as recorded onscreen if it weren't, despite all the subversion, so sexist. The mix of scandal and farce that inform Lucy's and Grace Kelly's adventures outside the home?maybe because I grew up with a front-row view of "the struggle"?gives me the willies. How far we've come. Some say too far. This week brings a juxtaposition of conflicting opinions about the feminist revolution, via a coincidental scheduling of readings: Wendy Shalit from her Return to Modesty: Discovering the Lost Virtue, Thursday at the Upper East Side Barnes & Noble (1/20, 7:30 p.m., 240 E. 86th St., betw. 2nd & 3rd Aves., 794-1962, free), the same night as "If Feminism Was [sic] a Tree, What Kind of Tree Would it Be?" Featuring Against Our Will author Susan Brownmiller, the latter event also includes notoriously immodest authors Elizabeth Wurtzel (Prozac Nation) and former New York Press columnist Amy Sohn (Run, Catch, Kiss), and will be held at Bluestockings Bookstore. (1/20, 7 p.m., 172 Allen St., betw. Stanton & Rivington Sts., 777-6028, $3 contrib.) Also scheduled for Thursday night is the first full moon of 2000. And it would have been DeForrest "Dr. McCoy" Kelley's 80th birthday, had he lived. So don't bet on modesty carrying the day.
My mom, to my delight, stopped making kasha varnishkes when she went back to college, but, even more to my delight, she continued to craft wonderful matzoh balls for our annual Passover feast. I could eat a lot of those, but it'd take more than a full moon to get me involved in Ben's Kosher Deli's annual Matzoh Ball Eating Contest, the Manhattan regional qualifier for which will be held at the restaurant Tuesday evening. (1/25, 6 p.m., 209 W. 38th St., betw. 7th & 8th Aves., 398-BENS, $25 charity contrib. req. for entry; finals 2/1, 10 a.m., same locale.) Essentially a lump of pure starch, the m.b., multiplied by "x," decreases a feaster's next-day chances of experiencing of satisfying b.m. exponentially as "x" increases, I've found. Can't say I'm nostalgic about those hard lessons.
Other Jewish events this week include the 9th-annual Jewish Film Festival at the Walter Reade Theater. The festival opened Sunday, 1/16, and its last day?Thursday, 1/27?will include screenings at 1 & 6 p.m. of The Pleasures of Urban Decay, a short documentary about New York Press contributing cartoonist Ben Katchor. (See www.thejewishmuseum.org or call 875-5600 for full schedule.) Also, Saturday, 1/22, is Tu Bishvat, aka Israeli Arbor Day, which will be widely observed in New York by way of post-Shabbat viewing of the first regular-season meeting of the Knicks and Spurs since the '99 NBA finals, 6 p.m. on NBC.
Whoever invented the corny marketing character "Knicks 2000 Man" was obviously nostalgic for Tron?the robotic stick figure is a better symbol of the corporate ineptitude plaguing pro basketball than of the sport's future. It's enough to make one pine for the days of real Knickerbockers: 17th-century Gotham, described by historian David Allen as "an era when virtually every prominent businessman Downtown was associated with piracy or smuggling." Nowadays those two industries, in their modern forms of digital bootlegging and the drug trade, are the only rivals to Wall Street's dominance of all things profitable. Allen's lecture, Thursday at Fraunces Tavern Museum, is about the old days, though, with a focus on the life of the legendary Captain Kidd, a 1700 Man: "Pirate, homeowner, gentleman, privateer?one of the most colorful figures in New York City?and Wall Street?history." (1/20, 6 p.m., 54 Pearl St. at Broad St., 425-1778, free with $2.50 admission contrib.)
Enough about history. This week also marks the unofficial start of 90s nostalgia, with CD retrospectives from two of the best heavy bands from the first decade ever denied to right to die with dignity, even for a month. Mudhoney and the Jesus Lizard differ from such punk/metal precursors as the Monks and Black Flag mainly in that they actually seemed to have a chance at mainstream success (on the threadbare coattails of Nirvana, remember?), and that they haven't been rediscovered yet. Saying goodbye to all that are Sub Pop, who released the two-disc, best-of-Mudhoney set March To Fuzz on Tuesday, 1/18, and Touch and Go?scheduled to unleash Jesus Lizard live-cuts-and-rarities comp Bang on Tuesday the 25th. Both albums are fair and convincing representations of the bands' respective greatness. Not perfect, but I'll leave the nitpicking to all the glossy-mag critics who promoted the fallacy that Nirvana was better than these contemporaries, and who will no doubt soon find themselves nostalgic for the culture they rejected.
The Knitting Factory gets a bit retro this week with their Festival of Electronic Composers and Improvisers. It'll bring Suicide to Tribeca for two nights (Fri. & Sat., 1/21-22, 74 Leonard St., betw. Church St. & B'way, 219-3055, $15) sandwiched by Carl Craig with members of Innerzone Orchestra (Thurs., 1/20, $15) and the double bill of acid-jazz turntablists DJ Food with indestructible synth-pop pioneers Silver Apples. (Sun., 1/23, $15.)
The buried treasure of the week, though, is the Jungle Brothers show Tuesday at Bowery Ballroom. The JB's last album and tour didn't offer much to write home about, but as heads with an ear to the underground (or a friend in England, as the Jungle Brothers' forthcoming V.I.P. has been out for months over there) know, Mike G and Afrika Baby Bam are rejuvenated. They made their new album with Alex Gifford of Propellerheads?an extremely versatile English DJ/composer with a knack for ballooned-out, hot and fuzzy beats. Matched with the JB's melodic rhyme style, it's something exciting and new, like a flume ride in a giant shell-toed Adidas. V.I.P. is nostalgic and fun-loving, referencing the birth of hip-house (sparked by the JB's and Todd Terry's "I'll House You" in '89) and England's short-lived rave utopia. Yet it also evidences minds wide open to disparate perspectives on the past and future of hiphop. If you already like the Jungle Brothers and Propellerheads, I'd recommend paying the extra cash for the import (available at Virgin for about $26)?the U.S. version of V.I.P. won't be out until March (on Gee Street). Meanwhile, Tuesday's show, complete with Gifford, host Afrika Bambaataa and breakdancers from the Rock Steady Crew, will be what Theo Huxtable used to call "a parrr-tay." (1/25, 6 Delancey St. at Bowery, 533-2111, $15.)