Saturday, November 15, 2003

EW, BABY BABY: If you're not already an Entertainment Weekly subscriber -- and if not, why are you here? -- make sure to pick up the current issue, the one with that Louisana solitaire player on the cover, for three reasons: (1) Tim Carvell sat through two straight weeks of Wayne Newton concerts, and now you get to read his wicked deconstruction of Wayne's "spontaneity"; (2) Tim Carvell also gets to interview Triumph about his new album, and, oh, Kathleen Turner is not going to be pleased; (3) Dalton Ross compares Survivor 7's Rupert Boneham to "Capt. Lou Albano on acid," and if there's one thing this blog goes crazy for it's good simile; and (4) an interview with Michael Stipe at his most ridiculously defensive. Did you know that if you don't like R.E.M.'s past decade's worth of music, it's because you're jealous he has six-pack abs, and not because a lot of it sucks?

Get this issue.

Friday, November 14, 2003

I WANT TO BE THE GIRL WITH THE MOST CAKE: To commemorate this blog's one-year anniversary (tomorrow), have a little fun and provide a little extra to you, my loyal readers (as well as the people who are just hoping for the free pizza), I decided to seek out Chicago Sun-Times music critic Jim DeRogatis, one of this blog's favorites, who was happy to chat with me yesterday about his new book, the alternarock explosion of the 1990s, the contemporary scene and future of rock music.

I think you'll enjoy our conversation a lot, and it will appear here as soon as I have some time to transcribe my notes.

In the meantime, a preview. Because it all comes back to Nirvana, right? (And then back to the Pixies, but you know what I'm saying.)

We were talking about Nirvana, and how troubled Cobain was by the band's success. "They didn't know what the hell was going on," DeRogatis told me.

He visited Cobain at his home a few months before his death. "It was a beautiful house on Lake Washington, but it looked like a slum," he told me. "He had a thrift-store couch in the middle of the living room. They had no idea how rich they were."

Which he then linked to, and I will now for you, a 2002 interview he conducted with Courtney Love, contained in the book, and one particular Love quote which he called "creepy":
[Cobain biographer] Charlie [Cross] has this theory that there was always suicidal ideation, and there was no way around it. I think that's bull; ideation can be replaced with other ideation. Now, I have a theory, and it sounds vulgar, and it sounds shallow, and it's capitalism coming from a capitalist. But if we were around folks who knew luxury, who were our generation, who had money, who were flying on Lear jets, who were drinking fine wines, who were feeling great fabrics, who knew what Ming was, and fine art, and thread count, things might have been different. We didn't experience what [R.E.M. guitarist Peter] Buck experienced when he was living next door. We didn't have STUFF. We didn't know about food. We didn't have a cleaning lady! Wealth makes things nicer -- it does, and that's just a goddamn fact! We were rich people, and we didn't get to BE rich people. And I think that luxury might have replaced [Kurt's suicidal] ideation.

If only Kurt had been introduced to the Pottery Barn in time, Courtney. . . .

More on Nirvana, true rock experiences, bands that have become "corporate self-perpetuating success machines," the importance of Trent Reznor and more, as soon as I have time to type it up.

Thursday, November 13, 2003

ACTINIDE IT IS: Throwing Things has made the Periodic Table of Bloggers. Canada officially has this to say about Throwing Things:
Radioactive [Throwing Things] retains its silvery lustre for months due to a protective oxide coating. The 90th element was discovered in 1829 by J.J. Brezelium and named after the Scandinavian god of thunder, Thor.

This element is attacked slowly by water, but it does not dissolve readily in most acids, with the exception of hydrochloric acid. An important compound formed by this actinide is [Throwing Things] oxide that has a melting point of 3300°C. Laboratory glass and crucibles subjected to high temperature applications are often made from this compound.
IT DIDN'T HURT E.J. DAY EITHER: PETA's new spokesperson? Triumph, the Insult Comic Dog.

The campaign? Get Neutered -- It Didn't Hurt Clay Aiken.

The celibate red-headed elfboy declined comment.
SET YOUR TIVOS. NOW: TNT will restart its cycle of ER reruns by re-airing the original two-hour pilot on Monday, November 24 at 10 am. You know, from back when the show was really good, or even great?

Like, not when they felt compelled to promote a standard-issue helicopter crash as THE BIGGEST EVENT IN ER HISTORY, as they are in the promos for next week's cheese-filled episode. Seriously? Bigger than Doug Ross leaving, Gant's suicide, Mark Greene dying, the blizzard episode, the hostage episode, the guy who died from hypocalcemia, Knight's murder, Doug's rescue of the drowning kid in the ravine, Shep's partner Raul dying in the fire, the random beatdown on Greene, Carter's entering rehab, Jeannie's HIV revelation, Susan leaving (the first time), or Peter Benton dressing up like Shaft for Halloween?

I'd give my right arm for an episode worthy of that hype.
MORNING TRIVIA: In his new book Milk It!: Collected Musings on the Alternative Music Explosion of the '90s (about which you'll be hearing more in the next few days), Chicago Sun-Times rock critic Jim DeRogatis reprints an entertaining interview he had with one of the bigger rock hitmakers of the past five years who had taken issue with the critic's writings on his band.

In answer to a comment about hype and the band, the lead singer replied:
Hype is something that our band has certainly eschewed. Our band has been, if not the most D.I.Y. next to Fugazi, then number two or three.

Name the hype-eschewing singer/band. Or guess. But don't Google, because that's cheating, and it puts you in the same boat as Stephen Glass, Albert Belle and Gerald Plecki when the day of judgment comes, and you don't want that.

Wednesday, November 12, 2003

IF THERE'S A PING-PONG SCENE, ALL BETS ARE OFF: Hollywood Elsewhere's Jeffrey Wells hails Tim Burton's upcoming holiday flick Big Fish today, calling Burton's appreciation of a tale-telling Alabaman "storybook surreal, magical and fantastical . . . Burton's most emotionally affecting work since EDWARD SCISSORHANDS." Even noted NYT/VF sourpuss Lynn Hirschberg wrote Sunday that its "extraordinary ending . . . is a perfect melding of the visual and the verbal: the words are bolstered, rather than overwhelmed, by Burton's artistry.

Yeah, okay, but a good friend of mine saw it in previews Monday night. His review: "I liked it better when it was called FORREST GUMP."
SURE, WHY THE HELL NOT: At some point in the next day or two, as our one-year anniversary approaches on Saturday, one lucky reader will be our 100,000th, according to a somewhat-arbitrary start number and the Sitemeter counter below. A celebration seems in order.

So: if you are that 100,000th visitor, you will win a free pizza, delivered to your home, courtesy of me.

Just email me when you see the five zeroes in a row, and I should be able to confirm (via the counter) that you were, in fact, the winner. Then, we'll pick a night, I'll call the deliveryman in your area, order the pie (with a reasonable number of toppings) and maybe, if you're really nice, throw in garlic bread or something.

No cheating.
WHERE'S STAT BOY? In a move its print competitors would do well to emulate, the Washington Post has been making its all-star lineup of columnists and reporters available for weekly online chat sessions that have been pretty darn entertaining.

Check out these recent chats with PTI's Tony Kornheiser and Michael Wilbon on post-football Monday, media critic Howie Kurtz and Throwing Things fave tv critic Lisa de Moraes, and gear up for de Moraes' next chat tomorrow afternoon.

There are times and places where the use of the term "interactive" is not just a crude marketing ploy, but an actual method to make readers feel more invested in your product. This is one of them, and the WaPo has already lapped the field.

Tuesday, November 11, 2003

MOM, PULL OVER. TELL HIM THE TRUTH. TELL HIM HOW OLD HE IS: Does NYT film critic Elvis Mitchell, lover of obscure music and massive simile pileups, have a crush on eternally-emerging actress Zooey Deschanel of Almost Famous/The Good Girl fame?

Low Culture investigates.

(P.S. Is there an easy way to remember which one is Zooey Deschanel and which one is Maggie Gyllenhaal?)
WHERE'S DEBB? believes it has the definitive list of the eighteen (!) castaways who are competing in Survivor 8: All Star Survivor, which just started filming in the Pearl Islands.

If you're ready to be spoiled, click here to see the three tribes of six. And then we can use the Comments section to discuss.

Monday, November 10, 2003

EITHER THAT, OR MAYBE THEY'LL BRING BACK ROY: MSNBC's Jon Bonné, who clearly has more time to focus on this than most of us, writes today that while The Simpsons may have recently "lost its soul and devolved into an uneven, slapsticky mess that needed to be put to a respectable death," now the show is on its way back to being good.

Bonné's main criticism of recent seasons? Too much "Jerkass Homer". He says that the new season will be much less Homer-centric.

I dunno. Last night's episode, with Homer's mom coming back, was decidedly meh, enlivened only by the Beautiful Mind reference and Homer's letter to "Die Hard". Just not that good.

Much funnier this weekend was watching (and re-watching) the Family Guy episode "Wasted Talent", where Peter Griffin finds the final "silver scroll" and gets to tour noted recluse Pawtucket Pete's magical brewery and meets the mysterious Chumba Wumbas who work there. Hysterical. God bless TiVo.
YES, BUT DID THEY HAVE SCHMALTZ AND GRIBENES? On the other hand, there's a really neat article in the Times today on Rabbi Yaakov Y. Horowitz and his American Jewish Legacy project, which has put together a hopefully-travelling exhibit on the history of kosher eating in America.

For example, read one Civil War veteran's description of how he and his fellow Jews in the 23rd Ohio Volunteer Regiment observed Passover in 1862:
One group built a log hut for the service, and another was sent off to forage for more supplies. They came back with cider instead of wine, a lamb, chickens and eggs, but none of the traditional horseradish or parsley. "In lieu we found a weed, whose bitterness, I apprehend, exceeded anything our forefathers 'enjoyed.' " They were unable to make charoses, the sweet mixture representing the mortar used by the Israelites to build the pyramids in Egypt. "So we got a brick which, rather hard to digest, reminded us, by looking at it, for what purpose it was intended."

Everything went well until it came time to eat the herb. "The herb was very bitter and very fiery like Cayenne pepper," he wrote. The celebrants gulped down the cider, which was apparently hard and had its effect. "One thought he was Moses, another Aaron, and one had the audacity to call himself Pharaoh. The consequence was a skirmish, with nobody hurt." Moses, Aaron and Pharaoh were carried back to camp to sleep it off.

You can see some of the turn-of-the-century advertisements Horowitz has compiled via this link.
UP NEXT - GEORGE WAYNE ON THE NEW DOMINICK DUNNE BOOK: Let me make sure I've got this right: David Kamp, "a contributing editor for Vanity Fair", was allowed by the NYT to review the new book by Neal Pollack, even though Pollack has a monthly column in Vanity Fair?

Am I missing something here, or is this, like, really wrong?
HE'S SO HOT RIGHT NOW: It's morning in America, and $32.1 M worth of our moviegoers decided that they wanted to see a movie just because marathon runner Will Ferrell was in it.

Sometimes, America gets it right.

What distinguishes all of Ferrell's work is the complete sincerity he demonstrates in each of his performances -- his characters may all be nuts, but none of them realize it. They all believe in themselves, from Jacobim Mugatu to Frank the Tank to his off-kilter Bob Woodward in Dick. There's no winking, no irony from him -- he trusts the viewer to add that perspective by himself, and to realize that the character must be taking crazy pills or something.

Ferrell exemplifies what Mike Nichols said of actors in his recent group interview (itself a must-read) on his much-awaited HBO adaptation of Angels In America: "There is something to be said for the idea that one of the actor’s main jobs is to make the best possible case for the character."

Indeed, Ferrell said it himself in a recent Onion A.V. Club interview:
O: One thing your parts have in common is that you have absolute conviction toward the character you're playing. There isn't a lot of winking.

WF: No, no. That's what I think works the best, and what I think makes the best comedy—something that's completely committed and more approached as an acting exercise, as opposed to being worried about whether to be funny or not. The comedy comes from the context.

I am excited to see this movie.
THE BANALITY OF EVIL: I had professors that used that term a lot. It's useful, but a bit vague and accommodating. For my own comfort, back then, I distilled it down to the price of liberty being eternal vigilence... the certainty that all that must happen for evil to prevail is for good people to do nothing, etc. Neutered liberal horseshit, really, if you can't tell your principles from your testicles.

On that note, what with the country waking up to the harsh light of the morning after its wild night in Baghdad, I think we need to confront a further phenomenon, the Evil of Banality. The Evil of Banality may be approxmated for the purpose of most computations as the difference between Annie Lennox and Celine Dion.

Knowing is half the battle.

Sunday, November 9, 2003

FOURTEEN DAYS OF SOLIPSISM - WEEKEND EDITION: I can't let this feature pass without returning your attention to "the ass in the blue suit" -- Roberto Benigni's misguided remake of Pinocchio. As one reviewer asked:
Yes, Mommy, I know why "Pinocchio's" nose is growing. But why is he going bald? The beloved Roberto Benigni pushes his fortuna too far with a live-action adaptation likely to disperse his American following as quickly as "Life is Beautiful" recruited it. It's not pretty to see a grown man cry, and whimper and whine and simper, even if he's playing a madcap puppet idiotically described by everyone as resembling a little boy. And especially not a sallow, balding, desiccated fellow inching into late-middle age. . . . Maybe there's an unreported Italian tradition of employing long-in-the-tooth comedians as Pinocchio, akin to casting small, dynamic women as Peter Pan. If there is no such tradition, this movie won't start one.

Oh, that's just the start. Preserved for your amusement are all the negative reviews this blog compiled back in December: here, here, here and, finally, Brett Favre's review here. Enjoy.