Saturday, January 17, 2004

CAN YOU FIT IN? Loved, loved, lurved episode two of The Apprentice, in which the men learned that pleasing one's client is, in fact, part of being a good businessman, and the women reminded us all that sometimes a jet engine is just a jet engine, and sometimes it's a huge, gaping Special Lady Place waiting for you to fit in.

What I most appreciated about the episode was the notion that flying the women to Boston for dinner was an inculcation into The Trump Lifestyle, and that's because they flew all the way to Boston via private jet to eat at Todd English's Olives when there's an Olives in New York as well. Trump Lifestyle, indeed. And you wonder how he went broke.

(P.S. Jen and I love the Olives at the Bellagio in Las Vegas. Sit on the terrace, watch the water show, and for heaven's sake don't leave without ordering the flatbread with fig jam and proscuitto.)

(P.P.S. For what it's worth, given how much abuse I've given the show, this week's ER was tremendously good, moving and dramatic, all the things we've missed about the show. Why did it work? Because rather than be a soap opera about the doctors, it was a drama about their patients through which the doctors' characters were revealed. Excellent stuff. Bring on the ER:NICU spinoff!)

Thursday, January 15, 2004

GIRL IT'S SO GROOVY, I WANT YOU TO KNOW: Das Fork is now reporting green lights and grand plans surrounding a Pixies Reunion tour.

That bio/fan link back there (thanks Leo, whoever you are!) explains The Pixies' story and significance well enough, if anyone's unfamiliar. It also descibes their "taut . . . and demented songs", and there's a shade or a flavor of what is precious to me about The Pixies in that desciption -- the reassuringly certain arrangement of the songs, even when the "sound" was at its most innovative or *gulp* revolutionary, is a grounding counterpoint to lyrics that evade expectation and often leave sense itself torn asunder.

I live cement
I hate this street
it does to me
I must lament
this human form
where I was born
I now repent

And then, just when you're thinking "how pleasantly odd this tune is, in a jaggedly melodic way. . ." Frank starts shrieking Reh-pehnt! -- Reh-pehent! -- Reh-pehnt! with such an intensity and raw disregard for the longevity of his vocal chords that it seems possible he might mean it: This guy might actually wish he was a caribou.

Right there, blammo! The 80's are over, and it's only 1987. (As a matter of pop-culture physics, this is a fairly complicated effect. Succinct rigorous representation of the detailed temporo-aesthetic cascade is not possible in this limited space. But if you're satisfied with approximations and hand-waving, you might say that the force of Caribou balances and cancells a network of trends and tendencies that can be traced generally but reliably to the 1982 release of Duran Duran's Hungry Like The Wolf.) Not a minute too soon, if you ask me.

With 1987's Come On Pilgrim, The Pixies reformed punk and redeemed pop and launched "alternative" all at once, providing a palette of innovatively structured sounds hitched to enough chaotic energy to jumble all the parts around and make them more interesting, arbitrary, emphatic and free. Lyrics like a cat on a leash: tethered, spastic and justifiably out-of-sorts. Exactly how I felt at the time. The Pixies' whole package summed up to me in a sound the instinctive late-adolescent objection to conventional structures and established forms of doing and being (which seem arbitrary and oppressive before we learn to inhabit and own them ourselves). Their music was anchored, principled, heartfelt schizophrenia; more immediately credible and compelling than any "supposed to" that might be pressing down from other quarters.

And yet, The Pixies' music wasn't an objection. It didn't reject or deride, just did something else. Something better. Louder. Weirder. It celebrated itself, seduced us, and we roared on.

So, how will that sound as a reunion? Will it have the spark of spontaneous, unfettered creativity that made The Pixies such a liberating experience the first time around? If the songs sound like recitations, if they have themselves become rote forms of doing and being now that they have stood for years as established objects on our cultural landscape, then I suppose I will frown and shrug and settle for the expected nostalgia trip.

That would be a shame though, since it was The Pixies, at least in part, who taught me that I don't have to settle for the expected.

Wednesday, January 14, 2004

INSIDE SCHILLING'S NOGGIN: You may never have a better opportunity to find out how a major league athlete's mind works than this ongoing thread on SoSH in which frequent poster Curt "Gehrig38" Schilling is taking questions from Red Sox fans on how he approaches the game.

For example, check out this answer on how he plans to work with Sox catcher Jason Varitek:
There are 5 people that I speak with on the day I pitch, My trainer, manager, pitching coach, defensive coach and my catcher. On my day, IMO, it's my world, conversing with anyone else is wasting breathe and time on things that will have no positive impact on me getting anyone out that night.
I ask, no I think the word demand fits, alot of my catchers. It's the reason I prefer to work with one guy, every game. It's never been a thing where I liked one guy more than the next, I want my catchers to be able to throw sure, but more than anything I want to know he's as locked into getting every hitter out and making every single pitch, for 9 innings, regardless of his AB's. That's not as easy as it sounds to find. I have always asked my catchers during games, if they have a feel for something, or see something, to shake me off. For that to happen, I shake a catcher off, he taps his chest and puts the same sign down, telling me that it's his call, and he wants the pitch he put down. In that situation he's telling me he has seen something and the pitch he wants is the pitch to throw. Hasn't happened for me in about 5 years. Catchers are afraid to do this because with that decision comes responsibility, I am hoping Tek is ok with this and I think from what I hear he will be. I want my catchers to be psyched when we throw a shutout, that matters to me. I want them to WANT to know before the games what we are going to do for that 9 innings.

Show me one professional athlete in any other sport who's this open with the fans. I wish more were.

Tuesday, January 13, 2004

REALITY WORTH GROKKING: We've got two solid reality competitions on right now worth your time -- both set in NYC, both based around demonstrating one's suitability for a selected profession, both of which selected their female competitors based on their looks, both of which encompass a heavy amount of competitor genuflection in the direction of the host.

And if you know me, you already know that I love America's Next Top Model, now in its second season. The pilot re-airs Weds at 9pm. (What -- "America's Top Model After That" was taken? "America's Next Next Top Model?" "Seriously, Dude, Where's America's Next Top Model?")

Miss Tyra is an A-plus level host -- still as "professional, demanding, classy, funny and not very difficult to look at" as in season one. We've got a good mix of competitors, all of whom, ironically, seem much less like self-conscious camera whores than what you're used to seeing on reality shows, but rather are driven, opinionated women who just tell you what they think, and not what they think will get them more airtime.

The show makes you care about the craft of modeling, and forces you to take it seriously. The weekly challenges are real things that models have to do, and it's all a lot of fun.

Oh, yeah -- and judge Janice Dickinson remains a super King Kamehameha bee-yotch of the highest degree.

As for The Apprentice, it's chock full of Trumpy goodness. It combines the best team-strategery-gameplaying from Survivor with the shit-you-have-to-do-it-in-the-real-world-with-real-people unpredictable thrills of The Amazing Race.

It's a hoot. While its success will somewhat depend on well-thought team challenges and America's favorite short fingered vulgarian's continued ability to play to (and with) the cameras, the structure is good, the personalities are there and I'm excited.

The Apprentice airs this week on Thursday from 8:30p-9:30p, then next week on Wednesday, and from there, who the fuck knows.

In the meantime, AI3 and Survivor All-Star are just around the corner . . .
THE EMAIL, THE EMAIL. WHA' WHA? THE EMAIL: Wil Wheaton thinks that this is the best Strong Bad Email in a long time. If you've played computer games down the years, you may well agree.

Even if you never played Adventure! on the Atari 2600, Zork on a C64 or Shufflepuck on a Mac before the rise of modern gaming, that won't stop me from taking advantage of it as an excuse to link to Wil Wheaton and Stong Bad in a single post.

My own favorite thing from was behind the link to Return Of The King last Friday. (Like anyone needed another hobbit link, right? But there are rewards for compulsive clicking; it's part of our Master Plan.) I think that one is still my fave because it's, you know, for kids.

If you don't know Strong Bad, you should. He's a high-quality distraction. Similarly, Wil Wheaton. Don't act surprised.

For a contrast, check out The Surreal Life on the WB sometime. Tonight I got to see Ron Jeremy slow-dancing with Tammy Faye Baker, but it was a cheap thrill and I felt empty, dirty and unfulfilled afterwards. I am trying, but I still don't grok realitv.

Monday, January 12, 2004

NO, REALLY. The Triplets of Belleville. Liked it. In fact I’ve been trying all day to debunk my disappointment with this movie.

The characters were kind of iconic, static, single-minded and unanalyzed except for the dog, which had a rich interior life (and a deep ambivalence about mass-transit). But it’s a cartoon, so that’s not really a valid gripe. Anyway, the dog was brilliant.

I think I could have loved The Triplets of Belleville if only I could have read the plot as an absurd allegory (or at least an anecdote) rather than an arbitrary setting for a series of inspired and surreal animation sequences. The little stuff was all so good that I kept wishing that the big stuff, the story, would turn out to be more than a place for the little stuff to happen. Asking too much? Maybe. Asking anyway.

The Triplets get: 10 points for the musical numbers, 10 points for the dog, 10 points for the frog hunting and frog-related culinary mischief, 5 points for paddle-boating, 5 points for the triplets’ apartment building and another 5 points just for going there, for a total of 45.

45 is a pretty good score. And if you only see one foreign absurdo-surreal animation film this week, better it should be The Triplets of Belleville than Tamala 2010: Punk Cat In Space. Trust me. I found out the hard way.

Sunday, January 11, 2004

WE'VE GOT TONIGHT; WHO NEEDS TOMORROW? On a karmic level, this one might make up for the Fog Bowl. Next week, maybe we wipe off last year's debacle, and end The Curse of William Penn altogether.

What a game. Wow.