Indeed, the achievement of the Potter books is the same as that of the great classics of children's literature, from the Oz novels to 'The Lord of the Rings': the creation of a richly imagined and utterly singular world, as detailed, as improbable and as mortal as our own.
Saturday, July 16, 2005
That said, it's got some good moments to it. I know that I said last month that I wanted "an official moratorium on Vince Vaughn still playing the role of Vince Vaughn", but, you know what? His scenes with Isla Fisher (a/k/a Flute Girl II) are the best thing in the movie, and his character arc completely worked for me. It's half of a great comedy, based on Vince Vaughn doing what he does best
But Owen Wilson? I'm not sure if it's his general cinematic demeanor or the way the character was written, but I did not buy the Butterscotch Stallion as a sleaze-in-need-of-redemption; he's too essentially good natured. I mean, c'mon, Hansel's too mellow to be plotting against women; he's too cool for that.
There are problems, too, with ALOTT5MA favorite Christopher Walken. It is not inherently funny just to have him in a movie; you need to give him something to do.
Bottom line? If you were planning to see the movie, see it; if you weren't enthused, I'm not about to tell you your preconceptions were wrong.
Friday, July 15, 2005
Season One of Remington Steele comes out on DVD in a couple of weeks. I was never a heavy watcher back in 1982 (!!), but I did watch it occasionally with my family. (The Remington Steele set and Season One of Lois & Clark will be my dad's birthday gift in a few weeks.) Reading through the description of the set, I noticed that all 22 episodes have "Steele" in the title.
To wit: License to Steele, Tempered Steele, Steele Waters Run Deep, Signed Steeled and Delivered, Thou Shalt Not Steele, Steele Belted, Etched in Steele, You're Steele the One for Me, In the Steele of the Night, Steele Trap, Steeling the Show, Steele Flying High, A Good Night's Steele, Hearts of Steele, To Stop a Steele, Steele Crazy After All These Years, Steele Among the Living, Steele in the News, Vintage Steele, Steele's Gold, Sting of Steele, and Steele in Circulation. All four seasons apparently continued the naming convention. (Forged Steele, Beg Borrow or Steele, Steele Blushing, Steeled With a Kiss, Bonds of Steele, and so forth.)
It's a good thing the show didn't last any longer, or we'd have had episodes entitled "Steele Trying to Think of More Ways to Stretch Out This Damned Joke" and "Steele Beating a Dead Horse."
Thursday, July 14, 2005
Pity that I'll have 672 pages to read this weekend and thus will be seeing no movies.
He was kind enough to answer a few questions via email about the novel, and on how he thinks lawyers and law firms can make themselves a little more humane:
You can purchase In the Shadow of the Law via this link.
What led you to attend law school in the first place? Did you have any sense as to what you were going to do with a J.D.?
I went to law school because I didn't have any other plans. I was thinking about philosophy grad school, but my parents talked me out of it (very hard to get a teaching job; if you do get one, still very isolating; if you don't get one, you're an overeducated cab driver). I was hoping to get a novel published around the time I started law school, and I had dreams that that would let me drop out triumphantly, but it didn't happen.
Was Morgan Siler [the DC law firm in the novel] intended to be an exaggeration in any way, or does it pretty much match your experience with (and understanding of) how major defense firms operate?
It probably got exaggerated at moments because I was having fun with it, but it was intended to be realistic. Most of the descriptions are very much true to life--I had my experiences to go on, and the experiences of friends, and I did some research about the evolution of the big firms for the historical aspects of it.
A number of readers see former Supreme Court clerk Walker Eliot as a stand-in for you in the book, but I know you don't believe he's a hero in any way. Explain why.
He's not a hero because he lacks a moral sense. He has an idea of duty and fidelity to the law, but it's purely intellectual and aesthetic--it's about the law as an abstraction, rather than an instrument of justice, and it has no room for people. That's a view that I can slide into sometimes -- it's something people used to criticize my briefs for when I was litigating -- but it's not one that I endorse. Walker's worldview is supposed to be revealed as an impoverished one, which is also in part why he's such a sucker for gadgets and fancy shoes. Because he's not supposed to be an admirable character, I thought it would be safe to let him have some biographical overlap with me without people thinking he was a stand-in.
Other than "read my book", what should law schools being telling their students to prepare them for the choices they will have to make? And what, exactly, should real-life Marks and Katjas be doing with their lives?
I would like to see law school career services offices giving more emphasis to non-firm jobs. Law firm recruiting dwarfs everything else, and that's unfortunate. For the people who to go to big firms, my aim is not to say that they've made a mistake and will be miserable and should leave -- I think that is true of some people who end up in firms, but on the other hand there are plenty of people who will thrive. I would just implore them to try to maintain an independent moral judgment about what they're doing, and to do some pro bono work. Big-firm pro bono is one of the great things about our legal culture -- it's the deployment of incredible resources on behalf of people who otherwise would be getting nothing. So I'm not trying to be entirely negative about big firms.
Are there ways for lawyers to reverse the "it's all about the business" trends you chronicle in the novel? Are there, at least, small steps towards a more humane or dignified practice that large corporate firms can take?
That's probably more for the partners than the associates. I would think that it's possible for firms to compete on the basis of humanity as well as salary. Surveys of associates keep finding that they'd give up some money to get more of their lives back. Whether a firm could in fact have lower salaries and reduced hours and still both get good associates and not have the hours creep up on a de facto basis I don't know. Putting a real emphasis on pro bono is certainly one thing that could be done. Another is trying to create a less industrialized culture, which you can do even in big firms by having smaller practice groups.
So, what do you do when you're not doing law?
Between the teaching and the academic research and the novel writing, I haven't had all that much free time lately. I love to read, and I try to make some time for that every day. I read all sorts of fiction. I also buy nonfiction books that I feel I should read, but they tend to stack up beside my bed. I also play a lot of squash. I'm the faculty mentor for the undergraduate squash teams at Penn, and I play with them when I get the chance.
GRAND THEFT UH-OH: Senator Clinton has stepped into the controversy about hidden and allegedly explicit sexual content in Rockstar Games’ Grand Theft Auto, San Andreas, demanding investigations and reclassifications and generally making an executive-quality display of deep moral concern about the potential of unregulated technology to covertly assist adolescent onanism.
The rest of us are left to wonder: Where did they hide the explicit content? Was it buried under the images of blood and gore, intense violence, strong language, strong sexual content, use of drugs and hit-and-run slaying of prostitutes that have made the GTA titles such huge hits with the testosterone-addled demographic? Wolves in sheep’s clothing! I am shocked! SHOCKED and AMAZED to discover that explicit sexual content was… never mind.
Actually it’s an interesting situation worthy of intelligent discussion, one that suggests but apparently does not straddle the line between distributor and user-created content in the field of interactive entertainment and gaming. In this case, all appearances are that the code in question was included in the final version of the PC game Rockstar distributed, and merely unlocked by a user-created modification program known on the web as Hot Coffee. Game distributors, however, are increasingly open to user modifications of game interfaces and to user-developed game content. So we might, one day, see the rise of grassroots machinima home-porn that grows out of nothing more centrally insidious than giving users access to the function calls that dress, pose and move game characters. It might already be here (totally NOT safe for work), hiding behind the seemingly safe and innocuous skin of The Sims.
Dog and cats … living together … total anarchy!
Or not. Remember when you were bored in 7th grade English class and you made a little “flip book” of Tie-Fighters and X-Wings chasing each other around a Deathstar in the margins of Tess Of The Derbervilles? Then remember how the ADD kid next to you with the older sister who just got back from a halfway house made an entirely different flip-book in the margins of his own copy? Seems the GTA content is kind of like that, with buttons. (Lame as it is folks, I’m not sure that last link is safe for everyone’s workplace either.)
Props, of course, to gamegirladvance.com for the intelligent discussion and to gamespot and Senator Clinton for continued diligent servicing of their key demographics. Love to ukresistance for the screenshots and their more or less continual send-up of the demented and sad (but social) world of gaming enthusiasts.
Haven't had a chance to really go through them yet, but I do note on the first page that the "South Park" episode nominated for best animated program was, indeed, the Schiavo one. And for best reality competition, as predicted, the nominees are Race/Survivor/Idol/Apprentice/Runway.
Go to it.
Wednesday, July 13, 2005
Well, the powerful voice of pop music
Solve the problems, feed the world
So what if there weren't any blacks involved?
There was Everything but the Girl
Bob Geldof has no ego
That man should get the Nobel Prize
By the time he sang the solo on "Feed the World"
I thought he should be canonized
I felt guilty about the starving
But I felt good to be alive
And I must admit I shed a tear or two
In the very moving video for that great Cars song "Drive"
Saint Bob made me feel like shit
So I got out an envelope, opened it
Put in a very crisp ten pound note
(It was the same one I used earlier to snort my coke)
And that made me feel good inside
(Sending the money, not snorting the coke)
The local public television station is showing an hour of the 1985 concert tonight for pledge purposes, and a few things strike me for the first time:
- Back in 1985, Madonna looked a lot like Kate Winslet (does now)
- My goodness -- The Edge has no hat! And Bono . . . is that mullet a wig? They were definitely a bit more effeminate back then, before Bono assumed the role of Most Important Person In The World
- A rather nice performance of "Every Breath You Take" by Sting, Phil Collins (piano/vox) and Branford Marsalis (sax) that I had completely forgotten
- Tom Petty had yooooge sideburns back then.
- Since the late Freddie Mercury knew he was wearing a wifebeater, could he have shaved his pit hairs or at least tamed them down a little?
- I miss Simple Minds. That was a pretty darn good band.
Oh, and by the way? That Queen performance was every bit as good as I remembered it to be.
All Comments phrased in the form of Dylan lyrics or allusions are welcome.
Up next: Time Warner sues MTV for not providing "Music Television".
Um, I don't seem to recall any loose ends from that movie, so what, then? Two hours of Keyzer Soze scaring people? Chazz Palminteri finally works again? Tell us something they could do in a sequel you'd want to see.
Tuesday, July 12, 2005
Can you imagine their doing the same in an article about a meth lab that used Sudafed as their main ingredient?
So, what makes your list as an all-time underrated album? For me, the first Son Volt album would make the list, as would Billy Bragg's Back to Basics, The Silos' CD with the bird on it, The Reivers' End of the Day, and Laura Cantrell's Not the Tremblin' Kind.
Monday, July 11, 2005
In his honor, a flashback to the Score Bard:
"What's great about Bobby Abreu,"
Says Bowa, "He'll never dismeu.
He just gives his best
And will not protest,
Whatever you ask, he'll obeu."
Also via the Bard, your wacky sports injury of the week: this one's pretty grape.
3) Aliens: Why always naked? Ever noticed how old-school humanoid aliens always arrived decked out in ornamental finery (and speaking English), while the little guys with the big eyes (a la "Close Encounters of the Third Kind"), or those ambulatory phalluses with teeth (see "Alien"), or those insectile brainiacs ("War of the Worlds") have seemingly evolved beyond clothing? Did it bother the kids in "E.T." that their extraterrestrial pal had neither trousers nor genitals? WHAT IS STEVEN SPIELBERG UP TO? For that matter, how do these aliens excrete? They have mouths, so why nothing at the other end? Has anyone ever seen alien buttocks?
4) What's the story behind the Seventh Dwarf? At the end of "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs," Snow White kisses six dwarfs goodbye. Does anyone know which dwarf was left out, and why? Was impropriety involved? Did Snow White have a torrid affair with Grumpy before ditching him for a prince? WHAT WAS WALT DISNEY UP TO?
5) Lord Ganesha's elephant head: What's up with that? Was this the best Shiva and Parvati could do? Wasn't it too big for his body? And how many arms, really? Did he ever have to attend a public school and explain his appearance, or was he homeschooled?
8) Zombies: Why so fun? Everyone loves the living dead. What's the draw? What's your favorite zombie flick? Do you like your animated corpses slow and shuffling (in the George Romero tradition) or quick 'n' deadly, like sharp- toothed bunnies (as in "28 Days Later")?
Your answers are welcome.
Caray's "It might be ... it could be ... it is!" was also picked as the best home run call, while Russ Hodges' 1951 "Shot Heard Round The World" ("The Giants win the pennant! The Giants win the pennant!) was named the most memorable call.
When I was growing up and going to summer day camp, it was always a huge deal that, on the last day of camp, the buses would all stop at 7-Eleven and the bus counselors would pick up Slurpees for everyone, like it was the most magical forbidden treat ever. (Like it would've been impossible to just ask our parents to take us there to get them.)
These days, it's frappuccinos for me -- and the fact that they're higher in calories (if you get the whipped cream) than Slurpees (which are fat-free) and about the same in carbs . . . um, forget that I told you that, okay?
[NORM MACDONALD]The worst place to raise a family, for the tenth straight year? The Neverland Ranch.[/NORM MACDONALD]
Ed Valauskas, bassist: ''Bums me out. If Hutchence had simply been kicked out of the band, I could see a gimmick like this. But the guy hung himself. Plus, even though the TV thing worked well for Ozzie, he's a compelling personality. Is their saxophone guy that incredible a character? I doubt it."
Michael Creamer, artist manager: ''Truly morbid. I don't understand why the guys in the band would want to do it. Maybe to bring more attention to the group, but the concept is just bizarre. Nirvana went nowhere after Kurt Cobain died, and these guys aren't exactly Nirvana."
Yeah. When the president of the Trump Taj Mahal died in a helicopter crash a few years ago, not even Donald Trump would use that as the occasion to launch his reality tv competition. I think I'll pass.
Sunday, July 10, 2005
My sad admission? I remember watching the first episode of TAR1 and being hopelessly confused by the rules and gave up on it. I didn't come back till TAR4 and the wonderful world of inter alia, the Clowns and Weezer and Geezer.
- Tom Cavanaugh, Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series, Jack & Bobby--It's fairly inexplicable how Cavanaugh has managed to avoid getting Comedy-side nominations for either his lead work on Ed or his recurring guest part as J.D.'s brother on Scrubs. Cavanaugh's performance as Jimmy McAllister in a couple of episodes of this season's late and lamented WB drama, though, should have been good enough to make people take notice, especially a scene where he goes toe to toe with Christine Lahti about his drug addictions.
- "Malone v. Malone," Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series, Without a Trace--If just for making a gripping hour of police procedural without a crime being involved, this deserves mention. Rather than any person being missing, this episode of the consistently solid crime drama focuses on Jack Malone being deposed in his divorce. However, what makes it truly special is how effectively Malone slowly boils, building to a shocking act of physical and emotional violence. Top-notch stuff.
- Judy Greer, Outsanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series, Arrested Development--Kitty Sanchez is genius on the page, I suspect, but Greer manages to make it even better, with an odd mix of tender pathos and utter insanity. And any nomination for AD is welcome.
- Liza Weil, Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series, Gilmore Girls--Kelly Bishop would be most deserving of a nomination, but enough people are focusing on that, but Weil would also be worthy for her performance as Paris Geller. Sure, there's been nothing as exasperatingly funny from her this season as there was two seasons ago with her neurotic "I had sex, so I'm not going to HARVARD!" breakdown, but her work this year both mourning for her late lamented romance with Prof. Fleming and her relationship with Doyle are worthy alone.
- Tom Amades, Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series, Everwood--I really wish I weren't picking just one person from Everwood, but if you have to pick, Amandes is it. It's a nasty category, with competition from 2/3 of the cast of West Wing, Victor Garber, and likely frontrunner Shatner, but Amandes is worth it--be it praying in a bathroom stall for the health of his wife, comically feuding with Dr. Brown, or telling his daughter the horrible, nasty, truth about her boyfriend--he's been one of the best actors on TV this year. Period.
- Robert Sean Leonard, Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series, House--OK, Hugh Laurie is a veritable cinch for a nomination, but the supporting cast on this show doesn't really get enough attention. Leonard, as Dr. Wilson, perhaps the only doctor who House will defer to, helps anchor the show. His stoicism and skepticism counterbalance Laurie's arrogance and certainty, and it's that balance that makes the show work.
- Outstanding Reality Series, Project Greenlight--One word. Gulager. That's all. And maybe an Emmy win will get the series picked up for a well-deserved fourth run.
- Outstanding Reality/Competition Series, Project Runway--OK, Survivor, Amazing Race, and Idol are locks. Top Model probably gets the fourth slot, occupied last year by Last Comic Standing. But is there any question that Runway was wonderfully executed and made reality TV that well deserves its props here? Didn't think so. Sadly, the residual popularity of Apprentice may leave Runway feeling "out."
So, who are your favorite longshots who haven't gotten much mention? I'm not talking about the folks who EW and the like have been pushing (Kristen Bell, Lauren Graham, John C. McGinley), all of whom are deserving--but those who don't seem to get much love from anywhere.
I don't pretend to understand the analysis from this bizarro Salon article that what makes the new BSG good is some post-feminist gender mumbo. That's crap. Katee Sackhoff is hot. But inherently so, not because one should write term papers about her for a Reed College feminist studies program.
BSG is good because it's good science fiction. The writers set up rules for how the universe operates -- and now lives by them -- there is no Lt. Data to use the sensor array to create a phase-shield positronic crucible to protect the threatened planet from a series of novae. Early in season one, the fleet -- some of which had not faster-than-light (FTL) capability -- had to make a choice between standing and fighting (the Galactica was elsewhere) or leaving a third of the fleet at the nuclear-tipped hands of the Cylons. Certain doom awaited those who stayed behind. So, save 2/3 of the fleet, or die as one?
In Star Trek, they'd have figured out a way to save everyone through emergency transporters or something. The physics and engineering of the society could not do a thing about it, any more than a fleet of news helicopters could have stopped the collapse of the World Trade Center. The ships that could jump to FTL did so. The rest died: 10,000 or so people in one of the more simple and disturbing images in movie or TV science fiction. A long shot, with a few enemy ships popping out of jump-space. A few missiles fly toward the remaining fleet and all are snuffed out.
It's dark. It's well-written. It's smart. And it's the best television science fiction since we learned that To Serve Man was a cookbook.