Saturday, February 16, 2008
- Amy Adams performing "Happy Working Song"
- Kristin Chenoweth and Marlon Saunders (the calypso singer from the film) performing "That's How You Know"
- Jon McLaughlin performing "So Close"
- Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova performing "Falling Slowly"
- Jamia Simone Nash and the IMPACT Repertory Theater of Harlem performing "Raise It Up"
Friday, February 15, 2008
Everything I know, I have learned at the University of Chicago Law School. It is an amazing institution. It is a unique combination of high standards, curiosity, intellectual excitement, refusal to follow the herd, focus, generosity, personal kindness, intensity, desire to get it right, a nonsense-free zone, toughness, gentleness, amusement, and a sense of fun amidst it all -- and much more.Full email in the Comments. This is truly a loss for the Law School, the legal-academic equivalent of a Red Sox signing of Johan Santana.
I bought Jonathan Strange and Darkmans out of the General Fiction/Literature section (at B&N or Borders; I can't tell them apart other than that Borders still has better a better music section), but I picked up The Prestige and The Baroque Cycle in Sci-Fi/Fantasy. I got World War Z in Horror, but A Brief History of the Dead in General Fiction/Literature. Yiddish Policemen's Union and Casual Rex/Anonymous Rex: GenFic/Lit; L.A. Confidential/Black Dahlia: Mystery. A Good and Happy Child: GenFic/Lit; The Terror: Horror.
I can't see anything that justifies this weird classification. There's far more of the fantastic in Jonathan Strange than in Baroque Cycle. The Terror is more mythic than horror, and Good and Happy Child is the opposite. There are undercover dinosaurs in Casual Rex, for crying out loud. There isn't any legitimate stylistic basis for the distinction, I think (though one could argue the point with certain books). And yet one group gets to call itself highbrow; the other is stuck with the lowbrow tag (and often, but not always, the genre packaging, with the geeky graphics and the garish colors and the embarassing title font). Who makes these decisions, and why?
Which leads me to ask our dear readership: when you take on a life of crime, what fine art are you going to lift?
* I think I only recognized the Degas; I know nothing about this stuff.
"Q: If they were going to construct the Mount Rushmore of the rap industry, who would the four members be? Keep in mind that it is the four most influential people to the history of the industry, not necessarily the four best rappers.
--Adam, Hillsville, Va.
SG: You'd have to call it Mount Rapmore and, by the way, it's not a bad idea for a tourist attraction in Compton or Watts. Anyway, Tupac had the most raw talent, the biggest creative impact and the most fascinating legacy. He has to be there. Dr. Dre played a crucial role during rap's formative years, helped launch the West Coast sound, found Snoop and the Dogg Pound, pushed rap into the mainstream with "The Chronic" and showed everyone else how to sell out. He has to be there. Jay-Z made the most money, bagged Beyonce and turned himself into a financial and cultural icon. He has to be there.
As for the fourth spot, Eminem reached the single highest peak of any rapper; Biggie Smalls was the greatest freestyler ever and had the single most distinctive sound; and Public Enemy had a bigger influence than both of them, only you couldn't just stick Chuck D. on there because it would belittle the contributions of everyone else in the group. So I keep coming back to this point: Biggie's major red flag was that he died too young, but if he had made one more memorable album, you'd pencil him in without an argument. Can you penalize him for dying young? I say no. Besides, you can't have a Mount Rapmore with Tupac and not Biggie when those guys are so intertwined historically. So Biggie would be my fourth pick for now, but it's up for grabs. We're an Eminem comeback album away from him knocking Biggie off and grabbing the fourth spot."
(I'd normally give you the link and spare you the long quotation, but the question and answer are buried in the second half of a 6,000+ word article.)
I perceive the same "group vs. individual" problem with the Sugarhill Gang that Simmons discusses regarding Chuck D, but I simply cannot imagine Mount Rapmore without some sort of homage to that band. Your thoughts?
Thursday, February 14, 2008
I didn't mention this last week, but I am 98% sure who Ben's man on the freighter is. Two words: "find rescue".
e.t.a. Sepinwall: "You know, if this episode had featured nothing but the moment where Sayid pointed out that Jack trying to kill Locke wasn't 'good diplomacy' -- the latest instance this season where a character is allowed to question Jack's idiotic leadership skills -- I would have been happy with it. But 'The Economist' gave us so much more..."
Personally, I hated the result because the winner (for the third time this season) took his top honors and glowing enthusiastic reviews from the judges with a design that I would have ranked dead last and laughable. On the other hand, I loved the result because others remained alive due to the Dreaded Cavalli Deadlock -- a little known principle of fashion judging that states any Italian designer of sufficient years and reputation can call bullshit on the likes of Michael, Nina and Heidi and get away with it.
And yet even Cavalli raved about the objective soul-searing atrocity perpetrated by this week's winner. He loved loved loved it. Obviously I know nothing about fashion, because I thought it was a bad joke. Not that the eliminated party's effort didn't look like it belonged on a female extra in an over-budget Lionel Richie video, because it did. As an aside, if you find yourself comparing some of the menswear in Richie's video (favorably) to the duds currently touted on Cavalli's site above, please let me know I'm not alone. Yes, anonymous commenting is acceptable for this purpose.
Here's an obligatory Final Fashion Week Collections link from Bravotv. Knowing you guys I bet I was the last one to that party, but I'm pretty sure we're yet to discuss. Favorites?
I'm still waiting for the next Sabrina Sloan -- IMHO one of two contestants over the first six years eliminated before the final 12 who could have won the whole thing. (Frenchie Davis being the other.) Official bios available here; wacky dancing parade remains here.
Still, the winner of most awesome thing done during the strike? My Name Is Earl creator Greg Garcia, who spent 30 days of the strike working (anonymously) as a janitor and cashier at an unspecified fast food restaurant.
Incidentally, I remember from Encyclopedia Brown's Book of Weird and Wonderful Facts that "continuum" is one of the three words in the English language that employs a double-u. Vacuum is one of the others, but I forget the third. Anyone?
- Uncommonly-Broad-Shouldered Person
- Huge Carry-On Guy
- The Lady With All That Perfume
- The Guy Who Has the Loud and Pointless Conversation on his Cell Phone Until the Flight Crew Gives Him the Final Warning and then the Moment Wheels Are Down He Redials and Picks It Up Again as if He Never Hung Up and then You See Him Again in the Terminal and He’s Still Yammering On Loudly About the Same Basketball Game and Dude I Can Hear You From Across the Concourse So Give it a Rest Already
- Twentysomething People in Conservative Clothing Going to D.C. who Could Be Either Democrats or Republicans Because in D.C. the Twentysomething Democrats and Republicans Look Exactly the Same Right Down to the Flag Lapel Pins and Sensible Haircuts
- Dr. University of Chicago School of Advanced Medicine Laptop Bag who Doesn’t Ring his Call Button When the Flight Crew Asks for Someone with Medical Training Maybe Because They Didn’t Ask for Someone with Advanced Medical Training
- Shushes People Who Sneeze Lady
- Just Getting to The DaVinci Code
- Feral Pack of People Pretending Not to Understand the Southwest Boarding System
- Southwest Employee Who Doesn’t Give a Shit about the Southwest Boarding System
- Guy Irrationally Obsessed with Enforcing the Southwest Boarding System (informally known as: “me”)
- People Who Give the Evil Eye to People Who Get Into the Southwest Boarding Line Ahead of Them Even Though It’s Not Cutting if You Have a Lower-Numbered Boarding Card
- Larry Craig
- Unaccompanied Minor
- Seductively-Dressed Tween
- Guy in Exit Row Who Rolls Eyes and Says “There Goes My Peaceful Flight” when Someone Sits Next to Him Because I Guess He Has Taken Ownership of the Exit Row
- Overpays for Last-Minute Souvenirs
- Boring Guy Who Won’t Stop Telling Boring Stories about his Boring Family
- Girl Who Is Thinking About Jumping Out of Plane to Get Away from Boring Guy
- Giant Headphones Guy
- Watches Movie on Laptop Without Headphones Guy
- Very Friendly Person
- Embarrassed by Poor Sudoku Skills
- Waits Until At Front of Security-Checkpoint Line Before Removing Shoes, Laptop
- Is That Kelly MacDonald? No, It Is Not Kelly MacDonald
- People Who Look Like They’re On the Lam
- 35-Year-Old Guy Hitting on College Freshman
- College Freshman Leading on 35-Year-Old Guy
- Guy Who Has a Medical Emergency That Causes Plane to be Diverted to Reno
- Guy Who Complains Loudly and to No One About Having to Land in Reno (same as Guy in Exit Row Who Rolls Eyes)
- Screaming Kid
- Thinks Parents Can Do Something About Screaming Kid Guy
- Compulsively Eats Everything Offered to Him (also occasionally known as: “me”)
- Peanut Allergy Public Information Officer
Wednesday, February 13, 2008
e.t.a. And here, America, is your Wacky Dancing Parade.
“Dad, can you take me to a florist? I want to buy a rose for J.” He paused a moment, a little unsure of himself. He’d never bought flowers of any kind for a girl before.
“Dad, with a gorgeous wife like Mommy, I bet you’ve bought her roses lots of times. Will you show me what to do?”
How could I possibly say no? We drove together to the local farmer’s market, where the best local florist has a stand. I guided him to the roses on display. “What do I do now” he asked?
“Pick out the color you like best. Red is traditionally the color of romance.” He decided he liked the white ones best.
“How do I know which one to choose?”
“Choose one that looks fresh and healthy. Look for one that still has a tight bud.” He selected his favorite one.
I beckoned to the florist. “This is the first time my son has bought a rose for a girl. Did he pick out a good one?”
She smiled. “The one you picked smells especially good. Yes, I’m sure she will love this one.”
While she wrapped it, I asked my son “what do you think J will say when she sees this?” Suddenly he was a little boy again. He stared at the floor.
“I just want her to be happy because she makes me so happy.”
Let's make this our "open Valentine's Day" thread. Share a favorite memory. When was the first time you bought someone special a rose (or received one from someone special)? Tell a tale of a Valentine's Day to remember.
As Clemens bravely pointed out in sworn testimony today, his long-time friend Andy Pettite -- a guy who bears Clemens no grudge, and who appears to have been a key factor in luring Clemens out of fake-retirement to pitch for the Astros a few years back -- "misremembered" a conversation in which Clemens said that his wife took synthetic human growth hormone. Pettite mistakenly believed that the HGH was for the professional athlete, not the professional mom.
The fact is that while all parents reach daily the limits of their performance capacity -- do I have the strength to wrestle the Sharpie from my toddler-vandal's death-grip, the speed to grab him before he depantses himself and pees on the rug again, and the stamina to tuck him into his big boy bed for the 91st time in 90 minutes? -- we cannot even begin to understand the pressure on elite moms like Debbie Clemens. With nary but the help of a large and difficult-to-locate-at-the-request-of-Congress household staff, she must supervise the care and feeding of the Clemens boys while simultaneously maintaining a body suitable for a Sports Illustrated swimsuit photo and hair as blonde as the color of the Hummer that the Yankees gave her husband on the occasion of his first retirement. Who in that position wouldn't be tempted by a little synthetic help to put some extra snap in the reach-back fastball, so to speak? And who among us has never wondered whether we couldn't gain an edge on the maternal competition if we (or our wives) weren't more muscular and indefatiguable (even at the expense some pattern baldness and the tendency to throw broken bats at Mike Piazza -- again, so to speak)? So isn't Clemens right that what we really need is a Mitchell Report to investigate the sordid world of elite mommery?
- SNL will return on February 23 with hostess Tina Fey (and, you must expect, appearances from other 30 Rock cast members) with Ellen Page hosting on March 1.
- A profile of the women of Deal or No Deal, noting that they have a wide range of backgrounds--from former Playboy centerfold to member of the California bar.
Tuesday, February 12, 2008
The dirty stuff is all there. But so is wonder, pure and complex, and some willful forgetting can bring you back to it. Put aside Jacko, the tragic example. Return to Michael, the musical prodigy who filtered a host of cross-cultural and intergenerational influences through his own weird radar to create music as surprising as it was definitive.
Enjoy that Michael, at play in the fields of new technology with producer Quincy Jones and the best team of studio pros since Brian Wilson roped in the Wrecking Crew. At 24, that Michael embodied the vertiginous power of being young -- his love songs were all longing and playful innuendo, his angry songs half bluster and half nightmare. That Michael believed that pop songs could have the effect that classic tales have on kids, coloring their dreams and staying forever in their memories. "Thriller" was the first Neverland he built -- the one he'll never lose in bankruptcy court.
EW's Ken Tucker dissents some: "Here's the thing: Thriller isn't a perfect creation. Quick, can you hum ''The Lady in My Life,'' the album's hookless closer? Didn't think so. The core of Thriller's music was executed by members of Toto, the ultimate L.A. session-hack band (remember their hits ''Hold the Line'' and ''Africa''?), in arrangements that sometimes required Michael's masterfully expressive vocals to mask their mere slickness. And if you ignore the hype and look around at other 1982 releases, Thriller is arguably not even the most-sustained quality album of that year: I could make strong arguments for George Clinton's Computer Games (come on, ''Atomic Dog'' alone influenced more hip-hop than any Michael song ever did), Bruce Springsteen's Nebraska, and, yes, Marshall Crenshaw."
So let's take a trip back to the Motown 25 celebration, and one of the few lip-synched performances I can forgive, because it's hard to remember a world before the moonwalk, and it's hard to imagine a future in which any album again dominates the culture the way Thriller did back then.
e.t.a. Also, Wednesday's one of my favorite obscure Idol traditions: the annual parade of the final 24 doing their wacky dances.
The links below consist of several "intent-to-use" trademark applications filed by Kraft Group LLC, which is owned by the owners of the New England Patriots. These claims state, under penalty of law, that as of Jan. 18, 2008 (roughly three weeks before the Super Bowl!), Kraft Group LLC had a bona fide intent to use the trademarks '19-0,' 'PERFECT SEASON,' 'ROAD TO PERFECTION' and '19-0 THE PERFECT SEASON.'
As someone on the Sports Guy’s website observed: “Such hubris does not go unpunished by the karma police."
Monday, February 11, 2008
THERE WILL BE RUMINATIONS: Several of our readers asked for a piece on Paul Thomas Anderson’s film There Will Be Blood. My thoughts are below. I would also suggest that you look at the many perceptive reviews by professional reviewers available at Metacritic. I particularly liked David Denby’s piece in The New Yorker.
The characters and themes in There Will Be Blood echo those in
1. Love and Related Matters
In Hard Eight (1996), the seemingly avuncular Sydney (played brilliantly by Phillip Baker Hall) has a secret that is revealed at the end of the film, which puts his display of kindness to John (John C. Reilly) in an entirely new light. John, in turn, has been damaged by the death of his father when he was a young boy. He has a relationship of sorts with Clementine (Gwyneth Paltrow) but that relationship is unreal. Clementine says what she thinks people want to hear. John chooses to ignore the fact that she is hooking on the side.
Boogie Nights (1997) provides an interesting parallel with the plot of There Will Be Blood. In Boogie Nights, the characters sublimate their need for love with a fervent quest for sex, fame, and drugs (love -> sex), while in There Will Be Blood, whatever capacity Daniel Plainview (Daniel Day-Lewis) might have had for love appears to have been transformed into an obsessive competition for wealth (love -> greed). Most memorably in the earlier film, Eddie/Dirk Diggler (Mark Wahlberg) can find fulfillment only when he is acclaimed as a star of adult films. When his career tails off, he turns to drugs. Throughout the film, Diggler, a narcissist fond of clothes and a fast car, seems unable to respond to any sort of real love. Similarly, Amber Waves (Julianne Moore), a former housewife, is now a porn star who makes sobbing telephone calls late at night to her ex-husband, begging to speak to their child. Another narcissist, the Nina Hartley character (a real life porn star who plays a porn star in the movie) seeks sex rather than love. She continually humiliates her husband Little Bill (William H. Macy) by having sex with other men, occasionally in public.
Magnolia (2000) is chock full of characters yearning for love and mostly failing to find any sort of significant connection: Frank Mackey (Tom Cruise) a repugnant stud, damaged by his adulterous and unloving father, has distorted “love” into a coldly calculating approach to seducing women, his father Earl Partridge (Jason Robards) on death’s door looks back at a life of business success and a loveless family life full of betrayal, Linda Partridge (Julianne Moore) is Earl’s unloving wife, who has become addicted to prescription painkillers, former quiz kid Donnie Smith (William H. Macy) is a pathetic loser, who thinks all would be good in his life if he only had orthodontics for his teeth, Jimmy Gator (Phillip Baker Hall) is the host of a quiz show, and another adulterous phony. Even the few kind caregivers such as a cop played by John C. Reilly and a nurse played by Philip Seymour Hoffman, are unable to forge any sort of rewarding relationship. The theme of the movie is loneliness. The film interweaves nine separate yet interlocking stories about these characters covering a single day, yet all of these relationships are so fragile that none can really prosper.
Enraged, depressed, and frantic, Barry Egan (Adam Sandler), the central character in Punch-Drunk Love (2002), initially seems incapable of love. Wearing a mask of cheerful blandness with which to face the world, he often erupts in horrifying outbursts. Barry appears to be on guard most of the time, unsure of himself, threatened by something beyond his understanding. Yet when he meets Lena Leonard (Emily Watson) somehow they overcome the odds and figure out a way to connect. The climax in
We know very little about the back story of Daniel Plainview in There Will Be Blood. We know that he has no wife, no friends, and no interests except for alcohol, the pursuit of wealth, and, intermittently his “son” H.W. He states that he “hates most people” and that:
“There are times when I look at people and I see nothing worth liking. I want to earn enough money that I can get away from everyone.”A proud narcissist incapable of love or simply disinclined to love, he fills that void with a ferocious entrepreneurial energy and ruthlessness.
2. Father Figures
3. Drugs and Alcohol
5. What it All Means
Like the vast majority of the characters in Anderson's other films, Plainview has at best a limited capacity to love. He fills that void with a tremendous quest for wealth, but that wealth brings him no closer to happiness. In that regard, his tale is similar to the other Quixotic quests for happiness upon which various characters in other Anderson movies embark. You can also see some of Barry Egan's (the Adam Sandler character in Punch-Drunk Love) unsettled rage in Plainview's violent outbursts.
As is the case in other films by Anderson, Plainview is a flawed father figure who numbs his pain with alcohol.
ThingThrower MBR is taking the MBRgirls to tomorrow's daytime dog events -- perhaps she'll offer up a little commentary as to what it's like in person. For me, it's certain to be an allergy nightmare, so I think I'll stick to the CNBC coverage.
- The Time w/Rihanna. Next time, more Jerome!
- Carrie Underwood w/STOMP. Right now, they're probably trying to remember why they were doing it like this.
- Tina Turner w/Beyonce Knowles; Alicia Keys w/Undead Zombie Sinatra and interrupted by John Mayer doing "No One" -- which, seriously, of the songs from 2007 that'll last? It's that one. And I still think Keys' biggest hits are yet to come -- the Whitney level of fame remains within her reach.
- Cirque du Soleil/Across the Universe tribute to the Beatles
- Amy Winehouse. You can't teach phrasing like that. Includes a defiant little "Rehab".
- Kanye West w/Daft Punk. He always seems to bring it for nights like this.
Another nice blast from the past: Nicky Sobotka coming out of witness protection to shout down the Mayor.
But: I am so bored with the Baltimore Sun and the Stephen Glass subplot.
ETA: From a commenter at Sepinwall, Columbia sociologist Sudhir Venkatesh -- whose work observing as something like an embedded reporter among Chicago street gangs is chronicled in Gang Leader for a Day -- watches The Wire every week with a bunch of gang members and reports their thoughts. Pretty engaging -- the consensus reaction to two of Marlo's acts of violence was surprising, for example.
Sunday, February 10, 2008
Could the demeanor of Garber's various TV personae over the last seven years be any different from the tone of his singing voice? It's one thing to see him doing the hippie curlytop tenor thing in Godspell a zillion years ago, and another thing entirely to hear that sweet voice coming from the grumpy curmudgeon in a well-cut suit.