Saturday, May 2, 2009
Among the best aspects of his blog were his pieces on race and society, whether his series on Giant Negroes in the Media or Misidentified Black People or his from-back-in-the-day interviews with Chris Rock, Oprah Winfrey, Elvis Mitchell and others. [Thing I didn't know until looking at his Wiki page: David did the interview with Sister Souljah that brought her to Bill Clinton's attention.] The Giant Negroes series was typical of the solid cultural/historical understanding he brought to the table -- see The Vice President and His Mulatto, or his roundtable on the N-word, for example.
[His Vox blog is a remarkable resource, including the Dratch-Fey "Wicked" skit from their Second City days.]
Alan Sepinwall has more. David has commented here in the past, and he will always be welcome. In the meantime, we all look forward to Treme, the New Orleans-based series he and David Simon are hoping to present on HBO in 2010 ...
We were at the LA Sports Arena (to quote Bruce, “the joint that don’t disappoint!”) and kicking things off with “Badlands” the whole place was screaming and singing along at full energy from the start. Having seen Bruce five or six other times live, this show on the 15th was probably my favorite. His energy was unparalleled…he spent more time than I’ve ever seen playing with the audience – running down to the pit, letting them play his guitar, running down the aisle on the left side of the arena at one point, a mild attempt at crowd-surfing, laying down on the stage with his head in the audience’s lap at one point – it was phenomenal.
It wasn’t just about the songs he was playing (as always a great mix from the new album and their classics), it was the energy of the band, of the audience, and of Bruce. Personal highlights for me were: “Waitin’ on a Sunny Day” -- couldn’t find a link to the actual performance I saw, but I love the audience sing-along he does with this song; “Born to Run” --c’mon, how can you NOT love the Boss singing this song, especially since he turns the lights on in the arena so everyone can rock out together; and this scorching version of “Ghost of Tom Joad” he did with Tom Morello from Rage Against the Machine. You can download that duet from itunes since they sang this together before on the Magic tour, but I hadn’t seen or heard it before and it just blew me away. The entire encore set was terrific too (we got to hear “Rosalita” to close out the show, who doesn’t love that?) but “Hard Times Come Again No More” which was part of the show both nights, was the one that stood out most for me from that set.
The next day at work, a friend who had also been at the show told me that she and her husband were going again that night, and they had floor seats, and I should go with them. It took all of ten-minutes of persuasion for me to search online, buy a ticket, and be ready for night two. Also, since I didn’t know I was going to the concert when I got dressed that morning, I ended up standing, dancing, and rocking out for about three hours in heels. I want extra-credit points for my dedication.
I was so glad I went the second night. I never have had tickets on the floor before so that was awesome. We weren’t in the pit, but we were close to it and could see the band up close and it was SO GREAT. A little less energy than night one, but apparently Bruce had a cold. When I have a cold I stay home from work and act pitiful on my couch; when Bruce has a cold he does 3 hour concerts that are only slightly less energetic than when he’s healthy (although at the end of the night we did get a “I’m ready to go have a cheeseburger and put on my pa-JAMMIES!” comment which I found hilarious. The Boss says ‘pa-jammies’. Heh.
Instead of Tom Morello as guest, night two had Mike Ness from Social Distortion, who Bruce did a duet of “Bad Luck” with. It was great, although I preferred the Tom Morello duet. Among the 11 songs that were different on night two from night one: “Thunder Road,” “No Surrender” and “Glory Days” (during which we got a lot of fun with Little Stevie – “Little Stevie, what time is it?!” “It’s BOOOOOOOOOOOOOSSSSS time!”) Also on night two, Max Weinberg’s son Jay played two songs on drums (including “Born to Run”) and it was announced he’ll be playing some shows on the tour his dad can’t make. Drumming talent must be genetic, because the kid was fantastic. My favorite moment of the night was during the “request” portion of the evening, when Bruce heads into the audience, takes a bunch of the signs people have brought with song titles on them, sorts through them on stage, and plays a couple of them. It’s always a lot of fun, and you never know what you’ll end up hearing. So on night two, Bruce holds up a little yellow sign to the band, turns to the mic and says “You think you can stump the band with THIS?!” and shows us the sign which says, “Proud Mary.” SO FREAKING AWESOME.
It’s comparing apples to oranges, but out of two incredible shows I think I liked the set list from night two better than night one, but the energy and audience interaction from night one better than night two. Set lists for both nights are here. I will likely go to both shows every time Bruce comes to town from now on. As he would say, I spent two nights in a row with “the heart-stopping, pants-dropping, hard-rocking, booty-shaking, earth-quaking, nerve-breaking, history-making, legendary… E-STREET BAND!”
Friday, May 1, 2009
Studio Suit #1: So, writer, whatcha got for us?
Writer: Well, we have a tale of brother against brother, spanning a good century and several wars, and how they are torn apart by the love of a woman. And there's a big fight at the end when the claws come out for the first time--it's more of an emotional journey.
Studio Suit #1: Great! Great! How much does it have in the way of explosions?
Writer: Explosions? You mean emotional explosions? Because they have a couple of big arguments.
Studio Suit #2: Well, we're really aiming for the 18-25 male demographic, so we need a bunch of explosions. Ideally, at least one should involve an exploding helicopter. That demographic loves that.
Studio Suit #1: And, to make sure we get the chicks too, can we have a lengthy, but nonsensical, sequence that serves basically no purpose but to keep Hugh Jackman naked for 15 minutes?
Writer: Um, OK, Ican work on that.
Studio Suit #2: We also got a bunch of folks signed for roles. Ryan Reynolds is going to do it.
Writer: Great! There's a comic book character that's perfect for him!
Studio Suit #1: One little catch. He'll only film for a week, and has only agreed to have like 10 lines of dialogue. Dating Scarlett Johansson has made him kind of a diva.
Writer: Let me see what I can do.
Studio Suit #2: Also, we have that guy from Lost.
Writer: Ooooh! Terry O'Quinn? He'd make an interesting young Xavier!
Studio Suit #2: No, not that guy, the annoying guy with the beard.
Writer: Matthew Fox?
Studio Suit #2: No, the one who plays the singer. You know, "You All Everybody!"
Writer: That guy? Um, I can try.
Studio Suit #1: Yeah, he's said he wants to play a mutant with unclear powers that don't make any sense.
Studio Suit #2: And, we've got this kid, he plays some character named Tom, no Tim, Riggins? All the ladies say he looks just like that Gambit character from the comic books, and they love him.
Studio Suit #1: Also, we get a tax incentive for filming in New Orleans, so two birds with one stone, right? You can work that in.
Writer: OK, Gambit's a great character and he's a solid actor, but he doesn't really fit into the story.
Studio Suit #1: We also have Liev Schreiber. But he has a contractual requirement that he be allowed to chew at least four pieces of scenery per scene.
Studio Suit #2: But we have a clause that makes that literal. If his character is gnawing on something in a wolflike manner, that's one of the scenery chews required! So work that in.
Writer: Mmmmkay. What about an effects budget?
Studio Suit #1: Oh, there'll be a big one, but we really want to aim for "cheap looking." We know we got the Wolverine claws right in the prior movies, and we're really shooting for "worse" this time.
Studio Suit #2: Oh, and can you have a big fight sequence at Three Mile Island? Because the nuclear power industry will subsidize the film if we have a sequence there that suggests there never was a meltdown, just a big coverup.
Writer: OK, I quit. Here's my current draft. (He walks out, tossing a script on the table.)
Studio Suit #1: Good enough! This, plus our ideas, and whatever we make up as we go along, can't miss.
Studio Suit #2: After all, it's a comic book movie! It's not SUPPOSED to be any good.
(To summarize--a lot of really nice casting--Jackman, Schreiber, Kitsch, Reynolds--wasted on a half-baked, if that, script.)
Related: Mr. Show, "The Altered State of Drugachusetts".
1. The Simpsons, "Homer Goes To College" (writer: Conan O'Brien).
Homer: We played Dungeons & Dragons for three hours! Then I was slain by an elf.2. The limited edition David Souter bobblehead doll, via The Green Bag, crafted just in the nick of time.
Bart: Listen to yourself, man: you're hangin' with nerds.
Homer: You take that back!
Marge: Homer, please! These boys sound very nice, but they're clearly nerds.
Homer: Really? But nerds are my mortal enemy!
Lisa: Dad, nerds are nothing to fear. In fact, they've done some pretty memorable things. Some nerds of note include popcorn magnate Orville Redenbacher, rock star David Byrne, and Supreme Court Justice David Souter.
Homer: [gasp] Oh, not Souter! Oh, no!
3. From Jeffrey Toobin's The Nine.
It was ... a running joke at the Court that outsiders frequently mistook Souter and Breyer for each other. No one could really understand why this happened, because the two bore little resemblance. One day when Souter was making his usual solo drive from Washington to New Hampshire, he stopped for lunch in Massachusetts. A stranger and his wife came up to him and asked, "Aren't you on the Supreme Court?"
Souter said he was.
"You're Justice Breyer, right?" said the man.
Rather than embarrass the fellow, Souter simply nodded and exchanged pleasantries, until he was asked an unexpected question.
"Justice Breyer, what's the best thing about being on the Supreme Court?"
The justice thought for a while, then said, "Well, I'd have to say it's the privilege of serving with David Souter."
[In case you missed his update from the comments last night, at 11:23 PM CDT: "Went with the Mino tonight (had some Best Buy gift cards) and good thing, bc/ I am charging it right now from the hospital--my wife's water broke tonight."]
edited.to.add: Happy born-day, Samantha Rose Gordon!
Thursday, April 30, 2009
There are a lot of good ways to die: saving babies from a burning building, shot dead at 92 by a jealous husband, defending the far left flank of Little Round Top with your fellow Maine infantrymen. Drowning in the Bering Sea, however, is not among them. Still, the videotape of the crew speaking openly about having a B-roll for their own funerals really hit home about just how easy most of us have it in this day and age.
Now all these things are true to some degree or another – no doubt that the reigning powers at Fox like to see a dramatic shakeup rather than a plodding “yep, this is proceeding as we thought it would” march to the finale, and no doubt that Adam Lambert is a seriously polarizing contestant, whether it’s because of his not-so-ambiguous ambiguous sexuality or his tongue gymnastics or his lack of umami or whatever. (I do disagree with the just desserts crowd, though. Adam has been gracious and humble throughout the competition in the wake of seemingly unstoppable judge and voter support, and when informed of his cellar-dweller status last night, there was not one iota of How Dare You Relegate Me to the Bottom.) But given that we’ve seen the voter complacency effect year after year after year, it seems to me that Lambert fans ought to be thanking their lucky stars that he was in the bottom two this week, not moaning about the injustice of it all.
Adam hit the bottom two at exactly the right time. He’s now going into the final four with the tailwind of a pack of panicked supporters behind him. I’m not a big AI voter – at most, I usually lob a few text votes in the direction of whomever I like but think might be at risk that week. But you can bet I’ll be working the phones next week for Adam Lambert, because now he needs me. And if you think I’m the only person who thinks that way, well, you would be wrong.
On the other hand, Adam’s brand of appeal may have garnered all the support he’s going to get. As some of the ThingThrowers have observed, he probably ain’t picking up the recently ousted competitors’ fans. It’s tough to envision a whole lot of people who liked Matt thinking that Adam is the next best alternative. Ditto Lil and Anoop. We’ve seen what Adam can do, and while it’s astonishing, I just don’t see someone suddenly having an Adam epiphany after watching him wail or croon for the fifth time. Contra Kris, who is developing as an artist before our eyes – Kris is on a journey, while Adam is already at the finish line.
So where does this leave us? I think there are two possibilities. Either we are continuing our inexorable march toward a Taylor Hicks / Carrie Underwood style crowning of Danny Gokey, or else this thing is maybe pretty darned wide open. In any event, next week ought to be some fun TV.
The exact count of the vote — 136 to 70 —had town officials hitting their calculators yesterday. The zoning measure needed a two-thirds vote to pass. A calculation by town accountant Trudy Brazil indicated that 136 votes are two-thirds of 206 total votes, said Town Clerk Cynthia Slade.I swear I was not the anonymous caller.
Brazil said she used the calculation of .66 multiplied by 206 to obtain the number. But using .6666 — a more accurate version of two-thirds — the affirmative vote needed to be 137 instead of 136, according to an anonymous caller to town hall and to the Times.
Slade said that she called several of her colleagues to see how they calculate a two-thirds vote, and the answer varied widely. In Provincetown, Town Clerk Doug Johnstone uses .66. But Johnstone said he'd never had a close vote where it might matter.
A spokesman from the Secretary of State's office was not available to comment yesterday.
Related: NY Mag puts Hugh Jackman v. Matthew McConaughey through a chest-off.
Wednesday, April 29, 2009
The Hollywood Reporter has a show origins piece; Variety ups the ante with a package featuring seven essays and three cast interviews.
e.t.a. In the absence of a formal post on "The Variable" -- I'm a bit too gobsmacked to talk, and Isaac is watching it tonight -- feel free to comment here. In particular, I'm interested in anyone's ability to piece together when last night's featured character was born, and where he was raised.
What are you drinking these days?
Tuesday, April 28, 2009
- Kris: "The Way You Look Tonight". Just dreamy. Lovely. Didn't oversing it, and just a totally engaging performance.
- The Lambert: "Feeling Good." Oh, no! Not the song that knocked off two semifinalists in one 2007 week! Is it even a Rat Pack song? And honestly, until the last ten seconds I thought it was kitschy, indulgent, Liza-esque, in need of the pimp slot he was awarded ... and then, that note. Oh, my. Yeah, that was something. Also, the entrance.
- Allison: "Someone To Watch Over Me". Confident, mature, didn't shout it, pretty damn good but not (though Kara felt otherwise) the tier-shattering performance she needs.
- Hokey Gokey: "Come Rain or Come Shine". Ditches the playoff beard for a goatee, but that's not the real problem -- I thought his histrionics at the end of the song, regardless of how well-performed they were, had nothing to do with selling the emotional content of the song. It was showy for its own sake, and I did not feel it, dawg.
- Matt: "My Funny Valentine". I see him in that hat and think about The Obsessed Best Friend in Not Another Teen Movie. On the performance, I don't believe he quite hit the notes he was supposed to, and I think and hope he's going home. For once -- and it's rare -- Simon was completely wrong in his praise of this performance.
N.B. Each of the songs tonight has been performed earlier on the show -- in particular, take a look at Melinda Doolittle's pantheon-level "My Funny Valentine" from the S6 semis and Constantine Maroulis' smoldering take on same, and Katharine McPhee's "Someone To Watch Over Me" and "Come Rain or Come Shine".
And while you are contemplating your bids,
All linky goodness from Pop Candy.
This programming note: Isaac's knee-deep in work, and had time to send in just one suggestion over the transom. We hope we'll have the full use of his talents again soon.
I believe in the possibility of Idol for massive cultural subversion, even though it never really comes to fruition. Still, what could be wrong with a clean-cut crooner like Adam Lambert singing "Love and Marriage"? It's not much of a singer's song -- though I have full faith in his efforts to make it one -- and who could disagree with his explaining that you can't have one without the other? Sonically, what he ought to be going for is what Bono did on "I've Got You Under My Skin". (Adam)
I’m torn between two thoughts for Adam. The first is “That’s Why the Lady is a Tramp,” which I think he’d kill, but which might tread a little too close to that line he hasn’t been treading too closely throughout the competition. The other one is “Rockabye Your Baby (with a Dixie Melody),” which could show a jazzy, bluesy side of Adam that I suspect is in there along with the Mick and the Croony McCroonerson. (If you’ve heard the Mandy Patinkin version, you’ll know there are puh-lenty of high notes for which the wail can be employed.) But please, please, we need some uptempo Adam this week. (Kim)
"One For My Baby" seems well-suited for his laid-back-but-passionate vibe. He's in a zone right now. (Adam)
Laid back but passionate is totally the way to go, I agree. Two songs: “Softly as I Leave You,” done Elvis-style, or even -- hey, guess what? – a stripped-down acoustic version of “Mr. Bojangles." I was listening to a clip of a relatively unorchestrated live performance, and even with the fact that I cannot listen to Sammy Davis Jr. without seeing Billy Crystal in my head, I was surprised by how lyrical and sweet the song could be. And we know how Kris loves a good story song. (Kim)
I jokingly suggested "Ol Man River" to a friend for RDJJ, and he actually thought it could be a show-stopper, assuming he sang it sincerely enough. Beyond that, "You're Nobody 'Til Somebody Loves You" is something he could pull off effortlessly. And even with what I said last night, the truth is this week is his wheelhouse as much as Jamiroquai week would have been for Blake Lewis -- no one's going to fault him for hitting a single up the middle. (Adam)
Are we really trying to come up with creative suggestions for Hokey Mr. Gokey? I almost feel like it’s not worth the brain cells to spend a lot of time thinking of a good idea just so he can hop up on stage and sing “Amore.” In keeping with my double-teamed suggestions this week, Danny might do “Rockabye Your Baby” better than Adam – we know he’s got the bluesy thing well in hand. But why not just be a big hokey ball of cheese and do “New York New York.” (Kim)
Cat Power's cover of "New York New York" (Isaac)
Needs a show-stopper more than anyone else; history tells us that Tamyra Gray is the only contestant to have avoided the bottom three thus far in the competition and still missed making the final three, and we've got three guys in the competition who have been so unthreatened. She needs something unadorned, unflashy and earth-shattering -- listen to Annie Lennox singing "Ev'ry Time We Say Goodbye" and see if that's a start. Message-wise, Sammy Davis Jr's signature "I've Gotta Be Me" works for the show; I understand Ella Fitzgerald has covered it, but can't find it online anywhere. (Adam)
I’m not sure whether this is the week in which Allison can come up with a show-stopper. I agree with Adam as to what Allison needs to accomplish. Two thoughts as to how to get there: first, she needs to heed my prior advice to attend the Tyra Banks School for Aspiring Models and put on a pair of jeans and a black tank top, and pull her hair into a ponytail. Then she needs to sing something quiet but big. How about “Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered”? But here’s another approach: if she wants to take a page from the Kelly Clarkson songbook, a wink-and-a-nod riff on “That’s Why the Lady Is a Tramp” (in a classy lady dress, not her customary trampy garb) could show some much needed personality at a much-needed time. (Of course, I’ve also suggested this one for Adam, but the two of them can duke it out.) (Kim)
I still have very little idea what he does particularly well, other than it's probably seated at a piano rather than standing, which is good for this week. Can he pull off "Some Enchanted Evening"? "Stardust"? (Adam)
Matt’s got to have a big confidence problem going into this week. Sure, he wasn’t in the bottom three last time, but the judges hate him every time he tries to do something remotely interesting. So what’s he supposed to do this week, when the name of the game really is “go out there and do something interesting”? I think he’s supposed to whip out the piano and do a real Matt Giraud last-call-at-the-piano-bar-balls-to-the-wall straight up Sinatra song. “Fly Me to the Moon” is one of the biggest, and I suspect he could do it well. It may not be innovative, but at least they’ll be putting tips in his jar asking him what he’s doing here. (Kim)
Monday, April 27, 2009
It's not that he's sung anything badly -- he's always been in tune, on point and engaging. It's just that he hasn't shown us anything new in quite some time -- ever since he impressed us with his little dance during "P.Y.T.", there has been nothing new, nothing unique, and nothing that really demonstrated to us (a) that he particularly enjoys doing this or (b) he has any vision for the kind of artist he wants to be. Indeed, in this new epoch of Idol in which each of the other remaining finalists has benefited from significant rearranging of at least one song, Hokey Gokey keeps hurling his performances right down the middle, fastball-fastball-fastball. His relentless competence has prevented him from erring like others along the way (come back, Alexis!), but he's not winning the competition like this. He shouldn't.
Danny v. Adam (or Kris, who's also ahead of Gokey in iTunes sales) feels like the second coming of Archuleta v. Cook or Diana DeGarmo v. Fantasia Barrino in season three -- sure, the latter may have missed a few notes along the way, but at least there was always a human being who gave a damn singing them. I don't get that feeling from RDJJ any more. One thing that unites all the Idol winners (except maybe Ruben) is that each had moments in which it was clear that each cared about what they were singing, cared enough to rearrange it or sing the hell out of it, and was comfortable being raw and real (or at least faking it well) rather than always seeming managed, rehearsed and step-by-step scripted. When we mocked Young David Archuleta for his Dead, Dead Eyes, those eyes were just a synecdoche for the rest of the performance, after all.
Danny has been just as risk-free as Young David. A list:
- "I Heard It Through The Grapevine," Marvin Gaye
- "Kiss From A Rose," Seal
- "I Hope You Dance," Lee Ann Womack
- "Hero," Mariah Carey
- "Jesus, Take The Wheel," Carrie Underwood
- "What Hurts The Most," Rascal Flatts
- "Stand By Me," Ben E. King
- "Endless Love," Diana Ross and Lionel Richie
These are the songs Gokey chose to sing in weeks when there was no real constraint on the era of his selections -- his auditions and Hollywood, the semifinals, Country, Top Downloads, Year You Were Born, Movie Songs. They're not the choices of the Next Pop Superstar; they're the selections of Sunny 104.5 FM's music director for stuff that's safe to play at your office cubicle during the workday. And not only did he choose to sing them; he chose to sing them straight up, bereft of even a hint of a personal touch.
Enough already. Gokey, it's time to go big or go home. Take a chance already.
[Our recommendations for Songs of the Rat Pack will be posted tomorrow morning.]
Sunday, April 26, 2009
Still, let's call it a character-defining exercise, as the de-assification of Victor continues, and if you drank everytime Michael "Swimkata" Phelps or the expletive-blurrer was invoked, you're having a swank time tonight.