Saturday, August 9, 2003

IT SEEMS TO ME THE BEST WAY TO HURT RICH PEOPLE IS BY MAKING THEM POOR: This just can't be right: Herschel Weingrod, who co-wrote the brilliantly structured and should've-made-him-rich-for-life Trading Places, as well as the well-at-least-it-should've-made-him-rich Schwarzenegger vehicles Kindergarten Cop and Twins, plus Michael Jordan's Space Jam, apparently is not, in fact, rich for life.

Either that, or he's got a lot of free time, because Herschel Weingrod will read your screenplay for $500.
BABY I GOT MY FACTS LEARNED REAL GOOD RIGHT NOW: I want to be careful from the outset: I still love Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, and I still believe they're a great concert band. Perhaps the greatest.

But, man, last night's concert at the Linc was weird. I'm increasingly attuned to things I'd rather not be attuned to, and I don't like it, because it's getting in the way of my enjoyment of the concerts.

Last night was my sixth time seeing Bruce live, ranging as far back as 1988's Amnesty International benefit at JFK, through the the Lucky Town tour and up to the last date of the 1999-2000 reunion tour, when we went up to the Garden only to find ourselves seated right friggin' next to a Jen ex-boyfriend, and, oh boy, that was pleasant.

Anyway, back to the problems.

One: There's always been a level of shtick to Springsteen's performances, little rehearsed bits like having every member of the band sing the line "meet me out in the street" in turn at the end of "Out in the Street", or the traded vocals with Steven Van Zandt at the end of "The Rising". But instead of just experiencing and enjoying the shtick, now I find myself expecting and dissecting it as shtick.

For whatever reason -- and some of it, to be sure, is from listening to too many Bruce bootlegs and hearing the repetitions -- I'm no longer seeing the concerts as celebration of the brotherhood and solidarity and friendship between the longtime bandmates, but instead as a carefully-designed spectacle intended to create a similacrum thereof. In other words, it's not necessarily true that these guys do love each other that much and are that close together as that they want to make sure you think they do. In that sense, last night's Springsteen concert may have been no less choreographed than the Justin Timberlake/Christina Aguilera show across the street the same night. Oof.

What makes this especially painful to note is that one of the values Springsteen's music has always espoused is authenticity, that he's presenting the feelings of the real working man (despite now living in a mansion on a hill), and I really don't want to accept that the band needs to stage things in order to convince me of its authenticity. But when you can start plotting the calls-and-responses with mathematical precision and know exactly when Bruce is going to slide on his shins past Clarence because you saw him squirt the water on his legs first, well, that's a problem.

Two: Too much stuff from The Rising, while nothing from Nebraska, Ghost of Tom Joad or Tunnel of Love (granted, he never plays stuff from his breakup album anymore). I highly doubt any of the 55,000+ in attendance both (a) didn't own the almost year-old album yet but (b) were convinced to do so based on the turgid "Empty Sky"/"You're Missing" combo early in the show, which Jen and I renamed "Hey, should I get some more water?" and "No, really, does anyone need me to go for a walk?" Yawn.

The man's got a deep, deep catalogue, but no longer seems as interested in exploring it all. I wish he'd retire "Badlands", "Out in the Street" and, yeah, "Born to Run" for a while, and give some of his other great songs a workout. I'd love to know what he could do with "Brilliant Disguise" fifteen years later.

Three: Related to the first, but more pointed: last night's concert was the kind of Bruce show my conservative friends (and this means you, Paul) would have loved, because the politics were kept to a minimum, and safely cabinned-off to brief comments about lying during wartime and the Kensington Welfare Rights Union which were accepted respectfully by the crowd.

Look, I'm not asking him to play a full show of "Seeds", "War", "American Skin (41 Shots)" and the Joad album, but an apolitical Bruce made safe for the drunken middle-aged frat boy wannabe crowd is not my preferred Bruce Springsteen.

Okay, But Now For The Good Stuff: We had fun. Despite everything I said above, we had a damn good time. Show opened with "Promised Land", one of my favorites, and singalongs like "Badlands" and "Out in the Street" still make me smile. I love "Lost in the Flood", and, oddly, while the stats say they've only played the intense song four times live in 20+ years, Jen and I have been there for two of them. It's an incredibly moving song.

What else? The bar-stompin', roadhousin' "Ramrod", with Prof. Bittan pounding on the piano, soon followed by a cover of Moon Mullican's boogie-woogie obscurity "Seven Nights To Rock" that has apparently become a regular on this tour. It's simple, and it rocks.

The energy of the crowd, as always, just kicks ass. Plus which, we had good seats two-thirds of the way back on the field at Lincoln Financial Field, even if it took forever to find them. (Note to the staff: please don't tell us five different ways to get there next time?)

(By the way, was it wrong for me to try to pinpoint the moment in the show at which Clarence had his mid-show chicken break? Just wondering.)

The show closed with "Rosalita" and "Dancin' in the Dark", with Jen and I dancing under the electric overhead lights, me doing my best Bruce and Jen her own Courtney Cox, smiling in a crowd of tens of thousands, losing ourselves in the music, completely un-self-conscious of everything around us.

All the bullshit, all the annoyances were forgotten, and it was just us, the band and the music. When you get to that point in a concert, when all you're doing is feeling, smiling and enjoying, it's wonderful. It's getting there that's becoming harder and harder, and that's a shame.

Maybe I need to take a break from Bruce Springsteen concerts, and maybe he does too.

Friday, August 8, 2003

I'M OLDER THAN I'VE EVER BEEN AND NOW I'M EVEN OLDER: I don't know what's weirder -- that the mid-90s revival has skipped over the long-anticipated-early-90s-revival with cuddly mmm-BOPpers Hanson coming to town to play a club date this weekend, or that the youngest Hanson kid -- you remember, the cute one on the drums -- is already 17 years old.

Blogging will remain light over the next few days, unless events warrant my return.

Wednesday, August 6, 2003

NO, IT WASN'T POETIC JUSTICE: Quick movie trivia: name the highest-grossing movie of all time directed by an African-American.

Answer is here, in a solid Dave Poland column that addresses issues of race, gender, and who gets to sit in the director's chair.
BUT I AM EATING MORE NUTELLA TODAY: Don't know which was worse -- the promo that just aired on my tv between Simpsons episodes that said "Kobe Bryant won the Teen Choice Award for Best Male Athlete. See him accept it tonight on Fox!" -- or the high-end children's store on Chestnut Street in Philadelphia that's got a Bryant jersey in the front window suitable for a four-year-old to wear.

If adults want to grant him the presumption of innocence and continue to admire him despite the allegations (and admissions) of wrongdoing, that's their right. But these are adult issues and serious charges, and the idea that his new hero/rebel/now-featuring-20%-more-"street-cred" image is going to be foisted upon a younger audience disgusts me. Encouraging kids to watch tonight's "awards" or wear Bryant's jersey just makes them complicit in these transparent efforts to resuscitate his public persona and marketing ability at the expense of a 19-year-old girl who seeks neither publicity nor fortune.

Maybe he didn't do it. Maybe. But that's besides the point. This isn't a debate in which children should be involved, shouldn't be used as pawns by PR flacks or parents. There will be plenty of time for them to admire Bryant's game if and when he's exonerated.

Anyway, I'm from Philadelphia, and we never liked him anyway.
MILLIEMILLIEMILLIEMILLIEMOLE! Paige Wiser of the Chicago Sun-Times watches more reality tv than even Jen and I do, so she can give you her list of the summer's top reality show "meanies" and "martyrs".

Among those missing from the list, however, was Last Comic Standing's Ralphie May, who is assuredly, each day and twice on Sunday, funnier than Dat Phan. Instead, as I predicted was going to happen with American Idol 2, the winner was the comic with the most compelling narrative and the most screen time, not the one who was, y'know, funniest.

Oh well.

Tuesday, August 5, 2003

AVAST, YE SCURVY DOGS! SEPTEMBER 19TH BE NEAR! Oh, lord, should we not tell Jen about this?

(Via InstaGlen.)
AND FOR BASEBALL FANS: Take part in the Village Voice's Second Annual Cryogenic Baseball Quiz.

No cheating.

(The first quiz is here, with answers available via this link.)
BLOGGING IS LIGHT TODAY: Lucy had her first shots today, and we're very relieved that she came through everything just fine. But things are a little crazy around here, so I'll just send you over to No Rock & Roll Fun, the blog that broke the story of the Pras-Wyclef breakup, and I'll be back when I have something to say and the time with which to say it.

QESG and OC tonight. Yippee!

Monday, August 4, 2003

SMASH THE STATE: The Oakland Tribune is reporting that among the candidates for governor in California's recall election is noted "funnyman" Gallagher, he of the sledgehammer and the watermelons and the didn't-he-disappear-about-a-decade-ago?

His platform is available via his website.

Man, am I glad to be living in the Keystone State these days.
YES, BUT CAN THEY MAKE HIM FUNNY? Fab Five to remake Jay Leno.
SUGAR BEAR: Friday's LA Times article on threats made against rap impressario Marion "Suge" Knight quoted him making the following bold comparison:
[Knight] dismissed the idea that his life was in danger but in terms that conveyed resignation more than defiance.

"I don't believe anyone is hunting me. But even if they were, so what?" Knight said over dinner at the Peninsula Hotel in Beverly Hills in late May. "The only guarantee a man has in life is that you are born to die. I'm from the ghetto, where black men get killed every day.

"It's like Jesus. Anyone who reads the Bible knows Jesus was no punk. He didn't hide from nobody. The threat of danger didn't stop him from doing what he had to do. That's how it is with me too. I fear no man. Only God."

Let's look at the tale of the tape, shall we?

Jesus: Father was a carpenter.
Suge: Father was a truck driver from Mississippi.

Jesus: Entered the industry with the help of John the Baptist.
Suge: Entered the industry with the help of Dr. Dre.

Jesus: Rise seen as a threat by Pharisees and Romans.
Suge: Threatened Vanilla Ice and Easy-E.

Jesus: Allegedly turned water into wine.
Suge: Allegedly participated in beat-down of record promoter Mark Anthony Bell, using champagne bottles as weapons and forcing Bell to drink Suge's urine from a champagne glass, in an attempt to get Bell to reveal the addresses of Sean "Puff Daddy" Combs and his mother.

Jesus: Fed 5000 men, women and children with five loaves of bread and two fish.
Suge: Hired members of the Bloods, bragging that his company offered a second chance to people shunned by society.

Jesus: Caught up in Pharisees-Romans turf war.
Suge: Caught up in East Coast-West Coast turf war.

Jesus: "You have heard that it was said, `Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven." Matthew 5:43-48.
Suge: "It seems like the more enemies you have in life, the better off you are. An enemy can't get close enough to you to do anything to you. He can't go to your house and turn around and steal from you. He can't come to you and borrow money. People who think everyone is their friend are leading a dangerous life." Esquire Magazine.

Jesus: Encouraged Pharisees to pay their taxes, saying "Give to Caesar what is Caesar's, and to God what is God's."
Suge: Left $6 million in Death Row taxes unpaid while serving prison sentence.

Jesus: Introduced the world to disciples Matthew, Mark, Luke and Paul.
Suge: Introduced the world to disciples Snoop Doggy Dogg and Tupac Shakur.

Jesus: Suspected betrayal by Judas, then died.
Suge: Suspected betrayal by Tupac, who died.

Jesus: Raised Lazarus from the dead.
Suge: Released numerous posthumous Tupac Shakur albums.

Jesus: Healed the sick; clothed the needy.
Suge: After Hammer filed for bankruptcy, Suge Knight signed him to Death Row records.

This blog's previous Tale of the Tape, evaluating Shaquille O'Neal's claim to being the "basketball-playing Nietzsche", can be accessed via this link.