December 31, 2003
Dorf on Stage
The Search is On!
Fitgerald was actually Attorney General John Ashcroft's second choice after former All-American (and Heisman trophy winner) O.J. Simpson. Simpson declined the role to continue the search for his wife's real killer.
Simpson and Fitzgerald are both scheduled to complete their inquiries two months from never.
The City of New York: So Mean
"That would be mean to all the people who live there. It'd be right in front of their windows. They paid a lot of money for those apartments."
In Sutton Place's Backyard, Private Oasis on Public Land, by Charles V. Bagli
So, I'm getting a jump start by appeasing the personor personswho continually (think: weekly) types Rich Girls "star" Jaime Gleicher's name through our search field. We've never written about Rich Girls, so that search always came up blank. Well, anonymous Jaime fan, Happy New Year!
Rich Girls ended its first season last night on MTV. Much critical ink has been spilled about the show, but to my knowledge, no one has yet to compare it to Silver Spoons, the NBC sitcom that ran from 1982 to 1986. In addition to showcasing the comedic talents of Ricky Shroder, the dance skills of Alfonso Ribiero, and the unclassifiable brilliance of one Corky Pigeon, Spoons also gave its viewers TV's most realistic glimpse into the lives of the young and impossibly wealthy. Make that TV's formerly most realistic glimpse.
Here's a side-by-side comparison of Rich Girls and Silver Spoons: any similarities to actual rich persons or events is purely coincidental.Continue reading...
December 30, 2003
A Foolish Consistency is the Hobgoblin of Little Magazines
"You know what Id like the Nature Channel to do a special on? The extinction of machismo. It seems like my whole fucking generation is a bunch of faggots and it bums me out. And Im not even talking about the 'Chuck and Buck, suck and fuck,' take-it-in-the-ass type of faggot. Through therapy and Queer Eye for the Straight Guy Ive learned to tolerate those dudes. My problem is the fashion-victim art fags in the clever hats and too-tight T-shirts and corduroys that think because they dress like a pansy and paint or take out-of-focus photographs they are beyond getting their teeth knocked down their throat." ibid., page 95.
December 29, 2003
Lists, 2003: The Year in Left-wing Conspiracy Theories
In last week's year-end "lists" issue of the LA Weekly, Joshuah Bearman put forth a wonderful compendium of "Real Names of Classified Concepts in the Military Planning Document 'Air Force 2025''. The list is disturbing, to say the least, in that it's really, really hard to pinpoint whether or not this list is satirical in scope or merely an illustration of some of the foolish ways in which our tax dollars are spent.
For instance, is the catalog number for military research into these destructive projects really limited to a six-digit range? One would have thought that former Defense Secretary Dick Cheney alone could have brought at least 100,000 ideas to the table when his administration took office. Anyway, here's Bearman's list, included below in its entirety:
No. 900481: Destructo Swarmbots
We here at low culture think the editors of AlterNet, that wacky left-wing "news and opinion" site, have missed a golden opportunity here to follow up on Bearman's piece above and spew forth some wild, ill-researched conspiracy theories on this past weekend's devastating Iranian earthquake.
Included forthwith, "Classified, but Extant, Weapons for Eliminating Axis-of-Evil Nations":
1. No-fault WMD Insurance
The Good L Word
Well, for once, I wanna compliment one of these unsung wordsmiths for a job well done. I just saw a poster for premium cable also-ran Showtime's newest series, The L Word and found it surprisingly, pleasingly clever. "Same Sex. Different City," the ad says, above the sort of airbrushed promotional photo we've come to expect from ads for everything from TV programs to perfumes to clothing lines. I was impressed by how deft the copy was, how effortlessly it compressed so many ideas. I genuinely thought it was well done.
I can't say anything about the show itself, which stars the once phenomenally hot Pam Grier who's gone on to become something of a hip directors' shorthand for "badass older chick." It also features Mia Kirshner, who was decent in Atom Egoyan's Exotica, but seems to have been overlooked in favor her more talented A-list doppelganger, Jennifer Connelly. Anyway, I don't get Showtime, so I'll have to take your word for whether or not this show is even watchable.
I actually had the channel for a short time when Time Warner Cable was making amends for leaving me in the dark for over a week and I didn't see much worth my money. I did, however, manage to watch the entire first season of Out of Order back-to-back in a fit of Huffmania. (To belabor the puns, I found it rather Stolzifying.) I wasn't too impressed with the series' tone of self-seriousness cut with self-awareness: it was just too knowing for me to care about, too melodramatic for me to laugh with. Also, I found the way Donna and Wayne Powers bit the hand that fed them by mocking F. Gary Gray and his hacky Italian Job annoying: if you guys were too good to (re-)write such a shitty script, you should've skipped the assignmentif you sold out big time to do it, just keep it to yourselves. (According to this week's Times, Out of Order was not renewed.)
The L Word premieres January 18th. Reviews TK...
3,000 Americans did not die this weekend
I've been in Los Angeles, away from any form of regular internet access, for a little more than a week now, but, I swear...didn't I hear something about roughly 25,000 Iranian people dying this weekend? I mean, I couldn't have imagined that, right?
Based on an assessment of the major dailies' headlines and a perusal of the cable news networks' coverage, reporting on this natural disaster seems to have nearly dried up. With only a handful of exceptions, there's been no indefatigable documentation of scores of volunteers sifting through the rubble, trying to locate loved ones and instead turning up dead bodies. Does anyone know the Farsi word for "telegenic"?
Earlier this weekend, however (when not watching the "People on CNN" coverage of Nicole Kidman's resilience in the face of divorce), I may have seen a snippet or two regarding "thousands dead in Iranian quake" and then some closing commentary about President Bush's willingness to send humanitarian aid-despite that nation's being on "the axis of evil," as the commentators consistently reminded viewers when fleetingly discussing the massive amounts of deaths.
I guess I missed the correlation there. It couldn't possibly be as base and simplistic a matter as "we Americans are helping those whom we have unilaterally declared to be our enemies," right? And it most certainly couldn't have been some second-tier implication of "they deserved it"?
We all ought to be thankful that this was an act of God and not the work of evil-doers, and that Iran isn't under the sway of any sort of Christian sense of vengeance, lest we should see Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and the democratically elected, though effectively useless, President Mohammad Khatami declare an endless "War on Seismology".
Look out, faultlines.
Great, relaxed, off-the-cuff discussion on "The Lows" from Elvis Mitchell, A.O. Scott, and Stephen Holden on the film front. I much prefer this sort of approach to the obligatory year-end wrap-up to the more drawn out, rather blog-ish approach of The Village Voice's Take 5 critics' poll or the ho-hum "best of" list found in nearly every magazine you can imagine. Here, for example, is a glimpse into the private life of a full-time film critic and father from Scott:
[I]t's a terrible thing, I think, to have a film critic for a dad. My sonlike some of our readersdidn't trust me when I told him Cat in the Hat was no good. I was with another critic, who tried to explain to his daughter why it was a bad movie. She just burst into tears, as if he'd taken away one of her toys.
I also appreciated the fact that they all respected the Zooey Deschanel restraining order.
As much as I enjoyed "The Lows," I have one complaint: stop the Larry Doyle bashing.Continue reading...
December 23, 2003
Finally, a state emergency befitting a former action star
via Reuters: California Town Digs Out After Powerful Quake
"Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger declared a state of emergency on Tuesday for the central California county hardest hit by the state's strongest earthquake in four years, freeing up disaster aid for
(Some liberties may have been taken with Reuters' original wording above.)
The Notorious S.N.L., Ready to D.I.Y.
Never heard of him? Me neither. But I wish I had sooner, since his homemade shorts are incredible. This multitalented filmmaker makes jacks-of-all-trades (and credit hogs) like Robert Rodriguez and Steven Soderbergh seem like lazy bums. According to the Egg segment on him, Sid lives in San Diego and is 94 years old. He's been conceiving, shooting, and editing his unique independent films for decades. (A fuller bio can be found here.)Continue reading...
Luck be a Ladykillers
It looks amusing, more in keeping with their 'impossible caper' flicks than their recent foray into Brian Grazer country, Intolerable Cruelty. (I can think of one thing right about that title.) It looks like it has the broad slapstick of Raising Arizona, but it also appears to have that film's late period Fellini-ish love of laughing at odd looking people. Which is sad, since the Coen's have moved on from that with beautifully-shot period pieces like The Man Who Wasn't There, creepy 'comedies' like Fargo, and groovy hodgepodges like The Big Lebowski. (The latter of which, scene-for-scene, is still one of the best movies of the last decade and even more relevant since the capture of Saddam Hussein.)
Sure, O, Brother, Where Art Thou? had its share of mugging and hillbilly teeth jokes, but shot, as it was, to look like a sepia-toned screen gem, you kinda accepted the insensitivity of its humor as part of its period charm.
So, I'm crossing my fingers for the best, and holding my breath until March 26.
It reminds me of this old Norman Rockwell image, "Tattoo Artist (Only Skin Deep)", that depicts a sailor getting his sweetheart's name tattooed on his bicep just below the crossed-out names of several old sweethearts.
December 22, 2003
Ripped from the Headline (to the right of this entry)!
From Done Deal:
Title: Untitled Washington-Williams and Thurmond Story
Is "This Woman" the new "you people"?
"It's been really hard this week... You have to turn on the TV and there are jokes about him and you're still grieving. I just hope this woman is coming out for the right reasons." Robyn Bishop, 25, Strom Thurmond's great-niece.
"The man's dead, and he can't speak for himself... I don't know why this lady is doing this." James Bishop, 59, Thurmond's nephew.
Um, try callling her "Aunt Essie." It may make everyone feel better.
Sidebars: 1. "I went to a church meeting the other day and all these people came up to me and you could tell they didn't know what to say...For the first time in my life, I felt shame." Mary T. Thompkins Freeman, Thurmond's niece. She didn't feel shame when he filibustered for 24 hours against civil rights?
Christmas in (Next) October
Albright quickly recanted, saying that she was being "tongue-in-cheek" (no doubt griping that no one ever gets her jokes!). But in an exclusive interview with low culture, Madame Secretary told us about several other things the Bush administration are strategically holding back in order to bolster George Bush's chances next year:
1. 2 Million jobs—good ones.
December 19, 2003
It's been a great week for Americans, and, no, this has nothing to do with Saddam
This week, fans of rational and democratically-protected civil liberties had many reasons to rejoice (or at least, wait with bated breath until the inevitable appeals process begins) as federal courts issued three striking rejoinders to Big, Bad, and Powerful Interestsnotably, King George and the RIAA.
Seriously, try smiling, just this once. Because, realistically, we all know it will be frown season again when November 2004 rolls around.
In another legal setback for the Bush administration, a federal appeals court has concluded terrorist suspects held in secret U.S. custody on foreign soil deserve access to lawyers and the American legal system.
In New York, a divided court ruled that President Bush lacked the authority to indefinitely detain Jose Padilla - a U.S. citizen - simply by declaring him "an enemy combatant."
The recording industry cannot compel an Internet service provider to give up the names of customers who trade music online without judicial review, a federal appeals court in Washington ruled today.
B.F.F. (Best Friends Forashortwhile)
While conventional wisdom encourages bitter veterans of failed relationships to dispose of incriminating love letters and other such mementos, Donald Rumsfeld sure has proven to be quite the obstinate paramour. Or maybe they just forgot to throw these letters in the big Republican fireplace?
Today's Washington Post runs a feature by Dana Priest examining newly-declassified (don't you loooove that shit?) documentation of the Reagan administration's stances on All Things Saddam, and, in particular, the efforts of special envoy Donald Rumsfeld, who supposedly experimented with Bilateralism in the '80s (hey--who didn't?).
When details of Rumsfeld's December trip came to light last year, the defense secretary told CNN that he had "cautioned" Saddam Hussein about the use of chemical weapons, an account that was at odds with the declassified State Department notes of his 90-minute meeting, which did not mention such a caution. Later, a Pentagon spokesman said Rumsfeld raised the issue not with Hussein, but with Aziz...Privately, however, the administrations of Reagan and George H.W. Bush sold military goods to Iraq, including poisonous chemicals and deadly biological agents, worked to stop the flow of weapons to Iran, and undertook discreet diplomatic initiatives, such as the two Rumsfeld trips to Baghdad, to improve relations with Hussein.
During the spring of 1984 the U.S. reconsidered policy for the sale of dual-use equipment to Iraq's nuclear program, and its "preliminary results favor[ed] expanding such trade to include Iraqi nuclear entities" [Document 57]. Several months later, a Defense Intelligence Agency analysis said that even after the war ended, Iraq was likely to "continue to develop its formidable conventional and chemical capability, and probably pursue nuclear weapons" [Document 58]. (Iraq is situated in a dangerous neighborhood, and Israel had stockpiled a large nuclear weapons arsenal without international censure. Nuclear nonproliferation was not a high priority of the Reagan administration - throughout the 1980s it downplayed Pakistan's nuclear program, though its intelligence indicated that a weapons capability was being pursued, in order to avert congressionally mandated sanctions. Sanctions would have impeded the administration's massive military assistance to Pakistan provided in return for its support of the mujahideen fighting the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan.)
Sadly, none of the various cables and telegrams posted on the publicly available website archive contain any of the purportedly hand-lettered notebook scribblings, "Mr. Donald Hussein, Mr. Donald Rumsfeld Hussein, Mr. Donald Rumsfeld-Hussein..."
Although some of those blottings do recall cupid's arrows. Hope they're not poison-tipped, ba-dum!
A friend writes: Radosh has some great fun at David Denby's expense over at his own site today. I'd like to add that based on the excerpt, Denby's forthcoming book American Sucker seems to be the saddest bit of self-exploitation of one's sex life by a New Yorker writer since Elizabeth Wurtzel welcomed us all to her Prozac Nation (population: 1). But then I remembered Lillian Ross' book, which I was sure was called Put It In Here, But Not Here: My Life with William Shawn and The New Yorker, which a visit to Amazon quickly corrected.
Earlier thoughts on David Denby from low culture.
New Kosher words
Piggybacking on Gawker's list of words for the New York Media Elite to drop from their vocabularies in 2004 ('Memo from Gawker's Ombudsman'), I'd like to add the following:
Henceforth, the term schadenfreude is to be replaced with sauerkraut, which, in addition to being easier to spell, means just about the same thing.
We thank you in advance for your understanding and compliance.
I'm waiting for the paperback
You don't have to be a boxing fan or one of Muhammad Ali's many intellectual courtiers to recognize that the man is a cultural and political icon, the likes of which we will never see again in our lifetimes. (Full Disclosure: I met Muhammad Ali at an airport when I was 6 years-old and still consider him among my best friends. I also wrote my thesis on him.)
Alas, I will not be buying the $3,000, 75-pound Taschen book. Not now; not ever. Man, that stingslike a bee, it does.
Unintentional Fresh Guy™ in the News
[Fresh Guy™ is the universally-recognized intellectual property of How Fresh Is This Guy? and its partners. Used in good faith without permission. Each day's a gift.]
December 18, 2003
Since we here at low culture pride ourselves on being narrowly focused—as opposed to being interested in all of the cultural offerings presented at this time of year—we decided to do our year-end "best of" list all about one film, director Errol Morris' Fog of War.
Not ones to be pushed around by Harvey Weinstein and his freelance prestige-film army, we decided we'd let ourselves fall in lock step behind the producers of Fog of War (and the good people at The Week, who invited us to an advance screening of the documentary).Continue reading...
Royo is just one of the amazing artists in this gallery of celebrities re-imagined as fantasy/sci-fi heros. All the A-listers are here: George Clooney, Courtney Cox, Isabella Rossellini, and Will Smith all come in for the rippling pecs-swords-and-dragons-treatment.
My favorite? Steven Spielberg.
Ask any farmer what to do with a litter of kittens you don't want and he'll tell you to snuff 'em out right away. You can't be sentimental: you don't need all those mewling, hungry mouths around the barn, and you sure as hell don't want another generation of strays spraying up the place and picking fights.
The same can be said for Web sites: some are best put down in their first weeks. Take Agora Magazine, a downy newborn culture and politics magazinenot a blog, never call Agora a blogso young, its eyes aren't even open yet.
But it's claws are already out and it's more than ready to scrap.
Started by Sam Munson the nephew of second generation neo-Con ne'er-do-well John "Norman's Son" Podhoretz, whose New York Post columns are the second funniest read in the paper after Garfield, Agora takes a cranky Nabokov quote at the top of its page as its mission statement:
Now I shall speak of evil as none has
It's all pretty much downhill from there.Continue reading...
Jump the Skank
Alan, look outthere's a shark! Good thing you jumped it. Phew.
December 17, 2003
"Hi, David? I'm calling to ask you to write about Saddam's capture, please."
Wow, I was just saying Brett Ratner couldn't be more annoying. Boy, was I wrong!
Brett Ratner, Hollywood's "hyperactive, self-promoting no-talent" (per the geniuses at LA Innuendo) is getting serious. Seriously serious! Seriousto the max! Spielberg doing Schindler's List serious! Seriously.
The auteur behind the reportedly hilarious "Asian people talk funny/Black people love the dance" epics Rush Hour 1, 2, and 3 and the cynical stab at a "perennial" holiday favorite (annual Christmas-time broadcast=ka-ching!) The Family Man is set to direct something called Josiah's Canon. (Don't even get me started on Ratner's hubristic remake of Michael Mann's Manhunter.)
According to Done Deal, Josiah's Canon tells the jeeringI mean searingtale of:
A Holocaust survivor [who] leads the world's foremost team of bank robbers. The criminal mastermind sets his sights on an supposedly impenetrable bank in Switzerland, which holds special appeal: It purportedly houses gelt deposited by Jews prior to the Holocaust.
The reviews are in: "stinks like rotten meat"Langston Hughes
P. DIDDY'LL BE 'RAISIN' HELL ON BROADWAY THIS SPRING by Michael Reidel
"Rap mogul Sean 'P. Diddy' Combs will star in a revival of 'A Raisin in the Sun' this spring on Broadway, The Post has learned."
Weirdly, Jerry Blank will be co-starring as Mama.
Let's hope these plans will just dry up... or explode.
December 16, 2003
Finally, a confession of wrongdoing by an administration official
Or at least, an admission of sorts. Well, it's not really an "admission", so much as it as an acknowledgement. And, come to think of it, no one's "acknowledging" any sort of "wrongdoing", either, at least in such plain language. Furthermore, "administration official" is a pretty far-reaching term.
Ah, fuck it.
Regardless, here's today's sort-of-incriminating quote of the day, courtesy of the American ambassador to Afghanistan, as detailed in today's Chicago Tribune (reg. required):
U.S. officials promised Monday that Hussein's capture would re-energize the hunt for [Osama] bin Laden and his Al Qaeda associates and allies.
Phew! Good thing we got that year-long, $166-billion distraction out of the way!
In case you were becoming excitedly optimistic about locating the actual al Qaeda leader behind the events of September 11th, 2001--which launched the war on terror, which (shouldn't have) led to the sojourn in Iraq, which expanded the war on terror to include new acts of terrorism in said sojourn--consider throwing some caution to those Afghanistan winds.
...There is no reason to believe U.S. forces are any closer to finding the Saudi exile than they were when he gave them the slip in the mountains of Tora Bora in 2001.
That's quite a lengthy list of real-world, non-analogous theories. Good thing the Tribune reporter left out the entirely scurrilous rumors about bin Laden's having died and being reborn as a glorious phoenix who soars above the mountains along the border of Kashmir, bedecked in golden armor and sporting silver arrows, squawking orders to his army of terrorist changelings as they sleep, and sometimes taking side trips to Baghdad, Tikrit and the West Bank. This phoenix embodies pure evil, it is said, and never rests.
He just takes occasional naps, much like the administration's war on terror.
The New Sunshine Boys
PTA: If Bush invited you to the White House, would you go?
Von Trier's Dogville opens in the U.S. on March 19th.
Even more of those amazing animals!
December 15, 2003
Oh, those amazing animals!
"[D]uring the search a spider hole was detected..."General Sanchez
"[F]or operational purposes these locations were identified as Wolverine 1 and Wolverine 2."ibid.
"Breakthrough Capped a Renewed Effort to Ferret Out Leads"New York Times sub-head.
"[O]ne council member said was filled with 'rats and mice'..." Ian Fisher
"On Saturday night, I stuffed myself on lamb chops and potato pancakes at a holiday party at the home of Don and Joyce Rumsfeld."William Safire
"[I]f the pot broke or cracked, the guerrilla could be attacked by poisonous spiders or snakes..."ibid.
Sidebar: I think I know someone who's happy about all these critters in the news today.
J.M. Coetzee Is Crazy
Just because you've won the Nobel Prize doesn't mean you're sane. In fact, it's likely the opposite is true. But recent Nobel laureate J.M Coetzee outstrips even the typical idiosyncrasies we have come to expect from our literary geniuses.
Of course, there is Coetzee's creepy author photograph - monastic jawline, tropically open collar, glazed expression. This is the most frightening silver fox I have ever seen. In personal detail, Coetzee is slippery, a quality that is politely referred to as academic reserve. The first two volumes of his memoirs, Boyhood and Youth are written in the third person. Coetzee delivered his Nobel lecture in the authorial voice of Robinson Crusoe. Take a look at his latest masterpiece, Elizabeth Costello. It's exhibit A in any case against Coetzee's tenuous relationship with reality.
But J.M Coetzee is not alone. In fact, he shares company with a wealth of crazed writers using the first initial “J.' Consider:
J.G. Ballard - Author of various perversions, cf. Crash, “Why I Want to Fuck Ronald Reagan,' and “The Assassination of JFK Imagined as a Downhill Race.'
J.T. LeRoy - Cross-dressing former truck-stop whore. Friend of Winona. Purveyor of raccoon penis bones.
J. Peterman - Presumed author of maniacal colonialist fantasias. Bankrupt clothier.
J. Edgar Hoover - Cross-dressing FBI director. Author of rambling, paranoiac memos. Suspected Mad Magazine as part of the international Communist conspiracy.
J.K Rowling - Witchy woman. Wiccan propagandist. Single mother.
J. Lo - Wrote the following treacle for her anthem “Dear Ben' : “I love you, you're perfect/A manifestation of my dreams.'
J.R.R. Tolkien - Creator of an ornate alternate universe. Smoked pipe.
J.D. Salinger - Recluse. Maintains questionable dietary habits. Made his nineteen-year-old girlfriend cry, anorexic.
And compare those oddities with the eminently staid writers using, for example, the first initial “A':
A.M. Holmes - Comely Connecticut housewife type. WASP.
A.S. Byatt - Reserved British writer of studied period pieces. Self-described “post-modern Victorian.'
A.R. Ammons - Real-estate salesman turned poet. Bald. Affirmed the magnificence of creation.
A.A. Milne - Creator of the marvelously sedate Winnie-the-Pooh. Active religious and pacifist figure.
And then of course there's the lethal combination “A' and “J':
A.J. Benza - Obscurity, ain't it a bitch?
"Hey, ya, Grandma!"
From The New York Observer's "Power Punk" call to arms to the music behind commercials for Bravo's Celebrity Poker Showdown to the soundtrack of this Times 'Sunday Styles' article, to being embraced by Polaroid, the song is more ubiquitous than Cris Judd at the Playboy Mansion. As soon as the sheet music is available, you'll be treated to the spectacle of your Aunt Mitzy chanting "Shake it like a Polaroid picture!" along with the awful band at the next wedding or Bar Mitzvah you're dragooned into. Eventually, you may even be able to get Andre and Big to play at the gig themselves.
This week's second most effective "dis" of non-coalition partners
From the December 15th edition of the New York Times, "Bearing Questions, 4 New Iraqi Leaders Pay Hussein a Visit", by Ian Fisher:
"The world is crazy," said Mowaffak al-Rubaie, a Governing Council member in the room on Sunday after Mr. Hussein was captured near his hometown, Tikrit. "I was in his torture chamber in 1979, and now he was sitting there, powerless in front of me without anybody stopping me from doing anything to him. Just imagine. We were arguing, and he was using very foul language."
I guess their title is a little better
From today's Page Six:
"We hear... THAT real estate queen Barbara Corcoran pitched Goldie Hawn on starring in the movie version of her memoir, If You Don't Have Big Breasts, Put Ribbons in Your Pigtails—as her mother. Goldie's daughter Kate Hudson would play Barbara."
A quick Amazon search reveals that Barbara Corcoran's book is actually called Use What You've Got, and Other Business Lessons I Learned from My Mom. Then again, if the words "Big Breasts" appeared in the title, its Amazon.com Sales Rank might be better than 20,312 like that runaway bestseller, The Big Breasts of Madison County.
A World Gone Mad
Making asses of themselves: Assessment of the assessors
Unless you've been living in a cave somewhere, you now know that Public Enemy No. 2, at least as appointed as such by the Bush Administration, has been caught. This must mean it's time for some soul-searching! Perhaps it's time for Democratic presidential candidates to reconsider the race which lies before them, and for voters to do likewise? This has been the tenor of much of Day One's pundit roundabouts and insular media discussions, e.g. Elisabeth Bumiller and David E. Sanger's musings in the New York Times:
"The capture was both a personal and political victory for President Bush, who had been frustrated that a man he had described as an archenemy of the United States had eluded American troops for so long. The capture also came at the beginning of the president's 2004 re-election campaign and steals ammunition, at least for the moment, from the Democratic presidential candidates who had criticized the war and the American occupation."
Are assertions such as those which appear in bold above even remotely as black-and-white as is lazily implied by Bumiller and Sanger? The assessors have conflated "anti-war" status with some arbitrary gauge for the end of said war, when, of course, the two issues are entirely irrelevant. If one doesn't believe a war should have been fought, does that mean they "look bad" when the war "concludes"? Certainly not; it's about framework.
Think a bit more carefully about the issues at hand when discussing so-called "anti-war" candidates: specifically, criticism by Democratic presidential candidates of elements such as the war itself, the unilateralism, the pre-emptive invasion, overthrow, and occupation of a sovereign nation, the insertion of Western ideology onto a distinctly non-Western canvas...have any of these issues been addressed by this largely symbolic gesture, the capture of the invaded nation's prior leader?
Of course, one can argue that the documented removal of this figurehead may lead to that oh-so-elusive rising tide of Middle Eastern democracy we've been hearing so much about. But not when the means to that end have sown disproportionate amounts of dissension in the hearts of those whom we would claim to be helping.
The United States still, as of last checking, has and had embarked upon each of the items in the brief checklist of unilaterlalist behavior detailed above, which are each, on their own, perfectly meritorious reasons to abstain from drum-beating war fever, circa February 2003, or circa December 2003. Or, for that matter, November 2004.
Even on their own, the aforementioned failures of American esteem and diplomacy, are, furthermore, reasons to embrace hearty politicking and rational debates on matters such as failed American internationalism and the deceptions that have led us to where we are today, namely, having left underemployed American taxpayers in possession of both a thunderously gargantuan federal deficit directly linked to our Iraqi endeavor, and economic and governmental responsibility for a Middle Eastern nation the size of the state of California.
For all of the spinning that may ensue, remember this: the "anti-war" Democratic contingent still has justice, diplomacy and responsibility in its corner, and, more significantly, the ability to contextualize fleeting moments of present jubilation amidst the larger struggle of American education and quality-of-life woes. Spin away.
As per the optimistic words spoken by President Bush Sunday morning (ostensibly to the people of Iraq, but we know otherwise), "A dark and painful era is over. A hopeful day has arrived." Such optimism is noble, indeed, but not without realistic accountability--particularly when the "tomorrow" we so desperately anticipate comes at great cost to both "yesterday" and "today".
This fall, the city of Boston awaits. With the 2004 Democratic Convention slated to be held In a city that prides itself on its Revolutionary role in American history, it's time for the followup, two-and-a-quarter centuries later. Embrace the race, but frame the issues accordingly.
December 14, 2003
Cagelings in Canada
Pulitzer Prize winning Angels in America playwright and screenwriter Tony Kushner will not be writing the script for Cagelings in Canada, but he will be executive producing the project along with Angels director Mike Nichols.
The film will deal with a host of 'hot button' issues ranging from domestic partnership for gays and lesbians, senior citizens buying prescription drugs in Canada, the legalization of Marijuana, and the briefbut terrifyingSARS epidemic of the early 21st Century.
"This film's gonna have it all. And maybe some more," said HBO Films Associate Senior Assistant of Marketing and Worldwide Distribution Todd Wentworth. "Seriously, people. Angels in America made you think, and cry, and even laugh. This one's gonna do that and it's gonna make you stand up and cheer, dance in the aisles, and wanna fall in love. If you loved America, wait 'till you get to Canada!"
The projected six-hour film will be written by a team of writers that will include Marci X screenwriter Paul Rudnick, Oscar-winning A Beautiful Mind screenwriter Akiva Goldsman, and to get the women's perspective or whatever, multiple Oscar-winner Ruth Prawer Jhabvala. Other writers to be announced.
Directing the sure-to-be star-packed film will be a veteran of Angel-themed films, McG, who will bring his unique visual flair and personal interest in America's neighbors to the north to project. Says McG: "Well, I'm definitely gonna bring my unique visual flair to this project. Only this time, I'm gonna make sure it's more unique and more flair-y, you know? Also, I'm totally interested in Canada, like, personally. Hockey, beer, um, socialized medicine: anyone who knows me knows these are my main obsessions. Also, this movie will let me, like, continue the messages of my earlier films like Charlie's Angels and Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle and that message is that we all love to have a good time, just rock and roll and have fun! But we also have to worry about dangers like satellites being hooked up with GPS-enabled Nokia phones or seniors getting affordable drugs and partnerships among gay guys and lesbians being legally recognized. And I don't just mean the good looking lesbians, either. This is about civil rights, not about being one of those hot Vivid Video-type lesbians."
Stars and budget will be announced at a later date.
Well, at least the Times covered these token deaths (17) alongside a negligible number (33) of injuries. CNN.com appeared to be too busy flouting the Geneva Convention.
Saddam's Omnipotent-no-more Smite List (Final Edition)
Though Saddam Hussein's Iraq was notoriously secular, his uncanny resemblance, when captured, to our beloved contributing editor God was striking, to say the least.
Even more startling was the mad proclamation he supposedly decreed upon his seizure this weekend by U.S forces. Though these words are entirely uncorroborated, it seemed to be in everyone's best interest to get this document out ASAP for those few remaining loyalists to His, erm, his, regime.
Smite thee, fedayeen!
1. Whomever ratted me out: It was my gravest error to not have Uday and Qusay take you out earlier, you shameful Ba'ath party disloyalist. Perhaps, too, I should have toasted you more frequently with palatial visits and plentiful amounts of Hollywood DVDs. Yes, that would have been wise.
2. L. Paul Bremer: Indeed, I didn't exactly cling to Islam as anything more than a political prop, but I at least have this one thing in common with God, I mean, Allah. That's his name, right? Allah? Forigve me, I have been in this cave for too long. A very dark, damp and oh-so-Godless cave.
Affleck is the Mother of Invention
Inspired by the super-prolific Thomas Edison, Homer decides to beat the inventor at his own game, hanging up a poster that shows all of Edison's inventions and vowing to discover even more useful stuff like...the make-up gun and an electric hammer.
Anyway, Homerand Thomas Edisonmay have some competition in the inventions department from a very unlikely source: Ben Affleck. If you take The New York Times Magazine's word for it, the fluke Oscar winner and J-Lo multimedia side project is also an amazing innovator, responsibleor at least the inspirationfor two new 'ideas' chronicled in the magazine's annual "Year in Ideas" issues. Does the co-creator of Project Greenlight belong up there in the inventors pantheon with the creator of the light-bulb? Let's see.
Last year, writer Adam Sternbergh credited Affleck with inventing Flirting by Full-Page Ad: basically, hitting on his then-married co-star Jennifer Lopez in a Hollywood Reporter ad. "You have shown kindness, dedication, diligence, humility, graciousness of spirit, beauty, in courage, great empathy, astonishing talent, real poise and true grace... It has been nothing but an honor and a pleasure to work with you," Affleck wrote in the March 2002 ad.
We all know what followed.
This year, Affleck pops up again in another Sternbergh entry entitled Body Language Reveals All. Writes Sternbergh:
In a typical issue of US this summer, Greg Cynaumon, a psychologist, analyzed a photo of Jennifer Lopez and her on-agan-off-again fiancŽ, Ben Affleck, and dissects the meaning of Lopez's miniskirt. ('She's saying: "Look at what you were thinking of giving up!"')
Who knew Ben was such an innovator? I guess that's how he'll so convincingly play an engineer in Paycheck later this month.
December 12, 2003
Ms. Plame, are you available for work? No? Sorry
Apparently, the occupation of Iraq isn't going as well as you may have thought, unless your standards of success include hundreds of dead American soldiers, thousands of dead Iraqi civilians, hundreds of thousands of unemployed workers, and millions of people affected by power and water shortages.
One solution? Bring in American spies to scout out so-called "insurgent activity," according to new Central Intelligence Agency plans (leaked anonymously, as per the usual information-distribution route). According to the Los Angeles Times,
"In recent weeks, the agency has begun a buildup that one source said could add as many as 100 people to an agency presence that is already several hundred strong in the war-torn country. Among those being sent, sources said, are case officers, counter-terrorism analysts and a small contingent of senior officials from the agency's clandestine service.
Ah, damage control. Who wants to make odds on White House "senior administration officials" not coming forward to let Robert Novak know the identity of these mysterious agents who will be assisting in the expedition of our grand exit strategy?
If your answer to the odds question was "no chance," you can claim victory. Which is more than can be said for the American effort in Iraq or Afghanistan.
Your job package: 10 vacation days, 3 religions...and 23 holidays
While Gawker has been marveling at the extent to which this past week has been "the week of the Jews," proud New Yorkers can rest assured that their cultural institutions pull weight worldwide. After Jewish-focused features and cover stories in publications as diverse as, well, Time Out New York and New York magazine, it seems those notorious anti-semites in "Old Europe" have taken a cue and gotten smart to the New York publishing world's "hip factor".
Officials in France are now considering "breaking centuries of European tradition by making an Islamic feast and a Jewish holy day official school holidays...'France will be the first non-Muslim country to recognize Eid al-Fitr and the only country apart from Israel to celebrate Yom Kippur,' said Patrick Weil, a member of the special commission that proposed the new holidays."
Expect this to make the cover of The Economist next week (they're sooo "yesterday's news").
With Best Friends Like These, who needs Paparazzi?
'Will Be Brilliant for Food'
Times were tough for the content gurus after the dot-com collapse. How could magazines, TV networks, publishing companies, and newspapers absorb all that talent? And why would 'old media' want to hire the very same people who dissed them and made sport of them at ever turn? Clearly, the era of the content guru has passed.
For those nostalgic for Icebox.com's Zombie College, FreeVibe.com has its own Flash animated serial called Summit High. Like streaming media? Check out the Anti-Drug Ads section. Miss the community areas of old sites—those bustlingly moderated democracies of the Web—there's the Share section where you can tell your own stories.
But my favorite area of FreeVibe.com by far is their Stoner Greeting Cards, which combines the The Modern Humorist's "Grating Cards" with a hectoring, Public Service Message tone. They're sort of insane ("Hey little brother, / I just wanted to say,/ I'm sorry I forgot to pick you up yesterday./ I was home, listening to music, and getting high/ (and boy, when you're baked, time does fly)." reads one), but they're also sort of great.
Maybe what I like about them is the imaginary "concept meeting" I can see in my mind: the erstwhile, much lower-paid Content Guru sitting with his designer and developer (whom he must know continue to be paid decently for their specialized expertise and their smaller—at least relatively smaller—egos), going through the motions of brainstorming. Content Guru is drinking a Starbucks coffee he bought himself, trying to explain the idea, maybe occasionally drawing a diagram on the white board. But he's just going through the motions. He's really wishing there could be some sort of Cyber Suds party this weekend. He's also thinking that Christmas is coming soon and that he hasn't seen a bonus since the dawn of the new millennium. Maybe his mom was right: he should've just stayed an assistant at that trade publishers: the other assistant he started with is now an associate editor, while Content Guru is freelance, paying COBRA from two jobs ago, and barely able to cover his credit card debt.
But the Dow did great yesterday, Content Guru thinks. Maybe he can burn a disk with these 'Stoner Greeting Cards' and some other stuff and be ready for the next boom. Content Guru looks out the window and thinks, Yeah, that'll be awesome. Until then, he can do work on this anti-drug site and go home every night and smoke weed with his roommates.
December 11, 2003
This Isn't It
The Strokes' second album is a virtual double for 2001's Is This It in every still-winning respect: the guitar combat of Nick Valensi and Albert Hammond Jr.; the switchblade flick of the hooks and bridges; the acidic magnetism of Julian Casablancas' voice. In fact, the Strokes can go on like this foreverthe Ramones did it for a quarter-centuryas long as the songs stay this good and the attitude doesn't dry up.
Before you go renaming East 7th Street Julian Casablancas Place, check out the band's really, really early stuff. Back when their name was slightly different and their sound... well, their sound was out there, man. And they made their own cover art, to boot!
Talk about indie cred.
Earlier thoughts on The Strokes from low culture.
Like A Virgo?
“Why can't I be a power punk?' you mewl over a nearly empty box of Snackwells and your newest fact-checking assignment. Have you ever considered you might just be born under the wrong sign?
New York Observer's long-awaited assembly of the “50 Baby Bigshots Who Run the City,' offers few surprises, but under closer scrutiny is it actually possible to detect a pattern to their choices? Sure, if you were born in Manhattan, if you're white and at least vaguely attractive, you have a fair shot of making 2004's list. But what distinguishes the average Dalton grad from the premier power punk? After a thorough low culture investigation, we've managed to distill that special something - being born between August 23 and September 22.
Alongside glowing profiles and troubling caricatures, the Observer is kind enough to offer exact date-of-birth for all of its minor majordomos. Aside from knowing when to send out birthday cards, or simply alerting you when next to avoid the private rooms at Lotus, what is the value in providing these people's DOB's?
Careful statistical analysis has revealed that a whopping 20.4% of New York's young and powerful are Virgos. That's right, a sign known for its need to receive attention, adoration and gratitude is about to take on the mantle of power in Manhattan. Another 13% of those potent punks are Aries, a group who tend to be self-centered and willful. Add optimistic Sagittarians into that equation, and with only three of the twelve star signs represented, a jaw dropping 44.8% of all New York's tough tyros figure in.
And if you're an Aquarius, forget about ever attaining New York Observer's lofty climes. Only one of these mighty minors was born under that unfortunate sign.
If it's broke, don't fix it
Today's Washington Post features a delicate little fluff piece entitled "Bush Campaign Tiptoed Into Arlington HQ" about, well, the fairly quiet presence of President Bush's re-election campaign headquarters in Arlington, Virginia.
"There is nary a Bush sign or banner in sight. In fact, there is virtually no way to find the headquarters at all without being directed by a building doorman through a set of double doors.
Take a second look at these 2004 campaign bumper stickers, however. Why did the notoriously "fiscally conservative" Republican campaign even bother to create new stickers, when they're effectively just reprints of those used in the 2000 campaign?
At least we now have a sense of how those $200 million in Bush campaign funds will not be spent: hiring graphic designers who can do more than italicize existing fonts.
December 10, 2003
Short-order jobless recovery
Good news for you recently-unemployed types (all 3 million of you in the past few years). Have you caught yourself pining away for those days of 1998, 1999, and 2000, an era in which you safely pulled in semi-comfortable wages and found yourself ensconced in a middle-class lifestyle?
Well, start buying those Brita water filters and other disposable goods again, because the Bush Recession (which I think ought to have been called the Clinton recession, if you ask me) is almost over! This, according to statements made by job market analysts, as covered in the New York Times. Get ready to grin, Johnny Jobless, because here's their optimistic lead-in:
"The restaurant industry has gone on a hiring spree over the last four months, suggesting that broader gains in the job market could be on the way...Some economists say that an increase in low-wage jobs, which include most restaurant work, indicates that the job market over all will soon bounce back. During the economic doldrums of the early 1990's, hiring began to increase in the restaurant industry about six months before job creation began taking off. The striking fact of this economic recovery, like the previous one, has been how long it has lasted without igniting job growth."
Not optimistic enough for ya? Hey, Mr. and Mrs. Sourpuss, what are those unemployment checks paying for then? Certainly not smiles!
What's that, you say? You've exhausted your unemployment benefits after losing your job at the steel mill or the office-supply company? Well, you say you're looking for work, but some of my blue-blooded friends think you're not looking hard enough! Jobs, it seems, are looking for you!
The search for employees who view the restaurant industry as a possible career has at least one McDonald's franchisee near Cherry Hill scouting for management recruits. Edward Baim, who owns 11 McDonald's restaurants in southern New Jersey and Philadelphia, makes recruiting trips to local colleges and vocational schools and promotes jobs in the food industry whenever he can.
Now if only they were hiring good job market analysts.
What Smoking Ban?
low culture's Guide to Giving
Sure Dany Levy does a great job attending to the shopping needs of the countless Carrie Bradshaw manques, but who is there to reach out to the rest of us? In this season of gift giving, who knows what to buy those harder-to-reach demographics - the morbidly obese, the neo-neo-cons or post-punk scenesters? low culture is proud to present our first annual guide to giving.Continue reading...
The low culture Invoice
From the December 15, 2003 The New Yorker:
“Each hinge unfolds while at the same time pivoting, so that its relationship to the other hinges remains the same.'
Paid to author John Seabrook: $100.00
Based on informed speculation as to per-word rate. Sample has not been edited for clarity.
December 9, 2003
God's Omnipotent Smite List (2nd edition)
First off, God has been promoted since he last penned a column for us (as a lowly intern, no less) here at low culture last month. That last round of vitriolic sniping was a bit harsh, we felt, but who were we to question His assertions? And again, who are we to nix the latest expression of His wrath, particularly when He functions as supreme being, editor, and comptroller?
Here, then, is God's word, i.e. the word of God:
Thee Who Shalt be Smitten (on the Second Day)
1. Rep. Nick Smith, R-Mich: Jesus Christ, Nick (fret not, believers, for I can take my Son's name in vain without fear of retribution). Step up to the plate and let people know who amongst the ranks of House GOP leaders tried to bribe you a few weeks back with that ill-advised Medicare bill. Being omniscient, I know such activity is more or less commonplace, but I trust that you will do what is right. Besides, I can always spread the gospel to Bob Woodward (or Robert Novak), but I'd rather you take some responsibility for yourself before I have to come forward.
2. Sen. Joe Lieberman, D-Conn: Give it up, Joseph. You were never going to get any major endorsements, at least not from anyone in any way related to the Democratic party. Try again in 2008, my friend, when Bush isn't up for re-election and the Republican Party needs new leadership.
3. L. Paul Bremer, again: This is your second warning, Paul. Just because Israel has been excessively hard-line and undemocratic in its dealings with so-called "insurgents" in its "territory," doesn't grant the U.S. occupying force the rationale to emulate, in its own "territory," the Israeli methodology, which has proven spotty, at best, in addressing the region's incessant cycle of human suffering. Turn to some other models for how to stop the ol' human-on-human violence.
4. Insurgents, Terrorists, Fedayeen et al: Seriously, cut this shit out. You're primarily destroying the lives of your own "side," which, last time I checked, wasn't one of founding father Michael Collins's models for practitioners of "successful" terrorism tactics.
5. Michael Dell: Come on, Michael. While your sins aren't nearly as bad as those listed above, please remember that I alone can create replicas in my God-like image. When you go around spawning low grade knock-offs like the Dell DJ, which has got to be the "falsest idol" ever in terms of my beloved iPod prodigy, you tempt fate, and risk a good hard smiting.
William, no! It's only one bad review!
The Village Voice's Sterling Clover bravely ignores the fact that William T. Vollmann is armed to the teeth and delivers a very nasty (and very Snarkwatch-worthy) critical beat down to the author's 3,298-page epic Rising Up and Rising Down:
This is the sort of book that doesn't really exist, but only gets used as a gag in other books. But Rising Up is maddeningly real, at its worst the world's most erudite dorm-room bullshit session given the Cicero treatment and weighed down by numbing cynicism toward belief and hope of all sorts, naive tossing-about of the "social contract," irritating misuse of the concept of reification, and an epistemological nightmare of means and ends.
(For those among us who can only stand to read the book reviews in People, Clover is giving Vollmann a D-minus.)
Let's hope this doesn't turn into one of those New York Review of Books Letters Page feuds that makes all parties come off like Pro Wrestlers.
Right, left, round and round
At the risk of pulling a Hitchens, I find myselfexcuse me while I pause to catch my breathfinding some fairly salient points in the latest iteration of the National Review, Jonah Goldberg's bastion of strident conservatism (the very same publication that used to host Ann Coulter's mad rantings about the Arab world, e.g. pleading for the U.S. to "invade their countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity"). You can imagine the horrible, haunting shame I feel right now.
Anyway, regarding Howard Dean's impending, sure-thing nomination as the Democratic candidate in the 2004 Presidential Election, here is the contentious meat of the right-wing argument, courtesy of National Review senior editor Ramesh Ponnuru:
"No word yet from McGovern, Mondale, or Dukakis. . . . Come to think of it, the Ds now have a candidate with McGovern's foreign policy, Mondale's domestic policy, Dukakis's regional background, and Gore's arrogance. How perfect is that?"
Of course, this is just a nonsensically reactionary bit of conservative giddiness...but it's that last comparison that threatens to really pass muster. Howard Dean: the perhaps not unelectable, but unlikable candidate? Ponnuru goes into greater detail on this subject in "Can Dean Win?":
"Will Dean's personality wear well? Some people have said that he projects too much anger for the general electorate; arrogance may be the deeper problem."
This seems to be the core issue. Was it really surprising to anyone that Should-Have-Been President Al Gore endorsed Dean yesterday? After all, they're both aloof, robotic, smirking politicos, except Dean has the "benefit" of coming off as the aloof, robotic, smirking, and thick-necked jock, as opposed to Gore's aloof, robotic, and smirking policy wonk.
"The dirtiest little secret of the fight for the Democratic presidential nomination is that the pros running Dean's campaign know full well that the criticisms of The Doctor being made by the press and his opponents are often spot on.
Pal Joey: sniff, sniff
After his former running mate Al Gore's endorsement of his rival, Howard Dean, in the race for the Democratic nomination, poor Joe "Losing the Primaries" Lieberman must be feeling pretty low, indeed.
Here are some highlights of this morning's interview with the Today show's Matt "Losing My Hair" Lauer:*
First, displaying a bit of trenchant wit, too little, too late:
Lauer: Lets try and talk about whats changed. I want to run a clip of something Al Gore said as he announced you as his running mate in 2000.
Displaying a sad sense of betrayal:
Lauer: Four years ago, Al Gore wanted you to be a heartbeat away from the presidency and now he endorses Howard Dean. What happened?
Finally, some remorse:
Lauer: Just a week ago this is what you had to say about Al Gore, As president I would turn to him not only for advice but see if he would be interested in holding some high office in my administration. Hes an immensely capable, principled, effective person. Has that changed now?
*(Alternate Joke Section: Joe "Pushover" Lieberman meets Matt "Comb-over" Lauer; Joe "Bald-faced Centrist" Lieberman meets Matt "Bald" Lauer; Joe "Shiny Happy Centrist" Lieberman meets Matt "Shiny, Hairless Pate" Lauer)
Movies = Moving Pictures
As if it weren't easy enough for This American Life creator Ira "L.L. Cool G." Glass to get laid, he's gone and added the title "film producer" to his credentials, the better to snare those non-NPR listening groupies.
Glass will be producing Unaccompanied Minors, a film based on a segment of his show. According to Done Deal, the comedy will be about "a child [who] experiences being snowed in and stranded at Chicago's O'Hare Airport the day after Christmas, along with a lot of other kids from divorced families who spent the holidays flying from one parent to the other."
December 8, 2003
Today's profile of Still Holding author Bruce Wagner in The Times (Speed Dialing S for Satire by Bernard Weinraub) got me to thinking about the prolific novelist/filmmakers earlier career: character actor.
If you grew up in the late 80's, you may remember Wagner's teeny-tiny roles in "Savage" Steve Holland's teenage comedies One Crazy Summer and How I Got Into College. In the former, Wagner played Uncle Frank, a man holed up in his room all summer trying to win a radio contest. (The movie costarred Demi Moore, John Cusack, and the awesome Curtis Armstrong.) In the latter, he played A, the hypothetical "player" in every S.A.T. question opposite B, played by Mr. Show alum (and the voice of SpongeBob SquarePants) Tom Kenny. (Also in the film: Anthony Edwards, Lara Flynn Boyle, and the late Phil Hartman.)
Wagner had a few other minor roles after that, but he mostly stuck to writing; if the reviews are any indication, he made the right choice.
Please feel free to use our comments to share others I've overlooked.
Hampton Stevens, your go-to guy on all things women and italics
From New York Magazine, Dec. 15, 2003:
From The New York Observer, Oct. 27, 2003:
"I'm sitting at the Free State Brewery and this gorgeous girl from the North Shore—perfect and petite, looks like Alyssa Milano—is walking across the room. As usual, heads turn, jaws drop. She owns the place. As she passes, the guy I'm sitting next to leans in and whispers, ‘My roommate slept with her. Floppy woo.' He said he felt like he was like having sex with a glass of water. From then on, her spell on me was broken."
Fashion Police! (2004 Democratic Primary Edition)
In what has to be an appeal to the lowest common denominator of newspaper readerslower, even, than USA Todaythis weekend's Pittsburgh Post-Gazette takes a cue from Us Weekly and more or less "borrows" the trashy tabloid magazine's popular "Fashion Police" feature, where five or six unknown writers and comedians take "witty" potshots at stars and celebrities in all their swan-dressed glory. Of course, the Post-Gazette, being a respectable/reputable daily newspaper, tries to get some more politically-oriented pundits (e.g CNN's Paul Begala), and runs their feature under the investigative headline, "Who has the telegenic edge?", but the following excerpts belie what they're really going after: that elusive Bonnie Fuller/Bill Kristol crossover crowd.
Rovitto: He looks very strong on television. He's got the mature face, the military bearing, the graying hair. All of those things play to his benefit.
Begala: I believe the word Martian was mentioned by someone at some point. But I would never say that about him. He looks like a nice guy.
Begala: He's 50 years young. He's great looking, the best-looking candidate since Ronald Reagan, but so very young. If you combine that with the fact that here's a guy in his first term in the Senate, that's a real problem for him. I keep thinking of the line in "About Last Night" when Jim Belushi told Rob Lowe, "What you need is an industrial accident."
[with thanks to Jeff]
December 7, 2003
At Risk Kids
In this week's Times 'Arts & Leisure' section, Elvis Mitchell takes on every pop culture savvy parents' nightmare: the child-in-danger film. Mitchell's essay, For Parents, the Fear Factor Grows does a good job explaining the genre using some recent examples like The Missing, Mystic River, and 21 Grams, explaining that these films portray how "Childhood innocence is caught in the undertow and shattered on the rocks."
Curiously absent from the piece is the oeuvre of Steven Spielberg, a director who has virtually built his career around children in danger. From the enslaved kids in peril in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984) to those kids surrounded by hungry Velociraptors in Jurassic Park (1993) up through Haley Joel Osment's little lost robot boy nearly being doused with boiling oil while pleading "Don't burn me! Don't burn me!" in A.I.: Artificial Intelligence (2001), Spielberg has brought us some of the scariest images of children in danger in film history. The director has played the child-in-danger motif every which way, from tragedy (the little girl in the red coat in 1993's Schindler's List) to farce (the friendliest spirit of a dead kid ever in 1995's Casper). Luckily for Spielberg, he managed to dodge the ultimate kiddie danger bullet by not casting Michael Jackson in Hook (1991): of course, he may have also gotten hexed for life for it.
There've been a few mainstream articles and academic papers that refer to Spielberg's child-in-danger fixation, but not many. It seems that the director's mainstream appeal, abundant talents, and unrivaled power in Hollywood distract reviewers from the unseemlier aspects of his big budget entertainments. But just beneath the surface of Spielberg's plastic fantastic films is a barely contained sadism that's frequently aimed at kids.
The least mainstream (yet most focused) examination of Spielberg's sadism comes courtesy of Apocalypse Culture author/editor Adam Parfrey's alternately kooky and cogent 1993 essay "Pederastic Park?". Parfrey, for sure, goes too far in his assessment of Spielberg (and the side-by-side comparison of Hook and some truly disturbing pedophile fictions Parfrey somehow "found" in the published version of his essay place the author himself in the rather queasy company of those whom he critiques), but he does get at a certain repressed strain of sadism (often sexualized) in Spielberg's films. Here's Parfrey summing up Jurassic Park:
King King, The Lost World, and Godzilla, three monster epics cannibalized by Jurassic Park, achieved their thrills without resorting to on-screen menacing of tots. Indeed, only on milk cartons can we find children so physically raped as the celluloid juveniles of Jurassic Park. The film's sadistic tone is established early on, when a fat child challenges the paleontological theories of protagonist Sam Neill. Neill turns on the boy, and in low, menacing tones, he demonstrates to the child how a prehistoric nasty would mangle and devour him. Adding a distinctly Peter Kurtenish frisson, Neill slashes near the child's belly and crotch with a large, sharp claw.
Crispin Glover, who has a chip on his shoulder the size of Chad against Spielberg (he sued him after Spielberg used a Glover look- and act-alike in the sequel to Back to the Future, which Glover co-starred in and Spielberg executive produced) has also logged in his own bad Steven essay (also for Parfrey, in the book Apocalypse Culture II). Echoing Parfrey (and severly abusing the Socratic method) Glover wrote in 2000:
Does Steven Spielberg focus much of his fantasy life on young people? Did he portray children wallowing in sewers filled with fecal matter in Schindler's List? Did he use children to finger-paint an adult in Hook?... Are the inclinations of Steven Spielberg above suspicion by the media-fed culture? Was Steven Spielberg very friendly with Michael Jackson? Wasn't Michael Jackson supposed to play Peter Pan in Steven Spielberg's version of the story? Now that Michael Jackson is no longer held in favor by the mass media, does Spielberg associate with him?
Sure, Glover is a well documented whack-job and Parfrey's been called everything from "sick" to "fascist" so you might not want to take their word for it. Then again, neither of them pretends to be Mr. Family Entertainment. Spielberg should know to avoid such themes, especially since he reportedly swore off using children in dangerous F/X shoots after John Landis created some real life child-danger when two kids (and actor Vic Morrow) were accidentally killed during the making of Twilight Zone: The Movie in 1983, a film for which Spielberg also produced and directed a segment. (Interestingly, the segment Spielberg originally intended to shoot for that film involved kids terrorized by a bully.) You'd think after a tragedy like that, Spielberg's appetite for depictions of child endangerment would go away, yet anyone who saw Hook or A.I. knows that's not the case.
As coincidence would have it, there's a new version of Peter Pan coming out on Christmas Day. Steven Spielberg was not involved with the production in any way. He's busy producing Jurassic Park IV, coming to a theater near you in July 2005. It'll be fun for the whole familybring the kids.
Time to Cine File a restraining order?
Must The New York Post always unleash its film editor, V.A. Musetto (left), on every dewy starlet who appears in an independent film? Can't they find someone other than their resident Cine File to interview these would-be ingenues so we can be spared nauseating passages like this one from his recent dateI mean interviewwith Emily Grace, star of What Alice Found:
The show-everything [nude] scene must have been difficult, Cine File suggested over brunch with Grace at French Roast in the West Village. (She ordered pasta, he an omelet.)
("And would you date an old man with a beard?" Cine File asked off the record, of course.)
This year alone, Musetto has had face time with Erika Marozsan ("The role requires a lot of nudity by Marozsan, and Cine File wondered if she found it difficult to bare all in front of strangers..."); Ludivine Sagnier ("Sagnier, whose erotic performance in the French thriller 'Swimming Pool' has people calling her 'the new Bardot'..."); and 13 year-old (!) Keisha Castle-Hughs ("a natural-born actor.... Keisha is terrific as tomboy Pai, who has to fight for love from her male-chauvinist grandfather, who marginalizes her just because she's female..."). In the past, he's enjoyed the company of Summer Phoenix ("The exotic-looking 24-year-old actressyoungest member of the acting clan that includes siblings Joaquin, Rain, Liberty and the late Riverhas appeared in 10 movies..."); Orla Brady ("Over lunch at Time Cafe in the East Village, Cine File points out that the movie [A Love Divided], which opens here on Friday, portrays the Catholic Church in a bad light...").
There are more, but I feel icky all over as it is...
Your low culture Advocate, Isabelle Asterisk, Introduces Herself
When low culture invites you to be the first person charged with publicly evaluating, criticizing and otherwise commenting on the website's integrity, it's hard to say no: this is a pretty invigorating challenge.
After meeting with Matt, Jean-Paul and Guy, I appreciated that this would be an especially difficult task. Their atrophied sense of integrity and largely incoherent rambling suggested that this would prove a far more difficult task than I first imagined. I'd never heard of low culture before I received their email, and I'm still not quite sure what they do. But I'm here to help.
So who am I?
I am both liberal and conservative. I enjoy reality television and scripted half-hours. Palestinians and Israelis? They're both right. And I never met a fundamentalist I didn't like.
I am married, live on the Upper West Side, recycle and compost, and I send my children to public school. I am one with myself. I am two with nature. I desperately want you to like me.
Can I buy you some coffee? If you're worried about worker's rights, I'll brew some of my own Concerned Coffee. But if you think that whole thing is overblown, we'll go to Starbucks. It's no big deal. And if you need help moving or anything, I'm the girl for you.
Since my appointment was announced, my friends have all offered their heartfelt congratulations. They seem to think it will do me well to get out of the house. Here's wishing good luck, and good will, to us all. But more good luck, and good will, to you.
From North Pole to Sweatshop
This may come as a shock to low culture readers under the age of 10, but I must tell you that the movie Elf is a pack of lies! Damn, dirty lies.
According to The New York Times article Ruse in Toyland: Chinese Workers' Hidden Woe by Joseph Kahn, Ohio Art, maker of the Etch-a-Sketch subcontracts manufacturing to a Chinese company called Kin Ki whose employees are paid 24 cents-an-hour. (That's less than the 33 cents-an-hour minimum wage in the region.) Writes Kahn:
Kin Ki employees, mostly teenage migrants from internal provinces, say they work many more hours and earn about 40 percent less than the company claims. They sleep head-to-toe in tiny rooms. They staged two strikes recently demanding they get paid closer to the legal minimum wage.
And that's not all. Kahn does double duty, reporting on how the opening of the Chinese factory hurt workers in Bryan, Ohio where the toy had been made by union workers for 40 years. Sketchy, indeed.
December 5, 2003
For the record, "threaten" is not equal to "bribe"
Perhaps you recall the House's narrow passage of the contentious Pharmaceutical Industry Handout bill - ahem, Medicare bill - a few weeks back, whereby a handful of Republican representatives switched their votes from "nay" to "yay" in the waning hours of a pre-dawn roll call debate, thereby allowing the bill to pass. Early reports after the vote mentioned instances of leading Republican lawmakers huddling in great numbers around those representatives who were on the fence, urging them to pass the bill and not join the majority of Democrats in voting "no."
Well, we now know what some of those specific huddle discussions were about. The play they called? Merely threats, and most certainly not bribery.
U.S. Representative Nick Smith went into detail yesterday on the specifics of the "non-bribes" levied against him, saying that
some Republican House members threatened to oppose his son's election campaign unless the Republican from Michigan voted for the bill -- but did not offer his son any money.
That clears things up, then. And this, even moreso:
Mark Glaze of the nonpartisan Campaign Legal Center said House members could have violated a federal law against bribing public officials, if money was offered.
For a party membership that seems to have little to no understanding of nuance, these lawmakers do seem to grasp the significance of semantics in politics.
Proposed SNL skits for Al Sharpton and Sharpton's notes to writers
With apologies in advance to Uncle Grambo's best buddies, Nummer and H-Bomb, we at low culture were impatiently scouring the basement of Rockefeller Center this afternoon, trying to decide between Pret à Manger and Hale & Hearty for lunch, when we settled upon this top-secret nugget of gold on NBC stationery: a series of notes regarding SNL writers' proposed skits for this week's episode, and guest host Al Sharpton's responses to them. Not promising.
1. "Al as President of Hair Club For Men-'I'm not just a client, I'm the President'" [This could work. Maybe.Rev. A.S.]
2. "Shattered Glizz-ass: Finesse as Jayson Blair, and Sharpton as Times managing editor Gerald Boyd" [First, that Snoop language is so done, and second, journalistic navel-gazing is worse than Rudolph doing VersaceRev. A.S.]
3. "Sharpton as Baptist Minister-turned-informercial pitchman" [Infomercial? Can't we make fun of something contemporaryRev. A.S.]
4. "Outkast: Sharpton as Big Boi, and Finesse as Andre 3000" [I'm aligned with Russell Simmons, not L.A. ReidRev. A.S.]
5. "Sharpton as Tony Soprano" [David Chase is so 2000. I'm all about 2004Rev. A.S.]
6. "Sharpton as hotdog vendor outside Republican convention in 2004" [No go: Black folks don't sell hotdogsRev. A.S.]
7. "Sharpton picks Ol' Dirty Bastard as his VP candidate in 2004" [NO WAY. And it's Dirt McGirt, you idiots. And you can't have someone who's been arrested on your ticket. Or maybe you can.Rev. A.S.]
8. "Sharpton made over by Queer Eye guys!" [People. You. Are. Getting. Desperate. - Rev. A.S.]
9. "The Ghetto Life: celebrity politician Sharpton visits the urban terrain of NYC" [You have how many wealthy white writers on staff?Rev. A.S.]
10. "Jimmy's stoned dorm room character interviews Al on his web cam" [Hello? The digital divide, ever hear of it?Rev. A.S.]
11. "Al Sharpton meets Mango!" [Mango isn't even on the show anymore: c'mon, people! Try at least. We've got issues like healthcare, education, defense spending, and civil rights to worry about here, not me interacting with some little guy in hot pants. Funny? No. Advancing the issues to shape the Democratic Party platform in 2004? No. Does anyone know if MAD TV brings on guest hosts?Rev. A.S.]
From the Dumbing-It-Down Desk
Worry no more. low cultures Dumbing-It-Down desk is here to, well, dumb-it-down for you. In the interest of bringing ourselves that much closer to the depths of Entertainment Weekly weve scientifically assigned the traditional star ratings to all of todays Times movie reviews. (Please note that these synopsis reviews do not reflect the opinions of low culture, they reflect the opinions of The New York Times.)
Unintentionally Hilarious Photo of the Moment, vol. 11
Yesterday's announcement by record company Murder Inc. that it is changing its name to The Inc. has had far-reaching implications in the entertainment industry. As Island Def Jam Chairman and The Inc.'s corporate head, Russell Simmons told reporters, the change was designed to "get you all off [Irv Gotti's] ass."
Following The Inc. and Tha Row's lead, several other media and entertainment companies have altered the names of their films, books, and other properties to reflect greater sensitivity to violence. Also, it gets all of you off of Harper Lee's ass. Here's a sample:
Death of a Salesman becomes A Salesman
December 4, 2003
That's Senator Dunst, to you, buddy!
It's time for another one of low culture's trademark specious pop culture comparisons, the better to raise the ire (or, more likely, benumb the yawning indifference) of casual readers and insane commentators alike.
And this one has the added benefit of me not even having seen the movie in question, Mona Lisa Smile. Starring America's Sweetheart emeritus, Julia Roberts, and a pride of her 20-something replacements-in-training, Smile tells the story of an unconventional, inspirational teacher at a staid, upper-crust school. It's probably a lot like Dead Poets Society only... prettier.
As a Wellesley alum myself, I felt the need to point out some similarities between the film's stars and some of the school's most famous former students. (Seriously, no shit: I spent several summers of my formative years at this camp, playing college student while otherso called "normal"kids attended soccer camp or simply hung around the house being bored for two months.)
Let's check out some of the film's stars and their sorta kinda real world analogs, shall we?
Since Revolution Studios, the film's production company, has shown an acute interest in prurience for prurience's sake, I'm wondering how they'll manage to work in what Ron Rosenbaum has memorably dubbed "The Great Ivy League Nude Posture Photo Scandal".
See you in 2023, Donald (or not, in this case)
Yes, the lion's share of the news-reading public (all 326 of us) has seen the now-infamous video still of Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld shaking hands with eventual Iraqi despot Saddam Hussein in 1983 as a representative of the Reagan administration. And, rather predictably, the photo of this event caused outrage amongst the anti-war left and contextual pandering by the apologetic rightwing.
This week, however, Rummy is in Afghanistan. You know, that mountainous nation run by the Taliban that we bombed in response to the attacks of 9/11, and subsequently left behind so we could continue our merry (and unrelated) bombing in Iraq. "Staying the course" in Afghanistan seemed to be out of the question, so now those lucky Afghanis have been left with a Taliban resurgence and more of that good ol' general melee.
So, in this week's bitter visit to our ex, Rumsfeld met with Hamid Karzai, the quasi-puppet leader installed by the United States after our supposedly overturning the Taliban's grip on power. And, thankfully, someone took some sweet and charming photos of the awkward meetup.
However: there didn't seem to be any photographers around when, on this very same trip, Rummy also met up with Afghani warlords who have been providing some rather thuggish "security" to the region and its residents. You know, violence, rape, robbery, extortion. Not unlike the early-eighties Saddam, come to think of it.
So, really, who can blame the U.S. government for not releasing photos of these lively meet-n-greets, when you just know, deep in your compassionate conservative heart, that the photos will come back to haunt you 20 years later?
A Hack in Heaven
Sometimes in a columnist's career, there's one story that's like his great white whale: it's his passion, his obsession, the thing that keeps him going. And if that columnist is lucky, that story winds up on the frontpage of the newspaper and on the evening news. Finally, all those years of obsessive toiling, of chasing down leads and cultivating sources pays off and he becomes the go-to guy on the subject, the writer other writers look to for breaking news and critical context.
Take Friedman, for instance.
No, not Pulitzer Prize winning Times op-ed columnist Thomas L. Friedman. I'm talking about FOXNews 411 columnist Roger Friedman. (To belabor the Friedman/Friedman comparison a minute longer, both men have branched out into movies: Thomas with Straddling the Fence, Roger with Only The Strong Survive.) While the war in the Middle East has brought Thomas his moment of glory, Roger's got the Michael Jackson case and all the mini scandals that flow from it like tributaries from a raging, crazy river.Continue reading...
December 3, 2003
"Road Map" Cartography, Geneva Diplomacy
Poor, poor Colin Powell, always caught in the middle of all sorts of political and diplomatic crossfire. After his adventures at the U.N. regarding Iraq last spring, and his negotiations with North Korea over their acquisition of "nucular" weapons, he can now look forward to this week's compromising involvement in that proverbial fool's errand, the Middle East peace process.
At its heart, it proposes a Palestinian state on almost all the land Israel captured in the 1967 war. (Some border modifications would enable Israel to absorb Jewish neighborhoods outside Jerusalem for which Palestinians would get a one-to-one land swap; other Jewish settlements in the West Bank would be evacuated.) The accord elaborates an internationally monitored system for sharing Jerusalem as the capital of both states and it pledges Palestinian recognition of a right of the Jewish people to statehood (and Israeli recognition of the same for Palestinians). Most groundbreaking, it lays out a formula for refugee compensation and resettlement that "provides for the permanent and complete resolution of the Palestinian refugee problem," thus nullifying any future Palestinian claims for Israeli land or refugee rights.
Secretary of State Powell (never, by the way, has the acronym "S.O.S." seemed more appropriate) is scheduled to meet with the Israeli and Palestinian authors of the current peace process cause du jour this upcoming Friday.
"I don't know why I or anyone else in the U.S. government should deny ourselves the opportunity to hear from others and who have ideas with respect to peace," Powell said at a news conference during a visit to Tunisia.
OK, sounds like a fairly reasonable stance, Colin. One which, however, set off alarms with rightwing Israeli politicos. And by "alarms", I mean, "hysterical analogies":
"It is as though the French foreign minister were to meet (American) Indian chiefs who claimed to have been dispossessed of their land, and who were now getting organized with money provided by the Cuban ruler Fidel Castro," read an editorial in Hatzofeh, a newspaper affiliated with the National Religious Party.
Umm, yes, that's it exactly.
If we're comfortable with all these erroneous socio-historical analogies, let's try some alternates: "It's like Los Angeles mayor James Hahn meeting with the Crips to work out their feud with the Bloods, while taking campaign donations from the makers of British "BK" Knights." Or, "You wouldn't resolve the dispute between David Lee Roth and Sammy Hagar by having Gary Cherone preside over the settlement. Plus, Extreme sucked more than Arafat and Netanyahu combined."
Realistically, however, the most effective way to put up a roadblock for any sort of "road map" would be to, say, build a gargantuan wall right across that very road. Good luck on Friday, Colin.
Denby of Iniquity
Anyone who has questioned the judgement of New Yorker film critic David Denby should be relieved by the details of his forthcoming memoir, American Sucker. Aside from the already hackneyed tale of Internet greed gone bankrupt, Denby offers readers that special something more - the details of his six-month addiction to Internet porn.
But the term “Internet porn' is so vague - is it preggers, barely legal, those ubiquitous chicks with dicks? - the mind reels. For now, we're left to detect Denby's tastes among clues scoured from whatever issues of The New Yorker I have lying around.
American men enjoy violent entertainments…
It's also the angriest and sexiest work she's done - she seduces Chaplin in record time and then kicks him out of bed well before dawn.
Let me say quickly that the subject of pedophilia, creepy as it is, doesn't necessarily fall outside the realm of art.
I enjoy kiddie porn as much as the next red-blooded American man…
Maybe we'll never know. More likely, we'll just have to wait for the book Publisher's Weekly says “offers some of the most candid critiques of the Manhattan bourgeoisie ever found outside of a Woody Allen film.' Spicy.
Â¡Viva los estÃºpidos!
So Fresh and so Clean
One last Hilton post (we all hope): Let's say you've just done something you feel really bad about, like appearing in a homemade porn video or allowing your protege to shoot up a New York nightclub. How do you tell the world you feel remorse but that you're untouchable, above the charges, and so fresh and so clean?
The white suit, of course! Long favored by plantation owners and Southern law men, the white suit is your best option for conveying, you know, innocence.
What more can you say about Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie's sojourn to Altus, AR on The Simple Life? They're possibly the most malignant thing to hit a heartland family since Dick Hickock and Perry Smith visited the Clutter family in Holcomb, KA in 1959. (In this context, FOX becomes not unlike that other alternately priggish and obsequious society chronicler, Truman Capote, except that Tru cleaned up his act and got serious to bring us In Cold Blood, while FOX only gets serious when it's chasing America's Most Wanted.)
I'll leave it to others to deconstruct Paris and Nicole's every utteranceas we speak, somewhere high atop Rockefeller Plaza Amy Poehler is practicing saying "I'll puke" while Maya Rudolph is being fitted for a blond wigbut I do have a bone to pick with one of Hilton's favorite epithets: ghetto.Continue reading...
December 2, 2003
Round & Round & Out of Sight
At the risk of encroaching upon Gothamist's turf, we're going "local" for a moment. Today's New York Times unfurls a piece about the city's budgetary problems in dealing with the increasing costs of ridding the five boroughs of the thousands of tons of trash it produces daily. Given Mayor Bloomberg's oh-so-non-green anti-embrace of recycling initiatives, it may or may not be of any great concern that this particular article appeared in newspapers which must have used thousands upon thousands of tons of wood pulp for today's Times paper production. But that's beside the point. We're talking about trash here, not the Times. Or vice versa?
The article floats a number of ideas entertained by city officials as they attempt to locate novel (and cheap) ways of dealing with the refuse, which is currently de-Manhattanized by trains heading north and trucks making
"about 240,000 trips a year to and from New Jersey, mostly over the George Washington Bridge, taking at least 30 minutes to travel each way. In addition, 250,000 or so trips are made on the region's highways by tractor-trailers taking the waste to landfills in Pennsylvania, Virginia and Ohio. A tiny part of the city's 11,000 tons a day of residential trash goes to a landfill in upstate New York."
The "radical" alternatives being bounced around by officials include some well-nigh science fiction-esque proposals, such as building "three 900-foot semisubmersible ships" which "would carry as many as 18 of the old-style barges at a time to landfills in the northeastern United States or to an island in the Caribbean...where an incinerator would be built." Or how about the one where the city builds "a trash plant within New York City that would heat waste to such a high temperature perhaps 30,000 degrees that the garbage would break into elemental components, creating byproducts of natural gas and a stone-like residue. The gas the plant would create could be used to power it."
One idea seems to go unconsidered, however. Taking a "virtuous" cue from Vice President Dick Cheney, perhaps we, as residents of this great urban environment, might consider engaging in a bit of that age-old conservation? This includes heartily embracing responsible packaging initiatives and being wary of products and corporations that fail to do likewise. Just a bit of "personal" public policy, if you will.
Until then, "Happy Holidays!" from low culture.
(Sidebar: Today's Daily News is coincidentally running an article that tangentially touches upon both issues, i.e. the city's budget and its trash. It seems New York's chief marketing officer, the same jackass who brought us the Snapple-in-schools initiative, wants to plaster advertisements all over the city's trash cans to generate revenue. Someone, please help us.)
Unintentionally Hilarious Photo of the Moment, vol. 10
Sidebar: Incredibly Shameful Admission: I found this image on Drudge. I am so terribly, terribly ashamed but admitting it is the first step.
Tracy, Tracy, Tracy
It's no secret that Tracy Morgan is something of a folk hero around here at low culture. It may be too much to ask that Morgan be awarded the The Kennedy Center Mark Twain Prize for Humor, but I guess he is still at the start of his career, right? Maybe we can somehow get today declared National Tracy Morgan Day? Or is that overkill?
His show premieres tonight at 8PM EST on NBC. I know I'll be watching.
Good luck, Tracy. And don't forget us when you're a superstar.
Sidebar: What's with the logo NBC is using for this show? Kind of a bit Brady Bunch for my taste.
Maybe it's the result of budget cuts, maybe there's some new synergistic advertising model that has escaped my attention, but has anyone else noticed the recent rash of commercials that are very nearly identical? And I'm not talking about the endless cycle of extreme-soda lifestyle ads.
The most evident of these is the Red Stripe-New York Lottery Simulacra. Red Stripe's “Hooray Beer!' campaign (which must be offensive to someone) features a few Rasta's plugging the beer through thick Jamaican accents. Compare with New York Lottery's “Winner Wonderland' campaign, similarly Rasta-inflected (I haven't been able to find any of these online). Both work the same lo-fi look, their respective scripts are indistinguishable, and casual study suggests they were both shot on the same set.
And then there are the “Raised by Wolves' Simulacra. Spots for both Honda Pilot and Quizno's feature pasty, middle-aged men who were raised by the aforementioned wolves. Has this idea been floating around in the ether? Is this like Tesla and Marconi inventing the radio within days of each other? What in the hell is going on here?
Indeed, these correspondences raise many questions, most significantly, why am I watching so much TV? Ad Report Card has already tackled the Quizno's spot, but where's Rob Walker when you need him? In the meanwhile, we can only pray that Old Navy's Fran Drescher-Lil' Kim ads don't find a second life.
December 1, 2003
Straight to Hell
Who needs the fire and brimstone of a Sunday sermon when readers of the Sunday New York Times are blessed with the increasingly shrill homilies of Frank Rich?
As Mr. Alex Witchel warily illuminates the money shot (“the porn industry's term for the moment of ejaculation'), as #1 Eminem Fan detects pederasty in every pop-culture icon, at least Rich is always generous enough to use the collective sigh of “We.' After all, the real sinner here is not Jaime Gleicher (Ally Hilfiger's “less attractive sidekick') or “the red meat of Kobe' (he really wrote that), but all of us with our perverted little minds. Thanks for the heads-up there, Mr. Rich.
So has Howell Raines' pet finally lost the plot? Let's hope so - at least it would make for something good to read in the Sunday Times.
This happens every Thanksgiving. Dad sets the timer on his camera and gets the whole family together for a group photo. And wouldn't you know it, the damn flash goes off before he makes it to the group and before anyone's ready, producing a series of embarrassing candids.
Say Something Original
Last week, The Onion AV Club introduced a new weekly feature called Say Something Funny, "in which comedians submit an e-mailed response to the query, 'Make people laugh. You have 250 words.'" First unfunny victim, Mike Birbiglia.
Seems awfully similar to early-'90s hate-zine ANSWER Me!'s Make Me Laugh, You Impish Bastard!, in which Jim and Debbie Goad (R.I.P.), the Ronald and Nancy Reagan of misanthropy called up clowns listed in the phonebook and said "I've heard you're a clown. Make me laugh." Here's a quick (offline) sample:
Xuxa the Clown: I am a clown. That is true. Make you laugh immediately?... Wow! I'm sorry, I don't know if I can do that. You caught me off guard. But I really know how to make the kids laugh a lot. I do a magic show, face-painting, animal balloons, and games. And I am pretty silly.
Shudder. No wonder kids hate clowns.
Make our "team" part of your "team"