October 31, 2003
Be thankful Carl's Jr. isn't based out of Washington, D.C.
7up "flipped it and reversed it" to become dnL, and next thing you know, twenty-somethings felt like skateboarding and reading "Thrasher" for the first time since junior high (and it surely didn't hurt that 7up, I mean, dnL, tastes way cooler than yesterday's extreme-sports soda, Mountain Dew).
"With a simple display of the fast-food chain's smiling-star logo, a voiceover announces, "Carl's Jr. would like to extend a special welcome to the L.A. Lakers' Karl Malone," at which point a super comes up under the Laker-gold star, reading "Karl's Jr." The sound of a bouncing basketball concludes the spot."
Phew. Seeing that revised logo the first time, and given chain founder Carl Karcher's notorious background as an avid Southern California Republican, I initially feared far more insidious influences were at work.
What you will find inside (or on the Web site if you don't live in Los Angeles):
Makes me sad that there wasn't anything this good to read when I lived in LA.
Women of the world, raise your middle finger
Not since Virginia Slims tried to connect smoking with women's lib has an ad so offensively linked consumption with power as this new campaign from the white devils at A Diamond is Forever.
Your left hand says 'we.' Your right hand says 'me.' Your left hand rocks the cradle. Your right hand rules the world. Women of the world, raise your right hand. A Diamond is Forever. The New Diamond Right Hand Ring. Romantic, Modern Vintage, Floral and Contemporary Styles at ADIAMONDISFOREVER.COM
That's seriously fucked up. How about:
Our left hand says 'greed.' Our right hand says 'monopoly.' Our left hand held down the slave laborer working in the mine. Our right hand searched his ass for any contraband. Women of the world, raise your right hand in favor of exploitation.
Speaking of sparkly rocks of death, Black Table has an interview with Janine Roberts, author of Glitter & Greed: The Secret World of the Diamond Cartel on the very same topic today.
Up, Up, and Away!
Personally, I think it's because of the new $20s: they make spending fun!
[low culture kidz corner: Hey, kids! Want a new $20 of your own? Just download the image above and use your color printer to make as many as you like! It's easy, but you may need an adult's supervision.]
October 30, 2003
Tonight on CBS: Touched by a Plushie
Earlier this month, Bernard Weinraub of The New York Times reported the astounding fact that Carol Mendelsohn and Ann Donahue, writers for C.S.I and its imaginatively-named spin-off, C.S.I. Miami (we accept no responsibility if you follow these links to the shows' incredibly bad Flash-intensive homepages) had signed a contract that would pay them each $20 million if the shows lasted through the 2007-2008. According to Weinraub, Jerry Bruckheimer, the shows' producer, called the writers "the backbone of the shows."
So, what sort of edgy, groundbreaking plots has CBS managed to get from Mendelsohn, 52, and Donahue, 48? How about episode the story of a murdered plushie tonight at 9PM EST?
Maybe they're trying to go after their closest competitor (in terms of cult following and franchise-growth), Law & Order, promos for which frequently boast the the plot was "Ripped from the headlines!" Only, the headline this episode of C.S.I. was ripped from is from March 2001.
Hey, Ari: Your Subtext is Showing!
Why should Ari Fleischer even bother writing his White House memoir when we have The Story of O? Based on the quotes Fleischer gave Anthony Violanti of The Buffalo News, it sounds like his experience wasn't too far from that of a certain young Parisian woman who gave herself over body and soul:
The Story of Fleischer:
The Story of O:
The Story of Fleischer:
The Story of O:
The Story of Fleischer:
The Story of O:
The Story of Fleischer:
The Story of O:
The Story of Fleischer:
[Fleischer story via Romenesko]
Ever wonder what your mom's phone number was before you were born?
"Hefner's two little black books from 1957 and 1958, include a who's who of celebrities and cultural icons of the day, ranging from Richard Avedon to Oleg Cassini. Christie's says the address books could fetch up to $12,000 apiece." Bunny Booty On The Block In Playboy Auction By Paul Tharp
The Oval "Office"
Having taken a closer look at the full transcript of Tuesday's press conference, however, it became vividly clear: the president must be taking leadership cues from David Brent of BBC America's second-season hit television series, "The Office"). David (brilliantly played by actor Ricky Gervais) is the bumbling and deluded Regional Manager at a paper-supply company in an office park in the middle of nowhere.
Fans of the show can check out the uncanny similarities by looking at the lesson plan:
1. Use humor to ingratiate yourself with your staff (be "one of the guys"), but be sure that they remember who's in charge.
QUESTION: Mr. President, you talked about politics. For weeks if not months now, when questions have been posed to members of your team, those questions have been dismissed as politics and the time will come later to address those questions. You indeed have said that yourself. How can the public differentiate between reality and politics when you and your campaign have raised over $80 million and you're saying that this season has not started?
BUSH: You're not invited to lunch.
2. Fish for compliments, even when you're criticized.
QUESTION: Mr. President, your policies on the Middle East seem so far to have produced pretty meager results, as the violence between Israelis and Palestinians...
BUSH: Major or meager?
3. Display your keen sense of teamwork and express your solidarity with your staff, particularly your trust in their ability to do their job well.
QUESTION: And, in addition, are you considering the possibility of possibly adding more U.S. troops to the forces already on the ground there to help restore order?
BUSH: That's a decision by John Abizaid. General Abizaid makes the decision as to whether or not he needs more troops. I constantly ask the secretary of defense, as well as when I was visiting with General Abizaid, "Does he have what it takes to do his mission?" He told me he does.
4. Show your employees you really care, praise them whenever you get the chance, and give them affectionate nicknames.
BUSH: The first question was Condoleezza Rice. Her job is to coordinate inter-agency. She's doing a fine job of coordinating inter-agency. She's doing what her -- I mean, the role of the national security adviser is to not only provide good advice to the president, which she does on a regular basis -- I value her judgment and her intelligence -- but her job is also to deal inter-agency and to help unstick things that may get stuck. That's the best way to put it. She's an unsticker...
... and -- is she listening? OK, well, she's doing a fine job.
5. Keep making your favorite jokes over and over again until they get the reception you know they deserve.
BUSH: Let's see: Mark Smith, a radio man.
QUESTION: Thank you very much, sir, for including radio folks here.
BUSH: Face for radio.
QUESTION: I wish I could say that was the first time you told me that, sir.
BUSH: First time I did it to a national audience, though.
QUESTION: Actually my wife the last time.
6. It's important that your staff respects you and your sense of hipness. Whenever you have the chance, show off your awareness of fashion trends.
BUSH: Last question?
QUESTION: Thank you, sir. Mr. President...
BUSH: Fine looking vest.
QUESTION: Thank you, sir.
BUSH: Fine looking vest.
QUESTION: It's inspired by some of the attire from your APEC colleagues last week.
7. To innovate in today's fast-paced world, you need to be open-minded and able to coin new phrases for your brand.
BUSH: It is dangerous in Iraq because there are some who believe that we're soft, that the will of the United States can be shaken by suiciders and suiciders who are willing to drive up to a Red Cross center, a center of international help and aid and comfort, and just kill.
8. Be a real straight shooter; employees will appreciate your honesty.
BUSH: I can't put it any more plainly. Iraq's a dangerous place. That's leveling. It is a dangerous place.
9. On the other hand, when confronted with a mistake you might have made, either lie or pass the buck to someone else -- preferably an employee working beneath you.
QUESTION: Mr. President, if I may take you back to May 1st, when you stood on the USS Lincoln under a huge banner that said, "Mission Accomplished," at that time, you declared major combat operations were over. But since that time there have been over 1,000 wounded, many of them amputees who are recovering at Walter Reed, 217 killed in action since that date...
BUSH: ...The "Mission Accomplished" sign, of course, was put up by the members of the USS Abraham Lincoln saying that their mission was accomplished. I know it was attributed somehow to some ingenious advance man from staff. They weren't that ingenious, by the way.
So, there you have it. Finally, there's a rational explanation for why it seemed as though we were watching reruns of something already familiar to us.
(Additional thanks to J."K." W.)
October 29, 2003
Amazingly, we learned that in addition to the usual criticisms of the Bush administration and The New York Post, hilarious Separated at Birth rip-offs, and love letters to Tracy Morgan you've come to expect from us, what people want most is insightful analysis of new oral hygiene products and gratuitous cursing. Well, let it never be said that we don't pander.
What the fuck is up with citrus flavored mouthwash and toothpaste?
Who the fuck thought people want to clean their teeth with something that tastes like Sunny Delight? You know that gross just-brushed-your-teeth-and-then-drank-orange-juice feeling? Apparently some people like it so much, they want to compress it into one simple step.
Unintentionally Hilarious Photo of the Moment, vol. 8
Buried at the very end of Armond White's review of The Human Stain in this week's New York Press is this:
Snorfling? What the snorf?!? Curious, I snorfled over to the blogger's best friend, Google and tried to find this word. Here's what I got: What is my Greyhound trying to tell me?
Earlier thoughts on Armond White from low culture.
A Lesson for the Youngsters
Your annoying uncle who insists on telling you the same joke over and over again
Despite reports that jocularity was in the air during yesterday's 48-minute White House press conference, some quip-weary reporters seem to have tired of President Bush's notorious wit and affectionate name-calling:
"When the president called on Mark Smith, the Associated Press radio reporter thanked him for 'including radio folks' in the give-and-take.
'A face for radio,' Bush rejoined, invoking a line he has applied to other radio reporters.
To that, a slightly chagrined Smith replied: 'I wish I could say that was the first time you told me that, sir.' Amid the short bursts of laughter, the smiling president retorted: 'The first time I did it to a national audience, though.'"
This single moment in the press conference ought to inspire genuine pity for the poor "filtering" members of the press. I'd imagine that touring with Bush day in and day out would be comparable to being married to an exasperatingly bad stand-up comic who practices his or her routine on you each night, and then having to furthermore sit in and watch his or her stage shows every three months.
And I guess this explains why we haven't seen many outtakes from "Journeys with George".
Make me look on the outside like I feel on the inside
Saw the trailer for The Last Samurai last night. What's the deal with Tom Cruise always wanting to be uglied up in his movies? In the Samurai trailer we get two shots of a badly bruised and swollen Cruise, his coverboy looks destroyed.
Any shrinks out there wanna take a crack at this?
Terry Southern, 1924-1995
Today is the eighth anniversary of Terry Southern's death. Terry was co-author (with Mason Hoffenberg) of Candy (they were paid $500 for their retelling of Candide as a softcore romp through the sixties), co-screenwriter (with Stanley Kubrick) of Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (he also tried to get the director to let him co-write A Clockwork Orange with Mick Jagger and the Rolling Stones as Alex and his Droogs), the true author of Easy Rider, and a journalist, to boot.
Terry was the knock you on your ass funny heart of the sixties counterculture and an astute slayer of pieties—right, left, center, everything in between.
According to Dick Holland of The Austin Chronicle, there's no evidence that Ms. ran the letter in whole or in part.
Let Terry's writing—and his utterly uncompromising, career-ruining antics—be a lesson to all of you safe, boring, self-styled "humorists" out there (you know who you are!) who's only ambition is to write an illustration-heavy quickie book about current events, land a New Yorker Shouts and Murmurs piece, get their own McSweeneys perma-link, or fill the once-a-month humor hole in The Times Op-Ed page. If Terry were alive today, he'd tell you exactly which hole you can fill and how. (Furthermore, Terry would never call himself a 'humorist': sounds too much like 'economist' or 'manicurist' and besides, it makes being funny seem like a job.)
To do today:
October 28, 2003
The Times' biting wit
Christine Hauser of the New York Times must have had to refrain from smiling to herself as she penned her account of Palestinian officials agreeing to form a new, permanent government in the wake of the impending November 4 dissolution of the current, temporary cabinet.
"The Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat asked the prime minister, Ahmed Qurei, to form the cabinet, Foreign Minister Nabil Shaath said today, according to news agency reports from Ramallah in the West Bank.
'President Arafat and the Fatah Central Committee have unanimously asked Abu Ala to form a new Cabinet based on the current one,' Mr. Shaath said, using Mr. Qurei's nom de guerre."
Hauser's right, of course. Though she's ostensibly discussing the creation of a Palestinian government, using the more conventional notions of "pseudonym" or "fictitious name" lacks the ever-so-clever double entendre of the French nom de guerre, which is also used in a pseudonymous capacity, but literally means "a war name, or a name used in the course of fighting."
So, when does this government-creating end and the fighting resume? I was so busy quibbling over semantics that I forgot, whose turn is it?
FOX gets Meta
Not sure how I feel about this: it appears the FOX Network (or at least their marketing people) has discovered this weird thing called 'meta'. How else to explain the ad for the soon-to-be cancelled new show Arrested Development with this phrase:
It's called heading off criticism at the pass, people. And when your show stars Jason Bateman, it's an absolute necessity.
Born Rich: An Obligatory Review
Though we're still listening to EMF and several assorted skronk mixtapes, we knew that it would be a great disservice to the youthful upper-middle-class post-hipster community to blithely ignore the arrival of The Strokes' second album, so we had guest reviewer Guy Cimbalo review the reviews:
The Strokes release Room On Fire today, affording the dubious field of rock journalism an opportunity to plow through more self-same cliches than typical coverage of how difficult Thom Yorke can be. But why slog through countless articles headlined Different Strokes? when low culture lets you read them all in one sitting?
The temptation to dismiss the Strokes is acknowledged:
"This poseurship is just one of the reasons it takes immense critical discipline not to hate them " (Time)
"And, like Nirvana, the Strokes have been embraced by the designers of runway fashion, the death knell of anything sincere." (Rolling Stone)
" earning myself a spot on this very staff with a lengthy diatribe against the band's hype machine, socioeconomic background, and rampant influence-pilfering." (Pitchfork Media)
"In recent weeks, it has been difficult to walk past a newsagent without feeling a twinge of concern for the Strokes." (The Guardian)
"They are very famous even though no one can remember which one dates Demi Moore and which one is Justin." (Village Voice)
The temptation to dismiss the Strokes is then shelved:
"Everything that initially made some of us skeptical of the Strokes' charms now makes some of us susceptible." (Village Voice)
"But when you hear the Strokes, that cultivated cool disperses with every passing guitar chord, and suddenly, just by listening, youre cool too." (Time)
"Of course, the Strokes don't technically belong to a scene, because they were never even acquaintances with their compatriots." (Rolling Stone)
" in the process, they've earned the respect of many critics who initially dismissed them as a gang of riffstealing rich kids." (Spin)
The bands hygiene/lack-thereof is noted:
"I will see Casablancas nearly every day for the next week: His clothes and bracelets will not change, though he claims his underwear and socks do." (Rolling Stone)
"All five members of the Strokes appear to have studiously avoided wandering under a showerhead since birth." (Time)
"Their rumpled but mod style " (Spin)
" sharply dressed "dirty puppies" who were handy in a street fight." (NME)
The Strokes musical debts are addressed (ordered from least to most obscure):
" people noted that the Strokes bore a surprising similarity to Definitely Maybe-era Oasis." (The Guardian)
" and theres no ignoring the influences when drummer Fabrizio Moretti bangs out a snare fill that would make the Zeppelins John Bonham bolt upright in his grave." (Time)
" lead guitarist Nick Valensi is sweating Joey Santiago something fierce here." (Pitchfork Media)
" instruments blitz in and out of your face with the abrupt precision of a Lee Perry dub mix." (Rolling Stone)
"Nick Valensi puts Elliott Easton to shameI mean, we're in Steve Lukather, even Neil Geraldo territory here." (Village Voice)
Followed by limp metaphors for Casablancas vocals:
"He is the son of model magnate John Casablancas, but a study of his DNA would probably reveal more of a family connection to Holden Caufield." (Time)
" it's as if he's singing over a broken speakerphone from a burning building. Like any good New Yorker, Casablancas is suspicious and impatient by nature." (Rolling Stone)
"His default sigh, now slid a notch from Iggy-decadent toward Roxy-wistful " (Village Voice)
" sounding less like a man come to save rock with some snarling New York punk attitude than a company director fretting over the end-of-year figures." (The Guardian)
Concluding with enigmatic mention of Sam Cookes A Change Is Gonna Come:
"Julians yearning, ragged vocal melody somehow evokes Sam Cookes civil rights anthem A Change Is Gonna Come " (NME)
"As he tells this story, the jukebox fills the room with the strains of Sam Cooke's soul-stirring "A Change Is Gonna Come," and the girls gather round. All time stops for Casablancas. "When I hear 'A Change Is Gonna Come,' " he says, 'it frustrates me.'" (Rolling Stone)
With no sanity grip!
[Thanks, Madame J!]
Is it art... or a cry for help?
Who can forget their adorable take on smushed-together pre-adolescent girls with penis noses? Or their enlightening take on the Holocaust involving miniature concentration camps. (The figurines would be right at home in a Bürger Führer Unhappy Meal™.)
Here's part of their latest bid for a little attentionand a lot of scratchin the 20th annual Turner Prize in December. On the left, we see Death, (note the oblique, deep title) "a life-size bronze cast of two inflatable sex dolls engaged in fellatio." Oh, so that's what those two dolls were doing!
The weird thing about Jake and Dinos' shocking, shocking art is that its really, really boring. I mean, what angry 10 year-old boys hasnt doodled the same things in his notebook during a boring math class? It reminds me of the name (and the cover art) of an old album. And I didn't have to go to a museum to see it.
"If you can't smoke underwater, no one will swim again!"
Presumably, those of you living in New York have by now been bombarded with these public-service ads from the American Legacy Foundation, founded in the wake of the tobacco industry's settlement with 46 states in 1999 and "dedicated to building a world where young people reject tobacco and anyone can quit."
That's a fine and noble mission, and certainly warrants some form of applause. But they're making it so hard for me to get behind their message. First, they unveiled the truth® campaign, which utilized an uber-didactic narrative and "cutting-edge" filmmaking methodology to try to persuade the MTV generation that smoking is bad for you (natch) and the tobacco industry is run by a bunch of greedy, calloused motherfuckers who never saw a Michael Mann film they could really embrace.
Within the past year or so, the relatively austere tone of the original truth® campaign morphed into the "Crazyworld" campaign, which seemed to channel HBO's absurdist "Carnivale" television series, but populating the cast with hipsters rather than circus freaks (those terms are in fact mutually exclusive).
Now comes our very own New York-tailored campaign, "A Smoke-Free New York Works", which was ostensibly created in the wake of a vocal protest campaign by those who decried Mayor Bloomberg and Governor Pataki's recent ban on smoking in bars and nightclubs. Again, a fine and noble mission. Anyone living in Los Angeles or California in general knows this can work just fine, despite many TimeOut New York cover stories whining to the contrary.
The problem, however, is that this new American Legacy campaign seems to throw out (alongside the didacticism, thankfully) the avant-garde pretense of its predecessors in lieu of pure and simpleminded idiocy. Here's the gist: whether sitting on a subway car, or waiting at a bus stop, or leafing through the Village Voice, a bold white ad with hand-scrawled red text leaps out at you, often bearing the most hilariously asinine phrases imaginable. Here are some real, actual samples, unlike our "absurd" headline:
"If they ban smoking in college classrooms, it will destroy higher education!"
"If they ban smoking in office buildings, no one will ever work again!"
"If they ban smoking in churches, it will wipe out all religion!"
"If they ban smoking at JFK, nobody will ever fly again!"
"If they ban smoking in stores, everyone will quit buying stuff!"
Bear in mind these are all actual ads you may have encountered. But I have to ask, who the hell would ever utter such stupid, contemptibly moronic assertions? And if these people really exist, are they really worth listening to, much less quoting?
So, once again, the lofty goals of the anti-smoking industry -- despite my being otherwise inclined to endorse any and all of their efforts -- have left me to consider supporting efforts and initiatives that would remove their funding. Well, not really, but...something needs to be done, because if I ever step into a bathroom and see this hanging on the doorway or near the stalls, I'll snap and ask someone for a light. Again, this is a real and actual ad:
"If they ban smoking in bathrooms, it will kill the urinal cake industry!"
Do I even care about the urinal cake industry? It's the tobacco industry that needs to be reined in, chumps, and ads like this are completely counter-effective.
Editor-in-Chief, edit thyself
I saw this headline on The New Republic Web site and assumed it would be yet another piece on Gregg Easterbrook: When it comes to anti-Semitism, old habits die hard.
Instead, I found an essay on the Middle East by TNR's Cambridge Diarist and editor-in-chief Martin Peretz.
Always look on the bright side of life...
Bush Says Bombings Will Not Deter Him by By Richard W. Stevenson and David Firestone
Outrun This, Diddy
Let's see if the Teflon Hip-Hop Don can outrun this latest controversy:
Note: This was a review of Ang Lee's Hulk written around the time of the film's theatrical release for an online magazine. The article got spiked due to the film's precipitous decline in the box office during its second week and a general sense that the film didn't have the cultural impact people had anticipated. Hulk has just been released on a two-disc DVD. This article is pretty fucking long, so no one will blame you if you skip it.
"Green personalities want to help every one. They are nature's mothers... Nurturers by choice, they are the ones who take care of animals, humans and plants.
"Green personalities need to be careful not to make martyrs of themselves." - Da Juana Byrd, "Color Personality" Test from PsychicAdvice.com
I have seen the future of manhood, and it is green. Hulk green, to be more specific.
Unless you've been living in the subterranean city of Zion for the last month, you already know that Ang Lee's Hulk has—briefly-clobbered the multiplexes and captured the hearts and minds of viewers and critics in a manner not seen since...maybe The Matrix Reloaded, six weeks ago.
Critics worried about how Lee, the art house auteur of Sense and Sensibility, The Ice Storm, and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, would have to alter his style to tackle the $150 million, CGI-intensive summer "event" picture. A more salient question is not how would Hulk change Lee, but how Lee would change the Hulk? Well, aside from cutting "The Incredible," out of the big green guy's name, he also cut off his big green balls.
This new Hulk, as played by Aussie cipher Eric Bana (and about a billion ones and zeros courtesy of Industrial Light + Magic), isn't merely full of rage like his comic book and television predecessors: he's a walking DSM IV, packed to the pecs with feelings, and boy do they hurt easily. Call him The Incredible Sulk.
Before we can meet the Hulk, we're stuck with Bruce Banner, a repressed, emotionally closed-off sad sack tooling his bike through the hills of San Francisco in a dorky helmet. Following an overlong flashback of his mad scientist-with-a-Village People mustache father experimenting on him with dangerous levels of hormones and over-acting, we pick up with Banner shortly after he's been dumped by girlfriend/colleague Betty Ross (Jennifer Connelly, so thin she resembles an Al Hirshfeld drawing). In typical Marin county therapy speak, Betty tells Bruce that he's just the latest in a long line of "emotionally distant" men she's fallen for. But, hey, they can still be friends and continue their groundbreaking research into blowing up bullfrogs using science. (If only all lady scientists were so understanding!)
In these early scenes, Bruce is so stiff you half expect to see knotholes poking out from his rolled-up shirtsleeves. But if Betty wishes her ex would just open up and share his feelings, she'll come to regret it after the near-fatal blast of Gamma Rays and Nanomeds (or whatever) cause him to become an 800lb drama queen with a taste for flamboyant purple cut-offs.
Following a plot so tortuous viewers might be tempted to use their four dollar popcorns like a trail of breadcrumbs, we find Banner fully transformed into the Hulk, breaking lots of stuff and fleeing from the entire Military-Industrial Complex.
Lee and his longtime writing and producing partner James Schamus, have brought us some of the most sensitive male characters in recent cinematic history. By sensitive, I don't merely mean fellas with high EQs: I mean criers, passive aggressive nudges, and hen-pecked non-agents. Remember the end of The Ice Storm when ascot-loving suburban dad Ben Hood (Kevin Kline) loses his shit and breaks down into sobs in front of his entire family? And don't get me started on his milquetoast Dostoyevsky-quoting son, Paul (Tobey Maguire) who attempts to seduce and destroy a female classmate (Katie Holmes) but finds himself on the receiving end of the old "you're like a brother to me" speech. And then there's Chow Yun Fat in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, who loses his phallic-signifying sword "Green Destiny" along with his mojo. (What's with the green motif, Ang?)
These characters seem to be a direct outgrowth of Lee's personality: "He has the most quiet footprint, a tremendous humility," former producing partner Ted Hope told John Lahr in The New Yorker. "He once said to me, describing his process, that movies pass through him." (Whoa, watch those archetypes, Ted! We only got B-minuses after all!)
According to Lahr, that passivity extends to Lee's personal life where his wife Lin wears the pants in the family. To hear Lee tell it, he lives out a version of The Secret Life of Walter Mitty in which he's hen-pecked at home but free to live out his fantasies of power only while making movies. "[On the set] my job is telling people what I want," Lee tells Lahr. "But when I get home it's back to life-what she wants."
But that's not all. This Hulk exhibits other traits rarely associated with the masculine he-men of the comic book/action genre. At one point, after a particularly vicious battle with some hulked-out evil dogs (including, with a touch of surrealism, a Standard Poodle), Hulk staggers over to a lake and ponders his own reflection like some 'roid-raging Narcissus. Gazing down at his own reflection, one can only imagine what he's thinking and feeling: guilt, sadness, confusion, a nagging suspicion that his skin would look better—tauter—if only he'd used Kiehl's Ultra Facial Moisturizer for Men. You can almost imagine Lee allowing a single (green?) tear to ripple the reflection away. (Cue The Who: "See me...Feel me-e-e... Touch me.... Heal me-e-e!") Thankfully, in an over-the-top film, we're spared that particular image.
Another aspect of Lee's kinder, gentler Hulk is his overweening daddy fixation: The guy's got more father issues than a stadium full of Promise Keepers.
Further complicating Banner's predicament is the return of his dad (played in by the method acting or merely insane, Nick Nolte), who has spent the last thirty years in a psychiatric ward. Like a lot of absentee dads, he wants to catch up on lost time with some hands-on father-son bonding.
But it's not easy, you see, because dad has some Gamma Ray/nanomed problems of his own that get in the way of intimacy with his boy. The Gamma Ray/nanomeds (or whatever) have given Papa Banner the ability to absorb others' power and use it against them. As if living out every thirteen year-old's secret Oedipal wish, Banner/Hulk gets the chance to go mano-a-mano with his old man, but finds himself outmatched when his father literally absorbs his anger and uses it against him. (A classic passive-aggressive.) This, of course, makes Hulk even more depressed, probably tapping those wells of guilt and anger that lurk inside every father's son.
Of course, all the blame can't be laid at the quiet footprints of Ang Lee. An old proverb tells us that every generation gets the Hulk it deserves. We're living in an era of greatly diminished expectations for heroes and further diminished standards for manhood among mere mortals. This is a time when millions tune in to The Sopranos to watch The Godfather's capo-di-tutti-capi re-imagined as an anxiety-riddled suburban dad who cries when ducks land in his pool, when a movie like X2: X-Men United is interpreted by many as an allegory for gay pride and acceptance, and when Daredevil becomes the story of a handicapped man in skintight red leather overcoming childhood trauma. (Best not to mention the casting of Ben Affleck—the most whipped man in Hollywood since Eddie Fisher—as Daredevil.) Clearly, we're not dealing with our fathers' superheroes.
The problem with these hypersensitive heroes is that their depth is in direct conflict with the shallowness of the films they live in. With the exception of The Sopranos, which has 13 to 20 hours a year to develop its plots (not to mention the best writers, actors, and directors cable money can buy), the examples above are within the intentionally-narrow confines of frivolous big budget action movies. Why bother making your Mutants vs. The Man popcorn flick a meditation on Gay, Lesbian, Transgender rights? That's not speaking truth to power, that's speaking Latin to housecats. Daredevil isn't "differently abled," he's a superhero. What's the point of making your CGI monster as textured as Hamlet? Hulk doesn't need to be deep, he's huge and pissed-off.
C'mon, Ang: Hulk's the beast inside us, not Free to Be...You and Me.
Watching the Hulk emote almost makes you nostalgic for the time when comic book characters like Superman were the strong-jawed extensions of stoic American manhood. Superman never cried about the fact that his parents were killed—and his entire stinkin' planet was destroyed—he just kicked bad guy ass and did his best to avoid kryptonite. Not so, Ang Lee's Hulk.
Post Lee, Hulk still bellows, but now he's more likely to tell you with self-actualized sincerity "HULK S-A-A-A-D! Why you hurt Hulk's feelings?" And skulk off to listen to old Smiths records and write in his diary.
[Thanks to Michael Martin for editorial guidance]
October 27, 2003
MTV's Sunday Stoopid
Tuning into last night’s "Sunday Stew" lineup of new shows on MTV, one was treated to the moronic adolescent behavior we’ve come to expect from the network that contributed "Frog Baseball" and Chris Hardwick to the culture.
There were instances of taunting hyenas with meat, punching a jolly fat man in the face repeatedly, stomping around Las Vegas hotels in flip-flops and baggy basketball shorts, and taunting a 15-year-old until she cried. What was striking though, was that instead of all these antics being acted out by particularly destructive 13-year-old boys, we were treated to these delights from adult men, some of whom were over 30 years old. If Christopher Noxon of the Times' Style section hadn’t already dubbed such men-boys 'rejuveniles' back in August, we might refer to them by the name of the show that spawned them: Jackasses.
Forget Ashton, and his nauseating shouting and mugging on Punk’d (seriously, try to forget him—it’ll make it so much easier when he’s on VH1’s Where Are They Now in two years), the biggest Jackasses of all were Steve-O and Chris Pontius, or as they're called when they're stripped naked together, Wild Boyz.
The premise of Wild Boyz is simple yet strangely compelling: let’s set two complete idiots loose in some wild terrain with some wild animals and see what happens. Ripping a page—or two, or three, or all of them—from the short-lived, but infinitely better series Fishing With John, the show combines totally uninformed animal husbandry with straight-faced nature program voice over: It's like a National Geographic special hosted by The Three Stooges.
Over a decade old now, Fishing With John was hosted by eighties downtown scenester and indie movie dude John Lurie with a revolving cast of grizzled hipster eminences like Tom Waits, Willem Dafoe, and Dennis Hopper and brought some laid-back "cool daddy" cool to what was essentially a boring genre, the fishing show. (Highlights on the Criterion DVD include Tom Waits and John Lurie trying to catch a shark using Jarlsberg cheese and a gun and Willem Dafoe asking John very sweetly if maybe they should zip their sleeping bags together for warmth while camping on a frozen lake for ice fishing.) In contrast, the zingiest banter between Steve-O and Pontius runs along the lines of "Oh, man!" "Yeah, dude!" It’s like MTV has gone back to square one.
Yes, a sure way to date yourself is to complain that MTV is stupid and juvenile and tell everyone you liked it soooo much better when Remote Control was on and Kennedy walked the earth, but seriously, I expect a little better from MTV. If they keep this up, I might have to start watching A&E and we don't want that, do we?
Can the American left afford to lose its international perspective?
Buried within the larger reports of Al Gore's efforts to spearhead a campaign to introduce a "liberal" alternative to mainstream and conservative cable news outlets is this overlooked aspect of the current plan:
"Gore is keeping quiet about it, but he heads a group that plans to pay a reported $70 million to buy Newsworld International (NWI), a cable news network that's currently in fewer than 20 million homes."
I don't claim to be well-versed in the mechanics of establishing new cable networks and contractually arranging for their effective distribution, but replacing a network like NWI with this "liberal alternative" to other networks seems a bit narrowminded and foolhardy, to say the least.
I can geekily admit to really, sincerely loving NWI -- its motley assortment of news from Canada, Germany, the U.K., and Russia consistently proves to be a truly useful alternative to the nationalist (and often naive) perspective of much of the U.S.-based newsmedia. Where else can one see televised footage of U.S.-built Israeli Caterpillar D-9 bulldozers plowing through Palestinian homes, or uncensored broadcasts of the latest Osama bin Laden audio or videotapes? Where else can one see President Bush speak in all his soundbite-devoid, flub-worthy glory? And where else can television viewers get "man on the street" perspectives on international policy from citizens in Ottawa and Berlin?
As such, it would seem to be a less-than-ideal solution to remove this network from the airwaves merely to replace it with an "entertaining" platform for Al Franken or Bill Maher to put forth nightly punchlines about Bush's numerous lies.
"The New Yorker, yes, The N(EW) Yorker"
We ask only because Heffernan's profile of Fey seems to channel the spirits of Baldwin's coverage of Weekend Update co-hosts Fey and Jimmy Fallon, which originally appeared in the May 10, 2002 issue of EW. To wit:
1. Sit in on writers' meetings and/or SNL dress rehearsal discussions to convey the humorous give-and-take of Fey's job.
"[On a saturday afternoon] The writers were trying to come up with a joke about the Dixie Chicks, whose lead singer had slighted President Bush. Doug Abeles read the setup: While in London on Thursday, the Dixie Chicks angered country-music fans when lead singer Natalie Maines told the audience, Just so you know, were ashamed that the President of the United States is from Texas. Fey squinted, as if detecting a quip in the distance...We apologize, she suddenly declared. We forgot that our entire fan base were hillbillies and idiots. Everyone chuckled except Shoemaker, who pointed out that Dixie Chicks fans were people like his wife. Fey agreed, without apology, and the group moved on to a joke about a man who swallowed a diamond ring in order to ask his proctologist to marry him." (The New Yorker, 2003)
"Update cohosts Tina Fey and Jimmy Fallon survey the patchwork of hilarity looking for stuff to cut, while simultaneously facing pressing challenges...And then there is the Captain Morgan problem. "A new study reveals that eyedrops work as well as eye patches to correct lazy eye. A skeptical Captain Morgan said, 'Yeah, I've heard that one before.'" Although it's not every day a person gets to work the swashbuckling mascot of a rum brand into a joke, an Update staffer has some bad news for Fallon: "The thing is," he says matter-of-factly, "Captain Morgan doesn't have an eye patch." In a room full of comedy writers, that's all it takes to provoke a riffing frenzy." (EW, 2002)
2. Invoke Fey's adulatory hipster fan base, and the discomfort this provides her.
"As we were talking, a man in his twenties, with wild tufts of dark hair, stopped by our table, which was near the soda fountain. Over the roar of a blender, he shouted to Fey, Can I tell you that you are amazing? I dont want to interrupt, but you are truly, truly amazing! Fey thanked him, staring down at her plate." (The New Yorker, 2003)
"It would embarrass Tina if she knew how many people have told me they think she's, like, the hottest woman on TV," says [Weekend Update producer Michael] Schur. The sex-symbol issue is, in fact, one that makes both Fallon and Fey squirm uncomfortably and stare at their hands. "I just try to stay out of it," says Fey, who's married to theater director Jeff Richmond. (EW, 2002)
3. Mention People magazine's "50 Most Beautiful People" list in some capacity
"She lost thirty pounds in the year before she went on camera for Weekend Update, and she now works out with a trainer and counts the point value of each meal according to the Weight Watchers system. (Earlier this year, People included her in its annual list of most beautiful people. Dont mention it, she told me. Ride it out.)" (The New Yorker, 2003)
"Brace yourself for some full-body blushing, buddy: Fallon just landed on PEOPLE magazine's 50 Most Beautiful list, and gossip columnists have spilled much ink linking him with such ladies as Winona Ryder and fashion designer Tara Subkoff." (EW, 2002)
Geekier than Hell
I love Elvis Mitchell so much that if he were to review the phonebook, I'd read it just to admire his turns-of-phrase and character sketches of Aaron A. Aaronson and Aaron A Adams. Somehow Mitchell manages to be both cool and a major geek at the same time. Case in point, Mitchell's piece in this week's Times Arts & Leisure section, The 'Kill Bill' Soundtrack: D.J. Quentin's Recycled Mix in which Elvis waxes geekier than Harry Knowles, "Moriarty", and Quentin Tarantino in a three-way AOL chat.
NY vs. DC
In a case of New York media ethnocentrism that would be shocking—shocking—if it weren't so damn predictable, spinsters flipping through this Sunday's Times Vows column were treated to a full-page story (with accompanying photo) about New York magazine's Amy Sohn's wedding to painter Charles Miller. What's so shocking is that just a page or two later, The Times reports on the wedding of New Republic editor Peter Beinart to Diana Hartstein with a teeny-tiny 2.5 paragraph story with no photos!
Are we really to believe that a sex columnist for New York has more glamour and appeal than the editor of The New Republic, America's foremost weekly journal of centrist liberal thought? Sure, Amy writes about her sex life without shame, but Peter knows Al Gore! Someone somewhere must've thought TNR was hot, because there's a little movie coming soon all about the magazine starring this sexy beast.
This is so unfair. And you know Amy's wedding will get optioned as a We movie starring that Jewish actress from Coupling (The Taming of Amy: How New York's Sexiest Sex Column Settled Down for Sex with One Man!) while Peter would be lucky to have his wedding mentioned on K Street. It's enough to make you cancel your subscription to all 20 glossy magazines you get every month.
Pseudo-imaginary conflict of interest watch
The New York Times announced today that its "public editor" will be Daniel Okrent.
Slog™: A special brand of quagmire
After yesterday's latest attack on American forces in Iraq, where a rocket was fired upon the al-Rashid Hotel in Baghdad and killed one U.S. occupier (I mean, officer), defense department officials were expressing frustration on Sunday at the increased bravado demonstrated by the strike. The hotel, where U.S. Deputy Defense secretary Paul Wolfowitz was residing during his current visit to Iraq, had been serving as a makeshift American base of operations and was believed to be safe from such provocation by virtue of being ensconced in protective concrete barricades. By striking at such a seemingly secure building, the insurgents have more or less shattered any myth of security for Americans trying to restore order to the embattled nation.
Also of note was the well-nigh un-ironic adoption of last week's phrase du jour by sympathetic military analysts.
"Placed in the context of insurgent attacks on U.S. forces that are increasing in frequency and effectiveness, this particular operation -- notable both for its daring and for what it says about the enemy's intelligence capabilities -- that, yes, it really does promise to be a long, hard slog," said retired Army Col. Andrew Bacevich, a Persian Gulf War tank commander who is a professor of international relations at Boston University.
Jesus "Hollow" Christ
First, there was last week's news that lead actor Jim Caviezel was struck by lightning while filming. OK, sure, I can buy that.
But then Variety's Army Archerd also reported last week that Gibson was using -- get this -- an animatronic, Jim Henson-esque robo-Christ to suspend from the cross for a number of scenes, since I guess being splayed out on behalf of sinners everywhere for extended periods of time made Jim "I'm no method actor" Caveziel uncomfortable. The virtual Jesus
"was created by Keith Vanderlaan's Captive Audience F/X company which allowed Gibson to shoot long exterior shots in Italy because "Jim Caviezel couldn't remain on the cross in that cold for hours with only a loin cloth." According to Archerd, "the animatronically controlled head moves, the bleeding and beaten chest heaves... [with] special bloody prosthetic makeup appliances to be CGI'd on the figure of Jesus which is stripped down to the bone resulting from the 'horrible instruments of torture.'."
So what happens to this action-figure/son-of-god when shooting wraps? Does Mel Gibson get to keep his own, personal, Jesus? (That, by the way, is the second almost-unintentional Depeche Mode reference in this particular post, after the lead sentence. Won't happen again.)
October 26, 2003
For this Murdoch, NoLita is the light of his life, fire of his loins
Stripping off an expensive looking dress shirt to reveal his intricately tattooed sinewy shoulders and back, Murdoch tosses the shirt aside, kicking up more dust and dirt. "I buy these things by the boat-load," he says of the hand-tailored, custom-fitted dress shirts embroidered at the cuff with his personal motto patris est filius ("He is his father's son"). "When I visit my brother in Hong Kong"—that would be brother James Murdoch, head of News Corporation's Asian satellite division—"I load up. You can get three shirts, a suit, matching ties and corner squares, a full massage with release and all-you-can eat dim sum in Hong Kong for the price of one Armani suit in the U.S." he says displaying his family's well-known regard for local craftsmanship and good values.
"Let's take a break," Murdoch says to no one in particular. We've all been working on knocking down a wall in his new apartment building at 11 Spring Street. The purchase of the landmark building, one of the biggest single family residential addresses in Manhattan, was surprisingly controversial. Murdoch did not expect the building's sale would make it to Web sites like Gawkster.com (an internet outpost for celebrity stalkers) and TheSmokyGun.com (a site where civil servants and court officers can find legal documents), but there it was, his mortgage paperwork for all the world wide web to see.
Working with Murdoch on this project is Jefferson (who declined to give a reporter his last name), a friend Murdoch refers to as "my partner in crime." There are also several day laborers Murdoch picked up outside Home Depot on Hamilton Avenue in Brooklyn who defer to the young executive with the sort of deference and respect one usually associates with troops looking to a visionary general during battle.
Today's battle, which is merely the beginning of the renovations of this five-story building, began shortly after 6AM. We're finally breaking at 1PM. As Murdoch and I sit on overturned milk cartons to discuss his new home, Jefferson fetches us some herbal tea from an electric kettle and occasionally interrupts to remind us to get back to work.
"I fucking love NoLita," Murdoch says in his characteristically frank manner. "You got everything right here. I can't imagine living anywhere else."
When pressed for some favorite locations, Murdoch begins a long litany that is both incredibly informed and casually extemporaneous. "There's the VICE store right around the corner. I'm a huge fan of VICE, both for their aesthetic and for their politics. If I could get away with it, The [New York] Post would basically be VICE. Huge, huge fan... There's that Paul Frank store nearby: I love those little monkeys. Lombardi's pizza is great. We were gonna put in a coal-burning pizza oven, but then my wife"—that would be supermodel Sarah O'Hare—"reminded me of Lombardi's. Saved me $20,000! Oh, shit, I almost forgot Rice to Riches! We were gonna put in a space-age rice pudding bar like we have in our Australian house, but we don't need one now, either. Another 2Ok we can play with!"
But it's not all racist hipster clothing outlets and space-age rice pudding bars that drew the Murdochs to the neighborhood. "It's the history of this place," he says, his eyes growing moist with feeling. "This is such rich, cultural stew. This neighborhood is half Chinese immigrants, half Old World Italian families. Well, it was these things, back in the old days, I mean. Now it's for everyone. Anyone can live here and feel those influences. All you need is a couple thousand dollars a month and you can see what it must have been like to be a poor immigrant living in a dangerously unsafe tenement. And you get the added benefit of high-class home furnishing and clothing stores, to boot! It's really amazing."
Just then, Jefferson interrupts for one of his friendly-but-forceful reminders of why we're really here. "Lach, we're paying these guys by the hour," he says, gesturing to the half a dozen men standing by silently, some drinking water they brought themselves, others licking their lips looking like they wished they'd remembered to bring their own waters. "Jefferson, I can afford to talk a little longer," he says, giving me a little can you believe this guy wink. "This gentleman was good enough to come down from, what was your magazine called again?" I remind him and Murdoch barely misses a beat. "From load culture, the least I can do is talk with him."
Jefferson mocks outrage and huffs away to get us some more herbal tea. The workers merely stand by watching with the awe and affection sailors must feel for their captain on the high seas.
"Another reason we picked this place," Murdoch says, "is that it's big enough. This building is enormous. My wife and I really wanted space. We originally looked at the church that had been the Limelight-you know, the nightclub. It was great and we completely love Chelsea, but every time I went to look at the place, I broke out with these pustules all over—" Jefferson chimes in to sarcastically say "G-ross!"—"It was like someone didn't want us to live there," he says looking towards the heavens and shaking his fist mockingly.
"But this place is perfect. We're going to turn this floor into a dog run, line the whole thing with rubber, cover it with wood chips and fake fire hydrants. It'll be adorable! Did you know I have seven MinPins—miniature Doberman Pinschers. Love those little monsters!
"The third floor will be the bedroom suite. I shouldn't tell you this, but my brother negotiated for me to get the frame of Mao's old bed. It's bigger than a King-size. It's an Emperor-size! Gotta get all the sheets and bedding custom-made. This bed is enormous!" he says with another wink.
"Fourth floor will be the entertainment center and library. When I was in college, I traveled around Europe and saw all these amazing old monasteries with books that dated back to the advent of the printing press and before. I just bought one after the other, dozens of these rotting old monastery libraries, and now I have the biggest private collection of pre- and early-Guttenberg books anywhere. I also have every issue of Maxim from when it started in America, even the special two- and three-edition special covers. I have every Pussycat Doll cover!
"Fifth floor is for guests, we'll probably have a futon with some Yaffa Blocks for bedside tables. Nice and simple. And I'll set up my old laptop for guests to use.
"The roof will have the pool and my archery range. I have to figure out a way to make sure the arrows don't go over and kill anyone," he says laughing. "No one except Al Franken," he adds cracking himself up completely.
When I remind him that the only floor he's neglected to mention was the ground floor, he smiles as broadly as the proverbial Cheshire cat. "Oh, we have plans for that," he says like the proverbial oracle offering the proverbial cliffhanger. "This is the best part. The ground floor is going to be completely glass like the Today Show studio, so I can share my home with the world. You know, this building is right around the corner from the Bowery, which—you might not even know this—has a lot of Salvation Army-type soup kitchens and so forth. I really believe that if the poor people of New York, the really desperate, hopelessly poor people can see what I have, see how happy my wife, my 7 MinPins, and I are, they'll have something to aspire to, something they can work towards. When people walk by, be they tourists, local 'hipsters,' homeless people, whatever and they can see our flat-panel TVs, our stainless steel restaurant-grade Viking Ranges, our fetal pony hair couches, the light-up "Cocktails" sign I got at Urban Outfitters, and the flowing oxygen-infused, spring water waterfall Jefferson said we need for feng shui purposes, they'll be inspired. Really, that's what we're all about moving into NoLita, inspiring people."
With that, Jefferson finally prevails upon us to return to work. Lachlan picks up the sledgehammer, his muscles rippling like the proverbial... something or other, and he takes a swift, hard swing at the solidly built pre-war wall. "One more thing," he says, gearing up for another whack. "To someone outside, it might look like I'm destroying this wall with this"—he shakes his powerful tool in his hands—"but I'm not. I'm making it a lot better." With that, he swings low and the wall, like every barrier thrown up in the face of this most amazing young man, comes tumbling down.
October 24, 2003
How well do you really know McG, the director of Charlie's Angels?
Step aside, Vincent Gallo. Schlockbuster movie director McG has laid claim to the new monopoly on jaw-droppingly shocking interviews given in support of recent film projects. The Hollywood hired hand and former music-video veteran, whose public perception had seemingly been limited to knowledge of his single-word name, his sandy blond hair, and his surfer-dude appearance, is making an effort to transcend (or at least justify) his body of work, which includes the garishly awful (and thankfully short-lived) television series Fastlane and -- most notably -- the two Charlie's Angels films. In other words, the guy has exclusively trafficked in "wham, bam, glam and slam."
Or so we thought. In a recent interview for DVDFile.com given to support the DVD release of Charlie's Angel's 2: Full Throttle, McG has bestowed upon us his take on everything from philosophy to life in the digital age.
Some highlights, lest you continue to think the guy's a total dunce who produces films of little or no redeeming value:
"When I was younger and I was in school, I wanted to be a psychiatrist and I was studying philosophy very deeply and I found myself becoming increasingly unhappy. And just I was getting into sort of Locke and Hume and I was studying Nietzsche to a degree, the more I said, look, I'm really passionate about music, I like the way it makes me feel, I'm very passionate about film, I like how I lose myself and become immersed in a picture when I go to the theater for two hours. I got more and more excited about that and let go some of my philosophical dwellings and I've strangely become a happier person for it. And I mean it is just an approach to living, because I'm very cognizant of different philosophical takes on the life experience, but I've been unsuccessful in trying to unravel the mystery of life."
Well, then. But what are highlights without a few lowlights? After all, who doesn't love a good cliche every once in a while?
"Sometimes you capture lightning in a bottle and sometimes it eludes you, and you know, this one has just been a little bit of a bittersweet symphony."
And some bad cliches, or cliches that never were:
"With Drew Barrymore, the special moments outnumber the mundane. You know what I mean? She just has a way of making chicken salad out of chicken shit."
Erm...stick with the well-worn aphorisms, dude.
The Morgan The Merrier
Earlier thoughts on Tracy Morgan from low culture
Isn't she lovely?
Man, is she ever purdy or what? I mean, this kid's been through hell and come face-to-face (and worse!) with the devil himself and yet she still radiates that wholesome all-American, girl next door glow. Attention editors of Cosmo Girl!, Seventeen and Teen Vogue (or at least the editor of the next Revolve): Put down your chai skim lattes, pick up the phone and get this girl on the cover of your magazine post haste. (Katie Couric, optional.)
Seeking: Negative reviews of something universally wonderful
Prior to this week, I had always (naively, I suppose) thought the world of architectural criticism was filled with wild arguments between opposing camps of urban theory and clashes between supporters of different eras of architectural history. I salaciously imagined elderly geezers hurling wine goblets at one another as they verbally tore apart Frank Lloyd Wright's famed wooded house in Pennsylvania, or young M.A.-thesis-seeking neo-hipsters engulfing themselves in smoke and intellectual detritus as they bitterly debated the detriments and merits of Calatrava's bridges.
I was so, so wrong. Apparently, architectural critics can be in agreement, and about uber-post-post-postmodernist Frank Gehry, no less (who burst into the cultural limelight with his somewhat psychotic, but ever-so-fluid Guggenheim Bilbao museum). Everyone, from the San Francisco Chronicle to Slate to the New York Times to, well, the somewhat predictable cheers of the Los Angeles Times, is damned-near raving about this thing: its innovative acoustics, its stately presence, its compelling framing of Los Angeles' downtown.
"A Wonder of Sound and Magic," proclaims L.A.'s local paper. "Exuberant" and "a triumph," coos Slate. "Shimmering" and "undulating," proffers the Times' Bernie Weinraub. A "grand pirouette of swooping stainless steel facades and billowing curves," ejaculates the Chronicle in San Francisco.
And even I think I love it, and I've always tried so very hard to be contrarian. Please, someone, help me out and verbally rip this metallic masterpiece apart; shred its bold reinvention of concert-hall acoustics, excoriate its majestic manifestation of sound and space. Pleeeeeeease. Pretend we're discussing Richard Meier's ghastly marble Getty Center in Brentwood, if you must -- just let the decimation begin!
(Past discussions on blurbs from low culture)
I Love 6 Months Ago
VH1 concludes its I Love the 80s docu-decalogue tonight with I Love the 80s Strikes Back 1987, 1988, and 1989. If you’re anything like me, you’ll miss the potent mix of sociological trend-reporting and tossed-off riffing this series provides on a nightly basis. Also, you’ll miss seeing those Daily Show correspondents go it alone without the aid of writers.
But, have no fear, VH1 has a new series in the works and your pals at low culture have an exclusive sneak-peek. VH1 presents I Love 6 Months Ago.
Rich Eisen: God, those things were great. Every kid in America had one of those.
Godfrey: You’d ask your mom for one of those things, you’d be like Awww, mom! Can I have a water yo-yo? Please, please, please. And your moms, she’d be like, No! And you’d be like, I hate you!
Michael Ian Black: The beauty of the water yo-yo was that it combined the classic appeal of the yo-yo with… water. It was elemental, really: earth, fire, water, yo-yo.
Beth Littleford: Ewww… those things were just gross. Like, Congress recalled all the breast impants from the 80s and someone just made them into toys.
Donal Logue: Water yo-yos! Oh, man! Oh, man!
Beth Littleford: Here’s an idea: let’s do a reality show with guys in masks and have it hosted by Monica Lewinsky! Someone got a promotion for that one!
Donal Logue: Monica, Monica, Monica. You had so much dignity before this.
Michael Ian Black: The beauty of Mr. Personality was that it combined personality with the word Mister. Well, the abbreviation "Mr." at least.
Godfrey: Remember that one guy who was like, "Can't you see the real me through this mask?" Dog, you were pathetic!
Godfrey: Those were the joint for a while, right? You had to wear them to the side, or whatever.
Beth Littleford: There was meaning to the way you wore your trucker hat: wearing it to the left meant you liked The Strokes. Wearing it to the right meant you liked The Strokes British EP, the one with the song about New York City cops. Wearing it backwards meant you liked The Strokes six months before anyone else.
Donal Logue: People, put the hats down and no one gets hurt!
Donal Logue: Friendster…. The pet rock of 6 months ago.
Rich Eisen: So, the idea is, you sign up for this service and get your friends to sign up and you can, like, see each others’ photos. Wow, that's useful…
Godfrey: What’s a Friendster?
Michael Ian Black: The beauty of Friendster was that it combined friendship with… ster-ness. Truly two great tastes that tasted great together.
Beth Littleford: I admit it! I loved Friendster.
Ashton and Demi:
Beth Littleford: I wanted to be like Demi so bad, I started dating Haley Joel Osment!
Donal Logue: Demi was hot! Ashton, eh. Whenever I saw their picture, I was like, "Could you move a little to the left, Ashton? A little more… okay, perfect!"
Rich Eisen: Ashton and Demi. Was there ever a more perfect couple of six months ago?
Michael Ian Black: The beauty of Ashton and Demi was that it combined Ashton with…Demi.
"The Most Helpful Blurb of All Time! A Real Knockout!"
Before seeing Scary Movie 3 tonight, clip and save this incredibly helpful blurb from the movie's ad:
On the extreme opposite end of the blurb spectrum, can someone explain what Stephen Holden meant when he wrote of Scary Movie 3:
All the Poop on New York Dogs
How do I know this? The New York Times devoted half of the below-the-fold frontpage to New Yorkers and their dogs.
Listen, Bill, I have a dog, okay, and even I don't care about this story. Save this stuff for the City section on Sunday and find something, you know, newsworthy to slap on the front of the paper.
Incidentally, many New Yorkers use the Times to pick up their dogs' shit, so I guess this makes some sense.
Spinning as Fast as I can
Side bar: Hey, all you kids with lush, thick hair. You probably laugh at Ari's shiny pate, but this is how homeboy looked in high school.
October 23, 2003
From Californian voters to New York journalists: Recall fever!
Eric "What Liberal Media?" Alterman's favorite whipping boy, Howard "I was on K Street!" Kurtz at the Washington Post, writes today about a movement that is underway to revoke a 1932 Pulitzer Prize awarded to Walter Duranty of the New York Times.
According to Kurtz's piece in the Post (notably, the Times' chief competitor in the annual race for Pulitzers), the paper of record's new executive editor, Bill Keller, yesterday acknowledged that Duranty's reporting on Joseph Stalin and the Soviet Union in the early 1930s was egregiously in violation of journalistic standards and
"pretty dreadful . . . . It was a parroting of propaganda."
After a review conducted by a history professor, Keller said, the Times essentially told the board in a letter that "it's up to you to decide whether to take it back. We can't unaward it. Here's our assessment of the guy's work: His work was clearly not prizeworthy."
Columbia University professor Mark von Hagen said he found that the Moscow correspondent's 1931 work "was a disgrace to the New York Times. There's no one there who disagrees with me. They acknowledged that his is some of the worst journalism they ever published."
Good to hear it. Duranty's defense -- if not outright praise -- of Stalin's gulag (one of the most shameful events of the past century, though Howard Kurtz doesn't actually invoke it by name) was inexcusable, and perhaps indirectly led to the propagation of these forced labor camps and detention centers.
So, if the Times is looking to clean house and rid itself of potentially disgraceful awards given to those who "parrot propaganda," we humbly look forward to the revocation of op-ed columnist Thomas L. Friedman's 2002 award. Friedman, after all, received his award based largely on his passionate writing on the events of September 11th, and more specifically, his defense of the present administration's War on Terror™. Friedman's most recent book, Longitudes and Attitudes (2002), is a compendium of these award-winning columns, and includes his twice-weekly musings on topics as diverse as why the bombing of Afghanistan was a just act, to why the bombing of Iraq was a just act, to...well, you get the idea. If the Bush administration wanted a viewpoint put forward, Friedman spent the past year providing justification for their actions.
Oh, and then there are his writings on the after effects of September 11th, as detailed by Geoffrey Wheatcroft in the Times' September 2002 book review of their own columnist's material:
"To begin with, Friedman is more often right than not. He was profoundly right in saying that Sept. 11 was an appalling crime that had no conceivable justification, or even any real origin in oppression and injustice. That might not sound like such an amazing insight, but it quite eluded the ''America had it coming'' left in Europe and on some campuses in the United States."
Except the Times' audience wasn't limited to this dissenting audience of European leftist academics, who had nary a voice to begin with; in those waning days after 9/11, the average American was in a state of shock and confusion, and not saddled with the self-loathing of the left. The paper of record, in Ground Zero's hometown, no less, spoke to the nation at large, and had the opportunity not only to reassure us of our need for security but to further educate and enlighten the public as to options we may have had in moving forward from that tragedy. Instead, we had Friedman laying the groundwork for Bush's war of binaries (good vs. evil), the PATRIOT act, and the seizure of civil rights across the country.
"It was a parroting of propaganda," if you will. See you in 70 years, Tom!
In the town, where I was born...
UPDATE: Talk about topicality! Yellow Submarine for the super-rich. (Sorry merely rich and filthy rich: this one's for the super-rich.)
"Fair Dinkum": That's Australian for "pandering", mate
When then-Governor George W. Bush would canvas the Southwestern U.S. for votes during the 2000 Presidential Election, it was often noted that he would sprinkle Spanish aphorisms into his stump speeches when facing crowds that had any significant Latino presence.
Rest assured that that sort of pandering hasn't come to an end. In his visit to Australia yesterday (before he was effectively chased off the continent by unruly hecklers and protesters), President Bush spoke to the nation's joint houses of Parliament to express his gratitude for Prime Minister John Howard's support during the invasion of Iraq:
"Five months ago, your prime minister was a distinguished visitor of ours in Crawford, Texas, at our ranch. You might remember that I called him a man of steel," Mr Bush said.
"That's Texan for fair dinkum.
"Prime Minister John Howard is a leader of exceptional courage, who exemplifies the finest qualities of one of the world's great democracies. I'm proud to call him friend."
If you're as baffled by that expression of praise as most non-Aussies are, the phrase apparently conveys a sense of being "the real deal" or some such cliched colloquialism. Of course, as Bush's speechwriters must have told him before writing his script, "fair dinkum" sounds so much cooler.
How to write an obituary without breaking a sweat
Today's journalism lesson from The New York Post: How to write an obituary entirely from the Internet Movie Database.
From '70s TV star 'Rerun' dies by Michael Starr
Earlier journalism lessons from low culture.
October 22, 2003
MTV finds its Pulse
Just got my hands on a copy of MTV's Spankin' New, the new MTV Magazine. It's just like Pulse, the free magazine Tower Records used to give out (some overlapping writers, too). Only I had to pay $5.95 for SN. Talk about value-added!
What Easterbrook could learn from Rousseau
Everyone and their mother has been heaping shit on Gregg Easterbrook for his now infamous Kill Bill: Vol. 1 and the Jews blog entry. Frankly, I'm bored with this whole thing (so bored, I'm not bothering to link to Easterbrook's original essay, his apology, or any of the excellent commentary out there on sites like Radosh and The Antic Muse or to The New York Times article), but all this talk of Gregg writing faster than he thinks, not arranging his thoughts well, etc. reminded me of something Jean-Jacques Rousseau wrote in his Confessions way back in the early, early days of blogs in 1782:
So, if Gregg had only waited for his thoughts to form properly (and cleaned the pipes regularly like Spanky Rousseau), he might not be in all this trouble now.
Li'l Devil Has Big Plans
Dateline: Los Angeles, 2012
Earlier thoughts on Satan from low culture
[via: The Kicker]
Mmmm... 64 individually wrapped slices of cheese(cake)
For some reason, Yahoo felt the need to post 64 images of Scarlett Johansson today.
If you're a man, comfort yourself with the fact that Scarlett told The Times recently: "Men have no aid to tell them that they're getting older. They just see their bodies decaying. A young, fertile, fruitful woman can help you across that bridge."
If you're a woman, try not to hate her for saying, "For older women, death happens inside. What comes with that death is a kind of liberation."
Scarlett Johansson will turn 19 on November 22.
The Journalist of Desire
I've been a fan of George Gurley's New York Observer work for years now. I love his calculatedly tossed-off writing style, his relentlessly Gurley-centric approach to New York, and his transparent desire to talk to as many attractive women as possible every time he puts on his Press hat.
This week, Gurley continues his special brand of journalism by asking women (and some 'famous' men like Macaualy Culkin and Tad Low) about their vaginas.
In the past, Gurley has used his Observer credentials to talk to sexy female bartenders, talk to women about their feet, sit down with pseudo-actress Tiffany Limos, share some time with a b-movie actress, go out with 21 year-old socialite Elisabeth Kieselstein-Cord, talk with Ultra-V rocker Maggie Kim, look longingly into the eyes of digital pornographer Natacha Merritt, say "ahhhh" to some hot lady dentists, muse on women over 50 he'd like to nail, spend the day with gorgeous nobody Elle Eklund, go clubbing with Taylor Stein, explore Brazilian bikini waxing, approach random women and tell them how beautiful they are, and ask women why they love Manolo Blahniks.
A Caricature for 40 years, now a cartoon
Anyway, here's some advice for all you aspiring starlets from Uncle Bob's book:
Consider it done, Bob.
October 21, 2003
"...To be continued"
After yet another volley in the sadly commonplace back-and-forth of Israeli-versus-Palestinian violence, the New York Times has thrown together a rather slapdash "analysis" of the most recent round of deaths, and more specifically, the reporting and documentation thereof by the two respective sides.
How does author James Bennet conclude the piece? With this simple paragraph consisting of one short sentence:
"Hamas vowed to retaliate for the Israeli air strike."
He may as well have written, "Tune in tomorrow as our story continues." And to think that I'd always wondered what happened to the serial novels of generations past.
From Clerk to Salesman
Not to steal thunder from Slate's Rob Walker, he of of the infinitely enjoyable Ad Report Card, but I just wanted to say, apropos of Kevin Smith's new commercials for Panasonic DVD recorders: better he makes commercials than movies. The slogan, however, should have been, "The Panasonic DVD recorder allows you to move the camera more than twice during a scene, which is more than you can say for any of my movies!"
Be sure to read all the responses to the ads in the link for some important fan insights into Smith's hair.
Hiding the star
Maybe you've made a conventional narrative-flouting musical mystery, starring an actor widely considered to be among the most talented actors of his generation, but he's also a convicted felon and something of a recidivist? And what if your star is usually associated with rom-com fluff and bad plastic surgery, not gritty, erotic thrillers?
The answer is simple: you hide them!
The Singing Detective and In the Cut open this week. They each star... somebody.
Unintentionally Hilarious Photo of the Moment, Vol. 7
How to 'out' someone without breaking a sweat
Today's journalism lesson from Page Six is how to out a public figure and avoid lawsuits: simply quote another media outlet (or another media outlet quoting a comic strip, as it were) and you're in the clear. Hey, The Post didn't ask if Condoleeza Rice is gay, Richard Blow did!
To Sir, With Lager
Coming soon to a development hell near you: Hooligans (or whatever they'll call it when it's changed two or three times), the touching story of "A wrongfully expelled Harvard undergrad [who] moves to London and makes friends with a man who introduces him to the violent underworld of football hooliganism."
Finally, something we can all relate to. Who wants to take bets that the school becomes something generic like "Worthington College," London becomes Brooklyn, the sport becomes boxing, the hooligans become wizened older Black men, and the undergrad becomes Amanda Peet. Oh, and that the script becomes a paper towel when some D-girl spills her chai latte in her cubicle.
Good luck with the movie, fellas.
Earlier thoughts on hooligans from low culture.
October 20, 2003
The sound of one soldier falling in an otherwise empty forest
This week's Newsweek takes a look at Bush's new P.R. tactics, including the much-discussed new reliance on local TV reporters as disseminators of the adminstration's policies. Of note, however, is a mention of a newfound sort of stonewalling of which even the inestimable Ari Fleischer might have proven incapable.
According to the article, on October 9th, one day after 13 American servicemen were injured by an Iraqi grenade attack, White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan's daily press briefing made no mention of these developments.
"Pushed by reporters, U.S. officials would only say the incident was under investigation. It was as if the ambush, and the casualties, had never happened.
In Baghdad, official control over the news is getting tighter. Journalists used to walk freely into the city’s hospitals and the morgue to keep count of the day’s dead and wounded. Now the hospitals have been declared off-limits and morgue officials turn away reporters who aren’t accompanied by a Coalition escort. Iraqi police refer reporters’ questions to American forces; the Americans refer them back to the Iraqis."
Here's hoping for a return to more politically expedient coverage of soldiers' woes. How is Jessica Lynch doing, anyway? I bet she can't wait to return to teaching kindergarteners from impoverished families again.
You'd be cranky too if you made $2 an hour
Gothamist takes a look at verbal and physical assault complaints filed against taxi drivers in New York today. What the usually eagle-eyed Gothamist missed (or deemed unrelated) was this nugget from The Times Metro Briefing column:
CABDRIVERS' GROUP THREATENS STRIKE... [citing] deteriorating conditions, higher gas and lease costs and a rate that sometimes pays drivers less than $2 per hour.
Two dollars an hour!?! I thought that people who did dangerous, unpleasant jobs were supposed to get paid more, not below minimum wage.
Should/Shouldn't, part 1
A few years ago, Might Magazine wondered on its cover if all local news was actually being broadcast from hell. Once again, Eggers and his merry band of pranksters were dead-on but suffered from being too far ahead of the curve.
In today's New York Times, Elisabeth Bumiller tells us that President Bush is bypassing those biased White House press pool reporters in favor of some non-judgmental, down-to-earth interviews with local newsmen and women. Five newsmen and women, back-to-back (junket-style), apparently. Said the President:
Right on, Mr. President! We the people, don't like our news filtered for us by opinionated people, do we? Hell, no! I mean, what kind of an ignorant fool would want their news filtered for them? Not us, that's for sure!
Vienna, Austria is not Niketown
And what did they learn? "Nike is introducing its legendary brand into squares, streets, parks and boulevards: Nikesquare, Nikestreet, Piazzanike, Plazanike or Nikestrasse will appear in major world capitals over the coming years!" Furthermore, curious onlookers were promised, the square would soon feature a giant 36- by 18-meter monumental Nike Swoosh, coated in "special steel covered with a revolutionary red resin made from recycled sneaker soles."
It was as though public spaces such as New York's Columbus Circle or Union Square had been literalized as "Niketown, USA". Unsurprisingly, Viennese citizens were in an uproar, and began to voice their concerns to local and national media outlets. Reporters did their homework, and, as it turns out, neither Nike nor the city of Vienna had sanctioned this venture. The city assured its residents, "Following World War II, street names cannot be modified, unless they look very similar to others". Hmm, I wonder what World War II has to do with that decision?
On October 10th, a press release announced that this had been a very elaborate hoax conceived by members of the European net-art trope 0100101110101101.ORG (and yes, you can bet that spelling was double- and triple-checked) and executed with the assistance of Public Netbase, a Viennese cultural arts council. The artists' intended purpose was to "directly intervene into urban and media space, to bring up the issues of symbolic domination in public space by private interests. We see Nike Ground as a statement for the artistic freedom to manipulate the symbols of everyday life."
Four days later, Nike (I mean, the real Nike, you know, of "Air Jordan" and "Bo Knows" fame, and not this fictitious Nike that bombards public spaces with marketing imagery) filed for an injunction requesting that the project immediately remove any references to its copyrighted material and desist from engaging in any and all Nike-related activity, lest the artists be fined 78,000 Euros.
The issue appears to be currently unresolved, but the artists, meanwhile, have insisted that the project will remain in its present state for at least another month. That's assuming that it can withstand the legal challenge; does this meet the legal definition of "satire", or is this merely an issue of "defamation of character"? Was Warhol harming the Campbell's Soup franchise in the 1960s with his pop-art releases, or was he indirectly providing them with more free advertising? And is it wrong to laugh at this as a really funny bit of some of the most elaborate form of performance art ever?
Most importantly, what sort of shoes shall we wear to the trial?
Hell, I never thought I'd say this, but even Kenneth Cole is beginning to look pretty good now.
October 19, 2003
Guess who's back... back again!
Andy's back, Andy's back, Andy's back! After a long time in a Raines-enforced "time out" (during which he had to write "I will not blog against The New York Times" over and over again), Andrew Sullivan is back writing for The Times op-ed page.
Let it never be said that Bill Keller doesn't mend fences.
Oops...They did it again!
But just as I concluded that Rich's case was too weak and licked my finger to change from page 19 to 20, there it was on the very next page: an ad featuring Frank, Sammy, and Dino for Live and Swingin' "The swingin'est 2-disc collection ever!" Ring-a-ding-ding, indeed.
October 18, 2003
Rose is a rose is a rose
My favorite professor from college has been profiled in the Times.
For Good Times, Make it Suntory Time
October 17, 2003
Kill 'em all and let God sort 'em out
Thanks to the well-meaning (but completely idiotic) three-star Lt. Gen. William G. "Jerry" Boykin, we're all going to hell, which is pretty ironic, given what the guy did. Or rather, said.
Lt. Gen. Boykin has been a frequent guest lecturer on behalf of his evangelical Christian faith, where, as a military commander active in the search for Saddam Hussein and Osama Bin Laden, he is invited to speak -- in uniform -- to church audiences, presumably to inspire them to serve their country through means other than paying higher income taxes.
News organizations have been having a field day detailing the full rancor of his remarks, including comments stating that "President Bush 'is in the White House because God put him there,' and that 'we in the army of God . . . have been raised for such a time as this.'"
Furthermore, Boykin said -- aloud -- that Islamic fundamentalists hate the U.S. "because 'we're a Christian nation' and added that our 'spiritual enemy will only be defeated if we come against them in the name of Jesus.'" Oh, and let's not leave out his thoughts on the Prince of Darkness, who may or may not be more evil than Muslims: "The battle that we're in is a spiritual battle. Satan wants to destroy this nation, he wants to destroy us as a nation, and he wants to destroy us as a Christian army."
Where do I sign up??!! Because we're nothing but hellbound with Boykin's framing of this "clash of civilizations" and the foolhardy perpetuating of this War on Terror™. And he's not even Mormon.
What's in your "Go Bag"?
The FAA has embarked in a sweeping review of its security procedures and has ordered new inspections of the more than 7,000 aircraft in the nation's commercial airline fleet, officials announced today.
This is in response to a mechanical crew's discovery on Thursday evening of a small bag containing boxcutters and other potentially dangerous paraphernalia found on two different Southwest Airlines flights. Also included in each bag were notes that made clear that the bag's purpose was to highlight weaknesses in the current system of searching passengers before they board planes, and to show that weapons could still be brought onto commercial aircraft.
"In addition to the box cutters and notes, the bags contained bleach and modeling clay, according to a senior law enforcement official speaking on condition of anonymity. The clay was formed to mimic a plastic explosive, while the bleach could have been used to demonstrate how a dangerous liquid could be smuggled aboard an aircraft. It could also be thrown in a person's eyes to temporarily blind them.
The notes also included the exact date and location the items were placed on board the planes, the official said."
Following the description of the bag's contents above, a completely unnecessary (and very asinine) concluding element in the New York Times' reporting of this incident attempted to stave off fears of renewed terrorism:
"Government officials played down the possibility of a terrorist connection, though FBI spokeswoman Susan Whitson said members of the bureau's joint terrorism task forces are involved in the investigation.
Harbin said Southwest does not believe the items found were connected to a plot to hijack the airplanes."
Who would ever, in their right mind, suspect that this was anything but the work of someone clearly trying to help by revealing errors in the way we've been combatting terrorism, much like the unique breed of benevolent hackers who break into government websites and then alert site administrators of their security weaknesses?
It's reassuring to know that members of the FBI's terrorism task force are involved in finding whomever planted this terrorist "go bag". Let's hope this concerned citizen gets life in Gitmo.
Wielding what has to be one of the least coherent quips ever spoken by a member of the House, Democratic Minority leader Nancy Pelosi, who at one time was thought to be the left's saving grace when Dick Gephardt resigned as leader, tried her damnedest yesterday to encapsulate Democratic frustration with Bush's willingness to spend $87 billion on nation-building (with a healthy $20 billion of that going to U.S. construction firms and part-time Republican party donors).
Her completely-not-soundbite-ready comment appears below:
The funding issue, like last year's vote to go to war in Iraq, split Democrats. Many supported the funding despite reservations about Bush's policy. But others joined with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., who called the bill a "bailout for one-eighth Bush's three-eighths failed policy."
Good thing election year is approaching, because with clever and accessible retorts like that, every American voter can get on board with the Dems next fall.
Foot, meet mouth
It's so hard to say I'm sorry for "stumbling into a use of words that in the past people have taken as code for anti-Semitic feelings" but the "Jewish executives [who] worship money above all else" have finally prevailed upon Gregg Easterbrook to retract his ridiculous comments on Kill Bill: Volume 1.
Writer Takes Jews to Task for 'Kill Bill' by Bernard Weinraub
Now, will Gregg Easterbrook apologize for his other offenses?
Earlier apologies from low culture
The Weisz Guide to Accents
In the very first issue of New York Magazine in 1968, Tom Wolfe penned a story called "Honks and Wonks" that attempted to explain—and gently mock, naturally—what he called "The New York accent." (You can find it anthologized in Mauve Gloves & Madmen, Clutter & Vine.) Wolfe writes:
I think of this every time I see Rachel Weisz attempting to wrap her mouth around an "American" accent. Today, she co-stars in Runaway Jury and if the trailer is any indication, she speaks her every woid like an old cabbie. Her accent was one of the worst things about Neil LaBute's execrable The Shape of Things, as well. Yes, Shape took place in California and Jury takes place in New Orleans: that's why her dead end kid accent is even more baffling. Which is sad, since she was wonderful with her natural accent in About a Boy. I understand American casting directors' desire to tap overseas talent to play Americans on film (if the choice is between Kate Beckinsale and Denise Richards, it's really no choice) but stick with the ones who can do a convincing accent, okay?
There's the aforementioned Beckinsale. Helena Bonham Carter's American accent is pretty good. Week-after-week, I watch Joely Richardson on Nip/Tuck and never think about the fact that she's Vanessa Redgrave's kid. Emma Thompson did pretty good in Primary Colors. You'd think Weisz could practice her accent a little, since her boyfriend is a nice Jewish boy from Brooklyn. I don't know how Runaway Jury is gonna be, but as long as Weisz is perpetrating that accent, it just ain't woith my toime.
October 16, 2003
Strange Bedfellows (aka "The Fat Man & the Catholic)
Liberal "blowhard" Michael Moore (who is otherwise a very respectable fellow, save for that objectionable "blowhard" part...he ruined the Academy Awards!) has said his next film, "Fahrenheit 9/11," is due to be released in September of 2004. The tagline? "The temperature where freedom burns." The subject matter? The Bush dynasty's connection to Saudi oil magnates and the White House assistance given to Bin Laden's relatives in their efforts to leave the country in the waning days after September 11, 2001, a period of time during which all other planes were grounded by the FAA.
"Fahrenheit 9/11"? If you're going to politically riff on Ray Bradbury titles, wouldn't some pun related to "Something Wicked This Way Comes" have worked better? Anyway, it's better than the neo-dadaist "Bowling for Columbine".
Here's the shocker: the documentary is being co-produced by Mel Gibson's Icon Productions, the same company releasing the action star and director's uber-biblical (and possibly uber-anti-Semitic) "The Passion" next spring. This, you may recall, is the supposedly literal reading (even down to the Aramaic-language dialogue) of the bible's documentation of the last days of Christ, complete with Christ-killing Jews. Because, you know, that's the way it really happened. I mean, it's in the book, even...
Now, take another gander at Moore's film's projected release date, September, 2004. The same month of the Republican Convention in Manhattan, mere miles from Ground Zero, on the event's three-year anniversary. September, 2004, a little more than one month before the presidential election. Prime influence-peddling time.
I guess it's a little early to speculate about Fahrenheit 9/11's potential for incendiary content, but expect some topical punches to be pulled. It's a sure bet that in any fistfight, Mel Gibson could so kick Michael Moore's ass.
You know why? Because Michael Moore is a fat motherfucker, and overweight to boot! He is so easy for rightwingers to make fun of!
54 more electoral votes for you next year, sir
Earlier this week, it was announced that President Bush had raised $49.5 million in just the last three months alone for next year's campaign. At this rate, he is expected to surpass $200 million with which he can soundly trounce whichever mediocre candidate the Democratic Party nominates to run for president next fall.
We would like to take this opportunity to wish the President much success with his "fuzzy math" endeavors as he gleefully counts the 54 electoral votes handed to him by Governor Schwarzenegger (as well as some very shortsighted voters) in California, as well as the 25 "bonus brethren" points afforded him by Florida Governor Jeb Bush.
Incidentally, regarding his Iraqi victory of yesteryear, one of the choice quotes uttered by the President at his appearance in San Bernardino this afternoon included the liberal-angst-inducing line: "I acted because I am not about to leave the security of the American people in the hands of a madman."
On the QT
There is still something gawky and virginal about [Quentin] Tarantino. There's almost no sex in his movies. He says that's because he can't deal with becoming yet another sleazy Hollywood director talking a girl into taking her top off...
You mean like "Q.T.," the character Tarantino played in Spike Lee's Girl 6 in 1996?
Have you heard the one about C.B. radio?
The New York Times' John Markoff tells Online Journalism Review that "it's not clear yet whether blogging is anything more than CB radio."
[OJR link via Romenesko]
My all-time favorite online time waster? Easy: FilmWise's Invisible Quizzes. Can you identify your favorite actor or actress by posture only? Did you pay close enough attention to spot your favorite movie by the costumes and sets alone?
I've lost weeks on this site.
Immunity-deficient? Sucks to be you, with only the world's third-largest economy
In other circumstances, the following legal case might have sent shivers of terror down the spines of American military leaders and their elected superiors. Alas, we live in an era where the nation with the world's largest economy has forced its hand and more or less exempted itself from war-crimes prosecution. Through economic bribery, of course.
Yesterday, a court in Germany began arguments in a case seeking damages against the German government by Serbs whose relatives were killed in the 1999 NATO bombing campaign, when a handful of jets dropped bombs upon a bridge in a small village "far removed from the breakaway province of Kosovo where Slobodon Milosevics Serbian army was brutally suppressing ethnic Albanians and fighting off NATO air raids."
The result of this particular bombing run? 10 civilians were killed on a quiet Sunday afternoon.
The families of the victims are seeking $4.1 million from the German government, though neither the pilots nor the jets themselves were German.
"They claim that Germany, although not directly involved in the attack, knew of and approved the bombing despite the bridges obvious civilian usage. Germany is in this case representative for all of NATO, explained the Hamburg lawyer Gul Pinar, who also criticized the government for sanctioning an attack without warning on a civilian target on a church holiday.
The lawyer for the relatives, Ulrich Dost, says the 35 Serbs are suing on the basis of a 1977 protocol added to the Geneva Convention which calls on signatories, including Germany, to distinguish between civilians and the military and "direct their operations only against military objectives." The bridge in Varvarin, he added, had no military significance."
10 people on a Sunday afternoon in a remote Serbian village? Why, that's nothing! I mean, it's not like the war crime that ensued when American bombers killed almost 30 Afghans, and wounded many more, at a wedding party in July 2002.
I'm sorry. Did I just say war crime? I meant "tactical error." Good luck suing the U.S. for that, chumps! We're immune from the impact of cases like your supposedly precedent-setting German lawsuit.
File Under: Do as we say, not as we do
Thomas L. Friedman gets in a pretty good jab at Dick Cheney today in his New York Times column called "On Listening":
Then he takes a chomp out of the hand that feeds him by saying:
Gratuitous LA-centric post to counter-act our "New York blog" designation
The LA Weekly claims something called Eddie Brandt’s Saturday Matinee is the best video store in LA? Talk about East Side snobbery! Everyone knows that Vidiots rules. Totally worth the forty minute drive on the 10.
Bad, bad dog II
GERMANY: ADOLF, NEIN! A man who taught his dog to raise its right paw in a Hitler salute will not be prosecuted for the pet's trick but he faces other charges of violating the country's anti-Nazi laws, prosecutors in Berlin said. Germany has strict laws banning Nazi symbols, slogans and salutes. The dog, a German shepherd crossbreed named Adolf, is said to have performed the trick at its master's request — "Adolf sit. Give me the salute." — in front of policemen. The man, identified only as Roland T., is accused of wearing a T-shirt with Hitler's picture and shouting "Heil Hitler!" on various occasions. If convicted, Adolf's owner faces three years in jail.
Roland T.'s favorite movie? Samuel Fuller's White Dog
When letters containing anthrax began arriving at certain offices with the depressing regularity of the J. Crew catalog or solicitations for low interest credit cards, there was much talk of whether or not the spores had been "weaponized" or not.
With yesterday's awful Staten Island Ferry crash, we're on the verge of a new term as we see everything that was once banal turned implacably, irrevocably tragic. The Staten Island Ferry is something a joke to New York snobs, a means of transporting the type of stereotypical "white ethnic" proles mocked in Working Girl each morning and discreetly returning them to "wherever they're from" each night. Now, like so many things before, it has been tragedized.
Think about it: is there any aspect of life anymore that hasn't been tainted by some sort of tragedy in the recent past? High schools? Bridges? Rock clubs? Hip-hop clubs? It seems that whenever enough people choose—or are forced—to be in the same place at the same time, there's this inevitable pull towards tragedy. It's scary. And it's enough to make an agoraphobe gloat.
While all these tragedies are piling up, only a fool thinks he lives in unique times. Check out the story of The General Slocum.
October 15, 2003
And now a little something for the ladies... Or not
Wesley Clark in a nutshell
From the Washington Post's Battle Over Iraq Budget Begins by Jonathan Weisman and Dan Balz:
Retired Army Gen. Wesley K. Clark, who said he probably would have voted for the war resolution and later said he would have opposed it, has joined other Democrats in criticizing the administration's current course in Iraq. But spokeswoman Kym Spell said Clark had no position on the $87 billion request. "He's not in Congress," she said. "He's running for president."
Re-affirming what you already knew
The LA Weekly's Harold Meyerson, writing in today's Washington Post, details a recent series of findings on the public's perception of news, released by the "Program on International Policy Attitudes", a presumably uber-wonkish collective of academic research centers and polling firms from Maryland and California.
Here's the (sadly predictable) one-two punch, a veritable qualification of American egocentrism in statistical form, with relevant facts in bold:
In a series of polls from May through September, the researchers discovered that large minorities of Americans entertained some highly fanciful beliefs about the facts of the Iraqi war. Fully 48 percent of Americans believed that the United States had uncovered evidence demonstrating a close working relationship between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda. Another 22 percent thought that we had found the weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. And 25 percent said that most people in other countries had backed the U.S. war against Saddam Hussein. Sixty percent of all respondents entertained at least one of these bits of dubious knowledge; 8 percent believed all three.
The researchers then asked where the respondents most commonly went to get their news. The fair and balanced folks at Fox, the survey concludes, were "the news source whose viewers had the most misperceptions." Eighty percent of Fox viewers believed at least one of these un-facts; 45 percent believed all three. Over at CBS, 71 percent of viewers fell for one of these mistakes, but just 15 percent bought into the full trifecta. And in the daintier precincts of PBS viewers and NPR listeners, just 23 percent adhered to one of these misperceptions, while a scant 4 percent entertained all three.
In other words, odds are that if you get your info from the television, you're not quite getting reality. While the numbers make painfully obvious the extent to which Fox News viewers are a deluded mess of pre-packaged assumptions, what really stands out is the fact CBS News viewers (with Dan Rather et al hardly considered a mouthpiece of conservative propagation) were still 100 percent more likely than the average American, who may or may not get his or her news from television, newspapers, or water coolers, to be just as deluded about a realistic understanding of events.
True, the PBS viewers seemed to have a better grasp of things than "the average American," but, well, you knew that already, didn't you.
What pre-packaged assumptions does Sarah Vowell's fan base bring to the table?
Happy Birthday, Johnny-boy
John Kenneth Gailbrath, 95 years young today.
Why is he in the shallow column? Because he told Esquire in 2002: "I've always thought that true good sense requires one to see and comment upon the ridiculous," which is pretty good motto for the left side of this page (right in the UK). Then again, he could just as easily go in the grave column for inadvertently writing the epitaph for the Bush administration when he said "If all else fails, immortality can always be assured by spectacular error." Tonight, he will be saying something else: "More cake, please."
White on Black
I've been a fan of Armond White's writing ever since James Wolcott endorsed his book The Resistance: Ten Years of Pop Culture That Shook the World in The New Yorker by saying the critic plays the race card on every page. I used to read White when he was the arts editor of The City Sun, a now-defunct African-American paper out of Brooklyn, and I'm glad that he's maintained his spot as part of The New York Press' film crit dyad with Matt Zoller Seitz.
While I find some of White's assertions ridiculous (for example, every turd put out by Steven Spielberg is not worthy of your praise or my ten bucks, and all roads do not lead to Morrissey), what I like about him is that he makes connections between and among disparate things, that he can see beyond the Todd-AO screening room into the culture-at-large. (Try getting Peter Travers to set aside his exclamation points for a second and do that.)
This week, White begins his slam of School of Rock in The Press by pointing out the following:
Very smart, and dead-on. Next, he tells us:
Nice, but the obvious joke White misses is that playing on the soundtrack beneath Black's first day as a sub is the chorus to The Who's "Substitute," that fades out before the line:
School of Rock was written by Mike White: does that make this a case of White-on-White critical violence?
One more thing on Armond White: his second book Rebel for the Hell of It: The Life of Tupac Shakur had a blurb on the back that said "Soon to be an HBO film!" To cite the title of another Morrissey fanatic, how soon is never, Armond?
Design cliches are universally bad
The lesson to be learned here is that if you know, when using cliched design cues like arrows and such, that they are in fact just that, i.e. outdated cliches, you're better off not using them. But we like to think our more runic (and almost donkey-esque!) logo is a lot less elephant-like than theirs. Something about partisan politics, perhaps.
Although, the whole left-right, blue-and-orange thing is so, so weird. Our lawyer agrees.
Most Plausible Answer yet to where those W.M.D. went
"Many such devices end up stuffed into a bottom drawer, on the high shelf of a closet, or in the back of a garage—or offered for sale online through eBay."
Stop laughing and get Syria(s)
Please excuse the two geographic-pun-based grave headlines in a row. Won't happen again, unless Bush decides to cower at the heels of Iraq's neighbor to the east. In which case, get ready for something awful, along the lines of "And Iran, I ran so far away..."
So, getting serious: James Ridgeway at the Village Voice (whose weekly "Mondo Washington" column is an excellent, must-read synopsis of national events) details the apparently increasing consensus that, much like we rather flippantly made note of a few weeks back, Syria is next in line to bear the wrath of administration neocons.
This includes the possibility that, rather than engaging in yet another annual American attack on Muslim nations, the U.S. may indirectly sponsor Israel's own efforts on this front:
Israel is becoming more and more active as a U.S. military surrogate in the Middle East. Last weekend Der Spiegel reported that Israel was ready to launch an attack against Iran's nuclear sites to prevent them from becoming operational. And, basing its reports on U.S. government sources, the Los Angeles Times claimed that Israel could fire nuclear-modified U.S.-made Harpoon cruise missiles from its submarines. The Israeli nuclear arsenal is believed to include 100 to 200 warheads that can be delivered by missiles, planes, and submarines. The Israelis claim there are no restrictions on converting Harpoons so that they can deliver nuclear warheads.
Maybe it's just a commonplace fear of annihilation, but...attacking nuclear sites that may or may not be operational, with nuclear weapons no less, seems, well...neither "neo" nor "conservative." Just stupid.
Why is this man smiling?
Just 71 shopping days 'till Christmas
Is it live, or is it Memorex?
Anyone else get a real Capricorn One feeling from this quote:
Bush's Thrilla in Manila
Buried in the piece is one un-named official's description of the trip as "the trip from Al Qaeda hell": isn't that what N.W.A. called their reunion tour?
What Bush will be reading on the plane: Platform, by Michel Houellebecq.
Like fixing a hole with a bigger hole
"Coupling," NBC's great hope to become a hit comedy for its soon-to-be "Friends"-less Thursday-night lineup, received a vote of no-confidence yesterday when the network announced that it was pre-empting tomorrow's night's episode.
NBC executives had no official comment, but they said the network wanted to give some extra attention to another new comedy, "Whoopi," which has been just holding its own against difficult competition on Tuesday nights."
NBC's Affection for 'Coupling' Cools as Thursday Night Viewers Wander by Bill Carter
Earlier thoughts on Coupling from low culture
Synergy, negative and otherwise
From The New York Post Sports Section, page 97:
From The New York Post Television Section, page 107:
Bad, bad dog
Today's New York Observer contains a long article by Frank DiGiacamo on Triumph the Insult Comic Dog and his human companion, Robert Smigel. Some great details in here about Late Night's breakout star (the dog or Smigel?—you decide) like these lyrics to Triumph's first single, "I Keed":
How many songs can you name that take swipes at Avril Lavigne and Philip Glass? (The new Eminem single doesn't count, he was referring to the Kronos Quartet.) Anyway, get ready for a full scale Triumph moment (a veritable "Moment of Triumph") when his album Come Poop with Me is released November 14th. The article hints at a video, non-Conan talk show appearances, and (let's hope he passes on this) commercials ("The only thing I like better than doing The New York Times crossword puzzle is actually pooping on eet!"). Read all the way to the end of the article for a great cameo by Jesse Camp, whom Triumph suggests is "turning tricks at the Lincoln Tunnel."
October 14, 2003
I'll take door number three for $87 billion
Time for another round of "Who do you trust: your government, or your government?" After last week's debacle concerning Donald Rumsfeld's supposed cluelessness (wherein he challenged press reports from one day prior indicating that he'd been left out of the loop on a key Condoleeza Rice-led development in the occupation of Iraq), we've got yet another instance of government spokespeople contradicting one another a day after the fact. From within the same agency, no less.
The gist of this (admittedly, smaller-scale) story:
On Monday, there were several press reports detailing that a U.S. Army commander had received numerous intelligence reports indicating that Saddam Hussein was likely hiding in or around his hometown of Tikrit in northern Iraq.
Tuesday afternoon? Turns out that was "inaccurate".
We do not have intelligence that he is and has been specifically in Tikrit," said Maj. Josslyn Aberle, spokeswoman for the 4th Infantry Division, which controls a large swathe of the country's north. "Because if we did, we would have the capability to act on it."
Phew! If there's one thing I'd hate to lose (including civil liberties and/or other constitutional rights), it's my confidence in the U.S. government's ability to locate tyrannical despots, and then obliterate them with cannons, tanks, and rockets.
Trivial Pursuits, part II
But, given the close ties between the G.O.P. and FOX's parent company, News Corp., the slogan First we lied to America. Now we're taking on the world! could just as easily be inscribed (in Latin, maybe) on Karl Rove's stationery. I don't know about you, but I'm not looking forward to the international fall-out from the new Joe Millionaire: we haven't exactly been endearing ourselves to our Old European friends of late, and pulling a mean prank on their lovely daughters probably won't make us any more popular at those Friday afternoon ice cream socials at the United Nations. How will we look Kofi Annan in the eye when we ask for more sprinkles?
New York kicks back
The old maxim holds: if you want a friend in the blogosphere, get a dog. No one ever said posting your half-cocked opinions on matters great and small for the sixteen people who read blogs would win me any popularity contests. But I must respond to Elizabeth Spiers' counter-attack on my ever so polite suggestion that her New York Magazine colleague David Amsden's pants are on fire.
As the Whit Stillman quote demonstrates, people have been saying this sort of thing about New York for years. Spiers makes a tactical blunder by invoking the "House of Felker" since it was under the legendary founding editor's watch that writer Nik Cohn fabricated the story that became the hit movie Saturday Night Fever. Is it such a longshot to assume that the House of Felker is built on foundation of Clay?
Maybe Amsden does know all those I-porn lovers and maybe they're all media savvy enough fellas to intuit the reporter's thesis and speak at length in complete sentences, and maybe, just maybe, one of them figured out a way to fit a bunch of porn movies onto a 1.5 meg floppy. Could happen.
Probably, I shouldn't underestimate these guys: they all did go to Ivies and they all have great hair.
Communism can't be all that bad
Buried deep within an article in today's New York Times documenting the growth of Shanghai's skyline throughout the 1990s, and the subsequent backlash that has resulted, is this gem of a factoid:
"...the skyline the pride of local officials became more formless as residential towers cropped up in every corner of the city. With increasing frequency, residents are filing complaints based on an obscure law mandating that every home or apartment must receive at least two hours of sunlight a day."
For all those who have ever suffered economic hardship, or, at least, have ever lived in first-floor/subterranean apartments (which often implies economic hardship), let it hereby be known that there is a better way! The Red China way!
Must be able to spell, condemn liberalism
From: "newswarrior" <[email protected]..>
Hey, Gavin, give 'em a call!
Overly Compassionate Conservatives
Who knew right wing whack-jobs could be such big softies? Rush "Big Fat Idiot" Limbaugh’s tragic—oh, so very tragic—transformation from King Dittohead to disgraced crackhead has brought on an outbreak of bleeding heart conservatism not seen since the death of Eric Breindel. It seems that if a drug addict is well-educated (though Rush, it turns out, dropped out of school after a year) and has the fine fortune of being white and rich (that means you, Noelle Bush), then they deserve our support, sympathy, and respect. If they're some sort of poor ethnic type, well, they deserve to have their kids taken away and get the stiffest sentence the law allows.
Today’s New York Post features an op-ed by John "Norman’s son" Podhoretz bending over backwards, tying himself in knots, and bouncing off the walls in a fit of overly-compassionate conservatism for Rush (not an easy task given the Pod-man’s doughy frame). Here are some samples of Podhoretz laying it on thicker than... well, something thick:
With friends like these, who needs enablers?
Good morning! Today I'm trying something new. I'm gonna call this The Tuesday Trivia Tournament (nice, right? took me an hour to come up with it). Answer the below question in the comments area and at the end of the day, I'll tell you the answer. The winner will receive the First Annual low culture Award for Outstanding Achievement in the Field of... Excellence! Here goes:
The following statement appeared last week in a magazine (either in an article, headline, or advertisement). Tell me what it refers to and, if possible, who's behind it:
Now we're taking on the world!
Get those thinking caps on. Bonus points for creative incorrect answers.
October 13, 2003
John Walker Lindh in Black and White
Last month The East Bay Express, a Northern California alt-weekly, ran an article called Black Like Me, one of the best pieces I've read about "American Taliban" John Walker Lindh. Written by James Best, the article is weak on original reporting but impressively rich with exegeses of Lindh's postings on various usenet newsgroups (alt.rap, rec.music.hip-hop, and alt.religion.Islam) back in the early- and mid-nineties. What emerges is a an autobiography-in-progress of a very unreliable narrator: a conflicted white teenager in love with hip-hop, embarrassed by his own privilege, curious about Islam and the Five Percent, and moving with surprising ease from Public Enemy fan to Public Enemy number one.
Best is wise enough to use Lindh's own words to tell us all we need to know about the white kid who longed to be Black and could be online, longed to be a Muslim and could be one in Afghanistan, and who longed for a heroic life like that of Malcolm X and can now have it (in his own mind) by memorizing the entire Koran as he serves out his prison sentence for aiding the Taliban.
Here's Best shooting down the conservative party-line that Lindh is a merely a product of overly tolerant hippie parents:
Here's Best on the way Lindh misunderstood and simplified African-Americans as he idealized them:
And here's Best at his, well, best, placing Lindh squarely in the context that fits him best— America:
One last thought: I recently read a mostly-forgotten little comic novel by Cyra McFadden called The Serial: A Year in Marin County. It was written in 1976 when Lindh wasn't even a glimmer in father's (then Washington DC-based) eye, but the depiction of therapized, self-involved, Est-spouting, Me Generation proto-yuppies struck me as prescient to the Lindh case. (I'm not the only one: Duncan Campbell had the same thought in The Guardian last year.) Here's one passage from a chapter called "Dealing with the whole child" that, for obvious reasons, reminded me of John Walker Lindh:
Sure, that description falls right into the wringing hands of those conservatives who blame Marin's hot-tubbing liberals for Lindh's conversion to tubthumping Taliban, but maybe the kid was merely working out his hostilities in his own unique way and found himself subject to misinterpretation.
Unintentionally hilarious photo of the moment, Vol. 6
This means that the more than fifty percent of Americans who consider themselves "born-agains" can rest assured that the U.S.-led War on Terror™ is, in fact, a mission from God. Or His son, at least.
All you heathens and Jews, meanwhile, better start repenting. You really don't want to see Tom DeLay's depiction of Israel after the Rapture.
(with thanks to Javier)
How to write like a timid right-winger
The New York Times' William Safire, not so very long ago, seemed more or less able to straddle his two designated tasks for the paper (serving both as its conservative conscience and its premiere linguist) while keeping a bit of respectable distance between the two roles.
Until he decided to take down Howard Dean, that is. Using the Democratic presidential candidate's words against him, of course. How ironic!
This prospect should have left any self-respecting Freeper shivering with excitement...Ann Coulter crossed with the Master Orator! Finally, conservativism balanced with level, accurate reasoning!
Instead, we're treated to the deconstruction-that-never-was, wherein Safire mentions an incident where Howard Dean took issue with another Times reporter's usage of an "inaccurate" quote that John McCain had attributed to him in a prior story. "Inaccurate," as we all know, often means "decontextualized" in these instances.
What horrendous McCain smear was quoted in my colleague's story? Here's the passage in The Times, coming after McCain said that Dean's national security positions "are way out of the mainstream":
"For instance, Mr. McCain cited Dr. Dean's remark that `the ends do not justify the means,' in reference to the death of Saddam Hussein's sons. `I was astounded,' the senator said. `The ends were to get rid of two murdering rapist thugs and the means was the use of American military intelligence.' "
It turns out, of course, Dean's actual quote was a bit different in its intended attribution:
"Questioned about the deaths of Saddam's sons, Odai and Qusai, in Iraq, Dean dismissed suggestions that it was a victory for the Bush administration. `It's a victory for the Iraqi people...but it doesn't have any effect on whether we should or shouldn't have had a war,' Dean said. `I think in general the ends do not justify the means.' "
Safire refuses to budge, however, and (flying in the face of the Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter school of attack) appears to use his tools of linguistic analysis to make his point, namely:
Dean spinmeisters will abandon their candidate's untenable "never said any such thing" and argue that the words "in general" remove the quoted sentence from an answer to the specific question about killing Saddam's sons. They will blow smoke about Dean offering a philosophical observation entirely detached from the rapists who were the subject of the question. Some partisans would buy that.
But it is not Dean's way to explain "what I meant was..." His eagerness to expunge from the record his snap judgment about the killing of Saddam's sons — to claim falsely "I never said any such thing," to suggest it is a McCain concoction, an "urban legend" — tells us that he is a man who treats a toothache by biting down on it hard.
The fact remains, however, Howard Dean's quoted language, and more particularly, the placement of clauses, indicated one thing, and one thing only: In regards to the war in Iraq (and not the death of Saddam's two sons), the ends did not justify the means. It's all right there in the initial quote: pure, simple, and very much unadulterated.
Language, after all, ultimately relies on our faith in "meaning" and "context". And when William Safire butchers that meaning and context, he doesn't do a dissection of language. He does a hatchet job.
Best Unintentional (?) critique of Los Angeles
Straight from the slangin' mouth of Whatevs' Uncle Grambo comes this possibly unintentional critique of LA in the guise of a rant against trendy "white trash chic" boutique Von Dutch:
i know that VD is trendy in Los Angeles, but shouldn't you be following the rest of the civilized world and realizing that Los Angeles fashion trends are nothing more than leftover hand-me-downs from NYC?
Added incentive to link: Britney Spears showing off her VD
I call bullshit on New York Magazine
There's a running joke in Whit Stillman's Metropolitan that whenever Chris Eigman's character gets caught telling a lie, he weasels his way out of it by saying, "Okay, so that person wasn't real: she's a composite, like in New York Magazine." Apparently, everyone just knows that when you see those stories in New York with someone's name and a little asterisk next to it that says "Not his real name," chances are, the person, the quote, and the social phenomenon cited are complete horse shit. Is it really possible that a writer can find an interview subject who fits perfectly within the magazine's target audience (usually described as someone "attractive" and "Ivy-educated") and who manages to articulate the central point of the article in complete, grammatically correct sentences? Is it possible that writers from the same magazine find these people every time they do a sociological trend piece?
As my grandfather used to say, C'mon, I wasn't made with a finger.
So, as New York area men prepare to explain themselves to their wives and girlfriends this week as New York's exposé of the new trend (circa, oh, 1998) of Internet porn hits newsstands, they can rest easily knowing that writer David Amsden probably just made the whole thing up. How else to explain this:
Come on! I don't know anyone who even has a floppy drive anymore (Apple, for example, stopped shipping them at least three years ago) and with their 1.5 meg capacity, you'd be hard-pressed to fit even one movie—pornographic or otherwise— on a disc. Maybe "Jonathan" is lying, but did I mention that he's "an attractive, Ivy League– educated musician and adjunct professor"?
Clearly New York isn't held to the same journalistic standards as, say The New Yorker. Here's another story from the New York archive that sent up a red flag: Pill Culture Pops in which similarly attractive, well-educated "real" New Yorkers shared their experiences with mood-altering drugs in perfectly expository sentences.
Everywhere you want to be
Jae Song, who caught "Kill Bill" at the Loews 19th Street East Saturday afternoon, came expressly for the film's much discussed brutality... Mr. Sheikh, a college student, stood outside the Loews Kips Bay Theater Saturday evening smoking a cigarette... Billy Hemmans, a self-professed samurai movie expert, stood outside the Magic Johnson Theater in Harlem Saturday evening... "It was an average action film," said Jolynn Krystocek, an art student who saw "Kill Bill" on Saturday afternoon at the Kips Bay theater in Murray Hill... The gore bothered Kristi Tucker, who caught the film with her brother at the Loews on 42nd Street on Friday, opening night.... "I liked the music," said Ang Phurba, a sherpa breathing from an oxygen tank outside the Regal Entertainment Theatre atop Mt. Everest..."
Gory 'Kill Bill' Tops Weekend Box Office by Lola Ogunnaike
Might I suggest...
Buried in today's Times article on HEEB Magazine's expansion fantasies is this analogy from new editor Joshua Neuman:
What's so Jewish about chocolate layer cake? Might I suggest a more apt analogy?
A Sardonic Jewish Magazine Expands Its Ambitions by Bill Werde
A Crime of Miniature Proportions
Comedy Central's been calling Knee High P.I, "our pint-sized original movie." I can think of at least one thing wrong with that phrase.
[Thanks to the Boing Boing brain trust for originally alerting me to Weng Weng]
October 12, 2003
Who is Perrystrong.com?
Sitting through the credits of Kill Bill, I noticed one name that stood out from the rest: Perrystrong.com. Ruling out the possibility that somewhere, some parents gave their kid an URL for a name (maybe he's a relative of The Times Jennifer 8. Lee?), I checked out the dude's site. Here's what I learned:
"But enough about me... What do you think about me?"
Do you want to share an intimate dinner with P-Diddy and 12-15 members of his personal entourage? Would you like a dinner companion who changes the location four times, shows up late, answers an endless succession of cell phone calls, talks about how much money he makes, drops the names of his more famous friends, doesn't ask you so much as what you do for a living, ducks out before the check comes, and probably won't acknowledge your existence if you should run into him again? Yeah? Then sign up for The New York Post's Win Dinner with P. Diddy plus autographed gear Sweepstakes. (Never the innovator, His Diddiness is merely sampling My Dinner with Andre.)
Topics to discuss: The war in Iraq; Will he wear tape on his nipples during the New York City Marathon? What he thinks of the brutality of the African diamond trade. Does he know that Gatsby was shot execution-style at the end of the book? Where the hell is Mase? Also, try not to blush when you see Farnsworth Bentley patting the edges of Diddy's mouth with a napkin between bites.
*Also fans of really bad Flash openers on Web sites
Disney's Ad'ed Value
This week, Frank Rich (AKA, "The Butcher of Broadway") takes his cleaver to that bloody hunk of wurst, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, in his weekly Times Arts & Leisure column. Rich uses the ersatz aesthetic of Disneyland (and Disney generally) to critique the image-over-substance election results in California. Some classic Rich vitriol (richtriol?) follows:
It's Disneyland, not Colonial Williamsburg, that prefigures our future, the action-packed recall ride was nothing if not the apotheosis of the Magic Kingdom. It was fun, it was instructive, it was expensive, it was hawked relentlessly on television, it starred an Audio-Animatronic action figure...
Walt Disney had long despised the rowdiness that up until then defined amusement parks as 'dirty, phony places run by rough-looking people,' as he characterized them. He wanted to build instead a beautiful, phony place run by nice-looking people: an alternative America that he could script and control down to the tiniest detail of its idyllic Main Street U.S.A. and whose sovereignty no citizen could challenge...
The original notion of Disneyland lives today not only in the first park, its satellites, and its many imitators; its influence can be found in planned and gated communities, in Rouse-developed downtowns, in the carefully-scripted 'reality' programs of network television, in the faux-urban ambience of a shopping mall near you.
And what ad shares the page with this excoriating critique? Why, an ad for Disney's Brother Bear ("Featuring original songs from Academy Award-Winner Phil Collins"). Whoops! Guess that wall between church and state isn't quite so impenetrable.
On a related note, Rich's Disneyland analysis owes everything to Jean Baudrillard's "Precession of Simulacra" (though, oddly, he never mentions the text in his essay: Rich must have missed The Matrix). Here's what Mean Jean (Theory Machine) had to say 20 years ago: "Disneyland is there to conceal the fact that it is the 'real' country, all of 'real' America, which is Disneyland... Disneyland is presented as imaginary in order to make us believe that the rest is real, when in fact all of Los Angeles and the America surrounding it are no longer real..."
October 11, 2003
Here're my thoughts very quickly: this is Quentin Tarantino's darkside version of Charlie's Angels, complete with over-the-top stylistics, deadly badasses with great asses, crazy quilt pop culture references and soundtrack cues, and the type of editing that allows actors to defy Newton's basic laws of motion. Oh, and Lucy Lui. Did it kick ass? Much. Did it make sense? Little.
Anyway, a thought occurred to me while watching that had also popped up when I saw The Italian Job earlier this year (yes, I admit it, I saw The Italian Job): what kind of benefits do evil henchmen get? I mean, these guys throw themselves into danger time and time again and frequently die gruesome deaths for their bosses and never, ever seem to hesitate for a second. I've contemplated quitting well paid jobs (with full dental coverage!) when my boss asked me to stay late on a Thursday night. There's no way I'm not gonna go head-to-head with some crazy bitch hell-bent on revenge just because some jerk with a corner office tells me to. Are there bonuses for successful completion of the task at hand? (Read: walking away alive.)
How do these bosses breed such loyalty in their charges? Is there some sort of Outward Bound-type retreat where they develop teamwork and commitment? Do employees' families get huge insurance pay-outs if their child is disemboweled by a samurai sword in a Tokyo nightclub? Seriously, after seeing half your coworkers cut down (in really, really nasty ways, I might add), what could make you want to keep at it? Surely not the 2% yearly raise and the occasional Friday pizza party at the office.
October 10, 2003
The perfect comeback, far too late
As the field of 2004 Democratic Presidential hopefuls continues to combatively whittle itself down to a final result of what will probably be one forlorn, battered candidate, the contenders kept at it in last night's debate, paying particular attention to their dogged pursuit of General Wesley Clark, the supposed pseudo-frontrunner.
Clark's rivals were primed to attack the man who jumped to a lead in some national polls within days of his entry into the race last month. Former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean and Sens. John Kerry, Joe Lieberman and John Edwards took turns criticizing Clark, attacking him as a late convert to the party who can't make up his mind on the war.
"Wes Clark, welcome to the Democratic presidential campaign,'' Lieberman said sarcastically.
Next time, Wes, we suggest you shoot back with some rejoinder akin to, "Well, Joe, I'm still waiting to welcome you to the Democratic party, myself."
Zing! Time to pile up on the "centrist" Dems!
Unintentionally Hilarious Photo of the Moment, Vol. 4
Dancin' Fool and Radical Shnook
He loves you (Iraq), yeah, yeah, yeah
Schoolgirls swoon as Bremermania sweeps Iraq.
Ties and the tying tiers who tie them
October 09, 2003
There's "Running," and then there's "Running"
Dana Milbank of the Washington Post has filed another excellent dispatch from the Bush frontlines, documenting the president's two speeches to businessmen and military reservists in New Hampshire today.
The subject matter ("Bush Says Iraq Is 'Better Than You Probably Think'") is fairly amusing in and of itself, using the classic Bush methodology of lowering his audience's expectations (anyone remember that tactic as used in the October 2000 Presidential debates?). But the real kicker is the unfortunate double entendre spoken by our commander-in-chief this afternoon (paying special attention to the word in bold type):
President Bush told Americans today that the situation in Iraq is "a lot better than you probably think," as he sought to rally the flagging support for the U.S. occupation.
In twin speeches here in New Hampshire, the president kicked off an effort to revive determination to remain in Iraq, saying "Americans are not the running kind."
Now, is that "running" as in "to run away from something," or "running" as in "running or governing a nation which we conquered"?
Let's get ready to eat freeee shrimp cocktail from Haaaaarvey!
Battle of the Online Junket All Stars
In the Left Coast corner, weighing in at 155 lbs.: David "Hot Button" Poland.
And in the Right Coast corner, weighing in somewhere north of 225 lbs., Roger "Fox 411" Friedman.
Poland comes out swinging at Roger the Dodger, throwing the first punch:
There are lies, damned lies and statistics. And then there are lies posing as statistics, brought to life by stunning professional ignorance, whether intentional or coincidental. Such is the province of Roger Friedman, internet gossip and a suck-up of the highest order.
In rapid succession, he lands the second:
Friedman goes to town with his unsubstantiated, but "there is no question" analysis of the wins of Oscar screeners past. He starts with Sony Classics, citing Talk To Her, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Winged Migration. Can you spot the spin?
And then, he hits below the belt with a phantom punch:
What were the other fat, bloated studio films that dominated the Oscars before Friedman’s indie heroes saved the world?
Did he just call Friedman fat and bloated? Tune in tomorrow for Roger’s rejoinder.
Chuck's a jinx!
Let Us Now Praise Good Design
The continued Entertainment Weeklyization of headlines
We all love puns—especially in headlines—but, c'mon people, practice some restraint: POSTMAN ONLY DIES ONCE.
We're guilty of making a pun, too, but that one is just terrible.
Earlier thoughts on headlines from low culture
LeDuff man, happy to be here! Oh, yeah!
When Charlie LeDuff, The Times resident Joseph Mitchell manqué was pried away from the Hell's Kitchen barstool where he bent countless elbows, there was talk that it was against his will or that he was being moved to the minors. He filed a few lackluster stories on yawn-inducing topics like rats in Beverly Hills, made some enemies in Los Angeles media circles, and generally acquitted himself like the slightly snobbish East Coast transplant he was. (This role is now being filled by The New York Observer's Alexandra Jacobs, who has filed hard-hitting but condescending stories from the West Coast on screenwriters, celebrity stylists, and the farmer's market.)
But, whaddaya know, the LeDuff man appears to have lucked into the gig of a lifetime out there in Cal-ee-fornia. LeDuff's been doing some heavy-lifting on the recall and election and today files this on Governor-Elect Schwarzenegger (no matter how many times I say that, it still sounds like I misspoke). Suddenly, being sent out to the Times' avocado bureau doesn't seem so bad, does it? Now if we can just do something about Bernard Weinraub...
Lest you forget...
American soldiers continue to die of violent causes in Iraq, as do Iraqi citizens and other foreign aid workers. Oh, and something about there being massive power outages and unemployment or whatnot?
Bear this in mind when you consider that news earlier this week of another three American soldiers' deaths in Iraq ran on page A18 of the New York Times, and was more or less tangentially mentioned in another longer article about U.N. relations.
How we pine for the good old days of the early summer, when news of American deaths peppered the early morning papers' front pages each and every day! Now all we get to hear about and discuss with our co-workers and family members is "$87 billion this, CIA leak that."
I have this much patience for you right now
Rumsfeld demonstrating the results of his court-ordered sensitivity training.
Rummy, might I suggest a movie for you to watch after church this weekend?
Unintentionally hilarious photo of the moment, Vol. 3
Finally, the silver lining
"I will [Govern California]—nothing else... I will work as much as I can . . . so there will no time for movies or anything else."
You can't do that on television!