October 31, 2003

Be thankful Carl's Jr. isn't based out of Washington, D.C.

Marketers sure are brilliant! Just when you thought you'd begun to really identify with a brand you've loved and faithfully used since childhood, Philip Morris became Altria, and Time Warner became AOL Time Warner, before becoming Time Warner exciting!

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).

Now, according to Adweek, the branding wizards at Mendelsohn/Zien are giving us another rechristening. Beloved second-tier fast-food chain Carl's Jr. is pandering to its Los Angeles base:

"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.

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They're Ba-a-a-ck!"

Lainnuendo.jpgFinally! Richard Rushfield and Stacey Grenrock-Woods (and their stellar contributors) are back with a second issue of LA Innuendo.

What you will find inside (or on the Web site if you don't live in Los Angeles):
Brett Ratner bashing, obligatory (but still funny) Gigli jokes, and more of those great Overheard Conversations like this beaut overheard at the Gold’s Gym Parking Lot in Hollywood:
Two women in workout clothes argue before getting into the car.
FIRST: "Do you want to get something to eat?"
SECOND: "No, I just ate."
FIRST: "So what, you're fully bulimic. Let's go."

Makes me sad that there wasn't anything this good to read when I lived in LA.

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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.
Since the Web site shortens the ad's text, here it is from the print campaign:

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.

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Up, Up, and Away!

White House Takes Credit for Surge in Economy by Richard W. Stevenson

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.]

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When two movies (one based on real events, the other on a Philip Roth novel) that have very little to with each other both turn out to hinge on lies and the lying liars who tell them, you gotta wonder just what about the zeitgeist puts us in the minds of deceptive prevaricators. Oh, right.

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October 30, 2003

Tonight on CBS: Touched by a Plushie

vf4-thumb.jpgEarlier 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?
While it is a somewhat original—and even a little radical—premise from the network that brought us Touched by an Angel and Murder, She Wrote, it's not nearly as original or exciting as the producers would have us believe.

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.

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Hey, Ari: Your Subtext is Showing!

Fleischer_bush.gifWhy 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 O:
"He had told Sir Stephen of O's request and,in her presence, asked him to punish her harshly enough so that she would never again dare even to conceive of shirking her duties."

The Story of Fleischer:
"I loved what I did in the White House. I found it to be intellectually stimulating, rewarding and enjoyable. But it was punishing, brutal, tough…"

The Story of O:
"O saw girls who were caught talking thrown to the floor and whipped —once in the hallway leading to the red wing, and twice again in the fectory they had just entered. So it was possible to be whipped in broad daylight, despite what they had told her the first evening…"

The Story of Fleischer:
"It's not easy to catch arrows thrown by the press every day, but that's their job, and it's my job to catch them."

The Story of O:
"You are here to serve your masters. During the day, you will perform whatever domestic duties are assigned to you, such as sweeping, putting back the books, arranging flowers, or waiting on table. Nothing more difficult than that. But at the first word or sign from anyone you will drop whatever you are doing and ready yourself for what is really your one and only duty: to lend yourself. Your hands are not your own, nor are your breasts, nor, most especially, any of your bodily orifices, which we may explore or penetrate at will."

The Story of Fleischer:
"It's a hard job. You have to serve two masters: the president of the United States, and you also try to help the Washington press corps do its job."

The Story of O:
"Was she growing weary? No. By dint of being defiled and desecrated, it seems that she must have grown used to outrages, by dint of being caressed, to caresses, if not to the whip by dint of being whipped."

The Story of Fleischer:
"I was pooped... It's the kind of job that grinds you down."

The Story of O:
"Your submission will be obtained in spite of you, not only for the inimitable pleasure that I and others will derive from it, but also that you will be made aware of what has been done to you."

The Story of Fleischer:
"It was a pleasure…answering questions from people who use their teeth to smile."

[Fleischer story via Romenesko]

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Ever wonder what your mom's phone number was before you were born?

hef.jpg"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

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The Oval "Office"

Here at low culture, we have already speculated how agonizing it must be for members of the White House press corps to be subjected to President Bush's repetitive jokes and audaciously inane pet nicknames for his friends and peers.

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.)

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October 29, 2003

Mmmm...Citrusy Fresh

In an effort to better serve our dozens (give or take) of readers, low culture recently set aside $7000 to do some demographic research into what our readers (that means you, Dave, Mark, Felix, Patricio, Jon, Jen, and Kate!) want most from our site. We consulted experts (well, adjunct lecturers) from Harvard’s Faith Popcorn Institute of Microtrend Studies and hired trend-spotters (okay, catty high school girls) from Pupik, a social forecasting firm with offices in New York, Los Angeles, Tokyo, and Bucharest (“Look: It’s All Inside The Pupik”) to figure out precisely what you want (other than porn).

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.

Seriously, are the makers of Crest Whitening Expressions and Citrus Listerine planning on putting out products flavored like crack? Because clearly, that's what they've been smoking.

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Unintentionally Hilarious Photo of the Moment, vol. 8


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Buried at the very end of Armond White's review of The Human Stain in this week's New York Press is this:
The moments are so especially erotic, it’s clear we’re watching Coleman’s secrets and dreams. (Nakedness bathed in Jean-Yves Escoffier’s amber light; Coleman snorfling a young Wasp woman’s body with curiosity as much as passion.)

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?
The click/snap is actually a replacement for the lick; you will find that most of these dogs aren't lickers. Sometimes they yelp, bark, or make throaty noises while clicking. "Snorfling" might be a good description of this activity.
Snorfled that right up.

Earlier thoughts on Armond White from low culture.

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A Lesson for the Youngsters

Back in 1994, Douglas Coupland complained in ArtForum that the younger generation of artists and art critics had completely forgotten James Rosenquist. (The essay, on Rosenquist's F-111, a portion of which is above, is collected in Polaroids from the Dead.)
Not so anymore. Rosenquist is the subject of a big retrospective at the Guggenheim in New York (through January 25th) and pops up today in one of those mini profiles in The Times Metro Section. Here's a little bit of wisdom from an art world survivor to all you young turks out there:
We lived like kings in New York in those days on very little money. The younger artists today think they have to turn their fine art into cash to pay the rent. Now what happens is they show too early and the critics say they stink and they think they stink.
Keep at it, kids. This guy is 70 years-old.

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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".

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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.
Reminded me of Vanilla Sky, in which he spent the majority of that film looking like Quasimodo.

Any shrinks out there wanna take a crack at this?

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Terry Southern, 1924-1995

peace2.jpgToday 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.
Here's a letter Southern wrote to Ms. Magazine in 1972, from Now Dig This: The Unspeakable Writings of Terry Southern 1950-1995 (edited by Terry's son, Nile):

Dear Ms.:
Since the letters you see free to print are so flagrantly and one-sidedly selective ("self-serving" is, I believe the expression), I doubt this will find its way into those columns; we shall see. In any case, during your own quest for the truth, libbywise, you might consider the following suggestion: namely, that it is naïve in the extreme for women to expect to be regarded as equals by men (despite all lip service to the contrary), so long as they persist in subhuman (i.e., animal-like) behavior during sexual intercourse. I'm referring, as you doubtless know, to the outlandish panting, gasping, moaning, sobbing, writhing, scratching, biting, screaming conniptions, and the seemingly invariable "Oh my god ... oh, my god ... oh, my god" all so predictably integral to the pre-, post-, and orgasmic stages of intercourse...

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:
Visit Nile's site and and pay your respects.
Rent Candy and see Marlon Brando in his most insane (but intentionally funny) performance this side of The Island of Dr. Moreau
Remind yourself of how relevant Dr. Strangelove still is by checking out Operation Strangelove.
Read Terry's take on the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago and get ready for the G.O.P. invasion of New York next Sept. 11.
Pray that Drew Barrymore's Flower Films never gets her proposed remake of Barbarella off the ground.
Be more funny.

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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?

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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:

All This Praise is Embarrassing. But We're Fox... We Don't Get Embarrassed.

It's called heading off criticism at the pass, people. And when your show stars Jason Bateman, it's an absolute necessity.

Earlier FOX antics from low culture

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Born Rich: An Obligatory Review

strokesroomonfire.jpgThough 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, you’re 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 band’s 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 there’s 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 shame—I 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 Cooke’s “A Change Is Gonna Come”:

"Julian’s yearning, ragged vocal melody somehow evokes Sam Cooke’s 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)

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With no sanity grip!

Ann Coulter Talking Action Figure
Anyone know when George Gurley's birthday is?

[Thanks, Madame J!]

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Is it art... or a cry for help?

Lock up your hermaphroditic daughters: The Chapman Brothers are back! Like a nasty case of herpes that pops up every few years to make the skin of the body politic crawl, Jake and Dinos Chapman have returned with their unique take on shock art, just in time for awards season.

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™.)

chapmans3.jpgHere's part of their latest bid for a little attention—and a lot of scratch—in 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 it’s really, really boring. I mean, what angry 10 year-old boys hasn’t 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.

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"If you can't smoke underwater, no one will swim again!"

smokefree.gifPresumably, 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.

Posted by jp at 11:28 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Prog Blog?

Simon Reynolds goes prog crazy on his blissblog. Sort of reminds me of how the Smurfs talked only, um, more prog.

Posted by matt at 10:50 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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.

Posted by matt at 10:34 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Always look on the bright side of life...

"The more free the Iraqis become, the more electricity is available, the more jobs are available, the more kids that are going to school, the more desperate these killers become, because they can't stand the thought of a free society." — President Bush on the attacks in Baghdad that killed at least 34 people and injured another 200.

Bush Says Bombings Will Not Deter Him by By Richard W. Stevenson and David Firestone

Happy Songs for our Cheerleader-in-Chief:
"Always Look on the Bright Side of Life"
"Ac-cent-tchu-ate The Positive"
"Shiny Happy People"

Posted by matt at 09:40 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Outrun This, Diddy

runningman.jpgLet's see if the Teflon Hip-Hop Don can outrun this latest controversy:
A Hip-Hop Star's Fashion Line Is Tagged With a Sweatshop by Angel Franco.

I'm betting he'll flip this in his favor just like everything else in his charmed life.

Posted by matt at 09:27 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Everybody Hurts

SFHulk.jpgNote: 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

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.

As critics who got B-minuses in Intro to Psych will tell you, this angry green giant is the manifestation of Banner's id, a howling, pounding return of the repressed. He is that, to be sure, but combined with his newfound strength and ability to heal instantly are his surprising internal weaknesses and the fact that his wounds are mostly emotional. Ang Lee's Hulk is less golem, more nebbish; it's like the 98lb weakling finally got Charles Atlas'd, yet remains a big wuss. Why is this? Why is the most masculine comic book character this side of Metropolis suddenly so... feminine? Well, I'm afraid you'll have to ask Ang Lee.

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."

It's no wonder then that one of the motifs in Hulk is Betty's ability to calm the Hulk down enough to bring back Bruce, in essence, to cut him down to size. (As New York Magazine film critic Peter Rainer quipped "No wonder he's angry—his girlfriend makes him smaller.")

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.

Man, does this Hulk have issues!

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.

Before Lee got a hold of him, when Hulk got angry-woe onto you if you made him angry!-he'd bellow "HULK M-A-A-A-A-D!" just before smashing you and everything in sight.

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]

Posted by matt at 07:35 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 27, 2003

MTV's Sunday Stoopid

Boyz.jpgTuning 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?

Posted by matt at 03:44 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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.

Can't we have them both? And maybe we can give up the style network or even, if necessary, C-SPAN 3 (I'm not kidding, there are in fact three C-SPANs).

Posted by jp at 02:43 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

"The New Yorker, yes, The N(EW) Yorker"

Setting the hearts of hipster geeks everywhere aflutter, The New Yorker offers up the delectable geek girl-on-girl pairing of the week: Virginia Heffernan and Tina Fey. Except maybe this might have been called the writerly menage a trois that never was; does anyone know what happened to Entertainment Weekly's Kristen Baldwin?

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, we’re 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 don’t 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. “Don’t 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)

Posted by jp at 12:37 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Geekier than Hell

mitchellp.jpgI 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.
Mitchell references movies and TV shows no one (not even the stars and creators) remembers like They Call Her One Eye and Codename: Foxfire.
It's a good article, but man, if no one outside of the smallest of Internet chatrooms will find it interesting. My hat's off to you, Elvis Mitchell, King of Geeks.

Posted by matt at 10:23 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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.

Posted by matt at 08:34 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Pseudo-imaginary conflict of interest watch

Okrent.jpgThe New York Times announced today that its "public editor" will be Daniel Okrent.
Jacques Steinberg, The Times' designated insider-outsider newspaper reporter lays out Okrent's qualifications for the job yet neglects to mention his acting role in Woody Allen's Sweet and Lowdown in 1999. I ask you, in all seriously, people: how can we expect balanced, un-biased coverage of Woody Allen from The New York Times going forward!? I sure hope that Mr. Okrent isn't called upon to oversee coverage of Untitled Woody Allen Fall Project (2004) or any of its stars (including Will Farrell, Jason Biggs, Chloë Sevigny, and Wallace Shawn—the latter of whom have a sex scene one person close to the project called "the hottest on-screen sex scene since The Brown Bunny)? And, more to the point, what about the review of Woody's book? Talk about bias in the media!

[via: Romenesko]

Posted by matt at 07:59 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Slog™: A special brand of quagmire

iraq-pressbriefing.jpgAfter 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.

Posted by jp at 12:36 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Jesus "Hollow" Christ

passion-gibson-jesus-crucif.jpgI just can't get enough exhilaratingly bizarro news about Mel Gibson's upcoming The Passion of Christ, and I don't even believe in God. But I do believe in crazy movie-making antics!

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.)

Posted by jp at 12:05 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

October 26, 2003

For this Murdoch, NoLita is the light of his life, fire of his loins

Everyone knows that Lachlan Murdoch is filthy rich. But today he's merely filthy. Standing on the debris-strewn second floor of his new NoLita apartment building, covered in drywall dust and sweating like the proverbial pig, Murdoch exudes none of the international playboy scion charm we've come to expect from the eldest son of media baron Rupert Murdoch. To be completely honest, the only thing Lachlan is exuding at the moment is a rank, unpleasant odor.

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 (an internet outpost for celebrity stalkers) and (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.

Posted by matt at 07:22 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

October 24, 2003

How well do you really know McG, the director of Charlie's Angels?

mcg.jpgStep 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 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.

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The Morgan The Merrier

No excuses. Saturday Night Live presents The Best of Tracy Morgan Saturday October 25, 2003; 11:30PM EST on NBC.

Earlier thoughts on Tracy Morgan from low culture

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Isn't she lovely?

Elizabeth.jpgSpeaking of six months ago, Dateline has an interview with Elizabeth Smart tonight at 10PM EST on NBC.

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.)

Posted by matt at 12:29 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Seeking: Negative reviews of something universally wonderful

gehry_disneyconcerthall.jpgPrior 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)

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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.

Water Yo-Yos:

rich.jpgRich 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!

Mr. Personality:

beth.gifBeth 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!

Trucker Hats:

Godfrey.gifGodfrey: 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.jpgDonal 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?

Ian_Black.jpgMichael Ian Black: The beauty of Ashton and Demi was that it combined Ashton with…Demi.

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"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:
"It will leave you rolling in the aisle! Spoofs 'Signs,' 'The Ring,' 'The Matrix,' '8 Mile,' & everything in between!"— TV Guide Channel, Ken Taylor
Thanks, Ken! Your blurb left me retching up my breakfast! You spoofed 'Peter Travers,' 'Rex Reed,' 'Richard Roeper,' & 'Walter Monheit'!

On the extreme opposite end of the blurb spectrum, can someone explain what Stephen Holden meant when he wrote of Scary Movie 3:
This junk food orgy makes about as much sense as a tossed salad of lettuce, tomato and mustard vinaigrette drenched in a thick chocolate sauce. But that's the world, isn't it?
Who said what now?

Posted by matt at 10:07 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

All the Poop on New York Dogs

doggy.jpgGreat news! Conflicts in the Middle East are over, the economy has recovered, and nothing bad happened anywhere in the world today! Yippeeeeee!

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.

Posted by matt at 08:59 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Spinning as Fast as I can

Keith J. Kelly (who's right more often than he's glaringly, egregiously wrong) reports in today's New York Post that former Bush administration press secretary Ari "I am Jeff Zucker's twin" Fleischer has inked a $500,000 book deal for his White House memoirs with William Morrow, a subsidiary of News, Corporation. ("It's The Devil Wears Prada without the Prada, but with the real devil!" the proposal may have read.) Keith's short on data, but we get this:
Fleischer did not circulate a book proposal, as is the norm for authors—especially first-time authors. Some thought that his former bosses may have encouraged him to put it out in 2005 to guarantee that nothing blows up during the 2004 presidential campaign.
What is not included, however, is the book's title. So, as a favor to my landsman Fleischer, I'd like to suggest these titles:
The Only Jew in the Room: My Years in the Bush Cabinet
White Fish on White Bread: A White House Memoir
The Art of the Spin: How to Lie to Almost Anyone about Almost Anything
Yes I Can: My Years as the Token Minority Among Open Racists (Woops, that's already the title of Sammy Davis, Jr.'s memoir.)
No, Sir, I'm Not Offended: How I Survived Repeated Anti-Semtic Jibes At the Hands of Some of the Meanest S.O.B.'s You Ever Met

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.

Posted by matt at 08:28 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 23, 2003

From Californian voters to New York journalists: Recall fever!

friedman.75.gifEric "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!

Posted by jp at 04:33 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

In the town, where I was born...

aero.184.jpgyellow submarine.jpg
New Spy Gear Aims to Thwart Attacks in Iraq by Eric Schmitt... "Yellow Submarine" by The Beatles

UPDATE: Talk about topicality! Yellow Submarine for the super-rich. (Sorry merely rich and filthy rich: this one's for the super-rich.)

Posted by matt at 01:53 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

"Fair Dinkum": That's Australian for "pandering", mate

2003-10-23T062101Z_01_HOP305851_RTRUKOP_1_PICTURE0.jpgWhen 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.

Posted by jp at 10:26 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

How to write an obituary without breaking a sweat

rerun.jpgToday'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
Berry, known for wearing colorful red suspenders and a jaunty red cap, was also known for his TV catchphrase "Hey, hey, hey!" which he shouted whenever he encountered his buddies on "What's Happening!!" which ran on ABC from 1976-79.
From Biography for Fred Berry from IMDb
Continually wears a red beret as his character did in "Whats Happening"

Berry, who recently had a cameo in David Spade's big-screen comedy "Dickie Roberts"
Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star(2003) .... Himself
... aka Dickie Roberts: (Former) Child Star (2003)

After being canceled, the show returned six years later as "What's Happening Now!!" for a short-lived run with most of the original cast, including Berry.
"What's Happening Now!" (1985) TV Series .... Freddie Stubbs (segment "Rerun") (1985-1986)
"What's Happening!!" (1976) TV Series .... Fred 'Rerun' Stubbs

Berry, who was married six times to four different women (he married two women twice), battled a severe drug problem in the 1980s and, in 1990, was diagnosed with diabetes.
In 1990, when diagnosed by doctors with diabetes, he was told he had to lose weight or his life would be shortened. After placing himself on a strict regiment, he lost 108 pounds and 18 inches off his waist.
Has been married 6 times to four women. He married two women twice.

Berry later became a Baptist minister.
A Baptist minister.

Earlier journalism lessons from low culture.

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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!

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What Easterbrook could learn from Rousseau

rousseau3.gifEveryone 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:
When I write, my ideas are arranged with the utmost difficulty. They glance on my imagination and ferment till they discompose, heat, and bring on a palpitation; during this state of agitation, I see nothing properly, cannot write a single word, and must wait till it is over. Insensibly the agitation subsides, the chaos acquires form, and each circumstance takes its proper place. Have you never seen an opera in Italy? where during the change of scene everything is in confusion, the decorations are intermingled, and any one would suppose that all would be overthrown; yet by little and little, everything is arranged, nothing appears wanting, and we feel surprised to see the tumult succeeded by the most delightful spectacle. This is a resemblance of what passes in my brain when I attempt to write; had I always waited till that confusion was past, and then pointed, in their natural beauties, the objects that had presented themselves, few authors would have surpassed me.

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.

Posted by matt at 03:52 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Li'l Devil Has Big Plans

omen1.jpgDateline: Los Angeles, 2012
Speaking out publicly for the first time since he brought an end to Christ's reign on earth, the Spawn of Satan spoke candidly with reporters about his childhood and his plans for the future.
Just 8 years-old, the Anti-Christ spoke with surprising eloquence about his parents, filmmaker/actor/musician/chocolate muse Vincent Gallo and conservative commentator Laura Ingraham. "Both mummy and daddy instilled in me the value of hard work—and pure evil," the adorable little hellion said showing off the ever-present glint in his eye that has won over—and enslaved—all of mankind.
"They taught me right from wrong early on, showing me by their own example how to bring chaos, hatred, disease, and pestilence to the world. They also never let me eat my dessert until I finished my supper!" he said, in a fit of laughter that can only be described as demonic.
While details about how his parents met and conceived the pint-sized adversary vary, many point towards Gallo’s 2003 appearance on Buchanan & Press, a program that ran on the MSNBC cable network during the 2000 year reign of light and goodness. During that appearance, Ingraham reportedly told Gallo "You are a man after my own heart, Vincent. Once you get a haircut we can talk." (Tapes of the broadcast, along with all video, printed matter, and magnetic transfer archives from the A.D. era were destroyed when the Anti-Christ was conceived in 2004.)
Looking ahead towards his—and mankind’s—future, the misbegotten son of this unholiest union history has ever known said he was optimistic. "First, I’d like to figure out a way to make the burning embers of the earth less fossil-fuel dependant, and more renewable for our children’s children’s children. After that, I think I will implant devices in the eyes of every man and woman in my command and force them to watch The Brown Bunny 24-hours a day. Then, it’s onto the third Charlie’s Angels sequel! If I can do all that, I’ll consider myself a most successful Anti-Christ, indeed!" With that, the adorable little demon disappeared in a puff of sulfurous smoke leaving behind only a feeling of unspeakable dread.

Earlier thoughts on Satan from low culture

[via: The Kicker]

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Mmmm... 64 individually wrapped slices of cheese(cake)

toronto9.jpgFor 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.

Posted by matt at 11:45 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

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.

But of all the girls he's loved before, none compare to his true dream girl, Republican pipe cleaner, Ann Coulter.

Posted by matt at 10:17 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

A Caricature for 40 years, now a cartoon

Every phone box and bus stop in midtown is smeared with the cartoon face of Robert Evans, so I feel it's my duty to inform you that Kid Notorious is on tonight at 10:30 PM EST on Comedy Central. I don't know whether the show's good or not, but the presence of a sassy Black maid and an anime-like cat called "Puss-puss" on the Kid Web site doesn't bode well.

Anyway, here's some advice for all you aspiring starlets from Uncle Bob's book:
Speaking to the ladies: If you're ever approached with the line 'You ought to be in pictures, I'm a producer,' tell the guy to fuck off. He's a fraud, and the picture he wants to put you in don't play in theaters. 'You ought to be in pictures' just ain't the M.O. of a legit producer. Quote me if you want.

Consider it done, Bob.

Posted by matt at 07:49 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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.

Posted by jp at 05:43 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

From Clerk to Salesman

panasonic-cultural_history.jpgNot 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.

Posted by matt at 02:36 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Hiding the star

Let's say you've got a movie coming out with a lead actor who might be a bit of marketing gamble.

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.

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Unintentionally Hilarious Photo of the Moment, Vol. 7

Surgeon General's Warning: Looking directly at Bob Guccione may cause dizziness, nausea, and vomiting. You are strongly advised against using this image as your desktop pattern.

Posted by matt at 11:09 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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!
Read and learn: Rice Dish.

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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.

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October 20, 2003

The sound of one soldier falling in an otherwise empty forest

jessicalynchfreed.jpgThis 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.

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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.

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Should/Shouldn't, part 1

People Who Have Blogs But Shouldn't: People Who Don't Have Blogs But Should:
BILL MAHER: Testing out jokes for your show all week online is not a good use of the medium CHARLES MANSON: Don't you wanna know what Uncle Charlie is thinking right now?
ERIC ALTERMAN: Does this guy really need another forum for his opinions? CHRISTOPHER HITCHENS: Seriously, what's it gonna take to break Hitch out of his debilitating writer's block?
MOBY: Oh, you spent the weekend in Belgium? Great. Too bad they have internet access there. ARI FLEISCHER: You know he's off spinning something somewhere.
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Unfilter this

kent.jpgA 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:
There's a sense that people in America aren't getting the truth...I'm mindful of the filter through which some news travels, and sometimes you have to go over the heads of the filter and speak directly to the people.

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!

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Vienna, Austria is not Niketown

For the past month, residents of the Austrian capital city of Vienna have noticed a large contraption erected in the center of Karlsplatz, one of the city's historic plazas. Translucent but sturdy, and appearing to have originated from the mind of Stanley Kubrick's set designer, the two-story structure was prominently billed as the Nike Infobox, a "high-tech multipurpose container acting as display stand, open office, and lounge." In addition to featuring two Nike-clad staffers inside and being prominently adorned with the familiar "Swoosh" logo, information was printed on the structure's sides that proclaimed, "Nikeplatz (formerly Karlsplatz): This square will soon be called NikePlatz", as well as including an instructional phone number and URL,, presumably so that interested (or more likely, highly concerned) citizens could gather more information about the mysterious co-opting of the city's history and public space.

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.

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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.

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Oops...They did it again!

Another week, another Frank Rich column (nearly) juxtaposed with a conflicting ad. As reported here last week, The New York Times ad sales department should read Frank Rich's omnibus Arts & Leisure column before it places its ads. This week's Rich column, The Rush of the New Rat Pack goes a long way to put forth the thesis that with the Gropinator in the Governor's mansion in California and Bill Bennett playing the slots in Vegas, the staid old G.O.P. has absorbed some of the Rat Pack's ring-a-ding-ding mojo. Not a terrible idea, but when Rich searches for contemporary examples of Rat Pack revival, he comes up a bit short: Ashton Kutcher and P. Diddy calling each other "Dino" and "Frank" between reach-arounds? Dubious at best. That weird "Sinatra: His Voice, His Way" thing at Radio City Music Hall? A bit manufactured. Maybe if Swingers had just come out and people were still smoking cigars and drinking Martinis on the cover of Esquire Rich might be able to fill his three-times-a-trend quotient for the week. (Why Rich didn't mention the Japanese commercial director who urged Bill Murray to be more like the "Lat-a pack-a" in Lost in Translation is beyond me.)

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.

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October 18, 2003

Rose is a rose is a rose

18rose.1.jpgMy favorite professor from college has been profiled in the Times.
Class With the 'Ph.D. Diva' by Felicia R. Lee

No joke, during Professor Rose's class, I could literally feel my brain growing: the connections she drew between concepts and her amazing energy and accessibility made NYU's Africana Studies Department the place to be. According to The Times, she's currently heading up the American Studies Department at U.C. Santa Cruz, so that must be the place to be now.
Tricia Rose's new book is called Longing to Tell: Black Women's Stories of Sexuality and Intimacy

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For Good Times, Make it Suntory Time

Georgie and Juni and Bob and Takashi

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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.

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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.

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Quotient Quotables

pelosi.jpgWielding 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.

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Foot, meet mouth

footinmouth.gifIt'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

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The Weisz Guide to Accents

weisz.jpgIn 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:
The oi sound in toiiiiime, by the way, is not to be confused with the so-called Brooklyn oi sound comedians always use to mimic: "Da oily boid gets da woim," "She reads da New Yoik Woild," "She lives on Toity-toid Street." These are examples of dropping r's and substituting oi for the er sound. Today you are only likely to hear it from older working-class people, such as some old cab drivers.

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.

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October 16, 2003

Strange Bedfellows (aka "The Fat Man & the Catholic)

Movie Poop Shoot: Hollywood Elsewhere - October 8, 2003

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!

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54 more electoral votes for you next year, sir

bush-arnold.jpgEarlier 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."

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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...
From The Movie Lover by Larissa MacFarquhar in this week's New Yorker (article, sadly, not online).

You mean like "Q.T.," the character Tarantino played in Spike Lee's Girl 6 in 1996?

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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."

If his quip sounds familiar, that's because professional friend-loser Toby Young said the same thing about the Internet (in general) in Vanity Fair way back in 1995.

[OJR link via Romenesko]

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Time Wasters

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.

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Immunity-deficient? Sucks to be you, with only the world's third-largest economy

serbianbridgebombing2.jpgIn 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 Milosevic’s 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 bridge’s 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.

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File Under: Do as we say, not as we do

friedman.75.gifThomas L. Friedman gets in a pretty good jab at Dick Cheney today in his New York Times column called "On Listening":
Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein issue messages from their caves through Al Jazeera, and Mr. Cheney issues messages from his bunker through Fox. America is pushing democracy in Iraq, but our own leaders won't hold a real town hall meeting or a regular press conference.

Then he takes a chomp out of the hand that feeds him by saying:
Out of fairness, my newspaper feels obligated to run such stories. But I wish we had said to the V.P.: If you're going to give a major speech on Iraq to an audience limited to your own supporters and not allow any questions, that's not news — that's an advertisement, and you should buy an ad on the Op-Ed page.

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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.

After snapping up some staff picks, drive the two blocks (15 minutes) to Cha-Cha-Chicken for spinach quesadillas with dirty rice and beans.

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Bad, bad dog II

wolfenstein.jpgLast year Slate's Clara Jeffery's wondered Can a Dog Be Racist? Today's Times World Briefing answers her question, sort of:

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

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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.
Weaponized. It was a neat neologism that hinted at both intent and maddening randomness: something banal had been made into a weapon, and like a handgun or a hunting knife, it could accidentally kill you. But the term was also falsely ameliorative: it suggested that anthrax (or planes and buildings three months before) don't kill people, weaponized anthrax kills people.

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.

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October 15, 2003

And now a little something for the ladies... Or not

Quick! Which photo is an official promotional image of FOX's new Joe Millionaire and which one did I find by going to and typing gay+cowboy?

Answer: Joe Millionaire is on the left, like it matters.

Posted by matt at 07:57 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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."

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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?

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Happy Birthday, Johnny-boy

jkgalb1.jpgJohn 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."

Posted by matt at 03:17 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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:
The week that School of Rock topped the weekend box-office, Billboard/SoundScan’s top-ten-singles list belonged to: Ashanti, Beyonce, Fabolous, 50 Cent, Ludacris, Black Eyed Peas, P. Diddy, Nelly. Clearly, School of Rock doesn’t teach audiences what they need to know: that today’s predominant youth culture no longer moves to a "rock" beat.

Very smart, and dead-on. Next, he tells us:
[Jack Black] browbeats his [students'] personal taste with idolatry about Led Zeppelin, AC/DC, Motörhead–he instills the rockist ideology that, in standard pop publications, has turned popular music into a sinecure for cultural racism. School of Rock perverts the radicalism imputed to rock in the 60s, pretending All-American exuberance and liberation when it is actually only selling hegemony.

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:
Substitute your lies for fact/
I can see right through your plastic mac/
I look all white, but my dad was black

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?

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Design cliches are universally bad

A reader alerted us to the existence of MacUpdate: Macintosh Software & Games and, well, we laughed.

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.

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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."
From a caption accompanying Seductive Electronic Gadgets Are Soon Forgotten by Katie Hafner

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.

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Why is this man smiling?

Rupe11.jpgGood news! Rupert Murdoch will never die: Murdoch delays retirement 'forever'. And neither will this guy.

[via Mediabistro]

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Just 71 shopping days 'till Christmas

front101503.gifDear Mom:
All I want for Christmas this year is a Don Zimmer doll with soft, pinchable cheeks and kung-fu grip. Pleeeeeeeeease! I promise that I will clean my room, walk the dog, and never, ever pick fights on my blog if you get me a Zimmer. Pretty, pretty please! With sugar on top!
Love, Matty

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Is it live, or is it Memorex?

10m.jpgAnyone else get a real Capricorn One feeling from this quote:
The launching took place about 9 a.m., according to the state-run television network, CCTV. At about 9:30, the network showed a videotape of the rocket soaring to the heavens. China Sends Man Into Orbit, Entering U.S.-Russian Club by Jim Yardley

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Bush's Thrilla in Manila

Can this guy be any more of a hypocrite? First Bush condemns sex tourism at the United Nations, and now he's going on a sex tour!

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.

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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

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Synergy, negative and otherwise

From The New York Post Sports Section, page 97:
Fox has been cutting it mighty close throughout the postseason, returning from half-inning commercial breaks with the pitcher in mid-windup. This squeeze-in-every-moment commerce finally caught up with all of us in yesterday's ALCS Game 5.

From The New York Post Television Section, page 107:
THE Boston Red Sox-New York Yankees duel for supremacy in the American League Championship Series kept Fox on top of the primetime pack Monday... Reliable estimates for Fox's live game coverage weren't available, but the network was projecting that the game would lead the network to its highest-rated Monday since the "Joe Millionaire" finale in February.

[Thanks, Dave]

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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":
"Avril Lavigne, punk queen? Now there’s a kidder / Go back north, Céline needs a baby-sitter," Triumph raps. He sniffs "Elton John’s tush, just for all the history," takes on Philip Glass— "Atonal ass / You’re not immune / Write a song with a fucking tune"—and Snoop Dogg: "There’s room for only one dog, putz / And I can rap. Can you lick your own nuts?"

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."

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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.

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Trivial Pursuits, part II

The prize for today's Tuesday Trivia Tournament goes to Cindy, who correctly identified the phrases as the slogan for FOX's new Joe Millionaire series kicking off next week. Congratulations, Cindy!

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?

Posted by matt at 05:15 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

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.

I'm not gonna get into the whole "they work together" argument because, firstly, Spiers deftly danced around her own conflict of interest, and secondly, it's not important. What is important is that Spiers lets us know that as his deskmate, she could overhear his interviews with those aforementioned attractive Ivy-educated "I-porn" (to use Amsden's phrase) lovers. I don't doubt that Amsden did his due dilligence flipping through his Rolodex and interviewing friends and friends-of-friends: what I take exception to is the perfectly crafted (and in the case of the floppy disc thing, perfectly implausible) quotes seemly made in the mind of a writer groping (porn again!) for his thesis. Since Spiers was only privy to Amsden's side of the conversation ("...uh-huh... broadband... uh-huh?..."), how can she know that the subjects said exactly what they said? And unless Primedia is hooked up with awesome video phones, how can she know if 24 year-old "Rick" really has "shaggy blond hair and a body sculpted from three days a week at New York Sports Club"? More to the point, how can we? I'm not doubting that these people exist (in whole or in part), but I do wonder if they said what they said or if the invisible hand of an editor (in the writer's mind or in the Quark lay-out) had a little too much power in shaping their words.

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.

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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!

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Must be able to spell, condemn liberalism

From:  "newswarrior"
Date:  Tue Oct 14, 2003  4:33 pm
Subject:  Editorial Page Writer for USA TODAY
At least five years of national reporting or editing experience. Strong writing, reporting, editing and leadership skills. Experience covering business and health care is helpful as is previous experience on an editorial or op ed page. Looking for a conservative who ca work to achievie consensus with a diverse editorial board.
Send clips and resume to Lynn Wascak - Coordinator, Editorial Page,
USA TODAY; 7950 Jones Branch Drive; McLean, VA 22108.

The funny thing is, this was posted on the American Copy Editors Society job board!
[via, Romenesko]

Hey, Gavin, give 'em a call!

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Author Unknown

Paging Donald Foster: Form Letters From G.I.'s to the Editors by Jacques Steinberg

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Overly Compassionate Conservatives

rush_limbaugh_150x140.jpgWho 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:
Brilliant… Limbaugh has built and kept his phenomenal audience… The reason Rush Limbaugh has been one of the defining cultural figures of our time - the man who singlehandedly brought an entire dormant medium, AM radio, roaring back to life - is that he has brought a spirit of fun and high good humor to the social and political controversies of our time. His show is punctuated by often-hilarious song and commercial parodies… he is some kind of genius, capable of explaining complicated ideas in ways understandable to enormous numbers of people… significantly more polite…engages his callers with unfailing courtesy, and he always affords those callers with whom he disagrees the respect of an honest debate…Limbaugh has made ideological battle fun, and given heart to many millions of people who think their opinions have been ignored…

With friends like these, who needs enablers?

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Trivial Pursuits

questionmark.gifGood 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:

First we lied to America.
Now we're taking on the world!

Get those thinking caps on. Bonus points for creative incorrect answers.

Posted by matt at 07:50 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 13, 2003

John Walker Lindh in Black and White

Lindh.gifLast 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,, 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:
Critics who have portrayed [Lindh's] behavior as the inevitable result of being reared in tolerant Marin County seem to have missed the obvious: Lindh's actions were themselves a rebuke of clichéd Marin liberalism. He not only implicated it explicitly, but determinedly chased its apparent opposites. In the end, Lindh himself is the most virulent critic of his permissive upbringing, and his critique is far more vehement than the stale arsenal of gibes about the '60s wielded by his conservative commentators.

Here's Best on the way Lindh misunderstood and simplified African-Americans as he idealized them:
It's fascinating that Lindh's newsgroups texts, as deeply tinted as they were with black nationalist thought, did not once refer to the political or economic existence of African Americans outside of his obsession with the twin specters of the black "sellout" and the racist and empowered white. He was, despite it all, an upper-middle-class white kid from a suburban remove, and his imagination repeatedly failed him when it came to the concrete conditions that inspired the culture of resistance he so deeply identified with.

And here's Best at his, well, best, placing Lindh squarely in the context that fits him best— America:
For most, he's already a half-forgotten footnote of the war on terrorism. His significance, if he is to possess any, lies in the spectacular way in which he was both a product of the American suburbs and a pilgrim of its apparent opposites. Which is why using the word "traitor" to describe Lindh -- who never lifted his hand toward an American soldier -- is not only incorrect but bitterly ironic. In his obsession with race, his longing to transcend it, and irrepressible will toward self-invention, John Walker Lindh could only have been American.

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:
It just went to show that intellectual heavies could be beautiful in spite of all those smarts. Naomi, for instance, was a model mother. Unlike Martha herself, she never shouted at her kids, never blew her cool with them and never came on like a parent figure. Look at the way she was now persuading her youngster, John Muir Maginnis, to stop swinging on Martha's drapes.
'John-John,' Naomi was saying, 'I shouldn't engage in that form of activity if I were you. Your actions might be subject to misinterpretation, don't you agree?'
John-John stared at her balefully. 'I don't give a shit,' he said, and instead began to beat Tampala, Martha's four-year-old daughter, over the head with his Playskool carpenter's awl. It was just amazing the way children worked out their hostilities among themselves if you didn't interfere with their natural instincts.

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.

Posted by matt at 11:26 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Unintentionally hilarious photo of the moment, Vol. 6

Right off the bat: no photo-alteration software of any kind was used in this photograph.

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)

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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.

Posted by jp at 03:45 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Best Unintentional (?) critique of Los Angeles

vdgirl.jpgStraight 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?

Yep, VD sure is trendy in Los Angeles. Even Beck says in a creepy voice, "I can smell the VD in the club tonight" on "Milk & Honey" from his LA-centric 1999 album Midnite Vultures.

Added incentive to link: Britney Spears showing off her VD

Posted by matt at 01:40 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

I call bullshit on New York Magazine

36cover031013_150.jpgThere'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:
Jonathan uses the university’s high-speed connection to download pornography onto floppy discs, he says, because “my dial-up at home is monstrously slow.”

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.

Posted by matt at 10:57 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Everywhere you want to be

mcglg.gifToday's award for making very good use of an unlimited MetroCard goes to The Times' Lola Ogunnaike who filled this report from every part of the city:

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..."
Okay, that last one was fake.

Gory 'Kill Bill' Tops Weekend Box Office by Lola Ogunnaike

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Might I suggest...

Buried in today's Times article on HEEB Magazine's expansion fantasies is this analogy from new editor Joshua Neuman:
I'm trying to emulate Vice in that this is more than a magazine, but a lifestyle. As Vice is to cocaine, we are to chocolate layer cake.

What's so Jewish about chocolate layer cake? Might I suggest a more apt analogy?
As Vice is to anonymous butt-sex (warning: dirty, dirty link), we are to speed dating and settling down with a nice doctor in the suburbs in your thirties.

A Sardonic Jewish Magazine Expands Its Ambitions by Bill Werde

Posted by matt at 09:37 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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.
Apparently, some ideas never get old or unfunny. For Your Height Only is a 1979 James Bond parody from the Phillipines that starred Weng-Weng a small, but suave secret agent. Copies are hard to come by but Amazon has two copies on VHS and can set you up with two used on DVD. Or you can watch Knee High P.I. tonight at 9 PM EST on Comedy Central.

[Thanks to the Boing Boing brain trust for originally alerting me to Weng Weng]

Posted by matt at 07:46 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 12, 2003

Who is

Sitting through the credits of Kill Bill, I noticed one name that stood out from the rest: 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:
Perry was born in 197X! (Since he graduated college in 2001, I gotta assume he was actually born in 1980: he's one of those November babies.)
Perry is 6'0" tall!
Perry is Black, German, Jewish, Irish, Scottish, Welsh and was raised by Italians!
Perry went to Franklin D. Roosevelt High School in Brooklyn and then Hampshire College in Massachusetts!
Perry is currently looking for representation for both Directing and Acting!

Posted by matt at 04:18 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

"But enough about me... What do you think about me?"

Hey Hip-hop, Fashion, and Marathon fans*:

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

Posted by matt at 03:32 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Disney's Ad'ed Value

Apparently inappropriate ad placement isn't only endemic online.

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..."

Posted by matt at 10:29 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 11, 2003

Murder, Inc.

Just saw Kill Bill Volume 1 at BAM. (The only reason I bother to mention where I saw it is because BAM is the sort of theater that attracts cinema know-it-alls who audibly guffaw when they see fake ads for Red Apple Cigarettes in the Tokyo airport and run home immediately following the credits—gotta watch the full credits: respect—to blog.)

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.

Posted by matt at 04:56 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

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!

Posted by jp at 02:49 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Unintentionally Hilarious Photo of the Moment, Vol. 4


[via Fark]

Posted by matt at 11:21 AM | Comments (0)


Okay, last one: Is Dick Gephardt the scary old dude from Poltergeist II: The Other Side?

Posted by matt at 10:27 AM | Comments (0)

Dancin' Fool and Radical Shnook

Howard Dean does the Running Man ten years late while Joe Lieberman throws up a Black Power salute 35 years late.

Posted by matt at 10:04 AM | Comments (0)

He loves you (Iraq), yeah, yeah, yeah


Schoolgirls swoon as Bremermania sweeps Iraq.

Posted by matt at 09:42 AM | Comments (1)

Ties and the tying tiers who tie them

Crikey! Does Col Allan, the Australian-born New York Post editor, even speak English? (I know that Australians in general don't speak English: for example, in Australia, they don't say "beer," they say "Foster's," mate.)
How else to explain this totally inappropriate headline on the cover of today's paper? According the online Phrase Finder, to tie one on means to get drunk. (All roads lead back to Foster's, mate.) Does that even make sense in this context? And don't even get me started on KNOT TO WORRY...

Posted by matt at 08:26 AM | Comments (0)

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"?

Posted by jp at 04:09 PM | Comments (0)

Let's get ready to eat freeee shrimp cocktail from Haaaaarvey!

Forgetting everything we all know about crabs in a barrel, David Poland has picked a fight with his fellow online movie and celebrity bottom feeder, Roger Friedman. Here's the tale of the tape:

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.

Posted by matt at 03:19 PM | Comments (1)

Chuck's a jinx!

It's hard to miss the way that some people hate on Chuck Klosterman. Yes, the guy wrote a book with a bad title, is ubiquitous to the point of saturation, and he somehow managed to convince Virginia Heffernan to buy a Billy Joel CD with her Times corporate Amex. That can be grating. But think about the positive things he's done, like making it possible for the Brady family to play the Keystone Kops at the amusement park. See, Chuck isn't such a jinx!

Posted by matt at 02:01 PM | Comments (0)

Let Us Now Praise Good Design

The coffee achievers over at The Stranger put out a great cover this week. I'm jealous because New York's alt-weeklies have two very lame covers this week. (How lame? They're not even online.)
Also in The Stranger, an article on the enduring appeal of Death Metal.

Posted by matt at 12:07 PM | Comments (0)

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

Posted by matt at 11:16 AM | Comments (0)

LeDuff man, happy to be here! Oh, yeah!

Aaron.Duffman.gifWhen 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...

Posted by matt at 11:01 AM | Comments (0)

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."

Posted by jp at 10:31 AM | Comments (0)

I have this much patience for you right now

"I said I don't know. Isn't that clear? You don't understand English?"

Rumsfeld demonstrating the results of his court-ordered sensitivity training.

Rummy, might I suggest a movie for you to watch after church this weekend?

Posted by matt at 10:17 AM | Comments (0)

Unintentionally hilarious photo of the moment, Vol. 3

Certainly one might throw out some captions here like "I call guys get Lewis, the closeted gay rations chef," but on a more topical and news-related note, we're going with, "Don't worry, Donald, you may have been willfully left out of the Iraq Stabilization Group, but we have faith in your athletic skills."
(with thanks to Danny for the source)

Posted by jp at 09:51 AM | Comments (0)

Finally, the silver lining

Junior.jpg"I will [Govern California]—nothing else... I will work as much as I can . . . so there will no time for movies or anything else."

Posted by matt at 08:38 AM | Comments (0)

You can't do that on television!
Well, actually, you can. It's been done before.

What happened to Thursday night on NBC? Time was, the whole family could sit in front of the TV and enjoy Bill Cosby doing his fluttery jazzbo dance moves with his wife and kids and follow that up with Dwayne Wayne flipping his shades up at every attractive Hillman College girl. Once the little ones got sleepy, mom and dad could enjoy some Sam and Diane sexual tension on Cheers. It was all very clean and tidy and if ratings were any indication, a success.

Then, at some point, Thursday night was re-branded "Must See TV," which was more of a command than a description, and everything got a bit screwy.

If you tuned into "Must See TV" during this year’s fall season premieres, you
were treated to the sight of Ross and Joey kissing (in a fantasy straight out of some rather feverish fan fiction) on Friends (not to mention a joke about Ross having trouble standing up with a hard-on), Will and Jack shirtless and in bed seemingly post-coital on Will & Grace, an NBC-produced "One Minute Movie" starring Carmen Electra and the surgically made-for-FHM Pussycat Dolls in diamond-encrusted bras and panties, and, in the much-hyped centerpiece of NBC’s new season, Coupling, which featured a joke about a woman being completely shaved and two pals boasting of being so close, they’re "porn buddies."
Clearly, this isn’t your parents’ Fall Season.

The funny thing is—and there wasn’t much funny about the shows
themselves—none of this was particularly shocking. It was as if NBC drained as much juice as possible from parent company General Electric in an attempt shock us and all they could muster was a tiny static zap.

The biggest disappointment by far was Coupling, the American adaptation of the ribald BBC series of the same name. Much press (and some cold feet from affiliates in the hinterlands) heralded the allegedly groundbreaking Coupling, but as with any copy, there was significant generation loss when the show crossed the Atlantic.

The show’s generically-attractive cast barely sold the jokes about porn, breasts, and public restroom hook-ups sampled from the original. It was actually sort of painful to watch them all leaning into their punchlines like third graders wringing laughs out of words like "peepee" and "boobies." In translating the show for Americans, the producers seemed to forget that the pleasure of the BBC version was in its characters venality and casual self-absorption, not in the American sit-com standard of bland likeability for all.

Another reasonCoupling was so bad was that it arrived in the midst of a Fall Season that could easily be branded "Must Transgress TV." As The New York Times noted recently, this season "Comedy writers [are] eager to forsake stale Seinfeldisms and show off their harsher material." Pick your favorite taboo and there’s a good chance that at least one show is milking it for laughs. Young guys with older women your thing? Try Happy Family. (If that Harold and Maude stuff is really your bag, turn off the TV and pick up US Weekly, which has turned into a hybrid of Tiger Beat and The AARP Bulletin with its weekly reports on Ashton and Demi and Justin and Cameron.) Into porn? Check out Skin on FOX for all the naughty bits you can (almost) see without cable. Maybe adultery gets you going? Temptation Island is full of hot couples cheating on each other. Like seeing men together? Heck, even stalwarts like Frasier are spicing it up with bald man-on-bald man action in the form of Patrick Stewart as a gay admirer of Dr. Frasier Crane. How shocking!

No, actually, how boring.

There was a time when producers could actually push the envelope (remember
staying up extra late to see Amanda Donahoe kiss Michele Greene on LA Law back in 1991?), but that’s because there was an envelope to push. Blame it on NBC’s own Dr. Evil, NBC President Jeff Zucker and his maniacal quest for ratings hegemony, or on The Sopranos, or on Dennis Franz’s pasty tuchis on NYPD Blue, but TV is a lot dirtier than it was a decade ago. This is a fine thing to be sure, but networks shouldn’t claim innovation when this stuff has all been done before.

And in the case of Coupling, it’s been done a lot better. The BBC version of the show received rave reviews and a cult following on both sides of the Atlantic for its frank, single-minded plotlines about sex and relationships. While many of the jokes had been done before (Straight men love lesbians? No way!), Coupling stood out for its innovative format (flashbacks, "replays" of scenes, etc.), and the many funny coinages and new slang each episode provided viewers. Coupling immersed us in a world of "unflushables" (exes who just… won’t… disappear), "solo flights" (masturbation), and those porn buddies (a friend who has a key to your house and will remove your porn when you die). Like Seinfeld with its "sponge-worthies," "soup nazis," and "yada-yada-
yada," Coupling created its own vocabulary that quickly became everyone else’s vocabulary as well.

But wait, there’s more (as they like to say on TV): beneath all that witty
badinage, the show had just the right amount of depth, daring to depict men and women wrestling with their own shallowness as they hook up, grow up, and (natch) couple up. Credit for both the wit and depth should be placed at the feet of Steven Moffat, the show’s creator and sole writer. (Depressingly, Moffat is also credited with writing the
pale reflection that passes for his own show on NBC). While I didn’t laugh at the BBC Coupling as much as I’d hoped, I could see the work of a unique comic voice. As luck would have it, the show was produced by Moffat and his wife Sue Vertue. It was straight line from Steven Moffat’s brain to mouths of his actors; as Vertue boasts on the Coupling Season 1 DVD, the show was developed over time without any outside interference.

And therein lies the problem with NBC’s version of Coupling. An idiosyncratic, racy, mostly original BBC series was squeezed through the American TV sausage factory only to emerge as something else entirely: a bland, homogenized, very unsexy American sitcom. Gone is the unusual structure of episodes, the single camera shooting style, and the clever wordplay. In numerous articles and interviews, Jeff Zucker has expressed his desire to make Coupling a long-term franchise like Friends. If the first two episodes are any indication, Coupling will be more like an awkward one night stand that you look back on and wonder, "What the hell were we thinking?"

Earlier Coupling thoughts from low culture

Posted by matt at 07:58 AM | Comments (0)

HINT: Ridiculing actors for their political views no longer works as expected

...Just some advice we thought it prudent to share with Republicans who steadfastly hate the "limousine liberal" crowd. Seriously, Governor Arnold can readily attest to the inefficacy of that (and so can Gay Davis! Har-har, you loveable residents of San Diego!)

After the GOP-led redistricting plan passed in Texas (the battle over which featured all those intra-state flight accusations and hotel hideouts over the past few months), Governor Rick Perry's flack Gene Acuna snidely tried to dismiss the outspoken behavior of Alec Baldwin:

"Mr. Baldwin's political views against President Bush and Republicans in general are well known and documented. I have no doubt that Texans will give the comments made by the star of 'Beetlejuice' all of the attention they are due."

Come on. At least "Beetlejuice" was an OK film, directed by Tim Burton in his prime, no less. Go after "Mercury Rising" next time, and you'll have us all on board.

Posted by jp at 12:16 AM | Comments (0)

October 08, 2003

Best evidence that bloggers sometimes get desperate for content

Best evidence that The Village Voice doesn't copy edit its "Best of New York" issue, by Matt Haber

Posted by matt at 08:46 PM | Comments (0)

Best evidence that The Village Voice doesn't copy edit its "Best of New York" issue

best subway line to spot someone reading white teeth or the corrections - L TRAIN
Capturing the NPR zeitgeist of the L TRAIN, these discursive tomes are daily removed from vintage satchels and displayed accordingly. On a recent Brooklyn-bound excursion, a guy with a bunny-eared copy of Franzen's Saul Bellow-styled smarminess surreptitiously scoped an asymmetrically coiffed woman equally unwrapped in Zadie Smith's pre-Autograph Man shaggy dog. If the faux literati were pretending to read the Marquis de Sade with their morning coffee, rush hour would be much more interesting. -Brandon Stosuy

"Bunny-eared"? I think the phrase Brandon is looking for is "dog-eared," right?

Posted by matt at 08:42 PM | Comments (0)

The most obscure joke of all time (at the expense of the voters, no less)?

Big dilemma here, for those attuned to the details of election red tape (you know, x number of voters needed to get a measure on the ballot, y number of dollars to lobby for its passage). We're assuming the New York Times, when it prepared this handy chart about the 2003 California recall "election", used official data from the state's registrar or other relevant election official.

So, close attention to the detail we've provided of the accompanying graphic which appeared on the Times' website this morning: Are we really to believe that Peter Camejo, the Green Party's candidate for governor in both this and the last statewide election, is a Financial Investment Advisor? That is so fucked up.

Posted by jp at 06:16 PM | Comments (0)

Informing us 'till death

RIP, Neil Postman, philosopher prince in the Empire of Signs.

Turn off your TV tonight and read Amusing Ourselves to Death
[Thanks, Dave]

Posted by matt at 04:16 PM | Comments (0)

The curse of Predator

First Jesse, then Arnold... then Carl?

Posted by matt at 02:07 PM | Comments (1)

The Company you keep

arnold busey.jpg
Actor Tom Arnold extended his congratulations by phone and told Fox News that he wished he could have attended the victory party. Actor Gary Busey spoke to the crowd and defended Schwarzenegger from the sexual assault allegations that had dogged him in the last few days of the campaign.


Posted by matt at 11:20 AM | Comments (0)

Which do you want first, the bad news or the badder news?

Depressingly accurate lede from The Los Angeles Times:

Californians have never known more about a new governor. We've seen him naked on screen. We know about the Nazi father, the celebrity journalist wife, the bodybuilding titles and the crude behavior toward women. We have seen him in theaters, fallen asleep to his voice on television and imitated his accent.

Californians have never known less about a new governor. We've never seen him hold office. We don't know what programs he'll cut, how he'll balance the budget, how he'll negotiate with recalcitrant legislators or how he'll manage the state's bureaucracy.

THE NEW GOVERNOR: So Familiar Yet So Unknown, by Joe Matthews (requires registration)

Posted by matt at 10:43 AM | Comments (0)

Today's episode of Safari Planet with Antoine Yates

08TIGER.jpgHow can you not love this guy?

Mr. Yates, 37, said yesterday that he thought Ming was crying one day last week because he was lonely. So he ran to Ming, and engaged him in one of his favorite games, a playful, mock-fighting routine that he called "Buddy-Buddy." That's when Shadow the kitten, another of Mr. Yates's feline charges, showed up — and Ming suddenly looked very hungry....As Ming was about to pounce on Shadow, Mr. Yates said he jumped between them, and Ming's teeth sank into his arm... "I'm not mad at Ming; I still love him... I feel heartbroken," Mr. Yates said. "I miss him a lot. He's like my brother, my best friend, my only friend, really."

Posted by matt at 09:49 AM | Comments (1)

Amusing image of the moment

Does Sharon know?

Posted by matt at 09:40 AM | Comments (0)

Don't they have CSI in Africa?

"We can only prosecute if there is sufficient evidence to justify the charge, but there is not enough evidence," said Chris MacAdam, a lawyer for the National Prosecuting Authority.

Five Policemen Won't Be Tried in Biko Killing, by The Associated Press

Posted by matt at 09:37 AM | Comments (0)

Vanilla love

Suggested slogan: Sightly less nauseating than Vanilla Coke.

Posted by matt at 08:24 AM | Comments (0)

It's Casanova's History of My Life meets DSM IV

woody.jpgThis just in from the public interest journalists at Page Six: Woody Allen is shopping his memoirs to publishers . According to suspiciously unnamed "publishing sources," the book "will lay open the secrets of his affairs with Louise Lasser, Diane Keaton, Mia Farrow and his current wife, Soon Yi." (Not exactly the most alluring list, but you work with what ya' got.)
Great! Just what we need. More shitty writing wavering violently between self-aggrandizement and self-pity, intellectual name-dropping, pathetic rehashing of jokes that were funny 30 years ago, glorifying of a lost social-climbing New York lifestyle, and a naked grab for immortality. Basically, his last 10 movies only without the pretty young things for eye candy. Can't wait!
Besides, didn't Woody already write a book called Getting Even? Maybe this one should be called Without Morals.

50 Dollar bet: Blurb from David Remnick.

Posted by matt at 08:03 AM | Comments (0)

An epistemological question for the ages

Can you simultaneously buy and steal an election?

Posted by matt at 07:32 AM | Comments (0)

October 07, 2003

Don't ever call me again

What happened to you, California? You used to be cool.

Posted by matt at 11:07 PM | Comments (0)

Cliches and axioms suitable for today's headlines

1. Rice to Lead Effort To Speed Iraqi Aid

"President Bush announced yesterday that the White House will take a stronger role in overseeing the struggling effort to rebuild Iraq through a new group intended to speed the flow of money and staff to Baghdad and streamline decision-making in Washington...

The new group, to be led by national security adviser Condoleezza Rice and drawn from more than a half-dozen Cabinet agencies, is intended to remove a bottleneck in decision-making by identifying and resolving problems faced by the U.S.-led occupation. Responsibility for running postwar Iraq will remain with the Defense Department, and civilian administrator L. Paul Bremer will retain considerable autonomy."

That's like having the fox guard the henhouse!

2. Sharon Threatens to Hit Israel's Enemies Anywhere

"President Bush insisted on Monday that Israel should not feel constrained in defending itself but said he told Sharon: 'It's very important that any action Israel take(s) should avoid escalation and creating higher tensions.'"

Do as I say, and not as I do!

3. Consumer borrowing surged in August

"The Federal Reserve reported Tuesday that consumers increased their borrowing by a seasonally adjusted $8.2 billion, or at a brisk annual rate of 5.2 percent from July to August. That pushed up total consumer debt to $1.96 trillion."

That's biting off more than you can chew!

Posted by jp at 04:25 PM | Comments (0)

God angry about California election, smites citizens

3.6 earthquake hits Southern California.

[Earthquake data via the ever-fruitful Fark]

Posted by matt at 02:37 PM | Comments (0)

How about "Fog of war made a little foggier"?

Dear Headline Writers at The New York Post and The New York Daily News:

Please resist using the headline "LOST IN TRANSLATION" when reporting this story tomorrow. The lazy use of this headline was already thoroughly trashed in The New York Observer two weeks ago, so it's not like you can still find it orginal or clever.

Thank you,
Your friends at low culture

Posted by matt at 02:01 PM | Comments (0)

Yes, you're an elder Democratic statesman. But was your throat ripped open by a tiger?

So, Senator Bob Graham (D- Fla.) has withdrawn from the race for the 2004 Democratic Presidential Nomination. Hopefully, this will enable him to start working on shoring up some support for a shot at the V.P. position, allowing the Dems to maintain some degree of limited relevance in the New South (I mean, seriously, Sen. John Edwards is so gone and Gen. Wesley Clark is a "barely-there" Arkansan, which sounds suspiciously like some sort of designer undergarment).

One of the sadder elements of this withdrawal, however, is not the loss of a veteran politician with relevant international experience, but the manner in which the withdrawal occurred, as per the Miami Herald:

In an anticlimactic finale, the 66-year-old Graham made his announcement during an interview on CNN's Larry King Live, keeping much of his own senior staff in the dark about his fate until the end of a 52-minute segment on the show examining the future of Las Vegas duo Siegfried & Roy.

Posted by jp at 01:32 PM | Comments (0)

If You Say the Phrase that Pays, you'll get Creed tickets!

Thinking it was another one of those mean "Morning Zoo" radio pranks, Nobel Prize winner Peter Mansfield doubted his wife when she told him he'd won.

[link via the tireless Fark]

Posted by matt at 12:10 PM | Comments (0)

Deanie Babies

07dean.jpgI'm gonna put this in print so that I can say that I said it first: Ginny Hunt is the next George Stephanopoulos. Who's Ginny Hunt? Well, she makes a brief cameo (in a photo) in today's unfortunately-titled Times article You Go, Dean! Babies of Boomers Find a Candidate. (Sidebar: Who says, "You go, [blank]!" other than Ricki Lake or the women on Sex and the City "jiving" with drag queens?). Ginny is the photogenic 23 year-old coordinator of Generation Dean, the younger, (relatively) hipper outpost for all things Howard Dean. The photo shows a focused young woman with her hair in a bun, wearing glasses, and poring over documents with candidate Dean and his campaign manager Joe Trippi looking on with awe at her precocity and seriousness. The photo (which, sadly, is not available on The Times Web site) reminds me of another young go-getter we met a decade ago. Every campaign—at least every campaign that hopes to bring in the youth vote—needs a spunky, "groovy" young person to reflect the youthfulness and vitality of the candidate. Ginny fits the bill. We'll be watching to see if she can parlay this gig into a full-time White House gig, book deal, and swank media job (not to mention a celebrity partner!) like boy wonder George did.

Posted by matt at 11:29 AM | Comments (0)

Li'l Millionaires

dakota.jpgAttention Dakota Fanning: If you ever leave California, move to New York. According to today's New York Times, Albany passed a new law forcing parents to put at least 15% of their perfmormer children's money in a trust fund to be turned over to the little darlings if and when they reach 18. This is good news for child actors everywhere. If only this law had been in place sooner, Jonathan Lipnicki might not have descended into a Lick-'em-ade and OxyContin addiction and turned to rodeo clowning to make ends meet.

Posted by matt at 10:32 AM | Comments (0)

Blogs 1, New York Times, 0

Gothamist, Sept. 19: Angle Grinder Man*
New York Times, Oct. 7: Car Owners' Hero Dressed for the Job

* Yes, I know that Gothamist was linking from CNN, but she did it first.

Posted by matt at 10:03 AM | Comments (0)

There can only be one

Imagine that there is a Highlander for precocious, home-schooled authors from rural areas. That means that Jed Purdy is in the fight of his life now that Christopher Paolini is on the scene! Check the text, people:
° 15 when he wrote his fantasy novel Eragon
° loves Wagner and holds forth learnedly on the "Ring" cycle
° keeps Seamus Heaney's translation of "Beowulf" by his bed
° invented three languages for his characters of dwarves, elves and humanoids, some based on Old Norse, some from scratch
° never kissed a girl
Okay, that last one was bullshit, but I was reading between the lines. I say, good luck challenging J.K. Rowling's hegemony, Christopher, but you might want to be careful not to wind up like some other young geniuses.

Posted by matt at 09:58 AM | Comments (0)

Welcome back, RZA

rza.jpgOut today: RZA's Birth of a Prince. I guess medical school didn't work out for The Abbot, but I'm glad he's back to what he does best.

RZA doesn't have a Web presence anymore (the mighty Wu empire is, sadly, in decline), but you can swing on over to home of Religious Zionists of America.

Posted by matt at 08:49 AM | Comments (0)

October 06, 2003

Dear Robin, David, and Shia

robinw.gifRobin Williams, what happened to you? You were doing so good there for a second or two. You almost made me forget about Patch Adams and Jakob the Liar, What Dreams May Come and the other syrupy sweet pieces of crap you put out in the last decade. And now I hear about House of D the new movie you're shooting. According to one of your fansites, House of D is the story about a long time friendship between a young [David] Duchovny (Anton Yelchin) and his retarded Elementary school janitor (Robin Williams). This description does not fill me with confidence. Please, Robin Williams!

Now, David Duchovny, what happened to you? I was never an X-Files fan, but I like your droll, intelligent persona (and your awesome cameos on The Larry Sanders Show and creepy role in Full Frontal). You wrote and are currently directing this movie (in Brooklyn, no less), so I'm sure it's autobiographical, but David Duchovny, please resist the temptation to make anything that can be described as "touching," "shot-through with emotion," or "ringing true with pure sentiment." I expect better from you. Please, David Duchovny!

Don't even get me started on you, Shia LeBeouf! Get a haircut already. Please, Shia LeBeouf!

Posted by matt at 06:18 PM | Comments (1)

Making his presence felt through his absence

Still waiting for "Nummer and H-Bomb" of Whatevs to do their Saturday Night Live wrap up for this week's season premiere, but I've been thinking about it and I have a couple of opinions. Mostly opinions about what's missing, more specifically, opinions about how Tracy Morgan is missing.

Friends know that I am a Tracy Morgan fan like no other. I really feel like he's some sort of comedic savant, a sui generis talent like Andy Kaufman who can't easily be fit into the confines of a poorly-written six minute sketch. While SNLers like Darrel Hammond or Chris Parnell are smart, workmanlike mimics and straight men, Tracy is—quite literally—comedy: he moves comedy, he talks comedy, he thinks comedy, and while I try not contemplate the gastrointestinal goings-on of celebrities, I'm sure he shits comedy regularly.

Yes, he flubs lines. Yes, he does that annoying Brian Fellows character. (Incidentally, was Antoine "That tiger's crazy!" Yates a Fellow's fan?) But this is a guy who took the SNL role with the least juice possible (token Black guy) and grew over several seasons into a confident, hilarious central cast member. SNL has a pretty weak legacy writing characters and scenes for Black cast members (I guess those Harvard Lampoon writers on staff don't know too many African Americans), so to see someone like Tracy flaunt his considerable gifts in that lily-white context is impressive indeed.

Tracy provided the show with the very real (and very funny) frisson of race and masculinity. In a cast full of overgrown manboys like Jimmy Fallon and the mercifully-retired Chris Kattan, Tracy could be counted on to bring power and menace to his roles. Tracy was a man among a cast with nary a chest hair among them (except for Horatio Sanz, who also brings ample back hair) and because of that, he stood head and shoulders above the rest. Some might say Tracy relied too heavily on racial stereotypes for his humor (he certainly was fond of pretending to hit on white women hosts like Charlize Theron or Julia Stiles), but those who say that miss the point entirely: when Tracy entreated the "thick" NBC page to holla back, or (with Tim Meadows) played one of the most menacing Harvard-educated lawyers in the world, he was subverting and reconfiguring the racial stereotypes that have constrained Black comics from Steppin' Fetchit up through Martin Lawrence and making them mere playthings for his imagination. No stereotypes could contain Tracy; no reductive interpretation could trap him.

Sometimes when I see Tracy, I think of something Norman Mailer wrote about Muhammad Ali in The Fight:
[He] played with punches, was tender with them, laid them on as delicately as you put a postage stamp on an envelope, then cracked them in like a riding crop across your face, stuck a cruel jab like a baseball bat held head on into your mouth.

Replacing Tracy on SNL is a guy named Finesse, but no one embodies that word better than Tracy. Without him, SNL will be so much the worse. But, good news is on the horizon: Tracy is currently developing a midseason sitcom for NBC loosely-based on his own life. Here's hopping he doesn't go all soft in the middle like the once raw and deleriously funny Eddie Murphy: I don't think I could take it if Tracy starred in the sequel to Daddy Day Care.

Earler SNL thoughts on low culture

Posted by matt at 04:39 PM | Comments (0)

War on Terror, War against Terror; War of Terror

It's all going according to our master plan, sirs!

Stage 2 (or is this Stage 3? We've lost count) of the Bush Administration's expiration-date-devoid War on Terror™ is now officially underway. Thanks, Israel! You're doing those of us at Boeing and Lockheed-Martin proud!

This, by the way, per half-assed Democratic presidential candidate General Wesley Clark's recently revealed knowledge of the current administration's master plans:

"As I went back through the Pentagon in November 2001, one of the senior military staff officers had time for a chat. Yes, we were still on track for going against Iraq, he said. But there was more. This was being discussed as part of a five-year campaign plan, he said, and there were a total of seven countries, beginning with Iraq, then Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Iran, Somalia, and Sudan." Clark adds, "I left the Pentagon that afternoon deeply concerned."

Sigh. It's time to start boning up on the Lebanon Factsheet. TIP: next time, boys, please alphabetize your plan-of-attack list.

Posted by jp at 04:26 PM | Comments (0)

Many props for Arnold

First, there was that stupid broom, and now this. Will someone please elect this guy before he gets ahold of a falcon or an adorable kitten? Please. littlegirl.gif
Incidentally, here's a little Californian who clearly resents being (ab)used as a prop by a megalomaniacal Hollywood hypocrite with schnitzel breath. You can practically see her on the shrink's couch bitching about her parents in 15 years.

Posted by matt at 03:34 PM | Comments (0)

There's no such thing as a fiscally conservative social liberal. No one should ever use this term again, ever

Our Man Palast strikes gold yet again. After reports covering everything from the August 2003 blackout in the Northeastern U.S. power grid, to the November 2000 "black"out of the Southeastern U.S. voter rolls, Greg Palast now documents the insidious effort by several power utility companies to work around a $9 billion recompensation plan due the State of California after all the 2000-era state energy crises, paying particular attention to gubernatorial candidate Arnold Schwarzenegger's involvement in this malarkey.

You say you owe us one dollar? Let's help you out, here -- why not pay back one cent instead, after ensuring that your Republican candidate gets elected to manage the world's fifth-largest economy? Wait a second, that makes this scale much larger: you owe nine billion dollars? Pay back nine billion cents! All's fair in politics!

"But we're running a deficit!", you say. Well, we can cut state social programs, because there's no way we're taking money from the utility companies! Let's deregulate!

Bah, humbug.

Posted by jp at 01:46 PM | Comments (0)

Save us all, forgive us our Access Hollywood sins

It's more than likely that this is, by now, a familiar image to Los Angeles-area residents and commuters, which can only be a good thing, given the circumstances. If Andre the Giant has a posse, why can't Arnold the Bodybuilder have a budget deficit to call his own? (By "Arnold the Bodybuilder," I mean "Pete Wilson 2: The Sequel," and most definitely not "Cruz the Bustamante".)

Posted by jp at 11:53 AM | Comments (0)

Finally, they nail it

I've been waiting for Gil Cunha and Ben Fritz, the writers behind the Hollywood satire site Dateline Hollywood to hit their stride, and I'm happy to report that this week, they did.
Dateline Hollywood
Previous entries on Dateline Hollywood on low culture

Posted by matt at 09:55 AM | Comments (0)

Where have you gone, tony lane?

denby2.jpgI'm sure my less blog-ative partner will object to my categorizing this entry as grave, but in my world, this is just about the worst thing possible. The editors of The New Yorker somehow saw fit to assign David Denby to review Kill Bill—Volume 1. Why, why, why?
I don't even trust Denby's take on The Fighting Temptations, so why would I want to read him on the one film I'm waiting for like the Lubavitch community awaits the Moshiach?

I have a friend, James, who once told me that every week when he gets his New Yorker he flips to "The Current Cinema" and if he sees it's a Denby week and not an Anthony Lane week he gets depressed. James, I'm sorry to tell you, this is gonna be a bad week.

Posted by matt at 09:27 AM | Comments (0)

(Almost) One Meeeeee-llion dollars!

06WOLF.cover.gifBuried after the jump in David Carr's piece on the Michael Wolff's quixotic bid for New York Magazine is this amazing fact: Although Mr. Wolff, 50, makes more than $450,000 as a columnist for the magazine and received an advance of more than $500,000 for a book, 'Autumn of the Moguls' (HarperCollins), he does not have the $50 million or so it will take to walk away with the weekly magazine franchise—which made all of $1.5 million lasy year, according to executives at Primedia, the magazine's owner.
Okay, I take it back: two amazing facts. First, Wolff makes a shit load of money (enough, practically, to double New York's profits). But what's with Carr's vagueness? What does "more than $450,000" mean? Does he get merit bonuses for being linked from Romenesko? And then, there's that advance of "more than $500,000." Why can't we get an exact figure on that?
I'm too polite to even comment on New York's anorexic profit margin, but needless to say, it sort of re-combines and inverts the old maxim that you can never be too rich or too thin.
Before sipping the Primedia Kool-Aid, Elizabeth Spiers hilariously described Wolff as looking like Mike Myers as Dr. Evil at
Previous Wolff entries on low culture.

Posted by matt at 09:09 AM | Comments (0)

Do you like me-like me? If yes, check 'y'; if no, check 'n'; if maybe, check 'm'

ExposedDurst.jpgFurther proof that Hollywood is high school with money: Limp frontman Fred Durst wooed Halle Berry with a totally personalized mix tape! Well, a mix iPod (I hope he downloaded all those MP3s legally!). According to GQ (here quoted by Page Six), the iPod contained such heart string tuggers as "True Colors" by Cindi ("I saw her in concert when I was 8") Lauper and "Night and Day" by Al Be Sure! (note to Post copy editors—you have copy editors, right?—this is how Al spells his name, not 'Al B. Sure.')
Wow! Can Durst be any more of a tool? I mean, does he actually think that could work? What? It did? Fuck.

Posted by matt at 08:34 AM | Comments (0)

Animal husbandry tips from Life of Pi

pi.jpgMore information continues to be released about Antoine Yates and his 400lb Bengal tiger in Harlem. (For a great round-up of coverage, swing by Gothamist where Jen Chung does all the heavy summarizing.)

The story of a tiger in a tiny New York apartment reminded me of Yann Martel's Man Booker Award winning Life of Pi. Here's a bit of practical tiger advice from Pi Patel, a teenage boy trapped on a life raft with a tiger named Richard Parker:
What you don't realize is that we are a strange and forbidding species to wild animals. We fill them with fear. They avoid us as much as possible. It took centuries to still the fear in some pliable animals—domestication it's called—but most cannot get over their fear, and I doubt they ever will. When wild animals fight us, it is out of sheer desperation. They fight us when they feel they have no other way out out. It's a very last resort.
[Buy Life of Pi at]

Posted by matt at 08:16 AM | Comments (0)

October 05, 2003

At least twice as much urine as other New York apartments

On Friday night, the police found no one home, but talked to a neighbor who complained of large amounts of urine and a strong smell coming through the ceiling. - Alan Feuer and Jason George, "Police Subdue a Tiger in Harlem Apartment"

Posted by matt at 07:07 PM | Comments (0)

Dean places tomatoes, bread at bottom of bag: canned fruit, milk on top

deanbag.gifThis just in: Howard Dean leaves Presidential run to work for Klinger's, a Burlington area supermarket. Reports indicate the former state Governor did not ask customers their bag preference and neglected to place a bottle of bleach in a separate plastic bag to avoid risk of poisoning. At press time, Dr. Dean was unavailable for comment as he was mopping up baby vomit in aisle three.

Posted by matt at 07:02 PM | Comments (0)

O, Arnold Why art thou?

arnoldbroom.gifRipping a page out of the Coen brothers' canon, Arnold Schwarzenegger made an appearance this weekend brandishing a broom and promising sweep Gray Davis out of office.

Not bad, but where's his "little man"? To wit, here's Candidate Homer Stokes speechifyin' in O, Brother Where Art Thou?

And I say to you that the great state
a Mississippi cannot afford four more
years a Pappy O'Daniel - four more
years a cronyism, nepotism, rascalism
and service to the Innarests! The
choice, she's a clear 'un: Pappy
O'Daniel, slave a the Innarests; Homer
Stokes, servant a the little man! Ain't
that right, little fella?

The midget enthusiastically seconds:

He ain't lyin'!

When the litle man says jump, Homer
Stokes says how high? And, ladies'n
jettymens, the little man has
admonished me to grasp the broom a
ree-form and sweep this state clean!

[Script via Script-o-Rama]

Posted by matt at 06:29 PM | Comments (0)

October 03, 2003

Sometimes I'm glad I don't have a job

The Antic Muse takes one for the team and sits through an agonizing meeting full of corporate double (and triple?) speak.
Question: Have the speakers been frozen in ice since 1999, or are they like those Japanese soldiers who refused to surrender after WWII?

Posted by matt at 11:55 AM | Comments (0)

Bad headline badly exposes newspaper's overall badness

As noted earlier, I'm a bit fixated on insensitive/unimaginative headlines for The Station Agent and its star Peter Dinklage. Entering the fray yet again is The New York Post with the worst headline I've seen since the days of my high school newspaper, The Southerner.


Posted by matt at 10:47 AM | Comments (0)

Hitler could also bench-press 240

arnold16thumb.jpgI admired Hitler, for instance, because he came from being a little man with almost no formal education up to power. And I admire him for being such a good public speaker. - Future Governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger quoted in a book proposal by George Butler

Posted by matt at 10:20 AM | Comments (1)


0326p7.jpgYet another reason for single New York women to feel embittered:

Political prisoner Lori Berenson got married from her jail cell in Peru and it got written up by The New York Times. According to Reuters: "The groom, Aníbal Apari, a 40-year-old law student recently freed on parole after serving 12 1/2 years of a 15-year sentence as a member of the Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement." A law student, even! Some girls have all the luck.
The happy couple are registered at Cell, Block & Beyond.

(Sorry, Daniel. It was just so easy.)

Posted by matt at 10:00 AM | Comments (1)

October 02, 2003

Must be a cat person

dog.jpgFormerly hard-hitting, Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Jimmy Breslin once again takes on one of the most important issues... well, ever: why he hates dogs:
"[W]e know that dogs walked by their hideous owners on city streets are repugnant. They turn the place where you walk into an outdoor bathroom. They should be curbed, which means they could be out there among the buses. That is no loss as dogs have no souls."- "Those Bad Dogs," Newsday, Sept. 21, 2003

Breslin fans may remember he said something similar earlier this year:
"Out on the streets of the city there is the revolting sight of people walking along with their dogs and then bending and picking up after them. They humiliate themselves in public, and I cannot understand why a person, having done this, can walk with his head up and even look you in the eye if he catches you staring...On the same sidewalk, a woman dressed for the business day was bent down and picking up after a dog so small that he deserved to be crushed and the woman, after making such a sight of herself, should have been shunned."-As quoted by Gawker
It should be noted that Mr. Breslin has had extensive surgery to his brain in the last decade, as if you couldn't tell.

Posted by matt at 06:22 PM | Comments (0)

The most fun people at any party

The NY Times revealed that the U.S. military has been practicing the craft of shooting down airborne civilian flights, should that ever become necessary, in case, well, you know.

Included is this one line, which seemed a bit more casual than perhaps it ought to have been:

"[The general] said pilots and ground controllers were screened to make sure they would not refuse an order to shoot down a suspicious airliner packed with civilians..."

Yikes. Just imagine how callous and, well, military-esque these people who made it through the selection process must be.

Posted by jp at 04:05 PM | Comments (0)

Comodify your spin

Further proof that all DJs are losers. Tasting the Foie Gras, Listening to the Jam, by Glenn Collins

Posted by matt at 10:24 AM | Comments (0)

keep it to yourself

jennifer_garner_elektra3.jpgI fantasize about being married to Jennifer Garner, too, but I don't tell The New York Friggin' Times:
"Mr. Wilson proudly showed off photographs of Ms. Plame, calling her a real-life Jennifer Garner, the actress who plays a spy on 'Alias' on ABC-TV and whom the C.I.A. has enlisted as a spokeswoman to appeal to recruits."
Life imitates art which is also imitating life. Is the whole world a big Charlie Kaufman film?

Posted by matt at 10:01 AM | Comments (0)

You better work!

I blame Rupaul:

"As soon as they arrived in Anshan, however, the problems began. They were asked to sign a contract that offered monthly pay far below the advertised level, initially just $24, minus a $13 charge for room and board. Bonuses were promised, but only for those who produced eyelashes above quotas." - Chinese Girls' Toil Brings Pain, Not Riches by Joseph Kahn

Posted by matt at 09:52 AM | Comments (0)

Just ignore them and they'll go away

coupling.gifCoupling once again temporarily fills the 9:30 PM timeslot tonight on NBC. This is like one of those nightmares where you wake up only to find you're still in the nightmare. Memo to Zucker: Super-size Friends and Will & Grace and drop this thing before we lose more of the world's esteem.

Posted by matt at 08:31 AM | Comments (0)

Going a long way to say something simple

georgewill.jpgGeorge Will shows off some unsurprisingly corny pop culture knowledge (what does Maureen Dowd think?) by wasting his opening paragraph with a drawn-out references to Witness. Are we to believe that Witness is the only way Will can discuss integrity? Why not The Indiana Jones Trilogy?
George Will, film buff and closet Harrison Ford fan. Who knew? I guess now we know posted all those Hollywood Homicide raves on Ain't It Cool News.

Posted by matt at 08:09 AM | Comments (0)

October 01, 2003

Unintentional porno name in the news

Knut Royce.
Huh, huh, huh. I said "nut."

Posted by matt at 07:50 PM | Comments (0)

Today's gratuitous laugh at Hollywood people

From this week's New York Observer: "People out here [Los Angeles], they really don’t know anything about the military unless they were in it. Before, if someone thought, ‘Hey, isn’t that guy’s dad the head of NATO?’, they’d think it was the North American Theaters Association." - Screenwriter and possible Presidential son Wesley Clark, Jr. quoted by Lizzy Ratner

Posted by matt at 04:18 PM | Comments (0)

So, what you're saying is, the guy isn't so tall?

stationagent.jpgIt’s a truism that you can tell everything you need to know about a publication from its choice of headlines and sub-heads. (What? It’s not a truism? It is now.) With that in mind, let’s look at a couple of magazines' and newspapers' coverage of the same thing, namely, actor Peter Dinklage and his breakout role in The Station Agent.

"He's taken small roles to great heights -- and now with Sundance fave The Station Agent, this up-and-coming actor is livin' large"
Does your magazine like to use multiple, overlapping puns in their subheads that signal irreverence and a willingness to make nice to celebrities and their handlers? Hello, Entertainment Weekly! (requires subscription)

Does your newspaper pride itself on looking out for the underdog yet have an unhealthy affinity for crass humor? Greetings, New York Post!

Did your magazine agonize over whether to make a pun about your subject’s size and then decide to do it anyway? The New Yorker, you rock!

Actor Peter Dinklage lives large
Is your publication Canadian and therefore exempt from coming up with anything even remotely clever? Oh,!

Posted by matt at 02:53 PM | Comments (0)

Scariest Empty threat since "Wanted dead or alive"

"[I]f there is a leak out of my administration, I want to know who it is. And if the person has violated the law, the person will be taken care of.

Quiz time: George W. Bush or Tony Soprano?

Posted by matt at 09:48 AM | Comments (0)

Best fact-checker dodge of the week

"Still, the awkwardness passes, and the sight of Joe wandering cheerfully into the shot, munching a bowl of cornflakes, or whatever, and hailing the baffled husband without concern, is my favorite encounter in the movie."- Anthony Lane, The Current Cinema October 6, 2003

Posted by matt at 09:38 AM | Comments (0)