January 30, 2004

Present: Accomplished

The Boyz In Their Hoodz

Yes, he got a cake. A very, very nice one, too. But what about the prezzies for the Vice Prezie? What do you buy the man who has everything (including a democratic Iraq and a soon-to-be shrunken deficit)? How do you buy a present for a man who has given us all so very much?

We here at low culture agonized for weeks over what to give Vice President Dick Cheney for his birthday today.

It was hard, but we finally figured it out (with a little inspiration from someone who's full of great ideas). We also got one for his bestest buddy, too!

Happy Birthday, Dick, wherever you are!

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Smile, Birthday Boy!


Turn that frown upside down, Mr. Vice-President! You're 63 years young today!

When you're done with the cake, please pick up your gifts from David Kay, Paul O'Neill, and the Republican party at the White House gates.

(Thanks, Janelle.)

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Fan Letter: Owen Wilson

Did Eli just say he was on mescaline? "I did indeed. Very much so."

Our long, cold, Owen Wilson-less winter has finally ended: today, Owen hits the screen with The Big Bounce. Reviews indicate that the film is pretty lame, but everyone speaks highly of Owen, so that's one reason to see it.

A remake of the 1969 Elmore Leonard-adapted piffle starring Ryan O'Neal, The Big Bounce boasts the sort of checkered parentage that births so many films these days. Directed by George Armitage, who started his career writing Gas-s-s, a druggy dollop of dreck for Roger Corman, but who's gone on to direct some great, dark comedies like Miami Blues (which he adapted for the screen) and Grosse Pointe Blank, one of the best comedies of the 90s. (Miami Blues and Grosse Pointe Blank are both "daytime noirs": mostly brightly lit comedies about conflicted, charismatic psychos.)

Big Bounce's other daddy is billionaire Hollywood hanger-on Steve Bing, who most recently wrote and produced the "slightly-better-than-a-stick-in-the-eye" comedy Kangaroo Jack, starring a rapping, CGI-'roo and the fat kid from Stand by Me. As embarrassing as Kangaroo Jack is, Bing's highest profile, biggest budget production so far has been Elizabeth Hurley's bastard child, Damian.

But forget all that: If we're gonna see Big Bounce, we're gonna see it for Owen. The Wonderful Wilson boys get a lot of press and love from fans: The ladies love Luke, the freaks sweat Andrew "Futureman", but everyone's gotta admit, Owen is the genius of the family.

With partner Wes Anderson, Owen cowrote Bottle Rocket, and played Dignan, a character with one of the best names in recent movie history. After that, he cowrote Rushmore and made a cameo (in a photograph) as Edward Applebee, the semi-legendary deceased free spirit who looms over the entire absurd, wistful love triangle at the center of the film.

Then came The Royal Tenenbaums, which he cowrote and starred in as Eli Cash, a Dickensian-named novelist/mountebank who loved Gwyneth Paltrow's Margot Tenenbaum almost as much as he loved mescaline. Here's an excerpt from Eli's hilariously tedious, self-important, Cormac McCarthy-style novel Old Custer ("everyone knows Custer died at Little Bighorn. What this book presupposes is...maybe he didn't?"):

The crickets and the rust-beetles scuttled among the nettles of the sage thicket. "Vamanos, amigos," he whispered, and threw the busted leather flintcraw over the loose weave of the saddlecock. And they rode on in the friscalating dusklight.

In addition to the good work with Anderson, Owen killed as the philosophical space cadet supermodel Hansel in Zoolander. Hansel's good-natured self-absorption and phony spiritual yearning were the ultimate parody of Hollywood vanity: "Do I know what product I'm selling? No. Do I know what I'm doing today? No. But I'm here, and I'm gonna give it my best shot," he tells an interviewer at one point. That sounds a lot like Bob Harris's (Bill Murray) interactions with his Japanese handlers in Lost in Translation, only more upbeat.

When other actors are called upon to do parodies of "stars", they often curdle their own self-loathing into nasty, unsympathetic characters (hello, entire cast of The Anniversary Party), but Owen shows us that narcissism and niceness aren't entirely mutually exclusive. (Owen's dream role: Bill Clinton, the early years. Maybe Hurley-inseminater/producer/confirmed F.O.B., Steve Bing can hook that up.)

Owen toned down his natural charisma and went serious as the nicest serial killer you could ever hope to meet in The Minus Man, and he was excellent as the ex-fiance from heaven, Kevin in Meet the Parents. Kevin was another gentle parody of vanity, this time the vanity of new money: "I'd love to find time to do some volunteer work. Just the other day I saw a golden retriever, he had like a gimp, ya know I just wish I could have done something" he says with a completely straight face. (Kevin's description of his state of the art kitchen is exactly the sort of banal, consumerist house pride Edward Norton's 'Narrator' raged against in Fight Club or that Rob Walker critiques week in and week out in his The New York Times Magazine column 'Consumed'.)

Owen's relaxed, slightly stoned delivery and un-showy improvisations make him a natural foil to overcooked hams like Jackie Chan, Eddie Murphy, and (I hate to say it, but it's sometimes true) Ben Stiller. Owen always reminds me of a grown-up, more relaxed "Groovin' Gary" from Trent Harris's Beaver Trilogy, an eager-to-please goofball with an infectious grin. ("Groovin' Gary" clip here).

What Owen radiates, more than anything, is the fun he's having while making movies: Big Bounce was shot in Hawaii, Owen learned to surf: how much fun was that? Look at the guy's face, and you'll see.

He'll next be seen in Starsky & Hutch opposite Ben Stiller in theaters March 5th. Wes Anderson's The Life Aquatic (starring Owen, but cowritten this time by Brooklyn's own Noah Baumbach) can't come out soon enough. The Wendell Baker Story, which he cowrote with brother Luke (who co-directed with brother Andrew) should be coming out sometime this year.

Skip The Big Bounce (Steve Bing has enough money, thank you very much) and rent the Criterion Collection DVD of The Royal Tenenbaums tonight.

Previous, embarrassingly gushy fan letters from low culture: Tracy Morgan

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January 29, 2004

"World Champions Sexy"

"Unbelievable Sexy!" Quicktime required

From the warped minds of Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim comes the next European reality TV show to be optioned by Mark Burnett. Or maybe not. "Taste your own lips—you be the judge!"

When these guys are famous, you'll say you linked to them when...

Sidebar: Other Tim & Eric movies.

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A Real Live "Rapper": Yours for only $129.99

"Oh my god! You bought me a rap singer!"

Another day, another Post assault on hip hop:

"The Post accompanied Dizzy on a mission to deliver a birthday greeting to Michelle Burkholder, a 26-year-old assistant shoe buyer for Saks.

"'We always do special things for each other's birthdays,' said Stefanie Rogers, who'd hired Dizzy. 'And this seemed like something totally different.'

"On arriving at Michelle's office, Dizzy took off his jacket to reveal a huge silver crucifix, then launched into his rap:

"This one goes out to Michelle Burkholder/ Back in Minnesota / Her momma used to scold her/ Now look where you're at/ You're a shoe buyer for Saks! . . .

"And you look good Boo/ Sportin' your Jimmy Choo shoes/ No one can do it quite like you do/ In them 7 jeans/ Struttin' it up/ Flash a bling-bling/ Start shakin' your stuff."
"'It was so funny,' Burkholder said. 'I kind of knew something was going to happen, but I had no idea it was going to be that.'"
For Diss & Dat
(yes, that's the real headline), by Tom Sykes, The New York Post, Jan. 29, 2004

Buy your own hilarious rapper here: Rap-a-gram. (Available in "Pimp" and "Thug" models, as well!)

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January 28, 2004

Insert your own Public Enemy Title Here

"The story, so far, of the Democratic primary is: Don't believe the hype."
—John Podhoretz, The Media Lose, The New York Post, Jan. 28, 2004

"Here's a letter to the New York Post
The worst piece of paper on the east coast
Matter of fact the whole state's forty cents
in New York City fifty cents elsewhere
It makes no goddamn sense at all
America's oldest continuously published daily piece of bullshit
Here's a letter to the New York Post
Ain't worth the paper it's printed on
Founded in 1801 by Alexander Hamilton
That is 190 years continuous of fucked up news"
—Public Enemy, "A Letter to the New York Post

Sidebar: I left out the headline, because I couldn't decide between the following:
John Podhoretz: House of the Rising Son
John Podhoretz: Sophisticated Bitch
John Podhoretz: You're Gonna Get Yours
John Podhoretz: Lost at Birth
John Podhoretz: Godd Complexx
John Podhoretz: Public Enemy no. 1

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January 27, 2004

A Fool and His Money

"He broke the law by a multiple of forty."
— Lowell Finley, on Governor Schwarzenegger's $4.5 million campaign loan. (Schwarzenegger Calif. Campaign Loans Ruled Illegal)

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Lorne Michaels' New Hampshire

dean-hardball.jpgWhen Howard Dean appeared on "Hardball with Chris Matthews" last night alongside his wife, Judith Steinberg Dean, it seemed as though Matthews might very well have had Saturday Night Live's Darrell Hammond serving as guest-host, judging by the frenetic tenor of the segment's questions. There's no way that questions this shallow could otherwise be accepted as having been asked on a so-called legitimate news program (For what it's worth, neither Bill O'Reilly nor Larry King host legitimate news shows, at least by the time-tested standards of lobbying softballs to sympathetic guests. This is, after all, "Hardball").

While it may be argued that when one interviews a presidential candidate alongside a potential future First Lady–a la Diane Sawyer's similar session with Mr. and Mrs. Dean the other night on ABC–the questions should be more lighthearted and whimsical, this hasn't been the practice (again, check out the transcripts of the Deans' appearance on "PrimeTime Live").

Some highlights of the appearance, in the "so absurd, this borders on Hammond-esque hilarity" category:


DEMOCRATIC CANDIDATE HOWARD DEAN: I don’t know. I say what I think, is that a maverick? I guess I am.

MATTHEWS: (to Judith Steinberg Dean) What’s it like being married to a maverick? Because he is one.

Her response is rendered irrelevant, because you can already picture Matthews' piercing visage seeking out her answer. After her demurring response, Matthews keeps up the absurdly base line of questions. You'd almost think he were interviewing George and Laura Bush with lines like these:

MATTHEWS: Do you ever say to him, “Why are you so gutsy? Why don’t you just go with the crowd on some of these things?”

STEINBERG DEAN: Absolutely not. He is who he is, he’s really really honest, you call it gutsy, I call it honest. I just think he says what he thinks.

MATTHEWS: Do you ever feel like your husband is being treated like a transfer student by the establishment? Like when you go to a new high school and everyone says “who’s this kid?”

STEINBERG DEAN: I think he is a bit of an outsider, but I think he’s very smart and people will hear what he has to say.

MATTHEWS: Do you ever say to him when you go to bed at night, “You should really cool it on that one?”


DEAN: She’s being modest, the answer is yes.

Governor Dean does get in one gentle swipe at the First-Lady-as-delicate-wallflower image, however:

MATTHEWS: The President runs the West Wing, which is the business of government, and the First Spouse runs the state dinners, travel with foreign dignitaries... a lot of business, the First Lady has a big staff. Are you open to playing that role? Are you happy about it?

DEAN STEINBERG: We haven’t really spoken specifically about what role I’d play, but I’d certainly have to do some of the ceremonial duties and I think I’d probably get a lot of help with the business.

MATTHEWS: You have to decide things like whether they have dinner outside with a bigger tent, or in the East room...

DEAN: No, she doesn’t have to decide that stuff. She has to show up, but she’s going to be practicing medicine most of the time. She is going to do some state dinners, but there are people you pay to do that stuff. You know, social hostesses and all that.

Here's hoping this "invisible wife" motif works as a nice, centrist compromise between the past models of Hillary "vast, right-wing conspiracy" Clinton and Laura "I have no right brain, nor left brain" Bush.

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January 26, 2004

It's funny because it's true!

Ahhh, 'tis January in an election year– and such a time of great merriment in our nation's capital! Or so one might think after taking note of various politicos' comments this weekend at Saturday's Alfalfa Club dinner, an annual event at which so-called Washington insiders customarily crack wise about various Capitol Hill goings-on. What follows are some samples of this year's notable jokes.

President Bush on Howard Dean:

"Boy, that speech in Iowa was something else," Bush said, referring to Howard Dean's field holler after placing third in the caucuses Monday. "Talk about shock and awe. Saddam Hussein felt so bad for Governor Dean that he offered him his hole."

President Bush on John Kerry:

"Then we have Senator Kerry. I think Kerry's position on the war in Iraq is politically brilliant. In New Hampshire yesterday, he stated he had voted for the war, adding that he was strongly opposed to it."

Vernon Jordan, President Clinton's former right-hand man, on President Bush:

"Mr. President, I feel like I'm at one of your Cabinet meetings -- a blind man in a room full of deaf people. . . . let me take a moment, regardless of whether we are Christian, Jew or Muslim, and thank the Almighty, the one who controls our destiny as a nation -- Karl Rove."

Ok, we get it. Much like the annual speeches at the White House Correspondents' Dinner, the Alfalfa Club event is an opportunity to gently poke fun at national issues and figures. Both on and off the record, if you will.

Previous dinners, however, have featured a heavy dosage of self-reflexive humor, typified by a few of President Clinton's choice snippets of years past:

Clinton on Clinton, 1997:

"We must find common ground. We are going to build that bridge to the 21st century -- yadda, yadda, yadda."

Clinton on Clinton, 2000:

''A year from now, I'll have to watch someone else give this speech. And I will feel an onset of that rare affliction, unique to former presidents. AGDD: Attention-Getting Deficit Disorder.''

As far as the present administration is concerned, the only snippets of self-reflection I could find in this weekend's public comments came courtesy of the notoriously reclusive Vice President Dick Cheney:

"Am I the evil genius in the corner that nobody ever sees come out of his hole?" he added. "It's a nice way to operate, actually."

Except these weren't jocular comments presented at the Alfalfa Club dinner, but rather, remarks made to the press after Cheney's appearance at the World Economic Forum annual meeting in Davos. Ha!

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The Daily Grinding Show

Miller, soon to grace the cover of VICE?

Finally! Tonight's the night that the soulless pod person formerly known as Dennis Miller premieres with his new CNBC show and I couldn't be more ambivalent about it. Part of me wants to see if this shaggy dog still has some bite, another part of me wants to see him put-down.

Miller was the ur-eighties hep cat comedian when I was growing up. His intelligent, wildly-associative riffs (or "rants," as he came to call them) were oases of wit in a televisual landscape dotted with bad prop comics and even worse observational comedians standing in front of the exposed brick walls—firing squad style—of two-drink minimum comedy shitholes across the country.

While I'd like to believe that Miller was once a lefty, I know that's not true. His politics, like his famously unruly hair, was all over the place. I recently caught Miller on an old episode of Late Night with David Letterman on Trio (which rebroadcasts Letterman's juvenilia as "Classic Dave" every weeknight at 10PM EST) which disabused me of any fantasy that he was once a liberal. Dressed in a wide-shouldered black and gray checked jacket over a black button down (yes, I Love the Eighties), Miller went on a mini-rant about the Ayatollah Khomeini, replete with stereotypical "Indian" accent. (Hey, old Dennis: Khomeini was from Iran, where they have an entirely different accent you can mock for a cheap laugh.)

But what Miller had back then—despite difficulty pinning-down his exact politics—was an anti-authority attitude, an anger at the elites that dominated the eighties from Reagan to Boesky to Milken. Miller's pre-9/11 outlook can be charitably described as anti-authoritarian/libertarian, but we all know that that's changed. (For a better analysis of Miller's conversion, check out Rick Chandler's Miller's Crossing over at The Black Table.)

Since Miller has jumped—swooned, actually—into bed with the G.O.P., he's morphed into something like Lenny Bruce in reverse. Think about it: where Bruce shredded pieties and tore-down the hypocrisies of the 50s and early 60s, the new and improved Miller defends the status quo, and uses his comedic platform to bolster those in power. Forget speaking truth to power: Miller whispers sweet nothings in power's ear and even writes jokes to come out its mouth from time to time. The shaggy mutt with the wily look in his eyes and the occasional fangs has become a lapdog, happy to roll over and have his tummy rubbed by the President.

Dennis Miller premieres tonight at 9PM EST on CNBC.

Sidebar: If you're thinking CNBC is the network day traders watch between killing sprees, you're wrong. It's now the home of several comedy shows (intentional and otherwise) hosted by has-beens. Some dead drunk may have once said that there are no second acts in American life, but there are, and they're on CNBC. How long 'till this guy has his own entertainment and politics show and tosses softballs to his cousin on-air?

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January 23, 2004

Punky Poopster

From A Man With a Past Best Forgotten Goes to All Lengths to Remember by Dave Kehr:

"The complicated plotting [of The Butterfly Effect] soon spins wildly out of the control of the filmmakers (their last credit: Final Destination 2) and begins producing unintentional laughs, as when Evan wakes up to find himself the newest and prettiest resident of a prison full of predatory neo-Nazi homosexuals."

Also known as "Dan Savage's favorite scene."

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Unintentionally Hilarious Photo of the Moment, vol. 14

Political bedfellows, President Bush and Pete Domenici demonstrate their defense of marriage

[Thanks Janelle & Chloe]

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C'mon, stop jerkin' him around

CharlizeNYer.jpgGod, does it ever suck to be American Sucker, David Denby right now.

Not only is every blogger worth their RSS Feed making fun of his Web surfing habits, and reviewers are giddily slamming his book all over town.

Now even his own employers are mocking him.

How else to explain the placement of this image of the uncharacteristically nekkid [link not safe for work!] South African siren Charlize Theron along with his review of Monster?

Can't you just see some mean coworkers tearing out this photo, dabbing it with rubber cement, and leaving it near his desk? New Yorkers can be so cruel.

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Unintentionally Insulting Photo of the Moment, vol. 1


Ha ha! It's so funny when politicians pretend to have jobs.

Sidebar: Keep your eyes open for Dennis Miller to riff on this photo when his show premieres on Monday. ("Welsey Clark dropped out of the campaign Thursday and returned to his day job..." "General Wesley Clark attempts to skirt the McCain-Feingold regulations with a soft money donation... Hey, I'm still relevant, cha-chi! Did I tell you I starred in Tales from the Crypt: Bordello of Blood? Helllo? Little help. Anyone?")

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Catamite Aphrodite?

Michael Jackson to contribute to the soundtrack?

Title: The Manny
Log Line: A young boy masters the art of ridding himself of nanny supervision through a myriad of devilish schemes. He meets his match when a well intentioned and seemingly disaster proof male nanny proves harder to get rid of than any he has had before.
Writer: David Berenbaum
Agent: William Morris Agency
Buyer: Paramount Pictures
Price: n/a
Genre: Comedy
Logged: 1/22/04
More: Guy Walks Into a Bar's Jon Berg and Todd Komarnicki will produce. Kira Goldberg will co-produce.
[From today's Done Deal]

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January 22, 2004

I know we don't

PLUS: Who the fuck is Jennifer Lopez?

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A Very Short History of Extremely Tall Things

Elmo, 2004.... Liz Taylor and Richard Burton, 1963

The End.

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The "Unelectable" Impasse


Three days ago, Sen. John Kerry's frontrunner-then-nobody-then-frontrunner campaign for the presidency "upset" the powerful lead that former Vermont governor Howard Dean had built up in the race for the Democratic candidacy in 2004. Pundits were startled, and the centrist DLC breathed a sigh of relief. Buried somewhere within this larger story was the surprise candidacy of boyish John Edwards.

And then, of course, there were the candidates' post-caucus speeches. While everyone has been spewing snark about Dean's James Brown imitation, even setting his "mad rantings" to outdated mid-to-late-1990s dance beats, few people have been commenting on Kerry's oh-so-tepid, and oh-so-centrist, victory speech. As far as I can tell, there were no illicit MP3s circulating that featured Kerry droning on about special interests over a score by Philip Glass.

With that in mind, it might be good to gain a sense of perspective here, a few days after the fact.

Today, before New Hampshire's primary next week, Kerry is "up" in the state's polls, which can realistically be attributed to both his home state's geographic proximity and, more significantly, to the jokes and ridicule leveled against Dean, his closest competitor in that state up to this point, both in terms of polling and geography.

Is this really a good thing for Democrats of any stripe? Take another look at the candidates' Monday-night speeches. Reconsider how passionless Kerry appeared onstage, on this, what should have been the most inspiring night of his decades-long political career. It was, instead, like watching Gore sighing in the October 2000 debates. Dead. Lifeless. Unwatchable.

Contrast Kerry's discussion with Charlie Rose, I mean, his victory speech, with Dean's energy and enthusiasm just a few minutes prior:

"Not only are we going to New Hampshire ... we're going to South Carolina and Oklahoma and Arizona and North Dakota and New Mexico," Dean said with his voice rising. "We're going to California and Texas and New York. We're going to South Dakota and Oregon and Washington and Michigan. Then we're going to Washington D.C. to take back the White House."

Then, of course, to the delight of humorists everywhere, these lines culminated in the release of an animalistic "yowl" of sorts. But, dammit, was it not inspiring? Monday night was the first time in maybe two years or more of watching his candidacy that I genuinely felt a connection with the man's drive to win. This, incidentally, comes from someone who has long been decrying the manner in which Dean has been presenting himself for the past few months. You know, "angry", "off the cuff", "red-faced", and most damningly, "unelectable".

But who's kidding whom here? With Kerry at the helm of the Democratic Party in 2004, defeat is just as inevitable as it would be with Dean spearheading the race for the presidency. You'll recall how close the 2000 election was, and that was back when incumbent Vice-President Al Gore was riding the wave of years of success and surplus, while Bush merely had the "uniter, not a divider" outsider approach going for him, however inaccurate either of those synopses may have been in reality. And Gore was supposedly a Southern Democrat, to boot.

In terms of policies alone, Kerry (and, for that matter, the plug-and-play John Edwards) is effectively Howard Dean in a different package. Centrist, politically moderate, but with far less attitude, and far less of a genuine public short, far less personality. Oh, and Kerry is a former military man.

But for all practical purposes, they're both unelectable this fall. Four years ago, when a cowboy from Texas-by-way-of-Connecticut spent time on his campaign belligerently avoiding questions, sneering, calling reporters assholes, and fending off drinking-and-driving charges––but nonetheless managed to just about legitimately win the election––it might make sense to reconsider Dean's "unelectable" "anger". What is anger, if not passion? John "Monotone" Kerry comes off as more robotic than Gore did in 2000, if that's possible. And perhaps that's why he was polling so poorly for months on end, until an endless series of attacks on Dean's anger and unelectability derailed a clean win in Iowa Monday night.

Seen through this light, Howard Dean can still win this thing, both next week, this spring, and in the fall. Just ask Karl Rove: media and personality decide elections in the 21st century, not experience, not policies, not ideology.

Put it this way: they're effectively the same candidates, despite what the media or the DLC might have you believe, except one guy's got an almost Clintonian passion for getting elected, while the other embarrassed himself––and the entire Democratic party––by awkwardly riding a souped-up motorcycle onto the set of The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. The guy even wore a helmet obscuring his face, which, while certainly promoting responsible vehicular safety policies, nonetheless obscured his face.

Joe Trippi, David Letterman, or John Stewart would never have allowed that shit.

And if worse comes to worse, and we're going to lose this fall, let's lose with principled pride, at least. Go Kucinich!

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Parsley, Sage, Rosemary, and Weed

artgarfunkel.jpgArt Garfunkel arrested on marijuana charge

HURLEY, N.Y.—Art Garfunkel, part of the folk music duo Simon and Garfunkel, was charged with marijuana possession after police pulled his limousine over for speeding in upstate New York.

Garfunkel, 62, had a small amount of marijuana in his jacket pocket when a state trooper stopped the limo Saturday afternoon in Hurley, 55 miles southwest of Albany, the Daily Freeman of Kingston reported.

The trooper smelled marijuana after approaching the vehicle, in which Garfunkel was the lone passenger.

He was just smoking back-up for Paul Simon.

None of this would've happened had he just forsaken that damn limo and kept on walking .

Related: No one ever mentions that Art Garfunkel did some pretty good acting work. He was great in Carnal Knowledge as the winsome Sandy against Jack Nicholson's fulsome John and he was decent as Nately in Catch-22.

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January 21, 2004

Article Most Likely to be found via Google very late one night soon

Michelangelo Signorile brings the gay fire and brimstone down on Veep daughter Mary Cheney in this week's New York Press. Calling Mary out for not speaking out against her father's (and his proxy, the President's) retrosexual anti-gay politics, Signorile turns in this phrase, which is sure to set off all sorts Google hits for The Press (and, regrettably, for us):

"So let’s get to the point: What the hell happened to you? Are you just another spoiled rich brat—the lesbian Paris Hilton—worried about getting a chunk of those 30 million Halliburton bucks should Dad’s heart conk out?"

Maybe those intrepid surfers who find the article quite by accident (Hello, Mr. Denby!) will put their hands to better use and write a letter to their Congressman or woman against this proposal.

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Pee-Wee Presents... Clones

cover_feb04.jpgHow psyched was I that Paper Magazine decided to buck newsstand trends and go with a coverboy who's not only not promoting some new piece of shit project, but who also has the distinction of being so uncool he's positively cool?

It's heartening in this day and age of publicist-driven entertainment coverage to see a magazine stick its collective neck out and put someone on the cover like Paul Reubens, AKA Pee-Wee Herman. This one's not for the trendsetters: it's for the fans, man!

I didn't pick the issue up, so I don't know if they talk to him about his voice over work in Disney's new film, Teacher's Pet, but who care, right? It's Pee-Wee friggin' Herman, and he's awesome!

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Capturing the Shopsins

Our big cool (imaginary) friend Elvis Mitchell reports from Park City about I Like Killing Flies, a film we mentioned a few weeks back. (On the Menu at Sundance: Quirky Chef and Dancers, The New York Times, Jan. 21, 2004)

Here's director Matt Mahurin on his star: "Kenny would be pontificating about his ideas about life and death and sex and politics and even food... And when you went in, you would enter whatever family drama was going on that day."

Check out the last few anonymous comments attached to our original Flies piece to see one person who'll definitely skip this film.

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

Psychotic Break

stossel.jpgLike the late great Nell Carter before him, ABC News's mustachioed muckraker John Stossel wants us to Give ['im] a break!

His new book, available at your local airport newsstand, right next to Bill O'Reilly's Horton Hears a Who's Looking Out For You, is modestly entitled Give Me a Break : How I Exposed Hucksters, Cheats, and Scam Artists and Became the Scourge of the Liberal Media....

Lifting a page from Spike Lee and Ralph Wiley's By Any Means Necessary: The Trials and Tribulations of the Making of Malcolm X..., Stossel's elliptical title continues inside of the book: "With a Million Motherfuckers Against Me."

Since Stossel "hate[s] waiting around time" ("Please do not make me wait unnecessarily") here's my super-speedy impression of the book: crap.

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But did she save Latin?

Max (Jason Schwartzman) and Amy: neither one of them has the slightest idea where this relationship is going.

The Onion A.V. Club's Nathan Rabin interviews the hilarious and lovely Amy Sedaris this week.

Since Amy (along with collaborators Stephen Colbert, Paul Dinello, and Mitch Rouse) created one of the most pathetic losers ever to (re-)attend high school, it's interesting to catch a glimpse of her own school days:

O: What was your high-school experience like?

AS: I wasn't a cliquey person, and I think that's because I came from a large family. I got along with everybody, and I usually got along with the people that people didn't like. I always liked my teachers, and I was in a lot of after-school projects. I was a Girl Scout until my senior year, when I couldn't be a Girl Scout anymore. I was in clubs like Junior Achievement, and I ran track and field. My grades were good, but then toward 11th grade they were nothing. I always went to summer school.

She sounds like a regular old Max Fischer, huh? The only thing missing is the little one-act play about Watergate.

Related: Max Fischer grew up to become Joel Stein, right? Sic transit gloria, indeed.

Posted by matt at 09:57 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Where Editors Fear to Tread


Col Allen, closet E.M. Forster fan?

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

Vote Y-E-S for V-I-N!

A happy (campaign) trail for Vincent Gallo?

And now, that other endearingly nasty compassionate conservative offers his State of the Union address:

"I want to thank you guys for inviting me here today. It’s a big honor... In my whole life, no one’s ever invited me or included me in any Republican event. As a matter of fact, I used to go to the Rush Limbaugh show with my best friend Johnny Ramone and a couple of other friends, and Rush never … acknowledged us. So I’m thrilled to be here.

"There’s a picture of me at 6 years old campaigning for Richard Nixon. I’ve always been the same. Always. I was against hippies... I’ve been on 125 magazine covers worldwide during my career—which is a lot for an unknown person who doesn’t have a career—and I’ve written about 200 articles in all kinds of magazines, and I’d like to let you know that there is media bias in an extreme way against the Republican Party...I would like to end my speech today by just saying, in terms of Europe, you know the United States has a great President—a, very, very great President—when the French hate him!"
Vincent Gallo, model/ actor/director/musician/
From The New York Observer, G.O.P. Gallo, by Lizzy Ratner

Read the whole story for the painful story of how liberal bias (and that commie-Calvinist Paul Schrader!) prevented Buffalo '66 from winning anything at Sundance and for this little gem: "the Republican Party needs hipsters. If it wants to broaden its base, it needs hipsters."

Yes, but they'll settle for Vincent Gallo.

Posted by matt at 07:56 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Zagat Guide, 2004: State of the Union address


In which lines that were spoken and events which transpired during President Bush's January 20, 2004 address to Congress stand in for local restaurants:

Lines which, when spoken, lead Bush to stare directly into the camera
13 instances, i.e. 13 discrete messages conveyed to his supporters, i.e. 13 soundbites created for the news recaps
0 - 0 - 0 - $$$$

"We ended the rule of Saddam Hussein and...the people of Iraq are free"..."The United States of America will never be intimidated by thugs and assassins"..."America will never seek a permissions slip to defend the security of our country"..."We will finish the historic work of democracy in Afghanistan and Iraq so those nations can light the way for others and help transform a troubled part of the world"..."We understand our special calling...this great republic will lead the cause of freedom"..."This economy is strong, and growing stronger"..."Unless you act, Americans face a tax increase"..."I urge you to pass legislation to modernize our electricity system, promote conservation, and make America less dependent on foreign sources of energy"..."Any attempt to limit the choices of seniors or to take away their prescription drug coverage under Medicare will meet my veto"..."Drug use in high school has declined by 11 percent over the last two years. 400,000 fewer young people are using drugs than in the year 2001"..."Tonight I call on team owners, union representatives, coaches and players, to take the lead, to send the right signal, to get tough, and to get rid of steroids now"..."Abstinence for young people is the only certain way to avoid sexually transmitted diseases"..."Activist judges, however, have begun redefining marriage by court order, without regard for the will of the people and their elected representatives...Our nation must defend the sanctity of marriage."

Lines which, when spoken, lead CNN's cameras to focus on Sen. Ted Kennedy (D) and his various scowls
3 instances in which this occurred, conveying liberals' disgust with Bush's statements
0 - 0 - 0 - $$$$

"The bill you passed gave prescription drug benefits to seniors"..."Had we failed to act, the dictator's weapons of mass destruction programs would continue to this day"..."Starting this year, millions of Americans will be able to save money, tax-free, for their medical expenses in a health savings account."

Lines which, when spoken, invoked the presence of Karl Rove
1 instance in which this occurred, spoken offscreen, as Bush entered the building and picked up and hugged Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr.'s (D) braided-haired, cute, and, most significantly, black three-year-old daughter
0 - 0 - 0 - $$$$

"There's the shot of the night."

Usages of the thematic mantra "Unless you act"
7 instances in which this occurred, reinforcing Bush's attempt to exert legislative pressure in this, his address to Congress
0 - 0 - 0 - $$$$

"Congress has some unfinished business on the issue of taxes. The tax reductions you passed are set to expire, unless you act...unless you act...unless you act...the unfair tax on marriage will go back up. Unless you act, millions of families will be charged $300 more in federal taxes for every child. Unless you act, small business will pay higher taxes. Unless you act, the death tax will eventually come back to life. Unless you act, Americans face a tax increase."

Lines which not-so-cleverly deflected the failure to locate Iraqi WMD's while deceptively linking the War in Iraq with the War on Terror
1 lengthy series of sentences
0 - 0 - 0 - $$$$

"The terrorists were still training and plotting in other nations and drawing up more ambitious plans. The terrorists and their supporters declared war on the United States, and war is what they got. Some in this chamber and our country did not support the liberation of Iraq. Objections to war often come from principled motives. But let us be candid about the consequences of leaving Saddam Hussein in power. We're seeking all the facts. Already the Kay report identified dozens of weapons of mass destruction related program activities and significant amounts of equipment that Iraq concealed from United Nations. Had we failed to act, the dictator's weapons of mass destruction programs would continue to this day. Had we failed to act, Security Council resolutions on Iraq would have been revealed as empty threats, weakening the United Nations and encouraging defiance by dictators around the world. Iraq's torture chambers would still be filled with victims, terrified and innocent. The killing fields of Iraq, where hundreds of thousands of men and women and children vanished into the sands, would still be known only to the killers. For all who love freedom and peace, the world without Saddam Hussein's regime is a better and safer place."

Lines in which President Bush unintentionally provided fodder for his critics
2 instances in which this occurred, the first line serving as a possible double entendre in terms of referencing Bush's spending policies and the budget deficit; the second line (by way of a poorly-timed pause in his speech) embarrassingly changing the meaning of Bush's statements
0 - 0 - 0 - $$$$

"These numbers confirm that the American people are using their money far better than government would have, and you were right to return it"..."Key provisions of the PATRIOT Act are set to expire next year..." (This pregnant pause triggers clapping from the Democratic side of the chamber, and, subsequently, some laughter as Bush's intended message has suddenly been co-opted. Bush looks confused for a fleeting second.)

Lines spoken by Bush which indicated that the business of America is business, not people
1 instance in which this occurred, showing that Bush doesn't understand that rather than fault Americans for not being willing to earn sub-minimum wages for janitorial work, perhaps we might consider a "living wage" solution, given the fact that 3 million Americans have lost their jobs since Bush took office
0 - 0 - 0 - $$$$

"Tonight I also ask you to reform our immigration laws, so they reflect our values and benefit our economy. I propose a new temporary worker program to match willing foreign workers with willing employers when no Americans can be found to fill the job. This reform will be good for our economy, because employers will find needed workers in an honest and orderly system."

Lines spoken by Bush which lead CNN's producers to cut to a shot of an administration official who, a few years prior, had done just what the President cautioned against
1 instance in which this occurred, where, after Bush spoke this line, CNN unironically cut to a shot of Rod Paige, the administration's Secretary of Education, who ascended to this job after the supposed success of the Houston public school system over which he presided as superintendent, a success which, a few years later, turned out to be a series of mistruths and inaccuracies regarding encouraging students who were underperforming to "be shuffled", i.e., drop out, rather than continue their troubled education
0 - 0 - 0 - $$$$

"Testing is the only way to identify and help students who are falling behind. This nation will not go back to the days of simply shuffling children along from grade to grade without them learning the basics. I refuse to give up on any child, and the No Child Left Behind act is opening up the door of opportunity to all of America's children."

Lines spoken by Bush which lead CNN's producers to cut to a shot of an elected official who equated homosexuality with bestiality
1 instance in which this occurred, where, after Bush spoke this line, CNN cut to a shot of Sen. Rick Santorum (R), noted critic of homosexuality
0 - 0 - 0 - $$$$

"Activist judges, however, have begun redefining marriage by court order, without regard for the will of the people and their elected representatives...Our nation must defend the sanctity of marriage."

Lines spoken before Bush spilled water on Vice-President Cheney
1 instance, at the close of his address, after which Bush turned to shake Dennis Hastert's hand, then Dick Cheney's, in the process causing water to be spilled all over Cheney's folder and paperwork
0 - 0 - 0 - $$$$

"May God continute to bless America."

Posted by jp at 12:45 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

January 20, 2004

Number Three With a Bullish (attitude)


If you thought he was intense in Betrayal, wait 'till you see him go totally Over the Top!

"Not bad, but a bit stale!"— Variety

"Another well-executed movie poster parody that no one appreciates!"— Entertainment Weekly

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It's a Wonderful Night for a Sundance

Ashton Kutcher enjoying that Holocaust documentary

Dateline, Park City, Utah— The temperature is dipping below zero tonight at the Sundance Film Festival, but the scene is heating up here at the Miramax/Metamucil party in honor of My Baby's Daddy. While technically not part of the festival, the movie has the distinction of being the eighth highest grossing film in the country this past weekend. Truly, this is a great moment for Miramax, the little New York indie that helped put this little Utah town on the map.

No wonder Harvey Weinstein, Miramax's Ozymandias-like president, is feeling magnanimous tonight. The big man has taken it upon himself to greet every guest personally: he offers a firm handshake to every man, a courtly kiss on the cheek to every woman, and in a display of his wonderful sense of humor (this is the man, after all, who snapped up that modern classic, Happy, Texas at the fest five years ago), he's putting every journalist present in loving headlock.

To answer your two top questions: Yes, and Old Spice.

The theme of tonight's party is Sundance at 20. Waiters are walking around dressed as Steven Soderbergh—clunky black glasses, baseball caps worn low—offering hors d'oeuvres, while the bar is being manned by dudes in black suits and skinny ties like the tough guys in Reservoir Dogs. In a stroke of brilliance from Miramax's colossal marketing department (coming soon to an Oscar campaign near you!), Harvey has hired author Peter Biskind to sit in the corner with a manual typewriter and speed-write guests into short, gossipy reports about the festival. "I guess I'm like a caricaturist," Biskind tells me during one of his breaks. "It's good to know there're no hard feelings between me and Harvey!"

Also feeling no hard feelings is Scarlett Johansson, this year's Sundance 'It' Girl. She looks around the room and says in her signature honey-on-gravel voice, "This is amazing, isn't it? Who's that old dude dancing to Paris Hilton?" I tell her it's Henry Kissinger. "Oh my god, are you serious? They're dancing so close!"

We laugh and clink our glasses. We're both drinking Meta-tinis, a drink invented for this event. It's a Skyy vodka martini mixed with Metamucil and it's surprisingly good.

Since the party theme is Sundance at 20, I ask Scarlett where she was during the first fest. "Not born yet!" she says, her throaty laugh filling the tiny space between us. "Can you believe it? I wasn't even born!" She catches me looking from her eyes to her Meta-tini and says quickly, "It's fine! It's fine! My mom doesn't care if I drink. I pay her, after all!" We laugh and clink again. I almost feel like singing "Mrs. Johansson You've Got a Lovely Daughter" to her, but I'm pretty sure she's never heard of Herman's Hermits, and my throat is sore from Karaoke with Ashton and Soleil Moon Frye last night at the Nike house.

The next day, I'm on line at Dunkin' Donuts, fueling up for some grueling screenings. (You try sitting through some of these movies without a strong, black coffee, kay?) On line with me are three Culkins and at least two Coppolas: I find myself wondering how Sofia keeps such a lovely figure when she clearly loves crullers as much as delicately-wrought character studies set against exotic locales. I also find myself wondering who I'll run into on Main Street when I'm done.

I don't have to wonder long, since I walk smack into Vincent D'Onofrio in a wool hat and scarf doing his hilariously hammy Street Mime impersonation right outside the doughnut shop. I try to ask him a few questions about Thumbsucker, his sure-to-be hit film based on Walter Kirn's novel, but he's goofing around, pointing at his throat and shaking his head. He's a pretty convincing mime—he does the whole stuck-in-a-box thing, the pulling-the-rope, etc.—but, boy, a terrible interview!

I do my own miming—as an indifferent journalist—and walk on to catch a flick. On the way, I pass Taryn Manning (or is it Camryn Manheim—who cares, they're both fantastic!), DMX, that actor who plays the cool brother on Six Feet Under, and Kyle MacLachlan who looks dashing with his newly gray hair.

During the screening, I hear at least 40 cell phones (half playing the bars from "Hey, Ya!"). On either side of me is a writer with a laptop open, instant-messaging and polishing their scripts. I think to myself, So, this is what it must be like to be a true film artist: nothing distracts you from your work—nothing!

I turn my attention back to the movie.

It's in French, and I can hear Britney Spears's assistant in the second row reading her the subtitles. Every time there's a joke, the entire audience roars with laughter and then a beat later, Britney laughs, which makes the audience laugh even more. The laughter spreads in little waves, rippling up and down the aisles—and this isn't even a comedy we're watching: it's a Holocaust documentary.

The feeling in the theater is warm, convivial: we're all old friends, hanging out and laughing together at this movie in the biggest, swankiest living room in the world. It's like a big slumber party, but with more bold-faced names.

I turn to my left and look past the laptop guy—who's taken to playing wireless Quake against the guy on my right—and see Scarlett again. She sees me, too, but she doesn't seem to recognize me from last night. I wave a little, but she just focuses on the movie. I gesture just a little more furiously, but she's rapt by the images on the screen and pays me no never mind.

I turn back to the screen myself, just in time to get swept up in another peel of laughter: Forget it, Matt, I tell myself. This is Sundance!

Posted by matt at 09:00 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Election Primer: four letters, starts with "I"


While elections may be newsworthy in both Iowa and Iran of late, it's the lack of elections in Iraq that's generating all sorts of press these days.

Here's one primer, courtesy of Dilip Hiro, in the February 2, 2004 issue of The Nation. As American presidential candidates begin to discuss "planting the seeds of democracy" and ponder the status of United States-led plans for a "post-Saddam" Iraq, bear the following in mind:

"This internecine power struggle is being conducted under the hegemony of the US occupiers, who have their own scenario of the New Iraq: secular, democratic, unabashedly capitalist and openly tied to Washington politically (with its government committed in advance to welcoming US military bases), economically (with unfettered access to Iraqi oil) and strategically (as a pressure point against the regimes in Iran and Syria).

Washington's vision is a nightmare to most Sunni and Shiite Arabs. Militant Sunnis, imbued with Iraqi nationalism, are in the forefront of the continuing armed resistance. So far Shiites, three-fifths of Iraq's population, have generally been quiescent, hoping to emerge as the leading political force by exercising their franchise. But even as early as last April, some 1.5 million Shiites marched to Karbala to commemorate the death of Imam Hussein (martyred in AD 680), shouting, "No, no to America! Yes, yes to Islam!" At Hussein's shrine, a deputy of Grand Ayatollah Ali Husseini al-Sistani declared, "Our celebration will be perfect only when the American occupier is gone and the Iraqi people are able to rule themselves by the principles of Islam." Recent demonstrations in the Shiite cities of Basra, Amara and Kut are symptomatic of rising Shiite discontent against Anglo-American occupation.

In the wake of the dissolution of the Sunni-dominated Baath Party, the Shiites are now the most organized community, led by the redoubtable Sistani. In June he issued a religious decree that only directly elected bodies have the right to administer Iraq or draft its Constitution; he reiterated this demand on January 11. In between he stated that he wants clerics to act as watchdogs to insure that Iraqi legislation does not contradict Islam, and he has disapproved of the way the Coalition Provisional Authority and its handpicked IGC altered laws on nationality and foreign investment, both of which impinge on Islamic principles. He has pointedly refused to meet CPA chief Paul Bremer."

Well, that doesn't bode well for American plans for a non-Islamic fundamentalist Iraq. And, were there to be democratically-held elections, with 56 percent of the nation's voters expressing support for a Sistani-styled government, it would certainly be embarrassing for the Bush administration to have sponsored the creation of an Islamic nation built on this Iranian paradigm, what with all of the President's talk over the past few months of human rights and feminism and democratic principles.

"The only way Bremer can counterbalance the power of Shiites is by co-opting the Sunnis (which has proved next to impossible) and getting them to coalesce with the Kurds. But while Kurds are 95 percent Sunni, they identify themselves first and foremost on ethnic, not sectarian, grounds.And their leaders have been no more eager to form an alliance with the Shiites. Powerful Shiite clerics would most likely oppose Kurdish demands for a federated Iraq, on the ground that in Islam there are different sects but not different ethnic groups.

All talk of "fuzzy math" aside, there is no mathematical way these numbers can lead to any sort of positive scenario for the American architects of the war in Iraq, at least while adhering to respected, internationally-sanctioned principles of democratic behavior. You know, that old adage about "one person, one vote." In this vein, Monday's papers documented a day-long march by almost 100,000 Iraqi Shiites in support of Ayatollah Sistani and his vision for an Iraq governed according to tenets of Islamic law.

"American helicopters buzzed overhead as an announcer with a bullhorn urged the marchers onward. 'Say yes, yes to elections and no, no to appointing the people in any way other than elections,' he said."

Admittedly, the protester's refrain isn't nearly as catchy as, say, "Hey hey, ho ho, the appointed council's got to go," or the even less popular, "Hey hey, it's time, we Shiites have such scorn for rhyme," but like all works of translation, the announcer's cry was better in the original, I'm sure.

Posted by jp at 12:02 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

January 19, 2004

Ron O'Neal, 1937-2004

Last week, Ron O'Neal died of pancreatic cancer in Los Angeles.

Known to a generation of blaxploitation filmgoers as Youngblood Priest, the drug-dealing antihero of Superfly (1972), O'Neal was one of those actors in the rare (but perhaps unwelcome) position of instantaneously attaining icon status, even before he managed to attain a real career on screen.

In the coming days we're sure to see obituaries for O'Neal that either take his Superfly role entirely too seriously or that, more commonly, frame it in the sort of ironically-racist inverted commas that encase—and obscure—so many blaxploitation films of the 70s. It's easy to watch a movie like Superfly and laugh at the occasionally stilted acting, the tricked-out 70s clothing, and the glorification of urban decay, but it's another thing entirely to see that O'Neal gave a great performance in that film.

Make no mistake about it: Superfly is not a great movie. It's badly shot (by the late Gordon Parks, Jr., a photographer before taking up film like his father, Gordon, Sr. who directed Shaft) and Phillip Fenty's script, what there is of it, is as chopped-up and granular as the cocaine the characters inhale constantly.

According to Darius James' That's Blaxploitation, it was shot on the streets during winter, using electricity siphoned from lampposts. The strongest scene, by far, is the mid-section montage of verité-style still images depicting drug trafficking and consumption as a series of discrete moments of anxiety, ecstasy, and release: those stills show Parks most at ease as a director and the faces of the actors frozen mid-snort says everything the script leaves out.

What sticks in your mind after watching the film are the details: the shots of New York City as it slouched into the seventies, a decade that would find the greatest American city on the brink of bankruptcy, awash in crime, and in some neighborhoods, literally burning to the ground; the kids sledding in Central Park; the funky chic (to echo Tom Wolfe's words) nightclub where Priest caught soundtrack composer Curtis Mayfield jamming; and other fleeting moments.

Similarly, O'Neal's performance is made up tiny details: the way Priest licks the coke residue off his crucifix after taking a quick bump; his cadency delivery of certain lines; the palpable weariness and anger in O'Neal's eyes. (As Mayfield put it in "Ghetto Child," off the multi-platinum soundtrack: "Kinda mad, kinda sad...") Youngblood was more than a ridiculous Fu-Manchu mustache and wide-brimmed fedora. And O'Neal, an Obie-winning stage actor before being cast by Sig Shore in his little low budget exploitation flick, was much more than simply the guy from Superfly.

As coincidence would have it, Superfly was released on a special edition DVD on January 13th, the day before its star died. Among its features is a short documentary from 1972 that shows O'Neal speaking eloquently about the "moral decadence" on display in Superfly, basking in the adoring attention of fans in Harlem, and running with his dog around the Central Park Reservoir. (In many ways, the documentary calls to mind the video-hagiography Amber Waves made about Dirk Diggler in Boogie Nights.) You can see that O'Neal is grateful for his fame and extremely modest about it. He tells us that his "success is, indeed, success for [his] people," and marvels at how he went from a little one bedroom apartment in New York to Hollywood almost overnight. Definitely not the sort of swaggering, alpha-male rhetoric you'd expect from Youngblood Priest.

Since the release of Superfly (and its bizarre 1973 sequel Superfly T.N.T. which attempted to combine the blaxploitation crime genre with back-to-Africa politics), the term "Superfly" has become part of vernacular. That hasn't, however, prevented it from being misunderstood. In the documentary featurette, O'Neal tells us that the title has some "facetious sarcasm" to it, but that's not how it's been taken by the culture-at-large. In The Fight, Norman Mailer used it as a catchall for his fear and envy of Black people:

How his prejudices were loose. So much resentment had developed for Black style, Black snobbery, Black rhetoric, Black pimps, superfly, and all that virtuoso handling of the ho. The pride Blacks took in their skills as pimps!… He could not really bring himself to applaud the emergence of a powerful people in American life—he was envious. They had the good fortune to be born Black.

Quentin Tarantino, a self-styled "white Negro" like Mailer, used it to express Jules Winnfield's (Samuel Jackson) anger in Pulp Fiction : "Well I'm a mushroom-cloud-laying motherfucker, motherfucker! Every time my fingers touch brain I'm Superfly TNT, I'm the Guns of the Navarone!" Even the toe-headed dork from The Real World: New Orleans named his Web site

None of these people quite gets what Superfly is about, mostly because they think it was a glorification of crime, ghetto nihilism, and machismo. It most certainly was not. It was all about, as one character said, "gettin' out of the Life," not the pleasure of that life. Rusty Cundieff's Fear of a Black Hat may have contained a parody of a gangsta rap video called "Gangsta's Life Ain't Fun," but only Superfly showed that. From being mugged by junkies who see you as a walking cash machine to being shaken-down by racist cops on the make, the Life was hell and O'Neal understood that: his Youngblood embodied it beautifully.

Had he not died last week at 66, he may have had the chance to transcend Youngblood, but sadly, that opportunity is lost. Even as his image is destined to be slapped on 'ironic' T-shirts worn by skateboarders and used on flyers for every fraternities' "Superfly Saturday Night" party until the end of time, O'Neal is destined to retain his dignity because of his talent and the very real conviction he brought to his role in Superfly.

He is survived by his wife.

Posted by matt at 11:42 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

January 16, 2004

You're Wélcømê, Mr. Brûlé


"[Brûlé] has said in past interviews that he’d love to start a blend of Wallpaper and The Economist ('I think my heart is in news,' he once told Canada’s National Post)." — Greg Lindsay, WWD, Jan. 16, 2004

[via Gawker]

Posted by jp at 03:24 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The Florida Mouseketeer Theory of Life

Paging Dr. Ross: Your sequel is here

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

Don't blame me: I voted for Red Bull

Illustration: John Kerry refuels on the campaign trail

Talking Points' Joshua Micah Marshall has spent the past few days examining the most recent flurry of fluctuating poll results in anticipation of Monday's Democratic primary in Iowa, and by his measure, one thing seems to have become at least somewhat clear, at least according to Zogby's polls: John Kerry is, or may very well be, ascending in popularity with Iowa's voters. And while that last sentence is so incredibly tepid in its support of a position, this hesitancy is important, because, well, we're dealing with tracking polls, which, of course, haven't been the most historically accurate source of election data in the past.

Hey, man, John "fucking" Kerry doesn't give a damn about statistics! He's riding high on endorsements right now–including one from Iowa's First Lady, and yesterday's from former Sen. Bob Kerrey, his similarly-named Vietnam veteran alter-ego, himself a former presidential candidate. Today's Washington Post features some highlights of Kerry's speech at a campaign stop yesterday, including this entertaining nugget:

"Do you like the surge?" Kerry hollered Thursday as he piloted his campaign helicopter into Sioux City to whip up his growing legion of supporters. "Do you like the surge? Are you ready to make more and more surge a surprise on Monday?"

Yes, it's true that we digitally inserted that PowerAde-like sports drink into the accompanying photo, but those lines sampled above are actual quotes.

While Zogby hasn't yet made their polling data for the elusive 18-24 year-old male demographic available yet, we're fairly confident that, come Monday, John Kerry will be available in Extreme Lemon Lime, Power Cherry, and Blue Raspberry flavors.

Posted by jp at 11:38 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Sexy Time

timecover.jpgI know the week is almost over and this item is practically four days too late—in blog time, that's like slapping a "swing culture" cover on your magazine two years late—but I just got around to seeing the cover of this week's TIME Magazine today. (I don't read TIME and I haven't been to my dentist's to thumb through it in over a year—sue me.)

Anyway, what the hell happened to staid old TIME? Once a bastion of bland, sober news coverage and tepid lifestyle features about Too Much Homework! (insert your own "darn" in that sanitized headline), TIME has suddenly, inexplicably morphed into a porn magazine!

Don't believe me? Check out this week's cover package on Love, Sex & Health.

There are features on spicing up your love life (replete with references to Time inc. editor-in-chief Norman Pearlstein's wife, Nancy Friday's book of erotic fantasies My Secret Garden—available in your mom's sock drawer, or wherever paperbacks are sold); a piece on pornography (not written, as you might've expected, by Joel Stein); and, amazingly, an article on S/M. In the latter, writer John Cloud explains in the typically TIME-esque obvious/patronizing manner—but with a surprisingly decent pun that:

It turns out that you call it "S and M" only if you don't do it or if you experiment only occasionally with those handcuffs you keep hidden at the back of the nightstand. If, on the other hand, you are seriously involved in the sadomasochistic subculture—if, say, you have attended one or more of the nation's 90 annual sadomasochistic events ("Beat Me in St. Louis," for instance) and own not only handcuffs but also a spanking bench, a flogger, some paraffin wax, an unbreakable Pyrex dildo and various other unmentionables—you call it, simply, SM.

Grandmas all over America take note: Only people who don't do S/M pronounce it with the 'and.'

Also asked by writer Michael D. Lemonick: Do Gay Couples Have An Edge? Well, not now that they're in TIME, they don't.

TIME hasn't been this edgy since they scooped god's death in 1966. Steal this magazine from your dentist's waiting room and stash it under your mattress today.

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

Unintentionally Hilarious Photo of the Moment, vol. 13

Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin gives President Bush 'the look of love.'

[Thanks, Janelle!]

Posted by matt at 09:17 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Neurotics, hand-washers, and obsessive counters—lend me your wet wipes!

Tony Shalhoub and Ben Stiller are very, very nervous.

Suddenly, neurosis is hot— v. hot!

How else to explain today's strange pop culture confluence? The return of USA Network's one good show, Monk, starring the insanely brilliant Tony Shalhoub as a detective with O.C.D. and Along Came Polly, starring Ben Stiller as an uptight neat-freak whose world gets turned upside-down (or at least a bit messier) by bra-less free spirit, Jennifer Anastassakis. (I once saw a German video called Along Came Poly, but I assume it's unrelated.)

I cannot go on enough about how excellent Tony Shalhoub is in everything he does. (He was even good in that execrable waste of celluloid, Life or Something Like It, starring Edward Burns' accent and Angelina Jolie's big hair.) Shalhoub has personally supplied some of the most quotable lines in the Coen Brothers' canon: "Talk to another writer... Jesus, throw a rock in here, you'll hit one. And do me a favor, Fink: throw it hard."; "I litigate. I don't capitulate." He's great in small roles in big movies like Men in Black and even better in big roles in small ones like Big Night, but Monk is all his.

Monk is one of those show's that so good, you can't believe it made it out of development without the addition of a talking dog or a sassy robot butler. The supporting cast of MonkBitty Schram playing Sharona like a grown-up Dead End Kid, Ted Levine (aka, Buffalo Bill from The Silence of the Lambs) lurching around as Capt. Stottlemeyer with a world-weary lugubriousness, Jason Gray-Stanford dorking it up as Lt. Randall Disher, Jimmy Olson reborn as a cop—and the sharp writing make Monk (to echo the estimable blurb artistes of TV Guide) the best show you're not watching. It's on Friday nights at 10PM EST.

Weirdly, Monk has been compared to a 1998 movie starring Polly's Ben Stiller: Zero Effect also about the comic conceit of a detective (Bill Pullman) with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. (An attempted TV version with Alan Cumming had, well, zero effect and never made it past the pilot.)

I don't know Polly from Adam, but the commercial (and its use of the Bellamy Brothers' "Let Your Love Flow" accompanying a toilet overflowing with shit) annoys me every time it's on—which is a lot. Stiller's done better, he's done worse. I still like him—especially since he portrays himself as the most conceited Hollywood asshole ever on the new season of Curb Your Enthusiasm. (Probably a self-parody that hews very close to truth.) Stiller rises above even the worst material, and I'll always respect him for it.

Monk or Along Came Polly? Watch 'em both—but don't forget to wash your hands.

Posted by matt at 09:01 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

It's cold and lonely

bridghar.jpgI have seen this Sunday's Bridget Harrison column in The Post and it is about how hard it is to be single when it's cold.

There will be a clever pun about "ice" (diamonds, specifically rings) and ice (water in its solid form); there will also be a references to "heat" and "sheets." Oh, and the lead will be "Baby, it's cold outside." The headline will be Sex and the Sub-zero Girl.

Posted by matt at 07:45 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 15, 2004

No Witty Header

"Peace is not merely a distant goal that we seek, but a means by which we arrive at that goal."
Martin Luther King, Jr., 1929-1968

Posted by matt at 08:54 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Bush in 30 Iterations


low culture's Special Campaign Advertising Correspondent Nikki logs this report from our Soho offices:

Two ads in the Bush in 30 Seconds competition held by employed a similar rhetorical strategy: comparing Bush to other important people in your life. ( See "If Your Parents Acted Like Bush"—named Funniest Ad—and "If the Bush Administration Was Your Roommate"—one of 26 overall finalists.)

With time on our hands, we decided to extend the paradigm to other categories.

If Bush Were Your Boyfriend:

Boyfriend: "Hey, let's crash that party!"
Girlfriend: "Let's invite Jacques, he's always fun at parties!"
Boyfriend: "I hate that French fuck."
Girlfriend: "Why are you so mean to all my friends?"
Boyfriend: "I hate all your friends. We don't need any of them. Just the two of us, baby."
Girlfriend: "You're suffocating me."
Boyfriend: "Can I borrow some money?"

If Bush Were a Policeman:

Policeman: "I see you, you criminal, with that big bag of pot!"
Dude: "Huh? I don't have any pot on me."

Policeman bashes Dude over the head with a club and begins pistol-whipping him.

Policeman: "Don't lie to me! You have pot, you've thought about pot, you've wondered whether it would be hard to buy some, you wonder what it would be like to smoke it or even eat it!"

Policeman takes out plunger.

If Bush Were Your Mother:

Mother: "Clean your room."
Boy: "Why do I have to?"
Mother: "Because I told you so."
Boy: "But your room is a mess."
Mother: "Do as I say, not as I do."

If Bush Were a Movie:

"Violent, racist, and anti-intellectual—I loved it!"—TV Guide Channel

If Bush Were Paris Hilton:

"Blair is such a debbie."

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Dean of Hearts


From the producers of Primary Attractions comes this story of coldhearted betrayal in the cold heartland state of Iowa.

The Nomination was his, but Revenge was hers.

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You Can Have My Chainsaw when you pry it from my bloody, torn-up leg

nuge1.jpgInstant karma got rocker-cum-animal lover Ted Nugent:

Ted Nugent Injured in Chainsaw Accident
By MIKE HOUSEHOLDER, Associated Press Writer

DETROIT - Ted Nugent was injured on the Texas set of his reality show when a chain saw cut through his leg.

The outspoken rocker, outdoors enthusiast and star of the VH1 series "Surviving Nugent: The Ted Commandments," required 40 stitches to close the gash in his leg on Sunday, Michelle Clark, a spokeswoman for the cable music channel, said Tuesday.

Animals the world over sigh in relief as they live to see another spring. But what about the children? What.. about... the... children?

And here we thought he was an axe man...

[via—a great site!]

Posted by matt at 10:19 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

I'm waiting 'till it's on HBO

Matthew McConaughey is hip? When did that happen?

Title: Dirty Little Secret
Log line: The lives of a hip, successful couple are overwhelmed by the arrival of their first child. Tensions build between them as they leave high society to enter the world of baby-proofers, nannies and preschool waiting lists.
Writer: Elisa Bell
Agent: William Morris Agency
Buyer: Paramount Pictures
Price: n/a
Genre: Romantic Comedy
Logged: 1/14/04
More: Loosely inspired by Julie Tilsner's book Attack of the Toddlers!. j.k. livin's Matthew McConaughey and Gus Gustawes and Mad Chance's Andrew Lazar will produce. Mark Gustawes will co-produce. Damien Saccani will executive produce. Matthew McConaughey will also star.

(From Done Deal)

Posted by matt at 09:58 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

The Mouth Says Bush '04, but the shoes scream Howard Dean

Sammy Davis, Jr. to Bush's Nixon, Dennis Miller is profiled in today's Times by Bernard Weinraub:
The Joke Is on Liberals, Says Dennis Miller, Host of His Own Show Again.

If a conservative is a liberal who's been mugged, what unspeakable thing happened to this man?

Posted by matt at 08:53 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

January 14, 2004

Must-Blog TV

In response to being included in New York magazine's "Best of New York" balloting this year, the proprietor of posted a rather sheepish and self-deprecating series of analogies to a few of his competitors in "Best New York Blog":

"I'm afraid if there's a weblog equivalent of Sweeps Week programming, I ain't got it. At best, I'm IFC to Gawker's Fox; Sundance to Gothamist's NBC; Jon Favreau to Jarvis's Aaron Brown; James Lipton to Aaron's that guy from Full Frontal Fashion. I'd better start drafting my congratulations speech now."

With that in mind, we took his cue and flushed out his analogies a bit more, even daring to venture outside the five boroughs of New York (it is still called the "world wide" web, right?).

Blog: Cable Network Equivalent: cable-ifc-sundance.gif
The Kicker cable-ifc-sundance.gif
Gawker cable-ifc-sundance.gif
Gothamist cable-ifc-sundance.gif
BuzzMachine cable-ifc-sundance.gif
Maud Newton cable-ifc-sundance.gif
TMFTML cable-ifc-sundance.gif
MemeFirst cable-ifc-sundance.gif
...and because we live in a 500-channel universe:  
Old Hag cable-ifc-sundance.gif
whatevs cable-ifc-sundance.gif
Boing Boing cable-ifc-sundance.gif
InstaPundit cable-ifc-sundance.gif
The Corsair cable-ifc-sundance.gif
...and, of course:  
low culture cable-ifc-sundance.gif

(Sadly, here's another round of uber-incestuous meta-blog commentaries. Catering to an audience of 30 people like this? We're ashamed of ourselves, too.)

Posted by jp at 04:50 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Old Media—Adorable!

The New York Times; The Washington Post

Posted by matt at 11:37 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Movies for Dumb Kids


low culture's Special Education and Popular Culture Correspondent Nikki logs this report:

"In the high-stakes heist at the heart of The Perfect Score, due in theaters Jan. 30, six young thieves conspire to steal the biggest prize of all: the answers to the SAT."— USA Today, Jan. 13, 2004

Tagline: "The SAT is hard to take. It's even harder to steal."

Other films coming soon:

The Queens Regents (alternate title, Bored of Regents):
Six 9th graders in Astoria conspire to steal the answers to the English Regents exam.
Tagline: "Pass the tzatziki, son. And pass the Regents exam."

It's Elementary:
Six 2nd graders conspire to steal the answers to the Stanford Achievement Test.
Tagline: "All they wanted was a 6th-grade reading level."

My Big Fat Jewish Bar Mitzvah:
A 13-year-old Jewish boy hires his cousin to write his Bar Mitzvah speech for him.
Tagline: "He thanked God, Rabbi Lonstein, his parents—but most of all, his
cousin Jeff."

A Tale of Two Two Year Olds:
Dramatization of the Jack Grubman/92nd St. Y scandal.
Tagline: "It's fun to stay at the YMHA, but first you have to get in."

Rainbows and Waterfalls:
Little Michael's IQ test score was good... not good for his mother—Susan Smith.
Tagline: "Getting away with murder is even harder than getting into

Posted by matt at 10:53 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Funny. The Clintons Called him that, too

"Recently, Ms. Wentworth greeted a guest, the comedian Eddie Griffin, with 'How ya doin’, girl?'

"'Uh, where is she?' he replied, looking around.

"'Oh, I call everybody "girl,’"' Ms. Wentworth said. 'Even my husband.'"—'Splain It, Ali!, by George Gurley, The New York Observer, Jan. 14, 2004

Posted by matt at 10:02 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

America, Prepare to get Kahn'd

Joseph Kahn and Warner Bros. are betting $30 million that you are stupid.

Torque opens this friday after some minor delays. Apparently the geniuses at Warner Brothers decided that not only would no one want to see a movie about a stubbled, pretty boy biker framed for murder, but also that no one would take a movie with a name like Torque seriously. Warner Brothers had a big marketing powwow, discussed the shortcomings of the film, the challenge of selling the same tired story once again, and they decided, after interminable minutes of debate, What the fuck—let's throw this piece of shit at 1200 screens and see if it sticks.

I predict a $20 million opening weekend.

Torque is helmed by Joseph Kahn, a director with the distinction of sharing Spike Jonze, Michel Gondry, and Chris Cunningham's music video pedigree while possessing none (not a whit) of their visual or storytelling talents. Kahn has directed clips for Eminem, U2, Moby, Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, and Garbage, so you know he's ready to graduate to the big time and direct some big screen, um, garbage. After all, it's every music video director's god-given right to tackle a major motion picture: Spike and Michel have found successful second careers on the silver screen. Earlier, David Fincher, Antoine Fuqua, F. Gary Gray, Hype Williams, and others made the leap with varying degrees of success. What do those losers have that Joseph Kahn doesn't? (Talent for one thing.)

What Kahn has, which those guys never will, is the insane envy of his former high school classmates. Check out what someone named Cinema Lover wrote on the IMDB's message board:

I went to high school with Joseph Khan back in the early 1990's. We were both at Jersey Village High School in Houston, TX back in the early 90's.

Man Joseph must be getting some crazy p*ssy these days, what with being a reputable music video director and now a director of a major motion picture like "Torque". He's directed Britney, Beyonce, Jaime Pressley....DAMN! I remember he was a little goofy looking, and kinda ugly Asian dude, but we all know that Power==Hot P*ssy.

Like Tiger Woods, I imagine Joe having sex with tons of hot blonde women on a big pile of cash.

Jesus, when I think about it I feel so freakin' small. To think this dude was in my history class, he always had a camcorder with him, and his passion for filming people obviously paid off. Though even back then he was probably getting a lot of p*ssy, just because even in the early 90's he was directing up and coming hip hop acts in Houston while he himself was still a teenager.

Damn I feel small.

(Cinema Lover? Playa Hater is more like it!) Maybe Kahn won't win any gold statuettes for Torque, but he already has something a whole lot better: the glare of the green eyed monster. (Oh, and all that Hot P*ssy!)

I'm betting that like its Diesel-burning older brothers The Fast and the Furious, XXX and the stinky cinematic skid marks 2 Fast 2 Furious and Biker Boyz, Torque is a visually-dazzling but completely incoherent exercise in rapid-fire editing, leaden sub-porn film acting, and relentless product placements. Boo-ya!

If that's the case, why not go for the other Tork—Peter Tork of the Monkees— and rent Head from your friendly neighborhood indie video store this Friday. Written—between hits of the kindest California bud available in 1968—by Jack Nicholson and directed with an "ah, whatever" attitude by Bob Rafelson, it's the antidote to the slick, Hollywood youth-oriented releases that glut multiplexes mall-over America like so many Mrs. Fields' cookies full of arsenic.

Actually, who am I kidding? Head is a piece of shit. But it's probably better than Torque and at least it's been remembered 36 years years after its release. Oh, and you can be sure Bob Rafelson's high school classmates are eating their hearts out over all the p*ssy he got in the 70s, what with being a reputable film director and all.

Damn, I feel small even pointing it out.

Posted by matt at 08:56 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

January 13, 2004

The 'Milieu' Man March on Washington Continues

"Look, I didn’t know anything about the gay community when I signed the civil-unions bill. I grew up in the same homophobic milieu that everybody else did. I was told the same thing about gay people that all heterosexuals were. And most gay people were told the same thing themselves— by parents, ministers and everybody else. I was uncomfortable, and I said so. And I got a lot of flak for it. But I still thought it was the right thing to do."

— Howard Dean in the Feb. 5, 2004 issue of Rolling Stone

Howard, I thought we talked about this last week!

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

Mr. President, please polish these responses before the debates in September


As expected, the most secretive administration in recent U.S. history has moved into attack mode in the wake of President Bush's former Treasury secretary Paul O'Neill's possible "leaking" of "secret" documents to author Ron Suskind for the publication of his long anticipated book (by "long anticipated", I mean, as of yesterday, when news of O'Neill's comments initially broke) which is now destined to be an immediate, though short-lived, bestseller, "The Price of Loyalty: George W. Bush, the White House, and the Education of Paul O'Neill".

O'Neill, appearing on NBC's "Today" show this morning, has denied any wrongdoing, saying that

the documents were given to him by the Treasury's chief legal officer after he requested them to help former Wall Street Journal reporter Ron Suskind write a book on O'Neill's time in the Cabinet.

"I said to him (the general counsel) I would like to have the documents that are OK for me to have. About three weeks later, the general counsel, the chief legal officer, sent me a couple of CDs, which I frankly never opened," O'Neill said in Tuesday's interview. He resigned under pressure a year ago in a shake-up of Bush's economic team.

O'Neill, the first major Bush insider to criticize the president, said he had given the compact disc with the documents to Suskind.

"I don't honestly think there is anything that is classified in those 19,000 sheets," said O'Neill, adding only the cover sheet shown on television bore the words "secret."

President Bush, a notorious baseball fanatic, must be doubly disappointed by the behavior of his former cabinet member, as the flap over O'Neill's comments inevitably knocks Pete Rose's revelatory text down a few notches in the cultural radar.

In the interim, Bush (or more accurately, White House Communications Director Dan Bartlett) may want to begin boning up on some responses to this issue for the presidential debates this fall, since these off-the-cuff comments don't function very well as an adequate and logical defense of his foreign policy of late:

Speaking in Mexico, Mr Bush rejected Mr O'Neill's claims that he had planned the Iraq war within days of becoming President, and not as a result of the terrorism that shook the US.

"No, the stated policy of my administration toward Saddam Hussein was very clear," he said. "Like the previous (Clinton) administration, we were for regime change. And then all of a sudden September 11 hit," Mr Bush said in Monterrey at a press conference with Mexican President Vicente Fox.

Asked if he regretted going to war, given that nearly 500 Americans had now been killed, Mr Bush defended his "tough" decision, saying "history will prove it's the right one for the world".

Oh, and as an afterthought, Brit Hume weighs in on the O'Neill matter with some entirely irrelevant, Roger Ailes-inspired logic over at FOX News:

Former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill, who was forced out of the Bush administration in 2002, has criticized the president on everything from his demeanor in Cabinet meetings to the war in Iraq this week. But these recent attacks contradict statements O'Neill made in a television interview just after his ouster. O'Neill told KDKA Television in Pittsburgh last January -- "I'm a supporter of the institution of the presidency, and I'm determined not to say any negative things about the president and the Bush administration. They have enough to do without having me as a sharpshooter."
Posted by jp at 11:34 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

You're a good man, Harvey Weinstein

harveyw.jpgWith the recent release of Peter Biskind's Down and Dirty Pictures: Miramax, Sundance, and the Rise of Independent Film, Miramax boss Harvey Weinstein has been coming in for some serious bashing lately. It's easy to take shots at Harvey: if ever there was a big, slow-moving fish in a barrell, it's Miramax's bully-boy king.

But what about Harvey the Nice Guy? Harvey who tackles even the smallest of tasks. Harvey who relieves his overworked underlings and does things like calling to ensure that packages made it to their recipients. Harvey who just called to say "I love you."

To find that Harvey, you have to read Sharon Waxman's article Lobbying for Golden Globes Is a Hollywood Ritual in today's New York Times:

Three days before the close of voting on the Golden Globe nominations last month, the phone rang at the home of a member of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, the people who vote on the awards.

"This is Harvey Weinstein," said the voice on the other end of the line, the member said. "I'm calling about Bad Santa. "

The member, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told the caller, who was the co-executive producer of that film and the Miramax co-chairman, "Mr. Weinstein, I loved the movie."

"Oh," came the reply, then a click.

If you think that sounds like Bad Harvey-style intimidation, you are wrong! Very wrong. According to Amanda Lundberg, a Miramax spokesperson quoted by Waxman, Harvey was just "confirming their receipt of late-arriving cassettes, which in our case was Bad Santa. If members told him what they thought of the movie, he didn't ask for it. It was an unsolicited comment."

Take that, Harvey haters! He was just being polite, on-the-ball, and decent. Why would we ever expect anything less from him?

Posted by matt at 10:50 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Celebrity Nerd Showdown

It's revenge of the nerds night on Bravo.

How else to describe the lineup on Celebrity Poker Showdown of Willie Garson, David Cross, Richard Schiff, and Paul Rudd. (One of these things is not like others, it's true: but despite Rudd's good looks, his status as every indie girl's heartthrob—he was soooooo adorable in Wet Hot American Summer!!!—makes him a nerd by proxy. They're also playing with Nicole Sullivan late of Mad TV who's also something of a nerd.)

Maybe the producers of Celebrity Poker Showdown were inspired by Ben Mezrich's geeks versus card sharks bestseller, Bringing Down the House: The Inside Story of Six M.I.T. Students Who Took Vegas for Millions. Or maybe they've run out of good-looking stars who know the rules of the game. One thing's for sure: a lot of makeup was required to get the shine off three-fifths of the players' pates tonight.

Tune in at 9PM EST to see which nerd triumphs and which cry all the way to the Tri-Lam house.

Posted by matt at 09:30 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Palm Friction

QT1.jpgWhat is the deal with Quentin Tarantino and masturbation? Why does the musky odor of onanism hover around the Kill Bill director like the visible stink lines that emanate from Peanuts' Pigpen?

Last week in "The Year in Movies," Slate's raucous film critic caucus, the conversation between David Edelstein, A.O. Scott, J. Hoberman, Sarah Kerr, and Manohla Dargis practically devolved into a circle jerk about whether or not Tarantino is jerking off on film.

Sarah Kerr of Vogue spanks Tarantino first in an entry headed "Quentin Tarantino's Masturbation":

On to Kill Bill for a moment. Jim, do you really think Tarantino is a victim of the system? I think we're a victim of his not writing a screenplay, indulging in a quite boring obsession with his leading lady, and essentially masturbating on screen, with the gall to invite us back for a second installment. I hated Kill Bill not in a tsk-tsk, scolding way but because it induced boredom to the level of panic—a desire to flee the theater—and self-pitying rage that work required me to stay put.

David Edelstein, Slate's resident critic and "Year in Movies" host busts off his own critical nut graph, dense with particularly loaded imagery:

As is often the case, Sarah, you nail Kill Bill but you end up on the wrong side of the equation. You say that Tarantino is "essentially masturbating on screen, with the gall to invite us back for a second installment." I say it's rather entertaining to watch this guy's masturbatory fantasies, especially when they're epic. N.B.: This is NOT a general principle, but for some artists, masturbatory fantasies and art are very close-knit.

(Let's assume he's referring to Brian De Palma—a filmmaker whose very name recalls a naughty reference to masturbation—whom Edelstein has taken a number of well-deserved whacks at over the years. The fact that all those reviews contain references to math or trigonometry may bespeak the critic's own particular fixations, but that's neither here nor there.)

Manohla Dargis shoots her own load with her response: "I don't want to watch anyone's masturbatory fantasy unless I've specifically skulked in and out of my neighborhood video store or am watching pay-for-view in my lonely Lost in Translation-style hotel room and have nothing better to do."

Since "The Year in Movies" ran every day last week, the Slate crew continued their critical beat-down of Tarantino's cinematic beat-off sessions for another two days, always with the smirking, knowing tone of those who know that there's a thin line between criticism and its pathetic cousin, wankery.

So, I ask again, what is it about Quentin Tarantino that makes dirty minds of all these high-minded folks? Certainly it's the 10 minute sequence of Uma Thurman's feet in Kill Bill and the fact that Tarantino is not only unabashed about his love of exploitation flicks (veritable booby parades when not displaying acting so bad it could be used as a "how-not-to" teaching tool for aspiring thespians) but celebratory to the point of ecstasy.

But maybe the real stain comes from creepy comments like the ones Tarantino made while stroking Lost in Translation at the New York Film Critics Circle Awards (here quoted by Page Six): "At some point, I got a crush on the movie... I've seen it five times and every time I've seen it I've had a little date with myself."

So, Quentin, here's some free advice if you want to avoid being seen as the film world's answer to Alexander Portnoy: keep it in your pants, man. Maybe people won't think you're such a wanker.

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

January 09, 2004

Economic Sanctimony

southkorea-fleamarket.jpgThough this will come as no surprise to those who regularly read the news, the latest actions by the United States government once again reinforce the notion that the flimsily-defined conceit of so-called "intellectual property", or IP, has taken a greater precedence in political and diplomatic relations than, say, human rights, poverty, or feminism.

While it's highly unlikely that modern-day IP expert Lawrence Lessig is booking the next flight to Seoul to better examine these issues, those in South Korea who profit in the trade of bootlegged Tom Cruise films and G-Unit compact discs are being closely watched by U.S. trade officials. Correction: "priority watched", which is the official term given by the American officials, who feel that the nation's relative inattention to policing the trade of copyrighted-but-bootlegged works falls short of the desired standards, to say the least, and could potentially lead to the United States' enforcing economic sanctions against South Korea in the near future. "Economic sanctions", of course, are the punitive trade policies against which pundits on both the left and the right customarily speak out.

If you failed history and/or geography, or just have trouble locating smaller nations like Burkina Faso on a map, bear in mind that while South Korea is in Asia, it is not China, the most prominently piracy-prone nation on the continent (but we can't go about enacting bold economic sanctions against our pseudo-communist, secretly-capitalist cheap-goods trade partner, right?).

In that vein, the gist of the complaint seems to be leveled against "online piracy" moreso than the old-fashioned street vendor system. While it's understandable that the American entertainment industry would want to protect its own interests, it's nonetheless hard to empathize with the record labels and studios of late, what with all those lawsuits against music fans and increased ticket prices and screener bans and "fair use" violations.

South Korea, remember: you're on "priority watch," lest you wind up in the "Axis of Sanctions," joining your neighbors to the North, as well as Syria, Libya, and Burma, to name but a few.

Because, of course, it's only fair to group IP violations with human rights issues, right? And that's why the United States is considering sanctions against China, Israel, and Saudi Arabia, et al. Oh, wait...the U.S. is not considering sanctions against these nations?

I'm sorry, I must having been too busy watching my illegally downloaded double-CD DivX copy of "The Mirror Has Two Faces" to have expected the United States to have a consistent set of values in its multilateral relations.

Posted by jp at 04:15 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 08, 2004

Coming Soon to a Theater Near Iowa


"The Love Story of 2004!" -CNN

"Almost as hot as Howard Dean!" -Ain't it Cool News

Posted by jp at 12:46 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Unintentionally Hilarious Photo of the Moment, vol. 12


Posted by jp at 12:01 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Bush and his electorate


MAIN PHOTO: U.S. President George W. Bush points the way for his dog, Spot, before boarding Air Force One on January 3, 2004 in Waco, Texas. Seeking to tout his domestic agenda in an election year, President Bush said the education bill he signed two years ago was spurring reform at local schools. 'We have recently received test results that show America's children are making progress,' Bush said in his first radio address of the new year. (Mike Theiler/Reuters)

INSET: While Democrats stump to replace him in neighboring Iowa, President George W. Bush begins the election year on January 5, 2004 by visiting Missouri to promote his education reforms and raise campaign money. Bush leaves St. John's Church in Washington, January 4. (William Philpott/Reuters)

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

January 07, 2004

Sarah Silverman, narcoleptics' best friend

"Ms. Silverman also confirmed that her friend [Lizz Winstead] is narcoleptic. 'Did she tell you that?' Ms. Silverman asked. 'She has no problem taking pills to make her stay awake. Otherwise, she’s out by 9.' Ms. Winstead’s condition was diagnosed about 15 years ago," Lefty Radioheads Bite Back by Rachel Donadio, The New York Observer Jan. 7, 2004.

"[Jimmy Kimmel] did not own a jacket, and besides, he's mostly colorblind. He is also narcoleptic, but that's another story," In the Land of the Insomniac, the Narcoleptic Wants to Be King by Bill Carter, The New York Times Magazine, Nov. 3, 2002.

Posted by matt at 10:30 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Older and Wiseass

mortsahl.jpgComedian and free-range provocateur Mort Sahl is interviewed by Stephen Thompson in this week's Onion A.V. Club (which may or may not be a reprint of an older interview). Having recently watched the 1989 documentary Mort Sahl: The Loyal Opposition as part of Trio's "Uncensored Comedy Month," I was expecting some great insights from the man who pioneered radical political humor fifty years ago at a time when most comics were still wearing tuxedoes on stage and asking us to please take their wives. (You can watch a Quicktime clip of him in action here.)

With his everyman uniform, relaxed posture, and ever-present newspaper under his arm, Sahl was the living embodiment of Norman Rockwell's painting Freedom of Speech, questioning, mocking, and needling pieties of the Right and the Left. As shown in the documentary, Sahl sort of went off the rails after JFK was killed, reading lengthy excerpts from The Warren Commission Report onstage. Eventually, he retreated into a satellite-TV equipped fortress of solitude where he continues to read dozens of news magazines a month, keeping up on current events but keeping his opinions mostly to himself.

Unfortunately, The A.V. Club interview is sort of slow going and, in some passages, a bit incoherent. I'm not sure whether this was due to difficulty editing down a long interview, or if Sahl's thoughts ricochet at such odd trajectories that following them is impossible. Also, Sahl repeatedly contradicts himself: despite Thompson's admirable attempt to nail Sahl down on why he's written jokes for Ronald Reagan and George Bush (it's not specified if they're talking about Bush 41 or Bush 43), he somehow wriggles free and never quite answers the question. ("Reagan had a pretty ready sense of humor, although they were basic jokes—anti-Communist jokes and all. So I just found it easier...")

Reading the whole thing, though, I was able to pan a little gold. Here's Sahl talking almost directly to his closest contemporary progeny (both in intellectual and linguistic nimbleness and political Rightward slouching), Dennis Miller:

I dare say that if most comedians today, the gifted ones, were to sit down and write, they'd learn more about their craft. But what happens is they get out there before they learn what their viewpoint is, if any. They're all sort of pseudo-Republicans. In case they make money, they're Republicans. In the unlikely event they're successful. [Laughs.]

And here's Sahl talking to Conan O'Brien, Tina Fey, and David Letterman:

You've got a society that not only isn't courageous, but even the apprehension of discomfort makes them roll over. Three years later, the late-night comedians are still making fun of George W. Bush being dense, right?
When people write comedy from neutrality, it just gets kind of silly. A lot of the guys are invested, like that Saturday Night Live crowd, in rebellion against authority, and that makes them indiscriminate. They only hate a guy because he's in leadership. But they don't really pin the fact that he's a war criminal on him.

One last thought from Mort before he disappears back into isolation: "The relentless liberalism of the comedians is awful, too. We could use one good Leftist instead of all those liberals. [Laughs.] Or one good Rightist, if he had a sense of humor. The righteousness is what kills me in a lot of these people. They're so right about everything, and so pious. Where did the fun go?"

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January 06, 2004

"David" and "Brooks": shorthand for "Neocon" and "Apologist"

brooks-book-palatable.gifMy, how New York Times M.E. Bill Keller must loooove the inestimable David Brooks, former writer for the News Corp-owned Weekly Standard and current voice of conservative reason on the paper of record's Op-Ed page. After all, when you're Bill Keller, and you're responsible for producing the nation's most liberal newspaper, it must feel wonderful to know you've gone out of your way to hire a conservative contrarian, if only to balance out all those Paul Krugman slams of Bush's annual tax-cut programs. It must be even nicer to know that Brooks, the guy you've hired in this capacity, is either an absolute moron or, more likely, a dishonest scoundrel.

In "The Era of Distortion", today's missive from Brooks, he sets out to dismiss those who would make a claim that so-called "neoconservative" politicos and intellectuals have in any way influenced the present administration's policies regarding matters as diverse as the Middle East, unilateralism, and the Bush doctrine (sorry, I guess that wasn't such a wide-ranging list, after all).

Theories about the tightly knit neocon cabal came in waves. One day you read that neocons were pushing plans to finish off Iraq and move into Syria. Web sites appeared detailing neocon conspiracies; my favorite described a neocon outing organized by Dick Cheney to hunt for humans. The Asian press had the most lurid stories; the European press the most thorough. Every day, it seemed, Le Monde or some deep-thinking German paper would have an exposé on the neocon cabal, complete with charts connecting all the conspirators.

The full-mooners fixated on a think tank called the Project for the New American Century, which has a staff of five and issues memos on foreign policy. To hear these people describe it, PNAC is sort of a Yiddish Trilateral Commission, the nexus of the sprawling neocon tentacles.

Admittedly, it's a highly effective way of discrediting assertions that Richard Perle, Paul Wolfowitz, and Bill Kristol have influenced American foreign policy by placing such ideas alongside words such as "conspiracies" and some absurd anecdote about a cannibalistic Vice President – an anecdote, incidentally, which I have yet to encounter in my exhaustive reading of neocon-wary publications such as The Nation, the Village Voice, and, dare I say it, the national dailies, including the New York Times.

Another nice touch is the backhanded dismissal of German and French media outlets, along with the invocation of provocatively absurdist conspiratorial conceits such as the Trilateral Commission and the "tentacles" thereof, a notion obviously referencing the vast "Jewish conspiracy", which he makes sure to bring up later in his piece. And, of course, there's an obligatory reference to "web sites", which is publishing-world shorthand for "crazy" and "ill-researched". For what it's worth, I looked for additional hot-button phrases such as "New World Order" in there, but had no luck finding them.

Finally, as Brooks moves into his own "no-spin zone", he enlightens Times readers with the "truth," or at least, his iteration thereof (the fact that his list of "conspiratorial" "lies" appears in such an inaccurately contextualized fashion as is detailed above hopefully triggers the appropriate "I'm being spun" warning bells, but rarely do we have such assurances when dealing with the Op-Ed reading public).

In truth, the people labeled neocons (con is short for "conservative" and neo is short for "Jewish") travel in widely different circles and don't actually have much contact with one another. The ones outside government have almost no contact with President Bush. There have been hundreds of references, for example, to Richard Perle's insidious power over administration policy, but I've been told by senior administration officials that he has had no significant meetings with Bush or Cheney since they assumed office. If he's shaping their decisions, he must be microwaving his ideas into their fillings.

It's true that both Bush and the people labeled neocons agree that Saddam Hussein represented a unique threat to world peace. But correlation does not mean causation. All evidence suggests that Bush formed his conclusions independently. Besides, if he wanted to follow the neocon line, Bush wouldn't know where to turn because while the neocons agree on Saddam, they disagree vituperatively on just about everything else. (If you ever read a sentence that starts with "Neocons believe," there is a 99.44 percent chance everything else in that sentence will be untrue.)

Whoa, where to start?

Taking a cue from Brooks and googling the phrase "Neocons believe" brings up results that are more or less confined to various rehashings of one particular piece, "Empire Builders: Neocon 101", which originally appeared in that bastion of left-wing paranoia, the Christian Science Monitor. Included in this primer are ideas such as this:

Most neocons believe that the US has allowed dangers to gather by not spending enough on defense and not confronting threats aggressively enough. One such threat, they contend, was Saddam Hussein and his pursuit of weapons of mass destruction. Since the 1991 Gulf War, neocons relentlessly advocated Mr. Hussein's ouster.

I may not know how to read very well due to my public-school education, but does this idea not mirror Brooks' defensive assertions as previously quoted above, "It's true that both Bush and the people labeled neocons agree that Saddam Hussein represented a unique threat to world peace"? Or maybe this particular speculation of "Neocon 101" fits into Brooks' 0.56-percent truth-exemption range from the 99.44 percent of lies circulating about neoconservatives.

It's when discussing "Richard Perle's insidious power over administration policy" that Brooks becomes his most disingenuous. "I've been told by senior administration officials that he has had no significant meetings with Bush or Cheney since they assumed office," he writes. I suppose, then, the fact that Perle chaired (before resigning in disgrace from) the Defense Policy Board, an independent group of advisers working in close counsel with Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, is irrelevant. Certainly, the Pentagon and the Secretary of Defense have no input or role in foreign policy whatsoever. Bush, of course, never delegates relevant tasks to his sundry officials. Oh, wait a minute – he does, and has even said as much before.

Regardless of the charge by the "senior administration official" that Perle has yet to even shake hands with the President since his taking office – which is a dubious assertion, at best, akin to Perle's "immaculate conception" as a policy adviser – it must also be entirely irrelevant that Perle co-authored a best-selling tome entitled "An End to Evil: Strategies For Victory in the War on Terror," with former Bush speechwriter and "axis of evil" phrase-coiner David Frum. In other words, adhering to Brooks' defensive anti-logic, this book is not about foreign policy or terrorism, and has no relation to Bush or his staff. We'll pretend for a moment that Frum's last best-selling book was not entitled "The Right Man: An Inside Account of the Bush White House", and that Perle's credit on the cover of his current book does not say that he is "a former assistant secretary of defense".

Does disingenuousness equal dishonesty? Here's a better question...does David Brooks make an appearance in Al Franken's latest screed, "Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right"?

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(Hopefully) Revealed: Contents of the Egyptian Burrito

Fans of Shopsin's, the totally sui generis restaurant-cum-mad scientist lab in the West Village are about to have their favorite spot's cover blown big time.

As readers of Calvin Trillin's amusing New Yorker article, "Don't Mention It" (April 15, 2002) might recall, Shopsin's is an extremely eccentric little restaurant where you can experience Cotton Picker Gumbo Melt Soup or Pecan Chicken Wild Rice Cream Enchilada, or literally dozens of other dishes you will never see anywhere else. (According to blogger Rachelle Bowden there are over 100 soups on the menu which is available as a PDF file on their Web site. It's 11 pages long and denser than a Dr. Bronner's Soap label.)

In addition to the weird menu, there are the weird rules. Writes Trillin:

For years, a rule against copying your neighbor's order was observed fairly strictly. Customers who had just arrived might ask someone at the next table the name of the scrumptious-looking dish he was eating. Having learned that it was Burmese Hummus—one of my favorites, as it happens, even though it is not hummus and would not cause pangs of nostalgia in the most homesick Burmese—they might order Burmese Hummus, only to have Eve shake her head wearily. No copying. That rule eventually got downgraded into what Ken called "a strong tradition," and has now pretty much gone by the wayside.

Shopsin's is about to go huge as I Like Killing Flies, a documentary by photographer, graphic artist, and music video vet (and notorious O.J. Simpson Time Magazine photo manipulator) Matt Mahurin is now part of The 2004 Sundance Film Festival's Documentary Competition.

I hope I Like Killing Flies gets distribution, since I'm curious to see it and learn more about the inner workings of Shopsin's and Kenny and Eve Shopsin, the owners and sole employees. I'm a bit surprised they agreed to the film, since Trillin paints a portrait of Kenny as, how shall I put this, a tad publicity shy: " I've managed to write about Shopsin's from time to time, always observing the prohibition against mentioning its name or location." (Later in the same piece, Trillin admits that Kenny softened towards the press after he was forced to briefly close and relocate his restaurant: "[N]ot long ago Kenny told me that it was no longer necessary to abide by the rule against mentioning the place in print." Phew!)

Here's a prediction: We can expect articles on Kenny and Eve Shopsin cropping up in The New York Post, New York Magazine, Time Out New York (a cover photo of Will Ferrell behind the counter at the grill, perhaps?) and elsewhere in the months following Sundance. I hope Shopsin's can weather the publicity storm. But then again, after doing their own thing for so many decades, it's probably pretty gratifying to see people lining up outside their restaurant. I just hope everyone remembers to turn off their cell phones and keep their parties under 4.

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I give this quote three stars

Further proof that critics sometimes actually speak—and think—in blurbs, The Times' A.O. Scott goes back to his lit crit roots in Slate's annual "Year in Movies":

I happened upon this piece, in which Louis Menand breezily mocks the conventions of year-end list-making (without, of course, deigning to suffer what he rightly calls the "anguish" of making his own list). The piece is funny and well worth reading, if a bit glib.

Somehow I think that if articles had posters, this quote would be shortened to "'Funny! Worth Reading!'—Slate". (Of course Peter Travers said of the same piece: "Astounding! Will Make You Stand Up and Cheer—Even if you're reading it on the Toilet!"—Rolling Stone)

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On Behalf of the entire News Corporation Family, we offer our condolences

A tearful Regis Philbin bid a fond farewell to his family's beloved cat, Ashley, on yesterday's "Live with Regis & Kelly."

Regis Loses a Cat
I was moved yesterday by Regis Philbin's announcement that his cat, Ashley, had passed away. I remember the early stories of Ashley when he had to have a tooth pulled. Regis is an excellent imitation of him then. That's more than 15 years ago. My sympathies to Regis, Joy, JJ and Joanna. (Roger Friedman)

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The Real World: Dystopia

In honor of tonight's season premiere of The Real World: San Diego (what, have they completely run out of interesting cities? What's next, Real World: Branson?), we asked author Albert Goldman what he thought of the show as it enters its 14th season.

Unfortunately, Goldman has been dead since 1994, so we settled on this passage from his long out-of-print book Disco:

That everybody sees himself as a star today is both a cliché and a profound truth. Thousands of young men and women have the looks, the clothes, the hairstyling, the drugs, the personal magnetism, the self‑confidence, and the history of conquest that proclaims the star. The one thing they lack—talent—is precisely what is most lacking in those other, nearly identical, young people whom the world has acclaimed as stars. Never in the history of show biz has the gap between the amateur and the professional been so small. Nor ever in the history of the world has there been such a rage for exhibitionism.
(As quoted by Cornerstone Magazine)

Meet the new Real World cast, two of whom (Jacques and Cameran) were 7 years-old when the original show premiered in 1992.

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January 05, 2004

Linguistic Terrorists

First off, this is not some right-wing reference to Noam Chomsky.

Rather, consider this a well-meaning notice to pundits and politicos that it may be time to refrain from your excessively liberal usage of the loaded lexicon of "terrorism" and its popular siblings, "terror" and "terrorist".

In last year's State of the Union address, for instance, President Bush made use of this "terror trilogy" a striking 21 times, according to the LA Weekly.

And last month, researchers at Syracuse University pored through Justice Department records to better examine Attorney General John Ashcroft's braggadocio-inducing, supposedly "successful" prosecution of the War on Terror™, I mean, "Terror". Their results may be considered surprising, at least if you're the sort of overworked and under-relaxed American who occasionally watches CNN when not flipping through the 11PM local newscasts or 6PM Moesha reruns.

"TRAC data shows that convictions in cases the Justice Department says are related to international terrorism jumped 7 1/2 times compared with the two years before the attacks - from 24 to 184 - but the number of individuals who received sentences of five or more years actually dropped, from six in the two years before the attacks to three in the two years that followed.

When crimes the Justice Department said were related to domestic terrorism are included, convictions jump from 96 before the attacks to 341 after. Despite that dramatic increase, the number of those individuals who received sentences of five or more years dropped from 24 to 16.

...In what authorities describe as a strategy of prevention, potential or suspected terrorists are being charged since the 2001 attacks with minor nonterrorism crimes to get them off the street or out of the country.

...Federal authorities in New Jersey initially included attempts by 65 Middle Eastern men to cheat on an English-language entrance exam among their "terrorism-related" cases, briefly boosting terrorism prosecutions in that state from two to 67. The categorization was changed after it was reported in the media."

And then there's this verbal gadfly from today's Arizona Republic, in what very well may be the straw that broke the terrorist's back:

"Family members of slain soldier Lori Piestewa lashed out at the media Wednesday for practicing 'domestic terrorism' by televising a tape of the badly wounded Piestewa in an Iraqi hospital bed shortly before her death.

'This terrorism was not from any foreign group wishing to harm the United States but from our own people wanting to make a quick buck off the misfortune of two young women,' a prepared statement from the Piestewa family said of NBC's decision to air the tape on their Nightly NewsTuesday. Several cable channels picked it up, but local affilliate, Channel 12 (KPNX) decided not to air the footage."

As early as October 2001, Nation columnist Bruce Shapiro foresaw these sorts of problems arising when he discussed a bill pending before the House and Senate--one which had not yet come to be known as Ashcroft's original PATRIOT Act.

"The point is simply that terrorism is a term of politics rather than legal precision. But in Ashcroft's vision, it appears to be a label to be applied indiscriminately. Ashcroft's initial bill defined terrorism as any violent crime in which financial gain is not the principal motivation. The House adds more precise language: To qualify, crimes or conspiracies must be "calculated to influence or affect the conduct of government by intimidation or coercion or to retaliate against government conduct." Yet even this definition is big enough to drive a parade wagon through. An unruly blockade of the World Trade Organization could bring down the full force of antiterrorism law as easily as could a bombing."

Orange Alert be damned. Let's try some of that compassionate conservativism and lay off the liberal usage of "terrorism" for a while.

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The Paperwork was longer than the marriage


[via Gawker]

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They Really Got Him

Kinks' Ray Davies shot while thwarting robbery attempt

Singer-songwriter Ray Davies of the Kinks was shot in the leg while chasing thieves who snatched a purse from a woman he was with, police said Monday. He was not seriously injured.

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Robot Invasion!!!


2004 promises to be the year that science fiction fans have been eagerly awaiting since, oh, the 1950s. You know, the year that humankind is conquered and then enslaved by mechanized pseudo-lifeforms. I mean, what else are we to make of the recent onslaught of media appearances by robots?


NASA rover finds Earth in Martian sky

Robot sub used in Red Sea search


Sony Introduces World's First Running Humanoid Robot

President and CEO of Honda Motor Company Takeo Fukui is greeted by ASIMO, Honda's intelligent humanoid robot


Will Smith stars in Alex Proyas' "I, Robot"

Jude Law, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Angelina Jolie appear in the robots-attack-Earth film "Sky Captain"

Oh, and this has nothing to do with anything, of course, but last month, Al Gore endorsed Howard Dean for president.

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More Sex Please, We're Increasing Our Hit Count

werebritish.jpgNo Sex Please, We're American: Brian De Palma, Paul Verhoeven and William Friedkin can't make erotic thrillers in Bush's USA
Sight and Sound, January 2004
(via The Morning News)

No Sex Please, We're Hobbits

No Sex Please, We're Geeks

No Sex Please, We're Too Busy

No Sex Please, We're British Curlers

No Sex Please, We're Married

No Sex Please, We're Students

No Sex Please, We're Dutch

No Sex Please, We're Oxford

No Sex Please, We're French Tourists

No Sex Please, We're Costco

No Sex Please, We're Medicated

et. cetera...

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Memo to Dean: Other Americans aren't comfortable in a milieu where the term milieu is used

yale.jpg"You know, I have grown up in the Northeast my entire life. And in the Northeast, we do not talk openly about religion. I've spent a lot of time in the South. I have a lot of friends from the South. In the South, people do integrate religion openly, easily into their lives, both Black Southerners and white Southerners.

"I understand that if I'm going to campaign for the presidency of the United States, I have to be comfortable in the milieu that other Americans are comfortable, not just for my own region, for everywhere else.

"I think any columnist who questions my belief is over the line. But I do believe that it is important for the president of the United States to be comfortable everywhere, and I plan to learn how to do that."—Howard Dean at the Democratic Candidates Debate in Iowa, Jan. 4, 2004 (via CNN)

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2004: the year 'and/or' broke


"NOTE: We are no longer using the following words: 'desultory,' 'heretofore', 'nonesuch', 'ineffable', 'meretricious', 'Vietnam', and 'utilize'. We are also discontinuing the usage of the construction 'and/or.'"—Timothy McSweeney's Quarterly Concern issue 1; 1998

Out Now: McSweeney's 12: Unpublished, Unknown, &/or Unbelievable, 2004*

*This post qualifies as part of the required seven (7) Dave Eggers-related entries-per-year as stipulated by the bylaws of International Bloggers Union (local 404).

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January 04, 2004

"We're gonna stick together, just like it used to be."

Nine men who came too late and stayed too long... Unchanged men in a changing land. Out of step, out of place and desperately out of time.The Wild Bunch

"We're not gonna get rid of anybody. We're gonna stick together, just like it used to be. When you side with a man, you stay with him. And if you can't do that, you're like some animal, you're finished. We're finished! All of us!"— Pike Bishop (William Holden)

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The Wedding Photo

Britney Jean Spears weds Jason Allen Alexander

Earlier: Jason and Britney at the Kid's Choice Awards.

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January 02, 2004

Just Give Back the Painting

Wow, and I thought the drunken, marauding fool at the New Year's Eve party I attended was an asshole. Over in Seattle, some jagoff comported himself (or herself) even more offensively as this anonymous writer tells it:

Somehow you came to my party, drank my booze, pissed in my toilet (or on my lawn, who knows), talked to your buddies in my living room, and spent some time in my hallway, where you stole from the wall a painting that my friend had made. I know the Polaroid of the painting left in its place was the punch line to your self-serving humor, but we're not laughing here.

The Polaroid is the tip-off that this person is probably gonna pull the lame stolen gnome gag (as seen in Amélie). Do us all a favor, buddy, and just give back the painting. Please.

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Sunday, Cranky, Sunday

Larry David with Krazee-Eyez Killa (Chris Williams)

I have a friend—let's call him "the Other Matt"—who refuses to watch HBO's Curb Your Enthusiasm because it's "too decadent."

I guess Other Matt feels that the comedic travails of "Larry David"—the crankiest multi-millionaire in Hollywood—all revolve around the perils of money: how hard it is to give people gifts, buying a new house, or hosting a benefit party. Of course, he's right: what Seinfeld did for venality, Curb does for profligacy.

But that's just the TV Larry David, not the real guy. As readers of The Nation know, Larry is "a long-standing reader" and pitch person for the lefty magazine. Larry's real-life wife, Laurie, is a committed environmental activist (which may explain why AAA was made the unlikely villain in one episode). Laurie and Larry recently came in for a Drudge-led conservative drubbing for attempting to host a benefit called the "Hate Bush 12/2 Event." Rich Hollywood liberals? Guilty as charged. Decadent? Probably not.

Say what you will about the decadence of on screen Larry; the offscreen one is fighting the good fight. Okay, he may be trying to screw his former colleagues out of Seinfeld money, but... okay, there's no 'but.' That sucks.

But my point was... what was my point? Oh, that Curb Your Enthusiasm is one of the best shows around and that far from being an exercise in decadence, it's a sly—attention HBO publicists and print-ad writers—brilliant (!) critique of wealth. The way the show skewers rich people's house envy, trouble dealing with working people (particularly those in industries meant to make their lives easier: salespeople, parking lot attendants, cable repairmen), and the limits of their liberal guilt perfectly nails the contradictions of dumb wealth that falls right into the lap of those who seek it least yet changes their lives the most. (This is clearly an obsession for David, who explored the same theme in his feature film debut, Sour Grapes and again in the perpetually-in-turnaround Envy.)

The money not only corrupts—that's obvious—but it also simply confuses. What is the great Susie Essman's character, Susie, if not completely confused by her husband, Larry's manager, Jeff's money? The only sane person on the show is the one who seems most at ease with her wealth. Larry's wife, Cheryl (played by the lovely Cheryl Hines), doesn't feel aspiration pushing her from below and status pushing down from above. The one thing that comes naturally to Cheryl—but seems to elude all the other characters (not least of all, Larry himself)—is class, with a lowercase 'c.' It's the one thing all the money in Hollywood can't buy, and she alone seems to understand this.

Why, that makes Curb Your Enthusiasm downright radical, don't you think, Other Matt? Did I mention it's funny as hell?

Curb Your Enthusiasm begins its new season on HBO, Sunday night at 9:30 PM EST, following a half-hour infomercial for shoes.

Related: Alessandra Stanley unleashes her enthusiasm (within reason) in The New York Times.

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Curb your enthusiasm—please

Lipton.jpgSpeaking of cable season premieres, Bravo, that other bastion of upper-middle-brow entertainments, brings back the unctuous James Lipton for another season of Inside the Actors Studio.

If ever there was a show to love to hate, it's this one, with its alternately gushy and self-serious host and some of the most banal, unedited conversations with celebrities found outside the pages of Interview Magazine. If Lipton didn't exist, Ali G, Mr. Show, and Will Ferrell would have had to invent him just so they could each take turns skewering him.

Time will only tell if the corporate overlords at NBC (which gobbled up Bravo last year like a basic cable canapé) will find some synergistic use for Lipton, the New School Dean and professional starfucker. Already we've seen Will Ferrell do James Lipton with James Lipton, but it could be a lot worse.

Think of what the writers for Friends would do with the guy. ("Our guest tonight... in the Actors Studio... is a man known to millions of admirers, myself included, as Dr. Jake Ramoré... His real name is Joey Tribiani, and he is de-light-ful!") I almost (almost) wanna see him interview Tina Fey with his strange sing-sony cadence: "Every Saturday night at 12:10 or 12:15... depending on how the host drags... a fetching young woman in glasses comes into our home and makes us laugh at the world and ourselves. Unless you lack what Jung called anima, you know that that fetching woman's name is Tina Fey and she is brilllliant. She is our guest tonight in the Actor's Studio." (Frankly, Lipton probably calls Jeff Zucker twice a week to inquire about these synergistic opportunities but the shows' producers fend him off.)

This Sunday at 8PM EST, Lipton goes head-to-head with Russell Crowe. Here's a prediction of how the signature closing interview might go:

Lipton: What is your favorite word?
Crowe: Oi!
Lipton: What is your least favorite word?
Crowe: Meg.
Lipton: What turns you on?
Crowe: Mirrors.
Lipton: What sound do you love?
Crowe: The rock and roll stylings of 30 Odd Foot of Grunts.
Lipton: What sound do you hate?
Crowe: Voices—journalists' voices.
Lipton: If there is a heaven and a god, what would you like him to say to you when you get there?
Crowe: Oi, mate. Can I have your autograph?

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January 01, 2004

Art Attack

If you thought that The Boondocks' Aaron McGruder was overly hostile towards Condoleeza Rice, you better not click over to the LA Weekly's annual Comics Issue. If you do, you can see art provocateur Robbie Conal's aggressively unflattering portrait of our nation's National Security Advisor.

I should say that as unpleasant as the reproduction above is, it doesn't do justice to the image on the LA Weekly's site, which comes equipped with a plug-in that lets you zoom in—way in—and see every detail.

You may have total recall of an earlier Conal piece reproduced on low culture in October. Somehow that one seems a lot less grotesque than this most recent one. Maybe that's because in most viewers' eyes, the earlier subject is already pretty repelant, whereas Rice is, at least aesthetically, quite appealing. Somehow I doubt this picture will be going into her scrapbook.

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