Sunday, February 21, 2010

Misplaced Praise, Second in a Series of 562

Watching Sweden’s and Finland’s Olympic hockey teams beating up on each other, I was just informed that the “Titans will clash!”

Brilliant bit of marketing, that. I hear that when the movie is released, all of the new material will be re-branded. “Titans are clashing at a theater near you!”

(Warning: That is one slow loading site.)

A Musing About VS Naipaul

After reading Paul Theroux’s book Sir Vidia’s Shadow, I found myself wondering just how much of the tone of the book was merely the taste of bitterness in Theroux’s mouth over a friendship grown cold. Was VS Naipaul really the man portrayed by the words and actions in Theroux’s book, or was he someone else entirely.

Sir Vidia’s Shadow is a well written book that draws the reader into the writer’s world and, very particularly, that kind of world as inhabited by these particular writers. It’s a world of intriguingly shallow people--writers, politicians, their loved ones--who see themselves as people of great depth and importance. It is also perpetually unflattering to Naipaul as it shows him as being cheap, petty, cruel, fickle, rude, and whiny.Wherever a ray of humanity shines through to give some view of Naipaul as something other than small, it is often immediately ripped away by a deep contrast that nudges the memories of his failings.

That Theroux was willing to publish such a personal, raw look at a former friend and mentor speaks volumes about his personality, too. Of course, after reading his books, it would be hard to imagine wanting to like Theroux in his personal life as he has portrayed himself (and thinly disguised versions of himself, as in My Secret History) to be a painfully difficult and selfish person, too. For that matter, in Sir Vidia’s Shadow, he’s certainly showing himself as another victim of Naipaul’s fickle nature, but he doesn’t imagine himself as an angelic figure.

The honesty is compelling, but it is a vicious kind of person who can write a memoir about a relationship and reveal, in such brutal terms, the warts and flaws of a former friend.

So, recognizing the book’s viciousness, I did wonder at its truth.

This, from the Telegraph, makes me wonder if Theroux was understating Naipaul’s flaws.

They have led French to paint a picture of a bleak, largely loveless marriage in which Sir Vidia frequently put his wife down - he refused even to buy her a wedding ring. He often abandoned her to go travelling with Mrs Gooding, the married Anglo-Argentine with whom he fell in love in 1972, and they periodically lived apart.

When in a self-pitying mood, Sir Vidia, who was born to Indian parents in Trinidad but has lived in Britain since winning a place to Oxford, would tell his wife how he was missing Mrs Gooding but then say that he needed Lady Patricia to help him with his books.

Trapped and unable to leave the husband she worshipped, Lady Patricia’s diaries reveal how she became little more than his cook and carer, and how for a time she became dependent on Mandrax, the prescribed sedative.

Sir Vidia’s sister, Savi, regarded her brother’s claim that Lady Patricia accepted the situation as “absolute rubbish, such profound vanity”.

Both of the men are wonderful writers, and both of them look less impressive when you see them up close. VS Naipaul’s personality--so profoundly sour and self-indulgent--might make it completely impossible for me to read his work in the future. It’s lost its shine.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

What Do We Want?

Global warming!

When do we want it?


Well, global warming and more muay thai on ESPN 8, the Ocho.

Thanks to Steve for sharing the good stuff.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Geek Out

Cancer Man (or, if you’re of a slightly different mind, Cigarette Smoking Man) was on Human Target tonight. Not a big fan of the show, but it was good to see him working again.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Congratulations, New Orleans

I’m almost as surprised by the Saints’ win today as I was by Shannon Sharpe’s missing the final cut for the Hall of Fame. Happier about the former, though.

As disappointed as I am for Peyton Manning, it is impossible to be truly disappointed in the result.

Boo, on the other hand, to Audi for an ad that made me want to buy a Hummer. Or a Chris “Birdman” Anderson-mobile.

Barney’s Phone Number

In case you missed it, Barney’s phone number is: 1-877-987-6401.


In reference to the Super Bowl half time show: lovely light show, but a boring performance from a band who hasn’t had a meaningful hit in longer than I can remember. Not that they didn’t play well and do their best to inject energy and excitement into their mini-concert/mash-up of some of their biggest hits. It’s just that the music sounds nothing close to relevant.

Was this really the best choice for keeping the audience in their seats instead of clicking over to the latest Danica Patrick “Too Hot for TV Internet Only” abomination at GoDaddy.com?

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Song of the Day: The Queens of the Stone Age Edition

Think of this as my apology for that last post. It’s best enjoyed loud.

Not my favorite Queens album, but I love the song. There’s some fun guitar work in there, too.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Spartacus: Blood and Boobs

I just episode one of Spartacus: Blood and Sand.

Well, what to say about that?

It makes 300 look subtle. It makes The Passion of the Christ look bloodless. And it has more boobs than you can count count. That last bit may not be strictly true. You probably could count the breasts on display, but it would take a sharp eye and strict attention to the task, which sort of takes the fun out of it.

That’s not all. You also get ridiculously bad acting, over-the-top writing, uproariously strange sex scenes, and some full frontal male nudity for the women. What you don’t get is compelling story-telling, interesting characters, or a moment’s respite from the overly stylized presentation.

I enjoyed 300,, but this takes the same ingredients and, somehow, screws up the recipe. I would say that the urge to oversell the comic book aspects of the violence, with explosions of blood consuming the screens, limbs flying willy-nilly, and even the smallest moments of violence given slow-motion treatment and imposing music. The sex scenes, well-short of the graphic nature of pornography but exhibiting the same skewed sense of fantasy sensuality, is just as off-putting as the stylized violence.

I suppose that’s a long winded way of saying that I thought that 300 stepped over the line of good story-telling and good taste in some of the same ways as Spartacus, but I still found something worth enjoying. This new Spartacus, on the other hand, left that line so far behind that all I could find was the urge to point and laugh when our hero’s wife fairly exploded into a wash of blood during the climax of one particularly strange dream sequence. I’m sure there’s something good about the show outside of its admirable commitment to gratuitous nudity; but, then, it fails even at that titillation when you realize that the writhing girls and simulated orgasms are an insult to anything remotely resembling real intimacy.

Don’t even get me started on the mismatched accents…

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

And Now for Something at Least Mildly Different

While I don’t think that the US has fallen into a second Great Depression, I do think that we can look back and enjoy some music.

And when I go home tonight, I think I’ll torture my wife by making he watch Cinderella Man. Just to keep the mood going.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Now Spinning We Fell to Earth’s “The Double”

I know that there are probably hundreds or even tens or perhaps precisely zero people out there wondering what I’m listening to right now. Which is why I felt compelled to share.

I see that you’re wondering, what the heck does this have to do with Mark Lanegan? That’s an excellent question: Wendy Rae Fowler, one of the band members, is his ex-wife.

In case you were wondering.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Lethal Drinking: Mashed Blogging

With the war between Conan O’Brien and Jay Leno--ably flamed on by Jimmy Kimmel (Seriously, did you see him on the Leno show tonight? The audience was getting uncomfortable by the end of that 10@10 piece.), and commented on by the wonderful Craig Ferguson--I have to admit to watching shows I wouldn’t normally watch. Normally, I’d avoid Leno’s crap prime time show, I’d skip right over Conan’s awkward humor, and I’d spend my time working. So, late night wars and NBC’s wholly inept handling of a bad situation have given me a little bit of a break from my usual rut.

Which is nice for me.

But it doesn’t change the fact that it grows harder and harder for me to enjoy Lethal Weapon as the years go by. Not just because Mel Gibson’s mullet is so outdated, but because Gibson is a boozy anti-Semite and Danny Glover is a dictator loving loon of Pat Robertson-esque proportions (the loon part, that is, not the dictator part).

Damnit, I used to love that movie.

Which brings me to the point. Drinking. Drinking is precisely the thing that helps us cope in times like these. In times where late night hosts are locked in cycles of anger and aggression, where Gibson can’t be trusted in polite company, and where Glover poops on pretty much everything that gave him a better life than I’ll ever know (at least in a material sense--whenever he opens his mouth, I feel significantly blessed on the intellectual side of things).

What was I saying?

Oh, yes, drinking.

In the Rockies? Blogger or blogging groupie or unreformed alcoholic? Or any combination of the above (which are beside and not actually above, but that’s beside the point). Well, good, because the Bill with too many LLLLL’s is calling out to all of us to come drink at the Rocky Mountain Blogger Fest.

Check it out here to, RSVP, and vote for a date. I’m planning to be there whatever date is chosen and I’m looking forward to drinking the memory of my own mullet into the trash bin of history. 

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Hooray for Conan! (Now with Inappropriate Similes and Stuff)

I really don’t like Conan O’Brien. He isn’t that funny, I don’t like the way he interviews folks, and I thought he was a horrible choice to inherit the Tonight Show mantle. It just didn’t seem to be the right fit--like asking Megadeth to cover White Lion’s “When the Children Cry.” And to mean it.

NBC is treating him like the history of music will treat the memory of Kip Winger. Their idea of trying to pull Jay’s show back into the late night time slot and devaluing the Tonight Show brand (which Conan rightfully calls the “greatest franchise in the history of broadcasting") is about as smart as playing Warrant’s “Cherry Pie” for an audience of Bad Brains fans. Which, we all know how bad that would be, don’t we?

Anyway, his valiantly defiant news release is even funnier than Ozzy Osbourne’s less sober moments.

None of which changes the fact that Victoria Beckham looks scarily plastic on American Idol tonight. What the hell happened to that woman’s face? Whatever it is, that’s some scary bad makeup. It’s like the worst of the 60’s and Tammy Fay Baker all came together in one big, laminated mask upon her face.

Not an attractive look.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

I Know She Can Get the Job, but Can She Do the Job?

I feel a little for Amanda Simpson because she’s right.

For Amanda Simpson, believed to be America’s first openly transgender presidential appointee, the job she starts Tuesday in the U.S. Commerce Department is an honor and the culmination of a career dedicated to understanding military technology.

But what gnaws at her, she says, is the fear of being labeled a token who was hired because of her sexual identity rather than on her merits.

When the focus of a person’s career trajectory is on their status as a member of a protected class, then the automatic question becomes one of competence. Did she get the job because she’s a sop to the gay and lesbian community or did she get the job because she’s actually competent to do the job? I rather hope it’s the latter and I’ll happily give her the benefit of the doubt. It doesn’t help much that this is an appointment (senior technical adviser in the Commerce Department’s Bureau of Industry and Security) that would normally draw very little attention; the attention has come because of the novelty of the moment.

I’ll be happier when we can move beyond focusing on the novelty and appreciating the professional qualities that drive a person--regardless of skin color, religion, or current disposition of dangly bits--to succeed in some very tough jobs. Give me the best person for the job, not the best demographic mix for the moment.

Good luck to her, though, in her new position; now don’t let us down.

And if you have no idea where that title came from, you’re poorer for the lack. Here’s a clip from the wonderful Joe vs. the Volcano, one of my favorite movies of the 90’s.

And for those of you who do remember the movie, here’s a moment for you: after seeing the movie with my friend, Jerry, some time after my divorce, he looked at me and said, “I have some baggage, but, damn, you have Joe vs. the Volcano baggage.”

Which, yeah.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Flashes of Zomby: 2009 Had Great Music, Pt 1

Joe Henry’s thrillingly good, Blood from Stars, probably went unnoticed by, well, nearly everyone. It shouldn’t have; it’s an eclectic romp that touches on so many styles and themes that it’s hard to describe. What sticks, though, is the poetry of his lyrics as they twist through little stories.

A wonderfully talented artist.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Flashes of Zomby: The Bad Holiday Music Edition

What the hell was Neil Diamond thinking with “Cherry Cherry Christmas?” That, in all its self-referential glory, may well be the worst, the cheesiest, and the most painful of all contrived Christmas pop songs.

I’d much rather listen to Bill Nighy (as the hilarious aging rock star, Billy Mack in the movie Love Actually) singing his “festering turd of a record.” For those who haven’t seen it, in a desperate attempt to make a little more money and get his name back in the headlines, Billy Mack records a version of “Love is All Around” that is written specially for Christmas. Even Mack can’t like it, but his refreshing honesty strikes a chord with listeners and he ends up being the number one Christmas album of the season. Fun stuff.

But I doubt that Neil will have the guts to tell us that his own stunt-record to look to the camera and say, “This is shit, isn’t it?”

Yes, yes, Mr. Nighy, it is shit. But it’s still better than “Cherry Cherry Christmas.”

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

So You THink You Can Dance Meets Avatar: The, Damnit, I’m Trying to be Nice Edition (Updated)

The polite view--and, I’m really trying to be polite here--of the singing of the Avatar theme song (I’m not sure if that’s the actual name of the song* or not, but roll with me)--is that:

A- The songwriter was having an off however the hell long it took for him or her to write the song.

B- The singer was had a cold and it made her sound like a sniffly walrus.

C- The seamstress was a blind charity case with substance abuse issues.

Because, to be honest, that dress was the best part of the worst performance of a hideous song that I’ve seen on national TV since William Hung had his too many minutes of entirely unearned fame.

* And, since I can’t help myself, that would be Leona Lewis singing “I See You.” Which does nothing to change my opinion of the song or the performance. I sounded like someone wanted to almost re-write that painfully irritating Celine Dion song from Titanic,** but both song and singer were lesser talents.

** “My Heart Will Go On.” And, yes, I had to look that up, too. God, I’m pathetic. I even listened to the thing to make sure it was the song I was thinking of. People, I torture myself for your enlightenment. And I’m not talking any wussy waterboarding, here, I’m talking listening to freakin’ Celine Dion. Thank yous in the form of cash are entirely acceptable.

Update: Why does Adam Lambert have a giant poopy on his shoulder? His song, aside from being less nauseating than “I See You,” was so blandly pedestrian as to make me wish for more boy-on-boy smooching and assorted, simulated naughtiness. At least he was interesting when he was being offensive.

Monday, December 14, 2009

“The Christmas Song,” Raveonettes and “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” Scott Weiland

If you’ve never heard the Raveonettes, you’re missing a treat. Think fifties pop rock with a little Jesus & Mary Chain and a latter-day punk aesthetic--and, in this case, singing a Christmas tune. And if you like this one, check out their romping fun tune, “Beat City,” which is all sorts of socially unacceptable at loud volumes.

Scott Weiland is also all sorts of socially unacceptable. His drug problems probably keep him off the really good Christmas party lists because, let’s be honest, no one wants to invite the guy who ends up peeing on the fake tree in the corner. Aside from that, though, there’s the fact that Stone Temple Pilots sort of sucked. Still, he sounds almost pretty singing “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” and he just barely earns himself a mention on my rather random list of Christmas tunes.

Now, if you want something more substantial, you’ll have to check out my comment on Ed Driscoll’s site. I’m getting ready to start my new job tomorrow (and, yes, I’m here in Irwindale wishing I’d brought more clothes) and that’s all the room I have for the world of blogginess tonight.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

“Blue Christmas,” The Load Levelers

Tonight’s song, “Blue Christmas” done psychobilly style, is just about the fun. It’s goofy, it’s fast, and it sounds like the Hatfield and McCoys got together for a hoedown over too many eggnogs. Which, if that doesn’t sound good to you, you might want to skip this one.

Just sayin’.

And after that note, here’s a little classic Bill Cosby. Now, I’m not going to lie: this isn’t my favorite Cosby bit, but it does fit the season.

None of which should detract from an article that y’all really should be reading today. Quin Hillyer’s warning about the erosion of property rights is just as important as any other fight that conservatives and libertarians should be paying attention to right now.

The unfortunate erosion of property rights has occurred despite a huge public backlash in the past several years against the Kelo v. New London decision in 2005. That was the Supreme Court case in which a Connecticut town successfully seized private property not just for public use, but also for private development surrounding new offices for the Pfizer Inc. drug corporation. (The destruction of that Connecticut neighborhood became all the more painful when Pfizer announced Nov. 9 that it would leave New London anyway, taking away the 1,400 jobs that were supposed to be the project’s main benefit.)

And, yes, he does tie it in to this week’s EPA carbon dioxide ruling. I find myself wondering if citizens outside the hyper-politicized crowd that I travel in have noticed the incredibly far-reaching effects that the EPA decision will have in this country? Sometimes I want to close my eyes to the politics for a while. Fighting the same fights year after year after year gets seriously tiring. For that matter, it doesn’t seem healthy to be surrounded by outrage all the time--and, in blogging, finding the latest outrage really is a good bit of the game, isn’t it?

But damned if our political and bureaucratic classes don’t need as much oversight as all of us can provide and outrageous behavior is about as well-hidden as Tiger Woods’ entire harem of hussies.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

“Little Drummer Boy,” Ray Charles

Ray Charles sings one of my favorite versions of “Little Drummer Boy"--complete with slide guitar, brass, and a really great vibe.

You know you love it.

None of which explains why our friends in Britain are imposing a 50% special tax on bankers’ bonuses. What irritates most about this (and do read the comments at the linked article) is the raw popularity of this kind of move. Class warfare like this is neither good business (in trying to punish these people, it fairly encourages work-arounds to maintain the pay schedule and avoid the extra taxes--achieving precisely neither of the stated goals) nor is it good ethics (it is not simply unfair, but injurious that a person face confiscatory and capricious taxes of this nature simply because of his or her chosen field).

The British government on Wednesday said banks would pay a one-time, 50% tax on bonuses worth more than 25,000 pounds ($40,700) in an effort to encourage banks to rebuild their capital bases and continue lending to individuals and businesses.

David Wessel reports on results from a panel dissussion on international regulation, along with Sir Andrew Crockett, Dame Clara Furse and Fichard Gnodde at the Future of Finance conference.

Chancellor of the Exchequer Alistair Darling delivered the blow in his annual pre-budget report, which also laid out the government’s plans to cut the deficit over the next four years.

Darling said he was giving banks, which have all benefited directly or indirectly from massive government aid, a choice.

“They can use their profits to build up their capital base. But if they insist on paying substantial rewards, I am determined to claw money back for the taxpayer,” he said.

You won’t see too many people crying for those bankers; the portrait of the banker is the fat cat who profits on the labors of the little people, so who cares about them? The principle is worth supporting, though: no citizen should live in fear of an arbitrary tax being levied against them because they chose the wrong job.

What do I know, though? I’m just some marketing guy who trusts that the government won’t come along and crush me with new taxes, regulations, and fees for such whimsical reasons. Which might just be another way of saying “sucker.”


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