Friday, January 29, 2010
Last year, I added some new variations to the portfolio, this time featuring people from work in scenarios that usually ended with huge arguments or major crises. There was no logic to any of these dreams, and the only thing they really had in common was a high level of panic.
With last night's dream, I believe I may have reached a new level of depravity/insanity/psychopathy (take your pick), because for the first time, a blogger appeared in one of my dreams. Those who are familiar with Ann Althouse know that she is probably one of the most prominent bloggers in the country, with a vast readership that makes mine look like nothing more than a blip on the radar screen. To give you an idea, I'd be willing to bet that her site has received more hits in the time that it's taken me to write this than mine gets in an entire day. Those who read her regularly know that one of the things she does best is dissect a speech, or a column, or an article that she finds fault with (the latest example coming just yesterday).
In my dream, I am attending a training being offered by the Association that I work for, which for some odd reason is being held in a bar (not a bad idea, but I doubt that we'll ever go there). A speaker is delivering a presentation, and Althouse is loudly critiquing it, in much the same fashion that she eviscerates the Glenn Greenwald column in the post linked to above. This is resulting in much laughter from the audience, and much horror from the staff. It goes on, until a gentleman in the audience rolls up a newspaper, and whacks Ms. Althouse in the back of the head. And it was about that time that I woke up, which is too bad because it would have been really interesting to see what happened after that point.
So there you have it. I can't explain it, so all I am left with is to share it.
The #1 song 35 years ago this week – “Downtown,” Petula Clark. The video is either a bit out of sync, or Petula is doing a particularly poor job of lip-syncing – I’m not sure which. But the song remains the same.
A few years later (13 or 14, to be less than exact), The B-52s chipped in with their version:
Thursday, January 28, 2010
Wednesday, January 27, 2010
Tuesday, January 26, 2010
Monday, January 25, 2010
- There have been a lot of great quarterbacks playing in the past 20 years, but outside of Joe Montana, I'm not sure if I've seen a better game than that played yesterday by Peyton Manning. It didn't set any records on the statistical front, but it was a magnificent performance. I love watching Manning play; the way he takes over a game, reading the defense right up to the last second, and then taking whatever the defense allows. Pierre Garcon, Austin Collie, and Joseph Addai were also great, and given how infrequently Manning gets hit hard, you have to think that the Colts are going to be around for a while.
- It dawned on me yesterday that I've never heard Colts Coach Jim Caldwell say anything - not a single word. It's almost a perfect parallel to George Seifert taking over from Bill Walsh, and the 49ers not missing a beat.
- Man, I am so glad I'm not a big Vikings fan, because that was the sort of game that stays with you for a lifetime (for 49ers fans, the obvious parallels are the 1983 and 2000 NFC Championships, painful losses to the Redskins and Giants). I'm thrilled that New Orleans is finally in the Super Bowl, but the Vikings should have won that game, and I'm sure they know it today.
- Brett Favre is coming back. I just hope he spares us the agony of another season of "Will He Or Won't He?"
- What the heck happened to Robert Meacham, the guy who was positively tearing up the league in November? I can only remember his name being called once yesterday. Odd.
On to the prediction:
The Colts were up against it yesterday, sucked it up, and won going away over an opponent with absolutely nothing to lose - the most dangerous kind. The Saints are capable of great football, but I worry a bit about their ability to put four great quarters together under the biggest spotlights any of them have ever been under. They could win, and it won't be until the game begins to flow that I'll know who I'm rooting for, but in the end I don't think they will. Manning will play another great game - he'll study those Saints rushes, and figure out a way to outmaneuver them - or at least, often enough to make things work.
Final Score: Colts 27, Saints 17
Evanier has written extensively on the latest NBC late-night brouhaha, and being in the business himself, has noted that (much like The Godfather) nearly all of this is business, not personal.
The only thing I wonder about what he's written (and he's said it more than once now) concerns the 10 p.m. lead-ins. Obviously Conan had a terrible lead-in with Jay's show, which was tanking at 10 p.m., but Evanier writes that for most of his tenure, Leno suffered from bad lead-ins as well. I'd like to see the evidence for that, because for all their faults, NBC has had some pretty successful shows at 10 p.m. over the years, including Law & Order and ER. It's one thing to write that, and while it could be true, I'd like to see the evidence.
Of course, why all this matters is anyone's guess. I find it fascinating.
Sunday, January 24, 2010
Closing out the show with a funny and heartfelt version of "Free Bird" was a stroke of genius, but the part of the show most worthy of comment was Conan's gracious, heartfelt goodbye. He acknowledged the current differences with NBC, but also thanked the network, essentially for making his career possible. Being a bit of a cynic myself, his comments on cynicism were particularly memorable - he urged his fans not to feel cynical about what happened, and closed with a plea that if you work hard and be kind, amazing things will happen:
To all the people watching, I can never thank you enough for your kindness to me and I'll think about it for the rest of my life. All I ask of you is one thing: please don't be cynical. I hate cynicism -- it's my least favorite quality and it doesn't lead anywhere.
Nobody in life gets exactly what they thought they were going to get. But if you work really hard and you're kind, amazing things will happen."
I can only hope that if ever faced by a similar situation, I would be able to react with such class and grace.
Once the dust settles we may learn more details about how all of this happened, but right now it is crystal clear that Conan played the end game brilliantly, and emerged from the wreckage as the good guy. NBC execs are the buffoons, and whether he likes it or not, Jay Leno is the bad guy. I suppose that last point could be argued, but I don't know how else to explain the upcoming appearance on Oprah.
I'm sure Conan will land on his feet, and when he does, I'll be rooting for him to kick Jay's ass in the ratings wars.
Friday, January 22, 2010
Tuesday, January 19, 2010
Monday, January 18, 2010
- The 3D effects were amazing, and brought vitality to the screen that was lacking in the 2D version - as impressive as that version was.
- This is going to sound strange, but seeing the movie for a second time made me really appreciate Zoe Saldana's performance as Neytiri. To be honest, I don't have any idea how Cameron captured the performances of the actors portraying the Na'vi. But what I do know is that watching Neytiri, you really felt as if you are watching someone embody the character with heart and feeling. With Jake Sully, you sort of feel as if you're watching a cartoon. Is that because of Sam Worthington's shortcomings? Perhaps.
- As spectacular as they are from a visual standpoint, the battle scenes are really the least impressive section of the film. Easy for me to say, but I wish Cameron had been able to figure out a way to tell the story of a man discovering another life and another culture without laying it on so thick with the "evil empire" business.
Friday, January 15, 2010
Thursday, January 14, 2010
Petit is a classic eccentric, the guy you might see (and perhaps even try to avoid) performing at a public park in just about every major urban center in the country (and many parts of the world). The movie tells the story, in the words of Petit and his merry band of pranksters, how he came to be obsessed with the towers, even before they were built, and made it his life's goal to conquer them.
Of course, you can't watch this movie without thinking about 9/11, particularly when Petit, his friends, and his American accomplices (including one who worked in the building at the time) begin talking about the clever, cloak-and-dagger ways that they got themselves into the building, and up to the top of the towers. But the movie does not dwell on 9/11; in fact, it never even mentions it. And that is the way it should be.
In the end, "Man on Wire" is as great a tribute to the World Trade Center as anyone could have hoped for.
But if you're looking for a fun slice of entertainment that incorporates some of the best known attributes of the Sherlock Holmes legend into a buddy picture with a lot of wit and action, then by all means, give it a shot - you'll probably like it.
Robert Downey Jr. is predictably strong in the title role, but the real revelation is Jude Law as Dr. Watson. Law creates a Watson that is very nearly the equal of Holmes in wit and cunning. I've never been a big fan of Law's (I can still remember how Clive Owen acted him off the screen in "Closer"), but if he keeps this up, that will change. Mark Strong is also quite good as the villain, and it's a shame that he couldn't have been saved for Professor Moriarty (assuming the film makes enough to justify the sequel that is clearly set up). The lead women in the movie (Rachel McAdams and Kelly Reilly) don't fare quite as well, but in their defense, the movie uses them primarily as foils to the two male leads.
All in all, I enjoyed it quite a bit.
Wednesday, January 13, 2010
- First, let's talk about "The Jay Leno Show." No, I take it back - first, let me stipulate that I've always liked Jay Leno, and thought he was a great stand-up comedian back in the 1980s. There are plenty of clips of his appearances on David Letterman's show on YouTube, and they're well worth checking out if you want to see Jay at his best. But let's face it - Jay's 10 p.m. show sucks. I've watched it more than I should probably admit, mainly because there isn't much else on at 10 p.m. these days, and I just seem to do better if I have some white noise on in the background. Jay's monologue varies between OK and very good, the "Headlines" are still funny, and pretty much everything else has been an unmitigated disaster. But what's truly amazing to me is that from day one, Jay has done absolutely nothing to vary the formula of the show - despite the clear evidence on Night 1 that the "10 on 10" segment was a bad idea, they are still doing it, nearly six months later. The banter with Kevin Eubanks is awful; frankly, the band isn't even that good. The interviews are forced, as they always have been. Every now and then, one of the recorded segments is funny, although all these years later, I'm still mystified as to why anyone thinks or ever thought Ross the Intern is/was funny. Have I left anything out?
- I haven't watched enough of "The Tonight Show" with Conan to gauge its effectiveness. I've always been a Letterman man, and since Letterman comes on at 11 in Sacramento, that's what I watch. By the time its over or I've decided that Letterman's guests aren't worth watching, I'm usually too tired to make any kind of reasonable judgment about what's going on with Conan's show.
- Having said all of the above, there's no doubt in my mind that Conan is the wronged party here. Particularly given the fact that his version of "Late Night" took a couple of years to find its footing, it's amazing that NBC would throw him to the wolves so quickly. And given the absymal quality of Jay's show at 10 p.m, you really have to wonder whether the fan base for Jay's Tonight Show will stick with him. I imagine so, because they did before, and from what I saw of that show, it wasn't much different than what's now playing in prime time. Conan's statement to the "People of Earth" yesterday was an absolute masterpiece, managing to be pointed and hilariously funny all at the same time. After reading it, it's difficult for me to imagine how anyone is going to sympathize with Jay in all of this. But at the same time, Jay was wronged as well - NBC tried to push him out the door too. So I guess the only real villain in all of this is NBC. Now let's see if they can make it up to us by producing the next "Hill Street Blues," "Homicide" or "ER." Heck, I'd even settle for "Miami Vice" at this point.
- Speaking of villains, how about that Lane Kiffin? And yeah, I know that people in other professions probably do this sort of thing (although I can't think of one in my experience, and I've been in the workforce for almost 30 years). But even if we assume that is true, how about leaving all of those recruits in the lurch? Since most of the sports media world is slicing and dicing Kiffin with aplomb, I'm not sure there's much I can add, except to thank him for giving all of us another reason to root against USC.
- Have I commented on Pete Carroll? I can't even remember. But in the spirit of brevity, let me just say that I think he's made a big mistake, and that his coaching stint in Seattle will end much the same way as his previous two. I like him; I just can't understand his decision.
Tuesday, January 12, 2010
I thought the movie did a wonderful job of exploring a number of themes, including whether a man can truly escape his past, and whether a man can truly suppress the darkest elements of his nature. Tom Stall, the main character, (and right about now I should let readers know that I’m going to give away key plot elements, because you can’t really talk about the film without doing so), is a man who is trying to do both. What he appears to be to his wife, his children, and his community is different from who he really is – to a point. The question that the movie doesn’t entirely resolve (and that’s a good thing) is whether, once his past and his nature become known, he can still find a place in the life and the world that he has created for himself.
The movie establishes Stall as a good man forced to do awful things by first introducing two very bad men who do awful things. Those two men wander into Stall’s diner one evening, prepared to do more awful things, and in a burst of sudden violence that seems shocking to everyone who knows him, Stall is able to disarm and mortally wound both men. He becomes a hero, but in doing so attracts the attention of some other very bad men, men who believe and say that Stall is himself a very bad man who did very bad things, a long time ago.
And from that point on, there is really no way out for Stall (who we now know to be Joey Cusack) except to resort to the violence that he has tried so hard to purge from his life and his character. The harder he tries to avoid his dark side, the deeper he pulls his family into it with him. The choice he faces is not simple, but is very clear – it is only through embracing the dark recesses of his soul that he can escape from the trap he has created for himself. And even when he does that, there’s no guarantees.
The payoff comes in the film’s final scene, which shows Stall/Cusack returning home after he has exorcised his demons, through another brutal and shocking act of violence. There is not a single line of dialogue in the scene, but there is so much going on. The attempt to cleanse oneself after the purging, the tentative looks from one family member to another as Stall/Cusack comes into the house and moves toward the dinner table, and the final shot of man and wife looking into each other’s eyes. It’s a magnificent moment, and one of the great film scenes of our time.
Cronenberg does a wonderful job of framing the changes in Tom/Joey by emphasizing the two sex scenes with his wife. As I commented while we were watching, both scenes go about as far as a film can go without having an NC-17 rating slapped on it, but for very different reasons. The first scene, though I’d hardly call it innocent, falls somewhere between playful and downright kinky, and does a great job of establishing the relationship between Tom and his wife Edie. The second scene, which occurs after Edie learns about Joey, is shocking in its brutality. Whether it is a rape or not is probably less important than the sheer fact of its brutality. These are two people trying to hurt each other, very much.
The performances are uniformly outstanding, from Viggo Mortensen and Maria Bello as Tom and Edie Stall to Ed Harris as the deranged mobster (with an assist from the makeup department), and William Hurt as a mob boss (more about whom I won’t say) in a great role that makes me sad we don’t see Hurt more often.
Though not for everyone, I have no hesitation in calling “A History of Violence” a great movie.
Saturday, January 09, 2010
As a Cal fan, I heartily endorse the move. But as a football fan, it kind of bums me out, because there's no doubt in my mind that Carroll - assuming the deal goes through - is making a big mistake. He's been great for college football, and even though I root against his team as hard as I root against Florida, he's never bugged me the way that Urban Meyer does.
Oh well. It's his life. Whatever happens, I hope it works out for him.
Friday, January 08, 2010
But Texas sure made it interesting, essentially dominating the second half until the very end. Once Garrett Gilbert got his feet under him, he started to make some great plays. And although they’ll deny it, there seems little doubt that Alabama lost its edge at halftime, thinking that because Gilbert had played so poorly in the first half, the game was over. With a team like Texas, the game is never over. The only thing I can really criticize is the incredibly stupid decision to call a time out with 15 seconds left in the first half, and then run a play with absolutely no upside and lots of potential, as we learned, for disaster. I don't care what anyone says: there is no defending that call.
Based on their seasons and what we saw last night, I think that if Alabama and Texas played 10 games, Alabama would probably win 6 of them. But notwithstanding the final score, last night was not a dominant performance, certainly nothing like the demolition job that the Crimson Tide laid on Florida in the SEC Championship game - clearly, the best game played by any team all year. And with all due respect to Boise State, the Broncos just can’t make the claim that they beat two teams the caliber of Florida and Texas. Which isn’t to say that they couldn’t, if given the opportunity.
And that’s precisely what is wrong about the current system. A fair system, which I won’t attempt to define here, would give Boise State that chance. As it stands now, we’re left with one game for all the marbles, played by two teams that hadn't set foot on the field for 33 days. That hardly seems like a fair test.
If I had a final ballot, my Top 5 would look like this: 1. Alabama 2. Texas 3. Florida 4. Boise State 5. TCU.
You could call this the greatest band in the history of rock and roll, and you wouldn't get an argument from me.
You could call the performances that Elvis gave on this night the greatest performances in the history of rock and roll, and you wouldn't get an argument from me.
Happy Birthday, Elvis.
Thursday, January 07, 2010
Given that this search landed on my review of Bob Dylan's "Modern Times," I'm going to hazard a guess that the person did not find what they were looking for.
Wednesday, January 06, 2010
No One Ever Wrote This Sentence Before
On the Feast of St. Stephen, I was driving my hearse to the wholesale liverwurst outlet when suddenly a hermaphrodite in a piano truck backed out of a crackhouse driveway, and as my shoes caught fire, I pirouetted across Boris Karloff Boulevard, slapping the truckdriver six times in the loins with a Chattanooga road map, even though he was humming "The Pussycat Song."
Thanks again, George. Happy New Year, wherever you may be.
Tuesday, January 05, 2010
Even if it were just those two songs, that would be enough.
Monday, January 04, 2010
"On Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, I would say 17, somewhere in that range.''
-Miami coach Tony Sparano last week, on the number of hours his coaches work during the week during the season. Sparano added that he gets into the office at 4 or 4:30 a.m. most days. "And 2:30, 3 a.m. this week,'' he said, referring to preparation days for the Steelers game on Sunday.
How is it possible for a man to be that productive working that long, every week?
The answer to that question is easy; it isn't. But to King's question, I'd add: why is it even necessary? I get that football has become an intricate game, but we're not talking about rocket science here. Wasn't it Vince Lombardi who said something along the lines of "some people try to find things in this game that don't exist but football is only two things - blocking and tackling?" And last I heard, he was pretty successful.
Full column: http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2010/writers/peter_king/01/03/mmqb/2.html#ixzz0bfzhpTEl
Sunday, January 03, 2010
The Denver Broncos began the season 6-0, and lost 8 of their last 10 to finish 8-8.
Which team would you rather be the fan of, heading into this postseason?
Cameron's dialogue isn't as clunky as George Lucas', but he'd be better off leaving the writing to others. The performances are OK - Sam Worthington is all right in the Michael Biehn role, but Biehn was better in "Terminator" and "Aliens." Sigourney Weaver is fine in the Sigourney Weaver role. Paul Reiser did a better job in the evil corporate weenie role than Giovanni Ribisi. But Cameron has a real problem with villains, they always seem to come across as one-dimensional - at least, that is, when they're humans. In fact, they come across a lot like the guy to the left. Which is too bad, because I really like Stephen Lang. But here, he's straight out of a comic book.
But even with those drawbacks, it is an interesting story, and it's hard not to get excited in the final act - predictable though it may be. It's well worth seeing on the big screen.
Saturday, January 02, 2010
- Robert Christgau
“Like Bob Dylan circa Blonde on Blonde, Elvis Costello circa This Year's Model, and Patti Smith, who some people seem to think she sounds like on this album, Harvey sings with certainty about her internal life and the world around her. It's hard to keep from quoting lyrics when writing about this album, because they're so good. But flat on the screen, the words don't convey Harvey's vocal nuances in a line like "And he's the best thing/ He's the best thing/ He's the best thing/ A beautiful feeling." The way she almost whispers a word, and then lets minimal guitar notes fill the air — just a little longer than you might expect. Or sings "And when I watch you move," and then just holds that last word.”
- Michael Goldberg
“The songs on the album are taut and flawless, with the energy and intensity of her earlier songs meshing exquisitely with elegant melodies and enormous hooks and choruses. There is a sublime and seamless blend between the grimy cityscape settings of her songs and the dreamy seaside tranquility of Harvey’s home in Dorset, which is hinted at quite obviously in the album’s title. And of course, having Yorke contribute vocals on two tracks never hurts, either. But Harvey is clearly the star of the show throughout this masterpiece, easily going from the piercing, potent edge of “The Whores Hustle And The Hustlers Whore” and “Kamikaze” to the more subtle grace and splendor of “A Place Called Home” and “Horses In My Dreams.” The songs are strong and stirring throughout the entire record, without a real lemon in the bunch, and Harvey’s songwriting is simply polished and perfect. And by the time the final strains of the gorgeous “We Float” played out, I was breathless and completely blown away. This is a record that really ushered in the 21st century for me, musically, and still remains one of the most consistently stunning and impeccable albums I have ever heard.”
- Erik Thompson
“This is Love”
“A Place Called Home”
“You Said Something”
“Horses in My Dreams”
Friday, January 01, 2010
- Robert Christgau
Patty Griffin’s “1000 Kisses” is one of two albums on this list (the other to be announced soon) that reaches the “A+” level, as defined by Christgau. From the first chords of “Rain” through the closing notes of the final reprise, “1000 Kisses” is an absolute masterpiece. And even though the album is short by today’s standards (right around 40 minutes), there is not a single cut on it that is less than great. Best known before this album for her songwriting skills, Griffin proves here that she is also a great singer – and Doug Lancio’s production provides her with the perfect accompaniment.
I’m not sure what else there is to say – instead, just listen.
“Long Ride Home”