Wednesday, December 20, 2006

2006: Things You Loved (Part Five)

And now a word from my friends in the Lone Star State:
Casino Royale

Though I'm a huge Bond fan (books, movies, cheesy theme songs), I fully acknowledge that half of the 20 previous official Bond flicks are bad (the original, campy Casino Royale starring Peter Sellers and David Niven doesn't count, nor does the rogue Never Say Never Again). But that is really beside the point. Once you get into a Bond frame of mind, you accept and even relish some of the badness. That said, with each new release, I do pray and hope for a truly good movie that will revitalize the franchise, something the recent Pierce Brosnan installments, record-breaking grosses aside, most certainly did not do. It wasn't Brosnan's fault. He made a fine Bond, but the scripts were just horrible.

So, imagine my joy to be able to say that Casino Royale is one of the best Bond movies ever made (although, it is hard to top From Russia with Love or Goldfinger). What makes it extra sweet is that Daniel Craig was so maligned before he even had a chance (too blonde, not suave enough, etc.) But after seeing him try on the most famous tux in movies and strut his stuff, I can say that he is the best Bond we've seen. And I am including Sean Connery here.

Finally realizing that they had come to the end of the road with invisible cars and ridiculous world-domination plots, the Bond powers-that-be wisely decided to return to basics. Call it Bond Begins. This Bond is not super-confident and he does not have all of the answers. This Bond falls in love, he bleeds, he's sometimes overpowered. This Bond is real.
Ray Evans


British band, modern film noir, and a writer friend of mine

Best CD:
Arctic Monkeys, Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not

The members of this British band don't play their instruments like Eric Clapton, and they don't sing socially important songs about war or poverty, or about the ethereal and elusive nature of love. They sing relatively straightforward indie-rock songs about tyrannical bouncers, getting in trouble with your girlfriend, and the inadvisability of text messaging after midnight and a few beers. In other words, they're less John Lennon than Joe Average. But their songs are fun and upbeat and it’s difficult to resist singing along. My favorite song of 2006 is probably "Mardy Bum" from this album. "Mardy" apparently means "sulky," but the song and this album are anything but.

Best Movie: Brick

It’s a Dashiell Hammett, hardboiled 1930s detective novel transplanted into a modern-day, Southern Cal high school. It has the archetypal characters, the dense lingo, and a murder that's got to be solved by a damaged but principled loner. I had to watch it with the closed captioning on to follow the dialogue (I'm a moron), but in the midst of a surprisingly great performance, the kid from Third Rock from the Sun delivered my favorite line of 2006 when he was being threatened by a group of druggies: "Throw one at me if you want, hash head. I've got all five senses and I slept last night. That puts me six up on the lot of you." This is by no means an Oscar winner, but it's an intriguing concept that made me wonder why it hadn't been done -- or at least done this well -- before.

Best Book: The Geographer's Library by Jon Fasman

Reviews often describe it as a more literary Dan Adams (of The Da Vinci Code), but that's like saying The Godfather was a more cinematic Eight Heads in a Duffle Bag. I’d be remiss if I let you escape 2006 without reading this book.
-The Comish (sic)


A championship moment

For four hundred and two seconds on January 4th, my innards may have ceased to function. If not for the simple fact that I continue to exist, I would have no evidence to the contrary. For almost seven minutes, not including commercial interruptions, I could not tell you if my muscles moved, my eyes blinked, or if my lungs took in, or subsequently released, air. As far as I can tell, during that time, I consisted simply of my eyeballs and the sweat glands located on the underside of my hands. With 6:42 remaining in the 2006 Rose Bowl, my beloved University of Texas Longhorns were behind twelve points to USC; a team that many had deemed "the greatest college football team of all time." Any other year, I would gracefully lay down my king, acknowledge defeat, and scan the TiVo for an old "Veronica Mars" episode. Any year but this year.

Some people believe that evidence of God can be seen in the birth of a child, in an awe-inspiring waterfall, or in the burn marks on a tortilla. All the evidence I will ever need is in the existence of a burnt orange number 10 draped across the body of Vince Young. Near 1500 B.C., Moses parted the Red Sea to lead the Israelites out of Egypt. Some 3,500 years later, another red sea parted, a sea of red Trojan jerseys, leading Young to the end zone and the Texas faithful to the promised land.

As Matt Leinart's final pass sailed out of bounds, the promise of a national-championship Longhorn team became reality and I began to regain feeling in my extremities. I found myself awash in the joy of almost 31 years of patience, hope, and prayer finally coming to fruition and an overwhelming need to pee. During the course of the next 348 days, Vince has gone on to the greener pastures of the NFL, and the Longhorns have returned to their previous form of pissing away games they should easily win late in the year. Yet for me, the 348 days following and the 11,671 days preceding January 4, 2006, are of little to no college football consequence. I will always have 01/04/06; I will always have four hundred and two; I will always have that burnt orange 10; and no one can take that away from me.
-Jason Wiseman


Goodness of heart, tunes, a book, and a vacation

Philanthropy: I’m really into the idea of microloans. Kiva lets you connect with and loan money to unique small businesses and entrepreneurs in the developing world. For $25, you can "sponsor a business" and help the world's working poor make great strides towards economic independence. You can make a huge difference in an individual (or family’s) life for less than the price of dinner and a movie (or just dinner). And to date, Kiva’s repayment rate is 100%. It wasn’t started in ’06, but I heard about it this year, so I’m counting it.

The RED campaign. My second-favorite philanthropy idea, which is new in 2006. I love the RED campaign.

Neko Case, Fox Confessor Brings the Flood, "Hold On." This reminds me of stuff I listened to in college when I was 21 and thought I had a lot of deep, intellectual angst (aka, time on my hands). But it also has great lyrics and inspired vocals: “The most tender place in my heart is for strangers. I know it’s unkind but my own blood’s much too dangerous.”

Mason Jennings, Boneclouds, "Be Here Now." This got me through a miserable job. “Be Here Now” was my flotation device. I think if you like Ray LaMontagne, et al, you’ll like Mason Jennings.

Books: Barefoot Contessa at Home

I don’t have this book yet, but I want it. I read it whenever I’m in the bookstore (aka library). Ina Garten is my favorite chef of all time. She’s adorable and brilliant. She actually worked in the Ford administration on nuclear energy before becoming a professional caterer, followed up with author/TV chef. She’s so pleasant, her recipes and suggestions are understandable and doable, and you just feel like you know her well enough to stay with her in the Hamptons. If only. Crowd-pleasing, simple, beautiful food in its purest form.
-Laurie Higginbotham


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, at least there were a couple of smart folks from Texas. I mean, Arctic Monkeys? Are you kidding me?

-- Comish

3:51 AM  
Blogger lmha said...

Amen, Jason.

11:44 AM  
Anonymous Pirate said...

See Laurie - I knew there was something we could agree upon. :)

11:40 AM  

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