Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Paul & Co.

For Wednesday, here's Paul Simon accompanied by the Jesse Dixon Singers, singing "Loves Me Like a Rock" on The Dick Cavett Show. Enjoy:


Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Movie Prison

I'm going to write more about Roman Polanski (and general thoughts about celebrities and morality) soon. In the meantime, I got a kick out of this exchange in the comments to a post by Ta-Nehisi Coates. The first comment, from Justin, is in response to someone calling The Pianist one of the ten best movies of the decade:
I think that Bitter Moon cancels out The Pianist. Hell, I think it's worth a life sentence all on its own.

If they start convicting people for making bad movies, we could not afford to build the prisons.

I say we lock up Michael Bay.
Dan W
Ratner can be his cell-mate
@Hicks & Dan W:
Someone needs to write that webcomic.

Billboards Worth the Space

Here's a photo exhibit of 50 out-of-the-ordinary billboards. I'm putting the ones I would award Most Clever and Craziest, respectively, below -- but there's plenty of competition in both those categories.

(Via Very Short List)

Real or Imagined

Unless she starts putting together a legitimate run for president in 2012 (which I seriously doubt), I don't want to waste too many words on Sarah Palin, about whom I adopt the "don't encourage them" policy taken with rambunctious children. But given the news that her quickie book is now due out in mid-November, Andrew Sullivan offers as concise a summary of her as I can imagine:
I think she perfectly represents a form of protest cultural politics that has no interest in actually governing. And what's fascinating about the various quotes from local GOP machers is that none of them refers in any way to policy. She is not supported because of what she allegedly believes, or what she says she'll do. She is supported because she shares an identity, real or imagined, with white, angry alienated conservatives. She is identity politics personified. And so the loony right's transformation into a mirror image of the loony left of the 1980s accelerates.

A Dialogue

Craziness: "Sometimes, the American justice system shows an excess of formalism."

Corrective: "Roman Polanski raped a child."

Friday, September 25, 2009

A Visit to the Second Pass

A decent week around here, I think, though no Wednesday song. It got away from me, so we'll just wait a week. Meanwhile, a busy time over at the Second Pass, where you can find: A review of a new book about grave robbers looking for skulls; an essay about discovering Sartre (or his work, at least) in Baytown, Texas; and lots of new stuff on the blog, including a baseball player who can really, really write.

Baseball Playoff Expansion? Hear Him Out.

I don’t say this very often, believe me, but I think Peter Gammons is on to something here. He suggests the possibility of expanding the baseball playoffs . . . but wait. Pure expansion would be mad. I’m one of those purists still upset by the wild card. But Gammons’ plan would call for two teams to qualify for a wild-card play-in series, two out of three:
For years, folks have tried to punish the wild-card team and make winning the division more important. Well, if you use up a pitching staff on the weekend to get to a Tuesday or Wednesday divisional series, there is a serious disadvantage.
More excitement for more cities, but a disadvantage for the eventual wild card winner. I like it.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Sir Freud Tells a Joke and Picks a Fight

Ever heard of Clement Freud? He was Sigmund's grandson, and he died earlier this year at 84. He was a politician, author, chef and a frequent guest on radio shows. The two clips below give a good sense, I imagine, of his drollness. In the first clip, audio only, he's telling a funny dirty joke. (I found it at Pacific Standard.) In the second, he's sparring with a gossip columnist named Rona Barrett on Jack Paar Tonight in 1973.

Oh, he was also in a series of commercials for dog food with a basset hound.

Journalism Understatement of the Week

A BBC radio reporter this morning, discussing the possibility of new Israeli-Palestinian peace talks:

"Both sides seem pretty entrenched."

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Auspicious Debuts

I'm currently (well, not this second) researching for a favorite movies list to complement my list of albums. More on that to come -- the whole enterprise will include some fun guest posts on the subject. I'm currently through "H" in the film guide I'm using to make (reasonably) sure that I don't miss anything.

Anyway, that's all in the future. For now, Time Out London offers its list of the 50 best directorial debuts. It includes several movies that will be on my list. Their #1 seems like a stretch to me -- it's a fascinating movie; sui generis, really, but there are better overall choices on the list.

At #32 is Bottle Rocket, which inspired me to find some clips of it online. I followed the Wes Anderson trail to clips of Jason Schwartzman's audition for Rushmore, which I share instead:

A Good Idea. Really.

I think there should be a Stroller Olympics. I just watched a woman back her baby through an open door at Starbucks, and she was OK at it, but I figure that she presumably has to make such maneuvers very often, and it could have been smoother.

So: Stroller Olympics. Different baby-saturated burgs can bid for them every two years, like the real Olympics, but I think Park Slope should be the uncontested home of the first games.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Robinson's Gilead

Speaking of humility and patience, they're abundant themes in Marilynne Robinson's Gilead, which I just wrote about over at The Millions. It's part of the site's weeklong countdown of the best novels of the 21st century.

Signal from Noise

A "technogeek" reader of Andrew Sullivan's site lays out a . . . technogeeky case for a middle ground in the God debate:
As someone like you trying to find and hold a shrinking "middle ground" on a battlefield of true believers, one metaphor I like -- reflecting my technogeek roots -- is that of signal processing: People like you and me believe that there is something that precedes our material world, both temporally and metaphysically; and further that we can on occasion glimpse or "feel it". In other words, there is a Signal, though it can get corrupted, become "noisy" and open to many imperfect interpretations -- as it is mediated through limited human understanding, powerful egos, primate pack dynamics and political maneuvering.

The militant atheists, a la Dawkins, insist (with no real evidence) that there is no signal.

The fundamentalists and literalists insist (with poor evidence and poorer reasoning skills) that there is no noise, only their own One True Signal.

To me the most fertile ground for intellectual and spiritual exploration is the effort to recover the signal from the noise. It seems to require humility and patience, two assets largely devalued in today's culture.

Friday, September 18, 2009

The Coens Talk Shop

GQ interviews the Coen brothers, who serve up some blasphemy (saying "I don't even think it's an especially great movie" about The Wizard of Oz) and reveal that, like many other parents, they don't get to the movies much:
Woody Allen is perhaps the only other American filmmaker who has as much creative freedom as you have. Are you fans of his films?

JOEL: The recent ones?
ETHAN: Or the earlier, funny ones?
JOEL: The early ones, sure. But really, it’s hard for either of us to get motivated to go out to the movies anymore.
ETHAN: These days we pretty much only go to movies we can take our kids to.
JOEL: I’ve got a 14-year-old who’s the world’s biggest Will Ferrell fan. I’ve got nothing against Ferrell’s movies — they’re pretty funny — but if it’s not that, my son, Pedro, doesn’t want to go.
ETHAN: Joel has seen Dodgeball many times.
JOEL: Yeah, Dodgeball! I remember Pedro bringing me to see Eddie Murphy in Norbit. He turned to me every ten minutes and said, “Are you enjoying this, Dad?”

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Little Darling

No, "Bacon Is Good For Me" was not the song for Wednesday, though I have to admit that I can't stop listening to it. Here, 59 minutes too late to make it for Wednesday (so let's call it the Central Time Zone Wednesday Song for this week) is a way to rid my mind of those hideous ads for Beatles Rock Band that desecrate the memory of John Lennon and much else besides. This is George Harrison singing my favorite Beatles song. Enjoy:


Wednesday, September 16, 2009

AP Headline of the Day

Ohio Woman Arrested for Spanking Stranger's Child

"Bacon Is Good For Me" (Club Mix)

As much as I complain about the decline of Western civilization, I really want this kid Curtis (or "King Curtis," as he calls himself) to have his own show. And I want it soon. You might remember Curtis from a very recent post. Now he's gotten the inevitable remix treatment, and I can see this being a big hit in the clubs:

(Via too beautiful to live)

Friday, September 11, 2009

Yeah, Tom and I Go Way Back

Simpsons writer Matt Selman shares a funny anecdote about a conversation he had with a stranger who was smug about avoiding the tube:
Okay, look, I'm fine with people never watching TV. They're lying, but I understand. I don't watch that much TV myself. But why do people at parties feel such smug delight at telling you (okay, me), without hesitation, that they don't watch TV? If you met a dentist at a party, would you announce that you don't brush your teeth? Would you tell a structural engineer that you don't ride in elevators?
Read how Selman turned the tables.

(Via Mark Athitakis)

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Hangin' with Mr. Barry

I just started reading this profile of Marion Barry, and I know the whole thing's going to be worth it. The start:
In most conceptions of Washington, D.C., the city operates on Eastern Standard Time. But those who pass through Marion Barry's orbit know there's another zone which has nothing to do with the mean solar time of the 75th meridian west of the Greenwich Observatory. It's called "Barry Time." The former four-term mayor of D.C. will show up for speeches, meetings, and civic events whenever he damn well pleases.

This translates into many minutes, even hours, of waiting for Barry to appear. So after being slated to hang out with Barry for several days, I am surprised to receive a call from his spokesperson, Natalie Williams, two days before we're supposed to meet.

"Mr. Barry wants to start early," Natalie informs. "He wants you to come to church with him tomorrow."

"Great," I say. "What time does church start?"

"Eleven A.M.," she says.

"Okay. And what time should I meet him before church?" I ask.

"Eleven-thirty," she responds with complete seriousness.
(Via The Browser)

This Here's a Tale for All the Fellas

For Wednesday, this is Young MC doing "Bust a Move" on the Arsenio Hall Show, complete with a bonus verse, which I know because I can recite the lyrics of the original song by heart. Enjoy:


Kicking it Off the Right Way

I'm very excited about a weekend plan, which I'll report back on early next week. I have an invitation from a friend to spend the opening Sunday of the football season in a Delaware casino. Why? Because he’s reporting on a state law that allows legal gambling only in the cases of three-team parlays and only in the NFL. The sheer weirdness of that is extraordinary. It would be like banning prostitution, except in cases where the woman is taller than 5’ 8” and can prove that her legal name is Cindy.

Al Draws the States

This is pretty incredible, in a Rain Man kind of way. Al Franken draws a map of the U.S. freehand:

(Via Pajiba)

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

A Splendid Debut

Over at The Second Pass, I review a new collection of short stories:
At the risk of drowning Lydia Peelle in praise right off the bat, it’s hard to think of many debut short story collections from the past two decades that so convincingly chart their emotional and geographical territory: Ethan Canin’s Emperor of the Air, Junot Díaz’s Drown, Jhumpa Lahiri’s Interpreter of Maladies. Peelle’s missteps would be peaks for most other writers, and her peaks — by my count, five of the eight stories in Reasons for and Advantages of Breathing qualify as such — make one almost angry this is a debut, like falling in love with a band’s first album and having no back catalog to immediately explore.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Curtis & the Grump

Two choice pieces of entertainment via Strath and Emily's blog. First up, a 28-year-old who lives with his 73-year-old father and has a Twitter page featuring quotes by the elder. Many of them violate the obscenity standards of my family-friendly blog, but here are four milder entries:
"What are you listening to? . . . I know who Hall & Oates are god dammit. It's the mustache guy and the gay man."

"Your mother rented this film, What Happens In Vegas. I thought it was going to be non-fiction, but it's fiction, and it's about some idiot.”

"Why would I want to check a voicemail on my cell phone? People want to talk to me, call again. If I want to talk to you, I'll answer."

"I didn't live to be 73 years old so I could eat kale. Don't fix me your breakfast and pretend you're fixing mine."
Visit here for the rest.

It seems the dad spouts at least one post-worthy thing every day, which is pretty impressive. Of course, this father might not be real, but we have to hope he is, right?

On to Exhibit B . . .

I’m not in the habit of watching Wife Swap, as I’m overprotective of my remaining brain cells and optimism. But luckily, Strath unearthed a clip of a kid named Curtis. I’m only half-joking (actually, less) when I say that I hope Curtis runs for president in 2012. That would make for a riveting campaign and might justify the 25-hour-a-day coverage of the race we’re likely to see starting in, oh, a few weeks.

The supremely lucky wife who has been swapped into Curtis’ family makes the mistake of trying to avert the kid’s future head-on collision with diabetes or coronary rot or both. Watch closely right after he finishes saying, “She’s acting like she’s the queen and we’re the sorry people,” when he adopts the internationally accepted facial expression for “I’m an Angry, Incredulous Redneck.”

Needless to say, what has to happen is a reality show featuring Curtis and the foul-mouthed, cranky father living in close quarters. The world can give us The Surreal Life, but it can't give us that? Stupid world.

Live From the Rubber Room

If you didn't read Steven Brill's piece in last week's New Yorker, I highly recommend it. It's a good report from the front lines of what happens when unions go bad, as teacher unions seemed to do a long time ago. It begins:
In a windowless room in a shabby office building at Seventh Avenue and Twenty-eighth Street, in Manhattan, a poster is taped to a wall, whose message could easily be the mission statement for a day-care center: “Children are fragile. Handle with care.” It’s a June morning, and there are fifteen people in the room, four of them fast asleep, their heads lying on a card table. Three are playing a board game. Most of the others stand around chatting. Two are arguing over one of the folding chairs. But there are no children here. The inhabitants are all New York City schoolteachers who have been sent to what is officially called a Temporary Reassignment Center but which everyone calls the Rubber Room.

These fifteen teachers, along with about six hundred others, in six larger Rubber Rooms in the city’s five boroughs, have been accused of misconduct, such as hitting or molesting a student, or, in some cases, of incompetence, in a system that rarely calls anyone incompetent.

A World of Empty Streets

For Wednesday, the smooth sounds of Richard Hawley, singing "Just Like the Rain." Enjoy:

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Your Bit of Perspective for the Day

The picture above (click it to enlarge) was linked to in Gregg Easterbrook's preview of the AFC. As you can see, the column drifts away from football from time to time. So, what's the picture? Here's Easterbrook:
Researchers led by Swinburne University of Technology, in Australia, released this map of the "nearby" cosmos. The map contains about 100,000 dots. The dots are not stars; each dot represents a galaxy, and galaxies are thought to average about 100 billion stars each. Thus the area depicted contains roughly 10 to the 15th power stars, a number far too huge to bother attempting to fathom. And the map merely shows galaxies nearby. Our galaxy, the Milky Way, is at the center of the map. On the cosmic scale, a place with 100 billion stars is a dot.