Friday, May 28, 2010

Captain Burrito

Via my friend Chris, I found this story, which has a lede that, if it's not the greatest lede ever, is at least a 1 seed:
The Brevard County doctor who was arrested for groping a woman while dressed as Captain America with a burrito in his pants will not go to jail.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Hang Tight, Kittens

I can't possibly post a song this week after only posting one thing since last week's song. Pathetic. All I can say, as I often do, is that I have a lot of things in the hopper. This time, I'm not lying. The next installment of the movie list is just about ready, I have a movie list from a guest ready to go up, a post about a Pulitzer-nominated play about pro wrestling (for real), a funny clip involving Star Wars, and a few other goodies as well. The problem is, I have had no time this week to actually finish and post any of them. Soon, my kittens, soon.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

The Cup Approaches

Like most Americans, soccer inspires in me a feeling of deep, deep sleepiness. But I also have a theory that soccer is anti-human. After all, to insist that players aren’t allowed to use their hands is particularly perverse when you consider the importance of the opposable thumb in human (and cultural) evolution. To not be allowed to use your hands is to be kept from being fully human.

The one time I let my guard down and gave soccer a fair (or fair-ish) chance was during the 2006 World Cup. I was working at the time for HarperCollins, on the same floor as soccer fanatic and proselytizer David Hirshey. I watched a couple of games in David’s office, and once accompanied him to a pub at lunch time for another. The knowledgeable enthusiasm of someone else helped, as did the level of play. For the first time, I understood why one might be a soccer fan. But soon after, I happily resumed my slumber.

Now, it’s almost World Cup time again. David has co-written a book that serves as both a history of the event and a preview of this year’s tourney. There was a brief moment the other day when I considered studying up a little and then attempting to get involved with the games, maybe going to a series of local international pubs and writing a series of dispatches about the experience. (If the 100 movies list is the only organizing conceit for this blog in the coming weeks, then lord help me.) I’m less high on the idea as of the moment, but we’ll see.

In the meantime, enjoy the video below, which shows part of a recent game that pitted the pro club Athletic Bilbao against a group of 100 kids. The kids’ team was made up of 100 players for the first half, and a different set of 100 kids for the second half. As one news outlet put it: “The 20,000 crowd, and most of the players, struggled to keep track of the ball as the La Liga superstars’ rigid 4-4-2 diamond formation was swamped by the youngsters’ 20-60-17 headless chicken system.” The video is shaky, but very much worth watching. This looks like tremendous fun:

Thursday, May 20, 2010

"The party ain't jumpin' like it used to."

For this Wednesday-Thursday, I'll leave it up to you to determine the amount of guilt in the pleasure. I only know a few of Usher's songs, the biggest radio hits, and this is the only one that ever grabbed me. He seems more talented than silly, but only just. (The spoken intro to the song below, "Burn," is hilariously cheesy.) He seems significantly responsible in some way for the career of Justin Bieber, a flop-haired eunuch currently popular with the nationwide cabal of 8-to-13-year-old girls who completely rule the popular culture. So we have to take some big, big points off for that. OK, enough. Usher doing "Burn." Enjoy:


Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Bacon Lives

I don't spend a lot of time going through my own archives, but someone asked me a question today that sent me back to find something. And while I was there, I ran into my good buddy King Curtis. I sometimes go back to find song clips that I've posted, and a maddening amount of the time they've been removed from YouTube and are no longer functional. But I am happy -- thrilled -- to announce that the club remix of "Bacon is Good For Me" is still available for your edification.

At the time I first posted about Curtis, I suggested that he star in a show with the father featured on a very popular Twitter page, which I discovered around the same time. (And which got much less funny very quickly.) Now, CBS is turning that Twitter page into a sitcom called $#*! My Dad Says (that's the real spelling of the title), starring William Shatner. Of course, the show will be terrible. I still say HBO should have paid to put Curtis and the old man in a condo together for a few months. That would have been much more entertaining.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Deepwater Horizon

More soon, but for now: If you missed Scott Pelley's report on 60 Minutes last night about the Deepwater Horizon explosion (and one survivor's story in particular), it's riveting. Both parts below. (You have to wait through some commercials for the segments, but it's worth it.) And if you're interested in photography of the disaster, you probably can't do better than the Boston Globe's Big Picture.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Ozzy Lets the Dogs Out

Vanity Fair interviews Hold Steady singer Craig Finn, and here are two brief excerpts. No. 1:
A few years ago, you wrote a piece for The Guardian nominating the Doors’ “Riders on the Storm” as one of the worst songs of all time, specifically for the lyrics “There’s a killer on the road/ His brain is squirming like a toad.” Have you written any songs or lyrics that in hindsight you wish you could take back?

There aren’t specific lyrics that bug me, but I do feel like I’ve maybe rhymed “bar” and “car” a few too many times in my life.
No. 2, responding to a question about rock star myths:
I remember some of the wild things I’d hear about Ozzy Osbourne as a kid. I heard that when you went to an Ozzy Osbourne concert, he lets loose all these dogs and the audience has to kill them before he’ll go on stage. Oh, and you know what my favorite myth is? That Gene Simmons died in a car accident and was replaced by a robot. I hope nobody thinks that happened to me, because what can you say? “I’m not a robot!”

The more you deny it...

...the more it’s probably true.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

"Part of that’s a girl thing, honey..."

For Mother's Day, via my buddy Dan Carlson's Facebook page, a funny, touching video in which a conversation between a mother and her son (a 7th-grader who has Asperger's syndrome) is set to animation. It's really great. Enjoy:

Also for today, my friend Alysia reads a moving essay she wrote about her mother (who died when Alysia was just two), being raised by her poet father, and raising her own two beautiful children. The link includes an incredible photo (especially if you know her) of Alysia as a child on the cover of one of her father's books. Enjoy.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

The Movie List: 50-46

Man, that was a long time to have Phil Collins at the top of the page. Sorry about that.

My friend “Dez,” God bless him, is paying close attention to this list, and he has complained (as I knew he would) about the “ties.” A quick note about them: They’re not ties. They’re simply movies that, for one reason or another, go very well together, and they just give me an excuse to add (and discuss) more movies. Of course, they do fall in a similar place in my ranking, but they’re not technically tied. To Dez and anyone else who is bothered by this, there’s only two instances left. Not counting the one below. Counting that one, there’s three.

50. “He’ll flip ya. Flip ya for real.”

The Usual Suspects (1995)

I saw this three times in the theater when it was released during my senior year of college. The Washington Post said, “The Usual Suspects may be too clever for its own good,” and I can see that. Roger Ebert gave it one and a half stars out of four, and included it on a “most hated” list, proving that, despite his recent high-quality blogging and Twittering and deserved public sympathy, his taste has never been the most reliable barometer. I enjoyed the complexities of the caper, but it wasn’t the Keyser Soze “reveal” that kept me coming back, it was the ensemble cast, especially Benicio Del Toro (shockingly young-looking) as the marble-mouthed Fenster. Haven’t seen this one in years and years, but the initial impression it made on me is enough to put it this high.

49. “I gave her my heart, she gave me a pen.”

Say Anything... (1989)
Grosse Pointe Blank (1997)
High Fidelity (2000)

John Cusack is the cinematic avatar of my generation, and we could have done a lot worse. If any of your heads are about to explode because this entry contains three movies—hi again, Dez—just be glad it’s not four. I almost added Better Off Dead at the last second. These movies constitute a progression, or a non-progress: Lloyd Dobler holds up that boom box, teaches a generation to yearn for girls out of their league to a Peter Gabriel soundtrack, and then a decade later, Rob in High Fidelity is still trying to figure out him and women (and soundtracks) as he approaches mid-life. In these three movies, Cusack—sorry, the characters he plays—deals (or doesn’t deal) with getting older, something my generation was never going to be very naturally talented at, for a multitude of reasons. Maybe the most appropriate pairing in pop-culture history is Cusack and High Fidelity, since the novel the movie was based on included this passage:
What came first—the music or the misery? Did I listen to music because I was miserable? Or was I miserable because I listened to music? Do all those records turn you into a melancholy person?

People worry about kids playing with guns, and teenagers watching violent videos; we are scared that some sort of culture of violence will take them over. Nobody worries about kids listening to thousands—literally thousands—of songs about broken hearts and rejection and pain and misery and loss.
Likewise, no one warned me off John Cusack movies.

48. “You don't look out for yourself, the only helping hand you'll ever get is when they lower the box.”

Hud (1963)

Few phrases in the English language are as appealing as young Paul Newman. In this adaptation of Larry McMurtry’s debut novel, Horseman, Pass By, Newman plays Hud Bannon, the son of a Texas rancher. Hud is a drunken, brawling, womanizing . . . well, tool. (“The only question I ever ask any woman is ‘What time is your husband coming home?’ ”) His father, Homer (Melvyn Douglas), is an upstanding, old-school exemplar of manly decency. The conflict between them is the center of the story. I think I’ve read understandable criticism that says Newman is too cool as Hud, that he makes it too easy to sympathize with and want to be the character who is tragically flawed. I say, who cares? He’s great in the role, and I think the more you can side with Hud, the better and more complicated the story becomes—otherwise, it’s almost too neatly Manichean. Maybe I’m making up that I ever read that criticism, in which case thanks for reading a conversation between me and myself. The black-and-white movie is full of great dialogue, beautiful cinematography, and a stark, incredible scene involving the mass killing of cattle.

47. “You gonna finish that?”

Diner (1982)

OK, so maybe my Cusack-educated generation doesn’t have a monopoly on having trouble growing up. Barry Levinson’s semi-autobiographical directorial debut is set in Baltimore at the end of the 1950s, and follows a group of friends in their 20s reunited for a wedding. The cast is a 1980s potpourri: Steve Guttenberg, Daniel Stern, Mickey Rourke, Kevin Bacon, Tim Daly, and Paul Reiser. There’s something blessedly universal in the American experience about sitting around a diner late at night and bullshitting with friends. The sometimes ad-libbed scenes in Diner capture it as well as almost any other movie (there are a couple of movies still to come on the list that strongly compete in the Male Banter category). One blogger points out that the movie was in a distribution purgatory because the studio heads were mystified by its lack of incident. Then Pauline Kael wrote a rave in The New Yorker that gave the movie life. She called it “wonderful,” and wrote of the men in it: “Conversations may roll on all night, and they can sound worldly and sharp, but when these boys are out with girls, they're nervous, constricted, fraudulent, half crazy.” Kael’s right; this is very much a movie about boy-men trying to wrap their heads around women, and thus life in general. Geoffrey Macnab wrote, “the film expresses perfectly the incomprehension these men have for the women in their lives.” Levinson makes gentle fun of that incomprehension, as when one character devises a football quiz for his fiancee, and makes the wedding dependent on the results.

46. “I wrote a hit play and directed it, so I'm not sweating it either.”

Rushmore (1998)

Having loved Bottle Rocket, loving Rushmore had me figuring that Wes Anderson could do no wrong. Well, you live, you learn. I’d still say everything he’s done is worth seeing, but as I’ve probably already written a hundred times (apologies), it’s been dispiriting to watch his style devolve into a calcified set of tics. (They’re tics that fully survived the transition to stop-motion animation in The Fantastic Mr. Fox.) I’m sure you all know about Rushmore, when the tics were fresh (refreshing, even), so I’ll just close with an excerpt from Anderson’s funny essay about personally screening the movie for Kael, a hero of his:
Finally, the movie ended, and I took Ms. Kael's hand and walked with her out of the theater.

“I don't know what you've got here, Wes.”

I nodded.

“Did the people who gave you the money read the script?”

I frowned. “Yeah. That's kind of their policy.”

We started slowly down the steps. “Just asking,” she said. It was a short walk to the car. “At this point, I would usually tell you not to worry if you have to carry me, since I only weigh 85 pounds. But you look like you don't weigh much more than that, yourself.”