Saturday, January 20, 2007

Here we go again.

Another year of "24," another round of Muslims upset over their portrayal as terrorists:

"The overwhelming impression you get is fear and hatred for Muslims," said Rabiah Ahmed, a spokeswoman for the Washington-based Council on American-Islamic Relations. She said Thursday she was distressed by this season's premiere. "After watching that show, I was afraid to go to the grocery store because I wasn't sure the person next to me would be able to differentiate between fiction and reality."

In a written statement issued late Wednesday night, the network said it has not singled out any ethnic or religious group for blame in creating its characters.

"24 is a heightened drama about anti-terrorism," the statement read. "After five seasons, the audience clearly understands this, and realizes that any individual, family, or group (ethnic or otherwise) that engages in violence is not meant to be typical.

They go on to list the different ethnic and/or religious groups who have been bad guys on previous seasons of "24." You know I'm not necessarily one to reflexively jump to the defense of the "24" producers, let alone the Fox network, but in this case I think they are correct. They might also have pointed out past storylines that pretty starkly implied the dangers of scapegoating and racial profiling.

Or that the new season already includes at least two positive (...thus far) Middle Eastern and/or Muslim characters. More if we're counting the currently ambiguous Assad, or Ahmed's father who we were told was innocent of his son's bad intentions.

But at the risk of sounding overly self-referential, I think I said my piece on this about as well as I'm going to on my old blog, last time it cropped up. In part:

Well, that kind of "Of course, I'm smart enough to know the's the rest of you potato eaters..." thing never flies very far with me. I don't buy it when it's about using Spongebob Squarepants to promote gay marriage, and I don't buy it about this.

ETA: CNN is airing as the debut episode of their new series "CNN: SIU" a documentary called "The War Within." Christiane Amanpour investigates Muslims in the U.K., both extremist and moderate.

It's excellent, and there's no stretch of the imagination required to see how it applies to the States. Keeping an eye out for rebroadcasts (there'll be at least one tomorrow, I imagine more) is highly recommended.

What is hip?

To recap: Last June, I posted about the upcoming movie, "Sex and Death 101," which Daniel Waters wrote and is directing.

Ah, Dan Waters. For me, one of the big question marks among writers. I mean...he wrote "Heathers," one of the more perfect movies of the past 15-20 years. He then spent the rest of the '90s writing (or at least having his name attached to) varying degrees of crap (Two words: "Hudson Hawk").

I have not seen his direct-to-video directorial debut, "Happy Campers" but perhaps I should.

Well, now I have, thanks to the Sundance Channel's frequent airings. Here's the premise: The sole adult counselor at a summer camp for boys and girls just entering puberty is struck by lightning. The college-age counselors therefore turn the camp into a pit of sexual anarchy.

Not a bad launching place, I hope you'll agree. Lot of places you could go. Unfortunately, it doesn't work.

The biggest problems, it seems to me, are these:

  1. The film tries too hard to be hip-as opposed to "Heathers" which was effortlessly so.
  2. It's too smart to be the sex/grossout comedy it sometimes wants to be.
  3. But not smart enough to be the incisive critique of young relationships it also wants to be.
  4. Not enough of the jokes connect. One or two of those that do connect nicely, though.
  5. After intruiging starts for all of them, the characters never really pay off.

It's not without its charms-chiefly an attractive cast that shows they deserve better movies than they usually get (we're talking about the stars of the films "New Best Friend," "The Rage: Carrie 2," "Cherry Falls" and "Crossroads" in the same movie here).

Still, though. On balance, this fucks my hopeful "Daniel Waters is still a good writer, he's just been screwed over by talentless hack directors" theory all to hell.

The stars of "Happy Campers," reading their script and wishing it were better.

(Brief aside: "Cherry Falls" is remarkably similar to "Happy Campers" in that it squanders an idea with a lot of potential for "pushing the envelope" in teen sexuality: Local teens realize a serial killer is preying on the virgins among them; they decide there's only one way to take themselves off his list. Unfortunately, they didn't make much more of it than "Happy Campers" does with its premise.)

Okay, the "Hillary Clinton is-officially-running for president" thing

I don't have too much to say about it. Fortunately, Mark has a few thoughts on the subject, and he's right. I think choosing favorites is meaningless till next year, but if you asked me right now what ticket I'd like to vote for, I'd say Edwards/Obama.


...[I] don't think Obama, Biden, Kucinich and the rest of the announced or presumed contenders have that much more appeal than Ms. Clinton. The shallowness of the Talent Pool is evident when the Democrat who looks the most like presidential material is Al Gore. And some of that will just be a matter of voters wanting to turn back the clock, wipe out the previous eight years and vote for the guy they now think they really wanted in the first place. Gore was right on the Iraq War and it's now becoming near-fact (sadly) that he's right about Global Warming. In politics, if you're right about two important things, you're way ahead of the average. Like, by about two things.

Friday, January 19, 2007

And in your dreams whatever they be

Denny Doherty, of the '60s pop group the Mamas & the Papas, has died.

When I was writing this review of a Mamas & Papas collection a handful of years ago I read a few books by and about the members of the group and I came to the conclusion that Doherty was probably the best of them, as a person.

For all that I've no wish to make some plaster saint of him, he would appear to have been, at core, just a guy who liked to sing. John & Michelle Phillips come off as miserable, fickle people even in their own memoirs and Cass Elliot seems a mostly-beautiful spirit to whom fate decided to be cruel.

In that review, I said,
Boy oh boy, if ever there was a band that was a template for VH1's Behind the Music series, this is it -- and, in fact, they were the subject of a popular episode. Partner changing, unrequited love, dying young, drinking and drugs, early success followed by early burnout.

Doherty had his part in most of that. He had an affair with the wife of his groups chief songwriter (and his best friend) while the other woman in the group was in love with him. And as for drinking and was L.A. in 1966, for god's sake.

Yet somehow: Just a guy who liked to sing. And for a few years there, he did it in as a lovely a way, in as lovely surroundings, as most anybody ever has. He'll be thought of any time anyone listens to "California Dreaming," "Monday Monday"...

PS: To my knowledge, Doherty never wrote a book, though he did contribute to an oral history of the group. Cass, of course, didn't live to write one. But Doherty did put together, perform in and write a show that gave his version of the Mamas & the Papas story. Much if not all of the text is available at his web site and is recommended for the curious.

Congrats to Sherman

...whose blog made it onto Shakespeare's Sister's Friday Blogroll today.

It would be the act of a small, petty man to point out that I myself was listed in September 2005.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Half-wishing I could "Scrub" my mind clean

I was going to say that tonight's "big musical episode" of Scrubs killed that little sub-genre of television dead. Till I remembered that if it could survive the That '70s Show unpleasantness it could survive anything.

Scrubs at least was not as bad as That '70s Show, where the mistake the writer/producers made was not checking to see whether any of their cast could sing. The Scrubs cast can sing well enough, trouble is, most of the songs they were given were crap.

I wasn't expecting brothers Gibb or Lindsey Buckingham-calliber popcraft, or even Trey Parker, but these songs would have been cut out of The Simpsons, Drew Carey, Buffy, or Xena's musical episodes.

Ladies to listen to.

Amanda and Deborah both have entries up commenting on a recent article at American Prospect. The article argued that yet another reason why setting kids on an abstinence-only sex education course doesn't work is, As Amanda writes,

...abstinence-only education is not only damaging to kids’ health and mental well-being, but it’s also not helping the problem of rape, and may be even making it worse.

...teaching that men want sex and women want love but don’t want sex means that young men figure there’s no such thing as an enthusiastic “yes” to sex. If men think all women are reluctant to have sex at all points in time, then that means that they think sex is basically always rape. If you think all sex is rape because women never reallly want sex—as this abstinence-only curricula subtly teaches—then you think that rape is socially acceptable.

Deborah expands on that point.
That’s vitally important, and it’s an essential element of date-rape and of disbelieving rape victims. “No” only means “no” if “yes” means “yes.”

Both entries have too many good paragraphs to excerpt here. Read the whole thing(s).

Oh, lord.

I can't decide if I think this is more offensive, funny, or just fucking stupid. I just got an email in my inbox promoting an all-male heavy rock quartet from Seattle, the city where I live, or at least exist.

The band's name is LESBIAN. Because it's name evokes pure, sexually-charged freedom -- and that's what rock is all about.

But of course it is.

The CD name? Power Hör (get it, get it, huh?). Including a song called "Loadbath."

I also note that they seem to have taken the webpages- &

-which seems wrong, somehow.

I gave a little listen to the clip they have at their MySpace site. It sounds godawful to me. But it's so not my kind of music-I'm a Beatles fan, among other things-you might not want to go by me on that.

I may not be able to watch Bill O'Reilly on The Colbert Report tonight

I mean, I imagine a lot of bloggers are looking forward to seeing Stephen rough him up in his inimitable satirical fashion. And I was too, being as I think O'Reilly's a lying idiot who pisses me off, and it's usually fun to watch such people make asses of themselves. As he almost certainly will.

That was before I read Media Matters latest clip on him.
On the January 15 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor, host Bill O'Reilly said of Shawn Hornbeck -- who was abducted at the age of 11, held for four years, and recently found in Missouri -- that "there was an element here that this kid liked about this circumstances" and that he "do[esn't] buy" "the Stockholm syndrome thing." O'Reilly also said: "The situation here for this kid looks to me to be a lot more fun than what he had under his old parents.

"I'm not buying this. If you're 11 years old or 12 years old, 13, and you have a strong bond with your family, OK, even if the guy threatens you, this and that, you're riding your bike around, you got friends. The kid didn't go to school. There's all kinds of stuff. If you can get away, you get away. All right? If you're 11."

Abridged version: It's the kids fault. Or, it's his parents fault. Anything's the fault of the person who abducted him. I'm sorry, isn't it supposed to be we Democrats who are more concerned about the rights of the accused than the victims?

So, Bill O'Reilly just moved for me from national embarassment to actual living, active danger. There's nothing funny about thinking a pubescent boy should have been enough of a big, strong man to get away from someone who was holding him captive. And that is O'Reilly's unmistakable implication.

I don't want to laugh at someone who thinks that. I want them jailed and then I want them smacked upside the back of their head a few times.

I'm funny that way.

ETA: Shakespeare's Sister expands on the point.
When some of his viewers criticized O'Reilly for this horseshit, he then said on the following day's broadcast: "I actually hope I'm wrong about Shawn Hornbeck. I hope he did not make a conscious decision to accept his captivity because Devlin made things easy for him. No school, play all day long."

So, apparently, Bill O'Reilly hopes that Devlin terrorized a child so thoroughly that he stayed against his will. What. The. Fuck.

He then continued: "But to just chalk this up to brainwashing and walk away is turning away from the true danger of child molesters and abductors. All American children must be taught survival skills, must be prepared to face crisis situations. That is the lesson of the Shawn Hornbeck story."

The lesson of this story is that American children must be taught survival skills. Uh-huh. Because if an 11-year-old boy has "survival skills," then presumably he can escape with no problem from a 6'4", 300-pound man who's fucking with your head and your body. How fucking stupid is Bill O'Reilly? ...I guess it would be far too much for his puny little brain to engage the thought that adaptability is not only one of humankind's greatest attributes, but also one of our strongest survival strategies—and kids especially manage to adapt to all kinds of grotesquery if they can be convinced their survival depends on it.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

"...we can all go on the Internet and find people to say mean things..."

Aaron Sorkin bristles at criticism of Studio 60.


Citing Los Angeles Times writers Maria Elena Fernandez and Scott Collins, [Sorkin] admitted that he took great issue with some of their stories, along with the piece by Deborah Netburn on Christmas Day that suggested most comedy writers in Hollywood don't take kindly to the show. "She interviewed [a member of the Los Angeles improv group] Employee of the Month, and if you look at their web site, you'll find that most of them are unemployed," he insists. "And we were nominated for a Writer's Guild Award as well.”

"We live in the age of amateurs, and we can all go on the Internet and find people to say mean things about any show," he says. "But everybody's voice ought not to be equal."

I have to admit I take some exception, for pathetically obvious reasons, to his implication that if you are an unemployed writer or a blogger, your opinion means virtually nothing.

I'm suddenly reminded of when James Cameron chose to go after, in print, one of the only critics who didn't think Titantic was a triumph. Here he was, he'd made this big movie that was both staggeringly popular and praised by most of the critics, and he'd won the Academy Award. He just looked like a thin-skinned whiner sniping at a minority opinion.

Similarly, I think Sorkin, if not demeans himself, then certainly shows himself in a less than good light when he stoops to flinging mud at people who don't have his opportunities (or, probably, his talent).

I know at least some (if not most) of his ire is directed not at the unemployed and/or blog writers, but at mainstream reporters who cite them as sources. But my larger point is this: The more my faith that anything will ever happen for me as a writer wavers, the lower my tolerance drops for people like Cameron.

Or, you'll understand how much it bums me to say, Sorkin.

They get to tell their stories to a larger audience than Charles Dickens ever knew, they have financial security and creative independence.

What the fuck do they have to whine about?

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Are there no men England?

Shakespeare's Sister has an entry about how most modern TV talk shows are so strictly formatted they don't allow for a genuine character like Peter O'Toole to be shown at their best. She illustrates this with a link to his recent appearance on The Daily Show.

I thought that appearance was reasonably satisfactory-given the constraints of the format. But like SS I'm an O'Toole fan, and I'd be glad to lie at his feet just listening to him telling stories for hours.

She contrasts it with his appearance on the David Letterman show the night before (again, the clip is available) and she's right, he was better and funnier. Because he was allowed more time and in general, she's right, most shows just aren't willing to take that time any more.

I've watched the DVD releases of some of Dick Cavett's old shows recently, and there's just no shows like them any more. Ninety minutes, sometimes with just one guest, or in the case of a Katherine Hepburn, two 90-minute episodes with one guest.

You got something approaching actual conversation, and maybe even got a glimpse of what these "living legends" were like as people. The closest we've had to it recently was Bob Costas' version of Later. His show wasn't as long, but like Cavett's, the atmosphere was relaxed and lent itself to thoughtfulness over zany comedy antics.

By the way, Letterman has always been good for O'Toole-I still remember a story he told about Richard Harris several years ago there. It may surprise you to learn that it involved drinking. Ask me about it sometime.

Saints and sinners, welcome all

Let's face it-if it were up to me, all music would be like this.

Speaking of "Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip"...

Heads up: This Sunday and Monday afternoon and evening, Bravo is going to be running a marathon of seven episodes from the season so far. Apparently the idea is to give potential newbies a chance at a refresher course before the first new episode after the Christmas/New Year's hiatus. That episode will air Monday night on NBC.

I won't do a hard sell now, I assume most of you reading this who are ever likely to watch the series are already watching the series. But just in case you're not, or like me are curious to see how the show stacks up several episodes at a time...

I'll just say this: Come see something a lot like the life I should be living. Not that I particuarly want to write a live sketch comedy show (I'd probably be fired for being too political, as Matt was).

But still. Something a lot like the life I should be living.

Well it's not such a wicked awesome good time

(This post contains spoilers for the first four hours of the new "24")

So far, I'm not loving the new season. Besides the political train wreck I fear it's turning into, and the inevitable descent into formuliac decadance, it occurs to me that perhaps I have another reason for my shifting allegance.

The producers much-vaunted policy of being willing to kill off their supporting characters has had, for me, a perhaps unintentional backlash: I'm no longer willing to invest myself emotionally in them.

Frankly, in retrospect Tony Almeida was what I think of as a "click" moment. It's the moment when a TV series or movie pushes me just that one step too far and seems to be saying to me, "fuck you." After a click moment, it's hard for me to care.

But there's one exception to this emotional disengagement from the characters that I have at the moment and it's Jack Bauer. My breath wasn't taken away when Curtis got killed; I knew he was toast once I saw that Roger Cross was getting "guest star" billing.

Curtis being killed didn't surprise me, the fact that it was Jack who had to do it did. And that they spent some time showing the toll that all of this is taking on him. That worked for, and interested me, more than the big terrorist victory at the end.

This year, I find my mind wandering when Jack's not on the screen. The office politics at CTU? Seen it! Political macinations with the President? Ditto! I don't care, it's just this year's model-right down to Buchanan and Karen Hayes being positioned as the new Tony and Michelle (Not to me, they're not).

But Jack? Jack, I care about. Jack, I want to see what's going to happen to him.

If there is any suspense left in this series for me it is not how he is eventually going to triumph over the terrorist threat. It's what he's going to have to do, and what that's going to do to him, to do it. I hope they're going to continue to explore that.

I always loved the scene at the end of day three (possibly my favorite) where they showed Jack all but breaking down from the events of the day. I think one of the reasons that Kiefer Sutherland's so good is that in the hands of a lesser actor, Jack Bauer could be about as belivable as Batman or James Bond. (I like Batman and James Bond, but I said belivable.)

Jack, you could actually believe these things are happening to a human being.

Oh, one thing, then I promise I'll drop this particular thread forever. Remember how I've complained once or twice about that stupid Fox promotional slogan, "America doesn't negotiate with terrorists. Neither does Jack?"

I'd just like to point out that not two hours of the new "day" had gone by before Jack was, in fact, negotiating with a terrorist.

And Assad, the possibly reformed (I'm sure we won't know for a few hours yet) terrorist Jack's been negotiating with is the most interesting of the new characters so far. That is to say he's the only interesting one of the new characters so far, thanks in large part to a charismatic performance by newcomer (to me) Alexander Siddig.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Seeing is believing And what I see Is a woman's face

Sarah Paulson didn't get a Golden Globe for Studio 60 tonight; but she looked beautiful not getting it. And during the quick shots of each of the nominees, she gave a wink to the camera that thrilled me to my toes.

It's kind of pathetic the way that a woman's face, even televised, can make me forget my troubles even for a moment...but that's exactly the way it works. And for that I am grateful. Tonight it was Sarah Paulson and next week her show is on.

It would be overdramatic to say persons and objects of beauty are the only thing keeping my head out of the muck and mire. But then, as Oscar Wilde, I believe, said, we are all in the gutter-but some of us are looking at the stars.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Random Flickr-blogging 4616


"I can't go home unless I know where it is."

--Teddy, Huff, "Is She Dead?" written by Bob Lowry

This is a post I'll probably regret in the morning but fuck it. I want to go home and everything's wrong in my life and I don't know how to fix it and I'm getting old and I'm finding fucking grey hairs.

Grey hairs (!) on my temples and I'm so scared, I'm so fucking scared that nothing's ever going to happen with...I can't even type it because it makes me cry. But if you know me you probably know what I'm scared is never going to happen.

I feel like I'm not good at showing how much help I think I really need. Because when I'm around people or when I'm writing, as in this blog, for an "audience" I'm too well-trained at being witty and smart.

I can do all sorts of cool things, but I don't know how to live.

(PS: By the way it has nothing to do with the two guys-who I didn't even see when I found the picture-and everything to do with the Golden Gate)