Saturday, February 10, 2007

The fortune-cookie industry has lost its poetry

Actual fortune found in my nephew's cookie today at his granma's birthday party:

"You are faithful in the execution of any public trust."

Friday, February 09, 2007

I knew there was a reason I loved Toby, part II

From the Independent (UK) Online, here's a short profile of the great Richard Schiff, formerly of The West Wing, where he played Toby. Schiff feels, and I'm inclined to agree, that the first season of that series was the best, though it had a lot to offer all through the first four years.

(As mentioned previously, I stopped watching the series regularly after Sorkin & Schlamme left, so I can't speak to what happened after that)

"Back then, it was all about collaborative problem-solving," he says. "We were ahead of the game, and working 15, 16 hours a day, five days a week going deep into Saturday morning on this fortified Hollywood studio lot. Whenever there was a problem, you could say to Aaron or Tommy [Schlamme, the show's producer] if you were unhappy, and that problem would spark nine new ideas... Suddenly, you'd have an amazing script. The first year was always my favourite - there was a purity then - but I always felt that even our worst show had value."

As a schoolboy, Schiff, an early attendee at Black Panther meetings ("I stood out a little"), protested in Washington DC in the late 1960s, before becoming disillusioned with activist politics by "the constant in-fighting". When he returned to the White House as a member of The West Wing, it was, he says, "the first time I had seen DC without tear-gas". On one of those visits, Schiff remembers a strange moment when, in the first days of the Iraq war, he met President Bush's director of communications, Dan Bartlett, in the lobby of Washington's Ritz-Carlton hotel.

"I asked him, 'What do you think of your boss as a human being?'" recalls Schiff. "He had to think about that one. Then he listed about 15 really solid qualities about Bush - he's loyal, smart, a good friend, devoted to his job. "And then he said: 'I've been with him for 13 years, and I can honestly say that in that time, he has not changed one iota.'

"I thought, 'This is a man who was a drug addict, an alcoholic. Then he was in the National Guard, started an oil business at which he was a miserable failure. Then he owns a baseball team who never come in anywhere but last. Then he runs for President and wins, experiences the greatest attack on our country ever, and starts a war in response. You're telling me he hasn't changed in 13 years?' It was the scariest thing I had ever heard. It was, to me, the definition of insane."

I remember during the last Democratic convention watching one of the speeches (probably Kerry's) and wondering idly to myself what presidential speechwriter Toby would think of it. Literally at that moment, a TV director searching for famous faces in the crowd cut to a picture of Schiff watching.


The "fabulous" Ms. Smith

Sherman's found a few kind words to say about her, which should not be forgotten considering they're probably the only ones anybody will ever say. With the possible exception of Larry King, who inexplicably declared that she had "class."

As Mark Gibson says, "even if you loved the woman and were a fan, you could not possibly use that word to describe her." But here's Sherman on why what happened to her (even before her death) is at least a slightly bigger shame than you might think:

To someone with an avid interest in both size acceptance and pop culture, the early modeling career of Anna Nicole was somewhat bracing. In a world that idealized Kate Moss waifishness, she stood for a different body type.

A reconsidered Dick

Here's a tribute to Dick Cavett, written by critic and poet Clive James. As kind of a follow-up to my post last month about how most talk show hosts today haven't got the sense (or security) to just sit, listen, and let a guest talk. Sample:

Before the American host sits down with his first guest, he must first be a ­stand-­up comedian: a joke teller. Cavett, having started as a writer, understood that condition well. But in his career on camera he was always more interested in the stuff that came after the monologue: the conversation with the guest. In this, he was different from Carson and anyone else who has followed in Carson's tradition, right up to the present day. Even Carson could be spontaneously funny if the guest (or his groveling feed man, Ed McMahon) opened an opportunity—the clumsier the guest, the more opportunities there were—but it was strictly counterpunching. Carson's successor on The Tonight Show, Jay Leno, does without the stooge but works the same way: The core of his technique is stand-­up joke-telling, and he keeps in shape by taking cabaret dates all over America. (When I was his guest in Los Angeles, he fired off jokes one after the other. I did my best to come back at him, but it wasn't a conversation: more like ­mouth-­to-­mouth assassination.) Of the star hosts currently operating, David Letterman comes closest to Cavett's ­easy-­seeming urbanity, but Letterman, for all his quickness of reflex, takes a lot of time to tell a story—with much eye-­popping and many an audience-­milking "Whoo!" and "Uh-huh!" Conan O'Brien, when he was starting out, gave you the best idea of what Cavett's unemphatic poise used to be like; but, as he completes his climb to stardom, he allows himself an ­ever-­increasing ration of havin'-fun hollerin'. It's an imperative of the business, and Cavett defied it at his peril.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Okay, about Anna Nicole Smith being dead

Here's the story.

You don't want to know what I think.

Not that my opinion matters, and I gather it's a minority one, but:

Sorry, John Edwards is still a jackass. The fact that he spent even a day on a no-brainer like this lessens him in my eyes.

And that his statement panders so to anyone who thinks people like Bill Donahue and Michelle Malkin have any right to talk about offensive language. To make matters worse, he's cut off-metaphorically-Amanda Marcotte and Melissa (Shakespeare's Sister) McEwen's "balls" as well.

I now know that any blogging they do for his campaign will be vetted, probably multiple times by multiple people. And the chances of their individual voices coming through are as likely as the chances of a camel to pass through the eye of a needle.

I have any number of candidates to choose from if I want bloodless, colorless language in service of weasely, spineless politicians whose opinions are at the service of the pollsters. I don't even have to leave the democratic party.

And especially almost a year before New Hampshire, I see no need to put up with it for even a moment. I'm outta here.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Stephen Colbert is a very smart man

"If you like Battlestar Galactica, you're probably a huge nerd."

--Stephen Colbert, The Colbert Report, February 7th, 2007.

Well, isn't that just a fine how-do-you do.

Your Deadly Sins
Lust: 40%
Greed: 20%
Pride: 20%
Wrath: 20%
Envy: 0%
Gluttony: 0%
Sloth: 0%
Chance You'll Go to Hell: 14%
You'll die of a yet to be discovered STD.

John Edwards is a jackass

Believe me, I don't like saying that. There have been times in the not-too-distant past when I've thought an Edwards campaign might be the only one I might actually have been interested in working on.

But when you bend to pressure from the likes of "William "if 15-year-old boys are molested, it's their own damn fault" Donohue of the Catholic League and the cringeworthy Michelle Malkin, you put the ears on yourself.

That's just the way it is, and I'm looking for people who do more than talk a good game.

Further bulletins when they happen.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

It can be worthwhile having a writer for your father

From a biography of screenwriter Robert Bolt-he wrote Lawrence of Arabia, A Man for All Seasons (and the play on which it was based), Doctor Zhivago, and Ryan's Daughter. This is a letter he wrote to his daughter when she was 20 and had become a bit of a recluse.

Comments in [brackets and italics] for clarification.

I have been thinking of you and wondering what the future holds for you. I can't control the future but I do bear a certain responsibility for the past. Tom [Bolt's son] said, quite passionately, words to the effect that 'Don't withdraw your love from me.' I was brought to a halt because I had no idea that I was in danger of giving that impression. Matters were soon made up with Tom but then I began to realize how much pain I must have given you all those years back. Unbearable pain, I think. I slipped out of the door when you weren't looking. [Bolt had left her mother for another woman] I don't know what else I could have done, but I think I know what else a more courageous and quick witted person would have done. Forgive me. I must have given you the impression that pain comes from man, and even from such other circumstances as involve women, so that the only person you can hold on to must be yourself. You are a person that takes everything to their OWN heart, and you keep it there. If I am right, you carry around inside yourself a burden of consciousness of the world's pain. And in your heart you carry around a principal of unworthiness, which takes I think the form of actual physical pain. If I am wrong throw this letter in the waste basket. If I am one third right, think for a minute about it. Nobody has the right to shoulder so much pain.

More proof that the producers of "24" know just as much about side-splittin' comedy as they do about endorsing a president

Remember that show they're doing which is supposed to be a conservative counter-balance to The Daily Show? Well, guess who's guesting on it?

Is it me, or is anything Paris Hilton says not something you want to look too worried about?

GLAAD has demanded Paris Hilton explain and apologize for use of N-word and F-word in "Paris Exposed" video: "The video, which appears to have been taken by an amateur videographer at a private party, shows Hilton referring to someone using the 'F-word' and referring to herself and her sister, Nicky (who also calls a man the 'F-word' in the video), by saying, 'We're like two [N-word]s.' In one stream of insults, Paris Hilton says,'[Expletive deleted] hoodlum, broke poor bitch from, like, Compton.'"

Said GLAAD's Neil Giuliano: "When Paris Hilton utters these words into a camera, it creates a permanent record that -- regardless of when it occurred and because it has been made public -- she must bear responsibility for. These are not frivolous words, and to use them as if they are gives tacit sanction to the racism and homophobia they engender...

GLAAD's streak for picking the most bizarre targets imaginable continues. No, they're not frivolous words, but Hilton is the very textbook definition of a frivolous person; nothing she says should be given any importance or taken seriously in any way.

Hell, the fact that she said those words should set back the forces of racism and homophobia another 10 years.

If he feels this way, what the hell chance have I got?

I was reminded by Sherman's review of the latest Lindsey Buckingham solo album how good I'd thought his performance on the Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson was last Nov. I checked YouTube for it right afterward but it wasn't up yet. Today, however, luck was with me.

The song is called "Not Too Late." Or as I think of it, "Lindsey reads my mind, sees the future, and tells the truth."

Still holding out for that still nonexistent cool one-disc compilation of his work.

Speaking of Texas women

Author, musician and former candidate for governor of Texas Kinky Friedman speaks of Molly Ivins. He begins:

A true maverick died in Texas last week, and they don't make 'em extra.

There'll always be plenty of George Bushes and John Kerrys to go around; the Crips and the Bloods will trot them out every four years whether we like it or not. But a voice in the wilderness, like the still, small voice within, is a song to be savored while we have it, whether we're listening or not, and when we have lost it, we should mourn for ourselves. Such a voice was that of Molly Ivins.

I met her on the gangplank of Noah's ark. I did not agree with her on a lot of things. Like Sinatra, I've gotten more conservative as I've gotten older. But not Molly. With the awkward grace of a child of our times, she clung to her ideals and notions and hopes, riding against the wind in a state as red as the blood of a dying cowboy. The word I'm looking for is "righteous." Righteous without being self-righteous.

Read the whole thing.

For the record, this blog contains 49 posts in which I use the word "fuck" or some variant.

Sometimes mulitiple times in one. This makes 50. My old blog contained only 10. I guess I can say there's a lot more fuck-ing going on around here. Oh, here's why I mention it:

You may have seen the non-controversy over John Edwards' hiring of talented blogger Amanda Marcotte of Pandagon fame. Or maybe not.

The basic story is that uber-moronic Right-tards such as Michelle Malkin, whose IQ has been in an internment camp for the better part of her life, thinks it's really bad that Amanda said words like "fuck" on her blog.

Oh no, what shall we tell the children?

-by Cliff Schecter, who goes on to point out that anyone who supports Bush & Cheney is in no position to chide others for their language. And further on the subject of rightwingers appreciation of women...

From the files of the Grammar Police:
Rightwing bloggers are mounting a full-bore campaign to embarrass John Edwards for hiring rad-fem blogger Amanda Marcotte to lead his presidential campaign blog. Most of these bloggers are calling her ugly (as in, not good lookin').

This is really stupid. First of all, Amanda Marcotte is very good looking and attractive-but (much) more importantly, I've long thought she was one of the most brilliantly readable bloggers around. If she broke out "The F Word" a time and again, well, she's from Texas, for God's sake. Her salty tongue is one of the things I like about her.

Edwards' hiring of her shows he has a good eye for talent. End of story.

Monday, February 05, 2007

A few quick words about tonight's "24" and "Studio 60"

24: Or, "and you thought the Palmer family was cursed."

It'll never happen because it goes against all 24 logic, but at the end of this season, can we please take up a collection to send Jack Bauer on vacation? I'd say he needs a trip to Disneyland but if he went to Disneyland he'd be stalked by a sniper.

About the identity of "the engineer:" Called it!

Studio 60: Sigh. I'm gonna say it: This show is just such a train wreck. There have been 14 episodes so far and not one of them has been the perfect gem that episodes of West Wing like "Shadow of Two Gunmen" were.

What's so maddeningly frustrating is that when it's good, I love it so much, but when it's bad it makes me want to avert my eyes from the screen. Unfortunately, both keep happening in the same episode.

Tonight, for example, I was enjoying most of the relationship drama, even though writing romantic relationships is apparently not in Sorkin's comfort zone. Yes, American President notwithstanding. See, that was a movie, which means it got to end.

In his previous series, West Wing & Sports Night, Sorkin showed himself to be a lot better at writing crackling romantic banter and sexual tension than sustained relationships. Though I'll grant there were exceptions, like Jed & Abby Bartlet.

With tonights episode of Studio 60 juggling three such relationships in varying stages of just blooming or disintegrating, he's running at the wall full speed. But I care about Matt & Harriet, and I care about Danny & Jordan. I don't care so much about Tom & Lucy, but wha' the hell.

That's part of tonight's episode that I enjoyed. And then there was the stupid extended plot about a snake hiding under the stage and a series of animals being sent down unsuccesfully after it. The end result being that the stage has to be torn up and rebuilt.

Heh. You know, if you were of a metaphorical frame of mind, you might think Sorkin knows full well that there's something rotten in the Strip of Sunset. Writing rules (to quote Simon in another storyline from tonight that I liked). Sorkin's too good not to know, in his heart of hearts, that he hasn't always been writing as well as he can.

He needs things up and rebuild. Given the show's ratings he has to know that a second season is far from a mortal lock. But maybe if he can rally... It's a long shot, to be sure. You might even call it...a Hail Mary pass.

Which, of course, is something that also got mentioned in tonight's episode. If you were of a metaphorical frame of mind, you might think he was trying to tell us something. I'll still be there to the end.

But it's time for me to admit that, as a whole, the series is just not working. Even though there are still parts of it that I like, even love, very much.

I'm being stalked by God, continued

Things I've Found In Books:

Just now, between pages 74 and 75 of the Seattle Public Library's copy of Peter O'Toole, A Biography by Nicholas Wapshott: One of those religious tracts on The Ten Commandments. I know a song cue when I see one.

Favorite cheesy-ass Depeche Mode rip off ever. BTW, those of you who remember a little animated movie called The Secret Of NIMH may want to watch this version instead.

TV Talk

One: NBC is pulling "Studio 60" from their schedule to make way for a new program they want to give the benefit of the "Heroes" lead-in. This does not bode well. In a funny-to-tears coincidence, "30 Rock," the other NBC series about life backstage at a "Saturday Night Live"-like show with a numbered title, is getting a similar treatment.

But "30 Rock" already has a promised return-by date in April, "Studio 60" has none. There's nothing like having friends in high places. I'm reminded of the two questions the brilliant trailblazer writer Michael O'Donoghue once said he wanted to see his sometime boss asked in a television interview.

Question One: "How much are you getting paid, Lorne?"

Question Two: "Even so, is it worth dragging your dick in the mud every Saturday Night?"

I am increasingly convinced that what "Studio 60" really needs is to be taken off network TV and picked up by Showtime or other cable channel. Not only would this make its ratings less disappointing (seven million viewers a week is "24" by cable standards), it would allow them greater flexibility with both time and langauge.

Watching "Studio 60," for the first time watching a Sorkin series I'm sometimes acutely aware that I'm watching filler. Not having to expand ideas to fill 60 minutes with commercials might help.

It's also started to seem increasingly ridiculous when the characters don't swear. At least on "The West Wing" you could buy that they kept their tongues out of deference to the office and that their jobs imposed at least a bit of decorum.

But you're telling me that network TV producers and sketch comedy players don't salt-and-a-deadly-peppa their speech now and again?

Two: Tomorrow's "Boston Legal" will contain a storyline in which a man sues one of those "de-gayification centers" for not curing him. Should be good fun.

Three: What's wrong with this picture? British comedian, writer, and actor Stephen Fry is going to be guesting in a Fox program I watch about a sexy doctor who solves mysteries this week.

That program is not "House," starring Fry's longtime colleague and good friend Hugh Laurie, but "Bones."

Go figure.

Oh, man

Bush is very unpopular. Bush is very, very, very, very, very unpopular. Check this out.
On Tuesday, President Bush popped in for a surprise visit to the Sterling Family Restaurant, a homey diner in Peoria, Ill. It’s a scene that has been played out many times before by this White House and others: a president mingling among regular Americans, who, no matter what they might think of his policies, are usually humbled and shocked to see the leader of the free world standing 10 feet in front of them.

But on Tuesday, the surprise was on Bush. In town to deliver remarks on the economy, the president walked into the diner, where he was greeted with what can only be described as a sedate reception. No one rushed to shake his hand. There were no audible gasps or yelps of excitement that usually accompany visits like this. Last summer, a woman nearly fainted when Bush made an unscheduled visit for some donut holes at the legendary Lou Mitchell’s Restaurant in Chicago. In Peoria this week, many patrons found their pancakes more interesting. Except for the click of news cameras and the clang of a dish from the kitchen, the quiet was deafening.

In Peoria, for chrissakes, a city famous as the representative of the average American city (runner up: Columbus, Ohio). Giving birth to the expression that nervous network and movie studio executives are said to employ whenever the creative types try to "push the envelope:"

"But will it play in Peoria?"

George W. Bush is not playing in Peoria.

It's one thing to see his 28% approval rating and know that his presidency is broken. But this really says it. There was dead silence for the President of the United States. This may not be as satisfying as his impeachment and removal from office would be, but it may be as close as I'm going to get.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Random Flickr-blogging 3459

Although "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy" has been cancelled, the boys are going out with a bang. Ned, here, never even knew what hit him. "All I know is I was rockin' out to Van Halen when suddenly..."