Saturday, February 17, 2007


Your Sexy Brazilian Name is:

Bruno Souza

Dave Lifton is a better person than 99% of the rest of you.

He's done the right thing, come up with his own list of answers to my Wednesday meme, and posted it to his blog. Not only that, he's encouraged "my friends in the blogosphere to do the same."

I don't know how you people can live with yourselves.

Oh, sweet Christ

We have here a column from a newspaper old-timers will understand why my tongue hesitates to form the poisonous word...Knoxville. The first, and major, chunk of the interview takes the form of an interview with actor and director Timothy Busfield, currently a cast member (and director) on Studio 60. Before that a recurring guest star on West Wing, among many other roles.

His interview is devoted to the subject of ego in the arts. He begins,
"I think an ego is almost mandatory for anyone in the arts," says Busfield, who cut his acting chops first at East Tennessee State University in the 1970s before heading to Hollywood.

Staying with the Studio 60 theme, the columnist then goes on to offer us a bon mot from actor Matthew Perry. Perry, of course, is currently playing Aaron Sorkin's surrogate character as the genius (we've been told it many times) writer for the show within the series.

WORDS TO LIVE BY. "There are two ways to go when you hit that crossroads in your life: There is the bad way, when you sort of give up, and then there is the really hard way, when you fight back. I went the hard way and came out of it OK." — Matthew Perry

I'm sure the $16.5 million a year must have helped, Matthew!

Dorothy Parker Drank Here Productions

Mrs. Parker: writer, whether he writes from love or for money, can condescend to what he writes. You can't stoop to what you set down on paper; I don't why you can't, but you can't. No matter what form it takes, and no matter what the result, and no matter how caustically comic you are about it afterward, what you did was your best. And to do your best is always hard going. [Screen Guilds Magazine, May 1936]

Friday, February 16, 2007

deep inside... the voice is singing Diddy doo wop

Column here about TV writers and how much they listen (or don't listen) to criticism from blogs and the like. Including:

Occasionally a promising show such as Aaron Sorkin's "Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip," is given time to find its niche even as ratings falter. The behind-the-scenes series began as an earnest look at the politics of popular culture. Some critics called it smug and unfunny. Recent promos for the show have signaled a new, lighter direction, one that focuses on romance rather than rhetoric. Mr. Sorkin is a tad testy about the new direction, while acknowledging the criticism. "We'd always seen the show as a romantic comedy," he says from the writer's room of the show's Los Angeles set as he toys with a pile of script pages casually strewn across the large table that dominates the room. "But, yeah, we know that a lot of people thought we were arrogant and not funny enough."

Unfortunately, to me, any time a writer/producer says something like "We'd always seen the show as..." it really means: "We've just drastically changed the direction of the show, but we want you to think we know exactly what we're doing."

I dunno...I have a feeling that's not quite right

You Are 32% Intuitive

You're definitely an intuitive person, but you never go on your gut alone.
You tend to be more analytical than intuitive - possibly because your intuition has failed you in the past.
When you don't have enough facts to make a decision, you don't mind listening to your gut to figure out what to do.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

And some nights you just get the feeling that god hates you, and thinks you're a bad person

So headlined to distinguish this from my periodic "Some evenings you just feel more isolated from your culture than others" posts. In those I talk about movies that I find myself with surprisingly little desire to see, despite the fact that they're well-reviewed, have a story or a kind of story that has been of interest to me in other formats, or both.

Every three or four years, however, a movie comes along to which my reaction goes well beyond surprisingly little desire to see it. One that fills me with hatred and loathing every time a commercial for it comes across my TV screen.

Last time, it was The Cat in the Hat. It took me a while but I finally worked out just what bothered me so much about that one, besides the fact that by all accounts it was a wretched film. Even if it had been genius, I would have argued that the film should never have been made.

Why? Because The Cat in the Hat, the book, was created for the sole and noble purpose of teaching children to read, something at which it succeded beyond anyone's wildest imagination. How dare a movie steal children's experience of that just to make money?

What's bothering me this time is another film made from one of the undisputed classics of children's literature, Bridge to Terabithia. I assume most of you reading this have read it. This movie has been giving me sinking feelings ever since I first saw a commercial for it.

That the book made an impact on me should be obvious. What is Bridge to Terabithia about? It's about a boy who becomes friends with a tomboyish girl. I mean, hello. It is also about friendship, imagination and loss. It is not about big Muppety creatures coming down from the sky, which is what the first commercials made it look like the movie was about.

And I knew something with terrible certainty, as one who has known them intimately in his minds' eye (a place they never quite left): Jess and Leslie were never quite as clean and fresh-faced and Nickelodeon-ready as the two, no doubt very talented, children who are supposed to represent them.

Increased exposure to the commercials led me to believe one of two things was possible. Either the filmmakers had departed signifigantly from the book, eliminating the tragic loss in the last third which is its most moving component.

If that were the case, they should be tied to anthills for desceration. Or, the other possibility was that the film was actually quite faithful to the book, but some ad man or woman decided to sell it as a special f/x extravaganza.

If that were the case, they should be brought up on charges for false advertising. And I'd imagine a few parents will be indignant if they bring their children to it expecting another romp through computer graphics and end up taking them home crying after the real story reveals itself.

The reviews suggest to me that the second is true. RT says:
Bridge to Terabithia is a faithful adaptation of a beloved children's novel and a powerful portrayal of love, loss, and imagination through children's eyes.

So, great then, right? The thing is, I don't care. I don't care how faithful or powerful the adaptation is, if anyone had asked me I would have said that making a film out of Bridge to Terabithia was a terrible idea. Why?

Because the book, even moreso than all books, is about imagination. It's about the relationship that you form with these people in your minds' eye and how you see the things they do and what happens to them. Movies, even the best of them, are about giving you things to see. Not what you see.

Even if the film must be made, I would have said: Stop on a dime the first time somebody came up with the idea that we must enter the fantasy world the two kids create. No. The story is about what it is and what it means to them, and you can show that with well-wrought performances.

This plants the seed for what the audiences see in their imaginations without taking away their experience. By asking a special effects house to come up with their interpretation of what Terabithia looks like? They are taking from every person who sees the movie, but especially every child, the chance to create their own.

Even an SFX house as talented as Weta Digital, who did the Lord of the Rings movies. BTW, I do feel differently about this than the LotR films, and I don't think it's because Terabithia is in my matrix in a way that the Tolkien books never were.

I think it's because, the Rings trilogy is imaginative. Terabithia is, and I'll try not to make this point again, about imagination. The only reason I can think of to make a movie from it (besides money) is because some people still think that is the pinnacle of artistic achievement.

Some books make dandy movies (My Girlfriend's Boyfriend, for example, would work suprisingly well in an adaptation). But not all books are somehow inadequate if not source material to sell Coke & popcorn (and neither would Girlfriend's Boyfriend be).

And I would imagine some might argue that a succesful film adaptation sends the curious back to read books they'd somehow missed. But I remember that what bothered me about The Cat in the Hat was not just its mere existence, it was the endless product tie-ins and “synergy” around it. Including and most especially the new books that adapted the movie, with the insidious potential to surplant the real book, by Dr. Seuss.

And I note something with fatalistic angst. Currently on the number four spot on the New York Times Best-Seller list for children's books is yet another familiar, popular title. One that was also recently released as a well-reviewed film, Charlotte's Web.

The book on the Best-Seller list is not the book by E.B. White, it's an "adaptation" of the movie by somebody named Kate Egan.

Some movies made from books are good. Some movies made from books are great. Some movies made from books are textbook examples of how to adapt a movie and get virtually every conceivable thing wrong (do not even get me started about Endless Love).

But what they all have in common is this. They all give unknown numbers of people an excuse to say:

"No...but I saw the movie."

Bruce Springsteen knows the score.

"In the 50s there was this whole generation of young men trying to sing like beautiful women. That was very smart, ’cause they’d sing way up here, kind of like (sings falsetto melody). I always thought that was crafty because what their seduction was, ‘I’m gonna come up, and I’m gonna speak in your voice to you, beautiful lady. I’m gonna be talkin’ in your language. I’m comin’ up where you live, and I’m a sensitive, understanding man. And will you pull your pants down?’

That is the subtext of all rock n’ roll music. I believe actually it was the subtext of all classical music, also. It is the great motivator for people to write music. You can tell because it works well at the end of any rock song, like ‘It’s a town full of losers and we’re pullin’ out of here to win…and will you pull your pants down?’ or ‘Tramps like us, baby we were born to run…so will you pull your pants down?’ And it also works in the most kind of hardcore protest music that seems to be aimin’ for something higher, like, ‘It’s a hard rain’s-a gonna fall…so you might as well pull your pants down!’”

Bruce Springsteen, Boardwalk Hall, Atlantic City, NJ 11-13-05.

-Via Wings For Wheels

Two separate stories united by hate.

Story one:
Eminem's ex-wife Kim Mathers attempted to commit suicide after watching her husband's fans laugh as he beat a blow-up doll made up to look like her at a concert.

Mathers was attending one of the rap superstar's early shows when he dedicated a vicious rap song to her and then attacked her doll likeness before hurling it into the audience.

His devastated wife, who has been attacked in many Eminem songs, watched as rabid fans destroyed the doll.

For the record, I don't know which is more inexplicable: Eminem's success, or that this girl was stupid enough to marry the misogynistic, homophobic thug twice.

Story two:
Tim Hardaway, who spent 13 seasons in the NBA, was removed from league-related appearances, one day after an anti-gay tirade on a local radio program.

Hardaway reponded to a question on WAXY about former NBA player John Amaechi and the Englishman's admission of homosexuality with a hard-line stance against gay players in the NBA.

"I hate gay people," Hardaway said. "I let it be known I don't like gay people and I don't like to be around gay people. I am homophobic. I don't like it. It shouldn't be in the world or in the United States sports."

A statement from NBA commissioner David Stern to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel said Hardaway has been removed from league-related appearances.

"It is inappropriate for him to be representing us given the disparity between his views and ours," Stern said.

There's more, if you can take it.

Bill Sherman has stepped up manfully

...and posted his reply to my meme challenge to his blog. So howsabout the rest of you, hmmm?

There goes another big piece of all of our childhoods

Peter Ellenshaw, an Academy Award-winning special effects artist who worked on Disney classics such as "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea," "Darby O'Gill and the Little People" and "Mary Poppins," for which he won his Oscar, has died. He was 93. in the small town of Oxbridge, near the London film studios, he became friends with renowned matte artist Walter Percy Day, who eventually offered him a job. From 1935 to 1941, Ellenshaw worked as an uncredited assistant matte artist on a dozen films, including "The Thief of Bagdad" and "Major Barbara."

In 1953, he was brought to California to work on "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea," for which he created several matte paintings of Capt. Nemo's secret island base of Vulcania.

He went on to do matte paintings and other special effects for more than 30 other Disney films, including "The AbsentMinded Professor," "Pollyanna," "Swiss Family Robinson," "The Happiest Millionaire," "The Love Bug" and "The Black Hole." He also did matte paintings for Disney TV fare, such as "Davy Crockett, King of the Wild Frontier," "Zorro" and "Texas John Slaughter."

"He's one of the titans of visual effects in an era before people took visual special effects for granted," film critic and historian Leonard Maltin told The Times on Wednesday.

"So when you see London Harbor full of tall-masted schooners in 'Treasure Island,' that's an Ellenshaw painting.

When Mary Poppins sails over the rooftops of London, that's an Ellenshaw painting.

And when Davy Crocket rides down the path to Washington, that's an Ellenshaw painting."

After doing special effects and the production design on the 1974 Disney adventure-fantasy "The Island at the Top of the World" — for which he shared an Oscar nomination for best art direction — Ellenshaw and his wife moved to Ireland, where he painted landscapes for a couple of years before returning to California.

From then on, he did only occasional film work, including the 1979 Disney space adventure "The Black Hole," for which he shared an Oscar nomination for best visual effects.

Ellenshaw, who also shared an Oscar nomination for art direction for the 1971 film "Bedknobs and Broomsticks," came out of retirement for the last time to do matte paintings for the 1990 film "Dick Tracy."

At times like these, I could almost believe this is Camelot

Washington State is one of several states racing to see which will be first to send the U.S. House of Representatives a petition to impeach Bush and Cheney.

State Senator Eric Oemig, on February 14, 2007, introduced a resolution calling on the Washington State Legislature to petition the U.S. House.

Kirsty MacColl is a fox.

Literally. From The Telegraph:

When Kirsty MacColl died after being hit by a speedboat while diving off the coast of Mexico seven years ago, a memorial bench was placed in Soho Square.

So I'm touched to hear that a vixen who has made the square her home of late has been christened "Kirsty" by locals.

"We all think she's lovely," says one. "She's often to be found at night curled up by the bench, so we thought it was only fitting to call her after Kirsty. She's even got the same colouring."

TV stories

Okay. You regular readers will know that the producers of 24 are doing a comedy show which is supposed to be a conservative counter-balance to The Daily Show. Well now, now we've got footage. Get ready to hold your sides.

In happier news (by which I mean news which is much more likely to result in someone somewhere someday smiling): Gilmore Girls' much-missed creator Amy Sherman-Palladino's new sitcom pilot has a lead, Parker Posey.

I'm going to try not to get my hopes up way too high for this one. Given how deeply I've sunk into depression at the realization that Studio 60 just isn't making it in the ratings or with me. Nevertheless, the premise-
Posey will play a successful children's book editor who's forced to ask her estranged younger sister to carry a child for her when she discovers she can't conceive.

-sounds like one that Sherman-Palladino can run with. And even before Gilmore Girls, she did have a few years of writing on Roseanne when it was arguably at the height of its powers under her belt.

As for Parker Posey, I admit I've seen her in few really good films since her first, Dazed and Confused, back in 1993. From what I've seen she seems to do a lot of indy movies that almost work, but don't quite.

However, she's been good enough in them I'm prepared to believe* with the right script she could really be quite good.

*Provisionally, he said, with visions of the Sunset Strip nestled in his head.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Oh, and I almost forgot:

Favorite Valentine’s Day song

“Valentine’s Day,” written and performed by ABC

When the postman don’t call on Valentine’s day
And Santa Claus don’t come on a Christmas Day
That umbrella won’t work on a rainy day
Don’t ask me, I already know

When they find you beached on the barrier reef
And the only pleasure treasured is in map relief
The choice is yours, sure, saint or thief
Don’t ask me I already know

When they baked your cake in little slices
Kept your eyes on rising prices
Wound up winning booby prizes
I’m sure you’d like to think you know what life is

Find destiny through magazines
Liplicking, unzipping Harpers and Queens
From here to eternity Without in-betweens
Don’t ask me, I already know

With your heart on parade and your heart on parole
(I hope you find a sucker to buy that mink stole)
School for scandal
Guess who’s enrolled?
So ask me, I already know

When they find you beached on the barrier reef
When the postman don’t call on Valentine’s Day
When the only pleasure treasured is in map relief
When you don’t tell the truth, that’s the price you pay

When I’m shaking a hand, I’m clenching a fist
If you gave me a [dollar] for the moments I missed
And I got dancing lessons for all the lips I should kiss
I’d be a millionaire
I’d be your Fred Astaire

John Edwards is a jackass. This is a recording.

I, however, am Spartacus. Join us, won't you?

Peter O'Toole, master with women

After citing the deeply underrated Creator, starring Virginia Madsen and Peter O'Toole, in the below list this morning, this afternoon I found this recent rememberance by her of the film:

"I was outraged one day, when we were shooting on the beach, we were all there and all the crew were waiting and he wouldn't come out of his trailer.

"'Somebody should go get him! I will!' I was all of like, what, 22?

"The assistant director looks at me and goes, ‘Yeah? You think you could get him out?' ‘As a matter of fact, I will!' I went marching over, I banged on his door, and he yells out, ‘Entre!' "I marched in there and started, ‘PETER...'

"He goes ‘Heeeeellloooooo darling,' and I just melted. ‘Sit down, girl!' I, of course, obeyed.

"And he proceeded to tell stories of when he was filming Beckett, and I just dissolved into a pool beneath his feet.

"Maybe 45 minutes later, I emerged, floating on a cloud, from his trailer. And sauntered back to the beach and the set. And then I realized that I'd made a fool of myself.

"I apologized to the first AD. All embarrassed and everything. The director comes over and says, ‘Don't worry. If Kate Hepburn couldn't get him out of his trailer, what makes you think you could?'"

This is a meme that I thunk up.

I'm tagging Sherman with it, but anyone else who wants to play is welcome. If you have a blog, post it there, let me know in the comments and I'll post a link. Or you can just put it in the comments.

The idea is this: Name three movies that you have shown (or would show) to a new girlfriend/boyfriend to let them know what kind of person you are.

Mine are all films that I actually did show to new girlfriends-who also happened to be my two longest relationships, but who knows if there's a connection or not.

The first was Creator, directed by Ivan Passer from a screenplay by Jeremy Leven, who very freely adapted his own novel. This is the story of a scientist who acts as mentor to a young protege in both the ways of science and the ways of love. Oh yes, and he's also attempting to clone his long-dead wife, which accounts for the sad edge to what is both a comedy and a romance, if not necessarily what I think of as a romantic comedy.

The scientist is played by Peter O'Toole, who is brilliant. The love interest of his student (Vincent Spano) is played by Virginia Madsen. And yes, this was the start of the crush I have had on her ever since. It was also the last film for a handful of years in which she would play, for lack of a better phrase, a "nice" girl.

She was broadly typecast as a sexpot in most of her films between this and Sideways. Given how hot I think she is, I'm not exactly complaining about that...yet in Creator, she has an astonishing quality which frankly, I kind of missed since.


(Also in this movie, David Ogden Stiers pulls off the neat trick of playing an aggresively hostile surgeon who in no way resembles his Major Charles Emerson Winchester III on M*A*S*H)

I remember having to stop the tape in the middle when showing it to my new girlfriend, because we had to go somewhere, and asking her what she thought of it so far. She said she thought it was very sad, because it's about a man who cannot get on with his life.

I was happy when I was able to finish showing it to her, because his overcoming that is kind of what the film is about.

The next film is All That Jazz, directed by Bob Fosse and co-written by him with Robert Alan Aurthur. I actually wrote an article about it for a fanzine a few years ago, but unfortunately (or not), it's not online.

This is, for better and for worse, the best depiction I have ever seen of the artistic personality, or at least mine. I showed it, to be frank, at least partly as a warning.

It's kind of dark, so as an antidote I showed the same girl...

The Fisher King, directed by Terry Gilliam from a script by Richard LaGravenese. This is also kind of dark along the way but there is, as they say, a light at the end of the tunnel. It's all too easy for me to imagine I would react in the way Robin Williams' character does in this film if I suffered the loss he does.

Gilliam's commentary on the laser disc version is also one of my favorites. He talks about the proper use of movie stars and points out the power of withholding their "trump cards." For example, I knew that a scene near the end of the movie, where Jeff Bridges turns around with a big, silly grin on his face, was exhilarating.

What I didn't know was that Gilliam had very specifically prevented Bridges, who has a great smile, from doing it in all the previous scenes to increase its power.

I think Mercedes Ruehl's Anne (now where have I heard that name before?) and Amanda Plummer's Lydia are two of the best women characters in films of the last 20 years.

I take pride in writing my women characters well, and films like this are very much my model-I've referred to LaGravenese's essay in the script book often.

(Come to think of it, an early version of my Annabel, Keitha and Colley story contained a reference to this movie)

Another thing I like about the film and script is that it finds time for character moments which in more streamlined films would be cut. They don't exactly advance the plot, but they do give the film much of its meaning for me.

I'm thinking especially of Michael Jeter's great monologue as the homeless man after Bridges asks him if he lost his mind gradually, or just all of a sudden. The one which begins "Well...I'm a singer by trade..."

My experience is that a lot of "film buffs" paradoxically seem to wish Gilliam was still with Monty Python or would just stick to making "serious" science fiction. They seem to me to underrate this movie which sad to say, may be the last Gilliam film which I truly, richly enjoyed.

I've liked things in all his films since but this is the last one that sent me out of the theater singing. Almost literally: "I like New York in June, how about you?"

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Thank the lord For small mercies

One of the most frustrating things about getting rejection slips is that they're always so bland and formulaic. The reasons for this are at least twofold: The first reason is that most publishers simply don't have time to write individualized replies for each submission.

The other reason is that nobody wants a piece of paper out there with their name on it giving specific reasons why they rejected a manuscript. Just in case that manuscript then gets bought by another publisher and sells half a million copies.

I understand both these reasons. Nevertheless, it is frustrating. Often, you wish for just a little bit of feedback telling you why they feel your book is "not quite right for our line." That way, you might at least infer some suggestions (which you could then either take or leave).

However, it could be worse. In her recently published scrapbook, Courtney Love reproduces a postcard reply she received from the producers of the New Mickey Mouse Club in 1976:

Thank you for sending us your picture and qualifications for consideration for the SHOWTIME segment of the NEW MICKEY MOUSE CLUB. Since SHOWTIME will feature youngsters who have exceptional singing, dancing or musical ability, with a marked degree of performance experience, we regret that you do not qualify.

(Emphasis mine)

Well! Way to bitch out a 11-year-old kid...

24 + 60 = Five disturbing questions raised by last night's television viewing

One: On 24, I'm sorry, but exactly where does Jack Bauer get the right to be snotty because someone broke under torture? Virtually his entire M.O. is based around the belief that everybody eventually breaks under torture, sooner or later.

And no, saying "Jack was tortured by the Chinese, and he didn't break!" wouldn't cover it. Not even allowing for the real-world reality that Jack is the hero of the series and frequently depicted as well-nigh superhuman.

Within the reality of the series, Jack is a trained, battle-hardened (to say the least) field agent. Morris was not.

Two: Within the reality of 24, how likely is it that a highly placed political operative would be shocked-shocked!-at the idea of a conspiracy against a President? Not even allowing for all the stuff that we as an audience are privy to, enough things have happened in the world of 24 that would be public knowledge.

A conspiracy in that world would be about as surprising as this mess of a war is in ours. Even to a layman. And it seems safe to assume that a man in Lennox's postion would be even more "in the loop."

Three: With Chloe's callous (and kind of out of character even for her) speech to Morris, followed by his returning to work less than two hours after having been tortured: Are we meant to infer that people who protest after being tortured are essentially whiny little crybabies?

I think we are.

Four: Speaking of Chloe, since when is she a demolitions expert? And-

Five: On Studio 60, is there any way to interpret last night's episode as anything other than: Feel sorry for the poor, overworked, overpaid writer that nobody loves, with a drug addiction? I'd like to believe that there is, but I haven't found it yet. If you have, write in.

Monday, February 12, 2007

As mentioned in the past, I don't love Margaret Cho as much as some people

I think she's more hype than really funny or socially important. And if anyone ever asks me why, I think I'll just send them to this entry from her blog-where you can also shop for her DVD, clothing line, and book.

As you will have picked up by now, in a world full of death, sexism, homophobia, fear, racism, and alienation, there are few things I hate quite so much as bad writing.

improvisations in sadism

Hoo-boy. If you still watch "24," (special two-hour block tonight starting at eight, kids) and you want to continue may not want to read this New Yorker piece on co-creator Joel Surnow. A few excerpts follow. You should read the whole thing, though, if you can.

It's lengthy, and is likely to give you a sinking feeling that swiftly turns queasy. Surnow regurgitates (again) the same old what-if scenario pro-torture people use to justify it we've discussed before. Even though (emphasis in below quote mine):

Bob Cochran, who created the show with Surnow, admitted, “Most terrorism experts will tell you that the ‘ticking time bomb’ situation never occurs in real life, or very rarely. But on our show it happens every week.” According to Darius Rejali, a professor of political science at Reed College and the author of the forthcoming book “Torture and Democracy,” the conceit of the ticking time bomb first appeared in Jean Lartéguy’s 1960 novel “Les Centurions,” written during the brutal French occupation of Algeria. The book’s hero, after beating a female Arab dissident into submission, uncovers an imminent plot to explode bombs all over Algeria and must race against the clock to stop it. Rejali, who has examined the available records of the conflict, told me that the story has no basis in fact. In his view, the story line of “Les Centurions” provided French liberals a more palatable rationale for torture than the racist explanations supplied by others (such as the notion that the Algerians, inherently simpleminded, understood only brute force). Lartéguy’s scenario exploited an insecurity shared by many liberal societies—that their enlightened legal systems had made them vulnerable to security threats.

“24,” which last year won an Emmy Award for Outstanding Drama Series, packs an improbable amount of intrigue into twenty-four hours, and its outlandishness marks it clearly as a fantasy, an heir to the baroque potboilers of Tom Clancy and Vince Flynn. Nevertheless, the show obviously plays off the anxieties that have beset the country since September 11th, and it sends a political message. The series, Surnow told me, is “ripped out of the Zeitgeist of what people’s fears are—their paranoia that we’re going to be attacked,” and it “makes people look at what we’re dealing with” in terms of threats to national security. “There are not a lot of measures short of extreme measures that will get it done,” he said, adding, “America wants the war on terror fought by Jack Bauer. He’s a patriot.”

This past November, U.S. Army Brigadier General Patrick Finnegan, the dean of the United States Military Academy at West Point, flew to Southern California to meet with the creative team behind “24.” Finnegan, who was accompanied by three of the most experienced military and F.B.I. interrogators in the country, arrived on the set as the crew was filming...In fact, Finnegan and the others had come to voice their concern that the show’s central political premise—that the letter of American law must be sacrificed for the country’s security—was having a toxic effect. In their view, the show promoted unethical and illegal behavior and had adversely affected the training and performance of real American soldiers. “I’d like them to stop,” Finnegan said of the show’s producers. “They should do a show where torture backfires.”

[One] expert at the meeting was Tony Lagouranis, a former Army interrogator in the war in Iraq. He told the show’s staff that DVDs of shows such as “24” circulate widely among soldiers stationed in Iraq. Lagouranis said to me, “People watch the shows, and then walk into the interrogation booths and do the same things they’ve just seen.” He recalled that some men he had worked with in Iraq watched a television program in which a suspect was forced to hear tortured screams from a neighboring cell; the men later tried to persuade their Iraqi translator to act the part of a torture “victim,” in a similar intimidation ploy. Lagouranis intervened: such scenarios constitute psychological torture.

Please note: These are not "politically correct" "Hollywood" types saying torture doesn't work. This is the US military, the intelligence community, and former Army interrogators. But the bottom line is Surnow says he doesn't care how many experts tell him torture doesn't work, he simply doesn't believe it.

Discounting the informed opinions of experts so he can behave any way he wants to behave is frightening even in the creator of a TV series. Or rather, in Surnow's case, have Jack Bauer, patriot, behave any way he wants him to behave.

Rremind you of any presidential administrations you know?

He also says:
“There’s a gay network, a black network—there should be a conservative network,”
The man's on Fox and he thinks we need a conservative network.

After you've finished the piece, you may want to read this Hullabaloo post where Digby discusses it:

I'm not all that big a believer in the idea that sending bad "messages" to the troops should dictate what people in a free society are allowed to say or what the policy of the government should be. I think that "24" has its audience and that's probably just the price we have to pay for living in a liberal democracy.

But I'm not sure I think that the highest reaches of government (who have made a fetish out of criticizing Americans for "sending the wrong message" to the troops,) should go this far, particularly when they are constantly telling the rest of us that we should STFU:

Last March, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and his wife, Virginia, joined Surnow and Howard Gordon for a private dinner at Rush Limbaugh’s Florida home. The gathering inspired Virginia Thomas—who works at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank—to organize a panel discussion on “24.” The symposium, sponsored by the foundation and held in June, was entitled “ ‘24’ and America’s Image in Fighting Terrorism: Fact, Fiction, or Does It Matter?” Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, who participated in the discussion, praised the show’s depiction of the war on terrorism as “trying to make the best choice with a series of bad options.” He went on, “Frankly, it reflects real life.” Chertoff, who is a devoted viewer of “24,” subsequently began an e-mail correspondence with Gordon, and the two have since socialized in Los Angeles. “It’s been very heady,” Gordon said of Washington’s enthusiasm for the show. Roger Director, Surnow’s friend, joked that the conservative writers at “24” have become “like a Hollywood television annex to the White House. It’s like an auxiliary wing.”

Michael Chertoff thinks "24" reflects real life. For the record, Michael Chertoff also thought "the Bush administration did a magnificent job in New Orleans."

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Okay, let's hit it (Grammys post-show)

More-or-less off the top of my head:

The Police reunion: Well, the TV director who deprived those of us at home from being able to see their faces as they re-took the stage is an idiot. But man, did I have a smile on my face at the beginning and ending.

But whose fucking idea was it to run a fucking three-song medly by the Eagles (and not even done by them) when Stewart, Andy and Sting only got one? To say nothing of giving Justin Timberlake two songs. N

Nothing (much) against the Eagles, but...oh, and BTW, is it me, ot does the lead singer of Rascal Flatts sound just like Kenny Loggins (who I have even less against, but again...)?

Best line of the night: Just when I think the Dixie Chicks in general, and Natalie Maines in particular, can't get any closer to perfect, they win the best country album of the year, and she says, "Well, to quote the great Simpsons: Heh-Heh." ( a la Nelson Muntz).

Runner up: Ludacris thanking Bill O'Reilly. Heh heh heh.

The Red Hot Chili Peppers seemed kind of tepid to me, but as we know, I don't like (or belive in) rock music much.

I was especially impressed with John Legend, less so but still with Corinne Bailey Rae, and John Mayer remained...John Mayer.

But whoever had the idea of tributing James Brown with Christina Aguilera doing "It's a Man's, Man's, Man's World" is some kind of genius and so was the performance. At the risk of sounding like a prude, I'm glad Aguilera has worked through whatever she was working through during the Dirty period. And is back to reminding people what a motherfucker of a voice she has.

She did look great, too, though.

Speaking of Grammy fashion, Scarlett Johansson, I'm told, wore "a navy-and-black cocktail dress with a fitted corset by Monique Lhuillier" and her tits.
Good news: Nelly "symbol of everything that is wrong with women today" Furtado didn't win anything.

Bad news: Gnarls Barkley decided to make some kind of "statement" or sumthin' by performing "Crazy" with a weird martial beat at half-speed.

Very clever, boys. I'll try to forget that the next time the good version comes on the radio.

Which should be any minute now. Whenever you're reading this, it should be any minute now.

And finally, Carrie Underwood showed me that by having missed her music, I'm not missing much.

That's the darndest thing I've ever seen.

I was going to say just three words about the Obama story on 60 Minutes tonight: Damn, he's good. I can't think of a question I wish they would have asked him, or one I would want him to answer any differently than he did.

That was all I was going to say. But then, towards the end, CBS smeared some of their advertising feces across the screen. As all the networks do in a show of contempt for both their audience and their showmakers.

The Senator and his wife had just been asked whether or not they worried that as a black candidate he would be under a greater threat of assasination. And over a shot of Obama speaking to a typically enraptured crowd, appeared these words:

"Amazing Race All-Stars"

Given the multiple meanings available of the word race, and the fact that Obama is definitely (and rightly) considered a star, this was a hideously inappropriate gaffe. Was it unintentional? I''m inclined to think so. My reading recently (most especially Truth & Duty) suggests to me that at CBS, news is very much under the thumb of the entertainment division, to its detriment.

I'd blame a tasteless advertising executive who wanted to promote a show without regard for context before I'd think that CBS has a division of the KKK. But intentional or was a hideously inappropriate gaffe.

Grammys: For the record

Having reached the stage at which very few albums, however best-selling and/or critically acclaimed, are for me, I have, as they say, very few dogs in this fight.

Looking at the leading contenders...

Justin Timberlake is, at best, overrated. John Mayer seems to have a good sense of humor about himself and more power to him, but his music remains for people who thought Hootie & the Blowfish had just too much substance.

I still know nothing about Carrie Underwood, beyond having observed that she is much like a dead ringer for Mary Stuart Masterson of Benny & Joon fame.

I don't dislike most of the nominees, they just don't mean very much to me. With the exception of the nearly-perfect Dixie Chicks, of course. I will, however, be hoping that Gnarls Barkley's "Crazy" wins a couple of its categories. Is it me or is that whole thing nothing but hooks?

And of course I'm psyched for the Police reunion. The last time they performed together was in 2003 when they were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. I watched that performance from smack dab in the middle of the intolerable Tennessee.

I remember thinking that unlike some reunited bands who seem to strain trying to remember what they used to do, the Police could have gone back on tour the next day. It took four more years, but...

(As an aside: I read Sting's book, Broken Music recently. It's all right but Andy Summers' One Train Later memoir is actually much better. Surprisingly, because although I knew he was one of the best guitarists around, I never put too much stock in his being able to put words together.

Those of you who wonder why are directed to the childish doggerel monologue in "Be My Girl-Sally" and the unlistenable "Mother." He got better.)

Random Flickr-blogging 1610

No silly little captions this week, just one picture I like; one Words & Image.

Autumn in New Hampshire


"And he thought he heard the echo of a penny whistle band
And the laughter from a distant caravan
And the brightly painted line of circus wagons in the sand
Fading through the door into summer"

--The Monkees, "The Door Into Summer"


Jennifer Connelly's husband is sexually insecure.

Probably about the size of his penis.

The man who played murderous albino monk Silas in "The Da Vinci Code" brought a bit of his character to an exclusive Village restaurant when he lost his cool and roughed up a man whom he thought was hitting on his wife, superstar Jennifer Connelly, witnesses told The Post.

[Paul] Bettany - who was about 10 feet from Connelly, his Academy Award-winning co-star in "A Beautiful Mind" - heard what was going on and "completely lost his temper" with the man who approached her, the witnesses said.

"He grabbed the guy, shook him up and threw him against the wall," said a witness. "It happened pretty quick, actually."

Bettany screamed, "Stop trying to f - - - my wife" at the man as Connelly stood by shouting at her husband, one witness said.

"She screamed his name like 15 times," said one witness.

Guaranteed to raise a smile.

From The New Yorker: Seventy-Two Virgins, by Steve Martin.