Saturday, June 28, 2008

Les vieilles plaisanteries sont les meilleures plaisanteries

"Coup manqué, mais vos genoux m'excusent-ils blessent-ils ? "

" Pas, pourquoi ? "

" Puisque they' massacre re je."


"Men In Blanket Ran Javelin?"


"Benjamin Alan Varkentine."

Now you know, and knowing is half the--

Spots on the moon of Mars

And yes, damnit, I am deeply ashamed of myself.

Caption this photo



Friday, June 27, 2008

How did such a fanciful romance as Stranger Than Fiction ever get made?

I ask that not because it isn't good--it is. But it's also literary on more than one level: It seems as though it's based on a book (tho it was an original screenplay); it's about the process of writing. It seems to have been written by someone (Zach Helm) who was acquainted with literature, and it has a sense of wordplay in the dialogue and character names.

(some of which hit me only after I'd finished watching.)

(if nothing else, I owe it for showing me, even inadvertently, how much "odd" sounds like "Awed.")

One of the thoughts that I had as I was watching Stranger Than Fiction is that if I ever do get to be the writer/director I want to be, I might be the only one who would ever want to cast Adam Sandler, Jim Carrey and Ferrell together in a "dramedy," or human comedy.

What these men have in common besides being star comics is this: I've had little or no interest in seeing most of the dumb-ass shitty Jerry Lewis impressions and fart jokes that have proved so lucrative for them.

To a man, I prefer them in works where they get to do some dramatic acting: Sander in Spanglish, Carrey in The Truman Show, now Ferrell here.

What I have an interest in--among other things--is high-quality performances, and in Stranger Than Fiction Ferrell delivers a choice example.

By the end I had come to care about his hero--who knew he could play a recognizably believable human?

The story is about a man, Harold Crick (Ferrell), an IRS agent who hears a voice in his head. Not a voice telling him what to do, but describing what he is already doing with a better vocabulary than he possesses himself.

He responds to this about as well as could reasonably be expected. After consulting with a couple of doctors (one played in a delightful cameo by Tom Hulce, a worthy actor too long missing from features) he seeks out a literature professor.

The professor is played by Dustin Hoffman, giving an admirably deadpan, underplayed and truly supportive performance. Slowly they discover that the voice is that of Karen Eiffel, a reclusive novelist Hoffman admires, played by Emma Thompson (who looks much less Brigitte Bardot-ish in the film). It's the best depiction of a writer's life I've seen since Cradle Will Rock.

Harold is the central character in a novel she has been writing but unable to finish. And now (we know but they don't), her publisher has sent an assistant, Penny, to hurry her along.

Penny Escher: Sitting in the rain isn't going to write a book.
Karen Eiffel: That illustrates exactly how much you know about writing books.

This presents a problem for Harold, because the one thing the central characters of Eiffel’s novels have in common is this: All of them die at the end.

Harold, like any of us sensibly, doesn't want to be in a tragedy, he wants to be in a romance.

And he may have just found the beginnings of a love story with a woman he is meant to be auditing, played by the picturesque Maggie Gyllenhaal; named Ana, weirdly enough for me.

This part of the story has a warmth to it comparable to the late and lamented Adrienne Shelly's Waitress, and not only because like Keri Russell in that film, Gyllenhaal here is a baker.

Some might call it mushy, but only if they haven't had a really good chocolate chip cookie with a glass of cold milk in a while.

Besides, Harold doesn't exactly sweet-talk his Betty Crocker:

Ana Pascal: You were staring at my tits.

Harold Crick: No, I'm sure I wasn't. And if I was, it was as a representative of the United States Government.

Still, for most of it, I was preparing to give my review of Stranger Than Fiction as "Undeniably entertaining, but lacking a certain something in emotional engagement." You know--like They Might Be Giants' music.

But damned if it didn't sneak up on me. So really, I'm serious, how did this get made? No mutants coming alive in museums, riding around in talking, driverless cars as they try to crack an old Spartan the hell did this movie get made and distributed by a major studio?

My guess? Will Ferrell. He must have used some of the juice he has from Elf, Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby and the successful "Frat Pack" movies.

And good on 'im (if I'm right--it could just as easily have been Marc Forster, director of Oscar bait, which sold the studio).

Pixar is taking no chances in getting me to see Wall•E

As it happens, I've already made plans to take my nephew to see it next week, but then I stumbled over this promotional image:

Now that's niche marketing.

ETA: I found the image atop Eberts review of the film, which I'm not going to read in its entirety until I've seen the movie. I did glance at the first paragraph, tho, and...ohboyohboyohboy...

Shower the people you love with love in sun showers; Rain down

There are always choices. For example, just now I had the choice between making another post about Obama and Clinton and a lot of dumb stuff that really doesn't matter (in the long view and the grand scheme). Don't believe the hype.

Or, I could post this magnificent video of James Taylor and The Dixie Chicks playing "Shower The People" together. Guess what I did.

Amazing, isn't it? I generally find Taylor too loose for my tastes, but The Dixie Chicks pump him up considerably. Not just as they would any red-blooded hetero male--those girls can sing.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

a lengthy but well-worth reading interview with George Carlin.

It is so (worth-reading) not only because it appears to be the last in-depth interview he ever gave, but because it truly is that, in-depth. Speaking to Psychology Today, the recently deceased comedian had a chance to talk about art, and self-expression, and other topics that rarely came up when interviewers wanted to ask him about "the 7 words" again.

If I quoted every little thing he said which rang a bell for me this post would be half again as long as the interview itself. So I'm going to limit myself to just a couple, but I strongly encourage you to take a few minutes and go read the whole thing.

Self-expression is a hallmark of an artist, of art, to get something off one’s chest, to sing one’s song. So that element is present in all art. And comedy, although it is not one of the fine arts—it’s a vulgar art, it’s one of the people’s arts, it’s the spoken word, the writing that goes into it is an art form—it’s certainly artistry. So self-expression is the key to even standing up and saying, "Hey, listen to me." Self-expression can be based on looking at the world and making observations about it or not. Comedy can also be based on describing one’s inner self—doing anecdotes, talking about your own fears...But I don’t think these things are mutually exclusive. I think self-expression is present at all times, and whether or not you’re talking about the outside world or your responses to it depends on the moment and the subject.

The writing is what gives me the joy, especially editing myself for the page, and getting something ready to show to the editors, and then to have a first draft and get it back and work to fix it, I love reworking, I love editing, love love love revision, revision, revision, revision.

Interview found via Mark Evanier, who was told about it by another one of his readers, Dawna Kaufmann.

Oh, man.

To recap: First, I experienced an odd bout of compassion for Anne Hathaway's (allegedly) criminal ex-lover, on the grounds that if I were waking up with a goddess in the morning, I might go to extreme lengths to keep her too.

Then it turned out he'd tested positive for opiates, so I lost some of that compassion.

And I don't know how the heck I feel. It seems that Raffaello Follieri will be in jail through tomorrow or longer, if his attorney can't put the bail together. Which might be tricky as his bail has been set at $21 million.

According to press, Follieri has been spending his days in a seven-and-a-half by eight foot two man cell that includes a bunk bed, toilet, desk, sink, and a very small window.

Follieri suffered an attack of anxiety or sinus infection, or both, depending on which published account you read (or whether you think the sinus infection was trumped up to explain the opiates) after his bail hearing Tuesday.

Oh--why is his being in jail through tomorrow signifigant?

Because tomorrow is his birthday.

Remind me never to complain about mine again.

Emmy Rossum and the luckiest bannister on the face of this Earth

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

At this point, Karl Rove is just asking to be stepped on

Consider this fascinating exchange between Bill O’Reilly and Karl Rove on Fox News last night:

O’Reilly, referencing an NYT article published over the weekend, said that the Times had “outed a CIA agent,” which “obviously puts the CIA agent in danger.” Rove accused the paper of maintaining a “double standard. It is deeply concerned when Richard Armitage outed Valerie Plame. Of course, they were only concerned until the point that it became apparent that it was Richard Armitage, not Karl Rove.”

This goes beyond irony. This is hypocrisy. This is childish acting out because in your heart you know you're a liar and need to be spanked.

But to take the longer view: Consider what Karl Rove has done, not only to his country, but (specifically) to his party and his president (little if any of which has been good). Why does anybody still pay any attention to that man?

Say what you will about the boomers--and I have said and will say plenty--but they knew what to do when their leaders were exposed as crooks. You throw the rascals out, and you don't invite them back to your parties anymore.

For this generation, there seems to be no wrong you can do that'll make you lose your standing--unless, of course, it's oral sex.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

But wait, there's more.

You know that bout of compassion I had this afternoon for Anne Hathaway's ex-boyfriend, now under arrest? I may be getting over it. Turns out Raffaello Follieri, whom a

judge placed...under home detention with an electronic monitoring device

...not only defrauded people out of millions (allegedy), but...

The prosecutor also said Follieri tested positive for opiates from a urine sample earlier Tuesday morning

So. Y'know, one tries to see things from the other fella's point of view. One tries to cling to the belief that in this country, everyone's innocent until proven guilty.

But I'm sorry, anyone who has had hot Hathaway love and still feels the need to put opiates into his system...clearly something is very, very wrong here.

(Of course, it could be that he turned to heroin--or whatever the opiate in question might be--only after she kicked him out. Which would be more understandable, if not excusable.)

Elizabeth Edwards is awesome

Edwards addressed an Internet conference in New York today by video hookup from her home in North Carolina.

Anyone else think that the Edwards' are starting to seem like the Clintons, only without the enchanting lies, guilt, inability to know when they're beaten, paranoia and generally sad spectacle?

I hope Obama puts both of them to work, even if he doesn't ask John to be the VP.

He was too hip for the room

George Carlin again, this time from the pages of a Playboy interview in 2005.


I'm Irish Catholic, so there's inhibition there. I didn't take the Catholic part very seriously as a kid, but you can't shake the Irish part too easily. And you know, Irish foreplay is "Brace yourself, Bridget." get these people now who say, "I'm not religious. I'm spiritual." Fine. But religion in this country has become a complete distortion and exploitation of the spiritual urge.

PLAYBOY: How do you classify your vitriol?
CARLIN: It's dissatisfaction and disappointment. I'm disappointed that my culture let me down. I feel betrayed by the people in this country. They're dumb. They're just fucking stupid.


Say, remember a little over a year ago when I wrote about the Attack of the Killer Lesbian, Seething Sapphic septet?

A state appeals court yesterday overturned the gang-assault convictions of two members of an alleged lesbian she-wolf pack that beat and slashed an insult-spewing straight man in Greenwich Village.

The wheels of justice grind slowly, more slowly than they should, but they grind.

Holy cow

Damn me and my compassionate impulses--they keep getting in the way of my fully enjoying seeing people getting the ass-kicking they so richly deserve. First it was how absolutely creamed John McCain is getting come election day. I still think he's going, and want him to, lose, but does it have to be as humiliating as I'm pretty sure it's gonna be?

And now...Anne Hathaway's ex-boyfriend has been arrested for wire fraud, money laundering, and conspiracy; he could go to jail for life. So...given my already expressed opinion that this guy was bad news, why don't I feel better about this? I dunno.

It certainly shouldn't be that I feel sorry for him, no matter whose ex he is, guilty or not. Never feel sorry for anyone who makes more than a million a year. It's just a good rule of thumb.

Maybe I think if the guy already has been expelled from paradise, do we really need to kick him when he's down?

Maybe it's because whatever I may think of him in my envious, green-eyed way, they were together four years, so I want to believe she really cared for him. Whether he deserved it or not. This has to be difficult for her and I'm a fan, I don't want things to be difficult for her.

Or maybe it's just that I can't help thinking how ironic the events of this week must be for my Reason Enough to Believe in God. Her film a champion at the box office, her ex-boyfriend a known criminal. (Allegedly).

Maybe it's just because reportedly he used the money he's alleged to have scammed from his investors in order to keep Ms. Hathaway in the lifestyle to which she had become accustomed.

To be fair, let's admit that more stable souls than his, mine or yours might well go wobbly from awakening at sunrise pressed up against the alabaster nude skin of a dream made flesh.

Monday, June 23, 2008

"And damn it, that's my job!"

As Barack Obama broadens his outreach to evangelical voters, one of the movement's biggest names, James Dobson, accuses the likely Democratic presidential nominee of distorting the Bible and pushing a "fruitcake interpretation" of the Constitution.

(George Carlin, I miss you already)

I wasn't that happy with Obama a couple of days ago (see "...neither Andrew Shepherd nor Jed Bartlet is running in this election," below). So I'd like to thank Spongedob Scarepants here for reminding me how Obama makes religious conservatives absolutely crazed.

"Am I required in a democracy to conform my efforts in the political arena to his bloody notion of what is right with regard to the lives of tiny babies?" Dobson said.

Woof! That's some sentence structure, Dob.

Gee, he was just here a minute ago...(One more, EDITED WITH ADDITION) has put together a nice photo-piece of George Carlin's career milestones.

ETA: And on Yahoo, they're featuring Carlin's feelings on how he would like his obituary to sound.

Want me baby

This is interesting. Someone screennamed "nico92stronger" has taken Madonna's version of the Marvin Gaye song I Want You (recorded with Massive Attack) and cut it to the "legendary" video for Justify My Love.

I put that in quotes because I've always felt the MTV banning, VHS release, "moral outrage;" her ABC-Nightline appearance and ooh-homosexual imagery! was just Madonna's way of making some quick cash.

I suppose you can't knock it for working, though also I never thought the record was much good.

I Want You, on the other hand, I think is evidence for my strongly-held belief that Madonna is a much better interpretive artist than a creative one. Most of her own songwriting attempts sound kind of half-assed to me, especially when she got out of the groove and starting trying to offer Serious Advice.

But given good writers, like Gaye and his collaborators, or Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber, or Stephen Sondheim, or Steinberg & Kelly, she can put over a lot of emotion. The "mash-up" of this song with these images is surprisingly effective.

NPR remembers George Carlin

With excerpts from two "Fresh Air" interviews.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

America's fastest rising young foole

Award-winning comedian George Carlin dies

from the outset there were indications of an anti-establishment edge to his comedy. Initially, it surfaced in the witty patter of a host of offbeat characters like the wacky sportscaster Biff Barf and the hippy-dippy weatherman Al Sleet.

--quote from The International Herald-Tribune

This is the kind of news that truly...well, I'm not joking or exaggerating, when I clicked onto the Yahoo! main page just now and saw it as the featured story, there was a sharp intake of breath from me.

I would've said "Oh my god," but given his rather negative feelings about religion it doesn't seem a fitting tribute. So I'll do my best with what I have.

This may be a little scattershot, but I want to get it down while the news is still fresh.

I'm a George Carlin fan from way back. Better to remember the immortal Seven Words You Can Never Say On Television:

I look at that list, written in the early 1970's (when Carlin was once arrested for using them onstage), and I realize that in 2008 there's only four left you can't say, and then you can't only on non-cable, network television.

He was also fired in Vegas, as he once put it, "for saying a town where the big game is called 'craps."

On an HBO special paying tribute to Carlin's then 40-years in comedy (he made it to 50), host Jon Stewart, then a few years away from taking over The Daily Show, said something about Carlin that I have always remembered (of course, I have the show on tape and have watched it many times, which helps).

He said that for comedians, Carlin was "Part of our holy trinity: Lenny Bruce, Richard Pryor...George Carlin. The rest of us are just congregation."

Of course, Carlin had made spoof newscasts ("A man attempting to walk around the world...drowned today.") part of his live show before The Daily Show or Saturday Night Live's "Weekend Update."

Speaking of SNL, I haven't started reading the obits yet (as I write this), but I'll betcha every single one of them mentions he was the show's first host ever.

Paul Provenza on the commentary track to the Aristocrats DVD said that Carlin was one of the very few comedians he likes to listen to talk about the technique of comedy.

(Here's the trailer for that film)

Stewart also spoke with Carlin in that same tribute about the older comedian's love of language, so obvious in his work. I think of a routine which I don't know is as famous as some of his others, but to me it was a great example of the comedian as truth teller.

In it, he showed how we misuse language to bleach the humanity out of it, using the changing terms we've used to describe the same condition from war to war for an example, slowly morphing "SHELL-SHOCK" into "post-traumatic-stress-disorder."

There were other ways in which he showed up the inconsistencies (not to say absurdities) in the way we speak, act, and indeed live. For instance he once questioned the illegality of prostitution thus:

Not for nothing was it announced last week that he would receive the Mark Twain Prize, it's an honor he deserves at least as much as anyone who's ever won it. I just wish they'd done it last year, so he wouldn't have to get it posthumously, but I shall try not to be bitter...unless I can get a good joke out of it.

But for all his skill with language, it should not be forgotten that he also had a neat line in funny faces, observe:

"There are three ingredients in my comedy," he said in a 1991 interview with the Los Angeles Times. "Those three things which wax and wane in importance are English language and wordplay; secondly, mundane, everyday observational comedy -- dogs, cats and all that stuff; and thirdly, sociopolitical attitude comedy."

You've already seen examples of the first two, here's some of the best of the third, in ten minutes from a 1991 (IIRC) special.

Here's the next 10 minutes of that special, as George moves from the big things that divide us to the little things we have in common. Or do I mean the little things that divide us, and the big things we have in common?

But besides his full routines, one of the reasons I was such a big fan and could still enjoy my tape of his specials even after I knew all the jokes, was all the flips he would put in just to "start a new paragraph," almost as an aside: "But let me ask you this, my interesting Judeo-Christian friends..."

Among the many reasons this is such shocking news is that I've been waiting years for a book to be written about Carlin. It's unquestionable that there will be one, probably more than one, but I'd hoped he'd live to tell his own story in his own way. At least now whoever takes up the task will have an ending.

Then there was Carlin the actor, I think at his best in the films of Kevin Smith, who clearly worshipped the comedian and wrote for his voice. His small role in Smith's Dogma is one of the most memorable in what is, itself, increasingly beginning to seem like the writer-director's best film. And in Jersey Girl (which isn't) Carlin's performance is one of the best, if not the best, things in the movie.

And as a good '80s man, I have to mention how awesome he was as Rufus in the Bill & Ted movies, especially the first one (IIRC, he'd been sick just before the second, which accounts for his limited participation).

I am so happy I got to see Carlin live. This would have been in Cupertino, California, around 1989, with Faith, my girlfriend of the time. I wish I could say I remembered some great routine that he'd done that night and which I later saw on one of his HBO specials, but the truth is I don't. But I was there, and I saw him.

Here he is about 16 years before that.

Another memory: On the last track of Carlin's Occupation: Foole ("I understand your son is a foole, Mrs. Carlin.") album, there's a great moment when, while in performance, he is given a note telling him that his previous album has won the Grammy for comedy.

Getting back to that tribute special again (I told you--I know it real well) in it Carlin describes his feelings about his fame as like being in, and part of, a big, collective family--a family he never had growing up, he added. People would approach him, he said, and say things like "Georgie! I saw you back in '89, and you remember what you said..." "Did I? Oh yeah..." Finishing up by saying "I guess I'm in the family, man., I guess it's okay."


Originally uploaded by ffstoney
"Frankly Bob, I'm still skeptical about this whole global warming thing."

"Will you SHUT UP?!"