Saturday, December 31, 2011

Hmmm...

Someone emailed my "Rob Lowe in West Wing, etc" post to somebody else. Until and unless I hear otherwise, I'm just going to assume it was sent to Julie Benz.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Oh no, wait...that's what he did

Newt Gets Choked Up Recalling Sick Mother


And then, he mentioned how appalling it would've been if his father had presented her with a divorce settlement while she was in the hospital struggling with her sickness.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

And the winner of the 2011 "Rob Lowe in West Wing" memorial award is...

...Julie Benz!



This award is given to actors who leave series which seem perfectly fine to me at the time, and I think they must miss such a good gig. But within a season or two they (the actors) seem to me to have gotten out while the getting is good.

Granted, the situations are different--Lowe walked away of his own volition (as I understand it) while Benz's Dexter character was killed off by the showrunners. Still, this is my way of saying...this past season of Dexter was really, really, really, really, stupid.

It wasn't stupid because they'd killed her character off. I actually liked last season, the first in which she didn't appear (save for a cameo flashback in the first episode), as much as any in the series. I thought they dealt with Dexter's..."unique" grieving process very well.

But this season...well, did I mention it was stupid?

Now here's a headline/lead sentence combo someone may have wanted to rethink...

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Bags that age with you

Hollywood actress Anne Hathaway, star of Get Smart...

Monday, December 26, 2011

And to think that Spring Break appearance was one reason why I've thought Mr. Mister was underrated*

All the same, I was surprised to read this in the book I Want My MTV: The Uncensored Story of the Music Video Revolution:

Mr. Mister played Spring Break, and their record company sent them a package via FedEx, which was mistakenly delivered to the room of an MTV executive, who saw it on his bed and ripped it open, thinking it was for him. He found...well, something meant to keep the band awake and happy for several days.


Well, now we know how they were able to take those broken wings and learn to fly again...

*I still think that. Don't tell anybody.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

A hand for each hand was planned for the world. Why don't my fingers reach?

For the record, I'm not posting this because I'm feeling particularly sad, I'm not. It's true it's been a quiet night (and day) but tomorrow I get to play with the nephew, so...

I'm also not running it because I have a nostalgic feeling about Mr Magoo's "A Christmas Carol." It's one that I somehow missed growing up; I can only assume that's because it was always scheduled opposite A Charlie Brown Christmas or Little Drummer Boy (and 99% of anything Rankin/Bass ever made), which I do have nostalgic feelings for.

Why then, am I running it? I'm running it because I saw this today and I was genuinely impressed with the song, like, from a writer point of view.



Now that's an impressive lyric (take that, Sting!). It didn't surprise me to learn from a little searching that the songs were written by Jule Styne, who wrote the music for Gypsy, and Bob Merrill, who wrote music and lyrics for Carnival.

(They both wrote more than a few other things, too, I'm just saying the song has a pedigree.)

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

More grist for the mill of my Courtney Love identification

Courtney Love is allegedly getting booted from her West Village townhouse for missing her rent and “ruining” the designer decor by giving it a paint job, reports the New York Post.


Love claims not to be broke–she responded to eviction rumors by telling the NY Post “I haven’t fallen behind on the rent—I have been paying month to month as agreed. My rent is current, but the owner is now asking for the remaining two months’ upfront.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

That's good to know, because virtually speaking I have loved her and loved her HARD.

Courtney Love was recently asked what she would put in a "virtual museum." She replied:
I haven’t even seen what a virtual museum is, but right now Kilian fragrances, three Academy Awards, a big virtual family because we all get along, my FabergĂ© martini shaker and lots and lots of love –– and sex.

Friday, December 09, 2011

Inelegant? Well la-de-dah, thank you for coming to tea, Lord Alec.

Y'know...if I needed another reason to resent 30 Rock--which of course I don't, since I already resent it for being saved over Studio 60 when even less of the country was watching it, and the over-hyping of Tina Fey...

But if I did, it would be this: That show has given Alec "father of the year" Baldwin a fucking fourth act. From self-important Actor (you know he'd insist on the capital) to political bloviator to Saturday Night Live host to bloated sitcom star.

And in all of these, he's proven himself in the top five (at least) of those who prove an old adage that I made up: Actors...shouldn't...talk.

Most recent case in point: You may have heard that Baldwin behaved like a jerk on an airplane recently. I always judge the masters on how they treat the servants, which is why I still think Christian Bale is a fucking nutball for screaming at a DP. But as if that weren't enough:

In "apologizing" for this bad behavior, Baldwin said,
"I believe carriers and airports have used [9/11] as an excuse to make the air travel experience as inelegant as possible."


Leaving out that what kind of jerk invokes 9/11 to justify their ill-manners...inelegant?

Sorry you didn't have the smooth and polished ride a man of your wealth must be used to, Mr. Baldwin. Some of us clumsy, crude peons just do the best we can.

Today's contestant on "Who's Searching For Me Now?"

...comes to us from the Shentel Service Company, Leon, Virginia.

They searched the blog URL; didn't stay long.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Here's a sentence to kill your soul.

"The victim testified that on at least one occasion he screamed for help, knowing that Sandusky's wife was upstairs, but no one ever came to help him," the grand jury report said.

Memorable M*A*S*H, Pt. 2

Harry Morgan, the actor best known for his role as Colonel Sherman T. Potter on M*A*S*H, has died at the incredible age of 96. As I did when Larry Gelbart left us, I'd like to take an entry to remember some of my favorite moments.

Counterintuitively, let's start with one of his last as his most famous character (last if you don't count AfterM*A*S*H, which nobody does). In the series finale, "Goodbye, Farewell, and Amen," Hawkeye and B.J. stop Col. Potter just before he leaves, and give him one of the only truly respectful salutes of the whole show (I think the only other ones were between Hawkeye and Radar).

Running back now to Morgan's first season with the show, we find "The Interview," one of the most special of very special episodes. When Morgan as Potter discusses the closeness he has come to feel with the men and women of M*A*S*H, and the pride he feels at being associated with them, well, that's not Morgan as Potter. That's Morgan as Morgan, giving his feelings not about the medical unit, but about the television show.

The affection that the rest of the cast felt for Morgan is evident many times throughout the series; one example is in the episode "Potter's Retirement" when Hawkeye, B.J. and Radar ask him not to do just that.


In his opening episode, "Change of Command," Potter/Morgan had first encounters with two characters the Col. would come to love like sons. First, Radar, who is sunning himself when Potter arrives in a jeep and honks the horn. Radar's first words to his new commanding officer? "Stick that horn in your ear!"

Then Klinger takes his first chance to "impress" the Col. with his lunacy. Unfortunately, it doesn't qo quite as he'd hoped:

Klinger: Colonel Potter, sir! Corporal Klinger. I'm section eight, head to toe. I'm wearing a Warner bra. I play with dolls. My last wish is to be buried in my mother's wedding gown. I'm nuts. I should be out.

Col. Potter: Horse-hockey.


Potter and his company clerk didn't get relaxed around each other until the episode "Dear Mildred," when Radar gives him a horse (that had been found wounded and nursed back to health) as an anniversary present. It's one of the more moving moments of the whole series, but they're careful to cut it when Potter walks behind the horse and slips on...something.

Maj. Frank Burns: That's disgusting!
Col. Sherman T. Potter: [With a big smile] Son, to me, that's a tip-toe through the tulips.


"Old Soldiers," I believe, is the episode for which Morgan won his Emmy. If it isn't it should be. This is the one in which Potter is called to the bedside of a sick friend, whose death leaves Sherman the only surviving member of their World War I unit, and in the end of the episode he toasts their memories with a bottle of wine that the group had saved since those days.


Incidentally, Morgan also directed more than half-a-dozen episodes of M*A*S*H, of which my favorite is "Blood Brothers," from 1981. In this episode Father Mulcahy lets himself get all too swellheaded about a visit from an important army cardinal. But as is the way of this show, the war brings him quickly back down to earth, and leads him to discuss his revelations about his own motivations in a parable which is at first thinly veiled, and then nakedly raw.

Even though his character (or at least, his character's rank) is in the title of "The Colonel's Horse," Morgan appears in maybe only a third of the episode, which is about the medical staff taking care of Sophie (the titular horse) while Potter is away. But he makes the most of the screen time he has, entering the changing room singing "Chinatown, My Chinatown" to celebrate the good fortune of his wife being able to join him in Tokyo, and in this dialogue with the two captains:

Captain B.J. Hunnicut: Can't you do something about Frank?
Col. Sherman T. Potter: Like sit him down and have a talk with him?
Capt. Benjamin Franklin "Hawkeye" Pierce: No, like stand him up and have him shot!
Col. Sherman T. Potter: Don't be absurd. There'd be an inquiry.


Finally, mentioning the oft-mentioned but seldom seen Mildred Potter reminds me of two episodes of M*A*S*H in which the Col. spends time with a couple of women within a decade of his own age for once.

In the one hour (two-parts in syndication) "That's Show Biz," Gwen Verdon as a stripper-turned USO performer makes it abundantly clear that she's taken a shine to him, but whether by design or naivete he manages to miss all her signals.

But in "Lil," Sherman spends so much time with the female Col. of the same name that Radar begins to fear for the Potters' marriage. He has little to worry about, in the end, but you will notice that "a little" is not the same as "nothing..."

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

You know, of all the things I've ever felt about or for Obama, that's not one of them

Republican strategists are urging party surrogates not to attack President Obama personally. Although that approach may be tempting given his low approval ratings they warn it could backfire because voters “feel sorry for him."


Sorry? No, never. Frustrated yes, that he's acting like a jackass yes, that I wish he'd lean into his leadership just a little bit harder yes, that I wish he'd BE the gun-banner, etc the far-hard right wants to make him out to be, envious of his marriage to the lovely and sexy Michelle definitely, fearful that he'll lose the next election...

But sorry? No. Never.

Must...kill...must...kill*



Here is Anne Hathaway, sitting with her...as I choke on the word...fiancee. His name is Adam Schulman, but here he will always be known as "The Unworthy Swine, mk II."

*No, of course not really.

I don't want to say Canada has an inferiority complex...

...but, sheesh!

Saturday, December 03, 2011

Why is it only ever conservatives who assert that a films politics have any bearing on its performance at the box office?

Oh for pity's sake...

Once again, conservatives are making noises about how Hollywood studios are pushing liberal propaganda, this time through children's movies. Of course, they mention that most about films that aren't doing terribly well, as if there's a cause and effect:

On its surface, Happy Feet Two is a cutesy sequel about a young penguin who is reluctant to dance. But could there be a radical left-wing agenda lurking below the arctic ice?

Some conservatives think so, The Hollywood Reporter reports, suggesting that the movie’s politics might be a reason why the film has been off to a sluggish start at the box office.



Or maybe, just maybe, I'm gonna go out a limb here and say maybe the film hasn't hit big because by most accounts, it isn't very good.

After Pixar head honcho John Lasseter revealed ahead of the opening of Cars 2 that the oil industry would be the “uber bad guy,” a blogger at LonelyConservative.com wrote this: “We conservatives and believers in free markets are accused of being paranoid when we say the Hollywood industry is trying to indoctrinate our children with left-wing propaganda. But now movie directors and producers are coming out and admitting what they’re doing. I’m just glad I found this out before I allowed my kids to persuade me to take them to see the movie Cars 2.”

Cars 2 this year, by the way, took in 22 percent less at the domestic box office than its predecessor did in 2006.



And maybe, just maybe, that's because it was the first Pixar film EVER to get bad reviews.

The U.S. military and Christianity are also favorite targets for progressives who make family movies, wrote Christian Toto at Human Events, citing, among others, DreamWorks Animation’s Monsters vs. Aliens and its character dubbed Gen. W.R. Monger.



Wait a minute. Okay, so the name is a not terribly good pun. But the character is heroic. He saves the other heroes at the end. Did this Christian Toto (that cannot possibly be a real name) even see the movie? Speaking of which-

Admitting upfront that I haven't seen it--anyone who has, you tell me if I'm wrong--but isn't there a case to be made that the 41.7 million-grossing Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1 is an anti-choice parable?

What I've heard is this: The human girl becomes pregnant by the vampire. Carrying the child to term will almost certainly kill her, so the vampire suggests terminating it, but the girl refuses. Finally, in order to save her life during the difficult childbirth, he finally turns her into a vampire.

So, great, girls: No abortions, no exceptions to save the life of the mother. Of course, in this case, there's a supernatural "Get out of the real moral questions free" card to be played.

My point here is not that this movie is conservative propaganda. It may or may not be. Nor is my point that I wish it had been shunned on that basis. My point is: Liberals don't do that. I ask you, when was the last time you heard or saw a liberal crow about the failure of some "conservative" movie or other creative work? I mean, under the assumption that its conservative "bias" is what killed it?

Like sure, I'm not unhappy that the Atlas Shrugged movie flopped (nor, I must say, am I especially happy about this). But I assume it flopped not because it preached the virtues of selfishness or whatever (hell, there've been three or four big hit movies about pirates) but because, again by most accounts, it was a laughably bad movie.

It's a subject of recurrent fascination to me that many if not most conservatives seem to be incapable of viewing anything but through the prisim of their own politics. We liberals, on the other hand, just like to go to good movies.

Thursday, December 01, 2011

The "killers on the loose" movie that Mel Brooks would've made if he'd ever made a "killers on the loose" movie.

The idea at the heart of Tucker & Dale vs. Evil is so good I can't believe no one thought of it sooner.

Tucker & Dale are two good ole' boys, a little shy but inclined to be nice and neighborly, who are trying to enjoy a vacation in the mountains, when suddenly they find themselves confronted with a threat they never imagined--Yankee asshole college students!

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Just remember: These people are the "evil" part of the equation.


The kids imagine the titular hillbillies (now there's two words I never thought I'd use in that order) to be cannibalistic killers, and thinking themselves to be Bruce Campbell in Evil Dead types (the first Evil Dead, the one they tried to take seriously), rush in to "save the day" and end up taking themselves out one by one.


Our heroes!
It's...excellent.

Of course, a good idea (Pixar, talking cars!) does not always a good film make (the actual movie Cars). And boy does this one tread into some dangerous areas, always a risk when you're juggling tones. But the cast and crew develop the idea so neatly that almost everything falls into place.

Only in literally the last shot of the movie, to my mind, does the movie hurt itself. Obviously I can't get into specifics but I can say, at least, that this one slip-up does not invalidate the whole movie.

Incidentally, the film is set in West Virginia of the United States but was made by Canadlians. You won't notice the discrepancy, though, since the Vancouver or Calgary-spawn are pretty good at disguising their northern origins (they do it so they can sneak over the border fence and take our jobs).

Of course, there is that moment where one of our West Virginia heroes ends a sentence with the telltale "eh"...Photobucket

So you're a woman, what's your point?

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

pretty model stands in a doorway

See, here we have another example of a photo which is clearly *supposed* to be sexy, but the pose is so strained it negates the natural sexiness of the model.

I swear I'm not going to rest until I get this phrase into the common language: Uncomfortable Women Are Not Sexy...

Things like this make me wish I could've taken him seriously when he talks

Via TPM:

Retiring member of Congress Barney Frank on the House under Republican rule:
“It consists half of people who think like Michele Bachmann and half of people who are afraid of losing a primary to people who think like Michele Bachmann and that leaves very little room to work things out.”

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Now is that a beautiful picture or what?



I'm afraid I don't know much of the context, just that it is a young Iraqi girl.

Friday, November 25, 2011

And a few things for which I'd LIKE to be thankful (shameless plea)...

If you’re amazed at the quality of posts on this site (I know I am), please consider making a small donation to the Buy Ben Books, Music, CDs & Movies Fund.

I do have an Amazon.com Wish List, you know (look, there it is over on the left). In addition, these items appear on my iTunes version of same--to which I never did figure out how to link:

UB40: Greatest Hits
20th Century Masters: Grace Jones
After Eight: Taco
Please: Pet Shop Boys
Chorus: Erasure
Men and Women (Expanded Edition): Simply Red
Islands: Kajagoogoo
Opening Credits Laptop

I thank you.

How about some Monty Python for your "Black Friday" morning?

Thursday, November 24, 2011

A few things for which I am thankful...

In, as usual, no particular order.

The 99% movement
My friends
Sarah Jane Smith/Elizabeth Sladen
My West Wing DVDs
Keith Olbermann
Rachel Maddow
The unreasoning stupidity of my nemeses
That my local library carries lots and lots of "elegant comic books" (some people call 'em "graphic novels")
Keitha and Annabel, as always
The nephew, with whom I'll be seeing The Muppets this afternoon
iTunes and my iPod
My blogs
Finding a city worker who actually helps me
Erasure mixes
My cat
My mothers' cat
Wolves
Dolphins
Otters
Jesus Christ Superstar, the movie
Kristen Stewart, Ashley Greene, Pink, Salma Hayek, and so on and so forth...
Bananarama
Star Wars: The Force Unleashed, even though I've come to think that the story will never be resolved...
Marc Maron's WTF
And yes, still, Saw
Courtney Love
And, what the hell, Facebook.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

"Melancholia" is not about depression

Melancholia is a very dark film...but ultimately in a nice way.

Actually "nice" isn't quite the right word--better to say that although it looks fairly unrelentingly at the dark, it does not scorn the light, strangely does not wallow in misery.

However, that said, fair warning: There's a famous quote from Francis Ford Coppola who said of his film Apocalypse Now, referring at least in part to the mind, body and soul-breaking experience of making it:

Photobucket

"My film is not about Vietnam, it is Vietnam."


Well, Melancholia is not about depression. It is depression. It gets misery so right that it literally sickened me (insert here joke about my stomach for the Saw films' gore).




Yet in the end, by the very end, I felt spoken to. As though someone had painted a portrait (and the look of the film is quite painterly) in which I recognized...oh what the hell, I'm just going to dive into pretension here-part of my soul.



(This is as good a place as any to link to this NPR interview with Dunst about the film.)

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That it does not overindulge in the blue colors is due in part, but only in part, to Kirsten Dunst. In what I take to be an imaginary sequence at the films' beginning, she is shot so lovingly that she instantly gained my affection.

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Which was good, because the character was going to need it.



Incidentally, this is what I mean by painterly.


You kind of expect that it will be dark, given the title, and if you go in knowing something about the plot: A young woman tries to fight off her depression long enough to enjoy her wedding night...while the end of all life on Earth is in the stars.

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Obvious but necessary statement: Dunst is a woman now. Obviously in physicality, she's been one this whole century (yes, even when she was "Bringing It On")--but what I'm referring to is the female human adult that this film lets her step into playing.

The difference between this and arguably her most famous roles as the attractive, nay beautiful Mary Jane in Sam Rami's Spider-Man films

and the cheerleading captain in Bring It On, is night and day.

Much of the talk here and elsewhere about this film is about Dunst; with good reason, but I must remind myself not to be stinting in my praise of Charlotte Gainsbourg who has the less-showy, maybe even more admirable performance.

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She's Dunst's sister who tries to do the decent thing but deep, deep down suspects that her sister may be right about the meaning of lives (not a typo) or lack thereof.

Life is only on Earth. And not for long.


I was not crazy about the first (and last) Lars von Trier movie I saw, which was Breaking the Waves, another film about a mental breakdown and a marriage.

Ondas do Destino by vcheregati
Ondas do Destino, a photo by vcheregati on Flickr.





I'm afraid I just couldn't see how nobody in the coastal town of that film would help Emily Watson's clearly distressed young woman.

No matter how buried their collective throats were by the boot of religion.

A similar question pops up here through the first half of the movie, namely, has no one in Dunst's circle heard of Prozac? In the second half, though, as the movie's spotlight of destruction widens out from just the one person to the whole world; then contracts again to just a few...Prozac hardly would've spoken to the reality of the situation.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

In that case, guys, you should have no objection to opening your mouths and letting us spray a shower of the stuff right in there, should you?

On Monday night, O’Reilly Factor host Bill O’Reilly and Fox News host Megyn Kelly sat down to discuss what really happened at UC Davis on Friday and whether campus police acted appropriately in showering a group of sitting students with pepper spray. Their conclusion? No big deal.

“Pepper spray, that just burns your eyes, right?” O’Reilly asked Kelly.

“Right,” Kelly said. “I mean, its like a derivative of actual pepper. It’s a food product, essentially.”

Sunday, November 20, 2011

...and the cause of same

11/365: Shower Paranoia...

11/365: Shower Paranoia by Betsssssy
11/365: Shower Paranoia, a photo by Betsssssy on Flickr.

Have you ever wondered what all the Disney princesses would look like as mermaids?

No, I hadn't either, but this artist has, and did kind of a nice job with it, too.


Disney's Pinup Mermaids by *erikasss on deviantART

How attitudes to women do change

See, now, I know this is just supposed to be a little cheesecake. And lord knows I'd be a hypocrite if I said I were opposed to that. But still, looking at this piece of artwork from the late 1950's, I can't help thinking it looks like it should be captioned...



..."Prelude To The Afternoon Of A Rape."

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Why "Star Wars" fans are dumbasses

From page xiv of the introduction to the book A Galaxy Not So Far Away: Writers and Artists on Twenty-five Years of Star Wars, by that volume's editor Glenn Kenny:

Kevin Kline's character in The Big Chill has a much quoted "no good music since year X" line that I can't bring myself to quote accurately, as it would mean looking at the movie again...


The accurate quote is actually this exchange of dialogue from Kline's character and Jeff Goldblum's:

Michael: Harold, don't you have any other music , you know, from this century?
Harold: There is no other music, not in my house.
Michael: There's been a lot of terrific music in the last ten years.
Harold: Like what?


I pulled that from the IMDb page, but I could've done it from memory, because even though as a rule, I hate boomers, I happen to love that movie. Go figure. I am large, I contain multitudes. For example, the title of this entry notwithstanding, I'm something of a Star Wars fan.

But anyway, that Kenny clearly doesn't love a movie which I do is not why I've made him exhibit Z (or whatever) in my case for why Star Wars fans are dumbasses. For that, we have to go two pages later, and read this from page xvii:

Empire's dialogue was a lot snappier than Star Wars' (I like to think that a lot of what I enjoyed in Empire was due to the participation of veteran screenwriter Leigh Brackett...


Glenn, Glenn, Glenn. You're making this all too easy, Glenn.

If I may hit you with a few more quotes, these are from the Lucas bio Skywalking:

Lucas had one lengthy meeting with Brackett to outline the story and turn his notes over to her, and by March 1978 Brackett's first draft was done. It was also her last-she died of cancer two weeks later.


One meeting. One draft. Still, I'm sure Brackett's participation is what paid off in enjoyment for Kenny and most others, including myself. Except that:

Lucas shelved Brackett's script and started anew. If he could get a new first draft done, he could turn it over to a new writer, and they could pass versions back and forth until Lucas was satisfied.


But who would be his new writer? Well, a few months later, one Lawrence Kasdan turned in a screenplay Lucas had hired him to write for something called Raiders of the Lost Ark, and he and Lucas went to lunch...

Lucas abruptly launched into the story of Leigh Brackett's untimely death, his problem with Empire, and his need for a writer to polish the new draft. He'd be happy to give Kasdan screenplay credit in Empire (Lucas planned to take none himself) but asked whether Kasdan would mind sharing it with Brackett. He wanted her estate to benefit from a profit percentage of the film.


And that was, indeed, how the writing credits for Empire ran: Leigh Brackett and Lawrence Kasdan, (screenplay); George Lucas, (story).

So then, who's responsible for the snappier dialogue and other joys missing from Star Wars that appeared in The Empire Strikes Back? Well, clearly, demonstrably, Kasdan.

Who is also screenwriter, co-screenwriter and/or the director of a dozen-plus other movies, including, what?

The Big Chill.

I repeat: Star Wars fans are dumbasses.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Quick quiz: How many of you remember...

...when I mentioned that Jennifer Connelly's husband is sexually insecure?

On a completely unrelated matter, his next role will have him playing, and called, a "Master of Sex."

Monday, November 14, 2011

I'm sure I wasn't the only one

But for the record, yesterday I sent the Keith Olbermann show's contact email address a link to this story about Ford's Theater "banning" Bill O'Reilly's Lincoln book for factual inaccuracies.

I figured it was right across Olbermann's strike zone (did I use that metaphor right?)

Sure enough, on tonight's show...



Now, as I say, I'm quite sure I'm not the only one to have thought of that. Plus Keith and/or his staff probably would've found it anyway. But...

Happy Birthday, Wendy Carlos!

I've seen Tron Legacy three times now. You know how with some movies...you like them when you first see them, especially if it's one you've been looking forward to for a long time. But then with repeated exposure, you realize they're not terribly good movies (cough, Saw V, cough--although Saw 3D makes Saw V look like Saw III. But I digress.)?

My point is, Tron Legacy ...is not one of those movies. I still like it a lot, at least as much as the original; in some ways, even more so. But one place in which it doesn't even come close to topping the original is in its score. If I had the know-how and the equipment, I think I'd dub myself a version of the new movie that used Wendy Carlos's music in place of Daft Punk's, as much as possible.

Nothing against Daft Punk. It's just that, as most of you know, I'm a big fan of Carlos' score for the original Tron, and consider it a key factor in shaping my love for electronic, synthetic music. So naturally here, in celebration of Carlos' 72nd birthday, is a theme from Tron played by hand on a genuine guitar.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

This I've got to see

Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus defended the GOP on Sunday against the notion that its policies only favor the rich, arguing that Republicans are out to create jobs and cut taxes for people of all income levels.


Really? Right, well let's see him then.

"Of course the party doesn’t favor the rich, but what the party does favor is reducing taxes on every single American out there," Priebus said on CNN’s "State of the Union." "Making sure Washington is focused then on job creation, on cutting spending, on reducing the size of government -- these are things that will spur the economy and these are things that are cornerstone to the Republican Party."


I count about five empirically provable lies in that paragraph. How many can you name?

A recent CBS/New York Times poll showed that 69 percent of Americans believe Republican policies favor the rich. Only 9 percent believe they help the middle class.

Priebus blamed that perception on President Barack Obama.


Oh please, Reince. We wish...

What kind of fools could be foolish enough to fall for this fool's foolishness?

Kim Kardashian Wedding Made People Feel Like 'Fools'


Thursday, November 10, 2011

By the same token: There are billions of people the Manson family *didn't* kill...

Cain responds to accusations. For every woman who says I harassed her, there are “thousands” who say I didn’t.

Fucking well good.

Okay. One reason I'm taking a particular interest in this Joe Paterno thing is because it's reminded me of something. Something which I should know full well, but due to the whole "my not giving a fuck about sports" thing, I sometimes tend to forget.

This is namely, just how deep up the ass of sports my country has its head. Case in point:

Nike has no plans to change the name of the Joe Paterno Center, a child day care facility on the World Headquarters Campus near Beaverton, in response to a sexual abuse scandal involving one of Paterno's former Penn State University assistants, a Nike spokeswoman said this evening.


Really, that's just sad.

But on the bright side, it looks like my curse is taking.

Penn State football scandal will cost school millions


Good.

Now let us pause for this very important message

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

I'm sorry, you can't what?

Okay. As most of you know, I don't give a fuck about sports. So, the first I heard about the Penn State University/Paterno scandal--

Former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky has been charged with 40 criminal counts accusing him of sexually abusing minors. As the scandal unfolded, it became known that Penn State officials, including Joe Paterno, had known about Sandusky's unlawful behavior.


--was yesterday when Keith Olbermann made Paterno his "worst person in the world" and called for his immediate firing, both of which he repeated today. A few hours later, Paterno was, in fact, fired, along with the school president.

You would think the Penn Board of Trustees would've done this because it is--clearly--the right thing to do in this situation. I would say this was a no-brainer: Coach fails to follow-up on reports that his employee raped children (in the coach's own locker room, no less) coach loses his job. At least.

Yes, I would say this was a no-brainer, but I want to reserve that honorific for the football-lovers who care more (they really do) about a game, a team, and/or a coach's career than they do molested children.

This brings me back to the Penn Board of Trustees. Dig this quote from an AP story on the firing.

Asked what Paterno did wrong, [board vice chair John] Surma said: “I can’t characterize that. We thought because of the difficulties that have engulfed our university, it was necessary to make changes.”


You can't characterize what he did wrong?

Think. Try to stretch your mind. Take a minute if you have to.

Or in other words, you fired this man not because he committed foul sins, but because people knowing he committed those sins is making your school look bad.

Metaphorically speaking, I hope your school gets stomped hard in the face with football shoes, every game for the next 30 years.

On the other hand, people do get good and irritated whenever sex rears its ugly head around The World's Child Star.

Wait a minute...


...a new ad for Marc Jacobs' fragrance Oh Lola!, starring "Twilight" actress Dakota Fanning, has been pulled from the British markets after consumers complained that it was sexualizing children.


Am I the only person who thinks this ad is not sexualizing children much if at all (Fanning is 17); not provocative, shocking or sickening?

Friday, November 04, 2011

Derbyshire!

Oh, happy day.

You longtime members of my vast reading audience may remember an utterly creepy fella named John Derbyshire, a writer for the conservative National Review's The Corner.

He's the guy who said he thought women should have the vote--in 2009 (how generous!)--but never use it. He's the guy whose reaction to the shocking killings at Virginia Tech was to call the students cowards for not rushing the killer, as he's quite sure he would've done.

Yeah, that guy. I love him. He's just so perfectly fucked in the head.

So now, he's weighed in on the whole "Herman Cain/sexual harassment" thing (about which, for the record, I really couldn't give that much of a fuck. Except to observe that as always, it's not the offense that sinks you, it's the covering and backpedaling and filling ).

Brace yourselves...


Is there anyone who thinks sexual harassment is a real thing?


Um, well, there's the law...ah, but Mr. Derbyshire has anticipated me here, for his next statement is:

Is there anyone who doesn’t know it’s all a lawyers’ ramp, like “racial discrimination“?


I'm not totally sure what he means by "lawyers' ramp," but I think I can get the gist. Which doesn't really matter because I'm still reeling from his assertion that "racial discrimination" isn't a real thing either.

Across the country right now, Republicans are trying to fix the laws so as to make it harder for blacks to vote.

You pay a girl a compliment nowadays, she runs off and gets lawyered up.


You know what I think the difference is between paying a girl (or a woman, ahem) a compliment and sexual harassment? Respect. I'd like to believe that most of the time, women do know the difference.

Is this any way to live?


Well yeah, John, yeah it is, unless you're living in the 1950's. Oh, wait...

There has never in the history of the world been a people better mannered and less inclined to insulting acts of prejudice than today’s Americans,


Well, except for the Netherlands, Denmark, Japan, Canada, or pretty much any place where they practice Buddhism, I'm sure he's quite correct.

yet we’re supposed to believe that the nation is seething with “harassment” and “discrimination,” women being groped in every business office and crosses burning on every lawn.


Um, no. You're supposed to believe that harassment and discrimination are real things that do go on and need to be taken seriously when they do. As for women being groped in every office or crosses burning on every lawn, so far as I'm aware no one's asserted that. I think you might be projecting a little wish fulfillment there, John.

Aren’t there any grown-ups around?


You wouldn't think he'd be talking too much about grown-ups, would you, considering he's the guy who publicly asserted that only pubescent girls are attractive...

What must this do to one's self-esteem?

Playboy Unhappy With Lindsay Lohan Nudes

Thursday, November 03, 2011

"The People vs. George Lucas"

Attention, Star Wars fans: You need to see this movie. It's for us but does not pander to us--and not pandering to an assumed audience is more than you can say for roughly half of the Star Wars films.



The People vs George Lucas by Danny Choo
The People vs George Lucas, a photo by Danny Choo on Flickr.

And besides, where else are you going to see a Japanese stormtrooper getting down with his funky self?

Please God...

new polling data shows that a Cain collapse could trigger a Gingrich surge.


Personally, I'm seriously hoping that Romney and Gingrich are the GOP ticket...just because I really like saying "Mitt/Newt."

Today's contestant on "Who's Searching For Me Now?"

...comes to us from Slovak Telecom, Leopoldov, Trnava, Slovakia.

They searched my name; didn't stay long.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Right, here's the thing...it wasn't an affair.

Wrong again, media.

Okay. You guys remember how I cursed the way the story of an "adult" harassing a 13-year-old girl into committing suicide somehow got spun into "The Myspace Suicide Case," simply because that "adult" used MySpace to do her harassing?

Well, it's happening again, and by some sick coincidence, there's a 13-year-old girl involved here, too. A conservative politician in Virginia has admitted to a homosexual affair in the past (but they're feeling much better now, having "prayed the gay away."

By itself, this isn't really news--as my friend Turner is fond of asking, are there any straight conservatives anymore? But this has an unusual, "sexy" twist in that the politician in question is a woman.

Linda Wall, a conservative independent Virginia candidate for the House of Delegates, admitted on Wednesday that she had an affair with a female student as a junior high gym teacher in the early 1970s, but said she has changed.


Every headline I've seen on this--and I just looked at five or six-- describes it as "an affair." Sometimes they add the word "lesbian," and sometimes they mention in the banner that it was with a student, but still call it "an affair."

When an "adult" has sexual contact with a minor, it's not an affair. It's child molestation. And when you add it that as a teacher, Ms. Wall was in a position of authority and trust...well, just imagine if she were a man. You think they'd be calling it "an affair" then, whether gay or not?

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Okay, this is becoming increasingly incredible

Today's contestant on "Who's Searching For Me Now?" comes to us from an Android, the IP of which reveals itself to come from the Ministry Of Communications...in Kuwait. They searched the URL of this blog specifically, not just my name, stayed a couple of minutes and left on the Evan Rachel Wood image below.

Maybe she's a Pseudo Echo fan (I am) and somehow thought that was a compliment?

Tell me something: If you were a singer, would you quote on your website a review which said your CD:
"Makes Mariah Carey sound like someone who made it on the basis of her talent. Makes Pseudo Echo sound like lyrical geniuses."


No, I wouldn't either. But Tey Punsalan would. And I know that because I wrote the review.

Monday, October 24, 2011

And speaking of anniversaries...

...today marks that very thing of my pal Corey Klemow's birth (I won't tell you which anniversary it is--he's an actor, he doesn't need that kind of stuff out there).

As I've often said, Corey is one of the most generous and supportive people I know. But more importantly, he's the only person I know, nowadays, whom I can talk Doctor Who with.

(Speaking of which, Corey: The Sarah Jane package arrived but I haven't had a chance to watch the episodes yet.)

Anyway, another fandom that Cor and I share is for Charles Schulz's comic strip and the animated versions thereof. And he once told me that one of his favorite arrangements of the famous Vince Guaraldi music was from a special that, as luck would have it, is doubly appropriate for this season...


This year marks the 50th anniversary of Norton Juster's book...

...The Phantom Tollbooth coming out. So naturally I have to tip my hat, being as that's where the name of this blog comes from. So here's an essay I found from a Harvard student on the effect the book had on her growing up.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Easy Joke Department

Headline:

Blind Man Regains Sight Through Tongue


That tongue? Evan Rachel Woods'.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Norman Corwin, writer in the great days of radio, R.I.P.

A man named Norman Corwin died Tuesday.

I first heard of Corwin through J. Michael Straczynski, who is the creator and chief writer of the television series Babylon 5, and the screenwriter of films including The Changeling, directed by Clint Eastwood.

Straczynski admired Corwin inordinately, naming a recurring character in B5 after him and talking about him as "a writer's writer." So when I got a chance to listen to Corwin's work on one of those "Old-Time Radio" sets, I paid particular attention.

JMS was right. This guy was great.

Sometimes called "the poet laureate of radio," Corwin could be childlike in his passion for wordplay. A couple of his most acclaimed works, The Plot To Overthrow Christmas and my personal favorite, The Undecided Molecule, were written entirely in rhyme. They sound like Dr. Seuss before anybody sounded like Dr. Seuss, including Dr. Seuss.

As well-described by journalist (and Corwin's cousin by marriage) Cindy Sher, The Undecided Molecule-
relates the account of a molecule who refuses to work for one of the elements. In the story, the court charges the molecule with:
Unwilling to be named.

Rebelling when defined.

Declining to be blamed.

Objecting when assigned.

Protesting when selected.

Resisting an attack.

Refusing to be directed.

And talking back.


(BTW, the court that's mentioned is presided over by Groucho Marx.)

Defending itself, the molecule says through an interpreter:

I cannot chide
My inner soul:
I must confide
I've set a goal...


Let me explain to you how widely admired Corwin was in his day. He was famous enough to appear as a guest star on comedy programs of the time, where his work was satirized under the assumption that audiences would be familiar enough with the original. (This was a good assumption. Keep reading.)

He had his own radio shows--named after him and promoted on the strength of that name--as a writer. One of those programs, incidentally, was placed on the air opposite one of Bob Hope's. This put Corwin in the rare position of, as he put it, literally "hoping against Hope."

The period just before, during and at the end of WWII was probably Corwin's peak, and indeed he book-ended it with a couple of his most highly regarded works.

In 1941 he was asked to write a program commemorating the 150th anniversary of the bill of rights. Between his agreeing to write it and its broadcast, however, Pearl Harbor happened, and the US entered the war.

This lent an almost frightening intensity to the delivery of such picturesque phrases:

One hundred fifty years is not long in the reckoning of a hill. But to a man it's long enough.
One hundred fifty years is a weekend to a redwood tree, but to a man it's two full lifetimes.
One hundred years is a twinkle to a star, but to a man it's time enough to teach six generations what the meaning is of Liberty, how to use it, when to fight for it!


And in the closing Jimmy Stewart, who'd already enlisted, asked:
Can it be progress if our Bill of Rights is stronger now than when it was conceived?


In 1944, Corwin wrote a piece called Untitled. This reviews the life of a soldier only recently killed in action, from the varying perspectives of the M.O. who pronounced him, the doctor who delivered him, his mother; teachers, the girl he left behind, the editor of a paper reporting his death, his friend...and the enemy who shot him.

By the end of the piece, we learn that the voice that has been narrating all this is of course that of the deceased man wondering if his sacrifice has been worth it:

From my acre of now undisputed ground I will be listening:
I will be tuned to clauses in the contract where the word Democracy appears
And how the freedoms are inflicted to a Negro's ear.
I shall listen for a phrase obliging little peoples of the earth:
For Partisans and Jews and Puerto Ricans,
Chinese farmers, miners of tin ore beneath Bolivia;
I shall listen how the words go easy into Russian
And the idiom's translated to the tongue of Spain.

I shall wait and I shall wait in a long and long suspense
For the password that the Peace is setting solidly.

On that day, please to let my mother know
Why it had to happen to her boy.



That's heavy stuff, so let me give you a couple more examples of the lighter side of Corwin. The writer also acted as director for most of his broadcast work, and like the best writers (not just the best radio writers, the best writers) and directors, he was attuned to music and sound as well as the spoken word.

Describing a cue for music he wanted in his play Savage Encounter, he wrote:
A nocturne expressing the south sea island you remember from your fondest imaginings. Healthy lusts and red flowers and blue skies and bare breasts are all mixed up in it.


Obviously, this was my kind of guy.

For another play he needed the sound of his characters rushing down the stairs in fear of missing their train (the play was about a romantic meeting on the railways between a soldier and a girl).

For authenticity's sake, rather than rely upon the sound effects men, he directed his leads to walk away from the microphone (given a portable one so there was no break). Then they went out of the studio completely and into the building's stairwell, where they performed their dialogue before returning.

And remember, this was in the days when everything was broadcast live. It worked without a hitch.

Okay, everybody got their breath back? Good.

As the end of the war approached, Corwin wrote There Will Be Time Later, the intent of which was to fight off complacency, isolationism, and political attacks. He used the characters of a fascist and the diffident to ask:

Why should we bother with the Great Unwashed?


And gave this reply:

...when you tell him it's the Great Unwashed who wash away the stains of high corruption,
It's the common man, un-manicured, whose hand prevails against the Elite Guard,
He will rejoin:

You make me sick, you and your people with a capital P.

At that point you can break the news to him:
The People shall remain in capitals, coming before Princes in the alphabet of things...


I have a book about Corwin called On A Note Of Triumph. The author of that book, R. LeRoy Bannerman, said critics of the day
"...saw in Corwin a fresh, new influence: an independent whose concept of broadcasting dared to be different. They saw in his work literacy uncommon in the communicative arts."


In his book Raised on Radio Gerald Nachman says of Corwin:
"Whatever his shortcomings--purple passages, heavy-handed
irony, liberal bias--they were overcome by the programs' ambitions, impact,
superior writing, and high production values."


Bannerman's book is named after what is arguably Corwin's most famous work On A Note Of Triumph, written for the end of World War II. The first broadcast of this show was heard by some 60 million Americans. (That's over half of the adult population at the time. Remember what I said about it being a good assumption that audiences knew his work?)

The response was both overwhelming and overwhelmed. One person wrote, "I didn't expect this so soon."

Expect what?

Expect this:

How much did it cost?

Well, the gun, the halftrack, and the fuselage come to a figure resembling mileages between two stars-
Impressive, but not to be grasped by any single imagination.
High octane is high, and K rations in the aggregate mount up; also mosquito netting and battleships.
But these costs are calculable, and have no nerve endings.
And will eventually be taken care of by the federal taxes on antiques, cigarettes, and excess profits.
However, in the matter of the kid who used to deliver folded newspapers to your doorstep, flipping them sideways from his bicycle,
And who died on a jeep in the Ruhr,
There is no fixed price, and no amount of taxes can restore him to his mother.



Expect that.

(About five years ago, a documentary about Corwin and that broadcast, A Note of Triumph: The Golden Age of Norman Corwin, won the Documentary--short subject--Oscar.)

But, for that piece he had months to prepare. For his last program written about the war, he had one night. He began on August 13th a program he completed on, and titled, 14 August, read by Orson Welles.

Once again, Corwin refused to rejoice while forgetting to count the cost:

The turtle is young at sixty-one, but the flier is dead at eighteen.

Remember them when July comes around
And the shimmer of noon excites the locusts
When the pretty girls bounce as they walk in the park,
And the moth is in love with the fifty-watt bulb
And the tar on the road is blistered.


For further reading: An interview with Corwin from about 15 years ago.

"Pre-e-e-pare thee the way of the lord!"

Photobucket

Monday, October 17, 2011

Time for this blog's most popular recurring feature

That's right kids, once again it's...

"Who's searching for me now?"

Today's contestant comes to us from an IP Address for Comcast Cable in Detroit, Michigan, here in the great USA.

To my knowledge, I do not know anyone in Detroit, Michigan.

Spent a few hours in the airport there when I was flying back-and-forth to Tennessee, and was much impressed with same (the airport, not Tennessee).

But whoever this is, he, she or undecided (and with some of my friends past and present it's hard to tell) found this blog by Googling my name; stayed around for almost a minute.

Friday, October 14, 2011

365.119 - it's Harley Quinn

365.119 - it's Harley Quinn by nettsu
365.119 - it's Harley Quinn, a photo by nettsu on Flickr.

The remarkably psychotic.

I know this REALLY isn't a new thought, but MAN this country is screwed up about sex

The following is taken from the introduction to the book Baptism by Fire: Eight Presidents Who Took Office in times of Crisis By Mark K. Updegrove.

In the last half century alone we have lamented the end of American innocence around the cold war, John F. Kennedy's assassination, Vietnam, Watergate, the Iran hostage crisis, Iran-contra, Monica Lewinsky, 9/11, and, more recently, the war in Iraq, our fading status abroad, and the global economic crisis, imagining the simpler times that preceded them.


Emphasis mine.

Which one of these things is not like the others...

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Surprising searches under which you'll find this blog

We are now the number two result if you Google the phrase,
oh spiffy

Sunday, October 09, 2011

Drowned

Drowned by chrisjohnbeckett
Drowned, a photo by chrisjohnbeckett on Flickr.

Damned by lust and gone to hell
And then I look into your eyes
And something melts
I shake inside
And cool water
Washes me all over
Washes me away
And still I'm drowning

Saturday, October 01, 2011

I wonder which is more humiliating

Getting less money than everybody else, or having everybody know you're making less money than everybody else?

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The Crappiest Movies I've Ever Seen

I'm picking up a "Blogfest" idea from Timothy Brannan:

Saw 3D (2010)

Yup, almost a year later and I'm still not over it. Over what? Over the experience of sitting in a seat watching what was unfolding onscreen and coming to the realization: This is really it. It's not going to get any better.

You know that I'm a real fan of the Saw series. This film is the biggest insult to cult fans of any franchise I have ever felt. It is utter, utter bullshit.

Carlito's Way (1993)

I could put many of Brian De Palma's films on this list. He's just a director I will never trust. But this one in particular, though like many of his films it has its fans, to me just takes itself way too seriously for as flawed as it is.

Resident Evil: Afterlife (2010)

This is another franchise that I'm actually a fan of, though in no way near to the pathological obsession I developed with Saw. By the same token, this one isn't the slap in the face that Saw 3D was. It's just...boring.



And when I'm bored watching Milla Jovovich (even dressed)...the world has truly turned upside-down.

Beowulf (2007)

As a wise man once said,
See, making cartoon drawings move, by itself, isn't animation any more than putting piles of meat on sticks and moving them around--Meat Puppets, to coin a phrase--would be acting. For real animation, you need (not to be too didactic)...soul. And Beowulf doesn't have a drop of it.

Even the voice actors sound indifferent.

Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace (1999)

Just one of the million-or-so things for which George Lucas needs to be bitch slapped.

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (2005).

It may be stretching a point to say that I hated this movie. Like Resident Evil: Afterlife its biggest crime is that it's just terribly, terribly boring. And for the record, while I enjoyed many of the Narnia books growing up, it's not one of those things where any deviation from the original was going to piss me off.

Planet of the Apes (2001)

In a few words: I loathe Tim Burton with the heat of 1,000 suns. In a few more...

Jaws 3 (1983)

I know that Jaws: The Revenge frequently gets named on lists like these, and god knows I'm not saying that was a better sequel. But Jaws 3 has always inched it out for me in the crappy movie department by virtue of the fact that a key feature of the plot is that the big mama shark is hiding by staying put in an underwater tunnel.

Look, I'm no Matt Hooper, but even I know this much: Sharks cannot stop moving...

Ghostbusters II (1989)

A pet peeve of mine is sequels in which the mechanics of the plot require a lot of people in the movie to forget things that they should know perfectly well from the first movie. In this case, it's the eons of time wasted while they run through the "But I don't believe in ghosts" rigmarole.

One of the many brilliant things about the original is that they started with the premise: Ghosts are real, and most people know it. Sure there were still a couple of doubters along the way, but after the climax of the last movie? Gimme a break.

To this day we occasionally hear rumors of a Ghostbusters 3; this movie is why I hope they will remain just that.

Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel (2009)

I had to see this with my nephew. Believe me, I begged him to choose The Princess and the Frog or Fantastic Mr. Fox, both of which were playing in the same theater at the same time, and both of which I've subsequently seen and know to be much better movies (especially Frog).

But I lost that battle. An hour and a half later, I had only this to say, and it remains the best summing up I could possibly give:

I want my brains back!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Some More of My Favorite Podcasts: Six

The Mental Illness Happy Hour

"A Podcast & Forum about mental illness & depression ~ especially among artists."


Okay, I'm gonna have to go serious on you here for a minute. As I think most of you know who are reading this, I was raised in an environment that was dysfunctional in some key ways. Largely but perhaps not entirely because of that, I suffer from depression.

In fighting this, I've been taking medication, and I've also tried to open myself up to a little Buddhism-influence (or a lot). I'm not going to turn this into an entry all about my reactions and feelings in this fight (I have a whole other blog for that), but some ways in which the depression manifests itself are hopelessness, fear, isolation and shame.

Well, here's a show the stated goal of which is spreading the idea, not that everything's coming up roses...but that roses can still grow. Of figuring out how to stay safe against those things, real and imagined, that you're scared of. A show the motto of which is "You Are Not Alone." A show that honors the suffering.

It does this in the form of remarkably candid interviews with people, usually in the comedy performing and/or writing business, who've suffered from depression and/or other mental illnesses.

This makes for an excellent use of the intimacy of the podcast format. You really feel as though the people conversing have forgotten that their words are being recorded and will be "broadcast" (or whatever it is podcasts do). Though obviously, that can't be so.

This is another one that I subscribed to after hearing only one episode. However, although it still pushes some of my buttons is mostly good ways, I do have a couple of qualms; they're both about the host.

Paul Gilmartin is not a mental health professional. Nor does he pretend to be (he's not Dr. Laura); the website for the show states clearly:

This site is not intended to replace the need for medical diagnosis. Please leave that to professionals. It’s not a doctor’s office. Think of it more as a waiting room that doesn’t suck.


Yet I still feel sometimes uneasy, or at least...not completely at ease.

Gilmartin is a comedian who himself suffers from some of these illnesses. On the one hand, his situation means he knows something whereof he speaks. But it also means he's playing with some very valuable (and volatile) things, the emotions of his audience; perhaps without fully knowing what he is doing. I think perhaps it might make me, personally, feel better, if he would make a statement similar to the above quote a part of the show's usual intro.

However well-intentioned--and I believe that Gilmartin's intentions are nothing but good, to help himself and to help his audience--there's still at least as much of a chance that could hurt as heal. I also kind of wish that he'd do a little more research sometimes.

If my expectations for this are higher than they are for something like good old WTF, it's because WTF hasn't hung out a shingle advertising for the neurotic (the neurotic just show up there).

Okay, I've talked enough--maybe/probably more than enough. Listen to a few and make up your own mind. Recommended episodes: Wendy Liebman, Greg Behrendt, Marc Maron and Frank Conniff.

Risk!

This podcast is a series of true stories told by the people they happened to. Most though not all of these are entertainers and writers; some you'll know, others you won't. At least one that had me laughing out loud was told by someone I had never heard of before.

The idea being that these should be events the tellers never in a million years thought they would be telling to anyone, let alone an audience. Hence the name for the show. The results are always interesting, often funny and entertaining.

But I should be clear: The stories are by no means all meant to be funny. Many of them are, but some of them are just devastating. Some are stories you'll wish had happened to you, others you'll thank whatever name you put "god" under in the book have never happened to you.

The weekly-changing variety of storytellers makes it a bit like an anthology--okay, maybe exactly like an anthology: If you don't enjoy one particular story, you have a chance that the next one will be better.

And like many anthologies, each episode has a theme around which each tale is supposed to spin. Some of the connections made are weird, but who cares?

At least one recent episode does suffer from the same flaw for which I chided Rob Paulsen: An irritatingly hard sell for a project the host wishes to promote, but it remains to be seen whether or not this will prove a habit.

Recommended episodes: Son of Strange Sex, In Harms Way, and Sneaky Choices.

How Did This Get Made?

I've talked about this one of my favorite podcasts a couple of times here already. It's a show that, to quote the opening theme song, "wallow[s] in the mediocrity of sub-par art." Twice a month their goal is to take aim at some movie which is not just bad, but amazingly so.

Paul Scheer hosts along with Jason Mantzoukas and June Diane Raphael. And there's a fourth "chair" filled by a different guest each episode.

The discussions sound very much like the participants have loaded up on Coke and M& M'S before each recording. They're highly stimulated, talk fast and often over each other, remarkably without sacrificing much clarity--though it is sometimes difficult to tell who's speaking.

(Especially when the guest is a woman. Raphael's take on the movie under review is nearly always worth hearing, but she does not have, to my ear, an especially distinctive speaking voice.)

They're not much for a plot synopsis, but usually reveal enough in the course of their discussions that you can follow along even if you haven't seen the movie. In one--and only, so far--case, they made me want to see it (that case was the episode for Crank 2: High Voltage.)

Raphael is Scheer's wife, incidentally. But completely not incidentally, all three of the regulars are working actors and/or writers in Hollywood. This means their speculation on just what the hell was happening on the sets of the movies they report on can be well-informed, certainly more so than mine would be, and maybe yours.

It also means that sooner or later, if they're at all fair, they're going to have to get to a movie that one or more of them were in. There comes a time when if you're going to deal out blows, however funny those blows may be, you have to pay the piper.

Scheer had a supporting role in Piranha 3-D and returns in its upcoming sequel, and has floated the idea of a special show on one or both of those movies, perhaps with other members of the cast and/or crew.

While I'd like to hear that episode, it does drift a bit far astray of the "so unintentionally stupid they're funny/so bad they're good" criteria. Piranha 3-D is intentionally stupid, funny, and good.

No, the movie I await their taking on with baited breath is...one I'll admit right now that I haven't seen, but most everyone who has seems to think sucked. It's one not only that Raphael and Scheer appeared in, but that Raphael actually co-wrote with one of their guests, Casey Wilson: Bride Wars.

Till that happy day, I recommend checking out one, more, or all of these episodes: , The Back-Up Plan, The Love Guru, Old Dogs, Burlesque, and All About Steve.

Saturday, September 03, 2011

Blogging My Podcasts: Five

Pop My Culture

You're likely to have gotten by now that I prefer my podcasts on the lighter side, although there are certainly exceptions--WTF can get pretty heavy, for example. But Pop My Culture is probably the coziest podcast around.

It's like sitting on a sofa with a couple of funny, nerdy friends, hosts Cole Stratton and Vanessa Ragland. Who developed pretty quickly if not instantaneously into a good double act.

Neither is the others stooge, but--to oversimplify--Stratton is the "Abbott" or pseudointellectual one, and Ragland the "Costello"--childlike in her enthusiasms, and almost surreal in her thinking processes (at least as presented on the show).

Their guests tend to be people whose names you may or may not recognize depending on how aware you were of that sort of thing in preadulthood, but whose work you definitely know if you were young at all in the '80s.

For example: William Zabka, Eddie Deezen, Alan Ruck, and Savage Steve Holland w/Curtis Armstrong.

Another of their guests, voice artist Rob Paulsen, has a podcast of his own called:

Talkin Toons with Rob Paulsen

Unfortunately I can't recommend it as a regular listen. Not that Paulsen doesn't have some great stories to tell, he does. And like most voice-over artists, he can raise a smile simply by adopting a voice from when you were a kid (he was Pinky of and the Brain, Yakko of the Animaniacs and hundreds more).

Listening to at least a handful of his shows is well worth your time: Episode 7, with special guest “The Brain” Maurice Lamarche is the one I’d suggest first.

The problem is that he front-loads each episode with too long a commercial for seminars he's offering across the States. I don't object to him promoting this venture, the podcast is, after all, free, and he has the right to use it to get people in their seats at paying gigs.

That's what most comedians use theirs for at least in part, after all. But Marc Maron gets through his sponsorship messages and/or personal plugs in scarcely more than a minute, y'know?

(It should also be noted that a percentage of the moneys from these seminars is to go to charity, in the interest of fairness and fullness)

How Was Your Week with Julie Klausner

If you're anything like me, you may find yourself disagreeing with Klausner at least as often as you agree with and/or are amused by her. But where else are you going to find a podcast with segments on favorite performances of the National Anthem? Or interviews with Paul Scheer of the podcast How Did This Get Made? (which I'll get to any day now) and movie star Sally Kellerman in the same episode?

Friday, September 02, 2011

These are the podcasts I listen to: Four

I listen to a number of old-time radio podcasts. Retro radio is one of my favorite things, and there's something extra-fun to me about the incongruity of listening to it via technology not only that the participants couldn't have imagined, their children couldn't have imagined. I won't recommend any specific episodes or even podcasts (there are simply too many), but if you share my interest, the iTunes search window is your friend.

Kevin Pollak's Chat Show

Actor and comedian Pollak was an "early adopter" of the online show/podcast format with this series, which he has described as an attempt to make "a funny Charlie Rose." Which I interpret as something with dignity which also tries to go a little deeper than your average come-on-and-plug-your-movie show...and is also funny.

The resulting show, available in both audio and video formats, is hit-and-miss. The best come when Pollak gets to the conversation with his guest quickly. He too often spends too much time beforehand chatting with regulars Sam Levene, the closest thing this show has to an Andy Richter, and Jaime Fox, who assists Pollak in the running of the show (she's also his romantic partner). This is not as much fun for the audience, or at least not this member of it, as Pollak thinks.

But some of the conversations are excellent, with Michael McKean a recent standout, and a joint appearance from Paul Provenza + Rick Overton a little further back another. Certainly enough to keep me a subscriber.

(The Laura Prepon interview, on the other hand, I've yet to be able to get through and it's not just because I don't like looking at Prepon so much since she went blonde--why, god, why?. It's because their conversation sinks into a discussion of poker, of interest to both of them as well as Levene. Just not to me. I can listen to conversations about things not really of interest to me, if those conversing can connect to me in such a way that I understand at least their passion for it. A recounting of winning hands does not qualify, at least not without a good story to go with it.)

Totally Laime

I've said of other shows in this ongoing "tribute" that they were "relaxed" and/or "easygoing." Well, Elizabeth Laime (get it?) takes that to such an extreme on her podcast that one could almost forget she was even there; her guests seem to get the lion's share of the attention. I'm not entirely sure that's a bad thing.

I don't mean that Laime isn't interesting herself: I started listening to this podcast because I liked a piece she'd written in an anthology. But the "podsphere" (people say that, right?) is not exactly lacking in people who like to talk about themselves--or, to be fair, in people who are engaging at it. It's kind of a nice relief to tune into someone who doesn't seem to be podcasting from the home for the pitiful wretched.

Recommended episodes: Garfunkel and Oates; Margot Leitman