Sunday, December 30, 2012

Bad luck.

Oh, hells' bells.  I just heard, via News From Mark Evanier, that smart guy Peter David has suffered a stroke.  David's "stuff" (that's what he calls himself, "writer of stuff") has included some of my favorite books and comics over the years, and his column for the Comics Buyers' Guide was a must-read.

I also posted fairly regularly on his America Online message board, back when there were such things, and he once flattered me by asking me if he could quote an idle remark I made there, in said column.

As Mark says, this is one of those moments when all one can do is wish him a speedy recovery, which I certainly do.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

You knew what culture we live in when you chose not to put on underwear, Mrs. Hathaway (Updated with addition)

Update:  Apparently no, no I am not.

Okay, I've been sitting on this one for a day or two, but I have to ask: Am I the only one whose heart is not all-aflutter at Anne Hathaway's saying
"I'm sorry that we live in a culture that commodifies sexuality of unwilling participants,"
and/or who thinks Hathaway's "wardrobe malfunction" was a deliberate publicity stunt (for Les Misérables)?

I may be wrong. I frequently am. But just let me put this in your head: It wouldn't be the first time she's used her body to sell a film. Remember Love & Drugs? Yeah, neither does anybody else.

But that entire advertising campaign, with Hathaway's active and enthusiastic cooperation, broke down to "See Anne Hathaway and Jake Gyllenhaal (for those so inclined) take off all their clothes and have hot steamy sex."

So, I may be wrong. I frequently am. But...

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Guess what, kids!

...that's right!  It's time to play...

Who's Searching for me Now?

Someone in Newnan, Georgia found this blog early this morning (my time) by "bing-ing" "ben varkentine." To the best of my knowledge I do not know anyone in Newnan, Georgia. I don't even know anything about it.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Oh yeah...'s that time again, folks.  "That time" being the second of my twice-yearly metaphorical awkward clearing of the throat and nudge of the head towards my wish list.  You'll find it to your right.  Thank you as always for your consideration.

PS:  Oh, again, as with the birthday subtle hint, of course the items/downloads need not only be purchased from Amazon.

Friday, November 02, 2012

This is...not even of the greatest things I have ever seen on YouTube.

And I'm not saying that just because one of the clips is of a woman calling my name...

Saturday, October 06, 2012

To the small % of you that will get the significance of this...

Tara Reid was seen leaving a bar recently.

Yeah, I know.  So what else is new?

This is:

The bar she was leaving? Named Annabel's.

The reason she was there?

Attending a birthday party for somebody named Ben.

She's calling me, I tell you.

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

That's right, envy me. I totally had this.

Ah. for the days when it was exciting for one "action figure" to hand another a brown manila folder!

Friday, September 28, 2012

A time I never lived in...

...these are the kinds of images (and sounds--it's Miles Davis playing "It Never Entered My Mind") which make me feel nostalgic for such a time. One of my answers to the question:  When and where would you go if you had an actual TARDIS?  has long been:  The late '40s, Los Angeles...

(I always feel the need to qualify that, however, by saying I recognize I'm saying it as a white, heterosexual male.  If I weren't all three of those things it's quite probable I would feel differently)

Oh, and h/t M. Evanier.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Quick, some people ask me questions

Paul Ryan posts online Q&A, gets 200 views and one question. Campaign declares it a great success.

FYI, this blog's average daily view count is just over 200. So if just two of you ask Q's, I can honestly say the blog is more popular than Paul Ryan.

Sunday, September 02, 2012

"Alone." A Poem by Edgar Allan Poe. Illustrated via image searches.

From childhood's hour I have not been

As others were; I have not seen

Mojave Express - Fallout NV by ~SerenitysRiver on deviantART As others saw; I could not bring My passions from a common spring.
From the same source I have not taken
My sorrow; I could not awaken
My heart to joy at the same tone; And all I loved, I loved alone.
Then- in my childhood, in the dawn Of a most stormy life
- was drawn
From every depth of good and ill
The mystery which binds me still: From the torrent, or the fountain, From the red cliff of the mountain,
From the sun that round me rolled
In its autumn tint of gold,  From the lightning in the sky As it passed me flying by,
From the thunder and the storm,
And the cloud that took the form
(When the rest of Heaven was blue)
Of a demon in my view.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Distorting the Truth About Distorting the Truth

Wait a minute...

...fuck you, you can't say
Both Republicans and Democrats Are Distorting the Truth About Medicare
then give examples which explain how only the Republicans are doing it.

Not and expect to have any credibility you can't, " Finance."

In the words of blogger and pundit Ezra Klein:

I would like to give both sides relatively equal praise and blame. .... But so far in this campaign, you can look fair or you can be fair, but you can't be both.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

I got another gift from a semi-anonymous admirer.

I say "semi-anonymous," because there's a name on the's just not a name I recognize.

"Mack White" apparently thinks well enough of me to spend a few bucks ordering and sending me something off my wish list, and I don't even know I know him.

Must be one of those computer nicknames I know him under. Even more strangely, perhaps, he seems to be one of these guys.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Where the Canadlian Things Are

This is neat.  It's from a collection of original art pieces based upon Maurice Sendak's Where the Wild Things Are.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Some kind person who, apparently...

...wishes to remain anonymous, has gifted me with the MP3
Disco by Pet Shop Boys.

Addressing me as
Ben, he's my frien'

they identify themselves only as
Impending Birthdaytown
and add the note:
Disco ain't dead

Until and unless I hear otherwise, I have decided to believe that it's really from Heather Graham.

She adores  me, you know.

McKayla Maroney is feeling very Olympic in my favorite color

Kyla Ross, Alexandra Raisman, McKayla Maroney, Jordyn Wieber, and Gabrielle Douglas

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

The calming shores of Sklarbro Country

The special focus of the Sklarbro Country podcast is on sports with occasional "pull-backs" to cover the larger pop culture.  That this focus doesn't bother me--not known for my "sportiness"--ought to be enough for you to give them at least one listen right there.

One of the slogans of the show is "The calming shores of Sklarbro Country," and that's apt.  There are some podcasts which I very much enjoy but which I don't necessarily find calming (Pop My Culture, for instance)..

The show is hosted by identical twins Jason and Randy Sklar, who are also a comedy team.  Of the handfuls of comedy podcasts to which I listen, one of the two acts who probably make me laugh the most with their stand-up is the Sklar Brothers.
The Sklar Brothers - Fascinating Twins in the News
JokesJoke of the DayFunny Jokes

Their relationship makes for what appears to be an unpracticed rhythm between the two of them, which is great fun to watch and to listen to.  (Especially with their voices so alike--close your eyes and it could almost be two sides of the same brain).

This ease also translates when listening to their podcast (which of course, is basically the same as closing your eyes).  More of the show is written than it sounds; one of the reasons I know that is because about two and a half months ago they started putting out a smaller-sized "bonus" episode each week, to tide fans over between full-fledged installments.

Called Sklarbro County to differentiate from the "brother" show (tee-hee), this usually takes the stripped-down form of the Sklars and their writing collaborator Dan Van Kirk going over recent incidents from the news and seeing what they can make of them.

(Sometimes there are guests on this version of the podcast too--I think it has to do with which of their funny friends happen to be around.)

This necessarily leads to more improvised riffs, but the "deeper cut," longer-playing episodes sound almost as if they too are invented from whole cloth, which is indeed a compliment.

Recommended episodes: Kevin Murphy and Bill Corbett, Jason Mantzoukas, Marc Maron

PS:  No, I don't know what the "Henderson" thing means either.

PPS:  The other comedian whose stand-up act I've been enjoying as much as his podcast is Pete Holmes, whose You Made It Weird I wrote about in the last one of these.
Pete Holmes - Privacy Is Uncool
JokesJoke of the DayFunny Jokes

Friday, August 03, 2012

I'm bored. Source this quote.

"No, nothing I ever do is good enough. Not beautiful enough, it's not funny enough, it's not deep enough, it's not anything enough. Now, when I see a rose, that's perfect. I mean, that's perfect. I want to look up to God and say, "How the hell did you do that? And why the hell can't I do that?"

"Now that's probably one of your better con lines."

"Yeah, it is. But that doesn't mean I don't mean it."

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

It's me again, folks's August First.  You long-timers know what that means.  

It means it's exactly one month till my birthday, and that means it's time for me to point..."subtly" at the Amazon wish list to the right of your screen.  

Notes:  The X-Men book seems to exist in many different formats (by which I also mean prices), any of which would be "acceptable."  I just picked that one to represent since it's like the one I remember from my boyhood.

I'd hope this goes without saying, but most if not all of the MP3's on the list aren't available solely at Amazon.  You could, if you were that sort of person, find them on iTunes and probably other places as well.  But Hard Day's Night, I guess for reasons having to do with some sort of exclusive deal between Apple records and Apple computers, can only be found, as an MP3, on iTunes.

Thank you as always first of all for your consideration, also for your generosity in the past; you should have no fear at all that you must keep up that habit to stay in my good graces.

(Except, of course,  You know who you are.)

DVDs and desktops

Hello, vast reading audience.  I'm in the market for a couple of things in the next few months, so I thought I'd open up the "floor" to comments.

The first is a Blu-ray/DVD player.  My old DVD player has recently gone about as dumb as a cheerleader stereotype.  The very nice man at the shop tells me it makes much more sense to replace it and upgrade to Blu-ray than to spend the money on repair.

My desired features are fairly minimal, I don't have HD TV, so I just want a good picture quality, easy-to-use, fast loading player.  I'd also like to aim at keeping it under $150.  

The second thing I'm looking for is a new computer.  This device on which I'm typing has been very good to me; I wrote the best things I've written yet on it, but it's also really old and runs like a dog being kicked uphill.

Here again, my needs are fairly simple.  I don't game; I don't mess much with photos (hop) or digital photography.  I just need something on which I can browse these here interwebs, write, and download, store, and copy music files. 

Desktop or laptop doesn't really matter.  I've only ever had a desktop PC, and I don't think I've ever missed having something more portable.  But if I found one that met the above needs but was more reasonably priced than a desktop, well then I'd be a fool not to consider it, now wouldn't I? 

PS:  Oh, and here, I'd like to keep the price around $650.

Any thoughts, or am I in dreamland?

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

No problem, Courtney. I always think about your vagina.

Lana Del Rey made the decision to cover the song ‘Heart Shaped Box‘ by Nirvana for her first Sydney, Australia performance.

As expected, the late Kurt Cobain‘s wife, Courtney Love, has reacted.

Writing on Twitter, in posts which have now been deleted, the Hole frontwoman said:
“You do know the song is about my Vagina right? ‘Throw down your umbilical noose so i can climb right back,’ umm… On top of which some of the lyrics about my vagina I contributed. So umm next time you sing it, think about my vagina will you?”

Sunday, July 29, 2012

If you're watching "The Newsroom"...

...then yes, what you saw at approximately 6:33 PM tonight Pacific time was Aaron Sorkin officially turning into a parody of himself.  My god.  Does he not know that there are people out here who know his work, and know when he's shamelessly copping from it?

It is a shame, really, because up until then, it was a pretty good episode.  As last week's was, to my fancy; in its entirety. But then, wow did it swerve into a ditch.  I mean, he was already using a trick he used on Sports Night, with a guy showing up at a therapist's office; insisting he's not there for a session; then staying for the whole episode and relating a story in flashback. 

But I was willing to write that off as a trusty storytelling device.  After all, he once used the "episode in the form of a letter or letters" trick on Sports Night and then used it again on West Wing, and the second example was the better episode.

But's not just that he's reusing character traits from The West Wing--which was kind of a popular show, which makes it even more incredible if he thinks no one will catch him at it.  It's not even only that he's giving Will McAvoy a piece of the same back story he gave President Bartlett--a physically abusive parent.

(Seriously, does he not know there are those of us out here who speak Sorkin as fluently as the "Sloan Sabbath"--I don't even know what to say about that name, except maybe that it's deranged--character speaks Japanese?)

But anyway, he presented it (the character trait) in almost exactly the same way, with a shrink (or character essentially acting as one) just firing the character exposition out, in a confrontational way, before any ground's been laid for the audience.* 

It was cheap, and I expect better from Sorkin.

(And then there was the show's usual problem of integrating the lives of its characters with the global issues they cover)

*I don't think it worked terribly well on West Wing either, but at least then, he hadn't done it before. 

Friday, July 27, 2012

Dear god, I love the right wing.

Okay, so I have a "Google alert" set for Sarah Silverman. I think she's pretty funny, though not consistently, and a hot chick (consistently). Once a week it gives me a bunch of links to some of the better news stories and blog entries talking about her. Not sure how "better" is defined, but that's what the setting says (actually, "best").

But anyway, that's how I found out that Silverman had made one of those short videos that she makes, this one in support of Obama and taking a swipe at Romney's billionaire backer Sheldon Adelson (who used to be for Gingrich, until he dropped out). Here's the video.

Now, I don't know how you feel about what you just saw, but to me, that's fairly typical Silverman.  She trades in the ridiculous.  This example may be not as funny as some of her others, but it's really nothing to worry about one way or the other.   Do you agree? Fabulous. I mean fortunately, we are not the right wing.

According to my Google alert, five different right wing websites did items on this video. But I don't recall seeing anything about it from any of the progressive, equal rights emailing lists I'm on.  Which is more than a couple. So on behalf of Silverman--I think I can speak for her in this instance--thanks for the publicity, guys.

It gets worse/better. Not only did the right wing websites post items about the video, they are all, to a one, achingly prudish and self-serious about it. So much so that if you were talking to them about it across a table you'd end up laughing in their face, however rude that might be.

As you might have guessed, I have samples...

Sarah Silverman Campaigns Against Romney With Vulgar Video

Comedienne Sarah Silverman recently starred in an R-rated video titled “An Indecent Proposal from Sarah Silverman” attacking casino magnate and major Republican donor Sheldon Adelson for donating to Mitt Romney.

Vulgar I suppose is in the eye of the beholder, but R-rated that video definitely is not.

The Saws were R-rated movies. I've seen Sarah Silverman in (another kind of) R-rated movie; she was darn good in it, too. That video could run on South Park.

the website and the campaign launched against casino owner Sheldon Adelson is a blatant intimidation tactic against a major Republican donor

No, it's not, unless Adelson is more easily intimidated than you'd expect a billionaire to be.

What that website and "campaign" are is a funny way to get attention for what kinds of people are backing Romney. This is something that the right-wing really doesn't want us to know.  Probably because it's a number lesser than those who are reading this blog (and I average less than 100 visitors a day).

Just when you thought liberal Obamamites couldn't sink any lower into the depths of depravity


"You keep on using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means."

Sarah Silverman, who goes from creating contrived outrage to contrived outrage, is a big supporter of Barack Obama and a big hater of Sheldon Adelson for funding SuperPACs aligned against Obama and Democrats

Well, no, Silverman goes from trying to create comedy here, to trying to create comedy there. Sometimes she succeeds, sometimes she doesn't. (Sometimes, she's a dramatic actress. Once in a while.)  But there's not a bit of hate, expressed or unexpressed in this.

To oppose someone is not to hate them. In fact, the offer she's making sounds pretty darn loving to me.

Now, let's go out with some (popular) comments at a site started by the late right-wing flack posing as a journalist Andrew Breitbart:

Disgusting vulgar sow.

Okay, "disgusting," is like "vulgar," which I covered. Eye of the beholder. But "sow?" Silverman is like a female pig? Really? That's not just inaccurate, that's sexist (and come to think of it, possibly anti-Semitic).

Cruelty to animals too!

If what Silverman does with her dog in that video is cruelty, I'd like to put myself forward for similar punishment from Anne Hathaway; Laura Prepon and Miss Silverman herself. They can be thusly mean to me one at a time or all together. I can take it.

This is beyond comedy, this is pukingly lewd.

Because when you want the boundaries of comedy defined, you always want to go to a conservative. Also, "pukingly?" Not a word. And as for "lewd," well, in the words of Dan Fielding,

"You say that as though it were a bad thing."

And finally:

How sick could this people be?

A question we're all asking ourselves, I assure you. Much like: Is our children learning?

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

"The Newsroom" Losing ground?

I think I have an idea for why Aaron Sorkin keeps having trouble with television projects after The West Wing.  It's because he keeps trying to do that series again, in terms of the weight with which he approaches his subjects, when he should be trying to do Sports Night.

It was observed in more than one place that a problem with Studio 60 was that it treated the preparation of a  late-night sketch comedy series as though it were the doings of Government.  Comedy may be a serious business.  And those who do it may have to act at least to themselves as if it were the most important thing in the world.  But there's just no way you're going to get a general audience to feel the same.

The Newsroom has the advantage of being about something more important, but it's losing ground because its hour-long, drama format forces it to treat the personal relationships of the characters with equal weight to real-world tragedy.

Monday, July 09, 2012

Laser accuracy is what was needed; flopping fish is too often what we got.

One of the first things I liked about the pilot for Aaron Sorkin's new HBO series. The Newsroom was that it had time to breathe.  Not having to fit between commercial breaks, the show can ease off of the full-speed-ahead ethos which was the trademark of Sorkin's previous shows, but now overtly risks appearing passé by sheer repetition.  

The show can still bring the fast when needed, but it doesn't have to bring nearly everything at that breakneck pace.  But perhaps I'm overly aware of that pace.  I sometimes think that maybe my judgment of Sorkin's writing is a little unbalanced.  Not because I am a fan, although I am.  I'm still well aware, I think, that not everything he does is his best work.  

No, the "problem," if indeed it is one, is that I know his stuff so well that his "tricks" sometimes stand out to me like a sore thumb (or something less cliched).

 I've been putting off writing anything here about the new show.  Why?  Well because a couple of years ago I greeted his first post-West Wing return to television, Studio 60, with celebration...and then watched with dismay as that series got worse and worse until it finally limped off the air.  So, I figured, lay low, and let this new series find its feet for a few episodes.  

Watching Sunday's third episode, I quickly came to feel that I wished the previous two had been tighter.  If those episodes plus the beginning of this one had been streamlined into one, two-hour series opening, it's conceivable we just might have had something as strong as West Wing's "In the Shadow of Two Gunmen" or "20 Hours in America."

As is, I'd be lying if I said I held The Newsroom in the regard with which I almost immediately held West Wing, or already loved it as I've come to love Sports Night.  These first few episodes, and especially the very first two, flopped around just a little bit too much trying to fill a space.   

But I'd also be lying if I said that I didn't think the series deserved what the networks used to call time to grow.  It's why I'm glad the show's already been guaranteed a second season. The material is there, the seeds.  It just needs a little more cutting, some better gardening. 

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Oh yes...There Will Be Blood references.

Let's talk about some more podcasts.

The Nerdist Writers Panel is from the "channel" that brings you the Nerdist show itself, Making It, The JV Club and Pop My Culture.  Among two or three others that have been or will be featured in this irregular series.

(Speaking of the JV Club, I was name-checked again in the intro to the new April Richardson episode.  This is exactly twice as many times as I have been mentioned on any other podcast.  My heart is full of pride.  And blood.)

Between you and me, I don't really know what this "network affiliation" brings to the shows apart from the chimes and "Now entering" opening tag, but what the hell.  What this one is about kind of speaks for itself, it comes billed as "an informal chat" between writers.

Unfortunately, sometimes they're so informal that it's to the show's detriment.  It helps when they have guests who are performers as well as writers.  Such as Dana Gould, who won an Emmy for The Simpsons, but is also a comic whose lines I've been quoting for more than a decade.

 ("We all enter this world in the same way: naked; screaming; soaked in blood.  But if you live your life right, that kind of thing doesn't have to stop there.")

(Second blood reference.  This may be cause for concern.)

Recommended episode: Dana Gould, Liz Tigelaar, Robert Hewitt Wolfe

The Sex Nerd Sandra show, also a fine product of Nerdist Industries, is for people who want interesting talk about vibrators, sexual preferences and proclivities, sex itself and the like.  And honestly, who doesn't?  Within that parameter, the nature of the show is fairly flexible (as is sex itself).

It's also one of those which seems to benefit from the audience at the occasional live shows (as does sex no, I'm kidding.  For me, anyway).  That opinion may surprise the Sex Nerd herself, who has commented more than once that she is terribly nervous on those occasions, but you can't hear it in her voice.  I can't, at any rate.

Recommended episodes:  Sex, Love & Ninja Turtles with Kevin Eastman, Talking Dirty with Marc Maron,

Let us now talk of You Made It Weird with Pete Holmes.  Holmes is a stand-up comedian, but I only know him from the many podcasts on which he's a frequent guest.  As I've mentioned before in these infrequent epistles, there are a lot of rambling comedy podcasts out there.  That's at least part of a lot of their charm.

But Pete Holmes' podcast is Rambling II:  The Very.  I believe that I could play you the first 15 minutes of any episode.  And then the last 15 minutes.  And if not for the fact that at least one of the voices sounds familiar--maybe--you would be hard pressed to tell it's the same show.  It's a roller coaster.

(It's also another fruit of Nerdist labors, making this another unintentional hat trick.)

Recommended episodes: Hannibal Buress, David Koechner

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Although trust me, Keitha would look a lot happier to be standing this close to Katy Perry

So I was listening to Making It with Riki Lindhome, a podcast I blogged about here, last night.  On the episode I was listening to, the guest was actress Shannon Woodward.

If that name seems familiar to any of you, it's because almost five years ago, I was saying that I thought she was the very image of my character Keitha.  I can still make the case.

But anyway--

One of the things they were talking about was that they think now is great time to be a woman in comedy.

Not only because of the sisters who are doing it for themselves, but because of a whole new generation of male writers who like writing for funny women.  And who just like funny women, period.

(Speaking of sisters, an aside having not much to do with the main point of this entry:  I'm still stunned by how "once bitten, twice shy" at least one whole generation of women seems to be about feminism.  Woodward brings it up a couple of times in the interview, but always then to conversationally scurry away as if she's afraid of being beaten with a phallus for even speaking the word.  Which come to think of if, given some of the things that the GOP's been up to, she might have a point.  And speaking of points, that brings me back to mine.)

Now, you'd think this--it being a good time for women in comedy and the men you love them--might be a sign of encouragement for me; that there's a place in the world for the kind of writing I like doing.  (Or even, maybe especially, that an actress I can see playing one of my characters might actually be interested in doing so if she ever got the chance.  Or I did.)

But it doesn't work like that.  Or I don't.  Instead, what I see in my minds eye when I hear things like that is a fleet of boats...all blowing right past me, jumping through a closing window (yeah I know, mixed metaphor, bite me).

It's like when Amber Benson came out with Race You to the Bottom, which is about a mostly-gay guy and a mostly-straight girl who are having an affair.  But again, I didn't see that as a positive sign for my Keitha/Annabel/Colley story because it's about love (and, in this case, sex) outside of definition.  As that story is.

I saw it as making anything happening with my characters less likely--it's not gonna happen for me, because it already happened for them.  I'm not saying that's right, I'm just saying it's how I feel.  Of course, it didn't help that I didn't feel that movie worked.

I'm the same way about Susan Boyle or any of the other "miracle discoveries" which seem to go viral at the drop of a hat.  I'm not inspired by them; I do not think, "See, anything is possible!"  I think that there's now just a little bit lesser of the finite amount of magic in the world, making it more unlikely that I'll be struck by even a bit.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Maybe you want to pick some other phraseology than "went down."

Michigan State Rep. Lisa Brown (D), the woman who was silenced by House Republicans for saying ‘vagina’, tells TPM how it all went down

Friday, June 08, 2012

Todays "Who's searching for me now?" question

Todays "Who's searching for me now?" question:

Someone found this blog today by Googling "midpeninsula high school ben varkentine." That is the high school I attended, so it seems likely this was one or another of my classmates...which surprises me because I thought most of 'em had already found me on Facebook.

Monday, June 04, 2012

Back asked for it!

And by you, I actually mean none of you, my vast reading audience.  But I've wanted to add a couple posts to those podcast reviews I started last year, so...

Rosen intends that the "entrance" into her conversations should be talk about relationships, as attaining success in show business is for Riki Lindhome's.  This is a fine idea in theory, but the interviews tend to wander pretty far a field in practice.  This isn’t always or even often necessarily a bad thing.  Just makes it a little harder for the show to raise its flag above the crowd.

This, of course, is Rosen.

Rosen's conversations with her guests are often thought-provoking, but the show as a whole suffers from a certain lack of definition.  There are a lot of conversational, thought-provoking podcasts out there, so what makes this one exceptional?

(Of course, whatever my qualms, they haven't stopped this podcast from reportedly clearing one million downloads)

Oh no sorry, this is Rosen (and the other is just a probably too-inside

Rosen is also a banana of some number on the Adam Carolla show.  I don't know quite which because I don't listen to that show--Carolla’s just never seemed that funny to me.

I first heard of her through her appearances on other podcasts, and mentions like when Pete Holmes plugged his own episode of her show on his own...about which more at a later

 Recommended episodes: Pete Holmes; Janet Varney.

The theme of comedian Jackie Kashian's podcast is subjects that her
guests are "dorks" about.  For instance Jim Gaffigan, in the recommended episode below, is a dork about the business of comedy.

In an earlier episode "TV's" Frank Conniff and author Ben Schwartz are dorks about old time comedy, a subject I was surprised to hear Kashian apparently knows so little about, but perhaps I shouldn't have been.

(But c'mon, "Who's Larry Gelbart?" "Who's Larry Gelbart?" I weep for the youth of today.)

In the first round of these pick podcast posts, I said that Elizabeth Laime's show was a relief to listen to in part because she didn't demand at least as much attention as her guests.  

(It still is, but "psychic" Andy needs to have his damn hands kept off the soundboard, with a handsaw if necessary).

Kashian's Dork Forest fits in the same easygoing cubbyhole, but this sometimes, frankly, can cause her to get “rolled."  Clare Kramer's recent episode, for example, was almost wholly devoted to hyping her new "nerdsploitation" website and convention appearances.

I don't object to Kramer or anyone hyping their "wares," I just expect a little more from a medium with such built-in possibilities for intimacy as podcasting. Going on a podcast just to plug is so mainstream, it's so...Jay Leno.

Fortunately, other episodes are much more freewheeling. And there's a heck of a lot of good stuff on them. 

PS:  Oh, but one word of warning.  The Dork Forest opening is the most insidious earworm of any podcast theme I've ever heard.

In shorthand: You know the scene at the end of The Breakfast Club where Claire "treats" Alison to a makeover?  Say Alison went home and started a podcast.   There you'd have Janet Varney's JV Club (BTW, it took me far too long to get that wordplay).

This is Janet Varney in high school.  Photo lifted unceremoniously (that means without permission) from the Facebook page for the podcast.
This is a contemporary (more-or-less) photo of Ms. Varney.

That makes it a show hosted by a girl who'd once defined herself (inwardly or outwardly) 
as something of a horror show, but who now appears to have had all her "mental illness" washed away, leaving only a fresh-faced hotness with that "new car" smell.


I probably heard of Varney before I heard "from" her; specifically in connection with Nerdist podcaster Chris Hardwick, with whom she was romantically partnered for a time. But I think it was on Paul Gilmartin's show that I first heard her talk, and considering what a barriers-down, let's-explore-our-inner-feelings show Paul's is, that, combined with (later) her own show, was a real introduction.

(Which is probably why I felt okay making the above mortifying comparison about someone I've never met or spoken to in person.)

All of Varney's guests so far have been women and seem likely to remain so in the foreseeable future.  The talk is often of their self-images as females, both as High/Jr.High school students and as good-looking women in film and/or on television.  Near as I can tell, there's not much difference, except that the tolerance for sexual harassment's probably higher in Hollywood.

(BTW, or speaking of which, it's purely coincidental that all of the podcasts I've written about for this post are female-driven.  It's a nice coincidence, but a coincidence nonetheless.)

Recommended episodes: Jen KirkmanAngela Kinsey, and Maggie Lawson.  

Kirkman has maybe my favorite observation thus far, with her "boys like girls" moment.  Also, yes, the "Ben" very briefly name-checked in a list at the beginning of the Malin Akerman episode is me.  

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

I'm bored. Source these quotes.

"I think anybody who's got a five-point majority and still doesn't control the agenda might be spending a little too much time reading about how to get a man to get over his fear of commitment."
"Remind me to mention that to the population of South Africa."
"You know what? In the scheme of things? ...took them about five minutes."
"What have you learned thus far? Experience is a harsh teacher. First comes the test, second comes the lesson. If you are to SAVE AS I SAVE, then you will see the person in front of you is but a student. So I ask you, Officer Rigg: Has the pupil learned her lesson? Has she been taught the error of her ways?"

Got another one of those comments from someone who doesn't seem to get that the post they're addressing is almost seven years old.

But if you break it's actually kind of disturbing.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Believable performances are not enough when characters are drawn too thinly to convince (edited with small addition)

Sarah Polley should never lack for actors for her films, because (probably at least partially due to her own experience in that arena), they'll know she’ll usually show them to best advantage.

By that I don't just mean she'll make them look beautiful, she has an eye for casting good actors who then get to do good work.

In Take This Waltz, Michelle Williams as Margot is utterly believable...even if you don't like some of the choices she's making and by extension, start not to like her.

A married woman, she spends most of the film fighting (though not terribly hard, it must be said) her attraction to a new neighbor.

(I'm being a little unfair.  This is hardly some HBO after-hours soft porn special where people meet on a plane and within minutes they're joining the "mile-high club."  Williams' character really does struggle between her needs for intimacy and for sex.)

Michelle Williams, Luke Kirby, Sarah Silverman

But my point is, you never doubt that yeah…that's what this woman would do.

You’d almost think she has free will (in fact, she probably has more of that than almost anyone else in the story).

Based on the evidence of this first original screenplay of hers to be made into a movie, Polley needs to take a few more tries at improving construction, trimming a speech or two.

And perhaps especially writing her male characters.  Again, casting doesn't fail her here, rather she fails her casting, though by no means completely.

As Margot's husband Lou, Seth Rogen starts out in many ways playing the kind of man-child role we know by now he can knock out in his sleep.  But he's awake here, and allows us access to his emotions that suggest a richness to the character I haven't perceived in other films of his that I've seen (which I don't pretend is even most).  One important moment near the end I didn't buy at all--and it's rather essential to the plot that I do.  But for the most part, he's a more believable man than the neighbor character is..

Michelle Williams and Seth Rogen in Take This Waltz.

Unfortunately this "believablity" may in turn be part of why Williams finds her attention wandering.  More on that in a bit.

Sarah Silverman, in a smaller role as Margot's sister-in-law, also has good moments. One in particular near the beginning when her character, an alcoholic with almost one year of sobriety, talks with Margot about avoiding the pitfalls of relapsing.
Sarah Silverman in Take This Waltz.  And that's Michelle Williams in the red.
The moment comes only on Silverman's face; no dialogue as we look into her eyes and see that part of her, and it's a part with a very strong pull, doesn't see relapsing as a pitfall at all.

The movie features a full-frontal nude scene from Williams, Silverman and others.

I can't be sure, being a man and all, but I think it may actually be the first such scene for women, not men.

It's not about displaying naked bodies for the purpose of sexual excitement.  It's about young women thinking about becoming old women, and old women remembering when they were young.

Michelle Williams,  Luke Kirby
Actually, one of the sexiest moments in the whole film comes in a scene where both players remain fully clothed, and it's as simple as Williams closing her eyes.

Here's my biggest problem with the movie:  If the sexes were all reversed, it would be a movie about a happily married man who finds himself unable to resist his attraction to a woman who just moved in across the street.

You feel like you've seen it already, right?  And it'd probably be written, directed, and (god help us) starred in by Woody Allen.  Does that sound like a story you want to see again, no matter how well it's played?  And I want to stress again that this film is well-played in almost every particular.  It's just not particular enough, if that's not just shoddy wordplay.

It also really tests my personal theory of coincidence in drama, which is this:  You're allowed one.  Accidents will happen; we've all been hit and run, and so on.  But there are so many coincidences required to move this story along that about midway, I began to doubt the reality of one of the characters:  The neighbor Daniel, played by Luke Kirby.

Frankly, the character makes a lot more sense if he is largely, or even entirely, a figment of the imagination of Margot (or, alternately, is the devil).  And not just because it would explain why he keeps turning up just at the right (wrong) moments.

He is sexy but also an artist, and fit enough to make a living pulling rickshaws (seriously).  He also apparently has nothing else to do (and no one else in his life--no family, friends)--but to tell Margot perceptive truths about herself and be powerfully seductive.

Read the character description in that last paragraph again.  Now imagine it with the sexes reversed.

I'm sorry to report this is not quite the confident step forward I'd hoped for Polley after her first film Away From Her, for which she was nominated for the Oscar for best adapted screenplay.  As I hope I've shown, it is not without saving graces, however.

It’s a swinging pendant of a movie, like its lead character moving in ever decreasing circles. But damn, pendants in motion sure can be pretty.

Monday, May 14, 2012

First Loves Blogfest
First Album I loved:
The soundtrack for the film of Jesus Christ Superstar.
First Movie:
The Rescuers Photobucket
First Book:
Now We Are Six
First Person: (outside of family)
Edith Mooers, from the original Zoom series.   

According to IMDb, she's now the holder of a B.S. from the University of Washington, Seattle and a Ph.D. from MIT, and is some kind of a mathematical genius.  So it would never have worked for us in the long run.

Still, I wish I could tell you that I knew for certain now which of the girls in this picture she is..  But I don't.

 I remember her being a blonde, though, so it's almost certainly either the one in the middle, or the one to the far right who looks like a young Laura Prepon.

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Well that's a new one

Armchair warrior poster-child Jonah Goldberg now not only supports wars he wouldn't deign to dirty his hands in, he's moved on to claiming Pulitzer nominations he was never given.  Shades of the great Al Franken vs. Bill O'Reilly war of '06.

Sunday, May 06, 2012

This is a really weird thing to be satisfied by

...nevertheless, I do feel some satisfaction to know that somebody did a Google images search for "saw movie girl deaths"...and only got two results.

Not two results from my blog, two results.*

How many times do I have to say it?  It's not Friday the 13th...

*To be explicit:  There were actually more results than that, but only two which corresponded to actual Saw movie scenes in which a girl (or woman, ahem) dies.

Both of which happen to be two of the most kickass, moving and thoughtfully directed scenes in the whole series, BTW.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Don't think you've quite got me pegged, there, boys.

The latest thing Amazon's recommending for me because I own the Saw movies is Final Destination 1-4. I've seen bits and pieces of these on cable, and they seem to be if anything the exact opposite of what I like about Saw: More thought goes into the deaths than anything else, and there are no characters whatsoever.