May 28, 2008

One thing we don't have in common

Several you who (I think) read this pretty regularly have something in common with each other that you don't have in common with me, and that is a once or present obsession--not the right word I grant you--with the Beatles.

Intellectually I recognize that the Beatles are worthy of such admiration in a way that, say, Black Oak Arkansas is not (to amuse myself I'm going to pretend for the next few minutes that Tom of Romantoes is the world's biggest Black Oak Arkansas fan ... I wasn't baiting him with the Heaneywulf reference ... THIS is baiting!).

So do you want to know why I'm glad I didn't play the Beatles to death on my little phonograph as a young man? Quite simply, it's because now I can listen to Revolver in a way that I can't a lot of the music I grew up with. It's not that I'm tired of Tangled Up in Blue ... but I can't listen to it. Not casually.

(That reminds me of when I was morose at a party many years ago, reeling from back to back divorce and breakup (!), and the hostess decided to put on some music she knew I liked to cheer me up: her only Dylan album, Tangled Up in Blue. To cheer me up! It cracked me up. What a sweet, nice person. I could never be that nice. I'm pretty sure I was the only person who left that party happier than when he arrived.)

So, Revolver. If I'd been listening to it all my life, would I be sitting here shaking my head, not quite believing how good it is? I don't know ... maybe. But I'm afraid I wouldn't quite hear it when I was hearing it; rather I'd be hearing my halfassed memory of it.

Here's a cover of "Tomorrow Never Knows" (be patient, it's in there at about 3:55) from my first Dead show (yeah, I was a Johnny Come Lately ... but late's better than never, and it might be better than early).

Grateful Dead - Baba O'Riley > Tomorrow Never Knows
Found at bee mp3 search engine

May 27, 2008

What hath Godke Roethke?

Yesterday I caught part of a piece on public radio about Theodore Roethke, which included him reading his poem "The Waking." Go ahead and check it out; I'll wait.

A few things: first of all, the villanelle seems to me an inherently annoying poetic form, in spite of the fact that there are some good ones, or at least popular ones.

Secondly: I've always pronounced his name "Rethke." The woman who does the story seems to be saying "Ruthke." The secretary of the Friends of Theodore Roethke seems to be saying "Rothke." Hmm. Go figure. Then again, Roethlisberger is "Roth," not "reth." To his credit, "Ted" Roethke seems never to have thrown an interception, so I'm switching to Roth in the hopes that Big Ben will learn from the poet. Sports logic, ladies and gentlemen. Twirl them Terrible (tearable?) towels!

Thirdly: Isn't it interesting how we think that hearing the poet read his/her own work will help us understand it better but in fact almost always has the opposite effect? Don't believe me? Check out Eliot reading The Waste Land sometime ... it's like he doesn't even understand the words he's saying. By the way--can you guess from his accent what part of England Eliot is from? F---ing MISSOURI. You're already one of the best two or three 20th century poets in the language ... do you have to be poser?

(I knew a guy slightly in Charleston who spent ONE SUMMER in the UK as an ADULT and came back with an accent which he supposedly could not shake. So sad.) But I digress.

Fourthly: Many years ago I took a graduate course in Modern Poetry that was not great, and it was a long time before I started appreciating modern poetry. Poems like "The Waking" just made me laugh incredulously. I wrote a short paper on a different poem of Roethke's that received the lowest grade I've ever gotten on a paper at any point in my education: a B. And that was a grad school B, ladies and gentlemen ... so, it was like a D. I think my interpretation was a little on the ... earnest side, but the professor's refutation of it was phrased in the strange language of denial, as if I had touched a weird nerve. But then, he had just turned forty and decided to start writing poetry instead of writing about it. He probably wouldn't have enjoyed my Freudian reading of Hop on Pop either. That professor was my previous nemesis, but he bought me lunch once, so that was the end of that.

Fifthly: I now appreciate a lot of modern poetry and have taught several Modern Poetry courses. I am a veritable MoMofo. But I don't like Roethke more than I used to, I have to confess. Some of his poems are okay, but some just don't work for me. Maybe I'm too lazy to read them carefully ... too slothke for Roethke.

Three Days of the Condor

In honor of the memory of Sydney Pollack, who died yesterday, I'm going to do something I don't do all that often, which is recommend a film that was made in the 1970s: Three Days of the Condor. If that film doesn't make you nostalgic for the Cold War, nothing will.

Hell, if the current political situation doesn't make you nostalgic for the Cold War, I don't know what to tell you.

Three Days of the Condor is on Turner Classic Movies on Weds, 5/28, 1:30 a.m. eastern. Check your local listings. For you youngsters, that's tonight.

Pollack also directed Redford in the first film I saw in a theater that was not explicitly a children's film: Jeremiah Johnson. I remember that my parents took me to it in the evening after I spent the day in the snowy woods on a Cub Scout winter outing.

After that day and that film, I felt like quite the eight year old mountain man, I'm sure.

May 23, 2008

Don't miss this

Tom wrote a lengthy and thoughtful comment in response to my inane and superficial post which is here. For the record, I just think that sentence is perfect, and the Heaney translation, being Irish, is clearly superior to all others.

+5 for discussing the film Beowulf without mentioning naked fake Angelina Jolie.

-20 for mentioning naked Anthony Hopkins.

My job is basically by contract friendless, so it's great to be engaging in conversation--be it one-sided, pretend, or otherwise--with the likes of him, and Mike, and--in the local vernacular--all o' yez.

The savior of the Democratic Party

I've spent a lot of time thinking about what the Democrats need to do between now and November to bring the party back together. The choice of vice president is clearly key, and I think I've come up with a solution that will work for either candidate who eventually wins the nomination. In a word, me.

I know this sounds like the kind of semi-ironic hubris you've come to expect from me, but hear me out. Let's take a short look at what I have to offer.

1. Facial hair.
As a bearded person, I can never tell a bald-faced lie. It is true that bearded folk (notice how PC I'm being ... not excluding any bearded or hirsute person from this sweeping generalization) are considered to be less trustworthy than the barefaced masses. But this was not always the case. The tyranny of the NWA (Non-Whiskered American) must come to an end. What better way than to make me VP?

2. Boring committee meetings. Let's face it, being VP is a drag. You have to deal with the senate all the time ... meeting after meeting. Folks, I know how to stay awake during boring committee meetings! I have a very vivid imagination and can amuse myself endlessly with a pencil and a few paper clips.

3. Ticket-balancing. We've been hearing a lot lately about how voters in West Virginia and elsewhere don't like Obama because he's black. Well, I'm white. I could also balance a Clinton ticket, being male. I realize that being a white male in American politics isn't exactly a novelty, but I think I feel exactly the right amount of non-debilitating guilt and anxiety about it. I actually have at least two friends in West Virginia, not counting Charlie and Mare of Tandoori Chicken fame ... so Why Not Me?

4. I'm an assister. As an Assistant Something, I could adapt easily to being a Vice Something. Lots of people these candidates are considering have been in charge of stuff--governors and whatnot. I have not, so it will not be a (further) blow to my ego to play second fiddle. Folks, the sign on my desk says, "The Buck Stops Across the Hall." My motto is "I'll have to ask."

5. No current conflict of interest. I'm not on any boards, and I don't have a whole lot of investment income outside of my retirement. I'm not in oil or organized crime. I am a special-interest tabula rasa ... or tabula bruna?

6. Washington outsider. We've got three senators in the running for president right now. I, on the other hand, have only been to Washington once, and that was only for the afternoon. I don't even like cities, so it's likely that even after two terms as VP, I'll still be a Washington outsider.

The problem with cities is that everything you might touch, a LOT of other people have probably touched. And people don't wash their hands. And every time you suck in a couple of lungfuls of air, that's air somebody else just breathed. You might as well be making out with these people. Eww.

7. Modest expectations. The salary for VP is currently a little over 200k per annum. Fine with me!

Hmm, now that I think about it, reason #6 has me thinking ... wouldn't it be a great unifying strategy for our fractured nation if McCain would also make me his running mate? (Number 8 bonus quality: I don't have the crazy eyes). What a great stabilizing influence that would be! No matter what uncertainties our great nation faces as we head toward November, there would be at least one sure thing. Nobody loses! Cornville, here I come!

May 22, 2008

This will burst your bone-locks

Look: I'm not going to debate Beowulf translations with you, because either you know a hell of a lot more about it than I do, or you absolutely don't give a crap. I see myself as being in the sweet spot between those two extremes. Perhaps a lot closer to one extreme than the other, now that I think about it.

But: isn't this an absolutely awesome sentence (from the Seamus Heaney translation):

In off the moors, down through the mist-bands
God-cursed Grendel came greedily loping.

I ask you.

May 21, 2008


A while back the SciFi channel ran several episodes of a show called Wolf Lake. I Tivoed it, read about it and learned that in typical SciFi fashion they were running some but not all of the episodes. I've since, ahem, "run across" a total of eight or nine episodes of the show and am in the process of watching them now. Seems like nine is all there are.

So far, it's not bad. I'd say "I can't believe they'd cancel this show," but honestly, I can. It's trying very hard to be Twin Peaks, with the setting, the quirky weirdness of some of the locals, the uncomfortable hotness of some of the teenybopper characters. (As always, the links are safe.)

And we all know how commercially successful Twin Peaks was, and how bravely the network went to bat for it.

And don't even get me started on Firefly ... just go rent it and watch it if you haven't. This show wasn't even worth a season? On Friday nights? TV gods: you're not going to get a ton of people watching TV on Friday night anyhow, so why not reserve that night--that one night out of seven--TWO OR THREE HOURS OF THAT ONE NIGHT OUT OF SEVEN--for something that's just halfway decent, that has some quality or creativity to it--or at least the appearance of aspiration to quality or creativity? Just for us losers who aren't out doing whatever it is the cool kids do on Friday nights?

Now I'm being disingenuous. I am one of the cool kids, but I'm cool enough to Tivo my Friday night shows. Fridays are D&D nights!

Okay, that was me being really dishonest. I only WISH Fridays were D&D nights. Nobody will play with me.

So, back to SciFi. If, like me, you were one of the cool kids who read a lot of science fiction back in the 70s and 80s, you probably know that the cognoscenti (translation: I know I smell bad) all turned their noses up at the term SciFi ... the accepted abbreviation was SF. If you said "Sci Fi" at a science fiction convention, you'd probably be ridiculed ... and being ridiculed by people at a science fiction convention is probably pretty demeaning. So when the decided to start up a SciFi channel, I was surprised. I was agog. I was agog, Gog, and Magog, to be honest with you. But okay. By and large they've lived up to my expectations.

So back to Wolf Lake. I can't say it's the best thing Lou Diamond Phillips ever did, because that was the criminally underrated film The Big Hit. But he's okay in it, even if his absurdly fit torso only accentuates the relative smallness of his head. Also great is the ubiquitous Bruce McGill, who had a small but memorable role in a Babylon 5 episode and has done a thousand other things. In Wolf Lake he's the paterfamilias, the big dog if you will. He definitely does not suffer from smallness of the head syndrome.

So what, ultimately, is the point of all this? It's this: TV sucks. Why does it suck? It sucks because it DOESN'T HAVE TO SUCK but still does. The good shows, few as they are, only remind us of how much the rest of it sucks, and how it just doesn't have to suck. Thank you, David Lynch, Joss Whedon, and J. Michael Straczynski!

May 19, 2008

The Sublime

This is the musical equivalent of, I don't know, something really viscerally pleasurable. Really. Visceral.

Tom in grad school--not Tom but another Tom--introduced me to Johnny Burnette ... it was either '91 or '92, because I was over at his house watching the Pens in the Stanley Cup finals. (Now what's got me thinking about that?).

It's a shame that rock & roll went so wrong so early while Gene Vincent, Eddie Cochran, and Johnny Burnette are all but forgotten.

May 18, 2008

A long overdue lesson in humility

Apparently the way to get strangers to read your blog, if that's what you're trying to do, is to link to pictures of Marion Ravenwood and Willie Scott from the Indiana Jones movies. Thanks, Google! And welcome, readers.

Note that I didn't steal those images ... I just linked to them. I'm all about respecting the boundaries, baby. I would never use or reproduce somebody's image in any fashion, either for sale or free distribution or for any representation through print or technological media. Almost never.

The Elmers: reclaiming the internet

Powered by iSOUND.COM

You're supposed to be able to listen to these for free; if that's not the case, forget about it!

If there's any interest or sign of interest, I'll rotate the songs periodically, and you can download them to your Ipod ... Oh yeah, you know what I'm talking about.

If downloading from the above player doesn't work, follow the link below it (and above this) to go to our page, where you can grab these songs if you must. You'll also see, if you go there, the whole graphic, which proves that I didn't cut Dan's face out just to be a dick ... that's just how it shows up in the player, player.

Wouldn't be the first time we cut a person's face off a CD cover, though, would it? Heh heh.

NOTE: Never before have I ever addressed anyone as "player," except perhaps whilst reading aloud the instructions to Monopoly or Dungeons and Dragons, and I promise I never will again. Sorry.

May 17, 2008

Bitten in the ass by the Protestant Work Ethic

So I took a couple of days off this week, hence the silence. Ironically--is it irony? I've been making fun of the old Alanis Morissette song for so long that I don't know my irony from my coincidence these days. GEEZ that video is annoying. Anyhow, ironically, I woke up Thursday morning with a great headache, sore throat, cough, fever, etc. That's what happens to lazy people! I have learned my lesson and will only goof off AT WORK from now on. I can only hope Martin Luther and John Calvin approve.

In other news, I'm watching a film called Man Hunt right now that really isn't too bad. I find WWII movies that were made before the end of the war to be particularly interesting for some reason ... what would have happened to these films had things gone the other way?

I've also decided that I'm a big fan of George Sanders. I haven't seen his Falcon films, but he's great as the villain in this one. See also The Picture of Dorian Gray ... he was born to play Lord Henry. While you're at it, as if anybody actually takes my recommendations seriously, you should check out The Lodger, Rebecca, and Foreign Correspondent (which is one of my two or three favorite Hitchcock films ... Rebecca, by the way, is not, What can I say? I'm a rebel through and through). And of course All About Eve.

I think All About Eve was my introduction to classic films ... Peggy made me watch it in an attempt to raise me from my lowbrow ways, and she was successful insofar as old movies go. Alas, when it came to opera, I was a little slower on the uptake ... but at least I can sit through one without laughing. Usually.

May 14, 2008

In which I am stymied

I was going to post a link to Stephen Colbert's interview last night with the woman who wrote the book about the sinking of the Titanic, but let's face it ... there's only one reason I would do that, and it doesn't reflect well on me. If you saw it, and if you're attracted to women, you probably know what I'm talking about. When I saw her, I thought, "She's attractive." When she said "I have a PhD in metallurgy," I was--dare I say it--riveted.

I hope you saw the clip so that you can appreciate how INCREDIBLY FUNNY that line was. Ah, hell, here it is:

Look, it was this or the story of my ex-wife being attacked by a monkey.

May 12, 2008

My moment, such as it was

For a brief time, back in my early 20s, I exuded a vibe. I've spent my life trying not to exude anything ... but for some reason--maybe it was the mullet (which I hereby retroactively declare ironic), maybe the roundish glasses, maybe just the naivete ... but for a couple of years, I could attract middle-aged men like steaks on the grill. I'm secure talking about this, because a friend of mine once described me as the straightest man he knew ... and I kind took offense at it. I don't think he meant anything bad by it though.

Okay, so it was only two middle-aged men that I know of, and one was a total stranger ... a guy on the subway in DC. He was very polite, took no for an answer with a shrug and a smile, and I was left feeling ... should I admit this? ... a little flattered. He looked vaguely academic as I recall.

That was the second time. The first was when a professor in my major--my other major, that is--invited me over to his place to watch Un chien andalou. So I went. It was an ... interesting movie. And an interesting night. The wine was pleasant, and naive as I was, I didn't think anything of the fact that my professor was serving alcohol to a minor. Maybe it should have occurred to me that in that town and at that time, straight men didn't drink wine, but I thought professors were maybe just more urbane than the rest of us.

Well, needless to say, the wine went to my head, but not so much that I didn't think it was weird that he offered to read my palm. By that time the movie was over, and I thought it prudent to make make good my departure.

The whole thing must have been pretty awkward for him. He might have been afraid I would tell the story on campus. For the rest of that semester, things were pretty strained in class. By next semester all was back to normal, and when he loaned me a bunch of really excellent albums, including Leonard Cohen (which I was too young to get) and Phil Ochs (which was perfect when I was that age), I knew it wasn't grooming per se. Well, it was, but the general academic kind.

I never thought too much about this until in a graduate class many years later we watched Death in Venice. You see, this professor bore a more than passing resemblance to Dirk Bogarde as Aschenbach in that film. And perhaps I was his unattainable Tadzio.

Maybe that's why he insisted that I wear the sailor suit?

May 11, 2008


I don't much cotton to horoscopes and the like ... but my theory is that everybody has an accurate horoscope out there somewhere. It's just probably not an actual horoscope. In my case, as I discovered maybe ten years ago, the adventures of Ian "Professor Chinbeard" Cameron in Mary Worth seem occasionally to mirror my own wacky exploits. The physical resemblance is undeniable:

His lack of self-awareness is painful, though. Glad I don't have that problem!!!

But he's barely ever a character anymore--he shows up only in between stories--so I've had to sort of read creatively. The strip's attitude toward academics is just delightful, as you can see. I don't know who this wise and hirsute young assistant prof is, but he's definitely got it.

That panel is from years ago, but I've kept it with me all this time. I literally can't count the number of times that line has worked for me. Thank you, Mary Worth. Thank you.

May 09, 2008

Chapter 58, In Which I Salute a Sandwich

It--whatever "it" is--is all about the unrecoverable past. Sound Freudian? Well, I am one Freudian motherf---er. (To my knowledge, that line is original with me, for whatever good it will do me.)

Anyhow, I was thinking today about Bernie's, a Columbus landmark since 1975 (I'm told) and the site of a weekly meeting of the minds for several years. Their website bears no mention of the sandwich to which I pay homage today, the Egg-a-Bernie, which I believe at some point was called an Egg McBernie. They probably had to change the name for trademark reasons, but I hope it was because they didn't want to sully this most glorious of sandwiches with any association with fast food.

What, you may ask, is an Egg-a-Bernie? It can be almost anything you want it to be. That's the genius of it. Scrambled egg on a bagel or onion roll with longhorn cheese and choice of meat.

"Choice of meat." Are there three more beautiful words in the English language than those?

So how did I eat my Egg-a-Bernie? On an onion roll with pastrami. This was before I discovered my adopted Irish American identity, or it probably would have been corned beef, but nothing beats the peppery goodness of pastrami. Little known fact: the Egg-A-Bernie as I've described it above is a great hangover cure!

Of course, it wasn't all about the sandwich ... it mostly about the conversation, fueled by the aforementioned sandwiches and endless refills of decent coffee. As regulars, we were permitted to drink from the little brown mugs rather than styrofoam. Three dollars and two cents bought admission to a veritable midwestern conversational Chautauqua.

May 08, 2008

Apologia pro crappa sua

It occurred to me late last night that this blog would have been much more interesting had I started it 15 or even 10 years ago ... stuff could really anger me then, and I could bitch about it endlessly. Now, my response to most irritating stimuli (which is to say, most stimuli) is more along the lines of "Ehhh, what do you expect?" Lewis Black shtole my shtick years ago, and I don't even want it back.

Hey, I even watched the news this morning to find something to rant about, and ... nothing. The wardrobe of the woman who presents the weather on our local news station inspires me to alternating terror and pity in ever-decreasing oscillations ... but is it news?

This is what we used smugly to refer to as a cliched epiphany. I mean, I know I'm not saying anything about reflective--not to say self-absorbed--middle age that hasn't been said better elsewhere (for instance, in the song below).

Still, when I read an email from long ago (not that long ago ... I mean, there was email, and some of us can remember a time when there wasn't) in which I used this passage in my .sig--

..the only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars... --Kerouac

--all I can think now is "Actually, I kind of can't stand being around people like that." The last line is good though.

May 07, 2008

Maturity Revisited

One of the only signs I've had that somebody's reading any of this (not counting page views, which don't really mean anything--when was the last time you read a page you viewed, really?) was an item Rosemary wrote that did a much better job than I could have of getting at some of that stuff. Bump, set, spike! (Is that how it goes? I let people talk me into going to a college volleyball game once, but I don't remember much about it aside from a feeling that I was enjoying it more than I should have been.)

Anyhow, I've been thinking about the stuff I've outgrown and the stuff I haven't. I think I've given up on what passes for music, at least as I hear it on the radio. I could tell myself that today's music ain't got the same soul, but hell, that's what humorless old f---s like me have always said about what the kids are listening to ... back as far as Benny Goodman I suppose. Would I be happier if I liked this stuff? I don't think so, but I could drive around without scowling so much maybe. You'll laugh, but I honestly never thought it would happen to me. I used to brag to my students, "I know more about your shit than you do," but now I'm not so sure, and I'm not so sure I care.

I've largely outgrown my interest in my dissertation topic, I'm sorry to say ... I like reading the novels again and again, but I'm not too interested the acrid cloud of analysis that hovers around it.

Of course there's lots of stuff I thought I would have outgrown, such as the utterly visceral way I engage with Joyce's "Araby." Not to spoil the story for you, but here's the end of it. I know you've probably read it before, but why not read it again? It's worth it.

I lingered before her stall, though I knew my stay was useless, to make my interest in her wares seem the more real. Then I turned away slowly and walked down the middle of the bazaar. I allowed the two pennies to fall against the sixpence in my pocket. I heard a voice call from one end of the gallery that the light was out. The upper part of the hall was now completely dark.

Gazing up into the darkness I saw myself as a creature driven and derided by vanity; and my eyes burned with anguish and anger.

The guy I know who knows more about Joyce than anybody else I know (and I know a lot of people who know a lot about Joyce, if you follow me), told me in confidence that he preferred Dubliners to the rest of the Joyce oeuvre. I think he might have been right ... he usually was.

May 06, 2008

Remember Wonder?

The Windhover: Gerard Manley Hopkins

I CAUGHT this morning morning’s minion, king-
dom of daylight’s dauphin, dapple-dawn-drawn Falcon, in his riding
Of the rolling level underneath him steady air, and striding
High there, how he rung upon the rein of a wimpling wing
In his ecstasy! then off, off forth on swing,
As a skate’s heel sweeps smooth on a bow-bend: the hurl and gliding
Rebuffed the big wind. My heart in hiding
Stirred for a bird,—the achieve of; the mastery of the thing!

Brute beauty and valour and act, oh, air, pride, plume, here
Buckle! AND the fire that breaks from thee then, a billion
Times told lovelier, more dangerous, O my chevalier!

No wonder of it: shéer plód makes plough down sillion
Shine, and blue-bleak embers, ah my dear,
Fall, gall themselves, and gash gold-vermillion.

This poem has been on my mind for the last couple of days, initially because I received an email from a former student who signed herself "former student, forever minion!" As you may know, "minion" is one of my favorite words, and I used to pretend to joke with my students that I wanted "minions" ... it's nice to see that someone was paying attention!

Anyhow, I think this is a fantastic poem because it's so challenging. If you're not a poem person, I challenge you to read this poem aloud now rather than just punting or skimming to the end of this entry to see if I sneak in something funny. Go ahead and read it; we'll wait. When you read it, really read it out, and try to find the syntax of the sentences--it will help a lot. Read it more than once if you want.

I love the alliteration, obviously, and I like the way the diction and rhythm of the poem force you out of any possible complacency with the content. The first line of the last stanza has what, six stressed syllables in a row? Did you catch that? Wild stuff.

The speaker seems to be taken with the beauty of the bird in flight to the point of some kind of religious ecstasy that strikes me as more pagan than Christian in spite of the footnotes that usually come with this poem. I don't much like "Stirred for a bird," but I can forgive it based on "the achieve of; the mastery of the thing." I'm not a big fan of nouning verbs that way, but in this case it seems to me that the speaker is almost pushed beyond words by what he's seeing.

That takes us into the poem's last bit, which I confess I don't see even though I like the sound of it ... I feel like I'll just have to take his word for it. But that's okay--it still works somehow.

May 05, 2008

Horse Latitudes

Given the name of the horse that won the Kentucky Derby, I feel it behooves me to comment on the event. Pause for laughter ... and ... go!

It's just this: in general, I'm not comfortable around animals whose eyes are bigger than human eyes. Horses have big bulging alien eyes. BIG BROWN eyes, if you will. Don't like 'em.

I like people with big brown eyes just fine ... as long as they're people eyes and not huge bulging horse eyes.

To be fair, I'm referring mainly to cartoon horses.

And be honest ... are you surprised I didn't go blue with "Big Brown"?

May 04, 2008

Just a quick "heads up"

If anybody tells you Lantana is Australian for "laff riot," don't you believe it. It's pretty intense and thought-provoking, though. Usually, I don't go for the ensemble thing too much, but this one works and works well.

I'm not the biggest Anthony LaPaglia fan in the world by any means, and whatever that show is that he's on, I don't watch it (note the rhetorical move I'm making here, pretending that I didn't look it up on imdb ... because naming it would undercut the impression that I'm trying to make that I'm much too cool to watch that show, which let's face it one of the endless Matlock for boomers shows that are so popular these days). But A LaP rocked as Barry the Blade in The Client, which was okay. He really shows some range in this one I have to say ... from rage, to sorrow, to remorse, to indignation, and back again.

And lest you think somebody else who's not me is writing this, I have to point out that there is a veritable surfeit of hot grownup women in this film. Maybe not a surfeit, but certainly a plethora. I think a surfeit is more than a plethora.

Anyhow, if you missed it at the cineplex, rent Lantana sometime. It's a great date movie in the tradition of Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? ... and that's saying something.

May 03, 2008

Luck of the Irish

I'm working on inventing a new genre(!) of film review: the in-progress movie review. As I write, I'm watching the film I'm writing about. I don't know how it ends yet.

I have the tendency to take light movies more seriously than I should, and The Luck of the Irish certainly fits the bill as a light movie. Of course, you'll expect me to rail against the blarney, which is arguably as racist as a Speedy Gonzalez cartoon.

But there are some fairly serious issues at work in this film: the protagonist, Fitzgerald, has to figure out whether he can sell out his journalistic ideals for a good position with the portentously named Augur, a politician he's criticized publicly and a hot, wealthy fiancee Frances, daughter or niece or something to said politician. The fact that Fitzgerald is played by Tyrone Power contributes substantially to the seriousness of the situation; if he were Cary Grant, it would be somewhat lighter and wackier. Power reminds me a lot of George Clooney, though I suppose it ought to be the opposite.

The film is pretty predictable, but I like the way Fitzgerald effectively forgets Ireland and the Irish lass Nora as soon as he leaves ... and even after he runs into her in New York, he's not so haunted by her as to refuse to make out with Frances in old Augur's library.

And of course you have the requisite Irish tenor singing "The Rose of Tralee" and the ensuing donnybrook. Nothing like The Quiet Man, mind you, but good enough. The highlight of the film is of course the interaction between Fitzgerald and Horace, his leprechaun manservant (played by Cecil Kellaway, the cuckold in The Postman Always Rings Twice, one of my favorite films incidentally).

Fitz: "Aren't you a little large for a leprechaun?"

Horace: "That's a page of my family history we won't go into if you don't mind."

I'll take a couple of lines like that over special effects any time. Of course, there are some rudimentary special effects, none as good as the bridge that collapses under Fitzgerald's car early in the film.

The film's coda is particularly charming, and it emphasizes the friendship between Fitzgerald and the leprechaun while giving short shrift to the newlyweds. Overall a charming film; it's almost possible to forgive the racial profiling.

May 01, 2008

20th Anniversary Limited Edition

Or 18th or 19th ... I don't really remember. Been a while anyhow. Enjoy, if you dare.

Limited, incidentally, refers to public interest in this, which frankly I find hard to believe.

Smokin' High St.

Open Letter to my Cousins

Death is a tragedy, and death by bear attack probably even more so. We can't blame the bear, it seems to me. It's a bear, and it's made for killing people. In no way am I making light of the tragedy of a bear attack.

Let it be said, though, that if I have to go before my time, and I really don't want to, I hope it's something like a wild animal attack. Or a piece of a satellite whose orbit has decayed. Spontaneous combustion ... something like that. Something people will kind of laugh about in an embarrassed way.

I mention the bear attack because of this tragic event.

Please follow the link and watch the clip.

So why am I addressing my cousins, one of whom might actually read this? Because, moy cousins, I hereby grant you the opportunity to work a few product/website endorsements into any interview you give about the event (which again, I'm hoping is a piece of space junk hitting me at the speed of light). I like how the victim's cousin handled this.

(If you didn't sit through that whole video, check out the piece from about 4:30 onward.) The way he worked the name of the website into the conversation twice, shoehorned it in, seemed a little awkward to me. He should have just hollered it out as a non sequitur: "blahdeblah DOT.COM, BABYBEE! WHOOOOOOO!"

Cousins, if you're going to tout a business in a Today show interview, please do it as tastefully. Just wear a logoed t shirt or something, or do it like the subliminal guy on SNL. That's how I'd want to be remembered.

Also, if it's not too much trouble, I'd like to be cremated and have my ashes stored in my thermos. It seems poetically just somehow. Then maybe it can be passed around to whoever wins it through some contest each year, like the Stanley Cup.