Wednesday, March 30, 2005

If your client's a thug, give him a hug

What Rhymes with "Jackass"?

With the death of Johnnie Cochran yesterday from a brain tumor, I'm struggling. I mean, a brain tumor? It boggles the mind. No matter how hard I try, I can't come up with a cute little saying to rhyme with "brain tumor."

Wait. Wait. How about: "If you die of a brain tumor, don't you tell Chuck Schumer"?

Nah. Too political. OK, got it: "A brain tuma kill ya faster than a tame puma."

Nope. Not there yet. Aha! Finally: "It's no lame rumor, I died of a brain tumor." Eureka!

OK. OK. I'm making heartless jokes at the expense of another human being and his grieving family. Completely reprehensible no matter what I think of the man. But can we eulogize for a second about how Johnnie Cochran, in his defense of O.J. Simpson, contributed more to the racial divide in this country than anyone in the last 20 years who didn't take a club or boot to Rodney King's head?

I'm all for the US Consitution and every man's right to a spirited defense in a speedy trial by his peers. But every defense attorney has the option not to take a case. And if they do, to proceed within the bounds of common decency.

There is just no way I would accept O.J. Simpson as a client after examing the facts of the case and learning without any doubt that the man was a brutal double-murderer. And in this case, I don't speak of the courtroom standard "reasonable doubt" but the unadulterated certitude that Cochran, Shapiro, et al must have quickly determined about their client's guilt. His blood and the victims' blood were at the crime scene and his house. Game over.

But, clearly to bask in the sickening glow of The Second (or Maybe Third) Trial of Last Century, Cochran not only stepped up to the microphone, but spewed nothing but hateful, paranoid bullshit to a jury preconditioned and eager to buy it.

It's one thing to defend your client to the best of your ability and another to fire race cards around the courtroom like Ricky Jay aiming at watermelons. O.J. had long abandoned the black community, dated and socialized almost exclusively with white folks and was often protected by the Los Angeles police when they responded to his wife's desperate 911 calls after he hit her.

But Cochran gleefully engineered a defense that painted the LAPD as so racist that they were willing to frame a man they believed to be innocent (risking the death penalty themselves under California law, by the way). The faces of white crowds recoiling in horror while black faces beamed with joy and pride as the not guilty verdict was read still haunt me to this day. It was as though from the Middle Passage to the Plantations to Jim Crowe to Martin Luther King, Jr. to stacks of civil rights legislation, we'd arrived nowhere, with nothing to show.

I don't fault Johnnie Cochran for freeing a guilty man. The primary blame still rests with D.A. Gil Garcetti and the fumbling, hairstyle-altering, flirtatious prosecution tag-team rejects Christopher Darden and Marcia Clark. Can also blame star-struck, loony Judge Lance Ito. And blame surely rests with a jury so set on righting past racial wrongs that they couldn't apply sense to the case at hand.

But why was race even a subject in this trial, which was about the slaying of two people in the prime of their lives?

If the answer's "Cochran" would you be shocked, man?

Thank you, Johnnie

Hmmm...I guess I really didn't hack my wife to death...

OJ Redux

Flashback: A post that I would have made if I had a computer in April 2000:

O.J. Simpson. He’s been a case study in the perks and pitfalls of fame, the peerless anguish and potential viciousness of jealous ire, the gall of deep, deep self-delusion, the complicit guilt, mendacity and egotism of legal whoring—all stretching the frontier edges of media saturation and audience tolerance. So why bother adding to the ceaseless stream of useless words and images? Well, I love this country and I hate this man and the shitstorm he wrought.

First of all, the guy is a double-murderer. If you think otherwise, stop reading right here. In fact, stop reading all together. You are too stupid, angry, or ignorant to attempt any further intellectual edification in your life. Give up, stay home, watch “David Cassidy: Behind the Music”, and try not to procreate if possible.

O.J. didn’t just kill 2 people. He butchered them with an awfully big knife. Killing with a knife ain’t like pulling a trigger as you drive-by. No, I figure you need to get in pretty darn close and deal with some awfully violent squirming and defensive thrashing while you hack away and slice as the life you clutch spurts blood and agonizingly jerks from frantic panting to gasping anguish to lifeless stillness. And that’s just the first victim. The other one is stronger, yet ultimately just as helpless. After all, even in your advanced age and with sometimes crippling arthritis, you are a hall-of-fame, Heisman Trophy-winning professional football player with surging adrenaline pumping slash after slash in a supercharged rage.

And this vile reprobate goes on television to hawk his new website devoted to answer the public’s questions for a small fee that supposedly goes to charity. Although few charities have come forward to willingly accept his bloodstained offering.

I’ve got some questions, Juice! Remember the game in 1973 when you broke 2,000 yards rushing in a season in that snowy game against the Jets at Shea Stadium? How about your proud, teary-eyed acceptance speech at the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton? Or that time you donned leather gloves and a black nit cap to hunt down and virtually decapitate your ex-wife? Wasn’t that one a doozy?

Of course, you have no recollection of that evening. At least no memory that your conscious mind will permit you to recognize. But don’t tell me that the dreams don’t claw at you in the stark darkness of your sleep. Those nights when maybe the coke wasn’t plentiful or powerful enough to bury your worst instincts and pain. Because memories that lucid never really fade. They just become harder to access and retrieve. Kinda like your once-exalted place in society, eh?

So peddle your lies and delusions. Play your public golf courses and complain about the tee times. Use your kids as sympathy crutches and ready-made excuses to exploit anything, anyone, anytime.

Walk through life like the pathetic ghost you are. Insignificant. Almost too sad to be truly evil. And try to keep pace ahead of those hellhounds on your trail.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes

Just flip over the front page of today's Daily News, and check out a lovely shot of my scrawny ankle sharing space with Cameron Diaz and William Shattner. And a story about the new $250 computerized Adidas_1 shoe. Well worth the money. Fifty cents for the paper, I mean.

Monday, March 28, 2005

Kevin Smith's Crime Against Humanity

Kevin Smith’s Jersey Girl is a film by a man who hasn’t so much sold out as he has revealed that he has no idea what he’s selling. Because make no mistake, friends, what Smith is selling in this cloying embarrassment of a movie are giant wheels of cheese curdling in a vat of jokes that plop like tiny turds.

I just caught the thing on cable, and I promptly went to Duane Reade to buy some of that abrasive lava soap to scrape the ick off.

My visceral reaction to Jersey Girl arises from my general admiration for Smith. Clerks rules. Chasing Amy was funny and almost touching in dramatizing its implausible premise. Dogma was smart and funny if also more than a little pointless and esoteric. Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back was an entertaining and shameless gift to his fans that had the distinction of reuiniting Mark Hammil and Carrie Fisher. It is in the spirit of tough love that I explore how many ways this one should never have been made.

What Smith calls his paean to fatherhood, Jersey Girl tells the story of criminally unlikable fancypants PR maven Ben Affleck who loses J. Lo — not like in real life, to her narcissistic hardheadedness and loathsome screech-singing — but to a deadly complication in childbirth.

Which gives us the chance to watch Affleck violently shake off the consoling hand of the baby-and-bad-news-delivering obstetrician and break down in one of the more unbelievable hand-on-face, crumple-to-the-floor crying jags in film history.

But not to be outdone even by himself, Affleck tops this grotesque display of nonhuman emotion with an obscenely long and treacly pledge to his newborn motherless daughter. That it contains Kevin Smith’s patented intellectualized dialogue only confirms a suspicion that no sentient being on this earth speaks or cries like Big Ben does in this scene. It is pure horseshit, and the kind you’d expect Smith to spend nights on his couch viciously mocking with a bong and Jason Mewes.

But this movie just piles on the clichés, using them as a framework to hang occasionally interesting interactions and dialogue between the despicable Affleck and more loveable folks like George Carlin as his father, Liv Tyler as his adorable, earthy, too-good-to-be-true love interest, and Raquel Castro as his irrepressible moppet of a daughter, now aged 7 years.

In a profoundly derivative setup, Affleck must choose between his high-flying Manhattan life and the comfortable, small-town family life his daughter loves in New Jersey. He must rediscover his true calling: Public Relations! Somehow Smith neglects to treat this profession as the scourge it is, ennobling the shoveling of both shit and asphalt in a scene where Affleck cons a strangely pliant crowd of townspeople into permitting a necessary, though disruptive public works project. Note that Smith fades down the volume on our hero PR wizard’s personal little renaissance in favor of inspirational soundtrack music. Even he couldn’t think of anything worthwhile or inspiring for his character to say.

The movie ends with Affleck aborting his big-time comeback job interview in the city and racing against the clock to arrive at his daughter’s school pageant in time to join her on stage, something so tired and expected it arrives like a pre-programmed sleepwalker wandering into his own surprise party.

This film touches no real nerves other than those that were forged into the sturdy spine of Hollywood’s nervous system. It tells a story so time-tested it comes with no assembly (or rational mind) required.

Obviously, you need to shut down your higher faculties when watching a movie like this. Because someone as smart as Kevin Smith might know that if PR superstar Lizzie Grubman can serve 60 days in jail for running down 16 people in her SUV and wind up with a healthy clientele and a new MTV reality show, Big Ben’s character can probably find a gig after badmouthing Will Smith.

And don’t they schedule school pageants at times when working parents can attend? And couldn’t he just call to reschedule his job interview earlier in the day or a day or two later? Assuming they want him so bad.

Although after watching any of this movie, all they’ll likely want is a shower and a scouring pad.

Guess Who?

A quick riddle: What hates terrorists but doesn't mind if they can buy guns? Insists that a woman with no significant brain activity live for decades as a drooling puppet for her parents' heartbroken anthropomorphic fantasies but supports the death penality? Preaches the tolerant gospel of Jesus to love thy brother but not if that brother loves other brothers or can accessorize his fabulous ensemble? And abhors abortion as the killing of a living embryo but fire bombs clinics and threatens to kill doctors who perform the procedure?

Answer: It rhymes with "rip-or-hit-it-all free public tans."

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Hebrew Hoops

A high school basketball team in Illinois won the state AA championship with five Jewish starters. Oy vey.

Monday, March 21, 2005

Untied Twists

David Edelstein from Slate examines some of the most maddeningly stupid twists in recent Hollywood movies.

Some twists are targeted for their implausibility (The Game) and others for their pure manipulative retardation (Fight Club). Twist endings: the last refuge of a desperate screenwriter.


Jason Fry from the Wall Street Journal Online, explores the peculiar cultural phenomenon that inspires people to shout "Freebird!" at a concert.

Funny, perceptive and informative. Almost made me wanna shout "Dark Star!"

Sunday, March 20, 2005

Top Five Songs with a Number in the Title

5. 1999, Prince
4. Two of Us, The Beatles
3. Hey Nineteen, Steely Dan
2. One, U2
1. One Love, Bob Marley and the Wailers

Honorable mentions to be found on the comments page (for those who wish to play along).

Through the Door With Fists and Hearts First

On March14, U2 was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame at a ceremony at New York's Waldorf Astoria Hotel. Bruce Springsteen provided the induction speech, employing the same incisive commentary, observation and wit that make him a Hall of Fame songwriter as applied to an equally deserving band.

Springsteen's induction speech of U2 (3/14/05):

Uno, dos, tres, catorce. That translates as one, two, three, fourteen. That is the correct math for a rock and roll band. For in art and love and rock and roll, the whole had better equal much more than the sum of its parts, or else you're just rubbing two sticks together searching for fire. A great rock band searches for the same kind of combustible force that fueled the expansion of the universe after the big bang. You want the earth to shake and spit fire, you want the sky to split apart and for God to pour out. It’s embarrassing to want so much and to expect so much from music, except sometimes it happens: the Sun Sessions, Highway 61, Sgt. Peppers, the Band, Robert Johnson, Exile on Main Street, Born to Run... whoops, I meant to leave that one out... uh... the Sex Pistols, Aretha Franklin, the Clash, James Brown, the power of Public Enemy's It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back. This is music meant to take on not only the powers that be but on a good day, the universe and God himself, if he was listening. It's man's accountability, and U2 belongs on this list.

It was the early '80s. I went with Pete Townshend, who always wanted to catch the first whiff of those about to unseat us, to a club in London. There they were: a young Bono (single-handedly pioneering the Irish mullet), the Edge (what kind of name was that?), Adam and Larry -- I was listening to the last band of whom I would be able to name all of its members. They had an exciting show and a big, beautiful sound. They lifted the roof. We met afterwards and they were nice young men. They were Irish. Irish. Now, this would play an enormous part in their success in the States. For what the English occasionally have the refined sensibilities to overcome, we Irish and Italians have no such problem. We come through the door fists and hearts first. U2, with the dark, chiming sound of heaven at their command which, of course, is the sound of unrequited love and longing -- their greatest theme. Their search for God intact, this was a band that wanted to lay claim to not only this world but had their eyes on the next one, too. Now, they’re a real band; each member plays a vital part. I believe they actually practice some form of democracy -- toxic poison in a bands head. In Iraq, maybe. In rock, no. Yet, they survive. They have harnessed the time bomb that exists in the heart of every great rock and roll band that usually explodes, as we see regularly from this stage. But they seemed to have innately understood the primary rule of rock band job security: “Hey, asshole, the other guy is more important than you think he is!” They are both a step forward and direct descendants of the great bands who believed rock music could shake things up in the world, dared to have faith in their audience, who believed if they played their best it would bring out the best in you. They believed in pop stardom and the big time. Now this requires foolishness and a calculating mind. It also requires a deeply held faith in the work you're doing and in its powers to transform. U2 hungered for it all and built a sound, and they wrote the songs that demanded it. They’re keepers of some of the most beautiful sonic architecture in rock and roll.

The Edge, the Edge, the Edge, the Edge. He is a rare and true guitar original and one of the subtlest guitar heroes of all time. He's dedicated to ensemble playing and he subsumes his guitar ego in the group. But do not be fooled. Take Jimi Hendrix, Chuck Berry, Neil Young, Pete Townshend -- guitarists who defined the sound of their band and their times. If you play like them, you sound like them. If you are playing those rhythmic two-note sustained fourths, drenched in echo, you are going to sound like the Edge, my son. Go back to the drawing board and chances are you won’t have much luck. There are only a handful of guitar stylists who can create a world with their instruments, and he's one of them. The Edge's guitar playing creates enormous space and vast landscapes. It is a thrilling and a heartbreaking sound that hangs over you like the unsettled sky. In the turf it stakes out, it is inherently spiritual, it is grace and it is a gift.

Now, all of this has to be held down by something. The deep sureness of Adam Clayton's bass and the rhythms of Larry Mullen's elegant drumming hold the band down while propelling it forward. It's in U2's great rhythm section that the band finds its sexuality and its dangerousness. Listen to "Desire," she moves in "Mysterious Ways," the pulse of "With or Without You." Together Larry and Adam create the element that suggests the ecstatic possibilities of that other kingdom -- the one below the earth and below the belt -- that no great rock band can lay claim to the title without. Now, Adam always strikes me as the professorial one, the sophisticated member. He creates not only the musical but physical stability on his side of the stage. The tone and depth of his bass playing has allowed the band to move from rock to dance music and beyond. One of the first things I noticed about U2 was that underneath the guitar and the bass, they have these very modern rhythms going on. Rather than a straight 2 and 4, Larry often plays with a lot of syncopation, and that connects the band to modern dance textures. The drums often sounded high and tight and he was swinging down there, and this gave the band a unique profile and allowed their rock textures to soar above on a bed of his rhythm. Now Larry, of course, besides being an incredible drummer, bears the burden of being the band's requisite "good-looking member," something we somehow overlooked in the E Street Band. We have to settle for "charismatic." Girls love on Larry Mullen. I have a female assistant that would like to sit on Larry’s drum stool. A male one, too. We all have our crosses to bear.

Bono, where do I begin? Jeans designer, soon-to-be World Bank operator, just plain operator, seller of the Brooklyn Bridge -- oh hold up, he played under the Brooklyn Bridge, that's right. Soon-to-be mastermind operator of the Bono Burger franchise, where more than one million stories will be told by a crazy Irishman. Now I realize that it’s a dirty job and somebody has to do it. But don't quit your day job yet, my friend, you're pretty good at it. And a sound this big needs somebody to ride herd over it, and ride herd over it he does. His voice, big-hearted and open, thoroughly decent no matter how hard he tries. Now he's a great frontman. Against the odds, he is not your mom's standard skinny, ex-junkie archetype. He has the physique of a rugby player... well, an ex-rugby player. Shamen, shyster, one of the greatest and most endearingly naked messianic complexes in rock and roll. God bless you, man! It takes one to know one, of course. You see, every good Irish and Italian-Irish front-man knows that before James Brown there was Jesus. So hold the McDonald arches on the stage set, boys, we are not ironists. We are creations of the heart and of the earth and of the stations of the cross. There's no getting out of it. He is gifted with an operatic voice and a beautiful falsetto rare among strong rock singers. But most important, his is a voice shot through with self-doubt. That's what makes that big sound work. It is this element of Bono's talent, along with his beautiful lyric writing, that gives the often-celestial music of U2 its fragility and its realness. It is the questioning, the constant questioning in Bono's voice, where the band stakes its claim to its humanity and declares its commonality with us. Now Bono’s voice often sounds like it's shouting not over top of the band but from deep within it: "Here we are, Lord, this mess, in your image." He delivers all of this with great drama and an occasional smirk that says, “Kiss me, I’m Irish.” He’s one of the great front-men of the past 20 years. He is also one of the only musicians to devote his personal faith and the ideals of his band into the real world in a way that remains true to rock's earliest implications of freedom and connection and the possibility of something better.

Now the band's beautiful songwriting -- "Pride (In The Name of Love)," "Sunday Bloody Sunday," "I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For," "One," "Where the Streets Have No Name," "Beautiful Day" -- reminds us of the stakes that the band always plays for. It's an incredible songbook. In their music, you hear the spirituality as home and as quest. How do you find God unless he's in your heart, in your desire, in your feet? I believe this is a big part of what's kept their band together all of these years. See, bands get formed by accident, but they don’t survive by accident. It takes will, intent, a sense of shared purpose and a tolerance for your friends' fallibilities and they of yours. And that only evens the odds. U2 has not only evened the odds but they've beaten them by continuing to do their finest work and remaining at the top of their game and the charts for 25 years. I feel a great affinity for these guys as people as well as musicians.

Well, there I was sitting down on the couch in my pajamas with my eldest son. He was watching TV. I was doing one of my favorite things: I was tallying up all the money I passed up in endorsements over the years and thinking of all the fun I could have had with it. Suddenly I hear "Uno, dos, tres, catorce!" I look up. But instead of the silhouettes of the hippie-wannabes bouncing around in the iPod commercial, I see my boys! Oh my God! They sold out! Now, what I know about the iPod is this: it is a device that plays music. Of course, their new song sounded great, my guys are doing great, but methinks I hear the footsteps of my old tape operator of Jimmy Iovine somewhere. Wily, smart. Now, personally, I live an insanely expensive lifestyle that my wife barely tolerates. I burn money, and that calls for huge amounts of cash flow. But, I also have a ludicrous image of myself that keeps me from truly cashing in. You can see my problem. Woe is me. So the next morning, I call up Jon Landau (or as I refer to him, "the American Paul McGuinness"), and I say, "Did you see that iPod thing?" and he says, "Yes." And he says, "And I hear they didn’t take any money." And I said, "They didn’t take any money?" and he says, "No." I said, "Smart, wily Irish guys. Anybody – anybody – can do an ad and take the money. But to do the ad and not take the money... that’s smart. That’s wily." I say, "Jon, I want you to call up Bill Gates or whoever is behind this thing and float this: a red, white and blue iPod signed by Bruce 'The Boss' Springsteen. Now remember, no matter how much money he offers, don’t take it!" At any rate, after that evening for the next month or so, I hear emanating from my lovely 14-year-old son's room, day after day, down the hall calling out in a voice that has recently dropped very low: uno, dos, tres, catorce. The correct math for rock and roll. Thank you, boys.

This band has carried their faith in the great inspirational and resurrective of power of rock and roll. It never faltered -- only a little bit. They believed in themselves but more importantly, they believed in you, too. Thank you Bono, Edge, Adam and Larry. Please welcome U2 to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

A Tale of Two Buildings

Two items of note in the Sunday Daily News (of note only because of their author). A building in Harlem is sold to a group handpicked by the tenants so they won't freeze their asses off again this winter without heat or hot water. And residents of an Upper East Side building square off with their landlord who says he wants to convert the entire 6-story building into private housing for himself, his wife and two kids and his sister-in-law's family.

The upside and downside of real estate in the big city.

Friday, March 18, 2005

Monday, March 14, 2005

Mushy Gummy Ick

I don't like watching old women chewing on lettuce.

I just thought I'd share.

Sunday, March 13, 2005

No Weddings and Three Funerals

In one weekend, I attended the Southern Baptist funeral of 19-month-old Jaylen Robinson, who was beaten and smothered by his baby sitter; the Buddhist funeral of Wai Lwin, a national guard soldier killed by a roadside bomb in Iraq; and a tear-filled public appeal for help by two little girls whose mother was shot dead by a jealous ex-con ex-boyfriend in a dentist's office last week.

That's a lot of random death.

Now, my thoughts on religion are fairly well documented. And as far as God is concerned, if my agnosticism met someone else’s atheism on the street, they might look at each other like Mary-Kate looks at Ashley: similar, confident and thin.

But I am sure that God has nothing to do with death dealt at random. Reason enough to wonder why He's necessary at all.

Randomness is religion enough for me. It's that illusion that there is some purpose behind 10 straight coin tosses coming up heads. That there is some celestial reason you were late to work downtown on 9/11. That your house survived the tsunami. Random chance dictated with cold calculation that your baby sitter was insane, that the IED exploded under your Humvee, that your mom's ex-boyfriend just couldn't move on.

But then everyone has their own thing.

The Baptist funeral was an upbeat, soul-singing, spirited affair. Something like a combination of a recruiting drive for Jesus mixed with "American Idol" on a night dedicated to the Rev. Al Green -- without all the white people. I was the only white face in a sea of 400 black mourners in Crown Heights, who stood and shouted and held their hands to the air. The pastor spoke with eloquence and passion that little Jaylen, who died when his mouth was covered with duct tape and his feet stabbed with scissors, is in a better place now with Jesus.

I have no idea where Jaylen is now -- certainly not in the tiny white and gold casket buried in Linden, N.J. And I understand why people are comforted with the fairy tale of a heaven where, as the pastor claimed, Jesus is now cradling Jaylen, caressing him and giving him all the love he'll ever need.

But none of this stopped anyone from crying. The parents looked a lot like zombies. Despite all protestations from the clergy that this was all part of God's inscrutable plan, tears and pain ruled the day.

Buddhists, like Wai Lwin's family and friends, are so accepting of death that in Thailand, I never met someone who didn't smile when they were speaking of it. Even a pregnant woman whose husband was hit by a truck smiled through the entire exchange. But Lwin's parents looked like they needed help just walking to the limousine. Perhaps it's that intrusive Western influence.

So? So, a God who lets bad things happen to good people is a God not worth worshipping. And saying that we humans aren't worthy to fathom his purposes is not just a cop-out, it's a con: There's an all-knowing, all-seeing, benevolent Lord over all humanity whose purposes can't be discerned; give him your love -- don't ask questions that anticipate answers.

I'd rather toss a coin and shrug than give my life over to that dude.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Ay Caramba!

The winner of a tequila-drinking contest in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic won $330 after downing 50 shots. Then he died.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005


"The Contender" got me last night. There's just something so wholesome and rivetting and definitive in boxing without Don King.

The show is just as corny and over-produced as any Mark Burnett endeavor, but why not? It's a friggin' show about a sporting event which in real life is corny and over-produced and, on top of that, fixed like a castrated doberman. Here you get to know the fighters, and if last night's brilliantly fought five-rounder proves a harbinger, you might not even need a rooting interest between two decent and inspiring adversaries.

But fuck all that. This show got me the moment the camera flashed to the audience of the big fight. Jimmy Caan? Melanie Griffith? Chuck Norris? Chuck? Norris? Oh, Mark Burnett, you do know how to make me crack up.

And yet, there is nothing better on TV these days than HBO's "Deadwood." Just like "The Contender" is a boxing show for people who don't necessarily like boxing, "Deadwood" is a western for people who don't necessarily like westerns. "Deadwood" is like the anti-western. In this town, the whores are scabby, dirt is worn like a badge and badges are hardly worn. Cold stares can be even dirtier. The foul language flows like some frontier beat poetry. Menace growls and farts in the gut of each scene. And its funny as all hell.

Ian McShane plays the town's reigning bad influence with explitive-laden, whiskey-snorting, skull-bashing glory. With a heart of equal parts coal and mush and a mind for unexpected wit, he might be the most entertaining flesh-and-blood (exempting Homer) television character of all-time.

Monday, March 07, 2005

A Shred of Decency

Just a bunch of stuff tossed into an industrial shredder. Refrigerators, steel drums, couches. Good clean fun.

Saturday, March 05, 2005

Hit & Run & Cry

From Saturday's Daily News, the story of a 20-year-old St. John's student whose car rammed into a tree on the LIE, killing her and two other passengers. They were hit by another car that fled the scene. Eventually, the other driver surrendered to the police.

I spent nine hours in the Bronx yesterday with the girl's family as they were notified by the police and after they identified her body. When her mother was told what happened, she made one of those human shrieks of pain you just never want to hear.

Some stories are more indelible than newsprint.

Penis Blood-Sucking, Herpes-Infected Religious Wackos

I'm all for tolerance, yo. To each his own, I say. But if you needed further evidence that some ultra-Orthodox religious practices are just plain creepy, check out this item from this week's Forward. It describes how a newborn baby died of herpes, possibly after a moyel performed the ritual circumcision by the traditional method of sucking the blood from the penis with his mouth.

And no, this hasn't yet been brought up by the Michael Jackson defense team.

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Rocket Mannequin

Back in that magic year of 1978, one of our national treasures, William Shatner, performed a ruffled-tuxedo, cigarette-dangling, spoken word rendition of Elton John's "Rocket Man" for a live audience at the Science Fiction Film Awards, introduced by lyricist Bernie Taupin. It was one of the ages.

And just a few years ago, the geniuses behind "Family Guy" worked in a brilliant homage as performed by newborn Stewie. Thanks to GorillaMask, you can now see them both back-to-back.

Pure genius. Pure Shatner

Rebecca Miller's picture speaks much more than my 2,200 words

The Miller's Daughter

Check out the first part of my profile of award-winning director Rebecca Miller (daughter of Arthur Miller and wife of Daniel Day-Lewis) in this month's issue of The Independent. For the rest, you'll need to join AIVF or hit your local newsstand. Or just send me an email if you really, really can't be bothered, you cheap, lazy bastard.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Congratulations, Hillary-san