Monday, July 30, 2007
My wife's cousin got married last week. She's American and the groom is Australian, so by law the wedding took place on another planet.
Presiding over the ceremony was some dude they found waiting in line to buy Harry Potter outside Barnes & Noble.
See all the photos here
Friday, July 27, 2007
Baby boomers hog most of the cachet -- just try and pick up a copy of Newsweek this year without being assaulted by someone's aggresively idealized nostalgia for, I don't know, Hot Tuna or some such group.
My cultural education took hold in the 80s. Michael Jackson and Madonna ascended the pop mountain, accompanied by Bruce Springsteen and Prince. But Sprinsteen's 80s superstardom had its roots in the more timeless music he created in the 70s. Prince, always a prickly fellow, has receded and reappeared, though never with the same clout he weilded in 1985. Madonna showed some sticking power and provided the template for the protean pop starlet squandered by the likes of Britney Spears. Michael Jackson is, well, icky.
But when I think of the biggest ongoing international cultural phenomena I've been able to witness from inception, there is simply no contest. They are the five, yellow prototypes for the American family in the modern TV era.
After 20 years, 400 episodes and countless d'ohs, The Simpsons Movie opens in theaters today. And though I'm sure I'll see it, I can't pretend the TV show hasn't lost a good deal if not all of its originality, satiric bite and -- sadly -- humor. Over the last three seasons, I can't remember more than a laugh or two per episode and none sticks out like any from the first six seasons.
But don't label me as one of the legions of former fans who have adopted the pose of the show's infamous Comic Book Guy, haughtily dismissing each new installment as the "Worst. Episode. Ever.'' I never expected the show to cruise at its unprecedented altitude of hilarity until End Times. When a crack team of rotating writers have lampooned just about every aspect of society and human interaction for 20 years, the cutting edge can travel around in a full circle, leaving them stuck on an island left to cannibalize themselves.
Too many recent episodes (and by that, I mean almost 10 years of episodes) have recycled bits and even whole storylines from previous, superior scripts. There are only so many times Homer can screw up his marriage or that Lisa feels isolated by her morality and smarts before the emotional core that used to drive the show degenerates into schmaltz and novelty. These days, the heartfelt family dynamic that Executive Producer James L. Brooks instilled in the show's infancy often feels shoehorned into episodes cluttered with random, silly shenanigans. It's as though "The Simpsons'' feels obligated to remain true to its roots even while trying and failing to compete with the far more transgressive and cutting humor of "Simpsons'' acolyte "The Family Guy'' or "South Park.''
So I'm hopeful the new movie --four years in development -- might find some new spark inside this sturdy engine. The reviews seem promising, and I've promissed Arielle I'd wait to see it with her. Although I'm tempted by the urge to weasel out of that commitment so I can sooner see if the defining cultural influence of my life can once again drip rays of slobbering joy like a giant glazed donut at the center of the earth's orbit.
After all, as Homer once said: "Weaseling out of things is important to learn. It's what separates us from the animals ... except the weasel.''
Thursday, July 26, 2007
If it seems like years since Curtis Martin carried a football for the Jets, it's because it has been. He ran for 29 yards on 15 carries against the Patriots on Dec. 4, 2005. A lot has happened since then, and the Jets will continue to play games. But it's hard to believe anyone will ever again run the ball with the same determination and consistence as #28.
Sure, long before his career-ending injury I had grown weary of Martin's un-explosive, declining game. But that's only because I remember his earlier dominance. And even when he wasn't the best on the field, he was still great. He gained 1,000 yards in each of his first 10 years. He might be the most low-key of all sure Hall of Famers.
Though our new backfield looks solid with Thomas Jones and Leon Washington, I'm sure it won't be long until we're cursing ourselves and wishing for even a gimpy Curtis Martin.
Wednesday, July 25, 2007
Here's a TPMTV lowlight reel of your Attorney General perjuring himself before the Senate Judicial Committee Tuesday. It's almost unfathomable how little respect this administration has for the laws of our country. It's almost comical, but then Josh Marshall presents a convincing argument about just how dangerous this all might be.
Tuesday, July 24, 2007
Fresh out of rehab, above is Lindsay Lohan's mugshot after being arrested and booked on two misdemeanor charges of suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol and driving on a suspended license and two felony charges of possession of cocaine and transport of a narcotic.
When asked if her last stint in rehab had helped her at all, Lohan said "Totally. But they give you, like, the weakest cocktails there. The rum and coke tasted just like coke. But hey, that reminds me, I did find some great connections on some killer blow while I was in there."
Monday, July 23, 2007
Friday, July 20, 2007
All secrets will be revealed as 45-year-old children everywhere crack open their copies of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, the seventh and final installment in J.K. Rowling's rousing series.
I've read them all, and thanks to a fortuitous girlfriend scheduling convenience, I will have the opportunity to crank through the book this weekend before any cruel shitheel embarks on a drive-by shouting campaign, buzzing past bookstores and shouting "Dumbledore dies on page 576!"
Of course this, was the last book's big spoiler. (Sorry if you haven't read the book, but fuck, it's been two years already -- you obviously don't give a shit). This year everyone is consumed with the question of whether Harry dies or Snape is evil and shit. But I wanted to make sure I put this down in the blogosphere for safe-keeping before everyone else learns the obvious: Of course, Snape isn't evil. Only a child would think otherwise.
Ever since the first book, Snape has been cast as the perfect red herring -- a false villain. Harry misinterprets his efforts to save him and confounds his hatred for Harry's dead father with evil intentions. But we learn in the fifth book that Harry's dad was a cocky bully, who pestered poor, young misfit Snape in school. So who can really blame the guy for holding a grudge against his anointed son, the kid whom everyone loves and who really doesn't do a damn thing worthy of his hero status without dumb luck or someone's help? (Also, I've never understood the hero-worship of Dumbledore, who could avert every tragedy in all of these books so far by simply leveling with Harry in the beginning, instead of sitting him down at the end to explain how everything got so screwed up because he's an idiot. I mean, the guy has "Dumb" in his name.)
And sure, Snape was a Death Eater, sworn to lick the boots of He Who Shall Not Be Named Except When Convenient To People Who Don't Want to Continue This Rather Long Euphemistic Pseudonym. But Dumbledore was certain of his allegiance, and I think very obviously betting his life on it.
Ah, but Snape killed Dumbledore, right? We were there when the weakened old wizard begged Snape to spare his life, weren't we? Yeah. Duh. But everything we know about Rowling's misdirecting style of mystery writing tells us exactly how that fatal scene really played out. And though I don't have as strong an opinion about how much else will work out in the final book, I'm willing to bet a night's worth of butterbeers on this: Dumbledore wasn't begging Snape to spare his life. He was begging Snape to kill him.
The reasons for this will likely be tortuous, much like the endless bits of exposition that plague all of these books. Pages and pages of someone (usually Dumbledore) explaining things to the point we don't even bother to notice how many holes needed such filling. But the only way Dumbledore's death will make any satisfying narrative sense will be if he and Snape had an ironclad agreement that if it came down to it, he would have to kill Dumbledore to protect his standing with Voldemort. Now Voldemort can hardly question his loyalty. And now Snape can help Harry and the Order of Phoenix defeat Voldemort from the inside.
Dumbledore has been wrong from time to time, but never about things he says he is sure of. And he said he was sure of Snape's true allegiance. He bet his life on it, which -- and all you Islamist fuckbags should note -- is how a true martyr operates, by giving his life for the success of a greater cause without slaughtering innocents.
In the endgame, Snape might very well pay for his treachery against the Dark Lord with his own life, making him the truest tragic figure in the entire series. Here is a guy who overcame his honest and valid hatred of a man and his son and sacrificed his own life so that the boy and the greater good will live on.
So stop all this Snape speculation. It's so obvious, even stupid-ass Harry might figure it out.
Thursday, July 19, 2007
Check out Scott Baio dominate the obstacle course on the 1980 Battle of the Network Stars with Howard Cosell in overdrive. Almost as fascinating as Scott Baio's new VH-1 Show, "Scott Baio is 45 and Single," which really makes you wonder if megalomaniac depressive womanizers should seek therapy on televised reality shows.
Watch Penn & Teller shit all over PETA, which is basically a terrorist organization or at the very least a bunch of people who love animals more than they love people. Take note of the nice lady who equates lifestock farms with slavery and the Holocaust.
Marvel at some dude from Massapequa channeling Chris "Mad Dog" Russo as he babbles incoherently about "Pac Man" Jones. Actually, this guy could have gone for a little more incoherence.
Enjoy the videos on Lou Reed's webiste, including one trippy take of the Velvet Underground playing over footage of the Lawrence Welk Show.
And I'm not sure how it came up in conversation last weekend, but I became curious about the memorial service for Jim Henson after he died in 1990. The service can't be found on YouTube, though a DVD set can be purchased from this guy. Up top is a clip from a Muppet Show tribute that aired shortly after he died.
But I got plenty of tears flowing just by reading this account of the service. Just a sample:
After a short heartfelt speech by Sesame writer/director John Stone, the soft sounds of a piano were heard. As we wondered what or who was next, we saw Big Bird gently, almost elegantly, stroll out onto the stage. He was wearing a Kermit green bow tie. The tears flowed as Bird began to sing, "Bein' Green." You could hear Carrol Spinney's voice struggling to get through the poignant song as he finished, looked up at heaven and said, "Thank you Kermit." I tear up just thinking about it, all these years later.
And if you can stand it, download some of the audio segments from Muppet Musique. There's just no way to avoid the beauty and heartbreak of Frank Oz telling a hilarious story of how Henson (who played Ernie to Oz's Bert) made him a bizarre Christmas gift sculpture of Bert with naked pictures of Oz in Bert's eyes. Oz breaks up toward the end, barely able to finish as he left the stage.
That was more than 17 years ago. Hard to believe. And he died of strep infection that could have been cured by antibiotics if he'd only gone to a doctor. There's another lesson here for Scott Baio, I figure.
Friday, July 13, 2007
If you watch the video, Gupta comes across as perfectly calm and agreeable with a firm grasp of the facts. Moore comes off as defensive, irrational and evasive -- unwilling to address perfectly legitimate criticisms of his work. He isn't purporting to merely portray the forest for the trees when it comes to healthcare policy. He says over and over again that each of his trees are the gospel truth, raked over by an army of fact-checking lumberjacks. I'd have little problem with him if he'd only own up to his intentionally deceptive tactics, just flash a mischeivous smile, shrug and say: "You caught me, I know. I'm a bastard. But let's talk about the real problem here..." Instead, he comes off like Cheney denying what's happening in Iraq.
I'm reminded of the bit in Bowling for Columbine when he shows Charlton Heston brandishing a rifle at an NRA convention, daring gun-rights opponents to pry it from his cold, dead hands. The editing of this sequence looks as though it was shot in Colorado just days after the shootings -- making Heston look like a complete monster. But the reality was quite different. (scroll down to #2) In another instance, Moore actually chops up two different speeches to completely change the scope and context of what Heston says.
Thursday, July 12, 2007
Tuesday, July 10, 2007
I think that if given the opportunity, I could become a hardcore Karaoke addict. I can't really explain it, but I know it's true. Of course, the only way I can really let my true Karaoke-ness out is with alcohol, and it's always better if everyone else is drinking as well.
Sadly, I have only had one or two Karaoke experiences in my life. Most recently, I went to a Karoake place last summer with some co-workers and had a blast - my shining moment was my rendition of Eminem's "Lose Yourself"; my low point was likely Shania Twain's "Man, I Feel Like a Woman".
Anyway, we're planning another office outing next week, and I want to be ready with a good list of songs - not just for me, but to make sure everyone else isn't picking out shitty material that's either too long, too obscure, or both.
Based on some quick googl-ing, along with my own preferences, I started the following list of the best drunk karaoke songs. But I need more suggestions - Birdman, I'm looking at you!!!
You Shook Me All Night Long
Don’t Stop Believin’
Sweet Child O’ Mine
Pour Some Sugar on Me
Baby Got Back
Faith – George Michael
Don’t You Want Me – Human League
Build Me Up Buttercup
Two Princes – Spin Doctors
What else ya got?
Monday, July 09, 2007
"OK, 15 after the hour on WJOK-The Jock. We've got Manny from Manalapan on the line.
"What's happening, Manny?"
"Hey, how you doin', Rocky. First time, long time."
"Thanks for offering that piece of information, Manny. I don't know how I could proceed with this conversation absent the knowledge you have listened to this show for quite a long time and are just now calling for the first time. Very pertinent. Quite a service you've provided to me and the tens of thousands of listeners out there. This must be quite a moment for you."
"No, really. I can't think of anything more crucial than discerning you are in fact a sports-talk-radio virgin as it relates to this show. You must be treated with respect. I will be gentle."
"Why are you ragging on me?"
"Nothing. Sorry. What's on your mind?"
"Yeah. OK. I've been wondering about A-Rod, and —"
"— Thanks, Manny. Next caller is Eddie from Edison. Eddie?"
"What's up, Rock? First time, lo—"
"— Kenny from Kearny is calling from a cell phone. Go ahead, Kenny."
"Why are you hanging up on everyone tonight, Rock?"
"Must be something I ate. What's your question, Ken?"
"All these people complaining about Chad Pennington's arm —"
"— And, let's see . . . We've got Alan from Allamuchy calling in. Speak to me, Alan."
"Yeah. Well. Um, is there something maybe you want to talk about?"
"Nope. Next up is Sanjeep from Sea Girt. Hit me, baby."
"Honestly, I can't think of a thing to say to you."
"Sounds like a nonstarter to me, Sanjeep. We'll go to line three with Tanya from Tewksbury. Go."
"I think you might need a vacation or something, Rocky. You've got an itchy trigger finger on those phone lines."
"You're right about that. What's on your mind, Tanya?"
"I was just thinking about how after 9/11, there was all this talk about how we could never take sports so seriously anymore. How in comparison with all the death and danger it would be absurd to place so much importance on who wins or loses some stupid game."
"Interesting. And now what?"
"And now it's like 9/11 never happened. Everyone has gone back to the way things were before. And I'm one of them. Every day after the Mets lose, I walk around with a knot in my stomach and yell at my boyfriend."
"Is this a bad thing?"
"That's just it. As far as I'm concerned it's my great privilege as an American to drown myself in the relative silliness of sports. If there's anything worth fighting for in this country, maybe that's it."
"And not our freedoms? Not the rule of law? Habeas corpus? Civil rights?"
"Of course, those are important. Crucial. We can't take those for granted, even if our leaders might work to take them away. And we need to stay vigilant against our enemies. But what I'm saying is America's greatness lies in the things we can happily take for granted. The joy of frivolity. Those things we thought were lost forever after Sept. 11."
"I see what you're saying, Tanya. You don't know what you've got until it's gone, and some of the best things are the things you don't need to begin with. Like this show for —"
Monday, July 02, 2007
A dozen 7-11s transformed into Kwik-E Marts over the weekend to promote the coming Simpsons movie.
In their honor, the wisdom of Apu Nahasapeemapetilon, Jr., Ph.D.:
- Silly customer, you cannot hurt a Twinkie!
- Yes! I am a citizen! Now which way to the welfare office? I'm kidding, I'm kidding, I work, I work.
- By the 7 arms of Visnu, I swear it. I am not a Hindu.
- Hello. I am not interested in buying your house, but I would like to use your rest room, flip through your magazines, rearrange your carefully shelved items and handle your food products in an unsanitary manner. Ha! Now you know how it feels! [runs off]
- Lisa: Wow, a secret staircase. But what do you do if someone wants a non-alcoholic beer?Apu: You know, it's never come up.
- Mrs. Simpson, I--I cannot go there. That is the scene of my spiritual depantsing.
- No offense, but we're putting the bitch on ice.
- Apu: Poor Mister Homer. Could it be that my snack treats are responsible for his wretched health?
Customer: Give me some jerky.
Apu: Would you like some vodka with that?
- Inspector: Apu Nahasapeemapetilan, you have disgraced the Kwik-E-Mart Corporation.
Apu: But, sir, I was only following standard procedure.
Inspector: Ah, true. But it's also standard procedure to blame any problems on a scapegoat or sacrificial lamb.
Apu: Uh huh, and if I can obtain for you these animals?
- He slept, he stole, he was rude to the customers. Still, there goes the best damned employee a convenience store ever had.
- Hey! Hey! Hey! I have asked you nicely not to mangle my merchandise. You leave me no choice but to...ask you nicely again.
- Homer: No offense Apu, but when they're handing out religions you must be out taking a whizz.
Apu: Mr. Simpson, pay for your purchases and get out...and come again.