Thursday, August 30, 2007


I was watching the Discovery Channel a while ago and I happened to catch Sharkman about a guy whose mission in life is to find a way to masturbate the nose of great white sharks so they'll go into a trance. I recommend it.

For Your Perusal

The Fate of the Bonds Ball

This is slightly older, but I don't remember hearing about it at the time. Two men claimed the record 2001 73rd home run ball hit by Barry Bonds. Who ended up with it? Comic booker and bad movie spawner Todd Mcfarlane! He purchased it at auction for $450,000 which was split between the two men fighting over the ball. One lawyer's bill for services rendered? $473,530.32.

Assassination Politics by Jim Bell

An article arguing that the way to end war and secure the deserved rights of all people is to anonymously pay unknown killers to assassinate government employees.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Classic Rock Musings

Who decides what's "classic rock"? - Digital Noise: Music & Tech (CNET Blogs)
(Another gem courtesy of Herr Zrbo.)

This guy's message board is almost as funny as ours. First off, I'd say there are at least six or seven Bob Seger songs that I could listen to repeatedly and still enjoy. I actually have a few in my mp3 collection. Here's what I've got: "Night Moves," "Main Street," "Turn the Page," "Hollywood Nights," "Old Time Rock and Roll," "Still the Same," "We've Got Tonight," "Against the Wind." That's eight. Pretty good, on the whole. True, these songs don't really "rock" very hard, but they're melodic, tasteful, and well-produced, and I think they've aged pretty well all things considered. Based on those eight songs alone, I'd say I like Bob Seger more than Bad Company and Bachman Turner Overdrive and whatnot. Hell, even Bob Seger's eight best songs are probably better than Springsteen's eight best songs (or at least they go down smoother). Besides, according to my main man Stephen Thomas Erlewine, Bob Seger's had a whole "pre-Top 40" career that's been completely overlooked. It's on my list of discographies to check out.

I also look back in quasi-fondness on the seemingly arbitrary distinctions made by my childhood classic rock radio station (I believe it was 97.3). For example, the Beatles were allowed, but only late-period Beatles. Apparently even an early uptempo tune like "I Want To Hold Your Hand" was for pussies, whereas the balls-to-the-wall wimpiness of "Something" was somehow perfectly OK. Jackson Browne made the cut, but James Taylor was a no-no. Elton John was fine, but Billy Joel was too far. And it couldn't be anything past 1980 unless it was either a new release by an older artist, or U2. In retrospect it's remarkable how much of my favorite music from that era (1965-1980, "from Rubber Soul to the death of John Lennon," as one poster puts it), didn't even poke its nose through that station's programming. I'd say about half. But of course, then I wouldn't have had to pleasure of discovering all those artists myself.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Weekly World News R.I.P.

Alas, my friends, it is a dark day for journalism everywhere. For on August 27th, the Weekly World News will be printing its last issue. No more Bat Boy. No more P'lod. No more Hitler sightings. We'll simply have to make do with real fake news from now on.

In that spirit, here are some current favorites from The Onion:

Live From Congress: The Skull Fucking Bill Of 2007

As A Working Mom, It's Hard To Find Time To Masturbate

Fucking Yankees, Reports Nation

And an old favorite:

Bob Marley Rises From Grave To Free Frat Boys From Bonds Of Oppression

And finally, a story so unbelievable it simply had to be true:

Texas Rangers beat Baltimore Orioles 30-3 - Fox Sports

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

The Indie Wars

Pitchfork has an interesting review by Matt LeMay of This Is Next, a sampler of popular indie bands. The selection is predictable, made up as it is of bands from the college coffeehouse circuit as I like to think of it. In other words, these are bands that sound enough like 'normal' music to not offend anyone. (The possible exception is Sonic Youth, but they usually have at least one slower, softer song per album. To be honest, although I like Sonic Youth, I never understood why they were the ones to break out of the mid-80's indie scene. Maybe they just stuck around longer than anyone else?)

LeMay makes a good point in observing that all of these tracks are available for free on the internet because indie labels, being far more progressive than their major label kin out of economic necessity, realize that making a good single available for free helps, rather than hurts, album sales. Where LeMay goes astray, however, is in assuming that there is no audience for this type of collection.

"It's hard to imagine a Spoon fan picking up this CD and discovering Sonic Youth for the first time; in fact, it's hard to imagine a Spoon fan-- or a fan of any of these artists-- picking up this CD at all."

Okay, but is it hard to imagine say, a Nora Jones fan who happens to have heard of The Shins because of the Garden State soundtrack discovering Feist this way? She is close enough to the standard female pop sound that it wouldn't be at all surprising to hear her on mainstream radio. Maybe this compilation does more to show the odd, and sometimes inexplicable distinctions that are made between genres nowadays.

"Even so, as a shoddy, transparent, and poorly packaged ploy to sell indie rock cachet to the 'casual' consumer, this compilation is far more condescending than some dude who gets pissed off when he sees a Shins CD at Starbucks. Not every attempt to bring underground music to a wider audience is praiseworthy, and the recent popular emergence of indie music is a product of circumstances that can't really be corralled or replicated."

Sure, it's not praiseworthy, but what's wrong with it? The popular emergence of indie sounds can indeed be corralled and replicated, as the grunge and electronica scenes have shown us. What LeMay fails to mention is that the music chosen for this compilation sounds very close to accepted 'non-indie' music. And if that's the case, why expect major labels to treat it any differently? I understand why This Is Next received a 0.0, and I don't even disagree with that rating. But every single compilation like this, the NOW series and it's ilk, deserves the same rating. In these heady file-sharing days, if you aren't getting good cover art and interesting liner notes you aren't getting anything.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

They'll Do It To You Every Time

From IMBD:
Seagal Seeks FBI Apology for Derailing His Career

Actor Steven Seagal is seeking an apology from the Federal Bureau Of Investigation, for allegedly harming his career by implicating he hired a private detective to intimidate journalists from writing unflattering stories about him. The 56-year-old has made 12 movies since 2001's Exit Wounds - all have been released directly onto DVD, bypassing cinemas, and Seagal is convinced the leaked release of an October 2002 FBI affidavit linking him to the mob is responsible for his decline in popularity. The affidavit detailed how Seagal hired private eye Anthony Pellicano to threaten reporters, before the investigation focused entirely on Pellicano, who is now in prison awaiting a trial on charges including wire-tapping, But Seagal has never been publicly cleared by the FBI, and the actor wants this done so his reputation is immediately restored, reports the Los Angeles Times. Seagal recently said, "False FBI accusations fuelled thousands of articles saying that I terrorize journalists and associate with the Mafia. These kinds of inflammatory allegations scare studio heads and independent producers - and kill careers." He added, "I was sick of hearing my name associated with a crime the government knew I had nothing to do with. Until it happens to you, you can't imagine what it does to your life."

25 Years Old: Too Young To Die?

Happy Birthday - Compact Disc Turns 25
(courtesy of Herr Zrbo)

Monday, August 20, 2007

An Op-Ed Worth Reading

The NYTimes has an op-ed up written by soldiers returning from deployment in Iraq. I highly recommend it for those interested in the situation.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Golden Goof: Tom Tom Club's "Genius of Love"

What does it say about the current state of mainstream pop music when a song by a throwaway side project from the 80s is better than anything I've heard on the radio in the last six months? It's hard to put my finger on exactly what makes Tom Tom Club's "Genius of Love" so - in the words of Robert Palmer - so simply irresistable, but I could put this little number on repeat for days and never play it out. For starters, even though it's barely a song, somehow it works. Like many Talking Heads tracks from around the same period, it sounds like it was written in about five minutes while the band was farting around in the studio, but a different approach really wouldn't have suited it any better. There's simply no substitute for a million dollar riff. In fact, the groove is so monstrous that the lyrics are essentially an afterthought. But if they're filler, they're pretty weird filler. Behold:

What you gonna do when you get out of jail?
I'm gonna have some fun
What do you consider fun?
Fun, natural fun

I'm in heaven
With my boyfriend, my laughing boyfriend
There's no beginning and there is no end
Time isn't present in that dimension
He'll take my arm
When we're walkin', rolling and rocking
It's one time I'm glad I'm not a man
Feels like I'm dreaming, but I'm not sleeping

I'm in heaven
With the maven of funk mutation
Clinton's musicians such as Bootsy Collins
Raise expectations to a new intention
No one can sing
Quite like Smokey, Smokey Robinson
Wailin' and shakin' to Bob Marley
Reggae's expanding with Sly and Robbie

All the weekend
Boyfriend was missing
I surely miss him
The way he'd hold me in his warm arms
We went insane when we took cocaine.

Stepping in a rhythm to a Kurtis Blow
Who needs to think when your feet just go
With a hiditihi and a hipitiho
Who needs to think when your feet just go ...
Who needs to think when your feet just go ...
James Brown, James Brown
James Brown, James Brown

If you see him
Please remind him, unhappy boyfriend
Well he's the genius of love
He's got a greater depth of feeling
Well he's the genius of love
He's so deep.

This is what happens when smart people write a stupid song: you get some kind of freakish stupid/smart hybrid. "The maven of funk mutation"? "It's one time I'm glad I'm not a man"? "Greater depth of feeling"? I love that one. Instead of the usual "He loves me so," it's "He's got a greater depth of feeling." I'm tempted to say that the lyrics manage to achieve the ironic, cut-and-paste, slightly role-playing quality of David Byrne's best, except that I don't think Tina and Chris were actually going for that at all. My hunch is that they just wanted to give a bunch of random shout-outs to all their favorite black musicians and stick some pseudo-Byrne cliche-twisting in between. In the end, there's no cohesion between any of the verses whatsoever, but hey, cohesion is kind of overrated these days.

Then there's the delivery, which AMG memorably describes as "dreamy, sighing, yet curiously flat and emotionless." You get the impression they weren't even aware the mic was on. And yet, and's perfect. All these elements that could have been so bad in another song just seem so right in this one. Like how it opens in the middle of the riff. Or how they stretch out "Smokey Robinson" to fit the beat, so it comes out "Smo-key-rob-IN son." You couldn't write a song this endearingly goofy if you tried.

Frantz and Weymouth must have been as shocked as anybody when the song became a hit. In fact, it actually peaked much higher on the r&b charts (#2) than on the pop charts (#31)! I'd say that's no small feat for a white married couple. They must have felt pretty proud that the song was so eagerly embraced by the r&b community. Hell, that riff has become as much of a sampling cornerstone as Chic's "Good Times" or James Brown's "Funky Drummer."

The lesson? You can do anything once you put your synthesizer to it.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Stanley Fish Gets Some Coffee

Ron Rosenbaum has an article up at Slate making fun of Stanley Fish's op-ed in the Times about Starbucks. I was reminded of Baudrillard's similarly amusing writings about jogging.
...You stop a horse that is bolting. You do not stop a jogger who is jogging. Foaming at the mouth, his mind riveted on the inner countdown to the moment when he will achieve a higher plane of consciousness, he is not to be stopped. If you stopped him to ask the time, he would bite your head off.
That's right. Don't mess with me when I'm jogging.

I think that most attacks against academics are stupid. Yes, some of them can be wildly unrealistic and unintentionally funny, but they aren't hurting anyone. If a professor convinces your nice, upper-class kid to become a Marxist they'll come right back around when you give them that nice shiny graduation present. But sometimes these professors, usually "theory" professors, for lack of a better term, just go so far that even my good natured self can't resist making fun. Am I the only one that laughs out loud when they read Baudrillard, Fish, Jameson, and others?

Edit: I just read the other Starbucks article up today at Slate and I thought I'd comment on one section.

Simon breaks down the Starbucks appeal into three categories: functional (caffeine is addictive), emotional (Starbucks is self-gifting), and the "expressive" category. We buy Starbucks to show others that we are "someone who can afford luxury."

There's a simpler explanation. Coffee tastes good to many people and espresso coffee tastes better then drip coffee. Espresso coffee machines are expensive and somewhat difficult to operate(in comparison to drip at least). At the same time, many people want a social environment to hang out in. European style cafes are popular in college towns but in other places they have negative connotations. Because Starbucks is popular and accepted by mainstream culture it doesn't carry those connotations. If you take this into account, it's not surprising at all that Starbucks has become so popular. What do you do when the last pool hall closes in your little Texas town? Go to Starbucks!

Really, what other option do you have in most places if you don't want to shop or sit at home? In my home town you could go to the library or a bar I suppose. But bars in America are not nearly as sociable as pubs in England and the library doesn't stay open very late. Starbucks, and perhaps even more, Borders bookstore, offers people a place to go. Huge multinational corporations are surely responsible for their share of evil, but some are also providing a valuable social service that is not quantifiable with standard economics.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Not To Beat A Dead Horse (Or Rather, Two Dead Horses)...

Martin Scorsese Remembers Antonioni - New York Times
Woody Allen Remembers Bergman - New York Times

It's always nice to see artists writing about other artists. Their commentary is usually more appreciative and well-rounded than critical commentary on the same subject. When you read an artist talking about another artist, it's like a double-whammy, because you can learn something about two artists at the same time. Whereas when you just read some shitty critic writing about an artist, you'll most likely be learning only about the artist (and possibly not even that). In fact, the best critics manage to elevate their commentary to the level of art. That said, I think Woody's piece is definitely better-written, although Scorsese certainly has more filmmaking talent in his corner, which brings a little more weight to his opinion. Still, my hunch is that Woody would not have bothered to write an obituary for almost any other director, whereas Scorsese probably relishes the chance to do one for almost anybody. I get the impression that there are at least 200 other directors that Scorsese likes just as much as Antonioni, while you can definitely tell that Bergman is really Woody's all-time favorite director. The directors that I've heard Scorsese blab on about the most are probably Hitchcock, John Ford, Michael Powell and Jean-Luc Godard.

The Face of Wimpy Fascism

“The fallback position in politics is, if you don’t know what you want to be about, and if you don’t know what your vision is, go at somebody else,” Mr. Rove said in an interview with Rush Limbaugh.

Amusingly, Rove's political strategy has been to attack opponents with negative adds from the earliest moments of a race, largely ignoring the policy and personality of the candidate he is working for.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Stewart and Colbert Testimony Sought

Reuters reports that YouTube is seeking the testimony of John Stewart and Stephen Colbert in their effort to not pay Viacom 1 billllion dollars. This raises and interesting question. Do they want Colbert to testify as himself or in character?

Ahead of the suit, Colbert had even urged fans to make him a star on sites like YouTube.
But did he really mean it literally? What if he meant it both literally and sarcastically?

On another note, doesn't this sound a lot like the mistake the music industry made 10 years ago? If your product is doing well, and profits are sizable, do you really want to risk alienating your fans in the pursuit of complete control?

Ooh ooh ooh someone's really smart
Ooh ooh ooh complete control, yeah that's a laugh

Is Reality a Simulation?

The NYTimes has a piece today considering the hypothesis put forth by Nick Bostrom, a professor at Oxford, that the universe is a simulation being run by 'post-humans' to study their past. This hypothesis may be fun to think about, but the article doesn't deal with it well. The author, John Tierney, doesn't mention the extensive history of the philosophical debates over the nature of the universe. Many people have suggested something along these lines before, although they didn't specifically mention computer simulations. They talked about dreams and divine experiments, or suggested that on a cosmic scale our personal reality may serve a purpose we do not consider. Changing this part of the hypothetical doesn't do much to alter the debate.

This idea seems to fall under the category 'ideas amusingly overestimating humanity's place in the universe'. Why would you assume that our descendants are the ones doing the simulating? Maybe the species that hideously butchers humanity and takes control of the planet but us in for historical accuracy? Even if 'post-humans' with very fast computers(so fast that they could, in effect, create and house an entire parallel universe) do exist, why would they care about us? If they are so post human, wouldn't they just know what it's like to be us?

Along this line, I came up with some hypothetical situations Tierney didn't mention. Maybe our descendants don't like us, or are just mean, and created this universe to fuck with us. Maybe they wanted to give us a chance to make choices they didn't. Maybe they're doing something entirely different and our entire galaxy is just a byproduct, cosmic exhaust if you will. Now, what if you replace the idea of 'post-humans' with the idea of God? It's pretty much the same. If you want to believe in them, fine. Personally, it sounds much more likely that the universe just is, and nothing was made for humanity.

The article includes some unfortunate bits, including an obligatory Matrix reference. Then, at the end of the first page on the internet version, we get:
It’s unsettling to think of the world being run by a futuristic computer geek, although we might at last dispose of that of classic theological question: How could God allow so much evil in the world? For the same reason there are plagues and earthquakes and battles in games like World of Warcraft. Peace is boring, Dude.

Screw you too, Mr. Tierney, screw you too.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Bonnie & Clyde Article

A O Scott has an article in the NYTimes discussing Bonnie and Clyde and movie violence. There's a summary of B&C's historical value, and then a conclusion with the following statement: "I can’t escape the feeling that, just as it has become easier since “Bonnie and Clyde” to accept violence in movies, and more acceptable to enjoy it, it has become harder to talk seriously about the ethics and politics of that violence."

The article was mostly just a recounting of a story cinema fans already know, but if you haven't seen the movie or don't know about the controversy surrounding it, it could still be interesting. Scott doesn't explain why he feels so bad about movie violence all of a sudden, or why exactly he feels uncomfortable about B&C after all these years. There is a difference, after all, between the shock horror films that he mentions, Saw and Hostel, and B&C. Enjoying one doesn't mean you have to approve of the other. I think one important distinction is that the classic violent movies of the 60's and 70's were mostly about actual events or believable scenarios. Shock horror films are just fantasies, and so don't offer the emotional catharsis that those other films do.

Another issue that film critics don't talk about is that violent movies probably do reflect the violent natures of people and could lead to real violence. That doesn't mean we should ban or disapprove of them, however. I think most people believe that the rights of society to enjoy art trump the rights of individuals to live in complete safety. Most people wouldn't admit it, but a certain level of violence is worth it to ensure the quality of life for everyone else.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Roger Ebert vs. Video Games: Round II

In case you weren't following, Little Earl's favorite film critic Roger Ebert was forced to take a year off from reviewing movies because he had to undergo throat surgery. It didn't really go that great and even a year later he's apparently still not able to speak, but despite his inability to go back on the TV show he's finally decided just to start posting again on his website anyway. Hey, I haven't watched the show in years, so as far as I'm concerned he's pretty much back. Scratch that. He's not just back; he's more acerbic and argumentative than ever. He's just had throat surgery and he ain't takin' shit from nobody.

Before he underwent surgery, he ignited a geek firestorm by proclaiming that videogames could never be considered "art." The whole gaming community cried foul, but Ebert was undeterred. For some reason he loves arguing about this, and recently he's begun the conversation anew. Apparently novelist/filmmaker Clive Barker gave a speech in response to Ebert's earlier claims, and now Ebert has decided to reply point-for-point on his website. What's happened is that the conversation has quickly devolved from whether or not video games are art as to what exactly constitutes the definition of art. Since I think Ebert hasn't really come up with a consistent or reasonable definition of art, as far as I can tell he's pretty much wasting his time (albeit in a highly entertaining fashion).

But Roger's little philosophical folly has inspired me to formulate a few theories of my own. I myself would now like to propose, if I may, two rough definitions of "art."

Definition #1. A relatively permanent creation that enables the shared expression of human emotion

According to this definition, most video games are not really art. In fact, most video games are designed precisely in such a way as to remove the traces of their creator(s). It would be like calling chess "art." Does the actual game of chess manage to express the emotions of the person/people who created it? If someone could argue that it does, then fine, it's art. See, that's the thing. I don't think it's particularly important. That's why I find Ebert's crusade rather comical. It's an argument he could neither win or lose. What difference does it make whether something is art or not?

Still, my own definition at least makes more sense than Ebert's. I would say movies like Casablanca and Apocalypse Now are art because they express the feelings of the people involved in their creation. It's not one person, true, but it's still the expression of human emotion. In that sense, I would say that some movies are not "art." Blockbuster movies that simply try to "thrill" people or "scare" people are not really art, because they usually leave the emotions of the filmmakers out of the equation. However, I do believe that some blockbuster films can be art. I think it varies from blockbuster to blockbuster. For example, I believe that Star Wars is art. Ebert wants to make a distinction here. He writes:
I treasure escapism in the movies. I tirelessly quote Pauline Kael: The movies are so rarely great art, that if we cannot appreciate great trash, we have no reason to go. I admired "Spiderman II," "Superman," and many of the "Star Wars," Indiana Jones, James Bond and Harry Potter films. The idea, I think, is to value what is good at whatever level you find it. "Spiderman II" is one of the great comic superhero movies but it is not great art.
You know what, dude? I would actually say that Spiderman II is great art, because if you ask me, it expresses human emotion and does it really well. I think Ebert's engaging in some serious doublethink here; he loves these superhero movies as much as anybody. Quit playing your ivory tower games, buddy.

Defintion #2. A creation which helps other humans reflect upon the nature of life and human consciousness

I like this definition because if you wanted to argue that movies weren't really "the shared expression of the filmmaker's own emotions," you could still discriminate between which kind of movies would be art and which kinds of movies would be crap. Antonioni was not necessarily expressing his own personal feelings in L'Avventura, but other people are (hopefully) able use the film as a locus from which they can reflect upon the meaning of their own lives. Video games, almost by their nature, are designed to keep people from having to think about the meaning of their own lives. I think it is possible that someone could create a video game which would serve this function, but I'm not sure how many people would want to play it. In fact, one of the letters Ebert received in response to the debate seems to decribe just one such game:
I know one game that might approach art in itself, even in your definition. It's a strange title called "Shadow of the Colossus". "Shadow" begins the usual way -- a little introductory movie showing the protagonist arriving in some strange place, where a disembodied voice tells him to slay some monsters in order to bring his dead girlfriend back to live. Then the game begins, and the player runs the protagonist around seeking out and then slaying a handful of gigantic monsters. As expected, there are occasional (fewer than usual) movie tidbits interspersed with the action.

Some riders on horesback approach the temple. They are in a hurry. They are worried about the protagonist and what he's up to.

Meanwhile, the players have an odd experience. We start worrying too.

Why are we killing these enormous, unique, almost gentle creatures, who've done us no wrong and don't seem to be harming anyone or anything else? Why are the approaching riders so frantic? What's with the black smoke that escapes when the creatures are killed, and what's with the shadowy black smoke men that appear around the protagonist each time he kills a beast and is re-awakened in the temple? Are we doing something bad?

There is a subtle, but ever-increasing, sense of dread and wrongness. Yet the player is caught up in the action and the challenge of the battles (and spent $40 on the game) and keeps playing. It all leads to an inevitable conclusion that still manages somehow to be a surprise.

The whole game probably has less than 10 minutes of "movie", but without the extended fights (and long spans of travel by horseback across barren, sun-streaked wilderness), those bits of movie wouldn't have the impact they do. The end is puzzling, cathartic, frustrating, and satisfying. People who played it a year ago still talk and argue about it.
See, this actually almost smells like art, because it would force the player think about the meaning of life and shit. It also sounds like some emotion is involved. The bottom line is that I don't think too many people are worried about video games not yet being art, because there isn't really much demand for such a product. When there is, we might start seeing some good stuff. In the meantime, I'll stick to movies and music, thank you very mucho.

Also related: Roger Ebert, Game Reviewer

Some other goodies from the Big E:

Ingmar Bergman: In Memory

Michelangelo Antonioni: In Memory

Movie Answer Man: August 2

Courtesy of Herr Zrbo:

Level Up: N'Gai Croal Vs. Roger Ebert Vs. Clive Barker on Whether Videogames Can Be (High) Art

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Pop Culture Mediums

If you could only enjoy one pop culture medium, music, movies, books, or TV, for the rest of your life, which would you choose? I think I'd stick with my old standby, books. I like watching movies, and I respect and enjoy my favorite movies a lot, but more and more it seems like a chore to watch a movie. Music I only listen to when I'm in my car or sitting at my desk doing something else. And TV wouldn't even cross my mind.

Now, interestingly enough, this would change if I modified the hypothetical. I was originally going to title this 'Desert Island Pop Culture Mediums'. But then I realized that my answer would be completely different! If I really was stranded on a desert island I wouldn't really be worried about amazing characters and believable plots, I'd be struggling to ward off isolation-inspired madness. And for that, nothing beats TV! Sure, movies would be okay too, but you can live an entire fake life through TV(if you have enough channels that is). They have shows for every segment of your life. I'd watch a cooking show while gnawing on a raw coconut. Then I'd switch to the business channel and pretend I had something to occupy my day, before finishing up with some drama/soft-core porn to keep me company as the evening descended.

This all relates to the two things most people want out of entertainment: engagement and relaxation. Usually I'm surrounded by lots of random people doing random things, so watching it again at home isn't too engaging. A good plot or interesting ideas, or just a damn good rhythm, leads to engagement. I don't think I mind the relaxation angle as much as some. I'm a nervous person to begin with, so having something to occupy my mind leads to relaxation. But sports on the weekends or a decent action movie really does hit the spot sometimes.

What do you guys think?

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Election '08: Who's Actually Going To Win?

At this point, I honestly have no idea. I could try to guess, but since I was wrong the last time, I don't really trust my own judgement for shit. So that's why I'm asking other people.

Clarification: I don't want to hear who it is you'd like to win. That's not what I'm asking. If at all possible, try to keep your own personal bias out of your answer. What I'm asking for is who you think is most likely going to win.

The other night my roommates were arguing about this around the kitchen table. After about an hour or so, they both agreed that if either Hillary or Obama wins the Democratic nomination, and if either Guiliani or McCain wins the Republican nomination, the Democrats will lose, because the nation is simply not ready to elect a woman or a black man to the presidency. I'm not convinced that my roommates really know what they're talking about, however, so I'd like to get a few more opinions on the matter.

I mean, do people really care that much anymore about the gender and race of their president? I heard someone else say that anybody likely to not vote for a candidate just based on gender or race alone probably wouldn't be voting Democratic anyway, so the Democrats shouldn't worry about it. The thing is, I've heard all kinds of people say all kinds of things. Everyone's just stabbing in the dark as far as I can tell.

Alright. I know I said I wouldn't try, but it's impossible to resist:

If the Republicans go with anyone other than McCain and Guiliani, they'll lose. Those two may not excite the "base," but any candidate who would excite the base at this point would fail to excite anyone else. The Democrats should forget about trying to break barriers for the moment and just go with the safe, white maleness of Edwards. However, if Gore decides to run, the election would be his.

But I could be wrong.

If Anyone Asks What I Want For Christmas

From Pitchfork Media:

"On September 18, CMV/Columbia/Legacy will release The Best of the Johnny Cash TV Show, a 2xDVD compiling 64 live performances from the 58 episodes of Johnny Cash's 1969-1971 "The Johnny Cash Show".

Kris Kristofferson hosts the DVD, which features performances from Bob Dylan, Stevie Wonder, Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, Ray Charles, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Louis Armstrong, Loretta Lynn, Neil Diamond, Jerry Lee Lewis, George Jones, Derek and the Dominoes, Roy Orbison, the Carter Family (inluding June Carter Cash), and Johnny Cash himself, among many others."

Jesus H. Cash, people, look at this lineup:

01 Johnny Cash: "Ring of Fire"
02 Bob Dylan: "I Threw It All Away"
03 Johnny Cash and Bob Dylan: "Girl From the North Country"
04 Kris Kristofferson: "Loving Her Was Easier (Than Anything I'll Ever Do Again)"
05 Louis Armstrong and Johnny Cash: "Blue Yodel #9"
06 Stevie Wonder: "Heaven Help Us All"
07 Creedence Clearwater Revival: "Bad Moon Rising"
08 Linda Ronstadt and Johnny Cash: "I Will Never Marry"
09 George Jones and Johnny Cash: "White Lightning"
10 George Jones: "Medley: She Thinks I Still Care / The Love Bug / The Race Is On"
11 Johnny Cash: "Hey Porter"
12 Waylon Jennings: "Only Daddy That'll Walk the Line"
13 Waylon Jennings and Johnny Cash: "The Singing Star's Queen"
14 Waylon Jennings: "Brown Eyed Handsome Man"
15 Tammy Wynette: "Stand by Your Man"
16 Marty Robbins: "Medley: Big Iron / Running Gun / El Paso"
17 Johnny Cash: "Ride This Train"
18 Johnny Cash: "As Long as the Grass Shall Grow"
19 Johnny Cash: "Man in Black"
20 James Taylor: "Sweet Baby James"
21 Pete Seeger: "Cripple Creek"
22 Pete Seeger and Johnny Cash: "Worried Man Blues"
23 Johnny Cash: "Sunday Morning Coming Down"
24 Johnny Cash: "Old Time Religion"
25 Johnny Cash: "A Wonderful Time Up There"
26 Johnny Cash, the Carter Family, the Statler Brothers, Carl Perkins, and the Tennessee Three: "Daddy Sang Bass"
27 Mother Maybelle and the Carter Sisters: "Wildwood Flower"
28 Neil Young: "The Needle and the Damage Done"
29 Johnny Cash: "Tennessee Flat Top Box"
30 Joni Mitchell and Johnny Cash: "Long Black Veil"
31 Johnny Cash: "Big River"
32 Johnny Cash: "I Walk the Line"
33 June Carter Cash: "A Good Man"
34 Derek and the Dominoes: "It's Too Late"
35 Derek and the Dominoes With Johnny Cash and Carl Perkins: "Matchbox"
36 Charley Pride: "Able Bodied Man"
37 Bill Monroe and His Bluegrass Boys: "Blue Moon of Kentucky"
38 Loretta Lynn: "I Know How"
39 Jerry Lee Lewis: "Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On"
40 Johnny Cash: "Ride This Train (America the Beautiful, This Land Is Your Land)"
41 The Everly Brothers With Ike Everly and Johnny Cash: "Silver Haired Daddy of Mine"
42 Ray Charles: "Ring of Fire"
43 Johnny Cash: "A Boy Named Sue"
44 Conway Twitty: "Hello Darlin'"
45 Mother Maybelle Carter: "Black Mountain Rag"
46 Neil Diamond: "Cracklin' Rosie"
47 Ray Price: "For the Good Times"
48 Roy Orbison: "Crying"
49 Roy Orbison and Johnny Cash: "Oh, Pretty Woman"
50 Johnny Cash: "Wanted Man"
51 Chet Atkins: "Medley: Country Gentleman / Mister Sandman / Wildwood Flower / Freight Train"
52 June Carter Cash With Homer and Jethro: "Baby It's Cold Outside"
53 Merle Haggard: "No Hard Time Blues"
54 Merle Haggard and Johnny Cash: "Sing Me Back Home"
55 Carl Perkins: "Blue Suede Shoes"
56 Johnny Cash, the Carter Family and Carl Perkins: "The Old Account Was Settled Long Ago"
57 The Statler Brothers: "Flowers on the Wall"
58 Roy Clark: "Medley: In the Summertime / 12th Street Rag"
59 Johnny Cash: "Working Man Blues"
60 Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash: "Jackson"
61 Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash: "Turn Around"
62 Johnny Cash: "I Love You Because"
63 Hank Williams, Jr.: "Medley: You Win Again / Cold Cold Heart / I Can't Help It If I'm Still in Love With You / Half As Much"
64 Johnny Cash: "Folsom Prison Blues"

CCR doing "Bad Moon Rising"? Neil Young doing "The Needle and the Damage Done"? Derek and the Dominos doing "Matchbox" with Johnny Cash and Carl Perkins? Stevie Wonder doing "Heaven Help Us All"? Joni Mitchell doing "The Long Black Veil"? Dylan doing "I Threw It All Away"? Neil Diamond doing "Cracklin' Rosie"? No other video package will do, folks - not even the Midnight Special.

But the true wealth of this collection can only be appreciated by a hardcore pre-80s country music fan such as myself. George Jones does a medley of "She Thinks I Still Care/The Love Bug/The Race Is On"? Awesome. Conway Twitty does "Hello Darlin"? Couldn't get any better. The only thing missing is some Buck Owens. If I ever get my hands on this thing, I'll have died and gone to tacky checkered drape heaven.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Antonioni R.I.P.

From EuroScreenwriters.

"S: You mean, then, that it is man's fault and not the fault of the environment that he can't adjust, is miserable, etc.?

A: Yes. Modern life is very difficult for people who are unprepared. But this new environment will eventually facilitate more realistic relationships between people. For example, that scene, that great puff of-not smoke-steam that blasts out violently between the two characters. As I see it, that steam makes the relationship more real, because the two men have nothing to say to each other. Anything that might crop up would be hypocritical.

S: OK. But isn't it also possible to say that they can't speak to each other because their environment deprives them of an inner life to communicate?

A: No. I don't agree. In that case.... Wait, let me think it over a moment. I think people talk too much; that's the truth of the matter. I do. I don't believe in words. People use too many words and usually wrongly. I am sure that in the distant future people will talk much less and in a more essential way. If people talk a lot less, they will be happier. Don't ask me why. In my films it is the men who don't function properly-not the machines."