Monday, April 30, 2007
So there are a fair amount of forgotten gems in there, such as Art Garfunkel's Breakaway, which I had since supplanted with a greatest-hits package on CD, but that meant I have been living all these years without "Waters of March," which is a real shame. Garfunkel himself put Breakaway on his ballot when Rolling Stone magazine held the balloting for its 500 Greatest Albums of All Time (I forget the exact placement, but it was around No. 29); as OPC reader RS pointed out to me at the time, at least he picked the right Garfunkel solo album -- how embarrassing it would have been had he listed Fate for Breakfast!
I have also, on the other hand, been reminded of the built-in obsolescence of wax records. The ultra-high-tech (at least compared to any previous turntable I have owned) setup comes complete with a flyweight tone arm that fairly floats over the grooves, but my copy of Breakaway has an almost imperceptible warp (right in the middle of the ethereal "Disney Girls") that ruined several of the songs. But even in this, the 21st century, with an entirely digital environment, the old tricks still obtain: I solved that warp problem by putting a penny on the needle cartridge. Et voila: "Disney Girls"!
Now, clearly, you can't just drop a quotation mark in the middle of a song title just because you decided to put the whole thing into quotes. That's cheating. A reference to this song in the middle of prose should be styled "No More 'I Love You's,' " if we can trust the track-listing version to be right.
But it's not. Annie isn't promising not to say "I love you's," unless she's from the Bronx, which she isn't. She's promising that she will no longer say "I love you," singular. So ideally, what we should have here is "No More 'I Love You' 's," I think. A double apostrophe!
I still don't really know what the original style is, since I don't have this album. If anyone out there does have a copy and can tell me how Annie herself punctuates the title, please send it in. But I do know the song's not even that good, certainly not worth all these grammatical gymnastics.
Sunday, April 29, 2007
Get a half pint of cream, light or heavy doesn't really matter, and pour it into a saucepan. Put a shot of lemon juice in there as well, and some dill, enough to make it look dilly. Heat up the cream a little, then put about a cup of frozen peas in there, more if you like peas, less if you don't, although they do add some nice color to the proceedings, and they keep you from having to make another vegetable.
Let me add parenthetically here, although I am loath to put an entire paragraph in parentheses, that in most recipes, for most ingredients, the amounts don't matter. For some things, like if you're making rice and have to add enough water for the proper amount to be absorbed, yes, be careful with how much you add, but for the most part, add however much you want of whatever ingredient it is. If you like red bell pepper, put in a whole bunch of it. It doesn't matter. For this recipe, you can put in six peas, or you can put in 160 peas. It's all up to you. You don't even have to make the recipe at all. It's no skin off my nose.
Heat the cream-pea mixture on kind of a medium low; you don't want it to boil, but you want to make sure the peas get cooked through. While it's warming, chop up some smoked salmon, the kind that comes in a plastic shrink-wrapped pack on a sheet of cardboard. Chop it up into as small as you can get the pieces. It's better that way. Then throw all of it in the pot with the cream and the peas and the dill, and let it warm up for a couple of minutes. The salmon doesn't need to cook at all.
Meanwhile, you should have been cooking some spaghetti. Put some spaghetti on every plate, ladle some salmon cream sauce on top of it, set out some parmesan cheese, make some garlic bread, and hey, you got yourself a dinner.
Saturday, April 28, 2007
Friday, April 27, 2007
If you want us to understand your patois, Bob, the least you could do is punctuate it properly. It seems like this, as happens with most things in life, is a lesson that he learned too late.
Thursday, April 26, 2007
Sad news from Salinas:
Danny Cunningham, a key figure on what may have been the greatest high school basketball team in the history of Monterey County, died of injuries suffered in a car accident Monday in the gold country town of Ione, where he worked as a tree surgeon.
Cunningham, whose rugged looks caught the attention of Hollywood, appeared in a few Budweiser commercials and was on the cover of Brawny paper towels for several years.
His dying words were: "Mr. Clean lives on."
They even played that simmering live version of Jimmy Cliff's "Trapped" that appeared on the USA for Africa album. It turned out to be a lot of fun, and it must have done pretty well with Old Man Arbitron, because they tried the same stunt again . . . when Tom Petty came to town.
If you thought the front end of Long After Dark was kind of dismal, wait till you hear the filler. Anyway, they have not tried this little ratings grabber again.
No, wait! It was the son of a prominent Republican, so he surely meant no harm by anything. He was fined a hundred bucks, and they all had dinner at Elaine's.
Wednesday, April 25, 2007
I see where Pedro Almodovar thinks that the only real inconsistency between the looks of Penelope Cruz and her Oscar-nominated role in his 2006 film Volver is the size of her behind -- Almodovar thinks a woman of her station, a spunky working-class mother in contemporary Spain, ought to have a more substantial caboose. One other difference is that there is no woman in the world who holds the job held by Ms. Cruz at the beginning of this movie, where she appears to be cleaning up the corridors of the Madrid airport, who actually looks like Ms. Cruz.
I am not sure in what direction the arrow of causality runs in this particular case, whether women who look like Penelope Cruz don't have to clean airports, or women who clean airports never end up looking like Penelope Cruz, but the rule is ironclad. No one that hot has ever mopped up the floors of O'Hare.
David Halberstam was a brilliant reporter, of course, the author of the vitally important history of the Vietnam War The Best and the Brightest, but he was also an illustration of what I think is an important principle about journalism that most people don't reckon with: Journalism is composed of two related but distinct skills, reporting (and within reporting there is not only the collection of facts but the selection of the most telling of the facts once they have been collected) and writing, and there are very few journalists who are excellent at both. Of the two, it is far more important to have superior reporting skills, because if you don't have anything to say, it won't much matter how well you say it.
That's why Halberstam, who was an A-plus reporter but a C-minus writer, could still come off as a top-level journalist. The Powers That Be, his somewhat ungainly epic on the development of the Washington Post, Time magazine, CBS News, and the Los Angeles Times, had more run-on sentences in each of its paragraphs than this blog has had in its entire history, and I go out of my way to write the longest possible sentences I can until they collapse of their own weight; the difference is that I know when one tips into the realm of the run-on sentence, and Halberstam clearly did not.
To be fair, I skipped over the chapters of the book on the Los Angeles Times, because who cares about the Los Angeles Times? Maybe those chapters were more briskly written.
Tuesday, April 24, 2007
1. You get to see Bob and Katie Holmes make goo-goo eyes at each other.
2. As near as I can ascertain, this was Dylan's final appearance in public cleanshaven, before the appearance of the pencil-thin mustache that has scarred so many of his fans. Remember, it was on Oscar Night, the evening that Bob won an Academy Award for this very song, that said facial hair was unleashed on an unsuspecting American public for the first time.
3. Right at the very end of the video, in a moment of rock-star quotidian behavior to rival the sequence in No Doubt's video for "Sunday Morning" when Gwen Stefani changes her shoes, Bob Dylan takes a bite out of a sandwich. The moment is even more rich than that, though, since Dylan has long seemed so otherworldly (to me, at least) that I have at times doubted his corporeal presence. Does this man eat? drive? bowl? have cable TV? I could never be quite sure, but here we have irrefutable evidence: Bob Dylan will eat a sandwich.
According to a study last July by Quinnipiac University in Connecticut, Republican fans prefer the Yankees over the Mets by a greater proportion than do Democrats. When asked who they would want to win a subway World Series, 62 percent of Republican respondents chose the Yankees, while only 29 percent chose the Mets.
The numbers were more evenly divided among Democrats: 44 percent would choose the Yankees in a subway series, and 41 percent said they would want the Mets to win. (Fifteen percent didn't know or wouldn't say; Red Sox fans, perhaps?)
Nonetheless, Matt Cerrone, founder of the lively Metsblog.com, believes that the Mets have an undeniable Democratic mien. "The Mets tend to have more blue-collar sensibilities, and Democrats tend to be more the working-class party," Cerrone said. "Mets are more fun-loving, lighthearted, … more like liberal progressive thinking."
JaMarcus Russell, a massive, strong-armed quarterback out of LSU, is potentially the top overall pick by the Oakland Raiders in this weekend's NFL draft. Russell has been frequently likened to onetime Viking and current Dolphin Daunte Culpepper, another enormous QB with a strong arm. Russell has not, for some reason, been compared to the Steelers Ben Roethlisberger, who is of roughly the same size and physical skills.
Russell actually reminds me of Corinne Bailey Rae, the diminutive British singer who surged onto the Adult Alternative charts over the past year. Rae, or Bailey Rae, or whatever she's supposed to be called on second reference (what is it with the British people with two last names? Why isn't Sacha Baron Cohen's last name "Cohen," or at least "Baron-Cohen"?) has been frequently compared to Billie Holiday, although despite a little crack in her voice and a certain girlishness, she doesn't sound all that much like
Who would I compare Corinne Bailey Rae to? Her first single sounded so much like "I'm Like a Bird" it should have been called "Girl, Put Your Nelly Furtado Records On." But she's not Portuguese-Canadian enough for that.
Monday, April 23, 2007
I've been burned by this scam twice now. The first was for K-Tel's Country Drinking Songs, which was okay because I don't think I could tell the difference between the original "Wine Me Up" by Faron Young and the re-recording. But then I got Prime Cuts' Greatest Hits From the '70s, which is just awful. No matter how hard they try, Sweet is never going to cut a version of "Ballroom Blitz" that approaches the original. And I wonder just who it is on "Baby Blue," since a quorum of Badfinger has been dead for 30 years or so. (Even sadder is that James Brown is included on this set, meaning he was willing to go in and re-record "Sex Machine" for what couldn't have been more than a couple hundred dollars.)
Just a friendly warning: As the Kingston Trio said on "M.T.A.," Citizens, hear me out! This could happen to you!
Sunday, April 22, 2007
The Lives of Others reminded me at times of Brokeback Mountain, which among its many other virtues depicted in precise socioeconomic detail the habits and homemaking of Wyoming's working class. I think I counted four successive homes for Ennis Del Mar and his family, each of them incrementally nicer than the last but none of which were exactly palatial. I remember thinking what a big deal it must have been for them to move from the glorified shack out in the fields to that place in town over the laundromat. Such subtle gradations of class are rarely present in the movies at such downtrodden levels. Even Jack Twist, the more successful of the ill-starred pair, landed in a middle-class home in Texas that was still small enough so that the living-room TV could be seen from the dining-room table. But maybe in Texas, that's a feature.
The Lives of Others is also useful as an illustration of what happens when the interests of the reigning political party and the government itself are one and the same. Just in case, you know, you were wondering what that might look like.
Saturday, April 21, 2007
"Sincerely, L. Cohen."
Friday, April 20, 2007
If you're like me, and in many respects I certainly hope you are not, you have noticed that pretty much everything done by hardcore rap artists had already been covered by country singers of the mid-1960s. Half of Johnny Cash's oeuvre is more or less gangsta, the half not devoted to the Lord, culminating in his song "Cocaine Blues," in which he not only partakes of the title substance and shoots his woman down, but manages to call her an Imus-worthy epithet as well. And while many contemporary hip-hoppers have seen the inside of a prison, I am not aware of any that had the stones to actually record a live album there.
But for my money, the most gangsta single of the 1960s is Merle Haggard's "Mama Tried," which hits nearly every base of the hip-hop metier: big ups to his moms, a papa who went missing very early on, an incorrigible demeanor that lands the narrator in prison as a teenager. And just look at that album cover; it may be hard to see the little photo at the top, so just pull out your copy at home, because I know everyone reading this owns this album, or should. The Hag was 31 when that picture was taken, and making some assumptions about the reproductive habits of Okies making a new life for themselves in Bakersfield, we would expect his mama to have been no more than 25 when he was born. So the woman in that picture ought to be in her mid-fifties, yet she looks to be at least 70. No doubt about it: Raising Merle Haggard can take a lot out of a woman.
Thursday, April 19, 2007
A couple of decades ago, in one of his annual Baseball Abstracts, Bill James wrote that if a rookie baseball player comes up from the minor leagues and has a big season at the age of 25 or 26, you shouldn't expect that player to then become a superstar; the true future superstars are already in the league by the age of 21 or 22. I was reminded of this rule of thumb when I saw the front page of this past Sunday's New York Times Arts & Leisure section, featuring a big unsmiling photograph of a Canadian singer looking for all the world like a poor man's Cat Power. The woman pictured goes by the single name of Feist, like Donovan or Pebbles or Buckethead. (That's Feist at right, though that's not the picture that was in the Times.) The article appended to this photo claims that Feist's new record (which I have not heard, nor have I heard any previous Feist output) "should transform her from the darling of the indie-rock circuit to a full-fledged star." It also notes, without a trace of ominousness, that Feist is 31, which seems a bit long in the tooth for a pop musician to become a star.
Or is it? I have always thought that James' maxim was as appropriate for rock stars as it was for Willie Mays. Let's take a look at when some of the greats of popular music have hit it big, with an eye toward what the future might hold for Feist.
To be totally unfair to Feist, we'll check out the first ten names on Rolling Stone's Immortals list, purportedly the greatest rock icons of all time, and note how old they were when they had their first Top Ten hit. Here we go:
* The Beatles: Ringo Starr was 23, John Lennon was 23, Paul McCartney was 21 and George Harrison was 20 when "I Want to Hold Your Hand" went to Number One in December 1963.
* Bob Dylan was 24 when "Like a Rolling Stone" went to Number Two in 1965.
* Elvis Presley was 21 when "Don't Be Cruel" went to Number One in 1956.
* The Rolling Stones: Mick Jagger was 21, Keith Richards was 20, Brian Jones was 22, Bill Wyman (born William Perks, it says here) was 28, and Charlie Watts was 23 when "Time Is on My Side" went to Number Six in November 1964.
* Chuck Berry was 28 when "Maybellene" went to Number Five in 1955.
* Jimi Hendrix never had a Top Ten single, but he was 25 when Are You Experienced went to Number Five on the album charts.
* James Brown was 23 when "Please Please Please" went to Number Five on the R&B charts in 1956.
* Little Richard was 20 when "Long Tall Sally" went to Number Six in 1956.
* Aretha Franklin was 25 when "Baby I Love You" went to Number Four in 1967.
* Ray Charles was 24 when "Blackjack" went to Number Eight on the R&B charts in 1955.
So of these great artists, only Chuck Berry, who probably deserves some sort of Jackie Robinson exemption, and the least important member of the Rolling Stones failed to make a big dent on the charts by the time they were 25. Surely not even Jon Pareles expects Feist to be the new Aretha Franklin, but this little exercise does show, I think, that if you're going to be a huge star, that talent is likely to evince itself pretty early on.
I will also note that the guys in Panic! at the Disco are all like nineteen.
GF further notes that Goldsboro's Number One smash "Honey," which was discussed at nauseating length earlier in the annals of this blog, was prominently featured in the 2005 Neil Jordan film Breakfast on Pluto. No one here at OPC headquarters has seen Breakfast on Pluto aside from its trailer, but we are fully prepared to analyze it when we get around to our post on the worst movie titles of all time.
Wednesday, April 18, 2007
Al Stewart, on the other hand, remains a total melvin.
I can so see little Bobby Zimmerman reading Boy's Life back in Hibbing in 1953, thinking, "Maybe I can make some money to buy Mose Allison records by selling Grit."
Tuesday, April 17, 2007
At the checkout counter of the public library today, securing some books for my sons, I happened to see a DVD boxed set for the third season of Full House. As if that weren't disturbing enough, there was a reserve slip stuck inside the box, indicating that someone had put in a special request for this copy of the third season of Full House. It would be one thing, I suppose, to pick up a DVD of Full House on impulse, maybe because you had just seen the Olsen twins in a copy of US Weekly and you saw the box on a shelf and wanted to remind yourself what they looked like when they were four, but this was evidence that someone had plotted to obtain a copy of the third season of Full House. They planned this in advance, going out of their way to watch Full House.
My question is: how much extra time do you have to have on your hands such that you will make arrangements to acquire the DVD of the entire third season of Full House? And how much critical imagination do you have to lack? Goodness knows, I have wasted far too much time in my life, but at least I have not sunk to this.
Man, sometimes people really depress me.
Monday, April 16, 2007
I remember that famous story about the Rolling Stones going to visit Chess Studios in Chicago and discovering Muddy Waters painting the ceiling, because somebody had to do it and Chess Records wasn't rolling the dough at that point. I hope Muddy found a better way to turn a few bucks before his career was over, whether that was singing for Pepsi, singing for Coke, or doing private parties for David Geffen. B.B. King has been doing a lot of ads the past few years, and good for him. He's got it coming to him. Bob Odenkirk's great too, and doing TV ads might seem like a comedown after the brilliance of "Manson," but who's going to begrudge him those beer commercials? Those residuals from the Mr. Show DVD aren't as lucrative as you might think.
And even if Pollard wrote it with a car company in mind, "Motor Away" is freaking awesome, sounding like a fully loaded Cadillac going down the highway at 85 mph, just reaching the point when the engine starts to shudder and bang against the inside of the hood. If this song had actually shown up over and over and over again in a Lincoln-Mercury commercial, everyone's life would be better.
Sunday, April 15, 2007
So you watch this movie to find out, OK, what happened to the little girl? No right-thinking moviegoer would tell you, because that would spoil the ending, and the studio is clearly banking on this kind of reticence to spill the beans. If you think about it, they don't even really have to come up with an entirely plausible scenario for the girl's disappearance, because people who've already seen it will be reluctant to tell you what happens. Even if it's no good. I watched Vanilla Sky all the way through to its preposterous ending, but I'm still not going to tell you what happens at the end, because that would be unsporting of me.
The upshot is that Flightplan has a pretty nifty first half, with Foster becoming increasingly panicked about her little girl, and the crew and other passengers being at first sympathetic and then suspicious of her, but as soon as the reason for the daughter's disappearance is hinted at, then revealed to Foster, it's a total letdown. I won't say anything more than it's the most ludicrously complicated extortion scheme in history. But I will say that if you want to watch this flim, don't pay much attention to the plot.
If you watched the Dodgers and the Padres this evening, you may have noticed that, while all the Dodgers wore No. 42 on their jerseys, none of them wore their names. The Dodgers' home unis don't sport names on the back, so they all wore exactly the same shirt, give or take a size or two. Good thing I know what Jeff Kent looks like.
Friday, April 13, 2007
The greatest single employment of a word in an American pop song is surely Carly Simon's use of the word "apricot" in "You're So Vain": "Your hat strategically dipped below one eye/Your scarf it was apricot." Never has a single world so quickly defined its subject; the song could have ended right there, and we'd have gotten the point. "Apricot" is as pungent and distinctive a word as "gavotte," with which it is rhymed, but apricot has the virtue of being immediately understandable, whereas most people probably still don't know what "gavotte" means, and think they are mishearing that lyric.
It's not just that Carly is singing about a man who would wear a scarf that is the color apricot --which is some kind of mixture of salmon and orange, I guess, although I haven't seen the inside of a lot of apricots lately -- but that the gentleman in question would describe said scarf as being apricot. If I had a scarf that was apricot, and someone asked me what color it was, I'd probably say, "I dunno, some kind of mixture of salmon and orange." This scarf was certainly bought from some ultra-chic boutique on Madison Avenue, and cost upwards of three figures, no doubt. Even back in 1972, you couldn't get an apricot scarf for any fifteen dollars.
In an episode of The Mary Tyler Moore Show from that same era, Gavin MacLeod at one point sports a bright yellow scarf tied around his neck (not at the WJM offices, of course; this was at a party he and Marie hosted at the house), completely oblivious to the fact that it made him look like the gayest thing ever. This points up the narrow line being walked by Ms. Simon's protagionist: a yellow scarf will look absolutely ridiculous, while an apricot scarf while ensure that your horse will naturally win at Saratoga.
Thursday, April 12, 2007
I would give ten bucks for one of those glasses now.
Wednesday, April 11, 2007
Speaking of Masked and Anonymous, as terrible as it is -- and it's plenty terrible -- it's worth noting that it's a long way from the bottom of the Dylan filmic barrel, not when we still have Renaldo and Clara (unseen by me) and Hearts of Fire (unseen by anyone, near as I can tell, although the soundtrack LP, seen at right, was apparently released in England) to kick around. The highlight -- in the DVD, anyway -- comes in the bonus material, when the various actors are asked what they think all this foofaraw was actually about; Val Kilmer responds, "I think it's based on the teachings of Donovan."
Still, one scene has stuck with me, when Jeff Bridges, playing a famous magazine journalist, scores what he thinks is an important interview with Jack Fate, played by Dylan and based on Dylan and much like you'd expect Dylan to be if he'd been a political prisoner for several years. Despite the fact that Jack Fate is submitting to the interview to promote some sort of benefit concert, Bridges' first question is: "So what were the Sixties really about?" (That's a paraphrase, although probably a pretty close one, and there ain't no way I'm watching the whole thing again just to get that quote right.)
Dylan wrote the script himself, you know, along with future Borat director Larry Charles, under the names Sergei Petrov and Rene Fontaine, respectively. So it's fairly safe to assume that he actually has been assaulted with questions like that right from the get-go of an interview. And it really does sound like something some butt-headed self-important journalist would ask Bob Dylan. I wonder, are there other sequences that reflect Dylan's interactions with us mere mortals? Hmm, maybe this is worth seeing again.
Last year a CNN.com columnist declared that Bobby Goldsboro’s “Honey,” a number one hit for five weeks in the spring of 1968 – dethroning Otis Redding’s immortal “Dock of the Bay” -- was the worst song ever. Actually it was worse than that; it was capitalized: Worst Song Ever. Not too many people leapt up in protest, as it’s been a long time since anyone took “Honey” seriously. The 1992 Rolling Stone Record Guide declared, “Even soap operas seldom stoop so low as did
In case you’ve forgotten, or had it erased from your memory Eternal Sunshine-style, “Honey” is the tale of a young woman who plants a tree, gets a puppy, watches the late show, then -- seemingly out of nowhere -- dies. It’s sung in a rueful but hardly heartbroken tenor by
Yet the song is really kind of brilliant, a subtle examination of a topic too raw and painful for even the tumultuous days of 1968. Honey’s death, in the song’s third verse, comes so weirdly out of left field – “one day while I wasn't home, while she was there and all alone, the angels came” – that it makes most people throw up their hands, if not their lunch. “Even in 1968, what kind of jerk wouldn't be at his wife's bedside as she died?,” wrote CNN’s Todd Leopold.
The song’s earlier stanzas, so uneventful on first listen, provide clues to the answer to that question, although they don’t really make sense until you know how the story is going to end. In the first verse, the narrator tells how he would commonly arrive home from work to find Honey “sittin' there cryin' over some sad and silly late, late show.” That’s not so alarming, but things get worse in the second verse. “I came home unexpectedly,” the narrator says, “and found her crying needlessly in middle of the day.” Now it’s not just a late show that can set her off, but nothing at all. How often, one wonders, did Honey spend her days weeping?
The narrator then foreshadows the end, saying, “It was in the early spring when flowers bloom and robins sing, she went away.” (Note who is controlling the action in that line.) After the chorus, the angels arrive in the next verse. Now it is strange, as Todd Leopold has noticed, that the end comes “one day while I wasn’t home.” Honey’s death doesn’t happen in a hospital, like in Love Story, or out on a highway, like in “Last Kiss.” If she was ill, it came up all of a sudden, and if it was an accident, it must have involved pruning shears.
And the narrator doesn’t seem especially surprised by her death. He’s saddened, to be sure, but it seems inevitable rather than shocking. How does a young person die suddenly, at home, in such a way that doesn’t take her loved ones by surprise?
Once you start to think about what may have caused the end of Honey, earlier lines take on a weird resonance. In the song’s most famous line, Honey is described as “kinda dumb and kinda smart” – is she bipolar? She then wrecks her husband’s car, but he shrugs it off with a “what the heck” – has he learned not to overreact to Honey’s foibles? The chorus repeatedly promises Honey, up in heaven now, “I’m being good.” Does the narrator hold himself responsible for Honey’s death?
As far as I can tell, no one divined any subtext to Honey’s story back in 1968 – or now, for that matter. Certainly, nobody expected a twee little pop song with a melody borrowed from Paul Simon’s “Homeward Bound” to confront a serious topic like chronic depression.
I’m not saying it’s a great song or anything, although it is on my iPod.
Tuesday, April 10, 2007
Monday, April 9, 2007
Still, I fear that some people are reluctant to voice strong opinions on the more controversial topics dealt with here, such as Vic Tayback. So I am throwing open the comments section to allow anonymous commenting. Have at it, fellas.
I have a feeling Chappelle liked Borat -- the 2006 film by Larry Charles, continuing the triumphant roll he began with Masked and Anonymous -- more than that, because there's a lot more lunatic humor in it that doesn't come at anyone's expense. But what made Borat a cause celebre, of course, were the scenes poking fun at ordinary Americans, which actually make up a minor part of the film. I also suspect that these scenes were more staged than most people are aware of, but that's another story.
Take the sequence where Borat attends a formal dinner party somewhere in the Southern part of the U.S. It's fine, really, when he misinterprets one guest's self-description of "retired" as "retard." Handing the hostess a plastic bag of his own poop, though, probably made everyone in the room a wee bit suspicious, so that when a black prostitute in a halter top shows up just before dessert, one suspects that the outraged reaction isn't because of racism or classism but simply because the other guests realize they have been played for chumps.
I wasn't laughing or disgusted with these people by the end of the scene; I felt sorry for them. They didn't do anything but be nice to this odd, foul character in their midst. And even if you think these people deserved a bit of comeuppance, being mean to people you think deserve it is still being mean, which is rarely funny. Candid Camera always had the decency to trot out Allen Funt at the end of a gag, letting the victim off the hook. What we really needed at the end of this sequence was for Borat to stand up and announce, "Hey, it's me, British TV personality Sacha Baron Cohen! And look, over there, it's Masked and Anonymous director Larry Charles!"
Sunday, April 8, 2007
Saturday, April 7, 2007
Friday, April 6, 2007
Of course, it's "Telstar" by the Tornadoes, beating out the Beatles' "I Want to Hold Your Hand" by one year. The sound of the rocket taking off at the beginning and end of the song is allegedly the tape of a toilet flushing, played backwards.
Thursday, April 5, 2007
Also, everyone on the Dodgers will get hugged by Pee Wee Reese, and anyone who makes it to third base will be required to try to steal home.
In the kind of sensible, respectful move of which there are far too few in MLB, the commissioner's office then suggested that other players also wear 42 on the 15th, which is the 60th anniversary of Robinson's major league debut. The Rockies' setup man LaTroy Hawkins has stepped up to the plate, so to speak, and will also wear 42 although, as he says, "I don't feel worthy, actually," and he's not just talking about his woeful pitching.
Mariano Rivera of the Yankees is, I believe, the last player still wearing 42 regularly, having been grandfathered in when the number was originally retired ten years ago. It would be nice if Derek Jeter insisted on wearing 42 on April 15, Rivera refused, they got into a fight and both landed on the 60-day disabled list, and the Yankees ended up in last place. After all, one of the things Jackie Robinson was emblematic of was beating the Yankees.
Wednesday, April 4, 2007
John Mayer's Curtis Mayfield-inspired "Waiting for the World to Change" is his best hit yet, in large part because he's learned the virtues of returning to his tonics, but also for that wacky guitar-glockenspiel duel. In isolation, the glockenspiel sounds like it ought to be the wimpiest, most effete rock instrument there is, yet it shows up most prominently on records by people who weren't effete at all, like Buddy Holly (who I think actually used a celesta) and the Born to Run-era Bruce Springsteen.
Who am I missing? I know there must have been someone who tinkled the glock and came off sounding like Richard Simmons.
Tuesday, April 3, 2007
After recent posts on Larry "Bud" Melman and Brother Theodore, I thought I'd conclude my Late Night trilogy by discussing why that incarnation of Letterman's show seems so much better than what he's doing now. It was certainly stranger than what he's doing now, with regular visits from the above-named gentlemen and the indescribable Captain Haggerty and oddities like a dentist reviewing Quest for Fire. He used to feud with Chris Elliott; now he feuds with Oprah. It's not surprising which is more popular, but it's obvious to me which is more entertaining.
I could rattle off a dozen great, skewed gags from the Late Night days, including the Joe Theismann pencil sharpener (with his perpendicularly broken leg forming the spinning handle) and Dave's simple comment regarding smoking: "Sure, good health's important, but so is looking cool." I still have the T-shirt my brother gave me that reads "Don't Make Me Violate My Parole," ripped off from a Letterman gag.
The difference between Late Night and The Late Show, I believe, is the size of the studio. Seriously. The Ed Sullivan Theater holds three times as many people as the old NBC studio. and much of the time Dave seems primarily interested in getting a response from them. Thus we get recurring and re-recurring bits like that guy from the Hello Deli or the mercifully now-retired collapsible drinking cup, designed to strike a chord with the tourists in from Overland Park, Kansas. Back in the day, Dave told Newsweek his goal was to "pierce that flat screen every night." Now he seems to want to induce rhythmic clapping in the studio audience, preferably by employing the Rockettes.
I'm not saying The Late Show is bad, because it's certainly quality television, and there's no shame in falling short of the Late Night standards. Dave hasn't been able to match it, but hardly anyone else has either.
Monday, April 2, 2007
Ha! Ha! Just a little joke there. But there sure have been a lot of bands that have named songs after Hitchcock movies. See if you can name the song titles/movie titles from the following artists:
The Beastie Boys
The English Beat
Extra credit: Old 97s
Sunday, April 1, 2007
As I was watching Lily Tomlin and Meryl Streep starring as gospelish singing sisters in A Prairie Home Companion, I got to wondering if Tomlin couldn't have had Streep's career had she wanted it. They're actually a decade apart in age, and Tomlin had her first (and only) Oscar nomination before Streep even made a picture, but if anything, Lily's early start should have given her a leg up, since the Seventies were something of a better time for women's roles than anything that has come since.
Streep has the somewhat juicier part in Prairie, since she plays both Lindsay Lohan's mother and Garrison Keillor's ex, but Tomlin makes the stronger impression, all edgy and sardonic and Midwestern (she's actually from Detroit, which probably helps). And Holy Jesus, was Lily ever good in Nashville, beaming at her deaf children, frustrated with her marriage to Ned Beatty (but who wouldn't be), and somehow surviving her heartbreaking dalliance with Keith Carradine. Between those two pictures, though, there are a whole lot of empty spaces, and I know she was on Broadway and doing All of Me with Steve Martin and making a whole bunch of "Magic School Bus" cartoons, but there could have been so much more. She could have been Meryl Streep.
Prairie and Nashville are both Altman, of course, so maybe he had something to do with her performances in both. I mean, all I ever hear about Lindsay Lohan is that she's in rehab or drunk or something, but she is wonderful here, gawky and adolescent and comfortable as part of the ensemble yet enough of a star not to get blown away by Meryl and Lily. To the end, Altman knew what he was doing (and I'm going to forgive him for including the Kevin Kline character, a woefully out of place detective with the crushingly awful name of Guy Noir).