Sunday, March 30, 2008

Burn, baby, Brooklyn

Muchas gracias to the UK-based You Know, For Kids, here are some Flickr shots of the set of the Coen Brothers' upcoming Cold War movie Burn After Reading. Per the title of this post, much of the filming is being done in Brooklyn. let's see. On the one hand, Brad Pitt seems to be clean shaven, wearing a nice suit. To me, he usually does better when he's seedy and greasy. Of course he has to clean up when he's seen around town with Angelina, what are you gonna do? But for movies...

But George Clooney seems to have let himself go somewhat for this flick. Grey proudly showing, three days' beard. So it could balance out. Sounds like a movie worth gambling on, anyway.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Ever feel like you're just going through the motions?

But how long will the CEO of WonderWidget Inc be happy paying such wages to his widget-makers? Perhaps children in the Pacific Rim could be trained to make widgets for only a fraction of a penny.

Friday, March 28, 2008

This Friday, Random Ten

1. The Who--Sunrise
2. Fishbone--Question of Life
3. Radiohead--Sit Down, Stand Up (Snakes & Ladders)
4. Bonzo Dog Band--Keynsham
5. Nat King Cole--It's Only a Paper Moon
6. Esquivel--Delta Dawn
7. REM--You
8. James--Born of Frustration
9. Randy Newman--Sail Away
10. Mose Allison--You Can Count On Me

Bonus, Blossom Dearie--When Sunny Gets Blue

May be back later tonight.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Electoral melodies

Election years may bring out a certain nastiness. It's been rumored. But you also see some enjoyable effervescence. Case in point: the McCain Girls. (Found thru WFMU's Evan "Funk" Davies)

This song and video raises certain questions. What on Earth does it mean to "get totally John McCained"? Why is the brunette in the slinky top the one least shown? Am I high?

If you hang with any lobbyists, they may be able to answer the first of these questions.

Among YouTubers pulling for Barack Obama is founding Twisted Sisterer Jay Jay French. He's retooled one of his band's signature hits for the cause.

Of course this video might be missing something. Like, say, video. Maybe plans were changed when Niedermeyer couldn't make it.

But I find both of these rather charming. In a job I held in college, you could pretty much depend on hearing Rush Limbaugh three hours a day. This included the high-larious song parodies where a Bill Clinton "soundalike" would trudge through "God, I'm a lying pervert" lyrics. Eventually similar schtick started appearing on oldies stations. So for me, it's kind of a relief to hear parodists at all skill levels ak-sentuating the positive. There's an innocence associated with boosterism, regardless of who's being boosted.

Ah, you ask, But what of Hillary? Well, this isn't exactly a parody...

Nor is it necessarily the kind of thing that Sen. Clinton is going to use. But c'mon, could it hurt? Taryn is a little skinnier than I usually find attractive, but DAMN!

Sadly, the man who could arguably add the most to the art of the campaign song is no longer with us. Take it away, Wesley.

He could make Alanis a serious candidate, and she's Canadian. Think what he could do for your candidate.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

I was just surfing a little and I happened across (NOT came across) some Harry Potter/Ron Weasley slash. Not linking to it, because I want to stay out of court. But seemed well done enough. Well, Harry does seem to have a thing for redheads.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Noble squiggly creatures

Hey ferret lovers* I'll bet you didn't know how central you and yours have been to Western culture and art. Well, now you can find out. Hey, Leonardo was hip.

*I meant people who love ferrets, but if you're a mustelid gettin' down with your significant other, that's cool too.

Friday Random Ten, Yo

Check it.

1. Neil Young--My My, Hey Hey (Into the Black)
2. Tom Waits--Tell It to Me
3. Johnny Cash--Orange Blossom Special
4. Isobel Campbell--Are You Going to Leave Me?
5. Roy Orbison--Devil Doll
6. Ben Folds Five--Selfless, Cold and Composed
7. Sun Ra--Bassism*
8. Rasputina--When I Was a Young Girl
9. Marvin Gaye--Right On
10. The 5,6,7,8's--Green Onions

*Features the baritone sax playing of Pat Patrick, whose son Deval Patrick is currently governor of Massachusetts. Did you know that, neighbor?

Thursday, March 20, 2008

McCain eats his greens

With all the hand-wringing over Barack Obama's largely innocuous former pastor, some perspective is called for. And brother, all you have to do is look at Rod Parsley, who's been a key liaison between Dubya and the more hardcore Evangelicals, and who could potentially be an even bigger cheese with John McCain in charge. A pleasant looking man, one who could be Ronald McDonald with the right touches of makeup and wig. Not, however, really keen on homersexuals or your namby-pamby separation of church and state.

One of Hot Rod's cuter statements involves the Rival Franchise.
I cannot tell you how important it is that we understand the true nature of Islam, that we see it for what it really is. In fact, I will tell you this: I do not believe our country can truly fulfill its divine purpose until we understand our historical conflict with Islam. I know that this statement sounds extreme, but I do not shrink from its implications. The fact is that America was founded, in part, with the intention of seeing this false religion destroyed, and I believe September 11, 2001, was a generational call to arms that we can no longer ignore.

America was founded with the intention of destroying this false religion? Damn those forgetful Founding Sitcom Dads. They forgot to put the word "Islam" in the constitution. In fact their entire contribution on religion consists of brief unhelpful tidbits such as this:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

See? Not even a full sentence. So you really have to read between the lines to suss out their intention to crush Mohammedism once and for all. Now that Parsley has cracked that one, maybe he can dedicate his mind to the hidden meanings in the work of Quentin Tarantino.

Late to the St Patrick's/Joseph's Day parties

Here are some nips of both Irish and Italian culture.

The Fatima Mansions were a Corkian punk band from the early nineties who didn't make much headway here. This is a pretty rockin' song. The video is kind of grating, and looks like it was intended to set off epileptic seizures. But what part of "early nineties" don't you understand?

And on the other side of the ledger:

Well, he's Italian on his mother's side, at least.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Far out

I just left myself a voice mail. So it's like, I'm talking to myself at work, and myself hasn't even got there yet. It's trippy, man.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008


Gnarls Barkley are going to be musical guests on Saturday Night Live in April. That should be fun. I wonder if they're still doing the wacky costumes and such. In the picture and the link they seem to be... Christmas trees? Well, a little out of season, but I won't object.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Oh no! Not Elmo room!

It's laundry night, and i'm also trying to improve myself with some Eudora Welty, so it's a good time for a short post with visual aids.

You know, much as I love Schoolhouse Rock, this one doesn't quite tell the whole story. Yes, it was nice to stretch out after being cooped up in Europe all those millennia. Yes, there was dangerous passage over the Atlantic, and covered wagons, and all that good junk. But didn't this continent sort of have people living on it already? They found out PDQ that they're oceans would no longer protect them. And that these fair-skinned visitors had pretty sharp elbows. Ask a Semonole or Ojibwa about it sometime.

So in conclusion, it's 2008. Where the hell is my damn Martian condo already?

Friday, March 14, 2008

Again, the Friday Random Ten (initially misspelled)

One of my lovely and talented co-workers asked today what music I listen to. I always have a hard time answering that question. Be serious, I have a hard time answering any question.

1. Talking Heads--The Good Thing
2. Mose Allison--City Home (recorded live in 2000)
3. Jimmy Smith--Wives and Lovers
4. Tito Puente--China
5. Nick Drake--One of These Things First
6. The 5,6,7,8's--Road Runner
7. Mimi & Richard Fariña--Another Country
8. Broadcast--America's Boy
9. Ladytron--Soft Power
10. Dressy Bessy--Blinktwice

That's all for now, and now has come.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Kids today and their crazy expressions

I don't understand "hot mess", frankly. "Hot" has connoted sexiness for a long time, and still does. So I would think that a hot mess would be someone who's screwed up, but whom you still want to boink. But the sometimes helpful albeit distressingly unedited Urban Dictionary doesn't include that kind of hotness in any of its definitions, just repulsiveness. I don't know, I think there's an opportunity being missed here.

Then there's Hot Ghetto Mess, which also baffles me somewhat. And at this point you might have to excuse my cracka naivete. The front page of the site runs a film of assorted Af-Ams saying "We have got to do better." A lot of the approach seems to involve negative images and shaming. There's a large archive of photos meant to illustrate what to avoid/transcend. Here's my thing: I look at a lot of these pictures and say, "What's wrong with that?" A good number look like regular people who might be a little disheveled, or wearing something gaudy. Does being black mean that you can't get away with looking like a regular frazzled human?

Other pictures look like the more worksafe samples from porn sites. Any porn site worth its salt will employ a wide variety of models. So the fact that some black women got in there is not exactly scandal-worthy.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Some culture

A rendition of Gilbert and Sullivan from a more carefree and innocent time. Why is that? Because if you're under 35 it was before you were born. Haha, you got screwed!

For the record, according to Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary:
\ˈäb-də-rət, -dyə-; äb-ˈdu̇r-ət, əb-, -ˈdyu̇r-\
Middle English, from Latin obduratus, past participle of obdurare to harden, from ob- against + durus hard — more at during
15th century
1 a: stubbornly persistent in wrongdoing b: hardened in feelings
2: resistant to persuasion or softening influences
synonyms see inflexible

Monday, March 10, 2008

Red-hot yadda yadda yadda

So, now that Buffy Summers has transitioned from the small screen to the even smaller comic page, she's going through some other changes as well. I dunno, you'd think that sex sold or something.

Actually, the picture that accompanies this story is kind of freaking me out. Not because of the woman-loving stuff, which is not exactly revolutionary at this point. But when comic book women are drawn out of proportion, it's usually not the heads that are huge. Takes some getting used to.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Green matter

While popular, Geoff Johns' revival of Green Lantern has been, in some respects, a disappointment. At least in comparison to Gerard Jones' GL work in the early '90s. Jones was the last writer to deal with Hal Jordan as a hero before his spree of flying around killing people and ending existence as we know it. Before Parallax and the sort-of return to heroism as the Spectre. Jones' Green Lantern was a man of the road, a sort of idealized Kerouac figure with not a lot of pretense. Around this same time he also wrote Green Lantern:Mosaic, a surreal series with John Stewart policing the newly populated Oa.

Years have passed. Comics have changed (some more). Johns has concentrated less on shambling charm and weirdness, more on action. He's good at it, and it's part of the reason for the series' popularity. But it can be a bit much. Hal has returned to the Air Force--a move that has something of a midlife crisis/trophy wife air--and the Green Lantern Corps itself has gone out of the way to prove itself hard. When Hal and John Stewart joshingly argue over which branch is tougher, the USAF or the Marines, one waits for them to break the tension and start making out. Perhaps not the effect that DC wanted.

With #28, though, things are getting more interesting. The Guardians had already allowed deadly force against the Sinestro Corps, reversing a centuries-old by-law against killing. Now they are granting the use of deadly force against al enemies. Right after creating a league of cyborg Alpha Lanterns, who may decide that the Guardians are enemies. It's a series of entertainingly bad decisions.

Also, Hal confronts Sinestro himself, who is officially awaiting execution. Sinestro's calm responses suggest he has foreseen the Guardians' measures, and approves of them. At the end of their conversation, he suggests that he might believe in the Corps more than Hal does. So yes, interesting.

Relative racism

After brunch today I stopped off at the Rochambeau Library on Hope Street, browsing through their magazines and doing some last-minute manuscript preparation. A few minutes again, I saw her again. I don't know her name, but I guess the one she has in my head is "Zionist Lady."

Some people have subjects that send them off on tangents, regardless of external stimuli. I've gotten to know hers, and to expect certain kinds of statements. She, um, didn't disappoint. These are the highlights of what she was telling the library staff, as best as I can recall.

Have you ever seen that crummy little strip of land? This isn't about land, they just want to kill. The Muslims worship death. The Jews worship life.

Gee, when you think about it, when you kill someone who worships death you're kind of doing them a favor.

Not to make too much of this. Some of the other people in the library looked annoyed, although that might be because of the violation of general library shush rules. And for all I know the poor old gal's grandchildren keep close watch on the clock while visiting.

The thing is, she feels secure in near-shouting these things in public. She believes that it's acceptable to vent her hatred of a huge swath of humanity, then project the hate onto them. And she's right. If you're a Serb and you want to see all the Croatians dead, it's best to keep that desire to yourself, except in like-minded company. Using the word "nigger" in a genteel Providence library could get you kicked out. Talk about "ragheads" and you're on safer ground. Thanks, 9/11!

My grandparents were English emigres to Canada. Each was in their own way capable of mild jingoism, and they were certainly pissed about Lord Mountbatten, but never did I hear them spout venom toward the whole Irish people. (Nanna was a big Ryan's Hope fan.) Hell, then I'd be even more fucked up, and not in a fun way.

One of the three major party candidates is unacceptable to people who think like this, for various and sometimes specious reasons. I guess my hope is that if Obama makes it this nonsense will run its course.

A vague hope, at least.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Black Friday (Random Ten)

A sunny day, a rainy night, good times.

1. Tori Amos--Black Dove (January)
2. Broadcast--Michael A Grammar
3. Thelonious Monk--Suburban Eyes
4. Fairport Convention--Fotheringay
5. Esquivel--Perfidia
6. Velvet Underground--The Black Angel's Death Song
7. The White Stripes--Girl, You Have No Faith in Medicine
8. Ladytron--Weekend
9. REM--Tongue
10 Brian Eno--Everything Merges With the Night

On his own FTT, Tom Hilton asks "What's the most obscure thing on your list?" I can't really claim anything obscure. Warp recording artists Broadcast are well known among hipsters. I'd point to the Esquivel as the most unusual. It's from The Sights and Sounds of Esquivel, which was released a couple of years ago but recorded live in the '70s. The big E is best known as an pioneer studio wiz, so hearing him do his live revue thing is different and interesting.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

The Apple and the Impostor

Pretty rockin'.

Fun riffing from Steve Nieve (pronounced as naive, not the Spanish word for snow) here. And it all makes for a nice easy post, too.

The slapfight goes on

About this:

Not much reported in the rest of the country was the kind of nasty-ass weather we had primary day. Oh, it was lace curtains of rain rather than heavy drapes, and you bet I've seen the latter. Still, it was the kind of afternoon/evening where you have to change as soon as you get home.

Here in RI Hillary was helped by a friendly demographic (largely Catholic, white & Hispanic, etc). In other parts, her 3AM ad may have put her over. That's just sad. For the past seven odd years we've had a president whose first instinct would be to knock the phone off the endtable and keep sleepin'. So in that respect, either she or Barack* would be an improvement. Given my druthers, though, I'll pick the one less likely to be an enabler.

Still, the survival of both candidates makes things interesting. The rules have been contrived to deliver an early winner, and that ain't happening. Here in Rhode Island, we were perhaps pleasantly surprised to find that our votes in this thing would actually count. It seems that may be the case for all the primary locs, up to and including Puerto Rico, at least for the purposes of building a superdelegate-proof majority. Share the wealth, I guess.

*To be fair, I have to use either first names for both or last names for both.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Vitamin C for Carmen

A beloved Sesame Street relic. John Keats said, "A thing of beauty is a joy forever."

Well, certainly now that we have a way of archiving it.

Monday, March 3, 2008

The power behind the Bauer

Scott Horton's Harper's article on how torture is treated in the media--entertainment as well as news--is imperfect but worth reading. There's a silly yet disturbing and telling aspect to the post-production issues of the Oscar-winning documentary Taxi to the Dark Side.

I worked with Alex Gibney, Sid Blumenthal and others in the preparation of “Taxi to the Dark Side” and I appear in the film. The objective of this exercise was to clarify in a definitive way how policies which were settled in the secretive inner sanctum of Washington defense and national security establishment were implemented in the field, and how the Administration attempted—largely through a series of rather staggering deceits—to cover this up. “Taxi” intentionally does not start with Abu Ghraib, but rather with the case of Dilawar, an Afghan taxi driver who was falsely arrested, imprisoned and brutally tortured to death. His handling was start to finish in accordance with formally approved Bush Administration policies. The film then traces the flow of these practices to and from Abu Ghraib, Camp Cropper and Guantánamo, and the flood of official disinformation about them. This film was prepared at the highest levels of objectivity and professionalism and the key figures who carry the dialogue are Bush Administration actors—Alberto Mora, Larry Wilkerson, John Yoo and the prison guards themselves, for instance. In one video segment, a senior U.S. officer in Afghanistan speaks candidly about the orders from the Pentagon to use the brutal techniques, and to mislead about their use. We also see how a fake death certificate was issued for Dilawar and then we slowly develop the actual course of events leading to his death. More than one hundred detainees have now died in U.S. captivity, and a large part of those deaths are linked to the use of torture and other brutal interrogation techniques.

When “Taxi” was done, it was shown to broad acclaim at the Tribeca Film Festival, where it was recognized as best documentary. Discovery expressed a strong interest in the product and stepped up to acquire it. Then strange things started happening. The MPAA raised objections to the poster for the film because it showed a prisoner who was hooded, which is of course the standard practice for the US in transporting prisoners. MPAA said it had ethical reservations about showing a prisoner with a hood, that this suggested torture or abuse, and was inappropriate. Of course, that was the exact point. This was a documentary, not an entertainment piece. After weeks of wrangling the MPAA receded. Then we learned that Discovery, which had talked about transmission of the film in the spring, had decided to simply put it on the shelf. The film was “too controversial,” they said. What they meant was that the White House would take offense from it.

There was a loud public outcry over this act of censorship, and the film was flipped to HBO, which will now broadcast it. When this is transmitted, American audiences will see for the first time, comprehensively, how the Bush Administration consciously introduced torture techniques in American prisons—and how it consciously lied about what it did.

What's funny is the way that potential distrubutors walked on eggshells and backtracked from their own enthusiasm in order to avoid conflict with a president who struggles to maintain a late-era Ceaucescu level of popularity. Are they really worried about alienating the American people by contradicting a lame duck who's demonstably wrong about everything? Are they afraid, as was the case with dear old Nicolae, of the secret police? Or is it simple cronyism?

The latter seems most likely to me. The Discovery Channel is a business venture as much as (HA) an educational enterprise. In that respect, Dubya and the appointees who will outlast him can probably do more for them than a bunch of pointy-headed documentarians.

The rest of the article is largely given over to the brutaitainment phenomenon that is 24. This is, I feel, a mistake. If you're trying to demonstrate Hollywood's recent fondness for those FABOULOUS!!! enhanced interrogation techniques, why talk exclusively about the entertainment outlet which has the biggest mouth about it? XXIV creator Joel Surnow practically wears a nametag that reads "Hello, my name is Joel. Ask me about my fascism."
“24,” which last year won an Emmy Award for Outstanding Drama Series, packs an improbable amount of intrigue into twenty-four hours, and its outlandishness marks it clearly as a fantasy, an heir to the baroque potboilers of Tom Clancy and Vince Flynn. Nevertheless, the show obviously plays off the anxieties that have beset the country since September 11th, and it sends a political message. The series, Surnow told me, is “ripped out of the Zeitgeist of what people’s fears are—their paranoia that we’re going to be attacked,” and it “makes people look at what we’re dealing with” in terms of threats to national security. “There are not a lot of measures short of extreme measures that will get it done,” he said, adding, “America wants the war on terror fought by Jack Bauer. He’s a patriot.”

His show could easily be dismissed as an outlier, if a popular one.

One example that might strengthen the case is the Denzel Washington action flick Man on Fire, partly because it isn't explicitly trying to make a political point. And yet... In 1990, when the first Darkman came out, the surest sign of Durant's (Larry Drake) depravity was his habit of chopping off the fingers of his captives. Fourteen years later, the same tactic is a perfectly legitimate way for the good guy to gather information, and do you want those scum to hurt Dakota Fanning?

Of course this new embrace of torture comes from an old blind spot. As with any interrogation shown onscreen, you can usually assume that the subject knows something. Take a suspect who doesn't want to talk. Smack him around enough times, and he gets a little more loquacious. Movies and TV depict the silence as a lie, the subsequent words as the truth.

But you don't know that. Or rather, they don't know that. Remember, most of us are more likely to be interrogateees than interrogators. But if you are running an interview, you need good information to begin with, to even determine if the new stuff is worth your time. A reliance on torture is liely to build you a house of torture-derived cards.

If you want to keep track of where the spurious messages on torture come from, there's a lot to be aware of.