Wednesday, January 31, 2007

It's almost February.

It can't come any sooner. I've never really liked January, and it's my belief that it's the first month of the year so we can go ahead and get it the hell over with. February's much better. But I just realized something—the month that's designated for the celebration of black history is the shortest month of the entire year. Have black stand-up comedians already commented on this? Am I the last to notice? Did black people or white people choose February for Black History Month? Who thought one of the 30-day months was a few days too many for this celebration? Do the people who made this decision get really angry every four years when Black History Month is extended by one day?

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Sunday, January 21, 2007

man in motion, singing voice in storage

This video was posted on Terje Fjelde's blog back in December, but I'm going to act like I thought of posting it first. I'm also going to steal my comment back from his blog and use it on my own.

Ladies and gentlemen, here's John Parr, the singer of 1985's "St. Elmo's Fire (Man in Motion)." I still like this song, but if you were expecting a newly acoustic version to be performed at the 2006 Children's Choice Awards in Sheffield, England, too bad. Instead, Mr. Parr sings ... well, see for yourself:

What an inspirational message for disabled children: If you try hard enough, you can accomplish anything—except singing. Don't push yourselves too hard when it comes to singing, kids. Don't wanna hurt the pipes, especially not at some rinky-dink charity event. I mean, the organizers should be grateful Mr. Parr bothered to show up in the first place, right? Also, kids, don't waste further energy by actually playing the guitar at an awards show like this one. What if a string were to break? Strings don't grow on trees, you know.

The American-flag design on Parr's guitar is interesting, as Terje pointed out, because the guitar belongs to an English musician who's performing at an event in England. Luckily, Parr still has a great mullet, and that's something every American can be proud of.

quotable notables for the dead of winter

"They say it ain't the knife through the heart that tears you apart / It's just the thought of someone ... stickin' it in"
—Graham Parker, "Protection" (1979)

"It’s not your fault / Yeah, things didn’t turn out the way you dreamed at school / And now you're raising two"
—Bill Stevenson, "Become the Enemy" (2006)

"No longer angry, no longer young, no longer driven to distraction / Not even by Scarlett Johansson"
—Lloyd Cole, "Woman in a Bar" (2006)

"Losing my hearing from listening to last year ..."
—Tony Goddess, "Starting to Be It" (1997)

"I met a girl I'd like to know better / But I'm already with someone”
—Wheat, “I Met a Girl" (2002)

"Because when you start to doubt / Somehow it all works out / The line becomes the truth / And what we need right now / Is somewhere to just lay down / And dream the whole night through"
—Josh Rouse, "The Whole Night Through" (2002)

"Make no little plans; they have no magic to stir people's blood and probably themselves will not be realized. Make big plans; aim high in hope and work, remembering that a noble, logical diagram once recorded will never die, but long after we are gone will be a living thing, asserting itself with ever-growing insistency. Remember that your children and grandchildren are going to do things that would stagger us. Let your watchword be order and your beacon beauty."
—Daniel Burnham (1910)

"Neocon sex fantasy"?

Some people have been complaining the last few years that the TV series 24 is a neoconservative's dream come true because of the multiple torturings and mangling of Constitutional law inflicted by Jack Bauer and his colleagues. But what kind of neoconservative has ever fantasized about two black bachelors being elected president in one decade?

At least David Palmer had already been a senator when his term of office began, and he had raised two children with his ex-wife (but it seems unlikely that a presidential candidate's rhetoric about traditional American values would hold much water with certain voters if he was going through a very public divorce during his run). His brother, Wayne, as far as I can remember, had never held any kind of elected office before he became president; he was his brother's chief of staff, but as my friend Beau said, "That's like seeing Karl Rove become president."

And Wayne's never been married. Did he win solely on sympathy votes cast by people who liked his assassinated brother? Sorry, but Wayne is no Bobby to David's Jack. Plus he's bald. Who was our last bald president? Gerald Ford. And just like my friend Beau, Ford was an accident! (Sorry you had to find out this way, Beau.) I think we're still a ways off from electing a black president, y
et here comes Barack Obama, who's most likely going to run. (Okay, so he's half black.) Prove me wrong, Obama. But if you really want my vote, I dare you to begin divorce proceedings sometime around Super Tuesday next year.

Real America just isn't as progressive as 24's version of America, but at least real America hasn't watched its last three presidents either (a) decide not to run for reelection because of a personal scandal, (b) become critically wounded in a plane crash and have to cede power to the vice-president, or (c) resign from office because of a political scandal involving treason. Maybe Wayne Palmer got elected because nobody else wanted the job. Good luck handling all of the nuclearand politicalfallout this season, Wayne.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

I saw the light ...

I'm really enjoying not showering every single day. I'm also enjoying not flushing every time I use the bathroom. I feel like I've turned a big corner in my life. Thank you, moderately hygienic friends, for showing me the way.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Little Richard invented rock 'n' roll, not politically correct stage banter.

From Ben Ratliff's New York Times review of Little Richard's performance at the B.B. King Blues Club & Grill in New York City on January 15:

Little Richard is wary of photography. During “Blueberry Hill,” he noticed a lot of digital cameras. “Nobody do no video,” he ordered. “I ain’t hired you. Ain’t nothing going on unnoticed on this planet. The angels keep a record. You can take my money, but your child may get killed.” Quite a few people in the crowd drew a sharp breath at that.

Who knew Little Richard had some Native American* in him? "Steal my soul with your electronic flash bulb and I'll steal your firstborn's ability to breathe oxygen. Ah-

“Could I get two black ladies to dance?” he ventured. “I’d like to have two fat white ladies, too. Juicy ones. And two Mexicans.”

But not fat, juicy Mexicans? Just Mexican Mexicans? Fair enough. Form a line, people—we don't have all night.

The most eloquent speakers in the world hail from Macon, Georgia. Hometown pride, y'all! But Mr. Penniman did end his concert with this piece of friendly advice:

“... remember, the Lord is coming soon. Never put a question mark where God has put a period.”

But if you find yourself putting your foot in your mouth, don't be surprised if people react with exclamation marks. Ah-

* In Little Richard-speak, "Native American" translates as "Injun."

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Once I can convince a girl to date me for more than three weeks ...

... I'm going to introduce her to my friends as "my lady love." Not "my girlfriend" or "my sweetie" or "the only reason I don't end it all right here and ruin this white carpet." No, I prefer "my lady love." I think she'll prefer it too, whoever she turns out to be.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Let's go to the movies!

Boy, I love the movies! Well, I used to. We broke up around 1998, but we're still friends, I guess. And it's actually good for both of us that I no longer obsess about the movies like I used to, although I doubt the movies have noticed. Now, let's talk about some movies I've seen in the last few months:

1. OCEAN'S TWELVE (2004)
When this sequel to the remake of Ocean's Eleven (2001) came out, I heard it was a disappointment. Sequels often are, but Steven Soderbergh directed it (as well as Ocean's Eleven and this summer's Ocean's Thirteen), so how bad could it be? Soderbergh, like Ang Lee, has a long track record of making good films in any genre he chooses. With 1998's Out of Sight, Soderbergh proved he could make smart, entertaining mainstream fare, and he continued in that vein with Erin Brockovich (2000) and Ocean's Eleven.

But with Ocean's Twelve, Soderbergh stumbles a bit and shows that sequels aren't his strong suit. Not yet anyway—here's hoping Ocean's Thirteen is better, and judging by the trailer, it seems to be paying close attention to the unofficial Movie Trilogy Rulebook, which states that you must follow up a not-as-successful second installment with a third installment that sticks closely to the elements that made the first movie successful. It looks like Ocean's Thirteen will be set in Las Vegas, like the original, with Ocean and his gang (which now includes Andy Garcia and Ellen Barkin) trying to rob Al Pacino's casino. (That rhymes. I guess that's why Al was cast.)

Twelve is set in Paris, Rome, Amsterdam, and other European locations, and although Garcia is back as Terry Benedict, the bad guy from Eleven, he's the secondary bad guy this time. Unfortunately, the primary bad guy, Vincent Cassel's "Night Fox," isn't all that interesting, and his breakdancing routine near the end of the movie is cringe-worthy. Eleven did a great job fleshing out all the members of Ocean's gang as well as Benedict and his love triangle with Danny Ocean (George Clooney) and Ocean's ex-wife, Tess (Julia Roberts). The balancing act doesn't work as well in Twelve, with Bernie Mac, Elliott Gould, and Carl Reiner's characters absent for long stretches of the movie. And although I didn't like the whole meta-tastic "Tess looks just like Julia Roberts" subplot (why didn't anyone notice this in Eleven?), it did lead to the funniest scene in the movie, in which Bruce Willis, playing himself, thinks Tess is Julia Roberts and Tess ends up on the phone with Julia. Sadly, the rest of the movie is pretty unmemorable and even confusing in some parts, and there's nothing along the lines of Eleven's serene little moment at the Bellagio fountains after the big heist.

2. BASIC INSTINCT 2 (2006)
I've been on a sequel kick recently. And it's not over yet. Like Ocean's Twelve, Basic Instinct 2 is considered to be worse than the original, but on a much larger scale. It's generally not wise to release a sequel 14 years after the original, especially if the original's director, writer, and male costar aren't returning for the sequel. Sharon Stone is back, but she's not even the main character in her own star vehicle. Like Basic 1, the sequel is structured around the horny guy who's obsessed with Stone's character, Catherine Tramell. And here's a big problem with Basic 2: Stone is no longer the hottest woman on the planet. It's a little embarrassing watching a woman in her late 40s who appears to have had some botched plastic surgery on her face and breasts talking dirty and trying to seduce every man she meets. (Stone apparently has a scene in Bobby in which she stares at herself in a mirror and realizes her age has caught up with her. Too bad that self-awareness is nowhere in sight in Basic Instinct 2.) I saw Stone interviewed on Primetime Glick in 2003 and she looked great. I don't know what happened between then and 2005, when this movie was shot, but Stone isn't given many close-ups in Basic 2, which is odd considering she's the star of the movie and the reason it got made in the first place. Maybe you just need a higher SPF, Sharon. Ask the hot fortysomethings on Desperate Housewives for some helpful hints.

Meta-tastic redux! This one didn't intrigue me as much as I'd hoped, but then I remembered that I never fell in love with those Charlie Kaufman-penned films like Being John Malkovich and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind like friends of mine did (however, I really liked Adaptation up until the third act, which is when the meta-tastic qualities started to overwhelm everything else). But to be fair, I was distracted quite a bit by the sound system in the theater where I saw Stranger Than Fiction—it sounded like a plane was about to take off during most of the movie, and that didn't help during the quieter scenes.

I was also bothered that the movie was filmed in Chicago yet no mention of Chicago was ever made. Look, if you're going to have some nameless big city in your movie, film the thing in Vancouver—they're used to it! Granted, people who don't live in Chicago or haven't been here won't notice much when they see the movie, and it's not like Stranger Than Fiction shows the Hancock Tower or Sears Tower or Wrigley Field at any point, but it struck me as odd. Maybe Columbia Pictures was offered a huge tax break if they filmed the movie in Chicago, but I doubt it.

On the flip side, two days after I saw Stranger Than Fiction I watched an episode of TBS's new sitcom My Boys. It's set in Chicago but clearly filmed on soundstages, yet the writers do a good job with the details, name-checking streets like Ashland Avenue and having a character wear a T-shirt with the logo of the Metro, a concert venue here. In Stranger Than Fiction, Will Ferrell's character catches the Kronecker bus every morning. There's no street named Kronecker in Chicago.

4. BORAT (2006)
This movie starts to slow down at the point where the frat boys pick up Borat in their RV (gee, do you think that was staged at all?) and make their sexist and racist comments. But up till then it's as funny as everyone says it is. Sacha Baron Cohen is a funny man.

5. THE DEPARTED (2006)
Another great Martin Scorsese crime movie, with terrific performances all around, although I thought Matt Damon's accent sounded more authentic than Mark Wahlberg's, which is odd since Wahlberg actually grew up in south Boston, right? Didn't Damon grow up in Cambridge? I assume the accent isn't as strong in Cambridge. I like to assume lots of things. My only problem with The Departed is that the plot is moved forward in several instances via text messaging between characters. I hate technology.

Yeah, Jennifer Hudson has a great voice, but she's not a great actress yet, so people should stop saying, "She's going to win an Oscar!" Eddie Murphy's the one who deserves an Oscar nomination for this movie. It's good to see him this energetic again in a movie for adults, not three-year-olds.

These reviews are getting shorter and shorter. Can you tell I'm getting tired?

I'm gonna burn your Manhattan playhouse down.

Over Christmas my dad read me a short profile on Eugene Levy in the New Yorker. (Yeah, my daddy still reads to me. I dress him, so it's a fair trade.) One detail that immediately stood out was this one:

He doesn’t do appearances in character, except for a turn, with John Candy, as the Shmenge Brothers on Letterman ten years ago....

What? Ten years ago? John Candy died in 1994! I thought you had the best fact checkers in the business, New Yorker. I guess not. I'm going to enjoy lording this over you. Of course, the newspaper I work for, the Chicago Reader, recently ran an article in which June 1968 was listed as the month that Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated, even though he was murdered two months earlier. I never got to proofread that article, but if I had, I hope I would've noticed that error. To make up for this fact-checking blunder, all of us at the Reader are here at work on MLK Day.

Eugene Levy and John Candy appeared on Late Night With David Letterman as SCTV's Shmenge brothers (their attempt at "breakout" characters a la Rick Moranis and Dave Thomas's McKenzie brothers) on February 26, 1985, according to Wikipedia. No, Wikipedia isn't the definitive source for this kind of information, but right now I trust them more than the New Yorker. Hurts, don't it, New Yorker?

Sunday, January 14, 2007

about a grotesquely obscene car

I just saw a commercial that features Badly Drawn Boy's great song "About a Boy," from the soundtrack of the movie of the book of the same name. The commercial was for Hummer.

Is BDB (not to be confused, of course, with Bush I-era supergroup Bell Div Bevoe) donating the royalties he makes from this commercial to environmental causes the way Moby did earlier in the decade? I don't know. Maybe he lives under a rock and thinks the Hummer is some sort of musical toy for children. Or maybe he thinks he's going to be compensated with another kind of hummer.

Matt doing Matthew

Yet another reason to like Matt Damon ...

Thursday, January 11, 2007

I stand corrected.

I took Marrie and Cary's advice and didn't shower yesterday. And guess what? I'm a new man!

No, not really, but it felt good to save a little time in the morning, especially on a Wednesday, the day when I'm supposed to be at work at 10 AM after leaving work only 10 hours earlier after a 14-hour shift. I move slowly on Wednesday mornings, or, more precisely, even slower than I usually move.

So here's to no-shower Wednesdays unless I end up sweating a lot on Tuesdays. If not showering seven days a week helps my skin, so be it. Lord knows I don't want any new dermatological problems.

Saturday, January 6, 2007

100% cotton dress shirts

These kinds of shirts take too long to iron. Give me a 60% cotton-40% polyester or rayon blend or give me death.

I need to stop taking showers at 2 PM on my days off from work. Prioritize, panda boy! But at least I shower seven days a week—I found out recently that some friends of mine shower five days a week at most.

I can't remember who said this, but it's true—you get one day for your birthday, not an entire weekend or week or month. I have no problem with gently reminding people that it's your birthday, because most people outside your immediate family aren't going to bother jotting down your birthday, no matter how many times you remember their birthday (no, of course I'm not speaking from experience). Just don't shove your birthday down people's throats or use tired excuses like "Okay, I'll be at the rehearsal tomorrow at noon, but don't expect me to be too productive, because today's my birthday, so I'm gonna be really hung over tomorrow morning." Prioritize, non-panda boys and girls.

Friday, January 5, 2007

two words that should be retired in 2007

I think "vagina" and "douchebag" should go away this year. We all overused them in 2006. If you're a doctor I think you should still use "vagina" when addressing your female patients' problems, but otherwise it should stop being used so much as a funny word. And "douchebag" really seemed to take off in 2006, but let's give it some time to hibernate. Unless you're a doctor who has to hand out free douchebags to his female patients who have vaginas, of course.