Saturday, May 31, 2008


Weird day today. Started great, took an unexpected turn for the melancholy. I've tried to harness my feelings, calm them down, examine them, yes, even write about them. But for now...nothing.

But hey, a clip job is better than no post at all. (Isn't it? Isn't it?!) And May 31st happens to be the birthday of three of my heroes, so it's a great time for a tribute.

The late Akira Ifukube was a well-respected symphonic composer when Toho Studios enlisted him in 1954 to score their brand-new giant monster epic. You can mock the Godzilla series all you want, but you can't deny the beauty of this composition, used in the film as a song for the dead.

Chris Elliot made his name on David Letterman's old NBC show before creating the surreal anti-sitcom Get A Life and writing and starring in the cult epic Cabin Boy. You're either on Elliot's wavelength of you're not, but if you are, you'll agree with me he's one of the greatest comic talents of his (my) generation. Here's a classic bit of weirdness from the old Letterman show.

Turning 78 today, with one movie set for release and another set to start production this summer, he's certainly one of our finest filmmakers. But as an actor, a movie star, an icon--no one could ever be as cool as Clint Eastwood.

Friday, May 30, 2008


Death comes again, taking another one of the greats: Harvey Korman, at age 81.

This clip will no doubt be posted all across the web this morning, and for good reason. I first saw Blazing Saddles when I was 10, and I've probably never laughed so hard since. I've seen it countless times since, and the thing that becomes obvious is how much the film depends on Korman's effortless genius as scheming nogoodnik Hedley Lamarr.

Cleavon Little and Gene Wilder make a great team as our protagonists, Slim Pickens and Alex Karras are wonderful cartoons, Madeline Kahn is absolute perfection. But Korman hits it just right, believably human in his pettiness and occasional vulnerability, gloriously theatrical and over the top, and absolutely hilarious. He's the demented heart and soul of the whole cracked enterprise, and no praise could be too effusive.

Blazing Saddles will no doubt always be remembered as the finest thing he did, but Korman did other great work for Mel Brooks (he's priceless as Count De Monet in History Of The World, Part One), and was, of course, the backbone of The Carol Burnett Show--when he left, it died. I'm also fond of his brilliant turn as pathetic TV star Monty Rushmore in the completely forgotten satire Americathon. His desperate bid to keep his audience entertained--"Do you want me to grope a sheep? I'll grope a sheep!"--is one of my all-time favorite movie lines.

Korman's career largely followed the standard template--bit parts as a character comedian, gradual recognition, a brief ride at the top and a slow decline. He always gave all, but aside from his work with Brooks and Burnett, he'll probably best be remembered as the voice of The Great Gazoo on The Flintstones, the most irritating character in animation history. Cartoon voice work, in fact, largely defined Korman's later years, as work dried up. But any kind of work was good, and Korman was nothing if not a professional.

Besides, he'd always have Hedley.

Thursday, May 29, 2008


Oh sure, it helps if you can recall dateless Friday nights spent cringing at the musical stylings of Pink Lady and the alleged comedy of Jeff Altman. But you don't need such memories to find the bland optimism of this promo kind of sad.

Facts Of Life inexplicably found success, but Here's Boomer and Pink Lady And Jeff remain among the more notorious failures in TV history, prime examples of the slapdash, coke-fueled, what-the-hell-were-they-thinking style of programming so common in the late seventies and early eighties. (As opposed to now, of course, when everything on TV is pure gold.)

What really shines through in this spot is a complete lack of irony; this was surely the last time in history when a voice-over could use a phrase like "traveling across America and right into your heart" without it being intended as some vaguely post-modern comment on the very triteness of the phrase. And as for the guest lineup on Pink Lady And Jeff, again, we'll not see such a bizarrely mismatched parade of talent again unless it's a joke, a reference to how randomly guests were chosen for TV shows back in the day.

Much of what's on TV now is better than what was on then. Production values are certainly better, and even the worst shows now assume a certain level of awareness (if not actual intelligence) on their audiences' parts. Which is fine when it brings us something like The Sopranos or The Shield or Arrested Development or even simple, well-crafted entertainment like the Law & Order franchise. But it's impossible to imagine any TV network, broadcast or cable, bringing us something as hopelessly naive as Here's Boomer, and we're somehow poorer for that.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008


Today would have marked Ian Fleming's one hundredth birthday. Am I going to celebrate that with a clip from a Bond picture? Um...duh!

I've actually been meaning to post this ever since seeing Indiana Jones And The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull, but really, I shouldn't single that particular film out. All action movies these days are inexplicably reliant on CGI. Even when, as with Crystal Skull or the most recent Die Hard epic, the credits list scores of stunt performers, the scenes using them have been so digitally enhanced as to negate the very danger that makes their work so impressive. When anything is possible, nothing can really astonish.

This is the teaser from Roger Moore's best Bond picture, The Spy Who Loved Me. Sure, the rear projection in the closeups of Moore is embarrassingly bad, but everything else is the real deal. Not only does the lack of CGI enhance the sense of danger in the scene, the lack of distracting bells and whistles makes it much easier to follow. This sequence is a model of how to stage and film action, and a great mini-movie in itself.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008


I felt genuine sadness to read of the death of director Sydney Pollack at the age of 73. His output was highly variable, but anybody with Castle Keep, Jeremiah Johnson, The Yakuza, Three Days Of The Condor and Tootsie to his credit obviously knew what he was doing. Particularly fine tributes can be found here and here.

On the other hand, one of my favorite actors, Christopher Lee, is still gloriously with us; he turns 86 today. His career has probably never been in better shape; after his unforgettable early work as monster in residence for Hammer Films (if you don't own a copy of Terence Fisher's The Mummy--you should, you should!), he took whatever work was available, often in Grade Z garbage (Jesus Franco's Fu Manchu epics), occasionally in big budget schlock (Airport '77)...but these days, thanks to the admiration of filmmakers like Peter Jackson and Tim Burton, he appears in only the highest-grade schlock.

I originally came to love him as a horror icon--this post could easily turn into an autobiographical account of the importance of Lee and Peter Cushing to my childhood (and if you don't own a copy of Terence Fisher's The Horror Of Dracula--you should, you should!)--but eventually admired his fine, occasionally outlandish performances in everything from Billy Wilder's The Private Life Of Sherlock Holmes, Robin Hardy's magnificent The Wicker Man or Terence Fisher's The Devil Rides Out (if you don't own a copy--well, you know) to Joe Dante's hilarious Gremlins 2, Bill Persky's underrated comedy Serial and Philippe Mora's oddball, ambitious (but nearly unwatchable) The Return Of Captain Invincible. Lately he's become the Grand Old Man of lavish CGI-laden fantasy epics, with memorable bits in the Star Wars prequels and Lord Of The Rings epics, as well as The Golden Compass.

Lee's filmography may well be as long as any actor's in history, but even when appearing in the most misbegotten project (Starship Invasions, say, or Police Academy: Mission To Moscow), Lee always projected an aura of unflappable cool, his dignity always intact.

Sometimes, fortunately, he said the hell with dignity.

Happy birthday, sir.

Monday, May 26, 2008


It's all that CGI.

The overuse of fuzzy, unconvincing computer-generated effects in Indiana Jones And The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull is so prevalent, it repeatedly took me out of the movie, jerked me out of whatever spell it attempted to cast and reminded me of its own phoniness. And once that spell is broken, other deficiencies become so much more noticeable.

It starts out fine, with a nicely-staged action sequence in a secret Nevada military base (which also confirms that yes, Harrison Ford still has it--heck, he even looks a bit like mid-seventies Sean Connery), and a thrilling if improbable escape from an atomic blast. True, there are quibbles even here, but basically, we're off to a fine start.

But then Indy is whisked to an air force base for interrogation by sinister federal agents, and the establishing shot of the base seems to have been rendered almost entirely in the digital realm, with obviously artificial planes screaming overhead and a fleet of automobiles bearing a hazy, unconvincing look. Really? All that work for a simple establishing shot? You could have taken a camera out to any nondescript building, parked a period car in front of it, then cut to the scene.

The plot moves along--Spielberg certainly knows how to tell a story--with characters and situations introduced (or, in Karen Allen's case, re-introduced) at just the right intervals. The McGuffin in this case, the titular skull, seems a bit sillier than usual, and the movie treats it with needless seriousness, but okay. It's still pretty enjoyable...

...And then we get to what is obviously intended to be the big setpiece, a furious, elaborate chase through a Peruvian rain forest. Here, the CGI drives the entire sequence, and it becomes so overtly cartoonish--Shia LaBeouf straddling two vehicles, his lower body contorting in ways not possible in the natural world, then later vine-swinging through trees that are clearly nothing more than millions of pixels--that it's impossible to care what happens.

This sequence is obviously meant to recall the truck chase from Raiders Of The Lost Ark, but the problem is, as improbable as that sequence was, it was clearly being performed by real people, in real vehicles, on a real road. There's a feeling of danger, of excitement, in that scene that all the digital effects in the world can't conjure.

Which means that there's nothing to do during the chase scene in Crystal Skull than pick it apart, to wonder why the filmmakers thought a campy, frankly insulting vine-swinging scene was something that belonged in an Indiana Jones movie. (It reminded me of a similar regrettable scene in Octopussy; in fact, the jokey, self-conscious tone of Crystal Skull frequently reminds me of the worst of the Roger Moore-era Bond pictures.)

A later confrontation with an army of deadly but clearly computer-rendered ants is a nice homage to The Naked Jungle, but also reminds us that the snakes, bugs and rats Indy encountered in previous adventures were all the real deal and the expressions of discomfort on the actors' faces in those scenes were likely real, too. Here, the performers barely react--and why should they, since on the set they had nothing to react to?

It's all downhill from there--plunges off cliffs and down waterfalls that are obviously not real, an unsatisfying payoff to the story, a particularly undramatic resolution for Cate Blanchett's sneering commie villain, a climax heavily dependent on special effects--but in the age of CGI, the capacity of effects to astonish has been diminished, so this whole sequence just sits there.

But there is the final scene, which I loved, and which demonstrates the peculiar nature of this film: it's so close to being the real thing, so much they get right that it makes all the missteps that much more noticeable.

Sunday, May 25, 2008


Eyes flicker open, staring at the clock, unable to focus. Sunlight floods the bedroom, though, which means it's--rubbing my eyes, squirming closer to the clock--almost time to leave for work! Evidently I forgot to switch on the alarm. Head spinning, roll out of bed. I've never slept this late on a work day, ever, and as I stagger into the living room, my mind considers all the morning rituals I'm going to have to do without. Pretty much just time for a quick shower, I'll have to grab breakfast during my first break at work. But first things first, Elinore needs to go for her morning walk.

Elinore. Elinore? I stand transfixed before the picture window, the neon green of my front lawn deepens, grows brighter--

I wake up. Again.

The clock says it is slightly past midnight. Delmar and Monika sleep at my feet. The radio plays. A horn honks somewhere. I'm in my apartment. This is not a house where I once lived, and I don't have to walk a dog who has been dead for six years. This is reality. Isn't it?

I go to the bathroom, I drink a glass of water, I go back to bed--

--and am immediately standing in my living room again. The layout is slightly different then it should be, the TV is on the wrong side of the room, and when did I get a couch? What time is it, I wonder, then from outside, Elinore barks. I hurry to the door. A strange dog sits on the front step. Oh, right--Elinore must have been trying to chase it away. She hates other dogs.

"Go home!" I yell, and it dutifully scampers off. I turn to bring Elinore in, but she's not there. Her collar, frayed and undone, sits in the grass.

Panic! My first instinct is to call Mom to come help me, but no, I can't do that, Mom's no longer with us. Somewhere in my mind I realize that doesn't even make sense, that Elinore's been gone longer than Mom, but there's no time for rational thought. I have a dog to find. Running down the hill, calling her name in a choked voice, I'm met by every stray in the neighborhood, a barking, leaping whirlwind. They pass by me, and in their wake stands Elinore, shifting her weight from side to side.

"Come here, Baby Dog," I call, and she bounces towards me, then pauses. A gaping pothole in the middle of the street separates us, and she slowly climbs into it. I run to her but she is snuggled up quite comfortably in her hole, refusing to budge. She whimpers, she growls as I try to pry her out. I sit with her, her moist brown eyes stare back at me and I know I will never see her again.

Saturday, May 24, 2008


More detailed thoughts on the latest Indiana Jones epic will follow, eventually. For now, I've spent way too much time perusing both reviews of Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull and fan responses to the reviews, and the tone seems to be the same from both sources: everything good in the movie can be attributed to Steven Spielberg, everything wrong with it is George Lucas' fault.

Lucas has become a way too convenient whipping boy ever since Return Of The Jedi failed to top the expectations of drooling fanboys everywhere. And since everyone seems to agree that the Star Wars prequels were worthless, it's been open season on the man and his work ever since.

Except...None of that is true. True, Return Of The Jedi isn't up to the standards of The Empire Strikes Back, but it's probably better made and more rewatchable (if less iconic) than Lucas' '77 original. Most of the criticism of the film tends to center around the Ewoks, characters apparently too cutesy for hardcore fans. Yeah, coming from a series that gave us Artoo and Threepio, fuzzy little critters are excessive.

And as for the prequels, again, I just don't get the hate. Sure, I'm not down with that whole midichlorian thing, and yeah, Jar Jar is a crude ethnic caricature is disguise (one of many in the Star Wars universe, and if you have way too much time, ask for my thoughts on the subject), but most of the supposed inconsistencies fans claim between the prequels and the sacred original trilogy simply don't exist or are clearly explained. And, Phantom Menace aside, the prequels are actually very well-crafted, entertaining pictures in their own right. In fact, I'd go so far as to claim Revenge Of The Sith as my second favorite Star Wars movie of all.

But even if the prequels were as awful as all that, the hatred towards Lucas would still grate. Many fans apparently feel the whole problem with the latest Indy adventure is that Lucas co-authored the story--even though he created the character in the first place! If Lucas is so staggeringly inept, how did Raiders Of The Lost Ark (based on a story by Lucas) turn out so well? Or Star Wars, which he wrote entirely on his own? Or American Graffiti, for that matter?

True, the use of CGI in modern moviemaking was largely pioneered by Lucas, and its near-fatal overuse in Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull can probably be laid at his feet. But why blame him for everything else and give Spielberg a pass? Say what you will about Lucas' entire filmography (and yes, I'm even including Willow), it doesn't include anything as bad as Hook.

Friday, May 23, 2008


Sure, it seems as if close examination of TV commercials from the 1970s reveals blatant sexuality erupting in the most inappropriate contexts. I try to tell myself no, it's just my dirty mind. Here, for instance, is a perfectly wholesome ad for kid's clothes. It does not sexualize prepubescents, doesn't depict them as objects of desire, and certainly features no fetishistic closeups of underage butts:

And Twinkie The Kid, no, he's not really an ambulatory penis. He's just a plump, cream-filled ramrod with an uncircumcised hat, and there's no way the image 20 seconds into this spot looks like it was shot by Jim and Artie Mitchell:

But then...this. This is a Freudian nightmare. This is emasculation as wholesome family fun. This is The Ice Storm: The Home Game. This is what would happen if Erica Jong designed an ad campaign for a product devised by Edward Albee. This is Scenes From A Marriage with an inexplicably peppy soundtrack. This is a descent into marital hell.

Seriously, what the hell were they thinking?

Thursday, May 22, 2008


Sometimes I don't write because I don't have the time. Today I can't write because I don't have the inclination. Thoughts hammer my brain, but the ability to express them eludes me, words floating in the aether, just out of my grasp.

I'm kind of down. Bang bang bang, just like that, Katie and I came to the end of the line a week ago--on my birthday, making the pain so much sweeter--and this is the first day I've had to sort of live with the outcome, to face the gaping maw that is the rest of my life. Never knew if the two of us would be permanent, but I certainly didn't see the end coming so soon. Now there's just today and tomorrow and the next, and whatever comes after that. Sometimes life is so overwhelming that it forces me to use terms like "gaping maw".

Wow. Weird. Sentences appear at random on my computer screen, without any thought behind them. I'm rambling, is what I'm trying to say. And really, who wants to traipse through my tortured psyche when they could do something else? Like listening to this--Holly Cole's amazing cover of a Tom Waits classic:

Wednesday, May 21, 2008


Sorry, I overslept. So that definitive essay on Return Of The Jedi that I had planned for today will just have to wait.

(Readers breathe collective sigh of relief.)

And you know, the whole breakup with Katie thing is awful and all, but honestly, I'm feeling strangely indifferent. No whining about my personal life.

(Readers cheer.)

No new Vincente Minnelli movies on DVD for me to praise effusively, too exhausted to delve into the Clinton-Obama feud, too bummed out to excoriate the Yankees.

(Readers offer thanks to God or gods of choice.)

But hey...I've got this:

(Readers stare in stunned, slack-jawed disbelief, wondering what they've done to deserve this.)

Tuesday, May 20, 2008


Sometimes it's hard to take Steven Spielberg seriously. The deeply felt emotions of his debut feature, The Sugarland Express, would eventually curdle into the treacle of The Color Purple and Always. The brilliant engineer of Jaws and Raiders Of The Lost Ark would eventually craft such by-the-numbers thrill rides as Jurassic Park and its even more dire sequel. The oddball dreamer responsible for Close Encounters Of The Third Kind would bring us--shudder--Hook.

Spielberg's been on a bit of an upswing lately, especially with his most recent effort, Munich, but his instincts still fail him. Minority Report is well-written and superbly directed, with brilliant cameo performances from Lois Smith, Tim Blake Nelson and Max Von Sydow--but utterly compromised by being framed as a Tom Cruise starring vehicle. It wants to be a dark thriller about a haunted protagonist finding meaning in his life...but it's impossible to imagine an actor less introspective than Cruise. Every time he's on screen, he's at war with all the elements surrounding him.

Matthew McConaughey in Amistad, Tom Hanks in Saving Private Ryan, Cruise again in War Of The Worlds--Spielberg's penchant for movie-star casting constantly undercuts the believability of the worlds he's trying to create. And sometimes Spielberg does it to himself--has any movie been more inconsistent than Schindler's List? Brilliantly directed scenes mingle with tawdry sentimentality, and there is no tone, no overriding vision. It just sits there, demanding awards for its courage in exposing fifty year old horrors.

For whatever reason, the Indiana Jones series seems to energize Spielberg; even the worst in the series, The Last Crusade, is breezy and stylish. He doesn't seem to feel the need to bathe everything in significance; his entertainer's instincts kick in. Will this still hold true for the new one, or will it be mawkish and mechanical?

Honestly, the main reason I'm writing all this is to highlight one of my favorite Spielberg pictures, the misbegotten comedy 1941. Sure, it's gargantually overscaled, and often more cruel than funny. But that cruelty seems to have a point; there's a cynicism to this movie, a detached, God's eye view of human behavior at its worst. There's no way this mocking vision of patriotism run amuck could get made now, and its casual racism and misogyny seem to have been deliberate attempts to capture an era. It's impossible to imagine Spielberg even attempting something like this nowadays, and we're all poorer for that.

Justifications aside, though, the reason I like 1941 is because, all considerations of plot and characterization aside, it's simply brilliantly directed. Consider this scene: the amazingly physical performances of Bobby DiCicco, Treat Williams and Wendie Jo Sperber, the intricate staging, Spielberg's dazzling camera moves, the razor sharp editing--it's a thing of beauty. (And sorry about the overdub, it's the best-looking version of this sequence available.)

The guy responsible for that scene is a genius. Let's hope the new Indiana Jones picture is directed by this guy, not the one who made The Terminal.

Monday, May 19, 2008


After initial bad buzz on the interwebs, the actual reviews are coming in for Indiana Jones And The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull, and they seem to be mostly positive.

Not that I've actually read them, of course--I want to save some surprises for when I see the movie. But one thing that seems interesting is that most of the positive reviews are coming from older, more established critics, people who write for actual print publications and whose knowledge of film history goes back further than the summer of 1981.

Me, I'm hoping for the best, but I've got a lot of qualms.

For one thing, this is the first Indiana Jones installment shot by someone other than the great cinematographer Douglas Slocombe. When he directed the earlier installments in the series, Steven Spielberg tended to shuffle cameramen with each new film. The Indy adventures were the only times Spielberg ever deployed the services of Slocombe, who made his name with the beloved Ealing comedies of the fifties and worked with everyone from Roman Polanski to Ken Russell. Slocombe brought a clean, classical style to the series, eschewing show-offy mannerisms or fashionable effects. All three of the previous Indiana Jones epics look like they could have been made in the waning days of the old studio system, one of the reasons they have such a timeless appeal.

Slocombe retired after 1989's Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade, and Crystal Skull was shot by Janusz Kaminski, Spielberg's regular cinematographer since Schindler's List. They've done some excellent work together, and Kaminski is certainly versatile, but he tends to favor a hazy, washed-out palette that is the exact opposite of the simple, easily read images one associates with Slocombe's work on the series. Spielberg has claimed repeatedly he tried to go old school in the making of this latest installment, but I fear it may be a mere imitation.

(For what it's worth, Spielberg's other key collaborators from the series, editor Michael Kahn and, of course, composer John Williams, are present and accounted for. So there's that.)

Another potential hurdle here is the script. Over the years, Spielberg and producer George Lucas have famously dismissed numerous screenplays by a small army of writers until they finally found one they could agree upon. Unfortunately, this script is by David Koepp, who has written some of the worst movies in recent Hollywood history. For Spielberg alone, he contributed the stunningly awful plot and dialog for the second Jurassic Park epic and wrote the underwhelming War Of The Worlds. He wrote the dreadful scripts for The Paper and The Shadow, and created the aptly-named TV series Hack.

True, Koepp's credited with writing a couple of good movies, Carlito's Way and Panic Room, but those are examples of stylish directors overcoming weak material. On the other hand, so are the last two Indiana Jones movies--I love Temple Of Doom, but there's no doubt the script is its weakest aspect, and The Last Crusade is strictly a replay of earlier material. If Spielberg is firing on all cylinders here, he may be able to overcome even the dumbest storyline.

I'm also not too crazy about the presence of Shia LaBeouf in the cast, mostly because it feels like they're hedging their bets a little by throwing in a young guy to give the kids some kind of rooting interest. It's like if James Bond suddenly found himself saddled with a youthful sidekick. No thanks.

Despite all this, I will of course be the first in line when the damn thing opens, and honestly, I'm pretty seriously stoked. After all, this time out, Indy's taking on Commies! And since Cate Blanchett's character is apparently some sort of Rosa Klebb variation, we're entering James Bond territory here. Yikes! My enthusiasm is such that this could spill over into an entire Spielberg/Lucas week at this site. Maybe even with some Bond thrown in.

Let the geekery begin!

Saturday, May 17, 2008


So petty to focus on my problems.

78,ooo people dead from the cyclone in in Myanmar, with nearly as many missing. 29,ooo from the earthquake in China, with the number expected to climb much, much higher. Tornadoes in the midwestern United States, random, savage. It seems sometimes as though the very planet itself is angry with us.

More death, not so natural: The war in Iraq, of course. Somalia. Darfur. Ethiopia. Lebanon. Afghanistan.

And yet, I don't care. Not now. The unraveling has been in motion, and this week we arrived at the climax: Katie and I are a couple no more.

Details? Nah, I'm not gonna offer any. That would lead to accusations and name-calling and ugliness in general, and right now my life is quite ugly enough. The intention is to ride this out as quietly as possible. My nephew's graduation is this weekend, so by attending that, I'll at least be surrounded by family, the terrible emptiness kept at rest for another day. Then it's back to work after my week off--not a terribly relaxing week, unfortunately--and maybe the slow grind of monotony will actually be good for me.

For you, the reader, this unfortunately probably means more whining posts in which I try to come to terms with my inability to sustain a relationship. But that will be down the road a ways. This coming week will be all about Indiana Jones! Unless I get distracted or depressed, but hey, what are the chances that could happen?

Friday, May 16, 2008


The Big New Wow, when it first appeared, was so comforting, so homey. A modest little thing, it sought only to be our friend, to make our lives simpler.

Soon, it acquired new abilities.

We willingly, knowingly, gave it the power of choice.

As it became such a presence in our lives, it felt the need to reassure us, to say, "No, there is no dystopian future ahead for you, meat puppets."

But we, clumsy vessels of mere flesh and blood, allowed it to dominate us. What point is there to human contact? The Big New Wow, in all its perfection, is there for us as we drive through a barren landscape curiously devoid of any other people, and surely can provide more comfort for a baby than all the silly hugs and kisses humans once deployed.

It continues still to make us think we have some semblance of control over our lives, to make us think we have a choice between different things when those two things are exactly the same, to provide a bland, inoffensive soundtrack to our stilted, joyless lives.

Every day there is another Big New Wow, A Bright New Promise, A Great New Something. Every day, it wins.

Thursday, May 15, 2008


Circumstances prevented me from spending this, my forty-third (!) birthday, in the presence of the people with whom I'd have liked to share it, so I found myself, improbably, at the Yuppie Mall in the Soulless Western Burbs.

Wandering amidst the studiedly casual trophy wives and Abercrombied teens, I stumbled into FYE, improbably thinking they might have a copy of Roger Corman's The Secret Invasion, just out on DVD this week. They didn't, of course, but greater treasures awaited in the Used Disc section.

Paul Bartel's gloriously perverse debut feature Private Parts. Michael Ritchie's gonzo gangster epic Prime Cut, which disappeared from distribution almost as soon as it was released. Albert Brooks' Modern Romance, the most serious comedy ever made. And a Randolph Scott Western triple feature I didn't even know existed, including two much-desired titles from Andre DeToth.

All for under twenty bucks!

I realize many people, not gripped by the mind-scrambling fever of cinephalia--most people, in other words--wouldn't shudder in paroxysms of delight at the prospect of spending their birthday kicking back with an Andre DeToth double feature, and yeah, okay, maybe there's better things to do in what some would call the real world.

But I take pleasure wherever it may be found, and right now Thunder Over The Plains seems like a swell way to round out my day.


Two of the most-desired titles by film fanatics everywhere finally become available on DVD this week, but you'd be forgiven for not realizing it.

Anthony Mann's essential end-of-an-era Western Man Of The West and Vincente Minnelli's lurid, candy-colored noir Some Came Running are among the finest work of their respective directors, and two of the best films of the 1950s. Man receives the kind of bare-bones issue MGM's home entertainment division seems to specialize in these days, a token release likely only available frpm specialty shops and online retailers. Running's treatment is a little better, being part of a heavily-hyped Frank Sinatra box set released by Warner Home Video.

But that set, including as it does mediocrities like Marriage On The Rocks and None But The Brave, hardly showcases Running to its best advantage. Ever since the splendid double-disc issues of Meet Me In St. Louis and The Band Wagon a few years ago, Minnelli's films, when they finally see the digital light of day, have been folded into similar box sets, The Pirate and Kismet forced to share space with lesser musicals, The Long, Long Trailer issued only as part of a Lucille Ball set.

Minnelli spent almost his entire career at MGM; why not a box dedicated solely to his work, giving it the context these releases lack? Sure, that seems like it would be a rather specialized release--does the general public even know from Minnelli?--but other labels have devoted specialized releases dedicated to John Ford, Mario Bava, Sergio Leone, hell, even Lucio Fulci. Doesn't Minnelli deserve the same respect?

A similar retrospective of Anthony Mann's best work would be difficult, since he worked for so many different studios. Still, surely a film as highly regarded as Man Of The West deserved some kind of annotation for its DVD debut. A commentary track, at least (I'd have given the job to Jim Kitses, whose chapter on Mann in his book Horizons West is pretty much definitive), to put the film in perspective, to note how it prefigures the style and themes of Sam Peckinpah, to explain its profound influence on the Italian Westerns of the next decade. But no, nothing, not even a lousy trailer.

Yeah, I should be grateful to even have these titles available, and believe me, I am. Yet there was a time, just two or three years ago, when the owners of these titles may have actually been willing to spring for the extra effort these films deserve. Now, they're just burning off their catalogs on what they believe is a dying format. If the studios truly intend to put their faith on hi-def formats in the future, they're unlikely to waste their time with older titles that won't look much better when upgraded, and a glorious cinematic past will be forgotten.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008


On the occasion of my impending thirtieth birthday--so many years ago--I wrote a piece for my local alt-weekly lamenting my inability to remember important actual events in my life while being able to recall in detail stupid movie plots. I fancied myself a Gen X spokesman, bravely whispering what we didn't wish to acknowledge: We're getting old.

When I wrote that, my mother and father were both still alive. I hadn't been married, hadn't lived anywhere away from where I grew up. The person who wrote that seems so incredibly naive, and yet...I turn forty-three tomorrow, and everything is pretty much the same.

Memories of things that have happened to me, things that matter, have a dream-like quality, a sense of unreality about them, and I can't access them in whole. Movie plots, TV episodes, song lyrics--no problem. They're right there whenever I need them, and even when I don't.

In fact, my memories of watching movies and TV, of listening to music, are more vivid than any others. I can recall the theater and even where I sat while sitting through everything from favorites like The Shining and All That Jazz to crap like Xanadu and Rocky IV--but I couldn't tell you what I did after I left the theater. I remember nestling in my beanbag chair, headphones clamped on my ears, listening to Ennio Morricone, my cat Bo curled up and watching me from the foot of my bed--but I can't connect that memory to any other, or remember specifically what I did before or after my music time.

My life plays out as a series of fragments, unless those fragments are connected to something larger--like a TV show or a movie. Then maybe I can recall (at least vaguely) a Tuesday night from the summer of '77, a MASH rerun followed by One Day At A Time, followed by--what? My brother and I hanging out for awhile? Me sitting in the living room reading while Mom and Dad watched some crappy crime show or other? These sound familiar; they certainly happened. Lots of things happened. Did this particular event happen the same day as this other one? If you remember what the puzzle looked like when it was completed, does it matter how many pieces are gone?

Mom's wheezing laugh when she got hysterical--that I still recall. And her voice, but the specific sound of dad's voice is starting to fade. I still hear it, but I can't recognize whether what I hear is accurate. I remember the layout of my childhood home, but some of the details are hazy. I remember how I loved my dog Spinner, but I can't tell you much about him. Moments stand out in detail, even as something larger is lost.

But hey--I can still recall every damn episode from the first three seasons of Welcome Back, Kotter.


Back from my brief vacation, two days in Iowa City. I'd actually forgotten how physically beautiful that town is, with it's tree-lined streets and loping hills, how calming it can be to walk the Ped Mall and watch the sprawl of humanity. And the food! Iowa City must have the greatest number of amazing restaurants for a town its size, though it must be said, since the menu at The Hamburg Inn no longer lists my beloved Hula Burger, that place is right off my radar.

Ghosts, unfortunately, accompanied me. Iowa City is where Sue Ellen and I had our first date, where I fell helplessly in love with her, where we lived when it all began to unravel. Every block, every storefront and restaurant seemed to carry some unwanted weight, to conjure some random vision of joyously giving in to wild abandon or a bitter public argument. As I walked, I found myself unable at times to separate the reality of my surroundings from my memories, and began to question if those memories were valid.

Was I ever truly as happy as I remember being? Am I blocking out the pain and petty resentments? Sure, the bad times happened, but do I tend to minimize them while waxing rhapsodic over the good things? Why does this marriage still seem like my best shot at happiness? How did I blow it? Why am I still haunted by its failure? Will I let that failure play out over and over again in all subsequent relationships? What's the deal with my attraction to bipolar redheads?

These questions I feared would follow me as I returned to my motel, and trouble my sleep. Fortunately, a stack of chocolate chip goodness from Cookies And More and a bottle of Westmalle Ale from John's Grocery reminded me that small, good comforts are as important as anything in life, and I slept well.

Monday, May 12, 2008


Look, I'm well aware that my last few posts have been heavy on the clips. A crutch, most definitely--shouldn't I be writing more? But hey, I found a clip of one of my musical heroes, Marshall Crenshaw, in a concert that took place just a few days ago. You think I'm not going to put this up?

This performance, incidentally, happened in Baltimore...And if I still lived in Maryland, you're damn right I would've been there. But my life in Maryland is tied inseparably to the end of my marriage, which is interesting, because I have a funny anecdote involving my ex's reaction to Crenshaw performing this very song...which could lead me to a rumination about things that could have been, and paths not taken, and...well...Say, how depressing do you want this to get? Because I can go on and on if you want.

No? Okay, then.

If my tone today seems even more rambling than usual, it's probably because I'm getting itchy to hit the road. A week of vacation time stretches before me like Delmar at nap time, and though I can't afford to spend it all living riotously, I'll be taking off for a day or two in my old stomping grounds of Iowa City. I wish I could say I was planning on reconnecting with old friends or something, but sadly, the main reason I'm going is to enjoy a black raspberry malt from Whitey's Ice Cream. It's all about priorities, you see...

Sunday, May 11, 2008


Sue Ellen and I would have been married by that point, but only just recently. A familiar ritual, then: A lad brings his new wife to his elderly mother's house for a pleasant Sunday dinner. Mom prepared comfort food, we settled in with full plates and our respective lovely beverages...and silence descended. None of us wanted to speak with mouths full.

"Maybe some music?" Mom suggested, and put on her current favorite.

Not that Mom owned any Nine Inch Nails albums. This was off of the soundtrack to Lost Highway, a movie that had come out the preceding fall and about which she couldn't stop raving. She'd bought the album largely for Angelo Badalementi's score, but in addition to NIN, it also featured tracks from Marilyn Manson, Smashing Pumpkins, David Bowie and Rammstein--and she loved them all.

The Lost Highway soundtrack sat on Mom's shelf alongside her copies of Rob Zombie's Hellbilly Deluxe and countless copies of Iron Butterfly's Ina-Gadda-Da-Vida--plus compilation albums from Eddy Arnold and Dinah Shore. As for Lost Highway itself, it remained Mom's favorite David Lynch film, though she admitted crying (!) during Mulholland Dr. Mom's tastes were nothing if not eclectic.

It's impossible to describe the giddy amusement of watching my mother shovel down tuna casserole while simultaneously (and I think subconsciously) banging her head from side to side. You had to be there. Fortunately, I was, and it's one of my happiest memories.

Saturday, May 10, 2008


Tomorrow, of course, is Mother's Day. I'll no doubt be in full-blown sadness mode, and God knows what I'll write, but for now, here's one of Mom's favorites, Roger Miller, performing a sad little number he wrote for the Broadway musical Big River. Turns out Mom was right all along: the guy was a genius.

Friday, May 09, 2008


Many thoughts pop into my head watching this...

...but only two I'll mention.

1) Edward Norton, Tim Roth--Really? It's come to this? Yeah, it's sad to see William Hurt playing Secondary Character in some big, dumb summer crapfest, but at least he had a nice run. Norton and Roth have certainly appeared in some fine films, but it always seemed like their best work was ahead of them, as if they were just this close to finding the breakthrough role that would define them as actors and stars. But really, once you've decided to take the role that involves you turning into a rampaging CGI monster, you might as well give it up.

2) Speaking of CGI--Please, everyone, can we just stop using it? Can we unlearn everything we know and go back to the old days of practical effects, miniatures and makeup? Because--and I know it's the swell new toy, and everyone loves to play--but most CGI effects look like crap.

I mean, seriously. Look at this trailer. It starts out looking like some knock-off of the Bourne films, then suddenly...Edward Norton turns into a cartoon. All the digital shading and hooha in the world can't make that look remotely realistic. It's cheesy, and in exactly the same way most CGI effects look vaguely cheesy. It's not distinctive, or interesting, or anything. When the visuals in a multi-million dollar extravaganza are virtually indistinguishable from a SciFi Channel original, something's wrong.

On the other hand, it doesn't have Ashton Kutcher or Cameron Diaz, so there's that...

Thursday, May 08, 2008


A good evening, I thought. Katie, Paul and I went out to eat, then hung out for awhile. Katie wanted to get home and get together with a friend, and Paul and I messed around until his mom called and it was time for him to go home.

On my way home, my phone rang. Katie. "I'm feeling depressed," she said. "I don't feel well, but it's not just that. I feel like...It's like what you told me before. You feel like I'm pushing you away. And I'm not trying to do that, but..."


"I know you've told me before about why you like hanging out with Paul, and yeah, he's great and all that. But...I feel like you're doing it just to get back together with his mom."

That's not going to happen, I said.

"How do you know that? How do you know she won't ask to get back with you? What would you say if she did?"

She...She wouldn't do that.

"But how do you know that?"

Because I know her. She's not...The reason we broke up is, she decided we just weren't meant to be. We weren't a couple. More friends than soulmates.

"What if she decides she was wrong?"

Why are you asking me all this?

"Because all the time you spend with Paul...Maybe I haven't been around as much as all that. I've never dated a guy who keeps spending time with his ex-girlfriend's kid. It's..."

What? It's what?

"I'm just not used to it."

Okay, well, fine. Maybe it's not the usual pattern. But look, I was serious enough about Tabbatha to want to marry her. And if I had, obviously, Paul would have become my own kid. Not by blood, heart. He and I became as close as...well, father and son, I guess. So the relationship with his mom ends. My relationship with him didn't.

I mean, Tabbatha's great, but she's a single mom, and that means a certain lack of stability in Paul's life. It's important for him to know how much I care about him. As long as he wants me around, I intend to be there.

"See? You just said it. 'Tabbatha's great,' you said."

Because she is great. As a mom, which is what I was talking about. Stop reading ominous implications into everything I say.

"I can't help it. I feel like, if I let my guard down and let you actually get close to me...I'll get swept away, and I'll fall in love with you, and just when that happens, you'll go back to her."

If I were with you, I'd be with you. I can't put it any more clearly, or offer any proof of that beyond my words. But right now, we're not actually together, are we? We're...what?


Yeah, but by this point, we should be--

"--able to say what our feelings are--"

--and we don't seem to be able to do that.

"I just don't know what to do next. I feel so sad, and I want someone to talk to."

Well, we're talking now.

"Not you! Someone else...Maybe...Do you think I should call my mother?"

I would give anything in the world to be able to call my mother when I'm depressed. Yes, I think you should do that.

Oh, and are we still on for tomorrow?

"I don't know. We'll talk..."

Wednesday, May 07, 2008


See, this is why I hate Hillary Clinton.

John McCain said recently that, if elected, he'll make sure any Supreme Court nominees will strictly adhere to the intent of the founders. In other words, more guys like Scalia and Alito and Roberts, guys who refuse to believe the Constitution is a living document, needing to be updated to reflect changing times. These clowns desperately hew to their notions of what Jefferson and Adams intended, back in the day when women were second-class citizens, blacks were property and a "well-regulated militia" consisted of nothing more than flintlocks.

Such an attitude is batshit insane here in the real world, and McCain's determination to stock the court with right-wing nutjobs gives a terrifying preview of where his administration is headed. I realize he's not president yet, but if Hillary Clinton has her way, it's just a matter of time.

She lost the North Carolina primary, and barely scratched out a victory in Indiana. These pathetic results follow weeks of shameless pandering. She couldn't insure victory for herself, but she's stirred up plenty of doubts about Barack Obama, doubts that are likely to linger until the November election.

Assuming Obama gets the nomination--and though Clinton seems unable to grasp reality, his nomination is pretty much guaranteed--it's very possible he's already lost the votes of the working-class whites Clinton has courted so desperately, her whispered words of coded racism still fresh in their ears. They won't vote for that guy 'cause he's not a real American, he's a Muslim or some such, that's what Hillary told them.

So McCain will probably get their votes, and quite possibly the White House. Clinton would rather keep the country under the thumb of a right-wing cabal than gracefully pass the nomination on to another. All that matters to Hillary Clinton is Hillary Clinton.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008


A private email I received regarding my post about the apparent racism among a segment of America's voters prompts me to make one thing clear: Despite the frequent Clinton-bashing around here, I am not a Barack Obama supporter.

Yeah, if he gets the nomination, I'll probably go ahead and vote for him. I don't think I could do that for Clinton, because her win-at-any-cost style and pathetic performance in office (remember, whatever lame justifications she uses now, she was gung ho about invading Iraq) represent everything I despise about the political game in this country.

No, Obama probably wouldn't be significantly better, but at least he's attempted to take the high road, and speaks to Americans as though we're capable of understanding complex thoughts, not just sound bites.

But he's still a Democrat, and has to ultimately play by the party's rules. Every single thing the Bushinistas have done has been to the detriment of the nation, but at least they know what they're doing. As this prolonged, painful nomination fight makes clear, Democrats will cut their own throats at every opportunity.

And if you can't trust them with knives, how can you trust them with high office?


Hey, sorry if the last two posts were kind of, well, depressing. Sure, racism may be a lingering problem, but blacks and whites can come together. I've seen it in action:


Mildred Loving has died at the age of 68.

In 1958, Mildred and her husband, Richard, were arrested and dragged out of their Virginia home. Their crime? Mildred was black, Richard was white.

Jailed, then banished from their state, they demanded justice, and ultimately received it: In 1967, the Supreme Court struck down all miscegenation laws remaining on the books. At least in theory.

The states themselves were slower to respond. The good folks of Alabama, for instance, didn't bother amending the state's constitution until 2000. Put another way, mixing of races remained illegal in Alabama for the entire twentieth century.

This was America, not so long ago. But the past is past. Things change, times move on. We've progressed, right?


Monday, May 05, 2008


So bland it reads in newsprint, and it falls as mere background noise from the mouths of countless anonymous TV analysts, as they discuss how Barack Obama seems to be losing ground when it comes to white working-class voters.

Stated so matter-of-factly, it becomes easy to miss the point: Racism is alive and well.

Oh, coded, of course: It was the firebrand statements of that awful Jeremiah Wright that turned voters against Obama, or his referring to rural citizens as bitter. It's his elitism that turns people off. It's nothing to do with his--you know, his...ahem...his skin color.

But when Hillary Clinton tries to scare up votes, who does she surround herself with? White people. White people in bars, in cafes, in discount stores. White working-class people, Archie Bunker types. She knows what's going on, though of course she won't admit it.

Neither will the network pundits, nor will Obama himself. Not in so many words.

So we'll speak dispassionately of "the race issue" as if it's just another quirk in the system, and we won't trouble ourselves for a minute thinking about what it means. Because who wants to believe racism is alive and well in America at the start of a new century? Who wants to know words like "nigger" and "darky" are still spoken? Who wants to hear the voice of the woman I heard state flat-out that she'd "never vote for some coon"?

If we don't believe it, don't know it, don't hear it, we can pretend there is no problem, even as the fissures deepen and the hate bubbles to the surface.


A normal person, upon discovering they've overslept and need to bathe and have breakfast, then dash off to work, would forgo a blog post for that day (assuming said normal person has a blog), what with there being no time and all.

Ah, but we have no use for normalcy around here! True, this barely qualifies as a post, but hey, it's something. In honor of the inexplicable Broadway revival of the swingin' sixties sex farce Boeing, Boeing, which was made into one of Jerry Lewis' most notoriously awful movies...well, I actually found a clip from the movie on YouTube, but crap, it runs for ten minutes, and trust me, none of us have time for that. But here's Jer doing one of his classic bits. I've actually seen him do this live. In other words, I've paid money to see Jerry Lewis...

Sunday, May 04, 2008


There's no way of knowing, of course. It doesn't open until June, and maybe it's better than it looks. Or maybe--more likely--this really will be the thing that finally and irrevocably kills all joy and laughter, plunging the world into permanent despair.

Oh God, where to begin? The dick jokes, the lesbian jokes, the smirking adolescent attitude towards sexuality that makes Playboy's Party Jokes seem like the epitome of Shavian wit? The thoughtless mocking of other cultures, or the fact that Vern Troyer seems perfectly willing to allow himself to be the midget equivalent of Stepin Fetchit?

Or should we just go ahead and target the hate straight towards Mike Myers?

While acknowledging his talent, I've disliked Myers ever since his Saturday Night Live days. Even then, he was all too willing to drive a recurring character into the ground, not to find new facets of his talent but to recycle the same old things, until even his most amusing bits became painfully unfunny. He seemed to have no interest in being part of an ensemble--he'd frequently sabotage sketches revolving around other performers, calling attention to himself.

His movies have similarly been marked by self-indulgence. Not one but two Wayne's World pictures, not two but three Austin Powers outings, paper thin premises stretched beyond all reason. Leaving aside his contemptible work in The Cat In The Hat--one of the most creatively and morally bankrupt things ever exhibited in theaters--his film work has been negligible.

In interviews, Myers loudly trumpets his admiration for Peter Sellers, but he seems to emulate the monomaniacal Sellers who squandered his talent on the likes of After The Fox and Casino Royale, not the genius who worked so brilliantly with Stanley Kubrick, who gave such great performances in I'm All Right Jack, Only Two Can Play, The Blockhouse and of course, Being There. Even the characterization Sellers most firmly beat to death, Inspector Clouseau, served as a vehicle for several laugh-out-loud movies, one of which, A Shot In The Dark, could legitimately be termed a masterpiece.

Of course, the Clouseau movies were all directed by Blake Edwards, and the best of them are stylish and funny even apart from Sellers' contributions. Mike Myers has never worked--at this rate, never will work--with a filmmaker of Edwards' reputation. He clearly prefers his directors to be easily-controlled flunkies, willingly indulging his every whim. (Most despicable aspect of The Love Guru? The way Myers' mug is worked into the film's official logo--beyond self-indulgence, this borders on public masturbation.) Say what you will about the likes of Will Ferrell or Ben Stiller, at least they're open to the idea of appearing in the occasional Woody Allen or Wes Anderson picture, which both gives them credibility and sharpens their chops. Myers doesn't.

Somehow, Myers remains popular, but Tinseltown insiders claim early reaction to The Love Guru is flat at best, and in some cases, downright hostile. We can only hope it flops, and Myers is chastened, and either retires or resolves to do something worthwhile, to work with a top-notch director who might stretch his talent.

More likely, he'll just make another Austin Powers sequel, and the whithered remains of laughter and joy will scatter like dust.

Saturday, May 03, 2008


Feeling a little run-down today, possibly early onset of flu. Thinking makes my brain hurt, so another placeholder post today. Enjoy the epic saga of li'l Billy Martin, and the nocturnal visitor who made him the cleanest kid in town.

Scrub away, Billy Martin! Scrub away the horror of your special relationships with bossy globs of fatty acids and lye, or the shame of apparently having backstabbing ex-lefty Clifford Odets as your dad, or your barely-suppressed hatred of African-Americans, which will boil over in the future when you become manager for the Yankees. Your skin, Billy, yes, it can be so easily cleaned, shined and buffed to a sparkling white...But what of your soul?

Friday, May 02, 2008


1) Yeah, it's another Random Thoughts post. Or, if you prefer, another damn placeholder. Much to do today (Katie is having an Upper GI, Paul and I are required by law to see Iron Man) and I'm running a bit late, though I fully intended to articulate a few thoughts about Obama's official break from Jeremiah Wright. Maybe later.

2) The title of today's post is inspired by the album-by-album listing of lyrics at Steely Dan's official website. There is a separate listing for "Miscellaneous Tracks," which for most bands would include numerous one-offs, b-sides, whatever. The Dan only officially recognize three: FM, written for a lame, long-forgotten snoozefest from the seventies, and a fairly lame song, at least by this band's standards, and Here In The Western World and the hilarious The Steely Dan Show, both indescribably awesome.

The point is, these guys don't have a lot of throwaways. Their best stuff goes on their albums. The rest, they don't want you to hear. I wish more artists would be so selective.

And I realize the preceding will be of no interest to those of you who are not obsessive Steely Dan fans. Sorry.

3) Seeing Iron Man is Paul's choice, not mine, but I'm hoping for the best. If I never see another CGI-heavy superhero movie in my life, I'll probably die without regret, and I'm not sure I'm wholly down with Robert Downey in the title role...but on the other hand, hey, it's got Robert Downey. Plus Terrence Howard, Gwyneth Paltrow and the always-great Jeff Bridges. Real actors, in other words, and since Jon Favreau, another actor, directed, maybe this fine cast will actually be given opportunities to, you know, act. As opposed to standing around blank-eyed in front of a green screen, pointing to computer-generated marvels added in post, the unfortunate norm for this sort of thing.

4) That last paragraph was a bit heavy on the verbiage, don't you think? I need to simplify.

5) Wall Street types swear things are getting better, the worst is over, recovery is on the way. For them, maybe. For those of us whose cost of living raises can't even keep pace with gas prices, much less food, clothing and shelter, it remains a hard slog. I'm guessing Ben Bernanke hasn't been to a grocery store in years.

6) The Yankees lost three in a row to Detroit. They're being openly booed even in the confines of Yankee Stadium. With good reason; this is as pathetic a pitching roster as you'll find in the major leagues. There's even talk of sending Ian Kennedy back to the minors--a major embarrassment, since he's been their starter, and they really don't have anyone to replace him. Sad, really.

The good news is, the Red Sox lost another game, and they've slipped from number one in the AL East. We don't advocate violence around here. I'd never suggest, for instance, kneecapping Manny Ramirez. If such a thing were to happen, however, you'd hear the sound of millions of beefy, crew-cutted Boston fans weeping, the sweetest music in the world.

7) Some enterprising YouTuber set the theme to the James Bond epic Moonraker to its lyrics, karaoke-style, and I must say, I approve. Divorced from one of Maurice Binder's dopier credit sequences, and apart from the mostly awful movie it was meant to support, we can properly appreciate Hal David's fine, workmanlike lyrics and one of John Barry's loveliest melodies. The dreamy, romantic arrangement (nobody scores string parts better than Barry!) and Shirley Bassey's performance are near perfection. If it weren't for the stigma of being a Bond theme, this might have had a well-deserved second life among jazz singers and cabaret performers.

8) This has officially become longer than the Obama-Wright post would have been. So much for running late.

9) Fair warning: Geek-heavy posts about Indiana Jones and Return Of The Jedi may well be on the way.

10) Finally, of course--the cats. Monika has finally crawled out from under a chair, her favorite cover during thunder storms. She never used to react with fright to such things, and in fact, I can't recall any cat I've known having a fear of thunder. Dogs, on the other hand...

And as for Delmar, he's sprawled at my feet, his half tail appropriately swishing half circles on the floor, one front paw resting on my foot, the other curled under his chin. He snores and twitches periodically in his sleep, his claws reflexively digging into my foot. It hurts a little, but that's the price you pay sometimes when you open your heart to a cranky malcontent no one else will love.

Thursday, May 01, 2008


According to a new poll conducted on behalf of The New York Times and CBS News, Barack Obama's lead over Hillary Clinton is slipping. Not surprising, given the mostly media-manufactured "controversies" surrounding Obama, and Clinton's relentless attacks on his character.

But, whatever. The numbers aren't the part of the poll I find interesting. Among the usual questions regarding job performance and electability, people were asked whether they found each of the candidates "very patriotic, somewhat patriotic or not very patriotic."

The hell? Say what you will about McCain, Clinton and Obama, they are all seeking to lead the country in one of the most troubled times in its history. Hubris aside, why would they want to do such a crazy thing if they didn't sincerely love their country? And since when did average citizens get to judge the patriotism of others?

Here's an idea--mandatory patriotism tests! Losers (decided by call-in votes, just like American Idol!) will be paraded down a hall of shame until finally confronted by a righteous mob, who will pelt the turncoats with stones. Workers in quarries will have to put in serious overtime just to come up with enough rocks--it'll help stimulate the economy and raise spirits. Plus, it'll just be fun.

Ah, a new day dawns, and it's morning in America once again.