Thursday, March 31, 2005

Small Request 

Someone, please, teach James Wolcott how to use permalinks! Each click is a long and often fruitless search for the referenced material!

Then we'll move on to Romenesko.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Case Almost As Clear Cut As Crosby, Stills, Nash v. Young 

If major public policy decisions were studied and debated using my own admittedly subjective methods, well, this Grokster mishegas would be old news by now, having been long decided after reading this:

"Sheryl Crow and the Dixie Chicks have sided with the record industry in the Grokster case. Others, such as Chuck D and Brian Eno, have taken the opposite position...
(it takes a nation of millions to stop my emphasis)

All right, everyone. No more argument is necessary, thank you. Wake me when Shane MacGowan comments on Social Security privatization.

Selfish Reasons, Empirical Reasoning 

A growing contingent of the liberal snarkosphere strays from conventional wisdom and supports the systematic killing of everyone around them through secondhand smoke! They are objectively pro-Phillip Morris! They are against workers' rights! They are responsible for high dry-cleaning bills!

They're fucking right!

Oh, but don't take it from me -- here's what the Canadian Medical Association Journal has to say:
A skeptical view of the risks of second-hand smoke also arose recently from a less polemical source: in May, BMJ published a study based on observations obtained over 39 years on 35 561 adults who had never smoked and whose spouses' smoking habits were known. The authors found "no significant associations" between tobacco-related mortality and exposure to second-hand smoke.2 The journal's editors offered a blunt provocation to political correctness by stating on the front cover: "Passive smoking may not kill."
The problem with the data on passive smoking (and many other potential environmental hazards) is that the estimated risks are so close to zero. The study published in BMJ showed that the risks of heart disease, lung cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease among never-smokers living with a smoker compared to never-smokers living with a nonsmoker were 0.94 (95% confidence interval [CI] 0.85–1.05), 0.75 (95% CI 0.42–1.35) and 1.27 (95% CI 0.78–2.08) respectively — all statistically insignificant and none very large.
(emphasis, of course, added)

Yes, but those commies forgot the most important factor: it smells bad.

Might as well link to this yet again:
It's no good trying to explain to such people that their exposure to secondhand smoke is likely to do them as much harm as their handling of a lead pencil or their close association with a side order of mashed potatoes.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Military Recruitment Crisis Over! 

Could Jenna and NotJenna be next?

Spring Feverish 

Next Week:

Dowd: Do You Hear That?
Friedman: Where Am I?

Monday, March 28, 2005

Pop Will Diagram Itself 

# Fire in:
* the disco
* the Taco Bell
* the gates of Hell

# Things you may or may not want to know:
* how we keep starting fires

# It is:
* my desire

# Things to be alert about:
* High voltage

# When:
* we touch
* we kiss

# Solos:
* Guitar
* Saxophone

see: here and here.

Saturday, March 26, 2005

Smoke Gets In Your Big Trunk 


Now you know why koalas aren't important. 

Koalas have sharp claws but they are weak. They all small
and fat and they be climing trees. I hope a storm just come
while theyjust chilling up in the tree thinking they is hard and
they're will all just fall off. They just break they neck and
shit. When they fall they claws are going to fall off and they
going to be crying like some little bitches.

...via MetaFilter

Horowitz Way You Can 

...via Rittenhouse

How Do You Sleep? 

Gothamist, the official website of the first person plural and general resource for all thing New Yorkish since the death of, well, NewYorkish, occasionally takes time out from telling us which subway line caught on fire or shorted out or had a tree fall on it to answer reader questions.

Recently, I came upon their answer to a reader suffering from constant, recurring insomnia (tried blogging?). I present, slightly edited, Gothamist's response, prefaced with the reminder that is from a website dedicated to exploring and explaining the fundamentally unique character of the city of New York:

*If you smoke, quit.
*You have to cut back on caffeine. It's a vicious cycle - you can't sleep, you drink more coffee, you can't sleep. You might feel worse in the short term without a heavy dose of caffeine, but once you break the cycle, it will help. Also, drink lots of water.
*Exercise - Any sort of vigorous exercise is great for helping with getting enough sleep - just make sure not to it right before bedtime.
We also find yoga classes/videos helpful - you can get Yoga videos that are specifically labeled "relaxing," "PM Yoga" and such.
*Try having a relaxing beverage before bedtime, like a cup of non-caffeinated herbal tea (chamomile is known for its relaxing properties). Some people swear by milk (especially warm milk), and others say having one drink (like a glass of wine) works well. Just make sure to keep it to one glass and not have it too close to bedtime (try about an hour beforehand).
*Don't eat late at night - try to eat dinner at a reasonable hour and don't snack before bed. Also, make sure you eat enough at dinner so that you're not hungry and thinking about food at bedtime.

Great suggestions all -- and so New York! My favorite one is giving up coffee and cigarettes for yoga and herbal tea. But I think there are a few very important suggestions they missed:

*Spend more quiet evenings at home, by yourself, listening to soothing "smooth jazz." Late nights and loud music can lead to an unhealthy lifestyle!
*Don't eat greasy or unhealthy foods -- like pizza, cheesecake, hot dogs, pastrami, and, uh, shawarma, and, I don't know, bagels. Or chinese. MSG, you know.
*Find religion. A sincere, heartfelt belief in the Lord will ease your mind in troubled times, and Christ shall lead you to restful slumber.
*Try speaking in low, measured tones, be careful to always be polite, and cut out those swear words! These simple steps, while they may not seem to be related to sleep, can make you a more relaxed, pleasant person, and that type never has trouble sleeping.
*Watch more NASCAR.
*Move to the suburbs. Or L.A.. The weather's always perfect!

Thursday, March 24, 2005

The Only Entry I Will Ever Make On the Current Media Circus 

One of the few good things about modern times: If you die horribly on television, you will not have died in vain. You will have entertained us.
-Kurt Vonnegut, "Cold Turkey".

CNN: Giving New Meaning to "Shallow Depth of Field" 

Wonkette (or her pseudonymous army of contributors, I can't tell anymore) continues the battle of blogs against blog reports with a new, slightly less lazy iteration of the CNN Blog Report Report (in this New New Media age, IM transcripts are the new Phoning It In). She (he? they?) notes CNN's hot new cinéma direct style:
It is possible to fit five monitors, two "blog reporters" and two camera men into one frame. Possible, but not necessarily desirable.

I must take issue with this dismissive characterization of the amazing work being done by local news producer-turned-CNN President Jonathan Klein.

You see, Inside Politics producers have come to realize that Blogs are a revolutionary new direction in Journalism on par with the work of Orson Welles in film, and to illustrate that, they've actually made a cunning allusion to the cinematography of Citizen Kane, which, as we all know, pioneered the use of deep focus and theatrical staging in film, exploding the traditional Hollywood use of the two-shot by having dozens of characters in the frame at the same time, all of them getting equal emphasis from the camera. CNN recognizes the parallels between old Hollywood filmmaking and their own, tired framing of one or two anchors behind a desk, and is "passing the baton," if you will, to the new new medium by exploring the limits of live videography, and creating a chaotic, theatrical mise-en-studio to symbolize the MSM-destroying power of Blogsylvania.

It's very reminiscent of Larry King's famous French New Wave-referencing use of jump cuts, non-linear narrative, and free-associative dialogue in his USA Today columns.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Dylan Sucked For 10 Years Too, You Know 

I'm just going to link to two Woody Allen articles I cribbed from Gawker, and ask that, should you see Melinda and Melinda, and you might if it's ever be screened in a theater below Columbus Circle ("limited release" now seems to mean, in Mr. Allen's case, "only the Upper West Side, but shh! -- we're pretty sure we've gotten away with telling him we've actually distributed it"), give it a chance.

It's easy and fairly lazy to say that Woody's lost it for good at this point, and the Small Time Crooks/Curse of the Jade Scorpion/Hollywood Ending triptych nearly had me convinced for a while. But those of you old enough to not remember the '80s so fondly surely were disappointed by A Midsummer Night's Sex Comedy, or the Bergman-aping September and Another Woman. Let's not forget that Crimes and Misdemeanors and Husbands and Wives were not just three years, but two awful movies apart. (Can you name them without cheating? No? Good.)

And -- two of the three films directly preceding the aforementioned trilogy of sucking were some of his greatest movies in a decade.

Now here's where I'll lose most of you, and possibly begin to sound like the people who keep buying Neil Young albums: Anything Else was pretty damn good.

Why? How? It had Jason Biggs in it, fer chrissakes!

Well, yes, it did. And that was almost inexcusable. And yes, clearly Woody has never actually paid attention to how anyone under the age of 50 actually speaks, or what they talk about. And yes, Jimmy Fallon was also in it. But here's the thing: Woody's never written one single convincing non-Woody male character in his entire career. It just hasn't happened. Much like how Nabokov never wrote about BMX racing, it's just a thing you have to accept and the move on. In fact, move right on to the female characters. Because in Anything Else, they're perfect. Because while Biggs nearly drowns in borrowed mannerisms, Christina Ricci plays a brilliant role that never sounds like it was written for Diane Keaton or Mia Farrow twenty or thirty years ago. And then Stockard Channing shows up and gets the next best role. And then Woody went and added himself in a non-romantic role to deliver the damn jokes correctly and get off a bit of incongruously funny physical comedy. And there are jokes and a couple of them are perfect Allen one-liners of the sort that he hasn't unveiled since, well, Deconstructing Harry (his dry spells only last as long as the wait between, say, Silver Jews albums; you just have to get used to a little orchestral vamping between acts). And Woody's character is actually quite funny. Freed from the constraints of romantic lead-itis, Woody plays an apocalyptic survival nut with a persecution complex who teaches at a public school and actually drives his own car. This may be the closest we ever come to Allen actually acting, folks -- treasure it.

But Anything Else's saving grace (and I'm winding back to Melinda here, bear with me) is that it actually has ideas in it. It's worthy of analysis, it's worth trying to figure out authorial intent, it's smart. I see it as an essentially dark and cynical film about severing ties to other people and any notion of principle (the main character, the Woody surrogate, moves to L.A. at the end). The title is said twice, and attributed to cab drivers. It is presented as charming cabbie wisdom, but Slate correctly labels it a fatalistic shrug. It's a world ruled by small fascists in muscle shirts. Work is meaningless, love is a charade, and psychiatry is the cruelest joke inflicted on man since existence (Woody: "You have an analyst who, like God, never speaks, and who, like God, is dead...").

Which brings us to Melinda and Melinda. I don't think I liked it as much as Anything Else, but I also don't think I quite know what I thought. It was, in a way, a welcome return to the intellectual games of Crimes and Misdemeanors, but lighter. It was also less funny than Anything Else, but it was only meant to be 1/2 comedy. The lack of Woody's voice was a major drawback, but big, WASPy Will Farrell actually managed some Sleeper-quality physical comedy that almost made up for it. The female cast was, predictably, perfect, and the male cast was, predictably, floundering without a net. Woody's "straight" dialogue has become impressionistic and completely divorced from "reality" at this point -- but anyone who goes in expecting naturalism deserves what they get.

It actually worked quite well as a movie, separate from its impossibly famous author. I saw it in a full house of people who tittered at the melodrama, which is only occasionally risible, but the comedy produced genuine laughs. The thing is, we know as well as Woody that he can do romantic comedy. It may have been smarter to simply flesh that half out and ditch the central conceit. But, if you liked Another Woman (and I had a playwriting teacher who forced me into respecting it), well here's proof that he's still got that too. I mean, if you liked In the Bedroom, this is like having that on in the background.

I can say with great certainty that I preferred the "serious" half to every excruciating minute of the modern neo-melodrama 21 Grams, which was bizarrely praised by critics who, it seems were dazzled by warm color tones and non-linear editing. Well, critical establishment, this is the most goddam golden-tinted movie I've seen in years, and it occasionally jump-cuts to a high-concept comedy. And it still manages to not seem a pretentious pile of crap.

It's definitely less personal and more of an intellectual exercise than Anything Else, but no one treads water like Woody. Just give the damn thing a chance. At his current rate, even if he continues "losing it," he can still probably manage three or four more brilliant movies by the time his kids are old enough to start capitalizing on his name.

Coming To America 

By the way -- now I know I've made it.

Hail, hail The Basement Tapes 

Tom Waits' all-time top-20 favorite albums list is, probably, what you'd expect -- except for the fact that, well, I've heard of everything, with one exception.

Service Journalism 

Alex's Patented Punchy New York Theater Reviews
Because you don't have the time and I don't have the cash

Shockheaded Peter? More like "Suckheaded Peter"!

Play Without Words? More like "Play Without Point"!

Mamma Mia? Delightful!

Monday, March 21, 2005

Everything I Know About History, I Learned From VH1 

A brief lesson in why you oughtn't try to write a midterm essay two hours before it is due, especially for a class you don't particularly like:
It’s convenient that Altamont happened in December of 1969 – had it happened earlier, people might have gotten confused about what they should be doing with all that time between the death of the '60s and the start of the '70s.

Saturday, March 19, 2005

The Holy Ghostwriter 

I went to Borders the other night to see the wide tie-sporting humourist (of the sort clever enough to warrant the 'u') Francis Heaney, and on my way out I nearly broadsided a big rack of the latest apocalyptic novel from Tim LaHaye, Jesus Christ and the New World Order of the Phoenix; or, He's Just Not Into Jews.

Which reminded me of a couple articles I read about Mr. LaHaye recently that were considerably scarier than his books. One from Rolling Stone, and one from Harper's. Enjoy.

I'll Declare Bankruptcy Once I Stash All These Dylan Bootlegs In My Asset Protection Trust 

Those plucky li'l douchebags at Pitchfork have a funny writer!

I must admit, with some embarrassment, that I did not suspect it was satirical until I read the faux title Trigger Cut: Castration Fear in the Art of Stephen Malkmus, and I actually thought the Dylan book looked pretty interesting. That's your brain on Cinema Studies classes, I suppose. No bullshit pseudo-academic blather sounds too far-fetched.

In other music news, I'm thinking of starting some sort of "Jewish Rock Star Confluence '05 Fundraiser", as the month of April will find Paul Westerberg, Lou Reed, and Bob Dylan playing New York within weeks of each other. My bank account is still recovering from injuries caused by Spring Break-related Program Activities, and by the time Westerberg tickets go on sale, I'll probably be deciding between a new Metrocard and groceries.

I'd put one of those Paypal buttons up, but you'd be paying, in essence, for me to stop blogging, as I only maintain this thing when I have nothing to do on, say, a Saturday night. And while people are willing to pay big money for someone like Andrew Sullivan to stop blogging, I'm but an amateur asshole surrounded by professionals. But hey, maybe I'll be drafted. In the meantime, NYU's making a small fortune off all the Buck Hill endorsement deals. (I've got the March Madness! And it's a dangerously fast-acting mutant strain, resistant to traditional treatment!)

Wednesday, March 16, 2005


Posting is, as I'm sure you've noticed, light. And I am, as you'd notice if you were here, a little drunk right now.

So -- amuse yourselves elsewhere, you goddam leeches, with this, which I thought was funny.

I'll be back with my trademarked blend of trowelled "satire" and impotent outrage by week's end, I promise. Until then, I'm lifting my shirt for beads, fellating Snoop Dogg, and wearing a few scant square centimeters of cloth as I whore myself before MTV cameras to the professional tunesmithery of A Simple Plan in Cancun. Or, I'm drinking Olde English and watching Fawlty Towers DVDs in a dorm room, it's your choice.

Saturday, March 12, 2005

Bewildering the Herd 

Liberal Bias
Under the Bush administration, the federal government has aggressively used a well-established tool of public relations: the prepackaged, ready-to-serve news report that major corporations have long distributed to TV stations to pitch everything from headache remedies to auto insurance. In all, at least 20 different federal agencies, including the Defense Department and the Census Bureau, have made and distributed hundreds of television news segments in the past four years, records and interviews show. Many were subsequently broadcast on local stations across the country without any acknowledgement of the government's role in their production.
And yet this news segment, like several others narrated by Ms. Ryan, reached an audience of millions. According to the accountability office, at least 40 stations ran some part of the Medicare report. Video news releases distributed by the Office of National Drug Control Policy, including one narrated by Ms. Ryan, were shown on 300 stations and reached 22 million households. According to Video Monitoring Services of America, a company that tracks news programs in major cities, Ms. Ryan's segments on behalf of the government were broadcast a total of at least 64 times in the 40 largest television markets.
Mike Stutz, news director at KGTV, the ABC affiliate in San Diego, was equally opposed to putting government news segments on the air.

"It amounts to propaganda, doesn't it?" he said.

Again, though, records from Video Monitoring Services of America show that from 2001 to 2004 KGTV ran at least one government-made segment featuring Karen Ryan, 5 others featuring her work on behalf of corporations, and 19 produced by corporations and other outside organizations. It does not appear that KGTV viewers were told the origin of these 25 segments.

"I thought we were pretty solid," Mr. Stutz said, adding that they intend to take more precautions.

Then there is the Army and Air Force Hometown News Service, a unit of 40 reporters and producers set up to send local stations news segments highlighting the accomplishments of military members.

"We're the 'good news' people," said Larry W. Gilliam, the unit's deputy director.
Each year, the unit films thousands of soldiers sending holiday greetings to their hometowns. Increasingly, the unit also produces news reports that reach large audiences. The 50 stories it filed last year were broadcast 236 times in all, reaching 41 million households in the United States.

Good News
Two Afghan prisoners who died in American custody in Afghanistan in December 2002 were chained to the ceiling, kicked and beaten by American soldiers in sustained assaults that caused their deaths, according to Army criminal investigative reports that have not yet been made public.
The reports, from the Army Criminal Investigation Command, also make clear that the abuse at Bagram went far beyond the two killings. Among those recommended for prosecution is an Army military interrogator from the 519th Battalion who is said to have "placed his penis along the face" of one Afghan detainee and later to have "simulated anally sodomizing him (over his clothes)."

The Army reports cited "credible information" that four military interrogators assaulted Mr. Dilawar and another Afghan prisoner with "kicks to the groin and leg, shoving or slamming him into walls/table, forcing the detainee to maintain painful, contorted body positions during interview and forcing water into his mouth until he could not breathe."

American military officials in Afghanistan initially said the deaths of Mr. Habibullah, in an isolation cell on Dec. 4, 2002, and Mr. Dilawar, in another such cell six days later, were from natural causes. Lt. Gen. Daniel K. McNeill, the American commander of allied forces in Afghanistan at the time, denied then that prisoners had been chained to the ceiling or that conditions at Bagram endangered the lives of prisoners.

But after an investigation by The New York Times, the Army acknowledged that the deaths were homicides. Last fall, Army investigators implicated 28 soldiers and reservists and recommended that they face criminal charges, including negligent homicide.

"The public must be put in its place, so that it may exercise its own powers, but no less and perhaps even more, so that each of us may live free of the trampling and the roar of a bewildered herd."
-Walter Lippmann

Yes, But Do They Have Puppets? 

This caught my eye:
Their show, "Cheap Seats," which will broadcast the first original episode of its second season on ESPN Classic on Monday night, features the brothers as tour guides to some of the most ridiculous sports ever captured on camera. Picture Beavis and Butt-head as sarcastic twins riffing on competitive lumberjacking, and you have "Cheap Seats."
From Woody Allen's "What's Up Tiger Lily?" to "Beavis and Butt-head" to the Sci Fi Channel's cult series "Mystery Science Theater 3000" (known to fans as "MST3K"), this style of running-commentary humor has been used to poke fun at low production values, bad acting, obscure music videos and now, sports that are just a little ... off.

The debt is acknowledged in Monday night's episode, in which Mike Nelson, Kevin Murphy and Bill Corbett (the voices of Mike, Tom Servo and Crow T. Robot from "MST3K") make special cameos, lobbing barbs at the Sklars like, "These guys are Smurfs, right?" and "Domo arigato, Mr. Sklarboto!" It starts to resemble a hall of mirrors, as Randy Sklar recognizes. "Yeah, it's like a giant M. C. Escher painting of commentary," he said. (emphasis added)

Well. I've never heard of it, but I suppose I'll give it a try. It's nice when people cop to ripping something off, but it's quite gracious beyond the call of duty to invite the originals over for tea.

Anyway, ESPN Classic, Monday night at 9.

Do Lou Reed Next! 

Francis Heaney seems like he is probably smarter than you and me.

Everything's been covers, mashups, and missing cubes this week, so it seems like the time to point everyone towards Mr. Heaney's Holy Tango of Literature: Basement Tapes, an addendum to his recently-published book. Mr. Heaney has finally answered the question that's been haunting us all: what if famous writers wrote songs and poems that were anagrams of their names?

You would end up with Elvis Costello's "It Loves Cellos," which is now my favorite b-side from This Year's Model.

War At 32.1 Kbps 

I, in flagrant disregard for intellectual property rights, strongly endorse this unauthorized cover of "Revolution".

Idyllopus, the performer, was inspired to post it after hearing the now legendary Kidz Bop interpretation of "Float On," which 7 year-old critics have called "cool!"

This, gentle reader, is beyond cool. In a Nietzchian sense. Now hurry -- before the Digital Millenium Copyright Act Storm Troopers break down your door!

Friday, March 11, 2005

Books Of the Times 

Everybody is upset with what passes for "children's' literature" these days. Why? For the blatant glorification of disobedience and "imagination?" For failing to instill a proper regard for adult authority? For distracting the most efficient members of our workforce with idle amusements while they ought to be focused on sewing our shirtwaists?

The people who really ought to be raising the cry of alarm are grammarians.

This past week, I looked at the work of one of the most prominent authors of books for children, a Mr. Lewis Carroll. One might think that hailing from the birthplace of our mother tongue, as Mr. Carroll does, would allow for, if not mastery, at least competence with the standardized rules of spelling and grammar. One would be wrong.

I give, as an example, this excerpt from a "poem" of Mr. Carroll's:

One, two! One, two! And through and through
The vorpal blade went snicker-snack!
He left it dead, and with its head
He went galumphing back.

Clearly, Mr Carroll did not have a dictionary near his desk, else he might have been able to look up some actual English words. This idiotic illiteracy is not as harmless as it may seem -- will we be laughing when our children start "chortling" or acting "frumious?" I, for one, will not. And neither will the distinguished Mr. Reginald Green Rutland-Pitt, author of "Standardized Rules of Usage and Spelling In the Queen's English For Distinguished and Educated Gentlemen."

Mr. Rutland-Pitt shed some light on the condition of the fevered brain that produced this affront to literacy: "Mr. Carroll is, likely, a born imbecile, and thus should be pitied. But he is too dangerous to be tolerated, let alone published. It looks to me like semantic aphasia, demonstrated here by the meaningless pseudo-words he uses, which, to his undeveloped mind, surely at least resembled actual communication."

Next week, we take a look at the most recent novel for boys by the formerly intelligent Mr. Mark Twain, whose "Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" seems to suggest that the author has recently suffered a stroke, and dictated his latest work to a speaker of one of the pagan languages.

Ogden Nash Is a Threat To Our Children 

If you feel like getting pissed off in a way you thought wasn't possible in today's too damned politically correct society, read this Times piece from cantankerous ol' "Grampa" Clyde Haberman -- Gramps is off on one of his favorite topics today, how those blasted Negroes don't know how to spell!

I'll save you the trouble of reading it:
Rappers don't know grammar. Frequently, their names are themselves misspelled! (It is unclear whether Gramps thinks that, say, Ludacris actually meant to spell it "ludicrous," but didn't have spell check.) When they aren't shooting one another at something called "Hot 97," they are placing apostrophes in the wrong place and teaching our children a non-standard spelling of "Noriega"!

Here's the rub -- his contention is not actually that rappers' spelling is setting a bad example, it seems to genuinely be that they are too stupid to know how to correctly spell and punctuate. Mr. Haberman runs across one poor dolt (working for some Oxford English something-or-other) who claims that hip hop patois is "interesting" and "inventive," but Gramps makes him back up several yards from that admission and decry the influence it may be having on li'l (or lil', just to annoy Gramps) children who, like Frederick Douglass strapping a book to his plow, are teaching themselves to read by carefully studying the liner notes to Nastradomus. Because there is nothing "inventive" about wordplay, dear boy. Proper poets and songwriters use proper grammar!

And he ends with this choice selection of National Review-quality barely concealed racism:
Mr. Game said he was "almost ashamed" of the latest nastiness. Almost. For his part, Mr. Cent had trouble reading a prepared statement. Maybe it was because the words were spelled right.

Lord knows what congnitive dissonance would result should Gramps ever come across, say, e.e. cummings, or, heaven forefend, Lewis Carroll.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Everyone's a Critic and Most People Are DJs 

Blogger's FUBAR today, so don't expect too many larfs 'n' sex.

But, in the spirit of continuing to heap abuse upon Modest Mouse, I point you toward this page of mashups, specifically the surprisingly successful "Float On the Message," in which street cred meets indie cred (rumors of its death have been mildly exaggerated).

Also recommended: "Girl Wants (to Say Goodbye to) Rock and Roll," which has Lou Reed spinning in punk's grave.

American Express Is Totally Gonna Raise Their Rates 

Thank god Congress has worked to end all those damned abusive bankruptcy filings!


Daily News editors immediately regretted going with INNOCENT UNTIL PROVEN THRILL-TY.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Weekly Interacting Massive Particles 

Just a few thoughts about the New York Press --

For those of you outside the New York media bubble, the Press, New York's own alt-weekly Sid Vicious to the Voice's Johnny Rotten (i.e. more punk rock, but stupider), was recently the victim of a Ward Churchill-esque brouhaha surrounding columnist Matt Taibbi's vaguely satirical piece 52 Funniest Things About the Pope Dying. Drudge linked to it, Congressmen decried it, letter bombs were sent, and shit hit fans. Leaving aside the fact that the piece in question was slightly less offensive (and certainly less funny) than your average Onion article, it is at least heartening to know that the alternative press can still manage to ruffle feathers. I mean, someone's paying attention to all those entrenched leftists, and it's not just David Horowitz.

But then Editor-in-Chief Jeff Koyen was offered up as a sacrificial lamb by the publisher, suspended for "insubordination," much like the time I was nearly suspended in High School for "defiance" (I wouldn't take off my hat, if I recall).

If I may offer up a little personal history, I was briefly employed by a Minneapolis alt-weekly that sprung up to serve the same Sid Vicious roll once the much-lamented Reader shut down and the City Pages was gobbled up by the Voice. The weekly I worked for operated out of the same office and with the same staff as a community newspaper of much smaller scope. The community paper was one of the best in the city. The alt-weekly was a pile of crap. It didn't have the money to pay the talent that the City Pages got (and gets), and its editor and publisher were both old, bearded, unreconstructed leftists of the sort who are much appreciated and respected for their principles, but not particularly strong on, say, the local music scene. What good reporting and criticism there was arrived from people who seemed to consider it charity work. To be fair, the cards were stacked against them from day one, going after a national chain in a small market. But the problem was also, simply, that they had no editorial voice or raison d'etre outside of being an alternative to the other alternative paper -- not that they ever took an editorial stance that was too far removed from their equally liberal counterparts, or championed a cause ignored by the big guys. The paper is still around today, and it's definitely improved, but I still don't think anyone would miss it all that much if it folded next week (though they might miss the knowledge that a "truly" alternative paper exists), which is a terrible thing to say about a locally-owned community publication that's been around for so long.

Now, New York is a considerably different market. It will always have three or four more regularly published newspapers than any other city in the US (even if its much-ballyhooed "media diversity" is a bit of an exaggeration), and there's room for another general-interest alt-weekly that doesn't exist simply to be the anti-Voice. Occasionally, the Press is that paper. But it's just as often not.

Alexander Zaitchik's piece this week is great, informative, angry, and intelligent. And Taibbi, who is generally funny and biting and probably best defines the current editorial voice of the Press (the pope thing was clearly just phoned in), acquits himself nicely. But the paper as a whole continues to have a reflexively contrarian attitude that feels like adolescent rebellion without a cause. Sure, it's daring to have your conservative founder trash your liberal contributing editor in his column, but Russ Smith just happens to write like a complete asshole of the Thomas Friedman-with-more-cursewords variety. There's value in dissenting voices and healthy ideological conflict in the masthead, but Smith, alt-cred or no, repeats "conventional wisdom" of the type to be found, dolled up in classy language, in the columns of David Brooks. There's nothing alternative about him (excepting, of course, his previously noted occasional use of swears).

And this contrarianism-as-dialogue tendency prevents the Press from being as smart as it ought to be -- especially if it wants to compete with the Voice, which, even if you think it's tired or out-dated or a relic, still publishes some of the smartest criticism in New York. In its attempts to be the anti-Voice, the Press adopts a patently phony "edgy," "dangerous" routine that is just as fake when done by an alt-weekly as when appropriated by a Viacom subsidiary. It oh-so-faintly hints at anti-intellectualism of the type that fuels the recent crusade against the academics. And if that exaggerates the scope of their problems, well, there's no denying that they regularly run pieces that are cranky and bitchy just for the sake of being cranky bitchy -- the George Costanza model of pretending at being a "real" New Yorker.

Unfortunately, Jeff Koyen's resignation won't improve things, as they'll probably bring in someone looking to turn it into the successful advertising conveyance device that is The L Magazine.

I guess the question is, what's the formula for a successful alt-weekly in the same market as a considerably richer and well-established one? I like to think they're necessary, or at least that they contribute to a city's character, but are they doomed to be less ambitious than their more prominent competitors? Smith seems to think there's a secret trove of bright, iconoclastic young people with a strong voice out there, but when you try to hire that type, it seems like you wind up with "edgy." Imitation of the Voice (or the City Pages) would be an impossibility (and a mistake), but if you're borrowing their medium, what new direction are you supposed to take it?

Good News For People Who Love Bad Covers 

I take it all back -- every damn word. Punk Rock is Alive and Well. Not in California, but in those kick-ass kidz of Kidz Bop! They're like a regular School of Rock over there, and if you need proof that these youngsters are the living embodiments of Sid, Nancy, and Sluggo, just go here immediately.

Oh, yes. I know you soffed when you heard "Lust For Life" in that cruise ship ad, and you the shuddered at the abuse "Let's Spend the Night Together" took at the hands of the Sheraton Hotels chain, but you will be a convert the minute you hear the kidz deliver the line "Well, a fake Jamaican took every last dime with that scam, Hey!"

I hear the Kidz Bop Kids next project is a collection of their favorites from Matador's 90's output. Their version of the Guided By Voices track "Unbated Vicar of Scorched Earth" is not to be missed, nor is their poppy, upbeat take on "Loretta's Scars."

By the way -- the concept of indie cred just collapsed in on itself, and I'm pretty sure I read that The Shins were appointed CEO of Boeing.


CBGB's is closing.

The Cube has disappeared.

On the Bowery tonight, there are dozens of cold, desperate 16-year-old anachronisms wondering where to congregate. Can't you find it in your heart to help them? Go, go to them -- look, that one with the torn Carharts, he's crying to himself, too proud to show his face. Is he trying to impress the girl in the black hoodie? Those skateboarders? Nevermind -- now is the time to ease his suffering. Tell him it will be all right, that there will be other long-dead cultural moments to preserve. Tell him about the time you saw The Feelies at ol' CB's (Christgau was there!), and then tell him that, well, punk rock died once before, many years ago, and the hangers-on and scenesters had to move on. In the ensuing Post-Punk Wars, it was (College Rock) brother against (New Wave) brother, and thousands died. But, like his parents before him, now that punk is dead, he has Culture Club to look forward to.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Political Capital One 

The Accountability Moment may have passed for Il Presidente, but for consumers, it's just beginning!

Yes, your United States Senate has stopped talking about bleeding the middle class dry and finally done something about it, with the nearly certain passage of the Citibank Bankruptcy Bill, named for collections agent Horatio Smith Baxter-Citibank (or HSBC), who was killed in the line of duty trying to foreclose on the home of an elderly credit abuser. This new legislation will finally put an end to all those hip Chapter 11 parties, where unemployed or recently hospitalized scofflaws run up thousands of dollars of debt and then declare bankruptcy for kicks.

Let's take a look at some of the lesser-known provisions of the Bill:

- Parents: For every late credit card payment, a randomly-selected college will reject your child's application.
- Single Mothers: Should a bank consider you a high enough risk, they may assign you a lonely, wealthy husband. A dowry-fee of 18% of your total debt plus four goats will be charged.
- Banks reserve the right to perform one (1) "ol' misplaced decimal point gag" with your interest rate each fiscal year.
- While you may still request a free copy of your FICO score, it will be printed in the Navajo language with invisible ink. Code Talkers and "Fair Isaac Brand Detecto-Goggles" will be available upon request at your bank's local branch during business hours, for a small fee.
- Armed Service members or veterans filing for bankruptcy will be asked to submit proof that seppuku was attempted before their case can be heard.
- Your credit history will be written by the winners.

Monday, March 07, 2005

Audience Participation 

Studying for midterms today -- sorry, folks.

To keep you busy, a la Professor Bérubé's Too-Many-Hits-Wonder challenge, I recommend the following musical game, which has been stymieing me for a couple nights now:
Create a compilation CD (or "mix tape," as you grown-ups call 'em) entirely of songs about or performed by artists from your home. I use "home" loosely -- in my case, it means Minnesota with an emphasis on Minneapolis. Keep it to around 20 songs (or 80 minutes, if you want to get technical). It doesn't have to be the absolute best your hometown/state has to offer -- try to balance out the famous with the obscure, and individual artists shouldn't appear more than twice. To give you an idea of what I'm talking about, here's the Minnesota/Minneapolis sampler as it currently reads, though it's about 30 seconds too long to fit on a cd in this incarnation:

"Girl From The North Country" - Bob Dylan
"MPLS" - Paul Westerberg
"Minneapolis" - Lucinda Williams
"Minnesoter" - The Dandy Warhols
"Baby I'm A Star" - Prince
"I Am Hip" - Rank Strangers
"Hair" - Atmosphere
"Lake Street Is For Lovers" - Lifter Puller
"Just Like Christmas" - Low
"Christmas Card From a Hooker in Minneapolis" - Tom Waits
"Color Of Her Eyes" - Gear Daddies
"Take Me With You (When You Go)" - The Jayhawks
"9th St." - The Soviettes
"Crazy Job" - Suburbs
"What's Going On" - Hüsker Dü
"St. Paul" - Rag Tag Rybak
"Hip Check" - Milhaus
"The Swish" - The Hold Steady
"Slow Love" - Prince
"Went To See The Gypsy" - Bob Dylan
"Skyway" - The Replacements
"Can't Hardly Wait" (Tim version) - The Replacements
"Surfin' Bird" - The Trashmen

(I'm cheating a bit, including a song by my own band and one by a family member's band, and Westerberg appears three times, but you get the idea -- so make your own mix, leave it in the comments or post it on your own blog. You know what to do. And you damned New Yorkers needn't even bother, frankly, unless you can manage to come up with one made entirely of songs about New York written by non-New Yorkers, which might be interesting.)

Saturday, March 05, 2005

Will the Circle Be Unbroken? 

I really didn't want to link to yet another article from the Style section of the Times, especially one about inexplicably famous people who happen to attend my school, but jesus christ, Ruth La Fera -- this is not trend-setting. Minneapolis bike-punks, the least fashionable people on Earth, have been dressing like this since at least 1998. I mean it -- they dress identically. The cowboy boots, the leggings, the hand-knit scarves, the tchotchke earrings, the dozens of baggy layers, it's the same fucking thing. Now, of course, they'll have to stop. So this is service journalism, I guess. Thank you, Style Section! Soon, the tall-bikers will have to move on to wearing something stupider looking, like barrels held up with suspenders and matching spats. Then, Haylie Duff will start wearing barrels, and they'll eventually be available with ironic screen-printed slogans at Urban Outfitters.

Buy your own Buck Hill-branded barrels and spats at my Cafe Press store!!!

UPDATE: I don't mean to suggest, of course, that the look is particular to Minneapolis bike-punks. They're just the ones I know personally. New York has bike-punks, but they can't afford to dress like Mary-Kate or her "equally funky sister." Affected Bohemianism is a pricey luxury in this town.

Someone Get an Ethnographer On This 

On those nights when the coughing heat pipes hinder sleep; those nights when one must choose between the certain hypothermic death of an open window in early March or the sweltering heat of the ancient radiators (two settings: off and Turkish Bath), as I lay in bed dressed like a Tennessee Williams character, I occasionally stop fanning myself with my copy of Entertainment Weekly and open it to the letters page. Once I do that, of course, I effectively kill any lingering hope of sleep. Who can sleep while thinking of those desperate communiques from that bizarre parallel reality? A world where Julianne Moore's inclusion on the worst-dressed list is considered a controversy on the scale of the annexation of the Golan Heights. A world where educated, literate, functioning members of society feel the need to put pen to paper and write that they were thrilled to see Andy Dick finally get some recognition for being such a hard-working, underutilized comic talent.

I feel I can understand the letters pages of, say, the New York Times Book Review, or Sports Illustrated. I understand the people who email Sean Hannity to let him know that he's a great American. I even understand those desperate characters who "comment" on "blogs." But Entertainment Weekly and its bretheren continue to confound me. Thank god, then, for Doghouse Riley, who, even if he cannot explain these people's motivations, can at least provide a service that the blogosphere has been crying out for: TV Guide summaries.

The freedom-loving people of the world salute you, Mr. Riley. This truly is the greatest country in the world. And as President Kingfish says:
"Liberty gots'ta come t'dose who love it. Man!"

What It Lacks In Funny, It Makes Up For In Moralizing 

Simple Answers to Vexing Front-Page Problems

Dear New York Police Department's document fraud squad:
Want to eliminate the Fake ID menace? Lower the drinking age back to 18.

Dear U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement:
Want to put a stop to violence on the Canadian border due to marijuana smuggling? Decriminalize it.

Dear Army Office of Public Affairs:
Want to stem the public relations nightmare that is surely to result from the newly declassified documents demonstrating a systematic pattern of abuses, criminal misconduct, and war crimes committed by US soldiers against Iraqis? Just dump the news on a Saturday morning and remember to have faith in the press, for no matter how many of them you kill, they will never give this story (or any like it) as much play as, say, the Chris Klein/Katie Holmes breakup. What's that you say? "Soldiers in another unit had raped Iraqi women and shot unarmed Iraqis"? Why, that's simply -- hey, there's Christo!


Friday, March 04, 2005

The Sight Is Dismal 

The second in what will hopefully not become a series. Once again, this blog believes that satire ought to be laid on thick 'n' clumpy. In case you haven't caught on yet, I'm a (rapidly failing) theater student.

Derbyshire and Goldberg Are Dead

A Short Play, in (Reverse) Blog Form

Two CONSERVATIVE BLOGGERS are passing the time in a place without much visible character. Each of them has a laptop.

HEADS [John Derbyshire]
Posted at 02:00 PM

Re: HEADS [Jonah Goldberg]
The law of probability, according to an episode of The Simpsons, has something to do with the proposition that if six monkeys were given the chance to invest some amount of their payroll tax funds in the stock market, they would make enough money to retire comfortably about half of the time.
Posted at 02:01 PM

HEADS [John Derbyshire]
Posted at 02:02 PM

Re: HEADS [Jonah Goldberg]
An emailer has alerted me that I am, perhaps, talking about either an episode of Family Guy or the Law of Diminishing Returns.
Posted at 02:10 PM

HEADS [John Derbyshire]
Posted at: 02:12 PM

Re: HEADS [Jonah Goldberg]
Derb’s post puts me in the mind of the recent Sen. Byrd kerfuffle. For the life of me, I can’t figure out what Byrd was thinking when he dredged up the old Bush-Hitler comparison. List of possible explanations. One: Byrd has lost his mind. He’s what, 150 years old now? Clearly too old to remember how he himself was for changing the Senate cloture rules in 1975, as an emailer pointed out to me earlier today.
Posted at: 02:14 PM

HEADS [John Derbyshire]
Posted at: 02:15 PM

Re: HEADS [Jonah Goldberg]
Two: Bush-hating has finally jumped the shark. That is, like The Simpsons after season 8 or so, it is re-hasing old plots and losing its original spark and vitality.
Posted at: 02:16 PM

HEADS [John Derbyshire]
Posted at: 02:17 PM

Re: HEADS [Jonah Goldberg]
Three: A spectacular vindication of the theory that any leftist Democrat, given an theoretically infinite amount of time, will eventually use every ad hominem argument against Bush available – once again, a theoretically infinite number of possible permutations. I’ve never seen anything like it on the Senate floor, though.
Posted at: 02:17 PM

A SYLLOGISM [John Derbyshire]
One: Jonah Goldberg has never seen anything like it on the Senate floor before. Two: Jonah Goldberg has never read about anything like it in a book. Three: It has never been in a book.
Posted at: 02:18 PM

TIME-WASTER [Jonah Goldberg]
Here’s a pretty good game to waste time with while you’re supposed to be working: Questions! (mild language)
Posted at: 02:20 PM

ENDS AND MEANS [Ramesh Ponnuru]
This conservative will go out on a limb and say that just ends are a necessary but not sufficient condition to justify the means used to achieve them.
Posted at 02:22 PM

THAT'S WHY ... [Jonah Goldberg]
we call you Daredevil Ponnuru!
Posted at 02:26 PM

FIRE! [John Derbyshire]
Posted at 02:32 PM

Re: FIRE! [Jonah Goldberg]
Posted at: 02:33 PM

Re: FIRE! [John Derbyshire]
It’s all right – I’m demonstrating the misuse of free speech. To prove that it exists.
Posted at: 02:34 PM

Thursday, March 03, 2005

You Know, I Never Would've Passed Without That Princeton Review Course 

High School About To Become Less Tolerable
On the East End of Long Island, the East Hampton School District is venturing into this terrain with a proposal to use breath analyzers on students suspected of being intoxicated in high school.

For those keeping score at home, the list of rights you have when you enter a public school currently reads:

1st Amendment
2nd Amendment
3rd Amendment
4th Amendment
5th Amendment
6th Amendment (Note: Amendments 5 and 6 no longer apply to anyone)
7th Amendment
8th Amendment (High School is built around "unusual punishments." On the plus side, they can't kill ya' anymore!)
9th Amendment
10th Amendment

Frankly, that's a still a few too many for my taste. But don't worry, parents -- they'll be quartering soldiers in your rowdy teenager's room by next fall. In fact, I think ABC's developing a show about it. Unenumerated Rights -- Thursdays at 10!

You Can Always Do Something With a Crook 

It's little-seen and generally considered a tremendous mess, but Criterion will soon be releasing F for Fake. It is, for my money (which I will be blowing on this once it hits stores), Orson Welles' third greatest film (sorry, Magnificent Tenenbaums Ambersons fans -- show me an unearthed Director's Cut and we'll talk). It's ostensibly a documentary about an art forger named Elmyr de Hory, though it's really the story of an frustrated genius who has decided to, in lieu of the resources necessary to film his elaborate inventions, take up editing. Welles stiches together pieces of five or six aborted projects and ties it up with the catch-all theme of forgery. By this point (the mid-'70s) Welles had reached the apotheosis of self-mythology; he presents himself as Harry Lime incarnate, holding court at fancy restaurants telling tales of his young rascalry while surrounded by beautiful people. He grasps the fundamental appeal of the work of famously oversized personalities -- the illusion of intimacy with someone so clearly, confidently brilliant. The viewer begins to get the mistaken idea that he or she knows Orson personally, and yes, in person he's just as sparkling and quick-witted. This style of self-aggrandizement-as-art works only if you are actually sparkling and quick-witted, of course. Welles couldn't get away with this until he'd made Touch of Evil, much as Hunter Thompson couldn't have gotten away with most of his post-1974 output without the pre-1974 material.

The movie isn't just a big one-person circle jerk, of course. As I said, it's a study in the art of editing. The '70s might have been the golden age of films made brilliant in the editing room -- Annie Hall was, by some accounts, a light-comedic murder mystery in its raw form. Apocalypse Now was miles and miles of Martin Sheen and Marlon Brando out-crazying each other (with helocopters, napalm, and Harrison Ford making appearances) until a crack team of three editors and Michael Herr made it into an actual movie. And F for Fake, as I mentioned, was all useless artifacts of unmakable films and a little BBC documentary footage until Welles decided to invent some new form of fiction-straddling narrative "documentary," all very post-modern if you want to bring Roland Barthes or Walter Benjamin to the table (which Welles does, even if he, unlike I, doesn't need to namecheck them).

It's playful and intentionally shallow, but, like all Welles movies, it's a Great Man Brought Down story (gee, I hate to bring him up again, but who's been doing a lot of that lately?). The Great Man is, in this case, the director -- it plays almost like an excuse for being unable to "equal" his former lofty heights by explaining that, when you get down to it, said heights were the charlatanry of a gifted magician. For this performance, he demonstrates the trick again and then shows how it worked.

Every true artist must, in his own way, be a magician, a charlatan. Picasso once said he could paint fake Picassos as well as anybody, and someone like Picasso could say something like that and get away with it.
All of these are expressions of man's creativity, proof that man has not yet been destroyed by technology. But are we making things for the people of our epoch or repeating what has been done before? And finally, is the question itself important? We must ask ourselves that. The most important thing is always to doubt the importance of the question.
-Orson Welles

Frank Rich Or Die Tryin' 

List of references employed this week by Frank Rich to justify his continued placement in the Arts section:

"Garry Trudeau, Bill Murray, Johnny Depp"


Suggestions for next week:

"I.M. Pei, Martha Graham, 50 Cent"

"Kill Bill Volume 2"

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