Wednesday, October 29, 2008

McCain/Obama: When campaign reporters get too embedded in campaigns.

Here's a link to Glenn Greenwald's latest SALON column about Maeve Reston of THE LOS ANGELES TIMES bemoaning the winds of change in the relationships between John McCain and stenographer journalists on the Straight Talk Express:

And, correspondingly, here's a link to a LA TIMES article by Peter Nicholas about the Obama campaign where the author complains about Obama being too guarded and not chummy enough with the boys and girls of the press:,0,6187999.story

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

All you need is lots of cash: new Beatles clothing at Bloomingdales.

Yes, I know it's Bloomingdales. But, with the current economic crisis, it seems a rather inopportune time to introduce a pricey line of Beatles clothing (some of it done by Name designers):*&Keyword=Beatles&KEYWORD_GO_BUTTON.x=9&KEYWORD_GO_BUTTON.y=10

For those of us who balk at the idea of paying more than $25 for a Beatles T-shirt (some of the Bloomies items can be found in less expensive versions at The Fest for Beatles Fans site), a more cost-effective alternative would be to buy or rent the current ALL TOGETHER NOW documentary about the creation of the Cirque du Soleil show LOVE.

My new favorite poet: Canada's David McGimpsey.

A few weeks ago, I was in Austin, TX for my sister-in-law's graduation from an acutherapy school; during that time, I stopped at local chain Book People and found a book of poetry called SITCOM by David McGimpsey. McGimpsey--based in Montreal--is also a writer for the GLOBE AND MAIL, as well as an occasional musician/stand-up comic. His poetry is amusing, thoughtful and not afraid of affectionately referencing pop culture--something that's still considered anathema in the poetry circles I dwell in. And it's accessible and "good" clever without being plate-spinning overclever (i.e. Jeffrey McDaniel's hit-and-miss recent volume THE ENDARKENMENT).

SITCOM is published by the Toronto house Coach House Books. Please order it from your favorite online bookseller.

Karl Rove escapes citizen attempting to perform citizen's arrest.

In an environment where the Democratic Party doesn't want to call for impeachment or prosecution of GOP wrongdoers (remembering Dennis Kucinich being muzzled at the Democratic convention for wanting to say a line about certain Republicans deserving "five to ten"), a heroic activist decides to citizen's arrest Karl "MC" Rove in San Francisco:

Naturally, it didn't happen. And Nancy Pelosi can be heard breathing a sigh of relief.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Robert Novak predictably calls Colin Powell a traitor to GOP.

It had to happen: Robert Novak, making one of his periodic visits to THE WASHINGTON POST's editorial page, throws a conniption fit over Colin Powell's endorsement of Barack Obama for President:

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Oliver Stone's W.--if you saw NIXON, you know what to expect.

Since most film reviews are done in a vacuum now, it should be said that Oliver Stone's W. (*** on a **** scale) can be evaluated in terms of WALL STREET (Stone even brought in the same writer, Stanley Weiser, to revisit the father/son ethical behavior conflicts of the earlier film) and NIXON (which was a relatively evenhanded take on Richard Nixon).

Unlike the overstylized NIXON, Stone's filmmaking approach to W. is reasonably straightforward. And Josh Brolin does the best inhabitation of George Butch Jr. since Timothy Bottoms' work for filmmakers as diverse as right-wing firebrand Lionel Chetwynd (D.C. 9/11: TIME OF CRISIS) and SOUTH PARK majordomos Trey Parker and Matt Stone (the series THAT'S MY BUSH, quickly aired on Comedy Central in 2001 and canceled way before 9/11).

Barry Levinson's WHAT JUST HAPPENED?--surprisingly not bad.

WHAT JUST HAPPENED?, the Barry Levinson/Art Linson showbiz docucomedydrama (based on Linson's autobiography) is getting a limited theatrical release (don't know if it's also on pay-per-view) and, surprise, it's not at all bad (**1/2 on a **** scale). It's a welcome improvement over Levinson's 2006 MAN OF THE YEAR (an attempt to recapture the good old days of GOOD MORNING VIETNAM), with a decent straight-man performance from Robert De Niro and two primo comic turns from Michael Wincott as a "difficult" British director and John Turturro as a spineless agent of Bruce Willis (the latter doing a takeoff of Alec Baldwin's alleged prima-donna behavior pre-filming of THE EDGE, which Linson produced). Only major debit: the scenes between De Niro and Robin Wright Penn as a soon-to-be-ex-wife, which periodically kill the film's comic and serious momentum.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Trey Parker and Matt Stone can't quit their hate-on for Lucas/Spielberg.

I'm one of the few people who thought INDIANA JONES AND THE CRYSTAL SKULL was a decent-enough coda to the 80s action-adventure trilogy. And I hope George Lucas and Steven Spielberg leave well enough alone and not try for a rumored fifth entry to the series--unless it's a spinoff with Shia LaBoeuf's Mutt Williams character as the lead.

But, regardless of the general lack of true love for INDY 4 and George Lucas' recent CLONE WARS pilot-as-big-screen-movie (which I didn't see), it's rather pathetic to see Trey Parker (of the ginormous ego--someone who should never be allowed around interviewers) and copilot Matt Stone do a SOUTH PARK episode featuring Indiana Jones being....let's say, physically Spielberg and Lucas (didn't see the entire episode, but saw the scene in question--edited in a way recalling the trimmed-for-ABC-on-first-network-broadcast version of Ned Beatty being assaulted in DELIVERANCE).

Admittedly, Lucas (parodied before by SOUTH PARK) and Spielberg are plutocrats who don't always make the best decisions in terms of what they offer as art and/or commerce. But this is just mortifyingly stupid (rape, regardless of parody/metaphor, just isn't all that funny) and crass of Parker/Stone--and safe safe safe from any retaliation as well since Spielberg and DreamWorks (with David Geffen apparently leaving the company to Spielberg and Jeffrey Katzenberg) are leaving the Paramount lot.

Irony alert: Spielberg helped to bring about the current DVD restoration of THE GODFATHER I and II--which, in one making-of documentary, features, among others--Trey Parker.

Bill Clinton just can't let go: re Bill Richardson's support of Obama.

I have enough of a memory to recall a ROLLING STONE cover story from the spring of 1980 about Ted Kennedy's campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination. The article's subtitle was: His fight to dump Carter and restore hope.

Seeing this article about Bill Clinton's continuing anger at New Mexico governor Bill Richardson for the latter's support of Barack Obama, it's safe to imagine a 2012 Hillary-vs.-Barack rematch, no matter how Obama's first term works out:

Recommended reading and viewing when ill.

Having spent the week suffering from upper respitory infection, I've been coping with homeboundness by reading and watching small-screen offerings that are as noninfectuous as possible.

Here's a list;
CARY GRANT by Marc Eliot--although not deep in analysis of Grant's films, a reasonably comprehensive and honest-but-non-sensational account of his life.
WARNER BROTHERS: YOU MUST REMEMBER THIS--Richard Schickel's recent PBS miniseries about the legendary studio (narrated by Clint Eastwood), offering generous archival interview footage and clips from various classic and less-classic films.
THE GODFATHER (Blu-Ray)--Overall, this umpteenth restoration of Coppola's 1972 breakout film lives up to its "definitive" status. Kudos to Robert Harris (involved in the restorations of LAWRENCE OF ARABIA and VERTIGO) and Steven Spielberg (making good use of his time as a major supplier of product to the current Paramount) for making the hopefully-definitive restorations of GODFATHER I and II a reality. Now, if the Blu-Ray treatment can be applied to Coppola's APOCALYPSE NOW....
A CAPOTE READER by Truman Capote--A Penguin Books compilation of short stories, essays, the novellas THE GRASS HARP and BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY'S and the notorious 1957 profile of Marlon Brando ("The Duke in His Domain") for THE NEW YORKER.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Change is inevitable---hi to new readers.

Just a short message to say that I've changed my blog storage from AOL to Google per the former's request.

Will be back in a day or two with the usual messages.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Sarah Palin goes on Fox News and kvetches about not being asked "talking point" questions.

We lived through the nightmare of winky-winky, "I don't have to answer questions" Sarah Palin on Thursday night's Vice Presidential debate.  We winced when Pat Buchanan on MSNBC practically declared his adoration for Palin on-air in the post-debate comments.

Now, we find out that Ms. Barracuda is pouting because Katie Couric "annoyed" her and didn't ask questions that could be easily answered with GOP talking points:

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Ben Folds--sometimes he makes it so hard to be an admirer.

Before I get to my opinion of 42-year-old pianopop legend Ben Folds' new album WAY TO NORMAL, I'll yield the floor to a few opinions from the commenters at THE ONION's AV CLUB (where the album received a C+):

To me it [Folds' previous album SONGS FOR SILVERMAN] felt way too much like he was getting very middle-aged. The whole album seemed like something I'd find on adult contemporary radio and compared to his early work, well... that's just sad.

I felt that BF5 went downhill with each album and, while great when I heard the tracks played live, Messner was overproduced, scattershot, and not terribly good. With "Rockin' The Suburbs", however, he was completely back and reinvigorated, but then it just fell apart with Silverman.

So far I haven't heard anything on this album that sounds that good. It looks like he's just getting weaker and blander. Where's the great stuff we know he's capable of, like the wonderful cover of "Such Great Heights"? He can lend real passion and fun to songs, but his recent albums have just been so... bland, dry, and melancholy.

I'm more than a little surprised that there is so much love out there for Songs For Silverman. I'll take the aggressive, wacky side of Ben Folds over the drippy sentimental side any day of the week.

Put me in with the crowd that says "Songs for Silverman" had five-or-so great tracks and the rest was utterly forgettable. If the same goes for this new one, I'll be happy enough. The songs from "Normal" I heard him preview in concert were memorable, but they also seemed too bitter ... even coming from the man who wrote "Song for the Dumped." I'm real sorry his marriage [Folds' third--to Australian Frally Hines, with which he had a son and daughter; Folds remarried for the fourth time last year] ended in a big meltdown, but I kind of wish he wasn't dealing with it quite so publicly ... or at least with a bit more subtlety.

Now it's my turn.  Around 1997, I first heard of Ben Folds and the late lamented band Ben Folds Five by way of a British music magazine which drew parallels between Folds and Joe Jackson.  I bought the Five's breakout album WHATEVER AND EVER AGAIN and found it good but not great.  Since then, I've caught up with most of the remainder of the Folds catalog (and have seen him live three times--with the Five and as a "solo" act) and find that his two masterpieces are the first, self-titled Ben Folds Five album and his first post-Five album ROCKIN' THE SUBURBS (which had the misfortune of being released on 9/11./2001); a runner-up would be his post-SUBURBS EPs, which were compiled into a slightly altered collection called SUPERSUNNYSPEEDGRAPHIC.

Ben Folds, much like Nick Lowe (who reinvented himself in recent years as a snoozy balladeer), tends to stumble when reaching for Art.  Folds got away with the 60s pop pastiches on RHEINHOLD MESSNER, but it was clear that being a chronicler of his generation--particularly on the first Five album--became something he wanted to distance himself from (his mostly-instrumental FEAR OF POP side project during the Five years did have a sort of "look, I'm a virtuouso who can play more instruments than you and I'm tired of writing four-minute pop songs" fragrance).  After MESSNER's relative disappointment, Folds returned to the funny-and-sometimes-poignant third-person narratives he does best on ROCKIN' THE SUBURBS.  Then Art reared its head again, and the too-subdued SONGS FOR SILVERMAN (the best songs of which would make a decent EP) appeared three years ago--and the press for the album strongly indicated that Folds was putting childish things away for good.

And now, here's the relatively energetic WAY TO NORMAL--which opens with "Hiroshima", an entertaining Elton John homage about an accident at a Folds concert in Japan (with a doll-populated video).  But it says something that two of the best songs--"Free Coffee" (Folds talking about his wealth and the perks thereof) and "Errant Dog" (a sort of canine version of Warren Zevon's "Gorilla, You're a Desperado") would have been either B-sides or throwaways on earlier albums.  The actual songs that sort-of-reference the divorce from Frally Hines indicate that Folds, now 42 years old, is capable of anger and feelings of being unjustly maligned (there's a line in one song about how people who take his ex's side are projecting issues of their own onto him) but not quite ready for the introspection one might have at that age--almost a year into a fourth marriage.

To close, I'll just say that Ben Folds is more wise and thoughtful (even profound) when he's being a wiseacre--much like Nick Lowe.  Too much taste (or, in the case of WAY TO NORMAL, too much aggrieved tsuris) doesn't become Folds at all in the artistic sense.

Here's the ONION review, plus the full pro-and-con range of comments: