Sunday, May 31, 2009

LA TIMES on Michael Jackson bailout/career resurrection.

A friend of mine was wondering if Jackson can make it through the London O2 residency concerts. Hopefully, he can.

But I see the current tour as reminiscent of the latter career of Jackson's former deceased father-in-law Elvis Presley, with the O2 standing in for the Las Vegas Hilton and the subsequent dates as akin to the shows documented in ELVIS ON TOUR (which Martin Scorsese, who directed MJ's "Bad" video, worked on as an editor).

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Post-mortem for Jay Leno's TONIGHT SHOW tenure.

It's been a long time since 1991-92--a period immortalized in Bill Carter's THE LATE SHOW. Jay Leno, with the aid of Helen Kushnick (his then-manager), received NBC's blessing to host THE TONIGHT SHOW over the shattered ego of perceived successor David Letterman.

Leno started his tenure wanting to retain a few facets of the Smart Comic persona on display through his 80s career (most notably when he was a favored guest on LATE NIGHT WITH DAVID LETTERMAN). Smart Comic Paula Poundstone was a semi-regular and Leno, desiring some continuity with the Johnny Carson-era jazz-based TONIGHT SHOW band, anointed Branford Marsalis as bandleader. And authors were even welcome on the show.

But Leno eventually decided to dumb down. Marsalis was shown the door and guitarist Kevin Eubanks took the bandleader job--no more of that alienating jazz stuff. Leno asked Hugh Grant "what the hell were you thinking" re a prostitution encounter--and THE TONIGHT SHOW's ratings soared ahead of Letterman's on CBS. And there was the hand-over-handshaking with young front-row fans. Not to mention the increasing coarseness of the jokes, with only occasional flickers of the Smart Comic Leno of old--like a lightbulb filament just before burning out.

Now, Leno gets to continue a prime-time version of his show in a 10:00 p.m. nightslot Monday-Friday. Conan O'Brien will now get the "is he too smart for 11:35" treatment that Letterman received upon moving to CBS in 1993.

And one of the last commercials on the last episode of the Jay Leno TONIGHT SHOW was a thinly-veiled plea for viewers to buy General Electric stock in these less-than-robust economic times.

Friday, May 29, 2009

BBC coverage of Phil Spector's sentencing.


As a response to Dennis Miller's recent antics (at Sonia Sotomayor's expense) on THE O'REILLY FACTOR, I'm resurrecting this old poem of mine:

I don’t want to get off on a rant here,
but I had a nightmare just recently.

In my dream, I saw former comedian Dennis Miller
walking down State Street in Santa Barbara
wearing a sandwich board saying
and selling sealed-in-plastic paperback copies
of General Douglas MacArthur’s autobiography.

I’m old enough to remember when Dennis Miller
was actually funny.
This was when he was the fake newsman on
and hosted syndicated and HBO talk shows.
At that time, he poked fun at all kinds of absurdity-
whether it was from the Left or the Right.

Then, Dennis came out of the political closet
and became a rabid Republican.
He likes to say it was a result of 9/11.
But Dennis was already lusting for the favor
of George W. Bush and his acolytes
after the 2000 election.

And now he holds court on Fox News
(motto: We Distort, You Decide)
preaching to the angry-and-resentful converted
like a slightly more jovial carbon copy
of that master of fairness and balance-Bill O’Reilly.

I decide to go up to Dennis and pull his chain a little bit.

“Hey, Dennis!” I yell out.
“I remember when you referred to Tammy Faye Bakker
as The Stepford Hick on SNL.
Now, you’re making nice with the religious right.
What happened?”

Dennis scowls and his face turns the color
of a Red State.

“If you say that again, I’ll sue the f--- out of you!” he hisses.
“I’ve got a reputation to protect!
Besides, pal, you sound as impotent
as Woodrow Wilson arguing
for U.S. involvement in the League of Nations.
By the way, you wouldn’t be interested in a
JUST SAY NO TO KOFI ANNAN button, would you?
Of course not, you’re just another brain-dead liberal
who won’t listen to the Truth!
Get the f--- out of here
and go crawl up Howard Dean’s ass, why don’t you?”

I take the hint and start to walk away.

But I now hear Dennis singing a parody
of an old rock-and-roll song in an off-key,
malicious-drunk-tormenting-bar-patrons voice:

End of nightmare.
Fade to black.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

AT&T: First Pearl Jam, now AMERICAN IDOL.

Who would have thought that AT&T was so interested in shaping what America should and should not hear in terms of popular music?

Here's a reminder of their censorship of Pearl Jam a couple of years back for making anti-George Butch Jr. comments on a webcast:

Now, here's the allegation that the communications giant supported Kris Allen in AMERICAN IDOL voting:

I can imagine loud laughter from the grave of George Orwell.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Mike Judge flaps his right wing again: NYT review of THE GOODE FAMILY.

Mike Judge seems to be continuing a Dennis Miller-like transformation from relatively even-handed satirist (BEAVIS AND BUTTHEAD, KING OF THE HILL, OFFICE SPACE) to sour crank (IDIOCRACY).

Having seen the promo for Judge's new cartoon series, Disney/ABC's THE GOODE FAMILY and read the review in THE NEW YORK TIMES (, it's safe to expect another new low.

CA Supreme Court upholds existing gay marriages--but bans further ones.

Thanks to T.J. Sullivan on Twitter for printing this link to a LOS ANGELES TIMES blog article regarding the upholding of Proposition 8 by the California Supreme Court:

As for the likely 2010 overturn-8 campaign, one hopes that the mistakes made by the pro-gay marriage forces can be rectified next year (including the failure to properly counteract what was probably the most devastating pro-8 commercial--San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom uttering the words "whether you like it or not"--which nurtured the resentment/bigotry of millions of cultural conservatives).

Monday, May 25, 2009

Colin Powell inadvertently describes the state of the "poetry community."

"If we don't reach out more, the party is going to be sitting on a very, very narrow base. You can only do two things with a base. You can sit on it and watch the world go by, or you can build on the base."

Of course, the above is Colin Powell describing the Republican Party's current desire to purge itself of moderates--leaving nothing but hardcore "strict constructionist" doctrinaire conservatives.

But take a look at the HOUSTON LITERARY REVIEW's submissions guidelines [with certain passages I've highlighted] and decide for yourself if they don't come off a little Cheneyesque:
Whether you are a veteran craftsman or learning to use your voice or artistic sight, The Houston Literary Review wants to hear from you. However, if you have thin skin, believe your work is in no need of copy editing, or believe your words should not be edited, PLEASE do not submit.

THLR staff spend untold hours laying out pages, copy editing, and trying to make sense of prose masquerading as poetry and or voices that take too long to say what it is they are trying to say. We reserve the right to edit according to our style.

Please take a moment to consider that THLR is published monthly using volunteer resources and some part-time editors who work for very little salary. THLR is not a vanity publication and strives to give every writer and visual artist an opportunity to develop their voices.

The above sounds to me like THLR wants to watch the world go by--with nontraditional voices told not to let the door bruise them on the way out.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

NANCY GRACE: When you don't go along with the program.....

Okay. I can hear Nancy screaming to her staffers: IT'S MY SHOW!!!!!! afterwards.

And I can't help but remember a certain Warren Zevon song title: "You're a Whole Different Person When You're Scared."

Perhaps MY NAME IS EARL doesn't need to be saved--campaign notwithstanding.

The Greg Garcia-created, Jason Lee/Ethan Suplee/Jamie Pressly-starring sitcom MY NAME IS EARL had a great first season--and became rather uneven in quality for its next three years on the air (see also MORK AND MINDY). Now, after the cancellation by NBC, there's an engineered save-EARL campaign to boost the show's chances of being picked up for Season 5 by either Fox or ABC:

It's better that EARL drifts into the life-after-death of syndication/Hulu/DVD sales. And, like MORK AND MINDY and the Dwayne Hickman/Bob Denver DOBIE GILLIS, it can stand as an example of what happens when a show that's not broken gets fixed--with sometimes calamitous results.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Tarantino/Jarmusch: when critics fall out of love with auteurs.

For me, Quentin Tarantino descended from the relative recent heights of the KILL BILL duology to the fitfully effective DEATH PROOF (which I only saw in its shortened GRINDHOUSE version). And his new INGLORIOUS BASTERDS (a loose remake of a late-70s WWII exploitationer with Bo Svenson and Fred Williamson) is getting mixed responses after a Cannes Film Festival screening:

Re BASTERDS, I'm guessing Universal Pictures will insist on trimming the current near-2.5 hour length of the film--which may lead to some fascinating moments of Tarantino screaming and stomping around editing rooms like a man in a Godzilla costume on a miniature set of Tokyo.

The deadpan minimalism of Jim Jarmusch (which was shown at its best in STRANGER THAN PARADISE, DOWN BY LAW and MYSTERY TRAIN) has also been taking a series of baseball bats to the kneecap; here are two reviews of Jarmusch's THE LIMITS OF CONTROL--one from VARIETY fuddy-dud Todd McCarthy and the other from perpetual trend-chaser Peter Travers of ROLLING STONE:

Marc Cooper on results of the Tuesday CA proposition votes.

I don't know if I agree with everything Marc Cooper says in his post-mortem about Tuesday's pass-the-budget-problem-solving-to-the-voters proposition 1A-1E defeats (excepting the Yes vote on denying legislature payraises in bad economic times), but he makes a valid point that the state's voters need to deep-six their selfishness and roll back Howard Jarvis' property-tax relief Proposition 13 from the late 1970s:

To roll back some or all of Prop 13 is vital considering the effects of the recession on schools and other public services.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Quiz: Match the Famous Person to what they might be thinking.

1. "I can have a career being pious and scantily clad--just like Selena!"
2. "To hell with dignity. I'm going to keep that [expletive deleted] and her child from getting any of our money. If anyone complains, I know the media will remind them of how seriously ill I am!"
3. "You liberals have no place to go! Did you SERIOUSLY think I was going to do away with tribunals?"
4. "Torture works, torture works, torture works....."


Thursday, May 7, 2009

AMERICAN IDOL: Allison is gone, is there a possible Fox fix occurring?

Over on Twitter, I made a comment which will be too arcane for most people who read it.

Here it is again: Allison Iraheta being booted off AMERICAN IDOL is, as Groucho Marx said half-a-century ago about Judy Garland losing the Best Actress Oscar to Grace Kelly, the biggest robbery since the Brinks one.

Out of the final three, I'm predicting bland Kris will be washed out--leaving Adam and Danny in the likely One and Two positions after the finale.

I'll presume that Fox wants Danny Gokey to be in the Final Two as a bone thrown to conservative Christians unhappy with Adam Lambert's sexuality.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Actor David Ogden Stiers, upon coming out, offers insight into the Hollywood closet.

One insight from the above is that gay actors who do animation voiceovers are pressured to stay closeted for fear of offending parents. A possible irony is that most parents don't pay much attention to which non-"star" actors are doing voiceover work in animated film/TV projects.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Swine flu: the anxiety continues.

A possible irony of this outbreak: people are now more eager to buy Purell and other hand sanitizers than before--but, in a lot of cases, may not be as willing to change their expectorating habits to coughing and/or sneezing into their sleeves.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Corporate bookstores' business model: on the ropes.

Given the rumors one hears about the state of Borders' financial health, one wonders if it might be time for corporate bookstore chains (which, at their most robust, helped to obliterate independent stores that couldn't/wouldn't offer deep discounts) to alter their "buy the hot new predetermined bestseller" business model.

Perhaps Borders and Barnes & Noble could consider some empathy training for customer-phobic staff members, as well as reinstating more community-friendly programs (including, yes, poetry readings in some stores) without worrying about what effect they may have on the bottom line.

My guess is that the above suggestions will be ignored. And the two once-mighty megachains are almost certainly praying hard that Dan Brown's new pulp thriller will cause customers to stampede into the stores this fall and save them from bankruptcy and/or going-out-of-business sales.

And to think most of this could be avoided if these stores could just manage the task of selling all kinds of books instead of only a few "hot" volumes.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

NIN's Trent Reznor censored by Apple for inappropriate app.

Another musician runs afoul of corporate censorship of "objectionable" content: this time it's Trent Reznor of the band which can now be called The Grateful Dead of industrial music, Nine Inch Nails--

Those with long memories will be reminded of Starbucks refusing to sell Bruce Springsteen's album DEVILS AND DUST a few years ago because of the visit-to-a-prostitute song "Reno."

[UPDATE 5/7/09:]

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Reuters article about Coldplay's free live CD.

Nothing much to say about the above, except the first paragraph is a bit doofusy in its assertion that Coldplay giving ticketholders a free CD at their concerts this year is another chapter in "the end of the CD as we know it."

The physical CD will end if (and only if) the music industry wants it to end--as occurred with the vinyl record, the 8-track cartridge and the audiocassette.

At this time, I'm guessing that record labels are still making some $$$$ from CDs--even if they'll be primarily sold online in the near future.