New Sade, people. It’s typically gorgeous and limpid, even without the metaphor of being washed clean, which is central to the song. Sade is someone I like, even though I would say I have trouble listening to her sometime. I think it’s a combination of pacing, vocal style, and lyrics. I tend to feel a bit like I’m sinking under the song, and the lyrics come along just often enough to pull me back enough into the narrative and images. That said, periodically I find myself with “Lovers Rock” on repeat for days at a time. I think it reminds me of being by myself on the beach I’ve been going to my entire life:
Although I do greatly like Josh Brolin and Frank Langella, I have some trouble believing that Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps is going to be a good movie. Even if it’s an Evil Traders movie, it feels a year or so off: the fact of joblessness, and of a permanent dislocation of career plans for a large swath of young people have swamped the causes and original villains. I do, however, love seeing Michael Douglas relaxed and aged into a rogue’s role. I mean, this is kind of delightful:
But like, for example, The Good Guy, this wretched-looking romantic comedy, the question of whether bankers and traders can be good people feels weirdly irrelevant today. I mean, really, who cares?
Well, looks like Sam Worthington might get to be Dracula, in addition to Perseus, a Hero to the Native Peoples of Pandora, and a robot who thinks he’s a dude. Aside from the fact that this seems like a terrible casting choice (come on, is this the face of Vlad the Impaler, people:
Image used under a Creative Commons license courtesy the excellently-named yotambientengosuperpoderes.
I didn’t think so.) every time studios make one of these awful-looking vampire movies, they take a step away from doing a serious and gorgeous adaptation of The Historian, the best, and most grown-up, vampire novel to come out and become available for adaptation in years. There’s theoretically a Historian movie in production (Sony owns the film rights), but with no public cast information available, I feel the need to treat it with as much credulity as the recurring rumors, mostly died down now, that someone is doing a movie version of The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay. It’s really too bad. The Historian places vampirism in an entirely different context than the wan abstinence and immortal youth narratives so predominant today, but it’s still a pretty sexy book. The difference is that the sexual tension is between adults rather than teenagers, and those adults are serious academics. A movie treatment of the novel could tap both the vampire craze and folks like me who like nerdy professorial movies (see Possession), and movies about relationships between actual adults. Which is probably why it’ll never get made.
So, you know how I completely love Solange’s “Sandcastle Disco”? V.V. Brown’s “Crying Blood” is like that, but so much more so:
I adore everything about this girl: the pouf of bangs, the old-school houndstooth-print dress with the saddle shoes, the fact that she moves like a rock star rather than like a pop singer, the fierce happiness of this heartbreak song. ”I’m crying blood / I’m crying tears from my eyes like I can’t deny / And I am falling like a comet from a broken sky” is both sad and incredibly tough. It’s nice to be reminded of how much you can jam into a two-and-a-half-minute song.
I’ve been thinking about the 2009-2010 television season quite a bit lately, trying to account for what seems to be a strong spike in extremely high quality television. I haven’t entirely made up my mind yet, but I do think I’m ready to assign the title for best new comedy of the year. And while I’m enjoying the hell out of Glee, and am consistently impressed by the ensemble cast and slyness of Modern Family (I cannot tell you how excited I was that Breaking Away was the movie playing in the background during the January 20 episode. The opening sequence of Breaking Away with the truck driver is such a great comedic sequence.), I really do think the best comedy to debut in 2009 is, and continues to be, Community.
I really can’t think of a better way to eulogize J.D. Salinger than to post Maurice Sagoff’s poetic summary of Salinger’s most famous novel:
School was crummy,
Dropped out to the New York scene.
There he wandered,
Scorned by girls…it wasn’t fun.
Home he slid,
Bouyed him up, she really did.
Only for the
Down the skids
Alas, he’ll go
Landing in a shrink chateau.
Ah, what torment
Must be his
But feels Gee Whiz!
Youth is rough–it really is.
As a side note, Sagoff’s Shrinklits is brilliant, and much more useful than Cliff’s Notes.
I think the point of this Times article, that a market for late-night talk and joke show driven by a host, just doesn’t exist among people in my age group. I’ve never particularly understood the appeal of the format anyway–it always seemed like something that existed because there wasn’t enough programming to fill the available time slots. Now that Hulu exists, I can find something I like even when there isn’t one of those delightfully interminable House re-runs that one of the sources in the story alludes to. And now that Nielsen’s going to start counting online viewing, it seems like a lot more late-night content will be much more financially viable than such shows would have been when they had to pull in consistent audiences at unusual hours.
I have a particular fondness for pop songs that incorporate nursery rhymes, so I was pretty excited by the “Jack be nimble, Jack be quick” line in V.V. Brown’s “Shark in the Water”:
Of course, the queen of this particular genre is Pink, who has made repeated use of the device. There’s the “ice cream, ice cream, we all want ice cream” riff from “Cuz I Can,” (which is, incidentally, one of the great all-time female declarations of bravado, up there with the introduction to Robyn):
Then there’s the hilarious and slightly disturbing re-appropriation of the whole “where it stops, nobody knows” line in “Bad Influence”:
I don’t know if this is uniquely something female singers seem to do, or if that’s just who I’ve noticed do it. But I like the link back to a place in our lizard brains, not just to familiar songs like the ones Gwen Stefani’s worked into some of her solo material, but to the earliest rhymes we remembered in wildly different context.
Although woe betide anyone who cuts off the St. Crispin’s Day speech:
I’m covering it tonight for the day job, so blogging on Thursday will probably be pretty slow since I won’t have time to write posts. But can I register a brief note of regret that no State of the Union will ever be this badass? (Minus the dorky-sounding “I’m going to get the guns” line, of course.)
On behalf of nerds everywhere, I feel kind of outraged about this court ruling permitting prisons to ban Dungeons & Dragons paraphernalia and books:
Prison officials said they banned the game at the recommendation of the prison’s specialist on gangs, who said it could lead to gang behavior and fantasies about escape.
Dungeons & Dragons could “foster an inmate’s obsession with escaping from the real-life correctional environment, fostering hostility, violence and escape behavior,” prison officials said in court. That could make it more difficult to rehabilitate prisoners and could endanger public safety, they said.
The court, which is based in Chicago, acknowledged that there was no evidence of marauding gangs spurred to their acts of destruction by swinging imaginary mauls, but it ruled nonetheless that the prison’s decision was “rationally related” to legitimate goals of prison administration.
I know most of the commentary on this case has focused on the fact that a) it’s dopey to assume that gaming causes pathological behavior, b) it’s particularly dopey to assume D&D-playing leads to the formation of prison gangs. But I actually think the free speech issues are disturbing. Perhaps it’s just me, but I tend to think that unless a prisoner is writing threats or coordinating crimes through his writing, he should be allowed to keep doing it, and to keep his writing after completing it if he wants.
Writing is distraction, it’s therapy, it’s a way to develop skills that, who knows, might actually serve someone upon their release from prison. I can see some circumstances under which it might make sense to monitor that writing, or to direct it into a formal program like InsideOUT Writers. And under some circumstances, it might make sense to act on somebody’s writing. Seung-Hui Cho may have been a lot better off if something had really taken place after his fellow Virginia Tech students and professors found his writing disturbing. But preventing him from writing wouldn’t have stopped him from killing somebody. And taking away a murderer’s D&D manual isn’t going to prevent the killing that landed him in jail in the first place. But it may have denied him something that was rehabilitative.
blackink12′s post over at PostBourgie about D’Angelo’s dissolution and creative decline really struck me yesterday. This, in particular stood out to me:
“I feel like there’s a book with a bookmark in it,” says (former manager Dominique) Trenier. “Two albums? That can’t be it for this guy. He’s got so much music in him.”
But does he really?
I alluded to this in my mixtape last Friday, but it’s been very difficult for me to watch Courtney Love and Amy Winehouse fall apart. Both Celebrity Skin and Back to Black came out at times when it felt like I needed precisely that record, the blast of independence and disdain, the decision to manage grief by dressing it up and embracing it. I trust both of these manifestly unreliable women because at one point, they gave me something I needed, before I could even articulate that I needed it. While I don’t particularly feel like it’s Me Against the World, or the Machine, or Whatever, and I definitely don’t feel like holidng an elaborate funeral for my own heart (though, what style), I remain wary of the possibility that I may need a bulwark against those sentiments again.
And so I want Amy Winehouse and Courtney Love to be there for me, to anticipate that next moment of great musical need. What a fool I am. blackink12 is wise when he says “D’Angelo has already exceeded my wildest expectations, and I didn’t realize it until it was over. I have everything I ever needed. And I hope D’Angelo can say the same.” Amy and Courtney will get better, or not, independent of their talent and my desire for its expression. And while, as Courtney put it, “I want to be the girl with the most cake,” I’ll try to be content with what I have.
It’s just amazing to me how pretty Britney Spears was when she was really young. I don’t know that she’s truly beautiful, she was never remote and stunning enough for that. And a huge amount of attention focused on her body and her clothing, but she just had an incredibly lovely, youthful face. The change from something like “Lucky”
Feel free to make your kids’ movie. But please stay away from my hometown. When you go to Boston, you do things like remake astonishing movies that don’t make remaking, and enable Leonardo DiCaprio’s terrible, terrible attempts at a Boston accent and augment it with ghosts.
So, I probably could have found a picture of the actual beach at the Jersey Shore to illustrate this plug for y’all go to read my meditations over at The Atlantic on how Jersey Shore fits into the long literary and artistic tradition of the beach as a site of humiliation and bad decisions. As the piece begins:
When he gave his youngest daughter permission to go to Brighton, England, Pride and Prejudice’s Mr. Bennet declared that Lydia would never be happy “until she has exposed herself in some public place or other, and we can never expect her to do it with so little expense or inconvenience to her family as under the present circumstances.” But he could have just as easily been talking about the members of Jersey Shore, the MTV reality show about a summer share house that, with its first season just ended, seems on the verge of becoming a mass cultural phenomenon.
Check it out. But I (corny, I know), chose the bridge for another reason. In the next month or so, I’ll be starting a column for a new section of The Atlantic‘s website, writing pieces much like this one. It may mean I have to cut down on the frequency with which I post here a little bit, but the blog is definitely not going away. You all are too valuable an audience for me to test my ideas on and to talk things over with for me to let y’all go. I don’t say it often enough, but thank you for reading, for talking back, for emailing. You make me a better writer and thinker.
After several frustrating attempts at collaboration with co-writers — “They just don’t get it,” he said — Mr. Serpico enrolled in a weekly workshop through an arts group in Troy, N.Y., where his classmates also do not always understand his stories. “How could they?” he said. “We have women in the class writing about their kids — they don’t know what a bag man is.”
Frank Serpico writes out the story of his life daily in longhand, at the cabin, then types the pages on a computer at the public library, using the two-finger method he honed filing arrest reports on station house typewriters, gathering the pages in a manila folder. The memoir begins on the night of the Williamsburg drug bust, his bleeding body cradled by an elderly tenant who called for assistance when his fellow officers did not, the narrator floating above and recounting the life path that led him there.
Writing groups, and writing classes, are funny things. Some of my best classes in college were on writing, but I can see how that might not be a precisely universal experience. Mark Salzman’s beginning of True Notebooks is all about how awful his experiences teaching adult-education writing classes were (one of his students called another student’s mother a bitch after the student read a story about how her mother slapped her father after discovering his adultery), though he ends up loving teaching in prison. I can only imagine what it must be like for Serpico to get critiqued by the housewives–and for them to get feedback from him. Do you think he tries to get them to write about corruption in nursery school admissions processes? Or gets them to blow the whistle on their co-op boards or something?
In 2154, when “Avatar” takes place, it is possible that tobacco use will no longer exist. But if movies are still around, there will still be arguments about what they should be showing, and to whom. Such arguments are built into the medium and our complicated bond with it. We want movies to acknowledge what is real, but also to improve on reality, to give us a vision of a perfect world in which everything is permissible — a world that’s sexy, dangerous, scary and smoky and safe for children too.
I basically don’t think the ratings system should exist. The guidelines have become so absurdly arbitrary that newspapers routinely run capsule reviews oriented at parents that interpret those ratings. One of those reviews played a critical role in my being allowed to see Romeo + Juliet in 1996. Parents who care about what their children see are doing additional research anyway. Parents who don’t will take their kids to pretty much anything: it bothered me to see the toddlers somebody took to see The Lovely Bones at a screening I attended, but they weren’t even borderline, their escort just could not have cared less what the movie was rated. If they’re not being used or still useful as a guide to content, they’re just an exhibit hall for hypocrisy and inconsistency, and should be retired.
I love Entertainment Weekly, which I think is probably not something pop culture critics say very often. It’s not a Very Serious Journal, though it employes a number of very good critics, particularly for movies. It’s solidly poppy magazine, funny and irreverent. Michael Ausiello is one of the entertainment journalists I most admire: he’s both very good at reporting on television, and has built a great, multi-platform relationship with his fans, and his an extremely unique voice. One of the reasons I subscribe to the magazine is a desire to contribute to his salary.
But I am mystified by the extent to which the magazine is in the tank for Twilight. One of the reasons EW’s stayed viable is by staying hard on top of emerging trends. But the oversaturation for Twilight is kind of astonishing. The publication of a graphic novel version of the novels is news. But it’s not a six-page spread.
This hagiographic profile of Laura Linney really doesn’t say much that devotees of her work don’t already know: she is phenomenal and we love her. But one point I wish Patricia Cohen, the author, had made is that Linney is often very good at elevating the trash she’s in. Take Love, Actually, which pushes many of my most sentimental buttons, but which I am perfectly capable of admitting is doofy and even sometimes deeply problematic. But there is absolutely nothing corny about watching Linney’s character, who cares for her seriously mentally ill brother, sabotage her chance at a relationship with a coworker she has been in love with for years. It’s not about her doing something stupid, or goofy. It’s not a portrayal of a beautiful woman having a totally implausible problem. It’s that her character is literally unable to choose something for herself, no matter how much she wants it, over her caretaker role. Her character, even as part of a massive ensemble, is enough of a human being for the scene to be entirely believable. It’s shattering, and I don’t know who else could portray it the way Linney does.
Weird Al is directing a movie. I don’t think I need to say anything more about this than: awesome.