Thursday, June 21, 2007

Thanks for the Memories ...

As any readers of this site might have noticed, this here blog has been running on fumes for some time now. Call it the vicissitudes of life, or a lengthy writer's block, or being too damn busy, or -- more likely -- just plain laziness, but yours truly has hit a formidable dry spell. The blog has had to take a back seat to family stuff, work stuff, new-kid-on-the-way stuff, moving stuff, Billie Jean-is-not-my-lover stuff, etc., and so it is time to officially pull the plug on this blog. Jack Kevorkian is out on the street again (atta boy, Jack-Attack), so the time seems right.

Likely I will be back on the blogosphere in some fashion, albeit with a site that no one knows about, so that I might be able to post or not post at my leisure and without the tsk-tsking from fellow bloggers (yeah, I'm talking to you, Pants, still the nastiest and funniest blogger I personally know).

Three things before I bid you adieu, however. First, thanks to the contributing bloggers here, namely Cassandra D (my beautiful, kind, compassionate, fiery liberal wife) and some really good friends: Daniel Gale-Grogen, Larry Mondello, Conrad Spencer, Dash Riprock and Turtle (although I'll be damned if those last two ever posted more than one or two entries). You guys are all great writers, if not exactly great people, and I encourage you to be fruitful and multiply.

Second, the final episode of "The Sopranos" rocked. David Chase, we are not worthy to breathe the same air you do. Why can't he run as a Democrat in '08?

Third, indulge me one final photo of Apple Rosebud, who is now past 18 months and growing. She will have a little brother in August, although she doesn't know it yet, and subsequently I suspect that she will be weathering a bit of a lifestyle upheaval soon.

So let me just say that this morning she kissed me for the first time, and (cue the cornball music) it was an amazing moment. Each day, I look at this smiling, temperamental toddler and -- although I am far from a "child person" and never seriously anticipated having kids -- I fall in love with her all over again. Daily.

It is something I had never looked forward to prior to getting hitched, and so it is a gift for which I am particularly and deeply grateful. Even when she gets royally pissed off, which generally only happens when we're in a restaurant or at a family gathering, she just makes me feel happy. Maudlin as hell, I realize, but it is what it is.

Here's to you, Apple Rosebud.

This blog's for you ...

Monday, June 11, 2007

How Long Can a Person Hang Upside-down Before Their Head Explodes?

By Conrad Spencer

The under-appreciated Chris Elliott series Get a Life featured an episode in which a roller coaster breaks down at the top of a loop, leaving Chris and the other passengers suspended upside down for the duration of the episode. It's a great plot for sitcom but, given backup generators and clever mechanical engineering, not something that I thought likely to happen in real life.

But I was wrong.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Friday Random 10

For no particular reason, this one's for you, Mr. Halberstam, wherever you are ...

1. The Barenaked Ladies, "Sound of Your Voice"
2. Jim Carroll, "Them"
3. Fang, "The Money Will Roll Right In"
4. Belle & Sebastian, "I Love My Car"
5. The Beatles, "Eleanor Rigby/Julia [Transition]"
6. Chuck Berry, "Thirty Days"
7. The Slackers, "Married Girl"
8. The Young Fresh Fellows, "Don't You Wonder How It Ends?"
9. Bobby Vinton, "Blue on Blue"
10. Jane's Addiction, "Ain't No Right"

Friday, April 13, 2007

Ho, Ho, Ho

Jesus H. Christ. Enough already.

So Don Imus said a stupid, tasteless, racist thing. In our strangely schizophrenic culture, where political correctness thrives alongside mean-spirited shock, that is enough to put a screeching end to a nearly 30-year career.

Now don't get me wrong. I'm no Imus fan. The guy has a lengthy and ignominious history of racism, anti-Semitism and homophobia. He's a prick, OK. His irascibility always struck me as more tiresome than endearing, and I never really understood why such Beltway pundits as Maureen Dowd, Jonathan Alter, Paul Begala and the like were deferential to him while tripping all over themselves to be on his program. Such politicos weren't ballsy enough to go on Howard Stern (who likely wouldn't have any interest in talking to them, unless they were on the Sybian), but Imus was irreverent enough to give the talking-head types a bit of hipster credibility.

And now Imus has been reduced to mea culpas before a dangerous demagogue like Al Sharpton. Now he is eating shit doled out by Jesse "New York is Hymietown" Jackson. And now he is out of a job.

CBS President and CEO Leslie Moonves has placed the Imus fiasco in the context of the ever-wheezy culture war:

"He (Imus) has flourished in a culture that permits a certain level of objectionable expression that hurts and demeans a wide range of people. In taking him off the air, I believe we take an important and necessary step not just in solving a unique problem, but in changing that culture, which extends far beyond the walls of our company."

Yeah, when I think of a network gutsy enough to change the culture, I think of the home of Survivor and Big Brother.

Listen, we're a big, tough, grownup country, and one presumes Rutgers' women's basketball team can withstand the ill-considered taunt of a cranky old fart. I don't fault CBS for booting Imus off the air; that's the company's prerogative. But I do think the furor over a bone-headed remark -- and how it subsequently has been amplified in the mass media -- is more reflective of a hypocritical, weak-kneed, squeamish society that feigns offense while simultaneously dishing it out at will.

Friday Random 10

Happy Friday the 13th, you superstitious nutjobs, you.

1. Shelby Lynne, "If I Were Smart"
2. Tim Hardin, "How Can We Hang on to a Drean"
3. XTC, "The Man Who Sailed Around His Soul"
4. Poe, "Haunted"
5. Dianne Reeves, "Solitude"
6. Television, "See No Evil"
7. Derek & the Dominos, "Key to the Highway"
8. The Kinks, "Dedicated Follower of Fashion"
9. Frank Black, "Headache"
10. The Pixies, "Something Against You"

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Grindhouse Memories

I don't care if Grindhouse apparently tanked in its opening weekend (although, in retrospect, maybe the Weinsteins should have figured that Easter isn't the best time to roll out a movie with more eye-gouging than a Greek tragedy) -- I'm still coasting on a post-Grindhouse buzz.

As such, I've been reminiscing lately about some of my favorite grindhouse and exploitation flicks over the decades. Since this is my blog and what I say goes, I'm sharing some of my own personal faves. Click on the poster to be taken to the film trailer .... And remember: It's only a movie.

Kurt Vonnegut, R.I.P.


“Like so many Americans, she was trying to construct a life that made sense from things she found in gift shops.” Slaughterhouse 5

“1492. As children we were taught to memorize this year with pride and joy as the year people began living full and imaginative lives on the continent of North America. Actually, people had been living full and imaginative lives on the continent of North America for hundreds of years before that. 1492 was simply the year sea pirates began to rob, cheat, and kill them.” Breakfast of Champions

“A purpose of human life, no matter who is controlling it, is to love whoever is around to be loved.” Sirens of Titan

Friday, April 06, 2007

Return of the Grindhouse

I was not born a movie geek. It came gradually, with careful nurturing at Saturday matinee double-features (at the long-since-defunct Will Rogers and May Theaters in Oklahoma City) and the instruction of others. Back in my high school days, I had a brother in law, since deceased, who schooled me in the world of exploitation pictures: slasher movies, no-budget sci-fi, sex-starved girls-in-prison flicks, biker pics, blaxploitation, hot-rod car chases and on and on.

It was, in a word, paradise.

I immersed myself in them all, with a number of them -- Dawn of the Dead, Death Race 2000, The Green Slime, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Blood Feast, Last House on the Left, Beyond the Valley of the Dolls -- becoming as much a part of my formative years as Winnie the Pooh and sneaking peeks at my best friend's father's stash of Playboys. Some of the movies were classics of trash aesthetics; most were not. But almost all were masterpieces of the visceral, bristling with energy, enthusiasm and gloriously driven by matters of the Id.

Often made by people whose talents were outmatched by their imaginations, the exploitation movies I gorged myself on during that period instilled in me a deep and abiding love of cinema, both good and bad.

Somewhere in movie heaven, if there is such a place, that dear departed brother in law, whom I'll call Mitch, must be beaming with the release of Grindhouse, the Robert Rodriguez/Quentin Tarantino homage to those trash epics of yesteryear.

Even if you haven't seen Grindhouse by this time (and if you haven't, get thee to a multiplex post haste), you probably know the essentials about it. It's a double feature; Rodriguez directs the zombies flick Planet Terror, while Tarantino helms the car chase/serial killer gem, Death Proof. Between the two, there is a slate of wonderful ersatz movie trailers (Don't and Thanksgiving are particular standouts, so hilariously rude you might just lose control of your bladder before all is said and done) and an advertisement for a very dicey restaurant. And throughout this three hour, 12-minute extravaganza, there is unbridled gore, violence, car crashes, rock 'n' roll and insanely hot women.

It is wickedly funny, wickedly gross and just plain wicked. Planet Terror is a kit and caboodle of bad taste that runs the gamut from a go-go dancer with a machine-gun filling in for a prosthetic leg (an iconic, salacious turn by Rose McGowan) to a villain who collects the testicles of his enemies. The more refined of the double-feature, Death Proof, sports an ace performance from Kurt Russell, genuine chills and a car chase worthy of the greatest such scenes in movie history (which, in my book, includes The French Connection, Bullitt, Diva and To Live and Die in L.A.).

But it's the overall vibe of Grindhouse, its singular experience, that makes it such an irresistible, pulpy buzz.

It is celluloid Jägermeister without the boo-face.

It is a hot fudge sundae heaped on the bare midriff of a Vegas showgirl.

It is a piñata burgeoning with narcotics and condoms.

And I can't wait to see it again. Thank you, Quentin and Robert. And thank you, Mitch.

Friday Random 10

In my baby steps effort to get this once glorious blog back on track (OK, so my definition of "glorious" is a bit flexible), I offer you a return of the Friday Random 10. Today's Random 10 is dedicated to Turtle, who never gave up ...

1. The Arctic Monkeys, "A Certain Romance"
2. Kiss, "Hard Luck Woman"
3. Jonny Lang, "Lies to Me"
4. The Barenaked Ladies, "What a Good Boy"
5. Bobby Charles, "See You Later, Alligator"
6. David Bowie, "Always Crashing in the Same Car"
7. Dianne Reeves, "Too Close for Comfort"
8. Kanye West (and featuring Brandy), "Bring Me Down"
9. Lucinda Williams, "Lake Charles"
10. Fountains of Wayne, "All Kinds of Time"

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Horsing Around

Speaking as a fan of documentaries, I have a deep appreciation for what has been a sort of renaissance for documentarians. I love documentaries -- their diversity, their adventurousness, the curiosity and fearlessness they exhibit in introducing moviegoers to new worlds and new ways of thinking.

Then I came across a recent New York Times story about a new documentary titled Zoo. The flick chronicles the real-life case of Kenneth Pinyan, a 45-year-old Boeing engineer who died after complications arising from sex with a horse. A native of Washington state, Pinyan died of a perforated colon. 'Nuff said. Or would that be Neigh said?

Zoo's co-writer, Claude Mudede, told the Times that he and collaborator Robinson Devor looked at the case of Pinyan -- whose Internet handle was "Mr. Hands" -- and his horse-humping friends and resolved to "revive their humanity":

"Zoo strives to liberate Mr. Hands from his posthumous fate as tabloid punch line. It allows the friends of the dead man a means for disclosure and dares to find, in their candid accounts of their desires and the hidden worlds where they were fulfilled, something strangely beautiful and even recognizable.

“'It was fascinating that there was a community of close friends, that there were basic human interactions happening alongside things that seemed completely alien,' Mr. Mudede said. Zoo minimizes its freak show aspect by emphasizing the coexistence of the mundane and the bizarre ... What emerges here is a sad, even tender portrait of a group of men who met from time to time at a farm, where they would drink slushy cocktails, watch some television and repair to the barn to have sex with horses."

An endeavor to "revive their humanity," huh? You don't say. Seriously?

Let's not beat around the bush: Pinyan fucked a horse. And if you'll forgive the candidness, the guy died from a perforated colon -- which is to say he didn't merely fuck a horse, he evidently went to the trouble of horseplay foreplay, working Mr. Ed into a libidinous lather for the purpose of then, er, umm ... taking the horse.

My contention is this: Yes, there was obviously a humanity to Kenneth Pinyan. He had a family; he had friends; he likely told a good joke and probably donated to Jerry's Kids.

But, surely, not everyone's humanity necessarily calls for revival. This was animal abuse, after all (there is no evidence the farm fling was consensual). I have not seen Zoo, I will admit, and so I'm relying on the Times story as an accurate representation of the film. But it strikes me that a movie about horse-diddling that strives for "something strangely beautiful and even recognizable" is missing the filmmakers' own humanity.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

The Writing on the Wall

By Conrad Spencer

As a parent, there are certain milestones you look forward to with great anticipation -- your child's first step, first words, starting kindergarten. Few things are as cool as when your child sits down and reads you a Dr. Seuss book. Literacy, however, has its dark side.

My son, 6 years old and in first grade, is reading exceptionally well. In fact, he's committed himself to reading 100 books during the month of April. He's already up to 23.

Last night my family and I went out to a Chinese restaurant in Shawnee (an old Western Sizzlin' turned King Buffet) because the marquee advertised a new sushi bar. We live 40 miles from the nearest sushi so this is a great development in my life, even if the sushi itself was mediocre at best.

In the middle of the meal, my son announced his need to potty. I took him to the facilities. He enters the stall and, while doing his businesses, says "Dad, there are words all over the wall!"


"Yeah! 'Hit that...that...puss-ee all night long.' What does that mean?"

"Nothing. Nothing at all. C'mon, let's wash your hands."

It's hysterical, but ...

Maybe I'm overly sentimental, or I just read too much.

“But while I was sitting down, I saw something that drove me crazy. Somebody'd written ‘Fuck you’ on the wall. It drove me damn near crazy. I thought how Phoebe and all the other little kids would see it, and how they'd wonder what it meant, and then finally some dirty kid would tell them - all cockeyed, naturally, what it meant, and how they'd all think about it and maybe even worry about it for a couple of days. I kept wanting to kill whoever'd written it.


"I went down by a different staircase, and I saw another 'Fuck you' on the wall. I tried to rub it off with my hand again, but this one was scratched on, with a knife or something. It wouldn't come off. It's hopeless, anyway. If you had a million years to do it in, you couldn't rub out even half the 'Fuck you' signs in the world. It's impossible."

--J.D. Salinger

Monday, April 02, 2007

One Issue at a Time ...

One problem with elections for federal office -- there's just soo much to remember. Economic policy, defense, trade matters, social issues, special interests, yadda yadda yadda ... it's enough to make one's pointy little head spin.

Which is exactly why Republican primary voters can rejoice today. Single-issue demagogue U.S. Rep. Tim Tancredo of Colorado
has tossed his xenophobic hat in the presidential sweepstakes for 2008.

The Denver Post reports that "Tancredo's candidacy will be focused almost entirely on immigration issues."

Just what this country needs, a candidate who can be even more simplistic than the guy already in office.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Designer Vaginas

OK, so perhaps my first blog post in ages shouldn't be about something so, well, unimportant, but it's tough for me to come across a story about the so-called "last frontier" in cosmetic surgery and not make comment.

Yes, friends, it's vaginal rejuvenation.

The Washington Post reports that the starkly named Laser Vaginal Rejuvenation Institute of Washington (gosh, ladies, how about leaving a little mystery?) is pushing the ... um .. envelope in the cutting-edge field of vaginal aesthetics (on second thought, maybe cutting-edge isn't the right description):

"Critics and supporters of vaginal cosmetic surgery say the mainstreaming of graphic images, including pornography, is fueling demand.

"[Obstetrician-gynecologist Christopher] Warner and [gynecologist David] Matlock say that patients frequently request 'a nice sleek look' similar to images seen in Playboy magazine and on some cable TV channels."

Now, I'm no expert on bioethics, but I have grave concerns about the slippery slope of vaginal rejuvenation.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Friday Random 10

by Turtle

Sweet jumping Jeebus, I can't believe I got this going. And now that I'm too exhausted to post anything more original or meaningfull, how about an episode of my dearly missed iPod shuffle. C'mon, everybody!

1. Ulysses, "Television"
2. Mickey Hart, "The Main Ten (Playin' In the band)"
3. Super Fury Animals, "Run Christian Run"
4. Magazine, "About the Weather"
5. Mission of Burma, "Trem Two"
6. The Byrds, "5-D (Fifth Dimension)"
7. The Tyde, "Crystal Canyons"
8. The Poster Children, "Want It"
9. Paul Weller, "Bitterness Rising"
10. The Buzzcocks, "Everybody's Happy Nowadays"

happy Fryday everyone!

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

An Experiment

By Conrad Spencer

I was raised as a Baptist, but I’m not a particularly religious person, which is why it was odd this last weekend when I had the idea to give up TV for Lent. I don’t think I’ve ever given up anything for Lent, but this year the idea had an odd sort of appeal.

I know I’m not doing it for the usual Lenten reasons, but my reasons may be marginally related. Rather than suffering to better identify with Christ’s 40 days in the desert or removing some barrier of the material world from my relationship with God, it’s more about trying to reconnect with life, and to ease the guilt I feel for spending too many hours in front of the tube. It’s a secular humanist sort of penance.

By most standards, I don’t even watch that much TV and, nerd that I am, a lot of that is PBS. Still I watch enough to make me feel guilty over time that could have been spent doing something better. If you asked me, I’d tell you that reading , listening to music, and interacting with friends and family are activities I enjoy more than TV, but the use of my hours doesn’t reflect that.

This isn’t the first time I’ve cut out TV. In college, I never watched TV regularly, and even since then I’ve gone on anti-TV binges for weeks at a time, but I’m not sure if I’ve ever cut it out entirely. Whenever I’ve cut back on viewing, I’ve always found that I’m happier and more energetic. The desire to watch decreases over time, probably because I’m no longer assaulted by promos for shows I simply must watch. It confusing to me, then, that the habit always seems to creep back into my life.

There are shows I like, but then I also find myself watching highly mediocre shows simply because they’re there. Regardless of the show, it’s the commercials—the dumbed-down, exploitative commercials—that bother me the most. And there’s always the unsettling feeling that I could be doing something better, and more enjoyable.

So the rule—no TV—is pretty simple, but I do make a couple of exceptions. The first is for breaking news or weather of the “tornado bearing down on my house” or “North Korea launching a nuclear attack” variety, not the “Anna Nicole Smith is dead” variety. Secondly, I will allow for movies which (generally speaking, and there are numerous examples to the contrary) have greater artistic merit and no commercials.

For anyone interested, there is a great list of facts and figures about our TV viewing habits here. The one that struck me was that 54 percent of 4-6 year olds would rather watch TV than spend time with their fathers, and I wondered how my six year old would answer the question.