Wednesday, May 31, 2006
Random Top Ten!!!
Top Ten Chickens
10. Chicken Stir-Fry
9. Chicken in Red Curry Sauce - I don't get Thai nearly enough.
8. Roast Chicken - When done right.
7. Chicken Sandwich - I'm partial to Ranch 1's.
6. Chicken Marsala - Mushroomy goodness.
5. Barbecue Chicken - Again, when done right.
4. Chicken Parmigiana - To be fair, put good red sauce and melted mozzarella on pretty much anything and I'm happy. I once ate an entire plate of shrimp parmigiana in which the shrimp hadn't been shelled.
3. General Tso's Chicken - Kind of like chicken candy.
2. Fried Chicken - I miss Roy Rogers.
1. Buffalo Wings - Butter, hot sauce, and blue cheese are one of the world's most inspired flavor combinations. The chicken is almost an afterthought.
Friday, May 26, 2006
1. "Arrival on Dagobah" - John Williams - The Empire Strikes Back (Film Score)
Some ET-sounding stuff here, some Raiders-sounding stuff, some Imperial theme - a Williams hodgepodge.
2. "Up the Cathedral" - Danny Elfman - Batman (Film Score)
Big, bold, dramatic, dark -a great track from a great score.
3. "Too Much" - Elvis Presley - Elvis 30 #1 Hits
Old-school Elvis, with some doo-woppy background singers and a classic shuffle-bop rock sound.
4. "Mister Snow (Reprise) - Rodgers and Hammerstein - Carousel (1994 Broadway Revival Cast)
A sweet women's choir opens the reprise up, before the sui generis Audra McDonald comes in, gloriously.
5. "Mozambique" - Bob Dylan - Desire
A slight Dylan song, with an almost sing-songy chorus. Good use of fiddle and a female vocalist harmonizing (Joan Baez?).
6. "I Believe" - Tears for Fears - Tears Roll Down (Tears for Fears' Greatest Hits)
Slow, smoky, piano, bass, and drum torch song. I'm surprised this wasn't picked up by more jazz/cabaret singers.
7. "Glitter and Be Gay" - Barbara Cook - Candide (Original Broadway Cast)
Would it be overkill to call this one of the best-ever vocal performances ever captured on tape? No. No, it wouldn't.
8. "Leaves that Are Green" - Simon & Garfunkel - Sounds of Silence
A sweetly melancholic, very classic Simon & Garfunkel song. Sometimes, simple is better: "Hello, hello, hello, hello/Goodbye, goodbye, goodbye, goodbye/That's all there is/And the leaves that are green turn to brown."
9. "Charlie's Birthday Bar" - Danny Elfman - Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (Film Score)
Kind of boilerplate Elfman. A disappointing score.
10. "God Part II" - U2 - Rattle and Hum
Pissed off, angry Bono, with menacing, throbbing bass and drum and stabbing, screaming guitars. Good stuff.
Thursday, May 25, 2006
The Lost season finale ended 12 hours ago, and my head is still spinning. Undigested, half-formed thoughts:
So what did we learn? The button-pushing did have a purpose. It was the Pearl that was the Skinner experiment. (And that image of the hundreds and hundreds of tubes? Maybe the creepiest image the show has put forth yet.)
The button released massive amounts of magnetic energy that build up for those 108 minutes. Don't push the button and that energy builds to a critical mass. A last-resort device has also been built in that will "blow the dam." No more need to push the button, and the world won't end, but the consequences are . . . We're not sure.
Eko and Locke - dead? I don't think so.
In the end, I actually liked Michael's arc here. I believed that he'd do these things to get his son back, especially given his flashbacks and the guilt we saw build up over his abandoning his son once before. Still - are he and Walt leaving forever? It would solve the "Malcolm Kelly will soon be six-foot tall" problem. And it could be argued that Michael's story has been completed. But the notion of his seeking redemption by coming back to help his friends has appeal. And Perrineau is so good. A puzzle.
The "violet light, loud buzzing" thing that happened after the button wasn't pushed was strange as all hell, but we still don't know what it did or really was, do we?
Lots of folks are slagging on Charlie for being cavalier about Eko and Locke's absence at the end. But I wonder if he doesn't have reason to believe they are OK--the way he said "they're not back yet?" almost seemed to indicate that he had seen them. After all, he was almost as near the hatch as they were when Desmond turned the key. We don't know what happened next really, but Charlie might.
The notion of building the season finale's emotional high points and flashbacks around a character we haven't seen for twenty eps, and who we hardly know, should be a bad one. It shouldn't work. And yet it worked. Very well. Hm.
Libby must have been a plant, yes? She's working for Widmore? That's what I'm getting.
The big question for me. Desmond's first button-pushing mishap brought down the plane, right? Cool. But if the crash was an accident, how to explain the myriad connections among the passengers, the myriad hints that these people are connected and were brought here for a purpose? Was Desmond deliberately teased out of the hatch so that the plane could be brought down? Another theory--part of the strange properties of the island and the magnetic energy is to affect probability fields. So all of the connections are crazy coincidences, but all made possible by some strange energy affecting probability itself. Too much? Probably.
So now we know that the outside world still exists. And that Desmond's love, Pen, will be looking for him. All cool. But I hope they don't move the focus off the island, save for the flashbacks. That would be too big a change, I think.
Kate kicked some real ass in this ep, no doubt. Did anyone else think that she had shot Jin? No? Just me, then?
So why did the Others want Jack, Kate, and Sawyer? And are the Others really the good guys?
What was with the look between Jack and Kate at the end? A "we have a plan" look? Or a "if we die, know that I kind of love you" look?
Too many questions.
And yet I still love this show.
Wednesday, May 24, 2006
65. That's a lot of years. Three and a quarter-score. Bob Dylan, who some would claim as this era's Shakespeare, the one writer people two, three hundred years hence will be continuously and fetishistically revisiting, completes his sixty-fifth year of life today. The general sense I get from the media is that this makes the Boomers feel old, but the truth is that it makes this Gen-X-er feel pretty old his own self, even if he's got slightly less than half as many miles under his belt as 'ol Mr. D.
Taking a cue from Mr. Green, I thought I'd list out my history with the music of Bob Dylan:
Sad to say, but I think my first real exposure to Bob Dylan was when this weird guy who sang strangely was part of the "We Are the World" crowd but wouldn't record with the other singers. I thought this was strange, and remember there being a lot of buzz about the mere fact that this Dylan guy would deign to sing with the others.
Later, I'd fall deeply in love with U2's Rattle and Hum, and notice the Dylan references. The cover of "All Along the Watchtower." The co-writing credit on "Love Rescue Me." The rumors of a cast-off Dylan-sung verse. The Hammond intro on "Blackmoon 267." "I wonder if I should check this Dylan out," I'd think.
My first Dylan album was a CD of "Highway 61 Revisited." I'm pretty sure I got it as a gift, maybe eight or so years ago? Listened to it once or twice, was decidedly unimpressed, and filed it on the shelf.
Several years later, Time Out of Mind was getting all sorts of press and notice, I was reading about this great album everywhere. Ever the obedient sheep, I took the plunge and bought it. A few listens in, and this was something I liked, this was stuff I could hang my hat on. Slow, reflective, easy melodies and that strange, frog-like, thin, but somehow effective voice on top of it all.
A few years later, when Love and Theft was getting more or less the same kind of ecstatic attention that Time Out of Mind had, I jumped on it. This was was harder to enter, but eventually it got me - the swing, the old-time Tim Pan Alley sounding stuff, the remarkably reflective "Sugar Baby." I was pretty much hooked.
Soon enough, I realized that there was a whole three or so decades of stuff to catch up on. I fished that Highway 61 CD off of my shelf and gave it another listen, started to hear some stuff I liked there.
Then I got the Rolling Thunder tour bootleg CD and immediately fell in love. Such energy, such a rollicking good time that band was having, such great interplay between Dylan and Baez's voices.
Blood on the Tracks was next, and I was a goner. Gorgeous, gorgeous songs sung with such attention and depth of feeling. It was all over (baby blue).
My sister started seeing a guy who was into Dylan - someone I could talk to!
Last year, I saw Dylan live for the first time. He spent most of the (short) concert hunched over a keyboard, growling out lyrics with vastly simplified melodies that often consisted of nothing more than a run of notes and then a jump up a fifth. He was awesome.
Now I have a good 16 or so of Dylan's albums, and keep adding more onto the pile. I read the Chronicles book, and am eager to dive into more of the extensive library of Dylan material that's out there. Now, those Shakespeare comparisons? I'm buying them.
Happy birthday, Mr. Dylan. Happy birthday to you.
Tuesday, May 23, 2006
Only one choice this time out, as Vivid is the only album in my collection that starts with the letter 'V.' This was Living Colour's debut album, and it spawned their first, and to date only, hit single - "Cult of Personality." I'm not a metal fan, and a few odd things aside (some Guns 'N Roses stuff primarily), this is about as "hard" as my collection gets. Living Colour, to me, is a band that should have been better than they ended up being - the promise for more is certainly implicit in this solid, if ever-so-slightly pedestrian album. They had a solid rhythm section, a first-rate guitarist with considerable skills, both musical and technical, in Vernon Reid, and a great rock vocalist in Corey Glover. And together, they did produce some stellar rock music--see that breakout hit for a prime example. But they never quite seemed to really, or at least consistently, live up to the promise they demonstrated.
Vivid, largely on the back of "Cult," did very well, but the band's follow-up, Time's Up, stalled (ironically, that is probably the more ambitious and better album, albeit one without a song with the hook and power of "Cult"), and their third album, Stain, was pretty much a downright flop. A few years back the band reunited and put out a new album, but again, the magic was spotty, at best.
Vivid, in addition to the classic "Cult of Personality," featured a few other admirable rock songs, most notably the propulsive "Middle Man" and the high-energy thunk of "Desperate People" (a song that benefits greatly from the live treatment - as demonstrated nicely on the band's Biscuits EP). The album's one real ballad, "Broken Hearts" is a keeper, although the tender melody could have used a less mundane lyric. The band also trots out some more "gimmicky" songs, like the sly "Glamour Boys" and the band-theme song "What's Your Favorite Color?" The band would fare better with this tack on Time's Up, which features some great, soulful, melodic, fun, "gimmicky" songs - the best, and one of the band's all-time best, being "Elvis Is Dead."
P.S. - When you search for "Vivid" on Amazon, you get several, um, mature, videos from Producer Vivid Video before the album pops up.
Monday, May 22, 2006
The good news. I've less than fifty pages left in Quicksilver. I might actually finish the thing.
The bad news. I couldn't bear sticking it in my bag again, not for just 50 pages, so my train/PATH reading today was Sarah Vowell's The Partly Cloudy Patriot.
The sad news. While I admire the insane ambition and scope of the trilogy, I can' really say I'm that glad I read it. Some great fun pieces in there in a range of areas--scientific, sexual, scatological--but at the end of the day, it was just too damn much like work, and too damn much like a history textbook for me to really enjoy it..
Random Top Ten!!
Top Ten Who Songs
See the album Who's Next?
No, not really. But damn, a case could be made, huh?
10. "Christmas" - Tommy seems to have been devalued heavily, by virtue of general critical consensus, in the last ten to twenty years. I don't get it.
9. "Underture" - A great rock instrumental, with that brilliant little Entwhistle melody.
8. "My Generation" - Has anyone ever drummed like Keith Moon?
7. "I'm Free" - Killer riff.
6. "Behind Blue Eyes" - "And if I swallow anything evil/Put your finger down my throat." Come on. That's gold.
5. "Pinball Wizard" - Such a simple device, that opening two-chord acoustic figure, but they get so much mileage out of it.
4. "Baba O' Riley" - The second-greatest use of a synth in a rock song ever. And has any rock song ever ended with a ho-down? And not felt wrong?
3. "I Can See for Miles" - I love the dissonant harmonies on this song.
2. "Love Reign O'er Me" - Such a great opening - the full piano chords, the rolling tympani, the high arpeggios.
1. "Won't Get Fooled Again" - The Who pull of a remarkable feat here. This one song contains not one, not two, but three "greatest"s in, not just The Who's catalog, but in all of rock history. Doubt it?
1) Greatest fake ending in a rock song ever.
2) Greatest scream in a rock song, ever.
3) Greatest use of a synthesizer in a rock song ever.
Friday, May 19, 2006
All the networks have announced their Fall schedules, so without further ado, here's what I think I'll be watching (schedule taken from The Futon Critic):
How I Met Your Mother - Very much looking forward to the second season.
Class - New sitcom about a group of young men and women who went to third grade together. Nothing special in the description, but why change the channel?
Two and Half Men - Dopey, but it gives me a fair number of laughs per ep, so who am I to judge?
What About Brian? - Didn't see any eps this year, but the wife expressed interest and I'm game for giving it a go. If it can break her CSI: Miami habit, I'll be pleased.
8PM - Gilmore Girls, of course.
9PM - If I can catch up with Veronica Mars on DVD I'll try and watch it. Otherwise, it'll beHouse.
The odd Law and Order SVU. My favorite of all the L&O clones.
Jericho - I'm curious to give it a try. Small ton survivors of a nuclear war? Could go a variety of ways.
The Nine - Nine hostages connect after being held hostage for 52 hours. Each episode we see flashbacks to the 52-hour standoff itself. I'll give her a go.
My Name Is Earl - A very solid first year.
The Office - My new favorite sitcom. Maybe. Maybe it's How I Met Your Mother. Maybe.
Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip - The show I'm most eagerly awaiting. I caught the six-minute clip on YouTube before the angry lawyers stripped it away, and I don't know what all the negative buzz about the clip was about. I thought it looked extremely promising, with great chemistry between Bradford and Perry, a nicely smarmy Weber, and a good foil in Amanda Peet. And it looks like it'll be paralleling the real world closely, much more closely than The West Wing or Sports Night did. Can't wait.
ER - And a big raspberry to Jaquandor.
Everybody Hates Chris - Fact is, I'll really almost never be able to catch this at 7. But I'll Ti-Faux it.
The Simpsons - Ditto.
Family Guy - Worth the odd chuckle.
Brothers & Sisters - I'm one of the few who will admit to liking, not only Ally McBeal, but Calista Flockhart as well. So I'll check out this soapy-looking family drama.
More thoughts on recent season finales:
The idea of three pregnancies to deal with next season should be just silly and overkill, but I'm very curious to see what Lawrence and gang will do with it. Especially since they've gone to such great pains to make each of the three so different (surprise child for veteran parents, first baby for young couple, and accidental pregnancy for just-started-dating couple). Given that Scrubs is a medical show, and that they have three pregnancies to deal with, and the show's history for throwing thematically dark monkey wrenches into its fantasy-filled plots, I am wondering, though, if all three are destined for happy births. You almost never see a network show deal with miscarriage; if any sitcom could do it, and do it well, this one could.
How I Met Your Mother
Well-played. We know Ted and Robin don't end up together, so, instead of doing an endless will-they/won't they thing, the writers actually get them together. Next season will be rife with dramatic irony as we, the audience, knowingly laugh at the happy (but, we know, doomed)couple. And the (I'm guessing temporary) split between Lily and Marshall was gold. Kudos to the writers for getting real humor into a painful series of scenes through the ingenuous "pause" device. And for delivering an entirely credible and moving story about a young woman scared to settle her life too quickly. This show has done a great, so far, job of balancing ongoing and dramatic plots with the more traditional stand-alone and clever/wacky/funny impulses of a traditional sitcom. I hope they can keep it up--and that a move to 8, with nothing leading into it, doesn't hurt the ratings too badly.
Even I was a bit bored by the 37th ER shooting, but by tying the fireworks into Sam's doomed ex-husband, they made the whole thing a bit more compelling. If ER goes into a 25th season, I do hope we get to see how ridiculously messed-up Sam's kid turns out to be. Kid's gonna have issues. Maura Tierney continues to impress with her portrayal of Abby; I'm wondering if, after that final scene, they are leading towards a big meltdown for the character next season, with old habits coming roaring back after a tragic miscarriage. And Parminder Nagra is simply brilliant--killing Gallant was kind of a tired thing to do, an easy going to the tried and true drama, but damn if she didn't make the most out of it. A very convincing portrayal of grief.
Will & Grace
I have a feeling much mockery will be coming my way for saying this, but this was one of the best series finales I have ever seen. Just superbly written and executed. They did so many things right:
Faking us out with the "Will and Grace in fifteen years thing" and having it be a dream. And then ending the show with Will and Grace 18 years later for real.
When Leo came in and professed his love,and Grace revealed the pregnancy, I was wincing--expecting to be in for an hour of Grace hiding from Will, missed communications, with a happy "Will lets Grace go" ending. Then - boom - next scene we see Will feeding a baby. "Damn," I thought, "they're going to spend the hour cleaning up the mess from Grace not going with Leo, and of Will and Grace trying to raise this baby together. "Ugh." Then - boom - no, we realize that the kid is Will's and Vince's, and that Grace and Leo are together and have their own kid. Brilliant. And let me say here that I can't remember seeing such natural interactions between parents and children on a sitcom ever. Excellent stuff.
And then, to bring the plot to a "Will and Grace are estranged" place was great. Excellent acting here as the two get back together after two years of no communications. I believed it. But, I was thinking that this was kind of a lame ending - they realize that they can be together and still have their lives as well. But then, as Grace was saying goodbye, we saw the sadness, and the realization that they weren't going to go see that movie. And then - boom - the dual dialogues in which both Will and Grace tell their loves about how they always thought they were destined to be a real, important, part of the other's life forever. And how that wasn't to be. They actually split Will and Grace up. And let them have their own happy lives. I was astonished.
Then - boom - we flashback to a badly cast young Will and young Grace meeting in college, acting out the story they had just told Vince and Leo. Sweet, I'm thinking. But then - boom - no; it's eighteen years later, and this is Grace's daughter and Will's son, and they are clearly destined for each other. Will and Grace reconnect after eighteen years, both happy to have found each other again and a little sad at those eighteen years. Perfect.
We end with Will and Grace once again as friends, having planned their kids' wedding, but clearly not the deep, close, almost symbiotic kind of friends they used to be. The central question of the show was always whether two people who would have been life-long, romantic, fated love story if not for the fact that one was gay could still be the most important person in the other's life without romantic, sexual love. Could they have that kind of relationship without it being that kind of relationship? And I never thought they'd actually answer it in the finale, or answer it with as resounding a "no" as they did. Excellent.
Oh, and the duet between Jack and Karen? One of the sweetest, most well-done, expertly performed uses of singing on a sitcom ever.
Wednesday, May 17, 2006
Season finale time is upon us, and I'll try and post my reactions to the finales of the shows I watch. (I won't post my reaction to the finales of shows I don't watch. That would be silly.)
Already posted, here, about Gilmore Girls, and have yet to see the Scrubs or How I Met Your Mother finales. Finally watched the The West Wing finale on the train this morning, though. My verdict: very good. Wells nailed the right dynamic, tone, and structure here - no big earthquakes, no histrionics, just a seamless and well-made tapestry of small, impactful moments. WWLD. The napkin. Jed giving Charlie his Bible. Josh taking one more run at CJ to stay. The nervous banter between the new President and the new First Lady. Donna's reaction to her new office. The small, elegant will he/won't he stuff with Jed signing Toby's pardon. Charlie quietly leaving. "What's next?" "Tomorrow." The temptation to do something big and grand was probably there and enticing, but the path they took was the right one. Quiet satisfaction and nervous anticipation. I do wish there would be a new season though. Although, to be fair, were we getting a whole new year with a new administration, I really think it should have been Winnick's. Still - a great finale. Will Wells show similar restraint when it comes time to end ER?
Also saw the The Office and My Name Is Earl finales last week. Earl ended nicely, with some nice symmetry with the pilot, as we saw exactly what happened with that scratcher after Earl was hit by the car and before it found its way back to him. I like Earl very much, but do worry that the formula is a bit too rigid. Reminds me of House, in an odd way. Great cast, great writing, good stories--but all in the service of a maybe-too-rigid formula. What it adds up to is that I don't mind if I miss an Earl, or a House, because I don't have that same sense of missing out on something important, something I'll need or want to have seen to really appreciate the series.
The Office, on the other hand, even though it is hardly dependent on a serialized story, with the eps being, more or less, stand-alones, is a show I'm sorry to miss. Yes, part of that is the one serialized sliver they've worked in with the Pam/Jim story. But part of it is also that every episode of the show doesn't follow the same formula. (Although they do, I think, have to be careful about not going to the "the office workers go out as a group" well too much. That particular story bit could become tired if abused.)
The finale was wonderful, with all the characters getting some laugh-out-loud moments, and with the could-have-been-Three's Company-esque Michael-has-two-dates storyline handled in a wonderfully underplayed way. But the meat of the ep was the surprise ending, with Jim declaring his love for Pam. Such great acting from these two here; their ability to mix the serious and funny is impressive indeed. (Although it shouldn't be overstated--that The Office utilizes such a realistic style to begin with makes the transition from comic to serious easier than it would be on a traditional sitcom. In a lot of ways, the real emotional stuff on, for example How I Met Your Mother (Lily's breakdown to Ted on the highway in the penultimate episode, for example), is harder for the actors to pull off than the emotional stuff here.)
It was a great move by the producers, to take the crutch of the will they/won't they tension away from themselves before it started to overcome the show. And, of course, this new development opens up lots of opportunities--and, even better, non-status-quo opportunities--for next season. Kudos.
Still to come: The aforementioned Scrubs and Mother, this week's Will & Grace, next week's Lost, and the following week's The Sopranos and Big Love. I think those are the only finales I really expect to watch. Most anticipated of the bunch? Lost. Easily.
Tuesday, May 16, 2006
The received wisdom in the popular press and imagination on All that You Can't Leave Behind is that it was a triumphant return to form for U2 after the failed experimentation of the 90s.
Well, no. This thinking ignores that Achtung Baby was nearly as commercially successful as The Joshua Tree, and overstates the degree to which the public was turned off by Pop which by many measures, especially global ones, was pretty successful.
The received wisdom of some corners of hard-core U2 fandom is that All that You Can't Leave Behind represents a sad and tired surrender by the band, an overtly commercial retreat from the experimentation of the 90s designed to sell albums at the expense of the music.
Well, no. This thinking ignores both some of the more commercial aspects of the band's 90s output (Pop may have been experimental in a lot of ways, but, for example, "Staring at the Sun" was written and produced to be a quintessential summer pop hit) and some of the more experimental touches on the new album. "In a Little While" is the band experimenting with a stripped-down soul/blues sound just as much as "Mofo" is the band experimenting with a techno/electronica sound.
All that You Can't Leave Behind is neither revelatory nor processed pap. It's a great album that nonetheless fails to reach the inspired heights of the band's twin stabs at immortality, The Joshua Tree and Achtung Baby. And that's OK.
1. "Beautiful Day" - A top ten U2 song, and one that richly deserved all of the Grammy love it received (Record of the Year). The degree to which U2 is not a "songwriter's band" can be seen in this song's evolution--the b-side "Always" is more or less the band's first stab at "Beautiful Day," and while it's an OK pop/rock song, it has none of this song's greatness. They took it in entirely the right direction in the studio and delivered an energetic, impassioned, and forceful song defined by some well-placed piano to start and one of the three instrumentalists tightest and most well-defined rock riffs to close the thing out. A great opener.
2. "Stuck in a Moment You Can't Get Out Of" - Some very solid songwriting here--this is a song that should be covered, often and well. And another example of experimentation; the horns, the soul shadings are all U2 playing with new sounds, and creating out of them wonderful hybrids that still are unmistakably U2. Great falsetto from The Edge.
3. "Elevation" - A great live song with a stellar buzz-saw riff. Open, fun, and rocking U2 with a hint of sex.
4. "Walk On" - My third-favorite U2 song ever. (After "Where the Streets Have No Name" and "Please.") There's something about the piano that starts it and the triumphant and sad leaping guitar line that demand that the song be played at maximum volume for me. A great, impassioned vocal from Bono and some very simple but very inspiring lyrics about triumphing in the face of tyranny. I do find it amusing, though, that perhaps the song's mostly critical lyric gets obscured by sloppy scansion. At the end of the song, Bono sings, to a building, driving beat "All that you fashion, all that you make, all that you build, all that you break, all that you measure, all that you feel, all that you can leave behind." That can is the key to the lyric, contrasting the album's title and emphasizing the immateriality of our material lives. And yet the way it scans with the music, with the emphasis on the "can," it reads aurally as "can't." Nonetheless, this is a stellar, inspirational, emotional rock song.
5. "Kite" - This one-two punch kills me every time. This mid-tempo ballad, with effective slide guitar work and a classic two-chord, churning riff, is about the bonds between children and parents, and how those bonds change as children grow. "Who's to say where the wind will take you/Who's to say what it is will break you/I don't know which the way the wind will blow." And it features one of Bono's best-ever vocals, full of heartbreaking power and emotion. Listen to him on "I'm a man, I'm not a child./A man who sees the shadow behind your eyes." Powerful stuff.
6. "In a Little While" - A soulful, late-night, whiskey-soaked voiced ballad about getting ready to meet God. Deeply felt and commandingly played.
7. "Wild Honey" - Kind of a throwaway song, but a fun, acoustic-guitar driven piece nonetheless. I do wince a little at Bono's evident inability to hit certain notes the way he used to be able to--especially on the high, emotional high-point of the song, where he can't quite hit with authority the commanding high notes.
8. "Peace on Earth" - A sad, almost despondent ballad about peace. A desperate Bono asks Jesus to throw us a line, and we can hear, in the lyric and in his voice, that he doesn't really expect an answer. The themes on this album continue to hover on the balance between faith and doubt in much the same way that Pop did, and in this song we can hear the band on the far side once again.
9. "When I Look at the World" - An unjustly forgotten gem. One of Bono's best lyrics, hitting the faith angle again, with the singer admitting that he can't "look at the world" the way God/Jesus does. A perfect old-school minimalist guitar line from the Edge anchors the song and Bono just sings the hell out of it. Moving and sad, but in a high-energy impassioned way.
10. "New York" - A travelogue kind of song full of old-school Edge helicopter guitar riffs and driving rhythm work from Adam and Larry. Dark hints at infidelity keep the song from trending toward the merely descriptive.
11. "Grace" - A stately, spare closer with a beautiful lyric and a great, softly bouncing accompaniment. We hear the band take a kind of solace in coming down on the faith side of that eternal balancing act, a kind of peaceful resolution to the angst heard in, especially, "Peace on Earth" and "When I Look at the World." A wonderful way to close a misunderstood and excellent album.
Monday, May 15, 2006
NBC's press release announcing its Fall schedule is here. My thoughts:
Heroes, about a group of people who discover they have superheroes, sounds like it was written for my Misfits of Science-loving psyche. How well it works will all depend on the execution, but I'll certainly give it a try.
Friday Night Lights, a high school football series (didn't see the progeniting film) isn't grabbing me. Don't care for football much, and nothing else in the description is making me perk up. And it'll probably be opposite Gilmore Girls, so it will probably get a pass.
Kidnapped could be good, again, depending on the execution. But one kidnapping case followed over the course of a season could have the focus of 24 without the same writing-into-a-corner tendencies and issues that that show has.
20 Good Years and 30 Rock are the two new Wed. sitcoms. The first sounds like a wacky odd-couple-type riff that I'd have no interest in were it not for the stars--the pairing of John Lithgow and Jeffery Tambor sounds very intriguing. Still, if it's opposite Lost . . . Same goes for the first backstage-at-SNL show, 30 Rock. The idea and cast (esp. Tina Fey) have promise, but not sure if enough to break my inertial resistance against watching one thing and Ti-FAUXing another.
The second backstage-at-SNL show is probably the show I'm most looking forward to next year. The hype and buildup for Aaron Sorkin's return to dramedy has been substantial. But the premise, cast, timeslot, structure--all signs point to a very positive yes. Interestingly, NBC will also be running almost all new ERs so that they can give the prime slot to The Black Donnelys in January. That show could also be good--I loved Crash and Million Dollar Baby, so I'll give screenwriter Paul Haggis' show (about the Irish mob) a try for sure.
Oh, and I don't care about the NFL.
Friday, May 12, 2006
Roger asks about how folks' organize their CD collections. My system:
I have one large wood (particle board) shelf unit and, to its right, two wire tower units. CDs are sorted into the following categories:
1st: Rock/Pop - By artist, alphabetically; multiple discs by single artists arranged in order of release. The first slot, however, goes to U2--as my favorite artist I want their discs up front in a place of honor.
2nd: Musical Theater: By composer, for shows, or, if a singer's disc, singer, alphabetically; multiple discs by single composers or artists arranged in order of the show's first production or release. The first slot, however, goes to Stephen Sondheim--as my favorite artist I want his musicals up front in a place of honor.
3rd: Film Scores: By composer, alphabetically; multiple discs by single composers arranged in order of the original film's release. (So even though the Star Wars score CDs I have are the ones released with the special editions in the late 90s, they are shelved in the order of the original films' release).
First Wire Tower
Jazz: By artist, alphabetically; multiple discs by single artists arranged in order of the original album's release.
Second Wire Tower
Classical: By composer, alphabetically; multiple discs by single composers arranged in order of the original work's release.
1. "It Don't Mean a Thing, If It Ain't Got that Swing" - Ella Fitzgerald - Ella Sings the Duke Ellington Songbook
Ella swinging like crazy.
2. "He Was My Brother (Alternate Take)" - Simon & Garfunkel - Wednesday Morning, 3 AM
This album underwhelms me; a little too safe, a little too mannered, and none of the songwriting greatness that would emerge later.
3. "Let It Be" - The Beatles - 1
Hard to argue with this. Just a great song.
4. "Buckets of Rain" - Bob Dylan - Blood on the Tracks
I love the harpischord-like sound of the guitar here. Not sure what causes it (steel strings?), but it's a great, spiky sound that pairs with Dylan's voice in a very complementary way.
5. "Bad" - U2 - The Unforgettable Fire
OK here. Brilliant live.
6. "Beige to Beige" - John Mellencamp - Human Wheels
A laid-back sound with a defining fiddle line, reminiscent of the songs on The Lonesome Jubilee. "Beige to beige" is a great metaphor of what going through the day-to-day of life can often feel like.
7. "Well Du Liebst (Reprise)" - Alan Menken and Stephen Schwartz - Der Gloeckner Von Notre Dame (Original Berlin Cast Recording)
German-language cast recording of the stage version of the Disney film--ala it's never progressed beyond Berlin.
8. "Prologue: The Carousel Waltz" - Richard Rodgers - Carousel (1994 Broadway Revival Cast Recording)
Overtures aside, this must be the greatest piece of non-vocal music ever written for the Broadway stage. It fits the show and its musical themes so completely and perfectly, wonderfully setting up the sound and style and harmonic language of the score to come. Amazing, then, that Rodgers wrote it for something else years before he and Hammerstein started on Carousel.
9. "The Lazarus Heart" - Sting - Nothing Like the Sun
Cool, clean jazz-rock from an underrated and unjustly forgotten album.
10. "We Suck Young Blood (Your Time Is Up) - Radiohead - Hail to the Thief
Radiohead will try anything. This comes across as a 21st Century slave chant, replete with hand claps.
Thursday, May 11, 2006
So the current season of Gilmore Girls, and the last on the WB, has ended, and it seems that many a viewer and on-line fan is none too happy with the storyline, either from the majority of the season itself, really, or most certainly the season finale. For just one example, Alan Sepinwall, over at What's Alan Watching?, provides his problems with the finale in a very good post here, but I've read many other complaints from disgusted GG fans in the past day or two, especially from the nearly incensed message board fans over at Television without Pity.
So--what happened? Spoilers lie ahead, so if you don't care to know (I'm thinking of you, Lefty) how this season ended before you get to it, click away now.
Season six featured a few prominent storylines that arced throughout the year. To wit:
To set the stage for the beginning of the season--at the end of season five, Rory left school and went to live with her grandparents after her rich boyfriend's publisher father shattered her confidence and her long-term ambitions after an internship at one of his papers, telling her that she "didn't have it" to succeed as a journalist. Some self-destructive behavior later (stealing a boat), and after a heated mother-daughter confrontation over Rory's future, Rory and Lorelai were estranged. When a despondent Lorelai told Luke about what had happened, she was inspired by his instinctive need to help and protect her, and his obvious love for Rory, to propose. He accepted. Instantly.
So season seven then went through the following long-term stories:
Rory stayed out of school and out-of-touch with her mother for a while before her triumphant return--to school, family, and overachieving--about a third of the way through the year.
Luke discovered that he'd unknowingly fathered a daughter thirteen or so years previous. After deciding that he needed to be in his daughter's life, that he couldn't accept knowing about her and not getting to know her, Luke put off telling Lorelai about her. And even after she found out about the daughter, Luke made a concsious decision to keep Lorelai from meeting her.
As a result of the daughter stuff, L&L postponed their wedding.
Rory broke up with boyfriend Logan briefly, then got back together with him. This repeated once.
Rory really knew she loved Logan after he almost died.
The whole daughter issue conitinued to drive wedges between L&L, as Luke felt he needed to be there for his new daughter and Lorelai felt more and more pushed out.
This set up the season finale, in which a distressed Lorelai gave Luke an ultimatum--let's elope or it's over. He didn't respond well, so she left.
. . . Which set up our final shot of the season: a clearly miserable, crushed Lorelai in bed "the morning after" with Rory's father, Christopher.
Now, the problem so many have had with this season rests on pretty much two complaints, both centered around how L&L were supposedly "Acting out of character":
1) That Luke would never have kept his daughter (April) a secret, or been so blind as to how he was pushing Lorelai away by keeping her from April.
2) That Lorelai would never have accepted being pushed out and would have addressed the issues long before they came to the head they came to.I, as you may have surmised, disagree. The Luke that's been built up over the past five and a half years was very single-minded, a bit obtuse about others' emotions, and very traditional regarding family. In fact, in seasons two and three he was suddenly put in charge of his nephew, Jess, a sullen, angry teenager, and felt that he completely blew the job--Jess ran away and didn't finish high school. So, that upon finding out he was a father he might freak a bit--and also get protective about introducing the dynamic, sure-to-be-loved, much-more-fun-than-he Lorelai to his new daughter--strikes me as very much in-character. In short, Luke's always been obtuse. This wasn't new.
As for Lorelai, as she herself said in the finale, she had never been in love before befoe falling in love with Luke. The notion that she would keep quiet about things that were upsetting her, for fear of losing him, struck me as true. ESPECIALLY since she lost her daughter for a time just months before for speaking her mind, and would naturally be nervous about upsetting amd maybe losing the only other person she loved. And ESPECIALLY ESPECIALLY since she already lost him once before, in season five, when her mother drove them apart. And remember--the Sherman-Palladinos went out of their way in that mini-arc to hammer home how devastated she was to lose him; the crying, grieving, destroyed Lorelai was someone we hadn't seen before. Her reticence to stir up trouble, especially around such a fraught topic--the man had discovered that he had a daughter--seemed real.
Now, about that final moment. What's interesting about it to me is that a year and a half ago the writers told us it would happen. Or rather, Rory did. "If you come back into her life you'll ruin what she has with Luke," said Rory to her father. He didn't listen, and here we are. Very effective foreshadowing. That being said, the moment worked for me because of the very clear pain and near-terror Graham showed us in that final shot. This is a woman who has always had real problems with relationships, who has always been bad at dealing with men, who has screwed up completely and knows it. She's not happy, and she knows (and I would say, knew while she was doing it) that sex with Christopher was wrong, wrong, wrong. This is what people do. They make real bad mistakes, many times consciously. The moment was heartbreaking, and sad, and not happy, but out-of-character? I don't think so.
And now we wait until next year. I still think the series will end with a happy and wed, and pregnant, Luke and Lorelai looking to their bright futire. It's just going ot be some hard work to get there. I'm very, very curious to see how David Rosenfield, the new show runner, handles next season.
Tuesday, May 09, 2006
Elvis night on American Idol tonight, and I'm interested, if not wildly so. May get to see it, may not. In any case, the final four's song selections are below, for the curious:
Katharine McPhee: "Hound Dog/All Shook Up" and "Can't Help Falling in Love"
Aren't "Hound Dog" and "All Shook Up" different songs? Why combine them?? Still, the fun side she showed with the "Cherry in the Black Tree" song last week could work here. As for "Can't Help Falling in Love," it's a gorgeous song, but I fear she'll try to embroider it too much. Simple is better for this song.
(An aside: Bono sang a stellar cover of this song on the soundtrack to the film Honeymoon in Vegas. Over a very simple guitar accompaniment he sang the first verse in a deep bass voice, down at the bottom of his range; sang the second verse and bridge an octave up in his regular, tenor range; and sang the final verse another octave up, in an aching falsetto. Goose-bump inducing.)
Taylor Hicks: "Jailhouse Rock" and "In the Ghetto"
Solid picks both. This night is really in his wheelhouse, though, so he really has to do well.
Chris Daughtry: "Suspicious Minds" and "A Little Less Conversation"
"Minds" is a great song, and I'm curious to see how straight (or not) he does it. "Conversation," thanks to the remix from Lilo & Stitch can come across as a novelty number, an odd choice for Chris. I'm very curious to hear how these sound.
Elliot Yamin: "Trouble" and "If I Can Dream"
I don't recognize these songs by the titles. Hm.
Monday, May 08, 2006
I'm not a huge Peter Gabriel fan, but I do like his music. He's one of those artists where, I have a few of their albums, like them fine, and yet really don't feel the need to get more. In Gabriel's case, I have his seminal So, which is a very good album, and his belated follow-up, Us, which is almost, but not quite, the equal of its better-known, more commercially successful, predecessor.
Us doesn't offer up as many radio-friendly breakout songs as So did--that album, with "In Your Eyes," "Sledgehammer," and "Big Time" actually featured a very respectable line-up of hits. The only Us song to really make any noise was its "Sledgehammer" parallel, "Steam," a slightly funky, upbeat number with a catchy horn figure angling its way into your ear. It's a fine song, but kind of an obviously inferior riff on its predecessor. Where the album shines is in its less overtly commercial moments, in a handful of quiet, moody, introspective songs. The highlight of these is "Washing of the Water," a slow, stately ballad with a hint of gospel to the melody that never reveals itself in the arrangement. Gabriel's singing on this track is gorgeous, passionately quiet and forceful, and featuring a blissful falsetto, and the arrangement, all slow drums and spare piano chords, supports the melody perfectly. The other standout is the equally understated "Blood of Eden," with its almost tribal drums and whispered instrumental ornamentation--the song also features some very effective female background vocals harmonizing with Gabriel on the chorus.
Us does have songs to recommend it beyond these slow ballads though. "Digging in the Dirt" is a tough, grittily sung, crunchy song with homoerotic undercurrents pulsing through; "Fourteen Black Paintings" shows off some musical thoughts and ideas brought over from Gabriel's very effective score for the film The Last Temptation of Christ; and "Kiss that Frog" is a fun, upbeat song that plays with the story of famous fable.
Friday, May 05, 2006
Random Top Ten!!
Top Ten John Mellencamp Songs
10. "Small Town" - This song kind of defines Mellencamp in a way--the earnest, heartland, tells-it-like-it-is guy who has no problem in loving his nameless small town.
9. "Rain on the Scarecrow" - A great angry song, and how many angry songs about the plight of the farmer are there really?
8. "Mansions in Heaven" - A wistful gem off of Big Daddy, easily Mellencamp's second-best album.
7. "Love and Happiness" - An angry, almost thrashing rocker that any punk band would love to have written. Also highlighted by a killer, stratosphere-reaching trumpet solo taking the place of the expected guitar solo.
6. "Between a Laugh and a Tear" - The quote that sits at the bottom of my blog comes from this song. The song strikes me as true, in an insightful yet simple way that's hard to achieve.
5. "Minutes to Memories" - A reflective song about the old passing wisdom to the young. Mellencamp's deep facility with gently sad, wistful music is unfairly unheralded.
4. "Pink Houses" - Just a classic, with sharply drawn characters that feel real.
3. "Human Wheels" - There's that wistful sound again, here in a minor-key rocker about that great topic of writers of all stripes, the wheel of life.
2. "Jackie Brown" - A sharply drawn and deeply sad ballad about poverty. Gorgeous.
1. "Check It Out" - Yep - wistful. A simple but elegant electric fiddle line defines the song, and the quiet lyrics about life's tendency to not be what we thought it might be are superb. Should be a much better-known song.
Been a little while.
1. "Keep on the Sunny Side" - The Whites - O Brother Where Art Thou? (Soundtrack)
Pleasant bluegrass for the non-bluegrass fanatic (me).
2. "Beetlejuice" - Danny Elfman - Music for a Darkened Theater (Vol 1)
One of the most inspired fits of theme to film ever composed. The goofy, jaunty, loping theme fits the goofy, unserious tone of the film and character just right.
3. "I'm a Boy" - The Who - Thirty Years of Maximum R&B
Early Who--melodic, high-harmonied rock.
4. "Imperial Starfleet Deployed/City in the Clouds" - John Williams - The Empire Strikes Back (Film Score)
Mixed-bag cut from the second Star Wars score.
5. "Darling Pretty" - Mark Knopfler - Golden Heart
Straight-ahead, no frills rock (after a pretty acoustic-guitar and fiddle intro) with that wonderful trademark Knopfler guitar sound.
6. "Out of My Sight" - Andrew Lippa - John & Jen (Original Cast Recording)
I was surprised by how little I like this score--Lippa's Wild Party has some great stuff in it.
7. "Pugilism" - Thomas Newman - Cinderella Man (Soundtrack)
I love Newman, but he's starting to shade into James Horner territory - every score is starting to sound the same. Without the title staring me in the face, I couldn't have told you if this was from Cinderella Man or The Green Mile.
8. "Dialogue: 'So it is you, Benjamin Barker'" - Hugh Wheeler - Sweeney Todd Live in Concert (2000)
The Lincoln Center concert from 2000; this dialogue takes place right after Sweeney is re-introduced to Mrs. Lovett.
9. "Poor Fractured Atlas" - Elvis Costello - All this Useless Beauty
A sad, beautiful song, cleverly built from the primary piano figure from Beethoven's "Moonlight" sonata.
10. "Mountain Duet" - Benny Andersson and Bjorn Ulvaeus - Chess (1986 London Concept Cast)
Grand, sweeping pop opera in the best sense of the term.
Thursday, May 04, 2006
Taken from Terry Teachout, who's been supplying me well today:
I am getting ready for a bland and numbing meeting.
I want to see Mission: Impossible III this week, but it ain't happenin'.
I wish I was able to do something I loved all day long.
I hate trying not to eat unhealthily, or in too-large quantities.
I love my wife and daughters.
I miss my friends, whom I don't see enough.
I fear pain. I'm a bit of a wuss that way.
I hear "Broadway" by Matt Turk, as streamed on Pandora.
I wonder if the last three episodes of Lost will impress the way last night's did.
I regret wasting a good two-thirds of my college experience under the delusion that I was going to be a chemist.
I am not nearly as disciplined as I should be.
I dance poorly.
I sing not nearly as well or as much as I used to.
I cry rarely.
I am not always as good to my wife as I should be.
I make with my hands a damn fine meatball.
I write not enough, or at least not enough of the creative writing that I should be writing.
I confuse laziness for lack of inspiration.
I need to think of a good gift for the wife for Mother's Day.
I should start sending out stories to literary magazines again.
I start more thoughts than I finish.
I finish all the food on my plate--all the time.
I tag Jaquandor. I steal enough from him.
Terry Teachout raves about the music-recommendation service Pandora here. Largely on the strength of his glowing praise, I gave the site a chance, and pretty much everything he says is right on. The premise is that by supplying the site with artists and/or songs that tickle your musical fancy, the fancy software they've devised will decode the "musical genome" of your tastes and supply you with a stream of music tailored to your tastes, kind of a personalized radio station (the site feeds from both iTunes and Amazon, and of course will prompt you, if you enquire, as to how to buy songs from those vendors) . Of course, you can also provide yay/nay feedback on the songs as they are fed to you, and as with all such rubrics, the more feedback you give, the better the site will be able to ascertain what kind of music you'll like.
So far, I've been impressed with the software. The site itself, is very clean and functional, very well-designed and thankfully very not-busy. And the selection software seems to work pretty well--I fed it my usual suspects list of favorite artists (U2, Sting, John Mellencamp, Elvis Costello, Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Queen, Living Colour, Radiohead, Tracy Chapman, Aimee Mann, Rufus Wainwright) and, in addition to tracks from those folks it's been feeding me a whole bunch of music by folks I've never heard of, the large majority of which fits my tastes rather nicely. Sure, there's the odd choice I just don't care for, but by and large the software comes across as pretty savvy. And it seems like a canny move by iTunes and Amazon--as a Terry reader mentioned on Terry's blog today, the two companies presumably are also getting valuable data on the music you like, all the better to target you with when you visit their sites.
All in all, this seems like a well-run, useful, and all-sides-win venture. Give it a try.
Wednesday, May 03, 2006
Since the birth of my twin girls a little over two years ago, my movie-going habit has dwindled to nearly nothing. Nowadays, like many folks, I get see most of my movies through DVD, and not on the big screen. So all the annual previews of the summer's big flicks, which used to be required reading for me, are less interesting, less compelling, than they used to be. Still. I would like to see a film or two this summer. So let's see what's coming shall we? I'll rate my interest in each film by giving the odds I'll be seeing it in the theater.
Mission: Impossible III - Saw the first and remember nothing about it. Didn't, and have/had no desire to, see the second. But JJ Abrams has me curious. Is he the real deal? How much of Lost's deliciousness is his doing, and how much not? Color me curious. 1/6
Poseidon - The trailer actually looks pretty good, but let's face it. This is a summer with a new Superman film that I will quite possibly not get out to see. 1/50
The DaVinci Code - This film actually will get bumped up on the "likelihood of seeing in the theater" scale, in that it's that rare film that the wife and I might have an interest in. I like Hanks a lot, and McKellan is a genius, and Ron Howard always does good, solid work. And I haven't read the book, so the story's twists and turns will be a surprise. 1/4
Over the Hedge - My girls are only two, so these kid-friendly films aren't that enticing yet. 1/100
X-Men: The Last Stand - I loved the first two, and thought that the trailers for this one were actually pretty promising, Ratner-bashing be damned. Probably tops on my list for the summer. 1/2
The Break Up - Another wife-skewing entry. We both like Vaughn and Aniston a lot actually, and the premise/execution looks promising. 1/4
Cars - As a fan of all things Pixar, and as someone who has yet to be disappointed, I'll definitely see this. But this comic book/superhero geek didn't see The Incredibles until it was on DVD, so I'd be very surprised to catch this in a theater. 1/10
Prairie Home Companion - Looks interesting, but definitely a DVD. 1/100
The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift. - Zero interest. 1/1,000
Nacho Libre - I still haven't seen Napoleon Dynamite, but I do like Jack Black a lot. 1/25
Superman Returns - The just-released trailer looks great, although I still find the casting odd. If the premise is that Superman left after Superman II, and Lois had a baby, and this film is several years later, then why do Superman and Lois look younger than Kidder and Reeves? And I can't help but see Lois Lane and lament that the perfect-for-the-part (and age-appropriate) Lauren Graham wasn't cast. Still. It's Superman. 1/3
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest - Only saw the first half of the first one. DVD. 1/40
Lady in the Water - Very intrigued, but I still haven't caught up with Signs or The Village. I did like The Sixth Sense and Unbreakable very much though. And Giamatti is great; I'm very happy to see him in a lead role. 1/10
My Super Ex-Girlfriend - Superhero/rom-com meld? I should be very interested, but something feels flat here. 1/50
Miami Vice -Zero interest. 1/100
Apocalypto - I love Mel Gibson as a director, and the whole secrecy behind this has me maddeningly curious. 1/4
Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby - Will Ferrell in NASCAR comedy is promising, but DVD'll do her. 1/75
World Trade Center - Curiosity factor is high, but this is still pretty down on my must-see list. 1/20
Tuesday, May 02, 2006
Random Top Ten!!
Top Ten Ice Cream Flavors
10. Pistachio - When I was a kid I used to order pistachio ice cream at Carvel all the time. My parents thought I was weird.
9. Blueberry - Hard to find, but, really, a perfect ice cream flavor when you think about it. Blueberries and cream?
8. Chocolate - The standby.
7. Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough - I shouldn't like this, it's so silly a concept, but I do.
6. Mint Chocolate Chip - Especially with big chips.
5. Vanilla - Make it Haagen-Dazs vanilla and it jumps several places up. Still, a good vanilla ice cream is it's own special treat, wonderful in its purity.
4. Coffee - One of those flavors where quality is key. A bad coffee ice cream is just bad. But a good coffee ice cream is delicious.
3. Cherry Garcia - The only trademarked flavor here, but it deserves it. Chocolate and cherries; an inspired duo.
2. Pumpkin - One of my favorite things about the fall. Good pumpkin ice cream is a true pleasure.
1. Coconut - Another flavor that can be hard to find, so that whenever do I snatch it up quick. A chain of homemade ice cream shops in the While Mountains region of New Hampshire always has this "on tap" and I almost always get it when we're vacationing up there. A little bit of heaven on earth.
P.S. - Yes, I am excited about the onset of nice weather and warm summer days. Why do you ask?
To frame the rant properly, let me first say that I don't particularly care for talking on phones in general. I get antsy and distracted and am just generally, for whatever reason, uncomfortable having conversations on the phone. That being said, yes, I do own a cell phone, for the convenience of the thing (I'll be late honey, do we need milk?, did you give the kid her medicine, and so on), but don't talk on it at length much at all.
So my fierce reaction to the fierce reaction that many have to cell phone-talkers shouldn't be taken as fiercely partisan. I don't love my cell phone, and I can pretty easily imagine living without it, thank you very much. But the anti-cell phone jihads some folks can get on just rub me the wrong way. For example--let's take the whole driving thing. I know, I'm in the minority here. But I have a very hard time believing that holding a cell phone and talking while driving is any more dangerous than, say, drinking coffee and driving. And yet I seriously doubt how many of those who would call cell phone talking/driving unconsciousably dangerous would say the same for coffee drinking, or hamburger-eating--or who don't do similar things in the car themselves. I find the laws against talking on a cell and driving, honestly, very silly. It's already illegal to drive unsafely or erratically. And I'd much rather see law enforcement focused on pulling over those driving badly (weaving in and out of lanes, speeding, etc.) than on those who are chatting on a cell but driving just fine.
But my favorite argument against cell phone talking and driving, even with hands-free sets, is that it's distracting. There's this idea that talking on a cell phone is inherently dangerous, even with both hands on the wheel. Now, is anyone, anywhere, advocating that drivers with passengers not speak to them? How is it any different for me to talk to my wife, who is sitting in the passenger seat, than for me to talk to her on a cell?
A lot of the cell-related stuff that angers people strikes me as being, well, irrational--almost prejudiced, although how a prejudice against cell phones was created in the first place is beyond me. Example - put many a person at a table in a restaurant or on a train next to someone talking in a conversational voice on a cell phone and they'll be pissed--incensed at the remarkable rudeness of their fellow man. Put that same person at a table or on a train next to a couple talking in a conversational voice and everything is fine. How is the one different from the other? How come it's rude for me to carry on a conversation on a cell but not with a human being? Or take how some cell phone talkers are excoriated in some quarters for chatting on a phone while conducting business with a cashier. How rude! (goes the cry). Where's the human connection, the pleasantry, the societal glue, without which anarchy will surely follow? But if that same person, while being rung up, is talking to a friend who is there in the flesh--no one seems to mind. No cries of horror.
I simply don't get it. I don't get what makes talking on a cell phone, in and of itself, rude, or dangerous, or a sign of Armageddon. I just don't.
Can anyone supply some enlightenment?
Monday, May 01, 2006
The traditional-back-from-an-unexpected-leave-time-to-steal-a-meme-from-Byzantium's Shores-post:
Instructions: Review the following list of books. Boldface the books you've read, italicize those you might read, put in blue the ones you won?t, put an asterisk * beside the ones on your bookshelves, and place [brackets] around the ones you?ve never even heard of.
The Da Vinci Code (Dan Brown)--Will probably have to read at some point; I think it might be a law.
The Catcher in the Rye (J.D. Salinger)
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (Douglas Adams)*--Several times.
The Great Gatsby (F. Scott Fitzgerald)--Didn't quite get the hype.
To Kill a Mockingbird (Harper Lee)--High on my list of must-read-agains
The Time Traveler?s Wife (Audrey Niffenegger)
His Dark Materials (Philip Pullman)--Very good, but I found it hard to see how it qualifies as children's literature. Stuff is dense.
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (J. K. Rowling)*--Will re-read right before the final book comes out.
The Life of Pi (Yann Martel)
Animal Farm: A Fairy Story (George Orwell)
Catch 22 (Joseph Heller)
The Hobbit (J.R.R. Tolkien)
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time (Mark Haddon)*--Excellent. First-person narrative in which autistic child tries to solve the murder of a dog. Brilliant use of voice.
Lord of the Flies (William Golding)--Another must-read-again
Pride and Prejudice (Jane Austen)
1984 (George Orwell)
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (J. K. Rowling)*
One Hundred Years of Solitude (Gabriel Garcia Marquez)--Marquex is an author I keep meaning to read.
Memoirs of a Geisha (Arthur Golden)
The Kite Runner (Khaled Hosseini)
The Lovely Bones (Alice Sebold)--It's nice when the literary is commercial as well.
Slaughterhouse Five (Kurt Vonnegut)
[The Secret History (Donna Tartt)]
Wuthering Heights (Emily Bronte)
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (C.S. Lewis)--Not since sixth grade, though.
Middlesex (Jeffrey Eugenides)
[Cloud Atlas (David Mitchell)]
Jane Eyre (Charlotte Bronte)
Atonement (Ian McEwan)--One of the best new books I've read in the last five years.
[The Shadow of the Wind (Carlos Ruiz Zafon)]
The Old Man and the Sea (Ernest Hemingway)--Did not care for it.
The Handmaid?s Tale (Margaret Atwood)*--On deck after the interminable Quicksilver.
The Bell Jar (Sylvia Plath)
Dune (Frank Herbert)--But none of the sequels.
Sula (Toni Morrison)--I've never read any Morrison either; I mean to.
Cold Mountain (Charles Frazier)
The Alchemist (Paulo Coehlo)
White Teeth (Zadie Smith)--Good, but On Beauty was even better.
The House of Mirth (Edith Wharton)
Sorry. Real world got a bit overgrown for a while there, as is its wont, but it's been hacked back to a manageable size, for the nonce, at least, so here I am.
What's I miss?
Let's catch up.
Glad to see Kelly gone.
And I was right--my will to watch American Idol this season is directly proportional to the interest I have in the night's theme. Queen? Yes. Standards? Yes. Bad love songs? No.
No, this does not bode well for how tomorrow's show (songs from the year you were born and current top ten hits).
Never watched Star Trek, in any incarnation, so not too worked up about the news du jour.
Finally saw Brokeback Mountain--extremely well done, and a fine example of the art of taking a short story and adapting it into a movie while neither quelling the strengths it had in the first place nor overenhancing it to the point of non-recognition.
David Copperfield sleigh-of-handing his way out of a robbery is comedy gold.
The Palladinos leaving Gilmore Girls is bad news, on the same level as Sorkin leaving The West Wing was. But yes, I'll still watch next year.
I'd like to see United 93.
I almost never see movies in the theater anymore, so I probably won't.