Thursday, September 28, 2006

DC, Version 2.0

I needed a little break. I'd lost focus. I was trying to be all things to all people. (And by "all people" I mean, obviously, may seven loyal readers.)

But I just read a collection of Nick Hornby's "Stuff I've Been Reading" columns for the great literary magazine The Believer which has inspired me to say a few words about a few books.

So y'all have that to look forward to...

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Sentence of the Day 1/29

In the meantime Nikolai Petrovich succeeded, even in the lifetime of his parents and to their no small distress, in falling in love with the daughter of an official called Prepolovensky, the previous owner of his apartment, an attractive and, as they say, well-developed girl who used to read serious articles in the "science" section of journals.

- Ivan Turgenev
Fathers and Sons, 1863

Topsy Turvy

I finally saw this excellent 1999 Mike Leigh movie about Gilbert and Sullivan's The Mikado. It was the costumes that won the Oscar, but there's nothing about this movie that isn't wonderful, from Leigh's scintilating dialogue to the first rate work of dozens of fine British actors, led by Jim Broadbent, who is masterful as William Gilbert, brilliant, inept, domineering and supercillious by turns. Shirley Henderson (aka Moaning Myrtle) is fascinating and deeply moving as the tippling soprano who first creates Yum-Yum.

That might not be anyone more qualified than Leigh to have made this love letter to the theater. He's not only a great filmmaker, but he's a genuine man of the theater, having written, I don't know, a gazillion plays (including Abigail's Party, now playing on Broadway). He is famous as a filmmaker for his rigorous improvization-based rehearsal process.

And, of course, The Mikado, of which we get generous, sumptuous helpings, kicks all kinds of ass, and the successful opening night (glimpses of which are dispersed throughout the movie) is genuinely thrilling. David Edelstein, formerly of Slate, says the movie takes solong to get going that "only a lunatic would call it a masterpiece." Even so, he conceeds, "As Leigh's camera pulls back over the orchestra and the audience, this movie feels like one of the saddest and loveliest tributes to the lives of artists ever made." What could possibly be better than that?

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Best cast ever?

Murder on the Orient Express:

Albert Finney as Poirot (amazing in a pinched, freaky way; better than David Suchet in the A&E series, much more daring than the great Peter Ustinov in Death on the Nile and Evil Under the Sun), Lauren Becall (already old in 1974), Sean Connery (ditto), Ingrid Bergman (ditto, but also briliantly funny), John Gielgud (already really old), Vanessa Redgrave (eerily young-looking and glowing), Jacqueline Bisset (ditto, but also preposterously beautiful), Michael York (remember him?), Martin Balsam (dude has 166 entries on, including Seven Days in May), Anthony Perkins (playing, for a change, a nervous, effeminate young man with mommy complex), Jean-Pierre Cassel (even more roles than Balsam, almost all of them in French films, often opposite Seberg, Bardot, Deneuve, etc.) and on and on.

It's not really a very good a movie though.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

DC kills actor, frightens self...

If I'd known this was coming, you better believe I never would have written this.

Sentence of the Day, 1/25 ("Republican Kleptocracy" Edition)

Alas, when you steal from Americans, they just have less money for their families and they'll gladly vote you back in. When you steal from Iraqi reconstruction, you get thousands of Iraqis killed.

- Juan Cole, in Informed Comment, one of the most important blogs on all things Middle East, referring to a new audit of American finacial practices in Iraq that, according to this New York Times story, details the skimming of tens of millions of dollars meant for the country's reconstruction.

A taste:

Agents from the inspector general's office found that the living and working quarters of American occupation officials were awash in shrink-wrapped stacks of $100 bills, colloquially known as bricks.

One official kept $2 million in a bathroom safe, another more than half a million dollars in an unlocked footlocker. One contractor received more than $100,000 to completely refurbish an Olympic pool but only polished the pumps; even so, local American officials certified the work as completed.

I didn't intend, when I started this little vanity project, to make political posts. Believe me, I'd much rather sit around and watch TV. But the people running this country are so callous and clueless and inept and absurd, that sometimes you just have to say so.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006


Turns out Google's got meticulously detailed records of every Internet search you've ever done. To the shock and surprise of absolutely no one, the Bush administration wants them. In case you can't work out for yourself why this is a BAD THING, Tim Wu explains it in Slate.

Sentence of the Day, 1/24

There is hardly a political question in the United States which does not sooner or later turn into a judicial one.

- Alexis de Tocqueville
Democracy in America, 1835

I haven't read Democracy in America, which, according to Kurt Vonnegut, makes me a "nincompoop." I'm pretty much okay with that.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Two things that are ruinning my life

1) Entourage. There are only so many episodes of this show available for viewing (surprisingly few) and only so many times each one can be enjoyed (surprisingly many), so it wouldn't seem possible that it could be so much of a distraction. And yet here we are. Because even when I'm not watching Entourage, I'm thinking about Entourage. I'm singing the Jane's Addiction theme song at work. ("I wanna be your superhero/Even if I tumble fall..." Tumble fall? What's that? Who cares?). I'm wondering how I'll make it to February 16 when HBO on Demand -- Fraudulent Name of the Day! -- releases the next batch of Season Two episodes (I still haven't seen them all!). Never mind trying to figure out how I'll make it til June when Season Three starts. The last time I was like this about was... Who I am I kidding. I've never been like this about a TV show.

It's not that this shallow, insider, Hollywood lifestyle porn is really all that good. (In a lot of ways, it's embarrassing, cynical, hypocritical dreck. I'm comfortable with this.) It's just that it's so unbelievably awesome. That it takes superficiality to new (and mostly knowing) levels just makes it a product of the times. Watching Vinnie Chase and his boys cruise through their blissfully blessed lives ("You're like a triple lotto winner, Turtle," Eric, the resident grown-up, reminds the ultimate hanger-on when he gets uppity) is the next best thing to being them.

2) Su doku. Can't... stop... filling... in... numbers...

Sentence of the Day, 1/23

You say you're supposed to be nice to the Episcopalians and the Presbyterians and the Methodists and this, that, and the other thing. Nonsense. I don't have to be nice to the spirit of the Antichrist.

- Pat Robertson
quoted by Garry Wills in The New York Review of Books, Feb. 9, 2006
"Jimmy Carter & the Culture of Death" (Which makes this article the DC Title of the Day)

Friday, January 20, 2006

Boast of the Day

Just did today's (that would be Friday's) NYT crossword. In pen. It's not that I've never done a Friday before, but it's rare enough for me to give myself a shout out. DC in the House!

Official DC NYT crossword irritations:

- Monday and Tuesday are easy enough so that there's little sense of accomplishment when I finish them and a high sense of failure when I don't.

- Thursday and Friday are hard enough so that I seldom I finish them, which, though it decreases the magnitude of the failure, increases its frequency.

- Saturday is for sick people. Only masochists and Rain Man types do Saturday.

- Sunday is a whole other thing. It's another game entirely, and one I don't play. Someone once told me it's difficulty level was approximately that of Thursday, but it's tone and mood and everything are just off. I don't like it. I don't even like talking about it. Let's move on... Wednesday -- the sweet spot, the Goldilocks/Baby Bear "just right" day. Wednesday is hard enough so that I feel like you've done something, but sane enough so that I can often do it. This is where I like to live.

Except for those rare, glorious Fridays when I kick Will Shortz's sadistic weasel ass. Boo-yah!

The opposite of television

If you can't feel shit, you can't do shit. I think Confucius said that.

- Michael Aronov in Manigma, his ballsy, inspiring one-man show.

Aronov is a great actor who completely transforms here again and again -- from a hard-edged drag torch singer to a just-off-the-boat iron-pumping traditionalist (and Aronov has to guns for it), to an ecstactic prison visionary to an autistic man tearing up napkins while sitting on the toilet missing his mom. And on and on.

The six characters represent, Aronov says, exagerations of facets of his own personality, but the real point is life is amazing and needs be seized, not only with both hands, but with feet and mouths and butts and whatever else you've got.

If this sounds like a recipe for self-indulgence, do not fear; Aronov the writer is as artfully provocative as Aronov the actor is artlessly mesmorizing. When he moves, you find yourself saying, "Oh. So that's what bodies are supposed to do. I get it now." And he's somehow just as good when he's still. Best of all is when he's piercing the audience's comfort zone -- taunting, teasing, flirting, scolding, challenging and exhorting.

But mostly sharing, in the best sense of the word, his soaring electric thrill at being alive with you, on this night, in this room, in this moment. This is what theater should be and so rarely is. This is the opposite of television.

Disclosure: OK, yes, I know the guy. Even did a show with him once. (He was better than me.) But still. This is the most exhilarating piece of theater I've seen in long long time. Too long.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Invitation of the Day

This is a 100% real thing I was sent an actual person [all proper names redacted]:

A beverage company is doing a study on a new hangover remedy. They've rented out my private party rooms on Thursday, January 19th and are looking for subjects willing to drink for free, in the name of science. It will be fun, but it's also serious. First of all, don't sign up if you don't really drink, or if you never get hangovers. You need to be on time, fill out some forms (a non-disclosure agreement, a waiver, and a survey). You can't drink any alcohol that night before or after the study (only during), and you'll need to fax or email back the final part of the survey the next day. You also can't be allergic to vitamins, amino acids or herbal supplements. Obviously, you also must be at least 21 years old! You'll be asked to drink samples of the product during or after drinking. There's also a chance you might be in the placebo group, so it is important to accept that you might have a hangover the day after.

Why didn't I get invitations like this before I was a grown-up with a job?

Sentence of the Day, 1/19 (Deep Throat Edition)

The most compelling ideology in the world is not communism, capitalism or nationalism -- it's success.

- Somebody impressive who I'm not allowed to quote said this today at an off-the-record seminar on Israel After Sharon at the Council on Foreign Relations. What I was doing there in the midst of so many serious and/or wealthy people I'm not sure, but I'm probably allowed to say that the food was excellent.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Match Point verdict

I liked this movie a lot. But then some time went by, and now I'm less sure.

Sentence of the Day, 1/18

Though some may accuse me of neglect, I have been consistent with the advice I always gave my children: never finish anything that bores you. Unfortunately, some of my children bored me.

- Adam Haslett
Notes to My Biographer (from the book You Are Not a Stranger Here, 2002)

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Greg Behrendt is cool

What I learned from watching Comedy Central tonight:

1) Stephen Colbert has officially passed Jon Stewart

2) Some buffed middle age guy named Greg Behrendt, a stand-up comic I've never heard of, is hilarious. OK, fine, not, in and of itself, blog-worthy (like anything on this particular blog is). But, too, there's this: This guy wrote a book called He's Just Not That Into You. You've heard of this book. Oprah pimped for this book before she moved on to James "Weasel" Frey. Or maybe after- whatever - the point is, how much would I have liked to hate the guy who wrote a book with a title like that? Answer: a lot. But, unfortunately, he's unhatable. He's hilarious and awesome. I hate that.