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 imbd.com, 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

Uh-oh...


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...

...to 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.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Sentence of the Day, 1/16

"I saw it but I haven't blogged it yet?" Can you say that? You can't say that. That is not a legitimate sentence.

- My friend Dominic, the other night at Dive Bar

I know Dominic from a writing class I took three or four years ago. Best. Class. Ever.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Most overrated show on TV -- correction

A while back, I said it was Curb Your Enthusiasm. I was so wrong. It's not that I'm saying CYE isn't overrated; I'm not and it is. It's just not the most overrated. Not when ethe whole country is so bananas over 24.

I finally forced myself to sit through most of an episode of that humorless, hysterical, reactionary, vigilante porn. It took three Entourage reruns before I felt whole.

24 is so popular and so bad that it may yet pass The X-Files as the most overrated TV show since Lawrence Whelk.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Dunk/Condiment of the Day



Cleveland came up short against the Lakers the other night in spite of this sick LeBron James throw-down.

Also good is D.L. Jardine's Special Edition Texas Champagne Cayenne Pepper Sauce (not pictured), which I've been putting all over everything.

Pieces of Crap

This is the last time I'm mentioning James "Pants-on-Fire" Frey and his slow dance with hucksterism, A Million Little Pieces. I wouldn't mention it at all, but I have to link to this article by Seth Mnookin on Slate. Mnookin -- tough name there, buddy -- is also a former addict who used to lie about how bad he was to make himself feel better (though not to sell books). He demolishes what's left of Frey's credibility, making a strong case that Frey's shallow, cliche-ridden nonsense, even more than his Pinocchioesque realationship with the truth, may have caused a lot of real harm.

On the other hand, he said it...

Last night I mentioned, without explaining, that the best-known nugget from The Long Goodbye is usually misquoted. It was late, though, and I was too busy not writing about Match Point (very good, more TK) to get into it. But that won't do, so here we go:

'Alcohol is like love,' he said. 'The first kiss is magic, the second is intimate, the third is routine. After that you take the girl's clothes off.'

If you do a google search for Chandler quotes, this one will come up wrong. It's even misquoted on the back on the book (at least on the 1979 British paperback edition I bought on the street near St. Mark's for three dollars). What these misquoters do is, they drop the he said. They want to clean the thing up, make it an aphorism or a frtune cookie. But they're (wrong, bad people, and I am here to tell you why: They fucking up both the rhythm and the integrity of the lines. And stripping Raymond Chandler of rhythm and integrity is like stripping the Pope of his religion and his funny hat -- there may be some stuff left, but not a whole hell of a lot.

Bear with:

That he said provides a necessary punctuation at the end of the first short setup sentence. Without it, Alcohol is like love is phrased so like The first kiss is magic, that the period isn't enough to keep it from sliding into the next sentence, from effectively becoming the first part of a four-part build (1 alcohol, 2 first kiss, 3 second kiss, 4 third kiss) followed by a punch line (clothes off). It's hardly awful, but the rhythm is strained. He said forces a pause, a reassessment. He's said something. Then he says something else (the three-part kiss thing, which moves from bliss to indifference, the opposite direction, incidentally, from the way sex is supposed to go), and it sounds like he might be finished. But then comes the kicker. So, rather than an out-of-ballance two-part statement (the first part of which is in four parts), we have a more euphoneous three-part statement (the middle part of which is in a rhthmically satifying three-parts). Clear?

So. Is any of that really true? Or is it just bullshit I made up? I don't know. But it seemed brilliant a few minutes ago in the tub when I thought of it. It's certainly truer than James Frey's memoirs.

Anyway, it doesn't matter, because the primary violence done by this hack quotation manipulation is a violence to integrity, and this they have done on purpose, to suit their ends. By removing the words he said, they bleach these sentences of context, of a speaker and a listener, of a setting and a story. Want they want is an aphorism, a pithy little thing to put in a box, or at the end of an anecdote, or inside a fortune cookie. They don't want the complications of particularity in which both art and life actually take place.

Most irksome of all, they imply that this clever-yet-sunredeemed view is Chandler's, or -- worse still -- Philip Marlowe's. Now they both had their bad days. Chandler dabbled in both alcoholism and misogyny, and Marlowe, to someone wthout a soul, might seem to trade in a perverse, noiry nihilism. I have neither the time nor the critical acuity to explain all the things that Marlowe does, in fact, stand for. Suffice it to say that he is not smugly satisfied with reducing human frailty (in this case, alcoholism and metaphorical castration anxiety) into bite-sized cocktail party niblets. And while he's more than a little suspiscious of and frightened by feminie wiles and female sexuality (If your idea of Marlowe is Humphrey Bogart - god forbid - Robert Mitchum, you probably don't know what I'm talking about.), he does know, like Jimmy Buffet and DC and other lostish boys everywhere, that, ultimately, it's his own damn fault.

I think I may have used that line before...

Anyway, the he said in the story is Terry Lennox. When we meet him (in the first paragraph), he's "plastered to the hairline" and falling out of a Rolls Royce.

Movie trivia: In Robert Altman's 1973 film version, Lennox is played by former New Yankee pitcher Jim Bouton, best-known for writing the baseball expose Ball Four. It's Bouton's only film appearance. Elliot Gould is surprisingly good as Marlowe, but the awesomely deranged Sterling Hayden walks away with the movie. Altman takes wild liberties with the story, but since I hadn't read the book back when I saw the movie (in a double feature at San Francisco's Castro Theater), I didn't care. And Howard Hawks was just as unfaithful to the Big Sleep, conspiring with William Faulkner an Humphrey Bogart to turn Marlowe into a smirking lothario.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Sentence of the Day, 1/13

Ten minutes later I was sorry. But ten minutes later I was somewhere else.

- Raymond Chandler
The Long Goodbye, 1953

I'm just a few pages into this late Chandler novel, and I'm spoiled with SotD options. I love this one not only because it's aesthetically perfect, but because it pinpoints that icky feeling/situation I know -- that we all know -- so well.

I felt sorry ten minutes after I left would give us the same information, but it wouldn't tell the same story.

Then there's this, which is kind of famous (though often misquoted):

'Alcohol is like love,' he said. 'The first kiss is magic, the second is intimate, the third is routine. After that you take the girl's clothes off.'

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Sentence of the Day, 1/12

I will hit you right in your left eye.

- Charles Barkley, to Ernie Johnson, just now
TNT halftime show of the Lakers-Cavaliers game.

How was the weather, James?

All good books are alike in that they are truer than if they had really happened and after you are finished reading one you will feel that all that happened to you and afterwards it all belongs to you; the good and the bad, the ecstasy, the remorse, and sorrow, the people and the places and how the weather was.

- Ernest Hemingway

Yes, everybody knows this quotation, but I've been thinking about it lately (although I still don't know where it comes from) in relation to a couple of books, one of which I recently read, the other one of which has sold a gazillion copies and made a bagillion dollars and has an author who gets more famous the more he's exposed as a liar.

The Woman Who Walked Into Doors is an original, honest, chilling, weirdly life-affirming 225-page monlogue spoken by a woman who survives nearly two decades of viscious physical abuse. Roddy Doyle creates a character who, although she never actualy existed, is at least as true, in the Hemmingwy sense, as if she had. But he does more than that - Paula Spencer doesn't just tell her story, she agonizes over the telling of it. And not because she's talking about painful things. She agonizes because she feels a pressing moral obligation to tell it all exactly as at happened, to "nothing extenuate/ Nor set down aught in malice," though the uneducated Paula likely wouldn't know Othello from, um, from some other thing she wouldn't know.

After recalling an especially savage beating, Paula asks (us? herself?):
Do I actually remember that? Is that exactly how it happened? Did my hair rip? Did my back scream? Did he call me a cunt? Yes, often; all the time. Right then? I don't know. Which time was that anyway? I don't know. How can I separate one time from the lot and describe it? I want to be honest. How can I be sure? It went on for seventeen years. Seventeen years of being hit and kicked. How can I tell? How many times did he kick me in the back? How many times did I curl up on the floor? How can I remember one time? When did it happen? Wht date? What day? I don't know. What age was I? I don't know. It will be me but not yet. What is that supposed to mean? That I was nearly unconscious; that the pain was unbearable? I'm messing around here. Making things up; a story. I'm beginning to enjoy it. Hair rips. Why don't I just say He pulled my hair? Someone is crying. Someone is vomiting. I cried, I fuckin' well vomited. I choose one word and end up telling a different story. I end up making it up instead of just telling it. The sting and the shock, the noise, the smack. I don't want to make it up, I don't want to add to it. I don't want to lie. I don't have to; there's no need. I want to tell the truth. Like it happened. Plain and simple. My husband is beating me up. A horrible fact. Did any of this actually happen? Yes. Am I sure? Yes. Absolutely sure, Paula?
She goes on. And on and eloquently on, searching for the words to use to tell the truth to make it be as true as it can possibly be, which includes questioning her ability to do that. (Again, yes, I understand that Paula is herself made up, a character, a fiction,. Doesn't matter. Someone [Roddy Doyle, actually] is talking honestly about the problems and the necessity of talking honestly about things that demand honesty.)

So there's that. And now here's the point, which I'm already close to beating to death. (Pause to cringe at my inapropriate choice of metaphor...) Here's James Frey, whose A Million Little Pieces, a memoir of recovery from addiction and crime, made its author a million little dollars by marketing itself as a true story. By most accounts, the book (which I'll read as soon as I see Match Point) is gripping, moving and inspiring, and it has inspired almost cultish devotion among its readers. The thing is, a good-sized chunk of it is just straight-up bullshit.

And that matters. Dave Eggers, Chuck Klausterman and others have written memoirs in the last few years where they came out and said - in advance - that parts of their stories were fictionalized, but that the essences were true. That is fine. No problem. They're telling the truth about the degree to which they're going to be telling the truth.

But when you say, "Here is my totally true, brave, inspiring, uplifting story, that I will share with you for just $24.95 (or whatever)," you really ought not to be lying. (Especially after a bunch of publishers turned the book down as fiction) And if you do lie, and you get caught, and you go on Larry King with your mother to whine some more and try to justify your fraud and admit, "When Nan Talese purchased the book, I'm not sure if they knew what they were going to publish it as. We talked about what to publish it as. And they thought the best thing to do was publish it as a memoir," and you get Oprah to call in to give you a free pass, to throw her reputation behind your tainted cause like Powell at Turtle Bay, then you, James Frey, are a pathetic little bitch and you ought to stand up and say so and then you ought to shut up and then you ought to go away.

When the Paula Spencers of the world tell you the sky is blue, you know damn well that the sky is blue. When the James Frey's of the world tell you the same thing, you might want to think about bringing an umbrella.

Who are you and what have you done with my mother?

"You don't realize how complex the brain is until you see all the amazing ways it can be broken."

Or so says Dr. Paul Mancini, a neurologist working in Europe (Geneva, actually) who just happens to be good friends with a working-class New York couple whose older son, Vincent, gets a bonk on the head and wakes up convinced that his parents have been abducted and replaced with replicas.

I should probably mention that what I'm talking about happens in a play -- Imposters, now playing at NEUROfest, a Village Voice-sponsored festival of plays about bizarre diseases of the mind. I should also probably mention that what Vincent has is Capgras Syndrome, a very real, albeit very rare, condition in which the visual and emotional processing centers of the brain can no longer communicate, causing patients to believe that the people who look just like their families are, in fact, just familiar-looking strangers.

Which in this case, as it happens, they are.

OK, not really. But playwright Justin Warner uses this literal mental disconection as the inciting incident that sets off a series of events and revelations that blah blah blah the peeling off of various blah blah blah to reveal that perhaps everyone isn't quite blah blah blah after all. Unless, after after all, he really is. Blah blah.

There's the kernal of a good play here, but Warner is trying way too hard. The actors, a couple of whom have impressive Broadway credits, are over-emoting and under-rehearsed, and it looks like they're all in different plays that happen to be going an at the same time in the same place.

Imposters is the kind of show that, when I hear about it, makes me go, "Hey, there's so much stuff out there that sounds so cool; I gotta get out and see it," then, when I go see it, makes me think, "Hey, so much of that cool-sounding stuff is pretty half-baked and indulgent; I gotta stay home more often drinking cheap Beaujolais and filling out sudokus in the bathtub."

Blog of the Day, 1/12

"Woody Allen Is Like Having Sex With Jessica Alba While Watching The BCS National Championship Game And Passing Undetectable Gas"

- The Assimilated Negro, discussing Match Point.

(Dilettante Critic is also partial to discussing Match Point, but TAN seems actually to have seen it. Although I'm not sure he's actually had sex with Jessica Alba while doing all that other cool stuff. Or at all, even.)

In addition to writing about actual things, TAN sometimes comes down to DC's level, where he still crushes.

If SONN is DC but smarter, then TAN is DC but smarter and blacker.

- True that.
- D O U B L E T R U E !

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Into the Frey

Had dinner last night with a fan of James Frey's "memoir" A Million Little Pieces, who insisted that recent allegations that much of the story is made up make absolutely no difference. Apparently, Doubleday agrees. Though its corporate parent, Random House, is offering refunds. [This just in -- reports of Random House offering refunds have been greatly exagerated.]

An op-ed in the NYT by a Daily Show writer goes to town, proving just how much fun schadenfreud can be.

DC remains the only person in America who hasn't read the book.

Anyway, Frey will try to spin this mess tonight on Larry King.

Oh, also -- Same dinner companion announced that Entourage is "so boring." DC almost choked on his spinach pizza.

Sentence of the Day, 1/11 (Existential Paradox Edition)

Pavel: Anyway, the victims who died can never tell THEIR side of the story, so maybe it's better not to have any more stories.
Art: Uh-huh. Samuel Beckett once said: "Every word is like an unnecessary stain on silence and nothingness."
Pavel: Yes.
(Pause.)
Art: On the other hand, he SAID it.
Pavel: He was right. Maybe you can include it in your book.

- Art Spiegelman, MAUS, 1980-91

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Blog of the Day, 1/11

Something Old, Nothing New

Like DC, but smarter

Sentence of the day, 1/10

So it’s easier for boys not to lose sight of the important facts of life: that bathroom humor is hilarious (if you don’t believe me, call an ancient Greek playwright), and that “butt” really is the funniest word in the world.

- Nancy Franklin, reviewing The Family Guy in this week's New Yorker

Entourage Guest Star of the Day



<-- Bai Ling, blistering praying mantis. Because Christopher Penn left a bad taste in my mouth.

(Wait... That didn't come out right...)

Special Entourage guest bonus feature: Note the poster in the background featuring Vince's Head On co-star (and recent Sentence of the Day cameo-maker) Jessica Alba.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Sentence of the Day 1/9 (DC Manifesto Edition)

I'm in complete agreement with all those people who say, regarding movies, "I just want to be entertained." This populist position is much derided by my academic colleagues as simpleminded and unsophisticated, evidence of questionable analytical and critical acuity. But I agree with the premise, and I too just want to be entertained. That I am almost never entertained by other people who just want to be entertained doesn't make us philosophically incompatible. It just means we shouldn't go to movies together.

Richard Russo
Straight Man, 1997

This novel, which I recently read for the third (or maybe fourth...) time, is so much better than Empire Falls, which netted Russo a Pulitzer a few years ago. It's not as ambitious, or as deep or as touching, but it's more successfully realized. Less pretentious. Less cheezy. Less Oprahfied. And funnier than a fart in church.

I'm totally loose!

If this can happen to "The Boy" we we were supposed to "Hear It For" (Nope, the song wasn't about Kevin Bacon; it was Chris Penn, the dumb friend Bacon had to teach to dance so he could take Sarah Jessica Parker to the dance in the barn across the tracks without embarrassing himself. Don't believe me? Want to watch it again? I thought not.), what chance do the rest of us have?

Sean's bro is almost completely redeemed, though, by playing his girthilicious self in season two of Entourage, in which he gives fellow loser star-sibling Johnny Drama a well-deserved beat-down. (Although he loses points by delivering the worst line of the entire series -- "I'm gonna lose this weight, but you'll still be an idiot." -- a line so jarringly unoriginal, I have to believe he insisted on putting it in there himself.)

Kevin Dillon (Matt's brother, a running in-joke) is freakin' hillarious as Johnny Drama. In season two, he gets his ass kicked not only by Sta-Puft Penn, but also by the blistering praying mantis Bai Ling (scroll up).

Starshine

Out and about on the Lower East Side, DC stumbled into the back room of Rififi Cinema Classics (where Dilettante Critic and Official DC Younger Brother SevenWarlocks once spent part of the hottest night in the history of human civilization [July 4, 2002] listening to sweaty comedians try to be funny while performing inside a pizza oven) and into the middle of a Starshine Burlesque show. Starshine - produced by a couple of inspired exhibitionists named Little Brooklyn and Creamy Stevens - is genuine LES vaudeville, complete with comics, magicians, a pornographic drinking contest, goth strippers (including one who got naked while keeping about thirty-seven hula-hoops going) and a Chiquita Banana-inspired MC who kept reminding us that we there to "drink beer and look at titties," and that if we talked about the show a lot at work the next day, we'd probably all get raises.

Good times.

Oh, and ODCYB's cat's name is also Starshine. How freaky is that?

A million Little Lies

Those saucy muckrakers at The Smoking Gun report that James Frey's much-loved and much-derided mega-bestselling, Oprahfied memoir A Million Little Pieces is, at least in part, a tissue of lies. Gawker has the succinct version.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Sentence of the Day, 1/8

If that were a real wish bowl it would be in the Ferrari of a 600-year-old Incan on the way to his job as Jessica Alba's g-string.

- Karl, the talking German goldfish on American Dad

We're not entirely sure what that means, but we know we like it.

This isn't a dream. This is really happening.

There are plots against people, aren't there?

- Mia Farrow in Rosemary's Baby, 1968 (Screenplay by Roman Polanski based on the Ira Levin novel)

There's a feeling I sometimes get when I finally see or read an important classic film, novel or play. (Sometimes it can come from a painting or a piece of music, but this happens less often.) It's as if a special light has gone on and I can see a frequency that's always been there, visible to everybody else, but never to me until right now.

It happened when I saw The Godfather and Psycho, when I read Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man and again, years later, when I read Middlemarch. It happened when I first heard Beethoven's Ninth Symphony and it happened instantly and powerfully when I walked into the Van Gough room at the Musee D'Orsay in Paris. And I got it again today when I saw Rosemary's Baby. I'm not sure if it's a great film or not. It certainly isn't as scary or jarring as it must have been when it was released. But I do know that I understand just about every movie I've ever seen that was made since 1968 a little bit better, and a lot of other things too.

It's more than just the enitre Catholic/Satanist subgenre of horror movies that the film unleashed. It's more than Polanski's straightforward, utterly, unhysterical building of of claustrophobia, or the way that Mia Farrow's performance seems to have entered the collective pop culture consciousness, so that I felt like I was watching something I knew even though I had never seen it before.

I don't know what it is, but it has less to do with the movie itself than with the low-level hum of references to it I've been hearing my whole life.

I do know, though, that this feeling I'm talking about has given rise to another feeling, a less pleasant one -- the feeling that there are so many necessary things out there that I haven't seen, read, heard, processed or even begun to comprehend, that I'm falling further and further behind, that I'm never going understand the culture I live in until I catch up, and that I'm never going to catch up.

A Touch of the Poet -- Two Views

Went with my cousin – whom a chatty old lady in the row behind us cheerfully referred to as my "partner" – to see Gabriel Byrne star as Con Melody in Eugene O'Neil's A Touch of the Poet. If my cousin were female and not, you know, my cousin, this mistake would probably have been flattering, because he's a hell of a lot younger than I am, in much better shape and generally more fun to be around. I, however, know a lot more about Eugene O'Neil. So I got that going for me. That and ten dollars will get me a crappy glass of wine at intermission.

The Roundabout production of this almost-masterpiece, featuring the last of O'Neil's celebrated portrayals of charismatic, alcoholic self-deceivers, is in previews for a limited run at Studio 54, a great place to see a play, in spite of the occasional subway-rumbling through the orchestra. My cousin had never actually heard of O'Neil, but he thought it was pretty fly to see a play at Studio 54, and he knew Byrne from The Usual Suspects. Byrne was last seen on Broadway in O'Neil's Moon for the Misbegotten, for which he received overwhelmingly good reviews and a 2000 Tony nomination.

As Major Cornelius Melody – the preposterous braggart who achieves a perverse sort of glory only by shattering the self-mythology he's spent a lifetime crafting – Byrne has more than a touch of the poet in him. From his first scene – in which he conveys the excruciating strain of a magisterial sot struggling to mask both the depth of his yearning for liquor and the DTs that make simply lifting his glass an ordeal to watch – to his almost magical transformation in the final act into a gleefully wretched, jig-dancing, bog-trotting yokel, Byrne's performance is a tour de force. It is a master class on a certain kind of – sadly, vanishing – Romantic acting.

-- What do you mean, 'Romantic'? (Asked cuz at intermission.)
-- Well, sort of larger than life. Proud. Grand. Heathcliff-on-the-moors sort of thing.
-- Heathcliff? You mean the cat?
-- OK, forget Heathcliff. Um -- Han Solo, with gravias. Peter O'Toole. Richard Burton. Cocky, deep and bigger than life.
-- Ah yes. I get it. Gordon Gecko in a puffy shirt. I thought you meant girly and cheesy. I was gonna have to call bullshit, because this dude is awesome. Unlike this wine, which sucks ass.

When Byrne's Melody recites Byron to his admiring reflection in the mirror – center stage and pointing squarely at the audience – we see, along with his daughter, who walks in on him, that he is ridiculous. But unlike the headstrong Sara Melody, who is full of righteous scorn at her father's noble preening while she and her mother work live servants, we also see that he is magnificent.

Too bad the rest of the cast isn't up to anywhere near Byrne's level. His daughter is especially irritating and easy to tune out in a role that ought to let a young actress soar.

Appologies to my cousin, who didn't actually say any of that.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Sentence of the Day, 1/7

You are a gut maggot. With no guts.

Gary Busey (playing Gary Busey) to Jeremy Piven (playing Ari Gold) in episode 6 of Entourage, which is DC's favorite TV show BY FAR, easily outdistancing The Family Guy, Sleeper Cell and Sports Center. (The Sopranos is temporarily off the list until they start showing me some new episodes. The original British version of the Office doesn't count, because it went off the air [It killed itself] after just two seasons, cementing its place, James Dean-like, as possibly the best TV show in all of recorded human history.)

On the seventh day, God created HBO on Demand. One each day since, Dilettante Critic has sat on his bottom eating apples and wtching Entourage.

I'd say let's hug it out, but you'd probably draw wood.

- Ari (the gut maggot), to Vince and E.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Cox redux

Seems the NYT is taking back its smackdown of Ana Marie Cox's Dog Days, or at least hedging its bets.

Old film critic manqué Janet Maslin hated the book, but the Paper of Record lets comic novelist Christopher Buckley give Cox a do-over. Buckley calls Dog Days "a brisk, smart, smutty, knowing very well-written first novel."

So why am I again writing about this when I still haven't even read the book? Because Ana Marie Wonkette Cox is hilarious, and I have a big fat crush on her -- a crush that was only slightly dampened by sitting behind her husband at her bizarre and unsatisfying book reading at the Astor Place Barnes and Noble last night -- and I want excuses to post her picture on my blog, that's why.

I've been a devoted Wonkette reader for years. When I lived in China with no access to Jon Stewart, Wonkette was my primary source for US political news. (I certainly wasn't getting it from the Chinese news agency I worked for, where I was once given an article to edit entitled, "Bush or Kerry: What's the difference?" In a rare burst of integrity, I killed that one.)

Even so, I didn't enjoy the reading. I didn't buy the book. I didn't even talk to the author.

What made the blog so addictively wonderful -- besides the surprisingly witty barrage of alcohol and penis jokes -- was the way Cox made her readers feel smart and loved while depicting the nation's politicians as incompetent egomaniacal asshole douche bags. Whether devising (and describing herself playing) the Presidential Debate Drinking Game, obsessing about Dick Cheney's genitals or breathlessly chronicling the Washingtonienne sex scandal, Cox made us all feel like one big happy, snarky family.

In person the vibe was totally different. Cox is strikingly beautiful in a sort of brittle-looking way. But she's also more than a little brittle-acting. Either very nervous or high-functioning wasted -- or possibly both -- she tried too hard while reading unfunny, Sex-in-the-District style yadda yadda yadda. Worse she was snippy and sarcastic with those that asked questions. (Of whom I, coward that I am, was not one.)

Anyway, I found it a little depressing, and I dismissed the book. Only to read Buckley today and think, dammit, I may have to read the thing after all. Which would mean another entry. And another picture.

Nina Subin took the picture.

Meanwhile, more cowbell!

The Sports Guy, Bill Simmons, has a column full of doozies written while watching the Rose Bowl. A few of the best have pop-cultural relevance:

4) Keith Jackson on Vince Young: "As an old defensive coach once said, 'He ain't got no handles,' but he led the country in passing this year." (Um, does anyone on this plane speak jive? What just happened there?)

3) Highlight of the game so far: LeAnn Rimes belting out the National Anthem, followed by a cut to Matt Leinart with a pensive, "Have I had her yet?" look on his face.

2) Has anyone morphed into his most famous character more beautifully than McConaughey's glacier-like transformation into David Wooderson over the past 10 years? All he's missing is a thin mustache and a TransAm at this point.

1) On Reggie Bush: He's so close to Gale Sayers in so many ways, I would almost be afraid to be a white fullback on his NFL team next year.

So far behind...

How do people keep up their blogs, their real jobs and their lives? I give myself a tenuous C minus or so on the first two, maybe a B on the third. (Because, "I'm good enough, I'm smart enough, and doggone it...")

Anyway, DC has fallen far behind schedule. More actual content coming this weekend. (Insofar as any of this is "actual content.")

Sentence of the Day, 1/6 (Suicide/Irony Edition)

I didn't think there'd be another monologue and I'm still not sure there is.

The first sentence of Spaulding Gray's final -- unfinished -- monologue. Gray is believed to have jumped off the Staten Island Ferry in January, 2004. His body was found two months later.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Sentence of the day, 1/5 (Rose Bowl Edition)

I couldn't help but feel a twinge of sympathy. Then I remembered his sickeningly charmed life and snapped out of it.

Robert Weintraub, writing in Slate about Trojan quarterback (and future multi-millionaire) Matt Leinart at the end of USC's 41-38 loss to Texas in last night's college football national championship. Leinart and fellow USC-Heisman-winning-charmed-lifer Reggie Bush (another future multi-millionaire) were thoroughly outplayed by the insane-o-rific Texas QB Vince Young (ditto).

Dilittante Exegete

DC learns a new word for his particular brand of dillettantery.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Of the South Burlington Berkmans?

There are days when DC totally knows how this guy feels.

Sentence of the day, 1/4

As long as we want to believe that creative achievement is special, that a work of art is not just one more commodity seeking to aggrandize itself in the marketplace at the expense of other works of art, we need prizes so that we can complain about how stupid they are.

Louis Menand
The New Yorker

Sometimes DC wants to be Louis Menand, that learned, urbane master of learned, urbane New Yorker prose. (Although this may just be a holdover from his [DC's, not Loius's] recent musings on being an old writer.

Why so many movies are so crappy

Edward Jay Epstein has the answer: It's the popcorn, Stupid!

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Gratuitous Bruce Willis Bashing of the Day

From The Woman Who Walked into Doors by Roddy Doyle:
-- All men are not bastards, I said.
-- Name one that isn't, said Carmel.
-- Okay.
-- Off you go; come on.
-- Okay, I said. -- Jesus, I think I'm drunk.
-- Don't start, said Carmel. -- Name one. Go on.
-- Nicola's fella; Tony.
-- He's lovely, said Denise.
-- He's only a kid, said Carmel. -- He'll learn.
-- He's lovely, I said. -- Isn't he, Denise?
-- Yeah.
-- Robert Redford, I said.
-- Him! said Carmel. -- Did you see him in that last one? It was on the Movie Channel. He bought your woman for a million dollars.
-- Indecent Proposal, said Denise.
-- He was a right fuckin' creep in it anyway.
-- That wasn't him, I said. -- He was only acting.
-- I wouldn't pay a tenner for that bitch. Who's that she's married to again?
-- Bruce Willis.
-- Now there's a bastard.
-- Charlo liked him.
-- Jesus.

Charlo being a vicious, drunken, wife-beating murderer.

Read DC's thoughts on the former Mrs. Willis here.

Chekhov Character of the Day

And the winner is... Trigorin!

Woo-hoo!

This is how I know I'm no longer, um, young: I've reread The Seagull twice in the last few days, and Kostya -- whom I (and every other youngish actor with literary-intellectual pretensions) used to fairly yearn to play -- just seemed sort of, well, silly. To be completely frank, he seemed like a whiney little bitch.

But Trigorin -- He's a celebrity, which impresses everybody but him. He knows that it doesn't mean squat, because he feels like a fraud, and all he wants to do is fish and sleep with the yummy little actress, both of which, of course, he does, though neither makes him happy. Sure, he whines a lot too (Waddaya want? It's Chekhov!), but he's a lot less pathetic about it. Trigorin reminds all us anonymous drones who aren't (necessarily) sleeping with yummy little actresses that we'd be just as miserable if we were. (Jude Law is also a reminder of this.)

The coolest cat in the play is actually Dorn, the doctor, but I'm not centered enough to really relate to him. And doesn't remind me of anything.

Sentence of the day, 1/3

Oh, she was hardly a novice.

I hope it was Tom Stoppard who wrote that line -- he reportedly worked on the script uncreditted -- from Casanova, which DC went to see last night because Match Point remains irritatingly sold out at the Upper West Side theater where those SNL cats saw The Chronic(What?)cles of Narnia. (Though probably nowhere else in the world.)

Anyway, Casanova was funnier that had a right to be, with wonderful gratuitous use of Oliver Platt's fat and Sienna Miller's beauty. (Which begs the question, What the hell was Jude Law thinking?)

Sienna Miller photo copywrited by somebody, no doubt, somewhere.

NEUROfest

The Village Voice is sponsoring a theater festival devoted entirely to diseases of the mind. According to the festival's website, "theater artists from around the country will present work inspired by various neurological conditions, including:

Amnesia (Korsakov's Syndrome),
Aphasia,
Autism,
Capgras Syndrome,
Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (CJD),
Dementia,
Meniere’s Disease,
Synesthesia, and
Tourette’s Syndrome"

The mind boggles. Or something. Anyway, I'm so there.

Just don't put "Dog" in your title

Janet Maslin trashes Dog Days, the debut novel by Ana Marie Cox (aka blog-goddess, Wonkette), in the NYT today. Because Cox is funny and beautiful -- and Maslin is neither -- I'm tempted to ignore the review and run right out to the Borders two blocks away and by the thing anyway. (DC says: Support independent bookstores, kids!)

If only it didn't sound like such a tedious piece of crap.

Cox is almost entirely retired from Wonkette, as she's too busy promoting her crappy novel. Photo copywrited by somebody at the NYT

Monday, January 02, 2006

...or Measure

Went to Brooklyn to try to get in the Shakespeare's Globe production of Measure for Measure on artistic director Mark Rylance's (playing the Duke) final day with the company. Tickets had been sold out forever for this very limited run, and the box office guy said people started lining up early for waiting list tickets. Even so, when I got there at 3:00 for a 7:00 show, I didn't expect there to be people in front of me. But there were. So I felt pretty lucky when an old lady left at intermission and nobody in front of me wanted her ticket stub.

Most of what I've always thought of as the really good stuff in Measure for Measure -- the Angelo/Isabel scenes, Claudio's "Sweet sister, let me live," the brothel scenes -- comes in the first half, and I'm afraid I missed all that this time.

But what made it so valuable -- besides the pizza at Grimaldi's around the corner from St. Ann's Warehouse -- was that Rylance made the Duke believable for the first time in my experience with the play. Because, really, the Duke's behavior makes no damn sense at almost any point, either in the play or in any of the (three) productions of it I'd seen before.

This time it does, though. Rylance's Duke is an adorable little wuss -- a total basket case overwhelmed first by the corruption in his city (you don't have to see act one to get this) and then by the increasingly retarded plot he sets in motion and keeps advancing just one step ahead of -- whatever. Everything. He's dancing as fast as he can, and even he seems barely able to keep track of it all. That it all works out is a small miracle.

Sentence of the Day, 1/2

I thought that Mr. Clutter was a very nice gentleman. I thought so right up to the moment that I cut his throat.

Perry Smith
according to Truman Capote
In Cold Blood, 1965

Best movies of 2005

DC top 3:

1 - The Squid and the Whale
2 - Capote
3 - Junebug