Friday, April 29, 2011

Not-So-Random Music Video

I may not care so much about "The Wedding" but I know it's a big deal. So, come on, there can be only one song.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Give Me Your Racist, Your Stupid, Your Befuddled Masses

  • The Monologue:
    • When I heard Hawaii released the president's birth certificate today, I was really hoping it would just be a blank sheet of paper that only read: "Go f*** yourself."
    • I try not to generalize, but I mean this: all birthers are stupid and racist. All of them. Both things.
  • Random Pop Culture:
    • It's been a while since Sunday night reigned over TV, but it's back. In terms of dramas, the only network one that's really worthwhile is The Chicago Code. Granted, I don't watch Justified on FX, but the three best dramas currently airing are all on cable and all on Sunday night.
    • AMC's The Killing is a superb thriller about the investigation of a murder in Seattle and the intertwined lives of the people who knew the victim and, therefore, are all suspects. It's like Twin Peaks, but without the weird stuff for the sake of weirdness.
    • HBO has two excellent shows. One is, of course, Treme, David Simon's look at post-Katrina New Orleans that is one of the three best dramas on the air, period (behind, of course, Mad Men and Breaking Bad). The other is Game of Thrones, a politics-based fantasy show about the struggle over a kingdom. You have Peter Dinklage being as awesome as usual as the drunk whoring brother-in-law of the king. You have graphic violence (a wolf tore out a guy's throat in the last episode) and sex (lots of it). Good acting, really beautiful location filming. A fitting addition to HBO's strong drama presence.
    • Going back to Treme, anyone could be entertained by watching Wendell Pierce and Clarke Peters read the phone book, but Peters had not one line in the season premiere. And he was still great. That's how talented he is.
    • If I'm ranking the shows on TV, I probably pick those three with Parks and Recreation and Community added in. Maybe Treme is #1, with the two comedies after, and then the other two dramas.
  • Random Music Video:
    • When I put the baby to bed, I'm pretty much down to one of two music choices from Pandora at this point: the Beatles channel or the They Might Be Giants channel. Usually TMBG. They have a lot of songs, a whole lot, but every so often you get one you recognize and love, and so I started Pandora to get this tonight and I needed to find the video, if only to hear it again.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

On Tragedy And Regret

I was planning on catching up on some TV stuff -- primarily the rebirth of Sunday night greatness -- but something caught my attention and has me wanting to write a little. This evening, The Atlantic's Ta-Nehisi Coates wrote two posts on the Civil War, stating his case that it is not a tragedy and then clarifying a little about its inevitability and saying he's glad it happened. Good reading, both the posts and the comments as is the case with all of his stuff, but I have to very respectfully disagree. I am certainly glad that it happened because it led to the abolition of slavery, but I do think it is a tragedy. Six hundred thousand Americans died -- 2% of the total population. No matter the ends, that type of bloodshed is always a tragedy. It just so happens that the ends justify the means and so the Civil War, in my eyes, ends up as a necessary tragedy.

There have been lots of necessary tragedies throughout history. I'm glad the Civil War happened. I'm glad that Pearl Harbor happened because it got the US into the war. I'm glad for Normandy and the slaughter that happened there because it got the Allies that much closer to stopping Hitler. I'm glad for the American Revolution (which nobody really sees as a tragedy, but it's not like nobody died). I'm glad for the French Revolution. I'm glad, at least in a literary sense because I don't believe it actually happened, for the Ten Plagues. All tragedies, all necessary for something positive to come from them. I don't think this is so difficult a position to defend.

A little more difficult to defend is something I believe for my life and something, therefore, I believe for world history. I regret nothing in my life because it's made me the person I am today and I like that person. Expanding that, it means that if I generally like the world -- and it's hard not to like the world compared to how it was at any point in history -- I can't regret anything that has happened. I can mourn, but I accept that it's made us what we are today. I'll just point to Jewish history, which I feel the most comfortable talking about. If it's not for the four hundred years of slavery, we do not become a nation given laws that have lasted us for 3,500 year. If it weren't for the destruction of the Second Temple and the Diaspora, we do not become a rabbinic religion (granted, for good and bad). If it weren't for the Holocaust, maybe Israel doesn't exist as a nation. Yes, that means accepting the Holocaust. I don't think you'll find many rational people that are happy the Holocaust happened, but would the world be what it is today without it?

Look, we don't know. Maybe Israel exists without the Holocaust and the population of Germany and Poland are still going strong (though I doubt it, since the Final Solution was the culmination of an awful lot of other stuff). Maybe slavery ends peacefully without the Civil War (again, I doubt it). History is what it is and we just can't really play guessing games because people are rarely rational actors and can't be gamed out that way. During our visit to Chancellorsville yesterday, I claimed that the South would not have made the massive tactical error they made at Gettysburg in July, 1863, if Jackson had been around. My wife asked if that would have changed the outcome of the war. Realistically, at that point? Doubtful, as I thought about it. Grant was already laying siege to Vicksburg and that was the real turning point. As of January 1, 1863, the Emancipation Proclamation had gone into effect and the war had become holy in some ways, so it was doubtful that Lincoln just gives in to a house divided itself. You can make statements of how things would turn out, but you just can't know because they didn't actually happen and any revisionism -- be it the Lost Cause or a book like Fatherland -- is just fantasy.

Where we are in this world is built on the backs of successes and failures, triumphs and tragedies. I can want to change the present, but I can't hope that a different history had led to a different present because I don't really know if that difference would be positive. It's no shame to like who you are, even if you made bad decisions or something bad happened to you, and it's no shame to like who we are even if we made bad decisions or something bad happened to us. Our positive self-esteem -- as a person and as a people -- can come from the positive outcome of a tragedy.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Crazy History

One of the weirdest grave markers in the US is in a tiny family cemetery -- maybe ten total plots -- near the fields in a defunct plantation in Orange County, VA. The plantation, Ellwood, was home to a small family and their fifty to a hundred slaves. War came to that neck of the woods in May of 1863 when the Army of the Potomac, then led by "Fighting" Joe Hooker, clashed with Lee's Army of Northern Virginia in the area around the nearby home of the Chancellor family, known as Chancellorsville. The Battle of Chancellorsville is lesser known for being Lee's greatest victory, affording him the hubris to launch his ill-fated invasion of Pennsylvania a month later. The battle is better known for being the place in which the South's military prospects took a major hit, as their greatest tactician besides Lee, General Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson, was shot by his own men late at night after a scouting mission. Two bullets ended up in his left arm and he was rushed to the field hospital, which was set up at the aforementioned Ellwood plantation house. Doctors amputated the arm and he was taken to a house some miles away where he would die about a week later from pneumonia, having never recovered from his wounds. The arm was left on the floor of the house -- the floor is still painted black to cover the bloodstains -- and one of the house's inhabitants picked it up, wanting to make sure it was properly honored. This proper honor meant that they buried the arm in their small family cemetery. In the 148 years since, it has been verified twice that the arm is, indeed, buried there, under the only marker in the cemetery. A marker that pays homage to the appendage of a Southern hero.

Worst of the Worst: #19, Half Past Dead

Armed gunmen have taken over Alcatraz, which just reopened. They are holding a Supreme Court justice hostage. They are willing to stop at nothing to get what they want. And only one man can stop them: a trained killing machine... played by a 50-year-old, 300-something-pound Steven Seagal.

That's really all you need to know about this movie. The doughy, old Seagal of Steven Seagal: Lawman fame tries and fails to do his one-time action star thing. Ja Rule and Kurupt are both in it and, to the best of my prodigious movie brain, Training Day is the only movie that has more than one rapper in it and isn't awful (but still overrated). There's some back story about Seagal gaining trust as an undercover agent with Ja Rule, but it has nothing to do with anything, really. There's some kind of crazy execution chamber at the new Alcatraz where an inmate can die five different ways, but nobody ever gets killed in it, so who cares? The Supreme Court justice ends up helping someone with their sentence, which is impossible, but it's a freaking Steven Seagal-Ja Rule-Kurupt movie, so anything is technically possible, with the exception of quality.

You only need to know the plot and you need to know about the ending, which incorporates seven of the finest funny-bad minutes you'll ever see. The whole movie, itself, is hilarious, but it peaks at the end. I can't find video to embed because of that pesky copyright thing, so you'll have to see it for yourself. The bad guy, played by Morris Chestnut, has the Justice hostage in a helicopter. Seagal is chasing him in another helicopter. Chestnut throws the Justice out of the copter. Seagal dives out of his and after the woman. You can clearly see that the stunt double for the Justice is wearing a parachute under their coat. Seagal gets the woman in mid-air and saves her. Awesome part, #1. Awesome part, #2, takes place back at the prison where Seagal is visiting Ja Rule to let him know that the Justice has knocked down his sentence. Here starts a sequence as homo-erotic as it gets. Ja Rule asks what his sentence was knocked down to. Seagal replies, "It was knocked down to how fast can you get out of those clothes?" Ja Rule smiles and bites his lower lip. They fist pound through the glass and give each other happy looks while some soft music plays in the background. Such an amazing ending that I made my wife watch it with me and then I watched it a third time.

Kind of hard to believe, but eighty-two movies down, eighteen to go.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Worst of the Worst: #70, New Best Friend

Not only is there no chance that anyone has ever heard of this movie, but it's not even available on Netflix. It was released for one week in 100 theaters back in 2002 and it made all of $28,000. I was lucky enough to find it on HBO Go, so I sat down to enjoy Mia Kirshner and Taye Diggs do their thing. And then it started, and from the first moment I could tell it sucked. Just the credits alone. There's no way to look at one second of this movie and not think that it cost like $5 to make. Everything about it is shoddy, from the story to the direction to most of the acting.

The movie is about a small college in North Carolina that is only attended by misbehaving rich kids and one poor kid, but it's never explained why she would go there. The poor kid (Kirshner) turns up in the hospital in a coma from a drug overdose, but the circumstances are suspicious, so the young man who is vying to be sheriff investigates with the dean of the school breathing down his neck and trying to stop anything that will bother the rich kids. Diggs as the sheriff puts on an accent worthy of the awful rest of this movie, but you have to wonder why he's even in this. He's way too good an actor and way too big a star for the rest of the garbage that they float out there. The story is told through his investigation, interspersed with a number of flashbacks that come from him interviewing the suspects and other parties of interest. And by "interest" I mean in the case, but nobody was of interest to me in this entire thing. With these flashbacks, most of the movie comes to be told in a Rashomon style. The two problems with that are that a) in a mystery it means that most of the movie could be completely meaningless until the true ending is revealed and b) this movie should never, ever be mentioned in even the same language as anything by Kurosawa.

There are a few scenes where the director attempts to use sex to distract you from the shoddiness of the rest of the movie, but even some actual porn has better acting than most of what's in this one. The story is brought together in an ending that mostly makes sense, but, as I said before, doesn't necessarily fit with anything that happened in any of the flashbacks. You just wind up feeling bad for Taye Diggs, vaguely wondering why one of the characters eats ceramic plates (no lie), and being really happy that the movie is over and you can mark another one off your list.

Catching Up

HBO Go is amazing. It's HBO's online on demand site and it has every episode of every show. Want to re-watch The Wire? Catch up on Treme? Just finally finished The Pacific and still need to watch the second half of Boardwalk Empire. The Pacific is depressing, if only because of how we are losing that generation, but it is so well-done. And really, really gory.

Other than that, watch tonight's Community. So funny my mouth hurt from smiling so much.

Now, on to catch up on 90210. Spring break!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Listening, Feeling My Feelings, and Brunch

On a bit of a hiatus from work which means kind of a procrastinating attitude about everything. Traffic Light is really funny, Survivor was really crazy, blah blah blah. Just thinking about 4/20 and how the world might be different if Hitler was a pothead. "Goehring, do you hear that? That was my skull! I am so wasted!"

Monday, April 18, 2011

Worst of the Worst: #60, The Perfect Man

There have been a number of different ways by which the movies on this list have gone wrong. You've had everything from bad acting to bad direction, even some bad cinematography. In some of the movies, just everything missed. It's rare that I could point to one thing and say, "That's it. But for that one thing, the movie would be at least mediocre." The Perfect Man is just such a movie. But for one thing, it wouldn't be so bad. The problem is that the "one thing" is the story and the script. The acting was fine. Hilary Duff isn't bad, especially in the precocious teen role. Heather Locklear was likable. Who can hate Chris Noth in anything? Nothing was so off with the direction or the pacing. All of those point to a romantic comedy that would not be remarkable in either a positive or negative way. But just like how story can overcome a lot of other factors in a movie, an awful story can sink a movie even if everything else is okay, and the writing that forms the skeleton of this film is so awful that it drags the movie towards the depths of being one of the worst romantic comedies ever.

Locklear plays a woman whose husband left her when she found out she was pregnant (of course, how she ended up with two daughters in that scenario confused me) and, since then, has moved with said daughters from town to town, always leaving after being burned by the last ugly relationship. She's so desperate for a man that she stands up at a parent-teacher assembly and complains about it. Duff is the precocious daughter who has a blog about her constant moves around the country. This lets her provide a narration of the movie, but it again confuses me that she blogs about things she feels about her mother while nobody seems to read it. Upon moving to Brooklyn, Duff decides, with the help of her really stereotypically Brooklyn friend, to invent a perfect man to make her mother happy so they don't have to move anymore. She sends flowers and e-mails and uses a picture of her friend's uncle -- played by Chris Noth, so you know how the movie ends already -- to give the guy a face. Okay, fine, I guess that's cute. This leads to a number of problems:
  • The mother is sad about her love life, so inventing a guy that she can never meet isn't going to help anyone.
  • The mother meets a nice, but less attractive, guy who really seems to like her. This "perfect man" ruins that guy's life by making the mother not interested.
  • Noth's character is nothing to but nice to Duff, but now she's embroiled him in this horrible scheme to lie to her mother and, in one scene, his restaurant is destroyed by a sprinkler system as Duff tries to avoid him and Locklear seeing each other.
What, in one light, can be seen as a precocious teen trying to help her mother feel better can be seen, in a more correct light, as a selfish kid destroying lives around her for the sake of sport. In this more correct light, the plot isn't so much cute as deranged. Sure, maybe everyone's happy in the end except for the nice, less attractive guy, but at what cost? And who else wasn't happy in the end? Everyone who had to see the movie. By the end, I mean the very end. There are some great last lines in movies, from "Louis, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship" to "And, like that... he's gone" to "I hear voices." Throw The Perfect Man in that pile! The movie ends as Duff decides that she no longer needs to blog about moving around anymore and says, "Now I don't just have a homepage, I have a home."

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Nell... From The Movie "Nell"

  • Rant:
    • Not much more annoying these days than the "repost" things on Facebook, the social media version of chain mail, but one has gotten me particularly up in arms. It talks about how we should be angry because the President and Congress make so much more than the average American salary. There's cutely up-in-arms and then there's grossly naive. Not only do I not want my politicians to be making $35,000 a year, but the President, at $400,000, is horribly underpaid. How many CEOs of even small companies make more than that? $400K to be under the pressure that comes with that position? Bothers me when I see how stupid some of my "friends" can be.
  • Random Pop Culture:
    • No show on TV right now comes anywhere close to Parks and Recreation. Maybe that'll change when Treme comes back in a couple of weeks, but just maybe. Tonight's episode was as good as a sitcom gets and it was just as good as any number of episodes of that show.
    • "So, not only does this thing exist, but you deprived these people of cake." -- Ron Swanson, talking about a vegetable loaf. One of a ton of great lines in tonight's Parks and Rec.
    • 30 Rock has been up and down, but tonight's was up. Way up. Wouldn't be surprised if that becomes a trend with Tracy Morgan finally back. It takes pressure off of Tina Fey and Alec Baldwin to carry the show by themselves.
  • History:
    • On this day, ninety-nine years ago, the Titanic hit an iceberg. On this day, one hundred and forty-six years ago, Abraham Lincoln was shot by John Wilkes Booth. Booth deprived us of our greatest president and how he may have handled Reconstruction. The iceberg made it possible for Celine Dion to make that song. Which was worse, I ask you?

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

And They Are Indisputable

These are the facts:
  • It's interesting how Rob was such a good guy on Survivor: Heroes vs. Villians when he was pitted against Russell, but has gone back to his Machiavellian ways this season.
  • Dreading the impending Passover holiday. I prefer one day of no food to eight days of extreme restriction.
  • Finally time to watch hockey!
  • Still weeks away from the time to watch pro basketball!
  • People joke about how much the French love Jerry Lewis, but I've never seen anyone analyze it. My hypothesis is that they are so low on inhibitions compared to the Americans that they are non-chalant about many things that we find funny. So, being used to sex and their bodies, they have to find something else. Namely, the man who wrote The Day The Clown Cried (read about that here). They can have their Jerry Lewis and their lack of inhibition. I say: boobies and doody.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Seven Score And Ten Years Ago

150 years ago at 4:30 A.M., the battery on Charleston's waterfront opened fire on Fort Sumter. By the end of the war that followed, one in every fifty Americans would be dead and one in every twenty-eight Americans would be a casualty of some sort. More Americans died in this war than in every other war the country has ever had, combined. It's the story of a people standing by the only way their economy worked, slavery, and rising up against their federal government. There's nothing heroic about that Lost Cause, nothing romantic. With the military technology outpacing the outdated military strategy, the battles turned into slaughters. With medicine not anywhere close to where it is today, wounds were not cared for correctly and infection was rampant. The Civil War is interesting because of what it tells us about the way our country struggled to go from a fledgling democracy to an established nation. It's interesting because its repercussions are still being felt in almost anything that happens nationally, from the Tea Party to the idea of a "Real America." It is not romantic.

But, before all of the carnage, the war started in the city that held the first secession convention, one of the most beautiful cities in the country. It started in the harbor in the picture above, in the fort you can see off in the distance.

Watch the full episode. See more Ken Burns.

Monday, April 11, 2011


Wow. Nothing happened today other than a really lame How I Met Your Mother episode and, thanks to Vincent Gray getting arrested at a protest, the largest collection of "the bitch set me up" jokes in years. So, we'll stop there and wait for tomorrow. As I write this, it is 11:30PM on the east coast and we are five hours away from some sort of milestone or another. More to come on that.

Sunday, April 10, 2011


If you'll excuse the absence after a personally topsy-turvy week, I'll ease myself back in with a quick post on three movies I watched over the weekend:

  • Saw 127 Hours, making Black Swan the only of the Best Picture nominees I have yet to see. 127 Hours is, simply, a phenomenal movie. Beautiful camera work, exhilarating plot, great acting, very inspiring. "The scene" is very short and, for the most part, not that graphic. Loved it.

  • Mystery Team was a film at Sundance a couple of years ago, made by a comedy troupe from NYU that starred Donald Glover. The movie deals with three eighteen-year-olds who were one the Encyclopedia Browns of their neighborhood and are now called upon to solve a murder. Glover got the part on Community because of his work in this film and he more or less plays the same type of character. If you like the good portion of NBC's Thursday night shows -- and if you don't, how could you possibly read this blog -- you should like this movie.

  • With Sidney Lumet passing on Saturday, I took the opportunity to revisit his most famous movie, Network. Brilliant acting turns by Peter Finch, William Holden, and Faye Dunaway, and an Oscar-winning script highlight this look at the dirty business of television. People say that this plot, dealing with a faltering new division that turns its broadcast into entertainment to make money, prophesied the current state of TV news. That may be true, but I was also taken by how the movie proves that people will always overreact and think that their current situation is unique. The movie, made in 1976 (and how about the fact that four of the five Best Picture nominees in 1967 were this one, Rocky, All The President's Men, and Taxi Driver), has parts where Holden as the old-guard news producer rails about the younger generation and how they don't care about newspapers and will believe that anything on TV is real. Sound familiar? There is nothing new under the sun.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011


In LA for the week and, since I'm not able to get around at all to go sightseeing (with the possible exception of walking down Rodeo Drive at some point or looking for the Peach Pit), I was really looking forwards to the National Championship game. That worked out, huh? Statistically, it really was among the two worst games ever. An awful ending to a fun tournament, as anti-climactic as it gets.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Worst of the Worst: #76, Johnson Family Vacation

Cedric the Entertainer leads his family across the country to a family reunion. Wacky hijinks ensue. Bow Wow raps. It actually has a couple of laughs, but most of it is really, really stupid and it's boring enough that it feels like it is twice its actual length. The big mistake is that they couldn't rip off all of National Lampoon's Vacation, so they wound up with two half-movies, one about the road trip and one about sibling rivalry at the family reunion. It's disjointed and that makes it seem all the more tedious. Not one that's worth getting too worked up over.