This may or may not be the greatest political spot since LBJ's "Daisy" ad. I might have picked a different Bowie track. But Hunter Baker at The American Spectator summed it up: "This is beautiful."
Entertainment Weekly has a spread on the new J.J. Abrams' Star Trek movie. Despite the presence of so many beautiful people, it ain't pretty.
Is the world ready again for Trek's optimistic vision of the future? Some involved with the film suspect the presidential election may have a dramatic effect on how Star Trek will be perceived. ''This is a franchise that offers hope for unity — and so does Barack Obama,'' says (the great Zachary "Sylar") Quinto, who has stumped for the Democratic presidential nominee. ''When this movie comes out, and Obama is president, hopefully there will be some parallels.''
Oh, for God's sake. Remember the '90s? Hollywood loved Bill Clinton. What's better than love? I'm not sure there is such a thing.
OK, OK... what's worse?
(Hat tip: Dirty Harry)
As unlikely as it might be, McCain may still win this thing. And, if that happens, Canada might be a good option for apoplectic lefties who cannot abide to live in such an awful, backward, ignorant and racist society. SlateV.com has produced a helpful commercial for those who have an eye on The Great White North.
And, no, Joel. I'm not trying to start a fight, too. Just thought it was funny.
How do you make a movie starring Oscar darlings Leo DiCaprio and Russell Crowe a bomb? Make the plot about how the war on terror is just an evil excuse for the evil CIA to play their evil games on an evil playground. Not even the great (and fellow Oscar darling) Ridley Scott directing could save the tired, anti-American plot.
Not to brag, but I called it. Just $13 million in the opening weekend. And as ExUrb Kevin notes, it really hurts to have your big, Oscar-bait movie that has SOMETHING IMPORTANT TO SAY!!! beat out by ... a chihuahua.
But, I guess, in defense of Leo, Crowe and Scott, the chihuahua talks.
Laughin' to keep from cryin'...
This is probably an old video I'm just now getting around to seeing, but it's still pretty cool. A black, Los Angeles-based musician rants for almost 10 minutes on why he is a conservative Republican, is voting for McCain, loves Sarah Palin, and is still genuinely black. Good, tough, stuff.
Donald Fagen, like Zarathustra before him, descends from his misty mountain and holds forth: "Vote for the candidate of your choice: either the young, crisp, energetic Barack Obama, or the old, nasty, scary, paranoid guy."
Takes one to know one, Don.
Walter Becker couldn't be reached for comment, most likely because nobody gives a crap.
(Via Jay Rosen.)
In the spirit of a popular Monkey Post from a while back about erasing bands from music history — the one where Monkey Brad ripped on the Zaius clan for liking Dire Strait's "Skateaway" — I present another musical diversion from politics: What are some of the greatest cover songs in history?
Mrs. Zaius and I actually started writing some stuff down at about the time Monkey Brad did the original post, and we came up with a looooong list. But in the interest of brevity (for now), we've juried our selections and have narrowed it down to five from our original list. Enjoy! Comment on our selections — and, naturally, come up with your own list.
In no particular order ...
CAKE, "I WILL SURVIVE": OK. This one is in order — a Dr. Z indulgence to put it No. 1. But this is my all-time favorite cover. John McCrea's syncopated vocals — funny, ironic and touching all at once — are just priceless. You just gotta sing along — eve ... ry .... sin ... gle ... syl ... a ... ble. It ain't easy to sing along right, but it's worth the work, which is just one of the things that makes this cover great. They've got the live horn! A kickin' bass line!! And they've got liberal use of the vibraslap!!! (a real instrument that I played in symphonic band in college). What else do you need? (It takes 19 seconds for the video to get rolling. Be patient.)
JOHNNY CASH, "HURT": Trent Reznor's lyics sound trite coming out of his mouth compared to The Man In Black. It seems so incongruous for a man of Cash's stature and maturity to cover a song by an industrial rocker who, cynics would say, is a poseur. But you realize after hearing this that Reznor can actually write. Every syllable from the dying Cash in this song is sad, painful, and brilliant. And the way the video string clips from Cash's wife with his beloved June (to whom he is singing) make the song even more poignant. And, yes, this video should be No. 1.
THEY MIGHT BE GIANTS, "ISTANBUL": The fact that many people think this is a TMBG original says it all. A great cover obliterates the original (by The Four Lads in 1953, for the record).
RED HOT CHILI PEPPERS, "HIGHER GROUND": It's a brave band that attempts to cover one of the greatest song-writers in American music. But the LA Bad Boys do such a great job that it's not blasphemy to say they updated Stevie Wonder's classic arrangement quite well on Mother's Milk. Much credit to the rhythm section of Flea on bass and Chad Smith on drums, but it wouldn't work at all unless the newly-added John Frusciante did such a good job transferring Wonder's keyboards to the guitar.
TRAVIS, "HIT ME BABY, ONE MORE TIME": What started as a gag at a radio interview turned into a cover classic. The song is (sadly) not available on iTunes, but its worth trying to snag elsewhere. What you discover from hearing this song is that ... well ... it's good. That is, if you play it with the cheeky earnestness with which Travis performs it. Giggles (and greater respect) galore.
Philip Klein at the American Spectator picks up on something I was too tired and too tipsy to appreciate last night in Conor Friedersdorf's assessment of Sarah Palin. (This is why one must sometimes insert caveats -- which was the purpose of the "more or less" that I attached to my endorsement.)
To put a finer point on this, I ask the following of everyone who watched tonight's debate -- were John McCain assassinated at his inauguration by terrorists, even as two American cities saw buildings partially blown up by truck bombs, and Vladimir Putin used the opportunity to move troops into a former Soviet Repulic, would you trust that Governor Palin would have the knowledge, credibility, bearing and calming influence on the country to handle the situation? Or would having her in the Oval Office freak you out in a deep way? I'd be frightened, and I expect a lot of people now supporting Governor Palin would think, "Oh God, what have I done."
That is a bit much. Klein's rejoinder is cutting: "What if the Silver Surfer came to Earth and said Galactus was going to consume the planet? Who would make him feel safe then?"
Klein's colleague, J.P. Friere, takes the theme and runs with it:
Better yet: Let's say Magneto had started a war between super-powered mutants and humans, claiming that the only way super-powered mutants could be safe is for humans to die. Could Sarah Palin possibly broker a truce between the factions?
Or: Doomsday comes to earth and kills Superman. Would the DC gun regulations as they stand get in the way of Sarah Palin loading up on some buckshot and taking the fight to him?
Or: A gigantic asteroid is flying toward earth. Will she, Todd, and a group of scrappy oil rig workers be able to prevent us all from meeting certain doom?
Or: A cyborg sent from the future is sent to kill her in order to prevent her from leading us in the coming robot wars. Is John McCain strong enough to protect her?
There's more. As Friere notes: "REMEMBER: This is the most important election we'll ever vote in. EVER. MOST. IMPORTANTEST."
If this election were a religious figure, it would be bigger than Jesus. (Which is a coded way of saying Barack Obama is a secret Muslim.)
By the way, I should mention that I know Conor a little bit from when he worked at the San Bernardino Sun. He's a very talented and conscientious journalist, so I wouldn't begrudge him going over the top in this case. The collegial ribbing might do him some good.
"'Vic Tayback is dead.' For those of you who don’t know, those four words are right wing code for, Barack Obama is a Muslim — pass it on…"
UPDATE: See the comments, below, from the man who identifies himself as the ad's producer and my response to him.
You know those DirecTV spots that take scenes from semi-classic films and turn them into clever pitches for satellite television? There was a very good ad featuring Sigourney Weaver from Aliens, and then there was a sharp spot with Robert Patrick as the T-1000 in Terminator 2. Good stuff, both of those ads.
Then, just a couple of minutes ago, I saw an ad featuring Craig T. Nelson and the ghost of Heather O'Rourke in Poltergeist, hawking DirecTV. Heather O'Rourke died horribly in 1988 from septic shock. Her death, at 12 years of age, fueled speculation that the Poltergeist films were somehow cursed.
I don't believe the Poltergeist films were cursed. But I do think that DirecTV might be. At least, I hope so. Does the fact that O'Rourke has been dead 20 years make the ad any less tawdry? Did Nelson need the money that badly? Creepy, disturbing and cheap exploitation doesn't sell. Unless it does. Bastards.
Update: Apparently I'm not the only one who thinks the ad is in poor taste:
(T)oday's ad gave me a wiggins. It featured Craig T. Nelson and Heather O'Rourke from the famous "they're here" scene. Nelson was de-aged too, much less realistically, but it was the image of little Heather that creeped me out. It just didn't seem right somehow. The poor girl died while filming Poltergeist III. . . Maybe her parents approved the ad, as it keeps her image alive, or maybe the creepiness factor works because of the dead/alive nature of the whole Poltergeist series? I don't know. I certainly noticed the ad, so maybe it does work.
Sure, it "works." But it's a distraction from what DirecTV is trying to sell. A lot of attention-grabbing material is downright bad. There is always the question of whether a controversy does more to advance a commercial message than the actual commercial. Sometimes, sure. But, helpful or not, it would be wrong to let this spot pass without expressing disapproval.
It isn't all financial-meltdown, all the time around here. And thank goodness for that! The 2003 American Idol runner-up comes out of the closet in this week's People magazine, according to the AP and the execrable PerezHilton.com. The AP emphasizes the sort of non-story aspect of the news in the lede: "Clay Aiken is finally confirming what many people already knew: He's gay. The cover of the latest People magazine shows Aiken holding his infant son, Parker Foster Aiken, with the headline: 'Yes, I'm Gay.' The cover also has the quote: 'I cannot raise a child to lie or hide things.'"
What makes the story interesting is the tension on display between privacy and publicity. Everyone knew Aiken is gay. Nobody much cared -- nobody, that is, except for bottom-feeding celebrity watchers like Perez Hilton.
Aiken, to his credit, always handled the questions about his private life deftly, like a gentleman. "I don't really feel like I have anybody to answer to but myself and God and the people I love," he told the AP in 2006. Quite right. I guess with the odd circumstances surrounding the birth of his son, Aiken felt like he had to come out. That's too bad in a way, but it's his life.
I trace this phenomenon back to Ellen DeGeneres. Everyone knew Ellen is gay. Nobody much cared -- nobody, that is, except the professional homosexuals who felt an obligation to out prominent gays and lesbians as some kind of public service to the gay community. I remember perusing the shelves at the long-gone Tower Records bookstore on Ventura Boulevard in the mid-'90s and seeing DeGeneres's book, My Point (And I Do Have One)... stuck in the gay and lesbian section. I surmised that it was a prank. But I remember thinking at the time, "That's so sad. Why can't people just leave her alone?"
Ellen, of course, came out in 1997 to much fanfare. Once liberated, she couldn't shut up. One could argue that by making her sexuality a focus of her sitcom, DeGeneres undermined the show's success and audience goodwill. Recall that the show lasted one more season before ABC pulled the plug. DeGeneres has gone on to a fairly successful post-sitcom career, however, so there is that.
Will Clay Aiken's popularity suffer because of his revelation? Maybe a little, but probably not much. Americans tend to be live-and-let-live people, up to a point. At least Aiken -- and his fans -- won't be subjected to the umpteenth rude question about his sex life.
Here's a charming profile of the mighty Abe Vigoda, now a robust 87 years old and clearly very much alive. Vigoda discusses Barney Miller, the frequently exaggerated news of his death, and his very first film role as the "Coppola Restoration" of The Godfather hits stores.
Sarah Palin is one tough, confident broad (so tough and confident, she surely knows that I use the term "broad" as a compliment). I doubt attacks by the likes of Hollywood lefty airheads like Sandra Bernhard and Bill Maher make her more upset than when her son's hockey team lost a game. She understands that when a liberal woman seeks power, she is helped with a tailwind of hosannas from the establishment. But when a conservative woman tries the same thing, we get stuff like mockery of her Down syndrome child, or "Uncle Woman" and gang-rape "jokes" ... (Sandra doesn't use the term, but the video below is bad enough. Don't click on it if you're offended by bad language.)
And slightly more mild putdowns.
Keep it up, dummies. If you think this crap will actually help convince the public to vote against Republicans, you're kidding yourselves. Most non-lefty voters think: What's wrong with you? And then they think: Maybe it's not a good idea to vote the way these people think we should, and hand the whole government over to the politicians they support.
The irony is that people like Bernhard and Maher think religious people are "scary," and unreasonable, and strange. Look in the mirror, dummies. Religious people aren't snake-handling freaks. They are hard-working, well-rounded, well-grounded people who love and understand their country in a way you never could. They have the hearts to work with the poor and the courage to try to stop gang violence on the ground — not, as Maher would put it, from 10,000 feet.
You are the freaks. But keep the freak show going, guys. My over-under on the electoral college result keeps going up. I've now got McCain at 300-something.
Ordinarily, I wouldn't inflict Keith Olbermann on all my right-leaning friends here. But he's proclaiming a truth too important to be denied.
From the Wall Street Journal on Friday: "Grit-lit is a thoroughly American enterprise, combining our restless, relentless urge for self-improvement; a sometimes rather goofy can-do spirit, not unlike flagpole-sitting or goldfish-swallowing; and the desire to complete a quantifiable task in a specific amount of time." Read the whole thing... moderately.
Just so you know, mateys.
As soon as Palin was announced, my friend Deuce mentioned how much she looks like Tina Fey. When I finally saw her, I couldn't wait for the inevitable appearance on Saturday Night Live. In that regard, last week's premiere didn't disappoint:
Of course, in almost every other regard, the show was a complete bust. Weekend Update was about the only other segment that I remember being amused by. Ah, well.
Pink Floyd founder and keyboardist Richard Wright died Monday of cancer. He was 65.
It's all too common to think of Pink Floyd as Roger Waters, David Gilmour, and some other guys. In fact, Wright wrote many of the band's earliest and best compositions, including "Us and Them" and "The Great Gig in the Sky." "Echoes," which is probably my favorite Floyd instrumental, was written around a single Wright piano note.
And according to the BBC: "As a keyboardist and songwriter, Richard Wright helped create the pioneering psychedelic sound that made Pink Floyd one of the world's greatest groups. His atmospheric, jazzy organs and synthesisers were at times at the forefront of their songs, and at others provided a dreamy undercurrent upon which the rest of the band could drift."
No one can replace Richard Wright. He was my musical partner and my friend.
In the welter of arguments about who or what was Pink Floyd, Rick's enormous input was frequently forgotten.
He was gentle, unassuming and private but his soulful voice and playing were vital, magical components of our most recognised Pink Floyd sound.
I have never played with anyone quite like him. The blend of his and my voices and our musical telepathy reached their first major flowering in 1971 on 'Echoes'. In my view all the greatest PF moments are the ones where he is in full flow. After all, without 'Us and Them' and 'The Great Gig In The Sky', both of which he wrote, what would 'The Dark Side Of The Moon' have been? Without his quiet touch the Album 'Wish You Were Here' would not quite have worked.
In high school, I really only knew Pink Floyd through "Dark Side of the Moon" and "The Wall," and even then not very well. Monkey David properly introduced me to Pink Floyd in all their glory in 1990. I hope he has more to say later about Rick Wright's contributions and legacy.
For now, however, it should suffice to say: Rest in peace.
With apologies to The Onion, it appears that many Oprah fans are shaking off their blind allegiance thanks to Oprah's refusal to book Sarah Palin on her show. The vast majority of comments at the "Community" Oprah built on her Web site run the gamut from bitter disappointment to utter disgust. They seem especially irked by Oprah's official statement on the matter:
The item in today’s Drudge Report is categorically untrue. There has been absolutely no discussion about having Sarah Palin on my show. At the beginning of this presidential campaign when I decided that I was going to take my first public stance in support of a candidate, I made the decision not to use my show as a platform for any of the candidates. I agree that Sarah Palin would be a fantastic interview, and I would love to have her on after the campaign is over.” – Oprah Winfrey, September 5, 2008
This, of course, is utter nonsense. While it's true that Obama had not officially announced his candidacy for president when he appeared on Oprah's show in 2005 and 2006, polls showed that he was the Democrats' No. 2 choice in 2006. Oprah did let Obama use her show as a "platform." And he was "not yet" running for president as much as Hillary was "not yet" running for president. This attempt to hide obvious bias against Republicans behind such a skinny lamppost is an insult to the intelligence of even regular Oprah watchers:
Ouch. That backlash is already well under way. Oprah might have pushed more of her viewers to the McCain-Palin ticket with this move than if she just put Palin on the show. This whole episode, it's safe to say, will not be one of Oprah's favorite things:
Ann and Nancy Wilson are pissed at the Republican Party and have fired off a cease and desist letter to the McCain/Palin campaign.
Specifically, the Heart women are upset that the GOP has used their classic "Barracuda" as a theme song for Sarah Palin. TMZ obtained a statement from Heart's rep, who says "The Republican campaign did not ask for permission to use the song, nor would they have been granted that permission."
The statement goes on: "We have asked the Republican campaign publicly not to use our music. We hope our wishes will be honored."
Hey, it's their song. The dudgeon-level seems awfully high, though: "Heart's Nancy Wilson felt compelled to personally respond. 'I think it's completely unfair to be so misrepresented,' she said in a phone call to EW.com after the speech. 'I feel completely f---ed over.'" Yes. What is the world coming to?
Heh. Those wacky Obama worshipers. They've come out with a bumper sticker they are sure is going to stick it to McCain-Palin. Putting aside the fact Ace noted — that this line of thinking only reinforces the Obamessiah storyline that is sure to creep out those all-important independent swing voters — it's pretty easy to play this game.
With due apologies to Wallace Shawn, we can go on all day with this. Inconceivable!
(HT: ExUrb Jon)
Obama and Palin are not super-competent policy minds; they are not consummate political machine drivers; they are not public fixtures or tribal elders or longtime household names. They are reminders, though, that our leaders need not be superheroes.
Instead, they work to reinforce the idea that our heroes and leaders should be superstar versions of average Americans.
Americans have long reveled in the cult of the average—an understandable but exaggerated pride in the conspicuousness of everyday accomplishments. In our Facebooked, reality-TV era of fleeting, everyday fame, more of us than ever consciously mimic our mass celebrities. Telegenic young politicians like Obama and Palin, even as they offer an escape from corruption and dishonor in national politics, enable a lurid kind of personality-driven populism. Obama is the incarnation of many of the left's deepest fantasies about transcending race while remaining wholly race-conscious. Palin, similarly, incarnates the contemporary right's aspirational dreams about the modern conservative supermom—hot, fecund, professional, and good with a hunting rifle.
These are not just gratifying but tangible realizations of tropes that capture plenty of real cultural anxieties. Even still, they may be exploited by big-time ideological politics as freely as American symbols past—the war hero, the folksy southerner, the cowboy. Our desperation to break free from the politics of the past fifteen years can run away with our hope, distorting it into a half-conscious and romantic illusion of the false normalcy of our new superstars.
There is much truth in this. We hear a lot about the appeal of outsiders and a deep-seated yearning among voters for a new politics. That is buncombe. It's politics, after all. Just politics, and nothing loftier than that.
The Beijing Olympics ended today, thank God. We won't have to concern ourselves with China's human rights record ever again. The next summer games will be held in London, home of the Finsbury Park Mosque and foul-mouthed chef Gordon Ramsay. At the big closing ceremony, Chinese officials handed off the Olympics banner to London big-wigs while crowds pretended to rock out to a bowdlerized 40-year-old classic. Prudish organizers said Led Zeppelin's "Whole Lotta Love" was too racy for the Olympics and asked for changes.
Apparently, producers in London thought it wouldn't be appropriate for a woman to sing some of the more sexually suggestive lyrics. I don't understand why. The song is a big metaphor, right?
I can just imagine the conversation between London Mayor Boris Johnson and Plant and Page:
Boris Johnson: Now, boys, the committee has a problem with some of your lyrics. Do you mind changing them for the show?
Robert Plant: Forget you, clown.
Jimmy Page: Yeah, our lyrics are like our children, man. No way.
Johnson: Well, okay, but here where it says, "I'm gonna give you every inch of my love," how about just, "I'm gonna give you every bit of my love."
Plant: Wow. That's much better.
Page: Everyone can enjoy that.