I’ve been remiss in both processing and shooting this year. Here’s all that was in the pipeline:
- St. Vincent, Massseduction
- OH SWEET LORD YES.
- Jane Harper, The Dry
- BASICALLY MYSTERY BY NUMBERS.
- The National, Sleep Well Beast
- DEEP VOICE STILL SAD.
- Lord Huron, Strange Trails
- ABUNDANT PLEASING COUPLETS.
- Jonathan Lethem, A Gambler’s Anatomy
- LOTS OF BACKGAMMON. LITTLE ELSE.
- Edgar Wright, Baby Driver
- 20 MINUTES OF JOY.
- Ted Leo, The Hanged Man
- DO YOURSELF A FAVOR.
- The War On Drugs, A Deeper Understanding
- Charlie Jane Anders, All the Birds in the Sky
- John LeCarre, Legacy of Spies
- FUN, BUT ODDLY EPHEMERAL.
Except, well, this time. How can you argue with this?
Here’s the whole list. Enjoy.
Exhibit A, the 1980 video for Dire Straits’ “Romeo and Juliet” — a great song, to be sure:
Too bad about that video, because HOLY CRAP it’s kind of amazing this effort didn’t kill the whole notion of music videos in its crib. After about the 5th or 6th time I realized the shot was directly and literally mirroring the lyrics, I started making notes. Follow along if you dare.
- 0:20 “laying everybody low”
- As the Romeo actor saunters down a stylized hallway, actors he passes collapse to the floor.
- 0:47 “He’s underneath the window”
- He is underneath a stylized featureless wall with a high window, in which our Juliet lounges.
- 1:03 “…the dice was loaded from the start”
- A disembodied hand shakes and releases dice. The dice have Romeo and Juliet’s faces on them!
- 1:09 “…and you exploded in my heart”
- The Romeo die explodes.
- 1:18 “…the movie song…”
- New set, invoking a movie theater MST3K-style with patron silhouettes in front below a screen. Juliet is on the screen.
- 1:38 “..come up on different streets”
- Romeo and Juliet sashay towards the camera down two parallel, stylized hallways — separated by a wall, natch. Is nothing is too on the nose for this director?
- 1:57 “…fall for chains of silver”
- I think we have our answer.
- 1:59 “…chains of gold…”
- We absolutely have our answer.
- 2:05 “…pretty strangers…”
- A smiling, handsome man in a cheesy fedora rolls by in a T-top Camaro.
- 2:22 “…when we make love, you used to cry”
- This guy makes Brian De Palma look subtle. It’s a tight shot of Juliet’s eye and a single, absurdly large tear. Obviously.
- 2:28 “…there’s a place for us”
- Two folks enter the movie theater set, and take the only two seats left. At least the two people aren’t together, and aren’t Romeo and Juliet, so progress, maybe?
- 2:38 “…just that the time was wrong”
- We’re still in the theater, but the film stops on a shot of Romeo trying to speak to Juliet — but the film stops, and the celluloid burns away! Tragic! Edgy! (And, I assume, completely baffling to millennials.)
- 2:52 “I can’t do the talk like the talk on the TV”
- JESUS CHRIST JUST SHOOT ME. It’s a shot of woman’s disembodied legs wrapped around a small television, on which we see a nose-down shot of a male actor rapidly moving his mouth around as if he’s talking.
- 3:14 “All I do is miss you”
- Our Romeo has fallen from a height and is splayed out, miserably, against a wall. This may seem like progress, but you will be disappointed, because it’s just a setup for what comes next.
- 3:17 “…and the way we used to be”
- Juliet magically fades in, lounging beside him, and then fades away again.
- 3:23 “and keep bad company”
- Romeo is still splayed out as before, but is now surrounded by a several sets of standing legs.
- 3:27 “kiss you”
- Kisses mean lips! The shot cuts briefly from Romeo’s splayed form to a tight shot of Juliet’s lips, then back to Romeo, over and over.
- 3:39 “…used to cry…”
- Improbably enormous tear shot repeats from 2:22.
- 3:46 “there’s a place for us”
- We’re in the theater set again, but now it’s just R&J seated front and center watching a film of themselves lying on a rug together all cozy.
- 3:56 “it’s just that the time was wrong”
- The movie versions of our heroes vanish, leaving the poignantly empty rug.
- INTERPRETIVE DANCE; fadeout as Knopfler plays.
At The Daily Beast, re: Mr Page’s baffling testimony, in an article with the fanTAStic title “The Strange Pleasure of Seeing Carter Page Set Himself on Fire”.
Watching Carter Page immolate himself and incriminate a half dozen of his colleagues from the Trump-Putin 2016 campaign has been a strange, almost guilty pleasure. Profoundly disconnected, socially awkward, and reeking of late-stage virginity, he gives off the creepy Uncanny Valley vibe of a rogue, possibly murderous android or of a man with a too-extensive knowledge of human taxidermy and a soundproofed van.
The whole piece is a gold mine, actually:
The delta between Trump’s imagination of himself and the brand image that he desperately wants to sell is always wide; he’s the “billionaire” lout playing the Manhattan sophisticate who gorges on fast food. He’s a man with a lemur wig and a five-pound bolus of chin-wattle who think’s he’s irresistible to women. He’s the serially bankrupt master of the Art of the Deal. The TV talk show character who snuck into the Oval Office on a tide of Russian influence and now thinks he won on the merits.
Recent testing showed they were still failing to find “threatening items” over 80% of the time in randomized tests.
We can expect Congress to yell about this, and the TSA to change procedures some trivial amount in an attempt to “improve,” but that’s the wrong lesson here.
Here’s what we know:
- The TSA just failed another test by an enormous margin.
- The TSA has failed these tests repeatedly for 16 years.
- This means the TSA is absolutely not stopping most “forbidden items” from getting on planes.
- And yet, air travel is absurdly safe.
The only intellectually honest conclusion here is that the TSA is utterly, completely pointless. We’re spending billions but failing to stop even trivially “forbidden” items. Those items make it onto planes. Nobody dies. The TSA has never foiled an actual plot; all they do is confiscate liquids and nail clippers, and generally increase the hassle factor of flight.
Their efficacy in thwarting airborne terrorism might be debatable if they were shown to do even a C+ level job of their mission, but here we see the truth: They’re crap at their job, have ALWAYS been crap at their job, and yet air travel is absurdly, mind-bogglingly safe — and that safety has nothing to do with the TSA, and never has.
Security is always about balancing access with safety. We put up with some hassles in exchange for value. The TSA provides no value, but is constantly ramping up their hassle. This is a bad deal, and we need to end it.
End the TSA. Now. We’ve wasted billions on security theater in the last 16 years, and we have nothing to show for it except angry travelers and long lines.
I am reliably informed that, last evening, the collection of millionaire athletes ostensibly based in Houston defeated a similar squad based on Los Angeles, and as such now engage in a break — I think it’s two months? — before starting the entire process all over again.
This calls into question the meaning of such an event, but you’d never know that from the city’s reaction.
I will, however, have to rejigger my maxim regarding big-time Houston sports, which heretofore I assumed were banned from championships by the Illuminati. The only exceptions up to now have been the ’94 and ’95 Rockets, and I think we can all understand how the Conspiracy was caught flat-footed by the utterly improbable development of Michael Jordan forsaking the Bulls and going to play baseball in Alabama for two years.
Still not as cool as the Cubs winning, though.
Ever see one go 450 miles an hour?
Also, TIL that there exists jet model airplanes.
(My assumption is that this is an impossibly expensive undertaking, obviously.)
Amazon Key is a new service that lets their couriers COME INTO YOUR HOUSE to drop off packages.
HOLY CRAP what a shitty idea. Please listen to me; I know things. For one thing, “smart” door locks absolutely aren’t. They’re less secure than conventional keys, because an attack on your door lock needn’t be local — even with a “smart” lock that’s not tied to Amazon.
With something like this plan, where you trust a corporation to keep your lock closed, you necessarily create a HUGE target for bad actors even if we stipulate (which I absolutely will not) that no simple bug or software failure will compromise the lock on its own.
I remain ABSOLUTELY GOBSMACKED at the level of trust some people are willing to give massive corporations that already have terrible, terrible, terrible privacy records: Google, Facebook, and Amazon. People are literally purchasing devices from Amazon that listen to your house all the time without regard to the privacy implications. It’s bananas.
Don’t do that. And for the love of God, Tom Waits, and tacos, absolutely do NOT consider putting a lock on your house that Amazon has the key to. I mean, HOLY SHIT.
Black Panther opens in 121 days.
I hugged my wife this morning, when we heard about Las Vegas, and 50 more dead. I can’t stop thinking about that moment today, about our safety together in our bedroom as we got ready for work, and about the shattering loss to each of the victims’ families. It seemed bizarre to realize, in that moment, that the loss was certainly still unknown to many of those families, who like us were dressing for work, unaware of what was coming. I hugged Erin tighter.
But also, I think, we hugged because we know that no one really cares. We know this because it keeps happening, and no one does anything about it. Already I’ve seen on Facebook useless, empty blather about how gun rights are important, and let’s not rush into anything, and it’s the right of the citizen to be armed to protect himself and his family, and let’s not politicize a tragedy, and all the rest of that tired bullshit.
They needn’t bother. We know now, after Sandy Hook in 2012, that the ammosexuals have won. We as a nation chose guns over the lives of children. We stood in the aftermath of the deaths of 26 children and took no meaningful action.
The first thing I did when I got to my desk this morning was repost this Onion story, which is a thing of beauty in its brutal honesty. Here’s the text:
‘No Way To Prevent This,’ Says Only Nation Where This Regularly Happens
ISLA VISTA, CA—In the days following a violent rampage in southern California in which a lone attacker killed seven individuals, including himself, and seriously injured over a dozen others, citizens living in the only country where this kind of mass killing routinely occurs reportedly concluded Tuesday that there was no way to prevent the massacre from taking place. “This was a terrible tragedy, but sometimes these things just happen and there’s nothing anyone can do to stop them,” said North Carolina resident Samuel Wipper, echoing sentiments expressed by tens of millions of individuals who reside in a nation where over half of the world’s deadliest mass shootings have occurred in the past 50 years and whose citizens are 20 times more likely to die of gun violence than those of other developed nations. “It’s a shame, but what can we do? There really wasn’t anything that was going to keep this guy from snapping and killing a lot of people if that’s what he really wanted.” At press time, residents of the only economically advanced nation in the world where roughly two mass shootings have occurred every month for the past five years were referring to themselves and their situation as “helpless.”
Two years ago almost to the day, in response to another shooting (in Oregon, at a community college), President Obama addressed our collective failure:
We don’t yet know why this individual did what he did. And it’s fair to say that anybody who does this has a sickness in their minds, regardless of what they think their motivations may be. But we are not the only country on Earth that has people with mental illnesses or want to do harm to other people. We are the only advanced country on Earth that sees these kinds of mass shootings every few months.
Earlier this year, I answered a question in an interview by saying, “The United States of America is the one advanced nation on Earth in which we do not have sufficient common-sense gun-safety laws — even in the face of repeated mass killings.” And later that day, there was a mass shooting at a movie theater in Lafayette, Louisiana. That day! Somehow this has become routine. The reporting is routine. My response here at this podium ends up being routine. The conversation in the aftermath of it. We’ve become numb to this.
We talked about this after Columbine and Blacksburg, after Tucson, after Newtown, after Aurora, after Charleston. It cannot be this easy for somebody who wants to inflict harm on other people to get his or her hands on a gun.
There is a gun for roughly every man, woman, and child in America. So how can you, with a straight face, make the argument that more guns will make us safer? We know that states with the most gun laws tend to have the fewest gun deaths. So the notion that gun laws don’t work, or just will make it harder for law-abiding citizens and criminals will still get their guns is not borne out by the evidence.
We know that other countries, in response to one mass shooting, have been able to craft laws that almost eliminate mass shootings. Friends of ours, allies of ours — Great Britain, Australia, countries like ours. So we know there are ways to prevent it.
And, of course, what’s also routine is that somebody, somewhere will comment and say, Obama politicized this issue. Well, this is something we should politicize. It is relevant to our common life together, to the body politic. I would ask news organizations — because I won’t put these facts forward — have news organizations tally up the number of Americans who’ve been killed through terrorist attacks over the last decade and the number of Americans who’ve been killed by gun violence, and post those side-by-side on your news reports. This won’t be information coming from me; it will be coming from you. We spend over a trillion dollars, and pass countless laws, and devote entire agencies to preventing terrorist attacks on our soil, and rightfully so. And yet, we have a Congress that explicitly blocks us from even collecting data on how we could potentially reduce gun deaths. How can that be?
This is a political choice that we make to allow this to happen every few months in America. We collectively are answerable to those families who lose their loved ones because of our inaction. When Americans are killed in mine disasters, we work to make mines safer. When Americans are killed in floods and hurricanes, we make communities safer. When roads are unsafe, we fix them to reduce auto fatalities. We have seatbelt laws because we know it saves lives. So the notion that gun violence is somehow different, that our freedom and our Constitution prohibits any modest regulation of how we use a deadly weapon, when there are law-abiding gun owners all across the country who could hunt and protect their families and do everything they do under such regulations doesn’t make sense.
These were remarks given on October 1, 2015. We have, of course, done absolutely nothing. This is who we are.
It doesn’t have to be who we always are, but right now, in this mean and rude year of our lord 2017, this is America.
If you want more information, Vox has some charts for you concerning our uniquely American problem — and, by inference, our uniquely American refusal to do anything about it.
Funny you should ask. This Longreads piece is really fascinating, and gives an insight into a professional world most of us never see.
I am certain that it is not exceptional for a game to exist, but be rarely played.
I am, however, reasonably certain that The Campaign for North Africa is perhaps the only game that has never, ever been completed, not even once, by people who are not clinically insane.
You remember those “bookcase games” published in the 1970s and 1980s, from companies like Avalon-Hill and the like? These are a long way from Monopoly; they’re intricate and complex and intended for adult players or very enthusiastic teens; many take multiple sittings to complete, even at an hour or two per session. Some people like this sort of thing very much, even today, in this era of simple iPhone games.
CNA is the apotheosis of that genre, and may also be its nadir. It is so unbelievably detailed as to be, more or less, unplayable. For example:
- It ships with 1,800 counter chits
- The map can cover multiple normal-sized tables
- The rulebook comes in three volumes
- Gameplay is absurdly detailed, even down to managing individual planes and pilots in a campaign-level simulation
This complexity, of course, comes at a tremendous cost: A full game of CNA will take an estimated 1,500 hours, and requires 10 people. To put that in perspective, a 40-hour-a-week job takes about 2,000 hours per year.
Eight months ago, 6 faux-astronauts moved into a simulated Martian habitat in Hawaii as an experiment in closed-system living.
They emerged on the 17th, and the spin iO9 has put on it is “Hopeful Martians Emerge from 8-Month Experiment To Find Earth Horrific As Ever,” but you have to ask yourself: if you locked yourself away the day before Trump took office and only just emerged, isn’t everything pretty much exactly the shitshow you’d expect?
Here he is, at the 2012 Sketchfest, as Maurice Evans as Dr Zaius as Hal Holbrook as Mark Twain.
They’re not baiting relatives of the undocumented and charging them with crimes.
Real talk: if your job seems predicated on increasing human misery, then maybe you’re evil. Nobody involved in chasing down noncriminal undocumented people ought to be able to sleep at night.
Eat the ice cream. Eat the ice cream. Eat the ice cream. Eat the ice cream. Eat the ice cream. Eat the ice cream. Eat the ice cream. Eat the ice cream. Eat the ice cream. Eat the ice cream. Eat the ice cream.
This is a great timeline piece about an alternate universe wherein the Beatles accepted Lorne Michaels’ 1976 offer to reunite on SNL for $3000.
Far-flung folks are worried, so, first: Erin and I are fine. We stay fine. Our home has never, ever flooded, and probably won’t this time, just because of the mild elevation our area enjoys.
We have power. We have food, bourbon, wine, cable, and Internet. But much of Houston has none of these things right now, and there but by the grace of God, you know? I’d love to be able to say I made a study of Houston flood plains when I bought this place, but in truth I just bought what i could afford in the neighborhood I wanted to live in — the elevation is a happy accident, but it’s a VERY happy accident indeed.
Now, some context.
There’s a picture being tossed around in social media that I want to share, and annotate a bit. It was taken from a high-rise apartment building at Studemont and Memorial, and looks back to the southeast towards our neighborhood, and includes Buffalo Bayou, which is one of the many natural waterways that run through Houston.
Here’s the neighborhood in question from Google maps:
Key things to look for are the headquarters for Service Corporation International (who are, by the way, straight-up evil) and the studios for local TV station KHOU.
And here’s what the bayou looks like normally, with the same points marked — n.b. that the bayou is lined by a couple levels of paths and no small amount of greenspace. It’s a lovely area; people run and bike and walk and picnic there all the time. Trails there are connected to a network that stretches through huge parts of the city, and that network is growing all the time.
And here’s what it looks like right now:
KHOU has had to evacuate. The uphill grade on Taft is what’s saving us, basically, but the waterline ON Taft is far, far higher than we’ve ever seen it — only a block or so north of Dallas, which is completely BANANAS, because the idea of the water at that point covering even Allen Parkway is pretty unusual.
Now, that’s still a long way from us, both in terms of distance but also in terms of elevation, but it’s still shocking.
After Trump’s speech in Phoenix, Don Lemmon was a bit taken aback, and minced no words.
A transcript, in case the video link rots:
Well, what do you say to that?
I’m just going to speak from the heart here. What we have witnessed was a total eclipse of the facts. Someone who came out onto the stage and lied directly to the American people. And left things out that he said, in an attempt to rewrite history. Especially when it comes to Charlottesville.
He’s unhinged. It’s embarrassing—and I don’t mean for us in the media because he went after us—but for the country. This is who we elected president of the United States. A man who is so petty he has to go after anyone he deems to be his enemy, like an imaginary friend of a six-year-old. His speech was without thought. It was without reason. It was devoid of facts. It was devoid of wisdom. There was no gravitas. There was no sanity there. He was like a child blaming a sibling on something else. ‘He did it, I didn’t do it.’
He certainly opened up the race wound from Charlottesville. A man who [is] clearly wounded by the rational people who are abandoning him in droves, meaning those businesspeople and the people in Washington who are now questioning his fitness for office and whether he is stable. A man backed into a corner, it seemed, by circumstances beyond his control, and beyond his understanding.
That’s the truth. If you watch that speech as an American, you had to be thinking ‘what in the world is going on? This is the person we elected as the president of the United States? This petty? This small? The person who is supposed to pull the country together?’ It certainly didn’t happen there.
I remember thinking we were better than this, that there was no way we’d elect this guy. But the hard truth is we’re not, and we never have been.
“World’s Best Teens Compete In Microsoft Office World Championships.”
Whisky. Tango. Foxtrot.
The McLaren F1 was introduced 25 years ago this year. Road & Track has a nice oral history that’s worth your time, including bits from McLaren owners and employees.
Here’s my favorite bit from the story:
MARK GRAIN (Senior technician, McLaren Cars/Motorsport): There was a German customer, a businessman. He lived in Cologne, commuted in the car every day. He said, “Oh, I’ve got a problem, this warning light. I’ve looked in the manual, can’t find anything. Can you send somebody out, see what it is?”
So one of the guys went. It turns out it was the engine cover lifting slightly. The warning light for the engine cover.
But the only time the car ever did it was 185, 190 mph. “It does it on the way to work, and it does it on the way back.” Every day.
Exhibit A, in which Saturday Night Live posits a reductio ad absurdum endgame for overloaded shitty mall tacos, i.e. the “Taco Town” sketch:
Exhibit B, in which Jeff Goldbum has cross words for the scientific community:
And now, Exhibit C, in which YouTuber Andrew Rea of “Binging with Babish” — who first made a splash by actually cooking the “Il Timpano” from Big Night — performs the culinary black magic necessary to bring this abomination into the real world via his Harlem kitchen:
May God have mercy on our souls.
The story — about an SR-71 crew being the fasted guys on the comms channel one afternoon — has been widely shared before, but this is the first time I’ve heard it “performed” by the author. It’s pretty great. Enjoy.
He has a new record coming out. Here is a great, wide-ranging interview with him that includes a number of embedded videos, so you can sample his work.
He’s playing in Austin on 28 October. I plan to be there. You should give it some thought as well.
This jackass cop — officer J. S. Bolen — seems to think it’s a good idea to detain and harass a guy for jaywalking. He even tries to make up laws to justify his actions.
Obviously, the Jacksonville LEO that employs him has taken no action at this time, even defending one of the obviously-invalid citations issued to the young man.
The Sheriff’s Office cited Florida statute 322.15(1) as to why Shipman was given a citation, but the statute only applies to drivers, not pedestrians. It states that every licensee must have his or her license on them “when operating a motor vehicle.”
I really love this more than I can say.
Trump is the apotheosis of a certain kind of warping wealth and privilege. This essay is mandatory reading, and I suspect will become one of the keystone bits of analysis written in this era.
The man in the white house sits, naked and obscene, a pustule of ego, in the harsh light, a man whose grasp exceeded his understanding, because his understanding was dulled by indulgence. He must know somewhere below the surface he skates on that he has destroyed his image, and like Dorian Gray before him, will be devoured by his own corrosion in due time too. One way or another this will kill him, though he may drag down millions with him. One way or another, he knows he has stepped off a cliff, pronounced himself king of the air, and is in freefall. Another dungheap awaits his landing; the dung is all his; when he plunges into it he will be, at last, a self-made man.
Author Michael Lewis (The Blind Side, Liar’s Poker, Moneyball, The Big Short) gave a pretty spectacular commencement speech at Berkeley in 2012. Kottke has more, but the key bit is this, about the tendency of very successful people to discount the amount of arbitrary luck typically involved in their positions:
A few years ago, just a few blocks from my home, a pair of researchers in the Cal psychology department staged an experiment. They began by grabbing students, as lab rats. Then they broke the students into teams, segregated by sex. Three men, or three women, per team. Then they put these teams of three into a room, and arbitrarily assigned one of the three to act as leader. Then they gave them some complicated moral problem to solve: say what should be done about academic cheating, or how to regulate drinking on campus.
Exactly 30 minutes into the problem-solving the researchers interrupted each group. They entered the room bearing a plate of cookies. Four cookies. The team consisted of three people, but there were these four cookies. Every team member obviously got one cookie, but that left a fourth cookie, just sitting there. It should have been awkward. But it wasn’t. With incredible consistency the person arbitrarily appointed leader of the group grabbed the fourth cookie, and ate it. Not only ate it, but ate it with gusto: lips smacking, mouth open, drool at the corners of their mouths. In the end all that was left of the extra cookie were crumbs on the leader’s shirt.
This leader had performed no special task. He had no special virtue. He’d been chosen at random, 30 minutes earlier. His status was nothing but luck. But it still left him with the sense that the cookie should be his.
This experiment helps to explain Wall Street bonuses and CEO pay, and I’m sure lots of other human behavior. But it also is relevant to new graduates of Princeton University. In a general sort of way you have been appointed the leader of the group. Your appointment may not be entirely arbitrary. But you must sense its arbitrary aspect: you are the lucky few. Lucky in your parents, lucky in your country, lucky that a place like Princeton exists that can take in lucky people, introduce them to other lucky people, and increase their chances of becoming even luckier. Lucky that you live in the richest society the world has ever seen, in a time when no one actually expects you to sacrifice your interests to anything.
All of you have been faced with the extra cookie. All of you will be faced with many more of them. In time you will find it easy to assume that you deserve the extra cookie. For all I know, you may. But you’ll be happier, and the world will be better off, if you at least pretend that you don’t.
Share the cookie.
This video about the world’s first supercar is pretty fun. Lambo made the Countach from 1974 until 1990, which is kind of insane; at that point, they moved on to the Diablo, and then to the Murciélago, and then, in 2011, to the current Aventador.
For a comparison between an ’88 Countach (effectively, the pinnacle of the breed) and a new(ish) Aventador? We’ve got you covered.
And as long as you’re falling down this hole, Jay Leno has an ’86.
…it does seem worth noting two things about this year’s NBA Finals.
First, the Warriors are a game away from sweeping the entire playoffs; they haven’t lost a single game, and are up 3-0 over the Cavs. The 2000-01 Lakers dropped only a single game and finished at 15-1, but lost their streak at game 1 of the Finals. (Back then, the first round was best-of-5 and not best-of-7). The Warriors, if they win, will have a 16-0 streak.
Second, LeBron James is playing in his seventh consecutive finals. That’s not unprecedented, but it’s damned rare — the only folks with more played on the 1957-1966 Celtics, who dominated the league and appeared in the Finals all 10 of those years.
“King” among those folks was the legendary Bill Russell (and I say “legendary” because you’d have to be borderline divine to have been a famous basketball player in the 50s that I know about). He’s the only one who was on all 10 squads, and won 8 in a row from ’59 to ’66.
The 8-in-a-row, obviously, still stands; nobody’s managed to string more than 3 titles together since (Bulls twice, Lakers once).
Via MeFi, we find this NYTimes Magazine story: America’s Hidden HIV Epidemic, which asks the question “why do America’s black gay and bisexual men have a higher HIV rate than any country in the world?”
While the problem is nationwide, the story focusses on Mississippi — which, as it happens, will no longer offer free HIV tests through the Health Department after June 1, owing to budget cuts forced by the Republican supermajority in charge of the state.
The Jackson paper notes something also found in the NYTimes story: in Jackson, 40% of gay or bisexual men are HIV positive. Forty. Percent.
John Nova Lomax’s new piece in Texas Monthly is about his son’s decision to join the Army.
My son was jobless, directionless, and apartmentless. So when he decided to join the Army, we were just glad he was out of the house. What we didn’t know was just how much the military would change him—and us.
But the real kicker is this:
A picture I took of him that day in his camo, standing in the sandbag-lined trench that led into the Yankee tunnels, and that by a trick of the light appears almost sepia-toned, fills me with a mixture of dread, pride, and regret. Privates are always privates, and war is always war.
I say regret, because I have not served, and now, with middle age upon me, never will. Right before my eyes, the little boy I had known was becoming a man I could never know.
It’s pretty damn fine. Go read the whole thing.
Sure, the trailers LOOK good, but so far the DC films haven’t exactly covered themselves in glory, so I was kinda keeping the whole thing at arm’s reach.
Then I noticed something important, largely because (a) The Hollywood Reporter tweeted something ignorant/clickbaity that was (b) then shamed into my timeline:
Sold. Hey, Mrs Heathen, when are we going?
No, really. An astoundingly well preserved dinosaur fossil has been found; check it out.
I think my friend T. framed it best: “Please dunk on this extremely bad at life family with me.”
A key bit is this:
In September, we had learned that I was pregnant with our second child and we accelerated our plans. We needed a place with at least three bedrooms. Unfortunately, that dream was becoming increasingly unrealistic for a young family without a lot of money. Julian had just finished his PhD in education and was teaching part-time at Humber; I was an editor for the Food Network’s website and preparing to go on maternity leave. Still, we scoured the listings every day, searching for a fixer-upper that we could renovate ourselves to save money. We weren’t particularly handy, but we’d seen all the home reno shows, and it seemed like everyone in the city was doing it. How hard could it be?
Our budget was $560,000[.]
And it gets so much more bizarre, privileged, and tone-deaf — oh, and dumb as hell. For example: they end up spending their half-million-plus budget on a house they had not personally seen or inspected, and entered into a no-condition contract. They end up fine, apparently, but only because of the largesse of wealthy family and friends, and despite some astonishingly stupid choices.
Frankly: eat the rich.
Word comes that Roger Moore has died at 89.
Moore, obviously, is known as the post-Connery Bond, but true nerds recall that he was actually the third guy to play 007 (in the Eon Productions films, which are all that really matter). When Connery bowed out after his fifth outing (You Only LIve Twice in 1967, which is the one where he teams up with a Japanese agent and goes undercover in, basically, yellowface before the final fight in a volcano base), Australian model George Lazenby took over for a single picture (the underrated On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, co-starring Diana Rigg and Telly Savalas!) before Connery’s code (Diamonds are Forever, featuring a thinly-veiled Howard Hughes proxy and Crispin Glover’s dad as one half a very creepy assassin team). Moore first appears in the next film, 1973’s Live and Let Die.
At right, a GREAT cast photo. There’s a LOT going on there, which fits given the lovable mess of a film it’s from, but allow me to point out:
The skinny young thing at the lower left? Yep, Jane Seymour, then a largely unknown 22-year-old ingenue.
Not pictured is David Hedison, who makes his first of two appearances as Bond’s CIA pal Felix Leiter here. He comes back in 1989’s License to Kill, opposite Tim Dalton (that’s the one with Robert Davi as a ruthless drug lord who has, amazingly, Benecio del Toro as a henchman; Wayne Newton appears as a televanglist). The only other guy to play Leiter twice is the incumbent, Jeffrey Wright. Hedison is now 90 and retired, and Wikipedia contains the amusing bit of data that he’s now Jodie Foster’s father-in-law.
After this auspicious debut, Moore went on to have the longest tenure in the role: a total of 7 films over 12 years. His swan song came in 1985 and is, sadly, is almost certainly the worst of the bunch. By then, Eon Productions was completely out of Fleming books to adapt (with one key exception they wouldn’t touch for 20 years), so I guess it makes a little sense that, in the middle of the 80s, they’d feel fine about a 58-year-old Bond chasing a crazed millionaire (Christopher Walken!) whose aide-de-camp is Grace Fucking Jones. Hey, while we’re at it? Why not a fight on the Eiffel Tower!
Of course, it’s not his fault that the films had veered hard into silliness and camp by that point; he had some great ones — the debut, obviously, but also The Man With The Golden Gun (a prosthetic nipple!), The Spy Who Loved Me (hot Russians! submarine sports cars! the greatest opening scene ever!), and Moonraker, about which more later.
He was a more suave, mature, and sophisticated Bond than Connery or those that came after (though maybe Brosnan’s version was close), and for most people of my generation he was our first exposure to the character — sort of the Tom Baker of the series, really. As noted, Moore’s got the most films and the longest tenure, a record that doesn’t seem likely to fall. Connery did only 6 films to Moore’s 7. Brosnan and Dalton together only account for 6 more. Craig may or may not do a 5th film, but he’ll certainly be done by then.
My first Bond film was Moonraker. I saw it in a drive-in with my dad, in a time when drive-ins were already well on their way out. It was obviously derivative — Star Wars made everyone want to do SF all of a sudden, so Bond-in-space was in some ways inevitable — but it’s held up okay, especially considering that it’s only the second time Eon Productions was “on their own” with no novel to draw from. We got the second coming of Richard Kiel’s 7-foot, steel-toothed Jaws, memorable weightless nookie, and a “Bond girl” whose naughty name (Holly Goodhead) flew entirely over my 9-year-old head. I was obviously smitten immediately, and quickly devoured the back catalog via the newfangled VCR my newly-divorced dad would soon acquire. Impossibly, my Baptist grandmother even bought me some of the books.
Anyway. Godspeed, Roger Moore. I noted not long ago that we’re likely to lose several more Doctor Who actors in the short term. The first three are already gone, and Tom Baker is 83. The same can be said of the Bond men: Lazenby is 77; Connery is 86. Tim Dalton is 71. Brosnan is 64. And we are, all of us, getting older right along with them.
This is pretty great.
The film was shot just a tiny bit before grunge really exploded nationwide. 1991 was kinda ground zero for grunge releases — Nevermind, obviously, but also Mudhoney’s Every Good Boy record, Pearl Jam’s Ten, Soundgarden’s Badmotorfinger, the Temple of the Dog one-off, and others. Alice in Chains’ Dirt came out the next year. But, critically, when they were shooting this film, none of those records were out or successful. Pearl Jam wasn’t even Pearl Jam yet; they’d only just brought in Eddie, and were still called “Mookie Blaylock”.
So anyway: Seattle wasn’t SEATTLE yet, and none of those people were particularly famous. Crowe, living in Seattle and married to a local, was falling in love with the growing scene, which is where the film came from. People who became huge months later appear in the film in tiny parts — Jeff Ament is in Matt Dillon’s band, for example. Alice in Chains and Soundgarden are bands playing in bars. And, as you’ll read in the interview, these folks hung around the production, even when they weren’t working — including Cornell.
Anyway. As part of the arc of the film, Dillon’s character Cliff Poncier loses his girl, his band and goes solo, and as was the custom of the time makes a solo tape to hawk while busking. It was just a prop, but Ament actually designed it, right down to (fictional) song titles and whatnot.
And then something interesting happened; Crowe tells it:
It’s kind of amazing. The idea was that Matt Dillon’s character, Cliff Poncier, in the course of the movie, he loses his band, and he loses his girlfriend, and he gains soul. So, there’s a period where he’s on a street corner busking, having lost his band, but beginning his solo career. And there would be, in reality, these guys standing on the corner outside the clubs in Seattle hawking their solo cassettes. So we wanted Cliff Poncier to have his own solo cassette. And Jeff Ament, in classic style, designed this cassette cover and wrote out these fictitious song names for the cassette.
And Chris Cornell was another guy who was close to us when we were making the record, and still is a good friend. I really loved Soundgarden; they were my favorite band. I originally thought Chris could play the lead, but then I think that turned into too big of a commitment for everybody and so he became the guy he is in the movie, but in the course of making the movie he was close to all of us. He was always around.
Anyway, Jeff Ament had designed this solo cassette which we thought was hilarious because it had all of these cool song titles like “Flutter Girl,” and “Spoonman,” and just like a really true-type “I’ve lost my band, and now I’m a soulful guy – these are my songs now” feeling. So we loved that Jeff had played out the fictitious life of Cliff Poncier. And one night, I stayed home, and Nancy, we were then married, she went out to a club, and she came back home, and she said, “Man, I met this guy, and he was selling solo cassettes, and so I got one for you.” And she hands me the Cliff Poncier cassette. And I was like, “That’s funny, haha.” And then she said, “You should listen to it.” So I put on the cassette. And holy shit, this is Chris Cornell, as Cliff Poncier, recording all of these songs, with lyrics, and total creative vision, and he has recorded the entire fake, solo cassette. And it’s fantastic. And “Seasons” comes on. And you just can’t help but go, “Wow.” This is a guy who we’ve only known in Soundgarden. And of course he’s incredibly creative, but who’s heard him like this? And we got to use “Seasons” on the soundtrack, and Chris did some of the score.
How neat is that?
From the WaPo’s “After Chris Cornell’s death: ‘Only Eddie Vedder is left. Let that sink in.’“, we find this:
Cornell hanged himself in a Detroit hotel room after performing what would become his final show with his band, which he closed by playing “In My Time of Dying” by Led Zeppelin.
Also, yeah, someone please make sure Eddie is okay.