Dana Gould Kills

In this clip from the Kevin Pollack Show, he plays a Pollack Show game called “The Larry King Game” for nearly ten minutes. What’s the game? Simple: Do a bad Larry King impression, and (a) reveal something personal purportedly about King that King probably ought not reveal and (b) go to a caller.

There are, apparently, lots of other clips of other celebs playing the game, but I have a hard time imagining anybody riffs and improve for 8 minutes better than Gould.

H/T: Metafilter, natch.

I have no idea why it’s taken me so long to blog this

Via Mohney, who’s quoting, but: “How Many Cormac McCarthies does it take to change a light bulb?” The answer:

A: Two or perhaps three, approaching now, from beyond the tree in the long low light of morning. From some black place: a reckoning neither required nor bidden, a reckoning no judge could have ordered, but a reckoning nonetheless. One of the men carries a single glove, ready to grip the hot, bright bulb and twist it dead. The other two follow, smoking, and whisper about what is to come: the treacherous scramble in wet woolen darkness, the fight to fill that space with light. One of them, the youngest, cradles the thin bowl of glass in his hands like a baby foal born too soon — partly out of gentleness, partly as if to shield it from the mare’s desperate inquiring eyes.

The men walk to the bulb. The Remover’s shadow blackens as he approaches it. A quick unnatural lunge.

Then all is dark.

Related: Yelp reviews as if written by McCarthy, which is an ongoing Tumblr.

Facebook is Not Your Friend

You are not Facebook’s customer. You are Facebook’s product. They tell us that now we have more control than ever about what information we put in, but I remind you all that the ONLY way to have REAL control over that data is not to give it to Facebook in the first place.

People sometimes ask why I don’t publish the whole feed of this blog there; this is one reason. This is also why virtually none of my photos are on Facebook.

Trust me when I say I know the pathway to your heart

R.E.M. have called it a day after 31 years, 15 albums (and “Chronic Town”!), and uncountable influence on popular music.

This makes us at Heathen HQ a little sad, but only in a nostalgic way. R.E.M. for ME is the sound of my teen years, rich with twang and jangle and pop, and full of joy, starting the moment I popped a cassette of Lifes Rich Pageant into a boom box in 1986. Twenty-five years later, I’m playing that album in my office as I write this, and some part of my soul is still 16.

While for most of my life, I wouldn’t have hesitated to list the Athens band as one of my all time favorites, in truth my devoted fandom extends only to the mid-90s; Monster is the last record I really and truly enjoyed, and it’s only the first five records that still have a hold on my heart. (I could, for example, never hear “Shining Happy People” again and be perfectly content.)

Consequently, Bill Berry‘s retirement in 1997 was sad to me, but also mostly irrelevant — I bought a couple of the post-Berry “R.E.M. as a trio” records, but never really connected with them in the way I did with other, earlier records.

Here’s five R.E.M. memories, in no particular order, from my own 25 years of fandom:

  1. In late 1986, the aforementioned copy of “Pageant,” my Walkman, and the discovery of something I’d keep for a long, long time.

  2. A fall afternoon in Houston in the late 90s, picking up longtime Heathen and un-indicted co-conspirator Eric from Pizzeria Uno on Kirby; as he gets in the car, the first bars of Murmur bubble out of the CD changer, and he comments that it’s like cool water. That’s still true.

  3. January, 2009, I run into Mike Mills at Washington National Airport as we’re returning home from the Inauguration. Erin says I shouldn’t, but I approach him anyway to quietly thank him for making the music that’s been such a big part of my life. He doesn’t seem to mind.

  4. September 15, 1995, at the Woodlands; Eric and I and many others we know see the band on the Monster tour. It is insanely hot and muggy and miserable, but somehow they transcend it and play a great show (the opener was a little band called Radiohead. Then we all pile back into our cars to catch a now-defunct act at a now-defunct bar. Ah, being 25.

  5. Back when MTV used to play music videos, they’d sometimes hype a premier. On a fall afternoon in 1987, Eric and I rushed back to his parents’ house to catch the first showing of the clip for The One I Love, the first single from Document. Hilariously, I notice now that the director of photography was a pre-culinary-obsession Alton Brown, which makes geographic sense.

Good thing I work at home. I’m pretty sure it’s going to be a loud, jangly, Athensy afternoon here at Heathen HQ. If’n you’d like some video nostalgia of your own, I note that the R.E.M. site has a full video catalog.

For more see the AV Club’s coverage. I love that there’s already a Thank You R.E.M. tumblr. There is of course a long and rewarding thread at MeFi.

Criminally, there is no BluRay yet

This long-form post at Metafilter about one of our favorite 80’s movies sent me looking, but it turns out that while Streets of Fire did get the HD-DVD treatment, there’s no BluRay version yet.

Guess I’ll have to buy a reg’lar DVD instead.

Seriously, though, go check out the MeFi post. It’s a great example of the form, calling out the names associated with the film you’ve probably forgotten, such as

  • Starring Amy Madigan, Rick Moranis, Michael Pare, Willem Dafoe, and Deborah Van Valkenburgh, with appearances by Bill Paxton and Mykelti Williamson
  • Directed by Walter Hill
  • Songs by Jim Steinman (i.e., “the dude who makes Meat Loaf sound like Meat Loaf,” and who is really due a Heathen treatment of his own)
  • a fucking sledgehammer fight
  • and Diane Lane at 18

What’s not to like? Expect a Heathen World HQ Viewing soon.

Wait. How’d This Happen?

Right, so, Mrs Heathen and I have been meaning to cancel Netflix for ages. We hung on for a while on the strength of hopes about their streaming options, but the honest truth of the matter is that their streaming selection blows goats.

Our main “unowned movie” outlet is rental via the AppleTV from iTunes. It’s a great solution; it costs more than physical rental, but there’s no going-and-returning aspect to it, and you don’t have to plan like you do with Netflix.

However, we’ve also noticed something else: The promise of Netflix and related endeavors was that we’d get access to a much larger set of films than any video shop could have. And that remains true, but only if you plan and deal with Netflix’s legacy DVD-through-the-post plan. Rights issues (presumably?) have kept this awesome “long tail” of content off streaming servers, so physical DVDs remain the only way to watch most films. Neither Apple nor Amazon nor Netflix Streaming offer anything close to what you can get on DVD.

So somehow, over the last 10 years, the actual set of movies easily rentable by a humans on a Friday night has actually gotten smaller, since Netflix managed to kill Blockbuster after Blockbuster more or less destroyed the local purveyors.

Even so, we never used them. We’ve had one DVD on hand for literally years. It went back last week. But if we want to watch a randomly selected film, odds are we won’t find it online anywhere legal – and we’ll find ourselves back at Netflix. I assume the problem is rights issues, i.e. copyright shenanigans, which means once again Big Content is keeping businesses from providing something people want.

Well, that and the fact that most people are happy if you let them rent one of a dozen blockbusters, and never have a desire to see an old movie, or a small indie film, or a foreign film.

Remedial Appreciation: Van Halen

On the strength of the last post, I’m listening to their studio work this afternoon, and I’m having the same experience I usually do with their catalog: why don’t I listen to this more often? There’s a lot more to this band’s 7-record catalog than most people remember.

Frankly, they’ve been gone so long that it makes it easy to forget how huge they were; to think about Van Halen is also to recall the tragic private plane crash 24 years ago last month that claimed the lives of Sammy, Eddie, Alex, and Michael — plus, ironically, David Lee Roth, who happened to be camping in the otherwise deserted stretch of California wilderness where the Lear went down.

At the top of their game after the successes of both the last Roth record and the first Hagar record, we’re left wondering what magic they might have created if only for the critical instrument failures. At night, far from populated areas, Eddie — a new pilot, with far too few instrument hours for the flight, truth be told — was likely unaware of the danger until the final moments, which I suppose is a mercy.

Still, you wonder what amazing music they might’ve made had they lived. I mean, with the band freshly sober and firing on all cylinders, it seems unlikely that they’d have wasted the decades of musical opportunity that would’ve followed with petty infighting and substance abuse problems, like so many bands we could name.



Now, the Heathen Top Ten:

10. “Ain’t Talkin’ Bout Love,” Van Halen, 1978. It’s like a distillation of the whole band, full of swagger from Dave and Eddie over solid rhythm from Mike and Alex. Also, perhaps a near-singularity of apostrophe use in a song title.

9. “Romeo Delight,” Women and Children First, 1980. It’s like the first record, but tighter and more concentrated. Use with caution.

8. “Running with the Devil,” Van Halen, 1978. The first track off the first side of the first record. You know the thumping. You know what’s coming.

7. “And the Cradle Will Rock…”, Women and Children First, 1980. Have you seen Junior’s grades?

6. “Dance The Night Away,” Van Halen II, 1979. Them Dutch Boys beat the sophmore jinx. The second record isn’t the lightning bolt the first one was, but it remains a solid rock-and-roll record. The interlude at about 2 minutes in is worth the cost of admission.

5. “Cathedral,” from Diver Down, 1982. “He’s doing that with his volume knob? Are you shitting me?” Also, the song in which it’s easiest to tell Eddie was raised by a classical musician.

4. (Twofer): “Sunday Afternoon In The Park” into “One Foot Out The Door,” Fair Warning, 1981. This record is just criminally underrated; the whole thing is awesome, especially side two (see what I did there?). It smokes, and nobody listens to it.

3. “Get Up,” 5150, 1986. I remember buying only two tapes on day of release when I was in high school; this was one (I’ve written about the other one before). Warning: do not listen while driving, lest you run afoul of the local constabulary. Also, dig Alex’s drums.

2. “Mean Streets,” Fair Warning, 1981. Honest to God it’s hard not to list this whole album, but “Mean Streets” opens the record, and has for my money Eddie’s best solo.

1. “Eruption,” Van Halen, 1978. Oh, come on. You knew this would be the top track. It’s the sine qua non of both the band and the guitarist.

Dept. of Accidental Interviews

This is probably one of the earliest interviews done with Eddie Van Halen. The author, Jas Obrecht, was actually at the venue to interview Pat Travers instead, but Travers blew him off. Travers’ opening acts that night were Van Halen and AC/DC, which is hilarious in hindsight.

The 23-year-old wunderkind suggested he be the subject instead. “Nobody has ever wanted to interview me.”

The Onion, Again

U.S. Commemorates 9/11 By Toasting Stable Afghan Government From Top Of Freedom Tower:

In a moving and beautiful ceremony held atop Lower Manhattan’s gleaming, 120-story-tall Freedom Tower, the nation commemorated the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks by raising a glass to the stable democracy of Afghanistan and to a decade of unprecedented peace and prosperity across the globe.

As a brilliant cascade of red, white, and blue fireworks lit up the skyscraper’s observation deck, those in attendance reflected on the horrible tragedy that improbably, and stirringly, gave way to a harmonized Middle East and one of the most triumphant and fruitful eras in the history of the great American republic.

“A decade ago, 3,000 of our citizens perished in a senseless attack on American soil, and as I stand here today atop this magnificent edifice, celebrating the thriving republic of Afghanistan and all our allies in the now wholly stable Muslim world, it’s clear the U.S. has not only risen from the ashes, it has flourished,” said former U.S. president and master of ceremonies George W. Bush, who was widely applauded after 9/11 for respecting the rights of citizens at home and abroad while combating terrorism through largely peaceful means. “These last 10 years could have been divisive, turbulent, sad, hopeless, and grotesque. But instead, they were the exact opposite of those things. And for that we must all feel both blessed and truly proud.”

There’s more.

Confidential to Certain Heathen Women

There’s a delightfully odd web series of which I’ve just become aware called 7 Minutes in Heaven, in which host Mike O’Brien does a brief interview with some nominally famous (and typically funny) person inside a closet — i.e., in the style of the teen party game of the same name.

Certain Heathen tribe members — e.g., those involved perhaps in personal training or nonprofit accounting, and certainly Mrs Heathen herself — may find the Christina Ricci episode amusing due to a certain tic she exhibits.

Metafilter has more. Don’t miss Patrica Clarkson.

The penultimate Astros post

Over the weekend, the Giants of Enron Field lost their 97th game of the year, thereby tying the all-time record for the club.

There are only 16 games left, and while they’ve improved slightly since the break (which is surprising), they’re still on a track to lose 11 of those games. 108 here we come!

What I Talk About When I Talk About 9/11

I’m not going to write about what I was doing on 9/11. I had a morning like most other Americans, stuck to CNN. Also, for most of it I was naked and had a face half-covered in shaving cream. You’re lucky I don’t have pictures.

I have no interest in distant naval-gazing about Our National Tragedy. A bad thing happened. Lots of people died. That happens a lot. I’m blessed — which is exactly the wrong word, since MOST people are in this group with me — that no one I knew and loved was lost 10 years ago today. Those who aren’t have a different reason to reflect today, but if I had been that unlucky, I doubt I’d want to commemorate the event with network news specials.

What I suspect isn’t being said today, because it’s a complex idea requiring actual self-reflection, is what 9/11 got us. I have yet to see a single bit of discussion about how we as a nation allowed 9/11-based fear to drive us to extremes of reaction and irrationality that continue every single fucking day, with no signs of stopping. And because of this, something ugly happened:

Osama is dead, but he won.

9/11 was an enormous success by any metric I can imagine AQ leadership using. Not because they killed 3,000 Americans, but because they convinced us to change who we are. They drove the US crazy. They got us to start a wholly unnecessary war in Iraq, killing thousands of civilians. Osama baited us into become an nation that openly tortures, that is more than willing to abrogate the rights we say we think are universal with bullshit like PATRIOT and imperial-presidency ideas that people like David Addington whispered into Cheney and Bush’s ears. In a post-9/11 world, the Executive Branch can detain anyone they want, at any point they want, for any reason they want, and without filing charges, just by insisting they’re an “enemy combatant.” We have trials short-circuited by state secrets privilege claims, and absolutely terrifying doctrines of “secret laws” are being cited in US Courts. And having done these things, they are now part of our political and legal landscape until someone takes specific steps to remove them — which is hard to make happen, because who wants to be “soft on crime” or “soft on terra” enough to say that, just maybe, carting innocent people off to be tortured in Syria might not be something we should do. Ever.

THAT is horror all Americans must face. The government can now disappear you, just like in Argentina. People who work for us waterboarded prisoners, and the only ones in who spent any time in jail were people at the bottom of the chain of command who most certainly did not create the policy. We imprisoned hundreds of people at Gitmo and God knows how many other black sites, and tried very hard to establish a legal Catch-22 that prevented any innocent people from escaping that Kafkaesque disaster. This legacy is way scarier than 9/11 to me, and it boils down to this:

We had choices to make about how we’d respond, and in almost every case we made bad ones. And we’re still allowing those choices to stand, and to define who we are. And in so doing, we are shaming the values that we say we stand for — those things enshrined in our Declaration of Independence, our Constitution, and our Bill of Rights.

So yes, anniversaries are good times to reflect. This one would be a good time for us to pull our collective shit together and repudiate the frightened, absurdist choices we made in the immediate wake of 11 September 2001.

But I’m not holding my breath. It’s easy to sell stupid to people. It’s way harder to unsell it.

If they get their way, it’ll just become illegal to vote for Democrats

I’ve said this before, in very simple terms: If your party is taking active steps to reduce voter turnout by making it harder for people to vote, you are well and truly evil.

Heritage doofuses like this guy cherrypick data to suggest that Voter ID bills like Georgia’s don’t impact turnout — despite clear evidence to the contrary. Conservative jackasses on talk radio suggest that registering the poor to vote is like handing out burglary tools to criminals.

There is no voter fraud problem in this country today. If there were, there’d be indictments, or at least arrests. There are essentially none:

A major probe by the Justice Department between 2002 and 2007 failed to prosecute a single person for going to the polls and impersonating an eligible voter, which the anti-fraud laws are supposedly designed to stop. Out of the 300 million votes cast in that period, federal prosecutors convicted only 86 people for voter fraud – and many of the cases involved immigrants and former felons who were simply unaware of their ineligibility.

Poor voter turnout helps the GOP. High voter turnout hurts them. That this is their solution amazes me. I can think of few political initiatives that are more fundamentally un-American and anti-democratic.

Today in Awesome Labors of Love

Roger Evans loved Jonny Quest, so he made his own stop-motion, action-figure based version of the opening titles. N.B. that, as there were no official action figures, he had to make his own.

Here’s the original, for comparison.

Something I did not know until I wrote this post: in the original ’60s cartoon, Jonny Quest was voiced by Tim Matheson, whom you may remember from later roles such as “Otter” in Animal House and The West Wing‘s VP Hoynes.

Today in Heathen Deals

I don’t need one, since I already have a very similar watch from Oris, but if you’re in the market for a decent automatic wristwatch, Amazon has a good Seiko for less than $60.

Spring-driven (“real”) watches with decent movements don’t usually get this cheap, so if you’re considering jumping into the world of Proper Wristwatches, this is a great place to start.

Dept. of Surprising Connections

I’ve had this story starred for a while in my Google Reader, about the anniversary of the passing of Ishi. He was the last surviving member of the Yani people, and lived out his days with a noted anthropologist called Alfred Kroeber who was bright enough to realize the opportunity Ishi presented. This part of his life was the subject of a pretty good TV movie 19 years ago, with Graham Greene and Jon Voight.

What’s finally got me off my ass to post this is a surprising fact buried in the first link: Kroeber is Ursula K. Le Guin’s father.