Sunday, March 28, 2010

I Just Want My Pants Back

I Just Want My Pants Back
by David J. Rosen
(240 pages, Broadway, 2007)

I just finished reading this book, whose title and cover caught my eye and seemed worthy of a 25-cent (OK, 27 cents with tax!) purchase from the Enoch Pratt Central Library's "Books for Sale" rack. Maybe it was the mismatched socks on the cover that attracted my attention, something I could totally relate to; more likely I was lured in by all the sex, drugs, and alcohol that defined the rather shallow narrator, in whom I sometimes spotted a mirror's reflection (except for the sex part) (just thinking about it doesn't count!). Normally I avoid this kind of 20-something "Hipster Looking for Mrs. Goodbar" (typically in some exciting-albeit-expensive big city like New York, LA, Chicago, or even slacker-friendly Seattle) kind of narrative for this was, as one Amazon reviewer described it, "another in a long line of novels devoted to the mishaps of feckless young males struggling to get serious about life and love," turf that's been well-trod over by Brett Easton Ellis (especially in Bright Lights, Big City), Nick Hornby (High Fidelity), Douglas Coupland, and their ilk.

As reviewer Joanne Wilkenson capsulizes the first-person narrative, "...recent college graduate Jason Strider moves to New York City, where he works a day job answering phones and hits the bars every night after work. Alcohol and sex are at the forefront of his agenda until he is faced with two more serious issues. His best friends at college have asked him to officiate their wedding, and his next-door neighbor, Patty, who has partied away the best years of her life, is dying from lung cancer, alone though unafraid. Jason beds one girl after another, loses his job, and increases his already prodigious intake of drugs and alcohol before being jolted into sobriety by Patty's death..."

Though Jason complains about having a "shitty job," I'd trade places with him in a second. He comes in whenever he feels like it, spends all morning texting and IMing (Instant Messaging) his hipster friends, takes 2-hour lunches with his boss, takes numerous "4:20" breaks, and goes out every night getting shit-faced and having sex with strangers - including the coveted French bohemian one-night "girlfriend experience." And he complains because one chick never returned his favorite pair of Dickies pants??? Or he complains about being broke and then relates how he spent $18 drinking three imported beers within the space of an hour at a local bar??? (Here's a tip buddy, stay home, buy a six-pack of Natural Light, and have a good wank - it's called the Economy Plan!)

Thankfully, the writing throughout is snarky and clever enough to keep one reading, with the only wince-worthy moment being the passage in which an out-of-work Jason hits rock-bottom by taking a humilating temp job handing out flyers dressed as chocolate layer cake - it would be funny and not derivative if David Sedaris hadn't already essayed his wage-slave nadir as a Macy's Christmas elf in his 1992 NPR-breakthrough "SantaLand Diaries." Still, Rosen - who not surprisingly went on to develop a number of shows for MTV - made me laugh when he described a fellow food mascot as "...a thin black guy dressed as an entire roast chicken. Had it been fried, I think he could have sued for racism."

Other notable quotables I underlined included:

"I was Daniel Day-Lewis when it came to using public toilets without touching them with my hands."

"You could be a star. You could also end up a cynical New York asshole - you know, you see them on the train, a really intelligent, really bitter nothing who's forgotten how to smile."

But my favorite has to be this passage in which Rosen basically defines today's Post-Ironic Hipster Doofus:

"They'd seen it all before, and even if they hadn't, they'd pretend they had...any sincere thoughts were immediately roughed up and taken advantage of...people laughed out loud a little less here, they were guarded. They didn't want to show they'd been surprised or something."

But I guess what really kept me from putting down the book were all the shards of glass in which I saw those mirror reflections of myself and my world, a checklist that included "pre-, almost-, and post-hip" references to iPods, Bushmills, Pabst, Blaise Pascal ("All of man's problems stem from his inability to sit in a quiet room alone"), Buzzcocks, Dylan, Ray Davies, They Might Be Giants, Ramones, Dead Milkman, Sex Pistols, Devo, Rushmore, Diet Coke, Harold and Maude, Even Hitler Had a Girlfriend (the song, not the movie - but close enough!), and, of course, that so-15-years-ago fad of Universal Life Church ministry (yes I'm a minister and I know people who have either conducted marriages or been married by a ULC minister).

All in all, a quick, fun read that was well worth a quarter!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Everything You Need To Know About Alex Chilton

is on Big Star Live (1974):

It's all right here, folks

Big Star Live (1974): "Interview," "The Ballad of El Goodo," "Thirteen," "I'm in Love with a Girl," "Motel Blues"

Alex Chilton is my (anti-)hero and one of my all-time favorite singer-songwriters. So after hearing about his passing last week in New Orleans at age 59, I dug out my fave Chilton mix CD, a disc I promptly rebranded "The Alex Chilton Memorial Mix." Naturally it had a lot of Big Star on it, the '70s powerpop group that attained cult status with rock critics and will forever be identified as the high-water mark of Chilton's career, despite his apparent lack of interest in their after-the-fact legend. (Typical Alex; ever the enigmatic spoilsport and quirky iconoclast snatching ignomity from the jaws of fame, even though it's doubtful he ever got a bigger royalty check than for Big Star's "September Gurls" - a tune famously covered by the Bangles that has been called "the sine qua non of power pop, a glorious, glittering jewel with every facet cut and shined to absolute perfection" - or for "In the Street," which children by the millions know (as covered by Cheap Trick from Season 2 on) as the theme song to That '70s Show).

But my favorite part was a radio station interview followed by four acoustic tracks taken from the 1974 Big Star Live CD, for this "stripped-down, a man alone before the mic and under the spotlight" segment contains everything you need to know about Alex Chilton. It's like a fossil footprint he left behind that capsulizes his passion, his eccentricity, his skepticism, his cynicism, his insecurity, his anger, his bitterness - and, of course, his undeniable God-given talent.

Spotlight on Chilton: Alex explains it all

When a smooth-talking DJ comments, "You're been getting an awful lot of critical acclaim for your new album [1974's Radio City]; it's really good!" Alex sarcastically replies, "Yeah, uh, that's nice...I hope it sells...we've had critical acclaim before."

When the DJ asks him what it was like "in those early days of rock and roll" as a member of The Box Tops, Alex responds, "Pretty scummy...I dunno...about as scummy as now."

DJ: "Really?"

Alex: "Well it was a hard life out on the road and all, driving around in station wagons. It just wasn't any fun..."

DJ: "Did you do a lot of writing for the Box Tops?"

Alex: "No, it was pretty well controlled by some producers we had at the time, who controlled us as well as everything else."

DJ: "The kind of music you play has been compared to the Beatles in the mid-60s. Do you find the music to be timely? I mean, is it anachronistic to be playing this type of music in the mid-1970s?"

Alex: "I don't know. I haven't really decided yet. Somebody may convince me of that yet. I'm just doing what I like to do, you know? It sounds melodious to my ears."

Alex then introduces the first of four numbers he performs on acoustic guitar.

"This first one's from our first album, #1 Record, which can't be found anywhere. It's really rare. In fact, I can't find any around Ardent Records anymore."

(Ardent Records distribution problems at the time were well-documented; despite critical acclaim for Big Star, the band toured behind a record that was almost impossible to find anywhere outside of Memphis, a fact that crushed founding guitarist and fellow songwriter Chris Bell, who fell into a long depression and left the band.)

"The Ballad of El Goodo" (Alex Chilton)

I never knew exactly what this song - arguably Chilton's greatest - was about. Anti-draft anthem? Anti-conformity shout out? Maybe that's what makes it so great, it's generalized simplicity that lets it be whatever the listener wants it to be. It's certainly Chilton's credo, his "Mission Statement" of beliefs, a sort of Bill of Rights for the Individual, an anti-hero code to live by.
"Years ago my heart was set to live, oh
And I've been trying hard against unbelievable odds
It gets so hard at times like now to hold on
But guns they wait to be stuck by, and at my side is God

And there ain't no one gonna turn me round
Ain't no one going to turn me round...

There's people around who'll tell you that they know
And places where to send you
And it's easy to go

They'll zip you up and dress you down and stand you in a room
But you don't have to, you can just say 'No'

And there ain't no one gonna turn me round
Ain't no one going to turn me round...

I've been built up and trusted
Broke down and busted
But they'll get theirs and we'll get ours
If we can just hold on...hold on

Years ago my heart was set to live
And I've been trying hard against strong odds
It gets so hard at time like this to hold on
But I'll fall if I don't fight
And at my side is God

And there ain't no one gonna turn me round
Ain't no one going to turn me round..."

No one turned Alex 'round from his way of living, which he did on his terms and in his way, even if it meant ending his days living in a tent. He thumbed his nose at all pretense, sneered at potential Top 40 idolatry, and scoffed at any suggestion of rock stardom. As Dylan once sang, "To live outside the law you must be honest." Alex was always honest enough to be free - free to be he. The Man Called (Self?) Destruction said it all right here.

"Thirteen" (Alex Chilton-Chris Bell)

"This one really is anachronistic," Alex explains as he introduces the next song. "I wrote this one when I was 13. In fact it's called 'Thirteen.'" You can tell, as it's full of the innocence, passion, and yearning of Youth, but already anticipating the anger ("Tell your dad get off my back"), disappointment, and frustration of adulthood ("If it's no then I can go..."). Adolescence, in other words. "Thirteen" was later famously covered by Elliott Smith.
"Won't you let me walk you home from school?
Won't you let me meet you at the pool?
Maybe Friday I can, get tickets for the dance,
And I'll take you, ooo ooo

Won't you tell your dad get off my back?
Tell him what we said 'bout "Paint It Black"
Rock and roll is here to stay,
Come inside now it's ok,
And I'll shake you, ooo ooo

Won't you tell me what you're thinking of?
Would you be an outlaw for my love?
If it's so then let me know,
If it's no then I can go,
I won't make you, ooo ooo"

"I'm in Love with a Girl" (Alex Chilton)

Alex is at his most sentimental, teetering on cornball, in this simplistic emo ballad. Still, there's that certain Chiltonesque chill in the breeze, a sort of melodic-melancholy that you can hear in the song's fade-away close, "I didn't know it could happen to me..." that makes it seem as if he's sad that he's glad, as if he's anticipating the inevitable heartache. As Allmusicguide's Bill Janovitz observes:
The last song on Big Star's legendary album, Radio City, is a graceful country-folk ballad that has Alex Chilton alone with an acoustic guitar singing about a newfound love: "I'm in love with a girl/The finest girl in the world/I didn't know I could feel this way." After a power pop record filled with emotional and sexual frustration and angst that almost leads to misogyny, "I'm in Love With a Girl" serves as the calm after the storm, Chilton's high, shaky voice singing a wistful melody over a sparse guitar strum. He sounds as if he was taken by surprise by a love that crept up behind him, especially on the song's — and thus the album's — last three lines: "I didn't know about love/All that a man should do is true/I didn't think this could happen to me," the last of which rings out a capella, as if an apologetic explanation for the whole album.

"Motel Blues" (Loudon Wainright III)

Perhaps no song captures the "scumminess" of rock and roll that Chilton referred to in his DJ interview than this song, a cover of a tune by Rufus' dad, Loudon Wainright III. Or the loneliness ("...driving around in station wagons" town-to-town, eh Alex?). "Motel Blues" was also the start of the carefully selected Chilton cover song modus operandi, something that came to define his later career when the originals became scarcer and Alex seemed to revel in unearthing obscure, indigenous R&B nuggets from his native Memphis and new adopted spiritual home, New Orleans. Don't forget, this is the man who covered The Troggs "With a Girl Like You," the Stones' "Jumping Jack Flash" and "The Singer Not the Song" (the B-side of "Get Off of My Cloud"), Domenico Modugno's 1958 Italian hit (and later car commercial jingle) "Volare" (aka "Nel blu dipinto di blu"), and then whole albums-worth of cover songs - including "The Christmas Song" and J. S. Bach's "Gavotte" (!) - on Cliches (1993) and Set (2000).
In this town television shuts off at two
What can a lonely rock & roller do?
The bed's so big and the sheets are clean
and your girlfriend said that you were 19
The styrofoam icebucket is full of ice
Come up to my motel room and treat me nice

I don't wanna make no late night New York calls
and I don't wanna stare at them ugly grassmatt walls
chronologically I know you're young
but when you kissed me in the club you bit my tongue
I'll write a song for you, I'll put it on my next L.P
Come up to my motelroom and sleep with me

There's a Bible in the drawer, don't be afraid
I'll put up the sign to warn the cleanup maid
Yeah there's lots of soap end there's lots of towels
never mind the desk clerk's scowls
I buy you breakfast, they'll think you're my wife
Come up to my motel room and save my life

That last line makes me think of Paul Westerberg's recent op-ed piece in the Times in which he recalled the two friends cracking up discussing Alex's predicament in trying to lure girls back to his...tent. Had he succeeded, one thing is certain: it wouldn't have saved his life. The scummy rock and roll lifestyle ("Rock Hard") finally caught up with his rock and roll heart.

The world lost a true music maverick and renegade rock & roll spirit on March 17, 2010. He was due to perform at Austin's South by Southwest Festival where, in the words of Ardent Records founder John Fry, "You can't throw a rock...without hitting someone who was influenced by Big Star."

"If he died in Memphis, then that'd be cool...," Westerberg sang in "Alex Chilton." Well, the Big Easy was Chilton's last resting place, and that's pretty cool, too.


OK, I lied; there is something else about Chilton you need to know that I left out: check out Scott Wallace Brown's excellent rumination "Meditations on Chilton: Part I - "What's Your Sign[ifier], Dude? ".

Related Links:
Of course, if you're a niggling stickler for a God-is-in-the-details examination of Alex Chilton and Big Star, you'll want to avail yourself of the following books:

It Came from Memphis (2001) by Robert Gordon
Big Star: The Short Life, Painful Death, and Unexpected Resurrection of the Kings of Power Pop (2005) by Rob Jovanovic
Radio City (33 1/3 series) (2009) by Bruce Eaton

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The Dave Cawley Songbook

I was bored one day, so I decided to anthologize all of the songs my friend Dave Cawley had written and recorded over the years with Berserk and Garage Sale, as well as the unreleased demos he recorded with his ertswhile lyricist chum Tom Davis. The Berserk and Garage Sale tunage speaks for itself and is readily available on the Berserk (Go-Kart, 1994) and Pointless Summer (Beef Platter, 2000) CDs, but there are some real gems on the Davis recordings, which were recorded and engineered by Tom Davis and feature either Dave Cawley's solo songs or tunes for which Davis wrote the words and Dave composed the music, a la Elton John and Bernie Taupin. Music-wise it's all Dave Cawley, with Dave doing all the singing and playing acoustic (sometimes 12-string) guitar. I never realized how good a guitar player Dave was until now, having previously only seen him play bass in Berserk and Garage Sale. (I remember Dave telling me once how a local guitar player saw him playing an acoustic guitar and exclaimed, "Wow, I didn't know you played guitar, too!" to which Dave replied, "Yes, bass players can actually play guitar - maybe crappy guitar, but a guitar's a guitar no matter how many strings!")

The Dave Cawley Songbook: Much Ado About Nothing

I took all of Dave's songs from the Berserk CD - "Giant Robots," "My Love Is So Big," "Pen Pal," "Kamen Rider Love Song," "When I Think," "Depression" - and added two more that were previously only available on compilation CDs, "Ultra 7" - perhaps the best Berserk song ever (it's certainly my fave!) - from 1996's Go-Kart Vs. Corporate Giant (Go-Kart Records) - and "5 Strings" from 1995's Baltimore band collection Walking By a Building (Hat Factory).

Dave's Garage Sale output, from 2000's Pointless Summer CD, is represented here by "Brentless" (a shout-out to former Berserk and Stress Magnets guitarist Brent Malkus), "She Makes Me Hard," "Forgive Me," and the instrumental "Song of Hope," the latter song usually performed live with a mock "Ballroom Blitz" intro. The lone Cawley song missing from the Garage Sale CD is "I Suppose," which turns up in demo form on The Dave Cawley Songbook - Volume 2...

The Dave Cawley Songbook - Volume 2:
The Basement Tapes

Of the 18 originals here, nine are by Dave Cawley and nine are Cawley-Davis collaborations. Berserk fans take note, this is the only recorded version (unless Skizz has a live recording somewhere) of "Kumi Mizuno," Dave's homage to the comely Japanese film star (shown at left) who appeared in a number of Godzilla films (Godzilla Vs. Monster Zero, Godzilla Vs. the Sea Monster), as well as Matago (aka Attack of the Mushroom People), Frankenstein Conquers the World, and International Secret Police: Key of Keys (the spy movie that Woody Allen dubbed, re-edited, and re-released as What's Up, Tiger Lily?).

"She came to us from a world called Planet X/When I see her, you know it makes-a-me want to have sex," Dave sings, obviously wearing his heart on (or hard-on) his sleeve. I can understand his emotions. Kumi Mizuno (real name: Maya Igarashi) was pretty hot as villainess "Miss Namikawa" in that skin-tight space uniform in Monster Zero. No wonder director Ishiro Honda couldn't keep his hands off her (as shown at right). I only wish Dave had continued his Toho film star obsession with some more tunes, like maybe one called "Akiko Wakabayashi" (admittedly a hard name to create rhymes for!) in homage to the fetching star of Dagora - The Space Monster and You Only Live Twice.

Other noteworthy Dave ditties here include his heartfelt lovesong to his favorite long-lost dominant terrestrial vertebrate animals, "The Dinosaurs Are Gone for Good" (best line: "I'd watch them smash and turn our malls to trash"), his bossa nova song "The Girl That Never Cared," the anti-Dave Matthews Band rant "DMB (The Only Thing Missing Is U)," and "Colby," in which Dave references not only TSU (calling Towson U. "Towson State University" really dates you!), but also, in musical style, the Andy Griffith Show's hillbilly band The Darlings. The song's about a college kid and would-be drummer who's a cheesy as his name implies.

And for Garage Sale completists, there's "I Suppose," though Dave regrets that his voice was pretty hoarse the day he recorded this take. It contains one of my favorite Cawley couplets, "And if someone tells you that I'm not a handsome lad/Darling you can tell them that they must be mad!" Oh, and "Hidden Sudden Drop-offs" was another Garage Sale contender that never made the cut.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Tortoise Shell-Shocked

Fear the Chortle:
The Most Crushing Terrapins Basketball Losses

This too shall pass. But for now it's passing like a particularly large kidney stone. In the wake of the Maryland Terps gut-wrenching last-second 85-83 loss to Michigan State on Sunday in the second round of the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament - on a 3-pointer at the buzzer, no less - sports pundits and shell-shocked fans alike are calling it perhaps the toughest Maryland hoops loss ever. (Click here to watch Korie Lucious's buzzer-beater.)

God knows it's a long list - there have been so many to choose from! As Don Markus wrote in the Baltimore Sun the next day, "Having covered Maryland basketball on and off for the past 25 years, I know there were some other tough losses. But given the circumstances of the Terps coming back to twice take the lead in the final minute, to have Greivis Vasquez pass Len Bias on the scoring list during his final game of a memorable career, not to mention the fact that the road to the Final Four in the Midwest had been cleared of both Kansas and Georgetown, the ending of Sunday's defeat was as deflating as any I have seen."

Thankfully, I didn't didn't see the buzz-kill ending. Decades of Terps disappointment had prepared me for the high-hopes/let-down dichotomy that is Maryland basketball (with the exception of the 2002 season - when someone did us a favor and knocked Duke out the tournament, clearing the path for our lone title), so I was buying old Jerry Lewis DVDs at the Dundalk Big Lots store when Korie Lucious's 3-pointer went swish.

Mock Turtle Talk Soup

Before agreeing to call the Michigan State game the toughest loss in recent Maryland history, and maybe in school history, Markus offered up the following candidates for Terps fans to consider:
Duke 98, Maryland 96, Jan. 27, 2001 at Cole Field House.

Duke's comeback battered the Twerps

Don Markus: "I remember watching that game from a sports bar in Tampa the night before the Ravens beat the Giants in the Super Bowl. After Blake fouled out with 1:15 left in regulation, the Terps blew a 10-point lead in the final 54 seconds to goand were forced into overtime. Maryland students set bonfires afterward. The next day, Gary Williams fulfilled his promise to good friend Steve Bisciotti and flew down to Florida to watch the Ravens. The Terps recovered and went on to the first Final Four in school history..." (Click here to watch Duke's "Miracle Minute" comeback - if you can without getting nauseous.)

Duke 95, Maryland,84, March 31, 2001 at the Metrodome in Minneapolis.

All over but the pouting

"Watching from courtside as the Terps build a 22-point lead in the first half against the Blue Devils, I thought Maryland would get payback for that crushing loss earlier in the season. I was wrong. The end of that night's collapse (the biggest point-wise in Final Four history) came when, with Maryland trailing by five, Lonny Baxter was called for a "phantom" fifth foul with 2:48 left, prompting Williams to yell at Big East commissioner and NCAA tournament selection chairman Mike Tranghese -- and a close friend of the Terps coach -- 'How [expletive] bad do you guys want Duke in the final?'"

North Carolina State 103, Maryland 100, March 9, 1974 in the ACC tournament championship game at the Greensboro Coliseum.

Thrown to the Wolves pack

"Considered by many to be the greatest college game ever played -- though Len Elmore conceded some 18 years later that the Duke-Kentucky game was better in the 1992 East Regional final in Philadelphia -- it was the game that provided the impetus for the tournament field to be expanded to include teams that didn't win their conference or, in the ACC's case, the conference tournament. The Terps were ranked No. 4 in the country, the Wolfpack No. 1. After losing in overtime, Maryland turned down a bid to the NIT, still considered a prestigious event at the time."

That 2001 loss to Duke in the Final Four after blowing a 22-point first half lead will always stick in my crawl as perhaps the most crushing (because it was Duke!), but the beaten-at-the-buzzer aspect of Sunday's game (in which Maryland rallied from being down, at one point, by 19 points) made this Almost Hip Guy think back to a 1986 last-second loss at the buzzer against Georgia Tech in the ACC Tournament.

If my memory serves me well, this was Lefty Driesell's final season, back when Len Bias was still alive, before Bob Wade and all the sanctions. And it hurt even more because the player who beat us was a local product - Duane Ferrell of Calvert Hall - who should have been playing for the Terps. I can still recall how I screamed at the TV set watching how the Terps had the ball and were all set for a game-winning shot. If only Terps guard Keith Gatlin's inbound pass to Len Bias hadn't been intercepted at the halfcourt line and taken down the other direction for a soul-crushing slam-dunk loss. So to Don Markus' list let me add...
Georgia Tech 64, Maryland 62, March 8, 1986 in the ACC Tournament semifinals at the Greensboro Coliseum. From the Baltimore Sun: "There's a payoff to all those times the coach gives a scouting report, or predicts an opponents' play in the huddle. Duane Ferrell will tell anyone that who wants to listen.

Georgia Tech and Maryland were tied in the final seconds of the 1986 ACC tournament semifinals. The crowd was deafening, as the two teams huddled around their coaching staffs. Maryland had the ball and time to run a potential game-winning play.

But, two decades later, Ferrell still has a good handle on what happened next.

'Bobby Cremins was our head coach and Perry Clark was our defensive coach,' says Ferrell, a Baltimore native who passed up the chance to go to Maryland to go to Georgia Tech. 'Perry had seen them run a play at the end of a game before, and he drew it up in the huddle.

'I was looking at their point guard, Keith Gatlin, take the ball out of bounds at mid-court. I took a look at everyone on the floor and they were lined up exactly how coach Clark drew it up. I don't know if anyone else realized it, but I didn't want to give it away that I knew. I knew the ball was going to be coming to Len Bias.

'Gatlin lobbed the ball inbounds, I beat Len to the ball, reached out and stole it. I tipped the ball out ahead of me. Gatlin was trying to catch me. All I was thinking was that I didn't want to kick the ball off my foot. I went up for the dunk, he grabbed my arm, but he wasn't able to stop me.'" Ouch!

Certainly the worst defeat in recent Terps history - and the worst of Gary Williams coaching career - was last year's 41-point loss to (who else?) Duke at Cameron Indoor Stadium.
Duke 85, Maryland 44, January 23, 2009 at Cameron Indoor Stadium. From the Baltimore Sun's Don Markus: "The loss was the worst Gary Williams has suffered in 31 years as a head coach. It was Maryland's fourth-worst loss in program history. It was the Terps worst defeat since falling to Army by 63 in 1944. It was the lowest point total Maryland ever has accumulated in 20 years with Williams in charge."

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Olivia Williams

Olivia Williams is all eyes in "The Ghost Writer"

Just saw Roman Polanski's new film, The Ghost Writer, which featured a standout performance by Olivia Williams as the sharp-edged, no-frills wife of a controversial former British Prime Minister (Pierce Brosnan) who's obviously modeled after Bush Doctrine-suckass Tony Blair.

In his New Yorker review, David Denby cut to the quick of Williams' performance as a cool and calculating woman-behind-the-great-man when he wrote: "Williams gaze could sear the fat off a lamb shank."

Great line and spot on!

"Where have we seen her before?" I asked my long-suffering girlfriend Amy. "She was wicked good!"

"I dunno," Amy replied, perplexed. But the next day, post-Googling, she called and stumped me when she said, "We just saw Olivia Williams in one of this year's Oscar nominees!"

Now I was perplexed. But when Amy filled in the blanks and told me the film in question was (the excellent) An Education, it dawned on me...yes, washing the gray streaks out of her Prime Minister wife's hair, I could see that Olivia played Miss Stubbs, Carey Mulligan's school teacher confidante with the pulled back hair and librarian specs!

Miss Stubbs gives lads the chubbs!

It's not the first time Williams, with her air of erudition and slender build, has essayed the role of an educator, having previously been cast as Miss Cross, the elementary school teacher who becomes Max Fritsch's unrequited object of desire in Wes Anderson's Rushmore (1998).

Max is maxed out by Miss Cross' hot buns

Speaking of Rushmore, director Brett Ratner was such a fan of that film that he begged Olivia Williams to put in a cameo appearance as brainy scientist Dr. Moira MacTaggert in X-Men: The Last Stand.

As yes, it's a brainy-but-sexy aura that I find strangely appealing. Apparently, so did Joss Whelan when he cast Olivia Williams as Adelle DeWitt in his Dollhouse TV series.

DeWitt of "Dollhouse"

If the brain is the sexiest part of one's body, then Olivia Williams is pure pin-up material, and her roles radiant erudite eros.

Saturday, March 06, 2010

A Real Bargain

Gonzalo Higuain is the Real deal

Real Madrid's record-busting "New Galactico" signings for the 2009-2010 season reached a headcount of eight new high-priced players, including an outlay of some $80 million for Cristiano Ronaldo, $56 million for Kaka, and $30 million each for Karim Benzema and Xabi Alonso. That's $196 million for four players who were supposed to be scorers and playmakers and 24 games into the season and Ronaldo has 13 goals and 3 assists (not bad considering all the games he missed through injury), Kaka has 7 goals and 5 assists, Bezema 7 goals and 3 assists, Alonso 1 goal and 4 assists.

Meanwhile 22-year-old Argentine international Gonzalo Higuain is leading the team with 16 goals and 3 assists in 18 appearances and is averaging a goal every 75 minutes - a rate that puts him well on course to snare the Pichichi "Golden Boot" trophy awarded to La Liga's top scorer. Higuain also led los Blancos last year with 22 goals. Higuain joined Real Madrid from Argentina's River Plate (14 goals in 33 games) on January 1, 2007 for a mere $13 million dollars. Since that time, he's scored 96 goals in 48 appearances. I call that a bargain. Sometimes Real Madrid prez Florentino Perez can't see his forest for the Galactico trees.

Of course, Real Madrid are going to have to renegotiate soon with the hot young striker, as English Premiere League teams in need of a quality striker (like Arsenal!) are putting out feelers as we speak. And Diego Maradona better ensure he's in this year's World Cup side. Higuain was actually born in France (he father played for Brest in France's Ligue 1) and could have played internationally for Les Bleus, who called him up in 2006. (It wasn't until 2007 that he applied for an Argentine passport, and his indecision on whether to play for La Albiceleste - in a passionate and emotional country like Argentina and for a passionate and emotional coach like Diego Maradona - was viewed as a national affront.) So it's not surprisng that he was a late addition to Maradona's national side, but has already scored two goals in two appearances, including one in that crucial 2-1 World Cup qualifier win over Peru. So let bygones be bygones and count your lucky stars, Diego!

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

The Accidental DJ

Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix
Thomas Mars (vocals)
Deck D'Arcy (bass)
Laurent Brancowitz (guitar)
Christian Mazzalai (guitar)
I had never heard of these guys before, but I liked the album title and seeing their song title "Lisztomania" made me think of Ken Russell's schlocky Roger Daltry film, so I took it home. Further Wikipedia and Pitchfork research determined they were a French alterna rock band from Versailles (the city across the Atlantic, not the apartment complex across from Towson University) with electropop leanings so, excitedly, on the drive home I popped the disc into my car CD player, eagerly anticipating the next Daft Punk, Prototypes, or at least another ambient Air, and was rewarded with something even better: a French Hot Chip. Subsequently, the next day's b free daily paper had, as their WTMD radio pick, Phoenix's "Lisztomania," which they mentioned was featured in the recent crappy romantic comedy with the two Jessicas (Alba and Biel) Valentine's Day. Good for them, I thought, high-profile exposure.

I really, really liked what I heard, so when I got home I fired up the laptop, created a playlist in iTunes, and clicked to burn. When it looked like my burn was a done deal, a fait accompli in Phoenix parlance, I clicked to eject the disc. But something happened, as it usually does with my Dell laptop, and I couldn't eject the disc. Weird, I thought, but after going through the logoff, reboot, re-eject routine, I finally got the disc out. It looked OK, so when I drove into work that morning I popped it in the car CD player and heard nothing but one riff from "Lisztomania" repeated endlessly over and over: "So sentimental...Not sentimental no! Romantic...not disgusting yet...Darling I'm down and lonely...So sentimental...Not sentimental no! Romantic...not disgusting yet...Darling I'm down and lonely..." Then it ended.

Wow, I thought, I don't remember that - was it an alterno version hidden track? But no, that was it, a 5-minute loop of electropop was all that had recorded on my CD. My accidental remix was downright catchy (Phoenix should record it!), but I realized I would never be able to replicate it again. My iTunes copy musta crashed mid-burn during that song. A simple, digitized twist of fate.

Has this happened to anyone else?

Related links:
"Lisztomania" video (YouTube)
Phoenix on MySpace
Phoenix on Wikipedia
Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix (Pitchfork review)

What's in a (F) Word?

Obfuscation Is in the Details
What are words for? When no one listens it's no use talkin at all.
- "Words," Missing Persons

Thanks to my Facebook gal-pal Caprice for alerting me to this wonderful mix that boils down the socio-political context of NWA's indigenous indignity to its essence: The F-bomb. And the MF-bomb. And the N-bomb. And the B(eeyatch)-bomb. And some Sugar, Honey, Ice Tea to sweeten the mix for good measure. All the other verbiage adds up to nothing but gibberage anyway. After all, as Homer Simpson once observed: "English? Who needs that - I'm never going to England!"

See what I'm saying?

NWA - "Straight Outta Compton" Explicit Content Only Edit

The nothing-but-profanity edit. Interestingly, most of the rage is reserved for John Law, with "Fuck Tha Police" clocking in at 42 seconds!

On a similar deconstructive note...

Scarface has a Swearing Problem

Every f**k from De Palma's SCARFACE.

Raging Bull - The F**king Short Version

Training Day - F**king Short Version

Casino - The F**king Short Version

The Big Liebowski - The F**king Short Version

Snatch - The F**king Short Version

Die Hard - The F**king Short Version

Yippee-ki-yay, motherf**kers!

Pulp Fiction - The F**king Short Version

Trainspotting - The F**king Short Version

The Departed - The F**king Short Version

Gran Torino - The F**king Short Version

Full Metal Jacket - The F**king Short Version

Superbad - The Short F**king Version


Of course, the ultimate guide to the F-bomb is Steve Anderon's 2005 documentary F*CK.

F*CK - The F**king Short Version