We’re watchin’ the TV!

Some things I’ve caught recently.

“Six Feet Under” (HBO)
The finale, which just aired here on the east coast, was absolutely demolishing, the way only a show with five years to build up its characters and themes can pull off. Good thing, because the middle stretch of the show – seasons 3 and 4 – were really spotty and unfocused. I thought this was because the scripts were getting away from the very interesting hook of the series – that the Fisher family operates a funeral home. But that’s simplistic. It was because the series wasn’t dealing as seriously with mortality, as epitomized by the “CSI”-style plot that dominated the fourth season. It recaptured that this season, especially tonight. Damn. That was a really good finale.

“Starved” (FX)
This dramedy (croma?) reminds me of “Seinfeld.” Not that it’s funny, or quotable, or good. It’s the way the show’s creator/star, Eric Schaeffer, is a charisma-less mutant who manages to get beautiful female characters to share their bodies with him. Amusingly, this is Schaeffer’s pattern – he writes and directs movies or TV shows in which gorgeous women love him. Here’s his movie “Fall.”

Cab driver Michael and supermodel Sarah fall in love while her gorgeous husband Phillippe is in Madrid for two months. They are two people from completely different worlds who meet by chance.

And “If Lucy Fell,” wherein he wins the heart of Sarah Jessica Parker.

Joe MacGonaughgill (Schaeffer) is a painter and teacher who has been spying for years on Jane (Elle Macpherson), the gorgeous woman who lives across the alley, where she can be secretly observed undressing.

I wish I didn’t know this. Seeing “Starved” and knowing Eric Schaeffer is allowed to roam Los Angeles making successful pitches for more terrible TV shows and movies has me researching how much a good hitman costs.

“Undeclared” (FOX DVD)
I often hear about cancelled-before-their-time shows, but this one hurts. It’s a comedy about college freshmen that was aired in the 2001-2002 season, when I was a college sophomore. By rights, I should have watched this and boosted its ratings. But I can write it off because this was the TV season that started after 9/11, when the only show (or movie or album) that could grab viewers was the CIA drama “Alias.”

Obviously, it’s a fantastic show. Judd Apatow, co-creator of “Freaks and Geeks” and “The 40-Year Old Virgin,” assembled a cast of witty writers and likeable lead actors and sets them loose in a realistic-yet-surreal generic college environment, the University of North-East California. (UNEC, get it? Say it out loud.) I got it for retail, which was $37 – a complete steal.

It’s not a space shuttle launch, it’s CRACK

Wow. Sad news on the Natasha Lyonne front.

Missing Star Natasha Lyonne is found in Downtown NYC Hospital.
“American Pie” Star Natasha Lyonne is lying in Beth Israel Hospital’s Intensive Care Unit in New York City under an assumed name name, suffering from drug withdrawal and disease.

This sucks. Natasha Lyonne was one of the few celebrities I met while living in New York, for three months in 2003. I was at a premiere of “The Weather Undergound” and Lyonne, with two giggly male friends in tow, sat right next to me. We chatted really briefly about the movie after it was over, and ever since, I’ve hoped she can keep her career on the right track. It’s too bad “Slums of Beverly Hills” didn’t take off and change her career trajectory, but 1998 America wasn’t quite ready for a feminist coming of age comedy in which Marisa Tomei dances with a vibrator.

Sign o’ the times

Was killing time in a bookstore yesterday and glanced a stack of this book, a new and authoritative biography of Arnold Schwarzenegger.

They were marked down, 50% off. Boy, that says it all.

I really feel for journalists who toil on these politics/current events books only to see their subjects drop from relevance when the books are released. For every Ahmed Rashid, who wrote smart book about the Taliban that hit shelves right before 9/11, there’s a Laurence Leamer or a “Why Europe will rule the 21th century” booster.

Wha’happen?

Whoops, haven’t posted in a while. Here’s why – at the moment, I’m juggling a few not-minor tasks – a long, heavily-sourced assignment, some apartment negotiations, some job applications. Normally, these tasks would not prohibit me from posting here. What has prohibited me was a friend’s tip that I download this unfortunately-named game “President Forever.” I reviewed a similar game, “The Political Machine”, a few months ago, but this new game is just insanely addictive.

The problem with “The Political Machine” was that it was only set up to run the 2004 election. “President Forever” has less effects and tricks, but it’s easily programmable, so you can download or mock up scenarios from any election, ever. After I ran some 2004 scenarios, I gamed: the 1972 election as George McGovern (I tacked right on crime/demonstrators and lost by 4 electoral votes), the 1992 election as George Bush (I dropped Quayle and spun the economy and barely win), the 1912 election as Eugene Debs (I won Ohio, Nevada, Maine and New York and threw the election into the House of Representatives) and … some other stuff.

Really fun stuff. Recommended if you’re a geek.

Bigotry occasionally backfires!

Here’s columnist Doug Giles, making the argument that “To not specifically investigate Muslim men, especially within our borders, who are between the ages of 17-40 would be completely goofy.”

The following is a multiple-choice test. The events are cuts from history. Yes, they actually happened!

1. 1968 Bobby Kennedy was shot and killed by:
a. Superman
b. Jay Leno
c. Harry Potter
d. A Muslim man between the ages of 17 and 40

Bobby Kennedy was killed by Sirhan Sirhan, who was Catholic.

W … T … F?

Outside of that Michelle Malkin post I’ve reserved comment on the Cindy Sheehan thing, but holy shit. These people must be the biggest douchebags in the histories of both douching and bags.

CRAWFORD – A grieving mother’s anti-war protest entered its second week, gaining momentum and spurring counter-rallies, as hundreds of people with conflicting opinions about the war in Iraq descended Saturday on a road leading to the Western White House.

The 250-plus Bush supporters stood in the blazing sun for a few hours in a ditch across the street from the campsite. Most waved American flags and held signs, including “Help! I’m surrounded by America hating idiots!” and “Thank you, Mr. President.”

“I feel sorry for Cindy, but I think she went about this the wrong way,” said Bill Garrett, of Dallas, a member of Protest Warrior, a group that frequently holds counterprotests to anti-war rallies. “Somebody’s got to stand up to them.”

Boy, I hope there was something more compelling and well-argued that this biased MSM reporter left out of that quote, because if not, this is a gusher of wet, hot douchebaggery.

I suppose it’s worth providing some background. When the war in Iraq was beginning, I fully supported it on humanitarian grounds. In late February 2003 there was a big anti-war protest happening at my college campus, and some ROTC kids who knew I was a conservative emailed me to ask if I was up for crashing their protest. I said “sure.” My reasoning was that the anti-war, left-wing (we’re doing it for oil, etc) perspective was getting a ton of local coverage, and it was only fair that the pro-war perspective – a substantial minority on campus – get out there. So a group of pro-war folk walked into the protest with a boombox playing “I Can Change” (the cartoon Saddam Hussein’s song from the South Park movie). Heads duly turned, we turned down the boombox and, after disrupting the protest momentarily, watched it keep rolling. After a little while one of the anti-war organizers asked for one of us assholes to come and speak, and I volunteered. This resulted in the once-in-a-lifetime sentence “The anti-war protesters applauded Weigel’s speech,” printed in the Feb. 24, 2003 Daily Northwestern.

Now, I have a rotten, but probably not uncommon, habit. Occasionally, my grey matter will shift around and hone in on some shitty, awful memory that I meant to repress. It can be a dumb thing I said on a date or a torturous 7th grade gym class. Many times, it’s been the memory of that counter-protest. It was just so stupid and rude to crash these anti-war students’ event, especially considering what’s happened in Iraq since then.

And if what I did was bad – irritating some anti-war college students before the start of the war – than these people protesting, as near as I can tell, the insolence of a grieving mother of a dead soldier to criticize the president … they suck.

Are we not men?

I saw Devo at the 9:30 Club tonight and it was awesome. Here’s a breakdown with as much literary flair as I can muster at 2:40 am.

There were some mean omens at 10:40, when the house lights dimmed and a funny video started rolling – a purposely amateurish guide to dressing for a Devo concert, hosted by an old man who says “So, you’ve decided to attend a Devo performance! A wise decision.” Unfortunately, this film was being beamed from a DVD that was scratched and skipping – it skipped back to the beginning five times before the techies shut it down and started the band’s intro music. Then Devo ran onstage, in full radiation suit regalia, and began playing “That’s Good!”

Here’s Mark Mothersbaugh, who stood a good 3 feet from me.

Here’s Jerry Casale.

After running through a few tracks from their keyboard period, the band strapped on guitars and launched into “Satisfaction.”

During the freak-out at the end of the song, Mothersbaugh tore some of his rad suit off the shoulder. Then he led the band into “Uncontrollable Urge” which culminated with a menancing light glowing beneath them.

As the song went on, Mothersbaugh ripped chunks off the other spuds’ rad suits. Then came “Jocko Homo,” and when the “We must repeat!” part of the song came up, the band stripped off their suits and threw them into the crowd.

That’s Jerry Casale taking off his pants. Immediately after this picture was taken, I yelled “JERRY!” He saw me, and tossed the pants directly into my hands, whereupon I stuffed them into my bag. AT THAT VERY SECOND, Mothersbaugh leapt off the stage while singing “ARE WE NOT MEN?” and when he hit the pit, he put the mic in my face. I gasped and shouted “WE ARE DEVO!” And then Mothersbaugh walked around the pit re-enacting this with other patrons.

The band went on playing its set in Devo shirts and underwear.

When the set ended, they took a break, then came back for an encore ending in “Come Back Jonee,” which Mothersbaugh sang in a cowboy hat.

Then I came home and took a picture of my new rad suit pants. Please note the special effects making me look all red and sweaty.

After shooting this, I tried the pants on and discovered Jerry Casale’s flop sweat still contained within. And goodnight!

A thousand monkeys

There is truly nothing stupider than an “Ain’t it Cool News” thread that devolves into a political flamewar. This one has a good moment, though.

I Hope At Some Point We Can All Stop Discussing The Movie And Get Into A Political Debate
by Diana Rules! August 12th, 2005
10:22:56 AM CST
That’s really why I come here. If I want to talk about movies, I go to the DNC or RNC websites. We’ve got a great discussion going on in both places about Ghost Rider. The Republicans think the movie glorifies Satan and the Democrats think Johnny Blaze should wear a helmet while on the bike. It’s all in fun though.

Ha.

Random Ten

1) “Franz Schubert” by Kraftwerk. Peaceful, Popol Vuh-ish track from Trans Europe Express. Sounds a little like a robot’s REM sleep. (7/10)
2) “After The Gold Rush” by Neil Young. Mournful title song from one of his best albums, later appropriated as the “sad walking away song” for like a hundred shitty movies. Near as I can tell he’s singing about a midevil village closing its doors in the … 1970s? Fuck, I hate lyrics. (8/10)
3) “Oklahoma Nights” by Arlo Guthrie. Insanely catchy Jimmy Webb-penned pop nugget from Arlo Guthrie’s more mainstream offspring. Suffers from the occasional Webb malady of an awesome, awesome verse and bridge leading up to a lackluster chorus. Fantastic arrangement, though – just enough strings. (8/10)
4) “This Heart” by Nanci Griffith. Out-of-place skiffle song from her last strong-selling record, 1994’s Flyer. U2’s Larry Mullen plays the bongos. I’m serious. (7/10)
5) “Nightclubbing” by Iggy Pop. Dark-ass irony ballad from Pop’s David Bowie-produced breakthrough, The Idiot. A truly fantastic production – the drum is distorted to hell, like Denny Wilson’s in the Beach Boys’ “Do It Again,” and playing a sad funeral march. There’s a sticky keyboard hammering out a dirge, and then all of a sudden Carlos Alomar comes in and starts soloing like a cat is running across his fretboard. Later used in “Trainspotting” during that scene when the characters are taking drugs. (8/10)
6) “The Mob Rules” by Black Sabbath. Near-thrash from the brief Dio era, with some unbeatable see-saw riffing by Tony Iommi and a cement-heavy bassline by Geezer Butler. Later used in “Heavy Metal” during that part when the mutated future people overun that city in the desert. (8/10)
6) “Outbound Plane” by Nanci Griffith. What the shit? Not just another NG song, but a song that sounds EXACTLY like “This Heart.” Lucky she’s good at this sort of thing. (7/10)
7) “Lively Up Yourself” by Bob Marley. Leadoff track from Natty Dread. Basically “Jammin'” at a pace for skanking instead of toking. (6/10)
8) “Jesus Walks” by Kanye West. Oh hell yes. I just saw this one in a trailer for the upcoming Curtis Hanson adaptation of Jarhead, which John Podhoretz thinks is an epitome of Hollywood anti-troopsism. (Ha ha! John Podhoretz “thinks”!) Still, apart from the very cool “Ooo-ooo” hook, not much I like about this song. (5/10)
9) “Gonna Raise Hell” by Cheap Trick. Endless, dated disco song from Dream Police, used to incredible effect in the “Tricks and Treats” episode of “Freaks and Geeks.” But outside of that usage, not a great song. (4/10)
10) “Nothing” by Dwight Yoakam. A typically wonderful ballad from Yoakam’s pop period, which I miss dearly. Roy Orbison could have sung this one. (8/10)

SUMMARY: I just put 98 Pet Shop Boys songs on there, and none of them come up? Wow. Otherwise, a decent showing.