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"Surely putting to death ten convicted killers isn't nearly as useful as stopping a single Bonin before he tastes blood."
--Judge Alex Kozinski,
"Tinkering With Death", The New Yorker, p.53 (2/10/97)
"Paper Money", Philadelphia Weekly,
p. 18 (6/26/02).
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As featured in the January 18, 2003 issue of Hindustan Times
By Adam Bonin
Who Am I? What's This Blog?
Websites to Browse:
Talking Points Memo
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Media and Culture:
TV Without Pity
The Hot Button
Live at Antonio's Pizza
This is only an exhibition; please, for heaven's sake, no wagering.
Sunday, April 20, 2003
SPRING HAS SPRUNG: Congratulations to William Andrew Kocis Jr. and James Henry Knopf, who affirmed their partnership yesterday at the National Arts Club in New York.
In so affirming (and announcing), the couple has ended the NYT Styles section's streak of eleven straight weeks of straight weeks, just like the editors promised.
VANITY. DEFINITELY MY FAVORITE SIN: Building off his review of The Recruit in which he explained the "Al Pacino crazy mentor picture" genre, the NYT's A.O. (but everyone calls him Tony) Scott today puts it bluntly: "Pacino's best performance was also his most contained. So why has he been chewing scenery for the last decade?"
Scott's key sentences, in an essay titled "Seen This Guy Lately?":
Mr. Pacino's more or less recent body of work — from "Sea of Love," the 1989 crime melodrama that marked his comeback as a movie star, through "People I Know" — may look, at first glance, like the usual screen actor's grab bag: high-concept studio pictures and quirky indie projects, genre exercises and improbable stunts, interesting mediocrities and a handful of rough gems. But there is also, beneath the surface diversity, a strange consistency, almost as if the individual roles were episodes in a single ongoing performance. Again and again, Mr. Pacino has chosen to explore the inner condition and outward behavior of a middle-aged man who lives haunted by the after-effects of a calamitous, generally self-inflicted defeat, someone who has survived his own moral or material failure and now must struggle to evade its deathly shadow. Sometimes these men find redemption, sometimes destruction. Occasionally they fumble toward love, though more typically it has long since slipped from their grasp. Their principal relationships tend to be with younger men (and occasionally, as with Hilary Swank's worshipful young cop in "Insomnia," with women) for whom the old-timers serve variously (sometimes simultaneously) as mentors, tormentors, confessors and role models.
Scott's essay accurately describes the condition, but does not much diagnose why Pacino's recent acting mostly consists "ravaged intensity" that often descends into "the crudest shtick".
Well, I've got a theory. It's not my own, but it makes a lot of sense: Al Pacino is almost sixty-four years old. Did you realize that? The theory is that he's had his face lifted so many times to keep looking younger that he can no longer do any kind of subtle facial gestures. He's lost the ability to furrow his brow, to communicate without words, and so the only acting tool left in his kit is his booming, melodramatic voice.
Take a look at these pictures -- one from The Godfather, Part II; the other a recent portrait. You tell me:
I think that forehead looks a little . . . smooth, don't you?
By the way, the whole Arts & Leisure section is great today, highlighted by a Frank Rich column on why Jon Stewart so owns this cultural moment and Todd Purdum's full-pager on the comedic legacy of Bob Hope, who turns 100 next month, despite all my predictions to the contrary. Congratulations and thank you, Jodi Kantor.
Saturday, April 19, 2003
HAIL TO THE CONQUERING BLUE HENS? The Oakland Raiders have sued the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, claiming that the Pewter Pirates' logo too closely resembles that of the one-eyed man of the Silver and Black.
But as the Life, Law, Libido blog explains, if courts take seriously these claims that various team uniforms too closely resemble each other, then there's plenty of teams who'll need changing. Read L-Cubed's thorough (and well-illustrated) review via this link.
Friday, April 18, 2003
JAM OF THE WEEK: If you haven't heard Panjabi MC's "Mundian To Bach Ke (Beware of the Boys)" yet, you will.
Welcome to the multicultural age, where a 27-year old bhangra DJ born Rajinder Rai, born in Coventry, England can take a 15th-century dhol drum, contemporary bhangra music from India's Punjab region, and add heavy sampling from Busta Rhymes' sampling of the "Knight Rider" theme, and create a totally addictive international hip-hop hit that's starting to penetrate America.
I mean, totally infectious. Just watch the video here and enjoy.
(If you want to download the song, I believe there's peer-to-peer software that will allow you to do so.)
The lyrics ain't much; they translate down to "you're a hot young woman, so watch out for predatory boys", but who cares? It's a dope beat with some wicked sampling and lyrical attitude that work in any language. If anyone still doubted hip-hop's global reach and lasting importance, that argument is long over. We're all just one big dance floor now.
Panjabi MC's success here (it's already MTV's Jam of the Week) follows on the heels of Truth Hurts' success with "Addictive" last fall, which borrowed heavily from Hindi song "Thoda Resham Lagta Hai" for its hook. Unfortunately for Ms. Hurts, however she seems to have had some problem clearing her sampling rights.
PMC got Hasselhoff on board, fortunately. It's a wonderful world.
MARINERS. HARPOONS. CONSEQUENCES: Three different members of the Seattle Mariners became fathers last week, exactly thirty-nine weeks after last year's three-day break for baseball's all-star game. Funny how that all works out.
Read about it here.
IDOL SPOILER: If you want to know exactly what's going to happen on Monday's clip show, click here and scroll down to janbrady's report from the taping.
[editor's note: henceforth, there's only one "A.I." on this blog. It's playoff time.]
A REMINDER TO MY ALASKA-BASED READERS: Yes, the first muktuk of the season is now available in beautiful Gambell, Alaska.
Look, no one loves a good piece of muktuk more than I do, but cooked muktuk is safe muktuk.
ONE BAND, ONE DVD: Drumline, one of my favorite movies of last year, is now available on DVD.
According to today's WSJ, such high-stepping marching bands may now also be available at a high school near you.
Thursday, April 17, 2003
TONIGHT'S CONTEMPORARY SEDER DISCUSSION: Take your pick:
1. Is violence a necessary component of liberation?
2. What is the obligation of the liberators towards fair treatment of the captors? Why do we spend so much time during the Seder mourning the suffering of the Egyptians?
3. If we're really re-imagining the Iraq situaion as being like the liberation of the Jews from Egypt, then does blood=U.N. weapons inspectors and are the locusts Apache helicopters?
Wednesday, April 16, 2003
AND ONE LAST AI NOTE: The show last night reminded me of this Separated At Birth I've wanted to run:
On the left, that's French actor Jean Reno, seen on these shores as one of the brooding stars of Ronin.
On the right, it's the Piano Man himself, Billy Joel.
Tuesday, April 15, 2003
WHATEVER WE'RE DOING, WE'RE NOT WATCHING ELLIE: Why not? Oh, this is like having Jose Lima pitching against your favorite team at Coors Field.
Anita Gates of the New York Times bats leadoff against Julia Louis-Dreyfus' revamped "comedy":
The show's creator is Ms. Louis-Dreyfus's husband, Brad Hall, but he hasn't done her any favors. Unless you believe Guy Ritchie advanced the career of his wife, Madonna, in remaking Lina Wertmuller's "Swept Away" (a movie he seemed to think was about pouring pasta over people's heads).
Batting second, Natalie McFarland of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer:
What began as a demonstration of good actors adventurously struggling with a badly written script has been revamped into a demonstration of good actors desperately struggling with a badly written script, with a chortling studio audience thrown in for good measure.
Phil Rosenthal of the Chicago Sun-Times grabs an RBI here:
Harry Anderson used to joke before juggling a knife, a meat cleaver and an ax that his ax once belonged to that famous cherry-tree feller, George Washington.
Robert Blanco of USA Today hits cleanup:
[H]ere it is again, time-clock free and even less amusing than it was the first time around.
Finally, Eric Deggans of the St. Petersburg Times clears the bases with this dinger:
Sitting through two episodes of Seinfeld alum Julia Louis-Dreyfus' NBC comedy, Watching Ellie, my gut tightened with a familiar sensation.
The Seinfeld Curse continues . . . .
AI QUICK COMMENTS: First things first: if you're going to have the legendary Smokey Robinson on the show, given all the man has written, then it should be Smokey Robinson Night. The man is a legend, and to have him have to adjudicate performances of a lesser talent (though Billy Joel is a talent) is insulting to all this man has done.
Onto the performances. Not much to say:
Kim C: has reached her limit. She doesn't have the range you need to succeed. She may not be gone this week, but she ain't winning.
An unthrilling week. Bring on the masked dudes.
"THIS IS MY FACE": Leaving no stone uncovered in this blog's non-stop coverage of political news from the Iwate Prefecture, I am compelled to report that Iwate Gov. Hiroya Masuda has announced his disapproval of The Great Sasuke's mask-wearing:
"I'm sure it's a matter of opinion, but I think he should take the mask off," Masuda said. "Politicians make painful decisions, and also express joy, and voters look at their faces and decide (whether they accept those actions). Voters should be allowed to see a politician's facial expressions."
Full article is here.
It is worth noting that Gov. Masuda is described on his official profile as "tolerant". Ahem.
THIS RUG I HAVE . . . IT REALLY TIED THE ROOM TOGETHER: Lebowski Soundboard. Go. Now.
HOPEFULLY, THIS MEANS MORE VOLLEYBALL COVERAGE: First, it was The Nashville Network. They then bought the rights to WWF programming and SlamBall, decountrified by ditching Bo and Luke for Crockett and Tubbs and became The National Network.
And now . . . it's Spike TV?
"We love Spike," network President Albie Hecht says. "It's a guy's name, it has personality, it's smart, sexy. It's unapologetically male ... it's aggressive and it's irreverent. Those are all of the qualities we really want for the first network for men."
Um . . . isn't that second?
SOON WE'LL BE MAKING ANOTHER RUN: In a real stunner, the S.S. United States, whose fading, rusting hulk has sat on Philadelphia's waterfront since 1996, has been purchased by Norwegian Cruise Lines. NCL plans to refurbish the glamorous steamship and restore it to its full majesty as an active member of its fleet.
Things to know about the S.S. United States:
--It still holds the record for the fastest Atlantic Ocean crossing -- three days, 10 hours and 42 minutes.
Here are some fabulous pictures of the boat during its sailing days. Here's the menu had you been dining on board on September 1, 1967. The S.S. United States Foundation, dedicated to preserving the ship, can tell you even more.
Go ahead: take a tour.
FIRST U.S. NEWS, NOW THIS: Moody's Investors Services, which analyzes the financial health of institutions to gauge their credit worthiness, has downgraded Williams College in its latest rankings. No longer is that wretched hive of scum and villainy AAA-rated like their peer institutions, and they may have to borrow at higher rates of interest for the foreseeable future.
What happened? As their own spin makes clear, Williams is taking on $173 million in total debt, including a new $113 million offering, apparently in order to finance much-needed campus renovations. Unfortunately, recent endowment losses and poor investment returns have made this issuance a bit more weighty on their coffers than it would've otherwise been.
"DESTINED TO ENDURE AS WEDDING SONGS OR FLORIST ADS": Is Kelly Clarkson a superstar in the making, or is it already too late? Why was her album's delayed from November to today? And what kind of sound is right for her?
This well-written profile of Clarkson covers all that and more. In this excerpt, Clarkson explains why she recorded an r&b/soul-based album instead of straightforward pop, even though, as judge Simon Cowell has asserted, "that's not her market":
"Normally with new artists, like Pink and Christina, they end up saying, you know, 'My first album wasn't me.' They bring out the second album and say, 'This is me. This is who I am.' But the show made it easier for me to say, 'No, this is what I want to do.' All I heard for the past couple years was, 'Oh, I can't sell you. You have no image.' And that's just so sad. I'm a singer. That's my image."
MAYBE CARMEN WILL SING SOMETHING FROM "FANTASIES AND DELUSIONS": Well, it's as official as official gets these days. According to BillyJoel.com:
American Idol Finalists to "Move Out" on Special Billy Joel Episode Tuesday, April 15
If I were advising the singers, here's what I'd recommend:
Ruben: "Honesty", off 52nd Street. The Velvet Teddybear is a balladeer, and this you-broke-my-heart classic is right up his alley.
Josh: "Shameless," off Storm Front. It's already been countrified by Garth Brooks, so it's the obvious call for him.
Clay: "The Downeaster Alexa," off Storm Front. A wordy, melodramatic ballad. So very up his alley. So's "Leningrad," but that song's aged about as well as Elton John's "Nikita," though not as badly as Sting's "Russians". Clay should make sure to avoid any of the very tempting doo-wop songs off An Innocent Man, because they'll sound crappy without the backing vocals.
Trenyce: "New York State of Mind," off Turnstiles. A lot of AI competitors probably want to sing it, but I'd like to see Lashundra give it a try. Lots of different points on the song where she can show off her range, and it'll be good to hear her sing with her own voice instead of impersonating someone else's.
(I burned a CD this weekend with forty AI performances from the past two years -- a lot of Ruben, Tamyra and Justin, for sure -- and while my main conclusion in listening to the singing was "Damn, Tamyra is amazing in every song," Trenyce's "I Have Nothing" from this year outshined Tamyra's last year. Just a fuller sounding voice that time.)
Kim Caldwell: "Just The Way You Are," off The Stranger. Kim, you're great in your range, but that's not a wide range. This song doesn't have a wide range either, but will give you a few flourish points towards the end. "Allentown" might actually give some opportunities to show off the rough growl, but that song would sound too weird coming from a woman.
Kim Locke: First thought -- "She's Got A Way," off Songs in the Attic. A nice, warm ballad, where Kim can show off her phrasing and control. Problem is that it doesn't end on a show-off point. Hmm. Which suggests an alternative: "This Is The Time," from The Bridge. The classic prom-show theme. Allows for emotional display. Better call.
Carmen: "Second Wind," from Greatest Hits Volume I & II. It's not a song that demands a lot from the singer, which in her case is really, really important. Crucially.
Monday, April 14, 2003
ALL THESE ILLUSIONS JUST TAKE US TOO LONG: Tomorrow may be tax day, but tomorrow is also a day of great happiness as well.
The Thicke album will finally be released.
Thanks to the blessing that is digital cable, Jen and I got hooked on his video for "When I Get You Alone" (listen here, or watch it here) last summer and eagerly awaited the album. Yes, we thought it was damn cool that someone had finally put words to A Fifth of Beethoven. Fo' shizzle, the song rocks. MTV-Deuce and MTV-Jams were playing it every hour, and for sure, the album was soon to follow.
But when was the album coming out? "Soon", they said, in a June 2002 USA Today chat. That date got pushed back from September to November, then from November to January, and then, in March, an April 15 drop date was released
Yes, this album's been delayed more times than View From The Top or the still-yet-to-be-released-even-after-its-September-2001-festival-premiere Prozac Nation, but I'm still optimistic, even if the title has changed from Cherry Blue Skies to Beautiful World.
Look. The album received a four-star review in February from the Philadelphia Inquirer ("To listen to the debut album by singer-songwriter/producer Robin Thicke is to flash back to Prince's psychedelic soul of the mid-'80s, cross the melodic bridge Stevie Wonder built between "black" and "white" music, and let yourself loose in the rich grooves of Michael Jackson's Off the Wall").
And he's Alan Thicke's son! When has that family ever let us down before? (Other than "Thicke of the Night", I mean.) The man's got the "Diff'rent Strokes" theme music in his gene pool. He had a Sprite ad half a year before his album came out.
The album drops tomorrow. We hope.
(So too does Kelly Clarkson's, fyi.)
DO YOU SEE WHAT HAPPENS, LARRY? THIS IS WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU . . . Continuing this blog's fascination with all things Lebowski comes late word that a Russian court has upheld a $10,000 fine imposed on an advertising agency which broadcast a clip of Walter's attack against an innocent Corvette immediately after showing Russia's loss to Japan in the 2002 World Cup on a giant downtown Moscow screen before a large crowd. The government had argued that the clip of John Goodman's crowbar antics provoked widespread rioting by soccer thugs in the wake of the game.
You can read about it here.
Now if only they'd stop showing the same damn Braveheart and Network clips at Sixers games . . .
RABBLE RABBLE! As promised last Thursday, here are the two highlights from last week's 100th episode of South Park.
Eric Cartman, working on a school assignment to determine what the Founding Fathers would have thought of the war with Iraq, has travelled back in time to witness their heated debate over the document he knows as "the Declaration of Independence Day":
Hancock: Mr. Franklin, where do you stand on the war issue?
Our festively plump hero shares this insight with the people of South Park, bitterly divided over the right to protest the war:
Cartman: I learned somethin' today. This country was founded by some of the smartest thinkers the world has ever seen. And they knew one thing: that a truly great country can go to war, and at the same time, act like it doesn't want to. [a shot of the crowd] You people who are for the war, you need the protesters. Because they make the country look like it's made of sane, caring individuals. And you people who are anti-war, you need these flag-wavers, because, if our whole country was made up of nothing but soft pussy protesters, we'd get taken down in a second. That's why the Founding Fathers decided we should have both. It's called "having your cake and eating it too."
Via the South Park Scriptorium.
SPACE FLYING TIGER DROP: Following in the footsteps of Jesse "The Mind" Ventura, Michinoku Pro (and former WWE and ECW) wrestler The Great Sasuke has been elected to a seat in the legislative assembly of his native Iwate Prefecture, in the northeastern part of the Japanese island of Honshu.
But that's not the cool part. The cool part is that Sasuke is a masked wrestler, and he's keeping the mask on once in government:
"This is my face," the wrestler -- known as "The Great Sasuke" -- was quoted by the Nikkan Sports newspaper as saying of his black and white full-face mask with bright scarlet streaks and golden wings by the eye holes.
Would that other elected officials legislated with masks on.