Wednesday, August 27, 2008

I remember when...

Here's a Times article about newcomers to New York learning the ropes and morphing into New Yorkers: the warning signs, how long it takes, how it feels, etc.

New York feels like home to me now, though I don't think I could say exactly how long that's been true. It hits me most prominently when driving back into the city over a bridge from the airport and seeing the skyline lit up. Just love it.

As I say, I don't remember the first time that New York first felt like home but I do remember the first time a city other than my hometown felt like home. It was when I was living in Boston and I was taking a cab home from the airport and saw the city lit up -- not as impressive as NYC, btw, at least to my mind now -- and felt good that I was headed home. It was a weird but good feeling.

The one to have when you're having more than one?

Interesting article in the Times about some brewers producing tasty low-alcohol beers. The idea being that you can have a long afternoon or evening of drinking without getting absolutely plastered.

Now, of course, getting plastered sometimes can be fun in-and-of-itself but I can definitely see the attraction in a low-alcohol beer.

It would be particularly good for me as I have a tendency to consume liquids at a constant -- and high -- rate regardless of their alcohol content. Thus the more alcoholic the drink, the faster I get ploughed. I sometimes try to temper this by keeping a glass of water handy to fulfill some of the liquid-quaffing but it can be difficult to keep a glass of water full at a crowded bar.

And the bar tender secretly hates you when you do. They don't say anything but you can always tell...

Friday, August 15, 2008

Speaking of violence...

I finally got around to seeing the movie Funny Games.

It was... Hmm. It was... different.

Note: there are spoilers here. Though I'm not sure this is the kind of movie that can be spoiled, per se.

For anyone who may not know, the story is basically of an amazingly wholesome and rich looking family of three (Naomi Watts, Tim Roth, some kid) who head out to their vacation house. Once there, they are visited by two amazingly-wholesome-looking young men who proceed to force them into playing a series of sadistic and torturous games that culminate with the death of the entire family.

The critical reception was interestingly mixed. The critics seemed to fall into two camps: one which felt the movie was a triumph as it is technically wonderful and they felt the writer/director Michael Haneke (Austrian fellow, in fact the American version is a shot-for-shot remake of the Austrian original) was making a statement about the rise of voyeuristic thrill-seeking in recent uber-violent cinema (Saw, Hostel, Touristas, we're looking in your direction); the other camp felt that the movie was an uber-violent, voyeuristic thrill-ride and as such was no more redeeming than the Saws, Hostels, Toursistas et al, any cinematographic excellence aside.

First off, the movie is beautifully shot. Just amazing. The things the director does with camera angles alone were quietly phenomenal. Also the acting was, I felt, v. solid. Well done all around.

The violence -- which is significant and wholly unreedeming in the sense that there is no comeuppance and absolutely no reason or explanation for it of any kind -- is largely kept off screen in the strictest sense. That is, the worst things happen out of sight of the audience, sometimes only just, but out of sight nonetheless. Not having seen any of the Saws, Hostels, etc. I don't know if they handle their extreme violence the same way, but my sense is that they do not. That is, in those movies, you watch the actual violent acts; here you mostly watch the results of the torture.

I think that makes a difference. I don't know if the director was trying to make a statement about the audience's complicity in the rise of uber-violent cinema. V. probably he was: the main antagonist repeatedly breaks the fourth wall to confer with the audience about what they'd like to see happen next. But ultimately, I'm not sure that it matters if this was his intention or not. If it works on that level, it works on that level. If it has redeeming qualities, if it is, in a word, Art, then it is Art regardless of the intent of the director, yes? Perhaps not, I've never given a tremendous amount of thought to the philosophy of art.

Anyways, I thought it worked. On whatever level. It was engrossing and not in a visceral, I-like to-watch-people-get-tortured-way. More in an intellectual, these-characters-are-tremendously-disturbing, unlike-your-average-character, and-this-difference-makes-them-interesting kind of way. Their interactions were interesting.

So, in a nutshell, I thought the movie fell much more into the "triumph" bucket than the "travesty" bucket. But I can see how others might be too disturbed or uncomfortable with the ambiguity of the message to feel the same.

On a related note, I feel there's been a rise in the nihilistic antagonist in recent years. These two were of a piece with Heath Ledger's incarnation of the Joker: they are violent, they twist and destroy societal norms and there is no reason why, they just do. It makes one wonder what the Dark Knight folks could have done if they had the freedom to stray further from the comic-book template they were working with. Clearly, the Joker was not going to win. Funny Games, by contrast, was under no such constraint.

Let's all go to the lobby...

A list of movies I truly enjoyed, in no particular order:

Cool Hand Luke
There Will Be Blood
True Romance
The Godfather

Lot of violence on that list. Wonder if there's something wrong with me.

Meanwhile... back on Htrae...

So let's see. Edwards Sex Scandal? National Enquirer reports, NY Times declines. The Times said it wasn't news because he was no longer a player and they had "finite resources".

Well the Times must have dug up some significant new resources this week because today, in addition to reporting on Edwards (who is still, as far as I know, no longer a player, still engulfed in a tawdry scandal that was still broken by the National Enquirer -- I bring these three things up b/c those were the Times rational for not reporting on it initially) they have also decided to report on the long-awaited discovery of Big Foot.

What are the odds that this is a hoax like that "giant pig" thing a couple of years ago? I'd put it somewhere in the vicinity of 1 in 1.

Honestly, what is wrong with the world when the Enquirer is breaking major political scandals and the Times is breaking the death of Big Foot?

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Ay Caramba!

How can you have an entire long blog post about Tito Puente and not mention his appearance on the Simpsons??

Or perhaps I think that because that's the only reason I've ever heard of Tito Puente...

Monday, August 11, 2008

Ice to meet you...

Another Onion-worthy article in the NY Times today, this time about people who prefer special ice. These people not only have aparently deeply held preferences for shape, taste, etc. of the ice that goes in their drink, but they are also willing to defend these preferences by going so far as to bring their own ice to a party.

If I were to ever discover that I knew someone who would bring their own ice over to a cocktail party I was having I would have to seriously re-evaluate my ability to discern character. I would do that re-evaluation after smacking that person in the head and dousing them liberally with whatever drink I was trying to offer them when they expressed the ice preference.

I would try not to follow the dousing with lighting them on fire but if I were unable to contain myself, I would be sure to use an appopriately trendy and expensive type of fire so that they would at least not suffer undue embarassment during their richly deserved immolation.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Here comes the...

Did you ever have that feeling, when you're listening to your iPod on the train ride home after a long day at work, that certain songs would be perfect for certain occasions? Nah, me either. That would be lame. Yeah, totally lame. So anyways...

For no particular reason, the top cheesiest songs to play at a wedding. Which I guess are mostly just love songs, as I look my selections over, but whatever. Suggestions for additions are welcome.

1) First Day of My Life - Bright Eyes. Cheesy? Check. Awesome? Check. Note cameo appearance in this entry from Stuff White People Like on Wes Anderson movies.

2) Sweetest Thing - U2. Should be called The Sweetest Song, am I right? Eh? Eh? Yeah. Note that this song is personally almost perfect, except he totally screws it up by saying "blue eyed boy meets a brown eyed girl" instead of vice-versa. That and my eyes are actually hazel, not brown. But since hazel is like a cross between green and brown, we'll give partial credit.

3) Dirty Old Town - The Pogues. Ah love. Ain't it grand? Almost makes me wish I'd grown up in a post-industrial pit of a town in Northern England. But not really. Still: a great tune.

4) Baby Love Child - Pizzacato Five. This song has long been a fave of mine. One of the better love songs, I think. Note that the video in the link is about as Japan-a-riffic as you can possibly imagine. Proceed with appropriate caution.

5) You're The First, The Last, My Everything - Barry White. Good tune this. Personally, I'm more into "Can't Get Enough of Your Love" but you gotta go with what the ladies like, am I right, fellas? Eh? Eh? Note: yes, that's Pavarotti in the video with Barry. That's how Barry rolled.

And the top awesome-est songs to play at a wedding -- with explanation. Suggestions welcome here too.

1) Total Eclipse of the Heart - The Dan Band. Yes, it's from Old School. Yes, it's awesome: "And I need you now tonight! I fuckin' need you more... than ever!"

2) Fairytale of New York - The Pogues. This was actually the first dance song for my friends Ben and Michelle's wedding. A+ for choosing the Pogues. Extra credit for rocking out for your first dance to a song that not only changes beat halfway through the first verse but also contains this gem in the second: "You scumbag, you maggot, you cheap lousy faggot". Yes it's a song about a young couple of wastrels who fell in love on Christmas in NYC and are now old and hate each other. Mazel tov!

I feel like I had many more songs in mind when I thought this post up on the subway last night. I'll pull my revise-and-extend trick when and if they occur to me.

GM Loses $15.5B in a quarter

Pardon my French but that is a shit-ton of money.