Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Steven Seagal: Awesome

here's why steven seagal is the most bad ass mutha cop evah:
- 6th degree black belt
- former CIA operative, cambodia
- gun expert
- speaks italian
- speaks japanese
- speaks spanish
- tapered jeans
- greasy mullet
- strong, yet gentle
- paisan
- faithful to lord and wife
- frequently raises one eyebrow in skeptical disbelief
- immune to truth serum injections
- easy on the eyes
- and the number one reason steven seagal leaves all other cops in the dust is that he's

--which, incidentally, is also the title of his debut film, a fantastic feat of moviemaking magic. i never imagined it would come to this, but above the law is better than any action cop suspense movie i've seen maybe ever -- a not insignificant aspect of which is the awesome cars everyone drives in 1988 chicago. so many layers of perfidious mischief, and steven seagal must launch out, on his own, maverick-like, over the helmets of all the other law enforcement to get to the bottom of a massive CIA weapons-drug dealing scandal. check out this writing, the last lines of the movie:

"Gentlemen, whenever you have a group of individuals...
... who are beyond any investigation...
... who can manipulate the press, judges, members of our Congress...
... you'll have within our government those who are above the law."

one thing though: remember this guy as he once was and stay away from all recent seagal related media.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Irreconcilable Differences

tonight i made the mistake of going to happy hour drinks with my one super right wing conservative friend. i was having a great time as the evening progressed, laughing at funny events from the past (he's a former coworker), as he's a fun loving and easy going guy. i was thinking all along how nice it was that i was capable of having a friend who i had such core differences with but who i could hang out with and just forget about all that stuff.

i should've known when he picked me up in his big new SUV that some horrible climate-related debate would surface, but i couldn't have known how ridiculous it would be. here's the debate in a nutshell (and it didn't come up in the context of his SUV, but rather in the context of his trip to phuket and discussions about hurricane katrina): me citing recent basically irrefutable studies by independent expert panels as to the alarming rate of global warming, and him clinging unwaveringly to the facts he learned in "elementary school" (by his own admission!) that everything is "cyclical" and that the change in climate should not alarm anyone. when i finally got through to him that the whole purpose of the scientific panel was to test the cyclical theory, and that they had disproved it, his response was, "ignorance is bliss." so he basically admitted that even if he did believe the panel's findings, he didn't care.

on the drive home, he tried to make peace with me and let bygones be bygones. one part of me really and truly did want to, because one part of me really and truly likes the guy. but a much stronger part of me doesn't. how can you hang out and have fun happy time with a person who has admitted he is essentially responsible for the demise of the environment and doesn't give a shit? if someone has the answer, please--...

You know how to cut to the core of me, Thom Yorke

wooooo radiohead woooooo!
just saw them last night in san diego with my friend may, whom i thank greatly for being superfan #1, and thereby procuring tickets for us.

going to see radiohead with radiohead superfans is an interesting experience. here's what happens: you get to the venue at least three hours before doors (some people camp out the previous night) and stand as close as possible to the place where you're going to get in. as the minutes and hours pass, people start getting antsy and some unsubtle cutting and squeezing happens as the superfans try to one up each other for the closest possible spot to the front. the objective of all this is to be among the first people to sprint toward the stage when the doors actually do open and get the spot you like best. the heady scent of permanent marker permeates the air after one thoughtful superfan draws a huge "Happy Birthday Colin" sign. as it starts to get down to the line, everyone becomes a horse chomping at the bit. "i'm gonna have a panic attack and die," someone says, and "why don't they just get it over with?" and, in the detailed negotations for a spot, "i'd rather have pole Ed instead of second row Jonny."

the doors open and trampling seems imminent, but we just get pushed through in a big surge and everyone runs their little butts off toward the stage as the venue workers crack up at the spectacle. even though i walked, i got right up at the front in there with may, who stood next to the other superfans saving spots by spreading eagle against the stage. but when i realized that between the opening act and delays it would be 4 hours until radiohead went on, i relinquished my valued position in the radiohead fan hierarchy and consumed several lovely smirnoff ices by my lonesome in the lazy person area with the benches and tables.

it actually turned out to be a good thing that i didn't stay crushed in the throng because i facilitated the superfans' superfanness by passing them water as they stood there suffering and dehydrating themselves for their band. which led to a few thoughts. first, an invention: a radiohead fan special seat/drinking water camel pack/colostomy/pee bag. i know it sounds gross, but just think of what it would accomplish. and we could brand it with fun radiohead teddy bears and make it this trendy thing that the most dedicated superfans would want because it would affirm their love to the world. the other thing i thought is that radiohead fans are this tight knit group because they suffer for their band, much like the bond of frat boys who go through hazing, or war buddies. at a certain point, when they brought one (in the words of may) "totally unprepared" superfan out of the front in a wheelchair with an oxygen mask, i did think of myself a little as a civil war nurse helping the war wounded.

i decided after the opening act, deerhoof -- they were good -- to try and squeeze my way toward the front, but i only made it to about six-people-from-the-stage level and gave up, which was a pussy move because my real deterrent from not pushing farther was the scornful looks i got rather than the uncomfortableness of being squished. so i just stood there among unknowns and radiohead finally came on. and of course, they were frickin awesome. has radiohead ever put on a bad show? i ask you this. because i have now seen them four times and they have been incredible each and every time. every time.

here's the set list which i found online today:
1. There There 2. 2+2=5 3. 15 Step 4. Morning Bell 5. Kid A 6. Arpeggi 7. Videotape 8. National Anthem 9. Nude 10. Down Is The New Up 11. Paranoid Android 12. All I Need 13. The Gloaming 14. You And Whose Army? 15. Idioteque 16. Bangers 'n' Mash 17. How To Disappear Completely 18. House of Cards 19. Street Spirit (fade out) 20. Just 21. Everything In Its Right Place 22. 4 Minute Warning 23. Lucky

when 2+2=5 came on, oh my god. incredible to be among other people who were as excited as me to hear it and jump up and down like crazed banshees. unfortunately after it, the 2nd song, the colostomy/pee bag would've done me good b/c after my third smirnoff ice (idiot) i just couldn't hold it anymore and for a second time had to relinquish a good spot in the crowd. on coming back to the show, i realized the value of squeezing your ass in early, because it SUCKS to go to a radiohead show and be surrounded by people who aren't crazily excited to see them and who don't know the songs, and you'd be surprised by how many of them there are. but i guess my love of smirnoff ice betrays the fact that i am simply not a superfan. i'm a mere big fan.

nonetheless the show, as i said, was awesome. they played a lot of new songs that i didn't know but liked. very beat-heavy, i noticed, and then may mentioned later that thom is thinking of doing a dance album, so that made sense. thom's new album, the eraser, by the way, is great. the guy is so good he makes my head explode. the fact that he can put on these shows night after night and year after year and give so much of himself is...i donno. he's as close to a god as i've ever seen in front of my face, i'll tell you that.

and speaking of god, that leads me to the post below.

Faces of Evil

i shudder at having placed these on my blog, but i must.
you see, ann coulter has just released a new book entitled Godless: The Church of Liberalism, and karl rove has been not indicted, which means, i think, that the evilness of the repubs is on the upswing, and we must be wary, WARY, of the faces of evil. i see a tactical offensive in our future by rove (a.k.a. turdblossom) on the war and every other issue, and more crap flowing out of the mouth of le coulter (a.k.a. certifiable).

here's the little official synopsis of Church:

Though liberalism rejects the idea of God and reviles people of faith, it bears all the attributes of a religion. In Godless, Coulter throws open the doors of the Church of Liberalism, showing us its sacraments (abortion), its holy writ (Roe v. Wade), its martyrs (from Soviet spy Alger Hiss to cop-killer Mumia Abu-Jamal), its clergy (public school teachers), its churches (government schools, where prayer is prohibited but condoms are free), its doctrine of infallibility (as manifest in the "absolute moral authority" of spokesmen from Cindy Sheehan to Max Cleland), and its cosmology (in which mankind is an inconsequential accident).

the idea that politics is a kind of religion is right, and nothing new. but she should have substituted the Constitution with the holy writ of Roe v. Wade for the liberals, and it should be the same for conservatives. that politics is a moral system devoid of god is exactly the point of a western democracy. who is she pulling for here -- the mullahs? the god of political liberals who are "unreligious" is to be found in places outside of politics -- for example, at a radiohead concert. i sincerely wonder if coulter has ever had a religious or spiritual experience at all close to what can be felt at a high calliber, intense, beautiful music concert.

i've heard bill maher say that he admires coulter for sticking to her guns and saying what she thinks. but i think she's nuts. the woman's whole purpose in life is to offend liberals, a pathetic expense of energy that accomplishes the opposite of progress.

Thursday, June 15, 2006


no, i'm not just referring to the gorgeous and amazing mike patton (the only person who could ever compete with pharrell williams on talented hot loveliness, and vice versa). i'm also referring to the latest patton project, peeping tom, who recently released their first self-titled album.

i won't pretend that i'm a super hardcore patton fan since i've never fully delved into faith no more, which is where he got his start and is his major base. but i've been a huge fan of certain projects he's partcipated in, namely mr. bungle, lovage (with dan the automator -- if you don't have it, GET IT), and certain tricky items. but i took one look at the collaborators on this one and knew i couldn't refuse: rahzel, kool keith, massive attack, bebel gilberto, amon tobin, kid koala, dan the automator, and some others who i'm not familiar with but who i'm sure would excite certain in the know music aficionados. the collaboration with norah jones really wasn't a draw, and i'm sure it's led the hardcore patton fans to think he's going mainstream (that and the not insignificant fact that they performed their single on CONAN), but actually the song she's on is good, and quite risqué! even peaches inspired, i'd say. the line-up excited me so much that i had to go out and buy the CD. first compact disc purchase in a good year. the packaging is pretty ridiculously cool and has this sideways sliding opening thing. hard to describe. (side note: there are NO MORE CD STORES in westwood village. penny lane, rhino, even tower...all gone! the only place left to get 'em is best buy. disappointing, but we've all contributed to that, haven't we?)

anyway, the album is good. i think in the realm of patton projects it qualifies as pop, but in the realm of everything else, it's pretty, well, weird -- which of course is good and is why we love him. in some ways -- to continue with the pharrell parallel -- the album reminds me of n.e.r.d.'s "in search of," in its mix of a really truly hard sound with other stuff, like hip hop, r&b, rock, etc., except that n.e.r.d. is way more accessible on first listen and with peeping tom you have to give it time. but when you do, the rewards are plentiful. this guy is sickly talented and the songs are complex, edgy, and a few are even irresistible -- the single, mojo, is fantastic. a weakness for me was that certain songs would be cruising on in this beautiful way and then the crazy hard shit would break in and it was a bit abrupt for my taste. there are a few tracks on the album that i could do without -- sadly enough the kool keith track (i love him so) and the massive attack track. the latter is the kind of song i could only like if i were driving on the freeway at 100 mph either really mad or on my way to a rager of a party. rare concurrences.

the rest of it though is pretty fascinating. i recommend it, but not to the softies or mainstreamers out there, which is why this is destined not to make it in the mainstream market that patton may be trying for. as much as he's probably concerned with the benjamins, he's not willing to sell out the art and essentially, this is the same old crazy screaming patton of yore. so hoootttttttttttttttt.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006


You'll have to forgive this unabashedly shallow post, but while sitting at an undisclosed free WiFi food and drink establishment in West L.A. surrounded by unemployed script writers and served by would-be actor waiters, I've been overcome by the bullshit around me in this city and have had to share the header for the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce website. Look at the guy's goddamn expression! Up close. The fact that someone saw this picture and thought it would make a perfect header for their site is just pure beauty.

Now you may be wondering why I was perusing the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce website. I'll tell you. I want to nominate someone for a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and apparently the Chamber of Commerce controls the sidewalk immortalization of so many has-beens. Sadly, I've missed the May deadline for 2007, and I haven't decided who the lucky person should be, and I probably won't tell when I do. But if the person gets chosen, you'll be sure to know. Oh, and feel free to throw your own person into the running with my as yet undecided contestant next year. Full details on nominating procedures here.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Hockney Portraits @ LACMA

So I think David Hockney is obscenely talented and I'm very attracted to the aesthetic quality of his pictures. But I also think there's a good reason why his best known works aren't his portraits, and that is simply that he's always been more interested in the surface vision of what his paintings depict, rather than any emotional connotations behind his forms and subject matter. Essentially, he almost seems to be more of a designer than an "artist."

Okay, that's not completely true. I do think that he was following some sort of vision in his work. But again, it was more aesthetic than emotional. He certainly isn't any sort of tortured artist on the level of Munch or Schiele (which isn't to say that to have emotion you need to be sad and depressed, but Hockney, at least in his portraits, isn't sad or happy or confused or, really, anything). That's why I think he's most closely related to the Cubists -- because when I think of Picasso, I don't think of an outpouring of emotion. I think of someone trying to solve "visual problems" (whatever), employing different modes of depiction to try and get around the painter's basic quandary of point of view. It's an admirable thing to try and do, but the idea that strides and developments "need" to be made in art in order to arrive at some imagined perfect mode of depiction (the entire premise on which the modern history of art is taught, and the premise under which many artists operate(d)) is bunk.

And anyway, I don't think Hockney was really trying to solve anything himself, at least not with the same sense of purpose with which the Cubists were. I only make the connection because his work did have so much to do with the surface, and I think it's a misinterpretation -- even if he's made it himself -- to say that his portraits were attempts at getting at the psychological character of his subjects.

This was how LACMA framed the portrait exhibit, and I just have to wonder why because it's such an obvious (and in my mind wrong) interpretation. I mean, over different periods of time, Hockney would decide to apply the same style to every sitter who visited his studio for a portrait, and nearly every face in the entire exhibit (there are a couple of notable exceptions, and the above is a subtle example) has the exact same expression -- not exactly differentiating between psychological states. The most metaphorical Hockney really got with regard to emotional/mental states was when he showed a couple in a living room, one man with his overcoat on as if he was about to leave -- alluding (of course) that he's about to leave the relationship. Hockney himself said "that was all" he intended to show in the painting.

So, really, thinking that there is some more subtle psychological thing going on in these pictures is a mistake. And I almost think I know it for a fact because I know one of the people in his portraits -- Lawrence Weschler, a New Yorker writer who's written extensively about Hockney and whose class I took at NYU. Now the pictures Hockney made of Weschler -- not to mention the fact that Weschler's expression is pretty much the same as the expressions of all the other portraits he's grouped with -- show him as this brooding intellectual type, and I never once thought of him that way. The guy is nice, goofy, enthusiastic and not a little awkward. Very smart, yes -- but is that really what we care about if we're trying to get at the core of someone's essence? Lemme put it this way -- Hockney's portraits told me nothing about Weschler.

It does bring up the question of what the purpose of portraiture is if not to tell us something about the sitter. This is definitely something worth thinking about, and I think there could be some really interesting answers. But I don't actually think Hockney's considered it much, being that he claims that his works are "all about the face." ??? I donno, I sorta feel like one of us is taking crazy pills here...

Since the artist and I differ so widely on what we think the purpose of the painterly project was, all I did (and should) appreciate the paintings for was their overall aesthetic quality and style. And this is really no small thing, considering that Hockney is a master of style and paint and canvas. One of the best things about the exhibit was that it gave a chance to see Hockney's unbelievable versatility. He moved so seamlessly among a borrowing of different genres -- from impressionist to cubist to surrealist -- emulating specific artists yet creating, at least in his most mature works, his own very distinct style at the same time.

And yet the pieces that show off that style best are his landscapes, like the iconic Mulholland Drive, Pearlblossom Hwy. and other landscapey works. Which brings me back to the point I started with.

But regardless, the show is worth seeing, no question, and many of the pieces are fantastic. They would be better served by letting them speak for themselves.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Al Gore 4 Prez

So the latest is that he's being vague about whether he's gonna run, which is heartening considering that his previous stance had been an unequivocal no.

Though I did vote for him, I can't say I was so pro-Gore in the first W. election. But between then and now he's become this sort of quiet, constant voice that's stayed true to the best of the democratic party's ideals (whatever those are). He's been right on so many things, including the war, and has been shamelessly unafraid of saying what he thinks, which is probably the best concession that comes with hitting rock bottom after losing a presidential race. John Kerry has run his mouth off a bunch in the past few years, but not with the same kind of eloquent steadfastness with which Gore has, and with Kerry it always felt more partisan than idea-based.

Now, having seen An Inconvenient Truth, I'm totally with Gore and I feel he does have the best chance to take back the White House. He did, after all, win the popular vote. In the past few months -- actually, years -- there were times when friends and family said they could feel things changing for the better, and I never believed that was true until recently. It's in the air and there's a chance to turn the tides toward what is right. It's exciting, almost on a Jimmy Carter level. A family friend who I ran into at the polling place today (yeah, we're gonna change things starting with Arnold!) said of Gore, "He finally developed a personality." That and so much more were evident in the film, which is scary, scathing and empowering all at the same time. It's a must-see.

And take a bike or a bus to the theater. If I did it in L.A., you can do it anywhere.

A LITTLE UPDATE to counter my crazy anonymous commenter. Eve points out an article by our beloved Ezra: