Monday, September 28, 2009

Is Eliot Spitzer reformed yet?

OK, just thinking out loud here. But compared to John Edwards, Mark Sanford, John Ensign and Michael Duvall, Spitzer is, like, practically a model husband and father. In fact, the politician whose transgressions Spitzer's resemble most is Sen. David Vitter -- and Vitter still has his job.

So let's consider. Health care is almost certainly going to take the rest of this year. That means reform of the financial system is very likely to spill over into 2010. And even if/when new financial system regulations are enacted, presumably there's going to have to be someone to oversee their enforcement. Isn't there some potential spot in for Spitzer in all this? In certain respects he seems like the most qualified person for a job like that, no?

I get that Spitzer's self-righteousness as a prosecutor made his fall from grace more dramatic. Still. I don't see why he has to be done with public life forever. At what point plausibly could Spitzer return to public life, do you suppose?

Sunday, September 27, 2009

The Wire, dissed!

Ghostface has what I think is the first ever negative reference to The Wire in the history of rap music:
Real talk, it's not that bullshit from The Wire
It's them disco kids that clap iron
That's from "Mean Streets" on Raekwon's really great Only Built 4 Cuban Linx Pt. II.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Sunday, September 20, 2009

David Byrne's city, and my favorite cities

David Byrne designs the perfect city. This is one of a bunch of qualities it would have:
Mixed use
This is a Jane Jacobs phrase. A perfect city is where different things are going on, relatively close to each other, at different times of the day. A city isn't a strip of hotels and restaurants on a glorious beach; it's a place where there are restaurants and hotels, but also little stores, fashion boutiques, schools, houses, offices, temples and banks. The healthy neighborhood doesn't empty out at 6 p.m., as most of downtown L.A. does. In my perfect city there would always be something going on nearby.
I think my perfect city would be somewhat different than Byrne's -- smaller, probably, and greener. But I like the idea of thinking through all the different qualities that make a good city. What is most important to you?

I'll have to think about which specific qualities matter most to me. In the meantime, I can list some of my own favorite cities I've visited.

Abroad: Amsterdam; Barcelona; Dublin; Liverpool; Montreal.

In the U.S.: Athens, Ga.; Columbus, Ohio; Madison; Portland; San Francisco; Washington, D.C.

Of course there are a lot of place I haven't been, so this list is not yet even close to comprehensive or complete.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Best line I read today

From the GQ review (not online I don't think) of The Informant!, which looks great by the way:
Reversing the two mediums' original bailiwicks, TV is now awash in sophsticated storytelling, can-of-worms character motives, and provocative themes. But when America hits the multiplex, we want Transformers. The industry has only itself to blame for convincing a generation of moviegoers that that's all big screens are good for.
Maybe it is my age, or my general bias toward staying home, but I found myself asking: What are big screens good for?

Sunday, September 13, 2009

My 25 favorite Beatles songs

I tried my hand at doing a list of my top 25 Beatles songs.

A couple quick notes first. I must say I intentionally did not include "Strawberry Fields Forever," "All You Need is Love," "I am the Walrus" or "Yesterday." Some of the songs I really do like that probably would make up the next few slots on a longer list are "I'm a Loser," "Ticket to Ride," "Come Together," "We Can Work It Out," "Blackbird," "You've Got to Hide Your Love Away," "Dear Prudence" and "Revolution."

I took the videos for these from the Entertainment Weekly's list here and here, which is a fun read.

25. Lady Madonna

24. Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)
"So I looked around and I noticed there wasn't a chair." Good early use of the sitar, and a great, half-funny story.

23. Something

22. I Saw Her Standing There
"She was just seventeen, and you know what I mean." That's a great rock 'n' roll lyric for you right there.

21. I'm So Tired
Great John epic.

20. Can't Buy Me Love

19. While My Guitar Gently Weeps

18. Let It Be

17. Getting Better


16. Michelle

15. I Want to Hold Your Hand
The band's first U.S. hit, a monster.

14. Dig a Pony

From the first hit to one of the last ever Lennon/McCartney collabos. This is full-on late-stage weirdness, but it really works for me.

13. She's Leaving Home
The empathy Paul shows for the parents of this teen runaway is actually sort of stunning for a 1960s rock album, or any rock album.

12. In My Life

11. Here Comes the Sun

10. Taxman

An ode for today's Tea Partiers, maybe. Has a groove!

9. Hey Jude
Written by Paul for John's son, which I think is nice.

8. Good Day Sunshine

7. Help!

6. Eleanor Rigby

5. Tomorrow Never Knows

4. Hard Day's Night

3. A Day in the Life
John and Paul, separate but together. "Woke up, got out of bed/ Dragged a comb across my head" gets me every time.

2. She Loves You

Just one of the great rock 'n' roll songs of all time. Perfect.

1. Penny Lane

I just love the innocence/weirdness of this song. Before Sgt. Pepper's, the original idea was to make a concept album of songs about Liverpool, and this song sort of makes me wish they'd gone through with it. Here's something a tour guide in Liverpool told me: The lyric "fish and finger pies" refers to getting to third base with a girl, in the Penny Lane bus shelter which was a common make-out spot.

So. The point of doing these lists is to argue about it. What's your number one? What's too high, what's too low? What am I missing?

So long, Hank Hill

King of the Hill ends tonight, apparently with a whimper -- since the show was cancelled after these episodes were already finished, these probably won't feel like last episodes. I haven't watched King of the Hill every week for some years, and after a 13-year run it's hard to feel that sad about the show being put to bed. But I still have a soft spot for it and will watch it in syndication sometimes and think, man, what a good show.

From the beginning, King of the Hill succeeded by being everything The Simpsons wasn't -- deliberate, conventional, understated. Where Homer Simpson was Homer Simpson, Hank Hill was the deeply moral, essentially admirable straight man who each week found himself surrounded by the frustrations of an insane, out-of-balance world.

While there's no doubt that Hank Hill's values are small-c conservative, one of the cleverest things the show did was consistently show the old-school authority figures that surround him to be just as incompetent and backwards as the California/hippie/liberal foils who sometimes made their way to Arlen, Texas. Hank sees himself as a kind of bastion of old-fashioned values -- but his Greatest Generation father, Cotton, is a crass, inconsiderate, tail-chasing old coot. Similarly Hank's boss, Mr. Strickland, rich Texas good ol' boy of an earlier generation, and also a thoroughly terrible person. Hank feels like a man out of step with his time, but we in the audience can see that his strong moral code would have made his life harder no matter when he was born.

The Simpsons, especially in its early seasons, had plenty of heart -- but what it never really offered were actual life lessons. Every character on The Simpsons tends to be equally buffoonish, whether it's evil Mr. Burns or hectoring, self-righteous Lisa. King of the Hill not only felt deeply for its characters but also offered a real vision of how to live in the world. I think that's a genuine accomplishment.

It's not really The Simpsons' fault that it spawned the empty, unfunny, basically repugnant Family Guy, but it did, unmistakably, as Family Guy picked up its gag-a-minute pacing and added a heavy layer of hackish nihilism and misanthropy. King of the Hill's TV descendants, meanwhile, are ... what? Maybe there aren't any, and Hank Hill really was a man out of time. Happily, that would seem to be the perfect recipe for a long, long run in syndication.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

"Trigger" option is it

Despite the persistent uncertainties and various matters in flux, I actually think we have a pretty clear picture of where health care reform legislation is headed. The trigger option is it.

Crass politics, now:
a.) If Sen. Ben Nelson supports it, that means the rest of the Senate Democratic moderates probably will support it, too.

b.) If Sen. Olympia Snowe also supports it, that probably gets Democrats to 60.

c.) If Nelson and Snowe support it, it seems reasonable to believe that some House Blue Dogs will also support it, for the same reasons.

d.) Last but not least, if Rep. Anthony Weiner says House liberals probably will accept it, they probably will.
Looks to me like the politics say that this will be the compromise. Or, of course, the whole effort could fall apart.

Monday, September 07, 2009

Wayne Coyne: Arcade Fire "were just dicks to everybody they came in contact with"

Wayne Coyne makes a welcome return to the hating-on-the-Arcade-Fire game in this Pitchfork promotional video [This part starts around 4 minutes into part two, "Wayne Coyne interview"]:
My experience even with Arcade Fire is like, yeah I like some of their music. But we were around them at times and they were -- they weren't even dicks to me, they were just dicks to everybody they came in contact with. Not even just the band, their crew (too). Everybody was just like, "We are better than you and you need to get out of our way." They kicked people out of their dressing rooms. They kicked people out of their dressing rooms! It's like, we're just sitting in here talking.

It puts people on the spot, because most people who are at festivals like this aren't -- not that they're submissive but we just don't want hassle. If a guy comes in here and says get out, we get out and we're like, oh well. But that gives us the perfect right to say, "That guy's a dick. Fuck 'em." You know what I mean? That is the nature of your behavior. You are what you behave as.
Glad to see Wayne is no longer pretending to regret his trash-talking.

Wayne Coyne disappointingly backs off his Arcade Fire diss
Win Butler is so missing Wayne Coyne's point