Happiness where are you? I’ve searched so long for you. A statistical analysis of states’ relative happiness, as determined by tweets. (Red states above are happy, blue states are not.) David Simon is 2-for-2: Next to the mouth of the Mississippi, the Maryland-Delaware area is apparently the saddest in the nation. Perhaps due to proximity to Washington DC? Definitely maybe.
In probably related news, a different map of the United States shows the most popular places cited in Craigslist’s Missed Connections. “The most popular place to spot potential love in Texas, New Mexico, Missouri, Louisiana, Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama, Idaho, Montana, South Dakota, Ohio, West Virginia, Tennessee, North Carolina and Florida? Wal-Mart.”
Of course, this begs the question: Do people actually ever meet up on Missed Connections? Every time I’ve perused them, that section is overwhelmingly the Boulevard of Broken Dreams, just damaged, lovelorn people sending out messages in a bottle to lost exes who are actively ignoring them.
Anyway, the upshot is there’s not much joy in Mudville these days, and I’m just not feeling very inclined to post here. I can’t really talk about politics because (1) it interferes with my current employ and (2) when you get right down to it, I find it hard to take presidential politics seriously as a vehicle for (hope-and-)change these days (although I’m sure it’s a great way to get your name on a NASCAR car.) I can’t really talk about personal matters because that’s just plain unsightly, and the Internet really doesn’t need any more TMI kvetching about first world problems. Nor, quite frankly, does it need to know what I thought of 21 Jump Street and Mass Effect 3 and the new Prometheus viral campaign and the like.
I’m not saying the Ghost is dead and buried, but I don’t see it coming back online regularly anytime soon: With the exception of the occasional comment-spam clear, the old hound and I are on walkabout for the foreseeable future. In the meantime, the archives are here and here, and all the old movie reviews are here. If you’ve been swinging by the site at any time for the past 12+ years, apologies for the service outage and thanks, as always, for stopping by.
Update: Thanks for all the well-wishes in the comments. As a follow-up, Berk has lost the toe, but the offending infection has, per the lab report, been “completely excised.” Meanwhile, after several weeks in the cone, the old hound is back to moving around normally and otherwise seems in good health. Squirrels and skateboarders, beware.
Here, Fassbender is Brandon Sullivan, an Irish-American Silicon Alley midmanagement type living in Chelsea who fills his empty days watching pr0n at work and his lonely New York nights having meaningless sex with hookers and anonymous strangers. Ok, let me stop there for a second: Awwwww, poor damaged rich guy! Nymphomania is such an underappreciated and overlooked #firstworldproblem! Yes y’all, like The King’s Speech, my empathy meter clicked out early here. It doesn’t help that Sullivan is given no real redeeming qualities to speak of — He’s, quite literally, just a prick. (Plus, as someone who actually lived the “depressed in Gotham” existence, I found it less a Boschian purgatory of carnal pleasure and more like I am Legend, but of course there are millions of stories in the Naked City. YMMV.)
Anyway, Brandon’s life is upended when his needy, inconstant, and equally lacerated sister Sissy (Carey Mulligan, also giving more of herself than the project deserves) shows up at his door. Both Brandon and Sissy were clearly damaged at an early age – A childhood of abuse is intimated through nasty scars and sketchy stories. But while Brandon has an insatiable craving for angry, consequence-free sex (in fact, he can’t perform when on an actual, honest-to-goodness date with a co-worker), Sissy is desperate for emotional attachment. In other words, basically these two are like oil and water, and they’re both cooped up in the same smallish NYC apartment with their respective demons. This will not end well.
So the board is set, but, in all honesty, the pieces don’t do much moving. As in Hunger (and much like Tom Ford’s A Single Man), Steve McQueen seems more interested in creating artistic moments than achieving any kind of narrative momentum. Plot isn’t everything, of course. Character studies are fine. even ones involving mostly static characters. But we don’t learn anything about these two characters except they’re troubled and needy. We need more to hold interest here.
The best of McQueen’s artistic vignettes by far are the bookends of the film, when Brandon hunts for a hookup on the subway and gets caught in a game of eyeball with a possible partner (Lucy Walter). Without dialogue, Fassbender and Walter display a microcosm of conflicting emotions — surprise, lust, shame, guilt — through gazes and body language across a crowded train. But, otherwise, we also have to sit through a lot of filler here, like Fassbender going for a half-mile run to MSG and Mulligan crooning all of “New York, New York” in damaged-siren mode (which conjured grim memories of Georgia.) We have long, uninterrupted scenes of Fassbender and Mulligan fighting like cats and dogs. (Quite frankly, they feel like gimmicks, as did Fassbender and Liam Cunningham’s long and more impressive one-take chat in Hunger.) And we have a good bit of sex, all filmed — with one exception in a hotel room — in the seventh-circle-of-hell fashion of another addiction film, Requiem for a Dream.
In short, I just didn’t buy it. The characters did not ring true to me. I couldn’t see Fassbender (hard, angular) and Mulligan (soft, curvy) as siblings. I found it hard to believe Sullivan could be at once suave enough to pick up anyone he wanted at a club (particularly as compared to his inept boss, James Badge Dale), and yet so unbelievably terrible at small talk on a first date. And McQueen’s third-act decision to have Fassbender’s character, in the midst of an epic bender, wander into a ridiculously sinister gay dungeon in the Meat-Packing District for consummation, carried more than a whiff of homophobia about it. Shame has some powerful performances, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see Fassbender and Mulligan get acting nods here. But the film is all surfaces and very little depth. I left, like its wretched protagonist, unsatisfied.
But has he tried OkCupid? By way of Mother Jones, the Post reports in on the so-far fruitless attempts to get Lonesome George, the last Pinta turtle of his kind, to mate. “‘He’s getting to know them,’ Llerena said. ‘Lately he seems more animated.’ The females spend most of their time on the opposite side of the pen, but Llerena said he hasn’t lost hope.”
First off, in keeping with the usual once-a-year romantic status-update, you’ll be happy to know that this 2010 post actually comes with 44% less whining than usual. (Yay, and there was much rejoicing.) I am still single on this end, as per the norm, which means my trusty sheltie sidekick is once again holding down the official valentine spot. (Aw, he got me Bioshock 2. How did he know I wanted it?) But, having at last escaped the egregious emotional, financial, and general personal sandtrap that is late-term gradual school, it’s safe to say I’m in a much happier place these days. And, since returning to DC, a town that’s been swell to me so far, I’ve at least been taking a few swings at the plate lately. So, no wallowing this V-day. I’m in a pretty good place, all in all, and hope springs eternal. In any event, on to the music:
What role do you want to play?
I’m just a click away, night or day.
And if you think I’m not the one,
Log off, log off and we’ll be done…”
But can she kite the adds? First off, as always, I offer some quality cheese: Singlehandedly raising unrealistic expectations for gamergrrls the world (of Warcraft) over, The Guild‘s fetching Felicia Day scored a massive (multiplayer) online hit last summer with the supremely catchy “Do You Wanna Date (My Avatar)?” In some ways a peppy, poppy update to Kraftwerk’s “Computer Love” (which led off the order in ’06) this was one of two songs I heard in the past year that I knew — immediately — would make it into this post.
Now, having spent more than my fair share of time MMO’ing over the past few years — everybody say hi to Jacklowry — it’s safe to say that the bubbly, infectious enthusiasm that drives this track isn’t really a huge part of games like Warcraft. (In fact, everyone usually seems vaguely depressed — There’s a reason why some of the biggest facets of WoW-life are “grinding” levels and “farming” mats. If you take it seriously, it sorta becomes a day job.) But, all that being said, Day and The Guild crew know their WoW — how ’bout a little tank-and-spank? — and they’ve delivered a ditty that works as both a fun and knowing riff on the MMO life and a silky, effervescent pop song all on its own. Great job, y’all…Lvl 80 rogue lf healbot pst?
Girl I refuse, you must have me confused
With some other guy
Your bridges were burned, and now it’s your turn
To cry, cry me a river.”
Don’t it make you sad about it? This song probably needs no introduction — most everybody knows it, and I’m sure a lot of people are totally sick of the durned thing. Still, since the last song, however cheesy, is already a gamer standard and perhaps not nearly as embarrassing a guilty pleasure as I’ve tended to offer in years past, I give you JT’s “Cry Me a River.”
It’s easy to playa-hate Justin Timberlake, and to be honest, I think I can only name three or four songs of his anyway. Still, I’d argue this well-crafted track and “SexyBack” put JT as the truly deserving 21st century pop heir to, say, Stevie Wonder or Michael Jackson. He’s got the pipes, he’s got the beats, he’s got the production values, the dance moves, and the marketing savvy, and to my mind “Cry Me a River” just holds it own as a classically catchy pop ditty. And when the scorned lasses of this world roll out Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive” as their peppy post-break-up standard on the dance floor, I in turn will call forth this track, Pokemon-style. Game on.
Your eyes are soft with sorrow,
And I know when to say goodbye.
While I threw up some Dylan in both ’06 and ’07, I try not to repeat artists just yet for these V-Day posts. Still, while the sublime “I’m Your Man” — which quite possibly can’t be topped as a V-Day song — was part of the 2007 mix, I’m going with Leonard Cohen’s “That’s No Way to Say Goodbye” this year from Live in London. Not only because it is beautiful, but because, frankly, I played the hell out of this record over the past year.
When he’s at his best, as he is throughout Live in London, Cohen’ sheer rawness — his naked, direct emotion — cuts like a knife. He’s not one to dabble in misdirection, or to try to obscure his feelings with extended metaphors. He just goes right to the heart of it, every time.
With that in mind, I much prefer this version of “That’s No Way to Say Goodbye” to the original 1967 version. At times, the young Cohen sounds too callow to me. It took years, even decades, for his voice to catch up to the power of his poetry. And the slight change in lyrics here — Now it’s “I know when to say goodbye” — helps push this ballad from petulance to poignance. It’s one of many transcendant moments on this superlative album.
And, really, who doesn’t love sleep? As a love-song sorbet of sorts, here’s The Dandy Warhols’ “Sleep.” Like Brian Eno’s “By this River” and Hot Chip’s “Crap Kraft Dinner” (written up in ’09), this is one of those songs I find endlessly soothing. It could just play on and on like this for twenty minutes and I’d be blissfully content…perhaps eventually nodding off, fading away into the wilderness of dream…
Go on, give me a reason to love you
Give me a reason to wanna be your man
Give me a reason to love you
Give me a reason if you can.”
As I said back when hyping Third in 2008, Portishead’s Dummy was one of those ubiquitous albums for a few years there in the mid-nineties, with the most memorable track therein possibly being “the second single, “Glory Box.” I include the late guitarist John Martyn’s cover of “Glory Box” here not because it’s an improvement on the original — they’re both amazing — but because it captures so well that song’s hothouse sultriness, while managing to sound quite different in the end (and switching the gender dynamic.)
Also of note on this subject: Portishead’s “Scorn,” the ice-cold B-side version of this same song. I love how it completely inverts the sensation of the original tune, just by switching the beats involved. Now, the whole song plays out atop that sensual, brooding oil-tanker rhythm only heard when everything goes wobbly in the original version. And, conversely, only in the climax of this mix are the original lyrical strings heard, like a moment of clear-thinking grace before the hammers descend anew. (The Youtube of “Scorn” below cuts out the end, unfortunately, although you can hear the whole mix here.)
Juliet says, ‘Hey, it’s Romeo, you nearly gave me a heart attack!’
He’s underneath the window, she’s singing, ‘Hey la, my boyfriend’s back.’
You shouldn’t come around here singing up to people like that…
Anyway, what you gonna do about it?”
You and me, babe, how ’bout it? Now, if forced, with a gun to my head, to pick the Dire Straits’ absolute finest hour, I’d have to go with “Sultans of Swing”, that testament to resolute keep-on-keepin’-on long after the crowd’s gone home and all the midnight oil is burned. Still, their brief retelling of “Romeo & Juliet” is an unabashedly lovely song indeed. (Full disclosure: This was, in fact, the favorite tune of one of my former ex’s, a long, long time ago. But, no plagiarism here. I ended up earning this streetlight serenade’s stripes myself…the hard way. Anyway, let’s move on.)
There are a lot of covers of “Romeo & Juliet” floating around — Indigo Girls, The Killers, Edwin McCain — but none of ‘em really do the simple beauty of this song justice. Also, the original Dire Straits video is also online, but frankly it’s so bad and ridiculously Eighties-ish that it detracts from the timelessness of the tune. No wonder they later plunked down big dollars for “Money for Nothing“…
All i needed was the love you gave
All i needed for another day,
And all i ever knew,
As I’ve said ’round here many times, I’m a big Depeche Mode fan from way back. (Their “Here is the House” went up here in ’06.) And I think they became a better, darker, richer band in 1982 with Vince Clarke’s departure after Speak & Spell, when Martin Gore took over the songwriting full-time.
Still, with all due respect to melancholy Marty, Vince Clarke always had a way with a happy three-chord love song that the minor-key-obsessed DM never ever really got back to. Case in point: Yaz’s “Only You” (as well as almost all of Erasure’s many hits over the years.) There are no regrets or guilt or religious allusions or teenage scared-stiff-of-sex angst or black cars driving around in the distance. It’s just a simple, very pretty ode to that one special person.
There are a lot of very good tracks on the better of Yaz’s two albums, Upstairs at Eric — “Don’t Go,” “Situation,” and “Winter Kills,” for example. Still, I’d put “Only You” as the pick of the litter: It’s the perfect blend of Vince Clarke synth-pop and Alison Moyet soul.
How can we ever know
We’ve found the right person in this world?
(he means he looks at other girls)
Love is a mystery, It does not follow the rules!
(this guy is a fool)
(he’ll always be a boy, he’s a man who never grew up)
I thought I told you to shut up…”
The first time you get dumped, it feels like a tragedy. It just plain sucks. The second time, it…well, actually it’s even worse. And by the third or fourth time, you start to really wonder what’s wrong with you. But, after enough iterations of the dismal cycle, as the Conchords’ “Carol Brown” points out, it does become farce. And a really funny one, for that matter.
Along with Felicia Day at the top, this is the other song I knew I was going to post here this year as soon as I heard it. The Flight of the Conchords’ second season included a lot of really hilarious tunes: “Hurt Feelings” (and its reprise), “Too Many Dicks on the Dance Floor,” “Fashion is Danger.” But “Carol Brown” is, imho, their magnum opus. It’s funny on its own terms (as well as a great riposte to Paul Simon’s smarmy “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover.”) But, more importantly, it’s just a funky-sweet song with truthiness to spare. (The Michel Gondry video is great too.)
I’m sure most of y’all out there know the old Annie Hall joke: “This guy goes to a psychiatrist and says, ‘Doc, uh, my brother’s crazy; he thinks he’s a chicken.’ And, uh, the doctor says, ‘Well, why don’t you turn him in?’ The guy says, ‘I would, but I need the eggs.’ Well, I guess that’s pretty much now how I feel about relationships; y’know, they’re totally irrational, and crazy, and absurd, and…but, uh, I guess we keep goin’ through it because, uh, most of us…need the eggs.“
That’s the gag that “Carol Brown” gets so well. The whole song is a litany of ugly dumpings for most of its run. But every time that peal chimes (at 1:15) and the angelic chorus kicks in for the first time (“He doesn’t cook or clean…“), you can hear exactly why Jemaine — and so many others of us, for that matter — keep leading chin first regardless. Carol Brown took a bus out of town…but I’m hoping the next gal sticks around.
That’ll do for ’10, I think. Have a safe and happy Valentines Day, everybody. I’ll see y’all on the flip side. And, until next year…
I’m not going to cover all the sordid details of the Spitzer case here — he’s gone, so, politically speaking, there’s not much else to say about it (and — for the moment anyway — the search for a possible campaign funds connection sounds likes a fishing expedition.) Nevertheless, regarding the news coverage here in the Apple, it — to no one’s surprise, I guess — has already pushed past prurient to wallow in the tacky. When the feeding frenzy first locked on to “Kristen’s” MySpace page (5 million hits in a day), I actually felt sorta bad for the poor girl. (Ok, I know, she’s not poor — she makes $5500/hr. Still.) Prostitution is illegal, true, but she’s still basically a troubled kid engaged in a seedy enterprise, and I think it’d be pretty hard for any personal site — this one included — to withstand that level of withering, snark-heavy scrutiny from the entire world at large. That being said, from front-page, come-hither portfolios all over NY today to 200 large made on music downloads overnight, I have a feeling the last thing Ms. Dupre needs right now is anyone’s pity. Oh well. Milk it, I guess.
Just be clear, I’m not saying the coverage is anywhere near as repellent as the media aftermath to the Virginia Tech killings, and I know sex has sold newspapers since the dawn of the printing press. (I mean, the tabloids caught my attention this morning.) But, c’mon now. In any case, I’m guessing Silla Wall Spitzer is having a truly terrible day.
(By the way, if anyone cares about my own editorial decision to post a pic of Ashley Dupre here, I did so to be fair to Ms. Iseman, of McCain fame. The lesson here seems to be: If you must get caught in a sex scandal (or what the NYT thinks might be a sex scandal), try to keep the seamier-type pics off of the Internets.) Update: Client 9 radio? Um, yeah.
Apparently Natalie Portman loves her some prequels. In case you’re desiring to see Wes Anderson’s The Darjeeling Limited, or at the very least more of Ms. Portman than was disclosed in Closer, Anderson’s 13-minute short film, Hotel Chevalier, starring Jason Schwartzman and the former Queen Amidala, is now available free on iTunes. Cute…dare I say precious?
“Kinsey’s pioneering work is still one-of-a-kind because in all the time since, only a handful of sex researchers have even tried to match his breadth, depth, and scale. For all our obsession with sex, we’re skittish about studying it. There’s one major exception: a large survey, conducted in the 1990s, that far outdid Kinsey in terms of statistical reliability. It’s the most authoritative sexual self-portrait the country has. But you’ve probably never heard of its author, because unlike Kinsey, he has worked hard to keep it that way. Alfred Kinsey may have gotten the biopic, but according to Slate‘s Amanda Schaffer, it’s the University of Chicago’s Edward Laumann we should now be turning to for reliable data on carnal matters. “Kinsey’s data aren’t the last word on matters sexual, but they’re sometimes still the first.“
“Shoplifters of the World, unite and take over“…After resigning under strange circumstances last month, former Dubya administration domestic advisor Claude Allen is arrested and charged with felony theft — i.e., shoplifting, with approximately 25 counts involving $5000 worth of merchandise.(His particular con — Refund Fraud.) When I first heard the story, I felt kinda bad for Allen — I mean, couldn’t he get on board with Safavian, Federici, and the other Dubya administration crooks and at least make some Casino Jack-levels of swag?
Then I read a little more about him: A former aide to notorious race-baiter and national embarrassment Jesse Helms (No, not yet), Allen accused Helms rival Jim Hunt in 1984 of connections to “‘queers,’ ‘radical feminists,’ socialists, and unions.” (In Senate testimony in 2003, he claimed — under oath — that by “queers” he meant “odd” people.) Moreover, fiercely pro-life and anti-contraceptive, Allen has been one of the administraton’s foremost advocates of promoting abstinence programs as the sole way to combat the spread of AIDS and other STDS. (“In February [of 2003] a hundred CDC researchers on sexually transmitted diseases were summoned to Washington by HHS deputy secretary Claude Allen for a daylong affair consisting entirely of speakers extolling abstinence until marriage. There were no panels or workshops, just endless testimonials, including one by a young woman calling herself ‘a born-again virgin.’“) Well, while we’re preaching, Mr. Allen, can I get a witness for the Eighth Commandment? Update: Dubya reacts.
“The disturbing material in Grand Theft Auto and other games like it is stealing the innocence of our children and it’s making the difficult job of being a parent even harder.” It’s Dem Mods v. dem mods as Senators Hillary Clinton and (surprise, surprise) Joe Lieberman decide to sic the FTC on Rockstar Games for Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, namely for the “Hot Coffee” PC mod which may or may not have been included in the original source code. (FYI, you can see the controversial game-clip here — It’s not safe for work, but it’s basically two pixellated characters having explicit sex in various positions, a la the puppets in Team America.)
As with most PMRC, V-Chip, and/or anti-Hollywood-style scapegoating for easy moderate bonus points, I don’t particularly think this type of sophomoric tomfoolery in an M-rated (17 and over) game is the central reason for the Decline and Fall of America’s Wayward Children. (And several wry Slashdotters have already pointed out the ridiculousness of the argument being made about GTA here: “I don’t care if my child carjacks a senior…[or] if he takes a golf club and starts clubbing to death pedestrians. But he may never, over my dead body, have adult on adult, consensual sex!“) But Sen. Clinton’s proposed remedy — adding teeth to the ratings system by potentially fining stores who sell M or AO-games to minors — doesn’t sound like the end of the world either. Update: Rockstar fesses up. Update 2: “Maybe she’d be wiser to focus on issues that matter to these people — say, the fighting and dying in Iraq — than on the fighting and the dying in the fake, fun world of ‘Grand Theft Auto.’” Slate‘s Farhad Manjoo calls out Clinton.
Some love is just a lie of the heart. But most of the time, it just means your oxytocin levels are out of whack…
In the opening moments, the documentary tries to establish its serious pedigree with a motley crew of left-leaning talking heads remembering their “first time” at Deep Throat: Norman Mailer, Erica Jong, Camille Paglia, Bill Maher, Dick Cavett (looking very well-preserved), Hef, Gore Vidal, John Waters, etc. Ok, so far, so good. But, then the interminably smug Dennis Hopper voiceover kicks in, and the movie begins its slow lurch into irredeemable goofiness.
By the end, that lurch has become a full-on tailspin. The upshot of the film seems to be this: Deep Throat was no mere skin flick. It was about art, freedom, liberating female sexuality, and breaking restrictive social barriers…in short, it was about America.(Conversely, all subsequent porn, particularly in the post-Boogie Nights VHS-era, has been about commerce, exploitation, degradation, and, well, you know.) Moreover, the release of Deep Throat marked an epochal moment in the burgeoning culture wars, and this movie leaves no doubt which side it’s on — various would-be moral arbiters straight out of right-wing central casting are interviewed at times, and naturally they all make Ken Starr look like Larry Flynt. Meanwhile, the admittedly-dubious conviction of Deep Throat-star Harry Reems is treated like the worst threat to constitutional liberty in decades, a cross between the Hollywood Ten and the trial of Sir Thomas More.
While I think Deep Throat‘s artistic merits are vastly overrated here — it’s a ludicrous porno that improbably tapped into the zeitgeist and fell ass-backwards into crossover appeal, no more, no less — I’m generally sympathetic to the case being made in this documentary about First Amendment freedoms and the snickering, adolescent way our culture handles adult sexuality most of the time. But Inside Deep Throat‘s bullheadedly partisan and hyperbolic tone does a disservice to its central arguments. In other words, like the stereotype of the industry it sought to illuminate, Inside Deep Throat turned out to be breathless and brainless…you’d probably be better off watching whatever’s on Skinemax.
I’m off early this morning to catch up with college friends for one of our semi-annual reunions, so I expect it’ll be quiet around here until next week. But, since it’s a holiday weekend of sorts, and since I’ve been perusing a number of MP3 blogs lately, I figured I wouldn’t leave on a jet plane before regaling you, my dear readers, with the Valentine’s gift of music. (The usual mp3blog rules apply: the files will be up this weekend and this weekend only, and please do not link to them.) So, without further ado:
Twist your head around
it’s all around you
As y’all know, iconography from the stunning video to Bjork’s “All is Full of Love” has graced this site for years now, so it seemed a logical choice for GitM‘s Valentine. It’d be hard for me to introduce the song any better than Bjork did herself: “That song’s from a moment when I’d had a pretty rough winter and then it was a spring morning and I walked outside and the birds were singing: Spring is here! I wrote the song and recorded in half a day. It just clicked – you know: you’re being too stubborn, don’t be so silly, there is love everywhere. The feeling, the emotion of the song was like completely melting and loving everything and feeling like everything loved you, after a long time of not having that. The song, in essence, is actually about believing in love.“
Strangely enough, I experienced a very similar revelatory moment, traipsing around outside after a blizzard several years ago, while listening to this “Plaid” version of the song. It’s missing the languorous beat that’s so memorable in the single version, but I adore the fugue-like intro and textured, contrapuntal rhythms of this mix — They lend it a timeless, ethereal beauty that perfectly matches the celestial coo and growl of its Icelandic muse. I don’t want to hate on Love, Actually for too many posts in a row, but to my mind this song brilliantly encapsulates what that movie tried and failed to get at — Even in our loneliest moments, love surrounds us and binds us.
I want you
I’m not ashamed to say I cried for you
I want you
I want to know the things you did that we do too
I want you
I want to hear he pleases you more than I do
I want you
I might as well be useless for all it means to you…
Bjork too sappy? Well, if, on the other hand, you prefer to spend Valentine’s Day prodding scars and excavating the thin line between love and hate, then here’s a streetlight serenade for you — a blistering-hot live version of Elvis Costello’s most savage, searing slow burn. Much of the resonance of the original “I Want You” lies in how what starts off as a run-of-the-mill torch song slowly degenerates into something much more complicated and sinister. This spooky, haunted-house version from the 2002 tour skips the set-up, but it’s nevertheless a poisonous mirrorball of rage and regret, bitterness and betrayal, loss and (self-)loathing…all those quintessential consequences of a love implosion that they just don’t seem to make Hallmark cards for (and it’s all topped off with a brief twinge of Yankee Power.) Our man Costello may be enthralled with Diana Krall these days, but as this song makes emphatically clear, there are still some things you just don’t wanna know about his dark life.
Either path you choose, have a safe and happy weekend, and I’ll catch y’all next week.
Schindler, Rob Roy, Darkman, Qui-Gon, Kinsey…why not Honest Abe? Liam Neeson is apparently in talks to play Lincoln in a Spielberg-directed biopic, to be based on Doris Kearns Goodwin‘s forthcoming book, The Uniter. Ok, that’s not bad…but hopefully this project turns out better than Amistad.
Also in loosely related Lincoln-by-way-of-Kinsey news, Salon‘s Andrew O’Hehir casts a troubled eye at C.A. Tripp’s Intimate World of Abraham Lincoln. As he ably points out (as does George Chauncey in the excellent Gay New York), “the difficulty with assessing Lincoln’s private life (or that of anyone else who lived before the 20th century) is that the nature of private life has changed dramatically from his time to ours, and the distance between us distorts the view…Whether [Lincoln and Joshua Speed's, with whom Lincoln shared a bed] relationship had a sexual component or not, it belongs to a vanished world of intimate male friendships of a kind almost unrecognizable to us.” In other words, sexual orientation is an historically dynamic idea. Homosociality does not necessarily imply homosexuality, and one cannot simply read 19th century sources and infer a 20th century mindset. You have to delve a little deeper. Update: Columbia’s David Greenberg also weighs in for Slate.
Hoo boy, the Red Staters obsessed with “moral values” out there are just gonna love Kinsey. With its unflinching recognition of myriad forms of human sexual behavior, its intimations of bisexuality and wife-swapping among team Kinsey, and its occasionally graphic (albeit antiseptic and not at all titillating) depictions of the act of coitus (to channel Maude Lebowski), Bill Condon’s biopic of Indiana’s famous sex statistician is the closest movie we have this year to a Passion of the Christ for science-minded free-thinkers. In fact, the film seems almost genetically designed to get under the skins of the abstinence-firsters and moralist types who’ve decried Kinsey’s studies for fifty years.
That being said, the strength of Kinsey, and what elevates it to being a better-then-average biopic, is the way it ultimately gets under everybody’s skin. Alfred Kinsey is not simply white-washed as a martyr to science and a hero of sexual enlightenment (although, in its most conventional moments, such as the last ten minutes, the movie hammers those particular points pretty hard.) Rather, Kinsey is portrayed as a man whose relentless pursuit of sexual knowledge often leads him down some troubling and morally ambiguous roads. Even the most open-minded libertines in the audience may find themselves feeling that things seem to have gotten a little out-of-control around the home office in Indiana by the end, and get extremely discomfited when Liam Neeson’s Kinsey sits down with an even creepier than usual Bill Sadler, a pedophile and sexual predator who’s taken some notes of his own.
Kinsey is at its best when it rides this razor’s edge, honoring the professor’s undeniable contributions to science and society while recognizing that his dispassionately treating sexual behavior as he earlier treated gall wasps ultimately opened the door to immense personal pitfalls, particularly for the men and women around him who had trouble maintaining such a scientific distance. Speaking of which, while Neeson is solid and Laura Linney is Laura Linney as usual, the supporting character work in Kinsey is particularly good. Special marks go to a fearless Peter Saarsgard as Kinsey’s #2 (Watch out, Ewan – you’ve got a competitor now for the full-frontal roles), John Lithgow for his bleary final scene as Kinsey’s father (which redeemed an otherwise one-note character), and Dylan Baker as the long-suffering Rockefeller Foundation point person (who must partly have been picked here for his memorable role in Happiness.)
In sum, although it ends with a rather bland huzzah for the march of science, Bill Condon’s Kinsey is for the most part an intelligent, nuanced, and multifaceted appreciation of one man’s probing (and occasionally perilous) quest to illuminate humankind’s most intimate frontier. (And as such, it’ll probably go over like a lead balloon in American Pie country.)
“‘It is a pattern that has built up over time,’ said Dr Jason Wilder, from the University of Arizona in Tucson, USA. ‘The norm through human evolution is for more women to have…children than men. There are men around who aren’t able to have children, because they are being out-competed by more successful males.’” One of my high school roommates — now a biologist at Arizona — unearths genetic evidence that prehistoric Lotharios really got around, while Beta Cavemales have always had it bad. I dunno, I always thought Barney Rubble did pretty well for himself…
The full trailer for Bill Condon’s Kinsey biopic is now up, and while Laura Linney still has a huge debt to pay for her last film on academia and sex (The Life of David Gale), it looks like Liam Neeson will nevertheless be backed up by solid character work from Peter Sarsgaard, Timothy Hutton, John Lithgow, Oliver Platt, Dylan Baker…and Chris O’Donnell?
Via Quiddity, academics fret about attractive professors garnering better student evaluations. Well, beauty is power in any endeavor these days…so I’d be surprised if academia were any different. Still, after three hours of lecture a week over the course of a term, I’d think many students’ evaluations would bypass professorial sex appeal in favor of the more central question: Was the class interesting?
Fresh after making his pitch for the Sox, Seth Stevenson tries to wrap his mind around manga. “As for the animated porn I did watch in hopes of gleaning some insight into the Japanese id? I have this to say: Go away, Japanese id! You are scary! I am scared of you!“
Y’know, I’ve been waiting to hear this type of news for years. Apparently coho salmon and quail males also affect an ironic distance and disaffected world-weariness that make them the apple of females’ eyes.
Speaking of ancient rock formations, a former professor of obstetrics and gynecology believes Stonehenge to represent a large vulva, in honor of the fecundity of the Earth Goddess. Sure, I buy it.
Ah, Spring, when a young man’s thought turn to love…and bitterness. (Grotesque cartoon violence involved, if that sort of thing offends you.)