Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Girls Season 1: Some Questions


  1. What about the lies Adam told Hannah about HPV testing?
  2. What about the 'Hannah's Dad is gay' idea?
  3. How is Hannah planning to keep the apartment that Marnie's been paying for? Hannah needs a flat-mate who'll cover her share of the rent. Good luck with that! Did the show not stress this point because then having Adam move in would have made too much sense just on a practical level (i.e., Hannah's offering the room to someone else would then look certifiable)?
  4. Hannah's old writing prof. says that Tally (Hannah's nemesis) is a terrible writer, but Marnie liked Tally's book. Are we supposed to conclude that Marnie is lacking in judgement and taste? 
  5. And how is an Oberlin prof. on the scene so conveniently in NYC?
  6. Jessa's marriage can't be serious. Neither can Marnie's throwing herself at tubby, bombastic wedding guy. Was a shark jumped? 
  7. And why in the original 'threesome' ep. didn't the unimpressed Jessa just leave and wish Marnie well in her effort to get laid by Thomas John? (And is that guy's ridiculous name a clue that none of this whole side of the narrative is to be taken seriously?) That Jessa would insist on, as it were, vag.-blocking her friend seemed quite out of character for her. 
  8. Does this show and its characters make even basic sense?
Update August 1, 2012. And a Non-question:
  • Why are Hannah's friends and broader peer-group so white? Good god. Lena Dunham should be allowed to write about what and whom she knows. Her world's a little narrow and bordering-on privileged. So was Jane Austen's. So is Richard Curtis's. Comedy thrives under these kind of self-imposed constraints. Don't like it? Don't watch it. Make your own show. Stop whining.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Pete Campbell: Standby

After the Spector-produced and Weil and Mann-written You've Lost That Loving Feeling, and after producing the Weil and Mann-written (You're my) Soul and Inspiration, Stand By was Bill Medley's attempt to do the whole thing himself: write, produce, sing (w/o any help from Hetfield). It's the same (force 9 gale, melodramatic) song and performance again, only this third time through impassioned, abject masculinity, the leavee's lament is from an even more pathetic perspective: not a current-leavee but a past-leavee who's stuck in the past ('I'm not her man, I'm just her standby/...So I'll pretend her love is mine'. Interestingly Medley swallows many of the 'her's so that, in particular the key line ends up mostly sounding like, 'I'm not a man, I'm just her standby' which is more self-lacerating and somewhat less pitiful.

The song's pathetic perspective reminded me of Mad Men's Pete Campbell (brilliantly played by Vincent Kartheiser) esp. in the wonderful Season 5 episode, Signal 30, written by the late, great Frank Pierson and splendidly directed by John Slattery. In the ep. Pete flirts with a high school senior (Amanda Bauer) in Drivers' Ed. and gets punched out by Lane. Signal 30 is set in 1966, the year when the album Stand By appeared on was released.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Friday, July 27, 2012

Olivia Newton-John does the Hollies Live

Like Karen Carpenter and Alison Krauss, ONJ has perfect pitch and an incredibly pure tone. She just kills this classic song, which is hard to sing. Many of us took ONJ slightly for granted in the '70s and '80s ('the singing milkshake'), but she's a great singer as well as, of course, a tremendously appealing presence.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Facebook is doomed

How Facebook plans to make money (commensurate with and justifying of its current valuations) according to today's NY Times:

Among the most promising of those efforts, from a marketer’s point of view, is Facebook Exchange, which is intended to track the behavior of Facebook users when they are visiting other sites and serve up tailored advertisements when they return to Facebook.
Orbitz, the travel company, is among the advertisers that are trying Facebook Exchange. If it sees a consumer looking for, say, a business hotel in New York, Orbitz can place an advertisement for New York hotels on that user’s Facebook page, with the hope that the user will return to the travel site and make the booking. Chris Stevens, senior director of retail for Orbitz, said it was too early to determine the impact on sales. [Our bold.]
Earlier in the article, Facebook's head advertising/adsense/tech guy, Gokul Rajaram is described/quoted as follows:
Part of the challenge is that advertisements, as Mr. Rajaram once put it, should not feel like advertisements. “You would much rather hear a message from your friend than hear a message from a brand,”

So explicit appeals/pitches from advertisers are regarded as unwelcome, but having Facebook stalk you across the web and hand the data it collects about you to advertisers so they can 'see' you and then abuse your Facebook home-space as they see fit is going to fly/not provoke revulsion and resistance? Ha ha ha. Facebook is doomed: the return of the underpants gnomes.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Aurora Horror

If the US adopted the gun laws of, say, Australia or the UK, its murder rate would gradually (over a decade or two) drop to (conservatively) 1/3 of what it is now. Everyone knows this to be true: US rates of burglary, assault, car theft etc. are mostly comparable to the rest of the developed world - so the idea that the US is just more evil or degenerated on average (or whatever it might be) simply doesn't stack up - it's murder that's the big anomaly. And while Aurora-like events can and do happen everywhere, there's every reason to believe that, were the US to adopt OECD mean gun laws, the US would gradually regress to the OECD mean for rampage-killing too.

But supposing the US can't/won't ever fully see reason about its gun laws, then still restrictions on semi-automatic weapons, background checks, maybe restrictions on numbers of weapons, types and amount of ammunition an individual can own - that sort of thing - would be a positive step, would help block the currently royal road the US paves from being a disgruntled crazy person to being a hugely destructive rampage-killer.

Depressingly, however, the NRA and its followers resist even such modest steps in large part on slippery slope grounds which we spoof as follows: 'If we allow reason about guns to gain any sort of foothold then before you know it we'll feel the full force of the better reason and be turned into Australia/Canada/Europe.'

The US likes to think of itself as a shining city on a hill. No chance of that as things stand: a dark, cautionary tale about how not to fashion a society is more like it. One can love a lot of things about the US but also despair of its special insanities. The current murder rate and the embarrassment and moral damage it represents for the US isn't going to stop until the US wises up.

Further Clarifications
1. In discussions with Americans about their gun polices two countervailing considerations in favor of extremely light or even no control of the gun supply often emerge. First, there's the idea that a heavily armed civilian population is extra insurance should the US ever be invaded, etc.. Put slightly differently, Americans, like the idea that even if the official military failed civilian militias could form and easily turn the US into a kind of unoccupiable, super-Afgahnistan. Second, there's the idea that Americans might have to eventually take up arms against their own government or one another, in deed that it might be periodically desirable and even necessary to refresh the tree of democracy with the blood of tyrants as Jefferson once memorably put it. From the perspective of this later point, while citizens of Australia or Canada etc. might be perfectly happy with their lots but they haven't built the same level of security against internal threats of tyranny into their democracy that Americans have. The American tradeoff is, say, 5000 extra deaths per year to insure against a long-shot nightmare

2. The basic point to be made against both these ideas is just how bad these tradeoffs are. We're talking (very very conservatively estimated) 5K extra deaths a year = 500K per century to insure against (i) the failure of a military that costs as much as the next 15 largest militaries in the world combined, and (ii) the complete, de-constituting, breakdown of the US form of government, i.e., a civil war-level crisis. The US Civil war saw 500-700K deaths (more than the deaths from all of the US's external wars combined).

3. (i) Strikes me as bizarrely fanciful overkill. So the big US tradeoff comes down to insuring against the ultimate internal catastrophe by amortizing roughly that level of additional death over a century! But that's lousy insurance. Expectation of a civil war equivalent (CWE) every century is not a mark of a successful or even functional liberal democracy. I'd say that somewhere between .1 and .2 CWEs is a better and more realistic target. The main argument in favor of liberal democracy after all is that it's self-correcting, that it allow conflicts to be resolved from within a political process, so that all groups in society can influence policy particularly in areas that are important to them. The American trade-off therefore looks like a very half-hearted embrace of the American instance of liberal democracy. Anticipating and paying for 1 CWE per century isn't a deal that anyone else accepts, and it's undermining of liberal democracy's claim to being the best political system that any country takes that deal.

4. Note too that it's especially exasperating that the political group that most virulently supports very 'expensive' firearms insurance against incredible longshot possibilities (which are in any case amenable to other, 'cheaper' measures, e.g., just don't slumber when demagogues start to gather popular support) has no time whatsoever for climate change issues: the threats posed by ever increasing CO2 levels pushing global temperatures ever higher are real/highly probable/firmly predicted at this point not longshots, and there are no known, effective acceptable, affordable alternatives (i.e., to reducing net CO2 emissions fast) that will avert or even much blunt the expected catastrophe.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Crud in the Shower Scene (on Psycho's 1999 dvd edn)

Dirt, hairs, and the like (click to make bigger):

Presumably later editions including the recent Blu-ray will have tidied up these sorts of imperfections/artifacts.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Random Rules


The Avclub's regular feature, Random Rules, interviews people via their ipod set to random/shuffle, i.e., people get to talk about the first 10 things that come up on their ipod when it's selecting randomly. Since I never use shuffle on my own ipod, the exercise has always seemed a little odd to me. Still, I wasn't sure what I'd get if I tried it, so color me intrigued. Here goes (omitting a dull Kermode/Mayo filmshow podcast):
  1. Don't Hang Up, 10cc
  2. Think, Aretha Franklin
  3. Coney Island Washboard, The Mills Brothers
  4. Sing, The Dresden Dolls
  5. Cry Me A River, Barbara Streisand
  6. Desire, Anna Calvi
  7. Conversations, Cilla Black
  8. My Love, My Life, Abba
  9. More More More, Andrea True Connection
  10. Devil's Got My Woman, Skip James
Hmm, 10/10 with vocals, 7/10 female vocals, 2/10 post-1990.

Small sample problem? Maybe.

My next 10 random selections were Oh, The Divorces!, Tracey Thorn; Theme from Hill St Blues, Mike Post; Step Inside, Cilla Black; Kenne's Soul, Valerie Capers; Equator, Alex Cima; All My Colours (Live), Echo and the Bunnymen; The Well-Tempered Clavier (BK1) Prelude and Fugue 22 in B-flat minor, JS Bach; Celebrate, Rare Earth; Black is the Colour of My True Love's Hair (Jaffa Remix), Nina Simone; Kiss You On The Cheek, Desmond and the Tutus. That's 7/10 with vocals, 4/10 female vocals, 3/10 post-1990 (if the remix of Simone is allowed). Mmmm, that Simone remix:

Sunday, July 01, 2012

Ice Choir's I Want You Now And Always

Sounds like a hit from an undiscovered John Hughes movie. Pretty great in other words (although I'd like the Sundays-style guitar in the middle eight to continue, and I suspect that the harmony vocal in the final chorus could have been explored further, e.g., used earlier in the song, possibly completely on the beat, and then more extensively elaborated at the end). I'd like to think IWYNAA could be a hit in 2012, but what do I know? I was staggered at how little chart traction and action all of Robyn's Body Talk hit-candidates such as Hang With Me and Indestructible got back in 2010.

Update 1: Having tracked down and listened to a couple of other Ice Choir tracks, I can report that they're less compelling and endearing than IWYNAA. Still, even if IC's currently only got one big hit in 'em, here's hoping a killer song can still find an audience (but maybe luck will be required: being used in an ad., appearing on Gossip Girl, and the like).

Update 2: Thinking on IWYNAA a little more, it's not a million miles removed from a Dave Stewart & Barbara Gaskin track I liked enough to make a Bringing Up Baby-themed vid. for a while back:

Update 3: My own vid for IWYNAA: