August 28, 2015

Sagan would be proud















(Via The Madman Winter.)

Mourning on Planet Lovetron

Darryl Dawkins (1957-2015)

  • New York Times
    • "Everybody was in awe [when he shattered the backboard]. Fans were running out grabbing the glass. People’s hands were bleeding. I felt like I was doing something no other human could do."
  • Grantland
    • "It wasn’t just the backboard-shattering dunks, although nobody yet has topped If You Ain’t Groovin’ Best Get Movin’, Chocolate Thunder Flyin’, Robinzine Cryin’, Teeth Shakin’, Glass Breakin’, Rump Roastin’, Bun Toastin’, Glass Still Flyin’, Wham Bam I Am Jam! as a nom de slam. (It’s the “Bun-Toastin’” that makes it art.) It wasn’t that Dawkins claimed to be an emissary from the planet Lovetron, although that was cool enough that it might have been something George Clinton thought up as part of the P-Funk road show. It wasn’t just calling himself Chocolate Thunder, although that was pretty damn nifty, too. It was that there was room for all of that in one smiling package that was Darryl Dawkins, and that there was room for Darryl Dawkins in the NBA — where the dunks are now sponsored by Gatorade and no buns are toasted anymore."


August 23, 2015

John Woo eat your heart out

Chinatown fight scene from The Cameraman goes to 11.


August 19, 2015

Letter from a correspondent

Dear Front,

It is never too late, I suppose, for a second rater to notice something that has been plain to the best thinkers in a field for decades.  Just as the investment world has come to notice that beta is an incomplete descriptor of systematic risk - an empirical fact noticed by Fischer Black in the early 1970s - so you have dawdled and driveled your way to a rudimentary understanding of Venus.  Congratulations on this.

You note, from your close reading of Wikipedia, that the song appears to have some significance in Russia.  This is true in the same sense that Pelé has some significance in Brazil.  Russia without Шизгара?  Inconceivable!  This song entered the bloodstream of a people and now is as integral to them as this Taylor Swift thing is to your decadent feminized transgender whatchamacallit yankee doodle democracy.

For Russia, the song is a point of cultural connection across class and geography.  As my finished work on the topic - Шизгара Have It - will not be completed for quite some time, I generously share with you my working materials, in the form of a few representative performance of this folk art tradition, in descending order of musicological significance, both within and among groups.  I omit ANOVA at this time.

  • Formal performance
    • Petr Akimov - Confronts folk art with formalist instrumentation, a great success
    • Kristall-Balalayka - A lively performance for a television show
    • Sunny Moon - Exact opposite of original recording - emotional vocal, repressed music
    • Balalaika and accordion - Harmonious and correct but arguably tepid
    • Various - Fascinating novelty performance gives insight into the cabaret class
  • Semi-formal performance
    • Martina Šulcová - Even Yeats could not cast a cold eye on this
    • РЕТРОДИСКО - A glorious expression of the masculine animist spirit
    • ROL Band - Instrumentalists seize control of the song and redeem awkward beginning.
    • Discoband - Strong musical performance marred by self-conscious female expressions 
    • Band at a mall - Band at a mall

Let us not insult one another's intelligence with kind wishes.  You are in the water, and I throw this anvil to you.  I hope you choke on this song like a bone, and that it utterly defeats you.  Then my life will have meaning.

Farewell,

Sepp Gruentag
Doktor von Musik, emeritus
Abteilung von Musicology
Universität von Heidelberg

August 18, 2015

Oh good

I am not shitting you.

You think I'm shitting you.

August 17, 2015

Cut to shot of Putin squinting at records of my embarrassing emergency room visit back in 1984

August 16, 2015

ISIS has no idea what it's getting into

August 15, 2015

I think this could work

I see Biden as having four main weaknesses, all of which could be addressed with one simple move:

  • One disadvantage, of course, would be his white maleness in a party that strives to be inclusive.  As I learned at a management diversity seminar this week (no really) pictures of Joe Biden (well, old white men in general) on the office walls can contribute to a hostile work environment.  (Star Trek posters are also viewed as gender-insensitive, btw.)  
  • Another would be his lack of actual executive experience.  Unlike Donald Trump, or Carly Florina, or Scott Walker, Joe Biden has - after 36 years in the Senate and seven years as Vice President - never been fully in charge of anything.  
  • This lack of experience has shown up in his prior campaigns - Biden needs good advice, good partners in running and winning a national campaign, ideally someone who has grass roots organizing abilities.
  • On top these, his age.  At 72 but in good health, he would still need to select his running mate carefully to reassure the public that, in the event of his untimely demise, the nation would be in good hands.
Biden will have to select his running mate carefully:  Ideally a younger person of color, someone with good management skills, someone who could no-questions-asked be seen as presidential material.  I can think of one promising young man, just 54 years old, who could have real potential as a leader in the Democratic party.

And what a coup, to help install the first black Vice President.  It can't fail.

All set?  Great, let's get started!

August 14, 2015

It's Joe Time

August 13, 2015

Wha....?


And this:
It wasn't immediately known what the man was trying to accomplish.

August 10, 2015

"There's dirt everywhere"

One more



Here our heroine sings her song in...and I am not making this up...a Dutch facility for wayward girls.  If you watch closely, she is playing both audiences: most of the time she's doing it straight for the camera, but sometimes switches her focus to the inmates, dancing behind actual bars (with some wayward boys), to her right.

[UPDATE:  A correspondent asks if we will be linking to the Tom Jones version.  No.  No, we will not.]

August 09, 2015

BoJack Horseman is what I was afraid it was

I watched the first eight episodes of BoJack Horseman last night on NetFlix. It's good -- more clever than funny, but sometimes very clever.

BoJack is me before I quit drinking, but with money and fame.

The end of Cold Bay

With only four children attending, far under the state funding minimum of 10, the Aleutians East Borough School District closed the school in May.

Ever since, the town had been throwing farewell potlucks for families it couldn’t afford to lose.

Now, people are worried about the future of Cold Bay. The population looks like it will drop into the 20s by fall, by the count of locals.

(link)

Shizgarah

Arguably the finest Nederbeat song performed by a woman of Franco-Russo-Hungarian ancestry, Shocking Blue's Venus starts a little unpromisingly with a guitar lick straight out of Tommy, but immediately redeems itself with that funky, rebellious Dutch rhythm guitar.  Of course that is also lifted - from The Big 3's Banjo Song - but sorry, talent borrows, genius steals.  Lest we get too accusatory, I listen in vain for a "SHE'S GOT IT" in Banjo Song, so perhaps the Dutch have contributed something after all.

Whatever the provenance, once Mariska Veres starts singing, the song is hers, and the party is on.  Back in the day, the musical experience was accentuated by Veres' exotic good looks (hairstyle via Grace Slick), her authoritarian singing style (Summer of Love: officially over), and her ability to frequently switch from an indifferent stare to a chilling leer.

I'm not even sure which one this is.

This alchemy produced a performance that was singular, superb, and commercially viable, reaching the top of the U.S. charts almost instantly:





Versions

Most covers of Venus are awful - almost any band can play the song, but hardly anyone can sing it.  After intensive research on Youtube for the past 45 minutes, the only really good versions are those where Veres (who passed away in 2006) is present.
  • Shocking Blue (1969 - live Bilzen) - **** / This first tour was apparently a crusher, evident in her ragged voice toward the end of the song.  Band leader Van Leeuwen said "once she joined, everything happened very quickly. The first single we did was 'Venus' in 1969. In one year, everything we dreamed about happened. It sold millions around the world and gave other Dutch groups a belief in their own potential."
  • Stockley Sisters (1976 - studio, South Africa) - ** / Routine, the first of numerous attempts to put a pop veneer on a song that is deeply rooted in blues and rock.  But not a crime against civilization, in stark contrast to...
  • Banarama (198?) - * / This is the version that is played in the evil Star Trek universe where Spock has a goatee.  It went to #1 in the U.S.  Avoid.  Because there were no criminal prosecutions for this, we now have to put up with atrocities like this.  (Don't click that link, it's just there for archival purposes.)
  • Mariska w/ every musician in the Netherlands (1985) - **** / A pleasant oddity.  The quintessential authoritarian lead singer, supported by an anarcho-syndicalist musical organization of some sort.  At first everyone seems out of whack except Mariska and the backup singers, but the band (troupe?) eventually jells, then veers repeatedly toward oblivion, before Mariska restores a semblance of order through sheer force of will.  I thoroughly enjoyed it.
  • Yoko Nagayama  (1996?) - *** / Her first big hit.  Japanese verses, English chorus.  One of the few successful covers that underplays the verse (in contrast to Mariska's very forward treatment).  Can't criticize it, but it's not indispensable.
  • Mariska w/ big band (2006) - ***** / Last appearance before she passed away, with a proper big band that knows the tune.  The audience sings the song with her.  Can't blame them, it's great.  And a bit sad.
  • Neil Young (2012) - * / Neil brings it back full circle, changes the lyrics back to Susannah.  For masochistic completists only.
  • Artis Cover Band (2013) - *** 1/2* / A rare competent vocal performance, although there are lapses.  The band plays it a bit cooler than Shocking Blue, which I think is the right choice for this (fine) vocalist.

I get the sense that at one point the song was to Dutch women what "L'Italiano" has been for Italians: a cultural anthem, an indelible badge of identity.  On reflection, maybe it's the song's combination of wildness and structure - a very Dutch mix of characteristics - that lies at the heart of it.

But it also became a cultural anthem in Russia, according to Wikipedia:
Due to the song's simple arrangement and danceable rhythm, "Venus" was adopted and performed by thousands of underground amateur performers...  Thus, the English language song of a Dutch band become a prominent phenomenon of Russian urban folklore and was considered by many an unofficial "anthem of the generation"...  In the Russian variant, the first line of the chorus, "She's got it", was usually pronounced as "Shizgarah" ("Шизгáра") [sheez-GA-rah], and it was this word which became a commonly adopted name of the song in the USSR, even among those who could understand the original English text.

I like it too, I guess we all own it now.

August 08, 2015

Gonna miss him when he's gone

I've been Barack's boy for a long time, and Paul Krugman's note today gives further evidence, if any was needed, of why he is the best president of (at least) the past 50 years.  While Europe endures continuous stagnation and once-mighty China struggles to regain its footing, America's economy goes from strength to strength.  This accomplished while ending two wars and providing health insurance for 16 mm uninsured people, and, oh yeah, Bin-Laden.

And, I assure you, no other president in history could have pulled this off:


Probably the only time I link to the Daily Mail, but that's a fine picture






(link)

The third masterpiece

Apologies to Michael Caine, I had completely overlook this:


Well, let's get this information out there!

Working on behalf of industrial clients, Larsen has spent the last few years hacking into plants to show what an attackers might be able to do. He’s worked in the lab to cause what he calls “unexpected physics” inside pumps, pipes, boilers, and other equipment. So far he’s got a list of just over a dozen attacks, with names like “water hammer” and “bi-phase slug with piston effect,” that could cause significant damage and even kill people if a hacker set them in motion.

A water hammer, for example, involves setting up a flow of liquid and then suddenly closing a valve. When all the moving liquid is suddenly forced to stop, the inertia can cause pipes to blow out...

(link)

August 06, 2015

Leave the comfortably well-off alone!

Work by economists Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman shows that most of the income accruing to the top 1 percent of the population is actually accruing to a rather narrow slice of the cohort—the top one-tenth of the group, to be specific...

This leaves more than a few people who are by any objective standard wealthy feeling convinced that they are falling behind. We’re talking about doctors and lawyers—heck, even investment bankers—who can’t keep up with the extreme wealth emanating from hedge funds, Silicon Valley, and out-of-control CEO pay. 

(link)

August 05, 2015

The unendurable, incomprehensible, immortal Michael Caine

I always thought I had a clever notion about Michael Caine.  He was, I imagined, a great character actor who'd inadvertently ended up a star.  It turns out this has occurred to him, too.
The difference between a movie star and a movie actor is this--a movie star will say, "How can I change the script to suit me?" and a movie actor will say. "How can I change me to suit the script?"

Surely Caine is the latter, a man who can adapt himself to many different types of roles. 
And like many character actors, he has been in many, many bad movies.
I've made an awful lot of films. In fact, I've made a lot of awful films.

But if he's a character actor, where's the steadiness, the "glue" factor that distinguishes the great ones?  Caine's performances - let's face it - are uneven.  David Thomson, the expat who knows everything about movies, dares to defy the Queen on this one:
Caine's work is indiscriminate, and he is still more at ease in supporting roles. I do not see or feel the evidence of character or depth in the mass of parts...  Well, the Queen obviously reckons him as an actor; she knighted him in 2000. He's certainly worked for it, and stayed very cheerful, but I can only think of all the films HRH must have missed: like On Deadly Ground...

No, really, the taxes were terrible.  It's much better here.








Caine has addressed this directly:
The danger is, of course, that the wait for a decent movie makes you desperate, and I got desperate to the point that I accepted a picture in Alaska...  Although Steven and the rest of the team were great to work with, I had broken one of the cardinal rules of bad movies: if you're going to do a bad movie, at least do it in a great location. Here I was, doing a movie where the work was freezing my brain and the weather was freezing my arse.

But Thomson knows as well as anyone that great actors make bad films.  He once wrote a small but enjoyable book about Humphrey Bogart, which included the passing remark that "we are talking about a man who made four great pictures in his life."

Well, Caine has his Maltese Falcon in Get Carter.  It's a nearly perfect movie, and the camera's on Caine for probably 90% of it.

In this scene you eat soup like a sociopath

Are there more?

Aye, there's the rub.  There are more good movies, but it's hard to spot more great ones.

Caine's defenders might point out his range:  He can do comedy.  He can do melodrama.  Could Bogart have done The Cider House Rules, or Hannah and Her Sisters, for which Caine won Oscars?  Doubtful...but those Oscars were for Best Supporting Actor.  Dirty Rotten Scoundrels was a fine piece of work, too, but in collaboration with Steve Martin.  He did win Best Actor for Educating Rita, but that was a Golden Globe.

And, as we name these examples of his best work, are we really naming great, classic, movies?  Forget four - can we even get up to two?  As I go through the titles, I find that most Michael Caine movies fit into five non-masterpiece categories:
  • Supporting roles in good movies, such as those mentioned above.
  • Supporting roles in outstanding commercial successes, such as Batman The Dark Knight's Revenge This Time It's Personal No Really Please Give Us More of Your Money.
  • Adventure movies we liked as kids, like The Man Who Would Be King, or Zulu.  In his book Have you seen...? Thomson praises The Man Who Would be King, but then cuts it with the chilling "it’s rather minor Huston."
  • British films that were perhaps good at the time, but are not watched much now, like Alfie.
  • Execrable paychecks, such as On Deadly Ground, Beyond the Poseidon Adventure, or Jaws: The Revenge. 
"I have never seen [Jaws: The Revenge], but by all accounts it is terrible. However, I have seen the house that it built, and it is terrific."

There is another category, though.  He has starred in several movies that have seen their reputations improve with the passage of time.  Get Carter is the original example, but the The Quiet American might be another.  Of Caine's performance Ebert said "[it] seems to descend perfectly formed. There is no artifice in it, no unneeded energy, no tricks, no effort. It is there."  

I wonder if there are more of these.  Caine has been in over a hundred films.  Perhaps, somewhere among them, is another masterpiece, something history will look back on as an underappreciated gem.

Someone could go look, but it won't be me - too much haystack, too little time.  Caine got his money and moved on, and so have I.

Say what you want about the acting, he does a great Michael Caine impression:



Brief Esquire interview from last November is here.

August 03, 2015

Bearcam

August 01, 2015

I got yer violent movie right here

Eric: So, what're you doing then? On your holidays? 
Carter: No, I'm visiting relatives. 
Eric: Oh, that's nice. 
Carter: It would be... if they were still living.


Intro -



Accountability -



"[L]ike a bottle of neat gin swallowed before breakfast. It's intoxicating all right, but it'll do you no good." - George Melly, The Observer

Employee orientation

  1. We work as a team
  2. We are accountable to others.
  3. We value self-reliance.
  4. We respond appropriately to adversity.
Also, we don't read Harvard Business Review...except for this one article.


The Big Lebowski: Two persuasive critical perspectives

As Film Noir

 


As Alice in Wonderland

Hmm

55. BLIND GOSSIP 07/06 **#2**
There are quite a few celebrities out there who like to lie about themselves, but this professional athlete really takes the cake! You cannot believe a single word that comes out of his mouth when it comes to his personal life. Whenever he says something, know that it is exactly the opposite of whatever is really going on. He thinks that people are really buying into his whole holier-than-thou act that he and his new girl are throwing out there. Are you? Pass the cake, please!
Russell Wilson/Ciara (vow of abstinence)

(link)

July 31, 2015

And that's all I have to say about that

Status Update: On Fire

Well-played, Wilmer, well-played

July 29, 2015

Eisengeiste clickbait



July 28, 2015

Trending now

July 27, 2015

A good follow

July 26, 2015

fyi

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