The Times-Andersen files: You need to at least consider the possibility that they’re making some kind of postmodern comment on the porousness of the self.

March 6th, 2007 → 11:17 am @

Last week I was talking with some media reporters, reminiscing about the days when I had to pay attention to which mid-level editors were moving to which magazines. Conversation turned, as it often does when I’m talking to non-civilians whom I don’t really know, to the Times and my little-read (but well received!) book, Hard News, and I said how incredibly happy I was that I no longer had to read the paper as a critic but could just enjoy it as my breakfast table companion. And in that capacity, I think it’s pretty fucking great — the front page is livelier and more engaging than it’s been in years; the arts and business sections are both erudite and interesting even to those not obsessed with the minutia of those industries; etc.

All of which is true. But man, can they be sloppy. Either that or they’re absolutely obsessed with misspelling Kurt Andersen’s name, which they seemingly do every single time they write about the man. The latest example is yesterday’s review of Heyday, Andersen’s new book (which, biased or not, I think is pretty amazing). They seem to get his name write in the text of the piece, but, at least online, misspell it twice as “Anderson” — in the caption and the info box.

If this is meant as a sly shout-out to me from those Times copy editors who secretly love my work, well, I’m touched! But for some odd reason, I doubt that. And in that case, as Gob would say…c’mon!

Post Categories: Hard News & Kurt Andersen & Media reporting & New York Times & Oblique references to Arrested Development

America proves it has some taste

October 30th, 2006 → 8:37 pm @

It looks like the certifiably noxious Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip is about the cancelled. Confused by the generally positive reviews? You shouldn’t be: the only people who could possibly be able to keep a straight face while watching a show that acts as if the moral future of the country depends on whether some over-paid narcissistic sketch comedy writer can force a skit about dumb conservatives onto the air are those directly involved in television and those who write about it for a living. (That was quite a sentence, huh?) (Don’t be surprised if the next episode contains some snarky allusion to the playa-haters out there; anyone who’s watched even one episode knows that yes, Aaron Sorkin really is that obsessively solipsistic, and not in a funny, you-need-to-be-in-on-the-joke-to-get-it-but-then-it’s-oh-so-worth-it kind of way.)

(For anyone who wants to watch a good (and occasionally great) show about a Saturday Night Live-esque outfit, check out 30 Rock. There’s no other way to say this: Alec Baldwin is a comic genius. (And Tracy Morgan is a Jedi with four hearts.))

Post Categories: 30 Rock & Oblique references to Arrested Development & Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip

The battle of who could care less

October 20th, 2006 → 1:50 am @

Okay, fine, that’s not totally fair. But come on! Two hits off of Jeff Suppan? (This is the guy who threw up a 5.57 ERA with the Sox in ’03 and didn’t even manage to make the playoff roster.) A game-winner by one of the Flying Molina Brothers? Somehow, I got wrapped in to rooting for the Mets, which means I shut off my TV in disgust and stomped around my apartment like a little baby. At least I won’t need to sit through endless replays of the ’86 Series. You know, twentieth anniversaries and all. (On the flip side, now I’ll need to hear how this is the first time in more than thirty years that the home team lost a Game 7 after trailing 3-2…the last time being the 1975 Red Sox.) You can be sure of one thing: the folks at MLB were praying the Series wouldn’t be a Detroit-St. Louis match up; that’s sure as hell not gonna be a ratings buster.

Anyway. I’m heading out of town again — to the Berkshires in preparation for Saturday’s reading at the Lenox Athenaeum (and yes, this will be the first time I’ll be speaking at an Athenaeum). This means I’ll be spared a weekend of the Hell O’Clock News on SportsCenter. It also means that posting may be sparse until Monday, when I’m sure I’ll have plenty to say about the Tigers’ 2-0 Series lead.

P.S. Tony LaRussa still sucks ass.

Post Categories: 2006 Playoffs & Feeding the Monster Readings & Oblique references to Arrested Development & Oblique references to Ben Folds Five lyrics & Oblique references to the Pick of Destiny

My gut is telling me no…but my gut is also very hungry.

October 2nd, 2006 → 11:59 am @

I promised year-end wraps up and year-end wrap ups I will produce…but not today. It’s Yom Kippuer, and, just like Sandy Koufax, I don’t play on Yom Kippur. There’ll be lots to talk about over the next several days — Pedro, the frustrating division choke by the Tigers, Devern Hansack’s odd it-won’t-count no hitter, Manny, the Sox’s front office, and on and on — so hold tight.

Post Categories: Jewish holidays & Oblique references to Arrested Development

I’ve traveled every road in this here land

September 20th, 2006 → 9:48 am @

(But only if “this here land” is defined as New England.) That’s right, folks: tonight begins the last leg of the great 2006 Feeding the Monster Tour, with stops tonight in Providence, tomorrow in Newton (home of the Tigers!), and Friday in Burlington, MA. There’ll be selected dates here and there through the end of the year — October in Brattleboro, November in Springfield — but besides that, this week your last chance to ask me about trades, non-trades, NASCAR, long-term strategies, Kevin Millar’s obsession with Manny Ramirez’s anatomy, or anything else having to do with last year, this year, or next year.* After that, it’s spring break for me. It’s my favorite holiday. Nothing gets me more excited.

Hope to see you all down the road…

*If you work for a large (or even medium sized company) based in either New York or Boston and want me to come speak/read to you, get in touch: I have done a bunch of private-ish readings for groups, which I’m almost always happy to do. Especially if said group has a lot of folks that want to buy books. One warning: my rider for those events stipulates unlimited juice.

Post Categories: Feeding the Monster Readings & Oblique references to Arrested Development

Sex, blood, violence, Scarlet Johansson and a naked, bisexual Hillary Swank made boring at a theater near you

September 15th, 2006 → 10:33 am @

Yesterday, I published a piece on Slate about the decades-long, morbid fascination with the murder of Elizabeth Short, a.k.a the Black Dahlia. You should check it out: it’s not everyday you can write about masturbation, incest, serial killers, and pornographic fantasies for an outlet owned by the Washington Post Company. I didn’t talk much about Brian De Palma’s new Dahlia movie, so here are some thoughts about that…

In 1997, Curtis Hansen turned James Ellroy’s L.A. Confidential into the best L.A.-based noir since Roman Polanski’s Chinatown, and perhaps the best movie of the 1990’s. Kevin Spacey, James Cromwell, and Kim Basinger turned in some the best performances of their careers; Russell Crowe and (to a lesser extent) Guy Pearce announced their arrival as major talents; and even role players like Danny DeVito used their skills to further a wonderful, and wonderfully complex, storyline.

Brian DePalma, who hasn’t had a hit since ’96’s Mission: Impossible, has spent his entire career in the shadows of Martin Scorsese and Stephen Spielberg — Speilberg’s Jaws came out in ’75; DePalma’s Carrie and Scorsese’s Taxi Driver in ’76, and it’s been downhill for DePalma almost ever since. He likely thought he could do as well as Hansen with Ellroy’s The Black Dahlia — starring Scarlet Johansson, Josh Hartnett, Aaron Eckhart, Mia Kirshner, and Hillary Swank — which was released yesterday. Boy, was he wrong.

At his best, Ellroy combines William Burroughs’s hallucinatory vision, Hunter Thompson’s evocation of a runaway freight train, Raymond Chandler’s preoccupation with private morality (and his staccato prose), and Jim Thompson’s nihilistic obsession with pointless and bloody violence to create a deliciously affected orgy of lowbrow, high-gloss brain-twisting thrillers. Dahlia, the most personal of Ellroy’s novels, combines these aspects to create a shockingly raw final product. (Ellroy’s Black Dahlia is a stand-in for his murdered mother; I talk all about that in the Slate piece. There’s plenty of biography mixed in even beyond the Geneva Ellroy-Elizabeth Short angle. To wit: Ellroy’s first sexual contact was when he and a friend began “jacking each other off” with Playboys spread out in front of them. Worried that he was a “fruit,” Ellroy eventually challenged the boy to a boxing match. One of the opening scenes in Dahlia is a boxing match between the two main protagonists, men who become partners and spar over the affection of the same tainted woman.)

DePalma’s Dahlia almost completely eviscerates the tortured struggles and soul-killing obsessions that fuel Ellroy’s novel. All of the novel’s nuance and complexity has been chopped out of the script, ineptly adapted by War of the Worlds screenwriter Josh Friedman (but beautifully rendered by cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond). Johansson and Hartnett are actors capable of disaffected inscrutability; they’re not so good at portraying the evolution of people slowly hardened by a rising tide of senseless destruction. Eckhart, perfectly enjoyable in comedic roles, looks silly trying to play a Benzedrine-addled, coldly calculating cop. The film’s depiction of the Dahlia’s murder, which features Fiona Shaw channeling Gloria Swanson channeling Norma Desmond, is pure camp. Most crucially, De Palma’s movie alters the book’s ambiguous denouement, opting for cinematic neatness rather than a more open-ended, and more challenging, conclusion. In Ellroy’s Dahlia, the book’s narrator ends up entering into a conspiracy with his lover, who also happens to be Short’s killer and doppelganger. In De Palma’s screen version, he blows her away at point blank range.

I’ve been looking forward to De Palma’s Dahlia for over six months; with the absence of Teamocil in my life, I need to find some pop culture distractions besides the stilted Pam and Jim love affair. Alas; it looks like it’s back to Behind the Music for me.

Post Categories: James Ellroy & Oblique references to Arrested Development & Oblique references to the Office & Slate & The Black Dahlia