Saturday, June 30

Witches over Mexico

A local UFO club and an astronomer are at odds about what is in this video.

Friday, June 29

Germany gone craven!

Tom Cruise may be able to film a movie there after all, despite previous reports that Germany would say "nein" because of Cruise's strident Scientologist views.

Thursday, June 28

Wednesday, June 27

Fun with Jehova's Witnesses

Shortly after getting out of the shower this morning, just after my wife had left for a meeting, I'm in my bedroom about to don my work togs (don't picture it, you filthy monkey). I hear a light tapping at the front door, and assume it's my wife having forgotten something, like her keys. So I wrap my towel around me and open the door to find a pair of besuited African American gentlemen. Carrying copies of Watchtower. So, wanting, for everyone's sake, to cut the conversation as short as possible, I blurt out, "We're Buddhists." I look down at my damp, half-clad corpus. "NAKED Buddhists."

They left without incident, looking like they probably wouldn't want me joining them in the afterlife, anyway.

Tuesday, June 26

Recording death

Rolling Stone magazine, itself on a slow spiral of irrelevancy, recounts the decline of the record store. Tower is more or less dead, and about 2,700 record stores have closed across the country since 2003.

Related posts and links here and here.

Monday, June 25

Follow-up: House proposes to cut funding of VP office

Rahm Emanuel Ups the Ante, sends message to Cheney that if he doesn't want to be considered part of the Executive branch, he shouldn't get funding through the Executive branch.

This Washington Post series is a must-read as well.

I loves me a good Constitutional crisis!

Friday, June 22

Possible Dullard Feat of Strength

Go to a yoga class in the middle of Times Square.

Just what is a Dullard Feat of Strength? Borrowed and modified from the mock holiday Festivus, it's an act that mixes the brave with the naive, the bold with the corny. Each Feat of Strength presents its own challenges and rewards. It's done as a group; part of the challenge is participation.

Here are some examples of Feats of Strength that we've done over the years:

  • Zipped around Key West on personal watercraft
  • Hiked up the switchback-heavy trail of Mount Si, near Seattle

Thursday, June 21

Cheney: Vice President's office is not part of the executive branch

Most. Lawless. Administration. Evar.

This is actually a huge story. Cheney is trying to get around having to provide copies of emails to the National Archives. And you know there's a damn good reason for that.

It's never the crime that brings 'em down. It's the cover-up.

Paul, Ringo, Yoko, and Olivia Harrison to on "Larry King Live" Tuesday

I'm hoping it'll be a cage match.

The unbearable nonsense of being Bill O'Reilly

Keith Olbermann, with an assist from Arianna Huffington, sticks it to Bill O'Reilly in this "Countdown" clip.

Their analysis, however, isn't really necessary. O'Reilly's words are enough. The segment really shows that O'Reilly is a parody of himself as he rambles on about non-news while downplaying the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

He even had a segment about the danger posed by bears — that's Stephen Colbert's schtick! And Colbert is a parody of O'Reilly. Doesn't O'Reilly get that?

Tuesday, June 19

Hillary Soprano

Hillary Clinton goes "Sopranos" as her campaign's song contest concludes. The winner? Not Journey, but this song by Celine Dion.

It is, as Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo asserts, "truly too horrifying to contemplate." At least Bill looks pretty cool in the casual shirt.

UPDATE: The Dion song was originally written as an ad for Air Canada. Blame Canada, indeed!

Saturday, June 16

Possible Dullard Feat of Strength

Go on a shark safari in South Africa, including a plunge into the underwater cage to see the great beasts up close.

I (heart) Applebee's

Restaurant accidentally serves a margarita to a 2-year-old.

Wednesday, June 13

Have you ever had it blue?

A lobster cheats death thanks to its freakish "true blue" tint.

Tuesday, June 12

Movie review: "Knocked Up"

Though not formally a sequel, "Knocked Up" feels like a follow-up to "The 40-Year-Old Virgin." It's got the same director, Judd Apatow, and much of the same cast: Seth Rogen, Paul Rudd and (in a cameo) Steve Carell.

The real similarities, however, come in tone and technique. Apatow ably counterbalances a sweet story with raunchy humor — until the dirty jokes fade and sweetness wins out.

Rogen, in a leading role for a change, turns in a reasonable performance as a pot-smoking, porn-purveying schlub named Ben Stone. Shiftless yet harmless, he's a younger version of The Dude from "The Big Lebowski." Apatow's script calibrates the character just right; Ben is just bad enough to be embarrassing but not so horrible that the audience roots against him.

Ben meets a pretty anchor for the E! network, played by Katherine Heigl. Her character is a bit underdeveloped; it's curious that the movie is told more through Ben's view rather than hers (as hinted at in the movie poster). The mismatched couple hooks up in a drunken moment, and she gets pregnant. Will these parents-to-be fall in love before the day the baby comes?

The answer is obvious. That's why "Virgin" worked better — the concept itself was unusual and outrageous. 40 years old and still a virgin? Impossible ... and funny. "Knocked Up," on the other hand, is a story that happens all the time, and therefore, the movie doesn't feel as creative. The one-liners work well enough, and it has some refreshing honesty about pregnancy. But the movie is often predictable, and at more than two hours, it misses its due date by about 20 minutes.


A Cronkite moment

W. has lost MC Hammer. The war is lost.

Breaking up is hard to do

At the risk of making this blog look like TMZ, we must make note of two celebrity splits:

  • Larry David of TV's "Curb Your Enthusiasm" has separated from wife Laurie of climate change fame.
  • Catherine Keener of "Being John Malkovich" and "The 40-Year-Old Virgin" is divorcing Dermot Mulroney of "My Best Friend's Wedding."
Upon hearing the news about the Davids, my wife said: "I wonder what Larry did."

Sunday, June 10

Absurdity on Parade

The nuttiness of Parade magazine is consistent from cover to cover: Leading off with Walter Scott's Personality Parade, moving to the brain-dead musings of Marilyn Vos Savant, yukking it up with that mega-mutt Howard Huge and wrapping up with Brady's Bits.

Now the magazine takes its absurdity to new lows, offering a quiz on pop culture from none other than Bill O'Reilly of Fox News fame. It's hard to tell whether O'Reilly wrote the ridiculously easy questions himself, but a clue may lie in the weird wording of this one:

President Dwight D. Eisenhower had one recreational passion outside of Mamie. It was: a) eight ball b) golf c) jogging d) gangsta rap.

Do most people think of their spouses as a recreational passion? Is that how Ike thought of his lovely wife? Then again, this sentence was (allegedly) written by the man who found new uses for falafel, so who knows? Perhaps O'Reilly considers marriage to be a pastime similar to cribbage, yoga or World of Warcraft.

The answer, by the way, is golf. I do like the idea of Ike consulting a magic eight ball in the Oval Office, if that is the sort of "eight ball" that O'Reilly is referring to.

Friday, June 8

LISTS: 50 things you need to know by 50

Our first AARP link. Hey, I've only got 10 years left to know this stuff.

Thursday, June 7 streaming Lennon tribute

Raising cash and awareness for Darfur. Also raising awareness of just how kick-ass a vocalist Lennon was.

Haven't gotten through all of it yet, but some of the more egregious tracks are Christina Aguilera's "Mother", Aerosmith's "Give Peace a Chance", Lenny Kravitz's "Cold Turkey," and the Black Eyed Peas' "Power to the People." REM's "No. 9 Dream" is fun, and Corinne Bailey Rae's voice works for "I'm Losing You," though as with the covers of "Cold Turkey" and "Mother," it's hard to match the intensity of the pain that Lennon was able to convey in his delivery.

Friday, June 1

We know who you are

I had a few minutes to kill today while getting some copies made at Kinko's, so I went into the adjacent store, a merchant specializing in the dwindling business of compact discs, both new and used. It was my first visit to such a store in some time, as I buy music online or simply watch the video of a desired song or performance on YouTube. Twenty years ago, such a store visit was a weekly occurrence; now it seems novel.

The store had a strange atmosphere of obsolescence, made evident by the disorganized bins of "bargain" CDs. A Christmas album inspired by Rachel Ray, a Faith Hill CD and "Achtung Baby" by U2 were available for $1.99 each. Everything must go!

The rest of the shop was more orderly. I browsed through the bins of regularly priced items, noticing discs such as the oxymoronically titled "The Essential Stabbing Westward." But one thing did catch my eye as still desirable: a used copy of "Who Are You" by the Who, an album I bought on vinyl 25 years ago but never owned on CD. I was in luck: This copy was the remastered version with a handful of extra tracks and extensive liner notes. I wasn't sure how the album, released in 1978, would hold up in 2007 but figured it was worth $8.99 to find out.

"Who Are You" manages to avoid the trappings of its late 1970s heritage — mostly of the time. In certain moments, the album has a dated feel, especially its instrumentation. Like other keyboard-infused music of the day, the synths on "Sister Disco" sound like an unfortunate product of the time, though not as obviously so as Led Zeppelin's "In Through the Out Door" album of the same era. Another tech-heavy track, a wry sci-fi riff written by bassist John Entwistle called "905," fares better and maintains a contemporary feel.

"Who Are You" also includes a prominent use of strings. These arrangements work better on the wistful "Love Is Coming Down" than they do on Entwistle's "Had Enough," where the flowery feel is an odd fit over the angry lyrics. The combined effect of the keyboards and strings is to mask the diminished power of Keith Moon's drumming. Roger Daltrey's vocals are in good form; he would adopt a more annoying style with the later "Face Dances" and "It's Hard."

The timeless theme of "Who Are You" is artistic identity. Who are writers, and how do they create? And how do they keep their creativity alive and relevant? These are the concerns of guitarist and band leader Pete Townshend, a remarkably candid songwriter who is willing to share his vulnerabilities and foibles almost to a fault.

Townshend's lyrics seem especially weary and cynical on the album's leadoff track, "New Song" — a sort of "meet the new boss, same as the old boss" take on songwriting. Later, he argues that the "Music Must Change," perhaps in recognition of the "rough boys" of punk who were critical of the old guard. The rousing "Guitar and Pen," on the other hand, is an inspirational call to action.

The title track, of course, is a classic of the search for self, and it's gratifying to hear "who the fuck are you" in this day of FCC-forced edits of songs. As a finale, "Who Are You" works better in the context of the entire album rather than as a tired warhorse of classic rock radio. Entwistle, as always the unsung force behind the band's most successful moments, propels the song with bass work that heightens the sense of urgency — and at last, Moon sounds like his fierce self.

The extra tracks are typical: unpolished curiosities of interest to the core fan. "Guitar and Pen" doesn't sound much different from the regular version, for example. Perhaps the most interesting fragment here is an early version of "Empty Glass," which later became a title track for Townshend's best solo album.

DULLARD RATING: Surprisingly, it still rocks.