Sunday, June 7

Dullard DVD review: "Man On Wire"

"Man On Wire" is like "Ocean's 11." Only instead of trying to break into a subterranean vault in Las Vegas to make the big score, the team in "Man On Wire" is trying to get to the top of the World Trade Center to stun the world.

That stunner is the simple yet insane act of a man walking on a cable between the two towers, more than 100 stories above the streets of lower Manhattan. Getting there was the hard part, and that's the heart of much of this documentary.

The origins, planning and training of the WTC mission unfold in "Man On Wire" in three ways: through archival footage, contemporary interviews with the man and his accomplices, and re-enactments. Part of the challenges are physical, others personal.

It all meshes together in a suspenseful way, even though we know that the wirewalker, Philippe Petit, eventually realizes his goal of sneaking into the towers, setting up his cable and walking that line to the amusement and fascination of New Yorkers and the world.

The fate of the towers themselves is never addressed in "Man On Wire." This movie is not about that day in 2001. It's about a day in August 1974, and an event that will never happen again.


Saturday, May 16

The piano as status symbol

My grandmother still has a piano in the living room, but Franko moved his to the studio. It all means something, according to this LAT article.

Thursday, May 14

Penn and Teller to be judges on "Top Chef"

According to Penn's Twitter feed. It could quite possibly be the best "Top Chef" ever, if not one of greatest moments in TV history.

Tuesday, May 12

LISTS: Top 3 songs about child abuse

No one likes child abuse, including rock stars. Here are the top three songs about the topic, listed "countdown" style. Curiously, all three are sung by women.

3. "What's The Matter Here," 10,000 Maniacs. The leadoff track to "In My Tribe" finds Natalie Merchant in an uncharacteristically subtle mode. She tells the tale of abuse from the view of an observer who is apparently able to ask the titular question, yet unable to intervene. Hear it here. (Merchant solo version)

Key line:
"And instead of love and the feel of warmth, you've given him these cuts and sores that don't heal with time or age."

2. "Luka," Suzanne Vega. The biggest hit of Vega's erratic career, this song is also perhaps the most famous one about child abuse. It's also sung from the first-person perspective, making it all the more wrenching. Hear it here.

Key line: "They only hit until you cry, and after that, you don't ask why."

1. "Hell Is For Children," Pat Benatar. The tight-panted songstress stepped back from her oversexed image to take on a maternal role in this track. Some took the title literally, perceiving it as an ode to Satan. But a cursory reading of the lyrics shows that Benatar was hardly sending our little ones to eternal damnation. She cares — and the song rocks. Hear it here.

Key line: "It's all so confusing, this brutal abusing. They blacken your eyes and then apologize."

Sunday, May 10

Movie review: "Star Trek"

The reboot of "Star Trek" tries to blend the origins format of "Batman Begins" with an action-minded storyline that recalls "The Wrath of Khan." It largely succeeds.

Director J.J. Abrams has brought in part of his "Lost" team to resurrect the franchise, which was all but dead after too many TV spinoffs and humdrum movies. Abrams also enlists an array of no-name actors to play James T. Kirk, Mr. Spock and other beloved characters from the original TV series.

Most of these actors are ideal for their roles. Zachary Quinto as the conflicted Spock is especially well cast, as is the comely Zoe Saldana as Uhura. On the other hand, Karl Urban plays Dr. McCoy as a shrill caricature that would be more suitable for an "SNL" sketch.

The "Star Trek" story concerns a renegade Romulan named Nero who's driven by a need for vengeance. Unlike the villain in "Khan," Nero has it out for Spock, not Kirk. And if a few million people and entire planets die along the way, so it goes.

Nero's rampage is the catalyst through which the young Kirk and Spock convene on the USS Enterprise. Their respective back stories are compelling, so much so that the audience may find themselves wanting a bit more of how these people came to be who they are.

As he has with "Lost," Abrams plays with the boundaries of time itself in "Star Trek." This conceit allows Abrams and his team to rewrite the lore of the original series. The surprising results (a shipboard romance comes to mind) will irritate some fans. But this is exactly what "Star Trek" needs to do to matter again.

Yes, Abrams recognizes "Trek" history by including Leonard Nimoy, the original Spock, in a prominet role. Yet Nimoy remains the lone link between this film and the 1960s series and the movies it spawned. "Star Trek" is therefore a true reboot, and it will be interesting to see where Abrams take the series where no "Trek" has gone before.


UPDATE: Nimoy talks about the new movie and more in this interview.

Thursday, May 7

Charles Emerson Winchester is gay

David Ogden Stiers of TV's "M*A*S*H" comes out. We're happy for him, but we still want to know what he could have done to stop the preachiness of the last few seasons of the show.

Saturday, May 2

Someone controls electric guitar

Rare guitars are popping up for sale thanks to the recession.

Speaking of that stringed instrument, here are the lyrics to the wackiest song about guitars.

Thursday, April 30

Saturday, April 18

LISTS: Top 10 imperatively titled Pink Floyd songs

Pink Floyd, like R.E.M., is a band that likes to tell listeners what to do. Perhaps that's a reflection of Roger Waters' famously imperious style. Yet he didn't write all of these songs, and one is from the band's post-Waters era.

So here are the top 10 imperatively titled Pink Floyd songs, based on the wisdom of the advice and the quality of the song:

1. Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun

2. Have A Cigar

3. Breathe

4. Run Like Hell

5. Take Up Thy Stethoscope and Walk

6. Stay

7. Get Your Filthy Hands Off My Desert

8. Let There Be More Light

9. See Emily Play

10. Keep Talking

Friday, April 17

The war on denim

George Will launches attack on blue jeans and those who wear them. Huh?

Friday, April 10

Dave Arneson is no longer with us

The co-creator of Dungeons & Dragons has died at age 62. He may not be as famous as Gary Gygax (who died last year) but is equally mourned by the true gamers, if not more so.

Friday, April 3

Padma Lakshmi eats a hamburger

Kinda gross, yet oddly compelling. Also available in an extended version.

Monday, March 30

Maurice Jarre is no longer with us

The film composer, known for the "Witness" soundtrack and countless others, has died at age 84. So it goes.

Monday, March 23

If you like pina coladas

The New York Times has an interesting column about how your choice of drink reflects on you and how people order their adult beverages for fear of judgment.

I don't live in such fear. I'm more of a beer and wine person, with the occasional margarita or gin and tonic in the summer. I also enjoy a Franko martini on the happy occasions that he and I are in the same location. I have yet to drink a White Russian.

Wednesday, March 18

Ron Paul gets punked

As if being chided by us wasn't enough, now the former presidential candidate is a target of seduction in the upcoming "Bruno" movie.

Oh, Ron Paul. Will you ever win?

Tuesday, March 17

Happy St. Patrick's Day, Dullards!

Drink a Guinness on the brewery's 250th anniversary.

Saturday, March 14

Happy Pi Day, Dullards!

Pi is good. So is House of Pies, and so is Pie Town, New Mexico.

Friday, March 13

"Seinfeld" cast to be curbed

The core cast from "Seinfeld" will appear on several episodes of the next season of "Curb Your Enthusiasm." No word on when that season will begin airing, however.

Saturday, February 28

Paul Harvey is no longer with us

The radio broadcaster has died at age 90. I recall hearing him whenever driving with my grandfather, who was a big fan.

So it goes — and good day.

Thursday, February 26

Kraken chaos on the Santa Monica Pier

An octopus opens a valve at the aquarium, causing a flood.

Sunday, February 15

Former Gitmo guard on what went down

Putting this here to read when I have better internet access, but from the summary posted, it looks like some Very Bad Things went on at Gitmo.

Friday, February 13

Worst song ever? Only time will tell

Picking the worst song in the history of rock music is no easy task. There's plenty to choose from.

The entire catalogs for Mr. Mister, Kansas or Toto come to mind. All certainly awful, but the worst? Jethro Tull's "Aqualung" is wretched as well, but any "poor old sod" would have to admit that it's fun to sing along with. And forget about all of those one-hit wonders. That one-hit thing is a redeeming factor, even for "In the Year 2525," "Billy, Don't Be A Hero" or "Take On Me."

Instead, we submit "Only Time Will Tell" by Asia as the worst song in the history of rock. The band's "supergroup" label is one strike against the song, which was released in 1982. The fact that Asia has a geographically based name is another. But wait, there's more:

The music: "Only Time Will Tell" is a piece of corporate prog-rock, a cynical attempt at radio airplay on stations that played what was then known as album-oriented rock. It also has cowbell. The song opens with a dated '80s synth part that is even more painful to hear now. It then switches to a bone-crunching guitar riff, then settling into a marching pace that seems designed to appeal to goose-stepping stormtroopers. Indeed, the song has a spirit-killing, soulless feel.

The lyrics: With the title itself a cliche, "Only Time Will Tell" is a petulant and spiteful rant by a rock star who feels wronged by a woman. The song's singer, John Wetton, is put out by his wayward lover. Portraying himself as the "starry-eyed" victim in this failed romance, Wetton decries her "insincerity," even as his own unconvincing vocal performance exposes that it is he who is most likely the insincere one in the relationship. Of course, in Wetton's view, the passage of time will vindicate him and condemn the one who dared leave him. It's a result as "sure as the sun will cross the sky" — another cliche.

For these reasons, we offer "Only Time Will Tell" as the worst song in the historia del rock. Watch the horrible video (with an unexplained appearance by a gymnast) and see if you agree. We're open to other nominations, of course.

Sunday, February 8

Happy birthday, Creed Bratton!

The "Office" character and real-life musician is 66 today. Enjoy some "Creed thoughts" here.

Thursday, February 5

Lux Interior is no longer with us

The Cramps singer has died at age 60. So it goes.

I wonder if he ever got an answer to the question, "Can Your Pussy Do the Dog?" See him ask it here.

Sunday, February 1

Lisa Loeb weds

Dullard hearts are broken as the "Stay" singer gets hitched. The lucky guy is a music supervisor for Conan O'Brien's show.

Related post here.

Possible Dullard Feat of Strength

Create and consume your own Bacon Man.

Sunday, January 18

Chill out at the Super Bowl

Football is a game best played and enjoyed in cold weather. Yet its biggest game, the Super Bowl, is played in a warm-weather city (such as Tampa) or in a domed stadium (such as Detroit's Ford Field). This must change, and here is why:

1. Football is a physical, even brutal, game. Part of the test is the ability to play within the elements. What better test of a team than to require them to take the field on a brutally cold day? The team that can "man up" to the weather deserves to benefit from this feat of strength.

2. True fans love cold weather. Many of those in attendance at a chilly game revel in the conditions by wearing facepaint and little else. It's a show of bravery and devotion, albeit sometimes grotesque as well.

3. TV viewers, sitting in the comfort of their own homes, love watching a cold-weather game. A Super Bowl played amid snow flurries would be more interesting to see than one played in the sterile environment of a dome.

4. The history of the NFL is steeped in cold weather. The most storied game in the lore of the league is the Ice Bowl between Green Bay and Dallas. It gave rise to the delightfully redundant phrase "frozen tundra of Lambeau Field." That phrase has become a part of our popular culture.

For these reasons, we propose that the Super Bowl be played in a cruel, cold environment. Here are some possible host cities known for their miserable winters:

— Boise, Idaho
— Buffalo, New York
— Chicago, Illinois
— Lincoln, Nebraska
— New York, New York
— Washington, D.C.

More on cold weather and pro football here.

Friday, January 16

Circuit City will no longer be with us

All remaining stores will close, with 30,000 people losing their jobs. So it goes.

Hang 'em high

Damn skippy, Krugman.

Wednesday, January 14

Sunday, January 11

Possible Dullard Feat of Strength

Walk across this bridge in Japan.

Saturday, January 10

Friday, January 9

Defloration Etiquette

With illustrations by Edward Gorey.

Update: Seems to have been taken down, probably for being a copyright infringement (albeit of a long out-of-print book). I'll leave this up to see if it comes back....

Happy birthday, Jimmy Page!

The occult-dabbling guitarist of Led Zeppelin fame turns 65 today. And it looks like that Led Zep tour without singer Robert Plant won't happen after all. Whew!

Monday, January 5

In defense of Jimmy Carter

A Christian Science Monitor columnist defends the lusty, peanut-farming president.

Friday, January 2

Scouting New York

Some awesome photos from a NYC film location scout.