Tuesday, January 30, 2007

vehicular douchebaggery

i've about had it. people, please....when the light is red, you shouldn't be going through the intersection. i don't know if i'm just getting more sensitive to it or if it's a real phenomenon, but as of late i notice more and more people in san francisco running red lights and exhibiting general vehicular douchebaggery.

cases in point...

today, right before 6pm, corner of 18th & dolores. a bunch of cars are lined up to turn left from dolores onto 18th. at the yellow a couple sneak through -- understandable. one guy in a silver something or other (4-door sedan of some sort) hesitates for a moment and then plows through a full 5 seconds *after* the light changed to red. again...before he goes through he hesitates. people, when it comes to going through a red traffic light, if you have to think about for even a split-micro-second? don't fucking go through the light.

not five minutes later i'm crossing church street at the steps by the bridge over the muni tracks, at the 19th st. stop sign. car goes through and i stride into the intersection, because it's a stop sign, right? the next car will stop and see me, no worries, right? of course not. the driver did stop, but clearly not for a long enough time, and clearly didn't look to the right. i almost got plowed. to be fair, i wasn't at the crosswalk, but about 8 feet in front of it. and it was getting dark and i wa wearing a dark jacket and dark pants. but still...people...look carefully before proceeding through a stop sign. that and the red light thing are basic drivers ed stuff.

and it's not just these examples. not a day goes by that i don't see a couple of people going through red lights. shit's getting out of hand in what i thought was a town where some basic civility was more the rule. last august the chronicle noted a "scary surge in traffic deaths". recently, there has been some press about the problem with market & octavia mainly drivers making an illegal right turn from market to the freeway on-ramp at octavia.

beyond better enforcement, what's the solution? cameras at intersections? bleh. more police presence? eh. how about people just don't be dicks behind the wheel.

Friday, January 26, 2007

run the money changers out of the temple

wow. the us senate isn't normally a place for firebrand speeches and high drama. sure, there's been a caning (though by an interloper from the house), and in the last congress harry reid shut the place down in a canny move, but usually it serves as a venue for measured and polite debate.

which makes this speech by ted kennedy this week such a spine-tingling event. the hairs on the back of my neck were standing at attention when he hit the money quote, accusing republicans in the senate of having disdain for the working poor (check the reactions of the woman sitting behind kennedy's left).

he was a bit uneven on meet the press last sunday (maybe it was too early for him?), but damn, the speech on the minimum wage was all populist hellfire and brimstone. i can only hope that other democrats take note and get some spitfire and spine.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

it reminds me of the movies marty made about new york

as i mentioned a while back, i saw and loved martin scorcese's latest film, the departed.

in this piece in the washington post, stephen hunter speculates that scorcese might win a best director oscar for the departed, but that he doesn't really deserve it for this film, and that if he does win it'll essentially be a career award given under the guise of honoring work on the one film. hunter calls "the departed" the "least scorcesesque" of his films, that it seems like an homage made by a grad student film-maker.

hunter's first reason that it's not scorcesesque? well, it's not set in new york. seriously. that makes it not a marty movie. location. and also? well...
...it's not set among the Italian American Mafia subculture, and its characters seem by far a cooler lot than Scorsese's typical crew of hotheads and sociopath outsiders who yearn to belong and start killing when they don't. Nor does it have the hypnotic intensity that Scorsese brings to his typical film, that sense of hyper-realism that takes on a nightmarish clarity. It doesn't have Scorsese's old friend and collaborator Robert De Niro (who was off making his own film, "The Good Shepherd"), thus vacating a fat old-guy role for Jack Nicholson, who brought a different and distinctly non-Scorsese tone to the piece.
ok, where to start?

as a parallel example, i'll note that one of my favorte u2 records is zooropa. it is their most un-u2sque record, one reason why i love it so much (not that i don't love the band). they claimed pop would be a departure, but it was a tepid attempt at not being u2 and it ended up being a tepid u2 record. zooropa was just them making a record -- it didn't seem like they were thinking about being or not being u2.

what does this have to do with this review of the departed? well, hunter misses the point about what makes the film so good. it is precisely because scorecese doesn't wallow in stock scorcese-isms that the film works. it's a tight and unnerving story about lies and betrayal and people not being true to themselves, themes that scorcese has gone back to time and time again. i don't agree that it's as clean and striaght-up as hunter claims. moreoever, i defy you to find another director who could have taken the story (adapted from a korean film, infernal affairs) and made it as tense. who else could have gotten such fantastic performances from leonardo dicaprio and matt damon? yes, nicholson was not like de niro would have been in the role of frank costello, and what's wrong with that? why does hunter assume that scorecese must have de niro as his lead heavy? why can't scorcese move beyond being scorcese and bring different actors into his orbit?

does the departed deserve an oscar? well, the director's guild nominees are usually a good place to look at for the director's oscar, and for the dga award scorcese is up against the directors of babel, little miss sunshine, the queen and dreamgirls. i can't imagine that in a field so diverse (assuming the oscar list is similar) that a scorcese win would be thought of as cheap. maybe it is a career nod, but it's well deserved for the film in and of itself.

what i get from hunter's review is that he so much likes the scorcese of taxi driver and goodfellas that he can't accept that scorcese can make a good gangester movie without falling back on personal cliche. like the u2 who made zooropa didn't seem to be trying to be u2, the scorcese who made the departed seemed unconcerned with being scorcese. he just wanted to make a very good, tense gangster film. and he did.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

you've got a head full of traffic, you're a siren's song

a few random thoughts...

ok, so 4th & 10 you go for it, but 4th & 15 you punt? WTF? you're down 27-24 with under 2 minutes to go...andy reid, don't you remember 4th & 26?

peter o'toole's interview on the daily show recently (pt. I, pt. II), was, well, odd. he was either out of it or totally having fun with jon stewart.

much better was the hold steady on letterman. got-damn that's a great fucking band.

oh, and also? during the bush interview on 60 minutes sunday, nice of correspondent scott pelley to use the gop semi-slur "democrat" when it should be "democratic" (when referring to the political party). a moment of lazy journalistic toolery in an otherwise decently aggressive interview.

what am i looking forward to this week? colbert and o'reilly on each other's show thursday night. i'm looking forward to seeing o'reilly squirm and pretend to like it.

finally, a word to comcast. and i say this not just as a subscriber, but as a stockholder. look, guys...i get it that you offer phone service as well as cable and broadband. but do you have to send me a mailer every friggin' week? i see the commercials more often than erectile dysfunction ads. and though i'll grant that the el moolah comcast ad is pretty funny, it's more the mailer issue -- how about you send a few less mailers and either lower my rates or pay out a dividend?

Friday, January 12, 2007

one hand on this wily comet

huh...right here, in the san francisco early evening sky...a comet! (via sfist)

Sunday, January 07, 2007

no one gives it to you. you have to take it.

finally got around to seeing the departed, and wow...just wow. it's been a while since a film left me speechless upon leaving the theatre, but this one did.

it's tough to write too much without giving anything away, so i'll just say that leonardo dicaprio gives his best performance ever. he was great in basketball diaries and very good in catch me if you can. but here he's grown up and finally can carry off an adult role convincingly, without looking like a kid trying to play adult. the rest of the main cast -- matt damon, martin sheen and alec bldwin are very good, and jack nicholson is, well, jack nicholson.

scorcese makes great gangster films, and this is among his best.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

done is good, but done well is so much fucking better

indeed i took in the stephen malkmus show at bimbos. he and the jicks were very good. i didn't ever get to see pavement so this would have to do (well, until they get back for the reuinion tour in 5 or so years...hey, if sebadoh can, right?). anyway, with new drummer janet weiss of the late great sleater-kinney they played a good set, mixed it up from his solo records, expanded some arrangements, got into some extended jamming. still, there was something kind of detached...hard to put my finger on it. good show, it just didn't grab me the way i had expected it to. maybe it was the tuning issues that made it so that between just about every song there was a long tuning break? it was apparently the first night of a west coast tour...i'm sure by a few shows in the music and the tech stuff will all be going smoothly. and hopefully malkmus will shave off the god-awful pornstache.

but for real? the surprise of the night was st. vincent. i haven't heard of annie clark, but from the first note i was hooked. it doesn't hurt that she has the whole winsome indie waif thing going, but that's not what it's all about. she's an inventive guitar player and has a unique voice that borrows a bit from both bjork and billie holiday, among other places. first three songs were devestating -- she sang about paris burning, offing an unfaithful lover and begging a guy to marry her. it was as captivated as i've been by an opening band/artist that i'd never heard of. check out the songs on the myspace page, read her blog, read what gorilla vs. bear has to say about her here and here and here.

Friday, January 05, 2007

later on i'm gonna turn the heat to 10

the place to be tonight? bimbo's 365, for stephen malkmus.

the place to be sunday? my living room at 1pm for the eagles-giants playoff game. e!a!g!l!e!s! eagles!

in between? not sure. it's suppsed to be sunny (though a bit chilly) this weekend, so maybe a hike. but for indoor time i've got the office (british version) special show, aired after series 2 from netflix.

there's also a book i need to finish reading and then get a review written. and a couple of paper proposals.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

yeah i'm calm, yeah i'm kicking television

my television vices are few. staples in the tv diet, beyond baseball, soccer, hockey and football are movies (netflix, ifc, sundance or hbo {when i subscribe}), and just a handful of shows -- meet the press, daily show, colbert report, pardon the interruption, and the sopranos (the reason i'll pick up hbo). over the years i've had things come and go...seinfeld of course (but not friends) went the long haul, from beginning to end, same with nypd blue (when on his game, bochco could write with real verve). i came a bit late to west wing but when i got it i loved it (ditto re: sorkin and writing).

some things are more ephemeral -- lost lost me after the first season. for a while i was with survivor, but the bloom wore off that rose in fall of 2005. i did watch the amazing race this past season -- mostly it's because jp's into it (gotta be a good boyfriend) but it was worth watching on its own, if only to laugh at rob and kimberly and imagine what that household will be like in 15 years.

anyway, every year i check stuff out, to see if anything is worth the investment. this year i went with studio 60 on the sunset strip (i'm a sorkin fan, you know), 30 rock (tina fey and tracy morgan were the best thing about snl save for will ferrell) and friday night lights (not sure why).

studio 60 and 30 rock are each set behind the scenes of late night sketch comedy shows, but that's where the similarity pretty much ends. 30 rock is actually set at nbc, and studio 60 at a fictional network. studio 60 is a one-hour drama, 30 rock a 30 minute sitcom. studio 60 is shot all dark and shadowy and takes itself seriously, 30 rock is bright and shiny and farcical.

initially studio 60 disappointed me. it was a show about a comedy and it wasn't funny. the characters took themselves waaaaay too seriously. but i stuck with it because well, sorkin usually delivers, from sports night to a few good men to west wing. after 4 or 5 episodes in it hit a good stride -- things are a bit lighter and sorkin's started to draw out the characters a bit more, and they're getting to be likeable. though matthew perry has pretty much put chandler behind him playing matt albie, it's hard not to look at and hear bradley whitford and not see/hear josh lyman -- his danny tripp character here is too close in style and the organizational hierarchy to the west wing senior staffer lyman. there are trademark sorkinisms -- the "walking and talking", the fast-paced and specifically timed screwball comedy dialogue, the male buddy tandem (jed &leo:josh & sam:danny & matt:simon & tom {d.l. hughley and nate corddry}). i hope nbc gives it some room to breathe and grow. though west wing was good almost immediately, it was the second season where it really took off and absent sorkin's drug meltdown who knows...the 4th and 5th seasons might have been better.

30 rock is sharp and funny. tina fey can act just well enough for the character (c.f. jerry seinfeld), tracy morgan is hysterical and alec baldwin is fantastic. there are throw-away lines that kill...it's sometimes a bit obvious but it works. give some credit to exec producer lorne michaels for skewering his own golden goose.

friday night lights looks like a one-season wonder for me. the first episode was fun -- in a football crazy texas town a high school football team with big expectations loses its star qb and pulls out a stirring last-minute victory. the football scenes are very well done and realistic, kyle chandler is very good as the head coach, connie britton is not just hot but plays a great coach's wife. but the team has pulled out three improbable last minute wins and the scenarios are already heading into "hit me over the head" obvious territory. it's fun and fluff and melodrama but it's going to get old very fast. then there's the big problem with doing a show about high school sports -- the kids do have to move on with their lives. so you can't get too attached to the student characters. new ones may come, but you know some character situations will either get recycled or outlandish. i'll also lay even money that either/or/both the coach and wife end up with an infidelity thing that resolves with everyting more or less ok. there's already lots of drinking, lots of sex...there'll be a student death soon (hell, there was a paralysis in the first episode). i'm in the middle of the buzz bisinger book that inspired the show (the town and characters are not at all like in the book - all it shares is that it's set in west texas and revolves around high school football) and the film (starring billy bob thornton as the coach) is high up in my netflix queue. but the show goes soon.

this is already long, so i'll save disucssion of the office and comparisons between the brit and us versions for another time.