Some Beatles Links

Don’t ask me why, but I went on a Beatles bender the other day and found some great links.
The first is Alan W. Pollack’s Notes On series, in which every Beatles song has been pulled apart and examined from the view of a music academic. Far from dry (well, okay, some of the stuff is pretty dry, and it helps to know music), Pollack’s analysis makes some connections–mostly between the early songs and the later–that haven’t been pointed out before.
For an even more in-depth analysis, Ian Hammond makes a pretty convincing argument that Revolution 9 is actually a coherent and structured piece and not just John Lennon assing about with magnetic tape. Even if you don’t agree, Mr. Hammond has bloody good ears–he has uncovered several layers of sound and things to look out for (a carnival barker calling our “thirty!” not once but twice) and identified some of the sources of the classical music heard in the piece.
Then there’s Joseph Brennan’s page on Songs the Beatles Didn’t Do including the songs they wrote for others and the ones that they never put out (such as the mythical “Carnival of Light”).
Finally, because there’s many different versions of each Beatles song (mono, stereo, remixes, etc.), Brennan has also maintained the excellent list of Beatles Recording Variations.
Apart from that, you could just listen to the music…

Pinball Madness!

Apparently, they now have emulation programs for pinball machines, going all the way back to the 1950s. Unfortunately, it’s only for Windows, but I’m sure somebody somewhere is figuring out a Mac port. I came of game-playing age at the beginning of the video game era, so pinball was endlessly fascinating to me. You just had to compare the graphics and hands-on feel of a machine to the early Pong and space games to figure out why I preferred pinball originally.
From Boing Boing, of course.

James Howard Kunstler’s Eyesore of the Month

A terrific site linked off Kunstler’s main page in which he rips new ones in the backside of ass-backwards American architecture. Because of bad web design, it’s better you start at the most recent entry and work backwards. The man’s loathing and disgust at suburbia and bad civic planning tickles me, and while reading it, I was sure he was in his 30s. Turns out he’s in his late 50s, which is in a way cooler.
Eyesore of the Month by James Howard Kunstler
Kunstler’s main page offers links to his books and blog.
By way of Boing Boing

Sydney’s Secret: Jennifer McGregor Brings Special Xmas Concert to Music Academy

Here’s a secret about the Sydney Opera House: the famed space that was designed to host opera and built for optimum acoustic brilliance—on the photos, the larger of the two cones—has never been used for operas.

“After they completed it, ABC (the Australian Broadcasting Company) decided that it would rather use the space for broadcasting and performing symphonies.” The voice telling me this is Jennifer McGregor, famed soprano whose career started at the Sydney Opera Company.

So the opera company got shifted to the symphony’s original space, in the smaller cone. For decades the company has performed right next to, but never in, the space originally promised. “Not that it’s a bad place to sing,” she adds, “I have so many memories there.”
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We make the Gossip Columns

Hey folks, apparently somebody chatted to actor Bob Lesser, who starred in the commercial I shot with Jon Crow for the “Bush in 30 Seconds” commercial before Thanksgiving. My friend Maury called me this morning to tell me I was in the News-Press. “I’m always in the News-Press,” I told him, “I write for ’em!” No, he said, I was in “The Dish” section:

“EQUAL TIME: Robert Lesser, Ensemble Theatre Company star and journalist Annie Bardach’s hubby, just completed a commercial for, the Web site committed to unseating George W. Bush. Ted Mills (free-lance writer for the News-Press) directed the commercial, shot at the Pepper Tree Inn, in which Robert plays a dysfunctional CEO. The 30-second spot competes against hundreds of others — the winner will air around Bush’s January State of the Union address. … “

Apart from failing to mention the other director who is not a local boy, we’re chuffed to see the publicity. More info on the commercial when we know.


Dir: Bille Woodruff
Yesterday I chuckled over a recent (?) Boondocks cartoon where Riley is asked to write a “what I did for my summer vacation” essay for school.
He turns in a page of paper completely covered by one phrase: “I KEPT IT REAL!”
“Honey” is all about keeping it real, but not as funny as Boondocks. In fact, the film treats its cliches with a straight face.
While it often feels like Jessica Alba is trying to channel Jennifer Beals from Flashdance, I couldn’t believe I was seeing a third act twist straight out of a Little Rascals or Andy Hardy film from the 1930s: Lets raise money for the youth center by putting on a show! Mmm, smell the mothballs on that one.
I also felt that a lot of what we were seeing was warmed over sentiments from the last 20 Jennifer Lopez videos. Never has a pop star sung so often about “keeping it real” and being just “Jenny from the Block” and other self-aggrandizing platitudes as Lopez, so much that I suspect she either a) absolutely doesn’t believe it and it’s just her “image,” or b) she has an incredible guilt complex about being so rich and famous.
That’s the sense on display here. Honey barely has time to sell out and be mean to her friends–she skips out on a friend’s birthday trip for a black tie party, but we’re shown that she didn’t know this going in–so we’re never worried about her not “keeping it real.”
Anyway, the previews show Alba all hoochied out with the midriff and lip gloss and this and the that, so is there a lot of that, really, for the furtive overcoat brigade? Nope, only at the beginning, then New York gets chilly and Honey wraps up.
Any other reason to see it? Well, Missy Elliot has a funny one-and-a-half scenes, but the preview shows 80 percent of that. The smallest of Honey’s young charges is also cute as the dickens and we get to see him try to dance. Honey also has a pug, but we get no pug reaction shots. Surely we could have had some pug head-cocking, maybe when Mekhi Phifer is trying to get his groove on (Mekhi Phifer is an appealing actor though, more than Alba, who doesn’t really invite us into her character). And the sleazebag video director guy who winds up getting bitch-slapped for wanting a “taste of honey” hurh hurh hurh, is called Michael Ellis, which I desperately want to be some scriptwriter’s reference to the similarly named Monty Python skit.
So, you get some early midriff, some 1930’s “save the schoolhouse” malarkey, a whole lotta product placement, a cute friend (Joy Bryant) who wears less than Alba, a righteous Mrs. Honey who wants her daughter to travel and broaden her horizons, but who also wears some frightful necklaces. But best of all, nearly everybody in this film, save Mr. Ellis, KEEPS IT REAL.
Addendum: There’s a silly part in the film where Honey finds choreographic inspiration from watching basketball players and girls playing jumprope. With the intensest look that Alba can muster, Honey starts trying out her versions of dribbling and jumping for the upcoming dance. “Hey!” the film says, “This is how artists work!” I am now annoying the wife by studying her mundane movements (chin in hand and the other hand using the mouse) and coming up with my own hip-hop choreography.
Also: If you follow the link to, you wind up at the Dennis Kucinich campaign site. Ewwww.

The Last Samurai

Dir: Edward Zwick
Well, me and “the missus” just came back from this film and boy are we disappointed (bordering on anger) on how they dropped the ball on this one.

Now, I have to discuss the ending of this film, so if you’re still achin’ to see it (because of that “Oscar®©™ Buzz” you heard about), then stop reading. Go click on a link, why dontcha.
Back to the issue at hand.
I understand that maybe there’s a lot of people out that who are only just learning about this crazy island called “Japan” and that maybe some people have never seen a samurai film. I’ll let it go, as I will all the long scenes of Algren (Tom Cruise) learning how to say “hashi” or “samui.” It’s wacky, it’s cute, it’s educational. I’ll also let the audiencese have the orientalism that romanticizes the entire culture as this pure and noble people.
But the fact that the filmmakers blew the ending by having Algren live instead of die in the field of battle was, in a word, bullshit. Yep, bullshit. Bullshit, bullshit, bullshit. Unko. Kuso. (There’s some Japanese to learn!).
America hates to have its heroes die, especially these days when the Prez avoids military funerals like pretzels, but even before that (the 80s was the sea change). But I could really sense in the theater that the filmmakers could have gotten away with it. The film wins you over to the samurai code of honor, just as Algren is won over, and it would have made sense to have him fall alongside his former enemy, now blood brother, Katsumoto (Ken Watanabe, who does the role justice while Tom Cruise still seems concerned about his hair). In fact, the scene is filmed like he does. The entire samurai clan has been mowed down by American machine guns–the way of the sword is over, as are the old ways, and around the corner is WWI, then WWII, then Hiroshima. And Algren had faced his past and his mortality and learned something about honor.
Not only that, but earlier in the film, the story begins to parallel contemporary events in Iraq. When asked if the Western-backed forces will defeat the renegades, the commander says, all hubris, “Of course, we have superior firepower.” Add a few more lines about them being savages, and the script looks back to the genocide of the Native Americans, and forward to the invasion of Iraq and our other imperial adventures. Substitute rail lines for oil pipelines and you’re nearly there.
Of course, this is nothing new; “Dances With Wolves” also towed this squishy liberal line.
But like that film, the Western character can never totally assimilate.
No, he has to survive, understand that he has learned a great life lesson, conquered his alcoholism, and now is ready for a full and happy life.
After the battle, he retuns for an audience with the young Meiji emperor (apparently, it’s easy to bluff your way in to see the mortal deity) and returns the dead Katsumoto’s sword. Algren’s gone all samurai’n’stuff! Why he even offers to take his own life, just like Katsumoto offered earlier! And the young emperor, who hasn’t found his own voice–that is, he hasn’t been on the self-improvement course that Algren’s been on–suddenly realises that the old ways weren’t so bad after all! In fact, he casts out the American businessman (sorry, Halliburton!) and his Japanese representative (sorry, Chalabi!) and announces plans to distribute the wealth to the people (huh?)!
Then a further coda where we see Algren and horse companion returning to the village where Katsumoto had originally taken him when he was captured at the beginning of the film. “Some say he finally found his peace,” says the narrator (who I take to be Timothy Spall, who is quite good in a Charles Laughton way).
Okay, now wait.
First of all, you kill off your best, most charismatic supporting character (Katsumoto), but not the lead, and don’t have that as your closing scene (which would have devastated the crowd, but in a good way). Instead, you give the long closing speech to the teenage emperor, whose English is hesitant and bland, and who offers some crap-o platitudes about Western Influence. And maybe Honor.
Then you have Algren returning to the village–THE VILLAGE WHO JUST LOST THEIR ENTIRE MALE POPULATION TO A WESTERN MACHINE GUN! Do you think the women want to see this Western guy, even though he was on their side? They are going to either starve because there are no men to provide the hard labor, or some roving gang is going to either kill or capture them. Is Tom Cruise going to help?
But really, we’re not supposed to care, because IT ALL WORKS OUT FOR THE AMERICAN. Tom’s studied Zen, he’s dry and at peace with himself. Isn’t that enough? And now he can retire to the mountains and live out his days with the widow of the man he killed at the beginning of the film. Won’t that be romantic?
So, kids, honor can only take you so far. First you have to feel good about yourself.
Bullshit, bullshit, bullshit.