Mecha-congrats to Chris and Gwyn upon the arrival of Hank.
From the Saudi Embassy in London:
Saudi Arabia doesn't really ban tourism, the Kingdom simply recognizes that it is not a tourist attraction. It lacks the infrastructure necessary for a successful tourist industry. What tourists require, first and foremost, is entertainment, and in a conservative and religious society, like that in Saudi Arabia, there is hardly any tourist entertainment. But Saudi Arabia is not a closed society. Don't forget five million non-Saudis reside in the country. They tour as they please. And between the Hajj and the Umra pilgrimages a few million people come to visit the Holy Places. At the present time Saudi Arabia could not handle an additional influx of visitors. Maybe in the future, but not now.
I've had brief brushes with graffiti culture -- mostly through a former co-worker who did freelance design for mags that celebrated the craft -- and I've always been impressed with scene's overall sense of brotherhood, even though it can get testostero-annoying in the same way that any brotherhood can (frats, rugby players, skaters, indie rockers, l33t a-holes, etc.). "Style Wars" puts it all in perspective. NYC's early graffiti dudes weren't a tight clique like the Zephyr skate team; writing in the NYC subways was more like a massive role-playing game, one where respect could come from a distance, and a complete loner could still be seen as a demigod. Santa Monica in the '70s was more of a petri dish -- the Zephyr team served to concentrate the creativity, and a couple of magazines delivered it to the world. As a result, where "Dogtown and Z Boys" is a kick in the pants, the "Style Wars" DVD is something to get lost in -- no corners were cut, and the flick holds up so well because it was so plain to begin with.
Spent my Saturday applying a belt sander to a backyard deck that hadn't been stained or cleaned properly since about 1992. It probably would've been wise to just rip up all the planks and sand them individually, but who has that kind of time? Instead, the deck got the functional/cosmetic makeover, with all its gnarly parts smoothed down and all its cool, weathered parts left somewhat intact. A coat of light-colored oil-based stain reduced the contrast. Then I ate Mexican food, took a nap, and woke up in time to remind my wife and mother-in-law that the Lewis-Klitschko bout was on. We caught rounds five and six. The women weren't as enchanted as I was by the gash over Vitali's eye, but that's boxing. If I were the fight-doc, I probably would've called the fight, however.
Got my paycheck today. It had a few extra dollars in it. I'm told it's because of the recent tax cut law (PL 108-27). Whoo-hoo. No, really. Maybe I'll increase my contribution to the United Way. It sure ain't enough to pay off any credit card bills.
Allow me to recommend the cartoon "Crazy Antics" from the Happy Tree Friends series. It's no "Deputy Droopy," but the basic spirit is there, cranked-up and cracked-out a little. It's the one with the "snifflin' anteater out for a friendly lunch." (Thanks to Rob D.)
From a White House news release about tonight's congressional picnic:
This year, the entertainment for the picnic will be provided by Dennis Edwards and the Temptations Review. Dennis Edwards is a former member of the Temptations. He performs the hits of his former band with a new group of singers who were not members of the original group.
If I were a Hollywood hack looking for an action-flick pitch, the missing 727 would be quite a windfall. Screw writing a fall-of-Saddam tale -- Baghdad was crawling with scribes from day one, and they'll get all the big advances. And anybody who is working on a film about the Iraq war is facing two huge challenges: First, the entire country was saturated with images from the U.S. invasion, so anything on the big screen will have to look and feel uber-authentic. Second, the tone of "Three Kings" and the cinematography of "Blackhawk Down" set tough precedents for any flick set in a dusty Muslim nation. That leaves our juicy lost aircraft, with the, uh, war on terrorism in the background. Since the entire continent of Africa is in play, the potential for on-location shoots is broader, thus keeping costs down. Nobody knows where the plane is now, and even with U.S. spook satellites combing the savannah and Sahara for signs of it, chances are that it's somewhere snug and safe -- anybody with enough balls to steal a big jet probably knows that Washington is watching. So perhaps its safe to assume that current events won't overtake the momentum of the project. Center the story on a slightly roguish CIA agent (ex Navy SEAL, of course, with an Ivy League master's degree in cultural anthropolgy), throw in Yaphet Kotto as his cagey post-Cold-War contact in South Africa and you got yerself a marketable movie. Dudes will see it. You don't even necessarily need a female lead -- "Blackhawk Down" taught us that much. The execs will find a way to write one in, though. As long as they don't put Colin Farrell in the lead, I'm cool. And if the real-life CIA finds the plane before the film is in the can, oh well. The war on terror will be a lazy scriptwriter's dream. Another idea will come along soon enough. Hey, what about the Philippines?
I chose not to sit through the whole thing, but I think I saw enough to comment on the disappointing crapitude of "Men In Black II." I say "disappointing" not because of any love for the franchise, but because Johnny Knoxville's performance was, as yer local gaelic/celtic person might say, total shite. Granted, it's been clear since day one that Knoxville loves to make a buck, and his love for his fellow "Jackass" freaks probably extends only as far as the marketability of their self-destructive talents, but his two-headed, computer-assisted role in "MIB2" is beyond mercenary -- it's hookin'. Dude just ain't funny unless he's being himself. On the other hand, David Cross turns in the only decent cameo in the flick, playing a slacker video buff with big thick glasses. He probably didn't have to rehearse. Dick. I'm jealous. (For the record, I see no need to comment on the performances by Smith, Jones, Boyle, etc. Rip Torn, you deserve better, but I can accept your need for a cash-grab.)
We spent Sunday at Camden Yards, watching Rodrigo Lopez return to form. Sweet seats, right field line, plenty of Boog Powell barbecue, and enough humidity to wilt anything with warm blood. I'm always amazed at how nice the fans are at Camden Yards. The niceness makes it easy to space out and stop paying attention to the game (especially because I have no rooting interest in the Orioles, other than owning Melvin Mora on one of my dork fantasy-league teams). In most other East Coast baseball parks, there's always some half-drunk dude yelling at the players. The heckling brings everybody closer to the action. In Baltimore, the fans are knowledgeable, but they're sweethearts. Maybe it was the Father's Day crowd. Anyway, the free show by Eddie Money afterward turned out to be anticlimactic. Big Ed is still at home onstage, but he's gotta learn to put one of the hits up front in the set list. We left after the second song. It was about getting ready to party.
I'm not sure I'm buyin' the hype around The Polyphonic Spree. I mean, it's not that hard for me to feel happy or to laugh while I'm at a rock show. Yeah, I've been to plenty of boring-ass rock shows, and it's always nice when something upbeat breaks the ice. But I don't necessarily need somebody to spoon-feed me glee. It's the same reason I prefer to steer clear of bands that are hippie-lite. And even the most giddy hip-hop MC knows in his heart that he's droppin' some serious B.S. for a living. With the Polyphonics, it's all so natural. That's a little spooky. Maybe I'll catch 'em live sometime, just to pass a final judgment. On the flipside, speaking of musicians that inspire weird reactions from people, I caught Conor Oberst and his band of merry thrift-store hipsters last night on Letterman. Not bad in a post-Springsteen/future-Prairie-Home-Companion-guest sort of way, but with all that hair pasted down over his face, he's a little annoying to look at.
OK, the long-awaited post about Gatti-Ward III: First off, all respect to Joe Average for turning me on to the phenomenon -- he was so pumped by the first two fights that he bought bootlegged VHS copies of them. Shh. It was worth it. Anyway, Saturday's undercard match (scroll down to find coverage of it) between heavyweights Dominick Guinn and Michael Grant was a perfect example of why most boxing broadcasts are a ripoff these days. How often do you see guys (particularly the bigger ones) get in the ring with a dazed, disaffected look in their eyes, a look that says they're only thinking of two things: survival and the paycheck? Real fear -- the kind of fear that Mike Tyson once instilled in his opponents -- would be welcome in place of all the blase attitudes out there. To his credit, Guinn turned out to be a decent fighter with a still-developing killer instinct. Grant looked like he'd rather be playing a videogame somewhere. You can treat boxing like a job, but do the job right, y'know? That's where Gatti and Ward come in. They were already buddies of a sort by Saturday night, but each went in the ring with a sense of purpose. This wasn't just a show (like Butterbean kicking Johnny Knoxville's skinny ass), it was a tactical showdown. Ward was obviously a man on the brink of retirement, but his professionalism was potent. Gatti basically beat him with one hand, but Gatti hit the canvas once himself. Don King couldn't have scripted it better himself. Now I'm ready for Lewis-Klitschko.
The Wook has suggested -- and not disparagingly, mind you -- that Tatu might be a "Mametesque con job," but if you look at the girls' U.S. site, it's difficult to feel bad about getting the proverbial set of steak knives. Here's the first sign of intelligence:
Morissey Calls t.A.T.u.'s Version of 'How Soon Is Now?' "Magnificent"And what was more, uh, universal than Tatu's performance on the MTV Movie Awards? PS: Caught Gatti vs. Ward III tonight. More on that later.
Morissey, former singer of The Smiths, who originally wrote and performed the song "How Soon Is Now?" in 1984 had this to say about t.A.T.u. in the U.K.'s Word Magazine:
Word: Did you hear t.A.T.u.'s version of "How Soon Is Now?"
Morissey: Yes, it was magnificent. Absolutely. Again, I don't know much about them.
Word: They are teenage Russian lesbians.
Morissey: Well, aren't we all?
I know I said I'd be out for a few days. But I wanted to add something to my FCC ruling stuff from yesterday. From Joe Flint in the Wall Street Journal:
In making the case for deregulation, companies such as [Mel] Karmazin's Viacom and Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. usually point to the explosion of media outlets, both in cable and the Internet, as evidence that the current restrictions are outdated. But these companies, along with AOL Time Warner, NBC parent General Electric and ABC parent Walt Disney, control some of the biggest and most successful cable networks, and have a big Internet presence as well. Aside from CBS, Viacom's holdings include MTV, Nickelodeon, VH1, Black Entertainment Television, Comedy Central and radio giant Infinity Broadcasting. AOL Time Warner, for its part, owns CNN, HBO, the WB Network, TNT, as well as cable systems reaching more than 10 million homes. Disney owns ABC, ESPN, the Disney Channel and has stakes in several other big cable networks, including Lifetime and A&E. NBC owns CNBC, MSNBC, Bravo, Telemundo ... you get the idea.
My wife's grandmother died in her sleep this morning. It was the end of a long life, one that was generally comfortable and proudly Southern in its outlook. At the end, she was ill and frail, so her passing wasn't much of a surprise, but all family deaths are sad, no matter what the situation or timing. My week will revolve around the funeral, so don't expect much out of me for a few days.
In the meantime, for those of you on the policy-geek tip, I highly recommend the breakdown that Jahbless does of the FCC media-merger ruling. There's one thing Jah touched on, but perhaps deserves a little more emphasis: The justification for the new rules is that the Internet is supposedly the ultimate media monopoly-breaker. Five years ago, that argument might have carried some weight, as the world was semi-convinced that the online world would spawn robust new mainstream media organizations that would go toe-to-toe with the established giants. One dot-com bust later, it's obviously not true, and certainly not possible for now. Nobody but niche publishers is making money from the news online. Get ready for a whole lotta Clear Channel, justified by a Web boom that's now just a mirage. You'll like it ... no, really. (Note: I heard Green Day's nearly decade-old "Basket Case" three times in two days over the weekend on the jerky WHFS-FM. Centralized playlists are the tool of Satan.)