Instapun*** Archive Listing

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February 15, 2010 - February 8, 2010

Sunday, February 14, 2010

3rd World Olympics

Furtado having a beer in Vancouver.

THEY'RE BA-A-A-A-CK. I had no idea -- no idea! -- there would be so much to say about the Vancouver Olympics. So this post is just getting started. Call it the Opening Ceremonies. Speaking of which, I actually watched a lot of them with Mrs. CP, and after a lot of thought I've determined that the best way to limit my scorn is to fisk one of the more succinct reviews.

Vancouver Olympics Opening Ceremony: Best and Worst

Before we offer our usual playful take on the televised spectacular, we need to acknowledge the serious side of last night’s Olympics Opening Ceremony. It was dedicated to 21-year-old Nodar Kumaritashvili, the luger from Georgia who died Friday after a 90 mph crash at the end of his final training run. When his seven teammates entered BC Place, and the crowd stood to applaud their decision to honor him by competing, it was by far the most moving moment of the evening. For many athletes who have no hope of medaling, walking in the Parade of Nations is their podium, which made the absence of Kumaritashvili, who was ranked 44th in the world, all the more poignant. The Olympics are about nations coming together to celebrate the human spirit; watching 82 of them pay tribute to Kumaritashvili’s and his countrymen’s was reaffirming. We'll have a lot more to say about this unfortunate eventuality later. Maybe today, maybe not.

Now, the show must go on…

Ceremony mastermind David Atkins spent somewhere between $30 million and $40 million on the production, roughly a tenth of Beijing’s budget. He wanted it to feel intimate and personal as the story of Canada unfolded before our eyes, starting with a welcome from the Four Host First Nations. He succeeded. Eh? No. He didn't. There was no "story of Canada." There was a story of political correctness, beginning with the pretense that Canada's history is a function of a bunch of IndianAboriginal tribes nobody anywhere has ever heard of. Which was so weird that it almost made us forget the bizarre performance of the Canadian National Piano Bar Background Music Anthem by the girl in the red dress who knew all 42 verses (and five minutes) of a song most of us think of as the drab 38 second beer jingle sung before NHL games. Color us surprised red-faced embarrassed for our northernmost 3rd world neighbor. But we forgot all about her when we saw the endlessprotracted, made up dance rituals of the Tribes of the Colors of Benetton (although some of the feathers were clearly by Armani), who are apparently solely responsible for the cultural nonentity of a nation that has no head of state (a governor-general from Haiti?), no common language, and no national emblem more enduring than a 50-year-old placematflag named after a suburban Detroit hockey team.

Best entrance: Snowboarder Johnny Lyall, who jumped through the Olympic rings after a stunning video-taped mountain run. Wrong. Other candidates? Nellie Furtado, widest-hipped pornstar with the most mediocre vocal cords in the Americas. Those strappy stiletto heels almost but not quite distracted attention from a pelvis so expansive it could have birthed a keg of Molsen without breaking stride. But it didn't, so no Best Entrance Stanley Cup for her. Bryan Adams, stupefyingly weird in his little black suit. Who was he trying to be? The blanding of the pop vampirism fad, Canadian style? The U.S. North American rocker voice of the New World and the aboriginal drums that gave us the Inuit backbeat of Gordon Lightfoot and Neil Young? Too confusing. No prize. The tattooed acidhead version of Michael Flatley whose supporting cast of sloppy Irish step dancers were somehow supposed to suggest, in their kilts and Harley conchos, the merging of French [stet] French (?!) and British cultures in Quebec? Eh? Sorry. Donald Sutherland, who intoned forgettable Canadian poetry that had nothing whatever to do with what was occurring onstage? But "no entrance" can't qualify for Best Entrance, can it? The half-man (face and waist to neck), half-woman (face and hips to thighs) androgyne who twirled in mid-air to the lyrics of the famed Canadian Lesbian has-been Joni Mitchell? No. If he'd been the only androgyne of the evening, maybe. But we're reliably informed k d lang showed up, too, (still in suitable lower case attire) long after Morpheus blessed us with healing sleep... Was it the fat YouTube star who plagiarized a beer commercial into what now passes for a Canadian Pledge of Allegiance -- unless it's really the confession of a nation-wide Inferiority Complex so deep and disturbing that none of its 33 million sufferers realize what a jackass they are to admit preferring "zed" to "zee" and claiming to have invented "please," "thank you," and "you're welcome." Bi-lingually no less (except for the "please," "thank you," and "you're welcome" part, which are definitely not French.) Can't be sure. Can a semi-literate viral fluke make a Best Entrance on a world stage? Don't think so. Who then? Gandalf. When he showed up and stomped his staff on the stage and lit up the whole floor with his light effect. That was the Best Entrance. Now if somebody could just tell us what the hell Gandalf has to do with the history of Canada, we'd be all good with it... eh?

Worst entrance: The fourth leg of the indoor cauldron that failed to rise. Nobody saw it. We were all asleep by then.

Best effect: More than 100 projectors were used to create the ceremony’s “landscape of dreams” theme. The orcas spouting across the ocean after the ice broke up = the night’s first rewind. Honorable mention: The faux precipitation that made Matt Lauer feel like he was sitting in a 60,000-seat snow globe. Noteworthy: The rising bear constellation that deserves its own Coke commercial. OOOOOH. That was the ice breaking up. WE thought it was the continents getting devoured by rising sea levels caused by Global Warming and the greedy planet-killing Americans not euthanizing their citizens with bad government healthcare. And we thought the bear was an endangered-- oh, never mind. We understand now. That's not so bad. We liked the orca effects too. But we've always liked whales. Never thought whale avatars swimming under faux snow would be the highlight of anybody's evening... until we remembered it's Canada we're talking about. Sure. Best Effect. Whatever.

Worst effect: The collective groan heard throughout living rooms in America when we found out we were about to hear spoken word. But slam poet Shane Koyczan’s Canada-defining, stereotype-defying “We are More” was better than expected. You felt the pride, and suddenly wanted to say “zed.” The transcript. Honorable mention: The disappointment at seeing the Mounties not on horseback. It would have sped up their walk with the Canadian flag, but I suppose they couldn’t risk a horse going potty on the floor, which was such an integral part of the show. Shane Kyczan? That was his name? At any rate, there is NO time when we'll ever want to say "zed." Sorry. You can call it "pride" if you want. We call it horseshit caribou merde. As for the Mounties, have to admit we didn't notice the no horses. What we noticed was the politically correct representation of the sexes. Not that female Mounties aren't an interesting idea. But they do beg the question of what sort of mounting is going on. Come to think of it, maybe some horses would have clarified things a bit. Still, does anyone really think that half of all mounties are smallish women with aquiline noses? Hardly the Worst Effect of the evening, regardless.

Best less-is-more performance: Proving the quality of the song was more important than the presence of a singer, Joni Mitchell’s “Both Sides Now” was the perfect soundtrack for the prairie tribute, which featured aerialist and Ècole nationale de cirque student Thomas Saulgrain walking, running, then soaring through fields of gold. Honorable mention: k.d. lang, who captivated the arena singing Leonard Cohen’s ”Hallelujah” barefooted, as the audience lit up the stadium. Noteworthy: Donald Sutherland’s voiceover. uh, still waiting for some mention of "best" candidates in this list. That tapping sound you hear is our foot, tapping. As we wait.

Worst less-is-more performance: Nelly Furtado and Bryan Adams, who failed to pop, even on a bare white stage, during their duet of “Bang Your Drum.” (Sarah McLachlan’s necklace saved her.) Honorable mention: The dancers in all white who lined the tunnel for the athletes’ entrance. Aside from the guy who kept doing the Molly Ringwald Breakfast Club move — he was at peak form during Spain and Tajikistan — their enthusiasm had a certain ebb and flow. Covered most of this already. Except for Sarah MacLachlan. Her necklace saved her? Hell. We thought it was a miracle she could sit upright at the piano wearing that series of quartz boulders around her neck. Of course, we've probably made it obvious to sophisticates that we are completely lacking in what Canadians would call "taste." Grace a Dieu.

Best trivia shared by Bob Costas and Matt Lauer during the Parade of Nations: It really is one of our favorite parts of the ceremony. They’re good when they’re sharing vaguely relevant information, like the fact that in 1964, a group of Mongolian cross-country skiers showed up unexpectedly at the Innsbruck Olympics but were allowed to compete anyway, or that Poland’s flag bearer has a museum in his hometown where he charges $2 admission to see his skis and bibs. They’re better when they’re riffing on the fact that Finland hosts the World Sauna Championships. We agree about the Mongolians. Everything else mentioned here seemed belittling and, well, trivial.

Worst trivia shared by Bob Costas and Matt Lauer during the Parade of Nations: New Zealand was largely responsible for the visual effects in Avatar. Reaching! You want "reaching"? How aboot this: That anything Bob COstas and Matt Lauer might choose to observe about anything is worth subjecting us to their self-satisfied voices.

Best outfit: Italy. Sleek and stylish jackets, but the athletes still looked comfortable and sporty. Honorable mention: Bermuda, which opted for Bermuda shorts. uh, the Italians looked like they were tuning up for the return of Mussolini. The Bermuda shorts won in a walk.

Worst outfit: Azerbaijan. Loud, loud pants, which caused Costas to joke that as president of the country’s figure skating federation, their flag bearer was allowed to make whatever sartorial decision he wanted. Honorable mention: The pants on the Czech Republic. Full agreement on the Azerbaijan excrecence. Don't remember the Czech Republic duds. Which suggests: see Italy above.

Best discovery: Split decision: Newfoundland’s punk tap dancing fiddlers or this rum they call Screech? uh, no. We liked it better (a LOT better) when the elf of Celtic Woman did it years ago -- without the poisonous Canadian moonshine.

Worst discovery: Jamaica did not send a bobsled team. Agreed.

Best reaction shot: Honestly, any one of Shaun White, but we’ll go with him and Louie Vito enjoying the aerial snowboarders during the tribute to the Rockies. Please. Just quit it with the Shaun White crap. He needs a haircut. Women who think a man with a Rita Hayworth hairdo is sexy are wrong. Period.

Worst reaction shot: Wayne Gretzky couldn’t hide the worry on his face during the mechanical malfunction. Fortunately, we’ll remember a different image of him: Riding on the bed of a truck through the streets of Vancouver to light the outdoor cauldron with people spontaneously running behind him. It was like a scene from Rocky. Didn't see it. As we said, we were compelled to give up when the Molsen beer commercial took center stage. If Gretsky was worried, he was almost certainly right to be. He's the only Canadian we like.

Your turn! How nice of you. In our humble opinion, the whole thing was a laughable, ludicrous bore, except where it was positively offensive in terms of its oafish political correctness ("aborigines," Lesbians, etc) and even more oafish Canadian resentfulousness of Big Brother U.S.A. We're sorry they have so little to boast of -- no female singers who like sleeping with men, no poets anyone's ever heard of, no history that doesn't require a mile of half-apologetic explanations there's no time for in a $30 million pageant (Dominion Day, the Queen who's too busy with her Corgis to show up, the flag(s), etc), no visible proof, even theatrically, that the French-British schism which will eventually destroy the nation has ever produced a blend capable of creating a distinct cultural identity that transcends beer, hockey, and forgettable TV stars. But there are things we were thankful for. Celine Dion didn't perform. (Vegas commitments? Or Branson?) Helen Reddy didn't either. Or Neil Young or Gordon Lightfoot. Don't ever accuse us of being ungrateful for small favors. Here's the best one of all. The Canadians who make their money down here in the U.S. go back to Canada when they have the opportunity to boast to the world how much better Canada is than we are. This was such an opportunity. Now -- if they would only stay there...

We'll get to the sports part later. And the NBC part. Count on it.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Nobody Move

NOT GUILTY. Our whole staff has been snowed in, besieged by illness and computer failures, and generally downed by winter in this wintriest of global warming stepping stones to disaster. But the queue builds nonetheless, things we have to say and will.

This post is a placeholder only. However. At the moment I write it, there are 22 comments on the first post CP wrote about Guilty Pleasures. And 22 comments on his second post about Guilty Pleasures.

I'd just like to point out that if there is one magic number in The Boomer Bible, it is 22. The Number of Harry. Which, to my biased mind, means that everything you have all had to say adds up to an indispensable part of the sum, including Helen Reddy and Karen Carpenter.

Think about that.

Then we'll be back. Sorry for the silence. Much to say about the Olympics, and what's really going on with the Obama administration, guest posts, and, uh, the nature of life itself.

See you soon.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Guilty Pleasures 2

THE SELF-FLAGELLATION CONTINUES. Freezing rain has just turned to snow and we're battened down for our second great blizzard within the week. As usual, serendicity has just played another card from its enormous deck, reminding me that I've always had a silly crush on Esther Williams, who (as my mother used to say) couldn't act her way out of a paper bag. But at this very moment TCM is showing a celluloid souffle called "Neptune's Daughter," featuring Esther in some of the most gorgeous duds any woman ever had the privilege of wearing. (Mrs. CP is exclaiming over her wardrobe in each unfolding scene as I write this. Edith Head, she muses? Has to be.) Interestingly, her love interest in the pic is Ricardo Montalban, a man whom most people still confuse with her real husband, Fernando Lamas. Sigh. I guess that means she'd never have fallen for a charmless Scot who's about as far from "tall, dark, and handsome" as it's possible to get without being formally listed as an exemplary antonym in Roget's Thesaurus.

It's easy and acceptable to have a crush on Rita Hayworth (which I do). So why is it faintly ridiculous to have a crush on Esther Williams? Don't know. But it is. And I don't care. Which reminds me of two other female movie stars I'm embarrassed to love. One is virtually forgotten, and the other is, well, I'll get to that in good time...

June Allyson

You know. Jimmy Stewart's on-screen wife. No neck, awful hair-sprayed-to-death hair, and a collection of shirtdresses that would have made June Lockhart expire of envy in Lassie's paws. This woman:

After the credits, she makes her first appearance 6:30 in.

What about her then? Her voice. That husky murmur. Her voice and her eyes. Demure but absolutely resolute. She's the "good woman" of the adage about what a great man always has behind him. For many years I wondered, "Why was this plain Jane a movie star?" As I've grown older I've learned why. The world has grown full to bursting with Megan Foxes. But the June Allysons are a vanishing breed. Faithful, loving, invincible, and beautiful from the soul out. And how about this completely accidental YouTube find?

Judy Garland

Yup. I'm also carrying a torch for Judy Garland. And, no, I'm not even gay. As with June Allyson, it took me a long long time to appreciate Judy Garland -- at least the Judy who matured away from the adolescent prodigy who sang so heartbreakingly in the Wizard of Oz. A lot like June. No neck, perpetually bad hair, and weirdly frumpy clothes the whole time. I always thought her adult voice was harsh. And whatever anyone says, she was never a good-looking woman. But looks matter less and less as you get older. I began to understand that she wasn't really the victim her biographers seek to make her. She had a gift and she knew it. She kept on going, no matter how, to keep sharing that gift. A different kind of love but one I admire without even the slightest trace of pity. Like June. Vulnerability as strength. Who do we have today? Lady Gaga.

I rest my case.

Donald Barthelme

Another writer I've repeatedly slammed. Because he so completely disdained meaning. But lawdy lawdy, what a writer. One of the very few I can always enjoy reading out loud (along with Cynewulf, Swinburne, Verlaine, and some of Poe's poetry). Every single piece in City Life I've declaimed to my private ceiling, just wishing I had that touch with words. He systematically, immorally even, uncouples words from their meanings and finds new meanings inside the empty space he creates thereby. At his best he's just plain gorgeous under a mask of plain. My objections are all philosophical, which can and probably should be translated as "second rate." On the other hand, like Eliot, Joyce, and Hemingway before him, he's flung the door wide open for talentless imitators. I'm content to be the stolid sentinel at the door, saying, "No. You haven't earned the right to rewrite the scripture of genius."

Tijuana Brass

From the sublime to the ridiculous? Yes. That's what self-revelation consists of. There's no excuse whatever for liking Tijuana Brass. But hearing their songs make me happy. I don't care that Herb Alpert had no more talent as a trumpet player than the average high school band member. I. Just. Don't. Care.

You got a problem with that?

Patsy Kline

You're flying over the world in all your omniscient super-sophistication. Then you spy an Aborigine village where the natives, or their shaman, seem to know as much somehow about the universe as you do. But without your hubris. That's Patsy Kline. Even Johnny Cash put on some airs from time to time. Patsy never did. She lived in the dreamtime for sure, but she did the earthbound thing better than all her dimwit contemporaries. Why she had to die young.

Some people know everything. I do. That's how I can recognize the others.

Miami Vice

Don Johnson couldn't act and the fellow who played Tubbs was even worse. But the best series television episode in history was the pilot of Miami Vice. I'll listen politely to your rebuttals, but you're wrong. This was the absolute apogee of dramatic TV in America.

Jeez. Still not done with this confessional torrent. uh, did somebody mention Glenn Miller?

Glenn Miller

I'll end with the self-immolating admission that I loved the big band my own father dismissed as the closest thing to Lawrence Welk his generation ever produced (apart from Kay Kyser, that is). But I can't help it. I like Glenn Miller. I like the sound. Despite the extensive training I've received in jazz from people who know, I still feel a bump of optimism when I hear the unmistakeable timbre of the band whose leader perished without a trace in the second war to end all wars. And isn't that an irony even Alanis Morissette could recognize?


Worse, it looks like there'll be a Part 3 before this blizzard concludes. My most obsequious apologies. How much confession can any audience be expected to endure?

UPDATE. By popular demand -- who'd a thunk it? -- Instapunk commenters love ABBA. A movie I'd never have put on my list without this nudge is Muriel's Wedding. A chick flick even a guy could like. Anyway, here you go:

Hey! Here we all are. Naked as jaybirds, just like that ABBA album cover. Is it great? Not here it isn't. The blizzard is ubiquitous and cold. Brrrrr.

UPDATE 2. Just for those who haven't heard of him, here is Roger Whittaker:

And one of his gigantic hits you could get on one of his reasonably priced CDs.

There. Duty done. He has many fans. You could be one too.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Guilty Pleasures

DEPRESSINGNESS? Things have reached a fairly apocalyptic pitch here in South Jersey. There's been flu, a blizzard, a lengthy power outage that may have cost me all first drafts and image files of my entire contribution to InstaPunk (plus my antique versions of PhotoShop and AnimationShop), and another blizzard on the way tonight. Perhaps that's why I was moved by the act of courage represented by BigHollywood's John Nolte and his piece today revealing his "Uncool" favorites. He lists a bunch of movies he loves and watches that conventional wisdom would laugh at him for loving and watching.

It amounts to a kind of defiant confession. Well, confession goes with apocalypse, does it not? And by serendicity, Mrs. CP and I had also had a confessional moment just a couple of days ago, when in response to a TV promo for The Bodyguard we both admitted -- me more reluctantly than she -- that we secretly loved Whitney Houston's recording of "I Will Always Love You."

A saccharine, sentimental, monotonal mess of a song written and first performed by Dolly Parton, who also happens to be one of my other Guilty Pleasures, a sweet and beguiling woman who cheerfully compares her own singing to the vocalizations of a nanny goat. She's right but I admire her anyway. She's an incorporated powerhouse with her own theme park, but she's still sweet. That buys her a pass on her ridiculous hair and chest balloons in my book. And I will "always" listen to the Whitney Houston version of Dolly's song when it plays on the radio or in the movie because there is something pure and wistful and stirring about it. It's an anthem of women's capacity for love that if you've ever been on the receiving end of it can bring you to your knees.

So. Without image-editing capability and staring into the teeth of another two feet of snow, I'm determined to confess my own bunch of Guilty Pleasures. They're not all critically scorned things, though most are. They're songs and movies and TV shows and books and authors and performers I've either jeered at in the past or never admitted liking because it was, yes, not cool to like them. In other words, they're things I like but find embarrassing to admit I like. Some of them are very embarrassing, fuel for future commenter cheap shots for, well, ever. You're all welcome to share your own Guilty Pleasures, as well as heap scorn upon me for mine.

My only defense here is that I'm not going to organize the entries. You'll have to do some work of your own to synthesize and summarize the weaknesses of my poorest taste in various media. Other than that, have at it and do your worst.

The Confessions:

Paul Gallico

As a writer, I think first of my guiltiest pleasure of all, two works by Paul Gallico, the most gushingly sentimental writer in all my reading who, for me at least, gets away with it by the brazen nakedness of his technique. Tops on the list is a story called "Thicker than Water," which when I still owned the book it appeared in (can't find it for you) I couldn't stop rereading. An awful story. Execrable in every critical regard, except that I just loved reading it. Got me every time. More like a song than a story. Now I find that it's included in a book of the 36 greatest boxing stories ever written. I'll never buy that book. I don't want to find out just how diseased my powers of discrimination are when the subject is boxing.

To prove how bad it is I can tell you the gist in about a hundred words. In World War II, Joey, the younger brother of a champion boxer who died in the war is prizefighting to keep his family afloat, but despite great technique, he consistently loses because he's yellow. The first time he gets hit a real shot, he folds and gets knocked out. Because of this he finds it harder and harder to get fights until he gets a chance to be a stepping stone (designated victim) in the surging career of a slugger who's working his way to a title shot. Oh. The thing that we, and Joey, never knew before the climactic round of the fight? Joey once got a blood transfusion from his now departed brother.

You see? I cringe just telling you about it. Maybe Paul Gallico could write. That's all I can hope for. People who remember such things still remember his novella, The Snow Goose. Which I can also reread at a moment's notice. I'm pretty sure it's a character defect of mine.

Jimmy Rodgers

Yeah. The yodeller.

I could make excuses. He essentially began the country music industry by recording his songs at Victor records in Camden, NJ. He also had a compelling life story, a railroad man who became a singing star only to die young of tuberculosis, about which he sang honestly and humorously. Thing is, I actually like his music. Something simple and vital and affecting about it. Sorry.

Independence Day, the Fourth of July

I could write a whole essay about everything that's wrong with this movie. The fighter pilot president who refuses to use nukes even against alien invaders. The mysterious compatibility between Apple computers and alien technology. The increasingly annoying Yiddish affect of Judd Hirsch in his post-Taxi roles. And the inclusion of every possible clichee of both soap opera and Irwin Allen disaster movies in a single monstrously absurd blockbuster. The first time I saw it was in the company of wits who would make the Mystery Science Theater crowd look lame, and we laughed ourselves sick late into the night. It was a veritable tsunami of scorn.

Only problem -- I like watching this movie. It's fun. The clichees are well played. The climax and the denouement are satisfying. It's Hollywood doing what Hollywood does best when it's not posturing but entertaining.

Kanye West

I've tired people out making a case for Eminem. Along the way I've dissed most hip hop recording artists. And I particularly dislike Kanye West for his loony-toon narcissism and his politics. But I like this cut.

Ernest Hemingway

I've written a bunch about this guy over the years. I've called him the end of fiction, the ego-bloated pied piper who led even his fiercest critics off the cliff of transforming imagination into personal reportage. I've ridiculed his concepts of "the one true sentence" and the "one thing" that lies at the heart of any true experience.

What I keep leaving out is that despite the fact that he was a poseur and a prick, he was also a spectacularly gifted writer. "The Sun Also Rises," amputated of its initial anti-semitic chapters, is still one of the ten best novels of the twentieth century.

And, worse for me personally, this isn't simply an intellectual assessment. The Truth: my pick for a book to read on an airplane, when you're above the clouds in the clear blue miles above the earth, is Hemingway. Anything Hemingway. That's his domain. That's where it all clicks. Clean and clear and blue. The meaning streams.

I just wish he'd kept his mouth shut about what writing "is." Like Picasso learned to keep quiet about what painting "is." I love them both for what they did. Hate them both for what they said.


Love it. No apologies. Iconic. Fun, funny, and sexy. If you can survive parody, you're the real thing. Everybody starts dancing when this starts playing. That's the real joke behind the parodies. It's so good it can't be reduced even by ridicule.

Franco Zeffirelli's Romeo and Juliet

So he cut 30 or 40 percent of the play out of his script. And junked it all up with syrupy music. I was an English major. These things matter. But I'm still in love with Olivia Hussey in this movie. All these years later. Embarrassingly.

I wouldn't tell this to most English majors, but I'm thinking Shakespeare would have regarded this as the best of a very long line of pretentious movies made of his plays. That's just me, though. Most other Shakespeare critics wouldn't put much credence in a movie's power to give an adolescent a hard-on. Much better to wax lyrical about Olivier's Hamlet. (Yawn.)

Neil Diamond

This is one I'd never have admitted without Mrs. CP, who is always unabashed about what she likes and doesn't. She makes total strangers watch "M" and "Alexander Nevsky" because it's good for them, and she's equally forthright about wanting, when she discovered I had a zillion inherited LPs and a turntable, to hear this guy. She likes him. So do I. Only I have to peel away all my dismissive knowledge first -- his virtual illiteracy, his mountainous hair, his lack of genre identity (country? pop? Vegas pimp?) Sometimes you just have to let go and respond. He's dramatic, sincere, unique, lyrical, and operatic without knowing what opera even is. I'm persuadedconverted. Shut up.

uuuh. Have to break off here. Deals to be made about plowing in anticipation of future plowing. So let me know if you like this post and want more humiliating confessions. Of which there are many to come.

UPDATE. Another checks in. A critically hated film someone likes. I dimly remember it. But it's someone's Guilty Pleasure. Admire his passion:

Maybe it's better than I thought. Read his comment. I'm impressed. [You, too, can be enshrined here, for your courage and vision.]

Monday, February 08, 2010

Un-Manning Us

Who's being arrested here? Men.
Do I want an Audi Castrati? No.

FAR FROM THE MANNING CROWD. I hate to do this because I hate to come off as some humorless and paranoid old curmudgeon who sees sinister agendas in even the most light-hearted expressions of popular culture. But I guess that's what I'm becoming. All I'll say in my defense is that this isn't about resentment at the Colts' loss. There were two P*ytons at the game yesterday. The one who put in an MVP performance was Sean Payton, Coach of the Saints. He won by being bold, surprising, fearless, indomitable, and brilliant. Manhood personified. My only hope is that the Saints win isn't somehow transmogrified into a, well, canonization of the entire city of New Orleans and absolution for the whining, gimme-gimme air of victimhood it has bleated to the world since suffering the sad but predictable fate of a major metropolitan area which insists on settling hundreds of thousands of people below sea-level with no plan for disaster response and recovery except blaming the president.

All these years later and the only milestone of New Orleans resilience is a sports victory by a band of fifty millionaires who would also like us to know that we haven't done nearly enough to make things easier in the Big Easy for all the folks who've never been able to afford the price of a ticket to Saints home games?! Right. I'm moved. To throw up.

Which brings me to the much ballyhooed Super Bowl commercials. Are they significant? Yes. Why? Because they're a snapshot of the 'official' pop culture of the day, an archetypal slice of the themes and memes the with-it people whose business it is to sell things think we'll buy based on their assessment of who we are and how we see ourselves. The slice is also self-consciously forward-looking. That is, it's intended to help us ordinary schmoes stay in the mainstream consumerist flow by letting us know what trends we need to keep abreast of if we're going to be "cool" in the future. In short, Super Bowl ads are seeking to be visionary and educational as well as familiar and funny. They're telling us who to be in the coming year, whoever we might be now.

So I watched the ads with interest and increasing dismay. The one people talked about most in advance was the one that was politically incorrect -- Tim Tebow and his mom telling us that he could easily have been aborted. How awful. Really really pernicious to remind everyone in the TV audience that if their moms weren't at least something like Tim Tebow's, they wouldn't be watching the damn 2010 Super Bowl. Almost an act of terrorism when you think about it. Because it's dark indeed to consider for a moment the kids who aren't watching the 2010 Super Bowl because their moms made a "choice" that prevented them from being anywhere. Gruesome, dude. Who wants to think that his or her own mom could be a legally immune member of the Super Bowl audience, dipping chips and swilling beers while you could be, uh, not a member of the Super Bowl audience, with no one the wiser? (Found it interesting indeed that CBS Sports featured silly rather than provocative ads in its rundown of the of most view-worthy.)

All that said, the Tebow ad didn't have much an effect on me. I hear he's not even going to be a first-round draft choice. Some pundits are saying his highest NFL career aspiration should be backup quarterback with some second-tier team. Jeez. Why should I care? The Eagles have Michael Vick as a backup already. Excuse me?

I was considerably more interested by the "themes and memes" of the rest of the Super Bowl ads. I seem to have missed the pop culture moment when it became common knowledge that all grown men are either pussy-whipped husbands or various shades of gay, barring the ones who are such pure cartoons they never experience a moment of consciousness even a dog can't outwit.

I had no idea, for example, that it had been so universally conceded men no longer wear the pants in the family:

As if a pair of khakis could rectify such a problem.

Didn't know that owning a car you enjoyed driving came at such a soul-destroying price:

Funny, eh? Espcially when Dexter does the voiceover.

And I was stunned that a straight-arrow like Jim Nantz would offer up such a feeble workaround for the plight of the "New American Man."

Yes, I know. It's just droll. Even the most supine of us would
never consent to walk around with her bra on our shoulder.

I mean, what's really the joke in these ads? That we've seen such poor fellows amongst our manlier groups? Or that we are such poor fellows ourselves? The answer lies in the products. Are they expecting us manly men to talk our pals into buying a Charger or a portable TV, or are we being told that a pair of Docker khakis might make us look manlier than we know we are? Figure it out, dimwits. Bearing in mind that the average labrador retriever can now outsmart us on the fly:

And why would a dog get so mad at US? Disappointment?
Whose idea was that shock collar? Where is she right now?

And worse, much worse, is the new trend in banned Super Bowl ads. Weren't they always supposed to be for us guys, the ones who followed the NFL so closely that we knew how to search YouTube for the licentious GoDaddy payoffs?

But what's going on with the banned ads this year? Gay. And more gay. Even from GoDaddy:

Danica owes us an apology. Oh yes she does.

And the whole advertising community that ever thought of, wrote, or produced an NFL ad owes us an apology for this:

Banned. But who's the intended audience?

You see, I'm starting to think the new meme is that being NFL fans makes us gay. Or dumber than rocks. I mean, does this make you feel better about anything?

Do they focus on the window idea? No. But where I
come from, the Bud Light would take a poor second
to spying the girl in the shower. Go ahead. Arrest me.

Speaking of Budweiser, what did they have in mind with this? Brokeback Mountain livestock? "Can't quit you, Hoss"?

Charitably, we're talking bromance, not gay... yeah.

Hardly a highlight of the Clydesdale series, though. Especially considering the best ever such ad:

Does one tear make you gay? Today, probably.

I know some of you will offer what you think are rebuttals. An NCIS ad that featured headslaps (but girl-girl headslaps are a cool by-poduct?) Gillette ads about man-stink that should make us all feel manlier (if the ads weren't for 'bodywash').

Seems to me that a trend which is effectively predicted far in advance counters rebuttal attempts. I'll close with an extremely curious video, published on YouTube back in July, which seems to purport to anticipate all the Super Bowl ads we've been looking at.

See any women? See any men?

Precisely. What they didn't predict was the Audi ad up top. The keystone ad of the entire Super Bowl. Highlighting the danger of opposing the feminizing turn toward government as insane mother and shrewish wife. This year it was just a warning. In future years it will be a series of public service edicts. And for once, the City of New Orleans will be a pacesetter, crouching and supplicating before the beneficent hand of the government Medusa who gives life (uh, $) -- but will take it away in an instant if we don't read ourselves the right bedtime story.

Almost done now. The curmudgeon shift nearly over. But I'll offer a parting shot or three.

The Super Bowl is ridiculous as a football game. I don't think Johnny Unitas would have agreed to the current format. It's not a sporting event any longer when every sneeze by an official leads to a Super Bowl ad (or five). Team timeouts are actual anomalies in the ocean of timeouts that represent a Super Bowl telecast. I'm not saying this changes the course of the game. Only that it's no longer a game but a whorish carnival, something like Mardi Gras with its promise of beads for bare breasts. If you fancy yourselves NFL fans, devoted to seeing your own home teams get to and win a Super Bowl game, maybe you should start fighting, like me, for the game to be something other than two halves of a wreath encircling the appearance of yet another geriatric rock and roll band. Maybe you should DEMAND it be a game again. Old-fashioned and prudish, I know. But I continue to delude myself that men aren't just superannuated adolescents who would do anything for a glimpse of tits and pussy. Yeah, sorry. I forgot the beer.

I know you're more than that. Do you? Or have they convinced you to forget it in your obedient self-hatred as chattels of domineering women? Guess so. They've returned you to your roots -- locker room voyeurs always in danger of getting caught by mom, your wife, the latest castrating female authority figure in your sorry life. How about those Saints? Need some Cialis and a quick death by four-hour artificial erection? Sad, sad, sad.

The assault on men is extremely advanced. Do you care? Specifically, MEN, do you care? Hell. I don't if you don't. I remember when football was a game.

The Audi ad. Remember the groundbreaking "1984" ad by Apple? That was an exploitation of literary prophecy. The Audi ad is a promise that the prophecy is a REAL tidal wave about to break over our heads. The only thing that can stop it is men standing up. Is it really a coincidence that so much else in the Super Bowl ad tsunami was aimed at ridiculing manhood and assuming its surrender? Gay is not a parallel, comedic alternative. It's who they want and intend us to be. If not lusting for one another, borrowing one another's body wash and drinking beer while the women of various sexes crack the whip.

I could go on. If anyone wants to pick a fight, I will. I've only started this particular rant...

WHO ARE YOU? Laugh? Yeah, I laughed, with genuine good humor. Just maybe not in all the same places you did. I laughed at guys in their sixties being rock stars. Well, not at them exactly. At the eunuchs in the audience who have to get direction from their grandfathers about how, as men, to be the center of attention. Something We always were without thinking. Something that's become a lost and faintly funny art. Except when WE do it. The old, nasty ones. The ones who still know something everybody else has forgotten.

WHO ARE YOU 2. Sorry if I sound nasty and miserable. I'm pissed about a lot of things, most particularly about the fate of friendly commenter Jim Treacher. Run down by the government. Those of you who are fighters should fight about this. For his life and health. And for justice however you define it these days...

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