Thursday, September 28, 2006

TV: Inside The NFL

I will watch baseball games to the bitter end. Last night I flipped back and forth between two extra inning match-ups with playoff implications, Astros/Pirates and Phillies/Nationals. Heaven.

But football? I’m strictly a highlight man. Which is why my interest in the sport has waned precipitously this season.

ESPN’s NFL Primetime was the undisputed master of the highlight. This Slate article explains why, and also why the show was shunted aside. In short: legal mumbo enforced by NBC in order to give primacy to their truly lousy Football Night in America. (I can’t even type that title without laughing.)

I figured my highlight jones would be covered by HBO’s Inside the NFL. Yes, the show doesn’t debut until Wednesday night, and includes unfunny “comic” commentators and way too many schmaltzy feature stories. But its highlights come from NFL Films, complete with lush cinematography and voice-of-God announcer.

When the show debuted for its 30th season, host Bob Costas said there would be changes in the way games were recapped. At that very moment, a pair of crows flew in through my window and fell dead atop my universal remote. I should have known something was up.

Sure enough, the show got all personality on the highlight reel’s ass. In week one, we watched a Steelers game through the eyes of coach Bill Cowher’s daughter. In week two, we followed around the 49ers team photographer, dressed for some reason like Freddy Kreuger, and then saw twin defensive coordinators square off in the Raiders/Ravens game. Last night the Seahawks/Giants showdown was viewed through the prism of the Hasselbecks, conflicted because son Matt is Seattle’s QB while son Tim, a back-up for the Giants ... never came close to taking the field.

The new format means several games a week get short shrift. It’s not quite, “Oh, yeah, and the Lions won,” but it’s close. The dearth of quality highlights is almost enough to make me abandon football in favor of another sport, like Norwegian women’s curling. The calendar makes a compelling case. (Thanks to ESPN’s Gregg Easterbrook for the link.)

I don’t know why I’m so cranky about this. Maybe it’s because I’m not in Madison, Wisconsin for Bouchercon this weekend meeting some of my favorite novelists and bloggers in person. At least there I’d get highlights from the Green Bay game.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Miscellaneous: Miscellaneous

How odd was it to see Pervez Musharraf, the President of Pakistan, on The Daily Show last night? Not as odd as his joint press conference with President Bush a few days earlier, in which he refused to answer certain questions because of the pending release of his book. A man who has survived multiple assassination attempts living in fear of the Simon & Shuster legal department. And they say publishing has no muscle any more.

Still, Ted Danson got more laughs on The Colbert Report.

I also watched Wait ‘Til Next Year, an HBO Sports documentary on the travails of the Chicago Cubs. It’s absolute must viewing – for New York Mets fans. The Cubs’ epic 1969 collapse, which paved the way for the Amazins’ triumph, is recounted in detail. Funny how the Mets have a key role in dashing the fortunes of two of baseball’s cursed teams, the Cubs and the Boston Red Sox.

Rosemarie bought me a Three Musketeers bar in honor of my Shame-Faced post on the book. And I learned, to my shock, that the Musketeers no longer appear on the wrapper, even though they used to. Further proof that there’s no respect for literature in this country.

Miscellaneous: Let Me Ass You A Question

Me: So I have this idea. It’s kind of half-assed. No, two-thirds-assed. Almost three-quarters-assed.
Rosemarie: And that’s better?
Me: Yeah. (beat) Isn’t it?
Rosemarie: I’m not sure. That’s why I’m asking.
Me: I never thought about it before.
Rosemarie: It stands to reason that the better something is, the more of an ass it would have.
Me: Yeah. Especially an idea. You’d want an idea to be fully-assed, right? What good is an idea without an ass?
Rosemarie: You tell me.

Quite the conundrum. Is the ass half-full or half-empty? Which is better? Comments from the peanut gallery are welcome.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Book: Snakes on a Plane, by Christa Faust (2006)

Because sometimes a film raises questions that only the written word can answer.

OK, I actually read the novelization of the movie because it’s by Christa Faust, whose blog is a regular stop for me. Christa does a bang-up job. She clearly had a blast inventing histories for the unfortunate souls aboard Pacific Air Flight 121. Admit it, you wanted to know more about that couple whose attempt to join the mile high club was so rudely interrupted. And why was that zaftig woman in Hawaii anyway? (Hey, what was Christa gonna do, write about the snakes?)

It has to be strange, determining the correct amount of background to provide about characters who exist only to die horribly. You don’t want them to be red shirts, but you don’t exactly want to know their hopes and dreams, either. SoaP the movie strikes a perfect balance, mixing caricature (Paris Hilton clone, egocentric rapper) with offbeat detail.

Galaxy Quest gets great comic mileage out of the issue with Sam Rockwell’s character, but the most disturbing exploration of it I’ve encountered was never filmed. Tod Lippy’s script for the short film ‘Jim & Wanda’ was published several years ago. Jim’s a struggling businessman seeing two women. One of them, Wanda, has been diagnosed with cancer. Jim decides to take her camping for a few days while she awaits her final test results. A park ranger arrives at their site – and brutally executes them both. Watch the John Woo movie Broken Arrow and you’ll see the throwaway scene in which Jim and Wanda are killed. Lippy arranged to get Broken Arrow cast members to recreate their roles, but copyright issues prevented the movie from being made.

It’s a powerful piece of storytelling, but one that’s taken some of the fun out of action movies for me. I don’t want to think about orphans and unmade mortgage payments during scenes of artfully assembled mayhem. I just want to enjoy the gunplay. Or the snake bites. Whichever.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Update: Shame-Faced

Sure, I loved the chocolate bar. But what about the book it was based on? At the spin-off blog, I finally get around to reading all of The Three Musketeers.

Miscellaneous: Bosch on Film

Michael Connelly’s Harry Bosch has already colonized the pages of the New York Times Sunday Magazine in a new serial. Now he’s on YouTube as well. Novelist/filmmaker Terrill Lee Lankford directs the ten-minute prologue to the latest Bosch novel Echo Park. Fans of Courry brand cat food won’t want to miss it.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Miscellaneous: Flash Fiction

Whenever I wrap up a project, I get in the mood for some flash fiction. My short story Old Home Week is now up at Flashing in the Gutters. Go ahead and read it, I’ll wait.

Book: The Night Gardener, by George Pelecanos (2006)

George Pelecanos is as forthright in his publicity as he is in his fiction. He’s spoken about how the critical acclaim for his novels – a heady mix of sociology and crime fiction – hasn’t translated into sales, and his conscious efforts to turn those circumstances around. (Full disclosure: His last book, Drama City, left me cold. Pelecanos came on like Emile Zola, his writing deeply felt and meticulously observed. But it was the first of his efforts where the balance seemed off to me. It went on to be nominated for an Edgar for best crime novel, so clearly I don’t know what I’m talking about.)

The Night Gardener is Pelecanos eating his cake and having it, too. The plot is right out of the Five Steps To Commercial Fiction Success playbook: a serial killer who last struck twenty years ago may be active again, and a trio of police officers who worked the original murders reunite to investigate. But the oh-so-crafty Pelecanos uses the story as a framework to explore the themes that matter to him: race, family, urban life, and the big question of how to make your way in the world while holding true to the best part of yourself.

And then there’s the writing. Pelecanos has always been able to toss in casual details that define entire worlds. Not simply the world of the novel, but the one we live in – as well as the one we should be living in. A local hoodlum who tells people he’s Jamaican is “as American as folding money and war.” Pelecanos quickly sketches out how a bartender – a supporting character we never meet again – turns an inherited lunch counter into a successful tavern, ending it thusly: “He ... made a good living working less strenuously than his father had. This was how it was supposed to go between fathers and sons.”

Damn. Read this one. You owe it to yourself.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Sports: Victory, Thy Taste Is Sweet

Step right up and greet your 2006 National League East champions. The New York Mets become the first team to clinch a spot in the post-season. Thus cementing the Amazins’ status as the second greatest product of Flushing, New York, after Rosemarie but far outpacing Ron Jeremy.

Movie: Round Midnight (1986)

I first saw Bertrand Tavernier’s movie years ago, when I decided that I was going to be the kind of guy who was into foreign films and jazz. (Just call me Hef Junior.) At the time I didn’t know much about either, and that no doubt affected how I responded to the movie. I liked it but wasn’t sure why, as if I’d heard the notes but not the music.

After a summer in which I spent considerable time on a stool in Seattle’s finest watering hole, being schooled in the nuances of rye whiskey and jazz, I wanted to revisit the movie. And discovered that I’d heard the music just fine the first time around. What was unfamiliar to me then – and what I relish now – is the concept of a “mood piece,” where feeling becomes the story.

Midnight is inspired by events in the life of Bud Powell, but also includes autobiographical elements borrowed from star Dexter Gordon. Long Tall Dexter plays an American jazz legend fallen on hard times who takes refuge in Paris. There he falls in with a devoted fan, whose attentions help restore him to glory.

There’s fantastic, wall-to-wall music, provided by Herbie Hancock, and a titanic performance by Gordon, growling out his lines and sporting a beret like only the truly cool among us can. The movie contains a generous dollop of wish fulfillment; who wouldn’t want to become friends with an artist whose work is an inspiration? It’s also a tribute to the power of appreciation, showing that an artwork in any medium isn’t complete until someone responds to it.

In 1992 Tavernier made L.627, one of the greatest policiers of the past two decades. It’s a Gallic forerunner of HBO’s The Wire, a grimly funny and heartbreaking look at a unit of French cops enforcing complex and misguided drug laws in largely immigrant neighborhoods.

Should you find yourself in the Zig Zag Café, be sure to drop my name. It won’t do much for you, but it’ll work wonders on my reputation.

Miscellaneous: Links

Two articles joined at the hip. Slate on why everyone is trying to be funny, and the New York Times Sunday Magazine on how no one takes anything seriously.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Sort-Of Related: A Coffin for Dimitrios, by Eric Ambler (1939)/Cornered (1945)

It was the faces that hooked me. I was seven years old, doing what would one day be known as channel surfing, when I happened on an old movie. The Mask of Dimitrios, from 1944. Normally I would have flicked past it, even though flicking was rather difficult at the time. (It involved a device known as a “TV dial,” which can be currently be found in your local museum.)

But the sight of those faces – Peter Lorre, Sydney Greenstreet, the oily Zachary Scott – laid bare in black-and-white compelled me to leave it on. After a few moments it occurred to me: you might be the only kid watching this movie right now. It was like meeting myself for the first time. Hello, young man, this is who you are. The shock of self-recognition was so strong that I can’t recall anything about the movie itself. Other than those remarkable faces.

The film is based on A Coffin for Dimitrios by Eric Ambler, universally regarded as the inventor of the modern suspense novel. Coffin employs a globe-trotting formula that Ambler perfected and that still works like a charm. An amateur finds himself up to his neck in skullduggery. He’s forced to draw upon resources he didn’t know he possessed in a showdown with evil forces that prove to be terrifying in their blandness. In the end, their motives for wreaking havoc – money, love, respect – are all too familiar.

In Coffin, a modestly successful author of mystery novels is visiting Turkey and becomes obsessed with Dimitrios, a blackguard whose body has recently washed up in the Bosphorus. An investigation of the man’s past leads to intrigues in Greece and the Balkans, and deeper into danger. Ambler recounts the story in dry prose, punctuated with sly bits of philosophy:

“In a dying civilization, political prestige is the reward not of the shrewdest diagnostician, but of the man with the best bedside manner. It is the decoration conferred on mediocrity by ignorance.”

Countless books and movies have the feel of ersatz Ambler. Like Cornered, which reunites Dick Powell with the writer/producer/director team behind Murder, My Sweet. Powell plays a shell-shocked Canadian airman determined to track down the Vichy collaborator who ordered the execution of his wife. The trail leads to Argentina and a decadent crowd of exiles. The denouement is straight out of Ambler, as is the character of Melchior Incza (Walter Slezak), a “native guide” who’ll do anything for a price. Incza offers some philosophy of his own that Ambler would no doubt approve of:

“You cannot catch a trout by shouting at it from the riverbank, proclaiming that you are a great fisherman. You need a hook, with pretty feathers in it.”

Friday, September 15, 2006

Update: Shame-Faced

At the spin-off blog, Rosemarie considers Kidnapped. The classic Robert Louis Stevenson novel, not the new NBC series.

TV: Midnight Money Madness

I’ve been burning the late night oil recently, pushing one big project toward conclusion. Which explains why I’ve been watching this bizarre hybrid game show, airing live in the wee hours on TBS. What I don’t know is why I feel compelled to write about it.

The show purports to combine the spontaneity of talk radio with the interactivity of the Web. They left out the production values of an informercial. It’s hosted by two alleged comedians and an English woman so relentlessly chipper she makes Petula Clark look like Sylvia Plath. Contestants call in to play games like “You’ve Got Balls!” (in which you guess how many balls are in a tube) and “Things That Are Hot” (in which you ... name things that are hot), all in hopes of winning a few hundred bucks. The viewers are high, unemployable, or both, so some of the games take a while.

There are also celebrity guests. So far I’ve seen reality TV diva Omarosa and porn legend Ron Jeremy, making the show’s definition of celebrity so vague that I might qualify.

I appreciate the fact that there are two telecasts, allowing the West Coast to get in on the action. But MMM is terrible. So terrible that I can’t stop watching. And I’m not alone; there’s a frighteningly detailed Wikipedia entry for a program that’s only been running for two weeks. My concern is that although my schedule will be returning to normal, I may find reasons to tune in anyway, just to enjoy the chaos.

I feel much better now that I’ve gotten that off my chest. As a reward for listening, here’s a clip of Petula Clark singing in French in front of a fake deer.

Miscellaneous: Name of the Day

I used to love reading political stories out of South Carolina when the director of the state’s Democratic party was Morton Brilliant. His name made any attributed quote sound sarcastic. Follow up a noble sentiment with the words “Mr. Brilliant said” and you’ll see what I mean.

Yesterday I was reading about Google’s new for-profit philanthropy effort. The man in charge? Doctor Brilliant.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Movie: Hollywoodland (2006)

An actor becomes famous for a role, only to have it haunt him to his grave. A story like that, equal parts legend and B-movie, was destined to happen to somebody. That somebody, according to dark L.A. lore, was TV’s Superman George Reeves.

The movie is a combination of noir and show business, so naturally I liked it. It’s particularly well-cast. Ben Affleck has been deservedly racking up acclaim (including a Best Actor award at the Venice Film Festival) for his portrayal of Reeves. There’s also Bob Hoskins as one of the last old-school studio moguls, who can’t mask his East Coast menace with sharp suits and a suntan. And Diane Lane, long a favorite around Chez K – she was Ellen Aim! – is tremendous as a woman acutely aware of how far her looks have taken her, and how much longer they’re going to last.

The scenes with Adrien Brody as the shady private eye hyping Reeves’ death as a murder only to suspect that he might be right aren’t as compelling as the rest of the movie. They can’t be. But Brody is nicely conflicted in the part.

Plenty of big name stars have taken home Best Supporting Oscars. But originally, the categories were created to honor the work of canny veterans who fleshed out movies with small-scaled, sharply-detailed performances. Actors like Jeffrey DeMunn. He shines as Reeves’ loyal agent, a man who has spent so long in the trenches that he hides his strong opinions behind a toothy grin without thinking about it.

Some critics have carped that the film doesn’t offer a solution, instead dramatizing three possibilities. I don’t know what movie they were watching, because there’s no doubt in my mind where Hollywoodland comes down on what happened that night. Besides, the three outcomes are essentially the same. They’re all cases of a town that insists on happy endings forgetting to keep one for itself.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Movie: High Wall (1947)

A solid enough film with a standard ‘40s plot: ex-war hero suffering from amnesia wakes up next to his dead wife. I watched it because it stars one of the first ladies of noir, Audrey Totter, she of the wickedly charismatic eyebrows and the hair like meringue. As a psychiatrist, Audrey often has to act directly to the camera. Factor in Robert Montgomery’s “first person” Lady in the Lake and she’s probably logged more of those scenes than anyone in movie history.

The war hero is played by Robert Taylor. Taylor, “The Man With The Perfect Profile,” was a big star in his day, but his appeal remains elusive for me. He seems an affable but stolid presence, the guy you get when your first choice has been loaned out to Paramount. In the films I’ve seen, there’s always a sense that Taylor’s scenes would be scrapped if a bigger name became available. Maybe I haven’t caught him in the right movies.

My favorite thing about Taylor? His real name.

Spangler Arlington Brugh.

Now that is a mouthful. Possibly the greatest name ever.

Let’s leave the Arlington out of it. As we all know, only assassins, serial killers and character actors need their middle names. With a handle like Spangler Brugh, you’re not cut out to be a line cook or a night watchman.

Spangler Brugh is the high school quarterback/homecoming king/Phi Beta Kappa/youngest sheriff in the state/junior senator/running mate/man who whose political career ends in disgrace in an Allen Drury novel. That’s Spangler Brugh.

So you’d think Spangler Brugh could be one of the biggest box office draws of the 1930s, marry Barbara Stanwyck, appear as a “friendly witness” before the House Un-American Activities Committee, and star in a TV series that bore his name. But no, he had to be Robert Taylor to do that.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Miscellaneous: 9/11/06

Five years ago, Rosemarie needed a vacation. I wasn’t able to take time off, but a perfect opportunity presented itself: Fashion Week in New York. Rosemarie had a close friend who worked for a designer. She could go to the city on her own and throw herself into the behind-the-scenes frenzy.

The designer’s show was slated for September 9, 2001. Rosemarie made plans to fly back on the 12th.

To this day, I’m absurdly grateful for the fact that she was able to enjoy her Fashion Week experience, complete with after-party. Rosemarie called me that night, giddy and a little drunk. She called me the following night to discuss the critical reaction to the show.

She called me again at 6:43AM Pacific time on September 11 to tell me what was happening outside her window. Her friend’s apartment on 14th Street had a view of the World Trade Center. When news broke of a plane hitting the North Tower, she and her friend went to the window. They watched the second jet strike the South Tower. Within hours, Manhattan south of 14th Street was off-limits.

Rosemarie called me again later that afternoon. When we finished talking I left the house; I couldn’t sit in front of the TV anymore. I went to the Cuban coffee house up the street, because I knew it didn’t have a television or a radio.

There were other people there. A house-hunting couple comparing notes, some college students guessing how many wins the Mariners would rack up that season. Not a mention of New York, Washington, or a field in Pennsylvania. No one else considering a trip to a tattoo parlor to have the New York Mets logo and the date inked onto their skin. Just Latin music on the sound system and two conversations that could have taken place the day before.

For the first time in my life, I tried to convince my fully-conscious self that I was dreaming.

I decided to forego the tattoo, figuring the events themselves would leave a permanent mark. The next few days are packed with memories. Joining two friends for dinner on the night of September 11 at their insistence and realizing halfway through the meal that it was their anniversary. The impromptu memorial that sprang up at Seattle Center. Rosemarie’s dispatches from her extra week in New York. As difficult as it was to be separated, she told me that she wouldn’t have been able to bear being away from the city during that time. I understand how she felt. We’re both New Yorkers, after all.

But I keep returning to those few minutes in the coffee shop, when I briefly tried to convince myself that none of what I had seen on television was real. Because once that interlude ended, I was a different person.

My religious and political beliefs became clarified. About them, I will say only this: I worship now at the Church of Competence, and in the past five years my prayers have not been answered.

I also recognized that I came of age in a blessed era, when the prospect of the sudden death of thousands by man-made causes was at a remove. And now that that notion is commonplace again, it underscores the importance of doing what matters most to you. It’s not possible to live the dream every minute of the day; the great and the meek alike have to do their laundry. But the lucky among us will don those clean clothes in preparation for a task that uses the best we have to offer, and that brings us joy.

I think often of those people who died in offices or on airplanes five years ago, and I hope one of two things. That they were there because there was nowhere else they would rather be, or that being there was a means to an end that they had already begun to realize. I can think of no sadder fate than to have your life stripped away when it’s not even the one that you wanted.

In the last five years I’ve pushed myself into projects that in the past I might have put off, including this website. I’ve had adventures large and small, profound and ridiculous, that I might otherwise have missed. All because of an epiphany I had in a coffee shop. I haven’t been asked as a citizen to make any sacrifices. Until I am, there are two steps I can take on my own at a time when a handful of fundamentalists are using their distorted beliefs to wreak havoc and destruction. I can say no to fear, and say yes to life. And for me, saying yes to life includes talking about bad movies, crime fiction, and strange TV commercials. Which I’ll start doing again in my next post.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Movie: Jiminy Glick in LaLaWood (2005)

The Toronto International Film Festival begins today, and Martin Short is currently on Broadway in a one-man show (featuring a full cast of six). The odds are increasingly likely that I won’t be attending either one. (Although I will be in New York soon ...) To mark both occasions, I watched a Martin Short movie set at the festival.

Jiminy Glick is a self-absorbed, ill-informed celebrity interviewer – where do they come up with these characters? – played by Short in a fat suit. Jiminy briefly had his own Comedy Central series, which I liked. The plot of his first (and, let’s be honest, only) movie is a rehash of the Johnny Stompanato/Lana Turner murder case as conceived by director David Lynch (Short again, in a terrific impersonation), unfolding largely in a hotel straight out of Barton Fink.

I know this film isn’t that funny, and with government funding I’m sure I could prove it empirically. But as a movie buff and a show biz fanatic, I laughed all the way through it. It plays like something my subconscious dreamed up while I was busy watching baseball.

Miscellaneous: Am I Ready For Some Football?

Speaking of sports: is it me, or was NBC about a beat behind when returning from commercial in tonight’s Thursday debut of Sunday Night Football? They better have their cues straightened out in time for this week’s Manning-a-Manning showdown.

In the meantime, here’s the Sports Guy’s NFL preview. If this doesn’t prime you for the season, nothing will.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Movie: The Big Combo (1955)

Now this is the B-movie in all its wild, unfettered glory. Crazed energy, raw emotion, and plot twists that make you question what you just saw. Cornel Wilde as a big city cop taking down a hoodlum primarily because he’s sexually obsessed with the hoodlum’s moll. Richard Conte as said hoodlum, able to drive people around the bend simply by staring at them. Lee van Cleef and Earl Holliman as a pair of Mutt-and-Jeff gunsels who live together. Helene Stanton as a burlesque queen who looks like a burlesque queen. Yowza. And Brian Donlevy with one of the all-time great death scenes. (This is the second corker I’ve seen recently featuring both Donlevy and Helen Walker. They should have worked together more.)

Joseph Lewis (Gun Crazy) directed. More importantly, it was written by Philip Yordan, one of the great mystery men of Hollywood. Yordan has an impressive roster of credits, including films like Dillinger, Detective Story, and Johnny Guitar, and he won an Academy Award for 1954’s Broken Lance. But throughout his career he made a practice of hiring “surrogates” to flesh out his scripts, and in the 1950s he frequently served as a front for blacklisted writers. To this day, it’s unclear which if any of the films that bear his name he actually wrote. The most extensive interview with him, in Patrick McGilligan’s Backstory 2, features a “Philip Yordan anti-filmography” in which McGilligan attempts to determine who is actually responsible for some of the screenplays.

In the McGilligan interview, Yordan says he doesn’t care for The Big Combo. I’d say he’s not the best judge of his work, but the movie may not even be his work, so who knows?

When I went to rent the movie online, I was presented with two possible matches, Combo and Big Wind on Campus. I don’t know about you, but I had to know more about that latter title. One previous renter noted that BWoC “is the exact same movie as F.A.R.T. The Movie. Literally. They just changed the name ... I wish someone would have told me.”

It’s that plaintive note at the end that got me.

Making matters worse, the IMDb lists F.A.R.T. The Movie as Artie, making no mention of BWoC at all. I’m afraid the renter above may end up with the movie a third time and do himself a mischief.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Miscellaneous: Footnote to History

Let’s take it as a given that we all Google ourselves, OK? Nothing wrong with that. It’s a natural, healthy, human impulse. Maybe we even run our own names through Technorati every once in a while, too. What the hell. No harm in that.

We’re edging into some odd territory when we admit that we search for ourselves on Amazon.com. Particularly when we haven’t had any books published books yet.

But the way I see it, I have to do that on occasion. I have multiple projects in the works and I need to know if some other Vince Keenan is out there stealing my thunder. That’s why I bought this domain name: to let pretenders know who’s the alpha Vince.

Whatever my reasons, I’m searching for myself in Amazon.com over the weekend. And discover, to my shock and amazement, that I am now represented there, too. In an academic publication, no less.

The book is Beautiful Things in Popular Culture. (Amazon lists the title as Beautiful Objects, for some reason.) It’s a collection of scholarly essays decreeing, for instance, that the Best Contemporary Mainstream Superhero Comics Writer is Brian Michael Bendis and the Best Pop Princess is Kylie Minogue.

Scholar/critic Sue Turnbull declares Thomas Harris’ Red Dragon to be the Best Serial Killer Novel. She buttresses her argument by citing posts made in the online mystery fiction forum DorothyL, including one by yours truly. I’m quoted twice – and those quotations are indented, my friends. One of them is marred by Ms. Turnbull’s erroneous suggestion that I’m conflating two scenes in Harris’ novel, when a check of the book shows that my summary of the material is correct. But I’ll take it.

I’m also in the footnotes. Not twice, but thrice. I’m an op. cit. My eleventh-grade English teacher Mrs. Whitehead would be so proud.

This makes it official. I am now a fully-accredited pop culture expert, with the academic citations to prove it. Your time here has not been wasted, dear readers, because those in the know know to turn to me.

And just think: my rampant egomania made it all possible.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Movie: Invincible (2006)

Mark Wahlberg stars in the true story of Vince Papale, a substitute teacher/bartender who at age 30 gets a chance to try out for his beloved Philadelphia Eagles. Throughout the movie, some people tell Vince, “Vince, what are you doing? You’ll never make the cut,” while others say, “Vince, stick to your guns. We believe in you, Vince. Vince, you’re the man.” At the end of the movie, giant banners are unfurled that read, “Go VINCE!” And Vince triumphs.

In short, it’s the greatest movie ever made.