Thursday, October 30, 2008

Thriller Dance-Off

In honor of Halloween, here's 800 plus people in Austin Texas doing the dance routine to Michael Jackson's "Thriller:"

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

How To Rewrite

The first draft is always therapy. Nobody sees it but me. Call this the ur-draft; it never gets a number.

The second draft I do is what everyone thinks of as the first draft. Call it D1. It's clever, funny, smart, and as light as a bubble. And underneath every word, like a hidden html location, is my name in bold letters.

D2 is a party to which I have invited every woman I've ever been attracted to. The ones I only want for a night are sent home first. The ones who push my bad buttons sit in a corner and wait for me to go to them. The ones who want me more than I want them become friends. And the ones who might actually work out for more than a night are the ones I wind up spending all my time with. They're the ones who go into this draft, and next to them everything else starts to look frivolous and shallow.

D3 is me being awakened at 2 AM with the words "We need to talk. Where is this going? I mean what's the point?" All I want to do is go back to sleep, but the woman next to me is not going to let that happen until she gets some answers. Which is why D3 is the hardest draft of all.

D4 is an arrangement that needs to be played before it can be assessed or rewritten. D4 is the choreography that needs a dancer, the song that needs a singer, the score that needs a chorus, the script that needs to get up on its feet and play before an audience before it can become D5.

D5 is what works. This time.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Weekend Update

Note to self. Start writing these on Sunday rather than thinking you will have the time to write on Monday mornings any more. Free time on Mondays has gone the way of the American auto industry. And for pretty much the same reason.

What's that bad news again? I went out drinking Friday night, and spent the rest of the weekend recuperating. I know that this is because I only do the damage thing about once every couple of weeks now, which means I'm totally out of alcoholic shape. Either that or my engines are finally slowing down from Warp Ten to Impulse.

I Am The Seagull. If they were selling T-shirts with that logo, and maybe the silhouette of a dead bird, at the Walter Kerr, I would have bought one, because this production has the best Nina I've ever seen in Carey Mulligan. She's heartbreaking in the final act, which puts her light years beyond Romola Garai in the Trevor Nunn/RSC production that played BAM last September. Actually, if I was living in the Universe of Perfect Casts, I would take Nunn's Konstantin (Richard Goulding) and swap him out for this production's Mackenzie Crook, who was a suicide victim from the moment he walked onstage, and kept making me mutter "Bozhe moi, get it over with already." Ditto (sorry to say) Peter Sarsgaard, who seemed to be straitjacketed by his Brit accent. But high marks to Zoe Kazan's Masha and Kristin Scott-Thomas as Arkadina, both of whom flare like fearless candles in the darkness.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Weekend Update

Ow. At a certain point in life, the little things start to add up, and the usual things start to fade away. Shaving cuts take five days to heal; sprains last for weeks; injuries leave you with a percentage of your former abilities instead of all of them. And then there are those mornings when you reach over your shoulder to soap your back. and your spine sproings for no good reason and you spend the next two days walking around like Quasimodo when you're not lying flat on the floor and snacking on painkillers. And you ask yourself, is it because I'm getting old? Is it because I don't exercise? Is it because I don't have a cute girl to soap my back for me? Or is God just saying, "Sorry--that party you wanted to go to? That movie you wanted to see? That scene you wanted to write? Forget it. Oh--and the Sox are going to lose a heartbreaker." Stupid God.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Weekend Update

The 6 Most Depressing Words in the English Language. "Written and Directed by Guy Ritchie."

STFU, already. Bush speaks, and Wall Street tanks even more.

This weekend in human stupidity: The most popular movie in America.

Body of Lies. Good but not great. A cross between Syriana (topical plot, high-tech satellite shots) and The Departed (undercover agent; one thankless female role, coming up), it keeps its foot on the gas but like a well-made car you have no sensation of speed or bumps. Smooth and unthrilling, until the one interesting plot twist takes over, about 30 minutes too late to matter. Oh, and Mark Strong acts everybody else off the screen.

Burn After Reading. The Coen Brothers do clusterfuck farce better than just about anybody else, but it's the actors involved who make it memorable (Lebowski) or forgettable (Ladykillers). This one falls halfway between the two, with Frances McDormand (too smart to play dumb) and George Clooney (too twitchy to not be acting) on the minus side, and Brad Pitt (gloriously stupid) and JK Simmons (gloriously low key) on the plus side. It's the usual day-to-day in the Coen Universe, where nobody's pure, everything's connected, and for some godforsaken reason a Tilda Swinton can be married to a John Malkovich without anybody batting an eye.

Appaloosa. It's sad state of affairs when I watch a western and spend half the movie pondering the implications of Renee Zellweger's lineless forehead. Coming on top of the trailer for Australia, where Nicole Kidman's face looks like plastic with the shiny buffed down next to Hugh Jackman's weathered pan, you get the same effect here. Two totally believable gunfighters whose lined faces are the landscape of their lives meet one of the most interesting female characters since Jill McBain took a carriage ride through Monument Valley, and she's played by a woman whose face can barely move. The sequel will be called Bullets and Botox.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Campaign To Nowhere - The VP Debate

Well hey there, USA –- how do you do?
So glad ta meetcha; can I call you U?
I tell you there, this is my kind of race –-
I win if I don’t fall flat on my face.
So here I am propped up by tons of notes
Rock-bottom guaranteed to get me votes.
I can’t think straight, but I can memorize,
And that’s the way I’m gonna win this prize.
I’ll talk like I’m a guest star on Hee Haw,
Tell wholesome stories about maw and paw,
Name check the dictator of North Korea
(Though where that is, gosh, I have no idea).
You ask me anything you want and I
Will answer what I feel like in reply.
If this was SAT’S, I’d score a 3.
But it’s the vote! I LOVE Democracy!

So what if I can’t think past “How de do?”
Darn right I’m using cue cards. Wouldn’t you?
That PROVES I’m just a normal local gal.
I wouldn’t be a pol -- I’ll be a pal!
And I’ll be watching out in Washington
For everything that’s Main Street and homespun
And you can bet that I will always do
The same as you, and you -- and even you.
Hey -- just to let you know I’m patriotic?
My flag pin's so humungous, it’s hypnotic!

If I looked bad before, then blame the media –-
I’m just a blurb, not an encyclopedia.
They ambushed me with questions. That's not fair.
And then they showed my answers on the air!
If I had known, then heck, I would have skipped it.
They censored me –- they let me talk unscripted!
Of course I had to stumble, pause and stammer --
That Couric girl used sentences with grammar.
Well Moms like me hate smart talk in abundance.
We know the score here, not like all you pundints.
We know what you want –- you don’t want to think.
So here’s a talking point or two. (Wink. Wink.)

A war that’s nucular is really bad.
When bombs go off it’s messy and it’s sad;
The be-all end-all of some people there.
(But then there’ll be The Rapture, so that’s fair.)
Joe Biden and Obama? Just the worst.
Elect them and the USA is curst.
What they’ll do to this country is obscene.
They’re full of Shiite, folks. (Know what I mean?)
And gosh, those Castro Brothers –- what a pair!
(But not the pair on John McCain -- so there!)
The issues, now -- well golly, they don’t matter.
It’s not the substance, it’s the line of patter.
Americans, they crave that straight talk there:
The surge. Change. Lower taxes. God. School prayer.
Iran is Satan. Must win in Iraq.
Wall Street, you’re getting such a paddywhack.
I could say more (that list is just the peaks)
But jeez, I’ve only done this for five weeks!
And gosh, I think I’m pretty darn good at it!
(Unlike old Joe here –- watch him bureaucrat it.)

I’ll tell ya how this great debate computes:
It’s Zoolander with hockey moms and coots!
McCain and I will rock like Ike and Tina!
We’ll take the world by storm –- just like Katrina!
And if we lose, don’t make no nevermine --
I’ll have a show on Fox by March ’09.

Posts in this series:

The First Debate

The Blame Game

Blame Vietnam.

Blame these guys. From the Consulting Firm of Gosh Golly and Heck:

[link from Addenak via Wonkette]

Blame Goldman Sachs. So who was instrumental in getting the SEC to waive all those pesky debt limitation regulations in 2004? Hank Paulson, that's who.

Blame the Left-Wing Media. Everything you suspected about John MacCain in one place. Opening shot: "I got a better chance of getting laid." Makes you wish Hunter Thompson was still alive. But then what doesn't?

Blame the Markets. That 85 billion dollar emergency bridge loan that AIG got two weeks ago? They've already used $61 billion of it.

Blame Sarah. It's true; I checked it out on Snopes!

(thanks and a tip of the Wells cap and bells to brother Gary.)

Blame Canada. Just because.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Weekend Update

So Thursday the international theme in the corporate cafeteria is Spain, and they have paella. Shrimp, rice, sausage. I get about a pound of it. I eat every last grain of rice. I'm fine till about 5, when I start (shall we say )evacuating every 20 minutes. And belching every 90 seconds. This is troublesome because I'm going to the Bill T Jones show at BAM at 7:30. The train ride into Brooklyn is loud enough to cover the belching noises, but during the show I'm trying my best to burp contrapuntally to the music. An Imodium pill helps the nether regions, but not for long. Back home I'm lying on the couch for not five minutes before I'm dashing to the john, and chanting "Ralph's Buick" over and over again. This goes on for a while. I manage to pass out for maybe ten minutes total; get up and go to work at 6 (I know, I'm an idiot); leave work at 10, come home, and sleep for the next 22 hours, give or take a few waking moments of eating crackers and drinking ginger ale and, uh, burping some more. I miss the Matt Mays show at Pianos completely, but I do go to the Mike Ferrio/Malcolm Holcombe show at The Living Room on Saturday night, and drink ginger ale. Currently, my voice sounds like I haven't slept in a week, the bags under my eyes would cost me an extra 500 bucks if I checked them at the airport, and my appetite is vercacht. Time was when I used to shake this shit off in a couple of hours. Guess I'm not 40 anymore, huh?

Thursday, October 2, 2008

The Bailout Bill in Real World Terms

Your landlord upgrades the plumbing in your apartment building, but because he tried to cut corners, the walls are leaking and there's mold everywhere. In order to fix everything up, he sells the building to a holding company, which pays for the sale by charging all the tenants of the building an extra year's rent. Do the mold and the leaks go away? No. Do they ever get fixed? Nope. So who benefits? The landlord. Replace the word "landlord" with the name of your favorite investment bank and that's the bailout plan.

An investment banker is gambling in Vegas. He's betting that housing prices will always rise, and whenever they do, he makes a small fortune. But when they start falling, the value of the mortgages he's using to make more and more profit for himself begins to plummet. The failure of the mortgages and mortgage-derived debt he's carrying has totally exposed the massive difference between the cash in his wallet and the bet he has just put on the table. And the other players know it. They don't even call his bet; they take their chips and move to another table. Which means that he's totally screwed and he'll have to fold (pun intended) unless a friend of his steps in and says "I'll pay the difference between what you bet and what you have in your wallet." "Where will you get the money?" says the IBanker. "I'll bill the owners of those mortgages you bet," says the friend. Substitute the Treasury Department for the friend and that's what the government is saying with this bailout.

Your boyfriend is carrying five credit cards and making monthly minimum payments and planning to use his annual bonus to pay them all off. If he marks that bonus against his debt, they cancel each other out. But when he gets fired, the debt suddenly gets marked against his current salary, and he's fucked unless he can get somebody to buy it up for him. He calls up his friend Paulson and says, "What can you do for me?" Paulson says, "Don't worry about it." He calls up your boyfriend's credit card companies, hands them each a check for their total balance due, and then mails you the bill, with a note that says "If you don't pay this right now, our entire economy is at risk." That's what the government is doing with this bailout.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

The Panic of '08: Know Your Clichés!

(with apologies to Flann O'Brien)

What is the nature of the financial crisis?
It is serious.
What manner of action must be taken?
Of what vegetative undergrowth is the provocation which must be addressed as part of this action?
The root cause.
What form of hydration will occur to lending if the root cause is not addressed?
It will dry up.
What game piece always describes the effect of this?
A domino.
What is the quality of perturbation in regard to the assets in question?
In what equestrian condition are holders of troubled assets?
What is the temporal nature of obligations?
They are immediate.
What is the condition of every collapse?
How dispersed is loss of confidence?
What vertical position describes the government’s economic experts?
What is the duration and disease symptom of a recession?
Long and painful.
What must be done to financial security?
It must be safeguarded.
What movement is required of elected officials when they approach an occasion?
They will rise to it.
What activating principle governs cooperation?
A spirit.
What defensive sports maneuver is applied to problems?
In what direction does this activity take place?
What is the level of dependability in regard to the fundamentals of our economy?
What are the rare and sporadic occurrences of abuse in the system?
What is the goal of all abusers of the system?
Personal gain.
What pleonasm always describes this goal?
Their own.
What condition of external recreation is this cliché gag?
Played out.