Wednesday June 29, 2005
Tuesday June 28, 2005
Shelby Foote, best known as a Civil War historian, has died in Memphis at age 88. Foote was a rare but commanding presence when I lived in Memphis. I wrote him a letter once, hoping to talk to him about an avocational interest I then had in Greenville, Miss., the Delta town where Foote and Walker Percy grew up in the shadow of Will Percy, a poet and Walker’s uncle. I long ago lost the tape, but I remember him telling me—in his archetypical drawl—that he didn’t get “down home” much anymore. “It’s all whittled away to nothing,” he said. “And the young folks don’t have much fun anymore.” He also said that it’s good to be wary of inspiration because that’s where the worst writing comes from.
Foote, a devouted fan of Proust, started out as a novelist but got sidetracked by his mammoth The Civil War: A Narrative, which he conceived as a classical narrative, comparable to Thucydides’ history of the Peloponnesian War. The Correspondence of Shelby Foote and Walker Percy is a must-read for would-be writers, as Foote, a realist and atheist, counsels the late-blooming Percy, a lay philosopher and convert to Catholicism, on developing as a writer, only to be eclipsed—in fiction, at least—by his childhood friend.
Foote is to be admired, however, for letting the book be the boss, as they say, when it came to his still celebrated history, which—he notes with pride in the letters—is as long as Remembrance of Things Past.
Monday June 27, 2005
Who is the greatest American—greater than Lincoln, Martin Luther King, George Washington and Benjamin Franklin? Ronald Reagan. I guess because he freed the executive branch from the Constitution. … The Daily News afflicts the comfortable and comforts the afflicted by launching an extensive investigation and bringing down The Drawing Center? Um, nice work there guys. … Christian
magician illusionist John Louis performs tricks “with a Gospel spin,” according to the Cincinnati Enquirer. “For example, his trained dove will roll over and play dead and then come back to life, illustrating for children Jesus’ resurrection.” Louis calls himself an illusionist, of course, because magicians all work for Satan. … Daniel Engber, co-founder of Crying While Eating, tells all.
Thursday June 23, 2005
My views on GoDaddy.com are well known. Fine for commercials, not so great if you’re expecting a lot of traffic and want a server that can handle it and/or a customer service department that will help you if it cannot. Adrants recently heaped some love on the company’s client relations practices, but that wasn’t my experience.
Anyway, I can barely contain my schadenfreude about GoDaddy.com proprietor Bob Parsons’ recent blogging gaffe. Over the weekend, Bob sounded off in favor of Gitmo and torture, but he got so much grief from the blogosphere—you know, his clients—that he has now recanted. I’m surprised his servers could handle the complaints.
Monday June 20, 2005
As regular readers will know, I’ve been watching with interest what the FCC will do under the leadership of Bush yes-man Kevin Martin. The good news is that the answer appears to be not much—at least this year. The commission is currently deadlocked with two Dems and two Republicans, and the appointment of a fifth commissioner, a Republican, is nowhere in sight. Until then, the FCC will be more or less useless when it comes to rolling back regulation and/or staging show trials against obscenity.
Payoffs can be uniquely sweet for former FCC chairmen. Mark Fowler and Dennis Patrick, who chaired the agency during the Reagan administration, both used their connections in the telecommunications industry to become multimillionaire entrepreneurs.
Dick Wiley, who chaired the agency during the Nixon and Ford administrations, now heads Wiley Rein & Fielding, one of the nation’s most powerful telecommunications law firms. Charlie Ferris, FCC chairman during the Carter administration, is one of the industry’s most influential cable TV attorneys as a senior partner at the law firm Mintz Levin Cohn Ferris Glovsky and Popeo.
Of course, an assignment at the FCC offers no guarantee of a free pass through life ever after. In one of the agency’s most notorious recent examples, Stephen Sharp, a Republican commissioner during the Reagan administration, served time in prison after a conviction on child molestation charges.
Can you believe that? Multimillionaire entrepreneurs?
Thursday June 16, 2005
The increasingly popular sub-hobby of metatourism has a new star. One of the most dog-eared cliches in all of touristdom is posing with the Leaning Tower of Pisa so that it appears that you are attempting to straighten it. Of course, to make this perspectival trick work, the angle has to be just right. (Here’s a fine example.) Taken from another angle, however, the poses are nonsensical and surreal as Flickr user magnusw demonstrates in this series of shots of “Pisa pushers” taken from a third party perspective. Sublime.
Magnusw has started a Flickr group for such photos, but so far he is the only member. Such is the burden of genius.
UPDATE: Magnus has company. Since yesterday, a few Flickrites have rummaged through their files and pulled out their own Pisa pusher shots. All great.
Tuesday June 14, 2005
Alexandra returned from Maine this weekend with a very important document that could shed light on one of the most pressing issues of our time. No, it’s not the Downing Street Memo. It’s Meet the Stars of Dawson’s Creek, an unauthorized instant bio of the cast from 1998. And while the “16 Pages of Rockin’ Color Photos!” seem to have been redacted, the book contains bad news for Tom Cruise. “I like a great sense of humor, a good personality and someone with a little spunkiness,” Katie Holmes says of her dream guy. “Tall, dark, and handsome.” (emphasis added)
Furthermore, Miss Holmes’ horoscope, which appears in an appendix, suggests she might not be enjoying Cruise’s public displays of affection. “Whether it’s love or just good friendship, Katie and her fellow Sagittarians like to have people around who respect their private space,” we learn. A word to the wise, short man.
Monday June 06, 2005
I have a theory about early fame in general and, in particular, about Motley Crue’s Tommy Lee. It goes like this: All straight, post-adolescent males—at least in America and especially in Southern California—really only want three things: a) lots of money, b) an unlimited supply of drugs and c) the opportunity to have on-demand sex with strippers and/or porn stars.
Most of us realize pretty quickly that a) and b) will require years of planning and scheming—in pursuit of a Wall Street career, a gig on The Insider, a theory of general relativity, or whatever—and that c) will probably always elude us.
But what if you’re Tommy Lee, and you end up with all three when you’re twenty? What do you do now? Do you grow, evolve, learn, strive or attempt to develop an inner life in any way?
Fuck that, bro. Why?
This weekend, I caught the VH1 documentary Resurrecting Motley Crue, which purports to show how the band “overcame their demons to reunite for a 2005 tour.” Basically, it’s ripoff of the Metallica doc Some Kind of Monster. I’m not a Metallica fan, but I found the latter compelling for lots of reasons. You walk away with the feeling that, whether you share it or not, the members of Metallica have a common aesthetic that they’ve been struggling to stay true to for more than two decades. Resurrection, on the other hand, leaves you with the conviction that the members of Motley Crue are the dumbest guys you’ve ever met.
However they’ve been eulogized, Motley Crue were never great. Less novel than KISS and less rock and roll than Guns N’ Roses, the Crue evolved from recording songs about the devil to recording songs about strip clubs in just six years. They created lowest common denominator rock in the city with the lowest denominator in America, L.A., where the only requirement for residency is that you enjoy tits and sun. And everyone enjoys tits and sun. Even amoebas mobilize in the general direction of tits and sun.
At the beginning of Resurrecting Motley Crue, we find Nikki Sixx touring Japan in search of tits and sun and Vince Neil looking for the same at the Oklahoma State Fair. Tommy Lee, as we know, became a pioneer in Paris Hilton-style fame by being filmed in the sun having sex with Pam Anderson and, of course, her tits. Naturally, he’s the least interested in the reunion. Nobody’s interested in it, really, except the band’s management, who have decided that the reunion will make them buckets of money. And Vince Neil is cautiously interested since he’s, well, playing the fucking Oklahoma State Fair. The fate of the reunion tour comes down to Vince and Tommy, however, the dumbest guys in the room.
Vince is impressed by the prospect of riding in a real live helicopter and thinks it’s fun to reference his 1983 drunk driving accident—which injured two and killed Hanoi Rocks drummer Nicolas Dingley—in a new Crue video. Tommy, meanwhile, talks like a 14-year-old and is disproportionately excited by the prospect of space travel. Even when it comes together, there is no real conviction behind the reunion. When asked at a press conference about his pledge to never play with the band again, Lee says, “I don’t think that’s important. The fans want it and we’re going to do this. That’s what’s important.”
Wow, Tommy. Thanks!
Compare this with Metallica’s trajectory. Their music was so challenging, they had to leave L.A. for San Francisco and they didn’t really have any female fans (i.e. groupies) until 1987’s And Justice For All, by which time Motley Crue was already a parody of a parody. In other words, by having a), b) and c) deferred, the members of Metallica became, you know, reflective. Even interesting. Lars Ulrich may be an asshole, but he’s not stupid.
Interestingly, the only sympathetic character here is Mick Mars, who has spent the last ten years succumbing to the degenerative disease ankylosing spondilitis and an accompanying addiction to painkillers. The cadaverous guitarist had to have hip replacement just to get on stage. He seems older than the others, and not just because he looks terrible. Perhaps its because his forced isolation ripped him out of Motley Crue fantasy land and forced him to grow up. He seems all of 44, which is nice, since that’s how old he and his bandmates actually are. Hopefully the tour will at least land Mick some much-needed tits and sun. He’s earned it.
Wednesday June 01, 2005
Would now be a bad time to announce that Christian Slater and I were born on the exact same date in history: August 18, 1969? Oh, it would be? Well, what about the fact that Roman Polanski’s birthday is also August 18th? No good? Still too soon?
The funny thing is, the three of us used to always wonder which one of us would be the last to celebrate his birthday as a free man on American soil. Looks like I’m gonna win, guys. (Knock on wood.)