Gumby creator Art Clokey has died. The animator and filmmaker had a rough childhood but lived a remarkable life and left an indelible legacy for several generations of kids. He was 88.
If you came of age in the 1980s, you will likely remember a short-lived Gumby revival and, of course, Eddie Murphy's take on the character in the Silver Age of Saturday Night Live. This is what I remember most, though...
"If you've got a heart, then Gumby's a part of you." Rest in peace, Art Clokey.
All Internet lists exist to prompt arguments, spark controversies, share a bit of knowledge, and generate lots of links. Ken Denmead -- a.k.a. GeekDad at Wired -- has contributed the best and the worst of the new decade with his "100 Quotes Every Geek Should Know," a document that at once delights and appalls. I mean, he includes Roy Batty's last three words in Blade Runner but not the immortal lines that precede them? Seriously? And he will rue the day he chose a couple of pedestrian lines from Real Genius.
I would note, too, that not all of Denmead's selections are from sci-fi or fantasy films. There are even a couple of song lyrics. Fine. But with such a broad criteria, where's Apocalypse Now? No, not the obvious one. Any self-respecting geek ought to know you can't land on one-quarter or three-eighths of Venus. That's dialectic physics!
The comments on the piece are lively and there are some excellent suggestions. (And it's really not such a bad list... I guess. De gustibus non est disputandum and all that.) One I would have liked to have seen from the endlessly quotable Army of Darkness: "It's a trap, get an axe!" I use that one all the time.
Well... what say you?
With apologies to James Taranto: Life imitates South Park! The AP reports that a Japanese whaler plowed into the Bob Barker, part of the growing fleet of vessels operated by the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society. You know, the Whale Wars people. This wouldn't have happened if Stan Marsh had been at the helm, you may rest assured. Besides, how do we know it was a really whaling ship and not those scurvy dogs from The Deadliest Catch?
(Warning: The clip contains language commonly heard among sailors and is not safe for work.)
"Ain't nothin' gonna stop us!" Although it's mighty tempting to crow about this week's high-profile Democratic departures (including Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter), I hope John Boehner, Mitch McConnell and the rest of the GOP leadership have seen "Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry"...
I've seen Death Cab For Cutie's "I Will Possess Your Heart" video before. And it's pretty old. Hardly "New Year." But I've never seen it in its full long form until tonight. It's beautifully shot, and I can't believe the band had the budget for this at the time.
Even if you're not a fan, this is still a sight to see (for a music video).
To call Patterico a thorn in the paw of the LA Times is to say that "paw" means the whole body and "thorn" means flesh-eating disease. He's been running his annual "Los Angeles Dog Trainer Year in Review" for the last seven years, and his 2009 run-down of bias, willful distortion and general stupidity at the LA Times is quite comprehensive. I recommend reading the whole thing if you're interested in a detailed breakdown of the meltdown of one MSM lion.
Here are a few highlights ...
On "WHITEWASHING THE ACORN SCANDAL":
Peter Dreier wrote a fact-challenged op-ed claiming that Giles and O’Keefe had received assistance at only two ACORN offices. (The documented number was at least five at the time the op-ed appeared.) Dreier also incorrectly claimed that “not a single person who signed a phony name on a registration form ever actually voted” — although one person who did was later convicted only of false registration and not voter fraud.
On the "SYCOPHANTIC COVERAGE OF OUR HERO BARACK OBAMA":
- The paper uncritically reported that opposition to Obama’s health care plan was fueled by angry mobs of right-wing extremists. Typical of editors’ attitude was this strawman from a front-page “news analysis” which claimed Obama “has seen the healthcare debate sidetracked by false warnings that government ‘death panels’ would be employed to snuff out Grandma.” Naturally, genuine concerns about rationing of health care were not discussed in this polemic.
- When Obama held a town hall meeting on health care, he declared: “I have not said that I was a single-payer supporter.” This was an easily provable lie, and editors failed to tell readers about it.
- The paper dutifully ran a picture of doctors in white coats — an image designed to lend credibility to Obama’s health care plan — and didn’t tell readers that the White House had passed out the coats beforehand to any doctor not already wearing one
On "ANTI-REPUBLICAN BIAS AND ANTI-TEA PARTY SENTIMENT":
- Stimulus plan good . . . tea parties bad. And inconsequential. When KFI’s John and Ken hosted a taxpayer revolt that drew 8000-15,000 people, the paper refused to cover it, for transparently phony reasons. Editor David Lauter responded to hundreds of angry readers in one e-mail — and failed to use a “bcc” line, meaning he shared each angry reader’s e-mail address with all the others. If you’re thinking: “What a moron!” then you have plenty of company.
- They did, however, find space to cover one tea party . . . a toddler tea party given by Katie Holmes and Angelina Jolie. The paper later did a fact-challenged hit piece on John and Ken.
Editors acted as stenographers for Ahmadinejad after his dubious re-election.
On "THE FEDERAL JUDICIARY:"
Editors claimed that Sen. John Cornyn said he “would probe deeply into Sotomayor’s past comments and rulings to see if her heritage colors her ability to make fair decisions.” This was a lie, as Cornyn said no such thing. Editors then sent the false claim down the memory hole.
And on, and on, and on ...
As a former newspaperman who now edits an online publication (and writes for several), reading Patterico's take-down of the LA Times makes me think: I can no longer rely on the MSM standard as "good enough" for publication. My standards must be (and are) way higher.
Let me be clear here: These aren't necessarily the 10 best books of the aughts. Just the 10 best books that I read. I tried to figure out if I should split into fiction-nonfiction categories, but that didn't really suss out very nicely. I spent the first half of the decade immersing myself in novels and the second half in essays and long-form reporting. We all go through phases, I guess, and my Top 10 list reflects mine.
• White Teeth, Zadie Smith: Smith has proven to be a prodigious talent, and her novel On Beauty is probably more complete in its artistic expression. But this first novel -- set among an interracial British family -- was imperfect but oh so damned interesting.
• The Road, Cormac McCarthy: I know, Oprah, blah blah. Like Smith's White Teeth, maybe this isn't the "best" of McCarthy's novels -- but it is his most accessible: Written less baroquely than some of his other works. I finished it in one weekend. But it stayed with me since then.
• Fiasco, Tom Ricks: The Iraq War has produced a ton of finely reported and written books. But this piece by then-Washington Post reporter Ricks did more, probably, to document and define how the early years of the war had gone so devastatingly wrong -- from the decision to invade to a host of post-invasion decisions that exacerbated a tense situation.
• Consider the Lobster, David Foster Wallace: Wallace was probably best-known as a novelist: His 1,000-page Infinite Jest is a required lit-hipster endurance test. But it was in his non-fiction that Wallace -- freed from the demands of experimentation -- really shined, and this collection of essays proves it. Covering everything from porn to meat-eating ethics to talk radio, Wallace still dropped plenty of five-dollar words. But he did so in the service of smartly entertaining and informing his audience.
• The Years of Lyndon Johnson: Master of the Senate, Robert Caro: If you want to know what power looks like -- how it's accumulated, how it corrupts, how big Texas businesses behind George W. Bush have always been around -- this volume of Caro's indispensible and ongoing biography of LBJ is a great place to start.
• Saturday, Ian McEwan: Atonement was his most celebrated work of the decade, but this novel -- set in one day of the life of a London doctor shortly before the invasion of Iraq -- has stuck with me longer. I think it's because -- unlike many people who took stark positions for or against the invasion -- Dr. Henry Perowne is honestly conflicted: He knows the regime of Saddam Hussein to be terrible, but he also knows the war might well end up being terrible. This novel isn't about Iraq, but it's not not about Iraq, either. And in Perowne's wrestling, McEwan articulated the not-quite-sure attitude that many people felt before the war.
• Pastoralia, George Saunders: I don't know what to call this collection of short stories. Meta science fiction, maybe? It's dyspeptic and cynical -- and it's darkest story, "Sea Oak," about a woman who returns from the dead ready to start doing all the fornicating she'd never done in life, might well be its most inspiring.
• Gilead, Marilynne Robinson: I'll say the same thing I did about Sufjan Stevens' Illinois album: I’m not a Christian, but this novel comes as close as any sermon or piece of art ever has to making me reconsider.
• The 9/11 Commission Report: Not only well-reported -- as it should be, given that the resources of government were at its disposal -- it's also surprisingly well-written.
• The Dark Side, Jane Mayer: There are many accounts of how the Bush Administration took us down the road to torture in the War on Terror. This is the most definitive.
Hawaii's ABC affiliate, KITV, reported a few hours ago that conservative radio talk show giant Rush Limbaugh "was rushed to a Honolulu hospital on Wednesday afternoon with chest pains."
According to the story:
Paramedics responded to the call at 2:41 p.m. at the Kahala Hotel and Resort.
Limbaugh suffered from chest pains, sources said. Paramedics treated him and took him to Queen's Medical Center in serious condition.
He was seen golfing at Waialae Country Club earlier this week. The country club is next to the Kahala Hotel and Resort.
The radio show host had been in the islands during the holidays. Coincidentally, his visit comes at a time when two of the nation's most powerful Democrats, President Barack Obama and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, are also staying in Hawaii.
So this is the way we do business now. (And it should go without saying that Atrios was right.) Limbaugh has said some terrible, terrible things over the years. Heretical things. Perhaps even -- quelle horreur -- seditious things! He wants Obama to fail, you know. What was interesting about the blow up that followed his remarks earlier this year was the way in which Limbaugh's critics conflated and confused the president of the United States with the country as a whole. Despite what some enlightened minds might think, we really haven't come so far in 200-plus years. There are more than a few Americans who wouldn't object to resurrecting the old English offense of "imagining the King's death."
I'm a conservative, but I'm not as much of a Limbaugh fan as I used to be. I hardly begrudge him his success and I surely respect his influence and reach. On balance, it's probably a good thing that Limbaugh is still on the air.
He'll be fine, in all likelihood. But let us not feign shock and amazement at the boorishness of people who hoped Limbaugh dropped dead on the links this afternoon. I'm not going to lie: I neither mourned nor toasted the death of Senator Ted Kennedy earlier this year, but I'm plenty glad he's gone. Kennedy was an enemy of constitutional government and a menace to liberty. I've no doubt there are many Americans who feel the same way about Rush Limbaugh. They're wrong, of course, but there's really no argument one way or the other. We don't argue anything anymore. We shout, bleat, blort, feel, assert, assume, fulminate, snark, sneer, denounce, declaim and flame.
But argue? No, sir. Argument has long since gone out of style.
Who knew? Rich Lowry has the details.
All applaud this tree, which is acceptable ... at least until the data can be fudged by the enviro-scolds to frown upon it.
From Lowry's column:
Following it all closely will be the new Christmas scolds, who are as annoying as the old Christmas scolds, except greener. H. L. Mencken famously put down the Puritans — decidedly cool on Christmas celebrations — as people worried that someone, somewhere may be happy. The new Christmas scolds worry that someone, somewhere may be emitting CO2 over a glass of eggnog: Blessed is good, merry is nice, peaceful is advisable — but carbon-neutral is absolutely essential. ...
Ralph Reiland of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review points to a web publication called Alternative Consumer that recommends “A Freegan Christmas.” The festivities will include Christmas trees fashioned out of shopping bags and a celebratory vegetarian meal. No cards and no wrapping paper, of course. Someone captured the spirit of this holiday program long ago, “Bah! Humbug!”
It’s not an endorsement of every Christmas excess to appreciate merrymaking and gestures of generosity. After all, the Magi didn’t necessarily have to travel, or offer their gifts of frankincense and myrrh. That they did points to the ultimate reason for the joyous celebration of the season. Merry Christmas!
Yes. Merry Christmas everyone! I, for one, am enjoying the festive aroma of my natural tree. (For the record: I bought it from the guy on my corner and carried it home on foot. So, out of laziness and happenstance ... I'm "green" this Christmas.)
Those mobster-themed videos are good fun, Ben. But nothing that can compare to The Star Wars Holiday Special, where the unintentional comedy scale redlined ... then exploded. This was the first sign that trouble was ahead for Lucas' franchise, decades before his abominable prequels.
I LOVE the intro, as we learn which "stars" will be sullying their careers by being connected to this debacle. Oh, and the interminably long minutes that tick by with nothing but Wookie language and maudlin music to keep us interested.
This is awesome! Because as soon as I saw Star Wars, I was insatiably curious about what life was like for Wookies on whatever planet they live on. Apparently, it's just like our lives — if we lived in trees, spoke in wails and grunts, and had a cheesy soundtrack running in the background. Oh, and if we were a lot hairier.
A very touching scene with Han, "Lumpy" and Chewy's family.
Oh, and let's not forget the big finish, with a song by Carrie Fisher!
The Karate Kid remake, starring Jaden Smith (son of Will, who is directing, and Jada Pinkett), hits theaters next summer. The trailer, which premiered this week, is impressive. Jackie Chan plays the Miyagi character. At 55 years old, Chan is still the master. Why, even the snobs at /Film and the slobs at FilmDrunk think the trailer is decent. (Well... OK, not really. Those FilmDrunk guys are unbelievably cruel.)
There was a bit of grousing awhile back from fans of the original that this project was a kind of sacrilege, yet another in a ceaseless line of remakes and reboots from a creatively bankrupt Hollywood. And for awhile, it looked as though Columbia Pictures would rename the film "The Kung Fu Kid."
I liked the original with Ralph Macchio and Pat Morita and I've enjoyed watching it again with my son now that we're both training in the martial arts. And I'm not sure "Take your jacket off... put it on..." is quite as pithy or memorable as "Wax on, wax off." (What I really want to know is: Who is the Kreese character and will he say "Sweep the leg" in Chinese or English?)
But let's not get too carried away. The Karate Kid was very much a product of its era -- from the hairstyles to the ridiculous pop soundtrack. Some of it holds up, some of it looks hackneyed and lame. Based on the trailer, the remake looks promising.
I dare to call this a remarkable event in modern popular culture. Modern comedy, especially on Comedy Central, drips with cynicism. The network's biggest shows — South Park, The Daily Show, The Sarah Silverman Program and (perhaps to a lesser extent) the Colbert Report — take potshots at everything traditional in America. I find a good bit of that funny, but start to get tired of it after extended exposure. It's always been a mystery to me how a network that makes its bones by continually mocking (often in bad faith) the values of Middle America thrives. Perhaps the majority of America — the non-elites — are not as stupid as Jon Stewart seems to think we are, and we have the self-confidence to laugh at ourselves.
Yet, on Comedy Central no less, Colbert presents a little song that is sincere, respectful, honest and (gasp!) wholesome. Note that Colbert produced a "Christmas" special, not a "Holiday" special. The distinction is important, especially in today's climate.
Still true today. So ... in the Christmas spirit, I re-post it again today. Enjoy, and Merry Christmas, everyone!
|The Colbert Report||Mon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c|
|A Colbert Christmas: Colbert/Costello Duet|
(Man do I wish Comedy Central videos would format better for ordinary blogs.)
As 2009 winds down, the news wire services have begun moving their year-end retrospectives. The Associated Press today publishes its list of the hundreds of notables who left the scene this year. By the way, it's never a good idea to die between Christmas and New Year's, especially if you are only sort of famous, or your fame and notoriety waned decades ago, or your speciality is no longer appreciated the way it once was.
Among the more interesting passings I missed just this month were Roy Disney and Sol Price. Disney was the irascible nephew of Walt and defender of traditional animation who hired and ultimately ousted Michael Eisner as the House of Mouse's CEO. Price was the founder of Price Club, one of America's first big box discounters, which later merged with Costco. But UC San Diego students know him better for the mall at the center of campus that bears his name. It's just a hop, skip and jump away from Theodore Geisel Library. You can't miss it.
The Monkeys noted several of these deaths (and a couple that didn't make the AP round-up) in 2009. Michael Jackson wasn't one of them.
• Chris Warden (Jan. 4)
• Ricardo Mantalban (Jan. 14)
• John Updike (Jan. 27)
• Estelle Bennett (February)
• Paul Harvey (Feb. 28)
• Ron Silver (Mar. 15)
• Jack Kemp (May 3)
• Billy Mays (June 28)
• TOTUS (July 14)
• John Hughes (Aug. 6)
• Ted Kennedy (Aug. 26)
• Irving Kristol (Sept. 18)
• Soupy Sales (Oct. 12)
I can't get enough of the jingle...
Music is indispensable to me. I have a playlist I listen to regularly on my laptop when I write. It started as a two-hour playlist I created for when I would frequent the Paul Biane Library in Rancho Cucamonga. You can only use a study room there for two hours at a time. It's since grown more than seven and a half hours -- just shy of a proper eight-hour workday length -- with 102 songs.
A couple of notes. The list doubles as a playlist for possible podcast music. Regular Ben and Joel Podcast listeners will probably recognize some of the music that has appeared in recent months. The list is heavily influenced by suggestions from Monkey Robb -- particularly Explosions in the Sky and Colourbox -- and the Mighty Jimmy Aquino. What can I say? I really like Supergrass's "In It For the Money" album. Finally, I think Mahler is a fine way to wrap up the workday, though there is a good case to be made for beginning the list with the 8th Symphony.
I've listed the song titles and artists below the fold. What do you listen to when you work?
(Click "Read more" below to view the rest of this post.)
Oh, mama. The Iron Man 2 trailer is out. Geek Tyrant, as always, has the scoop. We've got Tony Stark doing what Tony Stark does. We've got Whiplash -- I was a big fan of the comic, but I never realized Whiplash was quite so... foreign. We have a glimpse of Nick Fury. We have Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow, for no discernible reason. We have Whiplash doing what Whiplash does. And we have... War Machine.
Oh, yeah. I couldn't wait for the first one. I really can't wait for the second.
Update: Joel says, "for once, I’ve got nothing snarky to say." But he does have video of Robert Downey Jr. doing something horrible.
For some reason, I thought you'd enjoy this:
(Hat Tip: Daily Dish)
"The skills required to maintain a happy harem take practice, patience, and a bit of internal discipline, not unlike perfecting one’s golf game," advises Tracy Quan, author of Diary of a Call Girl and its sequel, Diary of a Married Call Girl. Funny thing is, those are the same skills required to maintain a happy marriage. And, challenging as that can be, it seems much less complicated -- and far more honorable -- than either golf or "harem management" to me.
(Hat tip: Instapundit.)
Michael Steele, one of the greatest in a long line of Republican disappointments, had an awkward exchange with the insipid Mike Barnacle on Morning Joe today.
Politico reports on who said what to whom and why:
...Steele got into it with MSNBC’s Mike Barnicle who, in discussing health care, asked, "What are you people for?"
"You people?" Steele asked. "Who are you people?"
"The Republicans, what are you for?" Barnicle responded.
Laughing, Steele -- the first African American chairman of the RNC -- said, "Mike, I just wanted to you define the pronoun baby, that’s all.”
“Oh, come on,” Barnicle responded.
(Hat tip: Memeorandum.)
It's the largest such symposium I've ever seen from Claremont. When I used to put them together, I was lucky to get six or seven contributions. This one has 28! (Glad I kept my suggestions short.) John Kienker, my friend and successor as managing editor of the Claremont Review of Books, reports that this year's list includes
144 around 140 books*, 6 audio books, 7 pieces of music, and two television shows.
I think there is something for just about everyone on it -- including Chris Rywalt and Khabalox -- so check it out.
* Four books repeat.
The old Saturday Night Live, Chris Rywalt writes, "is actually much, much worse than we remember. The current season only seems like a severe drop in quality. The show has actually always sucked."
Rywalt, as usual, isn't entirely wrong. But he isn't quite right, either. (And vice-versa.) In more than 30 years on the air, Saturday Night Live has produced many gems. Think of the Two Wild and Crazy Guys, the Samurai Deli, Gumby, Willie and Frankie, Billy Crystal's Joe Franklin Show bits, Ebony and Ivory, Chris Farley's Motivational Speaker, The Sinatra Group, "More Cowbell." Think of those great ad parodies like Schmitt's Gay and Bad Idea Jeans. But a show that has 90 minutes to fill also produces a lot of unfunny garbage. How many sketches have we seen over the years that went on for six or seven minutes with few laughs and lame endings?
Andy Samberg's digital shorts are exemplars of the best and worst of Saturday Night Live currently. I'm a big fan of Samberg's humor-laced brand of Jewish hip-hop. As good as those videos are, however, there always seems to be something that strikes a sour note. The Taser punch line in "On the Ground" doesn't quite work for me. And there is something about Shy Ronnie's "accident" that falls one or two degrees short of funny to me, even though the ending is terrific.
Subjective? Well, in matters of taste there is no argument, as the sages say. I believe I'll have another potato chip.