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pee-wee

Twenty-five years ago today, a bunch of us went to a small club to see a new comedian named Pee-wee Herman. Paul Reubens had been playing the Pee-wee character for a couple of years by that point. There was an HBO special in 1981 that was a recording of the stage show (called The Pee-wee Herman Show). To be honest, I don't remember if there were other cast members when we saw him ... the HBO special had plenty of them, including Phil Hartman and John Paragon as Jambi (I don't think Lawrence Fishburne had joined the cast yet), but my memories of our show are that it was just Pee-wee (someone will read this who was at the show and will correct me on this). The HBO special got a lot of attention, after which Reubens made several popular appearances on David Letterman, leading to a national tour, which is when we saw him.

The show was about as you'd expect, full of dopey boy humor and lots of kid fantasies. It had more overt sex stuff than the later Pee-wee's Playhouse, although by "overt" I mean "what a ten-year-old boy would find amusing." Here's a clip from the HBO special:

And one of his appearances on Letterman:


political civility

Chris Cillizza in that hardcore, far-left rag, the Washington Post, on how mainstream Democrats are quaking in their boots at the possibility that progressives would be upset at the Lieberman kiss-and-make-up:

Asked what it would mean if Lieberman kept his chairmanship, one Senate Democratic aide said bluntly: "The left has been foiled again. They can rant and rage but they still do not put the fear into folks to actually change their votes. Their influence would be in question."

Quit riling people up, progressives ... you don't count for shit, anyway. What, did you think Obama wasn't going to pursue a centrist agenda?

Hope and change, baby, hope and change.


what i watched last week

To Live and Die in L.A. William Friedkin tries to better the car chase scene from The French Connection. He may have succeeded. But there is more to movies than car chases. Much ado about nothing, which could, of course, be the motto for L.A., making this one of the great L.A. movies. If you like L.A., you'll rate it higher than 6/10.

Quantum of Solace. 7/10.


quantum of solace

Daniel Craig is working very hard to prove that he, not Sean Connery, is the greatest Bond of them all, and two pictures in, he's certainly got an argument. Partly it's how the character is written ... the first Bond movies gave us a hero who was witty, charming, and a bit distanced from himself, but he still resembled a human being, even as the settings got goofier. Roger Moore embraced the campiness, and the human being disappeared. (George Lazenby wasn't a good enough actor to pull off much of anything, although his Bond movie is one of the best.) Timothy Dalton comes closest to what Craig is up to (especially in his second outing, the vengeful License to Kill), but his Bond movies were relatively unpopular. Pierce Brosnan was like a Roger Moore who could act. But Daniel Craig is simply an actor, and the writers know this, so they have created a Bond that is more complex that previous versions.

And yet ... Craig suggests complexity just by staring with his steelish eyes, but the character, and the movie Quantum of Solace, is ultimately rather simplistic: sado-masochism is at its core. This 007 likes to hurt people; just as important, he seems to take at least a bit of pleasure out of being hurt. Thus, despite the fine acting chops of the star, Quantum of Solace is a pretty brutal film. The fight scenes are the opposite of something Jackie Chan might construct ... Chan's grace and humor comes through no matter what bizarre situations he creates, but the fights in this movie find their delight in more thuggish behaviors. The action scenes are edited ... well, for one thing, they ARE edited, they almost fetishize the act of editing, they are full of very short shots that do little to make the action clear. Normally this bothers me ... I want to at least know who is doing what ... but here, the abruptness of the edits serve to emphasize the brutality of the action. When the movie is over, you feel like you've been punched in the face. Multiple times.

What is missing from this is a lot of the iconic Bond stuff ... he likes to fuck but isn't a womanizer, doesn't bother with witty quips, doesn't get to play with cool toys (Q seems to have been replaced with an agent for Sony, who works in the product placements that serve the same purpose as the ejector seats of yore). Simply put, Quantum of Solace lacks a lot of the things people found pleasurable about the series in the past. Roger Ebert explains this effectively, in his negative review, talking about what he liked about the old 007 that he thinks (rightly) is mostly lacking in the new version: "He is an attitude. Violence for him is an annoyance. He exists for the foreplay and the cigarette. He rarely encounters a truly evil villain. More often a comic opera buffoon with hired goons in matching jump suits."

I find the move away from all that Ebert loves to be pretty interesting. But then, I liked License to Kill.


friday random ten, 2002 edition

1. Tyrese, "How You Gonna Act Like That." Tyrese has appeared in more than a dozen movies. Why do hip-hop musicians do so well as actors?

2. The Donnas, "Take It Off." Another song from this album, "Who Invited You," was included in a video game I played a few times. It was the first time I really understood how many money-making options are available to today's musical artists.

3. Missy Elliott, "Gossip Folks." The Grammy winner for Album of the Year.

4. Amber Benson, "Under Your Spell." This is from the Buffy musical. I'm cheating because the episode aired in 2001, but the album didn't come out until the following year. This particular song featured what was, as far as I know, one of the first examples of cunnilingus on network TV, lesbian or other. OK, it happened off screen, but if you've seen it, you know exactly what I mean. The video here is a fascinating fan-wank version using the Sims.

5. The Roots, "The Seed (2.0)." Critics stumbled all over themselves trying to figure out how to pigeonhole this one. Whatever they called it, they loved it.

6. Christina Aguilera, "Beautiful." Yes, she can sing. Yes, this won a Grammy. No, I don't know if any of that matters.

7. Sleater-Kinney, "Sympathy." 2002 was the year the 9/11 albums started coming out. Corin's take, seen through the prism of the birth of her first child, remains one of the greatest of those songs. Hell, it's a great song on its own, with one of her most moving vocals. The videos for this suck, so the link is to the pre-Janet version of the band doing "One More Hour" in a Tower Records.

8. Norah Jones, "Don't Know Why." Guess this is a week for odd videos. In this one, Jones explains to Elmo that she misses her friend, the letter "Y."

9. Dixie Chicks, "Travelin' Soldier." This is the song that was #1 when Natalie Maines offered up her opinion about President Bush.

10. Bruce Springsteen, "Into the Fire." Bruce had a pretty fine post-9/11 album, too:

May your strength give us strength
May your faith give us faith
May your hope give us hope
May your love give us love

Bonus track, from Teddy Pendergrass's first concert in 20 years:


don't blame the minorities

Nate Silver dissects some Prop 8 myths:

[T]he notion that Prop 8 passed because of the Obama turnout surge is silly. Exit polls suggest that first-time voters -- the vast majority of whom were driven to turn out by Obama (he won 83 percent [!] of their votes) -- voted against Prop 8 by a 62-38 margin. More experienced voters voted for the measure 56-44, however, providing for its passage.

Now, it's true that if new voters had voted against Prop 8 at the same rates that they voted for Obama, the measure probably would have failed. But that does not mean that the new voters were harmful on balance -- they were helpful on balance. If California's electorate had been the same as it was in 2004, Prop 8 would have passed by a wider margin.

Furthermore, it would be premature to say that new Latino and black voters were responsible for Prop 8's passage. Latinos aged 18-29 (not strictly the same as 'new' voters, but the closest available proxy) voted against Prop 8 by a 59-41 margin. These figures are not available for young black voters, but it would surprise me if their votes weren't fairly close to the 50-50 mark.

At the end of the day, Prop 8's passage was more a generational matter than a racial one. If nobody over the age of 65 had voted, Prop 8 would have failed by a point or two....

The good news for supporters of marriage equity is that -- and there's no polite way to put this -- the older voters aren't going to be around for all that much longer, and they'll gradually be cycled out and replaced by younger voters who grew up in a more tolerant era.... two or four or six or eight years from now, it will get across the finish line.