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“everything's fucked up, and nobody goes to jail”

That’s the leading quote from Matt Taibbi’s latest attempt in Rolling Stone to delve into the world of finance, “Why Isn’t Wall Street in Jail?”. It features Taibbi’s usual thorough research, and not as much of his Hunter S. Thompson-esque prose. When Matt Taibbi tones down his writer’s excess (excess that is often extremely funny), you know trouble is afoot, because Taibbi knows the facts are excessive enough on their own.

The quote comes from a “former Senate investigator.” Taibbi elaborates:

Nobody goes to jail. This is the mantra of the financial-crisis era, one that saw virtually every major bank and financial company on Wall Street embroiled in obscene criminal scandals that impoverished millions and collectively destroyed hundreds of billions, in fact, trillions of dollars of the world's wealth — and nobody went to jail. Nobody, that is, except Bernie Madoff, a flamboyant and pathological celebrity con artist, whose victims happened to be other rich and famous people.

The rest of them, all of them, got off. Not a single executive who ran the companies that cooked up and cashed in on the phony financial boom — an industrywide scam that involved the mass sale of mismarked, fraudulent mortgage-backed securities — has ever been convicted. Their names by now are familiar to even the most casual Middle American news consumer: companies like AIG, Goldman Sachs, Lehman Brothers, JP Morgan Chase, Bank of America and Morgan Stanley. Most of these firms were directly involved in elaborate fraud and theft. Lehman Brothers hid billions in loans from its investors. Bank of America lied about billions in bonuses. Goldman Sachs failed to tell clients how it put together the born-to-lose toxic mortgage deals it was selling. What's more, many of these companies had corporate chieftains whose actions cost investors billions — from AIG derivatives chief Joe Cassano, who assured investors they would not lose even "one dollar" just months before his unit imploded, to the $263 million in compensation that former Lehman chief Dick "The Gorilla" Fuld conveniently failed to disclose. Yet not one of them has faced time behind bars.

Rolling Stone, for all its flaws, has always been willing to give space to writers who need to expand to get their points across, so if you read this piece (i.e. WHEN you read this piece), know that it’s a long one.

In the past few years, the [Obama] administration has allocated massive amounts of federal resources to catching wrongdoers — of a certain type. Last year, the government deported 393,000 people, at a cost of $5 billion. Since 2007, felony immigration prosecutions along the Mexican border have surged 77 percent; nonfelony prosecutions by 259 percent. In Ohio last month, a single mother was caught lying about where she lived to put her kids into a better school district; the judge in the case tried to sentence her to 10 days in jail for fraud, declaring that letting her go free would "demean the seriousness" of the offenses.

So there you have it. Illegal immigrants: 393,000. Lying moms: one. Bankers: zero. The math makes sense only because the politics are so obvious. You want to win elections, you bang on the jailable class. You build prisons and fill them with people for selling dime bags and stealing CD players. But for stealing a billion dollars? For fraud that puts a million people into foreclosure? Pass. It's not a crime. Prison is too harsh. Get them to say they're sorry, and move on. Oh, wait — let's not even make them say they're sorry. That's too mean; let's just give them a piece of paper with a government stamp on it, officially clearing them of the need to apologize, and make them pay a fine instead. But don't make them pay it out of their own pockets, and don't ask them to give back the money they stole. In fact, let them profit from their collective crimes, to the tune of a record $135 billion in pay and benefits last year.


music friday: patti smith, “pumping (my heart)”

I first saw Patti Smith live in early 1976. This was after Horses, but almost a year before Radio Ethiopia. There was a feeling of community, not just the kind where an audience feels like they are seeing the beginning of a new history and we are there, but also a community emanating from the stage. She began the show with a Velvet Underground cover and the title song from an old movie soundtrack. At one point, she passed along music news … Blue Öyster Cult was going to make a new album, stuff like that. It was kinda silly, but it connected us to the larger music world, just as the cover songs did. She returned to the Velvets in mid-set for “Pale Blue Eyes,” which segued into “Louie, Louie.” She closed with “My Generation.” She also sang her version of “Gloria,” which stretches the concept of the cover version. Overall, Patti Smith was placing herself directly in rock and roll heritage, as if she already truly belonged (she did). She was 29 years old, an advanced age for someone releasing their first album.

Patti Smith was, and is, a charismatic live performer. But at that early show, there was still the feeling of a poetry session, just her and Lenny (the rest of the band was there, but they weren’t yet adding a lot). Just two years later at Winterland, the band had found their chops and Smith’s confidence found another level. The Patti Smith Group, live in 1978, touring behind Easter and a top ten single, was a powerhouse.

Easter was produced by Jimmy Iovine; it was his first big hit as a producer (he later became famous for posting a comment on this blog ripping me a new asshole for not liking the Carpenters), and it certainly deserved its hit status. There are those who prefer the amateurish power of “Piss Factory,” or the artfully simple power of Horses, and perhaps they don’t like Easter as much as I do because it is sounds more commercial than those earlier works. But Smith, the band, and Iovine together created a masterwork.

So why did I decide to write about a lesser track from Radio Ethiopia, the lesser of her first three albums?

There’s an old Whoopi Goldberg movie that I caught once when channel surfing … I was going to say I didn’t remember the title, but that’s dumb, the title is obvious, because what I remember is Whoopi trying to figure out the words to “Jumpin’ Jack Flash.” She’s really struggling, and finally she yells out “Mick! Speak English!” Enunciating while singing, of course, was never at the top of Mick Jagger’s to-do list, and he’s hardly the only one … rock and roll has a long and honored tradition of unintelligible lyrics (“Louie, Louie,” anyone?). I’m always ready to make a case of the first line of “Tutti Frutti” being the ultimate rock and roll lyric.

But Patti Smith is a poet, who takes words very seriously. I’m not saying I understand everything in “Birdland,” but that’s largely due to the flights of fantasy in the lyrics, not because I don’t know what Patti is saying. But Smith is also an expert at combining word play with crunching chords. “Free Money” has the chords, and the flights of fantasy, but there is also a very careful and precise moment when Smith, dreaming of having gobs of money, says “find a ticket, win the lottery” (emphasis added). Smith understands that dreaming about utopia means freeing yourself of limits … you don’t buy a winning lottery ticket, you find it, which feels much more serendipitous.

“Pumping (My Heart)” is in that great tradition of hard-to-understand lyrics, which is especially delightful coming from a poet. I listened to this song dozens of times and never knew what she was singing, except when she would say “My heart … is pumpin’” and, most importantly, when she’d shout out, “TOTAL ABANDON!” I couldn’t make out most of the lyrics, but I knew what the song was about. It was about crunching chords and pumping hearts and, above all, Total Abandon. Patti Smith isn’t just rock and roll’s great poetess … she is one of its finest singers, perhaps never more than when she is channeling Mick Jagger’s inability to speak English well enough for Whoopi Goldberg to understand him.

The available videos don’t do a lot for my theory. I can’t find any that just play the track with some goofy pictures. Here’s a live version from 1979 … as luck would have it, Patti never gets around to saying “Total Abandon” (the band takes over), in part because she is, well, totally abandoned:

This early version from 1975 has different chords, different words … it’s a work in progress at that point. But it does start with Patti explaining, “This is one of the songs I was telling ya about. No words special. Just heart pump, uh, fist, uh, hurricane, and uh, uh, Roland Kirk.”

And, for good measure, here’s a fine live version of “Free Money.” Baby, I know our troubles will be gone.


sport and television

I can think of two reasons you might decide not to read “Television and the Form of the Soccer Match.” One is that you aren’t interested in soccer. The other is that you won’t take my recommendation too seriously because I am the author’s uncle. Hopefully, you’ll ignore the latter, which is just silly. And I hope you’ll ignore the former, because Sean Rubio’s piece has relevance to all of us who watch sports on television.

I haven’t asked him, but I’d guess that Sean wouldn’t much like that last sentence. He’s not one to make many allowances towards a larger audience; he does good work and assumes the people who might appreciate it will find it. And his topic in the essay is specifically soccer. But his approach, to apply film theory to televised soccer, works just fine for sports in general. When he writes in his introduction, “At best, TV can allow the audience a much more nuanced look at the game, complete with close-ups of players that leave no emotion neglected,” he could be speaking for baseball or basketball or football or any other sport.

Much of the essay follows this statement: “There are two key cinematography elements in play when looking at the manipulation of soccer on television: The shot itself, and the edits between shots.” He discusses the different ways long shots, medium shots, and close-ups are used, and examines the implications for those differences. It’s the latter that takes the piece to a higher level:

Low-angle shots, consisting of placing the camera below the object, are used to project fear, power, and respect onto the object they are displaying. Often we will see low-angle medium shots of living legends like Ferguson and Wenger, but perhaps only an eye-level close-up of Alan Pardew in his first match, showing the different between the respected and those yet to earn the respect. The television viewer, however, may conclude from Pardew’s furrowed brow that Newcastle never really should have gotten rid of Hughton after all. Such minutiae, which add context, real or false, to the events happening on the pitch, are often lost at a live match.

I tend to agree with those in the comments section who would draw attention to the audio commentators as being at least as influential as the director/camera operator. But Brian Phillips makes a good point, that discussion, analysis, and general complaining about commentators is common, but switching the perspective to what we see on the screen allows a fresh perspective. Check it out (link in first sentence).


heather havrilesky, disaster preparedness

Heather Havrilesky subtitles her new book “A memoir,” and that is certainly accurate. Some people are apparently offended by someone of Havrilesky’s level of fame presuming to write a memoir, as if there is no interest in the lives of the almost-semi-well-known. Neil Genzlinger called it “The Problem With Memoirs” in a recent New York Times piece (one that Havrilesky linked to on her blog):

There was a time when you had to earn the right to draft a memoir, by accomplishing something noteworthy or having an extremely unusual experience or being such a brilliant writer that you could turn relatively ordinary occur­rences into a snapshot of a broader historical moment. Anyone who didn’t fit one of those categories was obliged to keep quiet. Unremarkable lives went unremarked upon, the way God intended.

But then came our current age of oversharing, and all heck broke loose.

Havrilesky (I think … it’s not entirely clear who wrote this) summarizes this attitude: “Look, if you're not a world leader with a really good ghostwriter or a kid who huffed spray paint then tried to kill the president or a girl who fell in love with her rapist uncle then joined the circus, I don't want to hear about it.”

I can’t bring much of a personal angle to this (and memoirs seem to invite the personal angle). My own memoirs are being read right now by you, my tiny readership … the Pauline Kael quote that sits atop this blog reads “I’m frequently asked why I don’t write my memoirs. I think I have.” (Genzlinger, who didn’t like Disaster Preparedness, complains, “Maybe the vignette about the time she and her sister wrote to Amy Carter at the White House would have made a passable subplot in an episode of a mediocre Disney sitcom. The rest belongs on a blog.”) But I have one advantage over Genzlinger, in that I don’t reject the notion of a memoir of the “unremarkable” out of hand.

I came to this book because I have long been a fan of Havrilesky’s writing, in particular her work at Suck and Salon. If for nothing else, she belongs in the Critics Hall of Fame for the occasional reviews written in “Deadwood-speak”:

Welcome, fair cocksuckers, to the latest fucking dispatch, hot off the presses, typed by the humble hand and surveyed by the sullen jaw of one who eyeballs far more of the televised entertainments than can be good or natural for any man, even the sorts of dimwits and hoopleheads and crusty old relics who favor such sorrowfully empty pastimes over fresh air or a good fuck.

It didn’t matter to me that most people have never heard of Heather Havrilesky. I have heard of her, and I was interested in her memoir. It never occurred to me that hers might be an “unremarkable” life that did not deserve to be told in a book.

Genzlinger is wrong on more than one level. Memoirs are more worthy than he admits; blogs are more worthy than he admits. Both genres are full of crappy writing, but the same can be said for all kinds of writing. To say that something “belongs on a blog” is not the insult Genzlinger wants it to be.

Having said that, reading a series of incidents in the life of Heather Havrilesky, presented in book form, allows the reader to make connections that are different from the ones we make when we follow Heather Havrilesky online. Her book is not just tossed together … editorial decisions have been made, in particular with regard to which anecdotes fit her book, and in what order those anecdotes should be presented. The ever-present theme of disaster preparedness provides an umbrella that affects how we read the anecdotes that make up the individual chapters. There is nothing artless about the book. The writing is as strong as I would expect from Havrilesky. And yes, it’s true, a lot of the events she writes about are on some level “unremarkable,” but the commonality of those experiences gives the reader an entry point. We aren’t dreaming of how our lives might be different if we were a world leader, we are seeing how one person dealt with the kind of life most of us lead on a daily basis. This isn’t automatically good or bad; it’s a type of memoir, and the value comes from what the author does with it. Havrilesky does just fine:

And no one is safe, not even the young and the beautiful, not even the hopelessly rich. Their money and their looks and their youth and their leisurely lives are not safe; we are all living on borrowed time, as thieves and old age and tedious work and natural disasters and the apocalypse loom at the edge of the picture, ready to blot us out, like ants, under an unforgiving thumb. …

And I see you, too, sometimes, on the street and in the park and at the grocery store, you with your odd habits and your strange phone voice, you in your soft pants with your great big ideas and your deep sighs. You are just like me.

If there is a surprise to Disaster Preparedness, it is the general absence of snark. It pops up on occasion, but ultimately, this is a kind book. In that, it reminds me of Rob Sheffield’s wonderful … well, I guess his books are a form of memoir, too. Sheffield can be hilariously snarky in a brief record review, but his books about his life and friends and family are full of kindnesses. The stories Heather Havrilesky tells in Disaster Preparedness are not always kind, but they are rooted in a reality that is mostly lacking in irony. It’s a fine book.


watson

Perhaps you’ve heard about this humungous IBM computer that is matched up against the top players of all time in a challenge series this week on Jeopardy. It’s called “Watson,” and after two of the three days being shown, Watson is kicking human ass.

The trick Watson is performing is understanding human language. Jeopardy is full of obscure facts, and I don’t suppose any of us are surprised to find out there is a giant computer out there that knows “everything.” But Jeopardy is also full of wordplay and puns, and that’s a different kind of thinking than computers have done in the past. The kinds of connections the human mind makes when parsing language seem almost impossible to reproduce in a machine. Hence, Watson and the Jeopardy Challenge. And Watson, as I say, is kicking human ass.

It makes me think back to the early 80s, when I wrote a simple BASIC program that simulated a therapy session. I managed to sell it to a magazine and made a couple of thousand dollars when it was very much needed.

I had a few assumptions going into my attempt. First, I had little programming experience, so I wouldn’t be able to do anything too complex. Second, the machine I wrote it on was a VIC-20, which had 5k of memory … not 5 gig or 5 meg, but 5k, so again, there was no computer space or power to do anything complex. Third and perhaps most important, I knew from a popular program called Eliza that served as the inspiration for my own program that the computer’s language skills would be extremely limited, with a very small vocabulary and no real way of understanding wordplay and puns, or in fact most common uses of language. The computer would not know the difference between someone screwing up and saying “oops, that was a boner” and some guy getting horny and saying “hey, I have a boner.”

My solution to all of these problems was to create a program that did very little. It contained a series of questions of the type you might find in a therapy session (“What is your problem?” or “How does this make you feel?”). It also contained a short word-association test. The key was that no matter how much the “patient” typed in response to these questions, the computer therapist would ignore them … there wasn’t room in the computer’s memory to store the replies. So the program would ask about your problem, you’d type away, and the computer would ignore you and say “Tell me more.” The program remembered your name and a couple of other items that seemed useful, but that was all. And since it wasn’t really paying attention, I avoided the “boner” problem … the computer didn’t say silly things based on a lack of understanding of how language worked.

We’ve come a long way since then. The beginning of my program went something like this: Computer: Hello, what is your name? Human: My name is Steven. Computer: Well, Steven, what is your problem? Watson takes things a bit further on Jeopardy.

Alex Trebek: “’Bang bang’ his ‘silver hammer came down upon her head.’”

Watson: “What is Maxwell’s silver hammer?”

Trebek: “Paganini’s ‘24 Capricci’ set the standard for etudes for this instrument.”

Watson: “What is violin?”

Trebek: “With much ‘gravity,’ this young fellow of Trinity became the Lucasian professor of mathematics in 1669.”

Watson: “Who is Isaac Newton?”

I don’t know … I’m impressed the computer knows to answer in the form of a question!


we interrupt our regularly scheduled programming to talk about soccer

It’s always nice to include relevant information in the title of a blog post. In this case, the relevant info lies in the word “soccer,” which scares away most readers, but leaves the rest of us able to chat about something we like.

For the last two World Cups, I’ve devoted an entirely separate blog to that tournament. It is arguably the greatest sporting event on the planet. But I spend a lot of time on that blog complaining about the quality of the matches. There is no real mystery. You have most of the best players in the world, participating in the best competition in the world … but the players are on teams thrown together for the moment. National teams don’t play that many games a year, and so they don’t have time to get their players used to each other or for those players to adapt to new styles of play. This wouldn’t matter in, say, baseball, where teamwork is a less-important aspect of the game on the field. But it matters a lot in soccer, as it does in football or basketball … all-star games in those sports are always sloppy, if at times entertaining, affairs, because there is no time to make a team as opposed to throwing a bunch of stars out there.

The most recent World Cup speaks to this. Spain won the tournament using 7 players from Barcelona, playing a style similar to that used by Barça. All but 3 of their players spent their club time in Spain, as well. The result was a squad that was as close as possible to a coherent club squad, and it showed in their matches.

What I’m leading up to is that the best soccer in the world is played at the club level, not the international level. The best clubs play in Europe, for the most part. This is due almost entirely to money … no one denies that Brazil and Argentina offer players as good as any in the world, but the richest clubs are all in Europe, so, to use the most obvious example, the best player in the world, Lionel Messi, is from Argentina but plays his club soccer at Barcelona.

The result of all of the above is that the best tournament for soccer played at the highest level isn’t the World Cup, but the annual club championship for teams from Europe. And that tournament, known at this point as the Champions League, begins its knockout phase today. Sixteen teams remain in the tournament.

I mention this for the casual fan. Not the person who quit reading as soon as they saw the word “soccer” in the title, but those who watch the World Cup every four years and occasionally wonder if there’s a good match they should be watching. Now is your chance. Among the remaining participants, you’ve got Tottenham, Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester United from England, Valencia, Barcelona, and Real Madrid from Spain, Schalke 04 and Bayern Munich from Germany, Milan, Roma and Inter Milan from Italy, and more.

The marquee matchup for this round is Barcelona vs. Arsenal. It will be on Fox Soccer Channel in the U.S.


what i watched last week

Close-Up. Sometimes, my “method” for choosing what to watch is very rewarding. Close-Up arrived via Netflix … I’d placed it in my queue, although I barely remembered why (it is #218 on the They Shoot Pictures, Don’t They list of the Top 1000 films of all time). When I stuck the disc into the player, I knew little to nothing about the film … documentary, made in Iran, 1990. If you read any further, you’ll know more than I did, so you might want to turn your head, because even in a short paragraph, I can’t go on without explaining what the film is “about.” It’s all based on a true story, natch … a man impersonates a noted filmmaker, is caught and tried for fraud, and another filmmaker, Abbas Kiarostami, becomes fascinated by the story and films a documentary (Close-Up) as the trial takes place. There is footage from the actual trial (I think, anyway), but there are also re-creations of the events in the case. And in those re-creations, the actual people involved play themselves. You can’t help but notice that the man on trial is accused of acting the part of someone else, which may not be as far from playing yourself as we might think. I won’t give away the ending, but it adds another layer. Meanwhile, of course, there’s the matter of Kiarostami, who imposes his vision on events, real and re-created. Watching the movie, things move along quite smoothly, but five minutes after it’s over, as your mind twists around all of the implications of what it has just seen, things are no longer so smooth. 9/10.

Another Year. The sign atop the theater read “A Mike Leigh Joint,” which I thought was pretty clever. I liked this movie quite a lot, about which more in a bit, but I have to hand it to Karina Longworth, who truly hated it, for closing her review by noting, “I haven’t seen a film this year that so openly invited me to revile each and every one of its characters—and I reviewed The Human Centipede.” I found the characters to be human (not centipede). They had their foibles, and there are many uncomfortable scenes in Another Year where people act in socially inappropriate ways. But in most of the cases, we aren’t meant to revile them, but to appreciate the place from which they are coming. Lesley Manville is terrific as a middle-aged secretary who knows her life is going to shit, and she is given a lot of scenes that are guaranteed Oscar Moments. It’s a sign of how well she pulls off those scenes that she didn’t get an Oscar nomination … I guess she was too subtle. Imelda Staunton steals the picture, even though she’s only in a couple of scenes near the beginning. She’s the most miserable creature in movie history … asked to name the moment in her life when she was happiest, she stares into space without answering. She is, in fact, reluctant to saying anything other than “give me something to help me sleep.” Yet when she is asked where on a scale of 1 to 10 would she rank her level of happiness, she blurts out “ONE!” before the question has left the speaker’s lips. Nominated for an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay. 8/10.


music friday: freddy fender, “before the next teardrop falls”

Pop music fans might have considered Freddy Fender a newcomer when “Before the Next Teardrop Falls” hit the top of the charts in 1975. The song itself came from the mid-60s, and had been recorded many times before Fender got ahold of it. Fender himself had a minor hit with a different song all the way back in 1959, but his career was derailed, and he’d been largely absent from the music scene since then. All of which helps explain why this singer, a man pushing 40, came “out of nowhere.”

That nowhere included some pretty rough places. After “Wasted Days and Wasted Nights” got some attention in ‘59, Fender (born Baldemar Huerta … he claimed he chose the name Fender after the guitar, and Freddy because it would look good to the gringos choosing songs on the jukebox) looked prepped for bigger things. But he was sent to jail on a marijuana bust, and not just any jail … he ended up at the Angola prison farm, the same place that housed Lead Belly back in the day. Fender spent three years at Angola before getting a release thanks to the work of then-Governor Jimmie Davis, who apparently (different accounts tell different stories) made a rule that Fender had to stay away from music during his probation. So, Fender bounced around, worked as a mechanic, went to junior college … until 1974, when noted record producer Huey Meaux asked Freddy to dub some vocals on an instrumental track he was working on.

Meaux is a true character of rock and roll, a Cajun with an ear for a good record. He’d done pretty well in the business, and among the musicians trying to get Meaux’s attention was a young Texan named Doug Sahm. In 1964 … well, I’ll let Joseph Levy tell the tale:

[Meaux] soon found himself without a market when Beatlemania hit America. The story goes that Meaux, not to be outdone by a bunch of British upstarts, headed for San Antonio where he shut himself away in a hotel room with a bountiful supply of Thunderbird wine and every Beatles' record he could find, determined to discover what made them sell. His conclusion: "The beat was on the beat, just like a Cajun two-step." He then called Sahm, told him to grow his hair long, form a group, and write a song with a Cajun two-step beat. Doug assembled a band … Meaux gave them an English sounding name, the Sir Douglas Quintet and, in 1965, scored an international hit with "She's About A Mover," an infectious blend of Texas pop and the Beatles' "She's A Woman."

The track Fender dubbed that day in 1974 was, of course, “Before the Next Teardrop Falls.” Fender apparently wasn’t all that happy with it … he considered himself more of an R&B singer, and this was a country song, albeit one with a Tex-Mex tilt. But Meaux released it, and it became a smash hit, finally busting Fender onto the national stage 15 years after he’d gone to prison. The vocal was gorgeous … Christgau compared Fender to Aaron Neville … and Fender added his own wrinkle to the original lyrics, singing the second verse in Spanish:

Si te quiere de verdad y te da felicidad
te deseo lo mas bueno pa’ los dos
Pero si te hace llorar a mi me puedes hablar
Y estare contigo cuando triste esta

I don’t suppose I have to tell you that tossing in a Spanish verse in the middle of a country song isn’t very common.

Fender may have gotten a late start, but he was no one-hit wonder. He re-recorded his 1959 classic, “Wasted Days and Wasted Nights,” which hit the top of the country charts and made the Top Ten on the pop charts. In a little more than a year, he had two albums and four singles reach #1 on the country charts.

Nothing lasts forever, but Fender always had his voice. In 1989, he joined Sahm and Augie Meyers from the Sir Douglas Quintet, and legendary accordionist Flaco Jiménez to form the Texas Tornados, who enjoyed some popularity in the 90s, until Sahm’s death in 1999. Fender himself died in 2006.

Here, with the Tornados, is his biggest hit:

Here’s “Wasted Days and Wasted Nights”:

And finally, here is the Sir Douglas Quintet with “She’s About a Mover.” They are introduced by Trini Lopez, who deserves a post of his own (numerous hits in the 60s, his own TV series, and to top it off, he was one of the Dirty Dozen). That’s Augie Meyers on organ, and I have to correct myself. For decades I’ve assumed the sound you can hear on this one comes from a Farfisa organ … I use “Farfisa” as shorthand for that sound, kinda like saying “Kleenex” for a tissue. Well, Augie played a Vox Continental, and apparently many “Farfisa” classics were played on a Vox.

What the heck, I’m on a roll. Here’s Trini Lopez:


justified season premiere

It’s back! One of last season’s best new shows begins its second season right where it left off … literally, since the first scene of this season plays off of the last scene from last season.

I noticed two things in particular about Justified and why I think it works. Well, there’s the obvious … Timothy Olyphant rules, Walton Goggins rules, the entire cast rules, the writing is terrific. But two other things got my attention.

The first was the way Justified presents the Kentucky community where Raylan Givens grew up. It’s not as easy as it looks, creating a believable community. What usually happens is, there’ll be the lead and co-lead, and then each week some person you’ve never seen before will show up, the stars will act like we’ve all known good old Joe since way back, Joe’s story will be told, and we’ll never see Joe again. There are no Joes in Justified. When we meet someone for the first time, time is taken to create a believable relationship between the new character and the ones we already know. In a small community like the one in Justified, everyone knows pretty much everyone else, and that adds a depth that works very well.

The other thing I thought about was the “standalone vs. arc” storyline controversy, if one exists. You get people who like standalone episodes, because they don’t require any prior knowledge, an especially good idea for a season opener where you might have some new viewers. Many of us, though, like the continuing arcs. I thought this episode did well for both kinds of viewers. Yes, it was a standalone … it will probably take a few episodes to get to this season’s arc … but as Raylan worked the case, he met up with various people from his community, some of whom I imagine will be part of the arc when it arrives. So even as the Case of the Day was being addressed, you got a feel for something wider, something that will still be there in Episode Two and Episode Six and Episode Ten.

I’ve given up hoping that I can convince folks to watch shows like this in “real time.” No one wants to watch a series on FX or any other network now. So here’s my advice: watch Season One. I’m sure it’s on Netflix or DVD or something. You’re used to being a season behind, so that won’t matter. And Justified is a really good series. You should watch it.