Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Eve of Destruction?

About two weeks ago Neil Young released his new album, largely a protest piece against President Bush. I actually picked up more buzz on the topic before the release than I have since, and that fact may support my feelings on the subject.

I've been a Neil Young fan for a while now, even seen the guy in concert, but when I got the news about his protest album I yawned. The guy has every right to say--or sing--what he wants on the subject, but I'm not so sure it's going to have much of an impact. It's hard to argue that protest rock has done anything significant since...well, Neil Young's "Ohio", to tell the truth.

Here's my reasoning: When Neil and Stephen Stills and Barry McGuire and Bob Dylan started doing their stuff back in the 60's, it was a novel thing. More importantly, it was perceived as coming from the heretofore unheard voice of youth. And poverty. When Neil Young puts out an album today, or when Bruce Springsteen puts together an anti-Bush concert, it's not rallying a bunch of poor kids; it's a bunch of old millionaires drumming up publicity. It doesn't have the same effect.

Another problem: for the most part, Neil's album is just going to blend in with the white noise wall of anti-Bush sentiment that has been almost overwhelming for almost six years now. Even if it is well-written and well-produced--which it probably is--is it really going to change anyone's mind? The converted will scream, "right on!" and the loyalists will mutter, "there goes another one." The rest of us will probably just go, "cool guitar" and skip our iPod's to the next track.

Again, Neil has every right to follow his heart and say what he feels needs to be said. Whether I agree with him or not has nothing to do with the argument. My point is merely that the 60's was the 60's, and I'm not so sure their icons can make the same impact today.

Now maybe if Neil put Lindsey Lohan on lead vocals...

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Cut him deep; cut him fast...

The results are in, and the final tally for the Season Five Jack Bauer "24" Body Count is...


After a couple of weeks of fairly bloodless sedentary behavior, Jack made a comeback last night by taking out six more bad guys (including RoboCop) and pushing his hourly kill rate to over 1.5. All that whacking must have pooped him out, though; he didn't seem to put up much of a fight when the Chinese operatives kidnapped him at the end of hour 24.

This presents us with an interesting next season going to be a gradual transition away from the Jack Bauer character? Sure, they could tell most of the story from Jack's POV after he busts out of captivity. But wouldn't it be cool if they framed it like a rescue mission led by Curtis? Kind of a real-time answer to "Return of the Jedi's" quest to save Han Solo?

In retrospect, I think one of the best things the writer's ever did was kill off Jack's wife in Season One. Not just so Jack wasn't so vulnerable in future crises, but mainly because now "24" is about the only show that doesn't guarantee it's primary characters will survive. In this season alone they killed David Palmer, Tony, Michelle, and even upstart Edgar (and he didn't even get nailed for a DUI). So far Jack's pretty much been the only guy you could rely on to get out of the day alive. But I wouldn't take that for granted.

Other final notes on the series finale:

*"RoboCop" was probably the best bad guy yet for the series. He was the one guy that Jack couldn't crack.

*Jack DID crack President Logan, he just had to use his wife to do it. (Besides, when Jack confronted Logan on the airplane, Mr. Squirrelly tossed his confession out pretty liberally.)

*If Kim Bauer's dude doesn't make an appearance next season, it better be because he's filming "Soul Man II".

Monday, May 22, 2006

Barry's Bonds

Been reading about the home run chase for a while now. Lots of hubbub about when Barry's gonna pass the Babe, and whether or not he's going to catch the Hank.

Well, as of this past weekend, the current poster-boy for "All that's wrong with Professional Sports" caught up with the Great Bambino, and is one home run away from knocking the Legend himself into third place all-time. He may have already done it, for all I know. Thing is, I'm not a huge baseball fan.

I never played little league baseball. Jr. Jazz basketball and six years at halfback in the South Davis Soccer Association were more than sufficient for me. And if I played with my friends, football was the game of choice outdoors. I used to play catch with my buddy Greg from time to time, but for the most part, my sentiments on the Major Leagues were crystallized by Rick Reilly back in the late 80's when his "Glory to the Gridiron" column showed up in the back of my Sports Illustrated.

Still, the "Barry Issue" covers a lot more ground than just America's Pastime, and that's why I think I'm somewhat interested in it. Interested to make the following observations, anyway:

I read one article on that debated whether Barry's name will eclipse The Babe in generic sports references, as in: "You can pitch to that guy; it's not like he's Babe Ruth". Now, while you could say that about Barry, the truth is that no matter what records he breaks, Barry Bonds is never going to be Babe Ruth. And I don't say that because he's a jerk, or because he took steroids, and it certainly doesn't have anything to do with his race. The point is that Babe Ruth is a sports "Legend", and as much as the media tries otherwise, we aren't going to see any more sports "Legends". In fact, the more the media tries to overpromote these guys, the less legendary they become. Babe Ruth was maybe the best baseball player that ever lived (and he was a jerk, too, as I hear); "Babe Ruth" was a myth. Barry Bonds may compile the greatest stat line the Major Leagues has ever seen, but Barry Bonds will never become "Barry Bonds". Barry Bonds is far too human for that.

I don't pardon Bonds for (allegedly--do we have to keep saying that?) using steroids, but in some ways I think singling him out is kind of like singling out Wal-Mart. You telling me everyone else is clean? Even if they aren't using steroids, they're using dietary supplements, intense weight training, taking advantage of all sorts of modern technologies, and probably getting laser hair removal, too. If I have to boycott Wal Mart, then how do I justify NOT boycotting Target, K-Mart, Shopko, and every other "big box" retailer out there?

I think what I'm really trying to say is this: We're just going to have to be happy with the game itself, because the business lost it's innocence a long time ago.

Thursday, May 18, 2006


Next week is looking like a good one for TV. Not only have the NBA playoffs been good, but both season finale's of "24" and "Lost" are coming in the form of two-hour specials. My goal of going to the gym three times a week is having a tough time these days...

With "24", we pretty much know that the tragedy du jour will come to some sort of a conclusion by the end of the season. That's the way the whole show has been built all along. As infamous as the show has been for giving episode-ending cliffhangers, they haven't pulled any similar stunts at the end of each season, with the (sort of) exception of the assassin trying to take out President David Palmer at the end of season one.

But "Lost" is another matter. Last night's episode seemed to be little more than a warm-up for next week's finale, setting up a clash with the "others". The preview was saying all kinds of stuff like "your questions answered" and "possible rescue", the latter obviously referring to the boat that washed up on shore at the end of last night's installment. You almost got the sense they were going to try to wrap up the whole show, or at least make you think it could happen.

As much as I love "Lost", I'm not so sure it wouldn't be a really cool idea. I was bummed when Michael Jordan retired the first time, until I realized how cool it was for him to pull the plug when he was the undisputed Master of the Universe. Of course he screwed that all up. Barry Sanders and Jim Brown didn't, and now they've cemented legendary status the same way that James Dean and Marilyn Monroe did by checking out at or near their primes. Heck, Dean only made three movies. Three flicks and three million posters...

If "Lost" really did finish things off, it would fend off the bug that utterly wasted "The X-Files". It would rival "Fawlty Towers"--another short-lived series--for all-time "best show" status, even among the stingy critics. It might--actually definitely--be disappointing for fans, but in the end would be the ultimate way to go out in style.

Do I think it's going to happen?


But that's fine. I think they should pull the plug after season three.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

The Darling Dolls

Last weekend my family celebrated Mother's Day by watching "New York Doll" together over dinner. I had been getting consistent endorsements for the documentary for several months, and was happy to find that the hype was well-deserved.

"New York Doll" is the documentary chronicle of an ex-punk rock pioneer named Arthur "Killer" Kane as he goes from cross-dressing punk bassist to down-and-out alcoholic to temple-worthy volunteer at the local LDS family history center. It's every bit as fascinating and bizarre as the previous sentence indicates. In fact, the most compelling element of the film for me was the stark contrast between his eventual humble persona and environment to the third circle of rock and roll hell he emerged from.

This contrast also illustrates one of the film's greatest strengths, which is to portray both sides of Kane's life with equal respect. It's not, "rock and roll is evil, and now Kane is redeemed", nor is it, "hail, hail, rock and roll; look at what a dork Kane turned into." There is an obvious awkwardness between Kane's two worlds, but Kane's ward members fully support his efforts to reunite and play with his surviving bandmates, and in spite of a few playful jabs at Kane's new clean lifestyle, you get the sense that the rock and roll crowd respects the path he's chosen.

I'm sure a few of them wish they could have taken the same path. If there's one stark impression I left the film with, it was that everyone connected to "the business" winds up looking like a beat-up old shag carpet. Everyone except Morrissey, that is. He seemed to be holding up OK.

I first learned about the Dolls in a History of Rock and Roll class at the University of Utah six years ago, but I had no idea about Kane's conversion. Even so, I think I was even more shocked to learn that the Dolls frontman was the same guy that did that "Hot, Hot, Hot" song under the name Buster Poindexter. Now THAT was weird.

Since the documentary ends with Kane's unexpected death--from lukemia--the whole story ends on a somber, but almost cosmic note. It's hard to argue that the man had been preserved at the end for the exclusive purpose of getting together with his old friends and patching up old wounds. With that background, the footage run through the credits becomes all the more hypnotic--frontman David Johannsen and a friend playing an acoustic Bob Dylan-styled version of "A Poor Wayfaring Man of Grief".

A perfect ending for a documentary that lives up to the hype.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Playoff Action

The NBA playoffs have been pretty fun to follow so far, despite being the third session in a row without the Jazz. Hopefully next year will end the streak, and I think it will, not just because I'm a faithful fan, but because now I'm a faithful fan who's part owner of a pair of season tickets...

Some observations on the 06 playoffs:

The dust has all but settled on the first round, but I still hear Kobe's name pop up from time to time. I have to admit I'm still pretty mystified by his Game 7 disappearing act. Commentators have speculated on a variety of causes, most of which center on his three-shot half being some sort of a selfish statement to the world about how the Lakers are his team, or why he's really the MVP, or something along those lines.

I'm no Kobe fan, but I have a tough time thinking he's really that selfish. For one, his teammates really weren't hitting anything that night; he didn't get an ounce of help. But what really doesn't jive is that the Kobe I saw in Game 7 was light-years from the Kobe I've seen in the past. I may not like the guy much, but even I'll admit that he's probably the most dangerous player in the league. That idea is reaffirmed to me everytime he chucks up a line-drive 3-pointer right over a defender that rips the net so hard it nearly shreds. No one shows the chip on his shoulder like no. 8, er, no. 24.

But that guy didn't show up in Phoenix. And I still don't know why.

I think the only reason I was even interested enough in that series was because it was setting up the possibility of a Clippers-Lakers second round series. Seeing the Clippers take out the Lakers would almost be as nice as watching the Jazz do it. Maybe even better in some ways. It's one thing to have to listen to Laker bandwagoners in Salt Lake, it must be another to be a Clipper fan in the midst of the Laker bandwagoners in LA.

Of course, now the Clippers are building a bandwagon of their own. I may even begrudgingly admit my own membership. It's hard to cheer against a team that has guys like Chris "Hulk Rambis" Kaman and Sam "ET" Cassell. If that makes me a bandwagon jumper, so be it.

Truth is, there are actually a number of likeable players/teams in the playoffs right now. For all of his hype, LeBron James actually seems like a pretty good guy. Same with Dwyane Wade, who gets bonus points for coming from South Chicago. San Antonio has played the role of model citizen squad for years now, and I've even warmed up to Mark Cuban (I think my softening began after he worked at that Dairy Queen). Steve Nash reminds me of a grungy Stockton, and on top of it all you've got the feel-good Clippers. The only bad guy left might be Vince Carter, but it looks like the bad karma from Toronto might finally be kicking in as Jersey seems ready to go in the can in spite of his scoring frenzy.

Not bad. And a heck of a lot more interesting than Barry Bonds.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Two For the Road

Just finished watching this week's new "Lost" episode. I still think the producers whacked Ana Lucia and Libby for their DUI's, regardless of the official press statement. It's just a little too coincidental, even for the "Lost" universe. Seriously, why would they name the episode they were shot in after an obvious drinking expression?

All behind-the-scenes controversy aside, though, this season just keeps getting better. I'm wondering how they're going to leave enough unanswered to provide enough material for Season Three. Each episode is unfolding more and more of the mystery, and I'm praying they don't pull an "X-Files" and drag the main story arc out so long that the thing collapses under it's own uninteresting weight. "X-Files" should have wrapped up after six seasons, and "Lost" should probably pull the plug after three. In fact, I think a cliffhanger for season three and a lead-in to a feature film/final episode would be the best way to go. If "MI:3" is any indicator, Mr. Abrams is more than up to the task.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Korean scientists develop android woman

Just linked off of Drudge Report to an article about how some uber-geeks in Korea managed to put together an android woman that can recognize 400 words, make four expressions, and even maintain eye contact:

My only question is this: can she return phone calls?