Friday, January 26, 2007

Go for Three

Slant Magazine - TV Review: Extras

The review above is a very convincing argument that Extras should carry on for a third season--and that you should be watching the second.

I am, and it's cracking me up. From David Bowie making up a song about main character Andy to Daniel Radcliffe--AKA Harry Potter--playing a very horny version of himself, season two is everything good about season one and much more. Andy's bout of fame and struggles to deal with it are poignant and gut-busting at the same time, a winning combination.

The first three episodes of season two--and many of season one's six episodes--are available on HBO On Demand. Check it out if you have a spare half-hour. It's dry humor, but I defy you not to belly laugh at least once.


Berkshire Record Outlet - Bargain Classical Music

Y'all know how much I love a bargain, right? I revel in buying $60.00 shirts for $9.50 after Christmas, stocking up on sale items at the grocery store while ignoring the full-price ones, and waiting a few months to buy major-label CDs that are likely to come to for $6.99. My discovery of the site above, therefore, was a revelation.

Berkshire deals in classical and jazz closeouts and overruns. While this makes for a quixotic selection, the prices are remarkable! Last night my order arrived; 22 albums for $111 including shipping. (They cleverly charge a flat $6.00 plus 10 cents extra per disc, encouraging big orders like mine.)

For that price, I'd have been happy with eight, maybe nine albums. Instead, I was able to get:
  • A complete cycle of the symphonies of Carl Nielsen
  • A complete cycle of the symphonies of Bohuslav Martinu
  • A complete cycle of the symphonies of Johannes Brahms
  • Bartok's Miraculous Mandarin and Concerto for Orchestra
  • Five discs of Haydn string quartets, including an SACD
  • Three discs of Haydn symphonies, including an SACD
  • A disc of Haydn piano concertos
  • Two discs of Mozart piano concertos, one of which includes Bach piano sonatas
  • A fabulous recording of the first two symphonies by Beethoven
  • Hartmann's first and sixth symphonies
  • A recording of Mahler 10 in one of the less-known performing versions
  • Two Bruckner symphonies
Not bad, right? Some of the cases had a tiny hole drilled into a corner or a slice out of the spine to indicate that they were cutouts, but otherwise they were as good as the brand-new CDs that they are. And my home and office are filled with music! If you're in the market, check Berkshire Record Outlet out.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Quacking Duck

Others will parse the entirety of last night's State of the Union; I have but a few observations. First, for all its futility--does Bush really think he can drive the debate on any issue other than Iraq at this point?--it was not a bad speech. More humble than any he has given, it dealt rather deftly with the wide swaths of terrain on which the president and Congress cannot possibly agree while offering platitudes that forced Speaker Pelosi to lead her troops in standing to applaud. None of it means anything past today, but it made for good television.

I noticed some words the president did not say last night. Nowhere to be found were the words "sanctity" or "marriage," a welcome change after years of beating the drum for an amendment. No, now the debate that must be conducted with civility is the one about immigration. Illegal aliens, congratulations--you are the new gays! I always thought Muslims would be the ones to pick up our cross, but apparently I was wrong.

I also noticed that even as he called for bipartisan cooperation, Bush could not bring himself to call the new Democratic majority by its right name. "I congratulate the Democrat majority," he squawked, joining Fox News and other Republican language-gamers in trying to make us sound stupid. Doing so abases the language and the man speaking it, Mr. Bush--but it does not change the fact that your party is on the run.

What did you think of the speech? Did you even watch? And didn't the House chamber look stunning in high definition?

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Let's Get Together

Surge or merge - By Bruce Reed - Slate Magazine

I was amused by the news the other day that Britain and France contemplated a merger in the '50s, back when such notions were all the rage? (Anyone else remember maps that had Egypt and Syria as one country, the U.A.R.?) But Bruce Reed sees the news as a jumping-off point for a modest proposal of his own. "Given his abysmal standing in the polls and in the world," Reed avers, "perhaps we should worry that President Bush will be forced on bended knee to make a similar offer. Forget the surge – what if Bush wants to merge?"

Somehow I don't think this is what Bush meant by "I'm a uniter, not a divider." But after spuriously suggesting that Bush secretly wants to join hands with France, Reed makes a more serious suggestion:
But if Bush is desperate to merge, let me suggest a different target: Canada. The benefits to us are obvious: massive natural resources, low health care costs, a safe haven from global warming. Merging with Canada would be like merging with Britain and France at the same time – and Quebec offers the taste of France without all the fat. Bush could finance the whole deal with the border control savings from the first year alone.

For a president at 30% approval, a U.S.-Canada merger (under the new name "AmeriCan") can only help. Conservatives will be thrilled to learn that Tom Tancredo was wrong – Bush's merger isn't with Mexico. Liberals will admire Canada's stance on same-sex marriage. Best of all, every American will welcome the hope that comes with any merger: the 50-50 chance that your chief executive will be the one to go.
Not that Stephen Harper would be any better, but that does sweeten the deal, doesn't it?

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Rollercoaster Richard Nelson's Profile

Something very strange is happening today at Amazon. After a full two years in which my reviewer ranking has never been lower than 4,000 or higher than 2,990, today Amazon shows me at 851. Long-time readers will recall that, if this were a reflection of reality rather than a glitch, it would represent my achievement of a long-standing goal to reach the top 1,000. But I'm fairly confident order will soon be restored, and I'll be back to somewhere around 3,300.

In any case, if you haven't looked lately you may find some of my most recent reviews interesting. Those who notice every change on the blog may already know about them, as I also added a sidebar widget, titled "Recent Amazon Reviews," to spotlight my five most-recent reviews. Enjoy!

Lucky for Us

HBO: Louis C.K.: Shameless

One TV writer previewing this comedy special noted that despite the failure that was Lucky Louie, HBO continues to show faith in Louis C.K. The implication was that this faith is misplaced. The writer is wrong; thank goodness HBO knows it.

To be fair, the comedy in this special is probably not for everyone. Louis C.K. looks to his marriage and two small children for comedy, describing his four-year-old daughter as an asshole, a handjob from his wife as the saddest thing ever to happen in America, and taking an undisturbed shit as his greatest desire. But this raunch, while hilarious in its own right, carries with it an undercurrent of sweetness. Louis wishes, he says, that he could wake up one morning and not love his wife and two daughters--that would be easier. The implication, of course, is that for all the carping, he does love them.

Also hilarious is his extended discussion of how not gay he is--in the context of support for gay marriage. This discussion is then undermined twice to comedic effect, first when he admits that there's one man he's daydreamed about, and later when he talks about sitting on his friend to provide added pressure for a masturbation technique. They were, he notes, 11 years old at the time.

There's plenty of filth, then, but also heart. Well worth an hour of your time, and on tonight at 9 CST or any time on HBO On Demand.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Laser Genius Removal

The psychology of seduction | the Daily Mail

This article, which big bear Andrew Sullivan linked earlier today, cites a study that says that there is a correlation between body hair and intelligence in men. Here's the relevant section of the article:
If you want an intelligent partner - seek out a man with body hair. A recent study conducted by psychiatrist Dr Aikarakudy Alias, who has been working on the relationship between body hair and intelligence for 22 years, showed that hairy chests are more likely to be found among the most intelligent and highly educated than in the general population. Excessive body hair could also mean higher intelligence.

Dr Alias's research, which focused on medical students in the United States, showed that 45 per cent of male doctors in training were "very hairy", compared with less than 10 per cent of men overall. In a region of southern India, research among medical and engineering students and manual labourers found that both groups of students had more body hair on average than the manual workers.

Further investigations showed that when academic ranking among students was examined, the hairier men got better grades. Taking this study one step further, Dr Alias studied 117 Mensa members (who have an IQ of at least 140) and found that this group tended to have thick body hair. Some of the most intelligent men were those with hair on their backs as well as on their chests.

In other words, that's not back hair poking out the neck of my t-shirt--it's proof of genius. Which doesn't mean I wouldn't wax it all off if it didn't hurt so much!

Monday, January 08, 2007

Back on the Block

Alma Matters | Desperate Housewives | TV Watch | TV | Entertainment Weekly

This post heralds two returns. First, I'm composing it in a window created by clicking a "BlogThis!" button on my browser; this is something I hadn't been able to do since Blogger switched to its new version, and it was driving me crazy (and making me blog less frequently).

Second, Desperate Housewives returned from a month off last night, and it was back with a vengeance. Every couple was in some kind of mess: Tom and Lynette were dealing with his daughter, Kayla, who Lynette swore to raise when her mother (and would-be Tom-stealer) died. Susan and Ian were imperiled by Susan's continued feelings for Mike--who may end up in a prison relationship with the suddenly back-on-the-scene Paul Young. Bree and Orson haven't figured it out yet, but they're not really married, because Alma Hodge, his first wife, is back in town--and therefore not killed by his hand, though Monique may be another story--and only time will tell her true intentions. Gaby and Carlos clearly still dig each other, and Carlos's recitation of which flowers he would send her on which occasion was tear-inducing proof that whatever their problems, they're getting back together eventually. And Julie gave in and had sex with Austin after devilish Andrew told her that he would get it elsewhere if not from her, something we're taught is not true but turned out to be in this case, as Austin has also been carrying on with Andrew's sister, Danielle.

As this windy and breathless recap should make clear, there's a lot going on. But it's all engaging. The show is back to firing on all cylinders. Best moment: As Andrew explains men to Julie, he says the only ones who don't want to have sex with their girlfriends are gay guys. "And Austin isn't gay--not even after three beers," he says, before realizing himself and finishing, "Don't ask" as Julie and Danielle stare. Marc Cherry, please get this kid more lines!

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Summer--not Endless?

Aggggghhhhhhh! Fox cancels 'The O.C.'!

Too bad my New Year's resolution wasn't something like "Stop watching shows that have gone downhill." That would have made this announcement a godsend.

Actually, season four of the show has been much better than two or three, successfully using the bizarre cast of characters those seasons left standing to create something that resembles the delightful dramedy of the first season. But even during this renaissance, it's been clear that the premise was unsustainable. Four rich, smart kids who are finished with high school are basically spending this year hanging out and having TV-style misadventures. They've got to go to college, and we all know that no show about high-school kids can successfully follow them to college.

The show ends Feb. 22, which should give them just enough time to air all 16 planned episodes if they make the finale a two-parter and air it all on one night. Get it while you can!