Thursday, December 11, 2008

The itinerant journalist's prayer

Say, big guy, how's about a little something for the scribes and Pharisees?

Friday, August 24, 2007

Phyllis finds greatness on MTV

So, I started watching this show on MTV called The Hills. It's a reality soap opera, and I had read about the really terrible people who star in it and their fights/plastic surgeries. It's my new favorite show. It's about this girl who looks like a horse with a bad boob job and very blond hair (see THIS!). She is engaged to this even worse person who would be gay, but is actually so lizardly creepy that he is actually just asexual. I loved it that when confronted by the bare walls in their new apartment, Spencer (I know!) decides to have them graffiti-ed with the word "Hollywood" and other novel tags. Horseface didn't like that.

I also loved when Horsey was telling her co-worker that she was going to make dinner for Spencer, and the co-worker said, "Do you have the stuff?"
Horsey: "Like dinner? No, I have never made it."
Co-worker: "No, like the equipment. The, umm, like, what are they called? The pots and pans?"

Fucking brilliant.

The real crux of the show, though, is the demise of the dear but unsubstantiated friendship between Horsefly and Lauren, a somewhat cute sourpuss who is super judgmental (come on, like you're not) about her friends' boyfriends. It doesn't really help that all the male people on the show are astoundingly stupid. Lauren works as an intern at Teen Vogue tm and rarely smiles. Apparently, the whole falling out with Whinny came after Whinny deserted Lauren for Spence and then supposedly started a rumor that even I heard that there was a sex tape with Lauren and some guy who I have also read about because he was caught driving drunk and beating women (see THIS). He also allegedly used the term "beef curtains" to refer to Lauren's vagina. That's unacceptable.

Really, the only sympathetic person on The Hills is this very pretty girl named Whitney who also works at Teen Vogue tm. She isn't mean, she seems to actually work at her job, and care about something other than mtv drama. But, who knows, really. She is on The Hills, after all. Pretty only gets you so far.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Phyllis plans her summer TV viewing itinerary

Last summer, when there was barely anything on TV, Hank and I devoted ourselves to watching back episodes of House found on USA and FOX, having only caught it by chance during the regular season. It was not a waste of time. And while Hank can quite happily fill his (many, many) summer TV hours with baseball every single day, I am finding the listings paltry and thin. And so it is time to watch all the shows I have never really seen but always wanted to, or shows I have watched, but want to see in their entirety all over again.

Phyllis's Summer Plan for TV Reconnaissance:

Homicide: I have seen a few early episodes, but I have never seen Pembleton have a stroke.

The Wire: Never seen it, but TV writers I like (Televsion Without Pity, Tim Goodman, Stephanie Zacharek) says it's the best show on TV, and they are often right about so many things...

Buffy the Vampire Slayer: I have seen nearly all 144 episodes but I came to it late and have watched much of it syndicated on FX, badly foreshortened and stripped of drama. I love Buffy. It is adventurous and unconventional, pithy sometimes, even cute, but also very daring. It's supposed to be improbable that a show about a slight blond girl with a very weird nose job could also be complicated and powerful, incredibly sad at times, but also hilarious and even perverse. But really, if it can be believable, even wrenching, that Buffy suddenly has a little sister who is actually a force of mystical energy that has been made into a human being and is really called "The Key," then someone is doing something right. And that's not even the best of what is good about Buffy.

Entourage (while Hank sleeps): I read a lot of celebrity gossip, so this sounds like the same thing, without the reading part.

The Office (US), seasons one and two: I already started this one, and I learned that Steve Carell used to have a lot less hair than he does now. Huh.

Twin Peaks: I missed the first episode or two when they aired, and then everyone said you wouldn't understand it and I don't want to explain everything to you. So I stayed away. But Fire Walk With Me was probably the most terrifying movie of 1992.

Prime Suspect, seasons two, three, four, five, and six: I have seen one and seven, and somehow it seems like I am missing something.

That's well over 500 hours, and doesn't even count Lost, Heroes, or Friday Night Lights. I'll let you know how it goes.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Hank discovers where all the great orators have gone: into diet-pill advertising

Phyllis of late has been going through one of those blue periods we all experience, when nothing on television sounds good. Night after night she consults the listings and sighs and goes off to knit instead, leaving me to amuse myself with movie-buff chatboards and online shopping sites. I was strolling through the pharmacy department at looking for deals on shampoo and vitamins when I came across this multimedia ad for Alli, a brand-new over-the-counter weight loss pill that is a variant on Xenical. It works by blocking the absorption of fat so that you pass it straight through your bowels instead.

Go here and click on the alli ad. Then watch the part about side effects. You will notice they include "gas with oily spotting."

I ask you: Is that not the most elegant and tactful way of saying "you'll shit your pants" ever conceived by humankind? Rhetoric this masterful would surely humble Cicero. It might even have saved Olestra, the artificial fat product briefly added to Doritos and other snack chips in the 1990s, which caused the same problem and spawned the much less felicitous-sounding phrase "anal leakage."

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Perusing the listings for summer replacement reality TV, Hank gets a great idea for a new show

While I was watching the Twins/White Sox game yesterday on Fox, I saw an advertisement for one of the network's summer reality shows: Don't Forget the Lyrics, hosted by Wayne Brady. No, that's wrong, I thought to myself. That is not the name of the show. I went on the Internet to clear up this confusion and discovered that Fox and I were both right. NBC is producing an identically premised show called The Singing Bee, hosted by Joey Fatone. Both shows play snippets of songs and ask contestants to sing the next line.

I favor a full-employment economy for D-list celebrities along with other working stiffs, but it appears to me the producers are scraping the bottom of the barrel for ideas. Thinking of barrels made me think of monkeys and caused me to reflect that no one has produced a reality TV show based on the well-known tendency of monkeys to shit in their hands and fling it at persons or things that annoy them. Imagine the fun! And there are many ways to spin the premise. You could have teams of humans dodging monkey-poo on NBC. CBS could feature a game in which one person at a time tries to anger half a dozen monkeys, and the one covered in the most poo at the end receives a cash prize.
Fox could recruit teams of humans to shit in their hands and throw it at each other, and bill it as the ultimate back-to-nature reality show.

In the meantime, I have got a real stumper to suggest for the "Final Jeopardy" round of one of these singing shows: a live version of the Doors' "The End" that asks contestants to sing the line after "Father, I want to kill you."

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Hank receives a copy of OJ Simpson's If I Did It and tells all the spoilers to Phyllis, who was not going to read it anyway

The most interesting thing about this book to me is the number of times he assures the reader he is telling the truth. This is not a long book--only 226 pages, and 34 pages are transcripts of 911 calls and OJ's first police interrogation--but I circled 10 "to tell the truth"s, 12 "frankly"s, and 32 "to be honest"s, which is about one every three pages on average. For a man who has already been acquitted, he is awfully concerned with what other people think. As he writes on page 198, "The only thing that mattered was that they believe me: I was 100 percent not guilty. They had to believe me."

You will notice that is not exactly a denial, because by that point he has already spent 30 pages telling how he did it. The striking thing, honey, is he barely even bothers to fudge it. (He spends all of 19 words on disclaimers. The Author's Note says, "If I did it, this is how it happened," and on page 142 the story about that night is preceded by "Now picture this--and keep in mind, this is hypothetical.")

I'll read you some of it, but first I know you want your spoilers. The main one is that he claims he was not alone. He writes that a man he calls "Charlie" came by his house that night and told him that Nicole and her friend Faye Resnick (she is the one who invested in the Colombian necktie company) were taking a lot of drugs and having "kinky" sex during trips to Mexico. So then--well, I will read you that part:

[Charlie says] "I know you two have been through a lot of shit, and I know it can't be easy, and I thought maybe if you talked to her--"

"Talked to her? What the fuck is wrong with you? I've been trying to talk to her for years. She won't listen to me. She won't listen to her family. She won't listen to her friends!"

"OJ, man--I'm not the enemy here."

I turned around, fuming, and tried to count to ten. I didn't make it. By the time I got to three I realized that Charlie was right. He wasn't the enemy.
Nicole was the enemy. I looked at my watch. I had less than an hour before the limo showed up to take me to the airport, just enough time to drive down to Bundy, read her the fucking riot act, and get my ass back to the house.

"Come on," I said, and moved toward my Bronco.

"Where we going?"

"Just come."

Charlie got in. I started the Bronco and the gate whirred to life and I pulled into the street, the tires squealing against the curb.

"Where we going, OJ?"

"We're going to scare the shit out of that girl," I said.


"It never fucking
ends. Every time I turn around, it's something new--and none of it's pretty."

"This isn't a good idea, OJ."

"Fuck that. I'm tired of being the understanding ex-husband. I have my kids to think about."

"I'm asking you, man, please turn around."

"Woman's going to be the death of me!" I said.

Now I will skip ahead to the money shot:

Charlie walked over and planted himself in front of me blocking my view. "We are fucking done here, man--let's go!"

I noticed the knife in Charlie's hand, and in one deft move I removed my right glove and snatched it up. "We're not going anywhere," i said, turning to face Goldman. Goldman was still circling me, bobbing and weaving, but I didn't feel like laughing anymore.

"You think you're tough, motherfucker?" I said.

I could hear Charlie just behind me, saying something, urging me to get the fuck out of there, and at one point he even reached for me and tried to drag me away, but I shook him off, hard, and moved toward Goldman. "Okay, motherfucker!" I said. "Show me how tough you are!"

Then something went horribly wrong, and I know what happened, but I can't tell you exactly how. I was still standing in Nicole's courtyard, of course, but for a few moments I couldn't remember how I'd gotten there, when I'd arrived, or even why I was there....

And now? Now I was standing in Nicole's courtyard, in the dark, listening to the loud, rhythmic, accelerated beating of my own heart. I put my left hand to my heart and my shirt felt strangely wet. I looked down at myself. For several moments, I couldn't get my mind around what I was seeing. The whole front of me was covered in blood, but it didn't compute.
Is this really blood? I wondered. And whose blood is it? Is it mine? Am I hurt?...

Nicole. Jesus.

I looked down and saw her on the ground in front of me, curled up in a fetal position at the base of the stairs, not moving. Goldman was only a few feet away, slumped against the bars of the fence. He wasn't moving either. Both he and Nicole were lying in giant pools of blood. I had never seen so much blood in my life. It didn't seem real, and none of it computed.
What the fuck happened here? Who had done this? And why? And where the fuck was I when this shit went down?...

I again looked down at myself, at my blood-soaked clothes, and noticed the knife in my hand. The knife was covered in blood, as were my hand and wrist and half of my right forearm. That didn't compute either.

And you know what, sugar? In the 30 pages where he is narrating the crime, he never once says "to be honest" or "frankly." I think that is because he is telling the truth.

The rest of the book is essentially about how she made him do it.

Page 99: "I went outside, pissed, and confronted Nicole. 'How can you do what you just did? How could hit that poor lady? I don't care if you don't like her attitude--you can't go around hitting people!'"

Page 109: "To make matters worse, several of her close friends started coming by to express concern about the shape she was in, as if I could do something about it. Nicole was still hanging out with that same bad crowd, they said, drinking too much and clearly doing drugs. Every other day, I heard variations on the same theme: 'OJ, you gotta do something about it. She needs help.'"

Page 116: "Now don't get me wrong: I'm not trying to suggest that I was the perfect ex-husband. All I'm saying is that I was very worried about her, and that I wanted to help her find her way back. No matter what had gone wrong in our lives--and plenty of shit had gone wrong--she was still the mother of my kids. I was stuck with her, but for their sake I wanted to be stuck with her."

Page 124: "It seemed like no matter how much I tried to do for her, no matter how patient and reasonable I was, my good intentions always came back to bite me in the ass."
Why do you suppose he wrote the book? He had to know the proceeds would be enjoined, and they have been. I think it is a psychopath's forget-me-not.

By the way, sweetie, did any of your tabloids ever say whether the police gave OJ his effects back after the trial? I was wondering if his lucky stabbing hat will ever show up on eBay.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Phyllis is reminded that Jennifer Garner is not really just like her

I think I was supposed to be relaxing as I lay on the table. It was my first acupuncture appointment. I was not relaxed. But I was thinking about what would be relaxing--being in Hawaii. Since recently, all I want to do is go to Hawaii. I feel it in my bones, like arthritis. Seeing online pictures all week of Jennifer Garner and her family on vacation with Matt Damon's family on the big island in Hawaii has been excruciating. I find Miss Garner to be appealing in an unexotic way, which is odd since her shot to fame came with kicking ass in impossible dresses with a martini glass disguised as a gun/recording device/lock pick. But I remember her as the mousy ex-girlfriend on Felicity and as the earnest actress wannabe roommate on Jennifer Love Hewitt's failed Party of Five spinoff The Time of Your Life. So approachable!

For all the time I spend reading about celebrity gossip and fashion at People, Perez Hilton, Page Six, Bricks and Stones, A Socialite's Life, Us, In Touch, Sky Showbiz, Pop Sugar, IMDB, NY Daily News, Gawker, TMZ, and best written of all, Go Fug Yourself (good thing I am semi-retired), I do have my favorite stars. I enjoy reading about the spooky new life of Katie Holmes and her bottled baby. I look for Maggie Gyllenhaal and Michelle Williams. I have come to love the understated normalcy of Jennifer Garner with Violet, her daughter. They are always photographed, but they are never doing anything except playing in the park, going to the market, meeting the horses, and now, swimming in the ocean in Hawaii. They are never dressed particularly well, nor do they seem to care that they are being followed by paparazzi. They just look happy, sort of boring, and somehow unaffected.

All this is to say that while I was not relaxing on the acupuncture table, I wanted to go to Hawaii. But since I am not in Hawaii, and I am not Jennifer Garner, I channel the curious cognitive dissonance produced by gossip tabloids (you don't exactly want to be the celebrity but yet...) into watching Alias. The series started out exactly like the "They're Just Like Us" feature (my favorite) in Us magazine. Sidney Bristow, caught between her life as a graduate student and the thrill and burden of being a double agent who has to kill a lot of people at fabulous parties, needs a vacation.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Hank reads the juicy bits about Eleanor Mondale from the new Warren Zevon biography to Phyllis, who is sleeping

Sugar, this is very interesting. Did you know that Warren Zevon had a fling with Eleanor Mondale? If I did, I had forgotten. There are several excerpts from his diary about her in this book, I'll Sleep When I'm Dead. He makes her out to be a real dynamo in bed. Gave the best blowjobs since Nancy Reagan, it sounds like. I'll just read you the best parts:
February 27, 1990--Minneapolis

...TV interview with Eleanor Mondale, who looked terrific... Eleanor came by after her "precinct caucus" with her friend--they came on the bus. Eleanor and I exchanged numbers... I said, "Shall I call you and try to talk you into coming to Atlanta?" She said, "You can try." I said, "I'm a good try-er." She said, "I'd like to see you."

March 3, 1990--Tampa

...Called Eleanor. She asked if I thought of myself as a sexual person. I said, "Yes, very." She said, "Yes, very."

March 9, 1990--Dallas

Eleanor arrived during the show.... I glimpsed her in the wings while I was having a little non-chat with Edie Brickell. Eleanor looked *spectacular.* Our first kiss was amazing. She had me delirious on the bus ride... she's wild... I guess I've grudge-fucked old girlfriends, distanced myself in the act with others, and become a sort of control freak... I'm readjusting to making love... I really like Eleanor. When she walks in the room, the floodlights come on throwing everything else into shadow.

April 5, 1990--Sydney, Australia

...Eleanor gave me the best head I've ever had, then she went out with the promoter's wife and came back a little drunk... very upsetting to me.

April 18,1990--Brisbane

...what, one wonders, will we do? Live together? I'm sure I'm in love with her.

May 13, 1990--Adelaide

...Eleanor faxed Minneapolis gossip column about us.

July 2, 1990--Minnesota with Eleanor

...I told Eleanor I didn't know if I could handle the long distance relationship... She said she wasn't going backwards in the relationship and if I started seeing other people--sleeping with them--that was it...

July 7, 1990

Made love with Annette on the couch.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Phyllis likes the ending of The Sopranos, but Hank smells a Hollywood-sized rat

Hank: Phyllis, it says on the Internet that practically everybody in that diner at the end of The Sopranos had a connection to Tony's crew. The man at the counter we kept seeing was a Leotardo, Phil's blood relative, and there was a trucker whose brother was killed by Christopher, and two black men who tried to kill Tony once, and some boy scouts who--I forget, sugar. I don't know how I feel about this. On one hand, I am inclined to say that if the point is Tony Soprano spawned a lot of hard feelings and his bad karma is going to catch up with him any minute, that is cheap, and it is cheap to end the series with such a cute little in-joke. But then I think there is something poetic in the image of this feral, rapacious man, who has played at seeming human without ever learning a thing along the way, sitting uncomprehending in the midst of the carnage he's made. Made in America, like the poster says.

Darling, I am confused. The only thing I am sure of is that we are not supposed to think Tony will be killed in the diner that night. But was it a good ending or a bad ending? I cannot tell. Help me.

Phyllis: There sure are a lot people out there today commenting that they think Tony was killed in the diner surrounded by family--his own, and the families of people killed by Tony's other family. You know. The mob.

I don't know if Tony died last night. I don't really care all of a sudden, either, because the way it all ended, you know that eventually, he will die. And I don't think it's an in-joke having all those relatives of dead or wronged characters appear in the diner as extras, or as extra-special assassins. Because only the biggest nerds watching The Sopranos would recognize them. Without the recognition, the ending was tense, sensical, banal, right. Nothing changed.

I loved the last episode. Every time I thought I knew what was going to happen I was wrong. And the blackout just made me think that that the ending, not the show, was about how we project our own expectations and ideas onto this family, this show. It was a meta-finale.

There will be no movie.

Hank: I am glad that you enjoyed the ending, sweetie, although I am not sure I understand the part about psychological projection and meta-whositz. Are you saying that Dr. Melfi got to direct the last episode? I don't think they would let her do that. It reminded me of the Seinfeld finale. Do you remember "No hugging, no learning"? The Sopranos hugged a lot, but they didn't mean it and they didn't learn anything. They also wound up in the same kind of limbo. The last time Tony looked up at the sound of the door, I was waiting to see Jerry and Elaine walk in when everything went black.

I certainly hope you are right and there is no Sopranos movie. But they always say there's going to be no movie. It's just like mobsters referring to their enemies as "our friends." I have already found three Sopranos movie treatments published on the Internet:

What Made Tony Run: In the opening scene, Tony is killed in the diner by Phil Leotardo's cousin Nikki. A public television reporter decides to make a documentary about the rise and fall of New Jersey's top crime boss, Tony Soprano: In the Shadow of the Five Families. She interviews friends, associates, antagonists, and family. Carmela speaks extensively about the role real estate development has played in coping with her pain. AJ refuses to talk and tries instead to sell movie rights to his version of the story, Unfortunate Son. The reporter, despite her best efforts, is never able to sort out whether Tony's dying word was "goomah!" or just "Ma!"

The Sopranos Behind Closed Doors: After finishing their meal, the Sopranos get up to leave the diner but find that they cannot. The doors have vanished. Even bullets cannot shatter the windows. Tony tries to call Paulie to come and get them out, but there is no cell signal inside the diner. They spend eternity playing songs by Journey, Styx, and REO Speedwagon, ordering fries and desserts every few hours, and keeping a wary eye on their fellow customers.

My Dinner With Silvio: In the opening scene, the entire family is killed in the diner. Nikki Leotardo shoots Tony, the truck driver stabs AJ because he won't stop whining, and the Boy Scouts rape Carmela and Meadow and then kill them to keep them from talking. This sequence, directed by Quentin Tarantino, is nine minutes long and lovingly, graphically brutal. A title card then appears on the screen: "Five Years Later". Cut to a trattoria in Little Italy, where a mechanical-voicebox-equipped Silvo Dante has a far-ranging conversation about the Sopranos and about life over gabagool with Janice Soprano, who has founded a chain of yoga studios.

I was hoping they would kill Tony to save David Chase's soul. How else can a producer walk away from that much sequel/spinoff cash?

Monday, May 28, 2007

Phyllis enjoys watching Friday Night Lights on the Internet

When the "Internet" started, I was struck by how it lacks the late night quality of radio, television, and 24-hour convenience stores. If you turn it on in the middle of the night, it's too bright and just the same as it was when you went to bed. There is no 3-6 am dj who keeps strange company through the wee hours, no old re-runs. No obscure movie you swear no one but you had ever heard of. Even cable TV has special programming late at night. Pornography, they tell me.

But with the advent of the Internet, I also had hopes that one day, I would be able to watch whatever TV show I wanted whenever I wanted. They also tell me you can do this with dvds, and videos before. It's not the same. And I don't want to watch season one of Lost when season three is just ending. I want to jump right in with the rest of the people. I am slow, though, and I can't always get the timing right to be in front of the television when my shows come on. I hear there is something for that, too. TIVO.

I prefer the Internet. Finally, I can watch TV online. Through a winter of broken hips, arthritis, and bad luck, I have had a lot of time to convalesce. I sit at the desk, watch TV on the laptop, and knit presents for all my young women friends having babies.

Lately, I watch Friday Night Lights. Hank swears he never would have expected to find me watching a show about high school football in small town Texas, but I had heard from a mole that it was good, so I thought I would try it out. These young people are deep and troubled beyond their years, especially Riggs. He carries a burden so great it makes his hair exhausted.The number two quarterback, Matt,is sweet, unsure, and quiet. He's thrust into not-quite greatness when the real number one QB breaks his neck in the first episode and spends the rest of the episodes showing us that people in wheelchairs do best when they are male athletes.

I am most taken with the TV mom, coach-wife Connie Britton. With cleavage that could signify a much drunker mother, she is tough and kind. Everyone wants to pour their hearts out to her, which is great since she is a guidance counselor and political campaigner for a lesbian republican (for whom she didn't vote--come on, she's doing it for the schools!).

Thirteen episodes in, through two weekends, a bout of pneumonia, and much knitting and ripping, I am sort of hooked. I know the Panthers win the state championship (I checked on Television Without Pity). Sorry. Spoiler. I enjoy more the pretty young love of Matt and Julie, the coach's daughter. I like dynamics between the coach, oiled with integrity, and his no fool wife. And when I am done with Friday Night Lights, I think I will start watching Lost. I just saw my first episode last week. It was the season finale. They get off the island!