Archive for September, 2006

Groving

The New York Times published this article about the tailgating spectacle that is the Grove on Ole Miss football weekends. I have always been more interested in the football than that scene, even when the team is not good, but it is familiar to me.

“Plus you start thinking of the political influence here. Homecoming of last year, Senators Lott and Cochran were both here, and Governor Barbour. It’s pretty powerful.”

I remember meeting Trent Lott in the Grove back in 1988 during his first Senate campaign. We shook hands, and I got a bumper sticker. He won over McCombite Wayne Dowdy. Back then, Dowdy supporters cut up Trent Lott bumper stickers and stuck the pieces back together to read “Not Lott.” Lott won anyway. He used to sit just a little down and over from us at the games. I saw him last year in Square Books with John McCain, who was signing books.

My favorite memory from when they used to let cars in the Grove is Monkey Business. At least, I think that was its name. I remember seeing an art car at one game that was a big Sedan DeVille, or maybe a Fleetwood Brougham, with dayglo paintings of monkeys, trees and bananas all over it along with a few bunches of bananas on strings hanging from it. I remember being excited when I saw the same car again at the end of a PBS show on art cars. Through the magic of the intarwebs, I found that the movie must have been Wild Wheels. I wrote filmmaker Harrod Blank asking about the car.

I believe that the article is misleading on one point. The rioting in 1962 centered around the Lyceum, the oldest building at Ole Miss. It faces the Circle, but not the Grove. Considering that thousands of people converged on campus, however, I am sure that the Grove was involved. I heard that in one of the worst battles, somebody climbed up on the Confederate monument at the entrance to the Circle and acted as general directing the rioters. From one account (PDF HTML) I read, I figured out that it must have been Edwin Walker, who seems to have been quite an unusual person who also played a big role in the Central High riots on the other side.

Update October 1: Harrod Blank wrote me back. The car was called monkeyshines. It was repainted several years ago. He remembered it well because it was made by his mother and her girlfriend. I found this article about it. The photograph, disappointingly, is black and white.

No Comments »

Michael M. on September 30th 2006 in General

Bluesgrass

My ears heated up a little when I heard “What’s the Matter With the Mill?” by Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys on KDHX‘s Mid-Day Jamboree. You can hear it starting at the 38:17 mark in the stream. I recognized it from a different version. I already knew it as “Can’t Get No Grindin'” by Muddy Waters. He also recorded it as “What’s the Matter With the Mill?” other times. Having just blogged about Solomon Burke’s crossover, I was happy to hear this older parallelism.

Obviously, this song is ripe for some bawdy lines. I have listened to the Muddy Waters version often and enjoyed its double entendre. I have come to expect it more as my idealism about the past has eroded. Even so, the Bob Wills version caught me by surprise.

Two old maids in a folding bed
One turned over, and the other one said,
“What’s the matter with the mill?”
“Oh, it’s done broke down.”
What’s the matter with the mill?
Oh, it’s down broke down.
Can’t get no grinding.
Tell me what’s the matter with the mill.

I believe that the verse is related to the song “Two Old Maids In a Folding Bed.” By chance, I came across that song recently. Searching for old blues on YouTube, I found some Lonnie Johnson videos. Previously blogged Tom Hall, from whom I learned a little picking, is an admirer of his. Johnson spent a lot of time in Saint Louis. Searching for more Lonnie Johnson, I came across the album Sissy Man Blues. Along with a song by him, it has “Two Old Maids In a Folding Bed.”

Bawdiness in the blues is routine. That enough tracks are around to make a whole album, Sissy Man Blues, is still somewhat unexpected. I did not expect the topic to find its way into western swing. While sharing between blues and western swing does make sense to me, that particular verse’s making it into “What’s the Matter With the Mill?” broke some of my preconceptions and prejudices.

No Comments »

Michael M. on September 30th 2006 in General, Music, Recorded

Best headline

Hubble Discovers Dark Cloud in the Atmosphere of Uranus, found via this story on Digg, made me chuckle. The only question is whether the cloud is made of toxic gas.

No Comments »

Michael M. on September 30th 2006 in General

New Yorker hard drive

I blogged about the availability of The New Yorker on DVD. Today, I read this article in The New York Times about a similar deal. This new product, however, has all issues on a single external hard drive with room for adding more. While I personally do not want this particular magazine, it is a clever idea.

No Comments »

Michael M. on September 28th 2006 in General

Toynbee radio

This post on the Ecology of Absence blog led me to the NPR Weekend Edition Saturday story about Toynbee tiles. I missed the original broadcast. The radio story has much of the same information I blogged over the summer. It does not disclose the truth behind the tiles, nor does it have more than of brief mention of the upcoming documentary Resurrect Dead (profile) that might.

No Comments »

Michael M. on September 27th 2006 in General, Movies

Best joke

This post at SciScoop links to an article about the funniest joke in the world. It is good, but I doubt that it is the top joke anywhere. Instead, the joke is a pretty funny to people across many cultures. The article also reports on geographical trends in humor, and it links to this older article with funniest jokes from different countries. The Scottish one is my favorite of them. The top UK joke is also quite good.

No Comments »

Michael M. on September 27th 2006 in General

Availability and Charter

My Internet connection went down yet another time yesterday morning. I have expressed frustration two times in the past. It also went down around the beginning of July. I do not understand why Charter service is so unreliable. I can count on a problem every few months. Evidently, the connection started working again on its own at about 2 or 3 AM this morning. A technician came out this morning. He said that the signal levels look fine and that he did a little rewiring to improve them. I looked at the diagnositics of my cable modem. The Upstream Transmit Power Level hovers around 60 dBmV. Whenever I check the event log, I see “R02.0 No Ranging Response received, T3 time-out” within the past few hours. From what I have read on the web, the upstream value is very high, but the technician said it should be fine. I have the feeling that the connection and this site will be up and down over the next few days until Charter makes real repairs. If you cannot connect to this site in the next few days, the problem is likely another cable modem failure.

No Comments »

Michael M. on September 27th 2006 in General

Solomon Burke goes country

This post on DiatribeR about Solomon Burke‘s upcoming release got me thinking. It is about his upcoming country album Nashville. I knew “Cry to Me” and some of his other hits without knowing him. I first took notice of Burke while watching Lightning in a Bottle. If I have my movies straight, one segment was dedicated to the Grand Ole Opry. Blues musicians including B. B. King reminisced about how they loved listening to the Opry on the radio. I cannot remember who else talked about the Opry and whether Burke was among them.

Why are there so few black people in country music? Popular wisdom often puts African-Americans and country music in opposition, but that idea is stupid. I lack the knowledge of musicology to cite specifics, but country and rural American folk music, its parent, owe great debts to African-Americans. They sound markedly different from European music. African influence is one of the obvious possibilities for forces driving the divergence. As nasty as Southerners have been to one another over the long view of history, they did not live far enough apart not to hear one another’s music. You have to know something is up when “I Swear” makes a hit for All-4-One and for John Michael Montgomery.

Plenty of other people have noticed the same discrepancies and asked the same questions. From Where I Stand: The Black Experience In Country Music is a music box set about African-Americans in country music, and Waiting in the Wings was a television series about the same topic. There is a lengthy section in the Wikipedia entry for country music.

There are also testimonies from African-Americans with love for country music. This page is adapted from My Country: The African Diaspora’s Country Music Heritage. “Twang Is Not a Color” profiles aspiring singer Carl Ray. I also found this article about a black teenager who loved country music.

I can remember thinking that African-Americans and country music somehow did not go together. I have wished for years that I could remember one album that local television used to advertise during afternoon programming after school. It was a greatest hits collection of someone I long since forgot. “Back to Senatobia” is the one cut I remember. “When I die, take me back home, back to Senatobia” lives on. After finally managing the right combination of query terms, I think it must have been O. B. McClinton. Evidently, he recorded on Stax and wrote “Keep Your Arms Around Me,” recorded by Otis Redding.

I have heard that country is like soul or blues for white people. Such statements bother me. There is a lot of good in country music for any person of any color. Getting to it requires resisting the forces of popular prejudice. According to this profile, Charley Pride wrote in a telegram, “I’m not a black man singing white man music, I am an American singing American music. I worked out those problem years ago, and everybody else will have to work their way out of it too.” Country is seen as the music of racist white rednecks, and sometimes it is. Letting it be only that, however, is succumbing to the bigotry. If I were a famous rapper or neo-soulster with the chops to do it, I would record a country album, and I would use language unpublishable in any major medium when questioned about it. Ray Charles obviously did the former. Only knowing about Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music through major media, I cannot know about the latter.

African-American influence on country music is huge, and plenty of black folks, at least ones who managed to work through one of the musical prejudices of current and past popular culture, love country music. From Ray Charles to Charley Pride and now to Solomon Burke, the relationship keeps peeking out without ever getting as big as it ought to be. It is a like a highway that is not on the map. It is strange how much people let color matter in the realm of sound. There is so much shared and so much more good music that could be made. It is a shame. I hope this album is a sign of change.

I should also mention that the tracks streaming from Burke’s site simply sound great.

No Comments »

Michael M. on September 25th 2006 in General, Music, Recorded

Mayor Melton

Listening to NPR‘s Morning Edition a few days ago, I heard that Frank Melton, mayor of Jackson, Mississippi, would be featured on that afternoon’s All Things Considered. The story is now available. Melton is in trouble for his acts as mayor, especially the ones that place him somewhere between law officer and vigilante.

Melton has caused controversy for years. He went to Jackson to run WLBT, a local television station. The Bottom Line, as he called his commentaries, became popular. He criticized or praised local happenings with an eye toward local crime and corruption and ended them with “And that, my friends, is the bottom line.” It gave him the fame to be elected mayor. Immediately upon becoming mayor, he strapped on a sidearm and went out with a police team on busts. It set the tone, and he kept going with tough guy act from there. The local alternative weekly, the Jackson Free Press, has a blog dedicated to him and his antics. Many people, the ones not too overcome with anger and frustration, just laugh and wonder what he will do next.

I remember Melton from his television days. He was my high school graduation speaker. Whoever was supposed to speak backed out late, and Melton graciously stepped forward. Then he gave an awful speech appropriate for juvenile delinquents graduating from reform school. He had us turn around to the audience and chant, “I can be anything I want to be. All I need is…” I forgot how it ended. The classmate beside me found the situation hilarious and shouted at the top of his lungs. The audience had some response chant. Everybody in my high school class was headed to college, and high school graduation is too late for that motivational stuff anyway. I came to see him as a cartoon of somebody trying to get tough and make a real difference. People who have not yet become so disillusioned, however, tend to love that stuff. Before he revealed the inadequacy behind his façade, enough voters loved it to get him elected.

2 Comments »

Michael M. on September 25th 2006 in General

Sufjan and the mysterious violinist

I encountered a mysterious violinist again last night. I subscribed to the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra last season with a few friends. After several outings, we realized that we nearly always saw a certain woman sitting near us. She dressed very well. She was young. She sat alone. Usually, a few people joined her at intermission. One time we did not see her at first. Then a friend spotted her on the back row of the strings playing violin. I went home and did not find her among the first or second violins on the web. How did it happen?

I never did learn who she was or what she was doing. Now I have seen her again. I spied her from my front row seat. She played in Sufjan Stevens‘ band last night at the Pageant. She was in the 8 piece strings section. Does she tour with them? Was she playing only this date? Does she have a career as an emergency violinist? I thought I could tell that she was taking cues from another violinist who also played with My Brightest Diamond, but I cannot be sure.

My Brightest Diamond is Shara Worden‘s project. It or they opened the show. Her contributions to Sufjan Stevens’ work are terrific. She lilts through a syllable here just right or adds a touch there. Her own music involves her playing with her voice too much. She clearly is very talented. Her voice is good, and she plays several instruments well. The songs just did not strike me as good. I mostly was bored. Then they played one I liked much more. At the end, she announced that it was a Nina Simone song. It made sense. I am a Nina Simone fan.

Then Sufjan Stevens played with his large band. Along with the 8 violin family instruments, there were three horns, a piano, a banjo, a bass guitar, drums and more with some rotation in who played what. I blogged about “The Lord God Bird” a while back. They played it, and it was great. The show had some flight theme. Everybody in the band wore a uniform that included wings, different wings for different sections of the band. It was too cutesy for me, but not that distracting. Hearing “Jacksonville” live with strings was terrific. I did not note the whole set list, but “John Wayne Gacy, Jr.,” “Casimir Pulaski Day” and “The Transfiguration” were other touching moments in the show. Stevens came across as both whimsical and earnest. It was less thrilling than the first show, but I enjoyed it a lot.

Update: I just read this post on the SLSO Blog about trumpeter Josh MacCluer‘s gigging. Stevens must have hired several local musicians to fill out his band.

Update September 27: Another SLSO Blog post reports that symphony staffer Eric Gaston also played violin with Sufjan Stevens.

No Comments »

Michael M. on September 25th 2006 in General, Live, Music

Big Mike

The Ballad of Big Mike” in The New York Times Magazine profiles Ole Miss football offensive lineman Michael Oher. It comes from the upcoming book The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game. This post on Robbie Neiswanger’s Ole Miss Sports blog from the Clarion-Ledger, Mississippi’s paper of record, has a little information on the book. In the middle of a bad season, Oher is a highlight. He comes with a story. Before becoming a football star, he was a homeless kid drifting around Memphis. The family of former Ole Miss basketball player Sean Tuohy took him in. Now he is on course for the big time.

This post on Kottke makes a few good points. Why does the story contain no quotes from Oher himself? I know that he is a shy person, but there should have been room somewhere in the ten pages. Gawker‘s take is full of the stock Gawker trades. I, however, have a hard time turning up my nose at anything that puts a previously unloved child in a loving family.

I saw Oher walk into the stadium when I attended the Mizzou game. His adoptive family was there to cheer him and the other players as they went in. The questions about how much the Tuohy family acted with the interest of promoting Ole Miss football are tough, but understandable. Having seen the family personally, I believe that their love for Oher is true. Whether the benefit to our alma mater was a motivator to become involved in the first place matters less to me than the basic facts. Some people helped a child in need.

This being a Southern story, the questions of race relations are also clear ones. I definitely worry that Oher could end up exploited and that the events could bring further injury to our college system and to Ole Miss in particular. I root for Ole Miss, but some things are hard to look past. There are also many personal relationships at play that are not immediately clear. My interest in Ole Miss sports has lasted a quarter of a century. The web of Southern social ties also can provide some background not obvious in the surface story.

I have known about Sean Tuohy since I was in first or second grade and possibly even back to kindergarten. He is an Ole Miss sports legend. Ole Miss has been good at basketball twice. Tuohy directed the first run as the star point guard. I remember listening to a basketball game against Kentucky as I drifted off to sleep as a child. Tuohy got hit between the eyes, and they began to water. He struggled not to leave the court. He was tough. I think Ole Miss lost that game, but the team won the SEC tournament for the only time. According to this post, he still hold the SEC records for career and single season assists. Now he runs RGT Management and calls basketball games on the radio. I knew him as the color commentator for Ole Miss. As his quotes in the article show, he is indeed colorful.

Tuohy also appeared in another Michael Lewis New York Times Magazine piece about Coach Fitz. It, too, was promotion for a book. A comment on this post also points to the connection. That time the book was Coach: Lessons on the Game of Life. From the older piece, I learned that Tuohy and Lewis were buddies at Isidore Newman in New Orleans, also the alma mater of the Manning children. Lewis’ wife is former MTV personality Tabitha Soren. Little ties bind lives and Southern lives moreso.

Update September 27: Malcolm Gladwell posted a favorable review of the book. MeFi has this thread.

She wasn’t born again, and she didn’t often go to church. She also advertised herself as a liberal. When Sean heard that, he hooted at her, “We had a black son before we had a Democrat friend!”

“The Mormons may be going to hell,” Sean says. “But they really are nice people.”

One trend I have noticed is how many people do not understand when Sean Tuohy was cracking jokes, such as here and here. Jokes hint at the truth, often the ugly parts, by exploiting it for comic effect. I suspect that the mentions of evangelical Christianity in the article turned off some brains’ ability to recognize humor. Here and here are comments that mention the two back to back. Put more negatively, prejudices probably preclude some from attributing wit, self-mocking and insight to the words of someone who is Southern, evangelical or, in this case, both. This one shows that some humor got through, but I am not sure that he understood Tuohy as purposefully wry. Writing, lacking tone, also makes it harder. I wonder whether I would think of evangelical Christians as robots, too, if I had not grown up among them.

Update September 28: I found this interview with Michael Lewis about how he came to write the book. He had known Tuohy since kindergarten, but they were out of touch until the book about their coach.

No Comments »

Michael M. on September 25th 2006 in General

Death of Etta Baker

Listening to NPR‘s Morning Edition, I heard a report that Etta Baker has died. She was a fingerstyle guitarist whose recording career began at age 78. I blogged about the first NPR story broadcast last year. The story was a big step in my awakening to folk fingerstyle guitar. I have One-Dime Blues, Railroad Bill, Carolina Breakdown and Etta Baker with Taj Mahal. They are terrific. I should try to learn some new tunes from her albums, if I can. She was 93.

2 Comments »

Michael M. on September 25th 2006 in General, Music, Recorded

Perelman contradiction

Following up on an earlier post, this post on Language Log refutes the popular magazine article about the proof for the Poincaré conjecture. Based on the /. discussion, I had wondered whether something was up with the magazine story. My distrust of the New Yorker came before this story. I wonder what the consequences for the author and the magazine will be.

Update September 24: This post on /. also covers the reaction.

No Comments »

Michael M. on September 23rd 2006 in General

Chickasaw Mudd Puppies

My iPod played me some Chickasaw Mudd Puppies the other day. I had forgotten how good they were. I got 8 Track Stomp way back in high school.

My hometown television station, channel 36 W36AC, broadcast alternative music videos late at night on either Friday or Saturday. I believe that the station was an affiliate of RFD-TV, Rural America’s Most Important Network, at the time. Now it belongs to Trinity Broadcasting Network. The Power Team is entertaining, but not in the way intended. I never understood why a channel dedicated to farming carried a music video show dedicated to college rock, but I enjoyed it. I dubbed a cassette tape of the great music and kept in my car for years. I saw the video for “Been Caught Stealing” and the combined video for “Dig For Fire” and “Allison” back when I had no other access to such things.

The show also played “Do You Remember,” and I got the album based on that one track. That song is different from the others, but I was happy with all of them. They had big backing. Michael Stipe and Willie Dixon stood behind them. One of the reviews claims that the recorded work was not nearly as good as the live shows. I remember that they played at Hal and Mal’s. I really wanted to go, but I was too young at the time to be hanging around bars. Not knowing how to track them, they faded away. They were just too weird to meet with big time success.

This being the information age, I now know that I am not alone in my affection for the group. This post describes a similar rediscovery. A fan posted this video on YouTube, and the duo has a misspelled MySpace page. The post linked above centers on the first EP, White Dirt. I never bought that one although I do remember seeing it in music stores. I should get a copy.

Update September 19: I found this old article about them in The New York Times.

1 Comment »

Michael M. on September 18th 2006 in General, Live, Music, Recorded

SLSO backstage

Behind the Curtain” in St. Louis Magazine includes a glimpse at the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra program I blogged last February along with looks at a few other local performing arts institutions. I remember that great STL music weekend well. The SLSO Blog pointed to the recent magazine story.

No Comments »

Michael M. on September 18th 2006 in General, Live, Music

Convergence through plagiarism

Suzanne Vega wrote this New York Times op-ed piece about the plagiarism accusations against Bob Dylan. How much convergence can I get? I have been a Suzanne Vega fan for a long time and a Dylan fan, too. I am quite interested in the modern issues of intellectual property and their relationship to artistic creation. I tend to think that using the art of others in new contexts is good. I resist the use of “steal” and “piracy” to describe the practice. Recycling of art primarily takes from the pride and protectionism of others, and they ought to be whittled down.

This previous Times article and this story from NPR‘s All Things Considered give a little background. Bob Dylan took from Henry Timrod on his new album Modern Times and a few other places. I am thinking that he took from Charlie Chaplin, too. Disc jockey Scott Warmuth discovered the connections and started this discussion thread. The Times even has this handy chart. The man who wrote “Oxford Town” also quotes the poet laureate of the Confederacy. Amusement is a better choice than annoyance.

Bob Dylan has used others’ prior art throughout his career. No Direction Home documented it well. Dave Van Ronk felt betrayed by Dylan’s choices of what to include on his very first album. Dylan knew how to appropriate before entering the studio. His hero Woody Guthrie borrowed from all over as shown in previously blogged Woody Guthrie: Ain’t Got No Home. My recent fascination with Henry “Ragtime Texas” Thomas revealed where “Honey, Just Allow Me One More Chance” (and Canned Heat‘s “Going Up the Country“) came from.

It’s modern to use history as a kind of closet in which we can rummage around, pull influences from different eras, and make them into collages or pastiches. People are doing this with music all the time. I hear it in, say, Christina Aguilera’s new album, or in the music of Sufjan Stevens.

A few months ago, I investigated the famous Aaron Copland ballet Rodeo. I had heard that Hoe-Down, the most famous section, was based on an old fiddle tune. I found that the inspiration was William H. “Bill” Stepp’s recording of “Bonaparte’s Retreat,” available here and here, made by often blogged Alan Lomax and subsequently transcribed by Ruth Crawford Seeger. To my ear, Copland’s arrangement is wonderful, and the original is even better. I found this post, the last in a series, that traces the path from Stepp to Copland.

I am also reminded of George Harrison. His “Something” and “My Sweet Lord” both show obvious reuse of previous songs. He got sued and roundly insulted for “My Sweet Lord,” and I have read snide comments about his penchant for borrowing. I have felt the same way about him. Then I started listening. George Harrison wrote some great songs. Although his Beatles songs were few, the good ones, such as “Something” and “Here Comes the Sun,” stand up well against Lennon-McCartney numbers. His post-Beatles work has some gems. I listen to “What Is Life” and “When We Was Fab” over and over and over. Effective recycling is evidence that a musician has good ears.

In the article, Vega considers whether Dylan purposefully used Civil War poetry. Does it matter? If the “dean of American composers” can create the most famous American composition by quoting a virtuoso country fiddler, Bob Dylan can quote an old poet as directly as he pleases. Is Dylan “a thieving little swine” as called in the discussion thread? Judging from what I have seen and read, he has been much worse to many people many times. To worry about theft is missing the point. I do not listen to his music because I wish I had him as a friend.

Mr. Dineen said he would have been happy if Mr. Dylan had just given Timrod credit for the lines. “Maybe it’s the teacher in me. If I found out that he had done this in a research paper, he’d be in big trouble.”

Mr. Dineen has it backwards. Research papers are written about Bob Dylan, not the other way around. If he were writing a term paper, he should fail and be turned over the the honor council. Dylan, however, writes songs. All of life should not follow those rules. From “Tom’s Diner,” Vega knows the real rules, and her piece addresses them. In America and similar political entities, just make sure everybody gets real paid (or contractually swindled such that payment is unnecessary).

As I am wont to do, I assign some blame of this misguided controversy to a favorite idea. We need more amateur art. The default path is to be spectator and critic, but the hop to being participant and creator is small. Too much of this bellyaching comes from passivity. Playing and singing provide forceful demonstrations about musical creation. Playing an existing composition as written is a creative process. So is changing it up. So is taking off in a new direction altogether. So are all combinations of the three. DJing shows that even playing recorded music can be, too.

I imagine that using history as a closet is modern only to the extent that we moderns have more history available in our libraries and on our intarwebs. To create good music is to negotiate between the novel and the familiar. My suspicion is that the second song ever sung took from the first.

3 Comments »

Michael M. on September 17th 2006 in General, Music, Recorded

49 Up

Waxy Links directed me to the trailer for 49 Up. From its IMDb page, I see that the movie has been out for a while. The United States release will happen October 6, and the Landmark Tivoli is on the list. I somewhat regret the theatrical release. I remember seeing one or two previous installations as a child. They were broadcast on Mississippi Educational Television, now Mississippi Public Broadcasting, the local network of PBS affiliates. I watched an inordinate amount of Mississippi ETV when I could, and I still do when I visit home. I hope this edition makes its way to television quickly.

The series is good reality television. It has followed the lives of fourteen British people every seven years. They are fascinating people. The trailer hints at another gripping glimpse into the lives of the subjects. For a child in Mississippi to know about such interesting people thousands of miles away is a wonder. According to the influence section of the Wikipedia entry, Roger Ebert wrote, “The UP documentary series strikes me as an inspired, almost noble use of the film medium.” I would have omitted “almost.”

No Comments »

Michael M. on September 16th 2006 in General, Movies

Idiocracy

Following a post about a movie I did see, here is one about one I wish I could see. I have read about Idiocracy a few places, mostly good things, without yet any opportunity to see it. “Shying Away From Degeneracy” in The New York Times reports its strange treatment. NPR‘s Day to Day also reported on it, and Boing Boing had a post.

Mike Judge made a comedy about an average man who wakes up centuries in the future only to find himself the smartest person alive. In the intervening time, humanity has become stupid. I do not know what happens, but I imagine that the story manages to support some hilarious jokes. By most accounts, it is a funny movie. Potentially, it is a horrible push toward making eugenics acceptable. I tend to believe the people throwing those accusations simply do not get the satire although I have not seen the movie.

I do not understand how seeing something pilloried leaves many with the ideas that it has been glorified. Eventually, though, I caught on that it tends to happen. I did not live Beavis and Butt-head when I first saw it. Looking back, I just did not get it at first. The A.V. Club review points out the same for this movie.

There’s a good chance that Judge’s smartly lowbrow Idiocracy will be mistaken for what it’s satirizing, but good satire always runs the risk—to borrow a phrase from a poster-boy for the reverse meritocracy—of being misunderestimated.

According to the Origins section of the Wikipedia entry, UCSD legend has David Kleinfeld as a model of either Beavis or Butt-head, but I doubt that there is much to it. I played ping-pong against him once. I pwn3d him, not that I am very good at ping-pong.

I will not see the movie anytime soon. There is no trailer. How can a movie not have a trailer? The initial release was limited to a few cities. Now it has expanded to a few more. Saint Louis is not among them. I wrote Landmark to request that the chain show the movie. I never even heard about Office Space when it was in theaters. Eventually, though, it made its way to being a hit. I hope that Idiocracy travels a faster path.

No Comments »

Michael M. on September 16th 2006 in General, Movies

Idlewild

I saw Idlewild last night at the Chase. The Chase, drawing a predominantly white audience, is a slightly strange venue, but I opted for the convenience of cycling. Idlewild follows best friends Percival and Rooster through their lives at and around a Roaring Twenties speakeasy in a small Georgia town. While it was not absolutely great, there is a lot to like. The story does not hang together all that well although it is adequate. It is an average mix of gangsters, fast living, romance and tragedy. The visual and auditory components make the movie. The dancing is great. Animation sequences scattered throughout the movie are fun to watch. Of course, I enjoyed the music with one complaint. I am a committed OutKast fan. The movie features a few new songs, and does a fairly good job for a musical of weaving in some favorites from The Love Below. The problem is that Big Boi‘s character Rooster has a big reputation as a singer, but he never delivers. He has some solid rap performances. I had hoped to see him nail some more traditional songs, too. Although there are various little complaints about the movie, they do not add up to a reason not to see it. If you are an OutKast fan, you have to go. If you want a different spin on musicals, go.

No Comments »

Michael M. on September 16th 2006 in General, Movies

Balloons

I went to the glow of the Great Forest Park Balloon Race last night. It was super. I had been to the launch at least once in past years, and hanging out with friends on blankets is a good way to spend an afternoon. The glow was better. I had no idea that it was such an event. Riding my bike turned out to be a great idea. Thousands of people of all ages and too many types to describe were there to enjoy the carnival. I ate funnel cake and had a snowcone. The light and heat of the burners made for an enjoyable sensory experience. Bagpipers, whose presence somewhat baffles me, were entrancing. I opted for frisbee over the launch this afternoon, but judging by the traffic, it drew a great crowd, too. It is remarkable and laudable that the city can throw such an event and that people greet it with such joy of life.

Update September 16: Just Shelley has this post with photographs. Many more from others are on Flickr. Shutterbugs were all over.

No Comments »

Michael M. on September 16th 2006 in General

Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 United States
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 United States.