Wednesday, March 28, 2007


Another idea for the master's thesis in theology that I'll never end up writing is the idea of YHWH's transformation from a god of the desert to a god of the city. It seems like the first records of the Lord reveal Him to be a desert deity worshiped by nomadic tribes. But before long, God rides His cosmic Greyhound bus straight to the city, and (perhaps with the founding of Jerusalem), the kingdom of God comes to be imagined as an urban center. By the time St. Augustine comes along, the idea that you'd find Jehovah in the wilderness is positively blasphemous--the only deities you'll encounter in the sticks are Pan and his horn-dog kin.
So what else gets affected by this divine relocation to the metropolis? Do the morals of the nomads transform into the justifications of the urbanized? Or do they not change, and are city-dwellers left with an ethical code that has nothing to do with their situation? Do metaphysical concepts and ideas of the afterlife make the leap? Food for thought, my friends, and fodder for seminary discussions.

Sunday, March 18, 2007


I would like to rectify my earlier silence regarding the greatest comic book story of the decade, the tragic assassination of Captain America--an event that made headlines across the globe from England to India to Malaysia. After reporting on Cap's death when Marvel announced it over a week ago, the New York Times redeemed themselves with a smart piece on what this all might really mean. Stephen Colbert put aside his righteous rage to accept Cap's shield from Marvel. And, in further examples of dipshittery from idiots who interpret every single thing through the warped lens of their political Weltanshauungs, the National Review wailed about how this is just further proof of comics being used to promote dangerous left-wing ideas, while the American Chronicle (whatever that is) said that Cap's death was overdue, given that he represented an outdated, racist and class-insensitive era of our nation's history.

What's important to remember is that Captain America was the colorful creation of two New Yorkers who earnestly and sincerely wanted to punch Hitler in the face. Both of them, Jack Kirby and Joe Simon, would end up serving in the armed forces, adding a shade of realism to the backstory of their throwaway pop-culture hero. Cap is an aggressive cry of warning from the world of cheap entertainment to genocidal totalitarian dictators everywhere.

Thursday, March 15, 2007


The DVD haul this week should have been CASINO ROYALE and the Comedy Central Shatner roast, but Amazon mysteriously decided to mark them for shipping later into the month. I think I’ll survive.

Much has been written about CASINO ROYALE, and I’m not sure I have much more to add. I think I’ll just list them…

1. I still like the David Niven one more.
2. The David Niven one has better music.
3. There’s nothing wrong with this one. The Bond character has always meandered on a triangular “spectrum” between “cad,” “gentleman,” and “killer.” This version favored “killer.” Connery, of course, was more “cad.” So was Lazenby. Roger Moore and Pierce Brosnan were more “gentleman.” Craig, in a move to appeal to the testosterone junkies, was very squarely in the “killer” category. The one actor who probably centered himself in the triangle was the underrated Timothy Dalton (who veered away from “cad,” not unpleasantly, and is still the closest “Fleming Bond” we’ve had). Craig, though, had moments of great depth, courtesy of having dialogue written by the author of CRASH and MILLION DOLLAR BABY. The test, I think, for Craig is how well he fares with either the evolution of the character or with lesser screenplays. The Saturn V is off the launch pad, which is more than DIE ANOTHER DAY did. Now let’s get it into orbit, to the moon, lunar orbit, land it, re-dock with the command module, and then make it back to Earth. That’s six more movies. I’m up for it.
4. It was quite a wonder to see Bond allowed to talk and fence words. The knuckleheads who wrote the leaden SUPERMAN RETURNS needed to take a few tips from the Bond producers.
5. In the tradition of many of the Bond films, I only had a vague idea of the plot.
6. I liked an opening credit sequence that centered on Bond, since the film did, too.
7. In the name of ritual, we needed an appearance of Q, if only in the background of the defibrillator scene.

RE: the Shatner Roast. I have a true-blue friend in my hometown who taped a subsequent airing of it, and apparently Comedy Central (how I miss “the Comedy Channel”) cuts the roasts down from their live running time. But I have seen youtube clips of things cut from the videotape I saw, so I’ll soon get to enjoy what everyone else enjoyed back last fall. Two words: Clint Howard.

Shatner reportedly found most of the roast unpleasant and uncomfortable. I like the Shat as much as anyone, but I have simply heard too many stories from too many reputable sources about what a jerk he’s been over the past – I dunno – 40+ years? Haven’t heard those stories since BOSTON LEGAL, but the STAR TREK stories are myriad. Rude to fans. Rude to Roddenberry’s son. Rude to Wil Wheaton. It’s one thing to guard your privacy. It’s another to be unkind. Yes, Steve Martin doesn’t like giving autographs, so he carries business cards that he hands out, affirming that the bearer has met him. I’ve been lucky, and have met a lot of famous people, and they’ve generally been pretty nice. No, make that very nice.

So, is his talk-show gregariousness an act? Or has he found some kind of septuagenarian satori with HAS BEEN, BOSTON LEGAL, and the Priceline ads? Who knows? But a little roasting discomfort might have been a karmic balance. Many people lack a crucial sense of humor – and a sense of humor is simply a sense of perspective about yourself. I think this may have been manifested in the way Shatner was roasted. Had the roast taken place ten years from now, maybe the barbs would have been a bit less pointed.

Or this may simply be manifesting the decay of our cultural sense of wit. As a nation of individuals, I worry that we may be losing our sense of perspective, irony, and, thus, humor. Maybe it’s more fun to live life as perpetually offended. I dunno. I’m probably just as guilty of this as anyone else.

But the decay of our cultural sense of wit is both inner and outer. “Inner” in the sense that we are probably getting too used to getting too huffy about too many inconsequential things too often. “Outer” in that it’s too easy to get a laugh by seeing Andy Dick shocked at hearing that he’s been accused of being gay. Because that’s about 90% of these Comedy Central roasts. As wooden (and racist and sexist and homophobic) as those Dean Martin roasts may look to modern eyes, they were Oscar Wilde by comparison.

I can imagine Shatner’s inner monologue. It probably went, “Well, let me guess. This one will make fun of my age (with the obligatory Viagra joke), then my weight, then my toupees, and then my ego.”

For 90 minutes.

It’s one thing when people you know make these jokes. That was the edge that the Dean Martin roasts largely had. It’s another thing when it’s someone you’ve never met. But, maybe the preponderance of strangers at the roast is a commentary on Shatner’s personal life. Who knows?

Is wit dead? No, not even on the Comedy Central roasts. I fondly recall Bea Arthur… that’s right, Bea Arthur… getting the biggest laughs at the Pamela Anderson roast… that’s right, Bea Arthur at a Pamela Anderson roast. All she did was read excerpts from Anderson’s novel… that’s right, a novel by Pamela Anderson… with a straight face. (As if you’d expect any other visage on Bea Arthur.) That was it. Yes, it was a rip-off of St. Steve Allen’s routine of dramatic readings of rock & roll lyrics, but it was golden.

Man, when Bea Arthur’s the hippest comic in the room, we’re either in big trouble or we’ve achieved something truly magical with American humor. Probably both.

Thursday, March 01, 2007



These posters are all over New York, once again turning the workaday world into something closer to the dreamscape of my twelve-year-old self's fantasies. I love the kinetic quality, the foreshortening, the cosmic impassivity of this image--pure Kirby. Sure, the movie will suck, but let's enjoy the anticipation while we can.

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