Just a little light musical fare to make the new week seem more bearable…
I hope my friends at The State won’t mind my using this old file photo they just posted, but I was really struck by the incongruity of the decor.
Imagine that being your last sight as you were being executed. Instead of, “I really wish I hadn’t done it,” you might think, “Where the hell did those chairs come from? Couldn’t they have found something a bit more respectful of the occasion?” Which would be a stupid thing to be thinking at a time like that…
Those chairs look like they escaped from a “My Pretty Pony” cartoon. I wonder for what purpose the state ever purchased them to start with?
I said this on Twitter earlier today:
Just one thing: Before @BorisJohnson becomes P.M., will he do something about the Trumpesque hair? That would make him easier to tolerate…
— Brad Warthen (@BradWarthen) June 27, 2016
But that’s not exactly right.
Trump’s hair and Johnson’s do have things in common — they’re both light-colored, they’re both flamboyant and they’re both ridiculous.
But there’s a huge, defining difference, which actually makes them opposites: Trump’s hair is ridiculous because it’s so obvious that he goes to far too much trouble to make it look like that. Johnson’s is distracting because he goes out of his way to look like he does nothing with it, that he has never in his life seen a comb or had anything to do with one.
In any case, both are distracting, and do not inspire the kind of confidence one would like to have in the head of a major country.
Boris’ hair in the actual, formal portrait photo at right, reminds me of my grandson — he resists anyone combing his hair, firmly declaring that he prefers that it remain “bumpy.” In a 4-year-old, this is endearing, and I have been known to compliment him on the bumpiness of his hair. In fact, I regularly reach out and muss it up for him.
But in a grown man who wishes to be taken seriously by other grown men, it is ridiculous.
Now is the time on bradwarthen.com when we all harrumph together over men among us with ridiculous hair.
Harrumph, harrumph, harrumph, harrumph, harrumph…
What sort of hair should a serious world leader have? The sort that we don’t notice. The sort that, if someone asks us to describe it when we’re not looking at it, we can’t. We shouldn’t even be able to swear whether he has hair or not, unless it’s right in front of us. It should be that understated and unobtrusive.
I’ll pause now for a moment while you all say, Hear, hear!
Hear, hear! Hear, hear! Hear, hear! Hear, hear!…
As you know, I do poorly on the Slate News Quiz most weeks when I take it (timed tests are my bane, and often the news in question is too trivial), so when I do manage to kick it, I like to gloat.
How did I get on this subject? Well, Bryan had said something about liking Scott Walker before he dropped out, and I said he failed to stand out and distinguish himself. All the other candidates have a shorthand character people can describe, for good or ill. For instance, Lindsey Graham, who did no better in the polls than Walker, was known as the hawkish guy with the wisecracks.
So I got to thinking about how we all think we know the candidates, even though we don’t really know them any deeper than we do the characters in a cliche-ridden B movie — as a group of familiar types.
So let’s treat them like old-style contract players and cast them in an imaginary flick about World War II, since most of us are familiar with the genre. The title of the film? I dunno. “Hell is for Sad Sacks,” or something like that.
Here we go:
Lindsey Graham‘s the wise-cracking guy who nevertheless can give a pretty good speech about why we fight, and though he’s obviously no John Wayne, he’ll likely be a passable soldier when the shooting starts. Think L.Q. Jones — the character, not the actor who played him and adopted the name (even though he was poorly cast) — in “Battle Cry.” Think the book version. Only Leon Uris fans will get that, so never mind. Instead, think George Luz in “Band of Brothers.”
Scott Walker is the replacement who gets killed at the start of the first battle, and no one in the unit can remember his name. Or maybe he was a member of another company entirely who ended up fighting alongside the main characters because the drop zones were all messed up. Think Private Hall in “Band of Brothers,” the guy who is the first character killed on D-Day. Or, to switch genres, anyone in a red shirt on “Star Trek.”
Ted Cruz is the blowhard who talks big about how many Krauts he’s gonna kill, and the first time he’s within hearing of the guns he’s found cowering, quivering, in his foxhole. Everybody hates him — he’s always figuring an angle for getting ahead, at the expense of the other guys in the platoon — so they’re inclined to leave him there in the hole, but someone calls the medic. In “The Dirty Dozen,” he’d be Victor Franko.
Donald Trump is the utterly corrupt quartermaster who runs the black market operations in the area. A real weasel, although a tremendous businessman (ya gotta give him that) he’s all about insulting the other guys in the battalion. He’s even trading with the enemy; anything for the deal. He gets along great with Starshina Putin, his counterpart in the Red Army unit just over the hill. Think Don Rickles in “Kelly’s Heroes.” (He’s not smooth enough to be Milo Minderbinder.)
Jeb Bush is the well-meaning but largely ineffectual officer who lives under a huge shadow. His father was a general and even his ne’er-do-well big brother made a name for himself earlier in the war. He got great grades at West Point but thus far hasn’t distinguished himself. He’s not a bad guy, but he’s not the kind of guy the men are all that eager to follow into battle. Picture Tom Hanks’ kid in “Band of Brothers.” (I’m not going to be cruel and call him Lt. Dike.)
Bernie Sanders is “Pops,” the impossibly old guy who somehow got drafted anyway. The young guys all think he’s great and look out for him, even politely listening to his crackpot ideas about politics, the Army, etc. He likes to freak out the recruits by popping his teeth out without warning. For some reason I’m picturing James Whitmore in “Battleground,” but I’m not sure that’s quite right. Can anyone think of somebody better?
Chris Christie is the crusty sergeant who’s been there and done that and rides the younger guys pretty hard, calling them “craphead” and “boy in the bubble” and such. Maybe Telly Savalas, in either “Battle of the Bulge” or “Kelly’s Heroes;” take your pick. But not in “The Dirty Dozen” — totally different character. Was James Gandolfini ever in this kind of movie? That would be perfect, but I don’t think he ever was.
Marco Rubio is “College,” the guy who earned half a degree before deciding he’d better join up. He’s a slick talker and will probably get into politics when he gets back home. The guys respect him for his ability to talk his way out of KP and such, but he hasn’t proven himself to them yet, and some wonder how he’ll measure up in combat. Think of David Kenyon Webster, the Ivy Leaguer in “Band of Brothers.”
John Kasich is the battalion executive officer, like Major Strayer in “Band of Brothers.” (Yeah, I keep citing “Band of Brothers,” which doesn’t fit the mold of the stereotype-ridden B movie. But there were just so many characters to choose from.) He’s regular Army and he knows his way around and the guys pretty much respect him and accept him in the No. 2 role, but people just aren’t sure how he’ll lead if the Old Man gets hit. This guy doesn’t usually have a lot of lines in the movie.
I don’t know who Hillary Clinton is. It’s tough, since the Pentagon hadn’t yet rubber-stamped an OK on women in combat. I’m still working on it… She’s not a nurse (unless we’re talking Nurse Ratched, and that’s the wrong genre), and I don’t see her as the dame back home who wrote you a Dear John letter and broke your heart. Maybe she’s the long-suffering wife of the good-time company commander who chases all the nurses — Deborah Kerr in “From Here to Eternity.” But I don’t see her with Burt Lancaster. Maybe I’ll just say she’s Eleanor Roosevelt. She should like that…
I was out of pocket yesterday playing in a charity golf tournament (to benefit Healthy Learners) out at Fort Jackson, which means I probably had a better time than you did. (How did I do? Well, the official score was 70, which sounds great until you learn that it was captain’s choice — which, for the uninitiated, means that we had four tries at every shot — and that was the team score. When I left, the leading team had come in with a 56, and we were tied for last place. But it was a beautiful day, and we had a good time.)
But while I didn’t blog exactly, I did mini-blog and bit, and this was my most popular Tweet of the day, garnering a number of reTweets and favorites:
Time’s running out: Can Trey Gowdy figure out what to do with his hair by tomorrow’s big hearing? pic.twitter.com/3vzggeG2Fe
— Brad Warthen (@BradWarthen) October 21, 2015
You may have noticed that South Carolina’s own Rep. Gowdy has made almost as many attempts to do different things with his hair as Eric Clapton, only with less success. I am not the only one to compare the above look to Oswald Cobblepot, a.k.a. The Penquin, on “Gotham:”
You might be tempted to say that he’d look better if he just grew it out some, particularly on the sides. But then you would take that back upon seeing this. And let’s not even get started on this one…
The most normal he has ever looked was when he went with the neoclassical Brutus cut, as they called it when it came into fashion in the early 19th century. Or perhaps we should call it the Cassius look, as in:
Let me have men about me that are fat,
Sleek-headed men and such as sleep a-nights.
Yond Cassius has a lean and hungry look.
He thinks too much. Such men are dangerous.
Maybe that’s why he abandoned it. He didn’t want Kevin McCarthy talking about how “yond Trey hath dim’d the star of Hillary Macbeth…”
One of the frustrating things about these danged Interwebs is that it’s now impossible to fool yourself into thinking you’re having an original insight. Especially insights of the more superficial kind.
For instance, lately I’ve been on a roll with seeing people on TV and realizing that they look just like some other person, and thinking I want to do a blog post to share this recognition, and when I check I find that everybody else has noticed the same thing.
For instance… I recently saw Hitchcock’s “The Lady Vanishes,” and for most of the movie I tried to think who it was that Michael Redgrave looked exactly like. I knew it was another actor, but not a marquee idol by any means. Yet it was someone I had seen a lot of recently. I refused to let myself Google, “Michael Redgrave looks like…,” forcing my brain to work a little, if only on a silly pop culture problem.
Finally, I came up with it: It’s that guy who plays “Littlefinger” on “Game of Thrones,” and Councilman Tommy Carcetti on “The Wire!” That is to say, Irish actor Aiden Gillen. Congratulating myself, I went ahead and did the internet search, and… every other sentient being on the planet had already noticed it.
So it was that when I saw a picture of Cecile Richards of Planned Parenthood on my Washington Post app this morning, and thought, “Claire Underwood!,” I thought I was just being perceptive as all get-out. Of course, the vast majority of people, who saw her on TV yesterday, had beaten me all hollow.
Dang yet again. I was all ready to say it looks like somebody already has her Halloween costume on, and other facile manifestations of a feeble wit, and I was too late.
I guess it’s nice to know that all those props aren’t tossed into a landfill somewhere…
I assume you’ve noted the disturbing pattern:
- (CNN) — Legendary fashion designer Oscar de la Renta, who spent half a century putting high society in haute couture, has died. He was 82…
- South African athlete Oscar Pistorius has been given five years in jail for killing his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp….
On the chance there is some sort of twist on the Rule of Three in operation here, if you’re Oscar the Grouch, you’ve got to be worried…
That’s the conclusion based on this survey:
South Carolina is the most patriotic state in the nation, a real estate research firm has found.
The ranking is based on Movoto Real Estate’s measure of the number of people who Googled for American flags. The state also has the seventh highest veterans per capita, and 16th highest funding for veterans per capita….
Seems like a rather slim criterion to me. A state could top the list if, for instance, it was ordering flags in order to burn them or something.
Nevertheless, I don’t doubt that South Carolina is at least among the most patriotic states, whatever your criteria. We have definitely come a long way on that score since that time, so very long ago that it’s hardly worth mentioning, when we, you know, launched a war — the deadliest war in the nation’s history — against the United States.
Last night, I was watching an episode of “The Americans” and it ended with a song in the background that was a pleasant-enough-sounding ballad, but for one thing: It seemed to be very close to something very familiar, and something that I wanted to hear, but it never got there. It was too busy being artsy, too free-form, too showy in its refusal to be anything like the original.
I now know it was Roberta Flack’s version of “To Love Somebody.” It was pleasant, but considered as a cover of that song, it was awful. It left out all the best bits, such as the change when it launches into “you don’t know what it’s like,” and then when it takes it down a notch, for “to love somebody.”
Everything that made the song special was missing, including the appealing rhythm of the verses, in between the aforementioned best bits.
Frankly, I hadn’t ever realized how special the song was, until it had been stripped of what made it that way.
So I’m unilaterally adding it to the playlist for my band, for when I have a band. I’m not consulting my bandmates on it, because I don’t have any, and it wouldn’t do to start having artistic differences before we even get together.
I’m even thinking of going out on a limb and adding “I’ve Gotta Get a Message to You,” because I’ve always known that was great, even though it was by the Bee Gees. After all, the Brothers Gibb were pretty good before disco (he said defensively).
This is coming together well. Before long, I’ll have a complete playlist for my ultimate cover band, and that will give us a head start when I get around to actually putting the band together. Don’t you think?
I missed this reunion of the cast of “The Princess Bride” when it happened a couple of years ago (to celebrate the film’s 25th anniversary), but since I just ran across it today, I thought I would share.
So you want me to go back to politics and other serious stuff? As you wish…
Since this post the other day, I’ve been listening more closely to the Christmas music to which I’ve been exposed.
This morning, I heard something really unusual. What got me was the very different rhythm part of this rendition of “O Come Emanuel.” I’d actually been listening a while before I realized what the song was — even though it’s my favorite Advent song. This was before coffee, you understand.
I wanted to know right then who it was. But I couldn’t do what I would normally do. I was driving the truck, which is straight-shift and takes two hands, and wearing my winter coat that zips up, and couldn’t get at my phone to get my SoundHound app to give it a listen and ID it for me. Frustrating (in any event, as I discovered when I got to work, I’d left my phone at home — again, the lack of coffee).
So I decided that I’d fall back on trying to find out who that was when I got to a keyboard. To my inexpert year, it sounded like Pearl Jam. So I hunted on Google, and on YouTube. I asked everybody on Twitter:
Heard a very offbeat rendition of “O Come Emanuel” on radio this a.m. Sounded like… Pearl Jam. Google couldn’t find that. So who was it?
Weirdly, no one answered. I asked again about six hours later. Still no takers. Which is unusual. Normally, someone at least guesses.
So you know what I did? I found out the old school way. Soon as I got a moment (late this afternoon, after a busy day) I called the request line at Magic 98.5. I asked who that was doing “O Come Emmanuel” between 7:45 and 8 this morning.
Turns out it was Third Day, a Christian rock band that formed back in the early ’90s. You know, when everybody was trying to sound like Eddie Vedder.
The fact that my crowd-sourcing efforts failed, I suppose, testifies to grunge-style Christian bands occupying a lesser-known part of the pop music spectrum. Even Rob, Dick and Barry might have had trouble with it.
I’m just glad I solved the mystery. I’m sure you’re happy for me.
My friend Doug Nye is gone, and many think his great discovery, The Chicken Curse, is gone with him.
But it pops up now and then.
The Chicken Curse, properly understood, is not just about the Gamecocks football team losing. So the recent winning seasons by the home team don’t mean the Curse is dead. In fact, as I was introduced to the concept in the late 1980s, it’s more about people who otherwise have nothing to do with South Carolina being done in by an incidental association with our flagship university, particularly with anything bearing on its athletic programs.
Under this interpretation, for instance, we understand that Gary Hart missed his chance at the Democratic nomination for president in 1988 because of his relationship with a former USC cheerleader, Donna Rice.
Anyway, the thing that brings all this to mind is the fact that, just days before the BCS Championship game, The Wall Street Journal carelessly decided to run a lengthy interview with Lou Holtz talking about how great the Irish were this year, headlined, “Why Notre Dame Is Back on Top.”
Textbook case of the Curse, as I was taught to understand it…
Three years ago, the staff of ADCO had our annual Christmas party at Hobby Lobby. After refreshments, each us was given a canvas and paints, and challenged to create something for the walls of our offices.
Fast-forward to this year…
Now, here’s a test of your artistic perspicacity: Above and below are images of two paintings. Can you tell which is by ADCO, and which is by Rothko himself?
No cheating! To check yourself, you may look it up on Google Images after you share your answer. You’re all on the honor system, and sure, you are all honorable men. And women.
Tom Priddy, former colleague at The State and the man who introduced me to Internet porn*, encountered a terrible omen last night:
Uh, oh. Not only did my fortune cookie not have a fortune in it tonight, but it didn’t even have a cookie. Yep. It was a package of air. Never opened. Just a bubble. I think maybe I’d better just stay home tomorrow . . .
The only explanation I could offer him was that maybe it was a Zen cookie. What is the sound of no cookie crumbling?
* Perhaps that calls for an explanation. Tom was an early computer guru at the paper, and by the late 80s or very early 90s had taken a job with Knight Ridder corporate doing something technical and mysterious, although his office was still at the paper in Columbia (he was maybe the first person I knew to have such a long-distance job enabled by technology). He was helping me on a project one day in his office, and somehow it came up that people were using computers and modems — not the Web, this was before common access to the Internet — to share dirty pictures. I said “Really? Show me.” Several minutes later — it took some time to identify a relevant server, dial up and establish a connection — a picture started gradually revealing itself on his screen, very slowly, one line of pixels at a time. We continued with the task I had come there for while it unfolded. It turned out to be a fairly unremarkable picture of a nude woman lying on a bed, with her head tilted back looking at the camera. Not really X-rated, more hard R or NC-17 at most. I made a note, and promptly assigned a reporter to do a story on this new form of high-tech porn, which ended up running on our features front.
As you know, I’m working on some mutton chops for “Pride and Prejudice.” I really didn’t start early enough to get them nice and bushy, a la Regency Period.
I know from experience that sideburns take time. To grow them really big would take close to a year. And even more maddeningly, the part of my beard I don’t want — the mustache and chin area — grows much more quickly and thickly.
All I can say is that by the time I shave the middle part, just before opening night (which is just over two weeks away!), they will be passable, although not nearly as good as Mr. Bennet’s in the 1995 TV series. Good thing I’m playing Sir William, eh?
This would be easier to accept if I hadn’t watched a movie with my wife the other night about Beatrix Potter, whose father was played by John Woodvine, below. That’s just totally unfair. I console myself by saying that they have to be fake. They do, right? No actor could take that much time out of his life to look like this for one role…
The above sign, spotted today at Al Amir on Main St., got me to thinking of “The Avengers.”SPOILER ALERT! OK, not really, because it reveals nothing about the plot, although it will ruin a tiny little fun surprise. It’s just one of those little lagniappe things at the end of the credits. Although, come to think of it, this does tell you that all the heroes survive the movie, so SPOILER ALERT!
At the end of the climactic battle, as he’s lying dazed among the rubble, Robert Downey Jr., who as Iron Man has 90 percent of the movie’s good lines, reassures his comrades that he is alive by saying offhandedly, “You ever try shawarma? There’s a shawarma joint about two blocks from here. I don’t know what it is, but I wanna try it.”
Then, the fun part: After all the credits — apparently, Joss Whedon needed the help of about 3.7 million people to make this flick — you see the exhausted heroes lounging, disheveled, around a table in the shawarma joint, slowly munching away in complete silence. This continues for more than 30 seconds, as a restaurant employee sweeps up in the background.
This sort of backhanded, non-branded little product placement has apparently launched a bit of a shawarma craze:
Those of you still reading will likely recall Tony Stark’s fascination with shawarma toward the end of the film. During the climactic battle, Stark suggests the team adjourn to a nearby restaurant to try the dish, which Wikipedia describes as “a pita bread sandwich or wrap” filled with spit-roasted meat (commonly lamb, goat, chicken or a mixture of various meats). At the very, very end of the film, after the credits have rolled, we witness the superhero team sitting at a table, silently eating their shawarma for a surprisingly long amount of time.
Now, based on that short in-joke, TMZ claims that the Los Angeles shawarma industry has seen a massive spike in popularity since the release of the film. “At Ro Ro’s Chicken — a famed Lebanese joint in Hollywood — the manager says shawarma sales jumped 80% in the days after the movie opened,” the gossip site claims, while saying that a number of other Lebanese restaurants offered similar results…
That’s fine. Just as long as they don’t start rebranding it the Super-Gyro…
Last week, I called into question the value of recent pop music. I was moved to do so by this feature on NPR, regarding “The Songs Of The Summer, 1962-2012,” which ran the gamut “from surf rock in the early 1960s through British then American rock ‘n’ roll, disco, power ballads, R&B, boy bands and hip-hop.”
The list confirms me in my belief, that there hasn’t been a summer like that of 1966 since. As I said before:
Puts me in mind of the summer of ’66. I came back from the beach determined to go out and buy three singles: “Green Grass” by Gary Lewis and the Playboys, “I Am a Rock” by Simon and Garfunkel, and “Little Red Riding Hood” by Sam the Sham and the Pharoahs.
OK, so sue me. I was 12. At least “I Am a Rock” was cool.
But look at what else came out that summer:
PAPERBACK WRITER – The Beatles
WILD THING – The Troggs
PAINT IT, BLACK – The Rolling Stones (still my favorite Stones song)
SUMMER IN THE CITY – The Lovin’ Spoonful
HANKY PANKY – Tommy James & The Shondells
STRANGERS IN THE NIGHT – Frank Sinatra
MOTHER’S LITTLE HELPER – The Rolling Stones
AIN’T TOO PROUD TO BEG – The Temptations
DIRTY WATER – The Standells
WHEN A MAN LOVES A WOMAN – Percy Sledge
SUNSHINE SUPERMAN – Donovan
MONDAY, MONDAY – The Mamas & The Papas
Not to mention these forgettable items that I loved at the time:
RED RUBBER BALL – The Cyrkle
SWEET PEA – Tommy Roe
THEY’RE COMING TO TAKE ME AWAY, HA-HAAA! – Napoleon XIV
That was all just one summer.
Come on — what will today’s 12-year-olds have to look back to in the future?
The answer to that question doesn’t appear to be very encouraging.
Gradually, over the past week, I listened to that mix while doing a lot of other things. Here’s how I rated what I heard, on a scale from zero stars to five:
0 2007: Rihanna featuring Jay-Z, “Umbrella”
0 2007: T-Pain featuring Yung Joc, “Buy U A Drank”
0 2006: Nelly Furtado featuring Timbaland, “Promiscuous”
0 2005: Gwen Stefani, “Hollaback Girl”
0 2005: The Pussycat Dolls featuring Busta Rhymes, “Don’t Cha”
0 2004: Juvenile featuring Soulja Slim, “Slow Motion”
0 2002: Eminem, “Without Me”
0 2002: Nelly, “Hot In Herre”
0 2001: Destiny’s Child, “Bootylicious” – What did this in from the start was the ripped-off sample from Stevie Nicks’ highly irritating “Just Like the White-Winged Dove.” It only got worse from there.
0 1999: Len, “Steal My Sunshine”
0 1998: Next, “Too Close”
0 1998: Vengaboys, “We Like To Party”