Sunday, October 31, 2010

The nonapology apology is dead--long live the nonapology nonapology!

The Velvet Blog has been following the nonapology apology trend--that is, wishy-washy attempts at sounding like you're apologizing when you really aren't--in public discourse for a while now. But I'm here to declare that those days are over. Now, being a totally unapologetic asshat is all the rage.

Let's start with a master: Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. The unholy combination of Rupert Murdoch, Hugh Hefner, and an unneutered feral tomcat made headlines recently (well, in the only two Italian news outlets he doesn't own, apparently) after it came to light that he had sprung from police custody a 17-year-old Moroccan runaway who previously had spent time at his villa.

From the AP report:
"I've got nothing to clarify," Mr. Berlusconi said Friday. "I'm a playful person, full of life. I love life, I love women. ... Nobody can make me, at my age, change my lifestyle, of which I am absolutely proud."

Forget even a weasely, Clintonian "It depends on what your definition of 'is' is" for this guy. (I hope, by the way, that there's no truth to the rumor he'll be starring in a Jersey Shore: The Geriatric Years spin-off soon.)

A Rand Paul volunteer shows how the new nonapology nonapology is done on these shores--but, I have to say, with a lot less verve and a lot more self-pity. Last week, Tim Profitt stomped the head of a MoveOn activist outside a Paul appearance. After being identified, Profitt had this to say:
I don't think it's that big of a deal. I would like for her to apologize to me, to be honest with you.

That would have been a perfect nonapology nonapology if only he had stopped there.

But he didn't:
I put my foot on her, and I did push her down at the very end, and I told her to stay down. I actually put my foot on her to--I couldn't bend over because I have issues with my back.

Oooo, and there we just have serious overreach. Being a violent, unrepentant douchebag is one thing, but asking for sympathy, too? Serious miscalculation.

So, there you have it--two recent, inarguable examples showing that nonapology apologies are out and nonapology nonapologies are in. All we need is one more, and this will be picked up as a New York Times trend piece in the Sunday Styles section.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Smackdown!: Serial killers vs. serial commas

This story seems to be going viral, so let me just add: Amen. Also, since I'll be busy-busy the next few days, I'll rerun this entry from Nov. 3 of last year.

PhotobucketSerial killers

WHO?: Insane people who, to paraphrase an old Lay's commercial, can't kill just one.

PROS: Umm ... they cull the herd?

CONS: Crazy. Stabbingy. Shooty. Poisony.

PhotobucketSerial commas

WHAT?: That comma used between the last two items in a series of three or more. In "A, B, and C," it's the comma between "B" and "and."

PROS: In complicated sentences, can help avoid confusion.

CONS: I've got nothing.

WINNER: I know people who hate the serial comma. At least once a year, I have to defend its use in the pages of our magazine. "We don't like it! This other magazine I'm pointing to right now doesn't use it!" a few editors will say. That's all they've got. "It can add clarity in complex sentences--and we often use complex, tech-heavy sentences," I inevitably point out. And we keep using it.

Also, when I was a lowly editorial assistant at William Morrow, a novelist once a wrote a note to his editor: "I loathe the serial comma."

Really? I envy the leisure time you use to develop loathing for helpful punctuation. Perhaps you could use that time for something more useful--say, extra whacking-off time.

This is just a long way of crowning the serial comma the winner of this Smackdown! You kick serial-killer butt, dude. The forces of copyediting darkness will have to pry you out of my cold, dead sentences.

There comes a time when even I must say "no"

Netflix makes recommendations based on what you've been watching. There's an upside and a downside to that. If you've been watching good movies, you're probably going to have other, similar movies recommended. If, on the other hand, you've been watching The Apple ... well, all bets are off. What I'm trying to say is, Netflix thinks the Village People musical Can't Stop the Music and I were made for each other.

I'd never seen it--it's reputation is tough to get by.* But, what the heck ... I made it through The Apple and After Last Season, so I can watch anything, right?

Well, no. No, I can't. I tried--really, I tried. But it was just so, so painful.

You win, movie.

*The Newsweek review, per Wikipedia: "Can't Stop the Music ushers in a whole new concept in entertainment--it's the first all-singing, all-dancing horror film; the Dawn of the Dead of the disco era."

Thursday, October 21, 2010

A smart-shopping tip from The Velvet Blog

Never take the first offer a company makes.

Case in point: I decided to renew my membership to Bally's and went to the health-club chain's site to check pricing--which turned out to be $198 a year! No way, José!* The TVB strategy: Be patient and look for special offers.

I double-checked the site this morning and hit pay dirt. The first special is:
Renew for 0 months $15.99 Savings: $0.00

Woo hoo!

*Bally's was founded by noted fitness expert José Bally.**

**Not really.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

If sock monkeys drunk dialed

sock monkeyGood morning, Anita Hill, it's Ginni Thomas S. Monkey. I just wanted to reach across the airwaves and the years and ask you to consider something. I would love you to consider an apology sometime and some full explanation of why you did what you did with my husband dared challenge the silverback. So give it some thought and certainly pray about this and come to understand why you did what you did. OK, have a good day and realize that if you don't do this, I'll throw poop at you.

Now, give me that banana.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Should I call the cops?

My neighbor apparently has buried six people in his front yard. He's so brazen and sick that the graves actually have joke epitaphs, like "Rest in Pieces," and there's one skeleton that's poking half out of the ground. Oddly, the gravestones look flimsy, as if they may be made out of styrofoam. He's not only a maniac, but the worst kind of maniac--one who just doesn't sweat the details.

Meanwhile, on another neighbor's lawn, a large cat appears to be #&$@ing a pumpkin.

Surely, these are the end times.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Shooting some random dude in the face means never having to send a fruit basket

When Dick Cheney shot Harry Whittington in the face a few years ago while hunting--as I recall, the game was hoboes let loose on a desert island--we were told A) that the injuries were not serious and B) that the two were good friends and old hunting buddies. Actually, the injuries were quite serious and the two were acquaintances at best. Also, Whittington won't come out and say it, but Cheney obviously never apologized.

What the hell??

The original Washington Post story is behind a pay wall, but Salon quotes this:
Four days after being hit, the birdshot near his heart prompted it to beat erratically, forcing him back into the intensive care unit. Doctors said Whittington suffered a mild heart attack; he thinks it was something less, a heart "event."

Still, the injuries were more dire than previously disclosed. Whittington suffered a collapsed lung. He underwent invasive exploratory surgery, as doctors probed his vital organs for signs of damage. The load from Cheney's gun came close to, but didn't damage, the carotid artery in his neck.

Another excerpt:
Every so often, for months afterward, some of the lead in Whittington's body worked its way to the surface. But many pieces remain too deeply embedded to remove, including one near his heart. At 82, Whittington knows he will live the rest of his days with about 30 pieces of shot inside him. Somehow, he jokes, he can get through a metal detector without causing a commotion.

Tell me again that story about the liberal media ...

When W. moseyed off to the ranch for good, I predicted that there would be a flood of jaw-dropping information about the administration coming out. I was wrong--that didn't happen. Reporters obviously are still afraid Cheney will shoot them.

Oh, and c'mon, Dick, it's not really too late.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Yeah, well, that happens the first time

Ugh. This is what the race for New York's governor's office has sunk to:

--Republican Carl Paladino sends out racist and porn-filled e-mails to pals with approving messages.

--He has a 10-year-old daughter from an affair with a staffer, which he kept secret from his family for many years. Then he told his other children, but made them not tell their mother. Finally, he told his wife.

--He also makes comments along the lines of "Welfare recipients should be made to live in prison-like dorms and forced to take hygiene classes."

--He made accusations that Andrew Cuomo cheated on his wife. Then he took them back. Then he trotted them out again. Then he made a video in which he said his private life should be off limits, but that "Andrew's prowess is legendary."

--Last weekend, he gave a speech in front of orthodox rabbis in Brooklyn that included hateful passages on gays.

--He spent two days defending those remarks, and calling himself the "family values candidate."

--Suggested campaign slogan for Paladino, and, really, I want credit for this if he starts using it: Carl Paladino: His family values are so strong that he actually has two of them.

--Finally, he walked the anti-gay comments back ... a little, and very half-heartedly.

Now, via the Times, comes word that the orthodox rabbis he spoke in front of are not happy:
Rabbi Levin said he was especially upset that Mr. Paladino gave him no notice that he planned to back away from the comments.

"I was in the middle of eating a kosher pastrami sandwich," Rabbi Levin said. "While I was eating it, they come running and they say, 'Paladino became gay!' I said, 'What?' And then they showed me the statement. I almost choked on the kosher salami."

Oy. Well, at least I get a Quote of the Day out of it.

PS: The world has become so topsy-turvy that pastrami is turning into salami before choking you. I believe this is among the signs of the apocalypse listed in the Book of Revelation.

Is Freedom just another word for nothing left to lose?

Sunk costs are unrecoverable past expenditures. These should not normally be taken into account when determining whether to continue a project or abandon it, because they cannot be recovered either way. It is a common instinct to count them, however.

At what point do you stop reading a book you're not enjoying?

I find it easy to not finish a book I find boring. It's not a conscious decision--I simply stop picking it up and, after a while, realize I'm never going to pick it up again. I stopped reading Interview With the Vampire about five pages from the end. I just didn't care about it one way or another. I didn't stop reading it on purpose--I just stopped reading it.

But books I don't find boring but take an active dislike to? I'm not sure what to do.

I'm about two-thirds through Jonathan Franzen's much-praised Freedom, and quite honestly, I hate it. Not in the way I disliked, say, The DaVinci Code. To me, DaVinci just seemed like a penny dreadful that somehow went viral, infecting everyone except me. I easily finished DaVinci--in two sittings, as I remember--because it was so eager to be read that it was difficult to stop even when I liked virtually nothing about it.

Freedom is a different beast. It's a quote-unquote literary novel, praised by just about everyone, written by a novelist whose last book was praised by just about everyone. (That would be The Corrections, which I haven't read.)

Every character in Freedom is either a jerk, a whiner, or a whiny jerk. There are pages of dialog at a time that consist of two characters bitching at each other--plot is not advanced, theme is (to my mind, anyway) not developed coherently. Shouldn't I have a good idea what the book is about by page 352? I actually found myself getting angry at the book itself last night as I read before going to sleep. WHY AM I READING YOU WHEN I HATE YOU SO VERY, VERY MUCH? (As I posted on Facebook before turning out the light: "Am on page 352 (of 562) of Jonathan Franzen's Freedom and want to punch every single character in the face. Hard.")

I think I'm hung up on sunk costs. I've devoted this much time and energy to Freedom, so I feel like it's all a waste if I don't finish. If I were bored by it, I'd just put it down and never think about it again, like Interview With the Vampire. But somehow, I'll feel defeated by this damned thing if I don't plow through.

Incidentally, Freedom has not been nominated for a National Book Award, which everyone seemed to think was a given. Hmmm. Maybe I'm not the only one who doesn't get it.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

From the ridiculous to the sublime

So sorry to have haunted your dreams with scenes from The Apple. To make up for it, here's the opening scene from my favorite great movie, Powell and Pressburger's A Matter of Life and Death:

I know I've run this clip before, but I'm posting again because AMOLAD was one of the topics under discussion in last week's Filmspotting podcast. (Thanks to TVB reader Posol'stvo for tipping me off to Filmspotting's P&P marathon.) If you won't take my advice, perhaps you'll listen to two guys with a podcast.

I'm always looking to add a good podcast into my rotation. Do recommend any off-the-beaten-track ones you listen to in comments. Thanks!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Bite me

The '70s have much to answer for: Disco. The Partridge Family. Watergate. Leisure suits. Etc., etc.

To that list I would add The Apple, although it didn't open until 1980. What is The Apple? According to the trailer, it is special experience in movie-going entertainment.

But I guess that depends on how you define "special."

Filmed in West Germany in 1979 by an international crew and cast, and released the next year, The Apple was intended to be a musical for the youth market, a la Grease and Saturday Night Fever. Rocky Horror Picture Show had become a "midnight movie" favorite in the U.S. by then, and I'd bet that was in the producers' minds, too. I've been unable to dig up any accounts of its Teutonic reception, but given David Hasselhoff's success there the following decade, I'm going to assume it was a huge hit.

The U.S. market, however, turned out to be tougher nut to crack. The film was previewed disastrously--some accounts have audiences hurling free copies of the soundtrack LP at the screen--and got re-edited. If you ever decide to take the plunge and watch this, you'll notice a number of scenes in the preview above are nowhere to be found in the finished product. It played on only a handful of screens here in 1980, and disappeared in a week. Then it started appearing on late night TV and a cult began to form. I can't remember exactly when I first heard about The Apple but, as an aficionado of truly bad cinema, it's been on my must-see list for years. Then, as I cruised through Netflix's listings the other day ... there it was. I sat down yesterday morning with a large cup of coffee and slice of chocolate babka and let the whole thing wash over me.

Let's begin at the beginning:

It's the crazy, far-off world of 1994. New York--which looks oddly like an unused West Berlin shopping mall, as that's where it was shot--is home to Worldvision, a worldwide music competition modeled after the real-world Eurovision contest. Dandi and Pandi (Sandi and Mandi? Schmandi and Candi? Well, one of those must be right.) are singing their contest entry, "Do the BIM."

A word to future movie moguls: If you make up a word for a movie musical, it's probably best not to introduce that word in a wretched song. I honestly had no freaking clue what the characters were supposed to be singing. I realize now that it's a chant of "B!" "I M!" but it sounded more like "Be!" "I am!" A repeated refrain, which could be either "Hey, hey, hey, BIM's on the way!" or maybe "Hey, hey, hey, BIMs are the way!," wasn't a lot of help in puzzling it out.

You're probably wondering what a BIM is. Good question! As someone who watched this movie, I can tell you with absolute certainty that BIM is ... um ... that is, it's ... oh, hell, I'm not completely sure. At first, I thought it was the name of the group backing up Gandi and Wandi. As the movie progresses, it appears to be an acronym for the name of the record company. But, later, BIM the record company appears also to be the name of third party that got elected running on a platform of enforced calisthenics. So, your guess is as good as mine.

Tandi and Fandi achieve a phenomenally high score in the contest, much to the satisfaction of their manager and president of the record company, Mr. Boogalow.

Oh, another note to prospective movie moguls: If you name a character something like "Mr. Boogalow," decide on one pronunciation that the entire cast uses. Characters call him Mr. Booga-loo, Booga-loh, Bugga-loo, Bugga-low, and probably a few other variations.

Handi and Vandi are followed in the contest by the two characters who will become our hero and heroine, Alphie and Bibi, who sing a romantic ballad that goes: "We belong to one another/We share each other's destiny/United by our love, we're all children of/The universal family/And we are everybody's brother/We share the birthright to be free/And deep within our heart/There beats the song of the ages/Love: The universal melody!"

Of course, with such deep lyrics, Aphie and Bibi are a huge hit--until Mr. Boogalow sabotages their performance.

Still, Mr. B. recognizes their huge talent and summons them to his office for a meeting:

I should also point out that if there's a song you don't like, just hold tight--there's another song you won't like coming up in five minutes, complete with hundreds of extras wearing insane costumes. What this film lacks in competence, it makes up for in ambition.

Mr. Boogalow offers them a record contract. This provokes a series of hallucinations on the part of Alphie:

"It's a natural, natural, natural desire," Xandi explains in song to Bibi. "Meet an actual, actual, actual vampire!"

Who could resist? That may be my favorite couplet of all time. Bibi takes a bite of the gigantic plastic forbidden fruit, but Alphie declines. As a reward for signing a contract, Bibi is whisked off on a West Coast tour, where she gets to perform this salute to patriotism and amphetamines night after night:

"America, the land of the free/Is shooting up with pure energy!/And every day she has to take more/Speeeeeeeeeed!/America, the home of the brave/Is poppin' pills to keep up the pace/Speeeeeeeeeed!"

Obviously, she's a huge hit. And, yes, I suspect drugs were ingested in the making of this special movie-going experience.

Alphie, meanwhile, is living in a crappy apartment and writing earnest ballads that he can't sell. BIM, which heretofore has been presented as only a record label, is now revealed to be behind a Big Brotherish political regime that tickets you for not wearing BIM marks--stickers that look like something your little sister would put on her Trapper Keeper--on your forehead and forces you to do dance aerobics routines. Sadly, I wasn't able to find a clip of this sequence, but some of it is in the trailer.

Longing for his true love, Alphie tracks down Bibi to Mr. Boogalow's home, only to be seduced by Jandi with this single-entendre song about orgasms:

Unable to find Bibi, Alphie goes off to live with hippies in the park. Bibi eventually sees the error of her ways, finds Alphie, marries him, and has a child who appears to be about two years old, even though only a few months have passed. (I guess people age differently in the crazy, far-off world of 1994.) It takes the better part of a year, but Mr. Boogalow tracks them down and attempts to arrest them. In a literal deus ex machina, God drives down from heaven in a Rolls Royce and leads Alphie, Bibi, and the rest of the hippies to the Planet of the Hippies.

The end.

The Apple was directed by Menahem Golan, better known for Charles Bronson and Chuck Norris flicks. He had a long, lucrative career in B (and C and D and F) movies. The cast is very much a mixed bag. The heroine is played by Catherine Mary Stewart, who went on to a successful career on TV. The actor who played Alphie either never worked again or perhaps died of shame. There are some well-known or semi-well-known faces popping up here and there--the God character is Joss Ackland, whose face you'll remember from character roles; Mr. Boogalow was a bad guy in From Russia With Love and has an IMDb page full of credits; and Alphie's landlady is Miriam Margolyes, from the Blackadder series, The Age of Innocence, and Babe, among many others. From what I gather, the actor who played Dandi blamed this film for the death of his career, overlooking his own innate lack of talent. The choreography can be pinned on Nigel Lythgoe, currently a snide judge on the popular So You Think You Can Dance competition as well as a producer of American Idol. When Mr. Lythgoe is featured on So You Think You Can Choreograph, he'd better lose.

The Apple is available for streaming from Netflix. A lot of bad movies are sadly boring. This, however, had me laughing for pretty much its entire running time.

UPDATE: I am not alone in my love for this movie.

UPDATE #2: The Apple is no longer on Netflix, but it is on Amazon Prime.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

If sock monkeys made campaign ads

sock monkeyI'm not a witch one of those know-it-all great apes with their fancy-schmancy sign language. I'm nothing you've heard. I'm you, if you were made out of socks. None of us are perfect. But none of us can be happy with what we see all around us--politicians who think spending, trading favors, and backroom deals are the ways to stay in office leopards, hyenas, large birds of prey.

I'll go to Washington and do what you'd do--throw poop. I'm Christine O'Donnell S. Monkey, and I approved this message.

I'm you. If you were made out of socks. Now, give me that banana.


Quotation of the day

From The Associated Press:
PARIS – Former Societe Generale SA trader Jerome Kerviel was convicted on all counts Tuesday in one of history's biggest trading frauds, sentenced to three years in jail and ordered to pay the bank a mind-numbing euro4.9 billion ($6.7 billion) in damages.

Needless to say, Monsieur Kerviel is not too happy about this. Which leads to our quotation of the day, from his lawyer:
"I hope you all will donate a euro to Jerome Kerviel," the lawyer told TV cameras and reporters.

What's French for "chutzpah"?