Friday, February 26, 2010

Rediscovering the Past: Saying Goodbye to Boner

As you likely well know, Andrew Koenig was found dead in a Vancouver park.

What better way to say goodbye than to show a goodbye episode of sorts?

Or, if you'd like to watch this episode in higher quality elsewhere, here is the link to The WB's website, who apparently stream "Growing Pains" episodes.

I can speak with confidence when I say that anyone in my peer group was at least fleetingly familiar with the work of Andrew Koenig, TV's Boner Stabbone. Most, more than fleeting. He also played Batman in a really good short that came out after the Batman franchise looked to be done. That can be streamed here. But back to "Growing Pains," he was the sidekick of the cool lead male teen, both of which were sitcom staples in the 80s. In Boner's case, he was the dork (the other option, of course, being the nerd) which was probably a curse of sorts. As was the case with nearly every actor who was cast in one of these roles that largely amounted to a caricature, Andrew Koenig didn't do much television or film acting after the role.

Andrew Koenig was reported to have been depressed and was found after presumably committing suicide. Everyone feels for his family and friends.

At least we still have Semper Fidelis...

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Man on Film: Affleck News

My apologies for not quite getting around to the Shutter Island film review as I had intended. I was initially planning on seeing it Thursday night at an advance screening, but life got in the way. I didn't end up seeing it until Sunday, and I've been working on another gargantuan column for Sports Grumblings about the teams that ESPN forgot exists. I fully anticipate getting to that write-up as soon as Thursday night, after which I have a queue of things I need to cover ranging from another Tim O'Brien-related Reading Rainbow entry, the newest season of "Friday Night Lights," and my first foray into the works of Jonathan Lethem.

Since I've not got the time at present to complete those tasks and more (namely, more Munch My Benson content), I did feel I should stop in and drop some ka-nowledge on y'all. To longtime readers this will come as no surprise, but your faithful Inconsiderate Prick is what could mildly be called a "big fan" of Ben Affleck. In recent years, he has made good on my consistent defense of him through trying times by being fantastic in such films as Hollywoodland, State of Play, and Extract, while also stepping behind the lens (figuratively) to give us the superb Dennis Lehane adaptation, Gone Baby Gone.

Coming out later this year (tentative release date of September 10th), we will get to see Affleck's directorial follow-up to Gone Baby Gone: The Town, another crime drama which will feature Blake Lively, Jeremy Renner, Jon Hamm, Chris Cooper, and the inimitable Ben Affleck.

Now while nothing about the above (and it's adapted from a Chuck Hogan novel, 2004 Hammett Prize Winner Prince of Thieves) doesn't get my hopes up insanely, what is perhaps even better news is that the infamous wife-trading* story of former Yankees' teammates Fritz Peterson and Mike Kekich, The Trade. More details on the film can be found here and here, but the script was written by former "Seinfeld" and "Curb Your Enthusiasm" scribe Dave Mandel.

*I hesitate to use the term wife-swap as theirs was a full-on trading of each others wives, on a permanent basis.

The first time I heard this story, which I think I first read about here, I thought, "Holy shit is that weird." When you think that about a true story, you can't help but think it would make a sweet-ass movie. Seriously, read that last link, and tell me you don't want a Red Sox fan making (and allegedly co-starring in it with friend, Matt Damon) that film?

Thank you, Benjamin Geza Affleck, for rewarding my loyalty with your greatness.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Reading Rainbow: Shutter Island by Dennis Lehane

While I've fallen a little behind on the Reading Rainbow installments, that doesn't mean I've been lax in the reading. It's been quite the opposite. In fact, after accidentally leaving my bag with the Jonathan Lethem book I was working through (was my subconscious working for me), I took the opportunity to run out to BookPeople and pick up Shutter Island in the thought that maybe I could finish it before the film was released Friday. Well, with a 50-page jump on things, I read the rest of the book on Tuesday.

Seeing as though I typically don't effortlessly breeze through 320 pages in a day, this is saying something.

In the most basic sense, Shutter Island is page-turner. Upon diving in, you have already burned through to the end by the time you've had a chance to come up for breath. Lehane's prose is filled with verve and tenacity, and his dialogue seems to flow effortlessly from his pen, the words ascribed to each character always ringing true.

In his first foray outside of the contemporary crime novel (this was the last novel he wrote before The Given Day), Lehane crafted a mind-bending psychological thriller that leaves you breathless. As two U.S. Marshals are brought to Shutter Island to investigate the disappearance of a prisoner/patient at the Ashecliffe Hospital for the Criminally Insane, Marshals Teddy Daniels and Chuck Aule are cut off from the outside world by a violent hurricane that is bearing down on the island.

On their own and operating under the watchful eye of the prison and clinical staff, Daniels and Aule begin to uncover an unseemly operation ranging from unethical and inhumane experimentation and surgeries to CIA shadow ops. All the while, Daniels is there secretly on a mission to find the man who set his apartment building on fire and killed his wife in the fire.

As they delve deeper and deeper into their investigation, everything you feel like you know becomes more and more hazy, and nothing is above question. Lehane masterfully toys with perspective and assumption, and by the end of this taut thriller he leaves the reader stunned.

There is not a wasted word in this novel, and it is a rapturous look into the psyche of a man on a mission to stick to his duty while also trying to delicately balance a quest for his wife's killer. Sitting down to read it, you will come to its conclusion before you even realize that any time has passed, and I suppose that is one of the greatest things that could be said about a read.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Reading Rainbow: The Given Day by Dennis Lehane

This looks to be a very Lehane-y week here at Inconsiderate Prick. With a 50-page head start, I read the last 320 pages of Shutter Island yesterday for which you can be expecting an entry tomorrow. Obviously, there is also a little movie by the same name that will be coming out Friday. I fully anticipate taking it in on Friday, if not sooner. And then there is what, to this point, can only be deemed his magnum opus--The Given Day.

Set against the backdrop of Boston as The Great War has just come to an end, America is in the throes of drastic change. It kicks off with a 30-page prologue following Babe Ruth between World Series games as he de-boards a stopped Chicago-to-Boston train and joins in on an all-black game. As the game goes on, the white players from the train mosey on toward the field, inevitably corrupting what had initially been an innocent game, cheating and eventually getting Ruth to side with them. Ruth's guilt from that day follows him throughout the book, as he pops up intermittently at times of transition.

The scope of this book doesn't stop at the mere inclusion of Babe Ruth at the time of he begins to capture the imagination of the American public and revolutionizes its pastime. Within its pages, Lehane ties in the Spanish Influenza pandemic, the Boston Police Strike of 1919, anarchist plots of terrorism, union battles, a young J. Edgar Hoover, then-Governor Calvin Coolidge, and the racial tension running through much of Lehane's work. What is perhaps most impressive is not necessarily the scope of what Lehane has chosen to take on but the deftness with which he accomplishes the task. There is a lot going on here, as there was a lot going on in Boston at the time, and the ease with which Lehane takes the reader along for the dual-protagonist ride is admirable.

As always, Lehane's prose flows effortlessly. Despite its 700+ pages, the book's length never feels daunting. Instead, as the book draws to its close, you can't help but wish there was more, as you've grown to care for these characters. The turmoil Luther and Danny endure and the bond they form endears them to you. Their struggles as representatives of the common man against the imposing oppositional forces cannot help but draw the reader's sympathy. Their attempts to live by a moral code while embattled against the morally bankrupt when there is an easier path is intensely compelling.

In short, Dennis Lehane has crafted a 700 page piece of historical fiction that flies by and actually leaves you wanting more, which is no small feat. The Given Day is an effortless read while not at all light. It deals with racism, morality, class struggles, terrorism, pandemics, murder, and riots yet never leaves you weary.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Man on Film: Crazy Heart

After weeks of not being able to see this for various reasons, TSLF and I finally got out to the theater to take in Crazy Heart, and am I ever glad we did.

As this is a movie about a musician, I feel compelled to talk first about the music. The soundtrack is outstanding. With Buck Owens, Waylon, Townes, and more scattered throughout the film with the Oscar-nominated Ryan Bingham theme, "The Weary Kind," bridging from the coda to the credits, the non-Bad Blake songs in the film set the perfect tone. And by perfect tone, I mean the film's soundtrack is absent any and all bullshit, factory-produced, Nashville faux-country.

But really the soundtrack is just there to compliment the performance by Jeff Bridges. Singing mostly* T-Bone Burnett/Stephen Bruton penned songs, Bridges deftly embodies the Texas country singer, both as an actor and as a musician. Vocally, Bridges pulls off everything that's asked of him, which is no small task considering that the "Bad Blake" catalog runs the gamut from country ballad to a honky-tonk rollick. As an actor, he never misses a beat on his whiskey-soaked run.

*There's also the great "Brand New Angel" that was written by a personal favorite of mine, Greg Brown.

As for the rest of the film (and really, the music is that important), well, it's really damn good. Upon initially hearing of this film, I think a lot of us were probably drawn to comparing it to The Wrestler. There are certainly thematic elements that the two films share. They are about former stars in their fields of entertainment whose careers have been relegated to playing for peanuts in holes-in-the-wall. Both protagonists have also let their career pursuits (and the lifestyle inherent in such paths chosen) get in the way of the building any semblance of a personal life, leaving loved ones in their wake.

Where the films differ is in how they make the viewer feel. Sure, both films have humor generously mixed in, but where The Wrestler is ultimately depressing as the future can only have so much to hold for a professional wrestler, Crazy Heart is not nearly as sombre. Where The Ram only knows one way to live and his age has gotten to be an insurmountable obstruction, Bad Blake has a clear path by which he can right his ship. As such, the humor within is not simply a means by which temporary levity is allowed in to an otherwise bleak cinescape, it enriches a redemption tale.

And setting this tale of a Texas country singer against the quiet vastness of the American Southwest seals the deal. Maybe it is coincidental, but three of the best films* of the past five years have all been filmed largely against that backdrop. Now there is a fourth.

*Here, I am talking of The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada, No Country for Old Men, and There Will Be Blood, which actually might just be the three best films of that time span, in descending order. The only film I can think of that might force its way into that conversation off the top of my head is Children of Men. Well, that and Rambo, of course. And maybe Brick.

Driven by the superb performance of Jeff Bridges, whose turn as an alcoholic washed up country star strikes a perfect balance between a charming performer and a hopeless drunk, Crazy Heart is great film imbued with a love for music and its flawed hero.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Tube Steak Meets Reading Rainbow: Heat Wave by Richard Castle

Right off the bat, I'll admit that reading Heat Wave is probably the nerdiest thing I've done as an adult*.

*Well, I did make shirts for the third time I went to see Next in the theaters, but that was an act entirely motivated by comedy derived from making t-shirts for a seldom-seen movie that we went to see in a bargain theater in Round Rock**.

**For those unfamiliar with the Austin area, there isn't really a bunch of suburbs, per se. Austin can basically annex land as it sees fit and just keeps growing out. As such there are just a handful of suburbs. Round Rock is one of them. And it sucks.

Now many of you may need an explanation as to what makes this so nerdy. After all, without any prior knowledge as to what this is, it may seem like I was simply reading a normal book with a slightly lame title.

Oh, let me assure you, it is not that simple.

You see, ABC has taken to having characters in its shows write books. Then, when the books in their shows are released, that same book from the show appears on book shelves across America. Written by the character in the show. Now this is mostly employed by the ABC soaps, but the series "Castle" is predicated upon the premise of a smarmy, cocksure crime novelist following a sexy NYPD detective around for source material for his new series of novels. I guess it stands to reason that if ABC releases novels by its "authors" in other series then Richard Castle would be no different.

Now, I may not have physically purchased the book (it was a gift), but I certainly did read it. And I read it within a couple of weeks of receiving it.

I can safely say that this was one of the odder reading experiences I've had. When I was a nerdier teenager*, I read "Star Trek: The Next Generation" novels (yes, plural) and at least one Star Wars novel, so I am no stranger to what is essentially authorized fanfic. This, however, is constantly referenced in the series. It is a fictionalized story based on the lives of characters in a TV show written in the voice of one of those characters by a real but nameless author. I mean seriously, what the fuck?

*Oh, trust me, this was both possible and true.

Anyway, despite the one long in-joke that this inevitably must turn into, I actually like to read detective novels for a light, change-of-pace reading, so this is up my alley in that regard. And, as has been sort of established but could probably use reiteration, I am a fan of "Castle." My initial concerns were quickly alleviated as Stana Katic began to hold her own opposite Nathan Fillion. So I had tempered hopes for Heat Wave.

For what it was, the novel worked. There were times when I was embarrassed to be reading it (and I read a lot of books, both fictional and non- about baseball), but there were also times when laughed thinking about the smirk that Fillion's Castle must've had on his face while writing a passage. This is an odd thought to have while reading a novel to be sure, but it wasn't necessarily unpleasant. Sure, the novel wasn't high art, but it isn't trying to be. At times, it may be a bit clunky, and it plays things understandably safe--never erring into anything past steamy--but the read is fun. The level of meta-reflexivity that this novel resides within is certainly an interesting one, although its appeal is somewhat narrow. Not narrow enough to keep the novel outside of the New York Times Best Seller list's Top 10 (#6), but there is obviously a very limited amount of potential readership out there.

I guess whether or not you want to read this boils down to how much you like the show. I watch every episode. I was given the book. I read it quickly after receiving it, so while I wasn't willing to buy it, I was certainly eager to read it. Maybe this is the last bastion of self-consciousness for me. I still am not sure that I would read the second "Castle" book in public, but I'd likely read it in the privacy of my own home and would possibly even spend my own hard-earned money on it.

At the very least, I am now in on the inside-joke about the sex scene in the novel within the series.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Diversions: A Note from Your Prick

All right. I really did not want to have to do this. I'm not a big fan of having to do this as a commenter on other sites, but as a result of the often R-rated nature of this blog, I have had to change the comments sections a bit.

Where before there was no need for word verification to post a comment, now there is. I was simply getting too many spam comments. I wish this weren't the case, but when you are one of the top Google results for searches for "Soapy Cock Shots"* and you've got "Prick" in the name of the blog and you liberally toss around the word "fuck" and you have multiple posts tagged with the descriptor "Defecation Sweeping the Nation" and, well, you write a lot of things that end up getting hits that normal well-adjusted bloggers simply do not have to deal with.

*At the time of this post's writing, this blog was the fifth result on Google when a search for "soapy cock shots" was done. I'm sure this post changed that, for better or worse. At the very least, you soapy cock shot purveryors must surely be disappointed. My apologies, fans of lathered up dicks. I can surely point you in the direction of a certain Steve Guttenberg star-vehicle called Can't Stop the Music that will absolutely sate your appetite.

So, my apologies. I assure you that I want you to comment. I really wish you would comment more here. I know more of you read this blog than comment on it. I certainly do not think myself so interesting as to warrant your input/feedback/related story on every post I write, but please, readership, comment.

Now this post has been little more than an explanation for a minor blog change, and for that I am sorry. To make amends, I would like to provide you with a bit of a treat in the way of a video.

And this:

And in three parts, the first time the word "condom" was used on network television:

You are welcome.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Musicalia: Justin Townes Earle - Stubb's, Austin, TX - 02/04/10

Sorry for the absence. Work, computer death scare, and a 6,300+ word fantasy baseball article got in the way of writing here. At least it means I've got stuff to write about now. Starting with...

I'm not sure what it was that grabbed me, but within the past couple of months the latest Justin Townes Earle* record has kept finding its way back into my CD player. In the car. At work(s). Non-stop.

*Just in case some of you need this explained, Justin Townes Earle is Steve Earle's son. His middle name is in honor of Townes Van Zandt. He seems to be intent to deliver on every ounce of promise that pedigree offers.

The reason this is odd is that I bought it months ago. I listened to it a bit. I liked it.

I didn't become preternaturally disposed to listening to it until the last two months or so. Now, I listen to it multiple times a week. Maybe it was the "Can't Hardly Wait" cover*

--a song that I was already obsessing over when I first bought Midnight at the Movies--that started me back up, but obviously one song is not enough to force an entire album into your life repeatedly.

*Ryan, you sure as shit better have been at the show this is from. Isbell and Justin Townes Earle? That's just fucking crazy...

Regardless, I've been playing the shit out of this album. The obsession came at a great time because it just so happened that Justin Townes Earle was playing Stubb's Inside tonight.

When we (The Special Lady Friend, multiple road trip companion Chad, and myself) first got to Stubb's, we seemed to have been cursed. The first spot on the floor we secured was next to a Susan Powter/Brigitte Nielsen* hybrid who apparently had no idea where the stage was and instead seemed intent upon loudly (and intelligently...) prattling on about anything and everything, cackling as the mood brought her to it.

*Late-80s/early-90s era Nielsen. Like married to Sly, not drunkenly hooking up with Flavor Flav in hot tubs with cameras rolling, although from what Sly has said, she was just as batshit crazy then, too. Oh, and feel free to inspect what is going on with Nielsen's left hand.

As soon as space somewhere not next to this wonderful couple opened up somewhere else on the floor, we relocated. This time we were greeted by a group who could be best described as people in town on business who had never been to a concert in their lives and therefore thought that it was all right to scream over the top of the band playing on the stage. Luckily for us (but not for the opener, Dawn Landes, whose newly styled late-60s Loretta Lynn hairdo aptly befit her engaging musical stylings), the Indianapolitans (or insert any equally culture-less town that you might prefer) took the intermission as an opportunity to smoke in the patio area, deeming it a better place to try to hook up with the likewise married colleagues while out of state than the louder club floor.

So by the time Justin Townes Earle took the stage, the assholes had migrated, and we were thankfully able to enjoy the show without the distraction of douchebaggery*. And we were lucky because the show was great. TSLF couldn't stop raving when we got out and deemed it worth going to work on five-ish hours of sleep before her head hit the pillow.

*Well, not entirely. Chad said afterward that the doucher next to him, out of place in a button-up dress shirt (this is a country show, son), asked the girl he was with if they could go now during each of the last five or six songs. I know what you're thinking, and no, she wasn't his mother.

As for the details, Justin Townes Earle stayed true to the music he's playing and put on a show complete with all the old-timey country between song banter and showmanship. There were darlin's to spare, he brought Miss Dawn Landes up for a duet, he sang about trains, he prodded the audience to get his bandmates beverages of the alcoholic variety, and he spoke lovingly but jokingly about his mother. As a member of the crowd got too boisterous, he said (roughly), "My mama's got three inches reach on me, which means she's got six on you." He exclaimed, "Oh, my damn!" enough times that if you ever hear the kids saying it, you'll know where it came from.

And the music? Well, the music made me want to learn to dance--don't get any ideas, TSLF... The appropriately attired band (Bryn Davies on upright bass and Josh Hedley on the fiddle) had his back at every turn, and despite the sparser arrangements resulting from touring with a three-piece band, the songs played great. Sure, there's no infectious mandolin line in the "Can't Hardly Wait" cover, and keys play a big part in a lot of his songs, but this was one helluva slice of contemporized Americana.
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