Monday, April 30, 2012

Prick Tunes: Andrew Gold "Lonely Boy"

It seems as though even with his passing in June of last year Andrew Gold never got his due. Gold, who was basically Billy Joel if Billy Joel were good and didn't hate the trees of Long Island so much that he was driven to plow into them with his automobile, was a gifted multi-instrumentalist born and raised in the shadow of the Hollywood sign. In addition to penning this gem, Gold wrote and recorded "Thank You for Being a Friend," which was later performed by Cindy Fee to serve as the theme song for Golden Girls.

He was also instrumental in the success of Linda Ronstadt, working as a multi-instrumentalist and arranger on her albums Heart Like a Wheel, Prisoner in Disguise, and Hasten Down the Wind. He also worked with Art Garfunkel and 10cc, the latter asking him to join the band, an offer he was unable to accept for business reasons, though he did later work with 10cc guitarist Graham Gouldman in their band Wax. 

Friday, April 27, 2012

Prick Tunes: The Band Live in Pittsburgh, 1970

Closing out the week, it makes sense to show concert footage of The Band at their apex. Filmed during a concert at The Syria Mosque in Pittsburgh on November 1st, 1970. It's fucking amazing. There are four songs performed here: "Time to Kill," "The Weight," "This Wheel's on Fire," and "Up on Cripple Creek."

The Birth of Uncool

I’m old. I’m 31 years old. And it’s happening. The it I am talking about is generational disconnection, the metaphysical loss of youth.

I guess I am no different than any other post-modern wayfarer lost in the burgeoning glut of television channels, personalized YouTube music video collections, and iPad apps. Thoughts whistle delusional tunes:  “I won’t grow old at heart. I won’t let it happen. I’ll always be hip. I will always relate to the youth.” Then it happens. A teenager cycles by with a flat-billed hat, emblazoned with rhinestones and slaughtered with oversized calligraphy, sporting a 90 dollar Affliction T, titanium sports necklace rubbing neck flesh raw, tipping a Monster energy drink, and all of a sudden you’re Walt Kowalski. 

No more watching the Real World. No more polluting the suburban atmosphere with gangsta rap. No more listening to crap music in behest of irony. No more mohawks and novelty mustaches. No more jawing at authority. No more convenience store hot dogs and mouth-puckering slushies. No more crowd surfing. No more catch phrases where you say something dense with blundered inflection. No more nights turning into mornings turning into nights again. And, oh yeah, get off my lawn.

Hip cannot be forced. Sure, I slap a Lil’ Wayne album on my iPod once in a while, or maybe some AWOL Nation. I might listen to a Kesha song all the way through if caught at the right moment of stop-light quirkiness, but I’ll be damned if I will spell her name with a dollar sign. 
Here’s the thing: I don’t even know if those artists mentioned are even cool or not, and even though I can dig a few of the tracks, I’m merely testing the frigid water for signs of life. I’m confused when modern radio pumps Nirvana and Green Day and Blink 182 over the waves. Is this like when I would explore Zeppelin and Floyd as a teenager? I can’t even sniff the faintest jock of coolness right now. Which begs the question: was I ever hip in the first place? Magic eight ball says, “All signs point to no.” If there was ever any proof I am past my glory years, it was that last sentence. But is anyone ever really cool? And is being cool, in and of itself, actually…cool?
I am a father of two toddlers, and I am also a returning college student. Juxtaposition can be a real stab in the ass sometimes. As far as I can tell, there are two styles that college students attempt these days: the sporty/pajama look, usually involving sweatpants for the boys and sport leggings for the women, and the modern hipster/business look, which can involve a grave amount of hair gel mixed with a starched button-up for guys and an 80s shoulder-baring top for the women. Either way, hefty or not hefty, the goal is to let as much hang out as possible. I’m just not comfortable with this yet, and I don’t really know why. Am I worried about what this means for my children’s generation? Or am I jealous that I don’t fit in? 
The world certainly doesn’t wait for those raising children. Is this the reason I suddenly find myself watching all 68 hours of Ken Burns’s Baseball on Netflix and piping Kind of Blue at a low volume through headphones to relax at night? Is it because when one has children, the record skips? In that small gap of time, you turn down a couple of free concert tickets and extra nights with friends to watch Finding Nemo a few hundred times, and suddenly you can’t decipher why Saw VII is a box office hit. Is it for the sake of my own children that their father can’t be cool? 
How do these things happen overnight? One day I’m strolling through the mall buying the same curved-billed Royals hats I always wear, the next I can’t even find one for sale. Get this: they don’t even sell compact discs in malls anymore! But there are plenty of faux Coach bags and faux designer sunglasses and, well, faux anythings. And when was it decided screen printing technology should be maximized? I feel like Brooks released from Shawshank.

There are droves of thirty-somethings still hanging on. If lucky, the T-Shirt is of Bad Religion or Social Distortion variety, but the usual garb involves dragons, tigers, and a spiked, receding hairline, skinny guys with beer bellies. The ladies are easy to spot. Just look for the pink, jewel-encrusted Fidel Castro hat. I feel like such a hater for succumbing to stereotypes, and I hate the word hater. I am friends with these people, as much as I am friends with most people I meet. I enjoy the peculiarity of human nature. I just can’t see myself instructing my children to behave in school while huffing on a cigarette, blasting Metallica, letting them snack on a Pop-Tart breakfast in a mini-van as I drive them to school. I do match the Ramones T with khaki shorts on occasion, and I am certain that is decidedly uncool enough.
When I talk with my fellow youthful college comrades, I notice it happening. I could be their friend, but that isn’t even an option for me. I refuse to be David Wooderson. They look up to me in a way, looking for advice, and I think that is pretty damn cool. 
All right, all right, all right.
So, when I was asked to join Inconsiderate Prick for a few articles detailing pop consummation, I jumped at the chance to keep my youthful exuberance intact. What better way than to collaborate with a man that was never young to begin with? If Old Man Duggan and Wordy Ginters can litter the web with Victorian idolatry, I can certainly contribute. So who is up for some Breaking Bad commentary? A back-and-forth argument with Old Man Duggan about whether the Beatles suck or are the greatest band ever? A tournament bracket of relatively obscure 90s songs anyone? Stay tuned. Wipe that hipster smugness off of your face, and enjoy one man’s struggle with cultural relativity.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Prick Tunes: Levon Helm "A Train Robbery"

Continuing on through Levon Helm Tribute Week, today we've got Levon Helm and band playing "A Train Robbery" from an April 11, 2009 appearance on Late Night with Conan O'Brien. "A Train Robbery" can be found on his album Electric Dirt.

Forbidden Love - Justin Townes Earle's "South Georgia Sugar Babe"

After just recently being introduced to Justin Townes Earle (to the extent that I actually have his albums now versus random plays on Pandora stations), I've found myself puzzled with his "South Georgia Sugar Babe" because he's clearly talking about working about the Southern Atlantic island of South Georgia (UK protectorate).  South Georgia is a well known destination for penguins looking to reproduce young.

It's pretty evident after listening to this song that he's into some kind of inter-species erotica, specifically penguins, which I think we can all admit is gross.  You be the judge...

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Prick Tunes: The Band Live on New Year's Eve 1983

Levon Helm Tribute Week rolls on here at Inconsiderate Prick. Today, we have a full concert of The Band.

So maybe this isn't from an era in which The Band were on amicable terms with Robbie Robertson, but this is a 1:14:53 full concert of The Band still featuring Rick Danko, Garth Hudson, Richard Manuel, and of course Levon Helm. The Band opened for The Grateful Dead at the San Francisco Civic Auditorium that night.

Even without Robertson, this concert is outstanding.

Here's the setlist:
"Rag Mama Rag"
"Long Black Veil"
"The Shape I'm In"
"It Makes No Difference"
"Milk Cow Blues"
"Mystery Train"
"King Harvest (Has Surely Come)"
"Stage Fright"
"W.S. Walcott Medicine Show"
"You Don't Know Me"
"Genetic Method / Chest Fever"
"Java Blues"
"Willie & The Hand Jive"

Wordy Old Men on Downton Abbey: Series One, Episode Three

All, at this point, you should know the drill. On the docket for this week, Wordy Ginters and yours truly watched the third episode of first series of Downton Abbey as it aired in its original sequencing in the U.K. on ITV. The original British presentation has more footage and was broken up into straight, hourly installments rather than the airings on PBS that crammed everything into four longer episodes, cutting out what has been commonly thought to be roughly 35 minutes from the first series. Here are links to the first and second installments in this series.

In the third episode, Mary sends a letter to a prospective suitor, Evelyn Napier, inviting him to Downton. Evelyn accepts the invitation, much to Cora's delight, and brings along Mr. Kemal Pamuk, a Turkish diplomat in England to aid in negotiations for Albanian independence. Mary--and pretty much everyone else--is completely taken by the handsome Turk. While Mary, Kemal, and Evelyn are on a hunt, Edith feebly tries to draw Matthew's eye by way of a tour of the county's churches. Downstairs, it is discovered that Gwen has been taking correspondence courses in the hopes of leaving service to become a secretary, while Bates endures pain from a limp corrector he bought in town that could double as a draconian torture device. At dinner and cocktail hour, Mary's attention is devoted solely to the Turk, ignoring both Matthew and Evelyn. She spurns Pamuk's initial advance, but Pamuk blackmails Thomas, who wanted the Turk's junk, into taking him to Mary's room that night. In her room, he seduces her only to croak in her bed. She enlists Anna and Cora to help haul Pamuk's body back to his room in an effort to avoid ruination, but the attention she pays Pamuk and the sorrow she feels at his death drive Evelyn Napier away.

Wordy Ginters: The rest of the gang were hunting fox, but Mary was hunting Pamuk. When they broke off from the group and rode thru the mud, I assumed that foreshadowed anal sex. I was right. Maybe. Did Mary foreplay him to death? It would make her more interesting. Ever hear the urban legend that Molly Shannon literally fucked someone to death. I'm certain Fellowes is referencing that here.

Dead? We'll just have to assume the answer is "yes."
Old Man Duggan: Given Pamuk's statement about how he knew what he was doing in regards to her virginity remaining intact for her husband and the previous allusions to her paying for not having ridden in a while in the morning with the obvious ramifications being trouble sitting, your reading certainly makes sense. Do we need to revisit the colloquialism "going Greek" and replace "Greek" with "Turkish?" It seems that we've now gotten another sexually subversive subtext that can go hand-in-hand with the Duke of Crowborough's "one swallow does not a summer make" comment. Given the positioning of Lady Mary and Mr. Pamuk leading up to the sordid events that led to his death, we can only assume that Pamuk was into face-to-face anal, or F2FA as I like to call it. Thankfully, until now I'd never heard that Molly Shannon urban legend. Was it her love interest in Wet Hot American Summer? I haven't seen that kid anywhere, although I can't for the life of me remember what he looks like. I guess I will find out whether she fucked his 13-year-old ass to death if he's in the prequel.

WG: I like how the staff and others were starting to unravel the dark possibilities of Pamuk's death. Most comically, Bates down playing Lord Crawley's spitballing that some one could have poisoned the gloriously ravishing Pamuk because they couldn't have got past Patmore. The Maginot line of Downton Abbey.

OMD: It might interest you to find out that our dreamy Turk is also a front man of a band. They are named Shere Khan. I'll let you decide if you're into them--and more into him--with the video at the end of the post.

WG: I want to screw Pamuk. Why would I be different than virtually every member of Downton Abbey? Have you seen Teorema by Pier Paulo Pasolini? Terence Stamp plays a Christ-like figure who appears at a household and literally sexes up everyone in the family, father, mother, daughter, son, maid, garden gnome, chaise lounge, there may have been others, it has been a while since I saw it. At the time, the premise struck me as brilliantly profane. The reaction to Pamuk gave me a little bit of that sexual anarchist vibe. Too bad his "death" scenes featured a facial expression not unlike one gets when a pop bottle has been inserted into your anus.

OMD: If there was one way I was going to categorize Mr. Pamuk, it would under the heading: Turkish dreamboat. Who knew that Rod Stewart based Billy in "Young Turks" on Kemal Pamuk? This episode certainly gives new meaning to the lyric "Because life is so brief and time is a thief when you're undecided / And like a fistful of sand id can slip right through your hands." I am also disturbingly attracted to him. As for Pasolini, the only film of his I've seen is Salò, or The 120 Days of Sodom, an uplifting romp that, from the sound it is far more extreme than Teorema. At one point, Teorema was available on Netflix Instant, and I started it up but I fell asleep to have it permeate my dreams in exactly the way you'd imagine. I was penetrated by The Limey. I liked the touch of Pamuk's eyes not closing.

Thomas's gaydar must have been broken or it doesn't work for Turks because holy shit was that a major misstep. And how great was Bates's line to Lord Grantham on the subject of Thomas serving as Pamuk's valet: "Oh, you know Thomas, my Lord. He has to have a grumble. But I gather he cheered up when he saw the gentleman." The sly look in Bates's eye was priceless. Then as Thomas is about to put the moves on Pamuk, he's talking about how he's always wanted to visit Turkey. Clearly, this lends credence to the notion that perhaps we need to augment the term "going Greek." Then there is more anal subtext in regards to "going Turkish" at the dinner table when Pamuk proffers the invite to Mary: "Well the next time you feel a twinge, you must come to Istanbul." To which she replies: "Wouldn't the journey be painful?" His response? "Sometimes we must endure a little pain in order to achieve satisfaction." I don't see any way to read all this than to assume they're talking about buttsex.

WG: It's all about the buttsex. I thought perhaps the ravenous Pamuk was setting Thomas up. The way the scene hit me was that Pamuk may have indeed decided to visit Thomas after dinner if the mood had struck him. You don't wheel around, like Pamuk did to have his tie knotted, unless you are familiar with the deliciously intimate nature of F2FA.

Pamuk, about to teach Mary what going Turkish entails
OMD: One has to wonder what Fellowes has against Sodomites. First, there's Thomas, arguably the most despicable of the cast of characters in Downton Abbey. Thomas's former fling, the Duke of Crowborough proves to be a shameless fortune chaser. Then you've got Kemal Pamuk, gorgeous Turkish attache and analizer of presumably tens of British debutantes, who is punished for his affinity for going Turkish with death.

WG: I don't know if Fellowes is in Fred Phelps territory here, but I'm not rejecting the framework out of hand.

OMD: The tour of the county's churches is priceless. Lady Edith's desperation in the fore. Matthew's love for architecture and history deliciously dorky. His cluelessness at his horny cousin's sad desires. The whole sequence is deftly constructed. It paints the dynamic of Edith not even registering on Matthew's radar while Matthew--clueless as to Edith's intentions--both asks after Mary in a way that clearly extends beyond friendly inquiry while dragging Edith out for much more architectural history than Edith could possibly have expected. The scene plays out hilariously. I choose to believe that upon Edith's approach of Matthew and Evelyn post-spurning that Evelyn excuses himself on account of Edith's rank desperation.

WG: Getting back to facial expressions, I got a kick out of the look Bates shot the guy slinging the limp fixing contraptions when said salesman sternly indicated the you have to use the device "every day, all day, if you mean business." Listen pal, Bates knows "business" all too well.

OMD: Bates should go back to that snake-oil salesman and give him the business. His fucking limp corrector could have probably used a little padding on those metal brackets.

WG: In keeping with the episode's sodomy subtext, perhaps more explicit uses for the corrector are in order?

OMD: I'd say so.

WG: Regarding the nuts and bolts of the episode, perhaps I haven't been paying enough attention, but for the first time I noticed a respectful intertwining between the collective fate of the upstairs and downstairs. For the most part, these people like each other, have common interests, and mutual respect. I have a bit of an issue with how the politics are portrayed in the show, the paternalistic all-knowing wealthy class knowing what is best for the staff. Most blatantly played out by the acerbic (the acting switch on her back only has one setting: acerbic) wisdom of the Dowager, but also in the pull yourself up by your bootstraps rah-rah from Bates in his counseling of Gwen. It is perhaps a little too sympathetic to the times and the Crawley viewpoint. The wealthy classes certainly didn't need any more defenders then than they do today. The 1% is the Harlem Globetrotters and the rest of us are the Washington Generals. But I'm always a fan of directors/producers who appear to care about their characters, even if they are patronizing Lords and Ladies who are maybe portrayed in a manner too flattering.

OMD: As far as the politics of the show are concerned, they set the show at the beginning of a period of drastic socio-economic change if my rudimentary understanding of global politics and Western history is correct. Without spoiling anything (because I don't have anything to spoil here), I have a feeling this will begin to bear itself out as the show progresses. The Dowager Countess is definitely still stuck in the 1840s, as her "get off my lawn" longing for simpler times is there to represent the old guard. It certainly doesn't seem like the younger generation of Crawleys feel that way. It seems like Fellowes and Company definitely do care about their characters, but I don't think that they're casting all the characters in too flattering a light. None of the Crawleys are without their flaws with the possible exception of Lady Sybil, whose character is much less fleshed out in these early stages than her kinfolk.

Fear this.
WG: I also liked the symmetry between Mary's angst at her future prospects, and those of Gwen's. The reaction to Gwen's typewriter was fantastic, both as a symbol for the horrors of writing, and also how it was treated like a demon conjured from a Ouija board.

OMD: The symmetry was also tastefully done, not in an overt way like in an episode of Scrubs--or worse what I imagine an episode of Gray's Anatomy is like but thankfully have nothing to support my inkling as I've never seen an episode of the show--which would have had an accompanying voice-over telling us all what to feel while Five for Fighting played us to the credits. The collective fear of the typewriter and the reluctance of anyone to touch it played really well into the staff's overarching superstition/simplicity. Funny stuff.

In all earnestness, I really liked the moment in Kemal's room between Mr. Carson and Lady Mary. There's something sincerely sweet about the father/daughter dynamic between the two.

WG: Agreed. Its good to know that Carson is capable of emotions other than earnest stick up the arsery. And in the same vein, nice character touch to reveal that Mary isn't the plotting sex vixen that she is somewhat alluded to in the first two episodes. A little innocence becomes her character. However, It is still painfully obvious that she did foreplay the winsome Pamuk to death.

To this point, Matthew seems a likable sort. I'd dearly love to see him take a conniving turn.

OMD: His line about Mary when he and Isobel are invited to dine at the house with Evelyn Napier and Kemal Pamuk is so funny. "When it comes to cousin Mary, she's quite capable of doing her own flinging, I assure you." It almost felt as if Penelope Wilton's laugh was genuine and not acting in character. Matthew is exceedingly likable.

Shere Khan, everyone...

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Prick Tunes: Drive-By Truckers and Megafaun "The Weight"

Artwork by Wes Freed
On the night that Levon Helm passed away, two of my favorite bands paid tribute to a man who work has clearly influenced both of their musical catalogs heavily. I could say more but there isn't much reason to say more than Megafaun join Drive-By Truckers on stage to close out the first encore of a show in Carrboro, North Carolina in a joyous and raucous way with "The Weight."

And here's Megafaun from a show in Norfolk earlier last week covering "I Shall Be Released," a Bob Dylan song first released by The Band on Music from the Big Pink. They first recorded it a year earlier with Dylan during The Basement Tapes session, but it wasn't released by Dylan until it made an appearance on Greatest Hits, Vol. II. I'm going to embed two versions. The first has an introduction. The second does not, but the audio is a bit crisper (though it does have more of the "talking dipshit factor" working against it).

With intro:

Slightly better audio clarity:

Man on Film: The Cabin in the Woods

As a guy who has seen every episode of BuffyAngel, and Firefly, The Cabin in the Woods was likely to be a home run for me. Joss Whedon co-wrote and produced the film with former Buffy and Angel scribe Drew Goddard co-writing and directing the film. Normally, I'd say that was a recipe for success.

Whether having had my expectations unrealistically colored by 92% it is sporting on Rotten Tomatoes or the resoundingly good word-of-mouth, I have to say I walked out of the theater a little disappointed.

To be clear, there are things to like about The Cabin in the Woods. The scenes with Bradley Whitford, Richard Jenkins, Brian White, and Amy Acker were all great and really funny. Whitford in particular was probably at his best since The West Wing went off the air. Goddard and Whedon also have a lot of fun with playing with and against genre conventions. Theirs is an inventive and dexterous screenplay. Unfortunately the cost of that inventiveness is that does away with some of the suspense that could have been otherwise present had the government angle not been present at the onset of the film.

I knew virtually nothing about the film going into it. Up until the week following its release, I had barely seen web banners advertising The Cabin in the Woods. I hadn't seen a trailer. I didn't know that Joss Whedon or Drew Goddard were involved in a film that was coming out, let alone this one.

The weird thing is The Cabin in the Woods is basically just like an episode of Buffy or, given its darkness, maybe Angel. Its plot could easily have happened within the confines of either series. The issue here is that within the confines of either series you would have cared what happened to the characters in events that transpired. Aside from perhaps the heroine, there is little in the way of caring what actually happens to the characters. This doesn't make the film unenjoyable--it is certainly an all right time--but it might be best to temper one's expectations for just that, an all right time.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Prick Tunes: Levon Helm Only Halfway Home

I'm going to keep on going down this path and put up Levon Helm stuff through the rest of the week because I'm runnin' the show here. If you don't like it, you can find somewhere else to go on the internet. He did enough to warrant a whole helluva lot more attention than I can pay in a mere week.

This is a short film that per the YouTube description was inspired by and features music from the Grammy Award winning album Dirt Farmer. The narrative just provides a structure for little live performances of four songs from the album. Just hearing that there are performances should be enough to get you to watch it.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Prick Tunes: The Band "The Weight"

Note: for the second time this week, I scheduled a post to go up at noon and it didn't go up. Get yer shit together Blogger.

Shortly after I posted yesterday's entry, Levon Helm passed away.

Levon Helm was the heart and soul of The Band. It was his having grown up in the Delta that lent an air of legitimacy to the brand of Americana that his Canadian bandmates wanted to spin. It was his voice that felt most at home in that sound, that hearkened to the time and place they were trying to embody.

While The Last Waltz may not be the ideal way to view The Band, it is probably the best quality video we've got.

You will be missed, Levon.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Prick Tunes: Levon Helm "Poor Old Dirt Farmer"

News came out yesterday that Levon Helm is about to succumb to cancer, a disease that has been a central part of his life since he first found that he'd gotten throat cancer in the 1990s. In recent years, it was assumed that he had beaten the throat cancer as he'd begun recording and touring again, putting out the two stellar proper albums Dirt Farmer and Electric Dirt in 2007 and 2009 and the live hoot album Ramble at the Ryman in 2011. Robbie Robertson assumed the same, releasing this statement about his former bandmate:

Last week I was shocked and so saddened to hear that my old band mate, Levon, was in the final stages of his battle with cancer. It hit me really hard because I thought he had beaten throat cancer and had no idea that he was this ill. I spoke with his family and made arrangements to go and see him.
On Sunday I went to New York and visited him in the hospital. I sat with Levon for a good while, and thought of the incredible and beautiful times we had together. It was heartwarming to be greeted by his lovely daughter Amy, whom I have known since she was born. Amy’s mother, Libby Titus, and her husband, Donald Fagen, were so kind to help walk me through this terrible time of sadness. My thoughts and prayers are with his wife Sandy.
Levon is one of the most extraordinary talented people I’ve ever known and very much like an older brother to me.  I am so grateful I got to see him one last time and will miss him and love him forever.
Robbie Robertson
Read more:
A couple years back, I got the chance to see Levon Helm. Under doctor's orders he wasn't allowed to sing, a fact that I definitely viewed as a red flag at the time, but seeing him at the time was still such a pleasure, as he still had such a luminary presence on stage.

I'm glad I got to see him when I did as he brought so much joy to the show. His work with Bob Dylan, The Band, and on his own goes down as some of the most impressive in the history of rock music. He will be missed.

Tube Steak: Three Seasons in on Justified

As the third season of Justified came to an end, there was little doubt in my mind that I was watching the best show on television. If I thought that I had the energy to actually do it, I would absolutely write something after each episode of the show. Unfortunately, I don't have that energy, I surely do not have the time, and far too many do a much better job than I could possibly do (I'm looking at you, Alan Sepinwall). Not having that energy should not give you the impression that I am anything less than completely enamored with the show.

In Justified, Graham Yost and Company have created a television universe so rich with compelling characters both good and bad that it forces comparisons to The Wire in sheer terms of its magnitude of truly enjoyable secondary and tertiary characters. The wide array of law enforcement officials, regular citizens, and criminals of varying degrees is impressive, but more impressive is the skill to which they are drawn. A Crank-like episode following the delinquent dipshit Dewey Crowe ultimately matters to the audience because for whatever reason we welcome Damon Herriman--playing an illiterate racist--into our homes, at least on screen. The simple fleeting appearance of Loretta McCready in the penultimate episode of season three couldn't help but elicit a smile from the audience, and her not striking one as a Van Halen fan beckoned a hearty subsequent laugh. We are conflicted when it comes down to who we actually want to mete out Dickie Bennett's comeuppance because, despite the fact that Deputy U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens is the show's protagonist, the character of Boyd Crowder draws us in and we simultaneously root for him to succeed--for him to avenge Ava.

Where the show draws its most strength is from the fact that it takes the world that Elmore Leonard created, gives it legs, expands upon it, lets it flourish into something so much bigger than it ever could have been in a book. Since the repopularization of serialized television, especially as cable television got into the mix and started paring down the production load to 10-13 episode seasons for a program, television has afforded writers the opportunity of telling much more complex stories than they had been afforded in any other medium. Even when given that latitude, most show-runners have not gotten their programs to the level that Justified now sits at in terms of having created a universe with a (mostly) singular protagonist in which there is such a dearth of richly imagined secondary characters to draw from each week that characters may pop up only once in a season if for no other reason than that there isn't enough time to fit them in more than that.

What Justified accomplished in its third season, though, was in adding so many characters to the mix working against each other and against Raylan that it was a marvel just to see where each episode went. Each character's motivations set them careening into and away from each other. Each character's actions consistently surprised while setting off interesting and unpredictable chain reactions. As each new event transpired, the turn that it took was unexpected leaving the viewer totally and blissfully unable to suss out where the plot would go next. The introduction of Robert Quarles and Ellstin Limehouse to the mix not only brought heavy hitters Neal McDonough and Mykelti Williamson into the Justified-fold but also added big-time players to struggle with Boyd Crowder and the re-emerged Wynn Duffy--played fantastically well by Jere Burns--for power in Harlan.

The ensuing orgy of machinations that these varied big bads played out against one another and Raylan was at once overwhelming (in the best possible way) and invigorating. With each one's motives never being entirely clear, the tidal shifts of power were a joy to watch. Even with the inimitable Walton Goggins getting considerably less screen time this season than in years past, the show wasn't lacking for its relative lack of Boyd Crowder goodness. Even with the dynamic between Boyd and Raylan being the most interesting aspect of the show, Graham Yost seems to have an eye on the long play and maintains a healthy dose of the two acting off of one another while keeping them from facing off in a final showdown. Goggins has forced them in this direction with his spectacular turn as Boyd, but the tension and drama between Raylan and Boyd has to build and build and build all the way until the show's end. The successful introduction of first Mags Bennett in Season Two and now Robert Quarles and Ellstin Limehouse in Season Three just shows how deftly they have been able to set up foils for Raylan while not blowing their load on the Boyd front.

Where Yost & Co. will take things in Season Four is anyone's guess. I, for one, am a bit leery about the talk of three four-episode mini arcs that Yost mentioned as a possibility at What's Alan Watching's Post-Mortem on Season Three, but at this point I'll gladly watch whatever they do. I'm on this ride until the end.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Wordy Old Men on Downton Abbey: Series One, Episode Two

For those reading this at home, this week, we Wordy Old Men have watched the second episode of the first series of Downton Abbey, as sequenced in its original broadcasts on ITV in the United Kingdom. I, Josh "Old Man" Duggan, am watching this all for the second time in the last two months while Wordy Ginters is taking it all in for the first time. If you want to read the first installment in the series, it is here. The second episode starts with Matthew and Isobel Crawley arriving in the village at their new abode Crawley House. Matthew is reluctant to take to his new life, repeatedly inserting foot into mouth while slowly realizing what the noble life actually entails. Isobel starts to butt heads with Violet, the Dowager Countess, at the local hospital, where Isobel is eventually placed as Chairman of the Board to serve in opposition to Violet, the President of Downton Hospital. A ne'er-do-well from Mr. Carson's past attempts to leverage Carson's past against him. Matthew and Mary trade thinly veiled barbs as resentment over Matthew's being the heir colors her view of him. Having gotten that out of the way...

Wordy Ginters: Should we start the Bates Appreciation Society? Every woman wants him. Every man wants to be like him. And he does it with a cane. I like how he keeps his mouth shut when it comes to Carson's embarrassing "outing" as a former drama clubber and his realism when it comes to recognizing that your history influences how you are perceived.

Old Man Duggan: It is clear early on that Bates is one of the few in the house who as actually lived in the real world. That's not to say that Downton Abbey isn't the 'real world' in a manner of speaking, but there's clearly a worldly wisdom that's been gained by Bates from outside of the walls of a stately manor, and it would seem that it may not just be from having fought in the Second Boer War. It is evident early on that this is a man bound by a code of honor, perhaps a self-fashioned one. As for being in the Bates Appreciation Society, sign me up. I'd polish his turtle.

WG:This episode is all about appearances and what characters must do to maintain dignity. The supposed reluctant heir to Downton Abbey, Matthew, his disdain for the formality and finery of the upper crust (a man so coarse that he chooses his own cuff links and pours his own tea), and then downstairs, with Carson struggling to maintain the proper tone among his staff, from the rip in William's jacket, to his shame at being outed as a song-and-dance man. As if being one half of the Cheerful Charlies was something to be ashamed of. Although, the way the Crawley's continue to degrade the medical profession, I suppose theatre is held in even greater contempt. The way his Lordship spat the words "a job" like Matthew was a baby puppy killer was laugh out loud funny. And that grating old battle-axe O'Brien, getting a smackdown from Cora from being a little loose lipped down in the galley. She rankled at getting called out on her turf and recognized that Cora's pretense at friendship was straight up bullshit smeared on strictly employee/supervisor situation.

OMD: That definitely gets to the themes at play here. I like what Fellowes does with Matthew here. In his disdain of the lifestyle he deems wrought with frivolity and useless pomp, he shits on Molesley--first unknowingly and then unintentionally but insensitively. Just like to you or me, much of the way of life of the nobility strikes him as absurd, but as Lord Grantham lays out for him, "we all have our parts to play," once again showing that he is a reasonable Earl with a much more generous heart than would otherwise be necessary of a nobleman. Ultimately, Matthew sees how his petulance has hurt Molesley and rights the wrong, but not without Robert's guidance. As for Carson, let's not forget that he also chides Thomas for not paying the Dowager Countess the proper respect downstairs. It is funny that the knowledge of his having been the equivalent of a vaudevillian mortifies Carson so much that he preemptively proffers his resignation. If you thought the "job" indignation was great, how about the Dowager Countess not knowing what a "week end" was? If ever one needed an example of a disconnect between their lives and ours, this is it. And it's funny as fuck. As for O'Brien, I don't think Cora was out of line, but I place the blame for misreading the relationship on O'Brien, who clearly has an inflated sense of self-worth/-importance.

One of the scenes that worked exceptionally well for me was a simple one. The scene when Anna is going to bed and Gwen is sitting up reading something furtively accomplishes so many things with a deft subtlety not many shows can manage. Anna asks Gwen if she's reading letters from an admirer, which they then joke about a bit, saying that Mrs. Hughes would bring the vicar in to exorcise her before getting to the real crux of the issue. How would a Lady's maid get a husband? Their lives are spent entirely in the service of others. Their lives revolve around the Crawley family, so much so that immediately after opining about not being able to find a husband by means not involving a stork, Anna and Gwen's conversation goes back Lady Mary situation, highlighting the sad fact that they have little more than to live vicariously through the people they serve.

WG: At some point, I'd like to balance my somewhat tepid disdain for the soapy feel of the series, and admire the craft of it in general. You've alluded to the quality of the show, considering how ambitious it is to tackle a period piece for television, and I wholeheartedly agree. Despite my ways as a vile low brow smart ass, I admire how "crass free" the show actually is. Compared to shite like Two and 1/2 Men and other dreck on TV, it is certainly devine by comparison.

Are you more interested in books than country sports? I suppose I am. Although I have not the faintest clue what country sports may be. Perhaps I'll consult the works of Jeff Foxworthy for more information. Perhaps you're familiar with his work? He has developed a career from a canny framework of jokes, insight, and comedy based around the trials and tribulations of "red necks," and their peculiar and sometimes humorous social habits. If you haven't experienced Mr. Foxworthy, I'd encourage you to do so at once.

OMD: My preference is definitely for books, but that is mainly derived from having enjoyed all the advantages that modern dentistry has had to offer. Do water sports count as country sports? As for this Foxworthy fellow, I've not had the pleasure of familiarizing myself with his work. Does he know that chap Lawrence the Telegraph Worker?

WG: Country sports pentathalon: catfish noodling, frog gigging, bud light num-nums, and shooting paper targets with a wrist rocket? I saw it on ABC Wide World of Sports as a young child.

OMD: The other one in the pentathlon: cow tipping.

WG: The Dowager Countess recalls Nosferatu vintage Max Schreck whence she appears. Ghoulish. Ghastly. Delightful. I thought it was particularly funny and telling when the Doctor feared Lord Crawley's decision to allow Matthew's mother, the remorseless adrenaline pusher, to get involved in the hospital. "On your own head be it."

OMD: I was thinking more Willem Dafoe in Shadow of the Vampire, but same page.

WG: Speaking of the heart drain scene, echoes of Pulp Fiction. With the Dowager in the Arquette role. She's another character who is given a few more shades than the others. She can be deliciously bad, but also pragmatic and sometimes even kind. Sometimes. She is the Capo of the show. Perhaps only Lord Crawley alone acts like he's beyond her influence.

OMD: Yeah, the Dowager Countess sure likes to feel like she has sway. She does in some arenas, but it seems like she has grown a bit too big for her britches.

WG: Again, some of the show is far too stereotypical. The music is fucking insulting. But it has its moments. One scene featured a portion of Downton shot from between a doorway, and the accompanying dialogue mentioned something about running out of options, so it was a nice "squeezed" feel on both visual and literal levels. But for the most part, the show veers away from any pretense towards art, and plays the drama straight up. The "Andromeda" story at the dinner was a little obvious, but made for some nice jousting between Mary and Matthew. I also thought the scene where Daisy and Thomas rocked the "Grizzly Bear" was pretty inspired.

(L to R) Eye Candy, Center of Attention, Desperate and/or Horny
OMD: The show definitely plays like a soap opera as much as anything else. Since it is a period drama, it is acceptable for us all to like it without feeling badly about it. That's sort of the beauty of the whole show. I actually don't have a problem with the music, but largely because I expect it from the genre. It doesn't irritate me, like the utterly predictable and ludicrous music on a show like Lost did, so if I don't get angry when I hear the music, I'm not going to worry too much about it. And I do really like the fucking theme song. Maybe I'll make it be my ringtone. That'd weird a bunch of people out. I think the visual palette both in terms of art direction/production design and cinematography is quite impressive for television. It seems that Fellowes gleaned quite a bit from Altman because he handles the large ensemble well, sneaking in subtle but pertinent reaction shots like Lady Sybil declining the food that one of the footmen is offering her while the Matthew and Mary have their Andromeda back-and-forth. Sybil's attention is held when Matthew starts to assert himself against Mary, a nice touch.

WG: Mrs. Patmore! Straight out of central casting. But how can't you like her. Some sly reference to the naive Daisy about how Thomas wasn't like the other boys was funny.

OMD: Honestly, I don't know if there's a character on the show that irritates me more than Mrs. Patmore. What the fuck was she getting on about with the "Stop that silly nonsense before you put your joints out" rubbish? Seriously, that broad is batshit crazy. She is onto what Thomas is cooking, though.

OMD: Dropsy! I can't wait until we start dealing with consumption and the bevy of hilariously antiquated sounding diseases, especially those with a "the" affixed to the front of them. When the Dowager Countess perishes on account of a flare up of "the herps," it'll be hard to stifle a laugh, despite the emotional weight the moment is sure to pack.

WG: And who could overlook the horrors of The Jake Leg, The Consumption, and the Satchel Mouth.

OMD: Doesn't seeing Dr. Clarkson practice medicine give you pause and wonder how many dipshit doctors were afraid of new fads like saving their patients' lives? If ever there were a doctor depicted on screen that could just as easily have been a stodgy, backwards thinking manager of a baseball team, it's Dr. Clarkson.

WG: One thing that struck me about "The Dropsy" scene is that I was horrified the figurative control over life and death that the Crawley's exert over their little fiefdom would literally play out with the Dowager pulling the plug on the adrenaline gambit. Nice job of ratcheting up the tension. I thought it was a real possibility that the poor bastards heart my explode and a wave of satisfaction would linger in the Dowager's cold dead eyes.

I kind of like the way mirror's are used as well. The Crawley's seem to spend a lot of time admiring themselves in the mirror. Navel gazers. I assume later episodes reveal the transition to full blow shoe-gazing, with lengthy montages propped up by the incongruent tunes of My Bloody Valentine or Swervedriver?

OMD: When you see people outside of your immediate family for no more than maybe three hours a week, I suppose you'd want to make sure every hair was in place. As for the shoegazing, I heard that Fellowes wanted to use Ride exclusively for the score, but Ride refused so they had to go with the run-of-the-mill Merchant/Ivory style score.

WG: Most eye blindingly odd use of music in film history? "Raindrops Keep Fallin' on My Head" struck me as an odd choice for Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. What do you have?

OMD: For me, it's got to be the bassett hound playing the piano for the entire score of Eyes Wide Shut. [Hat tip to Weibel]

WG: I'm far from familiar with any of the characters, other than Bates, but the middle sister has to be the horniest person on the British Isles. Or perhaps, simply horny for anything that catches Mary's eye. The younger sister is gorgeous. Thus far relegated to shameful eye candy status, with only a few meaningless lines. I assume that changes.

OMD: I don't know about horny, but Lady Edith is fucking desperate as hell. There's definitely a sibling rivalry, but I think Edith is fully cognizant of the fact that she's the runt of the litter and will take anyone who will have her. It's weird having so much riding on the simple act of marrying off, but for these three daughters to maintain their lifestyles and dignity, they really do have to marry pretty quickly. TSLF (my DA sherpa) was telling me that the eldest two daughters are rather old to have not been engaged to be married. Obviously, Mary had an agreement to marry Patrick in place before James Cameron killed him--surely with the help of Billy Zane--but that was far from public knowledge. Edith would probably marry Patrick's corpse recovered from the North Atlantic.

The Regal Beagle
WG: I'd like to blow the froth off of a lukewarm bitter ale at the Dog & Duck. That is where shit goes down in Downton Abbey. The Regal Beagle of the times

OMD: There is a Dog & Duck Pub here in Austin. If they were smart, they'd name everything on the menu after Downton Abbey. I'm ashamed, but I had to look up The Regal Beagle.

On a scale of 1 to 10, how big a toolbag is Charles Grigg, Carson's blackmailer? Do you think they made him grow his poncy 'stache to drive the point home? Also, when he sits down in the chair in the library, his legs look like they can't be more than 18 inches long. Lord Grantham can't be more than 5'10", but he positively towers over Tiny Charlie (that has to have been his stage name next to Carson, right?).

WG: Grigg was a world class piker. I kind of got a kick out of his impertinence, and how it got the house in an up-roar. Sent the maid running out the front door for Christ sake, evil must be afoot.

All in all, solid second episode. I'm invested. These assholes have invested me. I only hope there is death. Some destruction. And some comeuppance. A pinch of weirdness would suit me just fine too.

OMD: I knew it'd get you. Just wait. By the third or fourth episode, you'll be wanting to speed this whole process up. The first time through I watched it all in about three days.

Prick Tunes: John Lunn "Downton Abbey - The Suite"

The finishing touches are still being put on this week's installment of Wordy Old Men on Downton Abbey, but this should keep you bastards sated until tomorrow. I'm going to work on making this be my ringtone. Yes, I want my phone to ring for seven minutes before it goes to voicemail.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Prick Tunes: Toshack Highway "Board the Bullet Train"

While brushing up on my shoegazing history for last Thursday's Ride post, I was reminded of an album I used to own and had long since forgotten, Toshack Highway's self-titled LP. Toshack Highway--whose name was derived from roughly combining the surnames of two Liverpool FC players from the 1970s--was the brainchild of former Swervedriver lead singer and guitarist Adam Franklin. If I ever knew that fact at one point, I had surely forgotten it between then and now, when I stumbled across their name while reading about the flitting existence of the movement to which Swervedriver was attached of at the turn of the 1990s.

Toshack Highway seemed to seek to merge the effects-laden guitar work so central to the shoegaze movement with the more contemporary electronic flourishes with the added twist of feeding a Moog through the guitar effects pedals. Their first album was one I never soured on, but eventually fell by the wayside and made its way to the used CD store at some point when I was sorely lacking in liquidity. Hearing "Board the Bullet Train" again while poor by reasons I'll refrain from boring you with hearkens back memories of walking into Cheapo with an impossibly tall stack of dusty CDs with the unrealistic hope that somehow these 23 discs would yield more than $35, the amount of money I'd be needing to deposit into my checking account to make rent.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Prick Tunes: Bill Callahan NPR Music Tiny Desk Concert

I wish I could do this every Friday. Unfortunately, I would run through the ones I love far too quickly.
Bill Callahan, formerly known as Smog, stopped in at the NPR studio in July of 2009 on the heels of the release of the spectacular Sometimes I Wish We Were An Eagle in April of that year. Here he plays "Jim Cain," "Rococo Zephyr," and "Too Many Birds," all of which can be found on that album. There is just something about Callahan--that something definitely seems to be rooted in his unique vocal stylings--that I never get my fill of.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Prick Tunes: Ride "Chelsea Girl"

Here are shoegazers Ride with a live rendition of the first song the world ever heard of them, "Chelsea Girl." It led off the first of three self-titled EPs released in 1990 ramping up to their seminal LP Nowhere, released in October of that year. The shelf life of the shoegazing movement was not long by any means, but this both this song and this band have undeniable appeal more than 20 years later.

Man on Film: Goon

To qualify the Jay Baruchel/Evan Goldberg-penned Goon as anything less than surprising would be a vast understatement. Perhaps a bit of this initial reaction owes to the fact that Goon came and went in a whisper. When it opened--and perhaps we should utilize a different word entirely, as it "opened" in 241 theaters, and I'm guessing exactly zero of those theaters had it playing on multiple screens--I saw Jay Baruchel and Seann William Scott on two talk shows. I think. Then again, the $4,088,686 that it did at the box office makes it the sixth-highest grossing film that Magnolia Pictures has ever released, so I guess this is all to be expected.

So, yes, it is highly likely that you have not heard of this flick.

When sitting down with my boys and deciding what to watch on demand, it didn't take long to settle on an R-rated sports comedy. We only knew it was about a hockey goon and who wrote it. Almost instantaneously, we were laughing our asses off so hard that we were missing lines and rewinding the film to re-watch sequences.

Seann William Scott plays Doug Glatt a bouncer-cum-enforcer who draws the attention by kicking the shit out of a hockey player who climbs out of the penalty box to attack his mouthy friend, Ryan, played by Baruchel. Incensed at hearing the player hurling the epithet 'faggot' at Ryan, Doug--whose brother is gay--takes on the player with his thorough drubbing of the Artestian foil culminating in Doug head-butting the helmeted player and shattering the helmet. This episode gets at the beauty of the film. Goon is lewd to say the least, but, in Doug, Baruchel and Goldberg have penned a lead who is capable of excessively brutal violence but does so with an ingrained sense of honor that allows for the violence to be committed with a modicum of redemption and justification. Doug is a simple man--innocent, honorable, selfless, and protective. He is sweet at his core. It is easy to like Doug.

But it's not just Doug that works here. Like many of the best sports movies, Goon takes place in the world of minor league sports. The buses are shitty. The sport is essentially lawless. The money is nonexistent. Minor league and semi-pro sports sit on the fringe of society. This world is inherently more interesting than the lush life of a full-fledged professional athlete, and it is much more fruitful in the realm of comedy. The world of Goon is both interesting and fun.

To speak more of this film without paying Seann William Scott his due would be doing him a disservice. He is the heart of this film. If Doug isn't likable, Goon fails. He isn't simply likable. He is a noble brute, a kind soul, and a selfless warrior. He imbues Doug with an innocence and sincerity that plays spectacularly well. The film would still be funny without this, but it wouldn't be nearly as affective without it.

While the character of Doug Glatt is a large ingredient in the success of the film, it has plenty of other things going for it. Baruchel is almost impossibly lewd. The violence is uproariously funny. Liev Schreiber is great as the elder goon, serving as both Doug's inspiration and a vision of his future. When all is said and done, Goon is director Michael Dowse's second comedy in a year that is better than expected following on the heels of Take Me Home Tonight.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Prick Tunes: Heavy D and the Boyz "Now That We Found Love"

I love this little piece of 90's nostalgia.  That chunky man was the king of the overweight dance party.

Wordy Old Men on Downton Abbey: Series One, Episode One

This is a new feature on Inconsiderate Prick in which Wordy Ginters and myself (Josh "Old Man" Duggan) discuss Downton Abbey, starting at the beginning. We are planning on doing an episode a week until we've run through the series. Perhaps Wordy Old Men will tackle other subjects later, but for now, this is what we're doing. I have watched the series once about a month ago, and Wordy is watching for the first time. Both of us were late to the game, but that doesn't mean we don't want to play. This is all meant to be conversational. Think of it like a short podcast that you get to read. 

One important note: in choosing which version to watch, we selected the original UK versions, as they are slightly longer and broken up much more evenly than they were when they were rebroadcast on PBS. 

Wordy Ginters: I've purposefully avoided any research, other opinion, etc... on this stuff. I guess I've assumed it would more or less follow the Upstairs Downstairs, Gosford Park, Rules of the Game (great fucking film) vibe. And it does.

Old Man Duggan: Heading into this initially, my familiarity to the material you mentioned was limited to Gosford Park, of which I wasn't a huge fan. I certainly knew was the rough concept for Upstairs Downstairs was but only in a cursory sense. The only Jean Renoir film I've seen was The Grand Illusion, which was also concerned in part with the class system, but Rules of the Game is not something I've gotten around to seeing.

WG: I liked it, but my panties aren't completely soaked. Speaking of man sex, odd that the line "one swallow doesn't make a summer," one of the better/filthier bon mots I've heard in awhile, sprung from stodgy old PBS.

OMD: Watching this all for the second time around, that line that Charlie Cox's character (The Duke of Crowborough) uttered to Thomas was more jarring than I'd recalled. I mean jarring in the best possible way, but holy shit was that lewd. I suppose it is possible that this line didn't air on PBS, as we're watching the versions in the original British format. It is also weird seeing Charlie Cox as anything other than Owen Slater on Boardwalk Empire.

WG: I'm more interested in the service staff side of things thus far. That might be because my mind has been poisoned by too much Occupy Wall Street styled socialism from Obama and the left-wing media, and not enough Master's coverage.

OMD: Early on, it is definitely the staff that is most interesting to me. I, too, chalk this up to my socialistic tendencies.

WG: Probably some nice parallels to suss out with current day yawning gap between haves and have nots. First season would have been written when Britain was implementing or discussing some of the austerity measures which most honest economists would tell you have been needlessly harsh on social programs and the great unwashed in general. I'm not familiar enough with British politics to speak with even a hint of legitimacy, so let's just agree that the super wealthy are probably all satanic buttfuckers.

OMD: I wish we could get a British historian in here to weigh in, but I doubt he/she would be telling us anything other than that the super wealthy are indeed satanic buttfuckers.

WG: It might be cooler if Lord Crawley was actually ALEISTER CROWLEY, but that is probably a Cinemax series.

OMD: I will warn you before we delve farther into the series that this does not veer into the Cinemax realm. Not even the surprisingly decent series Strike Back--which was coincidentally also a British series (the second one at that, don't ask me how to get your hands on the first series because I've yet to find a way)--which had its fair share of the old skin for which Cinemax has always been known. To my knowledge, neither Robert, Lord Grantham, nor Matthew Crawley become Aleister Crowley, though this series does take its twists and turns and maybe this is where the third series will head.

WG: Crawley seems like one of only a few possibly decent humans one episode in. Glad he kept Bates around. Thomas the gay footman was an enjoyable heel to loathe. Dude kind of reminded me of a young Tom Courtenay, with the sneering and the cockney hardness.

OMD: Lord Grantham (and seriously, it took me about five episodes to know anyone's goddamn name on this show as there are 536 characters that Julian Fellowes wants us to know from fucking Jump Street) definitely seems like a stand-up dude, and the dynamic between him and his wife works pretty well, especially as relates to their differing on their views of the help. As far as Thomas is concerned, he strikes me as the classic Hitchcockian villain only with the more open homosexuality that our time affords us. That and he's fucking evil, letting the viewer really sink their teeth into truly hating someone.

WG: Since The Wire, I've been in the habit of watching shows with English subtitles on. Nice way to catch bits of dialogue and minutae that may otherwise get lost in the shuffle.

OMD: There were certainly times while watching Luck that I needed to throw on the subtitles, but that's because they're mumbly motherfuckers on that dearly departed program.

WG: How much does the bldg on Red Apple Falls look like Downtown Abbey? Oh, and Cora used the word "swag" like she was a middle age hipster wearing a fanny pack at a Bon Iver concert.

OMD: I can't believe I hadn't picked up on the similarities between the Red Apple Falls cover art and Downton Abbey. As for Cora's use of the word "swag," I actually did see her at a Bon Iver concert last fall, sans fanny pack. OK, it was just Elizabeth McGovern, and she was actually in character/costume from She's Having a Baby.

WG: Nice. I had Liz pegged as more of a chamber music, string quartet type of gal.

Who kicked out Bates's cane? Was it that old bag, or Thomas the stereotypical evil gay footman?

OMD: The cane kick was Miss O'Brien, Thomas the footman's partner in crime.

WG: Speaking of the servant caste system, footman, valet, bedroom fire girl, etc... nice and arcane. Like an organizational depth chart. I'm going to have to do some research on this.

OMD: Honestly, the servant caste system was so foreign to me that aside from the butler and the head maid or whatever I was totally clueless about who did what. If TSLF wasn't obsessed with the stodgy aristocracy in Olde England in general, I'd have no idea what was going on in the hierarchical sense within Downton. Her general obsession with all things pre-Great War England was actually what fed my initial hesitancy toward giving Downton Abbey a chance. She got on the DA ride on the ground floor--hell, more realistically it was the sub-basement--but I figured that it was just because she watches every fucking thing that Masterpiece Theater puts on. In retrospect, it was totally and needlessly reductive on my part, but I'll be damned if shit like the mid-90s Pride and Prejudice miniseries didn't bore the piss out of me.

WG: You are fortunate to have a Downton staff sherpa at your side. I assume the parallels between the blue-bloods upstairs and the help downstairs makes for a nice plot device. I'm eager to learn more about the intricacies of that heirarchy. Holy shit, how about that for customer service? I was struck by the opening scenes, with literally dozens of folks running about in preparation of the four or five people in the Crawley clan? Nowadays, the 1 percenters are more apt to pay an illegal alien minimum wage to change the little lords and lordettes diapers than they are to spend some of that ill-gotten cash on a newspaper ironer. Which was another nice way of slapping the viewers in the face about the capricous ways of the moneyed class. Sure, ironing the newspaper is to dry the ink. Bullshit. Making someone iron your newspaper is a power move. And a maid serving a duke. It makes me ill just to put those words in my mouth, the shame is so palpable I'm sweating communion wafers.

OMD: It is definitely hard for me to get in tune with the sundry ins and outs of the social customs of the class/era. It is hard for someone who has spent as much of my life turning my nose up at the needlessly garish and pointlessly extravagant customs of the upper class to take shit like the unconscionable thought of having a maid serve a duke seriously. I am sure within certain circles that would have been extremely gauche, but I'll be damned if I can figure out why.

WG: Batman, Bates, Boers. I hope this intersects with the story down the road.

TITANIC! Fuck you James Cameron.

OMD: It is pretty crazy that the situation that Lord Grantham and family find themselves in is all James Cameron's fault. Then again, so is everything else in the world.

WG: Speaking of odious power moves, did you see footage a few weeks back of Cameron taking his little miracle submarine to the lowest spot on earth? How symbolic.

OMD: I wish he'd taken Avatar with him. Fuck that horseshit. He is the lowest of the low, though, and he should have taken that brazenly ripped off hacktastic film with him.

So I missed this the first time I watched the episode a couple months back, which leads me to believe that if I missed the two craziest parts of the first episode that I was not paying nearly close enough attention early on, but what the fuck was up with that asparagus tower that one of the footmen is carrying immediately following the reveal that Lord Grantham and Mr. Bates were comrades in arms. Seriously, what was that? It looked like some odd Native American structure.

WG: The asparagus! Fuck yes. Shades of Richard Dreyfuss in Close Encounters. We can only imagine what horrors may be contained inside the inner sanctum of the asparagus cylinder. Maybe it was some kind of elaborate garnish that signified some kind of social more. Like the mourning period which evidently requires all black clothing for 4-6 weeks, and a requisite number of memorials.

OMD: It seems nearly miraculous that Fellowes is able to have us caring about Mr. Bates almost immediately. Bates isn't on screen until the 9:25 mark in the episode, and that's for a split second. He doesn't have a line until after the 10:00 mark. By the end of the episode, though, it's hard not to get worked up over the threat of his departure. Some of this surely owes to his being pitted against the loathsome foils of Thomas and Miss O'Brien, but it seems like it's really the way he carries himself--especially after the cane kick--and that scene in his room with Anna that so effectively endears him.

WG: It was a bit bracing to follow the rapid plot and character development set up over the course of 60 minutes compared to the glacial pace of something like Luck. Fellowes definitely pulls it off. Some of the character devices were a bit on the nose for me, but fuck it, I let go and it worked. You've got to be a flint-hearted prick to not pull for a one-legged war veteran. That he handled the river of shit engineered his way with the classic Brit stiff upper lip certainly made him appealing. Fellowes gives him a few more shades than the other characters. He weeps. He's vulnerable. He's determined. He's modest. He has a certain style and grace. Bringing that through in such a short amount of screen time is a credit to Fellowes and Brendan CoyIe. I especially like the way Bates one ups the Drip of Crowborough by asking him if there is anything he'd like to inspect in his room.

OMD: Fellowes also does a fantastic job of fitting in exposition in a way that makes the world of Downton Abbey accessible to rubes like me. When he has Miss O'Brien explain the situation that the Crawley's find themselves in regarding the death of the James and Patrick Crawley and the ensuing inheritance issues that are arising, he lets another character (Gwen) ask why Mary cannot inherit her mother's fortune. Even with Miss O'Brien calling Gwen stupid, we get our explanation and the pain of being called dumb is eased by the fact that it was the heinous Miss O'Brien who was essentially insulting us. This happens multiple times in the pilot. It's necessary to make sense to the dim masses but doesn't derail the momentum of the show.

WG: Delicate ground work by Fellowes. Strikes just the right balance between advancing plot filigree and being pedantic.

There you have it. A weighing in on the first episode of the first series/season is in the books. 

So weird.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

A Eugoogly for a Friend

One of the things I love about music is that no matter what you’re feeling, or what you’re going through, you can find a song, album, band that speaks to you.

This post will come as a bit of change from what’s typically discussed here, and very probably will get longwinded, but I don’t care.

I’ve been listening to a lot of music lately that makes me think of death, mourning, remembering, etc., so I’m going to post a few videos throughout this post of stuff I’ve been listening to of late…

Untimely departures from this world have been discussed before, and I’m going to bring it up again because over the weekend, an old high school friend of mine, Elizabeth (Holman) Melde, passed away.

(The version I wanted I couldn't find...but this one is good, too)

Just to give a bit of a backstory, for those of you still reading, Liz got sick last fall, but it was just assumed to be one of those standard “I’m not feeling too hot, so I’m going to go the doctor” bits, but after a couple trips and numerous tests, she was diagnosed with late stage lung cancer. Now, for all intents and purposes, Liz was a healthy 25 years old. She didn't smoke, never really hung around smokers, and to my knowledge wasn’t exposed to anything that we would be believed to lead to lung cancer. came as a complete shock to absolutely everyone.

She passed away this past weekend after a battling the disease for the last few months, but throughout the entire process, she kept up a relentlessly positive spirit. She carried herself as if nothing was going to keep her from beating this, and I think most everyone who’d followed her battle believed she was going to punch cancer in the face and have it scurrying home with its tail between its legs. From the get-go it was a fight the people knew wouldn’t be easy, but we still believed it could be conquered because how she was handling it...all the way to the end.

As I mentioned, Liz and I were pretty good friends in high school, and for a while after I graduated, but as with so many other friendships, you lose touch and are forced to follow each other’s lives from afar. That was the same with her battle. There were two different large benefits organized on her behalf – add it to my list of reasons for supporting nationalized healthcare – that I wasn’t able to attend, and I regret not getting to attend, but just hearing how many people went was amazing.

One thing that’s always bothered me when people die is the way they can be almost canonized. After word spread about Liz’s passing, people were posting on Facebook like crazy. But with all the things people were saying about her, what struck me was that everything that was said was 100% truth. A fellow high school friend mentioned the same sentiment about how he hadn’t kept in touch with her so he felt a little weird mentioning it on Facebook, but that’s what made her so incredible, and her battle and passing even harder a pill to digest. Anyone who was ever lucky enough to know her – even if they wouldn’t have had one more conversation with her in their life – will still miss Liz.

When I die, I’m sure people will glorify what I will have done with my life and the type of person I was, but remember this… I contribute to a blog called Inconsiderate Prick, and that’s not far off what my actual personality is like.

Liz will be remembered because she honestly was such an amazing person (and I don’t throw around statements like that). She was loved by an awesome family, had a loving and devoted husband, and countless friends who are very probably still trying to catch their breath after hearing of her passing.

I’m not a person who really has anything resembling emotions. My wife will attest to the fact that she’s seen me cry twice since we’ve been together (8 years), but Liz’s death has hit close to home.

When I was a freshmen in college, a fellow high school classmate was tragically killed. I took that pretty hard because Randy was such a great guy, and he was the first person I knew relatively well that died too early. Liz is in that same boat. But having been affected by both of their deaths, it’s hurt for different reasons.

Randy was killed in an accident. I can accept that.

One of my best friend’s mom passed away from cancer. As much as I miss Jean (she was like a second mother to me), I could accept her fate because she smoked for years. Liz got pretty much the same disease, but did nothing in her life to lead to that. No Surgeon General warnings…just one big shitty surprise.

Liz died fighting something no one ever would have expected a person like her to have to go through. Accepting that won't come nearly as easily for me.

I’ve been to a number of funerals/memorial services where attendees are told to keep their spirits up because [insert name] wouldn’t want you to be crying and depressed. I think it's safe to say that Liz would want the same. I’m sure she was cracking jokes and smiling up until the end. Because of that, I’ve been trying my best to not get too down about her passing, and deal with the how I think she would want all of us to handle it. But that's not an easy feat for us all.

The last song I’ll post here is “Bookends” because it’s a great song but unfairly short…

You'll be missed Liz...
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