Don’t speak: ‘A Quiet Place’

At last — a movie that honors the no-texting, no-browsing, no monkey business warnings that audiences endure before the main feature! A Quiet Place is one of those flicks whose antecedents are so obvious (the Alien movies, the mystifying Signs) that it isn’t until the second act when I realized it was doing what it was supposed to, that is, scaring me. The third film by actor-director John Krasinski has connected with audiences because it’s trim (not a minute more than ninety minutes) and effective while, most importantly, honoring the resilience and sanctity of the American family. So long as women can have babies while Dad’s in the basement with his closed circuit monitors and workbench while she does laundry and the cooking, the vilest of creatures has a lot to fear. Continue reading

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Worst Songs Ever: The Doors’ ‘Touch Me’

Like a good single, a terrible one reveals itself with airplay and forbearance. I don’t want to hate songs; to do so would shake ever-sensitive follicles, and styling gel is expensive. I promise my readers that my list will when possible eschew obvious selections. Songs beloved by colleagues and songs to which I’m supposed to genuflect will get my full hurricane-force winds, but it doesn’t mean that I won’t take shots at a jukebox hero overplayed when I was at a college bar drinking a cranberry vodka in a plastic thimble-sized cup.

The Doors’ “Touch Me”
PEAK CHART POSITION: #3 in August 1968

When The Doors hit the top five with “Touch Me,” they were saying goodbye to the pop phase of their career — the kind of pop approach recognizable to fans of Between the Buttons-era Stones and Something Else by The Kinks when pop signified as a genre miscellany. After “Touch Me” the Doors would get bluesier, heavier, and more committed to Jim Morrison’s poesy. And it couldn’t have come at a better time. After “Hello, I Love You,” a discard from one of The Doors’ earliest incarnations, became their second and final American #1, “Touch Me” sounded like a joke, a put-on to demonstrate their contempt for the pop single. Continue reading

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Singles 4/20

The first time in recorded history I liked a song by someone from Fiery Furnaces and liked it more than colleagues. As the number of A grades will attest, I found this week strong, but I’ll temper my enthusiasm for mirrorball-era Belle and Sebastian and Carrie Underwood makin’ love out of nothin’ at all.

Click on links for full reviews.

Eleanor Friedberger – Make Me a Song (8)
Mondo Grosso – False Sympathy (7)
Louisa Johnson ft. 2 Chainz – Yes (7)
Derez De’Shon – Hardaway (7)
Belle and Sebastian – Poor Boy (7)
Carrie Underwood – Cry Pretty (7)
Calvin Harris & Dua Lipa – One Kiss (7)
John Legend ft. Bloodpop – A Good Night (6)
Azealia Banks – Anna Wintour (5)
Flo Rida – Sweet Sensation (5)
Charlie Puth ft. Kehlani – Done For Me (3)
2 Chainz ft. YG and Offset – Proud (3)

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Thirty-five good romantic comedies

Numbered but not ranked, here’s what I could think of in twenty minutes. I debated including The In-Laws; it depends whether you think it’s about the romance between Alan Arkin and Peter Falk.

I need an all-gay screwball comedy.

1. Trouble in Paradise (1932), dir. Ernst Lubitsch
2. The Palm Beach Story (1942), dir. Preston Sturges
3. A New Leaf (1971), dir. Elaine May
4. Midnight (1938), dir. Mitchell Leisen
5. Shampoo (1975), dir. Hal Ashby
6. A Summer’s Tale (1996), dir. Eric Rohmer
7. Groundhog Day (1993), dir. Harold Ramis
8. Eat Drink Man Woman (1994), dir. Ang Lee
9. What Have I Done to Deserve This? (1984), dir. Pedro Almodovar
10. 10 (1979), dir. Blake Edwards
11. Manhattan Murder Mystery (1993), dir. Woody Allen
12. The Young Girls of Rochefort (1967), dir. Jacques Demy
13. Tampopo (1986), dir. Juzo Itami
14. Say Anything (1989), dir. Cameron Crowe
15. I Love You Phillip Morris (2010), dir. Glenn Ficarra and John Requa
16. Top Hat (1935), dir. Mark Sandrich
17. Frances Ha (2013), dir. Noah Baumbach
18. Twentieth Century (1934), dir. Howard Hawks
19. The Apartment (1960), dir. Billy Wilder
20. Smiles of a Summer Night (1957), dir. Ingmar Bergman
21. Together (2001), dir. Lukas Moodysson
22. She’s Gotta Have It (1986), dir. Spike Lee
23. Pierrot Le Fou (1965), dir. Jean-Luc Godard
24. Tootsie (1982), dir. Sydney Pollack
25. It Happened One Night (1934), dir. Frank Capra
26. Damsels in Distress (2012), dir. Whit Stillman
27. Raising Arizona (1987), dir. Joel Coen
28. My Man Godfrey (1936), dir. Gregory La Cava
29. Something Wild (1986), dir. Jonathan Demme
30. Grosse Pointe Blank (1997), dir. George Armitage
31. Head-On (2004), dir. Fatih Akin
32. Flirting with Disaster (1996), dir. David O. Russell33.
33. Theodora Goes Wild (1936), dir. Richard Boleslawski
34. Obvious Child (2014), dir. Gillian Robespierre
35. How Stella Got Her Groove Back (1998), dir. Kevin Rodney Sullivan

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‘The barge she sat in, like a burnish’d throne…’

Happy Shakespeare Sunday!

The barge she sat in, like a burnish’d throne,
Burned on the water: the poop was beaten gold;
Purple the sails, and so perfumed that
The winds were lovesick with them; the oars were silver,
Which to the tune of flutes kept stroke, and made
The water which they beat to follow faster,
As amorous of their strokes. For her own person,
It beggar’d all description: she did lie
In her pavilion, cloth-of-gold of tissue,
O’erpicturing that Venus where we see
The fancy outwork nature: on each side her
Stood pretty dimpled boys, like smiling Cupids,
With divers-colour’d fans, whose wind did seem
To glow the delicate cheeks which they did cool,
And what they undid did.

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Worst Songs Ever: New Kids on the Block’ ‘You Got It (The Right Stuff)’

Like a good single, a terrible one reveals itself with airplay and forbearance. I don’t want to hate songs; to do so would shake ever-sensitive follicles, and styling gel is expensive. I promise my readers that my list will when possible eschew obvious selections. Songs beloved by colleagues and songs to which I’m supposed to genuflect will get my full hurricane-force winds, but it doesn’t mean that I won’t take shots at a jukebox hero overplayed when I was at a college bar drinking a cranberry vodka in a plastic thimble-sized cup.

New Kids on the Block – “”You Got It (The Right Stuff)”
PEAK CHART POSITION: #3 in February 1989

Wobbly but determined to keep cool, I step into the Boston studio. Donnie’s stuck to the phone, running a hand through his mullet as he pleads with the chick he met last week to let him come over. Joey blows bubbles into his milk. Jordan plays basic chords over his Casio’s samba preset. On the sofa sits Danny, tongue between his teeth, attacking the problem of tying his sneakers. Continue reading

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‘Democratic enthusiasm for the 2018 election is off the charts’

Hi, Colorado! Can you, like, fly into Florida and can the asses every statewide Democrat in my home state?

Democrats have secured a candidate on the ballot in every 2018 Colorado congressional, statehouse and major statewide race.

The last candidate to make the ballot and fill out the party’s roster was Guinn Unger Jr., a Democrat from Bayfield, who is running for the seat currently held by Sen. Don Coram, R-Montrose. Unger’s signatures were verified by the Colorado Secretary of State’s Office on Thursday.

“Democratic enthusiasm for the 2018 election is off the charts, and we’re capitalizing on that by running strong candidates in places we have never targeted before,” Matthew McGovern, executive director of House Majority Project, said in a written statement. “Having a Democratic candidate running in every district not only improves our chances of expanding the majority in the House and retaking the majority in the Senate, but it will help drive up Democratic turnout across the state and help provide campaign infrastructure for statewide candidates.”

(h/t Lawyers, Guns & Money)

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Worst Songs Ever: The Weeknd’s ‘Earned It’

Like a good single, a terrible one reveals itself with airplay and forbearance. I don’t want to hate songs; to do so would shake ever-sensitive follicles, and styling gel is expensive. I promise my readers that my list will when possible eschew obvious selections. Songs beloved by colleagues and songs to which I’m supposed to genuflect will get my full hurricane-force winds, but it doesn’t mean that I won’t take shots at a jukebox hero overplayed when I was at a college bar drinking a cranberry vodka in a plastic thimble-sized cup.

The Weeknd’s “Earned It”
PEAK CHART POSITION: #5 in February 2015

A man who in his art turned himself into a pathological case whose neuroses toughened up and weirded out and contorted his work, Michael Jackson looms large over R&B and hip-hop. Abel Tesfaye is clever: he’s mated “Human Nature” (his warm, soft croon) and “Leave Me Alone” (the jackhammer beats and deployment of echo) – not enough “Morphine” for my taste, but if he ever learns how to channel that 1997 album track press the red button under your desk. Continue reading

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Is free speech possible without job security?

When an English professor at California State University at Fresno tweets from a personal account while on leave that the late Barbara Bush was an “amazing racist” who raised a “war criminal,” there was no doubt that Fresno’s president would get embroiled in the latest salvo in the free speech wars. Despite the president’s remarks, however, Randa Jarrar is safe because it would cost the university a great deal of money to rid itself of her:

Henry Reichman, a professor emeritus of history at California State University-East Bay, chairs the association’s committee on academic freedom and tenure.

“There is little doubt in my mind that the professor’s tweets, while arguably ill-considered and quite foolish, are protected speech,” he wrote in an email to The Chronicle. “They were made in her capacity as a citizen and as such constitute what the AAUP calls extramural expression.” Such statements, he said, “constitute grounds for discipline only if they clearly demonstrate a lack of fitness for one’s position.”

Because she is protected by both tenure and a collective-bargaining agreement, Jarrar enjoys significant due-process protections, Reichman said. He called Castro’s statement that “all options” are on the table “both inaccurate and irresponsible.”

“While it is true that tenure does not permit faculty members to say or do whatever they want, it does clearly protect the specific statements that this faculty member made, however much the administration or anyone else, myself included, may find them offensive,” Reichman said.

The thought of an employer, even a public university like Fresno, punishing an employee for political speech made on her own time chills me. We shouldn’t need tenure to be sentient human beings who can exist apart from our jobs; this, to me, is the conclusion I make from this episode. Some of us are lucky to have job security.

But Randa Jarrar probably pissed off colleagues too: thanks to Jarrar’s tweeting the number of a suicide hotline at Arizona State University (to my mind the crassest thing she did), imagine the workshops the dean will demand the faculty sign up for.

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When the chips are down: The best R&B #1 songs of the 1980s

I had to stop myself — take a look at these titles! I’d even play them in the accidental order in which these songs landed. I made no room for Keith Sweat’s “I Want Her,” Maze featuring Frankie Beverly’s “Back in Stride,” Pebbles’ “Mercedes Boy,” and The Whispers’ “And the Beat Goes On.” And so on. I owe Thomas Inskeep and his ’80s R&B blog Rock Me Tonight a great deal for introducing me to this decade’s slushier hits, or so they would have sounded to a white audience. Mike Joseph and Inskeep’s “The Jheri Curl Chronicles” add context and jokes; you need to hear every episode. Believe me, Stephanie Mills and Melba Moore and Angela Winbush weren’t mentioned often among white cognoscenti in 2003 reviving music their older siblings had ignored.

Continue reading

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Rick Scott and vote suppression

Now that Governor Rick Scott has announced a Senate challenge to William Henry Harrison confidante Bill Nelson, his record as an opponent of voting rights should hand Florida Democrats a victory. The Miami Herald compiled a dandy list of Scott’s systemic efforts to rid himself of black and college-age voters:

▪ The state ordered Pinellas County in 2013 to stop the use of remote sites as a convenience for voters to submit mail ballots, but Supervisor of Elections Deborah Clark defied the order and the state backed down.

▪ Scott’s Division of Elections blocked a request by the city of Gainesville to use the student union at UF as an early voting site in 2014, saying it was not a government-owned community center. The site was not used.

▪ Judge Walker in 2016 struck down a state law that rejected mail ballots if a voter’s signature on the ballot envelope did not match a signature on file. In a state with millions of older voters, the judge said the rule “categorically disenfranchised thousands of voters.” They can now update their signatures.

▪ Scott refused to extend the voter registration deadline in 2016 after ordering evacuations due to Hurricane Matthew. The Democratic Party filed suit and won a six-day extension.

The judge in that case also was Walker, who called Scott’s logic “poppycock” and said: “No right is more precious than having a voice in our elections.”

Pin these items on your fridge with magnets. Couple this fact sheet with the news yesterday that a federal judge declared grifter/Kansas secretary of State Kris Kobach in contempt of court and I can feel the ground shifting as far as public awareness goes about this longterm GOP project to disenfranchise.

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Worst Songs Ever: Cyndi Lauper’s ‘True Colors’

Like a good single, a terrible one reveals itself with airplay and forbearance. I don’t want to hate songs; to do so would shake ever-sensitive follicles, and styling gel is expensive. I promise my readers that my list will when possible eschew obvious selections. Songs beloved by colleagues and songs to which I’m supposed to genuflect will get my full hurricane-force winds, but it doesn’t mean that I won’t take shots at a jukebox hero overplayed when I was at a college bar drinking a cranberry vodka in a plastic thimble-sized cup.

Cyndi Lauper’s “True Colors”
PEAK CHART POSITION: #1 in October 1986

Disappointment and indifference are interchangeable. I learned this lesson sometime in late 1987 when a relative got me a cassette copy of Cyndi Lauper’s second album as a Christmas present. Although a year old and well past its promotional cycle, True Colors was recorded by a figure known even to pop-allergic adults — a suitable gift. I had just rediscovered mainstream radio after the first of several periodic lacuna, so I used my Christmas dough to buy No Jacket Required and Licensed to Ill. Listening to True Colors inspired nothing except surprise that the artist who’d recorded “She Bop,” “Time After Time,” “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun,” and the too long underrated The Goonies ‘R’ Good Enough” could have allowed herself to sound so wan. Continue reading

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