Lily Allen

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I wish someone would prove me wrong, but Lily Allen never really made it in the United States. But, here she is, perfectly explaining why it is impossible to believe anything online anymore because Russia is engaged in a massive attack on Western democracy and Western culture:

Do you think what’s written about you in certain newspapers fuels the Twitter trolls?
“Yeah, I do. Although to what extent, I’m not quite sure. Out of the trolls, I’m not sure what’s automated and Russian, and what’s real. They’re not called Russian bots. They’re called, you know, PaulJames1979 with a Middlesbrough FC emblem.  But I do know that if I get into a tête-à-tête – or tweet-à-tweet – with Piers Morgan, then suddenly I’ll get loads of automated stuff. So there are definitely right-wing triggers that if you converse and interact with, you get a sort of army coming at you. And you know that they’re automated because they have the same key words and they’re talking about exactly the same thing. In all the tweets, there will be four of five key words surrounded by other aggressive words.”

So, if a British pop singer who definitely deserves a global audience can figure this shit out, why can't anyone in America?



The Throng Below the Eiffel Tower

This is still one of my favorite photos.

In my opinion, the Eiffel Tower is plenty high enough. This was taken looking down from the first platform. At this time of the year, which was roughly November of 2011, there was a skating rink and some food vendors on that level. We then went up to the second platform. You would think, oh, that's not very high and of course, you have to go to the top.


If you go up to the second platform, that's plenty high enough. You do not need to go to the top. I did not go to the top. Oh, hell no.

Pardon Me?

Lovable scamp Robert Downey Jr. received a full pardon today:
California's governor has pardoned Robert Downey Jr. for a 1996 drug conviction that sent the actor to prison.

Gov. Jerry Brown's office announced Thursday that Downey was among 91 people receiving pardons.
Downey was convicted of felony drug possession after he was arrested on a Los Angeles County highway and authorities found heroin, cocaine and a pistol in his vehicle.

In 1999, he was sent to prison for nearly a year after he acknowledged violating his probation.

Does Downey Jr. deserve a pardon? Not in my opinion, but he's always been given a pass for crimes that would have sent a poor person of color to jail for a decade or more. He basically spent about four years completely out of control and was given numerous "second chances" that, again, would never have gone to someone else.

And that's the real problem here because you want to give people a break. You want to take a non-violent offender and give them an opportunity to turn their life around and get help. The problem is, our system takes people of color and throws them in prison. Downey Jr. was supposed to serve three years in prison for what he did, but he only served a year, got out, got a job, got high numerous times, and didn't have to go back to prison and serve those extra two years. How many people of color have even had a remotely similar experience with the California penal system? This same system gives Robert Downey Jr. seventeen or eighteen chances, turns a blind eye to felony possession of narcotics and gives him a pardon. When you go back through his records, you come away with the sense that, as soon as someone recognized him, they tried to give him a pass. That's shameful.

If he didn't have the money, he'd have never gotten a pardon today. That's what's broken with our system.

The BBC Has a Jeremy Clarkson Problem

Somebody did somebody wrong at the BBC:

With Clarkson being an already heavily contentious media personality in the U.K. following remarks over the past few years that have been deemed racist and xenophobic, the news has made headlines nationwide, sparking widespread debate over his future and that of the show, which airs in more than 100 countries and brings in some $220 million for BBC Worldwide.
Within minutes, an online petition calling for the BBC to “Bring Back Clarkson,” was posted online. It has been signed by more than 250,000 people as of Wednesday morning London time.
On announcing the suspension, the BBC also confirmed that the episode of Top Gear due to air this Sunday would not be broadcast. A spokesperson has now confirmed to The Hollywood Reporter that the following episode, the penultimate one of the current season, has also been canceled, while they haven't yet decided on the final installment. "It's a moving situation," they said.
If you were of the opinion that Clarkson is an out of control asshole who brings in hundreds of millions of dollars for his employer, you'd probably have a lot of soul mates at the BBC. They are caught between the liability this man brings to their venerable business and the profits generated by a show that, quite frankly, could be successful if the right person were to appear.

Why not do it with Jason Statham or Clive Owen? Why not give Liam Gallagher a call? Hell, you could do it with Bez and no one would notice.

On second though, yeah. They would notice. Clarkson is almost irreplaceable, giving him a lot of power. He'll come out the other side of this with offers if they fire him.

Jessica Roy Enriches the Language

The new term is manslamming:
there’s a helpful new word in the man-as-prefix lexicon. Meet “manslamming,” which New York magazine’s Jessica Roy uses to describe the behavior that is, on a sidewalk, refusing to yield to a fellow pedestrian such that a collision inevitably ensues. More broadly, Roy says, it’s “the sidewalk M.O. of men who remain apparently oblivious to the personal space of those around them.” It is (usually) done by men, (usually) at the expense of women. It is (usually) done unconsciously.
Awful behavior. I instinctively give way and get out of the way when I'm in public. I abhor the possibility of causing injury to someone else. That's more Minnesota Nice than it is anything else. Maybe I picked it up in the Army, which is where you have to get along with people or find yourself in peril. Who knows?

Whose Ordered Plan?

The British say this is a work of madness:
An eccentric architectural plan thought to have been drawn by George III during his period of "madness" has been discovered at the British Library.
It is part of a huge collection of papers put together by the King during his reign from 1760 to 1820.
The loose piece of paper was tucked inside a volume about the Palaces of Hanover in Germany.
The diagram of a building was drawn in ink over a pencil outline "in a rather savage way", according to experts.
Peter Barber, head of map collections at the British Library, said the drawing, scribbled on the back of an order of service from St George's Chapel in Windsor, was "not an ordered plan".
It looks like someone was working out some ideas; if this is what madness looks like, oh well.

We have to remember that this was drawn with a crude implement, dipped in ink, and probably not in the best of light. It could have been a sketch to work out some ideas or it could have been the work of someone trying to amuse themselves. It could also have not been drawn by George III at all and it could have been done by a servant or someone at his direction.

Ed Emberley Taught Me How to Draw

The kicker is, I can't draw!

But I do have a good memory, and this is a page I haven't seen in nearly 35 years. It is the assembly line method of drawing vehicles, done by Ed Emberley.

Emberley was an innovated artist who illustrated kids books. That may sound simple enough, but the complexity of his work and the sophistication of his methods put him among the best of 20th Century's graphic artists.

Amazing stuff, and his work has been saved and restored.

Gary Busey Has Lived to be 70

I would say that Gary Busey living to the age of 70 (and let's hope for another 30 or more for this fine gentleman) is an accomplishment worth celebrating.

To me, the quintessential Busey role was his small piece of acting in Thunderbolt and Lightfoot. In the film, he plays a character named Curly who works putting lawn sprinklers into various rich people's yards. The way that Busey played that part suggested to me that he was very much into it, and that you could watch that film and see his performance and then not be surprised to see the character still installing lawn sprinklers to this day.

Busey is much derided and mocked, but no one sells a character like he does. He lives inside of the parts he plays and believes in what he's doing. He will chew up the scenery and roll in and out of dialogue like he was born to do what it is he does.

Amen for great actors. Gary Busey, contrary to what the shitheels and prudes and hipsters think, is what a great actor does, no matter how lousy the part. And, by lousy, I speak of course of Quigley, one of the strangest films you will ever see--one that involves Busey convincing everyone that he is, in fact, a dog who has been reincarnated as a human--or is it the other way around?--in order to atone for being an asshole.

Do not watch this film with children, even though it is one of the few family movies Busey made. Watch it alone, and then burn your memories.

Don't You Know Who I Am?

The sad decline of Alec Baldwin continues unabated:
Actor Alec Baldwin was arrested Tuesday and issued two summonses -- one for disorderly conduct -- after riding a bicycle the wrong way on a New York street, police said.
The "30 Rock" star allegedly became angry and started yelling at cops after they asked him for identification to give him a summons, police said.
Baldwin was not carrying identification and police took him into custody, a law enforcement official said.
The actor reportedly became angry at the officers, yelling "Give me the summons already," a law enforcement official said.
Baldwin was taken to a nearby precinct, where he reportedly asked the desk supervisor: "How old are these officers, that they don't know who I am?" according to a law enforcement official.
The last thing anyone should ask a police officer is if they know who you are. That's the loaded question of the age. In all of the English language, there's nothing sadder than trying to exchange accountability for being a celebrity.

If you're an adult male, and if you're riding your bike in the wrong place and going the wrong way in a large urban area, shut the hell up and do what the cops tell you to do. This is not abuse of power--this is traffic and safety enforcement. Big difference.

Mr. Baldwin needs to move to Malibu. There, the cops won't immediately beat him senseless when he asks them if they "know who he is." They'll politely assess his value to the film community, whether or not he's had a recently large grossing film, and then they will call an agent or a publicist and behave accordingly. He's not Mel Gibson, so he should be fine out there.

The Hazards of Decorating for Christmas

This article goes on to talk about all of the people who have been injured while decorating for the holidays. For those of you who buy into the idea of an actual War on Christmas, these are the people who celebrate their Christian holiday and get hurt in the process, thereby earning a Purple Heart of sorts.
In 2012, the Commission notes, "there were 15,000 injuries involving holiday decorating seen in emergency departments nationwide during November and December." (This works out to around 250 injuries a day during the holiday season.) In 2011, the Commission reported on 2010's number: "More than 13,000 people were treated in emergency departments nationwide due to injuries involving holiday decorations."

In 2008 and 2009, the number was 12,000.

Indeed, the CPSC's most recent holiday-injury stat represents "the fourth consecutive year these estimates have increased," the Commission notes. "In each year since 2009, there have been an estimated 12,000 or more emergency department visits."
The fact that we even have a U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission speaks volumes about where we are at as a country because there are many Americans who don't think we should even monitor or measure such things. 

To get hurt in the service of a higher ideal--decorating for the holidays--is to be injured chasing something artistic and noble. On Saturday night, we drove through the most affluent area of Howard County, Maryland--ostensibly the third richest county in America--and there were barely any Christmas lights anywhere. What few there were consisted of a strand or two of lights draped over a low hedge and not much more. Whole stretches of road, lined with million dollar homes, were as black as night during the dinner hour. Nobody here has the Christmas spirit or the inclination to decorate. Amazing.

The Hobbit Films Are Fan Fiction and Nothing More

Christopher Orr's review of The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug eviscerates Peter Jackson and deems the liberties taken with the original material "egregious." So much for purity.

The gauntlet against "fan fiction" has been thrown down, and linking Jackson to this amateur practice is akin to trying to derail a franchise that isn't going to be stopped by a critic (which would be impossible at this point). If anything, the backlash against Orr will be a blip on the radar if it blows up at all.

If these Hobbit films are really not that great, the critics will have to try to be heard over the massive marketing hype that will guarantee an audience for a franchise that has billion dollar implications. They will be silenced by indifference or worse. There's too much money at stake. And that money is why Jackson rewrote the material in order to pad it out into a three film megaproject. The only part of this series of films that Jackson cares about is the battle scene at the end. The entirety of one film could probably be that battle in order to satisfy Jackson's fetish.

As soon as he introduced a beloved old character and an entirely new one designed to make the film more marketable to young women, he entered the shady world of fan fiction. His ideas are no better or worse than yours or mine and even though we haven't made any other billion dollar film franchises work, it doesn't change the fact that Jackson looked at a classic book and decided to rewrite it. For money.

I don't think that this material warranted a trilogy; good God, they probably wanted to split the last film in two just to make that much more cash. It works as a book precisely because it is one story told in one reading. It is an adventure tale for a young audience. It was never intended to make Harvey Weinstein a billion dollars.

Lost Films

How do we really know if we've lost something we didn't care about in the first place?

The vast majority of the silent films that have, apparently, been lost or allowed to decay may be interesting as artifacts or as history, but they were not going to entertain anyone or end up being monetized in any way. Their lack of commercial value is what doomed them. Nobody in Hollywood passes on a buck that can be made from a piece of content.

Apathy is what cost us this material. How do you preserve everything anyway?

Saying Grace

Of course, only an atheist would pay $46 million dollars for a Norman Rockwell.

I don't mean to be cynical, but it is not one of the finest American paintings ever. It is now the most "valuable" painting in terms of what someone would pay, however. Rockwell was one of our greatest artists, but he had a social commentary aspect to his work that still resonates. His depiction of life in the first half of the 20th Century is without peer.