So let’s move on.
So walk, don’t run, to your favorite video store to find:
Hard Candy (2005)
You don’t expect much from a movie called “Hard Candy” that features cover art featuring a 14-year-old girl standing on a bear trap. But don’t be fooled. “Hard Candy” is one of the best written and acted films of 2005. It’s about a 14-year-old girl who turns the tables on a 32-year-old pedophile that she meets on the internet. The plot – which has more twists than a
The Descent (2005)
“The Descent” is a rarity -- a horror movie with acting. Director Neil Marshall is becoming the king of intelligent horror films (his 2002 “Dog Soldiers” is the best werewolf movie ever made). “The Descent” takes place one year after a tragic car accident has killed Sarah’s husband and child. The crash – which is the movie’s opening sequence -- is one of the most soul-wrenching car accidents ever put to film. Her friends take her on a cave expedition in
The Oh in
After chomping through scenes like a comedic Hulk in “The 40-year-old Virgin,” Paul Rudd returns in this absolutely ridiculous comedy by director Billy Kent. The premise is a familiar one – middle-aged angst (this time in
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)
From the warped imagination of writer Charlie Kaufman comes this hidden gem of a flick. Admittedly, Kaufman can be damn annoying at times (“Adaptation” was so overwrought that it could induce vomiting). But Kaufman hits the mark – and then some here. The lead performances by Jim Carrey and the always good Kate Winslet are top-notched and the chemistry between the two is infectious. The basic premise of the movie is that Winslet erases her memories of Carrey from her mind and he decides to follow suit. But at the last minute, he decides he can’t lose her – even from his mind. So he tries to strategically hide his most cherished thoughts of her from the “mind lasers.” The movies is an emotional rush – and often love-out-loud funny. Great date movie.
The Contender (2000)
Joan Allen hands in her finest performance in this overlooked and underrated thriller about the nomination of a woman as vice president. The movie hinges on the question of Allen’s past sexual practices. She’s pitted against another candidate played by William Petersen. But the real beauty is the filmmaking and director Rod Lurie’s masterful character study. Lurie presents us with the worst of Allen and the best of Petersen at the beginning and then slowly turns the tables on the viewer’s first impressions of the characters. It’s not until the end that we get the full, unfiltered look at both candidates that we realize that we’ve been wrong about Allen and about Petersen.
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DaRK PaRTY: What has happened to "shopping" in the
Jim: Not much; it's been pretty much the same for the last 100 years. Commentary changes, but buying stuff remains a central way of making meaning for life. That consumption is doing the "work" of religion is not new; it's the result of the Industrial Revolution. We're just changing the inventory of relics.
DP: Luxury items have become a huge commodity in the
Jim: They make us feel good. You buy feeling and the object is thrown in for free. Think Evian water. The value is not in the water, it's in the sensations. Ditto the Lexus.
DP: Have people become the brands they buy?
Jim: Well, sure, a bit but so what? That's like asking do people become the religions they worship. To a degree, yes, but the system of belief makes life meaningful. For a while, to some; certainly not everyone. As we grow older we shift brands.
Jim: "Greed" is a word I use to describe your consumption habits. Not mine. What is really at issue is taste. If you buy a Mercedes I may consider you greedy. If I do it its because I deserve it.
Almost 90 percent of what the middle class buys, we don't need. Need has nothing to do with modern consumption -- that's what makes it so interesting. This has never happened before in history. And it's true for great chunks of Europe, North America, and
DP: There's been a minor backlash against materialism -- will that backlash continue to take hold or is materialism going to continue to thrive?
Jim: If what you mean is the occasional appearance of voluntary simplicity then, yes, but this has more to do with how some 45-year-old women feel about their lives as consumers than with how 18 year old kids feel. When adolescents turn against "needless consumption" then you'll know something interesting is happening. That hasn't happened. If we have a serious economic Depression, it will.StumbleUpon | Digg | del.icio.us | Reddit | Technorati | E-mail
Now then. This is the Lou Archer School of Hard Knocks for Private Eyes. I’m Head Master Continental Op. To my left is Professor Travis McGee and to my right is Professor Mike Hammer.
We’d like to welcome our ex-police officers, ex-city reporters and ex-military officers to the first day of school. We ask that you leave your liquor bottles, bad attitudes, failed marriages, propensity to use violence to solve difficult problems, and wise-cracks outside of the classroom.
Yes, Spenser, this means you. And please, can you ask Ms. Susan Silverman to step outside? This orientation is for students only. Thank you.
First period we’ll get right to the physical aspects of the job with “How to Take a Punch.” Then we’ll move on to “Serial Killers, Hitmen & Mobsters” followed by “Heart of Gold Economics: How to Earn a Living without Charging Clients.” Then it is off to the aforementioned “Beat Down” class.
Then we’ll break for lunch: steaks (cook rare, of course), fries, cold beers and black coffee. After the smoking break we’ll continue with classes.
Fifth period will be “Insults: Delivery is the Key.” Sixth period will be “Handguns: Blow Away Bad Guys Not Bystanders.” Then we’ll end the first day with “Dark Musings: How your Hometown Shapes Your Attitude.” And yes, Mr. Stoner,
Here is the syllabus for the first semester – five modern private eye novels we think rise to the top of genre:
Crais has developed a reputation for hit or miss mystery novels – especially with his main protagonist
Burning Echo by Lee Child (2002)
Former MP Jack Reacher is one of the toughest characters in private eye fiction. The beauty of the Reacher novels are their ability to straddle genres – some of the books are military thrillers, others action adventure and still others classic private eye mysteries. “Burning Echo” is the latter. It’s one of those novels where the bad guys are really “bad” and the good guy gets to deliver a severe punishment that has the reader fully onboard with Old Testament justice. Such is the power of Lee Child’s prose. “Burning Echo” takes place in the badlands of
The Devil Knows You’re Dead by
Any one of the masterful Matthew Scudder novels could have made this list, but “The Devil Knows You’re Dead” tops the list because of its literary ambitions. Scudder is an ex-cop and ex-alcoholic who works as an unlicensed private eye in
In the Electric Mist with Confederate Dead by James Lee Burke (1994)
This is the sixth novel in the long-running Dave Robicheaux series – and the best. James Lee Burke seems to have run out of gas on the character in recent years, but “In the Electric Mist with Confederate Dead” has the author in top form (and what a title!). The book is about a psychopathic mobster disrupting a movie set by murdering women and features a spooky ghost story as Robicheaux communes with long-dead confederate general, John Bell Hood. No one paints a setting better than Burke – and readers will be able to feel, smell, and hear the
The Straw Men by Michael Marshall (2002)
This is one of the finest debut mysteries – ever. It’s a paranoid mix of “X-Files,” Stephen King and a good, old fashioned private eye novel. There are two seemingly disparate plots that meet in the middle, but the primary character is ex-CIA analyst Ward Hopkins who is investigating the mysterious death of his parents. “The Straw Men” is the rare novel that keeps the reader absolutely going in circles trying to figure out the intricate plot. Do yourself a favor and get this book.StumbleUpon | Digg | del.icio.us | Reddit | Technorati | E-mail
"But all in all, it's been a fabulous year for Laura and me." —summing up his first year in office, three months after the 9/11 attacks,
Washington, D.C., Dec. 20, 2001
History, of course, will be the final judge. And history will likely bitch slap George W. Bush down to the level of Millard Fillmore and Warren G. Harding. There’s seems to be little doubt any more that the 43rd president of the United States will be remembered as one of the worst in history.
Polls show Bush’s approval ratings sinking to historical low levels (hovering around 35 percent). Let’s forget for a moment Bush’s inability to articulate coherent thoughts, his questionable reading skills, his election year corruption in
One could argue that those blunders and beliefs are part of Bush’s flawed character – the result of being a pampered, rich boy with little interest in education. How else to explain how a wealthy 50-something managed never to travel overseas until he was elected president?
What will really topple the Bush presidency into the dustbin of history are his crimes – four of them all told (and any of them could technically be reason enough to pursue impeachment). There’s no excuse for any of them – they were outright, deliberate prevarications against all of us and together they have eroded the nation’s ethical standing and weakened our global reputation.
Here are Bush’s four primary crimes:
The War in
“Our enemies are innovative and resourceful, and so are we. They never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people, and neither do we." —
The crime: Lying and inducing the
Bush and his chief enabler, Vice President Cheney, lied to the American people and the U.S. Congress about the threat
Reckless Endangerment of
"If this were a dictatorship, it'd be a heck of a lot easier, just so long as I'm the dictator." —
, Dec. 19, 2000 Washington, D.C.
Bush and his military commanders endangered the lives of
The poor planning has been acknowledged by Bush himself. The evidence can be found in the mounting causalities in
But the real crime was sending
"I don't know where bin Laden is. I have no idea and really don't care. It's not that important. It's not our priority." —
, March 13, 2002 Washington, D.C.
The most disturbing images coming out of the Bush presidency will be the torture photographs from Abu Ghraib. The image of the Iraqi man standing on a box with a black sheet and pointed black hood on his head and wires snaking out from his hands has a good chance of becoming the lasting symbol of the Bush administration.
Bush and his cronies have also sought to water-down the definition of torture held by the United Nations and has whisked terrorist suspects to places like Pakistan so that they may be “questioned” in nations without laws against torture.
As a result, Bush is guilty of violating the Federal Torture Act (Title 18 of U.S. Code, Section 113C) and U.N. Torture Convention and the Geneva Convention.
One could also argue that Bush is guilty of “torture” by ordering hundreds of terrorist suspects held in military prisons without being charged with crimes, without access to due process and without credible legal representation.
Spying on Americans
"I trust God speaks through me. Without that, I couldn't do my job." — to a group of Amish he met with privately, July 9, 2004
This may be Bush’s biggest offense and the one Americans seem least concerned about. Yet our president violated the law by ordering the National Security Agency to conduct electronic surveillance on innocent citizens without a warrant. It is required – by law (and its practically a rubber stamp process) to get a court order from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court of Review.
Without the warrants, Bush is guilty of violating Title 50 U.S. Code, Section 1805.StumbleUpon | Digg | del.icio.us | Reddit | Technorati | E-mail
(DaRK PaRTY lives and breathes NFL football – especially our hometown New England Patriots. So on the eve of Championship weekend in the NFL,
DaRK PaRTY: Cold, Hard Football Facts likes to take sports reporters to task for getting things wrong. Why do you think sports reporting is so bad?
Kerry: Couple reasons:
1.) It's too much work to do what we do ... research everything, study the numbers, and then draw conclusions based up on the evidence. It’s easy to puke out vomit on to a keyboard and try to pass it off as analysis.
Basically, the Cold, Hard Football Facts apply the scientific method to sports reporting. Of course, we add a lot of self-congratulatory bombast and gratuitous references to cold beer and hot chicks to keep everyone from getting bored. But, essentially, it takes a lot longer to do what we do than it takes the average sports reporter to do what he/she does … which is essentially take notes and then spit out a story.
2.) In defense of sports reporters, a lot of them are spread thin and are basically turning out copy the way strippers turn out lap dances for dirty old men. Sure, there are other things they'd rather do, like maybe impale their genitals on barbed wire. But the almighty dollar, not to mention their bosses, demand that strippers and sports writers just keep grinding, no matter how dirty they feel inside about the job. Most sports writers would prefer to pen the next "Tuesdays With Morrie." But to survive they really just need to bang out copy to fill space. Right, wrong ... it doesn't matter. They just need to fill space.
3.) Another problem is that, for some reason, sports writing puts a premium on opinions, no matter how fuckin' stupid those opinions may be. Everyone from Jim Rome to sports radio hosts in local markets is praised for their cutting-edge opinions, or for "having the balls" to tell you what they think. Well, every drunk at the end of the bar has an opinion. How much value is there in that?
And, sorry, it doesn't take any balls to tell a bunch of people "what you think" about sports. It takes balls to invade an enemy beachhead under deadly withering fire. It takes two or three semi-functioning synapses to tell people what you think about sports. Most people can "think" for themselves and form their own "opinions." I think most sports fans listen to the uneducated opinions of your average sports pundit and say, “What a fuckin’ moron.”
Jim Rome is a perfect example. Actually caught him on TV the other day talking about the AFC title game, and I quote: "How in the world can you pick against the Patriots? With that said, I'm picking the Colts. But how can you go against the Patriots?" This guy has the analytical skills of a three year old. Actually, he must be a genius to turn that utter lack of ability into that kind of money. He’s like the Paris Hilton of the sports world, except not quite as hot. So I guess you gotta admire that.
4.) Finally, the consumer has a role in all this, perhaps the primary role. People like salacious dirt, bombastic opinions and gridiron gossip. Whether it's right or wrong, the consumer typically just wants some juicy mind candy to suck on while they're killing time at work or knocking back a few beers at home. Factless opinions about sports go a long way toward filling that need.
With that said, there's definitely a demand in the marketplace for what we do: intelligent, well-researched and entertaining sports writing that offers consumers something they can count on: the truth. I think our pretty impressive growth in a very crowded market shows there’s a thirst out there for people who offer up something a little deeper than “what I think.”
DP: Let's talk some football. What are two of the biggest surprises to emerge so far in the 2006/2007 NFL season?
Kerry: First surprise: the fact that the sports media continues to misunderstand the way the New England Patriots run their organization. Win or lose against Indy, this team has pulled off the single most remarkable run in the history of playoff football. For example, in their playoff games since 2001, they’ve beaten five teams who were 13-3 or better in the playoffs. That’s pretty remarkable. To put it into context: Joe Montana, during his four Super Bowl postseasons, played and beat just one team that was 13-3 or better, and that was the 14-2 Dolphins in Super Bowl XIX.
One other example: the 2004 Patriots beat opponents in the playoffs who were a combined 40-8 – that’s the toughest postseason schedule a champion’s overcome in the Super Bowl Era. The Patriots this year are fresh off a road win over a 14-2 No. 1 seed.
Yet here we are heading into the AFC title game, and the majority of “pundits” out there are picking Indy, a team that’s never even reached a Super Bowl and that has serious defensive questions, to win the game. Indy CAN certainly win this game. It’s just amazing, based upon the track records of each team, and the performances of each team this season statistically and otherwise, that so many people are pegging the Colts to win. It makes no sense, logically speaking.
Second surprise: the fact that so-called “parity” in the NFL is dead and buried – yet nobody’s got the message. Everyone likes to talk about parity in the NFL. It’s a big buzzword. Every time there’s a close game, you hear parity, parity, parity.
But look at the playoffs: the same teams dominate year after year after year:
The NFC is a bit more of toss-up, and the Saints are a surprise team, obviously. But if you look back on history, there have always been surprise teams. There have always been lousy teams that shocked powerhouses – the NFL has ALWAYS been competitive.
There was a period of parity in the NFL … back in the mid-80s, but it’s over and dead.
Look at 1985 – everyone remembers the great 15-1 Bears. But nobody else won more than 12 games that year. Hell, the Browns won the AFC Central with an 8-8 record. If that’s not parity, I don’t know what is.
In 1988, no team in football won more than 12 games, and only three were that good. Three of six division winners that year were 10-6 or 9-7. That’s parity. The 49ers won the SB with a 10-6 record - worst ever for a Super Bowl winner.
That’s parity. It doesn’t exist anymore. The Colts and Patriots, for example, are setting records for most wins ever over a whole series of given time periods.
The bad teams, meanwhile, generally continue to suck:
DP: The Chicago Bears will take on the New Orleans Saints for the NFC championship. Who do you like and why?
Kerry: I like
The Saints are 10-6 and only one 10-6 team has gone on to win a Super Bowl – the 1988 49ers. Of course, they had Bill Walsh and Joe Montana. The Saints can get by
I think it ends for them this weekend.
Kerry: The Colts are like the Saints: a team that’s won a lot, despite glaring flaws. The Colts, for example, surrendered 360 points this year – far worse than even the worst Super Bowl winning defense (1983 Raiders, 338 points). They also have one of the worst run defenses in the history of football.
Now, with that said, the Colts have gone 14-4 through this point in the playoffs. But if you’re looking at this solely through Cold, Hard Football Facts – that is, through the pigskin prism of stats and data – it’s inconceivable that they could go on to win the Super Bowl.
Sure, they can win this weekend. But if we have to take a pick, we’re going to base our decision upon what the numbers tell us. And the numbers tell us that
Kerry: We just reported on this topic this week. A couple facts for you to digest:
Add it all up, and it is the most remarkable streak of dominance in the history of football.
Analysis: Gabriel Garcia Marquez is best known for the novels “One Hundred Years of Solitude” and “Love in a Time of Cholera,” where he introduced the world to magical realism. Magical realism is a literary genre in which magic or fantastical creatures appear in an otherwise realistic setting.
I’ve never been a fan of magical realism, but there is no arguing that Marquez is a masterful writer. His ability to paint pictures and create rich characters with an economy of words makes him worthy of his 1982 Nobel Prize for Literature.
His short story “One of These Days” isn’t magical realism. In fact, its brutal realism – the short – very short, in fact – story of the consequences of political corruption that lead to a massacre.
The story opens on a warm and rainless Monday morning. Aurelio Escovar, a dentist with no formal education, arrives at work and begins his mediocre tasks for the day. His tranquility is interrupted by the arrival of the village mayor. A light exchange with his son follows with a threat of violence if Escovar doesn’t see the mayor, who wants a decayed tooth pulled. The readers experience this exchange:
He still hadn’t changed his expression.
“He says if you don’t take out his tooth, he’ll shoot you.”
Without hurry, with an extremely tranquil movement, he stopped pedaling the drill, pushed it away from the chair, and pulled the lower drawer of the table all the way out. There was a revolver. “O.K.,” he said. “Tell him to come and shoot me.”
Suddenly, the mood has shifted. What could have been a funny exchange between two old friends – village dentist and the old mayor – turns into something with teeth; something unpleasant.
The tension when the disheveled mayor makes his appearance is thick. Clearly, these are two men who despise each other. The mayor is here only because his face is swollen and he’s in agony.
The dentist inspects the tooth and declares that he must remove it without anesthesia because it is an abscess. The mayor senses that this is a lie, but he stoically gives his consent. Then out comes the tooth:
It was a lower wisdom tooth. The dentist spread his feet and grasped the tooth with the hot forceps. The mayor seized the arms of the chair, braced his feet with all his strength, and felt an icy void in his kidneys, but didn’t make a sound. The dentist moved only his wrist. Without rancor, rather with a bitter tenderness, he said:
“Now you’ll pay for our twenty dead men.”
The Mayor felt the crunch of bones in his jaw, and his eyes filled with tears. But he didn’t breathe until he felt the tooth come out.
The story ends with the dentist asking where to send the bill – to the town or the mayor. The mayor answers: “It’s the same damn thing.”
“One of These Days” is beautifully written and some of the images are as stark and real as photographs. Marquez’s command of language and his confidence in giving the reader just enough information to form the pictures, ideas, and characters – are top-notch.
The story, however, simply lacks an emotional and philosophical impact. Marquez is telling the readers that power corrupts. Is this news? Was it necessary to beat the reader over the head with that unsophisticated premise by having the mayor tell us that he and the town are the “same damn thing?”
Less would be more here.
Yet even despite this enormous flaw – the story does seem to work. And it’s because of the writing. One only wishes that Marquez’s premise was as sophisticated and as light as his words.Read our literary criticism of Richard Matheson's "I Am Legend" here
The alternative scene in the 1980s rolled onto the music scene like a fresh wind blowing out the tired power band era of the late 1970s and the bubble-gum pop that was an unwanted leftover of the disco scene (“Magic” by Olivia Newton John was the #3 song in 1980 and “Celebration” by Kool and the Gang was #3 in 1981).
R.E.M. drove the stake into the ground in 1983 after the release of their masterpiece “Murmur.” When Rolling Stone magazine declared it the best album of the year – the alternative music scene had broken the mainstream. R.E.M. was bolstered by bands like the Violent Femmes, the Feelies, and The Replacements.
Alternative borrowed liberally from the punk-rock scene, but softened the rawness of bands like the Ramones and Black Flag for a mainstream audience. The genre added elements of reggae, folk, and electronic to form a new sound. 80s Alternative also brought a social consciousness to the lyrics. Audiences, sick of maudlin love ballads and songs about partying, flocked to the intelligence of music about poverty, social justice, Apartheid, war and peace.
As this new movement took hold in the early mid-80s – an unprecedented era of one hit wonder magic began as bands changed their sound to capitalize of the success of R.E.M., U2 and others. Some of these bands scored huge hits – their tunes rocketing to the stratosphere with decade defining songs. Unfortunately, they were unable to capture lightning in a bottle for a second time.
There are many reasons why a band becomes a one hit wonder, mostly having to do with talent, timing, and luck. DaRK PaRTY explores these reasons and gives you our picks for the “12 Best One Hit Wonders of 80s Alternative.”
Gary Numan was the first bona fide synthesizer rock star of the new era. He was also supposed to be the next David Bowie. Of course, he may have taken that comparison too far – dressing in costumes on stage, wearing make-up, and working on his androgynous sexuality. But there’s only one David Bowie – and it wasn’t Gary Numan. “Cars” hit number 12 on the BillBoard Top 100 in 1980.
“Whip It” Devo (1980)
No one really knows what to make of Devo. They were formed in
Soft Cell paved the way for New Wave bands like Duran Duran and Spandau Ballet. The band’s own music never quite caught on, however. As their label became impatient for them to score a success, the duo released a cover version of a 1964 song by Gloria Jones. The song’s impact was enormous and it remained on Billboard’s Top 100 chart for a record 43 weeks.
“I Melt with You” Modern English (1982)
“I Melt with You” may be the most popular 80s Alternative one hit wonder of all time. It’s become a staple of night clubs and on the wedding circuit. The song was a bedrock on college rock stations. The problem was that the song didn’t reflect the band’s normal musical tendencies. They tried copy-cat numbers, but just couldn’t grab the brass ring for a second time.
This song was a number one hit in both the
“She Blinded Me with Science” Thomas Dolby (1983)
Thomas Dolby was one of the first Alternative artists to use sampling. He was a one-man band similar today to Moby and other DJ performers. But he had little musical success after “She Blinded Me with Science,” which reached 23 on the Top Billboard chart in 1983. But don’t worry about Dolby – he invented the software that is now responsible for the musical ring tones on more than 500 million mobile phones.
Frankie Goes to
“Radioactive” The Firm (1985)
The Firm was going to be the power band of the 1980s – in the vein of Led Zeppelin and Bad Company, but with an Alternative twist. And why not, since Jimmy Page was the lead guitarist and Paul Rodgers was the lead singer? But it didn’t turn out that way. There were great expectations for this new “super group,” but album sales were lackluster. “Radioactive,” a rollicking, dance-fused number, hit number 23 on the
The Georgia Satellites were going to be big. Huge. They were the second coming of southern rock and the heirs apparent to Lynyrd Skynyrd. “Keep Your Hands to Yourself” soared to number 2 on the charts and was an enormous hit on MTV. But after the single, the band plummeted like a stone.
“The Future’s So Bright I Gotta Wear Shades” Timbuk 3 (1986)
Husband and wife team Pat MacDonald and Barbara K. MacDonald seemed to be accidental Alternative stars – right out of central casting for the intellectual set. The song was an enormous success in the movies, of all places. It appeared on the soundtracks of “My Best Friend is a Vampire,” “Kuffs,” and the “Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2.” The band also appeared in the 1988 film “D.O.A.”
Midnight Oil should have been the next R.E.M. The Australian band formed in the 1970s and shifted from a progressive rock band into punk-infused hard rockers when the 80s scene was in full swing. They were far left-wing politically – especially when it came to environmental causes. Despite multiple albums and moderate success through four decades, the band only scored it big with “Beds are Burning.”
“What I Am” Edie Brickell & The New Bohemians (1988)
Edie Brickell and the New Bohemians were going to be the heirs to the Grateful Dead and other psychedelic bands of the 60s – only with an Alternative 80s infusion. Too bad that Paul Simon ended up wooing and marrying Brickell (they now have three children). Who knows what would have happened? The song “What I Am” was a big hit on college and Alternative 80s stations. It hit number 4 on the Billboard Top 100 in 1988.
Dan: Dwarfism is not something we would have chosen for Becky, but I don't recall it as being particularly traumatic or depressing -- surprising, certainly.
I don't think we really came to terms with her dwarfism until she was five months old and nearly died of what for anyone else would have been nothing more than a bad cold. We learned she would need a tracheotomy and oxygen until her airways and rib cage had had a chance to grow.
For two years, our home was a blur of home nurses, medical equipment, and frequent trips to the hospital. That's when we really started to educate ourselves, as we realized that what we didn't know could kill our daughter.