1st and Ten - The Weekly Tendown - November 22-28 2009

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Welcome to issue 3 of our newest feature here at TBOR; last week, you learned of my admiration for the giant balls of Larry David, Bill Belichick, and Will Phillips.  Oh - and Publix has a secret liquid which kills all germs, so that's probably going to hit the scientific journals very soon.

Here's the best thing that happened this week:


Adam Lambert Is Not Your Babysitter

My favorite part of Adam Lambert's AMA performance last Sunday night wasn't the actual performance (I like the song; it's top end on what is, frankly, a little disappointing first album; but my tolerance for camp is fairly low). My favorite part wasn't even the straight from the playbook reaction - a small but vocal conservative outrage (the best quote - "America's children are literally under siege!" which is probably hyperbole unless "America's Children" is the nickname Lambert has given to his testicles) leading to Lambert's de-booking from Good Morning America (nobody buys records anymore except for country music fans; that's why the real most interesting occurrence at the AMA's was Lady Gaga losing the Best New Artist fan text vote to a country group that not only didn't I know then, but I don't know now and I looked up the name a day and a half ago in preparation for this open - and because of that, it's not exactly a Tiger getting the hell beaten out of him by the hot Swedish wife Brenda Ritchie style and then frantically fleeing into a fire hydrant level of cover up to imagine some co-ordination between the two ABC shows to ratchet up some level of publicity for everyone).  My favorite part wasn't even the rank hypocrisy by the CBS Morning Show hosted by.....Paula Zahn?...Ray Gandolf?...Ethan Frome? the hell is that show still on the air...when it, within the same story, showed the Madonna/Britney makeout from whichever MTV Awards that was, and then blurred the image of Lambert's boy on boy kiss from the night before. 

That was pretty good though.  Lambert correctly pointed out that it was an obvious double standard - earlier in the night, Janet Jackson grabbed a backup dancer's crotch (recreating a moment from a, what - 15 year old video?) which went without comment, and as the Britney kissing her grandmother moment illustrated, faux lesbianism has been incorporated into our collective sexualization.  The engine which runs our cultural acceptance of sex is straight dude orgasm - that's why Viagra commercials run all Sunday afternoon. 

My favorite part was Lambert's response to the "what about the children?" question by the predictably vapid morning host...Kathleen Sullivan?...Frank Reynolds?....Tammy Sytch?...

"I'm not your babysitter."

And then he sang another cut from the album - the seemingly prescient selection of Whataya Want From Me:

Just don’t give up I’m workin it out

Please don’t give in, I won’t let you down
It messed me up, need a second to breathe
Just keep coming around
Hey, whataya want from me
Whataya want from me
Whataya want from me

Because then I realized that it was entirely a playlet.  Team Adam Lambert, with an album coming out, in his first significant public act since American Idol, scripted this entire event, from soup to America's Children.  The decision was made to not play up to an assexual contest winner image ("Bet ya thought that I was soft and sweet" was a lyric from the song at the AMAs) but instead go full on gay - (there's a song on the album that uses a the masculine pronoun to refer to a love object - I don't know if I've heard that before from a male singer - we get a lot of non gender specifc references in songs - but not "there he goes, my baby walks so slow" which is a lyric from yet another of the songs on the album (It's not bad, just a little disappointing - the best song, by the way, and by a good margin, by the current crop of Idols is Allison's "Friday I'll Be Over You").  In a show filled with big hitters (Jay Z, Green Day, Gaga) it was Lambert who was the main event; he pressed the only button that can still get some mainstream traction (and did so in a slow news week) and didn't respond to the questions with "oh, gosh" apologies - instead he furthered the story by recognizing the political dimension to the coverage - even having a song at the ready to seemingly respond to the attacks.
And scene.  Well done, Sir!
That's my favorite thing this week.  After the jump - The Remaining Ten!

And Here Are the Remaining Ten:

1. What do you think it is that makes shooting the number 1 leisure activity for gay guys at the moment?

-The best movie I'm seen from 2009 was Bruno, which I saw this week.  To be fair, I've seen very few movies from 2009, I normally stay 6 months behind in my movie viewing (too many wrestling matches to keep up with.  The best match I saw this week was the Big Japan title match from July, Miyamoto/Takeda, it was 4 3/4 and moves into the top 50 of the decade) so it's entirely possible I'll like other movies better.  But the thing is Bruno was terribly reviewed - universally reviled - disliked as much as it was that Borat was liked.

Those reviews are entirely wrong.  All of them.  If you thought Borat was funny, there is no reason not to similarly like Bruno unless it's too gay for you.  And that's it and that's all.  That's not what the reviews said - that's not how one reviews movies - but the same send up of American attitudes that was seen as smart and funny and revealing in Borat comes again in a different package in Bruno (from Paula Abdul sitting on the Mexican chairpeople to the Richard Bey audience walking out on "Gayby" OJ to the cage fighting crowd almost rioting at the sight of the "Straight Dave" making out with another man) it was 90 minutes of smart and funny.  And gay.  Super gay.  True story.

How far apart, incidentally, were the health care town hall crowds from that MMA crowd in Arkansas?  Guy stands and screams "Straight Power" and we laugh at him - but if he stands and yells "Keep Your Government Hands off My Medicare!" we say, "well, these are legitimate concerns that the American public has."

If you didn't like Borat, Bruno's not for you either.  But if you thought Da Ali G show was funny, thought Borat was funny, and haven't seen Bruno given the bad reviews (that was me until this week) you'll like Bruno just as much as you assumed you would before it came out.  Big thumbs up.

2. Spring, 1993
Today, I watched the entire last season of Cheers.  It holds up better than you'd think. 

Remember the inciting incident for the final episode?  Diane wins a Cable Ace Award for writing - none of the guys at the bar had the slightest idea what ever happened to her until they watched (live) the show (they were hoping to see Kim Alexis's cleavage.  I meant the jokes hold up better than you'd think.).

After she wins, Sam decides to send her a congratulatory telegram.

A congratulatory telegram. 

The last Cheers episode was in the Spring of 1993. 

Similar to the way Mad Men very specifically chose the beginning of the 1960s as its setting - and (as I wrote two weeks ago) used the Kennedy assassination in 1963 to mark the end of one world and the start of the next (Beatles probably start the next, right?  If they can get clearance, you'd expect a Beatles song to begin season 4?) someday they'll set a similar show in 1994. 

Because in 1993 - Sam Malone sent a telegram to Diane.  And in 1994 I got my first email address.

I spend a lot of time thinking about the unintended consequences of communication - Sam and Diane had so little contact they were able to each get fake spouses when they finally met after several years, each attempting to fool the other that they were happily married with children.  Today, they'd have kept in touch on Facebook, at least through stalking distance.  Hell - they only broke up because she moved to an isolated cabin to go write her novel and they couldn't take the time without contact.  Today - they would have sexted and Skyped daily - until Sam met someone on 

1963 is metaphor.  When Don leaves Sterling Cooper and Betty leaves Don after the Kennedy assassination, we have the benefit of hindsight and understand their actions represent a tectonic shift.  The shift we lived through 30 years later - you, me, and Sam Malone - was equally seismic and will probably only be fully understood through a dramatic lens a couple of decades from now.

3. Sweet Potato Souffle
-I'm not a big Thanksgiving fan.  I don't like gatherings; they make me anxious and unhappy, and I've never been to one where I wasn't at every moment hoping someone might have a stroke or cause a grease fire so it might break up early.  I'm largely ambivalent on most traditional Thanksgiving fare (and, as is not uncommon among people, I think, with lifelong weight issues, I really dislike the combination of eating+gatherings particularly if the eating involves turkey). And it feels a little unsettling to celebrate an Indian massacre. I ain't got no quarrel with the Pequots. No Pequots ever called me tubby.

But my lady-type friend made sweet potato souffle.  It was remarkable.

4. The Only Scene You Need to Watch From Doubt
-I watched some movies this week that were fine to watch but not as good as Bruno (Frost/Nixon, 7 lbs which I had not seen, and American Gangster and The Wrestler, both of which I had previously watched and won't need to see a third time; schedule permitting I like to watch movies twice; I tend to multi-task and occasionally find qualitative elements that I missed upon first viewing.  For example, I'm a career long Coen Brothers fan, I've been on the team since Blood Simple; I really liked No Country for Old Men, liked it enough to put it on my top 100 movies in the past 25 years list that I'd link to but it's not really good enough to read again - but I watched it again within the last few months and really thought it was tremendous, as good as anything they've done).  I also watched Doubt, the only scene from which you really need to see being the first Streep/Hoffman scene in her office; she eventually works her way to accusing him of, at that point, an unnamed but understood impropriety.  She's tremendous, which isn't breaking news - if we evaluated actors the way we evaluate athletes, Streep would be the greatest film actor who ever lived, and I think by the distance that Ruth/Bonds are the greatest baseball players. 

The scene included this line:

Frosty the Snowman espouses a pagan belief in magic, the snowman comes to life when an enchanted hat is put on his head; if the music were more somber people would realize the images are disturbing and the song heretical.

5. Allah Means God
In this week's Newsweek, Dahlia Lithwick   wrote about David Hamilton, nominated to the federal bench in March, possessing the highest possible ABA rating - fillibustered by the Republicans because he had the temerity to write an opinion that official prayers of the Indiana House of Representatives which "included a prayer for worldwide conversion to Christianity" violated the Establishment Clause.  Me - I'm a hard liner on the Establishment Clause; I liked the Lemon Test, the diminishment of the separation of church and state over the past quarter century is, for me, a microcosm of all the wrong ways the United States has gone under conservative leadership.  But this isn't really a close call - a government prayer specifically to Jesus Christ doesn't get through any version of the Establishment Clause. 

But that's been enough for the conservatives, who have kept Hamilton from receiving an up or down vote for nearly 9 months.  When you add Hamilton referencing in a post-judgment order that the name Allah is a literal translation of God, and not the Muslim equivalent of Jesus, which is solely a specific reference to Christianity, you get conservatives claiming that Hamilton hates Christians, that Obama hates Christians, and that it's an example of the War on Christmas or the Seige on America's Testicles or whatever bullshit aggrievement the right is making up this week.  That's where we are as a country right now.  You cannot be a federal appellate judge, can't even get a vote to be a federal appellate judge, if you know what the word Allah means. 

6. Islam is of the Devil
-That was written on a t-shirt at a Florida school; the students who wore it got suspended.  And, as they often do, the ACLU (as fine an organization that exists in this country, one that remembers we're a nation of laws and not of men) has taken up the cause of the students.  I mention this less because I love this case and more because the ACLU is Public Enemy #1 in the Christian complaint about how, despite complete domination of the halls of American power forever, they are somehow a persecuted majority.  The ACLU is on the side of the Christian kids in that case and in multiple recent cases.  Tell that to O'Reilly the next time he says they're out to take your Bibles away. 

7. Detroit, Make Me An Offer
In a piece this week in the Detroit Free Press, the possibility that the Tigers might look to move Miguel Cabrera was raised.  He's expensive.  I get it. 

Make me an offer.  My ballclub needs bats.  More than one.  This would be a good start.

You can't have Lincecum.  You can't have the Panda.  I'll talk about anyone else.  Cain.  Posey.  Bumgarner.  Let's talk, Detroit.  You and me. 

(If the Marlins would like to talk about Hanley, they have my number).

8. QB Abstract
His list isn't really better than mine, but this week I read a new book, Quarterback Abstract, which ranks the top quarterbacks in NFL history (his top all time QB - Otto Graham) and I am a sucker for lists. 

9. There's No John, Paul, George, and Larry
I wrote about Curb Your Enthusiasm last week, so the finale doesn't get the full treatment here.  Something that struck me in considering it was the possibility that Larry David was saying that Curb was more authentic than Seinfeld.  That the sitcom conceit, even one that eschewed sentimentality as nobly as did Seinfeld, demands a layer of artificiality that, I think David is suggesting, that isn't found in Curb.  The Larry David/George Costanza battle was sort of like watching Spock fight himself (that happened, right - there was an episode of Star Trek or one of those movies where Spock fought himself?  If not, pick a more suitable reference, or better yet, just imagine Nimoy v. Nimoy, for the ultimate battle of cerebral fitness), and my sense upon watching the show's conclusion (the "phony" show, Seinfeld, has to end with George getting back together with his wife, played by Elisabeth Shue - and there's Hollywood for you; George Constanza marries Elisabeth Shue...but the "real" show, the more honest show - Curb, had Larry unable to accept the return of his wife until she admitted to not having respect for wood) was that Larry David got in the final word on the debate about Seinfeld's (unfairly in my view) maligned final episode.  David gave the fans the happy ending for Seinfeld that apparently people wanted (the whole group together, not in prison, with Elaine and Jerry now parents to a daughter) and then defiantly gave them the ending he wanted, his need for Cheryl to admit her crime getting in the way of his season long quest to win her back.  It was a nifty pivot.

10. USC 28 UCLA 7
-Cause it's been a long season.

That's this week's Tendown.  I'll see you next time...if there is a next time...


Kirk said...

Meanwhile, here's Kirk Hiner, who still believes that talent should be moving records and getting press, and I'm stuck with Adam Lambert, who's career would die as quickly as Clay Aikman's and Rubin Staubach's and whatever other Dallas Cowboys went on to become American Idol contestants if left to stand on its own merits forcing his way into the mainstream with something as cheap and idiotic as Katy Perry's "I Kissed a Girl"...which is as bad as everything on Lambert's album (which I've heard). Meanwhile, talented gay guys like Mika continue to go largely unnoticed in this country.

In other words, I got no time for this. Thank God I don't watch award shows. If Adam Lambert wants to make out with a big inflatable SpongeBob at the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, he can do that, too, because I don't watch parades either.

Blog said...

Hey Jim, you're a recovering Florida attorney, right? Maybe you can help me...actually, I know someone in Florida who's in trouble. I'll call him "Eldrick" to protect his identity. I know it's not a macho thing to say, but I think that his wife is abusing him very badly. Lately he seems even more withdrawn than usual. But not only is he not looking for help from his situation, he's actually covering up her abuses (as abused people are wont to do out of some misplaced sense of loyalty...)

Is there anything that us concerned citizens can do to intervene? Like make a citizen's arrest of this golf club hacking, hell-raizing bitch? Or, if we can spirit Eldrick out of there, can he shack up at your place for awhile?

Jim said...

I've got a Tiger thought coming.

Blog said...

It's probably just as well that you put that thought on the back burner, as the situation keeps changing every few hours. Now "trangressions" seems primed to become the "wardrobe malfunction" of 2009.

But hey, he's not my babysitter, so I guess that's cool.

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