Friday, February 27, 2009

RIP Rocky Mountain News

Oh my God, my industry is so fucked. And by “my industry,” of course I mean “me.”

Friday, February 13, 2009

Letterman’s on fire

One of the coolest things I got for Christmas this year was a DVR for my home office.

One of the coolest things about it is I can record lots of different shows every night on all kinds of different channels. With the VCR, I had to set a channel then program the time to record that channel. This new way is much improved!

So I’ve been recording Letterman every night. Seems like I was always hearing the next morning about something cool that happened on Letterman the night before.

And man, has it been paying off. Just in the last few weeks, there was his surreal, no-holds-barred sit-down with impeached former governor Rod Blagojevich that stretched out and ate up almost an entire show. He was the first late night show to get the hero pilot Sully Sullenberger and his whole flight crew on, and we learned for the first time from one of the crew members that a panicking passenger opened up the back door of the downed plane, causing it to begin to sink.

He had the late comic Bill Hicks’ mother on and played an entire bit that her son taped for Letterman back in the nineties that the censors cut. Then he apologized to her.

And last night, man, was one for the books. Joaquin Phoenix was the guest in his current guise as bearded, monosyllabic caveman. His Jim Morrison-in-Paris phase. It made for a loopy interview (at one point Dave mumbles, “We may owe Farrah an apology” and another time he remarks to Phoenix, “Well, we’re sorry you couldn’t make it here tonight…”) but one that is gonna be just terribly sad in retrospect if this talented young actor winds up like apparent role model Morrison, DOA in the full flower of his beauty. Phoenix seemed by turns out of it, surly, uncooperative and unresponsive, answering many of the host’s questions with a dead-silent glare from behind dark sunglasses. His body language was hunched over and defensive. What a shame it would be to lose two very talented show-biz brothers to dope and/or booze, a decade apart. Somebody needs to get in there and straighten that boy out.

If Andy Dick can get sober, anybody can.

And speaking of late night, I’m also recording the last couple weeks of Conan from New York. as you may know, he’s inheriting the “Tonight Show” in a couple months and moving to L.A. and next week is his last show from NYC. Already it’s become a bit of an extended laudatory farewell tour with the requisite best-of clip-jobs and the expected paeans by visiting guests. I expect next week to be even more touchy-feelie. Perhaps a visit from a friend of the show by way of New Jersey for the finale…?

The thing is, O’Brien’s being given “Tonight” as long-promised, but his lead-in every night is going to be the local news, preceded by… Jay Leno. That’s right, Leno will still headline Monday through Friday night on the Peacock Network (at 10PM) and O’Brien will continue to bat in the clean-up position. After the ratings-killer of the local evening news every night.

I got nothing against Jay Leno, who delivers a zinger affably, which is his job description. But in the 31 Flavors® of late-night comedy, he’s the single scoop of vanilla in a wafer cone. And I can’t help feel like O’Brien got gypped. You just know that he didn’t think when he signed his deal years ago, “Wow, when I inherit the ‘Tonight Show,’ I hope NBC can find a way for me to still follow Jay Leno!”

Anyhow, it’s been a couple of weeks of excellent Letterman. Most late-night comics try to rise to their material night after night, but Letterman tries to rise to the times. It’s a bigger job, and more important, and most nights he brings it off with unselfconscious class and a curmudgeon’s sense of lack of propriety.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Thunder Lizards are in the house!

The Boy is going through a crazy prolific dinosaur stage. Here are a few examples, all of them entitled, presumably, “Dinosaur.”

Finally, a glimpse of the artist at work:

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Ode to a bone spur

After months and months of being shuttled back and forth between one disinterested specialist after another, my surgery date finally came last week. Nearly a year after I’d first begun to notice the symptoms, my Bone Spur and I were about to be parted.

What is a Bone Spur? Pretty much what it sounds like. It’s a little bony stalactite growing inside your body, contrary to nature’s design. The doctors couldn’t tell me for sure where the damage proceeded from … My own best guess is probably during one of the hilarious pratfalls I am alleged to taken during the nineties when I used to like to drink some.

The doctors had me on Super-Advils for about 3 months prior to surgery (while many were the hoops that were jumped through), which made all the difference in the world for pain management. I was beginning to question the sagacity of my chosen course of action. Then for two weeks before surgery, they forbade me any kind of pain medication, specifically ibuprofin. So by the time the big day came, I was all the way totally back into it. “Cry havoc and let slip the dogs of same-day surgical procedures!”

The day-of was an awesome day. Bright and sunny, we made it off the island and to the medical facility on the mainland nearby without hardly getting lost at all. And my favorite Canadian hard-rockers Rush were on both the front page and the back page of the USA Today entertainment section that morning which I had to take as a good sign.

When I get nervous, I tend to start cracking wise. Especially in medical situations. I want these cocksuckers to have a personal, vested interest in whether I make it out I one piece or not. I really put on the dog & pony show. It’s one-part nervous reflex to one-part deliberate attempt to ingratiate myself with the people about to knock me unconscious and cut into me with sharp knives and electrical drills. If I can make them laugh I figure I got maybe a little better than 50/50 chance of waking up in recovery instead of at the Pearly Gates.

So they gave me a nerve-block on my neck before the surgery. This made my entire left arm loose as a silly putty noodle for hours even after I regained consciousness. When we got home afterwards, it kept slipping out of its sling and I never noticed unless I happened to catch movement out of the corner of my eye. Fwinnng! There it goes again. Wish I had gotten it on video. At the same time, it was creepy as hell. It’s like your mouth after a filling at the dentist, except it doesn’t go away in a couple of hours and your chin doesn’t keep dropping unnoticed onto your chest.

Back in the pre-surgical area, a low panic began to set in as the lady with all the needles arrived. I said, “Hey, when you gonna get me some of that relax-me-already stuff you promised me?” She looked puzzled and checked my drip. “Eh, you’re already on it,” she answered. “Really. Do I look I’m on it? I don’t feel like I’m on it.” I don’t remember if I said that last part or just thought it.

For the record, everybody on the surgical team couldn’t have been nicer. One guy even remained polite after he thought the “Rush” I was enthusing about was the right-wing radio gasbag not the hard rock trio. What a pro!

Shortly after that, they wheeled me fully conscious and not the least bit glowy with good feeling into the operating room. Somebody put a mask on my face and told me to breathe deeply. I started to shiver all over from the cold and the fear, waiting for someone to tell me to count back from 100. The next thing I knew, some stranger was disinterestedly encouraging me to wake up, back out in the big room I had been in before being wheeled into surgery.

The next 24 hours are a narcotic blur. The gimpy left arm was freaking me out, I had this huge apparatus on my shoulder, they insisted I start my pain meds before their pain meds wore off so I was loopy on goofballs the whole time. I had ice packs to change every couple of hours which I couldn’t change by myself…

On the second night, Saturday, we went to see “The Dark Knight” at the IMAX and I was already trying to kick my meds. It was the first time The Missus had seen it and we were both blown away. I took a Vicodin in the bathroom but not till after.

The Missus – Dr. Missus, as it were – was the Most Valuable Player throughout the entire, happily abbreviated ordeal. (I vaguely remember it included the Super Bowl. Geez, maybe I didn’t like Bruce’s performance just because I was cranky on the drugs?) I couldn’t ask for a braver or more willing accomplice in tending to medical grossness. She bucked-up real good and I’m proud of her and grateful to her.

Finally after 48 hours, I was allowed to remove all the bandages they put on me and take a shower!! By then, I was looking and feeling like a bowery bum. I, the most sedentary person I know, smelled like perspiration. I supposed I could have had The Missus sponge-bathe me but decided to draw the line at that. I took some more Vicodin even though the Super-Advils were getting the job done by then and showered and shaved till I felt almost human again.

The thing that sucks about Vicodin, for me, is it’s a fun, logey buzz for about the first day but after that it just makes me twitchy. And I don’t need help making me twitchy, that’s already my default position. Makes me wish Johnny Cash hadn’t liked the pain drugs that he was on, maybe he coulda quit ‘em.

Anyhow, by day three I was pretty much back on feet and ready to go. So I sat on the couch as I ran out my vacation week-off from work. Them TVs these days sure got a lotta channels…

For completists, a Best-Of clip job of my operation is below, provided by the sawbones himself:

Monday, February 02, 2009

New: All Springsteen All The Time!

So I caught Bruce’s show at half-time yesterday and am having a hard time reconciling some of the fawning reviews I’ve read of it online with the performance I witnessed.

Here’s a perfect example; the predictable Rolling Stone rave. However as they seem to be required by law to be wildly supportive of Mr. Springsteen’s work irregardless of actual merit, it wasn’t as surprising as other gushing headlines like this one: Springsteen = Best Super Bowl Halftime Show Ever

Best Ever? Please. That would have to be U2’s incredible, moving performance at the first Super Bowl post-9/11.

The enthusiasm of those non-corporate reviewers without a stake in Springsteen’s ongoing success like Best-Show-Ever Guy is harder to understand besides simple differences in opinion. They seem to be reviewing the show they had hoped to see. I saw a guy who looked like he was trying to work himself up to a heart attack in 12 minutes.

The thing about Springsteen concerts is, they don’t really get good till you’ve gotten past the first blast of the obligatory opening crowd-pleasers. So maybe I was looking for something different. But he cut his songs to shreds, stripped them of what made them arguably great in the first place (its hard to establish musical grandeur in a greatest-hits medley format), and I didn’t think he looked very comfortable attempting it. Additionally, for one whole chopped-up songette (“Born to Run” I seem to recall) it sounded like his monitor had gone out – painful to listen to. He was all over the place except for on top of the melody. He rallied with his third song, the new one – the new songs always sound best because the artist is still invested in them – but again, truncating it and rushing on and off-stage a conspicuously black chorus to sing backup... It reminded me of the old Steve Martin joke about a Vegas lounge act who’s really good, but he’s got it all in in about 15 minutes so the whole set is one incomprehensible blur of bits of song, banter, back-slapping and gambling jokes. It was exactly like that.

For what it’s worth, I would have recommended dropping the first tune, a deep-catalog cut popular with long-time fans, and doing justice to the three that remained. That’s what U2 did — carefully selected a few stadium-worthy songs, played them in their entirety and nailed them. (Here’s the first half of that performance.)

Yesterday’s Springsteen show wasn’t the set to get anybody not already into Bruce to change their minds. The performance on the mall in DC a few days before the inauguration, that was the one that resonated. He had what looked like the same gospel choir behind him and seemed much more the elder statesman of rock that he is than the carnival barker luring yokels into the tent to see the dog-faced boy who played the Super Bowl.

Plus, Paul McCartney, Prince and U2 all showed that playing the Super Bowl could be done with bombast and exhilaration but without looking so obviously like a fish out of water.

So, that’s my specific beef. If I had to say it all in one line — boy won’t you be sorry you didn’t just skip to this line? — it would be: his work was showing.

Now, back to my regularly-scheduled sick leave...