After viewing the first three episodes, I can see the series continuing to come into its own, with the zeitgeist not just catching up to this trendy Hollywood satire, but zooming right past it. Is it because the show itself has sweetened – the first episode featured Vincent, Drama, E, and Turtle flying their mothers in on a private jet to the premiere of Aquaman – or has the world seemed to have gotten a lot crueler in the interim?
Even Jeremy Piven’s shameless Ari Gold is revealing a softer side, as he’s forced to dip into Mrs. Ari’s trust fund and settle for the $13 Gigi salad at the Palm instead of the lobster. The appearance of an old high school friend in episode three, who shows up unannounced after a prison stint, promises some darker times ahead, but for the most part, the boys are enjoying the box office success of James Cameron’s first movie since Titanic. Their interest suddenly turns from sex to power, which is what enables you to get the former in the first place.
Cameo of the year so far: Jimmy Woods playing himself as the tough guy who tries to get back the Aquaman premiere tickets that Ari’s assistant Lloyd accidentally gave to Drama and E to pick up hot chicks. Still a great show, even if it is turning out to be the testosterone-driven version of Sex and the City transplanted to Hollywood.
For a moment there, I thought my Miami-in-seven prediction was going the way of the Heat. But Dwyane Wade came out of nowhere to assert some Jordan-esque carry-the-team-on-his-back heroics to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. He put his beleaguered batch back into the hunt with the Mavericks, followed by a Nowitzki meltdown last night that tied the series back up.
I was right on in recognizing that Dampier and Diop would need to control Shaq, which they did in the winning games. But O’Neal finally came through in Game 3 with two clutch free throws and Game 4 with some domination around the paint, something he’ll have to continue to do.
Like I said, a Miami veteran would have to represent come crunch time and one did in Gary Payton. A lot more are going to have to step up (Alonzo Mourning seemed to come alive in Game 4) for the Heat to make my pre-series pick come true.
David Ford, I Sincerely Apologise for the Trouble I’ve Caused (Independiente/Columbia)
Even before the Brits came into power at Columbia, this scruffy U.K. singer/songwriter/one-man band was being touted for big things as the most intriguing troubadour to come along since Damien Rice and Conor Oberst, but with even more of a feel for solid bursts of melodic rock.
He’s kind of like Chris Martin meets Bob Dylan, with a little CSN-era Neil Young thrown in for good measure. It’s an arty affair, but never strays from accessibility, as exemplified in the home-made videos for the self-lacerating “I Don’t Care What You Call Me,” and the corrosive socio-political critique of “State of the Union,” which wouldn’t be out of place on either Young’s own Living With War or Dylan’s Highway 61. It can be viewed on David Ford's website.
On the black-and-white “Union,” Ford plays each part in turn as they feed back on endless loops, a single take that ends with him walking out the door of his one-room studio into the bleached-out sunlight. Don’t know if this will translate to the Colonies, but it’s undeniably powerful, with expletives not deleted.
Elan, Together As One (Kingsbury/Interscope)
Who would have thought that two of the great-white-hope reggae toasters would be a pair of Jews? The Hasidic, Ashkenazi, East Coast Matisyahu now has his Orthodox Sephardic equivalent in an L.A. graduate from Beverly Hills High of Moroccan and Israeli descent. Recording for No Doubt member Tony Kanal’s Kingsbury imprint, Elan Atlas is, like his landsman, evocative of Bob Marley, even fronting a version of the legendary Wailers on tour in the mid-‘90s.
In fact, “Nothing is Worth Losing You,” driven by its ska horns, Sly & Robbie backbeat and chants for “Yerushalayim” (Hebrew for Jerusalem), recalls “No Woman, No Cry,” while “I Wanna Yell” and the hip-hop beat of “We Won’t Stand For This” are Marley-esque songs of social injustice and rebellion. “Feel My Pressure” boasts a bass-driven dub sound, while “AllNighter,” a duet with Gwen Stefani, provides the requisite pop sheen. Aside from executive producing the project, Kanal co-wrote five of the songs and provides the keyboard programming that combines roots-rocks with the most up-to-date studio polish.
New York Mets
As a long-suffering fan, I know what it’s like to be the second team in town, like the Clippers, doomed to front office incompetence every year, like the Cubs, or simply the recipient of inordinate bad luck, like the baseball Giants. We won it all in 1969 and 1986, the former an unexpected pinch-me-I’m-dreaming second-to-last-to-first odyssey, the latter, a wire-to-wire run that almost ended in despair if not for doomed Red Sox first baseman Bill Buckner and a slow, bouncing groundball that kicked off his glove into short right-field hit by the improbably named Mookie Wilson.
I started off this year in typical skeptical fashion, watching as the team began to take shape. They got off to a good start, but are still subject to inopportune injuries, streaky hitting, and untimely slumps. This last week, during a dreaded June West Coast trip no less, the Amazins’ have picked up steam and started to pull away, with a line-up that challenges the ’86 squad, which won 108 games and the World Series.
It’s a blend of young superstars feeling their oats (Jose Reyes, David Wright, Lastings Milledge), peaking veterans (Carlos Beltran, Carlos Delgado, Paul Lo Duca, Billy Wagner), future Hall of Famers (Pedro Martinez, Tom Glavine), and unlikely role players (Endy Chavez, Jose Valentin, Chris Woodward) meshing at one time. There is no more joy than seeing a team win day after day. In baseball, there’s a game every day, and a chance for that feeling of fulfillment.
For a game based on individual skills, momentum is the key. Single at-bats lead to better at-bats lead to confidence in the field and pitchers suddenly given leads to work with. It’s a beautiful platonic ideal and I’m living it. Please don’t wake me up.
This down-and-dirty western for highbrows is The Sopranos plopped down into a late-19th century gold rush town in the Dakotas, headed by a malevolent tavern owner who tries to manipulate all those around him to survive the transition from barbarous to civilized. Like all great epics, it concentrates on the end of one world and the beginning of another.
It reminds me of Heaven’s Gate in that way, revealing the brutality and violence hidden behind the inevitability of law. It’s been compared to Shakespeare, and it’s true. The colloquial language, so obviously artificial and constructed, runs trippingly off the tongue in grand fashion, especially the soliloquies of star Ian McShane, a remarkably outsized performance of blow-you-away resonance.
It’s hard to pick up all the nuances. I just enjoy letting the verbiage flow over me in a torrent, while marveling (and laughing out loud) at some of the arcane phraseology. It’s not everybody’s cup of tea, but if you let it work its magic, a visit to Deadwood is a truly singular experience.
Stands for the number of different Nigerian Internet scams this site has succeeded in reverse-scamming. They do so by providing full details on how to engage these grifters in an endless series of counter-moves, one step ahead of being detected. Stuff like, have them hold up a sign that says, “My Semen Stains,” or tattoo themselves “An Idiot,” and e-mail you the JPEG. Don’t know if I want to take up too much time indulging requests for my bank account number so I can have $36 million placed in it, but the idea that someone is making life miserable for these shameless con men is comforting.
What’s less comforting is knowing that there are people out there still falling for this stuff. I knew of one woman who had to retrieve her grandfather from traveling over to Africa after being taken in. A sucker truly is born every minute, but if you want to fight back, this is the place to start.
Artie Lange Roast on The Howard Stern Show
The Sirius drop-offs still piss me off, but it’s worth it to hear unbridled Howard and his stock company these days. While one wag correctly suggested Stern’s satellite audience is the only thing smaller than his penis, he devoted almost five full hours to the roast of the affable Lange, its preamble and its aftermath, a mesmerizing blend of scabrous insults and scurrilous racial, ethnic, and sexual put-downs. Nothing was sacred, with political correctness and social taboos blasted away, as well as any restrictions on language, topic, observation, or opinion.
Isn’t this what we fight wars for – freedom of expression and language, the ability to express our deepest fears and darkest desires in public without shame, recrimination or legal action? (Fuck the FCC.) All Lenny Bruce did was die for our sins on the toilet with a needle in his arm. Howard Stern gets to make Robin cackle all the way to the bank for the next five years, to the tune of $125 million, while we guffaw along with them. He’s living the American dream for all of us.
Yeah, I know it’s like Steve Carell taking a business trip to New York in The Office and talking about getting the best pizza while standing in front of a Sbarros. Or going to the Olive Garden for an Italian meal. Actually, though, the national chain Maggiano’s is a pleasant surprise, a reasonably priced family-style place that is a fond reminder of Mama Leone’s, another old-school restaurant for tourists I used to eat at in the middle of Manhattan’s Broadway theater district on special occasions like birthdays.
I had my first antipasto there, developing a lifelong taste for black olives, provolone cheese, and genoa salami. I like the bruschetta appetizer, all vinegar-and-oil-soaked tomatoes and cloves of garlic on toast, and the medallions of beef, garnished with garlic mashed potatoes and onion ring slivers. We went for my son’s graduation with 11 people and I picked up the bill, which was $275 with tax, $25 per person for basically all we could eat, a bottle of wine, coffee, and a dessert.
It might sound like sacrilege for someone who used to frequent Patsy’s and some of the great Little Italy haunts in Mean Streets territory, but for a chain Italian restaurant, it beats Buca di Beppo hands-down, even without a Pope Room and its serving plate on a swivel.
Gripe of the Week
Even I do it on the occasional lazy, hazy, crazy summer day in the ultra-casual Valley, slipping on my flip-flops to pick up orange juice at Von’s or return a video to Blockbuster. And, of course, I don’t mind seeing a pretty woman’s feet – as long as her second toe isn’t larger than her first, but I draw the line at men wearing rubber sandals in public. Not that I stare at men’s feet, but the very idea kinda gives me the willies.
I used to think it was endemic to the SoCal laid-back lifestyle, but now when I go to New York, I see lotsa people of both sexes wearing shower thongs, and it freaks me out to think just a thin slab of rubber is all that’s between that person’s feet and the collected grime and dirt that accrues on a Manhattan sidewalk. Maybe I’m being neurotic, but it just makes me cringe.