Paul Aikins was an actor; he ended up teaching high school music theatre. Now, with the national-champion choir he leads featured in a new documentary, an old student checks in with her teacher and former enemy.
Joel and Ethan Coen don’t just challenge their characters—they punish them, humiliate them, are even accused of hating them. But just because they put their creations through the wringer, doesn’t mean they delight in their despair.
Bryan Cranston’s portrayal of Walter White in Breaking Bad may have been masterful, but his character's fate was always in the hands of writer-showrunner Vince Gilligan. Then again, the show's audience probably had something to say about it, too.
Bad news: the San Diego anchorman probably didn’t actually write the new book attributed to him. He is, however, in good company—there’s a long literary tradition of notable works by phony writers.
Early on in Mike Tyson: Undisputed Truth, the boxer pointedly reminds us exactly what he is: “I’m that guy who used to knock motherfuckers out in 30 seconds,” he tells the crowd. The crowd, dutifully, erupts in raucous cheers.
It’s not like anyone coming to the 90-minute HBO movie based on a Broadway show doesn’t know who Mike Tyson is, but the fact that he needs to remind us at the outset feels pretty indicative of the strange path he’s found himself on since those more consistently violent days. Despite putting on a performance about his own life and times, those of a notoriously unhinged boxer, the Tyson we see on stage is an altogether different beast. After that knockout comment, he calls himself “domesticated now”; a better word might be stage-managed, in ways that resonate far beyond his actual stripped-down show.
Kanye’s ridiculous, wonderful music video for “Bound 2” came out several days ago, but I can’t stop watching or thinking about it. Here are a dozen quick cuts.
1. Between the oversaturated wildlife and Charlie Wilson’s regally disembodied voice I almost expected a Disney number to break out. Kanye and Kim, rising aloft on interlocked eagles.
2. The green-screen aesthetic also puts me in mind of cutscenes from some old PlayStation RPG—those horses galloping towards the camera could be the opening frames of a Final Fantasy IX summon. It’s like a New Age sleep-aid CD given life.
We do not come with tree rings. Instead of punctuated markers of age, our bodies ship with incremental evidence of the Oncoming Old. Trembling hairlines. Skin the pallor of #nofilter. I think of aging and what comes after because of the recently launched PlayStation 4 and the upcoming Xbox One reveal, the latest salvo in a maddening battle for the living rooms of those who can still afford living rooms, and I have a confession to make: I buy video games because I don’t want to die.
If this sounds familiar, it’s because the words aren’t mine, not entirely. They belong to Umberto Eco, who, in a 2009 interview with German newspaper Der Spiegel, suggested our fondness for lists was an act of survival.
Not that I ever really enumerated it, but I was pretty surprised to find that, on my personal list of phrases I don’t ever want to hear my mayor say, “Yes, I smoked crack cocaine” ranked considerably below “eat her pussy.” Though, in fairness to his honour, this is mostly because—save for midcentury British dandies writing Alf recaps—I pretty much never like to hear the phrase “eat/eats/ate her/your/my pussy,” even when it’s preceded by stuff like “I’m going to” or “did you see that video where she.”
Nothing against the actual act, of course, of which I am a fan, and not just in that way where I talk about how much I like it in order to create the impression that I really am a sensitive, modern guy who is nevertheless eager to talk about your pussy totally unbidden. No, it’s just the whole process of referring to it as eating pussy. If this was just some occasional locker room talk or something, it would be less of an issue, but as our mayor proved, it’s pretty much the baseline cultural term for the act (at least when the TV cameras are off). And it’s just a terrible way of describing it.
Last month, on Halloween, I went to a dive bar to celebrate my friend Kate’s birthday. As someone better at thinking of costumes than actually making them, I was glad for a reason to go out sans guise (I’ve worn maybe one or two good ones, a pizza slice and the Aladdin Sane cover, ten years apart). Nobody else was dressed up either, though the bar recognized Samhain another way: by leaving buckets of candy everywhere.
Lollipops are not conducive to drinking, but I found myself eating Tootsie Rolls, one after another, like I was trying to meet a quota. Sinking into the couch with a pint, I noticed a man and a woman, two strangers, arguing beyond earshot on the other side of the room. A grim, despondent look passed over her face, and she stalked outside, smashing the door almost idly behind her. Our bartender ran over the fragmentary threshold in pursuit. The cowboy-Satan Tom Waits figure on the nearest stool looked over and nodded thoughtfully. I picked up some more candy. What are Tootsie Rolls made of, anyway?
The answer, which escaped all of us at the time, is sugar, corn syrup, condensed skim milk, cocoa, partially hydrogenated soybean oil, whey, soy lecithin, and natural and artificial flavours. This list, however, omits the distinct semiotic associations marbled inside every confection.
Heidecker & Wood’s new album, Some Things Never Stay the Same, manages to be both a novelty album written by a comedian and a genuine ’70s throwback. It’s hard to know how seriously to take it, but it might be better that way.
Yesterday afternoon Rob Ford, who surreally remains the mayor of Toronto, handed out bobbleheads of himself to dozens of supporters/reporters/ironists, but this is only the beginning of his new merchandise line. Just in time for the holidays, here are some other items soon to be available from the Rob Ford Collection.
Actress Angela Lansbury lost her cool last week when she criticized the upcoming reboot of ‘80s TV show Murder, She Wrote as “a mistake” because the original was so amazing and a reboot just won’t be the same. Huffington Post reader Jeff From Milwaukee weighed in on the controversy...
Keegan Michael Key and Jordan Peele got their start writing and performing together on MADtv in 2003, and the story goes that, being black, both expected that one of them would get the ax by the end of the season. What late-night sketch show, after all, would need a variety of black performers? Scoring one for diversity, they both managed to survive, due in part to their easy, occasionally frantic chemistry.
The extra hitch in that anecdote is that Key and Peele—as both the duo and their Comedy Central sketch show is now known—are actually biracial. This taking place in America, though, racial identity isn’t really prone to that level of subtlety, whether you’re a comedian or a president.
Suggestive of fleeting abandon, subtly European (she anglicized it from her ex-husband’s “Sommer”), sounding somewhat like an Archie Comics character—did anybody have a better name for disco than Donna Summer? And why did she come to feel so conflicted about that? On the new tribute compilation Love to Love You Donna, an all-male cast of producers tries to remix her hits into modern dance tracks. Some show less interest in Summer’s legacy than her collaborator Giorgio Moroder’s, one only he was given nine minutes of a best-selling album to define. Afrojack just reconceives their empyrean triumph “I Feel Love” as generic EDM, and a song forever telescoping into the future sounds noisily quotidian. Frankie Knuckles’ whirling, earth-averse “Hot Stuff” is reverent in its professionalism, Jacques Greene’s reverb-swathed version of “On the Radio” not so much, but the most allusive contribution comes from Moroder himself. He joins the breathy groans of “Love to Love You Baby” to the cyclical, celestial bass line from “I Feel Love,” which come together in a detached “UNHH!” Striking as it is, I doubt whether this trajectory forms such a neat circle.
From The Fly and Videodrome to A History of Violence, the director has long regarded the body with equal parts fascination and fear. His approach has changed, but as a new exhibition of his props and artifacts shows, his focus on the flesh remains.
Fox News is losing conservatives. It’s hard to believe, but (insofar as anything in the media world can be called “data”) it’s true: Republicans, who ranked Fox News as their most respected brand in the Tea Party fever-pitch years of 2011 and 2012, have now cast it out of the top 10 altogether. To further confuse our understanding of the culture wars, both Chick-fil-A and the Discovery Channel, as brands, have fallen out with the Republicans. There’s probably someone out there who could explain how the new young GOP voter hates homophobic fast food and the germ theory at the same time, but I’m not that person.
It was the Siberian site of the Russia’s gulags—a remote region for those in exile or seeking safety. But with Dostoevsky, Eisenstein and Solzhenitsyn among its residents, willing or not, Kazakhstan’s unique cultural history can’t be ignored.
Toronto is a peculiar size. It’s big enough to accommodate a good arts scene with interesting people doing interesting things, but small enough that “arts scene” is an appropriate handle: musicians know artists know playwrights know poets, etc. Our city grows by the tens of thousands each year, but there’s still a small-town residue of affinity among people with a general taste for the arts. Which means that if you are not from Toronto and you meet someone from Toronto at a show—any kind of show—it’s totally appropriate to ask whether they know Jim from Toronto Who Goes to Shows.
This is partly a good thing. It makes for less stratification across disciplines and levels of success. The city is a bungalow: people do big things here, and garner praise elsewhere, but as far as I can tell, “making it in Toronto” just means that more people ask you for favours. Maybe you get free shoes. The Toronto arts are sociable; there are cliques, but if you hang around enough, people will talk to you. In other cities you can be not invited. In Toronto at least no one will kick you out.
One of the first, best, and only things I read about Lou Reed on Sunday afternoon came from poet Michael Robbins. “My Lou Reed” trivialized the wave of writing about to hit us—“I know ten thousand bloggers are composing their ten thousand stories about how the Velvet Underground changed their lives, & I don’t believe rock & roll bands change people’s lives”—before sharing his story about how, when he was 16, the Velvet Underground changed his life. Reed’s legacy doesn’t need anyone to back it up with testimonials. The scope of his influence renders any single listener insignificant. Yet sharing personal stories seems a far more apt response than critical analysis.
At this point in Parks and Recreation’s run, speculation about its continued existence is almost as much a character of the show as Leslie Knope (Amy Poehler). When NBC announced early last week that it was going to be subjecting the sitcom to both a three-week hiccup and then a longer hiatus, some people suggested that this history of mistreatment actually made the decision easier: the show’s small group of fans is both so used to seeing it delayed and so willing to follow it that the network could basically air it over the course of a June weekend and the ratings wouldn’t see much change.
Worries about the show’s final doom aside, the annual Parks and Rec waiting game is at least a little easier this year thanks to one of the shows making up Fox’s increasingly strong comedy line-up: the Andy Samberg cop vehicle Brooklyn Nine-Nine. There are a lot of superficial similarities between the two—they’re both ensemble comedies about a group of civil servants featuring former SNL stars in yin-yang relationships with their stern bosses—but most importantly, both are under the care of Michael Schur, probably the best comedy show-runner working today.