Archives for June, 2007

Sopranos Spoiler Alert

Don’t read this post, Raoul.

Since the Sopranos finale, I’ve had umpteen conversations with people about whether Tony was “really” whacked. I don’t understand it. Where do people think the answer to this question exists? In David Chase’s mind? This week’s Onion does it nicely.

As for the ending, I liked it a lot, thought it was the right way to close. It’s like life–all loose ends. I thought the Journey song was perfect: a crappy, guilty pleasure that would have been out when Tony and Carmela were in their early 20s. The lyrics are all about the promise of redemption, yet there’s never any redemption on the show–people are what they are, and there was never any hope of Tony becoming a decent and/or happy person (as Dr. M realizes–finally–in the penultimate episode). In a way, the song, in all its cheesiness, is a big F.U. to people who wanted to see some sort of growth, some character “arc” for Tony. Chase has total contempt for more than half of the people who watch the show, and I appreciate that.

Posted on Jun 29, 2007 in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

On the Malice-Hughes Connection

Apropos the post below: the funny thing is, even though Malice is a skinny Randian and Hughes is a evangelical Christian who can beat up almost anyone in any bar he’s ever walked into, if you’ve seen the season of the Ultimate Fighter where Hughes is one of the coaches you can understand why they’d get along. Hughes as a coach was a pitiless hardass. And in the same way that Malice is said–in the comic book, at least–to have gone through life thinking that everyone was less rational and less smart than he is, Hughes appears to think almost no one meets his Nietzschian standards of pain tolerance and ubermanhood.

Posted on Jun 29, 2007 in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Worlds Colliding, Part II

And here’s the second item. I thought the Malice/UFC connection was the best thing I’d hear all month. But I was wrong. Last night, talking Sopranos with a colleague who’s not nearly as obsessed as I am, he says “do you know the interesting thing about the actor who plays Paulie Walnuts?” “Of course I know,” I’m about to say, figuring he’s going to give me the story about Tony Sirico’s stint in Sing Sing back in the early ’70s.

But no. It turns out that Tony Sirico is brother to Father Robert Sirico, founder of the libertarian Acton Institute on the Study of Religion and Liberty. I met Sirico back when I was in college, thought he was a great guy and even wrote a piece for his newsletter. (It’s not very good, but I still hate Al Gore). If you’ve ever met Father Sirico, you’d never guess the connection.

Posted on Jun 23, 2007 in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

When Worlds Collide

My world of wonkery and my pop-culture/entertainment world, that is. I suppose there are only about three people out there who will get as much of a kick out of these two items as I did, and I’ve probably already told them, but I’ll blog it anyway.

First, I don’t know if I can properly convey how weird the following story is. There’s a former Cato intern, from the same class as a friend of mine. “Michael Malice” is a hard-core Randian, an odd enough character that when Harvey Pekar, the comic book writer/’graphic novelist’ played by Paul Giamatti in the movie American Splendor, meets him he decides to write a comic book about him. From a review of Ego and Hubris: The Michael Malice Story:

This first-person tale documents the life of New York native Michael Malice, a fairly streetwise geek of frightening intelligence, if he does say so himself. Which he does. Numerous times. Malice’s autobiography consists of a long string of episodes where he is right and everyone else is wrong. From first grade—where a teacher forces him to mispronounce a word in a children’s story—to his string of nowhere temp jobs, he’s in constant contact with people who are far stupider than he. The story gets much of its power from the shock value inherent in the narrator’s unshakable confidence in himself. Dumping a girlfriend with leukemia, beating up on his intellectual inferiors, heaping contempt on those he doesn’t agree with, Malice has endless energy for pointing out the faults in others. Still, Pekar makes him a compelling and memorable character, with his endless hunger for something better. Malice is clever and, at moments, surprisingly sympathetic—chiefly when he contradicts his own stated principles and derives intense satisfaction from the approval of others.

Now it turns out that MM is ghosting the memoirs of former UFC welterweight champ Matt Hughes.

Here’s MM, a blue-state Randian atheist, on writing the scene where Hughes, a red-state born-again Bible-thumper gets born again:

To get back to HUGHESboro before Matt goes to Vegas to tape the next season of THE ULTIMATE FIGHTAAAAARRRRR means I have to write 9 pages a day…for the next eleven days. And you know what? I did it today with the first nine. It was a brilliant scene, the scene of his accepting Jesus which was some of the best writing I have ever done. Kudos to me!!!! (!)

posted by Michael Malice @ 2:15 AM

And here he is when he hears about my friend’s (his classmate’s) fascination with UFC, only slightly more intense than mine:

This is literally the best voicemail I have ever gotten:

“Hi it’s Eric; got your message. Yeah, I had dinner with James and his sister on Friday night. I mentioned in passing how you were doing and what you were up to, writing the Matt Hughes book and this strange look came over James’ face which later on I realized is the look of synapses burning out in his mind. It turns out that this is all James does with his spare time, is follow mixed martial arts stuff and he knows all about Matt Hughes. It was crazy. It was all we talked about for like three hours. I know absolutely nothing about this stuff so it was an odd conversation.”

Posted on Jun 23, 2007 in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Desecration

For years, I’d forgotten why I hated them so. Suddenly, it all comes back.

Posted on Jun 19, 2007 in Uncategorized | 4 Comments

Bleg

Anybody in the DC area have any contractor/handyman recommendations for drywall, painting, and the like? My guy left the business, and I’m having a hell of a time finding anyone who’ll even call me back.

Posted on Jun 19, 2007 in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

For Some Reason

…it seems important that you know this. DC has a think tank softball league. AEI has a team. That team’s name? “The Surge.”

Posted on Jun 19, 2007 in Uncategorized | Comments Off

He’s Got No Arc

I haven’t written anything about the Sopranos finale because I haven’t seen it. Around 8:45 Sunday night I discovered that though my cable was working, my HBO wasn’t. I spent the hour on hold with Comcast. They’re sending somebody out tomorrow.

From what I read, though, I was right.

I don’t foresee a King Lear-style bloodbath ending, or even Tony getting clipped. Chase has said he wants to avoid the morality-tale wrap-up you’ve gotten in many classic gangster movies from Edward G. Robinson and Jimmy Cagney on. Hard to avoid the “just desserts” implication if you kill Tony or lock him up.

Here’s what I think–and sort of hope–will happen: nothing. The show will end, in the sense that we’ll no longer be a part of these peoples’ lives, but their lives will go on, much as they did before.

No lessons learned, no personal growth, no just desserts received. That’s exactly as it should be. I like it already.

Near as I can tell, the only character who learned anything in 6.5 seasons was Melfi, also the only character ever to opt for a morally difficult choice when an easier and more gratifying one was available (i.e., in Season Three when she decides not to tell Tony she was raped). And what she learns isn’t that earth-shattering, really: it’s not productive to try to help a sociopath work through his “issues.” Tony knew that much back in Season Four when after four years of jabber about madelines and Sun Tzu and existentialism he rebuffs her attempt to have him continue with therapy: “‘pain,’ ‘truth,’ whatever. Come on! I’m a fat f**kin’ crook from New Jersey!”

Incidentally, as wrap-ups go, Matt Zoller Seitz’s is terrific, and this, by Leon Wieseltier, who had an unconvincing turn as Tony’s accountant in Season Four, is as pompous and unbearable as listening to Melfi talk about Proust without Tony around to crack wise.

Posted on Jun 12, 2007 in Uncategorized | Comments Off

Ain’t Too Proud to Bleg

Does anybody out there know anything about voice-to-text software? A while back there was a piece in the NYT Book Review about it that made it sound great, but the guy who wrote the column never mentioned what he was using. And don’t give me this; I tried, and it didn’t work out.

It occurs to me that it would be great to be able to sit around and brainstorm out loud, then cut and paste and edit stuff into shape. Good writing is much more like conversing than anything else, and it seems to me that such a product would improve both productivity and product. Also, if I could work out some sort of digital recorder interface, I could capture some of the stuff that comes out uninhibited three hours into happy hour, which I’ve always thought is some of my best work. I’m not above carrying a digital recorder around, though maybe I could rig something up so I’m wearing a wire.

Posted on Jun 5, 2007 in Uncategorized | 7 Comments

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