House, MD: Season 3, Episode 9 – “Finding Judas”

I’ve always struggled writing about House.  The show is so multi-layered it is very difficult for me to give the details about what happened and not sound like a text book.  Should I detail the medical mystery?  Or should I concentrate on the character relationships?  Man, it’s a tough thing to do. 

It doesn’t help that Blog Critic Diane Kristine shows me up every week with her excellent House articles.  This week, I’ve decided to give up trying and just let you read her version. 

But first, I’ll add a few comments.  This episode was a difficult one.  House has always been a mean little bugger.  But his meanness has always been funny and for a purpose.  He uses his sarcasm and rough demeanor to make his students think harder or patients do what’s right for them.  Tonight he was just mean because he can be.  We really got to see how deep the drug addiction goes and how much control it has on his life. 

There were also two things that bothered me about the whole Tritter plot.  Why didn’t Chase simply tell everybody what Tritter had done to him in the cafeteria.  A simple ‘hey guys Tritter had lunch with me so that it would look like I was the traitor’ would have done him a lot of good.  

Also, it seems to me that a whole bunch of doctor’s in a freaking hospital would have some good lawyers.  And a few of these lawyers ought to be good enough to knock Tritter down a few notches and keep entire departments from being shut down.   They make a few mentions of lawyers, but it just doesn’t seem realistic to me that none of them can do anything about Tritter.

But anyway, go read Diane’s take, it’s real good.

Bootleg Country: John Prine – 09/12/99

John PrineIt’s been a long time since the last installment of Bootleg Country, and I’m sorry about that. The truth of the matter is that I do most of my primary musical listening in the car. Sure tunes are often playing in the homestead, but it is usually regulated to the background as when I’m at home I’m either cleaning, or reading, or playing on this here computer and definitely not paying that much attention to the music that fills the aural cavities.

The thing that makes sense of that above paragraph is that I was laid off from my job back in the month of August. Without a daily trip to and from the workplace, my automobile driving is rather limited. Well, I should say my automobile driving of my own car, for when I do go out these days it is usually with the misses and since she owns the better car, we take it.

Thus I’ve had little opportunity to do any listening to bootlegs, and without the listening there isn’t much to write about.

Thanks to a long drive to visit my folks out in Oklahoma I’m happy to present the newest edition of Bootleg Country. I’d like to promise regular upcoming editions, but there still isn’t a decent job in sight.

Back in the days of college I had a friend, well I had lots of friends, but there was one in particular that stood out. Musically that is. He had this big giant tape collection filled with all sorts of musicians I had never heard of.

You see when I was in the age of growing up I only knew music through the pop radio station, MTV and my mom. MTV and the radio both played basically the same songs, that is to say whatever was a hit at the moment, while my mom had a nice collection of classic rock vinyl. It was there I first heard Dylan, the Beatles, Sonny and Cher, Simon and Garfunkel, the Beach Boys and many others. But even all this was not cutting very deep into the pantheon of rock music.

It was in the latter days of high school that I began to search out music out of the mainstream. With magazines like Spin and Alternative Press I began to learn of bands like Fugazi, Dinosaur Jr., All, and Operation Ivy. Periodically I actually had the cash to actually buy the albums I was reading about and my musical knowledge grew.

Then there was this fella in college who had such a lovely collection of tunes. We became friendly enough, and I dropped by enough that he gave me a key to his dorm room and I would often slip in while he was at class or on a date or whatever. I would sit all alone in that room playing tape after tape, filled with new music.

It was within those walls that I first heard a Grateful Dead bootleg. It was there I first fell in love with a man named Willie Nelson. And it was there I discovered Lyle Lovett, John McCutcheon, and John Prine.

John Prine
09/12/99
West 54th Street
New York, NY
Setlist

In the liner notes to the first John Prine album, Kris Kristopherson tells the story of hearing an unsigned and unheard of John Prine play a few songs in a little club, after hours. He relates that moment to what it must have been like to hear Bob Dylan at the Gaslight in the early sixties. Kristopherson, no stranger to great songwriting, knows of what he speaks.

Prine laughs off the Dylan comparison in an interview on this bootleg with a breezy, “yeah there were four or five of us,” and while Dylan comparisons aren’t really necessary, Prine has written some of the best danged folk songs this country has ever seen.

This bootleg is from a taping of the television program, Sessions at West 54th and as such you get a few things that differ from the normal bootleg. The sound quality is great, though having been compressed for television signals, the extreme audiophile may beg to differ. The set is relatively short, fitting nicely onto one blank CD. And there are a few interview sections with John Hiatt.

I should also note that my bootleg is missing a few songs from the official set list, which makes me assume that it was recorded straight off of the television show, and not the later DVD release, or soundboard feed.

As an added bonus there are a few duets with the always lovely Iris Dement. The taping comes off of Prine’s release of the album, In Spite of Ourselves, which heavily featured Ms. Dement.

The show starts with a rollicking, rambling “Spanish Pipedream” with a full band, and they sound like they are having lots of fun, even if the music is a bit of a mess. It still remains one of my favorite songs and contains an oft quoted (at least by me) chorus:

Blow up your TV throw away your paper
Go to the country, build you a home
Plant a little garden, eat a lot of peaches
Try an find Jesus on your own

The band settles down to a gentle “so sad it’s pretty” version of “Six O’Clock News” followed by the relatively new, but still utterly sad “All the Best.”

Iris Dement sings on four songs (“(We’re Not) The Jet Set,” “Let’s Invite Them Over Again,” “When Two Worlds Collide,” and “In Spite of Ourselves”) and while she is always a welcome voice to my ears, on this set she only accentuates the raggedness of Prine’s natural voice .

There is an amusing anecdote given before “In Spite of Ourselves” where Prine discusses how he had to cajole DeMent a little to sing the song with him due to it’s “questionable lyrics” (which include sniffing undies and convict movie fetishes.) Ultimately she was won over and we have a song that’s pure Prine – raunchy, sweet and hilarious – and the world is better for it.

During one of the interview sections Prine mentions how he got started in the business by playing at an amateur hour for a local club. After hearing the first three songs he’d ever written Prine was hired permanent.

Those three songs? “Souvenirs,” “Paradise,” and “Sam Stone.”

As Hiatt says in the interview, “Good God, I would have hired you after that too.”

For those of you unfamiliar with Prine or those songs, that would be like Dylan saying his first three songs were, “Like a Rolling Stone,” “Blowing in the Wind,” and “The Times They Are A-Changin.”

This is the best sounding Prine bootleg I have, and despite a somewhat ragged performance, it is still a great disk.

The entire session has been released on DVD and is available through Amazon.

I’m always up for some bootleg trading, if you have a list, drop me a line. Or if you’re just starting out, I can always help a kind soul with a B+P.

Here’s a couple of MP3s from the show for your listening pleasure.

Six O’Clock News

In Spite of Ourselves

Lake Marie

TV Lands 100 Greatest Quotes and Catchphrases

Throughout the month of December TV Land will be broadcasting their picks for the 100 greatest TV quotes.  They’ve released the winners, but won’t give out the order until the shows air.

I’m a total sucker for lists, and this one sounds like a wheel barrel full of fun.  Click on the “more” button to see the quotes.

Continue reading “TV Lands 100 Greatest Quotes and Catchphrases”

Studio 60 On The Sunset Strip: Season 1, Episode 10 – “B-12”

This week’s episode was another jumble of time frames.  Unlike the Nevada Day episode it didn’t start with a large culmination of events and then back track to give us an understanding of what happened.  Rather it was more like Pulp Fiction in that it moved backwards and forwards within a one week time period.

Honestly, I spent the first 2/3rds of the episode cursing that it was yet again using an odd time sequence, and yet in the last third the pay off was so good that I am now praising the technique.

The episode begins with the opening monologue of the show within the show.  Howie Mandell is the guest host and he declares that he’s looking forward to leaving behind Deal or No Deal for the night and getting back to his improvisational comedy roots.  Danny Tripp then comes on the stage, critiquing his monologue and bringing with him two ladies carrying numbered brief cases.  The gag is Howie has to choose one case a’la his game show.  Tripp even pretends to get a call from the banker.

It all reminded me a lot of most Saturday Night Live opening monologues in that it was really silly and not very funny at all.

During this bit the camera moves back stage and we see that most of the cast has contracted a nasty little virus.  They are all being injected with a B-12 booster shot to allow them to make it through the night.

Once Tripp is off stage he is handed a note from Matt stating “5 dead in Grosse Point.”

The reporter, Martha O’Dell is back, and Tripp tries to have it out with her over the story she wrote.  It seems she wrote that Tom’s latest movie was a failure and sites the anonymous Aint It News commenter, Dilbert27 as her source.  This infuriates Tripp as it doesn’t seem professional to him.  Despite Tripp’s protest, Martha has complete access to the show and remains unphased by his harassment.

Matt gives Lucy and Darius the chance to write a single sketch for the show involving a bumbled robbery/hostage attempt.  The two are completely unprepared and nervous so Matt brings in an old show writer, one described by Tripp as “very serious.”  He is, in fact, very serious and stoic, but he turns into a great mentor for the two freshman writers.

He abuses them and scolds them and ultimately talks Matt into letting them see if performed during the Friday rehearsal.  It bombs, as he knew it would but figures this in the only way to instill the fear of god into them and make them write a good sketch.  It does and it is slated to run on Saturday.

Through various flashbacks we see everyone engrossed in an ongoing news story about a man holding his family hostage.

Harriett has been inducted into the Falstaff society and at her ceremony she is required to tell a joke.  Turns out she can’t tell a joke worth crap.  In several hilarious scenes we see Matt giving her a joke only to have her butcher it completely with her faulty memory and terrible timing.

Jack and Jordan have it out over her personal life getting in the way and she finally agrees to do a Time interview to try to smooth things out.  It goes extremely poorly as she first tries to make jokes for answers and ultimately rails against him for making assumptions about how the industry is working against her.

Matt tries to rile Tripp up over a bad joke concerning the B-12 and how it cannot be taken by someone pregnant.

Dylan collapses just after the completely unfunny Bachelor in Rome skit in which he was dressed as a woman.

Unfortunately the freshman skit about the bumbling criminal cannot be performed due to the sad news about the 5 dead in Grosse Pointe.

Jordan breaks down in Tripp’s office but refuses to take the B-12 and the nights bombshell comes out that she is pregnant.  This was a little slight of hand by the marketing department as all the previews made this look like she was indeed fired.

Both instances completed the off kilter time use and created a very moving couple of moments.

Review:  ****

The queer time lines ultimately paid off.  In retrospect I like this episode more and more as it really demonstrated Sorkin’s ability to write a good story and interweave all the various lines.  The show moved back into serious drama territory, but managed to score some very nice comedy with Harriett bumbling her joke.

Movie Review: The Amityville Horror (1979)

amityville_poster.jpgHaunted House stories have to be some of the oldest examples of scary tales of horror. For really, what’s scarier than the fear that resides right in your own home? Where can you find safety if not your own house? Where do we find much of our own horror but our own homes late at night with the creepy shadows and wind blown creaky noise?

The Amityville Horror (1979) does a nice job of ratcheting up the spooks for about the first half, but falters off towards the end.

Based on the book of the same name, which is supposedly based on true events the story focuses on the Lutz family who have just moved into a lovely old home which takes on some devious supernatural qualities. You see as the story begins we see that the family living in the home before the Lutz were all brutally murdered in their sleep by one of their own. Even knowing this, the Lutz buy the house for a bargain and move in because “houses don’t have memories.”

Houses it seem not only have memories, but have rotten dispositions too.

Strange things start to happen pretty immediately when the Lutzs move in. The boathouse lights turn on and doors open in the middle of the night, the toilets get clogged with blood looking ooze, and the priest who comes to bless the house (Rod Steiger) gets trapped in a room with a million flies and is told by a creepy voice to get out.

The film moves slowly towards its frights. This isn’t a film with a real live knife-wielding boogey man ready to jump out and scare the family (and audience) at a moment’s notice. No this film builds it’s horror with slow tension. Creepy things happen amongst the more mundane events of the families life. Between the scares we see the family unpacking boxes, attending weddings, taking boat rides, and chopping wood. Lots and lots of chopping wood.

Although amongst all of this in between action, we hardly get to know the family at all. It is late in the film that it is revealed what George does. There is lots of talk about him needing to go back to work and all of these odd shots of the business van that only reveals that George owns his own business, but strangely cuts off the occupation. Eventually we get a reveal that he is a surveyor. And that’s how the whole movie is. We see a lot of the family doing things, but get no connection as to who they are as people.

Ultimately the slow build of tension fizzles out before it can really burst. This is the problem with making a haunted house picture. If there isn’t a ghost or phantom coming out of the walls, there is only so much horror a house itself can bring. Droves of flies, windows opening on their own, and chairs moving by themselves can build some tension, but without something bigger causing it all that’s left is disappointment. In the end all the filmmakers can muster is lots of heavy thunder and rain followed by a stairwell collapsing into a basement of blood. It’s just a house after all and that can be ran away from.

Apparently they followed the book pretty closely, and I’m not one to often ask for the creature behind the horror, but here it seems like they should have given us a little more. I can’t imagine the devil appearing for a final attack would have made the picture a great one, but it could have at least given a more adventurous ending.

Random Shuffle – 11/27/06

girls_girls_girls.jpg“Girls, Girls, Girls” – Mötley Crüe
From Girls, Girls, Girls

I have previously mentioned my undying love for all things hair metal, and Mötley Crüe were the unquestioned kings of the hair. They rocked, they rolled, they barely survived their own hedonism. Even their power ballads are pretty good. Who doesn’t get all teary eyed when “Home Sweet Home” plays over the loud speakers?

I am particularly fond of this song, or rather it’s accompanying video. As the title implies, it was all about the ladies, and more specifically the scantily clad ladies. For a young teenage boy there isn’t anything better than scantily clad ladies.

I can remember sitting with my cousin at my grandma’s house watching MTV in the back bedroom. “Girls, Girls Girls” was in heavy rotation. Every time the video would come on, my cousin would turn the volume way down – I guess because he was afraid someone would hear and chastise our viewing tastes – and we would sit watching the gyrations in silence.

It was a good time.

This gives me an odd remembrance of the song, though. I remember the girls, but it is one of the few Crüe hits where I don’t really know the music all that well. Too much mute I guess.

c58033361b1.jpg“Dream a Little Dream of Me” – The Mamas and the Papas
From the Papas and the Mamas

This song will forever remind me of the film that bears its name. An odd, dreamy movie staring the Coreys. It was probably the first non-mainstream, weird, art film I had ever seen. It showed me how film could be different and interesting and not follow the same standard plot lines. I’ve been a fan of weird films ever since.

The song is nothing but loveliness. Mama Cass’ big beautiful voice singing nothing but beauty. It is a song I used to listen to and dream little dreams of my own. It’s the sort of song I used to play and wonder when someone would dream of me. It’s a song I played at my wedding reception. A song I now enjoy with my wife.

lovett-lyle-i-love-everybody.jpg“Fat Babies” – Lyle Lovett
From I Love Everybody

Lyle Lovett is the sort of artist who can write nonsense, humor and poetry. Sometimes all within the same song. Though I Love Everybody is far from his best album (The Road To Ensenada gets that award) it is the first album of his I ever heard.

In college a good friend of mine had this giant tape collection filled with all sorts of artists I had never heard of. I’d often sit in his dorm room and pick out tapes at random just to find something interesting. I heard my first Grateful Dead bootlegs in that room as well as John Prine, John Mccutcheon and Willie Nelson. Well, ok I had heard Willie before, but it was in that room that we began our love affair.

Lyle was first heard by my ears between those walls as well, and it was this album that made me a fan. It’s not exactly country as it is filled with big jazzy horns and a few blues riffs. But it’s not jazz or blues or rock and roll either. These days you’d probably call it Americana, but I didn’t know what the crap that was back then. What I did know was that it was different, and exactly the kind of acoustic sound I had been looking for.

“Fat Babies” is a silly little nonsensical song on an album full of them. Lyles singing about things he hates which include hippies, cornbread and fat babies. But then he turns around and likes a girl simply because she likes likes him and she don’t like much. None of it makes much sense, but it doesn’t have to. It’s just fun and silly and a nice piece of music. Sometimes that’s all a song needs to be.

theclashlondoncallingalbumcover.jpg“Train in Vain” – The Clash
From London Calling

I spent a long time declaring I didn’t like the Clash even though I’d never really heard many of their songs. I knew “Rock the Casbah” of course and liked it too. But the few other songs I had heard all had this annoying reggae jive going for it and did nothing to make me want more. A local radio guy is a big fan and periodically plays Joe Strummer solo stuff, but it too seemed to have this faux reggae feel and I just don’t like faux reggae.

I kept hearing how great London Calling was and eventually decided to have myself a listen. I got the disk and expected to hate it and was already writing a scathing review in my head. It never got out of my head because, as it turned out, I loved the disk. There’s a few reggae beats in there, but it really encompasses so many genres that I hardly noticed.

Turns out there were also a few songs I already knew and enjoyed but didn’t know it was by the Clash. “Trains in Vain” is one of those songs, and it s a good one.

nataliemerchanttigerlily.jpg“San Andreas Fault” – Natalie Merchant
From Tigerlily

I’ve always been a very casual 10,000 Maniacs fan. I have a few of their albums, and whenever I play them, I enjoy them. But they never made what I’d call a stand-out album and for the most part their music sits in the back of my collection, only surfacing periodically.

However, Natalie Merchants first solo album, Tigerlily, has always been one of my favorites. I can’t really pin point exactly why I like it so much. There are only a couple of songs that I know well, or would say are great songs. The rest of them kind of blend together and I couldn’t tell you there names even though I’ve listened to the disk numerous times.

It’s all very low key, and you wouldn’t be too far off to say it’s mostly kind of dull. Natalie has this exotic, lulling voice that washes over me and sends me to a nice kind of place. It’s really nice back ground music – the kind of thing to play while reading a book or relaxing with some hot chocolate and a warm fire.

This is my favorite song on the album and it starts off with this marvelous, cooing “ooohs” from Natalie that lay me down and fluff my pillow. It sets a perfect mood for a relaxing evening, morning, or anytime in between.

The Simpsons: Season 18, episode 7 – “Ice Cream of Margie (With the Light Blue Hair)”

The Couch Gag: The entire Simpsons family turns into a bunch of giant cockroaches and scurry away.

Number of out loud laughs:
2

The Plot: Bart is seen opening cereal boxes in order to get the toy prize and then feeding the rest of the cereal to the dog. When questioned on why he is so wasteful Bart’s only response is that he doesn’t know, but that he also only eats the eyes of the lobsters. Marge chastises the boy by saying “Your father works very hard to put lobsters on the table.” We then cut to Homer playing a game of chair hockey with the rest of the gang at the nuclear plant.

Mr. Burns after walking in on the game chastises Homer for goofing off, but Homer is unable to pay attention as an ice cream truck is driving by. When Mr. Burns yells some more, Homer looks back at him only to find Mr. Burns looks just like a giant ice cream cone and is commanding that Homer lick him. He does and this gets him fired.

Running after the ice cream truck, the owner gladly stops, knowing Homer by name. Homer buys a popsicle but only has a hundred dollar bill to pay for it. The man dies of exhaustion making change out of actual coin change.

Out of a job Homer takes up driving the truck and finds his new dream job. Meanwhile Marge has watched an episode of Opal (an obvious spoof of Oprah) where her guest demeans women who stay at home making Marge feel terrible.

Trying to better herself Marge begins making sculptures out of the leftover popsicle sticks and becomes quite good at it. Kent Brockman takes notice after reporting on Snake being chased by the cops. Marge sets up a big presentation of her sculptures and makes Homer promise he will be there for it.

Home makes the promise, but says he must make his route first or his kids will think he neglected them. Finding a divorced dad picnic he takes advantage of the fathers by saying that ice cream will make up for their neglect. He makes big money, but forgets about the time. With only moments to spare he races back home through the back woods. Unfortunately he hits an owl, a boy scout and a bear which causes him to skid out of control and wipe out all of the sculptures.

Marge is furious, but Homer wins back her heart by pleading with her and taking multiple Polaroid’s of himself with a sad face. To show her forgiveness she creates a giant Homer sculpture which, in a jump to the future 200 years is shown as the last piece of art that survived after the iPods banded together and took over the world.

Review: **

Worst episode this season. The writers are still following their season trend of trying to maintain an actual plot versus throwing a bunch of nonsensical gags around, but this one just fell flat.

The thing about previous seasons was not only were they basically throwing plot out the window, but it always felt like they were overproducing themselves and acting like they were the hippest kids in school while failing to produce a show similar to what made them great in the first place. It’s like Seinfeld in the last couple of seasons where they kept coming up with all these crazy scenarios and forgot it was the conversations that made it great.

I’m ecstatic that they’ve finally gone back to the basics, but an actual plot isn’t always actually funny. The jokes were mostly lame and the story never really took off.

Here’s looking at next week.

Trivia

  • A possible revelation about the location of Springfield, Snake Jailbird reports a traffic jam at the 101-405 interchange, both of which run up the Pacific Coast of the United States. Their interchange is in the San Fernando Valley in Los Angeles, CA
  • Greta Wolfcastle can be seen (for the first time since “The Bart Wants What it Wants”) with her father Rainier Wolfcastle buying ice cream.
  • Ned Flanders’ late wife, Maude Flanders, is seen as one of Marge’s popsicle sculptures.
  • Comic Book Guy comments on the absence of a good Star Wars movie since the first one, bemoaning as well, the extensive use of CGI in the later re-releases.

Cultural References

  • The title of this episode cites Stephen Foster’s song “I Dream of Jeannie With the Light Brown Hair”.
  • The scene when Homer dresses spoofs the opening of Da Ali G Show.
  • The revelation of the customized iced-cream truck is a parody of Pimp My Ride, set to the Missy Elliott song “Get Ur Freak On”.
  • The Dire Straits song “Money for Nothing” plays as Homer comes down the street to sell ice cream.
  • The music played during the montage of Marge creating popsicle-stick sculptures is “Feels So Good” by Chuck Mangione.

And yes, I stold the references and trivia from Wikipedia.

Worst Promotion Ever: Monk Running In Black and White (Followed By Same Episode in Color)

monk.jpgThis just in from the worst promotion in the history of television department, the USA network has announced they will be running back to back episodes of the newest Monk on December 22. The same show mind you, but it will first run in black and white and then be followed by itself in color. They not only expect us to watch the same freaking episode twice, but to then vote on which version they prefer.

I’m not going to get into the stupidity of expecting us to watch the same exact episode back to back, but do they really expect us to vote? And do they really think we don’t already know the outcome to that vote?

Seriously, black and white doesn’t stand a chance. Why would anyone want to see Monk in black and white every week? I can dig doing one episode in black and white for a goofy effect, say Monk works a case in a haunted house or solves the murder of some old TV star. But it is ridiculous to expect an audience to vote for Monk to be in black and white.

Not that they are actually marketing this as something they’ll do in the future, but the whole vote is just dumb.

Now before I go any further, let me state for the record that I am a fan of the black and white. I love old movies, I love new movies in black and white. I love the way it casts shadows and how the absence of color creates a certain mood and a distinct set of images. But let’s face it, Monk aint Casablanca. It’s a silly TV show not a grand opus by Orson Welles.

I actually like Monk. It feels like a throwback to the classic detective shows of the 80s like Moonlighting and Remington Steele. It is a lot of fun, but it is certainly not great art. The camera work on the show is very basic with easy frames and movements. Showing it in black and white will be novel, but nothing truly amazing, I suspect.

And let’s face it, American popular culture doesn’t want for its television to be in black and white. It took me many years to watch anything that wasn’t in color, and I’m sure many folks raised on color everything have not desire to go backwards.

It is simply a marketing ploy to get people to watch the show twice and then go to the website so they can be inundated with more commercials.

Give me a break, USA Network, we deserve better than that.