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It’s What We Call A Soft Launch

Jordan | Tales Of Hoffman | Wednesday, January 31st, 2007

It’s not 100% complete, but those interested in movies with slashes in the title should go here and then go back in a few weeks when there is more substantial information there.

All Our Yesterdays, TOS 3

Jordan | The Star Trek Project | Wednesday, January 31st, 2007

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When in doubt, play to your strenghts. A portal back in time (and a doomed love affair therein), strange environs causing Spock to revert to emotions, a title cribbed from Shakespeare. That’s really the success of any good Trek episode. I like that there is a librarian called Mr. Atoz (A to Z – dig?) This episode is by the numbers but chock full o’ juicy what ifs.

The Savage Curtain, TOS 3

Jordan | The Star Trek Project | Tuesday, January 30th, 2007

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Some months ago I got handed a mighty diss by one of my favorite humans on the whole planet, Cristin O’Keefe Aptowicz. I made some comment about watching Star Trek and she piped in: “Hey! Can we watch the one where they join forces with Abraham Lincoln?!?!?”

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In case you were hoping that that one episode of Trek you saw late late late some night where Kirk & co. joined forces with Abraham Lincoln was maybe just some sort of fevered hallucination. . . alas, no. It’s real. And Gawwwwwd is it awful. Worse than And The Children Shall Lead? Well, I don’t know about that — but it is close. The only real way to shed any light on this episode is to use the language of the suburban twelve year old: Not only is this episode retarded, it is gay.

And there you have it.

The Cloud Minders, TOS 3

Jordan | The Star Trek Project | Tuesday, January 30th, 2007

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Despite a few weak patches this episode zips along at a nice clip and is good fun. Cribbing heavily from “Metropolis,” “The Time Machine” and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, we meet a race of people not only of lofty goals but of a lofty location — an intellectual utopia in the clouds. But below, slaving away in the mines, are workers thought to be of lesser intelligence — but that’s just a side-effect of the retardo-gas they’re inadvertantly breathing. Best moment is when Spock, first stepping into the groovy Cloud City set says it is the “finest example of sustained anti-gravity elevation” he has ever seen. On cue enters Droxine, space-blonde in ridiculous shimmering blue diaphanous gown with her gazongas sticking out like chest-antlers. Dig this photo, which is tame compared to the entry described:

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Droxine does her best to woo Spock, while proletarian terrorist Vanna works on Kirk. Most notable on her is that her eye shadow looks like Aqua Fresh.

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An accord is forced on the planet — violating the Prime Directive, of course, although the planet is a member of the Federation. . .which makes me wonder just how difficult it is to join in the first place. Also: whole episode’s ticking clock has something to do with a plant virus. Would I lie to you?

a quick short, sharp, shock/they won’t do it again

Jordan | Cram it in Your Ear | Tuesday, January 30th, 2007

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The fact of the matter is that last night I watched “Classic Albums” on VH-1 and had my mind re-blown by Pink Floyd. I don’t spend that much time thinking about Pink Floyd, but there was a time when I studied their work like the Talmud. I still have the acid washed jeans jacket with the giant prism patch on the back to prove it.

If you’ve never seen “Classic Albums” (and you suck if you haven’t) they dig up an old chestnut (Aja, Rumours, Pyromania, The Number of the Beast, Songs in the Key of Life, etc.) and run through it track by track. They break down each song to its production elements — usually isolating vocal, bass, drum, guitar & effects tracks then mixing them all around until it sounds like you remember it. For a music wanker, it is a show straight from heaven.

Last night’s broadcast of “Dark Side of the Moon” brought me full back to middle school. 14, 15, 16 — that’s the appropriate age to listen to this music. . .and now that I am “mature” I’ve kinda left all that behind me. If I ever listen to Floyd today it is their spacey pre-Dark Side material; the stuff no one likes.

The thing is this: these songs are still terrific. Laugh all you want at Roger Waters’ earnest lyrics (Us and Them is particularly painful) but lyrics, to me, have always been an opt-in situation. When lyrics in classic rock are good (Dylan, Jethro Tull) they help matters, when they are bad (Zeppelin, to name just one) it is just as good to pretend they are singing in a foreign tongue. A few things struck me watching this:

1 – I never realized how much of an influence Rick Wright has in the group. Half the time I thought David Gilmour was singing, it was actually Wright.

2 – These guys looked like a bunch of Brooklyn hipsters. Especially Gilmour. Can you believe he shredded the awesome solo to “Money” in a T-T-That’s All Folks! T-shirt??!?

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3 – I never once wondered where all the mixed-in dialogue on this album came from. It was always such a natural part, it would be like questioning the bass. Turns out one day Roger had the idea and they got a bunch of people from around Abbey Road studios to go in the booth and extemporaneously answer questions on index cards. Like, “when was the last time you were violent” (hence “I dunno I was really drunk at the time!”) and others. Amazing!

4 – The loose link has always been “The Great Gig in the Sky.” The song is nearly perfect, but the soul singer cuttin’ loose and wailin’ always felt fake to me. It sounds, at time, as if she is trying just a bit to hard — that she’s got the notes in her head but getting there is just a little bit above her pay grade. And — indeed — I learned last night that the robust bluesy improv was performed by some mousy white British chick. One could argue, I suppose, that the missed notes add to the undercurrent existential horror of the futility of life — but. . .um. . .I think it is fairer to say they just couldn’t get a better vocalist in that day.

5 – All of the mega-selling Floyd albums — Dark Side, Wish You Were Here, Animals, The Wall, The Final Cut and even A Momentary Lapse of Reason — are etched hard into my brain and I can sing them note for note — but I do not own them in any form that I can regularly play them. In other words, I don’t have a record player and my tape deck is busted. Anybody have this stuff on CD and want to lend ‘em to me?

Victor/Victoria (1982), Blake Edwards, B

Jordan | Jordan Hoffman's Movie Journal | Monday, January 29th, 2007

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Many, many shenanigans. I like a movie with a slash in the title.

Dialogues with Elie Wiesel and Richard D. Heffner: The Moral Responsibility of the Individual in a Changing World (2005), Various Directors, A

Jordan | Jordan Hoffman's Movie Journal | Sunday, January 28th, 2007

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I don’t know what toxic glitch in my chromosomal makeup inspired me to watch this five-hour marathon of mental masturbation, but I will not lie: I loved every word. Not so much because I found the dialogues between Heffner and Wiesel so enlightening (they’re intelligent men, but the conclusions drawn here, albeit well-digested and pithily-phrased, ain’t nothing you won’t hear over a few pints at the pub with a group of literate friends) but because I find the notion of the “public intellectual” so fascinating. And are there two greater of the species? Heffner the hard scrabble New York non-profit broadcaster since the days of thin ties and Lucky Strikes, and Wiesel the Auschwitz chronicler with the Galicia-by-way-of-France accent too troubled by the injustices of the world to ever get a haircut. For ten thirty minute blocks (recorded, I estimate, in 1996, based on the references to Timothy McVeigh and the lack of references to Monica Lewinsky) these two aging men furrowed their brow at each other, sighed, shrugged and made vague conclusions (“I can’t give you a definitive answer” being the most common response to any difficult question) all in a CCNY studio designed like a mid-80s bowling alley. Heffner invariably beginning each question in friendly fashion “But, Elie, help me understand. . .” and Wiesel responding “Dick, my dear friend, you must know. . . ”

I already feel a nostalgia for a time when men like this won’t be with us anymore. I don’t simply mean a broadcaster who survived the depression and interviewed Roy Cohn, nor do I mean a pragmatic humanist with numbers on his arm. Soon there will be a time when the only people you’ll see discussing issues on TV will be the people who play it TV’s way. Shouting snappy comebacks to stupid questions. Even on our beloved NPR — is Terry Gross interviewing the latest Jonathan from Brooklyn with a new novel about comic books anything close to a philosophical inquiry into the nature of man’s struggle for morality? And can anyone out there quote so extemporaneously from so many variegated sources of ancient human traditions?

Well — maybe some of them can. But can they do it with that wonderful accent????

The Tipping Point

Jordan | Cram it in Your Ear | Saturday, January 27th, 2007

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In keeping with my desire to always stay a good 5 years behind every trend, I just read Malcolm Gladwell’s wildly successful book “The Tipping Point.” (He’d have a snappy term for exactly the type of statistics-driven pop-sociology best seller reader I am.)

“The Tipping Point” is one of those books that’s completely fascinating — on each page is another piece of gotcha research. I know you think the response to this test was “A” but actually it was “B!!” (That’s when Moe Syzlak would go “Whaaaaaaaaat?“) These moments are fun — but the overall theories are kind’ve unprovable. One of Gladwell’s chapters centers on how the recession of crime in New York is due to the broken windows theory. There’s another bestseller out there (equally readable, I’m told) called “Freakonomics” that argues just the opposite. Go know.

The Way To Eden, TOS 3

Jordan | The Star Trek Project | Thursday, January 25th, 2007

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There are many out there in the Trek blogosphere who say that this episode is a hands-down case of extreme shark jumping. I gotta say “no.” Those who think so – they are Herbert. They do not reach.

If you are trying to remember, yes, this is the episode with the space hippies. It’d be easy to laugh at this episode, but I like it for two reasons. The rejection of technology among the followers of Dr. Sevrin is one of the very few instances of a crack in the perfect utopian facade of the Federation. One has to wonder — what becomes of dissidents in a perfect society? And, let’s face it, the Federation, benevolent as it is, is fascist. The other exciting thing: Spock is a fellow-traveller. Well, that’s not hard to believe. I mean, can’t you see Mr. Spock at Arbiter Ring singalongs with Theodore Bikel? Spock can “reach” with the space hippies. He is not Herbert. He, too, yearns for a world untouched by technology (or, at least, he will fight for their right to have it), while he works feverishly within it. Who doesn’t agree that Mr. Spock is among the most interesting fictional characters created?

Requiem For Methuselah, TOS 3

Jordan | The Star Trek Project | Thursday, January 25th, 2007

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Here’s another episode that is kinda running on fumes. Offstage a disease is about to kill off the whole crew, the antidote is on this uninhabited planet when — whaaaaaat? A creepy old man in a crazy castle with a Stepford Wife? Not only is this episode outrageously sexist (even by TOS standards) it is offensive to history in its implication that many of Earth’s great men were (Leonardo, Shakespere, Brahms, Alexander, etc) were all the same dude. I know, it makes no sense. There is a somewhat touching moment at the end — now, maybe I only found this touching because I was watching this fairly late at night — when Kirk is devastated by the loss of his perfect robo-woman. McCoy feels bad for Kirk but then (in typical McCoy fashion) he starts yelling at Spock. I really feel bad for you, Spock! Because you will never know what it is like to love and lose! Therefore you suck! McCoy storms offstage all pissed off at Spock (what really is his problem?) and Spock is left observing a sleeping, emotionally wounded Kirk. He slowly walks over and begins to perform a Vulcan mind meld. We think it is so Spock can understand this curious emotion. Instead it is to impose peace on Kirk. He utters the word “Forget.” Which is kind of Spock, I guess, in that Kirk is in true pain. But shouldn’t he have asked for permission first?

Hero (2002), Zhang Yimou, D

Jordan | Jordan Hoffman's Movie Journal | Thursday, January 25th, 2007

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Very pretty photography. Once they start flying around, I’m done. The only saving grace of a Kung-fu movie is to marvel at the athletics. Doesn’t being on a wire deaden that? The only Kung-fu movie I’ve ever liked was “The Legend of Drunken Master.” But I keep trying. Well, kinda. I watched this on fast-forward.

Children of Men (2006), Alfonso Cuarón, A

Jordan | Jordan Hoffman's Movie Journal | Wednesday, January 24th, 2007

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Now that’s what I call dystopian!

My head is still spinning from “Children of Men,” a movie best described as “devastating.” Kind’ve a “Handmaid’s Tale” meets “The Pianist,” Alfonso Cuarón gets how to sell a high concept speculative fiction world. The key is in the details. This is why movies like “Brazil,” “Dawn (and Day) of the Dead,” and “Starship Troopers” are lasting works of art and something like “The Matrix” or the on-the-face-of-it-similar “V For Vendetta” is a hunk of turd. When thought, care and intelligence are used in creating a total world that has an internal logic, that is when a project like this is successful. The story is gripping from the first shot and continually riffs on its own premise. There are leitmotifs within leitmotifs (who didn’t love seeing Japser’s lazy tabby cat?) and much of the actual plot is gleaned from observing the mise-en scene, the newspaper clippings, TV ads, photos, buttons, t-shirts — kinda just like in real life. For a movie that is, ostensibly, a wall to wall action picture, there are a lot of story elements that are just hinted at. There’s just enough info to let you fill in your own gaps, little hints at complete other worlds within this universe. This is the hallmark of a very mature filmmaker.

Let’s talk about Alfonso Cuarón. “Y Tu Mama, Tambien” is a marvelous picture. His “Harry Potter” movie, like all the “Harry Potter” movies, is unwatchable. And. . .that’s all I know about the guy. I’m gonna have to dig up his earlier stuff. Because “Children of Men” is one of the boldest technical pictures I’ve ever seen, ever. There are choreographed long takes in “Children of Men” of such remarkable fluidity that they make Brian DePalma’s “Snake Eyes” look like a hip-hop video. And all of these long takes are completely motivated by the story — such that there were times when it took me moments to realize on a conscious level that I was seeing a marathon long take (and yet, my unconscious was being squeezed through a nervewracking excersize in perspective.) I can’t wait to see “Children of Men” again just to analyze these sequences. But I’ll see it on DVD. I don’t think I could emotionally handle another viewing in the theater.

Lastly, cruising through modern London at the end of the world blasting “In The Court of the Crimson King” — totally fuckin’ sweet. “Y Tu Mama. . .” had Zappa’s “Watermelon in Easter Hay” over the closing credits if I’m not mistaken. Who doesn’t love this guy?

What is Norman Siegel Whining About?

Jordan | Tales Of Hoffman | Tuesday, January 23rd, 2007

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I finally got my bags checked going into the subway. It was at Union Square a little after 6:30 pm. I had just seen “Children of Men” (review to come) and if ever I was in a mood to fight the Man against his fascist invasions it was gonna be while this movie was still ringing in my ears. But here’s what happened.

A young Chinese-American cop who looked about seventeen years old smiles at me sheepishly.

“Hi, sir. You mind stepping over here to let the officer check your bag?”

That’s the way he did it. He asked me if I minded. How’m I gonna get all agitated about that? I smiled back at him. “I’m gettin’ zapped?!?” I asked. I don’t know why the term “zapped” came out of my mouth, but it did. He chuckled and said, “yep, you know, random . . .”

I started walking to the table. Then I remembered that I had told myself that if I was ever subjected to this random search I would state, loudly and proudly, that I choose not to ride the subway. Because ever since day one of this program they’ve always said that those who don’t want the search are free to turn around and leave without the search and not face any repercussions. And it’d be pretty easy for me to walk up to 23rd st. from 17th and get the next train. So was I ready to make my stink? As I swore I would? (Remember, I’d just seen as scathing a film about the slippery slope to fascism as you are ever likely to see.)

I went to the table. ‘Cause the first cop. . .he just seemed so nice. I know — a man in a dark uniform holding a gun telling me what to do seemed . . .nice??? Somehow, he did.

At the table I looked at the bag inspector. Again, he looked seventeen years old. I shrugged my shoulders and said, in a goofy voice, “I got zapped!”

He smiled and said something on the order of, “Yeah, whattayagonnado.”

He looked in my bag for about 1.2 seconds, didn’t move the scarf that I had laying on top which obscured my iPod (which, if TV shows are correct, are about the size of the bombs the terrorists are coming to kill us with) and said, “Okay, thank you.”

And that was it.

And then I realized that the first cop probably picked me because I didn’t have a backpack — I had a tote bag. And open tote bag — meaning it would make it much easier on me (and his colleague) to press me through. Because these guys know, I mean, they have to know that this random half-assed bag check ain’t doing squat to actually secure our subways. Does anybody really think that it does? I can say that it wasn’t very painful. And far less invasive than going to visit the Statue of Liberty or enter the Museum of Native American Art where you have to take off your belt.

The Lights of Zetar, TOS 3

Jordan | The Star Trek Project | Tuesday, January 23rd, 2007

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Ugh. The end of the original series is near. This episode wasn’t just phoned in, it was phoned in on a disconnected line. There’s a cool special effects shot at least (see above) that makes for a creepy death scene. And the doomed library planet inspired the name for the Trek Wiki Memory Alpha. Other than that, not much to recommend here.

That Which Survives, TOS 3

Jordan | The Star Trek Project | Tuesday, January 23rd, 2007

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This is a pretty dumb-ass episode. As I feel like we’ve seen before, a race has died off, but they set a computer to carry out the business of defending their planet. Time has moved on, but the computer’s gone a little nutty. Yeah, yeah. A couple cool bits of business that may keep you mildly interested. One is the funny dance move Sulu and McCoy have to do to protect Kirk from the evil space computer projection with the deadly touch (projection is a scantily clad woman, natch.) Two, we meet a Lt. Radha, an Indian woman complete with bindi on forehead. Lt. Radha is played by a woman with a very Indian-sounding name: Naomi Pollack. (Lt. Singh from the episode The Changeling was played by a Hawaiian.) Lastly, Mr. Spock, at the helm as Kirk is trapped on the planet below, seems to have taken his sassy pills this morning. Everything out of his mouth is a snappy answer to a stupid question. After the Enterprise shakes and Spock is thrown from the Captain’s Chair, Uhura asks “What happened?!” Spock, dusting himself off responds, “the occipital area of my head seems to have impacted with the arm of the chair.” You can almost hear the Leslie Neilson follow-up: “but that’s not important right now.”

Goodbye, Columbus

Jordan | Cram it in Your Ear | Tuesday, January 23rd, 2007

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Perhaps it was a little strange that I’d read eleven of Philip Roth’s books, but never his first and (perhaps) most famous. The collection of stories here, the shots heard ’round the work for “self-loathing jews,” are remarkable in many ways. The novella “Goodbye, Columbus,” a finely observed work, deals with class issues, youth, assimilation, the sexual revolution and urban changes is beyond anything else one thing: very funny. It manages to be a perfect snapshot of secular Jewish life in North Jersey in 1959, yet somehow stays universal. Very few of the specific conflicts presented will ring true to anyone today, but the desires and frustrations of the main character still resonate and will continue to resonate, I think, for any young person unsure of where they belong in society’s pecking order.

But some of the other short stories, frankly, are only okay. They are interesting to read because they indicate the writer Roth will become when he matures, but on their own, stories like “Epstein” and “Eli, the Fanatic” are funny but forgettable. “The Conversion of the Jews” and, particularly, “You Can’t Tell a Man by the Song He Sings” are flat-out bad.

The biggest surprise for me (I say surprise because I had seen the rather faithful film adaptation of “Goodbye, Columbus” many years ago) was the story “Defender of the Faith.” And, I can’t deny, I can understand the controversy. In the 1950s, when this story was written, there wasn’t that much representation of Jewish life in mass media out their for American to sink its teeth into. Sure, Mendel Berlinger was cracking them up every night on TV, but after he changed his name to Milton Berle. “Defender of the Faith” tells the story of a Jewish sargent not-so-coincidentally named Nathan Marx, just back from combat in WWII, overseeing a group of trainees at basic training. There, a schnorrer of a man named Grossbart . . .a big vortex of the worst Jewish stereotypes. . .a horror of a shonde for the goyim makes Marx’s life a nightmare. I don’t think I’ve ever cringed more while reading a work of fiction in my life. Roth was condemned by every Jewish group imaginable (this incident comes up quite hilariously in one of Roth’s many quasi-autographical works, specifically “Zuckerman Unbound”) and my instinct, of course, was to defend him. Until I read the story.

Oy, such troubles.

The story is fantastic, by the way. And, if I may repeat myself, very very funny.

Roberta (1935), William A. Seiter, A-

Jordan | Jordan Hoffman's Movie Journal | Sunday, January 21st, 2007

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“Roberta” may be the least known Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers movie but it is basically as good as the others. It is an ensemble piece and the bill is shared with Randolph Scott (so bland) and Irene Dunne (so odd) so this just makes the scenes with Fred & Ginger all the better. The plot is centered on a Parisian gown shop, so there’re no shortage of outrageous costuming — I counted three full on fashion shows (!!!). Irene Dunne absolutely massacres “Smoke Gets In Your Eyes” which, as we all know, was best covered by the Jerry Garcia Band. Anyway, there’s either something hardwired into your brain that encourages you to like a movie like this (art deco steamship cabins, tap dance, fake Polish aristocracy, the repeated phrase “Gee, that’d be swell!” and gowns gowns gowns!!!.) I guess it is no secret that I’ve got that. No shame on you if you don’t.

The Music Man (1962), Morton DaCosta, Inc.

Jordan | Jordan Hoffman's Movie Journal | Sunday, January 21st, 2007

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I’d never seen The Music Man, but I figured it inspired the episode of the Simpsons with the monorail, so maybe it was worth my time. The disc we got from Netflix stopped working at around the thirty minute mark. I washed it (this usually fixes the problem) but it still didn’t work. The truth is, neither Ann nor I were all that upset. I can’t lie and say we were enjoying it.

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