Showing posts from August, 2015

Miami Vice Mondays: "Brother's Keeper"

Episode: Season One, Episode One: “Brother’s Keeper” Original airdate: September 16, 1984 Directed by: Thomas Carter, whose film credits include Save the Last Dance, Coach Carter, and—god help us all—Swing KidsWritten by: series creator Anthony Yerkovich
Summary: Here’s where it all begins: After New York Vice detective Raphael Tubbs is murdered by vicious drug lord Calderone (Miguel Pinero), his vengeance-bent younger brother Rico, a street cop from the Bronx, heads south to Miami, hot on Calderone’s trail. His path soon crosses with undercover Miami Vice detective Sonny Crockett, whose partner (played by Jimmy Smits!) has just been blown to pieces by Calderone. Crockett and Tubbs spend most of the two-part episode bickering and punching each other in the face before deciding to join forces and bring their common enemy, Calderone, to justice. Which, by the way, they totally fail to do: They bust Calderone, but a crooked judge lets him out on bail, and Calderone flees the country. Havi…

Friday Roundup: Macklemore in Spokane, David McCallum’s music career, Duran Duran, and Adam Lambert

Macklemore & Ryan Lewis released their video for “Downtown” yesterday. It’s a big, jubilant, crazy, joyous valentine to my hometown of Spokane (which is also Lewis’s hometown; Macklemore is a Seattle boy), and I love it to pieces. Spokane, you never looked so good. Spokane can be kind of a cold, prickly, lonely place—at heart, it’s still a turn-of-the-century Old West railroad town, with all the rough-and-tumble attitude that comes with that—but it’s got its own stark beauty. It fills me with delight to see Macklemore and his friends (who include Grandmaster Caz, Kool Moe Dee, Melle Mel, Eric Nally, and Ken Griffey, Jr.) singing and dancing in the shadow of the Parkade. (From Wikipedia’s shockingly comprehensive and laudatory entry on the Parkade: “The Parkade is a ten-level parking structure in Spokane, Washington. It was built for $3.5 million in 1967 by Sceva Construction Company, with concrete furnished by the Acme Concrete Company. The structure was built to accommodate one …

The Man From U.N.C.L.E.: “The Project Strigas Affair”

Last week, while trying to make an informed decision as to whether it was worth seeing Guy Ritchie’s big-screen reboot of the 1964-1968 NBC spy series The Man From U.N.C.L.E. in a theater (conclusion: it’s a rental), I came across Sarah Kurchak’s terrific AV Club essay about the iconoclastic character of Illya Kuryakin, the suave Russian spy played in the original series by Scottish actor David McCallum (otherwise known as Ducky on NCIS, for anyone too young to have watched The Man From U.N.C.L.E., yet old enough to be a fan of NCIS). I’d never seen the series, but the AV Club piece intrigued me enough to dive in. Smart move: The show is marvelous. It’s overflowing with the elements I treasure most in fluff television: insane plots, snappy banter, swanky soirees, daring escapes, ill-advised hookups, and bizarre attempts at foreign accents. Along with McCallum’s Illya, it stars Robert Vaughn as the excellently-named Napoleon Solo—secret agent, all-purpose ladies’ man, and world-class …

Miami Vice Mondays: "No Exit"

Episode: Season One, Episode Seven: “No Exit” Original airdate: November 9, 1984 Directed by: Actor/director David Soul, best known as Hutch on Starsky & Hutch Story by: Charles R. Leinenweber Written by: Maurice Hurley
Summary: Crockett and Tubbs are on the trail of notorious arms dealer Tony Amato (Bruce Willis), who’s looking to unload a supply of stolen surface-to-air stinger missiles. While Tubbs poses as a prospective weapons buyer, Crockett keeps Amato’s house under constant secret surveillance. After Crockett discovers that Amato has been regularly mistreating his wife Rita (Katherine Borowitz, who, quite awesomely, has been married to John Turturro since 1985), he reveals his identity to Rita to prevent her from hiring a hitman to off her husband.

Friday Roundup: Duran Duran's Paper Gods, Glitter Princes, Fun With Keywords

Friday roundup! I’ve got very little to report this week, other than to note that, as promised (threatened?), my mystery novel Bias Cut has a new cover. The new cover is now live on the ebook version; the paperback version will follow suit within the next couple of weeks. Self-promotion makes me wither and die inside, but I’ll give this a shot: Maybe you should consider reading Bias Cut? Maybe? It’s the briskest-selling and most critically-acclaimed of my books (it won an IPPY silver medal, it was an ABNA semi-finalist, Publishers Weekly called it “fresh and dark” and singled out my “snappy dialogue and accomplished descriptions”). I reread it yesterday for the first time in a couple of years to double-check the typesetting of the new paperback version, and it’s just rock-solid across the board. I’m proud of it.

Mr. T in “Be Somebody… Or Be Somebody’s Fool”

“Do you know me? Of course you do. That’s because I’m famous!”

Be Somebody… Or Be Somebody’s Fool is an educational video from 1984 in which Mr. T—bouncer turned fighter turned actor turned pop-culture icon—provides kids with a series of life lessons. It was directed by Jeff Margolis, best known as a prolific director of awards shows; over the years, Margolis has won an Emmy and two DGA Awards for directing the Academy Awards, which is a nifty fact to have on hand if you ever find yourself trying to make the case that Hollywood can be, at times, just a tad insular and self-congratulatory.
This is a fascinating cultural artifact. Despite being almost an hour long (and currently only available via muddy VHS copies that various kind souls have uploaded to YouTube), Be Somebody… Or Be Somebody’s Fool is compulsively watchable, mostly due to the goofball charisma of its star. Mr. T expanded his fame by deftly exploiting the dichotomy between his outsized persona—his musclebound physique, hi…

Miami Vice Mondays: "Theresa"

Episode: Season Three, Episode Sixteen: “Theresa” Original airdate: February 13, 1987 Directed by: Virgil W. Vogel Written by: Pamela Norris, a former SNL scribe.
Summary: Crockett’s steady girlfriend Theresa (Helena Bonham Carter, baby-faced and adorable even while injecting street-grade Dilaudid between her toes), a surgeon with a nasty addiction to illicit painkillers, is blackmailed by her dealer into snooping through Crockett’s files and stealing the address of the police property warehouse. The warehouse is subsequently blown to smithereens, killing several police officers and obliterating all the evidence in Crockett’s ongoing investigation into a dangerous drug lord named Joey Wyatt (Brad Dourif, Hollywood’s favorite go-to actor for crazy-eyed slimeballs).

Friday Roundup: The Peripheral, Glitter Princes, Outlander, Duran Duran, and hate-watching Fantastic Four

As I mentioned last week in my essay about my Pacific Northwest jaunt, I recently read William Gibson’s The Peripheral, which is a downright amazing book. It’s dense and nigh-impenetrable, even by Gibson’s formidable standards, but it’s well worth sticking with to the end. I’m reluctant to say too much about it, because part of the satisfaction of reading it comes from puzzling out the plot. As is his wont, Gibson drops readers in the middle of a very complex future society (in this case—and see, I’m already giving spoilers—he drops them into two future societies: one in the very near future, the other about seventy years beyond that) and lets them fend for themselves. It’s a book that rewards rereading. It’s also deeply depressing and mood-altering (in Gibson’s all-too-plausible future, 80% of humanity has been slowly killed off over the course of a few decades, mostly due to the effects of climate change). I’ve been fighting off a feeling of inevitable looming dread and despair eve…

Duranalysis: Careless Memories anime (2004)

Where are you now? ‘Cause I don’t want to meet you…

I briefly touched on this one a few years back in my Duranalysis of the band’s agreeably half-assed 1981 video for “Careless Memories”, but it’s worthy of in-depth scrutiny on its own. This is the delightfully bonkers anime-style video (we’re all calling it “Duranime” from here on out, yes?) that played on the screen behind Duran Duran while the band performed “Careless Memories” on the 2004 Astronaut tour. A different “Careless Memories” anime video was shown during their 2011 All You Need Is Now tour; you can catch fragmented glimpses of it in their Diamond in the Mind concert film, but I haven’t been able to hunt down a full version online. Nor have I been able to find the companion Duranime for their song “Nice”, which apparently was also shown during the Astronaut tour. The internet has failed me. But at least we’ve got this one, and it’s worth it.

Miami Vice Mondays: "Bought and Paid For"

Episode: Season Two, Episode Nine: “Bought and Paid For” Original airdate: November 29, 1985 Directed by: John Nicolella Written by: Marvin Kupfer
Summary: A young Haitian housecleaner named Odette (Lynn Whitfield) is raped by Nico Arroyo (Joaquim de Almeida, at the very start of his long and fruitful career of playing ridiculously handsome scumbags), the pampered son of her former employer, a wealthy Bolivian general. Fearing deportation, Odette is reluctant to identify Nico as her attacker, until Gina talks her into it. As Odette is a close friend of Gina’s, and as the rape occurred in Gina’s apartment, Gina takes the investigation very, very personally.

Friday Roundup: August sucks, Chandler versus Parker, and Rob Sheffield on Duran Duran

The photo, taken by my sister Ingrid during our recent Seattle-Tacoma-Portland expedition, is of Dan Corson’s “Sonic Bloom” sculpture at the PacificScienceCenter in Seattle. It’s huge—the flowers stand thirty-three feet tall, apparently—and impressive. The flowers absorb solar energy during the day, which allows them to glow with light at night. 
Also, they hum. Kind of cool. I like Seattle's laid-back artsy vibe. Big solar-powered flowers that glow and hum at you. Good stuff.
This is the first roundup of August. Ah, August. How I despise you, August. Let’s revisit David Plotz’s 2001 Slate column, which Slate republishes annually, about why August is the worst month of the year. Hard to argue with Plotz’s reasoning. August stinks. It’s hands down my least-favorite month. You know the best thing about August? It’s followed by September, which is a month I generally enjoy.

Travelogue: Seattle, Tacoma, Portland

Wednesday, July 29th: We’re off! My sister Ingrid and I take the subway to Grand Central Station, then catch a shuttle bus to the Newark airport. Before our flight, we eat breakfast in our terminal. Our waiter tries to subtly warn me away from the Berry Brioche French Toast (“Just so you know, there are no real berries in it”), but I fail to take the hint. Rookie mistake: it’s ghastly. But at least it’s expensive. Virgin America doesn’t fly directly to Seattle, so we have a layover in San Francisco. Carne asada tacos at SFO help ease the memory of the French toast. Ah, California, where even the airports serve excellent tacos. You are truly a magical land. How I’ve missed you.
I’ve brought my Kindle, loaded with fiction. On the flight, I read The Maltese Falcon, because I’ve been on an old-timey detective novel kick lately, and William Gibson’s creepy, strange, bleak, evocative new sci-fi book, The Peripheral. The Peripheral gets a weird lock on my brain and continues to haunt me thro…

Miami Vice Mondays: Junk Love

Episode: Season Two, Episode Six: “Junk Love” Original airdate: November 8, 1985 Directed by: Michael O’Herlihy Written by: Julia Cameron, best known to creative types as the author of the mega-popular self-help book, The Artist’s Way. (Fun fact: Cameron also used to be married to Martin Scorsese.) 
Summary: After Vice conducts a raid on a brothel run by former smuggler Ivory Jones (jazz great Miles Davis), Crockett becomes personally invested in the welfare of a self-destructive, drug-addicted prostitute named Rosella (Ely Pouget), who’s been hiding in the brothel to escape from her patron/lover, a volatile crime lord named Juan Carlos Silva (Jose Perez).  Rosella claims to despise Silva, who routinely murders anyone who gets too close to her, and yet she seems dependent upon him in ways Crockett struggles to understand.