Sunday, January 31, 2010


This is the Obama we voted for. Last Friday, he traveled to a House Republican retreat in Baltimore for a Q and A session and bitch-slapped challengers with wit, facts and candor. He was like a professor with a classroom full of cocky freshmen who, throughout the hour and a half class, proved they didn't know shit. One newspaper reported that Obama walked into the lion's den and mauled the lions. He dealt with their questions expertly, took on their critiques, and lectured them for playing petty politics.

According to the Washington Post, "after Rep. Jeb Hensarling (Tex.) spent several minutes blaming Obama for the increase in the federal deficit to $1.35 trillion, the president interrupted and asked, 'You're going to let me answer?'

"'The whole question was structured as a talking point for running a campaign,' Obama told him. 'That's not true, and you know it's not true.'"

Huffington Post reported that it got so good, FOX News cut away twenty minutes early. Huff-Post provided the complete transcript and video HERE.

Friday, January 29, 2010


Chapter 1

IF YOU REALLY WANT TO HEAR about it, the first thing you'll probably want to know is how I died, and what my lousy life was like, and that I wrote a book that was beloved by teenagers and all, and by phonies who didn't even read it, and how I became a recluse with writer's block and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don't feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth. In the first place, that stuff bores me, and in the second place, you'll read all about it in the phony tributes and eulogies by a bunch of sanctimonious critics in all the fancy papers. Besides, I'm not going to tell you my whole goddam autobiography or anything.

I'll just tell you about dying and how, when you're dead, they really fix you up and tell warmhearted stories even if you were a bastard and a real pain in the ass, because that's the way they do it, but if I had my way they'd just dump me in the river. Anything except sticking me in a goddam cemetery where people are always sticking flowers on your stomach on Sunday. Who needs flowers when you're dead? I hate the whole arrangement, and the critics are the worst. They bring flowers, all right, big phony flowery words even though all the time you were alive they were saying you'd never write again, you're a has-been, and your book doesn't bare rereading, plenty of catty cruel stuff, but then you die and they say what a great guy you were and it's pretty crumby.

It's funny. All you have to say is something nobody understands and they'll say you're profound and you're the voice of a generation and then all of a sudden they'll turn on you, and say crumby things and keep saying them until your dead as a doornail. Maybe it's because they're going to die someday, too, and they don't want people saying all the bad stuff after they're dead, saying they picked their nose or cheated on their taxes or acted like selfish arrogant bastards, no, they want people to make up lies when they're sitting in their casket all powdered up. They do that when you're dead, it's like insurance, because they expect the same, even if they treat you bad your entire life and it's pretty crumby. It will make you blue as hell, I swear to God.

Anyway, I better get going. It's terrifically cold and I've got a long way to go.


Thursday, January 28, 2010

HOWARD ZINN 1922-2010

Howard Zinn, from "You Can't Be Neutral On a Moving Train," 2004

We were sorry to hear about the passing of radical historian and activist Howard Zinn. He was probably best known for his book, The People's History of the United States, which is required reading in many schools throughout the country. Recent projects have included a television version of his book, "The People Speak," which ran on the History Channel in 2009, and a narration for his 2004 biographical documentary, "Howard Zinn: You Can't Be Neutral on a Moving Train."

Howard Zinn in the Army Air Corps, WWII

Not just an armchair philosopher, this professor worked tirelessly for civil rights and peace since he returned from World War II, where he served as a bombardier and was awarded the Air Medal. After the war, Zinn went to NYU on the GI Bill, where he got his bachelor's degree, and then received his master's and doctorate at Columbia. He wasn't content to be just another timid soul in Academia, and Zinn served on the executive committee of SNCC, the most militant civil rights group of its time, and was an early active opponent to the Vietnam War. He actively opposed the Reagan contra wars in the 1980s, and the Iraq war(s), and remained an opponent of conservatism, injustice, militarism, rampant capitalism and corporate power until his dying day.

"He's made an amazing contribution to American intellectual and moral culture," said fellow dissident Noam Chomsky, the left-wing activist and MIT professor, in the Boston Globe. "He's changed the conscience of America in a highly constructive way. I really can't think of anyone I can compare him to in this respect."

Chomsky added that Dr. Zinn's writings "simply changed perspective and understanding for a whole generation. He opened up approaches to history that were novel and highly significant. Both by his actions, and his writings for 50 years, he played a powerful role in helping and in many ways inspiring the Civil rights movement and the anti-war movement."

Howard Zinn and Walter Mosley talk about the history of America on C-SPAN

"TO BE HOPEFUL in bad times is not just foolishly romantic. It is based on the fact that human history is a history not only of cruelty, but also of compassion, sacrifice, courage, kindness.
What we choose to emphasize in this complex history will determine our lives. If we see only the worst, it destroys our capacity to do something. If we remember those times and places—and there are so many—where people have behaved magnificently, this gives us the energy to act, and at least the possibility of sending this spinning top of a world in a different direction.
And if we do act, in however small a way, we don’t have to wait for some grand utopian future. The future is an infinite succession of presents, and to live now as we think human beings should live, in defiance of all that is bad around us, is itself a marvelous victory."

-Howard Zinn


Wednesday, January 27, 2010


Musicians from 156 countries got together to sing the Beatles' classic, All You Need is Love, to raise awareness about AIDs in Africa. Okay, maybe it's sentimental and maybe Starbucks--who put this together--wasn't entirely selfless about the project--but this is a good cause and hopefully some money will be raised with every damn crappaccino they sell even if it's probably only a few pennies. Even so, it's nice to hear people from all over the world uniting for something other than war. So, with those caveats, we're singing along. Love, love, love.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010


"Having heard, or more probably read somewhere, in the days when I thought I would be well advised to educate myself, or amuse myself, or stupefy myself, or kill time, that when a man in a forest thinks he is going forward in a straight line, in reality he is going in a circle, I did my best to go in a circle, hoping in this way to go in a straight line. For I stopped being half-witted and became sly, whenever I took the trouble… and if I did not go in a rigorously straight line, with my system of going in a circle, at least I did not go in a circle, and that was something."--Samuel Beckett

Sometimes the shortest route is not a straight line. It's a zig zag. A couple weeks back, after a long circuitous journey through Seattle's drinking holes, restaurants, brewpubs and surly dives over a period of years, I finally discovered my favorite bar. Off the beaten path, on the Pike Place Hill Climb tucked under the Market, rests the Zig Zag Cafe, a justifiably well regarded bar where the cocktails are touched by genius. That genius in question is bartender Murray Stenson (that's him up above, not Samuel Beckett after all), a man who resurrects classic drinks and creates some classics of his own with homemade bitters and infusions and surprising ingredients. Murray was voted one of the ten best bartenders in the world by Playboy Magazine:

“Inspired by a vintage cocktail book from the 1950s, Zig Zag Cafe senior bartender Murray Stenson resurrected a classic cocktail known as 'the last word' (made with gin, green Chartreuse, maraschino liqueur and lime juice), tested it on some customers and realized he'd discovered a goldmine of a great drink. Mixologists from as far as New York and London subsequently added it to their cocktail lists—flattery, not theft, according to Stenson—and his career has continued to soar.”

The Zig Zag is definitely NOT the place to got for a Fuzzy Navel, Sex on the Beach, or any of those other sorority girl drinks. Stick to the sports bars for that. The Zig Zag is strictly old school, no flatscreen ballgames, no extreme fajitas or jalapeno shooters, this is old school with a new twist, hip and urban and subdued, where people sit and talk and a film noir private eye might meet someone over drinks.

We started there, en route to Cafe Campagne for a birthday dinner. We liked the place immediately. I started with an Armistice Cocktail, a drink made with rye, dry vermouth, maraschino, green chartreuse and bitters. It was a great way to start celebrating my birthday. Wendy had a Trident--aquavit, cynar, dry sherry and peach bitters. From there, I had a Finnish Fly--bourbon, sweet vermouth, gran marnier, absinthe and bitters. It didn't take much before we fell in love with this tiny unassuming bar, and I guess we weren't the only ones.

“Ben Dougherty and partner Kacy Fitch pore over old cocktail guides in search of quirky forgotten recipes to serve at Zig Zag Cafe in Seattle-like this pleasantly bitter gin drink that calls for the unlikely pairing of Dubonnet, a sweet French aperitif, and Fernet Branca, a bitter Italian digestif.” -- Food and Wine

"When owners Ben Dougherty and Kacy Fitch aren't behind the bar shaking up concoctions like the Aviation (gin, maraschino liqueur, and lemon juice), you'll likely find the inimitable Murray Stenson, arguably the city's best barkeep. Bring in a favorite cocktail recipe for Stenson to make or, better yet, ask him to invent a drink in your honor.” -- Bon Appetit

Of course,
if you're not feeling so adventurous Murray can also make a fine martini. In fact, it was recently voted the best martini in town. See you there.

Zig Zag Cafe
1501 Western Ave
Downtown Seattle

Zig Zag is open daily from 5pm-2am. Happy Hour is 5-7pm on weekdays (featuring $5 specials on house drinks). With a selection of whiskeys, brandies, tequila & rums is one of the best in the state. Their cocktail list won Best Classic Cocktail List at 2007's Tales of the Cocktail.

Saturday, January 23, 2010


While conservative nutjobs like Rush Limbaugh and Pat Robertson continued to huff and puff and blame the victims of the earthquake in Haiti, some good old fashioned liberals such as George Clooney, Wyclef Jean, Bruce Springsteen, Jon Stewart, Jay-Z, Neil Young, and Alicia Keys rolled up their sleeves and got to work. Pop stars Madonna, Beyonce, Rhianna, U2, Justin Timberlake, and Chris Martin joined in, and actors Leonardo DiCaprio, Reese Witherspoon, Jennifer Aniston and Julia Roberts did their part answering phones.

The result was "The Hope for Haiti Benefit Concert," a telethon that was "one of the most widely distributed prime-time televised benefits in history, appearing simultaneously on more than 25 networks," according to CNN. Let the cynics sneer.

Here are some highlights of the evening:

Alicia Keys and Bruce Springsteen kick things off musically.

Anderson Cooper reports, and Stevie Wonder knocks out "Bridge Over Trouble Water."

John Legend, Jon Stewart, and a stirring rendition of "Hard Times Come Again No More" by Mary J. Blige.

Contact "Hope for Haiti Now" HERE.

Friday, January 22, 2010


First of all, we love Ken Burns. His brilliant documentaries on the Civil War, Baseball, New York, boxer Jack Johnson, and World War II have been moving, informative, exhaustive favorites here at Hammer Central. We love his pan-and-scan sepia photographs and the old letters read by actors. Can't beat 'em.

Well, now, the celebrated documentarian has finally tackled a topic commensurate with his skills, a subject so important it dwarfs his previous projects: the talk show wars. With a fearlessness that has marked his stellar career from the start, Ken Burns has applied his considerable talents to this bloody battle of clashing egos and broken contracts, this television Chickamauga, this talk show Antietem, this late night Manassas. Watch and learn.

Thursday, January 21, 2010


As you know, Jay Leno, the Richard Nixon of late night talk show hosts, has decided he wants his old time slot back. So he's squeezing Conan O'Brien out. Sure, Conan had been promised the spot for years, but Jay pitched a fit so Conan got the bum's rush.

Sure, in the grand scheme of things--in a news week filled with Haiti, Iraq, the economic depression, and the usual crazy gunmen shooting in crowds--the scuffle over the "Tonight Show" is small potatoes.

Still, it's nice to see Conan spending NBC's money like a drunken sailor. Revenge is a great story. He's one more downsized employee getting screwed over but instead of stealing paperclips he's buying Bugattis and playing the Stones. His last show is Friday.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010


In case you missed the Golden Globe Awards (and who didn't, besides nominees?) here is the best part: host Ricky Gervais. Huffington Post posted a couple clips (we were happy to steal them, but they've already been taken down by Dick Clark and his lawyers). So we found other clips, this time at (a great place to look for clips). As for the actual awards, nothing much happened. (For a list of nominees and winners, click HERE) As we said, Rick Gervais was the best thing about this night of a thousand stars.

Gervais, the comic genius behind The Office (the original British version, naturally) and Extras, isn't everybody's mug of Oolong but the stout funnyman makes us wince and howl with laughter.

Monday, January 18, 2010


"I am convinced that if we are to get on the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values.
We must rapidly begin the shift from a "thing-oriented" society to a "person-oriented" society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered."

"A true revolution of values will soon cause us to question the fairness and justice of many of our past and present policies. On the one hand, we are called to play the Good Samaritan on life's roadside, but that will be only an initial act. One day we must come to see that the whole Jericho Road must be transformed so that men and women will not be constantly beaten and robbed as they make their journey on life's highway. True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar. It comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring."

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
quotations from the speech at the Riverside Church, 1967

MLK Speech from Birmingham, 1963 (push button to hear)

Thursday, January 14, 2010


The entertainment blockbuster of the season is James Cameron's 3D extravaganza, "Avatar." After resisting the initial barrage of hype and expecting more dazzling special effects than good storytelling (a la Star Wars) we packed into the car and paid our hard-earned money. The film was indeed dazzling, and while elements of the story seemed familiar at times (okay, expect a little "Dances With Wolves") it was a moving experience and we enjoyed it very much.

While most sci-fi epics tend to be pro-technology, pro-"progress," and jingoistic to a fault, this film surprised us with its politics--in a good way. The villains were obviously modeled after the Bush Administration and the military occupation of a distant planet parallels the Iraq War. There were analogies to the treatment of Native Americans, and an anti-colonial angle throughout. Central to the plot was a plan to move the indigenous population off land filled with valuable natural resources. If that wasn't "liberal" enough for you, there was also a message about saving the environment. As you can imagine, it was enough to drive some neo-cons crazy.

According to the Huffington Post, "Conservative commentators such as Jonah Goldberg wondered why the space aliens didn't 'accepted Jesus Christ into their hearts' and said it was a tired attack on the Iraq War. John Podhoretz said the movie was both 'anti-American' and 'anti-human.' John Nolte, a critic at the conservative Big Hollywood, called it 'America-hating.'"

"This movie reflects that we are living through war," said director James Cameron to TheWrap. "There are boots on the ground, troops who I personally believe were sent there under false pretenses, so I hope this will be part of opening our eyes...I don't know if there is a political agenda exactly, but as an artist I felt a need to say something about what I saw around me. I think we all need to take stewardship of our planet."

There is also criticism from the Left that the film is the familiar story of a good white man (in this case, a white Earthling) helping save the noble savages. For long, Hollywood has insisted upon a central character who is easy to identify with (for white, mainstream audiences, that is) and in many stories this character enters the alien world and "goes native." This storyline may remind you of "Dances With Wolves," "The Last Samurai," "Shogun," and others, but is this inherently racist? Patronizing?

Even the Vatican has gotten involved. L'Osservatore Romano, the Vatican newspaper, said there was "not much behind the images," and warned that the worship of nature should never replace good old religion.

In spite of criticism from the Right, the Left and the Pope, the film is breaking box office records and people are lining up for their 3D glasses and popcorns and sitting for two and a half hours in another world. It's thrilling and beautifully rendered. Like any old fashioned epic, you root for the good guys--who happen to be blue.

Don't get me wrong, it's political but it's a great popcorn movie. It's science fiction, not a manifesto. Politically speaking, it's not likely to replace personal experience as a radicalizing force. Cameron is neither Franz Fanon nor Che Guevara. Still, it's nice to have a hugely popular crash-bang 3D film with some sense of history--even distorted through a funhouse mirror--and who knows? Maybe some popcorn-munching filmgoing sci-fi fan will think about another world. This one. We can only hope.

"Avatar" featurette

Wednesday, January 13, 2010


Tens of thousands of people died--perhaps as many as half a million--in the aftermath of a 7.0 magnitude earthquake that struck Haiti January 12th. Many more are believed to be buried.

People are sending relief packages from all over the world. For a list of organizations helping the people of Haiti, please click HERE.

This Arcade Fire video was shot entirely in Haiti.


Televangelist Pat Robertson called the Haitian earthquake "a blessing in disguise," and blamed the Haitians for making "a pact with the devil." Once again, Robertson proves the depth of his ignorance and raises the question: How can this well-fed, millionaire preacher be such a heartless asshole? Better question: How can he be LESS like Jesus? We hope GOD is paying attention.


What's YOUR favorite song of all time? We have plenty of favorites, and many of them are represented in this exhaustive list.

"The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time" was a cover story in Rolling Stone magazine in November 2004. The list was based on votes by 172 musicians, critics, and music industry figures.

"Anas1990f," on You Tube, compiled this video from that list, and this is the top one hundred. It's kind of fun. Being Rolling Stone, the list leans toward classic rock of the baby boomer era--you won't find a lot of Radiohead, Hip Hop, or experimental stuff (some), not to mention pre-1950s oldies, jazz, showtunes, blues, opera, or television jingles--but for what it is, it's a decent list.

The list gets a yawn from Jagger. The Stones placed 14 songs, beaten only by their old rivals the Beatles. Some things never change.

"Anas1990f" analyzed the list: "With 23 songs on the list, The Beatles are the most represented musical act. John Lennon is the only artist to place multiple songs in the top 10 (as a member of the Beatles and as a solo artist). The Beatles are followed by The Rolling Stones (14 entries); Bob Dylan (12); Elvis Presley (11); The Beach Boys and Jimi Hendrix (seven each); and Chuck Berry, U2, James Brown, Prince, Led Zeppelin and Sly & the Family Stone (six each).The list includes just one song not in English ('La Bamba' by Ritchie Valens) and only three songs from the 21st century.the oldest song is 'Rollin' Stone' by Muddy Waters The most recent is OutKast's 2003 hit 'Hey Ya!' (#180)."


1. Like a Rolling Stone, Bob Dylan
2. Satisfaction, The Rolling Stones
3. Imagine, John Lennon
4. What's Going On, Marvin Gaye
5. Respect, Aretha Franklin
6. Good Vibrations, The Beach Boys
7. Johnny B. Goode, Chuck Berry
8. Hey Jude, The Beatles
9. Smells Like Teen Spirit, Nirvana
10. What'd I Say, Ray Charles

For the rest of the list, click here.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010


Taylor Pugh, a four year old known to friends as "Tator Tot," has been suspended from his pre-kindergarten in conservative Balch Springs, Texas. His crime? Having long hair. His hair length violates the school district's dress code so the tot has been put into isolation.

Tator Tot does his work alone, while his classmates play and work together. He still has regular work, says Mesquite Independent School District spokesman Ian Halperin. "We expect students ... to adhere to the code of conduct."

According to the Houston Chronicle, the boy could face additional suspensions. "On its Web site, the district defends its code, saying 'students who dress and groom themselves neatly, and in an acceptable and appropriate manner, are more likely to become constructive members of the society in which we live.'"

"They kicked me out that place," said Taylor. "I miss my friends."

What are they teaching this little boy? His parents aren't budging, and we say good for them.

In our humble opinion, this whole case reeks of horseshit--something they should know plenty about in Texas. The upstanding citizens, people who supposedly love America and freedom and all those beautiful words have, are acting like cowards and bullies. We're surprised these battles are still being fought, even in ignorant red states. Perhaps someday these conformists who call themselves "educators" will realize students should be judged by their character, efforts, and performance in the classroom, and not hair length. Or for that matter skin color, religion, and place of origin. That's written down somewhere, isn't it?

When I grew up, uptight schools fought against kids wearing long hair and "hippie sandals, anything that smacked of non-conformity. They lost the battle when the numbers became too great and the kids finally refused to go along.

In Balch Springs, Texas, so much for the Land of the Free, but maybe there is a Home of the least the home of one brave little guy. In this "enlightened age," when we gallivant around the globe in the name of Freedom, and espouse a love of Liberty at every turn, perhaps the latest battle for the individual will be be won by an unlikely hero named Tator Tot.

Monday, January 11, 2010


Ricky Gervais meets Larry David on a BBC Channel 4 special that aired in the UK. Two very funny men talk about their comedy heroes and influences.

Like beauty, comedy is in the eye of the beholder. Some people found Ricky Gervais' "The Office" television series excruciating--and yes, it was, and that's what made Gervais' character David Brent so hilarious. His complete lack of self-awareness made us wince AND laugh. (The American version is much more of a traditional sit-com, and not nearly as funny).

Similarly, some people got tired of Larry David's shtick, the whining kvetching crank who--like David Brent--shares a basic lack of insight. This isn't joke-telling, stand-up, or a comedy routine in the strictest sense. In this age of irony and self-awareness, these characters hold a mirror up to us and we get that chill of recognition. Or not. Their humor pivots on our awareness of our own foibles.

Paton Oswalt takes on KFC

Another funny guy is Paton Oswalt. He is a stand-up comic whose observational humor is a sane man's cranky response to a mad world. He points out lunacy all around us. You might think he's funny, you might not, but he's not changing a thing. Like Lewis Black, Bill Hicks, and grandmaster of surgical wit Lenny Bruce, Paton is wielding a scalpel against the sickness in our society.

That type of humor might not work for you. Maybe you're too cool, or old school, or maybe you just don't get it. There is another humor that is based on cruelty and offending others. For me, at the risk of sounding "politically correct," the best humor fights the powerful and conventional--including our own self-delusions--and the worst makes fun of other people. The powerless , you might say. That's easy. A lot of people feel stupid and ugly and powerless, and they don't want that pointed out, so their humor veers away from the self-deprecating and takes on a nasty aggressive edge. Feel better now? Or look at the "fails" that are so popular. "At least I'm not THAT stupid," they seem to say. Check out the following compilation and laugh at the silly stunts and backfires of guys even dumber than you. If laughter is the best medicine, these fools will need a huge Costco-sized jar of it.

Keep laughing!

Friday, January 8, 2010


Elvis Presley was born on this day, January 8th, 75 years ago in Tupelo, Mississippi. Dirt poor and scruffy, he was teased as "white trash" and hillbilly when he moved to Memphis as a teenager. There was no clue he would become a hit, not to mention a cultural icon, when he worked as a truckdriver, but the first glimpse of destiny came in 1954 when he started mixing black and white music. He recorded a song, for his mother, as a gift, but then he decided to record a few more to the anger of many in the heavily segregated South--combining country with rhythm and blues and a heavy backbeat. Before long, his "race-mixing music" and the swagger and smirk he stole from talented rebels Brando and James Dean made a fiery combination you either loved or hated, but either way he didn't seem to care. This was rock and roll.

Heartbreak Hotel

Other rockers came before him, Chuck Berry and Little Richard and a handful of crazy nuts, but they were mostly black and couldn't get a crossover hit on the segregated airwaves. In fact, only a few disc jockeys had the guts to play Elvis right off. The first was Memphis DJ Dewey Phillips, who played Elvis on his "Red, Hot and Blue" show. He played "That's Alright, Mama," and the phones started ringing. People were calling to find out the name of the new singer. And to find out what color he was.

From the start, Elvis was trouble. He appealed to teenagers because he was a rebel, he didn't stand stock-still like the crooners, and he rocked. Like him or not, he was something new and exciting and he rattled the cage of American culture. Maybe it was one big goof until he cut his DA and joined the Army, acted in a bunch of cheesy Hollywood movies, ballooned up in caped spangled jumpsuits, hugged Richard Nixon, and killed himself with pills and pies and fried banana sandwiches. But until then, man he was real gone!

Elvis on Sullivan, January 6th, 1957

Thursday, January 7, 2010


Carice van Houten (as Rachel Stein, alias Ellis de Vries) in Zwartboek (Black Book) a Dutch film from 2006 and my favorite of the decade.

1. Zvartboek (Black Book), by Paul Verhoeven (2006)
2. Che (The Argentine; The Guerrilla), by Steven Soderbergh (2008)
3. The Lives of Others, by Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck (2006)
4. Lord of the Rings, by Peter Jackson (2001-2003)
5. You Can Count on Me, by Kenneth Lonergan (2000)
6. O Brother, Where Art Thou, Coen Bros (2000)
7. Amores Perros, by Alejandro Gonzalez Inarrito (2000)
8. The Edukators, by Hans Weingartner (2004)
9. Half Nelson, by Ryan Fleck (2006)
10. Spirited Away, by Hayao Miyazaki (2001)
11. Children of Men, by Alfonso Cuaron (2006)
12. Pan's Labyrinth, by Guiellermo del Toro (2006)
13. Nuovomondo (The Golden Door), by Emanuele Crialese (2006)
14. City of God, by Fernando Meirelles and Kátia Lund (2002)
15. No Country for Old Men, Coen Bros (2007)
16. Les Triplets de Belleville, by Sylvain Chomet (2003)
17. Lost in Translation, by Soffia Coppola (2003)
18. Almost Famous, by Cameron Crowe (2000)
19. Mystic River, by Clint Eastwood (2003)
20. Little Miss Sunshine, by Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris (2006)
21. Sin Nombre, by Cary Joji Fukunaga (2009)
22. Whale Rider, by Niki Caro (2002)
23. In America, by Jim Sheridan (2004)
24. Frozen River, by Courtney Hunt (2008)
25. I'm Not There, by Todd Haynes (2007)

Runners Up:
Up in the Air
A History of Violence
Inglourious Basterds
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
There Will Be Blood
Grizzly Man
District 9
Let The Right One In
Brokeback Mountain
Motorcycle Diaries
Ghost World
Angels in America

Tuesday, January 5, 2010


Stevie plays "Living in the City" in 1974

He was born Stevland Hardaway Judkins, but most people know him as musician, singer, songwriter, record producer and all around musical genius Stevie Wonder. His list of hits is too great to run here, but they include "For Once in My Life," "Signed, Sealed, Delivered," "Superstition," "You Are The Sunshine of My Life," and every damn thing on "Talking Book" and "Innervisions." I'm skipping your favorite, I'm sure, but there are plenty more.

Stevie is world famous. During the eighties, I had the surreal pleasure of hearing a Nicaraguan lounge band singing "I Just Called to Say I Love You" in the icy air-conditioned heart of the Hotel InterContinental in Managua. That was the reach of Stevie's music. With the matching outfits, and the phonetic English, obviously mimicked from the record by non-English speakers, you could almost forget a war was going on outside. It was a perfect pop moment. Stevie was global.

His tunes have been covered by everyone, and bastardized versions of his ballads have oozed over the Musak and through shopping malls until you might forget that the man could also rock hard with songs like "Superstition" or "Master Blaster." I saw him perform only one time live, back in the seventies, when somehow my sister Bekki scored front row tickets. He burned the house down. It was an unforgettable experience.

Stevie Wonder is a one man band and plays countless instruments. On his first big hit he just clapped and played a harmonica. He has performed in practically every country, and sung duets with everyone from the Stones to Tony Bennett (who incidentally also changed his name, being born Anthony Dominick Benedetto). Stevie Wonder does it all, from sweet soul music to hard funk, love songs to reggae, ballads to big band a la Duke to Motown pop, you name it. Enjoy these clips.

Stevie performs a killer medley on the "Motown 25 Anniversary Special"

Sunday, January 3, 2010


Here are a couple great music clips for my mom, who turns eighty today and is still going strong. Mom turned us on to good music as a child. Not only did we get rock-a-bye baby, but we heard blues and folk and jazz and learned at an early age that there was great music beyond the mainstream. Great music issued from our stereo "console" beneath the Modigliani prints, at a time Mom and Dad ran a little bookstore where we learned to love books.

Mom and Dad--San Francisco in the Fifties

Back in the day, Mom saw Billie Holiday perform in San Francisco, and Billie has remained a personal favorite. Joan Baez, too, from the days of non-commercial folk music. Here Baez performs a Phil Ochs song I heard on that old console so many years ago.

Happy birthday, mom!