Friday, August 28, 2015

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 thousand automobiles and achieved its record capacity on December 22, 1969, with 3878 cars, well beyond the 1967 capacity needs. [...] The Parkade is notable for its connection to the Spokane skywalks and won an award for 'excellence in use of concrete' in 1968”. Okay, then!)

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

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 smug bastard. Napoleon and Illya are partners in U.N.C.L.E. (the United Network Command for Law and Enforcement, obviously), a multinational spy agency headquartered out of a humble dry-cleaning shop in midtown Manhattan.

Make no mistake: Napoleon and Illya are terrible spies. Napoleon is fond of walking into a room and announcing to everyone within earshot that he’s a spy; Illya once spent an entire episode unaware his partner had been replaced by a lookalike enemy agent. But they’re both charming and wildly entertaining human beings, and really, isn’t that what matters?

Monday, August 24, 2015

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

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, August 21, 2015

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.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

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, his mohawk hairdo, his pounds of jewelry—and his sunny, softhearted nature; here, the latter serves him well.

Monday, August 17, 2015

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.

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, August 14, 2015

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 ever since finishing it. Gibson’s Pattern Recognition still stands as my all-time favorite book, but The Peripheral is way up there with Neuromancer and Count Zero on my shortlist.