Sunday, July 13, 2008

L.I.P. Tony Snow

Though I am not surprised, I am nevertheless disappointed with the coverage of the death of Tony Snow, former reporter, columnist, radio talk show host, TV anchor, and, most recently, press secretary for President Bush.

For those who don't know, on Saturday Snow, at just 53, finally lost his long and difficult bout with cancer. The coverage of his death has been all positive, from what I've seen, but every report/commentary has missed the central point of Snow's life: His faith in Christ. All these people come out to talk about how humble he was, or how good at his job, or how compassionate, one excruciating reporter called him "humane," and never has the word sounded so creepy. But none of them—not even the news story on, mentioned his Christian faith, even though it was Snow's faith that informed all of the good qualities people are praising him for.

This morning my pastor preached a sermon on Barnabus from Acts 11 (one of the first apostles). He highlighted Barnabus' self-effacing humility, a man who just wanted a job done and done the just and moral way, and didn't care if he got the credit or not. It reminded me of Snow, whom Vice President Cheney called the best press secretary he'd ever seen. I believe one of the reasons Snow was able to so effectively deal with the chaotic environment of the White House briefing room is he knew no matter how those vultures came after him, what they said or wrote about later, Snow's perspective on it all was clear: God was his No. 1 priority, and everything else came a distant second. Yes, he wanted to do his job to the best of his ability, but with his faith-centered perspective, I think it took some of the pressure off him. He didn't allow himself to get bogged down in the muck, because he was confident in his salvation and his moral standing before God. When you have that going for you, nothing else matters quite so much anymore. Contrast Snow's integrity to that sniveling weasel Scott McCellan. Enough said.

But don't take my word for it. The best eulogy I've read comes from Fred Barnes, not coincidentally a fellow Christian.

Or, even better, take Snow's actual words from this beautiful and frank piece he wrote last year.

Tony Snow is not resting in peace, he's Living in Peace in Heaven. I'm just sad to see him go so soon, for there aren't many like him.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

R.I.P. 'Deadwood'

Yes, it seems my favorite TV show of all time has finally—like so many of its characters—met its untimely demise, and will remain frozen forever for posterity. It's not a surprise, of course, but it does frustrate me a bit—it's not like HBO has had any barnstorming hits since "Deadwood" left the air two years ago (even as Showtime has gotten better and better). It kinda reminds me of the Green Bay Packers rebuffing Brett Favre to "move on." I just don't understand.

That being said, I don't think creator/producer/writer David Milch left "Deadwood" in all that bad a place. What has now become the series finale certainly didn't tie everything up, but it was satisfying in its own right. Do I really need to see the town I've come to love burn down in order to have closure? No. Better to think those hustlers, murderers, whores, and gamblers maybe made something of themselves after all. A couple of movies would've been nice, I guess ("Serenity" certainly was for "Firefly"), but I don't think it would've felt quite right. "Deadwood" was always a slow burn with surprising moments of utter violence and brutality. I doubt that same vibe could have carried over quite right in another shorter format.

But it doesn't matter now, anyway. HBO, in all of its infinite wisdom, has moved on. Fine. Better for "Deadwood" to burn out than fade away, and it certainly walked out of town on its own terms. It's the way Al and Bullock would've wanted it.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

R.I.P. Schooly's iPod

After more than three years of steady and dutiful service, my iPod finally missed a step this past week. I don't know exactly what happened (I blame my computer at work), but when I went to disconnect it the other day, the little guy freaked out.

When I finally revived it, I discovered a big chunk of my playlists were missing; all the music was still there, but now my various computers couldn't read the iPod's hard drive anymore. I let it sit for a couple days, tried the manual restart—nothing worked. So I finally decided to do what Luke Skywalker couldn't bring himself to do to C-3PO and R2-D2: The Doomsday Option. I wiped its memory.

And it seems to have worked, for now, which is good. But there was so much stuff on there, I'll never get it back to the way it was. There are a few things I'll miss most, most notably the "Play Count" and "Last Played" columns. If you had picked up my iPod last week and looked at those two columns, you'd be able to tell a lot about me. It was basically a history of my musical journey for the past three years. You'd see that Pearl Jam's "Life Wasted" and The Dropkick Murphys' "I'm Shipping Up to Boston" are two of my favorite songs of all time, because they'd been played more than 30 times, making them the dueling entries for Play Count Champion.

You'd see that for awhile I was absolutely obsessed with AFI's "Decemberunderground," because just about every song on that album had been played upwards of 25 times. You'd see that U2's UK single version of "Walk On" was a song I went to when in need of inspiration, or that The Bouncing Souls' "So Jersey" when in need of re-energizing, or … well, I could go on and on. I'll miss being surprised when I click onto an old favorite and realize it's been more than a year since I've listened to that album; my iPod was a constant reminder of not only how fast time seems to slip by, but also how much great music there is out there—how else could Johnny Cash's "American V" not been played in many, many months?

The other thing I'll miss most are my playlists. One of the iPod's best features is the ability to mix and match songs into any kind of order and grouping you want. I had Pearl Jam and U2 mixes on there that I'll never be able to remember, like the perfect re-tracking of "Binaural" I spent an hour on a couple summers ago (how did they ever leave "Sad" off that record?!?!).

And probably the worst part is the little songs I had stored on there that I have no idea where they came from. Live cuts from web sites long since forgotten, and the like. Can I really find all those old bootlegs again? Here's hoping. But the truth is, I'll never know how much I lost.

So if there's a silver lining to this event, it's this: My iPod now has a fresh start. I maxed out my capacity long ago, so for years every time I added something new I had to delete something old. And there was some stuff on there I just couldn't erase, even though I may not have listened to it since 2005—or, sometimes, not at all. Well, that problem's solved. Now I don't have to figure out what to cut so I can drop The National's "Alligator" on there (holy crap, that album is incredible—go buy it!). And I don't expect Coldplay will make it back in (OK, well, maybe just "Clocks").

Matter of fact, I already had some CDs on my computer, just waiting to be plopped back onto my (hopefully) renewed little friend. The first four songs I played on Schooly's iPod II pretty much sum this whole wretched experience up nicely:

"Your Long Journey," Robert Plant & Alison Krauss
"Alive," Pearl Jam
"Rearviewmirror," Pearl Jam
"Stop Your Sobbing," The Pretenders

Here's hoping this was just a one-time thing and all will return to normal now. That little droid and I have been through a lot together.

Sunday, July 06, 2008


Why all the hatin’ on “Hancock”? I’m sorry, but I just don’t get it. Will Smith’s take on a half-drunk hero strikes the perfect balance between comedy, action, drama, and even a little sci-fi mixed in that all adds up to a thoroughly enjoyable 90 minutes at the multiplex.

The first half is downright hilarious, some of Smith’s best comedic work yet, and he’s been around that block a bunch of times. But unlike the moronic comedies from the likes of Will Ferrell or Ben Stiller—where they have to introduce some form of inane conflict just so their films can mercifully end—“Hancock” moves from shtick to drama so deftly you don't even notice how much you're sucked in until the movie reaches its climax. It wisely never attempts to go back to being funny, either, so the whole thing flows quite well. This works because the film’s three leads—Smith, Jason Bateman, and Charlize Theron—are so effective in making their respective characters real and relatable. Bateman especially shines, anchoring the entire operation in his droll wit and keeping the more fantastic elements you’d expect in any superhero movie somewhere in the realm of relative normalcy. And then there’s a doozy of a twist that I never saw coming, and the film takes off in a whole new direction that exposes at a deeper mythology to the whole storyline. Not all the questions are answered and the connections aren’t always exactly clear, but there’s really no need; the fact that such depth exists—if only in the filmmakers’ heads—adds credibility to the story.

So I must credit director Peter Berg (“The Kingdom,” “Friday Night Lights”) and especially screenwriters Vincent Ngo and Vince Gilligan for keeping their film free of cheese. By establishing Hancock as such a jerk right from the get-go, they don’t have to go very far to start him on the path to redemption, and thus Smith gets to play the superanti-hero just about the entire time.

The only thing I can figure regarding the overwhelmingly negative critical reaction to this film is that they all went way too easy this time last year on “Transformers” and wanted to “redeem” themselves for Independence Day 2008 by cracking down on another surefire crowd-pleaser. The only thing is, they’re wrong again: “Hancock” is a delight. I enjoyed it every bit as much as “Iron Man”—in some ways, even more.

Grade: B+