Uncut Gems

Dad and I marveled over the USA Toady’s “best movies of the decade” list over lunch on Saturday. They were:

‘Mad Max: Fury Road’ (2015)
‘Arrival’ (2016)
‘Sing Street’ (2016)
‘Get Out’ (2017)
‘Captain America: The Winter Soldier’ (2014)
‘BlacKkKlansman’ (2018)
‘How to Train Your Dragon’ (2010)
‘Inception’ (2010)
‘A Ghost Story’ (2017)
‘Inside Llewyn Davis’ (2013)/’Lady Bird’ (2017)

It’s a fun game to start calling out movies that are much better than any of these that are not on the list. Easy. But fun. ‘Dunkirk’ (2017). ‘American Hustle’ (2013). ‘Bridesmaids’ (2011). ’12 Years a Slave’ (2013). ANYTHING BY QUENTIN TARANTINO. ‘I, Tonya’ (2017). ‘Winter’s Bone’ (2010). ‘Dallas Buyers Club’ (2013). ‘Lady Bird’ (2017). ‘Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri’ (2017). ‘The Favourite’ (2018). ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’ (2013). ‘Lincoln’ (2012). ‘Big Eyes’ (2014). ‘Dear White People” (2014). ‘Dope’ (2015). ’20 Feet from Stardom’ (2014). ‘True Grit’ (2010). ‘Florence Foster Jenkins’ (2016). ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ (2018). ‘The Lone Ranger’ (2012). ‘Nebraska’ (2013). ‘The King’s Speech’ (2010). ‘Eighth Grade’ (2018). ‘The Death of Stalin’ (2017). ‘Game Night’ (2018). ‘Bad Words’ (2013). ‘The Heat’ (2013).

Wasn’t that fun?

I’ll add ‘Uncut Gems’ to the list, too, although as DOD opined: “I think it’s a great movie. But imagine spending a couple of hours in a room with loud, angry, anxious assholes. Don’t want to do it often, for sure. When it’s over you think maybe it ended happily.”

I may also be the only person in America who saw a Hemingway short story in the thing. I saw it as a loosely-rendered telling of Hemingway’s “The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber.” Maybe that’s just me. Regardless, there are a few things you may want to know about this film if you are considering seeing it.

I found a “Breaking Bad” aesthetic to “Gems.” If you are a viewer who requires exposition, go see the Star Wars thing. This film means for you to see the story, not to be told. So much so that you actually begin the movie looking up the ass of the main character, Howard Ratner (Adam Sandler). This is where Ratner’s story begins, at his colonoscopy, which is one of the few times in the film that the character isn’t frenetic at the least.

Ratner is a man trying to support a big life, with a wife and kids at home and a pretty little thing on the side at his apartment. He is a gambler and a dealmaker, and every deal and every gamble that he makes ratchets up the butt-clench level just a bit more. ‘Gems’ is mostly lauded as a new direction for Sandler, who usually plays a goofy mensch in an otherwise sometimes likeable film. It is a stretch for Sandler, and often, it is a stretch for the audience, too, a difficult movie to watch.

But it is worth it.

Christmas 2019

Somebody on Twitter asked people what they’d learned in 2019. It made me review the pages here at good old 8WK Studios, and I didn’t really get the impression I’d learned much.

I’ll say the latest thing I’ve learned is a better way to season ground meat once one has browned it properly.

I do know I began 2019 with an intention to spend more time listening to new music and more time recording my results here. That’s why the first entries of the year held that focus. I don’t know why it got lost in the shuffle. I just got busy, I guess.

I will say, of all the upcoming releases, the one with the most promise would be Everything Else Has Gone Wrong from Bombay Bicycle Club. This is a band that consistently paints with the little brush. I dig this band and salivate over their new release, coming the week of Jan. 17. A few samples:

So perhaps we’ll do a bit more work here in 2020. But trust me on Bombay Bicycle Club.

Christmas was okay. I had stupidly volunteered to work the holiday. This meant a quick breakfast Christmas with family. Delicious pancakes. Good times. And, we can now scratch the new Prince memoir off the list. Check!

Bonus to checking out some new bands is finding others. BBC will apparently tour with The Big Moon this year. They are great.


Thanks to Crooks and Liars for having the text of this amazing exchange between Rep. Eric Swalwell and majority counsel Daniel Goldman during the Judiciary Committee hearing yesterday.

SWALWELL: During Watergate, the famous phrase from Senator Howard Baker was asked: “What did the President know and when did he know it?” There is a reason that no one here has repeated those questions during these hearings. We know what the President did. And we know when he knew it. Mr. Goldman, who sent Rudy Giuliani to Ukraine to smear Joe Biden?

GOLDMAN: President* Trump.

SWALWELL: Who fired the anti-corruption Ambassador in Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch?

GOLDMAN: President* Trump.

SWALWELL: Who told Ambassador Sondland and Ambassador Volker to work with Rudy Giuliani on Ukraine?

GOLDMAN: President* Trump.

SWALWELL: Who told Vice President Pence to not go to President Zelensky’s inauguration?

GOLDMAN: President* Trump.

SWALWELL: Who ordered his own Chief of Staff, Mick Mulvaney to withhold critical military assistance for Ukraine?

GOLDMAN: President* Trump.

SWALWELL: Who refused to meet with President Zelensky in the Oval Office?

GOLDMAN: President* Trump.

SWALWELL: Who ignored on July 25 his own national security council anti-corruption talking points?

GOLDMAN: President* Trump.

SWALWELL: Who asked President Zelensky for a favor?

GOLDMAN: President* Trump.

SWALWELL: Who personally asked President Zelensky to investigate his political rival Joe Biden?

GOLDMAN: President* Trump.

SWALWELL: Who stood on the White House lawn and confirmed that he wanted Ukraine to investigate Vice President Biden?

GOLDMAN: President* Trump.

SWALWELL: Who stood on that same lawn and said that China should also investigate Vice President Biden?

GOLDMAN: President* Trump.

SWALWELL: As to anything that we do not know in this investigation, who has blocked us from knowing it?

GOLDMAN: President* Trump and the White House.

SWALWELL: So as it relates to President Trump, is he an incidental player or a central player in this scheme.

GOLDMAN: President Trump is the central player in this scheme.

SWALWELL: There is a reason that no one has said “what did the President know and when did he know it?” From the evidence that you have presented, Mr. Goldman, and the Intelligence Committee findings, we know one thing and one thing is clear. As it related to this scheme, the President* of the United States, Donald J. Trump, knew everything.


Republicans: Democrats need to stop wasting time on this impeachment nonsense and get on with the business of the American people.

House Democrats: ::this morning, debating H.R. 4: Voting Rights Advancement Act of 2019::

Republicans: Not like that!

King Kong

I have always thought that the most remarkable thing about Zappa’s “King Kong” is that it sounds like King Kong. It is huge and frightening and potentially deadly, but it is also lumbering and vulnerable. One of the greatest Mothers tracks. I also note that in some performances of this song, they are playing around a lot with the “plugged-in” saxophone sound. I wonder if Zappa listened to Eddie Harris.

Here is a fabulous performance of it for the BBC in 1968. Bari sax honking by Jim “Motorhead” Sherwood.

The Democratic Party

There’s a lot of jibber-jabber today in Washington about “civility.” Moscow Mitch today was bemoaning something he called “partisan paralysis.” House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy said today that impeachment efforts were “divisive.” And, the USA Toady published this today: Divided we fall? Americans see our angry political debate as ‘a big problem’

Republicans have so far pushed the idea that the impeachment proceedings are due to Democratic butthurt that a reporter (from Sinclair Broadcasting, of course) today asked Speaker Nancy Pelosi today if she “hates” the preznit.

She didn’t like that very much.

So I can tell you one thing I think needs to happen in order to pierce a little spit-hole into the divisive nature of American politics. It is a simple thing to be done, and it could be done by an entire political faction all at once, and it would create a wealth of good will in the American political discussions.

Attention, Republicans: Stop calling it the “Democrat Party.”

If you’re not aware, the phenomenon is even laid out at Wikiepedia: “Democrat Party is an epithet for the Democratic Party in the United States, used in a disparaging fashion by the party’s opponents. While historical usage includes non-hostile appearances, the term has grown in its negative use since the 1940s, in particular by members of the Republican Party—in party platforms, partisan speeches, and press releases—as well as by conservative commentators.[1]”

Using “Democrat” where “Democratic” would be preferred is a bullying tactic. It is not grammatical. And this practice alone is divisive on its face. So long as Republicans continue to employ this incorrect usage time after time, it will be difficult to leave divisiveness behind toward a more effective democratic republic.

One can dream.

Speaking of divisiveness, Republicans are outraged that impeachment witness, law scholar Pamela Karlan dared to invoke young Barron Trump’s name as an example/mild joke. Here is what she said, as reported by Vox:

“Contrary to what President Trump says, Article Two [of the Constitution] does not give [Trump] the power to do anything he wants. And I’ll just give you one example that shows you the difference between him and a king, which is the Constitution says there can be no titles of nobility, so while the president can name his son Barron, he cannot make him a baron.”

Karlan later apologized, after Republican shit their pants over this. Rep. Matt Gaetz yelled at Karlan for daring to invoke Barron’s name by…um…invoking Barron’s name.

I want to remind everyone that John McCain once stood up at a dinner and said this, attempting a joke: “Do you know why Chelsea Clinton is so ugly? Because Janet Reno is her father.” Chelsea Clinton was 18 years old at the time.

This was not that.


It’s weird, but I always get a little excited this time of year, this day, as if I’m actually lighting the candles on Little Richard’s birthday cake.

It is a luxury that Little Richard’s birthday falls within the Zappa Solstice. Of course, if the information I read on the Facebook today is correct, so does Louis Cole’s birthday. But that’s another matter altogether. Hi, Louis Cole!

Little Richard, 87 today, penned a song that became one of my favorite Mothers performances ever caught on tape. Track two off of Weasels Ripped My Flesh, the song is called “Directly from my Heart,” and it features Don “Sugarcane” Harris in a blistering fiddle performance. But this thing would not be half what it is without the stellar source material, the song that drags its left foot so beautifully.

This is not going to be a long, drawn-out post. I have done that previously. I do recommend on this auspicious occasion that the average humble music listener might want to take a moment away from one’s gorging diet of Zappa, and Mothers, and Beefheart, and Geronimo Black, and listen to something by Little Richard. And, if you’re curious, settle down with author Richard Kirby’s masterpiece, Little Richard: The Birth of Rock and Roll. It will change your life.

Happy birthday, Georgia Peach. Health and comfort to you.