Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is the first good Spider-Man movie in, uh, 18 months! But it's more than that: A fun, warm, visually astonishing omnibus of Spider-lore that elegantly rebukes reactionary fans whose minds are stuck in 1963. I rarely get worked up over animated films—a blind spot I can neither defend nor explain—but I loved this. Here’s my NPR review.
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For your Washington City Paper, I reviewed The Panties, the Profit, and the Purse—a series of linked David Ives comedies adapted, with shrinking fidelity, from a trilogy by the 19th century German social critic Carl Sternheim. That sounds awfully highbrow, doesn't it? Ives is better at farce than at satire, and the show is a better document of what he likes than what he thinks. I liked it, but I'd like it more if Ives would—in the words of the 21st century social critic Boots Riley—"Sho[his]Ass." As it were.
I’d say it was the Pop Culture Happy Hour episode for which I’ve been training my entire life, except we just did the Die Hard episode. Anyway, I was glad to be part of the elite panel of holiday song-pickers summoned to the National Public Radio today to argue which Christmas song is the Muhammad Ali Greatest of All Time yulejam, and which one is our individual favorite at this particular moment. The stakes in the latter instance are lower, but that only complicates the emotional work of choosing, because the shackles of convention are all the way off!
It says something about the company I was in—PCHH regular Stephen Thompson, plus two very smart NPR Music staffers, Lyndsey McKenna and Marissa Lorusso—that my selections were somehow the most uptempo of the lot. (They’re all lovely people, whose affection for mopey holiday songs is one I very much share. Click on “Christmas Mixtapes,” above, for years and years of evidence.)
Had this episode been recorded at an earlier or later hour of the day, I might’ve stanned for James Brown’s “Santa Claus Go Straight to the Ghetto” or “Christmas Love” by Rotary Connection or The Killers' "Great Big Sled" or even the ‘87 U2 version of Darlene Love’s classic “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home).” But I chose to stump for the lead track off Blue Wave Christmas, the latest ineffable installment in my generally somewhat effable Yuletunes Eclectic and Inexplicable series. (See here, you.) There’s no promotion like self-promotion. Ebeneezer Scrooge had to learn that the hard way. I don’t know what that means, but if you say it out loud with the inflections in the right places, it sounds like it means something.
FURTHER READING: Since Marissa chose “All I Want For Christmas Is You” as her all-timer, perhaps you’d like to revisit my five-year-old Slate piece trying to puzzle out why this song, from 1994, is the most recent entry to be admitted to the perennial holiday songbook. Or my six-year-old Washington Post story about sad-sack seasonal sounds.
Have mercy! This is just getting ridiculous now. For the lucky thirteenth iteration of my Yuletunes Eclectic and Inexplicable series, I thought that instead of releasing it in two indefensibly long parts, as had been my habit since I stopped burning and printing physical CDs of this thing—a nice bauble to thrust into some unsuspecting person's hand, but expensive—I thought I would do a sort of podcast limited series of four episodes, released weekly, counting down to the Feast of Christmas. Because four is more than two—one hundred percent more, from a numerical perspective. And I believe in always giving one hundred percent, Christmaswise.
So this is merely the first twenty-five percent, right here. And I daresay this is the most eclectic Yuletunes Eclectic entry yet. Do they know it’s Christmastime at all? Do you? Is Santa a B-Boy or a B-Man? Sure, you’ve heard Brenda Lee’s “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree”; that’s entry level. But have you heard the flip? These are cuts so deep they’ll give the bends, and yet so Prime that Jeff Bezos would be delivering them to you with free two-day shipping if I hadn’t already dropped ’em on ya instantaneous.
Strap in. Turn on. Light up. Get down. Because to paraphrase Ben Grimm, it’s hall-deckin’ time. Again!
I learned of my former boss’s passing last Saturday via a text from my friend Brian just after midnight: “My sincere condolences on your friend Ricky Jay.”
I worked for RJ for eight months, 13 years ago. He was kind to me, and I recall many moments of warmth between us, but it would be disingenuous for me to imply we were buddies. I was his employee. Then again, people who knew him for much longer than I did spoke of being very conscious of minding those kinds of boundaries with him, too.
I didn't think I was going to write anything about him. I didn't see how I could without also writing about me, and a rough patch in my life, which seemed perilously narcissistic/self-pitying/starfucking/all of the above.
Then old buddy Glen, who is also, happily, my editor, prodded me to start and I couldn't stop.
It had been too long since I got to appear on a PCHH panel with the great Gene Demby from Code Switch, so I was very happy to find myself sitting beside him for this episode dissecting Creed II, which frustrated each of us in different ways. You can hear the episode below; my review of the movie is here.
Creed II is either an inferior follow-up or a superior one, depending on whether it’s a sequel to Creed or to Rocky IV, respectively. (It’s both.) I sure enjoyed seeing all these characters again, but I am, as I say, disposed to view these movies forgivingly. My review of Creed II is here.
FURTHER READING: My 2015 review of Creed.
We had to do a Pop Culture Happy Hour discussion of Die Hard because it’s holiday time and because the beloved classic turned 30, uh, back in July and because we just had to. I thought I was being punk’d when I got the invitation but I’m so glad it was real. This was the awkward Christmas Eve holiday party/attempted spousal reconciliation I’ve been waiting to be invited to since I was 11 years old. Yippie kai yay, podcast lovers. (My punishingly long Die Hard Dossier is here.)