Monday, December 31, 2007

Janus: Sucky Funds, Sucky Symbolism

I always hated those Janus ads. Here was this huge, if slightly over-exposed to tech, mutual fund manager warbling about how it went behind the back of the companies it invested in, rather than, you know, telling them where to get off, like any decent major shareholder should. The whole thing reeked of material non-public information wheedling, and that sort of thing is now very forbidden.

Plus, I hated their logo. I know the idea was that as investment managers they should be both forward and backward-looking. I just remember thinking that it was a quite brazen way of saying how two-faced they were. Still, I also hate the concept when applied to calendar years, if only because there's often so little to be gained from dwelling on my recent experieince.

2007 was a slightly disappointing year, if only because I let posting volumes slip quite dramatically, and failed in my long-held goal of finding a new job. Next year, I think, will be better. On to some predictions and resolutions.

First, the resolutions, in no particular order:

1) Obtain the piece of high-end audio equipment that has been the locus of several obsessions and the cause of at least two questionable freelance engagements.
2) Find more varied and stimulating freelance engagements, especially if I cannot;
3) Get a new job.
4) Get the constitutionals back to thrice weekly
5) cut down on the porklife
6) Be nicer to colleagues.
7) Stop buying records first hand, without resorting to piracy
8) Cure the cat
9) Deal with a life-changing event in an elegant fashion
10) Oh crap, renew the domain name.
11) Call the bluddy plumber already.

Now the predictions

1) Industrial music will make a strong comeback. The last Ministry album was good, Trent Reznor is now sober enough to serve as an elder statesman, and the economy and technology are now in its favour. There are now no bands available, but there will be, possibly repurposed emo crews.
2) US House prices will decline. There is simply too much land, and too little wages.
3) The UK pound will decline, possibly by as much as the dollar. This is a combined prayer and prediction.
4) Sovereign wealth funds will face as much criticism at home as from their investment targets.
5) Obama has it. The VP is Kerry
6) Clive Owen and Damon Albarn will both experience re-backlashes
7) Finch from American Pie will make an indie classic (he's the new Andrew McCarthy, but with a better shot at redemption)
8) I will not move house. But my living space will undergo several radical reconfigurations.
9) Blu-Ray
10) There will be no Brooklyn Whole Foods unless a condo building rescues the concept.
11) Mrs. Cutesome gets prettier.

Seriously, here's a fervent prayer to 2008 not being too sucky.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

A Very Aaron Sorkin Christmas

It wasn't like I decided to hand over my festive season to the writing genius behind A Few Good Men and the West Wing (the second of which I have never seen). It just happened that way. I won't bother to recap Mr. Sorkin's career, since any information I lay out here would be cribbed from the previously-linked wikipedia article.

But it's kinda interesting that the guy's done maybe three big movies, two plays and two television shows and I've nevertheless been immersed in his work for an entire holiday weekend. What you get from the experience is some very zippy dialogue, some rather hamfisted commentary, and a lot of swearing (did I mention I had my mother-in-law in tow? NICE).

The Farnsworth Invention was meant to be a screenplay and it shows. Lots of costume changes and set changes, and an avalanche of facts and anecdotes. Really quite fun, especially if, like me, you're given to confuse great art with the elegant conveyance of vast amounts of information

There's slightly less swearing in this one, and Hank Azaria's Dave Sarnoff is salty enough to give you the impression he's doing it much more. I can't say that the performances were amazingly amazing, though it's only fair to point out just how many characters some of the cast have to take on.

The script takes a few liberties with the storyline (alright, the storyline as presented on wikipedia and here), though there's a knowing exchange halfway through the first act where, in a very similar fashion to 24 Hour Party People, we're asked not to place too much reliance on people's memories.

Young Philo Farnsworth, the inventor protagonist, seems to have come out better from the events than the play might suggest. Sure, he didn't end up owning television, but he did pretty well by it, and aside from a teensy drinking problem, does not seem to have made the missteps that might cast him as a true tragic hero. Still, if you're looking for a rollicking intellectual property yarn on Broadway, the play doesn't do half badly.

Charlie Wilson's War I liked much more, because the story was a little more straightforward, if no doubt simplified, and the swearing and wisecracking became part of the point of the film. Why on earth did we entrust the fate of a small Asian country to a gang of good-time boys, renegade CIA agents and religious fanatics? Why did so few of the protagonists seem disinclined to think of their involvement more clearly?

Well probably because they saw it as a chance to make some zippy points and call in some favours. Sorkin's nicest touch, as he can't help but point out, is to make the bloodthirsty General Zia the most dignified character. It's particularly poignant on the day that Benazir Bhutto, the daughter of his most famous victim, was herself assassinated. There's a lot of condemnation, but, conspicuously, no real plan on how ton confront the craziness coming out of Pakistan.

The dark drama has lent the movie a context that Sorkin left to his viewers' imagination. He's one lucky screenwriter, and it's only fair, since Farnsworth was almost a victim of the stage-hands' strike.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Yeah, A Bit Like Wot Rowan Williams Said

Good morning and Merry Christmas, to those of you of the Christian persuasion and still inclined to check here daily. There, I just described the world's most pitiful venn diagram.

I am just returned from a intense carol-singing prayer-frenzy at the local Anglican shop, too weary to dwell on the theme of the vicar's sermon ("The peace of god which passes all understanding"), and a little dazed from the copious incense fumes.

So what was I up to? Weeell...there was the phase in England, with two highlights, and one runner-up. Then there was this brief and underpopulated Friday in work.

And next year there will be: starting to think again, maybe.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Stoner Rock and Peacey Hip-Hop

Still, busy, and unlikely to be able to relax until the end of the month. You see above the view from my hotel in Sao Paulo, which was far from distinguished, though the hotel was pretty good for the price. The city? The eating was good, and it was fun having sushi with the bass-player from Spearhead one night, but I was unable to find much beauty amid the traffic and miasma of meetings. My bad, mostly.

It's been a while since I posted a link to a Sugarzine column, which is a shame, because that's now a huge proportion of my posting volume. The reason for the delay is a rejig of the site to make it more focused on Queens, which I think is a noble and sensible direction, given how much Brooklyn hogs the city's cultural limelight.

It means though, that since I only set foot in Queens about twice a year, and am very bad and meeting the other writers, that my contribution to the site may become more limited. So, here's a horribly dated column on the fine stoner rock band Weedeater, who stood me up the other night in the East Village. It may be my last.