Thursday, November 07, 2013

Great moments in journalism

From an ABC News article about the new Burger King burger, the Big King:

"Despite the familiar ingredients all the way down to the third bun, Burger King tells ABC News it doesn’t taste like the Big Mac because of the way the burger is prepared — it’s fire-grilled. The Big King is also 40 calories less than its rival.
Brooklyn resident Ty Bills, who eats from both burger chains, sought out the 'Big King' on the first day it launched. After the first few bites he smiled and nodded.
'It's very juicy,' he said. 'The sauce is different. I don't know what's in the sauce, but the sauce is good,' he added between bites."

Sunday, October 27, 2013

The Dr. Mystery guide to "Miami Vice" for gentlemen and gentlewomen of leisure (Part 4: Season 4)

When I began this odyssey, this quest, to watch every episode of Miami Vice and report my findings here on the blog (probably one of the greatest quests of the modern era, but I'll leave that for the historians to sort out), I went down some crazy rabbit holes of rabid Vice fandom. There are many disputes, debates, and differences of opinion among the online fanatics, but most of them can agree on one thing: that Season 4 is the worst season of the series. This is the season where the train went off the tracks, where sharks were jumped, where actors began openly criticizing the quality of the scripts. Miami Vice is commonly regarded today as lovable kitsch and nostalgic '80s goofiness, but I will go to bat for the first three seasons being a damn good show. Miami Vice really looked like nothing else on television at the time and was a unique blend of '30s and '40s film noir shadows-and-light formalism, '70s-style cop show action/thriller, '80s music video and neon-and-pastel flash, and shot-on-location documentary-style Miami local color. Most television up to this point had looked very stagy and flat, but Miami Vice had a cinematic look and style that jumped off the screen.
Season 4, on the other hand, dials down some of the stylistic formalism that made the show ahead of its time and dials up some of the silliest, most ridiculous episodes in television history. The ratings dropped, and the show went from being a huge hit to a minor one. I can see why this season turned off a lot of the fanboys, but as a time capsule and a piece of mostly unintentional hilarity and absurdity, it's pretty entertaining in hindsight. A handful of episodes have some serious pacing problems and listless acting, never a problem on this show before, and I can see the writers, producers, and actors struggling to find new places to take the series. Even so, there's something really, really weird about this season. It plays out not like another season of the show, but like filmed Miami Vice fan fiction written by slightly unhinged superfans. Most episodes seem like alternate reality Vice. In honor of this bizarre development, I have added a new category to my episode-by-episode wrapup. In addition to guest stars and out-of-context quotes, I've included the fan-fiction element.
General fan-fiction element for the entire season: The women detectives on the show, Gina and Trudy, used to wear long, flowing, billowy dresses, which was strange enough office wear for detectives. This season, they sexed it up about 92 percent by wearing tight, short skirts. Trudy also has a nameplate on her desk reading "Big Booty Trudy." That can't be regulation nameplate.

"Contempt of Court"
Guest stars: Stanley Tucci is a mob boss. Philip Baker Hall is a federal judge. Meg Foster is a U.S. attorney.
Out-of-context quote: "Common decency demands that we dismiss this indictment, which is a stew of rancid meat that makes me want to retch and vomit." (knocks all papers off desk in anger)
Fan fiction element: Though the plot of this one is pretty standard Miami Vice boilerplate, the acting is so volcanically over the top that I imagine the director's instructions were, "Act like people are watching your performance on a television that is on the opposite end of a football field." Tucci's mob boss regularly cracks wise in court, even ordering cannoli and veal cutlets from the courtroom. It's like an SNL Miami Vice skit turned actual episode.

"Amen... Send Money"
Guest stars: Brian Dennehy is a televangelist named Reverend Bill Bob Proverb who preaches that God rewards the greedy and loves material wealth. Anita Morris is Bill Bob's wife who has some illegal hobbies. James Tolkan is another televangelist. Ben Stiller is a sleazy guy named Fast Eddie who sells religious paraphernalia.
Out-of-context quote: "I love this Italian silk $750 piece of matter we call a jacket."
Bonus quote: "I've been to jail. Jail sucks."
Fan fiction element: The televangelist's studio looks like a cross between some Scientology bullshit, Morton Downey Jr.'s show, and a portal to hell. The preacher character is such an exaggerated piece of satire that it makes no sense on a cop show.

"Death and the Lady"
Guest stars: Paul Guilfoyle is an "erotic performance artist" who has directed a porno that's also a fake snuff film ... or is it? Kelly Lynch is a stripper who appeared in the snuff film ... or did she? Penelope Ann Miller is the sister of a woman who appeared in the film ... or is she? Yeah, she is. Miguel Ferrer is a district attorney.
Out-of-context quote: "Mr. Crockett, you're fixated on dead people. Are you a necrophiliac?"
Fan fiction element: Guilfoyle's performance artist character is, in a season trend, wildly over the top. We also have the is-it-or-isn't-it element of the snuff film, possible twins who are possibly just one person pretending to be twins, and a murder victim who may be still alive, or dead but not murdered. This is a really weird episode.

"The Big Thaw"
This episode is commonly considered one of the worst, but I happened to find it very amusing.
Guest stars: Bill Raymond is the head of a cryogenics lab. Alfred Molina is an attorney.
Out-of-context quote: "There's a big difference between making instant coffee and trying to bring a Rastafarian back from the dead."
Bonus quote: "He looks stoned." "He is. Stone cold frozen."
Fan fiction element: This episode is about a legal battle over the cryogenically frozen corpse of a Jamaican reggae singer named Robillard Nevin, who was frozen after he died from Fugu poisoning upon eating incorrectly prepared blowfish while on tour. Enough said.

"Child's Play"
Guest stars: Ving Rhames is a career criminal mixed up in some bad stuff. Danitra Vance is his girlfriend ... with a secret. Isaac Hayes is a gunrunner named Holiday. Belinda Montgomery is Crockett's ex-wife.
Out-of-context quote: "Man, it's like holding two volleyballs underwater. Can't be done for long."
Fan fiction element: Other than reintroducing a few characters from the first season, not much in the way of fan fiction elements here. This one's actually a pretty effective piece of crime drama that has more in common with the earlier seasons.

"God's Work"
Guest stars: Film director Alfonso Arau is a crime lord. Esai Morales is his closeted gay son who wants to turn the family business legit.
Out-of-context quote: "I think this guy took a wrong turn at the cheese and wine shop."
Bonus quote: "That's original. I love originality. But in Homicide, they don't give a damn."
Fan fiction element: Again, this one's mostly straight-ahead drama, but there's a lot of speechifying here about raising money to fight AIDS and treat AIDS patients.

"Missing Hours"
This episode enjoys a reputation as the absolute worst one in the entire series, but its off-the-charts absurdity and ridiculousness make it well worth seeing.
Guest stars: James Brown is a James Brown-like soul music superstar famous for singing James Brown songs named Lou DeLong who is also a government agent, a man who was abducted by aliens, and/or an actual alien. Chris Rock is a precocious young go-getter in the Central Records department who is also a UFO conspiracy theory buff. Charlie Barnett returns as The Noogman.
Out-of-context quote: "Why don't I reorient your intergalactic desirability?"
Bonus quote: "One thousand bucks and two dozen one-pound peanut butter jars in his shopping bag." "Creamy ... or crunchy?"
Double bonus quote: "Two men with weird eyes and purple auras. That's all she can remember right now."
Fan fiction element: Are you kidding? Trudy is abducted by aliens, one of whom may or may not be James Brown. Alien abductees somehow feel the need to buy multiple jars of peanut butter, travel to an empty house boat, and stare into the face of James Brown, which then disappears and turns into blue sky and clouds. Chris Rock's character is treated like an old series regular, even though he never appears on another episode. Chris Rock also reads about aliens on the pre-Internet computer message board groups. Sci-fi writer Thomas M. Disch wrote this episode. Peanut butter?

"Like a Hurricane"
Guest stars: '80s pop star Sheena Easton is '80s pop star Caitlin Davies. Xander Berkeley is a sleazy band manager who's running a payola scam. Tony Hendra is a music executive who's into some shady criminal underworld stuff. Teller (of Penn & Teller) is Hendra's very chatty and very sleazy attorney. Yeah, you get to hear Teller speak. The MCs of Rap play themselves performing in a nightclub. Yeah, The MCs of Rap. Also on the bill but unfortunately cut out of the episode were opening acts The Rockers of Rock and The Jazzmen of Jazz.
Out-of-context quote: "What the hell is that?" "'Rubber Love' by The Blowguns."
Bonus quote: "The drummer OD'ed on reds, the guitar player joined a cult, but the bass player got a lawyer and sued."
Fan fiction element: Crockett is forced to act as protection for Caitlin (Sheena Easton) when her life is threatened. As a working stiff detective, he hates this pop star celebrity. As a pop star celebrity, she hates the surly detective. However, as we learned in the 1990s from the live action human on rapping cartoon cat bestiality of Paula Abdul and MC Skat Kat's "Opposites Attract," opposites attract. Crocket and Caitlin soon fall in love and get married. They also enjoy an oddly violent makeout session soundtracked by a flute solo. Don't worry about Crockett's cover getting blown. Sure, he's an undercover vice cop pretending to be a middleman for drug lords and gunrunners and pimps and he's marrying a famous pop star, but, as Crockett puts it, "she likes her privacy, so it's not gonna jeopardize my cover." Caitlin's big comeback single is a cover of "I Got You, Babe." Though it's a duet, she sings it alone, unless you count the children's choir on the last verse. Last but not least, three words: exploding demo tape!

"The Rising Sun of Death"
Guest stars: Sheena Easton is back. R. Lee Ermey is a corrupt homicide sergeant. James Hong is a Yakuza higher-up.
Out-of-context quote: "They just jerked a floater out of the bay."
Bonus quote: "Latin machismo."
Double bonus quote: "Look in the yellow pages under full-body tattoos."
Fan fiction element: This is basically a one-hour generic yakuza and samurai movie with small supporting roles from the regular cast. There's a big samurai swordfight in the rain with lots of talk about codes and honor and seppuku. There is also a strip club scene where the strippers are dancing to "Last Night I Dreamt That Somebody Loved Me" by The Smiths. I haven't been to a strip club in years and have never been a strip club regular, but I'm willing to bet this song, one of the most melancholy Smiths ballads, has never been played in any strip club at any point in our nation's history.

"Love at First Sight"
Guest stars: Sheena Easton is back. Iman is a woman using a video dating service. She's got some secrets. Annabelle Gurwitch is a wisecracking prostitute. Lori Petty is an enthusiast of S&M who is using the same dating service as Iman. Christopher McCann is an FBI agent.
Out-of-context quote: "Somebody's not too fond of male genitalia."
Bonus quote: "A woman's eyes can tell you a thousand stories about her. Does she dig Mantovani or Manilow? Is she high for Club Med Guadeloupe or Club Med Martinique?"
Fan fiction element: This is actually a pretty scary, exciting, and suspenseful episode. Crockett goes undercover at a video dating service to bust a prostitution ring, but the focus of the investigation shifts when several men using the service are murdered. Crockett fits the killer's type, so he becomes the bait. The killer has a split personality, each one a different gender. Don Johnson directed this episode, and it's an effective piece of horror.

"A Rock and a Hard Place"
Guest stars: Sheena Easton and Tony Hendra are back.
Out-of-context quote: "This Fremont and Wiggins, they're a couple of tubesteaks."
Bonus quote: "Your reputation sucks."
Fan fiction element: Crockett goes to LA with Caitlin, who is doing a press junket for her new album and appearing on the cover of Rolling Stone, even though he's an undercover cop. The paparazzi go crazy over him when they think he's his undercover persona, and a scandal hits the press: pop star marries drug dealer, killer, pimp, and gunrunner.

"The Cows of October"
Guest stars: Harry Shearer is an overzealous, bumbling FBI agent. Gerrit Graham is a Texas businessman, and like all Texans, he wears a huge cowboy hat and speaks in a broadly fake Southern accent.
Out-of-context quote: "Obviously, you two have a little to learn about the chess-like interaction of international intrigue."
Bonus quote: "Our side just won a major battle in the cold war of animal husbandry."
Double bonus quote: "You're a credit to the free-enterprising vertebraes of this planet."
Fan fiction element: Several of the previous episodes have put the basic series template into an entirely different genre: satire, mystery, science fiction, backstage show business drama, samurai movie, horror. This one mixes the western with the screwball comedy and is about the international smuggling of bull semen, particularly one virile bull named Gargantua. The soundtrack is drawn from the scores of several classic westerns. Again, this is not very good, but it's incredibly entertaining.

"Vote of Confidence"
Guest star: Larry Pine is a gubernatorial candidate busted with a prostitute, which is only the first piece in a vast government conspiracy.
Out-of-context quote: "It's a little early in the morning for coffee."
Bonus quote: "That booger Pearl Harbored me."
Fan fiction element: This one starts as a satire of political campaigns before turning into a missing person whodunit.

"Baseballs of Death"
This is a rare old-school, solid episode, directed by character actor Bill Duke, who also directed the underrated '90s crime thriller Deep Cover.
Guest stars: Tony Plana is a bad dude. Please don't fuck with him. Lisa Marie and Michael Des Barres are con artists running a lucrative scam. Lisa Marie pretends to be a prostitute, using her womanly charms to lure rich businessmen. Des Barres takes their photos, and the pair blackmail the rich old philanderers. Mark Metcalf is a DEA agent with the trademark Metcalf intensity. Oliver Platt is a weapons smuggler named Speed Stiles.
Out-of-context quote: "Your mother can't satisfy your needs anymore. I can."
Bonus quote: "Is this for your gun club or are you planning to invade Uruguay?"
Double bonus quote: "Good morgen!" "Anything since last night?" "Couple of dogs fell in love and started a family about six hours ago."
Triple bonus quote: "I guess Guerrero was home makin' chile rellenos through all this."
Fan fiction element: Other than a spectacular speedboat explosion, nothing too bizarre here.

"Indian Wars"
Guest stars: Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young drummer Joe Lala is a drug dealer. Joseph Turkel and his amazingly square, amazingly huge eyeglasses are a major drug smuggler.
Out-of-context quote: "I cannot be responsible for the peccadilloes of my associates."
Fan fiction element: This episode focuses on drug smuggling on the Native American tribal reservation of the Miccosukees, which gives the series the opportunity to feature lots of big speeches about the white man vs. the Indian, old ways vs. modernization, income from allowing drug dealers to use their land vs. going clean but losing all the money, youth vs. the elderly, idealism vs. business, etc. Plus, one character is a schizophrenic with his own vigilante army, and Tubbs goes undercover on the reservation as a doctoral student working on his thesis "Oppression in the Land of the Free." He convinces as a doctoral student because he puts on glasses.

"Honor Among Thieves?"
Holy shit, this episode is crazy.
Guest star: Dylan Baker is a homicide detective.
Out-of-context quote: "That's real heat, when they start arresting your horses."
Bonus quote: "Someday, you and me are gonna dance." "Strike up the band, baby."
Fan fiction element: A serial killer with a huge doll collection thinks his dolls can talk to him. They tell him to rape and kill young girls. The killer speaks in a high, squeaky voice whenever he's doing the voice of the dolls. He kills the girls by injecting them with an overdose of very pure cocaine. He then rubs cocaine all over the bodies and dumps them in a public place and rests a doll on top of the corpse. Crockett is undercover at a major drug dealer's compound, pretending to be a lawyer advising the dealer how to launder his drug money to make it look legal. The killer's use of cocaine is putting too much heat on the drug trade, so this dealer puts out feelers to catch the guy themselves. When they catch him, the dealer invites every other major Miami drug dealer to a kangaroo court on a nightclub dance floor. The club is closed for the night. Thinking Crockett's a lawyer, the dealer makes Crockett defend the killer. If Crockett can convince the assorted dealers the killer is too insane to know right from wrong, they'll turn him over to the cops. If Crockett can't convince them, they will torture and murder the guy. If you think that synopsis is crazy, wait until you see the concluding scene.

"Hell Hath No Fury"
Guest stars: Don Harvey is a convicted rapist recently released from prison. John Michael Higgins is the sleazy host of a Geraldo and Maury-style talk show. John Finn is a survivalist gun nut hit man for hire.
Out-of-context quote: "That's what rules are for, so you don't have to think."
Fan fiction element: We get both a satire of sleazeball talk shows and a ripped-from-the-headlines subplot about hired hitmen in the Soldier of Fortune classifieds. Also, Trudy is good friends with the rape victim as well as the arresting officer of her rapist, and the episode pretends like this has been an ongoing story even though this is the first and last we'll see of it.

"Badge of Dishonor"
Guest stars: Reni Santoni is lieutenant of a special ops drug unit. Barbra Streisand has a bizarrely brief cameo as a pedestrian walking down the street, so brief I didn't even notice it.
Out-of-context quote: "Great, couple of bad apples set back minority recruiting another 400 years!"
Fan fiction element: Weird Barbra Streisand cameo. Actor Julio Oscar Mechoso, who was a regular on the first season as a member of the vice team before the network decided to phase out the character, plays a drug dealer in the opening scene.

"Blood and Roses"
Guest stars: Stanley Tucci and Meg Foster are back from the first episode of the season. Michael Wincott is a sleazy guy with underworld connections. Frank Stallone is one of Stanley Tucci's goons.
Out-of-context quote: "Definitely not al dente."
Bonus quote: "Bottle of Dom P., two straws."
Fan fiction element: This episode has the exact same plot as an episode from the first season, and it's one that makes me feel gross and unpleasant. Why do it again? Gina is undercover and she's forced to have sex with a guy who creeps her out to avoid blowing her cover. She breaks down and is consoled by Trudy. At the end of both episodes, she kills the guy in a shootout and then stares deep into Crockett's eyes to let him know silently what went down. Freeze frame. Credits. Such a weird plot to repeat out of all the storylines from the past three years.

"A Bullett for Crockett"
Guest star: Fame's Jesse Borrego is a drug smuggler.
Out-of-context quote: "I never should have let him take Loco Mendez alone."
Bonus quote: "She's beyond the moral laws of this or any other world."
Fan fiction element: This is a fucking clipshow. Crockett is shot by the girlfriend of the dealer he's just shot. He's in a coma in the hospital, which happens to be the most dimly lit hospital in North America, which gives each character the opportunity to visit him and flash back to a scene from a previous episode. "In the Air Tonight" is brought back from the very first episode of the show to score the opening scene. Crockett's shooting will never come up again, and he's completely recovered by the next episode, even though he was in a coma with a bullet lodged in his spine. Fucking clipshows.

"Deliver Us From Evil"
Guest stars: Sheena Easton is back. Guy Boyd is back from Season 3.
Out-of-context quote: "This guy knows the difference between Baccarat and Lalique."
Bonus quote: "Did I ask for a lukewarm beer, Julia?"
Fan fiction element: This episode brings two completely separate storylines from earlier episodes together. We also get to see Sheena Easton perform "Follow My Rainbow" in its entirety, which is exactly the kind of song you imagine it is from the title. Also, several people in the audience give her bouquets of flowers after she performs. I thought this only happened to opera singers and theater actors and directors on Broadway.

"Mirror Image"
Guest stars: Antonio Fargas is a drug lord. Chris Cooper is a dirty detective. Julia Roberts is a drug lord's assistant. Brent Jennings is a vice sergeant.
Out-of-context quote: "Vice? I love vice."
Fan fiction element: Crockett gets a head injury during a boat explosion and wakes up with amnesia, which makes him think he's his undercover persona, so he turns evil. There is a weird Lynchian dream sequence. The episode ends on a cliffhanger.

One more season to go.

Crockett and Tubbs pose with Tubbs' bird, Pepito, star of the short-lived spinoff series Johnny Pepito, Tropical Bird Detective

Thursday, September 26, 2013

A song for every year of my life #27: 2003

It's been a while since I did one of these, so I'm going to kick this one off with a band that makes most people I know sigh exasperatedly, mutter angrily under their breath, or just involuntarily exhibit a look of mild disgust when confronted with an audible mention of their name. The Fiery Furnaces are a band I love, one of my favorite bands of the last decade and change, and a band that suffers from Rodney Dangerfield Syndrome among most of my local peer group. I tell you, they get no regard. Oh well. People are wrong about almost everything. People, eh? Can't live with them, can't buy beer without them. By the way, if the more challenging/irritating/proggy/musical theater aspects of this band drive you a little nutty but you do find some things to like about them, I urge you to check out Eleanor Friedberger's two solo albums. One of them is a catchy, poppy, gorgeous '80s new wave and indie-pop inspired record that reminds me of late fall, and the other is a catchy, poppy, gorgeous '70s singer-songwriter inspired record that reminds me of summer. Here's "Leaky Tunnel" for you curmudgeons.

Honorable mention: Pernice Brothers - "Blinded by the Stars"
I love the drums and how they're recorded. I love how Joe Pernice structured this song and how beautifully he sings it. I love the tone and the subtle yet awesome flourishes in the background from the guitar. This song's like a big hunk of enticing candy to me.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Write your way to blogcess™: Tips from a blogging legend

Can-Smashing Robot celebrated its ninth birthday in July, and as a way of thanking my readers for a near-decade of unpopularity, I thought I'd do something special. Hypothetically, I'm constantly being swarmed in grocery stores, wine tastings, and my endocrinologist's waiting room by people of varied backgrounds who share nothing except this message: "Hey, you're Josh Krauter, right? Do you have any advice for anyone hoping to get into the writing game, paid or otherwise?" Well, I've never been paid for my work, so I don't know anything about that, but I do know from otherwise. Boy, do I ever. Without any further ado, here is my advice for transforming your writing from fool's gold into 24-karat nuggets of genius.

1. Avoid Topical References
Too often, amateurs will pepper their work with references to the hot celebrities and events of the day, not realizing how dated these references to, for example, the Hot Pantzz Boyz 2000, Millicent Cyrus, and the country of Syria will seem to readers of the future. If you are going to reference a famous individual, make sure it is someone who has withstood the vicissitudes and whirligigs of the various decades, reputation intact.

For quick reference, here is a list of celebrities it is okay to mention in your work (you may want to print this out and stick it on your computer or typewriter):
William Shakespeare
Sigmund Freud
Elvis ("the King of rockin' roll") Presley
Led Zeppelin
Marilyn Monroe
Pete Best
the Vicomte de Noailles
Peabo Bryson
Mark Twain
the famous Pope
Carly Rae Jepson
that guy's dad who's always making sassy comments on Twitter

2. Don't plagiarize
Don't plagiarize anything verbatim. You will get caught. However, it is okay to find someone much smarter than you and steal their ideas.

3. Write about da Vinci codes.
Write about da Vinci codes. People love that shit.

4. Don't waste time revising.
I've been blogging for nine years, and I have three different blogs. Every post is a rough draft. I could have polished each post and made it better, in some cases a lot better, but that would have sucked up time better spent eating deli meats and watching "Dharma & Greg." Readers don't know the difference and they don't care. I've posted some seriously terrible shit and no one's complained.

5. Make up words.
Look what I did in the title to this post. I made up the word "blogcess." This is Method A, which is the method where you take one word and smoosh it into another word. I smooshed "blog" into "success" and now you can't stop saying it. It's probably already gone viral. Method B is also effective. Method B is the method in which you just make up a word on the spot. Wingodangle. I just did it. You can have that one for free. Use it as you see fit, and watch the website hits soar into double digits.

6. Listen to the vernacular of the streets and incorporate it into your work.
If you want your work to pop, to really jump off the page with verisimilitude and pizzazz, you've got to get off your sweet, sweet can and mingle with the people. See what makes them tick. Hear what they're saying and how they're saying it. For example, I had a story idea that would require me to capture the essence of three young children. Instead of just winging it, I wandered onto a nearby playground to soak up the verbal world of today's youth. As I wandered over to a group of kids playing on the monkey bars, I heard this opening salvo: "Mr. Walker smells like pee." Attempting to blend in with the tykes, I put forth a witticism aimed at their primitive level of humor. "I saw Sylvester Stallone on the television last night," I began. "He's sure aged. Sylvester Stallone, more like Sylvester Nursing Home. Right, dudes?" I then raised my right hand to await the many high fives I was about to receive. Oddly, this gesture was not reciprocated, but I absorbed their priceless replies, which were a veritable literary goldmine of childhood vernacular:
"Who's Stavester Stallone? Is he your dad?"
"Why are you here?"
"Who are you?"
"Why are you on the monkey bars? You are a man."
"Stranger danger! Stranger danger!"
Classic stuff. Get out there and listen, and then use it. The streets are always talking and always patiently awaiting a scribe with the vision to capture it all.

7. Stock your liquor cabinet.
Make sure you have plenty of booze on hand, in case I stop by.

8. Commune with the dolphins. 
Just kidding. Don't do that. It's fucking stupid.

Alright, fans. Now that you have absorbed this advice, what are you waiting for? Get blogging. One day, you, too, may achieve my legendary status in the blogosphere and know how it feels to reply to the question, "How's the air over there on your side of the fence, the side with the greener grass?" with the answer, "Pretty damn clean and refreshing, my less distinguished friend. Pretty damn clean and refreshing."

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

The popular culture, topical edition

"It seemed to be business as usual for Monteith on his final afternoon. At 1:24 p.m., the star took to Twitter to ask, 'what the crap is Sharknado.' One minute later, at 1:25, he seemed to have found the answer, tweeting, 'oh. IT'S A SHARK TORNADO.' His tweets refer to the Syfy original movie 'Sharknado,' which stars Tara Reid and Ian Ziering, and is, indeed, about a shark-tornado. These would be the last tweets Monteith would ever post."
-- from a Yahoo news article about the final day of recently deceased Glee actor Cory Monteith

Historians of the future, the paragraph above will be useful to you when assessing, evaluating, and documenting 2013.

Friday, July 05, 2013

Conversation with a friend at a 4th of July party six or seven hours ago

I don't have a photographic memory, so this is paraphrased. Otherwise, this conversation is, to the best of my recollection as a flawed human being, true.

(Normal party conversation about Twin Peaks leads to normal party conversation about dreams.)
Me: And watching most of the series during a few isolated days of a terrible Nebraska snowstorm led to dreams about Agent Cooper giving me clues from the Black Lodge. I would wake up and briefly feel the rush of finding a fellow Twin Peaks resident to give the message to only to remember that I was a college student at the University of Nebraska and my life was depressingly ordinary and dull.
Friend: My orthodontist held me hostage for several days.
Me: In real life or in a dream?
Friend: In a dream. He trapped me in my house and wouldn't let me leave, but he kept feeding me cherries that were the best cherries I'd ever had in my life. I hid several of the cherries in my couch cushions so I could eat them later. When I woke up, I was excited about all the cherries in my couch until I remembered I was dreaming. My orthodontist later killed himself.
Me: In real life or in the dream?
Friend: In real life. He found out his wife was cheating on him and asked her to meet him for lunch at the Hyatt downtown. When she showed up, he killed her and killed himself. I was supposed to get my braces off that week, and I couldn't get anyone to take off my fucking braces so I took them off myself.
Me: That reminds me. My brother and sister's dentist was decapitated in a terrible car accident. He was like 6'8" and the rest of his family was shorter than him. They hit something with their car and it took his head right off because he was so tall.
Friend: I had a friend I went to high school with who was decapitated in a car accident. He went on a road trip with one of his college professors and they were both decapitated in the accident.

Happy belated 4th of July, everyone!

Sunday, June 16, 2013

The Dr. Mystery guide to "Miami Vice" for gentlemen and gentlewomen of leisure (Part 3: Season 3)

I haven't posted anything on this blog in months, but I finished season 3 of Miami Vice last night, giving me an excuse to reanimate this poorly neglected site with a fresh, hot injection of 1980s-style neon, Hugo Boss suit jackets, and smoldering homoerotic undercover cop angst. In my season 2 recap, I expressed some trepidation about the third season because that's when Michael Mann ceded creative control to new showrunner Dick Wolf. I worried that Wolf, the guy who created the Law & Order juggernaut, would drain Miami Vice of its off-the-charts entertainment value, sense of humor, and pastel and neon color schemes. Wolf is a guy who's a little too fond of humorless political topicality and hitting viewers over the head with self-righteous messages. Fortunately, only a handful of episodes suffer from this problem. The rest of the season is as ridiculous and fun as the preceding two, and though the pastel is mostly gone, the neon is off the motherfucking charts. Also, recurring character Izzy Moreno, played by character actor Martin Ferrero, is in almost two-thirds of the episodes this season, and I love that guy. Enough jibber-jabber, let's get to the guest stars and out-of-context quotes.

"When Irish Eyes Are Crying"
Guest stars: Liam Neeson is a former IRA terrorist who is now a reformed do-gooder for charity. Or is he? Paul Gleason, the principal in The Breakfast Club, is a philanthropist who may be secretly funding the IRA. Jeff Fahey is an illegal arms dealer.
Out-of-context quote: "Are you into animal husbandry these days?"

"Stone's War"
Guest stars: Bob Balaban and G. Gordon Liddy are back playing the same guys from Season 2. This time, they're mixed up in the Contra and Sandinista brouhaha. Lonette McKee is a television news reporter.
Out-of-context quote: "Ears. Sandinista ears."

Guest stars: Star of Mexican soap operas Fernando Allende is a jai alai star player who has some unfortunate drug and prostitution connections. Pro bodybuilder Rhonda Lundstedt is a drug dealer's bodyguard. The stuntman from The Toxic Avenger plays somebody.
Out-of-context quote: "Tico Arriola has been struck with the pelota!"

Guest stars: Ron Perlman is a prison commissioner trying to bust the corrupt staff of a nearby prison. Laurence Fishburne is a corrupt prison guard. Kevin Conway is a corrupt prison warden. A couple of Miami Dolphins, A.J. Duhe and Jim Kiick, are probably also corrupt.
Out-of-context quote: "Didn't know you guys were connoisseurs of the air guitar."
Bonus quote: "If he's a dealer, he better go back to dealing school."

"The Good Collar"
Guest stars: Charles S. Dutton is a speechifying mentor to troubled inner-city teens. John Spencer, the West Wing guy, not the Blues Explosion guy, is a lieutenant in the narcotics division. Terri Kinney is a district attorney.
Out-of-context quote: "All the serious gangs basically hang out at Eastside High."

"Shadow in the Dark"
This episode is completely fucking bananas (see the quote). I highly recommend it. It's nutty, I tell you.
Guest stars: Kickass yet underrated character actor Ed Lauter is a captain in the burglary division. This one's light on star power but extremely heavy on what-the-fuck-did-I-just-watch.
Out-of-context quote: "Only thing we know for sure is he likes men's pants, eats raw meat, and works houses in the northeast grid."

"El Viejo"
Another good one.
Guest stars: Willie Nelson is a retired Texas Ranger and man of mystery. Steve Buscemi is a distributor for a major drug kingpin.
Out-of-context quote: "You know what I like about you, Rickles? Not a damn thing. Backstroke!"
Bonus quote: "This Bolivian doesn't mess around. He probably can't even spell 'mess around.'"

"Better Living Through Chemistry"
Guest stars: San Francisco-based independent film director Rob Nilsson plays a drug kingpin whose chemist has almost put the finishing touches on a highly potent synthetic cocaine. The only problem now is that it immediately kills the user, which is not a sustainable business model. I would be remiss in my duties here to not mention Nilsson's character's name, so here it is: Wango Mack. Victor Love, who played Bigger Thomas in the Native Son movie, is Tubbs' disgraced ex-partner, now a nightclub DJ who's mixed up with some unsavory people. Ex-model Patty Owen is his girlfriend. I say ex-model because her current source of income is a company she created called The Transformational Warriors that provides intimate relationship life coaching from counselors dressed in superhero costumes. That is not a joke. One of those counselors is her, and she has changed her name to Shanti Owen. Please Google this if you have some downtime. People, eh? What will they do next?
Out-of-context quote: "I'm changing my status, man. From now on, I only conglomerate with intellectuals."
Bonus quote: "Ain't life a cabaret?"

"Baby Blues"
Guest stars: Stanley Tucci is a guy whose adopted child may have been kidnapped from its birth mother by a baby-selling ring.
Out-of-context quote: "Babies are like any other business. There's a spoilage factor."
Bonus quote: "This guy is running a baby bazaar!"

Guest stars: Bill Paxton is a good cop who has fallen in love with a prostitute. She may not have a full-on heart of gold, but it's at least quality bronze. Wesley Snipes is her evil pimp named Silk.
Out-of-context quote: "Who is this guy who is spreading around all this pharmaceutical rhino rinse?"
Bonus quote: "Checker Club's where all the Overtown pimps flash their style."

"Forgive Us Our Debts"
Guest stars: No big names or future big names in this one, just a lot of solid working character actors. One of them is Bill Raymond, who played The Greek on The Wire. He plays a sleazy career criminal here.
Out-of-context quote: "You're a politician. A conscience is optional." (That's the best I could do. Not a lot of pizzazz in the dialogue department on this episode.)

"Down for the Count (Part I)"
Hoo boy. This episode is sad. One of my favorite characters is killed off, but it's a very emotionally and cinematically satisfying death and has a quiet resonance that is pretty unusual for a show that is mostly about surface entertainment, action, and neon. One of the best episodes, I think.
Guest stars: Pepe Serna is a local crime boss with his fingers in many illegal pies. Randall "Tex" Cobb is a retired boxer and fight trainer. Boxer Mark Breland is a boxer. Don King is a boxing promoter named Don Cash.
Out-of-context quote: "The man is cooking with grease. Hot grease. You can't cook with cold grease."
Bonus quotes: "I can't watch a blood sport without some chow." "An hombre muy mal. This guy couldn't stay clean if he lived in a shower." "Goodman's got a nonspecific muscle spasm where his heart oughtta be."

"Down for the Count (Part II)"
Guest stars: Pepe Serna and Mark Breland are back from Part I. Joe Dallesandro is a crime boss who is pissed off at Serna for horning in on some of his turf. Chris Elliott is a code hacker who lives in a decommissioned military airplane. Yeah, that's right. Robert Pastorelli is a member of Dallesandro's crime family.
Out-of-context quote: "Can you believe the stones on this burrito?"
Bonus Chris Elliott monologue (in response to the detectives telling him to crack a code in a hurry) : "What is a hurry? Is that just some measurement of time that can only be defined by law enforcement officers? Or is it perhaps that brief period in which you could, oh, I don't know, have a smoke or listen to a cut off the new Peter Gabriel album?"

"Cuba Libre"
Guest stars: Salsa and jazz trombonist Willie Colon is a drug dealer, but he's not such a bad guy.
Out-of-context quote: "Where'd you learn to talk like that? High school?"

"Duty and Honor"
Guest stars: Helena Bonham Carter is a doctor and Crockett's new girlfriend. Michael Wright is a mercenary assassin and serial killer known as The Savage. Dr. Haing S. Ngor is a former Saigon policeman and shadowy secret agent who is trying to track him down. Brad Sullivan is The Savage's business handler. Judith Malina is a hotel clerk. This episode has an amazing kill in it, if you like that sort of thing, and I do.
Out-of-context quote: "Pass me the catsup."

Guest stars: Helena Bonham Carter is back. Brad Dourif is a major drug dealer and all-around nasty human being.
Out-of-context quote: "Dude, I am a shower and shave away from monogamy."

"The Afternoon Plane"
Guest stars: John Leguizamo returns as the son of the drug dealer Calderone. Vincent D'Onofrio is one of Leguizamo's thugs. Margaret Avery is an ex-girlfriend of both Tubbs and Calderone.
Out-of-context quote: "Tubbs always did like good-looking women."

"Lend Me an Ear"
Guest stars: John Glover is a wacky, nutty guy and an ex-cop and surveillance wizard who now bugs and/or debugs anyone you want for money.
Out-of-context quote: "I'm chromosomally unbalanced. I got the good hair. My brother got the good judgment."

"Red Tape"
Guest stars: Viggo Mortensen and Lou Diamond Phillips are a couple of hot-shot rookie cops. Annette Bening is a secretary for the Justice Department who uses her job to get classified info she and her boyfriend sell to criminals.
Out-of-context quote: "Who are you to judge me, teenybopper?"
Bonus quote: "Do you remember when the cops of the month didn't look like extras from Jane Fonda's Workout?"

"By Hooker By Crook"
This episode features a cast list that walks that invisible line between genius and insanity.
Guest stars: Melanie Griffith is a millionaire heiress and madam for a high-end escort service. Vanity is one of her call girls. George Takei is a creepy gangster. Captain Lou Albano is one of Takei's thugs. One-half of the Wild Samoans tag team, Afa Anoai, is another one of Takei's thugs. Veronica Cartwright is a snooty rich lady. TV host Bill Boggs is a TV host.
Out-of-context quote: "I will do whatever is necessary to attain attitudinal composity and that includes the arousal of certain photogenic voluptuaries."
Bonus quotes: "Enough of the mysto-babble, you Hispanic Hugh Hefner." "You're defecating the First Amendment."

"Knock, Knock... Who's There?"
Guest stars: Ian McShane is a big-shot drug dealer. Samm-Art Williams is a DEA agent. Elizabeth Ashley is a corrupt DEA agent but she's only corrupt because she needs to pay the hospital bills for a sick child with a rare disease. Jimmie Ray Weeks is her husband, an ex-detective who is now retired after a shooting left him disabled.
Out-of-context quote: "Suck eggs, pal."

"Viking Bikers from Hell"
John Milius wrote this episode under a pseudonym.
Guest stars: Reb Brown, star of Yor: Hunter from the Future, former NFL star John Matuszak, and Sonny Landham, former porn star turned legitimate actor and the third cast member of Predator to run for governor of his home state (he lost), are members of a biker gang. Landham kills a few people with a crossbow. Sons of Anarchy's Kim Coates is a biker punk Crockett has to rough up in a bar to get some info.
Out-of-context quote: "How many more of these dudes we gonna ace?"

"Everybody's in Show Biz"
Guest stars: Paul Calderon and Coati Mundi are drug dealers. Michael Carmine is an ex-con and drug addict turned Fassbinder-quoting playwright and experimental theater director/owner. A very young, gangly, and awkward Benicio Del Toro is his younger brother, proving that no one is born cool. According to the very helpful web site, Miami Vice Wiki, "[t]his is the only time Miami Vice delved into the world of impressionistic theater."
Out-of-context quote: "My soul is slogging through oatmeal."

"Heroes of the Revolution"
Guest stars: Jeroen Krabbe is an East German agent in Miami to murder the Cuban fugitive who killed his girlfriend, a nightclub singer, back in Cuba in the early 1960s. Not to M. Night Shyamalan you or anything, but that nightclub singer was the mother of Miami Vice detective Gina!
Out-of-context quote: "In this new socialistic paradise, marriage will be merely another bourgeois capitalistic memory."

Goodnight, friends.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Important "Miami Vice" Update: Now with more Shabba-Doo

The fellas share a laugh after wisecracking bartender Flo asks them if there is enough room on the dance floor for all three of their outfits in a scene from the sitcom Two Men, Shabba-Doo, and a Blazer

I left two important guest stars out of my Season 1 recap, and I've been meaning to rectify this oversight for some time. As an apology to my readers for this careless mistake, I have included the steamy reggae-soul slow jam title track from Philip Michael Thomas's blockbuster smash hit album Living the Book of My Life below.
I can't believe I forgot to mention Sam McMurray, character actor most beloved around my household for his appearances in Raising Arizona and Freaks and Geeks, in my writeup of "Calderone's Return: Part II." McMurray is Jimmy "Jimbo" Walters, employee at the hotel in St. Andrew's Island where Crockett and Tubbs have gone undercover to find notorious drug kingpin Calderone. Jimbo went to St. Andrew's for spring break seven years ago, missed his flight, and never left. When he's not working at the hotel, he's writing a novel ("a cross between Mutiny on the Bounty and The Road Warrior") or supplying his special brand of pot ("stuff'll tie dye your frontal lobe in Technicolor") to American hotel guests. Bonus out-of-context quote: "Sharks and weirdness."
I spent a lot of time talking about the fake Jamaican accents in Season 1 episode "The Maze," but I can't believe I spaced on mentioning a very important guest cameo from the first half of the episode. Adolfo Shabba-Doo Quinones, dancer and star of Breakin', Breakin' 2: Electric Boogaloo, and Lambada, is Pepe, an informant who Crockett and Tubbs have to drag off a nightclub dance floor and into a toilet stall to get some information about a gang. I wish someone would put this scene on YouTube or Vimeo because Shabba-Doo makes you forget everything you thought you knew about dancing, human behavior, facial expressions, pink outfits, and chest hair. He's something else, that Shabba-Doo. At no point does he seem like he's dancing to the music actually playing in the club. He's also the only one on the dance floor without a partner because Shabba-Doo contains multitudes. Shabba-Doo is all. All is Shabba-Doo. Shabba-Doo.

Friday, February 15, 2013

The Dr. Mystery guide to "Miami Vice" for gentlemen and gentlewomen of leisure (Part 2: Season 2)

Holy crap, Season 2 is going to be hard to beat in the guest star department. This season had possibly the strangest assemblage of actors in television history, and I don't see how the other seasons are going to be able to compete. Season 2 was pretty strong and almost as entertaining as Season 1, though I feel like there was a slight decline in the quality of the writing and the visual style. This decline was only tiny, and the guest star bonanza more than made up for it. However, I'm a little worried the decline will be more marked in the remaining three seasons, especially with Michael Mann vacating his post as showrunner in the third season and handing over the job to TV jobber Dick Wolf, who has an awesome name but creates pretty generic TV. I'm not a huge Michael Mann fan, but I love his '80s movies, and he definitely dictated the visual style of the show, which looked like nothing else on TV at the time and still looks pretty cinematic today. Will the show's visual palette, use of color, and framing of shots turn as bland as Dick Wolf's other stuff? I hope not. Blah blah blah, let's get to the guest stars and out-of-context quotes. Season 2, baby! Wooooooo!

"The Prodigal Son"
Guest stars: This one's loaded with people. Julian Beck, the creepy old man in Poltergeist II, is a creepy rich banker who belongs to that small class of creepy rich old guys who run the world. Charles S. Dutton is a New York police chief who doesn't want to listen to a couple of jerk vice cops from Miami, goddammit. Pam Grier returns as the New York cop who used to date Tubbs. Anthony Heald, star of Boston Public, Boston Legal, CSI: Boston, Hot Boston Nights, and Boston Sex Academy (three of those shows are maybe not real) is a New York police commander who really hates Crockett and Tubbs. (You may have surmised by now that our main characters are in New York for this very special episode.) Libertarian magician and noted Bongwater enthusiast Penn Jillette is a small-time Latino drug dealer turned informant with an awesome apartment. James Russo is a hot-tempered drug dealer whose crew has been infiltrated by an undercover Pam Grier. Gene Simmons is a smarmy drug dealer named Newton Windsor Blade who has a yacht full of sexy ladies in bikinis. Paul Calderon is a drug dealer. Abel Ferrara regular and famous drug addict/NY scenester Zoe Lund, also known as Zoe Tamerlis, plays a drug addict/NY scenester. Luis Guzman is a drug smuggler. Ken Ober is a taxi driver. Holy shit, that's a lot of people.
Out-of-context quote: "That's Tubbs. T.U.B.B.S. Tough, unique, bad, bold, and sassy."

"Whatever Works"
Guest stars: Eartha Kitt is a Santeria priestess. A pre-Robert Palmer Power Station is the band playing in a nightclub. The Duran Duran and Chic members are still in the band, but Michael Des Barres is the singer.
Out-of-context quote: "You want a little dork meat for breakfast?"

"Out Where the Buses Don't Run"
Guest stars: Little Richard is a fundamentalist street preacher. Bruce McGill is an ex-cop who's gone nuts and changes his accent and personality every few sentences. He's like Robin Williams, but funny. David Strathairn is an ex-cop turned lawyer or businessman or something (he has a nice office) who is McGill's old partner.  A guy named Scott "Slo-motion" Randolph plays a guy named Manuel "Skates" Santino.
Out-of-context quotes: "You know the man who puts $5 worth of quarters in the juke, hits J-50 over and over again? Arcaro is Weldon's J-50."

"The Dutch Oven"
Guest stars: Giancarlo Esposito is back and he's another drug dealer. This time, he's dealing coke. David Proval, from Mean Streets and The Sopranos, is an Internal Affairs agent. David Johansen plays a very strange version of himself wearing a very strange hat and performing a very strange song at a coke party.
Out-of-context quote: "This late in the game and you're holding kings?"

Guest stars: Nathan Lane is a standup comic and date rapist. Eszter Balint from Stranger than Paradise is on the run from gangsters. James Remar is an old friend of Crockett's who's torn between his noncriminal nature and his debts to some gangster relatives. Frankie Valli is a gangster. So is Tom Signorelli.
Out-of-context quote: "Definitely not a funny way to die."

"Junk Love"
Guest stars: Miles Davis is a high-class pimp who runs an exclusive brothel. Model Ely Pouget is a drug addict turned call girl.
Out-of-context quote: "Where is he wearing his mic?" "You don't want to know!"

"Tale of the Goat"
Guest stars: Clarence Williams III is a voodoo priest and crime boss who has himself shipped to Miami in a coffin and rises from the dead, voodoo-style. Midget wrestler Little Coco is part of the voodoo cult/crime syndicate. Playwright and theater director Peter Sellars is a doctor. Ray Sharkey is a used car dealer and money launderer named Bobby Profile.
Out-of-context quote: "Nobody is gonna risk brain damage for a little cashola and a bad girlfriend."

Guest stars: Dean Stockwell is a rogue CIA agent and assassin. David Rasche is an American mercenary turned KGB ally named Surf. Tom Bower is a CIA agent. Musician Natasha Shneider, who played with Eleven and Queens of the Stone Age, is an ex-KGB agent turned KGB target.
Out-of-context quote: "Surf's up, pal."

"Bought and Paid For"
Guest stars: El Debarge plays himself laying down some sexy slow jams in a nightclub. Lynn Whitfield is a Haitian immigrant and housekeeper. Joaquim de Almeida is a rapist. Tomas Milian is the rapist's rich and powerful father.
Out-of-context quote: "Lose the cologne. You smell like a cheap pimp."

"Back in the World"
Guest stars: Bob Balaban is an investigative reporter who knew Crockett in Vietnam. G. Gordon Liddy is a prick who's been smuggling heroin in the body bags of dead soldiers. He has his own personal Asian assassin. Maybe he's playing himself? Iman is a mysterious woman who knows all these guys' secrets. Patti D'Arbanville is Bob Balaban's wife, and she's pissed as hell, buddy. Finally, somebody got Bob Balaban, G. Gordon Liddy, and Iman together. They'd been looking for a project for some time.
Out-of-context quote: "Be advised you're under arrest for trafficking in controlled substances." "Don't forget smoking in the bathroom."

"Phil the Shill"
Guest stars: Three people play con artists in this episode. Those three people are Kyra Sedgwick, Phil Collins, and Emo Philips. They'd also been looking for a project to do together for years.
Out-of-context quote: "This is the '80s, Phil. Everyone takes drugs."

"Definitely Miami"
Guest stars: Ted Nugent is a guy who arranges drug deals but then rips off and murders the people he arranges the deals with, burying them and their automobiles in a rural sand pit. Nugent's lady friend is a fellow murderous con artist, played by French bombshell and star of many Eric Rohmer films Arielle Dombasle. This may be the only time Eric Rohmer and Ted Nugent appear in the same sentence. Fun fact: After filming, Nugent shot each prop with 28 crossbows. He then babbled incoherently and made some shitty music.
Out-of-context quote: "Man, I can dig tropical, but this is out of bounds." Bonus quote: "I hate all this waiting. I feel like a character in a Beckett play. Charlie Beckett, the shoeshine. He writes plays down on the corner."

"Yankee Dollar"
Guest stars: No big stars, cult actors, or crazy stunt casting in this one, but there are some reliable character actors whose names aren't well known. Ned Eisenberg is a drug smuggler named Charlie Glide. Austin Pendleton is his middleman. Pepe Serna is a player in the drug trade.
Out-of-context quote: "I promised myself when the Dow broke 1400, I would buy myself a present."

"One Way Ticket"
Guest stars: John Heard is a lawyer who has some beef with Crockett. Former Mahavishnu Orchestra member and the guy who does the music for Miami Vice, Jan Hammer, plays a wedding musician wearing a sassy getup. Work it, Jan. Annie Golden is Crockett's mechanic. The episode's villain is played by a guy named Lothaire Bluteau.
Out-of-context quote: "You think the guy practices being a tubesteak?"

"Little Miss Dangerous"
Guest stars:  Briefly famous '80s hair-metal singer Fiona plays a prostitute and exotic dancer who goes nuts sometimes and murders her johns. This episode is really pretty good but it does contain the stupidest line of dialogue I've ever heard. I can't find it online, so just watch it. It happens after they ask Fiona's boyfriend, Cat, what his nickname means. The line was so bad I blushed.
Out-of-context quote: "Pal of mine, we just get older every year."

Please enjoy this intermission, in which we take a few minutes to remember Fiona in her prime, duetting with Kip Winger on the song that summed up an entire generation: "Everything You Do (You're Sexing Me)."

"Florence Italy"
Guest stars: Charles Rocket is a smarmy agent for race car drivers. The Fat Boys are beatboxing marijuana dealers. Annie Golden is back as Crockett's mechanic. Race car driver Danny Sullivan is a race car driver. His appearance on this episode gave him the acting bug, and he actually managed to work as an actor pretty regularly for the next 15 years even though he's really bad at it.
Out-of-context quote: "If we keep covering the street, they're going to have to call it Crockett and Tubbs Boulevard."

"French Twist"
Guest stars: Leonard Cohen is the powerful head of a shadowy international covert ops thingamajig that may be a front for terrorism. He only speaks French in the episode. He had no choice, he was born with the gift of a Gallic voice. Lisa Eichhorn from Cutter's Way is a French INTERPOL agent who is actually working for Leonard Cohen. Elliott Easton from The Cars is buying some pharmaceutical morphine. Ex-wife of Play from Kid 'n' Play, Shari Headley, is a precocious teen who witnessed a murder.
Out-of-context quote: "There are plenty of cold cuts in the refrigerator."

"The Fix"
Guest stars: Harvey Fierstein is a corrupt lawyer. Former NBA star Bill Russell is a corrupt judge with a heart of gold forced into corruption by his gambling addiction. Michael Richards, Cosmo Kramer himself, is a badass gangster and bookie. ("You better pay up, Jerry!" "But Kramer, it's only a $10 bet. I'll pay you tomorrow." "I'll break your legs, Jerry. I'll do it!" "Tomorrow. I'll pay you tomorrow." "Giddyup!")
Out-of-context quote: "He practically gave Ortega a ticket to Bogota at the bond hearing."

Guest stars: Frank Zappa is a big-shot Latino coke dealer who never leaves international waters. He refers to cocaine as "weasel dust." Dan Hedaya is Zappa's middleman. Boxer Roberto Duran is a drug dealer who Crockett put away years ago.
Out-of-context quote: "You spend a couple hours combing some guy's brains out of your hair, see what that does to you."

"Free Verse"
Guest stars: Byrne Piven, father of Jeremy Piven, plays an exiled South American poet targeted by both right-wing and left-wing assassins. Piven loves women, pro wrestling, and booze, and breaks free from his police protection to attend a Suicidal Tendencies concert. Suicidal Tendencies play themselves. Bianca Jagger is an international right-wing assassin targeting Piven. It's what ruined her marriage to Mick. Two of the four left-wing assassins are played by Luis Guzman and future Transformers director Michael Bay.
Out-of-context quote: "Are all American cops so good-looking?"

"Trust Fund Pirates"
Guest stars: Richard Belzer is a pirate radio DJ. Tommy Chong is a drug dealer, arms smuggler, and middleman for bigger dealers. Denny Dillon, from Dream On and the 1980-81 season of SNL, is Chong's girlfriend. They live in an Airstream trailer inside an airplane graveyard. Gary Cole, the shitty boss on Office Space, is a guy who flies planes for anyone for the right price. He says he knows Glenn Frey from season one. Nicole Fosse, daughter of Bob Fosse and Gwen Verdon, is Cole's girlfriend.
Out-of-context quote: "Is a frog's butt watertight?"

"Sons and Lovers"
Guest stars: John Leguizamo is the son of a drug dealer Crockett and Tubbs killed in season one. Lee Iacocca is an overzealous parks commissioner.
Out-of-context quote: "I wasn't really suspicious except when you told me that the kid was good-looking."

Frank Zappa shortly after asking Phillip Michael Thomas what it was like to work with Fiona

Thursday, February 14, 2013

A song for every year of my life #26: 2002

Another Miami Vice post will be coming later tonight as my Valentine's Day gift to you, but I'm going to ease you into the past gently by going back to 2002 before I plunge you into the cool pastel and neon waters of the mid-1980s.
Catherine Irwin's "Hex" is one of the greatest country songs, and it can totally stand up to the hyperbole I just threw at it. It has a timeless world-weary Hank Williams ancient country classicism filtered through too many nights in indie-rock clubs and bars in the late '80s and '90s. This is the sound of the lights coming up at last call and the couch and cigarette mouth the next morning. This song will never age and was always older than time. YouTube again screwed the pooch, so here is a link to the song on something called MySpace.

Alternate choice: Dalek - "Forever Close My Eyes"
These guys have the verbal and lyrical flow of guys like Chuck D or Rakim in their prime with this incredible wash of sound backing it up that brings to mind Faust, Neu!, Kevin Shields, Throbbing Gristle, Harmonia, etc.

Monday, February 04, 2013

The Dr. Mystery guide to "Miami Vice" for gentlemen and gentlewomen of leisure (Part 1: Season 1)

On a late Sunday night during the most recent holiday season, I noticed that Netflix was streaming Miami Vice. I decided to watch the first episode for nostalgic purposes. I loved the show when I was a kid, but I wasn't expecting it to hold up. Holy shit, was I wrong. I am about halfway through season 2, and this show to me is what crack is to crackheads. It's not great art (though almost every frame is surprisingly beautifully composed or at least visually interesting) and some of the writing is pretty silly, but it might be the most fun I've had watching TV in as many years as I can remember. It's ridiculous in all the right ways and a few of the wrong ones. I don't have the time or the patience to write about every episode, but I am going to do an offbeat little episode guide for each season after I finish it, focusing solely on the guest stars and, thanks to the magic of the Internet, out-of-context quotes. Here's season 1, with four more installments to come in the future.

"Brother's Keeper"
Guest stars: Jimmy Smits, in his first role, gets exploded by a car bomb in the first five minutes. His partner, Crockett, lives on a houseboat with an alligator named Elvis. Tubbs becomes Crockett's new partner.
Out-of-context quote: "I don't even like alligator shoes."

"Heart of Darkness"
Guest stars: Al Bundy himself, Ed O'Neill, is an undercover cop who may have gone too far undercover. Or has he? Yes. Or maybe no. Suzy Amis is a naive Kansas girl who is now starring in porn as a naive Nebraska girl about to get it on with a sleazy plumber.
Out-of-context quote: "If all else fails, we can pop 'em for felony bad dialogue."

"Cool Runnin'"
Guest stars: DC Cab's Charlie Barnett is Nugart Neville "Noogie" Lamont, small time thug turned informant.
Out-of-context quote: "I said he's a fairy, I do suppose, fly through the air in pantyhose."

"Calderone's Return: Part I -- The Hit List"
Guest stars: Voice of Bleeding Gums Murphy, Ron Taylor, is a drug dealer.
Out-of-context quote: "He's goin' after number eight!"

"Calderone's Return: Part II -- Calderone's Demise"
Guest stars: Phanie Napoli was not famous before this episode or after it, and her performance here goes a long way in explaining why.
Out-of-context quote: "I love masquerades!" Bonus quote: "Never touch a typewriter on southerly trade winds."

"One Eyed Jack"
Guest stars: Dan Hedaya is an Internal Affairs guy, and he's incredibly pissed off all the time. Dennis Farina is a gangster who has a good time on his yacht and is also sometimes incredibly pissed off. Joe Dallesandro is a sleazy guy who works for Dennis Farina. When he's not attending cockfights or strip clubs, he is sometimes incredibly pissed off.
Out-of-context quote: "Tell him to eat it!"

"No Exit aka Three Eyed Turtle"
Guest stars: Bruce Willis is a wife-beating illegal arms dealer with a swimming pool in his living room. Coati Mundi, vibraphone player for Kid Creole & The Coconuts, is a fellow arms dealer.
Out-of-context quote: "And the satafortis and the ratafortis and the hantoon rantoon."

"The Great McCarthy"
Guest stars: William Gray Espy is a drug smuggler and speedboat racing champion. He's not that well known, but you've got to see the cover band playing at his house party in order to know true joy. Richard Liberty from Day of the Dead is a college professor moonlighting as a cocaine dealer.
Out-of-context quote: "Your reputation as a first-class weasel is still very much intact."

Guest stars: John Pankow is a redneck.
Out-of-context quote: "Aw hell, Billy. You know my mind's done gone to hell."

"Give a Little, Take a Little"
Guest stars: Burt Young is a Latino pimp with lots of chest hair and an indeterminate accent that changes every three seconds. Lenny Von Dohlen is guarding a warehouse at the wrong time. Terry O'Quinn is a lawyer who makes more money in five minutes than you do in a year. Michael Madsen will shoot through the walls of his own home at you if you knock on his door. 
Out-of-context quote: "You're so high you need clearance to land."

"Little Prince"
Guest stars: Mitchell Lichtenstein, son of pop artist Roy Lichtenstein, is the heroin-addicted son of a big-time securities fraud kingpin. Giancarlo Esposito is a heroin dealer, in the first of his 8 million roles on the show.
Out-of-context quote: "They're gonna pay this guy a million dollars not to play football next year."

"Milk Run"
Guest stars: Eric Bogosian is a no-good creep. Don't touch his motorcycle. His girlfriend Rainbow Harvest works at a "punk movie theater" and is named Rainbow Harvest. John Kapelos is a lawyer who makes more money in a week than you do in a year but maybe not as much as Terry O'Quinn in "Give a Little, Take a Little."
Out-of-context quote: "I don't see how you make it through the night with tubes of mystery meat in your stomach."

"Golden Triangle: Part I aka Score"
Guest stars: Joan Chen is the long-lost and presumed dead Thai lover of  Edward James Olmos from his DEA past.
Out-of-context quote: "Do you need more oil or are you greased up enough, honey?"

"Golden Triangle: Part II"
Guest stars: Joan Chen is back. Keye Luke is a Thai drug lord. An extra is credited as Full-Bearded Dealer.
Out-of-context quote: "Let's get him a solid gold eggroll."

"Smuggler's Blues"
Guest stars: Glenn Frey will fly a plane for anyone for the right price. He has an arena-size stage in his airplane hangar so he can jam on some hot blues licks when he has a little downtime. Richard Edson is his assistant. Edson was Sonic Youth's drummer before quitting music for acting, so this is as close as we may ever get to an Eagles/Sonic Youth supergroup. Richard Jenkins is a DEA agent with a mustache and an almost full head of hair. Ron Vawter works for Homicide. Coati Mundi's back playing a different guy.
Out-of-context quote: "We get down if the play calls for it, bud."

"Rites of Passage"
Guest stars: Pam Grier is a New York detective and the ex-girlfriend of Tubbs. They get back together and the camera spends an insanely long time photographing their feet during a sex scene. John Turturro is an evil pimp.
Out-of-context quote: "Enough loins in here to stock a meat locker."

"The Maze"
Guest stars: Ving Rhames is a Jamaican hostage. Garcelle Beauvais is his sexy Jamaican sister who is also a hostage. Joe Morton is a non-Jamaican hostage negotiator. Tubbs sings an a capella faux-reggae jam when he goes undercover as a homeless Jamaican musician. The way he sings the word "Jamaica" is worth entire seasons of other shows ("Jah-may-CAAAA" with the last syllable in falsetto).
Out-of-context quote: "Planted sugarcane in Jamaica and love is what I did it for."

"Made for Each Other"
Guest stars: Mark-Linn Baker, Cousin Larry on "Perfect Strangers," is a sleazy electronics salesman. Ellen Greene is a frightening portent of Fran Drescher on "The Nanny."
Out-of-context quote: "My life is in-whack."

"The Home Invaders"
Guest stars: Esai Morales, David Patrick Kelly, and Paul Calderon are home invaders. Sylvia Miles is a nut whose home may be invaded.
Out-of-context quote: "Detective, I've seen more information on a dog-bite report."

"Nobody Lives Forever"
Guest stars: Giancarlo Esposito is a drug dealer, but a different drug dealer than the one he played earlier. He will play yet another drug dealer in a future episode. Miami addicts want to know why so many drug dealers in this town look like Giancarlo Esposito. Frank Military is a crazed punk and his name is Frank Military. Kim Greist is a high-class architect who falls in love with Crockett, but is she too high-class for him?
Out-of-context quote: "It's not love. It's LWP: lust with potential."

Guest stars: William Russ is an ATF agent with a death wish and a mesmerizing hairstyle.
Out-of-context quote: "Local snitch gives us what he thought was a nickel-and-dime buy, turns into armageddon."

Guest stars: Dennis Farina is back playing the same gangster, but we now learn that he has a heart of gold. Real-life jewel thief turned actor John Santucci is Farina's confidante. Ned Eisenberg plays the first of his 8 million roles. This time, he's a gangster.
Out-of-context quote: "I prefer the chopped meat scenario."

 Evan's hair is mesmerizing.

The casting for season 2 is pretty bananas so far. Lots of stunt casting. Look for that post in the next month or so.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013


"Marcel Proust and James Joyce, who with Kafka and Freud constitute the inescapable writers of the twentieth century, met once at a Parisian dinner party attended also by Stravinsky and Picasso, in May 1922, half a year before Proust's death, and soon after the publication of Sodom and Gomorrah, Part Two and Ulysses. Joyce had read a few pages of Proust, and saw no special talent; Proust had never heard of Joyce. The aristocratic Stravinsky snubbed both, and Picasso admired the women present. Accounts of the conversation between Proust and Joyce vary: evidently Proust lamented his digestion, and Joyce his headaches. ..."  -- Harold Bloom, Genius: A Mosaic of One Hundred Exemplary Creative Minds