Not the Great American Rock and Roll Band

Ladies and gentlemen, Johnny Thunders & the Heartbreakers. Just because it’s great, because it’s Wednesday, because Johnny’s still dead, because Max’s is a faint memory, and because there’s a lightning storm sweeping across Manhattan. And it’s not the Grateful Dead. Comment away.

Half-Way to a Year: A Quick Editor’s Note

Six months ago, it was cold. So I downloaded WordPress and started this blog. And stayed inside. Time well-spent, I’d say – though it was just the smallest spark that provided a hint of hint of fuel for all the cultural combustion that has come this way since. I just keep the lights on here …

Jerusalem on the Jukebox: Chabon’s Yiddish Noir

So lush is the detail in Michael Chabon’s brilliant The Yiddish Policemen’s Union, so developed the back-story, the alternative history, that it’s the rare short novel that feels long – like you want to live in its dark and distinct precincts a little longer. Chabon has described the book as an ode to Raymond Chandler, …

Ward Cleaver’s Club: the Great TV Dads

Tomorrow, I shall take my breakfast under the covers – a twice-yearly occurrence around case Watson (birthday, too!) – and I shall enjoy the mild but heartfelt tribute to my fatherhood. Later, I’ll give my old man a card and a gift, and char a few burgers in his honor. And I will feel well-satisfied …

Richard Thompson’s Sweet Warrior: Battles Everywhere

The earnest thump-thump-thump of the bass drum on Dad’s Gonna Kill Me – the headline-grabbing anti-war single from Richard Thompson’s new Sweet Warrior album – creates a rhythm that doesn’t exactly match that of Baghdad, the song’s setting and the “‘Dad” of its title. The backing rhythm there, of course, is not so regular as …

Steve Gilliard, 1966-2007

One of the great voices of the shared Internet is gone: blogger Steve Gilliard (who blogged here at newcritics before his illness) died today at age 41. I didn’t know Steve very well personally, but he was a brother in the virtual sense. His voice was entirely his – a true iconoclast with a strong, …

Watching for Keira – Almost Nightly

A pirate walked up to me in the mall this holiday weekend as I was loitering outside of Anthropologie, waiting with only moderatre patience for The Artist. “Hey big man, I’ve got Pirates and Shrek 3 on DVD. Twenty bucks.” I shooed him away with a suave “belay me buck-o, and be about yer business.” …

What Camus Sees: The Plague Within

There is a scene in The Plague, the relentessly grim post-war novel by existential icon Albert Camus, that still shocks: the hopeless, tortured death struggle of a beloved child – made worse by his father’s plea to the protagonist Dr. Rieux to “save my boy.” It’s a scene (and I say “scene” because I find …

Defending Edward Hopper

It’s not that Holland Cotter is routinely deranged; the Times art critics wrote a wonderful piece debunking the common myths surrounding Islamic art a while back, and maintains a healthy distrust of the invesstment-fueled “art market” as a driver of real taste and value. No, Cotter is solid. He did, however, become conspicuously unhinged and …

Meeting Kirk Douglas

You don’t have to ask Kirk Douglas for his favorite film role – it’s already on his lips. “Van Gogh.” He’s referring to Lust for Life, the 1956 MGM movie about the life of the Dutch painter, based on the 1934 novel by Irving Stone, directed by Vincente Minnelli and George Cukor, and produced by …