Wednesday, December 07, 2005


Tuesday Top Five - Special Wednesday Edition

Our Man in LA has no real excuse. The holidays have been messing with his ability to post to the blog on-time and his usually speedy and smart-assed manner. Yesterday, the obstacle that kept him was the office Christmas Party, which was over at 3 p.m., and as such, afforded Our Man ample time to get it done.

See what I mean? No real excuse.

But we need a Tuesday Top Five, and a Bottom One. And we need it now. So I'm here, on a Wednesday, worrying about you, the reader, and bringing you the latest in Wieland's fancies.

(I'm also sensitive to the fact that with the holidays approaching, you have less and less time to take in the daily blogs out there. So, taking to heart the needs of the customer, Our Man in LA will try to make this short and sweet).

So away we go . . .

5) A SAVAGE PLACE by Robert B. Parker. Picked this one up while I was home in Ohio for Thanksgiving. It's proven to be a perfect book to eat turkey to, watch football to, and get your identity stolen to. Parker's dependable regular sleuth, Spenser, travels from his regular climes in Boston to Los Angeles to guard a television reporter investigating corruption and mob ties to the Hollywood studios.

Written in 1981, it's a cool look back at LA during the late 70s and early 80s. Spenser finds himself walking down the same mean streets that Our Man in LA travels daily, and it's cool to be able to imagine exactly where it is that he faces off against LA mobsters, bad guys, and studio execs.

As everyone knows, I'm a huge fan of the Spenser series, and this is a good one that gives us a lot of time with the man on his own. Exciting, interesting stuff. And with a fight sequence at the Farmer's Market on Fairfax and Third (now part of the Grove shopping mall).

4) Gary Barnett. Heh. Apparently the guy got fired today by the University of Colorado. Apparently, the news got leaked to the Denver Post before the CU Athletic Director spoke to Barnett directly.

Our Man in LA doesn't wish evil on anyone. Seriously. He's much more mellow since moving to the Left Coast. But this couldn't happen to a nicer guy than Barnett.

Bon voyage, scumbag. See if there's some other major collegiate athletic department who'll take a chance on a guy that makes light of rape victims and hires hookers to attract visiting high school seniors to a football program.

3) Mimosa. Went to this trendy little bistro on Melrose at Crescent Heights yesterday for the office Christmas Party. What do you know? The office actually got something right with this place.

If you're in the neighborhood, give it a look. Good food - my filet of sole was tasty, and the dessert (floating island) was nothing short of incredible. The decor was all yellows and French countryside - with the kind of details that the wife seems to like in an eating establishment.

True, I could have done without the white elephant, Yankee swap of presents we did after the meal, but I hardly think that's the restaurant's fault.

2) WALK THE LINE. Last Saturday, the wife and I tramped down to the Los Feliz 3 and took in the new Johnny Cash biopic. You've probably already heard the gist of my review, because it's the gist of everyone's review. Basically it's this: Wow, Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon are really good.

They are. They bring a lot of depth to the story, they sing and carry on in a way that pays homage to Johnny and June. There's nothing I can say about the execution of this movie that's anything, really, short of dazzling.

The problem for Our Man in LA just might be that the biopic's sort of a dull kind of flick. I realized this last year during RAY, and it was just as apparent now. Here's the problem with the biopic, in my not so humble opinion. It's got to begin and end somewhere, and it's rare that I've seen one that really ends where it should.

WALK THE LINE begins and should end at Cash's legendary 1968 concert in Folsom State Prison. Everything that the man was, everything that his legend would become, ultimately hinges on that day in that prison. It's right that the movie should start there and reach backward. The fact that it doesn't end there is a tragedy.

But Wieland, he hadn't married June Carter yet! Yeah, I know. But we all know that he did marry her. Move on.

But Wieland, he hadn't totally kicked the drug habit yet. Right, but that's not really what the movie was about. You don't spend an extra half hour on tying up a subplot that was at best secondary to the main plot.

But Wieland, he hadn't gotten the place in Tennessee yet. Look, how can I put this. This is the problem with biopics. It took two hours to get me back to Folsom. Loved every minute of it. It took me a half hour to get to the end of the movie. Looked at my watch every two or three minutes. Not because it got bad, but because I had no idea how much longer it was going to go. Cash lived up till about three years ago. I knew it wouldn't go all the way there . . . but at this rate, why not? We've already gotten the man through the most dramatic pieces of his life. Why not finish it off?

Folks, there's nothing worse than a movie that doesn't end when it should. We've all seen flicks like that. Remember JERRY MCGUIRE? Didn't you feel that movie end like six times before you were finally put out of your misery? Awful. RAY was like this, too. We didn't go to his death, but we still stayed too long.

Good movie. Go see it. But feel free to hit the bathroom or the concessions during the last half hour.

1) TRUE STORY, SWEAR TO GOD. I'd been hearing about this cool little black and white comic for some time, and I finally got a chance to check it out. It's funny, touching, completely amazing - and a prime illustration of the way comics is an effective medium for more than just stories about super-heroes (much as I like those, too).

Here's the set up. Tom Beland's a 30-something newspaper cartoonist from northern California. He's lonely but nice, funny but sad, you know the type. He gets a chance for an all-expense paid trip to Disneyland, and heads by himself. While he's there, for the first time in his life, he starts to realize how alone he is. He's the only guy at the Magic Kingdom not tooling around with a family.

So the last night he's there, he goes to Pleasure Island or whatever, and he meets Lily, a 40-something journalist from San Juan, who's also here on an all-expense paid junket. They have one of those nights full of possibility, conversation, and soul-touching depth . . . and in the morning, they're set to go home. And home only happens to be a million miles away from one another.

So what do you do, when you have one of those instant, change your life in a minute connections, and you know that it'll be an amazing amount of work to keep it going. Do you go for it? Do you try with every ounce of your being? Or, as Eminem said, do you let it slip away?

On that trip to Uncle Walt's Kingdom, Tom and Lily began their romance, with all the work and toil that would follow. Tom captures it on the page today in this comic. If you've got a free minute for a fun read, check this one out.

And now, the Bottom One. Drumroll please . . .

1) Bad Retro Uniforms!

One of my new favorite websites is the Helmet Project, which shows the helmets and logos of all the NFL teams and most major and minor college football teams going back nearly 50 years. Want to see when Ohio State had red helmets? Or when Northwestern's helmets were white with a purple script "Cats" on them? You can see them here.

Great way to kill an afternoon. You start out with the teams you care about, and then you start to think, "I wonder what the Ivy League's helmets were like in 1972". And the CFL, and the World League, and so on.

Additionally, Our Man in LA is a big fan of many of the retro uniforms out there. I have on more than one occasion opined that should the San Diego Chargers return to their original unis (with the powder blue jerseys, yellow pants, and white helmets), I will immediately become a Charger backer - but not one minute before.

These old uniforms are classic. But like with rock n roll, just because it's classic doesn't mean it's good. Some of these uniforms should be retired. Possibly burned. Possibly striken from memory.

Take for example the Chicago Stag uniforms the Bulls wore the other night. Awful. Reminiscent of a YMCA basketball team's uniforms. I have expected to see the name of Joe's Pep Boys on Marshall Road in Kettering, Ohio, instead of a name and number on the back. Awful. Amateurish.

So look. I realize this isn't my most controversial stand of all time. But I like the retro jerseys and uniforms. I just want a compromise. Like how about this: if the old unis are cool, show em. If not, leave em. Forget about the orange and white Tampa Bay Buc unis (with the gay pirate on the helmet); forget about the Denver Nugget unis with the Denver skyline and a rainbow on them.

You know what? If you need help with this, NFL and NBA, just give me a call. I'll let you know.

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