The Sacramento Kings Disappear

The Kings Disappear

Today at the Classical, I’m privileged — and not just a little saddened — to chart the fall and rise and fall and imminent disappearance of my beloved Sacramento Kings:

The Kings’ futility runs much deeper than the usual peaks and troughs associated with the NBA, because the Kings’ near-win over the Lakers was the closest Sacramento ever got to reconciling the city’s imagined self with its real identity. Instead, we developed a perspective on winning from losing, made all the worse by having no other pro sports team to balance the anguish. Long-suffering Boston Red Sox fans had two Celtics dynasties; White Sox and Cubs fans had the Bulls, if they wanted them. Outsiders like to recall the Kings’ upswing as a heady, bittersweet marvel of civic renaissance, but believe me: There is nothing bittersweet about Sacramento and its Kings. It is all bitter.

And the rest…
Read more

In Defense of Oscar Bait

Oscar Bait

I’ve mostly been staying out of the awards-season muck, but I couldn’t help this one. From the fine folks at Slate:

Oscar bait is an art form, a state of mind, a business model. Its yield includes some of recent American cinema’s most resonant triumphs (Titanic, the Lord of the Rings trilogy, The Social Network) and some of its most wretched garbage (Nine, The Lovely Bones, the last decade of Halle Berry’s career). Oscar bait is the only reason that grown-ups have anything at all to watch in a movie theater anymore, with four months of awards season compensating for the other eight months of craven superhero franchises, anemic romantic comedies, and whatever Adam Sandler wipes off his shoe. For all the media hand-wringing about television usurping film’s grip on our culture’s imagination, no one complains about Breaking Bad losing an Emmy to Homeland the way they still yelp on and on about Crash thwarting Brokeback Mountain for a Best Picture Oscar.

And the rest…
Read more

The First Show, or: On The Dead Milkmen, Dec. 7, 1990

The Milkmen

I still have the ticket somewhere: The Dead Milkmen. Dec. 7, 1990. Cattle Club. Sacramento, Calif. Supporting acts: Mojo Nixon, The Cave Dogs. All ages. $10. The promoter had squeezed all the details into a rectangle in some horrible screaming serif font, replicated eight times on a standard 8.5×11 page, and photocopied maybe 40 pages, fanzine-style, on Kermit-green card stock. The Cattle Club couldn’t likely hold many more ticketholders than that. Not that everyone that night 22 years ago would have a ticket, but I had mine — my first show attending parentless.

Read more

The Trick to Turkey: Thanksgiving Boilermaker Chili

This morning at the grocery store, I felt my ear canals pool with blood as a woman protested to a turkey-section attendant about the condition of the birds on display. She had not ordered her turkey ahead of time, apparently, thus relegating herself to the poultry rummagers to whom this attendant had been assigned to provide counsel and aid. Nothing he could say, however, could assuage this woman’s distress that she might, on the eve of Thanksgiving, be sold a frozen turkey. "It’s not fresh!" she shrieked, white knuckles choking the handle of her shopping cart, eyes darting up and over and beyond the massive product. "It’s not fresh! It’s frozen!" Broken but not unbowed — not unlike his English — the attendant carried on with his argument until "It’s not fresh!" gave way to "It’s fresh?" and finally a 15-pound-or-so turkey landed at the bottom of the woman’s cart. *
Read more

Kickstarter and the Lost Lockpick

In my new piece at Slate, meet the competitive lockpicker behind one of Kickstarter’s most troubled projects:

"They worked beautifully," Towne recalls today. "I had people walking up to me holding a pick in their hand saying, ‘I haven’t been able to really understand what happened in a lock until I used this pick. And then, after about half an hour of this, people started walking up and saying, ‘Ah, this one snapped.'"

The first few snapped picks didn’t bother Towne. They were delicate. It happens. "But then," he says, "pick after pick after pick after pick kept coming back snapping."

And then everything snapped.

And the rest…
Read more

Fahrenheit 2012: Meet The Election’s Right-Wing Movie Hitmakers

Fahrenheit 2016

The election’s almost here, which means it’s time for a wave of political filmmakers and producers to cash in. My latest from Bloomberg Businessweek:

“When you look at box office returns,” says Andrew Marcus, director of Hating Breitbart, “especially for films that have political content, I think there is a huge audience that feels underserved. 2016 really shows that. The market is so tuned-in right now.”

And the rest…
Read more

NFL Films and Magic of Seeing Sports

Steve Sabol

Here’s something new via the fine folks at The Awl:

The fact remains that these are postmodern exercises in American image worship, handmade and preserved the same way for 50 years by skilled workers under the auspices of a league for which every snap, every pass, every hit, every fumble wields sumptuous visual portent. And from the fetishized brutality of "NFL: Moment of Impact" right down to the ageless satire of "Football Follies" — Sudden Death Sabol’s reminder of the flaws rife within his beloved game’s glossy veneer — these workers uphold an equally ageless duty to make a viewer feel football. This is not broadcasting. This is filmmaking. This is art.

And the rest…
Read more

The Bean: An Epic Tale of Music, Money, Madness, and Selling One of America’s Rarest Electric Guitars

Travis Bean

Here’s something new via the fine folks at The Billfold:

I can’t even look at it.

It rests inside its case in another room, upright and disused, as it sat by my left shoulder in my office for four years. And before that in a storage shed, and a garage, and before that beneath a bed and a futon. Before the futon it knew a different life entirely, one of bright, sonorous roars in the half-light of clubs and rehearsal rooms, aluminum on nickel on brass back on aluminum, tightrope walks of semi-competent musicianship and curious sideshow regard. Few who encountered it in those days had seen anything like it, and their inquires as to its identity and provenance gratified its owner as he followed their eyes down the length of its neck and across its gleaming curves and answered with the same unfailing, almost intoxicated pride that always accompanied every such reply:

“It’s a Travis Bean.”

And the rest…

Hello to All That

The site’s Work section is about as complete as it’s going to get. Of all the millions of words poured into the last few years, I stand most implacably by* these. Weep with me. Anyway, your mileage may vary, etc. I presume mine will at some point as well. Until then!
Read more

Episode IV: A New Home

I’ve been meaning to get to this for, oh, seven years: Welcome to Bookmark, send housewares, etc. More to come soon!