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ABF Friday:  Barely Tolerable Edition!

Winter in central Pennsylvania!  You know what that means for us mountain folk—lots of snow days with the one kid who still lives at home, arctic temperatures that make everyone forget we’re actually about one degree of latitude south of Rome (yes, Rome in Italy), and (therefore) lots of moviegoing on the weekends!  Sometimes Janet takes Jamie while I work—they saw High School Musical 3, for instance—but most of the time I take him, because (as you know) I have no standards whatsoever.  After Janet took Jamie to see Cats and Dogs years ago, she vowed never to take him to see a movie that terrible again, and she has kept her word.  I matched Cats and Dogs for sheer terribleness that year by acceding to Jamie’s request to see Hard Ball, which for some reason he thought was going to be a movie about sports.  But unlike Janet, I have continued—however unwittingly—to take Jamie to see movies that suck.

This year, he tricked me into seeing The Spirit, which surely deserves an award of some kind for being even worse than Craptastic 4: Rise of the Silver Sucker, a movie that (as regular readers of this humble blog are aware) leads people to say, “I didn’t know they could make movies that bad.” Jamie was puzzled by it, because he thought that it would be something like Dark Knight, which he loves (and has seen three times).  And I was puzzled too, until I realized that it was something like The Haunting, that is, a devious Hollywood experiment whose purpose it is to see if talented and respected actors (no, not Eva Mendes) can be humiliated into sucking worse than Keanu Reeves and Demi Moore. (And hey, why haven’t those two teamed up yet?  a breathless world awaits!) Scarlett Johansson, Samuel L. Jackson—don’t you two have agents who are supposed to steer you clear of debacles like this? This is my city—it makes snow so that I can throw snowballs at bad guys. O-kay.

But that’s not what I’m blogging about today.  I’m tired of ABF Fridays that are all about the best this and the most godawful that.  It’s time for an Arbitrary But Fun Friday in which we celebrate the barely tolerable

Film: After the debacle that was The Spirit, I warned Jamie that in the future, I would consult Rotten Tomatoes before agreeing to any more of his cabin-fever-in-the-tundra weekend movie requests.  (This is a major departure for me.  I usually insist on knowing nothing about a film before I see it, whereas Janet reads every English-language review she can find before seeing a film.  How pure am I?  Folks, I saw Slumdog Millionaire last week and didn’t even know it was set in India until the movie started.  That’s because I do a lot of sticking my fingers in my ears and singing “la la la la la la” when people talk about movies I haven’t seen.) So when Jamie tried to rally by suggesting Yes Man, I was duly skeptical.  As one wag put it, “Jim Carrey? Starring in a new high-concept studio comedy? As a zany everyman? Surely not, I hear you cry!” But it got a 43 on Rotten Tomatoes, whereas The Spirit earned itself a record-low 15, so I said, “ahhhh, what the hell.  Jamie will probably like it, and it’s got to be better than sitting around watching the permafrost surround my house.” And it was!  It was genuinely funny in places!  The romantic-comedy angle with Zooey Deschanel did not make me want to tear my own head off!  Rhys Darby is hilarious!  Jamie loved the Harry Potter party scene!  And at one point, there’s a big wedding shower over which the soundtrack is playing . . . Trouble Funk’s “Let’s Get Small!” Well, holy mother of Moloch, that’s way more than tolerable!  That’s actually good!  (Serious aside: why the hell don’t filmmakers use more Trouble Funk in their dang soundtracks?  That’s some toe-tapping, finger-snapping music right there!  Also one of the best live shows I’ve ever seen, way back in 1987.)

So Yes Man, much to my surprise and frozen delight, cleared the bar of the Barely Tolerable.

Music: This is harder, because the determination of whether a song is Barely Tolerable is usually a spur-of-the-moment thing, and it almost always involves the question of whether to fiddle with the car radio.  (I assume you all are not making party mixes and iPod playlists with barely tolerable songs on them, or buying or downloading barely tolerable CDs.) And that determination, in turn, depends in part on the question of whether there is Anything Better On.  For me, the line in these shifting sands is probably best drawn by the Rob Thomas / Carlos Santana “Smooth” thing that appears every three to four days on your Drive at Five or Morning Roadblock or Lunchtime Request shows.  On the one hand, you have to listen to Rob Thomas singing, Rob Thomas singing through that filter, and Rob Thomas singing a “Latin”-tinged tune.  On the other hand, the geetar-playing is quite good, and that makes the song average out to Barely Tolerable.  When you combine that with the realization that the classic-rock station is most likely playing Foghat’s “Fool for the City,” the soft-rock-for-the-workplace station is offering Phil Collins’ “Take Me Home,” the best mix of yesterday and today is playing Billy Joel’s “Only the Good Die Young,” the college / alternative station is doing its Grateful Dead show, and the “contemporary” station is playing Britney, you wind up shrugging and keeping your hands on the wheel.  It’s only three minutes, after all, and it’s Barely Tolerable.  Just over that line: Pink’s “Who Knew” and Kelly Clarkson’s “Since U Been Gone.” Completely acceptable mainstream radio fare, not worth turning off and flipping through the dial lest one be subjected to two or three seconds of “Fly Like an Eagle” or “With Arms Wide Open.”

And you?  Where’s your Barely Tolerable line?


Relentless Winter Weather Addendum: I have been joking with some of my Internet friends—Chris Robinson chief among them—about trying to come up with some scam for which we all can get fellowships that involve “working” in Tuscany for a year.  Chris’s case is especially urgent, because even though it was two degrees here yesterday morning as I ventured out for my last round of physical therapy at 8 am (torn elbow ligament, story for another time), Chris lives in northern New York where the temperature has not gone above eleventy-eight Kelvin in the past two months.  Some time ago, we proposed writing a book-length analysis of the history of the New York Rangers, a project that obviously would require a spacious villa just outside Siena and a full complement of research assistants.  Unfortunately, in the current economic climate, few granting agencies are willing to support international research on professional ice hockey, not to mention the amount of calamari and pinot grigio necessary for this project.  However, I have since learned that certain new-media consortiums are willing to fund a year-long symposium, to be housed just outside Florence, on the role of blog comment sections in the transmission of knowledge.  So if you have any ideas for this critical research initiative, now’s the time!

Posted by on 02/06 at 10:00 AM
  1. Villa I Tatti, outside Florence. Year-long research fellowships, funded by Harvard.  A friend had one last year, and I spent one of the best weeks of my life visiting her.  But I think you need to be an Italian scholar.  Also, when they accept you, they send you a letter saying that they have a “tacit understanding” that you will regularly attend lunch at the Villa.  Of course, I would call this an “overt requirement,” but the food isn’t bad.

    Posted by  on  02/06  at  11:32 AM
  2. I spent years (a lifetime) as a letter carrier, and generally there was an easy rock station on in the station every morning. You learned to tolerate songs because you had to, although eventually walkmen were allowed (at first they were banned because the supervisors wanted you to hear them when they yelled at you).

    I used to create parodies based local news stories. Two guys in our office had been busted on the clock for snorting cocaine at the beach, so the line from “What A Fool Believes” that goes “the wise man has the power” became “the white man has the powder”. I dunno. You had to be there. Since they played the damned song every day that gave everyone a laugh.

    I’m not sure I can immediately think of a barely tolerable song as per the rules set down. A good riff helps. Back in the day a good riff and garbled lyrics could create a mystery that would overcome any triteness that future examination would expose.

    Posted by Bob In Pacifca  on  02/06  at  11:45 AM
  3. I thought the lyric was “the white man has the powder.” And Betsy, thanks!  We’re on our way—brushing up our Italian first thing.  Como se dice “Villa I Tatti blog comment / hockey research scam”?

    Posted by  on  02/06  at  11:50 AM
  4. In terms of movies, I would put the line of barely tolerable at Batman Forever or so. I mean, it was pretty mediocre, but it was a passably entertaining comic book movie. I have to admit that I can’t really isolate a line of barely tolerable for music; I have remarkably undiscriminating taste in music. Nickelback’s “Never Again” is on the other side of the line, as it’s one of the very few songs I can think of that will make me change the radio station.

    I read the book that Yes Man was based on. Good fun. I didn’t really want to see what Jim Carrey would do to it, so I didn’t.

    Posted by  on  02/06  at  12:04 PM
  5. i would totally stop for “fly like an eagle” if i came across it, for the following reasons: it’s probably been twenty-five years since i heard it, and just reading the title vividly reminds me of those awkward days when i used to (try to) feather my hair and spend twenty minutes checking my face for impending zits, all while humming “doo-doo, do-do-do-do-do” and never getting the rhythm quite right.

    is there such a thing as nostalgic self-schadenfreude?

    Posted by  on  02/06  at  12:04 PM
  6. Kelly Clarkson clears the bar for me ... but largely because the only context in which I actually know “Since U Been Gone” is courtesy of Girl Talk’s “Here’s the Thing” .. which is much more than Barely Tolerable.  But then, as Negativland reminds us, copyright infringement really is your best entertainment value.

    Posted by Gil  on  02/06  at  12:19 PM
  7. We watched Back to the Future 2 yesterday with the kid. It was indeed just Barely Tolerable. The “don’t let your past self see your future self” trick was good fun. How many Michael J. Foxes and Christopher Lloyds do you want in a given scene? I say four is perfect. Although some scenes had four Michael J. Foxes alone, as he played his future self, his 1989 self, his future son, and his future daughter. (Yes! Michael J. Fox in bland drag is a highlight of the Barely Tolerable.) From that same set piece comes the movie’s real highlight: Finding out that in 2015, when cars can fly and skateboards become hoverboards, people are bringing home faxes of jokes from the office.

    Posted by Orange  on  02/06  at  12:29 PM
  8. You liberals and your tolerance. You get your hybrid-electric president and taxpayer-funded stem-cell condoms—and now you’re preaching “barely” tolerance!

    I am trying to accept this. But you know that necking leads to heavy petting, don’t you?

    Here’s the problem. With the election over, I have forsaken the contents of a loaded 512-hyperbyte iPhone—mostly NPR podcasts and (seriously, snif) a lot of very cool John Martyn tracks—for the local MOR AOR Oldies station. And I cannot listen to any song that I had previously and tenderly executed on a borrowed Martin D28 for the sole purpose of gentlemanly seduction. A lot of Eagles and Neil Young there.

    But you know what I did barely tolerate the other day? “Time Passages” by Al Stewart. That shite that was total eww-w-w-w back in the day, never gave it half a chance. But now I gave it a close listen to the point of having a Driveway Moment—in the garage. (Hey, PA wussies, we routinely do 20 below here.)

    But wait, there’s more! The next morning I fired up the car and “Year of the Cat” had just started. That’s just cosmic. Once more, I savored its Smoove B platitudes and bad-Dylan—nay, bad-JImmy Webb—imagery.

    Pretty good music is often intolerable. ("The best is barely good enough.") Monumental dreckitude I can do.

    Posted by David J Swift  on  02/06  at  12:37 PM
  9. You should be careful what you wish for. The one time I was in Tuscany it was for a week in January—which I believe a year in Tuscany would probably include—and the temperature never rose above eleventy-eight Kelvin that entire time. In fact, I don’t think it even got up to eleventy-two.

    Posted by  on  02/06  at  01:09 PM
  10. Well, your first step is to suggest to Kommisar Bettman that the Rangers open the season in Siena. There’s precedent for that, after a fashion; Siena isn’t that much smaller than Prague!

    Posted by  on  02/06  at  01:24 PM
  11. My problem with this category is that I keep coming up with songs that are “barely intolerable”. Maybe that’s next Friday??? but two songs that are within margin of error on the tolerable boundary for me are: “Horse With No Name” and “Sugar Mountain”.


    captcha “national” as in: When is BHO going to get on with nationalizing the banks?

    Posted by  on  02/06  at  01:46 PM
  12. It’s a big bill!

    Arbitrary is like whatever I want, right? The barely tolerable imbecilic republican (and media need I add) kvetching about the size of the stimulus bill made me think of the great Carlton Beer ad linked above. Substitute “bill” for “ad”, “we’re debating” for “we’re in” and “better create some jobs” (Dem version) or “make rich people richer” (Repub version) for “sell some bloody beer”.

    Posted by  on  02/06  at  01:48 PM
  13. i would totally stop for “fly like an eagle” if i came across it, for the following reasons: it’s probably been twenty-five years since i heard it

    Really!  You have been in Earth orbit for that long?  Be careful when you come back—you’re going to need a lot of physical therapy to compensate for the bone loss and muscle atrophy.

    I mean, come on.  I have to hear the thing three times a week, and you’ve avoided it for twenty-five years?  Tell me your secret, son!

    20 below David @ 8:  wow, “Time Passages” is really pushing it.  It also deserves a place among the Distinguished Dreck things that made a one-hit wonder into a two-hit wonder.

    Posted by  on  02/06  at  01:49 PM
  14. Once Clarkson has cleared the barely tolerable line, you should listen to Ted Leo’s cover of “Since U Been Gone” and then come back and listen to Kelly’s original again.

    Posted by  on  02/06  at  02:13 PM
  15. I’d love to hear your take on Slumdog Millionaire.  I mean it’s such an old-fashioned 19th century popular novel sort of story, isn’t it? did you enjoy it?  hate it?  think it’s bad for you?

    Posted by  on  02/06  at  02:14 PM
  16. Thanks for asking, Bloix!  I thought it was quite wonderful, though the implausible romance competed a bit too much with the implausible game-show triumph.  I thought the device of having each question open onto an extended flashback was quite good enough.  Here’s to old-fashioned 19th-century popular-novel stories!  Like Great Slumdog Expectations.  As for the controversy surrounding the movie, well, I agree that the poor of Mumbai should never be represented on film, lest Westerners . . . um, I dunno, lest Westerners get the impression that children go begging in the streets and are rounded up and blinded by evil scumbags.  Haven’t we seen enough of this in Oliver Twist?

    Posted by  on  02/06  at  02:29 PM
  17. "I mean, come on.  I have to hear the thing three times a week, and you’ve avoided it for twenty-five years?  Tell me your secret, son!”

    take the ‘mats’ advice and stay left of the dial, and you can avoid many popular bad (and barely tolerable) songs. of course, then you might have to listen to narcotized deejays on stations like WTJU as they spin ‘mountain dew’ (alpine valley ‘83 version)* during the annual fund drive/dead marathon.

    * fictional or purely coincidental—leave me alone, deadheads.

    Posted by  on  02/06  at  02:42 PM
  18. Chris lives in northern New York where the temperature has not gone above eleventy-eight Kelvin in the past two months.

    Holy Tuscan capo!  That’s, like, negative twentyfourty-seven Fahrenheit!  And I thought Rochester had it bad this year.

    is there such a thing as nostalgic self-schadenfreude?

    If there weren’t, I’d have an even harder time making it out of bed in the morning.

    Oh, right, barely tolerable.  Hmm.  There’s a film that appeared on the televistic device a little while back which led the Missus* and me to note, “That wasn’t all that bad.” But bedanged with a bedangin’ stick if I can remember what it was.  So, uh, chalk one up for “Completely Unmemorable Film Edited for Television.”

    *No, not Chris Clarke.  Duh.  Chris Clarke kills and skins televisions to make his clothing.

    Posted by  on  02/06  at  03:00 PM
  19. 1. I was working in the U of Iowa Writing Centre yesterday and an international student asked me if using words like “always” and “never” in academic writing was “dangeral.” I, of course, said yes, almost always. But I’m only a humble humanities lecturer, so I will defer to the Professor of Dangeral Studies, if you disagree.

    2. “I Tatti” is a scam, oops, research opportunity, for Renaissance and Italian Literature scholars. Since you’re an Americanist, why not investigate Herman Melville’s little known French Polynesian hockey team, the Ahabs? The archive is, I believe, in Papeete.

    Posted by  on  02/06  at  03:12 PM
  20. Woo hoo, Papeete here we come!  And if Chris ships with me he can have the seven hundred and seventy-seventh lay of the fellowship stipend.

    Posted by  on  02/06  at  03:20 PM
  21. And if Chris ships with me he can have the seven hundred and seventy-seventh lay of the fellowship stipend.

    Sounds like a dick move on your part, Professor.

    Posted by  on  02/06  at  03:33 PM
  22. You know, ‘barely tolerable’ can be a whole way of life.  I mean, I would submit that this describes my job, my wardrobe, my intellectual capacity.... all kinds of stuff!  My wife would probably say that it describes everything about me!  Hm.

    For my part, I would have to say that the guacamole that comes in the plastic bag thingy is barely tolerable—as are Eight O’Clock Coffee, Pierce Brosnan as James Bond, Ei vacuum tubes, and Prince Albert In A Can.

    Posted by  on  02/06  at  03:46 PM
  23. And then there are the songs that in one context are totally intolerable, yet in another are quite enjoyable.  (These are also sometimes referred to as “guilty pleasures.") I mean, I know that “Uncle John’s Band” and “Layla” are better songs that “Julie, Do Ya Love Me?”, but I find the latter much more enjoyable than either of the former.  By the same token, I presume that Rod Stewart is a more “authentic” singer than Karen Carpenter, but I still prefer “Rainy Days and Mondays” to “Maggie May.”

    Posted by  on  02/06  at  03:57 PM
  24. Here’s the thing about Slumdog Millionaire - we’re shown in graphic detail the degradation, oppression, misery and heartless exploitation of untold thousands of innocent children - and we come out smiling and wanting to dance!!! Somewhere Brecht is tearing his hair out!

    Posted by  on  02/06  at  04:44 PM
  25. BTW, compare S-D-M with the lovely movie that’s up for best documentary, Man on Wire - which is essentially a caper movie about a bunch of guys pulling off a fabulous stunt, the 1974 wire-walking between the two World Trade Center towers - and as this thrillingly suspenseful and unbelievably exciting story reaches its peak - he does it! - we’re crying our eyes out!!

    Narrative is a wonderful thing.  It doesn’t matter what the story is, it’s what the story-teller does with it.

    Posted by  on  02/06  at  04:49 PM
  26. Jeez, Bloix, spoilers.

    Posted by  on  02/06  at  05:18 PM
  27. Oh, I was afraid of this—thepuppethead has expanded the “barely tolerable” criterion over the entire field of human endeavor.  I was going to add something about how I’m OK with eating a quick dinner at the Chipotle Grill but will not cannot drink Eight O’Clock Coffee, Martinson’s, Maxwell House, or Chock Full O’Nuts—but decided at the last second that the post was quite long enough.

    Russell, “Rainy Days and Mondays”?  Hmmm, OK, I can see that.  But I’m still holding out for “Goodbye to Love,” for the arbitrary reasons I offered on a Friday long ago.

    And Bloix, I assure you that Brecht is dancing—with joy!  “Finally,” he’s saying to himself, “someone understands what I was trying to do in Mother Courage!”

    Posted by  on  02/06  at  05:20 PM
  28. I was once convinced to see the Super Mario Brothers movie by a son of an appropriate age. It was OK but I’d forgotten it by the time I hit the sidewalk.

    Posted by Steve Muhlberger  on  02/06  at  05:24 PM
  29. Oh, mds, within 20 minutes of the opening credits you can tell that S-D-M is gonna have a happy ending. Go see it, I haven’t spoiled it.

    Posted by  on  02/06  at  05:36 PM
  30. Foghat’s “Fool for the City,”

    A very f-n bodacious tune. Gutenn morgen Fontana!

    the college / alternative station is doing its Grateful Dead show

    Ahh yeaah. Memories… Winter, schnapps, chronic and vicodin. Wrong way, blizzard north on 395, Gardnerville NV. something aka 90s: cold rain n snoww. You had to be thar’.  Quite cool until Bobby W, CEO seized control..........

    Posted by Ezra Hound  on  02/06  at  05:42 PM
  31. Michael @ 27 Oh, I was afraid of this—thepuppethead has expanded the “barely tolerable” criterion over the entire field of human endeavor.

    Oop!  There’s always a bad apple!

    Posted by  on  02/06  at  06:17 PM
  32. I can’t afford to buy any new music, so all I have that’s new-to-me is random mixes downloaded from the internets. A fair amount of barely tolerable in there, but I finally decided the other day that I would not tolerate “Moneymaker” by Rilo Kiley even one more time. God that song sucks. And when you consider that I (barely) tolerate Petra Haden’s “Don’t Stop Believin’,” Alan Jackson’s “Talkin Song Repair Blues,” and Fountains of Wayne’s cover of “Baby One More Time,” that’s saying a lot.

    Posted by JRoth  on  02/06  at  06:35 PM
  33. Oh, mds, within 20 minutes of the opening credits you can tell that S-D-M is gonna have a happy ending.

    Er, yes, I had actually already guessed that.  This is vaguely reminiscent of Penny Arcade.  Which is usually at least barely tolerable, as webcomics go.

    Posted by  on  02/06  at  07:35 PM
  34. I’m with “bloix” on Slumdog Millionaire. It’s barely tolerable except for the Bollywood dance number at the end, which is a notch above.

    Posted by sfmike  on  02/06  at  08:45 PM
  35. I do think we should distinguish “barely tolerable” from “guilty pleasures”.  The latter are actually pleasurable, but we feel guilty (I put the music of Boston and things like CSI: Miami and the later seasons of The West Wing in this category), while the former are only marginally pleasurable, just enough so to keep us from changing the channel/station/putting the damn book down and getting some work done for a change.

    Let’s see: Love, Actually; 24; Alias; Artemis Fowl.  And you want pop songs too, I see.  I am rarely caught in proximity to a radio nowadays, but the painter was over a while back, and he treated us to several hours of “classic rock,” so how about: “Heart of Glass” (or “One Way or Another"), “Every Breath You Take,” “Hot Blooded” (N.B. not “Feels Like the First Time”, which is not tolerable), and, sad to say, because I like the band, the entirety of Aqualung.  Actually I don’t really want to think about this any more, so I’ll stop there.

    Posted by Dave Maier  on  02/06  at  09:38 PM
  36. The TV show Chuck is barely tolerable. I have barely tolerated every episode. For a while I thought it was a guilty pleasure, but I realized there’s hardly any pleasure involved, and after a while the guilt went away, too.

    Posted by  on  02/06  at  10:13 PM
  37. There are two barely tolerable songs named after my Lovely Wife, G-L-O-R-I-A (or G-L-O-R-U-E if’n you remember the SNL garage band version) and that other mawkish one by some girl singer—Laura Branigan, maybe?  For some reason, the LW finds them intolerable.  Go figure. But to precisely demarcate the barely tolerable borderline, I submit, with the exception of “Coming to America,” which for some reason brings me close to tears, the entire Neil Diamond song catalog.  Full disclosure: The LW is a HUGE ND fan.  So, yes, I have seen him live.  Barely tolerable.

    Off topic, but Orange’s comment made me think of Heinlein’s “All You Zombies” a truly fantabulous classic SF story from the Golden Age, and a lame excuse to gratuitously mention zombies, for which I will not appologize.

    Posted by jazzbumpa  on  02/06  at  10:27 PM
  38. I don’t know if this counts, but a few months back I was watching that cop show on ABC where the guy gets hit by a car and wakes up in 1973. They litter the soundtrack with early seventies stuff, much of which hasn’t been played since then. And in one chase scene where the cops are trying to catch this murderous sexual pervert the soundtrack plays The Sweet’s “Little Willy”. Now I didn’t like it back then but I suddenly heard snatches of lyrics (I played everything loud back then and it distorted and I didn’t hear many words clearly). And I made an amazing discovery: The song is about a dick. You know, Little Willy won’t go home, you can’t keep Willy down, Willy won’t go. At least I think that the song is about a dick. At this late stage in my life this discovery is revelatory. That is, unless the song isn’t about a dick.

    In any case, I found the song catchy and bought a used CD on Amazon, listened to it and realized I don’t like Sweet.

    Posted by Bob In Pacifca  on  02/06  at  10:29 PM
  39. My simple-minded take on popular culture is that it is crap and I will have nothing to do with it. This insight has been a godsend to me.

    Posted by Hattie  on  02/06  at  10:50 PM
  40. I thought mds’s “jeez, spoilers” comment was aimed at the big reveal that the tightrope walkers made it across in the documentary.

    This reminded me of a review of a friend’s nonfiction book wherein the reviewer complained that the title gave away the ending. The title is The White Cascade: The Great Northern Railway Disaster and America’s Deadliest Avalanche and, um, it’s history. I suppose the same reviewer would be peeved if the cover of a Lincoln biography gave away the ending, too.

    Posted by Orange  on  02/06  at  10:54 PM
  41. in re: barely tolerable vis a vis rotten tomatoes, i always keep in mind the tomatoe standard for rotten to ripe is 60%, not an even 50%.

    ergo i will consider anything w/in the 40%-60% fresh tomato range, depending on how much i want to see the film to start, who’s in it, the subject matter, and more importantly, the specific critics that like/hate the movie on rotten tomatoes.

    ie, i give more weight to ao scott & tom shales than eli levi and planet sick boy.

    and whatever michael berube says, too.

    Posted by skippy  on  02/06  at  11:02 PM
  42. i give more weight to ao scott & tom shales than eli levi and planet sick boy

    Dang!  Still no love for David Denby round here.

    Posted by Michael  on  02/06  at  11:21 PM
  43. Tuscany symposium notion: Contact Raymond Reyes at Gonzaga University and suggest that GU needs to sponsor a year-long study at its Firenze campus.  Subject could be analyses of the base and superstructure constructs of organizational leadership as they pertain to moderating a blogpost commentary thread in the age of net-neutral international web access (damn those Chinese censors).

    Necessary GD critique: the college / alternative station is doing its Grateful Dead show, Given that there are only two (2) three minute Grateful Dead songs in their entire repertoire (they were on their very first LP), you would have to be ever so unfortunate to only hear them as you channel surf your radio dial (both of which are more than tolerable).  The captcha word is “eyes” as in wake up to find out you are the eyes of the world. {Ezra, you should have stopped in Markleeville?}

    Barely tolerable honorable mentions: most of the work of Tech9ine, Jay-Z, Eminem, etc.; covers of Zappa’s oeuvre (though Govt. Mule’s efforts are mas worthy); the better Madonna material, Sinatra if at all.  btw: smooth jazz is completely out.

    Posted by  on  02/06  at  11:37 PM
  44. … not worth turning off and flipping through the dial lest one be subjected to two or three seconds of “Fly Like an Eagle” or “With Arms Wide Open.”

    Or, God forbid, the opening bit of “The Joker” (Every time someone listens to the line “Some people call me Maurice”, a baby chipmunk dies.)

    Barely tolerable movies and songs are best characterized by their refractory periods (which change if they are violated). For instance, Pink Floyd’s “Money” was barely tolerable at one time, but as of now I cannot listen to it again until 2017 due to continual overplay. The Heart triad of “Crazy on You”, “Magic Man” & “Barracuda” are each right about at my threshold.

    So Yes Man, much to my surprise and frozen delight, cleared the bar of the Barely Tolerable.

    Once I bet. I quite enjoyed Catch Me If You Can, but during a recent rewatching I discovered that I needed to see it about 1.5 times during my life.

    Posted by  on  02/06  at  11:46 PM
  45. I was watching that cop show on ABC

    I find that show barely tolerable too. Josh Marshall gave it a shout out a while back; I can’t figure out why or whether I like it, but I also can’t figure out why I watch every episode. Along with Chuck, it is the only contemporary TV show I watch.

    the better Madonna material

    Alex Rodriguez barely (heh) tolerated Madonna, I hear.

    Posted by  on  02/07  at  12:00 AM
  46. Every time someone listens to the line “Some people call me Maurice”, a baby chipmunk dies.

    You kill me, JP.  (There is decent Steve Miller though, I’m sure of it.  Just don’t ask me what it is.)

    The Heart triad of “Crazy on You”, “Magic Man” & “Barracuda” are each right about at my threshold.

    I almost mentioned Heart, but since I am so very rarely subjected to “classic rock” (Jesus, I hate that term) radio, these still fall into “guilty pleasure” territory.  IOW your “refractory period” idea is spot on.

    Captcha: “fear”, as is “Fear is a Man’s Best Friend,” a John Cale number which is entirely pleasurable and not at all guiltily so.

    Posted by Dave Maier  on  02/07  at  12:38 AM
  47. I used to like Janis Joplin a lot more. Now I am thinking she was pretty much a drunk and heroin addict first and and singer second. I’m thinking of her “improvisational” singing on “Me and Bobby McGee”. It has not IMHO stood the test of time and now qualifies as barely tolerable in my book.


    Posted by  on  02/07  at  01:09 AM
  48. There is decent Steve Miller though, I’m sure of it.  Just don’t ask me what it is.

    I wouldn’t say “decent,” but “Serenade” is Barely Tolerable.  And I woke up to “Magic Man” one day last year (radio tuned to Classic Rock, natch), and found that it was B.T. as well—the break is a little more interesting than I’d remembered.  A couple of passages in there to keep the rhythm section alert and my hand off the dial.

    Posted by Michael  on  02/07  at  07:00 AM
  49. Sadly, i am forced to contemplate how barely tolerable seeing the current YES tour will be next week.  Do i need to avoid going so i won’t have my memories drop beneath the proverbial bar??  If you have seen it, please let me know (captcha)asap.

    Posted by  on  02/07  at  07:03 AM
  50. Sadly, any radio station that compresses the sound so it just a hissing noise falls below barely tolerable for me, as does any radio station that has the word Classic or Gold in the title of the station, or has ever played, or even thought about playing The Eagles or Young Girl by Gary Puckett and The Union Gap. It’s restrictive, but hey - that’s ok.

    Posted by slummydog  on  02/07  at  10:29 AM
  51. And I woke up to “Magic Man” one day last year (radio tuned to Classic Rock, natch)

    You forgot to mention that that exact day was repeated several thousand times.

    keeping your hands on the wheel

    Actually, driving menace that I am, my hand actually hovers in front of the dial, and for someone like Heart (all of those songs have at times been below the waterline (especially “Barracuda")), I will indulge in a quick run through the dial before “settling”.

    There is decent Steve Miller though, I’m sure of it.

    Prompted me to read his bio on Wikipedia. I had no idea, I’ll just say that good influence has rarely gang so agley.

    Posted by  on  02/07  at  10:41 AM
  52. On the refractory period, I caught Humble Pie’s “I Don’t Need No Doctor” (never realized it was originally a Ray Charles song), on a “deep cut” on a Classic Rock station. It was OK! Looking forward to hearing it again in 2046 (and as a bonus at my age then it will be fraught with irony).

    Posted by  on  02/07  at  11:36 AM
  53. back to tuscany: we have a house there which we would be happy to lend you. this is for real. but, trust me, jan, feb, are not the months for it. contact me.

    Posted by  on  02/07  at  03:51 PM
  54. I can barely tolerate funny people that insist on hatin’ on the Grateful Dead. [/pout]
    I had no choice but to barely tolerate several iterations of Kenny Rogers’s “The Gambler” the other day. On a good sound system, some of the guitar parts are quite nicely strummed.

    Posted by  on  02/07  at  04:48 PM
  55. Dead???

    “drivin that train, high on cocaine, Casey Jones you better watch your speed”

    It wasn’t tolerable in 1970 and still isn’t.

    Posted by  on  02/07  at  05:37 PM
  56. Professor, I thought we had an agreement about you not taking cheap shots at the Grateful Dead, but don’t ask me what my end of the bargain entailed.

    Lenny Kravitz is usually well into utterly, horribly, dig-one’s-ears-out-with-a-teaspoon intolerable territory, but then he goes and records “Rock and Roll is Dead.” The song is not without problems; it’s yet another Kravitzy open-E jockrock romp with harmless distortion, but there’s something interesting going on with the lyrics, imho. And hell, the guitar solo isn’t horrible.

    The entire Tom Petty catalog has always struck me as Just Barely Tolerable. His stuff can be fun to sing (who doesn’t chant along to “Oh my my, oh hell yes, honey put on that party dress”?). One can cover it regardless of how many beers one has had that evening. Every now and then there are even some cool little harmonies going on, as with “You Don’t Know How It Feels.”

    Then again, our radio options are limited in Wyoming. I think we can all agree that we’d rather listen to Lenny Kravitz and Tom Petty than, say, Toby Keith.

    Posted by  on  02/07  at  05:43 PM
  57. I actually liked S-D-M.  The child actors are extraordinary, and the way the elegantly constructed plot relies on one outlandish coincidence after another is the way romantic fiction is supposed to be. But it’s a profoundly reactionary work of art.

    And along the lines of Janis Joplin being unlistenable, how the hell did Carole King ever have a recording career?

    But I still like the Dead.  Sugar Magnolia is the happiest song I know.

    Posted by  on  02/07  at  11:47 PM
  58. Stormcrow, “We go home Monday. We really had a gas!” Did you know that Peter Frampton’s first hit in England was a retelling of the Orpheus and Eurydice myth?

    Regarding barely tolerable music, there were lots of things that were overplayed that I never bought back then which I eventually got forty years after it lost its popularity. Spanky and Our Gang’s “Sunday Will Never Be The Same” has been ruined, but “Like To Get To Know You” is okay because nobody played it after it fell off the charts way back then. Okay, maybe that’s not the best example.

    Posted by Bob In Pacifca  on  02/08  at  12:34 AM
  59. I live in NH and I am a political hack so we got to meet all sorts of random celebrities during the last election cycle (which in our case lasted from the spring of 2006 right up till November 4, 2008.) One of them was Carole King, who turned out to be a wonderful woman.  And she is not the first Rock and Roll Hall of Famer I have ever met, but she is the first one I have met while they were still alive-- and with the exception of Dee Dee Ramone, she was the nicest person amongst them.

    Her solo material is, I would agree, barely listenable-- although luckily it is on the right side of the line.  Ironically, since she is best known for her songwriting, the song writing is the annoying part of her 1970s solo work-- the coy sexual metaphors, the intrusive woo-woo singers echoing every line of every chorus, and the cheesy woodwind fills get more and more irksome with each listening.  However, her personality does shine through the flawed songs.

    Posted by Timothy Horrigan  on  02/08  at  11:45 AM
  60. LOL, what I meant to say was that Carole King was the first Rock and Roll of Famer I have met after they were in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.  I have occasional dreams about the Ramones, but I did meet them while they were still alive.  And Blondie, Talking Heads, and Lindsay Buckingham of Fleetwood Mac are all technically still alive.

    Posted by Timothy Horrigan  on  02/08  at  11:50 AM
  61. I have to say that anybody who went to The Spirit expecting it to be anything other than emetic has obviously read no Frank Miller, which is not acceptable in anyone purporting to speak on pop culture, or no Spirit, which is not acceptable in anybody.
    Why I myself went to The Spirit I must leave as an exercise in the study of psychosis.

    Posted by  on  02/08  at  10:27 PM
  62. The Spirit, as differentiated from SPIRT and one of the great porn names of all time: Randy California (and the truly unique and insightful Ed Cassidy).  Of course any band would have become barely tolerable instantly, if they let Led Zeppelin open for them more than one night in a row.

    Posted by  on  02/08  at  11:45 PM
  63. anybody who went to The Spirit expecting it to be anything other than emetic has obviously read no Frank Miller, which is not acceptable in anyone purporting to speak on pop culture, or no Spirit, which is not acceptable in anybody

    Dang!  Busted again.  And I would’ve gotten away with speaking about pop culture, too, if not for you meddling kids!!

    Now what’s all this I hear about Watchmen?  This is some kind of cesium-clock consortium that takes it upon itself to save humanity from sidereal time?  And it’s set in India?

    Posted by Michael  on  02/09  at  12:37 AM
  64. Is there someone here among us
    who feels pop culture is but a joke?

    Posted by  on  02/09  at  01:38 AM
  65. JP, JP. Why so serious?

    Posted by Michael  on  02/09  at  02:13 AM
  66. speaking of barely tolerable, Radiohead’s performance at the Grammy’s fell a bit below that threshold.

    and have Justin Timberlake’s 15 minutes gone on for years?


    Posted by  on  02/09  at  02:44 AM
  67. And along the lines of Janis Joplin being unlistenable, how the hell did Carole King ever have a recording career?

    The retroactive success of Gilmore Girls.

    Now what’s all this I hear about Watchmen?  This is some kind of cesium-clock consortium that takes it upon itself to save humanity from sidereal time?  And it’s set in India?

    You’re confusing Alan Moore with Warren Ellis.

    Captcha: “function,” as in, “Conjunction Junction, what’s your.”

    Posted by  on  02/09  at  02:05 PM
  68. Watchmen. I predict it will be Barely Tolerable. By definition, as a movie, it leaves out the groundbreaking technical reinvention of comics grammar. Whether it’s any good depends on the story. If it preserves the interesting but incoherent Mooreian politicophilosophicalish themes, it will rise to B.T. level. If it, most likely, is The Dark Night of Dirty Harry Rorschach it will fall below.

    I’m trying to think of ways to work in the line “Two riders were approaching,” and I can’t do it.

    Posted by  on  02/12  at  12:23 PM





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