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Absorbing Media


Ross M. Miller
Miller Risk Advisors
March 26, 2007

As one who is "between papers," I have been decompressing for the last few weeks. The way that I decompress is to absorb large quantities of non-print media—DVDs, HDTV, the random CD, and various sounds from XM and Internet radio.

My therapy started with Garden State, which I purchased at Target because I sometimes admit to being from New Jersey and it was in the store's IFC section. I had never seen either Zach Braff or Natalie Portman before, which is probably because I live under a rock. It was highly derivative, but pleasant enough. I liked Natalie Portman, but not enough to watch another Star Wars movie—I saw the original willingly and the first two sequels under varying degrees of duress—or a movie where she appears bald. New Jersey wasn't like that when I lived there.

The best thing about Garden State was that I discovered The Shins, who didn't change my life as advertised in the movie, but are groovy just the same. Actually, I first noticed The Shins because they were featured in Stereophile, which I read in case I ever decide to spend $80,000 on a turntable. The Shins have come in handy on mornings driving into the university when listening to CNBC on XM radio makes me cringe. (Yes, folks, I'm still bullish, though selectively so.) I don't really listen to the lyrics, which don't make sense anyway, but they are pleasant enough.

After watching clips of Clerks II on Youtube, I decided that it was time to get down with the hobbits and finally watch some of Lords of the Rings. Figuring that I might not survive all three volumes, especially not with disks and disks of bonus features, I bought the cheapo version of the first volume. Nice sound and visuals. Liv Tyler makes a good elf. I want to be Gandalf when I grow up.

Having had enough of the mainstream, I returned to Target's IFC section to purchase The Fog of War and Secretary. I am a big Errol Morris fan and Fog did not disappoint. Great Philip Glass music, too. Jack Kennedy really did nearly blow up the world, so I wasn't doing all that ducking and covering for nothing. (Note to my younger readers: I don't know about the other baby boomers, but in my grade school there had air raid practices and really made it seem like we were going to die at any moment in a giant flash followed by a mushroom cloud. Just being alive each day seems like one big miracle.)

I got Secretary because I liked Donnie Darko's sister, but had no idea what the movie was about. Was I in for a surprise. Two thumbs duct-taped together. Great date movie, too.

(Note to my readers with financial interests—there is nothing else in this commentary about financial markets. I already told you that I am selectively bullish, what more do you want? Okay, I hate tech companies—too much competition. Are you happy now?)

Returning to Target and having exhausted the IFC section, I got Crash and Casino Royale. Crash was a big, big mistake. It was essentially a P.C. remake of Magnolia which is in turn a remake of Short Cuts. It did have some tricky plot twists, but the acting was abysmal. Brendan Fraser is not a credible DA and Sandra Bullock should be, well, use your imagination. If ever a movie needed a rockhopper penguin, Crash did. Casino Royale was vastly better even if one of its writers was the writer/director of Crash. Daniel Craig is a great Bond and Eva Green is best accountant in any movie ever (better than Gene Wilder, for example). I grew up with the Sean Connery Bond flicks and this one is right up there with them.

On XM radio, I discovered two channels aimed at my psychographic—Flight 26 and The Loft. I mostly listen to Lucy even though it makes me feel stuck in the 1990s. Flight 26 is more contemporary, but also more bland. The Loft is even blander, but far more eclectic, spanning a far greater period of time. What XM needs is a real pop channel with someone like WFMU's Pseu programming it. I have listened a bit to U-Pop, XM's world-oriented pop channel, and it's clear that I'm not quite with their program given that I don't go for Europop tunes that work better as ringtones.

On Internet radio, I listened to WDST and discovered the live version of Bruce Springsteen's "Thunder Road." I parted ways with Bruce when Born to Run came out, but the live version of "Thunder Road" from the time it was released is truly a revelation. The best thing about it is that radio stations rarely play it, so it doesn't get Stairwayed to Heavened to death even though it is at or near the top of several lists of the greatest songs of all time.

I watched pieces of a Red Hot Chili Peppers concert from Milan on HDTV. I was obviously under a rock when "Can't Stop" came out. It is a prime example of a "fan favorite" song—a showcase for the group's talent that doesn't pander to a broader audience. The video for the studio version of the song on Youtube is cool, too.

I saw Five Easy Pieces for at least the tenth time, but this time in HD. I first saw it when it came out in 1970 and was big for my age and so got in without a parent or guardian. It was all downhill from there for Sally Ann Struthers. Jack Nicholson, of course, deservedly made it big with this movie, moving up from his supporting role in Easy Rider. The movie holds up well for aging hippies, but I cannot imagine that anyone under 30 could make the least bit of sense of it and would find it dull, which it certainly is much of the time.

I don't remember much about 1982, which would explain why I never saw Blade Runner. (I did resurface two years later to see Repo Man and Buckaroo Bonzai.) Well, now I know that Rob Zombie lifted "More Human Than Human" from this movie. To think that I could have gone through life not knowing that. I wonder what else I don't know.

Finally, I saw Borat. My favorite part was not even in the movie, but was the "censored" track with Borat in the cheese section of the grocery store—an absurdist masterpiece. High five.

I am not sure that this cerebral enema was altogether necessary, but I think that I am ready to move on. I was pondering Cuisinarts today and we'll see if I ever get around to writing about them. Next time, however, I recount a no-longer-recent trip to Tucson, scene of my most recent adventure in retailing.

Copyright 2007 by Miller Risk Advisors. Permission granted to forward by electronic means and to excerpt or broadcast 250 words or less provided a citation is made to