Friday, December 21, 2007

10 Most Awesome Moustaches In History

Some of my friends and I are going to enjoy a mustachioed New Year's Eve, and in honor of our approaching festivities, I thought I'd compile a list of the ten baddest moustaches in history. Let's get started:

10. Adolf Hitler. I wanted to keep him of this list, but it would be dishonest. The slim shrub of hair on his upper lip barely counts as a moustache--it's more like a northerly soul patch than anything else. And yet Hitler owns it. In the sixty years since Hitler's death, no one has worn "the Hitler" except Hitler impersonators. No other facial hair style can possibly evoke such horror.

9. Joseph Stalin. Let's dispense with the dictators. Martin Amis has a terrific passage in Koba The Dread where he compares the evils of "The Big Moustache and the Little Moustache." Brief recap: Hitler was worse, but Stalin's moustache was better.

Trivia for all of you: name three current world leaders with moustaches. Answer in white text on this line. Pervez Musharraf (Pakistan), Mahmoud Abbas (Palestine), Joseph Kabila (Democratic Republic of the Congo).

8. Genghis Khan. Damn, what is it with moustaches and evil conquering assholes? I'm guessing that Genghis didn't actually, uh, sit for this portrait -- and some representations of him show a full beard -- but I'm going to give it to him anyway. That mean slope on those whiskers says only one thing: Tatars of the steppe, you better watch your motherfucking backs.

7. George Harrison. Not all moustaches are bloodthirsty. Who could be a better antidote to Adolf, Josef, and Genghis than The Mildest Beatle? Lots of rockers attempted the long-hair-and-stache look in the mid-70s, but few wore it better than the Dark Horse.

5. Rollie Fingers. The first closer in baseball was also the owner of the best moustache in sports history. Grab a hold of them handlebars, baby!

Trivia: who was the last MVP of each major pro league (NFL, MLB, NBA) with a moustache? (Answers in white). NFL: Randall Cunningham, Minnesota Vikings, 1998. MLB: Jeff Kent, San Francisco Giants, 1990. NBA: Karl Malone, Utah Jazz, 1999.
4. William Howard Taft. Eveybody talks about Teddy Roosevelt, but Taft was our last president with facial hair. His moustache also kicks the hell out of T.R.'s comparatively feeble whiskers. Who doesn't love a fat man with a bushy mustache? It's possible that William Howard Taft came closer to looking like an actual walrus than any human being in human history.

Trivia: who was the last major-party presidential candidate to wear a moustache? (Answer in white) Thomas Dewey, 1948.

3. (Tie) Burt Reynolds and Tom Selleck. The Bandit vs. Magnum, P.I. Smoldering machismo vs. smoldering machismo. The '70s stache vs. the '80s stache. Burt's whiskers have a blog; Tom's have a rock band. How do you choose? You don't. You sleep with both of them.

Incidentally, both Burt and Tom won serious cred by holding onto their whiskers well past the period of fashionability. Tom wore his well into the '90s--including his memorable guest-stint on "Friends"--and Burt was still sporting one as of the latest "Dukes of Hazzard" movie. These aren't fly-by-night facial-hair phonies, people. These are Men of the Moustache.

Trivia: Who was the last man to collect the Academy Award for Best Actor while wearing a moustache? (Answer in white). F. Murray Abraham, "Amadeus," 1984. Paul Newman may or may not have been wearing a moustache in 1986, when he won for "The Color of Money," but he didn't show up to the ceremony.

1. Otto von Bismarck. I guess you could go with Chaplin or Dali or Zappa here, but while those guys were probably all assholes, the #1 moustache should go to an asshole who made war. Moustaches are apparently much more belligerent than watching a lot of gay porn might lead you to believe: Hitler, Stalin, Genghis Kahn, Bismark, Saddam Hussein, and the list goes on. I have a feeling I'm going to start acting like a total cock on New Years' Eve for no apparent reason.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Top Five Music Videos for 1980s movie theme songs

The movie theme song music video is a delicate art, and the 80s were a pioneering time in their development. There are many

5. Huey Lewis and the News, "The Power of Love," from Back to the Future. The video has a two minute intro featuring Doc Brown arriving at a Huey Lewis show in the Delorean. Enough said.

4. Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes, "Time of My Life," from Dirty Dancing. What is awesome about this video is that I can watch it and never feel the need to ever see Dirty Dancing, ever.

3. Kenny Loggins, "(Highway to the) Danger Zone", from Top Gun. Kenny Loggins + Fighter Jets = Awesome. Also: Iceman and Goose.

2. Survivor, "Eye of the Tiger", from Rocky III. Sadly, I can't find the actual Survivor video on Youtube, but it is on google video (possibly from China). It features the members of Survivor walking in time down the street while singing the song, and is reasonably awesome. Even more awesome, however, is the opening montage from Rocky III, depicted below, in which Rocky, now the champion, goes soft doing American Express ads and appearing on the Muppet Show while Clubber Lang (Mr. T) does some serious ass-kicking. You see, it is Clubber Lang, and not Rocky, who has the eye of the tiger by the end of the montage.

1. John Parr, "St. Elmo's Fire (Man in Motion)" from St. Elmo's Fire. The movie itself is a self-indulgent, taking-itself-way-too-seriously Joel Schumacher-directed tale of post-college life of a group of friends in 1980s Georgetown, which gave rise to the term "Brat Pack" for its cast (Rob Lowe, Demi Moore, Judd Nelson, Ally Sheedy, Andrew McCarthy, Emilio Estevez, Mare Winningham). The song is a fairly standard 80s anthem, apparently originally written as the theme song for some guy in a wheel-chair who was at the time going around the world to spread awareness for spinal cord injuries. The video is particularly awesome, featuring the perfect blend of scenes from the movie and shots of the ridiculous John Parr. Be sure to watch to the end, which features John Parr chilling out with the characters.

Monday, December 10, 2007

10 Great Novel Endings

Didn't some great critic or sage once say that the worst part of every great novel was its ending? That it's impossible, and artificial, to depart so abruptly from a rich world that has just been created? Or something like that. Maybe so, but here are 10 of my favorite such departures--and perhaps the best rebuttal to the 'anti-ending' argument I could come up with...

(Note: I'm using a liberal definition of "ending"--I don't just mean the final page or chapter necessarily, but the way the author takes leave of the larger universe of the novel. Although a smashing final page or line doesn't hurt, either.)

10. John O'Hara, Appointment In Samarra. O'Hara's hero, Julian English, completes his self-destruction in the final chapter. After mixing a highball drink in an enormous flower vase, he lurches into the garage and poisons himself with CO2 -- while semi-consciously regretting his actions the entire time. Has to be one of the best and most sensitive suicide scenes in literature.

9. Frank Norris, McTeague. It's impossible to render the context for this one fairly, but suffice it to say it involves a man handcuffed to the corpse of his former best friend, dying of thirst in the middle of Death Valley. Hard to beat for pure brutality, anyway.

8. Thomas Hardy, Tess of the D'urbervilles. Hardy wrote a lot of great endings, and I was tempted to go for the near-triple drowning in Return of the Native... but nothing beats Stonehenge (yes, that counts as part of the ending sequence). I guess it's probably inevitable that a best-endings-of-all-time list would have considerable overlap with a favorite-books-of-all-time list.

7. Martin Amis, Time's Arrow. I read this thinking it was more or less an exercise in cheerful gimmickry. The ending (or the last quarter or so of the book) got me pretty good. Back, back, into the darkness.

6. Jane Austen, Persuasion. Gut-punch tragedies have a natural advantage over happy endings, but there should be at least one place on here for a brisk, beautifully executed triumph.

5. Kazuo Ishiguro, Remains of the Day. The suffocating melancholy here is a nice contrast against the special-effects melodrama of Samarra and McTeague. As I think we discussed in the "saddest books" list, sad doesn't have to be showy.

4. F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby. The most famous ending in American literature? (The "boats against the current" bit made it onto season 2 of The Wire). It deserves the hype.

3. Edith Wharton, The Age of Innocence. Quietly crushing, like the Ishiguro, but even a bit better.

2. Vladmir Nabokov, Lolita. Amid the hilarity and perversity and the virtuosity, people forget that this thing is a real heartbreaker at the end. Humbert's last visit with Dolly is gorgeously wrought, as is his final, misty-eyed ramble through the countryside.

1. William Faulkner, Absalom, Absalom. Beyond everything else, Faulkner practically squeezes the tragedy of the Sutpens, the Compsons, and American history into just a few lines:

"...Now I want you to tell me just one thing more. Why do you hate the South?"

" 'I don't hate it,' he said. I dont hate it he thought, panting the cold air, the iron New England dark: I dont. I dont! I dont hate it! I dont hate it!"