Ice Coffee vs Iced Coffee at Tokyo's Mister Donut

Monday  October 12, 2009
Misterdonut1

You don't exactly think donuts when you think Tokyo—unless you've been to Mister Donut. Just as it's mandatory I find an In N' Out within 2 hours of landing in California, I'm automatically looking for a Mister Donut when I surface from the Tokyo Metro. It's a franchise that has more or less died out in North America, but continues to thrive in Tokyo. As it should. The donuts are quite different than a Krispy Kreme or Dunkin's—I'm not saying their superior, but they're lighter, less sweet, almost cake-like, and more importantly, you can eat two or three of them and not feel ill. But my favorite item on the Mister Donut's menu has to be the "Koori Coffee" (literally "ice coffee"), a beverage where milk is poured over ice that's made out of coffee as opposed to, you know, water. They're sort of like crumbled iced coffee popsicles. A tip: order "Iced Coffee" and that's what you'll get, cold coffee over normal ice. Order "Koori Coffee" specifically if you want what's pictured here. If anyone figures out if you can order chilled coffee over coffee-ice, let me know, because that would be awesome—an iced coffee drink that actually gets stronger as the ice melts.—kevin sintumuang

MisterDonut2
MisterDonut3
Misterdonut4

They're Closing All the Factories Down

Friday  October 09, 2009

It's hard not to be reminded of America's industrial past when you look at this salvage yard from my hometown of Cleveland. Afterall, the structure itself—a massive, run-down Fisher Body plant built on 12 acres—is a relic of the kind of manufacturing muscles we used to have. For pennies on the dollar, the folks here buy about 10 semi-loads a day of everything they can get their hands on from shuttered factories across the country and resell it to locals. The aisles—filled with machinery from closed-down Big Three auto factories, bicycles from Worksman Cycles in Queens, N.Y., and palates of unused parts tickets from a Chrysler Assembly plant in St. Louis—are a literal graveyard of what we used to be. Even more so, they're a reminder of the challenges we've got ahead.—michael williams

Surplus 2

Surplus 4

Surplus 3

Join the Gang!

Friday  October 09, 2009

Five minutes with Rob McElhenney

Sunny_in_philadelphia

Crack addiction, incest, abortion, and child molestation—these are just a few of the patently-offensive themes waved about like a drunk uncle’s unlicensed handgun in the FX sitcom It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia, now in its fifth season. Creator Rob McElhenney catches us up on the deranged happenings in his City of Brotherly Love.—dan fierman

Being fully familiar with the degeneracy that you guys traffic in on a regular basis, I’m curious how you plan to mock basic human decency this season. You know, how much further can the line be pushed past “dumpster babies”?
[laughs] [pause] How much more evil can we be? Well, for fuck’s sake. What can we expect? Well, right now we’re shooting a scene that is a flashback, which we’ve never done, it’s a flashback to last October where we sneak into the World Series. Game Five of the World Series when the Phillies win.

You shot in the stadium? That sounds high tech for the show famous for its low budget.
It certainly is. But the episode we’re really pumped about is an episode called “The Gang Wrestles for the Troops” where we decide that there’s nothing more American than Hulk Hogan fighting the Russian Bear and the Iron Shiek. We felt like we had these troops coming home and they aren’t being celebrated, so we decide to put on the wrestling show and we enlist the help of Roddy Roddy Piper.

Did you guys really make the pilot for 85 bucks?
Yeah, that’s essentially what happened. I wrote a script that was never supposed to be a TV show—it was just a short film. By that point I had written a few scripts and was sick of writing for other people and then leaving it. So I said, Fuck it. I’m going to write something, bring my friends in, shoot it and who cares if no one understands it. It was a comedy about a guy coming over to his friends house and telling him that he has cancer and all the friend can think about is: I have to get out of this room right now. It was relatively easy. The hardest part was finding a boom mike. We used a mike that you could buy at BestBuy and then taped to a broom handle. We visited the networks. Popped in the DVD and had offers a few days later.

And then you get Danny DeVito to co-star. He’s delightful on the show, by the way.
I’ve never heard it put that way. I like that. Danny Devito is delightful on our show.

DeVito is a delight! What else can you say? How did you get him?
Well, after the first season we were really happy creatively, but people had never heard of the show. So FX approached us and said we need to figure out a way that we can generate some kind of word of mouth and the easiest way to do that is to bring in a name. We were really wary of that at first, but we kinda didn’t have a choice. So we said, okay, we’ll go down a list of people who make sense with our sensibility, and Danny was up there on the list. And it turns out that Danny’s kids were big fans of the show. So I basically went over to his house and said what we were thinking and within a few hours of me leaving his house he signed on to the second season. He’s been with us ever since.

What do you tell folks who aren’t hip to the show? How do you get them to watch?
Well, look, if they’re not  hip by now, they’re just dumb-asses, would be my guess. We’re in season five. You know, get off your couch and stop being such a pussy and change the damn channel!

2010 = 3D TV (Whether You Like It Or Not)

Thursday  October 08, 2009
3D1

If there's one obvious story coming out of CEATEC (Japan's major consumer electronics trade show), it's 3D. Everyone from Sony to Hitachi has some sort of 3D TV system coming out in 2010 involving glasses that are less goofy yet more cumbersome than the paper blue and red cutout variety. And all of them are decent—if you like 3D. I don't. In an odd way, the 3D experience is less immersive—you have to train your eye to adjust to the depth of scenes to get the optimal experience, you're eyes are constantly wandering around looking to see what's popping out rather than, you know, paying attention to the plot, and objects have this miniature quality to them as if they're toys in a diorama. Maybe I'll change my mind down the line, (like after I see Avatar in it's entirety) but for now, nothing seems more immersive than a plain ol', big-ass screen.—kevin sintumuang

Japan's Coolest Mobile Phone Brand

Wednesday  October 07, 2009
Iida

There's a constant effort among tech companies in the U.S. to make mobile phones more fashionable, luxurious, "lifestyle" objects (whatever that means) by working out co-branding deals with labels like Prada or Giorgio Armani or just offering phones in a variety of garish colors. But what they should really be doing is taking a page from the playbook of KDDI, one of Japan's most design-forward handset manufacturers. Their new sub-brand IIDA, whose lineup was on display here at CEATEC, puts an emphasis on what people really want when they're looking for a phone that stands out: smart design from the world's best industrial designers like Naoto Fukasawa—not slapping Swarovski crystals on an otherwise ordinary handset. It would be hard to give up my iPhone, but if I did it would be for one of these.

Prismoid1
Prismoid2
Prismoid3

The retro-futuristic "Prismoid" phone which comes out in Japan in October is by Naoto Fukasawa. If Darth Vader rocked a mobile phone in the original Star Wars, he'd be phoning-in the destruction of Alderaan with something like this.

KDDI PLy

The "Ply" phone by Hideo Kambura. It's sort of a riff on the grains of wood in a 2x4. Notice how each layer represents a different button/function.

Iidaastro
Iida charger

iida even pays attention to the design of power chargers, what's normally a banal afterthought even though we have to use them every single day. The floating astronauts (proper name is "Rangers" by Shunsuke Umiyama) are a bit whimsical for my taste, but I like the practical simplicity of the Winding-Charger by Youta Kakuda. Why aren't all cords retractable at a push of a button?—kevin sintumuang

Beef Stew and Other Things Sold At MUJI's Tokyo Flagship

Tuesday  October 06, 2009
MujiFlagship

One of my first stops when I get to Tokyo is the MUJI flagship in Marunouchi. While Muji has recently opened stores in New York and their affordable, cleanly designed wares have been available for a while now through the MoMA Design Store in the States, our selection of the stuff pales in comparison to what's available at this three story Muji mothership. You can get everything from potted plants, to folding bicycles, to watches, to radios, all with that distinctively non-distinct aesthetic. It makes me wish I brought an empty suitcase. Good thing you can get those here too.

MUJIinterior
MujiBeefStew

I'm sure MUJI Beef Stew beats Dinty Moore.

MujiBikes

I'm not endorsing bringing a bike home from Tokyo, but they do have have smart folding bikes with cool matte finishes that wouldn't be difficult to check on your return flight.

MujiGlasses

If you're into chunky plastic frames, they have dozens for around $100.

MujiChips

All that and, yes, bags of chips.—kevin sintumuang

Tech and More from Tokyo

Monday  October 05, 2009
TokyoNight

Certain passions have their Meccas. If you're an auto enthusiast, it's driving 150 miles per hour on the German Autobahn. If you're an Oenophile, it's drinking your way through the tasting rooms of the vineyards in Napa or Bordeaux. And for gadget-heads, there is Tokyo, a city that seems to pulsate with the bleeding edge. The wonderment starts as soon as you leave Narita airport. The vending machines on trains; the foreign chimes of sliding doors; the toilets with seat warmers. And there's the Akihabara neighborhood where, between alleyway shops the size of shoeboxes and football stadium-sized mega-stores that deserve their own zip code you could spend days discovering things that won't be coming to the states until next year if you're lucky, and never if you're not. But the electronics envy culminates at CEATEC, Japan's annual consumer electronics trade show where, every October, tech companies show off not just new products that will end up on the shelves of Akihabara next year, but innovative technologies (motion sensing remote controls) and out-there concepts (cars that detect their surroundings like bees) that seem a decade or more away. Walking the convention floor at CEATEC is like visiting a futuristic Wonka's Chocolate Factory. Of course, all of the tech-awe turns into mild aggravation mixed with a bit of jealousy after a few hours: Why don't our mobile phones have solar panels? Why can't we get that micro four-thirds camera in red? When am I going to be able to get my one-wheeled robot? But I guess that's the point—we're getting a taste of the future. And if the future were now, it wouldn't be the future would it? So that's why I'm back at CEATEC this year—to see how far off I am from being able to buy a one-wheeled robot. And to blog. Come back throughout the week to check out the latest tech from Japan as well as the craziness that is one of my favorite cities in the world: Tokyo.—kevin sintumuang

UPDATE: Game Brain

Monday  October 05, 2009
01

For her story “This Is Your Brain on Football” (October 2009), GQ correspondent Jeanne Marie Laskas profiled a team of scientists who had made a startling discovery: Concussions in pro football players can lead to dementia (to read her story, go here). The NFL vehemently denied such findings and even refused to compensate some retired players suffering from the disease. But last week, a new study by the University of Michigan, commissioned by the NFL itself, was released, showing that dementia-related diseases are as much as nineteen times more commonly reported in retired football players than in the general population.

Spokesmen for the NFL, however, were quoted as saying that the findings are inconclusive. In reaction to these events, Congress announced that it will hold formal hearings on head injuries among NFL players.

Laskas recently contacted Julian Bailes—chairman of the department of neurosurgery at the West Virginia University School of Medicine and one of the scientists she originally profiled—to get his thoughts on the latest developments.

You told The New York Times that the Michigan study is a “game changer.” Did you expect Congress to become involved?
No—or certainly not this quickly. I hope this will help move the issue along so that we can begin to focus on prevention. The Michigan study is the first time any research performed or commissioned by the NFL has offered any contribution to the notion that banging heads with big fast guys thousands of times could even possibly affect your brain.

Which is exactly what you and a lot of other scientists have been saying for years.
Right. We knew all this already. We proved this already, and not just with phone surveys. In autopsy—Bennet Omalu first discovered the pathology, and he and I have studied numerous proven cases of football-related dementia. We’ve studied brains, we’ve studied players themselves, we’ve developed an experimental model in the lab, we’ve concussed rats. As you reported in your story, this has been out there for years. We’ve presented our research. The only difference now is that the NFL’s own study has found it. And yet you see in their comments they’re not exactly embracing it. They’re trying to minimize how the Michigan study was designed. Which is ironic considering that it was, you know, their own study. You have to wonder, if the study had found no dementia or Alzheimer’s, would they still be criticizing their own methodology?

Ira Casson, co-chairman of the NFL’s concussions committee, was quoted as saying: “What I take from this report is there’s a need for further studies to see whether or not this finding is going to pan out, if it’s really there or not. I can see that the respondents believe they have been diagnosed, but the next step is to determine whether that is so.”
He’s basically saying that we need to study the study to see if what the study said is true. How long is this going to go on—especially since these findings are in agreement with prior published research? If this were the first study of its kind, yeah, you’d have to get it corroborated. But this has been going on and on, similar findings, institution after institution. I don’t hear the NFL spokesmen indicating any change in their long-held and stated opinions that multiple brain injuries while playing football don’t lead to any problems later in life.

We’re not just talking about NFL players. The congressional hearings are possibly looking into the effects of head trauma on college and high school players, too.
Shockingly, we have found this even at the high school level. Bennet Omalu has examined the brains of three high school players who died as a result of injuries they sustained from playing football. In the brain of one of the players, he found incipient CTE, chronic traumatic encephalopathy.

CTE in a high school football player—the same sort of brain damage that led to the downfall of Mike Webster, Terry Long, Andre Waters, and so many others?
Right. In a high school player. It gets back to the point you made in the GQ article: What is the NFL’s responsibility for the greater good? The greater good, meaning all the young men and women who desire to participate in football and other contact sports, the ones who aspire at a young age to emulate the NFL and their players and are fueled by their advertising and the incessant bombardment of our society. What is their responsibility to the greater good? I don’t know. They’re going to have to answer that.

Do you agree that it’s time for Congress to step in?
There is some historical precedent for this. Back in 1905, President Roosevelt was practically going to ban football when eighteen young men died and 149 were injured seriously that year. And that’s how the NCAA was formed. Here we are, 104 years later, and it’s come full circle. I think we have to make changes again. It has to be pretty significant changes. I really believe the velocity factor, the speed of the game, is what’s doing it. It’s not necessarily the hit; it’s your head movement. It’s what’s going on inside the cranium with the brain floating and moving and rotating. And a helmet, as you explain in your article, will never prevent rotational injury.

I can see the headlines: “Obama Wants to Ban Football.”
Look, Roosevelt loved football. He saved the sport. Guys were dying. There was no NFL yet, just college ball, and guys were dying playing it. He summoned people from Harvard, Yale, Princeton to the White House. He said let’s make the game less dangerous. The public was denouncing it as barbaric.

Well, the public is hardly doing that now. The reaction to the Michigan study and the GQ story on fan message boards has been interesting. People are saying things like: “Well, duh! Football players bash their heads for years and end up demented. That’s like saying if a girl has sex, she could end up pregnant.” They’re also saying: “Leave our game alone. We like football the way it is.” The fans love the hits.
I have seen and heard some of that, too. Okay, so maybe this is not that important, maybe this is not something that the players, their agents, their representatives, or any of the clubs or owners or the league should think is important. As a physician, as a researcher, as a brain scientist, my job is to alert what we see from a public-health perspective, and what we’re discovering is a new, previously unappreciated syndrome. It’s up to the people who are the stakeholders in this how to react. Dementia is the worst disease. This is worse than saying that football causes cancer, or football causes heart attacks. With this, you lose your mind and you lose your dignity.

You’ve seen the footage of the Tim Tebow hit?
It was a really bad hit, because it was a double impact. I thought when he hit the back of his head on the other player’s knee is when he really got it. It’s one of those hits that make you hurt to look at.

And yet we keep looking at it. It’s a YouTube sensation. People love this stuff. The more violent, the more thrilling. Never mind the damage to the players. Who cares? Give us more crashes. Is there a whole cultural shift that needs to happen here?
Ever read the book A Voice in the Wind? It’s one of my favorite books. It’s about the Roman Empire and the thirst for blood. In that book, when the gladiators were brought in, they had certain rules to kill so many in the arena. In Rome they fought to the death with tridents, nets, and short swords, and to gain their freedom they had to survive for three years. And that was okay back then. You know? That was okay. Maybe it’s time for us to look in the mirror.

Roman Times

Thursday  October 01, 2009

6a00d8341cc8d453ef0120a5bb80b3970c-300wi

SNAPRexFeatures_79polanski460

"Polanski, man. He's tearing the Internet apart." That's what one blogger I've never met but like very much—ace film buff Bill Ryan, the wag behind The Kind of Face You Hate—lamented to me by e-mail after he and I had gone several rounds in the comments threads of more than one online forum, his own not included. While we hadn't exactly been at daggers drawn, since I respect his POV and think the feeling's mutual, we'd definitely come at the Great Polanski Kerfuffle from different perspectives.

Ryan is a straight-arrow conservative who thinks the law is the law, is purely revolted by Polanski's long-ago rape of a 13-year-old girl and won't buy any argument that gives the fugitive director wiggle room. His position is all the more principled because, if anything, he admires Polanski's movies more than I do. As for me, though I share his revulsion, I'm more ambivalent about what I think should come next. But compared to the flame wars around us, our exchanges on the topic have been a minuet.

The 76-year-old filmmaker's arrest in Switzerland last week—30-plus years after he pleaded guilty to having sex with a minor in a California courtroom, then fled to Paris when the very lenient sentencing deal he'd been promised went haywire—was a twist that nobody, most obviously Polanski, saw coming. Things had been looking up for him ever since his 2003 best director Oscar for The Pianist (which he couldn't collect in person) reminded everybody of his long exile.

His victim, Samantha Geimer, who'd gone public back in 1997 and reached a private settlement with him, was and still is on record as saying she wanted the charges dropped. Now in her mid-forties, she was also a sensible and gallant talking head in last year's HBO documentary, Roman Polanski: Wanted & Desired, which I reviewed at the time for GQ. It established beyond much doubt that some fairly appalling judicial misconduct drove him to bolt (though one interviewee has recently recanted)—while also, be it said, soft-pedaling the even more appalling particulars of his original crime.

Not that I get any pleasure out of revisiting them. But for the record, mere unlawful sex with a minor—the reduced charge Polanski ended up copping to back in 1977—is a euphemism. Lured by the promise of a potential French Vogue photo shoot, Geimer was drugged and then violated in multiple ways. Her ordeal went on for hours, and she'd made her unwillingness clear to Polanski—not that her "consent" would have had either legal or moral meaning. Even if some of the indignation meisters now slavering to see the little creep behind bars at long last don't sound especially motivated by concern for his victim, facts are facts and what he did to her wasn't just criminal. It was vile, and also "really gross"—to quote Geimer's own description.

The Hollywood and other supporters who want the little creep to walk free are pretty damn anxious not to remind us of all this too vividly. In a September 30 New York Times op-ed, novelist Robert Harris—Polanski's collaborator on the film adaptation of Harris's novel The Ghost, a project now in post-production limbo thanks to his arrest—attacked "the almost pornographic relish with which his critics are retelling the lurid details of the assault," a tactic that let Harris off the hook of mentioning so much as its lurid generalities. "Of course what happened [note the passive construction] cannot be excused, either legally or ethically," went his only other comment on Polanski's deed, a bit of boilerplate woolly enough to apply to everything from the Final Solution to insider stock trading. But the true—gross, hilarious?—Hollywood note came out in Harris's idea of a deft chess move: "His daughter and mine keep in regular touch."

When it comes down to the brass-tacks question, though—do I really want to see Polanski brought back Stateside in handcuffs?—my answer is a very tentative, ambivalent no. While I don't believe a victim's wishes should always trump legal retribution—or legal restraint, for that matter—Geimer's own preferences cut a lot of ice in my book. 32 years after that wretched afternoon, she's understandably sick of seeing the meaning of her life reduced to having been The Girl In The Roman Polanski case. A new trial (or whatever, since I'm not sure what actual form the proceedings would take) would not only oblige her to wearily revisit the original trauma, but put her back in the middle of a tabloid storm. And fairly remarkably, she's even said that the media did more to "ruin" her life than Polanski—no small claim, since she's hardly denying that he did plenty.

The flip side is that if Geimer were telling interviewers, as she'd have a perfect right to, that she can't wait to see him jailed for what he did to her, then I don't think either the "Polanski has already paid a steep price" camp—yes, he has, but not in a courtroom—or the "But he's a great artist" crowd (so TF what? What if he were Ed Wood instead?) would have a leg to stand on. Simply because it's prevented him from working in the U.S., Polanski's fugitive status has probably done more real damage to the career he might have had than the few months in stir he'd most likely have served. We'll never know what we missed—another Chinatown, a follow-up to Rosemary's Baby?and neither will he. But A) that's his own fault, B) he's still a much honored filmmaker who leads a cosseted and luxurious life, and C) what if he were Ed Wood? Or just for the hell of it, some Fox News personality or GOP bigwig?

In the latter case, the cultural divide— special pleading that reeks of elitist hypocrisy on one side, self-righteous indignation and gleeful schadenfreude on the other— not only would be but has been duplicated in reverse. Even from my limited sampling, the Polanski cyber-war has brought out the creeps. ("Being a photographer, I'm not bothered by nude depictions of adolescents," wrote one swiftly unpopular commenter on Glenn Kenny's Some Came Running. As an ostensibly relevant citation of professional credentials, that's on a par with, "I'm a dentist, so of course I enjoy seeing kids get punched in the mouth.") But on both sides, it's also brought out the haters. After posting her favorable post-arrest appraisal of Polanski's Repulsion—a "masterpiece" that "all women should watch"—on HuffPo, film writer Kim Morgan chronicled the choleric response on her own Sunset Gun site, including "bizarre wishes that I should be or had been raped" for defending Polanski. I've got my own problems with Morgan's take—on the crime, that is, not the movie—but c'mon.

When I chipped in on Some Came Running and elsewhere, it was mostly to engage one of the Polanski case's abiding memes—the "it was a different era" line. Well, it was: one I remember firsthand, though from the limited vantage of a not particularly swinging nonparticipant who was a couple months from graduating college the day Polanski gave Geimer a Quaalude. But to say it was a different era is neither a legal argument nor an alibi for him. It's just a cultural truth, one Wanted & Desired disappointed me by not exploring more ambitiously. The sexualization of barely adolescent girls was so rampant that even virtuous, middle-class Americans were being bombarded with the quasi-explicit message: "There's no such thing as jailbait anymore."

At the time, all this made me feel queasy. I can still remember the one time I leafed through one of that creepazoid David Hamilton's egregious coffee-table photo books of barely nubile young girls; I was all of 17 myself, but I learned in a hurry that this wasn't my taste in porn and calling it art was a snow job. But outraged I wasn't, because what did I know? After all, I wasn't furtively lurking in some scuzzy joint off Times Square. I was in my new Ivy League college's very swank bookstore.

Strange days indeed, as John Lennon once put it. I've never had too much trouble since imagining how much more hyperbolized—as acceptable behavior, not just acceptable bookstore browsing—all this newly guilt-free pretty-poison licentiousness must have been in Polanski's Hollywood circle, and let's not even talk about the arena-rock circuit. When he met Geimer, very little in either the culture at large or his privileged pals' attitudes—or actions, but that's speculation—would have been flashing a warning that this was particularly taboo or something he'd be penalized for. That left his own moral scruples as the only deterrent, and…well, we all know how that worked out.

A vivid awareness of living through a peculiar but transitory era of history isn't adolescence's best event. Yet now that I've been turned into a modest cultural historian by not only age but predilection—I can't stand literal jigsaw puzzles, but assembling the past's figurative ones is my favorite hobby—don't blame me for caring about the sad and cruel little saga that's come to define the sexual mores of my inattentive youth. The most ridiculous figures in the Polanski debate are the predictable scolds grousing about all the attention we're giving to such sordid goings-on. Just like the O.J. Simpson trial, this is one of those crystallizing episodes whose themes—then vs. now, art vs. life, justice vs. ???—have every reason to keep us riveted. Odds are they'll fascinate 22nd-century Ph.D's, too.

As for my tentative reluctance to see Polanski reincarcerated—not that I think it's a likely long-term scenario—I'm sure his advanced age has a lot to do with it. I don't feel the same way about chasing down concentration-camp guards a decade his senior—and I sure don't feel that way about paroling Charles Manson, either—but go figure. Even so, if he does end up back on trial in L.A., I'm damned if I'll call that an injustice or feel much regret. Except, in a convoluted way, for Geimer's sake, but it would be presumptuous to speak for her.

The GQ Punch List

Friday  September 25, 2009

What you need to check out, watch, read, and do in the next 72 hours.

Image

Make the G-20 fun. Before Pittsburgh burns, check out the G-20-inspired exhibit at the local Andy Warhol Museum. “Drawn to the Summit” showcases political cartoons of the moment from each of the member countries, promising to be way more fun than the actual conference.

Read the book, see the movie. Little more than a year after David Foster Wallace's death comes John Krasinski's (The Office) directorial debut of the author's short story collection, Brief Interviews with Hideous Men. The classic book was long considered unfilmable, but Krasinki proves that theory wrong-ish, turning in an amusing (if not terribly insightful) portrait of bad male behavior, with solid performances from a parade of recognizable faces including Will Arnett, Dominic Cooper, Timothy Hutton, and Krasinski himself. Plus, at 80 minutes, there’ll still be time for dinner.

NUP_135027_0373

Psych yourself up. In tonight’s episode of Psych—USA Network’s consistently silly, sorta-detective show—partners Shawn and Gus must rely on music to solve a crime. Specifically, the music of Gus’s old collegiate a cappella group, the awesomely-named Blackapella. “I wanted to call us The Incognegroes,” says series star Dule Hill (The West Wing). “But that didn’t fly too well.” What does fly well is this well-timed episode, which plucks a little bloom off of Glee’s rose. Plus, it’s given Dule Hill some newfound respect for the much-maligned a cappella genre (recently spoofed on The Office).

Pay the tailor a visit. Turn your attention to the gear you'll wear when the temperature really drops, and visit your tailor. (If you don't have one, now's the time to strike up that meaningful, rewarding relationship.) Look for loose and missing buttons. Tell him what areas to take in or patch. It’ll probably take a few weeks. Do it and you won't be taken aback when you throw on that topcoat for the first time.

The Complete Wardrobe: Jil Sander for Uniqlo

Friday  September 25, 2009

The esteemed designer gets back in the game, introducing a line of trademark minimalist gear that every man can wear—and afford

1109-GQ-CW01.04

Good news for minimalist design junkies: Plus J, the forty-piece collection by designer Jil Sander (whose work inspires the kind of devotion usually reserved for teen idols and foul-mouthed chefs), is almost here. Available October 1st from Uniqlo, the clothes feature the same pared-down sensibility that Sander is known for—at a price that even 2009’s man can afford. A collection’s already planned for Spring 2010, but here’s an early look at some of our favorites for Fall 2009:

V-neck Sweater, $130:

1109-GQ-CW01.06

The perfect cut of this V-neck means you can wear it any way you like: over a white shirt and paired with black jeans for a casual look, or under a trim suit (pocket square and all) for something a little dressier. Just be sure to contrast the colors—after all, you’re not in uniform.

(Left) Jacket, $130; shirt, $140; jeans, $50; (Right) wool suit jacket, $130; and pants, $50: all by Uniqlo +J at Uniqlo, SoHo, N.Y.C. 877-4UNIQLO; customer.orders@uniqlo-usa.com; www.uniqlo-usa.com

Light Down Jacket, $80:

1109-GQ-CW01.05

Sander’s devil is in the details: “I focused on the density of the padding, and the contour of the armhole, which actually took up most of my time in the fitting sessions.”

Flat-front Khakis, $50:

1109-GQ-CW01.02

A simple pair of khakis, but notice how the pockets are cut so that they don’t flare out at the sides, or the low rise so the pants sit right at the hips. Simple’s never simple.

Cashmere Cardigan, $150:

1109-GQ-CW01.03

Five buttons instead of four create a higher V-line, a proportion Sander prefers: “A cardigan only looks good if it hugs and firmly defines the body at the right places.”

Plaid Shirt, $40:

1109-GQ-CW01.01

The perfect marriage: “Uniqlo understands modern basics, so rather than reinvent anything, I put my signature in things like the exact shape of the silhouette and the angle of the shoulder line.”—jason chen

Models shot by Eric Ray Davidson. Still life photographs by Tom Schierlitz. Hair by Jordan Blackmore using Oribe Hair Care. Grooming by Kumi Craig for Exclusive Artists. Prop Styling by Eddy Alcantara for Mark Edward Inc.

The One-Question Q&A

Friday  September 25, 2009

The-cleveland-show-20090824032123883_640w

Fox's Family Guy spin-off The Cleveland Show (premiering September 27th) centers around Peter Griffin's lovable neighbor. Kanye West guest stars. Arianna Huffington voices an animated bear. (Seriously.) But we want to know: Why is Cleveland, the titular African American character, voiced by Mike Henry—a 44-year-old white guy from Richmond, Virginia?—adam baer

Mike Henry: I feel like I give Cleveland a lot of integrity, especially with the new series. He's not just "the Black Friend." He's a much fuller, well-rounded character then was ever set on Family Guy. Nobody has had anything really bad to say about it, knock on wood.

Rich Appel (co-creator): I think there's no reason people would know, but I think this is okay, too. We didn't invent Cleveland and then decide who to cast in the roll. Mike created Cleveland in episode three of Family Guy (season one) in the writer's room. He just started doing this voice and then the character kinda grew in large measure out of Mike's performance of that character. So he kinda was Cleveland long before the show existed. So to me, that makes it a little different. There's a tradition in animated shows, where you really can have the virtue of what people often aspire to, which is color-blind casting. You can have a grown woman playing Bart Simpson and Bobby Hill, and you have Hank Azaria as Apu. We have Kevin Michael Richardson, who is African American, obviously, and plays Cleveland, Jr., and he also plays Lester, one of the most redneck, potentially racist characters on our show.

E. Tautz's Spring Cinema

Wednesday  September 23, 2009

In case you haven't heard, designer Patrick Grant is on a roll. Back in 2006, he resurrected Norton & Sons, the famed 187-year-old Savile Row institution. These days, Grant has turned his attention to reviving the British sporting and military tailor E. Tautz. With London Fashion week in full swing, Tautz invited editors and buyers yesterday to No. 16 Savile Row for a cup of tea and a look at the company's Spring/Summer 2010 collection via a curious and distinctly British short film (watch it above). Yes, it's a little more inspiration than function, but the video presentation seems to have taken the place of the fashion show. Think about it: No models showing up late, no lighting snafus, no guest seating drama. Multimedia is the new, civil way to present even the most high-end clothing. While the video is fun to watch, nothing beats seeing the expertly-constructed collection firsthand. It's clearly a nod to the brand's heritage and the workmanship of The Row, and nearly all of the line is made from British materials in the U.K.—which may not help our economy stateside, but makes the clothes feel that much more authentic.—michael williams

Tautz-1

Tautz-2

Gentlemen, Raise Your Bidding Paddles

Tuesday  September 22, 2009

Lres_HM2_OW_Face

It’s not everyday that our accessories editor tells us, “This is one of the coolest watches I have ever seen.” Even less often is it that 100% of the proceeds for said timepiece go toward a good cause. Which is why the "Only Watch"—the latest from luxury watchmaker MB&F—turned our heads. It’s got more bells and whistles than you could hope for—an 18-karat gold, barbed-wire design by artist Sage Vaughn, automatic winding double-dials, and Swiss movement so complex it runs like a car engine—and all of the money raised for this item benefits research for Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, a genetic disorder that causes rapid muscular degeneration in 1 out of every 3,500 boys. The one-of-a-kind piece is being auctioned off this Thursday by Patrizzi & Co. Auctioneers. And while you probably can’t be there for the actual event in Monaco, you can place a bid at the auctioneer’s web site in real-time.—andrew richdale

Lres_HM2_OW_Engine

A GQ.com Interview with Nick Cave

Monday  September 21, 2009

Picture 7

In the annals of superfluous creative cross-overs—writers who rock, rappers who act, Ethan Hawke—Nick Cave is gloriously immuned. Whatever it is he’s working on–a screenplay, an opera, a new Bad Seeds record, or a movie score–it isn’t merely an indulgent lark or an attempt to prove he can hold his own in another genre. It’s just another means to express his wise, salacious self. This month, twenty years after his first novel, And the Ass Saw the Angel, he released his second, The Death of Bunny Munro, which recounts the last days of a comically lascivious, vagina-obsessed salesman. The 52-year old Cave says the book was influenced enormously by two great works of literature: The Gospel According to Mark, and Valerie Solanas’s SCUM Manifesto. We’ll let him explain.—mark healy

Bunny Munro is a prisoner of his own libido. Have you come across any real characters who are so beholden to their desires?
By their desires? Yeah, I have. First of all, most of the men that I’ve spoken to that have read this book see within their character certain elements of Bunny Munro. And I’m not as sexually motivated as him, but I’m an artist and I think that in some kind of way we are similar in that we pursue something to the detriment of those around us. I think that the artistic processes are hugely selfish and egocentric.

Really? You think your various creative pursuits have come at the detriment of yourself and others?
I don’t think that they’ve come at the detriment of myself, but yeah. I’ve tried and made every effort, I have to say, and I’ve pretty much tried to keep writing as a 9 to 5 job, but it’s very difficult to turn off. One of the skills I guess I’ve learned over the years is the ability to put things away. But it wasn’t always that way.

Do you always work a regular day?
Well, it depends what I’m working on. But I get up in the morning and I put on a suit and I go down to the basement, which I have to walk outside the house to get to, so it does feel like there is a physical distance between my personal life and my work life, my imaginative life. It’s just a few stairs, but I do have to actually go outside. That seems to be kind of important to me in some way, because the work I’m largely engaged in—well at least when I’m songwriting—is a kind of woman’s work, basically trying to give birth. It feels to me like I’m trying to squeeze a watermelon out of a tiny aperture. And there’s all the attendants screaming and cursing and blood. The writing of a novel, on the other hand, was much easier, and much more fun, and much more enjoyable. In fact I did that on the tour bus. I did that in hotels late at night, backstage and on the bus when I was on a tour around Europe and in America, as well.

Do you just keep writing or do you have to wait for inspiration?
Oh, I can’t afford to wait around for inspiration. Inspiration is overrated. I can’t be worried about whether I’m having a good day or a bad day. I look at the whole thing as kind of labor. If you’re gonna go down and build a brick wall, you need to go down and build a brick wall. It’ll never get built if you wait for the day that you actually feel like getting out the bricks and the mortar. So I just go down to the office every morning. I try not to judge any of it. If I go down there and stay there all day the work has been done whether I’ve done anything or not, if you know what I mean.

There aren’t many rock stars who can write novels.
I don’t know…I can see why musicians don’t write books because I think to a lot of musicians it would be way more enjoyable to make a record. It’s something that you kind of do with your mates and if you’re successful you make a whole lotta money out of it and it’s good fun and you get to smoke and drink and take drugs and have sex with women and all the rest. Why sit down and become an author? Where you have to sit alone at a desk and actually put in the hours. I mean, it doesn’t make any sense. I personally approach rock-and-roll music in a writerly sort of way. So it’s not so difficult, the transition, for me.

Last year you recorded a song called “And We Call Upon the Author to Explain,” where you praise John Berryman and sort of diss Charles Bukowski. I kind of think Bukowski sucks myself…
At last! We can all come forward. You can never separate Bukowski the man from his writing. If you took Bukowski the man away from his writing there’s very little there but kind of self-referential…shit. But even though Berryman had a very colorful life, he was largely in our imaginations. When you think of Berryman you think of his poems and you think of his character Henry and all of that stuff. When you think of Bukowski you just think of Bukowski. I think the point that I was trying to make is that Berryman is brilliant. He’s had more impact on what I do than anybody else, so…

You recently did the score to the movie version of The Road. What did you think of that as a book?
Initially I found it to be quite difficult but by the end of it I was weeping real tears. That language I found quite difficult. I thought it felt kind of self-conscious. I’m a big fan of Cormac McCarthy’s writing, but this particular book felt a little like that for me. I was sort of slowly pulled into the whole thing. I thought the whole device of the apocalypse—it was so brutal. If he’d put it in some other context—the final conversation between the father and son would have almost sounded mawkish…but because the landscape was so unforgiving and merciless it worked beautifully. I was turning the pages in tears. I think that’s a fine achievement for a novel.

You’ve got a similar father-son scenario in Bunny Munro. Were you wary of making it overly sentimental?
I mean, the only way it could have worked is if we can maintain some sympathy with Bunny Munro and that was, I guess, the most difficult juggling act. In Britain there is a particular kind of character that has that sort of sensibility and humor that Bunny Munro has, and the Brits love him. He’s laddish, sex-obsessed, thinks that breasts are kind of funny, and, you know, that whole Benny Hill kind of misogynistic sensibility toward women. I hoped that I could keep the reader to maintain a certain sympathy for that character even though by the end of it, he is a monster. But what I really wanted to show is where that humor and that kind of mentality can lead to. So as a writer, I’m not necessarily on the side of that character, but he did need to have some sympathy with him for the relationship with his son to work. If Bunny was such a complete asshole, then you don’t care whether the son likes him or not. So the idea of a 9-year-old—I have two 9-year-olds myself—that your father can do no wrong, was interesting to me. That I could create a monster, that no matter how fucked up this man became, the son just loved him even more.

And do you have that with your 9-year-olds?
Absolutely. I’m Superman. But I know that it doesn’t last, because I have two 18-year-olds as well, and I know that in a few years time the Superman gets kind of dismantled and you become a human being with all of your flaws and faults and inadequacies.

Is there a morality tale here?
I think on one level. I don’t think that I’m trying to say “repent.” I believe that what goes on in Bunny Munro’s character is in all men. It is innate within us—a kind of predatory sexualness—just as violence is kind of innate within us. We’re born with it. I think certain other things we must learn in order to negotiate ourselves through life, and those things are the better aspects of our character—empathy and intimacy and those sorts of things. So I was determined not to write a book about a monster who sees the error of his ways and kind of repents which is the normal way in which a lot of these novels go. I don’t go for the facing up to our faults and the admission of our sins and all the sort of stuff as necessarily a redemptive thing.

Can you recommend the Bible as a good read?
Well you know, I wouldn’t go through the whole thing. I would be selective about it. For me, the basic structure of the screenplay—and actually of the book itself—is based for me on the gospel of Mark, in that this is one of the four gospels of the story of Jesus Christ. And the story of the gospel of Mark absolutely concerns [itself] from the word go with Christ’s death. It’s this kind of garbled story that just wants to get to the punch line, which is the death of the protagonist. And so it is with the story that I’ve written—it’s called The Death of Bunny Munro. And the gospel of Mark is episodic in the same way. It’s a road trip…So that had a huge influence over the structure of the book. The other book that had a huge influence over this is Valerie Solanas’s SCUM Manifesto. Have you ever read that?

I haven’t.
Man, you gotta read it. It’s just some of the most beautiful, angriest vitriol you’ve ever read against maleness. And in the first couple of pages of that she does a beautiful job of describing what she sees as the male condition. It’s super-pissed off. And the way she describes the male is very much that he is kind of half dead and incapable of relating to anything other than his own physical sensation. And incapable of any mental passion or interaction, or sensitivities, just an unresponsive blob. I mean, it’s very, very beautiful the way she talks about that. And something that I kind of, on some level, recognize and agree with. And so, to me, that was what Bunny Munro was based on in some kind of way. So it’s kind of the Gospel of Mark pulped together with the SCUM Manifesto.

The GQ Punch List

Friday  September 18, 2009
What you need to watch, download, listen to, and check out in the next 72 hours.

Cowboys_007

Tour the new Cowboys stadium. Sunday’s Cowboys versus Giants game officially marks the opening of Cowboys Stadium, the $1.3 billion monolith of steel and glass courtesy of franchise owner Jerry Jones. Place your bets on who'll be the first punter to hit the video scoreboard—at 90 feet high (five feet above NFL requirements) the odds will likely be in your favor.

Join the gang. Crack addiction, incest, abortion, and child molestation—these are just a few of the patently-offensive themes waved about like a drunk uncle's unlicensed handgun in the FX sitcom It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia, which kicked off season five this week. If you need a primer, get Season 4 off iTunes.

Slaraffenland

Pardon their name, but not their music. Slaraffenland, a Danish indie band we’ve been digging lately, is the perfect way to usher in the cooler months: It’s early-Radiohead with a kick of free-form jazz, cool without shouting, and addictive in that slow-burning kind of way—the sort of rumbles that stay with you after a listen or two. Check out their latest album, We’re on Your Side, which came out on Wednesday. Here's one of our favorite tracks.

Go heckle David Cross. Mock the Alvin and the Chipmunks star on Monday when he does stand-up at The Wiltern in L.A. Likely victims of ridicule will include groupies "with dreaded arm-pit hair," his rabbis, Bill O’Reilly, and personal punching bag Jim Belushi.

Thursday  September 17, 2009

6a00d8341cc8d453ef0120a5bb80b3970c-300wi

Toronto Film Festival: Round Four And Out

Starring George Clooney as corporate America's chipper equivalent of a hired assassin—he jets around the country firing people when their employers don't want the hassle, and it may go without saying that nowadays business is booming—Jason Reitman's Up In The Air is almost unbelievably good. We've all gotten used to putting up with the slovenliness of even Hollywood's most entertaining comedies, from the ramshackle way they're assembled by too many cooks to the cheap use of patsies and cartoonish finks to guarantee laughs at the expense of people we don't care about. An expertly wrought, emotionally satisfying contemporary comedy that has none of those flaws is a minor miracle.

Up_in_the_air_movie_image_george_clooney_01

This is only Reitman's third movie, but he's made the leap from being a skilful director of slipshod material to one whose work has no visible seams between ace conception and crackerjack execution. While pleasant enough, Thank You For Smoking was riddled with the usual compromises, softening and cute-ing up Christopher Buckley's un-P.C. satire at every turn. As for Reitman's sophomore blockbuster, Juno, I loathed the damn thing; it took me some time to recognize that Diablo Cody's script would've been twice as obnoxious without Reitman's nice sense of tempo and gift for shaping appealing performances. In Up in The Air, he's working from his own screenplay—an adaptation of a Walter Kirn novel—just as he did on Thank You For Smoking. The difference is that this time he isn't second-guessing himself.

As the movie opens, Clooney's jet-hopping days are looking numbered, since a newly hired co-worker (Anna Kendrick) has figured out they can provide the same service at lower cost via teleconferencing. In a conventional slobfest, she'd be either a prissy figure of fun or Clooney's "Me Tarzan, you Jane Austen" love interest—so when Kendrick's character turns out to be neither of those cliches, the movie grows richer and more unpredictable on the spot.

Picture 5

The same goes for Vera Farmiga as the hero's real love interest. Not that he wants to admit it, since she's just a fellow corporate traveler who enjoys matching perks with him whenever a shared destination lets them fall into bed. Our slightly dazed realization that being both merrily cynical and sexually available doesn't mean she's a bitch or a flake is such a relief from our expectations that AMC addicts may break down and sob at the evidence Myrna Loy didn't live and die in vain. Not only is Farmiga a joy to watch, but her sensational chemistry with Clooney is a reminder how seldom he's actually played opposite an actress worth falling for.

As for Clooney, ah well. Just a few years ago, he'd seemingly come to equate entertaining an audience with (lucrative) fecklessness while equating Real Art with (award-winning) sonorities. Since I wanted to see him combine the two impulses, I got fed up enough with his bipolar numbskull streak to rashly predict he'd end up pissing away his best acting years—and boy, do they know how to cook crow in Canada. He's as marvelous here as he is in his other Toronto entry, The Men Who Stare At Goats; as different as the two roles are, in both cases he's also using his charisma and cocky humor in ways that don't cancel out meaning or depth. The proof is that Up In The Air's unexpectedly bleak conclusion amounts to a deconstruction of the crowd-pleasing side of his persona that even Clint Eastwood, no stranger to that game, might admire.

And I swear, I don't plan these twofers deliberately. I'm just a frazzled blogger at the mercy of the press-screening schedule, is all. Nonetheless, supposing I felt like pitting mainstream filmmaking at its best against indieland vanities at their worst— not only which one has more sophistication, but which one feels truer to life, as if those are necessarily contradictory to begin with —I could hardly do better than Up In The Air for an invidious comparison to Todd Solondz's latest.

Few moviemakers have gotten the mileage Solondz has out of peddling an adolescent's fantasies about what grownups are like as the rotten truth about people. Unlike the David Lynch of Blue Velvet—a movie whose dream logic didn't allocate blame for its characters' lurid behavior to anything outside its creator's own fertile brain—Solondz comes on with the bile of a muckraker exposing social hypocrisy. Yet the boobs in his movies barely get any chances to act hypocritical before their depravities and closet hysterias take center stage.

Life During Wartime 1

Pretty much killing any residual hope that he might have learned to move on, his new one is a quasi-sequel to 1998's Happiness, the movie that made him "Todd Solondz"—though I far prefer the earlier Welcome to The Dollhouse, which had the relative honesty to make its heroine a 13-year-old girl whose distorted view of her family was a given. With different actors playing renamed versions of the same batch of spiteful object lessons, Life During Wartime picks up Happiness's pedophile husband (Ciaran Hinds, taking over from Dylan Baker) as he exits prison.

Played by Allison Janney, his ex has started a new life with their younger son in Miami, where her cuckoo kid sister (Shirley Henderson) soon turns up on the lam from her own pervy worse half. Ally Sheedy appears in one sequence as a third sister who's now an Emmy-festooned scriptwriter—a gratuitous parody of Hollywood selfishness that's so lame it makes Sean Hannity look like George Bernard Shaw. The script's fleeting allusions to real-world events—the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, chiefly—are just as vapid, since Solondz plainly doesn't have Shinola to tell us about the issues involved. He's just trying to trick up his fetishes with a spurious extra dimension to justify his overreaching title.

A sentimental favorite of mine ever since The West Wing, Janney could use a break from the frumpy-but-caustic sidekick roles she's usually stuck with in movies. But good as she is, she's trapped in Solondz's Rubik's-cube determinism. Not only is the character's hope that she's finally found Mr. Right (Michael Lerner) inevitably doomed, but her own sexual terrors—set up in a scene of instructing her son about pedophilia whose obviousness in laying the groundwork for a disastrous wrong guess would look unsubtle on Two And A Half Men—are to blame. No less cruelly treated is the festival circuit's rent-a-Jeanne Moreau, Charlotte Rampling, as an aging rich bitch who picks up Hinds in a bar. But Rampling has been used this way in so many films that she's become comically brisk at delivering the curdled goods.

Life During Wartime 4

We also get another helping of Solondz's Happiness specialty: sex conversations between adults and children that let him get off on hearing apprehensive youngsters talk about "tushies" and buggery. If he thinks that's compassionate, he's kidding himself. But it's also true that his understanding of sexuality often doesn't seem to be a whole lot more advanced than theirs, and if he's an authority on eros, I must be Leonard Cohen. Which I'm not, but on this topic, Cohen at his sexist nadir is more trustworthy than a director who's pushing 50 and apparently still hasn't forgiven his parents for fibbing to him about the stork.

The Bill Clinton Tapes

Wednesday  September 16, 2009

A Q&A with Taylor Branch, author of 'The Clinton Tapes'

Picture 2

It has been nearly forty years since three young Democratic activists named Bill Clinton, Hillary Rodham, and Taylor Branch moved into a small apartment together in Austin, Texas, to wage a presidential campaign for George McGovern. In the decades since, the Clintons have taken that political fire to the center of American political life, while Branch has chosen a quieter course, writing three definitive volumes on the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and winning both the Pulitzer Prize and a MacArthur “genius” grant. Yet at the height of Bill Clinton’s ascent—for the full eight years of the presidency—the historian and the politician reunited for a secret project, hidden from even Clinton’s closest aides. Meeting late at night and sometimes through the night, Clinton and Branch embarked on a series of seventy-nine conversations about politics, the presidents, the Whitewater investigation, and yes, even Monica—recording every word for posterity. Acutely aware that their tapes could be subpoenaed at any moment and desperate to avoid making them public, Clinton squirreled away the cassettes in his sock drawer and has never spoken of them nor made them public. But this month, Branch releases a 670-page mammoth tome, The Clinton Tapes, that mines those conversations and delves into Clinton’s presidency and state of mind through a tumultuous and historic eight years. Branch sat down on the sprawling porch of his Victorian home in Baltimore to discuss the project, the experience, and the book.—WIL S. HYLTON

Let’s start in the fall of 1992. Out of nowhere, the president-elect calls you up and invites you to a dinner party at Katherine Graham’s house. What happened?
It was bizarre. When we were kids, we were buddies down in Texas, trying to get McGovern elected. We lived together, but I hadn’t seen him in twenty years, and I had no idea why he asked me to dinner. I had kind of reprocessed him out of my friendship, into being a politician. This is a guy who’s run off to run for Congress in Arkansas, when all the rest of us were very alienated, and had this pile-driver political career, and so I had reprogrammed him away from somebody that you could know as a regular person. This is a president of the United States! He may just be all greed and selfishness. I was definitely tamping down my expectations.

Had you been a supporter in the campaign?
No! I thought his “forgotten middle class” sounded like Nixon’s “silent majority.” It was a formula—part of being a member of this species called “politician.” But within twenty seconds, I completely reconnected with him. He just knocked me over intellectually. He comes up and out of the blue asks me all these questions about historic preservation, saying, “I read your footnotes, and I want to make sure there are things like that for historians in fifty years.” Even if I hadn’t known him, even if it had been Richard Nixon or George W. Bush, I would have been floored that he was thinking about that already. This guy who hadn’t even taken office yet is thinking about raw material for historians fifty years later.

Within weeks, you were swept up in a whirlwind with him—staying up all night to write the inaugural address, being onstage during the ceremony, and then actually entering the White House for the first time with Bill and Hillary.
The day before, I thought I was going down to hear a final reading of the inaugural and wound up working all night, then being onstage with no seat or anything, just crouched down. And after the parade, he said, “Come on, let’s go to the White House!” So it was just the three of us walking in, he and Hillary and me! I mean, he literally didn’t know where the Lincoln Bedroom was. We were wandering around, poking in closets.

How did you decide to begin recording interviews for history?
He was angling to get me to move into the White House as house historian. But I responded more to the notion of preserving his thoughts. I only realized later on what a tremendous commitment that meant for him. Because the only time he could fit me in was when he was tired. There were stunning moments; I would be talking to him late at night and his eyes would go up, just roll back in his head. He would fall asleep in the middle of a sentence.

At the end of each session, sometimes late at night or even early the next morning, you would drive home to Baltimore and talk into a tape recorder the whole time. It must have been exhausting for you as well.
I would do those dictations until I dropped. I would sit here outside the house and dictate notes until I fell asleep in the truck. Because I felt that it was a significant experience that I should preserve. But on the tapes, there are a few times where it’s amazing: I would yawn involuntarily four times a minute! Because my workday on the King books always started at five in the morning, and sometimes I wouldn’t know I was going to go down to the White House until six at night. They would call up and say, “Can you come down at eight?” And I’d scramble and go down there, have this session with him, and it’d be two o’clock in the morning, and I’d be driving and dictating, then wake up the next morning again. But having that drive home to Baltimore for dictation was a forced habit that turned out to be very good.

The level of detail in your conversations is overwhelming. You discuss the most minute foreign-policy details, political calculations. Did you need to expand your reading habits to keep up with him?
Not really, because I actually didn’t know a lot of that stuff! I would just set a subject out there and say, “This seems to be a significant topic.” I didn’t know the background and the parameters; he would explain those. And sometimes I would set a subject out there and he would give me what was already in The New York Times. Sometimes he would say, “We’re going to appeal. End of story.” And we’d move on.

The Bill Clinton in this book is very different than the version we came to know in the press. You describe a guy who was steadfast and idealistic, very different from the wishy-washy, flip-flopping caricature who let Dick Morris tell him what to do.
It was almost like a credential for old liberals to look down on Clinton, because if you looked down on Clinton, you could say, “He’s betrayed liberalism,” but you didn’t have to uphold anything yourself. All you had to do was talk about what a shit he was or what a sellout he was and you could get this cheap credential.

Meanwhile, you’re seeing this guy whose face is red with allergies, he’s so tired that his eyes are rolling back in his head.… He’s the last fighting baby boomer.
Well, yeah. For example, I admire Obama greatly, but if you compare Clinton and Obama on the National Rifle Association, Obama said, “It’s not worth it.” Right from the get-go. “You can’t win.” And Clinton was going after the NRA and assault weapons and cop-killer bullets the whole time. And he paid for it, and maybe it was a mistake, because it certainly hurt him in the 1994 congressional elections. But he did stick to his guns, as it were. He took risks. On Haiti—restoring Aristide. I would hear him say it: “This is going to hurt my presidency.” Or, “I could go down the tubes for this.”

In all the Kennedy and Johnson tapes you’ve listened to, do you hear the same resolve?
In some ways, Kennedy was just the opposite. People would idealize him, but then on the tapes, you hear him trying to kill Castro and all this other stuff. It’s disillusioning. And Johnson does the Civil Rights bill, but then he does the Vietnam War—and you hear them saying essentially, “We know this is not going to work, but we’re going to do it anyway.” Then Nixon promises to end the war, and four years later the war is still going. Then you have Watergate. So it was kind of like we had this post–World War II optimism about politics that was yanked out of our generation by hard experience. In some ways, Hillary and I were more typical of our generation than Bill. We were bruised and disillusioned with politics. We had more in common with each other politically than either of us had with Bill. He seemed to be on automatic pilot: “I’m going to run for office!” At the time, I didn’t connect that to idealism. I connected it to ambition. The notion that it came from a sense of idealism didn’t rear up for me until I was able to watch him in the White House, seeing why he would do things.

How did you contain that for eight years, listening to people say the opposite about him?
I couldn’t communicate with people, because I felt like I was in a different galaxy. I just dropped out. I didn’t see a way of fighting it that didn’t endanger the project. I couldn’t challenge my friend [Washington Post critic] Jon Yardley, who would sit around and bitch and moan about Clinton: “He’s no good, he doesn’t care about anything, he doesn’t believe in anything.” I couldn’t say, “Jon, I know that’s not true.” I couldn’t start that conversation, because the only way I could combat it would be to say, “I’ve been around Clinton a lot, and my experience is totally different.” And then some story would come out that he had these tapes, and they would get subpoenaed. So I just basically had to be quiet and not talk to people.

There are several parallels between Clinton and Martin Luther King—both are southern, same generation, men of faith, orators. But then there’s adultery. How did you process that?
Very painfully. I can’t say I’ve got any great answers. I think King got something good out of it, in a perverse way. He was driven to seek penance by public sacrifice for private failings. He would preach about the mystery of evil: Why could we not cast out this demon? But you know, with Clinton, I just had this assumption that when you hear all this, some of it’s true. I assumed that he had resolved to make it true no longer. Which is pretty much what King did. He resolved openly to his aides, “There’s too much at stake here. I’ve got to stop this.” And some of the greatest regret in King’s life was that he couldn’t do it. With Clinton, what he said was that it was a real lapse of feeling sorry for himself. He said it had to do with politics. Now, most people think that these compulsions have to do with more fundamental human things. I don’t know whether that’s true. All I know is that he said it happened when he thought he was doing a good job and got sucker punched. I didn’t read the Lewinsky stuff until I was working on the book. It was so tawdry. It was depressing to me. It’s fervid and tormented and brief. There were two bookends to it: He had these trysts with her during the shutdown and then banished her to the Pentagon or wherever the hell she went, and then she came back in that period right after the ’96 election, when he thought [the Whitewater investigation] was going to go away and it didn’t. He says he was feeling sorry for himself because of what was going on in politics, and that he just lost it. That’s what he said.

Was he a Lothario in 1972?
No, and I was sharing an apartment with he and Hillary. I had just separated from my wife, had virtually no social life, and they were all over each other. The only story was that we were having a hard time getting this woman politician to endorse McGovern, and the McGovern campaign sent in a guy who had worked for Jack Kennedy. So he met her, and came back and said, “She just needs to get laid. I know just the guy.” We were stunned. And then we realized he was serious! He went to the phone to call this guy in Boston and bring him down to Texas! And Clinton took the phone from him and said, “We’re not gonna do that, and if you do that, we’re leaving.” I didn’t do anything. I was paralyzed. And in retrospect, if Clinton was cynical about women, I would think he would have been more like that guy. Now, maybe he developed it later. I really don’t know.

It was interesting to read your descriptions of Bill and Hillary. Halfway through the impeachment trial, the doorman at the White House refused to let you in because they were making out in a hallway.
Well, that only happened once. I don’t know if their relationship is romantic, but it’s not cold. Sometimes when I tell people that they finish each other’s sentences, people say, “That’s because it’s a power alliance.” Like a medieval marriage between the prince of Spain and the queen of Austria. But there’s warmth there. There’s communion. They would hold hands. How much eroticism is in there, I have no idea. But it was striking.

Have you shown them the book?
I just took two copies up to Chappaqua last week. Hillary has it in Africa now, and he’s been off on this North Korea thing. But he did call. He’s called a couple of times to fuss about things. But he has enormous tolerance for honest criticism. I think he can take it raw, as long as he doesn’t detect that it’s done for malice. I was trying to show him the way he really is, and I think he respects that.

wil s. hylton is a gq correspondent.

Swayze In Excelsis: A Remembrance

Wednesday  September 16, 2009

Picture 1

Some say the greatness lay in the oxymoronic premise of its hero: Dalton, "legendary bouncer." (The idea being that when he walked into a bar, any bar, he was known, and every head turned, because, yeah, he was *THAT GOOD*.) A legendary bouncer who, still more oxymoronically, came with a philosophy degree from NYU and a penchant for such Zen pronouncements as "Pain don't hurt" and "Nobody ever wins a fight." A legendary bouncer who, like Bono or Sting or Attila, needed no surname.

Some say the greatness lay in its villain, the evil small-town overlord, Brad Wesley (Ben Gazzara), who dressed like Tom Wolfe and whose pastimes included frightening horses with his helicopter and smiling beatifically as his minions screamed monster trucks over the merchandise of uncooperative local car salesmen.

Some say its greatness lay in the screenplay. To wit:

AWED FEMALE BARFLY: You got a name?
DALTON: Yeah.

Or:

DALTON: If somebody gets in your face and calls you a cocksucker…be *nice*…remember that it's a job. It's nothing personal.
TRAINEE BOUNCER: Being called a cocksucker isn't personal?
DALTON: No. It's two nouns combined to elicit a prescribed response.
TRAINEE BOUNCER: What if somebody calls my mama a whore?
DALTON: Is she?

Or:

HOT MEDIC: Do you always carry your medical records around with you?
DALTON: Saves time.
HOT MEDIC: …What [is your degree] in?
DALTON: Philosophy…man's search for faith. That sort of shit.

*****

There was greatness in each of these elements, yes there was, and in the very notion of a kind of Jedi bouncer brought from out of town to turn a wretched hive of scum and villainy like the Double Deuce bar, "where they sweep up the eyeballs after closing," into a safe and happy place. But in the end, the element that made Patrick Swayze's Road House truly great was the homoeroticism that throbbed with third-rail intensity through its every cel. Here it is: Road House was—and remains—the most leeringly, queasily, triumphantly gay action film of all time.

This was a movie in which ostensibly straight men greedily eyed Dalton from head to toe and proclaimed, "I heard you had balls big enough to come in a DUMP TRUCK!" and "I've always wanted to *try* you" and "I thought you'd be…*bigger*" and "I see you've found my trophy room...the only thing that's missing is your ASS!"—and then howl, "Your ass is MINE, boy!" before having at him. A movie in which heterosexual sex was either punishing (the remarkably unpleasant sequence in which Swayze belied his assertion that pain don't hurt by pummel-fucking Kelly Lynch against a rough-hewn stone wall) or punished (the scene in which Swayze came upon a bouncer dog-humping what the man had dubbed his "Saturday night thing" in the broom closet and fired him for it). A movie in which one of Wesley's boys got Dalton in a seemingly unbreakable headlock and hissed, "I used to fuck guys like you in PRISON!" A movie in which Dalton, after breaking the prison-fucker's headlock and ripping his neck out, swivel-kicked him into a lake—and was clearly sporting an erection (or at least a cod piece) as he did so.

What's that, you say? Top Gun is the homoerotically superior film? Granted, that film, like Road House, was uncircumspect in its glorification of oiled male torsi. (The famous volleyball scene, soundtracked by Kenny Loggins' piping-high yawpings about "playin' with the boys!") But in the prolonged sequence in which Swayze—his rippling, hairless, oiled torso glistening in dawn light—performed slow-mo t'ai chi while Ben Gazarra watched smirkingly, lovingly, through binoculars, Road House achieved something Top Gun never could: pure creaminess.—andrew corsello

GQ Hits ATP New York

Wednesday  September 16, 2009

ATP-2009-NewYork-wide

Yes, festivals like Coachella, Bonnaroo, and SXSW attract legions of fans and some of music's biggest names year after year. But there's something to be said for New York's yearly three-day All Tomorrow's Party festival, which holds a couple thousand folks rather than the 150,000 that packed into this year's Coachella. Held in the Catskills (about two hours from Manhattan) at Monticello's Kutschers Country Club—a kitschy, '70s-style joint complete with an indoor pool, a lake, and multiple bars—ATP New York gathers indie rock's biggest heavyweights and most promising newcomers to play shows in banquet halls so intimate they feel a little like the coolest prom ever. We stopped by on Saturday to witness the fuss first-hand and it was an all-out sensory overload.

IMG_0218

The day was ushered in by the crooning of indie heartthrob Sufjan Stevens—he of the admittedly impossible vow to release an album inspired by every state and likely the most earnest act on the hipster-endorsed music scene—who nursed a room full of hangovers from the previous night's Feelies and Drones performances with the entirety of his Seven Swans, a banjo-strummin' folk album that predates his Illinois success. Instead of rocking out with a full orchestra and that massive set of wings he's infamous for, he delivered a restrained, mostly acoustic set with the help of three bandmates, all dressed in over-sized tie-dye tees from a local gift shop.

IMG_0248

In the afternoon and early evening, attendees took breaks from their mid-day naps, afternoon swims, and lakeside beers to check out on-site Criterion screenings of cultish film classics If… and Paris, Texas, and performances by Black Dice, the Melvins, and one of our latest favorites around the office, Sleepy Sun, whose debut album Embrace we urge you to download right now. It's moody, sexy, slightly ominous, and totally worth the $7.92 iTunes will charge you, but don't just take our word for it. Wayne Coyne from The Flaming Lips—who curated the three-day event—stood backstage fist-pumping in delight during their 45-minute set of acid-rock goodness. Take a look at their performance of "New Age" for more proof.

The rest of the evening, Wayfarer-wearing cool kids ate free Ninja Turtle ice cream bars, drank Bud, and played table tennis in anticipation of one of the festival's headlining acts, Animal Collective, who started promptly on schedule at 12:15. Their show, mostly songs from their most recent Merriweather Post Pavilion album, was no different than their others, in that it was, simply put, the kind of experience that reminds you why you're compelled to see live music in the first place. There are no wallflowers. No crossed-arms. No posturing. Just bands of folks, arms in the air, moving like there's no tomorrow to some of the noisiest, mind-rattlingly good music you could hope for. And around 1:30, as glowsticks streamed through the air during their final song, "Fireworks," we, dead tired and sufficiently drunk, gave a few last hollers before loading out and heading home for some shut eye.

A few days later, our ears are still ringing a little, but we're all the better for it. And we'll be down for it again this time next year, if the party's still on.—andrew richdale

Picture 14