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Pretty used to being with Gwyneth

Regrets that her mother did not smoke

Frank in all directions

Jean Cocteau and Jean Marais

Simply cannot go back to them

Roll your eyes at Samuel Beckett

John Gregory Dunne and Joan Didion

Metaphors with eyes

Life of Mary MacLane

Circle what it is you want

Not really talking about women, just Diane

Felicity's disguise

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Entries in dick cheney (162)


In Which The Devil Remained Somewhat In The Details

The Last, Charles Dance


Childhood's End
creator Matthew Graham

The Expanse
creators Mark Fergus & Hawk Ostby

Arthur C. Clarke was not much of a writer. His first novel, Childhood's End, was not among his best, either. It's about some aliens who come to Earth in disguise, and then reveal that they actually look like demons. Everyone is fine with this; no one even considers it much of a coincidence that the aliens look exactly like something from Christian myth. There is no evidence of Christianity at all in Childhood's End, I think a person may have been in a church once but it was very subtle.

The Syfy network has been run by people who know nothing about science fiction for quite awhile now. Their original programming has largely been focused on space operas and the eye for adaptations on display is mediocre at best. They took to series The Expanse, based on the novel by Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck, Leviathan Wakes. The resulting show is completely unwatchable, which should be no surprise given how tragically bad the source material was.

If something is a bad, implausible story, but it is a realistic tale, no one is interested in it. Bad science fiction can appropriate elements of good science fiction quite easily. Childhood's End is a pastiche of several literary cliches mishmashed into nothing. To be fair to Arthur C. Clarke, the concept that the aliens looked like Christian demons is quite entertaining, and it's fun to see Twyin Lannister dressed up like this: 

Unfortunately, that's all the aliens do in Childhood's End, stand still and clomp around slightly on their hooves. Matthew Graham actually does a decent job adapting the story. In short, the aliens arrive and create a utopia for mankind. No one is really bothered by this until a bunch of children display telekenetic powers and become an extension of the master the aliens serve, which is a kind of god called the Overmind.

The only person the aliens talk to at first is Ricky (Mike Vogel) who is an American farmer. The aliens also only speak English, even when they broadcast their voices to the entire world, which seems like a fairly bizarre faux pas. They eventually reveal they are the midwives to the Overmind, and that Earth is not long for this universe.

The scientific community gives up since they all just want to frolic and be stress-free. No new discoveries appear. The one holdout is Milo Rodericks (Osy Ikhile). I'm fairly sure no one has ever been named Milo Rodericks. Ikhile does his best with the material he is given, and he is the only positive thing to come out of Childhood's End. The other main performer, Mike Vogel (Under the Dome), is one of the worst on television, and was clearly only selected because of his Filene's Basement version of Ryan Gosling looks.

A lot of very poignant music plays as the Overmind destroys Earth and all the people on it. I guess it is supposed to be sad, although there is a lot of whining along the way. You keep expecting someone to fight back, but they are mostly accepting of their fate. Even though we have several viable ways to evacuate Earth (see Neal Stephenson's Seveneves), no one bothers to even attempt it. Childhood's End makes for a very boring three-part miniseries, although I did like Charles Dance's costume and makeup.

I mean, Childhood's End was utterly boring to watch for the most part, and quite depressing as well. I liked the idea of going for a downer ending, but since humanity was never even given the slightest bit of hope, it did not really seem justified. There is no story of any consequence in Childhood's End, it is more of just a concept written on a napkin and stretched out for hours and hours.

I have to give credit to Matthew Graham though. The writing was not terrible and the production values were well-above the tragic shit that usually passes for sets and costumes on the complete mess of a channel that is the Syfy network.

You know, I actually love science fiction, but not like this. I mean, maybe look into some actual books by people who can write: Greg Egan, Vernor Vinge, Stephenson, Linda Nagata, M. John Harrison, Jack McDevitt, Robert Charles Wilson. This brings me to The Expanse, which is probably the ugliest show ever to appear on television. This has to be the worst lighting ever done in any cinematic medium — half the scenes you cannot actually see who is who.

The casting is all over the place. The novel The Expanse is based on made Jim Holden's first love interest an African woman, so the genuises behind this show decided to recast her as a hot blonde, which is completely disgusting. Steven Strait (Magic City) plays Holden, which is weird because he comes off as a sleazy douchebag and Holden is actually supposed to be quite ethical.

Continuing the parade of some of the worst actors on television is the hammy, outsized performance of Shohreh Aghdashloo, whose overwrought accent and grandstanding completely overpowers the grumbling of Detective Joe Miller (Thomas Jane).

Let's get to the plot, where The Expanse really does not shine. In brief, the novel is about a virus called a protomolecule that infects a ship and eventually becomes a threat to Earth. You will be shocked to learn that this protomolecule turns people into zombies. Thomas Jane has this look throughout like, why am I on this fucking show? The dialogue is wretched, the performances are actually worse.

You know, I'm sorry to be negative, but Syfy needs a new direction, and adapting mediocre novels is not it. There are some great things on television. Eva Longoria's new show wasn't that bad, although I find it a bit sexist. Fargo was fantastic. I'm trying to think of something else, but I'm drawing a blank. Jessica Jones became kind of boring after awhile. The Last Man On Earth had a great finale. That new show with Jennifer Lopez looks decent.

Dick Cheney is the senior contributor to This Recording.

"Ocean of Tears" - Monica (mp3)


In Which We Completely Busted Out Of This Corset

Boys Town


The Ridiculous 6
dir. Frank Coraci
114 minutes

There is a moment in The Ridiculous 6 when you feel like it is 1995. Rob Schneider portrays a Hispanic-American posing as a drug lord at a high stakes poker game also frequented by Wyatt Earp and Mark Twain. A woman appears at the doorway. Her name is Susannah, and cast in the role is Whitney Cummings. Susannah's cleavage overflows from her corset. She identifies the only African-American present, Terry Crews, and beckons him to the bedroom she normally shares with her husband Ezekiel (Jon Lovitz). There she regales him with the kind of sexual debauchery Adam Sandler only experienced in dreams or the mid-1990s.

There are two other women in The Ridiculous 6. One is the young Apache that is Adam Sandler's love interest, Smoking Fox (Julia Jones, 34). The other is a whore.

It seems like it is about time for the angry white man to come in vogue again. This is the role Sandler played so well, when most of comedy consisted of him screaming at women and children about how disappointing he found his life with them. This makes it all the more baffling that he cast himself as White Knife in The Ridiculous 6, who is a sweet-natured Caucasian-American raised by the Apache tribe.

Sandler used to make films about the sheer indignity of being white and having everything you ever wanted handed to you. Then his audience gradually realized this wasn't a satire or joke: this was actually Sandler's view of the world, and after becoming so wealthy from films like Happy Gilmore and Big Daddy, his major day-to-day activities consisted of sitting by a pool, snorting or smoking whatever drugs his friends brought by, and wondering aloud to himself, "I wonder what life would be like if pressing a button on the remote control changed the world!"

Netflix signed Sandler to a multifilm contract after no one was particularly interested in bringing The Ridiculous 6 out in cinemas. The movie is not all bad: at least it does not feature a scene where the protagonist takes some aboriginal plant and hallucinates insights into his present condition. It also explores a fairly novel subject for any genre, which is the discovery of a father by a son who was abandoned by that parent.

Sandler's character speaks in a measured, reasonable tone throughout. He is actually the straight man here, and the comedy comes from the half-brothers he unwittingly rounds up to find his father Frank (Nick Nolte). Taylor Lautner plays a virgin, Terry Crews is a piano player, Luke Wilson is an alcoholic, Schneider has a donkey, and Jorge Garcia is the fat and disgusting brother who is unable to speak English.

About 50 percent of the jokes are of the gross-out variety, including a scene where Steve Buscemi applies creme to a horse's ass and then Taylor Lautner's lips. The remaining 50 percent are not jokes in any real sense, more facial expressions and stunt casting.

How was $60 million spent on this piece of shit? Mostly the wide-ranging cast. Every single role, no matter how small, features some form of stunt casting, as if Sandler's only purpose in life was to provide work for his friends from Saturday Night Live.

I don't know why David Spade was in this movie, except that too many of Sandler's other friends from the period are no longer alive, turning The Ridiculous 6 into a kind of roll call to ensure we know who is still kicking. Norm Macdonald, Will Forte, Nick Swardson, Blake Shelton, Vanilla Ice, John Turturro, Chris Parnell and Chris Kattan also make appearances.

There are no women characters of any of any note here. For Sandler, women are strange, capricious creatures. He has been married to the same woman since 2003, and as such, she has become a part of him. Mr. Sandler met his wife on the set of Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo, and she converted to Judaism for him, because why wouldn't she? Jackie Sandler makes an appearance in The Ridiculous 6. She plays (you guessed it) a promiscuous Apache woman.

Upcoming Netflix projects include:

— a biopic of Gloria Steinem where she is played by Ryan Gosling

— a remake of Lost where every character is played by Kate Upton in a different costume

— a comedy series based around Meryl Streep living and whoring out of a dumpster

— a movie about a white guy who was nice to his slaves

— a Gilmore Girls remake where Alexis Bledel still has no taste in men

Netflix has a large new Los Angeles office that is fully supporting these artistic efforts to set women back to the Stone Age. The company seems insistent on the maxim that sexism sells. If the industry at large is increasingly afraid of relegating women to their roles as prostitutes, babymakers and prudes, Netflix is there to pick up the slack.

Dick Cheney is the senior contributor to This Recording.

"Silent Night" - Pentatonix (mp3)


In Which We Have Been With Sharon Stone For So Many Years

Secret Woman


Agent X
creator William Blake Herron

U.S. Vice President Natalie Maccabee (Sharon Stone) looks great for her age except for her neck. The night that she becomes vice president, the president gives her a special key that she decides to insert into a matching lock near her fireplace. Her butler Malcolm suddenly appears to intone, "You have just beat Lyndon Johnson's record, Madam Vice President." He takes her down the stairs of a secret door into a cavern that reads "The History Room" above its entrance.

In that cavern he shows her a copy of the Constitution that includes a super-secret addendum. The vice president, you see, has an agent of unknown identity under the discretion of the vice president. That agent appears behind her, walks slowly towards her, and kisses her hand.

Later, Stone is a meeting where a member of the Cabinet has had his daughter abducted by terrorists. "There's nothing we can do," the president explains, and Sharon gets this constipated look on her face, like I know what to do. The Maccabees were a Jewish dynasty formed by rebelled against their pagan forbears; they circumcised boys and the woods and killed their oppressors from trees.

Sharon Stone married a few Jews in her time, so Agent X creator William Blake Herron decided to bring that fascinating part of Sharon's past onto her new show. Except, on Agent X, Sharon's husband is the victim of a fiery car crash that she runs away from, clothes burning and tattered, as her vehicle explodes into flames. Inevitably we will learn that this was no accident, especially since Sharon keeps having flashbacks to the moment during her life on the presidential couch.

Stone's two marriages to Jews both did not end in happiness. She was married to a Jewish television producer in the 1980s, but the marriage only lasted three years. Later she married reporter Phil Bronstein, who worked all the time and was notoriously verbally combative with Stone. She also considered Shimon Peres her mentor for some reason, and now she is an ordained minister.

Basic Instinct made a fortune for a lot of people, netting more than $350 million at the box office. Sharon displayed her vagina as a tortured writer. She was great in the role, but there was nothing really overly special about the performance or the movie. Watching it again today the script is absolutely terrible and the entire thing is saved by the amazing direction of Paul Verhoeven, who was famously slapped by Stone after she understood that she would be showing off her lower half in the movie.

Agent X takes no such risks. Other cable networks are experimenting with violence and sex in their storytelling, but TNT's original programming seems intended for an older audience. Stone is extremely charismatic when she has good material, but the writing on this show has her intoning impressive lines like, "All our players keep dying." 

I know that Sharon wanted to play a more serious role — that of a woman with intellectual heft. She would have been a lot better if she was playing the role of the secret, violent agent and the vice president was just a white guy, as he has been throughout history. Or you know, she could have just played a powerful vice president who does not need a man to do her dirty work for her. There seems to be a lot of untapped material there.

Dick Cheney is the senior contributor to This Recording. 

"Our Love" - Babyface (mp3)