01.13.12 Ooh la la.




Netflix ceased to work on my Apple TV. Check the message boards: I’m not alone. Of course, any problem you have is shared by someone else. Google “Monkey fur shoots out of my nostrils when I use Eveready batteries in my remote” and six other people have the same problem, and someone says “take the batteries out and put them back in,” and the next message says “Tried it! Works - great! Thanks!” and the next person says “didn’t do anything for me,” which means there are two reasons monkey fur shoots out your nostrils. If you call the remote maker, they say it’s the batteries. If you call the battery maker, they say it’s the remote maker. Eventually you fix the problem somehow and it’s all forgotten and it goes away, until it returns.

My problem: movies start, stop after I’ve watched a minute, buffer for three minutes, advance another minute, then buffer for three. I know I’m not alone. I’m almost hesitant to call Netflix, because I know they’ll blame it on the Apple TV. Vice versa. First, though, I have to do everything suggested on every website.

Unplug ALL the cords

Cut power to the house

Restore power, replug everything

Remember you were supposed to log out first, which makes all the difference in the FARGIN’ WORLD APPARENTLY

log out, unplug, wait, restore, replug, reboot, enter password; update everything; reboot everything

smear chicken guts on router, light candles for Mr. Gris-Gris, voodoo god of internet connectivity (also wealth and sex)

disable everything not directly involved with the problem; add them one by one, making sure the problem persists at each step

follow the instructions on one blog post from someone who had the same problem, and manually change DNS in the Apple TV to, so when they ask what your DNS is, you say, and the tech support repeats it back saying “oooooooooh,” sarcastically, because he’s really impressed by your technical knowledge

Call Netflix, employ the Wabbit-season-duck-season gag employed by Bugs Bunny: say “I’m having trouble with my AppleTV,” and hope they say “no, it’s not that, it’s Netflix.”

So I called Netflix, and got Stephanie, who could also get a lot of work at a “Talk to a sympathetic, smart, technologically adept hot cheerleader!” 1-900 line. I described my problem.

“Well that’s not good,” she purred. “Luckily I have just the solution for you.” Translation: oh, we get this call. A lot.

She wanted me to turn everything off and turn it on again. Including the modem. I had not cycled the modem. I also had not turned the water off where it comes into the house, but for her, anything. So I turned off everything and waited five minutes, so all the electrons could drain out of the back of the modem and router and AppleTV, then plugged it back in.

Everything seems to work now. Just fine. Problem solved. Sat down to watch the movie I’ve been trying to watch for a week.

It’s not that good.



I watched a movie by one of my favorite actor / directors of all time, Charlie Chaplin: his 1947 black comedy, “Monsieur Verdoux.” I think this review, chosen at random from a thousand similar evaluations, speaks for many:

"These are desperate days," confides mass-murdering dandy Henri Verdoux to a companion at one point in Charlie Chaplin's darkest, loneliest and possibly funniest film.

I’ve read dozens of reviews of this movie since I started watching it, and everyone thinks it’s absolute genius - Chaplin at his best, his darkest, his funniest. But it’s a horrible movie. I mean it’s bad. Not by modern standards, but the standards of its year - 1947 - and the standards of its creator, whose work in the 20s and early 30s was crisp and funny and truly inventive. The idea that this strained, mirthless exercise is “possibly his funniest” is an assertion only a critic could make, because it shows he’s really plugged in to the Essence of Comedy. Look, pal, I’ll tell you what funny is. Funny is a guy on a tightrope with monkeys in his pants.

Yes it is. 4:09, hiilarity; same concept at 5:24, and it's magic. Effortless magic.


“Verdoux” is the work of someone who has never faced the possibility that he’s no longer in touch with the elements that made his original work so brilliant, and believes he is no mere comic.

He is an Artist.

The Artist’s self-awareness of being an Artist soaks the damned thing like perfume soaked in the theater seat. I shall act by underacting. Having spent a few decades talking with his eyebrows, he anesthetizes his agile, expressive face, and confines himself to a moue, a raised eyebrow. There’s one moment of slapstick - he falls out a window, ha ha - and one unexpected piece of brilliance, when he rifles through the bills with a teller’s professional speed. (He knows it’s a good bit, because he repeats it.) But the camera work, done by his longtime collaborator from the silent days, is stolid and stagey; the music, which of course he “wrote” - I suspect he hummed a theme or two to the arranger and let him fill it out - is the “Smile” theme with a few notes rejiggered. As a film, it’s long, flat, and dry, like a thick piece of old fish run over with a steamroller a few times.

But that’s not what people seem to love. It’s the Genius! of the plot, which has Chaplin as a murderer of women who deserve to die because they’re unattractive petit bourgeoise hags. He marries them, kills them - offscreen, of course; Chaplin may have been courting the critics by playing “Dark” but he would never sully his rep with a strangulation scene - then uses their money for his own family. See, he was laid off, and this is the only work he can get. His real wife is radiant and kind, and even better, she’s in a wheelchair. So he’s really sorta kinda a good serial killer. His heart is in the right place. (Later, the film implies that he killed his wife and child after the 1929 market crash, and it’s mentioned only to explain why they haven’t made an appearance in the last hour. Oh, another tragedy he had to befall.) He’s an aesthete, you see - why, he manicures the rose bushes while one of his victims is burning in the incinerator in the back yard, and when he come across a bug on his rose bushes, he lets it live, because he has the soul of an artist, you see. Killing women, as he later explains, is just business.

Orson Welles had the original idea for the movie, and in his hands it could have been brilliant. If he’d played the role, it would have been dark and comic and tragic and all the things Chaplin is aiming for. Not to say he couldn’t do tragic: the end of “City Lights” breaks your heart, but it’s lovely. It works because it’s a love story between two people, and while there’s some folderol about class differences, there’s no message. “Monsieur Verdoux” builds up to a message whose banality rivals its stupidity: society harshly judges the man who kills a few women, but elevates the politicians who murder millions.

He’s not talking about the Soviets, of course. He’s talking about the West. These sentiments are delivered in a courtroom speech, and you can tell he expects us to be stunned: whoa, dude, I never thought of it like that, but you’re absolutely right. Having civil laws against murder but not against responding to armed fascist aggression is totally hypocritical.

“One murder makes a villain, millions a hero,” he says in his jail cell, in a speech that says business is always always about murder, because business is about war and conquest. “Numbers sanctify, my good fellow.”

This he wrote at the time of the Nuremberg trials.

Mind you, I love Chaplin, and he couldn’t have done what he did if he hadn’t complete faith in his instincts and abilities. But he was unsuited for movies by the end of the 30s. The language had changed. Who wants to hear him speak, when nothing he says is amusing?



Hey! Today there's three additions to the Permanent Collection of Impermanent Art, right here. Have a grand weekend, and I'll see you around. (Column at Startribune.com, too.)




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