By CHRIS PACKHAM
Before the Devil Knows You're Dead is a Sidney Lumet-directed film starring Philip Seymour Hoffman, Ethan Hawke and Albert Finney. It starts off pretty depressing. Then, against all odds, it just keeps getting more and more depressing over its 117 minutes, until climaxing in whatever the depressing equivalent of a terrific orgasm would be. It's like watching an action movie, only instead of chase scenes and gunfights, Lumet keeps hitting his mark and heightening the story with increasingly depressing shit. "I feel like I just watched Thomas Hardy's Die Hard," I said to my girlfriend.
"What?" she asked, because I'd blurted that out with no pointy-headed explanatory preamble. She did, however, agree that it was the most depressing thing we'd ever watched. So, in the cheerless spirit of Sidney Lumet's Before the Devil Knows You're Dead, the following Daily Briefs explicitly follows the structure of John Updike's Roger's Version, only with all the WASP-y middle-aged boners extracted and replaced with irony. Click here, or on America's snack-time favorite, apple-martini-flavored Blunt Wraps, for some reason:
The thin-blue-line-dance: In the deeply uninteresting bureaucratic struggle to determine whether Kansas City International Airport will be policed by private security or the Kansas City, Missouri, police, The Kansas City Star's Yael T. Abouhalkah picks the police. I have passive-aggressive hatred for authority, and I'd therefore prefer mall cops — the kind of authority you can flout openly, without fear of any retribution whatsoever. By contrast, you have to be polite to the actual police because they've been vested by the state with the power to insert their telescoping batons into both existing and newly tunneled body cavities. Say — why do you suppose they never invite me to any of those televised journalist panel shows on the KCPT? I have a very important-looking journalism degree from an Ohio diploma mill called Benjamin Franklin University, which you have to admit sounds pretty official. Here's my diploma:
Click for a larger image. It cost me $3,500, but as part of my matriculation package, the school will also field calls from prospective employers and confirm that I actually attended class and wrote a dissertation.
In all my years of J-school, though, no one never taught me about the deployment of fear-based rhetoric to buttress an argument. I had to learn it on my own, by studying H.P. Lovecraft. For Pepsi Challenge purposes, here's the closing line of H.P. Lovecraft's short story "Dagon": "The end is near. I hear a noise at the door, as of some immense slippery body lumbering against it. It shall not find me. God. that hand! The window! The window!"
The ordinarily mild-mannered Yael closes out his column about the airpo-po-po with this terrifying H.P. Lovecraft punch line of horror: "Out of the blue, on a day like any other, any lack of communication or professionalism by these agencies could have disastrous consequences for KCI and its passengers." Brrrr! Has Yael looked into the maw of the infinite, tearing asunder his very sanity? I guess we won't know until his pineal gland extrudes from his forehead, summoning transdimensional madness, and by then it will be too late for his Midwest Voices co-workers.
That John Edwards thing: So, Sen. John Edwards allegedly has a mistress and a "love child," an always-creepy term that only sounds like it means "underage mistress." Can we just say "bastard?" This is all according to my grandma's favorite news source after Reader's Digest and CarToons. Oh, I'm not saying Edwards doesn't have an illegitimate child. If I had to take a position, I'd say he probably has enough illegitimate love bastards to field a Little League team, because even though power probably is an aphrodisiac, there's nothing the ladies love more than a silky, manageable head of glossy hair like that of sexy John Edwards and also like mine.
Then there's this whole other spoke to the story, whereby major news organizations won't even report about it. I'll allow that some media orgs might actually have some kind of liberal bias, but in this case, I truly believe that the snooty-toots who run The New York Times and The Washington Post are too grossed out by The National Enquirer to follow suit. I totally empathize. It's kind of like the way I can barely look at Monty Python and the Holy Grail, thanks to the drama club kids who ruined it for me in high school. And don't even get me started about the tubby losers who think they're Tyler Durden. I truly, truly do not want to be like any of those self-deluded fuckers, and if the same dynamic makes The Sacramento Bee want to be totally unlike The National Enquirer, whose reporters and photographer apparently stalked John Edwards through a Los Angeles hotel, I have nothing but whatever emotion I'm able to use in place of empathy.
Oh, and Grandma doesn't really read CarToons.