‘Tis the season for Wesley Snipes vs. Joe Rogan?
1. The Late Show with David Letterman annual Christmas show
(CBS, Fri., Dec. 22, 11:35 p.m.)
Every year, Letterman is more dependably entertaining than the Grinch or Rudolph. Jay Thomas comes out and competes with Dave to throw a football that will knock the meatball off the top of the Late Show Christmas tree. This is usually followed or preceded by Thomas’ traditional telling of his ”Lone Ranger” joke. (If any of this sounds odd or incomprehensible to you, do yourself a favor and tune in — I’m not going to spoil one of the miracles of the holiday season with petty details.) And then, of course, Phil Spector-era legend Darlene Love comes out and brings the roof down with her version of ”Christmas (Baby Please Come Home).” Gives me goosebumps every year.
2. Poetry you can use: Collected Poems, C. K. Williams
(Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
This new volume gathers nearly 40 years of Williams’ relentless, elegant pursuit of capturing brief moments of his life, written without any excessive autobiographical chatter and filled with strikingly simple imagery. Williams’ most typical style consists of long lines that curl across the length of the page, but sometimes he uses a short-lined lyrical mode as in this beautiful verse from the poem ”Night”:
What do I do? Fret
mostly, and brood, and lie
awake. Not to sleep
wasn’t always so punishing.
Once, in a train, stalled
in mountains, in snow,
I was roused by the clank
of a trainman’s crowbar
on the undercarriage of my car.
I lifted the leathery shade
and across a moon-dazzled
a fox cut an arc; everything else was pure light…
3. Greg Kinnear in Little Miss Sunshine
I wasn’t totally on the bandwagon for this indie film everyone seemed to love — too many jokes I saw coming a mile away, and the kids’-beauty-pageant ending sour and self-contradictory. But the acting by everyone involved was sterling, no one more so than Kinnear, who follows up The Matador with another small model of witty modern-middle-age-male despair. He doesn’t play his motivational-speaker hustle for cheap laughs: You understand why a guy like this would seize upon his own ”Refuse to lose” spiel as both a get-rich-quick scheme and a formula for finding the sort of true happiness the rest of the film is designed to snicker at.
4. Music to blow off the top of your head: Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys: Legends of Country Music
Wills’ fusion of honky-tonk and swing jazz, played with hip-wrenching rhythm that would make any contemporary hip-hop producer proud, is given a glorious treatment in this four-disc nonstop party pleasure. The first country bandleader to use drums, electric guitar, and horns prominently on hit singles, Wills was a barnstorming crowd-pleaser who took his Texas Playboys all over the country from the 1930s through the ’60s. Never a Nashville favorite (too rebellious, too revolutionary, too impolitic), Wills made Hollywood a stomping ground for some of his best recordings. For sheer energy, imagination, and emotional wallop, easily the best reissue of the year. Start with disc 3 (”New San Antonio Rose,” ”Cherokee Maiden,” ”Take Me Back to Tulsa”) and then start jumping around, just the way Bob’s music did.
5. Wesley Snipes is back in the country! Someone call Joe Rogan!
For you, this may just mean you hope poor Snipes can straighten out his tax-fraud problems; for some of us, however, a dream is being rekindled: The Ultimate Fighting Championship — yes, I like the UFC and even watch The Ultimate Fighter — has been trying to arrange a bout between martial-arts devotee Snipes and tae kwan do fancier Rogan for a while. When Snipes skipped the country, it looked as though this schlock dream battle was scotched. Now…bring it on! My colleague Dalton Ross says he’d place his bet on Snipes because he can kill vampires, but my perverse side leans toward Rogan: Yes, he’s obnoxious on Fear Factor, but he hasn’t gotten respect as far back as NewsRadio, and I think he’d be one hungry underdog.