Everett Collection
Ken Tucker
March 27, 2007 AT 04:00 AM EDT

Getting reacquainted with the joyfully jaded W.C. Fields

1. Cutting-edge comedy in The W.C. Fields Comedy Collection, Vol. 2
(Universal DVD)
In 1941’s Never Give a Sucker an Even Break — even by using that phrase as his title, Fields presaged our current era of aggressive jadedness — the great comedian plays himself as a hapless film actor trying to peddle his screenplay to an indifferent movie industry. His encounters with a producer at the fictitious film studio Esoteric Pictures remain a crackling satire of show-biz politics that can stand comfortably with Robert Altman’s The Player.

2. Support our troops with Army @ Love #1
(Vertigo comic)
Artist/writer Rick Veitch, who works both in mainstream and whatever you’d call underground comics in the present day, has created an amazingly racy and ruthless satire/critique of a never-ending war in Afghanistan. One of Veitch’s best-known credits is for his work on the comic-book series Swamp Thing; here, he puts humans in the swamp of war.

3. Tim Daly Alert: Law & Order: SVU
(NBC, Tues., 10 p.m.)
Daly just gets better and better, but after the dismal ratings of his last two terrific shows, The Nine and Eyes, I am going to start making sure as many people as possible keep this sly, shrewd actor in mind. Yes, he’s reportedly been cast in what sounds like a sure thing — the Grey’s Anatomy spin-off starring Kate Walsh’s Addison Shepherd — but as Daly himself would probably tell you, there are no sure things in TV. With that in mind, check out our man guest-starring in the squirmiest of the L&O franchises. He’ll doubtless add some fresh clarity to the proceedings.

4. Adventures in poetry with Elaine Equi’s Ripple Effect: New and Selected Poems
(Coffee House Press)
Thirty years of poetic experimentation and clarity are contained here, with Equi’s favorite form — short two-lined stanzas — doing a remarkable job of conveying anxiety, hope, humor, and romance. From ”Astor Piazzola”:

…To know you is to be instantly elevated
to new depths.

Go on and lead then.
I’ll follow your blizzard.

Sway on stiletto heels
through the winter’s white heat.

5. Old guys sing better than young ones, sometimes: Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard, and Ray Price, Last of the Breed
(Lost Highway)
Willie churns out duet albums with both remarkable industry and quality; that he organized this double-album featuring three singers makes you want to rethink the cliché about dope-smoking as an inhibitor to action. These senior citizens — with another, the great Fred Foster, producing — apply their reedy voices and gravelly croons to some of the greatest country songs ever, including Floyd Tillman’s ”I Love You So Much It Hurts,” Harlan Howard’s ”Heartaches By The Number,” and Leon Payne’s ”Lost Highway.” And they never sound jaded or winded for a second.

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