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Editor, The Konformist
The Decade of the Dude
How The Big Lebowski the Coen brothers' 1998 stoner caper starring
Jeff Bridges as an L.A. slacker called the Dude became the most
worshipped comedy of its generation
Posted Sep 04, 2008
"This whole room is kind of dude-like," Jeff Bridges says. It's a
summer afternoon at Bridges' Santa Barbara, California, estate, and
the 58-year-old actor is digging around his dusty garage, looking
for memorabilia from The Big Lebowski. Artifacts from the movie are
strewn about his Spanish-tiled house. In Bridges' recording studio
where he once cut an album with Michael McDonald sits one of the
bowling-pin hats used in the trippy dream sequence with Bridges and
co-star Julianne Moore. In his office are the grimy jelly sandals
that Bridges' character, a slacker called the Dude, wore for most of
the film. When we walk up to the ocean-view bluff where Bridges
likes to hike every day, there's the remains of a cocktail in a
dirty cup. It's a Black Russian. As far as I can tell, this seems
like the biggest difference between Bridges and his most enduring
character, who prefers his Russians white.
Now Bridges, a four-time Oscar nominee, is rooting through a giant
stack of cardboard boxes in his garage. After a while, he clutches
something and pulls it out.
"Ahhh," he says. "Here it is."
It's the Sweater. As in, the beige and brown zigzag cable-knit
sweater that the Dude wears through much of Lebowski. For a die-hard
fan, it's like seeing Harrison Ford dig out Indiana Jones' fedora.
Bridges sees me smiling and laughs hysterically. "Here, try it on,"
"I can't," I say. It would be wrong.
"C'mon," he says.
I put the Sweater on. It's heavy, and way too big. Bridges grabs my
cellphone camera. "Move your right shoulder a little bit to the
side," he says. "Head up a little bit, perfect, right there."
To think this is all about a strange movie that bombed when it came
out in 1998. But in the 10 years since its woeful release, The Big
Lebowski a tangled Desert Storm-era comedic caper directed by
Ethan and Joel Coen (Fargo, Raising Arizona, No Country for Old
Men) has become the most beloved movie of its generation. Young
comic stars like Seth Rogen (the co-writer and star of the current
hit Pineapple Express) and Jonah Hill (Superbad) worship the film.
The Internet teems with Lebowski tributes and videos (like "The Mii
Lebowski," a homage done entirely using Wii video-game characters),
and the film has inspired dozens of academic papers, with titles
like "Logjammin' and Gutterballs: Masculinities in The Big
Lebowski." Several times a year, thousands of costume-wearing fans
flock to conventions called Lebowski Fest. Bridges attended a
Southern California Fest a few years ago "My Beatles moment," he
says. To date, The Big Lebowski has made $40 million on DVD more
than twice what it made in theaters and in September, Universal is
releasing a 10th-anniversary limited-edition DVD of the film, which
will come (of course) in a bowling-ball case.
"No movie is quoted more often amongst [our] friends," says Jim
James, the lead singer of Louisville, Kentucky, band My Morning
Jacket, who performed at their hometown Lebowski Fest in costume
(James dressed as the Dude). "We often hear stories about how it has
changed people's lives."
Why has Lebowski become an early- 21st-century phenomenon? The
answer may be as complicated as the film's labyrinthine plot, which
the Coen brothers loosely based on the L.A.-noir novels of Raymond
Chandler. Part of Lebowski mania can surely be attributed to the
fact that it's just a very funny premise for a film. Bridges' Dude
(real name: Jeffrey Lebowski) is a listless L.A. pothead wiling away
the early 1990s playing in a recreational bowling league with
friends Walter Sobchak (a mercurial Vietnam vet played by John
Goodman) and Donny Kerabatsos (a mild-mannered sidekick played by
Steve Buscemi). When a pair of clumsy thugs confuse the Dude with
another, wealthier Jeffrey Lebowski peeing on his prized rug in
the process the Dude is thrown into a screwball escapade that
involves a family feud, a gang of nihilists, the avant-garde art
world, the SoCal porn scene, lost homework, Tara Reid and a missing
But that's just the start of it. Early in Lebowski, the narrator (a
cowboy named the Stranger, played by Sam Elliott)
intones, "Sometimes there's a man, who, well, he's the man for his
time 'n place." The odd truth is this man the Dude may have been
a decade ahead of his time. Today, as technology increasingly
handcuffs us to schedules and appointments in the time it takes
you to read this, you've missed three e-mails there's something
comforting about a fortysomething character who will blow an evening
lying in the bathtub, getting high and listening to an audiotape of
whale songs. He's not a 21st-century man. Nor is he Iron Man and
he's certainly not Batman. The Dude doesn't care about a job, a
salary, a 401(k), and definitely not an iPhone. The Dude just is,
and he's happy.
"There's a freedom to The Big Lebowski," theorizes Philip Seymour
Hoffman, who played Brandt, the wealthy Lebowski's obsequious
personal assistant. "The Dude abides, and I think that's something
people really yearn for, to be able to live their life like that.
You can see why young people would enjoy that."
"Lebowski is one of those rare magnets of the universe that has the
power to change time and space, to draw people and events together,"
"The Dude is like Dirty Harry," says the brash conservative
screenwriter John Milius (Apocalypse Now, Dirty Harry), one of the
Coen brothers' inspirations for Goodman's manic vet, Walter
Sobchak. "Dirty Harry became a movement. And the Dude became a
movement. It's symbolic of a whole way of life."
No one is more surprised by the extended life of Lebowski than the
people who made it. When I meet him one afternoon in L.A., Goodman
immediately tells me it's his "favorite thing [he's] ever worked
on," and he laughs uproariously when I quote him some of Walter's
best lines (a favorite: "Say what you will about the tenets of
National Socialism, Dude, at least it's an ethos"). Moore, who
played Maude, the estranged artist daughter of the wealthy Jeffrey
Lebowski, says it's "one of the movies people mention most to me. I
keep saying that one of these days I'm going to go to a Lebowski
Fest." Adds Buscemi, who has appeared in nearly 100 films, including
a few Oscar winners, "I'll pass three guys on the street, and they
may just give me a nod. They don't even have to say a line from the
movie. I know what movie they're thinking about."
Bridges, too, says that he never really saw The Big Lebowski's
second life coming. An actor's actor, he has played rowdy townies
(The Last Picture Show), quiet aliens (Starman), louche piano
players (The Fabulous Baker Boys) but none have had the impact of
the Dude. And while some actors have difficulty accepting the
indelibility of a well-loved character, that is not the case with
Bridges. He is at peace with the Dude. When asked if he would be
upset if The Big Lebowski is the movie he's most remembered for,
Bridges doesn't hesitate. "No," he says. "Not at all."
Read the entire story in the new issue of Rolling Stone, on stands
August 22, 2008.
Funky Cars You Love to Hate
By Lauren DeAngelis, U.S. News
You won't hate these cars because they're beautiful. Ugly ducklings
like the discontinued Pontiac Azteck and Subaru Baja have given way
to sleek shapes such as the Infiniti G37 and Cadillac CTS. But there
are still a few duckies on lots waiting for their turn to become
swans. Check out our picks for the oddest, wackiest and weirdest-
looking autos in production today. And make sure to look closely,
because behind those strange exteriors are often some of the most
useful cargo areas and spacious cabins in the business. For some
cars, beauty really is on the inside.
Chrysler's PT Cruiser has developed a cult following for its one-of-
a-kind retro design. With looks reminiscent of 1930s and 40s
hotrods, the wagon attracts praise despite its cartoonish feel.
Motor Trend says it's the "hottest looking retro rod anyone can
afford. No matter where you go, people stare at the PT like it's a
Ferrari." It may look quirky to some, but the PT's exterior isn't
just about looks. The tall roof provides tons of headroom for
passengers and the wagon's cargo capacity rivals that of a minivan.
Chrysler may have thought they had the market cornered with the PT
Cruiser, but since Chevrolet introduced the HHR in 2005 the retro-
inspired crossover has given the PT a run for its money. Short
for "Heritage High Roof," the HHR is inspired by the 1949 Suburban
and looks part old delivery truck, part hearse. U.S. News reviewer
Rick Newman describes it as "sorta cute, sorta homely, with a bit of
gangster chic thrown in." The HHR's old-school exterior conceals a
versatile interior -- virtually every seat folds flat and the cargo
bay is especially deep.
Petite Doesn't Mean Pretty
The tiny Smart Fortwo definitely made a splash when it arrived on
U.S. shores earlier this year -- but not just because of its
diminutive size. The little car's unique, almost-disproportionate
styling is one of its most distinctive traits. About.com aptly sums
up, "It's still hard to look at it and think of it as a car. I'd
look at all the vehicles parked on my street and think 'Car, car,
car, Smart, car, car.'" And speaking of parking, the Fortwo's short,
clownish shape translates into park-anywhere capabilities.
In a class full of sporty, streamlined sedans, another small car,
the Volkswagen GTI, sticks out like a sore thumb. Its hatchback
design means it's taller and quirkier than its other upscale rivals.
MSN notes that the GTI "has an especially ungainly appearance, with
an overly aggressive-looking front end and chunky shape." However,
the GTI isn't funny-looking for nothing. The hatchback configuration
provides much more cargo space than its top competitors from Audi
and Acura, giving it a rare shot of practicality for its class.
The Cubism Movement
When it hit dealerships in 2003, the Scion xB made quite a style
statement -- and not necessarily in a good way. Its boxy, toaster-
like appearance went against the emerging trend of increasingly
sleek, rounded vehicles. But while some people hated the statement,
others embraced the ugly yet functional look. Why? Because the cabin
is downright cavernous. MSN calls headroom "astounding," while
Cars.com says "there's more room in the xB's backseat than in some
If the Scion xB is boxy, the Honda Element (introduced the year
before the Scion) takes cubism to a whole new level. Its utilitarian
shape and reverse-hinged rear doors set it apart from your typical
SUV. While the xB is often compared to a toaster, Car and Driver
bills the Element as a "rolling breadbox." If that's the case, the
Element can hold a heck of a lot of bread. Those unusual rear doors
make loading cargo easy with an opening that's larger than most
minivans. And the Element's height allows plenty of room for even
the tallest passengers.
Teenage Mutant Ninja...Trucks?
With large cabins and small truck beds, Sport Utility Trucks (SUTs)
look strange no matter what. The Honda Ridgeline boasts one of the
most controversial exteriors of all. "The Ridgeline reminds me of
the old Rodney Dangerfield joke about how he was so ugly as a kid
his parents had to tie a pork chop bone around his neck so the dog
would play with him," criticizes the Detroit News. But despite an
exterior ranking at the bottom of its class, the Ridgeline has
plenty to offer. Its cargo bed may be short, but that means it fits
easily into most garages. It also features an in-bed trunk complete
with drain plugs for converting into a cooler. The Hummer H2 SUT
looks just like a Hummer -- only with the two rear windows chopped
off and a teeny-tiny truck bed in their place. Sound pretty? Well,
not exactly, but it is pretty muscular and imposing for a pick-up.
U.S. News reviewer Rick Newman calls the styling "military chic."
Plus, the combat-inspired SUT is the ultimate truck for hauling
versatility. Its rear midgate allows drivers to convert it from a
five-passenger SUV with a small truck bed into a two-person truck
with a six-foot bed.
Finally, An Honest Campaign Sign
Posted by Lava Cocktail at Saturday, August 30, 2008
Barack Obama's show even tops 'Idol'
By Richard Huff
DAILY NEWS TV EDITOR
Friday, August 29th 2008
More than 38.3 million people tuned in to see presidential nominee
Sen. Barack Obama address the Democratic National Convention
That was the largest audience for the 2008 DNC this year, and bigger
than the audiences for the "American Idol" finale or "The Academy
Sen. John Kerry drew just 24.4 million for his acceptance speech in
The audience watching Obama's nomination speech was actually larger
than reported, though unmeasured. Nielsen's estimate counts 10
networks' coverage in the 10 p.m. hour, but not PBS and C-Span,
which also carried the event.
"There has been enormous interest," CNN senior vice president David
Bohrman said. "[The presidential race] has transitioned into a must-
see TV event....People have become transfixed."
CNN had 8 million people watching. ABC averaged 6.6 million; NBC
averaged 6.1 million; CBS, 4.7 million; the Fox News Channel, 4.2
million and MSNBC averaged 4.0 million.
Sarah Palin: VPILF
Ignore for a second that Sarah Palin is a true blue right wing kool-
aid drinker. Let's give John McCain some credit for introducing a
new phrase in the political lexicon: VPILF.
Already many have noted her resemblance to SNL's Tina Fey:
Personally, I couldn't help noticing her resemblance to Eva
Angelina, which is perhaps even more complementary...
Saakashvili's "democracy" in Georgia
By Wayne Madsen
Online Journal Contributing Writer
Aug 28, 2008
(WMR) -- While the neocon media and the George Soros-
funded "progressive left" defends the Georgian government of Mikheil
Saakashvili against so-called Russian "aggression," it should be
recalled that Saakashvili is anything but a paragon of democracy.
Shalva Natelashvili would agree with those in Russia and the United
States who question Saakashvili's foreign entanglements and
political and economic agenda. Natelashvili, as the leader of
Georgia's opposition Labor Party, has experienced Saakashvili's
Natelashvili is no friend of Saakashvili's patrons in the United
States, backers that span the political aisle from Barack Obama's
financial backer George Soros and chief foreign policy adviser
Zbigniew Brzezinski to John McCain's top foreign policy adviser
Randy Scheunemann. For that reason, Natelashvili favors closer ties
between Georgia and Russia. Natelashvili has called Soros the "real
president of Georgia," suggesting that Saakashvili is merely Soros'
puppet. Natelashvili has also called Matthew Bryza, Secretary of
State Condoleezza Rice's Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for
European and Eurasian Affairs and her special envoy to Georgia, a
tool of the Soros-backed Georgian government. Natelashvili has
called for Bryza's resignation.
Natelashvili's program of restoring free natural gas and electricity
to Georgia for three years as a way to lighten the financial burden
of utility bills on poor Georgian households did not earn him any
points with Saakashvili or Soros, a person who preys on the poor and
unemployed through his vulture capitalist practices. And to earn him
greater wrath from the Soros crowd, Natelashvili opposes the
privatization of state-owned industries and wants them returned to
state control, as well as reducing the power of Georgia's
neocon "unitary executive" presidency.
The pseudo-democrat Saakashvili responded to Natelashvili by
accusing him of espionage prior to the presidential election last
January, an election which Saakashvili won amid charges by the
opposition of election fraud. Natelashvili was accused by the neocon
government in Tbilisi of meeting with Russian intelligence agents
and planning to overthrow the government. Earlier, Saakashvili's
government had arrested opposition leader Irakli Okruashvili and
issued charges against wealthy businessman and opposition leader
Badri Patarkatsishvili and Konstantine Gamsakhurdia, the son of the
first Georgian president. Patarkatsishvili, the co-owner of
Georgia's Imedi TV network, died suddenly outside of London last
February at the age of 53. He was a bitter opponent of Saakashvili
and many Georgians and some British police suspected foul play in
his death, ruled later as a heart attack.
The convergence of Soros and the Obama campaign on one side and
Scheunemann and the McCain campaign on the other illustrates the
lack of difference between the Democrats and Republicans when it
comes to revanchist Cold War politics. Scheunemann was a member of
the neocon Project for the New American Century (PNAC) and favors
expansion of NATO. Obama's foreign policy team of Brzezinski and
Wesley Clark are in agreement with Scheunemann whose Orion
Strategies has made a fortune in lobbying for NATO expansion and
awarding countries like Latvia lucrative contracts in U.S.-occupied
Iraq. Scheunemann is close to Iraq National Congress leader Ahmad
Chalabi whose bogus intelligence helped launch the U.S. misadventure
The Soros network has funded a series of democracy manipulation
revolutions around the world, including the Rose Revolution in
Georgia, the Orange Revolution in Ukraine, the Cedar Revolution in
Lebanon, the Olive Tree Revolution in Palestine (that saw Hamas come
to power), the Tulip Revolution in Kyrgyzstan, the Purple Revolution
in Iraq (that saw a Shi'a-dominated government friendly to Iran come
to power), and the Saffron Revolution in Burma (one that was crushed
by the military). There were also abortive themed revolutions in
Moldova and Belarus. Not to be omitted is the Orange Democratic
Movement's uprising in Kenya, one that saw thousands murdered before
the Orange movement's leader Raila Odinga became Prime Minister in a
power-sharing government. Odinga's father Oginga Odinga was a close
friend of Barack Obama's father, Barack Obama, Sr.
Previously published in the Wayne Madsen Report.
Copyright © 2008 WayneMadenReport.com
Wayne Madsen is a Washington, DC-based investigative journalist and
nationally-distributed columnist. He is the editor and publisher of
the Wayne Madsen Report (subscription required).
Most affluent city might surprise you
By Dennis Cauchon, USA TODAY
What's the most affluent city in the USA?
(a) San Jose
(b) San Francisco
(d) Plano, Texas
The answer is Plano and that surprises even the mayor of this
260,000-person Dallas suburb.
"I'd never heard that before," Plano Mayor Pat Evans says. "But it's
good to know."
The Census Bureau released its annual report on income and poverty
Tuesday. The results offer an interesting and often unexpected
portrait of who's rich and who's poor in the USA.
Plano was the report's star among cities with populations of 250,000
or more. It had the highest income and lowest poverty rate.
Plano's median household income in 2007 was $84,492, up 10% from
2006. Placing a distant second: San Jose, with a median income of
Plano is the home to corporate headquarters for Frito-Lay, JCPenney
and other companies. Billionaire Ross Perot founded computer giant
EDS and Perot Systems, both still based in Plano.
The city is north of Dallas at the end of a light-rail line. Gymnast
Nastia Liukin, Olympic gold medalist in Beijing, trains there.
Despite its affluence, the median home price is about $225,000,
Evans says. By contrast, San Jose's median home price is $744,000.
"We've got the lowest taxes and highest level of services in North
Texas," the mayor says.
The poorest city in the nation was Detroit, with a median household
income of $28,097. It fell to the bottom spot this year, replacing
The Census Bureau report also showed:
States. Maryland remained the top state in income, and Mississippi
remained the poorest.
Energy states Alaska and Wyoming had the biggest income gains. Four
states lost ground: Michigan, Kentucky, New Mexico and South Dakota.
Congressional districts. Rep. Tom Davis, R-Va., who represents
suburbs outside Washington, has the most affluent constituents.
Their median household income was $103,664.
Rep. José Serrano, D-N.Y., who represents Harlem and the Bronx in
New York City, has the district with the poorest residents. Median
household income was $23,291.
Regions. Income grew in the South and Midwest. It fell in the
Northeast and did not change in the West.