Another Week: Number 12
Which will arrive first: some really glorious spring weather, or Donald Trump being held accountable for anything ever? Both are supposedly right around the corner, but my anticipatory nerve snapped several years ago. These days, I can sort of relate to the people whose yards are still full of Christmas junk — or even the woman who found her husband’s remains while looking for Christmas ornaments eight months after he vanished. You just carry on the best you can and que sera, sera.
Below are some of the things that popped up on my radar over the last seven days.
They work at CompWare, a mobile gaming company rocked by tragedy at the beginning of Episode 1. Christoph Waltz plays Regus Patoff, “the consultant’ who comes in to take the company over. He’s very odd and sinister, with a touch of silly.
If I could dream, I wanted this show to be something like Search Party (2016-2022), a half-hour dark comedy series that was delightfully entertaining in its first four seasons, then mostly disintegrated into nonsense in the fifth.
Instead, The Consultant spends much of its time going up and down the enormous company staircase while its characters and plot keep shifting from one vibe to another, seemingly forgetting what has gone before. Sometimes Craig (Nat Wolff) is a bright game developer, other times he’s a bloodshot dope-smoker with a drinking problem. One minute he has a fiancée, the next he’s flirting.
Christoph Waltz remains a creepy/kooky cipher from beginning to end, and we learn absolutely nothing about him save one absurd golden detail. Occasionally, very dark and violent things occur out of nowhere — and at one point there’s a CGI elephant.
Whether transcribed from a frustrating and stupid dream, written under the influence, or generated by AI, The Consultant is just unsatisfying crap. We watched all eight episodes waiting for some sort of sauce to thicken, and it never does. It’s not funny, it’s not thrilling. It’s just a dumb waste of effort.
But in the last episode, it does threaten to come back for a second season.
Sin Eater: The Crimes of Anthony Pellicano
The New York Times Presents is a documentary series on Hulu that’s sort of like Dateline or 20/20, but with better journalists and production. “The Killing of Breonna Taylor” was a powerful examination of that tragedy. “Framing Britney Spears” got a lot of attention.
The newest installment is a two-parter, “Sin Eater: The Crimes of Anthony Pellicano.” We streamed it on Monday and Wednesday.
Anthony Pellicano, originally from Chicago, was a private detective who made a career in Los Angeles from 1982 to 2002 as a self-described “sin eater” to Hollywood’s rich and powerful. If some sort of negative information threatened one of these movers and shakers, Pellicano would use illegal wiretaps and intimidation to make these problems go away. Eventually, he went away to prison for more than a decade.
Anthony Pellicano boasts a Sicilian ancestry and says “you understand” a lot. He portrays himself as a tough guy although his Hollywood fashion choices undercut that somewhat. One particular publicity portrait is used repeatedly in this documentary almost like a rimshot.
Part of what makes his story interesting, of course, is the chance to hear famous people — like Chris Rock, for example — engaging Pellicano’s services in recorded phone conversations.
Then there’s the sheer human damage. Journalist Anita Busch remains in hiding to this day because she so keenly felt her life threatened.
The most famous damage resulted from Pellicano’s involvement with Brad Grey and Gary Shandling and Linda Doucett and Kevin Nealon. Shandling’s distressful decline and fall were documented in The Zen Diaries of Garry Shandling, and these Pellicano details add a little more background to that heartbreaking story.
One element I would have liked to see was more depth regarding the police and phone company contacts who helped Pellicano violate everyone’s privacy with such impunity.
Clearly, there are people in the world who are motivated by things other than virtue and honor — and Anthony Pellicano is only one of them.
The best tortilla chips: Donkey Chips
The worst tortilla chips are the papery ones sold by the big-name, multinational chip cartels. They are a pale, off-white color, and often round — if you can find any whole chips at all in the choking fragments and flavored dust most bags contain.
There’s also a red bag. The Donkey Chips in the red bag include salt — if you’re into that sort of thing. I doubt that I am salt-deficient, so the option to avoid it is welcome.
Donkey Chips look and taste like corn. They have a gold buff color. They are triangle-shaped as God intended, giving each chip three straight sides for easy loading with salsa or dip — not a round edge, useless in scraping a dish.
Importantly, Donkey Chips are sturdy. They are the perfect thickness for scooping up your wife’s delicious jalapeño-and-cilantro hummus without crumbling into fragments in the dip. When you bite into them, there’s a nice, satisfying snap.
The next best chips are El Milagro Thick-Style Totopos, made in Texas by a small family-owned tortilla company from Chicago. You can usually find them for a reasonable price at Aldi stores. They’re good, but they’re salty and thick — somewhat like a roofing shingle. If you can’t find Donkey Chips, they’ll do.
This week my wife Amy — a noted tomboy detective in her childhood — remembered our nearby Piggly Wiggly stocking Donkey Chips somewhere odd. She investigated further and, sure enough, found them in the “Gluten Free” aisle.
I don’t know why stores can’t simply stock chips with chips.
COVID lockdown + 3 years
On Sunday, March 15, 2020, we were picking up the last few essential items on our list — like yeast — at our local Pick ‘n Save when we ran into our friends Greg and Kathy. Instead of any embraces or handshakes, we waved and spoke from a distance. Nobody was masked yet. Real surgical masks were supposed to be reserved for healthcare professionals, and makeshift masks had not yet emerged to fill the gap.
Amy saw strangers shaking hands near the store’s entrance and she yelled at them. Chagrinned, they thanked her and disinfected themselves with hand sanitizer.
That was the last time we saw the inside of a retail store for months and months. Once our 30-day food stash began to run out, we went to curbside pickup for everything.
2020 was a strange and frightening year. Hospitals, first in New York City and gradually nationwide, were strained to the breaking point. People we knew died. In some cases, survivors who gathered for those funerals got sick themselves and died. Vaccinations didn’t begin until December 14.
Now it all seems like a half-forgotten nightmare.
But Amy still wears a mask at work all day, every day, and I — working from home for 27 years now — still wear one in any store.
Jackson Browne David Lindley, Philadelphia Folk Festival, 2006
David Lindley died a couple of weeks ago, on March 5th. I knew him as a slide guitarist and fiddler for Jackson Browne. I have attended maybe a dozen or so of Browne’s concerts over the years, and at some of those, I was lucky enough to see David Lindley as well.
He plays the piercing slide solo in Browne’s hit “Running on Empty,” and his falsetto vocal is the highlight of Browne’s cover of “Stay.”
On Friday, Jackson Browne eulogized Lindley via Billboard.
According to Variety, Lindley died after a series of health problems that began when he caught COVID. He was 78.
One day prior to his death, a YouTube user uploaded “Jackson Browne David Lindley, Philadelphia Folk Festival, 2006,” a pro-shot, two-hour concert by just the two of them. It includes Lindley’s song in Spanish, “El Rayo-X.”
You never know how long things like this will be available, so it’s been in heavy rotation on our living room TV this week.