Sunday, October 28, 2007

Weekend You-Tubery: Masquerade Edition

Daft Punk - Around the World

M83 - Don't Save Us From the Flames

Of Montreal - Heimdalsgate Like a Promethean Curse

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Take It Easy With That Dharma Initiative Beer, Buddy

By now I'm sure you've heard that the cast of Lost is continuing to increase Hawaii's drunk driving statistics, as Daniel Dae Kim (who plays the guy with father issues and a secret past) was arrested for DUI.

This is especially bad timing for Mr. Kim, since after a season-long absence, Harold "Waaaaaaaaalt!" Perrinaeu is returning to the show. No word yet on whether he still has a tendency to kill off his drunk-driving castmates.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Halloween Brainstorming Session

Every year around this time, I get a few ideas for Halloween costumes that I never follow through on since, much like Charlie Brown, I only get invited to parties by mistake. But why should these ideas go to waste? If you've got a masquerade coming up and don't feel inspired, feel free to help yourself to one of my abandoned disguises:

1. White Stripe:Put on a pair of solid red or white pants and a red or white T-shirt, and you're one half of a popular rock act!
Pros: Unlike other rock groups with a distinctive style of dress (Kiss, Gwar), this one can be achieved easily and on the cheap. Plus, my observations seem to indicate that the White Stripes are still pretty popular.
Cons: Works best as a duo, so if you don't know a busty, raven-haired girl or a slightly creepy wannabe bluesman, you may look incomplete. Also, while I've been kicking this idea around for a while now, Veronica Mars beat me to the punch last year.
Most Likely to Leave the Party With: Your sister and/or ex-wife. Icky.

2. John Cusack in Say Anything: Wear a trench coat and hold a boombox over your head.
Pros: Who doesn't love John Cusack? With that boombox, you'll be able to keep the party jumping.
Cons: If you're going for accuracy, you won't be playing anything but "In Your Eyes" all night long; are you prepared to put up with that? Also, that boombox looked really heavy, so once you've made your entrance, you'll probably be looking for a place to put it down.
Most Likely to Leave With: Someone dressed as Ione Skye.

3. Werewolf Bar Mitzvah: Combine a red leather jacket with a werewolf mask and a yarmulke. Today, you were a man; tonight, you are a wolf.
Pros: The cool people will get it; even those who don't will probably just think you're Michael Jackson in the "Thriller" video.
Cons: If you get hot and take off the mask, you'll just look like a Jewish Jacko.
Most Likely to Leave With: A vampire Bat Mitzvah. Get it? Get it? Well, it was either that or "a nice Jewish ghoul."

4. Gay Albus Dumbledore: Take the wizard outfit you wore to the Harry Potter book release party (sure, pretend you don't know what I'm talking about), and add a rainbow flag, Judy Garland album, or some campy accessory.
Pros: It has that ripped-from-the-headlines quality.
Cons: Don't overdo it with the stereotypes; if Dumbledore had spent seven books mincing around Hogwarts singing show tunes and calling Harry "fabulous!", you probably wouldn't have needed J. K. Rowling to spill the beans about his Chamber of Secrets.
Most Likely to Leave With: Sir Ian McKellen, that other famous gay wizard.

5. Zombie Professional: Can't decide between dressing up as a cowboy or a zombie? Why not do both? Just pair the clothing for one costume with some fake blood and a shambling gait.
Pros: The possibilities are nearly endless: zombie doctor, zombie astronaut, zombie millionaire. Plus, it's an important public service message that being turned into a zombie can affect people from all walks of life.
Cons: Be careful not to pair the zombie look with a vampire, ghost, or Frankenstein's monster, unless you want to get stuck in a metaphysical debate over how many times one can be made undead.
Most Likely to Leave With: Someone with a good heart who is able to overlook your ghoulish make-up, or who are taken with the earning power of a zombie attorney.

6. Ann Coulter: Put on a black cocktail dress and a blond wig, then go around calling people faggots and expressing your hope that Jews wise up and start worshipping Jesus.
Pros: With her giant Adam's-apple and husky voice, Coulter works just well as a drag act. Plus, she's the most horrifying creature on this list.
Cons: If you stay in character too long, don't expected to be invited back next year.
Most Likely to Leave With: Inexplicably, a book deal and numerous chances to promote it on NBC. Oh, and a deep sense of shame (hey, you're only pretending to be her).

7. Monster M*A*S*H: Start with a Korean-era army uniform or surgical outfit, and add a scary mask.
Pros: Everyone loves puns, right? Right?
Cons: If it's anything like the show, this costume will start out entertaining, but by the time you leave it will have become maudlin and self-important.
Most Likely to Leave With: A dry mouth from constantly explaining the joke to people.

8. Lolcostume: An easy one: hang a whiteboard, legal pad, or other writing surface around your neck, and write a short, misspelled message, like "I'M IN UR PARTY, CELBRATIN HALOWEEN," "INVISABLE COSTUME," or "I CAN HAS KANDY KORN."
Pros: Unlike other potential viral-internet costumes, like the leave Britney alone guy, it doesn't require you to actively annoy people. Plus, if you get tired of one caption, just write another one.
Cons: Part of the appeal of lolcats is the pictures of cute animals. I doubt you're cute enough to compare.
Most Likely to Leave With: A cheezburger?

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Weekend You-Tubery: Motion Picture Soundtrack Edition

The Crystals - And Then He Kissed Me

Cat Stevens - The Wind

Aimee Mann - Wise Up

Bobby Womack - Across 110th Street

Saturday, October 20, 2007

An Evening of Rhthm & Soul

I spent last night seeing Spoon play at the Electric Factory. I went in with my expectations somewhat low; the band didn't really wow me with their lackluster Saturday Night Live appearance. Tonight's show didn't get off to such a smooth start either; the opening acts were supposed to be DJ Dave P and the Ponys, but Mr. P was nowhere to be found (perhaps he remembered, sitcom style, that he scheduled
two dates
Making Time for the same night, leading to wacky hijinks), and an announcement over the PA revealed that travel problems would prevent the Ponys from being there. When Spoon did amble onto the stage, it was almost anticlimactic; the house music didn't even get turned off until they were a few bars into their first song.

After that, though, it was quite a solid performance. Britt Daniel kept the between-songs banter to a minimum (though he did encourage the guy smoking pot near me to pass it over to his mom, whom he said was in the audience). Aside from the horn trio that came onstage for a few songs, it was generally a no-frills performance, but then Spoon is a band with little use for frills. The only time when they departed from their proven guitar/keyboard/bass/drums formula was on their rendition of "The Ghost of You Lingers," which was appropriately atmospheric but didn't do anything to make me like the song more.

While it wasn't the sort of transcendent performance that kept me enthralled from beginning to end, it was the next best thing: a very good concert in which all of my favorite songs ("My Mathematical Mind," "Don't Make Me a Target") sounded excellent. My only quibble is this: after the encore, almost all of the people near the stage started filing out. As I moved forward to fill their void, I thought, "Those fools! Do they really think that Spoon would leave without playing 'Sister Jack' and 'The Way We Get By?'" When the band returned to the stage for the second encore, with me mere feet from the stage, I was feeling mighty smug. But then, a few songs later, they did leave without playing "Sister Jack" or "The Way We Get By." Not cool, fellas. Not cool.

Oh, and while the Electric Factory crowd had a below-average number of fratty assholes, I wanted to pose a question to the tall foursome in front of me: what's the point of shoving your way up near the stage if you're going to spend most of the show talking and taking group photos of yourselves? You know, there's a band on the stage that you paid money to see.

Monday, October 15, 2007

My Cosmic Autumn Agenda

To do this fall:
  • continue watching Gilmore Girls DVDs
  • drink things with some kind of spice in them
  • go to a concert and wait outside in the cold, underdressed, for an hour before the doors open
  • take a day trip to Princeton, try to pass as a student, browse the Record Exchange, keep eyes peeled for Joyce Carol Oates or Paul Krugman
  • watch Rushmore
  • watch It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown
  • watch Night of the Living Dead
  • have my annual work-related meltdown
  • make another attempt to enjoy drinking red wine
  • carve a Rudy Giuliani jack-o-lantern to scare away neighborhood kids
  • find a quad somewhere; walk through it while wearing a scarf
  • come up with a clever Halloween costume on November 1
  • listen to "Alice's Restaurant"
  • eat 5 pounds of stuffing (preferably on Thanksgiving)
  • come to the conclusion that autumn is overrated; start looking forward to winter

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Weekend You-Tubery: Ampersand Edition

Queen & David Bowie - Under Pressure

Massive Attack & Liz Fraser - Teardrop

Bob Dylan & Johnny Cash - Girl From the North Country

David Bowie & Mick Jagger - Dancing in the Streets (watch at your own risk)

For more, see here.

Here's Your Fortune: "Never Trouble Trouble Till Trouble Troubles You"

This sounds less like a fortune and more like a song title from a forgotten 1970s musical Western, possibly starring Don Knotts.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

On Rock Countdowns, Hold Music, and Other Important Matters

  • When WXPN started hyping their 885 Music Moments Countdown, I was skeptical; it seemed like another excuse for baby boomers to congratulate themselves on the awesomeness of the sixties. (Seriously, if the top 10 vote-getters don't include the Beatles on Ed Sullivan, Dylan going electric, Woodstock, and the deaths of John Lennon and Kurt Cobain, I will buy a hat and eat it.) The countdown itself, however, has been pretty entertaining. Aside from the usual head-slapping rankings (in whose mind is the release of Flashdance more memorable than The Last Waltz?), there are some pleasant surprises to be found, from somewhat obscure but important events (the founding of Factory Records, for example), guilty pleasures (the Spice Girls' debut), influential TV shows (including The OC and Beavis and Butt-Head), and moments that don't technically exist (the release of Chinese Democracy). Be sure to check out the countdown's blog, which appends almost every entry with links and/or videos.
  • It was bound to happen eventually, but Pitchfork has finally caught on to the fact that Sally Forth is one of the most subversively hip mainstream comics around (see here for more evidence). And Ted Forth, a geeky, pop-culture obsessed trophy husband, is the closest thing you're likely to find to a Nick Hornby protagonist in your daily paper.
  • I have a newfound respect for the people who write the music that plays when your phone call gets put on hold. It undoubtedly a tough job; the music should be soothing to keep the caller from getting pissed at having to wait, inoffensive enough that they won't hang up the phone in disgust or complain about the filth they were forced to listen to, and on a purely basic level, it should be a subtle reminder them that they are still connected and keep them faithful that someone will answer eventually. All of this stands in stark contrast to the hold music I encountered the other day: a high-pitched, electronic of "Fur Elise" that sounded like a cell phone ring from 1998. My first instinct on hearing it was to hold the phone two feet from my ear. So hold music composers of the world, I salute you for merely annoying me rather than assaulting my eardrums.
  • It may be a bit melodramatic to say that there is a Veronica Mars curse, but it's certainly possible that none of the show's talented cast members will ever be involved in anything so good again. Just look at what some of the stars have been up to in the five months since Mars's demise: Kristen Bell's voice (but not the rest of her) is featured on Gossip Girl, and there's been no sign of her supposed role on Heroes. Jason Dohring is on that awful-looking Angel rip-off, while Chris Lowell is on that awful-looking Grey's Anatomy spin-off. Saddest of all is Percy Daggs III, whom I just saw in a television commercial for Jim Gaffigan's favorite frozen entree. I guess we'll always have Neptune, though.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

The Next Guy Caught Picking His Nose on the Street Could Be Me!

It looks like Big Brother has left his Brooklyn loft and moved to Fishtown: Google Maps Street View has rolled out in Philly. I'm impressed by the scope; not only does it cover most of Philadelphia itself (with some obvious gaps in the north and northwest), but they extend to parts of Willow Grove, Wilmington, West Chester, and Kennett Square. Let the search for embarrassing photo hunt begin!

Monday, October 8, 2007

Snarky Quotes for Columbus Day

I refuse to consider Columbus Day a holiday unless I get a day off of work. So suck on this, Cristóbal Colón!

Lisa Simpson
: I'm so proud of you, Mom. You're like Christopher Columbus. You discovered something millions of people knew about before you.

Herbert Stempel: You know why they call them Indians? Because Columbus thought he was in India. They're "Indians" because some white guy got lost.

Weekend Monday You-Tubery: Talking Heads Edition

Sinead O'Connor - Nothing Compares 2 U

LCD Soundsystem - All My Friends

Peter Gabriel - Sledgehammer

Thursday, October 4, 2007

What I've Seen: Children of Men

My most recent Netflix viewings are like a film festival of movies that make me say, "That was pretty good, but I'd better watch it again sometime." Since watching Zodiac, my rentals have been Chinatown, A History of Violence, and, most recently, Children of Men. Other people more eloquent than I am have praised that film, but I'd like to just point out the things about it that kept me enthralled.

1. The Cinematography - Much has been written about two jaw-dropping sequences in the film: a long, single shot from inside a crowded car as it is attacked by a mob of people and an even longer shot of a brutal gun battle. The first is astounding in its technical prowess (it was shot using a specially-designed remote control camera rig), and the latter is as visceral as the opening battle scene of Saving Private Ryan. Both are done so expertly that you can only really admire them once they're over and you've stopped biting your nails. Most of the movie is shot with those kinds of long shots, which gives it an almost documentary feel.

2. The Design - Here's a fun fact: the last time a non-period piece won an Oscar for Art Direction was 1989. It's a shame, since in a movie like Children of Men, the art direction contributes as much to the story as anything in the script. Much of the exposition is handled by propaganda posters, old newspaper headlines, and graffiti.

3. The World
- Children of Men is a science fiction film, but it belongs to the tradition of films like Brazil, Blade Runner, and Minority Report in that, once you strip away the video billboards and high-tech cars, you're left with a scarily recognizable world. There are so many great visuals that aren't neatly explained: the smoldering remains of a pile of dead horses, a silent boy engrossed in a video game being told to take his pill, a discarded baby carriage in the corner of a stairwell. Perhaps my favorite conceit is the "Ark of the Arts," where masterpieces like Michelangelo's "David" and Picasso's "Guernica" are kept safely stored away from the chaos of the rest of the world. Animals are a near-constant presence in the movie, from a deer walking through an abandoned schoolhouse to a cameo appearance by the floating pig from the cover of Pink Floyd's Animals, perhaps to suggest that as in The World Without Us, nature is preparing to reclaim its old territory.

4. The Cast - If Clive Owen were to make a film which featured him sorting his laundry for two hours, I'd probably watch it: that's how magnetic the guy is. Even though he's playing your standard Rick Blaine reluctant hero role here, he's still mesmerizing. In the big climax, as he's essentially running through a war zone, he does something you rarely see in an action movie: he looks like he's scared shitless. As for the rest of the cast, I'm unaware of any movie in which Michael Caine was not a welcome addition to the cast, Julianne Moore is reliably great, and after seeing him in this and Inside Man, Chiwetel Ejiofor is quickly becoming my favorite actor whose name I cannot pronounce.


All together, this is a visually amazing film, the sort of thing I can imagine myself watching with the sound turned off and still being astounded by it (although, it should be mentioned, the sound design and song selection are excellent as well).

Early in the movie, Clive Owen's character remarks that, even if the infertility plaguing the world were to be cured, it would be no good: once humanity has resigned itself to its own extinction, things would break down so quickly that there would be no repairing them. It's a frequently bleak film, and I'm not really sure whether the ending is happy or not. In that way, Children of Men seems like an heir to Dr. Strangelove; it may look like humanity is doomed, but you know we'll meet again some sunny day.

Music Notes

  • It should come as no surprise to anyone who's been paying attention to my weekly video-fests that I quite adore Leslie Feist. It was a small delight, then, that when I was eating my lunch the other day at a fast-food franchise (you know, the one that makes you feel really bad about yourself when you're done eating) "1 2 3 4" came on over the piped-in music system. It's always a pleasant surprise to hear a good song mixed in with the near-lethal doses of Rod Stewart. Between that and her omnipresent electronics commercials, it's getting to the point that I can't go anywhere without hearing her voice, which is hardly something to complain about.
  • Congratulations to Regina Spektor; you can play giant music festivals and have songs featured Gray's Anatomy, but you haven't truly made it in this industry until you've been featured on Rob Wilco's T-shirt.

Random Design Questions

Time's cover story this week, on the sorry history of Delaware County's own V-22 Osprey, is certainly worth reading, but I'm still kind of perplexed by the cover. That cross-shaped shadow in the bottom right hand corner had to have been an intentional design choice, but why? Is it in reference to the Marines killed in Osprey crashes, or perhaps to the phrase "flying on a wing and a prayer?" Time has done some nicely designed covers since they switched to their Friday publishing schedule, but that one shadow is really nagging at me.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

This Week in Angry Correspondence

Pop Quiz Time! Which of the following do people in Philadelphia oppose?

A: Sex
B: Drugs
C: Rock and Roll

Answer: A and C. I'm guessing there are probably people opposed to B as well, but I'm too lazy to find a relevant link.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Fitter, Happier, More Productive

Fans of the Phillies and Radiohead are sure to be pleased after last weekend, when both organizations announced their return to either postseason baseball or record releasing. And perhaps to make up for the 4-year delay since their last LP, they'll be releasing the new one thrice: as a price-negotiable download, then as a super deluxe, super expensive record/CD combo, and finally as a boring ol' CD.

Despite my luddite tendencies, I might actually spring for the digital download, not just because it's out in a mere matter of days, but because Radiohead is one of maybe three or four current bands from whom I will gladly volunteer my money when they come out with a new CD. And even with my fandom, it's hard to imagine me being this intrigued if the band had gone the usual "announce the new CD, then release it a few months later" route.

Finally, between this and In Our Bedroom After the War, it's nice to see that some corners of the music world are taking an innovative tack to prevent leaks. If only the rest of the industry were paying a little more attention.