Monday, December 29, 2008

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Guess Who Batman

So, I finally got around to seeing The Dark Knight this weekend. Perhaps you've heard of it?

Anyway, it seems silly to add my two cents to the heap of praise that the movie has already received (as one astute critic noted, the film "TOWERED ABOVE ALL THE BULLSHIT LIKE A FUCKING OBALISK OF OWNAGE"). I must say, though, that I was impressed by some of the actors who turned up in smaller roles. Look, it's William Fichtner in the opening scene! Hey, Richard Alpert got elected mayor of Gotham! There's Sen. Patrick Leahy, talking back to the Joker! I guess once you've faced off against Dick Cheney, that sort of thing comes easily.

And speaking of the caped crusader, I remember reading years ago that Darren Aronofsky was planning to direct an adaptation of Frank Miller's Batman: Year One, but the project never came to fruition. I only recently learned more about how Aronofsky wanted to adapt the material, but now I completely understand why a studio would be reluctant to kill off their star superhero franchise in ways that Joel Schumaker could only dream of. Still, I would've liked to see that movie.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Deeper Into Movies

I've come across the website of the Alliance of Women Film Journalists (yes, such creatures still exist) when they put out their more gender-balanced response to the AFI's predictable Top 100 list. Their year-end awards also worth checking out; they have the usual critics-group categories, but also include more offbeat ones, like Most Egregious Age Difference Between Leading Man and Love Interest (a particular interest of mine, apparently) and Best Depiction Of Nudity or Sexuality. Strangely, both of those went to movies starring Ben Kingsley, that old creep.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Dear Lily Allen,

Hi! How have you been lately? I like your new haircut.

Do you want to go to a movie or something?

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Antichrist Television Blues

The AV Club's list of bad gifts includes the television given to Jane Wyman in Douglas Sirk's All That Heaven Allows. I've never seen that movie, but I immediately thought of two other films in which a TV serves a similar role: in Barry Levinson's Avalon, a TV ends up alienating a family from their heritage, and in Quiz Show, Charles van Doren presents his father with a new TV set at a frequently awkward birthday party, just as his own fleeting celebrity is outshining his father's intellectual notoriety.

So, if you're looking for a Christmas present that will be fraught with symbolism and drive a wedge between the generations, by all means spring for that shiny plasma screen.

Monday, December 8, 2008

There's a War on Christmas, It's Under Attack

Bill O'Reilly's gonna have a fit when he sees what the evil secular progressives at Parade magazine titled his inane quiz.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Upper Darby: Liz Lemon Does Not Want to Go to There

Oh, Tina Fey; why must you slander the hometown that loves you so much? It's bad enough that we now have the reputation as the sort of place where five-year-old kids are liable to be viciously attacked by strangers in their own front yards. But then you have to go and feature a thinly-veiled version of Upper Darby on last night's 30 Rock, a place inhabited by whittling, jug-blowing IHOP monkeys, an N.C. Wyeth museum that was burned down by meth addicts, and Detour signs that are really traps.

I mean, this is just out of line:

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Keanu Barada Nikto

This remake of The Day the Earth Stood Still looks a bit different from the original (i.e., less theremin music, more TOTALLY AWESOME EXPLOSIONS!!!!!). One thing that the commercials haven't made clear, though, is who Keanu Reeves is supposed to play. Sure, it looks like he's Klaatu, but if he were playing Gort . . . let's just say that one of those roles is better-suited to his particular acting style.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

News Update

I went paintballing today for the first time in my life.

I don't think I would be very useful in a war.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Things That I Just Recently Noticed (But Which May Have Been Obvious to Everyone Else)

Nothin' But a Number

After recently stumbling across Sabrina and My Fair Lady on TCM, I wondered: has Audrey Hepburn ever had an on-screen love interest who was close to her own age? Let's look at the statistics!
  • Humphrey Bogart (Sabrina): +30 years
  • Fred Astaire (Funny Face): +30 years
  • Cary Grant (Charade): +25 years
  • Rex Harrison (My Fair Lady): +21 years
  • Gregory Peck (Roman Holiday): +13 years
  • William Holden (Sabrina): +11 years
  • George Peppard (Breakfast at Tiffany's): +1 year
  • Sean Connery (Robin and Marian): -1 year
I was surprised to see that George Peppard was only a year older than Hepburn, possibly because I automatically picture the gray-haired Hannibal Smith of The A-Team. Also, Hepburn had a nine-year absence from the screen between Wait Until Dark and Robin and Marian; during that time, she apparently reached some mystical age where she could star opposite actors who were (gasp!) younger than she. It's almost as though Hollywood's idea of romance is based on creepy sexual double standards or something.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Fail Men

So this is the capstone on the careers of Bernie Mac and Isaac Hayes; co-starring in the latest movie to get an F from the A.V. Club.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Why Is This Not On My Wall Right Now?

This is one of the greatest things I have ever seen. Christmas is coming, and if you love me, you'll start bidding on it right now.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Michael Crichton

When I was younger, I was an avid reader of Michael Crichton, who died yesterday after a battle with cancer. I remember reading Jurassic Park the summer that the movie was released and wondering what was up with all of the footnotes; I kept trying to figure out if this whole dinosaur theme park was based on a true story or something. Plus, I wondered why there were all those references to fractals and chaos theory. I just wanted to read about dinosaurs tearing shit up.

My interest in Crichton's books waned around the same time that Hollywood stopped making huge special-effects extravaganzas based on his books. His later books seemed notable mostly for their global-warming denialism and slanderous treatment of critics.

Still, when I was 13 or so, I tore through The Andromeda Strain, The Terminal Man, and The Great Train Robbery over the course of an 8-hour car ride. Whatever his flaws, Crichton knew how to keep pages turning.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Did I Stumble Into a Science-Fiction Movie?

The networks are projecting a winner before midnight, Wolf Blitzer was talking to a hologram earlier, and a black guy is going to be our next president. A couple of years ago, I would have placed money on precisely none of those things happening tonight.

Also, I lied today about having already voted in order to get a free cup of coffee. Did I commit voter fraud?

Monday, November 3, 2008

Music Notes

  • There are two big features MySpace has that are absent from social-networking rival Facebook: music and the ability to make your profile the ugliest thing on the internet. And, oh, how their music sucks these days. Ever since they launched their new, supposed-to-be-revolutionary music site, everything I try to play is a herky-jerky, slow-buffering mess. It's like listening to the scratching of the least talented DJ in history. Add to that the screwing-over of independent labels and it's like Tom et. al. are trying to make themselves irrelevant.
  • I paid just about zero attention to WXPN's annual countdown this year. I like 'xpn just fine, but 885 "Essential XPN Songs" seemed like a death march of earnest singer-songwriters. That being said, I can wholeheartedly endorse the song that came in at #1:

  • I had kind of a slow day at work yesterday, but that's fine because it gave me a chance to get no fewer than six songs stuck in my head. And the remarkable thing was that they sort of organized themselves into thematic pairs. It's like my head was Noah's Ark, gathering the earworms two by two. Things kicked off with a duo of soft-rock hits from the '80s: Madonna's "Borderline" and Quarterflash's "Harden My Heart." It then segued into the more recent, less-embarrassing collaborations "Borne on the FM Waves of the Heart" by Against Me! with Tegan Quin and "Thank You Mario, but Our Princess Is In Another Castle" by the Mountain Goats and Kaki King. Finally, there was the double-shot of lengthy classic-rock story-songs: Springsteen's "New York City Serenade" and the Who's "A Quick One While He's Away." I actually really like five of those six songs, but "Borderline" is pretty fucking tenacious. It got to the point where I was thinking about Rick Astley just to get it out of there.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

The Home Stretch

Earlier today, I got a robocall from Kal Penn telling me to vote for Obama. I suppose it's conceivable that stoner movie fans will be the key demographic on Tuesday, but I'm not sure how my household ended up on the phone list. Now if Neil Patrick Harris had called, I would have done whatever he told me to, even if it were a write-in vote for Lenin's corpse.

Meanwhile, Hagar the Horrible has either (a) endorsed Obama, or (b) abandoned punchlines in favor of bleak examinations of the self-delusions created by people facing their impending deaths. If it's the latter, I would usually find it depressing, except I have a sneaking suspicion that tomorrow Hagar will be coming home late from the bar or playing golf or other such hilarious Viking hijinks.

Friday, October 31, 2008

A Halloween Public Service Announcement

Attention frat boys, racists, morons, etc: your Barack Obama Halloween costume is not as clever, original or hilarious as you think it is. Put away the greasepaint, turban, KFC bucket, or whatever the hell else you were planning on using. You'll thank me some day.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

What'll This Town Gripe About Now?

Holy crap! Those beautiful bastards actually did it!

How long until Comcast tries to take credit for this?

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Phils, Interrupted

Hooray! Tonight's the exciting conclusion to Bud Selig's attempt to give the Fall Classic a serialized, 24-style cliffhanger ending.

Speaking of which, were you aware that next month is the Fox movie event 24: Redemption? Joe Buck has seen it, and he thinks it's great! And he'll tell you so over and over!

I swear, the Phillies had better lock this thing up tonight. If I see that National Lampoon's Vacation DirecTV ad one more time, I will buy a seat on a space-tourism flight and punch their damn satellite.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Friday, October 24, 2008

The Internet Giveth,and the Internet Taketh Away

Hooray! The New York Times has fixed (or at least lessened the annoyance of) the most irritating thing about their website: the pop-up window that gives a definition of any word you double-click. I'm now free to randomly click and highlight while I'm reading without the site thinking I'm so dumb that I need the word "city" explained to me.

Boo! Molly McAleer has stopped doing her bizarre/hilarious/adorable to-do videos for Defamer. I no longer have any reason to be interested in what's going on in L.A. on any given night.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

And I Might Be Buggin' But It Seem to Me That Cartoons Be Realer Than Reality TV

I was driving past the ol' high school a few weeks ago, and the fancy new digital sign that they have out front was flashing a message congratulating famous alumnus Tina Fey on her multiple Emmy wins. "Heh," I thought to myself, "that's pretty awesome."

Of course, Fey is not the only notable name to have trod the hallways of Upper Darby. Every couple of years, lucky students get to ditch class and attend the Wall of Fame induction ceremony. None of this year's honorees are household names like Ms. Fey, but rather the usual assortment of educators, doctors, and entrepreneurs who have achieved success in their chosen fields, and of whom their alma mater is rightly proud.

But they can't all be winners. Among this year's crop of nominees was one Mark Cronin, Class of '82. Don't recognize that name? Congratulations! You probably don't have atrocious taste in television programs (or at least you're too busy showering afterwards to pay much attention to the end credits). Mr. Cronin, you see, is . . . well, let's just let him* tell it:
In 2004 Cronin’s Mindless Entertainment teamed up with Cris Abrego’s 51 Pictures to form 51 Minds – the company that produces VH1’s lineup of reality television. Anchored by the "Celebreality" flagship show "The Surreal Life" the company went on to create related shows including "Strange Love" (with Flavor Flav and Brigette Nielsen), "My Fair Brady" (with Christopher Knight and Adrianne Curry), "The Surreal Life Fame Games" (with Robin Leach), "Celebrity Paranormal Project", "Flavor of Love" (the highest rated series in VH1 history), "I Love New York", "Flavor of Love Girls: Charm School" starring Mo'Nique, "Rock of Love with Bret Michaels", "I Love Money" and "America's Most Smartest Model".
That's quite a resume. Still, I think I could make a strong case for getting myself on the Wall of Fame, based solely on the fact that I had nothing to do with the creation of any of those shows.

So, let's recap: if you'd like your photo on the UDHS Wall of Fame, you could do this:

Or this:

Or this:

*And incidentally, his self-submitted bio in the Wall of Fame program and on the website is pretty much identical to his Wikipedia entry.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

A Hail of Bulletpoints!

  • So it seems that my "Philadelphia sports teams make it to the championship in a strict four-year cycle" theory has been disproven. Under that rule, the Phils were supposed to be in the World Series in 2009. That stupid team can't do anything right.
  • M.I.A. (who is now quite pregnant) is doing a cover of "Way Down in the Hole." Obviously, The Wire ended a season too early.
  • Weird title aside, Quantum of Solace looks seriously bad-ass. I think I'd buy a ticket based solely on that shot in the trailer where the camera follows Daniel Craig as he falls through a skylight.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Autumn is Icumen In

I've been driving around lately listening to a playlist on my iPod in which Wilco, Radiohead, and Andrew Bird are heavily featured. Maybe it's just me, but it seems like there's no better soundtrack to these early days of the Fall.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Failure is Patriotic

"Surely An American Carol isn't the latest movie to get an "F" from the A.V. Club!"

Actually, it is. And don't call me Shirley.

I don't imagine that his film's critical drubbing is getting to David Zucker, though. It's one thing for a movie to be critic-proof, but it's quite another to be able to use those bad reviews as evidence that the evil liberal media wants to silence your message.

And I Believe in the Promised Land

It is a truth universally acknowledged that when you have a chance to see Bruce Springsteen perform for free, you should take advantage of it. That's how I wound up on the Ben Franklin Parkway yesterday afternoon for the Obama rally/Springsteen concert. It feels a bit silly to give this my usual post-show review; Bruce only played about 7 songs, and the speechifying (by, among others, Angelo Cataldi, Sen. Bob Casey and Gov. Ed Rendell) took up more time than the music (the opening acts included Amos Lee and some local singer named Nora something, neither of whom I had much interest in). When Bruce finally did take the stage, though, he owned it immediately. It was a solo acoustic gig, so obviously this wasn't the dynamic rock-n-roller who fills stadiums, but rather a folksinging troubadour, complete with harmonica rack. About half of the songs were natural fits for this sort of stripped-down performance ("The Ghost of Tom Joad," "This Land is Your Land") while others required a bit more adaptation ("The Promised Land," "Thunder Road"). They all worked, though, and the crowd easily sang along to the slightly unfamiliar arrangements.

The biggest surprise for me, though, is what a remarkable speaker Springsteen is. Partway through his set, he launched into a spoken-word interlude that sounded completely off-the-cuff and stirring. The remarks were prepared ahead of time, of course, but it never felt like he was reading from a script. If he hadn't gone into the music business, who knows where this guy might have ended up?

Also, if I were a political consultant, I'd advise more politicians to learn guitar: pretty much anything you say sounds sincere when you're strumming a few gentle chords beneath it.

Friday, October 3, 2008

More Fail

I forgot to mention this earlier, but yet another movie has earned the coveted "F" rating from the A.V. Club. In this case, it's the Christian melodrama Fireproof, which is described as "a movie only Ned and Maude Flanders could love."

You know, a few centuries ago religious art was a category that included Bach's compositions and Michelangelo's frescoes. Today, it's more like Christian rock and bad Kirk Cameron movies.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

A Thing That I Just Recently Noticed (But Which May Have Been Obvious to Everyone Else)

The lyrics to the Pixies' song "Debaser" are about Salvador Dalí & Luis Buñuel's notorious film Un Chien Andalou.

All this time, I thought Black Francis was singing "I'm a moon shed, and I'll lose ya."

On a somewhat related note, I just finished watching the first season of Weeds (my verdict: it starts badly, but improves quite a bit by the end), and I kept forgetting to pay attention to the original music, which was composed by Pixies guitarist Joey Santiago. Santiago had previously scored Judd Apatow's short-lived series Undeclared. Liz Phair, meanwhile, writes the music for Swingtown and the new version of 90210, and Everlast apparently does the music for Saving Grace. It seems that composing incidental music for television is the favored day job of well-known musicians who have lost their popularity, their indie cred, or their band-mates' willingness to extend their reunion tour.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Different Names for the Same Thing

In these troubling economic times, at least the people who put up the big signs on local sports arenas know that they won't be out of a job.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The Noah's Ark of Television

So for the past couple of days, I've been working on a very long-winded post on all of the reasons that I was disappointed in Monday night's episodes of Heroes. Then I took a look in a mirror and was frankly disturbed by what I was becoming. So, I'll boil my argument down to its basics: the preventing-an-apocalyptic-future stuff is getting repetitive, the cast is too big, and the writers always act like they're going to kill off characters, but never have the guts to go through with it. Also, having someone record a DVD to be played after their death is perhaps the laziest method of exposition imaginable.

So, there it is: Heroes is a highly frustrating show, but one that I'll probably keep watching because it has the potential to be much better than it is. I was excited, however, to see Francis Capra's name in the credits this week. That got me thinking about the way the show tends to poach pairs of actors from better and more beloved shows: Sulu and Uhura from Star Trek, Weiss and Sark from Alias, and now Weevil and Veronica from Veronica Mars. I started musing that, maybe since The Wire is finished, the Heroes casting director can get a couple of guys from that show.

Well, you might be able to guess how this ends. Welcome aboard, Bubbles and Marlo!

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Why Is Wikipedia Better Than the Encyclopedia Britannica?

  • Only one has an article on that song from Sesame Street where Big Bird thinks the alphabet is a very long word. Someone went to the trouble of transcribing it in the international phonetic alphabet to help with the pronunciation (æbkədəfgidʒəkəlmənapkwərstuvwɪksɪz, in case you were wondering).
  • Britannica doesn't have a list of movies with the most uses of the word "fuck". Martin Scorsese, Judd Apatow, and Oliver Stone are well-represented, with honorable mentions to Spike Lee, P.T. Anderson and Kevin Smith. Somewhat surprisingly, neither Quentin Tarantino nor The Big Lebowski manage to make the top ten.

Reading List

Holy crap, Barton Gellman's book about Dick Cheney sounds rather terrifying.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

"Some Time Ago a Crazy Dream Came to Me..."

The other night, I had what is perhaps the quintessential nightmare: the ol' "I'm at school/work and in my pajamas/underwear/completely naked." In this case, I was at work without any pants on. Interestingly, it wasn't that I had forgotten to wear pants; I seem to recall making a conscious decision as I got dressed to go to my office that pants were not actually an essential part of my wardrobe. It made sense at the time.

I've had this particular type of bad dream at least once before. That time, I was about ten years old and went to school fully clothed. At some point, though, I realized that all of my clothing had vanished, possibly due to witchcraft. I guess if one is to be nude in public, it is at least reassuring to know that the situation is due to some mysterious, unavoidable turn of events.

There is another type of nightmare that seems to be fairly common: it is final exam time, and I discover that there is a class on my roster that I have not attended since the beginning of the semester. There are some variations on this dream. Sometimes it is a high school class, sometimes it's a college course. Sometimes I forgot that I was signed up for the class, sometimes I just got lazy and assumed I could catch up on my own. The class in question, though, always seems to be math.

It seems like there are two main ways to wake up from a nightmare; if it's the terrifying "Eek, I'm being chased by a monster" kind, there's an immediate sense of relief -- the stereotypical sitting bolt upright and saying "Thank God! It was only a dream." If it's the sort of dream that hinges on one's own mortification or unpreparedness, it's more complex: I tend to wake up confused and try to piece things together: "Let's see . . . I was sitting in my cubicle, trying to tug my shirt down enough to hide the fact that I was naked from the waist down, and now I'm in bed. How did I get from there to here?" It's only then that I come to the conclusion that it was a dream, and I can relax.

Perhaps the best thing about showing-up-at-work-naked nightmares, though, it that they set the bar incredibly low for the day ahead. As soon as I walked out the door and confirmed that I was, in fact, wearing a pair of khakis, it felt like my day had already exceeded all expectations.

At Least It Wasn't a Clip Show

So I thought that I'd try to get into Gossip Girl this year; these are the sorts of lofty goals that I set for myself. Anyway, last night I'm watching the third episode of the show that I've ever seen, and it's both a "Citywide Blackout" episode and a "Two Characters Get Stuck in an Elevator" episode. If it had included the "One Character Acts as Cyrano de Bergerac to Help Shy Friend Court Love Interest" plotline, it would have hit the television cliche trifecta.

Also, apparently Victoria's Secret ads now have Lykke Li music in them? That seems a tad strange.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Obligatory Iggles Post

DeSean Jackson, I do not like you.

Brian Westbrook, I like you just fine.

Things That I Just Recently Noticed (But Which May Have Been Obvious to Everyone Else)

  • Apart from the chorus, Sheryl Crow's song "All I Wanna Do" does not rhyme at all.
  • Perfect square numbers can expressed as the sum of consecutive odd numbers (4=1+3; 9=1+3+5; 16=1+3+5+7, etc.)
  • In the Milwaukee Brewers' old logo, the baseball glove is actually made up of the letters M and B.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Who Could Find Them Controversial?

I must say, I'm very curious about what sort of malfeasance required Wikipedia to lock editing on the entry for doughnuts.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Everybody Out of the Chunnel!

I have nothing to say about this story; I was just dying to use that headline.


You can keep your Kanye vs. expensive camera and Lou Lumenick vs. Roger Ebert smackdowns; I'm quite enjoying the feud between Philebrity and Johnny Goodtimes. The arguments mostly boil down to "Quizzo is for losers!" on the one side and "Hipsters suck!" on the other. I'm more of an Irish John partisan myself, but I have to side with JGT on this one.

Also, check out the comments, where Atrios has unleashed his minions on an entirely tangential matter. This thing threatens to consume the entire Philly blogosphere, and I will once again be stuck watching on the sidelines.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Fun With Letters to the Editor

From today's Inquirer:

Truth squad needed

Isn't there some election ethic commission that can control the outrageous slurs and outright lies told by both sides in this election?
Um, no. There is not. Sorry.

Also, the phrase "outrageous slurs and outright lies told by both sides" leads me to believe that this was written by the sort of person who does not actually follow politics, but just subscribes to the "Both sides are crazy! What a bunch of crooks!" school of thought. No need actually give an example of the outright lies coming from both sides; after all, you know how politicians are! Am I right, folks?


  • So this weekend, I finally got around to seeing Ghostbusters. It was one of those movies where I keep thinking, "Maybe if I'd seen this when I was 10 years old, or in 1984, I would like it." As it was, I could never muster any response more passionate than mild amusement. It's always a pleasure to see Bill Groundhog Day, Ghostbustin'-Ass Murray doing his usual wiseass schtick, and Rick Moranis was surprisingly funny as well, but overall it was a typical big-budget action-comedy in which the action isn't particularly exciting and the comedy isn't particularly funny. And dear God, those terrible songs. Now that I've seen it, though, I can start building my indifference towards the next sequel.
  • Somewhere on my massive to-do list, beneath such perennials as "Apply to grad school" and "Write long-form essay on Springsteen's The Wild, the Innocent and the E Street Shuffle," is the more realistic goal of catching up on Battlestar Galactica before it returns in January (all together: "Nerrrrrrrrrd!"). I'm moving through the first season at a nice pace, and almost immediately I noticed that Colonel Saul Tigh bears an uncanny resemblance to a certain Republican presidential candidate. A quick Google search reveals that I am not the first to pick up on those similarities. The Sarah Palin-Laura Roslin comparisons, though, are slightly more far-fetched.
  • Finally, yesterday marked the fifth anniversary of Warren Zevon's death.

Go enjoy a sandwich in his memory.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

What a Wonderful Band

It was early in My Morning Jacket's 2.5+ hour set on Friday night at Festival Pier. Singer/guitarist Jim James was wearing a cape atop his head, framing his wild mane of hair and full beard, while behind him the mist from the smoke machine was pushed across the stage by the winds that were to precede Hurricane Hanna. It was a an image that walked the line between awesome and laughable, as though someone had brought to life a mystic from a fantasy-novel cover and handed him a Flying-V guitar. It's this balance between silliness and rock-god majesty that encapsulates the experience of seeing James and his band play.

At risk of hyperbole, My Morning Jacket is the greatest pure rock band that I have ever seen perform. Their reputation as a jam band is earned in some respects, since they have an affinity for stretching their songs out live with extended solos. At the same time, though, the band's crack rhythm section of "Two-Tone" Tommy on bass and (especially) drummer Patrick Hallahan keep the songs grounded; you know that these guys are going somewhere with their improvisations and not just dicking around for a few minutes.

I still haven't spent a lot of time with Evil Urges, but I have to say that the contrast between the songs off of that record and the rest of the band's catalog is striking. The new songs have a much more groovy, soulful feel; even the much-maligned "Highly Suspicious" really came alive, with the funky backbeat offsetting the vocal schizophrenia of James's Prince-falsetto-meets-metal-growl. The last time I saw MMJ play, I had to eventually move back from the stage to escape the moshing, but this time it seemed more likely that some pansexual orgy would break out.

As the band played their encore, a light rain started to fall, the droplets reflecting in the spotlights like a science-fiction starfield. On the other side of the Ben Franklin bridge, fireworks lit up the sky. It was an lovely moment, and I thought back to my amused reaction to James as a rock-and-roll wizard earlier in the evening; maybe the guy had some mystical powers after all. The band closed out their set with a pair of epic rockers from It Still Moves: "Run Thru" and "One Big Holiday." And as the guys left the stage and Vera Lynn's voice came over the speakers singing "We'll Meet Again," I could only think, I certainly hope so.

Supplementary Materials:
  • In case you don't trust my opinion (an understandable reaction), here are a couple of near-orgasmic reactions to My Morning Jacket's Bonnaroo set earlier this year.
  • WXPN was broadcasting the concert, but I'm not sure if they'll have it available on-demand. If not, there are a couple of YouTube folks who already have some decent-quality videos posted of the show.
  • The band's Okonokos DVD is a great recording of a performance in San Francisco during the tour behind Z. If you're looking for an introduction to what the guys are capable of doing in concert, it's a good place to start. And, in case I was somehow unclear in my drooling praise earlier, I highly recommend attending an MMJ concert the next chance you get.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Finally the Oklahoma Legislators are Taking Acid

Oklahoma is holding an online vote to determine their Official State Rock Song. Who in good conscience could vote for anyone but the Flaming Lips?

An Elephant Never Forgets the 12 Steps

Could there possibly be a better headline than "Heroin addicted elephant clean after rehab"? I certainly can't imagine one.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Speaking of Sarah Palin...

I think that all of those people who cracked jokes about Sarah Palin looking like a sexy librarian owe an apology to actual librarians, of whom Ms. Palin does not seem very fond:
Stein says that as mayor, Palin continued to inject religious beliefs into her policy at times. "She asked the library how she could go about banning books," he says, because some voters thought they had inappropriate language in them. "The librarian was aghast." That woman, Mary Ellen Baker, couldn't be reached for comment, but news reports from the time show that Palin had threatened to fire Baker for not giving "full support" to the mayor.
Glenn Greenwald has more details.

Sarah Palin Is One Funny Lady

I hope her RNC speech tonight is as good as her vlog.

"That first Spiritualized show [at the Troc] pulled a lot of people into [heroin]."

Just a few weeks ago, I went to a Spiritualized show and left feeling underwhelmed. I guess it could have been worse, though; I could have left with a raging drug problem.


Monday, September 1, 2008

Friend to the Working Man

In honor of Labor Day, here's Johnny Cash singing about punching your boss in the face.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Drunkblogging Whooooooo!

Typing is very difficult right now, but just let me say that the words "Stephen Colbert Christmas Special with songs by Adam Schlessinger" are quite possibly the most UNBELIEVABLY AWESOME words in the English language!!!!!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Well, file this under "Not At All Surprising:"
Muxtape will be unavailable for a brief period while we sort out a problem with the RIAA.
Ha ha! Seriously, you guys are doomed, right?

On the plus side, it saves me the trouble of obsessively creating an end-of-summer playlist.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Building the Perfect Song

#2: The song should have an intro section where instruments are added to the mix one by one. For example:

The New Pornographers - Use It

Peter Bjorn & John - Young Folks
(I'm no music supervisor, but I always thought that one of these two songs would work great over a montage of someone going about their morning routine. Or did someone already do that?)

Yeah Yeah Yeahs - Maps

(I totally owned this song in Rock Band the other night: 100% on vocals! I never played it before, though, so for all I know that's really easy to do.)

Bonus points are in order if you stretch this tactic out over the course of the entire song, and if you use a clever bit of staging to emphasize the point:

Line of the Week

Jesse Taylor:
Most of us forget we have certain things - small purchases like DVDs or CDs, or even slightly larger purchases that you made once and simply forgot like a toaster oven or a piece of luggage. But at the point that a luxury home becomes like that fullscreen copy of Underworld: Evolution you picked up at a garage sale, you have a freakish level of detachment from how regular people live.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

If I Were a Benevolent Dictator...

When people are wearing running clothes and crossing a street, it should be illegal for them to be strolling along at a leisurely pace. You're already dressed for a workout, so why the hell can't you pick up the pace to at least a moderate trot?

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Look At Me! I'm a Music Critic!

Allow me to review (without having heard a single note) the new Dandy Warhols album:

A long time ago, they used to be cool,
But I haven't thought of them lately at all.
I am so devastatingly clever.

(Plus, my last post sort of got that song stuck in my head.)

Hooray for Established Properties!

The standard complaint about Hollywood is that it's bankrupt of ideas, and that movie studios churn out nothing but sequels, remakes, and adaptations of video games, comic books and TV shows.

That complaint is pretty much accurate, but you know what? I'm OK with that, so long as it means I get my Arrested Development and Veronica Mars movies.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Light-Rail Porn

Atrios links to a map of the Philadelphia trolley system from 1923. Center City looks like graph paper.

Headline of the Day

"Men claim they have body of Bigfoot."
I once took out a personal ad where I claimed to have the body of a young Johnny Weissmuller. Bigfoot's probably closer to the truth, though.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

...And That's When My iPod Died

My Morning Jacket - One Big Holiday

New York I Love You, But...

The last time I made a visit to the other five boroughs was nearly five years ago (a trip that consisted of -- no joke -- taking the train into NYC, seeing a movie, and then taking the train back home). So last Saturday, at the tail end of a vacation that involved practically no travel, I took a little daytrip up to Manhattan. How did I like it? Well, I'm glad you asked:
  • I started out the day in Fort Tryon Park in Inwood, taking pictures of the heavily wooded paths and the Cloisters. As I was doing this, my camera died and has yet to be resurrected. Goodnight, sweet FinePix A340; I never really liked you that much, and now I have an excuse to replace you.
  • I guess I'm used to Philadelphia's cute l'il H0-scale subway system, but it takes forever to get anywhere on the train in New York. You're only making one stop every 10 blocks or so, and it's still a good hour from the northern to southern tip of Manhattan.
  • Every time I found myself near a group of French-speaking tourists, I had the sudden urge to shout, "Ya'll ain't from 'round here, are ya?" in an obnoxious Southern accent.
  • I checked out David Byrne's Playing the Building installation at the Battery Maritime Building, and it was pretty neat. It's basically an old organ connected to a bunch of motors, pipes, and percussive devices all around the walls of a cavernous room (all of the wires branching out from the organ make it look a bit like a giant spider has taken up residence there). It sounds like some avant-garde film soundtrack, with strange, dissonant noises emanating from all around you. The people lining up for their turn at the organ seemed to be mostly hitting random keys; I'd love to see if someone could spend enough time there to compose a piece.
  • After leaving that exhibit, I started walking towards the Brooklyn Bridge to take a look at the waterfalls that are currently going on there. I got close enough to vaguely see what the deal was and be unimpressed, so I figured I'd cut my losses and move on.
  • On the second leg of my subway journey, I apparently looked like enough of a local to start giving people directions. (OK, I just told them what station we were arriving at, a piece of information that they could have deduced by looking out the train window.)
  • The Strand is intimidatingly huge. Despite this, they didn't seem to have most of the books I was looking for.
  • Overheard in the Strand - Trendy Guy #1: "Hey, have you ever read Fight Club?" Trendy Guy #2: "Is that, like, based on the movie?" Trendy Guy #1: "Yeah." (Pretty lame, I know. That's why it's here and not there.)
  • Another reason Philadelphia is better than New York: the street layout makes more sense. In Philly, the street numbers get lower as you go east, and when you hit 1st street (OK, Front Street) the only place left to go is the Delaware River. In New York, the street numbers get lower as you go south, and after you hit 1st Street . . . there's still a couple of miles worth of island. Plus, the streets don't line up with the street numbers. If you're looking for the 800 block of Broadway, don't assume it's anywhere near the corner of 8th and Broadway.
  • I wanted to check out Other Music, because it routinely gets listed as among the best records stores in the country. Until I got there, I didn't know how tiny it was. It was a bit disappointing; I guess I'm one of those philistines who values quantity over quality. While trying to find the place, though, I stumbled across a spot called Generation Records; it's about the same size as Other Music, but with a huge basement stocked with vinyl and used CDs. Knowing what I know now, I should have stayed put and done my browsing there.
  • The saddest sight in the world = an attractive woman on the subway reading an Ann Coulter book.
  • Man, they're not kidding when they say that you can get anything in New York; I had a mescaline salad for dinner! I spent the rest of the night waiting for the mystical hallucinations to kick in. In retrospect, whoever wrote the menu probably meant this.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Summer Reading Assignment

If you have somehow made it this far in your life without reading Donald Barthelme's "The School," please take a few moments and correct this oversight.

Monday, August 11, 2008

My Latest Dubious Milestone

My Netflix queue has hit 500 items. If I try to add anything else, Netflix basically says, "Are you kidding me? You've got 500 fucking movies lined up right now! Do you even expect to live long enough to watch 500 movies?"

So, I can either throw myself fully into clearing out my bloated queue by watching and returning DVDs as quickly as possible and taking fuller advantage of the streaming-video service, or I can just start a second profile for my account, which comes with a shiny new up-to-500-more-items queue. Care to guess which course I'll end up taking?

Friday, August 8, 2008

The Logistics of Dancing

Typically when I go to shows, I don't do much moving; I'm more the type of person who just stands there like this, crosses his arms, stares you down, and drinks and moans and disses. In fact, I can only recall one instance in which I danced because I felt like it, and not because I was at a high-school prom and felt obligated to give it a try. I didn't really expect to change any of that when I went to see the dance-rock-oriented quadruple bill at the Trocadero on Thursday night. My plan was to get there in time to see Matt & Kim and (especially) the Go! Team, hang out near the back of the crowd where I wouldn't be sucked into any sort of writhing mass of hipster bodies, and possibly sneak out partway through CSS's set.

Things did not quite work out that way.

I arrived at the Troc as opener Natalie Portman's Shaved Head were playing, whose name I'm sure seemed clever back in March of 2006. Aside from that, they sang songs about beards and ponytails, making me wonder exactly what was up with their hair fixation. There was a lot of shout-singing, synths, and flourescent outfits, and only one song ("Me Plus Yr Daughter") really made much of an impression on me. Overall, they seemed to be one of those irksome "Look how weird we are!" bands.

Now Matt & Kim, I like. If you're not familiar with them, they're basically a punkier version of Mates of State, an utterly adorable couple who play drums and keyboards. They came on stage playing "The Final Countdown," and went on to perform a high-energy set punctuated with cute, rambling stories about equipment troubles, getting beaten to the show by a guy on a scooter, and how Matt looks like Where's Waldo when he's wearing a striped shirt. Also, the way Kim plays, you'd think that a drum set had once killed her family and she's devoted her life to making it suffer.

The Go! Team is who I really came to see, though; I loved their first album, and like the couple of songs I've heard off of Proof of Youth. So when the band kicked off their set with some unfamiliar cuts from the latter album, I was thinking, "Yeah, this is pretty good." Then they segued into "The Power is On," and I'm not entirely sure what happened to me. All I know is that for the next -- forty-five minutes? hour? I have no idea how long they played -- I was waving my arms, shaking my hips, moving from side to side, honest-to-blog dancing. And I only stopped during "Everyone's a V.I.P. to Someone," because that song's pretty un-danceable until the end.

As for CSS's set, here's the stuff I'd typically be blogging about:
  • Lead singer Lovefoxxx took the stage wearing a feathery outfit that made her look like Bjork's kid sister.
  • I can only identify 3 CSS songs.
  • I could hardly understand a word they were singing.
But that's about all I could tell you since I spent the remainder of the show continuing to make a fool of myself.

I know that a really great concert can easily lead to hyperbole (and this show definitely ranks in my personal all-time top 5), but I really felt like this was a transformative night for me. All my life, I thought I just hated dancing, and that I was the sort of person who just sort of hangs around at shows thinking of clever bon-mots to use in his obligatory blog review the next day. It turns out, though, that with a few drinks, music that I really love, and a crowd of like-minded people who are equally unworried about looking silly, I can become a different person. Suddenly, the world seemed full of possibilities. Performers like Daft Punk, Girl Talk, and LCD Soundsystem that I was afraid to see live because I feared I wouldn't fit in with the crowd are, just like that, no longer off-limits. I felt like 26 wasn't that old after all, and hipsters aren't so scary when you see them up-close. I felt like I had been reborn.

So, yeah: really good show. You should check 'em out sometime.

Anything Else You Want to Say?

  • You know what's always cool? When someone from the opening band is manning the merch table after the show. Especially if that person is Kim from Matt & Kim, since you already feel like you're on a first-name basis. Rather than being like, "I would like to purchase a T-shirt, ma'am" you can be like, "Hi, Kim! Great show! Can I buy a T-shirt?" Plus, all of this psuedo-familiarity allowed me to courteously point out that Kim had given me the wrong change for my shirt (fool me once, shame on you...).
  • OK, one more cool thing about Kim: before CSS's set, I overheard her recommending to a skeptical concertgoer a certain kind of earplugs that she had stored in a little case dangling from her belt loop: the very same earplugs that I had in a little case dangling from my belt loop! Take that, everyone who ever laughed at me when I put in my earplugs that make it look like I have little antennae! (I've never actually heard these people laughing, but I'm certain that they exist)
  • After seeing the Go! Team, I'm thinking that two-drummer bands are starting to become the norm rather than the exception.
  • So, dancing? Kinda fun! I can see why people have been doing it for a few thousand years.

...And That's When My iPod Died

Belle & Sebastian - Sukie in the Graveyard

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Things the Internet is Good Far, Part 4,724

If you saw this recent xkcd cartoon and thought that you'd like to read some more analysis and criticisms of the graph in question, Ezra Klein's commenters have you covered.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Ladies and Gentlemen, We Are Reviewing Spiritualized

There are some shows that I attend because I absolutely love the artist performing. I know that I'll be able to sing along to practically every word, and that there will be songs that provoke specific memories, and that I'll stand there clutching my arms and staring at the stage in open-mouthed awe. Then there are the shows by artists that I'm not too familiar with, but I attend because they have a legendary status and I want to see them while I have the chance, or because I've heard a lot of good things about them, or I feel like I should like them, even if I can only name one of their songs.

I was in the audience at the Spiritualized show at the TLA on Tuesday night because of the last reason. But more on that later. The first band to play was Philly's own War on Drugs. They treated the few earlygoers to a thunderous set, backed by two drummers. For the first couple of songs, I was enthralled by the propulsive percussion, until I noticed that the music playing on top of it was the sound of a bunch of guys in love with their sustain pedals.

There must have been a two-for-one sale on drum kits somewhere, since the Dirtbombs also had a double-percussionist setup (along with a pair of bassists; I don't think I've ever seen that particular configuration before). Aside from that, though, it was an entirely different experience. The band played a set of grimy garage rock, frequently sounding like a larger version of their fellow Detroiters the White Stripes (what exactly is in the water up there?). Singer/guitarist Mick Collins used almost every trick in the frontman book, from the high kick to the playing-guitar-behind-the-head. But the strangest and best moment may have been at the end, when the rest of the band started packing up their gear while Drummer #1 kept right on playing the beat from the last song for about five minutes, eventually joined by Drummer #2, who stood atop the kick drum and savagely attacked the tom-tom. I'd never heard of these guys before, but they make a hell of a first impression.

Spiritualized certainly seems like a band I should enjoy. I mean, they play "space rock," and if there is a genre that I should love based on name alone, that would be it. As J. Spaceman led his ensemble through the first few songs, I started picking up on some spacey influences here and there: bits from Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon, an organ that sounded like Deep Purple (they sang about Space Truckers, right?), and the fog machine and spotlights that served as the band's backdrop had a planetarium laser-show quality to them. Then I lost interest in that line of criticism and noticed that Spaceman's voice sounded like a cross between Dave Pirner of Soul Asylum and whichever Gallagher brother sings for Oasis. Then I started thinking of some pretentious phrase like, "Spiritualized incorporates the best bits of prog and album rock of the 60s and 70s, then recontextualizes it in a distinctly 90s alt-rock milieu." Then I realized that I didn't know what I was talking about and tried to focus on the band that I had paid money to see.

My point here is that a Spiritualized concert gives your mind ample opportunities to wander. There are plenty of shapeless intros and codas, and a few of the quieter or more upbeat songs seemed flat. There were, to be sure, lovely moments of grandiose crescendoes, which were what I came for, but unfortunately I would have to say that my lofty expectations of this group were not met. Then again, let me reiterate that I was mostly unfamiliar with them when I walked in the door, so maybe it's my expectations that were all wrong.

In Other News...
  • Here's my usual concertgoing strategy: as soon as I get to the venue, I head to the bar and order several drinks in a row. That way, I get my intoxication out of the way and don't have to worry about relinquishing my primo spot for a beer later in the evening. I did not stick to the strategy for Spiritualized, however, and learned that this is how it works if you try to order a drink after the opening act leaves the stage: you go to the bar, where you will spend a good five minutes leaning on the bar, twenty dollar bill in your hand, before being acknowledged by the bartender, who promises, "I'll be right with you." You will then spend another five minutes looking at yourself in the mirror behind the bar, thinking that in this light, your moustache does not look too ridiculous. Eventually, the bartender will finish waiting on the parties who are ordering 12 beers at a time and take your order, and upon finally receiving your vodka tonic, you will be so thrilled that you will stuff your change into your pocket and only realize later in the evening that said bartender only gave you change for a ten. This experience will, perhaps, taint your opinion of the headliner's set.
  • Note to rock bands: when the lights dim prior to your performance, please be courteous and take the stage as soon as possible. The longer you wait, the more jerks in the audience will feel the need to shout "Whoo!", "Yeah!" and "Ow!"
  • Note to audience members: if a band's frontman has played his entire set without any kind of interaction with the audience (and went so far as to face the side of the stage, not the crowd, while he played), he is probably not going to be especially receptive to the requests you shout out during the encore.
  • Bonus note to audience members: if you're trying to avoid being caught smoking up during a show, you probably shouldn't exhale while a spotlight is sweeping right over your head.

Ted Stevens is Not a Big Truck

Please, oh please, let this Ted Stevens business stay in the news for the next three months or so. I might finally have an excuse to break out my quick-and-easy Sen. Stevens Halloween costume (involving nothing more that a Hulk necktie, some pork products, and an Internet for Dummies book).

Monday, July 28, 2008

...And That's When My iPod Died

Thunderclap Newman - Something in the Air

Saturday, July 26, 2008

It's Been a While Since I Used Bullet Points...

  • I never thought that I would look back on the Clinton Body Count as seeming somewhat believable, but that was before I saw the Obama Death List. I can't figure out if this started out as satire and got picked up by the sort of people who thought that New Yorker cover was a photograph, or if it was written by someone who truly believes that the Democratic Presidential nominee was running around Indonesia chopping off heads when he was in grade school. It's gonna be a long, miserable time before November rolls around.
  • I never had much use for Rogert Ebert as a movie critic; he seems to inflate his reviews of middling flicks while unfairly dismissing others, and he has an unfortunate tendency to lapse into schticky writing (I make a distinction between Ebert the reviewer and Ebert the film writer; his two-volume book The Great Movies is excellent, and his Movie Answer Man column is always a worthwhile read). Still, I always enjoyed watching Ebert and Roeper (even when, in recent years, Ebert has been notably absent), so I was saddened to hear that both critics were leaving the show. Ebert's farewell to the program is probably the best send-off his co-hosts, living and deceased, could have hoped for.
  • This is pretty cool; if you go to HBO's website for Generation Kill, select "Troop Drive," and enter your e-mail address, they'll add an item to care packages being sent to Marines stationed in Iraq and Afghanistan. The items are mostly the sort of things you'd expect Marines to request, like deoderant, Maxim magazines, phone cards and, um, Flight of the Conchords CDs? Hey, whatever. Blondes, not bombs!

Adventures in Misunderstood Headlines

Barbara Ann Teer, 71, Dies; Promoted Black Arts

Turns out that Teer was a supporter of African-American culture and founder of the National Black Theater in Harlem, and not (as I originally thought upon reading the headline) a witch.

Friday, July 25, 2008

...And That's When My iPod Died

Nada Surf - Blankest Year

Read This Immediately

Thanks to her unspeakably awesome Random Roles interview, Teri Garr has now been added to my list of age-inappropriate crushes.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

I'm Always Late to the Meme

It's been a couple of weeks since I first came across this, and I figure I'd better post my own before it loses all sense of timeliness. So here goes: my favorite album from each year I've been alive (with annotations!):

1982: Prince - 1999 [1]
1983: R.E.M. - Murmur
1984: Prince - Purple Rain
1985: The Smiths - Meat is Murder [2]
1986: The Smiths - The Queen is Dead
1987: U2 - The Joshua Tree
1988: Traveling Wilburys - Volume I [3]
1989: Beastie Boys - Paul's Boutique
1990: They Might Be Giants - Flood [4]
1991: U2 - Achtung Baby
1992: R.E.M. - Automatic for the People
1993: Pearl Jam - vs.
1994: Jeff Buckley - Grace [5]
1995: Smashing Pumpkins - Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness
1996: Wilco - Being There
1997: Radiohead - OK Computer
1998: Bob Dylan - The Bootleg Series Vol. 4: Live 1966 - The "Royal Albert Hall" Concert
1999: Ben Folds Five - The Unauthorized Biography of Reinhold Messner
2000: Outkast - Stankonia
2001: Bob Dylan - "Love and Theft"
2002: Bright Eyes - Lifted, or the Story is in the Soil, Keep Your Ear to the Ground
2003: Fountains of Wayne - Welcome Interstate Managers
2004: Drive-By Truckers - The Dirty South [6]
2005: Kanye West - Late Registration
2006: The Hold Steady - Boys and Girls in America
2007: Feist - The Reminder [7]
2008: The Hold Steady - Stay Positive [8]

Feel free to create your own list and/or make fun of my highly pedestrian taste.


[1] In the course of making this list, I discovered that I don't really own any albums released in 1982. I picked up a copy of 1999 on vinyl a few weeks ago, but haven't heard it yet due to my lack of a turntable. Still, it got in by default.
[2] Tough choice, with a lot of seminal college-rock albums that I like, but don't love (New Day Rising, Psychocandy, Tim). The Smiths won because of familiarity, and because Meat is Murder is one of those albums that I will forever associate with a specific time and place.
[3] "Hey, wasn't Daydream Nation released that year?" Hey, I'm not doing this to look cool. OK, I am, and I'm failing.
[4] Nerrrrrrrrd alerrrrrrrt!
[5] A tough choice between this and Stone Temple Pilots' Purple. Yes, I am serious.
[6] A really good year, with Drive-By Truckers narrowly beating More Adventurous, Funeral, and A Ghost is Born.
[7] If you ask me a week from now what was my favorite album from last year, you will almost certainly get a different answer. I'm yet to fall in love with anything that was released in '07.
[8] To be fair, I haven't spent a lot of time with most of the albums I've bought this year, like the new Death Cab for Cutie, My Morning Jacket, and R.E.M., and the debuts of Duffy and Santogold. That said, I really, really, really like Stay Positive.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

...And That's When My iPod Died

Bob Dylan - Highway 61 Revisited

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Fun Things To Do On Your Birthday

1. Go to Wikipedia's list of people who died before the age of 30.
2. Read the list of artists, authors, musicians, and other notable people who you have now outlived.
3. Reflect on the fact that you have yet to accomplish anything as lasting as those people did by this point in their lives.

4. If that bums you out, then consider that while you may not have achieved immortality in your time on the planet, you at least managed to avoid being gunned down by the police, catching tuberculosis, or being the victim of a prominent unsolved murder.

Monday, July 14, 2008


So, do you remember what you were doing a year ago today? I do; I started a blog*!

This is actually my third blog; I experimented with it twice in college. My first attempt lasted a few weeks, the second dragged on for a few months. This one has lasted an eternity, relatively speaking.

The credit (or blame) for this longevity rests with you, dear readers. Specifically, those among you who have responded to things that I've written over the past year. So even if my entire readership could fit comfortably in a minivan, I'd like to thank all of you for letting me know that you exist.

Finally, I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge my loyal commenters: that spammer, that other spammer, and the guy who told me I was full of shit.

*With an astounding four posts on the first day! And the sad part is, I probably expected to keep up that pace.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

What I've Seen (Short Subjects): Amelie and Firefly

Actually, I'd already seen Amelie a few years ago, after it came out on video. I remember enjoying it quite a bit. Then again, my taste for those sorts of whimsical romances has waned somewhat in recent years, so when I revisited it this week at the Bryn Mawr Film Institute, I wasn't expecting to be as delighted as I was the first time.

Well, it would appear that my sense of romantic whimsy is still there, since I spent practically the whole movie staring at the screen with a big, dumb grin on my face. If you ever get a chance to see Amelie on a big screen, I recommend it; Audrey Tautou's eyes are even more charming when they're the size of cantaloupes.


I was vaguely aware of Joss Whedon's sci-fi show Firefly when it premiered in the fall of 2002. I soon started seeing geeks, nerds, and television critics everywhere penning borderline-evangelical paeans to the show's greatness. I responded to these recommendations the way that I always do: I dismissed the show as "not my thing," and assumed it was being grossly overpraised (See also: my initial reactions to Futurama and Veronica Mars).

Anyway, I recently got around to watching the first episode of Firefly, and I have to say that those vocal geeks may have been onto something. I'd heard the show described as a western set in outer space, but I didn't realize just how true that was. The characters talk like they're on a PG-rated episode of Deadwood, the music is heavy on acoustic guitars and fiddles, and the pilot episode ends with horses, cowboy hats, and an old-fashioned shootout. It's a strange concept, to be sure, but one that manages to hold together fairly well.

The pilot does occasionally suffer from the burden of exposition, but considering the amount of backstory that needs to be filled in on a typical sci-fi show, it's hardly a major problem. In fact, I was impressed by the things that were deliberately left unexplained, like the way characters occasionally break into (unsubtitled) Chinese. I was equally impressed by the production values, which are quite impressive for a TV series. (One of the things I like about contemporary science fiction shows is how CGI lets the special effects department make it look like there's an actual camera filming the various spaceships, with lots of pans, zooms, and objects going in and out of focus; compare this with the repetitive, mostly static shots from the various incarnations of Star Trek.)

Oh, and even for a show that aired on Fox, there's a surprisingly large amount of suggested nudity. Anything to get an audience, huh guys?

If I had tuned in for this episode back during the series' original run, I probably would have decided to come back the next week and keep watching. Of course, since the rocket surgeons at the network didn't bother to air the pilot episode until three months into the show's run, that hypothetical would not have come to pass anyway. As it is, I get the satisfaction of watching a show that promises to be highly entertaining without being that guy who spent the last three years telling you how great it was and the terrible injustice of its cancellation.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Comment of the Day

Well, since I don't have commenters (sniff) I'll have to borrow one from the A.V. Club's boards:
I hate Ira Glass. If I saw him on the street, I'd be like "fuck off, Ira Glass!" And then I'd say "Act one: I punch you in the nose, Act Two: you drop to the floor, Act Three: I stomp on you."
-Liberal Apologist

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Stuff White People Complain About*

  1. Punctuation: A few weeks ago, when the Supreme Court handed down its decision in District of Columbia v. Heller, I re-read the text of the Second Amendment. While I came to no new insights about the constitutionality of gun ownership, I was reminded that there are way too many commas in the Bill of Rights. The Second Amendment has three of them when it only needs one, right between "state" and "the right." The whole document is just swimming in unnecessary commas . Were the rules of grammar different in the 18th century? Did the states mistakenly ratify a rough draft of the Constitution? Are there qualifying clauses that somehow went missing ("A well regulated militia, and not some bunch of yahoos with automatic weapons, being necessary to the security of a free state...")? This is why I tend to be suspicious of people who talk about the Founders' original intent; it overlooks the possibility that the Founders may not have really put a lot of thought into what they were writing.
  2. The New Yorker: I am surely not being controversial when I say that the cartoons in The New Yorker are not funny. I don't necessarily mind that; "Beetle Bailey" isn't amusing either, but it's presence in the newspaper doesn't offend me. My problem with the cartoons is the way that the magazine publishes them on their website in the middle of an article, as though they just ripped a page out of the latest issue and scanned it. Look, all I want to do is read Seymour Hersh's latest depressing article on the inevitable march to war with Iran; I don't like being distracted every few paragraphs by some incomprehensible doodle. Come to think of it, I do mind that the cartoons aren't funny. If you're going to interrupt my bleak predictions of endless war, at least let me have a laugh.
  3. Bob Dylan: Last week, a situation too long and strange to recount here spurred me to pull out a mix CD that I compiled several years ago and listened to maybe once. I've played it at work a few times, each time writing a little self-review in my head ("Song selection too reliant on a handful of artists, many obvious choices given subject matter, sequencing is overly literal and, frankly maudlin. Still, I made it, so B-"). Things are going smoothly, and despite the disparate song sources, I manage to keep it at a volume that is audible, but courteous to my co-workers. That is, until I get to Dylan's "Girl From the North Country" (the version from The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan, not Nashville Skyline; don't try to argue with me on that one), on which the vocals and guitar are apparently mastered at 1/10th the volume of the harmonica, so when Bob starts his harp solo it sounds like a damn fire alarm, I jump three feet in the air, and rush to turn down the volume before everyone else in my office asks me what the hell I'm doing. I doubt I'll ever meet Bob Dylan, but if I do, I'm gonna bitch about that damn harmonica.
*Hey, Random House! Can I have $350,000 now?

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Building the Perfect Song

(The first in an occasional series listing things that make me like a pop song. Taken together, this will serve as an exhaustive guide for any songwriters looking to compose something specifically to appeal to my tastes.)

#1: The song should contain multiple background singers who, at some point, should punctuate the song by shouting out a list of numbers.

Please see below for examples:

Los Campesinos! - My Year in Lists

Black Kids - I'm Not Gonna Teach Your Boyfriend How to Dance With You

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Trivial Shortcomings of the Media

I suppose that verisimilitude is not hugely important in a political cartoon that features talking animals floating atop the bloated corpse of Santa Claus, but c'mon Mike Lukovich! Everyone knows that penguins don't live at the North Pole!

(To me, this is a minor annoyance, but I'm sure that some conservative blogger out there is seizing on the error as evidence that global warming is a liberal fantasy.)

If You Haven't Gotten Me a Birthday Present Yet...

...Amazon has Borat thongs for sale.

(Also, check out the "Customers Who Viewed This Item Also Viewed..." section, which disturbingly consists largely of Care Bears.)

In Which I Underestimate Myself

Remember how I recently suggested that I'm the sort of person who surfs Wikipedia while listening to Girl Talk?

Well,I learned tonight that after a few drinks, I'm also the sort of person who dances like an idiot to Girl Talk.

(I am large, I contain multitudes)

Friday, July 4, 2008

Things I Just Discovered

It's not news, but it's news to me:
  • Rob Thomas of the late, lamented Veronica Mars is no longer writing for that new version of 90210. Good to know I can stop pretending to be optimistic about that show.
  • This is from over a year ago, so who knows if it's still accurate, but apparently there's a film adaptation of Edward Gorey's The Doubtful Guest in the works. Considering that Gorey's books make Dr. Seuss's stories look overplotted, I'm going to make the bold prediction that this will not turn out well.
  • It would appear that Noel Murray and Donna Bowman are married to each other (maybe this was no big secret, but I only recently put the evidence together). What's that? Nobody in their right mind follows the personal lives of little-known pop-culture writers as though they were on the cover of US Weekly? Very well, then; I shall drop the subject.

Monday, June 30, 2008

...And That's When My iPod Died

Nine Inch Nails - I Do Not Want This

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Hey Summer, Where Ya Been?

My long-promised Awesome Summer Mixtape* is now available for your listening pleasure.

*Awesomeness is not guaranteed.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

I Am a Patron of the Arts

I stopped by the Punk Rock Flea Market this afternoon; it was hot and crowded and oppressively hip and I only ended up buying a couple of records.

I did, however, spend a good deal of time being tempted to buy some of the prints for sale at the Geek Boy Press table. He was selling adorably cartoonish portraits of superheroes, Doctors Who, sci-fi characters, and other such nerd favorites. Do check out his work at Flickr and Etsy.

Dance Music is a Misnomer

There are only two acceptable ways to listen to tracks from Girl Talk's new album Feed the Animals at two in the morning. One of these is to be at some sort of non-stop party dancing one's ass off, getting crunk, etc.

The other is to be reading the album's ridiculously long Wikipedia page, following along with the mind-boggling array of samples and periodically breaking out in laughter at an unexpected bit from Yo La Tengo or the Cranberries or Temple of the Dog.

Those who know me well may be able to deduce which of those categories I fall into.

(That cover art is fairly awesome, no?)

Update: Hey now! The whole thing's streaming on Greg Gillis's MySpace page! What a fun record.

Squid News!

Sometimes I look back regretfully on my life and think I should have gone to marine biology school and pursued a career as a tuethologist. You see, in recent years I've come to the conclusion that cephalopods are awesome.

Then again, I dissected a squid in fifth grade, and it wasn't something that really appealed to me. I'm thinking that closely examining the decaying, mutilated carcass of a squid the size of a Uhaul truck is probably best left to other people.