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.

Friday, June 27, 2008

...And That's When My iPod Died

(The first in what will mostly likely be a recurring feature to chronicle the songs that were playing when my iPod froze and had to be reset.)

TV on the Radio - "Dirtywhirl"

Thursday, June 26, 2008

"Making Money You Can't Spend Ain't What Being Dead's About"

Seriously? There are twenty more Tupac Shakur albums out there that haven't been released yet? That guy just defies satire.

(story via here, title via here)

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

I've Got the Links You Crave

  • Thank God for Wikipedia. I don't know why I would ever need an exhaustive list of fictional U.S. Presidents, but it's good to know it's there (the history books never mention Richard Nixon's record-breaking five, non-consecutive terms in the White House).
  • It's an election year, so of course Diddy is threatening potential voters with death. Jesse Taylor tells you what to do if you find yourself confronted by Mr. Combs and his brute squad.
  • Finally, I hate animals as much as the next guy, but for some reason Jon Katz's pet and farm-animal columns in Slate always make me smile, like this tale of a dog and a sheep who became best fwiends friends.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008


Two concerts in a week? Three in a month? It appears that I'm turning into an older, squarer version of the Cameron Crowe character in Almost Famous. So, when I heard that the Popped! festival was going down at Drexel University this past weekend, I knew that I had to brave the crowds of hipsters, scenesters, and (ahem) bloggers to bring you my report.

The first act of the day were the Ting Tings, the UK duo whom you almost certainly know from that iPod commercial (the one without Chris Martin). Their music was fine and energetic, but nothing I heard in their set really grabbed me as much as the cool guitar part from "Shut Up and Let Me Go."

Hoots and Hellmouth sound pretty much how you'd expect them to sound, given that they feature a mandolin, and upright bass, and a dude with a bushy red beard. They played a set of bluegrass-tinged jams. Not really my thing, but the hometown crowd (H&H are signed to Drexel's Mad Dragon record label) was much more enthusiastic.

Remember how I recently expressed the view that live performances are generally a lousy way to get introduced to new artists? Well, count Mr. Lif as the exception to that rule. Perhaps it's because the relatively small crowd let him rap in an actual flow instead of shouting to be heard. Lif's dense, political rhymes were backed by some great beats by his DJ, New York rapper Metro, and a cameo verse by an impressive female MC whose name I unfortunately did not catch.

That's the best picture I could get of Dan Deacon's set, since he sets up his equipment in the crowd rather than on the stage. I was especially curious to see this guy; his bleep-bloop videogame music tends to leave me cold, but I'd heard that his live shows are amazing. It started out promisingly, as he coached the crowd through a bizarre routine of pointing, kneeling, and thinking about Frasier; it was all kind of charming and amusing. Once the music started, though, I quickly lost interest. The audience-participation aspect of Deacon's show seemed more like the made-up games of an elementary school gym teacher ("Everyone run in a circle and high-five each other! Now make a tunnel with your hands joined and everyone else run through it!"). Maybe the fun is in jumping around like an idiot in a sweaty crowd, but my philosophy is that if you have to be doing something specific to enjoy the music, then you're not really enjoying it.

Eugene Hutz of Gogol Bordello took the stage with a necktie around his forehead, a bottle of wine in his hand, and a guitar with stickers that read "Drum machines have no soul;" ordinarily, I'd dismiss that as knee-jerk rockism, but after Dan Deacon I thought he might be onto something. Hutz looks like Frank Zappa, moves like Iggy Pop, and growls like Shane MacGowan, and the only time he took a break from the music was to ask if Russia was still beating the Netherlands. Gogol Bordello plays their "gypsy punk" with the usual rock instrumentation, as well as an accordion, a violinist, and two dancer/vocalists/percussionists in heavy makeup and sequined bodysuits. The audience matched Hutz's manic energy throughout the set: there was dancing, moshing, body-surfing, and at least one bra thrown at the stage. Sure, I only rarely understood a word that they were singing, but that seems like nitpicking in the face of such an awesome performance.

Hooray! More bleep-bloop music! Crystal Castles consists of Ethan Kath, who dressed practically for the heat in a denim jacket and hooded sweatshirt, and vocalist Alice Glass, who resembled Sally Bowles reincarnated as a pre-teen Goth (there was a drummer, too, but I couldn't come up with a snide way to describe him). While Kath played dark, heavy house music, Glass lurched around the stage like a zombie, dove into the crowd, stood atop the drum kit, and repeatedly hit herself on the head with a microphone, all the while shouting what I can only assume were words. I was actually sort of into the music, but as far as I was concerned, the singer added nothing but spectacle.

Fortunately, as the sun dipped lower in the sky and the temperature started to drop, the performers got noticeably more mellow. The husband-and-wife duo Mates of State did a nice job of easing everybody into the early evening with their pleasant indie pop. I guess I don't have much more to say about them (except that their kids, who were dancing off the side of the stage, are adorable); it was all very pretty and sway-worthy.

Vampire Weekend represents a lot of things that bug me: preppies, Ivy League kids, Paul Simon's Graceland, and mountains of blog hype, to name but a few. I thought I'd give them a chance to win me over, though, since I'm such a fair-minded individual. They did not succeed. I'll admit that their songs had more punch when played live (getting blasted through enormous amplifiers will tend to do that) but they revealed nothing new to me. In fact, they sounded practically identical to the studio versions; I suppose that's a testament to the skill level of the band, but it also seems like it defeats the purpose of a live performance. My opinion was clearly in the minority, though; as I made my way from the stage a few songs into the set, I was confronted with a densely-packed sea of bodies and dozens of people dancing in goofy little circles.

My usual closing bullet points:
  • Strangest thing I ate: vegan "ice cream" made out of coconut milk -- it's actually pretty good.
  • Celebrity watch!: WXPN General Manager Roger LaMay, checking out Vampire Weekend's performance. Also, a local blogger on whom I have a bit of a crush.
  • Oddest bit of on-stage banter: "Who likes shouting?! [crowd cheers] Who likes music?! [crowd cheers] Who likes Guitar Hero?!" - Alice Glass of Crystal Castles
  • Funniest thing I overheard: "Do you guys just wanna take the train home? 'Cause my mom's being a whore." -Some whiny kid
  • Runner-up: "C'mon, let's go! Let's turn this out!" - Overly-excited lady behind me during Vampire Weekend's soundcheck
  • Most dramatic crowd transformation: Before Vampire Weekend's set, the area close to the stage, which all day had been filled with the tattooed, hair-dyed hipster masses, suddenly saw a noticeable uptick in gray-haired couples, some of them there with their kids.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Shit, Piss, Fuck, Cunt, Cocksucker, Motherfucker, Tits

George Carlin is dead. See title for reaction.

(If the devil's greatest trick was convincing the world he didn't exist, George Carlin's greatest trick was fooling a generation of preschoolers that he was the wholesome and friendly Mr. Conducter and not the angry, profane voice of the counterculture. Get 'em while they're young, that's the way to do it.)

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Happy Solstice!

Today's the first day of summer! Longest day of the year! My more morose self would typically point out that this means the next six months will get progressively darker and gloomier.

I promise that I'll get around to producing a totally awesome summer mixtape soon and posting it for all to hear, but in the meantime your listening assignment is the summer camp episode of This American Life. I love the image of Ira Glass hanging out with a bunch of 13-year-old kids and attempting to summon Bloody Mary.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Talk About the Passion

Back when R.E.M. was touring behind Up, their first post-Bill Berry album, I went to see them play at what was then called the E-Center in Camden. It was my first genuine rock concert experience. I had lawn seats at a big outdoor amphitheater on a rainy day, my parents dropped me and my friends off at the Delaware River ferry, I bought a T-shirt and everything. It was a great show, and it was years before I stopped using R.E.M. as my baseline for judging how awesome a concert was.

Last night, I went to see R.E.M. again at the Mann Center, a big outdoor amphitheater on a rainy day, where I had lawn seats (I passed on the T-shirt this time, and my parents are no longer driving me to shows). In the nine years since I last saw them, a lot has changed. I've been to a lot more shows, mostly at standing-room-only venues, and I can safely say now that I abhor lawn seating. It angers my inner Bolshevik to know that the people up close to the stage got there by paying more for their tickets. The only honest way to get a good view of the show is to arrive really early and resist the urge to get a beer, use the bathroom, or rest your aching shins. Plus, seeing a rock show from a few hundred feet away feels a bit like getting together with thousands of other people, pumping up the sound, and watching a YouTube video. I guess you could say I'm getting older.

Or, if you're Matt Berninger of opening band the National, you could call my predicament "another uninnocent elegant slide into the unmagnificent lives of adults." That's why he's a well-regarded songwriter and I'm not. Berringer took the stage by thanking the audience for coming early and promising, "You won't be sorry. We're going to blow your minds with music." By the end of the set, my mind remained un-blown, but it was a good show nonetheless. I would have thought that the National's moody, dark songs would be better suited to a small, dimly-lit club than an outdoor show in early evening, but the band (augmented by a horn section and violin) and Berringer's baritone did a great job of filling the space.

Modest Mouse were the other opener, and the only song I recognized was "Dashboard" (note to self: buy some Modest Mouse albums). Of course I knew that the band now included Johnny Marr, but I didn't realize that they also had two drummers. I suspect that Isaac Brock is stockpiling musicians in case of some emergency.

And then came R.E.M. I was expecting disappointment in the few minutes before and immediately after they took the stage; I wasn't the seventeen-year-old kid losing his rock concert virginity anymore, and I was in a pissy mood because I couldn't see the stage from where I was standing. Thankfully, the band was as great as they were last time, and I found an empty spot with a decent view. The setlist was heavy on cuts from Accelerate, but it drew on material from throughout their career, including at least one song from each of their albums from Lifes Rich Pageant through Reveal (and reaching back to the Chronic Town EP for "Wolves, Lower"). On paper, it could have looked like a valedictory, but it seemed more like the band was picking the more hard-driving material from their catalog to fit in alongside the likes of "Living Well is the Best Revenge" and "Supernatural Superserious."

Michael Stipe still has the same adorably awkward style of banter as the last time I saw him, alternately cocky and self-deprecating. At one point, he asked how many people in the audience were at their first R.E.M. show, and seeing all the kids raising their hands made me feel old. But that's OK; there were plenty of middle-aged couples and gray-haired ex-hippies in the crowd as well. The fact that Michael, Peter, and Mike (and, unofficially, Scott and Bill) can both hang onto their old fans and connect with new ones through lineup changes, poorly-received albums, and Hall of Fame inductions makes me think that if these guys are still touring nine years from now, they won't be disappointing me.

So, what else was going on?
  • I wish I'd brought my camera, so that I could get a picture of the two people in the crowd with their lighters in the air during Modest Mouse's set. As if to highlight this point, Michael Stipe urged us to pull out our cell phones for one song. I'm no technophobe, but that's just not right.
  • Songs off of Automatic for the People: 3 (they're playing "Ignoreland" these days!) Note to the band: if you ever want to raise money for a good cause, just announce you're playing that album in its entirety; I'll pony up whatever you're asking.
  • I wanted to tap the shoulder of that couple in front of me who were singing "The One I Love" to each other and ask, "Have you listened to any of that song besides the first line?" (Fun fact: "The One I Love" has only 28 words in it)
  • If you ever find yourself on stage with a popular rock band and see people sneaking out early during the encore, the words, "Please welcome Mr. Eddie Vedder" are a good way to send them scurrying back to their seats.

  • Did anyone see the full moon last night? Was that not gorgeous? It started out huge and orange above Center City, then rose over the Mann stage so that it was directly overhead as the band closed with "Man on the Moon."
  • So, yeah . . . great show, but my only complaint was no "It's the End of the World as we Know It (And I Feel Fine)." Maybe they figured that "I'm Gonna DJ" filled their quota for apocalyptic songs.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Help Me, Tastemakers!

So, what's the currently acceptable position on Coldplay? I've listened to their new album, and I like about half of it, so I'm fully prepared to go whichever way the critical winds are blowing. Apparently the go-to analogy this week is to compare Viva la Vida to Radiohead's Kid A.

If nothing else, it's likely to be my second-favorite album to appropriate a 19th-century French painting for its cover art.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Cruel Keith

Yeah, I was kind of bothered by this as well.

I've always felt a little bit out of step with some liberal publications since I'm not a huge fan of Keith Olbermann. Don't get me wrong; Olbermann is clearly a sharp guy and a talented broadcaster, and it's great to have a strong progressive voice to balance the Bill O'Reillys of the world (and I feel it's unfair to even compare the two, since BillO's show is all about himself, whereas Countdown is mostly a straight news show with some commentary added).

Olbermann has a reputation of a bold truth-teller, a Howard Beale without the crazy. Of course, Olbermann isn't some student activist Xeroxing a newsletter, or an investigative journalist talking to whistle-blowers and filing FOIA requests. He's the host of a nationally broadcast prime-time TV show, and while that brings his message to a huge number of people, it also means that he has to consider how his employer feels about what he's saying. MSNBC is hardly the model of a responsible news organization; this is the company that fired Phil Donahue in the run-up to the Iraq War, that thought it was a fine idea to give the reprehensible Michael Savage a show, and that is all too happy to put Ann Coulter on the air whenever she's out shilling for her latest screed.

So when Olbermann named Katie Couric his "Worst Person in the World" the other night, it confirmed my suspicions of him. He characterized the idea that sexism was present in coverage of the Hillary Clinton campaign as "Kool-Aid-ish," and then went on to savage Couric for her criticism of an MSNBC correspondent. So seeing sexism in the media is akin to brainwashing, but viciously attacking a competitor in order to defend the honor of a colleague (whom Couric did not even name) is the epitome of reasoned debate?

It can be quite satisfying to see Olbermann go after Fox News personalities and members of the Bush administration. As an attack dog, he's quite effective. But like any good attack dog, he understands that while he's encouraged to bark at anyone who walks by the house, he'd better make sure to behave for his owners.

Even Howard Beale had to learn that lesson eventually.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

We're Gonna Build Something This Summer

It's after 1 AM, I have work in the morning, and if I fall asleep at my desk tomorrow, my only explanation will be, "I was up late listening to Stay Positive over and over." If you haven't done likewise, do it now; I swear on a stack of Springsteen and Cheap Trick LPs that you won't be sorry. I don't think I've fallen this hard for an album since, well, Boys and Girls in America.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Discussion Question

If the National Film Registry were on fire and you could only save one movie, would you pick Beverly Hills Chihuahua or Space Chimps? Remember to show your work.

Radiohead Being Played by a Printer

If Atonement had been set 50 years later, this is what the film score would have sounded like.

(Printers have been making music longer than you might think.)

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Today's the Day the Roots Crew Has Their Picnic

My freezer is currently stocked with Flav-Or-Ice. A couple of hours ago I saw a firefly. And right now I'm trying to ignore the sunburn I got yesterday after spending 9 hours in 90-plus degree heat while listening to music. I'd say that it's officially summer, wouldn't you? Here's my report from yesterday's Roots Picnic at Penn's Landing.

Upon my arrival at Festival Pier, I discovered that the Roots would be playing three (!) sets that day, and that they were on the stage at that very moment. I knew that the band had added a Sousaphone player for its current tour, but that didn't prepare me for how awesome it was to see some dude running all over the stage and jumping off the drum riser with a giant horn wrapped around his body.

?uestlove is, without a doubt, the most recognizable member of the Roots, so it's fitting that he was the Picnic's host. Well, actually he denied being the host. He was just the guy who introduced all of the acts and tossed bottles of Vitamin Water into the crowd between sets (and then mocked anyone who attempted to catch them one-handed).

Esperanza Spalding was the first non-Roots act of the day. The young singer-bassist played a set of jazzy songs with tempoes that I could never quite get a handle on. My only problem was that her music seemed tailor-made for small, dimly-lit rooms, not outdoor stages on the hottest day of the year.

Next up was J*Davey, who the non-host introduced as a group that should be a household name, but whose record label has given them trouble because of their different sound. I don't quite understand, since they sounded like perfectly fine electronic pop to me. Clearly, I would make a lousy record executive. Singer Jack Davey reminded me a bit of Rihanna; she has the model-like good looks, the peekaboo bangs, and even sang a song about sending an S.O.S. (a cover of the Police's "Message in a Bottle"). Keyboardist Brook D'Leau, meanwhile, had me worrying that his short-shorts with a foxtail hanging from them would become the latest horrifying hipster fashion trend.

More Roots! For their second set, the band started off with a cover of "Masters of War," sung by guitarist Kirk Douglas. Here's the version they performed at the I'm Not There concert in New York last fall, and it is awesome.

After that, Black Thought did a credible James Brown impression as the band tore through "Superbad." It was the second-tightest rendition of the song I've ever seen (Yeah, I saw James Brown once). Also, the band was joined by DJ Jazzy Jeff, who doesn't look much older than when he was being thrown out the front door by Uncle Phil.

The Cool Kids took the stage next. Considering that this was a festival curated by a rap group, it was somewhat odd that this was the only point of the day when a couple of guys paced the stage with microphones while a DJ played. From what I've heard of their stuff, the Cool Kids are super likable, with their retro, minimalist beats and outlandish boasts, but I haven't heard a whole lot and I find that live hip-hop is great if you're already a fan, but not so great if you're just getting an introduction. Case in point: the guys next to me who were rapping right along seemed to be having a splendid time. And when a rapper tells us to put our hands in the air, who are we to refuse?

On the one hand, I respect the fact that ?uestlove's (and let's face it, he's obviously the one picking the lineup) tastes in music are broad enough to include Deerhoof. On the other hand, I don't see how he could have thought a noise-rock band would be a good fit for this lineup in between a pair of throwback rappers and a retro-soul group. The problems I have with Deerhoof's recordings (mostly having to do with Satomi Matsuzaki's vocals) were even more pronounced in their live performance. Their set served as a chance to get some food and sit down for a few minutes in the air-conditioned DJ tent.

I'd heard nothing but great things about the live shows of Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings, so perhaps I had my expectations set too high and was doomed to be disappointed. Maybe it's the fact that they took the stage just as the sun was setting, making it feel about 15 degrees hotter. Maybe it was the sound problems that kept us from hearing Ms. Jones's voice until halfway through her first song, or the idiot hecklers standing behind me, or the fact that my legs felt like they were in no condition for dancing. In any case, the group didn't make a lasting impression on me, though I doubt it was their fault.

Seeing as "The Roots" was right there in the festival's name, you might expect the group to close out the day. Instead, they played the next-to-last set. And holy shit, what a set. Among the highlights were the return of bassist Leonard "Hub" Hubbard (somehow, I had completely missed the news that he left the group last year), who played a bass solo that was way cooler than a bass solo had any right to be. After that, the band launched into a medley of some of hip-hop's greatest beats and samples, from Biz Markie to O.D.B. to Nas to Talib Kweli. A typical rap act doing covers would be kind of lame, but a live band doing the same is electrifying. Oh, and they also played "You Got Me," "The Next Movement," and "The Seed." Those songs ain't bad, are they?

I've seen Gnarls Barkley twice, and I've learned that there are a few things you can count on from one of their shows:
  1. The band will be in matching costumes
  2. Cee-Lo will encourage the ladies to "pull out [their] titties."
  3. It will take forever for their equipment to be set up.
The third point was especially bothersome this time since, being an outdoor show, I'm sure there was a noise curfew in place; every minute the roadies were moving instruments onto the stage was a minute that Gnarls would be unable to play. Once the band actually appeared, they played a solid set. One of the things I love about a Gnarls show is that, while Cee-Lo is understandably the focus of attention, the rest of the band is completely into it and look like they're having the time of their lives as they play.

By the Numbers
  • Performers I wanted to see but didn't: 1 (Santogold, who cancelled, and who is so good that her involvement in Bud Light ads does not make me despise her)
  • Performers who paid tribute to the Godfather of Soul: 2 (The Roots and Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings)
  • Performers who were bringing '88 back: 2 (The Cool Kids, who stated as much in "88," and the Roots, who implied it in their cover of "Made You Look")
  • Sets in which ?uestlove played the drums: 5 (Three times with the Roots, once with J*Davey, and once with Gnarls Barkley for a song, looking dapper in a jacket and bowtie)
  • Obama shirts in the crowd: too many to count (not only ones with official campaign logo, but also a wide variety of shirts that were obviously not created by the campaign. Prior to this year, I don't think I'd ever seen anybody wearing a shirt promoting a presidential candidate, and certainly not any that looked like they could have come from Urban Outfitters)
  • Bottles of Vitamin Water caught by me: 0 (Next time I'm bringing a baseball glove)
  • Random girls who grabbed my ass: 1 (Either she's in love, or she was providing a distraction while her friends cut in front of me)

Friday, June 6, 2008

No You Don't Have to Live Like a Refugee

...but if you want to, Lowe's is now selling "Katrina Cottages."

I was going to close with a joke about how FEMA should get in on this market by selling their trailers, but they've beaten me to the punch. I wonder if they give you a formaldehyde discount.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

A Week of Pleasant Surprises

A short while ago, I learned that Sam Phillips has a new CD coming out this week. I'm not used to music releases sneaking up on me like that; I'm typically inundated with the usual Pitchfork updates of "Hot band-of-the-moment in the studio!/finishes recording!/reveals album title!/reveals tracklist!/reveals release date!/announces tour!/releases album!/eh . . . we give it a 6.2." It pays to be into musicians who aren't beloved by hipster douchebags.

Anyway, I've been going through some low-key Sam Phillips withdrawal over the past year; since Gilmore Girls was cancelled, I can no longer count on a weekly dose of her pleasant, strummy acoustic pop. A new album should fill that void quite nicely.

She's not the only one with a stealth release this week, though. I walked into Borders today on my lunch break and was confronted by a display of David Sedaris's new book, When You Are Engulfed in Flames. Once again, I had no idea this was even being published, and I actually had to pick up the book and skim through it to convince myself that it was, in fact, a new book, and the publisher hadn't just thrown a fake cover on some surplus copies of thesauri as a cruel hoax.

Finally, I'm always saddened when I blog that I read goes silent (such as this one, this one and this one). When I clicked over to Pandagon tonight, though, I discovered that the site's founder, Jesse Taylor, had pulled a prodigal son and is back at the site. Jesse was one of the first bloggers I read with any regularity, back in the heady days of 2004. And not only that, but apparently Michael Berube has come out of exile as well! I am, against my better instincts, giddy.

"Applebee's officials have confirmed to Media Matters that its restaurants do not have salad bars."

I don't know what's funnier about this Media Matters item; the way David Brooks's fake populism has once again been exposed, or the deadpan quote that I've reprinted above.

Reviewing Unseen Movies

Let's step into the way-back machine and take a trip back one decade, to the year of 1998. The Coen brothers were coming off the massive critical success of their bleak, Oscar-winning film Fargo. To follow it up, though, they made a bizarre, convoluted comedic noir called The Big Lebowski. While hardly a smash hit, it soon became a cult classic and one of my favorite movies.

Now, join me back in the year 2008. The Coen brothers are coming off the massive critical success of their bleak, Oscar-winning film No Country for Old Men. To follow it up, though, they have made what appears to be a zany, convoluted comedic spy movie called Burn After Reading. Okay, so it's not a perfect analogy; if The Big Lebowski had starred Brad Pitt and George Clooney, people might have actually gone to see it (then again, maybe not). Still, the complete tonal shift from their last picture and the manic look of the trailer have me optimistic.


When I reached the list of names at the end of that trailer, I paused to make sure all the usual Coen collaboraters were there. Music by Carter Burwell? Check. Edited by Roderick Jaynes? Check. Cinematography by Roger Deakins? Um, Roger? Where are you?

Well, it turns out my fears of a Deakins-Coens creative divorce were unfounded. Deakins was committed to another film, so Burn After Reading will be the first Coen brothers movie since Miller's Crossing to be shot by someone else. The name of Emmanuel Lubezki, the guy taking over camera duties, didn't sound familiar, but it turns out I knew him as "That guy who fuckin' shot Children of Men. Dude!" So I guess I won't be too disappointed with the new kid.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Can't It Be November Yet?

Just when I think political writing can't get any sillier, here comes New York Post film critic Kyle Smith, claiming that Barack Obama is just like Cyrus from The Warriors. Smith draws a lot of laughably tenuous connections between the two figures (along with a lot of snarky lines that could have come out of Writing Like a Self-Impressed Right-Wing Hack for Dummies), but his argument basically boils down to, "Every time I see that black politician stumping for votes, he reminds me of a gang leader inciting violent revolution."

Film critics are losing their jobs left and right these days; are you telling me that the Post doesn't have any fat to cut?

All Comic Strips is Local

Check out the T-shirt that Rob Wilco was wearing in Friday's Get Fuzzy:

That the coolest thing I've seen in the funnies since Rex Morgan got trashed at Cawley's and drove around Porchman's house all night.