Thursday, May 28, 2009

Things I Learned from Cartoons

So I've been reading the strange, strangely amusing webcomic Achewood recently. It's pretty much the definition of an acquired taste, and one which I'm still in the process of acquiring. I was skeptical of it at first, but this strip, in which a character named Charley has travelled back in time (yeah, I'm not entirely clear on that point either) and nearly causes a riot by introducing the nacho, made me a believer. What can I say? I'm a sucker for people who talk old-timey and go into an exaggerated panic at the sight of anything unfamiliar.

Except it turns out that such a panic may not be that exaggerated. Soon after reading the strip, I learned that mass hysteria gripped London in 1797 after a man walked outside wearing a top hat. John Hetherington was arrested and charged with:
“appearing on the public highway wearing upon his head a tall structure having a shining lustre and calculated to frighten timid people.” According to contemporary reports, people booed, dogs barked, women fainted, and a small boy suffered a broken arm after a crowd formed around the hapless Mr. Hetherington.
The fiendish culprit was fined and top hats were banned in the city for a half-century afterwards. Seriously, there is nothing I don't love about this story. The writers at The Onion can only dream of writing archaic police blotters that are so amusing.

In other cartoon news, fans of Futurama will recall that Philip J. Fry is a proud dropout of Coney Island College (Go Whitefish!). But did you know that 100 years ago, there actually was a Coney Island College? Actually, it wasn't a real college so much as a clever way for an amusement park to get around blue laws by calling itself an educational institution and having its workers dress in caps and gowns.

Amusing Coincidence of the Day

There's a play currently being performed at the Prince Music Theater with the title Let's Pretend We're Married.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Double Feature

A couple of recent developments in movie-watching options that I just became aware of:
  • The film website The Auteurs curates a monthly "film festival," which consists of a selection of Criterion titles. Which are available to stream to your computer. For free. May's almost over, but if you hurry you can catch a half-dozen essential documentaries.
  • Those of you living in Delco might be interested in Cinema 16:9, a new movie theater/video rental that somehow snuck into Lansdowne recently. There are a coupld of drawbacks: the schedule of films seems to focus on recent DVD releases, and 35mm snobs will probably not approve, but on the other hand, it's not like repertory houses are a dime a dozen in this (or any) economy.
(While I'm on the subject of movies, I'll mention that The Room is screening for free this Saturday at Space 1026 in Philadelphia. Be there with your spoons and footballs, and don't forget to study up on the rules.)

Monday, May 25, 2009

Can't Stand It

I actually gasped when I read this piece of truly lousy news: Jay Bennett, the founding longtime* member of Wilco who famously left the band during the recording of Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, has died at the age of 45.

Rest in Peace, Jay.  Being There was always my favorite.

(Though YHF is a close second)

*Turns out that Bennett was not technically a founding member of the band, as he joined right after they recorded

Friday, May 22, 2009

Watching the Detective

Things in the trailer for Sherlock Holmes that look promising: at no point does the title character wear a deerstalker cap, which Arthur Conan Doyle never described him wearing. Also, Robert Downey Jr. is usually entertaining.

Things in the trailer for Sherlock Holmes that don't look promising: everything else.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

I'm the King of Rock, There is None Higher

Today's strange Wikipedia article: a list of honorific titles in popular music. It should come in handy when you find yourself confused about the Godfather of Punk vs. the Godfather of Punk Guitar vs. the King of Punk.

Unfortunately, the criteria for inclusion are rather slight; since one writer has referred to Usher as the Prince of R&B, that's all it takes for him to be on the list (and shouldn't that title go to, you know, Prince?). Plus, there are no fewer than 9 claimants to the title "Princess of Pop." Frankly, it's a miracle that we've managed to avoid a bloody War of the Roses-style battle for the throne.

Monday, May 18, 2009

...And That's When My iPod Died

In fact, my iPod didn't immediately start charging when I plugged it in afterwards, and for a few minutes I thought it had died for good, which would have made for a strangely fitting swan song.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

This is the Worst Trip I've Ever Been On

The Dewey Decimal system being what it is, I suppose it's not too unusual to find Into the Wild in the travel section of my local library, nestled between some more conventional guides to Alaska. I've only seen the movie, but I'd suggest that you not rely on that book as anything but cautionary tale.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Fun With Wikipedia

Oh, you Lost nerds just can't help yourselves, can you? (Click to enlarge)

Put On Your Headphones Before You Explode

I don't really have a lot of traditions, but (dating back to A Ghost is Born) every time Wilco starts streaming their new album, I've stayed up late that night to listen to the thing.  You really ought to do the same, since I really, really like what I've heard so far.  It's like they took all the best parts of Sky Blue Sky, made everything punchier, and added some eclectic instrumentation and a Feist cameo.  This is a strong contender for my soundtrack to the Summer of '09.

I also like the many purchase options available, in case you'd like a tote bag to carry around your new purchase and a T-shirt with iron-on letters for the back.  It's true what they say: Wilco will love ya, baby.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Lost on the Lonely Island

Does anyone else think that Justin Timberlake, when he's in his "Dick in a Box"/"Mother Lover" costume, looks exactly like Dominic Monaghan?

While I'm on the subject of Lost cast members: I finally watched Werner Herzog's Rescue Dawn this weekend.  That's a really good movie, and Jeremy Davies manages to steal scenes from Christian Bale like his name's Heath Ledger.   There's a lot of disturbing stuff in that film (as one would expect from a tale of POWs who are tortured and starved before escaping into a jungle that's even harsher than their prison camp), but the thing that stuck with me the most was the sight of Mr. Davies without his shirt on, looking like he weighs all of 45 pounds.  On top of that, Pierre Chang turns up in a small role, too.  (Not Lost-related, but interesting nonetheless: one of the movie's producers is Sixers forward Elton Brand.)

If I may point out the obvious, I'm totally geeked about a certain season finale airing tomorrow night, to the point where I'm considering liveblogging it.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

A Tale of Three Cities (with Pictures!)

Things have been pretty quiet around here lately, huh? I admit that I'm not quite sure why that is; usually when a blogger apologizes for low output, it's a prelude to announcing a book deal or something, but I'm afraid I have no such exciting news. I did finally bite the bullet and get a commenter account over at the A.V. Club, which serves as a useful outlet for my many short observations that I would be otherwise trying to pad out to blog-post length.

Anyway, to get you caught up, here's a quick recap of where I've been these past few weeks:

1) [of] Montreal

I've been meaning to see of Montreal for a long time; any band where the frontman might make his entrance on a white horse or perform in the nude is probably worth catching live. Nothing quite so outlandish happened at the Trocadero on April 22, but considering the show still included various costumed animals (including the dapper, tiger-headed fellow above) and strange leotard-wearing figures, plus trippy visuals projected on screen behind the band, it was hardly a dull affair either.

I was watching from my usual spot on the floor, and let me tell you: nothing gets the party started like dark lyrics of psychological meltdown married to poppy, danceable melodies. Despite that, I can see the appeal of watching this show from a distance, the better to take in all of the bizarre skits playing out around the band; the overall effect was like a Flaming Lips show directed by Max Fischer.

2) Alexandria

Last week was the second time I've had to travel to Alexandria, VA for my job. Not much to report about that place, which I'm sure is a perfectly nice place to live. My hotel room did have a nice view of the Capitol dome:
(Note: Photo has been zoomed in to an absurd degree.)

You probably can't read that, but it says, "Unplug iron before storing." There were no power outlets near the iron holder, so you'd have to really be determined to put away your still-burning iron for that to be an effective warning.

Boy, that swine flu sure is in the news a lot, huh? I saw this on CNN as I arrived at my hotel room, and couldn't help but laugh. Yes, Jack Cafferty, in the 24 hours I had been aware of swine flu at that point, I feel it's safe to say that my life will never be the same.

3) Philadelphia

One of the odd perks of my job is that, from time to time, I get invited to go to events at places I would ordinarily never go. That's the only reason I've been to a pricey steakhouse, gone barhopping on St. Patrick's Day, or spent an evening at an overpriced, self-consciously trendy lounge. It's also why earlier this week I went to XIX, the swanky lounge on the nineteenth floor of the Bellevue/Park Hyatt in Philadelphia. I though I might be able to get some nice photos from the balcony, but it was a foggy, rainy night and things didn't really work out that way:

(I was hoping this would have a cool, Blade Runner look about it. Who knows: maybe if Jordan Cronenweth had shot that film with a cheap digital camera on a hotel balcony, this is how it would have turned out.)
I guess I should have stuck to taking pictures inside, like this giant pearl necklace chandelier thing that was hanging from the ceiling.
(If you think those are big, you should see the oyster!)

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

See You in the Funny Pages

I don't know how I've managed to avoid the Perry Bible Fellowship for so long, but that is some strange, twisted, hilarious stuff (Plus, the artwork is head-and-shoulders above any other webcomic I've seen).