Sunday, January 31

Actually Spoken During the Course of My Day: Puppy Poop Patrol Edition

Aww dammit, not again!
-- And on the shelf too!?
..Wait a minute, the shelf!?
How?
How did..
..How did you even?



[Listening to:  Paper Tongues - "One More Mile" ]


Saturday, January 30

That's My Jam: White Courtesy Telephone Please

I'm not sure if this is a good thing or not -- but as I was waking up this morning with coffee and blogs and TV and whatever, I came across a quote that made me think of that painting that always reminded me of that one part in Laurie Anderson's 1984 performance art concert/movie "Home of the Brave" where former Frank Zappa/King Crimson/Talking heads sideman Adrian Belew is sitting in the middle of the stage playing his guitar with a knife and a fork.
Good evening,
This is your Captain.
We are about to attempt a crash landing.
Please extinguish all cigarettes.
Place your tray tables in their upright, locked position.
Performance art as a whole (especially in the 80's) is a befuddling thing -- because almost by it's very nature the vast majority of it is just ridiculous crap. And yet, if you can get yourself into the right frame of mind or you understand what the artist is protesting enough to actually be mad about it yourself to some degree you can find yourself actually buying into it.

The problem is that to in order to do that you usually have to sit through far too many wackjobs hopping around the stage whipping themselves with chicken feathers and rolling around in fake blood shouting out the names of various government agencies first -- which means by the time you actually find someone worth listening to, you've usually just sorta written the whole concept off as stupid.
Your Captain says: Put your head on your knees.
Your Captain says: Put your head on your hands.
Captain says: Put your hands on your head. Put your hands on your hips..

This is your Captain-and we are going down.
We are all going down, together.
I remember a sound gig I did once at Theater Jacksonville -- it was this monthly thing we did for local bands and artists, which occasionally revealed some hidden awesome talents this town had at the time (Arvid Smith, The Crawfish of Love, Rein Sanction, Big Air, etc.) where after two OK but largely forgettable local bands came out and played rock songs -- a guy came out on stage and did this poem about the suffering of animals while he poured a bag of potting soil on his head.
And I said: Uh oh -- This is gonna be some day.
I'm sure it was supposed to have some sort of deeper meaning and all, but speaking from the perspective of the guy who had to sweep all that shit up off the floor before we could set up for Artimus Pyle's set -- it was nothing more than pretentious noise that made me want to go buy as many fast food hamburgers as I possibly could.
Laurie Anderson is different.
First of all, she wasn't just some hippie burnout with a cross to burn and a need to shout at local audiences. She was an accomplished artist, musician, and poet. Her work was more universal, and even as it frequently spoke to specific issues -- it was always entertaining in a unique, off-center sort of way.
Think Bjork -- but like 25 years earlier and with a much broader focus on
mixing music, visual art, and theatrical interpretation into a single vision.
Anderson's unique solo performances throughout the 70's earned her the attention of John Giorno (a contemporary and friend of Andy Warhol's) which led to albums featuring William Burroughs, and a relationship with Lou Reed that eventually turned to marriage. She's worked with Peter Gabriel, Phillip Glass, John Cage, members of King Crimson, and even Andy Kaufman.

And yet, even with all this going for her -- it's still performance art. She's not the type for chicken blood or insane tirades -- but for the uninitiated her work still usually comes off as two hours of people in tutus and sombreros wearing neon face paint under blacklights jumping around like weirdos.
Uh.. this is your Captain again.
You know, I've got a funny feeling I've seen this all before.
Why?
Cause I'm a caveman.
Why?
Cause I've got eyes in the back of my head.
Why?
It's the heat.
Or to put it another way -- It's not something you can just casually toss at most people and say, "You'll love this, it's awesome."

If you get a chance, try to find "Home of the Brave" on DVD. Seeing the whole thing is an experience. It also helps bring you into the story as a whole -- which unfortunately showing you one or two songs from the collection can't really do effectively (especially if you're not use to her particular style).
This is the time.
And this is the record of the time.
This is the time.
..And this is the record of the time.
At it's best her songs have a waking dream quality to them. Like you're stumbling out of sleep with only fragments of the story you were a part of in your slumber, mixed with the staccato repetition of musical themes -- like an alarm clock you can't quite reach to turn off, only to find that when you finally do clear the cobwebs to realize that it was all just in your head -- you're actually already in a world that is much, much stranger.
Put your hands over your eyes. Jump out of the plane.
There is no pilot. You are not alone.
Here's one of my favorites of hers -- From The Air.
I'm sure I'm not the only one out there who's library has one or two artists who they couldn't just introduce to their friends without a little preparation first. That sort of "out-there" album you adore, but can't really explain why without going into some long-winded explanation about the things that you were interested in that led you to that one album with the cool cover art that was so bizarre that you couldn't help but laugh at it the first few times you listened to it -- only to grow into a deeper appreciation and love for it as time went by..
So, who are some of yours?

[Listening to:  Laurie Anderson - "Sharkey's Night" ]


Friday, January 29

The Friday Hot Sheet

It was one of those weeks where it felt like the flood of new year's projects had finally subsided -- only to be replaced by the realization that all the rushed work done in January left tiny pinholes all across the giant dam we built to hold back the river. As a result, I've been in and out of meetings most of the week, watching the same people who wanted to get the year started off on the right note running all over the place wondering who they can blame for it not happening.
It happens almost every year -- so much so that it's almost funny.
And yet with all that happening, there was still plenty of time for the world to make a fool of itself. In fact, between political promises, pre-Superbowl hype, and the ever-present shadow of Mel Gibson's bad Boston accent hanging overhead, it's a wonder we had time to get any work done at all.

So before the results from the latest Environmental Safety audit stir this place up like a hill full of ants that just got stepped on -- here are this weeks risers and fallers, and the buzz as it looks from here.
The State
of the
Union
Address
How Do You Solve a Problem Like Obama? He gives an impassioned speech about the things that need to be done, the reasons he's struggled, and the need to quit all the damn bickering and nay-saying and get back to the work of leading the country back out of this mess -- and it all sounds inspiring and powerful, but it's as if you can just hear the critics around the corner. I support what he's trying to do, and I still have faith in the man I voted for -- but I sorta hate that he's always explaining why it's hard to get things done instead of just, you know ..doing them. I know he's got people pulling at him from all sides, especially as he continues to be (apparently) the only one left in Washington who feels that bipartisanship is the solution to the nation's problems -- but I for one just sort of wish he'd stick a flag in the ground and just say, "All right -- we're going this way!!" I know people disagree about his ideas -- which is fine, you're welcome to have a differing opinion; but I think we can all agree that the worst part of the whole thing is the general appearance of inaction on the administration's part that's the most frustrating. He's all about hanging out with the Lakers when they stop by -- but DADT is still in effect? Come on man -- you can do better than that.
 
Mel GibsonPossibly sensing the void in action movie roles left by Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson's insistence on being in family movie after family movie -- here comes Mel Gibson of all people back down the path of killing people who commit one of Hollywood's most heinous cliches crimes -- hurting the rogue cop's daughter. I've always kinda liked Mel Gibson as an action star. The Mad Max series, the first couple of Lethal Weapon movies -- those were fun films, and he was always a likable part of them. But then the drunk driving/anti-Semitism scandals happened, and he sort of became more of a pariah than the guy you liked to see shoot Gary Busey on screen every couple of months. As a result, it's a little weird seeing him back. The movie itself that he's in doesn't interest me all that much (I liked it better when it was called Taken and Liam Neeson was the one doing the ass-kicking) -- but I wonder how general audiences might react to this. I mean, here's a guy who got shunned from the public eye essentially for being a hateful loose cannon, and now he's in a movie where he's a ..vengeful loose cannon?
 
Miramax
Studios
Closing
If reports are to be believed, the movie studio that gave us Quentin Tarantino and a host of other "indie" filmmakers who's work probably would have never seen the light of day had it been left up to the bigger studios (Swingers, Clerks, The Crying Game, Pulp Fiction, Sex Lies and Videotape, etc.) has finally been bought out and will be closing it's doors. Not that this means the end of non-studio type pictures altogether -- after all, Miramax proved during it's run that the public likes that sort of thing -- but what it threatens to mean is that we might not get a chance to see the the kinds of non-studio groomed filmmakers and talent who used Miramax as a place to take risks and get their work shown. Even worse, it threatens to continue the trend of the same four or five guys who seem to get all the jobs these days shaping the landscape of cinema in the foreseeable future. (for example -- good movie or not, did you hear that the guy who directed 500 Days of Summer is now in charge of the next few Spiderman movies following Sam Raimi's departure?)
 
The Ice-T
Action
Figure
The other day the boy and I were wandering the aisles at a toy store, when I came across this little slice of awesome. Why Ice-T needs an action figure, I don't really know -- but when it comes down to it, who really cares? It's Ice motherfuckin' T!

I've been a fan of his for a long time -- his rap work, his rock/punk/heavy metal side project Body Count, or his resume of acting work. Plus, he's one of the cooler "famous people" you'll find on twitter -- continually conversing with fans, flirting with his wife, and even handing out his gamer tag to unsuspecting fans who he then proceeds to apparently slaughter online in games of Modern Warfare 2.

Besides, who doesn't want an OG in their toybox? Not only does he rock the dollhouse, but he investigates and catches sexual crimes offenders at the same time (Richard Belzer action playset sold separately)
 
Fake
Superbowl
Commercial
Hype
Yet another thing we can thank the skinny bitches at PETA for -- the annual race by companies and causes to get free press by submitting potential Superbowl commercials so controversial that they're sure to get banned or rejected, thereby taking advantage of the lull period before the big game by getting their message out without actually having to fork over the millions it takes to secure ad space during the broadcast. This time around it's ManCrunch.com -- a dating site for homosexual men who "wanted to publicize their services" by broadcasting a 30-second spot during the game. CBS has already rejected the spot, calling it "too racy" to air in prime-time, which might at first glance make it seem like CBS is being prudish and close-minded about gay rights. And while history tells us that CBS has always been prudish and homophobic -- I think it's a little short-sighted to jump all over the network for pulling the plug on this one. I'm all for free speech and all, but it seems pretty clear that the folks over at ManCrunch.com never actually wanted to air the ad in the first place, -- instead choosing the PETA route to get the publicity for free. Besides -- it's the friggin' Superbowl. Is that really the sort of television program that lots of gay men watch while they ponder their lack of ability to find a mate? I think the guys over at Warming Glow put it best when they said, "..And why do gay men need to meet each other online anyways? That’s for straight people who are running out of options, like your 32-year-old sister. Gay guys already have saunas, gay bars, truck stops, organic grocery stores, the gym, Manhattan, any secluded area of a park, Pinkberry, Craigslist, and steel mills. I’m all for equal rights, but you guys are getting greedy."
 
Tim Tebow's
Superbowl
Commercial
       
Speaking of Superbowl ads -- I'm sure you've heard by now that former University of Florida quarterback Tim Tebow and his mom will be featured in an anti-abortion Superbowl commercial paid for by the conservative Christian group Focus on the Family.

I still have my doubts about Tebow's chances to make it in the NFL, but there's no doubt he was an incredible college player. And while I'm certainly not the biggest fan of organized religion -- it's not like Tebow's the first guy to use his sports fame to provide himself with a bigger stage to play this card. Former FSU quarterback and Heisman winner Charlie Ward was a devout Christian who reportedly tried in vain during halftime breaks and postgame meetings to get his New York Knick teammates to see the light. Religion and football (especially in the South) are strongly tied together, and even if it's not something I buy into personally, I don't feel like it's really that big of a deal --
Unless someone tries to hit me over the head with it.
Not to mention the fact that all of this evangelizing will be taking place during a football game that I (and millions of other sports fans) want to watch, partially because sports provide an enjoyable escape from stressful issues and problems exactly like the ones Tebow and his mother feel the need to to come on the air and preach about.

Even worse, as much as I respect Tim Tebow's right to believe whatever he wants, I fear that being such a public jackass about the whole thing couldn't happen at a worse time for a guy who's draft prospects are falling faster than Jay Leno's Q rating. Sure, his die-hard fans will eat it up -- but is this really the right time to introduce yourself to the world as some sort of Zealot?

Besides, the whole message that the ad apparently portrays -- that every aborted baby could have grown up instead to be the equivalent of a Tim Tebow -- is in my mind horribly insulting to women all across the country who've already had to make that difficult and emotional choice.

I don't know, the whole thing just comes off as smug and condescending -- two things that I honestly always felt Tim Tebow (the person) wasn't -- even if some of his fans and supporters (especially here in Jacksonville) tended to think they could use his image as some sort of justification for acting that way themselves.
Then again, it is a Superbowl ad -- maybe they'll find a way to make the whole thing seem fun and appealing?
          

[Listening to:  Slipknot - "This Cold Black" ]


Thursday, January 28

The Fish is Different

"If a girl looks swell when she meets you, who gives a damn if she's late? Nobody."
        — Holden Caulfield, The Catcher in the Rye
When I was 13 years old, my mother gave me a copy of JD Salinger's Catcher in the Rye as a Christmas present.
But not just any copy. -- Her copy.
Saved from her time as a young woman, growing up in a different day and age. The cover nothing more than yellow letters on a plain red background, faded against time until the texture was something like worn-out sandpaper. It had that old book smell, that rich burned scent that at the time seemed sour, but has since grown into one of the most evocative aromas I can think of.

I'd never heard of it, so I turned to her with a questioning look -- to which she smiled and said,
"I think you're ready for this now."
In the wake of Salinger's passing earlier today (and the overwhelming reaction from readers all across the web), it feels like heaping more praise on the book at this point is not only unnecessary, but also perhaps a little bit too reactionary.

Simply put -- Catcher in the Rye is one of the first really powerful books I ever read on my own. Far more realized and touching (imho) than any of Salinger's other published works, which at least for me could never seem to get out of their own way whining about how sucky it is to be a poet in love.

That's not to say people didn't get lots of meaning or inspiration out of Nine Stories or Franny and Zooey, or that I didn't read them all several times over -- but that in the end the messages in those books didn't resonate with me the way Holden Caulfields' wandering inner monologue did.

That copy of Catcher in the Rye was the first book I ever re-read so many times that it literally fell apart. The spine bent back to the point of cracking, pages falling loose and inserted back out of order, dog ears so worn in that they had to be re-dog eared if you happened to find yourself on that page a second time.
I read the hell out of that book.
Yet it's impossible to forget that the reason it eroded into dust and pieces was not so much my greasy teenaged fingers pouring over it as much as it was the years and years it sat on a shelf in waiting after my mother made the decision to pass it on to her future child.

Something that doesn't happen all that often anymore. And frankly, didn't happen all that much between her and I over the years at all.

The thing about Catcher is that everyone reads it differently. It's apparently on several school reading lists now, which is ridiculous. Not that it isn't an iconic book, or one that's not filled with the sorts of devices, techniques, and symbolism that high school English class essay questions were made for -- but that it's not a book you should read with others.

It's one of the things I used to secretly hate about teaching writing to kids. Every year, we'd get to this point where we'd do a unit on poetry, and per the textbooks we'd read all the staples -- Frost's Stopping By a Woods on a Snowy Evening, Elliot's The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, Emily Dickinson, Shakespearean Sonnets -- all that stuff.
And every time I taught it I'd preface it the exact same way:
"Class, promise me something. Promise me that you'll re-read these poems 10 years from
now -- you know, when when they'll start to make sense and actually mean something to you."
Why every public school curriculum ever created thinks that 8th graders can not only grasp but would actually give a rats ass about poems written by old men who lament having to growing old is beyond me. And almost every time we did those poems, some student would say, "I don't get it, Mr. Luft -- It's just some guy standing there with his horse looking at snow falling on some woods. Who cares?"

The reason good writing survives -- The reason that we grow to love it generation after generation is that words resonate. The ideas and emotions and feelings in writing vibrate at certain frequencies -- frequencies that ring out in unique harmony with our own feelings and experiences.

But like all harmonics -- it's not just frequency that matters, but the interval as well.
Most 13 year-olds who read Prufrock miss the point of it completely.
To be honest, most middle-school English teachers do too.
Words can be studied to understand technique and effect. Books and poems should be introduced to generations who might not otherwise hear about them. But some things only make sense when you're looking at them in reflection with your own life and experience, and not so much just trying to find the answer to an essay question.
Catcher in the Rye is one of those books.
Let's be honest here. Holden Caulfield was a whiny ass. A lot of the trepidation and sorrow he battles in that book are things he brings upon himself. He's impatient, self-absorbed, and unable to appreciate the good things that he has in his own life.
Just like so many of us at that age.
The book resonates so strongly because it speaks to those feelings of displacement and frustration that raged within so many of us when we were too old to be kids, but not old enough to be anything else. Obsessed with sex, hungry to fit in despite hating the very same people you feel standing on the outside looking in at. Not understanding why adults don't understand, or wondering where the ducks go when the lagoon in Central Park grows cold and freezes over.

And yet -- perhaps the best thing about Salinger's stories (especially Catcher in the Rye) is that at a certain point you grow past them. He was a talented writer, but the short volume of his work leaves him in many ways as a predictable voice. His text speaks to readers, but when you get right down to it -- he doesn't really ever say that much. Certainly not that much that's very different in any of his published work, at least.
"What really knocks me out is a book, when you're all done reading it, you wished the author that
wrote it was a terrific friend of yours and you could call him up on the phone whenever you felt like it."

        — Holden Caulfield
Or to put it another way, as important as JD Salinger's work was to me at a certain point, it was almost equally important to me as a reader (and a writer) that I eventually wore out on it, and hungered for something better.

A trend that was certainly helped along by the fact that the man himself -- who was as much a bitter and reclusive kook as he was a literary genius steadfastly refused to publish much of anything after a certain point in time. Even going so far as to sue the pants off anyone who dared try re-create it or re-interpret it in any official way.

The good part of all this is that no one ever had the chance to make a Catcher in the Rye movie. Oh sure, there are about a billion films that are essentially the same story -- but the old bastard made sure to never let them get their hooks into the actual thing. Never let some director turn it into a cliffs note version that could be rented the night before the essay was due.

And in a lot of ways, that is Salinger's gift to us. Because unless someone in his estate sells it out (which is always possible, I suppose), you'll always have to read his books if you want to get it.

My only regret is that the tattered copy that was given to me fell apart before I had the chance to pass it on myself. Not that a new copy will change the power of the words for a new young reader like my son who may very well be experiencing similar frustrations and angst when the time is right -- but that the shiny cover art of the version that he'll get won't carry the same depth of importance that the well-worn copy given to me brought with it.
An importance that it took me years to realize and honestly appreciate.

[Listening to: Orgy - "Inside My Head" ]


Wednesday, January 27

Actually Spoken During the Course of My Day

Me: Hey, check it out -- the mall cop left his Segway unattended over there -- Imma go steal it.

He: No dad, you can't. Stealing is wrong.

Me: Come on, I'm not gonna steal steal it -- I'm just gonna you know, ride it around a little bit.

He: I said no.
Me (under my breath): ..You ain't the boss of me.
  


[Listening to:  88 Keys - "Another Victim" ]


Tuesday, January 26

Monday, January 25

Best Thing I Saw This Weekend

It's going to be interesting to see how this feature plays out over time, because my weekends alternate between time with my son and time on my own -- which leads to very different sorts of activities with very different motivations. And yet, it seems like lately regardless of the things I choose to do for fun, the past couple of weekends have turned into all-out errand fests where I end up driving all over the place in search of needed stuff or services.

On the one hand, it feels good to be so productive. To take care of things for me and my son -- especially with spring little league coming up and the school year heading into crunch time. But then you get home later in the day only to feel like the whole two days off of work just raced the hell by, and you wonder if you'll ever get any time to just "bum out" like you really want to do.
Anyways, onto the best things I saw this weekend.
Winner: Peyton Manning utterly eviscerating the Jets defense.
I bet a lot of you might have thought I was gonna say the Vikings/Saints overtime thriller -- but honestly, outside of the nail-biter ending -- that game was a sloppy, tedious mess. No disrespect to New Orleans, who made the right plays when the time came -- but Minnesota literally ran all over them, out-gained them by like 200 yards, and seemed to have their coverage scheme beaten cold. But 4 boneheaded fumbles and a bunch of lame penalties later -- it was painfully clear that the Vikings didn't have a knockout punch loaded and the Saints made them pay for it at the last second -- just like they'd done to a ton of other teams this season.
The Jets on the other hand, had this happen:
Like a lot of football fans out there, I like to think that I understand the game. And maybe I do to a certain level, but nothing like what we saw happen last Sunday. After spotting the Jets 17 points, Manning literally figured out their entire defensive scheme and then proceeded to just whizz all over it. You could literally see him pointing out blitzers to his offensive line before dropping back and threading the needle to his receivers again and again. By the time they took the lead back before halftime, the game was all but over.

It's far too early to make any predictions about the Super Bowl, but despite the charmed Cinderella run the Saints seem to be on -- it's sorta hard to think with the way Minnesota marched all over the field on them that a group as focused as Indianapolis will do anything but shred them to pieces.
Runners up (in no particular order):
  • The Unexpected Return of The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy to Cartoon Network -- Who knows, maybe they were just trying to fill space on the weekend and got tired of playing re-runs of all those awful Scooby Doo live action movies, but whatever the case -- one of my all-time favorite animated series showed back up Saturday, including one of the best episodes they ever did -- Dracula Must Die.

  • The Jaguar Motorcycle -- I've talked many times about how much I've always wanted a motorcycle, but it's always been one of those things that I've been able to talk myself out of. Whether it's the cost, the danger involved, or whatever -- it's been one of those mental tug-of-wars that has never really resolved itself to any sort of satisfactory conclusion.

    All that being said -- when photos of this concept bike from Massow started circulating last week, it was hard not to want to just go out and get one. This thing is gaudy ridiculous phallic hot. Seriously, how cool would it be to pull up to the club looking all Toruk Makto on this bad boy?.

  • Archer -- Technically, this was the best thing I saw two weekends ago, but due to some unexpected puppy-related computer problems I was unable to post about it. If you haven't already heard, Archer is the name of a new animated series created by Adam Reed and Matt Thompson -- the guys who created Sealab 2021 and Frisky Dingo. It will be interesting to see how the show fares on the FX network, which usually tends to show stuff like Nip/Tuck, Rescue Me, and The Shield.

    Regardless, the show is hysterical, not only because it's making fun of so many of the spy movie cliches that I love, but because it's got a fantastic voice cast -- including H. Jon Benjamin, who might just be the best kept secret in all of comedy right now. It also doesn't hurt that one of his co-stars is Über-crush Aisha Tyler, who I have adored for years -- and not just in the inappropriate, borderline criminal ways you're thinking (although there has certainly been a lot of that, too).

    Hopefully you've been keeping up with the show, but just in case you haven't here's a little sampler:

    By the way -- I have no idea how people put up all those fan videos you see, this thing took me forever to put together.
So all in all -- a good weekend (or two) gone by, if I do say so myself. Football, family, and good food were in high supply, especially if you're a beagle puppy that will apparently eat anything. And while these things certainly weren't the only cool things I saw over the last couple of days -- I did feel like they were cool enough to share.
So, what were some of the cooler things you saw this weekend?

[Listening to:  American Head Charge - "Loyalty" ]


Sunday, January 24

Snipe Hunt

Understand something. This entire movie -- The balloons. The fat kid. The talking dogs. The 3-D glasses. Edward friggin' Asner. The underscores about the changing world around us, or the importance of father figures. The myna bird. The plot, the visuals, the soundtrack. All of it.
..Was based on how much she could get it.
Something like that doesn't come along very often. Someone worth everything inside of you. Someone you can't even fully find the words to explain why. The one who confounds you. The one that burns like whiskey in your belly. The one that you could just stare at in silence without saying anything, even when they catch you looking. The ones that appear in your mind within the first three notes of a song.

The moments we get all too fleeting. The memories all too real, especially when it feels like sometimes that's all you have.
We all have a sickness
That cleverly attaches and multiplies
No matter how we try

We all have someone that digs at us
At least we dig each other..
I want this. I long for that kind of closeness. For stupid stories and embarrassed laughter. For phone calls that can't wait and text messages that say you need to tell your bosses that you have to leave work right now, come home, and make love to me.
But more than anything, I just want to feel bulletproof again.
Nothings perfect. And nothing can ..truly last forever.

Which is why this time. This moment. This part of the film where the lines aren't as important as the transitions between the scenes in the script, the way that it makes you feel, and the way that feeling flows between us is so very, very necessary.
So when weakness turns my ego up
I know you'll count on the me from yesterday

If I turn into another
Dig me up from under what is covering
The better part of me

Sing this song
Remind me that we'll always have each other
..When everything else is gone.
..And yes, I cried in the theater when the movie was playing. What of it?

[Listening to:  Bjork - "I Miss You (Dobie's Rub Part I - Sunshine Mix)" ]


Saturday, January 23

Thursday, January 21

The Church of the Good Hustle

A quick note about the lack of updates this week -- you know that cute puppy I got for my son's Christmas present, the one everyone has been falling in love with because he's sooo adorable?
Little fucker ate the power cable for my laptop.
So once the battery gave out, I was basically without a computer at home -- all while getting slammed with project crap at work. It was one of those sobering moments where I was reminded just how tethered I am to my gadgets and technology, because without the laptop I was essentially shut down. By the time everything was all said and done -- there just wasn't the time or opportunity to really post much of anything this week.

Anyways, there's a storm sitting on top of Jacksonville right now, dark gray skies and spider lightning crossing the sky. The rain sounds nice when you're inside, but the songs on the radio keep cutting out every few minutes with warnings about tornadoes and hail.
Just been one of those weeks.
But like all storms, this one too shall pass. The sun will eventually knife through the clouds and we'll all start again.
So until then -- here's one in honor of the man and the day gone by.
No doubt, dudes game was tight.

[Listening to:  Run DMC - "Down With the King" ]


Friday, January 15

The Friday Hot Sheet

So another week rolls by -- one where musical legends were lost, late-night comedians went to war with each other, and an island nation no bigger than the state of Maryland found itself an unexpected victim to nature's unforgiving wrath. The images on the news burned into our minds -- making many of us wonder just why things like this have to happen?

I sometimes think dwelling on topics and looking for places to point your fingers is part of human nature, some kind of loop in our programming that we have to continually work to get around. We want things explained. We need to understand.
But some things don't need explanation as much as they require action.
I know this is sounding all serious and dour, but sometimes there are things bigger than lulz and YouTube videos. CNN seems determined to give Conan and Leno more coverage than Haiti, which means that the earthquake will probably be a footnote by the end of next week.
But people will still need help -- so if you're able, please do what you can.
Anyways, that being said, it's not like there wasn't still other stuff to talk about this week -- so before Paul Reiser has the chance to write another insipid article for the Huffington Post -- here are this weeks risers and fallers, and the buzz as it looks from here.
Post-Avatar Depression SyndromeSo apparently it seems that in the aftermath of the success of James Cameron's science-fiction epic Avatar there have been reports of people who were so entranced by the movie's aesthetics that they're now suffering from a deep depression because of the disparity between the colorful, multi-layered fantasy world in the film and real life itself. The story rolled around a few of the movie sites for a while, but then found itself picked up by CNN, who immediately started treating it like some sort of epidemic like they always do. According to Avatar-related message boards, people were posting messages saying they wanted to kill themselves in the hopes that they will wake up on the fictional planet of Pandora. First of all, to the best of my understanding -- that's not really how death works. But second and perhaps most importantly, it's just a goddamn movie! It was good and all, but really? Seriously bro -- high school was hard on all of us, but don't you think you're taking this a little too far?
 
Pat
Robertson
Shortly after the killer earthquake hit Haiti, legendary asshole televangelist Pat Robertson made comments on his television show saying that the reason all of this was happening was that the government of that nation had "made a deal with the devil" as part of their efforts to declare independence from France -- and now was reaping the consequences. A statement which, even for Pat Robertson -- is about as low as you can get. Plenty of venom and criticism has been hurled his way in response, but I for one would like to offer the man front row seats to the next IMAX 3D showing of Avatar, in the hopes that he catches a whiff of that mad nerd disease that makes him wish he could end it all and end up in giant cat Smurfland, where one of those over-sized killer pterodactyls will hopefully tentacle-rape the guy before having him for lunch.
 
The
Book
of Eli
I love the Hughes Brothers, and have ever since Dead Presidents came out. And I'll be honest, the trailers for this flick look pretty cool -- all except for the fact that outside of the action sequences or the presence of Denzel and Gary Oldman (who is always a fun villain), the only reason to see this movie is to find out what the book actually is -- even though anyone who takes two seconds to think about it could easily figure out. As such, I have my doubts about the whole thing, and will probably end up waiting for it to hit DVD. Not that a post-apocalyptic story about a guy protecting the bible from those who would use the power and lure of faith for evil (Pat Robertson) isn't the kind of idea that an entertaining allegory could be easily built around -- but I find it sort of amusing that they've gone to lengths to try to conceal what "the book" is, even though the answer is utterly obvious. I mean honestly, what other book would Denzel walk all over Texas to protect, He's Just Not That Into You?
 
The Leno vs Conan WarsThe other big story this week of course has been this little melodrama, played out all over TV and the web. But let me be honest about something here -- as much as I find myself fascinated by the drama of it all and have thoroughly enjoyed the resulting jabs and jokes that have come out in the past few days from all the late night hosts on the various networks (Kimmel especially has been killing it lately) -- I'm pretty sure I'm not alone in the fact that I haven't really watched Conan or Jay Leno in years.

For my money, Conan is by far the more inventive and interesting talent, but my favorite part of his shows has always been the recurring bits and side characters -- many of which faded away when he moved to his new time slot -- and even then they were better viewed the next day on the web instead of sitting through some celebrity interview I couldn't care less about.

But what's made this whole thing fascinating is that it's yet another in this recent trend of controversies based on people who feel that they're owed something just because of who they think they are and what they think that status affords them. From Joe the Plumber to Brett Favre to Sarah Palin to Michael Vick to Brett Favre (again) -- there have been a lot of high-profile whiners showing up in the news lately. Aside from the media presence that these people have, I think it's easy for us to get swept up into these stories because it's the sort of thing that happens to the rest of us all the time. We try to do what we think is best only to have others try to take it from us because it works better for them. Then when we hear about something like that on a big scale, and it gets our collective dander up because we know how it feels to be sniped. We might be a nation made up of greedy consumers, but the idea of fair being fair is still vitally important to us.
 
My GullibilityAs much as I enjoy listening to my iPod or Pandora at work, a good part of my weekdays are still tied up in listening to local radio. Morning show honks on the way to work, sports talk on my lunch break. I probably shouldn't divulge this particular fact because of the way it will make me look -- but there's been an ad rotating on the stations I listen to lately talking about a hypnotist who could plant the suggestion to people to motivate them to lose weight.

At first I just ignored it, but then for whatever reason (perhaps the spot itself is laced with subliminal messages) I actually found myself considering it for a while there. I mean, my two main problems when it comes to weight loss is controlling my eating and maintaining my discipline when it comes to working out -- so perhaps getting my brain twisted a little might actually help that, ..right? I laugh whenever I catch myself thinking that way -- because honestly most of my ideas about hypnotism come from Bugs Bunny cartoons. But still, if something like that could work, wouldn't it just be the ultimate shortcut to getting the results I want? Damn, I'm doing it again -- SEE WHAT THAT SOUNDS LIKE!?
 
Earworms       Oh man -- and I thought I hated this song with a passion before..
I'll never get this version out of my head.
          

[Listening to:  Greg Howe - "Unlocked" ]


Thursday, January 14

Shake 'Em Up,Shake 'Em Up, Shake 'Em Up, Shake 'Em


[Listening to:  Angie Stone - "I Wanna Thank Ya (feat. Snoop Dogg)" ]


Wednesday, January 13

Where in The World is Carmen Stanky Leg-o?

Just wait, somewhere next year this guy will star in a movie where some rich white girl ballet dancer asks him to show her how to dance just like this, which empowers her to finally stand up to her draconian parents and tell them that she won't be attending Harvard like they've been demanding for her to do since she was a little girl. Instead, she'll go back to Iceland with him to share their newly-found love and inspire the world with their dance moves.

-- via Filmdrunk.
..Then they get eaten by Narwhals, or something.

[Listening to:  Teddy Pendergrass - "The Love I Lost" ]


Monday, January 11

Best Thing I Saw This Weekend

What, you mean besides an NFL playoff game between the Green Bay Packers and Arizona Cardinals featuring 90 points of offense and a heart-stopper of a finish in overtime?
Winner (hands down): The growing bond between a boy and his dog.
I like the puppy a lot. He's brutally cute, an attention hog, and a (natch) lot more reactive to calls and invitations to play than the cats will ever be. But he's also really aggro about everything. He eats with desperation. He pees like the world is about to end. He's sort of like an over-eager Twilight fan. I'm not saying I don't like him, I'm saying sometimes he tries too hard. For my money, the cats are much more laid back and cool about things.
..But for a 9 year old with seemingly endless energy? -- Yeah, they get along great.
Runners up (in no particular order):
  • The Bra Color of Nearly Every Woman I Know -- Honestly, that's how sexy is done. Why? Because it wasn't about trying to be sexy, about hanging it all out there. I mean yeah, I like that too sometimes -- but when you get right down to it, there is nothing more disarming than when a woman is being direct and comfortable about who she is. And for about two days on Facebook, even though it was actually all in the name of a good cause and really didn't have anything really to do with all the baffled guys watching their timeline fill up with a literal rainbow of information, it was still very cool to see.

  • Innocent Venus -- On the recommendation of a dear friend, I downloaded this anime series and started digging into it over the past few days. I've only had a chance to see a few episodes so far -- but when you come out of the gate with robot assisted battle armor and mechas blowing each other to bits, it's a sure bet I'm gonna hang around to see the rest.

  • The Lorax (Grindhouse Version) -- One of the things that continually brings new visitors to this site are google searches for The Truax, which is a children's story written as a rebuttal by the logging industry in response to Dr. Seuss's book The Lorax -- which I wrote an article (partially) about a few years back. Perhaps that's why I got such a laugh out of this little video, which I stumbled across Saturday afternoon.

  • Andrahilde's Sketches of Grown-up Cartoon Kids -- I was tipped off to these from a tumblr blog I keep tabs on, but once I found the deviantART page they came from, I found myself kinda fascinated not only by the particular artists style -- but by the interesting interpretations of what many of the cartoon world's kids would look like as they grew towards adulthood.

        

    Perhaps because I loved the show, The Billy and Mandy one was my initial favorite -- but the Ed, Edd, and Eddy (one of my son's absolute favorite shows) one suggesting that you might be able to take a Kanker out of a trailer park, but you'll never really get the trailer park out of them -- is the one that (at least to me) tells the richest story (which in the end, is what I want my art to do for me).
I don't know -- it wasn't really that bad a weekend at all. These certainly weren't the only cool things I saw over the last couple of days -- but I felt they were cool enough to share. Who knows, maybe we'll do this again next week.
So, what were some of the cooler things you saw this weekend?

[Listening to:  Aaliyah - "Hot Like Fire" ]


Friday, January 8

The Friday Hot Sheet

Don't call it a comeback -- but the Hot Sheet has returned. Of all the features that have sorta been tried here over the years, this is the one I actually used to look forward to the most. Unfortunately, my Flintstonian methods of assembling these things every week tended to make it sort of a hassle to get things out on time, especially when I had actual work to to at my job. But now we're back, and looking to make a new habit out of this thing -- a better one this time around.

Anyways, it's been a wild week for everyone -- especially with the cold snap that's swept in most everywhere in the country. Of course even the harshest of winter storms isn't ever enough to stop people from being idiots, and this week was no exception -- as everyone from Jay Leno to Colt McCoy did their best to get our attention with their antics.

So before the world turns into a giant ice cube right before our eyes -- here are this weeks risers and fallers, and the buzz as it looks from here.
Jersey ShoreYeah, yeah I know -- but really, what did you expect from me? Or from any of the hordes of fans that the show has gained. Trash TV might be a collective stain on our culture, but for those of us who unabashedly love it, this is the best thing to come along since Flavor Flav cashed his first paycheck from VH1. The key with these things isn't to take them all that seriously, and laugh at everyone involved -- which by the way is waay to easy when you start dealing with the Guidos on this show. The weirdest part about it though is that even though the cast members are all half-witted narcissists who represent the absolute worst that club culture has to offer, there's something oddly likable about them. Or to put it another way -- as much as you're tuning in to see them all fall flat on their over-tanned and hairsprayed faces, the best reality shows are the ones that have you somehow rooting for them at the same time. And for whatever reason, even with their awful taste in music and ridiculous ideas about fashion, somewhere in each episode you really do hope one of those skanks they bring back to the house will eventually get into the hottub (well, all except for Snooki -- who's honestly more fun to watch when all of her best laid plans go to the dogs).
 
The lack of a playoff in College FootballI know, I know -- it's like beating a dead horse, but there were 34, count 'em -- thirty-four bowl games this year. I really only watched the marquee ones, and half the time I was bored senseless. Why? Because even when the game was competitive you knew in the end the result was essentially meaningless. Regardless of who was playing, it was hard not to find yourself wondering if the team that won was any better than the teams that had the good fortune to end up in the championship. All of which came into harsh focus when the actual championship game took place -- which for almost three and a half quarters was the most boring game of them all. No disrespect to Alabama, who put in a solid effort on both sides of the ball to win -- but I for one feel like that Boise State team might have had a shot at beating them. Something we'll never really get a chance to find out, unlike the 33 other game results none of us bothered to watch.
 
Dwayne JohnsonDude, what is going on with you? The Tooth Fairy!? Another friggin kids movie? Ok, I get that providing voice talent for an animated feature like Planet 51 is an easy paycheck in Hollywood these days, but didn't you just do that Escape From Witch Mountain Thing? And the Football Player who has to learn how to raise the cute little girl movie right before that? It's as if Disney has embarrassing photos of the guy somewhere. Sure, the Rock issn't the world's greatest actor, or even the best action hero we've seen in recent years -- but there are vampire movies coming out this week featuring Ethan friggin' Hawke, for chrissakes. Look, what I'm trying to say here is that we're living in a world where the majority of the top grossing, non-Avatar action films in the past few years have all starred Hugh Jackman -- and yet right over here is an already proven commodity who's instead choosing to make a family comedy with Julie Andrews and Billy Crystal. I understand that when you find something that works, you try and stick with it -- but is this really the best path for your career?
 
DaybreakersSpeaking of vampire movies featuring Ethan Hawke -- this opens up this weekend, and although I have my concerns that it will turn out to be yet another formulaic action/drama posing as an intelligent twist on the basic vampire plotline -- it looks pretty good. Plus, I'm always sort of drawn to these stories that sort of flip the concept of the monster movie around the way this one looks like it's trying to -- all the while realizing that the temptation is far too easy for it to turn into a cliche where everyone sort of realizes their way of life is wrong and decides to start acting more like ..Ethan. As much as I enjoyed watching it, Avatar frequently wandered into that territory, and if it weren't for the awesome visuals and amazing battle scenes at the end could have easily ended up being nothing more than a 3-hour remake of Dances With Wolves. Fortunately, James Cameron is far too savvy a filmmaker to let that happen. Something I can't be sure of when I finally get a chance to see Daybreakers.
 
Jay LenoYou know what works really great? The camaraderie that helps tie The Daily Show to The Colbert Report. Even though the shows are aimed at similar audiences, they're very different in their deliveries and styles -- so that sort of unofficial link between them, even when it takes the form of that little 30 second handoff they do between episodes really helps then work as two sides of the same coin. You don't hear people getting all pissy about one of those two shows being better or worse than the other. In a perfect world, there might be a similar kinship between whatever the heck Jay Leno is trying to do and Conan O'Brien's patiently-awaited turn at helming The Tonight Show. And yet what it's become is a sloppy-handed mess of corporate alliances and time-slot shifting -- in which Leno has been marketed and advertised to death for a show that's on at a weird hour and has steadily been shrinking in audience, and a Conan O'Brien show that still has yet to find it's real stride, but has had to shift time slots again and again as the network continues to bend over backward for whatever untold reason to appease Leno's desire to get his old time slot back. But what NBC doesn't seem to get is that the end result is that people are sort of fading away from both shows. I honestly don't know why Conan continues to put up with it. Surely there's another network that would love to have his services at a more serviceable hour. They need to get it figured out soon, though. Even Brett Farve thinks this whole ordeal is stupid.
 
Sad
Cowbell
Girl
       
Sometimes the lessons the Internet teaches us are hard. Such was the case at this year's Fiesta Bowl. In an anticipated matchup between Boise State and TCU there was plenty to see and talk about -- but in a web world that thrives on snark, the game was surprisingly lacking in topics to jump all over -- or at least it was until halftime rolled around and FOX made one of the premier mistakes any college football broadcast can make, which is focusing extra attention on the marching bands. With their TV screens suddenly filled wall to wall with band geeks, the sharks began circling on twitter as the smell of blood in the water promised them a target. And right on cue, there she was -- banging away on her cowbell with such an dazed expression of utter disinterest that the jokes almost wrote themselves. Not since keyboard cat had a musical instrument been treated with such utter malaise, and the message boards lit up like Christmas trees in response. And when you watch the video, it does come off as pretty damn funny -- except for the fact that it wasn't really funny at all once people quickly discovered that sad cowbell girl was actually ..blind.

The retractions hit the web almost as quickly as the video had gone viral. But here's the thing -- half of the reason it was funny was that FOX zoomed right in on her, just as unaware as the rest of us -- looking to give us "the face of the excited young college student taking part in a grand spectacle on a national stage," and instead finding what seemed to be the one person who (seemingly) couldn't have cared less either way.

Like it or not -- the moment itself was funny. It's just that the reason the moment occurred was anything but.
..Live and learn, Intarweb. Live and learn.
          

[Listening to:  Incubus - "Dig" ]


Thursday, January 7

That's My Jam: See What I Did There?

Every generation or so, a musician comes along that sort of shows up everywhere and unavoidably becomes part of the musical landscape for a given period. Sometimes the results help move music forward (Billy Preston's time with the Beatles, Bob Dylan's collaborations with Hendrix, Todd Rundgren's production work, or the dominance in recent years of hip hop producers like Timbaland, Kanye, or Diddy come to mind,) -- while other figures only end up being that name that shows up everywhere, even though their overall contribution isn't really all that great.

For example, for a certain period of time starting in the late 60's -- guys like Jackson Browne and Kenny Loggins were somehow a part of every album that got released. Sure they made the right kinds of friends in the industry, but aside from a few hit songs and movie soundtracks, it's hard to say that we all owe a huge debt of thanks to Jackson Browne for friggin anything.

Yet there he was, hanging around with Crosby Stills and Nash and helping to make sure that The Eagles would never, ever go away.
Or to put it another way -- For a period of about 30 years, Jackson Browne was essentially the white Will-I-am.
The reason I bring this trend up is that in my opinion -- Jack White is one of those guys. Although I was never really much of a White Stripes fan, it's hard to ignore just how prolific the guy is when it comes to cultivating celebrity friends and urging projects along. Like his music or not, you get the distinct impression that he's the guy that you sort of half-heartedly talk to at the bar or a party about things that "Would be really cool if someone just did them,"
Only to have him call you on the phone the next morning asking when you're coming over so you can get started.
It's sort of like my theory that Hollywood is currently filled with loads of talentless actors and actresses who keep getting work because they're fun to be around while you're working. As much as I had hope for him when he was the firebrand standout in John Favreau's Swingers -- Vince Vaughn has spent nearly everyday since then literally crushing my hope in his potential as a talent by putting out lame romantic comedy after lame romantic comedy after lame Christmas family movie every year.
And yet he continues to get marquee work.
The reason I think is that directors and actors enjoy his company. He's fun to have around on a set.

My suspicion is that Jack White is a lot like that. He's the guy with all the momentum, the one who's brimming with ideas that gets everybody into the room and then lights the fuse on the dynamite. Some things he does seem to work, some fail miserably, but he just keeps going and going regardless -- making the most of his opportunities in quantity if not quality.

That's not to say that he isn't good at what he does -- but more specifically that he's not really my cup of tea. Sure my tastes are a little wacky -- but I always thought The White Stripes were kind of annoying. In fact, when I first heard them I almost instantly lumped them (rightly or wrongly) in with a host of other bands at the time that I hoped would hurry up and go away like The Strokes, The Hives, and The Arctic Monkeys.

Those bands for the most part faded into obscurity, but Jack White stayed. And like some Lou Reed hellspawn barnacle he began to clamp on to anything he could, putting his stamp on songs in all sorts of genres and styles. Somewhere along that line (in January 2009, according to Wikipedia) that led to an impromptu jam session that would later solidify into a lineup known as The Dead Weather.

To say that I'm a fan of the band would be an overstatement, but a while back I caught sight of a video of theirs on Deus Ex Malcontent that I absolutely fell in love with -- almost as much for the visuals as for the groove of the song. Turns out the video was directed by Johnathan Glazer, the guy behind the much overlooked British film Sexy Beast.
Put simply, the song is pretty cool -- but the video is awesome.
It's one of those cases where I honestly can't tell you if I would like the tune without the video. Perhaps it's because as a kid who loved playing cops and robbers and rebels versus stormtroopers in the backyard, half the fun was making the sound effects and body gyrations that came from getting hit the way people did in the movies -- an enjoyment that eventually led to a fascination with the idea of squibs, the little blood pack things they use to simulate bullet strikes on actors in action films.
Seriously, how cool would it be to go at it like they are in the clip?
Kinda hot, if you ask me.
All that being said -- it's not like one fake bullet riddled video clip was enough to bring me over to the church of all things Jack White. The rest of the album (at least for me) was largely meh, which considering how much I like this tune came across as a huge disappointment. As a result I doubt I'll ever be one of those guys who camps out for days and spends half my life savings to see this guy play live -- but if all his momentum and effort can result in a good tune every couple of years, then by all means I think he should stick to his guns.

I'm sure I'm not the only one who's discovered artists whom they don't find personally all that interesting despite the fact that the whole world seems to consider them some sort of genius. You know the situation -- you casually tell someone that you aren't really into Phish, and they suddenly act like you just slapped their mama right in front of them?
Who are some of yours?

[Listening to:  24-7 Spyz - "Room #9" ]


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