Wednesday, January 18, 2012

SOPA, PIPA and Censorship


You want to know what I think about the Protect IP Act (PIPA) in the Senate and the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA)? Well, I'll TELL you what I think about censorship. I think ████ █████ ███ ██████ ████ ████ and ███ █ █████ █████ ███ ██████ ████ ████ ███ █ ██████ █████ ███ ██████ ████ ████ ███ █ ██████ █████ ███ ██████ ████ ████ ███ █ ██████ █████ ███ ██████ ████ ████ ███ █ ██████ █████ ███ ██████ ████ ████ ███ █ ██████ █████ ███ ████ █████ ███ ██████ ████ ████ ███ █ █████ █████ ███ ██████ ████ ████ ███ █ ██████ █████ ███ ██████, but then ████ ████ ███ █ ██████ █████ ███ ██████ ████ ████ ███ █ ██████ █████ ███ ██████ ████ ████ ███ █ ██████ █████ ███ ██████ ████ ████ ███ █ ██████ █████ ███ ████ █████ ███ ██████ ████ ████ ███ █ █████ █████ ███ ██████ ████ ████ ███ █ ██████ █████ ███ ██████ ████ ████ ███ █ ██████ █████ ███ ██████ ████ ████ If you really think about it, censorship is███ █ ██████ █████ ███ ██████ ████ ████ ███ █ ██████ █████ ███ ██████ ████ ████ ███ █ ██████ █████ ███ ████ █████ ███ ██████ and I just don't get it.████ ████ ███ █ █████ █████ ███ ██████ ████ ████ ███ █ ██████ █████ ███ ██████ ████ ████ ███ █ ██████ █████ ███ ██████ ████ ████ ███ █ ██████ █████ ███ ██████ ████ ████ ███ █ ██████ █████ ███ ██████ ████ ████ ███ █ ██████ █████ ███ ████ █████ ███ ██████ and isn't that the point of the internet? ████ ████ ███ █ █████ █████ ███ ██████ ████ ████ ███ █ ██████ █████ ███ ██████ ████ ████ ███ █ ██████ █████ ███ ██████ ████ ████ ███ █ ██████ █████and now ███ ██████ ████ ████ ███ █ ██████ █████ ███ ██████ ████ ████ ███ █ ██████ █████ ███ ████ █████ ███ ██████ What would you do if ████ ████ ███ █ █████ █████ ███ ██████ ████ ████ ███ █ ██████ █████ ███ ██████ ████ ████ ███ █ ██████ █████ ███ ██████ ████ ████ ███ █ ██████ █████ ███ ██████ ████ ████ ███ █ ██████ █████ ███ ██████ ████ ████ ███ █ ██████ █████ ███.
And that's what I think. Thank you.
(Click here, while you still can.)

Monday, January 9, 2012

Song Review: Men at Work - "Overkill" (1983)


My friend Katie Wolfe and I have been trading musical earworms of the 1980s on Facebook. It started when I quoted a line from Dire Straits' classic "Money for Nothing". For days afterwards we would hear the song even when it wasn't there.
Today she posted this song and tagged me. Boy, did it throw me for a loop.
Between the time "Overkill" was released as a single on April 9, 1983 and when the accompanying album Cargo came out on June 28, I was was welcomed into the world. I was born on April 29, 1983 and I can't help but think that means something as far as my appreciation of "Overkill".
I am convinced I have a cosmic connection to this song.
I'm sure the same goes for everyone. You can't help but be influenced by the environment you are expelled into upon birth. It's just natural. Nature needs nurture like nurture needs nature.
I don't specifically remember this song from the 1980s, but it seems so familiar that I have to have heard it a million times. It doesn't even feel like experiencing something outside of myself, more like getting reacquainted with a part of myself.



Like Everclear, it's entirely possible that Men at Work had a very same-y approach to songwriting. The entire time I was listening to this I kept waiting for lead singer Colin Hay to burst into a rousing chorus of "Who can it BEEEE now?!"



That isn't to say that knowing what works for you is a bad thing. At least they had at least one good song. They just had the presence of mind to realize a good thing when it comes along.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Movie Review: American: The Bill Hicks Story (2009)


The problem with making any sort of documentary effort on life and work of the late, great stand-up comedian Bill Hicks is that the storyteller has to compete with Bill Hicks.
Even more than 15 years after his passing, just the sound of his forceful, knowing southern drawl still commands the stage. Anyone who tries to put quotes around the experience or draw a coherent line from one part of the narrative to other is bound to be in direct competition with Hicks' voice. And Bill Hicks will win that fight every single time.
Bill Hicks is one of my personal heroes, so I have had this movie on my must-watch list for quite sometime now. I didn't really learn anything earth-shattering from this documentary, but I did feel I gained a more fleshed-out understanding of the man himself and not just the legend he has become. Friends, relatives and those knew him best comprise the narrators of the story, which is just as well. The major players, as available, are well represented so the breadth of the information provided is never in question. I feel like I understand his motivations and underlying psychology better after having watched this. (But, oh, what I wouldn't give for just an hour of Hicks being interviewed on the WTF with Marc Maron podcast.)
I can't put up too much of a fight with a project made with so much obvious love. However, my only real complaint with the filmmaker's style is that they fill in the spaces between film clips of Hicks' standup with awkwardly animated photographs that illustrate whatever scene is being described by the interviewee. The actual talking heads of the people we've been listening to the entire movie aren't shown until (spoiler alert) Hicks is diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. This an heir to the throne of the Ken Burns Effect of slowly zooming in or panning from side to side on still photographs to simulate movement. Burns' The Civil War documentary series employs this effect, but in a far less jarring way than is presented here. Normally, this idea of making still photographs come to life through the use of cutting and pasting and quick background movements is only used sparingly when one doesn't have any ready video footage of the subject at hand. Here it is used liberally and ad nauseum.
Besides, the radical, confrontational ideas that Hicks spouts are more than enough action for me. That's probably why the parts that I enjoyed best were just the clips of his stand-up, most of which I've already seen. And that's a more powerful statement than anyone else could make about him, no matter how well intentioned: his words can still cut glass after all this time.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Television Review: Portlandia: Season 1 (2011, IFC)


Sketch comedy is a tricky concept to pull off.
It's a fine line between complete absurdity and utter realness. This is why a sketch comedy show based in, on and around the city/myth/legend of Portland, Oregon makes so much sense. How much do you really have to bend reality when the place your show is set in already sets itself apart from the rest of the planet?

Portlandia, whose second season debuts Friday on IFC, is the brainchild of Fred Armisen (Saturday Night Live) and Portland's own Carrie Brownstein (Sleater-Kinney). The sketches are interconnected, long-form and character-based, but really they're a shell for the pair's subtle brand of lovingly absurd, sardonic humor to find room to breathe. The majority of the show's bits work because of the little moments hidden between the punchlines. And even, beyond that, the punchlines sometimes never come. The setup of the joke is often enough to carry the weight.

Another reason the show works so well is because Armisen and Brownstein obviously love Portland and everything it stands for to death. This is the whole reason they are able to get away with poking fun at the hipster capital of the Pacific Northwest. There's really nothing mean-spirited here and the humor isn't over the top so it's definitely not going to be for everyone. But for those who learned comedy at the knee of Kids in the Hall and Monty Python and haven't watch this yet, I can only pity them for not watching it sooner.