Thursday, December 29, 2011

Song Review: Beenie Man - "Who Am I (Sim Simma)" (1997)

I had the beat to this song (which I found out is actually called "Playground Riddim") stuck in my head for the last few days. I couldn't place it but the staccato notes at the end of the phrase kept looping over and over in my brain. I knew I had heard it many a time. I just couldn't figure out what it was.
I first heard this song at least ten years ago when my friend Tony made me a mix CD with this on it. This song never made it to where I grew up in Mitchell, Ind. and it had to be smuggled in to reach my consciousness. Not unlike a lot of other things I've grown to love.
Such is life.
The funny part is that now that I know what song it is I realize I still don't understand 90 percent of the lyrics. Whatever. I get the feeling of the song. It doesn't take complicated stanzas to get the basic idea across.
SOMEONE has the keys to his truck and he wants answers!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Television Review: The Secrets of Scientology: A Panorama Special, BBC One (2010)

John Sweeney is a madman. You can trace his gonzo form of emotional outburst-based documentary film-making directly from fellow English crazy person Nick Broomfield. Both charge headfirst into fraught situations without consideration for the consequences. In the meantime they often gather amazing footage and admissions by their interview subjects. It somehow seems almost accidental that they came across this information.
The Secrets of Scientology (which you see in four parts on this site) is a fascinating movie, but not always for the reasons it's creators probably intended. A full half of the 60-minute run time is spent recounting parts of the last John Sweeny Panorama special Scientology and Me. For the most part this has to do with the moment that he began shouting at the Scientology handlers that had been sent to follow and harass him as he filmed. I even remember seeing this clip a while ago even independent of even realizing it was from this special:

He apologizes over and over for losing it here, but he does manage to get a ex-Scientology spokesperson Mike Rinder to admit that he was goaded into having this reaction. He further admits that Sweeney and his crew were followed during the last production.
Beyond that, the rest of what's here is a pretty one-sided conclusion that Scientology is a cult, a claim that is pretty hard to refute given the available evidence. Still, there's really no question about what conclusion Sweeney is going to arrive at by the end of the proceedings when he asks rhetorically whether it's a benevolent organization or something more sinister.
The celebrity interviews that are shown via the Scientology response to the first documentary were barred from appearing in the original. Kirstie Alley, Juliette Lewis and others lash out violently when questioned about their faith. They get especially prickly when the subject of Xenu and the Scientology creation myth are brought up. The stars publicly deny this teaching, which makes sense since apparently it isn't revealed to the participants what they're in for until they've invested a significant amount of time and money. Other former members say this is not acknowledged to outsiders because the information would literally kill them. Heady stuff.
"Cult" is a charged term that's not easy to define. Sweeney believes this fully and the point here isn't to have him go on a journey from one opinion to other. This is as biased in this direction as any production from Scientology would be from the other. He has an agenda. Based on what he uncovers I don't think he's necessarily wrong. His closing argument is to interview family members that have been ripped away from their kin after leaving the confines of the church.
And that does sound a bit cult-y.

Top five things I learned from Wikipedia about North Korea

Translation of North Korean propaganda poster
: "Though the dog barks the procession moves on!"

When Kim Jong-il died 10 days ago, I realized just how little I knew about North Korea. My mental file on the country was pretty thin. Most of it centered around movies I've seen featuring either fictional or documentary portraits, both released in 2004: the puppets in Team America: World Police and the dancers in A State of Mind. The former being Matt Stone and Trey Parker's action-comedy parody and the latter a frightening look at the children who train for years to participate in the country's Mass Games. Well, that and that one George W. Bush State of the Union speech from January 2002.
And that was pretty much it. That means that up until very recently I received around 2/3 of my mental picture of the single-party state from the South Park guys and Dubya. Not an enviable position for your average intellectual.
So, in an effort to further my continual goal of perpetual education, I turned to the one source I always turn to without shame to broaden my horizons: Wikipedia. I've always enjoyed Wikipedia, even if I've never fully trusted it. It can't be used as a source or reference in and of itself, but I have always found it to be one of the quicker ways to ascertain the general idea of any given subject.
And now I present to you without shame, the top five things I learned from Wikipedia about North Korea. Let's get it:

5. After his death, Kim Il-sung was declared the country's Eternal President.

Right out the gate I love this fact. I think there are some people in this country who would declare Washington or Lincoln or Kennedy or whoever Eternal President if they could. I also like how on the Wikipedia page for Kim Il-sung it says that he is the office holder and he is the incumbent, even though this position was taken away in the North Korean constitution meaning that it would take an amendment to have anyone ever succeed him; which they never will.

4. Kim Jong-il's official biography states he was born in a secret military camp on Baekdu Mountain in Japanese Korea on 16 February 1942. Official biographers claim that his birth at Baekdu Mountain was foretold by a swallow, and heralded by the appearance of a double rainbow across the sky over the mountain and a new star in the heavens.

Whoa. "Cult of Personality" isn't just a rad Living Colour song, it's an all too real concept in North Korea. This whole mystical power provided to the royal bloodline as it were is pretty interesting. I say interesting because I don't have to live there and pretend like I think it's a great idea.

3. There is even widespread belief that Kim Il-sung "created the world", and Kim Jong-il could "control the weather".

It's as though in the absence of religion, a state religion has to take it's place. The need for mass control on this level still exists for totalitarian governments, it just takes a different form. There still has to be a willing populace to grant credence to this, though.

2. Reporters without Borders ranked freedom of the press in North Korea as 177th out of 178, above only that of Eritrea.

I don't know what they're doing in Eritrea, but they've got to be screwing things up pretty to fall behind North Korea in this category. When I lived in England I was staggered by the amount of tabloid tactics in even general-issue newspapers. At least they never deified Tony Blair. On second thought, maybe Eritrea and North Korea are just worse at hiding it than other countries.

1. (Kim Jong-un's) eldest half-brother, Kim Jong-nam, had been the favourite to succeed, but reportedly fell out of favour after 2001, when he was caught attempting to enter Japan on a fake passport to visit Tokyo Disneyland.

This one kills me. Of all the things to get taken down for, it had to be this. I can just picture him with his mouse ears on his head and Disney Dollars in his hand being led back to the helicopter. Ironically, the official motto of Tokyo Disneyland is: "Where Dreams Come True". Except for you, Kim Jong-nam, except for you.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Song Review: Van Halen - "Everybody Wants Some!!" (1980)

I started think about this song after finding the below YouTube video of the song. One of the best movies of the past few years, Zombieland, used Van Halen's "Everybody Wants Some!!", along with Metallica's 1985 single "For Whom The Bell Tolls", to great effect. As often happens with movies, it made me love both of these songs more. Just like always, I read the YouTube comments when I knew I probably shouldn't. There's sometimes brilliance, but more than often than not, it's just the 21st Century incarnation of the bathroom wall. A lot of the songs that are used in movies have this same discussion: should it be acceptable to discover and appreciate a song via other media long after it has initially been released?
Here's some of the comments on this video, titled "Everybody Wants Some Zombieland song HQ":

"Thumbs up if you heard this in "Better off dead" before Zombieland."

"Thumbs up if you knew this song before all these movies :P"

"zombieland song? this song was out almost 30 years before zombieland. show some respect put it under van halen-everybody wants some. if it wasnt for zombieland you wouldnt even know about this song like most kids today. keep listening to what mtv tells u..."

"because it shows that you don't search for good music yourself. you probably didnt even know who van halen was before the movie. now this is the part when you lie and tell me youve always listened to van halen"
Here's my take: It doesn't really matter where you find out about a certain song or group or genre, just that you found it. It's all the same. One of my favorite groups when I was in high school was The Who. I first got into them because I saw a preview for the 1998 movie A Bug's Life when I was 15 which featured "Baba O'Riley":

I feel no shame about this. Why should I? Now, if you found out about Journey because of the "Glee" version or Ja Rule because of Kidz Bop, you might want to keep that to yourself.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Movie Review: Con Air (1997)

"If I made films for the critics, or for someone else, I'd probably be living in some small Hollywood studio apartment." — Jerry Bruckheimer on why he makes films

There's a point in every Jerry Bruckheimer movie in which I realize I have no idea what is happening. There is so much random action flying every direction that I have simply lost the plot. That moment often happens more than once during the run time. While I was watching Con Air, another Bruckheimer production, this happened a sum total of three different times, mostly within the last 20 minutes.
I can't totally hate every piece of entertainment Bruckheimer places his hands on. But I will never forgive him for Pearl Harbor. I liked some of his comedies like Bad Boys I and II, The Ref and Days of Thunder (which is supposedly an action movie, but is actually an unintentional comedy.) There's always been something unnameable that's put me off about Con Air. Like Armageddon, he once again places a group of actors I really like into a giant flaming plane. Released a year later, Armageddon would make these actors fly much higher, but a lot of the same plot points still apply.
Bruckheimer's style is on full display here. Con Air is really the gangster and the gentleman that he can be and often is. Con Air has a great hook: parolee on his way home is stuck on prison transport that is being hijacked. How can you not be interested in that plot line? The story is well set up and, however ham-fistedly, he establishes legitimate back-stories for the majority of the main characters, mostly the prisoners.
But it's really only things like budget that restrains him. It certainly isn't good taste. He controls the movie like a 13-year-old boy would if you gave him $75 million and said, "Go!" He can't wait to blow something up or crash something or kill off a few side characters. This is where I start to lose it. And this is the problem: because these types of movies make so much money there's no reason for anyone to tell him to stop.
I didn't see Con Air in the theaters. I was 14 at the time and for whatever reason I didn't make it. I didn't see it until years later when I saw it on VHS, or maybe on T.V.; who can remember? I think that's part of the reason I missed being the target audience for this movie. It really had the highest potential for hitting home when I was on the onset of puberty. For example, when I said earlier that the main characters were well developed I was definitely talking about the male characters. The women characters, which I guess just includes Nic Cage's doting wife and the cross-dressing prisoner, are pretty paper-thin, one-dimensional caricatures. [Editor's note: Ash pointed out that there were two other female characters I left out; Guard Debbie Bishop and Debbie, the six-year-old girl who has the tea party with Garland 'The Marietta Mangler' Greene. I add them here for completeness reasons, but I think the fact that I forgot about them only further proves my point. Also: They're both named Debbie. How lazy can you be!?] It's written like it's from the perspective of someone who had never met a transvestite, homosexual or actual woman before. Just like an early teenager. But that's obviously not true. Bruckheimer was 52 when he produced Con Air.
I've got to say I have something of a beef with any movie that will at one moment hire Dave Chappelle in his prime to be a supporting character and then just disposes of him out of the back of the plane so early in the run time.
Con Air is an anomaly this way. It's like Bruckheimer knows what would be a good idea then he's like, "but what about a 'KA-BOOM' right there?"

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Song Review: Slave - "Just a Touch of Love" (1979)

I just heard this song on the Parliament station on my Pandora. I can't believe I've never encountered it before. It's so addictive. The real hook is the background vocals that implore the name of the song over and over again. The bass is deep and abiding. I honestly don't know why I don't listen to more funk. Here I am slamming back and forth between the Kanye West and Notorious B.I.G. stations on the commute to work when I could be rocking to something like this.
"With just a touch of love..."
Gotta love that sound. Slave is an Ohio band which is apparently a funkier state than I ever gave it credit for. Well, the Dayton part anyway.
About that album cover: I didn't see that when I first got to know this song. Who is the man on the front and what is he doing with that baby? Is it his baby? And if it is, why is he offering it to me? Doesn't he want the baby? And if it's not his baby already, is the baby he will provide you if you buy this record? Will it look just like that?

Movie Review: Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009)

I am a more than a little hesitant when it comes to the idea of indie directors tackling beloved children's tales. That emotion probably springs from my experience with the 2009 Dave Eggers/Spike Jonze collaborative film adaption of Where the Wild Things Are. When I read that book as a child I definitely didn't picture the voice of James Gandolfini being wordy and depressed throughout the wild rumpus. It's like they couldn't help themselves. They had to repaint this wild imaginary ride as this self-congratulatory, heady nostalgia trip.
However, Wes Anderson's Roald Dahl adaption Fantastic Mr. Fox, released the same year, is a blast to watch. It falls into none of the pitfalls that its counterpart was practically leaping into willingly. It's a children's movie that I wouldn't mind re-watching with my as yet non-existent kids, mostly because I'd want an excuse to see it again.
This feeling of kinetic energy is influenced by Anderson's willingness to defy expectations of what a movie like this can be. In a world of Pixar it's endearing that he chose to make his first children's movie in stop-motion animation. Who even does that anymore? I always enjoyed it when I saw it in old movies. I used to rent the 1933 version of King Kong from the library when I was a kid and I was obsessed with the way the stop-motion made the fur move so jauntily. It's like the difference between vinyl and CD. There's something special about hand-made craftsmanship.
Another aspect that I'm so glad of: this is without a doubt a Wes Anderson movie. You'll recognize the staging and the camera angles instantly if you've spent as much time watching Rushmore and The Royal Tenenbaums as I have. Because this is a Wes Anderson movie you can expect to be treated to the usual suspects: Bill Murray, Jason Schwartzman, Owen Wilson and, why not, Meryl Streep and George Clooney thrown in as well. The Streeper is one of the Actresses of her generation and you know how I feel about Clooney.
And just like every other Wes Anderson movie, details are very important to the overall aesthetic. Instead of writing without curse words, Anderson replaces the word "Curse" in the exact location of each potentially objectionable word. This is self-aware and very funny because everyone knows what he's trying to say, but he doesn't have to get weird or creative twisting the sentence around the natural flow of speech that generally contains everyday swearing.
Animals are allowed to be animals as well anthropomorphic stand-ins for human characters. After long spats of dialogue the animals will instantly break back into animal character and loudly and messily devour a plate of food in front of them, crumbs flying in every direction. Or a contentious business meeting will end in an inter-species brawl. And when they're digging underground they're all claws and feet, even as they wear foppish people clothes while they do it.
All these small touches are what makes Fantastic Mr. Fox what it is. Doing a children's movie can be inherently tricky territory for directors used to speaking directly to adults. This movie works in no small part thanks to Anderson's ever-deft control of tension and its release. He knows just how far to let the pressure build before popping the bubble and bringing the proceedings back to earth.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Song Review: Dire Straits - "Money For Nothing" (1985)

There are so many great things about "Money For Nothing":
- Co-writer Sting, yes, that Sting, sings an un-credited background vocal. That's great.
- The groundbreaking video still sticks out in my mind even though I probably first remember seeing around five years after it had already existed. The technology is long-outdated, but still completely compelling.

- Mark Knopfler is a musical genius and the guitar riff here at the center of this song is Exhibit A.
- "Money For Nothing" features the best use of the synthesizer since Van Halen's "Jump" (released just a year before, I'm sensing a pattern about mid-80's rock here.)
- The extended version is even more fun than the original by virtue of being eight minutes and 28 seconds of "Money For Nothing":

- The lyrics of the song are from a first-person perspective of someone who isn't culturally senstive or enlightened. As a result, the majority of this song's Wikipedia page is the controversy over several off-color references and slurs in the lyrics. This is the same reason sarcasm is so hard to pull off in print; people just don't get it.
Obviously, I don't think Dire Straits are homophobic, sexist racists. They're singing from the perspective of the person watching MTV while they have to MOVE the T.V.s. Don't you get it? They're the band on the MTV! It's obviously more awesome to earn money doing what you love instead of drudging away at the bottom.
But that begs the question, if there was no one to buy the color T.V.s would Dire Straits be able to keep living their lifestyle? The lower class needs the upper class needs the lower class. Oh, opposing economic theories!

Movie Review: The Beaver (2011)

In elementary school one of the things I learned when I first started writing were the different types: narrative, expository and persuasive. Narrative writing tells a story, expository writing gives facts and persuasive is meant to convince someone of something. Generally when I'm doing my own writing these days I'm able to discern pretty clearly what kind of writing I'm doing. But with this piece I'm not sure which category to file it under. It's really all three.
I'm going to tell you a story to convince you of the fact that this movie exists.
Because that's the hardest part to accept about The Beaver: that it exists. You will never be able to relax the entire time this movie is playing. And the worst part of it is that it wants you to feel just the opposite. Director/Co-Star Jodie Foster (!) desperately wants you to feel warmed and comforted yet you feel disturbed and off-kilter constantly.
Hey, here's a fun exercise: Try to get this fact through your head: Mel Gibson spends every second of the movie playing an American CEO of a failing family business talking in third person in an Australian accent through a beaver puppet he found in a dumpster. It took until the credits were rolling to come to terms with this fact. See how long it takes you.
Things get off to a rocky start already before the movie even starts. You know how when there's a movie that features smoking how there's inevitably an anti-smoking ad nestled in the previews? Well, since The Beaver's inciting incident is Gibson's character Walter Black being clobbered in the head by a television after a failed suicide attempt in a hotel room, the following ad for, I guess, depression, plays:

You feeling any better yet? Did that warm the old heart cockles?
I first became aware of The Beaver a few months after he completely imploded in 2010 (most recently, not the other time in 2006).

I wondered how Gibson was ever going to bounce back after I heard these tapes of him threatening Oksana Grigorieva:

A few months later, this was the first Mel Gibson joint to be released since these crazy, crazy recordings were leaked. It's notable that Foster stood by him in the aftermath of this, at least for a while. I guess their last joint collaboration, 1994's Maverick, was more than just a moderately re-watchable movie I remember seeing all the time on HBO when I was a kid. The Beaver was such an odd career choice for Mel Gibson at this point. Would no one else hire him except his only friend left? Surely the Christian community could have given him some more work after the rousing commercial success of The Passion of the Christ. I also find it strange that Jodie Foster would be so willing to hitch her highest-budgeted (and third) directorial effort to a star with so much baggage. And such a weird concept, no less. I still don't understand the logic of any of this.
For a movie that cost $21 million to make, it earned back less than 1/3 of that in box office receipts. That's really a shame because it means that not many people saw this movie initially. It really does deserve to be seen, if only to be believed. Then again maybe it's a good thing. Maybe people will think twice before green-lighting things like this. Taking chances is one thing. Leaping off a cliff and hoping for the best is quite another.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Song Review: The Beta Band - "Dry The Rain" (1997)

When The Beta Band's "Dry The Rain" (1997) was featured in High Fidelity (2000) the exchange between main character Rob (John Cusack) and his record store customer goes something like this:

Customer: This is a great song.
Rob: I know.

This is while the iconic trumpet part is playing over the store speakers in Championship Vinyl. This scene would not have worked if the song being referred to by the characters was not, in fact, a great song. The fact that it is makes the self-assured arrogance of Rob's response to his customer's visceral response ties the whole scene together. Before he even puts it on, he bets his coworkers that just by playing this song he will move multiple copies of The Beta Band's compilation album The Three E.P.'s (1999). He knew it was going to be like this.
The other great thing about "Dry The Rain" is that I knew that it was a slow burn that built towards a simmering climax even before I heard the entire song. Only the end really plays in the movie, but something about it feels epic even if you only hear a short snippet. It really only gets better every time you hear it. It really just gives and gives.
I also respect the fact that the trumpet part near the end doesn't need to be flashy to be memorable. Its slow, mournful wail over the final moments of the song seal the deal. They are everything they're supposed to be. I played trumpet in high school band and the implication with brass instruments is the lay into everything. It's an easy instrument to overdo just because it can be Alpha Dog. It takes restraint to do it correctly.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Movie Review: Catching Hell (2011)

Poor, poor Steve Bartman.
That's that only thought I have after watching Alex Gibney's powerful documentary on that fateful foul ball in the eighth inning of Game 6 of the 2003 National League Championship Series. With only five outs standing between the seemingly cursed Chicago Cubs and the World Series, super fan Steve Bartman accidentally stopped Mois├ęs Alou from closing his glove over the ball hit by Luis Castillo of the Florida Marlins. The Cubs went on to lose not only that game, but then the rest of the series.
Here's what everyone seemed to forget, at least in the days and weeks after the incident:
- The Cubs had been up 3-0 before the fan interference, but let go of eight runs in the next half inning.
- There was still another game after this one to be played, which the Cubs promptly lost.
- At least a half a dozen other people besides Bartman reached for the ball at the same time.
- The official rule book of professional baseball states that any fan interference means that batter is automatically called out. This did not happen.
Gibney does a fantastic job of pointing all this out, though he doesn't let Bartman completely off the hook. He points out that Alou probably would have caught the ball otherwise. Also, previous video footage shows Bartman waving his arms wildly when the camera is swung towards him.
As Gibney says in his voiceover, "be careful what you wish for."
Yet and still, Bartman obviously got a raw deal. As someone who wears glasses and enjoys walking around with headphones strapped to my head (I can't sympathize with the turtleneck, though) it's an eerie reminder that it could just have easily been anyone, even me. I mean, think about it: if a foul ball is headed straight at you, you're going to be starting straight at it, not thinking, "well, for the good of the franchise, the city and the apparently fragile psyches of the thousands of fans around me, I should take a step back."
Of course not.
You would have done the same thing.
I would have done the same thing.
I'm convinced the crowd instantly turned their ire on Bartman mostly because he looked so distinct. If he'd been a bit more nondescript he might not have had to go into seclusion afterwards. (He really should have invested in some earbuds.)
Even eight years after the incident it's still eerie to hear the shrieks of Cubs fans who were screaming for Bartman's blood after it was decided he would be the scapegoat. I'm convinced that the security guards, several of which were featured here, hadn't stepped in he would have been murdered right then and there. It was that serious.
All this really points to one fact about sports: it's really just a reflection of our inner psyche. At its best sports can show how far we've come as a species. At its worst it shows how far we have to go.
And if what Steve Bartman had to endure is any indication we have a long, long way to go.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Book Review: Skyjack: The Hunt For D.B. Cooper by Geoffrey Gray (2011)

No offense, Geoffrey Gray, but I hope you never find D.B. Cooper.
The story is just too cool to let it be weighed down with gutting facts. Can we just believe in one thing as a nation? What good is any of this madness around us if someone can't casually board a plane, ransom the passengers for $200,000 (in 1971 money; $1.1 million today) and then lash the money to his chest with parachute string, all before making a leaping from the aft stairs of a moving jet with another parachute...and then become the ONLY skyjacking that has gone unsolved in the history of air travel?
If we catch D.B. Cooper then that's one more mythic story I can't believe in.
Can we just let him have the win? Hasn't he done enough?
As far as gripping narrative, though, Skyjack definitely delivers.
I don't want to spoil anything, but we still don't know who D.B. Cooper is to this day. That gives Gray the ability to have a non-ending feel satisfying. We know from reading this tome that if anyone put in the work necessary to find the answers if they were still there to be found, he would be the one who would have found it. You can't say he or anyone else who has carried the torch for this case throughout the years failed for lacking of trying.
Gray is also a really, really good storyteller. I've been interested from afar in the D.B. Cooper case pretty much since I found out about it. I have a vague memory of watching what would have had to have been this 1981 Treat Williams/Robert Duvall alternate history film: The Pursuit of D.B. Cooper. Ever since then I've been hooked. This narrative only once again stoked the fires of my interest. I'm a born conspiracy theorist and the idea that D.B. Cooper is part of some larger plot is definitely appealing. At this point, any theory is just as good as the next.
As a journalist, I appreciate the fact that to properly write a true crime novel, true and total commitment is necessary. Gray has that covered and then some.
But hasn't D.B. Cooper given back the value of the $200,000 he stole to our collective imagination countless times over?

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Movie Review: Aaah! Zombies!! (Wasting Away) (2007)

The genre of zombie movies is a very capitalistic system.
In both, constant expansion on the preexisting condition is essential to its success. This phenomenon can, and does, create economic bubbles that inevitably burst. This can lead to stagnation and regression in the future.
But every once in a while the entrepreneurial spirit not only pushes the envelope, but tosses it right off the table.
Aaaah! Zombies!! (later re-titled Wasting Away) is a shining example of this concept. The zombie paradigm has been poked and prodded at so many ways it's hard to believe that anything fresh could be wrung out the concept. But just as the invisible hand of the market drove Domino's to stuff cheese in the crust, so this lack of other options produced this movie.
Aaaah! Zombies!! prods more deeply than any other film before it a concept its predecessors only hinted at: the first person view of the zombie condition.
To my knowledge, this is the most in depth exploration of what it's like on the other side. The reason the zombies start in this movie is not unlike the Rage virus in 2002's 28 Days Later: government-created biological warfare gone wrong. That doesn't really matter here. (Well, it does to the plot of the movie, but it doesn't contribute to what makes this movie extraordinary.) Regardless, when the core group is infected the movie goes from being in black and white to color. The rules of the movie are as follows: When it's from the zombies point of view, everything is in in color. Conversely, what the zombies look like to the non-infected humans around them is presented in black and white. The zombies don't realize they're zombies. In fact, they think the humans are the infected ones. Zombies appear to be lumbering corpses to the rest of humanity, but the from the zombie POV the humans are moving and talking extremely fast.
Who has ever gone there before or since?
This film is worth seeing if for no other reason this: if you or I or anyone saw it late night on television, one would almost think the whole thing was a dream. There is no comparison for this movie. This movie has no point of reference except its own.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

I didn't forget 9/11, 9/11 forgot me

Hey, remember this guy from your Junk E-mail folder from about 9.75 years ago?

I completely missed the entire sequence of events the first 9/11, so why would my observance of the 10th anniversary be any different? The clock in the corner of my screen says it is 10:14 p.m. That makes sense, me publishing this article with just minutes to spare until it's 9/12; given my history with the date.
On the morning of September 11, 2001, I was attending one of my twice-per-week laboratory sessions. It was the start of the first full month of my academic career at Indiana University in Bloomington, Ind. It was just minutes before 8 a.m. when I raced to the bike rack on the eastern side of Teter Quadrangle, unlocked my bicycle and sailed down the steep alleyway that was/is North Teter Drive. I crossed 7th Street and continued onto Sunrise Drive. I quickly put on the brakes. After lashing the contraption to the rack outside the School of Education building I power walked in through the side entrance.
And there I stayed from just a few seconds after 8 a.m. until 11:13 a.m.
Meanwhile, during this time history as we know it was changing forever.
Later people would tell me of watching CNN live at 9:03 a.m. and seeing the American Airlines Flight 175 nearly explode through the opposite side of the south tower. And me? I was obliviously being bored to tears by a recreation of grade school science experiment involving measurement of liquids.
The class actually ended at 11:15 a.m., but one of the teacher's assistants came into the room shaking and holding a piece of paper. We could see her face was red and flustered. She had been crying very recently. As she spoke, she began weeping again.
She related the gory details in a clipped tone. Hijackers had flown planes into the World Trade Center building. They've both collapsed. The Pentagon has been destroyed. There might be another plane down.
Suddenly the work in front of us seemed even less engaging than before.
But as people began quietly and not so quietly freaking out, the stern-looking male/female pair leading the class sought to quiet the classroom. We still had work in front of us, finish your assignments please.
I can't believe this, I thought to myself. The world might very well be ending and I'm going to die right here on the hard metal stool.
But being completely shocked, me and everyone else in the classroom did as we were told, finishing the worksheet and leaving the class in a rush.
Back at Teter Quad, every television was blaring and the same images kept playing over and over again. People were losing their minds.
Nonetheless, the entire day the university refused to cancel classes.
Being the meek and mild freshman I was, I dutifully cut through the campus in chaos and managed to show up for my afternoon English class. I was only one of about six of what is usually at least a 20-strong classroom who bothered to show up. The graduate student assigned to teach the class could barely keep it together the whole time we were in there, which only turned out to be 15 minutes. After managing to squeak out a few barely coherent phrases, she dismissed those of us who had obeyed and attended.
She thought it was best that we deal privately.
So, today, 3,652 days later, what did I do? I woke up just before 7:15 a.m., drove my car to work, arrived just before 8 a.m. and didn't get home until around 5:30 p.m.
Tradition intact.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Myspace: Haven't thought about that in a year

The one and only photo of the author on Myspace. Not recent. If I go missing and you need a picture to put on the billboard, please use something more current.

Think back to a time when you've had the lid on the trash can for too long. I'm talking about the time when you've left the house and didn't take out the rubbish first. Everything inside has been festering the whole time.
You never even thought about it. You've had a nice long vacation. You're ready to be greeted the by the comforts of home.
And you open the lid.
And the smell hits you.
And it's so pungent that the element of surprise is the only thing that keeps the hot trash air hitting you in the face from doubling you over.
That's what visiting my Myspace page today was like.
The reason I thought of that today was because Ash and I were having a conversation on the porch. During our exchange she mentioned Myspace. I felt total and complete, not nostalgia because that's not the right word, but rememberance. As I've discussed before, this is not the first time I've had this feeling towards a website. We're now past the point where only physical objects make up our memories. Virtual destinations are now stops along our path toward this moment.
Is it dangerous? It's certainly embarrassing.
If you click on the above link to my profile (which I definitely wouldn't be upset if you didn't) you'll see it's unchanged. I intentionally left everything as I found it when I checked on it today.
It's me, but it's someone else.
This person is just "in a relationship" and not married. This person lives in Ukiah, Calif. I live in Noblesville, Ind. This person also somehow seems to be simultaneously working two jobs at the same time (due to an editing mistake) and this one works at neither of those places.
This person looks like me. All their interests are the same. (I definitely don't use that e-mail address anymore.) I bet we'd get along quite well in a real social setting, if such a thing were possible.
But this is not me.
This is a time capsule.
Unlike e-mail, social networking is public. There was no expectation of privacy from the beginning, and especially at Myspace. Facebook at least started out as only for Harvard students and then only for college students. It descended downwards. Everyone can still get on Facebook now, but it took a while to get there.
If social networking was a party: Facebook at least started the party checking IDs. Myspace just held the door open while the bouncer wasn't looking.
The point is, long after we're all dead. Our Myspace profiles will still be out there lurking somewhere. I'm not going to delete my Myspace account. There are a handful of people I have no other method of communication with. Even though I've just spent this long writing about it, I really don't have the energy to change anything on it now.
So, Myspace: same time next year?

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Picture(s) of the Day: One-of-a-kind item

Going to Goodwill can be a relief from the confines of the normal shopping experience. Often this can spring from an item being available that is otherwise exinct. Then there are items like that I'm pretty sure have never been on sale before this. It's a two-part clay tchotchke that looks like something someone made at an adults-only summer camp. Behold:

Movie Review: Forgetting Sarah Marshall (2008)

In retrospect, Forgetting Sarah Marshall shares many elements in common with another 2008 movie: Iron Man. Both were launching pads for a plethora of separate, but ultimately inter-related films.
Forgetting Sarah Marshall starred Jason Segel as a musician who yearns to write a puppet Dracula musical. Via IMBd:
Screenwriter and star Jason Segel told New York Times interviewer Dave Itzkoff that both the naked breakup and Dracula puppet musical scenes were drawn from his real life experiences. In the article, Segel admitted that he really did once have a girlfriend who broke up with him while he was completely naked (although rather than being devastated during it, he thought to himself, "This is hilarious. I cannot wait for her to leave so I can write this down.") And before he was a successful actor, Segel tried to write a musical adaptation of "Dracula" for puppets.
Now having had a successful starring role along these very realistic lines with Forgetting Sarah Marshall Segel is now co-starring in the new Muppets movie, for which he also co-wrote the script. (He sadly sings the Muppet Show theme song on the piano before dissolving into tears at his lowest point in Forgetting Sarah Marshall.) Russell Brand, who stars here as spacey British pop star Aldos Snow, later reprises his role in 2010 in the spin-off sequel Get Him To The Greek. Not only that, but Jonah Hill stars in both films as different characters, but each of whom worship Snow and put up with abuse to be around him.
Iron Man, on the other hand, stars Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark a.k.a the titular character. Since the massive success of the first movie, a sequel was made in 2010 and Iron Man 3 is planned for 2013. Before that happens, though Joss Whedon-penned The Avengers Film is set to tie the whole room together. Via Wikipedia:
It is part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which crosses over several Marvel superhero films including Iron Man (2008), The Incredible Hulk (2008), Iron Man 2 (2010), Thor (2011) and Captain America: The First Avenger (2011).
Iron Man came out in May and The Incredible Hulk came out in June so it's still technically first. Plus, Iron Man made twice as much money, so it's success was the real reason for this franchise's existence. Just like Forgetting Sarah Marshall!
I just wanted to get that off my chest. I guess I forgot to review the movie. Here it is:
It's great. Go see it if you haven't already. The extended version is even funnier.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Picture of the Day: Can opener fail

We haven't had what you'd call the best luck with can openers.
That is to say, we haven't had something that didn't eventually fall apart in our hands performing the one job it's put on the earth to do: open cans. That's it. That's all I've asked it to do: perform the function from which it derives its name.
But I digress.
Our most recent disappointment arrived recently when the replacement can opener we bought at Target crumbled in our hands. We turned the crank, but this time instead of opening the can, the plastic surrounding the base of the blade cracked and flaked off piece by piece. We were barely able to open that one last can before it all went south for good. There was nothing left of the device by the end. You could turn the crank, but the only thing you'd be opening would be your imagination to the idea of buying a new can opener the next time you left the house.
And now it came to this.
Since we still needed to open a can even after this, we did the next best thing: forced the can open manually. No crank; only the force of a lever and leverage. It's probably not supposed to open whole cans. We did anyway. We had to.
I'm happy to report that we've since purchased a heavy, relatively expensive can opener, that has yet to be removed from the packaging. The device that performed the above pictured surgery is going back to the store. I kept both the packaging and the receipt, for once.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Movie Review: Hannibal (2001)

The main problem with Hannibal is the replacement of Jodie Foster with Julianne Moore in the role of Agent Clarice Starling. That is, if anyone could ever said to have replaced such an iconic role. It just reminds us of the move that could have been. By the time Jodie Foster said "no" to reprising her role from Silence of the Lambs the whole production should have scrapped the idea of bringing her character back. The reunion of Dr. Hannibal Lecter and Starling is only thrilling because it was denied to the audience in the original 1991 film.
It's a reunion of two actors who were last seen together in 1996's Surviving Picasso. This was not a sequel to that movie, nor is it a true sequel to Silence of the Lambs.
None of that is to say that Hannibal is a bad movie, it isn't. It is most interesting when it breaks free of the very thing that makes it exist in the first place. The plight of the tortured (emotionally, and later in a more physical way) Italian cop, Insp. Renaldo Pazzi (Giancarlo Giannini) is an attention-worthy subplot. The locations are stunning and make watching such a casually violent movie beautiful and interesting to look at (the doctor has excellent taste in countries to flee to in case of manhunt.) I mean, whatever else it is, it's still a Ridley Scott movie starring Anthony Hopkins with a script co-written by David "Glengarry Glen Ross" Mamet.
It's hard to believe it's been 10 years since this movie came out, but it hasn't stopped being creepy. Thankfully, they haven't neutered Lecter once he's off the chain. There's really nothing you wouldn't expect Lecter to do. He has no lines left to cross.
The first time I watched the final dinner scene I couldn't stop laughing. I couldn't believe what I was seeing. At the time I thought it was because it was funny. I think in retrospect I was so shocked I reverted to laughter because I didn't know what other response was appropriate. I had no expectation or frame of reference for what I was experiencing.
That's the best kind of horror movie.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Picture of the Day: Canadian Geese in Indiana

Like the majority of the rest of eastern half of continental United States, Indiana is home to seasonal and year-round water foul. I guess I always knew this growing up here, but it took leaving Indiana for three years to live in Northern California and come back again to really understand how close large wild bird populations come to humans here. Our apartment complex is within walking distance of no less than half a dozen wetlands.
Immediately after this picture was taken the bird pictured made a hasty retreat. I posit that the only reason it stayed so long was that it was trying to finish whatever possibly breaded item it was snacking upon.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Picture of the Day: PetSmart Horses

I dropped Ash off at Barnes & Noble and headed to PetsMart a few doors down to buy Spike's dog food. I barely made it there before calling Ash and telling her to walk down and meet me.
The above scene was what played out before me.
Two horses and the pair of women riding them had started outside and then, without warning, directed themselves inside. Horses in big box store are generally reserved for fever dreams I've had when my temperature has topped 100 degrees Fahrenheit. I had honestly never imagined this in my waking life.
I still have no firm answer as to why they were there. They were later seen ambling down the grass beside the highway.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Picture of the Day: At the fireworks store; pre-July 4th

The fireworks store near my apartment sell dreams for cash.
The advertising contained on and around the packaging is astonishing. Pop culture references are traded back and forth (all stop just short of outright copyright infringement.) Bright colors are everywhere. Adjectives and hyperbole are the order of the day.
The promise is simple: light, sound and smoke.
The explosive pictured above was the largest item I saw for sale in the store. The wick looked real. I have no idea what happens if you light it.
I imagine it's loud.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Picture of the Day: Free inSTEP Bicycle Trailer!

I noticed this whilst taking the trash out to the dumpster tonight. Fellow residents of my apartment complex often leave strangely intricate (READ: expensive) items in the recycling area, but this struck me as especially noteworthy. I looked it up and apparently this model retails for $199.99. And some is just giving it away for free ninety-nine? I don't own a bicycle to pull this with or children to strap into, if I had either I probably would have snagged it.
This person obviously either:
- Doesn't know what it's worth.
- Has money, knows what it's worth and doesn't care.
- Knows something terrible happened, knows how much it could sell for, but just wants to get rid of it.
If this was left in a Northern California dumpster a crystal meth tweeker would have already thrown their pack in the back and rolled away with it.
Meanwhile, Central Indiana doesn't seem to notice or care whether or not this is there.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Will there/should there be another Jackass movie?

Surely this is the secret question that immediately popped into heads of everyone who cared upon hearing the news of Ryan Dunn's awful death Monday.
A couple of thoughts:

1) At some point along the way, all of the CKY/Jackass crew, and Bam Margera in particular had to have at least drawn up some rough mental sketch of this day. Watching the highlight reel of Dunn's early work it's a wonder he didn't perish sooner. (Feel free to mute the sound on this video.)

He certainty earned the title “daredevil”. Someone in this clique was bound to die some day doing something they shouldn't be doing. It was really just a matter of time.

2) Alcohol was definitely a contributing factor to this tragedy.
Alcohol was also definitely a contributing factor to the Jackass empire.
Miller was a sponsor of the film franchise as the performers were allowed to imbibe as much as they could keep down. At one point, Dunn even breaks the fourth wall and announces that he could sure go for a Miller High Life. Considering how things turned out it seems incredibly inappropriate in retrospect.
Big Daddy Cha Cha weighs in:
"That's too bad. I first heard about it when a coworker falsely reported to me that it was Bam Margera who had died in the car accident. Too bad for Roger Ebert; he was a little crass, perhaps. I assumed they would find Dunn to have been a little tipsy, but not like this, and Ebert would continue to be ridiculed. But at 140MPH, I think Ebert is completely justified for what he said. After all, it wasn't just the driver that was killed, and it's damned lucky that it wasn't a whole bunch more innocent people, considering that speed...
I may have to get around to checking out that latest Jackass movie now..."

3) There's too much money on the table for MTV and everyone else involved. Of course there is going to be another movie. The first film cost $5 million to make a returned $79 million. The second one more than doubled the budget still brought down $84 million. The bill for the most recent installment of $20 million was more than returned when it came home with yet another $170 million.

4) They really should not make any more movies. The bloom is off the bush. As Rick James as channeled by Dave Chappelle would say, "The milk has gone bad!" The central conceit of the show is now damaged. Every time I see Ryan Dunn all I can think of is how everything went pear-shaped for him in the end.

5) Then again, maybe they could pull off it and come off as classy. I'd be pleased if they were able to make it work. The degree of difficulty is quite high.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

On the death of Ryan Dunn

The first business day of the week got off to a horrendous start when Jackass/CKY star Ryan Dunn and passenger Zachary Hartwell died a violent single-car wreck early Monday morning in Eastern Pennsylvania.
CNN's Alan Duke sums up what we know so far:
"Jackass" star Ryan Dunn was drunk and speeding up to 140 mph when his 2007 Porsche 911 GT3 crashed and caught fire on a Pennsylvania highway early Monday, police said Wednesday.
Dunn and Zachary Hartwell, a 30-year-old West Chester, Pennsylvania, man who once worked in one of Ryan's movies, died from "blunt and thermal trauma" in the fiery crash, according to the autopsy report released Tuesday.
"The initial crash reconstruction investigation determined that Mr. Dunn's vehicle was traveling between 132-140 mph at the time of the collision," West Goshen Police Chief Michael Carroll said in a statement Wednesday.
Toxicology testing by the coroner indicated Dunn's blood alcohol concentration was 0.196%, which is more than twice the legal state limit of 0.08, Carroll said.
My first emotion was deep sadness and loss, but not surprise. In high school I taped episodes of Jackass off television on VHS whenever they came on. My friends passed around tapes of underground Jackass forerunner Camp Kill Yourself like they were a drug we weren't supposed to be taking. Through all of this, Dunn remained amongst my favorite of the crowded crew. Never the instigator, always the reluctant participant, Dunn provided a needed balance to Bam Margera's fevered ego. Where Bam was ever torturing his long-suffering parents April and Phil, Dunn exuded genuine niceness.
He didn't want to hurt anybody, all he ever wanted was to roll of your roof in an open-topped barrel.
On a side note, like so many people who have been forced to report on this story for various news organizations who obviously have no idea who they're writing about, Duke consults IMDb oracle and manages to completely mangle the title Minghags.
The red-bearded Dunn, 34, was famous for his pranks and dangerous stunts on the show, which evolved into a successful film franchise.
Hartwell worked as a stunt car driver on "Minghads," a 2009 comedy directed by "Jackass" star Bam Margera and featuring Dunn, according to the Internet Movie Database.
Dunn teamed up with "Jackass" co-star Steve-O for an episode of the NBC game show "Minute to Win It" that aired on June 8.
He also hosted "Proving Ground," which premiered on the G4 channel on June 14.
Possibly the only good to come out of any of this is straight-laced journalists having to write the word Minghags in a hard news story. It reminds me of when Ol' Dirty Bastard was in the news every five minutes and Dan Rather had to pronounce Russell Jones' stage name without breaking character. I'd like to think Dunn would have found the humor.
In any event, people have been reverse engineering signs that Dunn's fiery auto wreck was all but inevitable. Dunn's Wikipedia page is currently little more than a collection of these mentions:
Dunn took part in the characteristic stunts that made Jackass famous. While taping a skit for Jackass: The Movie, Dunn was driving a golf cart with Johnny Knoxville as his passenger. The idea was that he would launch the golf cart over a sandtrap and into a plastic statue of a giant pig, and the statue would be crushed. However, the statue did not crush, but instead forced the golf cart into the air and it landed upside down. Dunn was thrown from the cart, and Knoxville landed on his neck with the cart on top of him. In the commentary for the movie, Bam Margera noted Dunn's bad driving.
Another skit in Jackass: The Movie featured Dunn placing a toy car into his rectum. The car was placed inside a condom and was covered in lubricant. He then visited a doctor and complained of pain in his tailbone. An x-ray session revealed that a small car was lodged in his body bringing surprise to the doctor. Dunn was also featured in Jackass Number Two.

In a classic case of "too soon" (also known as "when keeping it real goes wrong"), Roger Ebert got into quite a bit of hot water lately for suggesting via Twitter that Dunn's death might, in some way, have been caused at least in part by alcohol abuse. (This was yesterday before the toxicology tests came back.)
Dunn was rewarded most of his life for taking outrageous risks. He was rewarded with friendship, fame, riches, love. Why wouldn't his brain's rewiring change to suit this new reality?
It's hard to see myself ever driving drunk at 140 miles per hour in the middle of the night, but I can see how he got there.
Circumstance aside, there now are two people, who were by all accounts high-quality individuals, who are now dead.
And they don't need to be.
And I don't know what else say because chiding someone who's already paid the ultimate price for their own carelessness seems redundant.
While I was writing this piece a strangely prescient song came on the Cake Radio station on Pandora which I happened to be listening to: Johnny Cash's "God's Gonna Cut You Down". I think I'll end with that:

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Picture of the Day: "Morels - $49.99/lb"

I took this picture at the Marsh supermarket near our apartment. It is late spring and mushroom hunting season has just finished peaking here in Indiana. Ash and I found mounds of morels near her parents' cabin, so we didn't feel the need to pay the exorbitant prices found here. Also, they were in the open air drying out, so they weren't moist and fresh like they should be.
Regardless, I estimate that if you digested diligently you could probably consume about $150 worth of morels before a manager arrived to have you arrested.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Movie Review: 127 Hours (2010)

There will never be another movie like 127 Hours.
And maybe that's a good thing.
The true story of Aron Ralston (James Franco) is so excruciating to watch there is truly no way I can imagine every desiring to see this movie ever again. This Danny Boyle joint belongs beside other classy squirmfests such as Requiem For a Dream and Happiness in the one-hitter quitter category. The inevitable plane-into-the-side-of-the-mountain moment happens remarkably quickly in the run-time. No sooner has he left his house without taking his Swiss army knife or telling anyone where he's going, does he escort a pair lost female hikers to safety. Twenty minutes into the film and we're already trapped in the crevasse with Aron, his arm pulverized behind a giant boulder. And all he has to comfort him comprises of a video camera, digital camera, dull multi-tool, one bottle of water, his Capital One card--
Which brings me to one of the most distracting features about 127 Hours: the incessant product placement. During a dream sequence he images out loud how refreshing a Mountain Dew would be. When he has another hallucination he plots the route back to his abandoned car, only to find a sweaty bottle of Gatorade waiting for him. Another vision has him watching a beautiful woman sip from glass bottle of Pepsi. Needless to say, the PepsiCo family of products was well-represented here. I'm almost surprised we didn't see him eat a hearty breakfast of Quaker Oats and a Naked Juice to wash it down with and a refreshing Lipton Tea to finish. Once could almost create a drinking game of the corporate shout outs.
And believe me, you'll want to drink.
SPOILER ALERT: He chops his arm off with the dull blade of the Made-In-China multi-tool to get out.
But then, you knew that already, didn't you?
I don't want to give away the whole movie, but it may or may not surprise you to learn that we get to see the real Aron Ralston in yet another dream sequence at the end of the movie. I imagine that having James Franco play you in movie by the director of 28 Days Later couldn't feel that bad.
For all its problems, this is still probably just about as well as this concept could have been executed. Danny Boyle drags us down the hole and doesn't let us out until we've actually felt like we getting our own limbs severed. I flinched and moaned on several occasions, but I feel like they pulled off a really good movie. Everyone here is talented and determined: from subject to actor to director.
And in the end that's what counts: for whatever else anyone wants to say about Aron Ralston, one thing is true: when it counted he did whatever he needed to do to survive.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Movie Review: Paranormal Activity (2007)

The first horror movie I ever saw in theaters was The Blair Witch Project. My friend Jonathan and I were so riveted that we filmed our own reenactment once in the woods behind my dad's house. I have a sentimental attachment to the genre of horror movies predicated on the "real" public display of discovered footage of the dead and presumed dead.
This form of expression is second cousin to the mockumentary. (The Office, Best in Show) When applied correctly the effect is primal. Your suspension of disbelief is the price of admission.
But Paranormal Activity could be subtitled When Keeping It Real Goes Wrong.
There's nothing wrong with this movie that some recasting couldn't solve. Heather Donahue, Joshua Leonard and Michael Williams oftentimes look Shakespearean in hindsight compared to the on-screen action on display here. Another advantage in favor of Blair Witch: the woods were endless; this house, however, is certainty not. And the characters know it. And so do we, from the very first scene to the last.
The film begins with a inscription thanking the families of Micah Sloat and Katie Featherstone as well as the San Diego Police Department. Here's the thing: if anyone actually had found footage of people being murdered or led to their deaths, releasing it theatrically would be so transparently exploitative that no one would try it. Even Werner Herzog wouldn't air the tape of Timothy Treadwell and his girlfriend being eaten by a bear in Grizzly Man. In fact, he advised the owner to destroy it after listening to it through headphones.
Although, it would take a swap from Katie Featherton and Micah Sloat to Meryl Streep and Robert De Niro make this concept work. The point is: once you've seen Blair Witch, and even Cloverfield, what are you supposed to do with this?
Although on a budget of only $15,000 they made a film that grossed $193,355,800. So what do I know?

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Song Review: D.J. Jazzy Jeff and The Fresh Prince - "I Think I Can Beat Mike Tyson"

D.J. Jazzy Jeff and The Fresh Prince's summer jam of 1989, "I Think I Can Beat Mike Tyson", represents true artists at work. A long way from singing along with a Phil Collins record in The Hangover, Mike Tyson was on top of his game in the final year of the 80's. That year he was undefeated after administering TKOs to opponents Frank Bruno and Carl Williams. In this song, the Fresh Prince decides to pick a fight with Tyson BECAUSE he is the fiercest. The plot of the song's story arc has him on the receiving end of multiple knuckle sandwiches.
The synopsis for the video for this song, as posted on the Wikipedia article:
After watching several tapes of the unbeaten, and seemingly invincible heavyweight boxing champion Mike Tyson, Fresh Prince (Will Smith) gets the strange idea that he has managed to find a way to defeat the champ, and manages to convince Don King to arrange a match in two months and DJ Jazzy Jeff to train him. No one gives Fresh Prince any chance – reporters covering his camp are booing (compounded by Fresh Prince's unrealistic brags, such as performing 4 million situps in a minute and throwing a Volkswagen half a city block), his barber thinks he can beat him, but only if he used a baseball bat (and asks if he can have his shoes once Tyson kills him), and Fresh Prince even hears his own grandmother bet $1,000 against him. As predicted, the fight doesn't go well, and Prince manages to avoid being punched for a second, only to get hit in the body (at which point, he says to be discreet, "let's just say that my bowels released"). He stumbles back to his corner, who insist he continue fighting, so he hits DJ Jazzy Jeff and the fight ends. At the end of the video, DJ Jazzy Jeff thinks that, by watching both the Tyson tapes and Fresh Prince in training, that now he could beat Tyson, only to have Fresh Prince say "no one can beat him" and abruptly end the song. Interspersed in the song is a conversation between two older men, Leroy and another unnamed man. The unnamed man claims to have attended a Tyson fight and saw Tyson's opponent's head fly "into the 18th row" while Leroy thinks Tyson is a football player from Montreal (in an extended version of the song, Leroy replies that the other man hadn't been "off the block in 18 years"). Three guest stars appear in the accompanying music video. Mike Tyson himself shows up as The Fresh Prince's opponent. Don King also appears in the video, and Alfonso Ribeiro (future co-star of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air) appears as a member of the fighting crew's posse.
The Lonely Island pay homage to this track on their just-released disc, Turtleneck and Chain, with their song "Rocky". In this version, though, there is no next time. The protagonist is stomped out of existence.

Will Smith's very real desire to achieve ultimate fame, success and wealth is what makes his instant reaction to seeing Tyson's skills as a direct threat to his own so believable. The concept is made that much more palpable as he is shown as being somewhat humbled by the reality of actually fighting Tyson. The end of the song does end with him saying that no one can beat Tyson, yet Jazzy Jeff has just decided that he himself could take the Heavyweight champion of the world.
No one really believes that this is the last time these two will challenge a title holder.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Movie Review: "Shine a Light" (2008)

The main dramatic tension of the Martin Scorsese-directed, Rolling Stones-starring concert film “Shine a Light” seems to be the lack of an ordered set list. Scorsese wants one and the Stones won’t give him one until the very last second. This fact is one of the only things I knew about this movie before I started watching it.
Nevertheless, the Rolling Stones are more active than most people of their age group (even if they can’t get a set list together on time), especially the Glimmer Twins themselves Mick and Keith. Clearly, the Rolling Stones don’t need anyone to feel sorry for them anytime soon.
They don’t require your pity.
The archive interview and concert footage is great and very well selected by Scorsese. At one point a young Mick suggests that his then-two-year-long career could even go as long as another year. Comedy in editing is fully achieved when the screen once again fills with the image of present-day Jagger prancing on stage.
Also, we can tell that Marty had to have a hand in the song selection, which relies heavily on the hits. The biggest surprise after the credits rolled was the conspicuous absence of Scorsese favorite “Gimme Shelter”, which he seems to use every third movie. In fact, if I had to pick one song that definitely would be included before watching, it would have been that one. No matter, what’s here is still great.
Another interesting point is that the subtitles are far and few between, but they are present. Normally, if music plays during a movie and no dialogue is on the screen a music note will appear, often with a dry description like “fast rock plays.” Here they spare us and only include text when spoken.
In the absence of a dramatic arc, I played a game with myself where I tried to predict the best moment of the movie in real time:
I would say the appearance of President Bill Clinton on stage to do a meet and greet with both Scorsese and the Stones is the most surprising, delightful moment of the film. Hillary appears later on, which is really not that shocking when it is revealed that this is, in fact, a benefit for the Clinton Foundation.
…20 minutes later…
OMG, I take that back; Jack White just showed up on stage to duet with Mick for lead vocal and guitar for “Loving Cup”.

…20 minutes later…
OK, now Buddy Guy has just hopped on stage in all his polka-dotted greatness and annihilated the Muddy Waters classic “Champagne and Reefer”. I give up predicting what the most amazing moment is here, because, after all, this is being helmed by Martin Scorsese. There’s no reason for him to let anyone in on anything.

--20 minutes later…
Christina Aguilera just showed up to Christina Aguilera all over the Let It Bleed track “Live With Me”.
Now we have the worst part of the movie at least.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Movie Review: "The Net" (1995)

In a case of completely misremembering an earlier movie experience, I watched "The Net" this afternoon.
When this film came out in 1995, there is a 75 percent chance that I saw it in theaters. It was about the same time I had first experienced the internet for real for the first time. It was around this time that I opened my first Hotmail e-mail account. I was enthralled by the prospect, and by virtue of posting this online right now, I obviously still am.

In Japan, "The Net" was known as "The Internet" (which I feel is a more literal, matter-of-fact translation of the title.) Also, did you know that there was a 22-episode run of a TV version of "The Net" in 1998? Or what about the fact that there was 2006 direct-to-video release of "The Net 2.0", a sequel? Would it surprise you that Bullock made it back for neither of these?
Either way, the original isn't a bad movie, I just can't work up the energy to care whether Sandra Bullock makes it out of the clutches of "The Net" or not. And several of the gimmicks in the movie such as ordering pizza online, reserving airline tickets and instant messaging are beyond commonplace now.
I think the most boorish thing about "The Net" is the character of "Jack Devlin", played by Jeremy Northam. A real Snidely Whiplash-type, we are the opposite of shocked when he, gasp, is suddenly revealed to be a hired hitman wooing vulnerable software engineer Angela Bennett (Bullock). And all she wanted was a vacation in Cozumel! (Her first in six years, she said!)
Say, that reminds me, Dennis Miller is the bearded friend Dr. Alan Champion. So that's something to look forward to. You can also look forward to the heavy-handed concept that Sandra Bullock (who loses her identity) has a mother who has--wait for it, wait for it--Alzheimer's.
In some ways I think everyone should see this movie at some point in the future. I'm more likely to drop this in a time capsule than recommend this to somebody in 2011. People in 2035 need to know what passed for a techno-thriller in the mid-90's. The central conceit of "The Net" is that we're supposed to be freaked out by how easily someone's life could be erased or altered when it's computerized.
Facebook has basically accomplished the same goal as the bad guys in "The Net", Cathedral. Facebook extracted the same information. People volunteered what they would otherwise safeguard.
They didn't even have to raise their voice or ask twice.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Published:"Record Store Day: the 411 on local events" in NUVO Newsweekly

My story, "Record Store Day: the 411 on local events," has been published in the current issue of NUVO, on stands from April 13 to 19. The story covers the Indianapolis response to Record Store Day 2011 on April 16. The story is also available on the website.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Published: "Review: Shake Ups & friends at the Irving" in NUVO Newsweekly

[The following post is also being cross posted to the Anderton Leaf Photography blog.]

On March 8, 2011, my story "Review: Shake Ups & friends at the Irving" was published in NUVO Newsweekly. The article covered the March 5 Noah East/Salvador Dalia Llama Farm/The Shake Ups show at the Irving Theater. It can still be found in the digital edition. Also published was a slideshow by Anderton Leaf Photography. You can see the rest of the photos on Flickr.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Top 10 Podcasts: #1 WTF with Marc Maron

[Editor's Note: The following is the latest in a series covering my top 10 podcasts and my favorite episodes from each. Here's what we know so far:
#1 - WTF with Marc Maron
#2 - Radiolab
#3 - This American Life
#4 - Real Time With Bill Maher
#5 - Doug Loves Movies
#6 - Savage Love Podcast
#7 - Freakonomics Radio
#8 - The Moth Podcast
#9 - The Ricky Gervais Podcast
#10 - Fresh Air with Terry Gross]

I was late to the party on WTF with Marc Maron.
I had heard it mentioned time and again, but it wasn't until Ira Glass, host of This American Life, wrote these opening words to this blog post on October 26, 2010 that I finally took notice:
Right now, pretty much every comedian without a network TV show has his own podcast, but Marc Maron's WTF Podcast, here on the web or here on iTunes has distinguished itself as the New York Times of comedy podcasts, and by that I mean the definitive comedy podcast of record.

A veteran comedian, Maron, exposes himself and his struggles with mental health so nakedly that his guests follow suit. I first became aware of Maron during my childhood when he was a frequent Squigglevisioned guest on Dr. Katz, Professional Therapist:

Watch Dr Katz- Marc Maron in Entertainment  |  View More Free Videos Online at
It's 15 years later and Maron now takes patients himself in the form of a podcast. The difference now is that both the guest and he are laid out on their own metaphorical therapist couches. Doctor is patient. Patient is doctor.
Talking to funny people about their pain for 90 minutes at a time scratches an intellectual itch I didn't even know I had before I started tuning in. The most interesting people often have the worst childhoods, with the need to make others laugh often making up for some other deficit in their psyche.

Essential Listening

I'm serious.
Every single episode of this podcast is worth hearing. I made the mistake at the beginning of my listening experience by thinking that I would only enjoy the episodes featuring guests that I knew.
I was totally wrong.
Warning: the show pulls no punches, so anyone faint of heart when it comes to talk about language, sex or violence should steer clear.
Running through the episode list I'm hard-pressed to pick favorite. Since the show has been going for 163 episodes and counting, and only the last 50 are still free, that leaves 113 episodes that are hidden behind a pay wall. Some of these episodes include:
- The two-part Carlos Mencia episode, in which he exposes him for the fraud he is.
- Another two-part episode, director Judd Apatow shares own interviews with famous comedians he conducted for his high school radio show.
- Even the episode where Ira Glass himself is interviewed is revealing.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Published: "Review: J Dilla tribute at Jazz Kitchen" in NUVO Newsweekly

[Editor's Note: The following is also being posted on the Anderton Leaf Photography blog.]

My story, "Review: J Dilla tribute at Jazz Kitchen", which covered a featured performance by Black Milk on March 23, was published in the current edition of NUVO Newsweekly. The print edition will be on newsstands until April 6, but the digital edition will be still be available, along with a slide show of pictures courtesy of Anderton Leaf Photography. You can also see the rest of the photos on Flickr.

Top 10 Podcasts: #2 Radiolab

[Editor's Note: The following is the latest in a series covering my top 10 podcasts and my favorite episodes from each. Here's what we know so far:
#2 - Radiolab
#3 - This American Life
#4 - Real Time With Bill Maher
#5 - Doug Loves Movies
#6 - Savage Love Podcast
#7 - Freakonomics Radio
#8 - The Moth Podcast
#9 - The Ricky Gervais Podcast
#10 - Fresh Air with Terry Gross]

What I'm about to reveal is kind of embarrassing to admit.
I consider myself a learned individual, an intellectual and someone who generally tries to stay informed on the prescient matters of the day. But if I'm being completely honest, I very nearly exclusively get all my information about the discipline of science from one source: Radiolab.
In my younger days I used to say that I wanted to be a scientist. This is back when I thought the work consisted mostly of pouring steaming, brightly colored liquids into vials and holding them over Bunsen burners until some exciting reaction took place.
Then I found out how much math was actually involved. And then I turned eight and re-focused my interests.
But Radiolab is a pure joy to listen to. It reminds me of what I loved about science in the first place: the joy of discovery. I don't start an episode unless I'm sure I can finish it in one sitting. The production is lush, spastic and high-quality. There is never truly a bad episode. I love the way it makes me think of tired concepts in a new way.

Essential Listening

There's really no bad place to start with Radiolab. I like the hour-long episodes as opposed to the shorts, but that's just because I want it to keep going and going. One of my personal favorites is the episode "Placebo" in which hosts Jad Abumrad and Robert Krulwich basically blew my mind with the revelation that the effects for any drug you could ever take are already locked inside our brains, all that's missing is the impetus (the drug, or in this case, the placebo) to release those chemicals. Or what about the episode "Parasites" which contains the story of a man who intentionally infected himself with intestinal parasites to cure his asthma -- and it worked? (He now sells his own "home-grown" parasites to others with similar conditions.) Or how about the episode "The (Multi) Universe(s)" in which they explore the theory that there are parallel universes happening besides our own?
Point is, if you're not listening, you're doing yourself a disservice. Few other pieces of media have changed my perspective on the nature of the universe as much as Radiolab.