Friday, December 31, 2004
I also wanted to jot down a few quick thoughts on the year behind and the year ahead. I just finished graduate school (so I need to change my profile on the right-side of this page, among other things) and am hired on a part-time basis, at least, in my newly chosen profession. In the past two years, I got married, moved from one region of the country to another, got laid-off from what will hopefully be my last crap job (read = last lay-off, last crap job) and slammed my way through two years of grad school whilst picking up money through part-time, full-time, contract, and freelance work whenever possible.
I’m extremely lucky to have an amazing wife, a supportive family, and a close-knit group of friends that have put up with my antics from time out of mind.
As 2005 dawns, I’m looking forward to (finally) completing my novel, Possible Ends, and beginning my next Big Project (likely a screenplay this time round), securing full-time employment (no more scans through bloody job websites!), and getting into lots lots lots more of the Dumpster Bust.
This has extended to the area of decency standards in the media, with much talk about the supposed revulsion toward the sexual content of film, television, and radio programs (not much talk about violence, however; that seems to be a-okay in the modern USA). Indeed, the FCC, along with the help of those like conservative Senator Samuel Brownback (R-KS), has pledged to crack down on decency standards violators. Howard Stern was particularly targeted, which finally prompted the self-proclaimed King of All Media to announce that he is jumping ship from the public radio airwaves to the relatively new entity of subscription-based (and FCC regulation-free) satellite radio.
FCC investigations, which may and can lead to stiff fines of $500,000 per offense, are prompted by complaints filed by the public. Generally, incidents that prompt many complaints, such as Jackson’s incident at the Super Bowl, are considered noteworthy.
But who is filing these charges? According to Mediaweek, the FCC now admits that over the last few years, upwards of 99.8% of complaints to the FCC were filed by one activist organization: the Parents Television Council.
Are we letting Values Talk get out of hand in the United States? Are we letting special interests, Sen. Brownback, and the FCC co-opt our rights to free expression, guaranteed by the 1st Amendment?
What about those values?
Word on the street, or at least from the always entertaining cast of characters over at Ain’t It Cool News, is that Tenacious D will be featured in a film that will start shooting as soon as Jack Black can untussle himself from Peter Jackson’s (and King Kong’s) hairy grip.
Tenacious D can only be described as the greatest band in the history of the world. At least that’s what Jack Black (of High Fidelity and Saving Silverman and School of Rock fame) and fellow acoustic-heavy metal superstar Kyle Gass would tell you, at any rate. The thing is though: it’s true.
The fact that “the D” is also the funniest band in the history of the world should only make you come running even faster. When Jack Black (JB or Jables to some) was asked about the criticism his band sometimes takes for being a mock-rock entity, he replied:
“Listen, Beethoven didn’t get any good reviews when he started. Do you think he cried into his soup? No, he went and wrote another masterpiece.”
If you want to get seriously tenacious about the D, beg, borrow, or steal Tenacious D – The Complete Masterworks. It showcases a supremely inspired mixture of comedy and surprisingly rock-solid musicianship and kick-ass rock-itude through a combination of concert scenes (many from a run-down open mike night in LA) and skits that help to set up the twisted paradigm and sublime force of nature that is Tenacious D.
I don’t think there’s much doubt (nay! any doubt) that a Tenacious D movie will be the greatest film this (or any) world has ever seen.
Thursday, December 30, 2004
I thought then, listening to “Hate to Say I Told You So,” that it was one of those “Smells Like Teen Spirit” moments: a new era in music. Everything’s changed now.
Well, I was wrong. Vini Vidi Vicious, The Hives’ 2000 release, is a damned good listen, but it doesn’t wear well over time. The songs become slightly dull, a little played out. As 2004 rolled around, I didn’t expect very much from thier long-awaited follow-up LP, Tyrannosaurus Hives. I actually had much higher expectations of the sophomore effort from fellow Garage Rock revivalists The Vines after hearing Highly Evolved, their auspicious debut album.
Hate to say I told you so, well all right!
God, was I wrong. Whereas The Vines’ Winning Days devolves into tepid wishy-washy rock mush (aside from the effervescent single, “Ride”), Tyrannosaurus Hives operates (read = Rocks) on a level unheard in a long time. In fact, it’s the most exciting rock record I’ve come across in years.
Why? The Hives unleash an explosion of rock and new wave energy that gives you every inch (and more) of its thirty-minutes flat playing time. It’s a joyous power, a furious party, an unmitigated cornucopia of rock delights. They manage to strip away all that has become self-conscious, affected, and radio-ready in modern popular music and still deliver a bubbling power pop orgy of post-millennial proportions. In other words: yeah, it’s that good.
The album kicks off with the giddily slashy “Abra Cadaver,” which rocks with a kind of beat that makes you want to make like a 50s hipster on The Ed Sullivan Show, snapping your fingers and pointing knowingly. Or throw on a leather jacket and skinny black tie and shake it ‘till the lights flip on. It makes you feel cool, in other words, and what better vicarious act can a rock band conjure up than that?
“Two-Timing Touch and Broken Bones” jangles with a jittery energy, the music production expertly pulsing the sounds in-and-out that makes you feel as though you’re riding the best of alcohol highs. The guitars establish their slightly futuristic fuzzy sound here, which nicely ties the whole album together in its consistency. “Walk Idiot Walk” combines Devo-like keyboards and early 80s power chords into a heady mix that almost comes across like a New Wave AC/DC. Not bad for five lads from Sweden.
Tyrannosaurus Hives really kicks into high gear on the fourth track, “No Pun Intended,” which thrashes with a timeless zest, building and falling and building again. You can see with this song where the band came from, that Vini Vidi Vicious, a good album, held the seeds for the greatness that would come later. “See Through Head” keeps up the pace, and is indeed one of the best rock songs I’ve heard this year. The brilliance is in the accompanying Uh uh uh ohs! which bring in a Pixies alt-rock vibe along with pulsing, crashing guitars with tones that crunch just so: ah, glorious it be to thee and thine.
By the time “Missing Link” rolls around, you think there’s got to be a drop off, but it doesn’t come: slightly dissonant guitars lend it a zoomy futuristic punch and mix wildly with a bass line that constantly seems to climb up a high perch before hopping off and beginning all over again.
Partially because of frontman Howlin’ Pelle Almqvist’s exuberant, lurching vocals and partially because its rock doing what rock does best: KISS, the lyrics aren’t really the point here, which is why I haven’t mentioned them until now:
You wake up in the morning and you ain’t got a prayer
Your boss is coming down on you and you can’t pay the rent
Exactly. This is the kind of album you crank in your living room after a brutal day at the cube farm, and scream and dance and shout like The Kids in the Hall put it: Fuck the bank! Fuck the bank! (DB Note: Just draw the shades first so as not to frighten unsuspecting neighbors).
Part The Cars on speed, Part Kurt Cobain on Xanax, and part The Knack getting its Knack on, Tyrannosaurus Hives brings it with the massive force of a, well… large ferocious dinosaur of lore. If you like upbeat, aggressive rock with new wave and power pop undertones, this album demands of you: possess its greatness.
Wednesday, December 29, 2004
- The Black Crowes’ (#10) first album sold more than five million copies, which is “exactly the right number.”
- Madness’ (#9) best single, “Our House,” “was a pretty great single, but it’s nobodies favorites song. No one seems to dispute that.”
- Matthew Sweet (#5) albums contain exactly one good song, the first one, and it’s “always utterly perfect… He sells enough albums to live comfortably, and that seems reasonable.” Sweet.
- The Beatles (#4) “are generally seen as the single most important rock band of all time, because they wrote all the best songs. Since both of these facts are true, the Beatles are rated properly.”
- Van Halen (#1) “should have been the biggest arena act of the early 1980s, and they were. They had the greatest guitar player of the 1980s, and everyone (except possibly Yngwie Malmsteen) seems to agree. They switched singers and became semi-crappy, and nobody aggressively disputes that fact. They also recorded the most average song in rock history: “And the Cradle Will Rock.” What this means is that any song better than “And the Cradle Will Rock” is good, and any song worse than “And the Cradle Will Rock” is bad. If we were to rank every rock song (in sequential order) from best to worst, “And the Cradle Will Rock” would be right in the fucking middle.”
All this talk about rating got me to thinking about the way that music fans, real music fans, think about music. There’s something great about owning a bunch of albums by an underrated or unknown band, a band you know in your heart of hearts is super-cool. (For the record: the bands that fall into this mode for me at present include Jurassic 5, Boss Hogg, The Von Bondies, and The Distillers.) These bands and the music they play define you in a way, give you a personal air of the exotic that no one else even knows about. But you know, and that’s what counts.
Occasionally, an underrated band will ascend to perfectly rated or even overrated glory. When The Mighty Mighty Boss Tones leapt to fleeting superstardom off the power of their ska-lounge album Let’s Face It (Dickie Barrett even intones on their superior live album "Live from the Middle East," in reference to the smash single “The Impression That I Get”: “Who wants to hear this fucking song again?”), it was a little bit sad in a way, like seeing one of your children off into the world. You’re happy and elated that they found success, but you kind of miss that completely irrational sense of connection you felt with them, their music, their way of life. And if you ever see snotty 14-year-olds with baggy pants wearing a tee-shirt with that band’s name on it, you’ll walk straight into an elementary school and slowly scratch your fingernails slow and hard against the nearest blackboard until it’s all, all better.
That’s the cool thing about music, though: the pendulum constantly swings. Thanks to the Gods that’s so, as it makes for plenty to talk about, and plenty more to listen to.
“The casualty statistics make clear that our nation is involved in a war whose intensity on the ground matches that of previous American wars. Indeed, the proportional burden on the infantryman is at its highest level since World War I.”
This is just another piece of bad news that keeps filtering home from the warfront. While the Vietnam War took a number of years to turn sour in the hearts and minds of many Americans, the omnipresent 24/7 news cycle – which really became a mainstay during the first Gulf War, and now includes the Internet and its new universe of the blogosphere – has not until now had a protracted and deadly US occupation to sink its teeth into.
Is it just a matter of time before the calls to end the Iraq War become louder? Will elections, planned to take place next month under the shakiest of circumstances, do anything to bolster confidence in the Iraqi-led government both within Iraq and amongst worried observers in the US?
Tuesday, December 28, 2004
The ability to carry several thousands around with you wherever you go – walking the streets, at the gym, on a supermarket line with a screaming baby behind you and the Coupon Crusader at the check-out – is pure bliss.
It’s only been the last few months, though, that I’ve really taken the iPod experience to the next level. The keys are podcasts and iTrip.
Podcasts are free Internet-only radio broadcasts. All you need to do is to set up iPodder, also a free software download. Once you’ve selected the shows that you would like to receive, iPodder will automatically send new broadcasts to iTunes. If you already have iTunes set up, it's a fairly easy process to begin receiving podcasts.
Download iPodder: http://ipodder.sourceforge.net/index.php
Here are some of the better shows I've found... though keep in mind that dozens of new shows are debuting each month.
Adam Curry: Daily Source Code
This is the Sports Center of the podcasting world. Plus, you get some techie news and tips, 80s trivia, and some insight into ex-pat life in Europe (Curry broadcast from Holland for a while, but recently moved to England).
This is the podcast version of a Montreal weekly radio show that is absolutely the best mix of old school funk, underground hip hop, and R&B I have ever heard. It's really a jewel of a listen, and there are about 350 archived shows you can stream over the Internet.
Air America Radio: The Al Franken Show
If you lean to the left and like Franken, now you can take him wherever you go.
Very good, concise news and notes on what's going on in the blogging world. It really helped me to broaden my blogging horizons.
The $250 Million Radio Show and Podcasting from London
They're both devoted to non-RIAA music, one broadcast from a light train in Los Angeles, the other from a bus stop in London.
Real Reviews MWG Blog
Great and substantive movie reviews, including a Cinephile series that recently had in depth looks at Memento and Mulholland Drive.
Song of the Day
Self explanatory and surprisingly good.
A friend of mine claims that "Evil Genius Chronicles" is great, but I can't seem to get it to work for some reason. I also recently hooked my wife up with a show that is supposed to be very good at teaching Spanish.
The biggest overall problem I have with podcasting is that I never have enough time to listen to everything. Tough problem, eh?
This was a key holiday season yield. iTrip, a small attachment to the iPod, allows the iPod to wirelessly send a signal to any nearby radio and play mp3s through its stereo speakers. This means that not only can you take your iPod with you wherever you go, you can literally listen to your iPod all day: in the car, at work, at home, wherever.
Now, here’s the beautiful part: with iTunes, iPod, podcasts, and iTrip, you get free radio shows, from Adam Curry to WeFunk, pumping into iTunes every morning. Once you’ve quickly synched up your iPod, you can play your favorite shows (or any of your favorite several thousand songs) in your car on the way to work, at work if you like (and/or can get away with it) and all the way home as well.
It will be interesting to see if the podcasting phenomenon continues to explode (it really has only been going since the summer) and if that will have any impact on satellite radio.
But for now, I’m almost hoping to latch onto a job where I can sit back and enjoy my iPod in the heart of LA’s traffic maelstrom.
Note I: Special shout-out to Lawrence Yu for putting me on the path to Podcasting Nirvana.
Note II: I've been having problems with links lately, which is why you've been seeing some links split out from the text. I'm trying to get that straightened out, or Dumpster Busted like.
Monday, December 27, 2004
It was sad that Tough Crowd got canceled. It was raw and had its down moments, but overall it was a bright spot in late night comedy. Quinn’s gruff but endearing camaraderie with an often goofy band of fellow comics -- kibitzing and talking trash over the news of the day -- was a great and innovative concept, improving upon Bill Maher’s work on Politically Incorrect with its penchant for snoozer guests and uneven forays into serious analysis. Tough Crowd went for laughs first, but it often hit home with a satirical zest only matched by the modern king of that art: Jon Stewart himself.
If anyone should replace Quinn with a new show, it is Carolla. Somewhat marginalized by his long-time status as late night co-host of radio’s Loveline with Dr. Drew Pinsky, it’s easy to miss one of the funniest and sharpest comedians working today. The trick will be to harness Carolla’s sharp wit and ability to take almost any topic and develop an outlandish rant (recent example: the Jews are a fire-retardant people; the reason? They manage to light eight candles during Chanukah whilst possessing long curly beards, untucked shirts, and long flowing prayer shawls with nary a fire), so format will be key. The Man Show was testament to this: while at times funny, it stifled Carolla’s ability to let-it-fly. I also think that losing the amiable but less talented (as showman and live comedian) Jimmy Kimmel will allow Carolla to further shine.
In other potential good news, Norm Macdonald is developing a half-hour sketch comedy show for Comedy Central. If Macdonald can pull off the deadpan sarcasm and straight-faced lunacy that he honed over at Saturday Night Live, there could be good things afoot.
Sunday, December 26, 2004
Interesting tid-bits include reference to Reid as inspiration for an in-the-pocket Gaming Commission member in Martin Scorsese’s Casino.
All of that’s well and good. On a recent Meet the Press appearance, I thought that Harry Reid came across as tough, intelligent, and crafty: all the qualities that have made him a skillful Senate negotiator and deal-maker.
I mention all of this because Dumpster Bust has been tough on Reid in the past. However, this does not make Harry Reid, the new Democratic Minority Leader in the Senate, the best person to be the face of the Democratic Party for the next several years.
Dumpster Bust and DraftHoward.com are still banking on something of a long-shot: new direction, new leadership, for Democratic National Chairperson: Howard Dean.
Dean is the right person to lead the party heading toward the 2006 mid-term elections. He will continue to excite the party, bring in new members, and create a well-articulated vision for where the party should go in opposition to an across-the-board conservative majority. Victories in 2006 will set the stage for an energized Democratic base for 2008 after two devastating presidential results in a row.
And perhaps the best news of all? Dean as DNC will prevent him from running for President in ’08. This will open the way for John Kerry or Hillary Rodham Clinton or Mark Warner of Virginia.
Thursday, December 23, 2004
Well, maybe not. But she has been banned by Lloyd Grove’s Lowdown column in New York Daily News. After one last tell-all run-down of vapid debauchery, that is.
Grove runs down a litany of Hilton offenses against nature and society, all of which were, of course, chronicled by Lowdown at one time or another. But no more! he says. Among the crimes:
- She doesn’t strain credulity, she herniates it
- She’s proud to be snobbish
- She’s a bad tipper
- She has distressing taste in men
The horror! The best quote I have read in some time comes from the multi-talented actor/author/director Stephen Fry, one of my all-time favorite writers:
Being Paris "takes a startling vanity, an enormous lack of selfknowledge and a huge amount of greed and desire."
But isn’t that the fuel that makes gossip columns like Lowdown go?
God, it was. I was treated to the sounds of three great touring bands – The Scofflaws, Pietasters, and The Toasters – and a style of music that blew my doors down and shattered the windows for good measure.
It’s hard to put your finger on ska. Merriam-Webster defines it as “popular music of Jamaican origin that combines elements of traditional Caribbean rhythms and jazz.” AllMusic.com states: “Although structurally simple, ska has a bevy of influences, synthesizing American R&B, jump blues, Jamaican mento, calypso and other Caribbean styles, big-band swing, Afro-Cuban jazz, pocomania and other local religious folk music, and European ballroom dances.”
But that doesn’t really cover it. Its sound has changed and evolved over the years. Ska matured into rock steady for a while, but really became "noticed" (in the US, at least) when English bands like The Specials mixed in just enough rock and roll to give us the modern ska sound.
Ska relies on a staccato off-beat guitar rhythm for its signature (modern) sound. Think of a pick strumming a guitar: usually you get a down-strum sound and an up-strum sound, right? Now, with ska, on the down-strum sound, instead of letting all of the sound ring forth from the strings, the left hand (the fingers of which create the notes or chord: and with ska you get a LOT of chords) mutes the strings so you get a THWACK sound instead of an ordinary ringing sound. Then, on the up-stroke the full sound is let out.
Therefore, ska produces a thwack-chord thwack-chord thwack-chord sound, with the chords always filling up the off-beats.
Many ska bands utilize a horn section, though not always. The lead vocals are usually clear and melodic, with harmonizing backing vocals for support and texture.
A great example of this sound is on The Specials' "A Message to You Rudy," also one of the all-time classic ska songs.
Ska also combines wonderfully with a myriad of other styles. Take, for instance:
Latin Ska – King Chango is your must-listen here
Ska Punk – Check out Operation Ivy, Rancid, and Suicide Machines for starters
Ska Core – Ska and hardcore: Mighty Mighty Boss Tones and Voodoo Glow Skulls are the best in the business
Ska Lounge – Check out Mighty Mighty Boss Tones’ break-out LP “Let’s Face It”
Reggae Ska – For early influence sound with such classic bands as the Skatalites, check out a compilation LP entitled “Ska Island”
Jazzy Ska – Moon Records out of New York City is your bet here, with such acts as the New York Ska-Jazz Ensemble and Pietasters
DB Note: it definitely doesn’t hurt to work the word “ska” into your band title if you want to start a ska band. To wit: Scofflaws, Skatalites, Mephiskapheles. I believe Alaska is still open, but I would need to check on that.
Wednesday, December 22, 2004
I started thinking about Top 40 radio, wondering who listened to this kind of broadly accessible music nowadays. Certainly not anyone that I know, I thought. I then started thinking: What if I could program a radio station and play my Top 40 of All Time Kick-Ass greats?
As soon as I got home, I began to occupy myself with compiling and composing criteria, important geek tasks of the highest order. An all-time kick-ass song, as I defined it, was a song you have a history with: you played it after a job interview in your car and screamed at the top of your lungs. You cranked it to 11 after a final exam until the entire dormitory pounded at your door and told you to have a little respect dude, other people are still trying to study. You used it as a crutch to get you around that last quarter-mile on the track. And on and on.
I started to get into specifics, and realized only certain kinds of songs qualified. For example, some songs make me feel bad ass, but aren’t necessarily all-time kick-ass material, like “Still D.R.E.,” by Dr. Dre. Then there are songs that are compulsive and giddy and great, like “Ma and Pa,” by Fishbone, and “Let’s Push Things Forward,” by The Streets, but don’t quite rank with the kick-ass heavyweights.
The list started to take form and shape. As I looked it over, I realized that in many ways it revealed a lot about me, as though I were letting long lost secrets, notes, and files out of my own personal Musical & Emotional Vault. That’s stupid, though, I thought. But is it?
Without further adieu, here’s my Top 40 Kick-Ass Songs of All Time, in no particular order. Have a look, and please hit me back with your own kick-ass agenda, your own top secret musical files.
Burnt Orange Peels – Beck
Say Anything – Bouncing Souls
Sick of It All – The Distillers
Can I Run – L7
Walking Contradiction – Green Day
Broken Face – Pixies (live)
Crackity Jones – Pixies (live)
Super Rad – Aquabats
Police On My Back – The Clash
What’s Golden – Jurassic 5
Woman in the House – Brother Meat (live)
The Unknown Soldier – The Doors
Peace Frog – The Doors
Pocket Full of Fatcaps – Downset
Know Your Enemy – Rage Against the Machine
Do It Clean – Echo & the Bunnymen
War – Edwin Star
I Just Want to Celebrate – Rare Earth
How’s My Driving – Less Than Jake
Zero – Perfect Thyroid
Damage, Inc. – Metallica
Devil’s Night Out – The Mighty Mighty Boss Tones
My Sharona – The Knack
I Got No – Operation Ivy
Live at P.J.’s – The Beastie Boys
Salvation – Rancid
All You Need – Sublime
Step One – Suicide Machines
Strike – Suicide Machines
C’mon C’mon – The Von Bondies
Insubordination – Voodoo Glow Skulls
Last Party – Voodoo Glow Skulls
Not If You Were The Last Junkie On Earth – The Dandy Warhols (live)
Suffragette City – David Bowie
Ski Bunny – Boss Hog
Freedom of Choice – Devo
Radio Friendly Unit Shifter – Nirvana
Dead Man’s Party – Oingo Boingo
Trendy – Reel Big Fish
Fall Together – Weezer
Tuesday, December 21, 2004
Exit polling from the last two presidential elections tell us that the Blue State / Red State split, the liberal / conservative split, the men / women split, and a few other splits all pale in comparison to the religious split. And no, the United States isn’t about to implode along Protestant-Catholic or Christian-Islamic lines or anything like that.
But the fact is that one of the most important trends in politics is that those who regularly attend church or a house of worship prefer the Republican Party by a wide margin while those who don’t attend regularly prefer the Democrats by a similarly wide margin.
Why is this so? There are many reasons, but the fact is that this religious divide may define American political and cultural life for some time to come.
Just check the front lines… at cable news, anyway. The folks at Fox and Pat Buchanan over at Scarborough Country seem to be using the Season of Good Cheer as a political weapon of sorts against the ungodly masses. To wit:
“Last week on Scarborough Country, there was Pat Buchanan's distinctly testy-sounding ‘Merry Christmas’ in answer to a guest from the American Atheists association who wished him a happy ‘winter solstice.’”
Meanwhile, the President of all of the religions of the United States wants us to “remember the humble birth of our savior.” This was uttered during a Christmas in Washington variety special.
In this new environment and with a conservative across-the-board government, the religious right is looking to get theirs. Example: Sen. Sam Brownback of Kansas will push to “oppose Supreme Court nominees friendly to abortion rights.”
So where does this leave us? I’m not entirely sure. But look for religion and religiosity to be a key wedge issue in national politics for some time to come.
Sunday, December 19, 2004
Keeping It Real Politik: No, they didn’t… Time magazine names George W. Bush 2004 Person of the Year
If the President was chosen for this honor as the person who had the most influence on the past year’s events, then I suppose I can buy it. But if the selection was made in terms of “greatness” (and I paraphrase Yoda circa The Empire Strikes Back to illustrate this point: “War makes a person not great”) then I just can’t stomach it.
Give me the Boston Red Sox, give me Donald Trump, give me Paris Hilton. Just not Bush. Anybody but Bush (sound familiar?).
And I’ll end this gathering with another movie quote, one of my favorites, from The Matrix:
“Not like this… No, not like this.”
Update: Bombs in Karbala, Najaf kill more than 60
Saturday, December 18, 2004
For a variety of sad reasons, Joss Whedon, the masterfully inventive creator of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, and Firefly, was knocked clean out of television last year by the cancellation of Angel after its fifth season. So discouraged is Mr. Whedon by the current climate of reality television and its effect on budgets for new fictional shows that he is said to be content to work on films for the time being.
Thankfully, one of the best shows to never get a real shot at television greatness, Firefly, is getting a second chance on the silver screen under the name of Serenity.
Ahhhh… Serenity now!
Well, unfortunately, not quite now. Serenity’s release recently got pushed back to Fall ’05, so here’s some Hot Stove talk to pass over the time:
Serenity is getting rave reviews in early screenings, as this Ain’t It Cool News dispatch explains. The concept of the show was almost as perfect as its wonderful and eclectic cast of characters. It takes place 500 years in the future, when human kind has taken to populating the galaxy through the miracle of terraforming, turning rocky worlds into habitable and breathable planets. However, the great kicker is that these settlers are now struggling through the early stages of colonization and exist in settings that are Wild West-like (except with the occasional space ship).
Enter Serenity, a Firefly-class ship that holds our crusty yet loveable cast of buccaneers and malcontents. Outcasts from a civil war they wound up on the losing side of, Captain Mal Reynolds (Nathon Fillion) leads his crew on outside-the-law missions in order to stay afloat and away from the corporate, banal Inner Worlds.
So really, everything’s set up for Millenium Falcon missions with a fun and feisty cast that includes the hilarious tandem of Adam Baldwin (Jayne Cobb) and Alan Tudyk (‘Wash’ Warren). We also get lovely ladies Jewel Staite (Kaylee Frye) and Gina Torres (Zoe Warren) as Captain Mal’s tough and capable right-hand woman. Torres has recently had spicy and recurring roles on Angel and Alias. Adam Baldwin showed up for some memorably in the final apocalyptic episodes of Angel. And believe it or not, Nathon Fillion was one of the main baddies (remember the really super creepy preacher dude?) in the final season of Buffy. So Joss likes to keep his crews tight – and that’s a good thing.
Serenity picks off about six months after Firefly was (brutally) cut short, and will likely reveal more of the mystery surrounding Dr. Simon Tam (Sean Maher) and his troubled, brilliant sister River (Summer Glau) as well as the sinister folks from the Alliance that want to get their hands on her.
But most of all, I’m looking forward to seeing what, if anything, transpires in the romance department between Mal and Inara Serra (Morena Baccarin). Firefly was canceled before any real sparks were let loose, but there were the stirrings of a complex and compelling storyline there a la Buffy-Angel in Season Two of Buffy. A recent movie poster that I saw did not include Baccarin, and it would be a real shame if she were not part of the film franchise. However, IMDb still includes her in the cast list (http://us.imdb.com/title/tt0379786/) , so all we can do is wait and hope.
So, Serenity: space opera, western adventure, great cast, Joss Whedon. You can’t go wrong.
Except for the waiting… the waiting hurts.
Friday, December 17, 2004
Oh dear what can I do?
Baby’s in black
And I’m feeling blue
Tell me oh what can I do?
I shifted my hat so that blinders curved down over my eyes like a thoroughbred primed to race into oblivion, Hell’s own colt deprived of nourishment and bent for the long haul into the Void. The edge. Perimeter talk, indeed.
Then I saw it.
The hips swelled and swayed gently in the dusky breeze. It was one of those animatron lifesize mannequin forms in the shape of snowman. It wore a skirt adorned with Polynesian decorations. The face was adorned with cheap sunglasses, the kind with green frames and a string, which sat upon a plastic carrot nose.
The eyes were dark and stared at me and I started in my racehorse ways but kept approaching so that it wouldn’t back me down. It couldn’t, it wouldn’t. It mattered for reasons only the void could chuckle deeply and knowingly of.
I then had the urge to sink my crumpled fist into the face of that snowman, writhing sweetly with pain as I crushed any future opportunity of marketing and otherwise success with my half-mad deed.
But I didn’t. I could, but I wouldn’t. I walked some more, and later felt the better for it.
Tell me oh what can I do?
I’m talking about shows where the players are driven, passionate, and most of all, desperately want to win. Over the last few months, the shows that most qualify are The Apprentice 2 and the Richard Branson-led The Rebel Billionaire.
The Apprentice 2, while losing a degree of its novelty and edge from the exciting first season, still managed to deliver high stakes, dramatic moments, and the necessary array of certifiable lunatics and loopy personalities to keep you tuned in every week.
The major downfall of the second season was that Donald Trump appeared to go for the surprise maneuver rather than the smart decision in the board room on several occasions. Perhaps impulsive might be the better word than surprise, but I would have to dig underneath the famous hair helmet / Andy Capp’s cap to know for sure. Speaking of Andy, I felt that the young Harvard grad’s ousting just before the Final Four round was the worst decision of the season. It was another example that screaming in the board room could stave off firing rather than effective leadership or performance shown during tasks. Another baffling decision was the ouster of the promising-looking Bradford early on due to his “rash” decision to wave his immunity that week in bold defense of his performance during his team’s losing effort.
It was further indication, as seen in Season One, that Trump in the end does not want someone like himself (brash, extreme risk taker, gruff) but a competent yes-man who is tough and competent but will likely never bedazzle you (or outshine the strangely haired head honcho). Enter Bill Rancic and now Kelly Perdew, the Season Two winner.
Another trying part of Season Two was the upgraded role of product endorsements and forays into Donald Trump: The Commercial (as if The Apprentice didn’t already advertise Donald Trump: The Brand enough) as with the addition of thinly veiled skits in which Trump “checks up” on his various properties before doling out the new task of the week.
Still, it was a fun ride and gratifying to see Kelly beat out the leadership-shirking, eavesdropper lurking Jennifer M. in tonight’s finale. I’ll still be on board for the kick-off of Season Three next month, where a new twist has a team of the “book smart” facing off against a team of the “street smart.”
Human drama. Gotta love it.
Wednesday, December 15, 2004
Howard Stern manages to fill five plus hours of radio airtime every morning with funny and interesting and strange chat, interviews, skits, and banter. Often his very best and most entertaining moments are when he and his longtime supporting cast of Robin Quivers (who plays the “straight man” as straight black woman), producer Gary DeLabate, Fred “Eric” Norris, and relative newcomer Artie Lang are shooting the breeze, talking about what they did over the weekend, or arbitrating some kind of intra-staff argument.
Howard Stern is just about the best interviewer in broadcasting. Honed by many years on the air, he knows how to put his guests at ease, and elicits unscripted comments and thoughts on topics that you just won’t find anywhere else.
His program has gotten me through the morning commute for many years, and on two different American coasts. After 9/11, I chose to contribute to his charity supporting the families of fallen police and firemen because he had become, to me, a voice of New York and America in all its insanity and wonder and paradox and greatness.
Does Howard Stern go too far sometimes? Yes, and my far is pretty far. I’m not thrilled by the Death Pool, where bets are taken on when celebrities will die. That’s just me. If I wasn’t entertained overall, as I am 95% of the time, I wouldn’t tune in.
Howard Stern is at his best when he has somebody or something to rail against. For this past year, it was the Bush Administration, the FCC, and Clear Channel. Stern put up a mighty fight against censorship and became more political than he’s ever been before. He took until now obscure figures like Sen. Brownback of Kansas to task for their openly reactionary conservative agenda and their efforts to enact censorship via inordinate FCC fines. Stern educated the public about the potentiality of a chilling effect that could spill across all areas of free expression.
Now Stern is moving onto his next challenge: satellite radio. Fed up by years of hassles with his own management and the FCC over the content of his show, Stern has signed on with Sirius Satellite Radio, which he’ll join in about a year. His planned move to a paid subscription-based radio service has caused a massive tectonic shift throughout the radio world.
Stern has vowed to change radio broadcasting as we know it. This is his greatest challenge, something he has building his entire career toward. He’s never failed yet.
Update: The FCC has just ruled that it does not have authority to enforce decency standards on subscription-based satellite services (http://www.broadcastingcable.com/CA488198.html).
Game on – score one for the good guys.
Tuesday, December 14, 2004
For anyone who doesn’t know: Dumpster Bust began as an e-zine in the summer of 2003. It was distributed via e-mail to anyone who cared to subscribe, mostly to friends and to friends of friends. It was great fun, but quite a lot of work. Now that we’re in blog-land, I’m finding it a great means for me to talk about what’s on my mind and reach people all over the globe. Although it’s ostensibly a blog, it’s really more like an online magazine, driven by topical stories, news, and ideas.
Dumpster Bust is about what’s on my mind, and I’m getting more in tune with that, which is making Dumpster Bust a better place to be.
Let me explain:
I’m interested in five or six major subject areas:
- Sports, Strange forays into Literary Non-fiction, Serialized Short Stories, Things I Notice, and Probably Lots of Other Stuff
I go in cycles: I’ll get nearly obsessive with one or two areas for several days at a time, and nearly forget about the others. Then the wheel will turn, and I’ll be onto the next. Therefore, Dumpster Bust will be about one or two topics for a few days, but as the wheel turns, so will DB.
I was intensely interested in politics for most of the year leading up to the last election, but I’m somewhat burned out on the topic at present (especially because Kerry lost). Therefore, my political jaunts are quite forward looking as it’s been difficult to look at the present. Also therefore, I’ve been much more interested in music, movies, and books of late, which probably signals my escapist streak. Also, as I’ve been finishing graduate school and searching for work, watching the first season of Arrested Development on DVD can definitely do the real-life-be-gone trick.
Anyway, for any newcomers that have made it this far, here’s a look back at the highlight reel from our first month:
Politics: Keeping It Real Politik: Banging the Gong for Dean for DNC
Movies: DB Weekend Movie Fest: Top Campus Comedies of All Time
Music: DB Up in Your Ear: Top Punk Bands List
Books: Exclusive Interview with Tom Wolfe
Internet: Blah’ged Out: Sucka MC Bloggaz
Fiction: Terrence the One-Armed Sorcerer
Sports: Football Fundamentalism
Strange Literary Non-fiction: Notes from the Perimeter:
DB Note: All are invited and encouraged to join the DB House Party. Please make your voices and opinions heard. By clicking on the Comment link underneath each post, you add your feedback to the website. If you’re not registered with Blogger, you can post anonymously. All I ask is that you sign off your thoughts with a name or handle.
Here’s to Month #2 and more Dumpster Busting to come.
Monday, December 13, 2004
My personal view is that if McCain ever in his life would have changed parties, it would have been this year when he had every opportunity to be John Kerry's VP (or Sec of Defense).
Instead, McCain choked down a huge amount of pride and campaigned relatively enthusiastically for Bush-Cheney '04. In my opinion, the only reason he did that (let's remember - Bush tarnished and trashed McCain in the South Carolina GOP primary of '00) was to further his ambitions for the GOP nomination in '08.
However, it's a little curious why McCain would make such outspoken comments about Rumsfeld recently, but my feeling is that McCain’s MO is to lose no time at all in distancing himself from this administration and to set himself up as a reformist/independent conservative.
Let's remember, his chief opponents, right now, look to be people like Rudy Giuliani, George Pataki, Mitt Romney, and Rick Santorum, all Northeasterners with a degree of clout among moderate voters.
McCain's no dummy, and he's thinking ahead. I don't think he'll go independent. I see him as setting himself up to first wipe out competition among the moderate contenders. Then, using his high standing that he's gained over the last four plus years, he'll go about in fending off the right.
Can he do it? Does he even want to? I think if he wants it, he's the odds on favorite to be the next President of the United States.
But it's very early yet.
The DB Prediction: Look for a possible McCain-Hegel pairing vs. Clinton-Obama in '08.
Cut to now: I’ve, let us say, “gotten my hands” on a whole bunch of Beatles albums. (And by “hands” I mean “computer” and by “computer” I mean “download,” but I’m going to “leave it that” “if you know what I mean” “”).
I’m walking down to Old Town, Pasadena (yes, friends, there are places in California where you can walk to things, and by golly, it’s glorious) listening to a several-thousand song shuffle on my iPod, when wham! There it was. I found it, damn it!
“Things We Said Today,” from A Hard Day’s Night:
It’s a marvelous blend of the optimistic and downbeat, shuffling from one to the other with breathless ease. In that sense, it’s very reminiscent of “Things Have Changed,” by Bob Dylan, another song I can listen in increments of ten and still not be satiated.
It was good times, wandering under the warm December sun with a song like that in my years, a good walk.
Netflix is a DVD rent-by-mail company. You pay a flat fee of about $20 a month and you get to keep three DVDs at any given time. No late fees, ever. When you’re done with one, you throw it into a little sleeve (free postage) and pop it in the mail. Two or three days later, you get a little present in the mail along with junk mail and the water bill. If you’re online omnipresently like myself, you can tweak your DVD queue anytime you want. They have thousands of titles, you don’t have to drive and park and drive and park to rent something at a stuffy Blockbuster waiting on a line for someone Stoned Out of Time and Mind to take your cash, and you eliminate late fees forever and ever. So: watch the DVDs whenever you want, no late fee, no hassle, no having to run two errands. I love it: this was made for me.
Netflix is also fantastic for watching season packages of television shows, miniseries (think Shogun, North & South, War & Redemption, whatever’s your bag), or really old, obscure, or cult stuff. It’s allowed me to watch mountains of television footage that I missed out on the first time around or can’t get because I can’t afford insane monthly cable fees to get “premiere” channels. It’s allowed to take in shows like The Sopranos, Six Feet Under, The Dead Zone, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Firefly, and Alias in from the very beginning.
There’s a remarkable difference in watching the very cream of the crop of television shows, without commercials, from Episode 1 to Episode 22 or 24, straight through. Especially with shows with complex and compelling story arcs (all of the shows I mention above apply) you get to feel the full weight of sub-plots, character motivations, and telling foreshadows. Plus, it’s great fun to rewind to parts that you missed because a) the dog barked b) the doorbell rang or c) you fell asleep in your 3:30 am cereal.
And, if you’re like me, you get to see some really nifty special features that come along with some discs. I personally love a good audio commentary from a show creator, writer, or cast member. Joss Whedon, creator of the incredible trio of shows Buffy-Angel-Firefly, is particularly entertaining in providing directorial notes, cast trivia and tidbits, and a sense of the overall season arc and direction. (Serenity, the film project to come out of the obscenely cut short Firefly, will be out next autumn).
The DB on TV series will get down and dirty into many of the above shows and more, so stay tuned...
Saturday, December 11, 2004
Road Trip (2000)
Successfully combining two of my favorite movie conventions, the Campus Comedy and the Road Trip, this movie manages to balance a rollicking adventure, laugh-out-loud slapstick, and surprisingly strong characters into a hell of a strange trip. Of course, there are some groan-worthy moments (the skinny white dork who learns the ways of hip hop and love from the obese black momma comes particularly to mind) but that's somewhat inherent to almost all capital-c Comedies these days. In fact, I find it perfectly possible that the almost-perfect There's Something About Mary may have inadvertently set slapstick comedy back several decades, but that debate is for another day).
Tom Green and Seann William Scott, who both have the capacity to be great and awful, shine here in wacko side roles. Green is especially great as a zonked out tour guide for perspective freshman at Ithica College. He serves as the film's narrator, and is never funnier than when he swerves his narrative (and, therefore, the film) into horny-guy-T&A-territory. Scott, better known in most circles as Stifler from the American Pie franchise, makes his macho asshole shtick work as he tempers it with a modicum of humanity. However, it's Paulo Costanzo who steals the movie as a thoughtful stoner who's trying to Figure It All Out. These days, you can see him Thursdays on NBC as Herr Tribiani's nephew on Joey, the Friends spin-off.
The core story of the movie - dude travels from New York to Texas to try and prevent his girlfriend from watching a video of him making out with another girl -- isn't really the point. It's the diversions (a car trying to make a General Lee-like jump across a broken bridge ends in disaster), the believable reactions (Dad's gonna kill me!), and punchlines (Dude, we are sooo gonna get ass-raped out here...) that make this road trip worth the ride.
Animal House (1978)
The granddaddy of them all, Animal House is so famous now that almost every slapstick comedy involving youngsters since its release pays some level of homage to its signature themes: Scraping Together the Dough to Get the House Back, Will They Get Kicked Out of School?, the Parade/Event/Party Gone Horribly Awry, the Party to End All Parties, and, of course, Pranks, Pranks, and More Pranks (and High-Jinks).
In fact, Animal House has been so parodied and made reference to over the last quarter century that it does look a little bit dated and quaint by today's outrageous standards. But that also gives it a timeless charm, almost an innocence in its Frat Boys Will Be Boys essence, that could not be pulled off today.
Part of that innocence comes in the fact that while it was filmed in the late 70s, its setting is fifteen years earlier, which gives it a tension that is mostly missing in modern slapstick. When Flounder's car gets wrecked (a common Campus Comedy convention, if there ever was one) you really believe his misery - his Dad really is gonna kill him. When Dean Wormer talks about responsibility and discipline, he speaks with an authority of a Bygone Age. And when Bluto, performed with once-in-a-generation gonzo spirit by John Belushi, rallies his troops for one final it's-so-crazy-it-just-might-work raid upon the forces that beset them, it holds all the youth and force and enthusiasm of the Counter Culture.
It's a fun movie, a silly movie fraught with toga parties, heavy drinking, and staring through sorority girls' windows to try and catch an untoward sight. It's also a little long by today's standards, with down moments that can produce a surprising yawn upon repeat viewings. That doesn't steal its classic status away, however.
Old School (2003)
This is an exceptionally funny movie that has the power to win over those who generally scoff at the Campus Comedy (Want proof? Ask my wife). The comedic material is matched by a cast that is so seasoned and expert at pulling off deadpan riffs and over-the-top slapstick that you feel as though you're watching your buddies' exploits, and therefore laugh appropriately loudly.
Luke Wilson, who I thought was only fair before I saw him play the lead here, is a perfect straight man for the world of youthful debauchery that engulfs him. Old School does as good a job as I've ever seen at playing Campus Comedy off of the Real World. You see, as Wilson gets pulled into a zany scheme to start a fraternity (at his conveniently located to campus house) after his wife (a great performance in a small role by the always interesting Juliette Lewis) is caught sleeping with another, uh, couple, he attempts to keep up a semblance of his normal life. In lesser hands, a scene where the boss's high school aged daughter (Elisha Cuthbert) turns out to be the same co-ed that wound up in his bed the night before would be boring, but Wilson allows you to both wince with him and laugh at him. This tension works especially well with love interest Ellen Pompeo. You end up actually caring about whether they end up together or whether ongoing Antics will pummel the budding romance.
Vince Vaughn, a vastly underrated comic actor (see: Swingers, Made) is perfect as the wisecracking power-behind-the-throne. He makes Wilson a King on Campus, replete with parties featuring Snoop Dogg and fraternity disciples to worship him wherever he goes (including his office job). What's especially intriguing is that it's left up in the air whether he is interested in his friend's wellbeing or if everything he does is part of an overall marketing plan for his electronics store empire.
Will Ferrell single-handedly created a new stereotype for the drunken man-boy with his portrayal of Frank the Tank. While this is by far Ferrell's best film (note to film makers: the more you ground Ferrell in reality, the funnier he becomes), it's movie magic when he's on screen with Vaughn and Wilson. The three have a great chemistry, and I hope we see more of them together in the future.
There are a number of strong performances in smaller roles, including the aforementioned Lewis and Cuthbert, as well as the great Jeremy Piven (more on him in a minute) as the uptight Dean, Craig Kilborn as the rival cheatin' boyfriend, and a bunch of wackos that make up the rest of the outcast fraternity.
Finally, Old School contains perhaps the funniest scene in the history of Campus Comedy: a raging, maniac van hunting down unwitting pledges to the screaming sounds of Metallica is, as the commercial says, priceless.
Revenge of the Nerds (1984)
In its own special way, this movie helps to represent the best of 80s comedy: a group of outsiders and misfits buck the system by doing things their own way. It appeals to anyone who was never part of the Cool Crowd growing up, and who reserved, in deep recesses of the psyche, dreams of revenge, triumph, redemption.
Robert Caradine and Anthony Edwards (who parlayed his nerd-dom into later ER success) are great as nerd buddies who head off to college together, believing their days of being ridiculed for wearing pocket protectors and digging computers and robots were behind them. Of course, they couldn't be more wrong, and that's where the fun begins.
Very soon, the lines of battle are drawn between Nerds and Jocks. The Nerd Squad, which includes such personages as the legendary Curtis Armstrong (also excellent in Better Off Dead, which might be the best comedy to come out of the 80s) as Booger and Timothy Busfield (who went on to much more serious success on Thirtysomething and The West Wing) as Poindexter. There are also a few other stock characters, such as the Black Gay Guy and the Little Kid.
The film is structured very well: the jocks continually pile humiliations upon the nerds, who are forced to organize and, eventually, get what's theirs and give what's coming to 'em. You actually end up caring when, during the movie's pivotal moment, Bernie Casey (who seems to show up in all of the best comedies of the era) shows up with the bad ass (and black) Lamda Lamda Lamda dudes to bolster the nerd's faltering efforts. It's also great to see Caradine win over the Chief Jock's girlfriend by disguising himself in his carnival costume (Darth Vader) and showing her that "all jocks think about is sports... all nerds think about is sex."
In the end, it's a feel good revenge movie and college sex romp (see: a panty raid with the latest in 80s technology leads to a legendary line involving our current President's last name) rolled into one. It enthralled me as a youngster growing up in the go-go Reagan 80s, and I still love it today.
And, to top it all off, it contains a classic montage replete with inspirational power chords in which the nerds fix up their dilapidated house. You get to see a robot painting a wall. I mean, what's funnier than that?
There are several reasons why PCU is the greatest Campus Comedy of all time. It's got a cast of great and emerging stars and it effectively digs at an emerging/disturbing world of political correctness in which it's off limits to poke fun of anyone or anything. But most of all, it's a consistently funny and entertaining film.
You get to a very subjective point at this stage of a countdown, and it really starts to come down to pure kick-assedness. And this one does just that.
Jeremy Piven is just about perfect as Droz, the Party Maestro with Attitude. He makes asides about his "fifth sophomore year," sells term papers out of his dorm room (located in The Pit, the center of activities for most of the film) -- though he scoffs at those who come looking for help in such areas as Sanskrit (a five-thousand year old dead language?) and Phys Ed (okay, that's it, you're out of my room, get out). Through a practical joke beset upon him by Alex Desert (the This place is dead anyway guy from Swingers) he's paired for a weekend by perspective freshman and disaster prone Chris Young.
The match allows Piven to show Young and the audience an extraordinary satire of modern collegiate life: diversity pushed to such extremes that no one outside their own niche talks to each other anymore coupled with a stifling of setting one's feet or mouth outside those strict boundaries.
We meet David Spade, in one of his best roles, as Rand McPherson, head of the fraternity that sets heritage dating back to The Mayflower as one of its terms of entry. There's also Moonbeam, a girl so intent upon protest that she carries a spare placard and magic marker wherever she roams. Then there's the Womynists, who enjoy chanting such protest songs as Hey Hey Ho Ho This Penis Party's Got to Go, and the ultimate pot hazed Jerry Garcia-worshipping Ultimate Frisbee team.
Finally, there's The Pits' gang of wacky outsiders, including the great Jon Favreau in an early role as Gutter, the guy who wears the concert tee-shirt displaying the name of the band he's going to see live (PCU & DB Note: Don't be that guy) and someone named Pigman, who is forced to watch television throughout most of the film so that he can complete his thesis, which turns out to be the Cain-Hackman theory... which basically means that there's always a Michael Cain or Gene Hackman movie on. As it's explained to the "pre-frosh": You can major in GameBoy if you know how to bullshit.
The ostensible plot of the movie is coughing up enough cash to save The Pit (remember Animal House, anyone?), but the fun is in the goofy asides (like throwing raw meat upon a bunch of protesters in Cow and Those Murdering Cow garb), wacky pranks (locking the stiff administrator types in a room with Starlight Vocal Band cranked up to 11 on repeat mode), and the requisite montages (Womynists v. Pot Head Hippies in Ultimate Frisbee), and exciting musical numbers (Mudhoney covering Elvis Costello on "Pump It Up," and Parliament / Funkadelic showing up accidentally to save The Pit by performing "Stomp" and "Flashlight" to a party that brings everyone together for once, and the house down).
PCU is a great time, gets even better with repeat viewings, and is especially great after a party at two in the morning with a plate of deep fried pork and steaming cup of cappuccino in front of you.
In other words:
Yeah yeah yeah, I fucking met Tom.
Thursday, December 09, 2004
The core of the show is its focus on character development and revelations that continue to surprise and delight well into the first season. Can the magic show keep up? That's a good question to be asking, and as a fan of Alias, I can say that J. J. Abrams has quite a few tricks of his sleeve. Alias: Season One had the same revelatory/exciting appeal, yet I can argue the franchise is still going strong heading into Season Four.
Another appealing aspect of the show is that it does defy genre. It may not be a sci fi/fantasy show at all, but the fact that it might does give it that aura and appeal.
I'm not entirely sure why, but Lost reminds me in some ways of the 60s cult show, The Prisoner. Perhaps it's because the title character, like the cast of Lost, is never sure of the nature of his confinement. Additionally, nasty (and actually surprising) surprises turn up often, and things rarely are as they appear (the episode where The Prisoner believes he's back in London, only to find out he's still on The Village is classic).
To sum up: J.J. Abrams, creator of Alias and Lost, carries the torch for network TV nowadays. Now if only he can somehow lure back Joss Whedon (creator or Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, and Firefly)!
Here are a few highlights from the checklist they present:
1. Buy a cheap guitar.
2. Buy four thousand dollars worth of effects.
3. Borrow the largest speaker stack you can find.
4. Stick an obligatory checker-board sticker on your guitar.
5. Take one or two guitar lessons.
The article is rather insulting to one of my favorite sub-genres of music (it goes on to advice that it helps to have a love for songs about beer). First off, what ska-punk out there uses thousands of dollars worth of effects? The checker-board sticker advisory is kind of funny, but otherwise I'm between somewhat and very put off.
I found the article whilst cruising around the Net looking for blogs that focused on ska-punk. Besides a few blurbs/rants here and there, I didn't really find anything, which was surprising. If I had the time, I'd love to devote an entire to site to bands such as the following, which in some way fall under the umbrella of ska-punk... he said with a tone of reverence:
- Bouncing Souls
- Dance Hall Crashers
- Less Than Jake
- The Mighty Mighty Boss Tones
- Murphy's Law
- Operation Ivy
- Reel Big Fish
- Suicide Machines
- Voodoo Glow Skulls
There are some truly outstanding bands on that there above list, and I defy anyone to tell me different (in fact, I invite it: see below for more details...).
I apologize for the trend toward lists the last few days, but it's kind of an end-of-the year compulsion, isn't it? I'm actually gearing up an album-of-the-year post, so everyone has that to look forward to as well.
As the one year mark of Dumpster Bust: The Blog approaches in a few days, I'll get into where things are going, with a focus upon the often strange shifts in subject matter you see (and will likely see more of on DB: Dean and the Democratic National Committee for a few days, strange literary non-fiction rants, forays into music and television criticism, etc.
As always, I/we like to hear from everyone out there, so:
Please always always always feel free to pipe in with your comments by clicking on the Comment link below every post. If you're not registered with Blogger.com, you can post anonymously. It would be great if you signed your name or handle, but the getting the communication going is the cool/important part.
1. Sex Pistols - Never Mind The Bollocks, Here's The Sex Pistols
2. Green Day - Dookie
3. Dead Kennedys - Fresh Fruit For Rotting Vegetables
4. Nirvana - Nevermind
5. The Offspring - Smash
6. Rancid - And Out Come The Wolves
7. Discharge - Hear Nothing See Nothing Say Nothing
8. The Clash - The Clash
9. The Damned - Machine Gun Etiquette
10. Ramones - Ramones
11. NOFX - Punk In Drublic
12. Fugazi - Repeater
13. The Clash - London Calling
14. Blink 182 - Enema Of The State
15. The Stooges - Funhouse
16. Black Flag - Damaged
17. Minor Threat - Complete Discography
18. Iggy & The Stooges - Raw Power
19. The Undertones - The Undertones
20. The Offspring - Americana
21. Bad Brains - Rock For Light
22. Buzzcocks - Love Bites
23. NOFX - Sol Long And Thanks For All The Shoes
24. Crass - The Feeding Of The 5000
25. The Ruts - The Crack
26. The Vandals - Hitler Bad, Vandals Good
27. Operation Ivy - Energy
28. Refused - The Shape Of Punk To Come
29. Rocket From The Crypt - Scream, Dracula, Scream!
30. The Exploited - Punk's Not Dead
31. Cro-Mags - The Age Of Quarrel
32. Quicksand - Manic Compression
33. Descendents - Milo Goes To College
34. Sublime - Sublime
35. The Misfits - Static Age
36. The Mighty Mighty Bosstones - Let's Face It
37. Less Than Jake - Hello Rockview
38. Bad Religion - Suffer
39. The Dwarves - The Dwarves Are Young And Good Looking
40. Supersuckers - The Evil Powers Of Rock n'Roll
41. Social Distortion - White Light White Heat White Trash
42. The Get Up Kids - Something To Write Home About
43. Green Day - Nimrod
44. Will Haven - El Diablo
45. Stiff Little Fingers - Inflammable Material
46. Napalm Death - Scum
47. AFI - Black Sails In The Sunset
48. Poison Idea - Feel The Darkness
49. GBH - Leather Bristles, Studs And Acne
50. Killing Joke - Killing Joke
No doubt there are some outstanding albums on this list, but... it's a weird list, isn't it? First of all: what is punk? As it's defined by this list, it's quite broad. Let's face it: Nirvana and NOFX and Napalm Death are very different kinds of bands, with only the fellas from NOFX generally classified as "punk" at all (or "light punk," as my metal-loving pal would put it).
It's hard to argue with the Sex Pistols at #1, but "Dookie" at #2? In my book, "Dookie" is the worst of Green Day's albums, by a fairly wide margin. Sure, it broke them on MTV, but who cares? Each of their albums has improved upon the one before it. I therefore like "Nimrod" at 43 -- though I think "Warning" and "American Idiot" are in certain ways superior.
As a ska punk fan, I take major issues with some of the choices here. The list reads more like some interns did research to see what was hot on the MTV over the past decade than what albums were truly important/influential to punk rock. An exception to this is Operation Ivy's "Energy" (#27), though I would put the granddaddy of the sub-genre's album at least 10 places higher.
The selection of the Mighty Mighty Boss Tone's "Let's Face It "at #36 is a disaster. This is a fair-to-middling album, but it's not a punk album. It's a ska-lounge-pop album, with some rock thrown in for kicks. "Devil's Night Out," or perhaps even better, the extraordinary live album, "Live from the Middle East," would have been far better choices.
Another example of poor album choice is Rancid's "...And Out Come the Wolves" at #6. I applaud placing Rancid that high, as they're one of my favorite punk bands, but the album choice seems more beholden to MTV saturation than anything else. "Let's Go" would be more appropriate -- while "Life Won't Wait" or even the recent "Indestructible" would have been more interesting and challenging choices.
Finally, some of these albums don't belong on this list. Choices like The Offspring (a good but not great power-pop act), Quicksand ("Manic Compression" contains one good song... one), and Blink 182 (no comment) were downright disappointing.
Bands that should be on the list that are not:
- Suicide Machines -- two to three albums
- Voodoo Glow Skulls -- three to four albums
- Perfect Thyroid -- once named by Alternative Press as one of the five best ska-punk acts of all time
- Bouncing Souls
- The Distillers
- The Hives
Bands on the list that should be given (way) more love:
- The Clash
- The Mighty Mighty Boss Tones
- Operation Ivy
- Less Than Jake
Update: After I wrote the above, I realized that the 50 Greatest list was as voted on by readers... well, what do people know, anyway?
Wednesday, December 08, 2004
However, I wasn't shuffling through songs this evening. I was listening to a radio program by the name of Love Line that I had earlier, with Careful Precision, downloaded from a magical file-sharing service that shall remain unnamed, and could therefore listen to at my leisure (or Torture).
I listen to this program on occasion as it is entertaining and forthcoming of Life Philosophy. And it's about love and sex and it's funny, too.
This very evening -- though the program was recorded several months back -- a particular call struck me. A young woman called in to discuss her relational troubles, which was responded to with a joke and then more serious advice: Standard Fare, go to commercial break. Except it wasn't; not really. This young woman told a story of how she had lied to two previous boyfriends about being pregnant. She later told the fellows she visited the doctor and was informed it was a False Alarm. She then broke up with the two Almost Fathers. The question centered around her efforts to win back the affections of one of these AFs.
That was not yet the Remarkable part. The show hosts, Adam Corolla and Dr. Drew Pinsky (who Toils, it is alleged, in the same workplace as my wife) sighed resigned sighs, as even they were taken back at the callousness of the caller. They discussed the lack of Moral Core, Moral Center in this young woman and went on to speculate what it must be like to walk Soulless (for this was the very word they used, Soulless) in this world.
Now we reach the Remarkable Part: the young lady, as though in agreement with the show hosts' assessment, trampled on to the next part of her question, which related to whether or not it was worth it to seek out, once again, AF #1. Her voice was bright and airy and filled with excitement.
Now to me this was Remarkable. To be called Soulless before the ears of Countless Thousands and to Cheerfully push on with one's thoughts. Was it the mere fact of having one's voice on the air? I thought. Was it that your life -- even a Soulless Life -- was being discussed by the Borderline Famous?
This small disturbing moment was for me an indictment of a modern society blasé and content in its own ignorant narcissism. A nation of plaything toddlers who lead hollow lives unless slapped in the ass with an Old Fashioned paddle and told, that's not what big boys and big girls are supposed to do.
Or maybe I was just in a Funk, or should have been listening to Funkier Accompaniment.
I finished my workout and drove home.
Tuesday, December 07, 2004
The South Park creators, Trey Parker and Matt Stone, have brought their brand of smart, subversive, low-brow, thought-provoking comedy to a near-science. The fact that they've been bringing it consistently with South Park for eight seasons now (outlasting an intense period of spotlight, scrutiny, and over-saturation just as The Simpsons did) and the recent and mostly hilarious feature film Team America: World Police is testament to their talent and staying power.
I didn't really come away from South Park: The Passion with any revelation about religion and society, but it did make me take a step back and appreciate that we live in a country where people are (still) allowed to push comedy and art to new boundaries -- to places that are funny and uncomfortable and uplifting all at once. Why uplifting? Because there's so much hypocrisy and saturated irony and media monotony out there. It's why South Park and The Daily Show and The Howard Stern Show and a very few others can sit out there and show us how weird this great country really is.
They take heat for being "out there" or "going too far." But what's too far? Where's the edge? Someone's got to show the way. Robert Mapplethorpe's art might not be my cup of tea (DB Note: it's definitely not) and that's exactly why I don't go out of my way to look for his stuff. Take away the edges and you're left with, well, Network Comedy. Hope & Faith and Rodney and such tripe. There are a few good programs left on television, and perhaps one or two watchable comedies, but I'll get to those soon.
Good and smart and Passionate comedy is my cup of tea, which is why this little neck of the e-woods is jubilantly celebrating South Park and its version of The Passion.
Monday, December 06, 2004
According to the Washington Post, Kerry lost in Ohio and, in effect, the election not because of increased turnout among religious conservatives, or the rural vote, or suppressing the vote in cities and heavily Democratic areas. In fact, Kerry held his own or did better than Gore in these departments.
It all came down to one thing: fear. Bush got 'em good and scared about security concerns, and now we get Bush the Son the Sequel.
* Even though Bush stalled on a Department of Homeland Security.
* Even though Bush refused to appoint a 9-11 Commission until the families of Ground Zero embarrassed him into it.
* Even though funding for protecting harbors and other infrastructure is woefully inadequate.
* Even though a Republican majority, soon to be widened, is just now getting an intelligence bill together (if today's reported compromise holds, that is) over three years after 9/11/01.
So, not just fear then. Playing on fears and hoping that people didn't look a whole lot at some of the facts. Mix with Kerry not making a great case for himself, and voila! Here we be.
Sunday, December 05, 2004
With Honors (1994)
Okay, there are probably worse out there, but not many. This movie falls mindless face first into every genre cliché possible, with nothing really redeeming or charming in it to yank it from the depths of humiliating disgrace. The usually pretty good Brandon Frasier stars as Joe College, working his way through Harvard and minding his own business, until Bam! bum (the usually pretty good) Joe Pesci comes into his life, setting up a series of mind numbingly dull life lessons that Teach Us All Something About Ourselves. Pesci’s got a terrible Boston/bum accent that grates throughout, the snobby Harvard roommates make you want to jump out a window, and the Heartwarming Ending makes you want to jump out of a closed window.
Pretty Good Campus Comedies… But Not Top Five Worthy
Soul Man (1986)
This movie is a by-the-numbers, conventional campus comedy (that also takes place at Harvard) that does everything right. The long lost C. Thomas Howell (remember when he was in everything?) plays a young hot shot who doesn’t get into Harvard… and has the cajones to dye his skin black (with some kind of tanning pill) to get a minority scholarship. Everything goes great – he even snags a beautiful dark skinned girlfriend (Rae Dawn Chong) – until an enemy lets his secret out and everything falls apart. The performances are strong all around, especially by Arye Gross (whom I still think of as Gordo) and James Earl Jones as a Harvard Law Professor. And there’s actually a decent sociological/racial aspect that underlies the silliness that doesn’t hit you over the head but provides a subtle tension throughout.
American Pie 2 (2001)
This surprisingly strong sequel to the smash hit finds the kids at a summer house after their freshmen years at college (and thus making the flick eligible for Campus Comedy greatness consideration). The large cast has great chemistry, and the inevitable embarrassing situations that pop up remain as fresh and laugh-out-loud funny as the original. In fact, this film outpaces the original in certain ways as the characters and situations find an even more confident and, shall we say, ball-sy footing? Jason Biggs and Eugene Levy are priceless again as Embarrassed Son and Nerdy/Ernest Dad and Sean William Scott is again superb as the know-it-all moron Stifler. Unfortunately for the franchise, American Pie 3 was a disaster. They should have known a third helping was overdoing it by more than a little.
Van Wilder (2002)
Now, this movie isn’t for the faint of heart, but it’s a surprisingly funny romp through dating and university life, starring Ryan Reynolds as a Man on Campus among Men on Campuses. He’s quite winning and amiable in the role, and I’m surprised I haven’t seen him in more things recently (he was the best part of that Two Guys, A Girl, and a Pizza Place, too). This movie goes way over the top at times (a scene with a horny bulldog and crullers comes to mind especially) which effectively knock it out of Top Five consideration. And now, without (even) further adieu…
In the next installment of DB Weekend Movie Fest: The Top Five Campus Comedies of All Time!
Please feel free to post your own comments, suggestions, and vitriolic assertions – because that’s when the fun really starts.
Therefore, I’ve been compiling in my mind for some number of months my list of Greatest of All Time. Oh, but my friends, it wasn’t easy with so many to choose from. So then, without further adieu, let’s begin… with a few warm-up categories, ending in The Best Campus Comedies of All Time. There’s gotta be some awards-show suspense, right? And no lame Britney Simpson or Ashley Spears crap performances to snooze through.
I’ve never seen this movie and have no idea what it’s about, but it stars Buster Keaton, who always pops up in comedy retrospectives and seems to be some kind of an iconic figure in the campus comedy sub-genre. Therefore, I put it first in an attempt to look impressive/legit.
I’ve never seen this movie either, but I must admit I find it intriguing. Netflix describes H.O.T.S. as:
The lovely members of the H.O.T.S. sorority set out to steal every man on campus away from the Pi sorority. Dressed to thrill, the ladies transform their formerly uptight university into a sex-crazed fun house.
Now, how can that formula go wrong? As the film’s tag line reads: Some Like It H.O.T.S.!
The only reason I mention this middling effort is that it stars Stephen Baldwin as part of a triangle of romantic intrigue that develops between Lara Flynn Boyle and some other dude. I ripped this particular Baldwin apart in a recent column, and just wanted to point out this movie came out near the pinnacle of his brief, not-really-that-shining career. Threesome is actually pretty watchable until the end, which gets a little too homoerotic for my taste.
Okay, now you can go away, Stephen Baldwin.
Friday, December 03, 2004
I'll skip Billy's movie career, because who wants to talk about Backdraft and Sliver? At least I think it was that one. There was one other brother, but I can't remember what, if anything, he's done off-hand.
Now, we come to little Stevie. Crazy Stephen.
He started out okay enough, and even gave a good-zany performance in The Usual Suspects, a classic modern gangster-who-done-it. (I can watch the Gimmee the keys scene again and again -- I just dig it). Then we segue to more forgettable roles, culminating in the disaster of Biodome, co-starring fellow plummeting "icon" Paulie "The Weazzz-le" Shore.
All forgivable enough. You win some, you lose some. Right?
Then we enter Stephen Baldwin the Not-So-Funny D-List Crazy Years. He begins to call into The Howard Stern Show so often that even Howard, who has five hours of live radio to kill every morning, can't put up with him. He reputedly attacked comedienne Kathy Griffin on the D-List free-for-all Celebrity Mole.
But this was all prelude to how he affected my life. Yes, he started showing up with irritating frequency on MSNBC, pushing some kind of thinly veiled religious conservative agenda. This was when my Urge-to-Jump-Out-A-Window-ometer perked up big time.
It began during the Democratic National Convention this summer. He appeared in an effort to advance his agenda for an administration guided by divine spirit, or wind, or something. It wasn't all that clear. He wouldn't openly support Bush, though he insisted on "slyly" intimating that fact over-and-over again. He grinned his odd-toothy grin at the camera. I wondered then why they would bother having a celebrity has-been on the air (I mean, Martin Sheen or even Alec Baldwin, okay, I can deal for a few minutes...) but it happened to be in the same midnight hour that Triumph the Comic Insult Dog made an appearance, so I figured, okay, it's garbage time, let's all move on.
But ever since, the guy has been appearing with alarming frequency. And then, tonight, as I flipped on the tube while I was putting my shoes on in preparation to go to the gym, there he was again on Scarborough Country under the banner of something like "Salvation Nation?"
Perhaps this goes back to an earlier post of mine, where I questioned the makeup of panels on many cable shows. Or maybe the people at MSNBC merely have their heads up their asses (I don't get CNN or Fox News these days, so I only have the cable peacock to rail against at present). In fact, that would make the most sense.
Speaking of Scarborough, Eric Alterman, author of What Liberal Media? and a lefty blogger and columnist in his own right, has successfully argued that he should join Scarborough Country in an effort to get some balance. Indeed, Joe Scarborough presents a far different face and can even be entertaining and occasionally incisive when paired with an independent/progressive presence. In fact, the better choice would be the amiable yet sharp Ron Reagan, who was himself a good reason to tune into MSNBC over the summer.
But back to Stephen Baldwin. While he purports to be a leading voice of the red state evangelical masses, I for one would appreciate it if he just went away. Kind of like his movie career.