Archive | June, 2009

He May Not Be A Licensed Therapist…

30 Jun

Stuart Smalley's a Senator

…but Al Franken’s about to get sworn in to the United States Senate.

Strange times we live in, indeed.

Treating My “In Treatment” Addiction

30 Jun

In TreatmentI can’t say enough about the awesomeness that is HBO’s “In Treatment.”  My sister is currently getting her masters’ in counseling at the California Institute for Integral Studies, and I’ve had a really good time talking with her about the things she’s been learning in her time there so far. The whole concept of therapy, of digging into why we do what we do, is endlessly fascinating, though admittedly sort of in a “Stuff White People Like” kind of way… Also, the more I work with an ever-increasing number of students, the more interested I am in plumbing the depths of the why they are how they are, and how I can better help them learn. Why one student practices and another doesn’t.  Why one student boldly improvises in front of hundreds of people, and another is too petrified of performance to even audition for band.

None of that has any real bearing on my enjoyment of “In Treatment,” though.  That’s because the show should come with a warning label – due entirely to its format, it might be the most addictive television program I’ve ever seen.

In Treatment follows the work of a therapist named Paul Weston, played by the amazing Gabriel Byrne, and airs over 9 weeks, with five episodes airing each week, one for every weeknight.  Each episode is 25ish minutes long and focuses on a single therapy session. Mondays are Laura, Tuesdays are Alex, and so on.  The twist is that on Friday, Paul goes to see his own therapist, and we learn how the interactions he has had during the week have reflected his own state, and how the (many) problems he has in his own life are reflected in the problems of his patients.

The writing is unbelievable, and the performances are in a league of their own.  And more than just a show about people’s problems, it’s a mystery – the characters each spar with Paul, back and forth, blocking and defending, thinking and rephrasing, revealing little bits and pieces, until we can start to put together a full picture of what’s going on with them.  It’s never anything less than engrossing, though a bit draining and all but impossible to stop mid-week.

With 43 episodes (apparently the last week is cut short) in the first season, it’s a serious time commitment, but I’m telling you – fire it up and you’ll have no complaints about watching.  If anything, you won’t want it to end.

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Bad Poetry For Tuesday

30 Jun

IMG_0758Last weekend, I took a trip back home to Indiana for a wedding.  I hadn’t been to Bloomington in the summertime for several years, and it really took me back – the smells, the heat, the leaves, the bugs and the breeze, the way the streets are quiet when the students are away. I thought I’d share some (frankly, terrible) lyrics I wrote several years back about the Hoosier State.

Indiana

this is a place
a place pretty large
where the limestone is king
and the klan was in charge

where twenty three cents
can about pay your rent
and cornhusks and soybeans
are common as cars

I gotta locate
my biannual roots
dust off my flannel
my shit kickin’ boots

I shouldn’t bother
it’s one or the other
make up my mind
before I go gray

it’s as good as it gets
with my cigarette set
if I could think I would
really go blue

Oh, India-na
you’re the crossroads of my life, it’s true
India-na
I can’t get the best of you

India-na
you’re the crossroads of our lives, it’s true
India-na
We can’t get the best of you

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Murfins and Burgalinks

26 Jun

Fox Falls–Bay Windo(n’t)– Man, there is some hilarious rage going around the internets regarding Michael Bay’s new cinematic disaster.  Jeez.  I kind of can’t believe that two years ago, in the height of the summer, I took a spare afternoon and went to see the first Transformers by myself, just for the hell of it.  Because I thought it would be fun.  Well, thanks to Ebert’s brilliantly scathing review, that will not be happening this time around.  Yikes.  Megan Fox isn’t even that hot.  Yeah, I said it.

–Remember Iran?– With all these high-profile celebrity deaths and political affairs going on, it’s easy to forget that freedom is currently locked in mortal combat in the seat of the world’s unrest.  Sullivan’s got ya covered, though – he’ll keep on covering it no matter what.  Though he also had some interesting things to say about MJ’s death.

–Doctors Aren’t Robots (Yet)– My sis sent me this article in the NYT last week about taking time to actually live life on the way to becoming a doctor.  My buddy Ross is doing this – he’s an incredible guitarist, and just started his residency at UCSF.  As my roommate pointed out, sure, it’s nice to encourage this sort of lifestyle, but some people just have the life-chops to do it, and some of us just… don’t.  We can’t all be Rupa, you know?

–Restaurant Reviews, Hold the Snark– My buddy Sonia (she of The Sonia Show) has been doing reviews of SF eateries for UpTake online.  She’s covered a lot of places I love (Marnee Thai!), and her reviews are refreshingly free of that patented “Sfist Sneer” that peppers so many of the reviews there and in the other ‘hood-centric blogs.  Check ‘em out!

SYTYCD Ade and Melissa–So I Think I Canzzzzzzz– As usual, in lieu of an actual post about this week’s SYTYCD, I refer you to Joe R and company over at Low Resolution.  I concur about so much that they say, in particular that the choreography just seems to be lacking this year.  Figures.  It happened with Gossip Girl, too – the minute I get behind something publically, it starts to suck.  I’m sorry I’m the show killer!  I’ll get back!

–Good Thing I’m Made Of Time– …not.  The Onion’s AV Club is writing retrospective recaps of both Buffy (they’re up to season 3) and Deadwood (in season one).  Jesus.  Also, Alan Sepinwall’s been doing Band of Brothers, Sports Night, and The Wire Season 2.  All rule.  I just don’t have time to read most of the Onion stuff, but what I’ve read has been top-notch.  As if there isn’t enough internet-based TV writing in your life…

–The Hits Keep On Coming– I just booked another acoustic show, this one will be on July 10th at 10:00 PM at the Red Vic Sessions on Haight.  I’ll be playing with Lindsay and Nervo, and it’s gonna slay!  Hope you can make it out.

–I Leave You With This– I’ll be in Indiana this weekend, and probably won’t be posting, so I leave you with this video.  May you watch it and think of me:

Rest In Peace

26 Jun

billie-jean-jackson_l2

I’m not sure how I feel about MJ’s death – it feels as though he left us years ago.  I do know he gave us some of the best tunes of the last twenty-five years, and thanks to him, every cover band I ever played in was that much more of a fun place to be. So, thanks, Michael.

Endless Possibilities Part 2: Scribblenauts

25 Jun

scribblenautsLately I’ve been finding myself faced with creations, both artistic and otherwise, that suggest never-ending possibilities. Websites, video games, music applications, mash-up art… the more I see this stuff, the clearer it is that, thanks to the ubiquity of high-speed communication, an age of endless user-generated content is upon us, and it’s growing, growing, growing, with no escape in sight. Mwa ha ha.

A couple of days ago, I wrote about a cool make-your-own-mashup project called “In Bb.”  Today, I wanted to try to sum up a bit about a different “endless possibillitiesish” thing I’ve had my eye on.

I haven’t been paying particularly close news to the gaming world lately, though it didn’t escape my notice that this year’s E3 was way, way awesomer than last year’s. (My roommate Arnab informs me he was there, lucky.)  Whenever I read a summary of all the new stuff that was on display there, one game rises to the top of the discussion, above the beautiful next-gen titles with their open worlds and incredible AI and re-usable parachutes, and that game is 5th Cell’s Scribblenauts.

At first, it seemed surprising, for a few reasons. First, it’s made for the handheld Nintendo DS, the most most underpowered gaming hardware out there.  It’s also by a company that I’ve never heard of, though apparently they’ve made some cool games in the past.  But the more I read about it, the more interested I became, and it was entirely due to the game’s basic concept- solve puzzles by creating anything (that’s right, anything) you can think of.

You play as Max, a little dude in a red helmet, and you’re tasked with retrieving a star from some inaccessible point in the level.  The way you get to the star is where the game gets interesting – basically, by using the bottom touch-screen, you can type in any object you can imagine, and it’ll appear. So, if the star is in a tree, you can write “ladder” and climb the tree, or summon a “lumberjack” to cut the tree down, or “beaver,” or “chainsaw,” or “forest fire…” And it sounds cool enough, but I’m just sooooo skeptical, until I read what everyone who’s had a chance to play the game says. Basically, you really CAN type anything – you could then call on “smokey the bear,” who’d fight the tree fire, and a “hunter” to shoot at smokey and “PETA” to come and chase away the hunter and the “NRA” to come with a bunch of guns, and then “skateboards” for them to ride on and a “Time Machine” to get in…. woah.

Jeremiah Slaczka, the mad genius behind all of this, describes the process of making the game:

“We’ve actually had five people and all they did is they went through dictionaries and Wikipedia and encyclopedias and anything you can think of for six months, that’s all they did every day during the week.”

Suddenly it starts to seem possible – that anything you could think of, anything at all, will actually be in the game.  The number of things is up at around 10,000 (ten thousand!) and growing… Slaczka describes the current phase as “extreme specialization” – their researchers have gotten past basic nouns and are into tiny variations on each of them.  It’s worth reading his interview at IGN.

And folks who have played the game agree – Penny Arcade’s notoriously hard-to-please Tycho Brahe summed up his time with the game thusly:

I looked over at Gabe’s screen, and saw a space shuttle crash into a schoolhouse. I don’t think that was the goal. For my part, in order to secure a subterranean whooziwatsit, I needed to crack the crust of the earth. I wanted to create an excavator, and when I entered the word, it wanted to know: did I mean a tracked construction vehicle, or a person who excavates?

Um, SOLD.

So, soon we’ll have Scribblenauts, maybe not so much a game as a sandbox – and not the sort of sandbox that’s become so trendy with game developers lately, but a real sandbox, where you can make what you want out of the sand, put whatever toys you can think of in it, and play to your heart’s content.  It’ll probably also come out for the iPhone, and I have a feeling that, in that incarnation, monstrous downloadable add-ons will come out that will address the (no-doubt outlandish) omissions that the hardcore will be able to come up with.

And yeah, who knows – it could be that after all this hype, the game doesn’t come through, that there just isn’t incentive for most gamers to play for more than a few hours, that Yahtzee’s old complaint, “You Can, But Why Would You Want To?” damns another attempt at emergent gameplay.  All the same, I’m really looking forward to checking Scribblenauts out when it launches in September – not just for the challenge of finding the randomest hidden things that only I and a handful of others have thought of, not just for the level editor or the ability to type “Keyboard Cat.” I’m mainly looking forward to it just to see what happens when someone decides to push things in a new direction, to see how endless the possibilities really are, and to play a game designed not around graphics or mechanics, but the power of imagination.

Endless Possibilities Part 1: “In Bb”

23 Jun

Darren Solomon in BbLately I’ve been finding myself faced with creations, both artistic and otherwise, that suggest never-ending possibilities. Websites, video games, music applications, mash-up art… the more I see this stuff, the clearer it is that, thanks to the ubiquity of high-speed communication, an age of endless user-generated content is upon us, and it’s growing, growing, growing, with no escape in sight. Mwa ha ha.

There are a few particularly noteworthy sites and concepts that I’ve come across recently that I wanted to share here – the first one is a live music mash-up experiment entitled “In Bb.” Seriously. Put on some headphones and play around with it.  It is very cool, irresistibly simple, and the possibilities are truly endless.

It’s like this – Darren Solomon, a musician and bandleader for a group called Science for Girls, had the inspired idea to get a ton of musicians to record short videos of themselves playing something in the key of Bb (a key that, incidentally, some say exists as a fundamental frequency for the whole of the Earth).  He then put all of their videos on YouTube and created a page that allows some or all of the clips to be played simultaneously.  The end result is, in effect, a giant video-sampler, and it is a blast to play around with.  Any combination of videos creates a soothing, musically abstract experience, sort of Shh… Peaceful by way of Brian Eno.  Admittedly, the music itself veers slightly into “Japanese Tourism Video” territory from time to time, but since any dissonance whatsoever would add the possibility of running the whole thing off the rails, it’s not to hard to let the over-consonance slide.  If you want a complex video-mashup, check out Kutiman’s stuff.  If you want to do it yourself, you’re gonna have to settle for ambient prettiness.

For me, the most interesting part is how “In Bb” plays with the term “User-Generated Content.”  For several years now, that’s been the big buzzword (buzzphrase?) on everyone’s lips – put the power in the hands of the people, create software that will endlessly refresh itself with the energy of the consumer, blah blah synergy-cakes. With video games of every stripe and color, iPhone applications, and, of course, YouTube itself, it seems clear that we’re at the dawn of a new era of perpetually updated, individually-generated art.  What makes “In Bb” so compelling to me is that it steps one level above user-generation by making the concept visual… since you’re controlling videos of the musicians themselves, you generate your soundscape not merely by manipulating its various parts, but by manipulating their very creation.  Watching and controlling the musicians on the screen brings the entire thing full circle – they have each performed their part, and your role is to take those parts and plug them into a larger whole.

I mean, if we could videotape fifty people using this site, then put THOSE videos together for manipulation, well…. do I need to say it? Mirrors of mirrors! Dogs  and cats! Living together! Mass hysteria!

Before that happens, I recommend that you check it out for yourself. (And thanks, Greg, for sending the link!)

Congratulations, Fox and Kerri!

22 Jun

Fox and Kerri

That was beautiful, and you guys rock.

Saturday’s Show @ BrainWash

22 Jun

BrainWashWell that was certainly fun.  On Saturday, Dan A., Nervo, Lindsay and I performed at BrainWash Cafe on Folsom.  It was our first show together in support of The Exited Door, and it went really well!

BrainWash is a really cool venue; the back half of the building is a laundromat, while the front half is a cafe with a little stage – it’s funky, and cool. Michael Steven opened the night – he laid down a really nice set of acoustic stuff, and has a strong voice!  He was accompanied by a really great electric guitar player whose name now escapes me – sounded really nice, lots of delay, looping, and some tasty chord choices.

After Michael wrapped up, the four of us went on. The stage wasn’t quite big enough, and Nervo had to get shunted over a bit farther to the right than we’d have liked – I didn’t realize how much I like being near him onstage until I couldn’t be! Other than that, it was pretty remarkable how well we fit into a smaller space (with a minimal PA).

The room is quite live, and that, coupled with the less-than-ideal ergonomics of the stage left things feeling a little bit chaotic, but the sound was still really full (sometimes shockingly so).  After opening with “Happy Pants,” which is always fun, we played through a bunch of tunes from the record – “No Crow, Scarecrow,” “Oh, Brother,” “If You’re Feeling Out of It.” We also, sort of unbelievably, did “The First Time,” which, if you’ve heard the record, is a stretch to imagine being performed by four people… but it worked (in huge part thanks to Dan A.’s great singing/xylophoning/guitaring). Lindsay killed on her feature, “You’ve Changed,” as well – I love playing that song with her.

Like last time, we filled out the set with some non-exited door material, including “The Darkened Street” and the Nervo-centric “North Kinser.”  North Kinser marked the first time I’ve triggered a loop wrong in a performance (I’d be a fool to say it’ll also be the last, urp), but our recovery was swift and reassuringly confident.

So, check this out – though I’d had plenty of time to go through the material with everyone  individually, Saturday afternoon (the day of the gig) marked the first time we’d all sat down together and run through the set. And holy balls, they nailed it – From the first note of rehearsal, everything was just totally on. It’s a true testament to the skill of Dan, Dan, and Lindsay, and I’m lucky to perform with such talented musicians. Damn.

But you don’t have to take my word for it!  During the show, I gave my (new, beautiful, amazing) iPhone to Nervo’s brother Gabe, who recorded this video of “No Crow, Scarecrow.”

So, yeah – the show was a blast. Huge thanks to all who came out – it was great to play for so many friendly folks, and we can’t wait until we get to do it again!  It’ll probably be somewhere on the weekend of July 10th, so mark your calendars.

Update: Yep, we’ll be performing at Red Vic Sessions in the Haight on July 10th. Bam.

On The Subject Of Lil’ C

18 Jun

Lil' CLast week’s top twenty episode of So You Think You Can Dance was a bit overwhelming – there were so many dancers, and so many memorable, top-level routines, I couldn’t really process it all. It seemed like the show this year was going to be equally overwhelming, particularly after what seemed like the only weak couple got eliminated on Thursday.  However, I felt like this week’s top 18 performances fell back a bit into the normal rhythm of the show – there were some really strong performances, some unbalanced ones where the guy or the girl was clearly stronger, and a couple that kind of just stunk.  There are still too many contestants for me to tackle all by myself (for more detailed reactions, I highly recommend going over to Low Resolution, I’m sure Joe and company will have something up later today). However, I wanted to talk a little about last night’s guest judge, krump king Lil’ C.

Lil’ C (does one call him Lil’ for short?  Or C?  I’ll just stick with the whole name) is such a wonderful enigma. His personal style, Krumping, is easily my least favorite style on the show – not only is it kind of bizarre, it also appears to be just impossible to judge, particularly for the rest of the white-bread judgery, so it winds up feeling like whoever draws it as their style is getting a particularly confusing “Bye” for the week. (The same could be said about Bollywood, but at least that’s fun to watch). What’s more, Lil’ C always choreographs the krump routines, and since choreographers never judge, we never even get the benefit of his insight into the performances.

However, when he does guest-judge, he regularly offers deep, poetic insights into the performances, and though he can occasionally wander into a digressive no-man’s land of metaphor and imagery, he’ll just as often offer startlingly incisive feedback. It’s clear that he’s coming from an untrained background – see last night’s “Tango knees don’t bend” business – but that makes his feedback all the more interesting, and makes me like him even more.  He’s clearly a thoughtful dude, and truly talented. I’ve also heard that the krumping movie Rize is totally sweet.

But can we talk a little bit about “Buck?”  If ever there was a time when a word needed a rest, or perhaps to be put to bed entirely, that time is now, and that word is “Buck.” It pains me when Nigel jokingly uses it, it pains me when Mia more-seriously uses it, and can anyone deny the look of visible pain that crosses Lil’ C’s face whenever he uses it?  At this point, I feel like I can read his mind:

Lil’ C: “That was buck.” (Well, there it is, one more time, that fucking word, more meaningless every time I say it, eroding my cred one stroke at a time, God I hope Hot Tamale Lady doesn’t start using it again.)

Audience: “Whoooooooo!”

Lil’ C: “Totally buck.”

Sigh.  Anyway.  Last night was really good times, and there were a few standout routines, though I thought the choreography was, on the whole, not quite at the level of the first week. I liked the routine to the Frames song, but think that the music did most of the heavy lifting. I think that Philip is overrated and weird-looking, wasn’t that moved by Asuka and Vitolio, and think Kayla is kind of a goddess. If I had to guess who’s going home, I’d say that Caitlin seems likely, and maybe Kupono?  I don’t know if he’s really popular or anything.  Philip and Jeanine will also probably be in the bottom three.

I’m stoked for Mia, Mandy, and Tab&Napoleon to come back (next week?), and to watch as, over the next few weeks, the front-runners emerge. It’s gonna be, like, totally buck.

Wow

17 Jun

Iran Rally

Will this be the Berlin Wall coming down or just another Tianenmen Sq.? I wonder to myself

(Via Twitter, Picture Via)

Iran, So Far

16 Jun

mouse

This is all pretty nutty. I know I’m just music guy over here, but I can’t really believe what I’m seeing, and thought I’d share where I’m seeing it.

I’ve been following Andrew Sullivan‘s outstanding coverage, as well as the NYT’s The Lede blog, and just found Nico Pitney’s blog at Huffpost through Sullivan. I also just got a tip to check out Al Giordano’s blog, which is good stuff as well. There’s so much coming out, and it’s all so scattered, it’s hard to get a sense of things.

There are things we can do, however -  it’s not too difficult to set up a proxy server for Iranian citizens (Thanks, Annie!).  I’m getting the sense, from some of the stuff coming out of Iran, that our public displays of support and solidarity really mean a lot to the protesters – wearing green in solidarity isn’t the empty gesture it may feel like.

It seems like helping the protesters’ voices get past the government information blockade is probably the most important thing.  Other than that, we wait, watch, and hope that Jason Jones is being careful over there.

Oh yeah, and rock on, Twitter.  Your hour has arrived.

Monday’s Person I Want To Be

15 Jun
z_emerson

This Monday, as I find myself surrounded by an increasingly wacky bunch of well-meaning fruit loops, I find that more than anything, I want to emulate the cool head, deadpan sensibility, zero-bullshit demeanor of the one and only, Private Investigator Emerson Cod.

Emerson is on my mind because this weekend marked the airing of the last episode of Pushing Daisies ever (sniff), and while there were plenty of things that I liked about that show, Emerson was the thing that held it all together.  Whimsical, snappy, and beautiful-looking though it may have been, Daisies was also saddled with a built-in tendency to go off the rails into twee-ville, with scenes featuring Ned and Chuck in particular constantly running the risk of becoming waaaay too cute and “charming,” at least for me.

Fortunately, we could always count on the gruff and vulgar Cod (played by Chi McBride, who needs a new show, stat) to even things out.  Whenever the two romantic leads would start to lose me with their goo-goo eyes, Emerson was there to roll his, bringing things back down to earth in hilarious fashion.  A choice assortment of quotes:

Ned: It’s kind of a random proximity thing.
Emerson: Bitch, I was in proximity!

Olive: Yesterday, a farrier named Lucas Shoemaker was found dead. Trampled.
Emerson: Why should I care about a dude that sells fur coats?
Olive: Not a furrier, a farrier. *Heir*.
Emerson: Fair-rier?
Olive: It’s a blacksmith. Puts shoes on horses.
Emerson: Don’t try to act like that’s a word everybody knows.

Olive: Maybe John Joseph faked his death. People do that all the time.
Emerson: No, they don’t.

And of course:

Emerson: Just because there’s vodka in my freezer doesn’t mean I need to drink it. Wait… yes it does.

So while I didn’t love the final episodes (it was too bad that they didn’t know the plug was getting pulled), I still appreciated getting to spend a little bit more time watching this show, and I hope that all of the actors find success elsewhere in the near future. For his valiant efforts grounding a show with its head so far up in the clouds it threatened to float away, Chi McBride deserves some sort of medal of deadpan-valor or something.  Cheers, Emerson. Keep up the knitting, man.

5251

I'll read a pop-up book in your honor.

Murfins and Burgalinks

12 Jun

05_Flatbed_1 - JUNE-Jesus Loves Lambert- Idol’s been over for a little bit now, but people are still talking a LOT about Adam Lambert, his Rolling Stone article (which I thought he handled pretty well – “I’m gay, not a shock, let’s talk about other stuff”), etc.  Andrew Sullivan linked to this post from a spiritual blog called An Unapproved Road, and it’s really great.  My sister believes that we have Obama to thank for this, and for the awesomeness that is Kris Allen/Adam Lambert in general.  I concur.

-Speaking of Not-Entirely Straight- So, yeah, I like some stuff that isn’t necessarily popular in the hetero world. Whatever, I know what I like. SYTYCD is shaping up to have a great season – I don’t know of any good blogs where they talk about this show, really, other than Low Resolution.  Joe R’s got a bunch of folks helping to blog the show over there, and while it gets a bit hard to follow in the round-table format, it’s still fun reading.  Anyone know of any dance-blogs where they talk about this show?  It’d be fun to read an expert’s take, too. Anyway, Joe’s posts are fun, and he’s been writing all season – check ‘em out!

Winters and Guarniere-Sepinwall’s Kind, He Rewinds- I mentioned this last week, but TV Critic and blogger Alan Sepinwall puts up some really cool posts most summers wherein he does a “rewind” of a show from the past and writes about it each week as if it were still airing.  He started with “Freaks and Geeks” last summer, and that was fun – this summer, he’s doing The Wire season 2, Sports Night season one (I just can’t watch that again, the laugh track kills me), and Band of Brothers, which I’ve been watching along with him.  What a great miniseries! In general, I’m much more able to identify each of the actors this time around (It’s cool to see Kirk Acevedo from “Fringe” in there), and Alan’s great commentary makes it even easier.

-My Life IS Pretty Average- I’m not really that big of a fan of FMyLife.com – too many forced awful situations, too popular, not funny enough.  However, I’m a huge fan of the somewhat less-popular “MyLifeIsAverage.”  Sometimes the posts can get too into “I killed someone, but I was playing a VIDEOGAME, psych!” territory, but every so often, someone will post a gem of profound banality.  “Today, the power went out. Out of habit I flipped the light switch when I entered the room. The lights did not come on. MLIA”

-Drag Me To Rehab- As you maybe have seen, I really liked Raimi’s Drag Me To Hell.  It has projectile worm-vomit, what’s not to like?  As I was watching it, I couldn’t help but notice the weird fixation on the mouth and vomit – this “crazy film theory” at /film posits that the entire movie is really about a girl dying from an eating disorder and hallucinating.  It’s actually pretty interesting! Thanks to JA at My New Plaid Pants for posting – I find all my good horror stuff from you, man.

Crasy Ash!-Where’s Evil Dead 2, Guys?- In honor of DMTH, a film which the guys at Pajiba obviously loved, they put together a list of the 10 best horror-comedies of all time.  Slither = YES (seriously, see that movie.  It’s got Nathan Fillion and everything), but where the hell is Evil Dead 2?  It’s like they just forgot altogether.  I’m sure that Zombie Strippers is really funny, but unless it also features Bruce Campbell chainsawing off his own posessed hand, it shouldn’t be there.

-I Am The (Virtual) Walrus- By all accounts, this year’s E3 was intense – now that I’ve got one fewer box in my life, it’s a different thing reading about the overwhelming amount of crazy stuff that was on display.  One of the games that I’ve been really skeptical of is The Beatles: Rock Band, but after watching this video of the game in action, I think I get it.  It’s really great-looking, the team at Harmonix obviously put in a huge amount of effort to create a Beatles experience, and I’m sure that the gameplay is similarly refined.  I’m sure that Dan A. and I will meet up at his place to do our best Paul and Ringo when this game comes out in September.

Neko-Not the Cyclone On The Left, So Much- Speaking of Dan, he did a fantastic interview of Neko Case for Acoustic Guitar Magazine – give it a read!  She sounds like a really interesting person (shocker), and word on the street is that her recent shows in SF were super great, as well.  Jesus, I can’t believe I haven’t heard this record yet.  What is the matter with me.  I’m gonna go get it today.

-Last, But Not Least- I’m sure you know this already, but have you heard about “9?”  A post-apocalyptic animated movie about miniature men fighting a battle against machines, produced by Tim Burton and Timur Bekmambetov?  Woah.  This should be cool.  It’s directed by Shane Acker, who made the original short film its based on (check it out it is awesome!).  Here’s the trailer – if you can forgive the inclusion of fucking Coheed and Cambria on the soundtrack (and really, the music works, so whatever), I say this movie is going to be ridiculously sweet:

Have a great weekend!

Bad Poetry For Tuesday

9 Jun

i’m surrounded by artists!
there’s one to each side
and a handful in front,
several more are behind

the room where i’m standing
has not before seen
such a varied cross-section
of the creative scene

painters in the kitchen
prepare us some chips
as the cellist beside me
finishes the dip

so the choir director
gives us his say-so
to finally dig in
to his chili con queso

over at the table
theater mavens are mixing;
the tech wizard relaxes
since nothing needs fixing

and this fine photographer
brought really good beer
so the guitarist and I
toast a really good year

the taiko drum player
has made us a feast
and as you’d expect,
it involves groovy beets

so we cram round the table
to share wine and kebabs

and opinions diverse
as our disparate jobs.

i’m surrounded by artists,
so it’s easy to see
why i’m proud to be part
of this arts faculty.

artist-painting

I’ll swallow your soul! I’ll swallow your soul!

8 Jun

Drag Me To Hell Gypsy

…and this time, there’s no Ash around to supply a pithy comeback.  Nope, Drag Me To Hell has no safety net, it’s just freak-out jump cut after hilarious gross-out after freak-out jump cut after hilarious gross-out… it’s all reward and no work, and totally awesome from start to finish.  It is also, apparently, Sam Raimi’s attempt to work out his oral fixation, since the film features the most ridiculous amount of oral discharge – be it puke, offal, bile, worms, flies, red goo, whole arms, or dead animal bits – I’ve ever seen in a movie.

And since I’m talking about music in movies lately, I’ll say that I thought Christopher Young did a great job with the score, in particular using violin double-stops really interestingly.  Of course, the guy’s been doing horror scores since, like, Nightmare On Elm Street 2 and Hellraiser, so he’s got the whole “single high-note piano trill of scaryness” thing down, too. At its heart, music is about tension and release, and horror films seem to revel in the basest, most elemental expression of that same juxtoposition (build-up…build-up…build-up….SCARE!!AAAAA!!).  I can imagine that, with a director as good as Raimi building tension into a movie as fun as Drag Me To Hell, Young must’ve had a fucking blast allowing his music to take that tension and release to its logical conclusion.

Anyway, do yourself a favor and go see it. When you walk out of the theater, if you’re feeling a little freaked out, just remember – it was only a movie, and everything’s gonna be okay:

hanginthere

Still Life in Three Parts

7 Jun

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Part One: Origin! Potential!

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Part Two: Actualization

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Part Three: The Cycle Continues

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That Michael Giacchino is So Hot Right Now

6 Jun

UpLast night, I saw “Up.”  It was really, really great. In terms of drama and story, it wasn’t on the same level for me as, say, “The Incredibles” or “Ratatouille,” but the visuals, the artistry of the film… the incredible use of color, framing, and expression to convey the emotional transformations in the story… unforgettable.  In 3D particularly – I’m not sure if I’m ready to say that 3D is gonna be the thing that brings people back to the theatres, but it certainly was cool.

All three of those films have something in common – they were all scored by Michael Giacchino. I’ve been aware of the man since hearing (and digging) his jazzy, spy-movieish score for “The Incredibles,” but it wasn’t too long ago that no one had heard of him at all.

After working for several years in the video game world (scoring some movie tie-ins and a few WWII shooters), Giacchino got his first break when he was tapped to do the music for J.J. Abrams’ second show, “Alias.”  He clearly did a good job (though my main musical memory of that show is the awesome Abrams-penned opening theme music), because in 2004, Abrams came to him with his second project, a quaint little tropical island romp you may have heard of called “Lost.”

Soon thereafter, Giacchino was dealing out the groaning, keening music for which “Lost” is now famous, a score which I’d say has as much if not more to do with evoking the show’s unmoored, mysterious atmosphere than any other single element of its production.

At the same time, he was brought on to score Brad Bird’s first film for Pixar, “The Incredibles,” and did a fantastic job. Parts of his score actually call to mind Jeff Richmond’s opening credits for 30 Rock, with a little bit of vintage spy-movie string lines. He also slyly used 5/4 time as a way to invoke the Mission Impossible theme without actually quoting it – (well played, Giacchino, very well played). Also fitting, since he would go on to score Abrams’ underrated entry into the MI canon, Mission Impossible III.  Anyway, I flipping loved “The Incredibles,” and the music brings it back for me, every time.

So, while “Incredibles” was kicking ass in box offices nationwide, “Lost” was topping the Nielson ratings. By 2006, five years after first starting on “Alias,” Giacchino had gone from working on video-game adaptations of movies to being the composer of choice for Abrams, one of the most happening young producers in Hollywood and being tapped by Brad Bird for his second Pixar film, the wonderful “Ratatouille.”  Giacchino’s score for that movie (a film which I dearly love) is just great stuff… listening to it is like being lightly asleep and half-dreaming of Paris, the winding streets and cobblestones, old buildings and tiny cafe tables.  Aah!  Love.  What’s more, his song “Le Festin” went on to be nominated for an Academy Award, further cementing his place as one of the most successful composers in Hollywood.

Giacchino’s work in “Up” is similar to that in “Ratatouille” in that it’s largely in 3/4 time and has a sort of dreamy, European quality.  The main theme is absolutely wonderful, the soundtrack to some primordial hot-air balloon dream ingrained on the collective subconscious.  His score is, at times, incredibly wrenching; his handling of the opening montage of Carl’s life is is both larger-than-life and incredibly delicate, and never short of beautiful.  Actually, I’d describe the whole film that way.

And in addition to all of his work for Pixar, Giacchino has remained J.J. Abrams’ go-to music guy, providing music for “Fringe” (which I really like, particularly the Muse-esque opening credits) as well as the the recent “Star Trek” (a score which,  as I remember it, evoked the original while boldly going in its own direction, much like the film itself). His progression has been really fun to watch, from his early work in TV and video games to his ascent to one of the most in-demand cats in Hollywood, simultaneously working for one of the highest-rated shows on TV AND the most consistently exceptional animation house in the world. That’s pretty damn cool.

And yeah, he also did “Land of the Lost,” but hey – a gig’s a gig.

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