Thursday, April 27, 2006

Snakes On A Magazine

Get these mothafuckin' snakes OFF mothafuckin' TIME MAGAZINE!!!

I've had it with these mothafuckin' snakes...

Also, from one of the two blogs called Snakes On A Blog... it's poetry time. (And because you're good, here's the other one.)

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Music Update

Here's what I've been listening to lately, broken into the old-and-busted and the new-hotness.

Late Adopter

Spoon - Gimme Fiction
Incredible album. It just feels like rock and roll... the whole record has a vibe of coolness. It's clean, never out of control, never explosive, always composed... but all in a good way, which is surprising for a rock record. The greatness doesn't come across until you've listened to it a bunch of times (and it did take me a great many listens to come all the way around) but it's worth the effort. It's great driving music, and songs like "I Turn My Camera On" and "Was It You?" take on lives of their own in the dark. It doesn't hurt that Britt Daniel has a really excellent rock voice, in each of its affectations.

Modest Mouse - Good News For People Who Love Bad News
Now I see what the big deal was about. I have little else to say here, other than my 180 (well, 160) on this album says loads about how my musical tastes have changed in two years.

Art Brut - Bang Bang Rock and Roll
I'm including this here because it has taken me almost 18 months to come to terms with whether I like them (that's one month per 1,000 lira!) despite having had a good read on their musical intentions from the get-go. It's easy to dismiss them for being more cheeky than talented, but the reality is that they sound pretty damn good while doing it. And there's room for growth, provided they don't get addicted to keg stands. I am now fully on board.

Blue Scholars - Self-titled and The Long March EP
Excellent stuff. My only qualm with Blue Scholars is that Geologic's speaking voice has no roughness or rawness, nor does he do much in terms of flow, or mixing up his rhythms. It's not like he can't rap... he's not Kanye, he's not that bad. But his style is pretty vanilla when you get past his poetic, insightful turns of phrase. It leaves something to be desired. Sabzi's beats are so good that Geologic could read banana bread recipes out of The Joy of Cooking and I'd still want to listen, but still. (Mmmmm, banana bread.) Anyway, that's probably a bigger beef than is justified. This is great, great hip hop. "Southside Revival" is the perfect kind of song for this time of year... time to sit outside, enjoy the warm weather, and sip on a venti chai have a beer and a burger. MEAT!!!

Ted Leo and the Pharmacists - Shake the Sheets
Another album, like Gimme Fiction, that took me some time to get into. But this time it was more to clear out my misconception that this would be punk rock. They're not punk... elements of punk and ska-punk are borrowed, but they don't follow the rules of the genre. Neither are they "indie" rock, not in any of the term's potential misuses. They're just straightforward, though not simple, up-tempo rock. They don't rely on power or noise or screeching to get their hooks across. The hooks are complicated, but not so much that the songs are inaccessible. I bet they'd be an amazing live act.

Early Adopter

Gnarls Barkley
- St. Elsewhere
As great as expected. Danger Mouse's work is solid, but Cee-Lo is the revelation here. The self-proclaimed Soul Machine croons his ass off, making himself accessible to any and all listeners, but not without preserving his eclectic side in his lyrics, covering such diverse topics as schizophrenia, necrophilia, and the Boogeyman. His work on St. Elsewhere should vault him to fame and fortune. If it doesn't, then the terrorists have already won.

Elbow -
Leaders Of The Free World
Another entry in the New Coldplay sweepstakes, but an excellent one. Tons of hooks to get caught on, and momentum that builds as the each song moves along... not quite Sigur Rós-sian momentum building, but not too shabby either. They actually do explode, instead of buliding towards a "good part" that never comes, as Coldplay and Snow Patrol are prone to doing. Elbow gets props for remembering that their atmospheric sound is supposed to go somewhere eventually.

Belle and Sebastian - The Life Pursuit
I love this album. It completes the band's transition from floaty, cloudy pop into full-fledged radio pop... and well-conceived pop at that. Stuart Murdoch's iconic voice, and the sad-bastard history he brings to his new sunny-day songs, does wonders. There are any number of great, great songs on this album.

Arctic Monkeys - Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not
Oh, clever title, sir. You show disdain for fans and critics alike! Congratulations! You don't care about celebrity and stardom! I bet you don't! How did you ever come up with that idea? Riddle me this, gentlemen... what if I said you guys are NOT a bunch of hypocritical posers with more misplaced anger and charmless juvenile sarcasm than musical talent? Haha! You're caught! P.S., your band is NOT awful.

It's disappointing to think that not only could a band be more overrated than Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, but that it only took like eight months for it to happen. This planet's going straight to fuckin hell.

Neko Case - Fox Confessor Brings the Flood
She's not my cup of tea, but Neko has the most captivating voice in music right now... capitvating enough that I'd enjoy this album despite not particularly caring for any of the genres she belongs in (alt-country, singer/songwriter, etc). I'm not putting this in my car anytime soon, but it's definitely good stuff.

Ben Harper - Both Sides of the Gun
As is this, Ben's usual solid effort. I think he's got a better album in him, though... something that can stand up to Fight For Your Mind and The Will to Live. The increased production quality takes a lot of the edge off of his sound. Even the closing number on the "hard" disc ("Serve Your Soul"), which ought to be a classic Harper rock-out song, feels sterile. More fuel for the "when's he gonna make an album as good as his live shows?" argument.

Destroyer - Destroyer's Rubies
Not bad. Of all the New Pornographers, Dan Bejar is the hardest to appreciate. His fitasmanywordsintoameasureasyoucan lyrics and affectations are difficult to get into, and his songs rarely make much sense as a whole. Then again, the individual lines are awfully brilliant. I still haven't got a great read on Rubies, but I can at least appreciate Bejar's borderline genius as a lyricist and arranger. And you have to respect that he put a 10-minute epic at the front of his album and made it work. That move was ballsier than a Spalding warehouse. Anyway, worth checking out.

Don't Drop The Chaloogie

As a one-time Taco Bell employee, I often find myself defending the store and its workers from ludicrous accusations.  Did you ever take a DUMP in the BEANS???  No, and nobody jacked off in the sour cream or put boogers in the guacamole either.  Is it just me, or is Taco Bell an easy target for this kind of thing?  Somehow they're the exclusive distributor of non-sterile cuisine, all because refried beans has a particular consistency and color.  What could prevent someone at Burger King from wiping his ass with your Whopper bun?  Nothing!  And yet people have attitudes about Taco Bell.

From my end, I witnessed just one incident of food tampering in two years.  A fellow employee questioned the order I took for a Mexican Pizza with no tomatoes.  I explained that the customer said he was allergic to tomatoes.  So my friend rolled his eyes, and motioned for me to watch as he embedded a single tomato chunk within a gigantic hunk of shredded cheese, and steamed the pizza.  What mischief!  My point is that the more grandiose tales of food tampering are apocryphal.

Of course, when something actually does happen, it ruins my argument.  A Stafford, Virginia teenager and Taco Bell employee is currently facing ten years in prison for spitting in a customer's iced tea.  While I'm excited to learn that "adulteration of food" is a felony offense, I'm less excited when I consider how bad this makes Taco Bell look.  I should point out that many fast food restaurants have been known to serve beverages, and any or all of them could pop a loogie in your Hawaiian Punch.  But still, this could end up validating all those turd-in-the-beans stories.  Let's hope not.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Primitive Screwheads Need Not Apply

Guess what just arrived in the mail... the out-of-print Bruce Campbell vs. Army of Darkness: Boomstick Edition DVD, featuring both the S-Mart version and the extended/"apocalypse" version.  Well hellooooooooo, Mr. FANCY PANTS!!!!  As non-sequitur as it is, I'm kinda partial to the "notorious" S-Mart ending.  You can't beat "hail to the king, baby."  But on the other hand, more Army of Darkness means more of something good.  Basically, I can't lose.  I could blindly select one disc or the other, and remain entertained for an entire evening.  That moment will have to wait until next week, but when it happens, ohhhhhhh boy.

Microsoft Is Disgusting

As if you needed more reasons to hate Microsoft, here comes a great one.  Rumor has it that nearly 25 years ago, when co-founder Paul Allen was working his ass off on MS-DOS 2.0 despite suffering from Hodgkin's Disease, Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer were discussing how to grab back Allen's Microsoft stock in the event of his death.  Real nice.

The one I'm disappointed in is Ballmer.  Here's a guy who is best known for maniacally screaming the virtues of developers, yet it appears he not only nearly worked a developer to his death, but was scheming to screw his family in the event of that death.  Sure, Steve... developers.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Population Tesh

For your entertainment, I present this picture of John Tesh, courtesy of The Mighty MJD's recent post praising Tesh's classic NBA theme song, "Roundball Rock"...

Look closely at this picture. Sure, it's a guy best known for appealing to Republican music tastes wearing an outfit I'd have worn in high school. But check out the t-shirt. It's Strong Bad... the one and only.

I'm not an out-and-out Tesh-hater. He deserves a reprieve from the bowels of hell for "Roundball Rock," which is the greatest TV sports theme ever composed. But beyond his work for NBC Sports, he composes symphonies in Douche major. Further, he is best known for being on Entertainment Tonight, a show that brings new meaning to the phrase "absolutely fucking vapid." John Tesh would be hard to redeem. This photo, however, just might do it.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

West Wing Crackwhores?!?

Fans of The West Wing may recall that one of the first season's running storylines is how staffer Sam Seaborn handled his friendship with a hooker.  Her role on the show was to point out that hookers are people too.  Well, now we know why.  Looks like Aaron Sorkin wrote that particular character arc based on a true story... his own.  Except in the real-life version, there was a shitload of crack.

I knew about Sorkin's drug history, and how he was caught on the way to Vegas after Season 2 had wrapped with a suitcase full of drugs for his own use.  But I didn't know about the crack.  I mean, good lord... crack?!?  Drugs, sure, but crack?!?  I don't understand how someone who is otherwise functional could ever get sucked into crack.  Maybe it's good that I don't, but still.

Anyway, given that he's spent the last few years sobering up and prepping for Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, hopefully we won't have another meltdown.  It'd be nice if we could get more than a couple years' worth of bulletproof Sorkin on a particular series.  But his frenetic process doesn't really lend itself to not being on drugs.  We'll see.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Snakes On A Flame

McSweeney's just posted a list of possible surprise endings for upcoming Oscar shoo-in Snakes on a Plane.  I kinda like the third one... if the bus goes slower than 55 mph, snakes drop from the ceiling... but the others were pretty underwhelming to me.  What's with the obsession with a nitroglycerin-explosion?  How does "they all BLOW UP AND DIE!" end up on a reputable site like McSweeney's?  That's how my Play-Doh action figure games used to end.  When I was six.  We can do better than that... and I'll prove it.

1) Samuel L. Jackson captures all the snakes.  Plane lands, he screams "Get these mothafuckin' snakes OFF the mothafuckin' PLANE!" as we all expect.  But while the TSA folks are dealing with the snakes, one of them escapes into a freight-shipping area.  It meanders over to an international shipment, from Indonesia on its way to the San Diego Zoo, and slithers upwards, towards the cage's latch.  The shipment's contents?  Two dozen Bengal fucking tigers.  The snake inadvertently undoes the latch, and the tigers run inside the nearest building in search of food, although not before eating the snake.  This sets up the sequel: Tigers At The Airport: Snakes On A Plane II, in which the consumption of said snake represents both the conclusion of the first film and the launching of a franchise not dependent on the cinematic allure of snakes.

2) Samuel L. Jackson gets bitten by the snakes several times while attempting to land at LAX.  He eventually chokes them shits, lands successfully, and passes out.  He wakes up in the hospital, having been shuttled over hastily once the plan had landed.  Of course, his fellow FBI agents are there when he comes to, glad to see he survived.  They do some wisecracking and such, but as they're leaving, Samuel L. asks whether they got all the snakes... let's assume he counted 103.  So he says "did you get all 103 of them summabitches?"  And one of the agents says... "103?  We thought there were only 102."  Then the power goes out, and we hear a loud rattling noise, which sets us up for Snakes On A Plane II: Hospital Snakes, which combines the high-octane world of emergency-room medicine with the high-octane campiness of CG snakes.  Get me 30 ccs of snakes, STAT!

3) Samuel L. Jackson has been bitten on the hands several times while trying to kill a large white snake.  He eventually does, biting it in half and yelling, "Take a BITE outta CRIME, mothafucka!  RUFF!"  He then lands the plane, etc. and so forth.  His wife is waiting for him at the airport.  She embraces him, then looks down to examine the bites on his hands.  She notices that his wedding ring is gone, and pulls a nuclear nutter on him.  He realizes he left the ring in Hawaii.  She rips him a new one and makes him get on another plane right back to Hawaii.  This sets up Snakes On A Plane Again, which gladly relishes the exact-sameness of its premise as compared to its predecessor.

It does make me wonder how they'll prepare us for a sequel.  There's gotta be some kind of "The End... or is it?????" conclusion.  I'd love to see them go the Clue/Wayne's World route for the Holy Grail of ridiculous movie gimmicks: multiple endings.  Even though everyone knows what to expect from Snakes at this point, that would be a guaranteed crowd-pleaser.  It takes a special kind of movie to pull off the "but wait... here's what actually happened!" construct; I think Snakes could be that kind of movie.  Let's keep our fingers crossed.

Vats Of Urine II: The Imperial Pilsner

Dogfish Head is my microbrew of choice here in Maryland.  Their standard beers (Indian Brown, 60- and 90-Minute IPA, Chicory Stout) are excellent, and with gun firmly pressed against head I would name Shelter Pale Ale as my favorite beer.  They also have seasonal/limited-edition brews like Aprihop and Punkin Ale that are worthy of attention.  The only major beer of theirs that I don't like is Raison D'Etre, which tastes like a bag of assholes to me.  I'd rather drink pee.

Well, now the folks at Dogfish have me covered there as well.  They've just released a new specialty brew called... this is true... Golden Shower Imperial Pilsner.  And believe me, they know exactly what you're thinking.  How could they not when they add statements like this to their press release: "We wouldn't waste our Golden Shower on the kind of beer drinker who decides what to drink based on which brewery spends the most on advertising and the least on ingredients."  I'm honestly at a loss for words.  In a good way, but still.

Now, here's the thing.  I do like me some pilsner.  I don't know how I feel about consuming a 750 by myself, though it does circumvent my "never more than one when I'm alone" rule.  I'm considering driving home from work right now, a half-hour early, just to see if the local liquor stores have this in stock.  But can I keep a straight face while giving the checkout guy a Golden Shower?  (Of course, once I've paid he'll have to give it right back to me.)

Bang, Bang... Keg Stand?

Do I like Art Brut?  Sure, why not.  I have to respect any band who can end a song called "18,000 Lira" with the line "sounds like a lot of money!"  But I just found two new reasons to like them:

1) They just played at my alma mater, Haverford College, and apparently kicked ass.  That's quite a task... this is, after all, a student body that could barely follow Black Thought's call-and-response instructions when The Roots played there, so getting the kids excited is no small feat.  (More on this later, in the appendices.)

2) They reenacted the best part of Almost Famous by sticking around after the show and doing keg stands.  No word on whether Eddie Argos screamed "I AM A GOLDEN GOD!!!"  Either way... priceless.  And you gotta love the "let's just get drunk" variety of invincible-rock-star behavior, as opposed to the "bang me in this toilet stall, I'm the bassist" variety.  Boy, do I hate getting propositioned like that.

Anyway, well done Haverford, and well done Art Brut.

Appendix A: The Roots
So, here's the deal.  They were just incredible... best show I've ever seen.  Nobody can match their instrumental skills and live charisma.  I just wish the crowd had appreciated what they'd seen.  That audience was... bold, italicized, caps-locked and underlined... AWFUL.  If The Roots felt at all ridiculous for taking a gig at the whitest school in Philly, those feelings were confirmed by their customers' utter lameness.  Thought was basically like "OK, when I stamp my foot, scream 'Hey' three times, and point at you, you say 'Ho!'  Okay?"  And the fuckers still couldn't do it!  You could see BT was embarrassed.  Imagine the "Mr. Thompson" exchange from The Simpsons, except with Black Thought as the FBI guy and the crowd as Homer.  Psst... I think he's talking to you!  No, asshole!  It's called rhythm!  He wants YOU... to say HO!!!  Can't you speaky the English?!?  God.

I will go to my grave carrying shame for having disappointed Black Thought that night.  If anyone from The Roots is out there reading this, I'd like to apologize, on behalf of the Haverford community, for being lame.  But it was still one of the coolest things that ever happened at school.