Thursday, June 15, 2006

What Tha Heck Is A "RIM JOAB"?!?

Remember the struggle between the MPAA and South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone over the rating of South Park: Bigger, Longer, and Uncut?  How they argued over how many half-seconds of Saddam Hussein's fake animated penis could be shown in an R-rated movie, and other such issues?  This memo summarizes the ridiculousness pretty nicely.  Parker and Stone are already American heroes for making those people analyze their stupid dick-and-fart movie frame-by-frame, but Stone gets a lifetime pass to the Doucette Executive Washroom for his postscript.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Take Off, Eh!

The good news: Americans haven't cornered the market on assholes.  The bad news: America Jr. is the inspiration for the previous statement.  I dare you to witness this shameful act and not get pissed off.  I really hope General Motors is using the Hummer line to spy on the North American asshole community, and that a big, big bust, complete with capital punishment, is coming.  Oh, pleeeeease...

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

The Da Vinci Choad

Based on the early returns from critics, my plan to see the movie of The Da Vinci Code instead of reading the novel has backfired.  So I broke down and read the book.  Diagnosis: sufficient.  The book I'm currently reading (Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson) does a better job of weaving a fictitious interpretation of religious history, but DVC stands out as compared to other commuter-rail novels in its ambitions and its intellectual subject matter.  So, despite my reservations, I give it its due.

Anyway, I'll break my opinion up to this point into the good (Pork) and the bad (Beef).  Bad news first, because my feelings on the book are best summarized by this sentence: "it sucked, but it was still pretty OK."

1) I really hate the potboiler genre's ridiculous emphasis on one- and two-page chapters.  "Mommy, I wrote a chapter today!"  It's like when I'd pump my high school history essays up to the 14-point font, so I could fill a page faster than 12-point type would have.  Just as I artificially created a full two pages, Brown artificially creates suspense in the reading process without actually having as much suspense in the story.*

2) Brown's flashes of "Style!" really piss me off.  Boy, was I surprised to find out that Sophie has a mysterious past.  No kidding!  For someone who came up with some really convoluted codes and conspiracy theories, his character development is awfully transparent.

3) Also, those revelations are just unendingly self-congratulatory.  Does every chapter have to end with a cliffhanger?  Someone has a mysterious revelation, but he/she doesn't feel like sharing until after a chapter break?  Gee, you made me wade through a whole two-paragraph chapter before revealing your secrets.  Dan Brown, you are a magnificent bastard!

4) Okay, you know what?  If you want to write short chapters, so you can things keep moving along, artificially manufacture some suspense, and juggle the interweaving storylines, knock yourself out.  I give you permission to write two chapters per page.  I'll deal.  But don't number them.  Sweet phenomenal Christ, that drives me apeshit.  You're basically admitting that your readers have too short an attention span to read three actual chapters... but you want them to feel good about having read three chapters anyway.  "Hey, it's Chapter 112!  Dan Brown sure packs a lot of chapters into eighty pages."

5) Do people still say "what the devil?" in conversation?  How can a novel that takes place in the era of cell phones actually have that expression as serious dialogue?  What's next?  Is Robert Langdon gonna say "oh, fiddlesticks!" in the next book?  There's only two groups of people who should be licensed to say "what the devil?" without it being tongue-in-cheek: barbershop quartet singers and Civil War reenactors.  Langdon's not on either list.

6) Robert Langdon is as boring a franchise hero as you could ever imagine.  Aren't characters supposed to have traits?  I cannot describe Langdon beyond his vocation ("symbology" professor).  Langdon is the literary equivalent of Textured Vegetable Protein... he contains all the nutritional requirements to be a hero-like substance, but he has absolutely no taste.  Water is flavorful and zesty compared to Robert Langdon.  Although, in his defense, he does say "what the devil?" a lot.  That's kinda like character development, right?

Despite all that beef, I did enjoy reading the book.  In a sea of diarrheal thrillers, it at least has some fiber.

1) It helps when the author actually has a message to send, and has done his research.  I know nothing about art history, but his narrator does speak from a position of authority.  He may not have been entirely accurate, as Wikipedia tells us, but he was certainly convincing.  In a book where the subject matter is so much more interesting than the goings on, it's easy to get sucked in.

2) You have to respect the heaping helping of subversive, anti-establishment, intellectual discourse that has been dumped on the doorstep of the common potboiler reader.  Anything that pisses off the Catholic church so much has got to be good... there's no greater endorsement than the Catholics denouncing you as a heretic.

* - I suspect this will come up when I see the film.  But to speculate is unfair to everyone, so forget I said that.  But not really... cause I didn't remove that sentence!  Wink wink!

Friday, June 02, 2006

Two Ways To Get Me To Turn Off Your Radio Station

1) Play a Violent Femmes song.  In fact, why don't you go ahead and play one that begins with an irritating a capella wail ("Add It Up")?  Cause I just love starting my morning with whiny singing voices.  When I can't get the sound of babies getting crushed in the teeth of engine gears, I like having Violent Femmes songs as my Plan B.  Is there any way I can put his voice into my alarm clock?

2) Five simple words... Clap Your Hands Say Yeah.

But this is more than an excuse to bitch about Pinch Your Cheeks Say Nnnnnnngh.  See, the actual occurrence of #1 this morning made me realize why I hate Shithead's voice so much.  It isn't just because he sings like a retarded version of David Byrne... it's because he ruins the Byrne affectation by mixing in the Femmes' Gordon Gano and his deeply unpalatable affectation.  Eureka!  I've reverse-engineered the biggest music-critic sucker's-bet of the new century!

See, I like David Byrne.  He makes his singing voice work, because it comes in so many flavors and has such dexterity.  He works hard to sell it to you.  That hard work is a big reason for the acceptance of Talking Heads' visionary overall sound.  Thus, to compare Fuckface's incompetent, lazy affectation to Byrne's highly-skilled one is inappropriate.  It necessarily reflects Byrne's genius upon someone with no such genius.  Furthermore, the Byrne connection always made me wonder whether my objection to Asshole was just a matter of assimilation, of becoming accustomed to his grating sound.  I no longer have to worry about that; I hate the Violent Femmes, so acknowledging Taintbag's equally-viable similarity to Gano saves me from all that self-doubt.

Nice to know that even though the day started on a downer, it gave birth to a big relief.  Yippee!!!

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Fearless Freaks

Today is a Flaming Lips day.  This morning, I listened to five Lips albums in a row.  It was quite the hoot, I tell you what.  I got the idea last night, while watching the documentary The Flaming Lips: Fearless Freaks (filmed by Wayne Coyne's neighbor).  Pretty great stuff.

As a non-rabid Lips fan, I was unaware of the band's backstory, so it was interesting to learn about the earlier Lips incarnations.  But unlike many "writing the history books" documentaries, the filmmakers did not construct a narrative.  There's no discussion of histrionics, no discussion of "why do you think The Soft Bulletin resonated so much, and so forth... they left that side of things alone.  Events and landmarks are observed and discussed, without much expository BS from anyone.  The insights provided by the band are strictly about their process, philosophy, and personality.  There's no back-patting, no self-congratulation, no "let's be honest, we're a big deal"-type pragmatism.  They pretty much just stay on-topic... "how do you guys do what you do?"

It's also neat to see that Coyne pretty much just does whatever he's interested in at the time, without regard for whether anything useful comes from it.  If it means organizing an experiment with 20-something car stereos in a parking lot, all of which are playing different tapes simultaneously, that's what he does.  If it means making a self-financed absurdist sci-fi film (Christmas on Mars), that's what he does.  Sure, the "parking lot" test eventually spawned the four-disc Zaireeka album, but nobody would even conceive of anything like that, or its related "boombox" experiment, with any commercial aspirations in mind.  You can tell Coyne just thought it would be interesting to do.  That helps the movie bang home the image of Wayne Coyne not as a musical visionary, but as a visionary, period.

Related to that notion is the film's emphasis on Steven Drozd's contributions to the band.  Coyne is portrayed as a tireless worker who has a lot of ideas about things, but not music necessarily; Drozd, on the other hand, is shown as a musical savant from a family of musical savants.  When Gabby Hayes of the Butthole Surfers was asked what Coyne's biggest asset is, he laughingly exclaimed, "Steven!!!"  I can't speak to whether that's real or not, but the filmmakers have certainly framed it that way.

Anyway, good movie.  It was worth it just to see Wayne Coyne floating around the crowd in an inflatable bubble.