Tuesday, July 26, 2005

How I won't spend my summer vacation


Monday, July 25, 2005

Hot Cartoon Characters

Just a brief discussion:
Who are the hottest cartoon characters. I have to admit that I did have a bit of crush on Alvin from Alivin and the Chipmunks but as I matured I was partial to Tuxedo Mask from Sailor Moon. Just wanted to see if any one else wanted to way in on this issue!

Also Top 5 Cartoons:
5. Alvin and the Chipmunks
4. Animaniacs
3. The Flintstones/ The Jetsons
2. Ren and Stimpy
1. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (still on today btw)

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Movie Remakes-- Rules for Doing them

There should be certain rules for whether a film should be remade or not. Some remakes are brilliant, either improvements or "re-imaginings" of the original. Many are redundant and pointless. "Bad News Bears" may be saved by its brilliant casting of Billy-Bob-Joe-John-Boy Thornton as Coach Buttermaker, but was it really necessary? I'm not sure if I will shell out a sawbuck to find out.

My rules for remakes:
1) Foreign movies ok-- too many people refuse to see movies with subtitles. Their loss? But wait, remake it in English with Tom Hanks (Man with One Red Shoe) or Ted Danson (Three Mena dn a Baby, Cousins) and you are covered! Even if the movie is practically a shot-for-shot faded copy, (like "Point of No Return," remake of "La Femme Nikita,") or a last gasp of a fading team (Billy Wilder/Jack Lemmon/Walter Matthau's "Buddy Buddy," and inferior remake of "A Pain in the A**," starring the incomparable Jacques Brel), you can justify it based on the fact that nobody has seen the original except me.
If I sound like a foreign film snob there, too bad.

2) Bad Movies-- only if there was aredeeming quality to pull out of it. Ocean's 11 was total crap with the Rat Pack, but a lot of fun, so why not?

3) More Faithful to original source-- "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" hews closer to the book than the original film version, with the only exceptions being the parts that are most picked apart by critics-- no coincidence.

4) Brilliant auteur-- Again, Tim Burton ("Charlie..."), whose visual style and off-centered sensibility are perfectly suited for any Roald Dahl story.

5) Timelessness-- Classic novels, Shakespeare, etc., are always ripe for a fresh version. Another version of Othello? Bring it on? Jane Eyre with barn animals? Film it!

6) Do-over, this time with a budget-- Robert Rodriguez remade his own "El Mariachi" as "Desperado." Sam Raimi remade "Evil Dead" as "Evil Dead 2"-- Guy Ritchie remade "Lock Stock & 2 Smking Barrels" as "Snatch" Well, 2 out of 3 ain't bad

When not to remake:
1) Modern update-- the worst reason of all. Did we really need a remake of "The Champ?" The original was the perfect four-hanky movie. Jackie Cooper could still beat the stuffing out of Ricky Schroeder even now that he's dead. If you don't know what I'm talking about, off the the video store with you!

2) Vanity Project-- Bill Murray, I'm glad you wanted to make "The Razor's Edge" Now do something funny. "Swept Away?" Broom please (though the original was foreign)

3) Artistic Myopia-- The original "Cape Fear" was one of the creepiest movies ever made. I refused to see the remake, no matter who was involved.

4) Hey, let's put actors from the original in small roles-- "Cape Fear" again-- absolutely insulting

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Worst songs ever

I am about to step into what I hope is a sensitve subject: What are the 5 worst songs of all time? Now I know that any list of top anything is highly subjective. But let me just state that my opinions trump the rest of yours, and if you disagree you obviously are doing too many whippets and should seek help.

I should define exactly what a bad song is. A bad song is not simply one you don't like listening to. A bad song is an ICC (Instant Channel Changer). A song so annoying that you would rather staple your lips to your forehead than listen to a single note of it. Now I am sure at one point or other the artists who made these songs were struck by what they considered a Muse leading them to this gem. They were wrong. It was not a muse. It was the devil. Or a record producer.

So here is my list and why:
5) Britney Spears: Not Yet a Woman. And yet very much a terrible song. Every moment is agony. Stick to wearing skin tight red outfits or munching cheetos barefoot and don't get all philosophical.

4) Grateful Dead: Touch of Grey. Every moment of this song is bad. Stick to 20 minute long dope addled guitar solos for twirling, doped up dorks.

3) Starship: We Built this City. I admit it, the first time I heard this I thought it was catchy. The second time I wanted to cry.

2) B-52s: Love Shack. Now the B-52s are great. But this song is the most overplayed, mindless piece of music ever. Every friggen wedding I went to in the past decade has played this and God help me the DJs are even adding props (fake wigs, etc). For the good of humanity, this has to be stopped.

Worst Song Ever:
There is a tie here. Loverboy's Working for the Weekend and Bryan Adam's All For Love from the Robin Hood soundtrack.

Loverboy is a good band. Modern Day Delilah, Hot Girls in Love, Loving Every Minute Of It, Notorius. All great songs. And yet this one has the worst lyrics ever. And you hear it every friggen friday.

Now Robin Hood single handedly ruined several careers. Kevin Coster, he of Dances with Wolves, Fandango and Untouchables greatness, was the worst Robin Hood ever. Christian Slater has never recovered. And Brian Adams was emasculated with one simple song. Instead of Macbeth being the cursed theatre term, it should Robin Hood. This song is cloying to the point of making people suicidal.

Monday, July 11, 2005

Rock Star - INXS, or why I hate cover songs

CBS for no aparent reason has decided to give summer TV viewers a more rocking version of "American Idol" with the twist of the winner getting to be lead singer in a washed up band whose lead singer Michael Hutchence might have died of auto-erotic afixiation back in 1997. The show Rock Star: INXS has an element of voting off and the usual house full of freaks eventually putting on the standard, yet more rocking, cover songs with interesting guest judge (Dave Navarro) and annoying host (Brooke Burke). I don't care about the show as my last and only favorite INXS song was "Don't change."

However the show made me understand a type of singing that, as our blog subtitle goes, I hate: cover songs. I think the main issue is that bands and singers on bad TV shows sometimes pick songs that I really like; therefore, making it almost impossible to forget the original "better" version. This rule actaully works for songs I don't really like. Just yesterday, I heard a horrible, slow version of "I'll stop the world (and melt with you)."

So what are the exceptions to my rule? What covers do I like? In no particular order, but starting with humor I guess ...
1. AC-DC cover bands, well actually just, Beefy DC
2. "Girlfriend in a coma" - Mojo Nixon: A song that I really dislike (even though it must be a joke song) is interpreted by the where is he now Mojo. I think he is a DJ actually.
3. Any Van Halen cover: "You really got me" cooks along and has some hilarious yelp solo from Diamond Dave.
4. Speaking of VH, I remember liking "Jump" by Aztec Camera, but that's a little obscure.
5. "Big Shot" - Beastie Boys: Saw this live, front row in Paris. I was one of the few that understood the choice of a Billy Joel song as a segue.
6. "Pressure drop" and "Police and thieves" - The Clash: both songs show the band's ability to lively up rock with a reggae beat and killer guitars
7. "Everybody's crying mercy, when they don't know the meaning of the word" - Elvis Costello in a faithful version that convinced me to seek out all things Mose Allison.
8. "Funny Valentine" - Elvis Costello: Great song for a hip mix tape for a friend of opposite or same sex.
9. "Star Spangled Banner" - Jimi Hendrix: The definitive song of the 60s?
10. "Satisfaction" - Devo
11. "The man who sold the world" - Nirvana: Don't you think Bowie prefers this one to his own.
12. In a return to humor, "Louie Louie" - John 'Bluto' Blutarsky and members of Delta House

Friday, July 08, 2005

End of an "E"ra - 11 years of Howard Stern

Tonight at 11 p.m. ET will mark the final original content for "The Howard Stern Show" on the E network. In all honesty, the show was always a bit of a second-tier, disjointed companion to the brilliant morning radio show (also shutting down temporarily with a move to Sirius satellite radio in January). Still in many ways, the E show was the only way for "Middle America" and "night people" to enjoy Howard.

The E show always focused a bit too much on the parade of strippers, b-list actors and "Whack Pack" freaks that populated the show, instead of my favorite parts of the five-hour show - Howard, Robin, Artie (who is Jackie?), Fred (from Mars), Stuttering John (now with Leno?), Ronnie the Limo driver, Gary/Baba Booey, KC, and occasional amazing guests (Courtney Love, Sandra Bernhardt, Farah the freak, David Duchovny, Pam w./w. out Tommy Lee) all talking about their personal lives, loves, loathes and lusts.

As a tearful (beer-ful) tribute, a list of several shows that really benefited from viewing on E:
7) Stuttering John vs. Crazy Cabbie fight - Shockingly, this was actually a really good fight. Thank goodness, John (now a show traitor) prevailed over Cabbie (soon facing one year in prison for tax evasion).
6) The beautiful friend of Cindy Margolis (most downloaded woman) who wore the white tank top and paid for it. Speaking of PR, I love this related release Danni Ashe Issues Challenge To Cindy Margolis On Howard Stern Show. "You've seen mine. Now I want to see yours" Oh, we wish for clients like Danni.
5) The first Beetlejuice appearance in the white tux and headphones - Actually any Beetlejuice appearance (I still love it every time he utters "Me?")
4) Small penis contest - even edited this was unbelievable
3) Gay dance Party w. Matchbox 20 - I recall that Jon Stewart was on the dance floor with Howard; Jackie in a thong with Gay Ramone
2) Artie's baseball challenge in Las Vegas - Radio was excellent, but actually seeing Artie, toasted on Jack Daniels, taking the minor league/college "chick" (Artie's words, not mine) deep after several wild balls was simply great TV.
1) Baba Booey's (with scary mustache) video to his then girlfriend - "My professional life is at a nine, but my personal life is a two." "I gained a lover and I lost a friend. You gained two lovers ... "

Don't cry for Howard, Pop Culture Gems fans - I'm predicting that the show will be moved (with some innovative new touches) to Spike network come January. Maybe then it will be awarded with its long overdue Emmy!

Let Pop be Pop!

This new entry should probably be part of the commentary under Dough's insightful"sellout" post, but I've been looking forward to getting these thoughts out all day, and I don't want to get buried in the comments. How's that for blogger's ego?

Anywho, I've also been thinking about "sellouts." Not about pop musicians making money from advertisers who use their tunes, but rather about public perception of the musician and/or band as a whole. U2 and REM come to mind.

I remember going to the U2 concert at the Boston Garden when they were on the "Joshua Tree" tour. A college buddy of mine - Shaun Darragh (Shaun was from Malden and used to work summers at Lady Grace, of all places.) had been a hardcore fan from the beginning. He thought the "Joshua Tree" album was U2's best since "Boy," and I agreed with him. Anyway, we're at the concert and Shaun looks around at the crowd and his face starts to fall. "What are all of these jocks and jar-heads doing here?" he said. As the night went on - and it was a fantastic concert - Shaun got more and more agitated as the realization hit that U2's popularity had reached so far into the mainstream that Joe-Jock college was also a fan. Shaun felt so betrayed. In some ways, I could understand his frustration. I'd also been following U2 closely since "Boy," but at the same time, I wondered what the big deal was. After all, it's just popular music.

Shaun also felt betrayed by REM when they came out with their "Green" album. He thought it was too "poppy" and they had sold out.

To this day, I don't have much patience for people who carry that sense of betrayal that their beloved personal treasure of a band has gone mainstream. U2 and REM especially, have been widely criticized in this way by "purists" who remember the good old early days. Former fans gripe about how far their favorite bands have strayed from their core material. The question I have for that sentiment: How can you stay the same as a creative artist for more than twenty years?

At this point, you can gather that I'm still a fan of U2 and REM. I'd like to say to all of those ex-fans out there that despite the missteps and some bad albums now and then - a likelihood for any artist's career that spans two decades - both bands have still produced some great songs and some good albums.

Don't take it so seriously, my man. It's not religion. It's not politics.

Let pop be pop!

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Selling Songs to TV Ads a Sellout? Nah!!

Remember the uproar around 1989 or so, when "Revolution" was used to sell Nike shoes? The audacity to use the sacred John Lennon song to sell footwear! At long last, do they have no decency?

Phooey, I say! The artists have the right to make money on their songs anyway they want (ok, the Beatles didn't have the coice in their case, but still)- they (should) control the meaning and the purity, not the listeners! I am sure Pete Townshend would give a similar (but more ascerbic and expletive-laden) answer if asked about his songs being used for the CSI themes, or to sell allergy meds or cars (these latter two both excerpted from the sacred Tommy rock opera!). Better yet, Bob Dylan's recent pitch for Victoria's Secret using "Sick of Love" as a come-on may have seemed weird (ok: creepy and stomach churning, since he appeared in the ads), but I smile at the fact it probably torqued off the 8 remaining people who thought he should still matter to the folk music scene.

More encouraging is that many ad makers are getting very creative when putting music to their pitches. I thought I had discovered my own little band for myself when I took to The Shazam. At first, I was upset that one of their songs had been chosen for a Coors Light commercial. But then, why not? And kudos for the ad agency for actually doing some work to find some different songs to use.

And even better-- HP's use of, first The Cure's "Pictures of You" and then The Kinks' "Picture Book" (from the brilliant Village Green Preservation Society album) to promote their digital photo printing products was a great use of those tunes.

Any other favorites out there?

Most unnecessary TV character

This question comes from a PR Guru and pop culture genius from Michigan. We shall call her The Pessimist.

What is the most unnecessary character addition to a formerly popular, but starting to decline, TV show family?

Now The Pessimist throws out the always popular Oliver from the Brady Bunch. No question about it, Oliver was to the greatness that was Brady what peanut butter is for a good tuna melt. Nothing good. Although I am sure he is a nice person, his character on the show was pure evil.

But I am going to be a bit different. I say the most unnecesarry added character was the baby from Mad About You. That was one great show. Helen Hunt was hot and funny. Paul Reiser made a miraculous recovery from being eaten in Aliens and was funny. Episodes were light and funny. And then they had to make it all cutesy and bring in a kid character. Now the episodes were about spit up. And spit up just ain't funny.

Adding babies to any comedy ruins it. Friends was funny. And then everyone got pregnant and boom, not funny. No kids=funny. Kids=ratings doom. I am just waiting for someone at Scrubs to get impregnated and ruin that show too. It makes me mad.

Monday, July 04, 2005

Live 8 - Taped and edited? - Part 2 (shorter and nicer)

So in a shocking upset, I was about to give Madonna "performer of the day " recognition (home town advantage since she's a Brit, right?), but then came the amazing Pink Floyd reunion.

Full disclosure: I had the folded-up-from-the-album "Dark Side of the Moon" poster on my wall during high school and one "high"-light from my first weekend in college was seeing "The Wall" movie on the Syracuse quad. Further full disclosure, I thought I could probably go the rest of my life without hearing two Floyd songs in a row. As the day of enless commercials, inane VJ comments and lack of music went on, I was actually anticipating the reunion - mostly just to see the uncomfortable stage dynamics between band and Roger Waters. But then, from the first note of "Breathe" to the horrendous MTV cut-in on "Comfortably Numb," I was amazed at how good this was. Roger has the best vocal chops, the band can play, the light show remains trippy and the tunes are pretty awesome.

In the why can't we just get along category, I like the David Gilmour statement:
“Like most people I want to do everything I can to persuade the G8 leaders to make huge commitments to the relief of poverty and increased aid to the third world. It’s crazy that America gives such a paltry percentage of its GNP to the starving nations. Any squabbles Roger and the band have had in the past are so petty in this context, and if re-forming for this concert will help focus attention then it’s got to be worthwhile.”

Another quick rant/question - did MTV broadcast Nelson Mandela from South Africa? Maybe I missed it, but I'm guessing the MTV producer didn't know who he was.

Other highlights are quick: Jay Z "Big Pimpin" with Linkin Park was rocking. How was Jay Z the only artist that I heard all day who mentioned politics - something smart about spending billions to kill people when we could be saving people. Audioslave had a catchy little number - (insert Beavis voice here) - Slash is cool. The Who and Sir Paul: good, but past their festival prime? Billy Joe and Green Day doing "We Are the Champions" was fun, but the real Live Aid tribute would have been a hilarious "Radio Ga Ga."

Finally, the concert should have ended (not started) with Sir Paul and U2 doing "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band." Judge for yourself and support this cause (for £ 0.99) at: https://www.7digital.com/payment/credit.aspx?id=384

Give me a shout when this all comes out on DVD!
P.S. I am now inspired to host an entire Live Aid DVD viewing party at my house on Saturday, July 24 - All welcomed to attend, except MTV.

Saturday, July 02, 2005

Live 8 - Taped and edited? - Part 1

An early afternoon (three hours) spent near the TV and computer, while people around the world get to see good/great/mediocre live music for free that will somehow pressure President Bush and seven other G8 world leaders to forgive African debt, make grants and somehow wipe out poverty. Check out www.one.org for more info.

(I'm not great on the history of the annual meeting, but has a G8 summit ever resulted in anything happening?)

First a quick obligatory rant (a.k.a. QOR) at AOL: If you are trying to open up to more non-subscribers with your portal, then why not allow Mac computers to get your live music feeds?
A QOB at MTV/VH1: I seem to recall waking up at 7a.m. for Live Aid - why can't I see live London, Japan, Berlin, Philly? Is it that important to show "Best Week Ever" and endless ads?

On to the tunes, the aforementioned endless ads and the messages of the day:
Great start - Sir Paul with U2 doing "Sgt. Pepper's" - Nice touch with 20 years ago today Live Aid reference. Also cool to see this song live (first time for Paul?) and with a muticolored satin suit-wearing horn section.

Too quick of a cut to female host who I swear in explaining the day's significance said, "the wicked awesome thing is it (the situation in Africa) doesn't have to be that way." OK, I guess the sentiment was there about eradicating poverty, but speak English.

I'm big on Kanye West musically (Puffy wishes he had a tenth of the talent), but I'm pretty sure in a backstage interview he talked about AIDS being introduced by man into Africa on purpose, just like the CIA brought drugs to inner city and wiped out the Black Panthers - Huh?!

Following an OK song by Black Eyed Peas (hey, does Justin ever jam with these guys or is there a fight over recording proceeds?), the other host refers to all the great rap-related acts on the bill today as opposed to 1985 when it was only Run-DMC. I don't remeber Run-DMC on the MTV telecast back then, but they are pretty cool on the DVD with King of Rock. So who's next in the current rap parade: Will Smith?! I guess someone in Philly must like him. I guess I'm OK with him playing but no "Jiggy with it" or "Parents just don't understand"? Next sort of rap is backstage interview w. Snoop Dogg & Charlie last name Wilson. So why not show them performing?! - Argh! Whoops, a bit later now, and in cutting off Madonna live (more on her later) they finally showed, "What's My Name." Bow wow wow yippee yay!

Green Day (much tape delayed and much edited at 12:37 p.m. ET) and American Idiot is the first song my six-year old knows/sings to. Did VH1 just bleep the word "faggot" in the song - Why? By the way, I thought bands wearing red, black and white might be banned in front of mass gatherings in Berlin, but I guess time has passed. In a sign of production values to come, they cut end of the song to have hosts say how incredible the day is.

Instead of showing Annie Lenox, VH1 cuts to Jimmy Fallon backstage. He does get off a zinger asking if long-lost founder, songwriter Syd Barrett will be involved in the Pink Floyd reunion. Now, that's funny and this madcap laughs.

Cut to Bob Geldolf for about 10 seconds on "Don't like Mondays" - darn. But at least VH1 turned to endless ads instead: XM Radio/War of Worlds - is anyone seeing that?/horrible Charmin ad with animated bears using toilet paper/Swiffer/Olive Garden/Crest White strips/Paint/Pampers/Diet Snapple w. a talking dog/Cingular and "Strip Search" promo for a reality show on male strippers. All shown at once. Speaking of ads - the one for The Global Fund (important advocacy funding group) was cut off by an ad forBob's Furniture and the Bobopedic. My last QOB rant against ads on the telecast.

Richard Ashcroft's amazing "Bittersweet Symphony" with Coldpaly was awesome. I like them as a backing band. Jon Bon Jovi (who I once flipped off) looked and sounded the same. Please no more Richie Sambora mouth solos on "Living on a Player."

U2 on delay - Question for blogger The Optimist: Did Bono invent going into the crowd at festivals during Live Aid? My wife cried then and came close during a recent DVD watching (and that's having given up on the band in 1987). Bono is getting old because this time it was doves released during "Beautiful Day." Not sure if Beatles' "Blackbird" worked as the closing outro over that song that reminds me of the Patriots winning their first Super Bowl.

And now the biggest recovery since Live Aid - Madonna dedicating and singing "Like A Player" to a grown Ethiopian woman who was saved 20 years ago. They bleeped "Are you f*&%ing ready London," but "Ray of Light" jumped along nicely with lots of dance moves/energy and break dancers.

Best sign in the crowd from Philly: "I've been here since 6 and I need to pee."
Remember, check out www.one.org.
That's all for now.

Friday, July 01, 2005

I blame the media

I have run into quite the conundrum.

It is rather the chicken or the egg situation. Does the media perpetuate the ideologies of the US or is it a reflection of our society? If I were never exposed to the leggings over my jeans, scrunchies and over-sized t-shirts of the 80's, would I have really worn those things?

But, if my friends and I had started doing so, would the media have picked up on it and totally packaged our seemingly little-known trend?

based on the documentary entitled "cool-hunters" i would have to go with the latter. There are people who are paid by clothing, music, etc companies to go out and exploit what little uniqueness and style some people are able to find and then mass produce it, leaving the originators of a style of music and fashion statement looking as followers rather than individuals.

and why when i type in "cool hunters" am I taken to the mgm website?