Mixed up about movies.

July 29, 2008

I made this mix for my mix CD club. We were challenged to make a mix based on a movie. I chose “Fatal Attraction.”

Here’s the song list, with some links that lead to videos of the songs, and some that don’t.

1. One Night Affair – Rising Sun
2. Your Love Is Mine – Holly Golightly
3. Orgasm Addict – The Buzzcocks
4. Essence – Lucinda Williams
5. Chains of Love – The Dirtbombs
6. Hanging On The Telephone – Blondie
7. Into Temptation – Crowded House
8. The Other Woman – Devendra Banhart
9. I Hate That I Got What I Wanted – Clearlake
10. You’re A Hard Habit To Break – Linda Balintine
11. International Small Arms Traffic Blues – The Mountain Goats
12. The Good Guy & The Bad Guy – My Brightest Diamond
13. Trouble Girl – Outrageous Cherry
14. Knife Going In – Tegan & Sara
15. Two Lives – Young Fresh Fellows
16. Blood Bitch – Cocteau Twins
17. She Dies – A Place To Bury Strangers


Bush Jr., Stoned.

July 29, 2008

George Bush: “You want an ass-whooping?”

George Bush Jr.: “Try it old man.”

It’s safe to assume that far more people will watch the trailer for Oliver Stone’s “W.” than the actual movie itself. It’s only a minute and a half of footage, but Bush comes off as more human and likable here than in any real-life TV footage. Josh Brolin as an anti-authority boozer in any other movie would be a must-see.

There’s a wax-museum creepiness to seeing all of these still-living famous politicians — Rumsfeld, Rice, Cheney, Powell, Bush. Sr., — depicted by actors who are just short of being dead ringers for them. It feels kind of like a bad acid trip. Then again, maybe it’s just the subject matter.

How sports columnists are like porn actresses.

July 28, 2008

Football and murder sell lots of newspapers.

When I worked at the Indianapolis Star, the online team sent a daily e-mail to the entire editorial staff with a list of the previous day’s most clicked-on stories. And with a few exceptions (like when the House voted on a gay marriage bill) crime and sports topped the list. No crime was more popular with readers than murder, and no sport was more popular than professional football. The numbers were astounding. Nothing else even came close.

Which, of course, is why someone like Bob Kravitz (who I never once saw in the newsroom in my nearly three years at the Star) reportedly makes six figures to write either transparently formulaic or cynically inflammatory (often both) columns about Indianapolis pro sports teams, especially the Indianapolis Colts.

A young, fro-coiffed Bob Kravitz.

A young, fro-coiffed Bob Kravitz.

Make no mistake, Bob Kravitz is an excellent sports columnist. But that’s like saying Perez Hilton is a terrific celebrity gossip blogger, or that Gianna Michaels is a first-rate porn actress. It doesn’t take much talent to excel at writing a sports column, it just takes audacity and narcissism.

Kravitz was recently the subject of an in-depth profile in Indianapolis Monthly magazine. As usual, writer Tony Rehagen did a fine job. But does Indianapolis really want to hear Kravitz’s life story told Horatio-Alger-style?

I’m afraid to say, yes it does. I read it. Why? Maybe because to some degree, I envy people like Kravitz, Michaels and Hilton — people who all obviously share a drive to succeed in careers that have little or no redeeming value beyond a little fame and a good chunk of cash. I envy them because I could never muster the discipline to work high-paying but personally compromising jobs I knew were ultimately meaningless. I’d rather settle for less money, even less fame, and absolutely no job-related health problems or pangs of conscience.

The ineluctable allure of Joan Holloway

July 24, 2008

Chuck D. taught me a long time ago not to believe it. Yet I’ve recently bought into the “Mad Men” hype. But I have an explanation. Five of them.

1. Zippy DVD packaging.

2. The look.

With excellent set design, costumes and art direction, “Mad Men” is a marvel to watch, even with the sound turned down.

3. The “The Sopranos” connection

I whiffed on “The Sopranos.” I kept telling myself I would get around to watching it. I never did. And I refuse to watch any series on DVD that exceeds four seasons (You barely made the cut, “The Wire.”) I’m not going to make the same mistake with “Mad Men”, which was created by “The Sopranos” writer and producer Matthew Weiner.

4. Professional curiosity.

I’m a copywriter at an advertising agency. Although “Mad Men” is set in the Paleolithic Period as far as the advertising business is concerned, it’s interesting (and in some ways, even instructive for newcomers to the business) to see how the writers depict the industry. Of course, the depiction will often be oversimplified, and will exploit stereotypes for the sake of comedy and drama. But this is a prime-time TV drama, not a documentary.

5. Joan Holloway.

Even in the absence of the aforementioned reasons, “Mad Men” would still require my rapt, undivided attention thanks to the presence of Christina Hendricks, whose Rubenesque form — already awesomely appealing in ordinary 21st century clothes — is a first-round, first-minute knockout in the hip-hugging, chest-accentuating clothes of 1960.

Enough said.


July 22, 2008
Manute Bol and Mugsy Bouges, a long, long time ago.

Manute Bol and Mugsy Bouges, a long, long time ago.

In 1983, Manute Bol made his entree into the NBA amid much fanfare. At least that’s how I remember it. However, a little snooping around on Wikipedia reveals him as a second round draftee — not exactly a hot commodity. Bol went on to play for 10 unremarkable seasons before leaving the NBA to an uncertain future that would include time as an impoverished refugee, a celebrity boxer and, most recently, a humanitarian.

But I will always remember Bol as the inspiration for one of most enjoyably bizarre sports-related songs ever.

Courtesy of Tabron — put it on repeat:

Pitchfork: Notes on Jarvis Cocker, P.E, !!! and more.

July 22, 2008

It was Saturday night at the Pitchfork Festival in Chicago, the sun was setting, and !!! and the Hold Steady had both just finished sets that, up til that point, were easily the highlights of the festival. Now, many at the prior night’s Public Enemy set might disagree. But while PE put on a spirited performance (Flavor Flav was incredibly agile and energetic for someone I’ve long assumed to be in the business of extreme self-abuse), so much of what made it great was nostalgia-related. While the intensity of PE’s anger – so central to their appeal – felt immediate back around 1985-1992, it came off as flaccid in Chicago last Friday night. They at least could have updated their references. “Fight the Power” would have been better if Chuck D. would have said something like “That song ‘Laffy Taffy’ was a number one jam, goddamn if I say it you can slap me right here!”

When Public Enemy – which in addition to Chuck and Flav included three jigging S1Ws, Professor Griff, a live band and everything you could ask for outside Terminator X – finished “It Takes A Nation of Millions To Hold Us Back” they went on to do a few bonus songs, including “Fight The Power,” “Welcome to the Terrordome,” “He Got Game” and “Can’t Truss It” as a medley – a deeply unfortunate format best suited for Vegas and Award show performances, and not at all befitting the guys who wrote “My Uzi Weighs A Ton.”

The medley bit wasn’t the only stain on their set. Flavor Flav, great though he was, of course came with his own set of unfortunately tacky baggage. He used the occasion to thank everyone for making him the biggest reality star on TV (which earned the only boos I heard all festival) and he awkwardly attempted to wax political, sounding profoundly uninformed in the process. Even Chuck D.’s few politically pointed words were trite anti-Bushisms, and made me wish there was something more substantial and provocative behind what used to be one of the world’s most vital producers of politically-minded music. Anyway, I digress.

As I was saying: The Hold Steady and !!! had just rocked Saturday night’s crowd in ways theretofore unrocked. The Hold Steady – an endearingly homely crue with a penchant for Springsteen-like anthems (but without the irritating presence of a self-mythologizing Springsteen-like frontman) – transformed its large corps of fans into a single, pulsing organism. I’m not a Hold Steady fan, and I find frontman Craig Finn’s talky vocal delivery annoying. But I couldn’t help being moved by the rapport Finn established with the band’s fans. When the group performed “Stay Positive” near the end of their set, I found myself thinking, “I need to get that record.” It was the only moment during the festival when I felt like a true convert.

!!! floored me. Theirs was the first Saturday performance other than Caribou’s (who, unlike !!!, lacks a large membership and is comprised of guys who are better instrumental technicians than performers, but still managed to produce one of the best shows of the day) that really pushed me beyond that “I’m just standing here watching an outdoor festival performance” feeling. I don’t dance, but I danced to !!! – although not with even a fraction of the zeal exhibited by !!! frontman Nic Offer. Offer pranced, posed, popped, locked and pogo-bounced like a queen on methamphetamines. I don’t think Offer is gay, but you won’t find his dance moves in the oeuvre of any traditional heterosexual. Nor will you find his shorts (Lieutenant Dangle-tight) there either. But after seeing the staid performances of newer indie favorites Vampire Weekend and The Fleet Foxes, it was refreshing to see a band go completely balls out like that.

Showmanship is a lost art among the vast majority of American rock ‘n’ roll artists, especially those that have the misfortune of being categorized as “indie.” Nic Offer has it in spades. He does something few current rock ‘n’ rollers do (The Hold Steady are actually really good at this, too): He opens up a line of dialogue between himself and the audience. But unlike most rap acts – which do this same thing, but only in a self-serving effort to manufacture crowd support (“Put your hands in the air!! Wave ‘em like you just don’t care!!) – Offer only aims to entertain by dancing and gesturing and just generally going off the hook in a manner that would lead an innocent onlooker to conclude he was either crazy, on drugs or both.

Now having said that – and this is no knock on Offer, because I would run to the box office if his band ever came to Indianapolis – !!!, as good a they were, didn’t hold a candle to Jarvis Cocker, the Englishman from Sheffield. The longtime Pulp frontman stole the festival from his many younger counterparts as well as his very few older ones (Mission of Burman and J. Mascis – the latter of whom is technically two years younger than Cocker, but has a “true” biological age of about 63).

The secret to Cocker’s success – other than great, incredibly clever pop songs (i.e. “Fat Children,” “Black Magic” and “Cunts Are Still Running the World”) – is his absolutely stunning sense of showmanship. From his appearance (a close-fitting navy blazer, skinny tie, black jeans, oversized Andy Warhol eyeglasses and a floppy mop of hair) to his stage manner (unfailingly genteel) to his no-he-didn’t dance moves, Cocker outshined not only everyone in Chicago last weekend, but also most every other rock ‘n’ roll performer I’ve ever seen. I imagine it was similar to what seeing Bowie in his prime might have been like. Cocker’s performance was delightfully subversive and fucking sensational.

Jarvis Cocker strikes a pose during his Pitchfork set.

Jarvis Cocker strikes a pose during his Pitchfork set.

Subversive, though, more than anything. And far more effective in its critique of authority figures than Public Enemy’s militant puffery. While PE still puts on a great performance, they’ve failed to evolve at how they convey defiance – which is what rock ‘n’ roll is all about. Cocker is the rare rock musician who has continued to grow as a performer and a songwriter, and that is probably the main reason his performance – wry, powerful, astonishing – was ultimately far better than PE’s. Cocker is relevant. Cocker is cool. Cocker is, above all else, a rocker.

Defending dog soup.

July 17, 2008

I didn’t become fluent in Korean when I lived in South Korea, but I did learn to read its simple phonemic alphabet.

While buzzing along in taxi cabs or walking down the street, I constantly scanned the street and business signs, looking for the few words I knew. Oftentimes they would actually be English words spelled out in Korean (Interestingly, in Korean, it requires four syllables to spell “Sprite” — pronounced like this: Seh-peh-ligh-teh).

One Korean word that I learned early on was “poshintang.” It means “dog soup.”

Not everyone in Korea eats dog soup. Many young Koreans in particular think dog-eating is totally repugnant and a source of national embarrassment.

Still, enough demand for dog soup existed in Korea back in 1999 to justify the existence of numerous restaurants that specialized in the delicacy. I knew this because I could read the restaurants’ signs, which always read, pithily, “Dog soup.”

A couple of North American friends of mine tried it once. They said it was a little too salty. They also remarked on texture of the meat, which they described as “dry” and “stringy.”

I never tried it myself. Not so much out of compassion for dogs, but rather out of my western upbringing, which indoctrinated in me a deep-seated and visceral repulsion to the idea of putting dog meat in my mouth.

Yet I think it’s more than just a little bit hypocritical for Westerners to get morally outraged about Asians eating dog. Yet we do. And the Asians continue to appease us by politely pretending not to eat dogs when we’re around. But I think raising canines as farm animals for food is less criminal than what is happening to domestic dogs in China now, in what amounts to government-sanctioned pet-hunts. This is ironic since there’s some pretty compelling evidence that domesticated dogs originated in Asia.

Of course, it should come as little surprise that China mistreats its canine residents. I just don’t think (and I apologize to the Idge here) eating dog meat should be counted among its offenses.