Friday, July 29, 2011


When pop singer Kennedy William Gordy aka "Rockwell"'s (a stage name he supposedly adopted because he thought he "rocked well") debut single "Somebody's Watching Me" reached all the way to number 2 on the Billboard Charts in 1984 there might have been a critic or two who considered it a triumph of nepotism. After all Kennedy William Gordy aka "Rockwell" was the son of Motown Records founder and CEO Berry Gordy and enlisted the services of the biggest celebrity in the world at the time, Michael Jackson, to sing the chorus, an undeniably fortunate position for any aspiring young pop musician. While the story goes that Kennedy, to avoid such accusations of nepotism, recorded the track as Rockwell and secured a record deal with Motown on the merits without his father's knowledge of who he was; I don't think many other artists where in the position to get their demo track immediately reviewed by producers at Motown, let alone get a Michael Jackson to sing on it.

It was easy for some doubters to write off the odd and idiosyncratically styled Rockwell as a flash in the pan, a one hit wonder, who would be nothing without an assisted chorus from the instantly recognizable vocals of the King of Pop. When he got around to releasing his follow up single, the above "Obscene Phone Caller", a song that was thematically (Rockwell really likes writing songs about looming paranoia) and structurally quite similar to his first single but missing the aid of MJ on vocals, all those doubters who said he couldn't make it on his own were proven absolutely, undeniably...correct.

If you put me on the spot I would have to say "Obscene Phone Caller" is the worst pop song ever made. Even from its cumbersome name, which they somehow manage to awkwardly stuff into the song as part of the chorus (I don't know if the "Mister or Miss" line is supposed to be a progressive touch or just there to cram in an extra beat), it all goes downhill fast. That bizarre, exaggerated British accent that we only got a hint of in "Somebody's Watching Me" comes back in full force leaving the listener to question: "is that how he sounds on every record?" Even more puzzling, the accent inexplicably disappears when he does the clumsy spoken word breakdown in the middle of the song where he sounds more like an irritated Valley Girl. The song completely fails in what I assume was its goal of sounding sexy and/or scary. Uncomfortable may be its prevailing feeling.

Musically, the crude repetitive synths sound like something you'd hear after pressing the DEMO button on a Casio keyboard with an occasional synth violin riff by the Rockman. As for the video, it's a lot less ridiculous than I what would have expected from the song. You can see how limited (or possibly lazy) an entertainer Rockwell actually is when you notice how he is stationary for most of the video, at best mustering a few exaggerated pantomimes. I did dig the cameo by the evil mailman from "Somebody's Watching Me". Also from a historical standpoint this may be the first and only music video with an Alexander Graham Bell impersonator. In the end one is left to wonder: is any this really that much different from "Werewolf Bar Mitzvah"?

While it was only a minor hit (yes, it actually climbed all the way up to #35, so he's technically a two hit wonder) and largely forgotten by everyone, "Obscene Phone Call" is probably the definitive Rockwell song. "Somebody's Watching Me" is the lasting legacy but I think this song gives a truer picture of what "Rockwell" was all about (or at least was attempting to be all about) and depending on your tastes it may or may not have been a positive that his career sputtered out in a couple of years. As for me I think that's as much Rockwell as the world needed; in terms of favorite mid-80s pop song about sex and telephones my favorite will always be "Sex over the Phone".

Thursday, July 28, 2011


Awhile back I promised to keep a regular tab of the different club soda policies and even though I have not posted any sort of update, I have been keeping meticulous notes from bars throughout the city and beyond. For reference here is the relevant rubric:

A – The minimum requirements for an A is a club soda that is served in a pint glass and costs under $2. If the beverage is free, the establishment receives an A regardless of the size of the vessel.

B – A $2 club soda or slightly higher in price will qualify for a B grade.

C - $3 dollar range

F – Everything else

Also keep in mind that this rubric is totally arbitrary and I can and will assign grades inconsistently. Keep in mind that I go to these places with friends who are drinking. I don’t recommend going to a bar by yourself and only ordering club soda. That is just weird. Also, the prices mentioned are pre-tip. Always tip your bartender.

Portsmouth Brewing Company – A. Not only does the Brewery of Portsmouth New Hampshire brew excellent beer (at least that’s what I hear), they are also very generous with their club soda pours. My pint was under $2 and I got a free refill. Also, Portsmouth is in New Hampshire, which means no tax, which is awesome.

Lunasa – A. I had several club sodas here for free while watching the women’s World Cup (barf). Free = A. Full disclosure though, Dan claims he knows the bartender and he was getting sloppy drunk, so that may have factored into the free pours.

Matt Torrey’s – A. FREE, IN A PINT GLASS, WITH A LIME!!!!ONE!11!

reBar – B+. $2 bucks for a pint ain’t so bad. Also, this bar has a movie theater and bacon flavored popcorn. Yum.

Brass Monkey – B. $2 for a pint of club soda.

McKenna’s – B.

PJ Horgans
– C. Small glass, no lime $2. Fuck you. Pretty good burger.

Standard Beer Garden
– F. Even if the club soda at this place was free they would still fail. Full of tools, lines, and over-priced. Oh yea, the club soda comes in a rocks glass, costs four fucking dollars and I got laughed at when I asked for a free refill. I hope this place goes the way of Dresden circa 1945.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

What about the voice of Geddy Lee? How did it get so high?

In response to Emerson's D&D-themed video last week, I've decided to post a video from Canadian prog rock legends Rush, whose music has been the de facto soundtrack to every D&D game that's ever been played since Moving Pictures came out in 1981.

Among other things, Rush is notable for being a psychedelic rock band but giving no indication that any of its members have taken anything harder than Extra Strength Tylenol. They're a band that transcends their own extreme lameness by wearing it as a badge of honor, and I think the song and accompanying video for "Subdivisions" is probably the ultimate expression of this fact.

The video is fairly literal interpretation of the song, which is itself an extremely literal song about being a socially inept suburban nerd in the 80s. Fellow Canadians the Arcade Fire would later release an album-length version of this song and win a grammy for it. If nothing else, you have to give the band credit for really knowing their audience. Even for a band as unapologetically nerdy as Rush, it takes balls to make a theme song and accompanying video for your loser fan base who have no friends and spend all their time hanging around the arcade playing Tempest all day.

The song does have one of the most excellent guitar solos in the Rush catalogue, though it's really difficult to get past just how awful the lyrics are, containing such gems as "the suburbs have no charms to soothe the restless dreams of youth". Though what I find most remarkable about Rush's lyrics is the fact that they're almost all written by drummer Neil Pert (who, among other things, also moonlights as a nonfiction travelogue writer). This means that not only does Pert write this terrible middle-school verse without the thought of ever having to sing it himself, but that he has to hand Geddy Lee a sheet of paper with these lyrics and convince him that they're not incoherent nonsense.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

That Which Dare Not Speak Its Name

As Dan likes to frequently point out, I am a gay. While I do enjoy a life of uninterrupted hedonism fueled by the constant high of VCR cleaner and my own fabulousness, I have to get serious every once and a while.

We all need to be more careful with our word choices in today's world. I'm not talking about "that's so gay", or "faggot" or "bundle of sticks meant to be thrown onto a fire". I'm talking about the most insulting word you can use against a gay man.


That's right. Please, please, please stop using that word. Why would you do that to us? Contrary to popular belief, gay people are not Victorian era poets looking for another word for fuck buddy. We're just like you, except we can actually get our partners to take it up the butt.

I think my aversion begins with my mother (what doesn't). Her famous words in college were "So Nick, have you taken a lover?" She might as well have asked my advice on finding a decent opium den or my thoughts on the Model T. It sends shivers up my spine, and generally grosses me out.

Consider, what does this or this bring to mind? Certainly not a love to echo through the ages. Nope, its just good 'ol American sodomy, and that's how it should stay. We gays don't need to be taken that seriously, so leave your prejudice at home.

Would It Kill You To Signal?

This really, really isn't hard.
 My job requires me to do a lot of driving, most of which occurs in New Jersey. As you may or may not be aware, driving in New Jersey is awful. Not so much because people in Jersey are bad drivers - they're really no worse than anywhere else as far as I can tell - but because every damn street in Jersey is a back road or a highway. There is no in between, and there are no street signs. It's terrible. Also, there are multiple traffic circles in New Jersey, and traffic circles are pretty much the worst thing ever. And turning left means turning right into a jug handle. It's a pain in my ass.

But the thing that bothers me the most about driving - and this is by no means limited to New Jersey - is people who do not use their turn signals. Whether it is changing lanes or full on turning, there is no excuse for not signaling. It's right there, under your left hand. It requires no effort or time, and yet people neglect it constantly. And this isn't like wearing a seatbelt, which ultimately just affects you. You not signaling has a direct effect on my life, even if I'm a pedestrian at the time.

As far as I can tell there are really only three reasons to ever use your turn signal: changing lanes, parallel parking and actual turning. Let's break them down briefly with regards to more specific situations.

Parallel parking. Always signal when parallel parking. Always, for your benefit, and for the benefit of everyone else. In all fairness to society, very rarely do I see someone attempt to parallel park without signaling.

Changing lanes. People change lanes without signaling all the time. I cannot begin to stress how dangerous and infuriating this is, especially on multi-lane highways. I get cut off constantly by some jerkoff who feels that the person in front of him isn't going quite fast enough, and that he needs to get to his destination 12 seconds faster than he normally would have. I have no problem with people driving fast, and I am happy to let people into my lane, but please, just give me a 2 second warning. That's all I ask. A subset of this category is moving from the far right lane into the exit lane. While I still signal when doing this, not signaling is acceptable. The only way not signaling here would affect anyone else is if someone is tailgating you and also planning on exiting, and tailgaters can all go to hell.

Actual turning. If you turn without signaling, I am guaranteed to wish a pox upon thee. That's right, I went there. A pox. And nothing less. The only time is okay to turn and not signal is if you are in a left or right turn only lane. (And if you are in one of those lanes and you DON'T turn, double pox.) To be honest, people turning without signaling affects me more as a pedestrian than as a driver. This is especially true in Manhattan, where no cabbie has ever used a turn signal in the history of cabbies or signals. I can't tell you how many times I have tried to cross a street, only to wait for a car that appears to be coming straight, and then see said car turn without signaling, therefore holding me up at the corner when I could have crossed. And now I can't cross because other cars are going straight. Perhaps this is a very urban-specific problem, but I find it infuriating none the less. Every second counts in this city. It's the difference between catching a subway right away or waiting 8 minutes on a platform in 114 degree heat with 400% humidity.

And if I find out you didn't signal because you were on your fucking cellphone, to hell with a pox. I'm hunting you down and pooping in your mailbox. And you'll deserve it, too.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Definitely Less

I saw a commercial the other day for an upcoming summer comedy/action film called "30 Minutes or Less"; it was the first I've ever heard of it. As I was watching the commercial unfold, I came to the mildly unsettling realization that a major Hollywood studio had spent tens of millions of dollars and enlisted the skills of some fairly well known and talented comedic actors to create a loose adaptation of the notorious "Collar Bomb Case".

Reading up on the details of the original case again, I was reminded at just how fascinatingly bizarre and sordid the whole affair was. There was conspiracy and double crossing and murder (yes, the pizza guy, who started out as a willing accomplice, did end up getting gruesomely blown up by his collared bomb, desperate and handcuffed, surrounded by police and cameras; there's a clip of it here if you want to see it, sicko) involving some real ugly and despicable characters (one of the conspirators apparently needed the money from the bank robbery to pay someone else to murder another person). Check out the more detailed Wired piece on the incident if you want to get more into it.

So given the grizzly and tragic nature of the case, it is obviously the perfect material to loosely adapt into a buddy action comedy (with a slight dash of stoner humor). The whole thing looks like a lightweight "Pineapple Express" (they even ended up getting Danny McBride) which wasn't that good a movie to begin with. Looking at the changes from the film and the case, you can almost picture the meeting between the producers:

"Sad middle aged pizza guy, huh? Better make him a likable 20something pot smoking slacker. "We should also throw in a wise talking side kick to help him out while we're at it."
"A pretty girl? Yeah of course put her in."
"Remember to make the 'bad guys' bad yet bumbling."
"Car chase? Explosions?"
"No doubt."
"Can we call it '30 Minutes or Less'?"

And scene.

In addition to be being ill advised subject matter for such a genre movie, as it turns out it's not even an original idea. Since 2006, no less than five television dramas (the pilot episode of the short lived "Heist", an episode of "Criminal Minds", "Bones", the Canadian import TV show "Flashpoint", and of course an obligatory ripped from the headlines edition of "Law & Order: Criminal Intent") have used the incident as the basis for episodes; and really it does make far more sense as a story for crime dramas and police procedurals, rather than a buddy action comedy.

Also another, small but valid, point of contention I have with the film: it's called "30 Minutes or Less" but the trailer indicates that Jesse Eisenberg has 10 hours to rob a bank. Maybe he has to also complete a series of tasks within 30 minutes throughout the 10 hours? I don't know. I do understand that even with the incongruous relation to the plot, what producer was not going to jump all over a title like "30 Minutes or Less" for a feature involving a pizza delivery guy under a time crunch.

I mean there is still a chance that, despite the seemingly poor source material, the movie could indeed turn out to be actually novel and funny or at least financially successful at the box office. The concept itself is a bit more original than most of the sub par, end of the summer season, dreck that Hollywood usually dumps on the cineplexes towards the middle and end of August and I am slightly rooting for a successful comedy bank robbing picture (the genre has really fallen on hard times; has there been anything worthwhile in the two decades since "Quick Change"?). However the odds seemingly appear to be stacked against it and you know that there has to be one critic out there just waiting for this movie to come out and fail so they can drop a critical line in their review along the lines of "You'll wish this movie was 30 minutes or less".

Thursday, July 21, 2011

It's better than Bad. It's good.

Last Sunday, AMC's critically acclaimed, Emmy-winning series Breaking Bad started it's fourth season, with all the intensity and dark comedy that fans have come to expect. And yet, I still often find myself in conversations with people who otherwise claim to appreciate quality television, that have never seen a single episode. Even my own wife, who has watched every episode of Dexter and True Blood without complaint, has this notion that the show is too dark and violent to keep up with.

I'm not sure why the meth-cooking adventures of the dad from Malcolm in the Middle is such a hard sell, but in the interest of promoting what I feel is the best show on TV, I'd like to provide what I think are the 7 best reasons I can think of to start watching right now (it was gonna be 10, but it's a hundred fucking degrees outside and my brain hurts).

1) Summer TV sucks

C'mon. What else are you gonna watch? Franklin & Bash? Men of a Certain Age? Suits? And don't kid yourself into thinking you're going to leave the house or do something productive with your time (did I mention it's a hundred fucking degrees outside?).

2) Now that Weeds is totally off the rails, where else are you gonna get your fix for mild-mannered suburbanites slinging drugs to support their family.

Though I find the ridiculousness of the last two seasons somewhat amusing, the adventures of the Botwin family stopped being compelling or halfway plausible after the show's second season. If anything, Breaking Bad has gotten better with every season, and shows no signs of weakening.

3) It's the best and most accurate depiction of Albuquerque since the city stopped letting Cops film there

As a Duke CIty native, I was a little dubious of a sci-fi writer from Virginia making a show about the New Mexico drug trade. But after watching four seasons of the show, you'd swear that Vince Gilligan was born with a Frontier burrito in his mouth. Whether it's Dean Norris gunning down mexican assassins at the Rio 24 parking lot, or the Northern NM drawl that the show's meth heads deliver with pinpoint accuracy, Breaking Bad is as authentic as a Los Cuates chile relleno plate.

4) Walter White is the new Mister Wizard

With the loss of Bill Nye and Beakman's World, who's left to convince the current generation of children that science isn't totally lame? Walter White, that's who. Where else are kids gonna learn what to do when their RV battery dies in the middle of a meth cook, or the right kind of acid to dissolve a dead body in a plastic barrel?

5) Saul Goodman is the best character on TV

It's the role Bob Odenkirk was born to play. One part Meyer Lansky. One part Lionel Hutz. Saul Goodman completely obliterates the line between drama and comedy. He's at the same time completely believable and totally absurd. And the fact that Odenkirk plays the role no differently from any of his Mr. Show characters makes it that much better.

6) The Pontiac Aztek will never stop being funny

Possibly the best running joke on the show is Walter White's car. Not only does this hideous monstrosity of an automobile play an integral role in telegraphing the character's loserdom at the outset of the show, it later ends up trumping Danny McBride's Daewoo Lanos in Pineapple Express as the most hilarious method of vehicular homicide that's ever been filmed.

7) You don't need premium cable to watch the show

Unlike the ivory tower douchebags at HBO and Showtime, the folks at AMC don't think you need a hedge fund manager salary to be able to watch their shows. Hell, you can buy each of the first three seasons on DVD for 20 bucks or less. Then, once you're caught up, all you need is basic cable or an internet connection to keep watching new episodes.

For a more in-depth analysis of why you're a moron for not watching this show, I highly recommend Chuck Klosterman's essay on the topic.

So what the hell is your excuse? Get watching.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Double Nickels on the Dime

Nerd Outrage has officially turned a profit. It's been a lot of hard work, time, and bottles of Mountain Dew Code Red. It's also been thanks to you, the reader. Thanks to your ad clicking, we have finally seen our dreams become reality (BTW, I lost 25 pounds of belly fat using this one weird trick). After several months of toil, we are proud announce that Nerd Outrage is now worth a total of $3.67. Yes, I know, break out the Cristal.

What do we plan to do with the haul? We all considered an off-shore account, a two story trailer, or 6/25th of a gram of cocaine, but I have a much better plan:

Do you need a dozen diamond ring keychains for your bachelorette party? A 72 piece collection of monster finger puppets for Halloween? A GROSS of fortune fish for telling your future??? Look no further. Every month from age 8 to 15, I remember getting this catalogue in the mail. Along with Things You Never Knew Existed, it was my go to source for gag gifts, as well as a window to sweet, Chinese crafted American excess.

While my parents bothered themselves with their Lillian Vernon , or a Harry and David if they felt frisky, I spent my days wistfully dreaming of receiving boxes of dozen count fake poop and slinky knockoffs.

Thus, with our bounty I propose we buy out the entire catalogue. Shit, we could probably buy the company for that. Either way, we could not have done this without our followers. Leave us your mailing address, SS# and date of birth in the comments, and we will send you a personalized Nerd Outrage "Boo Bunch" shirt with our initials on it. We appreciate your patronage.

Monday, July 18, 2011

You Are Now Looking at a Profitable Website

That's right, with your help, Nerd Outrage has now made over $13 in our adsense account! The domain name was $10, but we have recouped that payment and then some. Yes, we a rolling in it.
Pictured: James Long
But we don't intend to stop now. While a net of $3.67 is pretty great (almost enough for a Starbucks coffee!), we still have a long way to go. So please, keep clicking those ads. Every time you do, we get a little bit closer to our goal of supporting ourselves without wearing pants.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Nerd Outrage Group Draft #2: Tarantino Characters We Would Like To Be Able To Call Upon

Hey, it's the second official Nerd Outrage group draft, and only a month later than originally planned! The idea behind this draft, which will not be nearly as long as our previous Simpsons draft, is that we are selecting characters from movies Quentin Tarantino wrote and/or directed that we would like to be able to call when in a time of need. The character would be able to handle any situation their character could theoretically handle, with all of their theoretical resources at said character's disposal. For example, you could not call Mia Wallace to come over and have sex with you (unless you are Marcellus Wallace), but you COULD call her to go dancing and do a bunch of drugs. And once an actor or actress has been selected, all of their other roles are off the board. Got it? Great. We went five rounds. Here is the draft order:

1. Nick
2. Jimmy
3. Victor
4. Dan
5. Emerson

(Anything that appears in quotes was said by the drafter unless otherwise specified.)

And with the first pick in the draft, Nick has selected:

1. Nick - Mickey Knox (Natural Born Killers)
"He's completely insane. He'll do anything."

If you say so, Nick. I can see why a murderous psychopath might be a good friend to have, but over every other Tarantino character? Would not have been my choice. Not sure I would ever want Mickey around, to be honest. Seems like he would attract a lot of unwanted attention. But hey, to each their own.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Pitch-fork Yourself

So it looks like the RISD-dropout ass-clowns at Pitchfork read my post last month about the glaring omission of Foster The People on their website. Either that or they've run out of unlistenable chillwave albums to review and had no choice but to swallow their hipster pride and give the band's debut album a spin.

So after waiting two months to review one of the most hyped indie albums of the year, I was expecting they'd have some bold statement about why they avoided it, why it wasn't worth their time, or why Mark Foster is a tool. But not only do they bury the review in the third slot on their homepage (a spot generally reserved for obscure dubstep artists that only the most hardened music nerds would even consider listening to), they provide one of the most phoned-in reviews I've ever read on the site.

To their credit the review is actually somewhat positive and not entirely inaccurate. They compare Foster's vocal style to both Mercury Rev and Jamiroquai, which is certainly a more nuanced comparison than every other review that just lumps them in with MGMT and calls it a day. They commend the band for having "hooks [that] are so big, blunt, and persistent that even my four-year-old niece counts Foster the People as her favorite band" - a backhanded compliment if I've ever heard one, but still a compliment. They give the album a 6.2 out of 10, which would put them a notch above Death Cab for Cutie's latest release and a hair below the stand-up album Norm Macdonald put out the other week. Their biggest gripe with the band is the song "Call It What You Want" (admittedly not one of the better songs on the album), in which the band preemptively defends themselves from being pidgeonholed by indie snobs and music critics. Never mind the fact that every hip-hop act on the planet writes lyrics about haters that may or may not exist -there's no acknowledgement that the site's own reluctance to cover the band is exactly what the song is about. So congratulations Pitchfork, you've cleverly avoid endorsing FTP, while also not having to suggest that your four-year-old niece has shitty taste in music.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Music Video of the Week: Taco's "Puttin' On The Ritz"

I recently caught a random 80s one-hit wonder countdown show on VH1 Classic (it is almost impossible not to since random countdown shows comprise about 95% of the channel's programming) and I saw the 1983 music video for Taco's lone US top forty hit "Puttin' on the Ritz". After not having seen the full video since watching a Pop Up Video version of it in high school, I was slightly taken back at how much weirder it was than I remembered.

The song itself is probably the strangest top five hit in the history of pop music. What sort of incomprehensible confluence of fate and fortune could have possibly led to an Indonesian-born Dutch "entertainer"'s synthpop cover of an Irving Berlin tune from 1929 peaking at #4 in America in 1983? It is utterly proper that a song with such a bizarre pedigree would be complimented with an equally crazy video.

Some random observations:
  • The whole video looks primitive and cheap even by early 80s video standards. It looks like it was shot on a home video camera and everything has this odd Gaussian Blur to it, giving it the feel of an odd semi-nightmare dream.
  • Taco's character basically reminds me of one of those malevolent ghosts in the Overlook Hotel in "The Shining". He is nattily dressed in 1920's formal wear, he walks around in creepy white makeup with a disturbing smile on his face, and there is a generally unsettling air about him. I expect him to suddenly try to convince me to murder my family.
  • My desire to acquire Taco's glowing light saber cane has not declined over the years.
  • I'm sure there's some sort message trying to be sent with the aristocratic Taco making it rain and all the formerly destitute depression era extras suddenly becoming zombie-like upper crust people. Maybe an indictment of Ronald Reagan's materialistic America?
  • While the black face back up dancers are a little disturbing, I almost find the edited version where they replace their scenes with creepy close ups of black and white pictures of Gary Cooper to be equally disturbing in its own way.
  • The video really hits its bizarro stride during the minute and a half long outro where Taco just starts assaulting the viewer with random context-less images and scenes like roaming rats, a singing robot in a tuxedo, some old man puppets standing around in the snow, and of course plenty of creepy close ups of himself.
Still a pretty catchy song though.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Monster Mash

So I finally got around to seeing Super 8 this weekend. A lot of people had been telling me over the last month that it was one of the better movies that they've seen this year, that it's an "intelligent summer movie", and that J.J. Abrams is the Spielberg of his generation. While it was certainly 2 hours of time that I don't need back, the film never really delivered on my expectations. The whole movie just felt, well, unnecessary. In fact, it often seemed like it was pulling a sleight of hand trick on you; lots of little distractions to grab your attention away from the fact that it was a weak and often illogical story.

Now, before going forward, I'm not going to give a "spoiler alert", as this movie has been out a month, there is very little to spoil, and if you haven't seen it, why would you bother with my analysis? I'm waiting...

No comeback to that? Good, let's move on.

As I stated earlier, a lot of people have been making the comparison of Abrams to Spielberg. I think it's a bit unfair to say that about Super 8, as Spielberg was an executive producer on the film, and will inevitably leave his mark on the movie. When Poltergeist came out, nobody remarked that Tobe Hooper was the next Spielberg, because Spielberg had his hand in the project the whole time, and it was obvious that his guidance was a big part of the success of the final product (actually, he basically directed the thing).

First, Super 8 draws most obviously from two Spielberg projects, E.T. and The Goonies. Both these movies were successful because they had a logical structure to their plot. In E.T. it was: Alien gets lost. Boy meets Alien. Boy works to get Alien back home or he will die. In The Goonies it was: Ragtag group are going to lose their homes and each other. Ragtag group finds treasure map and goes looking for it. Ragtag group gets into an adventure while looking for treasure. Both have an organic progression that makes the next major event feel natural and real. Super 8's plot was : Boy loses mom. Ragtag group tries to make a movie. Boy gets crush on a girl. Alien wreaks havoc. One has nothing to do with another, but Abrams tries to meld them together unsuccessfully.

Boy loses Mom
: Like in E.T., Abrams introduces us to the protagonist who has recently lost a parent. However, we never really get an explanation of the circumstances of the mother dying until almost 3/4s of the way through the movie. In E.T., it's established in the first 5 minutes - Dad ran off "to Mexico" with some floozy. There, done. Now we understand the dynamics of the characters and the recent trauma they all went through. In Super 8, we're left wondering why the dad doesn't like Iggy Pop and why he won't let his son near Dakota Fanning's sister. This is confusing and doesn't really satisfy us when the answer is revealed. It's more like a moment for the audience to go "oooooh" while more non-story is going on.

Ragtag group tries to make a movie
: Frankly, this is where I thought Super 8 was going to succeed. I kind of saw it as Cloverfield, but less high-tech, with a Goonies-esque cast, They have a Chunk, a Mouth, a kinda Data, a Mikey, and a Martha Plimpton. The idea of using a monster's real havoc as "production value" for their movie was genius, and something anyone that's ever made a no-budget movie of their own can appreciate. Instead, they just kinda stopped the whole movie making bit when the mean dad took the camera away. I was like "Ok. Maybe they should change the title halfway through to 'Digital Effects', cuz that's all were gonna see from here on out".

Boy gets crush on girl
: Why does there need to be a love interest in this movie? There's already so much going on! There's angry parents and dead parents and monsters and 'splosions. I don't need barely hormonal teens going after each other. All the one-on-one scenes between these two are cinematic dead weight. I guess it eventually leads the kids to finding the monster's lair, but that could have been accomplished in any number of different ways that kept the plot streamlined, and without the genre jumping. Maybe they were afraid people would think the fat kid director and the main boy were, I dunno, gay together or something.

Alien wreaks havoc: What to say about this? Some giant CGI son-of-Cloverfield monster rips through stuff, blows stuff up, and crushes peoples spines. None of this has anything to do with what we have seen in the last 90 minutes. Now don't get me wrong, I like my action and human flesh melting as much as the next guy, but it needs to mean something. This alien's antics felt like they needed something for the movie to do.

Let's hope J.J. does a better job with Goonies 2: Fratelli Boogaloo.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Fuck Haters

I recently finished watching the first season of the HBO adaptation of GAME OF THRONES, and since I’ve been a long time fan of the books, Dan wanted me to write something comparing GAME OF THRONES the book, with GAME OF THRONES the TV show.

Unfortunately, I can’t. You see, while I am an unabashed nerd in many respects, keeping a log of all the minute transgressions the directors of the first season of GAME OF THRONES may have committed is not something that I have any desire to figure out. I watched the show. It was enjoyable enough. It had midgets and tits and zombies and beheadings at just about every turn. Sure, Tywin Lannister may have been bald in the books, and maybe the Hound did not look nearly as horrific as I imagined, but so what? What movie or TV adaptation ever lives up to the book on which it is based? Unless there is a book version of Con-Air, I don’t think any have.

Anyway, I do have a bit to rant about, even if it has nothing to do with the show, or the book, or the fact that the latest book in the series comes out TOMORROW!! My beef in the world of A SONG OF ICE AND FIRE is with the fans. Not with the normal fans, who like his work and flock to his book signings and spend hundreds of dollars on stupid replicas of Ned Stark’s sword, those are normal things to expect from fantasy dorks. No, my beef is with idiots like these guys, or this bitch. The folks who have nothing better to do than to moan on blogs about how good old George RR Martin hasn’t gotten around the finishing his fantastic series. People, whose biggest fear seems to be that Martin may die before he can bring the story to an end. Are you fucking serious?

This is a guy who has already written three of the greatest fantasy novels of all time. If he wants to dick around for the rest of his life and never write another book again, he’s earned it. Shit. Did you hear me? SHIT. Do you know what is going to happen if this website ever takes off? Do you think I’m going to stay up all hours at night writing shitty articles about arrogant entitled nerds who think fat fantasy authors owe them something? Fuck no! I’m going to Tom Clancy this shit. I’m going to hire some ghostwriter hack to do all my work for me. Why? Because I’ll be too busy flying around Southeast Asia eating whale tartare and drinking club soda out of some hookers cleavage.

All you angry nerds should be grateful that Mr. Martin is apparently too old or too impotent to take advantage of all the favors that his hard work has reaped of him. Instead he has actually written ANOTHER book in this series. Will it be any good? I’m skeptical because A FEAST FOR CROWS was pretty disappointing, but you know damn well I’ve had my copy on preorder for months now.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Live Music Video of the Week: 80's Edition

Sorry for the delay with the music video this week. Between vacation, work and inertia, we've really had our hands full here. But, without further ado, I present you with our featured video this week, complete with Mark Knopfler and Eric Clapton:
Everyone knows who Eric Clapton is. Unfortunately, when one says the name "Mark Knopfler", a three step process usually occurs. Step one is saying his name and having the person know who he is, which is rare. More often than not it draws a blank stare. Step two is saying, "You know, lead singer and lead guitarist for Dire Straits?", which turns on the light bulb for maybe half of the people. Step three is, "Money for Nothing? Remember that song? He wrote and performed it", to which just about everyone left goes "Ohhh yeahh." Anyone remaining that still doesn't know who he is is probably under 18 and has no idea what real music is anyway. That said, the man is one of the greatest guitarists that ever lived, and deserves more recognition than he gets. I saw him live 3 summers ago and he was great. He also played this song, and while Clapton wasn't there, it sounded just as fresh 20+ years later as it did in the above video.

And yet, after 5 years, this video only has 6 million + views. Rebecca Black had that in a day, and, from a completely objective perspective, this song is a tiny bit better than "Friday". So kick back and enjoy. It's 11 minutes well spent with two of the better guitar players in the illustrious history of rock and roll.

Oh, and the fact that Knopfler finger-picks every just makes him that much cooler. Mark Knopfler is the man.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Rise of the Machines

After much deliberation and in spite of abysmal reviews, I've finally broke down and watched the latest from Disney Pixar, Cars 2. Luckily by the time I saw it my expectations were so low that I could at least enjoy the pointless mediocrity of the thing. But as a longtime fan of Pixar, it was still pretty disheartening.

As expected, the animation was good enough to make pretty much any other CG film look like a Dire Straits video, but the story was still complete shit. The conspiracy plot is so complicated that I doubt most intelligent adults would be able to follow it, let alone the redneck children who appear to be the intended audience for the film. And even if you do care enough to make sense of this convoluted narrative, the motives of the film's evil mastermind don't really make sense. As most reviews have noted, the decision to make the Larry the Cable Guy-voiced Mater the focus of the film is a Jar Jar Binks-level blunder on the part of Pixar, and the fact that the movie has to constantly illustrate how Mater's loyalty and knowledge of car parts makes him a worthwhile character is an insult to grizzled auto mechanics everywhere.

It would be easy to write off the Cars franchise as another example of Hollywood cynically pandering to children, or to Middle America, or coming up with the merchandising campaign before they write the script. If it were produced by any other studio, I'd probably think nothing of it, but it goes against everything Pixar is supposed to stand for. These two movies aside, the cinematic canon of Lasseter & Co stands up as ten of the greatest films ever made. At their best, Pixar makes works of art that can stand up to anything that Da Vinci or Picasso ever painted, and stories that are on par with Shakespeare. The Incredibles just might be my favorite film of all time, and the Toy Story franchise is probably the only great trilogy of films in which each new installment is as good or better than the one that came before it. So for me, watching the Cars films is a bit like being a Colts fan and watching Peyton Manning ignore three open receivers and pass directly to Tracy Porter. Why does a studio with such discerning taste and meticulous quality control allow this to happen?

As I was racking my brain over this black mark on Pixar's otherwise unblemished record, I remembered something our very own Victor Lee pointed out to me during an inebriated discussion at Rodeo Bar last year. Namely, that the problem of the Cars films lies not with the story or characters, but rather with the very concept of a world populated by sentient vehicles. Unlike the rest of the Pixar canon, which tells the story of toys, bugs, monsters, rats, fish, and superheroes that exist in what is otherwise a mundane, human world - Cars exists in some kind of bizarro universe where the only forms of intelligent life are these anthropomorphic cars, planes, and boats. This raises a litany of mind-boggling existential questions that the films never properly answer. For instance. . .

- What is the origin of car life? Is there car evolution?
- Where were these cars built? If so, who builds them?
- There are both male and female cars that appear to have romantic relationships. Do they have car sex?
- Between the first and second films, Paul Newman's character from the first film apparently dies. What's stopping Lightning McQueen from from repairing or replacing whatever parts wore out and resurrecting his mentor from the grave?
- And most importantly, if the world is populated exclusively by vehicles that only exist to maintain, race, and transport other vehicles, why do they have things like doors, windows, and seats that would presuppose a human passenger?

After much thought and after considering every possible scenario, I've decided that the ONLY plausible explanation for the world of the Cars films, is that they actually exist in a post-apocalyptic world, once inhabited by humans, that is now overrun by vehicles with all of the social and cultural features of their previous owners.

Maybe it's a Toy Story-like world where the cars always had intelligence and autonomy that humans were just never aware of, then some cataclysmic even wiped out all human life on earth. Maybe it's a Terminator-like world where humans created super-intelligent cars only to have them turn on their masters. Maybe humans got in spaceships and left earth (a la Wall-E) and just left their vehicles. Maybe Cars is actually a Kirk Cameron- inspired religious allegory and the cars are all that remains after the rapture.

In any case, I think the backstory of Cars is probably far more interesting than the plots of either of these films, and would seem like exactly the kind of unexpected, morally complex story that we've come to expect from Pixar. They're already making a Monsters Inc prequel. Why not do the same for Cars? You could tell the heartbreaking story of a teenager being separated on judgement day from him beloved Stellan Skarsgard-voiced '84 Volvo stationwagon. Critics will love it, and it will retroactively make the first two films dark and interesting instead of goofy and pointless. It'll also make up for Pixar's embarrassing loss to Rango at next year's Oscars. Are you listening Lasseter? Just don't forget who to write those royalty checks to.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Nothing to Sneeze At

I am going to digress today from my usual postings concerning esoteric pop culture miscellany to make a personal statement about a common, everyday, subject we are all familiar with: sneezing. To be more specific, it's the response to sneezing. Whether it be "God bless you", "gesundheit", "salud", "you are so good looking", or whatever; I am pretty much over the whole thing. So the next time you drop a sneeze around me and get nothing but silence, please don't think I'm being malicious or anything; I am just opting not to take part in this needless, centuries old, cross cultural call and response game.

Now this isn't some spur of the moment fancy. This isn't random non-conformity just for the sake of it. It has all been building within me for many years. My recent return to working full time in an office cubicle environment with multiple co-workers has reaffirmed my dissenting view towards the sneeze response. The sounds of people sneezing is part of the daily human cacophony of the office along with coughs, throat clearings, sniffles, the occasional stifled belch; and every time somebody lets loose a sneeze in my general vicinity I am constantly distracted by the pointless routine of acknowledging this inconsequential action.

In addition, if it's a borderline case (too far, or too much time before a response, etc.) then I end up expending further needless attention debating the unwritten social rules for responding. The absolute worst scenario is getting tied into the the multiple sneezing fit. You give a "god bless you", thinking that's the end only to find yourself awkwardly on the hook for an indefinite stretch of sneezes, wondering halfway through if it's okay to stop repeating these words that have lost all meaning by now. The responder feels weird constantly responding and the sneezer feels awkward every time they continue sneezing. In a life filled with awkward situations, that's one more I can avoid.

Why does the sneeze even get so much attention anyway? Like most bodily noises, wouldn't people be better off just ignoring them around others? No one goes out of their way to acknowledge that someone coughed or sighed or their stomach rumbled. It's not something people are proud of doing and they end up apologizing at the end. Let's just avoid all that and let sleeping dogs lie. I could probably write a whole other post about how people apologize so much in modern society and that it dilutes the power of the word. Apologizing for sneezes would definitely be up there. It's an involuntary action, no need to say you're sorry (unless you're some sort of cartoonish baffoon and your over exaggerated sneeze knocked over some elaborate house of cards or domino set, I guess it'll be okay to say my bad).

I acknowledge that all this in the end is often really a matter of a few seconds and that my personal time is nowhere near as valuable enough for me to complain about spending too much time responding, but that still doesn't mean I have to continue unwillingly playing ball. Additionally if you do sneeze around me, I'm not going to be a jerk about it and bring attention to my new stance. I may even throw out a "god bless you" just based on habit. Conversely, while I don't want anyone responding to my own sneezes, if you drop one on me I will reciprocate with a courtesy thank you. On the whole though, the automatic sneeze response ride is over.