Friday, August 28, 2009

Mad Men

As I mentioned before, I'm fiending pretty hard core on Mad Men these days. I frantically finished the second season, only to start the third a week late, and have my DVR cut off the last five minutes of the second episode. I probably missed a really kick-ass wistful glance from Don Draper, during which I would have leaned closer to the screen and shouted "is there a soul in there? Come on!" Seriously, that shit gets me every time.

Since I've been watching so much of this show recently, my roommates can't help but catch a second-hand whiff, and one of them got hooked enough to alter his Netflix que to get the first season. On Blue-Ray. Do you know how good everything looks on Blue-Ray on an HD television? It's like looking through the sexiest window in the world. It feels real, only sexier.

The crew of Mad Men prides themselves on their impeccable attention to detail, and Blue-Ray lets you really revel in every period-appropriate aesthetic. You can see every shimmering moused-to-the-side follicle on Hamm's head. You see every mustard thread in their plaid suits, and it's breath-taking.

But aside from the visual clarity, I've also gained some perspective on the show in general. Most of those first episodes follow a strict formula that goes something like "watch this specific stereotype about the time period played out in the personal lives of our characters." It's interesting to see how the show grows, becoming more subtle and cerebral. Things are so overt in the first season, especially the pilot.

In the scene where he's supposed to charm Rachel Menken at dinner, Don Draper ends up spewing his entire character philosophy. He asserts that "love" and "happiness" are concepts fabricated by guys like him, therefore he does nothing but live in the moment. As a viewer who just spent an entire second season wondering why Don hasn't learned a damn thing, the pilot makes everything totally clear. It ends with him placing a hand on each of his children as they sleep, and while his wife looks on with admiration, the audience can see how torn Don truly feels. He doesn't want to buy what he sells, and although he can spend an entire season resisting, he can never fully turn off his humanity.

Thursday, August 27, 2009


Every now and then I find a band that immediately becomes the only thing I listen to for a solid week or so. Enter "fun." I can't seem to get the following lyrics out of my head:

and I really wanna take a swing
I can't help but remember James Dean
See we are part of the few who agree
that hey, he lived life fast
but he died.
He died.
He died.
Me, I'm gonna live forever.

Yup. File this one firmly under "guilty pleasure." There's no doubt that "fun." makes pop music, but it's the best kind: it's reminiscent of all that seventies devil-may-care swagger, like E.L.O. or all those times you could tell Queen was having a great time (and not being sad about stuff like AIDS).

Over-the-top orchestration, harmonizing choirs, string sections, and dramatic lyrics about smelling good and never falling in love. To stop listening to this album would be to abandon an unapologetic celebration of life.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Princess and the Frog - Sneak Peek

I've heard mixed things about the state of Disney's upcoming film, and the fact that they took a five year break from traditionally animated films really puts the pressure on. People who have worked on it seem to be excited and optimistic, but early reviews that have leaked (of extremely rough cuts) have been less than favorable. A few have mentioned how puzzled they are that the film has so many plot problems this far in the process, wondering why Disney can't take a hint from Pixar's "story-above-all" approach.

So when Cartoon Brew posted this sneak peek, I was pretty skeptical in the opening minutes. Don't show me Steamboat Willie and a twelve-field peg board and think everything will be okay.

But by the end of the video, I realized that no matter what plot flaws this movie might have, I'm still going to be extremely pumped to see hand-drawn Disney characters singing once again. I grew up on that stuff, I memorized songs, and I watched the VHS tapes (remember those?) to the point of near un-spooling. That is a love that cannot die. I wish this film nothing but the best, not only because it could herald a rebirth of traditional animation, but because I'd hate to see kids growing up without it.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Dance of the Neon Knight

Epic visuals with pretty music.


When you discover something wonderful and then find out it already has over six thousand followers, you don't really feel like you can deem it a "discovery" anymore. Regardless, I was pretty pumped to stumble upon the website Booooooom. Enjoy fresh photography, artwork, and general eye-candy every damn day of the week.

[images by Anders Linden and SwampDonkey.]

Friday, August 14, 2009

Three Things That Are Good

Sick and supine in bed on a Friday night is The Worst. I’m willing myself better; tomorrow morning post-sunrise my body will not ache or shiver because I say it won’t. It’s time to make my Christian Scientist relatives proud.

Some things that cheer me up, and will maybe cheer you up, if you (whoever you are) need cheering:

1. Peanut Butter Plan

Peanut Butter Plan from The Quotidian on Vimeo.

It's direct action to help the homeless, and it costs relatively little to sandwich-making participants. It's a small-scale good deed that makes an instant impact.  And honestly, PBP is fun!

SF friends: the sandwich-making party happens every month at McSweeney's, which is hidden behind the Little Otsu storefront on Valencia in the Mission.  Come!  Last time we had Franzia Sunset Blush: if that doesn't win you over, I don't know what else I can do to sell this thing.  

Also, this is my first filmic appearance since age seventeen.  The hair-fussing is a physical manifestation of just how uncomfortable I felt in front of a camera.  Enjoy my five seconds of awkwardness, please.

2.  Michael Jackson Covers

Even better, they're electropop covers.  The album is called "Chum Onah" which is not so great wordplay.  I just want to see "Shamon" spelled the way God intended.  Anyway, Toro Y Moi's cover of "Human Nature" is dancey and makes me feel less like vomiting on my duvet.  

3.  Shape Note Singing

For those who weren't raised by traditional music enthusiasts, here's an explanation of Sacred Harp.  It's about shouting the music out; hitting the notes is secondary.  I understand this stuff might be abrasive to virgin ears--just give it a chance.  


24 hours later.  I feel better.  Right thoughts, people, right thoughts.  

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Hand of God

I'm frantically trying to finish the second season of Mad Men before the third starts this weekend, which feels a little bit like visiting an upscale winery and chugging every bottle in sight. Regardless, I still manage to enjoy the vintage, and the sleek offices of Sterling Cooper have prompted me to revisit my collection of Taschen advertisement books.

If you're in the mood for some swanky ads from a bygone era, check out the blog Today's Inspiration. I'm fascinated by this motif found in Union Carbide's campaign from the 50's, in which an enormous, beefy man-hand performs miraculous tasks: molding mountains, "probing the atom", squeezing solid coal into vapor, and even unlocking the cosmos (above).

Aside from reminding me of the unbeatable Master Hand from Super Smash Brothers, I'm intrigued by the context of these images. Leif Peng, author of Today's Inspiration, makes it plain:

With these hands usually extending down from on high, emerging from a swirling ether, often assisting tiny humans in some industrial process or another, it doesn't take a degree in chemical engineering to appreciate the implication: the might of modern American industry rivaled the power of God.
Today, these images feel pretty heavy-handed (sorry, I had to...), but if Don Draper pitched the idea to me, I might have been sold.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Eleven Sweet Words I Have Learned from Reading Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace


: adj.

intended to ward off evil.

sinecure: n. office or position requiring little or no work, esp. one yielding profitable returns. ecclesiastical benefice without cure of souls.


1. of, pertaining to, or characterized by atavism; reverting to or suggesting the characteristics of a remote ancestor or primitive type.

torticollis: n.

a condition in which the neck is twisted and the head inclined to one side, caused by spasmodic contraction of the muscles of the neck.

afflatus: n.

1.inspiration; an impelling mental force acting from within.
2.divine communication of knowledge.

scopophobia: n. 

1. An abnormal fear of being looked at or seen.

maunder:  v. (used without object) talk in a rambling, foolish, or meaningless way. move, go, or act in an aimless, confused manner: He maundered through life without a single ambition.

otiose: adj.
1.being at leisure; idle; indolent.
2.ineffective or futile.
3.superfluous or useless.

erumpent: adj.
1.bursting forth.
2.(of fungi or algae) prominent; projecting from or bursting through host tissue.

lacuna:  n.
1.a gap or missing part, as in a manuscript, series, or logical argument; hiatus.
2.Anatomyone of the numerous minute cavities in the substance of bone, supposed to contain nucleate cells.
3.Botanyan air space in the cellular tissue of plants.



n. arrangement of five objects, as trees, in a square or rectangle, one at each corner and one in the middle.
2.Botanyan overlapping arrangement of five petals or leaves, in which two are interior, two are exterior, and one is partly interior and partly exterior.

I like some of these words more for sound than meaning, i.e. torticollis and quincunx. Quincunx!  I'm on page 324 and I have a list of 124 words to look up.  I think most of them are obscure medical terms.  Matt Chester, why did you not sit me down and force me to read this beast four years ago?  I'm so into its deal.  Actually, I think I remember Mr. Chester reading IJ (or maybe it was Consider the Lobster) when he was working at the circulation desk at good old Lucy Scribs Library (RIP) and I asked him about the book and all he said was "the man loves his footnotes."  Not exactly a hard sell. 

Three-Note Song

The psyche must be at its most vulnerable between two and four a.m.  I sort of woke up at 3:36 a couple of night ago, and in my soporous state I gradually became aware of a vibration in my chest that centered around my heart and then jiggled up my throat; you know when a musical note is so low that it’s felt more than heard—like that.  I was confused.  I’d never been woken up by internal oscillations before.  And my first thought wasn’t I’m having a heart attack or Earthquake!  The first thing in my head was Someone's playing an organ under my bed. 

I lay there a little longer and realized that I wasn’t totally wrong: it was music.  Three notes repeating.  But it wasn’t coming from my room or anywhere in my house or even on my block.  It was coming from miles away, maybe from somewhere in the Bay, maybe a foghorn, but it wasn’t, because foghorns are always that same flat sad sound, and this thing had a melody. 

I was so tired that the best I could do was crawl over to the window and stick my head out a little to listen.  And I thought all kinds of strange thoughts about torture, and how all it takes to break someone’s mind is: force them to listen to a three-note song for a long time.  I wrote a story in my head about musical torture, a la A Clockwork Orange, except totally different.   Now I’m trying to transfer the story from brain to fingers to keyboard to page, and it’s like trying to remove a model ship from a narrow necked bottle—I want to take the whole thing out in one go but instead I have to be patient and disassemble it with tweezers and pluck it out piece by piece and then it won’t come back together again as whole, the way it’s supposed to, goddammit. 

"Singles" by Rebecca Sugar

It's a dangerous thing to get your mind blown so early on a Monday morning. Totally worth it.

Thanks to CartoonBrew for their dedication to fine film making.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Lykke Li @ the Wiltern

Last night, my crush on Lykke Li went from pseudo-serious to head-over-heels. For the first time in my life I know what it's like to have a very impossible yet very real infatuation with a pop star.

Lykke Li is a weird brand of sexy. If you've seen any of her freaky/artsy music videos, you've seen her unconventional (read: borderline awkward) dancing, which kind of embodies her blend of timidity and unabashed candor. She's not the type of songstress to bank on her body, although she probably could. Instead, she's more concerned with making something genuine. In her video for "Tonight," her emotional honesty is both moving and downright unsettling.

Her songs off Youth Novels are already wonderful, but it's a totally different experience when witnessed live. She mixes up arrangements - making things more dancey, or rocky, or theatrical - without losing any of the original flavor. Her dancing also feels more exuberant on stage, especially when she was gettin' low to a kick-ass cover of "Everyday I'm Hustlin." (The linked video is not as bumpin' as last night!) I almost lost it when she did a cover of Kings of Leon's "Knocked Up," that's just too many good things happening at once.

The internet is saturated with videos of her impromptu jams in weird places (such as bathrooms, street corners, cabs and parks,) which only help highlight her gifted skills as a performer. She's got an absurd amount of talent, which for my money makes her a lot more desirable than if she were dancing around half nude with a snake around her neck.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

My Favorite Dictator

Man, Kim Jong-il is looking sprightly these days. He's lost weight, his hands could belong to a prepubescent boy (so tan and spot-free!), and at sixty-eight, he still commands the weather with the power of his moods. Watch this brief biography:

Wild Things at the Opera

If the movie looks like this, I'll be pretty damn pleased.

Thanks to We Love You So.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Jimmy Carter Wouldn't Lie

So, earlier this week I wrote a post about "The Current Sad State of Poetry" (whatever that means: gag, hack, barf) and posted it and then reread it and came down with a case of the flaming fantods.  I have since deleted said post and strafed myself for being such a g-damn snob.  So never mind all that.  My point was and is: listen to Amiri Baraka perform "Dope."  

I have friends who claim poetry readings aren't their steez because the recitations are monotonous and thus hard to follow and basically boring as fuck.  Listen, this isn't some drone behind a podium; this is Amiri Baraka, and he can perform the shit out of some free verse.  This man was/is a pioneer of the slam aesthetic.  So maybe he did indirectly accuse Israel of plotting September 11th, and in his youth he said that all white men are trained to be fags.  Eh, whatevs.  I could still listen to "Dope" all day.