Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Why I Can't Read Harry Potter

I like Harry Potter a lot.

I thought I should get that out there up front. I'm not one of those people who thinks he's lame, or that he's a devil worshiper, or any other extreme opinion that exists out there. I'm greatly entertained by Harry Potter and his magical adventures. Wizards fighting impossible foes and dealing with teenage angst at the same time? That's my shit. No sarcasm whatsoever.

And yet, I gave up on reading the series four books in. I thought to myself "yeah, J.K. Rowling can certainly spin herself a yarn, but it's always the same." Let's break it down: New year at Hogwarts, new red herring professor, or new evil professor that we could never suspect until it's all neatly laid out for us at the end. And again, she manages to do it very well every time.

But seriously, have you seen how thick those books are? That's some Moby Dick action, some Ivanhoe girth goin' on. It's a pretty hefty commitment to a formula I've already seen four times in a row. I don't really care enough to invest that much reading time, but I do want to know what happens to these (again, very well written) characters. What to do?

Enter the film adaptation. I know, I'm supporting the films and not the books, and therefore destroying western literature as we know it. I won't plead ignorance to such elitist ideals, I can't just bury that B.A. in English I worked so hard for. I know what I'm doing is wrong and discreditable. And yet here I go, living my life.

The trailer just came out for the newest film installment (watch it here), and I'm pumped. Come June I'll go to the theater, get my fill of British folks defending their realm from mystical evils, and leave content. For those of you who have read the hundreds of pages that make up the entire Harry Potter saga, feel free to shun my actions. You've earned it. Regardless, I'm going to enjoy this piece of pop culture however I want.

Just tell me it doesn't end with some heavy-handed martyrdom or anything.

James Jarvis - "Onwards"


Onwards from AKQA on Vimeo.

I've got to hand it to Nike for letting James Jarvis do his thing.  The future of promotional art looks a little brighter today.

I reccomend watching it in full screen.

In Jarvis' own words:

The film was inspired by certain personal experiences in running – a favourite run over Blanchland moor in Northumberland, being attacked by a crow in Singapore – and also by the transcendent, almost psychedelic experience of the simple act of running.

Rather than a marketing project inititated by Nike, the film was something proposed and produced by myself, and as such I hope represents a much more equal collaboration with a brand.

(Thanks PSFK for the quote)

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Good Things in Dystopia

There are always a few things that are the same in every dystopian society, whether it be in film or novel.  Most of them are based around the idea of control.  For example, they generally try to reach a level of sameness...everyone wears the same clothes, looks the same, has the same routine.  Everybody is treated equally, or at least an illusion of equality has been created by those higher up.  People are assigned jobs and wives, which they accept graciously.  There is usually a leader, enshrouded in mystique, who possesses an almost godly quality.  History is rewritten or erased completely.  The age of death, political system, reproduction, food, drink, art, even the weather is all controlled.  But perhaps the most interesting  and consistent plot device is the idea of controlling feelings.  Somewhere along the line, it was decided that emotions get in the way of the road to a perfect society.  Usually it's the manipulation and sedation of emotion that incites conflict; plants the seeds of rebellion.  And most important among these eradicated feelings is that of love.

Screwed up, I know.  That was what Orwell, Huxley, Bradbury, hell even whoever made that terrible film where Christian Bale can shoot a dozen people at once with two guns while dancing, wanted you to think.  Control to that degree is messed up.  But I don't know.  Sometimes I don't feel so turned off by the notion of suppressing the feeling of love.  It is, after all, a manifestation of well-executed evolutionary psychology; a byproduct that was the result of the fact that those who felt love cared for their offspring better, so their offspring had a better chance of surviving and creating more people who felt love.  But goddamn, sometimes it's the worst feeling ever. Sometimes it absolutely gets in the way of just about everything else.  Maybe it's not such a terrible idea to suppress that feeling a little bit- our kids will grow up just fine, there aren't really saber-tooth tigers to save them from anymore.  

So pour me a glass of victory gin, I'm gonna burn a book, watch an egg get fertilized on a conveyor belt, and maybe feel a little less distracted and shitty from a byproduct of our obnoxiously evolved brains.  Maybe that's not so terrible after all.

Bathroom Pontifications


I live in San Francisco, and every time I use a real restroom (as opposed to my usual method of squat-popping in the nooks between beautifully restored Victorian townhouses) I like to read the vague but dogmatic hippie scribblings that fall into my line of sight.  I’ve seen “We must love one another or die!” in a couple of bars; look guys, even Auden thought this was a sentimental line—and he wrote it.  Bob Marley lyrics are also a popular choice, “Don’t gain the world but lose your soul!” And Gandhi, oh, the Gandhi:  "You must be the change you wish to see," is ubiquitous.

 The walls yell a cumulative message that goes something like this:

“You there!  You apathetic automaton, wake up!  Get up!  Stand up! You’re wasting time!  Read Foucault!  Fuck Bush!  Smoke weed!”

For the most part, I’m into living in a place where people write quotations like, “Freedom of conscience entails more dangers than authority and despotism” above the tampon receptacle as opposed to the usual “Dolores is The Hand Job Queen!” type-drivel.  But sometimes, I wish people would save the preaching for the pulpit and stop telling me my business while I’m trying to pee.  

Which is why I loved the graffiti I spotted in Philz Coffee today:

 

 

In case you can't read it, it says:

"Life holds no higher pleasure than that of surmounting difficulty.”

Followed by:

“MAN’S HIGHEST PURPOSE IS TO HAVE NO PURPOSE.”

Followed by:

“What is ya'll [sic] talkin about”

 

Perfection.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Dear Recent College Graduates Who Feel Alone In The Insensate Universe,

Come to me, rest your many heads against my breast, close your bleary eyes—we’re going to get through this shitty-ass economic time together. 

We’re about to hold each other in a close embrace…for a long while…probably to the point of awkwardness. 

Then, we’ll pop a collective Xanax and once it kicks in we’ll “sack up” and work as waiters and nannies and non-profit canvassers and telemarketers and administrative assistants—it’s what people in our position have always done, even in the days before the free market imploded. 

So take that shit job, drink that $2.00 bottle of wine, cling to those you love like an owl grasps a field mouse—really dig your talons in. 

Read some David Foster Wallace (or what please you) and keep breathing! Live! LIVE!

Love,

Rennie

P.S. Don’t even think about rejecting that unpaid internship—it’s the only thing that that will keep your brain from atrophying this year.

 

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Reality TV Show Ideas

Now that we've got two people following our blog, I think this thing's really going to blow up.  It's only a matter of time.  So, at the risk of using the site's popularity to advance my own career, I'd like to propose a few reality tv show ideas and their catch phrases in case any producers are reading.

-Dancing With The SARS.  "You thought dancing without SARS was tough."
-South Dakotan Idol.  "They're not good singers and it's so funny".
-Fuckin'. "You know what to do."
-Get Grandma Back in Bed! "She eats socks!"
-South Dakota's Got Talent. "They really don't."

Let me know if we can make these happen, producers!  

I hate South Dakota.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Rejected Station IDs for Jack FM

NOTE: must be read with the gravelly, forced-yet-complacent-sounding voice that the station uses.

Actual station ID: 

"You're listening to 93.1 Jack FM: playing what we want."

Rejected station IDs:

"Jack FM:  You hate us, and that's how we get off.  Now talk dirty a little."

"Jack FM:  Robots don't give a fuck."

"You're listening to Jack FM:  Pretending not to care to hide our crippling insecurity.  Pleace accept us."

Thursday, April 16, 2009

White Rabbits


The world of music blogs can be an unsettling terrain, brimming with both genuine enthusiasm and pretentious douche-baggery. Even though the word "rockstar" is in our name, I wouldn't consider this to be a music blog. But at the same time, I want to be able to write about anything and everything. So at the risk of offending the snobs (or even sounding like one,) I've decided to enter the fray and speak my mind. Here goes:

White Rabbits is a band, and they're about to blow the fuck up.

I'm not surprised I missed their debut album when it came out in 2007; I was probably too busy obsessing over Spoon's latest release. But apparently Spoon's front man was listening, since Britt Daniels is now producing White Rabbits' second album. It's a logical pairing, they have similar stripped-down sensibilities, ever-so-slight-punk influences, and lots of piano-driven tunes. White Rabbits' songs are catchy as hell and interestingly arranged. They don't sound like everything else out there, and it's refreshing. Their first album is remarkably strong, and working with the likes of Britt Daniels can only yield even more impressive results.

"It's Frightening" hits May 19th, luckily I have their old album to tide me over til then. I guess that's the benefit of discovering a band late in the game.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Christian Bale - The Animated Series


At this point, Christian Bale's antics on the set of Terminator 4 feels like old news.  The buzz has kind of died down, I guess people have just accepted that losing your shit is something you do when you're Batman.  I'm fine with that, I like my actors method and I like them crazy as all hell.  I'm not here to condemn the man.

But I am here to share a benefit of his breakdown: a blog called Spline Doctors held a competition to see who could best put Bale's soundbite to animation.  The top three winners are all pretty phenomenal.  Chris O'Hara's hand drawn piece has some hilarious posing and expressions, while Dan Heurtas' premise of an old man cursing at his computer is truly inspired.

Maybe this can really turn things around for Bale: maybe studios will recognize how great his voice works for animation, and he can join the ranks of celebrities who make bank off sitting in a sound booth for a couple days reading a script out loud.  He'll probably land a sweet role as an irate sidekick in Shrek 4.  Isn't that why we fall, Master Wayne?

Monday, April 13, 2009

Observe and Report

There's a moment in "Observe and Report" when Ray Liotta's character tells his buddies how funny it'll be to shatter Seth Rogen's dreams, so they hide in a closet while Liotta informs Rogen that he failed his psych exam and will never be a real police officer. But after a few moments, one of the cop buddies steps out of hiding and says "I'm sorry...I thought this'd be funny, but really it's just kind of sad."

Hell yeah, it is. Don't let the ads or the ambivalent reviews fool you: "Observe and Report" may be the most brazenly experimental film released by a major studio this year. It will take your idea of what "comedy" is (a generally pleasant experience, marked by laughter and merriment) and twist it into something else (90 minutes of misanthropic horror at which you cannot help but sometimes laugh).

It's not that comedies can't be sad. I love comedies that aren't afraid to let the pathos ride in, movies like "The Apartment" or "Say Anything" or "Knocked Up." But this is altogether different. In those films, the sad and the happy are compartmentalized; the drama is treated with gravity, punctured by moments of light, fluffy laughter. Here...here the comedy derives from the drama. You watch these miserable people be miserable, and you laugh at them, because they are so shallow and amoral and deluded. And it feels gross. You leave the theater with a sticky, dirty feeling...like when the slow kid at your high school does a really ludicrous-looking dance, and everyone is standing in a circle laughing at him, and he's grinning from ear-to-ear because he thinks he's being entertaining, but you know that the laughter is really just derisive and condescending and that he can't tell the difference. It's the laughter that hurts your soul.

It's not the kind of comedy I want to be a part of, and it's not exactly a movie I can easily recommend, but it's an interesting experiment in how people define "dark" humor. It takes serious balls to make a film who's immediate influences are Larry Clark and "Taxi Driver," and then ask Blockbuster to file it next to "Old School." But do big balls make a good movie? I'll let the scholars debate that one.

Insult Comic-Cred

I'm in my twenties.  I have a respectable job, an accommodating apartment, an exhilaratingly ambitious future, and a stable and reliable group of friends and family.  So I think I'd like to do what anyone would do at this point, and become an insult comedian.  But there are walls between me and my dream.  Great big poison-bricked walls.  And these walls raise quite a bit of concerns, which I'd like to lay out at this time.  

Firstly, how does one become a well-respected insult comic?  I feel like if I just went for it, it would go something like this:

MC: So now I don't even EAT ginger!  Right?!  Alright, alright, settle down- so our next performer tonight at the Smirk Shack is brand new to the scene, ladies and gentlemen, Matt Schwartz!

Me: Hey, how's everyone doing tonight my name is- Wow, you are a fat audience member. Everyone see this Lard-Bus?  Holy shit, you look like Santa Claus shaved half his beard and put on a muumuu/pant ensemble.  You are just jiggling like it's- You're crying.  Wow I'm so- no wait I- yeah, I can imagine it is impossible growing up as an obese American- no you're right I wouldn't understand.  You have an inner beauty that shines like the sun.  Fuck.

So I guess the question is, how do you get insult comic-cred?  Was there ever a time when Don Rickles had to be careful what he said?  Did Lisa Lampanelli have to ease her way into things? How do you get to the point where you can say the n word like it's Christmas and people just laugh and say "oh it's okay, he doesn't mean it, it's just his thing!  He's mean to everyone yet he doesn't mean any of it!"  Because I'm sure that wasn't always the case for these two performers. 

Not that I want to say the n word like it's Christmas.  Or that I think you should say that word on Christmas.  Or even use that word at all.  Fuck.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

LOVE, AS DESCRIBED BY THREE DIFFERENT SPECIES

Lion

Ever since I broke wit my pride a few weeks ago (fuck them bitches, they don’t know fuck about shit) I been crusing all ‘round the veldt looking to get my freak on with a sweet hot honey or two. Three days ago I met this nasty piece of leonine ass name of Denise. Girl was rolling with a few cubs...can’t truck with that shit, so I straight murdered ‘em, ate ‘em, all that. She got sore, but girl needed to make herself some new youngins, so she got all kinds of horny for yours truly.

We been fucking at fifteen minute intervals since like, I dunno, maybe Tuesday? Hard to keep track, I ain’t slept in a while, but she can’t get enough o’ my shit and I can’t get enough o’ her. She play it rough like ladies do, smacking me with her claws and all, but I bring it right back to her, what with my penis having them outward-facing barbs. Yeah it hurt, but shit makes her estrus-out like woah.

Emperor Penguin

Sir Densby is a well-bred, magnanimous young gentleman, a fine lover and a most reliable guarder of eggs. Last week while swimming for carp, I noticed him dithering about the colony, placing his head on his chest and giving an assured, mellifluous mating call. I quickly swam back upon solid ice and responded to his song (Lady Oblimshire shot me a frightfully disapproving glance, having been Sir Densby’s mate the spring prior. But such is love on the arctic rim.) He bowed, I bowed, and we stared at one another for perhaps seven minutes or so.

When I laid down and opened my cloaca to him, it was perhaps the most magical three-quarter minutes of my life. My egg has been gestating since, and I will lay it quite soon. I trust he will not drop nor kill our child, for his wing is strong, and his feet warm.

Bees

So fuckin’ we were hanging at the hive right, same fuckin’ drone party like it is every night at that place, no action, no kicks, no fuckin’ nothing, when this chick flies by. She’s something, man, and every drone in that fuckin’ place can see it, I’m talkin’ about a stinger that could kill a God damn bull. So we all start stirrin’ and shit and ‘fore you know it we’re all beating on each other like it’s fucking All Souls’ day or something, but I manage to get my shit outta there and start chatting the bitch up.

“Yo,” I says.

“Yo,” she says.

“You into me?” I says.

“You’re all right,” she says.

“So you wanna start making some jelly or something?” I says.

She was moving her antennae around and I think that meant she was laughing, ‘cause then she was all “Yeah, why the fuck not?”

So we start fuckin’ right, and I’m in there real good, but then I realize that my dick is stuck inside of her, so I start trying to pull away, ‘cause I don’t know what the fuck’s going on. She’s flying around, I’m on top of her trying to get away, and fuckin’ I can’t get out, so finally I break my dick off and fall to the ground. So she flies away with my dick in her shit and now I’m all on the dirt here dying. But fuck, those first few minutes man, that girl treated my shit right.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Krass Brothers Suits - Store of the Stars

Have you appreciated Philadelphia today?  
Independence Hall, the Liberty Bell, superior cheese steak sandwiches - there are so many great things the city has to offer.  
Prepare to add the following to your list:



From what I can gather, you'd be hard pressed to find a Philidelphian who lived through the 80s that doesn't know about Krass Brother Suits.  I even know a man who bought a suit there.  He said it was hideous and I believe him.

Who is this old guy?  Why are there so many of these commercials?

After watching a few it gets increasingly difficult to understand what anybody's saying.  The one I posted above is sort of out of the norm, but the formula usually goes as follows:  old man sharply gesticulates while shouting nonesense, followed by a chanted response from his choir of grotesque bimbos.  



This is marketing at its finest, these commercials appeal to our most basic abilities to reason: "I happen to need a suit, and I also happen to love wirey old men with harems.  Looks like Krass Brothers Suits is the place for me!"

Monday, April 6, 2009

I'm not down with "Up"

Maybe I'm jumping the gun here, and maybe "film" is to "trailer" as "book" is to "cover," but I'm having a really hard time getting excited about Pixar's "Up."
Why?  Because Pixar has spoiled me rotten.  Who else has the balls to make a film about the dangers of complacency and consumerism, while being distributed by Disney?  And have barely any dialogue for the first hour?  And take place in the FUTURE?  
When "Wall-E" won an oscar, they proved to the world that animated films could be so much more than fuzzy creatures making fart jokes and being sassy.  So to follow that up with "hey kids, laugh at the fat (Asian?) child and his talking dog!" feels like a step in the wrong direction. 



Maybe I'll be pleasantly surprised, maybe I'll end up loving this film.  I'm just reminded of when I first saw the trailer for "Cars" and thought to myself "this looks pretty lame, but I totally put my faith in these guys!"  We all need to learn from our mistakes, and that goes for you especially, Pixar.