Wednesday, October 28, 2009

You Should Be Watching: Community

For my money, Community is the funniest show on television right now. This season of 30 Rock has yet to prove itself, and The Office has been bumpy for a while (true, I cried during the wedding episode, but not from laughter). But hey, props to NBC for having a kick ass line-up of comedies right now.

And since we're handing out props, mega congrats to Chevy Chase, who finally broke that twenty-something year bout of The Non-Funny! Maybe he's just finally at an age where his pompous demeanor turns lovable. On Community he plays a lonely windbag, eager to make friends but constantly saying the wrong thing. The man still knows how to deliver some zingers.

So far he's had some awesome scenes with Donald Glover, who I can't really claim as a personal friend, but I've certainly had a good time hanging out with him and the rest of the boys from Derrick Comedy in our college apartment. Matt Schwartz even shared an impromptu DJ set with Donald at a party. We've been enjoying his comedic abilities for years, and it's awesome to see him on TV, continuing to be hilarious.

Although Britta the idealistic hotty (Gillian Jacobs) was set up as the foil to Jeff the selfish lawyer (Joel McHale), it's equally engaging when other characters teach him a thing or two. The show might have stumbled upon it's true strength: a willingness to mix up the pairings of the ensemble cast in each episode, never feeling forced.

Everyone has had hilarious moments, including Alison Brie, who might be the sole Mad Men cast member who's more attractive when not in her 60's garb. The show also opened itself up to having a revolving door of guest stars as wacky professors (Senior Chang is already amazing), which has yet to get old. I can't praise this show enough, go watch it on the Hulu machine.

Los Campesinos - "There Are Listed Buildings"

Matt Chester introduced me to Los Campesinos, and I'm a better man from it. A few tracks have already leaked from their impending album "Romance Is Boring," and so far I like what I've heard.

Monday, October 26, 2009

One Fast Move Or I'm Gone

Ben Gibbard (of Deathcab for Cutie fame) just completed another musical side project, which isn't as awesome as The Postal Service, but certainly very interesting. Teaming up with Jay Farrar (of Son Volt, a band I'm not very familiar with), the two put pieces of Jack Kerouac's "Big Sur" to music.

The result is somewhat mixed. Everything sounds decidedly folksy and "American," which I guess makes sense when adapting Jack Kerouac. Some songs (particularly the title track) certainly shine, while others have a bit too much truck-stop-country-twang for my taste. Again, maybe that's the point, but it was interesting how much Farrar's vocals irked me, while I let myself get more involved with Gibbard's. Perhaps because my ears/emotions have trusted him in the past, he serves as a gentler introduction to the accompanying twang.

For those who have actually read "Big Sur" (should I be ashamed I haven't?) does that add anything to your listening experience?

Apparently this whole collaboration started thanks to an impending documentary about "Big Sur," you can see the trailer here.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

You Should Be Watching: Sons of Anarchy

To be perfectly honest, I started watching this show mostly out of boredom and because it was free on Hulu. It had enough actors on it that I admire - Ron Perlman (a.k.a. Hellboy) , the British dude from Undeclared, Maggie Siff (the Jewess that Don Draper falls for in Mad Men's first season), Dayton Callie (who played one of my favorite Deadwood characters, the crusty-yet-benign Charlie Utter), and even the mom from Married With Children (who really shows her acting chops in the current season) - so I gave this show a shot.

Early on, SOA was dismissed for being another Sopranos rip-off: depicting amoral criminals who we can't help but root for, appreciating their complexity and brief glints of humanity. I've never watched the Sopranos, but I was a huge Deadwood fan, so I get the gist of that sort of thing. But this show is different, it adds something special to the mix:

It's Hamlet on motorcycles.

More specifically, the show uses the dynamic between the royal family in Hamlet as a jumping-off point. There's the king who married into his position, who thinks and acts like a warrior, and there's the brooding/analytical young prince whose communication with his dead father is stirring things up. But instead of talking to his father's ghost, he's reading a manuscript his father wrote detailing how his humble motorcycle gang got to their present unlawful state, and how to turn it all around.

I'm sure there are more Hamlet parallels, but these are the few basics that my English Major geekery gets excited about.

The first season was bumby at points, but kept getting stronger and more confident until the finale proved what this show could really do. This season kicks ass, especially since the Sons are in the midst of an all-out war against some calculating and ruthless white supremacists. Nothing like championing the lesser evil!

Side note: I've never seen actor Ryan Hurst before (he's apparently been in everything), but I think his performance as Opie is top-notch. He never hits a false note, which is no small feat when you're playing a guy going insane with grief.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Decemberists Concert @ Royce Hall

First: I'd like it if the other concert-goers contribute their thoughts on the evening, since I can't help but feel that my experience was a bit different.

In case you read this blog and don't know me at all, it's important you know that I'm an enormous animation nerd. I call things Bakshi-esque, does that paint a clear picture for you? (That was a trick question, since if you've heard of Ralph Bakshi you're probably alongside me on the nerd scale). Naturally, when I saw the trailer for The Hazards of Love "visualized," showcasing surreal animated eye candy, I was pretty damn pumped. And I was only slightly let down.

To be sure, what we witnessed was nothing short of the indie-folk-rock equivalent of "Fantasia." But the word "indie" should be stressed, because I can't count the number of times I thought to myself "imagine if they had a real budget for this stuff!"

As a whole, it was lost somewhere between being the ultimate backdrop to a concert and a mediocre music video. Animation has been syncing with music since its heyday, and I was hoping to see some awesome abstract movement working seamlessly with the rhythm of the songs. I realize that's nearly impossible with live music, unless it's actual software like the iTunes Visualizer and not a hand-crafted film. Regardless, at times there was a jarring disconnect between what I was seeing and what I was hearing. But that's my fault for being more interested in the animation than anybody else in the audience.

So let's get real: I'm totally aware that I'm making a big deal out of a tiny complaint. The films worked best when they abandoned any ambition to keep tempo and instead matched the feel and tone (not literally) of the music. The twisted trees and skeleton bones were spot on, and I enjoyed every time we glided through the design-heavy seascapes. I'm also sure I had the stupidest grin on my face watching the adorable dancing constellations for Isn't It A Lovely Night. There were times when I fully lost myself in simultaneous visual and aural euphoria, and that shit doesn't happen every day.

Let's also not forget that the Decemberists are amazing performers, and having too many good things on stage is a great problem to have. It was the very last show of a long tour, and they really let it all hang out. They were having a great time, which made the entire audience feel it. Shara Worden of My Brightest Diamond kicked serious ass, and every time she sang I was completely rapt. Hearing her cover Heart's Crazy On You was an unexpected treat, and it was also nice to witness Becky Stark (of that other Diamond band) really belt it, after only hearing her soft crooning as Margaret.

All in all, I left with the same "we were just part of something special" feeling that I felt that special summer day in Central Park. It might have something to do with Colin Meloy's repeated insistence on our participation in singing "Hear All The Bombs Fade Away," but isn't it nice to know that the same trick can work twice on your heart?

Monday, October 19, 2009

Jesus 2000

The ironic "Jesus is my homeboy" thing is taken to a whole new (and visually incredible) level. If anybody had doubts, this video makes it clear: Jesus was a total hipster, y'hurd?

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Rainy Day

For most San Franciscans, rain is like meteorological fireworks. Seriously, we get a light sprankle [sic] of water droplets every galactic year i.e. almost never, so the denizens of this city are collectively shitting themselves over today’s monsoon. When I went to get coffee this morning the doe-eyed hipster behind the counter said, “This is real rain!” like he was laying some Holmesian revelation on me, bless him. I took my coffee home and lit a bunch of ambrosia-scented candles so that my bedroom would smell like the food of the gods. Then I read some of Catullus’ more brusque sonnets in order to get myself into a state of psychological readiness for the day?

Catullus lived from 87 to 58 BCE. Keep that in mind while you read this sample of his work:

Improba Carmina

I will fuck you up the ass and in the mouth,

Aurelius you sodomized ass-licker

And Furius, you perverted cock-sucker

Who read my sensual poems and conclude
I'm too wanton.

For everyone knows
It's meet and proper for a poet to be

Pure, pious, and always correct in his behavior. 

But we don't expect the same of his poems. 

Of mine they'll say sure, they have wit, they have charm

They're so sexy and lewd they can 

Arouse – I won't say boys, but these hairy

Men whose unstiff dicks wilt on the vine.

You who have kissed many thousands of mouths

Upper and nether, man and girl,

How dare you think me less than manly?

I will fuck you up the ass and in the mouth.

Now I’m ready for you, world! And Mama Kantrowitz, if you're reading this, I'm embarrassed.

Here Come The Waves

In July of 2007 I attended my favorite concert to date. I skipped out on my "Empires in India" summer class and joined Matt Schwartz, Matt Chester, and Cat Dooling on a trek to Central Park for an outdoor Decemberists concert.

Things worked out perfectly. Even when it looked like Cat got cheated by a scalper with fake tickets, not only did she force him to give back her money, but a legit concert-goer witnessed the interaction and happily sold her a spare.

The weather was beautiful. We were close to the stage and made friends with the other people around us, taking turns getting each other beers, and when the band commanded us to "go to sleep" in the middle of "The Mariner's Revenge" we had no problem falling over each other until we were sweaty piles of bliss on the ground. After we joined the entire audience in a chorus of "hear all the bombs fade away" for the finale, we left the concert feeling like we'd taken part in something - to put it mildly - special.

Since July 2007, there have been multiple opportunities to see the Decemberists again, but we've always erred on the side of caution. How could any other concert compete in comparison to that glorious day? They'd have to put on a wholly different show, both in substance and venue.

We have tickets to it.

On October 19, The Decemberists will unveil Here Come The Waves: The Hazards of Love Visualized, a special project that takes their ambitious and acclaimed song cycle to new heights for its final American performance at UCLA’s Royce Hall in Los Angeles. This unique live experience will feature The Decemberists in collaboration with four filmmakers—Guilherme Marcondes, Julia Pott, Peter Sluszkaand Santa Maria—each of whom have created animation to accompany a section of the music. Flux commissioned the films and worked withHornet Inc. who produced them. This is a one time only - not to be missed - live experience. The film will later be released on iTunes.
Yeah, that'll do it. The experience will certainly be different, but hopefully our faces will display the same dumb-struck euphoria:

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Thoughts, Some Illustrated

A friend of mine shared a mind-blowing theory with me: all plants and trees are trying to kill us. They're just moving too slowly. Next time you're near a plant, really look at that plant. Note how it's reaching out for you, no doubt in the hopes of suffocating you with leaves, or strangling you with twisted vines. Note how their roots are trying to ensnare you, or rip up the concrete where you stand. Note how they're storing ammunition to fire at you, like acorns or pollen. Think about it. That's why whenever I see leaves on the ground, I look up to the nearby branches and shout "is that the best you got, mother fucker?"

When I take the elevator at work, there's a warped mirror facing me when I get to my floor. It makes me look shorter and fatter than I actually am. It's kind of like looking into the future, seeing what I'd look like after five or ten years of sitting at a computer all day long, only leaving my desk to enjoy "Donut Wednesdays." I've started taking the stairs.

The next hit biopic musical: "Sunday in the Pjark with Bjork."

Sitting in traffic yesterday, a woman driving next to me motioned toward my lane, wanting to get in front of me. I nodded as I rolled down the window, and I yelled "Please! You'll make a great addition to the team!" She drove on, as I shouted "We're in this together now! Don't let me down!"

Do pigs get turned on by mud wrestling?

All the knives in my kitchen are dirty, so I've been using scissors for everything. Making sandwiches is a lot of fun that way. I've got this great system where I open the scissors wide enough to dip one blade in the mustard and one in the mayo, simultaneously. Then I line up the pieces of bread just right so I can spread on two pieces at the same time. It's pretty time efficient, but cutting tomatoes with scissors is near impossible. Maybe I should buy a letter-opener.

Imagine the underage drinkers during prohibition. That's double the bad ass.

I really like wearing v-necks, but I feel bad for every other letter in the alphabet. When will clothing stores start selling k-necks? Also: how long before American Apparel steals this idea from me?

I recently joined an online dating site, and whenever I write somebody a message, I always end it by saying "it feels so good to be in love again."

During these tough economic times, it's important we still celebrate America's favorite holiday: Halloween. Here's a thrifty tip: buy one pumkin and use it for everything. Instead of buying candy for your trick-or-treaters, how about baking some fresh pumkin pie, using the innards of your jack-o-lantern? And who needs to buy a costume when you've got that jack-o-lantern, ready to be worn like a sticky mask? Now that's frugal and festive!

For the longest time, I thought my Facebook "profile photo" had to actually be the profile view of my face. I was embarrassed at first, but I think I'll look back on this mistake and be glad I got all those hand-painted silhouette portraits made.

I'd be really pissed if I was an old man, because I'm living in what I once called "the future," and it's pretty disappointing. Yes, I'm really excited about all these medical and informational advances. But I was promised some flying cars, damn it, and I don't see a single fucking one.

Friday, October 2, 2009


Some good things are happening in October. Here's one of them.