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Athens, Ohio, United States
"Art and love are the same thing. It's the process of seeing yourself in things that are not you."

Thursday, December 31, 2009

All You Need is Love 2009

My personal pop culture experience is all about love.

Every year I fall in love with music, television, books and movies. It is a blind, burning love that I can't always explain. Try to engage me intellectually on Lost, Harry Potter or My Chemical Romance...it just can't be done. I love them so much that I can't always articulate why (and will probably get upset when you differ on their level of perfection).

So instead of developing a list of the Best of 2009, I will present you with a near-comprehensive list of everything I truly loved in 2009. I'll try to explain why but it will probably end up sounding like I am gushing over my son's first soccer goal.

In no particular order:

Wikus van de Merwe (Sharlto Copley in District 9)
"Fook you, man!"
Was there a better hero for 2009? In a time in which we are coming to terms with both a globalized world and beauracracies that seem to pop up like acne (and about as pleasant), Wikus was the most appropriate protagonist in Neill Blomkamp's alien yet familiar universe. Wikus is really nothing more than a fast-talking South African nerd and a slave to the white men in black suits he works for. Sharlto Copley (who came out of fucking nowhere in this flick) plays his decent into the alien and bizarre marvelously and realistically. Hearing him pronounce "fuckin' prawns" in his thick South African accent is nearly worth the price of admission for District 9. Pleeeease 2010, bring me more Sharlto Copley.

Allan Hyde (True Blood)
"I am full of joy, I want to burn."
I can't remember the last time an actor has captivated me so much with so little screentime. For those of you saying Allan Who? never fear. Up until about 3 minutes ago, I knew Allan Hyde merely as "that kid who played Godric in four episodes of True Blood." In one of the strongest seasons of television this year, Hyde stands out among the excellent True Blood cast. His Godric, is a 2,000 year beast residing in the body of a Nordic teenage hottie. Hyde plays the most powerful creature in the New World...and you buy it. He also plays the gentlest and most non-violent creature in the New World...and you buy it just as much. Such is the power of his performance that I nearly (NEARLY, I said) cried at his decision to make a deadly date with the rising sun...despite the fact he only had around a half-hour of screentime overall. *Fun fact* Apparently, Allan Hyde does the Danish dub of Ron Weasley's voice in Harry Potter. Wikipedia don't lie.

Girls
"I wish I had a boyfriend..."
I'm not referring to the actual biologically distinct section of humanity known as "females" when I say "girls" (they could make this list every year), but rather the San Franciscan indie band. I dare you to listen to "Lust for Life" and not dance or grin like an idiot. As a matter of fact, give it a try. Then watch the NSFW video..


John Lithgow (Dexter)
"Hello...Dexter Morgan."
Who knew you had it in you, John? After doing his time on Third Rock for the Sun, Johnny Lithgow had garnered a reputations as a comedian first, actor second. Well mark my words: that Emmy for Best Supporting Actor in a Drama series soon to be on his shelf will make people think otherwise. Lithgow's Arthur Mitchell a.k.a "The Trinity Killer" in season 4 of Dexter might be the most exciting thing to come out the year in television. Trinity is absolutely horrifying...but more horrifying than his actual deeds is our favorite serial killer protagonist's fascination with him. Dexter's own insecurities regarding his ability to be a father and a husband lead him down a demented path in which he thinks he can learn from Trinity and his relationship to his family. But every Dexter spends trying to learn from Trinity is a second spent NOT killing Trinity. This of course leads to....something very, very bad.

Quentin Tarantino (Inglorious Basterds)
"You know something, Utivich? I think this just might be my masterpiece."
Inglorious Basterds is the best film of the year. There, I said it. It is also Quentin Tarantino's second best movie...at the very least. I have nothing more to say on the matter.

Lady Gaga
"I want your psycho."
Stefani Germanotta a.k.a Lady Gaga might just be the smartest person in America. Here is a woman that understands what Western pop culture wants more than anything else: celebrity. And that's what she made for us. Lady Gaga is a simultaneous parody and celebration of American celebrity culture and we all love her for it. Of course it doesn't hurt that she knows how to churn out exciting pop hits like a mofo. "Bad Romance" in particular nails the concept of an aggressive, all-consuming love and infatuation so perfectly that I couldn't say it better myself. Though I did try. And don't think because she embraces the kitsch and poppy side of music that this gal can't sing. Exhibit A:


David Yates (Director, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince)
"Severus, please..."
Believe it or not, Harry Potter movies are not very easy to pull off. David Yates, himself can attest to that. His first Potter effort was the fifth film. Order of the Phoenix, the book was a sprawling epic tale of political repression, coming-of-age angst and the thin line between good and evil. Order of the Phoenix, the film...was just a film. Apparently, Yates learned all the lessons he needed from the fifth film, however, because his direction of the sixth was about as close to perfect as I believe a Harry Potter movie can be. The story ran as smoothly as any cinematic adaptation of a semi-episodic novel can and Yates added little quirks to clue in the audience as to what they should and shouldn't be watching for (loved Malfoy's little experiments with the birds). If Yates improves this exponentially in the final two Potter films, we might have something very special on our hands.

Zach Galifinakis (The Hangover)
"I tend to think of myself as a one-man wolfpack."
Thank God this dude finally got a breakout role.

Drake
"Last name Ever, first name Greatest."
I love Drake this year for several reasons. First, he is perpetuating the new trend in popular music of starting on the Internet, gaining some dedicated fans, then busting loose on mainstream America. Second, "Best I Ever Had" was stuck in my head for 37% of the entire year. Third, it confirms to us that Jimmy from Degrassi is a-okay and out of his wheelchair

Sin Nombre
“A psychic once told me: you’ll make it to the U.S.A. Not in God’s hands…but in the hands of the devil.”
This was the only Indie film I saw all year that was actually worth watching. Read my review, then go find it.

It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia
"Flip, flip, flip-adelphia!"
Have you ever wondered what Seinfeld would look like if it were written by anarchists? Wonder no more! It's Always Sunny is the most consistently funny thing on TV right now.

Glee
"Sometimes being special sucks."
I'll be the first to acknowledge that the first season of Glee was rather uneven and disappointing at times. But the show has two things going for it: Jane Lynch as Sue Sylvester and mind-blowingly amazing performances. In the iTunes and Youtube age, Glee is a godsend. There is no reason that it can't last as long as the Internet does. If that's the case, I only ask Ryan Murphy that he continually recasts and finds new kids. Here is my favorite song from the first half of the first season. Try not to weep.

Airborne Toxic Event - Sometime Around Midnight
"And the piano's this melancholy soundtrack to her smile."
Speaking of things that make me cry...watch this video. Lord knows, I can't or I'll destroy my MacBook with the cascade of bittersweet tears that will undoubtedly fire out of my eyes like sprinklers. The Airborne Toxic Event really only has 3 or 4 solid songs, but this might be the most beautiful and genuine thing I've heard all year. And for an indie band from Los Angeles, "genuine" is not something one would expect.


Bryan Cranston and Anna Gunn (Breaking Bad)
"737 down over ABQ"
The second season of Breaking Bad was almost indescribably good. Part of this can be attributed to the remarkably patient storytelling about one man's decent into...evil/selfishness/practicality? But even more can be attributed to the phenomenal acting duo of Bryan Cranston and Anna Gunn a.k.a Walter and Skylar White. Cranston has received his fair share of acclaim and awards and rightfully so. His Walter is a fascinating character study of what a man thinks he needs to do to be a "man." Less heralded, but no less important, however, is Anna Gunn. How does one's spouse react to a cancer diagnosis followed by a sharp and suspicious change in behavior. Anna Gunn acts her ass off to give the audience a compelling depiction of just how a spouse does act. Please...watch Breaking Bad.

Kid Cudi
"Please save a kid that needs some help."
I dedicated a whole blog post to Dat Kid from Cleveland but one point bears repeating. In a genre known for false bravado, Kid Cudi deserves credit for letting his "I can be an insecure pussy" flag fly. Of course, it doesn't hurt that "Man on the Moon" is simply a sick album.

Cast of Community
"I have to plan in advance how to live in the moment."
I've noticed something about the state of comedy recently. No, not that it sucks. Comedy is no more or less funny than any other time that I can remember. Comedy is, however, much less conflict based than I can remember. Most of the comedies of television right now, and all of the comedies on NBC are based on the interactions between friends and peers and not the inherent conflict between those same peers. The American version of The Office originally tried to follow its British father's example by putting its characters in awkward scenarios. By its second season, however, The Office had transitioned to humor based off its characters hanging out and interacting with each other. It was basically Cheers set in a paper company. Parks and Recreation went through a similar (and successful) transition from its first to second seasons. Here is what gives me hope for Community's survival. Community understood from episode one onward that people want to see friends on television comedy. How else did Friends go for a mind-numbing ten seasons? The characters of Community fight and bicker, but the audience never doubts for a moment that deep down they are still a mini-community (har har) of their own.

21st Century Breakdown (Green Day)
"Red alert is the color of panic, elevated to the point of static."
One of the best kept secrets of the year is that Green Day's follow up to 2004's widely acclaimed "American Idiot" is actually slightly better than its predecessor. 21st Century Breakdown listened to Jay-Z's pleas for American music to "get violent," and did him one better. This is an album about revolution. Not the music revolution or the love revolution but the revolution where shit gets set on fire and people die. What are we rebelling against? No fucking clue. All we know is that Christian and Gloria are our youthful guides into destruction and that our little revolution is probably going to fail. But that can't stop the listener from screaming and throwing Molotov cocktails along with the album's protagonists.

House: Broken
"Successes only last until someone screws them up. Failures are forever."
House has followed a strict formula for five seasons. Patient comes in, patient exhibits bizarre symptoms, House fixes patient while undergoing some type of life lesson...which he will inevitably ignore. The formula works but unfortunately formulas are by their very definition: boring. House broke its own formula in grand fashion for the season six opener of the show titled "Broken." The result could have been excellent...or disastrous. By its inclusion on this list, you know I believe it to be awesome and you certainly should too. "Defiant mental patient" storylines are generally overdone but the House crew makes this one work like gangbusters. By putting him away in a mental health clinic, the viewer better understands what it's like to be the frustrating ball of madness that is Dr. House. And by giving House a worthy intellectual adversary (a cool-as-hell Andre Braugher), House also better understand what it's like to be the frustrating ball of madness that is Dr. House. Kudos to the House team for getting their character healthy...and still keeping him interesting.

Mark Pellegrino (Lost)
"It only ends once. Everything that happens before that is just progress."
The character of Jacob was doomed to fail on Lost. His name has been whispered for two seasons and his eventual arrival had been greatly anticipated. He had been built to be a God. Anything short of a 5-story dragon shooting fire out of its eyes would be disappointing. Merely one little-known actor should have been disappointing. Someway, somehow, Mark Pellegrino pulled Jacob off and he wasn't disappointing in the slightest. He was extraordinary and one of the bright spots in the best season of Lost yet. Pellegrino oozes sophistication and mystery, whether he's in the back on a taxi in, sitting on a park bench in front of a tall building, or wearing a tunic and speaking pedantically on a mystical Island. Simply put: Mark Pellegrino nailed an un-nailable role. Who knew Paul from Dexter had it in him?

Empire State of Mind (Jay-Z and Alicia Keys)
"Don't bite the Apple. Eve's caught up in the in-crowd."
A World Series Championship and the year's best song? The Empire State did very well for itself in 2009.

Kristen Stewart's Cautious, Awkward Smile
Happy New Years, everyone.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Moment of the Decade #5

This will be the last of my "Moment of the Decade" series.

It certainly has been a wild ride, readers. Years from now, when I am accepting a cherished writing award in the church basement of my local community, I will look back fondly to my Moment of the Decade series that I wrote way back at the stunning age of 19. By then, I will have had tasted multiple professional successes, have nine models for wives and an 11-inch penis (they still grow, right?).

Likewise, I am sure you will remember this hallmark of modern cultural analysis when you are off solving the problems of the world, yourself (sorry for taking all the hot wives, by the way). But as they say: "all mediocre attempts to catalogue a decade of complex ideas and experiences by a third-rate entertainment pop culture blog must come to an end." And so this too ends.

I had a couple of more things I wanted to write about but literally couldn't justify them due to obscurity. One was the self-less sacrifice of Blackwargreymon in the second season of Digimon Adventures and the other was the release of Sugarcult's song "Memory" as the most underrated pop song of the decade. The goal of this whole shindig was to highlight some of the less obvious moments of the decade but even those were too obscure for the guy who once wrote about K.A Applegate's Remnants series.

So enjoy, your last moment of the decade. We've come full circle back to the land of cinema.

Sarsgaard Flips Out - Jarhead


I talked to an old friend recently. At this point in my life, it blows my mind that I have such a thing as an "old friend." I experienced seven years of secondary education in the same town and had no choice but to have the "same friends", nobody knew, nobody old, just the same, day in and day out. But now I'm no longer in that same town and as such I have old friends.

This old friend had joined the army. We were talking about his experiences in basic training, what it's like to shoot a gun and of course how the service effects one's "female situation."

At some point in the conversation he seemed to struggle with how to explain it. Then he said:

"Remember that movie Jarhead that everyone was convinced sucked?"

I was.

"It doesn't suck. The army is exactly like that...nothing happens. Remember when Peter Sarsgaard says something like 'I never even fired my rifle?'"

I did.

"Yeah, that's what it's like."

I have never been in the armed services, nor have I ever fired a gun at another human being. But I do understand a little bit about pop culture, movies and the way things work, and I have no choice but to admire a war movie in which nothing happens.

Jarhead was not very well-received by critics. It got a lukewarm 61% on Rotten Tomatoes and was featured on very few end-of-the-year top ten lists. I didn't even really know how I felt about it after I saw it. I had this vague notion that it was a good film, maybe even a great film...but still I didn't like it.

Those of you who have seen it probably know why. It is a slow, tense build up from boot camp through Operation Desert Storm but a dramatic release never seems to come. Private Anthony Swofford and his merry band of U.S Marines just kind of stroll around a horrifically boring Iraq landscape, waiting for something to happen. Jarhead puts its characters through basic training hell, trains then to be killing machines, winds them up and lets them go nowhere and kill nothing.

And the more I think about it: maybe that was the point.

Whatever the movie was trying to say, the slow build up with no release leads to one of the most effective and disturbing scenes I've seen in five years.

While trying to fight boredom in the desert, the sniper team of Private Swofford (Jake Gyllenhall) and Private Troy (Peter Sarsgaard) receive the assignment to assassinate a crucial Iraqi official in a guard tower. Swofford and Troy are all too happy to put their training into effect and do something other than sit around talking about women or masturbating.

Troy lines up the shot perfectly and gives Swofford the go ahead to take another human being's life. Just before Swofford can take the shot, a military higher up (Dennis Hayesbert a.k.a President David Palmer from 24) burst into the tower and tells the boys that the Air Force will be taking out the enemy instead. Why kill one with a strategic sniper-shot when you can take out the whole farm with a napalm bomb?

Private Troy doesn't quite see the wisdom in that.

Troy yells that he and Swofford had the shot and begs President Palmer to just let Swofford shoot the man in the head before the Air Force wipes it all out. He doesn't ask...he literally begs. He screams "we had the shot!", falls to the floor, begins to weep and literally rocks back and forth.

It may sound like a bit much when I write it, but when Peter Sarsgaard acts it, it is just simply astounding. This man really wanted nothing else in the world to see the red mist spray out of the back of another man's head as his bullet tore apart his brain.

The tragedy of Jarhead (and perhaps the two Iraq Wars, themselves) is that a collection of young Americans wanted to spill blood...and didn't get to.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Moment of the Decade #4

Release of the Gray Album

Believe it or not but there was a time when record companies were worried about mash-ups and digitally downloaded music.

2004 was a time shortly after Napster had collapsed and shortly before iTunes had become the musical juggernaut it is today. In short - it was a brief window of time when the fate of the record industry hung in the balance.

Enter DJ Danger Mouse.

Danger Mouse would later team up with Cee-Lo to craft the consensus best pop song of the decade, but for now he was working by himself trying to turn The Beatle's White Album and Jay-Z's Black Album into a musical masterpiece.

The Beatles are the undisputed pop music kings for all time, while Jay-Z is the probable pop music king for our time. Still, common sense says that a mash up of light, breezy guitar 60's guitar riffs and aggressive, fast urban-flavored verses shouldn't go together. Danger Mouse somehow made it work.

"What More Can I Say" teamed up with "While My Guitar Gently Weeps", "Encore" flowed over "Glass Onion" and in my personal favorite "Change Clothes" gently played over "Dear Prudence".

The Grey Album would eventually be honored as Album of the Year by Entertainment Weekly and received praise from several other publications. But it left a longer legacy than traditional good music. The Grey Album is a significant cultural moment of the decade because of its continuation of the theme of electronic civil disobedience.

If it exists and its online...then we all have a right to it. Forget what EMI, Paul McCartney or the U.S Constitution says! Nothing says 2000s more than that ethos.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Moment of the Decade #3

Omar's Death - The Wire


The single best piece of entertainment from the decade had to show up on this list at some point. And it is with the death of it's most popular and celebrated character that The Wire makes an appearance in the best moments of this past decade.

There's really no way around it: Omar Little was a Bad-Mother-Fucker.

Omar was a man who represented a complete break from all institutions and commitments. On a show where everyone lost a piece of their identity to their surroundings (gang members, dock workers, police officers, public school teachers, elected officials), Omar was able to remain Omar: nothing more, nothing less.

Homeboy lived by a code. He followed the traditional rules of the street...with some revisions. Omar never swore, Omar never stole from anyone but drug-dealers and criminals and Omar gave that money to those in need. He was a gay, ghetto Robin Hood. And he deserved the death of a King. He deserved a death scene much like Harry Potter got (even if that one didn't quite stick): purposeful, honorable and touching.

But this is The Wire we're talking about here.

In the fifth and final season, Omar sought revenge against Kingpin Marlo Stanfield for torturing and killing his homie, Butchie. And Omar's path for revenge took him to the streets where naturally he stole money from a drug stash. Then, in a long, uniterrupted shot - Omar takes money from said stash to a convenience store to buy cigarettes. Omar walks up to the counter and the camera focuses on his blank expression and nothing else. The bell rings, indicating that someone has entered the store. Omar glances over and then back - apparently he doesn't feel threatened by whatever he sees...

BAM!

The a bullet hits Omar in the side of the head, tearing apart his brain and killing him instantly.

Omar's death scene was not what he deserved. It was quick, brutal and humiliating....much like death in real life. Omar may have felt like a larger-than-life character to us all but The Wire deals with reality, and in reality no one is larger-than-life. In reality - we are all just glorified meat-marionettes whose strings can be unceremoniously cut at any moment.

Sorry to sound grim here - but The Wire just gets to me like that.

Another interesting aspect of Omar's death is that it reveals the true artistic restraint that David Simon and Co. displayed in crafting the 5-season epic story of The Wire. Way back in Season 3, Omar and his crew were engaged in a firefight with members of the Barksdale crew (much love to you if you recognize the names of all these people and organizations) in broad daylight.

At its conclusion the police showed up and witnessed a group of kids re-enacting the fight using their hands for "guns." One young little hoodrat whines that is his turn to be Omar.

Two years later, that prepubescent terror, Kenard, would be the one who would shoot Omar Little in the head.

I love that show so much.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Moment of the Decade #2

The Forest Again - Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows



Remember when Harry Potter died?

Oh wait a minute.....let me go ahead and put up that SPOILER ALERT tag.

Anyway, remember when Voldemort wasted The Boy Who Lived (for a while at least) with a Killing Curse to the face? I do. I've actually re-read that scene about 47 times. It is "The Forest Again", the 34th chapter, and third-to-last chapter in the finale of the epic tale of Harry Potter. And it Rocks. So. Hard.

Back in the summer of '07, I was a young, promising 17-year-old student - much like the protagonist, himself. But unlike that bespectacled hero, I was not seeking out the world's most dangerous wizard. My brother and I were in Myrtle Beach and instead of lounging around on the beach, counting Double-Ds, we were inside reading The Deathly Hallows.

Somehow my brother was a full chapter ahead of me, even though he had stopped to take a quick catnap and I had not. Around 7 in the morning (we had received our books at midnight, like any self-respecting nerds), my brother looked up at me from a across the room with tears glimmering in his eyes and simply said:

"Dude..."

"Will I know what you're talking about when I get there?" I asked.

"Yes," he said.

And I did. And that is why the chapter "The Forest Again" from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is my Moment of the Decade #2.

The moment in which young Harry uses the Resurrection Stone to summon the spirits of his father, mother, Sirius Black and Remus Lupin is the moment that my brother was referring to. It is also the moment that almost makes me weep like a little bitch every time I read it. The dialogue is absolutely brutal.

Harry Potter asks his Godfather, Sirius if dying hurts. To which Sirius replies: "Not at all, it is painless and easier than falling asleep." Harry apologizes to his former teacher, Lupin, because he will not be able to see his infant son grow up. Harry's parents tell him that they love him and are proud of him.

Harry Potter has more in common with the living than the dead, "The Forest Again" reveals that his story, from the beginning, has been about death more so than anything. The most prolific series of books of our times opens with a double murder and that looms over every plot detail for seven books until in reaches that emotional climax in this close-to-final scene.

And some people say Twilight is better...

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Moment of the Decade #1

Now that we've reached the end of the 00's (2000's? Nothins'?) it's time to start counting what rocked and what sucked about the decade that we all came of age in. This was a decade that contained both my first kiss and first caramel frappuccino and I want to honor it.

Instead of the usual top ten lists and recaps, I'll take things in a different and probably less satisfying direction. I'm going to present, in no particular order, the moments that stick out most in my mind from this past decade.

These won't be real-life events like the time Tom Cruise jumped on Oprah's couch or the time M. Night Shyamalan took an actual shit on celluloid. These will be moments from the content of pop culture, itself. Scenes, chapters, lines of dialogue, chord progressions, etc.

We'll start off with a scene from one of the most strangely underrated movies of the decade.

Avner and Louis - Munich


Here is a scene from Steven Spielberg's Munich in which Israeli assassin Avner (Eric Bana) meets with his French informant Louis (Mathieu Almalric) in Paris. Avner and his merry band of killers, demolition experts and accountants have been cutting a bloody path across Europe, bringing Jewish vengeance to the Israeli athletes killed in the 1973 Olympics terrorist attacks.

Read screenwriter Tony Kushner's brilliant depiction of the scene. Then do yourself a favor and do it again.

EXT. STORE ON A FANCY STREET IN PARIS - NIGHT
Avner is standing in front of the display, which has been changed -- a new but still beautiful modern kitchen. Behind him, reflected in the glass, he sees Robert, walking-towards him, smiling gently. They make eye contact through the reflection. Robert seems to be standing right behind Avner. He's asking Avner something, either moving his lips or it's just a question in his eyes.

AVNER
It will be beautiful. Eventually

Avner places his hand over Robert's face. Then he turns. Louis is standing there. Avner stares at Louis, hard. Louis takes a handkerchief out of his pocket, then reaches past Avner to wipe away the handprint that Avner's left on the plate glass window.

LOUIS
Ali Hassan Salameh is in Tarifa, on the Spanish coast. He's in a compound guarded by all the
predictable trouble.

Avner doesn't respond, staring a Louis as if not seeing him.

LOUIS
Bomb makers often die accidental deaths.
( shrugs )
In Athens, you shot a KGB agent. Many people must want t o kill you, Monsieur Storsch. But why would I do that? You pay better than anyone.
A beat.

LOUIS (CONT'D)
It ' s dangerous, going after Salameh. But he planned the Munich massacre. Eliminate him and they'll let you go home. Don't you think?

They look at one another.

AVNER
Yes, Louis. I do. They smile at one another, not friendly, but, Avner having acknowledged his affiliation, both know that this is the end of their business together.

LOUIS
You could have a kitchen like this someday. It costs dearly. Home always does.

Politicians, talking heads and public school teachers have been trying to explain to me why those silly people in the Middle East have been killing each other for so long. And I never understood any of their reasonings or rationales.

When I saw this scene, it all finally made sense. Here is Avner, a man who has been killing human beings in the name of his country and is nearing the end of sanity. He is standing in front of the sanitary, safe and ultimately corny representation of home that Western culture has built. Then Louis says "You could have a kitchen like this someday. It costs dearly. Home always does."

And suddenly it all makes sense.

Regardless of how sanitary, safe and corny it may be, every man, woman and child on Earth would give almost anything for that elusive concept of home. Especially when they believe they are entitled to it.

There it is: the reason for the Middle East crisis in three lines or less.

Maybe some people can understand the socio-political reasons for Arabs and Jews fighting each other. But I can't. And I need Hollywood and Tony Kushner to lend me a helping hand. In that moment I understood exactly why those silly people are dying in that far off land.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

One for Now and One for a VH1 Recap Special

First of all, I'd like to apologize for my little outburst just earlier. I wrote that just last week but it will appear just below this post so in the mind's eye, this will have occurred immediately after the previous one. History will never know (unless history pays attention to time stamps on blogs) that I had a full week to recover from my meltdown. So let's pretend that my post JUST HAPPENED (to quote Ricky Bobby).

Sorry to Twitter users! Sorry to anyone looking for legitimate readable content! Sorry to mom and dad for using "fuck" in a blog title!

Anyway, let's move on with our lives.

It's the end of the decade which can only mean one thing...LISTS! LISTS! LISTS! OMG! OMG! LISTS! OMFG! LISTS!

I am a complete list whore. I think the only reason I started a blog is to compile mind-numbingly boring top ten lists at the end of the year that no one really wants to read. Thankfully, Journalism classes have beaten the idea that top ten lists are a good thing so the Internet will not be subjected to any of my mundane lists.

That doesn't mean my love for end-of-the-decade lists has waned in the slightest. In fact I would like to call your attention to a couple of interesting ones that I have discovered.

- The first one is the A.V Club's list of the best Television shows of the decade.

For some reason television seems a lot easier to draw a consensus on than movies in the modern era. I imagine that many lists in the coming month will look nearly identical to the A.V Club's list.

It is essentially perfect.

I do have a few gripes (Futurama's inclusion, South Park and Chappelle's Shows' omissions and two AMC shows back-t0-back immediately come to mind) but most people won't look at this list and think "they're way off." The Wire is the best show of the decade. Arrested Development is the best comedy. Mad Men is showing potential to reach Sopranos-esque levels and The U.K Office is ranked perfectly in relation to the U.S Office.

It really feels like a true consensus on TV's can be reached and the same certainly cannot be said for film or music in the 2000s. Does this mean that television is our most prominent pop-cultural art form of the decade? I would certainly argue for it. But I can't prove it...and you probably wouldn't believe me anyway.

- Next up is the Alternative Press' list of the best songs of the decade.

For as definitive as the A.V Club's list was, this one feels as subjective. Per the AP's M.O, the list features almost exclusive punk, alternative and emo fare with a little bit of hipster shit sprinkled in. Obviously the list was going to be inherently biased based only under those guidelines. We certainly weren't going to see "Single Ladies" or "Lose Yourself" on this list.

Even with that in mind, there seems to be a bizarre heir of subjectivity to AP's declaration. This, however, doesn't mean I don't love lots of it. Here's a snapshot of what's working for me.

99. Cursive – “Art Is Hard”
82. Brand New – “Jesus Christ”
75. Green Day – “Jesus Of Suburbia”
63. AFI – “Girl’s Not Grey”
47. My Chemical Romance – “Welcome To The Black Parade”
46. Against Me – “Thrash Unreal”
45. The Used – “A Box Full Of Sharp Objects”
37. Panic! At The Disco – “I Write Sins Not Tragedies”
33. Silversun Pickups – “Lazy Eye”
32. New Found Glory – “My Friends Over You”
31. Brand New – “Sic Transit Gloria…Glory Fades”
30. AFI – “Miss Murder”
25. The All-American Rejects – “Move Along”
24. Green Day – “American Idiot”
22. Brand New – “The Quiet Things That No One Ever Knows”
14. Brand New – “Jude Law And A Semester Abroad”
13. The Gaslight Anthem – “The ‘59 Sound”
12. Jimmy Eat World – “Bleed America”
11. Blink-182 – “All The Small Things”
8. My Chemical Romance – “Helena”
4. Fall Out Boy – “Sugar, We’re Goin’ Down”
3. Jimmy Eat World – “Sweetness”
2. My Chemical Romance – “I’m Not Okay (I Promise)”

If I had to reconstruct my own top ten list based purely on what AP featured it would probably look like this:

10. My Chemical Romance - "I'm Not Okay"
9. Brand New - "Jude Law and the Semester Abroad"
8. Blink 182 - "All the Small Things"
7. AFI - "Girls Not Grey"
6. Cursive - "Art is Hard"
5. My Chemical Romance - "Welcome to the Black Parade"
4. Against Me! - "Thrash Unreal"
3. Jimmy Eat World - "Bleed America"
2. Green Day - "Jesus of Suburbia"
1. My Chemical Romance - "Helena"

I can get behind any list that I can construct into that top ten. Also, I would like to live in a world in which an MCR song is the second best song of an entire decade. I can only hope that years from now after Western culture has fallen, archaeologists will find this list and believe that My Chemical Romance was on par with the Beatles.

- But forget about the future, let's talk about the RIGHT NOW.

This might be the best music video I've seen in years. Watch it and try to come up with a compelling argument why Lady Gaga WON'T be the new Queen of Popular Music for years to come. Go on, I dare you.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Fuck Twitter

I know Twitter is usually used for micro-blogging but Twitter is stupid SO....

I hate writing research papers.

That will be all for now.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Show Me What You Got

When can we stop calling television shows "television" shows?

I watch plenty of serialized programming: the sublimely charming Glee, the blatantly awful but somehow still watchable Heroes and the infinitely interesting Dexter - but I watch none of them on an actual television. I'll watch them on Hulu, Surfthechannel, Ninjavideo or any other source of questionable legality (don't tell on me).

I own a television, everyone I know owns a television, but not everyone actually ever uses it. Aside from flipping on Sportscenter to quell my crushing loneliness in the morning of waking up alone in a Single dorm room, my TV mostly serves to fill space on the wall next to my refrigerator.

I could use this opportunity to speak about how the Internet is changing our lives but fuck, my professors get paid a lot of money to do that. And I'm sure the target audience on this blog (i.e 3 of my friends and around 4 OU students who stumbled upon it while Googling "synthetic dog steak") really doesn't feel like being instructed on the future by someone who has no better idea of WHAT-IT-ALL-MEANS than they, themselves, do.

So let's talk about what's actually on TV instead.

I usually try to avoid sweeping statements that I will certainly regret later BUUUUUUUUUT....I think NBC's "Must See TV" might have made a sneaky, and largely inadvertent comeback.

Thursday nights features perhaps the most solid 2 hours of comedy on television since Seinfeld signs off. I think this has largely gone unnoticed because everyone (aside from Entertainment Weekly employees) does everything but watch TV on Thursday nights. Sure, many people will watch The Office and 30 Rock, perhaps even Community or Parks and Recreation if they're feeling dangerous...but they won't watch them all straight through or on the night they first air.

It's kind of a shame, though, because if anyone actually sat down for 2 straight hours on a Thursday night then NBC might make a comeback...or at least buy back some love that they lost when they bungled the whole Leno-O'Brien situation.

The Peacock has built up quite a line-up for itself.

8:00 - Community - This got off to a bit of a rough start but has really blossomed of late. Chevy Chase still doesn't quite work for me but Joel McHale is an undeniable star. I don't think Community will ultimately last (see: Neilsen Ratings) but when it dies McHale's career had better take off...or I'll quit humanity forever. His speech about "Shark Week" in the pilot episode is a work of comic genius.


8:30 - Parks and Recreation - Parks and Recreation took off this year and it did it by following a simple concept. More Office, less Parks and Recreation. Characters are now better-defined, funnier and more vibrant and Greg Daniels and Michael Schurr have focused on character-based comedy far more than plot-based comedy (the fact that everyone inexplicably hates the elderly "Jerry" kills me). And aside from being a solidly funny show, Parks and Rec is blessed with good timing, being a show about the inner-workings of small-town government in an age where healthcare is about to become a public entity. NOTE: Do not read into my politics at all on this, I am passing no judgements. Nothing is a bigger drag than having to talk about politics when all I really want to do is express my love for Aziz Ansari and Rashida Jones' smile.

9:00 - The Office - The wedding episode was so good that it should have been the series finale. Just sayin'...

9:30 - 30 Rock - Here is the semi-embarrassing part about not watching shows directly when they air. Usually when one watches a show on television it is a public experience and everyone laughs and interacts together. When one watches a show on a laptop, it is a very solitary experience (twelve people gathered around a MacBook Pro is rather awkward). So I automatically try to refrain from laughter when watching shows alone. 30 Rock is the show that defies my attempts not to laugh most frequently. Just give it the freaking Emmy again now.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Getting Texty

I could not partake in Halloween this year due to my job.

Thankfully, I have friends. And thankfully they have cell phones.

GINA - Dempe has taped a piece of cardboard over his crotch that says "dick flap"
GINA - alex just called Adam a "bisexual fuck." ...I might be the only one textingyou.
ADAM - Oh no.
VINCE - Your bro is doing excellent
GINA - Adam is Houdini and vince is drinking from a measuring cup.
GINA - We lost alex. I just saw Arthur
ADAM - i am talking to your brother. please let me train him.
ADAM - Tell ian no. trust me.
GINA - Annnnnnd Adam is puking
GINA - Alex is helping a young lad get medical attention. Everyone else is roaming arou d the house.
STEPHANIE - We are coming to you. Where should we go?
ADAM - Be careful.
STEPHANIE - Okay will try to stop them from coming
ELLEN - Ian is w/Steph and fine, no worries.
ADAM - I don't know. send him to 7tatue.
ADAM - Where is ian.
STEPHANIE - Brother its me can we come yet
ADAM - Check i an now.
ADAM - Oh boy. tel me hen back.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Violent Love and the Greatest Comic Book That Never Was

I remember sitting in Court Street Diner about two or three weeks into my Freshman year (being a Freshman, this was before I realized it was cooler to go to Union Street Diner) and eavesdropping on two Sophomore girls in the booth across from me.

In-between the menial bullshit that Sophomore college girls tend to talk about (trust me: I basically am one) a little kernel of knowledge slipped through to my eavesdropping ear.

"Sophomore year in Scripps is absolutely brutal!" Girl A said.
"Jeez...that's why I am in " Girl B responded.

While sipping my absolutely delightful potato and cheese soup, I made a mental note not to ever forget that fact when my Sophomore year in Scripps rolled around.

Now as I sit here in my Film 201 class, sensations of that delightful soup long passed, I realized that I indeed forgot that fact.

Sophomore year is rather brutal.

News Writing is simple enough...until I actually have to do work. Film is fun...until I feel the uncontrollable urge to nap once the lights dim for a screening. Introduction to Creative Non-Fiction is right up my alley...until I get B's on all my papers. And Islam....well Islam just straight-up sucks all around.

This has not been the easiest quarter for me and as punishment for my boredom, Internet, you are now subject to more of my pop culture-related ramblings while I neglect Citizen Kane (too much culture, not enough pop for me)

- I thought I was done prattling on about AFI's new album, Crash Love, I really did. But something occurred to me as I was listening to its lyrics on my way to class today. Crash Love combines two concepts that go so well together they should be more synonymous with unity than PB&J: violence and infatuation. The word's Crash and Love suggest two seemingly conflicting ideas that are brought together through the magic of....ART!

Just listen to some of the violence and car-crash imagery on the record:
"If we run this light, take a little life, no one will care at all."
"With the light out and the night inside, the broken radio was playing suicide."
"Bleeding from pure love."

It's now come to my attention that I am in love with the dual concepts of love and violence as they pertain to one another. Just take a gander at the cover of one of my favorite albums of all time:

That is the cover of Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge by My Chemical Romance. The painting is called "Demolition Lovers" and was created by singer Gerard Way. "Demolition Lovers", eh? Sounds like it conforms to my fun little notion of violence and love intersecting. The blood on the two lovers faces seem splattered in the blood from their impact.

But you don't have to stick to the emo and hardcore arenas...

"And baby when it's love if it's not rough, it isn't fun." - Lady Gaga, bitches.

- I feel like I've fought destiny for a long time.

Destiny clearly wanted me to be a comic book nerd. And truthfully, I was an everything-else-nerd. Pokemon? Check. Star Wars? Check. Harry Potter? Check. Lord of the Rings? Check. Magic Cards? Check. Online RPGs? Check. Tabletop wargames? Check. But for some reason comics just felt like too big a leap for me, like heroin to a cocaine user.

But two summers ago I took that leap and read Watchmen. I loved it (doesn't everyone?). Then I tackled some Batman series. Then I read The Umbrella Academy. And now I'm on the prowl for more.

When I read these series, however, I detected that I had experienced it all before? Why is that?

Of course, comic book DNA is spread across all areas of pop culture (hehehe ew.), but it went even deeper than that. I've read these types of stories before.

Remember Animorphs? And don't lie, I KNOW you do. Everybody read Animorphs. Well K.A Applegate also wrote one of my favorite series of books ever after Animorphs called "Remnants."

Remnants was a 14-book series about a group of survivors' trials and tribulations in space in a post-Earth existence. It sounds cheesy and bad because it was cheesy and bad. But it only didn't work dramatically or commercially because it was written in the wrong medium. Remnants was a comic book series in the form of a novel. Remnants was graphic, pulpy, fast-moving, unrealistic, fun, all with a dash of deeper meaning - everything that a good comic book should be.

So your homework today, Internet, is to research Remnants (or read the whole series, which is available upon request to yours truly), contact K.A Applegate or Scholastic for the rights and then create the single greatest comic book series the world has ever seen.

Please do this...for me.

Monday, October 12, 2009

"The Lucy Westenra Search Party" Would Be an Awesome Band Name

So why the fuck do we amass and consume endless amounts of television, film, literature, theater and other visual media?

I know it seems like there should be a sentence before that but there isn't. I don't want to bury the lead on this one. I was walking through West Green on my way to News Writing and the thought popped into my head. Actually, that wasn't my thought at all. But I backtracked my initial thought (to be revealed shortly) to the essential question of what I was thinking. So really that opening sentence could have been a lot more jarring...

Why do I spend my days wondering if Lost will reveal the meaning of life? Why do you read The Little Prince for the eighth time? Why do we watch The Bear Jew turn Hitler's brains into pudding? (I swear my Inglourious Basterds/Pulp Fiction is coming one day)

Well there are plenty of reasons we plug into our visual culture or, say it with me: the collective unconscious. But I thought of one reason today why I (and by "I", I am just vainly assuming "we") consume culture like Mike & Ikes.

We consume culture because we want to be in culture. I have a family, I have friends, I have peers. I have co-workers. It is a very real existence that I live with very real people. But in each and every case I always try to compare these in-groups to in-groups that I have seen in the media. And in almost every case, they don't compare favorably.

I recently posted a picture on Facebook of The Umbrella Academy (a comic book superhero team) with me and all my friends tagged as our corresponding characters. It was fun to concur that Alex was definitely The Seance and Dan was definitely The Kraken...but why did they have to be? Why can't Alex just be Alex and Dan just be Dan (this is that original thought that I had, by the way)?

Culture exists, in part, so that we can imagine ourselves in it.

This is an intriguing notion for a multitude of reasons. But I am too lazy to write about them and I have a Film Midterm breathing down my neck. Instead I'll leave you with a list of the fake-groups I would most like to be a part of. And mind you, these are groups that I have seen and enjoyed. I have not seen much of old-timey entertainment such as Cheers so don't expect me to want to hang at the bar where everyone knows your name.

- The Bluth Family (Arrested Development)
- Sacred Heart Hospital (Scrubs)
- Gryffindor, Class of '98 (Harry Potter)
- Serenity crew-mate (Firefly)
- The Basterds (Inglourious Basterds)
- The Barksdale Family/Baltimore Police Department (The Wire)
- The Gang (It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia)
- Bon Temps Citizen (True Blood)
- The Lucy Westenra Search Party (Dracula)

If I could drop everything in my entire life, including even possibly my identity, and join into another reality with a different friend-base, those are a select few I would choose.

You, Internet?

Friday, October 2, 2009

"Put the Top Down, Use Your Knees to Drive"

Hello again there, Internets!

It's been a while since my last post. I apologize for the delay. I've been working on my Backdrop story for this Fall's Issue for the past two weeks. Thanks to my dear old friend procrastination, I had to churn out interviews, research, transcribing and three drafts in a miniscule timeframe. This of course meant many all-nighters, coffee, tears, more coffee, and neglect of my recently reanimated blog. But my story is finally complete and I think it compares more than favorably to my last two efforts. This one gets a little deeper, goes a little darker and hopefully is a little better. Pick yourself up a copy October 22!

Enough of me being a company man though, let me walk you through some of the collective(ly) unconscious I have been enjoying since my last post.

- I've been wanting to write about the show Glee since it premiered. Of course I wouldn't really know what to say about it other than "I like it and it makes me smile." Sometimes it is nice just to be brought into the welcoming embrace of a big, loud and clever network show and forget any issues you may be having (encroaching deadlines, perhaps?) for an hour once a week. Thankfully, my friend and colleague Adam Wagner is more eloquent on the subject of Glee anyway so I concede the floor to him.

- While writing draft after draft of my Fall story until 5 in the morning (this seems to be a recurring theme), I happened across AFI's Myspace where they were streaming their full new album "Crash Love." I have an interesting relationship with AFI. Here is my opinion of all their albums:

1. Answer that and Stay Fashionable - Dogshit
2. Very Proud of Ya - Dogshit
3. Shut Your Mouth and Open Your Eyes - Dogshit
4. Black Sails in the Sunset - Dogshit (minus "God Called in Sick Today" which is absolutely beautiful)
5. The Art of Drowning - Mostly dogshit with some signs of life
6. Sing the Sorrow - The pinnacle of hardcore music and perhaps the greatest thing to happen to the Gothic subculture since Bram Stoker wrote Dracula. One of my favorite albums ever released.
7. Decemberunderground - Dogshit

So is Crash Love dogshit or the pinnacle of Western Civilization?Well the album itself skews far closer to pinnacle of Western Civilization than a pile of dogshit. And this song right here might be the best thing to carress my eardrums in a long time.



- Last night I got reacquainted with my dear old friend Charlie Kaufman. Who is Charlie Kaufman you ask? Charlie Kaufman is the man who completely redefined the role of a screenwriter in the film industry and is probably the most talented and influential writer in the most popular commercial medium in the world. And you've probably never heard of him. He's the dude responsible for movies such as Being John Malkovich (awesome movie), Adaptation (one of my faves), Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (one of my faves) and Synecdoche, New York (I still don't know what to make of this one). He also wrote Human Nature and Confessions of a Dangerous Mind but I've never seen Human Nature and he disowned Confessions because he was unhappy with the direction George Clooney took it in.

Anyway, I watched Eternal Sunshine for the first time in a long time and it hit me harder than I can ever remember a Kaufman movie hitting me on any of my many viewings. So I am giving you fair warning that I may be rambling about him a lot more as I re-watch his other flicks. For now I thought I would just bring up an interesting fact about his writings. Each Kaufman movie seems to be, at its core, a distillation of two veeeery deep, veeeeery abstract and often veeeeery contradictory ideas.

Being John Malkovich = Existence + Celebrity
Adaptation = Writing + Passion
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind = Love + Memory
Synecdoche, New York = Art + Reality

Is Charlie Kaufman the only one whose art can be analyzed as such? If not, give me more fun examples in the comments section.

Well that's all I have for now. I've been meaning to write a massive essay comparing Pulp Fiction and Inglourious Basterds and how they are not only two of the better films of my lifetime but reflect the pop cultural landscape of our era better than anything else ever made buuuuuuuuuuut...I've just been to busy to tackle it.

Here's hoping that I can get that done some time this week!

Monday, September 21, 2009

30 Men on Mad Rock

The Emmys have come and gone and you can tell that I have grown a lot as a person because I didn't try to predict the winners this year.

Let me rephrase that...I didn't go public with my Emmy predictions. Instead of wowing the blogosphere with my wildly inaccurate predictions, I wowed the small group of folks I watched the Emmys with my surprisingly accurate predictions.

To be fair, the Emmys were not that hard to predict. 95% of America could have told you that 30 Rock would win Best Comedy and Mad Men would win Best Drama. The predictions were so obvious that for once in my life I decided not to reflect on how awesome I am, but instead ask why they were so obvious.

You follow?

What I am asking is: why did the wins of 30 Rock and Mad Men seem so inevitable and pre-ordained? What is it about American society at the end of the decade that makes these shows synonymous with excellence in comedic and dramatic material?

I am assuming that it goes beyond the fact that both are excellent tv shows. I am a regular viewer of 30 Rock and believe it to be one of the funniest shows of the decade. I have never seen an episode of Mad Men but have been lead to believe that it is brilliant. Still, there are plenty of other hilarious and dramatically affecting shows out there. Why will these two go down in history as the definitive programs of 2009's America?

Looking at the concept of each show, it seems clear that there is one factor that each share: all the characters work. Obviously, there are plenty of other shows out there in which the characters have jobs (homelessness is not a very exciting or funny concept for television), and there are even some shows that take place in work environments exclusively. But 30 Rock and Mad Men don't just have characters that work and don't just take place in a professional environment...the two shows are all about work.

30 Rock is short for 30 Rockefeller Plaza, where all of its characters work on a sketch comedy program. Mad Men cleverly refers to the fact that the characters work in the advertising industry, and al their lives revolve around the office and what happens in it. 

In these shows, work is everything: laughter, frustration, drama, excitement, family and presumably money. In a year in which the highest number people are unemployed since the Great Depression, it only makes sense that we want to honor two shows that honor and uphold the concept of work and how integral to our lives it can be.

Shit, that's why they invented television, to show us what we want and sometimes what we fear.

Now if you'd excuse me, I am going to watch the season premiere of House...don't psychoanalyze that decision like I just did with 30 Rock and Mad Men.

Friday, September 18, 2009

You're In My Dreams Now

I should totally not be writing this right now.

My Editor at Backdrop decided to take a stand against my procrastinating bullshit and is demanding the first draft of my Fall Quarter story by 3 tomorrow....the same first draft that was due last week.

So I have some work to do. But before I fully engage in "writing mode" I need a quick scrimmage to get myself back into game shape. And should said-editor be reading this right now, I'd just like to say "Don't worry, Shane, I can knock this bitch out of the park."

Anyway, let's talk about two things that I never thought would meet up: emo and rap. 

It seems more fundamentally awkward than oil and water or Joe Wilson and common sense. Emo is essentially a raging treatise against life and all its excesses. Rap is traditionally wrapped (pardon the pun) in life itself. It speaks of every little bit that makes it all worth living: hos, money, hos, ice, guns, hos, urban-respect, hos, homies and of course, hos.

But a fly homie from the 'Land seems to have pulled it off.

Scott Mescudi a.k.a Kid Cudi is not the most talented musician or rapper I have ever heard (as a matter of fact, many of his rhymes are downright mediocre) but he has made one of the more interesting musical concoctions I have heard in a while. Man on the Moon: The End of Day is ambitious, exciting, depressing, uplifting and bizarre....but most important: it is fun as hell to listen to.

Some will find the dividing of the album into five parts (I The End of Day, II Rise of the Night Terror, III Taking a Trip, IV Stuck, V A New Beginning) to be pretentious, but I am a total sucker for grand artistic flourishes like that. Plus, it totally works. Each chapter has it's own little flavor, running from reality to dreams to drugs to panic all the way back to reality again. It is an absurdly fun trip and compulsively listenable. I even look forward to Common's spoken statements at the end of each chapter telling me what I'm about to experience...even though I've heard him say the same thing about 712 times since I bought the album on Tuesday.

The mere fact that Kid Cudi had a hand in the best break-up album of the decade in 808's and Heartbreak, speaks to his legitimacy as well. First 808s, then underground cred, now mainstream success. I can only hope that this Northeast Ohioan sticks around for awhile. He definitely has my ears...and more importantly my wallet.

Anyway, prepare for my Facebook and Twitter accounts to be awash with lyrics from the album for the next month or so (I got 99 problems/and they all bitches). 

Now I really have some writing to do.

As you were, Internet.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

I'm Really Happy for You and I'm Going to Let You Finish But...



Certain events are sure to blow up my Facebook news feed so much that I am sure the very walls of reality are about to tumble down. One is a celebrity death, the second is Kanye West's annual tradition of "saying/doing stupid shit" and the third is the coming of the end of days (why do I get the feeling that these three are not unrelated?).

Yesterday then was a very bad day for my Facebook news feed. First Kanye fulfilled his role as Gayfish and then Patrick Swayze succumbed to cancer. I'm bummed that Swayze had to go, as I never want to see any seemingly half-decent human being die from cancer. But aside from that, his death does not effect me on any pop-culture level (which really is the only level I operate on anyway). Homeboy was before my time and I never saw Dirty Dancing so God bless, Swayzes everywhere but I want to talk some Kanye.

I love the man. I really do. He is an extremely talented artist but more importantly than that, he is one of the most adept experts on pop culture that Western Culture has right now. I trust his taste in music (listening to the new Cudi album right now) and I respect his proclamations of other artists' greatness. If I'm a musical artist right now, I am dying for a Kanye shout out in a song or the press. 

Having said that....taking a microphone from a 19-year-old girl during her moment of thanks and appreciation to make your own sweeping proclamation on the state of American music is a fundamentally Douche move. It figures that Kanye waits to do this until right after I give up my "Biggest Douche in the Universe" blog. Kanye, there is a time and place for everything. If you truly believed that Beyonce had one of the best videos of all time (and I concur with this), you should have written a short essay after the show (AND NOT THE ALL-CAPS RANTS THAT YOU USUALLY WRITE ON YOUR BLOG) calmly explaining your position. Time and place, dude, time and place.

But hey, maybe our little 'Ye is finally growing up. Back in olden times, Mr. West would storm the stage to say he deserved to win, now he storms the stage to say someone else should have won. Classy? No. Mature? No. Kind of sweet in a perverse way? I guess if you throw all those extra adjectives in there then yeah...

Thanks be to Beyonce for revealing herself to be one of the classiest babes in the 'biz. Thanks be to Kanye West for what must become the greatest meme in Internet history. And thanks be to that Kid named Cudi for this insanely catchy song.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Take Two or How The Collective(ly) Unconscious Got Her Groove Back

Hello there, Internet.

It's been a while. Do you remember me? I'm that one dude who combined clever witticisms and self-deprecating humor to analyze the news and entertainment media and our connection to it. Then I got distracted by the shiny object that is baseball. Then I got a little Douchey. And finally,  I just got lazy

So what happened? How does one turn into a well-oiled blogging machine one day and into a lazy bastard the next? There are plenty of answers to this question I am sure, but ironically I am still too lazy to figure them out. 

Suffice it to say, I realized that there is only so much one can write about while one is not actually "living." Like any other introspective and narcissistic asshole "artist" I had to take a sabbatical to get to know myself and my surroundings a little better. My writing had gotten to the point where I would just look around my sparsely decorated dorm room and write about whatever I saw (Do you really love the lamp, Alec? Or are you just saying that?). Boring living is not conducive to good writing...so I changed it. It took a while and it was as hard as hell. The fact that my last blog entry was more than three months ago can attest to this. It seems to have worked, however because I no longer seem compelled to write blog entries such as this one.

But enough about me and my numerous probably mental issues, let's talk about us, Internet and what this all means to you.

In short....The Collective(ly) Unconscious is back. And to the best of my knowledge it won't go away for the next three years. It has gotten to the point where I just have too many things to say and not enough friends willing to listen to me describe why "Jarhead" is the most underrated film of the 00s for the 51st time. I need a medium to communicate my many ideas and theories regarding media and culture  they be brilliant or bizarre or both. 

The goals of The Collective(ly) Unconscious remain as exactly the same as they were one year ago when I started this thing. As a matter of fact, I think I am adopting this phrase from "Seven Years Ago" as The C.U's new official mission statement:

The goal of this blog is not to rave and it is not to rant. The goal of this blog is to add one more voice (albeit a quiet one) to the world's collective unconscious: the mass media. Carl Jung once theorized that we all draw from a pool of universal symbols and ideas deep in the dark corners of our minds that allows every human being on planet Earth to share in the same experiences. Now psychologically, philosophically and biologically speaking I am sure this idea is as wildly wrong as it is interesting and intriguing. But I believe technology and the journalistic spirit to share information and offer analysis has connected us in a way that would shock even Mr. Jung, himself.

That is still the Collective(ly) Unconscious and it is not going to change. 

I cannot say that I haven't changed, however. In strolling down the Word Document that constitutes as my diary from this summer, I came across something that could serve as my new official mission statement. This was written under the possible influence of hallucinogens and Chuck Klosterman:

8/17/09 - I want to dedicate my life to understanding the DNA of pop culture.

Well, Alec-of-24-days-ago, let's get started.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Sunday Morning Links pt. 29

Ladies and gentleman, welcome to the 29th and final Sunday Morning Links

Yes, the Collective(ly) Unconscious is officially coming to an end. I have elected to focus on my Backdrop writing and my weekly baseball blog. I will not be shutting down this URL and I will certainly be keeping the name Collective(ly) Unconscious to myself, as it is my favorite thing I have ever thought up.

Through this 140-something post experiment I feel that I have learned a little bit away blogging and the way online writing works.

I have a new blog in the works that I will be launching soon(ish). I know it will have a much more specific angle than this winded beast. That's not to say I didn't love this winded beast, but I know there is no demographic out there specific enough to enjoy reading about Meningitis one day and enjoy reading about the Oscars the next. 

So thank you for indulging me in my little experiment and I hope my writing has become all the better for it. 

Now enjoy your final links.

- For all you Nintendo fans out there.

- Well now I feel like a huge douche for picking the Diamondbacks to finish 4th in the NL West.

- Cinematical lists the 25 best movies for conservatives ... I mean besides Birth of a Nation.

- This has to be the only time Ted Nugent and Michael Moore concurred on anything. 

- Hmmm, I wonder what this is all about ... 

Well that's all for now.

And by now, I mean forever. Enjoy!

Monday, April 6, 2009

Nobody Knows Anything

If you have never read anything by William Goldman, now would be the time.

Because Fast and Furious's opening proves once and for all that Goldman's credo of "nobody knows anything" is undeniably true.

$72 million for Fast and Furious?!?!?!??! Whaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa ... ? On Friday, news came out that Fast and Furious was hovering around the $30 million off. I thought that number was pretty high for a weekend gross. Then I realized that that was no projection. $30 million was merely the movie's Friday numbers.

Looks like we were in for a long weekend.

If I was forced to guess four months ago, which would be the highest grossing movie of 2009, I would have certainly guessed Watchmen. The fourth installment of a tired Vin Diesel franchise would not even enter my mind. But they did it, and props are much-deserved. I would have thought that Adventureland would even make more money than it did this weekend. It looks like it suffered from Freaks and Geeks syndrome though (kids don't want to see a movie about the 80s, adults don't want to see a movie about kids).

I guess I don't know anything.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Sunday Morning Links pt. 28

You know what the best part about being home is?

Not the family, not the food, not even my precious cats! No, the best thing about being home is HD television. I just finished watching David Letterman in HD and I can honestly say, I have never been more attracted to a man solely on the basis of the clarity of his face. Now I am watching Catch Me if You Can and I am starting to feel the same way about Martin Sheen. Why aren't there more women in HD? Oh I don't care, Tom Hanks is on screen now. By the time you read this, I will be back at OU anyway.

Back down to brass-tacks. I have now gone through three days of my blogging semi-retirement. I felt some pangs of guilt on Wednesday. But once I got through it, I slept free of guilt. Apparently, I have a conscience of steel. It is probable that if I were to ever commit a murder, I would get over it in a week.

Enough about my tarnished soul ... let's bring on the links.

- Here is the best thing about a bad economy.

- I am always fascinated when a staunch partisan political puppet gives a personal interview. The best part is that they often come across as, you know, a person.

- I now know whose style I will be shamelessly stealing for the next fifteen years of my career. Michael Lewis revolutionized the way we watch baseball. But apparently that wasn't enough for one of our finest non-fiction writers. I know this story is pretty old, but I read it for the first time this week.

- I love stories like this.  What happens when two of the best in their respective endeavors meet? Not much exciting...but interesting nontheless. 

- And finally, this has to be good news for E.W Scripps News Writing students graduating this year. 

That's all for now. Enjoy the upcoming baseball season!

Monday, March 30, 2009

Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes!

You know something is going on when I whip the Bowie out.

That's right, it is time for some wholesale changes in my blogging life. The Collective(ly) Unconscious is no longer a semi-daily blog. The Collective(ly) Unconscious is now more of a whenever-I-feel-like-it-blog.

As I've said before: I originally started this blog so that I would be forced to write very frequently and in great quantity. I feel that I have accomplished this original goal of mine and that is now the time to move onto bigger and better things.

Namely: quality over quantity.

I know that I can sit in front of a laptop and crank out a lengthy or not-so-lengthy piece every day. Now, I am at a point in my life and development that I would like to grow as a writer. And, however many times I try to convince myself otherwise, writing a public essay everyday is not very conducive to growth and good writing. Let's face it: sometimes I have been lazy.

Also, I am about to be quite busy. And it would simply be too much of a pain in the ass to feel the need to compose something everyday. This quarter I am taking 19 hours of classes, working closely with Society of Professional Journalists, acting as Associate Web Editor for Backdrop and training to be an RA. And that's not even counting the job I will inevitably have to get...

So from henceforth you can expect three things from me every week.

1. A new Athena Movie Review at Backdropmag.com every Thursday
2. A new piece at Bojay's Baseball Blog every Saturday
3. A new Sunday Morning Links here every Sunday (duh)

Aside from those three things, I cannot promise there will be new material. If a see or hear something that inspires me to write or comment on, I will; and if I don't see or hear anything that inspires me to write or comment on, I won't.

The Collective(ly) Unconscious will still exist and will still continue to focus on the media, culture and entertainment as well as local issues from Athens and Twinsburg. But I will not be writing new material as diligently as I used to.

So crank up the Bowie and wipe your tears, it's Changin' time!

*UPDATE* Well, that didn't last long. I read the following in the Athens News today and just HAD to link to it. 

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Sunday Morning Links pt. 27

As you read this I am en route to the lovely Athens, Ohio.

I don't know why but I have become increasingly comfortable with the little town every time I head back. I didn't hop onto the OU bandwagon as fast as most of my peers have. When you don't drink, smoke and despise large crowds of people, a large public University can take some getting used to.

But it appears I've had, so get ready for some LINKSSSSSS

Maybe it is because I spent a week home refreshing my batteries (sitting on the couch all day, surfing the Internet) but I seem to have found an absurd amount of links this week. Still, I will restrict it to five per usual.

- Here is an excellent Variety piece about my people: bloggers. Makes me kind of sad.

- I think this is my favorite thing I've read all week. Newsweek tells us how Compton got its groove back.

- Entertainment Weekly wonders what is so great about the Wii?

- ...And humanity has now officially lost its mind.

- ...And humanity has redeemed itself.

That's all for this week. I'm back, Athens!

Friday, March 27, 2009

Believeland pt.2

Note: Since I enjoyed the Cavs clinching the best record in franchise history so much, I am going back for seconds. My mother has secured court-side tickets through her work so I am getting to go see another Cavaliers-beatdown. In the interest of reppin' my city even more (and slacking off while I go get a haircut in preparation for my rendezvous with LeBron) I am posting an essay I wrote for the Plain Dealer's Tribe Reporter for a Day contest.

In November of 2000, as my family moved into yet another house, I was forced to ask myself a crucial question: Where is my home?

The first ten years of my life were filled with confusion and disorientation. The identities I had built up for myself were spun away along with the rotation of landscapes that served as my hometowns. I went from a young, upstate New Yorker; to a sensitive Central Ohioan, a brashly comic grade schooler from South Jersey and a quietly austere child in North New Jersey. I struggled to make connections with my peers. They were as fleeting as the sand on the shores in which I grew up.

And now here I was again, a new soul in a new place, ready to adopt yet another new identity. I was waiting for the ground to crumble beneath my feet. But this home never shook, and this home never fell. I found the perfect foundation for my life on the summer fields where fathers teach their sons memories of a simpler time, where boys become men, where there are always refreshments after the game.

Baseball seemed more familiar to me than all the homes I had ever lived in and all the friends I had ever made. The dawn of summer was glorious rebirth; the smell of fresh cut grass, a gift. I played on great teams and teams that struggled to win a game, yet every second was more intoxicating than the last! The Cleveland Indians dominated every aspect of my world. The glory days had supposedly passed, yet you would never know it if you lived in my world. My room was a red, white and blue tabernacle, with the walls adorned with paintings, pictures and portraits of players named Vizquel and Thome. I watched every game on television and fell hopelessly in love with every new player that kicked dirt off his cleats, stepped into the box and into a city’s history.

If my disillusions about home can prove one thing, it is that we all know so little for sure. The future may be bright, but it is blindingly so and there are so many possibilities. I count myself blessed to have a clear vision of my future. I live my life for baseball and I live my life to write and wrap others in my words. I understand that my home can be found in the game I love, the things I say and the passion I hold. I will be leaving the final, tangible home of my childhood to face this future in the fall to study Magazine Journalism at the E.W Scripps School of Journalism at Ohio University. I would like to be Tribe Reporter for the Day to further craft my journalistic skill, to honor this home, and this team that have given me so much and to prepare myself to find a new home in my future.

Get pumped, Cleveland!