Archive for the ‘Entertainment Weekly’ Category

harp marchSOUNDTRACK: RHEOSTATICS-Harbourfront Toronto, Canada Day (July 1, 2000).

harbourThis recording comes from an outdoor venue in honor of Canada Day.

As I understand it, the band was asked to write a new song for the Canada Day celebration and they came up with “When Monkeys Comes.”  It opens with a kind of disco version of “Also Sprach Zarathustra” and then morphs into a jamming Rheos song.  It doesn’t sound awesome on this mix (although the rest of the disc does), so it’s hard to get a real sense of what’s happening.  It feels a little meandering.  And since it doesn’t really appear anywhere else (except for an upcoming show), it’s hard to really parse it.

This show is interesting in that the band doesn’t talk very much–usually they’re very chatty.  Dave Bidini says that since their set is short (barely over an hour), they didn’t want to talk to much, so it’s all about the music.  They play the first seven songs without saying a word in between songs.  Also interesting is that those first seven songs are all new–not yet recorded for the Night of the Shooting Stars album.

There is a drum machine or at least a lot of electronic drumming on a couple of songs, which I believe are supplied by Michael Phillip Wojewoda, erstwhile extra member of the band for years, and official drummer in a few months.

After playing the new songs, the band does play some older songs.

They are still doing songs from Harmelodia (“I Fab Thee” and “Song of the Garden”) and this crowd, which I assume is all ages, is probably a good place for them.  They also play “The Ballad of Wendel Clark” which is super fun (and not played that often).  There’s some great versions of “Stolen Car” and “Self Serve Gas Station.”

It’s a good set (with good sound quality), especially if you like NotSS.

[READ: March 6, 2015] new movies

I rarely talk about movie or movie reviews here.  But since I like Galchen, and I’ve mentioned most of her writings so far, it seemed like a worthwhile inclusion.  And she’s talking about Paddingon, a movie I’d like to see

What I liked about Galchen’s review was that it’s not so much about the movie (which she likes and says is silly and smart and witty and pretty) as it is about the story of Paddington.

I don’t know the plot of the movie (or the books, actually, although I do know the premise of who Paddington is), but it sounds like a fun farce, with Hugh Bonneville (Mr Crawley on Downton Abbey) dressing as a cleaning lady to aid Paddington on “an essential fact-finding mission.”

But Galchen talks about how the movie (like the book by Michael Bond) pays attention to money (the cost of marmalade for instance) and to the African-Caribbean immigration to London in the 1950s.  Paddington is from darkest Peru (evidently Bond was going to have him be from Darkest Africa but there are no bears there).  And its this immigrant story which the movie focuses on.

Galchen also talks about how characters like Paddington (or Curious George or Pinocchio) are stand ins for children. But if they were actual children in the stories we would be repelled by them.

It turns out that Galchen has visited darkest Peru on a research mission.   They were checking fecal samples of the native chickens–looking for antibiotics.  They also conducted a kind of socioeconomic census of the region, which was, of course, ridiculous as none of the natives had much of anything.  Although she notes that the most common name for boys was Israel and the most common among girls was LadyDi.

This article didn’t make me want to see the movie any more than I do (because I am looking forward to it already), but it was certainly an interesting perspective and certainly one I wouldn’t be reading in Entertainment Weekly.

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The new Fall TV season is pretty much underway.  It brings back a lot of old favorites, as well as a few new series that we’re going to check out. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: SAFURA-“Drip Drop” (2010)

Azerbaijan came in 5th in this year’s Eurovision contest.  And they did it with this monstrosity of a song by Safura.  She sounds like so many pop chanteuses, pulling out all the stops on high notes, vibrato and even a fascinatingly accented English.

But just as I’m about to dismiss this song out of hand, she throws in this weird chorus of pizzicato “drip drops.”  Even they are not very compelling, but the juxtaposition of these two parts of the song are surprising enough to make the song interesting.

But I think that’s enough Eurovision for me.  And I didn’t even make it to the song by Latvia with the lines: “I’ve asked my Uncle Joe/But he can’t speak/Why does the wind still blow?/And blood still leaks?/So many questions now/With no reply/What for do people live until they die?/  Only Mr God knows why/But his phone today is out of range”

[READ: July 19, 2010] “Cinema Crudité”

This article is about cult films, although it focuses a lot on a film that I’ll never watch called The Room.  I had heard about the film in Entertainment Weekly a month or so ago.  They joked about its status as a midnight film that all manner of celebrities swear by: David Cross, Paul Rudd, Jonah Hill etc.

This article goes into much greater depth than the EW piece did about what the film is actually like.  The author really points out all of its flaws and incongruities and everything else about the film that is awful.  And then he says that he’s watched it at least 20 times and couldn’t wait to interview the auteur behind it.

The article is great, by the way, Bissell did an excellent job. But I still don’t want to watch the film. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: BLUE ÖYSTER CULT-Fire of Unknown Origin (1981).

This was the first BOC album that I bought.  The video for “Burnin’ for You” was all over MTV (although I don’t remember it at all, now).  And I was an instant convert to BOC.  I listened to this disc constantly.

It took going to college and meeting my roommate before I got any other BOC discs (he was a diehard fan).  And while I like most of their releases, this one still ranks as number one for me.  BOC had been getting poppier and lighter over the years, there’s no question.  But this album perfected this mix, making for a supremely catchy recording that still exhibited all of their metal trademarks: wild guitar solos, bizarro futuristic lyrics (although there’s no weirdo titles on this one) and heavy heavy chords.

The opener, “Fire of Unknown Origin” is a wonderful rocking song.  It sets the tone for the disc: keyboards, yes, but of the atmospheric/spooky variety, not the poppy/hit single variety.  “Burnin’ for You” seems like an obvious single, and so it was. It also screams early 80s to me, which I guess isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

But the album’s wonderful weirdness kicks in with “Veteran of the psychic Wars” written by Michael Moorcock. It was featured in the movie Heavy Metal, and is weird and creepy, propelled by thunderous drums and a great guitar riff: a sci-fi masterpiece.  “Sole Survivor” is in the same vein, Eric Blooms ragged voice and the awesome bass line really sell the song.

The middle track is “Heavy Metal (Black and Silver)”  It is heavy heavy heavy and it rocks like all get out with a screaming feedback solo.  It’s an awesome song that seems more than a little out of place on this rather light sounding disc (although even on their later discs, they have included an occasional heavy track).

“Vengeance (The Pact)” is a keyboard-fueled track.  But the greatness is that it’s Lanier’s spooky keyboards.  It also features an awesome middle section with heavy heavy guitars and dark lyrics.  “After Dark” is another wonderfully creepy keyboard song.  The underlying riff is sinister and cool, and the lyrics (and harmonies) meld the “band vocals” on some of their more “hit single” songs, with the oddness that keeps BOC interesting.

But by far the creepiest, most sinister and flat out weird song is “Joan Crawford.”  When I first heard this song back in 1982, I had no idea who Joan Crawford was.  Finding out later that she was a real person has messed with my head for my entire life.  I have never seen a film with her in it and am just convinced that she’s a scary, scary woman (the whispered “Christina…mother’s home” really did me in).  Interestingly, I don’t find the song spooky (although I do get chills if I’m paying attention), but I still find her spooky.  It opens with a pseudo-classical piano riff and then bursts out with menacing metal chords.  The chorus “Joan Crawford has risen from the grave!” complete with squeaky violins proceeds until and the break with sound effects that imply Crawford’s life, I assume: car crashes, race tracks, telephones, babies crying and the whispered “No.”   And it’s all catchy as hell.

“Don’t Turn You Back” ends the disc as something of a mellowing out after Joan Crawford.  It features a great solo and rather soothing choruses (despite the warning that you shouldn’t turn your back).  And it features the ever confusing line: “You use that special option in your car”  (what could that BE?).

Why on earth hasn’t this disc gotten a deluxe reissue from Columbia>?

[READ: March 3, 2010] Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter

I received this book as a prepub Advanced Readers Copy and hoped to have it finished before the book actually came out, but I was shy of it by a couple of days (rats).

So Grahame-Smith wrote Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.  His was pretty much the first in what has become an ever increasing series of literary mash-ups: using “classic” texts as a basis and inserting a seemingly random (usually horror) element.  The genre is already close to jumping the shark, although realistically, you never know when a combination is going to work wonders.

I wasn’t really that interested in the follow up to P&P&Z: Sense & Sensibility & Sea Monsters.  When I first heard of it I was intrigued, but watching the promotional video for the book actually turned me off of it.  I’m intrigued that a new title: Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: Dawn of the Dreadfuls is written by a different author, but I have to assume that it will be all original as there’s no prequel to P&P itself.  And I have to admit I like the title of the upcoming Jane Slayre (for Jane Eyre).

But the things about P&P&Z were that it kept the original text (mostly) intact, and there were a number of things in the original that actually led to inserting zombies into the text.

Plus, Grahame-Smith matched the tone of the original perfectly.  The forthcoming mashups will have a lot to prove but I think some cream will definitely rise to the top.

So, Grahame-Smith’s new book Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter is sort of a mashup.  Unlike P&P&Z, there is no source text to blend.  Rather, Seth Grahame-Smith, who is a character in the introduction of the book is given the “secret” diary of Abraham Lincoln, under provision that he write up the real story of our 16th president.  The secret diary reveals not only that our country was plagued by vampires but that Lincoln himself was personally impacted by them. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: DO MAKE SAY THINK-Other Truths [CST062] (2009).

I’ve always enjoyed Do Make Say Think’s CDs.  They play instrumentals that are always intriguing and which never get dull.

But this CD far exceeds anything they have done so far (and  they’ve done some great work).   There are only four tracks, and they range from 8 to 12 minutes long.  Each track is named for a word in the band’s name: Do, Make, Say, Think.  And each one is a fully realized mini epic.

“Do” sounds like a gorgeous Mogwai track.  While “Make” has wonderfully diverse elements: a cool percussion midsection and a horn-fueled end section that works perfectly with the maniacal drumming.  “Say” is another Mogwai-like exploration, although it is nicely complemented by horns.  It also ends with a slow jazzy section that works in context but is somewhat unexpected. Finally, “Think” closes the disc with a delightful denouement.  It’s the slowest (and shortest) track, and it shows that even slowing down their instrumentals doesn’t make them dull.

It’s a fantastic record from start to finish.  This is hands down my favorite Constellation release in quite some time.

[READ: December 2009 – January 13, 2010] McSweeney’s #33.

The ever-evolving McSweeney’s has set out to do the unlikely: they printed Issue #33 as a Sunday Newspaper.  It is called The San Francisco Panorama and, indeed, it is just like a huge Sunday newspaper. It has real news in (it is meant to be current as of December 7, 2009).  As well as a Sports section, a magazine section and even comics!

[DIGRESSION] I stopped reading newspapers quite some time ago.  I worked for one in college and have long been aware that the news is just something to fill the space between ads.  I do like newspapers in theory, and certainly hope they don’t all go away but print issues are a dying breed.  When I think about the waste that accompanies a newspaper, I’m horrified.  Sarah and I even did a Sunday New York Times subscription for a while, but there were half a dozen sections that we would simply discard unopened.  And, realistically that’s understandable.  Given how long it took me  to read all of the Panorama, if you actually tried to read the whole Sunday paper, you’d be finished the following Sunday (or even two Sundays later).

Their lofty goal here was to show what print journalism can still do. And with that I concur heartily.  Even if I don’t read the newspaper, the newspapers as entities are worth saving.  Because it is pretty much only print journalism that finds real, honest to God, worthy news stories.  TV news is a joke.  There is virtually nothing of value on network TV.  Fox News is beyond a joke.  CNBC is sad (although Rachel Maddow is awesome!) and even CNN, the originator of all of this 24 hour news nonsense still can’t fill their airtime with non-sensationalized news.

Obviously, there are some decent internet sites, but for the most part they don’t have the budget to support real news investigation.  You either get sensationalized crap like Drudge or rebroadcasts of real news.

So, print is the last bastion of news.  And you can see that in journalistic pieces in The New Yorker, Harper’s, The Walrus, Prospect and, yes, in newspapers.

But enough.  What about THIS newspaper?  Oh and unlike other McSweeney’s reviews I’ve done, there is NO WAY that I am writing a thorough comment on everything in here.  There’s just way too much.  Plus, there are many sections that are just news blurbs.  Larger articles and familiar authors will be addressed, however.  [UPDATE: January 18]: If, however, like Alia Malek below, you bring it to my attention that I’ve left you out (or gotten something wrong!) drop me a line, and I’ll correct things.

There is in fact a Panorama Information Pamphlet which answers a lot of basic questions, like why, how and how often (just this once, they promise!). There’s also a Numbers section which details the size, scope and cost of making this (it shows that with an initial start up, anyone could make a newspaper if they talked enough about what the readers were interested in). (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: RHEOSTATICSStatic Journey Volume 2: Melville (2008).

At this stage, I realized just what the fine creator of this box set has set out to do: he is basically recreating the Rheos’ discs with live tracks, demos and other cool things.  Initially I assumed that everything would be chronological (live concerts only from that tour, for instance).  But he has gone beyond that simple task and is selecting the best version he can find.  So a concert from, say, 2007 which features an awesome recording of a track from Melville will follows a track from a show circa 2000.  It’s a very cool way to experience the disc.

And of course, if there isn’t an available live track, he plays the album track.

All of this cool stuff is supplemented with interviews, stage banter introducing tracks (even if the banter is not from the same show as the track).  The live versions on this disc are spectacularly smoking, and the songs sounds fantastic.  And, there’s enough jamming on these tracks so you can see the band really let loose.

Interestingly, I am finding this an excellent way to get reintroduced to the album.   There’s something about an amazing live track that really lets you appreciate the quality of the song.

I’m totally hooked on this box set.

[READ: January 4, 2009] The Guinea Pig Diaries

This was another surprise Christmas gift from Sarah and it was another great one.  I’ve enjoyed AJ’s (as he calls himself in the book) experiments in Esquire.  The book contains at least three experiments which I’d already read in Esquire.  There are some minor changes to the stories (most of which are designed to have them fit in with the general narrative of the book).  But even if you’ve read them (and one of them goes back to 2005!) there’s a Coda at the end of each one with a sort of follow up to the experiment that was not included in the article.

The experiments include (read more about them on his site, but only after you finish all of this!):

My Life as  Beautiful Woman
My Outsourced Life
I Think You’re Fat
240 Minutes of Fame
The Rationality Project
The Truth About Nakedness
What Would George Washington Do?
The Unitasker

Jacobs is a very funny writer.  He is neurotic and constantly trying to improve himself.  And so, he undertakes these fairly absurd tasks is an attempt to make his life better/easier/less stressful/more awesome. (more…)

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ew2I’ve been reading Entertainment Weekly for years and years.  I think I subscribed back in like 1993 or so.  And I’ve always had a love/hate relationship with it.  I’ve canceled my subscription on a number of occasions, mostly because I believed that it didn’t cover enough of the indie stuff I enjoyed (which is still largely true).  But then I’d see an issue and realize that it is a fun magazine to flip through, so I’d re-subscribe.

Over the years, EW has morphed more and more.  And each change to the magazine makes me like it less.  And now in its current iteration, which happened about a year ago, I feel that they have removed all pretense to being a “smart” publication.  Although, at least they stopped including the bold line of text which presumably highlighted the best line of a reviewEvidently they thought we couldn’t ewread the entire half-a-column-length of an article.  But they removed that, and it’s back to simple reviews.

I’ve always been sort of iffy about their rating system (A through F).  It’s a simple guide, so it’s easy to see quickly whether they liked it or not, but as in school, it seems hard to pinpoint exactly what the difference is between say an A- and a B+.  But hey, that’s their thing, so it’s okay.

And as a sort of all-purpose guide to entertainment, it’s pretty useful.

The new design has largely changed the order of things in the magazine.  And so The Must List which used to be a small thing in the middle now opens the magazine as a full page extravaganza (highlighting in a nutshell what is wrong with this latest incarnation of the magazine–something that used to fill up a page at most is now a two page spread with bigger pictures!) (more…)

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ccliveCity and Colour is the solo project of Alexisonfire singer Dallas Green (get it?).  I was really impressed by Dallas’ voice within the noisy metalcore of AOF.  And I wondered what his solo stuff would sound like without the dissonance of the rest of the band.  I saw this disc was available from Maplemusic and it was considerably cheaper than on Amazon.  A live record isn’t always the best venue to check out an artist but in this case, I figured his solo stuff probably translated fine live as well.  (Still haven’t actually heard a solo record so I can’t say).  The set is also not entirely solo, as he calls out an accompanist for a few tracks (the DVD gives more information about who he is).

In AOF, Dallas’s voice is strong and powerful and yet totally catchy.  His voice is the reason that I like AOF so much.  So I was a  little disappointed in the live release because he seems to be holding back.  As I said, I haven’t heard the original discs, so I don’t know how it compares.  But on some of the songs, he seems too restrained.

The songs are all very catchy, and the between-song banter is fun (it was excised from the CD but is available on the DVD) .  But as I said for some of the songs it’s almost as if he’s inhaling rather than exhaling when he sings.  I guess I find it weird for a punk rocker to be so restrained.  Despite that, several songs do stand out as excellent.  “Comin’ Home” (there are two versions on the disc), “Save Your Scissors” (the second version on the disc is especially fun because the crowd sings along).  And lyrically Green is very interesting.  “Comin’ Home” has some nice name-checking of cities around North America (poor fans in Lincoln, Nebraska, though).

Despite my reservations about his singing, his voice still sounds great.  I’m interested in checking out a studio release to see how it compares.

[READ: December 18, 2008] The Tales of Beedle the Bard

There’s two funny stories about this book:

1) At my library, we received a notice from Scholastic Books that this book COULD NOT be put out before the release date of December 4.  We had to sign a release form promising it would not go out any sooner.  We all laughed about that because, while we knew that Book 7 of the Harry Potter series was going to be HUGE (and we had the same release form to sign for that book) we also knew that this was, at best, an esoteric addendum to the series for die-hard fans only.  (As of this writing our copies haven’t even arrived yet, and there are only eleven holds in our entire system). (more…)

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I have been an off and on subscriber to Entertainment Weekly for about fifteen years. Usually I subscribe because it’s cheap and I enjoy it. Then something happens to let my subscription lapse (usually it’s when I move). And then I resubscribe some time later. I’ve been steadily subscribed now for about 5 years.

It’s been a decent magazine. I don’t really care too much about the celeb gossip or even the cover stories, for the most part. They’re just an excellent resource for stuff that is about to be released. They give release dates and lots of reviews. Even if I don’t agree with the reviews, they at least give me an idea of what the book is about or what the disc sounds like. And, even more importantly, they do lots of genres in books, independent films and even indie rock.

So, when they celebrated their 1000th issue recently, imagine my surprise to hear that their new format starting with issue 1001 would feature: MORE WHITE SPACE, and be EASIER TO READ! Now, even the people who write letters to EW (and here, you should listen to the Paul F. Tompkins “Letters to Magazines“) know that more white space means less black space. In other words, fewer of those pesky words. That’s right! For our subscription dollars, we now get not 15-20 reviews, but 3. THREE! As you can imagine, all of the indie sceen is basically disregarded now.

There’s another new feature “The Ausiello Files” with some guy who says he’s an “insider.” And we see inane questions that no one would every have really asked getting answered with “insider” information. Rather than a review of the new Constantines album, we get great stuff like “What’s the scoop with so and so’s pregnancy on NCIS??” Come on, it’s Entertainment Weekly, not US Weekly.

I am thoroughly annoyed by this new look. And one way that you know that no one likes the new look is that they haven’t even run the “I love the new look” raves that they inevitably run whenever they feel smug about themselves.

The only thing I can figure is they must have fired a whole bunch of people to be left with such a paltry, pathetic magazine. Right now the only thing keeping me subscribing is that they haven’t cut the TV section. But come fall, if they stop talking about the shows we watch, EW gets the ax for good.

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