Friday, July 25, 2008

Forward all my calls...

If anyone notices a slightly longer than usual delay in between posts it will be because I'll be on my barnstorming road trip tour of the midwest from Cleveland to Minnesota and back.

Maybe when I come back I'll remember to talk about it. Until then this series of clips detailing the evolution of the Drew Carey Show intro should tide everyone over:

If you play them all at once it sound like some insane mash up

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

I am the Bat.

Consider this just a random post script to my previous entry about the "Dark Knight." Like I've said, along with apparently the rest of the universe, the newest Batman film was definitely all kinds of awesome (blew away "Mask of the Phantasm" as my all time favorite Batman movie). It's probably not a stretch at all to say it is the greatest super hero movie ever made, however the jury's still out on if it really deserves that number one imdb ranking. I, for one, said the film was at least a few minor nitpicking criticisms shy of a flawless masterpiece.

The biggest little flaw for me in the film was actually one of the most enduring of traits of the franchise. Despite a film history of over 40 years, 8 films, live action, animation, and a handful of re-imaginings and resets, one thing still remains: that ridiculous sounding serious Batman voice! Like some sort of stubborn vestigial organ, each incarnation of the Batman will usually have some sort of extra-serious, "I'm being a Superhero", tone they use when they're under the hood.

Ironically, as outrageously campy and unrelated the Adam West Batman was, he probably had the most subtle bat-voice of the bunch. While his dialog was nowhere near subtle, the shift from his casual Bruce Wayne voice and his Batman persona was oddly nuanced...or maybe Adam West can only do Adam West. The Michael Keaton Batman voice really set the bar for contrasting badassness. I think this grew out of the darker vision of director Tim Burton along with the fact Keaton had to compensate for being the wimpiest nerd of a Bruce Wayne ever. The Kevin Conroy animated Batman had the best overall voice out of all the Batmen (makes sense since he's a voice actor). Whether he was Bruce or Batman he always sounded fairly badass, but it rarely crossed the line into outrageousness. Val Kilmer and George Clooney were both forgettably generic retreads of the old Keaton voice. One thing to note though, while Clooney may have been the worst Batman ever, in my opinion he was the best Bruce Wayne ever (Goddamn you're one suave fucker!).

In this latest entry into the franchise, Christian Bale ups the gravel to almost laughable proportions. It's all well and good and properly badass when he's just shooting out one liners ("Then you're gonna love me") while punching people or screaming orders; however when he's having serious introspective conversations about the the duality of man with Dent and Gordon or bantering with a psychotic Joker it just comes off as a bit ridiculous. Anytime where Batman had to speak more than a terse sentence, in the back of my head I kept picturing him just breaking down and laughing at how weird he sounded. The extra badass voice feels even more surreal when you see Bale as Bruce Wayne and you realize how much of a difference there is in tone and figure how much laughably needless amount of effort he's putting in to do "the voice" when talking as Batman.

One has to wonder why Batman even goes through the ridiculous charade of going through the voice. I guess it is probably part of the whole " transcending being just an individual into a symbol that strikes fear in the heart of criminals" mythology he's trying to perpetuate by dressing up as a bat in the first place (that was what basically half of "Batman Begins" was about). Maybe using the voice helps him get into that Batman state of mind that he needs when fighting crime (think Stallone turning his cap around before arm wrestling in "Over the Top"). Or perhaps it's just a practical measure, just so no one can recognize his voice and find out his true identity ("Hey, did anyone ever notice that Batman sounds a lot like billionaire playboy Bruce Wayne? I'm just saying.").

As odd as the voice seems at times, it's really no big deal overall. In fact, if you think about the Batman character as a whole it's probably one of the lesser eccentricities of a billionaire vigilante with a pro-ass kicking agenda, who wears a bat costume, drives around in an armored tank, and communicates through police via a gigantic searchlight. And this is not factoring in other crazy continuities like an adopted young ward and "Ace the Bat-Hound." It can all probably be chalked up as part of the necessary suspension of disbelief that comes with enjoying superhero movies. If I were a super hero I'd probably whip up some kind of special tone as well. In the end, I guess my question was just basically: Why so serious?

Monday, July 21, 2008

Best. Movie. Ever?

You know what the single greatest cinematic achievement by latest Batman blockbuster, "The Dark Knight" is? It's not the record breaking opening weekend. It's not the across the board acclaim from both critics and moviegoers. It's not the fact that it somehow managed to live up to and quite possibly exceed the outrageous hype and expectations of even the franchise's most devoted fans. Nor, will it be how it has transcended the genre and raised the bar for future superhero movies. It's not the early Oscar buzz for Heath Ledger's iconic portrayal of the Joker. It won't even be the rare posthumous Oscar if he ends up wining.

All of those achievements are well and good, but director Christopher Nolan and crew should take pride in the fact that they crafted a film that actually made me anticipate going to see it at the movies. Now, before you write that off, if you know me, that fact is nothing to sneeze at. Despite my love of cinema and pop culture, it takes a lot for me to actually get excited for a new movie to come out. When it comes to films I have an exceptional amount of patience (or perhaps apathy) and for about 95% of the stuff Hollywood throw out at me, I can easily just wait until they make their long, inevitable journey to TBS or TNT. The last film I actually had to see the opening weekend was in the summer of my senior year of high school: "Rush Hour 2" (I thought that trailer looked hilarious). In the seven years since that film, despite some of the biggest movies of all time coming out (Spiderman series, Lord of the Rings Trilogy, Pirates of the Caribbean Trilogy, The Harry Potter Movies, a couple of Star Wars prequels), nothing really got me excited until the "Dark Knight."

I'm not sure what it was, but something about the disturbing reimagining of the Joker and the unique, unsettling tone I got from the previews seem to indicate to me that this was going to distinguish itself from the standard explosive summer fare. I was so eager to see it that rather then waiting for a time to see it with friends materialize, or for finals to end, I embraced my love of solo movie watching and went out to the nearest theater I could find and caught the Sunday morning matinée. And like "Rush Hour 2", I was not disappointed. It was exciting, it was entertaining, surprisingly tragic, and it met all my expectations for a quality blockbuster, running just a few steps back from an overall masterpiece. Some of the secondary character could have been flushed out more, a healthy dose of suspension of disbelief was necessary at times, and I thought the film went on a little longer then it could have; but overall the positives far outweighed the negatives. Unless you have something against excitement and suspense in your summer blockbusters, this movie will not disappoint.

As good as the film was, I certainly think its current NUMBER 1 ranking on IMDB is completely insane. I've frequented the IMDB long enough to know that their top 250 list far from the most definitive, objective measure of a movie's greatness. It's got a strong populist lean and despite its complex clandestine balancing system; good, crowd pleasing, but ultimately hollow films will get artificially high rankings ("The Prestige" at 88? "Sin City" at 82? "Fight Club" at 24?). New movies tend to enter the list high and eventually recede. I think at one point "The Return of the King" was once in the Top 5. However, the top spot rank of "Dark Knight" is a shocking development. Since the dawn of internet "The Godfather" and "The Shawshank Redemption" reigned high above the top 250, forever solidly locked atop looking down at the sometimes chaotic nature at the rest of the list. Blockbusters came and went but the top remained the same. Even when the "Dark Knight" shot up to number 4 after its first midnight showings, I figured this was all just sort itself out. However when I checked again last night, it had already claimed the #1 spot with an average score of 9.5 to Godfather's 9.1.

After this game changing debut, I can only speculate as to the future of the Top 250. I would have originally said it would probably just fall back down to earth in the coming weeks, but now I don't know what to think. Maybe this shake up will destroy the legitimacy of the Top 250 and throw the list into a wild, unpredictable state of flux like the Bottom 100 got into after "Manos: The Hands of Fate" got dethroned. Maybe this is the proper mandate of the people and films with this sort of across the board success is what the Top 250 is all about. Maybe this is all just the work of obsessive fanboys, circumventing democracy. Maybe "Step Brothers" will be the new #1 next week.

In any case, "Dark Knight" was still a pretty awesome movie.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

And a Loooooooooooooooooooong Jacket

Imagine if you amassed every artist and act that could be considered to be in the realm of popular music; laid them out one after another in a long line in descending order, with the greatest, most acclaimed, most influential, etc., etc. on one side and the least talented, worst possible noise pollution on the other. In my opinion the absolute middle point in that massive musical continuum would be CAKE.

Has there any band been so consistently...consistent? Save for perhaps a handful of CAKE fanatics hidden away in some enclave in Sacramento, the feeling among everyone I've known to have listened to them seems to be as indifferent and as passionless as lead singer John McCrea's signature monotone singing style. You know exactly what you're getting when you listen to a CAKE song, the monologue-like voice drowning in irony, the odd cryptic lyrics, the sort of funky bass and guitar, and the ubiquitous trumpets. If someone were to replace your copy of "Comfort Eagle" with "Fashion Nugget" or "Prolonging the Magic", would there really be a difference? Sure, superficially the songs would be different, but at the core, the music would be exactly the same. I can only imagine what it must of been like for someone to have first heard "Rock and Roll Lifestyle" in 1994 on some college radio station. They would have thought it was the future of post-alternative rock, only to be gradually disappointed with every subsequent song and album that showed no change or evolution of the sound. It's not to say that CAKE is bad. You still have to appreciate their absolutely unique output and perhaps even how they've managed to deviate so little from it. And in this tumultuous universe ruled by uncontrollable disorder and chaos, it's actually somewhat comforting to know CAKE will always be CAKE.

Despite the aggressively consistent nature of their music, their video work is another story. CAKE's single greatest triumph as artists is the video for "Short Skirt/Long Jacket", one of my all time favorite music videos. The whole concept is just so brilliantly original and downright elegant in its simplicity and execution: just film people listening to the song and their reactions. If I were the band, I would have just launched an iconic series of these "man on the street" videos like Robert Palmer and his zombie girl bands. I could watch a full length documentary of these quick cuts of fascinating, supposedly real, people giving random, sometimes bizarre observations to the music I'm listening to at the moment. It'd be kind of like "Slacker" without the actors. So out of the more than two dozen people interviewed over the video's span of three and half minutes, I have culled my top ten favorite:
"I don't think it'll get to the top of the pops."

"With the right lead singer it'd be hot."

"I like it, it's a really nice song"
(If it weren't for the fact she would have been around five when the video was made, I could have sworn this was Abigail Breslin)

[Overly Enthusiastic Display of Dancing]

"As a psychologist I'd have to say it has therapeutic value because it releases something deep inside."
(Looks suspiciously like Jeff Goldblum)

"Sounds like some kind of super girl that some feminist would approve of or something."

"I've heard it a million times all the way back to all of the old records which were much better when they first came out back in the 1940's."

(Possibly a time traveler from the future?)

Not bad, not bad. I like this much is this? I'll take two!"

"I miss the rising action, a little bit. The voice is good, it rocks, the song rocks...but a little bit I miss the rising action."
(Quality efficient German constructive criticism)

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

In a land called Fantasy...

As some of you out there may have heard, the MLB All-Star Game will be played tonight at Yankee Stadium. In any other major sport it would just be another fun but ultimately meaningless dog and pony show for the fans, but of course in the crazy world of twenty first century Major League Baseball, this light exhibition game will determine home field advantage in the World Series. Just think, months from now the question of who will play the critical deciding game 7 of the World Series at home may be determined by a late game match up between "All Stars" Cristian Guzman and George Sherill.

While there is an equivalent to the All Star Game in the world of fantasy baseball. This break for the Mid-Summer Classic gives me the perfect opportunity to take stock of how my two fantasy teams have faired thus far (because I'm sure everybody out there has just been dying of suspense and speculation). Looking back on the posts and the wide eyed optimism that permeates from every fantasy owner just after completing a draft, it's always interesting to see just how everything has played out thus far. Overall I noticed that there were a few accurate predictions, a handful of pleasant surprises, and of course a fair share of crushing disappointments.

Team 1
The Chan Ho Parks
Current Rank: Tied for 7th out of 12
Real Life All Stars: 3 (OF Corey Hart, OF Nate McLouth, SP Aaron Cook)
Team MVP: OF Nate McLouth
Team under performer: RP Rafael Soriano
Waiver Wire Star: OF Nate McLouth

The Good:
About half this team is now made up of surprisingly productive players scooped from the waiver wire, the most prominent of whom has been Nasty Nate. He basically came out of nowhere and, despite weekly predictions by critics that he would return to mediocrity, has been a five tool stud. Other stars picked from the fantasy scrap heap include groundball inducing wins machine SP Aaron Cook, the surprisingly productive C Bengie Molina, and human Swiss Army knife Mark DeRosa who has more than adequately filled in for FOUR different positions (1B, 2B, 3B, OF).

The Bad:
Pitching has yet again become my Achilles heal. A combination of slow starts, inconsistency, and just straight up crappiness have put me in an early hole in the pitching catagories. Staff ace CC Sabathia had an absolutely awful start to the season, however after some constructive criticism, a trade to the Brewers, and the dropping of the periods in this first initials, he seems to have gotten him back on track. SP Chad Billingsley has also started to come around as well. However, despite his recent success I still won't be convinced SP Oliver Perez is consistently startable until he gives me a couple more non-meltdown starts.

The DL:
3B Ryan Zimmerman's extended trip to the DL may have been a blessing in disguise since it forced to me replace him with replacement 3B Jorge Cantu rather than have kept putting up with his sub-par season in the hope he'd turn the corner. RP Rafael Soriano now joins Dan Kolb and Bob Wickman in the list of Atlanta Braves closers I've drafted that have totally let me down. Soriano was sharp for all of 9 appearances before making my DL spot his long term home and leaving the aging and ineffective Trevor Hoffman as my SOLE source of saves. Then of course there's the sad tale of my number 2 starter Chris Young, who is making the long trek back from a freak Albert Pujols line drive to the face.

I may be languishing just south of the middle of the pack but I wouldn't count out a second half run. A lot of my star guys have started playing up to their potential (Carlos Beltran, Jimmy Rollins, Corey Hart) so I wouldn't be so quick to call this season a wash. First may be too far out of reach but a second or third place finish is not out of the question.

Team 2
Team Korea All Stars
Current Rank: 1st out of 10
Real Life All Stars: 6 (C Russell Martin, 2B Dan Uggla, OF Ryan Braun, SP Edinson Volquez, RP Mariano Rivera, SP Carlos Zambrano)
Team MVP: RP Mariano Rivera
Team under performer : OF Delmon Young
Waiver Wire Star: SP Edinson Volquez

The Good:
There's plenty of good to be said when your team is in first place. Basically, in stark contrast to my first team, there haven't been many changes to the roster since opening day due to most of the original player playing up to my expectations (C Russell Martin, 1B Derrek Lee, OF Ryan Braun, SP Carlos Zambrano, SP John Maine). That combined with a few other players playing far beyond my expectations (2B Dan Uggla, RP Mariano Rivera) have given this team sustained success. Also Edinson Volquez's amazing season thus far, along with Josh Hamilton and Cliff Lee, is one of the great waiver wire success stories of the season.

The Bad:
The only real negative is the surprising amount of notable players that have been cut due to season ending injuries. SP John Smoltz was on his way to another fine season when shoulder problems shot him down, projected number 3 starter Kelvim Escobar didn't even pitch an inning this year, and my second closer Chad Cordero had his season cut short after his first appearance (fortunately I got his replacement, Jon Rauch who has been solid). It's a good thing everyone else was playing well enough to make up for these losses, on paper they look like they would have totally crippled the pitching staff.

The DL:
Aside from the above mentioned season enders, the DL has been a relatively quiet place, probably also another reason for my unexpected success. There was a rough stretch where I was forced to put in Bobby Crosby to make up for the absence of Jimmy Rollins. Currently Ryan Chuch (who was playing way over his head before getting hurt), and Magglio Ordonez (who may have lost his OF job to fill in Xavier Nady during his absence).

My lead in first is only a mere 2 points so that league title is far from a done deal. I know my offense will always be there, so if the pitching can just keep up for another two months I should be able to hold off the competition.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Cutting the fat

For me, the area just past the fine line that separates "healthy" sports fandom and "Robert De Niro in The Fan" sports fanaticism can be summed up in one word: Fathead. A few years back when I initially caught their first cheap commercial introducing their bizarre niche product to the sports loving public on some ungodly hour on ESPN, I wrote the whole thing off as a complete blunder. I mean, who is willing to pay a hundred dollars for a massive life size sticker of a sports athlete to take up the entire wall of a room? I think I recall the commercial trying to sell it off as something as common and unobtrusive as a still life picture frame. Like no one will find it unsettling or disturbing if they come into your living room and find a life size, highly detailed poster of a barreling Jerome Bettis or a sweat drenched Shaq posting up.

You could get it as an ironic gesture or for the camp value, however at that price, it's way too much to pay for just that alone. It might be borderline passable if you're getting it for your kid's room. However, one has to wonder how well the kid will sleep at night with a life size, manic Ray Lewis charging at them. Also, for a hundred bucks, I think your kids would have probably preferred a couple of video games or a Hannah Montana DVD box set.

Despite my misgivings (and common sense) it appears that this crazy Fatheads trend has flourished. They've certainly made enough scratch to inundate my Sunday afternoons with their (surprisingly brilliant) ads during the recent football season. Their selection of Fatheads have also grown as well, encompassing nearly all significant professional sports (unfortunately bowling fans are still waiting for the coveted Pete Weber Fathead) and branching out into iconic entertainment characters (Darth Vader, Spiderman, Batman) and Disney properties (OMG! TROY IN MY ROOM!). The non-sports stuff is actually somewhat cool (I know my middle school self would have been all about the Boba Fett Fathead), albeit still insultingly expensive.

In the end though the Fathead's bread and butter will always be sports. And it's somewhat admirable, the way they've been able to do what they do in such an unstable business area. The makers of PEZ have a fairly strict rule about not using the likeness of any real people for their dispensers. This is so that the reputation of the dispensers don't get sullied by any thing the actual person does or any new facts about the person (hence no O.J. Simpson, Woodrow Wilson, Britney Spears dispensers). The makers of Fatheads don't have the luxury of just being able to stick to stable, scandal free fictional characters.

Given considerations of production costs and time, the makers of Fatheads would seem to engage in more calculation and speculation than Goldman Sachs in selecting the right Fatheads for investment. A constant issue that they probably have to deal with is the modern day explosion of free agency. Thought that Elton Brand Clippers Fathead was solid? I'm sorry he opted to go to Philadelphia. Now you have a warehouse full of outdated Brands that you have to dump for 80% off. Will Jason Taylor retire and become a professional ball room dancer? Will he return to the Dolphins? Will he be traded? Outlook cloudy...looks like another discount. The team has been relocated to Oklahoma City? Damn it! Then there's always the chance that a legendary athlete will completely destroy their reputation (I wonder where that Roger Clemens Fathead disappeared to?) and thus their Fathead value. Maybe one day it turns out Dale Earnhardt was a Klansman or Boomer Esiason gets arrested in a Dateline kiddie porn probe. They just have to go straight to burying those stocks of Fatheads.

It's that sort of volatility that the Fatheads people have to work under. No doubt, a lot of thought an consideration goes into the company considering an athlete famous enough, stable enough, talented enough, and scandal free enough or them to invest in producing their poster. It's almost like being voted into the hall of fame (possibly even more stringent). This conservative approach is apparent when you see the sheer number of non-marquee teams on the site that don't have any players represented (alas the 1st place Tampa Bay Devil Rays get snubbed again). Given the rigorous Fathead standards its got to be a huge letdown for a featured athlete to see their poster de-valued just because they're just plain bad. As of this post, the ultimate poster child (pun totally intended) for this is Giants "ace" Barry Zito. So how much does not living up to your massive 7 year/$126 million contract, having an ERA near 6.00 with more walks than Ks, and a shot at losing 20 games take away from your Fathead value? About 70%. In the case of NY Knick point guard/team cancer Stephon Marbury, how much does being clubhouse poison, unrivaled malcontent, and having an uncertain future on your team effect your value? About 80%. Being an aging, injury prone, NFL QB with no ability to make deep throws, and locked in a tight death struggle for the starting spot with "superstar" Kellen Clemens will get you, Chad Pennington, a 70% Fathead hit.

I don't even want to know what sort of behind the scenes unpleasantness has led to the Denver Nuggets' beloved mascot "Rocky" to take such a tumble.

For such a needless product with so many obstacles in production, it's actually quite amazing that Fatheads continues to thrive and flourish against football phones, paper posters, and bobble heads in the cutthroat world of licensed sports memorabilia. My suggestion for the Fatheads people for the next stage of Fatheads expansion? Customized, personal Fatheads. If the rise of Web 2.0 and social networking has taught me anything, it's that personal vanity is one of this country's greatest natural resources (that year when Time Magazine named "You" the Person of the Year with that stupid mirror cover basically says it all). I myself would totally pay $99.95 plus shipping for a life size Victor Fathead.

(Crude artists rendering)

On second thought, I'd probably wait till it gets to clearance.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

The Medium is the Message

Even though it was meant to be just a throwaway reference in yesterday's entry, I found myself still unable to shake the ridiculous images and lyrics of "Television, the Drug of the Nation" out of my mind long after hitting the "publish post" button. Whether it's the extremely heavy handed, Gil Scott Heron-esque spoken word singing, or the annoyingly smug and self righteous attitude of the singer, or the overly bombastic, turgid video images, or the previously mentioned ridiculous hypocrisy of a music video dismissing television,; there's such a distinct early 90's awfulness to it that's hard to describe or forget.

It's also interesting to look back at something like the Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy and consider how artists like DHH and other "alternative hip hop" acts were viewed by critics as the future of hip hop music. This was until Dr. Dre and gangsta rap came along to quickly correct that ship. Fellow blogger Andrew U. and I have discussed this issue before and wondered if we were better off in a world where socially conscious, sensitive, cerebral hip hop acts like Arrested Development and Digable Planets ruled the charts. Frankly I prefer upbeat jams that glorify violence, drug culture, misogyny, and material wealth over jazz influenced, highbrow rhymes that make me feel bad about not recycling and telling me to read more.

Nevertheless, while trying to get some of my Civil Procedure reading done in the library today, I couldn't get the holier then thou voice of DHH dropping "truth bombs" about how bad TV was out of my head. In fact I kept thinking about other forms of mass media and how they would be demonized by the DHH:

Printed Word, the drug of the nation
Breeding ignorance and feeding deforestation

“100,000 Words, 500 pages You can flip through them all And there’s still nothing worth reading…”

Cinema, the drug of the nation
Breeding ignorance and feeding animation

Because a child watches 5 Friedberg/Seltzer movies before he's twelve years old and we wonder why we've created a Jason generation that learns to laugh rather than to abhor the horror...

Radio, the drug of the nation
Breeding ignorance and feeding modulation

“Where imagination is sucked out of children
By a transistor nipple
Radio is the only wet nurse
That would create a cripple...”

Internet, the drug of the nation
Breeding ignorance and feeding masturbation

"Internet is the place where the pursuit of
Happiness has become the pursuit of pornography
Where searches for toothpaste and cars return
sex objects..."

Cell Phones, the drug of the nation
Breeding ignore and feeding idle conversation

“IDK MY BFF JILL but mostly BS…”

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Things I'll Still Remember On My Death Bed: ShopRite Can Can Ads

Chalk this up as another addition to my long growing list of interesting topics for Media/Communications Studies papers that I never wrote in college.

You, the average 21st century modern member of society are being bombarded daily with hundreds, possibly thousands of examples of mediated communications of all varieties, shapes, and sizes. It comes at you from every direction: through an unfathomable amount of sources via television, print, video games, movies, internet (even this very blog), countless advertisements distributed across every medium imaginable, etc., etc., yada yada. It's such an all encompassing ubiquitousness that sometimes we may lose sight of and just get caught up in it. If you think about it, you'll probably spend more of your life consuming media; actively or passively, consciously or subconsciously, then anything else in your life. If you are reading this, there is probably a good chance that you will spend far more of your life staring at images and words on a computer screen then with your family. You'll probably have spent more time watching TV then talking to your friends. Of course, even when you're with family or friends you might still be consuming media...together (watch a movie, play a video game, listen to music).

Contrast this to the average modern person of a century ago and perhaps there's the possibility that all this information overload is well, sort of fucking us up? Is the human brain, which hasn't fundamentally changed for millenniums, suited to function properly in the face of the constant stream of information that is overwhelming our senses? Take, John Q. Handlebar from is uneventful 1908 world of telegraphs, ragtime music, penny-farthing bicycles, and Jumbotron-less baseball games and throw him into the world of today; I feel like there's a good chance his mind would be completely blown; in an actual literal "Scanners"-esque manner. It's a lot easier for us since we're born into it; as soon as we're out they play us some Baby Einstein and soon afterwards park us in front of the Sesame Street. But, one has to still wonder, what unforeseen effects (positive or negative) all this exposure is having on us?

Again, this is all pretty obvious, general stuff; you'll get essentially the same message if you listen to any Devo album or The Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy's "Television, the Drug of the Nation" (Using the medium of the televised music video to denounce television? Now that's Hiphoprisy!). However it's good context for the main point of my post, which is just simply the indisputable fact that I will remember the Shoprite Can Can Ad until the day I die. While everyone is split over whether this modern mediated world is devolving us, alienating us, distracting us, improving us, informing us, uniting us, and everything in between; I can say on a personal level it's definitely making me remember some random shit.

Case in point, the titular ShopRite Can Can ads. For readers from outside of the northeastern United Shop who may not be familiar with ShopRite; it's basically a standard local supermarket chain (circulars, price club cards, no fancy breads, cheap awful DVD racks). Since as far as I could remember (since 1971 according to the wikipedia article) they've had a yearly "Can Can" sale which they offered significant discounted sale prices for a bulk of their canned goods and sodas (as an aside, these sales are actually pretty sweet. They keep me in soda cans and Hormel chili for a long time. Militant survivalists should take note). These sales were advertised by a series of frequent commercials with a French Can Can Dancer theme (get it?) and altered lyrics to Offenbach's "Orpheus in the Underworld" (or until I just looked it up, "that French can can song"). For as long as I recall, while the commercials changed every year in terms of themes and lyrics depending on products promoted, there were two constants: can-can dancing girls, and the music.

Maybe it's just me, but growing up with these ubiquitous can-can commercials have forever imprinted them on my mind. They were arguably my first introduction to can-can dancing, operetta music, and French culture. It's like when you hear a Weird Al parody song before the actual original song and you feel like the original is just ripping off Weird Al. The constant exposure to those ShopRite ads since birth have rendered them to have priority in my mind over anything else I learn that may relate to them. If I took a class on French culture and history, I'll probably come out of it with newfound knowledge about Rococo style art and about the life of Georges Pompidou but any mental image of France will still have the ShopRite theme as its soundtrack. It'd probably be even worse if I took a trip to France, I wouldn't be able to stop thinking about the theme and uncontrollably sing it at least for the first couple of weeks. An enlightening trip to the Louvre? Now ShopRite's got the can can... A breathtaking view of Paris from the top of the Eiffel Tower? Save on lots of brand brands... Soaking up the sun on a beach in Nice opposite the warm Mediterranean? Can cans!

The really messed up thing is that since no two commercials are the same, the lyrics in my head are a nonsensical amalgam of a half a dozen commercials. It's not even a real song. It's my personal idea of a song! So thus another strange and bizarre side effect of this modern age and its relentless production of instant nostalgia, a life long pseudo-commercial brain tattoo. I just hope that when I'm lying, weak and feeble on my death bed, surrounded by mourning family members, entering in and out of consciousness, muttering senile non-sense with my fading breaths; that they'll still be running those ShopRite ads (or I guess one of my descendants find this blog post) so someone can at least have some sense where that random catchy theme song is coming from.

The dancers are a lot more lifelike and suggestive then more recent ones, despite it being aired knee-deep in conservative Reagan-Era America.

The more familiar version I'm used to, with the cartoonish French painter guy. Does anyone else notice how the dancers are now multicultural? Now that's progress!

Friday, July 04, 2008

Five More Random 4th of July TV Marathons That Have Very Little to Do With The 4th of July

Is it safe?

It's another year and another candle on the cake for the old US of A. You have to admit, two hundred thirty one hasn't exactly been the best of years for the country with all the wars, floods, inflation, recession, and the cancellation of "Jericho." In fact, between all the raging California wildfires and foreign shipping delays putting a damper on fireworks and the mounting costs of food and fuel burdening the backyard barbecue, the only core 4th of July tradition that we can still all enjoy unhindered is watching all day cable TV marathons at home (unless of course you lost your home due to the recent housing loan crisis).

This year brings us another varied slate of marathon programming for us to enjoy while we let that third hot dog settle. Some are fairly appropriate for the occasion, while some are not quite. I for one am a bit conservative when it comes to 4th of July Marathons. This year, as it has been for the past few years, I am dividing my time up between my usual standby, "The Twilight Zone" marathon on SciFi and occasionally switching back towards the "King of the Hill" marathon on FX (the most appropriate show for a 4th of July marathon outside of History Channel's running of various documentary specials about the American Revolution). For those seeking more exotic Independence Day marathon fare, here are five I noticed while surfing through the channels.

The N - Degrassi: The Next Generation
The annoying tween older sibling of Nickelodeon and the child of Nike at Nite is running the throughly unrelated teen drama series "Degrassi: The Next Generation." Thus, The N, has another opportunity to run an "Adventures of Pete & Pete" marathon. If you're not going to air it anymore, why do you torture us all by holding onto the rights? At the very least, the marathon format is well suited for a series like "Degrassi: TNG", you can really follow the story developments from start to finish...if you actually are into Degrassi. The most egregious conflict with the 4th of July? It's Canadian to its maple syrup laden, hockey loving, icy core!

Possible Spin for the 4th: Self absorbed teenager dramas are as American as apple pie. Also I guess overdone, cliched, teen issues like drugs, pregnancy, or "fitting in" are transcontinental themes that resonate just as pertinently in the US. Let's just hope there aren't any metric system themed episodes.

AMC - Jaws
American Movie Classics is giving those worn out "Godfather" movie reels a rest and playing that other great American movie series, "Jaws". In the case of the original "Jaws", has there ever been another classic of this stature followed by so many sequels of such contrasting quality? Say what you will about the Star Wars prequels or Godfather III, but "Jaws: the Revenge" is a million miles away from the first film. Before Uwe Boll films started taking up all the real estate, "Jaws: the Revenge" used to be in the IMDB bottom 100, thus making Jaws the only series to have a movie in both the IMDB top 100 and the bottom 100.

Possible Spin for the 4th: The first one can at least claim relevance since it takes place around the 4th of July weekend and is forever associated with the holiday. The rest, not so much. I guess on a larger thematic level they can all be possibly seen as inspirational American victories of ingenuity and toughness over deadly foreign attacks from overseas.

TV One - Martin
I'm not even sure if most people even get this channel. It can basically be categorized as an upstart poor man's BET (sort of the Oxygen to BET's Lifetime). All I know is it's the only place to go in the cable landscape if you want re-runs of 227 (love that Jackée). I was definitely too young to actually get or enjoy "Martin". In fact, it used to be like a disappointing fake prize when I turned on to Fox expecting to see "Married with Children" or 'The Simpsons" and instead got "Martin". When I was a bit older I got into the Wayans Brothers on the WB; so who knows, maybe if I watch a full episode today I'll get hooked? In either case, that theme song was pretty awesome. I could totally get down to a remixed 12 inch of that.

Possible Spin for the 4th: It goes back to the whole American cultural melting pot thing. The multiculturalism that makes America so unique and great also makes it's television entertainment so unique and great. For every whitewashed "Friends" or "Growing Pains" or "Full House", there was a "Martin" or "Cosby Show"; and to a lesser extent "All American Girl".

MTV - America's Next Top Model
A long marathon of "Top Model" episodes on MTV? So it must be just another Friday afternoon. Seriously, this may just be a normal programming schedule. I can't ever be sure. They play the hell out of it and, if my sister is any indication, it just sucks in womens' attentions like moths to a flame. Aside from the fact that the show operates on some sort of accelerated dog year time that allow them to claim 11 seasons in 5 years, I'm not exactly sure which channel this actually airs original episodes from. VH1, MTV, and MTV2 play is round the clock but, I think it actually originates on the CW (formerly UPN). That's rivaling "Family Guy" levels of cross network whoredom. Fierce!

Possible Spin for the 4th: While women, free thinking artists/designers, and homosexuals haven't really been included in the tableau of the spirit of America, no one can deny the show's bold message of competition and personal endeavor. It's what drove this country into Independence and made it the power it is today. Like what Patton said: "America loves a winner, and will not tolerate a loser."

G4 - Cheaters
It's the most morally questionable television series since "Temptation Island". To watch "Cheaters" is to absolutely submit to your deepest, darkest, voyeuristic tendencies. There's absolutely no need to watch the ugly and scandalous private affairs of idiot strangers on television, but you can't turn away. It's, at the same time, the best and worst that reality television has to offer. A show of this caliber can only be hosted by the immortal Joey Greco, who has the overwhelming sleaziness of a Law and Order: SVU rapist suspect; a man so odious that he got stabbed by one his red handed cheaters.

Possible Spin for the 4th: I can't really think of anything too related. Flawed nature of the American Dream? Tenuous allegory about the deceit filled history of US - Indian relations? The declaration of personal independence by the spurned half of the couples being symbolic of the declaration of national independence by the US? I think sometimes you just want to watch thirty straight episodes of "Cheaters."

Thursday, July 03, 2008

My top 10 favorite offensive song titles from Anal Cunt's "It Just Gets Worse."

It's probably not surprising in the least that I am not a fan of the hardcore band, Anal Cunt. Over the years I've found that I don't particularly dig the sounds of any bands or artists who are categorized in genres with "-cores", i.e. grindcore, hardcore, noisecore, (although I have to admit I make an exception for horrorcore...Gravediggaz had some scary shit). Aside from my lack of interest in the genre, from a completely objective standpoint, A.C.'s "music" is just down right terrible. An A.C. song could be described exactly as Hobbes described life in "Leviathan": "solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short." Their songs border on the downright unlistenable; just a messy cacophony of distorted guitars and bashed in drums complimented by shrieked out simplistic lyrics that are completely incoherent and run about a minute long. Even as just a purely shock act, they lack the amusing theatrics of GWAR or the musical talents of Cannibal Corpse. As musical artist, they're just plain awful.

However, what A.C. lacks in ability, they make up for in sheer creativity and originality. Even the fact that they gave themselves a name that was so vulgar and offensive that it would guarantee them absolutely no chance of mainstream exposure or success can be seen as admirably iconoclastic (there's a Slate article that sort of ponders the question of why bands would give themselves unprintable names that, like nearly all Slate articles, ultimately leads nowhere). The band's act is obviously one big joke in trying to create the most offensive, nastiest band with the most offensive, nastiest songs and lyrics imaginable, which their large cult following of fans are hopefully in on (because it would be incredibly frightening to think that there are people who legitimately take these song titles and lyrics to heart). Not anyone could be this awful, even if they tried. It takes a special type of brilliance to come up with such consistent, uniform tastelessness; like a good Aristocrats joke. And in my opinion, the band's magnum opus in terms of the worst, most distasteful titles is their 1999 release, "It Just Gets Worse", a 39 track clusterfuck of repulsive vulgarity and insensitively. There may be better albums in terms of performance and songs, but for it's sheer number of classic offensive titles, this is it. So culled from the full array of violent, racist, homophobic, antisemitic, misogynistic , and cruel titles are my top 10:

10. I Sold Your Dog to a Chinese Restaurant (Racism and animal cruelty, all in one. Especially poignant in the post-Michael Vick era)

9. The Only Reason Men Talk to You is Because They Want to Get Laid, You Stupid Fucking Cunt

8. Your Kid Committed Suicide Because You Suck (Probably would have been number one on my list if they went with the original title Connor Clapton Committed Suicide Because His Father Sucks. Even I have to say that might have gone too far.)

7. I Got an Office Job for the Sole Purpose of Sexually Harassing Women

6. Hitler Was a Sensitive Man (This actually has a chorus that's intelligible and I have to admit I found myself randomly humming it once until I realized what the song was.)

5. I'm Really Excited about the Upcoming David Buskin Concert (Actually it's not offensive in the least, but its bizarre place on the album made it all the more interesting to me)

4. I Sent Concentration Camp Footage to America's Funniest Home Videos

3. I Made Your Kid Get AIDS So You Could Watch It Die (So wrong.)

2. I Became a Counselor So I Could Tell Rape Victims They Asked for It

1. Women: Nature's Punching Bag (No need for elaborate, graphic, sentence; just simple, straight up women hating.)