Sunday, June 28, 2009

Death of a Salesman

Really? Billy Mays, too? It's not enough that this past week has been the most prolific celebrity death spiral in recent memory, we have to throw in the beared one as well? It's enough to suspect that there's some sort of real life version of "The Dead Pool" going on. Ed was old and Farrah was ill, but the completely unexpected and sudden deaths of two seemingly healthy middle aged guys with everything to live for starts to smell a little fishy. I vaguely remember someone once telling me that if you can make it through this relatively dangerous period from about 50 to 65 where statistically many of the heart attacks, life threatening illnesses, and accidents happen, the odds are you'll live to at least to 80. If I was around 50 right now I'd be staying up late, totally ridden with anxiety. MJ's health is (as with almost everything with his life) a mystery, but a strapping model of fitness like Billy Mays just suddenly keeping over? What hope is there for the rest of us?

For all the tragedy, you know what the worst thing about losing Mays is for me? The fact that now that he's gone, the title of king of the infomerical unofficially goes by default to this unsavory character:

The most prominent figure in late night product pitching has been changed from a clean cut, family man with an ever present smile and gregarious attitude who sold his wares not by deception but by his sheer, booming enthusiasm and genuine belief in the product, to the above pictured smarmy degenerate who's entire selling method consists of an aggressive fast talking hard sell with a healthy dose of insult and condescending attitude towards the audience.

Don't get me wrong, I'm still endlessly entertained by Vince and I eagerly await his next miracle product, but he really is the kind of shady character that gives late night commercial guys a bad name. For timeless class and respect, you couldn't beat Billy. For me he'll always remain the undisputed "King of Shop".

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Wait, who died?

I'm sure you've already heard the news repeatedly over every type of media known to man; so it's almost a completely moot point to announce it. It's really the most epic of celebrity deaths in that it was so unexpected, so surprisingly tragic, go global that it became one of those "I know where I was when I heard..." sort of passings. This was basically our generation's Day the Music Died, the death of Elvis, the assassination of John Lennon, the suicide of Kurt Cobain. A shocking event that mournfully closes out an era. It's all so surreal that I still have a difficult time believing it actually happened. I just expect it to be some weirdo stunt, another bizarro chapter in a life defined by sharp eccentricity. However, it looks like the news isn't changing. The cold hard, undeniable fact remains: Flemish singer and television presenter Yasmine is died.

Insensitive punchlines at the expense of other recently deceased celebrities aside, it really was a big deal that MJ died. Just when you thought there was nothing else Michael Jackson could do to shock you, he goes off and unwittingly ends up doing the most startling, unexpected thing imaginable. In the coming days I'm sure there'll be various tributes and reflections of an artist that was once so spectacular and dominant that he was referred to as "The King of Pop". Hopefully they'll shine a dazzling lighting on an unparalleled body of work that shaped and influenced pop music to this very day; a body of work that has been buried and obscured under twenty years of scandal, disturbing behavior, and humiliating weirdness. Hopefully people will realize that in this modern age where if you can manage to get a handful of kids of buy an actual cd gives you the #1 album in the country and where fame is freely given without talent (sometimes specifically because of a lack of it), the passing of Michael Jackson was the passing of the last great superstar.

I think given the events of today, the super extended version of Michael Jackson's obscenely bloated, 40 minutes long, Thriller knock off "Ghosts" from "HIStory" is quite appropriate. I still think his heavily costumed portrayal of the bigoted old white guy is the best acting he's ever done.

That's really all I have to say on the matter. Oh and RIP Farrah Fawcett, sorry you got hosed. For a decade defining icon like you, dying any other week would have guaranteed you the front pages and a host of tributes. Unfortunately, many of us don't choose our untimely deaths. To think, Ed McMahon got a bigger send off than you. I mean how many teenagers came of age masturbating to posters of Ed McMahon?

Monday, June 22, 2009

Bored Photoshopping: Mike Jarvis Cocker

Every once in a while two completely disparate parts of my mind will come together, form an unholy union, and give existence to some strange square peg of a joke or idea that never quite fits anywhere. I'd like to see the interesting Venn diagram of college basketball fans and Britpop enthusiasts that immediately got the above picture. At least, this thought was a simple enough connection. I can't imagine the type of people that would have immediately understood the groan inducing reference I once made between Pavement's "Shady Lane" and South Korea's recent tendency towards hiring Dutch soccer coaches for their national team ("...the coach when he arrived he was Dutch, Dutch, Dutch").

That's some adaquete clone stamping, don't you think?

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

You make me wanna cry...

When I was around seven years old or so growing up in the Bronx, I remember often going to my friend Dave's apartment which was part of our building complex. I recall playing a lot of NES and Gameboy games while there since my household didn't have them yet (the best we could manage at the time was a fairly outdated Atari 7800). While my distant memories of hanging out at Dave's consist mainly of playing co-opt Double Dragon II in his living room and taking turns on his Gameboy playing hours of Tetris, one other prominent memory is "playing" with his older sister's copy of the "Miami Vice" Board Game.

At the time we really had no idea what "Miami Vice" was or even how to play the game. We just found the large vibrant map of downtown Miami and the colorful candy-like car shaped plastic player pieces fun to play around with. Like all kids who grew up in the age before rendered 3D graphic games, we would actually push the little cars around and pretended to be driving using the power of our "imaginations".

Although I was a completely oblivious pre-adolescent at the time, aside from the car pieces and the game board, I was also drawn to the bad ass shots of Tubbs and Crockett on the cover and throughout the materials of the game. While the show may have been canceled at least for a couple of years by that time and I had no clue of ascetics or style, the seven year old in me still found something inherently cool about the two guys on the cover wearing suits and sunglasses, casually brandishing large firearms, and sitting in front of a menacing sports car. I guess it's the ultimate testament to Michael Mann's groundbreaking, highly influential, visual style and production when some kid, years after its last episode, is transfixed by dogeared images of the show on an old board game. I, like mid 80s America before me, found the whole thing to be unprecedentedly cool.

While the cynical, pop culture educated, twenty something me doesn't find "Miami Vice" to be nearly as uniformly awesome as I had as a child; beneath the slick, outdated, 80's cheese and pastels there still exists an admirable core of classic coolness to the whole show (which Michael Mann ambitiously attempted to recapture and mostly failed with the 2006 movie). And that intangible, timeless coolness is what I felt when I came across this random closing clip from an old "Miami Vice" episode:

I inadvertently came across that scene while initially searching for a clip of Godley & Creme's video for "Cry". After giving it a view, I just want to say that as groundbreaking and iconic the original video for "Cry" was, that "Miami Vice" clip on its own would have been a 10 times better music video. The show takes one of the absolute (lyrically) wussiest songs ever written, focuses on the awesome musical qualities of the song, and sets it so an unbelievable six minute stretch of television that includes:
  • The aftermath of some sort of massive shootout.
  • Majestic long shots of Don Johnson driving around in a sports car around the dunes of Miami.
  • A tense desert meeting with a shirtless, blazer wearing Ted Nugent.
  • A deadly shootout with a shirtless, blazer wearing Ted Nugent.
  • Shots of Edward James Olmos looking his stoic, mustachioed best.
  • A meeting with a beautiful foreign woman on a beach
  • Said woman being arrested unexpectedly via helicopter
For it's time, a police procedural show ending on this sparsely dialogued, extended, music video-like conclusion seems downright mind blowing. This really was setting the bar for all the other slick knock offs that would eventually follow. I looked it up and apparently the clip is the final part of a Season 2 episode called "Definately Miami". Although it's available to watch in its entirety, I don't really want to know anything more about it. At this point it beautifully exists in an ideal, context-less vacuum and I think any more information about the plot or why Ted Nugent's in the middle of the desert shooting at people would only spoil it for me.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Zack Attack!

If the Internet hasn't already shown it to you, you should check out the above appearance by one Mr. Mark-Paul Gosselaar, or should I say Zack Morris, on last night's "Late Night with Jimmy Fallon." While I've dismissed nearly everything Fallon has done in his career from his giggly run on SNL to his failed movie career to his selection as Conan's replacement, I have to admit this was a total home run. Actually congratulations should be given to both men involved, Fallon for his astounding commitment to bringing back all the members of "Saved by the Bell" and for Gosselaar to being a complete champ about coming back in character and absolutely nailing it. In my opinion, the whole affair went beyond just a memorable late night performance and should be considered landmark television.

Seriously, when has any legitimate actor ever made a full appearance on a late night talk show, completely in a character they last played almost two decades ago promoting a project they are currently doing in reality? I'm not talking about some has-been or bit player coming on for a little sketch or cameo. This isn't Abe Vigoda doing his usual shtick or J.J. Walker coming out and saying "Dy-no-mite!". Gosselaar was there on legitimate grounds to push the new season of his TNT show "Raising the Bar", but absolutely remained completely entrenched in his Zack Morris character for the entire interview.

The truly impressive part was just how devoted and faithful the whole bit was to the original source material. The entire segment was obviously scripted and predetermined but any real fan of "Saved by the Bell" would have been impressed with the attention to detail by the writers. The "Late Night" writers could have just played it lazy and just made broad references to the show that anyone would have gotten but in this case you can tell that they actually watched enough of it.

On the surface the wardrobe was spot on, vintage Morris head to toe. The writers and Gosselaar had the smug attitude, the smile, the eyebrows, the total lack of inner monologue, all down pat. The whole deal about how Mark-Paul Gosselaar is actually the created stage name and persona of Zack Morris was a fairly ingenious way to keep him in character while still referencing his current work. It's also has a sort of intriguing meta bent to it that's far smarter and more sophisticated then every "Saved By the Bell" episode combined. The interview hit on all the big Zack Morris references from the vintage giant cellphone to the time-outs, to the performance of his hit Zack Attack single "Friends Forever"; but again the really delightful parts were in the details.

The introduction of his relationship with Kelly Kapowski was a clever parody of how he introduced her in the very first episode ("Kelly Kapowski: loves volleyball, windsurfing, and at one point me.") complete with the same remote controlled life sized poster. When talking about their eventual falling out he referenced "slimeball" Jeff, that older guy who managed the Max that she briefly dated. The great line about how she moved to a "different zip code", dark times hanging out with Johnny Dakota at the Attic, Stacy Carosi from the Malibu Sands Resort were coming out so fast that it took a second for the more savvy members of the audience to recognize. Finally the pitch perfect performance obviously couldn't have gone as well if Mark-Paul Gosselaar didn't look EXACTLY THE SAME as he did when he was in high school! The guy's freakin' 35 years old! Did he get into Dick Clark's private stash or something?

Overall, just flat out well done. I had my reservations when I first heard about Fallon's quest to reunite the entire cast of "Saved By the Bell". I feared it was some disingenuous co-opting of early 90's camp to score cheap laughs. However if an eventual re-union can be as totally faithful and in character as this appearance then I'm all for it. Hopefully this sets a new precedent in late night guest appearances. How infinitely more watchable would late night television be if the guests all came as their past alter-egos and pushed their new work instead of boring us all to sleep with their mostly awkward banter and discussions of the unremarkable minutiae of their celebrity lives? Imagine Sean Penn coming out and showing clips from his new movie as Jeff Spicoli or Julia Louis-Dreyfus talking about the new season of "The New Adventures of Old Christine" as Elaine Benes. Totally mindblowing.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

The Internet Never Forgets

My senior year at NYU was probably my favorite school year ever (although I faintly recall kindergarten to have been quite pleasant and 6th grade wasn't all that bad as well). While nothing resembling outrageous Rothian standards, between all my AP credits and my early core class heavy schedule, by the end of junior year I had completed all my essential requirements for my Communications major, leaving me with an already light senior year schedule that I had to fill with wacky, superfluous electives. I went to school a maximum three days a week (I got it down to two by the spring semester) and when I happened to be there I was either taking guitar lessons or developing film or workshopping poetry. It was sort of like a year long day camp...that cost about $30,000. By the end, all my frivolous class taking even gave me enough credits for an unexpected minor in creative writing.

One of my light elective classes was a digital art class where we learned basic level Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, and had some lectures about art and composition. Aside from all the neat posters we got to make and print out on the fancy giant printer, the rudimentary Photoshop skills I learned are still used by me today (sadly, as a communications major, this was probably the only piece of useful, substantive education I received during my whole 4 years there). One of the ongoing assignments during the semester was for everyone in class to create and maintain a simple photo blog on Blogger that they would have to update with one interesting image every week. We all dutifully maintained our little blogs (mine was called "Amazing Victor's Blogosphere") and when the semester ended we all just abandoned them, to lie fallow and forgotten on the endless plains of the Internet.

This would be the case for almost the next three years or so until I recently found some of my old digital assignments while sorting around the files of my old college laptop. It was then that I wondered if my temporary little site still existed. I put the name in on google and, lo and behold, there it was, a mass of 1s and 0s frozen in time, perfectly preserved since September of 2006, waiting for the next update. I had also forgotten that after I submitted my final picture, I had randomly uploaded two other entries: some random shots of me unkempt and unemployed post college (my how things have...remained exactly the same) and some shots from a College Bowl meeting that stands as probably the only known photographic documentation of an actual NYU College Bowl meeting.

This blast of digital nostalgia also helped me gain some perspective on just how unfathomably vast and full of crap the interest is. There's an entire world of users out there leaving random web footprints that'll out last the Pyramids. Every fleeting web page, bog, social network profile, web board comment, etc., no matter how inconsequential is probably preserved in the infinite folds of the web. You wouldn't believe the number of immacuately preserved websites for forgotten movies of the past still exist (looking to download some sweet desktop backgrounds or AIM icons from the movie "Paycheck"? I know I am!). It's an interesting thought that your "LOL" comment on the Star Wars Kid Youtube video from 2004 will likely be around far after you've disappeared. The ancient Greeks would be so pissed that immortality in the 21st century is a few clicks away; they had to spend all their lives chipping away on marble slabs, creating sculptures and shit.

I have to admit, however, there are even some limits to the internet. I'm pretty sure my geocities webpage from 1997 consisting of an all cap "Welcome to Victor's Home Page" greeting, lime greenback background, a picture of Mr. T and a free web counter is lost forever.

Monday, June 01, 2009

A Petty Distinction

Lori Petty was arrested on suspicion of a DUI after she hit some skate border the other day. While all this is undoubtedly a negative experience for Petty; for someone with as faded a career as her, the old maxim: "there's no such thing as bad press" couldn't be truer. I had completely forgotten about her existance for probably a couple of years until I caught the headline on yahoo! late yesterday night. Also, going by the recent pictures, I suspect that she may be dying her hair and becoming Joan Jett on the weekends (I suspected she was also Susan Powter but apparently Susan re-started the insanity and is now sporting multi-colored dreds). The thing that really caught my eye was how the headline ran along the lines of: "Point Break Actress Arrested for DUI". The AP article that most online news outlets link to also introduce her as "'Point Break' actress Lori Petty."

I would have to disagree with most of these articles. If there was any definative magnum opus for which Lori Petty should be forever defined by, it has to be "Tank Girl". Every news report, gossip rag, obituary should be identifying her as "'Tank Girl' actress Lori Petty". You might have an outside argument for referring to her as "'A League of Their Own' actress Lori Petty" (which a few outlets have used) but she was merely a supporting character among a wide ensemble cast. Lori Petty was Tank Girl, all 104 terrible and obnoxious minutes of it. Frankly, I'd be more comfortable if the media just referred to her as "Tank Girl" rather than by her actual name.

While I'm sure her recent guest appearances on "House" and "Prison Break" we're solid and I do remember her being the voice of the villain "Livewire" on the Superman cartoon, but barring some sort of highly unlikely career renaissance Ms. Petty's professional zenith was 14 years ago sitting on top of that tank talking to Ice T in some hideous mutant dog costume. I mean if Michael Beck got arrested for a double homicide, would be refer to him as anything but ""The Warriors' actor Michael Beck"? Or if Wes Bentley was found strangled to death in his home would the headline or article not contain the phrase "'American Beauty' actor Wes Bentley"?

One hit wonders are not just limited to music.