Thoughts, notes, observations on the everyday nonsense of American Pop Culture from one of the most not-hip people on the face of the planet...

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

"South Park" tops itself

Yes, Trey Parker and Matt Stone went there. They tackled the Schiavo case in tonight's sure-to-be-offensive episode. Somehow, we all knew it was only a matter of time.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Oh Pepsi, you're so cute to think the world is legal

I don't know if you've noticed, but Pepsi is running a promotional campaign right now with the iTunes store. If you buy a bottle of Pepsi, one in three caps wins....a free song! Wooooooo!

Oh my God! I can download any song I want? For FREE? Holy Jesus, why haven't I thought of this before?!?!?


How naive is it of Pepsi to think they're gonna fire up "the kids" with free songs? Anyone worth their IP address has been getting their music free since 1997. Is anyone out there actually saving these and using them?

Disclaimer: For legal purposes, I'll note I don't condone illegal downloading. Much.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Christianity and TV

This week, MSNBC and NBC News have a series about Christians and Hollywood that has sparked my interest. Christian group after Christian group has been brought into Brian Williams’ lair to say how they think Christian values and morals have been ignored…..on television.

While they may have a point with movies, I really don’t think they have a leg to stand on with TV. If the ratings takeover by the generally conservative CBS dramas isn’t evidence enough, there’s a glut of so-called “family drama” that has populated the airwaves for as long as I can remember, ruining Friday and Saturday TV for agnostics everywhere.

Did these spokespeople never see “Life Goes On”, “Touched by an Angel”, “Highway to Heaven”, “Little House on the Prairie”, “Dr. Quinn”, “Picket Fences”, “Joan of Arcadia”, “Seventh Heaven”, “Providence,” “Judging Amy”, “Crossing Jordan”........etc. etc.

I thought there was plenty of good healthy moral TV out there. My mom made me watch it all of the damn time as a kid (in high school, I called it ”Must Pray TV”). From “The Waltons” to “Touched by an Angel”, she always would preface a viewing with, “This show has such a good message….”

Am I missing something?

Redneck Chic

As someone who is from one of the most redneck parts of this wild and woolly nation, I'm dying to know why it has become so fashionable to be a hick. When I was growing up on a farm in Ohio, I took that as an insult. Now people have bumper stickers, hats and t-shirts proclaiming (usually either over a camo or, god forbid, rebel flag print) how "redneck" they are....even if they live in a city and don't chew tobacco.

How did this happen?

Sunday, March 20, 2005

It's time for a rant about....Sarah Jessica Parker

It's officially driving me crazy.

First of all, as anyone who knows me knows, I can't stand Sarah Jessica Parker.

Well, not her personally so much as what she supposedly represents to my generation of women. She and "Sex in the City" is somehow supposed to be some girl power movement that all girls between 19 and 25 just fall over over themselves to emulate. That somehow, being a big slut and wearing designer clothes means you're "empowered" and "independent" instead of, you know, actually attempting to establish a personality and lifestyle different from everyone else.

She is somehow supposed to be a youthful sex symbol - and that confuses me. She isn't very attractive, no more attractive than most women I know on a personal basis (in other words, she isn't out-of-this-world). She isn't very young (she's 39). And her only real accomplishment is "Sex in the City" (unless you count being married to Matthew Broderick as a plus, which I don't). Why are we young women supposed to want to be like her? I just have no idea.

But anyway, her recent string of Gap commercials have been unlikable at best...but the latest is just too freaking much. Her walking the streets of what is presumably New York singing "I Enjoy Being a Girl" makes me not only unable to fight the inborn girl habit to sing along...but it brings up a bevy of rants that drive me past annoyance into anger:

You aren't a girl. You're actually only six years younger than my MOTHER. How long are you going to ride the "Sex in the City" wave? When you're 40, are you still going to be the unelected symbol of my generation? Why are Gap khakis any more girlish than anyone else's? If you're so successful, why are you hawking everything from clothes to perfume to hair dye? Why did you make "Honmeymoon in Vegas"? Why?!?!?


Friday, March 18, 2005

The enigma that is "Full House"

"Fulll House" may be one of the worst-written sitcoms to ever hit network television. It had unbearable characters, flat dialouge, an unlikely concept and it featured guest appearances by Steve F-ing Urkel......but somehow, when it's on Nick at Nite at 4 am CST, I am inexplicably drawn to it. Mostly, I think, because it puzzles me so much.

As a kid, I loved it. I particularly liked bitchy middle sister Stephanie, even though the entire show is based around adorable lines for baby sister Michelle to utter at random so the studio audience can "awwwwww" on cue. Or horrible, god awful puns for Dave Coulier to pass off as funny even though he sucks miserably.

But I never noticed any of that as a kid. Nor did the pertinent inconsistencies come to mind that do today.

I roll my eyes at how much I absolutely loathe Bob Saget and Dave Coulier. I can't believe we're supposed to believe that Danny Tanner's friends Joey and Jesse would actually live with him and his three daughters for that freaking long. I refuse to believe that DJ could possibly be dating who is supposedly the best-looking boy in school (Steve), but she never goes past second base. I want to known how Kimmy managed to never get her ass kicked. And why Joey was actually given a job being allegedly likable. Or why Jesse's twin sons had girl haircuts and apparently never learned to speak.

And dammit, how could they all possibly live in a San Francisco townhouse? And how is the laugh track at all convincing that those jokes were funny?

Despite all this, I watch it. I hate to admit it. I don't want to watch it. I'm annoyed by it.....but if it's 4 am, you know where I'm at...

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

So long to Miramax as we know it

As I'm sure most movie aficianados know by now, Bob and Harvey Weinstein are leaving Miramax after 12 years with the Disney partnership. Miramax was, by far, the best thing to happen to Disney since Daddy Walt drew Mickey Mouse and they get to keep the company even after its heart/soul/brain/talent base leaves. But what will it be worth?

Harvey Weinstein is arguably the best mind in the movie business. His 26 years at Miramax may be the mos tpofilif of any Hollywood figure ever. He has a talent for attracting talented (and unknown) people, an ear for new ideas and a knack for marketing and tweaking that can make almost anything an Oscar-winning hit. Even those who know very little about movies can know this: Just about every movie or director you've liked or heard about in your time existed because of Miramax and Harvey Weinstein.

Without him, the world might not have known Quentin Tarantino, Robert Rodriguez, Kevin Smith or the adorable Matt Damon/Ben Affleck combination.

You can see the full list of Miramax films here....but I know that without Miramax, some of my personal favorite movies might not have been made. There'd be no Chasing Amy or Pulp Fiction, no sex, lies and videotape, Farenheit 9/11, Shakespeare in Love, Muriel's Wedding, Chicago,Playing by Heart (guilty pleasure alert!), Strictly get the picture.

Most importantly, despite my own favorites, Miramax made Hollywood more accessible for independent and foreign movies like recent hits Amelie, The Station Agent and Rabbit-Proof Fence. It's because of this company that its competition, Lions Gate, Fox Searchlight and the like, even were created and why independent films started winning Oscars (and lots of 'em).

So it's the end of a big era. For now. The Weinsteins wil go on and take their creative friends with them. But who knows what will come of what might be one of the best movie houses in history?

The movie world watches and waits.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

The most unsettling show on TV

For the first time ever tonight, I caught Fox's "Nanny 911."

This show essentially takes insanely screwed-up families and tries to fix them in one week with a nanny.

Tonight's family embodied everything I personally hate, fear and loathe about parents. I felt downright uncomfortable watching the video footage of this family in action because they, like most of the families featured here, embodied everything that is wrong with middle class parenting: A lack of discipline, parental involvement and an overabundance of the warm fuzzies. And Fox is just hyping it up as "oh, it's that funny."

No, actually, it isn't.

It isn't funny to see a young, somewhat wealthy stay-at-home mom who seems to have been thrust into motherhood alone, unprepared and against her will. It isn't funny to see her successful, businessman husband yell at her because their SIX young children are out of control as he's trying to work. It isn't funny to see him intentionally spend all of his time in another part of the house so he pointedly does not have to help get his gigantic brood ready for school, doesn't have to help with meals or cleaning or discipline in any way....and he yells at his wife for not getting his lunch ready as she tries to keep her absurdly horrible children from killing each other before school. I wanted to cry as I watched her four-year-old twins just beat the living hell out of each other and her as she tried in vain to please her man.

These people don't need a nanny. They need family planning. A miracle reality TV nanny is not going to be able to fix the life of a lost, depressed housewife. If I were the nanny, I would have told her to run as far and as fast as she could.

Simply put: This family needs serious therapy, not to be paraded about on television.

Friday, March 11, 2005

Alt Returns

I gotta say it.....I'm very stoked about the 90s alternative revival that's rocking the airwaves right now.

Now, we all know these bands didn't disappear...but for some reason, they just hadn't made an appearance on the pop culture radar until recently. And I couldn't be happier.

Last year, we had the return of both the Stone Temple Pilots and Guns 'n Roses in the form of supergroup Velvet Revolver. Then, last fall, Green Day dropped the best record of their career with American Idiot, Cake had a killer single in "No Phone" and Collective Soul rocked back with "Counting the Days."

Just last month, Garbage made a triumphant rock flashback with the very 90s "Stupid Girl." Beck too is back on airwaves with "Hell Yes"...the list goes on. That's not even to mention the 90s-sounding bands all over the place.

But the best part of these reappearances is that these artists returned rocking the same great sounds they used to have. No trendiness. No fitting in. Just all-out rock for those of us that lean that way.

It's a truly beutiful thing. I honestly thought Alt was dead. I was wrong.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Hootie, where art thou?

Wow, does anyone else just feel horrible for Darius Rucker (aka Hootie of former Hootie and the Blowfish fame)? He can now be spotted singing a revamped "Big Rock Candy Mountain" for Burger King dressed like a gay coyboy. Oh how far one can fall in a decade.

It makes me wonder what happened to the Blowfish. And what happened to their money. And inquire why the hell this band, which had some of the most lovable singles of the 1990s, didn't last.

No matter how tragic said ad might be.....the song is just recokulously catchy. And damn effective.

Sunday, March 06, 2005

Current Rotation: March 6

I realized this weekend that I haven't posted a mix CD in months. Turns out that's because I stopped making them after joining the legion of iPod users. So now it's the current rotation. New, improved and set up for downloaders everywhere.

(Now in smaller doses!)

"Enjoy the Silence" by Depeche Mode: It's a known fact that once you hear a Depecha Mode song, you won't be able to get it out of your head for days. That's the thing about trance backbeats and reptitive haunts you. But it's awesome.

Best lyrics:All I ever wanted, all I ever needed, is here in my arms....

"Scars" by Papa Roach: Typically I would write Papa Roach off as one of the anonymous Cock Rock bands of 2001. But this song has just the right arena guitar to bring what are actually great lyrics into a perfect pitch for those of us weaned on Bon Jovi.

Best lyric: GO FIX YOURSEEEEEEEELLLLFFFFFF!!!!! (screamed- awesome)

"All These Things That I Have Done" by the Killers: Part 80s Britpop, part summer song and part Baptist soul- this one's sure to kick out your windows when the sun finally comes out this spring.

Best lyric: I got soul, but I'm not a soldier.

"One Headlight" by the Wallflowers: This song is hands-down one of the best singles of the 1990s, made by a great band with a famous frontman who just happens to be the ridiculously hot son of a famous singer who he happens to sound just like. With guitar, organ, drums and a low growl of a voice like Jakob Dylan''s hard to believe this song didn't have an effective follow-up.

Best lyric: I'm so alone, and I feel just like somebody else. Man, I ain't changed, but I know I ain't the same...

"American Music" by the Violent Femmes: The Femmes are something of an acquired taste, but once you taste it, it's a helluva lotta fun. Yes, the same group that brought you the Best Song Ever Made About Masturbation has another song made for drunk singalongs.

Best lyric: You were born too late, I was born too soon. But every time I look at that ugly reminds me of you...

Friday, March 04, 2005

Chris Rock and the Oscars

A lot of people of late have told me they hated Chris Rock as the host of the Oscars. I think the problem is that too much of mainstream America just didn't get him. They didn't get his meanness, which is the entire Richard Pryor'esque schtick of his humor. People in Hollywood aren't used to being made of of to their faces and I don't think they liked it. Their fans in the People magazine reading set didn't like it either.

Personally, as restrained as he was, Chris Rock was a refreshing change. As much as I like Billy Crystal, we don't need mainstream actors kissing eachother's asses every year on that stage. It was a good experiment.

Too bad America wasn't ready for it.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Why there hasn't been a Thompson follow-up

Sidney Zion argued rather weakly (if you ask me) in last week's New York Daily News that Hunter S. Thompson didn't really leave a journalism legacy because there was no follow up. Or, in his own words:

Dr. Hunter S. Thompson was a commotion, to be sure. But if he changed the course of journalism, how come we never had Gonzo Two? The kids read him as we read J.D. Salinger in the '50s. Only we read without cocaine.

I knew Hunter Thompson. He wasn't Ernest Hemingway.

What kind of snobbish, ageist argument is that? Zion knows full well why there hasn't been a Gonzo Two and he's one of the reasons for it: Newspaper editors are too big of pussies to even give someone like Thompson a chance today.

In this day and age, every newspaper publisher has their eye so closely on the bottom line, they won't dare try anything that could cause the stock to go down. Every editor at every newspaper has his or her panties in constant a knot over the possibility of offending somebody somewhere with any story. So, they have to stick with the same old, which is currently the most boring, mind-numbing journalism in history.

It's hard to believe Dr. Thompson and I were ever in the same field. He had a unique voice that drew people in and defied every law of objectivity and standard grammar and punctuation. Today, our stories, if they dare be more than "he said this and she said that and this is exactly what happened with no explanation or context," than, god forbid, someone Might Get Upset. And we can't have that.

Today, Hunter S. Thompson would be fired on the spot for turning in the sort of stories he wrote. Hell, he wouldn't even be given a press pass by anyone (not even Rolling Stone) because nobody has a backbone for anything but money anymore.

Zion knows this and he's a hypocrite to say otherwise. Journalism has grown too small for talents like HST and has shut itself off to writers (myself, for instance) who would leap at the chance to tell The Truth.

Zion, you yourself dug the grave of Gonzo journalism. Now go lie in it.

The other side of Hunter S. Thompson's death

Another take on HST, from the wise sage Paul McEnery

Well, now we've got the ugly truth of how the suicide went down. It could be more dismaying, but not by much. Like Eliot said, "after such knowledge, what forgiveness?"

I've lived through the suicide of too many friends to find suicide an acceptable option except in extraordinary circumstances. For one thing, it opens a door to death for other people that's a bad door to look through. For another, any violent death has repercussions.

With Hunter's death, you can feel the psychic shockwave through a lot of my friends in the neighbourhood -- and none of us knew the man, except through his work. But Hunter was a shamanic figure for our tribe, going down into the underworld to bring back unspeakable truths, and conjuring up a new language to speak them: fractured, eloquent, repetative, lyrical, deceptive; the carapace of a man who never truly found a way to live with his own sensitivity, and couldn't keep that sensitivity from snaking through the cracks.

To lose such a man, and in such a way, has consequences. When Kurt Cobain shot himself, it was a similar thing. I'll always admire Courtney Love, no matter what kind of a mess she turns into, for standing up and saying the right thing afterwards. Fuck Kurt Cobain for killing himself. It was a selfish and cowardly act. So fuck Hunter too.

Hunter lived on the edge not for everyone else, as the sentimental fanboys would have it, but for himself and for nobody but himself. He was a weak man who carried a lot of hurt, and couldn't live with the burden of responsibility to anyone, let alone to himself. All he could do was run on impulse. That impulse led him to change the face of journalism, to speak truth to power, and to unlock for a great many of us the chains of puritanical restraint. It was also the long, slow suicide of a man running away from himself. He stopped running fast enough, and the ugly spirit in him caught up.

Hunter's suicide -- weak, cowardly, irresponsible, shitty -- turns his life into a symbol of self-indulgent folly. It turned his life into shit. It turns his work into shit. It says that everything he ever did was nothing more than this final moment. It gives his enemies all the ammunition they needed.

We are horrified because of what his family is having to deal with. We are horrified because of the harm to the community, those of us who belong to his tribes. And we are horrified because it plants the seed of death in our own minds, and we need to reject those seeds forcefully.

So once again, fuck you Hunter S. Thompson, for being a weak, self-indulgent coward.

And thank you, Hunter, for dealing all through your life with being a weak, self-indulgent coward by having such courage. The courage to turn that self-destructive urge towards putting yourself in harm's way in order to live; to live outrageously outside of the conventions of buttoned-down conformity; to wade through the shit pile of a disordered mind and bring back beauty; to stare down the ugly truths of our world for 67 years before the final, impulsive, selfish, and cowardly flinch.

Hunter S. Thompson required a Christload of forgiveness for the manner of his life. We gave him it because of his work, because of what his work gave to us, for what his life gave to us. It is far too soon to forgive him for the manner of his death. His death was nothing but bullshit, and it makes the words he left behind taste of that bullshit. In some ways, it's the final act of truth-telling from a man who spent his life pushing our faces in the shit we wanted to ignore.

Hunter wasn't here to be worshipped or emulated. He was here to steer the wreck of his own life through the rocks. Doing that, he damaged people as much as he inspired them. In the death, we will revile him for the crap he laid on us, and we will revile ourselves for the prison we made for him because we need heroes to worship. And in the death, we will love him again for what he was to the good.

Reprinted, with permission, from Paul's post at CBR