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...

Monday, April 25, 2005

A question of taste?

Someone please explain to me why certain individuals feel the need to put the make of their car in ginormous letters somewhere on the exterior of the vehicle.

It seems that everywhere I turn, on both nice cars and beaters, there’s some random douche who thought it was a good idea to advertise that he’s driving….a 2000 Nissan Altima.

Yes, I saw this today on the East Side of Milwaukee. And it made me very sad. I thought: Oh, you poor, sorry soul. You are bragging about owning the same car as my grandmother.

I used to see this sort of nonsense all of the time when I was growing up in Southeastern Ohio…and I assumed it was a redneck thing somewhat akin to the fake Calvin peeing on some NASCAR logo. But apparently, these people are everywhere.

But I don’t get it, Why spend even a cent on a ridiculous decal or, worse yet, sandblasting, to specify the make and/or model of your so-incredibly-typical car?

Is it because you have put so much useless crap on your Japanese compact sedan to make it look like a sports car and one cannot tell what it was originally named without said identification?

Or is that that you are, for some reason, very excited to have the entire world know that yes, you are, in fact, driving a shitty 1988 Honda hatchback?

And if the latter is the case, why don’t people who actually should be proud of what they’re driving do this? I mean, you don’t see many Porsches or Audis that say “Porsche” or “Audi” printed on a cheap window decal that covers the entire rear windshield. I guess people already know what kind of car is passing them at 90 mph.

Seriously…who are these people?

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Rob Thomas....why?

Congratulations, Marc Anthony. Now the lead singer of matchboxtwenty is doing a better job at being Latin than you are.

Seriously, though, when did Rob Thomas decide he wanted to be not only young and hip (as opposed to angsty) but also Latino? Did he not get the memo?

TO: Rob Thomas
FROM: Mandy J
RE: Your Music
Dear Rob. You are white. In fact, you are the most white-bread, adult contemporary radio-ready singer since Phil Collins. So stop it. Thanks.

But his solo debut has actually turned a few heads and, admittedly, his new single "Lonely No More" is very Marc Anthony/Backstreet Boys sort of catchy (in other words, I'll hate it by next week). But that doesn't stop me from begging the question: Why? Why Rob Thomas? Why try to be so "in" right now (as you can see from the link...Rob's on myspace. How fratty)? Did we really need another pop radio solo artist?

But thankfully, Thomas isn't getting off that easy. He may get a B, but reviewers aren't being too kind (this review is highlarious). You'll have to do more than buy an ipod and sign up for myspace to win back this generation, Rob.


So maybe I was more dead-on with my prediction than I thought. Two nights ago, I was at the bar with my friends when Weezer's "Beverly Hills" came on over the closing-time radio.

Me: "I can't get enough of this song."

Unnamed Friend/Weezer Fan: "This song sucks. This isn't Weezer."

Me: I think it's actually a great return to their original sound. This song sounds like it could have been on The Blue Album (1994). It rocks."

UF/WF: "But it''s....pop radio. It sucks."

Me: *looks puzzled, drinks*

UF/WF: "Weezer is dead to me."


Wednesday, April 20, 2005

It could happen...

I'm going to make a prediction right now...and I hope I'm wrong,

Weezer's newest single, "Beverly Hills" (yes, they realized they could, in fact, rock)'s gonna be this year's "summer song." MTV will pimp the hell out of it, it'll play pop radio non-stop and it will be the band's biggest selling album yet because a bunch of high-schoolers will be wearing their t-shirts. And their fans, those notoriously indie kids who talk about Weezer with reverence, will be torn. They'll want to abandon them because they'll be hugely popular...but they're Weezer. And nothing says homeless-looking hipster like Weezer.

And the rest of us will rock out to the radio all summer. And I'll be thankful it's at least a good song this time around.

Friday, April 15, 2005

FHM makes you say "Hmmm?"

FHM magazine, no bastion of taste, has released it’s annual list of the “world’s hottest women” to much debate, as usual. This has to be said in quotation marks because; 1. It’s voted on by guys, who, as we know, have questionable taste 2. it's annual, which means the list changes as certain women become more popular or “buzzworthy” (for instance, note the “Desperate Housewives” cast is on this year’s list) and 3. These are only FAMOUS women

I won’t debate the questionable choices….save one. In what universe in Paris Hilton the third most beautiful woman in the world? You could put her in a room with the women I work with everyday and she wouldn’t even hit the top five in terms of beauty.

It certainly can’t be her looks that make her "hot". I'll try to stay out of the realm of what could be called cattiness and not detail how utterly not-hot she is. I mean, all you have to do is look. Stare upon the horror.

I figure this all boils down to the voters. It must be the same factors that ranked girls as “hot” in high school: Sluttiness and money. That has to be it…..high-schoolers rocking the vote.

But....I have to admit, they made one very good choice: Scarlett Johansson at #9. Now that's beauty (next year, she needs to be higher, you idiots).

Monday, April 11, 2005

It IS hip to be square

Do you ever miss the fashion attitude of the 80s?

Wait - let me explain that.

Not the stupid trends that the 80s will always be remembered for, like Flock of Seagulls haircuts, leg warmers, loud prints and Mermuda shorts (all of which are inexplicably 'back')...but the fashion of successful mainstream 80s America?

I'm talking about yuppie appreciation, the love of money and clothes that cost lots of money. I'm talking about a time period where it was a good thing to wear dressy, classy new clothes instead of having your coolness defined by how homeless you look or that everything you own came from Goodwill.

I want the 1980s America of American Psycho, Bonfire of the Vanities and Wall Street, where men wore suits and did coke in fancy bathrooms and women had short hair and long legs. Granted, I wasn't old enough to see this America...but I have found myself romanticizing the era as the rest of my generation has spent too much time finding new ways to reject this perceived "excess".

It really is hip to be square, kids. Let's look it, at least. Suits, skirts, manicures, IKEA furniture, German cars and trance music....I want you back. No more trucker hats, bowling shoes or long, dirty hair. Let's relaunch the new age of vanity.

Saving "Arrested Development"

It’s scary to think that the best comedy on television might just disappear.

Sunday, April 17 is the season – and possibly series – finale of Fox’s “Arrested Development.”

As a fan and a pop culture junkie, I just don’t understand what’s going on with this picture. Fox, otherwise known as “the network that will air anything” may or may not bring back an Emmy-winning show. Circular tripe like “Everybody Loves Raymond” is on the air for what feels like decades and this show….THIS SHOW….gets two seasons? Will AD become another “My So-Called Life”, beloved, but canceled before its time?

Who cares if it isn’t kicking butt in the Nielsen’s? Obviously people are watching it, because it may be one of the most talked-about shows on television. Maybe it’s on the wrong night or the wrong time or the wrong network (hello, FX?)…but something has to be done to save this incredibly original series. Here’s why:

1. A different concept

A scripted show that capitalizes on reality TV’s insider view (but doesn’t have the horrible star-fucker “characters”) is often tried, but never created to the effective level of AD. It’s gotten tot he point I, as a viewer, almost believe these people are real.

2. An actual premise

Instead of just “here’s the characters and here’s the scene,” every episode of AD fits together into the larger story set up in the very first episode (and recapped in every intro): Formerly rich family loses everything when the patriarch gets sent to prison and has to try to live like normal people. Instead of using George Bluth’s dealings and arrest as a one-note post-Enron gag, the series continues dealing with the ramifications of everyone’s reactions. And while this continuous concept may be what intimidates non-regulars from watching, the recap at the beginning of every episode is a helpful way to tell you what’s happened.

3. A big and uber-talented cast

Pulling together some of the best comedic talents in Hollywood into an ongoing half-hour comedy sounds impossible, but this show had the cache of a supergroup long before CBS’ Housewives were getting Desperate. From the first episode, we were treated to Jeffrey Tambor (“The Larry Sanders Show”), David Cross (“Mr. Show” genius), Portia de Rossi (“Ally McBeal”), Will Arnett (who is THE voiceover guy) and, of course, Jason Bateman (“Silver Spoons”!). That’s not even mentioning regular appearances (Henry Winkler, Liza Minnelli…) and guest stars (Date Attell, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Zach Braff).

4. Ron Howard’s narration

The funniest thing about AD is the easily overlooked narration of none other than Ron Howard. In addition to catching the viewer up to speed in each episode (frequently revisiting recent occurrences, though usually from a new point-of-view), Howard also can turn a cheap visual gag or simple occurrence into an over-the-top guffaw with his simple “voice of God” notations. Snide, amused and always expecting the joke, Howard calmly points out just how screwed up these characters are from week to week.

5. The characters

There is not a typical character - no usual foil, no formula and no cardboard cutouts - in this elaborate batch of wackos…and it’s part of the show’s unique charm. Obsessive straight man Michael, SoCal activist Lindsay, the never-nude sorta-gay Tobias, man child Buster, socially-retarded failed-magician Gob, obsessive mom/drinker Lucille, shy cousin-lover George Michael…..the list goes on. They aren’t “everypeople” they often aren’t even likeable….but they are always, without fail, absolutely over-the-top hilarious. And not because of one-liners or simple physical comedy, but because every odd thing each of these characters does seems so naturally occurring.

Of course Buster will become infatuated with his mother’s roomba vacuum cleaner…that’s just such a Buster thing to do. Gob owning a jive-talking black puppet? Why not? Tobias posing as a British maid? Of course.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Fashion trends that just won't die

Every year I catch wind of "hot new spring fashions" from magazines and TV. But every year, it seems to merely be a recycling of last year's horrendous fashions.

Now, I'm unhip and unfashionable, I'll admit. I hate most women's clothes with a passion.....but a few in particular just need to move on into the graveyard of bad fashion ideas.

1. One-strap tank tops

These have to be the stupidest article of clothing to ever hit the market. It just looks like someone hacked off a part of your shirt. Ooooohhh, you're so sexy with your one bare shoulder. Ooooooh.

2. Capri pants

Capri pants make every girl look fat. And the length is just long enough to hide too much leg and too short enough to be taken seriously. If you want shorter pants, wear crops, shorts or a skirt....not some lame compromise.

3. White pants/jeans/shorts

This tells me that you must spend your daytimes sitting on a window seat as your butler brings you tapioca. Because any woman that actually has things to do cannot wear white bottoms and not ruin them within hours. One night at work would ruin white pants for me.

4. Straw cowboy hats

Believe it or not, girls, "country" people don't wear cowboy hats. Trust me, I know. Only city poser girly girls and Nascar fans wear cowboy hats. It doesn't make you "earthy" to wear a cowboy hat. It makes you a big hick. (Unless you're from Texas, where this behavior is apparently acceptable)

I'll post more as I see them. I live in a constant state of outrage.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Believe the hype: Sin City is one for geeks of all stripes

From the first few moments of Sin City, you can know if you’ll like it or not.

With heavy-handed noir narration, a gorgeous woman and dashing young man share a smoke outside a party. Her red dress and pouty lips stand out like blood against the bleak grayscale landscape. You want to know her. The young man wants to know her. Then - just like that - she’s dead. So it begins.

Equal parts beautiful and terrifically violent, Sin City is a pitch-perfect homage to both classic film noir and comic book styling. In fact, this film just might me the most successfully ambitious film project ever completed.

To a comic book fan and film fanatic, Sin City is like a morbid wet dream. But what could one expect when you get minds like that of director Robert Rodriguez, guest director Quentin Tarantino, author Frank Miller and mogul Harvey Weinstein together?

Based on Miller’s graphic novels, the film Sin City is really a combination of a few of Miller’s individual tales. Three stories, each with the underlying themes of redemption and passion unfold on the bleak, rain-soaked streets of fictional Sin City (which looks to be both a futuristic and past version of New York).

It has to be noted right off the bat that this movie isn’t so much a graphic novel adaptation as it is a pop-art work brought to stunning life. Rodriguez obviously toiled to get Miller’s work exactly right. Ever moment moves like a paneled page, with characters moving quickly without actual movement and situations seemingly changing on their own. More is said with a look, a scene or a single word than an entire page of dialogue.

What dialogue there is doesn’t translate well to modern film storytelling, but I’m not so sure it supposed to. The narration of each piece, which is the primary voice in every segment, is exactly as heavy-handed and overtly flowery as it should be for a classic noir film (as opposed to the fast-paced quirky dialogue of today’s crime films). The characters too are perfectly fitting for this genre-without-a-genre.

There’s a beaten-down "good" cop seeking redemption (Bruce Willis), a monster of a man seeking revenge for a slain lover (Mickey Rourke), a stripper with a heart of gold (Jessica Alba), a pistol-packing hooker (Rosario Dawson), a crooked cop (Benicio Del Toro), a well-meaning ex-con (Clive Owen) and, of course, a trifecta of bad guys that seem to represent all manner of pure evil.

More modern film fans will note the Pulp Fiction-like storytelling (out of order shorts that somewhat intertwine) and Kill Bill-esque depiction of graphic violence, of which there is plenty.

In fact, I’ll daresay this may be the most graphically violent movie I’ve ever seen. And that’s saying a lot, considering the blood is rarely even red. But at no point was this viewer ever bored or disgusted. I was enthralled. So don’t listen to the (surprisingly few) overly-sensitive critics who wrote this film off as just another uber-violent comic film a la “The Punisher.”

This isn’t a film, it’s an experience. And frankly, you’re cheating yourself if you don’t shell out a few bucks just to take Mr. Miller’s wild ride at least once on the big screen.