Thursday, April 30, 2009

Know your Bears!

It's April 30th, National Bear Awareness Day! (Factually untrue!) So let's take a moment to learn a bit about those lovable critters best known for banjo-playing and trainer-mauling.



ANDEAN BEAR (Tremarctos Ornatus):
The Andean, or spectacled, Bear is a small black bear with cream-colored facial markings around it's eyes which give it the name. They are typically found in Venezuela, Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru. An excellent tree climber, several of the Andean bears were brought down to Argentina to fight alongside Che Guevara to middling success.

Diet: Fruit, bromeliads, rodents, insects, churros, hot pockets.

Social Organizations: Little is known about the behavior of these shy forest bears. It is believed that they are mostly nocturnal, and spend their nights playing Magic: The Gathering in self-made tree nests.




NORTH AMERICAN BLACK BEAR (Ursus Americanus):

A medium sized bear, the Black Bear can be found in many color phases from black, chocolate brown, cinnamon brown, pale blue, white, and technicolor dreamcoat. They are found in the United States, Northern Mexico, and all provinces and territories of Canada except Prince Edward Island (F those guys, right? They don't deserve black bears).

Diet: Nuts, berries, fruit, acorns, roots, grasses, insects, deer, salmon, tourists.

Social Organization: Black bears are usually solitary animals, choosing to go with the whole "Johnny Cash thing." They will leave territorial signposts through scent-marking, claw marks in trees, and sloppily-painted lawn signs that read "Bear wuz here." Some have been known to wear floppy hats and drink out of jugs marked "X X X"


ASIATIC BLACK BEAR (Ursus Thibetanus):

Blackish in color, with lighter muzzles and a distinct V-shaped patch of cream color on their chest, the Asiatic Black Bear has ears that appear to be much bigger than those of other bears, which results in cruel playground mockery and the Asiatic often sitting alone, tossing a tennis ball against a wall and crying little bear tears. They can be found in Southern Asia, including Northern India, Southern China, Korea, Japan and in eastern parts of the former Soviet Union, where they are often seen socializing with fallen comic Yakov Smirnoff.

Diet: Insects, small mammals and birds, carrion, bees nests, bubble tape, fruit, and bear claws (how ironic).

Social Organization: Little is known about this bear in the wild, except that they are nocturnal. It has been reported that most of them are hard at work on "the great American novel," which is weird since they live in Asia.


BROWN BEAR (Ursus Arctos):
One of the largest and most widely-distributed species of bear, they are often known for their white-tipped guard hairs that give them a "grizzled" appearance, hence the term Grizzly Bear. They can be found in many parts of the world, including Hollywood, where many lose out on auditions to The Edge and Legends of the Fall star Bart the Bear, who has let success go to his head and is no longer the humble, hard-working bear he once was. "He just mauls now cuz he can," said rival Bearactor Ben the Bear.

Diet: Grasses, fruits, bulbs, roots, insects, fish, Chick-fil-A.

Social Organization: The brown bear is fiercely territorial, often yelling at/mauling kids that won't "get off my lawn!" They hold yearly fight clubs, which I am not at liberty to talk about.

GIANT PANDA (Ailuropoda Melanoleuca):
A small black and white bear with an infantile appearance due to its shortened muzzle and large black fur eye patches, the Giant Panda can be found in mountain ranges in the provinces of Sichuan, Shaanxi, and Gansu in Western China. They can also be found staring sadly at that little shithead kid who keeps pounding on the glass at your local zoo.

Diet: Primarily bamboo, and occasionally P.F. Changs and Panda Express, because they feel they have to.

Social Organization: Pandas are basically solitary, but they can have the occasional game night with neighboring pandas. They are seriously sick of playing Apples to Apples, but they prefer it to Cranium or Celebrity (which they find infuriating, because they "just don't know who that is!")


POLAR BEAR (Ursus Maritimus):
Polar Bears are the largest bear species, weighing in between 440 and 1,760 pounds. However, most are hoping to weigh in around 330 by the finale of "Biggest Loser: Polar Bears." They can be found in Greenland, Norway, the former Soviet Union, Canada, and Alaska (where they will leave you alone unless you "ask about Sarah Palin ONE MORE TIME...")

Diet: Seals, walruses, narwhal, beluga, horses, children, wolverines, unicorns, bridge trolls, golems, the cast of Frasier.

Social Organization: Solitary, though have been known to come together for concerts by the band Sum 41. No accounting for taste. They also like to play with giant chess pieces, as seen in the photo above.


SLOTH BEAR (Melursus Ursinus):
A medium sized bear with a very shaggy coat of black fur, with grey and brown hairs mixed in, this lazy bastard of a bear just doesn't care what he looks like anymore, much like your sad Uncle Robert. It is found in India, Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan and Sri Lanka, mostly mooching off of the free WiFi at local coffee shops without buying anything.

Diet: Mostly termites. I mean, c'mon, just get out of bed and cook SOMETHING.

Social Organization: Fairly solitary, except when they get enough energy up to get together and "jam in the garage."


SUN BEAR (Helarctos Malayanus):
The smallest of bears, with a body length of 48 to 60 inches, they have short, sleek black fur with a golden or white colored crescent shape on their chest and the same color on their muzzles and around their eyes. They are tired of you saying "Awwww....I just wanna put 'em in my pocket!" They are found in southeast Asia, primarily in India, Burma, Laos, Vietnam and Thailand, where they can be found palin' around with sailors on shore leave in Bangkok.

Diet: Birds, small mammals, termites, tips of palm trees, bees, most of the menu at Norm's.

Social Organization: Being small and meek, they tend to hide in small groups. If threatened, they will come together to form one giant sun bear, which has earned them the nickname "Nature's Voltron."

Hope this was helpful! (And some of it IS true!)

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Dr. Feelgood or How I Learned to Stop Worrying And Love Karaoke

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Yup. I'm addicted to Karaoke (that's me above, racing through The Proclaimers' "I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles)") And as someone who revels in the chance to serenade complete strangers with '90s modern rock hits, there's definitely some guidelines that would make the entire experience more pleasant for everyone. So please...let's try to follow them, shall we?

Dudes: Please don't try to sing Journey
You are not Steve Perry. You just aren't. If you select "Don't Stop Believin'" we're not gonna hear a word you sing anyway, as that's the universal "everyone wail at the top of your lungs whilst enjoying an alcoholic beverage of choice" song. And if you decide to try out a Journey classic, please be like MST3K's Michael J. Nelson and sing it a couple octaves lower. 'Cuz that's hilarious.

Please keep your selections under 4 minutes
Seriously. We don't need your "refreshing take" on Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody" or The Doors' "The End." Yes, I've been guilty of taking on Radiohead's "Paranoid Android," but that's on a slow night. If you can kill it, like truly go all Adam Lambert on it and slay it, we may be more forgiving. But for 95% of you, the mere start of "American Pie" will cause my drink to become a projectile.

The following songs will always cause the audience (i.e. me) to do the corresponding actions:
Proceed with caution!

"Santeria" by Sublime = a swift kick to the groin
"I Will Survive" by Gloria Gaynor = a slow kick to the groin
"No Woman No Cry" by Bob Marley = a medically prescribed kick to the groin
"Sweet Caroline" by Neil Diamond = a beer in one hand/overdramatic fist in the air kick to the groin
"November Rain" by Guns n' Roses = a long awaited, shitty, sold only at Best Buy kick to the groin
"Nothings Gonna Stop Us Now" by Starship = a "you only come to life at night in the window display and are then romanced by Andrew McCarthy" kick to the groin
"Me and Bobby McGee" by Janis Joplin = a Jackie Jormp-Jomp kick to the groin
"Purple Rain" by Prince = a kick to the artist formerly known as your groin
"Regulate" by Warren G = a kick to the groin that isn't so much yours as a sample of someone else's kick to the groin

The following songs may be rewarded by the audience (i.e. me) with the corresponding treats:

"Rhinestone Cowboy" by Glen Campbell = two Lik-M-Aid sticks
"At This Moment" by Billy Vera and the Beaters = $5 and a slow dance with Tracy Pollan
"Ghostbusters" by Ray Parker, Jr. = a Hi-C Ecto Cooler Juicebox
"She's Like The Wind" by Patrick Swayze = your baby moved away from the corner
"The Weight" by The Band = a pair of Levon Helm's underwear (DON'T ASK)
"Pump It Up" by Elvis Costello = a worn out pair of Shawn Kemp edition Reebok Pumps
"Mama Said Knock You Out" by L.L. Cool J = a VHS copy of The Hard Way
"Lightning Crashes" by Live = a Gummi Placenta (ewwww...)

Obey the Creed creed
(Repeat after me)

I ____________ (fill in your name here),
Do solemnly swear
That I will never, ever, ever
Even CONSIDER
let alone SING
a "song" by Creed
while at Karaoke.

If I do
I understand
that I will most likely die
of a Scott Stapp-Infection.

As long as we all do our part and follow the above rules, things should go smoothly. The above rules may only be broken if the karaoke is happening in a private room. Except for the Creed one.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Albums you should know #4: The Frames' Set List


It may seem a little odd to select a live album as the "one to own," but Ireland's The Frames are arguably the best live band in the world, as perfectly illustrated on 2002's Set List, performed in front of a rabid crowd in Dublin. The crowd's love for the band is immediately apparent from the rousing cheers at the opening guitar lick from "Revelate," a straight-ahead rocker from their '96 record Fitzcarraldo, featuring Colm Mac Con Iomaire's expressive violin matching the crunching guitars. If the vocalist sounds familiar, its probably because the band's singer/songwriter is none other than Glen Hansard, who gain worldwide fame from the film Once, taking home an Academy Award for the lilting ballad "Falling Slowly." As dynamic a performer as he is solo, or with Swell Season partner Marketa Irglova, he is most comfortable with his bandmates in tow, who flush out his soundscapes with immediacy and passion.


As "Revelate" whips the crowd into a frenzy, it is soon hushed by the gorgeous "Star Star**," a highlight from 1999's Dance the Devil, which soon seamlessly becomes "Pure Imagination" from children's film classic Willy Wonka. Glen and the band often surprise the crowd by lapsing into covers from time to time, only to transition back to their own remarkable tunes, as is demonstrated on third song "Lay Me Down," which rumbles into Johnny Cash staple "Ring of Fire." After the punkish "God Bless Mom," Hansard takes a moment to display some of his charisma and storytelling, reminiscing about an old neighborhood dog before transitioning into my favorite Frames song, the beautiful ballad "What Happens When the Heart Just Stops," in which Hansard asks, "So what happens when the heart just stops/Stops caring for anyone/The hollow in your chest dries up/And you stop believing." The songs starts at a crawl and builds to an impressive crescendo, Hansard's emotive voice soaring over the instrumentation, only to come down again to a whisper.


A harmonica greets the crowd in the sing-along shuffle "Rent Day Blues," followed by the riff-tastic "Pavement Tune," a song often played by Hansard solo or with The Swell Season. The pace stays frantic with "Stars Are Underground," before giving way to the familiar bass riff of "Santa Maria," an anthemic slowburner that laments, "In a bowing of heads and a passing of hands/And all we thought they'd understand/Is lost and they won't know/And what have we left/It's all that we've got/There is no 'X' to mark our spot/What's past is done and gone." The song builds layer by layer, until it reaches supersonic heights, only to hush itself beautifully. On its heels is "Perfect Opening Line," in which Hansard chides "And I'll just be curious to see now/How you're going to make it by yourself/When you're walking out ahead/Unaware of anything/And tomorrow as we're looking/Who the history books will blame/You'll be walking out ahead not caring anyway."


The next song, "Your Face," is, according to Hansard, a song about "Drinking cider in a field, after being chased by a bunch of thugs who wanted my leather jacket." It's actually more of a wistful romantic waltz, in which the protagonist fondly reminisces about a past love. Next up is penultimate track "Fitzcarraldo," an epic narrative journey with incredible lyrical imagery like "Even the good stars can fall from grace and falter/Like lapdogs that stride that mystery." The set comes to an end with "The Blood," a woozy sparse closer that the crowd delights in aiding the band vocally.


I can't recommend the music of The Frames enough--their studio albums are all exemplary, and I sincerely hope you take the time to seek them out (Dance the Devil, Fitzcarraldo, and Another Love Song can be a bit difficult to track down, but The Cost, Burn the Maps and For the Birds are all readily available). And if they come to your town, snatch up tickets and check out a live show you'll never forget.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Talkin' bout Underoos!




video


I've always been a big fan of underoos. I mean, as a kid, it made keeping your dangly bits properly stowed FUN! I was always partial to the Spider-Man ones (a fact made clear about ten years back at Halloween, when I went as "Spider-Man Cowboy," in spidey underoos and a cowboy hat and holster...which would have made me in my early '20s when I last wore them). I recently dug up some vintage TV commercials for underoos on Retrojunk.com--mind you, there's no possible way these would be on TV nowadays. The boys one is hilarious--you can tell a lot about each of the kids just from their individual verses. E.T. kid is an awkward square, probably really into Anne McCaffrey dragonrider novels when he got a little older. G.I. Joe kid seems the bully. He probably stole a lot of chocolate milk and lunch money in his day. Superman kid is dripping with charisma, bet he went on to great things in front of the camera. And the Hulk kid is barely capable of stringing a handful of coherent words together--he probably writes for Family Guy (Zing!)


The yin to the yang of the above spot is the girls underoos spot below. While the boys perform a funky freestyle, these gals are straight-up Broadway, jazz-handin' it to the extreme. The Daisy Dukes are a little disturbing (hey y'all!).

Viva la Underoos!



video

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Hot tips to save the Earth!


Yep, it's everyone's favorite holiday, Earth Day! A time for all of us to band together and each do a small part to help keep this tiny planet of ours turning. Here are some things we can each do to help make this world a better place:

Reduce your carbon footprint and carpool
Seriously, do it. Call up Ed Begley, Jr. and tell him you need a ride to work. He'll come pick you up in his little electric car. He won't be happy about it, but his dedication to green causes will force his hand. Then tell him you're doing your part by recycling your DVD copy of Transylvania 6-5000. Then ask him what Michael Richards is really like.

Save energy and turn off unnecessary lights
If you aren't entertaining, take this moment to turn off the showcase light illuminating your mint copy of Uncanny X-Men #201. A constant reminder of the first appearance of your favorite mutant, Cable, the issue will still be as special despite the lack of a spotlight. Also, take this opportunity to recycle all of your copies of Guardians of the Galaxy, because let's face it, they just aren't worth the Mylar that's currently housing them.

Use water efficiently
Even though it seems like a good idea, it's not necessary to shower every time you "accidentally" watch an episode of Dr. Phil.

Punch anyone wearing an Ed Hardy shirt
Trust me. It will make the world a better place.

Go Green with your power
Using a green electricity source can make all the difference in the world. Bust out those tight-fitting corduroy pants and rapidly rub your thighs together until ample static is produced--harness that, and in a couple of days, you'll have enough to power your television for two minutes! That's enough time to see the good parts in any season three episode of Heroes.

Walk to Laser Tag
It's like three blocks from your house, dude. I know it's warm out, but just suck it up and hoof it over there. And don't give me that "A General in the Laserillian Armada would NEVER walk to a battle" thing. Plenty of high-ranking Taggers before you have done it. 

Give "BuffyBot 2000" the day off
I know she "completes you," but it's creepy and sad. I like the show, too, but the fact that you spent months in your basement building her to look just like the robotic vampire slayer is tragic. And she uses a lot of electricity, amigo. So power down.

Go natural with Twitter
Instead of plugging in your laptops and using all that juice, stay off the net and do your tweeting naturally, with actual birds. Keep the updates simple and you'll find that a robin or a swallow is adept at telling people you hardly know that you are "Thinking about doing laundry today" or "Wondering where the best burrito is in Silverlake." Refrain from sending updates to @Ornithophobic.

Thanks for doing your part!




Monday, April 20, 2009

A Stoner classic: Mac and Me's McDonalds dance sequence!


In honor of 4.20, I bring you a clip from one of the "greatest" family films of all time, 1988's Mac and Me. It's a touching story of a little lost alien (Mac) who befriends a boy in a wheelchair (Me...er, Eric) and their adventures together in a world rife with blatant product placement. Here is the amazing, bizarrely random dance sequence inside McDonalds, complete with multi-ethnic children, football players, FBI agents, and one move-bustin' alien in a teddy bear suit. If this world seems at all familiar, it's probably because of the infamous cliff sequence, Paul Rudd's film clip of choice on his appearances on Late Night With Conan O'Brien. Enjoy.

Seriously. Enjoy.


Sunday, April 19, 2009

Cinematic Gems #7: The Hill



It would be easy to pick several of the films by director Sidney Lumet as cinematic gems--outside of the obvious choices of Dog Day Afternoon, Network, Serpico, and 12 Angry Men, there's powerhouse films like Night Falls on Manhattan, Prince of the City and the recent Before the Devil Knows Your Dead. Some of the best and most interesting work of Lumet's career came with his collaborations with Sean Connery--there's the psychological cop drama The Offence, the fun heist flick The Anderson Tapes, and the Agatha Christie who-dun-it Murder on the Orient Express. The one that truly jumps out at me was their first endeavor together--1965's WWII prison drama The Hill.

A hard-hitting, intense, powerful and engrossing study of men pushed to their limits, the film follows Sgt. Major Roberts (Connery), sent to British war-crimes prison after disobeying orders on the battlefield. He falls in with a handful of other soldiers (played by Roy Kinnear, Jack Watson, Alfred Lynch, Waking Ned Devine's Ian Bannen, and the late, great Ossie Davis), and finds himself at odds with Sgt. Major Wilson (Harry Andrews, in a career-performance), a square-jawed taskmaster who prides himself in straightening out soldiers who have acted out of line. His primary form of rehabilitation--The Hill, a torturous man-made tower of sand seared by the North African sun, which the soldiers must traverse repeatedly while carrying heavy bags of sand. As Wilson and his cowardly, sadistic Staff Sgt. Williams (Ian Hendry, pure glistening evil) push the troops unmercifully, it proves too much for one of them, and starts a chain of events that rock the camp to its very core.

Lumet, an "actor's director" who cut his teeth on live television dramas in the '50s, deftly creates a claustrophobic, white-hot mood that his superb cast revel in. There's not a single moment that rings untrue here, and as tension mounts, you find yourself alongside these flawed but good-hearted soldiers, feeling their frustration and injustice. Connery's sly performance is on par with anything else he's ever done. We're reminded of just how fine an actor he really is, in a role that is very anti-movie star. A young Ossie Davis shows us what a treasure he is in his complex performance as Pvt. Jocko King, and Sir Michael Redgrave is also on hand as the medical officer. The thick British accents can be a bit hard to comprehend at times, but don't let that deter you from seeing this extraordinary film, a pre-cursor to the much-loved The Shawshank Redemption. Oh, and the black and white cinematography is absolutely stunning.

*Since it's been longer than 3 days since my last post, the promised Scott Baio photo:

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

That's Celebutainment!

Gossip gossip gossip!*





STING BORED BY SELF

Multi-Grammy winning recording artist Sting, once front man of '80s trio The Police, complained to employees of a San Diego Starbucks of the in-store music before realizing it was a track off of his own "Mercury Falling" album. Sting was heard muttering, "When did I go all adult-contemp?" as he shuffled out of the coffee chain. In related reports, a source at city hall says he has submitted a change of name form, requesting the new moniker "Stung." All of this after an altercation Sting got into with himself outside a London pub, where he attempted to kick his own ass for making a lute album.




LINDSAY LOHAN TO WATCH "FRAGGLE ROCK"

Fresh off her separation from girlfriend Samantha Ronson, Lohan has finally freed up the time to watch episodes of childhood favorite "Fraggle Rock." Says Lohan: "The Season 1 DVD has just been staring at me from the bookshelf. I totally miss Wembley and Boober...Gobo, not so much." Reports that Ronson refused to watch the show because the doozers "creep the shit out of me" cannot be confirmed at this time.




PEREZ HILTON SURPRISES SELF, DECIDES TO RUN UNALTERED PHOTO OF KIM KARDASHIAN

Gossip king Perez Hilton, famous for his x-rated doodles on pictures of celebs on his popular blog, couldn't believe it himself when he decided to just post a normal shot of sex-tape queen Kim Kardashian in an upcoming post. "My first instinct was to draw a jet fighter with a giant penis shooting semen towards her face," says Hilton, "Then I thought about a cock rowboat with penis paddles, replacing the chair in the picture. Somehow, it just all seemed frivolous and I decided to have some journalistic integrity and just run it as-is." In order to compensate, Hilton has added some extra penii to a pic of some Biggest Loser contestants.




KATIE COURIC ENJOYS TACO TUESDAYS

Not much to this one...she just really likes themed food days rife with alliteration.




ALEX RODRIGUEZ TO START RELATIONSHIP WITH MARTIKA

Bored with pop star and recent flame Madonna, New York Yankees 3rd Baseman Alex Rodriguez announced at a press conference Wednesday morning that he plans to court '80s one hit wonder Martika. "I really liked that Toy Soldiers song, and I remember her from that Kids Incorporated show," said Rodriguez,"If she thinks she's too good for Arod, well, she's probably right." Reports indicate that Rodriguez has not ruled out Tiffany or, in a shocking twist, Rico Suave crooner Gerardo.




JUDD APATOW TO START PRODUCTION ON WESTERN WITH LOTS OF TALK ABOUT HUMPING

"Knocked Up" and "40 Year Old Virgin" scribe and director Judd Apatow has begun work on a fact-based Western, tentatively titled "Billy the Kid's Kid." Apatow told reporters that the film follows notorious outlaw William H. Bonney and his gang of regulators, who get more than they bargained for when Billy knocks up his occasional partner, Clara Bow. "It's like 5 men and a baby," said Apatow, who promises to pull no punches with his frank sexual dialogue. The film is set to star Apatow regulars Jason Segel as Billy, Seth Rogen as Doc Scurlock, Martin Starr as Chavez Y Chavez, Samm Levine as Dick Brewer, Jonah Hill as Dirty Steve Stephens, Paul Rudd as Charley Bowdre, and Leslie Mann as Clara Bow.





STEVE BUSCEMI FORGETS HOW TO PRONOUNCE OWN NAME

A tearful Steve Buscemi, best known for his work in indie films like "Reservoir Dogs" and "In the Soup," addressed a somber press room Tuesday afternoon, announcing that he isn't sure how to pronounce his own name. "I was pretty damned sure it was Boo-sha-mee," he said, "But the other day I started saying Boo-ski-mee, which is pretty different. Even Bus-she-ma, which I know isn't even close." Buscemi asked reports to respect his privacy while he sorts things out. A candlelight vigil is being held tonight at 9pm outside of Pink's hot dogs on Melrose.


*All of the above is a product of my overactive imagination, and not at all defamation, okey dokey?







Tuesday, April 14, 2009

We love you Michael Jackson!



This is wrong on so many levels...but at least it supports my "bow-tie wearing children adore noseless anime women" theory. Plus, the lyrics are spot on--I often describe MJ as cool and neat, and having the beat. Enjoy!

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Hooray! More Weird Album Cover Art!


I told you Superman needed a dune buggy. Makes a guy feel...complete.


Track listing:
1. Stamp (In the place where you live)
2. Might as well Junk (Mail)
3. This window is currently closedbird
4. American Pie
5. Cut off time (It's 5pm)



Reaching out...to the employers at American Apparel. Hook a hermano up, won't ya?


Zip zap shut your trap if you saying anything disparaging about the freestyling skills of one Mr. Devastatin' Dave. It's hard enough that he has to work his fingers to the bone under the tyrannical turntable--he doesn't need your guff.


Oh sweet! It's the lost Antony and the Johnsons record. Score!



I didn't know Lyle Lovett liked to party it up Ruskie-style...


The power of Christ compels you...to break the shit out of these bricks!


Yes please. I can put it next to my giant wall portrait of Mary Gross.


Great record...with songs chock full of hooks. Er...you've got to hand it to Jeff, he...no...i'm clawing at the surface to find...just forget it.


Trust me, you don't want to see his "Penis" album.


This exists! This exists! This exists! Go, tell it on the mountain!


Track listing:
1. Joaquin Phoenix on Letterman
2. David After Dentist
3. Billy Bob Thornton on the radio
4. Anyone on FOX News


He had to leave his Tijuana Picnic early to wrap all that original recipe and get it under the tree in time.


Hey-a Pi-nooo-chio! Les'a do'a album real quick nowa that you'a reaaal boya!


..... ... .. .... ... . . . .. . .......... . . ..... . ...... . .... ... ... ... ... .. ... . .... ... ..... (trust me, that's hilarious).

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Cinematic gems #6: Mirage


Gregory Peck gives one of his best and most complex performances in the 1965 amnesia thriller Mirage, a Hitchcockian mind-tease penned by Peter Stone (Charade, The Taking of Pelham 123). Peck portrays David Stillwell, who finds himself in a dark stairway corridor, unable to remember a thing--and his inability to know who he really is or what just happened is the only thing keeping him alive. With the help of a private detective (Walter Matthau, chock full of one-liners), Stillwell tries to piece his life back together, while interacting with several characters with shady motives. There's a corporate yes-man (Kevin McCarthy, of the original Invasion of the Body Snatchers and the, uh, original UHF); a possible old-flame and ally (Diane Baker); a steel-eyed thug (George Kennedy, who utters my favorite line: "I owe this man some pain!"); a mysterious military man known only as The Major (Leif Erickson), and even a character named Joe Turtle. As Stillwell starts to remember things and solve the puzzle of his own fragmented mind, he becomes surrounded by death and danger at every turn.


Directed by Edward Dmytryk (Raintree Country, The Young Lions, Alvarez Kelly), who seamlessly integrates flashbacks with present time (in a way TV's Lost would be proud of), the film moves at a terrific pace, drawing the viewer into Stillwell's plight, discovering things alongside of him. Shot in beautiful black and white by Joseph MacDonald (who also shot The Sand Pebbles and Mackenna's Gold) and scored by jazz legend Quincy Jones, Mirage was unfairly criticized as poor-man's Hitchcock--sure, stylistically it owes a bit to the master of suspense, but it's a sterling representation of the genre and a thrill to watch.

Monday, April 6, 2009

The amazing, astounding world of album cover art!



Good ol' Heino. I image this must be what a blind date with Andy Warhol would be like.



Satan IS real! And happy to stop for a snap shot with Christ-y crooners The Louvin Brothers.



Tino! Yes, please! This guys got X-factor drippin' off his cajones.



If, like me, you had SUCH a good time at Larz Kristerz' original Stuff Party, you'll be stoked for a chance at seconds. Ain't no party like a Stuff Party!



Reborn as a chameleon Harlequin.



There are no words...



There are PLENTY of words for this. Colonel Sanders' sure can throw a Tijuana Picnic. I mean, it's no Stuff Party, but there's plenty of original recipe and tequila.



So...no Ken if I don't ask for him?



...it was delicious!



Yes! Finally! Ventriloquism with a Bible slant! And Ventriloquism SUUUURE is impressive on RECORD.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Albums you should know #3: Midlake's The Trials of Van Occupanther



Hailing from Denton, Texas, Midlake's sophomore album proper, The Trials of Van Occupanther, is a glorious concept record that evokes the best qualities of 70's soft rock a la America and Fleetwood Mac. Loosely following the title character through trials and tribulations in the 1800's, with lyrical imagery recalling harsh winter landscapes, dangerous highwaymen, arranged marriages and stone masonry, the album combines gorgeous harmonies, sweeping melodies and a mish-mash of modern rock instrumentation and classical woodwinds and piano. Principal songwriter and lead vocalist Tim Smith hooks us early with the superb opening track "Roscoe," in which a driving piano leads to story-esque lyrics like "The mountaineers gathered timber piled high/In which to take along/Traveling many miles knowing they'd get here/When they got here all exhausted/On the roof leaks they got started/And now when the rain comes we can be thankful."

On it's heels is "Bandits," a sweet meditation on life-changing events in which the protagonist laments, "Did you ever want to be overrun by bandits/To hand over all your things and start over new?" This song in particular is reminiscent to the work of, say, Jimmy Webb and America's collaboration on songs from The Last Unicorn. It has a wee bit of a folk feel, weaving stark reality with just a bit of childlike innocence and sense of the magical. The tempo picks up, but the melancholy feeling of rapidly-disappearing daylight remains on "Head Home," in which Occupanther states, "Bring me a day full of honest work/And a roof that never leaks/I'll be satisfied/Bring me the news all about the town/How it struggles to help all the farmers out/During harvest time." After a Steely Dan-ish guitar solo, the song swells as Smith repeats "I'll think I'll head home" until, like the work day before it, it fades into oblivion. "Van Occupanther," the title-ish track, ambles along, another song dripping with hard labour, and as he struggles to get the work done ("These buckets are heavy/I've filled them with water/I could ask these people but I shouldn't bother") a nicely placed flute keeps him company.

One of the most popular tracks on the album (and deservedly so), "Young Bride" is the most accessible indie-rocker of the bunch: a slightly off-kilter but purely killer percussion track pushes the song to a boil. The song speaks of youth gone before it's time, due to the harsh conditions of the time--"My young bride/Why are your shoulders like that/Of a tired old woman/My young bride/Why are your fingers like that/Of the hedge in winter." Next up is "Branches," a Radiohead-esque slow burner, followed by "In This Camp," a chronicle of war-torn romance, which turns nicely into "We Gathered In Spring," in which Smith reminisces from a hilltop "On a clear day I can see/My old house and my wife/In the front yard talking with the friends." The inevitable snowfall haunting weary travelers is the subject of "It Covers the Hillsides," an up-tempo sing-along with a nice synth refrain. The album closes with two similar stories of love-lost and missed connections in "Chasing After Deer," and the short but bittersweet "You Never Arrived."

One wonders if Midlake's next release will be a complete departure from the styles exhibited here nicely, as their first album, "Bamnam and Silvercork" was reminiscent of Flaming Lips psych-rock. Whatever it is, I'm hungry to hear it.

*Note: It's been over three days since my last blog posting. My promise to you, readers. If, in the event that more than three days pass, I will post a picture of Scott Baio. So here ya go! And apologies for the delay!*