The entire Blogosphere boiled down by Vodkapundit Stephen Green, with an assist from the gang at PJTV HQ, to 4:46 minutes. It’s a process that’s so dynamic, the atomic matter in the webpages start to move at 29.9 frames per second:
Here are the links to the items that Steve mentions:
I was just emailing one of my new writers to see how often they might be able to write for us and I was planning on writing “weekly or bi-weekly” in reference to how often I should plan for one of their stories. Then it occurred to me that I couldn’t remember whether “biweekly” meant twice a week or every other week. What I wanted to say was “biweekly” as in every other week. (Because while I appreciate all the writers who I have the privilege of working with, I’d really want to see them delivering a single really solid piece a week for a few months before deciding to give them the Green Light on two per week.)
I thought a quick consultation with the Google Oracle would shine more light rather than heat on the matter. Instead my mild annoyance at my poor memory and English major shortcomings would mutate into hot rage upon reading the definition:
How the hell did this happen? Surely some editor at Merriam-Webster could have said,
You know, this is pretty worthless. We’re [fancy, obscure expletive that only highbrow dictionary editors know deleted] Merriam-Webster. We’re the ones that get to decide. Let’s just do the entire English-speaking world a favor and decide that biweekly means every other week.
Even worse, one of my English major friends from college commented when I ranted about this last night on my Facebook wall:
This is about the stupidest thing ever. Merriam-Webster says the same damn thing about bimonthly!!!! I always thought they meant every other week and every other month, respectively. Damn. It is very frustrating to see words rendered useless.
Does anyone else have suggestions for other words that need to be either destroyed or reformed in order to facilitate greater clarity and sanity?
Red State isn’t the political jeremiad its title portends…until it is.
Writer/director Kevin Smith’s latest film can’t decide what it wants to be — a bare-knuckled thriller, a conventional horror yarn, or a government conspiracy rant.
It’s all of the above, a genre mash-up without conviction, purpose, or clarity. It’s the least Kevin Smith-like film in the comedy director’s canon, but it still can’t reverse a downward spiral that appeared to bottom out with last year’s Cop Out.
And, if Red State is any indication, he shouldn’t consider a career as a political columnist anytime soon.
A local school teacher tries to explain why the town must let the crazed churchgoers speak even if what they say is uniformly wicked. It‘s a free speech thing, but no one around agrees with what they‘re selling.
“Even ultra conservatives avoid this guy,” the teacher tells her class, a line which seems to nullify any potential religious critique Smith has in mind.
Three hormonal students have more important matters in mind than some morally bankrupt church. They’ve struck up a cyber-friendship with a 30-something woman and plan to meet her for a group sexual encounter. It’s a rushed, impractical excuse to set the story in motion, but audiences can forgive plenty if the payoff delivers.
The boys meet the mystery woman (Melissa Leo), who clearly looks older than her advertised age, but they’re too horny to quibble about that or the depressing trailer she calls home.
“The devil’s right in here,” Leo’s character purrs, handing them spiked beers to quaff before the orgy commences. The drugged boys wake up in a church where they’re about to be sacrificed by a maniacal preacher named Abin Cooper (Michael Parks).
“It’s gonna get grown-up in here,” Cooper says after a long-winded sermon, ushering the children out so that a Hostel-style slaughter can commence.
Red State reaches its zenith here, as Smith’s camera shakes and shudders to capture the fear felt by the stunned young men. And Parks, a relative unknown given a pretty big spotlight, is mesmerizing as a man who can make fire and brimstone sound downright charming.
“God doesn’t love you…unless you fear him,” Parks says.
For many, a cup of coffee offers an essential kick-start to the day.
But it seems this is not the case for American newsman Anderson Cooper — who tried the caffeine-filled drink for the first time yesterday.
* * *
Cooper then went on to try something else that has never passed his lips before — spinach.
In fact, picky eater Anderson revealed he is not a lover of vegetables in the slightest, saying he has not tried most of the green variety.
As for the spinach, it was ‘gross’ and ‘slithery’ in his esteemed opinion.
And it was only in 2009 that the then-41-year old anchorman professed to trying Reddi-wip for the first time. As Mary Katharine Ham quipped back then, “I must admit, this is not the household item I would have expected Anderson Cooper to be unfamiliar with, but alas:”
French fries sizzling in hot oil. Fresh (at least at some point) hamburger searing on the flat top grill. Squeaky-voiced teen messing up our order and saying he’ll have to ask his manager. This is the fast food experience Americans are all familiar with. When we walk into a fast food restaurant we all have a certain set of expectations about the food and service based on our previous experiences. That’s why we continue to go back — no matter where in the country we are, we expect the same McDonald’s or Taco Bell meal.
However, it seems to be increasingly evident that fast food restaurants are trying new gimmicks marketing techniques to change both our expectations and perceptions of what they’re serving and how they’re serving it. If my business was being endlessly attacked by nanny-staters that want to dictate what I can and can’t serve my customers, I’d probably try almost anything to keep them coming in the door. But when you try to create the perception of better food and better value instead of actually giving it to your customers, you become a prime candidate for today’s list.
Wendy’s is the least offensive of the restaurants on this list.
I’ve had plenty of food from Wendy’s that I have enjoyed, and can see to some degree why people want to duck in for a square burger and Frosty. However, Wendy’s definitely has some issues bubbling underneath the surface.
Despite the fact that Wendy’s often views itself as superior among the likes of competitors like McDonald’s and Burger King, the qualities they tout are mostly a façade. Take, for example, their new Natural-Cut Fries. They were obviously trying to take advantage of the fact that those restaurants that are doing fresh-cut, skin-on fries are doing well because people can taste a difference. But while Wendy’s fries have the skin-on appearance, they are the same frozen matchsticks shipped on a truck that they always were. Truthfully, with every new “fresh” item they roll out they are really just justifying their higher prices (compared to other burger chains) without really delivering a hell of a lot more in the quality department.
On a more anecdotal note, I seem to have many more service issues at the various Wendy’s I go to than at other burger joints. This includes forgotten drive-thru items, cash register operators who are bad enough at math to apply for a job as Treasury secretary in the Obama administration, and the fact that they still refuse to have a self-serve soda fountain. If refills are indeed free and I want more Diet Coke, don’t make me have to interrupt someone who is “working” in order to get it.
Wednesday, September 28th, 2011 - by Stephen Green
Brother and sister gadget freaks, by now you’ve seen the news: Amazon has introduced four new Kindles — one of them a 7-inch tablet for the low, low price of $199. Is it time for Apple to start crapping itself? Let’s take a look.
At the low end you have the new Kindle, much like the old Kindle 3 I love so dearly. The cheap-ass “keyboard” is gone, replaced with a simple-looking row of controls under the screen. You can get it for as low as $79, if you’re willing to look at ads instead of book covers on your screen saver. Or you can pay $109 if you aren’t.
This one is WiFi only — and that’s fine by me. Melissa has the WiFi-only Kindle 3 and I have the one with 3G, but I’ve found that for most people, it’s probably a convenience not worth the extra fifty bucks. I think 3G connectivity is a must for a tablet — but we’ll get back to that in a bit.
My one complaint about the Kindle 3 is that the page-turning buttons are much too easy to hit by accident, especially if you like to read laying down on your side. The new buttons solve that problem. It’s also quite a bit smaller and lighter, more than I’d even hoped.
Amazon is getting wonderfully close, I think, to the time when they’ll give out Kindles for free with some kind of “Kindle Prime” book-buying subscription. Two years sounds about right.
For another twenty or thirty bucks — $99 with ads, $139 without — you can buy a Kindle Touch. It’s not quite as small and light as the new Kindle Untouched, but it’s still smaller than your Kindle 3. Bring the price up to $149, and you’ve got 3G added to the soup.
But the Touch still features an E Ink screen, which is great for reading, but lousy for manipulating. E-Ink can refresh the page only twice each second. To me, adding touch to E-Ink is like adding an aquarium to the dashboard of your car. Sure, it looks pretty — but what is it really going to do for you? However, if Amazon has given the interface enough Ooh-Pretties, maybe this will be a show-stopper. For me, though, I’d stick with the $99 model.
And what’s with charging $20 to get rid of ads on the Untouched, but $30 to get rid of them on the Touch? That silly kind of pricing signal tells me that Amazon has developed the Touch for status-buyers, and not because touch ads anything vital to the user experience.
If you need a keyboard, you can get the “new” Kindle Keyboard for $99 with ads, or $139 without. Near as I can tell, it’s last year’s Kindle 3 with a new name and a lower price. Nifty, if you can’t live without the World’s Worst Keyboard™. This is old news — don’t bother.
But the real showstopper is the Kindle Fire. Imagine: A full-color, multitouch, 7-inch Android tablet for just $199. Has the iPad killer finally arrived?
Wednesday, September 28th, 2011 - by Charlie Martin
This from a friend, Amanda Green:
Whether Amazon’s new Kindle Fire will be the iPad killer some have predicted remains to be seen. But Jeff Bezos has struck another nail into the coffins of those publishers who continue to believe e-books are a craze that will one day just fade away. Bezos is betting those naysayers are wrong, just as he has bet that all those who say reading for pleasure is a dying art are wrong.
This morning, Bezos fired multiple shots across the bow of not only Apple, but Barnes & Noble, Kobo and Sony, among others. His first shot was the announcement of the new Kindle Touch. With the “most advanced” E-ink display and an extra-long battery life, the Kindle Touch will sell for $99. That’s right, Bezos has broken what many have long felt to be the magic price point for e-readers, the price most people will be willing to spend.
There’s more. This Kindle Touch is the wifi version. For $149, you get a Kindle Touch with free 3G service that will work in 100 countries. There will be no 3G contract required, no monthly fees, no nothing except for price of the books you download.
But that wasn’t the end of the surprises from Bezos. If a $99 Kindle Touch isn’t enough to tempt those who have been holding off buying an e-book reader, Bezos announced that the Kindle will now have a $79 model. This version will have buttons, faster page turns and will weigh in at under six ounces.
Turning on the TV and flipping through the dial, or rifling through any well-stocked DVD collection, it’s obvious that different eras have different looks we associate with them. We think of the 1930s and ‘40s as being in black and white, the lush Technicolor of ‘50s widescreen epics, the split-screen effects of late 1960s movies, today’s digital CGI effects, and so on. But certain eras have unique sounds as well. And tracking these down can be rather elusive.
Back in 2007, Jersey City’s WFMU radio station, on its popular “Beware of the Blog” er, blog, had a great podcast and accompanying blog post on “The Music Everybody Loves! Everybody Wants! Nobody Has!” It’s a sort Raiders of the Lost Music Cues from the 1960s, beginning with the cheesy but beloved 1967 Spider-Man cartoon series. Everybody knows the theme song (“Is he strong? Listen bud, He’s got radioactive blood!”), but it’s the music within the episodes themselves that we’ve all heard, but because of copyright issues have become somewhat lost over time:
When I first posted this article in early 2007, the reason did not start and stop with a simple celebration of this music. I actually wanted to track it down. After the initial post, I heard loud and clear from all facets of nerds, many of them angry (you’d be mad too if you went decades without getting laid). The music from the second and third season came almost exclusively from a music library in England. It might all be a blur for the average reader or fan – what music came from what season? I’ve taken the liberty of putting together an hour podcast that pitts, side by side, the original muddy sounding soundtrack from the show, to the pristine original master tapes of the corresponding song, beautifully preserved, from the KPM library. Listen to it here.
The KPM music library is the oldest and largest music library in Britain – maybe even the world. They still exist today, and for a fee, you too could use the original Spider-man music in a film or TV show. This link is essential and gives you everything you need to know about KPM. Also, a special thanks to this enormous group of nerds who have added insight, information, links and corrections – their message board is well worth checking out. Many people have searched for this music throughout the years, and although they remain anonymous (but super nerdy), their work and persistance paid off. Just finding KPM alone is not enough. The KPM library consists of thousands and thousands of reels, tapes, and LPs and as mentioned before, none of these are labeled “the music from Spider-man.” They had to be scoured individually before the correct beds were unearthed. The majority of the songs in the second and third seasons were composed by these British songsmiths: Syd Dale, Alan Hawkshaw,Johnny Hawksworth, David Lindup, Bill Martin and Phil Coulter.
In the late 1960s, these music cues were everywhere. At NFL Films, in-between the scores they commissioned from composer Sam Spence, John Facenda’s Voice of God was frequently accompanied by cues from KPM in in numerous late-‘60s highlight reels. (Listen to the cues at 2:00 minutes and 53:00 into the above-linked podcast. If you’ve watched old NFL Super Bowl highlight reels on ESPN or the NFL channel, you know you’ve heard these. And they even made it to England — these cues appeared in several Monty Python episodes. I’m pretty sure that the thermonuclear musical sting that accompanies the Spanish Inquisition — unexpectedly! — whenever they burst into the room was taken from the tail-end of one of these recordings. (listen at about 43:45 in the KMFU podcast.) And speaking of Python’s religious parodies…It’s The Bishop!
Roger L. Simon recently did a post on “The Death of the Cool,” but as far as jazz itself, listening to WMFU’s podcast on KPM, you can really hear the very end of postwar cool. Take a listen to the cue at 38:00 minutes into their podcast, and it’s last round-up for the sorts of swank arrangements Gil Evans was writing for Miles in the 1950s.
Hi there, Johnny! Wouldn't you like to join us over at the Hot, Sexy Yoga Class? Financing is available....
In the two years since my separation and ultimate divorce, I have learned exactly one thing per annum:
You can’t count on nobody. (Mr. Editor: Please leave intact.)
Everyone’s got an angle — and it’s an angle that directly benefits them.
Let me give you an example.
My buddy (and employee — watch out for the angle) Begunga Mike strolls into my office one day and sits down directly across from me. [For the story of how Mike got his Begunga moniker see my blog here.] He eyes me appraisingly, then crosses his humongous, sandled right foot over his left thigh. (No, we don’t have a dress code.)
This is a bad sign. It means he’s trying to enlist me in some sort of scheme, and of course the scheme addresses his needs as well as (allegedly) mine.
Mike is a tall and well-built guy, mid 30s, with an almost psychopathic self-confidence. He might be a Bosnian or Russian or maybe even German soldier in one of those cheesy Army flicks that play at 1 AM on the local infomercial station. High Slavic cheekbones, prominent and bumpy nose, direct and unflinching grey eyes, short, sometimes shaven scalp, and long, well-groomed digits above and below (the girls like his feet — that’s why he wears sandals) — all contribute to his air of supreme mastery of and dominion over all that he comes into contact with.
The sad case of Jamey Rodemeyer, a 14-year-old gay kid who committed suicide after being bullied, has inspired Lady Gaga to try to get involved in the situation. She’s insisting that bullying be made illegal. Since she’s a spoiled pop star suggesting an idea that’s about as sensible as wearing a meat suit, she probably won’t have much luck with it. And she certainly shouldn’t.
That being said, I have more empathy for Jamey Rodemeyer and other kids like him because I was bullied in high school and can tell you that it’s a horrible experience. Not only are you afraid that you’re going to be physically attacked, you flinch from the terrible things that are said about you. Worst of all you feel badly about yourself for allowing it to happen. It turns run-of-the-mill experiences — like walking from class to class, getting on a bus to go home, or finding out who’s going to be in your homeroom — into anxious nightmares.
You know why I was bullied? I was a quiet, meek, non-confrontational kid who liked to read and had zero interest in getting in fights. In other words, I was an easy mark. There was really nothing more to it than that. As I look back at it now, I can’t think of a single thing I ever did to merit being bullied. I didn’t mouth off, I didn’t pick on people, I didn’t want any conflict (as opposed to the present, where I’ve learned to revel in political warfare). This is one of the many reasons that to this day I roll my eyes when people say, “Why do they hate us?” I damn well know from personal experience that there are a lot of evil people who will try to hurt you for no other reason than because they think they can get away with it.
Let me also note that the tactics most people advocate to combat bullying are laughably ineffective. If you get bullied, go tell your teacher! Call a bullying hotline!
The reality is that if the teachers were really keeping a close eye on everything that’s going on around the school there wouldn’t be any bullying going on in the first place. The biggest reason bullies can exist is because teachers don’t pay attention to what’s happening most of the time.
Monday, September 26th, 2011 - by Michael van der Galien
By Michael van der Galien
Facebook is supposed to be one of the most innovative social networking websites on the Net. It is, at the very least, the biggest — by far.
But for how long will Mark Zuckerberg’s Harvard project remain number one? It’s a fair question to ask now that the changes Facebook announced Thursday at its f8 conference are being criticized by virtually everybody — except for Zuckerberg himself, that is.
When Google+, the new social network of Google, was launched, many were critical. The criticism disappeared at the very moment people starting using it, however: all its new users fell in love with it immediately. This wasn’t just a “social network,” it was truly a new home on the Internet, especially for those who had grown tired of Facebook’s clutter and arrogance.
Facebook knew it had to strike back. First came video chat, which is a partnership with Skype. Then, this week, other innovations were rolled out: the biggest changes were a new news stream and the possibility to subscribe to users’ public posts. Then, Thursday, other changes were introduced that, Zuckerberg announced, would truly revolutionize your Internet experience.
But are these changes in the best interest of Facebook’s 800 million users? No. Not even almost.
Monday, September 26th, 2011 - by Ronnie Schreiber
Have you ever noticed how many police there are at car cruise events? I first noticed this at the Detroit area’s Woodward Dream Cruise a few years ago. Now, with a crowd of a million people along with 40,000 special interest cars, some being driven by folks eager to burn rubber, I can understand the need for some law enforcement officers to police a crowd that large but it seems to me that the police presence at the Dream Cruise has always been a bit over the top. Crowds of a half million or more are not uncommon in the Detroit area, with that many or more people annually watching the big Freedom Festival fireworks celebrating the Fourth of July in the US and Dominion Day across the river in Canada. Similarly large crowds show up for the Thanksgiving Day parade, and when the Gold Cup hydroplane races take place on the Detroit River. As many as two million people have celebrated Red Wings’ Stanley Cup and Pistons’ NBA championships. You never see as many cops at those events as you do during the Dream Cruise. It’s almost as though police use car events to get paid overtime while they cruise at taxpayers’ expense.
Over at the Art of the Title blog, they have an extensive interview with the designers of the Mad Men TV series’ now-iconic title sequence. (How iconic? The Simpsonsdid a fun parody of it, with Homer as Don Draper, of course.)
As Mark Gardner of the design/production house Imaginary Forces tells Art of the Title, when the title sequence was initially conceived in 2007, “AMC had all kinds of issues with having someone falling from a skyscraper. I have seen some blog posts written about this, arguing whether or not it’s exploitative for the show to use a figure falling. Some people saw references to 9/11 and all of that, and in the beginning AMC were totally against the idea.”
And hopefully, series producer Matthew Weiner eschews conventional melodrama sufficiently so that we can assume that the series won’t end its run with Don taking a header off the top of the Seagram Building. So it functions as a metaphor for the day to day life of Don Draper himself. At least in the show’s first three seasons, on a regular basis, Don goes from Master of the Advertising Universe (to mix metaphors with Tom Wolfe’s Bonfire of the Vanities) and swinging stud juggling affairs with sexy businesswomen and Greenwich Village artists to taking the 5:30 back to Ossining every night — well, almost every night. There, seated in his living room couch, Lucky Strike in hand, he has to play the role of dedicated family man. Work and home require very different identities, and Don’s entire identity (SPOILER ALERT!) is itself a put-on, so no wonder each day for him runs the risk of a sort of metaphoric suicide. Or as hard-drinking ad man Freddy Rumsen wistfully says to Don after being fired for not being hold his liquor, “If I don’t go into that office every day, who am I?,” the flip-side of Bert Cooper’s aphorism that “a man is whatever room he is in.” Don Draper is Gatsby as Everyman, but underneath it all, Dick Whitman, Don’s version of James Gatz, midwestern farm boy who escapes to the big city, is much closer to the surface.
Great shows are more than the sum of their parts, and just as Star Trek and Miami Vice would be unthinkable without their stylish title sequences, Mad Men’s title sequence, while somewhat “apart” from the show itself (an AMC executive, upon viewing the Mad Men titles for the first time, thought they had a bit of a a Twilight Zone-style surrealism to them) also opens it up — both in the sense of opening the show, and expanding upon its themes — in a way that’s truly striking.
This month, amid much controversy, Team Obama launched AttackWatch.com, a new website ostensibly designed to compile and refute all arguments against President Obama’s policies and actions in preparation for the 2012 campaign. Little did they know that instead of helping to launch campaigns against Obama’s critics, provide counter-arguments for statists, and generally support the president, the site would backfire, and Obama himself would realize he actually does suck.
AttackWatch, not really sinister, just designed to look that way.
“After reading all the complaints about me, compiled all together like that, I realized, I am a s**tty president after all,” said Obama. “The logic of the arguments, the reasoning, were just too plain-as-the-nose-on-my-face to ignore.” Obama went on to remark, “I had no idea I sucked so bad. That’s why I just kept doing the same stuff! I thought socialism was working. Everybody was saying it was working.”
"Oh s*it! I really do suck!"
AttackWatch.com submissions include criticisms of the president’s foreign policy of appeasement, the high unemployment rate, ObamaCare, inflation, the long, drawn-out recession, the anti-business nature of his administration, the nationalization of business, the crony capitalism, and much, much, much, much, much, much, much more.
Saturday, September 24th, 2011 - by Ronnie Schreiber
Yes, that’s a 3D photo. You can see it, and the full gallery of photos, in 2D or your choice of 3D formats at Cars In Depth.
This is the first V8 powered Corvette. Not the first production Corvette offered with a V8 engine – it’s the actual first Corvette into which Chevrolet installed a V8. Using GM’s nomenclature for experimental cars it is EX-87. Among Corvette enthusiasts, it’s known as the Duntov Mule and it’s now part of the Lingenfelter Collection. There are some exceptionally rare cars in the collection. For example, the Lamborghini Reventon is one of only 20 ever made. Ken Lingenfelter’s Ferrari Enzo is #399, the last one assembled. He’s also got a number of rare Corvettes and other muscle cars. The Duntov Mule, though, is most likely the most historically significant and irreplaceable vehicle in the collection. This Corvette’s history and its provenance make it one of the most valuable Corvettes in the world. Lingenfelter paid $310,000 for it when it was up for auction in 2009.
Stephen Green, the man, the myth, the Martini-imbibing legend; you give him four minutes, and he’ll give you the entire Blogosphere. With all the boring bits cut out, and in video, to boot. He’s just that kind of guy:
Here are the links to the items that Steve mentions:
One of the odd things about the Internet is that so many people don’t seem to understand that it’s real. Sure, they realize that there’s a computer in front of them, a “series of tubes,” and then…it gets kind of foggy. It’s like they think there are magical pixies from the land of Lulz on the other end, as opposed to their family, friends, co-workers, and old boyfriends who are obsessively poring over their Facebook page.
Granted, they are aware that they do need to be careful about a few things: viruses, hackers, identity thieves, Nigerian princes who want to give them millions of dollars — all the standard stuff. But there are some lesser known dangers of the Internet that can steamroll your life like Paris Hilton stampeding towards a line of cocaine.
1) Upload naked pictures and videos.
You’d be surprised how many people have naked pictures of themselves. Maybe they’re guys like Anthony Weiner who have the mistaken impression that anyone wants to see their junk. Maybe they’re women who get a little excited at the idea of a man seeing them naked. Maybe they’re even a couple who wants to take it to the next level by filming themselves having sex to see if it looks more like a porn movie or two sea lions fighting under a blanket. Whatever the case may be, the problem is that in a digital age, these pictures and videos can get out to a much larger audience than originally intended. Just ask Weiner about that.
Personally, I once had a roommate call me in to look at some woman he’d met online who was trying to turn him on via webcam. I’ve also had more than one guy who broke up with his girlfriend who just flat out offered to show me naked pictures of her. One of them had dated the girl for almost two years. In all of those cases, the offers were completely unsolicited, so who knows how many other people got a look? I could tell you another half dozen disturbing stories about naked pictures (yes, it’s really that common of an issue) — but instead, let me just say this: you’d be surprised at how often those pictures end up causing problems. Think very, very hard before you take those pictures in the first place because once they get out of your control, you’ll never get them back.
Friday, September 23rd, 2011 - by Jonathan Sanders
R.E.M. may have broken up, but there’s still the music.
Together for thirty years, R.E.M.’s greatest albums showcase the Athens, Georgia, legends’ incredible artistic progression for what it was — a true Rock rarity. They also serve as a welcome introduction to the rest of the band’s deep discography. Though there’s plenty of great writing about what the band’s music means to contemporary listeners in relation to their breakup earlier this week, I prefer to focus on the music itself to see what made R.E.M. stand apart from the crowd.
These five albums have proven to be the ones I’ve gone back to most often, the albums which provide the best look at what the band had to offer musically, where they’ve been and where we’re left now that there will be no sixteenth album. These may not be the albums you’d expect from a critic, since we’re supposed to prefer only the “indie” releases, shying away from respecting the hits which saw “mainstream” success, leading to the band’s inevitable demise. As a listener I don’t feel there’s a need for “guilty” pleasures, and in the case of R.E.M. the singles are as much a part of why they’ll be remembered as are the indie albums that built their success to the point where multi-platinum success was a reality.
Few bands in the modern rock or alternative landscape have managed to craft such a diverse discography, so many albums which managed to build upon each other, creating mainstream success through recording, touring and then living the music and letting it live through them. Though R.E.M. will be remembered for their singles, a look back through the band’s strongest albums shows that their music was always built on a strong recognition of pop hooks and songwriting. The band has left us with fifteen albums which cement their legacy, leaving plenty of room for future exploration. Their influence on the world of rock and alternative is far from over.
- – - – -
#5 — Accelerate (2008)
R.E.M. was forced to transition to being a trio when drummer Bill Barry left the band in the late 90s, and though they attempted to carry on with experimentations with drum-machines on Up, R.E.M.’s early 2000s albums (Reveal and Around The Sun) showed they were floundering creatively. The latter album actually failed to even go Gold in the United States, the first album since Document put them into the stratosphere, to fail to do so.
Thankfully, Accelerate, their 14th studio album was a complete turnaround — the band seemed reinvigorated, accelerating their sound by returning to the garage rock of their late 80s / early 90s work. It was immediately clear from the up-tempo opening track “Living Well Is The Best Revenge,” as Michael Stipe piled on the garage-rock hooks to push their sound back to the underground days of their first four albums, while emphasizing their studio abilities in the strong production values. “I’m not one to sit and spin,” he growls, “because living well is the best revenge!” Indeed. Accelerate was a tight 11-track album which proved you can go back again.
I wondered about this as I watched the new show last night Person of Interest. The show is about a different person each week who is either the victim or perpetrator of a violent crime and of course, the “good guys” who put a stop to it before it happens.
In the season premiere, the “person of interest” is a woman, Diane Hanson, an assistant DA for the city. Naturally, it is thought that she is going to be the victim of the crime, perhaps targeted by a gang she is prosecuting or her ex-boyfriend who works in the same office. It turns out, Hanson, the pretty DA, is actually the ring leader of a group of bad cops who she tells to kill her ex who seems to be on to them. So score one for the ex who is actually the good guy here.
I have also noticed in a few commercials lately that it is the wives, not the husbands who are put in a worse light. In one phone commercial, a man tells his wife that he got a contract for a cell phone and she mutters about how wasteful he is with money and how he doesn’t consult her when spending money. It turns out, he got the phone for free and and she looks shocked and shuts up.
In another State Farm commercial, a guy is talking to his agent in the middle of the night innocently while his wife comes downstairs, yelling at him for talking to what she thinks is a woman he is involved with. The male agent is shown at the end of the commercial in his cubicle while the husband just looks slightly exasperated with his jealous wife. These commercials aren’t the best but I wonder if it shows that the tide is turning with the “men are idiots and cheaters” theme.
What do you think? Do you see examples where men are portrayed on television in a more positive light or have I just cherry-picked a few examples that are not part of a trend?
Moneyball is a highly polished piece of entertainment that knows how to please an audience. Does it matter if this movie is essentially wrong?
Based on the celebrated bestseller by Michael Lewis, the film is a diluted version of The Social Network– a tale of a misfit who hit it big by bucking the system. But picture a Social Network that was made by people who actually liked their subject — liked him so much they hired Brad Pitt to play him.
Pitt is Billy Beane, the (now-legendary) general manager of the Oakland Athletics baseball team during the glory years when they won so many World Series titles — in the early 2000s.
Except the A’s haven’t won any World Series lately. Or even made it to the World Series. That is a problem for this film, which instead uses as its climactic moment an (ultimately trivial) 20-game winning streak the team enjoyed in 2002. That glorious season came after Beane, whose small-market team had a budget roughly one-fourth the size of that of the best-funded one, the New York Yankees, lost three of his best players to free agency and then, seemingly in a fit of pique, traded away a couple of key starting players in midseason.
Beane is a perfect character for this moment — he’s portrayed as being ruthlessly empirical, technocratic, concerned with results instead of the appearances that obsess his staff of old-time baseball scouts and their avatar, the team’s recalcitrant, traditionalist manager Art Howe (Philip Seymour Hoffman). Pitt’s Beane is also one of the few bosses in the history of movies who is portrayed as doing the brave, smart, and proper thing every time he fires or demotes one of his workers.
His partner as he bucks the system is a nerdy Yale graduate, Peter Brand (Jonah Hill, in straight-man mode), an economics graduate and budding genius who teaches Beane about how to analyze players using raw number-crunching. A great level of detail about these numbers is in Lewis’s book, but the big-screen version (directed by Bennett Miller, who previously made Capote) is almost devoid of stats. What we learn about Beane and Brant’s newfangled way of looking at baseball is that some players are worth much more or less than their apparent market value, that a walk is as good as a hit, and that bunting and base-stealing are bad ideas.
Beane says he wants not just for the A’s to win but to “change the game,” and the movie makes it clear that he at least succeeds in this latter goal. But did he? Moneyball is about rigorous facts, so it wouldn’t want us to be so sentimental as to say that, because the A’s made the playoffs five times under Beane’s system, they’re a great team or even an above-average one. This year will mark their fifth straight year of missing the playoffs in a system in which almost thirty percent of the teams make it to the postseason.
Visually they are a nightmare: tight, dandified, Edwardian-Beatnik suits and great pudding bowls of hair. Musically they are a near-disaster: guitars and drums slamming out a merciless beat that does away with secondary rhythms, harmony, and melody. Their lyrics (punctuated by nutty shouts of “yeah, yeah, yeah!”) are a catastrophe, a preposterous farrago of Valentine-card romantic sentiments.
Which actually, was a perfectly understandable reaction to the Beatles’ arrival; if it sounds surreal in retrospect, it’s only because the Beatles’ role in demolishing the post-war pop culture, and the resulting boomer mythology that essentially paints the 1960s’ pop culture into three phases:
The JFK/Mad Men/Rat Pack early ’60s.
The mud at Woodstock.
The entire overculture of the 1960s has been largely erased by the mythology of the decade’s counterculture. (See The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Sixties and vast tracts of James Lileks’ archives to get a sense of the forgotten dominant culture of the decade.) And the superstar musicians at the top of the era’s primary culture — Bing, Frank, Dino, and Nat ‘King’ Cole, for example — all thought exactly the same way as Newsweek did back then. (So did my father; the timeline on his vast music collection essentially ended the day the Beatles touched down in the US.)
But as Newsweek’s wonderfully flinty screed concluded back then:
The big question in the music business at the moment is: will the Beatles last? The odds are that, in the words of another era, they’re too hot not to cool down, and a cooled-down Beatle is hard to picture. It is also hard to imagine any other field in which they could apply their talents, and so the odds are that they will fade away, as most adults confidently predict.
Oh, would that it were true. Flash-forward nearly 50 years, and Tina Brown’s Daily Beast, which bought (for a dollar) the rights to the Newsweek name is still, in its own way, very much into dad’s music today:
And while Kiss has had some great songs from time to time, it’s tough squaring the idea of a band in kabuki make-up, featuring half the original members gone, and replaced by clones wearing the old greasepaint as a band to believe in.
I was watching the (A&E Biography) of Ted Williams, the baseball player. This guy raised himself as a latchkey kid, gets drafted by the Boston Red Sox, becomes the greatest hitter in the history of baseball. At the peak of his career, he signs up for World War II, becomes the most decorated fighter pilot in that war, goes back into baseball. He’s the last guy to hit .400, sleeps with every woman in Boston twenty-two times, signs up for the Korean War, gets four more medals.
And then the show ends and I look up on the shelf above my TV. There’s a picture of me in fifth grade holding a three-inch sunfish.
In 1998, broadcaster TOM BROKAW coined the phrase the “Greatest Generation” to describe the American men and women born more or less between 1901-1924, “who grew up in the United States during the deprivation of the Great Depression, and then went on to fight in World War II, as well as those whose productivity [on] the war’s home front made a decisive material contribution to the war effort.”
“It is, I believe, the greatest generation any society has ever produced,” Brokaw wrote, because they fought “not for fame and recognition, but because it was the right thing to do.”
Decades earlier, in his inaugural address, JFK (himself a decorated veteran of the Second World War) had presented a memorable thumbnail sketch of his own cohort:
[T]he torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans—born in this century, tempered by war, disciplined by a hard and bitter peace, proud of our ancient heritage.
Later, RONALD REAGAN (and rookie speechwriter PEGGY NOONAN) paid unforgettable tribute to “the boys of Pointe du Hoc” – all greyhaired grandfathers by the time the president saluted them at Normandy, forty years after they’d struggled onto the beach:
These are the men who took the cliffs. These are the champions who helped free a continent. And these are the heroes who helped end a war. (…)
You were young the day you took these cliffs; some of you were hardly more than boys, with the deepest joys of life before you. Yet you risked everything here. Why? Why did you do it? What impelled you to put aside the instinct for self-preservation and risk your lives to take these cliffs? What inspired all the men of the armies that met here? We look at you, and somehow we know the answer. It was faith and belief. It was loyalty and love.