29 June 2007

But he could afford the $10 plan...

Gotta say, the iPhone looks pretty schweet. But I still won't be spending my six-hundred-dollars-up-front-plus-sixty-dollar-a-month on one. Here's a piece I wrote for today's Ledger-Enquirer.

In honor of Apple's phone launch, the cynics at eMusic have offered Apple CEO Steve Jobs a free lifetime subscription to their download service, which offers restriction-free downloads on music from slews of independent artists -- including some of the biggies like Arcade Fire and pre-major-label Modest Mouse. And the new Paul McCartney. Anyway, it's a great deal for folks whose taste is slightly left o' center. And you can use the songs in any media player (including iPods, Steve), burn them to an audio CD or whatever you like. Best of all, you don't have to to use the horrendous resource hog that is iTunes (unless you're transferring them to an iPod).

"We know Steve Jobs loves music, so for his new iPhone we thought he might want something a little different from the Top 40 fare that iTunes focuses on,” said David Pakman, eMusic President and CEO in a press release.

I love eMusic mostly because I get 40 MP3 downloads a month for $10. But they've raised the rates for newbies, who only get 30 (*only*) for $10 now. Now I also love them because their president's name comes from Namco.


"I've got a callus on my finger
and my shoulder's hurting too
I'm gonna eat them all up
just as soon as they turn blue"
-- Buckner & Garcia, "Pac-Man Fever"

27 June 2007

Do they even listen to the lyrics?

I'm not sure what Shane MacGowan and The Pogues had in mind when they wrote and recorded "The Sunny Side of the Street" back in 1990, but I'm pretty sure it wasn't pimping Cadillacs.

Nevertheless, I just heard and saw for the second time a commercial using that song to peddle the new Cadillac SRX Crossover. This commercial features an upscale late-20 or early-30something couple, with kids, driving on the cliched car-commercial-scenic-fall-roadways using a fancy-schmancy GPS nav system.

The horror.

I think if they're going to make that kind of a leap with a song that sprung from dark, Guinness-soaked pubs, they should be required to show an inset picture of McGowan singing -- kind of like those sign-language translators on old religious programs -- so people could see his teeth. Like this:

This bastardization of a song is really more offensive than when Cadillac used a Zep track. At least Led Zeppelin's music was stolen in the first place.

"As my mother wept it was then I swore
To take my life as I would a whore
I know I'm better than before"
-- The Pogues, "The Sunny Side of the Street"

26 June 2007

Popping 'Z' question

OK, so if you're going to spell out the letter Z, it's officially "z-e-e." That's three letters, including the letter you're actually trying to spell.


So you already have to know the letter to be able to spell it (or look it up in the dictionary, for instance). Which raises the million-dollar question: Outside of Scrabble games, why would anyone spell "Z" instead of just using the letter? Seems like you'd be tripling your productivity to me.

Anyone? Anyone? Linda?

25 June 2007

This (stuff) is bananas!

The Publix penny coupon that comes in the Sunday paper is a guilty pleasure of mine. Maybe it's the whole "mystery" aspect of what one cent will buy me (with $10 purchase, of course). Solving mysteries reminds me of Scooby Doo or something. Come to think of it, I used to love buying those novelty store grab bags -- the ones with the question marks all over them, only they were always just filled with plastic army men and maybe one of those tiny dinosaur sponges that's supposed to get really big in water.

I digress.

Last week's mystery coupon bought us a box of Publix brand vanilla wafers. And I think that's the only time I've bought a box of vanilla wafers as an adult. So I did the only thing I know how to do with vanilla wafers: I made banana pudding.

Only, on principle, I refused to buy the Jello normally required for the pudding part. I mean, what's the point of scoring a one-cent box of cookies if you then have to spend $5 on other supplies to use them? (The bananas weren't a problem. We always buy bananas.) So I actually made the pudding from scratch, too, using egg, sugar, butter and flour -- and an old recipe that I think came from the box of the real Nilla Wafers. (Yep. Here 'tis.)

It was yummers. And yes, that's actually a picture of the pudding that I made.***


"Four banana, three banana, two banana, one
All bananas playing in the bright warm sun
Flippin' like a pancake, poppin' like a cork
Fleagle, Bingo, Drooper and Snork"
-- Mark Barkham & Richie Adams,
"The Tra La La Song"

***Gwen Stefani not included

24 June 2007

Sunday spins (aka 'Sun Comes Up, It's Sunday Morning')

Haven't posted my Sunday spins in a while, so I thought I'd resuscitate that. To quickly review, Sunday is the day for sleeping in and loading up the five-disc changer with old CDs that haven't been played in way too long. Here's what I put in today:

* Liz Phair, "whitechocolate- spaceegg." Because she didn't always suck. This was back, just after the time she wanted to be our BJ queen. "Polyester Bride" is a great, silly song.

* Steve Earle, "El Corazon." Of all of Steve Earle's great albums, this one's got the best rockers. "Taneytown" and "Here I Am," for example. And "N.Y.C." -- wherein he belts, "Goin', goin', goin' to New York City. Never really been there, I just like the way it sounds" -- which makes my list of 10 best songs ever.

* Cowboy Junkies, "The Caution Horses." I usually pick the Junkies' "Black Eyed Man," or "Lay It Down." But this is a great CD too.

* Irving, "Death in the Garden, Blood on the Flowers." Great, eclectic indie pop in the spirit of the Elephant 6 Collective bands.

* Freeloader, "Custom/10." Picked up this disc when these New York rockers happened through The Loft a few years ago. It's got a great "A.M."-era Wilco vibe to it. I need to check out their 2005 sophomore disc...

22 June 2007

More stupid girls

Some people -- i.e., my boss -- have suggested that Pink's "Stupid Girls" song might also provide an appropriate poke at Miss Hilton, as does the Garbage song I quoted below. And she's pretty obviously right. Here's the video for anyone who's missed it.

Forget Paris

I know I shouldn't care about Paris Hilton. I shouldn't even do her the discourtesy of loving to hate her. But I find myself inexplicably drawn to news about her, and then I get angry again.

For instance, there's this piece from the A.P. this morning, in which a little more than two weeks in to her sentence at the pokey, she claims to have learned a lot. Yet she's frustrated and emotional with visits from her family. "I am behind glass and I want to give my dad a big hug and they won't even let me do that," she said. "I'm not a criminal."

Haven't learned that much, have you sweetie? I'll spare you the complexities of the American legal system, because it makes the brain-baby kick. But, uh, you are a criminal, which is why the judge sentenced you to time in jail. And since your crime was violation of probation, you're actually a two-time criminal. Spend your last few days of solace pondering that, won't you?

And eat a pork chop, sweetie. Most of the country's worried about you.

"You pretend you're high
You pretend you're bored
You pretend you're anything
just to be adored"
-- Garbage, "Stupid Girl"

21 June 2007

Now with charcoal pencil grip!

In a bold example of art imitating life, toy manufacturer Hasbro has announced that it will be releasing an action figure of Marvel comics icon Stan Lee. OK, so maybe it's art imitating artist.


And, of course, we use the phrase "action" figure loosely in the case of the 85-year-old Lee, who created Spider-Man, the Fantastic Four, Daredevil, the X-Men and others. Let's just say Hasbro won't need to make the 6-inch figure too bendable.

Here's the news item from the Boston Globe.

'Nuff said.




Let's just say, if I want a Stan-Lee related
plaything, I'd opt for a Jean Gray action
figure instead...

20 June 2007

From Sir, with love

Been spending time with a couple of icons from the '60s lately.


Namely, Paul McCartney and the band Love. McCartney just released his first indie album of all time, "Memory Almost Full." It's on the Starbucks label, which almost sounds like a punchline, until you listen to the damn thing and realize surprisingly virile. Especially considering he's now sixty-cough-cough-five years old. Better than anything he did with Wings, I'd say. Its only problem is it may be a little too manic. But I like it. Still giving it a few spins to sink in.

I got an advanced listen to a two-disc collection of Love's music. I'd forgotten what an adept amalgam of blues, soul and rock these guys laid out. Why had I forgotten? Because classic rock stations have largely ignored these guys, but will play the same damn Zepp/War/Bad Co./Foreigner cuts over and over and over and over. If it weren't for Hendrix, you'd have to wonder if it's some weird racist hangover (unintentional or not). Sly Stone doesn't get much love, ahem, either.

"...and so on, and so on, and scooby-dooby-doo..."

19 June 2007

Super great!

Regular readers already know that I'm pretty gay for the Homestar Runner Webtoons. (Here's the proof.)

So I was pretty psyched to read this piece on Wired.com, stating that the cartoon's creators -- the Brothers Chap -- have decided (at least for now) to keep the toons Web-only, despite dalliances with Cartoon Network's Adult Swim and Comedy Central.

Nice to know that Homestar, Strong Bad and company, whose site has remained commercial free for some seven years and counting, will not yet be tainted by corporate or sponsorship pressure. And that calls for a celebration -- where we can toast Cold Ones and sing choruses of Strong Bad songs, such as "You've Got an Ugly and Stupid Butt."

18 June 2007

Never say 'Die'

The 'Die Hard' series is taking its own name serious, isn't it? I was willing to give the third film in the Bruce Willis action series the benefit of the doubt because they had the abstract creativity to cast trippy singer-songwriter Sam Phillips as a mute terrorist with a curvy knife. And because it had Samuel L. But the jury's still out on "Live Free or Die Hard," some 12 years after the last chapter (It's in theaters on June 27).

Here's my question: In an obvious cross-promotion, 20th Century Fox is releasing Tuesday a boxed set of the first three films, plus a fourth disc of documentaries and extras. But why would you buy a whole boxed set that's obviously going to be incomplete in two weeks?

Side note: I love hearing the creative overdubbing of profanity on network TV. Years ago, when one network broadcast the original "Die Hard," they had Willis' John McClane spitting out the line, "Yipee Kiyay, Mr. Focker." Even though there was no one named Focker in the movie. A coworker saw a version that became, "Yipee Kiyay, my friend."

A scene from "Die Hard," "Die Hard 2," "Die Hard with a Vengeance" or "Live Free or Die Hard," we're not sure which. (And does it matter?)

17 June 2007

Catching waves in the Hooch

The problem: Jenn, a surf nut, really wanted to see "Surf's Up" (Yeah, the animated film. It got good reviews, though, so I'm all, what the hay?). But it's aimed at kids and showing at Hollywood Connection, which makes me itch anytime we're near it. I swear, a visit is just as good as any birth control pill that's out there.


The solution: Catch the very first show on Sunday. That's 12:15, when the highest percentage of surfer-penguin-mockumentary-loving children are occupied -- at church.

It worked. The crowd wasn't bad at all. Maybe five kids and 12 people in the whole dang place. And the movie was good, even by adult standards. It meets "The Incredibles" test, I like to say. It was a damned site more interesting (and shorter) than the last movie I saw, which was "Into Great Silence." That movie was an almost three-hour documentary on life in a monastery in rural France. There was almost no talking, but lots of bells ringing. Now I got nothing against three-hour movies, but there ought to be a law against three-hour movies with no dialogue.

Or maybe I'll just take my documentaries in mockumentary form from now on, thank you.

14 June 2007

Overheard

Ducked into Chick-fil-a for lunch yesterday, to get some "Christian chicken" as churchlady calls it. The guys at the table across from me were sharing what they'd seen on TV recently (and it's a whole 'nother topic about why people feel compelled to spend waking hours out in the real world talking about last night's TV).

One of them brought up ABC's "The Next Best Thing," which is set to determine the best celebrity impersonator. A Howard Stern impersonator was featured in this episode. Or was it...?

"I don't care what they say, that was Howard Stern," says the one feller. "No two people could be that ugly."

13 June 2007

More roller coastering

I thought I was going to die, on Acrophobia at Six Flags one time. Not really afraid of heights -- except when I think I'm really going to fall. And on the Six Flags ride, the strap holding the top harness down kept slipping on me. I'm literally tugging and tugging the thing to try to keep it tight, screaming for them to go ahead and drop us before I fall 161 feet without the benefit of the ride's brakes -- my innards splattered all over the asphalt below.

Fun, fun.


Still won't ride that thing now.

"When I fell
on the concrete
it was lovely,

because you could see
what’s been running
so hot in me."

-- Okkervil River, "Maine Island Lovers"

12 June 2007

Two things...

Did y'all catch this on Monday?: Twelve roller coaster riders in Hot Springs, Ark. were trapped, upside-down, at a theme park in Arkansas today for half an hour. I'm not especially afraid of heights, but I would've puked all over whoever was down below. Here's the A.P. story.


And speaking of things dropping, it is widely rumored that the prices of both PlayStation 3 consoles and Xbox 360s will drop by $100 in time for Christmas shopping. Nothing official yet, but speculation is running rampant from various sources, including the Dallas Morning News. Hope, hope, hope...

11 June 2007

Moronic Moment of the Month*

*brought to you by Seventeen magazine

The cover of July's "Seventeen" magazine features the ever-alluring Jessica Alba. Nothing says "wholesome" to teens like pictures of a former Playboy cover girl -- a girl whose beauty and prowess in a fistfight have even inspired a blues legend to write a song about her. The cover also promises information on "The DEADLY Disease You Could Get at the Beach." Sorich guessed it was crabs. Instead it was (yawn) skin cancer.

But, as we said back in the war, let's get on to the 'ron. (Yeah, I don't know what that means.)

This issue was actually loaded with moronic moments, so it was a tough competition. The summer preview included a blurb about "Fantastic Four 2: Rise of the Silver Surfer" that informed me that my "heart will race from Jessica Alba's heroic efforts to save the world and Chris Evans's unbelievable hotness." Good to know.

Elsewhere, a poll indicated that almost 40 percent of respondents said having friends with "benefits" was "no big deal." That's nice. Let's celebrate teen promiscuity. (Seriously. Let's.)

The winner? This page, which claims how it's sexy to exercise with your sweetie.

Yeah, right. All I can say is, this set of exercises -- and in particular this one...
... is a great way for girls to find out if their boyfriend is gay. No straight man would call this fun, unless he was concocting a plan to, you know, zig when the girl zags so as to cause a collision of butts and intertwined legs that might potentially lead to making out. (Mmmmm, frottage.) And he can do that armed with the knowledge that nearly four out of six girls like the idea of friends with benefits.

Knowledge is power, kids.

08 June 2007

The bar at the Hilton

My wife's so cute. Celebrity "news" makes her itch, so she avoids it. Needless to say, she hadn't heard that Paris Hilton was released from jail after a stiff three days. That's 1/15th of her original sentence.

I was debriefing her -- Jenn, not Paris -- this morning, saying, "Get this: She was released for an 'undisclosed medical condition.'"

Jenn says, "What, the D.T.s?"

The real question: Why do people
think this woman is attractive?

07 June 2007

The pact

While I'm talking about against-the-grain lifestyle choices (see below), I'll fess up to another one. At the start of the year, Jenn and I took a pact, vowing that we would buy no new products for a year. We made some exceptions, of course. Consumables like food, deoderant, hair gel and such didn't count. Neither did underwear and socks, which we didn't think would be good -- or safe -- things to buy secondhand.

We're nearly at the halfway point, and it's been surprisingly easy. Most things we want we can find a way to get. Books come from Half.com or used from JudyBug's Books. I got that kick-ass Olympus 35mm camera I wanted, but we bought it factory refurbished instead of shiny-new. And it feels great not adding to commercial demand for consumer products. It's also been really stress-free spending neither dime nor time in Wal-Mart, Target, Peachtree Mall and the like.

Our access to new books and new music might prove the biggest challenge in the next few weeks. Jenn's a big Harry Potter fan, and Book 7 is out in July. I'm a huge fan of bands Wilco (whose new disc is already out) and Okkervil River (out in August).

Now, I subscribe to eMusic, where I get 40 digital downloads a month. That's a nice loophole, since I'm not buying a physical product, I'm buying bits and bytes, which I eventually burn to a blank CD that I already have. But eMusic steers away from major label releases (they'll probably have the O.R. disc, but no Wilco).

So what to do...? I really like supporting indie record stores and bookstores. I really like supporting the fringe bands who are likely to need the Soundscans that come from CD sales. And Harry Potter -- well, Jenn can probably wait until one turns up secondhand. J.K. Rowling doesn't need our money.


It's also unclear as to whether a prostitute
counts as a "product" or a "service."

06 June 2007

Designs by Peppermint Patty

I do my best to avoid being a stereotype. Any stereotype. And I know I might fail, but it's the effort that matters, right?

For instance, I live pretty green. Reduce my carbon footprint, if you will. But I've never owned a pair of Birkenstocks, and I loathe the Croc-wearing neo-hippie cliche. So maybe our house wasn't the best target for a new catalog from Deva Lifewear, which boasts, "Carefree, Natural Clothing for Men & Women Since 1978." They forgot to also mention that their clothes are "butt ass ugly," which is redundant but still completely accurate.

For example, there's this stylin' ensemble:

and this:

Can it be an accident that no one clad in these glorious natural fibers looks happy? Also, nearly every picture of a man has some dorfy looking dude with facial hair and sandals -- like those are the only options for those concerned about Mother Earth. There is one exception to the facial hair rule, but the more I look at the photo, the less I'm sure it's actually a dude. She is wearing a unisex shirt, which doesn't help unravel the mystery, but her girlfriend, in front, is pretty hot (except for the ugly clothing).

Seriously, Deva shoppers: As long as you settle for the stereotypical crap that these organic, freerange, fair trade loomweavers offer, that's all you'll get.

05 June 2007

Colossal achievement

My column in today's paper is about the game "Shadow of the Colossus," and its use in the movie "Reign Over Me." But it's really about the integration of entertainment as a whole. Oh, hell. Just read it.

Folks interested in more about the game and how it wound up in the film should check out this well-done feature from gaming Web site Kotaku.com.

04 June 2007

A stage to go through

Austin's Okkervil River (best. band. ever.) have quietly released an MP3 of the first single from their forthcoming record. I'm sure there'll be more comparisons to Bright Eyes, but Okkervil is the real deal. If you're just checking them out for the first time, I'd start with the "Down the River of Golden Dreams" CD, which is a great intro to their sort of parlor-cum-folk music. "Black Sheep Boy" is a little harder to get into, but maybe a stronger record.


Anyway, the new album is called "The Stage Names," and it'll be out Aug. 07. Okkervil's put the new single, "Our Life Is Not a Movie or Maybe," up on the band's MySpace page, but it's downloadable over heeyah.

01 June 2007

Bettye LaVette ran off with a Trucker

Tonight, don't miss Chattahoochee blues artist Precious Bryant, who'll play some warm, acoustic blues for us at the 1100 block of Broadway starting at 7. Atlanta's Sean Costello -- formerly of Susan Tedeschi's band -- will also perform. And, oh yeah, the show's free.

Cap that off with a stop by The Loft to hear The Fiddleworms for raucous Southern rock. Many thanks to Curtis for pointing me to the Fiddleworms, a Muscle Shoals band that features the astounding guitarist Rob Malone. Malone was a Drive-By Trucker for a few years -- he's the guy with the growly blues voice who sings lead on several key Trucker songs, including "George Wallace" (off "Southern Rock Opera") and "Mrs. Dubose" (off "Pizza Deliverance").

And here's the best piece of Trucker-related news: The boys (and girl) perform on the forthcoming CD by old-school soul singer Bettye LaVette (whose 2005 disc's title says about all you need to know about her: "I've Got My Own Hell to Raise"). The new disc is called "The Scene of the Crime," and she's recorded it in Muscle Shoals with veteran session bassist David Hood. That's the father of the Truckers' Patterson Hood. I can't think of a better backing band for LaVette's "blunt force trauma" delivery (her publicist's very accurate description) than the churning guitar assault of Patterson and Cooley. Yee haw.