Monday, May 21, 2007


I don't really have a position on the immigration bill, and I don't have any idea how to solve the problems we face with immigration. I think many of the people on the right are ridiculously alarmist at best and racist at worst, but I don't doubt that the influx of immigrants puts a huge strain on our infrastructure and economy. Nor do I really buy that there are "jobs Americans won't do." It's a complex issue, and the only absolute I can see in it is that the practice of demonizing (sometimes literally) the immigrants, the poorest and most powerless members of our society, is disgusting and unacceptable. And referring to them as criminals is ridiculous. Yes, they are technically breaking the law, but not all laws are created equal. These people don't come to America to commit violence or theft, they come to get an honest day's pay (or at least the closest they can find) for an honest day's work. You can't tell a man with a hungry family that all the good jobs are on one side of this imaginary line, but he has to stay on the other side. And referring to immigrants as "illegals" is one of the worst manifestations of this. How can a person be illegal?

So one of the lines I keep hearing from the right on this issue is that we are rewarding the people who have broken the law to get here, and punishing all those good foreign people who are waiting in line to legally come here. This sounds like a good argument, but I wonder how true it is. Do these lines of patient would-be immigrants exist? It seems to me that, if you have a hungry family, and you know you can get a good job over the border, you're not going to wait five years for your application to go through. You're going to go get a job. Is this another rhetorical myth the conservatives have dreamed up? Again, I don't know anything about it, and I don't have any scholarship or experience in the area. I'm just wondering aloud.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Too Much Information

Friday, May 18, 2007

Hard Times for Hall of Famers

The streak of hard luck for Rock n Roll legends continues!

LOS ANGELES (AP) - Ike Turner spent a night in jail after he was arrested on a 1989 narcotics warrant that turned out to be invalid, police said. The 75-year-old musician and ex-husband of Tina Turner was spotted on Interstate 405 in the San Fernando Valley about 11:45 p.m. Tuesday. Police officers saw his 2002 silver Mercedes-Benz S-50 doing more than 80 mph and straddling lanes, Officer April Harding said Thursday. The car was stopped after it left the freeway and officers ran a check for warrants, which is routine, Harding said. They found he had an old felony narcotics warrant and Turner was arrested and booked into a downtown jail, Harding said. "He had court yesterday and I guess that they deemed it was an old warrant that was never removed from the system," Harding said. Turner was freed from jail about 3 p.m. Wednesday. Turner first appeared in Superior Court on the warrant in December 1989 and the warrant was recalled that same day, said Mary Hearn, a spokeswoman for the Los Angeles County Superior Court.

Guy can't get no respect. But, if you're wondering, Bo Diddley's condition is improving.

I screwed up the link on the last post, but this is the most awesome of myspace pages.

Old gays to young gays: "Get off my lawn!"

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Spittin' Wicked Randomness, Vol. XXI

It's official: Veronica Mars is over. Fucking Boo! Although, to be honest, it was never quite as good as it was that first season. But still...

Zane called me the other night and told me he'd followed a trackback link from The Drunken Hero on YouTube to the myspace page of this guy, who does an awesome gangsta rap about my hometown, Jensen Beach ("Straight Outa Jensen"). Big ups to him for holdin' it down for all the homies! Seriously, if you've ever been to Jensen Beach, you know how hilarious this is. Not to say that everyone in the town is rich or even middle class, but it ain't exactly tha hood, gnome sane?

In other myspace news, this is utterly awesome! And these guys tried to friend me.

Fishbone on NPR! And what water sounds like in a trombone (although probably not Chris Dowd's).

This is hilarious. Someone who knows how to market themselves!

When Trekkies were still kinda cool. (via Kate Bolin) More choice pics from the UCLA archives here. Find your own favorites!

Bandini goes to Los Cinco Puntos, home of the best damn taco I've ever had in my life! Although I don't know if they've quite served 5 Zillion yet...

I love this quote: "The American people are understandably fearful about another attack like the one we sustained on Sept. 11, 2001. But it is the duty of the commander in chief to lead the counrty away from the grip of fear, not into its grasp." -- Charles C. Krulak, commandant of the Marine Corps from 1995 to 1999, and Joseph P. Hoar, commander in chief of U.S. Central Command from 1991 to 1994

Meanwhile, Bush threatens a veto of a defense spending bill. "In the veto threat against the National Defense Authorization Act, the White House says they're opposed to two things: Increased survivor benefits of $40 a month to spouses of those who lost someone in military service, and a pay increase to all personnel, across the board, just half a percent higher than what the President endorsed." What an asshole.

People suck.

Hey Bo Diddley, Get Well Soon!

Bo Diddley is in intensive care after suffering a stroke in western Iowa, a publicist said Wednesday.

The 78-year-old singer-songwriter-guitarist and Rock and Roll Hall of Famer was listed in guarded condition at Creighton University Medical Center in Omaha, Neb., said Susan Clary, a publicist for the musician's management team.

Diddley, who has a history of hypertension and diabetes, was hospitalized Sunday following a concert in Council Bluffs in which he acted disoriented, she said.

Tests indicated that the stroke affected the left side of his brain, impairing his speech and speech recognition, Clary said.

Clary said she has no other details on Diddley's condition or how long he would be in intensive care.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Fall Well, Jerry!

I can't really see much to be gained by trashing the name of someone who just died, even one of the most dangerous lunatics to influence contemporary American politics (second to Rumsfeld, maybe?). But Christopher Hitchens does a pretty good job for me:

It's worth noting that the lunatic influence hasn't died with Falwell. You still can't buy a vibrator in Alabama, and Robert Dobson still gets meetings with the President to discuss the iminent war with Iran. And the pro-lunatic base is as strong as ever.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Jack the Giant Killer

Back in second grade, I hung out in this little pack of nerds. Me, Tercio, Mike Long (who I haven't seen since High School) and Douglas Leonardi (who was sort of the alpha of the group, and who moved away the next year, I think). We were all pretty much bound by our interest in science fiction, fantasy, mythology, monsters and World War II. I remember someoneni that group, probably Douglas but maybe it was Mike, mentioning a movie once called Jack the Giant Killer, which had a two-headed dragon and a griffin in it. This stayed in the back of my mind throughout my childhood as a movie I wanted to see, but I never saw or heard any more about it, and eventually I guess I just decided that it didn't exist. Then, a couple years ago, I caught it on Turner Classic Movies.

It's basically a total rip off of The 7th Voyage of Sinbad, with stop-motion monsters that all looked very, very close to Harryhausen's designs. But it was much more obviously a kids' movie, and the monsters looked a little less scary and more cute than Harryhausen's.

A few weeks back, Tom Sutpen posted an image from Jack the Giant Killer on his blog, which prompted Tim Lucas to post about a musical version of the film that was created in the editing room over a decade after the original release, and followed it up with a post containing a few more details on the film.

Personally, having finally seen the film, I think it's pretty lousy, and I certainly don't agree with Tim's statement that "in terms of its plot, imagination, and extravagant Technicolor palette, JACK THE GIANT KILLER outperforms most of Harryhausen's films in terms of uncompromised entertainment value," but check it out for yourself. It's airing on TCM this Friday, at 7:00 pm PST, following one of Harryhausen's own lesser-known works, The Three Worlds of Gulliver.


Finally got around to watching Dreamgirls. Pretty good, if a little too feel-good-y towards the end. Eddie Murphy is just amazing in this. Probably the best thing he's ever done.

Seems the biggest complaint I hear about the movie is that it distorts the history of Motown and defames Berry Gordy, which seems pretty silly to me. It's obvious that the characters are not direct representatives of any real people, since James "Thunder" Early seems to be James Brown, Otis Redding and Marvin Gaye at different points in the movie. So unless you think Aretha Franklin was one of the original Supremes, it should be pretty clear that this is a fictional narrative.

But I think it does express a larger truth about the history of soul music, the fact that the rough edges needed to be polished off in order to reach a wider audience. This isn't an exclusively black phenomenon (punk rockers need to smooth out their edges if they want to get on the radio, too), and I think you're on shaky ground when you start thinking of Otis or Aretha as "blacker" than Diana Ross or Smokey Robinson, but it does have an extra layer of meaning in the world of black musicians. There's so much to explore in this theme, and the movie was doing such a good job of exploring it, that I don't understand the decision to go for a warm, "We Are Family" ending.

My other complaint would be the songs. I think the songs are all very well executed in their arrangements and performances. They all sound great. But I don't think any of the songs actually ARE great, and only 3 or 4 of them are really good (I can only remember the words or melodies of two of them, and that includes the title song from the finale, which I think is a pretty bad song). A few of them sound more like show tunes than soul music, but even the ones that sound authentic aren't exactly memorable. For a musical, this is a pretty signifigant weakness, and keeps it from acheiving the classic status it might have if the songs were half as good as the classic soul music they're imitating.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Lights Out!

A couple great tracks from my all-time favorite punk rock album. Digitizing vinyl is such a time vaccum. And it gets compulsive. I can't stop.

I started by doing most of my hardcore records, along with a few random things that happened to be near the computer. After that, I found myself overwhelmed with the choice of what to do next, but ended up doing all my Ramones and Go-Go's records (the latter partially because Bobbie wanted some Go-Go's tunes for her ipod, partially because they just fit well with the season). Logically, from The Ramones, I could have gone on to the rest of my 70's punk: Sex Pistols, Clash, Television, Patti Smith, New York Dolls, etc. But I decided instead to start on Butthole Surfers and Rolling Stones. So far I've just got the first two Butthole EP's done.

It's fun rediscovering some great albums I hadn't listened to in a while. End of the Century has always been one of my favorite Ramones albums (probably second only to Rocket to Russia), but I like it even better now. Partially because I know a little bit about Phil Spector and the characteristics of his sound, which gives me more appreciation for a song like "Affected," which always seemed like almost a throwaway before. Great song. Used to bother me that it was the second song on the album--"Do You Remember Rock n Roll Radio" rocks so much, and has that great cold ending that it seemed to me would have been perfect to slip "Chinese Rocks" or something into--but it makes sense to me now. And the cover of "Baby I Love You" is pretty neat too. I'd always skipped over that one.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

This Week on The Fake Life

I teamed up with George and Andrew for a list of great dance numbers from non-musical movies, complete with YouTube evidence to back us up. I think this is one of the more entertaining things we've come up with. Part one is here, part two is here. I also endorse the new Oxford American Southern Movie Issue. And in case you missed it, check out Bobbie's review of the Mitch Hedberg DVD.

Unrelated, but I love this story about a full-on Disneyland kockoff in China.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Got My Mojo Workin'!

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Pop Songs

I've been enjoying reading Pop Songs 07, and if you like R.E.M. you should check it out. It's Matthew Perpetua of Fluxblog fame attempting to write about every, single R.E.M. song ever recorded. MP is a great music writer, and as with his writing on Fluxblog, he really gets deep into analyzing the songs. Not just the lyrics, but the way the music interacts with the lyrics and gives them context. R.E.M. might be the best band ever to do this with, because their songs are so abstract that they probably mean something different to everyone who hears them. Michael's vocals on the early records are famously difficult to make out, but even on the songs you can hear they seem pretty abstract. In reading Pop Songs, I'm finding lots of lyrics that I've been mishearing for years, including the chorus of their maybe-most-famous song, "The One I Love." Is Michael really singing "Fiiiiiiiiire?" I always thought it was "Cry Ooooout." I'm assuming that Matthew is correct about this stuff--the band never includes a lyric sheet, but I'm sure the lyrics are published somewhere, and a google search could probably turn them up in a matter of seconds. And I assume that many of these interpretations are based on interviews with Stipe.

So, assuming he knows what he's talking about, I never realized how many R.E.M. songs are political. "Welcome to the Occupation" is pretty obvious, although it never occurred to me that it was specifically about "U.S. involvement in Central America," but I never would have guessed that " “Green Grow The Rushes” and “The Flowers Of Guatemala” cover similar ground, though their lyrics are rather vague." I always thought those were just hippy songs about nature or something. I think of both of those as "pastoral" songs (although I'm not sure if I'm using that word correctly)--songs that were designed to be listened to while lying in the grass on a spring day. Even after I read an interview with Michael Stipe in the early 90's where he referred to "Flowers of Guatemala" as a political song, I assumed it must be something to do with environmental issues.

Matthew also refers to "Disturbance at the Heron House" as being overtly political, and I always assumed this was just a story about a party out of bounds in Athens. Maybe R.E.M. were playing at a house party in 1980 and things got out of conrtol, and the cops showed up. I never saw The Heron House while I lived in Athens, but it could easily have been one of those big, antebellum mansions you see all over Georgia, right? Maybe I'm right, and this guy just interprets it as being a "protest ballad loosely based on George Orwell’s Animal Farm."

And as I think about that, I realize that the reason I never considered any of this is because I have very little interest in lyrics. I can't look at music analytically. That's just not how I relate to music. Which I suppose is why I spend so much time writing about movies and so little writing about music, even though I feel a much more intense relationship with music. It's all about whether you respond to a piece of music or not. Nothing to analyze. I don't even really think there's such thing as "good" or "bad" music. With movies, books and other narrative art forms, you can form an argument that something was done "right" or "wrong," but music just is.

This might even explain why I have no particular interest in concept albums, rock operas, prog rock or musical theater. I don't like the idea of music telling a story, at least not through words. I just want it to convey a feeling. Not that I can't think of plenty of exceptions, but as a general rule, that's how I feel. And the result of that is that I rarely pay much attention to lyrics, and in those cases where I do (R.E.M. often being one of the exceptions), I tend to just go with the impressions the bits of words I catch leave me with. Which fits R.E.M.'s music exceptionally well.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

I Fly Like An Eagle And I Drink Old Crow

The cover of the upcoming Beastie Boys album The Mix-Up. I was completely unaware of this until yesterday. Apparantly, it will be an all-instrumental album. Does this mean the sort of funky instrumentals found on Check Your Head and Ill Communication, or does it mean sample-dense hip hop tracks without the vocals? My first guess was the latter--clearly, they had heard the Coconut Monkeyrocket CD and were so impressed that they decided to go into the studio and immediately jack Jason's sound for their own! But I guess I was wrong. NME quotes Mike D as saying "We play instruments on the whole album as opposed to sampling. It might make you flip your wig right off, or your hairpiece if you're a casual listener." Read the rest of the piece, Mike drops a hilarious Spinal Tap reference down near the bottom.

But this is actually pretty cool. I was hoping they'd go back to the experimental stuff on Check Your Head next, now that they have a few more chops under their belt. So I continue to hang on for one more album.

Anyway, new Big Screen column up. Lots of cool stuff happening in L.A. this month. Lots of great stuff up on The Fake Life this week, including a Spidey 3 review, so check it out.

Be sure to download this past week's episode of This American Life. it includes interviews with former Guantanamo detainees, and it is absolutely horrifying how far past the crossroads we have already gone.

On the lighter side, a Hunter Thompson lecture from 1977, and Matt and Trey do Alan Watts.