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Monday, June 30, 2008

What the WTF?!?

76-year-old simian superstar Cheeta the Chimp is ready to make a comeback. Apparently this will include a memoir, an iTunes exclusive cover of the song "Convoy," and a music video which will show the chimp "on film as he drives a buggy and eyes a bikini clad girl." Whether or not he leaps from the buggy and wildly masturbates on the girl has yet to be disclosed.

If you are beside yourself with joy over the prospect of a famous monkey's autobiography, you should consider seeking professional help. I mean, I didn't know Cheeta was still alive and diabetic, and just knowing that is enough for me. I don't need a memoir to fill in the gaps. I don't care.

Most interesting to me is the fact that Cheeta has attempted to get his own star on Hollywood's Walk of Fame seven times and seven times he has been flatly denied. So, let me get this straight: Paula Abdul can have a star on the Walk of Fame, but Cheeta the Chimp, star of 12 Tarzan movies, can't? Puff Daddy and the Olsen Twins are so much more worthy of stars then a 76-year-old chimp who can eat cake with a fork like a human man?! Kirstie Alley is more deserving of a permenant memorial on the streets of Hollywood then a chimpanzee who can drive a buggy and get it on with hot chicks in sexy swimsuits? And before you leave comments saying, "Well, it is kind of silly to give a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame to a chimp," keep in mind that Big Bird, Godzilla, Lassie, and Winnie the Pooh have their own stars. Hell, Pat Boone has two (no, really). You mean he's not willing to give one to Cheeta? C'mon, Pat, do it for America.

You know what, Cheeta, from what I've heard, being memorialized on the Hollywood Walk of Fame is bullshit. You don't need that. You'd probably get stuck next to Ricky Martin or Pat Sajak anyway. Or they'd put you in some out the way place, like in front of a crack-house. You're better off just writing your memoirs and drinking your Caffeine-Free Diet Coke. Trust me, your memories of the good old days swinging through the trees with Johnny Weissmuller are ten times more fulfilling then having a star on some sidewalk a bum probably pees on all the time. Read the rest of this article.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Worst Vacation Ever: Sleepaway Camp

I never went away to camp when I was younger. My parents probably would have allowed me to go, but it was more of a personal choice. I prefer familiar surroundings and I don't like leaving my stuff unguarded. I don't know though, summer camp could've been super sweet. Sadly, I'll never know, but I do have the summer camp movies of the 1980's to give me a glimpse at what I may have missed. Let's take a look at Camp Arawak, for example, and compile a list of pros and cons:

PRO: Corn on the cob for dinner! Yummy! CON: Camp Arawak's head chef is a dangerous pedophile who isn't opposed to molesting young girls in his walk-in freezer.

PRO: Judy. Oh, man, is she ever hot! She's really developed since last summer.

CON: Judy is kind of a slut. She'll make out with anyone. Actually, that might still be a pro.

PRO (or CON-depends): All male campers and staff members are required to dress in 70's gay porn attire.

PRO: All the canoeing, camp socials, and overnight camping trips you can shake a stick at!

CON: A gender-confused psychopath could murder you at any minute. My advice to you: do not fuck with Angela. There's something up with that chick.
PRO: You can totally swear as much as you want.

CON: Oh, but if you swear at and fight with the dudes who are relentlessly picking on your autistic cousin, the cigar-chomping camp director will assume you are the pyschopath who has killed a bunch of people, including his underage girlfriend, and beat you to death.

PRO: Four words: Rooftop Water Balloon Fight!

CON: You more than likely will not survive the summer. Read the rest of this article.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Mini Me...get it?

Get your credit cards ready, porn-lovers! The Verne Troyer sex tape is on the way! Finally, my Christmas shopping dilemma is solved.

The moment I heard about this I thought about that old Denis Leary bit where he talks about the youngest Hanson brother purchasing a hooker and climbing up inside of her. Verne Troyer could really do that!!! I mean, do you realize that, man? Verne Troyer could literally climb up inside a woman's utereus! He's a lot like a baby when you think about it. He's tiny, hairless, and urinates whenever and wherever he damn well pleases. What's stopping him from climbing inside a lady and taking a little cat-nap?

I haven't decided whether or not I want to see this tape yet (though I'm currently leaning toward "oh, hell yes"), but I do know one thing: it can't be any worse than the Tonya Harding honeymoon tape. She doesn't make any noise during the entire awkward act of making love to her hubby. Creepy. Read the rest of this article.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Wednesday Morning Music - My Morning Jacket "I'm Amazed"

A track from MMJ's new album performed live. Down and dirty good time rock and roll from space.

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Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Stop Already presents Try Harder!

Was anyone on the planet Earth surprised by The Love Guru's colossal failure at the box office last weekend? If you weren't, you've done a fabulous job convincing yourself that Mike Myers' formula of wacky-characters and poop-jokes is still relevant. Pat yourself on the back, sir or madam--you hate comedy.

Perez Hilton blamed Justin Timberlake, but I think that's letting Mr. Myers off way too easily. I blame Myers' outdated jokes as well as his failure to recognize that his comedy crown has been stolen by Everyman jokesters like Seth Rogen and Jason Segel, by films rooted in reality and not the audiences' willingness to tolerate a silly accent and comical facial hair for two hours.

Now to be fair, I haven't seen The Love Guru, and based on the lack of laughter emitted by my body during several painful viewings of the trailer, I doubt I will in the near future. I did rent Scary Movie 3 finding myself bored and desiring some 'easy laughs' one afternoon, so who knows. Also, I like Mike Myers. I think he can be really funny. The first Austin Powers movie was hilarious, it being the first important example of the now stone-dead Wacky Charcter-Based Comedy Feature. The sequels lacked the freshness of the original, but there were little bits here and there to cherish and enjoy. And people seem to like Shrek. But while Mike Myers was deep in his comedy laboratory perfecting his Guru Pitka character, the comedy-climate shifted. We witnessed the triumphant return of the R-rated comedy with films like Wedding Crashers and The 40 Year Old Virgin. We watched the rise of the mighty Judd Apatow and his cadre of stubbly-cheeked oddballs. Mike Myers apparently wasn't informed about any of this or maybe he just didn't care.

The thing is Mike Myers could be great again. He's very funny (dare I say brilliant?) and has a large fanbase, though very few of them, including myself, have given two shits about his output as of late. There are some actions he could take, paths he could stroll down, to earn back our trust, he just has to be willing.

1. Do something lowkey. I for one loved So I Married an Axe Murder, but as we all know it was a huge flop. But, hey, who cares? I mean, it was dark, strange, and, hell, you still got to play a wacky character (Charlie's very Scottish, Bay City Rollers loving father) and it wasn't annoying. Do not take your cues from fellow multiple-character playing has-been Eddie Murphy--scale down. Don't fill the next film to the brim with rubber-suited whackos.

2. Look to Adam Sandler. The Love Guru may make You Don't Mess with the Zohan look like a masterpiece of cinema, but let's face facts, it's a trainwreck as well. Sandler though will occasionally take dramatic roles, a choice that has paid off for him in some big ways. I was reminded how much I liked Sandler when I caught Spanglish on TBS last weekend. He's very likable, sweetly funny, and lowkey (don't cringe from that word, Michael--embrace it). Hey, everybody's doing it: Jim Carrey, Will Ferrell. You did 54 and people admired you for it. Now do that Keith Moon biopic people keep whispering about. I'll be the first in line. 3. No more skit movies. Waynes World worked and I actually enjoyed Waynes World 2, admired it for it's silliness, but instead of suing you for backing out of the Sprockets movie a couple of years ago, the studio should have sent you a fruit basket and a thank you note. We all love Deiter, sure, but we don't need to watch him dance and pet a monkey for an hour and a half. I mean, what's next, Coffee Talk: The Search for Paul Baldwin? Guru Pitka never appeared on SNL, but he could have. As a sketch he might have been funny once a month, otherwise, not so much.

Who am I though? Nobody. But I do believe in you, Mr. Myers, and I do want you to make America laugh again. Now get out there and


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Sunday, June 22, 2008

'08 Summer Movie Report: The Incredible Hulk

Sometimes I feel like I'm the only person on Earth who genuinely enjoyed Ang Lee's Hulk. Every once in awhile I'll meet someone who liked it's thoughtful take on Marvel's premiere lunkheaded tough-guy, but for the most part people seem outright disgusted by the film, disappointed to an alarming degree.  I haven't seen Ang's film in a long time, so before I can properly compare it to this latest incarnation I'll have to view it a second time, but I will say this about 2008's The Incredible Hulk: it's good--Iron Man good.
Take note, Mark Steven Johnson, movies about second-tier super-heroes don't have to suck. When you have a good screenplay, top-tier actors will agree to star in your film, therefore ensuring that people will gladly pay $9.00 to see your picture.  See how that works?  You got to give the people a heartfelt story to go along with those special-effects.

Edward Norton plays Bruce Banner, a brilliant scientist who shoots himself with some kind of green beam (gamma rays, presumably) and becomes an angry, green hulk.  After trashing his lab and injuring his girlfriend, Betty, played by Liv Tyler, he disappears, determined to master the beast within him or find a cure to make his transformations cease forever.  He is finally discovered in Brazil and the film takes off from there.  Norton is great as the conflicted Dr. Banner, Liv Tyler is strikingly beautiful to look at, and Tim Roth is at his scariest as the man who will in the end become Hulk's equal, Abomination.  Comic book fans will be happy to know that Abomination does NOT look like this in the film:

In some ways the Incredible Hulk is Marvel's answer to Superman.  He's invincible, he maintains a mild-mannered alter-ego, and he's got a cute girlfriend.  Superman, though, is insufferably boring, while the Hulk is quite an interesting, conflicted little fellow.  The Hulk in the early comic books comes to the aid of mankind, but repeatedly expresses his disgust with the puny humans he fights to protect.  Bruce Banner craves the power he feels as the Hulk, but also worries that he'll lose too much of himself in the process, making each decision to become the Hulk take on all kinds of meaning you can think about for yourself (this is a movie review after all).  Plus, a hulking green behemoth who smashes the crap out of every obstacle put in his way is ten times cooler than a nerdy space-alien in blue tights.

GEP's Grade: B+

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Saturday, June 21, 2008

From the Pages of Skymall

Imagine this scenario, if you will:

Redneck #1: Hey, bo, you wanna go fishin' tomorrow mornin'?

Redneck #2: Hell yeah, man!  We'll get up early, pack the truck with some beer, some jerky--man, we'll have us a time out there, shoot!

Redneck #1: Hey, man, you know how tired I get standin' out there all day fishin' and what not. All that standin' up and shit.  You know on second thought, man, jes fergit it.  I ain't gonna stand up all day.  

Redneck #2: Don't worry none 'bout that, you sumbitch.  I got me this new truck hammock. Man, we'll be fishin' in style, like a couple of them millionaires you hear about on the T.V.

Redneck #1: Wait, man, so what yer sayin' is I can sit my fat ass down while I'm fishin'?  I don't gotta stand on the riverbank all day like a queer?

Redneck #2: Exactly.  You ain't never seen nothing like this, man.  You'll think you've died and gone to heaven, I reckon.

Redneck #1: Damn!  Fishin' just got fun again.

Redneck #2: Hey, man, fishin' is life...

Both: ...the rest is just details! 

Redneck #2: That's what I'm talkin' 'bout!

Redneck #1: Hell yeah!

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Worst Vacation Ever: Two Thousand Maniacs

Destination: Atlanta, GA (for the teacher's convention)

Disaster: Vengeful Southerners

It is 1965. One-hundred years ago Union troops entered the sleepy town of Pleasant Valley and slaughtered all the inhabitants. To celebrate the centennial of this horrific event, the spirits of those murdered arise from the grave to exact revenge on six vacationing Yankees they've trapped and made "guests of honor" at their mysterious festivities.
Activities for the two day celebration include a horse race, the Barrel Roll, the Teetering Rock Game, and an opening night barbecue in which no one actually eats anything. Each guest of honor gets to participate in a different event. There's only one catch: in the end, each will be covered in oodles of stage blood.

You see, the menu for the barbecue consists of Blackened Arm of Bea Miller; the horse race involves tying a person's arms and legs to four horses which are then sent running in four different directions; the Barrel Roll is a particular nasty event in which you are placed in a barrel full of nails and rolled down a hill; and the Teetering Rock involves a boulder falling on you from above. So, obviously, it sucks to the guest of honor at this festival of death.
Thankfully, hitchhiking teacher Tom White and his dead-behind-the-eyes companion, Terry Adams, escape the clutches of Mayor Buckman and his horde of evil rednecks. They decide to treat the whole series of events as a dream and continue on to the teacher's conference where we can assume love blossomed and dirty love was made. As for the citizens of Pleasant Valley, they can't wait until the next bicentennial, in fact, they plan to have a rocket-ship made to "blast them Yankees into space." Yeeehaw!
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A People's History of Rock: "God Gave Rock & Roll to You"

Rock and roll is a transcendent concept. You can gussy it up, commoditize it, sell it like a can of Pepsi to preteens at a Newsboys concert, but you can never completely divorce it of its anarchic potential. There something about even the most palatable, soccer-mom-approved, insipidly pious use of rock music that makes one want to, well, fuck stuff up. If a song doesn't inspire at least a hint of dissatisfaction with the status quo--an urge to "stick it" to the "man" in some way-- whether it's dancing like a moron, spitting on a stranger, or refusing to vote, well, then, I don't know what the fuck you're listening to, but it's not rock and roll. No matter what they do to make rock a force of lobotomized obedience (Sir Mick--Yeah, right), its primal nature will prevail. For something there is in rock that does not love a king, whether it be a king of men or a king of the charts. Rock is primal. Rock is anarchy. Rock is is. Where does this powerful force come from? Fucking God, man.

Russ Ballard of prog-rock pioneers Argent knew this. In 1973 Argent released the definitive statement of rock's divine nature in "God Gave Rock & Roll to You," a song that would later be covered by probably over 1,000 Christian bands and Kiss. Ballard's tune is deceptively simple lyrically (musically, it's appropriately complex in a progy sort of way--actually, it sounds almost exactly like the missing link between the Zombies and Rush), but the lyrics contain a trenchant commentary on the transcendent nature of rock music. In the first verse our parents admonish us to "Love Cliff Richard, but please don't tease." Imagine Elvis without all that sexiness. The second verse assures us that "Music can make [our] dreams unfold," but we "gotta sweat" cause "it's never too late to work 9 to 5." The chorus tells us what's in our souls: Rock.

Most people associate "GGR&RTY" with Kiss, but in 1977, seminal Christian rockers Petra put a church-friendly version on their album, Come and Join Us. (Amy Grant was the egg. Petra was the sperm. Actually, maybe Larry Norman was the sperm. It's fun thinking of Christian rockers as jizz.) The chorus stayed the same, but the verses made it clear what "rock" Greg X. Volz was really talking about. Actually, Volz acts like rock and roll isn't really all that great. He asks, "where will you be when the music's gone?" And it's clear he's not talking about your dad when he talks about the "old man" taking "his toll." Doesn't matter. The rock abides. A little suckier, but it abides. Kind of.

Kiss didn't record their version until 1992. They changed the lyrics too, but they keep the spirit of the song intact. I like Argent's version better, but this version is appropriate if a bit campy. I still get goose bumps at Paul Stanley's closing monologue:

"I know life sometimes can get tough

And I know sometimes can be a drag

But, people, we have been given a gift

We have been given a road

And that road's name is rock and roll."

Along comes Disciples of Christ in 1993 to rap-rock it up with Christian metal band Bride. They completely ditch the verses and use the chorus as a hook for Absalom, Ben Reges, and Prophet to rapulicate around. The subject matter seems to be beating up the devil. Oh, and "God gave it to you." It's actually pretty aggressive for a Christian song in 1993 (both in sound and attitude), but it totally misses the nuance and beauty of the original. Plus, the delivery is way too serious. I'm pretty sure I can make out a bit about putting the devil in a "chokehold" and something about getting him with a "bodyslam." I don't care what you believe, that's just silly. Read the rest of this article.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Wednesday Morning Music: Danielson Famile - "Headz in the Cloudz"

When I first saw this video in, oh, I guess 1995 it quite literally blew my brains out. The only reference point I had for such willful weirdness was Beck's omnipresent "Loser" single, but I liked this just as much. In retrospect, it's better. Much better. Disagree? I don't care. My brains are lying in my childhood bedroom. How am I typing this? Magicks.

Favorite lyric: "I don't want whatz not mine"

At least I think that's what he's saying. Read the rest of this article.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

5 Lamest...Special 'It's a Small World Free' Disney World Edition!

Welcome to 5 Lamest..., a new GEP feature where we explore the lamer side of life. This week, in honor of my vacation in Walt Disney World, I present, in no particular order, the 5 Lamest Disney World Attractions:

1. Ellen's Energy Adventure (Epcot): This attraction is so
lame riders are encouraged to exit before the thing even starts. As you walk inside the theater, a Disney employee stationed at the entrance informs you that the attraction will take 37 minutes to experience and suggests you may want to turn around and do something more worthwhile. Before the opening film segment, another 'cast member' reminds you that you are about to spend 37 minutes in the dark watching various unfunny movies starring comedian Ellen Degeneres and points out the nearest exit. After the opening movie you are given yet another chance to flee. Those who choose to stay move into the next room and sit, where they are reminded once again that they are about to spend 37 minutes listening to Bill Nye the Science Guy drone on about alternative energy sources and watch Ellen Dengeneres do that thing she does. There are animatronic dinosaurs, but overall Ellen's Energy Adventure is a dud.

2. Cinderella's Carousel (Magic Kingdom): It's just a Merry-Go-Round, albeit, a prettier one than you would see at your local state fair. The only real reason this attraction makes our list is that on my first ride on it ever, some woman was standing in the wrong spot and after three ignored warnings from the ride operator, the carousel was shut down and we all had to exit in a sad, single-file line. Stupid lady!
3. Stitch's Great Escape (Magic Kingdom): A better name for this would be 15 Minutes With Air Conditioning. A less family friendly name would be Stitch's Big Waste of My Damn Time. Years ago this attraction was called Alien Encounter and it was scary and dark and, therefore, completely awesome. Now it's dark and smelly and not fun and stupid. Nobody really seemed into it. I had been warned by both my mother and fellow Disney World super-fan, Nick Tillman, to avoid this attraction like the bubonic plague, but my curiosity got the better of me. It was an action of which I will eternally be ashamed. The stink of Stitch's chili-dog breath will stay with me to the grave.
4. The Country Bear Jamboree (Magic Kingdom): Some attractions at the Magic Kingdom just need some sprucing up, and in my opinion Country Bear Jamboree is a worthy candidate. Let's put it this way: Disney Imagineers need to usher this glorified Chuck E Cheese robot review into the 21st century or just raze the building. Compared with shows like Animal Kingdom's Finding Nemo the Musical and It's Tough to be a Bug, Country Bear Jamboree just seems like a waste of precious energy. I mean, they refurbished the Tiki Room, why not give the Country Bears a spit shine? First of all the sound is horribly--I think they use a record or an 8-track to provide the music and singing--there are hisses and pops and a constant buzzing drone that often makes it difficult to understand a single thing that's being said. Next, like I stated earlier, there's nothing here that I can't see at Chuck E. Cheese and at least there I can eat pizza and play skeeball.

5. The Jungle Cruise (The Magic Kingdom): It pains me to include this ride as it was my very favorite when I was a child, but the Jungle Cruise is kind of lame. Maybe it's always been lame and I'm just now realizing it at 29. As most everyone knows, jungle cruise guides can no longer fire guns at the hippos and alligators. They still have the guns on board, but now they wave the gun around and shout "shoo, hippos, shoo." Are you kidding me? If you were in the actual jungle and a homicidal hippo was rushing your boat you'd light that fat ass up, I'm sorry. I love animals as much as the next guy, but what kid is going to believe they are in some kind of peril if you just kind of limp-wristedly wave a plastic pistol around and halfheartedly suggest that the animals please if you don't mind go somewhere else? Plus, and I know this is a major part of the ride, but do we really need the cheesy puns? One, only half of them are mildly amusing, and two, about half of your guest don't even speak English or don't speak it well enough to catch your clever (said sarcastically) wordplay. To be fair, that job seems kind of fun, but they'd never let me do my own material and that might eventually irk me. Read the rest of this article.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Stop Already: Special Walt Disney World Edition

So, the wife and I want to take the bus to Disney's Hollywood Studios last night to grab a bite to eat at Pizza Planet then take in the Fantasmic show at 9:00. We get to the bus stop with ample time to spare and, what luck, a bus is fast approaching. It hisses to a stop, but the front doors hesitate to slide open. The back doors hiss open though and the long process of removing the human cargo within begins. The human cargo, it turns out, is a slightly overweight family with a severely overweight matriarch. The bus lowers, the handicap ramp flips out onto the sidewalk, and Mama comes rolling down the ramp in her scooter-buggy, ass fat pouring over the worn leather seat like butterscotch on a soft-serve sundae. The family waddles/scooter-buggies inside the Pop Century Resort's commissary, most likely for frosty milkshakes and double-fudge chocolate cake, and the boarding of us none scooter-bound tourists can commence.

I have seen three different types aboard these scooter-buggies over my last three days in the happiest place on Earth: those with broken legs, the elderly, and the morbidly obese. The last category of scooter-folk have been by far the largest group. Now the woman in my story was the kind of fat individual you might have once seen on the Jerry Springer show back in the day, you know, where Jerry would visit with his hefty guest inside a bedroom of which the wall was about to be knocked down, a crane at the ready to take fatty to the closest emergency room. Perhaps a day of walking for this type of obese person is difficult on the knees, hell on the lungs. Well, in that case, maybe you should considered losing the weight, I mean, for your health. I guarantee you would enjoy Disney World a lot more if you could walk on your own and perhaps not bring shame upon your extended family.
But, oh no, you see, the bulk of the scooter-fat can walk on two legs just as easily as you and me, my friends. I've seen them with my own two eyes--swapping scooter-time with their chubby relatives, making sure every fat-ass gets a ride on the shame-mobile. You see, if you are in a scooter-buggy-be you crippled, old, or big-boned-you get whisked to the front of every line. Oh, joy! Plus, everybody gets to wait for you to roll your lard-butt onto the motor-coaches to and from the hotels.

Listen, fatties, the scooters are for Granny or Cousin Waldo with the gimpy leg or Uncle Benny who everyone knows will have to be buried in a grand piano when he passes, not for everyone who just couldn't control themselves at Epcot Germany's Biergarten Restaurant's all-you-care-to-eat buffet. Go on a diet and wait until you think you can spend a day walking around an amusement park before you visit or map out your Disney vacation marking food stands and benches for resting on your official park maps, just don't rent a scooter-buggy and get in my way everywhere. I mean seriously, how many scooters am I gonna get trapped behind this week? They are literally everywhere. C'mon, fat-asses...

STOP ALREADY!!! Read the rest of this article.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Album Review: Death Cab for Cutie - Narrow Stairs

I must admit right from the start that I've never loved Death Cab for Cutie. My first experience with the band came around the turn of the century when I…um…somehow got a copy of We Have the Facts and We're Voting Yes. I thought it was a really good indie pop album with well-constructed, often poignant songs and charming lo-fi production, but I wasn't blown away by it. I was so not blown away buy it that I completely skipped (understandably) 2001's The Photo Album and (regrettably) 2003's Transatlanticism, only to return to the fold with 2005's Plans on the strength of "Soul Meets Body" and "Your Heart Is an Empty Room"--songs that mine the same shiny-yet-melancholy sonic territory as the Pernice Brothers, a band I admire greatly.

I should point out here that Death Cab is a band I have always wanted to love. When Ben Gibbard is on his game, there is no greater spokesman (in rock music anyway) for that peculiar form of contemporary American romanticism that elevates earnestness above all else. His best songs reflect the soul of the adolescent (certainly not meant in a pejorative sense) desire to believe in something and desperate hope that something exists to believe in. Christian bands and Emo bands reflect this desire, but point to fashion or Christ as the answer. Gibbard's answer is, I think, at least more honest if fairly unoriginal: Gibbard recognizes how nearly impossible it is to find that something to believe in and finds solace in communal experience, especially the little moments of understanding that occur between two people. I suppose you could call these love songs, but the romance on display in Gibbard's songs goes far deeper than the traditional idea of a love song: it's downright Platonic in its conception. The "me and you against the world" excitement of "Such Great Heights" is a good example, as is the "everything's fucked so let's create a new world in our minds!" optimism of "Soul Meets Body," which includes the lines, "But I know our filthy hands can wash one another's/ And not one speck will remain." If there's another rock band in America that has more faith in the human soul, I can't name them. Death Cab for Cutie is a precious commodity.

Gibbard's romanticism, however, is a two-edged sword: for every moment of zen-like clarity and understanding, there's an existential disaster about to happen, and Narrow Stairs seems more focused on the disaster than the triumph. In fact, the album could be seen as a loose concept album tracing the dark side of romantic entailment: desperation, dangerous infatuation, resignation, and desolation. Narrow Stairs opens with the incredibly depressing "Bixby Canyon Bridge," a meditation on desperation and suicide and, well, not being able to find one's way in life. It's typical of Death Cab, but it's also surprisingly compelling. Next is the 8-minute-plus "I Will Possess Your Heart," in which Gibbard adopts the persona of a creepy stalker. "No Sunlight" follows with the declaration that the sunlight in his life "Disappeared at the same speed/ As the idealistic things I believed/ When the optimist died inside of me." "The Ice Is Getting Thinner" ends the album with a dark mediation on a relationship that's on thin ice (get it?). This is a dark, dark album, and even those moments of glorious clarity are uncharacteristically depressing. "Grapevine Fires" finds the narrator declaring he's in the right place, even as he's watching "it all burn away" and realizing that it's "only a matter of time." The brightest spot on the album is a pretty little dity called "You Can Do Better Than Me" that begins with the line "I'm starting to feel we stay together out of fear of dying alone."

But is it any good? Well, yeah. The band sounds as good as ever. The songs are tight and the instrumentation is interesting and appropriate. The biggest problem I have with Death Cab is that Gibbard is not always on his game lyrically, and when he's not on his game, the results can be embarrassingly earnest. I suppose this comes with the territory, but it does keep Death Cab from receiving the critical acclaim bestowed upon more guarded American rock bands like Spoon or Wilco--bands that wear their hearts on their sleeves, but often couch their sentiments in nostalgia and abstraction. (Gibbard's lyrics, in contrast, are nothing if they aren't straightforward.) On Narrow Stairs this over-earnestness can be seen in the two "object songs" (songs in which Gibbard uses an object to extrapolate some greater meaning--think the glove compartment in "Title and Registration"). "Talking Bird" compares the narrator's lover to a talking bird, which can't bode well for their relationship, and "Your New Twin Sized Bed" in which he's an (ex?) lover lamenting the replacement of a queen bed with a twin. "But honey, two people can't really fit in this tiny…oh." These songs are a little too obvious for me, but they aren't horrible, and they don't detract from the fact that Narrow Stairs is a darn compelling exercise in existential despair and a damn good rock album.

Grade: B+

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Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Worst Vacation Ever: Troll 2

Destination: Nilbog (pop. 26)

Disaster: Trolls...I mean, goblins.

Troll 2 is a cult film of the "so excrementally bad it's good" variety, and here are some reasons why it is so terrible/awesome:

1. The Waits family participates in something called a "vacation exchange" with a family they've never met. A "vacation exchange" is when one family trades houses with another family for up to a month. If this sounds like the worst idea ever, you're right, especially if you are trading houses with a creepy family from a ghost town called Nilbog, which is soooo obviously Goblin spelled backwards. Why wouldn't you trade houses with a family from Hawaii or the south of France?

2. Important vacation lesson #1: "You can't piss on hospitality. I won't allow it!"

3. This:

4. If a family vacation is threatened by a war of words between your dad and your horny older sister, sing "Row, Row, Row Your Boat." Sing it (poorly) in a round if necessary.

5. In the epic battle between goblins and mankind, the only weapon necessary to prevail is a little boy with a double-decker bologna sandwich!

6. And let's talk about the goblins' disdain for meat products. When Joshua starts to eat the double-decker bologna sandwich given to him by his dead grandfather, the Goblin Queen implores him to think about the fat content, the cholesterol. Granted, the goblins want to feed us chocolate cake that turns us into slimy, green plant-goo and eat us, but they also seem to care about our health. See, nobody is all bad.

7. This:

8. This strange conversation between father and son (setting the scene-Joshua has just prevented his family from eating a dinner made with goblin-goo by pissing on the food)

Joshua: What are you going to do to me, Daddy?

Michael: (looks as if he is removing his belt to whip his son) Tightening my belt one loop so that I don't feel hunger pains, and your sister and mother will have to do likewise. Okay, Joshua. You wanna get rough with me? You wanna show me that you don't like the choice of this house for our vacation by going on a hunger strike? Well, I'll accept the challenge. But just remember when I was your age, I really did suffer from hunger. We'll see who gets through this, but just remember I've got more practice than you. I'll see you tomorrow.

I want to know more of Michael Waits' back-story. He suffered from hunger? Are we talking starvation or just regular old "I'm hungry--think I'll have a snack?"

9. Re: #6-The goblins do seem concerned with Joshua's diet, but they also eat his mom, so..maybe they do suck.
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Petrozza in the Land of Boobs

Two of my Hell's Kitchen's predictions came true last night:

1. Things ran more smoothly now that Matty is gone.
2. The sexy house-wife cooking class was a rousing (or should I say arousing?) success in as far as it livened the show up a titch.

That isn't to say that things ran perfectly. As is usually the case in Chef Ramsay's (fake) restaurant, when one screw-up leaves, there are two or three in line to take his/her place. Last night Bobby, Jen, and Gentleman Petrozza stepped up to slow things down and screw shit up, thus sending The Dark Lord into several angry tirades and food throwing tantrums. And there were plenty of bleeped insults to go around. In the end, the self-proclaimed Black Gordon Ramsay (the "four star general" to Ramsay's "president"--president of what?--cooking?) was asked to leave.

The highlight of last night's episode though had to be the six surgically enhanced "domestic houswives" Ramsay brought in for the very first Teaching Challenge. This has technically been a season of "very firsts" (pizza challenge, pasta making, cooking relay), but this is the first one that was actually interesting. Maybe it was the dish, a delectable looking lobster spaghetti. Or maybe it was the boobs.

Yeah, it was the boobs. I like MILFs as much as the next pervert and these ladies were the MILF-iest. Petrozza's interaction with his Stay-at-Home Barbie was humorous enough to make even Chef Ramsay crack a smile. Oh, Charlotte's own Petrozza--you filthy little scamp! Read the rest of this article.

Wednesday Morning Music: Brian Dewan - "Jimmy Carter Says 'Yes'"

Can our government be decent and open?

Musician/performance artist Brian Dewan sure seems to think so. He breaks out his best cable access backgrounds and dons his favorite red lab coat in this rendition of Freak Folk pioneer Waskey Elwood Walls's (as originally performed by Gene Marshall) under-appreciated classic .

Me? I'm not so sure.

Favorite lyric: "Jimmy Jimmy Carter, our 39th President"

Truer words were never spoken.

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Tuesday, June 10, 2008

'08 Summer Movie Report: You Don't Mess with the Zohan

You Don't Mess with the Zohan could have been the best thing to happen to summer since rocket pops, but it's actually only slightly more fun that an ice cream headache--and yet, it's not quite a sun stroke. Adam Sandler is an Israeli super spy who fakes his death and moves to New York to become a hairdresser. There's also an evil corporate plot to turn an old neighborhood into a mall. Oh, and there's a love interest. That should be all you need to know to determine whether or not you want to see this movie. But wait, there's more! Judd Apatow and Robert Smigel get co-writing credits. Sort of complicates things, right? Well, not really.

The one thing YDMWTZ has going for it is that it's profoundly silly. In the opening sequence we see Zohan catch a hacky sack in his butt, catch a fish in his butt, grill a manta ray, and high five a pelican. We also see his butt. Several times. We later see him swim like a dolphin, kill a man with his dismembered hand, and pee on a cat. His father abruptly dips his glasses into hummus. When we first meet the villain (John Turturro as a sort of super-terrorist), he's walking on the ceiling for no discernible reason. Like I said, this is a silly, silly film. Unfortunately, the silliness mostly disappears after the first 20 minutes or so and is replaced with…well…nothing. We get a lame love interest, a stupid extended granny-fucking sequence, and several un-funny cameos. In other words, Zohan turns into every other Adam Sandler film from the past 10 years. When the silliness returns, it's too little and far too late. Apatow and Smigel's presence is felt, and appreciated, in the unabashed weirdness of the first 20 minutes, but where the fuck does it go? A 90-minute extension of the pelican-slapping opening sequence would have been genuine summer fun, but what we actually get is an ice cream headache. Did I mention that already? I didn't like the movie.

Grade: D

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Monday, June 9, 2008

'08 Summer Movie Report: Sex and the City

Okay, I will admit to getting swept up in the hype. All of the interviews, ads, and film buzz made me reminisce about the days of old when I would sit with my roommates and watch Sex and the City. I thought to myself, hey, wouldn’t it be great if I got a group of my lady friends together to bond over the movie and then have some delicious dessert from The Cheesecake Factory???

Well, the cheesecake was good. I had chocolate raspberry truffle, thanks for asking! The movie – not so good. In true List Lady fashion, here is the rundown in list form:

1. What happened to the character traits that made these characters unique and so relatable? How can Samantha go the entire movie having sex with only one man? Why is Big nice? Why is Carrie a screaming, squealing little girl? Why do we have to know Big’s real name? Sigh…I think they lost sight of what made the show great – characters who have problems like us and act like us. Who hasn’t dated an asshole like Big? We all know, from our own experiences that these men do not change overnight. They don’t all of a sudden become the most loving, caring, perfect man. This is what fuels women’s myths of relationships and men. This is why we get pissed when our man doesn’t come groveling back to us and treat us like a princess. Instead, they may come back, but sooner or later they’ll return to their some old asshole ways. I guess Big sorta, kinda reverted, but only for 5 minutes or so. Love letters, really?

2. Product placement. Now, don’t think that I was na├»ve going into this. I knew the Sex and the City movie would be one huge commercial for shoes, fashion, and Apple. But, c’mon, did we really need a 5 minute fashion designer montage in the middle? At least in the show, it was less in your face. If anything, it was more of a way to separate the fashion gods from the clods. It wasn’t so much of, “Here are the ‘in’ things – make sure you know where to get them so you too can be cool.” The show had a much more natural way incorporating this consumer CRAP into the movie in such a way where you felt dumb because you didn’t necessarily know how to spell Manolo Blahnik (‘cuz the boxes weren’t always perfectly placed for the camera!).

3. It was too contrived. In the series, things felt more natural. They would go out to lunch, and then they’d move on with their everyday lives. In the movie, it just jumped from meal to meal to reunion to meal to reunion to etc….give me a break!!! Ugh. It was so ridiculous. If they would have cut out some of the stupid, unnecessary conversations and screaming moments and added more substance, the movie would have been a lot more tolerable.

That’s just the big three. Overall, I felt it lacked the charm of the show. It was thrown together to give women what they think they want, but the writers forgot what really and truly worked the best. The filmmakers tried too hard to make sure that everyone had comparable screen time which made for a lot of unnecessary scenes. I thought that Carrie was really the flattest of the four; the one who was most different from her sassy, independent self from the series, and that was the most disappointing aspect of the movie.

GEP's Grade: C-
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Sunday, June 8, 2008

From the Pages of Skymall

Air travel, while fast, is almost always uncomfortable.  You either get stuck sitting next to an unruly infant or some fat, sweaty guy who wants to show you the family photos in his wallet or an elderly woman with a tiny dog in her purse.  I have a hard time sleeping on a plane, mostly because I have a hard time falling asleep in a seated position, plus I won't recline my seat because I feel bad for the passenger behind me.  The wife and I tend to take early flights and while she rests comfortably I'm usually scrunched up against the window trying to adjust myself into a pleasant position.  There's got to be a better way, right?

Well, there's a way, but it's this:
It's called the SkyRest Travel Pillow and it makes those pancake-like pillows the airline attendants pass out look like amateur hour.  I mean, look at that guy?  That guy is resting hard! He's obviously been to a swinging party somewhere exotic (note his Hawaiian shirt, devil-may-care facial hair) and now he's traveling to the next party destination or home to his two bedroom apartment so he can clean up before his ex-wife drops off the kids for the weekend.  With the SkyRest Travel Pillow this middle-aged party animal is able to get the sleep he so desperately needs for any activities planned after his plane lands.Your snazzy-ass travel pillow arrives deflated making it easier to store in your carry-on luggage.  Once aboard, remove the tiny blue packet from your stuff, inflate the bastard, and get down to some serious log-sawin'!  It's just that simple.  Forget the fact that you'll look like a gigantic tool clutching this monstrosity to your chest--you're sleeping in style, brother!  

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Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Worst Vacation Ever: Westworld

Destination: Delos, home to MedievalWorld, RomanWorld, and WestWorld

Disaster: homicidal robots

Imagine you are vacationing with your family at Walt Disney World, riding the popular It's A Small World attraction, and suddenly the animatronic children of the world jump into your boat and starting mercilessly slaughtering everyone around you (feel free to imagine this happening on Pirates of the Caribbean if you prefer). That is pretty much what happens in Michael Crichton's Westworld.
Set in a near future where everyone dresses in 70's garb, Delos touts itself as "the most exciting vacation place in the history of man." Clearly they've never been to historic  Williamsburg. Boy howdy--now there's a good time!  Our heroes choose to spend $1,000 a day to hang out in WestWorld, a replica Old West town chock full of robot cowboys to shoot and robot hookers to bone.  It's a virtual wonderland, for people who want to senselessly kill others and solicit prostitutes.  

As it goes in most sci-fi thrillers, the robots begin developing some kind of disease which causes their circuits to go haywire and next thing you know they're refusing sex to creepy fat guys in MedievalWorld and filling James Brolin with lead on the streets of WestWorld.  The scariest bot of them all is known as The Gunslinger who develops a hard-on for harassing Peter, played by Richard Benjamin.  The Gunslinger follows Peter from the dusty streets of WestWorld, through the corpse-strewn walkways of RomanWorld, all over the underground catacombs of Delos, and finally catches up with him in MedivalWorld where Peter sets him ablaze.  

On a side note, if I could choose a section of Delos to vacation in it would totally be RomanWorld.  Why? One word: robo-orgy!
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Two Become One (or, Full Metal Matty)

Chef Ramsay finally sent poor, pathetic, delusional Matty home. It was long overdue. My prediction is that things will run a whole lot more smoothly now that this rubber-faced, sweat-soaked goofbag is finally gone.

There isn't much to say about this episode: appendages were burned, bloody meat was sent back to the kitchen, Ramsay screamed a lot--typical Hell's Kitchen fare, I'm afraid. I just can't seem to locate my excitement for this show anymore. I was told by some friends that Top Chef is much better, so maybe I'll check that out next season, but for now I'm going to stick it out with Ramsay and Company, just like I did with the Matrix Gang (OMG, those last two Matrix's movies sucked balls!).

The wife and I noticed last night that the two most despised characters on this year's Hell's Kitchen are named Matt and Jen. I don't know about her, but that fact hurt my feelings. Also, the manufactured drama really turned me off last night. Last week's "shocking end," in which Matt was sent back to the men's team and Jen rejoined the ladies in the red kitchen, turned out to not matter at all when the teams were combined. Dumb.

Oh well, next week's Cougar Cooking Class might inject some much needed fun into the proceedings. And if he cleans up his station and washes his hands, I think Charlotte's own Gentleman Petrozza has a good chance of taking it all. Now if I could only find the energy to care.

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Wednesday Morning Music: Lucy Knisley "The Last Time"

This week's Wednesday Morning Music is a charming reflection on the nature of time travel and love by cartoonist/musician Lucy Knisley (found via James Kolchalka's American Elf). It's gots shout outs to Oscar Wilde, Lou Reed, Calvin and Hobbes, and several other truly righteous cultural luminaries, but at heart it's a sincerely touching love song that pretty much nails that sweet spot between sappy and creepy. Kudos, Lucy Knisley. An award should be given for such an accomplishment.

Favorite lyric: "I'd help Hitler go to art school, see Houdini on the stage. I would shake the hand of Chaplin, and watch dinosaurs at play."

Sound's like a pretty good life to me.

(also, last week's Black Kids video is fixed)
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Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Sunday Bloody Sunday

I have to admit that I've never paid much attention to Mother Goose & Grimm. I didn't grow up reading the strip because it wasn't available in our local paper, but I did watch the cartoon from time to time, and I always considered the strip one of the better (well, certainly not one of the worst) daily strips. I never really liked it, but I never really found anything to actively hate, and that's saying a lot when it comes to daily comics. That all changed this Sunday.

See, unlike in today's times, in cavepeople times you could tell when a man had been hitting on your wife because disgusting udders grew on her head. In fact, you could tell precisely how many times a man hit on your wife because that's how many udders would be on her head. Soon these udders would begin producing puss which could nourish a small child for a short amount of time (maybe 3 days) until your wife would die, leaving you with nobody to drag to dinner parties hosted by your friends wives or company picnics.

Is that what's going on here? Does this really pass for a joke in 2008? Beating women? Cavemen? Back hair? Puns? Have we not progressed beyond this point? Read the rest of this article.

Monday, June 2, 2008

From the Editor's Desk: Summer Fun!

Remember how great it was when you were a kid and summer vacation rolled around? You got to ride your bike everyday for hours on end; you'd go to your dad's company picnic and sample every flavor of Faygo in the inflatable kiddie pool full of ice; your seven-year-old neighbor would invite you over to swim in his pool and you went just so you could oogle his mom who always wore inappropriately skimpy bikinis. Ah, summer.

Course when adulthood sets in summer isn't much more than spirit-crushing eight-hour work days, endless lawn-mowing, and broken AC units. And the heat--OMG, the heat!
Thanks to some expert financial planning on my wife's part, this June is shaping up to be a virtual vacation-a-rama. This weekend we head to Maryland for my cousin Shelbie's wedding; in two weeks I'll be in sunny Florida suffering from equal amounts of rapturous happiness and bald-guy sunburn at beautiful Walt Disney World; and finally the whole gang is off to Athens, Georgia to visit frequent commenter, Gabe, his wife, and their child. Sounds awesome, right? I feel like I've returned to the summer vacations of my youth, except for the sitting in a cubicle and staring at a computer screen all day part.

Anyway, this month, along with our regular features, I'll be taking a look at some Vacation Disaster films to remind you guys, our loyal readers, that even though you're almost 30 and the phrase "summer vacation" means jack shit, it could be a whole lot worse--you could be kidnapped by South American organ harvesters or attacked by homicidal cowboy robots. Sometimes it's better to stay at home. Happy June!
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