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Wednesday, June 26, 2013

What the WTF?!?: Miley Cyrus Descends Into Madness

I don't need mind-altering drugs because I've watched the video for Miley Cyrus' new song "We Can't Stop."  Twice.  Watch it right now, won't you?

Wait, what?  No, really, what?

If you saw the picture of Cyrus at the top of this post and thought, "Oh, here goes Matt about Miley again.  We get it, you like her.  Ugh!" and opted to not watch the video for "We Can't Stop" (alternate title "Fuck You, Dad"), then do yourself a "favor" and watch it.  Need some incentive?  Well, the "We Can't Stop" video may or may not contain the following images:

--a dude nonchalantly eating a money sandwich
--a human head made out of French fries that is subsequently crushed and kicked around at a party of some kind
--two dwarf luchadors square dancing
--Miley Cyrus French kissing a Just My Size Barbie doll
--a bikini-clad woman in a Jason Vorhee's mask threatening people playfully with a party sub
--a man relaxing on a pile of bread and eating the bread
--a beer bottle-shaped pinata full of blunts, I think
--Miley Cyrus covered in cocaine firing a round of paintballs into a bored male models crotch
--a girl cutting off her own fingers and bleeding Pepto Bismal
--Billy Ray Cyrus weeping in a corner while Miley dumps a box of frozen waffles over his head

Some of that stuff is totally in there, dudes, and you're going to miss it if you blow this post off as another one of my fawning, Miley Cyrus love-a-thons.  To be perfectly honest, I don't exactly love this song.  It's kind of boring and slow.  It's not terrible, but it is a blatant cred-grab that feels all kinds of icky and false.  You'd be a lot cooler, Miley, if you stop trying to remind us how cool you are all the time.

But, anyway, weird video, right?

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100 Songs I Love: Reduced to Ash (143-146)

When I think of summer, I think of pop rock, and it doesn't get much pop rockier than the band Ash.  So, as soon as June 21st reared its humid head, I dug out my copy of Free All Angels, tossed it into my car's CD player Ultimate-style, cranked the volume to 11, realized that wasn't nearly loud enough--I mean, especially on the highway--spun the nob to 67 and RIPPED IT OFF!!!

If you are not familiar with Ash, they are a band from the UK that I'm not sure really hit it big in the States.  I base this solely on the fact that only one person I know is aware of their existence and I've never encountered anyone who has ever mentioned them, outside of the occasional confused conversation at a BBQ cook-off or on a camping excursion.

Here's a couple other facts about Ash and how they relate to me specifically:

1) I only own 2001's Free All Angels.

2) The Ash show I attended at the Cat's Cradle in Carrboro, NC is still the loudest show I've ever been to.

So, here are four Ash tracks guaranteed to make your summer not only tolerable, but totally rockin'!

143. "Burn Baby Burn"

It takes a lot of balls to set your music video in a high school gymnasium nearly a decade after arguably the most iconic high school gymnasium music video of all time.  I like to thing of the school in this video as the "Smells Like Teen Spirit" school's upbeat crosstown rival.  Probably more focused on sports too, since the basketball team can't seem to wait until Ash finishes their pep rally presentation to start playing.  Both schools have pretty sexy cheerleaders though.

Which cheerleaders are sexier?: "Burn Baby Burn."

Which school would be more fun to go to?: "Smells Like Teen Spirit."  You don't even have to wear a shirt to class if you don't want to!  And the janitor seems nice.

144. "Sometimes"

"Sometimes" is my summer chill out song this year.  Whenever I feel the need to "take it easy" or "slow it down for a second," I'm going to turn on "Sometimes" and let the stress slowly evaporate from my body, effectively "chilling out" for at least four minutes.

Favorite lyrics: "Cigarettes keep you skinny, and your mind off the rain."  So true.

145. "Walking Barefoot"

How many gems can one album contain?!?  "Walking Barefoot" specifically mentions Summer in its lyrics, so it would be tantamount to treason to leave it off the list.  Plus, it's just a really solid pop rock tune.

Favorite YouTube comment on "Walking Barefoot": "the song to my teenage life" -imcoolandreallynot

2nd Favorite YouTube comment on "Walking Barefoot": "free all bagels" -gemma worthington

146. "There's a Star"

If you know me, you know I listen to music, specifically albums, in a strange and, sometimes, irritating way, especially to others.  It can take me years to listen to an album in it's entirety.  It can be a CD someone copied for me or the latest release from my favorite band, it doesn't matter.  I listen at my own pace and that pace is glacier slow.  The thing is, I get hung up on certain songs, and once hooked, I can't and don't want to let go.  So, I'll listen to the same three songs over and over and over, leaving the remainder the album ignored, probably unfairly.

I heard "There's a Star" for the first time last Thursday.  It's the second-to-last track on "Free All Angels," so it really shouldn't be a surprise.  It's a fabulous little song, and it got me thinking.

A crazy idea I had while listening to "There's a Star": I'm a huge fan of the Broadway musical, and I've always had this nagging desire to write one.  Alas, I have very limited musical talent, not to mention absolutely no connections in the theater world and a severe lack of motivation to do almost anything, so this will probably never happen.  I do like to daydream though, and daydream I did the first time "There's a Star"'s opening orchestral flourish hit my eardrums.  I thought, "This would be a great opening number in one of them jukebox musicals you hear so much about bein' popular these days."  And an idea was birthed.

You know how movies are popular source material for Broadway shows right now?  I thought, how about a musical based on 1958's The Blob?  But not just a musical, a jukebox musical.  Now, jukebox musicals often use songs from one specific artists, but not all of them do (Rock of Ages, for example).  So, why not a musical based on The Blob featuring songs I like?  I would watch that.  And I have.  In my head.

The opening scene: Our hero sings "There's a Star" as he prepares for a date with the most beautiful girl in school.  He continues this song while walking to her house with a bouquet of flowers in his hand and a spring in his step.  On his way to her house, he sees a falling star in the sky and takes it as a good luck charm.   Unbeknownst to our heror, said falling star is actually that meteor that contains the terrifying and viscous blob from outer space, who will shortly be poked by a lonely old hermit (he'll sing a song too; something by Beck, prolly) and unleashed upon the town.

Guys, pick up a copy of Ash's Free All Angels and have a good summer for once in your life, OK?  OK.

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Sunday, June 23, 2013

Paula Deen is a racist piece of garbage, or Duh!

I've never liked Paula Deen (I don't trust anyone who uses the word 'y'all' that many times in one sentence), but I'm also not the kind of asshole who takes joy in the downfall of others.  I do, however, believe that racists should not have nice things.  So, yes, I'm glad Paula Deen was exposed as a racist-joke spewing piece of human garbage; and I'm glad she was fired from her job on the Food Network; and I'm glad I don't have to see her butter-soaked visage on my television screen anymore, frying beer-battered pork rinds in her bedside fryer or mixing up a batch of chicken-fried, bacon-soaked, butter-poached banana pudding gravy.  Good riddance, Paula Deen.  Go drink mint juleps in your multi-million dollar home and reminisce about the old days when you were a secretly racist old lady beloved by millions of walking heart attacks.  And while you're at it, go suck a stick of butter, you sicko.

Paula Deen is terrible, but can we take a minute to focus on the other thing that came out of this story.  Apparently, somewhere in this great country of ours, there is a slavery-themed restaurant.  What the hell?!?  

And when asked if she wanted black men to play the role of slaves at a wedding she explained she got the idea from a restaurant her husband and her had dined at saying, “The whole entire waiter staff was middle-aged black men, and they had on beautiful white jackets with a black bow tie.

“I mean, it was really impressive. That restaurant represented a certain era in America…after the Civil War, during the Civil War, before the Civil War…It was not only black men, it was black women…I would say they were slaves.”

You know the owners of this not-yet-named restaurant are shitting in there rebel flag embroidered underpants.  "Oh no.  People weren't supposed to know about this place.  Well, non-white people at least."  Hey, gang, let's find this place and get it shut down, all right?  I mean, come on!  You know, a good first step on your road to forgiveness, Paula, might be providing the name of this establishment so the American populace can swarm upon it World War Z-style and reduce it to hickory-smoked rubble.

Also, one more thing about this restaurant: talk about not having a clear theme.  If I've learned anything from the countless hours of Restaurant: Impossible I've watched, it's that you've got to have a clear vision for your restaurant, otherwise Robert Irvine will descend upon you like an angry soccer hooligan and kick your restaurant's metaphorical arse.  I mean, what are you, weird, unnamed racist restaurant?  Are you a pre-Civil War restaurant, a post-Civil War restaurant or are patrons treated to an exciting (and racist, of course) battlefield-style dining experience?  That might be fun, right?  Instead of easy-listening Muzak playing as you shovel pork-soaked collard greens and johnnycakes into your fat mouth, you are treated to the sounds of bullets whizzing past your jowls and cannons booming in the distance.  The waiters, dressed in either blue or gray, some of them wrapped in blood-soaked bandages or missing appendages, duck and dive their way to your table, and quickly describe the specials, their voices quivering with fear.  Inevitably, a Rebel waiter will encounter a Union waiter in the dining room, and a bloody fight will take place right then and there.  Who knows when you'll get that Diet Coke refill.  And don't forget the slaves.  They'll be there too.

Anyway, Paula, when you've finished your heartfelt apology to Matt Lauer and the producers of the Today Show, why don't you let us know how we can shut this slave restaurant down, all right?  Thanks.

Addendum: There was a story in the paper this morning from the New York Times about the crowds that had shown up at Paul Deen's restaurant in Savannah to support their N-word spouting food hero.  As you can see from the picture above, they look like an award-winning bunch, provided the award in question reads Prize Pig.

I'm sorry.  That wasn't fair.  After all, the same paper in which I read this charming story, had another story, directly above this one actually, that was all about how the AMA just declared obesity a disease.  So, I'm not going to make fun of all the disease-ridden folks waiting to get into The Lady and Sons, because that's not the kind of guy I am.  I'm not going to ridicule these poor souls suffering with fat sickness just because they desire unlimited trips to the gravy buffet.  That gravy might just be what's keeping them alive, dammit!

The part of this story that makes me sick is, well, two things.  First of all, when someone you admire, in this case Paula Deen, does something repugnant, in this case repeatedly make racist remarks, the first thing you don't, or shouldn't do, is immediately defend them, that is, unless you, I don't know, kind of agree with them a little...?  I mean, that's what joining a line of sweaty, human buffalo hungry for salty butter and fried what-have-yous outside of a racist TV chef's all-you-care-to-cram-in-your-already-greasy-even-though-you-haven't-even-been-seated-yet-mouth buffet restaurant implies, doesn't it?  That you don't think ethnic jokes are a big deal?  That being a horrible racist doesn't mean you should be shunned from society if you know how to make really delicious cornbread?  You might not feel that way, but when you defend an old white lady who clearly does feel that way, you can't be shocked when I assume the same thing about you.

And then there's this:

Most of the diners in line on Saturday morning were white and more than ready to defend one of their favorite cooking stars. But at the very front was Nicole T. Green, 36, an African-American who said she had made a detour from a vacation in New Orleans specifically to show up in support of Ms. Deen.  

“I get it, believe me,” Ms. Green said. “But what’s hard for people to understand is that she didn’t mean it as racist. It sounds bad, but that’s not what’s in her heart. She’s just from another time.”

No, Ms. Green, you don't get it.  Deen might be "from another time," but this time, right now, is the time in which we are all currently living, and this racist shit doesn't fly in this time.

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Friday, June 21, 2013

And this summer's binge watch selection is...

It’s the first day of Summer ’13. Hooray. 

Look, I hate summer. The weather, the molten-hot seat belts, the constant barrage of ice cream cone after ice cream cone, the backyard barbecues with friends and family, the blockbuster movies, the increased teenaged presence on the registers of my favorite stores. The whole season is hot and uncomfortable and terrible. If we lived in a society modeled after the hit motion picture The Purge (now playing), on the night of the Purge itself (for those of you who don’t know, the Purge is a 12-hour period in which all crime is legal, but especially murder, especially murder of the poor, and all emergency services are suspended), I would find Summer and blow its brains out. Summer is the worst.  

So, here’s how I’m going to spend my summer: indoors, AC blasting, cool glass of lemonade in my sweat-free hand, in front of the television. And what program will I be indulging in this summer?

Well, that would be G.I. JOE, of course. You know, the real American hero who week after week successfully defeated the terrorist organization COBRA, despite not being able to hit the broadside of a barn with their government-issued laser blasters. I’m watching that. 

I didn’t really watch G.I. JOE much when I was a kid. I think I would occasionally catch half an episode while waiting for the bus when I was in elementary school, but that was about it. I may have seen the animated movie at an Indian Guide camping retreat. I didn’t have any of the toys, though I adored them. My cousin, Joey, had tons of G.I. Joes, and every time we got together, he’d pull out his box of action figures and me, Joey, and our other cousin, Jonathan, would Joe it up. I typically chose my Joes and took them to another part of the room, mainly because, when I was a kid, I didn’t really approve of how other people played with action figures, with the exception of my friend Graham, with whom I would actually engage in co-action-figure play. 

Side-note: Once Joey found that porno tape in our grandmother’s garage, our priorities changed. G.I. Joe just didn’t seem that important any more. 

Porno has largely lost its mysterious allure, so I’m ready to plunge back into the world of special ops and terrorist plots that I’ve been lead to believe G.I. JOE provides in abundance. I invite you to check in throughout the summer as I plow my way through the entire original series. Maybe I’ll watch the recent live-action movies too if I have time and/or find some extra oxycodone pills from my wisdom teeth surgery recovery days lying around. We’ll see. 

For now I think I should just shout the thing and move on. So, heregoes: GO JOE! 

I could’ve done that better. Whatever. To the TV! Where’s my lemonade?!? Up yours, Summer!!!

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Friday, June 14, 2013

Sesame Street Live: Elmo Makes Music for Everyone But Me

A couple of weeks ago, my wife and I took our two year old daughter to see Sesame Street Live. I’d been when I was a wee lad—I don’t remember the experience, but I have seen photographic proof of my participation—and we thought it would be fun to take her, seeing as she is a big fan of the television program, specifically any segment that features Elmo and/or Abby Cadabby.

The show was fun. Quinn absolutely loved every second of it, perched on her Pop Pop’s lap, eyes wide, mouth agape. Anyone else looking at her might have thought, “That kid doesn’t seem to be having much fun; she isn’t clapping or smiling or dancing around like drooly human tornado, like my little [INSERT TRENDY KID NAME HERE]” or “Is that child in some kind of coma in which a person’s eyes remain open and they occasionally cram a handful of Cheddar Bunnies into their open mouth?” We know, of course, that Quinn takes her Sesame Street very seriously. This was not a time for unabashed wildness. This was a time for quiet reflection, a time for reverence. This was Sesame Street Live, dammit! Show some respect.

I thought three things while watching Sesame Street Live with my wife, daughter and parents:

1.) How much do the performers in the character suits hate Jenny, the human character? My guess: a whole bunch. Those suits have got to be hot. And everybody—from Big Bird to Telly Monster—was putting their hearts and souls into every dance move. And everybody is dancing constantly. It’s insane.

2.) Why isn’t Zoe saying anything? Zoe was relegated to crowd work. When things reached a fever pitch on stage, Zoe would descend into the audience for head pats and quickie photo ops.  She was sometimes joined by a random blue Honker.

3.) Why does Sesame Street Live hate my generation? Let me explain.

During the two ill-fated years I spent in grad school, I took a class in Human Development, and came across a disturbing factoid in that class’s textbook. Apparently, I was part of a lost generation: not old enough to be one of those wacky, slacky Gen Xers, but too old to claim Generation Y as my own. I was a man out of time; a human blank without a handy label to affix to myself; a drifting member of a forgotten social group without direction. I was nothing. What was I to do? Vision quest? Suicide? I’d forgotten about my generation-less status until Sesame Street Live came to town.

Look, I’m not going to badmouth Sesame Street Live. I already said it was fun. But I did notice that not one moment of it was geared to my age group. “Well, Matt,” you’re probably saying as you remove the pipe from your mouth and adjust your monocle, “Sesame Street Live is for children after all.” You’d be right, sir or weird lady wearing a monocle and smoking a pipe, however, Big Bird, via PA system, thanked us parental types for bringing our kids to the show several times during various breaks in the performance, and while he may have been exclusively addressing the grandparents in the crowd, I foolishly thought he was referring to me and my wife and the rest of us with Sesame Street Live-aged kids.  Turns out, Big Bird could barely give a shit that we were in attendance.  I’ll keep explaining.

Sesame Street Live’s musical performances in the first half of the show were exclusively geared toward the kids in the audience, as they should’ve been. I couldn’t tell you what any of the songs sounded like, but there were ones about how magical music is and how everything from trash can lids to tennis shoes can be used as makeshift instruments and garbage like that. The second half of the show however featured parody songs and musical homages directly aimed at the older folks in the crowd (i.e. my parents). There was a Saturday Night Fever segment in which Bert donned a John Travolta-style leisure suit and performed a variety of disco moves. The Count and Jenny sang a song about the number 8 to the tune of “Fame.” I remember thinking, “Oh boy! They’re edging ever closer to the songs and musical stylings that I, a 34-year-old American male, enjoy and am familiar with.” But it didn’t happen. Oscar didn’t don a ratty flannel shirt and riff on grunge. There wasn’t any boy band or Britney Spears parodies. Sure, there was a Sesame Street take on old school 80’s rap, but where was the gangsta rap I grew up listening at my slightly older friends' houses? Everything in Sesame Street Live was designed to entertain toddlers and old people. Where was my piece, Elmo?!?

In the end, it didn’t matter. Quinn had a great time with her grandparents, and me and Jen took a ton of pictures. In fact, I was so busy snapping photos with both my iPhone and our new digital camera, I didn’t see very much of the show itself. But that’s going to be my experience for a while. As Quinn gets older, more and more of our extracurricular activities will, and should, cater to her. It was so much fun watching her reaction to giant-sized versions of her Sesame Street pals, I didn’t really mind that Grover didn’t sing an “I’m Too Sexy” parody about eating vegetables. Besides, there were more pressing things to worry about, like why the hell Zoe wasn’t saying anything. Seriously. What was up with that?

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