Direct your attention

Allow myself to reintroduce…myself.

I am posting on this site now.

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Everybody Gather Round

Couldn’t find the video clip (damn copyright laws), but you all know the line.

Ladies and gentlemen, can I please have your attention. I’ve just been handed an urgent and horrifying news story. I need all of you, to stop what you’re doing and listen.

No cannonball. In the literal sense at least.

This will be my last post on this site. From here on out, you will be directed (and hopefully direct others) to a brand new, super stylized, way snazzier, and much more top notch site. I spoke about this very briefly in my last post, but since that time, the site has been constructed and is ready for lift off. But, ever one for timing, I’ve decided to hold off on its launch. As a Christmas present to myself, the site will debut in two days. I have a new podcast lined up for this weekend, so that will be the first post on the new site. Other than an introductory one, that is. I hope you all are even half excited as I am about this, and if not, here’s a taste below (small computer = small screen shots). Enjoy your time with your loved ones, and Merry Christmas to all.

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If twentysomethings end up taking this movie to heart, odds are that won’t be because it’s the smartest dramatization of a real-life ordeal since Werner Herzog’s Rescue Dawn. They’ll flock to it because it’s their story, too — one they can identify with, even if the only canyon they’ve ever seen is Wall Street. Or so this member of the gamy generation that screwed up their lives suspects, anyway. Sorry about the boulder, kids, and good luck getting out.

Tom Carson, GQ November 2010

I have two rules for writing up a movie review. First, if I know I’m going to see something and have any intention of reviewing it, I stay clear of anyone’s work until after I’ve seen the film. It’s far too easy to have your opinion swayed by reading somebody’s well written argument before going in. And even worse, I don’t want to have a word or phrase subconsciously copied because of doing so. This happens a lot with sports pundits. You may hear or read a particular point that you either like or makes sense. Now when discussing that given sports topics with friends, you quote this pundit, without giving credit to his or her point. It’s your point now. I try and avoid this at all costs. My second rule is that in order for something to warrant a review, I must see it either the weekend it comes out, shortly after. Naturally, these rules lend themselves to one another (I can’t read all that much on something that just came out, or, if a movie has been out for a while, I most likely have conceded any chance at a review, and dug into it’s Rotten Tomatoes page).

I broke both of these rules for “127 Hours.” I purchased the November issue of GQ at an airport, as I’ve been known to do. I referenced it’s Glee cover story a couple of posts ago, and after seeing “127 Hours,” I searched and searched for the above quotation. I eventually realized it was in the same issue.

“127 Hours” first popped up on my pop culture radar with the release of the trailer, and excitement that went along with seeing Danny Boyle’s name attached. Then it was a topic of conversation on the NPR Pop Culture Happy Hour podcast (which comes with my co-sign) in which all participants praised the film. It sprung up again when listening to another podcast favorite, Extra Hot Great, and needless to say, I was all in. Except that it wasn’t playing in Orlando, anywhere. So that second rule I have about catching a flick on the opening weekend, was hard to gauge. When “127 Hours” did open near me, would the timetable of relevancy have passed?(Actually, yes, Black Swan has taken it’s place.)

But here’s the thing. This movie is gripping, intense, exhilarating, uncomfortable, so spectacularly shot, presented, and acted, that I needed to go back and read the GQ piece once again. It reaffirmed both Boyle’s and Franco’s brilliance, and that last final passage, the one I included at the top of this post struck me with extra meaning. Maybe I was influenced by it in the very same fashion I typically try to avoid, but something did “resonate” with me. As Franco is stuck there, hours, maybe minutes away from death, he considers his life; the errors he made more immediately (ie: neglecting to tell anyone where he was going because he was ‘fine by himself”), and what he would fail to accomplish having met his demise (ie: a son).

Carson draws the metaphor that the boulder which pins Franco’s arm, trapping him with no escape insight, is akin to the economic climate left for a college graduate like say, I don’t know, myself. I struggled to find a fully satisfying writing job right out of college, and this struggle is what in large part gave way to this blog. And my experience is not uncommon. Unemployment “for Americans with at least a bachelors degree rose to 5.1%, the highest since 1970.” There is no denying the cumbersome task of realizing your dream these days. Hell, even just surviving.

So what are the options? I’m not so certain there is a metaphorical arm to cut off here, but the resiliency Franco portrayed can be a powerful motivating force. With that, I urge everyone to go see “127 Hours.” The ‘scene’ is not all that bad, and unless you have a weak stomach, it shouldn’t bother you that much. Meanwhile, I’ll be trying my best to overcome my boulder, starting with a new and improved blog and web page on the way. I don’t want to divulge too many secrets (mostly because I don’t even know them yet), but expect something special.

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Open Shut Shopping

Welcome to holiday no man’s land. The Hanukkah lights have been extinguished, which means some of us have received our gifts. Other though, have two weeks until the unwrapping comenses. And then there are the lucky ones who hail from multi-denominational homes where Holiday joy comes in two doses.

Regardless of your preference in festival, you will inevitably be faced with the decision of figuring out which material possessions best suit your loved ones. What shit do they want the most? But gift giving is more complex than that. It’s not just about what someone wants to get, its what you want to give them. Timmy may like a crossbow for Christmas (the natural evolution of the BB gun) but Timmy’s parents don’t want Patches the tabby house cat to be little Tim’s first casualty. That’s why board games were always my household go to for whenever I was invited to a birthday party. It promotes family bonding! It’s not a violent video game or worse, a CD with a parental advisory label on it!!

So, if you’re anything like me, you scour gift guides of reputable sources (GQ, Vulture) to see if anything jumps out and screams Aunt Kristie. What’s the message I want to send with my gift? And then it hits you like a stack of books — I want to promote reading. There are enough sections in a book store to be able to address everyone’s differing interests, and a quick look at a Best List is all it takes to know what’s going to stir conversation and encourage, dare I say it, thinking.

I ordered three books recently, all of which could not be more different than the next. 1. The Big Book of Basketball: The NBA According to the Sports Guy by Bill Simmons. This massive 752 page ode to hoops recently (Dec. 7) came out in paperback, and being a fan of his first, his columns and podcasts, and basketball, this purchase was inevitable. Got a dad or brother who loves sports and could use a dose of literature into his life? Turn to Simmons. He’s funny, thorough, and has a pretty awesome name.

2. Freedom by Jonathan Frazen. Honestly got this on the sole fact that it’s on so many Best of 2010 lists. If you clicked on that link I provided earlier, you would know that this is atop their fiction selections. If Mom prefers snuggling up with a book over the remote, and tends to follow Oprah‘s instructions pretty closely, then she may take to this one quickly.

3. I’m hesitant to divulge this last one because it’s intended to be given to someone who most certainly will be reading this sentence before said gift is delivered. Let’s say this. I recently read Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games. Part 1 of her young adult trilogy that takes place in a post apocalyptic America ruled by a sadistic tyrannical government and upper class. I read it in a week’s time, with 80% of my consumption taking place over 48 hours. It’s that good. That niece or nephew or cousin you have that either loves books or has difficulty finding one they can truly dive into? The Hunger Games works both ways.

And the best part about giving a book as a gift? Reading it yourself. This may sound selfish, but it will provide for great discussion for you and this new owner of a beautiful hardcover. Plus what say’s ‘I’m someone who is interested in furthering myself to the point that I’m slightly pretentious but you still can’t argue with that fact that what I’m doing is noble and sadly rare’ more than reading a book. Give the gift of reading this holiday season. And thank you for reading this and any other posts. I would say that this is my gift to you, but then I’d be more than slightly pretentious.

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New Haven, CT

Back up north. But before I could make any kind of triumphant return to New York, we first had a quick stay in New Haven. My first time in Connecticut, and yet I’m spelling it correctly already. With captions.

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16 thoughts on MBDTF

Kanye West’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy has been out for a week now. Longer if you scooped up the leak. If you’ve paid any attention to the mass critical acclaim, you know the album is being heralded as a classic. Perfect rating from Rolling Stone. Perfect rating from XXL. Praise is raining down.

So I held off on a review. Waiting to pick it up retail style, I was behind most, and with everyone deconstructing the disc so beautifully, I figured my commentary would be rendered either redundant, pointless, or both.

Until a buddy asked me what my thoughts were and I realized that with so many posts leading up to the release it would be at the very least inconsistent to not say anything. So, rather than write up a review, and restate what has already been said many times over (“this album is nothing short of great”) here are 16 notes, observations, and thoughts on Kanye West’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy:

  • Same length as Graduation (13 tracks), but two non-songs on MBDTF.
  • This would normally be a bad thing (Late Registration had 4 skits, that, while funny, don’t add much), but the “All Of The Lights Interlude” and “Who Will Survive In America?” are every bit as wonderful as the actual songs.
  • Speaking of that Interlude, I’m convinced it’s Michael Jackson funeral music. It’s sad, soft, and above all else, a stunning piece of instrumentation. The loud, celebratory sounding song itself is offset by this equally dramatic lead in.
  • I’m convinced it’s Michael Jack funeral music for two reasons. 1)Kanye references his death in the third line of “AotL,” and 2) there’s a big float of his head in the Runaway movie while this song plays.
  • It shouldn’t be underestimated or undervalued how the film compliments the album. Even if it’s as small as the point above, Runaway gives us a reference and context for a good portion of the album. For instance, it may not have been a Murcielago, but listening to “Dark Fantasy” with the top down feels so right.
  • What a different opening statement “Dark Fantasy” makes than “Good Morning.” (His first two albums open with skits, and 808s and Heartbreak is difficult to fit into the context of his musical career. It’s like the Jordan baseball years, but with more success.) One’s dreamy, low-key, the other rings choir chants reminiscent of heavenly gates.
  • I count 7 sure-fire classic records: “Dark Fantasy” “Power” “All of the Lights” “Blame Game” “Runaway” “Lost in the World” “Monster.”
  • It’s interesting to think about how we would have received this album had Kanye not released any single or started GOOD Fridays. I would venture to say he doesn’t care much for appeasing radio with a single, and is primarily forced to do so to generate buzz. “Power” certainly did that. As for GOOD Fridays, we didn’t know “Monster” “So Appalled” and “Devil In a New Dress” were album material when he gave them to us. Upon seeing that they were, it was almost like finding your Christmas presents in the attic on Dec. 11th. Or getting a kiss at the bar and going home alone. It’s awesome when it happens, but we didn’t think it was going to be part of the main show.
  • That said, I think “Monster” and “Power” are two of the strongest songs on the album, and we’d all be talking about them a lot more had we not had them for month(s) prior.
  • However, the GOOD Fridays, as well as this album, set a new precedent in Hip-hop. Who else was giving away free music every week? Now Swizz Beatz, Timbaland, and Slim Thug are following suit. As for the album, Ye continues to push the envelope of what Hip-hop can be. He’s a trend setter for real.
  • Back to “All of the Lights” for a second. At first was confused by all the features. Now I love them. Cudi’s little transitional bridge, Alicia Keys’ belting out opposite Elton John, even Fergie’s small part annoys me less than it used to. Still think those bars would have been more valuable in someone elses hands.
  • The two lengthiest songs, “Runaway” and “Blame Game,” don’t feel long at all. “Runaway” is bare and raw enough to be engrossing the full 9 minutes. “Blame Game” is just three pieces fitting together seamlessly over topĀ  eloquent Kanye keys. John Legend’s lead in + Kanye verses + a Chris Rock’s hilarious outro monologue = nearly 8 minutes of perfection.
  • Best lines from the monologue: “You never used to talk dirty, now you’re goddamn disgusting.” “This is some Cirque De Solei p—- now.”
  • The last album I had that Chris Rock was on was Lil Jon’s Crunk Juice. MBDTF is better, but Chris Rock is still hilarious.
  • Whenever I listen to “Who Will Survive in America?” I can’t help but think about Kanye’s retreat last fall. (third graph) “”I left America. I stopped doing music altogether. I just took some time,” West said. “I went to Japan just so I could get away from paparazzi altogether. Then in November I moved to Rome and just lived there.” Who will survive in America? Kanye couldn’t survive in America, and it’s very likely this is the exact thought he’s hoping to elicit by including that at the end of the disc.
  • Yet there are parts of America that need Kanye to survive. I find that there are two attitudes toward Kanye, and they have a lot to do with age. There is the person who only see’s the ego, only see’s the antics, and dismisses the music, the artistry of Kanye West. Then, there is the person who see’s that the music and the artistry are far more valuable, far more influential, and dismisses the ego and the antics. I’m not justifying behavior that he himself has recognized as wrong, I’m just saying, put My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy in and try to suppress your emotions. Try not to laugh at Chris Rock, try not to get chills when the drums kick in on “Lost In the World,” try not to get caught up in the epicness of “All of the Lights” or the vulnerability of “Runaway.” These are human reactions that can not, and should not be suppressed. Hate him or love him, but Kanye created art from his own personal experiences, his own emotions that is then able to speak to the same feelings inside of his listeners. He does this with words, with images, with instrumentation. He is a great artist, and has every right to be as arrogant as he is. It may not be the most attractive character trait, but if your back was against the proverbial wall, and you had to create a masterpiece in order to comeback, then you not only did, but knew you were going to do it all along. That’s a virtuoso. Kanye is rap’s first virtuoso.
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Me and Mr. Potter

I haven’t seen a movie since The Social Network nearly 7 weeks ago. A truly unacceptable streak for someone as stimulated by pop culture and entertainment as me. But aside from Due Date and Jackass 3D, which I only had mild interest in, the recent string of releases was significantly underwhelming. Enter Harry Potter and The Deathly Hollows: Part 1.

The difficult part about reviewing HP7a or even expressing my general viewpoint of it, is that, as a non-reader, I feel ill equipped picking it apart. Even having seen all of the films, this still feels like a franchise unintended for me.

First, a history of my relationship with Harry Potter. My brother, who hasn’t gotten a blog shout out since late June, loved the books in the same fashion that many young readers did. I tried to pick up the first book, and even got a few pages into it, but for whatever reason, I was left unaffected. I was in a very heavy sports non-fiction reading phase around this time.

When the first movie came out in 2001 I was in 8th grade, and as part of an English field trip, we went to see it in theaters. How I saw the next few escapes my memory, but I know that I saw them and liked them enough to want to see the next. Fast forward to let’s say the 4th or 5th, and I was now taking my brother to see each installment. As a youngster, he couldn’t drive himself.

I distinctly remember seeing Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince in the Cherry Hill AMC because out of all the pre-screening schedules I was sent in my Review days, I never capitalized on the marginally better treatment I received as press. I saw HP6 two days early, and drove an hour south (got lost, too) to do so.

But that was the last time I saw it. As I sat in the theater watching Deathly Hollows part 1, I kept thinking maybe I should have brushed up. I catch the older ones on ABC Family every now and then, but still, I can’t remember one time I intently watched a Harry Potter film besides when it was in theaters.

So here I was, in theaters again, watching the latest chapter in this wizardly tale. This film was abundantly bleak, which from my quick memory jogging, seems to follow the elevating sense of doom. Each film gets progressively darker, with this one making young eyed Harry, white landscapes, and jolly fun Quidditch games a thing of the distant past. This is a very adult version of Harry, Ron, and Hermoine, with real serious dire problems facing them. No more dances or big feasts on the horizon. The collision between Harry and Voldemort is inevitable and as we near closer to that climax, things do not look in Harry’s favor. Muggles and wizards alike are panicking, ole Voldy grows more powerful with every day, and Harry and friends are lost in the woods (sometimes, literally).

Certain scenes made even a non-Potterfile like myself excited; the undercover mission in the Ministry of Magic for instance. But for a 2 and a half hour film, there were also scenes that were frustratingly either irrelevant or slow. There are many sit and contemplate moments, and the dancing scene was almost laughable. The movie never really felt long though.

As for any further commentary, I’m afraid I can’t scrutinize properly. I just hope this one’s fresh in my mind come July 15, 2011. My brother tells me Part 1 was his favorite thus far, so if part 2 is the satisfying conclusion readers are hoping for, then I’m sure I’ll like it just fine.

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