Friday, July 29, 2011

Who's the New Girl? Episode 108: The Slime People

the babes of MST3K

Having both an unhealthy obsession with classic pin-up style, which is coming back, and Mystery Science Theater 3000, which lives on forever, I've decided to combine my two lusts and create yet another series, this one based around pin-ups of the lovely ladies that starred in the b-movies MST3K skewered so hilariously. I will be taking on every single one of the relevant episodes, in order, because I have problems. Enjoy!

The series begins here. 

Susan Hart

"Ohhh! Tasting my daughter, I see! Well, I'll just stare at these curtains." 

Girl-next-door cute, and yet undeniably curvy, Susan Hart was one of those '60s starlets who learned how to make the most of her short career. This Washington State native found herself transplanted down the coast to Palm Beach while still in high school, and it was there on the beach that she was discovered by a rep from American International Pictures. The Slime People was actually her first film role; in it, she plays Lisa Galbraith, the older of two Professor's Beautiful Daughters put there to romance the male leads while they attempt to save the city (and the audience) from some kind of deadly, impenetrable fog.

Her combined film/TV career last just over two years, but she helped define the era, starring in AI's biggest and goofiest beach movies, from the Tab Hunter vehicle Ride the Wild Surf to the second of the Annette Funicello beach movies, Pajama Party, and both Dr. Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine and its Italian sequel, Dr. Goldfoot and the Girl Bombs. Soon after, however, she married the studio president, James H. Nicholson, and settled down to raise a family. Upon Nicholson's death in 1973, the plucky Hart took over his  current projects, Dirty Mary Crazy Larry and Legend of Hell House, and saw them through, eventually owning over 40 of Nicholson's classic horror films outright. By that time she was on her way to a semi-successful singing career, scoring a minor country hit in 1981 with "Is This a Disco or a Honky Tonk?" She then married Harvard prof Roy Hofheinz (son of the famed Texas pol) and took on a new career as an ice-skater!


Thursday, July 28, 2011

This one goes out to all the Guns N' Roses fans who stuck with us through all the fucking shit! And to all those opposed... hmm, well.

The Top 10 stupid, cheesy fucking things Axl Rose suddenly blurts out in songs, seemingly for no reason

10. Take that one to heart!
9. You dig? What I'm sayin'? Man?
8. Smoke 'em if you got 'em!
7. You think anyone with an IQ over 15 would believe your shit, fuckhead?
4. What's so civil 'bout war, anyway?
3. You just better start sniffing your own rank subjugation jack 'cause it's just you against your tattered libido the bank and the mortician forever man and it wouldn't be luck if you could get out of life alive!
2. And that goes for all you punks in the press that want to start shit by printin' lies instead of the things we said... that means you, Andy Secher at Hit Parader, Circus Magazine, Mick Wall at Kerrang, Bob Guccione Jr. at Spin, What you pissed off cuz your dad gets more pussy than you? Fuck you! Suck my fuckin' dick! You be rippin' off the fuckin' kids while they be payin' their hard earned money to read about the bands they want to know about, printin' lies, startin' controversy, you wanna antagonize me? Antagonize me motherfucker! Get in the ring motherfucker! And I'll kick your bitchy little ass, PUNK!
1. ...toniiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiaiaiaiaiaiaiaiaiiiiiiyeahyeahyeahhhhhhiiiiiiiiiiiaiaaaaaaaiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiaiaiaiaiiiiiiiaiaiiiiiiaiiiiiaiiiaiiiiaiaiaiaaaiiiiiiiiiiiiight.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Politics of Fat

or, the media schoolyard bullies

It gets tiring. The media's most popular, intelligent, and supposedly open-minded personalities -- news personalities, also supposedly -- being obsessed with how fat Rush Limbaugh and Michael Moore are. Which they are, mostly, even though Rush's weight has gone down and Moore's seems to fluctuate. There's no debate there. But I have trouble seeing the correlation between their weight and their politics or their ideals. And apparently there is one.
A political cartoon that explains
Limbaugh's ideals and how they may differ
 from GOP rank-and-file leaders.

Keith Olbermann -- a man who goes out of his way to attack racists,sexists, and homophobes -- misses no opportunity, every night, to make sneering asides about Rush, pointedly dropping words and phrases like "large," "heavy," and "immovable object" in a winking way to make sure that we know Limbaugh is fat. And, with all the crazy, hateful stuff that comes out of Rush's mouth every day that's ripe for parody, focusing instead on slowing down that CPAC footage of him jumping up and down in order to get the Republican troops pumped up. Look! He's jiggling!

Jon Stewart, in talking about said speech at said conference, joked that Rush "brought down the house... maybe they should build it out of brick." You see, he's fat.

But it'd be one thing if pundits just threw this stuff out to be mean. No, they specifically attempt to tie Rush's weight problems into his political philosophy. Stewart sarcastically mocked him once as a "picture of self-reliance and restraint, not a creature of appetites," before going on to do a Jabba the Hutt joke. Really? Rush wants Obama to fail because the President doesn't have an eating disorder?

Olbermann, noting that Limbaugh referred to a Ted Kennedy Memorial Health Care bill, wondered if it was politic to note that Ted Kennedy was dying from brain cancer, then suggested, in the same breath, that it was okay to mock Rush for dying of the fat: "Do advertisers worry about a morbidly obese man making fun of a man fighting brain cancer?"

Dissecting Rush's BP spill statements, one by one.
Not to mention Al Franken's bestseller Rush Limbaugh Is A Big Fat Idiot, which makes tons of jokes about Rush being fat, and, oh, yeah, occasionally touching upon his racism, sexism, hatred of the poor, and all around nasty disposition. But the important thing to remember here is: he's fat. It comes before idiot in the title.

But hey, that's just the liberal hate machine, right? No.

Every time Michael Moore pisses off the conservatives, we get the same thing from the other side. Except that the Republicans make a point of not being "politically correct," so they make up for in brutality what they lack in hypocrisy. Here's Glenn Beck talking about Moore's film Sicko: 

I thought we`d start up the show off with a little dessert today and there`s somebody out there who knows a little something about dessert. It`s Michael Moore, a wildly fat man with an anti-American streak even wider than his waistline... Moore, fiction and fat -- fact, sorry... So, Michael, if you want to slip on a quadruple extra-large Che Guevara T-shirt and sip caffe con leche while you listen to the "Buena Vista Social Club", be my husky guest...

You know what this is? It`s exactly like the end of "Miracle on 34th Street", where the judge is forced to actually rule against Santa Claus. But that was make-believe. Our bearded fat man is for real, very real... Democrats, when are you going to wake up, man? Your party has been hijacked by a wide load in a baseball cap who`s hell-bent on Castro-inspired socialism. He didn`t care about you. He didn`t care about this country. He`s a self-centered egomaniac. He`s the fat kid who`s still dying for a heaping helping of approval no matter what malicious lies it takes to get it.

See how that works? Fat kids lie. Because they're fat. Eating a lot of food makes you greedy. About everything.

Trey Parker and Matt Stone, on Conan promoting Team America, didn't even care about making a connection:

The US health care system is a complex
 issue, as shown here.
Conan: Michael Moore is depicted in this film (Team America) along with a lot of other celebrities. And I talked about it with one of our producers after we saw the movie because you guys sort of go after Michael Moore. And I thought, “That’s surprising,” because Michael Moore was in Bowling for Columbine, it’s his movie, he interviewed you (points to Matt) on Bowling for Columbine and I remember thinking I thought those guys were friends with Michael Moore. Did you have a falling out? 

Matt: It wasn’t so much a falling out. He asked me to do the interview for Bowling for Columbine because I grew up in Littleton, Colorado. So I thought, okay, I’ll talk about growing up in Littleton, Colorado. What he did that made us a little angry is he put an animation in right after my piece in Bowling for Columbine that is very South Park-esque in its look. And I think 99% of the people who saw [it] think Trey and I did that animation.... I mean, he didn't explicitly say, “Matt and Trey did this animation.” But he made it look like it. And that’s what he does in his movies. He uses two images together and creates meaning where there isn't one. 

A cogent and thoughtful statement, whether or not you believe that Moore's deception runs through everything he does. Then Trey chimed in.

Trey: And he’s fat.

Ah, there we go. He's not only deceptive and manipulative, he's fat! Big laugh. Anyone complain and ask for Trey and Matt to apologize publicly? Nope. Yet they wouldn't have gone on Conan and ended with "And he's a Jew." or "And he's a three-pack-a-day man." or even "And he's a wife-beater."

Michael Moore also gets a lifelong ideological ban from complaining about how the American health care system doesn't cover the people who actually pay for insurance, because he's a fattie and somehow, therefore, a hypocrite. Or unqualified. Here's perennial Presidential contender Mike Huckabee, in a conference call with reporters, saying something you never heard about:

Wikileaks will, um, make you fat.
I guess. I give up.
"Frankly, Michael Moore is an example of why the health care system costs so much in this country. He clearly is one of the reasons that we have a very expensive system. I know that from my own personal experience," said Huckabee, who lost more than 110 pounds and became an avid runner after he was diagnosed with diabetes.

Rush isn't allowed to complain about drug abusers because he's a drug abuser, or the sanctity of marriage when he's been married three times. And that's fair. But before anyone mentions those things, they mention that he's fat. The word "fat" always, always comes before "pill-popping," "junkie," "racist," "draft dodger," "hypocrite," "blowhard," "impotent," "coward," and "idiot." I did some checking. Clearly, it is the most important thing you should know about him.

"michael moore" and "socalist": 4,090,000 hits.
"michael moore" and "fat": 5,180,000 hits.

"rush limbaugh" and "sexist": 1,610,000 hits.
"rush limbaugh" and "fat": 5,650,000 hits.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Review: They Might Be Giants, "Join Us"

Join Us
They Might Be Giants

"They're going to have to create a whole new category of weird to contain They Might Be Giants," said Rolling Stone way back in 1986, struggling to describe the debut album by John Flansburgh and John Linnell. And create a new category they did, even if no one but the Johns ever occupied it. Still atop a field of one (well, two), TMBG gladdened many a geek heart with the release of Join Us, coming as it did after a four-year hiatus from the adult world, one in which the group won tons of Grammy gold as a children's act, ruled Radio Disney, and, in the process, became your 8-year-old daughter's favorite band. But does that make the world a more hipster place? Or does it just make you old?

It's funny to watch the critics immediately declare Join Us the "return to form" album, especially since their forerunners used to routinely slam the Johns -- and Cake -- as so achingly ironic they had no heart. Wrong on both counts, as it turns out, but the soft bigotry of low expectations doesn't do the Johns any more of a service than it does Metallica or Dylan. Certain people need a They Might Be Giants operating at full capacity in order to have the world make sense. But Lincoln this is not.

Yes, it's a game the Johns can't win. If they'd still be trying to write piano ballads that compare dying to expired milk, or swing tunes about world domination, or whatever the fuck "Boat Of Car" was, they'd be written off as some sort of bad '90s joke no one gets anymore. And God knows the Giants made very little concessions on the way to the mainstream. But it's hard to tell who met who halfway at this point, and that leaves loyal fans doing just what Metallica and Dylan fans do -- searching desperately for signifiers. Suddenly, in the middle of what sounds like a perfectly acceptable pop-rock record, you hear the trumpet-and-rhythm-box opening of "In Fact," or the way Linnell's signature whine arches up in eighth notes during the bridge of "I Bet You Get That A Lot," or the low doh doh doh's and goofy march of "There Might Be Duende," and you get a thrill all out of proportion to what's actually happening. They earned the wacky -- hell, they invented it -- so it's never totally self-conscious. But it is fleeting these days.

The good news? Like a lot of maturing artists, the Johns' lyrics are less self-conscious than ever. That keen eye for emotional detail that surfaced occasionally on "Narrow Your Eyes" or "Son of God" is more or less a constant thing now; "Judy Is Your Viet Nam" and "Old Pine Box" and "Protagonist" are all excellent character sketches -- adult ones, dealing with failure, which is probably not a coincidence. "Never Knew Love" is probably the finest song in years about the terrifying journey that is new romance. And both the sci-fi fantasy "2082" and the kiss-off "When Will You Die" are two of the funniest, darkest jokes they've ever told. Your daughter probably won't get most of these lyrics, which I guess brings us full circle. But if you want to stay ahead of her on the odd music curve, go back to Animal Collective.

Graded using the Third Eye Method:

Impact: 62. Subtle, but there. And subversive in a way. It's nice to think Radio Disney might accidentally program a song like "Celebration."
Invention: 70. Mostly lyrical. The musical inspiration left around the time of Mink Car.
Integrity: 80. Intelligent pop still has a way with They Might Be Giants.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Friday, July 15, 2011

My Google+ Pledge

By "sharing" this on Google+, I Hereby Pledge to remove as much of the Failbook bullshit high school drama as humanly possible from this new social network, by enacting the following preventative measures:

1. I promise to not care who puts me in a circle, or who doesn't put me in a circle.
2. I promise to block anyone who is toxic to public discourse.
3. I promise not to post my relationship status, because it's nobody's business.
4. I promise not to stalk anyone, especially if they've just ended a relationship.
5. I promise not to get self-righteous about people who have different opinions than my own.
6. I promise not to indulge in flamewars or trolling, especially among actual IRL friends.
7. When it is clear that they are not progressing, or changing anyone's mind, I promise to end all political, economic, or religious debates with "I respect your opinion, but we'll have to agree to disagree on this one."
8. I promise not to make vague, passive-aggressive status updates, especially about former friends or lovers.
9. I promise not to freak out about who may or may not be friending each other, or de-friending each other, or flirting with each other, or possibly having sex with each other.
10. I promise to only add people to circles that I feel I might want to interact with, and not worry about my "friend count."

Therefore, Now, I, the undersigned, do pledge to make Google+ a place for grownups, and not the frat boys that Facebook was, let's face it, designed for.

An actual mature adult on the internet

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

"With a bit of luck, his life was ruined forever."


1. Our heroes decide to go on the spur of the moment.
2. They need to rent a car, which they have some trouble doing.
3. There's a road trip.
4. The car they use for the trip is packed with large amounts of illegal drugs and a shitload of alcohol.
5. Our heroes are driving stoned.
6. There's a problem checking into the hotel, but they bullshit it away.
7. No one is using his real name.
8. The drugs make all the "straight" people look even more monstrous than they actually are. (Or are they?)
9. There's a boring panel.
10. Straights are harassed, in an almost incomprehensible way, in the elevator.
11. The hotel room is trashed.
12. Some maniac keeps screaming that he's going to kill himself.
13. The TV is always on in the hotel room, yet no one is really watching.
14. There's a run-in with a badass cop, but miraculously, no one goes to jail.
15. Straights are offended by an overheard conversation in a hotel hallway.
16. Our heroes do too many drugs.
17. They also visit the hotel's "real" idea of entertainment, and can't help but laugh their ass off at it.
18. They get kicked out.
19. Our heroes pick up a hot girl, feed her acid, and then find out she's underage.
20. The maid is scared shitless.
21. Celebrities keep popping up in the strangest goddamn places.
22. Soap and other amenities are stolen from the hotel in large quantities.
23. There's a mad last-minute rush to get to the airport.
24. After days of debauchery, our heroes eat at a diner. (The equivalent of an entire pie is consumed.)
25. The waitstaff is offended.
26. Everyone has a overdramatic, articulate, intelligent, literate view of themselves and their generation's place in the context of the universe.
27. "We're your friends. We're not like the others, man, really."

Monday, July 11, 2011

The Loaded Question: Casey Anthony poll

Friday, July 8, 2011

Rape and the Wallet Trick

If Athiests had a God, they would have been invoking its name online quite a lot lately, thanks to the thoroughly impolite dustup between two icons of the skeptic community: vlogger Rebecca "Skepchick" Watson and noted author Richard Dawkins. Seems Rebecca attended a skeptics conference in Dublin recently, and a fellow male attendee got onto an elevator with her at 4 am, as she'd just announced she was heading for bed.

Then this happened: "Don't take this the wrong way," he said (according to Watson's blog), "but I find you very interesting and I would like to talk more. Would you like to come to my hotel room for coffee?" Rebecca declined. Then she mentioned it briefly, at the end of an eight-minute report on the conference:

Um, just a word to the wise here, guys, uh, don't do that. You know, I don't really know how else to explain how this makes me incredibly uncomfortable, but I'll just sort of lay it out that I was a single woman, you know, in a foreign country, at 4:00 am, in a hotel elevator, with you, just you, and -- don't invite me back to your hotel room right after I finish talking about how it creeps me out and makes me uncomfortable when men sexualize me in that manner.

Clearly a man-hater.  
Had she been talking about that very thing in the bar, or at the panel she was on? I don't know. But I know she didn't have to. For those who need that explained, give me a minute. First, let's take a look at Dawkins' shitstorm-inducing response to her blog:

she calls herself Skep"chick", and do you know what happened to her? A man in a hotel elevator invited her back to his room for coffee. I am not exaggerating. He really did. He invited her back to his room for coffee. Of course she said no, and of course he didn't lay a finger on her, but even so...

Later, after the storm of shit had begun raining turds on the athiest community, he clarified:

"She was probably offended to about the same extent as I am offended if a man gets into an elevator with me chewing gum. But he does me no physical damage and I simply grin and bear it until either I or he gets out of the elevator."


Not even. Not even if he offers to open your mouth and put his gum in it, which would freak you out, but still wouldn't be as uncomfortable as a strange man in an enclosed space offering to take you with him back to another enclosed space.

I learned this lesson when I was about half Dawkins' age. I'd offered the exact same thing to a young girl at a sci-fi convention, hoping for sex but not at all planning to force the issue, and not offering coffee (I think I may have offered marijuana, but that's the con world for you). She declined, looking even more uncomfortable than Rebecca did on her video. And I wondered why. Aloud. Which is when a friend offered some sage advice, which I have carried with me ever since.

Women don't know you're not trying to rape them.
Please don't rape me.

You know you're a good guy. She doesn't. Especially not if you're a complete stranger. Especially not at 4 am, which every man recognizes as last call for both vaginas and alcohol. Not when you're in a foreign country and you don't even know where the cops are or how to get them quickly. Not when you're in a small enclosed space. Not when (as is usually the case) the other person is capable of overpowering you. Not when he's also offering to take you to another enclosed space, one which has a lock on it. And most certainly not all these things together.

Women don't know. They can't know. Not even after talking to you all night. Not even after personally knowing you and having met you a few times. Not even after a first date. Sometimes, they're wrong after a series of dates. Sometimes they're wrong about someone they're dating. Or engaged to. Or married to. 

Most straight men are perfectly capable of overpowering a woman, often with no weapon, and forcing his cock inside them. That is a fact. It's also a fact that the majority of men recoil in horror at the idea of fucking the truly unwilling, but our foreheads are not translucent. It's impossible to know by looking at us. And humans love to lie. I'm six feet tall and built big and am also fat. American fat. So when I get on an elevator, and there's no one else there but a woman, one woman, she looks at me like she's getting ready to bolt. I don't get offended by that anymore.   

I personally don't like dating, because I don't like most rituals. But this one serves a purpose: it was designed to put a man and a woman (for the purposes of this discussion) in a public place, in order to let him show her that he was not only interesting, and witty, and caring, but also not about to brutally violate her. You're not taking her in, you're taking her out. Did you know that single women in apartments were once required to leave their door open when entertaining a gentleman caller? This was to discourage a) prostitution and b) rape. It's the same reason single women aren't allowed into the porno store booth alone. (Not that I'd know about that.) You don't have to be a ball-busting man-hating diesel dyke to get this.

Does it have one of these on it? 
Then it's not a coffee shop.
For Dawkins' sake, however, let's play, um, devil's advocate. Let's say you had hung out with Rebecca all night, had in fact attended her panel where she talked about being a feminist, and you sincerely respected her and wanted to get to know her better, with no immediate thought of her panties or what was in them. It's 4 am. She's tired and going to bed. She's announced this. If you wanted to have coffee, wouldn't you just say, "Hey, there's a coffee shop down the street. Want to meet me there tomorrow when you wake up? My friends will be there." The coffee thing is, frankly, bullshit. Guys know that line. Coffee in a hotel room at 4 am -- again, with a total stranger -- doesn't necessarily mean "I'm gonna rape you," but it does mean "Damn, I hope I can get you to somehow have sex with me."

And, just for the sake of argument: let's say you're at a bar, and you see a girl who's really hot, and you want to try and take her on a date. If you go up to her and say "You're really pretty, I'd love to take you to a movie sometime," and she says, "Ha ha ha ha! Are you kidding?! I would never fuck you!" your first thought should probably be, "Wow. What a bitch. She would probably make me miserable." I've known guys who have literally fucked dozens and dozens of women. Verified by the women themselves. And yet these men all know at least one (and usually several) women who refuse to fuck them. Women are not Pokemon. You'll never get them all. Given what we know about the human race, I'm not sure you should want to.

Your vagina.
Let's try an exercise, guys. We all know that if a strange woman came up to you at a convention and said, "Hey, you wanna go back to my hotel room for coffee?" you might think, "Hey! I'm getting laid! Awesome." (It certainly happens at sci-fi cons. And, again, without the coffee.) But let's say a man came up to you and said that. If you're a straight man, you'd probably feel uncomfortable. But you wouldn't feel threatened. 

Now let's say that same stranger walked up and said, "Hey! Hand me your wallet. I want to show you a trick." Would you do it? Even if it was someone you'd met once or twice? Probably not. You'd probably have to be pretty good friends with someone before that would happen. (And fellas, don't talk to me about accidentally ending up in the friend zone. We all know that decision gets made immediately and usually irrevocably.) Your wallet is really important to you. You're not gonna let someone just take it. This guy probably doesn't want to rob you. But what if you're wrong? How well do you know this guy? Are there other people around? If he does it, will he get away with it?

Some women (quite a few these days) indulge in rape fantasies and rape play. They like to do it because they know men like to be forceful, and that it makes them passionate. They like passion the same way we like force. But check out the second half of those phrases: fantasy. play. It's a game. One they play with someone they know. Really, really well. Someone they trust. They may want to fuck you. They may even enjoy being taken. But they want to make the decision. Because -- and here's a little secret -- it's their pussy. You only get to visit, son.

Once I went to a strip club, and something happened to me that never happens to most guys outside of porn: a really hot blonde stripper I'd never met invited me to have breakfast with her, and then invited me back to her place. Was I thinking, "I'm gonna get laid!"? No. I thought, "Great. This bitch wants me to buy her some goddamn breakfast." And as we went to her apartment, I thought, "This bitch is gonna try and rob me." As it turned out, she paid for breakfast. And she did not rob me. But she did not fuck me. That night. Because she got to know me first. See how it works?             

Attention straight men: Women are not required to fuck you, or to want to fuck you, or to be happy about you asking. And if you really had the game you thought you had, you wouldn't care. 

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Review: My Morning Jacket, "Circuital"

My Morning Jacket
ATO Records

Like Led Zeppelin, My Morning Jacket's trump card has always been its sense of atmosphere, a saving grace that makes up for the obscurity of both bands' lyrics, not to mention their wandering muses. And although they sound nothing alike, the similarities don't end there. Zep took Delta blues and fused it with then-modern proto-metallic supergroup majesties, while MMJ took a more modern Americana -- classic rock, specifically the kind of country filtered through Canadians like Neil Young and The Band -- and graft it to indie tropes. The result was the hippest and most authentic jam-band groove tinted with melancholy and an outright rejection of formalism. No wonder they made their bones at the Bonnaroos and the Coachellas.

The irony is that, unlike some other similar groups that shall remain nameless (though their initials are Kings of Leon), MMJ got better as it sold out, landing a major label, ditching the echo, learning to rock out, yes, but all while tightening its focus and yet leaving itself room to breathe. Even the last chapter in this saga, 2006's Evil Urges, caused all its frowny faces from lack of focus, not prowess: every trick they attempted succeeded. But even for the mid-Naughties, the result sounded less like a statement and more like a playlist. Call it their Houses of the Holy.

Happily, My Morning Jacket's "comeback" takes all that into account. Circuital, despite the title, doesn't have the roundness of the classic album they have yet to make. They simply enjoy wandering too much. However, it does consolidate their strengths considerably, impressive for a work that contains two songs originally written for the upcoming Muppets reboot ("Wonderful" and "Outta My System"), an ambient, anthemic, opening trio ("Victory Dance," the title track, and "The Day Is Coming"), the charming "You Wanna Freak Out," which melds McCartney's melodies to XTC's archness, and a sinister and stadium-ready "First Light," which does for the Jacket what Achtung Baby did for U2. Last time out, we got the radio bait "Highly Suspicious," a bad idea drenched in what everyone hoped was irony; this time, "Holdin' On To Black Metal" sports the killer hook, and it sounds like Crazy Horse gone orchestral.

That's a lot of rock history to touch upon in one record, especially when you're making totally new shapes out of such familiar clay. But that's part of the secret behind MMJ's success: they're an updated throwback to the days when music sounded as big as people dreamed. At this point, they have the balls (and the loyal audience) to make their change of moods seem natural. It's still unclear whether Jim James and company can deliver the killing blow, but they come closer than ever on Circuital, close enough to make you want to believe again. Considering how small music and its industry have become, that's also no mean feat.

Graded using the Third Eye Method:

Impact: 82. The whole still doesn't add up completely, but the high points are higher than most anything in the modern rock world. 
Invention: 87. Their influences are mostly arena-ready, but the textures are meant for the headphones in your bedroom.  
Integrity: 85. Jim doesn't have to say anything when it sounds this good.

Monday, July 4, 2011

The Loaded Question: 07.04.11

What's the biggest surprise we can expect
from the planned "Toy Story 4" movie?

Friday, July 1, 2011

Mike Ditka's American Idol

"Iron" Mike Ditka's accomplishments as a NFL coach are without question. Well, with the Bears, anyway.* The 1985 Chicago Bears routinely make the Top 10 lists of the greatest pro football teams of all time. And with good reason. They lost exactly one game in their season that year, defeated their opponents by an average of 18 points per game, steamrolled their three postseason opponents for a combined score of 91-10, then went on to eviscerate the hapless New England Patriots, 46-10, in Super Bowl XX.

Let's dwell on that for a moment. The Bears stomping the shit out of the Patriots. It was a different time.

Clearly, this was Ditka's moment in the sun. But as with so many heroes, the seeds of Mike's greatest tragedy were planted during his greatest victory. During the season, former Jovan executive and major Bears fan Richard "Dick" Meyer decided to increase the already-potent momentum of his team by writing and filming a theme song for the '85 Bears: it being the mid-Eighties, absolutely everything of note (and quite a few things not of note) just had to come with a video, or no one was interested.

The result was, as you probably know, the famous Super Bowl Shuffle. It was a huge hit, for a novelty video about an NFL team, meaning it almost cracked the Top 40. It sold a cool half million copies. It was nominated for a Grammy. That's right, people listened to this on the radio at work and play. Check it.

Naturally, a host of imitators were spawned, including an answer song from the Patriots that must have enraged bookies across this fine nation. Who was gonna bet on a team that had this for a calling card?

But Ditka, not willing to be out-cheesed, decided he was a kingmaker, and furthermore, that he could take any group of Chicago fans off the street and do the same thing for them he'd done for da Bears.

The result is The Grabowski Shuffle. ("Grabowski" is apparently a Chicago term for an ordinary urban lunchpail type, like "Yat" is in New Orleans and "Good Ol' Boy" is in the rest of the South.) I first came across this phenomecrap as an actual video for rent way back in my retail days, and since it was gathering dust, I took it under my wing and gave it a home.

The idea behind it went something like this:
  1. Assemble a team of hardworking blue-collar joes from Chicago.
  2. Teach them to sing, rap, and dance. 
  3. ?????
  4. PROFIT!!!!
It sounds like a recipe for disaster, and it does not disappoint. The extended half-hour video functions as a "making-of" documentary, and it's beyond sad: these five schmucks -- more like a straight Village People without talent than the all-singing, all-dancing Joe The Plumber revue it was meant as -- are all practically crying tears of gratitude at the fact that God has clearly seen fit to bestow this, Their Big Break, upon them. Seriously. They seem convinced they're about to be on MTV in heavy rotation. You can practically hear the empty lottery dreams rattling around in their heads... funny how only a real working-class joe can be so desperate to get the fuck out of his job, which he loves, don't get him wrong, because he's the backbone of the country, blah blah blah.

Here's a short clip of the "making of," in which Ditka or whoever decides to parody the audition scenes from A Chorus Line. Because if there's one thing Chicago football fans love, it's musical theatre.

The result of all this hard work can be seen below, shorn of its documentary surroundings. The five people produced by the casting call -- yes, there was a casting call -- are likable enough: waitress, bodybuilder, construction worker, cop, and mover. (Guess which one is the black guy.) But they can't sing, rap, or dance, and Ditka himself is no better, even though the cover of the video's box promises, in garbled
Grabowskish, that he "raps and zaps, has smokin' feet and fun." (For those of you not in the know, "zapping" is part of that great Chicago youth culture movement known as "zip-zop," which involves eating brats, cutting beer farts, and asserting one's heterosexuality at all costs.)

For those unable to sit through this entire travesty, I direct your attention straight to 3:06, where "the Grabowski gal," Valerie, is forced to do a verse -- written or otherwise orchestrated by Ditka -- about how much she wants to fuck him.

No, really. Again, it was a different time.


(Singing this all day tomorrow in your head at work? Oh, no need to thank me.)

(*As a lifelong Saints fan, I feel I have every right to disparage Ditka. Two words: Ricky Fucking Williams. I'd like to rip off Iron Mike's little Ned Flanders mustache and use it to plug up his steak-bloated colon.)