Monday, May 28, 2012

Bonnaroo: Why Would You Even Want to Escape It?

So Kevin decided to go ahead and write a post about what he recommends I go see at Bonnaroo, which has prompted not only me responding to his suggestions, but also to go through a few pre-weekend thoughts as I prepare for my 7th consecutive year at the festival.  As always, I’m very much open to suggestions from others as invariably there is no way I will know every band or artist playing and since I have so many friends that like great music, their suggestions are often very good ones.  So if you so happen to be bored enough to be reading these posts and you have any suggestions, please feel free to chime in.  I promise I’ll seriously consider your suggestion.  Unless it is Needtobreathe.  I won’t go see them.


 Wait.  Who are these guys again?  I need more info.

The Beach Boys:

You’re right, Kev.  It is a big deal that Brian Wilson is playing with them again.  Not only that, but it’s big that everyone is together as Al Jardine and Mike Love have toured before by themselves under the Beach Boys name.  I share your hesitancy about their age and ability to pull off a great show.  My hope is that they are too good and too knowledgeable to attempt to tour if they didn’t sound good.  However, all cards on the table, I am not a huge Beach Boys fan.  I only have one album, Pet Sounds, and in all honesty, I can take them or leave them.  I still give them props and respect for what they did and I can admit that they have a ton of catchy hits, but this is not a huge draw for me.  There aren’t any huge conflicts at the beginning, but I can see myself heading out early to catch The Antlers.  But we’ll see.

Bon Iver:

I’m definitely planning on catching at least part of this set.  I’m not very familiar with their first album, but really enjoyed last year’s effort.  However, there are all kinds of conflicts so it will be interesting how this plays out.  It’s actually in the biggest area of conflict for me the whole weekend with sets from Ben Folds, Joy Formidable, Kurt Vile, The Shins, Fun., and The Civil Wars all jammed in together.  I have no idea what’s going to happen.

Avett Brothers:

It’s crazy that they’re playing the main stage and during my first Bonnaroo in 2006, they played one of the smallest tents that probably fit no more than a few hundred people.  Certainly a must see and there are pretty much no conflicts here so I’m planning on catching the whole set.  And yes, Kev, you need to see them too.  They’re playing the Bank of America Pavilion on September 16.  It’s unfortunate that they’ll probably never play a small club again, as my favorite shows of theirs came from those clubs, but they’re still awesome.

The Shins:

I agree that I would have been more amped to see these guys a few years ago, but the draw is still fairly attractive.  I don’t think the absence of the other three original members will be that big of a deal as Mercer is the Shins.  It would be way stranger to see them without him.  But again, this is during a very packed time slot and my decision to see them and for how long will probably be on the spot.

Foster the People:

A definite must see for me.  I loved their debut album last year and think it’s one of the catchiest indie-rock albums to come out in some time.  I doubt I’ll see the whole thing as St. Vincent and Dawes both end their sets at they begin, and right after they play Radiohead goes on, and I don’t plan on missing one second of that show………even though I don’t know who they are.


Unlike Kevin, I was actually not that into her Reminder album.  I was pretty bored by it despite liking a few songs.  But since I’d rather see her than Ludicrous and Trampled by Turtles, I’m betting I’ll catch a decent amount of this set.

The Roots:

Oh man, I love the live shows by the Roots.  And though I’ve seen them play Bonnaroo before, I’ve never seen a full set.  I doubt I will this year as there is a conflict with Mogwai and I’ve never seen them before.  But it looks as though catching at least part of this set would be very doable.  And the Superjam is something they do every year where basically random dudes get together to rock out.  Oftentimes you don’t hear about the full group until shortly before the festival but they’ve already announced Questlove which is cool.  He played this a few years ago with John Paul Jones and Ben Harper and they were good.  Last year Dan Auerbach played with Dr. John.  It’s just one of the unique additions to the Bonnaroo experience.  I might catch some of it this year but will have to sacrifice some of Alice Cooper’s set to do so.  Speaking of which……..

Alice Cooper:

I’d definitely like to catch some of this set just to say that I’ve seen Alice freaking Cooper.  I don’t know much of his stuff but am interested enough to give this a whirl.  And if it’s lame, I can always head over to catch Superjam a little earlier.  But yeah, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t intrigued by this addition.

Kenny Rogers:

Yeah, I pretty much have no desire to see him.  Maybe if there wasn’t anything else going on but with Bon Iver, Ben Folds Five, Kurt Vile, and Joy Formidable going up against him, there’s probably no chance I’ll see this.  And yes, his new face totally freaks me out.  I’m fairly certain that anytime you have to mention someone’s “new face” there aren’t many other practical reactions one can have.

Black Star:

Thanks to Kevin and Patty, I appreciate Black Star and am excited to see them on Friday night after Radiohead.  There does not appear to be any conflict here for me so I plan on catching the entire set.  Very excited about this one.

Danzig Legacy:

I’m not all that amped for this one as Danzig never did anything for me with the exception of “Mother”.  So unless I happen to be walking by on my way to another set and he just so happens to be playing “Mother”, I doubt I’ll see this.  Especially with Childish Gambino, The Roots, and Mogwai playing around the same time.


Again, I have no desire to see him.  He’s never really done anything for me and there are others I’d like to see around this time.  However, if I am finding Feist to be boring, I just may venture over to see him for something different.  We’ll see.

Ben Folds Five:

I’ve always felt that I should like Ben Folds more than I do, but for some reason I’ve just never been pushed over the edge with him.  I think when he is on, he is really on with some of the most beautiful and catchy songs I’ve ever heard.  But more often than not, I’m left just feeling “Meh” with the majority of his catalogue.  However, I have seen him before and he’s a great performer so I’m sure I’ll check some of this out.  But if I get the itch, I could see myself leaving early for Joy Formidable or Kurt Vile.


I’m not a huge fan or anything, but I’d definitely be interested to check her out.  There do not appear to be many conflicts at this time so I’m sure I’ll catch at least part of it.

Tune Yards:

I’m with you, Kev.  I’m not as into this band as others are, but they are very interesting and I can see them putting on a great show.  And I don’t see any conflicts so I’ll probably catch the whole thing.

Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings:

I think I’ve seen them before but only in small doses.  I’d like to catch them again but there is a conflict with Two Door Cinema Club so we’ll have to see how this plays out.

Little Dragon:

Don’t really know them, but it could be interesting.  However, going up right against the Avett Brothers means I will not check this out.

Two Door Cinema Club:

Yeah, I like them and think they will put on a good show.  Going up against Sharon Jones will probably mean splitting my time here.

Fitz and the Tantrums:

See my comments about Little Dragon above.  I could say the same thing about these guys.

Bad Brains:

Not really my bag at all, but there isn’t a whole lot going up against it for me.  So if I’m feeling adventurous, I’ll hit up this set for a bit.  But I make no promises.

GZA performing Liquid Swords:

Never even knew this album existed until Kevin made a comment about it a few weeks ago.  I’ve now heard it and liked it a lot so I’m sure I’ll go see this.  The only potential issue would be that it starts at 2:30 am and goes until 4.  This will totally be based on how much energy I have at this moment.  Honestly, I could see it going either way.

The Black Lips:

I’ve heard some of their stuff and I do like it.  But the timing is around some other such artists so I’ll probably hop around here a bit.  I’d also like to check out Kathleen Edwards and Here We Go Magic which conflict.


I saw these guys at Bonnaroo a few years ago and was left a little disappointed.  But maybe that was because it was way too crowded up at the front where I was.  However, there aren’t many conflicts here so I could see myself giving them a second chance.

The Joy Formidable:

I’ve only recently started getting into this band and I really dig them.  I’m going to make it a point to see them for at least a little bit, but I’ve already mentioned a lot of conflicts here.  I’m sure they’ll put on a great show.

Alabama Shakes:

I’ll be certain to catch this set on Thursday when nothing else is going on for me.  I’ve heard some of their songs and I think it’s got a lot of potential to be a great show.

Kurt Vile:

I’m not all that familiar with Vile’s music, but from what I’ve heard I’ve liked.  Again, conflicts abound here but I could see myself heading over to his set for a bit.

Das Racist:

These guys are a little out of my wheelhouse but their set does intrigue me.  They’re going up against Blind Pilot who I’d like to see but I’m not really strong on either one so I’m sure I’ll catch a bit of this set.

Delta Spirit:

Decent band and a perfect time slot at the beginning of the day on Sunday.  I’m sure I’ll hit this one up.


I’ve already mentioned that I’m excited for this one.  Unlike Kevin, I don’t know much of the older stuff, but I did really enjoy their album last year.  I’m a little concerned about watching a mostly instrumental group as I can sometimes get bored by them, but I’m hoping I’ll enjoy this set.

The War on Drugs:

I’m not familiar with this group at all, with the exception of the song Kevin posted on his blog.  But they’re going on against the Beach Boys and Antlers and I’d like to catch both of them for a bit.  This might have to be sacrificed.


Never really heard any of their stuff either, but if they’re “infectious” as Kevin says, I could see that being a big draw.  Obvious conflicts are here (Black Lips, Kathleen Edwards, Here We Go Magic) so I think I’ll just have to plan to jump around a lot.

White Denim:

I’m a little luke-warm on this band but interested enough to check them out on Thursday night, especially since there are no conflicts.


I only recently heard her album and I liked it a lot.  Best part is that she’s playing on Thursday and there are no conflicts so I’m sure I’ll catch the whole set.

Here We Go Magic:

I saw them play Bonnaroo a few years ago and really enjoyed their show.  I’m not all that familiar with their studio stuff, but I might want to check them out again, if only to hear this John Waters story.

St. Vincent:

I’m not the biggest fan of her either, Kev.  But I did miss out on seeing her a few years ago (offhand I don’t remember who I saw instead) but I heard great things about her from my cousins.  While I was excited that she was playing again, I was disappointed to learn that she’s going up right against Dawes, which is pretty much a must-see for me.  I’d like to think I’ll check her out, but I just don’t know how realistic that will be. 

I noticed I mentioned some acts that Kevin did not.  Other groups I’m planning on seeing, or at least interested in seeing, include Phantogram, The Kooks, Dawes, Blind Pilot, Temper Trap, Childish Gambino, Skrillex, Gary Clark, Jr., Kathleen Edwards, The Antlers, fun., The Civil Wars, Red Hot Chili Peppers, and Phish.  I don’t want to get into any of them specifically, as I mainly wanted to respond to each of Kevin’s suggestions here, but I thought they’d be worth mentioning. 

I’m pretty excited as the countdown approaches the one week mark.  I think there is a lot of potential this year and I’m particularly excited to see three of my all-time favorite live acts in one weekend (Radiohead, The Avett Brothers, and Phish).  Of all seven years I’ve gone, I’d say this has the strongest headlining acts.  I also think it’s been great having access to Spotify which has helped me listen to artists I’ve never heard of before.

Thanks again for the suggestions, Kevin.  It would rule if you were in attendance this year, but I understand the whole issue with being hot and uncomfortable and all.  I also think it’s funny that you mention certain acts would be good to see while sitting down in the shade.  Dude, there is hardly any shaded areas at Bonnaroo, and if there are any, they are located in jam-packed tents with tons of people in them.  You would basically just have to suck it up.  But there's still time.  Not too late to get your ticket.  Just sayin'.


Friday, May 25, 2012

Bonnaroo! Couldn't Escape it if I wanted to!

Ever since the morning I have been singing ABBA's "Waterloo" but switching out Waterloo for Bonnaroo because that is the type of quick wit that I am. It's almost time again for the big Bonnaroo festival, an account of which I am sure, and I hope our very own Matty will have for us when he gets back after the big event.  I always go back and forth pretty much every year on going, and maybe I should just bite the bullet sometime, but as I get older being super hot around a LOT of people in the middle of a dust bowl holds less and less appeal for me, even though I miss out on seeing a lot of music. I am fortunate enough to live in and near a place where a lot of bands come around, but still, every year I am floored by the sheer amount of stuff the Matty manages to see. Matt is definitely a Bonnaroo veteran, and at least to me, he seems to do it up right, mixing in seeing a lot of his favorite while also sampling a lot of new stuff, which seems like a pretty great plan, particularly for a music fan such as himself.

The following is (or might be) a fairly no brainer list, but I was going through the lineup for Bonnaroo and in my mind I was like, "Oh, I'd check this, this, or that out" you know, as you do. So I figured why not make this into a post. Just having a blog in general is a pretty self indulgent post, having a blog geared towards Matty, a fellow blogger on here, if he ever needs some sort of tie breaker, seems even more self indulgent but what can you do. And honestly, after he looks at this I am sure he will like, "Duh, dude, I know." But it's Friday before Memorial Day weekend and this place is dead and like Smokey said, "We ain't got shit to do." So let's do this. (Oh and it is a testament to Bonnaroo that partway down their lineup list I had to give up because I didn't recognize any names anymore. I figured those were the bands Matt might check out-some of them-give a yay or nay and I will check them out at some point):

(Oh and a real quick thanks to Asheem of the Enjoy The Static blog for helping me figure out the whole Soundcloud thing.)


I think they are headlining but, duh, yeah see them. I would be more jealous but I am going to see them this Tuesday before this performance, and I very excited about that!

The Beach Boys

So, from what I understand this is a big deal because they finally got Brian Wilson back in the fold? I don't mean to belittle it, because it is a big deal. It's a lot better than the lineup I saw at my first concert on the Groton Sub Base where John Stamos was on drums, that's for sure. I go back and forth on this which, I am sure a lot of people do: On one hand it would be cool to see the old lineup play a bunch of admittedly great songs but then again it's not the 60's (or even 70's anymore)- I would just hope they can pull it off. But I guess you won't know unless you go and see them.

Bon Iver

This won't be the last time I say something like this: I feel like Bon Iver's original sound would be better suited for a darkened theater or club, while his new 80's-ish might sound better in a larger setting. But then again, both might be okay to hear from a distance while trying to relax in the shade, maybe with a burrito

The Avett Brothers
I am putting this here because Matt has been telling me for years about how great they are live, and I have still yet to see them. They seem like no joke and I would most definitely see them if given the opportunity. But also, when they slow things down, they also make music that moves me emotional and may or may not make me cry for real. But who knows?

The Shins

Now if it were ten years ago or whatever the Shins would be a definite, particularly after the one-two punch of Chutes Too Narrow and Oh Inverted World. But now it's basically just James Mercer and a bunch of hired guns. Does that matter? I'm not quite sure, but I do know that I haven't been paying attention to their newest album Port Of Morrow. But the chance to see James Mercer (who I guess is really "The Shins"? The whole thing is so weird) do those old songs, I might take that chance.

Foster The People

I just think they could put on a cool show with a bunch of catchy songs. And sometimes that's all it takes.

Now that I look at it I am probably basing this most off her album The Reminder which was SO GOOD. I haven't followed her as closely since. But I have seen her live before and she puts on a good show, so, you know, if you happen to be in a bind for something to see, you just might enjoy yourself.

The Roots
The Roots are a seriously good time. Being a live band, they expand out from the hip hop template. Sure there is hip hop, but there is brass hop, a brass band, the last time I saw them they even did a Bob Dylan cover. It's pretty amazing stuff.

Along the same lines I see that Questlove is doing something with a Superjam? I have no idea what that means, but Questlove knows EVERYBODY so this could turn out so be something very special.

Alice Cooper
Hahaha-hey you never know. I mean he busts out those seventies jams and it could be pretty amazing. This one could be a crap shoot. But I guess you could say that about any live show right? I mean back in the day his stage show was wild-maybe he'll bring some of that old magic.

Kenny Rogers

It just depends how amped you are to see "The Gambler" or "Lady" live. It might be a soothing break to take in  Kenny's show while resting up for something else. It also depends on how weirded out you are by his new face.

Black Star

This is obviously very personal, but I would make a point to see Black Star-which consists of Mos Def and Talib Kweli. They put out one of the greatest hip hop albums, to me of all time, and one of the top five albums of the nineties. Again this is very personal, but this would be too good for me to pass up. Plus they put on a pretty great live show.

Danzig Legacy
From what I understand the last time Danzig did this in Austin it wasn't great. But maybe this time would be better? I dunno, personally, the chance to see him rock some Misfits, Sam Hain, and early Danzig stuff might be too great to pass up.

This would come down to a timing thing, but I bet given the opportunity Ludacris could put on a good show. He does have some bangers after all.

Ben Folds Five
There are a LOT of people that are REALLY into Ben Folds. I don't count myself among those people, not that I think he is bad or anything, it just doesn't grab me like it does other people. That being said, if the timing was right (always with the timing) I might just check him out, it's not like it doesn't have the potential to be entertaining, and he seems like a cool guy.

This is probably based more on her first record (I'll admit I haven't heard her newer one) But I think the potential for a really great show is there.

I am not as into these guys as other people seem to be, but I would like to seem them live to maybe try to understand better what the fuss is all about. Plus they dress like extras from The Road Warrior.

Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings

Simply put, one of the best live shows around. I am not sure how they will translate in a big festival setting. Probably one of the best old school soul/funk bands around. Sharon Jones as a front woman is incredible, as are the Dap-Kings as her backing band. Would be a great time.

Little Dragon
From what I understand, their live show is fun. It might be something a little bit different as a break

Two Door Cinema Club
Just some good, indie rock n roll

Fitz and the Tantrums
My first look at Fitz and the Tantrums, I was like "Really!?" But you get past the white boy nerddom of of the lead singer, and it it is uncanny how he can lend his voice to some old school-sounding soul music throwback. I hear they are really good live too. I bet it would be so much fun to see them.

Bad Brains
I wish I could recommend this more, but the only way I really could is to offer a time machine to go back and see them play in the late 70's and early 80's. Nowadays you really never know what you are going to get at this point. It pains me to say since they are one of my very favorite bands of all time, but I think it might be safe to say that their best days are beyond them.

GZA performing "Liquid Swords" with Fantomas
Yeah I would definitely find some way to stay up in the middle of the night and see one of hip hop's all time greatest albums performed in full by one of hip hop's luminaries. With a live backing band? Forget it, I would be there in an instant.

Black Lips
The Black Lips have the real potential to put on a crazy, anarchic rock n roll show. It might just be worth checking out.

You like Ice Cream right? Particularly when it's hot out? Well, who doesn't? These guys do. There's potential for something fun. Even if it's just time to to take a break and soak in what these guys are offering.

The Joy Formidable
For me this would be a must see. I missed seeing them around me because I didn't realize how popular they had become and it sold out. I wish I had been able to see them because they make a righteous noise and, from what I have seen in youtube and what not, put on a hell of a live show.

The Alabama Shakes
Probably one of the newest up and comers, and they seem like no joke, the lead singer belts out tunes like Aretha. They made their name before the album came out with their electric live shows, so it might not be one to pass up.

Kurt Vile 
Good stuff. Especially when you're looking for a break. Maybe in the middle of the day, with some cold water?

Das Racist
I wrote before how it took me a long time to come around on Das Racist, but I eventually did. They could be the next step in the evolution of hip hop or they could fade away. Who knows? But they seem like they could put on a really fun live show, with enough bass to wake you up and maybe give you a cardiac episode.

Delta Spirit
If you find yourself flagging and need a pick me up in spirit, you could do worse.

This, again, might be a band better enjoyed in a dark theater, but considering these guys can also make a righteous noise. I'm not sure about their newer stuff, but their older stuff could blow you away.

The War On Drugs
I would just want to see them live, I think they have the potential for being really fun.

These guys are so fun and infectious on record, that I would hope it would translate into an equally fun and infectious show. I bet they could get the job done.

White Denim
Sort of like the above, they have the potential, I think, for putting on a fun show. Just straight up rocking out.

She's definitely different than your average pop star or singer-songwriter. She has much more of an edge. I'm not sure if you are gonna want to see her whole set, but if you have the time it might be worth checking out for a song or two.

Here We Go Magic
Their music is okay. BUT if you see them you might be able to hear their story about how they came across John Waters hitchhiking and gave him a ride.

and lastly...
St. Vincent
To be honest, I'm not the biggest fan. BUT it might be nice to find a cool(ish) spot and hang out and use this as some nice background music. if you're lucky they'll be playing as the sun goes down, and that might work out perfectly.

Well, I hope that helps and I hope that was fun to read. 


Thursday, May 24, 2012

Movie Backlog

So I have been a bit remiss in keeping up with what I have been doing, pop culturally speaking. This has been partially out of laziness, and partially because I wanted to keep Pat O'D's amazing review of Fifty Shades of Grey on top as long as can be. But, I have gotten backed up on the things I have been watching. Yes, watching. There will be more books to come, I am reading a couple long ones at the same time right now. I am sure everyone is on the edge of their seat for me to get to them.

Haywire (2012) (28/50 movies)
I thought this was a new little, compact action/revenge movie from Steven Soderbergh. I like Soderbergh working outside of his comfort zone, somewhat. I also really liked Dave Holmes' jazzy score, which happened to work well, even though, at times it seemed incongruous with what was going on. Of course, there was nothing but natural sound when Gina Carano has to beat down an enemy. Gina Carano is the real revelation here, I think, she has a presence and a natural athletic ability, and being an MMA fighter in real life, can really make these moves. She plays a private-security(?) agent who is betrayed by her superiors and goes through everyone involved, looking for who decided to have her killed. I'm not sure about her actually acting ability, but I mean, when you can pull off what she can pull off and make it look good, it probably doesn't matter. In that way, if she keeps getting the right parts she could become the female Jason Statham. In fact, find a way to put them in a  movie together, it would be great.

Juice (1992) (29/50 movies)

I can't believe I hadn't seen this movie before. I am not sure how I had escaped it. But I was glad that I rectified it. I mean in the first three minutes it started with Rakim's classic them "Juice" then when Omar Epps steps into the shower he cranks up Big Daddy Kane's "Nuff Respect". Consider my mind blown. This was interesting because it seemed like it was much more hip hop related then other movies like it at that came out at the time, Omar Epps plays "Q" who is trying to make it big as a DJ. What happens as that he and is friends fall into a world of crime that they aren't ready for, but feel like it is the only way to survive where they are living. Of course it made me think of Tupac, who plays one of Q's friend but also, SPOILER, eventually becomes the villain. And he is so good here, and so magnetic, and if given time he would have only gotten better. He could have been a better double threat than even Will Smith because Tupac wouldn't have been afraid, maybe, to take the harder and more challenging roles. But unfortunately Tupac's life sort of sadly ended up mirroring what goes down in Juice and that's waaaay too many "could'ves" for a young life to have.

Tiny Furniture (2010) (30/50 Movies)
I've started watching Lena Dunham's Girls on HBO and, at first, I really disliked it. But after going back and having a marathon of the episodes that had since come out after the original, I found that my original idea about the show was wrong, and now you can count me as a Lena Dunham fan. I feel like her writing is really good, and in some ways, I feel like she is really brave, especially with what she does with her body onscreen. Luckily, Tiny Furniture happened to be On Demand for free so I thought I would check it out. I enjoyed it for the most part, but I can see this as her first feature, which it was and a precursor to Girls. It covers the similar ground: college graduate comes home and has to deal with life after college, basically. But in Tiny Furniture she comes home to her Mom and her Sister (her real life Mom and Sister in her Mom's real-life apartment) Mom is a NY artist (as she is in real life), while on Girls her character is on her own in Manhattan. I still like her writing, but I found that this movie did not have a lot of narrative momentum. But then I thought that that was perhaps by design. Personally, my year after I graduated college was one of the hardest years of my life, when I often felt like I was treading water and had no real idea what was going on, even though I was in graduate school and living on my own. I feel like that is sort of why there is no real narrative momentum, because it reflects that feeling of all of a sudden realizing you have no real clue what is going on. But I do feel like this has become sharper on Girls but to see where Lena Dunham started, writing-wise is pretty interesting.

Everything Must Go (2010) (31/50 Movies)
Well, definitely the most melancholy performance by Will Ferrell in a story taken from a Raymond Carver short story. Will Ferrell plays an alcoholic whose life pretty much collapses in the span of a day, and then he has about 5 days to try and get it together. Sort of. I never read the short story it was based on so I can't comment about how that ended,  so I am not sure if the movie ending was similar, but I can say that I was glad about how it ended, it went one way and then through me a curveball. And it didn't end in a triumphant way either, but still it suited the rest of the story. And I thought Ferrell acquired himself well in a mostly dramatic role. I also thought Christopher C.J. Wallace did a good job as the boy that he befriends during this week. If that name sounds familiar it is because he is the son of Christopher Wallace AKA Biggie Smalls AKA Notorious B.I.G. and he uncannily looks and sounds like his dad. I thought he was really good and hope that it leads to more for him. That's him below:


Friday, May 11, 2012

Fifty Shades of Terrible Writing

Yo yo yo, what it do what it do. This is your boy Perspicacious P aka the Vanilla Thrilla aka White Falcon aka White Philosoraptor Rex. It’s that moment you’ve been waiting for, my official review of Fifty Shades of Grey, or as it should be known, Fifty Shades of Shitty Writing. I actually finished it a few weeks ago, but it was such a staggering work of breathtaking genius I had to sit with it and marinate on its deeper meanings before I could write intelligent criticism.

Either that, or I’m lazy and the book kinda sucked and I didn’t want to revisit it.

But enough of that, let’s get to the review.

Fifty Shades of Grey has become a word-of-mouth phenomenon, at least according to the New York Times and my Facebook feed. It is supposedly filled with debauched sex acts and moral depravity not seen since the downfall of ancient Rome.

After reading it, however, I have to say that your average Dan Savage column will have 10x the fucked up sex shit than is contained in this book. Not that I really dabble in the world of weird sex (or sex at all, LOL….argh), but this was all pretty tame stuff. I guess for white women of a certain age and status this may pass as pretty racy, but for most people it reads like a bad Skinemax movie, probably one of the ones that didn’t have Shannon Tweed in it. 

Not that I ever watched those.

ANYWAY, basically the dude had S+M tendencies and the chick was totally freaked by it. That was the entire plot. All of it.

“Oh, he likes to spank and use whips, HOW NOVEL!!!”

(To demonstrate how lame this was, there wasn’t a donkey punch anywhere in the book! If there aren’t any donkey punches, how racy can this really be? Would a Houdini have killed the author?)

More lameness: There was no fucking until like page 110!!!

Up until then, we were treated to the INSANELY ANNOYING internal dialogue of a hot, neurotic college student. Because that’s exactly what I want out of a trashy novel. Look, if I want neurotic thoughts, I can just tune into my own brain, thanks. Please get to the fucking. Isn’t that the first rule of fiction writing? “Get to the fucking first?”

The writing itself was pretty terrible. I have never seen the word ‘impassive’ used so many times. The guy had an ‘impassive’ look on his face. She had an ‘impassive’ smile. He fucked her in an ‘impassive’ manner. It appeared every other page, literally. I hope the author has at least bought a thesaurus with her newfound riches.

Another annoying thing is that the woman in the book called her vagina her ‘sex’. Has any woman ever referred to her vagina as her ‘sex’? How fucking corny is that shit? I can assure you that when George Michael sang "I Want Your Sex", he wasn't talking about vaginas. 

I wonder if she was all “Fuck me in my sex” and the guy all, “Huh? What does that even mean?” Well, I guess at that stage the guy would agree to anything she says just to get in her pants, but you get my larger point.

Not everything was bad. A good chunk of the book, like 20 percent, was made up of emails between the lovers. They took up a lot of the page and you could go through 8 pages of emails in about the time it took to read one normal page. So there was that.

That said, I didn’t love that there was a contract in the middle of the book that went on for five pages. And it wasn’t even racy. It wasn’t stuff like “You can’t fuck me in the ass with a broomstick” but stuff like “the dominated will attend the gym three times a week”, etc etc. If I wanted to read fine print, I would actually look at my credit card or school loan bills. And what good would that do?

I think it even said something like she couldn’t masturbate, but in a way more dry, lawyerly way. What kind of racy novel doesn’t allow self-pleasure? WACK.

There were also some really weird turns of phrase. The chick also kept referring to her post-coitus coif as ‘just fucked hair”. To check her email she would “fire up her email program”. Has anyone ever said that to check their email? Turning on her laptop was “firing up her mean machine.”

I think the author is British and the story takes place in the US, so I wonder if that’s why some of the language was so awkward. Cell phones were called ‘mobiles’. People would ‘phone’ each other. Her roommate talked about her ‘walking boots’. Americans, at least the ones I know, don’t talk like that.

The one act that did disgust me was that the chick used the dude’s toothbrush without telling him, which is a huge violation of trust, not to mention hygiene. Who the fuck does that? What if her gums bleed and she got it all over his toothbrush? Is that sanitary at all? The guy made a point of having safe sex, the least she could do is not bleed all over his toothbrush.

Also, the girl listened to Snow Patrol on her run. Would anyone ever listen to Snow Patrol on a run? Wouldn’t that just stop you in your tracks and make you want to stop living? Isn’t that the least motivational thing you could do? It’s like bizarro “Eye of the Tiger”.

I hated the characters so much that I kept hoping one of them would die, but I’m told it’s a trilogy, so if someone dies I have to read 1000 pages more of shit like this to find out, and even then they may both live. I think I would rather slam a car door on my head repeatedly for 10 hours than read another book in this series.

Final verdict: the story sucked, the writing was bad and there was hardly any fucking. I think they had sex 10 times in 500 pages, which is two fucks every 100 pages. Not the golden ratio by any measure. I guess maybe I can see why affluent 50-year-old white ladies may find this racy and interesting, but anyone with an imagination or an IQ over 80 will find this a tough slog.

This is like the movie Secretary with Maggie Gyllenhaal, except if Secretary was a really shitty book.

Now excuse me while I return to some Skinemax classics.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

The Avengers (2012) (27/50 Movies)

I've really come around on this Joss Whedon fella in the past month. I'm not kidding about that, I mentioned this before in my Cabin In The Woods review, I was never a fan before, I know Buffy fans might be incredulous, but yeah, wasn't into his stuff before. But this past month might have made me a believer, not that I'd go back and watch Buffy or anything else now, but I might be more attune to his future efforts. I could go on and on about this movie, how he gets the characters right, in particular Bruce Banner and Tony Stark (Stark in Iron Man 2 became smug and unlikeable, here he is just snarky and egotistical). I mean he managed to give the characters here better stories and story arcs then they even had in their own movies, and there are a bunch of them here. It's fun, the action scenes are genuinely thrilling and well-done, crazily upping the ante in the end, and it's actually funny. Take away all the "saving the world stuff" and this could have been a well-done workplace comedy starring superheroes in their secret lair. There might be something to all this "best comic book movie ever" talk in that it is really a comic book movie with bright colors and all that never feels cheesy. It's different from Christopher Nolan's Batman movies because, even though those were still about a millionaire dressing up as a bat to fight bad guys, they always seemed so much more grounded in reality, if that seems right, especially in comparison to The Avengers. Joss Whedon obviously loves and is invested these characters and it comes across greatly in the actual movie.  It might some of the most fun I've had at the movies in a while. I mean, it's not without it's flaws, of course, but the good here outweighs that, I think. Also there is a great cameo in here that NO ONE seems to be talking about.


Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Guest Post: I Sing The Body Electric

Today's guest post is from Dawn who blogs over on her blog Joyberry Pie.


So this week on Mad Men it was revealed that Don Draper is completely unmoved by music. It does nothing for him, it all sounds the same, it's useless beyond what it can do for him to help to sell a product. I thought that this was a brilliant stroke in his character development because, of course Don Draper has no ear for music. He can't put his penis in it, for one, but seriously, it makes sense because his life is full of pain he's still not ready to negotiate and music is superfluous, a nuisance, a pastime for people who can afford silliness and impracticality or don't know the joy of drowning it all in whiskey. I know people who feel that way, I recognize the type, and I can't relate even a little bit. 

Music moves me like nothing else in the world. It tricks me emotionally, moves me to tears in its power even when it's not sad. I cry more because of music's effect on me more than I cry due any other stimuli, except maybe death of a loved one. Sometimes I cry like a normal person, because I'm sad or overwhelmed or frustrated or hormonal. I'm pretty sure I cried at the birth of my son, but I don't know if I can trust my exhausted memory on that. I didn't cry at my wedding, I don't think I've cried at any wedding ever (except because of the music, I'll get to that later). But a song, any song in the right presentation, can trigger the waterworks in the most embarrassing ways. I'm talking during amateur plays, my toddler's music class, oh christ, youtube clips of flash mobs. I'm so sensitive to swelling and crescendo - if I were a supervillian, this would be my undoing. Show me that bit with the seemingly random people singing from The Sound of Music in the train station and you'll know all my evil secrets by the first time we're brought back to "doe, a deer."

And I know I'm not alone in this (though I sometimes--when I'm the only person snuffling away in a movie theater--I feel mighty alone). It's advertising, it's movie scores, it's memorial montages. Not even Scientific American can really explain this phenomenon, and that's, like, totally science, people. It's sort of fantastic to be caught up in this level of feeling, uncontrollable and inconvenient and inexplicable as it may be. So let's just call it divine something and move on to what this post is really about, which is:

9 Musical Moments in Pop Culture That Move Me To Tears, Every Time

1) Eleanor Rigby by the Beatles

Fuck this song. Never play it around me. I recognize it's one of the best songs ever written, I mean, I'm not a total philistine. But between the heavy strings and the subject matter (nobody came to her funeral! That is ice cold!), I can't do it. I just can't. Revolver is my favorite of all Beatles albums, but I've never once listened to Track 2. 

2) Oh What a Lonely Boy by Andrew Gold

I heard this on the radio when I was a kid, and I listened so hard to the words and it sent me into the biggest depression spiral. I just cried and cried and I couldn't explain to my parents what happened. I mean, in my head there was a swirl of, "HE IS SO LONELY. Why didn't anyone notice? And why you gotta be so upbeat about it, Andrew Gold?" But expressing that at the time, it seemed impossible. I think eventually they got that the song is what made me cry, but I don't think anyone in the world can relate to the sad it inspires in me. 

3) I Sing The Body Electric from the movie Fame

Fame is a totally underrated movie. Not interested in the remake. It's just a terrific, objective, unforced look at a year in the life of performing arts students. There's jealousy and coming out and suicide and abortion and DANCING. And this scene, the finale, the culmination of the year you spend with these kids for better or worse, it just knocks me over every time with the chills factor. 

4) Sunrise Sunset from Fiddler on the Roof

Ah, more childhood trauma. I remember so clearly getting choked up hearing this in the church at my uncle's wedding when I was five. Five years old and I was all, "Oy, the passage of time, so cruel." No but for real this song really broke something in me, and even then I struggled to keep the tears in because I didn't want anyone to see, I didn't want to talk to anyone about why I was . See also: Sabbath Prayer. Or any song from this musical, come to think of it. I mean, even the most celebratory number is disrupted by a fucking pogrom. So just... never see Fiddler on the Roof. I mean, see it, but just know you'll want to kill yourself by the end. It's music that does that.

5) Century Plant by Victoria Williams

I never heard her version of the song, if there is one. There probably is one. But I'm speaking about its appearance in the movie Camp. I was so conflicted about this movie when it came out, and I can't for the life of me remember why. Maybe I thought it was too stereotypical? But I guess that there's a movie at all about a performing arts camp that allows a birthday breakfast party with everyone in drag, gives agency to gay teenagers and features not only a juvenile Anna Kendrick KILLING a number from Company but a real-live cameo from Mr. Stephen Sondheim himself is nothing short of unbelievable. And this scene is climactic in and of itself does me in. What a song, what a performance. Blubbering, commence.

6) The "Maybe" reprise from Annie (this is the original appearance, I can't find the reprise with Daddy Warbucks anywhere. If you've seen it, you know what I'm talking about.)

I saw Annie in the theater when it came out and have no clear recollection of my first experience. But I must have liked it enough to want to see it again because I won a free pass to the cinema in a limbo contest at the roller skating rink (WOW that is a true sentence and I did not even live in Happy Days) and I used it to go see Annie again. My beloved grandfather accompanied me, and I remember getting to this part of the movie and bawling uncontrollably, like gulping for air and snotting all over the place and he gave me one of his ever-present pressed white hankies. God what a gentleman, I miss my Pup so much. ANYWAY if you have a heart this little number affects you, no? 

7) Fix You from Young @heart

This is another gimme. Anyone with a soul would bawl here. I bawled through the entire movie, but that's just me and my weakness for the elderly. But this number, man. I won't even give you the surround of what leads up to it because it's too gutting. Just be prepared to feel raw.

8) Les Miserables

All of it. Just all of it. Starting from "For God's sake," in this number--and even through the innkeeper number because it's just so goddamn rousing, and "rousing" can sometimes be the stealthiest provocateur in these cases-- and straight through to the end. I would love to see this musical live in a theater, but I don't think my constitution could handle it. 

9) I'll close with the most recent occurrence in my life: the do-over proposal scene from Up All Night. I can't find the link to this scene anywhere unfortunately, so I embedded the entire episode - if you have the inclination fast forward to the last couple of minutes, it's pretty sparkling.

Like I said, I rarely cry at joyous occasions. But all bets are off when a flash mob is involved. And Will and Christina do make a believably wonderful couple. I felt as choked up as she was.

So! Music! Goddamn! It's a comfort to me that while this may be the lamest bit of subject matter this blog has ever showcased, it's not even close to being the lamest thing about me. Thank you Kev for inviting this madness, and giving me a chance to cry all over again as I re-watched each link.