08 December 2010

How to Take a Leak

At some point in your life, and indeed, in all our lives, there comes a need to pee. I've put together this helpful guide so when that time comes, there's no confusion. Let's begin by discussing the different ways to take a leak:

  1. Due to a crippling fear of the bacteria present in public restrooms, you could hold it in throughout the entire day, shifting uncomfortably in your seat, wincing dramatically at each pothole, until you're home, safe to whiz in your obsessively disinfected bathroom. There's a chance you'll die because your insistence on stringent hygiene practices has created the next superbug. But probably more likely is that one day your bladder will burst and you'll die of peritonitis. Bummer.
  2. In an idealistic, yet misguided attempt to assert your individual freedom, you piss whenever and wherever you please. Maybe like that crazy astronaut lady you get some adult diapers. Or maybe you go right in your pants. Either way, there will come a time when changing your diaper/pants becomes an inconvenience and disrupts your daily life. And on that day, sitting in your soaked garments, you'll realize all your friends have left you, because you're the person who fucking pees their own pants/diapers.
  3. Do the animal thing and mark your territory. In many ways, this is exactly like the second method discussed, except you're either arrested or get your skull caved in pretty soon after you pee on someone.
  4. Pee on some dude's carpet. (Only applicable if you are in a beloved Coen Brothers film).
  5. Use the toilet like a normal person.
Think for a minute: which option would you choose? Now imagine that instead of urination, I'm talking about the recent Wikileaks debacle/cyber war, because that is what I'm talking about. Think again which option you'd choose, because they all still apply (OK, not the fourth one).

Do governments need to be transparent? Of course. If they're not, it's like holding it in, even though you need to go real bad. Eventually, there's an accident, and you've got a leak. In this example, the leak is the person in the US State Department who gave Wikileaks all those diplomatic cables. Taken to the extreme, any government that successfully keeps an increasing number of secrets from its people while still ostensibly being a government by, for and of the people will explode internally, and then you've got a whole other mess on your hands.

Well, hopefully not literally on your hands, because that'd be pretty gross. Anyway, it's real real bad.

Of course, government, by nature, cannot function by relating the minutiae of its day-to-day affairs. A truly "open" government is, at best, a mere pipe dream; at worst, entirely non-functional in the global community. What nation wants to conduct affairs with the political equivalent of a tattle-tale? Nobody, that's who. And that's why an "open" government inevitably has a national security problem.

The problem in this situation is that Julian Assange wants the US government to be open in the way he thinks it ought to be. In an effort to force that to happen, he— well, technically Wikileaks. Assange is the founder and public face so he essentially is Wikileaks— have released all sorts of secret, classified documents. I hope to whatever god will get the job done some of them were on microfilm.

The point is, Wikileaks' release of US State Department cables is like Wikileaks attempting to mark its territory in the realm of international politics. It's them peeing on the leg of the US to assert their dominance. And that means Assange's threat of a "poison pill" is like him saying, "I just drank a liter of Mountain Dew and ate a pound of asparagus, and maybe I'll crap on you as well." The attack by Anonymous on Visa would be like a Wikileaks crony coming by to pee on you as well.

Attempting to force, or actually forcing a government to become transparent accomplishes two things: 1) As in scenario two, it turns that government into the guy with pee all over him who nobody will be friends with and 2) It makes that guy and anyone afraid they might get peed on super pissed off. The final result is a whole lot of fighting, zero "open" governments, and widespread anarchy. If you ask me, that's what Assange really wanted all along.

Because option four was a joke, let's bring this metaphor around to the last option: using a toilet like a normal person. Is it true that lots of people in governments are assholes? Yes. Does political corruption exist? Of course. Does this mean maybe some more transparency is needed? I think so.

On the other hand, is a totally "open" government" a realistic expectation? No. Do we want to know every little detail about what our government is doing? Probably not. After all, fucking Justin Bieber is still more popular (at least, Twitter-wise) than Julian Assange and Wikileaks.

What we need are governments strong enough to not be anxious about an away toilet situation. We need governments strong enough to be honest with the people who elect them. But we also need governments mature enough to avoid wetting their bed and smart enough to know when holding it in means you won't miss the good part of the movie. We need governments who are savvy and able to keep the secrets that need to be kept in order to keep safe not only their own people, but people across the world.

And that's how you take a leak.

18 November 2010

An Open Letter to Congress Regarding the Use of Full-Body Scanning Technology by the Transportation Security Administration

Dear Congress,

I know you guys (and gals!) have a pretty tough job skimming (and ghost-writing!) lots of potential legislation. I know you work hard to prove how much of a regular hard-working American you are by giving yourself lengthy sabbaticals from the business of running the Greatest Country in the World so you can focus on portraying yourself as someone who works as hard as a regular hard-working American. I know with an incumbency rate of well over 90% and nigh-eternal pensions you are frightened about your job security. I know you're doing a job Americans simply don't want to do themselves, just like dishwashing or picking fruit.

Better pass that immigration reform soon, or those valuable jobs will go to a bunch of illegals! And twenty years from now, those little terror-lawmakers will destroy the American government from within.

Irregardlessly, there exists an even direr threat to national security: the people responsible for national security. Have you even seen their insidious, inflammatory propaganda? I know we have enemies willing to hide ineffective explosives in their skivvies, but if we don't have our decency, how free and
safe are we really?

I agree with Representative Ron Paul of Texas's 14th District that something needs to be done about the TSA and their wanton, warrantless full body-scanning. Where the illustrious congressman and I disagree is on what should be done. The esteemed congressman's proposal would deny the TSA their constitutional right to be creepy pervs.

My proposal gives everyone what they want. The TSA can keep their voyeuristic remote viewing stations, but no American has to actually be scanned. Except for me.

That's right. I will show Congress my balls.

Here's how it works: I walk through one of those scanning machines and allow the TSA to take a picture of me. I would walk through a maximum of four (4) times, to ensure they get a good one. Then, the TSA would permanently turn off every machine across the country and install some needlessly Windows Vista-based software that displays the picture they took of me in place of the scan whenever anyone walks through the machine.

You see? Everyone gets what they want. Americans get to maintain their privacy. The TSA gets their freaky scanner-fetish pictures. "Everyone wins," you might be thinking, "except for ol' T. M. Gagnon."  After all, what could I possibly get out of it?

I've already told you. I get to show Congress my balls.

I don't mean in the sense that I allow them to allow the TSA to take a picture of me. I mean that I get to show Congress that picture of my balls whenever I want.

Debating important healthcare legislation? Balls. Vetting a Supreme Court nominee? Balls. Sneaking a congressional pay raise into every bill you pass? Balls. Filibustering? Balls. Getting away with picking your nose while on the senate floor because nobody watches CSPAN-2? Balls. Vice-President clapping sarcastically behind the President during the State of the Union? Balls.

I urge you, Congress, to do what is right for America. It's time to stand up for decency. It's time to stand up for the freedom that allows government agents to look at people's privates in the name of national security, but really, to get their jollies on. It's time for a bipartisan approach to this increasingly public menace.

It's time, Congress, for you to see my balls.


T. M. Gagnon

05 September 2010

How to Lose Your Religion

You know what the best thing about freedom of religion is? It's how you can just make one up pretty much any time you want and nobody gets to stop you, even though they probably ought to. What's really difficult is getting anywhere from 87,000 to 600,000 people to join up when, in the name of freedom of religion, you abolish all religion in favor of establishing a deus ex civitas.

But on 28 August, 2010, one man did that very thing, and that man is the always-flappable, the spurious, the highly-indigestible Glenn Beck. What a guy. Anyway, I'm all about new religions, especially dangerous ones. So, Mr. Beck: Congratulations on being the new owner of the most insidious form of nihilism present in the United States today!

Listen, I know you are all wondering where you can get some nihilism of your very own. It's like I've always said, "Once one megalomaniac gets just a little nihilism, everyone is going to want some." Well chill out, hosses and hossettes, because I'm about to tell you.

Here's what you do:
  1. Gather 240 or so religious leaders of various faiths. You don't have to say which faiths, though. Only, no Muslims. Catholics are a bad choice, too. I have no idea how an atheist would have a religious representative, but in case they somehow do, skip them as well.
  2. Give that group a badass sounding name that actually carries highly ironic connections to a prior movement known not for its ardent patriotism but for its fervent anti-nationalism.
  3. Insist that the intent of this group is to promote your specific ideas about faith, hope and charity as more important than their own religious agendas, thereby undermining the freedom of religion by making free religious expression subservient to the requirement of allegiance to a destructive form of nationalism.
Not too bad, right? If you can manage to do all this in the same location and on the anniversary of an event of tremendous cultural and sentimental importance while insisting without irony against someone else's right to do exactly the same thing, that's a huge bonus. Let me see if I can put more plainly why Glenn Beck is a nihilist. I'll try to make it fit easily onto a gimmicky chalkboard.
  • An individual practices any given religion (or practices none at all— hereafter I will include atheism under the umbrella of religion in the sense that one is free to have no religion) for a variety of stated reasons. Regardless of those reasons, this religion provides a sense of meaning and a sense of morality to that individual.
  • Supplanting an individual's right to freely choose their religion with the requirement to be patriotic and nationalistic in a very narrowly defined way moves the sense of meaning away from religion and onto that same narrowly defined nationalism.
  • The movement of meaning away from religion and onto nationalism does not have a corresponding movement of morality. Nationalism defines values, but fails to adequately define morality.
  • Lacking meaning, religion no longer has sufficient authority to prescribe morality. Morality is therefore destroyed and replaced not by a new morality, but by obedience to the charismatic leader of said nationalistic movement.
In this scenario, God, or all gods but the State, are soon to be quite dead. And that is why Glenn Beck is a nihilist, even though he talks all sorts of talk about faith and religion and God. What he really wants is power, and that makes Lincoln's lap the altar and religion the sacrificial lamb.

But look, you can do whatever you want, because you've got the right to choose. You want to worship deus ex civitas at the cost of all other gods, that's your thing. But don't blame me if those gods get a bit pissed off at you trying to kill them and everything. And certainly don't be surprised if for some odd reason it turns out that not everybody wants to suddenly become a nihilist.

Watch a state religion being born (just like watching a person being born, only more disgusting, and you don't get any drugs to make it easier): Glenn Beck's Restoring Honor Rally

Catch up on a few of your actual rights, in case you were interested: The Bill of Rights

30 August 2010

The Best New Album of the Year, Ever: Stuff White People Ought to Like

I'm in a slow lane, I'm on my Cobain, I'm in a new spot tryna run a old game.
The Best New Album of the Year Ever: Stuff White People Ought to Like, or How I Got Over Nihilism
I admit that I know next to nothing about hip hop, and I don't feel like pretending I do. I grew up in a town which may as well have been called Whiteville, so you might not expect a white guy from Whiteville to understand The Roots. But I do, and it's not because I'm great. It's because The Roots are.

In previous posts, I've stretched the content and importance of various albums in order to fit the premise I first proposed, namely, that music reviewers just make shit up. So, I would like to say, without deception or insincerity, that How I Got Over is the best album I have yet reviewed.

How I Got Over is, I would estimate, the hip hop analog of my favorite album, Radiohead's Kid A. Both albums share a certain thoughtful eeriness in the soundscape and an irresistible draw to be listened to with headphones and good speakers and listened to in their entirety, then listened to again. But, where Kid A's lyrics are odd, obscure, or absurd for the reason of expressing the idea that musical quality of a voice is at least as important as whatever the voice is saying or singing, How I Got Over contains lyrics that are unabashedly existential in content.

I should briefly mention that where I grew up, they didn't teach you about hip hop. They taught you about compound bows and eating pickled deer heart. The desire to listen to music, let alone hip hop, had to arise from a mutation in the genetic code of any given family.

That said, I might list How I Got Over as one of the most honest albums I've listened to. There are references to the present situation of The Roots as the house band for Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, and references to what I grew up understanding, albeit in a narrow and limited fashion, are the common themes within hip hop: drug use, broken families, street life and disillusionment with modern society.

All of this led me to once believe that hip hop was essentially nihilistic: with no need for morals or gods or authority, the options left in life were violence against society, violence against against self, escapism, and decadence. But How I Got Over, though dealing with the very real experiences of drug use, broken families, street life and disillusionment with modern society, goes further.

It's inappropriate for me to pretend I "know what it's like," but I think I can resonate with what The Roots are saying in How I Got Over, or at least with what I think they're saying: It's not a whole lot of use to just get angry and frustrated about what is, and it's a whole lot better to stand up and struggle to make a life out of what existence you do have, with all its troubles and baggage and potential.

How I Got Over insists on living, despite the circumstances of life. It recognizes the worst parts of existence but adheres to the daring madness of existing anyway. The first thing the absurdity of existence might teach us is not to give a fuck, but that kind of thinking gets you nowhere. Someone has to care, and I get the sense that with How I Got Over, The Roots are volunteering and hinting that we maybe ought to as well.

27 August 2010

How to Become a Pansy

Men, this post is for you, to help you become the pansy you've always wanted to be. Though ladies, you may find it helpful for encouraging the men in your lives to become pansies or in understanding their transition to pansy-dom. Men, you might not know this yet, but you're probably a little too manly and a little too masculine.

Suppose you have facial hair. This is very likely, and it is a problem. Facial hair is icky and gross and scratchy and nobody in the real world will ever take you seriously if you insist on wearing it. Maybe you grew it for political (Socialist!) or religious (Muslim!) reasons. Maybe your lady likes it. Maybe you're a fucking hipster. Regardless, that facial hair has got to go, and that means you'll have to shave.

You could use a single razor for shaving, but why use only one blade when you can use two? And wouldn't you also feel more comfortable with, say, five blades, just to be sure you get everything? You wouldn't want any pesky hairs slipping through the cracks, would you?

But simply shaving with ANY five-bladed razor isn't going to cut it either. Shaving is SO HARD, and you're going to experience so much irritation, so much tugging and pulling, you probably won't be able to handle it. Well, actually, you probably could handle it, because it's quite minimal.

What I mean to say is that if you want to be a pansy, you've got to learn how to be unable to handle it. And that's why you need a Gillette® Fusion® ProGlide™ razor. This magical product will turn your manly, masculine beard or scruff into the baby-soft skin of a whiny pre-pubescent who can't hack a little irritation. They even make some warm, fluffy cream for you to use so you don't have to deal with a little coldness. And really, as a pansy, why should you have to feel even the slightest discomfort?

So if you want to be a pansy, if you feel some need to coddle your anemic face, if you don't like mild irritation or minimal discomfort, if you want to describe "shaving" as "gliding," because a razor named "ProGlide" "just, like, glides," then get a Gillette® Fusion® ProGlide™ today. Come on. Be a pansy.

19 August 2010

Ideas for Terrible Movies That Might Conceivably Be Made

Have you seen an original movie this year? Me neither, and not just because I was banned from no fewer than three area theaters for requesting to bathe in the popcorn machine. That hot butter is so relaxing! ANYWAY, I've come up with some "original" ideas to help out Hollywood:

The Arthurian Candidate

Arthur Shaw is the hero of the War in Afghanistan for finally capturing Osama bin Laden. But when Arthur's fellow Marines, led by Lance Martin, start to have the same dream— that Arthur's intel about Osama bin Laden actually came from a mysterious lady in a lake rather than real American hard work— they discover that the Taliban travelled back in time to kidnap and brainwash King Arthur to think he needed to install himself as king in the White House at Avalon, which is really Washington, D.C. The twist is that Lance is ALSO a sleeper agent from the past who winds up ruining Arthur's political future by exposing the saucy affair Arthur's wife, Jennifer Shaw, had with one of Arthur's main advisors— who turns out to be Lance himself! The ending is a cliffhanger so that we can do up a sequel real quick.

Directed by M. Night Shyamalan

Jason Stratham as Arthur Shaw/King Arthur

Eric Bana as Lance Martin/Lancelot

Jennifer Lopez as Jennifer Shaw/Guinevere

Time Thieves

Time Thieves is a madcap romp through the life of office drone Rob Phelps as he and his friends Jason and Tim try to waste time at work without being caught by their micro-managing boss Evan Dunbury or office tattle-tale Wayne Welks. But will Rob take his job seriously in order to win away the heart of the newly hired salesperson Lisa Kirkpatrick from her jealous jerk of a boyfriend Jeremy?

Directed by Kevin Smith

Jim Gaffigan as Rob Phelps

Aziz Ansari as Jason Winchester

Demtri Martin as Tim Rana

Kevin Nealon as Evan Dunbury

John Hodgman as Wayne Welks

Kristen Bell as Lisa Kirkpatrick

Jemaine Clement as Jeremy Stone

The Fighting Vuvuzelas

The Fighting Vuvuzelas is the heartwarming story of a small town high school footbal team that just can't seem to win, especially after their star quarterback, Ben Gifford, leaves the team to play soccer. When superintendent Arnold Wierstiener announces that either soccer or football will be cut based on the results of the current season, the football team, led by second-string quarterback Max Holland and coaches Terry Evans and Jeff Barrett, must find a way to revive the team. It is Terry's wife and Social Studies teacher, Erin, and Ben's girlfriend and cheerleader Katie Simpson, who first bring vuvuzelas to the football game to cheer the team on. As the football team gains confidence from the increasing crowds of vuvuzela-blowers, their season turns around and they reach championship. Meanwhile, Katie begins to spend more time with Max. When the football/soccer rivalry peaks as each team sets out to play their final games, Ben must decide whether to stick with soccer, the game he really loves, or come back to football to win back Katie.

Directed by Boaz Yakin

Taylor Lautner as Ben Gifford

Mitch Pileggi as Arnold Wiersteiner

Emile Hirsch as Max Holland

David Boreanaz as Terry Evans

Sean Astin as Jeff Barrett

Kathrine Heigl as Erin Evans

Blake Lively as Katie Simpson

Jremy Piven as soccer coach Bruce Wilksbury

Also featuring: Jonah Hill, Michael Cera, Elijah Kelley, and Vanessa Hudgens

The Fighting Vuvuzelas (altrnate)

Jake, Fred, Will and Judy are four soccer-loving friends, but their personal lives suffer as a result of their obsession with the game. Jake can't keep a girlfriend and is constantly rejected by women, Fred hasn't worked in years, and Will and Judy, though married, don't really get along. But when Jake orders a special vuvuzela from Africa that turns out to have been imbued with wish-granting powers, everything changes. Jake meets Karen, who falls madly in love with him. Fred is suddenly offered a very high-paying job, and Will and Judy renew their vows in a lavish ceremony before heading on vacation in Europe. At the same time, the friends fight amongst each other and eventually go their separate ways. As the wishes granted by the vuvuzela turn out not to provide the happiness they did at first (and are, in fact, fraught with problems and complications), the four friends must decide if the wishes were really worth losing their friendship.

Directed by Tom Shadyac

Luke Wilson as Jake

Andy Richter as Fred

Ed Helms as Will

Kate Hudson as Judy

Anna Friel as Karen


In the near future, the Oneiros Corporation has developed technology for a government contract which allows specially trained agents to project powerful manifestations of themselves into the real world while in a dream state. These manifestations aren't subject to the laws of physics but can interact with normal matter and are therefore capable of completing otherwise impossible tasks. But a mission to assassinate an enemy leader goes horribly wrong and agent James Donovan goes into a coma. While there, his increasingly insane mind wreaks havok when it continues to project manifestations into the real world. Under the scrutiny of Senator Robert Billings and pressure from corrupt Oneiros Corporation CEO Irving Jackson, the agents of Team Icelus must risk their own lives and sanity by re-entering the dreamstate to stop Donovan from causing further destruction. But is Donovan really insane, or remaining in the dreamstate on purpose? The agents find themselves playing a dangerous game in which they must infiltrate both the Oneiros Corporation and the US government in order to find the truth.

Directed by Michael Bay

Denzel Washington as Agent James Donovan, the rogue agent formerly of Team Icelus

Angelina Jolie as Major Alicia Hendricks, the tough commander of Team Icelus

Olivia Wilde as Agent Tina Lawrence, Icelus demolitions expert

Chris Hemsworth as Agent Aaron Polowski, Icelus infiltration expert

Nestor Carbonell as Agent Ediwn Ruiz, Icelus information expert

Alaina Huffman as Agent Dorothy Abramowitz, Icelus combat expert

Neil Patrick Harris as Oneiros Corporation CEO Irving Jackson

Christopher McDonald as Senator Robert Billings

Space D├ętente

An unnoticed and untracked piece of debris in earth's orbit collides with the International Space Station, knocking out communications and trapping US astronauts Mike Dexter and Lucy Favreau, Russian cosmonauts Yuri Blasnov and Josef Ivanovich, and German astronaut Rienhold Schlegel on board. Tensions rise when Josef is found dead, apparently murdered. Can the crew discover who the murderer is before they take another life, while racing to repair communications to contact Earth for help? Or will their mistrust ultimately lead to their demise?

Directed by Robert Zemeckis

Mark Wahlberg as Mike Dexter

Julianne Moore as Lucy Favreau

Callum Keith Rennie as Yuri Blasnov

Robert Carlyle as Rienhold Schlegel

James Spader as Josef Ivanovich

A Case of the Mondays

Joe Monday has it rough. When he goes into the office for his job as a news reporter, he finds out the whole paper has shut down and he's now unemployed. When he returns home, he learns that his wife, Allie, has to fly across the country and be with her sister who just had a baby, and Joe must now take care of their two kids, Simon and Ramona. However, strange events begin to transpire across the city, including a herd of cattle suddenly appearing downtown, an entire city block worth of people who find they can only talk in rhymes, and the sudden ability of the family bloodhound, Captain Sparkles, to speak, Joe, Ramona and Simon, with the assistance of Captain Sparkles, must investigate what's going on and put an end to it before the whole city goes completely bonkers! Rated PG for vaguely scary situations.

Directed by Jerry Bruckheimer

Nicholas Cage as Joe Monday

Jennifer Garner as Allie Monday

Abigail Breslin as Ramona Monday

Max Records as Simon Monday

Bruce Willis as the voice of Captain Sparkles

Lunch with a Mexican
Audrey Billings lives a quiet life in a small town in Kansas with her brother Jeffrey and his wife Jennifer. One day, while working as a clerk at the library, a stack of books collapses and nearly crushes Audrey, but she is saved at the last minute by a mysterious Mexican stranger named Alejandro. She and Alejandro begin to meet nearly every day for lunch, but their romance is interrupted by the arrival of a corrupt and violent lawman known as El Oso. When Audrey learns more about Alejandro's past and his connection to Mexican drug cartels, she must decide whether to help him escape from both El Oso and the town sheriff, John Watkins, or turn him in.

Directed by Ang Lee
Charlize Theron as Audrey Billings
Javier Bardem as Aljandro Cordoza
Benicio del Toro as El Oso
Alan Tudyk as Jeffrey Billings, Audrey's brother
Michelle Monaghan as Jennifer Billings, Jeffrey's wife
Daniel Day Lewis as Sheriff John Watkins

Rasputin the Red
Jason Cunningham is a former Fransiscan monk now working as a covert CIA agent in Russia when he crosses paths with the beautiful Maria Petranova. Maria, herself a Russian spy, discovers Cunningham's espionage and confronts him about it. But the two enemies are soon forced to join together when kidnapped by the villianous Dmitri Trufanov and his American partner Alexandra Jackson. Jason and Maria soon discover that Maria is in fact a descendant of the Romanov tsar Nicholas II and Trufanov's true intention is to use a sample of Maria's blood to bring Grigori Rasputin back to life. Despite the efforts of Jason and Maria, Trufanov is successful. The now-undead Rasputin quickly uses his necromantic powers to raise three unexpected allies from the dead: Lenin, Stalin, and Trotsky. Being undead, the four are unaffected by poison, bullets, and blunt force and soon make their way across Russia to instigate a new revolution— one in which the undead rule. Jason and Maria must make their way across Russia to defeat the three Communist leaders and Rasputin before they gain control of Russia's nuclear weapons and zombify the whole world!

Directed by Paul Greengrass
Ryan Reynolds as Jason Cunningham
Jessica Biel as Maria Petranova Romanov
Christopher Lee as Dmitri Trufanov
Kate Bosworth as Alexandra Jackson
Ralph Fiennes as Grigori Rasputin
Leonardo DiCaprio as Vladimir Lenin
Ian McShane as Joseph Stalin
Armin Shimerman as Leon Trotsky

The Unexcited Brother
David Zucker is often described by family and friends as "stoic," but that's just because the SSRIs he's taking for depression— diagnosed by his family physician/father Jerry— cause him to experience anhedonia, that is, a lack of pleasure. Although his siblings attempt various questionable and often dysfuncitonal methods of cheering him up, he remains unresponsive. It is only when a chance encounter with Jackie Orlandi, who suffers from a self-diagnosed borderline personailty disorder, causes Jackie to cling to David for emotional security. Although he initially tries to rid himself of her, David finds himself drawn to her quirky personality and must decide whether or not to disobey his father's overbearing
medical opinion.

Directed by Wes Anderson
Jason Schwartzman as David Zucker
Owen Wilson as Gary Zucker, David's older brother and Revolutionary War enthusiast
Zooey Deschanel as Beth Zucker-Rosenberg-Westinghouse, Gary's wife and anti-war activist
Liv Tyler as Abigail Quentin, David's older sister and aspiring sculptor
Jude Law as Bruce Quentin, Abigail's husband and non-denominational Christian preacher
Uma Thurman as Edie Zucker, David's alcoholic mother
Ellen Page as Erin "Zergie" Zucker, David's younger sister, math wiz, and international video game champion
Bill Murray as Jerry Zucker
Scarlett Johannson as Jackie Orlandi


A needless reboot of the brilliant and iconic television show and movie updated and set in Afghanistan.

Directed by Sam Raimi
Robert Downey Jr. as Captain "Hawkeye" Pierce
Will Ferrell as Captain "Trapper" McIntyre
Kristn Wiig as Major Margaret "Hotlips" Houlihan
Tom Hanks as Major Frank Burns
Jason Alexander as Major Charles Winchester
Adrian Brody as Corporal Max Klinger
Jack McBrayer as Corproal "Radar" O'Reilly
Fred Willard
as Lt. Colonel Henry Blake

09 August 2010

The Best New Album of the Year, Ever: What You Get Is What You've Already Seen

You're just a fool, you know you're in love with the rules.
What You Get Is What You've Already Seen, or the Eternal Recurrence of Tina Turner's Legs
It's funny how much success Justin Bieber has had, because I have yet to meet anyone who doesn't hate his fucking guts. Granted, I don't hang around any 12-year-old girls, but let's be honest, even that entire demographic is going to drop Biebs for the next goober with a goofy-ass haircut they happen to see.

This post isn't about Justin Bieber, at least not directly. The thing with Bieber is just to remind everyone of a truth we all already know: shitty music always exists, and tons of people always buy it. I can write more complex and thought-provoking lyrics in the snow with my pee than the Black Eyed Peas write in an entire album. Regardless, BEP are going to inexplicably sell albums while I continue to compose uric diatribes decrying their mainstream success.

The good news is that good music also always exists, which is why you should go out and buy Grace Potter & the Nocturnals' self-titled album. It sounds like Tina Turner's career, which is a good thing, because Tina Turner is the Queen of Rock 'n' Roll. There are songs from Tina's early career. There are later songs from her solo years. There are rock and roll songs and blues songs, and songs that sound like CCR are the backing band, just for that southern edge.

Beyond the individual songs, Potter even vocalizes like Turner and scoops into certain notes like Turner. The Nocturnals look like they backed Turner at some point, maybe around 1975-1978. More to the point: Potter is like the white Vermonter version of Turner without the asshole ex-husband, as far as I know. ANYWAY, scroll back up and check out the album cover. Now look at the original US cover for Turner's Private Dancer:
Uncanny, no? But I'm not trying to say that Grace Potter & the Nocturnals are trying to copy or steal from Tina Turner. My point is that popular culture is supersaturated with music, and with more music being shared on the internet, creating something novel likely means creating something either pretentious or awful, but probably both. Short of that, old sounds need to recur in new ways, and influences ought to show themselves in new music. Grace Potter & the Nocturnals have all the passion, energy, and explosiveness of Tina Turner, and it's good for all of us that they do.

Friedrich Nietzsche believed in the eternal return of the same, and that's what I'm talking about here, even though I realize what a shame it is I'm not fully doing justice to Nietzsche's philosophy. Part of his point is that, if every event has already occurred and will occur again, we must find the courage to live in that instant. We are meant to be dynamic, or as Nietzsche wrote in The Gay Science, "We are, all of us, growing volcanoes that approach the hour of their eruption; but how near or distant that is, nobody knows - not even God."

As musicians, Grace Potter & the Nocturnals repeat their influences— in this case, Tina Turner especially— but it is their courage to live in the instant and create the same music again, dynamically. As I said, even Justin Bieber recurs eternally, just as Nietzsche's rabble does, or just as, for Nietzsche, Wagner produces only sick music.

But the other side of things are those of us who love good music wherever and whenever it is made. Grace Potter & the Nocturnals show the influence of Tina Turner on their sound and they dive whole-heartedly into that sound. The result is something new that we have already seen, and it rocks. Such music "furnishes us with eyes and hands and above all the good conscience to be able to turn ourselves into such a phenomenon."

17 July 2010

I Still Eat Your Cubans (and I Like It)

I thought I had tried all the cuban sandwiches in Rochester, but then Chris said I had to try Georgie's Bakery. As it turns out, Chris is a bona fide genius at pointing out places to get cubanos, as George Ruiz of Georgie's Bakery (and cafe!) calls them.

I'm not interested in wasting words: Georgie's makes the best damn cubano I have ever had. I'm even calling the sandwich a cubano now, that's how much my mind was blown by the experience.

BONUS: George is possibly one of the kindest cafe owners, ever. He let me try (for free!) some traditional Puerto Rican pork and rice with secret family recipe hot sauce (thanks, Abuela!) as well as a Spanish pastry with guava in it, which I think was called a quesito. I can't emphasize enough how amazing everything was, but it was fucking amazing, OK?

You can also check out the RocWiki page for Georgie's here.

13 July 2010

The Best New Album of the Year, Ever: "Old" Is the New "New"

It's totally cool now to stay in school and live by the rules, and baby, I got rules like the day is long.

"Old" Is the New "New," or Why Everything You Know About Music Is Completely Wrong.

As far as I can tell, indie kids and hipsters (OK, mostly hipsters) seem to love Jamie Lidell's newest album, Compass. I'll bet they dance awkwardly to it all the time in their hipster fucking clubs with their hipster fucking sunglasses even though it's a club, so it's fucking dark in there. Fuck that scene, man, I don't need that noise.

And as it turns out, I don't need the noise of Compass either. I liked it on my first listen. It had some good hooks, solid drum sound, great vocals, and "Enough's Enough" is funky, tasty goodness. But entirely unlike some of my favorite albums of all time, Compass never grew on me as I listened over and over. I started to pick up the little incidental things, and all of those little incidental things were pointless noise, causing me to get progressively more bored with the album until I turned on CSPAN 2 for a little excitement.

I won't say that I think Compass is bad, but it does feel like there's some kind of planned obsolescence in the sound, like it's meant to decay on each listen until you remix it with Lady Gaga's newest hit, select scenes from Mr. Belvedere, and homemade fart noises to create the next YouTube sensation. You know, to sort of change it up a little.

With contributors such as Beck and Feist and a guy from Wilco and a different guy from Grizzly Bear, I expected some music with staying power. Instead, what I got feels like the joke the cool kids pull in after school specials where they pretend to let a non-cool kid into the group and then embarrass that non-cool kid by revealing that he or she is not a cool kid. Also, they reveal that the cool kids are a bunch of dicks. Also, if the cool kids are in Carrie, they pretty much get what's coming to them.

It's almost as if Compass was designed to filter out the true hipsters from the poser hipsters, which in a lot of ways is complete bullshit, because all hipsters are, by definition, posers. But stay with me for a minute on this one, OK? Compass has some really great moments, so people actually like it, at least when they first hear a snippet here or there. It's why I bought it off the listening rack. But all of those moments are temporary, giving way to a vague noisiness, which is exactly the kind of shit that hipsters live for so they can tell you how uncool you are for not understanding it.

Normally, regular folks avoid hipster music because most hipster music is terrible. Sometimes, there are albums that hipsters love until everyone else discovers them, at which point hipsters disavow these albums, even though they secretly like them because they are actually good albums that transcends the needless coolness boundary. Sometimes, probably, hipsters hit on something that's good and no one else hears about it. Hey, it could happen.

ANYWAY, the reason I think hipsters like Compass is because it sounds, on first listen, like it's going to be transcendent, and all us non-cool kids get to dig something a little different that's fresh and exciting. Except we then discover that when the only new thing you add to mostly reappropriated grooves are some odd squawks you made with your MacBook Pro, your music sounds a lot like a bunch of reappropriated grooves with some odd squawks.

Beyond the first-listen mask, there's just not a lot there, so real hipsters will insist on the genius of the music, but fake hipsters, along with the rest of us, will give up on the album. Real hipsters get to love Compass and get to keep their completely unrealistic feelings of superiority because the rest of us pretty much just got duped. Yeah, well, fuck you, hipsters.

17 June 2010

The Best New Album of the Year, Ever: What's All the Hustle and Fuss?

Guys, check out how awesome I am at talking out my ass.
What's All the Hustle and Fuss?, or Why I'm Sad I Don't Get to Play the Blues
As a music reviewer— self-established as I may be— I am nevertheless obligated to spew fountains of adoration and praise for everything that Jack White touches. Even Meg White, even though she drums like Ringo Starr at age 8 and doesn't look as cute in pigtails as you'd hope. (As it turns out, neither does Ringo Starr at any age, so there's that, I suppose).

As it turns out, The Dead Weather's new album, Sea of Cowards, is pretty damn good. Great sound, great mix, great songwriting, etc. I find myself listening to it and wondering why Jack White is playing drums and not guitar. And while I quite like Dean Fertita, he wasn't in a movie about revolutionary guitar players. Some would argue White didn't deserve to be in It Might Get Loud at all, but that's not what I'd like to talk about here.

What I'd like to address is how Jack White will never play the blues, which is depressing. In It Might Get Loud, White cites a song by Son House titled "Grinnin' in Your Face" as his favorite tune. It involves Son House singing and not much else. I think Jack White was being more honest in that moment, at least musically, than he ever has been. Clearly, he loves that song, and he also realizes he will never, ever, be able to play it, no matter how much he wants to.

With the White Stripes, White simplified his playing and the songs relied on riffs and repeating rhythms, not unlike Son House's music. They even covered a song written by Son House on De Stijl. Every time I listen to the White Stripes, I get the impression that Jack White wishes he had been in prison for 15 years, like Son House was, just so he could play the blues the way Son House did. Instead, he dressed in gimmicky reds and whites and played entire concerts consisting of a single note, which, let's face it, is both pretentious and a cheat.

When he played with The Raconteurs (or Saboteurs, depending on where and when you bought their first album), Jack White lost the simplicity of the White Stripes, but gained a greater dynamic range, which I think is totally OK. It's more than OK, because I think the Raconteurs are awesome. But I don't think they're a blues band, even though the album design on Consolers of the Lonely is staged in such a way to make you think that's the case. With the Raconteurs, Jack White switched out the gimmicky visual aesthetic of the White Stripes for something bluesy, but it's deceptive; the music changed in the opposite direction.

Now Jack White plays drums for The Dead Weather. The aesthetic, I guess, is somewhere between the two. There's some theatrical aspect to it, like with the White Stripes, only darker. Maybe we can call it the goth blues aesthetic. Anyway, the music, I think, is lot more bluesy. Lots of space, lots of sweat, lots of energy and enough sorrow and anger to feel about right. Except that Jack White is playing drums. It's like he takes a step closer to playing the blues, but something else shifts and he's just as far away.

I suppose what I'm saying is that I think it's sad how self-aware Jack White is. It seems to me like he wants to play the blues, and it's the only thing he's ever really wanted. Except his consciousness of the fact that he lacks the life experience needed to really play the blues keeps getting in the way. Instead, White keeps posing as a blues guy, whether in the music or in the look of his various projects, and he knows all the while that he's just not a blues guy.

This is what Sartre calls "bad faith"— living as a person you are not— but it's also why I can't accuse White of inauthenticity. If he didn't seem cognizant of his condition, maybe I could make the accusation, but in this case, I can't bring myself to do it, even though every single music-reviewer/hipster cell in my body really wants to. No, Jack White is in this sense the saddest man in rock and roll. So, cheer up, Jack. At least now you have a reason to play the blues.