Thursday, May 25, 2006
Damned, Evil Mutant Hater
I’ve been looking forward to X-Men: The Last Stand since right about the time that X2 ended. I looked forward to it even more when I saw that Angel was going to be in the movie--my favorite character from my favorite comic book in a series of movies that captured the magic of my adolescent obsession. After reading the review of X3 on MSNBC, though, I’m now about as happy as if I had heard that Peter Jackson had directed the movie.
The think I always loved about the comic book was that regardless of their immense powers, the X-Men were some interestingly screwed up people. Take the emphasis off of the characters, though, and all you have left is a bunch of people running around in funny costumes and getting into brawls. No depth=no fun. That isn’t to say that the comics or the earlier movies are monumental artistic creations, just that they managed to be just a touch smarter and more interesting than typical summer blockbusters. Smart enough, at least, to rise a step above the special effects.
Disappointing isn’t a strong enough word.
Wednesday, May 24, 2006
And While the mp3s are Flowing…
For fans of loud, fast, hard rock, skip on over to Faster Than the World and download “Fisticuffs” and “I Want the Drugs”. Eddie and the rest of the Supersuckers might not be particularly nuanced, but they sure are fun.
When you’re done with that, don’t forget to check out “Judas Touch”--it will be gone by morning.
American Idol: Yeah, That Was a Low Blow
So, what, one of those guys performing with Live wasn’t Chris Daughtry?
Huh. Who knew?
Update: Holy dang, Kellie Pickler just gets cuter. It isn’t love, but it’ll do…
Update to the Update: Er, in case the g-phrase is reading this: just kidding.
A Meatloaf Oriented Aside: “Bob had bitch tits.” Which was in no way funnier than the Katharine-Meatloaf duet from hell. But only one of them was meant to be funny.
A More Gratuitous Aside While the Ads Are Playing: Andy’s watching the not-quite-live show, too.
Almost Bored Critique: Is it just me or does American Idol seem to last about as long as a contemporary Presidential race? Luckily, the bad performances (on American Idol, that is) make it fun enough to keep watching. Re-visiting the wacky, the attention seeking, and the just plain awful makes for a mighty big giggle or two.
Updated Idolatry: So, yeah, about Dave Hoover. Lower the dosage, okay?\
Extra Gratuitous Aside While the Ads Are Playing: Indeed, there was happiness for the blogger formerly known as Zombyboy. (Oh, and be careful, because she knows stuff that I don’t know yet. She’s got the ESP, I tell ya.)
Irritated Update: So the boys singing a string of old hits in a kind of homage to karaoke is mostly annoying. If you’re watching on TiVo, this would be a good part to fast forward through…
Really Irritated Aside: Why the hell doesn’t someone buy me a brand new Mustang convertible? I’m pretty darned worthy.
A Happier Update: Elliott Yamin doesn’t quite do U2’s song “One” justice, but Mary J. Blige does--at least, it did after a tiny bit of a rough start. Cool earrings, too. Seriously, though, putting two singers on stage who tend to over sing their parts and who probably haven’t had a lot of rehearsal time together is sort of dangerous, don’t you think?
I Hate Those Ads Aside: I want to send a message to Big Tobacco tonight. An unequivical message that I might even type in ALL CAPS just so I get my point across. DAMNIT, BIG TOBACCO, I AM FOR SALE. And my price is relatively low. Inquire inside for special deals.
None of which makes me like contemporary country music any more than I did yesterday.
Creepy Update: The Clay Aiken makes a surprise appearance with the strange Clay Aiken-alike guy has to stand as one of the oddest moments ever in live television.
Eye-Glazed, Wondering How Long This Can Last and How Many Somewhat Celebrities Can be Trotted Across the Screen While I Wait for This Thing to be Over: Are we there yet?
Admission of Enjoyment Update: I have to admit: the Prince special appearance was fun. That tiny li’l guy is fun to watch.
100 Doses: A Long-Term Cure for American Idol
One of the reasons I continue to watch and critique American Idol is simply that, like most of us, I kind of like playing the critic. The contestants of a show like AI make pretty easy targets, don’t they? At the end of the day, though, I’m not going to buy any of their albums, I’m not going to put down money to see any of them play live, and I can’t remember if I ever got around to voting for any of the contestants that I liked.
As Walter pointed out in a comment yesterday, these people aren’t really artists. They don’t write their own music, they don’t always even choose their own songs, and, if they win, I doubt very seriously that they’re given much in the way of artistic control over the songs, production, or arrangements. AI exists as a sort of lottery for moderately talented singers; the end result is pre-fab pop with not much of a shelf life.
When you look at it like that, though, the next questions should be obvious: what makes a song great? What makes a singer great?
I’m not sure that it can be easily quantified, although I would agree with Walter in that it isn’t purely about mechanics. The best-trained voice is no guaranty of a memorable (or even good) song, much less a great one. Which explains why Bob Dylan gets to have a music career.
(As an aside, if you were to be asked to identify the most influential American poet, who would name? I would suggest that Dylan might well fit the bill.)
That said, a truly horrible voice can render a good song unlistenable--so there is a low bar to be cleared when it comes to the mechanics, but the mechanics aren’t the deciding factor.
I don’t know what ingredients build a great song, but I do have my opinions about some songs that I consider to be great. And, one by one, I’m going to share 100 of those songs. They won’t be in any particular order (and Mark Lanegan might be a little over-represented), but they will be accompanied by MP3s and the reasons that I think the songs are so brilliant.
Some of the songs will be familiar, although popularity is no quick gauge of virtue.
Think of this as a cure for American Idol. A group of songs that make up a hell of a playlist with songs that you’ll hate and songs that you’ll love and a little bit of musical exploration for the class. The only two rules are that the songs have to have a prominent vocal, can’t be a cover of another artist’s music, and that I think that they are so damned good that they are worth sharing.
Ready for some fun? Good, because this was all a lengthy introduction to the first song on the list.
100 - Mark Lanegan, “Judas Touch”
It’s only appropriate that I start out with a Mark Lanegan song and this is one of the best. From the brilliant album, Whiskey for the Holy Ghost, “Judas Touch” is a little drop of near-perfection. At only one minute and thirty-seven seconds long, it leaves a little too soon. Stuck somewhere between country and acoustic blues, the star is Lanegan’s voice on top of the simple guitar and brushed drum.
“Judas Touch” doesn’t cover new ground; it’s as familiar as a worn cliche. But Lanegan’s intimate voice is almost seductive and he remains one of the most distinct and fascinating voices in rock music.
Turn out the lights, close your eyes, and enjoy this gentle tune.
Download Judas Touch. (The file is no longer linked. Check back for Number 99 soon.)
Just a Little Late
I was going to push out my extra-special, almost post-American Idol piece last night, but my network connection died and I went to bed instead. So, since I’m running just a bit behind this morning, that piece will be showing up in probably an hour or so.
Apologies, but I still think it will be worth the wait.
Tuesday, May 23, 2006
Because Congressmen Are Special Creatures
Is it just me or does the congressional outcry over the FBI raid of Rep. William Jefferson’s office come across as a little strange? The idea that Jefferson’s office is protected from this kind of search seems idiotic and the complaint that it is unconstitutional because it violates “the principles of Separation of Powers, the independence of the Legislative Branch, and the protections afforded by the Speech and Debate clause of the Constitution” is even more odd.
There was no “invasion” of the legislative branch, as Speaker Hastert would have us believe. There was a search and seizure in relation to a criminal investigation of a man who may have accepted about half a million dollars in bribes (nearly one hundred thousand of which was stuffed into his freezer at home), an act that is in no way prevented by the Constitution. The Constitution does not protect members of congress from searches and investigations nor should it. These people are in no way so priveleged that their criminal acts should not be punished or pursued.
Nor was it a violation of the “Speech and Debate” clause. This lengthy bit from FindLaw ends up discussing, fairly specifically, prosecution in a bribery case. It would seem that there is precedent to support an investigation and a seizure in relation to bribery charges (reading the rest will give a pretty broad picture of the scope of the Speech and Debate clause and its intent).
Files, notes, and reciepts in relation to illegally funneling money in return for using congressional influence isn’t protected in reference to the “process or function” of the legislator’s job. Therefore investigation of those activities isn’t a punishment for Johnson’s political views or actions, it’s an investigation of his illegal activity unrelated to his legitimate activities as an elected official.
Even if there were precedent for saying that Johnson’s files and office were normally inviolable, the fact that he is being investigated for a felony offense seems to give the FBI cause for the search.
If Bush were calling out the FBI to investigate and harry a congressman because that legislator consistently voted in opposition to the President’s agenda, then there would be room for complaint. But the “principles of Separation of Powers, the independence of the Legislative Branch, and the protections afforded by the Speech and Debate clause of the Constitution” were never intended to protect elected officials from the ramifcations of their own illegal acts.
Of course, the caveat here is that I am not a constitutional scholar nor am I a lawyer. But, as a marginally reasonable American, I find offensive the assertion that congressmen might be able to hide their dirty little secrets in their congressional offices (supposedly safe from searches) while hiding behind their status as extra-special priveleged citizens. It smells like the kind of ass-covering that makes us normal folk wonder what the hell the ruling class is doing while we aren’t looking.
Update: (The link has been corrected). Will Collier and the Investigative Team at VodkaPundit have insider info about Jefferson’s misdeeds. I had accidentally linked to The Modulator’s note about a distinction of which America shouldn’t be particularly proud. It has nothing, really, to do with this story, but the links stays.
Update to the Update: Can I get a hell yeah?
American Idol: May 23 (Let the Mocking Begin)
Firstly, starting later this evening I’m going to start a new series of posts to act as a sort of cure for this American Idol-related sickness that I have. Be sure to look back in the morning because there are going to be some surprises. But that’s later; right now we have to grade the performances.
Taylor-1 | Katharine-0
Taylor-1 | Katharine-1
Katharine’s song (the one that will be her single) was a mess where vocally she sounded decent through the first half, hideous through the overwrought second, and was singing one of the most bland, Disney-soundtrack-esque songs that I’ve ever heard. It was horrid.
Taylor was a bit better. He hit the big bits far better than she did (although he suffers by comparison in the quieter moments). The song still didn’t win my over, but it was a decent performance of a boring tune.
Taylor-2 | Katharine-1
I’m calling this one for Taylor. But we’ve seen how accurate my predictions are…
Tuesday, May 16, 2006
American Idol: May 16 (Who the Hell is Left)
Y’all know I like Taylor: he’s fun to watch and he has a decent voice. I have to ask a serious question, though: if any of the remaining three hadn’t been on American Idol, would anyone ever care about them? Do they have the kind of talent that just begs to be discovered?
I don’t think so. These are three, essentially, mediocre talents who will probably never have much of a career beyond the bounds of their contractual obligations with American Idol. There is nothing terribly impressive about these singers and they don’t have much to offer the world. Which will be a topic for another post (hopefully tomorrow).
Now, to the music:
Elliott Yamin sings Journey’s wonderful (if you, like me, are a child of the 80’s) ballad, “Open Arms.” First, without Steve Perry’s voice, the song immediately loses some of its shine. Elliott wasn’t feeling it, though; his take was timid and distant without actually being bad. And I guess that’s part of my point: there is nothing to Elliott that is unique or particularly interesting. He most definitely isn’t a bad singer, he’s just so amazingly typical that I can’t imagine why he is still in the competition.
“I Believe I Can Fly” is one of the most irritatingly saccharine songs of all time and marrying it to Katharine McPhee’s not-particularly-impressive level of talent made for a maddeningly ugly few minutes for me. Missed notes, a weak attempt to make some emotional connection with a vapid song, and an audience that ate up this little bit of trivial crap. What the hell?
Surprisingly, Randy offers up good advice: just sing the song. Simon offers up a kinder response, but he was wrong; it wasn’t pretty and this lovely young lady with a moderate voice tries to sing the songs as if she had a huge voice.
Springsteen’s “Dancing in the Dark” actually seems tailor made for Taylor (sorry, I had to); a jumpy, fun, energetic song for the man with the most charisma of the bunch. It also fits his voice beautifully. Nicely done--although some of those faces he made had me wondering if he was suffering a stroke. I find it odd that Simon would be polite to McPhee but a bit cold to this performance (and, indeed, a much better performance than the other two offered).
Elliott is a better fit with his second song, “What You Won’t Do For Love”, but I still find myself cool to his vocals. He doesn’t have the warmth or power of the original.
I was surprised at Simon’s choice of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” for Katharine. She actually toned down the opening, letting her voice stay controlled until the end (where she tried to do a little more than she should have). She sounded awfully good during the quieter bits--it was a good choice for her and perhaps better than I’ve ever heard her sound.
Strangely, Taylor’s take on “You Are So Beautiful"--which wowed the audience and judges--just seemed like an average performance to me. Good but not great, especially given my expectations.
Elliott chooses a song and I get bored. He seemed awfully happy, though, and his voice was spot on.
“I Ain’t Got Nothin’ But The Blues” was just sort of strange. There were good moments, bad moments, and downright goofy moments while she sang a song that would have been far better for someone like the departed Paris. Odd.
And the last song of the evening, “Try a Little Tenderness”, also ends up being one of my favorites. It started a little rough, but damned if Taylor didn’t inject energy and excitement into a song that fit him perfectly. I’ll agree with Simon that the ending was wrong, but the middle section of the thing was more than enough to put a little smile on my face.
My guess would be that Katharine will be going home. Let’s be honest, though: boobies conquista todos. Or words to that effect…
PS- Andy think’s I’m deaf. I think he’s blinded by the boobies.
Saturday, May 13, 2006
Arab News Today
The Arab News Web site never ceases to frustrate me. Occasionally, I"ll see articles that, while not necessarily friendly to America, are friendly to the idea of liberalization. Once in a while, I’ll even see something that has the ring of honesty to it that doesn’t indulge in the need to paint either Israel or the US in evil hues. Of course, those are just peppered in amongst condemnations of the West and the Zionists that are more common to Arab media.
Take today, for example. The first article is an insightful piece from Amir Taheri that analyzes the current Iran crisis, ending with this:
Which seems exactly right to me; it also seems like a lesson Iran learned by watching North Korea’s manipulations of the West.
But it sits right next to Essa bin Mohammed Al-Zedjali’s odd condemnation of the “Zionist” Western media and the Arab world’s failure to convey its PR message to English-speaking audiences. Lucid thought is coupled with such an odd paranoia about the Damned, Evil Jews and the Manipulations of Deceit, that it is hard to take seriously.
I would also suggest that the PR problem for the Middle East is centered more around Western views on the subject of suicide bombers and basic human rights. But I’m wacky that way.
Arab News never fails to entertain; it also offers a view of the thoughts and processes of a people who are, culturally, quite alien to Westerners who have grown up on the processes of liberal democracies.
Thursday, May 11, 2006
The Great Thing About an Arms Race With the Former Soviet Union…
...Is that we have one hell of a head start.
So Putin’s threat of a renewed arms race comes across as something Iran’s leaders might say when faced with the possibility of complete and utter destruction at the hands of a cranky US military machine. Russia’s decrepit military is far more dangerous to itself than to other nations.
Of all the national security threats facing the United States, Russia has fallen a good way down the list since 1985.
Ducks v/ Avs (The End)
The Avs did something that the Avs have never done before: they got swept right out of their series. Four losses, no wins, and ouch.
But there is no doubt that the Avs lost to the better team. The Ducks did just about everything right. They were better in net, they skated better, their passing game was brilliant, their defense kept the Avs off-balance throughout the entire series, and they were stronger on both sides of the power play. They were, quite simply, far better than the Avs.
During game three, when the Avs had a chance to win in overtime, the entire team just looked tired. They slowed up, they couldn’t clear the puck, they could barely seem to be able to move their sticks at times, and they made bad decisions. Meanwhile, the Ducks were aggressive, fast, and unrelenting.
The Avs lost (and I hate it when that happens), but they lost to a vastly superior team. It’s kind of hard to feel too upset when that happens.
Good luck to the Ducks and their fans; it was a well-earned win.
Wednesday, May 10, 2006
I Have So Been Neglecting My Duties
Patrick is back and blogging. Along with a few more names that I need to add to my site, it’s nice to have Patrick back.
And, um, if I’ve been neglecting to link your site, just let me know. I haven’t had quite as much time to keep up with my site as usual. The busy season should pass soon, so I’ll work back into writing more substantive pieces again.
American Idol: May 9 (The Less Cranky Edition)
So, I didn’t see that one coming.
A week or so ago, I picked Chris to win the whole thing. I said (and still believe) that he’s the easiest sell of the bunch and could slot into quite a number of contemporary rock bands seamlessly. Of course, I added that I don’t like his singing, too, but I figure that my taste wasn’t America’s taste.
Now Daughtry is gone and I am shocked.
Shocked, I tell you.
Update: The Pretend Pundit has the answer. Smart guy, that Pretend Pundit.
Tuesday, May 09, 2006
American Idol: May 9 (The Cranky Edition)
I’m working and still suffering from my post-Paris (darn you, Walter, she isn’t a boy!) crankiness, so here’s my wrap-up of tonights Elvis-oriented special:
Boy it sucks when my favorite singer has gone. It’s like watching Ultra Special Really Good Karaoke. Sure, the singing is alright, but why the hell should I care? So, instead of these cats, do you know what I’m going to do? I’m switching over to the Avs game (a much tougher series for the Avs).
Sunday, May 07, 2006
It’s Nice to be Noticed
The Second Ever Protein Wisdom Gimme-Money-Athon
Buddy Jeff, the most professionaly un-professional blogger I’ve known in these three-and-a-half years of ResurrectionSong, has much higher hosting fees than I do. He also has a wife and kids and cranky pet armadillo, but that’s probably beside the point.
If you like Jeff’s writing as much as I do, consider hitting his tip jar and helping him defray some of the costs of running one of few truly unique sites in the blogging world (or just in appreciation for the thorn that he twists happily in the side of people like Oliver WIllis, who actually gets paid for his blogging).
And, yes, I do put my money where my links are.
Saturday, May 06, 2006
Coloradans for Fairness and Equality
Coloradans for Fairness and Equality
My request: I’m calling on Colorado conservative and libertarian bloggers who support same sex marriage or domestic partnerships to leave me a note.
Michael Ditto has taken a leading role in Coloradans for Fairness and Equality, a group that supports a domestic partnership bill here in Colorado that would give same sex couples some of the legal rights and protections afforded heterosexual couples. While I personally support same sex marriages, I would be remiss if I failed to note that these domestic partnerships do not in any way change the definition of marriage. It doesn’t infringe upon the legal or religious concepts of marriage, but it does offer a way to recognize the committed status of same sex couples.
When it comes to politics, Mike and I don’t have a lot of common ground. I’m a Reagan-loving, Baptist conservative who twice voted for the current President Bush; those aren’t things that would endear me to a good many of the supporters of domestic partnerships in Colorado. But I would be letting my gay friends down--and denying my own conscience--if I didn’t support this movement.
If you would like to take part in helping Coloradans for Fairness and Equality, please leave a note in the comments. I will forward your email address to Mike and he will be in contact to invite you to take part.
Update: The blog link is dead right now for some reason, so, instead, check out the CFE main site.
Thursday, May 04, 2006
I took a late and long lunch today to see United 93 and I’m still recovering. It’s a well-made film, but its power comes from tapping into nearly five years worth of emotions and memories. I don’t know that it could possibly have the same kind of emotional impact if the viewer hadn’t lived through September 11; it would just seem too unlikely, too unreal. But for someone who was watching a live video feed as the second plane hit the World Trade Center--who spent most of a day following the news and wondering what else the terrorists had planned--it drills right back to that moment. When the footage of that second plane rolled across the screen, the same shaking fury that I had felt that morning settled into me. It was followed by the memories of watching the towers collapse and waves of debris and dust rolling through city streets; the wall of hastily scrawled notes and pictures from families searching for loved ones; and Father Mychal Judge’s body being carried from the wreckage.
The movie doesn’t come across in any way as exploitation and while it doesn’t work to demonize the terrorists, it doesn’t sanitize them or make them into sympathetic figures, either. It just comes across as a retelling of events without any sense of melodrama. I don’t think we should all live out the rest of our lives mired in depression because of the events of that one day, but for anyone who has managed to distance themselves too completely from 9/11, United 93 should act as a reminder of the day that shook us from our collective complacency.
The people on flight 93 were just folks. They were just people like the rest of us who were going about their lives in the same quiet way that the majority of people live out their days. Watching the actors--symbolically burned into my mind as the faces of the passengers--tearfully telling their families goodbye was devastating. To an extent, like most emotionally charged movies, I’m sure that United 93 acts somewhat as a mirror to whatever viewers bring into the theaters. For me, it served as a tremendously emotional reminder of why I have supported ongoing military actions in the Middle East; I’m sure that others will find something else in there. What no one will find is something that pushes, prods, or preaches.
Which is its greatest triumph. The event is too important to trivialize or treat with anything other than respect; the passengers that gave their lives in the slender hope of saving themselves and the almost certain hope of averting another potentially more deadly terrorist strike are far too real to be seen as caricatures. Oliver Stone directing a movie about anything to do with the World Trade Center attacks is sickening. His lack of subtlety, his need to preach, and his cock-eyed tendency to see conspiracies promise a movie that will be offensive; United 93, walks an entirely different, and far more impressive, path: it remembers the day with an emotional impact and clarity without having to provide a sermon or easy Hollywood-style answers.
To praise the movie or the actors or the visuals too much seems to be wrong for some reason. It seems to shortchange the reality of the people who lived and died in New York, in the Pentagon, and in Pennsylvania. Allow me this, though: it’s a simple movie that may not translate well to the next generation; but for the rest of us, United 93 is an amazing emotional and artistic accomplishment. Sadly it has to come to remind us of something we’d much rather be able to forget and something that we wish had never happened.
Wednesday, May 03, 2006
American Idol: May 3 (Damn You America! Damn You!)
Before the show started, I was fairly sure that Paris would be leaving the show tonight. Not that I thought that she deserved it, not because I wanted it to happen, but because she’s been near the bottom regularly. With just five contestants left there wasn’t much cover left.
Being right sucks on occasion.
Paris is vivacious, amazingly talented, cute, fun, and has the kind of voice that drives writers to mangle metaphors for. Or something like that.
I stand by my earlier statement: she would do better, artistically, without American Idol. It’s just unfortunate that she made it high enough that she probably owes them her first-born album before she can go and find out precisely what it is that she can bring to the world of music. One wasted album of over-produced, forgettable pop music before she can get serious about her craft.
Sure, Katherine is cuter, Chris is an easier sell, and Taylor is blessed with more charisma than I would have guessed the first time he walked in to audition. It’s near impossible to imagine that any of them will actually bring something memorable to the world of music. I think Paris has that potential, and I hope that her family helps her reach the heights that her talent suggests.
Sometimes, All I Need is the Air that I Breathe…
...And to love you.
Oh, and honey-roasted peanuts are nice, too. I mean, I don’t actually need them, but they’d be an awfully nice touch.
© 2005 by the authors of ResurrectionSong. All rights reserved.
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