Thursday, November 20, 2008

Doin' the Friday Shuffle

I haven't done a shuffle in a long while. For today's, I am shuffling only within my "5-Star Rock" playlist - all pop/rock songs I've rated at 5 stars (477 songs, to be precise).

1. "The Only Living Boy in New York" - Simon & Garfunkel - Bridge Over Troubled Water
This is one of those album cuts that never became a hit (or, I'm guessing, was even a single), but that is no less great for it. A deceptively simple acoustic figure underpins the song, and Simon's vocal is nicely melancholy, but what really makes the song work is the melodic, leaping bass line and the sunny chorus that pops up in the background.

2. "Mmmm Mmmm Mmmm" - Crash Test Dummies - God Shuffled His Feet
I really don't know what this song is about, but I absolutely love that deliberate, oom-pah-like accompaniment and the resigned way Roberts sings the verses. Also, I haven't tested it, but it's my theory that that first "Mmmm" in the chorus is the lowest note ever sung in a rock song. Love it.

3. "Purple Haze" - Jimi Hendrix - The Essential Jimi Hendrix
This is why I hate classic rock radio, and never listen to it anymore. This song is great, with an indelible opening riff. Great. But I can't listen to it anymore. It's been completely neutered by omnipresence.

4. "Rockin' in the Free World" - Neil Young - Freedom
The album-ending acoustic live version. I know I'm not saying anything that hasn't been said a million times before, but, damn, isn't it remarkable what one singer with a guitar can create? (Couldn't find Young's acoustic version)

5. "Love and Happiness" - John Mellencamp - Whenever We Wanted
Mellencamp approximating hard rock. It's actually a very nicely aggressive riff that dominates the song, and the decision to go with an insanely high trumpet solo for the bridge, instead of a tired guitar, is one of my all-time favorite moves in a rock song.

6. "Island of Souls" - Sting - The Soul Cages
I pimp for this album regularly, but seriously, this is some good stuff. This opening track could easily serve as the opening to a misty, somber musical theater piece set in a shipyard, and,as I've also oft-stated, this album has the bones of just such a musical in it.

7. "Give Me On Reason" - Tracy Chapman - New Beginning
A classic case of radio ruining a song. This forgotten post-"Fast Car" hit got a lot of play when it was released, but the solo guitar opening, which runs through the entire verse melody, was cut short to bring in the vocal in quicker, and it just kills the artful pace of the song.

8. "Knives Out" - Radiohead - Amnesiac
Christopher O'Reilly does a great solo piano version of this on one of his Radiohead cover albums.

9. "The Ballad of Peter Pumpkinhead" - XTC - Nonsuch
Rock bands don't get into the "overtly criticize religion" game much, but this lament at the hypocrisies of organized religion is a classic example of the form. An imaginary tale of Christ's return, and the Church's campaign against him.

10. "Graceland" - Willie Nelson - Willie Nelson Covers
My sister gave me Vampire Weekend a few weeks ago, and I've been really enjoying it. But it took a review by someone smarter than I to point out how African-influenced it was. Reminds me now of this.

Until Whenever
And the Countdown Begins

Until Whenever

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Three by Three

Three things I liked about Forgetting Sarah Marshall

  • The fact that there was no asshole character, even the Aldous character. Sarah wasn't some horrific bitch, but a mildly self-absorbed actress who in the end couldn't deal with the withdrawn nature of the Segel character.
  • The portrayal of sex as more than just some movie-magicked wonderland, but as a real, often clumsy, physical act
    The supporting characters, from Bill Hader's endearing step-brother to Paul Rudd's sly take on the surfer.

Three things I did not like about Saving Sarah Marshall

  • The puppet Dracula musical at the end, which wasn't as clever or funny as we were supposed to think
  • That Segel's idea of a job to hate is as a successful composer for a TV show. Rough, man. Rough.
  • The screenwriter's contrivances - especially Segel's character getting to stay at the fancy resort for free, just because the desk clerk felt bad for him seeing his ex-girlfriend. Really? That's the best he could do?

Until Whenever

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Plot Hole?

Maybe I'm missing something and someone can help me out, but:

In Toy Story, it's established that the toys can move and speak in the presence of humans, they just don't. After all, Andy and the misfit toys scare Sid off by talking to him and moving in his presence. So when they flop down when Andy bursts into the room, that's a choice, not something out of their control.

But for two-thirds of the film, Buzz Lightyear doesn't think he is a toy. So why does he become immobile in Andy's presence.


Until Whenever

Monday, November 17, 2008

A Bookish Quiz

Jaq's back!! And giving me quizzes to steal!!

What was the last book you bought?
The Given Day, by Dennis Lehane, a historical police drama. I've been waiting for this book for a few years now, as it's taken Lehane longer-than-his-usual to write it. Alas, when it finally came out, I had just started Infinite Jest. And as I'm still plugging away there, I haven't cracked the Lehane yet. I've got about 300 pages of Jest left. So soon.

Name a book you have read MORE than once
I wrote a whole post on this actually. I reread a lot, but the book I've easily read the most is Stephen King's It. Five times. And I will read it again. It's my touchstone.

Has a book ever fundamentally changed the way you see life? If yes, what was it?
I don't think so. But I will say that reading in general has informed to a great deal some of the way I look at the world. A lot of my leftish views, especially on social questions, have been greatly informed by the views of the authors i read, I know that. But one book? no.

How do you choose a book? eg. by cover design and summary, recommendations or reviews?
Recommendations. I almost never read or buy a book because it caught my fancy in a bookstore or library. Almost always it's a book I'm searching for or am aware of; there are simply so many books I know I want to read that I don't make time for ones I've never heard of.

Do you prefer Fiction or Non-Fiction?
I prefer fiction, but only slightly. If I read too much fiction in a row I get antsy, and vice versa, so I typically switch back and forth. That being said, I do read a lot of non-fiction in magazine form, so I'll usually read more novels in a given year than non-fiction books.

What’s more important in a novel - beautiful writing or a gripping plot?
Plot. Great writing can make a book in absence of plot, but that's hard and rare. A great plot can survive even shitty writing.

Most loved/memorable character (character/book)
Paul Welscombe, in the Stephen King novel The Green Mile. The archetypal King good guy.

Which book or books can be found on your nightstand at the moment?
In recent months I've taken to using the nightstand for rereading comics. Right now I've got the Dark Age Astro City hardcover, by Kurt Busiek, and the entire Brubaker run on Captain America, which I've been meaning to reread for a while.

What was the last book you’ve read, and when was it?
Under the Banner of Heaven, Jon Krakauer.

Have you ever given up on a book half way in
Many times. I gave up on Neal Stephenson's Quicksilver twice, the second time after getting 95% of the way through.

Until Whenever

Thursday, November 13, 2008

The Power of Story
For the last month or so, I've been reading The Wizard of Oz (the original Baum novel) to my four-year-old twin girls. Both girls have a history of being skittish about conflict in stories--they watched Cinderella for a while but then got too distressed at the meanness of the step-sisters as they tore the dress. They watched Finding Nemo but after a while couldn't take the dentist scene. And they were very nervous about Beauty and the Beast because of, well, the mean Beast.

They were OK with Dorothy landing on the Witch of the East. Probably because the actual conflict takes place off-stage. Dorothy realizes what happened after. And in the book, the Witch of the West doesn't show up in Munchkinland. They were a little nervous about there being another witch out there, but OK. And they digged the addition of the friends and their very clear goals - Scarecrow wants a brain, Tin Man wants a heart, and Lion wants some courage.

When we started the book, I explained the idea of a chapter book, describing how long it would take to read it. I told them how many chapters and pages there were. Weeks later, we were reading the chapter before they get to the Emerald City. And when I told them that the next chapter, chapter 12, was when they would get there, they were surprised. Because they knew that there a lot more chapters to come. And they thought Dorothy and friends getting to Oz would be the end of the story.

Before that point, they had been cooling off on the book. After all, they knew a witch was coming. But now, they are excited. Because there's been a twist. Because they've been surprised. The wizard didn't give Dorothy and the Scarecrow and the Tin Man and the lion what they wanted. To get what they want, the foursome will have to face the witch. And the girls are very excited to see what happens next.

Stories are remarkable things.

Until Whenever

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Sing Out Louise! (II)

My first post here at Tosy and Cosh (after a quickly aborted earlier stab at blogging) was about my ten favorite rock singers. So it was with great anticipation that I saw on the newsstand today that Rolling Stone has put out an issue highlighting the 100 greatest singers of all time, as voted on by a blue-ribbon panel of rock artists, writers, producers, and others.

So - how'd my list stack up against Rolling Stone's? Not too well. But that's because my list was of rock singers only - no James Brown, no Aretha, no Nina Simone, etc. But if I correct for that, and omit singers who aren't really rock singers (an admittedly rampagingly subjective exercise), what do I get?

Tosy and Cosh
10. Corey Glover (Living Colour)
9. Roy Orbison
8. Janis Joplin
7. Elvis Costello
6. Roger Daltry
5. Bruce Springsteen
4. Freddie Mercury
3. Elvis
2. Bob Dylan
1. Bono

Rolling Stone
1. Elvis Presley
2. John Lennon
3. Bob Dylan
4. Paul McCartney
5. Little Richard
6. Roy Orbison
7. Robert Plant
8. Mick Jagger
9. Tina Turner
10. Freddie Mercury

Still not much overlap. To my mind Dylan blows Lennon out of the water and McCartney is ranked way too high. Little Richard is hard too argue with. Robert Plant is just too much of a screecher for me. Not enough weight and depth to his voice.

On the other hand, the only two on my list not to make the 100 are Corey Glover (not surprising) and Elvis Costello (very surprising). And the massive U2 fan in me was pleased to see Bono as high as he is - 33.

Until Whenever

Friday, November 07, 2008

Keepin' with Kelly

After last month's viewing of the first season of Picket Fences, I found myself craving that Kelly fix. But, alas, there is no second season of Picket Fences out, yet anyway, and no seasons of Chicago Hope (except on Hulu, which I would watch if I could get it on my TV and not just my laptop or desktop).

So it was on to the first season of The Practice. Wow. Much better than I remembered, and much, much better at portraying the messy, paper-work-stuffed, scrambling, pizza box-strewn, shaving-in-the-office chaos and grunge that is (I imagine) a typical defense attorney's life. The pilot does an outstanding job of getting us into that milieu in its opening minutes, with Bobby and Eleanore rushing to court, and with the lawyers in their office juggling piles of files and manila folders, or holding files with their teeth so they can pick up another.

But I particularly love the design on the courtrooms. Courtrooms on TV today seem stately and grand, like austere libraries, with lots of wood and beautiful architectural touches. The Boston courtrooms in The Practice are old, peeling and, most importantly, echoey. I love the sound design here, the attorney's speeches sound like they are being given in old VFW halls, flat and tinnily echoed.

And, as with any relatively older show, I love catching all the actors I didn't know back then but do now. John C. McGinley as an oily defense lawyer, sounding like a more-serious version of Dr. Cox. Hermann Edwards as a patrician big-firm lawyer. That Kelly regular who played the transvestite on Picket Fences appearing here as a judge.

I'm only three episodes in but I'm very surprised at how much I like this show. And a bit dismayed at the fact that Season Two is not out.

Until Whenever