Thursday, May 28, 2009

I Am a Cliche

You guessed it. The de riguer hiatus. In the past few weeks I've started to post several times before giving up. Not really sure why, but can no longer pretend that the feeling of burn out isn't real. So, rather than fight it, I've decided to give into the ennui and take a break. A few months is what I'm thinking now, but who knows. In the interim, feel free to e-mail me at or follow me on Twitter (tosyandcosh).

Happy summer to all!

Until Whenever

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Discovering Songs

After watching the Scrubs finale I simply had to go get the song used in the fantasy future montage at the end - Peter Gabriel doing a cover of The Magnetic Fields' "The Book of Love."

I did not know this song, either the original or this cover, before, but was instantly smitten, which almost never happens for me with songs on a first hearing. What I find very surprising is that iTunes didn't have it for sale on its own, but only as part of the soundtrack to the Shall We Dance Richard Gere flop. Why oh why do they do this? Isn't the ability to buy jiust the song you want kind of the point of iTunes?

Thankfully, I was able to get the audio off of the YouTube video and rip an mp3 that way. And now Peter Gabriel doesn't get amy of my money. Smart, iTunes.

Until Whenever

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Random TV Notes

(That Also Contain Random Spoilers)

  • The House finale was fun, but I really hope they don't abandon the "House in a loonie bin" angle too quickly. There's lots of potential there, but I fear that, come Fall, the show will revert to the status quo too quickly to make use of it.
  • I appreciate that, on The Big Bang Theory they are trying to take a very slight hand to the by-now obligatory sitcom cliche of the unrequited love angle, but the CBS marketing monkeys really should get on the same page. They promo'ed the finale as a big Leonard/Penny moment when the reality was much more subtle than that.
  • It's been intimated elsewhere that we won't meet How I Met Your Mother's titular mother until the series finale. I know many are fine with this, but I really like this part of the show, and think they need to move faster on it. I'd really love to see a few seasons of the mother integrating with the group. Unless they go with a Will & Grace model, with Ted unable to find true love until he lets go of his college friends. That doesn't feel right here though. The central relationship on W&G was always portrayed as (partially, at least) unhealthy. You never get that feel on HIMYM.
  • When Family Guy did a Stephen King night, didn't it feel way too soon to have a Shawshank homage? And then I remembered that that film came out 15 years ago. Yikes.
  • The Office has been so good, so assured, that I might actually be looking more forward to its finale than Lost's.
  • When watching American Idol last week, one of my five-year olds, shortly after Gokey started "Dream On," said "they're (the judges) not gonna like this."
  • Lost has been doing a LOT of set up the past few episodes, so much that I'm actually kind of nervous about their ability to pull off a finale that justifies all of it. Still, fingers crossed.

Until Whenever

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

He’s No Superman

In honor of Scrubs’ series (season?) finale tonight, here are my ten favorite uses of music on the show, in no particular order:

J.D.’s first emotional connection to a dying patient is scored to – NOT Jeff Buckley’s "Hallelujah,” but John Cale’s!

Turk and Carla, and J.D. and a brief girlfriend whose name I don’t remember, settle down to watch Sanford and Son, with Turk singing improvised lyrics.

Turk races to find a pregnant teen in the park during a Christmas episode over Nina Simone's "Sinnerman"

Ted's a capella band performs a killer version of the Underdog theme song.

Colin Hay does an acoustic "Overkill"

Ted's band does "Over the Rainbow"

Cox loses it after losing one too many patients

Everything Comes Down to Poo

Guy Love

Ted's girlfriend's song

Ted does Hey Ya at the janitor's wedding

I hope they bring Scrubs back just for Ted.

Until Whenever
I Sound Like I’m From Joisey. Who Knew.

If you are not listening to the all-cover songs, all the time podcast Coverville, well than there’s no hope for you. Brian Ibbitt puts together a roughly thrice-weekly show full of cover songs, with pretty much each show unearthing a great cover you probably never heard before.

As part of his “request” shows, Brian features a “musically challenged” trivia contest, in which listeners record and send in short music trivia games that Brian (along with wife Tina) compete in. And in the current episode, the “musically challenged” is a submission by Tosy and Cosh.
Go over and have a listen. But more importantly, go over and subscribe. You won’t regret it.

Until Whenever

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Three by Three


Three things I liked about The Reader

  • Kate Winslet’s performance, which was better than I had heard. Sure, she’s winning for not only doing a Holocaust film, and an accent, but for doing the whole “old-age makeup” thing as well, but she is really good here.
  • The piano-heavy score, by newcomer Nico Muhly (whose name makes him sound like an old Italian composer, but who on the special features is revealed to be a shockingly young-looking American), which steers (mostly) away from heavy-handedness in favor of subtle, quiet moments.
  • The production design, which made all of the locations, especially the apartments, feel very real and lived in, and evoked a wide range of eras very nicely indeed.

Three things I did not like about The Reader:

  • Davis Kross’ performance as young Michael, which felt very flat to me, tentative and insecure – the bravado the character unleashes at several moments never felt earned.
  • As much as the film tried to avoid sensationalism and cheap emotional ploys, it did succumb a few times – Hannah’s suicide, for example, which they tried to underplay by not showing the actual moment, still felt overly dramatic, what with her stacking books to stand on and the close-up of her shoes and laces.
  • The mini-drama between Michael and his parents, which felt very tacked-on and undercooked. Better to have been cut altogether, I think.

Until Whenever

Monday, May 04, 2009

And the Streak Continues

I’ve never been to a smoky, wood-floored, gritty bar on the Mexican border. And yet I can’t help but imagine that Bob Dylan’s new album captures what being in one would feel like. Is this a masterpiece on the order of Love and Theft? No. But it is a remarkably strong album, with the old-timey, Tin Pan Alley colors and flavors of that album, or the in-the-groove 50s dance hall band feel of its immediate predecessor, Modern Times, replaced by a distinctly Latin-flavored color here, primarily added by David Hidalgo’s accordion.

The opening track, “Beyond Here Lies Nothing,” has a careless, tossed-off feel, almost like a warm-up, but the second track is a real keeper, a delicate rumination colored by trilling banjo and defined by a stuttered, halting, earnest melody. And the wheezing, charming, accordion-driven up-down riff in “If You Ever Go to Houston” is a great engine, with more complex harmonies underneath than might be immediately apparent.

There’s blues here (in the shuffling one-two beat of “My Wife’s Hometown,” and balladry, but none of the more straight-ahead rocking that modern Dylan has favored (nothing like Love and Theft’s “Tweedledee and Tweedledum” or Modern Times’ “Thunder on the Mountain”). And yet it doesn’t feel missing.

This is another in a series of albums that are very much of a piece, with a definite sound and color palette unique to themselves. And, lest we forget, it’s an album written and sung by a 67-year old. Lots of singers have kept on recording great stuff well into their dotage, but have any songwriters? It’s looking increasingly like Dylan is going to have a career more singular than anyone imagined.

Until Whenever

Friday, May 01, 2009

Doin' the Friday Shuffle

For today's shuffle, I'm shuffling in only songs I've labeled "Rock" (which in my system really just means rock and pop) and that have been labeled four or five stars:

1. "Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)" - The Beatles - Rubber Soul
A wonderfully lilting melody, with that step-wise melody in the verse. Still, I'm often struck by how much of the Beatles catalog is barely "rock." Kind of odd that the biggest and most influential band either did do relatively little straight-on rock, and so much music hall-influenced melodic pop.

2. "Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes" - Paul Simon - Graceland
I absolutely love the opening, with Ladysmith Black Mambazo providing a great counterweight. and that feather-light guitar enters with the shuffling percussion. Great song.

3. "My Funny Valentine" - Elvis Costello - Armed Forces
Solo guitar, kind of menacing, then sweet, and delicately sung. Suck it, American Idol guy!

4. "Mary's Place" - Bruce Springsteen - The Rising
Springsteen does a big 'ol rave-up better than just about anyone.

5. "The Mayor of Simpleton" - XTC - Upsy Daisy Assortment
I can never hear this song the same way again after having it pointed out to me how similar it is to Tears or Fears' Everybody Wants to Rule the World.

6. "Angelina" - Bob Dylan - The Bootleg Series Vols. 1-3: Rare and Unreleased
A slow-burning, quasi-gospel, piano-driven lost track.

7. "I Threw It All Away" - Bob Dylan - Nashville Skyline
Bob in crooner mode. Sweet and sad song of loss.

8. "The Levee's Gonna Break" - Bob Dylan - Modern Times
Bob settles into a sweet groove.

9. "There There (The Boney King of Nowhere)" - Radiohead - Hail to the Thief
I love Radiohead, but does anyone have any idea of what their songs mean?

10. "Jerry" - John Mellencamp - Mr. Happy Go Lucky
A slightly sinister, insistent Bo Diddley beat anchors this song.

Until Whenever

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Old News

A few weeks back, when Danny Gokey did "Stand By Me" on American Idol, I was surprised by how few people called him out on such a soulless rendition, one that did absolutely nothing to honor the song. In fact, his lifeless version called for a tonic.

And here it is.

I'm going to go out on a limb and assume you've already seen this, but it's eminently worth posting nonetheless. Such a simple, beautiful idea, and just seamlessly executed.

Until Whenever

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Movies I Will See in Six Months

In what has become a yearly tradition, here are the summer films I'm most looking forward to, along with a numerical pegging of my excitement (on a ten-point scale) and the percentage chance that I will actually see them in a theater.

X-Men Origins: Wolverine
Bad buzz aside, I love Hugh Jackman, I liked all three (yes, all three) X-Men films, and am intrigued by the very notion of Liev Schriber in a superhero film.
Excited Score: 8
Chance of seeing in the theater: 50%

Star Trek
I have only seen two Star Trek films, and no episodes of any series. That said, I like JJ Abrams quite a bit.
Excited Score: 6
Chance of seeing in the theater: 05%

Terminator: Salvation
I like Christian Bale, but am not the world's biggest Terminator fan. And nothing in the marketing so far has grabbed me much.
Excited Score: 5
Chance of seeing in the theater: 03%

A Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian
Haven't seen the first, but could see taking the kids in a pinch. Maybe. TV spots actually look fun, though.
Excited Score: 3
Chance of seeing in the theater: 10%

Pixar has not failed me yet, and this looks to be one I could actually take my five-year old twin girls to.
Excited Score: 10
Chance of seeing in the theater: 70%

Land of the Lost
Something about Will Ferrell in a big SFX movie amuses me. And the girl from Pushing Daisies is hella cute.
Excited Score: 6
Chance of seeing in the theater: 05%

Year One
Harodl Ramis is due, isn't he? And Michael Cera and Jack Black sounds like an inspired combo.
Excited Score: 7
Chance of seeing in the theater: 15%

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen
The first movie did nothing at all for me.
Excited Score: 3
Chance of seeing in the theater: 01%

Public Enemies
I'm not a huge historical crime guy. Nothing about this intrigues me.
Excited Score: 2
Chance of seeing in the theater: 01%

I still haven's sen Borat.
Excited Score: 4
Chance of seeing in the theater: 04%

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
These films have gelled into a very satisfying whole, and I can't wait to see the next installment.
Excited Score: 9
Chance of seeing in the theater: 50%

Funny People
Given the way Apatow has built his little empire, it's easy to forget that he's only written and directed two movies. But when those two movies are The Forty-Year Old Virgin and Knocked Up, I'll follow him anywhere.
Excited Score: 9
Chance of seeing in the theater: 50%

G.I. Joe
Excited Score: 1
Chance of seeing in the theater: 01%

Inglorious Basterds
Quentin Tarantino has yet to make a boring movie.
Excited Score: 7
Chance of seeing in the theater: 10%

Until Whenever

Monday, April 27, 2009

Things That Are Great #470

Jimmy Stewart getting impassioned.

I just watched Mr. Smith Goes to Washington for the first time, and was reminded, quite forcibly, of what a joy it is to watch Jimmy Stewart get all impassioned about something. Watching the film also reminded me that I need to see more Frank Capra - I think that this and It's a Wonderful Life are all I've seen. It also spurred me to check out what other films Jean Arthur has been in - that tough-on-the-outside, gooey-on-the-inside persona combined with that nasal and perfectly pitched voice are a great combination, and I really feel bereft at not having seen her in (I think) anything else.

But mostly it's that long Jimmy Stewart fillibusterin' sequence that did it, and the way he can convey desperate passion that so impressed me. Sure, the movie kind of screeched to a halt, rather than ends properly, but still, this is prime stuff.

Until Whenever

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Well, No Pictures

Is there anything I don't love about the anual Best American Magazine Writing editions? The best magazine articles of the year, offered up in one wonderful package. It's simplicity at its best, really. This year's edition was as good as its predecessors. The highlights, for me:

China’s Instant Cities, Peter Hessler, National Geographic
An engaging, detail-laden, very in-the-moment look at the economic explosion in China, as seen through the test case of a man and his uncle opening up a factory to make bra straps.

The Black Sites, Jane Mayer, The New Yorker
A harrowing, anger-up-the-blood look at workers at a nuclear weapons facility who years later start coming down with cancer, and the government that denies any connection.

Specialist Town Takes His Case to Washington, Joshua Kors, The Nation
The tale of an Iraq War veteran (representing hundreds of others) denied benefits for post-traumatic stress-related conditions because the government claims they stem from a "pre-existing condition." More blood-angering.

City of Fear, William Langewiesche, Vanity Fair
Langewiesche is my favorite journalist, and he pops up in these things like clockwork. This year's piece, an in-depth look at the cultureof an omnipresent prison gang in Brazil is remarkable in how it both condemns and looks honeslty at the gang.

“You Have Thousands of Angels Around You,” Paige Williams, Atlanta
A heart-stirring and -breaking look at a young refugee from Africa taken in by a family in Georgia.

Babes in the Woods, Caitlin Flanagan, The Atlantic
A creepy look at how the on-line world has made stalking teens so very, very easy.

Underworld, Jeanne Marie Laskas, GQ
A close and personal look at the otherworldly world of coal mining.

Until Whenever

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

How much does a typical newborn baby weigh? What is the smallest weight of bowling ball typically found in a bowling alley?

Seven Pounds may well be the worst movie I have ever seen.


I like Will Smith. But I'm not sure what he was thinking here. Apart from the sheer over-the-top drama of the premise there's the way the story is told. First, the premise:

A man, driving home with the fiance he has just proposed to, does a little texting-while-driving and crashes his car into a van, killing seven people, including his wife. To atone for his sin, he undertakes an elaborate scheme in which he gifts complete strangers he has discovered to be "good" people with life-changing gift, usually of the bodily organ variety. To make his machinations easier to pull off, he steals his brother's identity as an IRS agent. For his final act of charity, he kills himself so that he can give his heart to a woman with congenital failure who has the same rare blood part as he (even though he has by that point fallen in love with her).

This is ludicrous, purple stuff all on its lonesome.

But, and for me this was the real kicker, is that almost none of this is revealed until the last ten minutes of the film. We spend nearly the entire movie not knowing why Smith's character is doing any of this, what any of the scenes mean, what any of the context is. We spend it with no anchor, no reason to invest in the story apart from the curiosity to fill in those blanks. But the blanks are so many and so complete that we have no desire to fill them in. It's like a connect-the-dots with only three dots. There's no reason to try.

I usually like Will Smith. But I don't understand what he was getting at here.

Until Whenever

Friday, April 17, 2009

Is It Plagiarism If You Steal From Yourself?

From John Williams' score for Memoirs of a Geisha. (listen from 2:30 - 2:55)

From John Williams' score for Star Wars: Episode III - The Revenge of the Sith (from 1:40 - 2:48)

You make the call.

Until Whenever

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Failure of Nerve

I, after being prodded by many friends familiar with my musical theater affinity, finally watched the film Camp last week. Camp is a small indie film about a musical theater summer camp, a camp where the kids who are to some degree outcasts in their high schools can be themselves.

It's a sweet film, if a bit underbaked and kind of embarrassingly badly directed and acted and edited. But nonetheless with its heart in the right place. But what I most want to talk about isn't any of that; it's the music.

This is a film that takes as its central thematic conceit the notion that these kids (and adults) who are passionate about musical theater have nothing to be ashamed about. That musical theater is worthy of passion and worth embracing.

And yet while the music in the film does include a few showtunes, with one exception they are all more "pop" showtunes. The opening number, from "The Gospel at Colonus" is a big, belty gospel number, not a traditional musical theater song. The original songs are by the folks who did Fame, and sound much more R&B-influenced than Broadway influenced. The one big number we get to see from a production is "Turkey Lurkey Time" from Promises, Promises by Burt Bacharach, a composer from the pop world. And the non-diegetic music is by and large soft acoustic lite rock stuff, the same kind of music used in sensitive teen drams all the time.

Where is the real Broadway stuff? Why, in a film that celebrates musical theater fandom, is there so much hedging when it comes to the real thing? I really would have loved for the film to embrace its own ethos more, and used showtunes for scene transitions, underscoring, etc. To have used showtunes for the big emotional numbers, not showtunes-by-proxy. In the end, it really took the wind out of the film's sails for me.

Until Whenever

Friday, April 10, 2009

All I Ask Is That You Listen To Me

Has there ever been as big a gap between the front-runner and the rest in the history of American Idol? In any case, next week is Movie Songs, and I'd love to see Adam Lambert bust out some Jesus Christ Superstar.

Until Whenever
Doin' the Friday Shuffle

1. "Time of the Preacher" - Willie Nelson - Red-Headed Stranger
Every year I become more of a Willie fan. This is a lovely little country ditty.

2. "Walk of Life" - Dire Straits - Brothers in Arms
I remember this song as being omnipresent when I was in high school. I also remember vividly the sports bloopers video. What was all that about?

3. "Finale" - Kander & Ebb - Cabaret (Original Broadway Cast)
I've never actually seen Cabaret. I should really rectify that someday.

4. "Blue Skies" - Ella Fitzgerald - Ella Sings Berlin
Some killer scatting here.

5. "Pleasant Little Kingdom/Too Many Mornings" - Mandy Patinkin - Oscar & Steve
Gorgeously full-throated big Broadway singing. The first piece is a cut song from Follies, but it's the second that goes for the kill. This is one of Sondheim's biggest, purplest songs, and Mandy and guest star Judy Blazer do it justice.

6. "Transition 3" - Stephen Sondheim - Passion (Original Broadway Cast)
These short soldier-sung transition pieces were very effective on stage. Reminds me that I really need to watch Passion again.

7. "Jeru" - Miles Davis - Birth of the Cool
Early Miles, swinging much more than usual.

8. "Right Now" - Mark Knopfler - All the Roadrunning
A sly little slow jam between Knopfler and Emmylou Harris.

9 "The King of the Golden Hall" - Howard Shore - The Two Towers
Regal, majestic, bittersweet - a wonderful cut.

10. "Somewhere" - Audra McDonald - How Glory Goes
A beautifully understated rendition of one of my top-ten all-time favorite melodies.

Until Whenever

Thursday, April 09, 2009


For the curious, the sources for the letters in the new logo are:

T - Star Wars logo.
O - The one true ring from The Lord of the Rings films
S - Shawshank Redemption film poster
Y - Playbill masthead

And - From the Broadway Beauty and the Beast logo

C - Classic Captain America logo
O - The good Captain's shield
S - The original Sweeney Todd Broadway logo
H - The Simpsons

Until Whenever

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Where'd I Put That Cane?

A post over at A List of Things Thrown Five Minutes Ago about the 10th anniversary of The Matrix made me realize that, hey, Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace came out (almost) 10 years ago. I suddenly feel very, very old.

I still remember seeing this first trailer, on Entertainment Tonight or Access Hollywood. I remember taping it so that I could show some friends, since the insta-trailer world of the Internet wasn't real yet.

Damn. Now I'm going to have to watch this soon.

Until Whenever
The Power of Movies

I watched Monsters, Inc. with my twin five-year old daughters over the past few nights, and in the process was very strongly reminded once again of how powerful movies can be. For me, there are two moments at the end of Monsters, Inc. that tear at my guts – when Sully returns Boo to her bedroom, and has to say goodbye to her for the last time, and the very last moment in the film, when he is gifted with a way to see her again, and he eagerly and tentatively opens her door to see her.

As we watched these last moments, I had one of my daughters on my lap (the Wife had the other). And, as that first moment played out, I was keenly watching my daughters react to the moment, to see how they took it.

Of course, the moment has two levels superimposed on top of each other. The first is the happy ending moment – after many close calls, the child is being returned to her home (and unseen parents) after her big fantasy adventure. She’s like Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz. But the second—and it’s this moment that the scoring and direction and actors play up—is a very sad thing, with Sully and the little girl realizing that they will never see each other again. The Wizard of Oz has this level going on as well, with Dorothy’s farewell to her friends, but there it’s not nearly as heartbreaking as it is here. It’s all a matter of perspective. In Oz, we identify with Dorothy, she’s our protagonist. But here, it’s Sully, and so it’s his loss we feel.

Twin A took the moment on that first level. She had expressed real fear several times throughout the film that the little girl would never find her way home. So seeing that happy ending was exactly what she had been anxiously awaiting.

But Twin B saw through to the other level, the level on which the scene has always hit me hard. And because she was in my lap I could see her react up close, and it was, well, astonishing. As the import of the scene hit her – Sully would never see Boo again – her eyes welled up and her breath started to hitch and constrict. But she wasn’t upset. She didn’t turn away. She stared, completely enraptured by the turn the story had taken. In a small, choked voice, she said “he loves the little girl.” She had been emotionally moved by the film, yes, but not in a scared way, or a disturbing way. She had been moved, and emotionally ensnared, in exactly the way the filmmakers intended.

So, when that last shot came, when it was revealed that Sully would get to see Boo again, the payoff was there. She gazed at the screen with a look of complete and open joy. She was as happy as he was. She had been surprised and delighted and taken quite out of the world of our Sugar Maple Split and into another place entirely.

And that's the power of movies.

Until Whenever

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

As It Turns Out, Not That Big a One

Following in Jaq's and the Samurai Frog's footsteps, I will now respond to this meme, designed to test the level of your geekiness:

() You spent a day watching all of the Lord of the Rings/Star Wars/Star Trek movies.
I'm pretty sure in high school I and some friends watched the first three Star Wars films, but even that I'm not sure we got through all of them. I;d like to do this one day, but logistically I'm just not sure I see it happening for a while. That's one big time investment.

( ) You spent next two days after watching commentary, outtakes, and behind the scenes footage.
(X) And you bought the soundtrack.
As has been documented here well, I like me my film scores.

() You went to a midnight release of a movie.

( ) You camped in front of the theater for more than 12 hours to get tickets.
( ) Camping did not prevent you from being in costume.

() You can have an entire conversation with friends consisting of quotes from your favorite movies.
Not quite. I'll quote TV and films on occasion, but not to that extent.

( ) You own at least three game systems.
One - a PlayStation that I haven't played in years.

( ) You have lost weight because you forgot to eat while trying to reach the next level in your game.
( ) You own more than four game controllers (of any kind).
( ) You have existed on 3 hours of sleep per night so that your "Sims" get 8 hours and are refreshed for work.
( ) You upgraded your computer because you wanted to buy a new video game/expansion pack.( ) You have dressed as your game avatar, or as a NPC in that game.
( ) You achieved level 60 on World of Warcraft.
Not a big video game guy.

(X) You have played "Dungeons and Dragons" or any other RPG.
Off on on in high school and college. Great fun, but time-consuming.

(X) You know what "RPG" stands for.
( ) You dressed as your RPG character would dress.
( ) You own dice with more than six sides.
( ) You have been accused of having a "gamer" scent.
( ) You can identify a Black Lotus.
I don't even know what that is.

() You can identify a Charizard.

( ) You have bought any of the "Harry Potter" books after standing in line until midnight.
I have them all, but no midnight runs.

( ) You waited to get your "Harry Potter" book in costume, quoting favorite lines.
(X) You have attended any function with "con" in the name.
One NY Comic Con, in maybe 1993.

( ) You stood in line at said "con" for more than 4 hours to have an item signed.
( ) You spent more than $50 on a costume to wear to "con" because you wanted it to be authentic.

(X) You own more than 50 comics.
Probably 300 or so.

(X) You collect your comics in longboxes.
Finally! I had them just stored in boxes for a long while, but finally organized them in longboxes last year. It makes the mild OCD'er in me very happy.

(X) You know what a "longbox" is.
( ) You've met and had your comics signed by the creator(s)
( ) You know how many "Robins" there are.
Not positive.

(X) You know that the portrayal of Rogue in the movie "X-Men" is completely wrong.
Well; not like the comic character, no. But I love what they did, and think it worked better than an attempt at the comic character's actual backstory/character would have.

(X) You have chatted online more than in person.
Oh yeah.

( ) You chatted online enough to learn the time zones.
( ) You think that when the Mythbusters say "Don't try this at home," they really don't mean YOU.
( ) Have participated in a movie/TV marathon that involved a drinking game.
( ) Can sing along with the Buffy Musical Episode.
Well, a little.

(X) You know Seth Green from more than just the "Austin Powers" movies.
(X) You can name all 8 Kevin Smith-directed movies without referring to IMdb.
I didn't think I could, but, nope, I got 'em!

(X) You have participated in a "Clerks"-esque discussion about Star Wars (or any other movie).
My friend and I would discuss the plot of Star Wars ad nauseum, breaking down plot holes and questions.

( ) You have participated in a Kirk vs Picard discussion.
I have seen two Star Trek films. The one where they meet God and the one with the whales. This is the full extent of my Star Trek knowledge.

( ) You have participated in a Star Wars vs Star Trek discussion.
( ) You have participated in a Babylon 5 vs. Star Trek:DS9 discussion
(X) You know who JMS is.
From comics, yes.

( ) You have ever corrected anyone who called you a Trekkie.
( ) You have worn a Star Fleet Uniform.
( ) You own a Star Fleet Uniform.

( ) You think "Twilight" is lame because everyone knows that vampires burst into flame in the sunlight.
Haven't read it. Don't plan to.

( ) You have written fanfic.
(X) You have watched Bizzare Foods and thought "I'd try that."
I love bizarre foods!

( ) You can pinpoint the moment at which "Lost" jumped the shark.
Lost has very decidedly not jumped the shark.

(X) You know who Stan Lee is.
(X) You know who Jack Kirby is.
(X) You know who Geoff Johns is.

( ) You have built a website.
(X) You have started a blog.
(X) You maintained a blog for over a year.

( ) You know what the Genie SFRT is.
No idea.

( ) You have a Twitter account.
( ) You have over 500 followers on Twitter.
( ) You purchased a smartphone just so you could check Twitter on the road.
(X) You forget your family members' birthdays because they aren't your friends on Facebook.
I know most of my my sibling's birthdays and my wife's and kids', and a few parent ones.

( ) You have given virtual gifts on Facebook.
( ) You have Superpoked your boss on Facebook.
( ) You have gotten a date through Facebook (and we're not talking dinner and movie with your buddies).
( ) You have broken up with someone/been broken up with through Facebook.

( ) You've reached level 30 or higher in Mafia Wars.
( ) You know what Mafia Wars is.
( ) You participated in more than three social networks.

(X) You've spent more than 200 hours playing the same video game.
Probably as a kid trying to beat Zelda.

(X) You've seen any movie in the theater more than three times.
Not many though. All three original Star Wars (considering the re-releases) and the Phantom Menace.

( ) You can name the episode of MST3K where Joel was replaced by Mike.
( ) You've argued why the comic is way superior to the show/movie when discussing "The Tick," "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles," "X-Men," "Fantastic Four," "Spider-Man,"

( ) You have the soundtrack for "Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog" on your MP3 player.
But I want it!

(X) You are willing to defend the Star Wars prequels.
And have, right here.

( ) You openly disparage the Star Wars prequels because they don't live up to "Empire."
( ) You're openly concerned about the time line ramifications that J.J. Abram's "Star Trek" movie presents to the canon.

(X) You own anything written by Neil Gaiman, Alan Moore or H.P. Lovecraft.
A few Alan Moore graphic novels, that's it.

( ) You have a flying spaghetti monster on your car.
( ) You've seen a midnight showing of Rocky Horror Picture Show with live actors in front of the screen.

(X) You know the REAL reason Spider-Man had a black costume.
Yes, but the film's reason (which is actually very close to the comic's) is better, frankly.

( ) You know the NCC numbers of at least two starships other than the Enterprise.
( ) You know what "NCC" stands for.
( ) You own an original Star Trek Concordance, Technical Manual, and Blueprints.

( ) You own at least two medieval weapons.
( ) You have participated in battles with foam-covered swords.

( ) You know who "Major Matt Mason" is.
(X) You have seen bootleg copies of the original Fantastic Four and Justice League movies.
FF only.

( ) After having had children you realize there's now more people to costume and relish it.
( ) You've managed to turn four days at Euroquest* into nearly eight because, who needs sleep?( ) You've spent more than $1000 on your "spot-on" costume. (and it's still not quite right...)
( ) You've made a fan film.
( ) Your fan film has been seen by more than your immediate family.

( ) People know you by your online name instead of your mundane name.
Only you online people know me as Tosy and Cosh

( ) You know what Pennsic is.
( ) You've camped at Pennsic.
( ) You have/had personalized plates on your car proudly proclaiming your fandom.
( ) Your spouse and/or friends do as well.

( ) You yell at your kids when they try to open a toy/book/comic/figure etc. that you're collecting.
Emphatically no. I WANT them to like this stuff, and that means handling the accoutrements and playing with them. I have no real collectible stuff.

( ) Your kids have broken your Hallmark collectible Star Trek/Star Wars, etc. ornament.
No, but I have.

( ) You've traveled more than 500 miles to attend a con.
( ) You have a tattoo related to your fandom of choice.
( ) You met your spouse at a fan-related event or con.
( ) You got engaged (to be married!) at a sci-fi convention.

(X) You are publicly willing to defend Dollhouse, because Joss Whedon must be trusted.
They got me there. It's getting better!

Until Whenever

Monday, April 06, 2009

Three by Three
Three things I liked about Monsters v. Aliens.
  • The action sequences, which were clear and easily followable while at the same time taking full advantage of the advantages of animation. Animation can show comic book action better than any other medium, but only if time and money is spent. I really hope one day we get Pixar-type renditions of classic superheroes, if only so that this advantage can be fully realized.
  • The human characters, who were funnier than expected and mainly managed to avoid one-note cliches.
  • The story - the clear arc of a woman becoming a monster and learning to embrace it was nice in the way it gave a big boys movie like this a female protagonist.

Three things I did not like about Monsters v. Aliens

  • The execution of that story. While it worked as a whole, and certainly had some clever bits (the President-attempting-communication-by-music), the beat-by-beat story was not as consistently delightful as Pixar has led us to believe is possible.
  • The glossing over of the whole "monsters have been prisoners for 50 years thing." That got forgiven/forgot by the characters real quick.
  • Reese Witherspoon, who didn't really give Susan enough character through her voice work.

Until Whenever

Friday, April 03, 2009

Doin' the Friday Shuffle

1. "A Well Fed Man" - The Kinks - Juno
One of those songs I know without knowing I know. Didn't recognize the title at all.

2. "Wiggly Wiggly Christmas" - The Wiggles - Wiggly Wiggly Christmas
An original Christmas tune from those Australian geniuses.

3. "Kiss Me Kate - Corrective Casting (Jerry and Liza)" Cole Porter and Gerard Allessandri - Fordibben Broadway Strikes Back
In an older FB edition they did a parody song spurred by rumors of a revival starring Mandy Patinkin and Bernadette Peters. Here they up the ante.

4. "All Because of You" - U2 - Live from Under the Brooklyn Bridge
A great early promo rendition of one of the most overt rockers in the U2 canon.

5. "Sehr begalich - Soprano Solo - Mahler
A bit of Mahler lieber. This stuff comes on the symphony CDs but in all honesty I never listen to it.

6. "Castle on the Hill" - Danny Elfman - Edward Scissorhands
Classic Elfman. I never remember to listen to this score - I should more often.

7. "You Angel You" - Bob Dylan - Planet Waves
Just got this and haven't absorbed it yet.

8. "Nobody's Got the Gun" - Mark Knopfler - Golden Heart
A sweet and shuffling Knopfler tune.

9. "Morning Sun" - Echo and the Bunnymen
Got this on a mix, and it wasn't a song that made it through the culling process. I probably only listened to it once or twice.

10. "Tombstone Blues" - Ritchie Havens - I'm Not Here
A very nice acoustic cover by the old folkie of the classic Dylan tune.

Until Whenever

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Great Covers

I sometimes forget how useful YouTube can be for uncovering (hah!) covers you might not normally hear. Exhibit A - Elvis Costello doing U2's "Please." Tosy and Cosh nirvana.

Until Whenever
Stuck on the Road Again with the Small Town Blues

According to Rolling Stone, Bob Dylan, John Mellencamp, and Willie Nelson will be touring together this summer, laying minor-league ballparks. I absolutely love this mix of artists - such a canny mix of laid-back, American rock and country vibes. I never would have thought to mix them, but it totally works.

Until Whenever

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Random Top Ten

Random Top Ten!!

Top Ten Police Songs

10. Can’t Stand Losing You
I like how this song both gently mocks and takes seriously the archetype of the breakup song.

9. Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic
Buoyant and joyful, and a great evocation of the feeling of falling in love.

8. Murder by Numbers
The Police do a dark, jazz thing about the business of murder. Wonderfully archetypical.

7. Walking on the Moon
One of the all-time great bass lines.

6. Roxanne
Best song about a hooker ever?

5. Bring on the Night
That rolling guitar figure just pushes my buttons, not sure why. And I really don’t like reggae!

4. King of Pain
A great lyric and a wonderful way of setting a mood, with that ticking clock intro.

3. Every Breath You Take
Up there with Bruce Springsteen’s Born in the USA as one of pop music’s all-time most misinterpreted songs. But in the end it’s that stepwise guitar figure that makes the song immortal.

2. Message in a Bottle
A taut little three-act story of a song anchored by a great riff.

1. Synchronicity II
“Many miles away, there’s a shadow on the door, of a cottage on the shore, of a dark, Scottish lake.” A top ten lyric for me.

Until Whenever
Where or When

One of the cool things about working in the city is that performances are happening all around, all the time. And today, in the Winter Garden of the World Financial Center, where I work, Diana Krall did a quick six-song set to promote her new album, Quiet Nights. Now, the acustics in the Winter Garden are pretty horrendous, and I was standing at the back of a big group of people, pretty far from the stage. Still, I got to hear one of the preeminent jazz singers of our time sing for free while I took a half hour break.

That's pretty cool.

Until Whenever

Monday, March 30, 2009

U2 Ranked

In ranking (nearly) all of U2's songs, my original plan was to post on ten songs at a time. But then I realized that I've posted on every song in every album already. And the whole exercise began to feel pretty stale. So - no more song reviews; just the list. Here's how I rank (nearly) all U2 songs. (I haven't slotted the songs from No Line on the Horizon into this yet, as they are too fresh.)

148. 4th Of July
147. Alex Descends Into Hell For A Bottle Of Milk/Korova 1
146. Love Comes Tumbling
145. Two Hearts Beat As One
144. Deep In The Heart
143. The Three Sunrises
142. The Ocean
141. Spanish Eyes
140. The Refugee
139. Numb
138. Elvis Presley And America
137. Drowning Man
136. Wave Of Sorrow (Birdland)
135. Miami
134. The Playboy Mansion
133. Scarlet
132. I Threw A Brick Through A Window
131. North And South Of The River
130. Fire
129. Like A Song...
128. Lady With The Spinning Head
127. With A Shout
126. Trash, Trampoline And The Party Girl
125. Tomorrow
124. I Fall Down
123. Your Blue Room
122. Promenade
121. Falling At Your Feet
120. Walk To The Water
119. Fast Cars
118. Heartland
117. Luminous Times (Hold On To Love)
116. Stranger In A Strange Land
115. A Room At The Heartbreak Hotel
114. Summer Rain
113. She's A Mystery To Me
112. If You Wear That Velvet Dress
111. Red Light
110. Stateless
109. Dirty Day
108. Rejoice
107. Daddy's Gonna Pay For Your Crashed Car
106. Lemon
105. Indian Summer Sky
104. Some Days Are Better Than Others
103. Sweetest Thing
102. Babyface
101. Tomorrow
100. Another Time, Another Place
99. Love And Peace Or Else
98. Seconds
97. Is That All?
96. I Trip Thorugh Your Wires
95. Peace On Earth
94. The Ground Beneath Her Feet
93. Last Night On Earth
92. Surrender
91. New York
90. An Cat Dubh / Into The Heart
89. God Part II
88. A Man And A Woman
87. Wild Honey
86. Stories For Boys
85. Two Shots Of Happy, One Shot Of Sad
84. Tryin' to Throw Your Arms Around The World
83. MLK
82. A Celebration/A Day Without Me
81. If God Will Send His Angels
80. Crumbs From Your Table
79. Twilight
78. Get On Your Boots
77. Out Of Control
76. Shadows And Tall Trees
75. Staring At The Sun
74. Mothers Of The Disappeared
73. 11 O'Clock Tick Tock
72. Hawkmoon 269
71. Miracle Drug
70. Silver And Gold
69. A Sort Of Homecoming
68. When Love Comes To Town
67. Wire
66. Gloria
65. So Cruel
64. Angel of Harlem
63. Desire
62. Electrical Storm
61. Elevation
60. In A Little While
59. In God's Country
58. Mysterious Ways
57. The Electric Co.
56. I Will Follow
55. Zooropa
54. I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For
53. The First Time
52. Even Better Than The Real Thing
51. Van Diemen's Land
50. Until The End Of The World
49. October
48. Slow Dancing
47. Stuck In A Moment You Can't Get Out Of
46. Sometimes You Can't Make It On Your Own
45. The Hands That Built America
44. Ultraviolet (Light My Way)
43. Vertigo
42. The Wanderer
41. One Step Closer
40. Do You Feel Loved
39. Exit
38. All Because Of You
37. Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me
36. Who's Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses
35. Red Hill Mining Town
34. With Or Without You
33. Grace
32. 40
31. One Tree Hill
30. Bullet The Blue Sky
29. Love Rescue Me
28. The Unforgettable Fire
27. Yahweh
26. Mofo
25. Original Of The Species
24. Zoo Station
23. Running To Stand Still
22. The Fly
21. Gone
20. New Year's Day
19. Wake Up Dead Man
18. Miss Sarajevo
17. Window In The Skies
16. When I Look At The World
15. Stay (Faraway, So Close!)
14. Love Is Blindness
13. Kite
12. Pride (In The Name Of Love)
11. City Of Blinding Lights
10. All I Want Is You
9. Mercy
8. Bad
7. Beautiful Day
6. Sunday Bloody Sunday
5. One
4. Acrobat
3. Walk On
2. Please
1. Where The Streets Have No Name

Until Whenever
I'm In

I will not miss two U2 tours in a row.

I may be sitting in the upper tier at Giants Stadium. And I may be going by myself.

But I'm going.

Until Whenever

Friday, March 27, 2009

Look Out!

If you haven't seen this, well, you should. The kind of feel-good story that's just right for a Friday.

Until Whenever

Doin' the Friday Shuffle

1. "Dice are Rolling" - Andrew Lloyd Weber and Tim Rice - Evita (Original Broadway Cast)
Evita's moment of triumph, as she convinces her husband to take power.

2. "Nobody Needs to Know" - Jason Robert Brown - The Last Five Years (Original Cast Recording)
A great example of a slow-burn song that build and builds slowly but surely over its length. Nicely dramatic.

3. "A Call to Arms" - James Horner - Glory
A simply glorious score - has the Harlem Boys Choir ever been put to more effective use?

4. "Part of Your World (Reprise)" - Alan Menken and Howard Ashman - The Little Mermaid (Original Broadway Cast)
As much as I love the Broadway Beauty and the Beast score, I never really got into this one.

5. "Bulldog of Bermen" - Thomas Newman - Cinderella Man
And as much as I love Newman, I've never really fallen in love with this score.

6. "Mornin', Lawyer, Lookin' for Somebody?" - George Gershwin - Porgy and Bess
A plot-moving scene. As much as I love P&B, the recitative scenes have never done much for me.

7. "Sheer Perfection" - Alan Menken and Time Rice - King David
A beautiful oratorio that I really wish had taken off into a full stage version. This is a sweet, slightly resigned little ballad - very classic Menken-sounding.

8. "If I Can't Love Her" - Alan Menken and Tim Rice - Beauty and the Beast (Original Broadway Cast)
There we go. My favorite Menken song.

9. "100 Years" - Five for Fighting
Got this for the wife. Not my cuppa.

10. "Jesse James" - Bruce Springsteen - The Seeger Sessions
A wonderful rave-up of a song.

Until Whenever

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Random Lost Question #2,482

Weren't Juliet and Ben a couple in New Otherton? and if so, doesn't that mean that Adult Ben remembered the mechanic from when he was a kid when she came to the island? And isn't that a little creepy?

Until Whenever
New Logo

OK, who can guess the provenance of the letters in the new logo? (some are, of course, gimmees).

Until Whenever
Three by Three

Three things I liked about Wet Hot American Summer:
  • Chris Meloni is as good as legend would have it as the bat-shit crazy camp cook. He hedges the performance not one bit, committing fully to the character's unhinged lunacy.
  • The kids. By and large, they cast very well, and elicited great, non-grating or show performances from the campers.
  • Jeneane Garofolo and David Hyde-Pierce, who not only have surprisingly good chemistry, but nail the balance the film calls for between parody and sincerity.

Three things I did not like about Wet Hot American Summer:

  • How unevenly the cast and film nailed that balance. WHAS isn't an out and out parody the way Airplane was, but it's not just a goofy comedy film set in the 80s either. It's a very schizophrenic mix of parody and original absurdist humor, and while at times that mix worked great, at other times it felt very disjointed.
  • That they filmed (per the bonus features) and didn't use the 10-years later flash-forward reunion. That looked funny.
  • The comedy. Not really. It was very funny. But I couldn't help but feeling throughout that it should have been funnier.

Until Whenever

Wednesday, March 25, 2009


Given that U2 will be doing stadiums in the Fall I am more optimistic than I expected to be about getting tickets. And as I've been thinking about the tour, I've been trying to predict what songs will make the cut this go-round. So, assuming that they stick to the Vertigo model and do 16 or so songs and then a six-song encore, what will we hear?

From the new album
The four songs they have already played live during the promotional tour are gimmes:
  • Get On Your Boots
  • Breathe
  • Magnificent
  • I'll Go Crazy if I Don't Go Crazy Tonight
That leaves 18.

From the new album, I'd also expect to hear:
  • No Line on the Horizon (I'm going to peg this as the opener, a la the ZOO TV tour opening with "Zoo Station")
  • Moment of Surrender (the requisite ballad)
  • Unknown Caller

That leaves 15.

From How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb, I'd expect them to keep:

  • Vertigo
  • All Because of You
  • City of Blinding Lights

That leaves 12.

From All That You Can't Leave Behind, I'd expect them to keep:

  • Beautiful Day

That leaves 11.

Dipping into the U2 live staples, expect the following to remain in the setlist; the songs fans would revolt upon not hearing and that the band can't seem to give up:

  • Where the Streets Have No Name
  • Bullet the Blue Sky
  • One
  • New Year's Day
  • Sunday Bloody Sunday
  • Pride (In the Name of Love)
  • Mysterious Ways

That leaves 4.

Expect them to dig out an oldie they haven't played in a long time, like they did last tour. I'm guessing it will be Out of Control.

That leaves 3.

Expect them to go back a tour or two and pull out a live favorite or two they don't have to relearn.

  • Until the End of the World
  • The Fly
That leaves 1.

The Saints Are Coming cover? They already learned it and it's a left-field choice.

So - my projected set list- in order of how I think it will unfold?

No Line on the Horizon
Get On Your Boots
Beautiful Day
Unknown Caller
Moment of Surrender
I'll Go Crazy if I Don't Go Crazy Tonight
Out of Control
Until the End of the World
The Saints Are Coming
New Years Day
Sunday Bloody Sunday
Bullet the Blue Sky
Where the Streets Have No Name

City of Blinding Lights
The Fly
Pride (in the Name of Love)
All Because of You

Until Whenever

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

My New Favorite Line About Television

"Part of the joy of watching a theatrical repertory company is seeing the actors play a variety of parts. Television especially is our national repertory theater and seeing a variety of performances from a single actor is part of the pleasure it gives us."

That's from the #21st installment of Tom Stempel's "Understanding Screenwriting" series over at The House Next Door. That you should be reading both the blog and this series there goes without saying. But I just loved this particular quote, and how it encapsulated the joy i get when I see an actor from one shoe pop up on another show.

Until Whenever
Do I Like Fantasy?

I always thought I did. But in recent years, I've wondered more and more. Not if I like it at all - I do - but if I'm really a fan. I can't decide. Maybe you can. The evidence.
  • As a kid I read Lloyd Alexander's Prydain series at least three times.
  • I've never read the Lord of the Rings. The Hobbit and The Fellowship, and the beginning of The Two Towers, yes. But not any more. Nor do I particularly want to.
  • I read in high school the first two Shannara trilogies, and loved them.
  • In college I tried (twice) to get into The Eye of the World, the first book in Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time series, reading hundreds of pages. Never happened, and I never finished it.
  • I've seen all three Lord of the Rings films multiple times, and love them dearly.
  • I am now reading George R.R. Martin's A Game of Thrones, the first book in the A Song of Ice and Fire series. I am loving it, much to my surprise. I expected to not really like it enough to invest time in such a massive series (I only picked it up because news of the HBO series intrigued me), but was rapidly sucked in.
  • I played D&D sporadically in high school and college, but never that regularly.
  • Stephen King is my favorite author.
  • I read comic books (but find explicitly "fantasy" comics boring).
  • I am a fair-to-middling Star Wars nerd, and have read a good dozen or so of the novels.
  • Apart from what I listed above, I don't know that I've ever read any other fantasy novels.

So - what say you?

Until Whenever

Friday, March 20, 2009

Most Played

So according to iTunes, these are the 10 songs I have played most often over the past year and a half.

10. Spirit on the Water, Bob Dylan - 29 plays
When I got Modern Times I listened to it a lot. This is the second track, and since I will often listen to an album and not finish it, this ends up pretty high.

9. Hoop de Doo, The Wiggles - 30 plays
The kids have a bunch of CDs in iTunes, and thew Wiggles CD is a favorite.

8. Open Spaces - Johnny Greenwood - 30 plays
The opening track to Greenwood's score for There Will Be Blood, which makes great "tune out the office" music.

7. Thunder on the Mountain, Bob Dylan - 30 plays
The first song on Modern Times

6. Toot Toot, Chugga Chugga, Big Red Car - The Wiggles - 31 plays
The first song on that CD.

5. Imagine - Jordis Unga - 31 plays
The Wife and I both love this version, so it gets a lot of play.

4. Central Park, New York, The Wiggles - 32 plays
Not really sure why this is higher than some of the other Wiggle songs.

3. Jingle Bells, Ella Fitzgerald - 33 plays
A Christmas favorite that the girls and I like a lot.

2. Over the Rainbow - Wonderful World, Israel Kamakawiwo'ole - 35 plays
This is likely the Wife's favorite song, so it appears on most of her playlists.

1. Get On Your Boots, U2 - 36 plays
I got the single weeks before the album, so it got a lot of play.

Until Whenever

Monday, March 16, 2009

Reason George Lucas Is Still Pretty Cool # 68

I've been watching the new animated Clone Wars series and have been pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoy it. Part of this is just the sheer fun of seeing those many glorious Clone War battles that Obi-Wan hinted at 32 years ago. But an even bigger part is the sheer quality of the action. See, as a big Marvel fan I was very excited when the company first started rolling out animated movies on DVD a few years back. I mean, an animated Ultimates film sounded just brilliant. But the animation itself, when unveiled, was clumsy and non-compelling, and not much better than the animation in those old 90s Marvel X-Men and Spider-Man series. Limited and not good to look at.

Maybe I've just been spoiled by Disney and Pixar. They don't (aside from the brilliant Incredibles) really do action/super-hero movies, but the action scenes they do do are always wonderfully kinetic and realized. Think of the final scene in the original Toy Story. Or the door-chase in Monster's Inc. Or even the fights in Pocohontas. That level of sophistication delivered to a Captain America film would be just a great thing. But that's not what we got.

But it is what Lucas is delivering on Clone Wars. The first episode I saw was the Yoda ep, and the quality of the action scenes was just great. And with each episode I've seen that level is being upheld. It's fun, engaging, and thrilling Star Wars action. And for that, I thank Lucas.

Until Whenever

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Random Top Ten

Random Top Ten!!!

Top Ten Mandy Patinkin Songs

10. "Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?"
This is for me the archetypal Patink performance. Start off slow and build to an impassioned, slightly manic finish.

9. "If I Loved You"
Here, he takes this model and expands on it. Just when you think he's done he comes back with a final, bellowed, gorgeous repeat of the final verse.

8. "Color and Light"
The "blue-red-blue-red" sequence is a tour de force. Who else could convey pointillism so well musically?

7. "Loving You"
A delicate, haunting rendition of this slow, sorrowfully happy song from Passion.

6. "Over the Rainbow"
Is this the greatest song ever? It might be.


5. "I Wish I Could Forget You"
Listen to his deep register here. Puts the lie to the notion that all he;s got going is that falsetto tone.

4. "Oh What a Circus"
The original recipe, and his introduction to the theater world. What an entrance.

3. "Finishing the Hat"
A more convincing expression of the miracle of the artistic process has never been sung.

2. "Casey Medley"
A seamless joining of "Casey," Randy Newman's "Marie," and Charles Strouse's achingly beautiful "Once Upon a Time." Probably my all-time favorite medley.

1. "Lesson #8"
Makes the hairs on my arm stand up, every damn time.

Until Whenever

Wednesday, March 11, 2009


I'm watching War Games currently, a movie I haven't seen in many years. I may have seen this film in the theaters when it was originally released in 1983, when I would have been nine years old. I had forgotten what a good little movie it is - how good Matthew Broderick and Ally Sheedy are (and how cute Ally Sheedy is!) as the naive teens at the center of the plot; how suspenseful that last sequence really is; how good Dabney Coleman is doing his Dabney Coleman thing.

I usually don't do this, but I didn't really want to watch this twice on rental, so I've been watching with the commentary on (I usually only listen to commentaries after seeing the movie fresh), and have been entertained by how candid the commentators (director John Badham and writers Lawrence Lasker and Walter F. Parkes) are about the film. It gets almost comical as they point out fudge after fudge after fudge. No, they probably wouldn't have bothered to remove the chairs from the missile command rooms after the computers took over. No, computers in high schools in 1983 would not have been linked to modems. No, the speech replicator that lets Joshua talk didn't exist, nor would it certainly have worked on non-speakered computers! No, NORAD isn't that big. No, NORAD wouldn't have had tour groups randomly passing through.

The excuse for almost all of these cheats is that they are needed for tension and that the movie is better for them. Especially that computer voice thing. Which sounds on the surface like a cop out. But isn't. After all, the movie does work, even if a small part of you is wondering where the speaker is. And that's what, in the end, matters.

This is a great commentary, both for this fun frankness and for the structural details they note and talk about. Like the idea that sometimes in a script you want the audience behind, not totally clear on what's happening (like during most of that opening sequence in the missile command bunker), while at others you want the audience ahead of your characters (like when we know, but Broderick and Sheedy don't, that the game they are playing is having real-world effects). And they have obvious affection for the film and the kids (if less so for Dabney Coleman, who they hint at being difficult to work with, even as they admit that his ideas helped the film).

Commentaries can be very hit-or-miss. This is a palpable hit.

Until Whenever

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Three by Three

Three things I liked about The Ice Storm.

  • The design - costumes, sets, props - all worked seamlessly to evoke a very specific time and place. Even the architecture - the split-level house, the big, open windows, all very specific to that era. And the way they got the ice storm itself, and its effects, on screen was brilliant - I assumed they filmed in a real ice storm, but it was apparently Spring when they filmed!
  • The acting - Both the parents and the kids were all very well-drawn by the cast, with Christina Ricci in particular doing a fine job of portraying that fine line between girl and woman.
  • The score - a very effective use of minimal music, so that the music that is there works very effectively. I'm a film music fan, and usually prefer more music, but this worked.

Three things I did not like about The Ice Storm.

  • Elijah Wood getting electrocuted. In a film that so diligently avoided plot machinations, and was so focused on the small and sublime, the sudden jump to such an immense tragedy was off-putting and took me out of the movie.
  • That the Sigourney Weaver and Jamey Sheridan characters got so relatively little focus. I felt as if we knew the Kevin Kline and Joan Allen characters much better, but didn't feel that was really the intention.
  • The preacher character. It felt as if something got left on the cutting room floor there.

Until Whenever

Monday, March 02, 2009

First Impressions

1. "No Line on the Horizon"
An excellent opener. U2 has for a while no been opening their albums with the first single, meaning that the new album's sound and feel has been introduced by a more radio-friendly song ("Beautiful Day," "Vertigo," "Discotheque"). Here, they revert to the Joshua Tree/Achtung Baby gambit of opening the album with a bit of a more challenging cut that more clearly lays out the album's sonic blueprint. I love how the driving two-chord guitar figure in the verses modulates down; it's a great mood setter, and I love how that insistent beats yields at the verses to a more open sound. And that "No, no line on the horizon" melody is a great bit of spare hook writing.

2 "Magnificent"
Every U2 album, it seems, has a song that at least nods to the "classic" U2 sound - ringing, helicopter guitars, driving bass and drums, impassioned vocals - and this is NLOTH's. I don't at this stage think this is going to crack the pantheon of favorite U2 songs, but it's a fine example of its type.

3. "Moment of Surrender"
The album's big ballad. Every U2 album has one, and this is one of the greats, no "One," but close. I absolutely am enchanted by the way Bono enters into it with a big bellow at the absolute top of his range - completely counter-intuitive, and very effective. There are some very nice gospel harmonies working here as well on the chorus, and the very churchy organ does a lot of work in the background to tie the song together.

4. "Unknown Caller"
There's a moment late in this song when the chords rise up step-wise and a regal french horn chimes in with a beautiful, uplifting quick burst of sound. 30 years in and U2 can still pull off the new. Some have called Bono's use of cell phone metaphors cheesy, but I think they work perfectly in the context of the song.

5. "I'll Go Crazy If I Don't Go Crazy Tonight"
A concentrated burst of pop power. The bouncy, up and down feel of the verses is just infectious, and I love the irrelevant feel to the lyrics. A more mature, successful attempt at what they tried with "The Sweetest Thing."

6. "Get On Your Boots"
Makes much more sense in the context of the album than it does as a single, kind of like "The Fly" did, even if it's less lasting and serious than that critical Achtung Baby track. The verses may be kind of forgettable, all Elvis Costello pastiche, but that chorus is inspired, with a sly chord progression that gives it the faintest hint of Middle Eastern exoticness.

7. "Stand Up Comedy"
A bounce-up-in-your-seat bit of mildly funky rock, kind of as if the Red Hot Chili Peppers tried to do a U2 song. "Stop trying to help God across the street like a little old lady" is a classic Bono song. U2 have tried songs with this kind of swaggering attitude before, but never as successfully.

8. "FEZ - Being Born"
The one song that could have worked on Zooropa, what with the ambient, clicks-and-whirrs opener that yields to a minor-key urgent U2 rock song. Some unidentifiable part of me absolutely loves the way that we hear the "Let me in the sound" refrain from "Get On Your Boots" echoed here as if its drifting in from another room.

9. "White As Snow"
I'm a big fan of taking classic melodies and recontextualizing them in rock songs, so I love this quiet, weary ballad, which takes the form of the melody from "O Come O Come Emmanuel" and repurposes it quite beautifully. The delicate, almost reluctant guitar lines are exquisite.

10. "Breathe"
One more big U2 rocker before the familiar hushed close. Big, meaty guitar and chiming piano lines mark this as U2 even as Bono's near-rapped vocals mark it as a detour. Those staccato verses shouldn't work, but they do. And the big-leap "These DAYS" of the chorus are just classic Bono.

11. "Cedars of Lebanon"
It's no "Love Is Blindness," but that old U2 trick of ending on a melancholy, subdued, somewhat pessimistic note still works well. It's that almost jazz-like drum beat that makes the song for me - this is musically more of a successor to "Please" than anything else.

Until Whenever