Thursday, January 29, 2009

Sexy Boots

Just read that U2 will be performing at the Grammys. Excellent! Now, the question is - will we hear the live debut of "Get On Your Boots" or will it be something else? I'm very curious to hear teh new song live, so I'm pulling for teh latter.

Until Whenever

Friday, January 23, 2009


The Internet is big. Very big. So it's always neat to be the first to notice something. Take a listen to Michael Giacchino's "Kate's Theme" from Lost:

Now listen to the "Prelude" to Jake Heggie's opera Dead Man Walking.

Neat, huh?

Until Whenever
Doin' the Friday Shuffle

1. "Why Trust a Shark?" - Thomas Newman - Finding Nemo
Newman's Nemo score is not the equal of his transcendent WALL-E score, but a good 'un nonetheless. I like the ominous electric guitar here.

2. "Anakin's Betrayal" - John Williams - The Revenge of the Sith
A gorgeous, heartbreaking piece of music. I really don't think Willilams' Sith score got the kudos it deserved. This is Star Wars music to stand with all other Star Wars music.

3. "Lizzie's Coming Home" - Schmidt & Jones - 110 in the Shade (2007 Broadway Revival)
Lizzie's father and brothers celebrate her return from vacation. I love how simple musicals can be.

4. "Baba O'Riley" - Jordis Unga - Rock Star
The soundtrack from the first season. This suffers mostly in being an attempt to stuff a much more epic song into barely three minutes. Unga is great though.

5. "The Axiom" - Thomas Newman - Wall-E
Newman starts small and then opens up the palette to convey the size and immense scope of the ship as WALL-E looks on in delight. Gorgeous.

6. "Bedtime" - Alan Menken - The Little Mermaid
A bit of scoring, with Ariel looking on in wonder at the surface world in the castle.

7. "Electrical Storm" - U2 - The Best of 1990 - 2000
A very solid, near-great U2 song. Are other band's best-of add-on tracks as good as U2's?

8. "Dress Big" - Sondheim - The Frogs (2004 Broadway Cast)
Lesser Sondheim. There's not much of it out there.

9. "Bama Lama Loo" - Elvis Costello - Kojak Variety
Elvis cuts loose with a raucous Little Richard cover. Fun.

10. "Fish in My Hair" - Thomas Newman - Finding Nemo
What are the odds? There are 40 tracks in this album. 12,170 tracks in total on the iPod. Do the math. (Really - do it. I don't know how.)

Until Whenever

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Madison, The Grouch, Mayer

As per the usual, I've seen very few of the nominated (for anything) films. so my reactions are pretty limited. As in:
  • Really would have liked to see WALL-E get a Best Picture nomination, and find it a little cliche that the surprise nominee is a Holocaust film.
  • I haven't seen The Changeling, but find myself very much doubting Angelina Jolie deserves a nomination.
  • Very nice to see Robeert Downey Jr. and Heath Ledger nominated as Best Supporting Actor. Not sure who is better, frankly.
  • Thrilled to see WALL-E get screenplay, score, and song love.
  • One day I will understand the difference between Sound Editing and Sound Mixing. That day is not today.
  • Only three Song nominees? What's up with that? As has been noted elsewhere, Jason Segel deserved a nod for his Dracula song from Sarah Marshall, at the least.
  • I did not know that Danny Elfman scored Milk. Am very curious to hear that.
  • Why do Special Effects and Makeup always have three nominees only?

Until Whenever

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Up With Which I Shall Not Put

So, four and a half years after the debut of "Vertigo," we finally get the debut of a new U2 single. "Get on Your Boots." Prepositional awkwardness aside, what does this relatively hardcore U2 fan think?

I love the quick cascading drum figure that opens it and the dirty and fuzzed out guitar figure that spills out of it. The way that, as the singing starts, the guitars drop out to leave a bass and drum groove only feels a little too familiar, as "Vertigo" played a similar trick, but I can live with it. I haven't really gotten down to deciphering the lyrics yet, but I do very much like the notion of "Get On Your Boots" as a metaphor for a call to action.

After a verse that fuzzed-out guitar line comes back, and I adore the high-pitched bell that's in the background. We immediately go back into the drum and bass-backed verse, which I also like - a little bit of a tease in holding back the chorus that also makes the chorus feel kind of like a bridge.

And I love that chorus. The harmonic shift and the melody line on "You don't know how beautiful you are" have a lovely hard-edged Middle Eastern sound.

Back to the verse , and then again with the Middle Eastern chorus. I love Bono's impassioned "you don't know"s here; he sounds so encouraging, so excited.

Then, towards the end, we get a repeated "Let me in the sound" over drums and some stinging guitar lines. And on to the end, wit ha repeated "Get On Your Boots."

This is a very hard-edged rock song, especially for U2, and I like that it's a fun, spirited first salvo - one gets the sense that the more weighty stuff is waiting in the wings.

Until Whenever

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Me! Me!! ME!!!

Pilfered from SamuraiFrog:

1. Were you named after anyone?
I am technically Tosy and Cosh the Third, so yes.

2. When was the last time you cried?
Watching WALL-E a few weeks ago.

3. What is your favorite lunch meat?
Rare roast beef.

4. Do you have kids?
Two. Twin girls, will be five in a little over a month.

5. If you were another person would you be friends with you?
Probably not. I'm a bit on the anti-social side; very awkward and ill-at ease socially. I really don't have many friends.

6. Do you use sarcasm a lot?
Too much.

7. Do you still have your tonsils?
Nope. Taken out, along with the adenoids, when I was five or six.

8. Would you bungee jump?
No. I HATE the sensation of falling. Although I do like diving off of high dives. Maybe it's falling feet first I hate.

9. What is your favorite cereal?
Cocoa Crispies. Chocolaty goodness.

10. Do you untie your shoes when you take them off?
Only if they won't come off otherwise. I destroy a lot of heels that way.

11. Do you think you are strong?
Physically? Strong enough. Emotionally? Not too.

12. What is your favorite ice cream?
Haagen-Dazs vanilla.

13. What is the first thing you notice about people?
Age. Are they older than me? Younger?

14. Red or pink?
Red. Pink is too wishy-washy, as if it started to go somewhere and gave up halfway.

15. What is the least favorite thing about yourself?
Lack of willpower. With diet, with writing, being creative. I have time to write more, I spend an hour and a half a day on trains, but I don't.

16. Who do you miss the most?
My aunt who dies when I was little. I think she would have gotten me in a way others don't.

17. What color shoes are you wearing?

18. What was the last thing you ate?
Lucky Charms. (The 7-11 didn't have single-serving Cocoa Crispies.

19. What are you listening to right now?
The quiet sounds of a conference room, pecking at laptops.

20. If you were a crayon, what color would you be?
Honestly? No idea.

21. Favorite smells?
Bacon. Roasting turkey. Cinnamon.

22. Who was the last person you spoke to on the phone?
My wife. Yesterday. We needed margarine.

23. Favorite sports to watch?
Basketball. NBA.

24. Hair color?
Dark brown.

25. Eye color?

26. Do you wear contacts?
No, glasses for movies, driving, TV, etc. Which means they typically go in my bag when I get on the train and come out again when I get in the car at the end of the day.

27. Favorite food?

28. Scary movies or happy endings?
Good endings.

29. Last movie you watched?
Tinker Bell. You know, it wasn't bad.

30. What color shirt are you wearing?
White with black checks.

31. Summer or winter?
Summer, in a landslide.

32. Hugs or kisses?

33. Favorite desserts?
Ice cream. Cheesecake. Coconut sorbet.

34. I’m most likely to

35. I’m least likely to

36. What book are you reading now?
Downtown Owl, by Chuck Klosterman. His first novel. Reads just like you'd imagine a Klosterman novel would. Which is a good thing.

37. What is on your mouse pad?
Some work HR thing.

38. What did you watch on television last night?
How I Met Your Mother, House, Two and a Half Men.

39. Favorite sounds?
Music. Good music.

40. Rolling Stones or The Beatles?
The Beatles. Never cottoned to the Stones.

41. What is the furthest you’ve been from home?
St. Petersberg, Russia. Sang with the Rutgers University Glee Club at the Ginka Capella. Ate meals home-cooked by a heavy-set, matronly Russian woman. Heaven.

42. Do you have a special talent?
Not really.

43. Where were you born?
Jersey City, NJ.

Until Whenever

Friday, January 16, 2009

He Thinks He's Special

If you're a cast member on Saturday Night Live, the opening credits are a well-defined ritual, right? You do some social/New Yorky thing (buy a hot dog, sit in a bar, go to a barbecue), Don Pardo reads your name, and you look at the camera and try not to mug. Easy right?

So what's up with Fred Armisen? In the current credits, every cast member looks at the camera, except Armisen. He just goes right on having his conversation and ignoring us. It's as if he doesn't even hear Don Pardo at all.


Until Whenever
Baby Faced

I've been slowly watching the first season of my beloved Chicago Hope on Hulu and this week got to episode seven, which was about the sudden discovery of a terminal illness for one character and, in the B plot, the struggle of Mandy Patinkin's Dr. Jeffrey Geiger as he prepares to operate on a mobster in witness protection.

I had forgotten about it, but there was a running bit in the episode with three residents chafing at Geiger's abuse and planning a practical joke involving a horse. I've no idea who one of the guys was, but the other was a young Jon Favreau and the other a young Kristen Johnson. I love seeing familiar faces in an older context on old shows, and this was an especially neat treat, as Favreau has gone on to such directorial heights.

Until Whenever

Thursday, January 15, 2009

They Both Wear Tuxedos

I've been watching the special features on the new SportsNight set, and a little time is devoted to the stroke that Robert Guillaume suffered during its run. Guillaume is also featured in some of the present-day talking head pieces, and hearing his only-slightly spurred speech (no Dick Clark, he) reminded me, somehow, that I had read somewhere that he did a stint as the Phantom in The Phantom of the Opera in Los Angeles. Now, when I read that originally, there was no way to easily hear him as the Phantom, no easy way to satiate the obvious curiosity such a story arouses - how does he sound? Does he sound like Benson? Is he any good?

Well, today we have YouTube. The verdict? He's excellent. And his singing voice sounds nothing like his speaking voice. Which makes for a jarring transition when he switches to the spoken "Sing to me!"s as the end.

Until Whenever

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Settling in to HD

I had done some research before getting our HDTV and knew a few things going in. I knew that standard definition programming would actually look a little worse on the HDTV than it did on our tube. I knew that not all channels were available on HD. I knew that even on some HD channels not all shows would be in HD. And I knew that HD shows would take up more space on the DVR than SD shows.

But I didn't know how much more space.

An hour of TV would typically account for a percentage or two on the DVR. So when I got up to 90% full, I knew deleting a few episodes of an hour-long drama would save get me back down to 86 or 87 percent full. The other night I taped the Golden Globes in HD. Watched them And then deleted them. Prior to deletion I was at 80% full. After I was down to 66% full. 3 hours of HD amounted to 14% of the hard drive. Gulp.

The tradeoffs have already started. Two weeks ago I would have set the DVR to record tonight's repeat of the last three Lost hours no questions asked. Now? I didn't bother.

A small price to pay for such a great picture, sure. But I sense some painful choices coming in the months ahead, as Big Love, Breaking Bad, Lost, American Idol, and Battlestar Galactica return.

Until Whenever

Monday, January 12, 2009

The Man Can Write

As you may have heard, Bono will be contributing op-eds to the New York Times intermittently. His first has appeared, and its, well, it's just great. Bono's style is unique, and takes a little getting used to, but once you've acclimated, just how good a writer he is becomes evident. As a lyricist, Bono is very good, but not great; he's a little too quick to fall back on cliche and a little too quick to go for the non-specific and hazy when the concrete would be better to get into the pantheon. But as a writer? Whenever Rolling Stone does one of its lists of the 100 Best Somethings they get artists to write appreciations, and Bono's always come out head and shoulders above his peers'. Give the man a read; see what you think. I think he's got a promising career should he ever need/want to retire from the rock biz.

Until Whenever
2008 Albums

So - did I purchase ANY albums released in 2008 (ish)? A few:

All I Intended to Be, Emmylou Harris
A quiet and very pretty album that I hasn't really hooked me yet.

Atonement, Dario Marinaelli
A gorgeous, piano-laden score. The scoring for the much-commented on single-shot scene at the beach is really just as accomplished as the shot it accompanies. This is rapidly leaping up my all-time favorite score list.

Enchanted (Soundtrack), Alan Menken
Fine Menken, but not great Menken.

Gypsy, Jule Styne
The new Patti LuPone production. Haven't given it a full listen yet, but LuPone is as good as you would guess. The part she was born to play.

I'm Not There (Soundtrack), Various Artists
A great collection of diverse Dylan covers. They're not all keepers, but there are some real gems in here.

Into the Wild (Soundtrack), Eddie Vedder
A beautiful, stirring collection of songs. I have zero Pearl Jam on my iPod, but this collection has created a new respect for Vedder in me. I'm usually dubious of the original song approach to film scoring, but he does wonders with it.

John Adams (Soundtrack), Joseph Vitarelli and Rob Lane
I confess to buying it for that stirring opening titles piece, but this is a great score, full of delicate pathos and stir-the-blood patriot stuff.

Juno (Soundtrack)
A fun listen, but one that yields rapidly diminishing returns on repeated listens.

Kill to Get Crimson, Mark Knopfler
Knopfler's best solo album, and one of the year's best. A gorgeous collection of melodic folk songs.

Life, Death, Love & Freedom, John Mellencamp
Mellencamp's best since The Lonesome Jubilee. A wholly unexpected gem of an album, the likes of which I had all but written off from Mellencamp. sobering, darkly questioning songs about mortality. The song "Mean" is one of the best he's ever written.

The Little Mermaid (Original Broadway Cast), Alan Menken
Not nearly as good as his expanded Beauty & the Beast work, but fun nonetheless.

Lost (Season 3 Soundtrack), Michael Giacchino
The best scoring being done on TV, period. I'll keep getting these as long as they keep releasing them.

Momofuku, Elvis Costello
A pleasingly low-fi collection of stripped-down Costello songs. He's still got it.

Only by the Night, Kings of Leon
Bought last night ($7.99 at iTunes). Listened to most this morning. First reaction? Good. Maybe very good.

Roar! (From Cloverfield), Michael Giacchino
A fun, old-school 12-minute piece from the credits.

The Simpsons: Testify!, Alf Clausen
More bits and pieces from the last several years of The Simpsons. I adore the Evita parody songs.

@%&% Smilers!, Aimee Mann
A solid collection of songs, but not a classic.

Sweeney Todd (Soundtrack), Sondheim
I am very, very happy to have a version of Sweeney Todd featuring such lush, big-movie orchestrations. And the lyric-less reworking of the opening "Ballad of Sweeney Todd" is just great stuff.

Tell Tale Signs, Bob Dylan
The best album of the year, and it;s a collection of outtakes, cut songs, and live versions from the past 15 or so years.

Vampire Weekend, Vampire Weekend
Fun assured pop that reminds me of Paul Simon's Graceland.

WALL-E (Soundtrack), Thomas Newman
The score of the year, and maybe Newman's most beautiful.

Until Whenever

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Who Needs a Dream?

Alan Sepinwall is, as is his wont, blogging about the TV critics press tour, and notes in today's entry that this summer sometime PBS will be broadcasting the Chess benefit concert that was done some time last year, starring Idina Menzel, Josh Groban, and Adam Pascal.

(Really bad hand-held video here)

This is exciting news for the subcult of Chess fans, of whom I am a casual member. This 19080s musical was written by the two guys from ABBA (yes, I am too lazy to open a new tab and Google and copy their names, why do you ask?) and Tim Rice and is kind of a notorious cult hit. It flopped on Broadway and, as far as I'm aware, has never been a hit, and yet is performed pretty often, with songs from its wonderful score popping up all the time in cabarets and the like. I'm especially excited by the casting - Idina Menzel, that most belty of big belters, is a great fit for Florence; Josh Groban's psuedo-operatic style will be an interesting fit on the big baritone role of Anatoly, and Adam Pascal has the right attitude for the preening, egomaniacal Freddie (but does he have the range - Freddie is a pretty high part).

The problem I have with news like this is how to note it - if PBS isn't showing this until the summer, how will I remember about it six months from now?

Until Whenever

Monday, January 05, 2009

My New Toy

For the last year or two, we have been toying with the idea of buckling under and buying a flat-screen TV. But it's only in the last month that I started doing serious research. Here's what I found:

If your screen is under 50 inches, the difference between 720p and 1080p is vanishingly small. We ended up going with a 40 inch for our family room (which, while not small, is set up in such a way that the TV and couch are only 8 feet apart.) I was a bit worried that the 40 would be too small. My worries were baseless. The 40 inch is very sizable and perfect for the room. The 46 inch truly would have been a bit too big.

I do not like the color on the Sony TVs. Something about it is a bit neon, a bit oversaturated and artificial. I love the color on the Samsungs.

After much back and forth, we settled on wanting a Samsung, not caring about 1080, and perfectly happy with a 40 inch and not a 42 (Samsung doesn't make an LCD 42, and as our family room is bright, with a big slider to the backyard in the back, a plasma would have far too much glare.)

We ended up with the Samsung LN40A450, which seems to be being clearanced. We got ours for $698 at 6th Ave.

Set up was a breeze. We picked up a very cabinet on floor sample clearance at Fortunoff, which made dealing with the wires and such easy. One HDMI cable between the cable box and the TV. Another between the TV and DVD player. And the output audio RCA jacks from the DVD player to the stereo. The cabinet even has doors for the speakers, so they are nicely tucked away. It also has an iPod dock on the top, with a cable that also goes to the stereo. No more tape adapter to play the iPod.

So far we have watched a few Dexter episodes on DVD, and the quality is great. As is the HD channels we've watched (mostly news.) I can't wait for new episodes of my favorite shows so that I can see them in HD.

Until Whenever

Sunday, January 04, 2009

These Are a Few of My Favorite Things

These hiatuses are becoming too much of a habit. My blogging energies and impulses are waning seriously these days, and yet I like having this outlet, and I like the body of commentary, slight as it may be, I’ve accumulated over the past few years. So – here’s to a more engaged 2009 from Tosy and Cosh!! Let’s see if that’s one resolution I can keep.

I don’t know that I saw enough movies, or read enough books, or heard enough albums, in 2008 to compile lists for all of the pop culture kinds I partake of. But a top ten total pop culture things I love? That’s easy:

10. The Art of Noise, by Alex Ross
The classical music critic for The New Yorker wrote a compelling, readable, and very layman-geared accounting of 20th Century classical music. He makes a marvelous case for atonality’s strengths and weaknesses, in the process neither trashing or exalting this oft-maligned development. A great book for any music lover.

9. Kill to Get Crimson, Mark Knopfler
Knopfler’s fifth solo album is easily his best, a folksy, tuneful, and quietly beautiful effort that features some of the laid-back vocalist’s best singing in years. As Knopfler ages, he only grows more assured and confident, and you can hear him caring less and less about popularity with each album.

8. Life Death Love and Freedom, John Mellencamp
Mellencamp’s best since The Lonesome Jubilee, which from these quarters is high praise indeed. The easy pop sentiment of his past few albums is replaced by a weary and resigned look at death and the end. Not a happy album, by any means, but a stark and unforgiving one that doesn’t hesitate to look death in the eye and see sadness and loss, not closure.

7. Iron Man
A caveat – I’ve yet to see (all of) The Dark Knight. That said, this is probably the best superhero origin movie yet (I’d still give Spider-Man 2 a light nod overall), with the core classic elements of the character seamlessly integrated into a more modern-feeling whole. Perhaps more importantly, though, is the way the film, and its leaked epilogue, lay the seeds for a compelling and integrated Marvel film universe that will culminate in the coming together of the Avengers on screen. I’m as excited for these next movies (Iron Man 2, Thor, Captain America, and The Avengers) as I am for anything coming down the pike in the next few years.

6. The Given Day, Dennis Lehane
Lehane’s long-awaited novel, a fictionalized accounting of the 1919 Boston police strike is a sweeping historical epic sprinkled with finely drawn real-life characters who provide just the right amount of verisimilitude. What surprised me most, being as ignorant as I was of the historical realities at play, is how unafraid Lehane is to withhold easy answers and endings for his characters. Characters we started to see as one-dimensional villains are anything but, and our heroes are pitted with character flaws that provide resonance and heartbreak. A great novel.

5. Breaking Bad
This strike-shortened series is being forgotten in most year-end tallies, which is a shame. Bryan Cranston’s Emmy for the series was very well deserved, as he limned for us the journey of his character from meek chemistry teacher to calculating drug dealer. This was a dark, harrowing first season, and I am very eager to find out where they take this character next.

4. Mad Men
As assured and subtle a series as I’ve ever seen. Deadwood and The Sopranos had this same kind of subtlety and slow-moving feel, but each had bursts of violence to give the slowed-down, so-subtle storytelling flashes of oomph. Not so with Mad Men, which cops to very few fireworks and treats even those few it indulges in with cool calculation. Jon Hamm is the find of the last two years with his remarkably nuanced portrayal of a man playing a part. Just a great series.

3. Lost
After a satisfying but somewhat muddled third season, season four was a tight, focused blast that played with the show’s underlying skeleton without discarding it. And in the midst of this quick run of very serialized episodes were some remarkable stand-alones, with The Constant, especially, reaching heights of romantic expression I don’t think we ever expected to get from Lost.

2. Tell-Tale Signs, Bob Dylan
Bob Dylan took the cast offs from four great albums to make an album that should have felt as much a hodgepodge as the No Direction Home soundtrack did (in a good way), but instead felt like another great album. With each new effort in these later years of his career, Dylan cements further his reputation as the rock era’s most important voice, and certainly it’s most lasting one.

That WALL-E won’t get nominated for Best Film, simply because it’s animated, is a travesty. This is one of the great all-time films a gorgeous and gorgeously realized parable about the preciousness of human contact and relationships, of the importance of connecting. For 50 more reasons I loved this film, scroll down.

Until Whenever