Saturday, August 27, 2005

I'm Not Part of a Red-Neck Agenda

Cindy Sheehan in colder climatesI really try to avoid hot button topics, not that I don’t have an opinion or I don’t want to offend, it is because I usually have nothing to add to the discussion that hasn’t already been said. One of the biggest story of the day that has seem to grab the headlines over the token missing hot chick of the month is the story of Cindy Sheehan. Of course she is the mother of a soldier who was killed in Iraq who is now camping outside George Bush’s ranch in Crawford, Texas as he takes his five week vacation. Cindy wants to speak with Bush about what her son died for and this puts Bush in a no win position. If he doesn’t meet with her he looks inconsiderate but if he does meet with her (again as he met with her once already) he looks like he’s caving in. But I’m sure everyone knew that already. And now there is a new group heading to Texas named “You Don’t Speak For Me, Cindy,” or YDSFMC for short. That could be the lamest name ever conceived. Couldn’t they get some vowels in there somewhere? But anyways.

Now I have no problem with Cindy protesting the war or YDSFMC for protesting Cindy or Bush for choosing to avoid Cindy. But my problem is who exactly are these people that can spend weeks at a time protesting (not too mention having a five week vacation)? I remember passing various people on campus back in college and think that I a big a fan of social activism as the next insane person, but I always have better thing to do than handcuff myself to a building because some one was putting eyeliner on monkeys.

Don't fear, Al Sharpton is hereAnother interesting topic on this issue is how no major Democratic Party leader has stepped up in support of Cindy Sheehan. Well that was until now, going down to Texas is no other than… The Reverend Al Sharpton. Sharpton, I believe last seen at the Michael Jackson trail, will join Sheehan in a peace vigil. And the insain train doesn’t stop with Sharpton either as a group of white supreminist are planning their own rally. No they are surprisingly not joining the Sheehan/Sharpton vigil or YDSFMC, but they will be in Crawford to throw their hats, err, hoods into the ring to oppose the war because they believe it is helping out Israel. As James Kelso, assistant to David Duke and a senior moderator of a website that will go unnamed put it, they are down there to,
"let the world know that white patriots were first and loudest to protest this war for Israel. We don't want leftist Johnny-come-latelys who are misleadingly protesting this war – as if the war is about oil (not true), or as if it's right-wing patriots who launched this war (not true) – to hijack the issue from us. We want to challenge these leftists with the fact that their leftist leaders, like Hillary Clinton, are on the same war-for-Israel team as the cowardly Republicans who have been bought and paid for in the Senate, House, White House and media by the Jewish Neocon political machine."

That could be the funniest thing I have read in a while. And I always thought Neocons were the religious fanatics of Christianity not part of the Jewish political machine. But I digress. But to get back to my main point of this whole post, do any of these people actually have jobs?

Friday, August 26, 2005

We on Award Tour - 2005 VMAs Predictions

We are just a couple days until the MTV Video Music Award, the pantheon of all award show. I have already given my predictions (We on Award Tour – MTV VMA Nominations) but I did miss one award because it hadn’t been finalized.

Viewers’ Choice
Snoop Dogg w/Pharrell, "Drop it Like it’s Hot"
Green Day, "American Idiot"
Kelly Clarkson, "Since U Been Gone"
My Chemical Romance, "Helena"
Shakira w/Alejandro Sanz, "La Tortura"

Who I Voted For: Drop it Like it’s Hot
Who Will Win: Since U Been Gone

I think the pseudo-punk of Green Day and My Chemical Romance will cancel each other out and Shakira is a non factor, so this is basically a two man race. On a side note, MTV made a game out of the voting this year, check out their website to play/vote.

But let’s be honest, the VMA’s are not about the awards, c’mon, they gave Jennifer Lopez a Best Hip-Hop moonman, the show is about the performances and a platform to give us things like the triumphant return of Pee-Wee Herman, a Van Halen reunion, and Fartman. With last year’s lackluster show, I fully expect MTV to pull out all the stops to make this year memorable. I have already got wind of the first must see moment, the return to MTV of its greatest personalities, Beavis and Butthead. That alone should make up for last year’s flop. Hear are other things you should expect from the performances:

50 Cent – Medley alert! He has yet to have a big hit off his latest album, so there is going to be a medley of 2-3 of his songs. The performance will be very ghetto, but don’t expect too many people around him as most of his posse got arrested recently. The Game will make an apperence, well not actually the game, but some one posing The Game, who will get punked out by 50. And if we are lucky, a gun fight will ensue and Ashlee Simpson and Lindsay Lohan get caught in the cross fire.

Coldplay – They are there to sing Fix You, and there will be the weird light thing that appears in the video, aside from that, don’t expect much else except for a lecture about

Ludacris – At first glance, this seems like an odd choice considering Ludacris didn’t really have a big hit this year, or really ever had a cross-over hit. But her is why Ludacris is there: because Mike Myers will show up during his performance as Austin Powers, who Ludacris wax poetic about during his song #1 Spot. Just remember you heard it her first.

Shakira – This will be much like her performance a couple years back, lots of percussionists and lots of booty shaking, but this year it will be to La Tortura.

Mariah Carey – Expect her to sing the new song her new song, Shake it Off. There will be a lot of back up dancers and most like an appearance by the midget named Jermaine Dupree. Like her Movie Awards performance, this will make for a good bathroom break.

The Killers – The big hit, Mr. Brightside will be on the playlist and hopefully Eric Roberts and the Kate Bosworth look-alike make an appearance too.

Green Day – They will be performing the poignant Wake Me Up When September Ends with images from that video playing in the background. I also have a feeling there will be an encore with Green Day bringing out possibly members of the Ramones to take on Blitzkrieg Pop.

Kelly Clarkson – Medley Alert! Since You Been Gone and Behind These Hazel Eyes will both get some airtime, which can only mean Kelly will be breaking stuff while wearing a wet wedding dress. That could turn out to be entertaining.

Kanye West – The early frontrunner to be the best of show. Kanye will be surrounded by his posse, John Legend, Common, Jamie Foxx while performing his latest hit Gold Digger. After the song comes to a conclusion, Kanye will be the original backpack rappers on stage, A Tribe Called Quest, to do their classic Scenario. Don’t be surprised by a Busta Rhymes appearance her too.

R. Kelly – R. Kelly was just recently announced to be performing, I guess it took a while to get the paperwork done because of that whole thing about Kelly needing permission to leave Illinois. My first thought would be he’s would act out the most talked about song in a while, Trapped in the Closet. But then I realized that it would be silly to do just one chapter and doing all five would take up over 20 minutes. And the other songs on the album haven’t actually caught on. So what we will get to see is the premiere of Trapped in the Closet chapter 6, the next in saga.

But none of this may not happen because the VMA’s might debut a new diva down in Miami named Katrina. And even if she is out of the area by Sunday, she may do enough damage outside that puts a damper on the two-hour pre-show. I originally though Chris Martin would start his performance outside and wonder into the venue like the video, but Katrina most like ruined that idea. As for the opening, I think MTV should mock one of their more famous openings and bring out currently the most entertaining rumored couple, Quentin Terantino and Sharr Jackson, make out and announce, “And people said we wouldn’t last.” Now that’s pure humor.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

We Drew Our Own Constellations

In Between Dreams - Jack Johnson

Jack Johnson's music crept up on me out of nowhere. Without any airplay or video spins, it seemed like every one of my friends all of the sudden became infatuated with him a few years ago. I, too, caught the bug with his laid back approach to music and the best storytelling of this generation. Eventually his albums Brushfire Fairytales and On and On were on heavy rotation on my CD player. It is a good chance that his latest album, In Between Dreams will join the other two.

With the first listen to In Between Dreams, it doesn’t deviate from the style of it predecessors. The songs are sparse, with the Jack on the guitar and unassuming bass and percussion on most tracks with the occasional piano and accordion. And like his previous work, when you close your eyes, you can envision yourself on the beach with your buddies around a bonfire, sipping on some mai-tai’s.

Lyrically, Johnson strives at just lounging around, enjoying life. In the album opener, Better Together, he sings, “Oh the places we got to be we’ll sit beneath the mango tree.” He even tries other to join him in his lounging on Banana Pancakes, “Pretend like it’s the weekend and we can pretend it all the time. Can’t you see that it’s raining, there ain’t no need to go outside.” The best of these songs is Breakdown where Johnson, with nothing better to do, hopes his train breaks down so he can just walk around and enjoy the scenery. I was slightly disappointed when I first heard the song on the album because I originally heard a remixed version by the Handsome Boy Modeling School that I really enjoy. Eventually, I did grow to like this acoustic version of the song.

Johnson has more on his mind than just hanging out with nothing to do. On Good People he ponders “Where’d all the people go?” With the line, “How many train wrecks do we need to see?” seems like knock at all the Osbornes type reality shows, or all reality shows in general for that matter. While the 24-hour news channels seem to be the genesis for the lines, “Bad news misused, got too much to lose. Give me some truth now, who’s side are you on?” The war on Iraq seems to be on his mind on Crying Shame, with lines like “A number of people are numbers that ain’t coming home,” but mankind, itself seems to be the central topic of the song, “By now we should be able to communicate instead of coming to blows.”

As with his pervious albums, Johnson adds some short interludes in between the song, most notably Belle, a song sung mostly in French. Although three years of French and I could only translate one line, “Je ne comprends pas francais (I don’t understand French).” I only remember that because that’s a line I was constantly saying in the class, because, in fact, I didn't understand anything that came out of the teacher's mouth. The album comes to a great conclusion with the mellow Constelllations, a song about laying on you back, on a clear night, sand staring at the stars, just the way you should listen to this album.

Song to Download – Breakdown (Or check out the Handsome Boy Modeling School version of Breakdown)

In Between Dreams gets a Terror Alert Level: High [ORANGE] on my Terror Alert Scale.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

I'll Send This Message Through the Speakers

Everything in Transit - Jack’s Mannequin

Earlier this year, Ben Fold’s released a relatively serious album in Songs for Silverman (see my review - If You Wrote Me Off, I'd Understand It) thus leaving the smart-alec pop genre without a leader. First out the cannon to try to grab the crown is Jack’s Mannequin. The band is the brainchild of Something Corporate’s keyboard player, Andrew McMahon. Tommy Lee makes appearance on the album paying back McMahon who contributed to Lee’s recently released Tommyland: The Ride (see my review - I'd Rather Play You on My TV).

Musically, Jack’s Mannequin’s debut album, Everything in Transit, sounds like a combination of early without the loud guitars mixed with without the harmonies. The album starts off with Holiday From Real, a bouncy song that could fit on any Ben Folds Five album and anthem for any slacker, “But if you left it up to me, everyday would be a holiday from real.” The next song is a topic very close to my heart, The Mixed Tape. For those who are longtime readers, you have noticed my affinity to mix tapes. Unlike McMahon, I can’t write and perform my feelings, but like him, with a mix tape, “It's like I wrote every note with my own fingers.”

To keep with the nerd rock theme, he pulls a talking interlude during I’m Ready just like Nada Surf did in Popular. And I’m Ready brings up interesting social issues too, “I put on the same clothes I wore yesterday. When did society decide that we had to change and wash a tee shirt after every individual use: If it's not dirty, I'm gonna wear it.” Preach on brother McMahon, I’ve been wondering that for years. At the end of the rant he says, “My life has become a boring pop song and everyone's singing along.” There he is wrong, as he is making some the best pop music in a while ands we should all sing along. The best song to sing along to on the album La La Lie, which talks a fun approach to the musical scale that seem to frequent pop songs. Even when MFEO parts 1 & 2 run for eight minutes, the song never seem to drag on at any point.

One misstep is Dark Blue where the chorus doesn’t come together for me. I can’t get into this song just yet. The slowed down Rescued doesn’t quite fit on the album either. It’s not necessarily a bad song, but it sticks out from the other bouncy songs on the album.

Song to Download – The Mixed Tape

Everything in Transit gets a Terror Alert Level: High [ORANGE] on my Terror Alert Scale.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Hard Times Happen

Almost Honest - Josh Kelly

Many of you may not be familiar with the name Josh Kelley, but if you have an adult contemporary station on your radio preset, there is a very good chance you have heard his song, Amazing quite frequently. The song was safe and could be enjoyed by soccer moms everywhere. I haven’t heard anything else of his until I heard his latest album, Almost Honest and it rarely deviates from the successful Amazing.

The album starts off with Walk Fast, which sounds like he trying to make into a soul song, but isn’t quite able to pull it off. Same goes for Only You that tries to pull off a funky groove. Kelley attempts to recapture the feeling of Amazing with Love Is Breaking My Heart. That goes pretty well until the song just ends abruptly for no apparent reason. I really hate it when songs do that. The album takes a southern feeling on 20 Miles to Georgia with its slid guitar. Hard Times Happen is another stand out track with its use of a chorus. Kelley also puts on his best Jeff Buckley impersonation during Shameless Heart by repeatedly going falsetto. But, needless to say, he’s no Jeff Buckley.

Lyrically, he comes off as a parody of other balladeers that have come before him. Almost Honest conjures up thoughts of such silly songs as Said I Love You... But I Lied and I'd Do Anything For Love (But I Won’t Do That). In the end the album sound like watered down versions of Kelley’s influences and I cannot recommend buying this album. Well, unless your mom’s birthday is coming up, she’d probably like it.

Song to Download – 20 Miles to Georgia

Almost Honest gets a Terror Alert Level: Guarded [BLUE] on my Terror Alert Scale.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Quaffable, But Far From Transcendent


I finally got around to catching on of last years most critically acclaimed movies, Sideway. All during awards season, everyone keeps talking how the movie should win or how it got shafted in certain categories. So with all the build up, I had high expectations for the film. And to say I was disappointed would be an understatement.

The film follows two guys around on one last hooray the week before one of their wedding. The major problem with the film is neither male lead is likeable. We first catch them in a lie, then we drinking and driving, then they stop by one of their mother’s because it the day before her birthday. Except the son steals her money then skips out on her before she can wake up on her birthday. So before the first half hour is over, I could care less about the characters. Thing don’t get much better from their when they meet some girls on their getaway.

There are also a lot of scenes that go excruciatingly long while the characters talk excessively about wine. The movie could have been cut an hour off its run time if they cut the unnecessary talk about wine. There was even a wine montage that looked liked like a montage from the Partridge Family. Okay, they like wine, now let’s get on with the movie.

The movie does pick up once the female leads disappear, but it’s never a good sign when the first time you laugh in a comedy is an hour and a half in. I think it is easy to see why movie critics like this movie as the main character is a fail writer, and I’m sure many critics can relate as they probably have a few rejected novels or screenplay cluttering up their closets. And I find it odd how all the movie critics can pan movies like Wedding Crashers for its gratuitous nudity yet their quite a lot of it in Sideways. And referring to Sidways, by nudity, I mean male nudity. Full frontal male nudity. A lot of it. I was beginning to think there was a gay porn that accidentally got edited into the film.

In the end, I can’t see how anyone who isn’t gay homosexual, over the hill, wannabe writer, wine coinsurer could possibly enjoy this movie. And if you fit that description and you decide to watch the movie, be sure to look out for cameos by George Bush and Donald Rumsfield.

Sideways gets a Terror Alert Level: Guarded [BLUE] on my Terror Alert Scale.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Best of the Video Music Awards Performences

The MTV Video Awards are one week away (check out nominations and my predictions - We On Award Tour - 2005 MTV Video Music Awards Nominations), so I thought I’d throw out my favorite twenty-five performance in the show’s history. I’d like to apologize to Huey Lewis, Simply Red, and all the 80’s acts from the early years for I didn’t get cable until the late 80’s and didn’t get a chance to see your performances. But anyways, here’s my list:

Bruce Springsteen25. Only Wanna Be with You – Hootie & the Blowfish (1996)
24. Are You Gonna Go My Way – Lenny Kravitz (1993)
23. 3 MC’s and 1 DJ/Intergalactic – Beastie Boys (1998)
22. Please – U2 (1997)
21. Stay (Wasting Time) – Dave Matthews Band (1998)
20. Free Fallin’ – Tom Petty & Axl Rose (1989)
19. Tha Crossroads – Bone Thugs ‘n’ Harmony (1996)
18. Fallin’ – Alicia Keys (2001)
17. Living on a Prayer/Wanted Dead or Alive – Bon Jovi (1989)
16. The Rising – Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band (2001)
15. If I Ain’t Got You/Higher Ground – Alicia Keys, Stevie Wonder, & Lenny Kravitz (2004)
Alicia Keys and Lenny Kravitz14. Testify – Rage Agaist the Machine (2000)
13. One Headlight – The Wallflowers & Bruce Springsteen (1997)
12. Praise You – Fatboy Slim (1999)
11. November Rain – Guns ‘n’ Roses & Elton John (1992)
10. The Real Slim Shady/What I Am – Eminem (2000)
9. I’ll Be Missing You – Puff Daddy & Sting (1997)
8. Rape Me/Lithium – Nirvana (1992)
Coldplay7. Gett Off – Prince (1991)
6. Even Better Than the Real Thing – U2 and Garth (1992)
5. Jesus Walks/All Falls Down/Through the Wire – Kanye West (2004)
4. Give it Away - Red Hot Chili Pepper (1992)
3. The Scientist – Coldplay (2003)
2. Sabotage - Beastie Boy (1994)
1. Keep on Rockin’ in the Free World – Pearl Jam & Neil Young (1993)