Saturday, December 24, 2005

King Kong

Go and see this movie, right now if you can. Incredible movie experience, along the lines of watching Star Wars for the first time.

Thanks to Bri-Pie aka Brian, for asking for my thoughts about the movie over e-mail earlier this morning. As I responded, I realized I minus well give my first initial impressions of the film.

Of course, "my initial impressions" means I'm going to write hundreds of words, because I suck like that.

Anyway, here are edited excerpts from said e-mail:
Brian - i'd like to hear your opinion on Kong once you see it.

King Kong was a huge mindfuck, in the best possible way. I was expecting to be disappointed by the beast, but Kong was perfect, both in terms of computer graphic design, and the emoting as a result of the state of the art movement effects (the same technology used to bring Gollum to life in the Lord of the Rings Trilogy, which of course Jackson also produced and directed). The shockingly gorgeous Naomi Watts was UNREAL. I want to marry her, right now. I'm a big time sucker for mesmerizing blue eyes and blonde hair.

To be completely candorous, I have never seen half of the digital effects come to life like they do in King Kong. Peter Jackson is a directing genius. Some of the scenes were a little over the top and unrealistic (in the sense that 20 human beings could never survive a dinosaur stampede of 40-50 dinos and only have 4 dudes die), but it's supposed to be a fairy tale, so I didn't mind that.

My other big reservation, which is essentially nitpicking at this point, was Adrien Brody's character, Jack Driscoll. Jack was a hero, but Jackson made him far too passive. Not take anything away from Brody's performance, as he quietly delivers powerful expressions without having to say much. I understand that Jackson wanted to make Kong the ultimate hero in the end, which Kong was, but I missed the human element of romance, because Jack (the writer/screenwriter/playwright Brody's character plays) clearly falls in love with aspiring actress Ann Darrow (Watts), and is afraid to tell her, yet still saves her from Kong, who she could never really truly fall in love with from the start.

As a loser who happens to write well, I empathized with Jack's character, because I'm always falling for girls like Ann Darrow.

I especially sympathized with both male characters (Kong and especially Jack), because they were both falling in love with the same girl for completely different reasons. Kong was lonely and one of a kind, and felt unappreciated and worthless before finding someone he loved and with whom he could share his experiences. When the dinosaurs threaten Ann's safety, watching Kong kick the living crap out of everyone and everything in sight was one of the most memorable sequences in American movie history.

Jack Driscoll, meanwhile, found a beautiful, talented girl who literally acted out his love and talent - writing and creating - in the form of her acting performances. Jack was writing and constructing characters and stories that reflected real life, and when he found the ideal woman, not only for his characters, but for himself, he started suffering from man's greatest achilles heel: our love for the ladies.

In the end, Jack wound up being a side story, even though he risked his life over and over again to save Ann from Kong, who, despite loving Ann as well, murdered half an entire ship crew and destroyed the biggest city in the Western world out of his misplaced anger and aggression. I sympathize with Kong's feelings, as well, when it comes to unrequited or difficult-to-pull-off love for a girl.

Jack Black delivered an awesome performance as well, perhaps the best in the entire film, besides, of course, Watts. Black played a self-interested filmmaker to perfection, doubling as a narrator for us in the audience. As his friends sadly declare during the unveiling of Kong in New York City: "He has an unfailing talent to destroy all the things he loves."

Think of watching all the Star Wars movies for the first time. The first time you saw Jurassic Park. Taking in the Lord of the Rings trilogy in the theaters. This film encompassed the same kind of powerful cinematic experience. And you actually felt emotion from a computer-generated creature that never spoke a single word.


Friday, December 23, 2005

Songs That Filled Me With Abject Rage

Some songs are so stupid, so cheesy, or just so fucking bad that the time it takes between hearing the first note and my hand hitting a button to turn it off defies medical explanation as a reflex. This isn’t VH1, this isn’t a countdown, it’s a random list of songs I hate, and therefore also songs that YOU hate, because you don’t have any power of choice when you’re reading my flawless logic; but since what I say is fact, it’s not technically logic because logic is needed to prove things that aren’t obviously true.

There is something about each of these songs that just drove me to immediate insanity when I heard them on the radio. And that means that these songs were actually popular, and people liked them. In fact, people I knew liked these songs, and they will be the first against the wall when the revolution comes.

In no particular order, and with no mellow, irreverent mid-30’s narrator, and no annoying washed-up Jenny McCarthy to make ugly faces instead of baring her breasts, let’s do this:

Alien Ant Farm, Smooth Criminal
Ok, big start. I saw the video for this before I heard the song, which in the 90’s was usually a really bad sign. Also, this “band”‘s first hit was a cover song, of Michael Jackson. Michael Jackson also sucks, I don’t care what you say, Michael Jackson sucks, he just plain sucks. He’s not a good musician, and I’m not going to admit he’s “at least good at producing, man.” No, he’s terrible. He’s also not a great dancer; he’s a great body manipulator, but that’s it.

Back to “AAF” (which is what this glop of white boys wrote on their drumheads and t-shirts in the video).
Scene: AAF sitting around the guitarist’s mom’s house one day. “Hey, since we can’t write our own songs, let’s just take someone else’s and make it different in someway!” “Great idea, but whose song!?” “Who’s the most popular pop star of all-time?” “Peter, Paul, & Mary?” “No, besides them.” “Michael Jackson?” “YES!!!” “Now which song?” “Who cares, it’ll be novel! Remember when Marilyn Manson covered Sweet Dreams? It’ll be like 10,000 times more popular because MJ is more popular!” Band together: “COOL!” So began the story of AAF. A few months later their video (which included a number of fisheye band-bending-over-to-camera-on-ground shots) appears on MTV 40 times a day, at which point they begin talking about their next song on TRL, then their jet crashes into a mountain for all intents and purposes and nobody hears of them again.

If you check their website (yep, they’re still around, unfortunately), you’ll see they’re booked solid for one whole show in Ferrum, VA. Ferrum (after mapping it) is a quick 6 hour drive southwest from DC, 3.5 hours west from Richmond, and 2 hours north of Greenboro, NC. In fact, it may as well be on Jupiter, because nobody has ever heard of it. Fuck Alien Ant Farm, fuck AAF, they got what they deserved.

Creed, With Arms Wide Open
Ok, here’s a tricky one. Creed’s first popular album entitled “I’m Not Yet Jesus-Enough” was pretty rocking. It offered a good selection of hard rock songs, moaning vocals, and a fresh sound (which, in retrospect, was a grim portent to the following years in popular music). Lead man Scott Scabies admitted they were a Christian rock band, which everyone seemed alright with as long as it was veiled in badass lyrics like “Demons cluttering around / My face showing no emotion / Shackled by my sentence / Expecting no return / Here there is no penance / My skin begins to burn.” But then they made a second album. At first, the single, “With Arms Wide Open” was tolerable, as it stayed put on the radio.

Then came the video. Holy shit was that a self-indulgent piece of A/V Christ-promoting bullshit. I know EXACTLY what lead man Scabies thought, too. [to himself] “Hey…now that we’re popular…I can use the band’s influence to gather all the lost sheep to the herd, His herd. I owe it to myself, and to them, my fans, who aren’t Christian or otherwise non-practicing.” So Scott grew his hair down to his shoulder blades and created a video which included about 400 different versions of Christ-imagery, including Scott handing a piece of chocolate birthday cake to Jesus in a Nazareth Chucky Cheezes scene. Also, the video exposed just how hokey and trite the music was. That’s it for this one, it doesn’t deserve any further explanation.

Sugar Ray,
Ughhhh….we’re in the dredges now. Sugar Ray’s first album was actually pretty good, but the only people who listened to it were those who received it for Christmas from hip uncles who thought their nieces and nephews liked ‘that new radio song’ “Fly.” So began the invasion of “Fly” (not The Flys, “Got You Where I Want You,” which was kinda cool). I believe this was one of McG’s first music videos. McG is a small asian man who likes bright colors, goofy objects, and shit-eating grins in videos. I think he’s related to Joel Schumacher. The video featured a sexed-up Mark McGrath sidestepping around a rotating apartment with bright pink, bright green, and bright orange furnishings, wallpaper, etc. I think even the sky was fuscia. Mark sang about wanting to ‘fly,’ an unobvious simile to fucking in this case, while a homeless black man rapped unintelligibly in the background about something.

What’s even worse is that this reggae-influenced song was almost left off the album entirely since it didn’t fit in any way with the rest of it, which are all punk rock songs. But, their producer, who was also sucking Michael Eisner’s penis for permission to put Sugar Ray’s new ditty on Disney’s shadowy sister’s, MTV, TRL. Yes that’s right teenagers! Disney owns MTV! Maybe it’s not so controversial and in fact may be the most heavily censored channel aside from the Disney Channel! Fuck you. Point is, this song sucks, and so do you if you ever said “I just want to fly” and chuckled when Mark McGrath made a snide remark during MTV Spring Break model competitions.

Barenaked Ladies, One Week
That’s right, this group of Canadian socialists sucks. Many people love them, and people I've known very well for a long time still love them. It’s like taking the Chinatown bus to New York, or catching your little brother touching the cat inappropriately - it’s awkward to acknowledge and difficult to understand and accept, but probably necessary. ‘One Week’ sets the stage for crappy overplayed radio fungasms in the same vein as Harvey Danger’s “Flag Pole” and Bloodhound Gang’s “Fire Water Burn [aka. the roof is on fire].” When I used to say, “this band blows,” inexorably some quiet thick-rimmed glasses-wearing jackass would start up with, “but the other songs on the album are REALLY good and some are SO deep.” Really? Let’s find out.

Actual lyrics from:
‘One Week’: You’ll think you’re looking at aquaman / I summon fish to the dish, although I like the chalet swiss / I like the sushi ’cause it’s never touched a frying pan / Hot like wasabe when I bust rhymes.

‘Long Way Back Home’: I have to go / I already know / Why not spend a week on a star / No time, he can’t get there by car

‘Leave’: I’ve informed you to leave / ’cause I can’t afford to lose more sleep / I get ill when I get tired / So I’ll try to rest if you’ll stand guard / Do do do do do do do do whoa / Do do do do do do do [very clever rhyming pattern, is that iambic pentameter?]

‘Told You So’: A viral infection that can incubate for years / Caused by affection fallen deep into arrears / No medication to procure / Makes me pure, there’s no cure, I am sure

Okay, that’s enough for me. These lyrics are obviously something I wrote in 8th grade with a 12th grade thesaurus. With the exception of Our Lady Peace, Wolf Parade, and a select few, Canadian bands don’t grasp the realities of life below the 112th parallel. They write songs about Santa and bells.

Goldfinger, Here in Your Bedroom
Sometimes there’s a song you initially like, but have a distinct distasteful feeling in the back of your throat that you just can’t figure out. And, as you listen more and more to the song, it becomes more obvious: it’s just a stupid song. This is a good case-in-point. And with lyrics like, “you may change but I still stay the same,” or some variation…look, if you’re going to say anything about change being hard and actually using the word “change,” you may as well turn in your mic.

Smashmouth, All-Star
(silence). Ok, well… (silence). So… (silence). I…(silence). There’s not much to say about this one. Many theses have been written on how Smash Mouth contributed to the collapse of modern society. McG is largely responsible (the little asian guy from Sugar Ray). My roommate sophomore year (Nate) and I once counted how many kneel-down two-fingered across-the-screen swipes the lead singer takes at the camera during this song’s video, I remember it was something in the realm of 25.

Rumor has it the band stole those stupid looking ATVs from the set, too, thinking that their sudden celebrity status afforded them the right to theft. Joke’s on them, because nobody cares about Smashmouth anymore at all, and in fact President Bush’s first State of the Union address called for the ‘full, swift, and decisive removal of all copies of Smashmouth’s sophomore outing, “Astro Lounge,” from the public’s possession, and for those albums to be loaded onto the space shuttle and shot into the Sun.” Unfortunately, this is one of the few things Bush did right, even though it inevitably failed when the shuttle exploded and littered southeast Asia with copies of this shitfest. Intelligence sources believe Kim Jong Il of N. Korea has been using the full track list of Astro Lounge to come up with a song so bad it will make the West surrender before a shot is fired.

I should also note that while searching for the album’s title, added this important tidbit; it should not be overlooked:
“Customers who bought this album also bought:
14:59 ~ Sugar Ray
Sugar Ray ~ Sugar Ray
Floored ~ Sugar Ray"

…Holy cow, I’m good at this.

Nickelback, How You Remind Me, from their freshman album ‘Silver Side Up’
Oh man how I wish I had a Delorean. I included the album title to make a point. The band’s name is “Nickelback.” Their album is “Silver Side Up.” Now let’s make some assumptions. Nickelback is aware of their name’s derivation being “nickel” and “back,” thus the back of a nickel. They know that nickels are silver, at least in color, not in composition [nickels are made of…nickel, atomic element no. 28]. Nickels are silver-colored on both sides. Ok. Now let’s check out the title again, “Silver Side Up.” Oh ok, this could be some intended play on words. But none really make sense. My guess is that Nickelback was trying to be tricky and playful by suggesting that no matter what, their band would always be popular, or at least will have a great prominence, logically based on their choice of band name.

Anyway, “How You Remind Me” was terrible, and not at all different from Seven Mary Three’s "Cumbersome,” whose lead guitarist and vocalist had been playing guitar for only 2 years when the album dropped. Also, the lead singer of Nickelback is named Chad, which is a dick name. Some underperforming Chad’s from over the years: Chad Henne, UMich quarterback; Chad (neighbor), unassuming jackass; Chad (northeast African country), a desert-covered battle-ridden wasteland. That’s perfect logic ladies and gentlemen.

Blind Melon, No Rain
If you couldn’t tell from the video, this band had no idea what the hell it was about. Everyone praised this group of drugged-up hippies for their mold-breaking bumblebee girl music video and acoustic love rock album, even though nobody knew what the hell they meant with either. Lesson 1: hippies do not have sufficient attention-span to create music or video understandable whilst sober. Lesson 2: hippie bands who spring up in the middle of a decade of decadent heroin use will suffer the same fate as their hard rock counterparts. Lesson 3: Blind Melon sucked.

I’m sorry that the lead singer died, that does blow, since no band no matter how bad deserves that kind of thing [except true bastards like Rick James and Frank Sinatra], and I also kind of liked their rocking follow-up on the next album “Galaxy.” Unfortunately, singer Rachel or whatever (he had a girl’s name) didn’t listen to or watch the video for “Galaxy,” which fiercely warned of the danger of needle-drug use, and he died less than a year later from a heroin overdose. Nevertheless, "No Rain” washed up as quickly as it came and nobody thought of it until this article was featured on CNN two weeks from now.

The Cardigans,
Love Fool
I had to suffer through an hour-long set of this flaky fairy-rock band before seeing Better Than Ezra about 4 years ago. What a lackluster bunch of crap that was. The lead singer seemed like she was about to fall asleep at any moment, and the guitarist performed most of his set by satellite sitting on a couch in his home in Malmo, Sweden. The drummer simply didn’t show up because he took too many quaaludes. Love Fool ended up in exactly seven Meg Ryan movies in 1999, and then they disappeared due to an act of God. They had a lot of trouble claiming damages on their insurance policy because of it.

Meredith Brooks, Bitch
She’s a bitch, and she wants everyone to know about it. A weary end to the short-lived and clunking girl rock fad.

OMC, How Bizarre
In Junior year of high school, a group of us guys went down the beach with some girls we know, some of whom were our girlfriends. The dudes in the hotel room below us were a year older and far stupider, but far brighter when it came to keeping our girls entertained. They played OMC’s ‘How Bizarre’ incessantly for 4 days straight and managed to lure most of our girls (except the fat and ugly ones) downstairs to their place to listen to this awful song on repeat. No other song on that CD was ever played. I can’t imagine why.

The fact that 16 year-old high school girls wooed over this song is evidence enough that it is awful, but I’ll supply some further evidence if you’d like. This is OMC’s only album. It would be an obvious move to create another album after capitalizing on such as simple song as “How Bizarre,” so why did OMC not do so? Perhaps because the band featured a New Zealand-born middle-class Los Angeles resident pretending to be a Mexican gangster from El Barrio? Couldn’t be.

The Verve Pipe, Freshman
The main reason to include this song/band is because it confused a generation of music listeners between “the good Verve” and “the bad Verve.” The Verve Pipe is “the bad Verve,” The Verve is “the good Verve.”

The Verve Pipe is a band from west-central Michigan who now resides where they came from. The Verve is an English band rooted in classic-rock who wrote the song “Bittersweet Symphony” and who broke up not long after they became big because the Rolling Stones were greedy assholes. The Verve Pipe wrote a song about being Freshman and being in love, etc., so highschoolers everyone were required under curricula to adhere to its popularity. Even though the song is actually about a teenage girl who has an abortion without the consent of the father and then kills herself with sleeping pills out of guilt, youngsters everywhere took it upon themselves to dilute and translate it into their inane and carefree lives. "The Freshman" then became prom songs, senior graduation themes, and Freddie Prince Jr. emotional epiphany moments. Probably played on the radio more times than it’s rained in London, I got pretty sick of this misinterpreted and poorly written sob song.

It should be noted that The Verve Pipe’s 1993 effort was entitled “Pop Smear,” and that their current website is selling a seemingly bootleg compilation CD of similarly shitty and forgettable songs which I actually forgot to include. Thanks to the 40-year old members of The Verve Pipe for the unintentional assistance!

1. John Mayer - "My Stupid Mouth"
2. Tabitha's Secret (Matchbox 20) - "3 AM"
3. Better Than Ezra - "Good"* (exception)
4. Five For Fighting - "Easy Tonight"
5. Shannon Worrell - "Eleanor"
6. Vertical Horizon - "Man Who Would Be Santa"7
7. Train - "Meet Virginia"
8. The Gufs - "Give Back Yourself"
9. The Verve Pipe - "Spoonful of Sugar"
10. Shawn Mullins - "Lullaby"
11. Guster - "Window"
12. Hootie & The Blowfish - "Old Man & Me"
13. Cary Pierce - "Vineyard"
14. Edwin McCain - "Solitude

New Radicals,
You Get What You Give
The big finish! These guys were somewhere between inverse Oreo’s and dorks. I mean, they tried really really hard to seem badass in their video and touch up their image, but you could see right through this talentless ragtag gaggle of Midwestern dopes. I just know that the guitarist wore anime t-shirts and a trenchcoat when they weren’t on camera. The lead singer (even on camera) wore white sneakers, black bellbottoms, and a deep v-necked, black, long-sleeve shirt, reminiscent of Zorro. To top it off, literally, he wore a floppy tan beach hat. Like, what the mother of fuck? And to boot, the song’s video featured them frolicking around a closed mall pretending to rough up the place.
I think they might have knocked a few leaves off of the fake plastic trees, at most. Their hearts just weren’t in it. I imagine that the song itself was some reflective message on the reciprocity of one’s deeds in life, and intended to inspire a youthful generation to follow in their fashionable example. Of course, the members were about 18 years old when they wrote this song, so perhaps they found out later that getting what you give also applies to writing albums and were thus doomed to one-hit wonderhood. But then again, their downfall may also be due to this perturbative event in June of 1999: (clipped from an unofficial Angelfire New Radicals fan site, the last trace of their existence apparently) “It has just been announced that Gregg Alexander (lead singer) has reportedly locked himself in a basement and canceled all tour dates.”

Thursday, December 22, 2005

buy these albums now

the Killers
Hot Fuss (limited edition)

Nada Surf

The Weight is a Gift

Green Day
Bullet in a Bible (DVD and CD)

Sunday, December 18, 2005


After watching Jason Lee (of Kevin Smith movies and My Name is Earl fame) on Conan O'Brien a few months ago, and thinking about how ridiculous naming your son "Pilot Inspektor", which is precisely what Lee did, I thought about appropriate names for my theoretical sons and daughters.

Obviously, emphasis should be placed on theoretical, but if I can't find a girl dumb enough to marry me in this country, then I will simply start a search in Latin America or enlist the services of one of those mail order bride companies that will acquire me a wife from the Ukraine or Russia. So if it's up to me, then yes, the Delgado family name will persist on the East Coast even if the rest of my brothers fail in the task.

I've favored naming my progeny after influential figures in history, preferably kings and queens of the great maritime nation-states during the 15th, 16th, and 17th centuries.

That's why I've always loved the name Isabella.

Besides being a pretty name for a girl, Queen Isabella I of Spain was a money monarch. Also known as Isabella the Catholic, she and King Ferdinand II were responsible for the Inquisition and for commissioning Christopher Columbus' voyage to the New World in 1492.

Side note: I've always disliked how history has anglicanized Ferdinand's name, which is actually Fernando in Spanish. Something tells me that I have the French to blame for this.

Either way, aside from the negative repercussions of the otherwise earth-shattering developments (the extermination of Muslims and Jews from Spain, leading to the destruction of the Spanish middle class and crippling Spain's economy, and the ravaging of Native American Indians at the hands of subsequent exploration and colonial settlement), Isabella was known as a patron of scholars and artists, and she made sure that her sons and daughters were well-educated. She was also an advocate for the rights of Indian slaves from the New World, as she freed many who were returned to Spain, demanding fair and just treatment of them.

So, it's pretty much set in stone that my first daughter will be named Isabella.

What about my sons?

God knows that I have been wishing for a large, male-dominated family ever since I was a toddler. I have the answer: my first born son will probably be named Fernando after my father, but my second son will definitely be named Brooks.

I frequently joke that I would love to have 10 children; the frightening reality is that, if I get married and live to the average age of 70-something, I will most likely come close to that number. Coming from a family of 9, and as the eldest child, I'm more than used to complete chaos and noise being a part of my everyday life. And the truth is, I like it now. Not only because I'm conditioned to have it contstantly a part of the periphery, but also because all the clamor and shrieks, the breaking glass and ceramics, the bickering and quibbling, represents my growing siblings - both in sheer number and size.

And I definitely love my comically large family, quirks and all - from my oldest brother and sister who have entered adult-hood a short time after myself, to my teenage brother living his moody but fun high school days, to my adorable 5-year-old "baby" sister who, despite her sweetness, can feature a bossy and catty attitude that every female in history has unleashed onto unsuspecting fathers, brothers, boyfriends and husbands since cavemen roamed the earth. And, I love the gender breakdown between the Delgado clan: 5 brothers and two sisters. I've always thought that a surplus of testosterone is preferable to a surplus of estrogen in a family, and nothing will change my mind on that.

All the brothers can protect their little sisters, administering savage beatings to any out-of-line miscreants who treat the ladies with a lack of respect. Don't get me wrong, I respect families that have 5 daughters and no sons, but I truly feel bad for those poor dads.

No man who really commits himself to a family should go through life without having a son he can play catch with as a child or go to a ballgame and have a beer with as men. At least without trying hard to have that first son. And for those fathers who try and nature just doesn't let it happen, well, that's a shame.

So, in the spirit of optimism, I will be naming my second son Brooks. After Brooks Robinson. Now, I normally would never name a son after an athlete, but this would be a big exception. In this case, it would be the best sport, baseball, and it would be the best third-baseman to ever play the game - Robinson.

Adding to the fact he was a key member of two World Championship Baltimore Orioles teams, and that he was an exemplery role model, well, for me the choice is easy. Not to mention that "Brooks" is just a fucking cool name. It's almost like kids named Brooks realize they have a cool name and act appropriately, or that people they meet know Brooks is a cool name and give them the benefit of the doubt.

Brooks Delgado. Awesome name.

The easy part is already taken care of, now I just need to find that gullible girl.