Saturday, September 09, 2006

Brad Pitt Is a Douchebag

According to the Associated Press, Brad Pitt “won’t be marrying Angelina Jolie until the restrictions on who can marry whom are dropped.” He tells Esquire magazine that “Angie and I will consider tying the knot when everyone else in the country who wants to be married is legally able.” The Associated Press calls Pitt a “social activist.”

I have a different term I’d like to apply to Pitt: douchebag. Total douchebag.

Okay, let’s get this out of the way right now: everyone in this country who wants to get married, should be allowed to marry whomever they want. And just so there’s no confusion on the score, I’m talking about gay people. Homosexual men and women should be allowed to marry other homosexual men and women if that’s what they want. I know that America is a country that is founded in part on the pursuit of happiness, and I know that America is a country that routinely likes to deny anything that makes people happy. But gay people should be allowed to get married. I wanted to point that out first because when Brad Pitt says everyone in the country who wants to get married should be able to, he means that America is wrong to restrict gay marriage. He’s just hedging his bets by being too cowardly to use the words “gay” and “America.”

Now, let’s talk about why Brad Pitt is a total douche. It’s the incredible amount of presumption on his part. Does he really think that the possibility of him getting married to Angelina Jolie is so monumental, so mammoth, such an important moment in the history of time, that he can use it as a forum? That enough people really, really care about his personal happiness that they’ll storm capitol buildings to change laws that over half of the country seem to think should be kept in place? That his marriage matters to so many people that he can hold it hostage and smugly assume that people will leap into activism just to see it happen?

Told ya: total douchebag.

Because nothing says “I really, really love Angelina Jolie” like making it publicly clear that your marriage to her hinges on whether or not the close-minded among us suddenly open their minds. And to think that it’ll work? Oh, what fresh arrogance is this?

Charlize Theron and Stuart Townshend (who?) are apparently saying the same thing that Brad Pitt is. Because, again, their marriage matters so much to all of us no-lifes in the flyover states. What an incredible gathering of useless pricks we have in Hollywood, telling us how to live our lives. Don’t get me wrong, I think gay marriage is a silly, stupid thing to legislate; how does it hurt others if two men or two women get married? And how much does a divorcee with an illegitimate child have to teach us about what marriage should be? Face it, this is not a country that values marriage in reality as much as people say they do. So what’s the problem? I agree with Brad Pitt: people should be allowed to marry whoever agrees to marry them. I just think that his form of protest is a stupid, flashy attention-getter designed to show how compassionate he wants the world to think he is rather than, I don’t know, something meaningful.


We Have Liftoff

The Space Shuttle Atlantis launched this morning with no difficulties. It was a beautiful launch on a beautiful day. Commander Brent Jett (and with a name like that, you pretty much have to be an astronaut) and his crew are finally, finally resuming work on the International Space Station. Small steps, one a time. We'll get there soon. Good luck. And thank you.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Beyond the Rim of Starlight

I'd just like to add a big "right on" to Becca's post about the pointless "special editioning" of Star Trek. How much money are Trekkies going to let Paramount take off of them. Posted by Picasa

Cynicism and Giant Robots

After all this time, I have to say, I’m pretty sick of this eighties revival. I don’t want to get all proprietary about who was where first, but it’s been about seven years since I first walked into Hot Topic and saw tee shirts with Smurfs, Care Bears, Strawberry Shortcake, The Goonies, and The Dark Crystal on them. And at the time, it really pissed me off. It pisses me off a little bit that all of the pop music today sounds like a rip-off of music from the 1980s, especially since Britney Spears, Justin Himboflake, and Jessica Simpson were babies when the music they’re now heavily quoting was popular. And the remakes! They’re remaking Revenge of the Nerds, Police Academy, Adventures in Babysitting; movies that were crap the first time around, but are now getting people my age in a tizzy about the sanctity of the bad movies they grew up with.

And I’m sick of it. I’m sick of people raping every last aspect of my childhood to make a few bucks. I think it’s nice that people appreciate that Pac-Man was a cool game years before they were actually born (doesn’t that make me feel old and useless; Pac-Man was the last video game I was ever good at, and that was when I was six!), but seriously, stop it. Stop acting like it’s all cool to love the slick plastic crap of the eighties. I’m tired of you kids appropriating my childhood. I don’t want to hear that The Goonies “rocks” if you’re under 30 years old, okay? That’s not remotely your childhood.

You know who else I’m tired of? The assholes who actually eat this shit up. The douchebags who will rush out and buy the cheapest TV cartoons on DVD, like He-Man and the Masters of the Universe or ThunderCats, because they loved them as a kid and are sorry they’ve lost the connection with their childhood. I mean, if you buy Transformers: The Movie on DVD because you like the movie or it reminds you of your childhood, that’s one thing. But it’s the major league dicks who try to convince me that those half-hour toy commercials were smart, that they are some kind of modern mythology, that they are of some kind of lasting quality: it’s those assholes I can’t stand. Plus I think they're idiots for letting somebody make money off of their demented childhoods.

Here’s the reason why. When I was ten years old, I was still acting like a kid. I had always been pretty sensitive, and I still held on to my love of cartoons and action figures. This was fifth grade, and I was the fat kid who read comics at school and was still really into Star Wars. I got teased by almost every single person at school. I was shy and easily hurt, and I didn’t haul off and punch anyone. I just took it and tried to ignore it. I wasn’t interested in girls, because I didn’t think I had a chance with any of them. I was a good student, but even my teachers singled me out for ridicule because I never fought back.

I was ten years old and still acting like a kid. This was 1986, the year Transformers: The Movie came out. I went to see it in the movie theater with my dad, because it was a big deal to me. No one else I knew went to see it. They had given up all that kid stuff to act like idiots. I held on to what I still wanted, and I grew out of it naturally. I’m not one of those thirty year-olds who spends all of his money on action figures and DVDs trying to recapture something I put aside before I was ready. I’m not one of those assholes who teased me growing up, and now embarrass themselves finding meaning in old, cheap, crappy cartoons. I’m not one of those lame anime fans who rediscovered Transformers and decided it was okay to like it because it was basically giant robot Japanimation. There was a guy around my age a couple of years ago, a firefighter, who changed his name legally to Optimus Prime in honor of the Transformers character. And this ass was married and had children! How does a responsible adult do something like that? It just seems to me like the sign of somebody who gave something up too early.

Which is why the current furor over the Michael Bay Transformers movie (which isn’t even coming out until July) makes me laugh. Grown men are wetting their pants because the giant robots in the movie look lame. And they do look lame. Here’s Bumblebee:You know, I had absolutely no expectations for this film, and somehow I’m still disappointed. But, you know, what can you expect? You know it’s going to be as a stupid as every other Michael Bay movie. And you know what? Transformers are stupid. The idea of a live action movie based on it is stupid. Wow, fucking shock of shocks! It turned out to be a stupid movie! Who could have predicted?!

Besides anyone with one brain cell to rub against another.

Anyway, there’s an interesting post about all of this in rational terms here. I just hate fanboys, so this furor over some piece of shit movie is very, very funny to me.

Throwdown 9/8

15 random thoughts, questions, and observations for the week.

1. We lost Steve Irwin this week. It’s too bad that his death has been the source of a lot of jokes. The guy really tried to make a difference. He furthered conservation efforts and put himself in danger to help people understand how to live with animals instead of just slaughtering their homes in order to make our own. He wasn’t just some thrill-jockey out to get a fix. It’s disappointing to me that the death of someone like Tom Cruise, who has contributed nothing to society except for a total misunderstanding of psychology, his stunningly misogynistic views on what women should be capable of, and proselytizing for a made-up religion of idiots who believe the human race is the creation of an alien race, would be met with more grief.

2. Man, how about this Jessica Simpson/John Mayer thing? So, she says she’s not dating him, then he gets all pissy and says that people in his entourage leaked information about their relationship, and then backpedals on that and blames her for being desperate and trying to drum up publicity for her new album. And now Jessica’s creepy dad fired her publicist, saying that the whole thing was the publicist acting alone in an attempt to put her on the tabloid covers right before the release of A Public Affair. And the funny thing is, the tabloids (particularly People and US Weekly) aren’t backing down the way they always do, but are standing by what they were told, and people are blaming Joe Simpson for orchestrating the entire thing as a publicity stunt! And you know, I find it believable, because he’s been accused of this in the past. Jessica, please, you really need to fire your dad as your manager. One day he’s just going to cross too many lines (probably all at the same time) and you’re going to find it very hard to work in the music industry.

3. Analysts say that Paris Hilton’s DUI arrest will not affect her popularity. Sadly, they’re probably right.

4. So, like, Kristin Cavallari is, like, totally dating DJ AM to get back at Nicole Richie for, like, totally dating her own ex. Who the fuck is Kristin Cavallari?

5. Piece of shit “filmmaker” Uwe Boll has been offering to meet his critics in the boxing ring. Someone took him up on it, and Boll won the fight. So, this proves he’s a good director somehow?

6. Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, who plays Mr. Eko, has become the eighth actor from Lost to be involved in a traffic altercation with police. What the fuck is wrong with those assholes? You’re successful, try and enjoy it without being pricks. Am I the only person who doesn’t really give a shit if the show ever comes back?

7. Yet again, the Internet Movie Database is speculating on whether or not Orlando Bloom and Kate Bosworth have broken up. People, this is not real news. They both suck. I have no idea why I even know Kate Bosworth’s name.

8. Ellen DeGeneres is going to host the Oscars in 2007. Because the ceremony isn’t long and boring and unfunny enough already, I guess. Look for lots of mildly amusing observations followed by…a lot…of silence…for punctuation.

9. I love Liv Tyler so much. She’s classy and removed from the bullshit of the entertainment industry. Which is why I wish she didn’t do stupid things like go around claiming the main character in Showgirls was based on her…

10. Lindsay Lohan is not engaged to Harry Morton. But Dina Lohan says he’s been a really good influence on her, as we can all see.

11. Oh, and here’s this week’s installment of Lindsay Lohan’s People Are Giant Fucking Idiots. This picture of Lindsay Lohan with her firecrotch revealed have been going around all week. Then another picture of her with panties shows up, and we’re supposed to believe the cunt shot is a fake. Except that a bunch of websites have done the detective work and shown that the one with the panties is a fake picture and the shot without the panties is real. Apparently, her handlers think it’s a big stretch for us to think that Lindsay Lohan is too fucking dumb to wear underwear. Idiots. Oh, and sorry for putting Lindsay Lohan’s pussy on my site. Any vestige of attraction I still had for her is long, long gone.

12. Random House is offering refunds now to everyone who bought James Frey’s A Million Little Pieces and thought it was real. This story has been blown so far out of proportion. I personally couldn’t give a shit that the guy’s memoirs turned out to be fake. It’s like an art forgery; an art forgery is still art. Americans just aren’t sophisticated enough to (a) see through anything that pretends to be genuine, and (b) appreciate the artistry behind fooling an audience into believing something is genuine. God save Hollywood when America discovers that things that happen in movies aren’t real, too.

13. NASA has decided not to launch the Space Shuttle Atlantis. They’ve been trying to launch it for the past 12 days, but problems from lightning to Tropical Storm Ernesto have delayed the launch. Now they’ve got problems with the fuel sensor giving faulty readings; something which has been a problem before. Again, I think the real problem is that we’re risking the lives of shuttle crews with technology that is in disrepair and which was outdated 25 years ago. Can’t America fix anything?

14. Apparently it’s true: a brainwashed robot and a celibate alien can have a baby. Just a couple of observations: First, that kid has an awful lot of hair for being as young as it’s supposed to be (5 months). Second, it seems bigger than it should be. Third, it resembles Katie Holmes, but why does it look Asian? And finally, I did actually believe that Vanity Fair was the last vestige of serious reporting in the world of film. Now that they’ve chosen to devote a cover story to a shitty movie star and his TV actress child bride having a kid, I guess I’ve reversed that opinion. Way to go, Vanity Fair: you’ve become the People magazine of shitty New Yorker rip-offs. Katie said of her bastard child’s illegitimate father: “To see how someone as caring and good as Tom is; to see how things just get so twisted and turned around. I mean, where does it come from?” Well, possibly it comes from the women who didn’t think it was “caring and good” of Tom Cruise to go on Today and tell them they were weak-minded sheep for using medication after giving birth, you stupid, stupid bitch.

15. Well, the Senate has finally reported what most rational people knew to be the truth: the Saddam Hussein had no ties to Al-Qaeda before we went to war. Imagine that, the Bush administration lying to America. I’ve never been afraid to say this: Saddam Hussein was a stabilizing force in the region. He was the only reason that the Middle East wasn’t descending into civil war. Well, congratulations, we’ve changed all that. We didn’t fight the real enemy, which was probably Saudi Arabia; the Saudis actually do have ties to bin Laden and Al-Qaeda. The majority of 9/11 hijackers were Saudis. And yet, we go on protecting them from Iraq and Iran. The president knows he’s a fucking liar. And he knows that he went to war with Saddam Hussein for personal reasons, and at the behest of his Saudi masters. And he knows that we know. He just does not care. And the fact is, we probably don’t. Otherwise, you might think we’d have done something about it.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

A Picture Too Cute Not to Post

This picture's from my sister, who is in Australia right now. Posted by Picasa

Fresh Hairstyle for a Fresh Start

I was actually a little disappointed to find out that Jessica was actually not dating John Mayer. But I am glad she looks happy again, and I think her shorter hair is fab. Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Film Week

A review of the films I've seen this past week.

ECSTASY (1933)
This Czech film is basically a silent film with some sound sequences. I enjoyed the way it told the story with music and imagery; the sound element is kind of crude, but despite that crudity this is a compelling, soft, and beautiful film about natural love. This film caused a stir because of scenes of its star Hedwig Kiesler nude; the Vatican also hated (although they didn’t put it this way) to see a woman taking charge of her own sex life. The film was so notorious in its time that, when signing a studio contract in America, Louis B. Mayer changed her name to Hedy Lamarr to avoid identification with it. ***1/2 stars.

FAIL-SAFE (1964)
Another political nuclear scare film from 1964. I found this one slow and needlessly misogynist, and frankly boring. There are two better films from the same year, Dr. Strangelove and the apparently forgotten but excellent Seven Days in May. This film? ** stars.

Tiffani Thiessen gets raped. How many TV movies have I seen where the young girls I crushed on and loved in high school get raped? It’s always the same reactionary formula, too. I’m not saying that rape is trivial; I’m saying that these movies trivialize it. *1/2 stars.

I don’t know why it took so long to release it, but the copyright on the film (which is what I go by) says 2005. Anyway, I thought this was a really great movie. I don’t care much for Edward Norton, but he did a fine job as the title character. Paul Giamatti, for once not playing the shlub we’re supposed to feel bad for, was very good, and Jessica Biel was surprisingly good, very Scarlett Johansson-ish. It’s hard to describe without completely giving the plot away, but I recommend it. **** stars.

This Disney Channel movie is about a naval tiger cruise, where sailors have family members aboard to give them an idea what their children/parents/whatever are doing. It’s actually a pretty nice movie, but it takes place just before and during 9/11, and that’s where I have a problem with it. Granted, I think it’s important to deal with 9/11, and I’m not inherently against portraying it on film. But what bothers me here is the way the movie is set up. Hayden Panettiere (in a pretty good performance) plays the daughter of the executive officer of an aircraft carrier (Bill Pullman, not exactly on the ball here); she wants to convince him to come home. But then, 9/11 makes her realize how important the military is. And that’s what I don’t like; this is another movie that serves as a propaganda piece for the military, trying to instill a sense of awe and reverence in the military-industrial complex and making kids believe that war and conflict are inevitable (and perhaps necessary). This doesn’t eulogize 9/11; it practically celebrates it as something we can spend our incredibly brave soldiers on. I have nothing but respect for people who put themselves in harm’s way to protect us. I think they deserve more than this. **1/2 stars.

Tired Sam Peckinpah pastiche with a half-decent cast that bored me. ** stars. Joe Don Baker is surprisingly good in it.

Haven't Had a Quiz Day in a Long Time

You've Experienced 56% of Life

You have a good deal of life experience, about as much as someone in their late 20s.
You've seen and done enough to be quite wise, but you still have a lot of life to look forward to.

You Are Scary

You even scare scary people sometimes!

Your Pirate Name Is...

Skull Crusher Redbeard

You Are Very Dishonest

You're reliably dishonest, and it's not a big deal to you
It's all about what you want - screw everyone else
You'll protect yourself at all costs
No wonder no one truly trusts you!

Your 2006 Summer Anthem Is

Unwritten by Natasha Bedingfield

"No one else, no one else
Can speak the words on your lips
Drench yourself in words unspoken
Live your life with arms wide open
Today is where your book begins"

You are an Atheist

When it comes to religion, you're a non-believer (simple as that).
You prefer to think about what's known and proven.
You don't need religion to solve life's problems.
Instead, you tend to work things out with logic and philosophy.

You Are Superman

Faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive, and able to leap tall buildings in a single bound.
And pretty cute too. No wonder you're the most popular superhero ever!

You Are 76% Gross

You're pretty dirty, and there's a good chance you're living in a total dump.
And your body? Not too clean either. Watch out for killer bacteria, Pig Pen!

The Natasha Bedingfield thing almost makes me want to kick my own ass...

And a Meme for Good Measure

I got this off The Sapient Sutler.

Do you enjoy birthdays? Not overly. I’ve never had many friends, and nobody liked me much when I was a kid, so I didn’t have any of those big, fussy parties that kids have, or the gatherings teenagers have. Now I just don’t care, so I don’t make a big deal out of it. I don’t even ask for anything anymore.

What’s your favorite Christmas song? “O Holy Night,” especially the version by Nat King Cole. I also love “Good King Wenceslas,” which I actually do know all the words to.

Do you do push-ups? No, but I should.

Have you ever done Ecstasy? I’m not interested in that. I smoke pot every now and then because it’s relaxing and I really do need to be mellow every so often, but I’m not into anything harder than that. I don’t even like to drink.

Do you like Disney World? I’ve never been there. I’d love to see it one day, as much of a Disney fan as I obviously am. I’ve never been able to afford it.

Do you like rain? God, I love the rain. I hate driving in it, but I love a good, dramatic rain storm.

Favorite perfume? I don’t know. I’ve responded to some women in my life who have worn perfume that smelled very good, but I don’t know what any of them are called.

Middle name? Robert, my father’s name (although I think it might be after another relative, I can’t remember).

Name the last 3 things you have bought today. The only thing I bought today was breakfast at McDonald’s.

Name five non-alcoholic drinks you regularly drink. Lots of water, too much Sierra Mist, the occasional Pepsi (gone are the days of drinking Pepsi all the time, damn it), orange juice (I prefer Simply Orange brand), and coffee. Oh, God, I love coffee…

Name five alcoholic drinks you regularly drink. I don’t care for alcohol too much, but I do like Bass Ale and the occasional rum.

What time did you wake up today? I’ve been sleeping late these days, but today I got up when Becca left for work at about 7:40. Which is still pretty late for me, actually.

Can you spell? Yes.

Current worries? I’ve just graduated, so finding a job so I can make those student loan payments is occupying a lot of mental space.

Current hate? Read this blog. I hate a lot of things. I hate that it seems like I’m so removed from my family. I hate that I’ve talked to my favorite cousins only a couple of times in the last decade. I hate the current political administration. I hate a lot of the current pop culture. I hate that my reputation is as some sort of hateful curmudgeon when, in fact, I do love a lot of things.

Favorite place to be? At home with Becca. Or at the Junction with Becca, getting some great food. Or at the movies with Becca. Do you see a theme?

Least favorite place to be? “Out.” I hate going “out.”

Where do you want to go? Australia.

Do you own slippers? No. Should I?

Where do you think you will be in 10 years? Working out of a nicer home as a writer/editor.

Do you burn or tan? Burn, then tan.

Yellow or blue? I like both together, actually.

Would you give up your current life to be a pirate? I’m already dirty, hungry, worried, and broke. Why switch now?

Do you sing in the shower? Oh, my, yes. I love to sing.

What did you fear was going to get you as a child? Aliens. Sharks. Monsters. Alien shark monsters.

How much cash do you have on you? About six bucks.

Last thing that made you laugh? Becca made some joke yesterday that made me laugh my ass off. But now I can’t remember what it was…

Best bed sheets you had as a child? I liked my Empire Strikes Back sheets, I guess, but what four year-old didn’t? I don’t really remember any of the sheets I’ve slept on.

Worst injury you’ve ever had? When I was three or four, I ripped my head open on the corner of a table. 13 stitches. I don’t remember it, but I’ve heard the story a lot.

Where have you been out of your home country? Japan and Guam (though Guam is technically a US territory).

Who is your loudest friend? I’m plenty loud for everyone.

Who is your most silent friend? I’m not sure I actually have friends…

Does someone have a crush on you? I kind of doubt it. Although, yet again, you’ve never heard Amanda Bynes say she doesn’t dig me.

What song did you last hear? “Red Right Hand” by Nick Cave.

What song do you want played at your funeral? “Forever” by the Beach Boys (NOT the version with John Stamos, or I’m haunting everyone).

What were you doing at 12:00 last night? Sleeping.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Pet Peeves About Sounds of Summer

I know I’m not exactly being timely by reviewing a CD that’s three years old, but I’ve just recently been given Sounds of Summer: The Very Best of the Beach Boys, and it begs the question: why is it so fucking hard to come up with a single disc Beach Boys compilation that is satisfying to listen to? It’s bad enough that the album sticks to their charting hits, rather than filling in some key album tracks that paint a fuller picture of what the Beach Boys really were. But the jarring, illogical sequencing is real downer, too.

For instance, the album opens with “California Girls” and goes on through the kind of surf-and-car songs that a lot of people think were the only things the Beach Boys did: “I Get Around,” “Surfin’ Safari,” “Surfin’ USA,” “Fun, Fun, Fun,” the wonderful “Surfer Girl,” the beautiful “Don’t Worry Baby,” “Little Deuce Coupe,” “Shut Down,” “Help Me, Rhonda,” “Be True to Your School,” “When I Grow Up (To Be a Man),” and “In My Room.” Now, I like some of those songs, but that’s only part of the Beach Boys story. And that lineup is all over the place, too. That’s not remotely chronological, nor does it flow together when you’re listening to it.

The next song is “God Only Knows,” which is still the most beautiful thing I’ve ever heard. Pet Sounds is also represented (perhaps unsurprisingly) by “Sloop John B” and “Wouldn’t It Be Nice.” And at this point, I’m thinking that we’re about to enter my favorite period of the Beach Boys: the loose, all over, psychedelia-influenced Beach Boys, starting with Pet Sounds and going up to Surf’s Up, around 1971. There was some weird, often beautiful stuff in there. But instead, the collection jumps from 1966 all the way to 1985, the time of the asinine Beach Boys “comeback.” Or, as I like to call it, Mike Love’s Beach Boys-Esque Experience, Nostalgia Show & Traveling Jukebox. Out of nowhere, with mighty shitty production, comes “Getcha Back,” stinking up the whole disc. Then we have the shitty 1981 cover of “Come Go with Me” and the even shittier 1976 cover of “Rock and Roll Music.”

Alright, well, I guess the old days are gone, right? Well, no, those songs are followed by their 1964 hit “Dance, Dance, Dance.” Then the execrable “Barbara Ann,” the so-so “Do You Wanna Dance,” and the sublime “Heroes and Villains,” from the 1967 Smiley Smile. “Good Timin’,” about the only good song off of 1979’s L.A. (Light Album) follows. Again, we’re a decade off. And then, fucking “Kokomo,” perhaps the second-worst song in the history of recorded music (after Sister Sledge’s “We are Family”). Now, I suppose it was inevitable that the song from a fucking Tom Cruise movie was going to be a hit in 1988, and it was of course inevitable that the Beach Boys’ only number one hit since 1966 was going to end up on the collection…but holy shit, what an awful fucking song this is.

Quick, depressing trivia about “Kokomo”: the song was written by four people, including the lame Mike Love. The other three were Scott McKenzie, who wrote one of my favorite songs (“San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Flowers in Your Hair)”), Papa John Phillips, and Terry Melcher, who produced the first two great albums of the Byrds, Mr. Tambourine Man and Turn! Turn! Turn! It takes that many talented people to crank out one of the greatest pieces of shit man has ever heard?

The oddest inclusion is “Do It Again,” which always felt to me like Mike’s plea for Brian to stop all that arty nonsense and just write some cool songs again. What’s also odd is that the next three songs--“Wild Honey,” “Darlin’,” and “I Can Hear Music”--are all songs from the late sixties with Carl Wilson on lead vocals. Not that there haven’t been some Carl vocals so far, but why throw these on at the end, almost as an afterthought? The final song also has Carl vocals, but I suppose “Good Vibrations” is a natural closer. But the sequencing just bugs the hell out of me.

I think what I’m really getting at is my hatred for Mike Love. He’s the one who wanted the Beach Boys to remain as outdated as they already were in 1966, he’s the one who forced out Brian Wilson and ruined the unfinished Smile album, and it’s his particular commercialist stink that’s all over this compilation.

A better pick among what’s available, that is if you want to hear music and not someone’s revisionist history of surf-and-car songs, is Beach Boys Classics: Selections by Brian Wilson. When they accuse Brian Wilson of being a mad genius, all I can think is “so was Beethoven.” Brian’s music is among the most beautiful in the history of rock music, and this album proves it. Not only is it in chronological order, but it’s a much more satisfying listen. He starts off with the very pretty “Surfer Girl,” and from there on it’s all gold: “The Warmth of the Sun,” “I Get Around,” “Don’t Worry Baby,” “In My Room,” “California Girls,” “God Only Knows,” “Caroline, No,” “Good Vibrations,” “Wonderful,” “Heroes and Villains,” “Surf’s Up,” “Busy Doin’ Nothin’,” “We’re Together Again,” “Time to Get Alone,” “This Whole World,” “Marcella,” “Sail On, Sailor,” “Till I Die,” and a new song, “California Feelin’.” It’s just an amazing record.

It’s still now, however, the best of the Beach Boys. It’s the best of Brian Wilson.

It’s the lack of a great compilation that made me ransack eBay for the collection I grew up with: Endless Summer. That was the first Beach Boys collection, and it contains songs that, for some reason, never seem to end up on the hits discs anymore: “Wendy,” “Let Him Run Wild,” “The Girls on the Beach,” and “All Summer Long,” just for a few examples. It’s not perfect either (for instance, it does have “Good Vibrations” but not a single song from Pet Sounds), but, no matter how many collections have appeared since, it’s still the best single-disc representation of the early days of the Beach Boys.

Now if only I had one with decent sound, that would be great.

That's Enough Now, Duffster

If you read this blog at all last year, you’d know that I used to really like Hilary Duff. I liked her as an actress, I enjoy her music…I didn’t like her weight loss or whatever they hell they capped her teeth with, but I was still a fan. She’s actually worse at pretending she’s a punk than Avril Lavigne and Pink are. But still, I liked the girl.

Until today, actually. I’ve had it up to here with her lying and her hypocrisy, and from this moment on, I’m not a fan of hers. I think she’s a shitty role model for children, and I wish other people would take note of that. It’s not the fact that she’s been dating an older man as an underage teen. It’s not that she lost all that weight within a few months. It’s not even the way that her fear of losing her fan base has led her to take absolutely no chances in her career.

No, what I hate about her is the way that she said she wasn’t going to trade on her sexuality, and now she is. It’s the way she said she was going to grow gradually, and is now redesigning her entire persona as a sort of Joan Jett rip-off. It’s the way she says stupid, horrible things like her boyfriend grew up in a ghetto, when he grew up in a white collar lower-upper class neighborhood. It’s the way she lied about still being a virgin, and then took that lie back a week later. It’s the way she’s started saying that she’s not against cosmetic surgery, winkingly, as though no one has noticed the change in her teeth.

And now, hypocrite Hilary has finally pushed me too far. In a recent interview, she admitted that there is pressure to be thin in Hollywood, but criticizes other women for crash dieting too look like stick figures. She says she’ll never give up her healthy lifestyle in order to lose too much weight.

Tough talk from a girl looking like this in 2004:Like this in 2005:And like this in 2006:It’s like watching somebody being erased. It’s sick, it’s unhealthy…and to come and claim that you are healthy and to criticize others for doing the same thing you did is somehow worse than just wrong. To set yourself up as a role model based on this kind of lie is sick. You know, honey, Lindsay Lohan used to pull this shit too. She still does; she lies constantly, thinking that no one can see how obvious it is. And you’re doing the same thing. And that same thing that happened to Lindsay will happen to you: people will stop respecting you.

Those that still do, anyways. I am no longer one of them.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Evaluating Disney: 1940

In retrospect, 1940 can be seen as the year when everything fell apart. Walt Disney was finally able to move into his new, specially built studio. All of the profits from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs went into the studio, as Walt had naively assumed that his future animated features would pull in the same level of profit. This turned out not to be the case; 1940 began with the disappointing failure of Pinocchio to return its cost in theaters. It can partially be blamed on the closing of the European markets, and on problems with distribution in a country that was gearing up for a possible entrance into what had become World War II. But the simple fact is that short cartoons were a pleasantry before a feature, and despite the massive popularity of Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck (whose popularity had managed to surpass Mickey’s in a very short amount of time), animated features were being revealed as a genre with limited audience appeal. The failure of Pinocchio scared Walt, who was only a few months away from the release of Fantasia and in production on Dumbo, Bambi, Alice in Wonderland, Peter Pan, The Legend of Happy Valley, Tales of Hans Christian Andersen, The Reluctant Dragon, and The Wind in the Willows. His grand plan to produce 2 to 4 animated films a year was in trouble.

Disney had planned to make two sorts of films. The top tier would be prestigious, artistic films, lavished with attention and made opulent and special. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs was one of these; so were Pinocchio, Fantasia, and Bambi. This production was supposed to be overseen by Dave Hand, with the animators Walt considered the real artists--such as Frank Thomas, Ollie Johnston, and Milt Kahl--working on them. The lower tier films were to be cheaply made, without so much attention to detail, inexpensive but entertaining. The Legend of Happy Valley, which was an adaptation of the Jack and the Beanstalk story starring Mickey, Donald, and Goofy, was meant to be indicative of that approach. Peter Pan was also going to be made in that style, as was Dumbo and a movie being developed around Joe Grant’s cocker spaniel, Lady. Rather than reach into the $2 million range, like Pinocchio and Fantasia, these were planned to cost a cheaper $700,000 each. For these movies, Walt reserved those he considered more caricaturists than artists: Bill Tytla, Norm Ferguson, Art Babbitt, Ben Sharpsteen and Ward Kimball.

It was hard, with Walt concentrating on feature films, to sink very much money into the shorts anymore. The colors were no longer as vibrant; the painterly touches were now going towards the features. The zip had gone out of some of the gags. In the years since Snow White had been released, the artists had become rather pretentious, but that pretension did lead to the occasional great cartoon. Now, with Walt’s depression and anxiety over Pinocchio and Fantasia respectively, the cartoons switched from being arty to being workmanlike. They’re still competent; some are even very funny. But the spark seems to be missing a little here. The truth is, the shorts were in as much of a shift as Walt’s plans to produce features. Mickey Mouse would never disappear; he was still very much the face of Walt Disney Pictures. But the animators were sick of his goody-goody attitude, they were sick of Minnie Mouse’s simpering (once again, she appears in no cartoons this year). Donald Duck, whose very essence lay in his constant frustration and casual violence and wrongdoing, was much more fun, both for the animators and the audience. Mickey was being shoved aside to give more shorts to Donald (and to a lesser extent, Pluto). The Silly Symphonies were over, and the cartoons became much more about gags and entertainment than experimentation just for the sake of it.

I have to admit, for all of its pretension, I still love this movie. It’s preachy and illogical, and some of the rotoscoping is pretty bad, but I love the music and the story and the way it looks like an old storybook. I find that, of all the “classic” period films, this is the least popular with modern audiences. I’m not sure if it’s the tone, or if there’s just a sort of self-conscious artiness that people respond to. Of course, the audiences of the time didn’t care for it much, either. One interesting suggestion is that, during World War II, there was too much European influence for American audiences. The European influence in film has a troubled history; in the 1920s, there were protests in American theaters against German films like The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari and Nosferatu: Eine Symphonie des Grauen. Many people at the time felt that the German influence was diluting the American character. Whether that applies here or not, this film was a real failure for Disney.

My post on the development of Pinocchio is here.

3/15: The Riveter
Donald Duck. Donald gets a job on a construction crew working for foreman Pete. He’s afraid of heights, the sound of the rivet gun upsets him, and he doesn’t know how to work it anyway. This is one of the better Donald Duck cartoons, fast and very funny, with Pete making a very good foil for the Duck. This is very reminiscent of the 1933 Building a Building, only with Donald in place of Mickey, and frankly funnier. Donald is singing “Heigh-Ho” at the start of the cartoon.

4/5: Donald’s Dog Laundry
Donald Duck. This short got a little tiresome for me. Donald builds an automatic dog washer, than spends most of the cartoon trying to lure Pluto into it for a test. I get tired of Pluto pretty quickly; it’s usually him just getting stuck in something or trying to get out of something, and they kind of run together in my head. Despite some good pacing courtesy of director Jack King, I got sick of it.

4/26: Tugboat Mickey
Mickey Mouse. This is one of the lesser Mickey-Donald-Goofy shorts, but I’d take a lesser one over a Pluto any day of the week. Mickey picks up an SOS, then spends the cartoon trying to get his boat out of the harbor. But his crew consists of Donald and Goofy, so you get the labor you pay for, really. For some reason, I remember the gag with the pelican and the paintbrush and the pelican getting drunk on varnish pretty vividly. Funny stuff.

5/17: Billposters
Donald Duck. Donald and Goofy try to hang some posters, but Goofy is baffled at every turn by a windmill and Donald ends up in a fight with a goat. Oh, Donald; when will you ever learn to stop randomly being cruel to animals? Hilarious, well-directed by Clyde Geronimi. I find it a little comforting that the goat still looks like the older Disney animation; everything’s still got that handmade charm and isn’t so slick yet. Lots of spanking, though; those ass jokes again… Cute in-joke: Donald and Goofy sing “Whistle While You Work” from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.

6/7: Mr. Duck Steps Out
Donald Duck. Donald gets ready for a swinging date with Daisy, but runs afoul of Huey, Dewey, and Louie. As always, it’s his own fault: he locks them in the closet, and they have to get their revenge, shoving a burning cob of corn into his mouth. As the corn pops, Donald and Daisy begin an accidental but wild round of swing dancing. Jack King directed, Carl Barks wrote. Definitely the funniest Donald Duck cartoon of the year.

6/28: Bone Trouble
Pluto. Despite Jack Kinney and Carl Barks working on this cartoon, it’s seriously lacking in an interesting story. Pluto steals a bone and gets chased into a hall of funhouse mirrors. There’s some excellent animation in the mirror scenes, but everything else is pretty average. And it kind of bugs me that Pluto got away with his thievery; I don’t like Pluto, I really did want him to get his ass kicked at the end of this cartoon.

7/19: Put-Put Troubles
Donald Duck. Seriously, stop pairing Donald and Pluto together; Pluto just ain’t funny. Donald tries to get his outboard motor to work, while Pluto just gets in trouble. Seriously boring.

8/9: Donald’s Vacation
Donald Duck. This is another King-Hannah-Barks special, and a very nice cartoon. Donald is out camping, and the animals steal his food, because they obviously don’t know about his propensity for random violence against little cute things (seriously, he was going to shoot that penguin in the face in Donald’s Penguin!). Naturally, this being the Duck, he ends up having a run-in with a bear. This is a gorgeously animated cartoon; the forest animals are still animated in the old Disney style; the bear is just like the one in last year’s The Pointer, and the chipmunks look exactly like the ones in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. The canoeing scenes are reminiscent of Dave Hand’s Little Hiawatha. It’s just beautiful to look at, and the story is actually funny and enjoyable, too. Definitely one of the better cartoons of 1940.

8/30: Pluto’s Dream House
Mickey Mouse. While trying to build a new house for his dog, Mickey finds a genie’s lamp who does the work for him. The genie (never seen; the lamp just talks) has a black Rochester voice, which saw the cartoon banned in the 1980s. It’s actually a rather dull cartoon, and the it-was-all-a-dream ending feels like a cop-out. Like most of the Mickey Mouse cartoons from around this time, it's really a Pluto cartoon.

9/1: The Volunteer Worker
Donald Duck. This short-short cartoon (three minutes) shows Donald trying to collect for charity from an indifferent public. This was actually created as a trailer for the Community Chest, and was probably a lead-in to different charitable advertisements. It’s a pretty nice, idealistic cartoon.

9/20: Window Cleaners
Donald Duck. Donald and Pluto try to clean windows in this King-Hannah-Barks cartoon. Thankfully, Pluto’s capering is kept to a minimum, and the cartoon focuses instead on Donald’s frustration as he tries and tries to clean windows without screwing things up. Then, of course, he decides on a whim to drown a bee, and the bee fights back. The business with the bee is the best part of the cartoon, and I love the way the bee is animated in the older style.

11/1: Mr. Mouse Takes a Trip
Mickey Mouse. Mickey and Pluto take a train trip to Pomona, but conductor Pete won’t allow any dogs on board. Mickey spends the entire short trying to hide Pluto and run from Pete, and there are some good gags along the way. Man, that Pete just really enjoys having power over others, doesn’t he?

Love it or hate it, it’s hard to deny that Fantasia at least showcases all of Walt’s ambitions. For me, the major failure of the film is in the uniform art style. Many others have pointed out that Walt’s failing as an animation producer was in teaching his animators that there was only one way to draw. It made sense when creating a sort of world where Mickey, Donald, and Goofy all existed side by side. But the Silly Symphonies, for example, fell into the same uniform style. Disney would experiment with technique, especially where special effects were concerned, but he never experiment much with style. Fantasia was a chance to do just that, but Walt’s interests lay in special effects and prestige, not in expanding the repertoire of the animators to embrace styles that weren’t the Disney method. Still, most of the film works for me. It is overlong, especially for how very few segments are actually here, but I especially love the animation in “The Rite of Spring,” “Dance of the Hours,” and “Night on Bald Mountain.” It is pretentious as hell, though, and not for all tastes.

My post on the making of Fantasia is here.

11/22: Goofy’s Glider
Goofy. This is only the second cartoon in the Goofy series, and already the animators have come upon the perfect formula. Goofy’s most famous cartoons are a series of “How To” shorts, featuring a dry narrator as Goofy attempts to do some kind of sport or hobby. This cartoon might as well have been called How to Fly, because that’s basically what it is. Directed by Goofy’s best director, Jack Kinney, this is a classic short. Goofy’s a great character because, no matter what happens to him, he’s always upbeat. He’s the exact polar opposite of the easily-frustrated Donald.

12/13: The Fire Chief
Donald Duck. Once again, Donald gets his comeuppance for messing with the heads of his nephews. Accidentally setting his own fire station aflame, he tries his damnedest to put out the blaze. If he’d only listen more… Another great Hannah-King-Barks cartoon; this one has some absolutely priceless takes from Donald as he slowly realizes...something’s...gone...wrong. Just beautiful.

12/27: Pantry Pirate
Pluto. Another tiresome cartoon with Pluto getting into a sticky situation. The most interesting thing about this cartoon is the controversial reappearance of the black mammy from the earlier Three Orphan Kittens cartoon. It’s basically the same character from the Tom and Jerry cartoons, to be honest, and she feels out of place in a Disney cartoon. But I personally don’t think the cartoon had much going for it.

Walt was depressed in 1940. The year was bookended by expensive failures that he looked upon as artistic failures, and he was worried about the future. He was in debt, and now that the company had gone public, there were new worries: shareholders. Walt intended to build a school for animators at the new studio; instead, that building was to become the publicity department. Walt was forced to consider caving into what was commercial rather than what was artistic. After three years in development and $858,000 in production costs, Bambi’s script was only just now being completed. Aldous Huxley’s script for Alice in Wonderland turned out to be far removed from what Walt wanted; and he was never enthusiastic about the project in the first place.

Walt had to put another one of his dreams on hold: a Mickey Mouse-related amusement park. He had been planning the park since the early 1930s, commissioning sketches and developing rides, including a train; Disney was always fascinated by trains. He bought the land, however; enough to hold an amusement park that might grow in the future. But for now, there could be no development. Walt was too far in the hole to his bankers. The new studio--which was, admittedly, lavish and somewhat beautiful, and very modern (which pleased Walt)--had eaten up all the money it could. Significantly, Walt’s pride was deeply hurt when his father refused to be impressed by his son’s success.

And then there were the labor rumblings…

The depression over the failure of Pinocchio and the obsessive nervousness over Fantasia’s release made Walt remote. Where he had once been open and relaxed with his employees, he was now removed and quiet. He started to smoke much more; so much that he developed a cough that made his people nervous and, sadly, presaged the cancer that would end his life before the next thirty years were up. The failure of Fantasia was a crippling blow to the studio, to Walt’s plans, to the direction he was taking animation, and to Walt’s interest in the medium. The sad thing is that, no matter how popular Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck were, Walt’s heart now lay with the features. In Fantasia he had given license to everything he thought he was capable of and everything he thought animation could be. He took the audience’s rejection of the film very personally. Perhaps, he seemed to think, they don’t want what I have to offer them. In later years, Walt was quoted as saying of the film: “We made it and I don’t regret it. But if we had to do it all over again, I don’t think we’d do it.”

It was the beginning of what would become a disinterest in the art of animation. Though animation would never truly die at the Walt Disney Company, it would atrophy slowly over the next twenty years while Walt gave his attention over to his dreams of a park, his desire to try producing live action features, and a fascination with the new realm of television.