Sunday, May 31, 2009

Top 10 Radiohead Songs - Part 1

I made this list unbelievably hard on myself to make. I began with five songs that were immovable objects from the top five spots, but was hell-bent on making a top ten list. To add to the struggle is that I don’t know if I’m entirely settled with the songs I cut from the top ten. Music is mood dependent, so sometimes songs connect with you on entirely different level if your sitting in your bedroom watching the Red Sox (as I am at this writing) or if you are outside on a beautiful day. While Pablo Honey is justly (I feel) without a representative on this list, only one song from my favorite album, Hail to the Thief, made the cut. In some bizarre coincidence, the top six songs are taken from six different albums, which was unintentional, but I’m no less pleased by it.

And before I get this list started, here’s a little warm up medley to get you in the mood by Hard N Phirm:

Rodeohead - Hard n Phirm

10. You and Whose Army - Amnesiac
I think what I love about this song is that it sounds so bleak and dark, but it’s an aggressive taunt to an unknown opponent (holy Roman Empire???). And no matter how it’s sung, “We ride tonight” always sounds like it’s ass-kicking time.

9. Nude – In Rainbows
This is possibly one of Radiohead’s sexiest songs. The bass line simply pulsates with sensuality. An ironic companion to the lyrics that tell of the emptiness of passion fulfilled. The highlight of the song is when it sounds like it’s about to take an aggressive turn, then the music cuts out with only Yorke’s voice holding a note. Beauty incarnate.

8. Paranoid Android – OK Computer
Almost didn’t make the list due to over-familiarity, but it’s simply too good to ignore. I can barely believe that it was released as a single at six and a half minutes and not adhering to normal song structure. It plays out like a less celebratory “Bohemian Rhapsody.” This was the song that made me take notice of Radiohead, partially because it was so unusual and partially because the music video is awesomely weird. Best of all, the name is a "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" reference.

7. Fake Plastic Trees – The Bends
What begins as a pretty standard (albeit beautiful) song escalates to an anthem, only to come back down to earth. “Fake Plastic Trees” exemplifies one of the things Radiohead does best: contrasting quiet and loud, melancholy and triumphant.

6. 2 + 2 = 5 (The Lukewarm) – Hail to the Thief
Another song that bucks the normal verse, chorus, verse, chorus, bridge, chorus structure. I’m always in awe of how seamless the shifts in style and atmosphere are in these songs. Awe and envy.

Video of the Day

This feels fake, but I don't know how it would be.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Top Film for Each Year of My Life – 1999

The Iron Giant

With the exception of the top film for 2000, the best things animation had going for it in the 90s were Pixar and Brad Bird. It’s only logical that the two eventually found each other in 2004 with The Incredibles. For those that don’t know, Bird help The Simpsons shift from a one minute animated segment on The Tracey Ullman Show to the cultural institution it is now. He worked as an “executive consultant” from the beginning to 1997. For those keeping score at home, that incorporates seasons 3 to 8, considered to be the peak years of The Simpsons and one of the high points of television history.

After dipping his toes in some other shows (King of the Hill, The Critic) he embarked on his first feature film, The Iron Giant. For some reason, there was little to no marketing push for the film, let alone any mention of Bird’s animation pedigree and the film flopped despite overwhelmingly positive reviews. Sadly, I didn’t catch The Iron Giant in theaters and I regret missing out on something so wonderful for so long.
The Iron Giant takes place in the 1950’s with Cold War paranoia driving the plot. But there have been oodles of movies that deal with that subject. Instead of focusing on politics, the film is really about a boy, Hogarth, and his hundred foot tall robot. The friendship developed between the two is real and touching. The stakes of their relationship are raised when it’s revealed that the robot is really a massive weapon that could destroy Hogarth’s town (I already feel it getting dusty in here thinking about how the film plays out). The film is in the pantheon of all-time great animated movies. It’s no surprise that Bird has become a force in animation.

Aside from an outstanding story, The Iron Giant features Vin Diesel in the role he was born to play: a robot. The film also feature vocal work from Ollie Johnston and Frank Thomas, members of Walt Disney’s team of elite animators, the Nine Old Men. And perhaps most curiously, Pete Townshend is an executive producer on the film. If you haven’t seen The Iron Giant, I implore you to put it at the top of your Netflix queue or go out and rent it. I defy anyone to make it through the end with out shedding a tear (but in a different way than the Futurama episode “Jurassic Bark”).

Video of the Day

Normally, I'm not a fan of unnecessary sequels, but it's Pixar!!!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Video of the Day

This video is a response to Keith's blog posting here:

A Short One -- Soap

I enjoy spending time thinking about completely useless subjects. Frequently, I’ll ask others what they think about things like the origins of sayings or why top hats aren’t worn anymore. And, generally people look with an air of disinterest or confusion. Probably an appropriate response, but it doesn’t stop me from considering arcane frivolities of the universe. It was along my minds daily meanderings that I started thinking about soap.

It’s pretty well understood that soap is a good thing. It keeps us (among other things) clean and kills bacteria. Overall, it’s good at preventing illness (that is, if everyone is using it). But how do we know it’s really functional? I’ve never seen the behind the scenes research of soap. People still get sick. A lot. While I certainly feel clean after a shower, I don’t know that the microscopic bacteria has really washed away. All I know is that I smell better coming out of the shower than when I went in. In fact, a recent soap commercial based its advertising campaign on the fact that their soap doesn’t leave a film of soap on you like all other kinds of soap do. I don’t know how I feel about that.

Now, I’m not going to stop using soap. It’s better to err on the side of caution in this case, I suspect. However, there is a niggling suspicion deep within my that feels we are all being snookered.

Video of the Day

Even though I think Don't Stop Believing is the worst song ever, this is pretty great.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Top 5 Bands I Should Like, But Don’t

I love lists. Making them is a wonderful way to spend idle time. What else are you going to do? Something? Nah. Hell, the Top Film from Each Year of My Life feature stems from me making a top 10 from each year of my life. So yeah, I love lists. This particular topic was brought up by my friend, Leslie. The results from my initial list I sent her have changed ever so slightly, but by-and-large (I don’t know what that really means), it’s the same list. I’d love to hear any bands that you think you should like, but don’t as well. So, in some particular order, here it goes…

5. The Hold Steady
Probably the most “obscure” band on the list, The Hold Steady try to pick up where Bruce Springsteen left off. Unfortunately, I don’t think anyone needed to pick up after the Boss, as he is still kicking some sort of ass (at least live). Critics really seem to dig this band, but all I hear is the incredibly obnoxious vocals of lead singer Craig Finn. If not for that, I could probably love them. Their Springsteen influence seems to stem from his early work, which is some of the greatest music ever recorded, and they even cite John Darnielle of The Mountain Goats as an influence. To top it off, even as their profile was rising, they played a very tiny bar in Harrisburg shortly before I moved to Boston. I have nothing but respect for that. But that’s as far as I can take my relationship with The Hold Steady (and you can all thank me for avoiding the obvious pun later).

4. Pearl Jam
Yet another vocal issue. Eddie Vedder simply sounds like a moron to me when he sings. I have a general lack of interest in grunge anyway, so this spot could be filled with Nirvana or Soundgarden just as easily. Vedder almost won me over with his music for Into the Wild, but I still felt something pushing me away. What makes it particularly tough for me to reject Pearl Jam is that they worked closely with one of my favorite artists, Neil Young. I have Mirrorball and like it and Neil Young isn’t allowed to have bad taste in music. He’s Neil fucking Young! But no. It’s not to be. I’ll just have to take consolation in the fact that Eddie Vedder is the subject of a mediocre “Weird Al” song, “My Baby’s in Love with Eddie Vedder.” It’s as close as I can get to liking Pearl Jam.

3. Elvis
I used to be a HUGE oldies fan. I knew the lyrics to nearly everything that played on the oldies station. I’d call in requests and play the games it ran at night (voting for which song of two they would play at the end of the show). But there has never been a moment in my life that I enjoyed listening to Elvis. I don’t know if his sad, bloated, sequined image tainted my view of him. Or maybe it’s the plethora of horrible films (OK, horrible looking. I don’t think I could sit through one of them). Or, I really don’t like his music (I definitely know I don’t care for the gospel and country crap he recorded). He and Jerry Lee Lewis were two of the most arresting, kinetic performers of their era and practically changed the way many artists acted on stage. While I love the latter, Elvis always left me cold (perhaps because I'm not a swooning female). However, what makes his life worthwhile for me is that it led to the existence of Bubba Ho-Tep and Bruce Campbell’s second most iconic role as the King himself. Hail to the King, baby.

2. Bjork
I am a big fan of the Icelandic music scene. I’ve seen the documentary, Screaming Masterpiece, twice in theaters and really like Mum and LOVE Mugison and Sigur Ros. For some bizarre reason, I never connected with Bjork. I say bizarre because I think her voice is absolutely phenomenal. I can only dream of having a voice that powerful. It’s not even that I think her music is bad. It just seems to be overly esoteric. Bjork’s music is so hard for me to penetrate. I haven’t listened to much of the Sugarcubes, and early Bjork band, but what I’ve heard I like, so I know there is something about her I like. This realization only makes it more baffling as to why I can’t make the transition to her solo stuff. I do like the song “All Is Full of Love,” but I like it better when Deathcab for Cutie sings it.

1. Tool
I really wish I liked Tool. I respect so much about them that I almost feel uncomfortable not liking them. They played Bonnaroo a few years ago when I was there and we skipped out on their show, which I later learned was all kinds of awesome. I can’t disagree with the people saying that (mostly because I wasn’t there), but I know that ultimately the spectacle would only go so far for me before I got tired of the music. But there is still the niggling feeling that I missed something great and worst-case scenario is I don’t like it and walk away to do something else at the festival. The worst part of all about not liking Tool is that I can’t really express what it is that I don’t like about them. The only thing I can think of is that once summer, the song “Schism” (I’m 90% sure) was played on the radio A LOT and I was sick of hearing it. Other than that, no good reason for not liking, which may also indicate the possibility of liking in the future. Who knows? Maybe I’m ready.

Video of the Day

Got to give a hat tip to Maggie for this. It's pretty awesome and so simple. Also, I did a report on TropFest when I was in Sydney, so bonus.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Video of the Day

I watched this movie this morning and this is probably my favorite scene.


I’m restarting my running regime now that graduation and other festivities have passed. A week of laziness and alcohol really takes its toll. Most disappointing is that it feels as though the prior two weeks of running feels wasted. In my defense, one morning I was awoken early with a Charlie horse. It’s just not worth the risk running for the next two days when an atrocity of that nature hits the body.

The problem with exercise is that it takes time to see results. Sure, you may feel great and accomplished after a run, and even more so after several, but that great feeling takes so long to transfer into visual results. And it’s so easy to destroy the work. I spend most of my time trying to maintain the status quo because I love food. More than that, I love bad food. French fries, potato chips, ice cream, and chocolate (well, desserts in general) are my undoing. I try to keep healthy foods around, but I go through them so fast and then have to go back to my bags of chips.

Seriously, have you ever eaten baby carrots??? They are delicious, but they hardly fill you up. I eat a bag at a time most of the time. I can’t afford to have seven bags of those in my apartment. And my fruit salads last three days, max. Why can’t health be economical?

The best part of my current running route is that I structured it to end at a huge yard that has two boxers playing in it. One is bashful and only comes to the fence briefly until the other comes up with his deflated basketball to play tug of war with. His name is Dexter and he’s an awesome tank of a dog. It’s my reward for a good run. However, sometimes the dogs aren’t out. At first I asked myself, “What did I do to deserve this?” Then I realized that it’s good just to have the motivation to play with the dogs. It forces me to exercise regardless, which doesn’t hurt me (unless it does).

And for some, this is the only reason to run:

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Video of the Day

This is the epitome of awesome.


Sorry I haven't written for a while. The structure left my life once school ended. Then friends and family visited and graduation happened and before I knew it, I had no routine anymore. Hell, I haven't even been reading. For some reason, my priorities became not doing anything, which is weird because even during school I wasn't doing much. Went to classes and wrote a grand total of 4 papers. Pretty lame on my part.

But at least now I won't get mad at my favorite bloggers or Harry Knowles for having not having anticipated updates when they say they will (Knowles is particularly bad with his DVD release column). And now I'm being forced to structure a completely unstructured life, so there's that. Going to review some films, maybe even right about Netflix films I watch on here instead of just sitting around after watching one. And maybe I'll get a temp job for the summer. The temptation to do nothing all day and stay out late at night is too much. I need to be reigned in.

It makes complete sense why the super-wealthy either need to continue to work or end up getting in trouble. There isn't much middle ground. Money and free time is definitely a recipe for disaster. Fun, but disaster.

So this is my promise to you, my loyal 7 followers. I will have at least 4 updates a week of something that is moderately thought out (unlike this, which is mildly thought out). On top of that, I hope to share things of whimsy without much comment. Maybe even some more of my hypotheticals that keep me up at night.

As a reward for putting up with my laziness, here is a old but classic video of Kirk Cameron waxing on about the banana and the real facts. Enjoy!