Picking up from where we left off a mere days ago. Of course if you missed Part One, you ought to go back and read that first. i think we’re going to keep this one simple and list a few of the best bits of tunes and Tinseltown this list. Again, everything below is simply in the order that I happened to think of it in. Lemme know what you think.
What was what in music in 2008:
A good year for pop-punk and power pop. Here’s a short list of what you should be listening to in no particular order (and there’s even handy-dandy links to band websites, er mypace sites, in blue):
Little Lungs-“Hoist Me Up Comparisons to Sleater Kinney are inevitable(and a sign of laziness on my part) but goddamn if that opening “stop-skip-stop-start” riff on “Pet Cemetary” doesn’t kick my ass every time. Easily one of the best bands at the Kickstand this past year’s Gainesville Fest.
Cheap Girls-“Find Me a Drink Home“ I’ve already written about these boys extensively here (hey-still clinging on to page one of Google hits-a rare win for the home team) so in brief-absolute fantastic power pop with cleverly ironic and dank lyrics. A must-own.
Get Bent-“demo cd-ep“-Another band you can read about here There isn’t a single song I’ve listened to more than “Forest Ave.” this year. super fast, catchy and upbeat singalong pop punk. Best basement show of the year by far as well. By far my favorite band of the year.
Lemuria-“Get Better“-All too sweet and catchy pop music with tons of bite underneath the surface. Juliana Hatfield with more punch to it.
The Serious Geniuses-You Can Steal The Riffs But You Can’t Steal The talent“-Fun indie rock with nods to Superchunk and Big Star.
The Hold Steady-“Stay Positive“-Some folks like to bag on these guys for being a Springsteen derivative. I’d counter that the world would be a much better place if bands took more cues from The Boss and less from Duran Duran.
Ben Weasel & His Iron String Quartet-“These Ones Are Bitter-Proof that no one out-Screeching Weasel’s the original Weasel.
Good Luck-“In To Lake Griffy”-Guitar parts like Braid, lyrically sensibilities like Red Letter Day-era Get Up Kids. Yes please.
The Closet Fairies-“Ghetto Girls seven inch-FYP meets the Marked Men in a last man standing cage match with guitars.
Chuck Ragan-“Ole Diesel“ seven inch-Further proof this man does nothing half assed. Whaling on his six string while wailing out his heart through by way of his voice, the A-side was one of my most listened to tracks the latter part of this year. A better love song detailing the long road back home to your peace of my mind may not come around for a long while. There’s folks that play revival music because that’s what you do when you grow out of hardcore, and there’s folks that play it because that’s what keeps them standing upright. You can take an easy guess as to which category Mr. Ragan falls under.
One quick website note before we move on to movies:
I wrote about this site recently, but once more with feeling: If You Make It is far and away the best indie music-based site I’ve run across all year. From the stripped down acoustic acts in the long running Pink Couch series, to posted live shows, to demo mp3 albums on the site, you can’t find a better laid out, more diverse, more fun site to explore. bookmark this site immediately.
(to quote Bad Brains)At the Movies in 2008
Many sweet reasons for sweatpant wearing geeks to get their shoes stuck in spit out wads of gum and fingers oily with fake butter in 2008. Before I continue with my list, let me just state I haven’t had the chance to see “The Wrestler” nor “Let the Right One In” yet, but I’m sure I’ll love both. Also, Wall-E was extremely overrated.
Iron Man: Robert Downey Jr. was put solely on this earth to play Anthony Stark whilst mugging it up as a billionaire playboy/inventive genius. Also, imagining Jeff Bridges as “the Dude” who decided to take Lebowski the elder’s advice, accept that the bums lost and go legit and become a profit obsessed wiley corporate tycoon enhances your viewing pleasure tenfold.
Wanted: Pretty much the most ridiculous movie of the year, but if you just needed to turn of your brain, drool over fantastic action sequences and the best use of “Bullet Time” special effects since the orignal Matrix, and giggle like a titmouse every time Morgan Freeman used the phrase “Motherfucker” then you walked into the right movie. Bonus nerd points if you were more excited about Konstantin Khabensky from Night Watch having a bit part in the movie than anything onscreen involving Angelina Jolie. I hate to be the guy to make a Brandon Lee reference here, but didn’t you have your fingers crossed just a little bit during the climactic scene? No? Just me?
The Dark Knight: There’s little to nothing new I could add to the billion-word-plus that have already been heaped upon this movie lavishing justified praise from Ledger’s Joker, to the moody atmosphere, gritty, maybe kind of plausible if superheroes existed in the real world kind of crime tale David Goyer and the Nolans put together and the oft-overlook Aaron Eckhardt as the tragic Harvey Dent. Rather, let’s just hope Nolan doesn’t have a six week whiskey and grain alcohol bender leading him to the inevitable conclusion that there’s no way he can top this past effort, so the third film needs to have Bat Nipples just because.
Step Brothers-Way funnier than it had any right to be. I thought this would be another one of those films which gave away all the funny bits in the trailers. Happily, Will Ferrell and John C Reiley are over the top vulgar is this fine flick. It introduced the phrases “ballfro” and “chestpubes” into my everyday vernacular and gave the world the rap battle classic “boats and hos”. What else can you ask for?
Role Models-Paul Rudd is the snarky good looking version I see in the mirror every day. Here’s he’s teamed with Stifler plus ten years, the nerd from Superbad and a cute, foul-mouthed black kid. And there’s LARPing and boobs thrown in for good measure. This is a recipe for a good time.
Forgetting Sarah Marshall-Jason Segel reminds me way too much of my friend’s ex-boyfriend, and I’m still on the fence if this is a good thing or a bad thing. That said, you’re going to be hard pressed to find a funnier movie this year. From the pearl necklace gag, the pediatrician talk, Paul Rudd as a stoner surfer and Russell Brand as the cock rocker, this move had it all(and that’s before mentioning the brilliance of the puppet Dracula musical).On top of everything else, you have Kristen Bell in a bikini for most of the flick. without going into such details that the lovely Miss Bell ever has to worry, let me just say if we were one day in close proximity to one another, and she were to whisper in my ear, “I’ll let you touch my boobs if you push your wife down the stairs”, well, thankfully my wife has fantastic insurance.
Cloverfield-Granted, the marketing campaign was better than the final product, but despite the Dramamine cam, this is still a fun, scary Monsters smash up NY in the vein of Godzilla type of movies. And yes, there is the post 9/11 undercurrent running through out the film. When all is said and done, there may not have been a better thirty seconds of film all year than the severed Statue of Liberty head careening off cars and building in downtown NY.
Quarantine-Yes this is a near shot-for-shot remake of the spanish thriller [REC], but I didn’t get to see the original in a darkened theater on a 100′ screen. This movie scared the bejesus out of me with it’s claustrophobic atmosphere and unique sense of “oh man that little girl with a head cold is SO going to be a mindless zombie in about fifteen minutes” dread. Loved the twist near the end.
In Bruges-Beautifully filmed hitman tale that actually made me appreciate Colin Farrel AND it had a smarmy dwarf in it. Life does not get much better.
Other things to love about 2008:
-Bill Simmons mailbag columns and podcasts on ESPN.com
-Peter King’s “Monday Morning Quarterback column on si.com, once you get past the Peyton Manning ballwashing
-the Sonos wireless music system
-eMusic.com-Best site for downloading DRM-free independent music
-True Blood on HBO
-Lost Season 4-They moved the island! Holy Shit!
-“Whatchoo gonna do when Obamamania runs wild on you!?”
–Live Action FARSIDE cartoon reenactments on FLICKR
-The continued excellence of the DC/Vertigo comic “Fables”
Since everyone else does these bloody things, I thought I’d toss my own list out there. This is the first part of what will undoubtedly be one of the most epic posts in the history of the internet. In 2123 the great-great-grand-second-nephew of Rick Riley will proclaim this series of posts the Magna Carta of interweb posting on a retrospective documentary detailing early 21st century lifestyles. Then he will turn on his jetpack and fly to Neptune to take out a hostile band of aliens from the galaxy Nefaria. A note of disclaimer: the following list is in no particular order, and consists solely of events, items and curious incidentals which at one point or another have caused me to shimmy my buttocks in a happy dance while wearing nothing but socks and boxers. Without further ado:
Fallout 3: “War. War never changes.” Ron Perlman’s narration begins an epic game which finds the player leaving the safe confines of the vault for the Wasteland-a post-apocalyptic Washington DC overrun with Super Mutants, Raiders, feral ghouls and all sorts of other beasties. Development Studio Bethesda gives the player complete freedom over the game, allowing one to tackle the main quest or dozens of side quests at their own pace. If you’re familiar with the studio’s previous effort, the mammoth RPG Oblivion, you’ll appreciate the improvements in combat (with the target VATS system, which works kind of like a digital 20 sided die), graphics, sound and overall playability. You can spend nearly a hundred hours playing without touching the main objectives at all. After beating the game as a “good” character, I decided to begin from scratch and play as a real bastard. Few moments in gaming history have given me as much joy as pressing a detonator which set off a nuclear warhead that obliterates one of the few remaining functional settlements of the game. There are few moral quandaries more satisfying as deciding whether or not to pay a Scavenger for needed ammo, or just taking out the Ripper and gutting him from head to toe, then pickpocketing the corpse for what you need. Taking audio cues from Bioshock, Fallout integrates a pair of radio stations, one carrying patriotic messages and music from President Malcom McDowell, the other playing old-timey crooners, which adds to the creeptastic atmosphere. There’s few things moe disturbing than getting bashed around the head and neck by a giant mutant while ella fitzgerald quietly sobs for lost love in the headset. Even better, the studio has announced downloadable add-ons for XBOX360 owners that should be available by springtime, which will add dozens more hours of mutant blasting.
1. Doris Kearnes Goodwin’s “Team of Rivals”: Granted this came out in ’05 to much ballyhoo and acclaim, and earned Goodwin the Pulitzer Prize, but its cache rocketed once the title became permanently affixed to the Obama transition team’s strategy of putting together a cabinet consisting of people that would have gladly nudged him in front of fast moving oncoming traffic mere months ago. The narrative details Lincoln’s gift for grassroots politics, his ability to forgive grudges against rivals and keen insights on reading public sentiment as the tools which first, won him the 1860 nomination against candidates thought better suited to the job, and as the country ripped itself apart in the Civil War, Lincoln harnessed these gifts as a means to keep an administration (largely) loyal to his desired course of action. For those that are historically challenged, please allow me to spoil the end for you: the north wins and lincoln gets shot to death.
I Love You Beth Cooper (Larry Doyle)-Jesus I hope this guy publishes more stuff. I haven’t laughed so hard reading since Youth In Revolt. Here’s a quick summation: A nerdy high school valedictorian that no one has ever seemed to notice to use his graduation speech to say “fuck it” and a)Tell anyone and everyone who has ever crossed his path what he really thinks of them, tearing folks a new bunghole along the way and b) telling the lady of his dreams (3 guesses as to her name) that he fancies her. After this, hilarious hi-jinx ensue. Think of this movie as if Say Anything was put into novel form, except Diane Court was a chain-smoking alcoholic nympho with a nice career as late-night Denny’s waitress waiting for her instead of a scholarship to England. Also, expect slightly less kickboxing and Clash on the sound track, but a hair more lesbian experimentation. Apparently, the movie version comes out summer ’09 and stars the cheerleader from Heroes, which means it will probably be billed as “Superbad meets Say Anything” except it won’t really be anything like that and I’ll just be bitter that’s someone got paid to steal my byline.
2. Rhapsody music service: If you love music, then Rhapsody is like crack cocaine, if all the crack cocaine you wanted to consume cost you $15 a month and didn’t lead to cold sweats, paranoia, convulsions, manic fist fights with biker gangs, stealing money from your kids’ piggy bank, scabbies, and eventual death from one’s heart bursting inside the chest. With over six million songs in the data base, a simple user interface, easy to create playlists and a better internet radio service than Pandora, Rhapsody is the best way to listen to music online. Not only was I able to find anything and everything from mainstream artists like Springsteen, U2, REM and others, I’m constantly amazed my the staple of independent artists i find on their site. A quick check of my artists page finds diverse acts like the New Dumb, the Mishaps, Atom and His Package, Lifetime and more right at my fingertips. I can’t recommend this site strongly enough.
DarkHorizons.com: as a movie nerd, this is my one stop shop place to grab all the latest headlines. Whether it’s all the latest bits of trade gossip, updates on the status of upcoming films or behind the scene interviews with the cast and creators, Dark Horizon has it all. On top of that, there’s a massive directory of movie trailers, most available in high def. It’s the perfect way to treat a Sunday morning hangover. Finally, the site excludes a “talk back”forum, so you don’t have to have your manhood challenged, nor the integrity of one’s mother’s virtue called into doubt simply because you didn’t feel like a season 3 episode of Heroes is the television equivalent of filling a potato sack with cherubic little infants, then smashing said bag repeatedly over a rock.
Okay that’s it for part one. Part two is a mere twenty four hours away. Digg it people.
On of the most frustrating aspects of designing a home theater system is the task of managing entertainment. Different user interfaces with multitudes of menus and sub menus serve as an endless source of confoundment. Even a well designed universal remote, with endless delays, page flips and button changes can offer little assistance. As home theater moves closer to pure digital content (dragging a stubborn CI channel along with it), manufacturers search for ways to create simple, fun ways for us to access our movies and music.
Stepping up to the plate with a new line of media servers dubbed “Vision”, Escient has nearly hit one out of the park. There are a couple of things preventing this from being an absolute home run, but overall, it comes very very close.
This all-in-one media device allows you to rip CD’s and DVD’s to a central hard drive, store digital photos for playback on your HDTV display and gives Rhapsody music service subscribers access to the millions of songs available in their digital library. Easy to set up, and easy to use, Escient has hit one nearly out of the park with this new device.
The lineup consists of four total pieces: A 500gig server client ($3,999), 1TB server client ($5999), 4TB server ($7,999), and a stand alone client ($1,999). By adding up to four clients in addition to a server, families can stream up to five movies to five different rooms. The units support all current tv resolutions including 1080p, though it is important to note that there is not a Blu Ray player on board, only a DVD tray. This is the first stumbling block. I understand limited hard drive space doesn’t make ripping Blu Ray an effective solution. Still, at such a large price point, the unit should include Blu Ray playback capability. This at the price point Escient is asking consumers toAs far as Blu-Ray playback goes, Escient is banking on compatibility with future Blu Ray mega changers, such as the mock up Sony showed at this September’s CEDIA convention. The changer would connect to the vision via an HDMI cable for picture and sound, and an RS-232 cable for control and meta data.
So what’s there to like? Well, let’s start with the GUI. It’s amazingly intuitive. If you’re familiar with Apple TV, you’re familiar with the Vision interface. it couldn’t be easier to search for music or movies, and the response is extremely fast. The on screen menu is bleeding edge sharp. One advantage of Vision over Apple TV is the multitude of search options which let you find movies by genre, actor, director, title, etc. My feeling on any high end home theater device is if Johnny Loungechair can’t figure out how to use it, then forget about anything else.
Ripping movies and music is a snap. Simply load a movie and hit “ok” on your remote. A standard DVD takes about twenty minutes to record onto the hard drive. Escient creates a bit for bit copy of the DVD, meaning you can’t strip a disc of the menus or often ignored special features in order to conserve hard drive space. The advanatage of this is a near perfect copy of your disc. After downloading the latest software upgrade (v1.1) meant to improve video quality the image might be a hair softer than the disc itself, but overall it is nearly indistinguishable. Searching for titles is a breeze and there’s what I like to call a high “belt hitch” factor, the first time you scroll through DVD titles the same way you search for albums via your itunes library. It simple looks James Dean cool.
Stored music operates under the same principles as movies: load a disc, hit “ok” and within a couple minutes you’ve got tunes. You can also drag and drop music from your computer onto the Escient hard drive as well (the exception is DRM protected tunes, though there’s a ton of online scuttlebutt that this travesty is going to go the way of the dod bird soon. It’s about time).
So let’s talk about the two easy-to-overlook-but-no-less-awesome features of the Vision: digital photo playback and Rhapsody music service. When you stop to consider the staggering number of digital cameras in homes right now, then think of how few people actually share those pictures with friends and family, this service make perfect sense. Take the pictures you’ve already uploaded to your computer, drag them over to your open Vision folder, and within a couple seconds you’re sharing pictures on your high def display in full 1080p glory. You can jazz up slideshows with music playing behind your pics and different slide show transitions. This is a much snappier way to show of your vacations, baby pics, kids recitals, graduations, soccer games, etc.
Finally, there’s Rhapsody. For $13 a month, you get access to their entire music database, currently over six million songs strong. I don’t buy music at anywhere near the rate I did even a few short years ago (if it weren’t for Newbury Comics and the mid to late 90’s being the golden age of pop-punk and beard rock emo music I would have owned a house by 25), so this service has been the best entertainment money I spend every month. I’ve been able to find pretty much anything and everything on here, including tiny indie bands like Amateur Party, The New dumb, Atom and His Package, Tim Barry, Chuck Ragan and more. I’m not (too) embarrassed to admit that I’m rediscovering my undying love for grunge music under my “let’s all watch little mad guy and go to Denny’s at two am playlist”: Ministry, soundgarden, nirvana, mudhoney, pearl jam, screaming trees-all my grunge favorites in their flannel glory. There’s a 100 or so internet radio stations with every genre under the sun. if you’re jonesing for big band music fro Swahili with a hip hop twist, featuring barnyard animals on percussion, there’s a pretty good shot you’ll find a station that specializes in it.
So what would i improve? For one, there’s no Blu Ray player on board. At this past Cedia, Sony showed a mock-up of a 400 disc Blu Ray changer the Escient should be able to control, but that’s still a ways away. I understand not having Blu Ray storage on board as that would eat up way too much HD space, but with the cost of Blu Ray drives hitting new lows, there’s no reason it can’t play back Blu Ray and rip DVDs, especially when you’re pitching a product as all in one convergence, with one GUI.
The second addition I’d like to see is integration with my Netflix account. I’m currently doing this through an Xbox 360, and it’s a feature I love. Over the next couple of years it is easy to imagine most of your content coming via streaming ‘services rather than a prepaid envelope. If Escient can come to an agreement with Netflix (or vudu, or any streaming video company) all it would take is a simple software upgrade to enable the service. I’m already getting most of my new music through a subscription based service where I don’t “own” a physical disc. I’d have no problem getting my movies by these means as well.
Chuck Ragan (ex-Hot Water Music, though if you’re reading this blog, ‘duh’
So, the four regular readers of this site may have noticed a prolonged absence for the past few months. Sorry about that. There’s no real reason except that my full time job hit its busy season post-Thanksgiving (and we’re not even retail!), I’m back in school and bit off a bit more than I can chew with two intensive writing courses, my wife’s having a tough go with her job so SupportiveHusband man has his duties, and on top of that I just started doing stand-up comedy and some event planning. Something had to give, and that thing I had to leave behind for awhile was the site and the podcast. I don’t think anyone wanted to read a few dozen “Today I ate a burrito, and put together a few training modules for my staff. Also, whenever Ice is onscreen during the new ‘American Gladiators’, it moves just a tiny bit, and I’m not entirely comfortable with myself at this moment. That said, I think we’re back up to speed, and this site should be updated on a much more consistent basis. The standup has gone pretty well so far. People laugh at all the right moments, no one’s pelted me with rotten fruit, and my bit about spinning of a new show from “To Catch A Predator” featuring pedophiles luring kids off playgrounds and into the trunks of ’89 honda Accords is going GANGBUSTERS! Much appreciation goes to Matt and Rob of the Laugh Track for giving me three straight months of shows. By the way, there is no better way to spend $5 the first Tuesday of the month. Word of mouth is catching on, and every show is attracting a higher level of comedian and larger turnout. Hopefully we’ll be sitting down with these two guys soon for a podcast. So, hopefully PFCC is back for good. There was the thought of changing this to “Minimum Rock & Roll”, but Chump Change has been the brand name, so to speak, for over a decade. Why change what kinda sorta works? Look for some new podcasts, reviews of Dead Mechanical’s, Cloak/Dagger’s, Lemuria’s and Ben Weasel’s latest works in the coming weeks, along with a post-Chilifest wrapup and hopefuly some exciting(!) news on events I’ve got lined up.And hey, if you missed me, drop me a welcome back comment so I know you care.