Friday, November 28, 2003

SCHILL-O-METER: Yes, Curt Schilling has signed with Boston. That news, you can get anywhere.

Here's what you might not have known: part of what ultimately persuaded America's best-known Everquest player to join Red Sox Nation was the two hours he spent in an online chatroom with Red Sox fans on the Sons of Sam Horn fansite.

While Schilling asked that the contents of the chat be kept private (and the other twenty-four people in the room have respected that, so far), you can see his public posts memorializing the conversation here and here, as well as frequent poster (and Sox owner) John Henry thanking the fans for their help over here.

Yes, it's legit.
SOMETHING WICKED THIS WAY COMES: The first trailer for Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, due in theaters June 4, 2004, is now online.

Thursday, November 27, 2003

HAPPY THANKSGIVING: Why not turn off the computer and spend some time talking to those you feel thankful towards? The Internet will still be here tomorrow.

Best wishes, and enjoy your holiday.

Wednesday, November 26, 2003

THE ONLY LIST ON WHICH 'REGARDING HENRY' IS DEEMED ACCEPTABLE: You know how most movie credits contain a disclaimer at the end that "No Animals Were Harmed In The Making Of This Movie"?

You might have wondered, at one point, "Says who?" or "What defines harm?"

The American Humane Association, that's who. Go ahead, visit its website, which includes detailed analyses of how animals were used and protected in each film (for example, here's the truth about the filming of The Truth About Cats And Dogs), as well as its 29-page guidelines for proper on-set treatment of animals, in PDF format, containing such helpful rules as:
No drugs, including anesthetics, sedatives, chemical laxatives may be administered to an ANIMAL for the purpose of filmmaking.

Known pregnant ANIMALS shall not be used in action scenes.

The Naphthalene bomb is banned on sets where ANIMALS are present.

Branding of ANIMALS must be simulated. No actual branding is allowed.

Nothing can be done to an insect that will cause permanent harm, or permanently alter its physical characteristics or behavior.

No alcohol will be used around horses at any time.

When an ape is working on set for more than three consecutive full days (six or more hours per day), a play area, empty room, or private park where the ape may exercise and relax must be provided.

Go on, poke around. Maybe you'll stumble across the movie with this scene: "The two chimps that were dissecting the human’s brain and tasting it are named Ellie and Jonah. The brain was made up of methylcellulose, which is a food additive that is added to jelly donuts to make them gel! The two chimps tasted the fake brain and didn’t like it, so the trainer poured honey over the brain right before filming and the chimps loved it!"
KARMA POLICE, ARREST THIS MAN: An anonymous note found on my car's windshield yesterday, after having parked it on the crowded street earlier in the day:
Practice good parking ettiquette

Excerpt from the Queen Village Crier:

I applaud the Neighbors Assocation for all its efforts to add parking to our neighborhood. In addition to those efforts, I would like to find a way to inspire my fellow QV Neighbors to be mindful of their parking so as to allow as many cars as possible to park.

If everyone pulled all the way up to the sign or the line, or parked as close as possible to the car in fron or back of them, there would be more room for all.

Many times I have come home late at night and seen several "almost" parking spots which would have been available if the car owners had parked closer to other cars, or if they hadn't "taken their half from the middle."

Yay! I've tried to practice good car karma as much as possible, but on this instance I know I pulled up close to the car in front of me, rather than back to the sign.

Parking in a crowded city neighborhood is a communal activity, with collective responsibilities. It's good to be reminded of that every once in a while. I once thought about designing "bad parking tickets" like these myself, but never went through with it.

Let Dan Kahan have his public shaming penalties; I'll take anonymous, private guilt any day.

Anonymous Queen Village Parking Scold, I salute you.

Tuesday, November 25, 2003

SELF-PERPETUATING CORPORATE SUCCESS MACHINES: As promised more than a week ago, I've finally typed up the first half of my recent interview with Jim DeRogatis, music critic for the Chicago Sun-Times. DeRogatis' new book, Milk It! Collected Musings on the Alternative Music Explosion of the '90s, covers the alternative music explosion of the 1990s and its decline, compiling the best of his writing from various publications over the past decade-plus.

From Nirvana to the Pumpkins to P.M. Dawn to the time Jann Wenner fired him from Rolling Stone magazine for writing a negative review of Hootie and the Blowfish's Fairweather Johnson (which Wenner spiked), then calling Wenner "just a fan of any band that sells eight and a half million albums" -- well, it's all there. And then some.

We spoke over the phone about two weeks ago:
Was it inevitable that there would be an alternarock explosion in the 1990s? Or if Nirvana hadn’t come up with a song that catchy and anthemic at that moment, how much of this never would have happened?

That’s a tricky question. Mudhoney’s “Touch Me I’m Sick" was just as good, just as catchy, and any of the other Seattle bands, or the Replacements or the Huskers could have had as big a hit.

Nirvana was in the right place, at the right time, hitting all at once. And Nirvana was a band with undeniable power. I’d hate to romanticize it and say “you had to be there”, but it was captivating and inspired.

I remember how it felt for me, starting with this song that just the other DJs on my college station kept playing all the time, and then to see it break through into the mass culture. It was something.

Sure, but they would have been just as good musically if they had sold a Mudhoney-level or records, a Ramones level of records.

They never knew how to deal with that level of success.

It was a weird experience for them. Cobain was deeply troubled by the success. They didn’t know what the hell was going on. There’s that Courtney Love quote in my book -- the “no one told us about the thread count” thing, which is so chilling . . . I visited Cobain at his home a few months before his death, and it was like a slum. He’s living on Lake Washington, in a huge house with a thrift-store couch. They didn’t know how rich they were.

On the flip side, you talk in your book about R.E.M. and U2, bands that took their 80s success and kept going in the 1990s and into the present.

Sure, but while losing part of their soul. They’ve both become self-perpetuating corporate success machines, a sad caricature of what they once were. Say what you will about Nirvana, but at the end they were still a band.

I’d think there’s probably a third group that now belongs on that level – the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

I guess, but I never thought they were that good. They went from being cocks-and-socks bonehead fratboys to cocks-and-socks bonehead fratboys who wrote hit ballads. My favorite chapter in the book was the one on bands like Pere Ubu, the Flaming Lips . . . bands that are making music for all the right reasons.

What did you make of that whole “don’t let them be your friends” speech Lester Bangs gave in Almost Famous -- is that how you try to operate as a critic?

Absolutely. It’s great advice for any journalist. Whether you’re covering a trial, or city hall, or the health beat, you’re there to report the news, not to be anyone’s friend. You get into music writing because you’re a fan, but your loyalty is to the reader, not the artist.

Bangs said something similar to that to me about ten years after he said it to Cameron Crowe. We both met Lester when we were about 17 years old.

Another topic: is it still possible, given industry consolidation, especially on the radio, for a band to be both commercially viable and artistically innovative?

Sure. Radiohead attracts 35-40 thousand people a night for their arena rock. Anything’s possible. Nobody saw Nirvana coming.

There’s five major labels now, and soon enough there will be just three. They’re brontosauruses marching head into the La Brea tar pits of extinction.

But again, it doesn’t matter: if the music itself is good, it doesn’t matter how many other people are listening to it.

I don’t think enough can be said about Gerard Cosloy and the run he’s had at Matador. You take a look at who they released in the 1990s – Pavement, Yo La Tengo, Liz Phair, Bettie Serveert, Superchunk . . . it’s pretty stunning.

And even before that at Homestead Records, with Sonic Youth, Big Black, Dinosaur Jr. – he has an extraordinary set of ears. He’s still kind of a jerk. [laughs]

Those labels are thriving today – indie music is as good as ever. They’re in this and they’re ready for the internet to completely change the musical landscape. Back in the 1990s, there was a moment when they really believed they could take over the major labels, and with the Capitol-Matador deal, it came close.

Then it looked like real money could be made, and the music became gutted, deprived of its soul. Nirvana led to Bush, and Liz Phair led to Alanis Morrisette. It was horrifying.

More this weekend.

Monday, November 24, 2003

CHEERLESS, NAUSEA-INDUCING OVERKILL: I didn't have the time to do my normal hatchet-job collection on this weekend's Seuss-related atrocity, but, thankfully, Defective Yeti did.

He missed one gem, however: my friend Carrie Rickey's takedown in The Philadelphia Inquirer, which noted at one point that the film's Mrs. Kwan represented "the most loathsome ethnic stereotype since Mickey Rooney played Audrey Hepburn's Japanese landlord in Breakfast at Tiffany's."

SMILE (THOUGH YOUR HEART, NOT TO MENTION OTHER PARTS, IS ACHING): Every blog has its cultural moment to shine: for Instapundit, it was the immediate post-9/11 period; for Talking Points Memo, it was his Trent Lott takedown.

And now, for Bunsen [dot] TV, that moment has arrived, as Michael Jackson's arrest has prompted not one but two of the more inspired posts I've seen lately. Go.
FEED ME, SEYMOUR: I don't know what kind of arguments you have in your household, but maybe you can settle one in ours:

Is Audrey II, the giant from Little Shop of Horrors, more of a phallic symbol or a vaginal representation?

Pro-Phallic: Well, the plant looks like a giant glans penis, and it's got a deep, male voice.

Pro-Vaginal: Yeah, but think of how Audrey operates. Classic vagina dentata, isn't it? Also, Audrey is a female name.

I report. You decide.

Sunday, November 23, 2003

TODAY, I AM A MAN: Eighteen years ago today, I stood at the bimah, read from the Torah and became a Bar Mitzvah.

Last night, I passed another threshhold in my journey to adulthood: following an evening at the theater (and you all must see Urinetown, if given the opportunity), I got to Drive The Babysitter Home for the first time, while Jen stayed back with a sleeping Miss Lucy.

But before I could do that, Jen and I had to review the rules of the road. We agreed on a provisional list -- call it a Top Five, if you will -- of Things I Probably Shouldn't Say While Drive Home Our Fifteen Year-Old Babysitter:
5. "So, what are they teaching you girls in health class these days?"

4. "You know, when you're 28, I'll only be 44."

3. "Have you ever seen Exotica? I hear American Beauty is a great film too."

2. "I've been working out a lot lately. Can you tell?"

1. "Do you go to a school where they make you wear uniforms? [pause] Well, do you have any friends that do?"

Next developmental milestone: "Adam, have you considered doing anything about your hair color? We could phase it in gradually."
LET THEM EAT STATIC: From today's NYT: Kirk marries Kahn.

I wonder whose table the Romulans were seated at.