Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The Definition of Awesome?

The word "awesome" is quite overused in this day and age, by me especially and by my entire generation in general. And, when you stop to think about it, so little of what is out there today, in the biblical or even the conventional modern sense (the two do not have the same meaning, really - nothing that happens today is worthy of actual literal awe). And yet we hear the word all the time, often in less than truthful circumstances. It's often used sarcastically, or over-enthusiaticly and hyperbolically, and, as of lately, in some meta-comment on the word, sarcastically hyperbolically. So it might be hard to really discern what the word actually means to us, the people of today. Which brings me to this next subject:

Last week I saw the stoner romp (as critics and square dudes sseem to like to call it) Pineapple Express. It was very enjoyable, moreso as an 80's action film than as an 00's stoner comedy. It had its funny moments to it, it was a good time being there on opening night, and that was about it. Not the greatest thing in the world, certainly. But I'll tell you what was fantastic. The film has the most amazing end credits song, courtesy of eminent everyman icons Huey Lewis and the News. Honestly, I love this song. It's better than the whole rest of the movie, and it's certainly the best Huey Lewis song I've ever heard, at least musically (not like any Huey Lewis song can be said to have great lyrics, though I think Hip to Be Square is a clever song). This brings me back to my original point, namely: what is awesome? The answer? "Pineapple Express" by Huey Lewis and the News. Basically, this song is the definition of Awesome because I can think of no other accurate way to describe the song. I can't honestly say it's a great song, but it's certainly nowhere near awful. It's a good song, and yet I enjoy it way more than most other songs I would describe as merely "good." And I don't enjoy it ironically, either. It makes me want to get up and dance, which is certainly no easy feat. And I wouldn't call it cool, either, because if there is one thing that Huey Lewis is not, has not ever been, and will not ever be, it's cool. I can't imagine Huey Lewis ever getting high, even though he is a rock musician and he sang a song called "I Want a New Drug." And when he mentions pot in the song, he sounds so square and nerdy, and yet he also sounds like he knows what he's talking about. It's a bizarre dichotomy, and, yes, I realize that I just used the word "dichotomy" when talking about a Huey Lewis song in a pot movie.

I guess what I'm getting at is that the word "awesome" can really have no conventional definition. It's so subjective, like many adjectives (Interestingly, not subjective. Subjective is a very objective adjective.) It really has no one definite meaning, which is as it should be. Right now, almost anything can be awesome, except for most social diseases and mass genocide and a few other things. But since people like to define things, I respectfully submit that "Pineapple Express" by Huey Lewis and the News is THE definition of Awesome. But since I could be wrong, I ask of you: what do you think is the definition of awesome?

Download it Here:

Huey Lewis and the News - Pineapple Express (right click and save as)

Friday, April 18, 2008

Welcome to Silent Film Month! (Kind of)

Hello all, and welcome to this first annual, and most likely last annual, SIlent Film Month, which as you may have noticed, has started about two and a half weeks into the month. It was a last-minute idea, but I think some interesting things will come of it. I was spurred on by a film I saw at the Film Forum last week, Broken Blossoms (1919). I enjoyed the experience of watching it, on a big screen and with live piano accompaniment, but I found I wasn't really engaged by the film itself; I found it interesting more from an historical perspective. Likewise, a few weeks prior, I had happened to tune in to Turner Classic Movies when they were about to show one of the earliest narrative films, The Great Train Robbery, from way back in 1903, and while I thought it wa interesting, it wasn't a whole lot of fun. Now I know from having watched a lot of silent comedies, Chaplin in particular, that silent movies can be a lot of fun to watch, but I think comedy is pretty universal and pretty easy to enjoy in any form. Drama, for me, on the other hand, can be a little harder to get into. This all got me thinking about what, exactly, I've been missing. I decided to catch up on a few of the silents I've missed over the years (missed not exactly being the right word since I'm still pretty young and most people my age don't care a whiff about silents so it's not like my friends are coming up to me and going "Mike, I can't believe you haven't seen Eisenstein's Octyabr!"). So I've picked a very random selection of silents, pretty much whatever I could download and some other ones I've wanted to see for a while on Netflix, and the next week and a half or so I'll be watching a few silents and hopefully blogging about it (If I don't, you have permission to kick me). I'll be starting off tonight with a lotsa yuks dubble feeture of The Circus (Chaplin, 1928) and Steamboat Bill, Jr. (Keaton, 1928). I've seen a lot by Chaplin and a few by Keaton, but never at the same time, so hopefully that crafty juxtaposition will give me some blog fuel. And we're off! Come back later tonight or tomorrow for my full report.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Give Me One More Day, Please

A few months ago, I embarked on a personal project wherein I listen to all the music on my iPod in roughly alphabetical order. This idea was pretty much ripped off wholesale from Popless, a new feature on The Onion A.V. Club where professional reviewer Noel Murray has taken the year off from listening to any new music and is going through his one song at a time. My version is a bit more lenient, in that it's probably not going to take anywhere near that long and I'm still listening to new music (probably even more than before, but that's neither here nor there). When I was thinking of starting this blog, I was entertaining the notion of writing about my effort, one album at a time, starting back at the beginning with "A." I might still do that, but for now I wanted to talk about an album that I rediscovered about a week ago and haven't been able to stop playing since.

I first bought Layla & Other Assorted Love Songs, the lone album by Eric Clapton's gazillionth band, Derek & the Dominos, on vinyl a long time ago, while I was still in High School, spurred by a teenage interest in classic rock, my liking of the song "Layla," and the fact that it was only about five bucks. It sat on my shelf until about a year and a half ago, my first night of my second year of college. I hadn't a lot of stuff and I didn't feel like unpacking what I had, so I decided to listen to a record, and I picked this one because it was long and I had time to kill. I think I maybe got through the first LP. I then didn't listen to it until a week ago. And it blew me away.

I've never been much of a fan of Clapton (I'm still not); his mastery of the blues scale never really seemed like a vital and impressive skill, and as a songwriter he always left something to be desired. Well, not always. Before he injected away his creative spark, he and Bobby Whitlock crafted an endlessly impressive song cycle on unrequited love and yearning passion. Much has been said about this album subject - Clapton's love for George Harrison's wife, Patti Boyd, a woman whose sole claim to fame is the dubious position of having fucked two (possibly three) of the leading guitarists of the era, a position probably held by various unknown women around the world as well (now if it had been at the same time, maybe that would be something, but again, that's probably also a popular title). But what got me when listening to the record is how fucking obvious it was! The very first song, "I Looked Away," contains the bridge "And if it seemed a sin / To love another man's woman, baby / I guess I'll keep on sinning / Loving her, Lord, till my very last day." I mean, come on! And the whole album continues on like that. Bell Bottom Blues, the next track and possibly the best on the album (the tile track is just a bit overrated), was apparently inspired by Patti Boyd's request for a pair of Bell Bottom Jeans from America, has the great line "Do you want to see me crawl across the floor to you? / Do you want to hear me beg you to take me back?," fantastic, when sung, but desperate and sad when written down like that.

Layla is, to me, the best translation of the blues into rock 'n' roll. The album contains a few straight-ahead blues track (my least favorite on the album) but mainly it's just sort of rootsy, well, rock. And maybe that's the key to why the album works so well. Eric Clapton made his name in the british blues scene, playing in John Mayall's Bluesbreakers and the Yardbirds, before they went pop. And yet at a time in his life when he could really say he had the Blues, he went ahead and rocked his fucking heart out. Layla is an album of supreme sadness, but it's an absolute joy to hear someone expressing themself so purely and so artfully, and it's a shame it never happened again.

Derek & the Dominos - I Looked Away (right-click and choose Save As)

Good Morning, How Are You?

I used to have a blog where I talked about my life, but nothing ever happened to me, so I tried to make it a funny blog, but it sucked, so I stopped. But now a few friends of mine have blogs where they talk about things that are actually important to them so I thought I'd try that. I've never tried writing at length about things I like for people to read, so this is new to me, and I will probably suck at it for a few weeks or so, and I might give up in about the same time, so if anybody reads this and then decides to continue reading for a while, and you like what you're reading and I stop writing for a bit, tell me to keep going. I'd appreciate it.

The title of this blog comes from a song by one of my favorite groups, "Doctor Worm" by They Might Be Giants. It's a silly song, not particularly meaningful, but I thought the declaration "I'm interested in things," that the song's narrator makes, is a distinctly descriptive. Not only does it tell you this Worm character is interested in things, but that he is the kind of person that feels that this is a major facet of his personality, and I sympathize with the good Doctor on that point. I realized recently, since people are so fond of asking the painfully broad question of "What do you like to do?" that all the things that I like (watching movies, listening to music, reading books, and intermittently participating in the creation of the three) can really be boiled down to one thing: consuming media. I've since decided that consuming media is my one arch desire, and the activity I most pursue in this world. And as such, this blog will focus mainly on the media I do consume and my thoughts on it. It will also serve as a record of the media I endeavor and have endeavored to create, when I do such a thing, rare as it may be.

And that, good people of the Earth, is an introduction to my most-likely soon-to-be-neglected blog. Enjoy it while it lasts. I'll leave you with the song that gave this blog, and this post, its name.

They Might Be Giants - Doctor Worm